Cemetery in a roundabout: West Des Moines, Iowa

Currently situated in the middle of the intersection at South 88th Street and Mills Civic Parkway in West Des Moines, Iowa (not far from I-80), lies the Huston Family Cemetery. It was named for James B. Huston, the patriarch of one of the first families to settle in Dallas County (in the 1840’s) and the LAST person buried at the plot (in 1889). The cemetery is unusual in that it now sits in the center of a roundabout in what was once a rural area, but that is no only about a mile away from a Costco, and as there’s already been one instance of a drunk driver driving through the site, it might end up being moved — although there is some talk of moving the roads instead.

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The area which I’m fairly sure was completely rural a few years ago (like the other grave in a middle of the road I visited in Indiana) is to the graveyards detriment being developed REALLY quickly, according to the locals I spoke to … so much so that — like I already said–  there’s a Costco about a mile directly down the road (with a gas station, which I filled up at).

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The Huston Cemetery consists of 19 graves that date back to the late 1880’s, and are located near to The family’s original home — which is still standing nearby. The home is HIGHLY historical, as it was once a stage-coach station, a tavern, the local post office AND a stop on the Underground Railroad. The family patriarch, James B. Huston, was the first attorney in Dallas County (where the graves are situated)

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According the city’s website, the first two former slave girls, both named Harper, who apparently had “died on their way to freedom” were the first individuals buried there — although this is conflicted by a report from another site, which claims the two girls were part of family that was on its way to Kansas to become part of John Brown’s raiders. They were followed by James Huston’s wife, Nancy Hill Huston, and six of their children, all of whom died young — so there’s a sad story to be told from these stones.

 

 

Iowa 80 – The World’s Largest Truckstop; Walcott, Iowa

On interstate-80 in Walcott, Iowa, you’ll find Iowa-80, which is about four times larger than the average truck stop and as such is advertised as “The World’s largest Truckstop” (their’s no verification to their claim). That said, while its primary focus is on the diverse needs of truckers, it is definitely worth a stop to the average automobile driver on the Interstate 80 … if only because of some of its surprising attributesIMG_2527I used to drive through this truck stop on a semi regular basis back when I lived in San Francisco… and always used to be highly amused at the diverse selection of goods

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This is the doorway automobile drivers first walk through, and it’s goods aimed at tourists

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A large section of the “tourist” area is devoted to veterans and their families, and has pro-military bumper stickers and a display of military medals. IMG_2530

Many years ago I bought a collection of a different (and funnier) version of the “when it has to be destroyed” bumper sticker — which I STILL have on my car — only the original version was a variation on the FedEx advertising campaign, “when it absolutely positively has to be there overnight“… I was sad to see this newer version of the sticker had removed the world “overnight” and hence destroyed the joke.IMG_2543.JPGOn this same level of the store you’ll find their 24-hour all you can eat buffet restaurant, “Home cooking” (with ala cart options), a HUGE food court with a wide selection of fast food options (plus more shopping choices and a game room) — but none of this is the surprising parts… for that you have to check into the levels of the place (and its multiple floors) that cater to the truckers.

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So for instance, while showers and a public laundry are normal services at truck stops (in addition to what this sign shows there’s also a TV lounge and a library upstairs, again, kind of normal for truck stops), what I’ve never seen before is one with a barber, dentist and chiropractor before… and I’ve stopped at more than a few over the years … nor have I seen one that has a theater with a constant stream of movies (although in this day and age that’s much easier to pull off than it was the first time I stopped here, over 20 years ago). While I was there they announced that the movie resident evil was going to start playing in the upstairs movie theater.

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Then if you walk towards the Truckers entrance to the building (on the other side, and down a level), you’ll find another GINORMOUS super-store that has everything the discerning truck owner might want from basic comfort items that anyone who spends a lot of time in their car might want, to the ones someone who actually sleeps there might need:

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multicolored lights and the obligatory sexy lady to put on your truck…. what’s kind of cool is that door of that yellow truck (which I SHIT YOU NOT, is sitting on a rotating floor — look at the ground beneath it, that continually ROTATES) is left open so that anyone can climb up and sit in the truck if they like… including children — although I didn’t see anyone actually do it.

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One of the cool things they have down there is a customization “while you wait” shop that can make anything from bumper stickers to customer embroidered hats or shirts with any image you bring to them as photograph.

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Also, if you have the time, in a seperate building BEHIND the Truckstop, you’ll find a museum dedicated to Trucking — I didn’t have time this trip, but intend to go there next time.

Jesse James Historical Site, First Train Robbery in the West: Adair, Iowa

Located a short distance off of Interstate-80, in Adair, Iowa, is a monument dedicated to the very first documented heist of a moving train in the west; this occurred on July 21, 1873. The thieves in question were the notorious gang of outlaws led by Jesse James.

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Road is to the far left, then the 2nd road is the off ramp, then the memorial

The memorial is located near the top of a low hill, along side an off ramp type road, so that tourists don’t block traffic or cause accidents.

I found this short segment (2.5 minutes) of a longer “Biography” documentary about Jesse James, that focus on this train robbery… or you can read the explanation I found at the site:

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Both sources make the point that this was sort of learning experience for the gang, in that their actions, jerking a rail out of place, resulted in a derailment of the train and the two needless deaths of  Engineer and the fireman, plus injuries to various passangers… i.e., they ultimately decided this method just made it harder than it had to be.

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Along with the explanation of the robbery are some posters talking about local wild plants and a bit about the town.

Albert, The World’s Largest Bull: Audubon, Iowa

Albert the Bull is located along side a trailer park in Audubon, Iowa. This nine times larger than life-size Hereford Bull is 53-year-old, and stands 28 feet tall. It is 15 feet wide between the horns, and weighs 45 tons; and, unlike most of the other big things I’ve found which are usually made from fiberglass, Albert the Bull is made from concrete with a steel work frame.

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I was traveling alone when I passed by here, but I managed to waylay a passing teenager into taking my picture for me.

That said, there’s something equally imposing about Albert that you can’t see from the above photo….

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Actually, come to think of it, he reminds me of a guy I know…