Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Museum of the Fur Trade

The Museum of the Fur Trade outside of Chadron, NE, was truly a 'gem' as designated in the AAA book.  Pictures were pretty impossible, but from the informative video to the displays, the story of fur trading in North America was well documented.

You'll have to go to get the whole story and see all the traded items, but one of my favorite displays was the beautiful beaded clothing.  I finally decided to try a picture with my phone in the low light.

My other favorite was was a collection of  'canoe cups' used by the French Canadian trappers.

Here's the story.

Ron was impressed by the massive collection of flintlocks.

On the grounds was a meticulous reproduction of the trading post originally built on this site in 1837. It was operated by Jim Bordeaux, a Frenchman from Missouri, who was known as 'The Bear' by the local Sioux Indians.  He must have been quite a man.  There was a story that the Sioux saved him and his family from a band of marauding Crows.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Back across Nebraska

We're really going crazy with this traveling the back roads.  We're crossing Nebraska along the far northern route, within spittin' distance of South Dakota.  Love the state road signs.

Our first stop was at a Corps of Engineer park near Yankton.  Even though it was a weekend, we found a spot at Tailwaters campground below the Gavins Point Dam.  Above the dam is beautiful Lewis and Clark Lake and below the dam, the Missouri River flows free for numerous miles.  (I can't remember how many miles, but I think it was about 70.  What a kayak trip that would be.)

We had a bit of an upset at our next stop.  On our way across the country, we have used my favorite app, Allstays, to find city, county, state, and COE parks.  But at Fort Randell Dam, just over the state line in South Dakota, Allstays had North Point Recreation Area listed as a COE park  In fact, it had been turned over to South Dakota State Parks.  Since South Dakota has a day use fee in addition to their camping fees, I thought we were really going to pay dearly for our night's stay.  For some reason, they didn't charge us the day use fee, but it was still a bit much at $20.

Perhaps that's why the campground was like a ghost town.  We had to laugh when another RV pulled in right next to us with about a hundred empty sites.  It was okay, though, they didn't have a campfire.

We did love the cute rental cabins with views of the Missouri River and the chalkstone cliffs.

Nearby is the site of 1856 Fort Randall.  In 1875, this combination church, Odd Fellows lodge, and library was built with all volunteer labor.  It's the only building still (partially) standing with the help of the protective roof.

Our next stop was the cute town of Valentine, Nebraska.

I loved this building.  I don't know how they built a brick building with 3-D accents, but it was very cool.

Allstays redeemed itself by leading us to the Valentine city park with $5 overnight camping right along the water.  (No hookups, of course.)

Nearby is Smith Falls, the highest waterfall in Nebraska at a whopping 63 feet!  It's pretty though.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Orange City

Our last stop in Iowa was unique Orange City, a little bit of Holland in Northwest Iowa.  Orange City was settled in 1870 and named after Prince William of Orange, a prominent royal figure in the Netherlands in the 17th century.  So, no oranges here.

They have the cutest Chamber of Commerce I've ever seen.

The impressive courthouse was built of Sioux Quartzsite.

The storefronts are built with colorful gables.

Here's something you don't see every day - a windmill phone booth.

Of course they have an annual tulip festival in May, but we had to settle for this giant mural.

In Windmill Park, we admired the display of six scale models of historic Dutch windmills.  Rod Shea of Middleburg, Wisconsin, researched and built the units, then donated them to Orange City in 2006.

As you can see, we are really living up to our blog's name.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Pause

We interrupt our regularly scheduled travel posts to interject some cuteness.  Last Monday, Labor Day (how appropriate), Ron's daughter Kelli, son-in-law Sean, and grandson Harper welcomed a precious addition to their family.

Little Elsie was 2 1/2 weeks early, but she's doing fine and went home with her mother.

The other family member, Lucy, is staying close and taking her guard dog duties seriously.

Not to be outdone, Harper is caring for his own 'Elsie' and 'Lucy'.

And on the off chance that somebody doesn't read my sister Diana's blog, my nephew Mark and wife Carisa welcomed their own little miracle a few months ago.  Here's little Asha at four months.

It just doesn't get any better.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Grotto

When I checked the AAA book, I saw that we were passing close to Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa.  It sounded interesting and they have a campground in Passport America, so we took a little detour.

