Friday, July 29, 2011

Week 4 of 5 weeks

Imagination plus incentive creates ambition Ambition plus action creates courage and strength -- Harold Warp

On my last blog post from Spencer, Iowa, I left you – and us – in suspense as to our next destination. Somehow we miscalculated and had two extra days to look forward to! We had a couple of ideas, but had to do some checking. Plan A was to drive north for a short visit with “Mom” Rayburn in eastern South Dakota (mother to my RV friend Carol Rayburn). This would have been super except for the fact that Mom was in Custer State Park in western South Dakota. Plan B was to continue west at a more leisurely pace.

So it was Plan B which would take us about 100 miles south and then across southern Nebraska on Hwy 6/34. Sunday’s destination was the Double Nickel RV Park just outside of Waco, Nebraska. On our way we stopped at the small downtown of Oakland, “The Swedish Capital of Nebraska”. Being Sunday, the stores were not open but the walk was super and a nice break in the drive. The streets were red brick and the light poles were adorned with colorful wooden cut-out horses. One building had a Swedish-theme mural.

As usual when traveling in tornado country, I check for a storm shelter – and the Double Nickel RV park had one. Linda said she would check it out while I got Jeremiah settled. She came back and said she didn’t think she would go into it – dark and lots of spider webs and who knew what would be toward the end of the large semi-submerged “tube”. Below you see the door and the tube.

With extra days available and no serious storms predicted, we spent two nights at the Double Nickel. Linda enjoyed the swimming pool and lived up to her ‘eagle-eye’ reputation by finding half of a Robin egg and a whole/dead/dried butterfly. I spotted a tiny toad – about the size of a penny. Even though the days were in the mid to high 90s with humidity, we got rainy and cool nights.

Minden, Nebraska

Our last Nebraska stop was Minden, location of Harold Warp’s Pioneer Village which included a lovely, shaded RV park.

I wish I could remember who told me about this amazing piece of history. And “amazing” doesn’t adequately describe it – it is a one-of-a-kind labor of love. Below are signs on the main building - look closely at the second sign and note the "man starting up the car".

As the entrance sign says;


The story of America and how it grew

Showing Man’s Progress since 1830.

For thousands of years man lived quite simply. Then, like a sleeping giant, our world was awakened. In a mere hundred and twenty years of eternal time man progressed from open hearths, grease lamps and ox carts to television, super-sonic speed and atomic power.

We have endeavored to show you the actual development of this astounding progress as it was unfolded by our forefathers and by ourselves.

The Pioneer Village covers three city blocks with 100,000 square feet of floor space housing thousands of irreplaceable items of historical value, all restored to operating order, arranged in groups and also in the chronological order of their development… in 26 buildings…

Pioneer Village was founded by Harold Warp in1953. He was born 1903 on a Nebraska homestead. The construction of the village was triggered by the sale of the 1948 of the country school Harold had attended as a child. The Village is now run by his son.

We spent two nights here – needed that to see everything. Our camping fee gave us one village entry; the second fee was just $11. And that admitted us as many consecutive days as we wanted. Such a deal! The Village also includes a motel and restaurant.

Here is a rundown of the buildings. In all, I took more than 100 photos!

Main Building – shows development of transportation, lighting, guns, etc., horse-pulled carts up to vehicles of the 1960s, all in chronological order. It includes the oldest jet airplane (1942-P59). And a “folding” boat.

Above is a milkman's cart.

Early cart – The Irish Jaunting Cart, 1890, was used for picnics and outings. Fields and streams could be crossed with ease in this ruggedly built, high two-wheeled cart. See photo below:

Elm Creek Fort – the first log cabin in Webster County (Neb) was moved to the Village.

The People’s Store – replica of a general merchandise store in pioneer days, completely stocked with by-gone items.

Bloomington Land Office – moved from its original location in Franklin County (Neb)

Fire House – shows the development of fire-fighting equipment from hand cart to modern fire trucks are here.

Lowell Train Depot – complete with two early-day locomotives and a narrow gauge caboose.

