Interstate 80 took us out of Indiana, across Illinois and over the Mississippi into Iowa. We missed our chance to get off at the banks of the Mississippi, and then at the Buffalo Bill museum, so when we saw another brown sign for an historic site, we took the exit.
West Branch, IA is a tidy little town that begins with a wide parking lot (essential for our stop) and a visitor center welcoming you to the birthplace of the 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover.
Combined, we couldn’t put together more than a few facts about Hoover. Something about World War I, the depression, “Hoovervilles” maybe? was all we could come up with. So we were pleased to meet the friendly park rangers and learn more from them, and from the signs and exhibits at the presidential museum and library. We learned that “Bertie” lost both of his parents before he was 10 and was raised by his aunt and uncle, apart from his siblings; that he was the first president to be born west of the Mississippi and the only one born in Iowa; and that he was among the first class of Stanford University, where he graduated (1895) with a degree in geology. We also learned that the statue of Isis, Goddess of Life, which sits between the museum and library, was a gift from the Belgium people to honor the “great humanitarian” and the food relief program that he began during WWI.
Elian’s favorite part was the blacksmith shop, owned once by Hoover’s father, where we got to see how to fire, bend, and cool steel.
A few more hours of pretty farm scenes and we arrived in Ames, home to a branch of our family. For us, this means a few days of stretching out in a real home, shucking some Iowa corn, and catching up with cousins.
The Woodebago sits out front on a wide street of tidy homes, every other one reminding you that you are in Iowa State territory. Our visits include lunch in the quaint downtown, where mainstreet is named Main Street, the Ames public library, which somehow merged the original old Carnegie building with a brand new modern one, and the city’s new pool, which is more of a water park (and a wonderful one). All in all, Ames is a hit with all of us and we wish we could stay longer.
But on August 13, the Iowa State Fair opens and we will be there to see the Butter Cow, try at least one of the 70 food on a stick options, and avoid any presidential contenders. Then on to Omaha!