August, 2019 – Baudette, Minnesota

Once we got around Bemidji most of the trip north to Baudette was along MN 72.  This is a two lane road that runs alongside both Lower and Upper Red Lake for most of the way.  For a couple of hours we saw very little traffic and miles of black spruce bogs and no towns.  We were able to get to the small town of Waskish where there was a truck stop large enough to pull in for a break in the nearly 3 hour trip north.  From there it was still another hour to Baudette and our next stop at Lake of the Woods Campground.  While we were close to the Lake of the Woods, the campground is actually on the shore of Rainy River.  I expected to find a small campground with minimal amenities whose sole purpose was to provide fishermen access to the Lake of the Woods.  As we left the area around Minneapolis we expected the TV and phone reception to virtually disappear and were ready to spend a few weeks cut off.  However, we found the Lake of the Woods campground to be VERY nice with spacious pull-through sites for transient campers, full hookups, and even cable TV!  In addition, they had free WiFi that was okay, however, the phone reception was excellent so we had a great signal for our hotspot.  This was MUCH better then we had expected.  I will admit that we were one of the few campers that did not have a boat, however, the campground was full of families with kids, especially over the weekends.  It was a great atmosphere for the next two weeks.

Campsite

Since there were not laundry facilities at our last campground, we spent Tuesday doing laundry and cleaning the RV in anticipation of Nikki and Chris joining us on Saturday.

For the past several days, Kal had been fighting a cold that began as a sinus headache and developed into a cough that she was still dealing with.  I had also caught the cold from Kal and had a couple of days of severe headaches over the weekend.  While I did have a running nose as well, I never developed the cough that was causing so much concern for Kal.  Since we were expecting Nikki and Chris to join us on Saturday and Kal wanted desperately to go fishing the beginning of next week, she decided to have a doctor check her out.  We found the local hospital in Baudette and made an appointment at their clinic for the afternoon on Wednesday.  We drove back into Baudette in the afternoon and Kal was prescribed an antibiotic, an inhaler and steroids for the inflamation.  We spent the rest of the day just relaxing in the campground hoping Kal would improve over the next couple of days.

We took it easy again on Thursday since Kal was still coughing a great deal although the medicine, especially the inhaler, was helping.  She decided she was feeling good enough to drive over to Warroad to the Seven Clans Casino by mid-morning.  After a couple of hours in the casino, where neither of us did very well, we drove on into Warroad to a local bar and grill for lunch.  After a nice lunch we drove back to the campground for the afternoon.

We also spent Friday relaxing in the campground where I finally got all caught up on this blog.

Saturday was spent in the campground waiting for Nikki and Chris who arrived late in the afternoon.  After getting them set up, it was time to take advantage of the “Campers Appreciation Weekend” in the campground where they were serving margaritas, pulled pork barbecue,  baked beans, potato salad, and a wide selection of deserts.  We enjoyed the free food, but did not spend much time at the celebration as we had to get over to Chris’ grandparents who also live on Rainy River just a couple of miles away.  We had a delightful evening meeting some of his relatives and taking a ride in their pontoon boat on the Rainy River, before heading back to the campground for our first game of spades before going to bed.

Sunday was an early day as I had to drive Kal and Chris to meet up with Grandpa George for a day of fishing for Walleye.  Since there was only room for four in the boat and one of Chris’ uncles was going as well, this left Nikki and I on shore.  This was fine with both of us since neither of us really enjoy fishing and I can get seasick very easily.  So we headed back to the campground for most of the day which gave us a chance to really talk and I was very thankful we had the time.  I learned a lot more about her job at the Hi-Wire Brewery and how it has evolved as the brewery has grown.  Kal and Chris had a great time fishing until early afternoon.  While Kal caught the first Walleye, they had to throw it back as it was not big enough to keep.  This was the only fish she caught all day.  The others did not have much more luck coming away with only 6 fish they could keep.  Grandpa George quickly fileted the catch and we headed to a nearby bait store to get the fixings to fry them up.  As soon as we got back to the campsite, Chris pulled out their propane stove and immediately fried up the fish.  We all got a good snack and I found out I could enjoy Walleye.  Generally, neither Kal nor I care much for fish, but Walleye is a nice white fish with very little “fishy” flavor.  In fact, most of the flavor is from the breading itself.  After our snack we cleaned up the dishes and headed once again to Chris’ grandparents for a nice dinner of ham, potatoes, and salad.  Chris’s parents, Mike and Jane, joined us once they arrived from North Carolina.  After a nice evening with Chris’ family, we headed back to the campground.  Once again we were able to sneak in a game of spades before bedtime.

KalWithCatch

Monday was another early day as Kal and Chris were once again going fishing with Grandpa George.  This time they had room for one more, so Nikki went along as well.  This left to me all alone most of the day, which I spent going to the store in Baudette and just relaxing in the campground.  I was surprised they called early in the afternoon that they had enough fishing and when I picked them up I found out why.  None of them had gotten even a bite all day, even though the Walleye were enjoying the minnow snacks.  I understand they still had a great time, but Grandpa George was simple disgusted with their luck and came in early.  This was fine with us as this left us plenty of time to play spades.

GoingFishing

Tuesday was the day for the big party planned by Jane, which started with Nikki and Chris heading to Roseau to meet up with his other grandparents for breakfast.  The party was not until 2:00 in the afternoon and consisted of both sets of grandparents along with Chris’ aunts and uncles and even two relatives from Norway that were visiting the states.  We had a delightful afternoon getting to know everyone that included a nice pontoon boat trip up the Rainy River and a great meal of turkey, rolls, and salad.  Although it was late in the evening before the party broke up, we still managed to fit in another game of spades before heading to bed.

Wednesday was a sad day as we had to say goodbye to Nikki and Chris as they started back home to North Carolina by way of Chicago and Knoxville where they had the grand opening of a new tap room for the brewery.  After they left, Kal and I just relaxed in the campground for the remainder of the day.

By Thursday, Kal was feeling good enough to do some hiking so we headed to the shores of Lake of the Woods to Zippel Bay State Park.  I was looking forward to it, since I had yet to get a good view of the Lake of the Woods.  Instead of a 3+ mile hike through the woods, we decided to take the 1 mile hike (2 miles round trip) along the beach to the Coast Guard lights at the mouth of Zippel Bay.  I was surprised to see the long sandy beach as I had expected to see a rocky shoreline like you see on Lake Superior.  The trail began at the swimming beach and ran along the beach for the first half mile.  The Lake of the Woods was very calm with very little wind, so we were able to walk along the waterline which was much easier than walking in the loose sand.  The second half mile cut into the woods close to the shore so you still had good views of the lake.  Once we set for a while watching the fishing boats exit Zippel Bay, we turned around and hiked back to the truck.  We then drove to the marina on Zippel Bay which took us by the campgrounds that we were very nice if you had a tent or a short RV that did not need hookups.  At the marina we took another short trail of about a quarter mile that snaked through a mature aspen forest.  I was very glad to take this walk as being completely surrounded by white trunk trees as far as you can see was amazing.  The trail ended with another view of Zippel Bay.  Since we were only a few miles from the campground we decided to head back for lunch and spent the afternoon relaxing in the campground.

