Truman’s Terrain and the Land of Lincoln

Although our trip’s primary purpose is to assist Mr. Jeff Guinn with his research, our path to and from Detroit consists of various related (and otherwise educational) stops.  Today, the stops included the World War I Museum in Kansas City, the Capitol of Missouri in Jefferson City, and some historical sites in Springfield, IL.


World War I Museum

With a towering concrete edifice, the World War I Monument was recognized as the national commemorative memorial of the war’s destructive toll.

Liberty Tower, World War I Monument, World War I Museum, Kansas City
Liberty Tower, World War I Monument

Standing at the foot of the tower, we looked up to a blinding peak, which seemed to scratch the sun. With such an admiring sight, we found the elevator to climb the approximately ten-story structure. As we stepped onto the balcony of the memorial our sights were lost among the mesmerizing vista of Kansas City.

Kansas City, Skyline, Union Station, World War I Museum
Kansas City Skyline

Perched on our elevated vantage point, we spotted various spouting fountains riddled amidst the city, appropriately nicknamed the City of Fountains.

After descending the 90-year old elevator–a very cozy metal enclosure hanging over rickety wires-we returned to the ground. We then rendezvoused outside the memorial and returned inside the museum, ready to view the exhibits of diverse aspects of the Great War.

With a brief overview of the complexity of the war’s inception, composed of treaties and alliances among the European nations, we began the tour with relics of the nations’ emperors and rulers.

World War I Museum, Timeline, Kansas City
Paul Examines the World War I Timeline

Such antiquities included marksmanship trophies, luxurious smoking pipes and flasks, and  other royal artifacts. As we followed the museum’s exhibits we also viewed the different models of the combatant’s firearms with pistols and rifles from each of the European countries. This exhibit provided a sense of the period’s need for manufacturing, where each nation used its resources and laborers to mass produce their own firearms. Among the exhibits were showcased other aspects of the war which had not been experienced prior to the Great War, such as chemical warfare. With masks worn by these trench soldiers, grenades which contaminated the air with hazardous gas, and the spray of mustard gas which would burn the flesh of patriotic fighters, the atrocities witnessed in this war were unlike any other. Furthermore, the dugouts in which the military denizens took, what could loosely be termed, refuge, imposed a very deplorable, unsanitary, demoralizing lifestyle for the fighters of World War I. To further exhibit the effects of industrialization on war, there were also maquettes and life-size models of the war’s u-boats, primitive military air-crafts (some made out of cloth and wood!). and missiles.

WWI_Museum_Ryan_Paul_Missile_Web

Most notably, in the American campaign section of the museum, we found two modified Ford Model T’s which would have been used during the war.

Model T, Henry Ford, World War I, WWI Museum, Kansas City
Paul and Ryan Examine the War-Purposed Model T

Even though the war acted as a catalyst for the modern industrial culture and economy, it also began a new age of catastrophic war. No other showcased artifact was able to capture this horror than Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” which we listened to inside one of the museum’s powerful exhibits. It was this poem that spoke the truth of the war’s atrocious effects on the lives of those who died and survived World War I. After this reflective visit to the museum, we went back to our traveling mini-van and got back on the road in order to reach Jefferson City on time for our tour of Missouri’s Capital Building.


Jefferson City, Missouri’s Capital

After the two hour drive into Jefferson City, we hopped on an already-started capitol tour. Our tour began on the second floor, where there are sixteen murals done in a style called three point perspective, where, at different angles, objects in the painting seem to be altered. For example, in one mural depicting a civil war battle, Union forces look to be attacking, while Confederate forces are retreating, but, at another angle, the roles of the opposing sides seem to switch.

On this same level are the House and Senate chambers. On the house side, there is the House Lounge room, where Thomas Hart Benton, a native Missourian, painted a mural covering all of the walls.

