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.

June, 2019 – Kansas City, Missouri

Our trip north from Nevada to Harrisonville, Missouri was along Interstate 49 and would have taken just over an hour, except we had to make a detour.  We had a 10:00 appointment at Camping World of Kansas City, so we had to get an early start.  We traveled about 30 minutes north of our next location to get to Camping World and we arrived on time.  They took the RV immediately and I assume began working on installing a new set of stairs to replace the ones that broke.  These new stairs would actually rotate up to ride inside the RV instead of the original stairs that fold down on the outside.  We had nowhere to go, so we found a place in their waiting room as I guessed it would take no more than a couple of hours.  After about an hour, we were informed that the stairs they had ordered were 1/2 inch too wide for the doorway.  I have no idea how this happened as we gave them the dimensions of the opening which are printed on the side of the door.  In any case, they had to see if they could located another set of stairs.  So now we had to wait and hope they could find a set that would fit in time to be installed that day.  We went to lunch with still no word, however, when we returned from an extended lunch, we were told they were in the process of picking up a set of stairs.  This was great news since they got the stairs and had them installed before 3:00 in the afternoon, although it was not fun sitting around for 5 hours in their waiting room.  In any case, we were able to drive back south to our next location in Harrisonville, The Oaks at Plaza Drive.  This RV park was not our first choice for the area, however, Peculiar Park Place in Peculiar could not accommodate us for the two weeks and had suggested this park as an alternative.  When we found the park, I wished we had not acted on their suggestion and found an RV park recommended by Good Sams instead.  The only sign for the park was stuck on the side of their dumpster and could only be seen once you made the turn into the park.  There is no office and no apparent way to check in.  There was also no bathroom or any other amenity to speak of.  It was a crummy, dirty RV park with a narrow gravel road and very tight sites.  We managed to pull around a small loop at the end of their 20 sites and stopped to ask another camper about checking in.  He said the office was a real estate office just to the south of the park, but as long as we had reservations, they didn’t care whether we checked in or not.  Since the site we had reserved was open, we proceeded to back the RV into it.  Coming from this direction proved to be impossible due to trees in the way on both sides of the RV and in front of the truck.  So I had to pull the RV out of the park, get turned around in a parking lot for a strip mall next door, and reenter the park going the other direction.   My first attempt at this new direction was still unsuccessful as I tried to angle the RV into the site and it immediately sunk into the mud on the side of the packed gravel area.  I was able to pull it back out without a problem and proceeded to back the RV into a very tight site at right angles with very little room to swing the truck around.  It took multiple attempts, but I finally managed to get the RV into the center of the site.  The only good things about this RV park was it had full hookups and there was a Walmart less than 5 minutes away which we would be visiting at least once a day to use their restroom.  Having a choice of views outside the RV of either the city street or the back side of a strip mall would not be my first choice of camping experience!  In any case, we were close to Kal’s aunt and uncle and the attractions of Kansas City.

Campsite

Tuesday we went to spend the day with Kal’s Uncle Gary and Aunt Chris in Raymore.  They live in a VERY nice 55+ community that Kal and I would like to find when we are ready to settle down again.  We had a very pleasant day with them talking about our travels, childhood memories of Gary with Kal’s dad, and catching up with their kids and grandkids.  Wednesday was another day primarily visiting with Gary and Chris, although this time we took our laundry along and they took us out for a nice Mexican lunch.  The conversation pretty much picked up where it left off the day before and we had another relaxing and enjoyable day.  The picture below left is Gary holding the tub they used on the farm for Saturday night baths.  Kal said she remembers it being bigger, of course, she was a bit smaller.

Thursday was to be a day for sightseeing as we headed north to Independence, Missouri to check out the Harry S Truman National Historic Site and the Truman Library and Museum.  However, first we stopped at Gary and Chris to help them out by taking them to the store since they weekly ride had to cancel.  We were glad to do it and we were still in Independence before 10:00.  The Harry S Truman National Historic Site is primarily the home he retired to in Independence after serving as the 33rd President for 8 years.  It is also the the family home of his wife, Bess Wallace.  While not a modest home for its time, it was also not as large as you might expect for a former President.  It was also interesting that the Visitor Center was not located at the house, but a few blocks away on the edge of the downtown district in a small corner location.  Unfortunately, their movie was not working at the time, so we walked on down to the house after getting tickets for the tour.  Before the tour we checked out the Noland House across the street, which was the residence of Harry’s cousins that he stayed with when he visited Bess while he lived and worked at the family farm in Grandview, about 10 miles away.  The exhibits there centered on his growing up in Independence and his courtship of Bess.  The tour of Truman’s home began in the kitchen where they spent most of their time.  Since Bess bequeathed the house to the NPS when she died in the 1980s, it has all the original furnishings from that time.  Thus the kitchen had a lot of appliances that we recognized from the 1960s and 70s.  The rest of the home was also modestly furnished, as Truman wanted to return to the lifestyle of a middle class mid-westerner after he years in Washington D.C.  Only the formal parlor was decked out with expensive furniture and items for receiving important guests over the years.  His study was crammed full of books as he was an avid reader and even had an old radio set that took up most of one wall in the small study.  Unfortunately the upstairs bedrooms were closed, so we only got to tour the first floor.

