Pleasure Avalanche

We are back in Des Moines tonight after a week-long Spring Break vacation with many, many moving pieces. Katelin and her housemates, Dan and Emma, spent the first half of the week in Toronto, Ontario — a birthday gift to Katelin from Marcia and I. Katelin then flew into Charlotte, was picked up by my mother (who lives near the Charlotte airport), and then driven up to Asheville, North Carolina, where my sister and her family live. Marcia and I hooked up with them all there — after three days on the road, including one night in St. Louis, and two nights in Nashville, where fun was had, and how. The full family unit was together for three days, then Marcia and I headed home (this time via Indianapolis and Peoria, where we spent an evening), with Katelin and my mom staying in Asheville for one more night, before a drive back to Charlotte together, followed by a flight back to Rochester for Katelin. Everyone is back where they belong tonight, but it was really great to have us all in one place for a few days, since that doesn’t happen very often. The next time we see Katelin, she will be graduating from college, whee! Here are some pictures of the trip(s), for posterity’s sake . . .

Katelin and her housemates -- Dan and Emma -- in Toronto, for Katelin's 22nd birthday trip.

Katelin and her housemates — Dan and Emma — in Toronto, for Katelin’s 22nd birthday trip.

Marcia offers an appropriately dour pose at the American Gothic House in Eldon, Iowa.

Marcia strikes an intentionally dour pose at the American Gothic House in Eldon, Iowa.

I have fallen and I can't get up . . . (public art in St. Louis, Missouri) . . .

I have fallen and I can’t get up . . . (public art in St. Louis, Missouri) . . .

The Gateway Arch really is one of the wonders of the modern world . . . but it's darned hard to get a photo of it, especially on a grey and cloudy day . . .

The Gateway Arch really is one of the wonders of the modern world . . . but it’s darned hard to get a photo of it, especially on a grey and cloudy day . . .

Marcia and I spent St. Patrick's Day Eve in an Irish Bar dancing to a U2 Cover Band in St. Louis. More fun than you might expect!

Marcia and I spent St. Patrick’s Day Eve in an Irish Bar dancing to a U2 Cover Band in St. Louis. More fun than you might expect!

Marcia becomes one with the (mid-century modern) furniture, St. Louis . . .

Marcia becomes one with the (mid-century modern) furniture, St. Louis . . .

President Andrew Jackson's tomb, at The Hermitage, Nashville, Tennessee.

President Andrew Jackson’s tomb, at The Hermitage, Nashville, Tennessee.

Marcia and I visited the Opryland complex in Nashville . . . and had a drink and some delicious tasty snacks while there.

Marcia and I visited the Opryland complex in Nashville . . . and had a drink and some delicious tasty snacks while there.

My sister keeps chickens on her Double D Ranch, in scenic downtown Asheville, North Carolina. This is Dixie Chicken and me.

My sister keeps chickens on her Double D Ranch, in scenic downtown Asheville, North Carolina. This is Dixie Chicken and me.

Wife, mother, daughter, sister. All the important and magnificent women in my life, seated at one small table.

Wife, mother, daughter, sister. All the important and magnificent women in my life, seated at one small table.

The Southeast Iowa Tour

I spent Monday and Tuesday this week in Southeast Iowa, driving 640 miles through 21 Iowa Counties (17 of them new to me), bringing the total number of Iowa counties I’ve visited to 54; more than half-way to a Full Grassley. Highlights of the trip included seeing dozens of bald eagles in and around Keokuk and on the lower reaches of the Des Moines River, unexpectedly visiting the northernmost Civil War battlefield, finding a few geodes in Lee County, watching sunrise over Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, and staying in a classic $30/night motel at the edge of a tiny town, under extraordinary winter stars, with a cornfield outside my window. I also visited the “American Gothic” House in Eldon, Iowa, which features in Grant Wood’s iconic painting of that name. Click the image of it below to view the full photo gallery of this trip with descriptions of what you are seeing, or click here for the silent slideshow version.