Going home – End of Summer 2010 Road Trip

Last Saturday night we attended Duke's fortieth high school reunion in Manchester, Iowa. One of the great things about school reunions is that all the people are your age and many are going through very similar experiences. Even though it was not my class and I only met most of these people one other time it was a lot of fun.

Sunday morning we left Manchester to head home to Reno. We decided to get a lot of miles under our belt on day one of the trip home. After the first day we wanted to take a more leisurely pace through Colorado and Utah and do some exploring. So we drove 723 miles mainly on interstate highways from Manchester, Iowa across Nebraska to Sterling Colorado on Sunday, July 4.

On Monday we drove to Denver and walked around the Colorado state capitol.


From the capitol we walked a few blocks to tour the Molly Brown house. Margaret Brown was married to JJ Brown who became wealthy in mining in Leadville Colorado in the late 1800s. Although she was active as a campaigner for women's rights and other causes and ran for the state senate in 1914, she is probably best known for her being a survivor of the Titanic. She was portrayed as the Unsinkable Molly Brown on stage and in movies.

The Molly Brown House has been beautifully restored. One of the things I liked best about the tour was how the tour guide described that Molly was committed to personal growth. When she died in 1932 she was an aspiring actress Apparently she employed tutors throughout her life and was a constant learner.


Before we left the Denver area we toured the Coors Brewery and sampled the beer. Then we headed west to Grand Junction. The Colorado National Monument which is just west of Grand Junction is one of my favorite parks and it is relatively unknown, We camped there on another road trip a few years ago and it was just as wonderful as ever. The views and scenery are stupendous and there are not a lot of other people.



Downtown Grand Junction is great for walking and we had breakfast there at La Bamba Mexican Dining before we left on Tuesday.

In north eastern Utah we explored some back roads and followed a route through Nine Mile Canyon. I read about the 70 mile route in our guide book then picked up a brochure and map at the Utah welcome center. There were interesting rock art and petroglyphs and lots of beautiful scenery.



We spent Tuesday night in the little town of Roosevelt, Utah. On Wednesday we explored the back roads in the south foothills of the Uinta Mountains and followed one of the back roads up over a 9000 ft plus pass on the edge of the great basin.


Park City, Utah is where the 2002 winter Olympics were held. Visiting a ski resort in the off season is wonderful. We stayed in the Washington School Inn where we have stayed before and had the Inn pretty much to ourselves. We explored the town and ate at some great restaurants. We hiked to the top of the chairlift and rode down. We stayed two nights, took advantage of the Inn's sauna and hot tub and had a relaxing wonderful time.

On Friday we drove the 560 miles home to Reno on interstate 80. I've written before about how Aspen trees in a front yard will spread. The aspen grove that had established itself in our front lawn while we were gone was impressive.


There are 372 pictures in my set on Flickr for this trip. You can see them here.

Road Trip 2010 – Iowa

The primary reason for our 2010 road trip is to attend Duke's High School reunion in Manchester, Iowa this weekend. We are in Manchester now. For the last few days we set a leisurely pace. From La Crosse Wisconsin we followed the Mississippi south to McGregor Iowa. The Mississippi is so big in so many ways. When I look at how wide it, how beautiful it is, how powerful it is, I can't help think in poetic terms about how it is at the heart of this country.

The Indians must have felt that way about the Mississippi too. We stopped at Effigy Mounds National Monument where there are 31 early American Indian earthen mounds in the shape of animals. Some of these mounds are as much as 2000 years old. We took a walk with a ranger and then continued on our own seven mile hike. We have really been lucky with the weather on this trip. The weather for the hike was pleasant and not very humid. After Effigy Mounds we spent the night in McGregor and then headed for Manchester.

On the way we stopped to see Montauk the home of William Larrabee, Iowa's twelfth governor. it reminded me of a small English Country estate with beautiful gardens and bronze statues.


