Saturday, October 31, 2009

Awwww, my First Halloween Since Retiring & It Was Fun

Here's a small sample of our visitors tonight.

Elvis, I would have thought you would keep better company!

And I ran out of treats early. Weather was perrrrrfect for the kids and mom & dad.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Not Much to Report

Cataract in right eye is about ready to be removed - about time getting tired of the blurry vision.

Had our first light snow today.

Son will be coming up, from New Mexico, for Christmas this year instead of Thanksgiving. First time.

I don't have to work on Black Friday - I can go be a part of it, if I choose.

Making some pink ribbon wind socks and donating to daughter's Sister of Survivor group to sell.

Most frustrating project to work on is going over all the changes to my Medicare Advantage program for 2010. First thing that hits you is the premium is just a couple dollars short of doubling. And, there is now a prescription deductible and "the gap" is wider between the initial coverage stage and the catastrophic coverage stage, some drugs are gone, some new and some have been shifted to a different tier level. That's just a little bit of the prescription part of my Advantage program. I haven't even started on the medical parts A and B! So far I have two pages of questions to ask my Advantage company. Geezzzzz

I think things are becoming more difficult to wade through as you get older. That's not an oxymoron either!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Festival Weekend in Van Buren County & Final Comments

Ugh, not good for Festival organizers and goers - just talked to the Park Rangers about the weather forecast. His first comment was “Cold”. Dah. Suppose to snow Sat and maybe Sunday, night temps below freezing and both nights. Glad I drained my water holding tank and water heater. I do have some RV “pink stuff” and put it down at least the shower drain, the holding tanks have water in them; will keep the cabinet doors open during the nights. Called Chamber and they checked the Internet weather and sun was suppose to come out this afternoon (Friday) (it did) and get a high of 50 (it did), be cold with some frost in the morning, with some sun in the morning.

Saturday, the Festival started all over the County. I have included a link to the Festival this year, so maybe you could make plans to come next year. I started out by having breakfast in Lebanon at the Amish School Fundraiser, then went to Cantril to browse through the Dutchman Store, buy some baked goods at the Mennonite bake sale and go thru the art ‘n craft show at the Township Hall. The Dutchman’s Store is very interesting and here is a description from the Cantril, Iowa web site:

“Dutchman's Store is the centerpiece of the business district. A bulk grocery, dry goods and fabric store, it is operated by a local Mennonite family. Be prepared for a step back in time to an old-fashioned general store with merchandise for the modern shopper. You must stop and shop the candy aisle, filled with bulk candy of every variety. Open Monday-Saturday.”

I did buy some “bulk” items, my favorite being the dried cantaloupe slices. I was told that the family started out as a dairy business, business was slow, so they added baked goods and these started selling pretty good. They then added some bulk items, like flours and beans, breaking the bulk down into smaller sizes. This took off and before long, the family purchased three buildings and added other dry goods. For quilters, the supply of fabrics is endless. It is a step back in time. All that is needed is the barrel of crackers and the old wood burning stove.

Here is some info on Cantril: “The Cantril area is home to Old Order Amish and Mennonite communities. Several of the businesses in town are owned by Mennonite families. Amish families have businesses at their homes. These can be found along Highway 2 and on V64 and J40 near Lebanon. Watch for homemade signs along the roadway. They are very friendly and will be glad to visit with you on week days and Saturdays. You will find buggies sharing the roadways, and horse drawn equipment in the fields.”

After Cantril, I headed to Keosauqua, walked thru the art ‘n craft fair and food booths, looked at the downtown buildings. I tried to find the SE Iowa Cattle Dog trials, but apparently didn’t drive far enough out of town. I did buy a few Christmas presents, but the food items I bought from the local dog food bakery will be given shortly after getting home to my 4-legged friend Buster.

The cold starting taking its toll on me, so went back to the trailer to get warm. I had bought a new heater with a better thermostat then the old ceramic heater and works a bit better. Just wish it had a couple of temperature settings between the 40 pre-freeze and 70 degrees.

Saturday afternoon, I ventured down to the pre-1840’s Buckskinners Rendezvous Camp held at a day area in the State Park. It was fun walking around seeing the demonstrations and crafts available. They all had nice hot fires going because the temperature was in the mid-30’s. I bought an Indian Taco and some kind of sweet bread item to take back to the trailer for supper. On the way to the where the truck was parked, I saw a few white flakes. I had wanted to go to Farmington to see the Pow Wow, but it was getting dark and cold.

I love The Villages of Van Bureau County and it is an area I could visit again. I have eastern Iowa on my little list of places to see and could include The Villages again.

Sunday was travel day and I headed southward to Missouri. Over the night there was a hard freeze and that was quite evident on the soybean fields that weren’t ready for harvesting yet. They are pretty much gone. It was hard to understand why the fields weren’t ready for harvesting when that’s what was being done when I was in Sac County. A local farmer did say to me, as we were filling our gas tanks at a gas station on the State line, that maybe the farmers will plant earlier and use a variety that matures faster. I selected an RV park in Kirksville MO for a couple of nights and will head out Tuesday morning southward to US-36 and then westward to my next night in Hiawatha KS and continue on US-36 the next day and home on Wednesday.