The Grotto was the life's work of Fr. Paul Dobberstein who gathered materials for 10 years, then, beginning in 1912, hand-built his masterpiece for 42 years.

There are nine separate grottos, each portraying a scene in the life of Christ.  This was Fr. Dobberstein's first.

The materials used include petrified wood, malachite, jasper, quartz, agates, and more.  This stalagmite came from Carlsbad Caverns before it was a national park.

He was also ahead of his time with recycling.  When he wanted to create a stream, he decided coke bottles were the right color.  So he collected them from all the townspeople and melted them down.

He also combined melted glass and crayons to create these interesting 'rocks', surrounding some of the hundreds of agates in the Grotto.

In addition to the nine grottos, the Stations of the Cross are beautifully depicted.  The first 12 are murals, which Fr. Dobberstein ordered from Italy.

Which are displayed in these rock pavilions.

The Father did have some help with his dream.  Matt Szerensce, a parishioner, worked with Father Dobberstein and Father Louis Greving, his successor, furthered his work after his death.  At the time of his death, the Grotto was about 80% finished.
Fr. Paul Dobberstein

The complexity of the Grotto of the Redemption is mind-boggling.

The next morning I walked over from the campground to get a picture of the adjacent church.

It's certainly an impressive building for a town of 800 people.

Inside the church, Fr. Dobberstein built the Christmas Chapel in 1927.

Considered to be Father's finest work, it contains mineral specimens thought to be too delicate to be used in the outdoor grottos.  It contains an amethyst that weighs 300 pounds.

And  here's one more picture of the Grotto from the other side.

Of course pictures can't do it justice.  If you are ever anywhere near West Bend, Iowa, treat yourself to a visit to Grotto of the Redemption and be amazed.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Returning Home

Not us, but our RV.  We brought it home to the Winnebago factory in Forest City, Iowa, for some TLC from the experts.  We were previously there seven years ago and, just like that time, we were again very impressed by the courteous and professional way they handle service visits.  We did not have an appointment (bad us), but we only had to wait two days for them to fit us in.  Then two days of work took us to the holiday weekend.  Since we never know where to go for holidays, we just stayed two more days until Labor Day.

Between the massive rain storms, we did a little sightseeing.  From the top of the tower in Pilot Knob State Park, we could appreciate some of that lovely Iowa farmland.  But what is that tall white crop with the spinning blades in the distance?

And taking a stroll along the park road was this snapping turtle.  Hmm, he doesn't seem too happy with me for daring to take his picture.

We checked out Clear Lake State Park,

As well as the town of Clear Lake, where we stopped at pretty Central Gardens of North Iowa.

Nice.

For all the time we spent in Forest City, we didn't do much.  Maybe we should have revisited my favorite place from seven years ago - The Music Man Square in Mason City.  If you're a musical fan like I am, you'll love the replica of 1912 River City as seen in the 1962 film.

Our neighbors in the overnight lot, had a very interesting cover for their bikes.

And we were amazed by the RV dump in the local park - 10 dump stations!  That has to be a record.

I'm going to count this little dam on the Winnebago River as a waterfall.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Heading West

We decided to take a route across northern Iowa, mostly because we wanted to stop in Forest City at the Winnebago factory.  But on the way we made a couple of stops.

In Clermont we stopped at the Montauk estate.  The Italianate mansion was built in 1874 by William Larrabee who became Iowa's 12th governor in 1886.

The tour was free.  FREE!  And really very interesting.  The interior and beautiful furnishings are still as they were when the Larrabee family live there.

This was my favorite thing - a copy machine.  Something about dampening and pressing the original inked document with onion skin paper.  I could see how some of the ink would come off on the copy, but wouldn't it be backwards?

After our stop, we moved on to another wonderful Iowa city/county park in Nashua, home of the Little Brown Church in the Vale.

Built in 1860-64, the setting for the church was the inspiration for the song of the same name.  The song has been preformed by many singers, including Andy Griffith, Rosemary Clooney, and the Statler Brothers.

Funny story.  In 1857, Dr. William S. Pitts was passing through town and stopped to admire the wooded lot where the church now stands.  He went home and was inspired to write the song.  In 1862, he moved to the area.  Imagine his surprise when he saw a little brown church being built in the very spot he had envisioned it.  He dug out his song and sang it at the church dedication in 1864.