Jurassic Quest

Welcome back friends. This weekend’s trip once again was not planned and decided to go back in time to an interesting exhibit dating back millions of years since Eyra has developed an odd interest in (believe it or not) dinosaurs. Not Barbie’s, or Cabbage Patch babies but dinosaurs! Last week Eyra had a doctor’s appointment because our day care provider noticed a weird bump on the back of her head, which by the way the bump wasn’t anything serious and went away the following day and up until this day we still have no idea how she got that bump. Anyway, our doctor’s office has a bunch of kids toys for the kids to play and get distracted while being checked up. Can you guess what those toys were? Yup! Dinosaurs. Or as Eyra would say (dah-sas). That’s how our whole afternoon went. Anything Abby or myself said, Eyra would reply back with yup and dah-sas. About 2 months ago Abby and I bought a shirt for Eyra that had a dinosaur imprinted on it, not so much because we cared about the dinosaur but because the shirt’s message was funny, well that is now officially her favorite shirt, to the point where she almost drags the shirt to the bath tub, who does that? You guessed right… My child.

Jurassic Quest was certainly calling Eyra’s name and we sure managed to end up on that exhibit on Saturday morning. Just for the record, I hate driving on one-way only streets, and the one-way signs are so small in downtown Des Moines that I almost went the wrong way. Boy! Did Eyra wake up with a confused look on her face, she literally woke up as we were entering the Dino-lair. All I could think and envision in my mind were the famous words from John Hammond (welcome to Jurassic Park) and the cool theme song written by John Williams as we entered the exhibit. It was pretty legit. I am not going to lie it was a pretty sweet exhibition but in my opinion, it was not worth the $25.00 per person, I am not trying to be cheap but the majority of the stuff in the exhibit, Eyra did not meet the age requirement and even if she could, she wouldn’t be able to fully understand what was happening! Recommended age, I would probably say, 10 years of age.

The exhibit claimed to have the biggest animatronic dinosaur collection in North America which to me, that is a huge statement and I believe it because, yes! The exhibit sure had a ton of dinosaurs. Eyra would just not blink, she was confused and scared and a variety of other emotions I am sure. We stopped in one section were the T-Rex was on display and a huge grrrrrrahhhhh!!!! (growling noise) happened and Eyra jumped and managed to keep her cool. It took a minute or two for her to feel comfortable enough to mimic the same sounds as the T-Rex, I do have a small video of it on Instagram if you guys want to check it out. It was pretty awesome.

Eyra’s safe zone was no longer needed (baby carrier). She was running, jumping, growling and scoping out her pray (Crayola’s). Eyra and I had a moment of coloring before she decided to dig up fossils, by the way her coloring picture was way cooler than mine.

As we were walking around the exhibit we noticed baby dinosaur statues that kids could sit on. Let’s just say that sitting on a dinosaur did not go as we expected. Not a fan! I think that was the only time I genuinely saw fear on my child’s eyes and decided to head to the toy store after a traumatizing experience where Eyra once again decided to go back to her safe zone.

One of the coolest things I personally liked were the displays of authentic fossils and of course an animatronic life size of the Spinosaurus, it was huge and its growl was just as big which to me, that was super cool. If this dino was big to me, I can’t imagine how the Spinosaurus looks like to a kid. It was another great family experience and Abby and I could see our daughter mimicking a lot of stuff that she saw at the exhibit at home. The growls woke me up this morning and she arches her arms like a T-Rex, it’s hilarious. Do we have a Paleontologist in the making? Probably, or maybe a career in animatronics and visual effects.

What is our next destination? I wish I could say at this moment but we are still debating our choices.

To be continued…

Lover’leap Bridge.

Welcome back all! This week Clark, Eyra and I decided to head to Columbus Junction, Iowa. Columbus Junction is about 90 miles due east of Pella. We chose this destination because what better way to celebrate a late Valentine’s day than to visit a site called Lover’s Leap Bridge.

This bridge was originally built in 1880 and was made from barrel staves and wire. This was soon determined to be unsafe, so it was replaced shortly after by a bridge built from wooden stilts. This bridge was then condemned also due to safety concerns (in 1902) and another “swinging” suspension bridge was built 2 years later and measured out to be 160 feet long. This iteration lasted much longer!

In 1920 two boys were on the swinging bridge when the boards gave out and they fell 8 stories to the rocky ravine below. Amazingly, the boys were unharmed but this called for yet another rebuild of the bridge.

In 1922 the present bridge was completed and spans 262 feet. As time has passed, the bridge has been refurbished many times including the biggest overhaul in 1954 when the steel cables were replaced as well as the floor boards.