After spending a couple of hours at the two homes, we walked back to the truck and rode over to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.  We have seen most of the Presidential Libraries east of the Mississippi (somehow we missed President Kennedy’s)  and we both agreed this was the best we have seen so far.  The main part of the library was devoted to his Presidential years, as you would expect, however, there were some great exhibits in the basement about his life before Washington.  The main level was well organized to lead you through his years as President beginning with a movie overview and then his inauguration from Vice-President after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt just 82 days into his fourth term.   His Presidency covered the period from the end of World War II through the Korean Conflict and the beginning of the Cold War.  The museum is very well organized leading you through his years and the momentous decisions he had to make both domestically and internationally.  He was obviously much more successful on the international stage as a Republican controlled Congress kept him from implementing very much of his domestic agenda.  Beginning with the defeat of Germany, he then had to decide to drop the atomic bombs on Japan and convince Russia to declare war on Japan to force them to surrender.  Then came the beginning of the United Nations and troubles at home with food and housing shortages making the transition back to a peacetime economy difficult.  However, this soon changed and the US entered an extended phase of prosperity.  In Europe, the situation was much more dire as they struggled to recover from the war and the rise of Communism, especially in Eastern Europe.  Thus began the Marshall Plan to assist Europe in their recovery and the Truman Doctrine and NATO to limit the spread of Communism.  This period also saw the rise of Senator McCarthy in answer to the fears of Soviet spies, especially after Russia developed nuclear capability.  The Soviet Union also blockaded Berlin which led to the Berlin airlift to bring in supplies to the parts of the city under non-Soviet control.  All of these plans were very controversial at the time, including the recognition of Israel late in his first term.  Even his reelection was controversial as he was not expected to win according to the experts and polls.  The Democratic Party was fractured with Truman leading the center of the party, the Southern Democrats forming the State’s Rights Party over Civil Rights issues, and the left wing under former Vice-President Wallace forming the Progressive Party.  It seemed like Republican Dewey could not lose.  Truman was woken up the next morning with the news he had won.  His second term saw an intensification of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the emergence of China as a Communist state under Mao Tse-Tung.  The Korean peninsula was the ultimate location where this conflict would play out in the Korean Conflict.  The museum does an excellent job of providing detailed information about each and other decisions Truman had to make, along with some interactive videos where the audience gets to vote on these decisions as well.  The basement of the museum also had some great exhibits about the pre-President years of Truman that cover his boyhood, service in World War I, and his failed haberdashery business, and years as the Jackson County Judge which was an administrative position.  Outside you can also visit the graves of both Harry and Bess Truman and have a look inside the office he used on a daily basis at the Library.  It was certainly a full day learning a lot about the life and times of Harry S. Truman.

Friday started early with a long drive to Liberal, Kansas.  Kal’s dad passed away in February and her mom the previous April, both of them being cremated for later burial.  Now was the time to travel to Liberal for the grave site services.  We had positioned ourselves close to her dad’s brother, Gary, in Kansas City in case they needed a ride to Liberal and to be as far north as possible.  It turned out that Gary and Chris would ride with their son, Bill, to Liberal, so we were on our own.  The trip took 8 hours, so it was a full day driving through Kansas that we knew well from our childhood.  Even though we passed through familiar sounding towns north of Wichita, we did not go through Wichita where we grew up as it was out of our way.  Still it was a drive that reminded us of our childhood, especially for Kal as we left most of the trees behind into southwestern Kansas.  We did drive through her early childhood memories in Kismet, a very small town close to Liberal that is even smaller today.  There are few people there today that probably even remember the Lindsay family, however, we did post the grave services in the local church bulletin in case there were any.  We got in early enough to greet Kal’s brothers, Mark and Phil, along with Mark’s wife, Pam, cousins Holly and Tal, and her aunt Wanda from Wichita.  We got settled in and headed over to a local restaurant where we were met by Gary, Chris, and Bill.  We had a nice time at dinner and then told family stories for hours in the hotel lobby.

Saturday morning was all about the grave site services at 10:00, so we all got into some nice clothes and made the trip to the Liberal grave yard.  Being a minister, Tal was asked to conduct the service which included a ceremony from three local American Legion representatives.  I was not expecting this and was grateful for their participation.  There were even a few people from Kismet and Liberal that remembered the family, so we had a nice small group for the service.  Tal did an excellent job and were thankful that we had a minister in the family.  After the services we went back to the hotel to change and check out before heading over to another restaurant in Liberal for a family lunch.  Unfortunately, Gary, Chris, and Bill had to leave before lunch to pick up a family heirloom being held by local friends.  Even though the group was a little smaller, we still had a great time eating pizza and calzones.

