Monday, July 18, 2016

Small towns, Big sky...Montana!

We've been to Montana a few times, so we try to travel a different way each time, which is not hard to do, seeing as how big and empty the state can be!  Coming in from North Dakota this time, we chose the less busy, more scenic roads, Hwys 2 & 12 mostly.  This lead us to the small town of Havre.  We had heard that it had an "underground city", that sounded worth checking into, so made it our two-day stop over.  

Havre Historical Underground was most interesting indeed!  There were about a half dozen of us on the tour, and our guide Gene, a local gentleman who grew up in Havre, began "above ground" by walking us around the block to the entrance.  In January of 1904 a devastating fire wiped out a large part of the Havre business. A shortage of building materials made it difficult to rebuild immediately, so the businesses moved their stores to the steam tunnels running under the city until their buildings could be replaced above ground. At one time it consisted of 7 blocks, the refurbishing of it now, for tours, is about 3 blocks, but really well done.  The underground tunnels were there long before the fire, as they were originally used for storage, then later used for a variety of things (Prohibition, prostitution, etc).  

We've been to the underground tour in Seattle a number of years ago, and this tour was so much better.  The group that put the work into this have really put a lot of time, effort and money into making it quite a museum and a step back into an interesting time of their unique history.  I'm glad we made the stop. 

Our next big stop was the capitol of Montana, Helena.  We were meeting up with some of our friends there, so we had a few days to spend sightseeing.  First stop tho, was to see the Capitol itself.  Once again, it was practically deserted, just a very few other people and almost no employees (and yes, it was a weekday!)...makes for easy pictures tho!  Only downside was that all the "rooms" were locked, so I had to try and shoot through the glass doors...;-(  No guide, no brochure to tell you much, so we just wandered around, best we could.  Pretty building, with a pretty dome and a really nice floral entrance that spelled out Montana 2016 with the shape of the state that I thought was cool.  

We took the boat ride along the Missouri River through the Gates of the Mountain with our friends.  It's a beautiful tour that leads you past wonderful rock formations, along where Lewis and Clark went.  It's an optical illusion where it looks like you are at a dead end, then as you come around a corner the cliffs (gates) seem to "open up" and you can continue on through, a great sight to see.  Along this route is also where, in 1949 the Mann Gulch Fire took place and 13 firefighters lost their lives.  It changed the way forest fires are fought today.   The boat captain makes it a fun tour, pointing out various things along the way, like some ancient American Indian cliff pictographs, and several rock formations that look like "monsters" or "elephants".  We saw a Bald Eagle flying and it's nest, that day too.  

The areas on both sides of the Missouri River are protected, on one side it's the Hauser Nature Preserve and the other it's the Bureau of Land Management.  Nice, so it will always "be there" for us, for our children and their children to see.  

As you travel through these little byways of Montana, the sights keep you smiling.  Between the wheat fields "someone" puts up statues (so you won't fall asleep?) or cute signs...

We are now on our way into Canada to see some dear friends we've met during our adventures on the road.  Looking forward to seeing all those miles of Canola again too!

...on the road,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Mountains, Music and Majesty in Medora North Dakota!

We went to the tiny town of Medora North Dakota to visit the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and found so much more.  I love National Parks and have such a big spot in my heart for the people who had the foresight to have saved them for us.  Every time we visit one I'm reminded how very lucky we all are and wish that everyone can see and enjoy what I am seeing at that moment.  Each one is so very different from the other, it never ceases to amaze me. 

When I told my husband that I wanted to take this trip across North Dakota to go see this National Park, he said "but we already saw the Badlands in South Dakota".  I explained that I had read that these were "different", and that I had read that according to President Roosevelt, "they were like no where else, and that they had changed his life".  That sounded beautiful to me, so I wanted to see them for myself. 

The first day after arriving it threatened to rain, but that didn't stop me, I wanted to get out there and explore the Park, so off we went, lunch and camera in hand.  The President wasn't wrong.  Beautiful, and yes, very different from the Badlands in South Dakota!  For one thing, so much more greener!  That was my biggest surprise.  Different colors too, where the ones in South Dakota seem to have more yellows, pinks and white, here there seems to have more grays & blues mixed in.  They also seemed more rounded and less jagged than the ones in South Dakota.  We also saw more animals here too.  Besides the ever present prairie dogs and occasional bison, this time we lucked out and saw a few elk and some magnificent wild horses!