Next we stopped in Spillville to see the Bily Clocks. They were carved in the early 1900s by two Iowa farmers who were brothers and are quite impressive.

  For lunch we stopped in Gunder and considered having one of their famous Gunder Burgers but they are a half pound of meat so we went for a smaller burger. It was wonderful! If you are ever in north eastern Iowa I would highly recommend The Irish Shanti in Gunder.


Today we went to tour Cedar Rock in Quasqueton. It is a Frank Lloyd Usonian house in beautiful condition with all the original Wright chosen and designed furnishing. There were only four of us on the tour which was very well done and I even got to play the Steinway piano.



Lunch today was at another of my favorite north eastern Iowa restaurants. Schera's restaurant In Elkader Iowa serves Algerian food as well as typical Iowan fare and the food is always wonderful. Schera's was even featured recently on the State Department website. It is a fascinating story. We sat on the patio overlooking the Turkey River and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, good food and wonderful weather.

Wisconsin and Minnesota – Road Trip 2010

Duke and I are really enjoying our summer road trip. We made a conscious decision that on this trip we wanted to make a point of seeing friends and family many of whom we hadn't seen in a long time. Every time I send Christmas cards I tell people that I would love to get together and then nothing happens. This year I am actually visiting a few of those people.


From Chicago we drove north to Colgate Wisconsin where we stayed with my college friend Diane and her husband Tom. It had been over 30 years since I last saw Diane and Tom. We stayed up and talked until midnight. On Friday they took us to Holy Hill Basilica. It is a beautiful church that sits on a hill overlooking all the surrounding land. You can see it from the field behind their house.


We climbed to the top of the steeple. I am not particularly afraid of heights but the wind in the open steeple made the last staircase to the top a bit scary. The view from the top made the climb very worth it. After climbing down we hiked all around the grounds.

 Back at Tom and Diane's house we ate lunch on the porch and watched a pair of Sand Hill Cranes and their baby feast on a plate of corn that Diane set out in the yard.


After lunch and we hit the road again. We drove across Wisconsin to visit my Aunt Dorothy in Eau Claire for a couple of days. She took us to visit the Chippewa Valley Museum and we went for a walk along the Chippewa River which was over its banks and blocked the trail at one point



It is always fun to visit Aunt Dorothy. We hope to be back soon.

From Eau Claire we went to St Paul to tour the Minnesota state capital building. Someone told us it is the second most beautiful capitol building in the U.S. after the Utah capitol which we also visited on this trip. We got to climb up to the roof to see the gold statue and the great view. While we were waiting for the tour we walked over to see the beautiful St Paul Cathedral.



Sunday night we spent south of St Paul in Red Wing, Minnesota. We stayed at the nicest bed and breakfast that we have stayed at on this trip. Moondance Inn is located in a big old mansion. The rooms were wonderful, the hosts were friendly and the food was great. We walked downtown and had one of the best dinners of our trip at Nortons.

Monday we checked out the Red Wing Shoes factory store. We saw the biggest boot in the world and bought some shoes.


From Red Wing we drove south along the Mississippi and spent the night in La Crosse Wisconsin. Last night we walked along the water front and then had hamburgers and root beer at at Rudy's Drive-In in La Crosse. The car-hops were on roller skates and our tray hung from the window of the truck. It was an absolutely perfect end to a hot summer evening.




Road Trip 2010 – Chicago!

I think Chicago may be my favorite U.S. big city.There are several reasons for this. I thought about those reasons as Duke and I were exploring some of Chicago Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as a part of our road trip. Here are a few of them.

