Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bridges of Madison County

Once we discovered yesterday that we were in Madison County, we knew we wanted to visit the covered bridges. When you travel the back roads through the heart of Madison County, you can see the largest group of covered bridges that exists in one area west of the Mississippi River.

Five of the original 20 covered bridges (plus one that was rebuilt) remain. The original five are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Madison County has a Bridge Festival every fall. The money used helped to restore all of the bridges during the 1980s.

The bridges were originally covered by order of the County Board of Supervisors to help preserve the large flooring timbers which were more expensive to replace than the lumber covering the sides and the roof. Most of the construction work was done by farmers to pay their poll taxes. The bridges were usually named for the nearest resident.

The closest one to Winterset is the Cutler-Donahoe bridge which was built in 1870. (Both adjacent neighbors claimed the bridge, hence the hyphenated name.)


From there we went to the Holliwell Bridge which was built in 1880 --

The next one we saw was near the little town of St. Charles. The Imes Bridges was built in 1870 --


Cedar Bridge is the one that was rebuilt in 1984 after being burned down by young man who was attempting to burn out his and his ex-girl friends initials (according to the story told us by the lady in the gift shop at Roseman). It is the only bridge that you are still able to drive through!


Hogback Bridge was built in 1884 and sits on its original site (many of the others have been moved once or even twice.)


Roseman Bridge looks very similar to Hogback. Built in 1883, it is the star of the movie, Bridges of Madison County --


All of the bridges were quite covered with graffiti. They seemed to be a popular place for couples to immortalize their infatuation. It looks like the front portions of all the bridges are frequently repainted.

There was a Gift Shop across the creek from Roseman Bridge -- and the lady there actually sold Sharpies to use to write on the walls! She also told us how the movie crew had come in and sand-blasted the paint on the bridge and removed some of the boards to make it look older, then restored it when they were done shooting.

I got a chuckle out of this bridge replica birdhouse at the gift shop. It actually had an active nest in it.

Our friend Leslie bought a DVD of the Bridges of Madison County with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood at the gift shop. Because Forry and Bill had not seen it, we sat and watched it when we got home last night.

Monday, July 30, 2012

John Wayne!

One of the things our friend Leslie wanted to do while they were in Iowa was to visit John Wayne's birthplace. Her grandfather had been a great fan and she has fond memories of watching many movies with him.

Winterset, Iowa is only about a half hour from the Adventureland Campground. They have a very nice Visitor Center. When we arrived there we realized that Winterset is in Madison County -- the home of the covered bridges! (I'll write about our visit to the bridges tomorrow.)

Across the street from the Visitor Center is this magnificent courthouse made from locally quarried limestone.

A few blocks away from there is this statue of The Duke himself -- with Bill and Leslie posing in front --

The statue was donated to the Winterset community by John Wayne's family --

At the John Wayne Visitor Center and Gift Shop, you could purchase your own full-size cut-out for only $32 dollars...

We went on tour of the tiny four-room house that newlyweds Clyde and Mary Brown Morrison lived for the first four years of  their married life. Marion Robert Morrison was born May 26, 1907. His parents' first child, he weighed a whopping thirteen pounds!

Like most places we've been, no pictures were allowed inside the tiny house. It is filled with an impressive collection of John Wayne memorabilia, including hundreds of rare photographs.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Yellow Taxi

We have spent some fun hours in the Yellow Taxi named Sunny over the last couple of years. With the folding chaise chairs, the spare suitcases, my folding trike, case of oil, etc., there is no excess space in the Toad. In fact, it's been a long time since the back seats have even been folded up. Our friends Leslie and Bill, on the other hand, always seem to have room for us in their rig and we end up riding with them.

This morning we took the Yellow Taxi to the Village Inn nearby for a fabulous brunch. They have a special breakfast that is sort of like a Chinese Menu. They have four columns of food listed and you choose four items from the long lists for breakfast. Forry ended up with an omelet plus pork sausages plus a biscuit and gravy AND pancakes! I shouldn't talk as I had my 2 eggs over easy, bacon, french toast and cinnamon apples... Leslie and Bill did as well, though I think Bill had sausage instead of bacon.

Leslie had to work this afternoon, so Forry and Bill made a trip to Lowes while I stayed home and enjoyed the quiet. Leslie worked from 2 until 9, so I fixed some snacks late this afternoon for me and the guys, then Bill barbecued a marinated flank steak for supper when she got back to the campground (which is just adjacent to Adventureland Park.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Driving Through Iowa

We continued to follow Interstate 89 today west across Iowa. Many of the cornfields looked okay, but some of them are obviously showing the effects of the drought --

It started to rain soon after we left North Liberty and kept it up almost all the way to Altoona. It's interesting to hear speculation about the rains and the crops -- "Is it too little, too late?"