Nothing was left of Teddy Roosevelt's Ranch but his Maltese Cross Cabin, which they have moved to the Ranger Station along with some artifacts that were left behind, so they are on view.  He only used the cabin for a year (1883-84) before he built the Elkhorn Ranch that he used until 1901 when he became President. 

Another abandoned ranch in the Park is the Peaceful Valley Ranch (c1918).  It was first operated as a dude ranch then later in 1936 the CCC took it over until 1947 when it was then used for Park Administration until 1959 when it was used as a horse riding concession until it closed in 1967.  The sign said that the Park will begin to restore it for historical purposes.  Nice look into the past...

This part of North Dakota lured another famous person besides Teddy Roosevelt here, a gentleman by the name of Marquis de Mores and his wife Medora.  He so loved the area, in 1880 he built a 26 room summer house (hunting cabin to him - "Chateau" to the towns' people) and set upon starting a number of enterprises.  His first, and biggest was running a beef-packing plant that included refrigerated railway cars, cattle and sheep ranching.  He also added a stagecoach line...all before they failed and eventually he and his family returned to France. 

His home and furnishings are on display along with several other items, but only the 84' tall chimney and a few bricks are left of the beef-packing plant.  He was ahead of his time I'm afraid.  He and his wife were quite a pair though, it would have been quite something to have met them I bet!  Can you just imagine a dinner with them and Teddy Roosevelt, what conversation that would have been? 

Medora doesn't stop with those attractions (nor the tons of gift shops in town!).  They have a wonderful musical that they put on at their Burning Hills Amphitheatre.  You can add dinner to you evening as well...which we did.  They have two buffets to choose from, Jack chose the chicken/ribs/roast, while I went for the "Pitchfork Steak Fondue"!  Wow!  It was worth it just to watch them stick those suckers in the large vats and cook them!  Of course it comes with a ton of other stuff so that you ache when you walk out of there and over to the Burning Hills Amphitheatre. 

The Medora Musical is about two hours and was top quality.  It had 6 gals and 6 guys and a young man, Chet Wollan, who was the host/singer/dancer, that had made his first debut with the show at 4 years old.  It is his first year as host, but you sure could see his love of the show and his talent!  The previous host, who had been with the show for many years, had recently past away.  They change the theme each year, and this year's was a little bit about him, and a lot about our National Parks.  It even had a spot where they brought all the children up on stage and had them take an oath to help continue the Parks (and gave each one a button).  Very cute. It was a truly a very entertaining evening.

We only stayed three days in Medora as we have a tight schedule to meet up with some friends.  One more day and we would have driven up to the north end of the Park...that takes a full day.  It's hard to tell if it's much different from the south end from the map.  Something for another time...

For now, I'm so glad we made the trip!  Goodbye North Dakota...and thank you President Roosevelt!

...on the road to Montana,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Thursday, July 7, 2016

We finally made it to North Dakota, you betcha!

With only a couple more states left on our US map to go, filling up the spot for North Dakota was a primary goal of mine this year, and by golly, we finally made it!

We had three locations we wanted to visit...Fargo (had to see "The Chipper"!), Bismark (might as well go see another Capitol) and the saving the best for last, a few days exploring the Theodore Roosevelt National Park outside of Medora.

So, first stop, Fargo!  The folks at the Fargo-Moorehead Welcome Center were just wonderful.  So much fun.  You could see that they were used to people coming there to see "The Chipper" and take pictures, ask questions, etc.  They even have a box full of various "North Dakota winter hats" to offer you while they take your picture (assuring you that they have them cleaned frequently).  We had ours taken, but didn't even think about getting silly with it, until after we left (darn!).  The "Grip" from the Fargo movie sold them The Chipper (he had bought it after the movie finished for his hobby farm) and then donated his collection of memorabilia as well.  That made it really nice for the Welcome Center to have all that for all the visitors that come through there.  They even had a bench with a sign that said "Is this your last state?  Welcome to the club!"   I sooo wanted to sit there, but dang it, we still have ONE state left to go!  So, no picture on the bench...

Outside, they created a "Walk of Fame" where they transplanted (from downtown) cement squares of hand & footprints and signatures of famous people from North Garth Brooks, Jimmy Dean, Bill Gates, Dr. Ruth, Zig Zigler, etc.  Kind of cool.

