Monday, September 28, 2015

To Iowa and Back

I just returned from a trip to Davenport, Iowa made in honor of my father's birthday. 

In the past I have made the 850-mile trip from Denver to Davenport in a single day.  This time I took my older son's advice and limited my driving to about 400 miles per day.  (My son's last visit to Denver was in a behemoth RoadTrek conversion van, and this probably influenced his thoughts on how far one could comfortably drive in a day.  A van of similar vintage is shown below.)

My first day of travel got me to Grand Island, Nebraska in the middle of the afternoon, early enough to see a tourist attraction.  I googled the town's list of attractions and chose the 3:30 p.m. tour of the Hornady ammunition works. 

When I arrived, I found that I was the only one present for the tour.  Therefore, I got a private showing from the tour guide, a very sharp and personable young lady.  The fabrication processes on shop floor were fascinating, and the tour guide gave me excellent answers to all my questions.

Unfortunately, no photographs of the shop machinery were permitted, in order to protect trade secrets.  All that I was authorized to photograph was the office area.  In what must have been intended as a motivation experiment, the Hormady office workers are surrounded on all sides by stuffed animals bagged by the company founder, Mr. Joyce Hornady.

My favorite was this goat, whose calm expression reminded me of a young Alec Guinness.

I arrived in Davenport, Iowa the following day and began an enjoyable three-day visit with friends and family.  One unexpected highlight was watching my brother-in-law perform an aerial flip with his electric drone.  I would have bet that the stunt was impossible until I saw him do it.

I returned to Grand Island on Sunday evening.  The next morning I drove down Interstate 80 to the famous Kearney arch.

On the grounds there was a facsimile of a pioneer's sod house.

Feeling a bit like a peeping-tom, I positioned my little camera between the guard bars on the doorway and photographed the interior.

A placard outside the sod house interested me from a chemistry perspective: it described the process for whitewashing the walls.  It also described the construction of the bed.

The placard reads:  "Whitewashing the inside walls made the sod house brighter and easier to clean.  Slaked lime was a common base to make whitewash.  The slaked lime was made by heating limestone at high temperatures, turning it into calcium oxide, and then adding water (or milk) to the mixture to make calcium hydroxide.  As the whitewash was exposed to carbon dioxide in the air, it cured, acquiring a distinctive bright white color.  It was possible to enhance the white color by adding chalk, ground rice or flour.  After it first dried, the whitewash seemed rather thin, almost translucent.  However, a day or two to cure finished the process, leaving the whitewash mostly opaque.

The rope-bed was made without nails or screws.  A bit-and-brace drilled the holes for the rope, which was woven both directions to create the foundation for the mattress.  Keeping the ropes tight made for a more comfortable bed.

Did you know the term 'Good Night, Sleep Tight' refers to keeping your rope-bed tight?"

The placard stimulates my inner mad scientist.  I feel an urge to get some limestone and a propane torch and make some whitewash for the inside walls of my townhouse.  However, I feel no urge whatsoever to make a rope-bed.

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