We arrived at Adventureland Campground a little after two-thirty. It was good to see our friend Bill out walking just after we checked in at the office! It's been a long time since they left us in Florida to head north for their summer jobs here at Adventureland. Leslie was already off at work, so we will not get to see her until the park closes at ten tonight.

Bill took Forry and I out for a wonderful dinner at a nearby  Mongolian Wok. I had been thinking about making stir-fry for dinner, so thought it was a great idea.

When we got back, we walked around the campground a bit. This is part of a lovely flower garden a couple of sites down from us. I wish I knew what this gorgeous vine is --

This vegetable garden actually has some cabbages and tomato plants. Bill said it has been a big job for the lady to keep it wet enough during the extremely hot weather they have had here all month.

We stayed up and watched the Olympic Opening Ceremony from London last night. What an interesting funky spectacle it was. I really liked the tongue-in-cheek British sense of humor. I chortled when Queen Elizabeth parachuted from the helicopter,,,!

Friday, July 27, 2012


We had stayed at the small KOA near LaSalle, Indiana last night. It is a lovely little park that we would have stayed at for another night, but they did not have any space. It was kind of interesting to see that this morning almost everyone had left, but to know they will be completely full again by tonight!

As we left Indiana, we kept looking at the fields of corn, trying to see if we could detect the damage from the drought. Some of the fields look stunted with short stalks.

We drove all except the last few miles on Interstate 80 (fortunately no longer a toll road). After we crossed the Iowa state border (the Mississippi River), we stopped at their Welcome Center to pick up an Iowa map. I do like the signs at their rest area!

I was surprised to see this historical plaque at the rest area. I knew about the Mormon handcarts, but hadn't realized they had started this far east. The mid-eighteenth century migration of Mormon converts was the direct result of Mormon missionaries in Europe. To think they walked all the way from here to Salt Lake City pulling hand carts with all their belongings. The sign went on to tell of the success of the first three groups, but how the 4th and 5th groups started too late in the summer and lost many of their number to snow and cold in the mountains.

We drove as far as North Liberty, Iowa to Colony Country Campground. Isn't that a neat hex sign on their office building?

This is another very neat, very nice small campground with just 45 RV sites. We will only stay here the one night as we are looking forward to meeting up with our friends at Adventureland near Altoona tomorrow.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cheers for Stuart's Service!

Auntie Violet has been feeling a bit cantankerous lately. She's let us know by pushing out the bedroom slide (slide #2) as we've traveled down the road. She doesn't push it very far, just about two inches. We stop after about an hour or so and push the button to put it back in, then she's usually pretty good about it until we get to our next location and by then it's out about two inches again...

Knowing she was having a bit of a problem, we deliberately scheduled a stop in Elkhart, Indiana so that we could visit STUART'S SERVICE, an authorized HWH repair shop. We had stopped there last October on our way through so that they could install some new hydraulic hoses for us.

We made an appointment for 10:30 this morning and headed to County Road 6 in the midst of scattered rain showers.

Chuck Stuart and his crew very quickly took Auntie Violet into the shop and found that she had a leaking valve. They very quickly adjusted it, then added more hydraulic fluid to replace what she had lost. They then kept her for a another 30 minutes to make sure that the valve would not leak again.

We cannot say enough positive about Stuart's Service. They know what they are doing and take care of things very professionally. We were charged for only one half hour of shop time plus the cost of the hydraulic fluid.

By noon we were back on the road. We took Interstate 80/90 across the remainder of Indiana and on into Illinois. There were ten lanes of traffic! There were a few times when we were hemmed in by semi trucks on both sides and in front and back -- not the most pleasant driving!

We are re-tracing a bit of our route from last fall, but will veer off in order to visit Iowa and Wisconsin which are two of the four states we have not yet covered in the "lower 48."

We settled in at the LaSalle/Peru KOA for the night. This is a very pretty nice little park near Utica, Illinois. We'd like to have stayed for a couple of nights, but they are booked solid for the weekend. We'll head on to N. Liberty, Iowa tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

People Watching

Elkhart Campground is a busy place. In addition to what looks like several fairly permanent RVs (flower beds and walks around the rigs), there is a great deal of overnight traffic. In the two nights we've been here, we have had new neighbors twice on one side and three times on the other. These are nice long pull-through sites, so many of them don't even unhook from their tow vehicles.

This afternoon, in contrast, the folks who pulled in on our driver's side set up a major camp. While the sites are nice and long, they are also fairly narrow. I could look out the window as I sat on the couch reading and see how their dinner was coming along on their barbecue which was set up right outside our slide-out.

Sometimes I feel a bit guilty about my people watching as the windows on Auntie Violet are reflective and during daylight hours no one can see in while we can look out without being seen...

Sometimes I wish people could see through them -- especially those dog owners who look around and make sure no one is watching when they decide to walk on without picking up after their animals!

