Heartland, Part 6 (Americana)

On June 25, 2017 · 0 Comments

All things must come to an end and eventually the Heartland adventure approached its natural conclusion. I enjoyed my brief sojourn through the American Midwest, captured some new counties, ran a few races, viewed some sand dunes and canyons, and drove through more miles of farmland than I could count. I still had a few things to talk about though. They didn’t fit neatly into my other categories so I collected them here at the end.

Mid-America Windmill Museum


Mid-America Windmill Museum

I mentioned the lack of attractions in northern Indiana that led me to the East LaPorte Street Footbridge in Plymouth. My search also uncovered the Mid-America Windmill Museum. This prompted a stop in Kendallville (map), which the docent at the museum pronounced as Kendaville. The first set of double-l’s seemed optional.

I didn’t know quite what to expect. How fascinating could a bunch of antique water-pumping windmills be? Actually I rather enjoyed it. Premium models filled a restored barn. Others stood sentinel in a field behind the barn, whirling in the wind as they’d done on farms decades ago. It was both hypnotic and wonderful. Windmills manufactured by the Flint and Walling company dominated the collection. In fact, the museum preserved an example of every Flint and Walling model ever produced. This company started making its windmills in Kendallville in 1866 and sold them for nearly a century. Amazingly, the company still existed and celebrated its 150th anniversary recently. It anticipated the drop in demand for windmills and switched to electric pumps.


Speaking of Windmills


Heartland Marathon Series - Day 4

Two days later we came across another windmill, a more traditional version like ones seen in the Netherlands. I saw a different windmill called De Zwaan last year in Holland, Michigan — which made sense — after all, they called the city Holland. It seemed rather out of place in Fulton, Illinois. However, I learned afterwards that a lot of Dutch settlers came to Fulton in the latter half of the 19th Century. A windmill fit within that cultural heritage. By the way, just because I’ve seen a few windmills lately doesn’t mean I’ve found another object to count compulsively. I don’t need any more lists.

This one had a name too, De Immigrant. It differed from the windmill in Michigan because of its contemporary nature. While authentic, it wasn’t old at all, having been dedicated in 2000. Artisans crafted the windmill in the Netherlands and shipped it in pieces to Fulton. Then they assembled the windmill on-site, atop a levee overlooking the Mississippi River (map). De Immigrant ran exactly like a vintage windmill. Visitors could purchase flour ground by the windmill in a nearby visitors center.


Thriller!


Michael Jackson House

I try to visit at least one place mentioned in Twelve Mile Circle during every trip I take. One article, Where They Lived as Children, featured the home where Michael Jackson grew up. It fell directly along our route. I had to stop there.

Gary, Indiana might lag only behind Detroit for urban decay. The United States Steel Corporation founded Gary in 1906 as a home for its workers. Gary thrived for decades until the steel factories started closing in the 1960’s. Nearly 200,000 people lived there then. Only 75,000 people live there now. We drove into Gary and it looked like a disaster site, with abandoned buildings collapsed upon themselves, empty lots filled with weeds and trash, and car-rattling potholes on terribly rutted roads. Even so, it seemed perfectly safe to stop at Michael Jackson childhood home and pay my respects. I couldn’t imagine how the Jackson parents and their ten children fit into that tiny house (map).


Presidential



I noticed the Jackson house sat on Jackson Street. That seemed to be a fitting tribute, however it turned out to be just a coincidence. The Gary street grid aligned to Presidents of the United States in order of their administrations. This particular Jackson got its name from Andrew Jackson, not from Michael or any of the other musical Jacksons. Right around this same time I got an email from reader "Steve" curious about presidential street names so I took it as a good omen. He also wondered if any street had been named for Donald Trump yet. Oddly, I’d encountered a Trump Avenue in Canton, Ohio only a few days earlier even though I doubted it correlated directly to The Donald’s time as president. It seemed to predated his nascent Administration.


