Thursday, May 19, 2016

It’s been a wet month

Wednesday, May 11 - The rains started before we left and they have followed us. We have spent a few days parked just to avoid driving in the rain.

It seems weather forecasting has changed. I don’t think a next day forecast has been right all year. Yesterday, the forecast was 90% chance of rain. It was overcast in the morning, but by noon it was warm sun with few clouds. Today, the forecast was for afternoon showers. So we thought we would move an hour closer to Des Moines, park and see the capital. I looked at the weather radar this morning and a hundred mile wide front was just west of the capital. We moved anyway, 10 minutes closer to Pella on the banks of the Des Moines River. Got parked just in time before the rain started.

We are just below the dam and the water is quite swift. It must be good fishing as there are well over a hundred Pelicans, plus a like number of seagulls and then some small back feather birds. When they all take to air, it's a sight. The Pelicans take turns drifting downstream, then flying back up to the dam to again drift downstream. It makes no difference to them in which direction their heads face. But, when they are facing downstream, it looks to us like they are in a shooting arcade. We do not see them feeding on their swift journey, so we think they do it for fun.

More food acquisition in Pella. Today’s haul included a chuck roast, rib eye steaks, smoked chipped beef dip, roast beef, bologna, raspberry breakfast bread, zucchini bread and sour dough bread. Oh yeah, we had sandwiches at Opa’s again. Today we shared a table with two couples from Des Moines who shared places to see in the area.

Thursday, May 12 - It was forecast to be sunny, cooler and windy today. They got that right. However, they have extended the windy part for two more days. The reason we wanted to hang here was to paddle the red rock area on the lake. We will miss that, since after the wind, rain is back in the forecast. And so it goes.

Saturday, May 14 - We drove an hour north to Des Moines and toured the capital. Of the 14 capitals we have visited, this one was the best. Magnificent interior design. What first looks like wallpaper is paint.

 It's all painted

We normally do not try to move on Friday or Saturday, but reasoning that with the bad weather, there would be plenty of sites available. We got the last site and it was due to a cancellation. I should have figured these people do not let a little inclement weather slow them down when we noted five men in waders, at least a dozen on the shoreline and seven fishing boats at 6:30 in the morning with the wind blowing 12-15.

Sunday, May 15 - The Union Pacific RR and the Squirrel Cage Jail Museum were billed as free and several casinos in Council Bluffs offer parking, That was enough us to entice us to drive 2.5 hours west. Turned out the rail museum is only open three days a week and Sunday was not one of the days. The free admission jail wanted $7 a person to take a peek. We passed. Council Bluffs is a has been town. It looks like the casinos are the only source of revenue.

Monday, May 16 - We noticed that the Nebraska state capital was only an hour away.  So, why not? We got an half-hour down the road and saw  a sign that the Air Force SAC museum was the next exit. Rain looked imminent. So we took the off-ramp. It was raining by the time we parked at the museum. We wandered around looking a the humongous planes SAC used, then parked the rig in the beautifully landscaped state park next door, ate lunch, and napped. A long day.

It was designed to hang on a bomber wing and be dropped to defend the bomber. It was abandoned when the pilots were not able to get attached back to the bomber.

Tuesday, May 17 - Are we trying to get in a rut? Today we went to the Nebraska state capital in where??? Lincoln. Good job. Most capitals have parking close by, so we took KoKo to town. We can tell you what they have around the capital for blocks in all directions - No Parking signs. I suspect the largest concentration in the universe. We drove four miles to a mall, parked and took the Jeep back to town. Got the last parking place for a car. Sometimes having the handicap card helps out.

Do you want to know about the capital? It’s not much. A high rise. The inside has lots of murals and such, but the light is so dim, they are a waste. From the 14th floor, you can look in all directions. I can tell you that Nebraska is still flat.

We drove north on US81 to the town of Stomsburg, billed as the Swede Capital of the US. They have free park for overnighting with electric and central water and a dump.

Wednesday, May 18 - Three hours north on US81 brought us to Yankton, SD and the COE campground Cottonwoods. $8 including electricity. [No dry camping at most COE places] At every COE we have parked this trip, we say this one is the best. Well, this one is the best.

We stopped to change drivers an hour south of Yankton and as we pulled on the road Glenda advised us to continue on Johnny Carson Blvd. Johnny lived in Norfolk, Nebraska and graduated from HS there. As we approached Yankton, signage advised us that we were on Tom Brokaw Blvd.

