Tag Archives: Iowa

Where We Begin Our Summer Adventures

Summer! It’s so hard to believe that summer is almost over and the school year will begin soon. We have been traveling all over the country in our minivan, with lots of road trips adding miles to the odometer. Our first trip was out west, to visit my family in Des Moines, Iowa during Memorial Day weekend.

We have visited my family so often in Iowa that I thought we had done nearly everything near the Des Moines area. We’ve looked for bison at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Preserve, biked the High Trestle Trail, and walked along the Des Moines River in downtown Des Moines. Lily has fed the giraffes at Blank Park Zoo and we even took a paddle boat onto Gray’s Lake. And yet, when my dad mentioned visiting Ledges State Park, this was the first time I had even heard about it!

Our plan had been to go on Saturday, but unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with our plans and it rained almost all day. Sunday was a beautiful day and perfect hiking weather; unfortunately my dad had to preach that Sunday and my stepmom had to play the organ at church. (Let’s just say I’m looking forward to my 75 year old dad retiring soon!)  Since Ed, the girls and I had attended church Saturday evening, we headed up to Ledges on Sunday morning.

Part of the road leading to the park had been washed away by a storm, so along with other visitors to the park, we needed to park in the parking lot at the entrance and then hike down the road into the canyon. There is also a parking lot on the other side of the park for visitors who would rather not hike down into the canyon. The road down, however, was a short and easy hike, and while the road wasn’t safe for cars, it was very safe for walkers. When we reached the bottom of the canyon and saw the water from Pea’s Creek flowing intentionally over the path, the girls were ecstatic! They love wading in the water!

The creek curved around throughout the park, crossing the path several times. There were also a couple of nice bridges going over the creek and steps going up to trails on the top of the bluffs. With only 4 miles of hiking trails, the park is relatively small and easy to explore, especially with kids. I’ve been looking at the trail map while writing this post, however, and I see we missed a trail down to the Lost Lake. The trail head is is a different spot from the main trails, so perhaps that’s why it’s called “Lost Lake.” We certainly didn’t find it!

This arched stone bridge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.

After we hiked up and down the bluffs, we saw people wading up the creek and decided to do the same! We weren’t prepared for this part, however, and took off our shoes and socks. The creek had some sandy spots but was also rocky, so next time we’ll bring our water sandals! Hiking in the creek was really fun and showed us more of the bluffs from down below. Since this park is often flooded by the Des Moines River, however, it may not always be possible. The water was only up to our ankles when we were there in May.

Hiking up and down the bluffs was great practice for our next road trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. And it also made us hungry! We knew of a barbecue place in Ames that my stepmom had taken us to, but here was the challenge. We didn’t remember the name of the restaurant, and we didn’t know what street it was on. (And we don’t use our smart phones when we’re roaming!) But we figured, what’s the worst that could happen? So we drove to Ames and wandered around for a little while…and just as we were heading back to the highway, we found it! Hickory Park has great barbecue, and even more exciting to the girl, a candy counter! The candy ranges in price from a nickel to a quarter, so the girls had fun picking and choosing some candy for the road trip home.

Just a few weeks later, we got in our minivan again and headed East…to Maine!

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Take Me Out to the Skybox

There’s nothing better than a road trip to kick off summer! Last Friday, Ed came home at noon and the girls had an early dismissal from school, so we loaded up the minivan and drove to Des Moines. When Ed mentions that we’re headed to Iowa, people ask why. The simple reason is that my dad and step-mom live there. However, we are really glad to have an excuse to go to Des Moines. It has all the advantages of a big city without all the traffic. And most of the downtown parking is FREE! If you’ve ever parked your car in downtown Chicago, you know this is a BIG DEAL!

Road Trip with Kids
Not my minivan, and not Des Moines, either!

We love going to an Iowa Cubs game when we’re in town, and this year, we did it right. My dad has always wanted to rent a skybox, and this year he took the plunge and splurged on one! The ballpark is right where the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers meet. The skybox could fit up to 20 people, so my step-mom’s family came along with some family friends.

Sec Taylor Stadium
Principal Park

Lily loves watching the game with Ed, but Emmy was concerned about only one thing: how was she going to get her cotton candy if we weren’t sitting in the stands? She even took a picture of the cotton candy man with my phone!

cotton candy man

Emmy didn’t need to worry; one of the cotton candy vendors came up to the skyboxes selling cotton candy door-to-door. That’s Emmy’s kind of service! We also had a personal visit from the Cubby Bear.

Iowa Cubs mascot

But what about the game? If you’ve never been to a minor league game, they are a lot of fun. There are a lot of activities to keep the kids entertained; they shoot T-shirts out of a cannon and have other things to watch in between innings. Principal Park is such a nice stadium. Of course, we love Wrigley Field, but it’s not as clean and kid-friendly as Principal Park. As for the game itself, the ICubs scored a lot of points and won!

skybox

What a great way for us to kick off summer! How are you kicking off summer? Link up your post here, and be sure to visit our other Spinners!


