It’s The Weekend!

Every day has its pros and cons.

Yesterday, I didn’t have to be out of the house quite so early, because I had a dentist appointment first thing.  I got to have a bit of a leisurely morning, but I had to have one of my old silver amalgam fillings replaced, complete with Novocain and that horrible grinding.  The good news is that I now have a tooth colored filling that isn’t noticeable.  Unfortunately though, my mouth is still a bit sore – hopefully that goes away soon.

The other plus yesterday was that my later departure meant that I captured a beautiful sunrise!

Happy Weekend everybody!

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Circus Trip 2018: Amana Colonies

Day 19, Friday, August 3, 2018

After my second respite in just a few days, I was fully recharged and ready to resume the trip.  My destination for the day was the Amana Colonies.  Yes, that Amana, as in Amana appliances.

The Amana Colonies are the home of a group of German Pietists who fled persecution in their native Germany to settle near Buffalo, NY.  Eventually they moved to Iowa in 1856.  They brought their craftsmanship with them from Europe, and for over 80 years, they maintained an almost completely self-sufficient economy, with a division of labor among the community members.

Me in a German style hat

The society tried to maintain everything as equally as possible within the society by not using money, and not using products that came from outside the community.  Men and women were considered equal, but interestingly, marriage and child-bearing were discouraged, which obviously had an impact on future generations of colony members.

There are seven towns in the community – the total population of the seven is around 2,000 as of the 2010 census.  The colony founded the Amana Corporation, which manufactures refrigerators and other appliances to sell outside the community; it was this business that generated the money that the community needed to purchase land outside of the colony to support the members, as well as to buy supplies that could not be made by colony members.  (Amana is no longer owned by the colony).

An Amana home

All land was owned by the colony.  All jobs were assigned by the colony, and members ate communally in several communal kitchens.  Everybody who could work was given a job according to their abilities, but in general work was divided into traditional male and female roles, with men working in the factory and in the fields, and women working in the communal kitchens and gardens.

The Ackerman House – built 1856

I took the van tour of the Amana colonies.  It was fascinating; our tour guide was a former member of the colony so he had a lot of information on the inner workings of the colony and what it was like to grow up there.  He left the colony as a young adult, and later returned there to live, but he did not rejoin the religion.

Our guide outside the museum

On our tour, we went to several sites within the community.  We saw one of the general stores, a communal kitchen and a church.  At the church, a woman who was a member of the colony explained the way that they worship, with men and women separated during the service.  We also got to watch a video of the history of the community, with lots of historic photos of the community.  It was so interesting to see the cemetery too.  The premise is that all people are equal in the community, so the graves are simply laid in rows, with all the headstones the same, and simply arranged in the order in which people died.  It is certainly a departure from the concept of family plots.

 

 

The Amana colonies functioned well for over 80 years as an almost completely communal economy, importing almost nothing from outside of the colonies.  However, over time, weaknesses began to reveal themselves.  Colony members became unhappy that outsiders had technological advances, and began to make money on the side to support these purchases.  Other colony members then became jealous about what the Jones’ down the street had.  It is a familiar story whether or not you live in a community with a self-sufficient local economy, and sadly it eventually meant the end of the economic structure of the Amana colonies.  Members began to demand a vote of the society, to determine whether the group wanted to continue with their separate, communal society, or abandon it and join the capitalist economy of the people who lived outside.  I think you know how the vote went.

Today people continue to practice their form of worship, but the communal society they built here is gone.

My mom had recommended my visit there; I was interested but I doubt I would have sought it out had she not mentioned it.  It was really interesting though and I was glad I did.

One last note on Amana.  They have a couple of wineries!  I stopped by Ackerman Winery, a family owned winery that has been in operation since 1956, and did a tasting of their mostly fruit wines.  They are sweet, but I found a few that I enjoyed, and purchased the Rhubarb wine.  And I learned that I do not like dandelion wine – who knew?  Now I do.

Ackerman Winery

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Effigy Mounds National Monument

Day 17 & 18, Wednesday, August 1, 2018 – Thursday, August 2, 2018

After lunch and my tasting at Four Daughters Winery, I made it into Iowa – my 7th state and my 2nd new state!  I traveled to Effigy Mounds National Monument, to check out the mounds there.

I’m in Iowa!