Country School – an authentic rural school building of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, furnished with original desks, books, etc. Linda says this was her favorite.

Sod House – Authentic replica of the “little old soddy on the plains.”

China House – collections of china, pottery, cut glass and precious keepsakes that had been carried west in covered wagons.

Church – Built in 1884, the first church in Minden has original pews, pulpit, organ, etc. Services are held here in the summer. The sign below the church photo was inside the church.

Merry-Go-Round – the oldest one in the U.S., steam powered – and it works! Rides 5 cents. Sadly, there was no one there so we could have a ride.

Horse Barn – typical pioneer barn, moved from Warp’s homestead. Harold Warp’s parents were good Christians, so the hayloft boards were laid rough-side up, so young folks couldn’t have barn dances.

Homes and Shops Building – My favorite. Within the large building, on the first floor, were 20 interior rooms of the past, showing kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms of each generation since 1830. It also had a doctor’s office, music shop, print shop, drug store, butcher shop, beauty shop and many others. The second floor showed the surprisingly low mail order prices on furniture at the turn of the century. Below is the 1950s beauty shop - 'lady' is getting a perm. and the 1950s kitchen - which looked familiar to us.

Antique Farm Machinery Building – includes the complete history of plowing, cultivating, seeding, harvesting and threshing equipment.

Antique Tractor and Truck Building – has 100 early farm tractors.

Livery Stable – originally built in Minden during the horse-and-buggy days. The two-story building houses saddles, harnesses and horse-drawn rigs.

Antique Cars – 22,400 sq. ft, two-stories, has 100 antique cars in their order of development.

Chevrolets and Other Cars – A separate two-story building, with more than 50 Chevys.

Fords, Studebakers, Motorcycles, Snowmobiles and Bicycles – yet another two-story building. We saw an early Wendell motorhome. It weighed 16,000 lbs., had fuel capacity of 80 gal, of water capacity 30 gal, 50 gal ‘septic’ tank. Propane capacity 95 lbs operated refrigerator, fireplace heater, gas burners that were located on the top of the fireplace, hot water.

Agricultural Building and Steam Tractors – again, a two-story that has more than 500 agricultural implements.

Blacksmith Shop – this working blacksmith shop forges items for sale during the summer months.

Pony Express Barn – authentically reconstructed with model horses and historic saddles.

Pony Express Station – authentic log building moved to Pioneer Village.

Home Appliance Building – has the evolution of washing machines, stoves, refrigerators, bathtubs, etc. It included a 1925 electric Hotpoint stove and several photogenic washing machines.

Above: The Thor Dish and Clothes washer, 1935. The tub for washing clothes could be lifted out and replaced with the tub for washing dishes.

Hobby House – houses assorted collections of dolls, pitchers, buttons, etc.

Snack Bar – housed in an old diner that was moved to the village.

Above is one of the clever places to sit and ponder history.

Trivia from Pioneer Village

The mousetrap is far and away the most invented machine in all of American History. Since it opened for business in 1938, the U.S. Patent Office has granted more than 4,400 mousetrap patents. There are 39 official categories that patents are classified under, including Impaling, Smiting, Swinging Striker, choking or squeezing, electrocuting and explosive.

The first telephone operators were boys as young as 12 years of age. Being an operator could be boring at times. Boys soon got up to all sorts of high jinks to relieve the monotony, which resulted in poor customer service. Telephone managers soon decided to hire women to be operators. By 1920, more than 14 percent of all working women in the U.S. worked as telephone operators.

The very first bath tub in the U.S was built at Cincinnati in December 1842. It was a huge, 1,750 pound, 7-foot mahogany box, lied with sheet metal. It looked like a water-tight coffin. Cincinnati doctors were quick to condemn this outrageous contraption and local politicians slapped a $30 tax on the luxury. The enameled, cast iron tub was introduced in 1870. Below.

Sign in one of the kitchens from the past: “When the OUTLOOK is not good…try the UPLOOK.”

