Thursday, October 21, 2010

Iowa City

We decided to take a break in our 900-mile sojourn to Winnebago and spend a couple of nights resting up in Iowa City. This destination was an easy pick for us. We love to visit capitals, colleges and towns we've never been to before. And, Iowa City is all three. Plus, this is the town where Paul's parents met many years ago. So, we owe a lot to Iowa City! It definitely deserved a stop. Some 400 miles after leaving Whittington bright and early yesterday, we blew into Colony Country Campground, a lovely little mom-and-pop campground just north of town. Just take a look at those flags. We really did blow in! That's the kind of weather that makes driving a 40-foot rolling billboard tons of fun.

After a good night's rest and an early lunch at the tasty Bluebird Diner, we strolled over to the University of Iowa campus. The campus sits adjacent to Iowa City's bustling downtown district, making the college and the town inseparable. (It's very nice!) The centerpiece of the campus is the Old Capitol Building. This historic landmark served as Iowa's last territorial capitol, and its first state capitol. When the state government moved the capital to Des Moines in 1857, this stately building became part of the University of Iowa.

We stepped inside and were cheerfully greeted by Vilda, a lovely docent who provided a very interesting an informative tour. She explained that the University moved out of the building in 1970 and embarked on a six-year effort to restore the capitol to its statehouse splendor. A 2001 fire closed the building for six years. The former statehouse reopened to the public in 2006 as a museum. The interior paint colors are all circa early Iowa statehood. The very red walls of the old state house chamber cast a warm glow on the rows of representative desks adorned with candlesticks and quills.

The building's prominent architectural feature is its unique reverse spiral staircase at its center, which extends from the ground floor to the second floor. Vilda guided us upstairs for a peak at several former state office buildings.

The old governor's office is available to modern day Iowa Governors who need to conduct state business in Iowa City.

The President's Office is furnished just as it was when the University moved the president's office out in 1970. With big windows and a fireplace in the corner, this cavernous space is quite cozy.

A bookcase across the office contains several books. On the bottom shelf we spotted a row of Hawkeye yearbooks from back in the day when Paul's parents attended school here. We could look, but as much as we wanted to take a peek inside, we could not touch.

Like most colleges at the time, the University of Iowa campus was the site of protests in the late '60s and early '70s. That turbulent time is featured in an exhibit in the ground floor gallery. "Chaos and Creation on the Pentacrest" highlights the impact on the university.

This May 12, 1971 memo from the Office of the President advised students to avoid protests and stick to their studies.

The exhibit also features a University of Iowa dorm room, circa 1968. Pretty trippy! Just to the left of the lamp near the bed is the requisite pile of collegiate clothing on the floor. The very scary thing about this display is the number of "antiques" that we could easily identify, like the Polaroid Swinger camera!

With our capitol tour complete, we strolled around the rest of the Pentacrest, a collection of five campus buildings, including the capitol, that sit on a four-block-sized parcel. Schaeffer Hall, located on the southeast portion of the Pentacrest, is a spot where Paul's dad spent many hours as a student.

We suspect Dad and Mom spent some time just across the street from Schaeffer Hall, here at The Airliner. Paul's dad told us to check out this old haunt, so we did! This hotspot has been keeping Hawkeyes fed and watered since 1944.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day on campus. This picture perfect October day sure didn't hurt, but there's a lot to like about Iowa City. We'll definitely be back.

As much as we'd love to stick around for awhile, we're getting kicked out of here tomorrow. Iowa is hosting Wisconsin for a big game this weekend, and our cozy campground is booked. So, we're moving north for a weekend of fun with friends before we take Bullwinkle back to Winnebago.

Meanwhile, Go Hawkeyes!

No comments: