Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Visiting Drew and the girls in Wabash, IN

Our final destination on our 8 month journey was a stop in Wabash IN to visit my brother Drew and his two daughters, Melissa and Alicia. We also wanted to see the newest little addition to the family... our 15 month old grand-niece, Lylly!

We arrived at the Honey Bear Hollow Campground in Peru, IN late Thursday afternoon, which is about 20 miles west of Wabash. It was the closest campground in the area and it was very pleasant. Their claim to fame is a disc golfcourse, which was very busy the whole time we were there.
I first met little miss Lylly on Friday, and fell immediately and totally in love with her! Not only is she a real cutie, but she's smart to boot! Always on the go and very inquisitive! When Mel and Alicia got home from school, we all went out for a great Mexican meal... thanks, Mom! Our nieces, Melissa and Alicia, are both gorgeous and fun and very smart. Both are on their respective cheerleading squads too... very talented young ladies! It was so nice to see them after a 3 year absence.

On Saturday, Ed came with me to visit and he fell in love with Lylly too! We spent the afternoon at Drew's and then everyone went back to the RV for steaks on the grill... yum! We topped off the meal with an ice cream at DQ.

We met at Drew's house on Sunday, where Ed walked down the street to the Catholic Church and I joined Drew, Alicia, and Lylly for the service at the Friends Church, the church they've been attending for years. Afterwards we played with Lylly at Drew's house and then I drove Ed back to the RV because Emma was home alone and went back to Drew's for another great meal... Chinese this time!

Monday was our last day in Wabash, so Ed stayed behind at the RV with Emma and did laundry and cleaned... what a sweetie! I spent our last day playing with Lylly while Drew did some grocery shopping and we had lunch with Sally, a good friend of Drew's. I met Sally years ago and she's a real sweetie. Two months ago she had a double lung transplant and has had a few scary moments since, but she looks and feels great now and is well on the way to a full recovery!

We packed up and headed out this morning and went alot further than expected. After driving 450 miles, we're staying overnite at a Super Walmart in Clearfield, PA. We only have 395 miles to home, so we'll be there tomorrow... a day early.

I can't believe we've been on the road for 8 months... it's been an incredible journey and one we will never forget! We've seen so many places... and several we'd like to return to in the coming years. It'll be hard to transition to the every day life again, but... we only have 5 months before we head down to Florida again! Yeah!! In truth, I'm a little homesick and I'll be glad to see my mom again and Kristin and Anna and Mike... you get the picture... :-)

Signing off until our next adventure!
Ed, Rena, and Emma

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fairmont, MN and Wisconsin Dells, WI

Monday night was spent at the Flying Goose RV Park in Fairmont, MN. This is a beautiful RV park, with lots of land, a lake, trees, barns, and rolling hills. The owners bought this land when it was a farm about 6 years ago and have turned it into one of the nicest RV parks we've stayed at.

Emma had a great time running in the fields and the lake and we enjoyed just walking around the grounds. For dinner we went to the Channel Inn, a rustin little restaurant in town located right on the lake's edge. Fairmont is a quaint, neat little town and our overnight stay was very relaxing.

Tuesday we headed down to Wisconsin Dells, WI and are staying at the Stand Rock RV Park, another nice RV park. After we settled in, we took a ride downtown... little did we know what a tourist town this is! Home of Mt. Olympus Amusement Park, we counted at least 5 waterparks and 5 roller coasters in town! Add to that the duckboat rides, the mini-golf, the gazillion hotels and motels.... it was amazing!
On Wednesday, we headed to Mauston, WI, about 17 miles north on I-90, to visit the Carr Valley Cheese Factory and store. They have a viewing window and you need to get there between 8:00 and 11:00 when they're making a vat of cheese. It's best to get there as early as possible, so you don't miss any of the process. We also saw a video that explains the whole process. Of course we bought several different cheeses and 2 bags of Wisconsin's favorite snack... Cheese Curds! They had samples of cheese curds... only 3 hours old... the fresher the better! They're not fresh unless they squeak when you chew them!
Wednesday evening, we decided to play a couple of rounds of miniature golf. I decided to let Ed win both games so as not to bruise his fragile male ego... ;-)

Today (Thursday) we forge on... stopping about 240 miles south of here off of I-39, at the Hickory Hill Campground in Secor, IL. Tomorrow we should be in Peru, IN, which is about 16 miles west of Wabash IN where my brother lives. We'll stay in Peru for 4 nights to visit and then move on to CT.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mt. Rushmore and Crazyhorse (and more...)