Afterwards we went to the Hjemkomst Center where we had read about how this gentleman had built almost entirely by himself, a sailing replica of an ancient Viking ship.  Wow, when you walk in, you look almost straight up, as it is 77' tall (63′ mast) and 30′ x 38′ long.  She was beautiful!  

Bob Asp had a dream.  He thought it would take him a took him nearly six.  He was a junior high school guidance counselor and he could only work on it during the weekends and summers.  Early on, he was diagnosed with leukemia, but that didn't stop him, he kept going, determined.

Bob was able to see his dream completed and was able to be on it's maiden voyage, under her own power, in the Duluth Harbor on August 9, 1980.  Although Bob died on December 27, 1980, his family was committed to keeping his dream of sailing the Hjemkomst to Norway alive.  On August 9, 1982, the Hjemkomst reached Oslo, Norway, her final destination-the destination dreamed of by her creator and builder, Robert Asp. Bob’s dream had been fulfilled.

What a story, what an incredible man, family, and ship.

The museum was "all things Scandinavian.  The other "Wow factor" was a full-size replica Norwegian Stave Church.  One of the volunteers there gave us a nice tour of the Hopperstad Stave Church.  We had seen other Stave Churches before, but no one had ever walked us through one and explained all the little details to us, which was really nice.  The gentleman who built this for them was very careful in all the special touches and nuances.  My favorite was the little window (Ambulatory) by the was for the afforded the priest to offer communion to the lepers or other sick, without actually touching them or even getting near them.  Huh...

After we left Fargo, it was off to see the capitol of North Dakota!  We've enjoyed seeing the various capitol buildings and have even gone out of our way to include them in our journeys now.  So, we thought Bismark would be a great place to spend the Independence Holiday weekend!  Right?  well...not so much...

The best thing I can say about that it's an unusual town.   It's nothing like I expected, that's for sure, starting with it's Capitol.  Every State Capitol building we've been to has had a "rotunda".  They all have been lovely, some more than others and one was absolutely gorgeous.  This one, however...was a 21 story tower.  When we were given our tour, I asked "why no rotunda?" and was told that "rotundas are wasted space, and this was built for efficiency".  They not only house their political offices here, but many other government agencies as well.

The first Capitol building, built in 1883, burned to the ground in 1930,  forcing them to build a completely new building. Built in the 1930's, during the Great Depression, they chose function and simplicity.  Inside, they went with an Art Deco style and with 19 stories expected to have plenty of space for years to come, but more space was needed by 1955 when construction was begun for the State Office Building.  In 1968 the Dept. of Transportation building was added and the Judicial Wing was added onto the base of the Capitol tower in 1977.  Even with all this, she shared that not all the legislators have offices and have to share "open spaces".  

The 18th floor was a nice observation floor with windows showing great views of the city below.  They had some wonderful old pictures of the first Capitol building and even while it was burning.  They had beautiful old wicker furniture that had been hand made by patients in the state mental hospital back in the 1930's.

Back on the ground floor, they too have a "Hall of Fame".  North Dakota is sure proud of the people that are either from here, or have lived here!  ;-)  Here, they put up large oil paintings with very nice plaques telling you all about each of them.  Their group was quite long.  Of course it had at the very beginning, Teddy Roosevelt, but it also had such greats as Angie Dickinson and Louis L'Amour, and even Eric Sevareid.

Being in Bismark over the holiday was an experience in itself...  It started with our campground.  I'd say that we've really had pretty good luck with campgrounds over the 4+ years of being on the road.  Friendly staff, friendly people, nice surroundings usually.  When holidays come around, some celebrate a lot, some only a little.  Either way, it's okay with us.  Well, when I arrived here, the hostess didn't greet me, she actually didn't say anything to me until I finally asked her about the weather!  I chalked it up to her just being "quiet".   She didn't even tell me our site #, just said "follow me".  I never saw her again.  Two days later, Jack doing laundry, had his shirt off because it was 95 degrees, stopped in the office to ask her for change, she walked in and said "you can't come in here without a shirt" and turned around and walked back out.  That was it.

Next door was a fireworks sales tent.  Every night they (or someone near there, as I couldn't actually see the fireworks) set fireworks off from about 9:30pm until about 2am or later.  On the 4th, lots of people set off fireworks...that I expected and could actually see some, and ended around 1am.  But all those other nights was a bit much...ugh.  No sleep for me all week...

