Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Frustrated in Iowa Part 2

Tuesday, July 24th

All excited this morning to go to a little farm town called Quasqueton and see Cedar Rock - a Usonian house by Frank Lloyd Wright operated by the Department of Natural Resources and it was unique because it was the most complete Usonian home with all the furnishings, landscape, etc. and there were real tours, etc.

So, I drove for an hour on little country roads, all excited.  I knew I was early with the first tour at 11 but I wanted to make sure I got on that tour.  Gates were closed!  I pulled over and called the phone # to see what time the gates would open and the recording said that due to budget constraints, Cedar Rock was now also closed on Tuesday.  AAA book is not up-to-date!!!  Dang I was upset.  Another car pulled up too who didn't know of this change.  I actually debated on spending the night but knew this would make for a very long day on Wed. so left this for next time:(   The house wasn't even visible from the road as I gather it was down a bank towards the river.  I should have taken a picture of the gate:)

I had one more possibility - it was a house in Cedar Rapids - the Douglas Grant House which I knew was privately owned but thought I could just drive by and shoot a picture out the window.  So on I went.  (Do you know how confusing towns are in IA - Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rock, Cedar Valley, Cedar Grove, and just plain Cedar.  Then there's Sioux Rapids, Sioux Center, Sioux City and in SD Sioux Falls).

Of course I knew it was on a residential street which got narrower and narrower and finally a sign for dead end and of course it was the last house, down a winding, curving hilly driveway with a sign at the top saying "private".  And of course you couldn't see the house from the top of the driveway and because I'm such a law abiding person, I didn't walk down the driveway to see the house and invade their "private-cy".

Bummer of a day and here I am in Davenport, IA - again the only campground in miles but it's a decent one and I got to be entertained with this original "RV" that moved in just after me.


mileage:  172                        gas:  $45  @ $3.56                            Camp:  $30

Frustrated in Iowa

Monday July 23rd 

Well, Patrick, I opted to not go to the Spam Museum - sorry.

Entered Iowa about noon and began my Frank Lloyd Wright pilgrimage - better than corn any day.

First stop - Mason City which I found out was just recently named the 4th most important city to visit for architectural value - behind Mumbai and Venice and I forgot the 3rd.

First stop was the City National Bank and Park Inn Hotel which were commissioned by a BOD who wanted Wright to design a building to house the bank, a hotel, offices for lawyers who were on the Board, retail stores and some extra space for future renters.  A large undertaking for Wright but it was amazing.  It's just undergone major restoration with the hotel owning and occupying most of the whole complex.  The bank is now their ballroom.  This is the only hotel Wright designed that is still standing and still in operation.  

Front of the building

Window detail of original bank portion
Side of building but main entrance for the hotel

Lobby of hotel

Ladies lounge upstairs over lobby
I then went to see The Stockman House which Wright also designed:

Only open on week-ends :(

In town additionally there are several houses designed by students of Wrights but I didn't go to see them as I wanted to get to Charles City to see the Alvin Miller House:

This house was under renovation so not open!

Well, 1 out of 3 I guess isn't bad and I was psyched as tomorrow was the star attraction!

So, again, campsites in the state of Iowa are about as scarce as in SD.  Guess there aren't that many tourists in Iowa unless that is, you like to watch the corn grow.  BTW, I'm wondering what the other crop is that is vying for space - thinking it's soybeans but don't know for sure but it does make for better sight seeing - dark green, low growing vs light green, tall.

Anyway, I had 2 "parks" to choose from - both county parks and that was it for miles.  First one - closest to where I was and where I was going tomorrow - it was more like a low rent area and luckily for me the only elec. offered was 50 amp and I didn't have a converter plug but the guy without teeth next door was already trying to help me out.  Told him I'd better see if I couldn't find a pole with 30 amp.  Had to drive backwards 20 miles to the other park but it was great so saved by the amperage.


mileage:  246                                   gas:  $71 @ $3.60                         Camp:  $16

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Out of the Prairie and into MN

Sunday, July 22nd

This is what the corn is looking like in SD
 The sun didn't set until after 9 last night and I sat out until after 10, hating to go in even then.  It was a beautiful evening.  The air was gently moving, very warm but not hot and it seemed good to not have to put on a sweater after the sun went down.  The grasshoppers or cicadas were singing their hearts out or rubbing their wings to beat the band.  The conductor would stop them all at once for a moment of peace and then start the string section in slowly and quickly grow to a loud crescendo and play for awhile and then stop dead in their tracks again.