American Pickers


American Pickers

Do any 12MC readers watch American Pickers on the History Channel? The premise is pretty simple. Two guys drove around rural America from their home base in Le Claire, Iowa in search of antiques. They hunted through basements, barns, abandoned buildings, and any other place where valuables might be hiding within junk and debris. Gary, Indiana might be a good place to try. They haggled with owners over a price and hopefully got a few treasures to sell through their company, Antique Archaeology. I noticed we could get to Le Claire in about a half hour from Clinton, Iowa where we’d raced earlier that morning.

Those of you familiar with the show probably recognized the derelict Nash Statesman automobile and the shop behind it. Those appeared on the show fairly regularly. Of course we stopped for awhile (map); that’s how I got the photo. One thing surprised me. The magic of television made it seem like the shop must be located way outside of town all by itself, maybe surrounded by cornfields or something. That wasn’t the case. It sat right in the middle of Le Claire just a short block away from the main road. I could walk to a brewery, a distillery and at least a dozen shops in about two minutes from there.


Buffalo Bill


Buffalo Bill Cody

Le Claire included other surprises such as the Buffalo Bill Museum. I didn’t know that Buffalo Bill Cody hailed from Iowa. I figured he must have come from somewhere much further west. No, indeed, he came from Iowa. The museum included an exhibit on Buffalo Bill, as one would expect, although the largest space featured a ship called the Lone Star. This paddle-wheeled towboat operated under steam power on the Mississippi River for a century. The Coast Guard finally forced it out of service in 1968 when it couldn’t meet safety standards anymore. Fortunately preservationists managed to save the Lone Star and constructed an entire building to show it off.

Le Claire and surrounding Scott County thought highly of its most famous son. In addition to the museum, we visited the Buffalo Bill Homestead a few miles outside of town (map). He grew up there from the time of his birth in 1846 until about the age of seven.


Articles in the Heartland Series:

  1. Why, oh Why?
  2. How Not to See a City
  3. Foiled by Memorial Day
  4. Beyond Covered
  5. Not Just Farmland
  6. Americana

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Heartland, Part 3 (Foiled by Memorial Day)

On June 15, 2017 · 0 Comments

I figured I’d have to give this article a sneaky title or nobody would read it. Once again I decided to focus a portion of my journey on local breweries and brewpubs found along our route. These posts tend to underperform as some of the least popular items on Twelve Mile Circle. I know that because I review the access logs. Unfortunately this activity also tends to be one of my favorites. It’s my website so I write about what I enjoy. Feel free to come back in a few days if this doesn’t interest you. I won’t take it personally. There will be plenty of geographic goodies as the rest of the series unfolds.


Three Floyds Cases
It will have to do.

Now, back to the title. How could Memorial Day possibly mess things up? After all, it existed for such a noble purpose, to remember those who gave their lives during military service to the country. Lots of businesses closed for the holiday as a sign of respect.

I’d been planning to visit 3 Floyds Brewing for several years. It was one of those iconic names in brewing circles, a place of beery pilgrimage, renowned for its craftsmanship as well as for its famous Dark Lord Day. Finally my path brought me within striking distance of Munster, Indiana and the famous brewery. On Memorial Day. The only day that fit into our schedule. Of course it was closed. Our stop at a nearby liquor store so we could load up with a couple of cases of 3 Floyds’ signature beers to take back home served as a sorry substitute. I’ll make it back to Munster again someday, mark my words.


My 400th Brewery


Father John's Brewing Company

Longtime 12MC readers already knew many of my idiosyncrasies. Not only did I like breweries, I liked counting things. Naturally I’ve recorded all of my brewery visits both with a list and on a map. I’d been approaching my 400th visit for awhile and I finally crossed the threshold at the first brewery we visited during the trip. That honor went to Father John’s Brewing in Bryan, Ohio (map). I enjoyed the setting, in the basement of a former Methodist church built in 1895. We also glanced into the sanctuary on the main level. It looked pretty much like a typical church although with pews removed and a bandstand installed.

Bryan seemed like an unlikely destination, tucked away in the northwestern corner of Ohio. The first race in the series place there on a Sunday morning so that’s how we found ourselves in a decommissioned church on Saturday evening. However, Bryan did have a couple of tenuous claims to fame. Spangler Candy, known for its Dum Dums lollipops, ran a factory in town. Dum Dums brought back childhood memories of Halloween trick-or-treating. We didn’t take the factory tour because they closed on the weekend, though. I started to sense a theme.

