Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Heading Home---Maybe

Trains, trains, do you see any tracks? Do you hear any whistles? NO, NO, NO! Bob and I drove from Hannibal, Missouri to Lake of the Ozarks Recreation Area (LORA) run by Ft. Leonard Wood Army Post. I have to say it is off the beaten track and I was so glad there were no trains! It is a nice recreation area on Lake of the Ozarks near several sections of the Missouri State Park of the same name. We were able to get one of 6 available campsites as it was a three day weekend. The only site we fit in was on a slope, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the other 5 we had as choices. It seems that as we near the end of our trip we forget to take pictures of our campsites.

We  were able to find a trail in the state park that was promising. Honey Run Trail was only a few miles from the campground. We had the North Loop to ourselves except for one mountain biker.
The weather was perfect for a hike through the woods.
The leaves were even changing colors. The bike rider told us that until the rain two days before, the leaves had not started to change! Thank you, rain!
Most of the trail followed a ridge which, in a few sections, had views of Lake of the Ozarks. The sign at the trailhead said it would take over 3 hours to hike the north loop, but we finished in 2 hours and 30 minutes.
When we weren't hiking the trail, we were exploring the recreation area on foot. It covers quite an area which encompasses tent camping sites, full hook-up sites, partial hook-ups, cabins, day use area, a boat launch and marina.

Our stay at LORA lasted two nights, long enough to get sleep without listening to trains, all night long!  From LORA, it was time to visit family in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.

We stayed in Siloam Springs for a week visiting Bob's parents. It was a good visit, but the time has come to start the real trip home. Siloam Springs is about 1200 miles from our house so we still have a few nights left on the road.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Leaving Wisconsin

Bob and I enjoyed our visit o Wisconsin. We both agree that it is the cleanest, neatest state we visited this trip. Every yard was neat and tidy, no trash or old stuff laying around. It also gets the distinction of two trophies from us.....drumroll, please!  Both are roadkill trophies. Oklahoma has the trophy for "Most Skunks." Wisconsin gets the trophies for "Most Deer" and "Most Raccoon" dead on the roads. I don't think I have ever seen that many raccoon as road kill---opossums and armadillos, maybe, but not raccoon!

From Wisconsin we drove south into Iowa and then Illinois. We stopped for the night in Macomb, Illinois. There were no campgrounds in the area so we stopped at the local Wal-Mart. We were able to get a couple of geocaches near the Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, we did not notice that Wal-Mart was in close proximity to a train track. You guessed it....the trains went by all night long.

The next morning we headed to Hannibal, Missouri. We stopped at for gas at the Hannibal Wal-Mart. We unhooked the car in the parking lot and went in search of a Corps of Engineer Campground. The campgrounds in Hannibal had terrible reviews and we wanted to be out of town. We found John Hay Public Use Area across the Mississippi in East Hannibal, Illinois. There was one other camper parked there and it looked like a good spot for us.
From our site we could see the stern wheeler  Mark Twain docked at Hannibal.
After getting set up, we drove back to Hannibal to look around. We spotted our RV from the landing in Hannibal.
Once we got our bearings and saw what sights there were to choose from in Hannibal, we returned to the RV to plan our adventure for the following day. I was looking forward to a good night's sleep with no trains! Well, that wasn't to be. There was a train track that ran along the riverfront in Hannibal, across the river from us and the trains ran regularly all night long! Yikes!

The next morning, we drove back to Hannibal to tour the Mark Twain Museum. We started off by geocaching at the Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn Statue.
We crossed what used to be the on ramp to the original Mark Twain Memorial Bridge which was built in 1935. Now it is an overlook of the Mississippi River. When the bridge was first built, it had a recurring problem in the summer---mayflies were attracted to the lights. The mayflies would be 2 inches thick on the span creating hazardous driving conditions. A snowplow was used to clear the mayflies from the bridge. The original bridge was demolished in 2001. The new bridge spans the Mississippi River just a few hundred yards north of this site.
Then we climbed the stairs to the memorial lighthouse. The first lighthouse was dedicated in 1935, but it was destroyed by high winds in 1960. This is the new lighthouse. The steps you see are just a small portion of the 246 you have to climb to get to the lighthouse.
Here, Bob is on his way down another section of the steps.
From the lighthouse, we toured Mark Twain Museum. It included his boyhood home, complete with the fence Tom Sawyer had to whitewash in the book.
We also visited 'Huck Finn's' house and 'Becky Thatcher's' house. The characters were based on people Mark Twain grew up with in Hannibal. After a visit to the Mark Twain Museum, we decided to have lunch at the Mark Twain Brewery and Pub, of course!
We had a delicious lunch and specialty brews at the pub, then we headed out of town to take a look at Mark Twain Cave and Lover's Leap. The cave didn't appeal to us, so we didn't take the tour. We did go to Lover's Leap and find a geocache. The leap is fenced off so no one else can take a leap.
I took a panoramic photo of Hannibal from Lover's Leap. You might even be able to see our RV across the river.
As always when camped near a river, we like to watch river traffic.