Downtown Minden

When we felt an over-load of pioneer stuff, Linda and I walked to downtown Minden. This basically was the courthouse square bordered by some historic buildings that now serve other purposes, small shops and the restored historic Minden Opera House. The 2,000 sq. ft. theater ceiling mural depicts the history, seasons and sky of Kearney County. We were given a personal tour of the building and appreciated its beauty.

We also stopped into a thrift store. The sign said “prices are suggestions; cash only and no change given.” It also featured an “Exchange Board.”

Hitch’n Post RV, Wray, Colorado

With two days before our friends in Colorado Springs were expecting us, and with my preferred ‘no more than 200 miles a day’, we split the distance with a stop at the Hitch'n Post RV Park in Wray. A nice and extremely clean park.

Stop #2 before Colorado Springs

The RV park directory had a good review for Shady Grove RV Park in Seibert, Colorado. In reality, it was pretty much a dump – wonder who praised it so highly! After a quick conference we decided it was another time to be flexible and to go further to Limon, Colorado. As I write this, we are settled in the local KOA and will leave tomorrow for Judy and Claud Mary’s home just north of Colorado Springs.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Midwest - Hot and Humid

The times of my life that I will forever cherish form a bouquet that I’ve saved, pressing it carefully between the pages of my life. --unknown author

Hot and sticky Medford, Minnesota

Goodbye, Blackhawk Park, hello Medford, Minnesota. We crossed the Mississippi at LaCrosse (appropriate name, don't you think?), Wisconsin, and continued west to Medford, Minnesota Destination was my cousin’s family farm complex – three houses, four generations, hundreds of acres – farming corn, soybeans and raising hogs. (Actually, Gloria is our mother’s cousin). We were there from Sunday, July 17 through Wednesday, July 20.

As usual, Jeremiah was parked beneath huge trees that would give shade in the mornings – but alas, no afternoon shade. We were plugged into her 20-amp house circuit. The infamous Midwest heat wave had not let up at all! Before the first day there was over, the motor home air conditioner was seriously struggling. With both Gloria and me running AC, doing laundry and such, Jeremiah (needing 3o amp) was not getting enough electricity. Big problem! Solution was to turn the AC off and for Cat and me to move into Gloria’s house (Linda had already moved in.) Cat, litter box and food were put in the laundry room and I got a bed in the sewing room. The inside temperature in Jeremiah that afternoon with full sun reached 100 degrees!

After a day or so, Gloria felt sorry for Cat and let her have the run of the house. And Cat sure made herself at home, as this photo shows.

On each of the four days here we played cards with other Tuttle cousins – Alton and Marcella and Laura. We played Progressive Rummy and also a game of Mexican Train Dominoes. And of course, Linda and I pulled rhubarb and cooked it down into sauce which is now happily frozen in Jeremiah’s freezer for future enjoyment.

Picturesque Annandale, Minnesota; Thursday, July 21

When she found out I would be traveling in Minnesota, Elizabeth Cabalka and her husband Mike, invited us to stop by their home in Annandale. I had seen photos of the house and yard and was thrilled to see them in person. They are friends of mine and fellow-camp host volunteers at McDowell Mountain Park where we spend the winter.

Elizabeth picked us up at our RV park and the first stop on our personal tour of the area were the Munsinger & Clemens Gardens in nearby St. Cloud. With more than 20 acres of world-class gardens, plant collections and historic hardscape along the bank of the Mississippi River, it was a delight to walk around.

The Munsinger Garden showcases the achievements of the WPA (Works Progress Administration of the 1930s). Among the thousands of annual bedding plants and perennials there are ponds and fountains, a gazebo, historic cabin and a wishing well.

There’s a sweet story behind The Clemens Garden. This was developed by Bill Clemens in 1986 as a gift of love to his wheelchair-bound wife, Virginia. He started with a garden of more than 1,000 roses. Then it grew, adding a formal garden, white garden, perennial garden, treillage garden and what is called a rest-area garden that includes a replica statue of the Clemens.