This has been a wonderful trip and I am glad I made it. I got to see Lisa in Fort Yates ND, see the beautiful hills of South Dakota, stay at a working cattle ranch in Nebraska, have the Missouri River just amaze and overwhelm me, the beautiful Sand Hills and Smith Fall in northern Nebraska, along with the Niobraba River area, into Iowa and the sights all around and so much to chose from, the gorgeous fall colors taking place; to the people I met: Mary at the RV Park in Oakley, Louise at the working cattle ranch I stayed at, Vivian from Newport OR over Labor Day weekend, to Sharon and Gus, fellow Casita owners, at the Sioux County Campground, to the Watson’s - Ann and Ross & Bizzy - at Sac City, another Casita owner. My little “Making Memories” yard flag, that my friend Sherry gave me for Christmas last year, is definitely working overtime.

The views weren’t the spectacular ones one finds in the southwestern states or the red rocks of Utah or the spectacular Rockies, but this is a different part of the country and the beauty, to me, is just as good as the “eye candy” of the western states, the customs and cultures are just as interesting, the history is deep-rooted in all of us and is a part of where we are today, the people are warm and interesting. I love’d all the suggestions locals would give me of what to see, where to get a good meal, or something about the area’s history, culture, or customs. That’s what is so much fun about this kind of traveling - meeting the locals who can share their experiences and knowledge with a stranger.

No plans for the next trip yet, I want to see my brother and meet him in the deserts of California, along with seeing a friend in Palm Springs. My cousin in Bremerton WA wants me to come visit and go through some family items. There are family members on the East coast I would like to see and friends in Idaho that I would like to see. And, my 50th high school reunion is coming up next October in southern California. I’ll come up with plans after I get through the holidays. And, I hope all the readers have a good and happy Holiday Season.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stop #17 Continued

Stop #17: continued

Thursday I drove to Keokuk, on the Mississippi River. There I went to Lock No 19, one of 29 locks on the Upper Mississippi. They begin at Upper St. Anthony Falls and end near St. Louis MO, with a drop of 420 feet in elevation. Towboats need a consistent 9-foot deep channel of water in order to navigate up and down the river.

A towboat can push a maximum of 15 loaded barges on the Upper Mississippi River. This is equivalent to a convoy of 870 semi-trucks or a train pulling 225 jumbo hopper cars. Once below St. Louis, the River is naturally deep enough so there isn’t a need for locks and dams. Here a towboat typically pushes up to 40-60 barges per tow. This information obtained from a publication put out by the US Army Corps of Engineers, titled “Locks & the River”. I was hoping to see one of the locks in operation, but it was a pretty quiet day and didn’t see anything.

I also toured the Keokuk River Museum which is in the George M. Verity steamboat. I was built in 1927 as the S.S. Thorpe and introduced barge service on the upper Mississippi. It moved barges from St. Louis northward to St. Paul and was in service until 1940 when the Armco Steel Corp. bought it and used it on the Ohio River. In 1960 the Verity was retired and in 1961 the boat was donated to the City of Keokuk. It is a sternwheeler steamboat with a “V” shaped paddlewheel.

There is a National Cemetery here also - one of the 12 original national cemeteries. During the Civil War, because the College of Physicians and Surgeons was here, the Federal government located a military hospital here. Many soldiers, from the North and the South, died in Keokuk and were buried here and is the final resting place for many of those soldiers. Keokuk was named after Chief Keokuck, a man who barely, if ever, spent any part of his life in the town or area. He was not a full blooded Indian and was not in line to be a chief. His father was one-half French and one-half Indian. His mother was full-blooded Indian. The official naming took place in 1834 by nine citizens in a saloon. A decanter of whiskey was set on the bar and the saloon owner suggested to all those present who wanted to name the settlement Keokuk, were to step up to the bar and have a drink. The “vote” carried 8 to 1.

I also drove along
Keokuk’s Grand Drive to look at a few of the homes that overlook the Mississippi River. It wasn’t until 1910-1913, during the time the of the dam building did the idea of having a house with a river view start to grow. The City was growing away from the river in the 1830’s and a building boom in the 1850’s caused “suburbs” to be laid out and Grand Avenue was one of those “suburbs”. There are many different styles - Greek Revival, English Tudor, Federal Clapboard built by Howard Hughes Sr (father of Howard Hughes Jr.), Neo-Classic, Spanish Revival, Colonial Revival, and Prairie School. They are just breathtaking gorgeous.

The little villages of Bonaparte and Bentonsport are so pre-Civil war. I had forgotten how much I like old brick homes that are 2 or 3 stories high. The little villages in Van Buren County are referred to as The Villages of VanBuren. In VanBuren County there are no stoplights or fast food places, nor motel/hotel chains, but lots of B&B’s, lodges and retreats and campgrounds and plenty of places to eat. All the “villages” are that - villages. The largest is Keosauqua, the County Seat, at a population of almost 1100. I recommend any one living or traveling in the area to stop and spend some time and take in some of the villages.

I stopped in the town of Bonaparte, on the way home, at the Adde Fudge Factory & Ol” Mill Antiques (formerly The Woolen Mill, c. 1853) and stocked up on FUDGE. Ohhhh, the pumpkin is heavenly, the Lemon Meringue Fudge is just like mom’s lemon meringue pie, the Root Been Float is a root beer float on a hot summer day, and I bought 10 other flavors to keep me happy for a few weeks! I also bought a ticket to a mystery dinner event there. It was a very enjoyable evening with a cozy atmosphere, there were around 35 of us and we had a hearty dinner of New York strip steak topped off with a dessert of chocolate/banana cake.

Here are a couple of pictures of the building next door and is now the The Bonaparte Retreat Restaurant and was formerly the The Grist Mill (c. 1878). Note the Amish buggy coming toward me (kind of hidden in the tree on the road in the picture on the right) and the beautiful view of the Des Moines River the restaurant folks get (left).

The Unusual

Stop #17: Keosauqua Iowa at Lacey-Keosauqua State Park

When I took the truck into Ottumwa (O-tum-wa), got a new battery for the truck. The thing was original and over 5 years old, so got some pretty good years of service from it. Knew it probably was going to give me a bit of trouble this winter and had planned on getting a new one anyway. After servicing the the truck they cleaned all the mud and grime off of it, especially underneath. That was nice, don’t do that at home! I went and had lunch at the local Applebee’s where a wonderful waitress, Darlene, just took care of me - it was early and the lunch crowd hadn’t started coming in when I got there.

The other morning, when I was moving the trailer off the levelers I hadn’t moved the platform step far enough away from the trailer and as I pulled the rig forward, well guess what I crunched one of the legs. It looks like it’s “kicking up a heel”. Thankfully, I can get a replacement leg as it isn’t bent at the weld but a couple of inches down. It’ll be waiting for me when I get home.

I had another short drive, to the Keosauqua area. I took US-63 south from Ottumwa, a very nice highway, the 20 or so miles to Bloomfield; from there I was going to take J40 eastward to the campground. Due to whatever - distractions in town - I missed the turnoff. J40 is part of the Iowa Scenic Byway highway system, so instead took IA-2 until the first paved county road that would get me back to J40. OMG, what a mistake that was getting on J40 in Davis County. It was really bad, very narrow, no shoulder, I don’t know if there was any scenic beauty because I was so concentrating on staying on the pavement and dodging potholes. I could only max. out on speed at around 40 mph since it was one of those mini-rollar coaster roads between the trailer and truck. I had a good laugh when I was approaching the little town of Troy, the entering speed limit was 45 mph and I had hardly met that speed limit in the 3 or 4 miles I was on J40. Once I got into VanBuren County, the road was vastly improved, I mean vastly.

When I was approaching Ottumwa, on US-34, I encountered an apparently “lost” funeral procession. They had pulled over to the westbound side and several people were running back and forth with arms frantically waving in the air every which way. The cars in front of me slowly made their way past the procession, but they stopped me and quickly the line of cars behind me started adding up. Some of the vehicles toward the back of the procession line started making U-turns and parking on the eastbound side of the road, meanwhile 6 or 7 of the front cars including the hearse and family car slowly pulled onto the road to find a place, apparently, to turn those long vehicles around. Meanwhile, someone was running down the line of cars that had pulled over to the eastbound side and they started taking off (apparently to wait for the hearse and family at the correct turnoff - which turned out to be almost 5 miles down the road). After she told the last car, she turned around and there wasn’t anyone left to give her a ride! While I was sitting there deciding if it was time to proceed myself, I heard this frantic horn honking coming up on my left, looking into my side mirror it was the first part of the funeral procession coming at a pretty good clip down the highway passing us all up with headlights flashing and horns honking on the other side of the road. Through this whole process, not one vehicle came over the hill westbound. Miss Messenger, who was standing by the side of the road, started frantically waving her arms and standing in the middle of the lane. I am happy to report she got picked up by one of the cars and they all proceeded to where they were suppose to originally turn off.

Wednesday, I arrived in beautiful sunshine weather, but that soon turned to overcast, drizzly and rainy during the night. That weather was expected to last through the whole weekend and through the Festival that, I soon learned, was taking place throughout the whole County.

But, first I have to tell you about the - I’ll say - “assertive” intrusion upon my serene start of my stay at the Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, located just outside Keosauqua (Kee-0-sock-wa). I arrived expecting to almost have the pick of sights, but not so as all the “reservable” sites were reserved and a number of the non-reservable sites were taken. So I selected a sight up close to the showers/rest rooms, The site was non-reservable, but had a sign on the site post that said it was “Reserved for the Weekend” but that it was available during the week M-F. Okay, I was going to stay 2 nights, maybe 3 (Fri. night was questionable, depending on whether they counted that as a week or weekend night).

I got partially set up, checked out the availability for 3 nights and found nothing on the list of reserved sites and went to register. I asked a lady registering too what was going on. She replied, “There is a big countywide Festival going on in all the Villages and this campground will be pretty full by Friday night.” Oh no, I groaned thinking “there goes my serenity.” She went on to tell me all that was going on and it became more and more interesting and she gave me a brochure. The activities are endless with standard festival activities - parade, food, crafts, music & entertainment and out here at the State Park there was going to be a Pre-1840 Buckskinners Rendezvous Camp plus a Native American POW WOW at Farmington. Just the environment made me want to stay, so I decided 4 nights instead of 2 or 3 - and, hey at $11/ night with electricity not bad! Well, now at 4 nights I knew I would have to move so what day would it be - Thursday or Friday morning, I decided.

Still not knowing for sure about Friday night, I tried calling the Park office several times but couldn’t get a human being but a recording telling me all the reservable sites were filled and to go ahead and take a non-reservable site and then register. So I am sitting in my trailer having a nice cup of hot tea, when there is this hard knock at my door - guess they thought they’d pound hard so they could be heard at the back of the trailer! This woman is standing there and she said something to the effect “This is the camp hosts spot and I am the camp host for this weekend, you’ll have to move.” I said, “But it says on the site post this site is available during the week and reserved for the weekend. (Didn’t tell her at that point I had registered for 4 nights) She told me that didn’t mean anything and asked me if I called the Park office. I said I did twice and all I got was a recording telling me to take a non-reserved site and according to the diagram, this site was “a non-reservable one” and there wasn’t any listing for #34 on the reserved list posted. Well, I’ll just have to go talk with the Park Supervisor and see what to do as I called him earlier to see if I could come down early and set up and he said sure, she said. You see I am a board member of the Friends for Lacey-Keosaqua State Park and we help out when we can. (Push-push-push a little weight here) A gentleman, registering, said that technically I had the sight as I had put my money and registration form in the deposit box already but she wasn’t hearing any of that. Off she went.

Meanwhile, I decided that it wasn’t worth carrying on like this and have one or both of us fuming, so I decided to move to another site that was still open. This very nice gentleman helped me pick out a sight as he was very familiar with all the peculiarities of each campsite, having served as a camp host for several years in the past. The problem with almost 95% of the campsites here is that they slant quite a bit - side to side and front to back and in some cases both, they really need to spend some time leveling and putting in more gravel in these sights (think the Friends for L-K State Park need to get a letter telling them to have a work day and level these sights, since the State Park system is in financial dire straits) So I found one and moved the registration card you put on the post to let people know my new sight is taken. Well, Ms Board Member of the Friends of L-K State Park comes back and said first “He wants to talk to you, he’s going to tell you to move.” Before she said anymore I told her I was going to move and before the Supervisor got but 3 words out of his mouth, over the phone, I told him I was already preparing to move, I didn’t need any agitation right now and it would just be easier. Life is too short. He thanked me very much and I later learned he’s a bit anxious now as his wife’s baby is due anytime - and as Ms Board Member of the Friends of L-K State Park said: “Of all the weekends to have a baby due!”

Ms Board Member of the Friends of L-K State Park and her friend did pick up my tire chocks to help speed things along and did set my chocks around the wheels after I got backed in. Anyhoo, I was expecting Ms Board Member to be set up and ready to “greet one and all” upon their arrival for this festive weekend; but, nope she just parked her pop-up tent trailer, setting the levelers and left and didn’t show up until Friday afternoon.

Geezzzzzz, what a day and I only drove about 50 miles!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hate Headcolds

Stop # 17: Albia Iowa

Wooooooeeee that was a cold one Saturday night! I had frost on the tonneau cover, but not on the windshield of the truck Sunday morning. That little heater, mainly to keep the temp high enough in here to keep the water lines from freezing up during the night, did it’s best to keep the chill out, but I have my electric blanket for me. The owner of the local bakery, Jim, had said it might get down to the first frost this morning. The lowest my indoor/outdoor thermometer said was 33 degrees when I was up at 4:30 to check things out.

Since I was leaving I went ahead and took my water hose off last night and put it away for traveling. Just hate handling that thing when it is so cold in the morning and it won’t bend! Been trying to find a 20 Ft flex water hose, but no luck yet, I have two 10-ft flex hoses but they are leaking so bad now that I really don’t use them. Took my time getting packed up this morning to let the sun (FINALLY) warm it up a bit - no clouds in sight.

I woke up not feeling to good, like a head cold was coming on, so didn’t really want to drive too far but get closer to the southeast corner of Iowa. At least I had good driving weather. I took IA-92 eastward, not visiting the National Balloon Museum in Indianola (too early), spending time at WalMart eating lunch and taking a short nap, instead of seeing the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Museum in Knoxville.

I headed south on IA-5 to Albia and checked into a RV Park, splurging on full-hookups, cable TV and WiFi, laundry and nice warm showers. I am staying at the Indian Hills RV Park I wasn’t sure if I could remember how to hook up my TV since it has been 8 weeks since I have even watched TV. And, I have only hooked up my water hose 5 times since I left. Since I wasn’t feeling up to par, I just did nothing. It took me forever to get set up, so was tired when I got done - went to a Mexican restaurant for a HOT and SPICY burrito for supper and climbed into bed and slept until 8 a.m.

Monday I managed to get laundry done and set up an appointment to get an oil change and a couple of things checked on the truck Tuesday morning in Ottumwa. Kind of wish I hadn’t hooked up the TV, the weather reports for later this week where am going is not to whoopee. Oh dang, it’s raining right now.

I’ll be heading out on Wednesday morning, suppose to be sunny, so am going to take advantage of the “dry” weather (I hope) and move down toward Keosauqua for awhile, unless the cold weather drives me south and westward. Am going to save Pella and the Amana Colonies for another time. While at WalMart in Knoxville, I bought some clothing items to keep me warmer in this cold weather I wasn’t expecting so soon. Not quite ready for snow though.

PS have put the Barn Quilt and Quilt Show pictures up on Flickr, plus the pictures with the Watsons. Still have some interesting pictures from Sac City to Stanton, will get before I head southeastward.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Stop #16 - Winterset Iowa “Bridges of Madison County” Setting

Hereeeeeee’s Johnny! Won’t go into how I got here from Stanton as I followed a lot of county roads that were really very nice. I did stop in the little town of Corning, where Johnny Carson was born. The town has two main streets, both very wide with one wider than the other and has parking down the center (sounds familiar with a town I use to live in in northern Kansas). Makes me think that Corning was established as a cattle center (did notice more grazing cattle in this part of the State) with its wide main street. It is also a Main Street Program town and the larger main street has a lot of restored building fronts. It sits on a hillside and I found Johnny’s house - a very small building. I didn’t get to see it as it was closed, despite an open sign in the window. It hasn’t had a lot of care given to it like I found the John Wayne birthplace house has been given.

Am at the public library and it is a beautiful building, lots of comfortable chairs to use. In fact, I like the whole town and area so far. Except the weather, but had better be quiet as I asked for ONE rainy day, just to relax, read one of my books and/or start another ribbon wind sock. Still having trouble getting pictures loaded to my blog. Ah, finally got the pictures loaded for the previous blog posting.

Today, Thursday, I just took it easy, sauntered around downtown, took some pictures, got a vanilla latte', stopped in a Ben Franklin store and just looked. Oh, boy do I remember those stores, kinda miss them - guess it’s one of those things that happen when you get older - things that use ta be. I piddled with another wind sock, started reading a Dick Francis book I picked up at the coffeeshop - “10 Lb. Penalty”, and just did what I had wanted to. Friday will head out to do sightseeing. Oh, in the Chamber/Visitors Office talked to a young lady, who works there, who was born and raised in Hays. She said her parents still live there and will be up for the Covered Bridges festival next week. Sounds like another one of those crowd things to miss.

This stone tablet is a tribute to Jessie Hiatt, an Indiana Quaker, who discovered and unusual seedling in his apple orchard, near East Peru in southern Madison County, in the early 1870’s. It appeared to be an off shoot of a Bellflower seedling that had died. After a few years, the new tree produced it first fruit and was the best he had ever tasted so he named it after his beloved State - the Hawkeye State.

Hiatt entered his “Hawkeye” apple in an 1893 Missouri fruit show. Apparently his name and address became separated from the entry; and, the judges after biting into the apple stated “It was delicious” . And, that is how the Delicious apple got it’s name. The following year, Hiatt linked up with C.M. Stark starting the first chapter in the book of apple lore. The information for these two paragraphs came from Souvenir Program of the Decades of Festival (Covered Bridge Festival), published by the Winterset Madisonian newspaper.

Friday, woke up to slight drizzles but they came and went so it was the day to explore the Bridges and John Wayne’s Birthplace. It’s still drizzling and raining. Has been all day. Okay, am ready for sunshine.

I set out to see as many of the covered bridges as I could get in today. The first bridge I went to is Cedar. It was completed in 1883 and was featured on the cover of The Bridges of Madison County (the author was a local). It was originally in another location and was moved to its present site in 1971. Unfortunately, the original bridge was destroyed by arson in 2002. A new replica was dedicated in 2004. There were several other arson attempts on bridges in this time period, and the arsonist has never been caught. Even Oprah Winfrey came and met with the book’s author at one of the bridges and made a contribution to the reward fund. I understand it still stands and is around a $45,000 reward.

From there, I was going to the Hogback Bridge, but instead of turning left on the paved road, I turned right! Not having the sun I totally lost what direction I was heading. I could have swore I was driving south; but alas, I was driving northeast and when the road reached I-35, I kind of realized what I had done. Knew I should have taken my compass with me. Dang. It was a pretty drive even in the rain.

One thing I did learn later at Roseman Bridge, was the house used as Francesca’s house was on that road. I didn’t know that but do remember one that was off the road and looked deserted. It wasn’t open to the public as it was also hit by arson and destroyed and not restored. I was told that a couple that had originally agreed to let their house be used for the movie, backed out at the last minute and the crew had to find another place. The one they found had been abandoned for 30 years, so required a lot of fixing up. They just worked on what they needed for the movie inside and outside. So after my extra drive off into the back country of Madison County, I found myself heading in the right direction to see the Hogback Bridge.

Hogback Bridge is in its original position in a little valley northwest of Winterset. It was built in 1884. The reason why these bridges are covered (originally 20, now only 6) is that a gentleman who moved here from Ohio was use to covered bridges and he covered the bridge he built to save the wood
used for the floorboards of the bridge, since it was expensive to replace the lumber in the floorboard - it was less costly to replace the sides and roof. He shortly became a county supervisor and worked to get all the bridges covered to save the lumber. I also learned that this bridge would have succumbed to the arson’s torch too, had it not been for a young couple heading out to feed their cattle and passed by just as the fire was starting and were able to use the buckets in the back of their pickup to have the fire out by the time the fire department arrived.