The other odd thing was the rodeo...we saw a big billboard advertising it and thought that would be fun to go see!  So, went on the web and looked it up.  Great web, lots of pictures, said it was in Mandan (the town right next door), that it was $18.  Nothing more...not it's actual location, what time, etc.  Jack read in the local paper that they were having a pancake breakfast on Sunday, so we thought, great, we'll go to that, then we'll head over to the fair & rodeo!  So, with little sleep from the night before, we got up anyway, headed out and figured out that since Mandan was small, we'd see signs pointing us to the "fair".  Well, we found our way...but no signs...and everything was closed.  Nothing said anything about the breakfast, or the rodeo.  Hmmm.  Well, we found a cafe nearby, Kroll's Diner, and stopped in for breakfast.  After a great breakfast, we asked the waitress about the rodeo, she said "oh, it's wonderful, it starts at 7:30pm".  "Oh...what about the fair?" I asked, "well", she said, "there is "Art in the Park" and gave us directions to that, and "the carnival?" and gave us directions to that...all three things in different areas!  Funny.  We went to the Art in the Park, which was nice, laughed about what they called a carnival, which was about 10 little rides and then went home.  A nasty storm came in late that afternoon and just poured rain like crazy all evening.  I felt sorry for anyone who had pre-purchased their tickets for the rodeo (or maybe they cancelled and made good for the next night).

We did drive around their River Drive and checked out their "Eagle Sculptures", then stopped off at the local Dairy Queen for a burger...and they give you a free Sunday with it!  Almost made up for all the rest...almost...

Looking forward to our trip to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, that should be special...

...on the road in North Dakota,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Friday, July 1, 2016

Scooting through South Dakota...

Three years ago we traveled through the western side of South Dakota, where we enjoyed seeing the Badlands, and stopped at the famous "Wall Drugs", but this year our goal was to visit North Dakota, especially Fargo & Bismark, so we needed to scoot through the eastern side of South Dakota...and see what we could see!

We chose our first visit to be in the small town of Mitchell.  We chose Mitchell over Sioux Falls because Mitchell is the home of the "World's Only Corn Palace".   That sounded way to intriguing not to check out!  After all, we'd seen waterfalls before...we'd never seen a "corn palace"!  We parked the rig, settled in, and took off to check this thing out...

Well, we weren't disappointed!  No false advertising here.  Now, as stated in their brochure (which we had picked up at the South Dakota Welcome Center) they were still working on it, and would be for another month.  Which, was cool, because it gave you an better idea on how it's done (they call it "corn by numbers").  They also show you a video on how they do it as well.  They change the theme every year, sporting a new one each time.  600,000 pieces of corn are used to decorate the outside along with 3,000 bushels of grains and grasses: milo, rye and sour dock.  They have 9 different colors of Indian corn that they use to create the mural pictures.  It's grown locally and has to be separated by a mile so that it doesn't cross pollinate.   Over a ton of nails, staples, and wire are used to fasten the corn and grasses.  They spend approximately $100,000 each year for the redecorating and don't charge any admission for us to come and view it, take the tour, see the museum and "oh & ah".  ;-)  They do have special concerts and programs that they do charge for tho.  They have been doing this since 1892...can you believe it? 

At one time there were 34 palaces in 24 towns across the Midwest.  All are gone now, except for this one in Mitchell.  It's huge, and it's beautiful and it's truly a work of art.  I had heard of it and thought it was something "corny" (no pun intended),  that it would be just a bunch of corn stalks stapled together somehow.  I never expected it to be a true work of art.  In many ways it reminded me of the beauty that goes into the floats at the Rose Parade, only on a much grander scale.  I was so glad we came. 

Our next stop was a brief one in another small town, called DeSmet.  If you grew up reading the books of Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder you might recognize that name.  This is where her "Pa" began his homestead and where "half pint", as she was called, came to live from the age of 12. 

The town is pretty much "all about Laura Ingalls Wilder", from the Ingalls Homestead to their home, to the cemetery.  We spent a lovely afternoon out at the homestead touring the various building and watching the demonstrations, taking a wagon ride out to the school house and viewing the acres of land.  It was a tough life that they lived, plowing hard dirt by hand, walking miles to school through all kinds of weather, enduring much to gain a title to this piece of Dakota prairie. 

I was surprised to learn that Ms Wilder didn't even start writing until she was in her mid 60's, and at the encouragement of her daughter Rose.  Laura was the only one to have any children, and Rose was the only one that lived, so when she died in 1968, she was the last of the Ingalls/Wilder family.  She too was a writer. 

The rest of our drive was pretty much long stretches of "amber waves of grain" as the song goes, and fields & fields of corn until our last camp stop before we left the state, at Lake Kampeska.  A lovely site, very peaceful.  We were only there a couple of night, but had a site that faced a second one and met two delightful ladies who were "locals" just enjoying a couple of days off from work.  We had a wonderful chat, sharing a bit of our travels & experiences with them.  Sara had just purchased her Class C and was looking forward to getting out more and going "further" with it than she had with her previous RV.  Always fun to encourage folks to get out there and enjoy this wonderful country of ours! 

...on the road to North Dakota,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Everyplace has something to experience!

We ended up in Cedar Falls Iowa because it was about a day's journey from Rock Island IL, and it was coming up on Father's Day weekend and we needed to find a place to stay that wouldn't be the "typical go-to" type places for Father's Day.  Big Woods Lake Campground in Cedar Falls seemed to fit that bill...and as it turned out, they had the space (two left!).  We booked 4 days to just sit back and relax, read a book and "do nothing". 

After all, we thought, we are out in the middle of "nowhere", nothing but corn fields as far as the eye can see, "what's there to see or do, anyway, right?"  Well, one thing we keep learning is that everyplace has something to experience...

We found some brochures (everyplace has brochures!) that told us that just an hour away in Dyersville, the movie site for the Field of Dreams was still there.  It seems that the Lansing family have kept it up all these years and have it available for people to come see, and to use the ball field.  In July & August on every other Sundays they host "ghost ballplayers" to come out and play in old time uniforms just like in the movie.  Cool.  They had a "Family Day" going for Father's Day with music and cart to purchase sodas, etc. and souvenirs.  Kids and parents were playing ball on the field, while others were just tossing a ball on the grass, or having a picnic, or watching in the bleachers.  The Lansing's still live in the house and stay to themselves.  They don't charge for anything, they just want to "share the dream" with people.  It cost them money from their own pocket to keep the fields up, but they do it out of love, and to keep the "dream" going.  They pay a royalty to the movie people on everything they sell (not the other way around).  (They may get some help from the city because it's a draw for them, who knows, but I doubt much.)  It left you with a really good feeling about people...that there are still some out there.

On our way out of town, we drove through the tiny "downtown" of Dyersville to see their other "famous" building, the Basilica of St. Xavier.  An 1860 Ruskinian Gothic Revival Basilica, featuring two steeples that are 212 feet tall with 14 feet crosses that cap the spires.  It also has 64 cathedral glass windows.  Now that was something to go see!  It didn't disappoint.  We had the place to ourselves.  It was amazing.  The colors on the cathedral glass were so vivid with the sun shining through them, it was truly beautiful to see.  The Main Alter with the two Side Alters were carved with such detail, no picture could do them justice.  Who would have ever thought a tiny little town, in the middle of "nowhere" would have had such a thing of grandeur? just never know what you will find.

The one thing Iowa does have is barns!  And you give the ladies enough time and they are going to "make them pretty" one way or another, right?  So, somewhere along the way, someone came up with the idea of painting "wooden quilts" and putting them up on the barns to make them "prettier".  Now, I've read several different stories on how these got started, and you can go with which ever story you want, but the bottom line is, now a days, people are putting them up because they make the barn look prettier!  I certainly like them!  Towns like them too, and don't hesitate to "advertise" them, printing brochures, maps & web sites to show you how to find them. 

Our little area that we settled into for the weekend was no exception, so off we went on Monday, driving around to check out a few!  They were up on barns, machine shops, garages, shops and even over a couple of houses.  Some were easy to see, some not so much.  Some had one, some had 3 or more!  All were fun to see.  One web site I went to had the background stories of why the people chose the pattern they did, which was fun to read too.  Made it personal.

On our way out of town, we continued to keep our eyes open for more of the barn quilts as we were traveling out on a back road, staying off the Interstate. Then I remembered that "somewhere" near here there was a Winnebago Manufacturing facility.  I quickly looked it up, and found that I was right.  If we quickly changed direction, we could make their 1PM tour!  So, we pulled into the nearest gas station, checked our map, read the info, and decided, yup, let's do it!  So, off we went!  (the fun of having a steering wheel and no deadlines you have to meet!)  We got there a little after noon, checked in at their Visitor's Center and found out that there was plenty of space on the tour, so we settled in and had a bite to eat and changed our shoes ("close-toed shoes required"). 