We decided to drive to Sturgis, SD on Friday because there was a farmer's market on Main Street on Fridays and I thought it would be a good way to see Sturgis. Well, there were only 3 booths and none of them were selling vegetables! But since we were there, we decided to walk around and see Main Street. Sturgis is the site of an annual motorcycle rally held in August and this year they celebrate their 70th rally. It began in 1938 and has been held every year except for 2 years during the WWII gas rationing. We saw a few pictures of the rally and I think it's even more crowded than Bike Week in Daytona!

On the way to Sturgis, we took a nice scenic route that ran through Deadwood, SD, which is a National Historic Landmark. Wild Bill Hickock was shot and buried here. Deadwood also had the first telephone exchange in the state of South Dakota. We discovered as we walked down Main Street that the entire town consists largely of casinos and saloons! Of course I had to try my hand at the slots, and had I left when I was finished with the 1 cent slots, I would've been ahead by $1.20... but alas, I had to try the $1.00 slots and left with $5 less than what I came in with!

So that was our first day in Rapid City... on to day 2!

On Saturday, we headed to Mt. Rushmore and Crazyhorse... how fascinating they were! Our first stop was Mt. Rushmore and while we were there, we met Nick Clifford, the last living Mt. Rushmore worker. He worked on the statues in 1938, 1939, and 1940 and he's a wealth of information! He's 89 now and we had a lovely chat with him, and also bought his book of questions and answers about Mt. Rushmore. The memorial was created by Gutzon Borglum and consists of the heads of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. Borglum picked this particular location because of the fine grain granite rock that was good for carving and he needed enough of it so that the sculpture would face the morning sunrise. The original idea came from Doane Robinson, the South Dakota State Historian in the early 1900s. He wanted something that would entice people to visit South Dakota... this was obviously a good idea! In his book, Mr. Clifford says that these four presidents were selected for the sculpture for the following reasons: "George Washington was our first president and the Father of our contry. Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of our country with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1803. He also drafted the Declaration of Independence. Abraham Lincoln is credited with holding the nation together during the Civil War and he was called the Great Emancipator. Theodore Roosevelt support the completion of the Panama Canal, which would have an effect on world trade. He also set aside some of the National Parks."

One last interesting tidbit before I move on to Crazyhorse: after Mr. Borglum died in 1941 from an embolism, his son continued his work, but funding ran out before the sculpture could be completed. The original plan for the sculpture was to be of the presidents from head to waist, but that was not to be.

After we left Mt. Rushmore, we headed to Crazyhorse, which was the Indian's answer to Mt. Rushmore. Native American leaders wanted to create a statue to let the white man know that the red man has great heroes too. They chose Crazyhorse because of his values and great spirit. He died young and tragically when he was stabbed in the back under the false pretense of a truce. His statue, when completed, will have him pointing forward in answer to the white man's question 'Where are your lands now?'... his answer is 'My lands are where my dead lie buried'. The sculpture was created and worked on by Korczak Ziolkowski, who was commissioned by the Native American leaders. He won first place at the World's Fair for his sculptures and he was well know in West Hartford, CT. After his death in 1982, his wife and children have continued his work and will not stop until the entire sculpture is complete. The funding for this comes solely from private contributions and admission fees.
When we left Crazyhorse, we took the scenic route around Custer State Park. The route winds through forest and field, and we saw several deer and one buffalo. The road itself is very curvy and especially so as we headed back up towards Mt. Rushmore. There were several hairpin turns where we had to slow to 15mph, and there were 4 or 5 single lane tunnels. It was definitely worth the ride... especially as we passed through the tunnels to see Mt. Rushmore in the distance!

This area was the last 'must see' on our 8 month journey. Now we head home, stopping in Indiana to visit my brother and my nieces and grand-niece!