The next bridge was the Roseman Bridge, which is the best known of the Bridges, as it played a prominent role both in the book and the movie. It was built in 1883 and is in the same position today as it was then. There is a little gift shop there and I bought a Bridges T-shirt and visited with the lady. She is the one that filled me in on Francesca’s house and the arson cases.

I came back to town, got gas and stopped off at a local restaurant for lunch,
then headed over to John Wayne’s birthplace. Boy, he was a whopper when he was born at 13 pounds! It’s a little 4-room house, so typically at that time. There is lots of interesting history inside and one is given a very informative tour. The Foundation is currently raising money to build a museum for all the J.W. items they have.

From there I went to see the Cutler-Donahoe Bridge, which is located in the City Park. It was originally in another place and built in 1871 and moved to the present location in 1970. In the City Park there is a unique-English Stylehedge maze as well as drive a winding one-way dirt road to the Clark Tower, built on a bluff overlooking the river valley. There is a little stone bridge that was used in the movie also. The “Delicious Apple” stone is also located in the City Park, as well as an early settlers log cabin. The City RV Park is located right next to the City Park, thus giving the RV Park a pretty view. There is also RV parking at the County Fairgrounds and at Pammel State Park, just a few miles outside of town.

There are two more bridges to see and will do that Saturday. I have to mention the County Courthouse.

It is by far one of the MOST beautiful county courthouses I have ever seen. I just love the dome. With the decor above the windows in the dome, it reminds me somewhat of a cone flower. It was constructed in 1876 of native limestone and black walnut. Prisoners kept in a 3rd floor room in the 1800’s covered the walls with graffiti, which was rediscovered during a restoration project and can be seen by visitors. Wish I had known that before this weekend, as the building may not be open.

And I have to throw a few pictures of the homes in town too. I have driven up and down quite a few streets and seen all styles, even the old not so lovingly cared for homes have some interesting features.

Saturday morning, the sun came out around 9:30 and looked like it was going to be out while. The clouds were still coming out of the north, but at least it wasn’t overcast. So off to the last two Bridges.

The Holliwell Bridge(left), is the largest bridge and the best known as it was featured in the film. Built in 1880 The last Bridge to see was the Imes Bridge (right)built in 1870 and moved in 1887 and moved again to its present site in 1977.

Can you imagine moving these bridges in one piece? Info I have on one bridge moved - the Cutler-Donahoe - in 1970, traveled 18 miles to Winterset on a 16-wheel, 40-ton, 79 foot-long house moving flatbed trailer pulled by a 1934 model truck.

Well, the sun was out long enough to let us know that it was still around, there were more patches of blue sky than sunshine. I don’t usually take pictures of churches, but the steeple on this one was so pretty:

Sunday is moving day and will be heading towards Ottumwa, then down towards Keosauqua in Van Buren County, where I’ll be taking in the Villages of Van Buren County. These include Bloomfield, Troy, Keosauqua, Bentonsport and Bonaparte. From there Ross Watson suggested going to Keokuk and visit the Mississippi River and the activities there, which includes a very large lock system. Then I’ll be heading westward through northern Missouri and catching up with US-36 at some point and taking it to within an hour from home.

PS Just noticed I didn't get the Sac County pictures posted to Flickr. That will be the next project.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Iowa Has So Many Interesting Places

Stop # 14 At the Watson's outside Sac City Iowa. And, Stop #15 - Stanton Iowa

What enthusiasm Ann and Ross have for their new life here. Two very informal and laid-back folks, who are totally into their new home and property. As they say, it is a park and rivals some beautiful places one could camp at. There is a creek that runs through the property, the house sits on a hill overlooking a beautiful forest that will be gorgeous in color soon. And, Bizzy their dog is so full of energy and those enduring looks that makes it hard to resist loving her. She had parvovirus when a puppy and not expected to live; but, with the help of two good vets and the Watson’s strong love for her, she’s doing good and is almost 8 years old now.

I’ve had two relaxing evenings with the folks so far. Beautiful nights, coyotes nearby singing to us, had some rain first night. I left Algona under the threat of rain so hurried getting hooked up and dumping the tanks. I then like to get a quick shower in before moving on, but decided not to - the Watson’s would just have to take me as I was.

Drove down US-169 to Fort Dodge (not too bad), then followed some very simple directions from Ann using mostly county roads. They were really nice compared to those Federal and State highways. Oh boy, were they nice. Come to find out from Ross, it’s pretty much like that all over the State. County roads get the money to improve and rebuild their roads, so natch, that’s were the public travels - on county roads. He said that the State claims there isn’t enough traffic on the Federal and State roads to get much transportation money - dah, wonder why there isn’t enough traffic on those highways. But, you know there really is a lot of traffic on those bad roads, wonder when they do their traffic counts?