The tour lasted about an hour and a half and was quite interesting.  No pictures allowed, so I've nothing to show you.  I have to say tho, that it did change my mind about Winnebago, they do look like they make a very good product (no, I'm not interested in trading our sweet rig in, thank you very much!).   We met some really nice people afterwards that are planning on "going full-time" in about 2 years and had heard me say that we were full-timers for almost 5 years, so they asked us what we thought about a Class A vs a 5th Wheel.  We shared our thoughts, and ended up chatting with them for quite a while.   That's one of my favorite parts of being out here, meeting nice people!

All this just goes to show you, this crazy life style of ours is full of surprises, wonderful ones most of the time!  Around every corner is something new, someone is good!

...on the road in Iowa,   Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Relaxing in Rock Island Illinois...

After weeks of almost non-stop sight-seeing, a week of just sitting back and relaxing, sure sounded good.  Jack has been wanting to see the Rock Island Arsenal for a couple of years, and this was the first time we've been close enough for him to get to it, so I booked us into the KOA for a week...a couple of days for him to enjoy himself at the Arsenal and a few days for me to just sit back and relax, read a book or two and do nothing....ahhh

That first night however, the town was celebrating the weekend with what they called their annual "Gumbo Ya Ya Festival" a Mardi Gras themed event.  They were having several bands playing Zydeco, Jazz, and Cajun along with the spiced food to go with it.  That's just my kind of fun!  So, off we went.  It wasn't to bad, I mean it was in Illinois after all!  There was one Cajun band that was quite good that had a washboard player who had brought his grandson with him that was quite the showman!  He was such a hoot!  Probably around 7 or 8 years old, but boy could he move!  The band, Creole Stomp, made me really miss New Orleans...

Jack was out the door first thing the next morning, ready for his day at the long anticipated Arsenal.  I had the day all to myself!  Phone calls to family...then the dreaded defrosting of the freezer before settling down to read.  "Chores before fun" I was always taught growing up, makes for guilt-free pleasures!  ;-)

Jack came back that afternoon "happy as a clam", filled with pictures and stories to share.  He was able to see the whole museum all in one trip tho, so no return trip needed.  The rest of the week was 'wide open'.
We learned that John Deere Harvester Works gave tours of their plant near by (and we love plant tours!) we made a quick call to make a reservation.  What fun!  They take you in a John Deere-style tram with head phones to be able to hear the tour guide (a retired worker) for an hour and a half tour through their plant.  It was really complete, from nuts & bolts to seeing the painting to the completed harvester being driven out, and let me tell you those things are HUGE!! Wow!!  Afterward we went over to their Pavilion which is like a museum, showing the history of John Deere, including his original plow, his early tractors, on up to the current ones.  They let us climb aboard the new ones and there were even videos to "drive" them as if you were harvesting.  Really cool stuff in there!

The days turned hot, hot, hot and the pool was full!  Kids and their parents were having a great time, filling the pool, the Jacuzzi, the fountain, the bounce, playing miniature, I just found some shade and settled in and read a great book!

A few days passed and someone said, "have you been over to LeClaire to see Antique Archaeology yet?"  "You mean the place the Picker's from the TV show?"  "Yes!"  Well, guess where we headed?  ;-)  

We'd been to their other store in Nashville TN, but this is their "home store".   It's not that much bigger, actually, but still really cool.  Fun to see a lot of the stuff that they collect from their show, to see their van too.  I have to say, I kind of hoped to see Danielle at the store...but of course she wasn't there (maybe upstairs in the office?).  I did overhear one of the staff talk with a couple about restoring a picture that she had just talked to Mike on the phone about... kind of cool... It was just fun to be there.  Of course most of everything was out of our price range, and...we really don't have room for a giant old "Phillip Morris Boy" anyway...

Afterward we wandered the town a bit and ended up at the Buffalo Bill Museum.  Seems he was born in LeClaire.   They had some interesting pieces from his past, along with a variety of other local collections to look at.

All in all a nice outing.  By the time we got back, the pool was empty...the sky was black and the rain drops were starting to come down hard.  It wasn't long before lightening and thunder soon followed.  Cleaned everything off nice and pretty, cooled the temperatures down a bit too and that was nice a change.