Thomas Hart Benton, Missouri Capitol, House Lounge
Thomas Hart Benton’s Murals in the House Lounge

The murals depict the history of Missouri, both good and bad, from French traders and farmers trading with the natives, to the time of Tom Pendergast, also known as “Boss Tom” (seen in the mural above on the bottom right).

When Boss Tom was arrested on tax fraud and sent to prison, one senator snuck in at night and carved Pendergast’s prison number on the back of his suit. Other congressmen would put out their cigars and cigarettes on his face, and Mr. Benton had to come back years later to repair the mural.

All the faces in the murals are native Missourians, except for one: an Osage Native American who was living on a reserve in Kansas, since natives were removed from their lands in Missouri.

Interestingly and sadly, when Mormons settled in Missouri, they were hated by many, and the governor passed an executive order in 1838 to allow anyone to drive them off of their land by any means necessary, whether that be tar and feathering, burning their house, or murder.

Missouri_Capitol_Mural_Inset_Mormon_Web
Benton Depicts the Treatment of Mormons in Missouri’s Early History

On the third floor is a hall of famous Missourians, where busts of well-known natives of the state are featured. Two in particular—Emmet Kelley, a famous clown, and Stan Musial, a famous baseball player—are special in that, if you take a picture of them with the flash on, you see features not visible to the naked eye.  With Kelley, for example, you can see his clown makeup when photographed with a flash.

When Stan Musial is photographed with flash, the red “SL” on his cap is visible; without the flash, or by the naked eye, the SL is visible, but not in Cardinal red.

Also on this floor is the grand staircase, a huge staircase which leads from the grounds outside to the third floor, the largest bronze doors cast since the Roman Empire, and a 9,000 pound bronze chandelier suspended from the ceiling of the dome. Having finished the tour of one of the “most interactive capital buildings” (according to Brian Aldaco), our hunger was calling our attention.

Missouri's Capitol Dome
Missouri’s Capitol Rotunda

For lunch we went to a place called Arris, right next to the beautiful Missouri Capitol. Arris is a Greek pizzeria. Every pizza that they serve is named after a different figure from Greek mythology or history, including Achilles, Athena, Atlas, Poseidon, and Plato. Curiously, it seems that the philosopher has determined that eating animals is unjust, as the Plato was a vegetarian pizza.  We went for a meat option.

Arris_Pizza_Web

Between the LEAPsters we split the Aiyaiys pizza, made up of cheese, mushroom, green peppers, and sausage. Professor Yawn got a gyro sandwich of Illiadic proportions in lieu of pizza. We also discovered that Greek pizza bears more resemblance to Italian pizza than American pizza. “Like the Italian pizza, this one had less tomato sauce, and a thinner crust,” commented Paul Oliver. Having tasted among the finest in Greek pie we drove towards Springfield, Illinois in hopes that we would make there on time before the closing of Lincoln’s burial grounds.


Lincoln’s Tomb

After another long car ride we arrived at Lincoln’s Tomb. It is an impressive edifice, boasting a central obelisk that rises to a point high above the rest of the mausoleum.

Lincoln's Tomb, Springfield, IL

A statue of Lincoln adorns the front, his hand outstretched before him. Beneath him various statues of heroes stand. At the base of the tomb is a heavy, metal door that allows entrance into his sepulcher.

The rest of the necropolis was quite beautiful as well. The landscape of lush, green grass and tall trees provided a verdant resting place for the dead. Most curiously, adjacent to Lincoln’s tomb was the old home for the tomb’s caretaker. Due to an edict issued by the governor at the time of the crypt’s construction, all government buildings had to be made in a gothic style. The caretaker’s home is therefore made of stone bricks, and has a presumably faux-watchtower built into its side, as well as battlements upon the roof.

As the tower’s bell knoll marked the time for the cemetery to close, we rode to take a peak of Illinois’ Capital Building. On its grounds stood a statue of Abraham Lincoln…

Abraham Lincoln, Illinois Capitol Building
The LEAP Guys with Abraham Lincoln and the Illinois Capitol

….and Stephen Douglas which we were fond of (he appeared to be strutting). After admiring the very dramatic architecture…

Illinois_Capitol_2_Web

…we rode a few blocks in search of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana-Thomas home.