I was disappointed that we missed the Granite Museum in York. We like the stone. Glenda was is a snit and mislead us.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Out Here In The Heartland

It’s a LONG Blog about nothing much.

Monday, May 2 - We have not spent much time in Kentucky, but we can still say that we have seen it. One of the things that we enjoy doing is touring state capitols. Since we were close to Frankfort, we notched the Kentucky capitol. On a beauty scale, the inside is 4.5. Outside, like all limestone structures, it looks dirty. Most capital buildings have a good bit of state history in displays. Not a thing in this one. Another thing that we like is small towns and that is Frankfort - only 27,000 souls. 

The Stable

A pleasant surprise was Linda Garner contacting me to let us know they would be in Frankfort today. We met Linda and Len at Lazy Daze Get-Togethers.  They gave us a tour of "horse country" and we went to lunch at Wallace Station. It is in the middle of nowhere, but is very popular and quite yummy.  After lunch, the "horse country" tour continued. In this county of Kentucky, no house can be built on less 30 acres, unless you were grandfathered in, and most farms are much larger. 

The stables are enormous and you can't see the houses from the road. We saw WinStar Farm and pulled over to gawk. We finally figured out we were looking at the stable and not the house.  The horses there certainly do live better than most people!

Also on the tour we saw Castle Post - it's a castle that was once a home, but is now at Bed and Breakfast. Interesting history can be found

May 3 - We left Kentucky and arrived at Bloomington, IN, staying in Hardin Ridge CG in the Lake Monroe Recreation Area. Once again, we are waiting for the rain to pass. 

Hardin Ridge is a huge FS CG - over 200 sites on Lake Monroe. It’s a COE lake so nothing but a boat ramp is on the water. We are nestled in the trees. The water is down there somewhere, we just can not see it. I think we are the only ones in the CG. I know we are the only ones in our loop. Most sites have electric, a few have W&E. We have three bars of LTE and all the network stations. All this for $17 a night. Bloomington is 30 minutes away.

Sentimental reason for staying on Lake Monroe, we were here in 1994 for the Windmill Nationals.

May 4 - There was rain this morning and we needed to do laundry, so we headed into town. For lunch, we went to Samira Restaurant, an Afghanistan restaurant. Well, it was billed as Afghani, but it could pass for Indian as far as we know. Anyway, it was good eating. This small town is home to Indiana University. 

We stopped at Kroger's for a few groceries.  While perusing the cheese section, the cheese manager asked us if we like smoked blue cheese. We said we have  never had it.  She told us she would give us a sample and we thought that meant a small taste.  She gave us a whole wedge - free!  No sales tax on food here. 

Thursday, May 5 - Drove almost six hours. Dead tired. Stopped in East Peoria. CG’s are few in this area. No free sites listed on any of our resources. Walmart was posted. Settled for a county park where most of sites are taken by the month.

Friday, May 6 - A shorter 2.5 hour drive brought us to Iowa City. This was our first planed destination. Why? To visit the Herbert Hoover Library. Dorothy likes going to them and I am always ready for anything to do with history.

Being near the Mississippi and several of it’s tributaries, there are COE CG’s all around. We picked West Overlook. It’s one of ten COE CG’s in a complex and there are several more just up river. The sites in FS CG’s are in the woods. The COE likes to landscape and have lots of lush green grass. How large is this CG? You remember the scene in the Japanese restaurant where The Bride asks Hattori Hanzo for Japanese steel. He says she must have some pretty big vermin to kill. She says H.U.G.E! Anywho, we have a large paved site overlooking the lower sites and the river - $10.

Being close to Cedar Rapids, the start of the camping season and a spectacular day, the sites are filling up. Mostly families, but there is so much separation any noise made is not heard.

I have been watching the dogs at two sites close to us. They are about 50 yards apart. The dogs know each other. One is on a leash, the other is not restrained, but remains in his site.They want to be with each other and keep a close eye on each other. Mom lets her kids go to their friends site, but not the dog. Sad. 

Saturday, May 7 - Big Day. We have wanted to visit Hoover’s library for some years. The last time we came this way,  the area was flooded. It was worth the wait. I suspect that most people know little to nothing about Hoover. Popular lore is that he was responsible for the Great Depression and is known for Hooverville’s. He went from being immensely popular before his election and through the first eight months of his term. Then the wildly exuberant stock market crashed. He had nada to do with it, but someone had to be the scape goat.

