Thursday 30 September 2010

Day 34 – If You Build It, Kevin Costner Will Come

We’ve got a lot of road time on this trip, it’s understandable considering how big America is, but that can often mean we drive for hours on end just to see one particular thing (especially when that thing is in the middle of nowhere). Today was a day like that, because you don’t get much more ‘middle of nowhere’ than Iowa. Having said that, it ironically seems the people of Iowa have got somewhere to be. I’ve never been overtaken by a semi-truck before, but somehow today 5 did this unprecedented deed.

What, you may be asking, is worth seeing in Iowa? Well, as it’s quite close to Minnesota, every time we’ve been back in the last few years we’ve talked about doing a small roadtrip there. The reason? To visit the site where the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ was filmed. We’ve always put it off as it’s a long drive just to stand in a cornfield, but on a trip filled with long drives, this excuse no longer held up. And besides, we needed to get from west to east somehow!
Iowa is so close to home that we saw signs today stating it was only 198 miles to Minneapolis. I didn’t expect it when, just for a fleeting moment, this made me feel a little homesick. We’ve been on the road for just over a month and I’m loving the trip, but home is still home – even a new home. Joe politely agreed.

After a five and a half hour drive we arrived at the farm of Don Lansing in Dyersville, Iowa. A piece of true American film history! Many people love the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ -- but I doubt anyone more than Joe. He was a baseball kid, him and his brothers have (what some would call) an obsession with the sport. But there’s something so innocent about baseball, something that falls back to a father and son throwing a ball around in the backyard that connects with most American males.
And this film in particular, for reasons unknown, connects with that. It’s a love that’s passed down between generations and when Joe’s love of baseball and his love of film intersect in the cornfields west of Dubuque – then by jove, that’s where you go. It’s where our kids’ll go and their kids’ll go, Don Lansing permitting. It’s a place where dreams come true - so, it was a small price to pay in gasoline to drive all day for. It’s not often that that happens (The bleachers even still had a carving that our trip mascot, Kevin Costner, made himself during takes while filming).
Putting down the bat and ball for the day, we crossed the mighty Mississippi into state number 20: Illinois, where we’ve diverted from our regular chain of hotels to stay at a different hotel chain. As we were spending a day reminiscing on Joe’s childhood it seemed only right we’d stay at a place Joe had visited a few times on family vacations – ‘The Hampton Inn’ in Rockford, IL. Thank god it’s had a lick of paint since the 90’s, it’s actually one of the nicest rooms we’ve stayed in on the trip! Too bad we didn’t get here til 8pm and have to get up for another oil change at 6:45am…
So, until tomorrow…

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Wednesday 29 September 2010

Day 33 – Crime Doesn't Pay, Unless You're A Legend...

We all love stories, songs, movies; anything that captures our imaginations and takes us to other worlds. Despite the excitement of fiction though, there’s something to be said for true legends, featuring enigmatic characters that grow in our consciousness until they become household names. In this day and age obsessed with ‘celebrity’, we forget that long ago - before the Internet, TV or even radio existed - you really had to be ‘someone’ to have everybody know your name.

Today we arrived in state number 16 - Missouri - home to all things Jesse James; certainly a name everybody knows.
We started by visiting the Jesse James Farm, where he was born and originally buried. The house has been restored faithfully to when the James’ family lived there, with a part at the back still in its original condition.
A lot had happened in that house, including in 1875, when members of the Pinkerton Detective Agency threw a bomb through the window thinking Jesse & his brother, Frank, were inside. They weren’t, and the bomb killed Jesse’s 9 year old half-brother and severed his mother’s arm. Standing in the space was eerie, the history somehow felt more real than most of the places we’d visited on this trip.
Jesse was originally buried at the house and his mother’s bed was moved to face the grave so she could protect it at all times from grave robbers, but when she died it was decided that his body be moved to nearby Mt. Olivet cemetery. As it was only down the road we decided to make the detour. The plot has the graves of most of his immediate family. Including his mother and step-father, his half-brother, Archie Samuel, and his wife, Zerelda – who also happened to be his first cousin…

We made our way to the house Jesse was murdered in on the hilliest up and down road I’ve ever seen and it gave us time to reflect on what brought us to add these stops to our trip. It wasn’t until we saw the movie ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’ a couple of years ago that we became interested in the legend of Jesse James. It seemed ridiculous somehow, but the truth is Jesse James, the world’s most famous outlaw, did nothing more than murder in cold blood, steal money and hide from the law, yet he became a hero to the American people! Something may be a bit backward there, no? (Joe says: ‘But Brits looked up to Robin Hood in the same way, so…and at least we can prove James was a real man').