Unlike the Usonian homes we had visited in our previous trip, the Dana-Thomas home was designed in a more oriental-inspired design but it still stood as a home far ahead of its time. Even though it was built a hundred years ago, due to its very modern appearance, it could have very well been built yesterday.

To continue on our search for interesting homes, we also went in search for Lincoln’s Springfield home. Situated along South 8th St. and East Jackson St., the homes that surround the former Illinois senator’s residence are preserved as they were in the 19th century. With the street left unpaved, walking towards Lincoln’s home was an enjoyable stroll down a period of American history that is left frozen in time in those few blocks near The Great Emancipator’s home. As we caught the last glimpses of the residence, with the sun already beneath the horizon and fireflies glittering along the dirt road, we hoped onto our minivan ready to make our three-hour ride to Chicago. With a very satisfying day of historical learning coupled with an estimated total travel time of eleven hours we deemed it appropriate to pat ourselves on the back for having enjoyably finished the second day of our trip.

 

OKC and KC are OK–and More!

Today the LEAP Center got an early start (5:30 in the morning!) to our trip to Michigan. We are heading north to assist author Jeff Guinn in researching a group called the Vagabonds. This team of influential businessmen and geniuses, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, and Harvey Firestone, would go on road trips across America during the summer months, just like we are today! Also like the Vagabonds, we not only have a final destination in mind, but we are willing to take in the sights along the way. In the spirit of our mission, we made our first pit stop in Oklahoma City.


Oklahoma City Museum of Art

As we approached the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, we were captivated by the building’s clear facade through which we could see a long, colorful glass sculpture true to Dale Chihuly’s style. Upon entering we were able to get a better view of the piece. As we ventured through the third floor, which showcased modern artists, we made our way to the Chihuly exhibit. With the room kept in low lighting, the vibrant colors of blown glass, warped into various shapes and sizes, were accentuated.

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly
                                                           Brian Aldaco Admires Chihuly’s Glasswork

This left us in more awe as we admired his works of art,

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly

…which included not only his bowl collection, but also his “Persian Ceiling”….

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly, Persian Ceiling

…and “Reeds.”

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly, Reeds

Venturing into the lower floor, we were able to explore more American and international art. Exhibited in this floor were works by Georgia O’Keeffe, John Cage, Roy Lichtenstein, an Alexander Calder mobile…

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Alexander Calder, Mobile
Ryan and Brian (B-Ryan, as we call them) Construct a Mobile

…Charles Willson Peale…

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Charles Willson Peale, George Washington
Charles Willson Peale’s George Washington

Thomas Moran…

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Thomas Moran
Thomas Moran’s “Grand Venice Canal”

…and a nice wing on WPA art…

Oklahoma_Arts_Center_WPA_Paul_Web

…just to name a few. Surrounded by the works of such great artists we left with an improved cultural wealth.

Apart from this, during our Oklahoma City visit we also chased after historical wealth by visiting the Land Run Monument. With 38 different bronze frontiersmen (or Sooners) as a representation of the state’s rush of immigrants eager to receive land in the 1889 Land Run, the monument has become the longest series of sculptures in the world. Strolling among the giant rushing horses and wagons, artistically molded by sculptor Paul Moore to keep a perpetual sense of urgency, we were also inspired to get on the road towards our next city of our Midwestern tour.


Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City

After crossing the Kansas-Missouri border onto Kansas City, we soon arrived at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. With the ground ornamented with various sculptures…

Louise Bourgeois, Kemper Museum of Art, Spider
Louise Bourgeois’s “Spider Mother”

…from a giant spider to a crying giant, the interior works of art were just as intriguing. We were treated to another Chihuly…

Kemper Museum, KC, Dale Chihuly
One of the Kemper’s Three Dale Chiluhy Sculptures

…as well as myriad national and international artists.  The museum offered a sense of different disciplines practiced within the contemporary arts community. Among the ones included inside the facility were mixed media formats, photography, glass media, and various other forms of unconventional, at times whimsical forms of expression.  Unfortunately, we visited when two of the four galleries were closed for installations, so our visit was only half fulfilled.


Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

This, however, left us more time at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which is only a short walk from the Kemper. The Nelson-Atkins museum has a copious outdoor green space, populated by pieces of statuary. Perhaps the most renowned piece present on the museum grounds is Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker.”

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Rodin, Thinker
Rodin’s Thinker

Other works included various pieces by Henry Moore…

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Henry Moore, Reclining Figure
Henry Moore’s “Reclining Figure”

…a glass maze called the “Glass Labyrinth” (by Robert Morris),

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Robert Morris, Glass Labyrinth
Robert Morris’s “Glass Labyrinth”

…”Three Bowls” by Ursula von Rydingsvard, which, in addition to being three-dimensional art, also possesses a distinctive smell, giving the art a multi-faceted interaction with the senses…

Ursula von Rydingsvard, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Three Bowls

We also saw one of George Rickey’s kinetic pieces of art…

Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, George Rickey

Most curiously, we also saw four giant shuttlecocks, one of the many quirky creations of sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen…

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Shuttlecock

 

With just 30 minutes left before the museum closed, we headed inside to take a look at their exhibits. We had the fortune to enter near the Roman and Medieval pieces, giving us a taste of a very different art style from the contemporary and modern works we had viewed at the other museums. After perusing some of the 19th-century masters such as Claude Monet…

Claude Monet, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

…and Vincent Van Gogh…

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Vincent Van Gogh

…we headed to the “Naguchi Sculpture Court,”

 

Isamu Naguchi, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Naguchi Court
“Six Foot Energy Void” by Isamu Naguchi

which showcases seven of the artists’ works in one room.

And with the closing of the Museum, we took one last look around the park before heading back to the van and driving towards out next stop: dinner!


Grunauer and Union Station

To wrap up our first day, we ate at a German restaurant called Grünauer. We started out with Jausenbrettl, a sampler platter of German meats. We split several entrées including Jäger Schnitzel Vom Schwein (pork scallopini with spätzle), Schweinebraten (roast pork loin and shoulder with red cabbage), and Bauernschmaus (smoked pork loin, bacon, and a bratwurst with sauerkraut), but the best part by far was the apple strudel and Nutella crepes we had for desert.

Since Union Station was so near, we decided to walk through and around it to walk off the huge meal we had just ate. It is still in operation to this day and still beautiful…

Union Station, Kansas City
Union Station in Kansas City

and has seen many famous celebrities and presidents come through, such as Eisenhower, FDR, and Truman. As we left the station via a bridge which stood over a system of railways (with a passenger train ready to depart and a resting open-top freight cart anticipating it’s delivery), we took in the city’s nocturnal, tranquil ambiance. Thus we satisfyingly completed the first day of our Vagabond research trip.

Nelson_Atkins_Walking_Web

Midwest Tour, Day 8: Kansas City, Home of the MLB Champs!

We began our Saturday morning exploring Kansas City’s own River Market. Although we arrived a bit early, we got a head start on all of the produce, cheeses, spices, and home goods that the farmers market had to offer. The brisk morning air refreshed us after a short night of sleep and we enjoyed strolling through the different vendors, smelling the fresh flowers, appreciating the colorful produce, and tasting different foods foreign to Texas.

City_Market_KC_2_Web

With just a little over an hour to explore, we tried coffee at Quay Coffee and wandered through the shops open at the early hour. With our noses exhausted from the various smells permeating the market, we left to make it to our Segway tour reservation on time.

Led by Kelly, we hopped on the available segways like pros and began the tour of downtown Kansas City.