On Friday, we decided to spend another day at the Seven Clans Casino, so at around 10:00 we went to start the truck, only to find it was totally dead.  Turning the key did absolutely nothing and none of the interior lights were on.  The batteries were totally dead.  So we went up to the office to get some help and the owner grabbed some jumper cables and drove their big diesel to assist.  Along with my jumper cables, since both trucks had two batteries, we attempted to jump the truck with no luck.  So Jack, the owner, went and got two chargers, which we hooked to the batteries for about 20 minutes.  After this the truck started up and after thanking Jack, we head into Baudette to find a mechanic.  They really had only one repair shop in town, Johnson Auto.  Thankfully they were not too busy and were able to test the battery, from which it appeared the alternator was not functioning at all.  Thankfully, the local NAPA store had an alternator that would work for the truck in stock and they had time at the repair store to get right on it!!  So, we walked to lunch at Northlake Cafe just a few blocks away.  We had a leisurely lunch and even walked over to the nearby Visitor Information Center to find out about the International Plowing Contest later in the month.  We found out this was an international competition that is very big in Europe.  Competitors use tractors to plow a row in different types of fields and are judged on a number of factors that include straightness, depth consistencies, and at least 10 other factors.  Once we had bothered them enough, we walked on towards downtown Baudette and spent some time in a sportsmen store before heading back to the repair shop.  We got there just as they were finishing up and testing the new system, so by 3:00 in the afternoon, we had a new alternator and two new batteries.

In order to test out the new alternator, we decided on Saturday to drive to the Seven Clans Casino in Warroad to make sure we had no other problems with the truck.  The truck performed well and after a couple of hours in the casino, where we came close to breaking even (an improvement over the previous trip) we headed back to the campgrounds.  We were both feeling better that the truck was ready for the long haul on Monday.

Sunday was spent doing laundry and cleaning the RV again before we headed out on Monday.

July, 2019 – Federal Dam, Minnesota

Our trip north from St. Cloud was along US 10 and then MN 371 before we turned off on MN 84.  The first part of the trip was good straight roads and very scenic as we finally left the farmlands in the prairie and entered the Big Woods of northern Minnesota.  However, once we turned onto MN 84 the trip got a lot slower as the road wound between one small lake after another.  The terrain was still flat with lots of pine and spruce, however, it became obvious why Minnesota is known for its lakes.  After over an hour of slow moving with 25-30 mph turns, we finally got to the shores of Leech Lake Recreation Area, which is a COE campground.  We were reminded again why we prefer COE and state parks for camping as the sites were very spacious and full of trees.  However, this did pose its own challenges such as no water hookups.  We came prepared with full fresh water tanks, so this was no problem.  It also meant there were going to be trees in the way of backing the RV into its site.  The trees made the entry very narrow and my first attempt was too tight to the driver side.  There was no way to move the RV over with the limited room I had in front of the truck, so I had to pull out and try again.  The second attempt was perfect and I got the RV backed into the site with no problem.  At first I was disappointed in the campground as a whole.  It is on the shore of Leech Lake, however, you cannot even see the lake from the campgrounds as there is 1.5 miles of marsh between you and the open water.  I was also concerned that this was going to increase dramatically the mosquitoes, however, this proved not to be the case.  The other campers were complaining about the mosquitoes and they were bad if you spent a lot of time outdoors around a fire.  However, I did not find them to be too bad while we were there.  By the end of the week I had fallen in love with the site being surrounded by the spruce, red pine, basswood, and green ash trees.  After spending the past months in the hardwood forests, this was a great change.

Campsite

On Tuesday we headed west to Itasca State Park to explore a site that I had been looking forward to for years: The Headwaters of the Mississippi River.  At the time of the Revolutionary War it was believed that the Mississippi River flowed out of the Lake of the Woods to the north and thus was used to define the western boundary of the new nation.  However, the Mississippi River does not flow out of the Lake of the Woods and it was a long time before the actual beginning point was found.  In 1832, an Anishinabe guide led explorer Henry Schoolcraft to the true headwaters as it flowed out of a lake he called Itasca from Latin words meaning truth and head.  Actually, his discovery was off by a little bit as there is a small stream that connect Itasca with Elk Lake making it the true headwaters.   In any case, the small stream flowing out of Lake Itasca has been declared the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River as it begins its 1200 mile trip to the Gulf of Mexico.  It is a common practice to wade in this stream, as evidenced by the large number of people doing just that, but we declined after taking numerous pictures of the event.  Instead we explored the Schoolcraft Trail that travels a mile down the west side of the lake to an overlook of Schoolcraft Island where he planted a flag declaring his discovery.

After our hike we continued on around Itasca Lake on the Wilderness Road to check out some of the virgin trees in the park.  Itasca State Park is the oldest state park in Minnesota since it was established in 1891 through the efforts of historian Jacob Brower who wanted to preserve the land for future generations from the timber companies that were clearcutting the area.  The results are that you can see some of the largest and oldest red and white pine in the state along with virgin forest habitat.  The park has continued to grow over the years to over 32,000 acres including over 100 lakes, much of which was cut.  For example, there is a short loop trail through a red pine plantation established by the CCC in 1932.  I attempted to take this trail, however, turned back when the deer flies became too bad.  This was unfortunate as there were interpretive signs along the trail about past and current forestry practices.  I did get far enough to get a sense of a mature second growth red pine plantation.  The highlights, however, was the largest white pine in the park which was 120 inches in circumference and over 300 years old.  They have erected a boardwalk to protect the roots, however, still the tree did not appear to be healthy and may not survive the next storm.  There was also a stop at an ancient bison kill located where prehistoric Indians killed a number of ancient giant bison.  Except for the interpretive sign at the location, there was not much to be seen today.  A short walk from there entered into the fringes of an old-growth red pine stand with some of the largest red pines I have ever seen.  For the most part, the stand still looked healthy, although none of the trees were state champions.  Once again the deer flies made the trip to and from the stand faster than I would have liked.  It was a great day in the Deep Woods of Minnesota and I can finally mark this off my bucket list of things to see.