So if you are going to travel around in Iowa, get an Iowa State map and plan your trip getting to and from using the “gray” road lines. Unfortunately, most of “tourists” don’t know that, and based on experiences in other states we use a lot of Federal and State highways to get from point A to point B. (Ain’t talking about interstates here). I plan on sending the governor a letter of complaint. This State has a lot of interesting parts to it and worth visiting too. And, a lot of contrast in cultures.

Friday was the beginning of Barn Quilt tours. I did go to Storm Lake to get some meds filled at the Walmart pharmacy and then headed southward. I managed to get 14 barn quilt stops done. It’s a bit uncomfortable driving in someone’s drive way to view the block pattern, but apparently that is part of the agreement is to put up with people approaching your house. I met one gentleman as he was working around his barns. He told me his farmstead had been there before statehood, but not in his family. The old barn (the recipient barns must be at least 50 years old), his quilt block was located on, was an old dairy barn and had just ‘bout seen it’s last day. He said when the next storm comes along and does roof damage, down the barn is coming, probably. I met Marge out scraping paint off a fence attached to a barn. Her quilt was on an old corn crib. She said the August hail storm did a lot of damage to their buildings and she was scraping paint off the fence and the side of the barn in preparation for painting. I believe she said she is in her 80’s.

I got so after awhile, if there was no one behind me, I just stopped on the roadway and took a picture. If I couldn’t stop I would either turn in the driveway or continue on. Some of the quilts are on fairly busy highways, so had to make some quick decisions as to what to do. I did miss some.

My favorite town name is Odebolt. The Swedes live on the west side, the Germans settled the south side and the English and Irish settled on the east side. There are some interesting cribs and I learned from Marge those are “popcorn” barns. The tractors would drive down the center way and the bins on either side would be filled with the “popcorn” corn. The area use to be known as the Popcorn Capitol of the the World. The worlds largest popcorn ball weighs 5,000 pds.

There are numerous wind farms too and das Germans here must not mind the wind turbines in their backyard - ‘cause they are!

Saturday was the first of a two-day Sac County Quilt -A-Fair held at the County Fairgrounds. Ann, my hostess, is involved with the local quilt organization that puts the Show on and so she spent a lot of time over the weekend there. There were over 400 exhibits at the show - many old family heirloom quilts, to table top quilts, to fairly recently made ones. Many traditional patterns along with many contemporary patterns. Some are hand done with most being machine stitched. There were some really awesome quilts. I got pictures of a lot of my favorites. , (Am kicking myself now because I kept forgetting to ask Ann to see her quilts she had at home. Pissing me off if I don’t act on a thought right away, it’s gone in the next second and often doesn’t come back.

Sat evening we attended the BBQ cookoff and meal. Ate a small meal inside the huge Chautauqua building (one of only two left in Iowa, note painted murals on shade screens around outer edge) and then went outside to sample the various entries. We like the prime rib THE very best. It was done by a local banker. There were unusual entries like “Candy Rabbit”, Ice Tea Chicken. In the evenings we would sit around the patio fire pit at their house and talk and yak until it was time to go inside. When traveling, I am usually to bed at dark and up at dawn. Haven’t been doing that lately. There would be a walk down to the creek on their property or one way down the gravel road that goes by their house. I didn’t walk with them Sat or Sun.

Sunday, Ann was off to the Quilt show, Ross stayed around the house to get some things done. In their early 50’s, they are retired - either permanently or temporarily - depending on how life goes for them; and, Ross told me that one of the reasons the property was so attractive is that there are lots of projects to do to keep them busy. They didn’t want to be “sitting around in their retirement”.

I took off and visited another 20 or so Barn Quilts in a different direction than Friday; then went to the Fair Grounds to help with the taking down of the quilts. It ended up being a short night for us, no fire as the winds had blown just awful all day and dust was in the air as well as pollens, etc. I was miserable and every time I drove by a hog farm I was really gasping for air - I wouldn’t get my windows closed fast enough or the inside air circulation fan on soon enough.

Monday was travel day. I have just so thoroughly enjoyed my stay with the Watson's. Their life experiences are so interesting to listen to, they have such a beautiful area to live in and they have been such super hosts it is hard to leave. But, I have over extended my original stay time (it was their fault for finding so much for me to see and do). Thank you ever so much Ann and Ross - and Bizzy.

And, it’s time to head for my next stop of Stanton, Iowa - a little Swedish community - near Red Oak.

Stop #15 - Oh my, the Danes are here too! And, another German Community.

You know when one drives through and around these towns and small communities, you know and feel you are in a community with a cultural heritage. You see the architecture, see the country flags, even hear a bit of an accent in the spoken word. You find literature to promote the cultural heritage, eat wonderful pastries, see restaurants with cultural names (and language) and serving that nation’s favorite foods, see homes in the residential area promoting their heritage. But, don’t expect to see that in very many places in Ellis County KS, the German Capitol of Kansas. You may see it in some family names. Sorry my German heritage friends back home, but after seeing these communities, well what can I think . . . . .

After dumping my holding tanks at the Riverside Campground in Sac City (a very nice looking municipal campground by the way), I headed down M68 (a county road) toward Arcadia, Manning (a German community and one with a nice municipal campground just east of town with electricity), then headed down M66 to Kimballton and Elk Horn.