Segway_Line_Web

We started in an area called Westport, home to bars, shops, and many a hipster. The area prides itself on preserving its history, which we observed in the established community and some of the buildings being the oldest sanding in Kansas City. Founded in 1831 by Isaac McCoy, Westport originally sat three miles south of what is today downtown Kansas City. His son, John Calvin McCoy, is credited as the “Father of Kansas City” and we observed a statue of him during the first part of our tour. We left the area of Westport to continue our tour, segwaying past pedestrians and through a few linear parks. Kansas City, known as the least dense and city with the most green space in America, is home to many beautiful parks. We had the chance to enjoy these areas, albeit, on segway. We followed Kelly along a couple creeks, walking trails, and even spotted public work out equipment along the way. We ambled upon Kauffman Memorial Garden after visiting Westport, a clear juxtaposition to the hip, bar district we had just explored.

Kaufman_Memorial_Garden_Web

The garden, quiet and serene, serves as gravesite to Ewing and Muriel Kauffman, philanthropists to the city in the mid 1960s. We left the garden to continue on our tour, only after appreciating the giant chrysanthemums in the greenhouse.

Kansas City is known as the “City of Fountains,” and one of the more interesting fountains we encountered was a memorial to the Vietnam War.  It was laid out in a series of cascading waterfalls, a reference to the U.S’s cascading involvement in the war.  It culminates in two pools of water at the end, a symbol for the split in public opinion over the war.

Segway_Vietnam_Memorial_Web

We spent the most time on our tour on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins museum, avoiding photographers and muses as best we could. We even had the chance to explore grounds unfamiliar to Professor Yawn, home to sculptures by Ursula von Rydingsvard (Three Bowls), Henry Moore, and Roxy Paine (Ferment).

Segway_Sculpture_Garden_Constance_Alex_Moore_Paine_Web

We also had the chance to get off our segways and try out Robert Morris’ Glass Labyrinth, which we luckily made it out of without running into any of the glass walls.

Segway_Sculpture_Garden_Labyrinth_2_Web

We left the grounds, after quite a few photo opportunities, including the chance to see a Claes Oldenburg sculpture (a shuttlecock!)….

Segway_Sculpture_Garden_Constance_Alex_Shuttlecock_Web…and an unsettling sculpture titled “Standing Figures,” which is actually a sculpture of 30 headless men standing in rows.

Segway_Sculpture_Garden_30_Men_Standing_WebMeandering through the parks, we also encountered some yoga practitioners, taking advantage of the peacefulness of the park (other than the speeding Segways, of course)…

Segway_Nelson_Atkins_Sculpture_Yoga_Group_Web

From there, we made it back to the Kemper Museum of Modern Art, which we had visited the evening before but had yet to observe in daylight.  We were re-acquainted with Louise Bourgeois’s “Spider”…

Segway_Kemper_Burgeoise_2_Web

 

…as well as Tom Otterness’s “Crying Giant.”

Segway_Kemper_Crying_Giant_WebWe had previously seen Bourgeois’s work in Iowa and in New Orleans, and we had only recently seen Otterness’s work (City Garden, in St. Louis).

That being our last stop…

…we bid adieu to Kelly and her insightful information and headed to scrounge up some lunch.

Much to the recommendation of our tour guide, we decided to eat lunch at Q39, a local Kansas City barbeque joint. We found the restaurant to be very popular and were confronted with an hour wait. With that information, Professor Yawn and Stephanie decided to let us wait and enjoy lunch while they left to grab our bags at the hotel in preparation for our departure this evening. We finally got a table, which was worth every second of the wait, once we received our appetizer of fried onion strings and meals consisting of ribs, sausage, pulled pork, and even better Kansas City barbeque sauce.

Q_39_BBQ_Web

Slightly tangy and very sweet, we enjoyed the barbeque that is so different than what we can enjoy in Texas. We left the restaurant full and ready to take on the rest of our afternoon.