(Above - my favorite flower at the gardens.)

I knew there were more stunning flowers in store for us as Elizabeth drove from St. Cloud to their lovely 100-year-old house in Annandale. Her colorful flowers in interesting and creative yard areas have motivated me to get something done about my Prescott Valley yard of rocks.

As if the flowers weren't enough, the dining was a four-star experience, rivaling the fanciest restaurants. Weather had cooled off and we could dine outside while feasting our eyes on the flowers.

After dinner Riley, Elizabeth and Mike’s sweet dog, entertained us with his 'floor show.

Great food, amazing surroundings, entertainment and good conversation - it doesn't get any better than that. The delicious dinner was followed by a walk around the charming small town of Annandale as Elizabeth told us about the town and various projects she has been involved with. We ended our visit by enjoying ice cream cones for dessert. Before leaving, I took a photo of Elizabeth and Mike at their front door.

Flooding takes its toll; Friday, July 24

It was raining as we drove through the Spirit Lake area (northern Iowa) and we decided to keep driving south into Spencer, Iowa. Our destination was Leach Campgrounds along the Little Sioux River. Well, most of the camping sites were actually IN the river. Lucky for us they did have a few campsites open.

And the RV area is just a few blocks from Spencer’s historic downtown. And of course, we spent a couple of hours wandering in and out of stores. But first, we used the old bridge to cross the river. (Note the first photo shows Linda crossing the river and the second photo is taken from the bridge)

Last stop was a Dairy Queen and then back to Jeremiah.

Linda’s visit with her granddaughter; Saturday, July 23.

We got an early start this morning for a short drive to Little Sioux Campground near Correctionville, Iowa. After settling in a shady site, Linda’s granddaughter Sarah picked her up for a day’s visit in nearby Anthon. Linda got to see her two great-grandsons!

While she was gone, I reviewed our upcoming travel days, doing some re-routing. I discovered that we had a couple extra days not accounted for, so we’ve been thinking how to spend them. No decision yet. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Big Goal – Find adventure in each and every day

Part of the adventure of life is not always knowing what’s going to happen next, and the next part may be grander than your original plan. Be open to the unknown.

It is good to laugh! Olathe, Kansas

The drive from Spring Lake RV Park in Halstead, Kansas, to Cousin Steve’s was mostly through farmland with a few small towns along the way. Delightful and easy. The challenge came as we encountered what is probably the most confusing multi-lane intersection in the entire Kansas City (KS) area.

To help us, I entered Steve’s address in Lucy (my Verizon phone GPS system). Ha! Ha! She was no help at all. After exiting the Interstate – just as Lucy said. And I tried to follow her directions. We ended up going through the same intersection at least three times, driving Lucy crazy as she repeatedly said “recalculating – make the first legal U-turn”. Laughing, I finally gave up and drove further south on a side road and then Lucy, Linda and I finally found our way to Steve’s home in Olathe.

Because Steve and his wife Ellen live on a short cul-de-sac, we are able to park on the street – no slides out, making it a very cozy arrangement. Steve ran an extension cord out and we at least had air conditioning as long as we didn’t try to also use the microwave, hair appliances or other such things.

We got settled in and then Steve drove us to pick up his mom – our Aunt Maxine who is 91 years old but looks the same as she has for years. She lives in a lovely senior housing apartment. We found her watching the golf channel, most likely re-living her younger golf-playing days. She has all of her marbles and continues to have a great sense of humor – in short, a delightful person.

Steve and Ellen treated us to a stroll through a beautiful Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in nearby Overland Park, Kansas. The carefully manicured gardens are maintained by volunteers and the generosity of donations. Thankfully Linda’s new titanium knee – just three months old – is working well. (Below: Linda at the gardens; Cousin Steve and his wife Ellen at gardens)

Covered bridges and John Wayne - Winterset, Iowa

After two sweet days in Kansas, we were off for the next stop – Winterset, Iowa (population 5,190). This area has lots of old covered bridges and was made famous by the book, The Bridges of Madison County. It’s also John Wayne’s birthplace.