Kimballton and Elk Horn are areas settle by the Danes. In the little town of Kimballton,
the residents have established Mermaid Park with a replica of “The Little Mermaid” statue in Copenhagen Harbor. There are flags of Denmark flying around town too. Even the street signs have The Little Mermaid on them.

In Elk Horn you will see an authentic Danish windmill, originally built in Denmark in 1848. The windmill was purchased by enterprising residents of the area around Elk Horn, a Danish settlement, in 1976. It was dismantled carefully with each piece getting a number for rebuilding, shipped via ocean, and then carefully rebuilt using the numbered pieces. As I remember from the video about the project, it was one year to the start building day, the blades started turning. I enjoyed my climb up into the near top and imagining how how the gears worked that would eventually grind the wheat and rye. At the current time, some repair work needs to be done before the blades can turn again (they were awaiting the arrival of a special carpenter to fix the problem); but the winds of today (over 20 mph) would have the blades turning. I asked if the wind speed was too high, could they still grind and they can control the turning speed of the blades with the slats position on each blade set at various angles. On my way, out of town I stopped at a local cafe and bakery and walked out with some pastries and cookies.

The highways to this point were pretty good traveling with a trailer, except for a few miles on the north side of Kimballton. The terrain south of Sac City becomes very, very rolling and I mean rolling hills - up and down and up and down. The views on tops of the hills were so gorgeous with the groves of trees turning color and mixed with the fields of drying corn and soybean fields. Some of those fields on those hills were beautiful the way they had contoured the rows to flow with the hills. You would get this waving affect as you drove by the rows and not from the wind either.

At Elk Horn, the highway number changes to IA-173 and I followed that south to IA-83 into Atlantic, located south of I-80. In Atlantic I took US 6 (ugh road) to just west of Lewis, where the Hitchcock House is located. i wish I had stopped and seen it now. It is a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Historic Landmark and is one of the few remaining “Underground Railroad” stations left in Iowa. According to local legend, the infamous (at least to Kansans) John Brown preached at this home.

Just west of Lewis I then took IA-48. Just before Elliott, I headed east on H14 and WAS going to head south on M63 (another county road) to Stanton; but, it caught me off guard and a truck was behind me so I kept going eastward on H14 until I came to US 71 (that horrible road I had been on further north). From that point at Grant on US-71 south to US-34 was a beauuuuuuutiful highway. The only thing I am trying to get use to are these left turns to go west off one highway to another in an overchange - not just a stop sign and then turn. Had a guy in a semi really cram on his brakes when I discovered the “left turn” thingy. If there hadn’t been a car coming at me, who decided at last minute to indicate he was making a right turn, I would have just slid over to the other lane and let him go by. He made it and I made it - He probably said a few unkind words to me. US-34 is not by any means a nice road; but the Viking Lake State Park makes up for it.

The Park is located on a small lake. There are two tiers of campsites and I am located on the upper one - the other is at lake level. I’ll get the morning sun and I can see the changing colors on the trees from up here (and can see the lake; plus, sort of protected from those northerly winds that blew all day - again.

In season, the campsite with electricity is $16 and that includes available heated showers! In the off-season (which starts 10/1), the site is $13 and I still get a heated shower. There are full-hook ups for $3 more. It’s a beautiful park - after Labor Day, if you don’t want crowds. I love their fire pits - old washing machine tubs sitting on top of old truck tire rims.

For supper I used a couple of tomatoes cut up, along with a couple of sliced leeks, sprinkled with chopped cilantro, shredded cheese and salad dressing along with sweet ‘n sour chicken. I cheated on the chicken and bought it already made.

Tuesday morning. It’s 8 a.m. and the sun is just hitting the trailer, but it’s still darkish down at the lake. Slept in, time to make coffee, hit the “heated shower” and wander into Stanton to tour the sights. My friend Sarah, said to go to Red Oak and especially see the big, old, beautiful homes there. So am getting coffee started.

Went in to Stanton to the Tvattomat (suppose to have two little dots over the V) to do laundry this morning. The bank a couple doors down had Wifi so checked emails from family. After lunch - had a BLT with a tomato from the Watson’s neighbor’s garden and fixed some guacamole for supper tonight along with a taco (some more tomatoes and leeks to be used) -

drove around Stanton and took pictures of their famous water towers - one is a Swedish teapot and the newest water tower is a cup and saucer. Drove over to Red Oak and drove around the downtown square twice looking at the buildings - the fountain in the Square park was a bit out of the era of the buildings.

Sarah, my friend in Dodge City, said to drive up on the hill and see the big houses. OMG, they are big AND beautiful. I wouldn’t expect to find that many that stately in a small town.
Did manage to see several stately “painted ladies” - houses with more than 5 or 7 colors as I remember. And, natch when I wanted to get a picture someone would come up behind me.

Got a few groceries. I haven’t seen a meat counter you could go up to and ask for a certain amount or type of “whatever cut of meat” you wanted. I hate buying prepackaged meats when am traveling as they are usually so big and more than I’ll use before they spoil. Tonight is work on the blog and pictures. Tomorrow I head towards Winterset to see The Bridges of Madison County and John Wayne’s birthplace.

Will get my pictures to Flickr in the next few days, after I tour all the things to see in Madison County.