We spent the first part of the rest of our afternoon exploring and learning at The National WWI Museum and Memorial. We arrived just in time to sit and watch the introductory video that left us wanting to learn more, so we ventured into the museum. We began with the WWI timeline that started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and led to Austria declaring war on Serbia.

WWI_Cannon_Wall_Web

This led to an entanglement of treaties and soon after, the five Great Powers were at war.

WWI_Global_War_Alex_Web

The museums timeline was easy to read and separated every year. The year of 1915 showed how the momentum of the war shifted to the east and highlighted the sinking of Lusitania by a German submarine. The year of 1916 on the timeline highlighted the Battle of Verdun and the Battle of the Somme. The timeline then moved on to the year of 1917, which is when Germany began to renew their unrestricted submarine warfare. One U-boat had cost American lives, which led to America severing its diplomatic relations with Germany and having to decide upon entering the war. The first American troops landed in France on June 25, 1917 and the spirits of France were renewed. The museum also features sections on Air warfare and others. As we walked through the museum we were able to watch another more interactive video about the war which then escorted us to the back portion of the museum that highlighted the America’s role in the War. The museum was very detailed and included many aspects of the war such as every branch of the military, a woman’s position in the war, civilian’s positions in the war, and an exhibit on war propaganda.

WWI_Propoganda_Alex_WebWe entered a reflections box where we were able to listen to voices from the War. We then took an elevator up to the Memorial where the tower commemorating the fallen soldiers stands. After enjoying the view, we walked back over the glass bridge hanging over the poppies that represent the fallen soldiers of the War.

We left the National World War I Museum to stroll down the hill in front of it, capturing the beautiful fall afternoon with a few photographs.

WWI_Constance-Tree_Closeup_Web

We loved feeling the breeze and seeing the burgundy leaves fly through the air off the trees preparing for the first winter frost.

WWI_Museum_Constance_Tree_2_Web

We walked across the street, following the museum, to enter Union Station in search of the temporary Da Vinci exhibit that the train station holds.  We found the exhibit on the bottom floor of the station and proceeded to get in line, thrilled with the anticipation of learning about one of history’s most prominent inventors and scholars. We entered the exhibit and watched an introductory video about the Renaissance man. Following, we left the compression of the video space and were awed by the expansion of the rest of the exhibit, full of Da Vinci’s inventions.

Da_Vinci_Exhibit_Wings_Web

We had the chance to read about his work in military science, flying machines, scientific diagrams about the human body, civil engineering, and inventions that would make everyday work easier and more efficient. We always knew about the inventor’s paintings, “Mona Lisa”…

Da_Vinci_Exhibit_Mona_Lisa_Alex_Web

…and “The Last Supper,”

Da_Vinci_Exhibit_Last_Supper_Alex_Web…but it was even more compelling to learn about all the musings that were found in his journals ranging from thoughts about poetry to the making of the ideal city. We even had the chance to touch multiple replicas of his inventions, like a pulley and a lock system.

Da_Vinci_Exhibit_Pulleys_Web

Following the section about his inventions, we had the opportunity to read about his artwork, which about fifteen have survived to this day due to the precariousness of Da Vinci’s experiments with new techniques. It was interesting to read about his work with the golden ration, which can be seen in his paintings and in his drawing of the Vitruvian Man. We left the exhibit awed by a man that we knew very little about before and inspired to expand our horizons just as he did during his lifetime.

We also had a chance to return to the Nelson-Atkins and see the special Thomas Hart Benton exhibit.  The theme was Thomas Hart Benton and the Hollywood epic, highlighting styles that tied in with epic films, as well as the time that Benton spent working in Hollywood.

Nelson_Atkins_Benton_Exhibit_WebWhile in the Museum, we took an opportunity to see some of the pieces we had missed the day before, such as the beautiful gardens…

Segway_Sculpture_Garden_Thinker_Web…Rodin’s “Thinker” up close…

Nelson_Atkins_Thinker_Web…and the strange, intriguing folk art of Philip Haas…

Nelson_Atkins_Phillip_Haas_Summer_Web

Before leaving KC, we returned to Union Station to grab a few souvenirs before beginning the drive out of town.