Effigy Mounds is located in Harper’s Ferry, Iowa, and preserves more than 200 prehistoric mounds built by Native Americans of the Woodland culture in the first century AD.  The mounds are relatively unique, in that they are shaped like animals.  Thirty-one of Effigy Mounds’ 206 mounds are effigies (animals); the largest is Great Bear Mound, which is 42 meters long and a meter tall.  The National Monument was designated on October 25, 1949, and welcomes approximately 77,000 visitors per year.

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Researchers don’t know why the mounds were constructed; they believe that they were built for religious ceremonies, burial ceremonies, or as clan symbols.  There are four types of mounds at the site; conical mounds that were often used as burial mounds, linear mounds (also known as “cigar-shaped”) for ceremonial purposes, a compound style which looks like a string of beads and were often used as burial mounds, and the effigy mounds, the animal shapes that make the monument famous.  Interestingly, the linear and compound mounds are only found in the Effigy Mounds Region.

I arrived in time to check out the Visitor’s Center and do a hike up to some of the mounds.  It was muggy that day and it was a nice workout!  I enjoyed being able to see the mounds up close, although I do wish that they had more platforms so visitors could view the mounds from up above.  When you are barely above the level of the mound, it is difficult to see what the mound looks like from above it.  The trail I hiked did have a great view of the Mississippi River though!

After my visit to Effigy Mounds, I found my home for the evening; the Sleepy Hollow Campground in Oxford, Iowa.  It was right off the freeway, but somehow the road noise didn’t carry so far.

This place had a lovely pool!  I ended up staying two nights, just so I would have a chance to spend a few hours in and around that wonderful pool.  It was glorious.  Some days, you just need some pool time.  I drank some sangria, read my book, journaled and was offered a job cleaning the Iowa rest area bathrooms (I know this will surprise you, but I turned it down).  It was a wonderful day of down time!

 

Facebook Memories

Ah Facebook memories, you are a complicated bunch…

I have been on Facebook for a little more than 10 years now and have posted various photos and thoughts on life along the way.  As a result, most days, I get a Facebook memories post.  And that’s where it gets complicated.

I, like other people I’m sure, have a tendency to want to remember the happy times and not the bad memories.  Facebook, I’m sure, wants to remind you of those.  But not all of my memories are happy, and even some of those that were at one time have become tainted by what came later.

I see all those posts of my early marriage, when I thought I was going to have a genuinely happy union.  I was bright-eyed and fresh-faced and wanting to make it work.  But the posts later showed a person who was just pretending.  Keeping up the appearance of a happy marriage, while I felt like I was the only one trying in our relationship.

Me on the Mary’s Rock Trail

I planned vacations, only to hear complaints about how a drive was too long or a historic site too boring, or how we didn’t do what he wanted to do, even though he hadn’t given any input when asked.  I see the pictures of him hiking far in front of me, with no interest in interacting.  I see pictures of my food at dinner, or selfies at national parks, because there was no way he was going to agree to a picture with me.  I see what I call the mug shots; those times when I insisted on a photo, and he just tried to ruin it with a sour expression.  Those Facebook memories are complicated; I loved the places we went and the things we did, but I hated having to “manage” a person who was so often so focused on the negative.

But I also see the experiences that have come since then – the trips with girlfriends and by myself, the hikes, the happy hours, family times, the morning walks.  I see that I have found joy again, that cheerful face that shines through in photos.  I have grown immeasurably and become more comfortable in my own skin.  I have gotten older, and lost love ones along the way, but still see the happy times.  I have faced my share of adversity, and despite it, I enjoy the experience of living.  I enjoy my life!  Those Facebook memories are welcomed.  Places that I want to see again, and people that I love spending time with.

My Facebook memories currently include lots of photos of my trip last year – I love seeing them but it is making me nostalgic about being on the road again.  I think about all the places I visited, and all the ones I didn’t have time to make it to.  I long for that kind of freedom again, and I hope I get more opportunities to travel without so much of an agenda or a timeline.  I worried about that last year as my trip began; would I be too nervous if I didn’t have everything planned out?  Where would I stay each night?  What if I got bored?  What if I got lost?  But it was quite the opposite in fact – I came to enjoy not having a reservation to make it to each night.  I could stay longer if I wanted to or move on earlier.  Freedom.