Late in the afternoon, the riverboat Queen of the Mississippi departed from Hannibal heading south toward New Orleans.
 After dark, the lights of Hannibal cast a nice glow on the Mississippi.

Bob and I had a good time in Hannibal, but we were looking forward to finding a camp site AWAY from trains!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Potosi, Wisconsin

Our next stop was Potosi,Wisconsin. It was a little over an hour from Gays Mills. Potosi is home to the National Brewery Museum! And right across the street from the brewery and museum was a winery!
 We started off parking in the special events parking area.
 Our first stop was Whispering Cliffs Winery where I chose a bottle of red wine after tasting five different wines. Then it was off to the brewery. There were many types of memorabilia in the museum---from old bottles, to advertisements, to cans, to equipment.
This cave behind the building was the only place where the brewers could chill the beer as part of the brewing process.
Bob and I enjoyed seeing the old advertisements for beers we had heard about long ago.
This beer is for a beer Bob's dad and uncle used to drink when they lived in Ohio.
There were also antique steins in the collection.
This is an old bottle filling machine. It could fill six bottles at a time!
 Then there was the keg washer.
 To me, these looked like old oil cans, but they were the first type of beer cans. Notice the screw tops.
 It was a very interesting place to visit. 

After looking at the map, we found that there was a Corps of Engineers campground just west of town on the Mississippi River. We decided to stay there instead of the brewery. We could get electric hook-ups for $10. After setting up camp at Grant River Recreation Area we headed off to geocache and explore the area.

We drove south to Dickeyville to visit the Grotto and Shrines at Holy Ghost Parish. There was a virtual geocache located there and it sounded interesting. This is the front of the grotto, the work of Father Matthias Wernerus who was pastor from 1918 to 1931.  He built the shrine to show his love of God and his country.
 Father Wernerus collected items from all over the world to use in building the grotto. There were pieces of colored tiles, sea shells, gearshift knobs, petrified wood, antiques, onyx, river rocks and many, many other items. In the section dedicated to country, were statues of Lincoln, Washington and Christopher Columbus. It was quite an interesting collection.
 We also stopped to geocache at an old lead mine that produced most of the bullets for Union soldiers in the Civil War. There was not much left of the furnace, just stones stacked in the hill by the side of a country road.

That night at the campground, we had a beautiful sunset over the Mississippi River.
 Grant River Recreation Area was a nice campground, but its location was not so good. There were two train tracks within 100 yards of the campground and the trains were very regular all night long! We should have stayed in the brewery parking lot---who needs electricity anyway........

Wisconsin--Land of Cheese and Beer!

Bob and I knew we wanted to spend some time in Wisconsin as I had never been there. He made reservations at Highland Ridge Campground in the Eau Galle Recreation Area. It looked to be a central spot for us to explore southwestern Wisconsin. When we left Leech Lake Dam Recreation Area we planned to spend one night on the road before reaching our reserved destination. As we were traveling, we decided to go all the way to Highland Ridge. Our reservation was for Monday through Saturday, but we arrived on Monday. There were only a few campers in the campground so we thought our site might be available....not to be! The people in the site were having so much fun that they extended through Sunday night. Oh, well, we picked another site nearby and would move on Monday.

