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The two RV Gypsies visited
the Buddy Holly Memorial
near Clear Lake, Iowa

June 1, 2012

USA state showing location of Iowamap of the state of Iowa showing location of Clear Lakemap showing location of Iowa in the USA
Below is a bit of reading about Buddy Holly's plane crash. If you aren't into reading history, please scroll down the page for photos, the sub-menu, and for other navigational options.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Day_the_Music_Died - On February 3, 1959, a small-plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa killed 3 American rock & roll pioneers: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. The Big Bopper Richardson, plus the pilot, Roger Peterson. The day was later called The Day the Music Died by Don McLean, in his song American Pie.

The Winter Dance Party tour was to cover 24 Midwestern cities in 3 weeks. The amount of travel was a problem with the tour as the distance between venues was not considered when scheduling each performance. Plus the tour bus was not equipped for the weather and its heating system broke shortly after the tour began. Holly's drummer, Carl Bunch, was hospitalized in Michigan with a severe case of frostbitten feet that developed when the bus broke down en route to Wisconsin. Holly's group was the backing band for all of the acts, so Holly, Valens and Dion DiMucci (of Dion and the Belmonts) took turns playing drums for each other at the Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Clear Lake, Iowa, shows.

The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa was not a stop on the tour, but promoters called the Surf Ballroom manager and offered him the show. The show was set for February 2.

When Buddy Holly arrived at the Surf Ballroom that Monday evening, he was frustrated with the tour bus. Holly told his remaining band mates, Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup, that they should charter a plane to save time and to avoid the cold bus ride of 380 miles to the tour's next stop: Moorhead, Minnesota.

Flight arrangements were made with Roger Peterson, a 21-year-old local pilot. A fee of $36 per passenger was charged for the single-engine 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza 35 which could seat three in addition to the pilot.

Richardson developed a case of flu during the tour and asked Waylon Jennings for his seat on the plane. When Holly learned that Jennings wasn't going to fly, he said in jest, "Well, I hope your ol' bus freezes up" and Jennings responded, also in jest, "Well, I hope your ol' plane crashes". This exchange of words would haunt Jennings for the rest of his life.

Ritchie Valens asked Tommy Allsup for his seat on the plane. Tommy said "I'll flip ya for the remaining seat". Valens won the coin toss and a seat on the flight.

The plane left at 12:55 AM Central Time on February 3. There was a light snowfall with winds out of the south at 20 knots, gusting to 30 knots and a cloud ceiling of 3,000 feet above the ground. The ceiling had dropped by 2,000 feet in the previous hour. Though there were indications of deteriorating weather along the route, the weather briefings that Peterson received failed to relay the information.

Hubert Dwyer, owner of the plane, watched from outside the tower and "saw the tail light of the aircraft gradually descend until out of sight" just after 1:00 AM. Peterson earlier told Dwyer he would file a flight plan with Air Traffic Control by radio after takeoff. When Peterson did not call in the flight plan, Dwyer requested that they attempt to establish radio contact, but all attempts were unsuccessful. By 3:30 AM, Dwyer contacted authorities and reported the aircraft missing.

Around 9:15 AM, Dwyer took off in his own Cessna 180 to fly Peterson's intended route. Within minutes he spotted the wreckage less than 6 miles northwest of the airport in a cornfield. The Bonanza was at a slight downward angle & banked heavily to the right when it struck the ground at 170 mph. The plane tumbled and skidded another 570 feet across the frozen landscape before the crumpled wreckage came to rest against a wire fence. The bodies of Holly and Valens lay near the plane, Richardson was thrown over the fence and into the another cornfield, and Peterson's body remained inside the plane's wreckage. The county coroner declared that all four had died instantly from gross trauma to the brain.

Investigators concluded that the crash was due to poor weather conditions and pilot error, resulting in spatial disorientation. Peterson was still taking flight instrumentation tests and was not yet certified for flight into weather that would have required operation of the aircraft solely by reference to his instruments rather than by means of his own vision. They also concluded that Peterson was not given adequate warnings about the weather conditions of his route, which might have caused him to postpone the flight out of prudence.

 
A large plasma-cut-steel set of Wayfarer-style glasses, similar to those which Holly was known for wearing, sits at the access point to the crash site.
A large plasma-cut-steel set of Wayfarer-style glasses
Lee Duquette behind the large sye glasses
The below photo is stuff fans have left under the large glasses shown above.
stuff fans left at the entrance to the Buddy Holly crash site
Lee Duquette ready to walk about one-half mile to the site of the plane crash.
Lee Duquette in the cornfield ready to walk to the Buddy Holly plane crash site
In 1988, Ken Paquette, a Wisconsin fan of the 1950s era, erected a stainless steel monument depicting a steel guitar and a set of three records bearing the names of each of the three performers. The monument is located on private farmland, about 1/4 mile west of 315th St. & Gull Ave. five miles north of Clear Lake in Iowa.
Lee Duquette at the site of the Buddy Holly memorial
The Buddy Holly Memorial
Below are close-up photos of the various items that make up this memorial to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper.
steel guitar engraved with names of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and Big Bopper
set of 3 records with songs by the performers in the plane crash
memorial frame & phto to Ken Short, songwriter for Buddy Holly
plaque for Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper
this contraption spins around and around
a spinning wheel at the Buddy Holly plane crash site
In February 2009, a new memorial made by Paquette for pilot Roger Peterson was unveiled at the crash site.
memorial for pilot Roger Peterson
The below photo is stuff fans left by the memorial - including a guitar pick, coins, shoes, jars, eye glasses, pens, rocks, crayons, a Buddy Holly dog tag, a bracelet, plastic flowers, a ball cap, a green stuffed animal and more.
stuff fans left by the Buddy Holly memorial at the site of the plane crash
stuff fans left by the Buddy Holly memorial at the site of the plane crash
stuff fans left by the Buddy Holly memorial at the site of the plane crash
stuff fans left by the Buddy Holly memorial at the site of the plane crash
stuff fans left by the Buddy Holly memorial at the site of the plane crash
A road originating near The Surf Ballroom and extending north past the west of the crash site is now known as Buddy Holly Place
   
Paquette also created a similar stainless steel monument to the three musicians located outside the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where Holly, the Big Bopper and Valens played on the night of February 1, 1959. This second memorial was unveiled on July 17, 2003.
Look Below
Below are more sections of the adventures of the two RV Gypsies in Iowa. You may view them in any order you wish. The page you are on cannot be chosen from here.
Des Moines Botanical Center
Center Street Bridge Walk
John and Mary PappaJohn
Sculpture Park
Adventureland Amusement Park
Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa
The Buddy Holly Plane Crash Memorial
Central Gardens of North Iowa
Clear Lake, Iowa
Fort Custer MAZE in Clear Lake, Iowa
Look Below
go to the next adventure of the two RV Gypsies AFTER you have viewed all 9 sections above, please continue on to the adventures of the two RV Gypsies in Minnesota: The Jolly Green Giant and Redwood Falls