But why is it called Lover’s Leap Bridge you may be asking yourself? As many of you may know, Iowa was home to many Native American tribes before it was a state, the Ioway tribe being one of the largest (hence the states name). Well the legend says that a beautiful young Ioway maiden heard news that her lover had perished in a battle. Grief stricken, she walked to the middle of the bridge and threw herself off, falling to her untimely death… legend also says that if you go to the bridge at night you can still hear her crying for her fallen lover.

What a neat history huh?? That’s what I said! And the reason I really wanted to go! So we packed up the car and headed east! We got there in about an hour and a half and were happy to be able to stretch our legs! It was a GORGEOUS day and all 3 of us only had to wear light jackets. We got Eyra into the backpack (there was no way I was going to let her run her cute butt down the wobbly bridge!) and headed to the entrance.

As we first stepped on the bridge, I was slightly disappointed, thinking to myself “this isn’t much of a swinging bridge.”. But boy did I judge too soon! As Clark and I walked, the swinging got more and more intense! I didn’t think I’d have to hold onto the rails, but sure enough I used them!! The midpoint of the bridge is definitely the scariest.

Overall, I thought this was a really cool trip! Although there was literally nothing else to do in the town (aside from a Bar/Grill and a little ice cream place) the bridge was worth the drive. We also got to meet a fellow adventurer named Karla! She is a budding photographer who, after sadly losing her husband, has decided to get out and see the world! Too many of us Americans live for the weekend, yet when the weekend comes, we just sit around and watch TV around the house. Karla has the same spirit that we do and we hope to get the opportunity to possibly travel with her some day!

Next week? You’ll have to wait and see!!

Grotto of the Redemption.

As our year continues to unfold, Abby, Eyra and I (Clark) definitely found a gem within the state of Iowa and in the most unexpected place. West Bend Iowa that is, where the population is probably no greater than 1000. Within West Bend lies one of the most beautiful man made pieces of art, a shrine that was made with architectural uniqueness and if I may add a place of peace for prayers to be heard and answered. Grotto of the Redemption is a geologist candy store and a place waiting for you to rediscover.

The mastermind behind one of the most precious pieces of architecture at the time in the Midwest was Father Paul M. Dobberstein. Father Dobbertein had an idea of what he wanted to build but the only struggle he encountered in his path to build the shrine/grotto was time. Father Dobberstein had a few trusted helpers, one was Father Dobberstein’s own brother Bernard and yet another man of the cloth by the name of Father Louis Greving. Father Greving would later go on to continue the work of Father Dobberstein after his death. What makes Grotto of the Redemption so unique? As a traveler, I’ve had the opportunity to visit many churches, cathedrals, temples and synagogues, nationally and internationally, from the cathedral of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, to Notre Dame in Paris to the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and believe me, the Grotto of the Redemption is certainly among the greatest.

Each column, window, statue, cave, dome and station is made of unique stones from all over the world. How was this accomplished by one man? I am yet to understand that or perhaps patience in this instance has been the answer all along. Father Dobberstein could have been anything he wanted in the world, from an architect to an engineer or even a well-respected geologist, yet he chose to follow the word of God and accomplished building this amazing grotto that even until now has been full of surprises.

The stones literally come from all over the world and some places that many of you may know such as West Africa, Mexico, Brazil and my personal favorite Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Yes, Carlsbad Caverns is a National Park in the United States but before we judge Father Dobberstein for looting a National Park, the huge stalactite that currently lies in the Grotto of the Redemption was actually given to Father Dobberstein as a gift from Mr. Jim White who was the man responsible of discovering the caves in New Mexico. Don’t worry, the caves were not a National Park then.

The Grotto consists of hundreds of thousands of unique minerals and precious stones. I honestly cannot understand how this wonderful place hasn’t been looted and I am glad because it contains, quartz, opal, granite, hematite, dyerite, many different types of agate, pearls, geodes, stalactites and stalagmites, petrified wood, azurite, jasper, topaz and mud balls, if you don’t know what mud balls are, these balls are created by glaciers that melt and as the glaciers are melting a perfect ball is created within the glacier that forms a perfect circular ball. Pretty cool huh?  If Grotto of the Redemption hasn’t been named a national monument, how about now? This place is amazing and my jaw literally dropped. The detail on every corner and the amount of work that it took to accomplish this is beyond my understanding. Father Dobberstein’s vision was to describe the love of God with this grotto and I must say. HE NAILED IT!

As I was walking into some of the caves you could see stalactites growing and hanging firmly from the cave’s ceiling. It is said that Father Dobberstein purposely built his own stalactites by adding deposits of magnesium and calcium in the ceilings and by creating small vents in the ceilings for water to get in. There are hundreds of sea shells all along the grotto and you can most certainly smell as if you were near the ocean. The smell of sea salt in the air.

