Tuesday, July 8, 2008

4th of July in Iowa

4th of July starts early here on Big Spirit Lake. Our fireworks were on the night of the 3rd; the town’s way to make sure that people turn out and so it doesn’t have to compete with the massive 4th of July fireworks display over on West Lake on the night of 4th (no one in their right mind would voluntarily go anywhere near Arnold’s Park or Okoboji on Independence Day…what a lot of people and craziness!)

Our friend Sandi brought her cousin’s family over and we all sat out on the dock to watch the festivities. The display was very pretty, as fireworks are, and the neighbors thoughtfully turned their stereo up enough so everyone on our shore could hear the music to which the fireworks were meant to be synched.

We are still waiting to hear exactly what happened on the barge that night as about 3/4s of the way through there was an enormous pillar of fire shooting up almost as high as the fireworks themselves! That settled down for a few minutes only to be followed by another, larger one.

We haven’t heard anything, so assume nothing serious happened and it is the same barge that did the fireworks on the other lake the following night, so it must have been just one of those things. Never a dull moment!

Morning of the 4th means one thing – the Fly-In at Estherville Airport. This is the oldest fly-in 4th of July event in all of Iowa and the turn out is always good, though the number of airplanes has dwindled from its heyday in the 60s when there were planes parked several deep all along the runway. I was surprised to see so many planes this year with all the doom and gloom we hear about high fuel prices.

Riders on horseback direct the parking (a reminder that one should always just stop and take the photo when you see the scene…by the time I’d eaten, looked at planes and classic cars then headed for the parking lot, the horses were stripped of their tack and the riders were in line for food!) Pancakes, sausages, eggs, milk, coffee, tea for $6; free for pilots. All of the labor is from the various volunteer organizations in Estherville and their numerous members work from before 6am until well into the afternoon. Even one of my Grandma’s friends, who is 90, was going hard by 6am so they would be ready for the crowds! Live music by one of the local jazz bands ranges from the patriotic to the retro nostalgia of the 50s and 60s to catchy show tunes.

There's also a mini-car show gathering in front of the dining hangar; you have to be quick as those who drive their classic cars often eat, mingle and run off to the next showcase!

A few radio controlled fanatics were out, too. It was pretty cool to watch them fly their small craft as a big plane came in for a landing.

And it's fun to hang out by your car as a plane rumbles down the runway and then ambles over to park next to you!

The Fourth of July weekend is the busiest and craziest weekend of the year in the Lake’s area and some of the major attractions are the multitudes of flea markets, antique dealers and garage sales that seem to be every three feet as you cruise along. We joined the masses and covered two of the three biggest flea markets and a couple of “truckload sales”. Coleman had a huge area filled with the coolest outdoor products for the water and camping. I thought this big stealth bomber water sled looked incredibly fun (and maybe a little dangerous) but it weighs a ton and I don’t anywhere near that much allowable luggage left over!

Sometimes I have to shake my head at some of the stuff the vendors display, but I guess there’s bound to be some junk in a place where you can buy vintage water skis, antique farming equipment, rocks (yes, those are rocks for sale) and mini-donuts all within spittin’ distance!

Both Patt and I found new treasures, so the hunt was successful! The day was the perfect wander around outside in Iowa weather – not too hot, not too humid.

Dad and I spent a few hours in the late afternoon down at his workshop trying to get the power steering pump installed in the El Camino which entailed a few modifications and tweaks.

Things went pretty well and we had it bolted on in good time, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t sitting right. We cranked it up on the hoist – this is an awesome thing to have if one is working on cars – and tried to troubleshoot a solution so we didn’t have to take the whole thing apart again.

No luck, so off it came again. Dad really wanted to drive the El Camino so we decided to see what would happen if we started the car without the pump hooked up. A couple of zip ties around the now “extra” hoses and IGNITION!

It went just fine until Dad tried turning the steering wheel back and forth…at which time steering fluid happily spurted out all over the interior of the engine compartment. Guess all the parts DO need to be hooked up after all!

It wouldn’t be the 4th of July at Dad’s without some cool cars out and about. This year the 4th just happened to land on the first Friday of the month and so we headed to the Black Knights Car Club Cruise-In over in Estherville (the Cruise-In changes towns every Friday).

I learned from the best – never make a decision if you don’t have to: we ended up taking three cars this week instead of choosing just one! Dad drove his newest running acquisition, the ’56 Chevy Sedan with the orange custom paint and Rock & Roll detailing; Patt drove her almost completed ’46 Hudson – it’s just waiting for its new seats and maybe one day someone will hook up its turn signals; I drove the ’53 Buick, a cherry and comfortable ride with plenty of Ooomph (she has a 445 under the hood, the largest Buick made).

We had a little hiccup on the road between Spirit Lake and Estherville when Patt thought the Hudson was overheating, but a quick check on the side of the road showed that all things were fine and off we went again.

It was a bit of a trip to have our own little parade of cars and to park them side by side in the last of the evening sun.

Over 25 cars parked along the street in a surprisingly good turn out considering how crazy busy people usually are over the holiday weekend.

The street isn’t closed to traffic for the Cruise-In but that doesn’t deter people on foot, in cars and on motorcycles taking a leisurely pace as they cruise the line and wander across the lanes of oncoming traffic. The car owners brought along lawn chairs and set up camp on the sidewalk so they could gawk at the gawkers. I love small towns!

Some cars are restored to beautiful “family style” and others are a bit more tricked out

One of the cars has a tribute to the owner’s young son who died tragically a few years ago

The group heads out for a mini-parade around the town, usually trying to pass by some of the assited living and old folks' homes, before returning to the street for more schmoozing and car talk. We didn't do the tour this week and instead headed back to the Lakes.

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