Hoover was a self-made man. He had no money. He got an engineering degree and talked himself into a job in Australia where he found gold for his employer.. In four years he was the highest paid person in the world for his age. In a few more years, he had his own world-wide company employing 175,000 from Siberia to Peru.

During and after WWI he organized organizations that feed kids in dozens of countries. Truman called him to do it again after WWII. He was a leader of men and humanitarian of the first order.

Too often, we condemn the dark episodes of our country - our treatment of Indians, Blacks, Asians, Irish etc. What Twain termed man’s inhumanity toward man. Such treatment has not been unique in the US. In fact, it has always been tempered here. It continues today. Witness only what ISIS has done Christians in the last year. It is just one more instance of what Islam, the religion of peace,  has been all about since Mohamed. However, you see our dark periods, through it all, the US has been the go to nation for freedom. We don’t credit people like Hoover, Marshall, Carter, Carnegie etc. for the good they have done. We need to focus more on the positive aspects of our countrymen. Such were my thoughts on leaving the Hoover library.

It’s good to be in the heartland. From here to the Sierra’s it is like the country we grew up in. Traditional values. A place where it’s OK to wave the flag.

The ideal Christmas present

Sunday, May 8 - We are getting west. The radio stations now have 'K' prefixes. 

We took advantage of the last dry day for awhile to get west 2.5 hours to Pella, IA.  [You know, as in windows] Rain is forecast for the next 3 days.

In a burst of nostalgia, we stopped at Amana. We were there when our daughter was five. We remembered a yummy lunch served family style. The restaurants are still here, now run by gruff and could not care less folks. Yes, it was Mother’s Day, but casual rudeness does not agree with the town’s motto of of welcoming all comers. It’s just a tourist trap now. We bought a jar of strawberry and rhubarb jam and left town. BTW, Amana is not Amish.

Why Pella? Well to avoid driving in the rain is the main reason. We will stay here and sample the food in the nearby Dutch towns. The restaurant billed as best has Greek fare. Go figure. Maybe we will be able to wet the yaks. They have not been off the roof yet. 

It is the largest lake in the state. Originally the city of Red Rock, Lake Red Rock, is a reservoir on the Des Moines River, about 55 miles southeast of the city of Des Moines, Iowa

Our site on the lake is like having huge yard, but we don't have to do any work. Rain is expected for the next few days, so this is a nice place to be.  We have TV reception, good wifi, books to read and there are always things to do in Koko.

When we reach the 100th parallel [about half-way through SD] we will be “west” and in long rain shadow of the Rockies. There have been high winds all through the southwest this year and extra rain in the central and southern states. Seems we are getting Canada’s fair share of rain and they are burning up.

Monday, May 9 - After the early morning shower, we set out in search of food. Our first stop was Reichert’s Dairy. I found an address on the web and off we went. Down CR 17, then a gravel road and finally to Lois Lane. There was no commercial signage, it looked like a few rural residential homes and it was. But, at the end of the road I saw feed piled up, then we saw goats. A small dog who would not shut up barking greeted us. We looked at the goats and finally a women appeared in the window of the barn. I guess she wanted to see why the heck her dog was barking. We explained and she said to wait just a minute while she finished milking. So with the dog continuing to yap we looked at the baby goats. When she finished, she came out and introduced herself, Lois Reichert. We had a long chat and she offered us three wedges of goat cheese for $20.

[Elizabeth, I really tried hard to think of a clever way to pop Lois Lane on you. But, my wee brain shrinks daily]

If you have cheese, you need meat to go along with it. So I plugged in the town of Melcher-Dallas to Glenda and away we went down more rural roads until we found Northcote Meats. Jim was cutting meat in the back when we arrived, but came out to see what we needed. We settled on four fine looking pork chops and some brats. He threw in a package of breakfast sausage while we chewed on beef and cheese sausage sticks. I am thinking of parking the rig across the street from this place. Beef delivery is on Tuesday’s.

With all the smells in the car, we were ready for lunch, so we tracked to Pella and had some fine huge sandwiches at Opa’s Deli. Oh and strawberry and rhubarb pie. Devine.

Opa's Deli

Now satisfied we walked around the town square to another meat market and two bakeries. We only bought some Dutch Hanke’s almond pastries for breakfast and a loaf of sour dough bread. We will be back for more meat and pastries. It seems will be be here for a few days.

Pella had their Tulip Festival this last weekend. Most of the blooms were damaged by the rains, but a few survived.