Wednesday was another day when Kal gave in to my interests when we traveled east to Grand Rapids and the Forest History Center.  This is a Minnesota Historic Site that celebrates the history of forestry, especially forest industry, in the state.  They have a great museum with numerous exhibits about the lumber companies, loggers, and sawmills that drove the white pine boom from 1839 to around 1920.  The boom started along river, primarily the St. Croix and Rum Rivers, with logging during the winter and using the spring thaw to float the logs downstream to the sawmills which concentrated at Minneapolis.  Steam power was introduced in the 1870s which allowed sawmills to be located closer to the harvesting.  By the 1880s railroad spurs were being build to extend the reach away from the rivers and deep into the woods.  Logging peaked in 1905 when 2.3 billion board feet of lumber was extracted from the forests.  It was believed that this logging would open up the land for farming, but the frequent devastating fires and short growing season made this impractical on a large scale.  Slowly the forests reclaimed much of the land supplemented by massive plantings by the CCC in the 1930s.  Today the forests are still maturing, but there are vast acreages of commercial birch, aspen, and red pine that support a sustainable harvest at nearly the same level as the peak in 1905.  This history is told through a series of hands-on exhibits in the museum.  However, the highlight of the Forest History Center is the reconstructed logging camp.  They have built a logging camp as it would have looked at the turn of the century with barracks, store, mess hall, horse barn, blacksmith/carpenter, and outhouse.  There are three period actors that provide a tour of the camp as if you are new recruits that have made the two day trip from town in the dead of winter.   They introduce how the camp functions and your responsibilities in a very enjoyable presentation through each of the buildings.  The tour ends with a reading of a letter describing life in the camp along with music and a demonstration of how logs are loaded onto the sleigh with a team of horses.  The most interesting display was the two huge sleighs used to create and maintain the ice roads.  The first sleigh would dig ruts into the soil about 2 feet deep.  After the ground freezes, the second sleigh would deliver water the road to fill the ruts with ice to create 6 inch deep ruts for the sleighs to slide on.  They would load the sleighs with up to 20 tons of logs that could then be pulled by a team of only two horses along these roads!!  This is easily 10 times what you could haul on wagons with wheels.  This was one main reason harvesting was done in the winter.  The other main reason was to use the spring thaw to float all of these logs downstream to the sawmills creating huge log runs every spring.  This all ended in the 1890s with the use of railroads to transport the logs.  This was truly an amazing place and a lot of fun!  I also took a short hike through some examples of current forest practices that included pine, oak, and birch management practices.  Very interesting.

On Thursday, Kal had developed a head cold and was not feeling very well.  So we just took it easy around the campground and I worked some on this blog.  By Friday, she was still not felling very good, but felt good enough to travel to the White Oak Casino we had seen on the way to Grand Rapids on Wednesday.  We had a reasonably good time at the casino which started out as a bust.  About half way through our money, I finally hit a minor bonus on a slot machine that brought me to about even.  A couple of machines later I got really lucky hitting a bonus that just went crazy.  It was a set of free spins and the first one hit for $18.  Three spins later and it hit for another $40.  In total I ended up covering all of our losses and we ended the day a few dollars ahead.  While this is nothing to get too excited about, it still represents an unusual experience in a casino where we generally lose $20-$30.  Bottom line is that I ended up having a good time and Kal ended up feeling worse for the experience.

Kal’s cold was not getting better, so we just spent the weekend relaxing in the campground.

July, 2019 – St. Cloud, Minnesota

We decided to travel north to St. Cloud along state and US highways instead of taking the Interstates through Minneapolis to St. Cloud in order to avoid the heavy traffic and possible delays.  The 2.5 hour trip was going fine until about 30 miles south of St. Cloud.  The truck suddenly refused to go above 2500 rpm, which meant pulling the RV up the small hills dropped our speeds to about 40 mph.  It did not give us a “Check Engine” notice and seemed to be running fine otherwise, except a serious loss of power.  We continued to limp our way into St. Cloud until we got within 10 miles of our destination, St. Cloud Campgrounds.  The truck suddenly starting bucking, so we pulled into an empty parking lot at a TravelLodge, just north of I-49.  Our biggest fear about pulling an RV had occurred.  Thankfully, we were able to pull off the road into a parking lot so we were not stuck on the side of the road.  Kal called Good Sam’s Roadside Assistance to get some help.  After about 45 minutes they were able to find us a place that could look at the truck.  We also found out a limitation with this Roadside Assistance, which is designed specifically for RVs.  Since the RV was not in danger along the road, they would not pay for a tow.  The most they would do was to contact the TravelLodge to make sure it was alright to leave the RV in the parking lot while we dealt with the truck.  Since we pulled the RV out of the way in the back of the parking lot, they had no problem with leaving the RV where it was.  Since the truck was still running and the repair shop was less than 5 miles away, we did not think we needed a tow.  So we unhooked the RV and drove the truck to Miller GMC dealership in St. Cloud.  The truck ran fine the whole way there, although we did not push the rpms to see if we still had a problem.  Once we found the dealership, they told us they could look at the truck, but it would be in the morning before they could get to it.  However, they did have a loaner available, so we left the truck and took off to deal with the RV.  We drove the loaner to the campground to see if they knew anyone that could tow the RV for us.  They suggested an RV dealership that we had just passed with the rig south of Interstate 49.  So I called them to see if they could help.  They checked around and called me back to say they could not assist us, but recommended a towing service that would be able to.  They said to call “Andy.”  At first I figured this was a buddy of theirs and asked them “Andy who?”  Once I found out it was Andy’s Towing Service, I felt a lot better.  I called them up and 30 minutes later a pickup truck showed up with a goose neck.  It was a smaller truck then our own, but should be able to do the job.  He hooked up the RV and pulled out to the campground, which he was well familiar with since he lived there himself.  He got us into our pull-through site with no problem and we quickly got hooked up before driving back into town for dinner.  It is a good thing that we normally get to our next stop by 1-2 in the afternoon, as they gave us enough time to deal with the situation.

Campsite

On Tuesday, we waited around in the campground to hear back from Miller GMC.  I did get some work done on making reservations so we are booked through Labor Day.  They called early in the afternoon with the news that they could find nothing wrong.  There were no codes recorded for the past 3 months and the truck ran fine when they test drove it multiple times.  We were certainly not happy, however, what else could we do but go pick it up?  I suspected it had to do with the exhaust filter, which had given us problems in the past that were very similar.  In addition, the message that it was cleaning the exhaust filter just before we pulled into the TravelLodge seemed to support this theory.  They said the same message came up while they were test driving and it had finished the routine.  I asked them to manually tell the truck to clean the filter just to make sure and they said it would not do it since it had just completed the routine.  So we returned the loaner and got our truck and got a big surprise.  They did not charge us anything for the loaner or all the time they spent trying to find the problem.  WOW!!  It generally costs at least $75 to just get them to hook up the computer to diagnose a Check Engine code.  In any case, we had the truck back, although neither one of us trusted it.