We'll be off in the morning.  Moving into Iowa, heading west for awhile...

...on the road, Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Land of Lincoln...

I have long been a big fan of our 16th President.  He, along with a few others, had a very tough presidency, and in my personal opinion, handled it as best as any human being could.  I admire that he went into his presidency with the agenda to do his best "to free all men, and make them equal".  No easy task, not then, not now.  It cost him his life, but I doubt that if he had known it then, it wouldn't have changed his mind.  His personal life was just as tough, loosing two of his children while they were so young.

Spending time in Springfield IL was enlightening because it mostly concentrated on the 27 years before he went off to Washington.  It was nice to see when he arrived and first met Mary, their courtship, their first home together, raising their children.  Learning more about the boys (and how "unruly" they were!)  There are statues all over town of not only Abe, but of the family as well.  The interesting thing was seeing his progression in age.  Like all our presidents, especially those with troubling terms, you can really see his face change through the years.

They have even turned his home into a National Historic Site, which is nice.  They have preserved several blocks surrounding it, recreating and protecting (as much as they can) his neighborhood.  It was nice to be able to tour not only his home, but the area as well...a little "step into the past"...

We were super lucky and were there for the first night of the 114th Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Civil War performing a Flag Lowering Ceremony at Lincoln's Tomb each Tuesday during the summer.  They perform Civil War drills, firing of muskets and a cannon.  It was quite moving.  Afterward,  they opened the tomb for viewing, which was very impressive with 8 bronze statues depicting various phases of Lincoln's life.  As you enter the memorial it contains a rotunda, a burial room, and connecting corridors that lead you to the burial room.  At its center stands a 7-ton block of reddish marble inscribed with Lincoln's name and the years he lived.  It marks the approximate location of the burial vault, which is 30 inches behind and 10 feet below.  Along the south wall of the burial room are four crypts containing the remains of Mrs. Lincoln and three of Lincoln's four sons, Edward, Willie, and Tad (the eldest, Robert is buried at Arlington).

I had read that the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum was extraordinary and not to be missed...and they weren't wrong.  They pull out all the stops here, using holographic and special effects theaters, live actors, life-like statues, historic displays, replicas from his boyhood home through to the Presidency and on through the Civil War.  40,000 sq. ft.  It took us hours to go through it all!  It was not only educational, it was entertaining, which was nice for a change in a museum!  ;-) 

Not everything in Springfield was about Lincoln... they do have a beautiful park called Washington (yup, just about everything does have a President's name tho!)  And in it is a lovely carillon, the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon.  Once again, we were in the "right place at the right time" and were able to catch their first weekend in June concert.  Lovely.  While the carillonneur played, I roamed the gardens and smelled the flowers and took pictures...what a lovely way to spend a summer's evening!

Springfield is also the State Capitol of Illinois (so of course we had to add it to our list to go visit).  Actually, like many others, they have two...old and new.  First up, was the new...
They give tours, and we were so glad they did, because, I have to say, this was the most beautiful and most ornate State Capitol we've been in thus far!  Wow!  They even give you a lovely 30 page color souvenir booklet, they are so proud of their Capitol.  (and can you believe, they don't even have a gift shop?)

A few blocks away was the "Old Capitol" (c1837-1876), the one Lincoln served in, and was laid in state after he was shot, was nice for the times.  Generals Sherman and Grant and one of their Majors met us in the Senate Chamber and shared how they got into the service.  It was a fun and interesting look into their history. 

The Union Train Station, where Lincoln left for his campaign, where he left Springfield for houses memorabilia from the movie "Lincoln" by Steven Spielberg.

We enjoyed our visit to Springfield.  They, like St. Louis have their own "special food" item, it's called a Horseshoe.  It starts with a thick slice of bread, then a meat choice (traditionally, I was told, a hamburger patty, so that's what I got) then a special cheese sauce poured over that, then the whole thing is covered with French fries!  Well, I had to try it of course ( I ordered a "pony" which is half the size)!  Not bad!  It actually gets addicting once you get started...

After two very busy weeks of "sight-seeing" we are off to Rock Island IL where Jack can go see their Arsenal that he's been wanting to see  for a long time, and I can spend some time just sitting back and relaxing!  Ahhh...

...kicking back in Illinois,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at: