Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lincoln - Nebraska's Capital

Our original plan was to spend a few days in Lincoln so we could tour the Nebraska capitol. That plan changed when we had the issue with the slide (that still has not been repaired) and decided to spend a week near Omaha. We were only 60 miles from Lincoln so we did a day trip to the capital. We stayed at Haworth Park, a community park on the banks of the Missouri River. When we returned to the park from Lincoln we were met with many severe weather warnings. We had very heavy rain and the worst winds we have encountered in our ten years on the road. We did not know how bad it was until we saw the news the next day. Several homes were destroyed and three days later over 8,000 homes were still without power. On our morning walk on the levee less than two miles from where we were staying we saw 100's of trees had been blown down. We sure were lucky to miss this tornado.   
This is the third skyscraper capitol we have toured and without a doubt the most beautiful of this style. This building is the third capitol in Nebraska and took 10 years to build so they could pay the $10,000,000 without going into debt. The style is a combination with the exterior being Art Deco and the interior using Gothic and other classic styles. It was started in 1922 with the outer square built around the old building so the government services were not interrupted. Next the old one was razed and the north, south and east arms were built. The third phase was the building of the tower and finally, the west side was completed in 1932.   
The 400 foot tower is domed at the top with a 12 foot sculpture, The Sower.  It depicts the traditional way of planting by hand and the importance of agriculture to the Nebraska way of life. At the bottom of the dome is a circle of thunderbirds, an important symbol for the native people.
The Lincoln statue was done by Danial Chester French, the same sculptor who did the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. It symbolizes Lincoln standing over a grave with the Gettysburg Address on the wall behind.
The floor of the rotunda is a mosaic with Mother Earth in the middle surrounded with symbols for Soil, Water, Fire and Wind. The bands around the circles have animals found in Nebraska.
The dome 110 feet above the floor is painted with winged figures in a celestial rose of Virtue. It is one of the most beautiful we have seen.
The three murals in the rotunda represent the virtues of work. Top is Labor of the Hand and Labor of the Heart. Bottom is Labor of the Head.
Off the rotunda are two legislative chambers. The doors of the Warner Chamber celebrate Nebraska's Native Americans. The man on the right is holding a ceremonial pipe and standing on an otter. The woman with a child on her back is standing on a turtle, a symbol of fertility. A thunderbird hovers over them.
The other chamber is the Senate chamber. Since 1937, after the capitol was built, Nebraska has had the nation's only Unicameral, one house, legislature. There are 49 senators who are elected to four year terms in nonpartisan elections. Half are up for election every two years and they can only serve two terms.  
The columns in the chamber are different colors representing the diversity of the people of Nebraska. 
The hall between the rotunda and the vestibule has vaulted ceilings. The walls have six Venetian glass murals that were added in 1967 to celebrate the state's centennial.  
Four of the glass murals. Top is Tree Planting and The Spirit of Nebraska. Bottom is The Blizzard of 1880 and The Coming of the Railroad.
Each of the arches has mosaics that represent past, present and future life on the plains of Nebraska. At bottom left there is a basketball player representing sports in Nebraska.
The mosaic ceiling of the vestibule shows agriculture and native animals. The signs of the Zodiac are also shown. 
The sunrise sunset murals in the vestibule by James Penney are The Homesteader's Campfire, The First Furrow and The House Raising. They all celebrate the state's early settlers.
I guess they have not updated for a while or there are a lot of people here who want to make private calls. There were several phone booths throughout the building. 
The Supreme Court Chamber has acoustic tiled walls and tapestries. The baffled ceiling was made with over 8,000 pieces of walnut to prevent echoing. The room has corn and sunflower carvings. 
The governor's reception room is done in the Italian Renaissance style. There are murals on the walls and vaulted ceiling depicting the rights and responsibilities of citizens and their government.
Throughout the second floor corridors there are busts of people from all walks of life who have been inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame. Here are William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, author Willa Cather, Father Flanagan founder of Boys Town, Red Cloud who sued for and won Native American rights and newspaper man Gilbert Hitchcock.
Between the outer lower part of the capitol and the center tower are four courtyards that where never completed as shown in the original plan. The fountains in each one were being tested when we were there. The final landscaping will be done this summer. These fountains complete the original plans for the building of the capitol. 
On the fourteenth floor is the Memorial Chamber and another 70 foot high dome. The blue and gold symbolize the Nebraska sky and the red and gold sunburst the sun shining over the plains.
The purpose of the chamber was to show those ideals that portray the finer side of human nature. The eight murals in the chamber are The Scourge of Poverty, The Ideal of Universal Peace, The Scourge of Famine, The Ideal of International Law, The Scourge of Plague, The Ideal of Self-Determination, The Perils of Fire and The Ideal of Freedom
The view of Lincoln from the fourteenth floor observation deck. The height of buildings in the area is restricted so as not to take away from the towering capitol. This is one of the nicest capitols we have toured. The art is fantastic while celebrating the history and people of Nebraska.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Sioux Falls, SD and Family

From Mitchell it was a short drive to Sioux Falls. We stayed at the Grand Falls Casino in Iowa, ten miles east of town. This is a good stop at $20.00 a day during the week and $30.00 on the weekend. Of course, we left more than that in the slots. We are very happy that while we were here we did get to watch the Pens win the Cup for the fifth time.
They really have a thing about big roadside art in the West. This is Porter Sculpture Park west of Sioux Falls. The bull head is 60 feet tall.
There was a full moon while we were there and Nanc got this picture of a pterodactyl flying at the moon.
We have seen the LOVE sculpture in Philadelphia but I think I love this one better, It was outside an interesting little brew pub, Monk's House of Ale Repute.
Falls Park on the Big Sioux River is a great 123 acre park in the middle of the city. The falls drop 100 feet over the Sioux Quartzite, the second hardest rock after diamonds. Many historic, local buildings were constructed with this rock.
Monarch of the Plains. All of the plains states we have been through this spring celebrate the buffalo that once roamed the plains by the millions.
The falls attracted many businesses that harnessed the power of the water. This was a grain mill and an electric plant. The mill was not successful because there was neither enough grain or water. Only the walls of a couple floors remain from the seven story building that burned in 1956. There is also a 26 mile bike trail that starts in the park and loops around the city.
How about this RV. It looks like it could take on any kind of road. We talked to this couple from France who are traveling from the United States to South America on a 16 month adventure with their two kids.
Downtown Sioux Falls has an interesting sculpture walk. The artist's place their works along the street and the city buys the people's choice for permanent display. I like this one for its usefulness. 
A neat variety of works about people.
A few whimsical works.
And some interesting animals.
The main reason we stopped in Sioux Falls was to see my cousin Grace. We have not seen her in over ten years so it was great visiting and getting caught up. What a bonus, she has a wonderful pool. Nanc and Grace soaking up the sun.
Marlene and Jim trying to play paddle ball. I loved being in the water on one of the hottest days of the year.
Grace, Jim, Nanc and Marlene after a great meal. We spent several hours at their place and had a wonderful time hearing about all their adventures. As we always say, meeting and seeing friends and family on the road is the best part of our RV lifestyle. 
WOW!!  The casino was celebrating its sixth anniversary so they had fireworks for us.
On Sunday we had our own fireworks as we watched the Pens clinch the Stanley Cup for the second year in a row. Another great championship for Pittsburgh.

Since leaving Sioux Falls we spent a very busy week in Omaha, including a trip to Lincoln to tour the capitol, in addition to doing several things in the city that will be covered in our next post. We are now in Des Moines, IA for a week to add another capitol to our list and explore the area.   

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mitchell, SD - Corn Palace and McGovern

We moved on from Pierre stopping for a couple of days in Mitchell. Once again our travel plans were dictated by the wind and being where we could watch the Penguins (out here there is no guarantee you will be able to get over the air stations).We are very happy the Pens have won the Stanley Cup and now we only need to worry about the wind. We had two things we wanted to see in Mitchell, the Corn Palace and The McGovern Center.
The original Corn Palace, dating back to the 1892, was built for the purpose of promoting South Dakota as having a good climate for agriculture. It was so successful that it soon outgrew its usefulness. The present Corn Palace, which was completed in 1921, is the third one. The street beside the building is being turned into a pedestrian plaza so the streets are a mess right now.  
Mitchell is all about corn, from the light posts, to the radio station KORN, to this corny mascot, and the sign on the door apologizing for the corn-struction.  
The building has a basketball court where about 150 games a year are played. During the summer the court is turned into a souvenir shop. The stage is used for performances during the Corn Festival and other times during the year. A little known fact, years ago my father sang on the stage.
The theme and the corn murals are changed every year. Local Yanktonai Nakota Sioux artist Oscar Howe did all the murals from 1948 to 1971. These are some of his most famous murals that have been restored and moved inside the palace. 
Oscar first sketched the murals and then did colored drawings. The sketches are then enlarged to the full size and made into what looks like a paint by numbers pattern then installed on to the wall. Then 12 different colors of corn that is grown in carefully separated plots so they don't cross pollinate are nailed in place.   
This mural above the stage shows the different lives of the Native Americans and the Early European Settlers. It was created by the local middle school art teacher. The two bottom murals show them working together. After it was up someone noticed that the handshake in the middle was backwards.  They determined the pattern was accidentally reversed when installed, making it appear that they are shaking with their left hands.  
The frames around the murals are bundles of ryegrass and sour dock, a hearty prairie plant. This is a close look at Willie Nelson as part of this year's theme Rock of Ages.
One reason they change the murals every year is they have the best fed birds in South Dakota. Many of the ears from last year have been picked clean and all of them have shrunk as they dry out.
Because of the corn-struction of the new plaza by the palace, the Rock of Ages theme will stay up for 2017. This gave us a good look at the process of corning the murals.  The black and white panel on the bottom is the enlarged pattern that the ears of corn will be nailed to. The workers are putting on the new trim of ryegrass on the frame of the top panel. The old cobs in the mural itself will be removed and new ones nailed in place.
All the murals are now created by local artist Cherie Ramsdell. Covering the entire building requires 275,000 ears of corn. We found the Corn Palace to be worthwhile and interesting and a convenient stop if you are traveling I-90 in South Dakota. And, the admission is free.
Also in Mitchell is The McGovern Center Museum and Library on the campus of  Dakota Wesleyan University. The center explores the lives of Eleanor and George McGovern, one of my early political leaders.
The center explores their early life growing up in South Dakota, attending Dakota Wesleyan and his service in WWII where he flew 35 missions as a B-24 pilot.
There are several exhibits about his life of public service in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and various roles under Presidents Ford and Carter. He was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor, in 2000 by President Clinton.  
Another exhibit deals with his failed run for president in 1972. This election started my interest in politics that continues to this day. The center is a great tribute to a man who dedicated his live to serving others with the goal of improving the lives of all people. 
Another worthwhile stop we found in Mitchell is the the Carnegie Resource Center which has an entire room dedicated to the Corn Palace and the many people who performed there over the years. The center's dome was painted by Oscar Howe, who designed the Corn Palace murals for many years. The painting Sun and Rain Clouds Over Hills goes back to his Yanktonai Nakota Sioux roots.
On the wall under the dome are several of his paintings. They combine his Native cultural roots and a modern style of art. 
These three places are all very neat and make a stop in Mitchell a must do. Since leaving there we have been to Sioux Falls where we saw my cousin Grace and are now in Omaha. Unfortunately, the repair of the slide did not work out at the facility where we had an appointment. We did get the part number so we are going to call another repair place down the road and have them order the part so it is available when we get there.