After more laughs – translated that means we made a wrong turn again – we settled in at Winterset’s City Park Campground for two days. Shortly after getting leveled and hooked up to electricity, Linda and I walked and enjoyed the park. Along the way eagle-eye Linda spotted a doe with what appeared to be twin fawns.

Highlight of our stay there was a walk into downtown – a typical small town with a courthouse square bordered on four sides by small businesses. One business was a shoe store with the expected shoe displays in the window. These two signs tickled us.

We also found an old-time drug store and a Ben Franklin Five and Dime Store just like those many of us grew up with. At the drug store, Linda spotted a fountain/lunch counter in the back where locals gather. We giggled over some of the store’s offerings and bought a few things.

On the way back to the park we went by the John Wayne gift shop and his birth home, both on John Wayne Drive.

Being an old town, we oohed and aahed over the homes. We also noted that Midwesterners are big on yard ornaments. One house had “chicken bird houses” and another house’s offering was apropos to the area – a model covered bridge.

Wined and dined by Sharon and Jim - Pinicon Ridge County Campgrounds, Iowa

The highlight of this campground was being wined, dined and entertained by camp hosts Sharon and Jim Price! They are friends and co-volunteers at McDowell Mountain Park.

Our camping area is along the Wapsipinicon River (called Wapsi for short) and we settled into a campsite under tall trees near Sharon and Jim. And wonder of wonders! I didn’t have to use any leveling boards at all! I think this is a ‘first’. (Photo below is Wapsi River)

Five o’clock was Happy Hour at the Price picnic table. I took note of Jim’s tanned feet (he is rarely in anything but his sandals) and thought’s you’d enjoy this photo.

Jim and Sharon also chauffeured us around to show us the area during our three-day stay there. They both grew up in this area and of course know it well.

We went to a nearby restaurant for the first night dinner. I’m sorry that I didn’t have my camera with me because a photo of the delicious pork tenderloin sandwich would amaze you. The meat was more than twice as big as the bun!

Jim and Sharon also have a passel of relatives in the area. In fact on our second day, they invited us to go with them to the Price Cousins’ (and their spouses) brunch. What fun and laughter! We felt honored to be included; there were 16 folks including Linda and me.

Our last day there, Jim and Sharon drove us around the area going through a bunch of small-to-tiny towns. First stops were in an Amish area where their ‘stores’ were in their yards instead of in a town setting. The bakery was closed that day (sadly) but we did purchase some things at two different ‘general’ stores.

The weather was super! The days were relatively cool and nights were in the 60s. Our three days there flew by and we were on the road again. This time, a short drive into western Wisconsin.

The Mighty Mississippi River - Blackhawk Park, Corps of Engineers Pool 9 on the Mississippi River

Because I enjoyed this park so much last year, it was a ‘must’ on our itinerary this year. Jeremiah happily parked under the park’s many huge cottonwood trees – and at times it looks like it is snowing.

We have front row seats along the river and watch the boats with hopeful fishermen and pleasure seekers and the occasional barge traffic. Behind us, and behind rows of thick trees, is a major busy north/south rail line. When we feel or hear a rumble, it is either river or rail traffic.

After the cooler days in Iowa, we were in the typical hot, humid weather of the Midwest. Thankfully it rained our first night there, making it good sleeping weather. The downside was that the humidity seemed to double the next day. We did some walking, but kept it to a minimum because Linda’s ‘new knee’ apparently doesn’t like damp weather.

As we walked through a neighboring community, we laughed over their speed-limit sign that said:


Slow Down or Stay Out


Blackhawk Park is a small portion of the 240,000-acre Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge that was established in 1924 by the Corps or Engineers. A plaque in the park reads:

The seemingly endless panorama of river, backwaters, marshes, islands, and forest, framed by steep bluffs, makes the refuge a national scenic treasure; a place for wildlife to feed, rest, breed, and rear young.

That’s it for this week. On our last evening there, I took this picture of the sun setting over the Mississippi River.