Partly to check out the truck we left on Wednesday for Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge about 40 miles away.  We stopped first at their small Visitor Center at the refuge to get information about hiking trails and the driving tour.  The volunteer asked me if the flies were bad outside, but I had not noticed anything on the short walk into the building.  However, she recommended not taking either of the hiking trails near the Visitor Center since they had been reported to be very “buggy.”  Since there were a couple of short trails along the driving tour that would add to about 2 miles, we decided to take her advice and drove over to the driving tour.  This tour is a 7 mile loop road through an example of each of the habitats to be found on the refuge.  The location of the refuge is right along the border between the prairie of western Minnesota and the deep woods of northern Minnesota.  Therefore, it has prairie grasslands, oak savannas, and mixed hardwood forests in the uplands.  The lowlands ranges from sedge marshes to deep water lakes and all can be seen from the vehicle.  There is a short walk through an oak savanna at the beginning of the drive and we found out what they meant by “buggy”.  They were not too bad on the short walk through the oak grove, but our next stop which was a 0.4 mile hike through a prairie to a sedge marsh was a different story.  What I would call deer flies were relentless.  The bug spray did not seem to bother them a bit and they would bite if allowed to land for any length of time!   They drove us both crazy on this short walk.  We continued the drive around to a series of deep water marshes where we saw over 50 trumpeter swans, numerous cormorants, and Canadian geese.  By this time a breeze had come up and the flies were not a problem.  However, when we attempted the third hike through the mixed hardwoods, where the wind was blocked, soon descended into another deer fly banquet!  So ended our time at the wildlife refuge and we headed back to the campground for a late lunch.  However, on the way back, the truck acted up again, still with no Check Engine codes.  We were again limited to 2500 rpms which meant it was a slow trip the 10 miles back to Miller GMC.  This time we did not turn off the engine until they got it hooked up to their computer.  This time there was a code that indicated it was high pressure on the fuel pump.  Obviously it was intermittent and they could not get it to do it again.  They went to do a test drive while we grabbed our lunch and ate it in their nice air-conditioned waiting room.  If the pressure was too low, there would have been multiple things causing it.  However, being too high meant one of two things.  Either the sensor was malfunctioning or the high pressure valve.  Their recommendation would be to replace the sensor and drive it for a few days to see if this fixed the problem.  This would cost only a few hundred dollars and take about an hour.  However, we did not have a few days and on Monday we would be heading north into the backwoods of Minnesota.  However, to replace the valve meant the entire engine and car body had to be lifted off the chassis to access it.  This would cost over $1700.  We felt we had no choice and since we have saved the money to cover these expenses we told them to go for it.  So we made plans to return first thing in the morning and they assured us they could complete the work by Friday.

First thing Thursday morning was back to Miller GMC to drop the truck off again.  They gave us another loaner so it was soon back to the campsite to wait for their phone call.  I spent the afternoon working on getting caught up with this blog, however, the phone signal was not strong enough to upload images.  This greatly concerned me since I did not expect it to be any better as we continued on north.

Friday was also spent working on this blog while we awaited Miller GMC to give us a call.  By 1:30 I was getting concerned since we needed to know if we needed to extend our stay in St. Cloud.  I called them and found out they had completed the work and were out test driving the truck.  I had asked them if there was anything else that ought to be done since we had were going to pay for all the labor anyway.  They took me up on this idea and went ahead and replaced the entire high pressure fuel pump instead of just the valve.  They also found a fault generated when they test drove the truck checking the towing systems.  It seemed the sensor on the RV braking system would occasionally throw a fault on the RV brake system.  So we got this sensor replaced as well, especially since we had heard the fault system beep every once in a while when we are towing.  Hopefully this will fix this problem.  So by mid afternoon we picked up the truck costing just under $2500 in total.  It was too late to drive it much so we waited until Saturday.

Our plans for Saturday was to drive the truck primarily to see if any problems popped up.  So we decided to drive just over an hour north to Grand Casino on Mille Lacs.  We had a good time at the casino and managed to keep our losses low and then it was back to the campgrounds.  The truck drove great with no problems, so we hope the problem has been fixed without causing any additional issues.

We spent Sunday in the campground and I worked on the blog while Kal went and did laundry before we left on Monday.

July, 2019 – St. Peter, Minnesota

Although it is already the second week in July, we are finally making it into Minnesota where we will spend most of the next two months.  I was really looking forward to getting back into the northwoods with its white pine, sugar maple, spruce, aspen, and birch, however, this will have to wait another couple of weeks.  The southwestern part of Minnesota is a lot like Iowa in that it used to be prairie and now is mostly farmland.  The trip itself was easy as about half of it was along I-35 before turning west to Mankato and then north to St. Peter.  The last part of the trip was a surprise as we descended into the Minnesota River Valley in Manakto and traveled north along the river.  The Minnesota River was still in a minor flood stage and since the campground was close to the highway we were concerned there may be flooding issues.  Since Peaceful Valley Campgrounds is actually a mile from the river and up the first floodplain tier, this was not a problem.  We found the campgrounds with no problem and got checked in.  Peaceful Valley Campground is a small commercial park mostly filled with seasonal campers.  However, they have about a dozen sites for transient campers in the back of the park around a picnic shelter.  The sites are essentially in a grassy field, which could be a problem with heavy rains.  In fact, this had been the case for the previous camper in our site as there were some ruts in the site and they had torn up the entrance into the site.  The owners had put some straw down to help with the problem, but it was still pretty soft.  Since there was plenty of room in front of the truck, it only took a couple of shots to get the RV lined up and into the site.  The only problem was being in a valley.  The TV reception really only worked after dark and the phone reception was very weak.  However, the RV park more than made up for this deficiency with having the best WiFi service I have ever seen in a commercial park.  A rich dairy farmer up the road paid to have fiber optic run up the road and the owners of the campground invested into it as well.  Even with a problem with a damaged repeater we had the best service and it only got better over the weekend when they got a new repeater installed.  We actually streamed some news programs during the week and Skyped with William, Kristen, and Liam.   I wish we could take the wifi with us!!

Campsite

The forecast for Tuesday was for rain late in the afternoon, so we got an early start to check out the Traverse des Sioux State Historic Site in St. Peter, which was just a few miles away.  However, when we got there the museum was closed due to some local event so we were not able to find out much about the site.  There were some interpretive signs alone a short trail that led down to the Minnesota River.  As the name implies this location was near a long used ford of the river used by the Dakota Indians, also known as Sioux.   Since the river has changed over the years, the exact location is unknown, however, they have found evidence of the trading post that was suppose to be at this location.  We also learned this was the location where the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux was signed in 1851.  According to the treaty the Dakota Indians sold their claim to millions of acres in the Minnesota Territory that now includes Minnesota, northern Iowa, and eastern South Dakota.  This was in exchange for an annual annuity, food, and medicine.  The Dakota were restricted to a twenty-mile strip of land along the Minnesota River, which was not large enough to support their population.  In fact, Congress failed to authorize this land as an Indian Reservation when they ratified the treaty, so the Dakota Indians were eventually forced to move west.  Due to corruption in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and being cheated by the Indian Agents, the Dakota Indians received very little of the money and food was withheld since they could not pay for it!  For many years they tried to work with the Indian Agents to redress these wrongs, but by 1860 they were starving.  Finally, they had had enough and in August of 1862 fighting broke out which became known as the US-Dakota War.  After reading about this on the signs, we proceeded down the trail towards the Minnesota River.   However, as I pointed out before, the river was flooded so the trail soon turned to mud and mosquitoes, so we turned around.  Especially since the museum was closed for the day, it was still before lunch.  One of the signs gave a number of locations of conflict during the Dakota War, so we decided to head west to explore Fort Ridgely State Park.

