I spent part of the weekend in Iowa with my dad. We made a pilgrimage of sorts to Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, the home base of the antique-scavengers featured in the show American Pickers. Didn’t end up selling anything, but it was cool to see their place, which, as my dad reports, is much smaller than it looks on television.

We also got to tour the Mississippi River Distilling Company, a local spirits distillery. They explained the distilling process for vodka, gin, whiskey, etc., and how their “grain to glass” process is one of only a handful in the U.S. Every step of the process is handled using locally-made products, from the corn and wheat to the wooden barrels and glass bottles. They took pride in their unique flavor, which was the result of putting the drink through the distilling process only once rather than multiple times, as is the case with most other vodka manufacturers. They’ve only been in business for three months, but it looks like they’re doing well.

LeClaire is also the childhood home of Buffalo Bill Cody, so we toured the museum in town, which ended up being less about Buffalo Bill and more about the town itself. With its strategic placement on the Mississippi, LeClaire saw a lot of riverboat steamers pass through back in the day. They have one on display in the museum – the Lone Star – which is the last remaining, fully-intact example of the wooden-hulled riverboat design typical of that era.

Finally, we drove the half-hour down the river to Davenport to see the Titanic artifact exhibit at the Putnam Museum. The exhibit integrated the artifacts with the story of the ship’s creation and first and final voyage. Most eye-opening was the wall of survivors and perished. They divided the passengers list by class – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and crew – and the percentage of 1st class passengers saved compared to that of 3rd class and crew was stunning. At least 60-70% of first-class passengers were saved, while the reverse was true of the lower classes. Class status, generally speaking, really did determine whether they would live or die.

I’ve never actually stayed in Iowa, but I thoroughly enjoyed the stereotypical yet still very real Midwestern small-town charm. I also have a recharged desire to go to more museums and historical sites. Can’t get enough of those.

(Photo: Matt Heeren)