It was raining again this morning and so overcast it seemed almost like twilight. There were hardly any people out and about. Then the sun came back out this afternoon and the walkers appeared. There are not many children at this park like there have been at the last few parks and we have not had lots of bicycles flying around.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Das Dutchman Essenhaus

It was hot when we went to bed last night. I actually ended up getting up and turning the air conditioner back on as even with the fans running, the open windows weren't cooling anything off. About one thirty major rumbling woke me up. The old story about the Norsemen playing ten pins in the sky came to mind as the heavens rumbled and roared. It wasn't like the usual thunderstorm where you have lightening and then loud booms. This was just a constant grumbling that lasted for several hours. Somewhere in there, it began to rain as well, finally cooling things down.

It was still raining when we got up this morning, but it was blissfully cool. The sky gradually cleared off and it began to get hot again about three in the afternoon.

Toward evening, we got in the Toad and drove the seventeen miles to Middlebury to Das Dutchman Essnhaus, an Amish style restaurant owned by Bob and Sue Miller.

I met Sue when I was first elected to serve on the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board. She was a veteran Board Member and a great mentor to a newbie. While their children have pretty much taken over the day-to-day management of the restaurant and conference center (as well as their other restaurant in Sarasota, Florida), the lady at the front desk says that Sue still comes in once a week or so.

We had some very good chicken pot pie for dinner and Forry splurged and had a piece of peanut butter chocolate banana cream pie for dessert.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Elkhart, Indiana -- 101 Degrees!

Oh, what a miserably hot day! We thought it was going to be cool and rainy -- a good traveling day as it was overcast this morning with an occasional drop of rain.

But, by the time we had everything packed up and put away and had the tanks dumped, the sky had cleared and it was beginning to get hot.We drove most of the way on Interstate 80/90 which is again a toll road in Ohio. ($14.75 to the Ohio Turnpike Commission) The corn and soybean fields were still quite green in Ohio, but the further west we drove, the more stressed they looked. Some of them really look dried out already...

I hope the price we paid for diesel today isn't an indication of what's going to be happening more as we go west. We paid  $3.959 a gallon today in Indiana; a full fifty cents more than we paid in New York just a week ago! And that's with the eight cents per gallon Pilot discount...

We drove back into Elkhart Campground (we were here last October) about 3:30 this afternoon. I debated whether to pay the extra $3 for a 50 amp site, but since we've been staying at 30 amp places the last couple of weeks, I decided to go ahead and splurge for the 50 amp. We're on the south side of the campground in a pull-through site. By the time I got the electric and water hooked up and Forry got the jack pads down, we were dripping wet. The thermometer read 101 degrees!

Thank goodness for 50 amps. We turned on BOTH air conditioners and just collapsed for a half hour or so. It's 10 PM and it's still 88 degrees outside.

We turned on the TV to watch the Mariners game a few minutes ago only to hear that Ichiro has been traded to the Yankees today! He's wearing a Yankee uniform for the game tonight!!! ;-(

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Marblehead Lighthouse

After it cooled down a bit this afternoon (dropped down to 93 degrees...) we went for a drive to check out the area. There's a nearby wildlife refuge along the Portage River where we spotted a Great Blue Heron and a couple geese, but that was about it.

So we decided to drive on to Port Clinton and out to see the Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie --

Compared to the lighthouses we saw in Maine, this lighthouse is not very tall, standing only 49 feet high. It was automated in 1958 and sends a light flash every six seconds.

The shore around the lighthouse is very rocky. It seemed to be a very popular fishing spot. People started arriving with lawn chairs, sort of setting up camp along the shore.

Looking back at the lighthouse from the shore. The sign said there were 77 steps up to the top, but since it was already after six o'clock when we arrived, the interior was closed.

It was much cooler by the lake with a nice breeze. We just sat for a while and watched the sun begin to set --

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Quiet Day

Showers and laundry, reading and naps. Today was definitely a quiet day.

I made bacon and tomato sandwiches for lunch. The expensive heirloom tomatoes I bought at Costco yesterday tasted better then the other ones I had bought at the store, but still don't have the flavor that ones grown in the earth do!

The RV park began to fill up for the weekend yesterday afternoon and is about half full today. There are enough youngsters on bikes riding around that the geese gave up and flew away.

I have quite a few pictures that I have taken in the last few days, but the Internet here is so spotty and so bad I have not been able to upload any of them. I have tried using both our AT&T air card and our Verizon Hot Spot. Neither of them have good access... ;-(

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Trip to Costco

Man, did it ever pour last night! Sometime during the night it began raining so hard it actually woke us up. The wind was blowing pretty hard and driving the rain against the motorhome. It sounded like someone was washing the side with a fire hose.