We left Rapid City today and are spending tonight in Mitchell, SD. It turns out that Mitchell has a national landmark... the Corn Palace! It's only 2 miles from the rv park, so we unhooked the car and headed over for a look. The Corn Palace was built in 1892 and serves as a multi-purpose center for the town of Mitchell. Every summer the structure is re-decorated with murals made from corn, grains and native grasses that follow a different theme every year. Inside and out, the walls are covered with bright, intricate murals and is really something to behold!

Oh, yeah... on the way to Mitchell, we stopped in Wall, SD to see Wall Drug... the billboards advertizing it reminded us of South of the Border in South Carolina, so we took the bait and detoured down Main Street, Wall, SD! Well, this drugstore is huge, and much more than a drugstore. It began in 1931 when Ted and Dorothy Hustead bought the only drugstore in town and barely made it through the lean years. It has since grown into one of America's roadside attractions!

Tomorrow we head for Minnesota, only 170 miles... but we have to stop and stay so we can add a state to our map! We'll see what sights we can see there!

From Gardiner, MT to Rapid City, SD

We left Gardiner, MT on Wednesday, May 12, heading to Mt. Rushmore near Rapid City, SD. On our way we stopped overnight in Sheridan, WY... partly because the ride was too long to go straight through, and partly because we needed to color in the state of WY on our map as a state we've slept in! The park, Peter D's RV Park, was right off the highway and very nice... small, but nice, and the owners were very friendly. As a matter of fact, I don't think we've met any unfriendly rv park owners/managers. Our ride from Gardiner to Rapid City, SD was interesting... most of the ride was through snow country... it's May for heaven sakes!

We arrived in Rapid City, SD on Thursday, May 13, and stayed at the Lazy J RV Park... it was situated high above the town and we had a great view of the town at night with the lights on. Again, the owners were very friendly and helpful... they told us where to go for a good meal... the Firehouse.

Our 'things to do' while in Rapid City include visiting Deadwood, Sturgis, Custer State Park, and of course, Mt. Rushmore and Crazyhorse. These will all be discussed in the next blog... stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Yellowstone Nat'l Park Part III

Today was our last day in Yellowstone Nat'l Park... and it was a fabulous day! We drove along the eastern section of the Grand Loop Road because we were told that we would find alot of wildlife on that route... and we did!

We had three different bear sightings! The first was of two black bears, one which climbed a tree while we watched; the second was of a lone grizzly bear feeding in a field; and the third was the most exciting... a grizzley bear walking on the road towards us... not more than 10 feet from our car! Although there were probably 15 cars parked along the road, this bear couldn't care less! He rambled along the road past all of us until he found a spot to head down to and cross the river... he was truly beautiful!

We also had our first and only sighting of a moose... completely by accident! We had decided to take a detour to find the petrified tree and saw several cars parked on the side of the road, with camaras aimed down over the side. So of course we had to stop the car and see what was going on (visitors do alot of that in Yellowstone!). And there was a lone moose munching on grass! Amazing!

We also saw several antelope, which we hadn't seen before, as well as a zillion buffalo and a million elk... but three of these elk had antlers... another first!

Halfway through our drive, we ended up at the northeast entrance to Yellowstone. About 4 miles east of the entrance is a small town called Cooke City, consisting of a block of rustic buildings... and that was it! It was really cute, and really snowy and not someplace we'd choose to live!

So as we leave Yellowstone and continue home, we'd like to share Ed's theories about the park:

1. The geysers consist of hoses that the park employees have planted throughout the park, and hot water is run through these hoses and out manmade holes in the ground.

2. The Indians left the area because of the rotten egg sulphur smell created by the geysers.

3. The animals in the park are all union employees and are paid on a hierarchy of fees. The elk, deer and buffalo are lowest on the totempole because there are so many of them and they are easy to find. The moose is the highest paid because they're so rare to find. The bear is paid pretty well too because they're almost as rare and beautiful. And the wolves are on strike and are not making an appearance until they are offered better wages.

Ed has also decided that he cannot live in Montana because there are too many excellent microbrews and he would never leave the bars! As it is, we have a couple of cases of Moose Drool in the car, and several different brands in the fridge!

Tomorrow we continue our journey home, with our next stop Mt. Rushmore and Crazyhorse... we'll miss Yellowstone!