By the time we got to Fort Ridgely State Park it was raining, much earlier then they had forecasted.  So we ate lunch in the truck at the site of the fort hoping the rain would quit.  After over an hour of a steady rain it finally started to let up and we decided to brave the conditions and walk around the remains of the fort.  They have rebuilt one of the stone barracks in the fort to be used as a musuem, but of course it was closed during the week.  This still left a walk around the ruins with a number of interpretive signs.  Fort Ridgely was the westernmost fort in Minnesota situated on a ridge above the Minnesota River.  The fort was located close to the Lower Sioux Agency where the fighting began on August 18, 1862, when the Indians were once again refused the food that had been withheld from them.  They were starving and felt that had little to lose by taking the food by force.  The Indians greatly outnumbered the 62 white men at the Agency and within a few hours 20 had been killed and 10 captured.  A few escaped, however, and word was gotten to Fort Ridgely.  As you can probably guess from the date, the fort was manned by Minnesota Volunteers as the regular army was away fighting in the Civil War.  In fact, the main purpose of the fort was to recruit and muster additional regiments for the Civil War.  In fact, at that time there were about 150 new volunteers in the fort to augment the 65 regulars, however they were poorly armed and completely untrained.  Captain Marsh led a detachment of 46 soldiers to check out the reports at Lower Sioux Agency.  Along the way they were repeatedly attacked by small groups of Indians and by late afternoon he had 11 men left.  Trying to return to the Fort, Captain Marsh drowned in the river due to a cramp, which left the Quartermaster, Lt. Sheehan, in charge.  On August 20, a force of 400 Indians attacked the fort.   Their main objective was to set fire to the fort, a strategy that had worked well during their raids, however, the stone buildings of the fort resisted their efforts.  After being driven back the Indians retreated back into the ravines to regroup.  The next day a thunderstorm delayed any further action and the men in the fort had an opportunity to shore up their defenses.  In particular, positioning and protecting the 6 cannons at the vulnerable locations.  On August 22, the Indians again attacked, this time with 800 Indians.  The first attack was repulsed and the battle devolved into a series of minor skirmishes throughout the day.  In the evening the Indians once again attacked the north side of the fort and Lt Sheehan ordered the buildings on that side to be set on fire to keep the Indians from using the cover of the buildings.  The Indians gave up their attack and melted back into the ravines.  The siege of the fort was broken the next day when reinforcements under Colonel Sibley arrived with 1400 trained recruits.  The Dakota war only lasted until September when a large force of Indians were defeated and captured at Wood Lake.  Of the 400 captured, 303 were quickly found guilty of murder and sentenced to be hung.  However, President Lincoln reduced the executions to 38 Indians who were hanged in December.  This was the largest mass execution in US history.  Today, very little remains of the fort as it was scavenged for building materials soon after it was closed in 1867.  Archeological excavations have uncovered the foundations of the buildings which have been left open to visit.  Along with the interpretive signs about each building you get a good feeling for the layout of the fort.  Once again without the museum being open, it did not take long to explore the site in the rain and we were soon on our way back to the campground.

The weather on Wednesday was once again for rain off and on all day, so we headed north near Minneapolis to the Mystic Lake Casino for some slots.  We had a nice time at the casino, managing not to lose much money, although neither of us came out ahead for the day.  We ate lunch at a close by Carvers and headed back to the campground for the afternoon under clear skies.

The weather on Thursday was perfect, even though the upper 80s is warmer then we like and the humidity reminded us of Alabama.  Over Kal’s objection, we headed back into Minneapolis to the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.  This area spans 72 miles along the Mississippi River with none of it owned by the National Park Service.  Instead, it is a conglomerate of state, county, city, and private ownerships.  Obviously we would not be able to see all of it in one day, so we chose one of the two National Park Visitor Centers.  One of them is in downtown Minneapolis and the other in downtown St Paul, which is why Kal did not want to go.  We braved downtown Minneapolis to the St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center.  This very small visitor center is located at the upper locks on the Mississippi at St Anthony Falls which at about 20 feet drop forms the only natural falls on the Mississippi.  It also ended the commercial traffic on the river until locks were installed in 1948 and 1963.  In 2014, the upper locks were permanently closed due to lack of traffic since by this time it was obvious river traffic could not support it.  While the falls was the end of commercial traffic on the river, they were the reason Minneapolis became first the midwest leader in sawmills and then the world leader in flour production.  By 1871, the west bank had 23 businesses including flour mills, woolen mills, iron works, cotton mills, papermills, and other industries dependent on water power.  Along both banks were 34 flour mills using water to power the mills and railroads for transport.  Today these mills are all shut down and the historic district is well worth visiting.  However, we spent our time along the waterfront, first taking the tour of the upper lock conducted by the NPS where we learned the history and got some great pictures of the falls as they have been engineered today by the Corps of Engineers.  After the interesting tour we asked our guide for other things to do and he suggested checking out the Mill Ruins Park right there at the foot of the Stone Arch Bridge, which itself is pretty spectacular.  This large stone bridge was a railroad bridge that spanned the Mississippi River and today is a pedestrian walkway.  The Mill Ruins Park at the foot of the bridge is a small city park where you can see the outflow for some of the old mills on the west bank of the river.  To supply water to all the mills a canal was dug above the river with mills located on both sides of the canal and a railroad above the canal.  The water would run through the mills and then exit back into the Mississippi below the falls.  Some of these exit tunnels have been excavated and are now open to take a look into.  There are also some trestles of the railroads that ran along the backside of the mills above the river itself.  I assume there were also railroads behind the mills on the other side of the canal as well.  Once we finished exploring the park, we headed towards St. Paul in search of another popular location in the Recreation Area that was recommended by our guide, Minnehaha Park.  We found the park without a problem, however, finding a parking space anywhere in the park at noon time was impossible.  It was certainly one of the more popular areas we have visited with pedestrian and bicycles everywhere on a beautiful summer day.  We were also interested in visiting Fort Snelling State Park which controlled the west bank of the Mississippi River until it was opened up to settlers in the 1870s, however, it was closed due to flooding.  Wanting to get out of the traffic and congestion of Minneapolis-St. Paul we agreed to just call it a day and headed back to the campground for the afternoon.

Friday was going to be another sunny humid day so we headed out to the attraction that Kal wanted to visit on Thursday, Jeffers Petroglyphs State Historic Site.  The Jeffers Petroglyphs is an extensive outcropping of Sioux quartzite along the top of Red Rock Ridge.  The exposed surface is about 150 by 650 feet and is covered with ancient petroglyphs pecked out in the stone.  The earliest petroglyphs are estimated to be 7000 to 9000 years old that include atlatl and crude animal figures.  Other petroglyphs of thunderbirds, dragonflies, turtles, and shamans likely date back 3000 to 4000 years.  Finally, there are petroglyphs related to common symbols of the Mississippian culture of 1000 years ago.  There are over 4,000 American Indian symbols preserved in the rocks.  While not required, I would strongly recommend going with a tour guide.  They not only know where the more interesting symbols are on the rock face, but will wet them down with a spraybottle to make them easier to see.  You will also learn the Indian legends behind the symbols.  We started out with a Native American guide on a private tour that knew a lot of about the legends although she had just started working as a guide.  She was a delight, until we were chased off the ridgetop by an approaching thunderstorm.  We went back to the Visitor Center and ate lunch in their picnic area waiting for the storm to pass.  We never did get any rain, but the clouds and wind cooled it off considerably.  Instead of immediately joining the next tour we took the half mile walk through the restored prairie where we saw a lot of pretty prairie grass flowers and the remains of a bison rub which had been worn smooth by bison using the rocks to help remove their winter coat.  The end of the trail was back at the petroglyphs where we were able to join the tour and see the rest of the presentation.  Unfortunately, it was a different tour guide, but she still knew the legends behind the symbols she highlighted.  While the park is a bit remote, I would strongly recommend visiting.