Spin Cycle at Second Blooming
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Next week: Summer Reruns During the summer months, most television shows are reruns. Share some of your favorite TV shows that you love watching, even in reruns OR “rerun” one of your favorite blog posts from the past!

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Picnicking {Spin Cycle}

Our family loves a good picnic; or as Fancy Nancy would put it, we dine al fresco! Every once in while, I’ll call Ed and tell him to meet us at the roller slide park after work. I make pizza pasta salad* and buy Cheetos, and the girls and I arrive early so that they can play on the playground before Ed gets there.

Most of the time, our picnicking happens during a road trip. I pack sandwiches, fruit and veggies so that we can stop at a picnic area to eat lunch instead of eating fast food.

Sometimes, the weather doesn’t cooperate and it’s a bit cooler than we expect. We just bundle up and eat outside anyway.

roadside picnic

Sometimes, we can’t find a picnic table. So we pull over in a turnaround on the side of the highway to Fairbanks, Alaska, and eat in the back of our rental van.

picnic in a van

alaska picnic

Sometimes, we can’t find a picnic table, so we use a rock instead.

Hiking in the Rocky Mountains, CO
Hiking in the Rocky Mountains, CO
Lunch at the Grand Canyon
Lunch at the Grand Canyon

And sometimes, there’s nothing like a hot dog in your own backyard!

hot dog

*I don’t have a recipe; I just make some rotini noodles, throw in some pepperoni, grape tomatoes, mozzarella cheese chunks, onions, green peppers and black olives, and toss it all with a vinaigrette. Voila, pizza pasta salad!


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Sculpture Park

Sometimes it seems like we are always “driving by.” With two little girls in the back seat and places to be, we don’t have patience to pull over when we see something interesting. We might comment on it–“Oh, that looks interesting”–I may take a mental note that will soon be forgotten, and on we go.

Even without children, Ed and I would drive by interesting places without stopping. Once, we were vacationing in North Carolina. I saw a sign for a street full of art galleries; I wanted to stop, but Ed wanted to keep going. We’ve never been back, and I’ve always regretted it. Perhaps it would have been a tourist trap, or perhaps I wouldn’t have cared for the art. Maybe I would have loved the galleries and would have spend the afternoon drenched in beauty. I wonder.

horse sculpture

In Des Moines, there is a sculpture park downtown that we have often driven by but never stopped to visit. My aunt thought the girls would enjoy the park, and so instead of driving by this time, we stopped and parked the car. The sculptures are surrounded by wide open grassy spaces, perfect for kids to run around in. Climbing on the sculptures is not allowed, but there are plenty of tall, grassy hills to climb and run down.

The sculpture that takes over the landscape is a large white figure made from a scramble of letters. Hugging its knees, it sits nestled in a green bank.
white letter figure

The creepiest sculpture is a giant spider, tall and…well, spidery.
spider sculpture

Two figures, one black and one white, bring to mind rook pieces on a chess board. They are actually backs of snowmen, one black and one white.

Just down the street as we walked closer to downtown Des Moines is a meandering fountain. It was so hot and humid that day that my aunt promised the girls they could wade in the cool water. It wasn’t just the girls who dipped their feet into the water…the adults took advantage of the fountain, too.

An article in the Des Moines Register which features the Pappajohn Sculpture Park has details and photos of all the sculptures in the park, and we missed seeing some of them because of the heat. Hopefully, the next time we go to Des Moines we’ll be able stop and take another look instead of just driving by.

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Swim to Snow

Swim to Snow

I SCREAMED as I slid down the pitch black tunnel. I pointed my toes and leaned back so that I would drop down faster, and then I screamed again. Suddenly, I burst out into the light with a big splash. Lily was waiting for me. “Did you like it?” she asked.

“Let’s go again!” I said in reply. We held hands as we bounded for the stairs. She went up quickly, lithe as a little sprite. She was soon out of sight as I lumbered up the four flights of steps behind her, but she waited for me at the top and we went down the water slides again.

bottom of slide

We were spent the morning in the hot, humid water park, splashing, swimming, and laughing. By the time our fingers were wrinkled and pruny, we went back to our hotel room, packed our bags, and bundled up. We headed out to the parking lot. Now we were slipping and sliding on the poorly plowed pavement rather than sliding down a tube of water.

That afternoon, we headed out into the sunshine and the snow. We had arrived at Grandpa’s house! The temperature was winter-warm. The snow was just right for packing into snowmen and snowballs.

making snowmen

We searched for good snowman making materials; long, curly sticks from a willow tree, dry brown leaves and smooth gray stones, plump red berries that had fallen on the snow.

Making snowmen

It was a day of opposites; swimming, water slides, snowmen and snowballs. What fun it was!

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