Sunset last night behind our campground

 Everyone e-mailed me to say I had to go to the Corn Palace since I was in Mitchell, SD.  I'd been when my family & I went cross country many years ago but I felt guilty just driving by so detoured and saw it again.  It's getting pretty professional looking and not as big as I remembered it but still quite an undertaking to every year re-do all the corn and related materials.

Drove past DeSmet, SD - home of Laura Ingalls Wilder which we visited on the same cross country trip and I believe saw an outdoor play there about her life.

 Then I was off to Sioux Falls, SD and decided I needed to see if there really were falls in Sioux Falls.  There were and a very nice park.  I can imagine in a year when it rains, these falls must really be magnificent.  I also was surprisingly treated to an air show going on overhead and all in 98 degree heat.

Entered MN about 2:30 on I-90.  I saw a sign that I-90 was the Eisenhower Highway which I think is the same designation given to the New York thruway or also I-90 except that in NY State you have to pay to drive on that highway.  I wonder if it's the only state to charge for the pleasure and I suppose that if I wanted to I could drive this highway all the way to Albany NY and beyond.

At the first rest stop in MN, the picnic shelters all faced the 5000 acres of corn (it looked better in MN than SD).  I guess MN thought picnickers needed entertainment while eating their lunch so they could watch the corn grow.  The rainmaker must have drawn a line between SD & MN because it did seem almost magical that the corn looked so much better just over the state line.

However, the farmers aren't quite as observant of state lines because even though I-90 is only about 10 miles north of Iowa, there's already miles and miles and miles and miles of corn.  Can't wait to drive into Iowa tomorrow.


mileage:  176                            gas:  $56  @ $3.60                           campground:  $34
P.S.  I was informed this morning by the owner of Fam-e-ly Fun campground in Mitchell that it got to    
         103 yesterday, not 100 as I reported.  Today it probably came close to the 100 even here in 
         southern MN

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mitchell, SD day 2

Saturday, July 21st

Happy Birthday Quinn

I decided to stay put today so I could think of Quinn all day!!  Hope you're having a fun day at the lake.

I also decided to stay put today because it's so hot I knew I wouldn't feel like doing any sight-seeing.  I'm not sure tomorrow is going to be any better but lets hope.  Actually it was cooler today - only 100 instead of 106.  I actually sat outside and read for awhile since I was in the shade and there was a breeze - a warm breeze but wasn't too bad.

So, I'll give it another try tomorrow even though all forecasts for all the places I'm heading are to be in upper 90s.  Must admit though, I'd rather have this than 60s.


camp:  $24

Friday, July 20, 2012

Finished with North and almost South Dakota

Friday, July 20th

Nothing but driving today.

Nowhere but on Rt. 281S from Jamestown, ND to Mitchell, SD - which is flat, not much traveled and not much to see except for how the farmers are suffering here - no rain in 6 weeks in South Dakota.  Corn being ground for silage already.

Had time to remember my childhood vacations on Grandpa Kast's farm:
  • fields of tomatoes and plates full of them at every meal (peeled and sliced and with a little sugar)
  • picking cabbage seedlings in the muck and watching the planters popping them into the soil back on the farm
  • fresh peaches on ice cream for dessert or cereal at breakfast
  • going to the field to pick fresh peas and sitting on the back porch shelling them for dinner and freezing
  • making jam and canning peaches and pickled cherries
  • the best bacon in the world from their own pigs smoked in their own smoke house - salty and thick and after you nibbled the bacon right up to the rind you sucked on the rind
  • plenty of sweet corn on the cob after you husked it and removed ALL of the silk
  • milk coming in after milking the cows
  • the cookie tins were always filled with apple-oatmeal cookies and graham cookies with a whole walnut half on top from the tree outside the back door.  And for special occasions the hickory nut cake with 7 minute frosting and each piece was designated by a hickory nut.
And that was just about the food produced on the farm.


mileage:      265                       gas:  $42  @  $3.60                       camp:  $24
temp:  106 (heat advisory until Tues. night!!)

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Thursday, July 19th

Everything seemed bigger than life today:  

the Painted Canyon
The sun was shining right into the canyon so dulled all the colors
the planted fields of grain and corn because all of a sudden you're out of the Badlands and it's flat again
the highway stretching ahead for miles on end
the blue sky over everything
the winds
the heat - 102 degrees at 1 p.m. and cows are standing udder-deep in water
the loss of another hour
Salem Sue

The performance last night was interesting.
There were escalators going down into the amphitheater but not up out of it after
Scenery was very professional and very impressive with the use of the real scenery behind it
Actors/singers/musicians were all very powerful and good.  Even several real horses and riders.