Remember Etch A Sketch? Those came from Bryan too, as a reader who followed the 12MC Twitter account informed me. The Ohio Art company started making them in Bryan in 1960. However they sold their Etch a Sketch brand in 2016 to focus on their metal lithography business.


LaOtto Brewing


LaOtto Brewing Company

Many of our adventures offered at least one unexpected brewery surprise. LaOtto Brewing in LaOtto, Indiana (map) served that purpose on the Heartland trip. The town of LaOtto didn’t have much, just a few quiet blocks along Old State Road 3, bypassed to the east by a highway heading towards Fort Wayne. We’d been driving all day collecting previously unvisited Indiana counties and it seemed like a good time to stop for a break. Craftbeer.com said we could find a brewery in LaOtto so we pulled over. It turned out to be a nice place with a friendly, informative staff. We also got a suggestion to visit Shoreline Brewery in Michigan City, Indiana to try their Big Bella Heavy Scotch Ale. I’d already planned to visit Michigan City the next day so fate looked like it might work out for us for once.

I never uncovered the etymology of the town’s name so that remained a mystery. Apparently a local Lutheran minister suggested LaOtto in 1875 because nobody liked the previous name, Simonsville. Was it a biblical reference? I don’t know.


Shoreline Brewery


Shoreline Brewery

I wanted to visit the lighthouses in Michigan City, and I’ll talk about those in a future article. Shoreline Brewery sat practically within walking distance of both of them. Memorial Day didn’t stop Shoreline from opening, as I noted for the record, not that I’m bitter or anything. No, not me. I know, I need to put things in perspective and get over it.

We found our Big Bella Heavy Scotch Ale offered for sale in take-home bomber bottles. The brewers aged each batch in bourbon barrels for a year prior to bottling it. They also offered several vintages. I’ve maintained a cellaring program in my home for quite awhile so I thought this would be a fine addition to my collection. We asked about the years available and they listed bottles going all the way back to 2010. There wasn’t any price difference between vintages either. That was a no–brainer. Someone already aged it for me? Of course I went for the 2010. It will be fine some winter evening a few months from now.


And the Rest

We collected a total of eight breweries and brewpubs during this trip. I’m sure I could come up with stories about the remaining five although I’ve run out of space so I’ll simply list them here.

  • Mad Anthony Brewing; Ft. Wayne, Indiana
  • Byway Brewing; Hammond, Indiana
  • Tangled Roots Brewing / Lone Buffalo Restaurant; Ottawa, Illinois
  • Green Tree Brewery; Le Claire, Iowa
  • The Brew Kettle; Strongsville, Ohio

I’d call that another successful tasting adventure.


Articles in the Heartland Series:

  1. Why, oh Why?
  2. How Not to See a City
  3. Foiled by Memorial Day
  4. Beyond Covered
  5. Not Just Farmland
  6. Americana

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Odds and Ends 13

On June 4, 2017 · 0 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle occasionally features topics that don’t warrant an entire article. I collect these items in a spreadsheet and present them all together every once in awhile. However I hadn’t done one of those in awhile and the topics began to pile-up on my list. Odds and Ends 12 appeared all the way back in March 2016! That surprised me a little. I needed to do some spring cleaning so I hopped to it.


An Island Apart


Malabo
Malabo. Photo by Embassy of Equatorial Guinea on Flickr (cc)

The small African nation of Equatorial Guinea featured an odd geographic arrangement. Most of the nation occupied a rectangle of land bordering the western continental coastline. As well, it included an island quite a bit removed towards the northwest, directly off of the coast of Cameroon. Yet, Equatorial Guinea placed its capital on that island and not on the mainland. The island went by the name of Bioko and the city Malabo (map).