In preparation for our stay, Bob found a bicycle trail with geocaches all along the trail. Our first order of business on Monday was to find the trailhead in Woodville. As we drove into Woodville, school was just letting out for the day . We saw three young Amish children walking home. As we turned another corner nearer to town, we spotted a young Amish student driving a wagon being pulled by two horses. The young man was standing to drive the wagon and  sitting on the floor in the back were either his siblings or neighbors. The wagon was moving right along with a  steady clip clop clip clop.We found the trailhead, then returned to the campground to move the RV to its site for the week.
Tuesday we met our friends Ed and Doreen in East St. Paul. They were on their way home to Iowa after visiting their oldest daughter Michelle in northern Wisconsin. We met Ed and Doreen when Bob was stationed at Loring AFB in  Maine. Ed just retired after 42 years in the Iowa Air National Guard.
We tried to find a Mexican restaurant--the one recommended was closed for remodeling--so the best we could do was Buffalo Wild Wings.
Wednesday we went geocaching along the bike trail. The trail goes from Woodville south to Spring Valley. On Tuesday we hiked out three miles, found all the geocaches on that section of the trail and hiked back to the trailhead in Woodville. We scouted around and found another parking area where we could start the next section of the trail another day.

Later that afternoon, we drove into Spring Valley. On our way we saw a place we just had to stop--Cady Cheese Factory & Shop. It was a small shop, but they had many different varieties of cheese. Bob and I purchased some cheddar cheese curds to take back to the RV. MMMMM, squeaky cheese!
 From the cheese factory we headed on in to Spring Valley. We looked in the gift shop of Crystal Cave. It is the longest cave in Wisconsin. We just missed the last tour of the day. We did find several caches in town.

Another day we drove over to Menomonie and took Highway 25 south to Caddie Woodlawn County Park. The house that Caroline Woodhouse grew up in is located at the park. She was the inspiration for Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink--her granddaughter.
 The farmhouse is intact on the property. It used to have a kitchen addition behind the main house, but it is no longer standing.
 Also located in the park is an old building that historians believed was used as a schoolhouse for the Woodhouse children and their neighbors.
 From the park, we continued south to another cheese factory--Eau Galle Cheese and Gifts. This store was larger than Cady, and it had many local gifts as well as cheese and ice cream. It was a warm day, so we treated ourselves to some delicious ice cream. Then it was time for us to head back to the RV.

Wednesday we went geocaching along the next section of bike trail. Again, we hiked three miles out and then returned to the car. This time, we failed to find one of the caches. We met two other cachers and warned them of the one we couldn't find. Bob looked on-line the next day and they hadn't found that elusive cache, either.
 Thursday, we stopped by Wal-Mart in Menomonie and got our flu shots. After that we headed to Chippewa Falls and the Leinenkugel Brewery. We took the tour of the brewery. The building in the back on the right is one of the original buildings from the 1890s.
The original spring water came from this spring house. You are not allowed to take pictures inside the brewery, but you do get to sample the products!
Bob and I joined the others from our tour to sample five beers each. I liked each one I sampled except the IPL.
Bob liked the IPL so I traded mine for his Red Lager. It was a good trade!
Friday and Saturday we did some more geocaching along the bike trail and in a local forest that is primarily used for education. We had a great time in the Spring Valley area, but it was time to move further south. Sunday, we left  and headed for Sunrise Orchards, a member of Harvest Hosts, located in Gays Mill, Wisconsin. When we arrived, the place was jam-packed with families out for a Sunday drive. There were all sorts of activities going on. Bob and I couldn't get in the parking lot with the RV so we parked alongside the highway---with many other cars. We walked around the area and were impressed with everything apple. Since it is October, harvest decorations were everywhere.
 There were also pumpkins everywhere.
 After everyone cleared out, we were able to get the RV turned around and parked in the parking lot. This was our view from the RV windows.
 And of course, here is a picture of our 'campsite.'
 When we arrived on Sunday, there wasn't a cart to be seen. But Monday morning, that all changed. You probably can't tell from this picture, but each row has about 20 carts!
 The 'horse' corral was also quiet. Bob and I went in and purchased some goodies before leaving the orchard.
Our next stop was also a member of Harvest Hosts. I wonder what that business will be......