After lunch everyone headed back.  Holly, Tal, and Wanda drove to Wichita, Mark and Pam to Dallas, Phil to catch a plane in Amarillo, and us back to Kansas City.  While those traveling to Wichita or Kansas City had no problems with the trip, Mark had planned to stop in Wichita Falls for the night.  The hotel room was so dirty it gave them headaches and they decided to just drive on home.  We had plans to stop in Pratt which is about half way, however, the hotels were all full for the weekend with a Miss Kansas Pageant and baseball tournament.  So we headed on to Hutchinson only to find out they were full with another baseball tournament and twirling contest.  So it was on again to Newton in search of place to stay only to find out the major hotel chains were full with some kind of pilot convention.  So we ended up finding a room in an old motel for twice the price we paid for a nice hotel in Liberal since now it was nearly 7:00.  However, this is no comparison to the nightmare Phil had with American airline.  He had no problem with the flight into Dallas-Fort Worth, however, his connecting flight to Birmingham was canceled.  The next flight also got canceled, as well as, the last flight to Birmingham.  By now he was faced with spending the night in the airport as the next flight was at 6 the next morning.  The next day way one canceled flight after another leading to yet another night in the airport.  The first flight the next morning was also canceled and the next flight boarded and set on the tarmac for 30 minutes before deplaning as now the pilots had been too long on the job and could not fly the plane!!  So he finally gave up and paid for a seat on United into Birmingham.  I don’t know if he will ever get reimbursed from American and there was never any explanation for the canceled flights since there was NO weather problems.  Kal did some investigation and found that American was having problems agreeing to a new contract with the maintenance and we suspect this was the reason.  In any case, I was glad we did not fly ourselves.

We spent part of the day on Sunday driving on back to our campgrounds in Harrisonville, where we collapsed in the RV for the remainder of the day.  Monday was also spent in the campgrounds waiting for my sister, Suzy and her granddaughter, Kaytlynn.  They were driving up from new Knoxville, TN so it took them most of the day.  We had to do some reshuffling of our things in the RV to make room for them, but the pull out bed in the couch is a welcome addition.

Tuesday morning was busy as we had to get around quickly so we could take the truck into the Ford dealership in Lee’s Summit for servicing.  We knew we had at least the rest of the morning to kill since I asked them to inspect the brakes and replace them if needed.  So we drove over to Camping World so I could get the roof treatment for the RV and spent a couple of hours looking over their RV to give Suzy an idea of what she might be interested in.  She is not sure if she wants to travel by herself in a small RV, but wanted to get an idea of what she would be looking for.  After that we had a very leisurely lunch and headed back to the dealership to find out that the front brakes did need to be replaced.  Thankfully, they were done by 3:00 as we had evening plans to drop in on some college buddies of both Suzy and Kal.  As a reminder to those of you reading this blog, Kal was Suzy’s roommate at Southwestern College in Kansas when I met her and I spent a good bit of time visiting while I was at school at Oklahoma State.  Suzy was a theater major and I truly enjoyed spending time with her fellow theater friends on the weekends, so I also considered them my friends.  It turned out that three of them, Dave Lungren, Bill Christie, and Suzanne Smith along with their significant others, had retired in Kansas City.  We all met at Dave’s house for a cookout surprising Suzy who we had not told before that day.  Since they had not got together since graduating, although Kal was in contact with them using Facebook, we had a lot of catching up to do.  We stayed late and got back to the campground after dark feeling that the day was a huge success.

Wednesday we spent in the campground and I got Kaytlynn out to help me with cleaning the RV and treating the rubber roof.  This took us a couple of hours and both of us got wet in the process.  It is certainly more fun cleaning the RV with a nearly 14 year old to make it enjoyable!

