Louise Speaks: We are now on a mission to head East and then North to get to Canada. As we are heading out of Iowa we stopped in Burlington, Iowa to visit Snake Alley. According to Ripley Believe it or Not, Snake Alley has been known as the crookedst street in the world. The physical limitations and steep elevation of Heritage Hill inspired the construction of Snake Alley in 1894. It was intended to link the downtown business district and the neighborhood shopping area. Snake Alley is a one-block section of this route. The street was completed in 1898, but was not originally named Snake Alley. A resident noted that it reminded him of a snake winding its way down the hill, and the name stuck. Bricks were laid at an angle to allow horses better footing as they descended. Unfortunately, riding horses back up the alley often resulted in a loss of control at the top; for this reason, even to this day, Snake Alley remains a one-way street, with all traffic heading downhill. There is a battle as to who has the crookedst street between Snake Alley and San Francisco’s Lombard Street. Lombard street beats Snake Alley by several turns, but the turns on Snake Alley are sharper, giving it a total of 1100° of turning from end to end, where Lombard Street’s straighter curves total only 1000°. Snake Alley consists of five half-curves and two quarter-curves over a distance of 275 feet, rising 58.3 ft , a 21% grade. Having seen both Snake Alley and Lombard Street, Snake Alley seems steeper because I think it’s shorter. Both are pretty cool though and I’m glad we stopped.
Our next stop was to Ottawa, Illinois to find the grave and monument of the Boy Scout Founder, William D. Boyce. The monument is of a lad in shorts and knee socks. There are also graves of all his family although it was difficult to match up parents and children. There was a bit of a mishap driving through the cemetery in the RV, but I’m going to leave that up to you to ask Thelma to tell the tale.
Also in Ottawa, Illinois is a bronze statue of “Radium Girl”. I found this story very interesting and it was the reason we went on a hunt to find the statue. In the 1920’s hundreds of young girls worked in a watch factory painting tiny strokes of glowing paint on ity bitty wrist watches. The glow came from radium and the company encouraged the girls to keep their brush tips sharp by licking them before dipping the brush into the glow paint. Even after the girls bones began to dissolve and their jaws started falling off, the company insisted that nothing was wrong. It wasn’t until the girls were dubbed Radium Girls by the press when they sued the company that the practice ended.
Now fast forward to 2006. An 8th grade student in Ottawa learned of what had happened in her hometown and was amazed that no one else seemed to know about it. She lobbied her elected officials to erect a Radium Girl memorial. The town eventually commissioned the young girls father who was a sculpture to create a life size bronze statue of a Radium Girl which was unveiled in 2011.
While on this trip we have noticed many wooden carved Indians sprouting up everywhere. They are on corners of gas stations, in shopping centers and in parks. We were looking for one specific carving but were unaware that there were so many. While in Ottawa we were looking for the Peter Wolf Toth Statue located next to the Illinois River. There are many signs that point the way and it is in a very nice park…so nice that this is where we stopped to have lunch. Peter Toth has hand carved over 70 of his whispering Giants. These statues are conceptually alike but each statue is unique, and placed in parks across the United States and Canada. I don’t remember where, but I know I’ve seen them just at intersections in the middle of town. I wish I had gotten a list of where all 70 could be seen…I know we saw at least 10.
Continuing East, our last stop in Illinois was in Morris…a town where one of my daughters lived. We were looking for “R” Place”, a truck stop the claims fame to the “World’s Largest Hamburger”. The hamburger is made of over a full pound of beef, a half head of lettuce, and a loaf of bread for the gigantic bun. People come from Chicago, which is over an hour away just to eat here.
We have done some driving today. We have driven many miles on the Great River Road–US 61 a road mentioned in Patricia’s book “1000 Places To See Before You Die”. Leaving Iowa, going through Illinois and we plan to sleep in Indiana tonight. Three states in one day.