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.
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.
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.