After a busy week, we spent Saturday and Sunday in the campground doing laundry, cleaning the RV, and working on this blog.

July, 2019 – Hampton, Iowa

The week of July 4 still found us in Iowa, although this would be our last stop before heading north into Minnesota.  The trip north from Lake Anita, was easy as it was all along Interstate 70 back to Des Moines and then north on I 35.  We had rest stops on the way and the weather cooperated as far as any rain was concerned.  Our next location was another Iowa State Park just a few miles east of the Interstate, Beeds Lake State Park.  We found the campground with no problem and once again there was no check-in station.  We knew the number of the site we reserved so Kal took off to find it.  It turns out that most of the sites are considered pull-through, although the design was one we had not seen before.  All of these sites were on both sides of the four roads that made a large rectangle.  In essence you parallel park along the side of the road.  The campground was nearly empty on a Monday and I had selected a site at the end of the road to be near the water spigot since this campground did not have water hookups at each site.  This turned out to be a good thing later in the week, when we ran out of water in the tank but were close enough to the spigot to get our hose to it.  Initially we parked the RV on the left side of the road so we could reach the electric hookup on that side.  However, this meant our front door and slides were opening onto the road.  To keep the slideout from extending into the road we had to place the RV well into the grass on the left side.  Even then the electric cord barely reached the pedestal which for some reason was placed at the far end of the site and well away from the road.  Not liking this situation we wondered if we could change our site to one of the back-in sites that surrounded the rectangle of pull-through sites.  Kal found the camphost who informed us that we would have to pay for both sites!!  In addition, we found out that we were in our site backwards.  So we pull the RV out, went around the block, and came in the other direction.  We still had to pull to the extreme side of the road and it took three boards to level the RV due to the crown on the road!  Since the slides on that side do not extend as far out, we were at least not on the grass, although the slides were still to the edge of the road.  It was strange watching all the rigs over the week passing by so close to our rig.  However, now we had a problem as there was no way the 50 foot electric cord going under the RV would reach the pedestal.  The camphost was nice enough to call the hardware store in Hampton and the Walmart in Mason City to check on a 25 foot 50 amp extension cord.  Neither of them had any, so she directed us to an RV dealership in Sioux City.  So it was back in the truck to head back south on I 35 to US 20 and then a half hour west to Sioux City.  We found the RV dealership with no problem and they had a 25 foot extension for a 50 amp cord.  Of course, it cost over $300, but we really needed to have one anyway as we have been very close to needing it in the past.  Another 45 minutes back to the state park and we were finally able to get hooked up for the week.  Thankfully, a neighbor had a 25 foot extension for a 30 amp cored that he let us use so we did not have to use the batteries to run our refrigerator, until we got the new extension cord.

Since this was the week for the Fourth of July, we did not have any real plans for the week and after spending the last few weeks being very busy with Suzy and Kaytlynn, we were glad to just spend Tuesday relaxing in the campground.  Beside the US Women were making a great run in the World Cup and they played England on Tuesday.  For this we drove into Mason City to a Buffalo Wild Wing to watch the game.  Wednesday was spent doing laundry, cleaning the RV, and working on catching up on this blog.  Unfortunately, our phone signal was too weak to upload images, so posting of the blog had to wait a while.  It turned out that the nearby town of Hampton had their firework display on July 3, so after dark we headed towards town to see if we could find a spot to watch the display.  Unlike last year where we were literally directly underneath the display, we were more interested in avoiding the crowds.  Since Iowa is mostly flat farm fields we were able to find a great spot on the county road where it rose to pass over a train track.  From this elevated position we had a great view of the display from a couple of miles away.  It was far enough to see the display along with a small pop a few seconds later.  We also we able to see millions of fireflies in the fields to add to the display.  I tried to take some pictures of it with my camera, however, all I got was a lot of blurry pictures as the lens stayed open to capture enough light.  It was still a nice way to celebrate the 4th without having to deal with the crowds.  After it was over, it was a short drive back to the campground.

Thursday was the Fourth of July and by this point the campground was PACKED with RVs, families, and a lot of children.  It was fun to just relax in the campground and watch all the parties going on around us.  We did drive over to the spillway of the lake which was constructed by the CCC back in the 30s.  As with all their constructions, it was a beautiful job of limestone blocks providing a cascading falls.   It is suppose to be one of the most photographed falls in the state, I can believe it, even though it is not a natural falls.

CCCDam2

By Friday, we were ready to get out and do something and since it was supposed to rain in the afternoon, we headed southeast to Waterloo, Iowa and the Isle Casino there.  We had an enjoyable couple of hours playing the slots, or at least I did.  I actually won for the day and almost offset Kal’s losses.

On Saturday, Kal was not interested in the hiking trail around the lake, so I decided to play a round of disc golf.  The closest course was a 9-hole course in Hampton at East Park.  We had drove by it on our way to the casino and it looked like a pleasant course.  So Kal dropped me off at the park, while she went to the store.  Being located in a city park, the entire course was laid out in mowed grass with very few trees in the way.  The holes were also quite short, even though they were listed as par 4 for some reason.  I certainly got more birdies then is normal for me!  In any case, the course did have some challenges, mostly due to the stream that ran through the middle of the park.  With all the rain the stream was running strong, so I would likely lose any disc that hit the water.  The disc golf course crosses the stream 4 times and each of these fairsways were a challenge.  Two of these crossed the stream close to the tee, so clearing the stream was no problem.  However, two of the holes had the cage close to the stream, which meant to be safe I had to drop the disc short of the stream.  In addition, hole 8 had a large cottonwood tree overhanging the bank on the fairway making any long shot from the tee over the stream nearly impossible.  In addition to these four holes, there was one hole where the tee box was literally right behind the backstop of their ball field.  Instead of trying to throw around the backstop I decided to back up to a small paved road to use as the tee.  Finally, hole 9 goes directly through a young stand of red pine they have planted in the park.  It was nearly impossible to not hit at least one tree, but I came close.  It was a beautiful day and I had a good time on the course.  Our timing was nearly perfect as Kal drove up just as I was walking back to the parking lot at the park.

Sunday was another day just spent relaxing in the campground and working on catching up with this blog.  It was also the final game of the Women World Cup pitting the US against The Netherlands.  Since the game was to start at 10:00 on a Sunday morning, we were resigned to missing the game as no sports bar would be open that early on the 4th of July weekend.  Not to give up easily, Kal texted a couple of sports bars in Mason City just to check and got real lucky.  The owner of the Stampedes Bar and Grill in Mason City replied that they did not open until 11:00, but when Kal replied as to the reason, he offered to let us in at 10:00 to watch the game, although the grill would not be opened that early.  This was no problem for us as we would likely wait until after the game to eat lunch around noon.  So we arrived just before 10 in downtown Mason City, which was all but deserted on a Sunday morning, at the Stampedes Bar and Grill.  As promised the door was open and owner greeted us at the door with the game already on all the TVs.  We obviously had our choice of places to sit, but we decided to sit at the bar so we could talk with the owner.  We had a GREAT time watching the soccer match, which was a very good and competitive game with no score at half time.  The US women scored twice in the second half and defended their World Cup title.  We also enjoyed talking with the owner as he worked to open the bar while we watched the game.  We really appreciated him opening early for us and would encourage everyone to visit the Stampedes Bar and Grill.  The food was pretty good as well.

