Love road trips. Even rural areas of Iowa look good when driving free and easy down America’s “super highways.” I recognize a lot of cities and towns; family roots appear around many corners and corn fields. My favorite finds were:
Time spent in Des Moines. My father was born within sight of its golden capitol dome in 1913. Just a few feet away was the Des Moines River. He and his brother didn’t have to walk far to fish and trap. In those days, trapping was still a lucrative business for young boys.
In Des Moines I visited the historical and genealogical libraries because of DNA. I have learned DNA is a blessing and a curse. Often it tells us something we don’t know. Sometimes it tells us what we don’t expect. My latest discovery falls into the second category.
Evidently, my granddaddy is not exactly who I thought. So, I am here in the attempt to find information and leads to my biological grandfather. Discovering this lapse in blood line is not as disconcerting as one might imagine. I’ve lived many decades as a Bunyard and researched the paternal line and I am not about to change my name. But it does give me a new direction for research and possible links to undiscovered cousins.
A second stop is in Newton, Iowa. My father’s family lived around Colfax and Newton and many “cousins” remain in the area. I visit my grandmother’s hometown of Colfax then drive into Newton to meet a cousin (1C1R to be exact). Her father, my father’s uncle, was killed in action fighting the Germans outside Florence and is buried there in the American Cemetery. We have emailed for years but this is the first opportunity we have had to meet.
A last Iowa-family stop is in Davenport just along the Mississippi. The river has caused havoc along its banks and nearby streets and though its water has subsided, streets remain damaged, detours prevalent, and rain consistent. I have not seen my cousin since he was a small baby. He is now 60 and looking at retirement. A second cousin, older, is also here and it is fun and informative catching up on decades of family tales. I remember their father, my uncle, and enjoy family stories.
Of course, this cousin denotation is relative. I have convinced my male cousin to do DNA pretty much to confirm what I already know. And nothing changes as we are all still Bunyard cousins – just not sharing as much DNA as once thought.
Driving through miles and miles of corn fields, I am reminded of what Iowa is all about: farming. It is beautiful county if one likes endless corn, mosquitoes, torrential thunderstorms and humidity. None are super high on my list of likes.
Driving north on 380, attempting to escape into a cooler climate, I spot a surprising sign: National Czech & Slovak Museum. Now, this is totally unexpected. Not only did I not expect there to be a large ethnic population of Czechs and Slovaks in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but I also didn’t expect, a year or so ago, that I might be related to them. I make a quick reverse in my direction and visit this fine museum.
Cedar Rapids looks to be an interesting city. The Czech /New Bohemia Village is charming. The Cedar River, which also can wreck havoc on its banks, currently quietly meanders through the city. Along its banks are the African American Museum and the aforesaid Czech/Slovak Museum.
There are many educational, and timely, items about the Czech/Slovak Museum, a huge brick building sitting atop a rise of land just above the Cedar River. It is modern, has a heated underground garage, its displays and artifacts are interesting and informative, and the short movies about immigrant history and the museum are fascinating. Did my paternal ancestor pass through this city on his way to Des Moines? Did my grandmother? I also learn that, as a result of massive flooding in 2008, this entire 2200 sq. ft. brick building was picked up and moved 480 feet onto a new higher foundation. Overall, it is an excellent museum and worth a visit.
It is always fun to visit my nephew and family outside Duluth. Raised on a farm in Indiana, I like to visit his acreage comprised of goats, chickens, and more goats. Watching soap made, staying out of the way of pushy goats, picking blueberries and building a “buck barn” for the impending cold of northern Minnesota is a pleasant change from life at the beach.
Flying out of Minneapolis gives me the opportunity to visit sites I missed last winter when I was crazy enough to be in Minneapolis in January.
Parking my car and walking across a parking lot, I enter the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, sort of by mistake. However, within its doors was an excellent art and photography exhibition of the “Many Faces of Cy DeCosse”. DeCosse was born in North Dakota and has an illustrious career in advertising, publishing, art and design. His work ranges from wonderful black & white photography, colorful gum dichromate creations, a photo processing using platinum, polymer photogravure pressings, to a book on microwave cooking that First Lady Rosalind Carter cherished.
Just across the quad is the Minneapolis Institute of Art, a three-story building crammed full of displays and artifacts from around the world. The galleries range from the ancient art and architecture of Africa and China to excellent photography, sculpture and art from around the world. One could wander for hours and probably not see it all. The museum is free and should not be missed when visiting Minneapolis.
Not far from downtown Minneapolis is the beautiful wooded community of Chanhassen. I never heard of this community but I have heard of their most famous resident – Prince.
Paisley Park, Prince’s private estate and recording studios, is a popular destination. This uniquely designed complex houses much of Prince’s memorabilia including clothing, guitars, pianos, and cars. A tour consists of the main building, Prince’s office, numerous studios and recording facilities. If lucky enough, one can also attend concerts or a dance party in his Music Club. It is an interesting tour and for Prince fans, a must. His music, image and art are ever present.
Love road trips.