After a while on the road we stopped at Pie Five Pizza Co., in Topeka, KS, for a quick dinner. Constance and I shared the biggest Greek salad that I had ever seen and a pesto chicken Alfredo pizza that was delicious. We left the restaurant, and took advantage of our stop in Topeka to see the state’s capitol and other sites.

Kansas_Capitol_Constance_Alex_Web

We stopped at the capitol building, standing majestically in the middle of town. We weren’t able to go into the Capitol because it was late, but we did capture a few photos. Before getting back on the road we had to make one more stop. We stopped at the Brown V. Board of Education National Historic Site. Sadly it was closed by the time we arrived, but we were able to have a glimpse inside provided by the glass doors.

Brown_V_Board_Constance_Alex_2_Web

In the building we saw the labels “White” and “Color” that segregated the school. Even though we were not able to go inside, it was still a very sobering experience.

We hopped back in the van, en route to our last stop for the night, Wichita, to sleep before getting back on the road in the morning for the long trek back to Huntsville.

Midwest Tour, Day 7: Going to Kansas City, Kansas City Here We Come

We left Madison bright and early this morning to get a head start on the day’s heavy amount of driving. Before completely departing the capitol, however, we stopped by a “lost” Richard Haas mural.  Haas completed this mural in 1987 and it beautified an already beautiful city for almost a decade.  In the 1990s, however, Madison decided to revive a Frank Lloyd Wright design for the City–Monona Terrace.  In completing the Wright design, the Haas mural was relegated to the side of a tunnel wall.  Not made to be seen in tunnel, and obscured by newly installed load-bearing columns for the overpass, the Haas mural of Wisconsin’s history is all but destroyed.  Still, we discovered vestiges of it.

Haas_Mural_Madison_WI_Web

With that sad sight in mind, we began the winding drive to Dubuque, Iowa. Dubuque, a small town along the Mississippi, was founded in 1833 and is home to an incline that gives panoramic views of the surrounding area. We arrived at the bottom of the incline, nervous (editor’s note: mostly Constance was nervous) about the rickety tram that would take us up the steep embankment.

Dubuque_Incline_Constance_Fear_Web

We piled in, however nervous we may have been, and slowly made it up the hill.

Dubuque_Incline_Tracks_Up_Web
The anticipation was worth it in the end, as we were able to look out over the Iowa hillside and appreciate the breathtaking view…

Dubuque_Skyline_Web…and take photos…

…and more photos…

Dubuque_Incline_Constance_Alex_2_Web…and more photos…

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…and to see how far we had come up the mountain.

Dubuque_Incline_Tracks_WebAfter a couple pictures, we rode down in the tram once more to find solace in the warmth of the minivan.

By the end, we (Constance, especially) were proud of the trip up and back!

Dubuque_Incline_Constance_Bottom_Web

We then drove to the gravesite of Dubuque’s founding father, Julien Dubuque. The grave, memorialized by a turret-like structure, sits on the edge of a mountain along the Mississippi.

Dubuque_Memorial_Web

We braved the semi-cold to appreciate the view of Dubuque and the fall colors of the area. Dubuque, who maintained a healthy relationship with the local Native American tribe, rests near the grave of Chief Peosta’s, leader of the Meskwaki tribe (and Dubuque’s father-in-law).

Dub uque_Peosta_Grave_Web

We snapped a couple pictures of the mighty Mississippi…

Dubuque_Monument_Constance_Alex_Web…with and without us…

Dubuque_Monument_Overlook_Web…and then headed back to the car for our next stop.

Dubuque_Monument_Alex_Constance_Walking_Web

After a few hours, we stopped for lunch at Her Soup Kitchen. A small, local eatery, the restaurant boasts local, fresh ingredients, which we enjoyed immensely. The cold weather made the soup even more delectable, as we warmed up from the inside, out.