Bar

June, 2019 – Anita, Iowa

Before I get into the regular blog, I need to apologize to all of you following my blogs.  With my sister and her granddaughter visiting us for three weeks, I got behind in writing them.  Then we hit Beeds Lake State Park, that I will talk about next week, in rural northern Iowa and the phone connection was too slow to upload pictures.  So you are getting nearly a month’s work of blogs in a single week.  I certainly don’t expect you to binge read them all at once, but I hope you enjoy them.

The trip north out of Missouri into Iowa was simple as we went north on I-35 to Des Moines and then turned west on I-80 to the little town of Anita about half way to Omaha, Nebraska.  With Suzy and Kaytlynn following behind we had the advantage of a couple of rest stops along the way.  Lake Anita State Park is just south of Anita on a 170 acre reservoir.  It is a medium sized campground that is very well maintained.  We were surprised to find out we had a site with full hookups, since I had thought we would only have water and electric hookups.  Of course, the sewer hookup was at the extreme back end of the site, so I had to attach to extension to the hose.  At least we won’t have to worry about filling the gray tank with the extra people this week.  In any case, it was easy backing the RV into the site, which was surprisingly short forcing us to park the truck next to the RV instead of in front of it.  This still left room for Suzy’s car even though it was pretty tight.  Once I saw everyone else parking their vehicles in the grass throughout the park, I did not feel too bad.  We had a nice view of the lake from the campsite until the weekend when the campsites in front of us filled up.

The weather on Tuesday continued to be nice, even if a bit warmer and a lot more humid then I prefer.  There was suppose to be a one mile nature trail in the park, but without a park map we were on our own to find it.  We found a trail near the campground, Grassy Root Trail, that we assumed was it.  We should have known that a paved trail would not likely be a nature trail, however, by the time the trail left the state park and started along the backyards of a residential area Kaytlynn was too far ahead to turn around.  After the paved walkway crossed a road it descended down along a streambed that was very nice, except for the climb back out.  After about 1.5 miles the trail ended in the city park in Anita.  By this point, Suzy and I had lost sight of Kal and Kaytlynn, but assumed they would be somewhere in the small park.  After looking around, we found a shaded bench to rest on figuring they had walked on into town to get something to drink.  Fifteen minutes later they were still missing.  So I called Kal and found out they were nearly back to the car as they had hidden in the pavilion in the park until we passed by them without seeing them.  So Suzy and I started our hike back up along the stream.  It was nice that there were picnic tables strategically located after each uphill stretch and we took advantage of all of them.  We found Kal and Kaytlynn waiting at the car so we headed back to the campsite for more games in the afternoon.

GroupOnTrail

While on the hike the day before, we talked with a gentleman doing yardwork in his backyard about things to do in the area.  He mentioned the Danish Windmill and Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, just a bit west and then north on I-80.  So on Wednesday we decided to check it out.  The Danish Windmill is easy to find as you can see it from quite a distance on the highway into Elk Horn.  It is an authentic 1848 windmill from Denmark that they purchased, dismantled, transported, and reconstructed beginning in 1975.  For many years it was a HUGE community project to raise the money and rebuild with over 300 volunteers from all the surrounding Danish American communities.  It is the only authentic working Danish Windmill in the US, although it was not running the day we were there.  We enjoyed spending time in their gift shop which had all kinds of things from Denmark on sale.  This certainly made it a different kind of “tourist trap” gift shop.  We decided not to take the tour of the mill, since it was lunch time and everyone was getting hungry.  So we drove into town to the site of the Museum of Danish America where we had a nice picnic lunch on the grounds of the museum.

Windmill1

The museum and grounds are both beautiful especially with the backdrop of the Iowa farm lands.  The museum itself was a bit of surprise as I had expected a lot about the history of Danish America immigration and challenges of living in the US.  While there is an area on the ground floor devoted to the stories of immigrants, it was not the main focus of the museum.  Also on the ground floor was a play area for children with all kinds of Legos, which are from Denmark, a gift shop, and a piano owned by Victor Borge.  The second floor was a new exhibit devoted to the New Nordic Cuisine which was a surprise to see.  They did a good job of comparing this popular trend to more traditional Nordic meals, however, it was not what I came to see.  In the basement, however, there was a lot to see.  There was a brief history of Denmark and Danish immigration along two walls, while the center of the very large room was full of Danish American artifacts.  Some were family heirlooms brought from Denmark, but most were the tools, utensils, clothing, etc that made up their new life in America.  It is a small sample of the over 35,000 artifacts in the museum’s collection.  Unfortunately, there was no explanation of what you were looking it so you had to guess about its purpose.

The grounds outside the museum was also a delight as has been transformed into the Jens Jensen Prairie Landscape Park.  It was designed in 2011 intended to celebrate the life and work of Jens Jensen, a Danish immigrant who became a leader in landscape architecture as a colleague of Frank Lloyd Wright.  It is a beautiful paved trail winding through a mixture of natural and artificial landscapes.  Kaytlynn and I explored the half mile trail that leads back to town where we met Kal and Suzy.  Along the way we spent time playing on their fancy outdoor exercise equipment.  I wonder how long the equipment will survive the harsh winter weather, but Kaytlynn certainly had fun playing on it.  All together it was a very satisfying and different kind of day learning about the Danish American heritage of southwest Iowa.

Thursday we decided to just stay in the campground and play some spades and other games during the afternoon.  I discovered that Kaytlynn really enjoys math so she kept me busy coming up with math puzzles for her most of the morning.  Friday had thunderstorms predicted for the afternoon, so we took off in the morning in search of another point of interest we had learned about.  We drove over to Stuart in search of a painted rock.  As we understood it, an artist decided to paint a rock in each county in Iowa and there was one of these in Stuart.  According to our directions it was suppose to be just north of town, however, we never found it.  All we found was a painted rock about 3 feet high in the shape of an egg outside the police station in the center of town.  I could not talk anybody into getting their picture taken with the egg, so we drove by it a couple of times and just headed back to the campgrounds.  Some days are just a bust!!  In any case, it gave us another good excuse to relax in the campground and play some games in the evening.

Saturday was Suzy and Kaytlynn’s last day with us, so we left it up to them whatever they wanted to do.  After some kidding around they decided they just wanted to spend the day at the RV playing a few games.  Saturday night was also movie night in the state park, which turned out to be Mary Poppins Returns.  Especially since neither Suzy or Kaytlynn had seen it, we had a nice time watching the movie outside under the stars in the state park.  I wish more state parks would offer a movie night, as it was a good close to the evening.

