Prairie, Bison, and the Bridges of Madison County

Prairie, Bison, and the Bridges of Madison County

My Mom and have birthday’s right next to each other…I’m the 10th and she’s the 11th. So we always try
and do something together to celebrate. This year, she had the idea to take a trip.

All she would tell me was

• We were going to a museum

• It was in the continental US

• Not somewhere you’d normally think of going

I didn’t get any clues and I even didn’t look at my boarding pass as I walked thru the security
at LAX.

It wasn’t until our gate that I saw “Minneapolis-St. Paul”…which it turned out was only where we 
were transferring. Mom wanted to talk about the trip on the flight, so she told me where we were

Des Moines, Iowa.

The moment of surprise at LAX.


wow. talked about surprised. I’ve never been to the Midwest – besides taking the train thru it,
but I’ve wanted to go…now I was on the way.

At the Minneapolis airport I decided to get some Mexican food. It seemed like a good idea at the 
time. However, I got a pretty nasty case of food poisoning. Not only was I sick for the entire trip -
but basically since then, over a month ago, my stomach has been messed up. Interestingly enough,
I think Japan helped because it was so each to eat simple rice, noodle, and fish dishes.

Whatever it was must have been pretty nasty. I’ve eaten at Taco trucks in LA for 4 years without ever
getting sick…then I go to a “real” restaurant in the Midwest…sheesh.

Anyhoo…in addition to being the swinging-est airport in the US, Minneapolis should also be known
for it’s high standard of food cleanliness.

Our first day we went and toured the Iowa state Capitol.

capitol & Mom

What a gorgeous building. Built around 1900 with all hand carved marble, local wood, and hand 
painted stenciling. In fact, 2 men had been working on restoring the original stencil designs.
Someone had decided to paint over them…oops. These guys have been working on this same project
for over 20 years.

capitol top level


They were in the midst of restoring the dome for a big World Hunger Conference. It was costing several
million dollars. My Mom wondered why they didn’t just use that money to feed the starving people…

capitol dome


Our next excursion was to a real prairie. As you may know, prairies used to cover most of the midwest.
Now they cover about .01% of the midwest. They’ve been plowed under, paved over, and 
replaced by stripmalls and corn fields.

It’d be like going to Washington, cutting down all the trees and then pushing the mountains into Puget
Sound. Ok, I exaggerate a little. But still. Prairies are the treasure of the midwest – and were
mostly destroyed.

There is a 5000+ acre prairie restoration project near Des Moines…we drove out there and visited it.

The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. (

Mom and some Big Bluestem. I saw this grass over 6′ high.

tall grass!

The Bison fur is really soft…mmm bison.


We took a walk thru part of the prairie. It was really windy and as the wind went thru the grass
it made this sound…it was beautiful, like a symphony almost. Music of the prairie.

prarie flowers
prairie Luke

We didn’t actually see any…d’oh.

The following day we went to Madison County.

Yes. “The” Madison County.

I’ve never been somewhere in the US with so many unpaved roads…

madison county

Mom took this one. I really like it.

mom shot

A covered bridge in Madison County, Iowa.

bridges of madison county

Apparently, graffiti isn’t just for “punk” kids anymore.

grandma graf

bridge Luke

madison townhall

Heading back to Des Moines…drinking Malted Milkshakes…mmmm.


Kind of America-centric…but heck, it is Middle America.


The Museum we went to was The Art Center ( It was a really nice, well rounded modern art museum.

The didn’t really have anything older than 1920…and they had a bit from basically everyone you’ve heard
of since then. Maybe not their best piece…but a piece by them non-the-less.

John Singer-Sargent is a favorite of Mom and I’s.

This one was about 6′ tall. A photograph reproduced in actual size of Pantone Color squares.

Vic Muniz. Chuck

There’s something wonderful about a sculpture that is hermitically sealed to preserve the freshness…
of the vacuum cleaners.

John Koons. New Shelton Wet/Dry Triple Decker

We also saw an exhibit at their downtown branch which was all about signage. Kind of a graffiti inspired
sort of thing. (

Ironically it was made up mostly of SF and LA based artists.

The day before we left we can across the biggest farmer’s market I’d ever seen. It was like 
a 37 county farmer’s market.

This place has: goats meat, foam swords, and marshmellow guns.

farmers market


Downtown Des Moines.


On Sunday we visited this Methodist Church. It looked like it would be a rather large group,
but it turned out we were in the basement…the main sancturary was under repairs. The service we
attended probably only had 20 people in it.

The Pastor was a younger guy, but silver haired. He had a “soul patch” and wore a headset as
he did the duties of lead singer, keyboardist, worship leader, and preacher all at once. It was a 
nice service about financial responsibility. All though the flat screen TV’s with images of dollar
bills on them the whole time was a little distracting.

methodist church

A innocuously racist poster print in downtown Des Moines.


3 things about Iowa that stand out to me:

Fried Cheese Balls.

White people.


This last pic kind of sums up my thoughts on Iowa.



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