Her_Soup_Kitchen_Sandwich_Soup

It was a neat place to eat, and we hope that the place thrives!

With a warm midwestern meal in our stomachs, we headed to not only an icon of the midwest, but an icon of the American scene: The American Gothic house.

American_Gothic_House_Visitor_Center_Web

Painted by Grant Wood, “American Gothic” remains a well-known art piece to Americans and foreigners alike. We were lucky enough to catch the piece at the Chicago Art Institute…

CAI_American_Gothic_Constance_Alex_3_Web

…and this made visiting the home all the more rewarding.  Although it rests in a small town, a visitor’s center and Grant Wood museum accompany the site of the home.

American_Gothic_House_Visitor_Center_Web
We walked in and promptly began putting on costumes to impersonate the couple in the photo. Once dressed, we posed in front of the home with the most convincing faces we could muster up which seemed a harder task than once originally expected!

American_Gothic_Alex_Constance_2_WebSwitching costumes, we continued the photo opportunity in opposite outfits but still finding it difficult to portray the seriousness Wood intended. All silliness aside, it was exciting being able to reenact history after seeing the original painting in Chicago.

We headed inside to the museum to learn a bit more about the artist himself. Born in 1891 in Anamosa, Iowa, Mr. Wood lived a very interesting life. A teacher, soldier, and artist at last, Grant Wood studied impressionism and post-impressionism in Europe and became the artist we know today under these occupations. Friend of Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry, Wood practiced the art of Regionalism with his colleagues, whom we have also had the chance of viewing at other museums this trip. Although posthumously famous, Wood lived a fairly middle-class life and supported his hometown through the Great Depression by opening the Stone City Art Colony. He married, divorced, and died one day away from fifty-one from pancreatic cancer. We left a bit more knowledgeable about the artist and having enjoyed the driving break, got back on the road to finish the drive to Kansas City.

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Once we arrived in Kansas City, we took advantage of the late closing hours of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and The Nelson-Atkins Art Museum. While walking up to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art we were greeted by one of Louise Bourgeois famous giant spider sculptures.

Segway_Kemper_Burgeoise_2_WebThe Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art had a “Dark Days, Bright Nights: Contemporary Paintings from Finland” exhibition while we were there that had a dark motif. As we walked through the temporary exhibit we had some group favorites such as “Canary” by Vesa-Pekka Rannikko ,which used ropes to complete its illusion. Another group favorite was “Cottage” by Nanna Susi.

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Constance was pleased to see one of Georgia O’Keefe’s early paintings as well. I think that the highlight of the museum was the two Dale Chihuly pieces that were on displays at the Kemper Museum of contemporary Art.

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We then walked over to the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum’s south entrance, which featured Rodin’s “Thinker”. With the museum closing soon, we were only able to walk through a part of the massive building. Even though we only had a short amount of time, we did spot some great pieces. We were able to see some more of Georgia O’Keefe’s floral paintings…

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and another titled “Autumn Trees”.  One of Professor Yawn’s favored pieces included “Utah Highlands” painted by Thomas Hart Benton.

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We also found an interesting transformation piece in the Asian art gallery that showed a mountainside changing seasons. We ended our self-guided tour of the museum in the Contemporary Art gallery where we saw Andy Warhol’s very famous “Campbell’s Soup Can” along with other interesting pieces.

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Hungry, we raced down to Grunauer for dinner. We tried three different sausages and some pork belly before our main course.

Grunaeur_AppetizersConstance and I shared the A la Grunauer Schnitzel. The schnitzel was breaded pork stuffed with creamed spinach, and tasted amazing. Our entrees were delicious and we ended our dinner with an apple strudel.

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After an amazing and very filling dinner, we walked over to Union Station.

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We were able to stand on one of the walking bridges just in time for the train to speed right below us. After exploring and taking a few pictures in the beautiful building, we were ready for a good nights rest so that we could start our morning bright and early.