This realization was drove home when we stood in his house looking at the hole in the wall where the bullet that killed him hit. Robert Ford, finally catching his ‘friend’ Jesse without his guns on, shot him in the back of his head as he cleaned a dusty picture on the wall. The main theories were that he had wanted to claim the $10,000 reward or possibly that he was looking for the same kind of fame and glory Jesse himself had garnered. He got neither, despite being the man who brought justice to a notorious criminal. It seems even back in the 1880’s fame forgives all, with the outlaw being loved and the person that stopped him hated for it.
Finding an antiques mall across the street we had a browse and Joe again tried to convince me he needs a cowboy hat. Still not happening. He did buy an old 45. vinyl called ‘Songs of London’. Seems someone’s missing the UK to the tune of 74 cents!
Also in St. Joseph is the Pony Express museum which is dedicated to telling the story of how the post got delivered from the mid-west to the west coast before the trains or telegrams reached that far. I don’t know how this found its way onto our schedule, perhaps it sounded more interesting when planning than in person. The best part was the hookey, locally produced movie based on the history of the Pony Express that they make you watch -- we got a kick out of that!
On the way to our hotel we clipped the corner of state number 18, Iowa, but we didn’t dwell long as we’ll be there tomorrow, so we crossed over into Nebraska (state number 19) for the night. Nebraska is only giving us Zzzzzzz on this trip.
So, until tomorrow…

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Tuesday 28 September 2010

Day 32 – Toto, We’re Not In Kansas Anymore…Oh Wait, My Bad, We Are…

When you grow up it always seems like you have to get over the things you enjoyed as a kid, it’s only natural I suppose; there’s a time to put away childish stuff and all that jazz. Still, there will always be things that you can’t give up. Joe still gets a glint in his eye every time he tells me some baseball related story from his childhood and I guess for me its movies that I grew up on that I just get all gooey over.

Predictably, as a young girl I gravitated to things that had strong female leads, therefore my love of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was a given, maybe a little less obvious was ‘Grease’ – who didn’t love when Olivia Newton-John became a blonde badass?! – but the other big one was always ‘The Wizard of Oz’. So, when I discovered there was an Oz Museum there was no way I wasn’t going to put it on the itinerary!
Although only a small museum, it had a huge collection of Wizard of Oz memorabilia and was nicely set out. I even appreciated the somewhat creepy wax figures of each character. They have items like an original first edition of the book ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’, upon which the film is based, right up to things from the game-changing musical ‘Wicked’.
It was interesting to see all the different related products that have been produced; how it has impacted so many things in pop culture and how it has evolved over the last 110 years of existence. Like how in the original book they weren’t ruby slippers, they were silver, but it was decided that shiny red shoes would show up better in Technicolor, especially when put against the background of that yellow brick road!

Today would have been a great day all over, but unfortunately yesterday I got a bug bite. It was nothing too bad, just a bit itchy...then today…oh my! It’s humongous now! I’ve taken some Zyrtec and hopefully tomorrow the bump will have gone down, otherwise a trip to the hospital may be in order. Not what we need!

Trying to ignore the thing growing on my arm, we checked out a nearby antique store and actually bought something this time. I discovered a cute little framed picture of Bambi and, following on from reliving my youth through the Wizard of Oz, I just had to have this item because a re-release of Bambi was the first movie I saw in the cinema. It must be nostalgia day!

For dinner we headed over to an old favourite of ours, Cracker Barrel. Strangely this is becoming mine and Joe’s favourite restaurant and it was definitely one of the best meals of the trip – if not the best! It’s like eating at home without having to do all the work!
Back at the hotel Joe modelled his purchase of the day, an 80’s style sweatshirt he got at the museum…I think he’s trying to bring the look back...please nobody encourage this!
So, until tomorrow…

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