We had made plans to meet Dave at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City on Thursday, since he volunteered there and could give us a private tour.  I must admit that of all the armed conflicts over the history of the United States, I now the least amount about World War I or The Great War.  I knew that basically this was a war between the great empires of Europe and thus included their worldwide colonies and thus was a global war.  I also knew that the United States attempted to remain neutral for the first few years of the war.  After an initial land grab by Germany, the war became essentially a stalemate with both sides dug into a huge network of trenches using artillery and gas bombs against each other.  However, I knew little else about the war.  All of that would change as the National World War I Museum has the largest collection of artifacts from the war in the world.  We learned from our “tour guide” that the original WWI Memorial, completed in 1926, was a granite plaza with two relatively exhibit halls at the east and west end, the Liberty Tower that soars 217 feet in the Kansas City skyline, and two Assyrian Sphinxes with their eyes covered guarding the entrance.  The number of artifacts collected very quickly overfilled the exhibit halls, however, it was not until structural problems closed the memorial in 1994 that major plans were made to expand the museum.  The museum did not reopen until 2006 when a much larger museum under the original memorial was completed.  So we started our “tour” in the original exhibit halls and tower.  The most impressive feature of these exhibit halls are the surviving pieces of the Pantheon de la Guerre.  Painted by a group of artists during the war in Paris, this circular panorama is 402 feet in circumference and 45 feet tall depicting over 6000 prominent Allied wartime figures from around the world.  It was on loan to the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1933-34, however, after the World’s Fair it was forgotten and was stored outside for nearly 20 years.  It was bought at auction in 1953 and donated to the World War I Memorial in 1957.  Of course it was heavily damaged, but pieces were salvaged and put on display in the museum.  While still a VERY impressive work, I can only imagine what the entire painting would have looked like!  After visiting the two old exhibit halls we traveled up the tower for some great views of Kansas City and the surrounding terrain.  From there, Dave treated us to lunch and we proceeded to the newer main gallery.  The main museum is VERY well designed to give visitors the history of the war before overwhelming them with the collected artifacts.  You begin with a video about the factors that led to the war before exiting into the collection of the first two years before the United States entered the war.  The most interesting part of this section of the museum is their recreation of trenches the soldiers lived and fought in.  Through a series of peep holes in the side of the trench you get a good sense of their living conditions and stories.  Then another video presentation give the factors leading to the United States entering the war followed by many exhibits of the war effort and supplies provided by the United States to turn the tide of the war.  Finally, there is a video presentation of the aftermath of the war as you complete the circle back to the entrance.  I was frankly overwhelmed with the artifacts from that time period, as well as, attempting to entertain Kaytlynn who was not really that interested.  This way, Kal and Suzy got to spend more time with Dave in the museum and we all had a good day.

Friday was more sightseeing as we headed back into Kansas City to the banks of the Missouri River and the Arabia Steamboat Museum.  This is a steamboat that hit a snag in the Missouri River in 1856 and sank with over 200 tons of cargo destined for general stores and homes in 16 midwestern frontier towns.   Over 150 years the Missouri had changed its course many times and the steamboat was now buried 45 feet deep in the mud and silt under a cornfield.  Protected from light and air the cargo was amazingly preserved over the years.  In 1987, Bob Hawley and his sons, Dave and Greg were self-styled treasure hunters and went in search of the wreck.  They used old maps and proton magnetometer to locate the wreck.  In November of 1988 the Arabia was exposed and four days later the cargo began to emerge.  For the next three months every day was Christmas as more and more of the cargo was excavated and put into storage in freezers.  The long work of preservation then began and will not be completed until at least 2022.  Organic material such as wood and leather must be treated with polyethylene glycol (PEG) and then freeze dried.  Nitrogen is injected into jars and cans to preserve their contents.  Unfortunately, anything of cotton has deteriorated, so leather boots must be resown.  After about a 20 minute tour and video giving the history of the wreck and recovery, you get to meet one of the owners and get a small look at the largest pre-Civil War artifact collection in the world and it is truly mind blowing.  You feel as if you have entered a pre-Civil War Walmart!!  There is everything imaginable on display and I could not begin to list them all.  Stacks of dishes and china, kitchenware and utensils; leather boots, hats, clothing, and jewelry; jars of medicine, food, and champagne; farm equipment including nails, hammers, shovels, and every imaginable wood working implement.  There were not able to salvage the hull itself, but they did bring up a piece of the stern which is on display.  They also recovered the steam engine and paddlewheel from the wreck.  All in all, it is an amazing display and one that is still growing every day.  You even have the opportunity to watch an expert doing their painstaking preservation work.  After spending at least an hour looking at the artifacts we entered the food market along the river where we had so many choices for lunch it was difficult to get a consensus.  After a late lunch, we had all had enough for the day and retired back to the campground for the afternoon where we broke out our collapsible card table for games of spades and other games.

Saturday was spent with Kal going into town to do laundry, while the three of us cleaned the inside of the RV.  With all three of us, this went very quickly and we had the entire afternoon to play some more games.  In the evening we all went to a party hosted by Gary and Chris to spend time with their son Bill and daughter, Jana and their families.  It was a nice pizza dinner and Kal got to spend time with her relatives.  I attempted to keep Suzy and Kaytlynn somewhat entertained to give Kal the opportunity.  Gary and Chris have a wonderful family and everyone had a good time.

Sunday was our last day in this crummy campground and we relaxed until the US Women’s World Cup match came on in the afternoon.  After we watched them easily win their game against Chile, we had supper and played some more spades and other games in the living room.