It stayed hot all evening - probably in the 90s.


mileage:   245                           gas:   $78 @ $3.70                               camp:  $28
haircut:  $32                             groceries:  $24

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Beautiful Badlands - Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND

Wednesday, July 18th

I made it to ND by 8 a.m. as the oil workers go to work with their diesel trucks at 5 a.m.

The drive again was very pretty with the funny little hills of rocks and undergrowth of oranges, yellows, all shades of green and beiges and the blue skies.
Beautiful Badlands of ND
What I thought were open grain train cars turned out to be coal cars - lots of them.  Didn't know they were still mining that much coal.

Funny, but for the past couple of days the words to Home on the Range have been going through my mind (along with America the Beautiful) and today, the 2nd exit (#7) in ND was for Home on the Range.  It just appeared to be a complex of buildings huddled together with a farm house so. . . maybe it's a dude ranch like Kathy went to.

Bought ticket for stage show tonight in Medora which has been recommended by several - outdoor amphitheater.  I decided to pass on the pitchfork fondue.  I'll give a review of the show tomorrow as I'm sure it'll be a late night - my first time getting into my campsite after dark - and backing in no less.

The National Park was very fun.  Of course you know my love of rock formations so even though this is considered the badlands of ND, I thought them pretty awesome.  And just look at all the buffalo - sorry - bison that run the place.
In T. Roosevelt NP
Prairie Dog Village in NP
Who can find Rhoda?

Oh give me a home. . .
where the buffalo roam

and roam right down the road

momma & calf cross together
but calf is thirsty
If you got an itch. . .

mileage:  85                          gas:  $64  @ $3.58                             camp:  $27
National Park:  $0                 stage performance:  $38                     ice cream:  $3.50

Still in MT !!

Tuesday, July 17th

Yes, I'm still in MT.  I told you - it's as big as TX or seems like it.

But, in all fairness, I got a late start as I noticed as I was getting ready to leave that one of my tires looked pretty flat - well not flat but definitely needing air and when I tested it with my gauge, it was down about 30 lbs.

Have you tried to find air at a gas station lately?  I drove around Billings for a while and couldn't find any station that had any but did find a Tire & Automotive shop and figured they certainly would have air.  I apologized for not needing new tires but asked if they could just give me some air.  Awesome person - he came right out and of course was more interested in Rhoda and the size of her engine than her tires but eventually got down to business to even taking the spare tire down to check that too - which was really flat - not surprised - I've never checked it nor thought to.  He even taught me how to better use my gauge because I'd thought both back tires were a little soft but only the one was.  He said that because it was down so much air that I must have picked up a nail or something and wanted to check it for me.  Long story short - there was a leak around the nozzle thing which they fixed and all for $15.  Now who charges $15 for anything anymore.  So, I'll give Edam's/Staley's Tire & Automotive in Billings, MT a big THANK YOU!!  And I'm thinking I like Billings.

Back on 94 E for the rest of the day.  The scenery was varied with lots to look at and it kept changing - first lots of trees and greenery, a river AND railroad tracks alongside and then back to scrub and little camel hump mountains, range land with cattle and horses but always the blue skies and fluffy white clouds.
These are the hay bale sentinels I mentioned yesterday
Way back when I said how discouraging it must be for
a farmer to have to tackle these huge fields of grain

Even though we've had thunder & lightening and rain
every night - the days are blue skies & fluffy white clouds

Country music and junior rodeo results were my friends today.  First time I've had the radio on in days and there weren't even any preaching stations.  This was like WICY in Malone - all the local happenings and where you could buy your rifle raffle tickets and which kind of cattle would be offered in the next auction, who died and how much they'd be missed all mixed in with good - ole down and out country sagas.  Kept me entertained along with the scenery.

My Woodalls campground bible led me astray - I decided to stop in Glendive where there were supposedly 3 campgrounds.  1 was no longer in operation, 1 didn't exist or if it did it left no evidence behind or the address was wrong and the phone # changed and 1 no one had ever heard of.  So, I went back an exit because again, there wasn't anything forward for miles and miles, and stayed in some one's back yard with a few electric poles, lots of oil workers and Woodalls recommendation!!  I don't know about this camper's bible???  Hasn't led me down the path of better camping.

mileage:  240                     gas:  $36  @ $3.40                          Camp:  $20
tire repair:  $15

P.S.  Sorry about my slam on Mussel County yesterday.  Today I came across Mussel River in Rosebud County near Bad Route Road.