On Sunday we had to say goodbye to Suzy and Kaytlynn who left mid-morning for their long drive back to Knoxville, Tennessee.  After reshuffling the RV, Kal and I settled in to spend the day relaxing by ourselves in the campground.  In addition, I finally had some time to begin catching up on this blog.

June, 2019 – Eagleville, Missouri

We were all ready to leave the crummy campgrounds on Monday and quickly got the RV on the road with Suzy in her car following behind.  Once we got past Kansas City, the trip north on I-35 was an easy drive for the better part of 3 hours.  We had nice rest stops along the Interstate and took our time.  We pulled into our next location just a few miles from the Iowa state line at a little RV Park outside of Eagleville, Missouri called Eagle Ridge RV Par.  Our first impression of this small RV Park was how nice it was after the crummy campground for the past two weeks.  As the name suggests, Eagle Ridge is one the top of a low ridge with a great view off to the west over the new cropfields.  We saw some really nice sunsets during the week when the clouds allowed.  The owners were great providing us a lot of information about things we could do during the week.  However, to be honest, we were just as interested in playing games in the campground.  In particular, we enjoyed teaching Kaytlynn had to play our favorite game, spades and got in quite a few games over the week.

The weather on Tuesday was nice with rain predicted for later in the week, so we headed north into Iowa to explore the Bridges of Madison County.  This may sound familiar as this is the title of a well known book and 1995 movie.   For those of you that never saw the movie, it is a story of a photographer interested in taking pictures of the covered bridges in the county which has the largest collection of surviving covered bridges in Iowa.  This sounds like a lot, but there are only 6 of them of the original 19 in the county.  The range in age from 1870 to 1884.  I was looking forward to being able to compare different covered bridge designs, however, all of these bridges were constructed using the same plans, even down to the red paint on the sides.  Except for the length, they all looked exactly the same.  Kaytlynn enjoyed doing cartwheels down the center of each bridge, so it was worthwhile.  Even though we had a map with the location of each bridge, we decided to follow the signs for the Covered Bridge Scenic Byway.  While it did lead from bridge to bridge, the byway was more interested in showing you the entire county.  Instead of going directly from bridge to bridge it went miles out of the way over dirt roads and farmland.  It was very scenic and if you enjoy driving dirt roads, was actually a lot of fun.  We stopped and took pictures of each bridge, although they are difficult to tell apart, and had a nice picnic lunch at the park at Cedar Bridge.  This was the only bridge that was not original, as it was set on fire for some reason back in 2002 and rebuilt in 2004.  All except for two of the bridges, Cutler-Donahue and Imes Bridges, are at their original locations.  Cutler-Donahue was moved to the Winterset City Park and Imes was moved to be closer to the highway in St. Charles.  With no water under these bridges, they certainly looked strange.  Hogback, Holliwell, and Roseman Bridges can only be accessed by dirt roads which added to the fun, in my opinion.   Consequently, the road trip took the better part of the day and was an unusual day for us.

It rained much of the day on Wednesday, with storms in the afternoon, so we stayed in the campground and played games most of the afternoon and evening.  Thursday was better, so Kaytlynn and I took off to play some disc golf while Kal and Suzy went to the store.  Kaytlynn and I drove north to Lamoni, Iowa to a disc golf course on the campus of Graceland University.  Since the first half of the 18 hole course was around the pond, the showpiece green space for the University, it was all well manicured.  Each fairway was open with very few obstacles except for the pond itself with freshly mowed grass to play on.  Most of the holes were well marked with concrete tee pads and easily seen baskets.  However, the sign for hole 5 ran along the edge of the area with heavy brush on the left side.  According to the sign at the tee the basket was suppose to be along the brush which curved to the left.  When I threw the disc the cross wind caught it and it sailed out of sight into the brush.  After spending 15 minutes looking at the ground into the brush I finally found it stuck about head high into the brush.  I was grateful that I did not lose my favorite driver.  However, two holes later, Kaytlynn finally got an excellent throw at the basket and we watched it sail into the pond.  Since these discs do not float, that was the end of it.  Kaytlynn was still very new at throwing a disc, so it really surprised both of us she managed to throw it into the pond.  At the end of 9 holes, Kaytlynn had had enough.  The weather was sunny, hot, and the course had very little shade.  If not for the wind it would have been a lot worse.  Especially since it appeared that the back 9 wound in through the buildings on campus, I agreed with her in calling it a day and heading back to the campground.

It rained again on Friday, so it was another day hanging out in the campground and playing games.  Saturday was a bit better with only light rain in the morning, so we headed south to the town of Jamesport, Missouri.  This is the location of the largest Amish Settlement west of the Mississippi which was evidenced by the number of families we saw traveling in their horse buggies.  Jamesport is a small town which is in the process of transforming itself into a tourist attraction.  While much of the downtown area is still closed shops, there are a number of stores to attract visitors.  The main difference is these stores feature locally made products instead of the usual tourist trap garbage.  We enjoyed spending time in a couple of stores seeing unusual products, many made by hand.  Then we entered one of the many antique stores in town.  It felt like we were transported back in town to a large garage sale!!  The store was full of all kinds of junk you would find in someone’s garage 10 to 40 years ago.  Everything from old tools, toys, books, records, clothing, and all manner of cheap memorabilia.  While we enjoyed pointing out strange objects to each other, I can’t imagine how the store was going to stay in business.  I guess I just don’t understand the appeal of antiques, unless it is furniture.  We then drove just out of town to an Amish country store.  This store was amazing with all kinds of interesting items you would not find in most stores.  They had every kind of flour I can think of and a very wide selection of jars full of jellies, jams, and preserved vegetables.  Kal did find enough sorghum for all of the kids, as well as, some other choice items.  Then it was off to the bakery next door where we bought some great bread and pineapple carrot cake.

KalSuzyKaytlynn

After lunch at a local barbecue in Jamesport , we decided to check out another historic site in the area we had heard about.  Adam-ondi-Ahman is the site of a Mormon settlement established in 1838.  When Joseph Smith visited the area in the spring he discovered two “altars” on the top of Tower and Spring Hill which he proclaimed were constructed by Adam.  In May he declared this was the site that Adam and Eve came to when they were exiled from the Garden of Eden and by August the town grew to 1500 Mormons.  However, the locals feared the Mormons would seize control of local politics and barred them from voting in the August elections in Gallitin.  The Mormons fought back and the Mormon War began.  It did not last long as the Missouri National Guard was called out and the Mormons were given 10 days to leave.  By November they had moved on to establish a new community in Far West, Missouri.  Today the site is owned and maintained as an historic site by the Church of Later Day Saints and is a very nice place to explore.  Most of the 3000 acres have never been farmed and remain in this pristine environment.  There is a nice picnic area on the site and you can visit the two altars on Tower and Spring Hill.  There are also some nice views of the Grand River Valley from on top of Tower Hill.  Even with this side trip, we had plenty of time to indulge in more games once we returned to the RV for the evening.

We spent Sunday doing laundry and cleaning the RV, which with 3 of us did not take very long.  The rest of the day was spent playing games once again.  By this point Kaytlynn was getting good at spades, except for nils which can take some time to play well.