Me on the bank of the Yellowstone River

For now, work is keeping me from being on the road.  So I focus on those memories, and knowing that I will be making more soon!

 

Nope, Not Julie

I was downtown for a haircut after work, and then I had a few errands to run before I went home.  A man literally followed me a block and a half to ask me if my name is Julie.  I know this because I heard him ask the first time, but there were lots of people around, and my name is not Julie, so I assumed he was talking to someone else and did not respond.  It wasn’t until he asked the second time, after passing me and looking intently at me…

So meet the new face of Julie…  And if you are the real Julie, there is a man downtown who seems very interested in seeing you!

Book Review: The Radium Girls

It is pretty interesting to think about how much of history gets lost to time, until someone comes along and digs it up again.  Have you ever thought about how they get your watch hands and numbers to glow in the dark?  Well, once upon a time, it was radium that gave them that glow, and that luminescent paint was applied by women.

The problem was, radium, and the paint that was manufactured from it, is radioactive.  Exposure to very much of it will kill you.  Of course, the men who ran the watch dial factories didn’t tell the women that; instead they taught them that the best method of applying the paint was to lick the brushes to get a fine point.

The Radium Girls, by Kate Moore, tells the story of the female dial painters, who got sick and died as a result of their work.  And the women who stood up for their rights and changed history.  These women, some as young as 14, were excited by the high wages they earned, and never believed that the companies they worked for were knowingly exposing them to a poisonous substance.  It wasn’t until after the women started falling ill, with numerous diseases caused by the radium, that they finally began to make sense of what was happening.

The Radium Girls offers an excellent account of the period in U.S. history when thousands of young women worked as “dial painters.”  It tells the stories of these women, their hopes and dreams and families, their reasons for coming to work in the factories, and what happened to them there.  The book explains in frank and often gory detail the effects that radium has on the human body, and how it slowly poisoned and often killed these young women.

It also details the women who fought back, bringing suit against the companies whose executives showed such a callous disregard for their health and lives.  Even after there was irrefutable evidence of the effect that the luminescent paint was having on the workers.

This book was very well researched and laid out.  Moore captivates the readers with her details on the lives of each of the women who worked at, and became sick at, the factories.  It is quite emotional, as I’m sure you can guess, many of these women died as a result of the exposure.

Moore also writes extensively about the lawsuits and worker’s compensation claims brought by the women, relying on court testimony and media coverage of the events.  She details the changes to workers compensation laws that were passed as a result of the illnesses and deaths among the dial painters.

I like that these women’s stories are finally being told.  They didn’t set out to change the world, but with their suffering, they did.  Thanks to Moore, perhaps a new generation of worker’s will understand their sacrifice.

It isn’t for the faint of heart, but The Radium Girls is an excellent read!

Circus Trip 2018: Four Daughters Winery

Day 17, Wednesday, August 1, 2018

I had not intended to see much of Minnesota on my road trip.  I mean, in the perfect world, I would have visited much of Minnesota on my trip, as I had never been there before, but… it is not a perfect world, and there was not unlimited time on my trip to go everywhere.  Sadly, I had to pick and choose.  From Austin and the SPAM Museum, I headed east and then south to drop into Iowa.  And found an unexpected gem.

Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery

The Four Daughters Winery is on Highway 16, one of the highways I traveled to get to Iowa.  I wasn’t expecting to see a winery, and I hadn’t done any research on Minnesota wine, but there it was.  I drove past it, noticing what it was, and ended up turning around to go back.  A winery – with a restaurant, and it was lunchtime!  It was clearly a sign.

I went in and chose a spot at the bar – the tasting included your choice of six white or red samples (not SPAMples this time) – I chose the whites.  You could also select two samples of their ciders (but I was so very enthusiastic that she let me taste more).

Four Daughters has some fantastic wines.  Their sparkling Brianna is delicious, and their Tea Time Loon Juice, a black tea infused cider, is amazing.  The sangria is a light, refreshing, summer time sipper.  I bought all three, and I’m sad that Four Daughters doesn’t ship to Washington…  I long ago drank them all…  I am going to have to make it back to Minnesota.  Not to mention I had their pork tacos for lunch, which were so delicious – and paired perfectly with the sparkling Brianna.

Pork tacos

That’s the thing about road trips – sometimes you just find a place you want to stop at and explore.  I was so glad that I did!