Our 2021 Road Trip #8: The Art of the City of Five Seasons

Emperor Augustus bust, Cedar Rapids.

Fires wave behind a bust of the Emperor Augustus, sculpted circa 25 B.C.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is nicknamed “The City of Five Seasons” courtesy of an advertising agency hired to boost their image back in 1968. The fifth season is not a specific calendar range, but rather an ambiguously conceptual phase in which a Cedar Rapidsian ostensibly kicks back and enjoys the other four. That’s not as loose a paraphrase of my sources as you might think. Perhaps one must attain a certain meditative state in order to transcend the space-time continuum and enjoy spring, summer, winter, and fall as a four-way point in time, a singular melange of all their sensations, and Cedar Rapids is the one true nexus of all seasonal ley lines whereupon arcane Iowan magic manifests the sensory cross-section of freezing sunshine, fiery snow, plants blooming bright orange, and year-round pumpkin spice.

Maybe you just have to be Of The Rapids to get it. Or maybe the real fifth season was the friends we made along the way. We forged no new friendships in the big C-R, but we enjoyed perusing their copious art flourishes, from their art museum to the surrounding area.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #7: American Nothic

Jimmy Carter Gothic parody.

President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn on the January 1977 cover of Punch shortly before his inauguration. Art by Wally Fawkes, a.k.a. “Trog”.

Sure, you could Google parodies of Grant Wood’s American Gothic and see six million of them online, or you could support the arts by driving hundreds of miles and paying museum admission to see a fraction of them in person. Well, not the original artwork itself, mind you, just old copies of the publications and merchandise that have used some. And one monitor slideshow of countless others, some copied-and-pasted from online and others possibly drawn by local DeviantArt account holders for fun. But that still counts as an art exhibition of sorts, I rationalize.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #6: From the Studio That Brought You “American Gothic”

Woman with Plants, 1929.

“Woman with Plants”, 1929, based on Grant Wood’s own mother.

Throughout our travels we’ve wandered inside and around art museums from Denver to Milwaukee, from Birmingham to Baltimore, from the hallowed institutions of Manhattan to our very own controversial outpost here in Indianapolis. This year we added Cedar Rapids to the list, partly out of curiosity and partly due to its surprising connection with another Midwest art museum from one of our past road trips.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #5: Guy Walks Into an Airport With Thirty Bottles of Liquid

water and Gatorade Zero!

(give or take a few)

Clerk says to the guy, “Aren’t jokes supposed to start in a bar?” Guy says, “It’s cool, I brought my own.”

Clerk says, “So how can we help you?” Guy says, “I came to get a car.” Clerk says, “This is an airport. People come here for planes.” Guy says, “But I can’t drive a plane.” Guy says, “Not with that attitude.”

…okay, so that’s not really how Saturday morning went, but I really did trudge into an airport with that armload of bottles without getting jumped by security. Very kind mercy on their part, keeping any lingering post-9/11 sabotage paranoia on the down-low.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #4: Hangin’ with the Hoovers

Herbert Hoover gravesite!

The working title was “Hunting the Hoovers” but that makes me sound like a suspect in their deaths.

Our presence in Iowa this year was an entirely intentional navigation for the sake of pursuing one of our recurring motifs. We could’ve trimmed a few hundred miles off this year’s drive if we’d bypassed it and taken the more direct route up I-90 through Wisconsin and Minnesota. However, one of the many unseen attractions on our to-do lists was in east-central Iowa — small enough that it was unlikely to be a primary destination in itself, and remote enough that the odds of it being “right on the way” to some future Point B were negligible. We’ve missed so many off-path stopovers in years past that we’re tired of missing out and have become a bit more amenable to long detours. Well, the fun kind of detours, anyway, as opposed to road construction detours.

(Prime example of one out-of-the-way challenge that’s stymied us: a complete Laura Ingalls Wilder historical tour would require days and days of backroads, virtually no interstates. Multiple tiny towns have historical homes or museums in her name because Pa Ingalls did a stellar of job of never living near a single Podunk anywhere that grew into a conveniently connected metropolis.)

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Our 2021 Road Trip #3: 4-Wheel Gawks in an 18-Wheel World

IOWA 80 Truck Stop!


Among the roughly six hundred million Americans who’ll tell you road trips are their specialty right before sending you a link to their blog that you’ll never click on, Anne and I are merely meek, doughy amateurs compared to the real road-tripping professionals. I don’t mean canceled Travel Channel hosts or social media influencers with sports cars or wanted homicidal fugitives. I mean America’s truck drivers. They’ve been to more states than we have, they’ve seen more horrors than we ever will, they’ve brushed off more honking and more middle fingers than I hope I’ll ever have to, though I should probably stop competing with them on that front and maybe moderate some of my driving habits.

I imagine truck drivers scoff at civilians who take too much pride in their weaksauce hundreds-of-mile journeys taken in their puny four-wheeled jalopies. Truck drivers also have bragging rights for the fact that they get paid for all that driving, extremely unlike us pretenders. But they do have one thing in common with us: they love to be spoiled while they’re on the road. To those discerning highway kings and queens, Iowa offers quite the extended roadside intermission.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 23: 300 Miles from Steak to Cake

Iowa Machine Shed!


It all comes down to this: the last leg of our long, long trip. We began with friends; we concluded with family.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 22: The Town on the Edge of Forever


DISCLAIMER: Not a working spacecraft yet.

Our first venture into the state of Iowa left a lot to be desired, but it was a milestone in our travels: the first time we ever visited the birthplace of a famous personality before they were born.

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