  • Chicago is beautiful and clean. We were staying in a nice neighborhood north of the river and about three blocks from Lake Michigan. There were lots of tree lined avenues, and beautiful buildings. There was no garbage around and In spite of the fact that the weather was hot there was no smell.
  • There very very few pan handlers. In San Francisco there are so many that it really detracts from my enjoyment of the city.
  • Everyone was really nice and friendly. I think this is at least partly a mid-western thing. The bus driver was patient and nice when I couldn't figure out how to use my bus pass. The man on the street who we asked for directions was friendly and helpful. The door man and the housekeeper at our hotel went out of their way to be helpful and nice. I could go on and on.
  • There is so much to do. We walked along the river and watched tour boats and kayaks. We walked along the lake and watched people swimming along the shoreline and playing in the sand.Last time we were in Chicago we explored Millennium Park and the Art Institute. This time we spent a whole day at the Museum of Science and Industry. It was wonderful.I loved the eggs hatching, the model  trains, the Fairy Castle but most of all I thought the German submarine exhibit was fantastic. It impressed me when I visited as a child but this tiem it was even better. On our next trip to Chicago want to explore the Field Museum and go to the top of one of the skyscrapers.
  • The food was great
  • The weather was impressive. Lots of sun, humidity, drenching rain, thunder and lightening and then pleasant clear weather following the storm.

Here area  few of my pictures from our time in Chicago. You can see all of my pictures from our Road trip on Flickr here.

We walked along the River and watched all the activity.

The Museum of Science and Industry has a complete German submarine that was captured during World War II. The exhibit about how it was captured, kept secret during the war, and eventually moved to Chicago and this specially built exhibit room was fascinating.


One of the things I loved about the Museum of Science and Industry was that they weren't too cool to have a  really big model train exhibit that was impressive and very well done.


The Chicago History Museum was very interesting and well done too. I must say though that you know you are getting old when the toys you played with as a kid are in a museum, like this Mouse Trap game 🙂

Black Hills to Pierre, Correctionville, Centerville and Manchester plus where to buy a Barn Square

We camped in the Black Hills Wednesday night. During the night we had an enormous storm that about blew us away. The rain was gone in the morning but the wind was still blowing so hard that Duke couldn't even get the stove going to make coffee. We packed up and headed down the road to Jewell Cave National Monument.

When we got in line to buy tickets we found out that the power in the cave was out and they weren't offering any regular tours. We were able to go down the road and go into the historic entrance and take a lantern tour. The regular tour would have gone down into the cave by elevator but on the lantern tour we carried lanterns and climbed down into the cave. We had to scrunch down and scoot side ways and climb up and down wood ladders. The whole thing was very fun and very interesting.

From Jewell Cave we headed to Mount Rushmore and then east towards Pierre South Dakota to spend the night.


On the way to Pierre we drove through Buffalo Gap national Grassland and part of Badlands National Park. I liked seeing the prairie landscape, buffalo, prairie dogs and birds.




We also stopped at Wall Drug. Both Duke and I had been there as kids. It used to be that you couldn't travel any where without seeing Wall Drug signs. It is an a real tourist stop created almost completely through advertising. Duke said we were stopping because of their free water 🙂



In Pierre we toured the Capitol. This past weekend was the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the capital building. The building is beautiful with a stained glass dome.


Another fun stop was the Corn palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. It was interesting to watch the workers creating the corn decorations on the outside of the building


We spent Friday night with Duke's sister and her family near Correctionville Iowa. She has started a business. We got to see some of the barn blocks she is making in progress.


On Saturday we headed to Centerville Iowa which is near Rathbun Lake. We had dinner with my friend Becky and her husband. I first met Becky when I was a freshman at Iowa State in the fall of 1970. Even though I hadn't seen her in several years we had a great time catching up. We had a wonderful dinner at the beautiful new Honey Creek Resort at Lake Rathbun.


For lunch we just happened to stop at the coffee shop in Madison County Iowa where part of the Clint Eastwood movie bridges of Madison County was filmed.


From Centerville we headed to Manchester Iowa. We stopped in the Amana Colonies and had lunch with a friend of Duke's and his family. Duke and John were room mates their freshman year at UNI.

We got to Manchester in time to visit with Duke's Dad and have a nice father's day dinner. We were also celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary.

If you would like to see all of my pictures from this trip they are available on Flickr here.