Friday, October 2, 2015

Time to Explore Minnesota

Once we left Grand Forks, North Dakota, we were in Minnesota! Again, we followed US 2 until we got to the small town of Bena. We turned south and made our way eight miles to Federal Dam, Minnesota. Leech Lake Dam Recreation area is there and that is where we would camp for the next five nights. The campground was far away from any major town, so it was nice and quiet. After getting settled in, we started looking at brochures of things to see and do in the area.
 It looked like the weather wasn't going to cooperate in this area, either. The forecast called for cloudy, cool days with light rains for most of our stay. We planned our days around the forecast. Our first day, we tried to geocache our way to Bemidji. In the t.v. show How I Met Your Mother, the character Marshall is from Bemidji. It is a nice small town. We were going to the visitor center, but it was closed while the parking lot was being paved. We moved on to Lake Bemidji State Park. We found a few caches, but then we didn't look for many.
There was a nice hiking trail near the day use area. After eating our lunch, we decided the rain was going to hold off long enough for us to get a short hike around the edge of the lake.
The paved trail was dry, but the paths through the woods were still wet from previous rains.
We enjoyed being able to get out and explore even with the bad weather.
You can see the clouds building across the lake from the park. We headed back toward the campground, hoping to get there before the rain caught up with us.
Another day we headed east from the campground to do some geocaching.We found the cache hidden under this caboose in  Hill City.
 Our last stop for the day was in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. This used to be the courthouse, but now it houses 'unique' shops. One thing we noticed in Minnesota is that everyone has nice green grass in the yards and around town. It must not be as hard to keep it green and weed free as it is in Florida
We watched the weather and found a good day to go to Lake Itasca State Park. It was about 45 miles from our campground, but Bob and I both wanted to see the headwaters of the Mississippi River. We wished we had been camped closer to the park as it had a lot for us to do. After registering at the visitor center we off to find to the headwaters. We parked at the picnic area and hiked to the headwaters after we ate our lunch.
 The Mississippi River flows north for a ways before heading south toward the Gulf of Mexico.
 I was going to walk across the rocks at the headwaters, but they were loose and slippery. Without my hiking sticks, I wasn't going to attempt to go any further! The grass you see growing in the lake is Minnesota wild rice. People in the area still harvest and use wild rice from local lakes.
 I did walk the log a bit further along the river.
 Bob and I followed the wooden boardwalk to find Schoolcraft trail. Mr. Schoolcraft is credited with finding the headwaters with the help of some natives from the  Ojibwa tribe.
 On our way back to the car we passed a replica of one of the first stores on the lake. To the right of the store, in the fenced area, is what is left of the original store.
 Logging was a big part of the development of this part of Minnesota. The is one of the sleds that was used to get the timber to the river to float it to the mill. The wood is not original, but the metal parts are!
 The park has a 21 mile drive around the lake. At one stop is the oldest white pine in the park. It was so tall neither of us could get the whole tree in one picture.
 From the white pine, it on to Aitlon Fire Tower. It is one of many surviving fire towers in this portion of Minnesota, and the only one open at this time of year for people to climb. Yes, we climbed the tower!
 The views from the top were awesome!
 We could look in every direction and see the tops of the trees and lakes. We could see more of a color change from above the trees.
 After touring the park we stopped in the lodge to have a beer. To our surprise, the local draft craft beer was only $3! In some of the other lodges where we have stopped this trip, beer has been as much as $11! It was a nice lodge, and we arrived at the right time---it closed for the season the next week!

The following day we found one of the trailheads for the Heartland/Paul Bunyan bicycle trail. We still don't have bicycles, but it is easier to hike and find geocaches than ride bikes to find them (too much stopping and starting when caches are 1/10 of a mile apart. One of the interesting things we've seen at local bike trails is the bicycle tune-up center. It has everything you might need to repair a bicycle.
 The Heartland/Paul Bunyan trail was long and level! Minnesota is definitely the land of 10,000 lakes. The trail had lakes along both sides.  In total, the trail is over 200 miles long! We found most of the geocaches along the section of trail we walked.
 In some areas, the trees were changing colors. In other places, the leaves had fallen, making finding caches a little harder. It also made snakes a little harder to see. Yes, we are back in the land of snakes. Since arriving in the lower 48, I have spotted 6 snakes---one was a small rattler, the others were pine snakes.
We enjoyed our stay at Leech Lake, but it was time to move on. Our next stop---a new state for me---Wisconsin!