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.