That arrangement existed as a relic of colonialism. Europeans first encountered this corner of Africa when Portuguese navigator Fernão do Pó landed on Bioko in 1472. That effort didn’t stick so Portugal traded the island to Spain in 1777. Spain didn’t do much with it either so the British came along and squatted on it in the 1820’s when they found nobody from Spain occupying it. Spain got around to reasserting sovereignty in 1844 and the island remained in Spanish control until Equatorial Guinea gained its independence in 1968. Malabo became the capital by default because it was the oldest and most developed city in the new nation.

Malobo won’t be the capital much longer, however. Equatorial Guinea plans a new capital deep within its mainland jungle interior. Construction began several years ago and government function started moving to the new city, Oyala (map), in February 2017. This completely planned community may someday hold up to two hundred thousand residents, nearly a quarter of the nation’s population. The BBC explained at least one motivation. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema survived several coup attempts and he wanted a more secure location. Oil revenues fund its construction.


What a Mistake


2007-09-10-16-08-59
Rainy Lake. Photo by d Wang on Flickr (cc)

An oddly named geographic feature appeared as I researched the Pub with No Beer. There, just to the northwest of Taylors Arm, I spotted Mistake State Forest (map). I never did find the mistake that led to its name. However, I did learn that it covered 5,638 hectares (~14,000 acres) managed by the Forestry Corporation of New South Wales. I think I made a mistake when I tried to investigate Mistake State Forest.

Fortunately I ran across something completely unexpected and infinitely more interesting. Minnesota’s Star Tribune covered a situation where an 80-year-old error in land records wiped out a popular state trail. Minnesota sold some surplus acreage to a private landowner near International Falls in 1935 and forgot to record its sale. "And the buyer, a prominent International Falls businessman, apparently lost track of the purchase amid all his wheeling and dealing." The spot subsequently became a popular recreational area (map) on Rainy Lake. It might have a generally happy ending though. The heirs seemed willing to gift much of the land back to the state, although retaining acreage with prime views.


A Literal Name


Colstrip Montana
Colstrip Montana. Photo by Spot Us on Flickr (cc)

I noticed that a user landed on 12MC from a remote corner of Montana, so I took a closer look. The spot said Colstrip (map), which I considered a rather strange name. Wouldn’t it be funny, I though, if the name came from an actual strip of coal. Well it did actually, as the city confirmed.

Colstrip was established by the Northern Pacific Railway in 1924 as a company town to provide coal for their steam locomotives. The mining is open pit strip mining, where draglines remove soil above the layer of bituminous coal from the Fort Union Formation.

The coal mining tradition continued to the present day, with the nearby Rosebud mine being one of the largest in the state. Later, a large power plant opened up nearby to generate electricity for a huge territory surrounding it. However, Colstrip residents face an uncertain future as pressures build on coal. Nearly everyone in town worked either at the mine or at the power plant. Meanwhile coal begins to fall out of favor. It probably won’t be worth renovating the plant to make it more efficient. It’s too outdated. The plant was built forty years ago and is now considered "the nation’s 15th-largest producer of greenhouse gases."


First Name, Last Name


Welcome to Clinton, Iowa
Welcome to Clinton, Iowa. Photo by J. Stephen Conn on Flickr (cc)

I discovered an additional example of First Name, Surname Symmetry recently. This one involved an historical figure named DeWitt Clinton. He dominated New York politics during the early part of the Nineteenth Century. His service included mayor of New York City and multiple terms as Governor. He nearly became President of the United States with a respectable showing against the eventual winner, James Madison. Clinton’s crowning achievement may have been his pivotal role in promoting and building the Erie Canal. This opened a vitally important trade route to the growing interior of the nation. This singular achievement led to dozens of places named in his honor throughout the American Midwest.

They must have really loved DeWitt Clinton in Iowa, though. The state (then a territory) named one of its counties Clinton in 1837 (map). However the county took it one step further. Two of the towns that formed within its boundaries became DeWitt and Clinton, located about 20 miles (32 kilometres) apart (map). That formed an excellent First Name, Surname Symmetry.

Some astute readers may have already figured out how I discovered this happy confluence, especially the people who follow my 12MC Twitter account. I was in Clinton, Iowa three days ago although I’m back home now. Take that as a little foreshadowing of articles soon to come.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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