The grotto has unique sculptures and some are so fine in design that even the veins can be seen on such statue. A replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta is also on display and its very beautiful, unfortunately due to the cold and snowy weather that section of the grotto was closed but the Pieta can still be visible from different angles of the grotto.

The gift shop was only a few steps away from the grotto and the grotto’s staff members were really friendly and helpful in every way. It blows my mind that every place we have gone within the state of Iowa, every host, every park ranger, every volunteer, every individual, they all have been super nice, no wonder they call Iowa; Iowa nice.

Overall this place was incredible, I can’t believe we waited this long to come and visit. We will certainly return during the Spring or Summer when we can see the grotto from a different perspective and see more places within that were currently closed. Perhaps the next time we come, we can come with more company. Andy and Brenda, this would be a great idea. What adventure will come next?

To be continued…

The Des Moines Art Center.

Welcome back friends! We have had an interesting few days to say the least. We made the decision (after hours of discussion) that we would like to add a member to our family (and no, we won’t be bringing chocolate chip cookies to work anytime soon!).  We had contacted a farmer in Lynnville who’s herding dogs just had puppies. Clark being a lover of border collies was sold immediately! The puppies were supposed to be ready to go February 14th, how appropriate, but we got a text Thursday saying our little Theodore (Teddy for short) was ready to go! We of course drove up and picked him up! Man did we forget how hard a puppy is! Especially with a very active toddler and 2 jealous poochie brothers! Because of our newest member of the family, we wanted to keep our adventure close to home. We did some research and decided since we had done the capital last week that Terrace Hill (aka the Governor’s Mansion) would be a perfect idea! We all got ready, put Teddy in the bathroom with his bed, some food and water, and his new favorite toys and headed to Des Moines!

We pulled up to the beautiful Terrace Hill, got Eyra out of her carseat and started walking up the long driveway. We were greeted by a very nice Iowa State Trooper who informed us that the Mansion is closed until March. He allowed us to take a nice picture of the outside and encouraged us to return when they re-open in March since this is the time the governor has some peace and quiet in his home which is understandable.

As we headed back to the car, we were at a loss of what to do! A few searches on Google later and we decided, “hey, we’ve never been to the Des Moines Art Center!” so we decided that would be our destination besides we were only two miles away! We arrived and were pleasantly surprised that admission is free! We hung up our coats and headed in.

First thing you should know… The Des Moines Art Center… NOT a place for kids. Eyra was very well behaved but the temptation to touch things was just way too much! We ended up needing to carry her most of the time and she was not down with that!  Also, having a kiddo at the Art Center means the employees watch you with hawk eyes (get it? The Iowa Hawkeyes! I crack myself up!) and will even follow you around. One lady followed us around for about 5 minutes just waiting to yell at us! There were some very cool sculptures as well as paintings!

This sculpture of the shell with musical instruments underneath it was very cool and Eyra was dying to touch it! Eyra’s favorite moments were definitely the open hallways where we let her run and touch the windows!

My favorite paining was one that was supposed to be Pope Innocent. It supposed to be the pope sitting on his throne, but to me it looked like a man being electrocuted in the electric chair! His mouth is open and he looks like he’s screaming! Really creepy, but really cool! Eyra at this point, enjoyed a nice snack in front of this painting while Daddy took some silly photos of his reflection in another sculpture!

Another art piece that really creeped me out, was the sculptures of what looked like headless children all lined up! That one definitely gave me the heebie-jeebies! Another creepy one was the 3D painting of what looks like teeth coming out of a hole!

Overall, it was a very cool museum and we look forward to going back when Eyra is a little older and will enjoy it more! As we were leaving, the attendant told us that they have lots of classes for kids around Eyras age and that we should come back then so she can have a little fun! As we were leaving Eyra put on her bear coat and decided to go and check out more statues. It was cute because she looked like a little bear scoping out her prey!

At this point, we were HUNGRY!! We decided to head to Ritual Café in downtown Des Moines for some grub! It is a cute little café (with definite “hippy” vibes) that has an all vegetarian or vegan menu! This was pretty cool since Clark and I have been vegetarian for about 5 months now and it was awesome to have lots of options! Clark ordered a grilled tomato and hummus sandwich and I got a spicy 4 cheese sandwich with artichoke (YUM!!).  Mine was definitely better than Clarks! J We also enjoyed some yummy pastries and an Horchata Latte!

We made one last stop at the Pappajohn Sculputure park because we noticed that there was a HUGE version of Clarks favorite sculpture from the Art Center right there in the park! Although we had to improvise most of our day, we ended up having a great time! We can’t wait to see what next week will bring!

To be continued…