This morning it was overcast and gloomy with occasional showers. There were lots of puddles in all the roads through the campground at Erie Resort. The flock of geese that inhabit the place were having a good time eating the wet grass. At one time I counted 47 of the birds in three different groups around the motorhome.

I looked up Costco addresses on the internet and found three in the area. The one in Toledo was the closest, so we headed in that direction. By the time we got there, the clouds had disappeared and the sky was blue. I had taken along a jacket as it was chilly when we left, but needed the air conditioner instead.

We had not been near a Costco for quite some time, so re-stocked our larder this afternoon. We were able to get some gorgeous Ranier cherries and some apricots from Yakima, Washington. I got a chuckle out of the greenhouse heirloom tomatoes they were selling. They had six of them in a plastic box for $6.99. I wonder if they have the flavor of the ones Brother Patrick grows?

And of course, we had to eat dinner out -- Forry does love his Costco Polish dogs!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Back to Ohio

Three more states today! We spent most of the day on Interstate 90. Of course, in New York, 90 is a toll road. It cost us another $14.15 to get out of the State of New York.

We cut across the corner of Pennsylvania along Lake Erie, then followed I-90 into Ohio. In Cleveland, I-90 takes a pretty sharp ninety degree turn. There are big signs a long way ahead of time telling traffic to slow to 35 miles per hour to take the turn. When we got close to the turn, traffic had slowed down almost to a standstill. It took us almost an hour to make our way around the turn. We were passed by both police cars and an ambulance. When we finally got to the actual turn, most of the lanes were blocked by a fire truck. There were a couple of mangled cars and rescuers were working with the Jaws of Life on the back seat of one of the cars...

NOT what you want to see happen!

State Highway 2 split off from I-90 towards Sandusky Bay. We crossed the Bay towards Port Clinton, then took Highway 93 to Erie Islands Resort & Marina. The portion of the RV park we are in only has a few RVs, but lots of Canadian geese. I counted 47 in a flock of them that were mowing the grass this evening.

It's a good thing we both grew up on a farm and learned early to watch where we walked!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Think We've Done Niagara Falls...

We were both tired today! Forry had to be a bit organized early as the Honey Wagon guy was here at 9 AM to empty our gray and black tanks. We spent some time vacuuming and picking up getting ready for tomorrow's move. I washed and changed the sheets, then read my Kindle a good share of the afternoon. Forry's been alternately napping and working on his Sudoku.

It was again very hot today, but we are west of the horrendous thunderstorms that were hitting eastern New York and New Jersey this afternoon. The outside thermometer was hitting 99 degrees, but Auntie Violet's air conditioner kept it quite comfortable inside.

The New York State Park fold have made arrangements with Kodak and there are photographers all over the park -- as well as at Skylon Tower last night. We did break down and buy this photo of the two of us at the Cave of the Winds yesterday.

I took a flank steak out of the freezer this afternoon and grilled it for supper along with some caramelized sweet onions and peppers. It was sure a lot more flavorful then that expensive tasteless meal we had last night at Skylon Towers! I had a Filet Mignon with a Bearnaise sauce that was just flat tasting -- no seasoning whatsoever. Forry had prime rib and he said that it's a good thing they served horse radish with it as that was all that made it palatable! Such a disappointment. I guess we have gotten used to restaurants and chefs who delight in making interesting meals with fresh ingredients that are a delight to eat. As one of the reviews I read today said, "You definitely go there for the view, not the food!"

We've definitely done Niagara Falls and have pretty much seen most of it. We both agree that we enjoyed the Jet Boat ride through the rapids the most, followed by the Maid of the Mist boat trip. In fact, I wouldn't mind going on the Jet Boats again!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Stay Out of Canada!

The Cave of the Winds -- another opportunity to get wet on a VERY hot day!

We turned in our tickets (part of the Discovery Pack we had purchased on-line) and were given another poncho -- yellow this time -- and a pair of sandals. Then you headed down a long tunnel which had been hollowed in the rock of the gorge. From there you rode the elevator to the bottom.

 This area of the Niagara Gorge is loaded with birds (note the complete covering of guano on this rock!). These are Double Crested Cormorants.

The Ring-Billed Gull nests in the rocks. This is a good picture of the webbed feet --

This is one of the chicks fledged this spring. He doesn't yet have the ring around his bill.

We got good advice from the elevator operator who recommended we NOT suit up until we got to the end of the pavement. The ponchos are just too hot and they weren't needed until then --

The actual original cave no longer exists, but this scaffolding structure is rebuilt every spring to allow people to get close to the Falls --

 You really do get close to the action --

After we dried out a bit from the Cave, we took the trolley around the Niagara Falls State Park. We saw a few of the other areas of the Park, including the bridge over the American Rapids and Goat Island.

Our plan was to cross over to the Canadian side, eat dinner, then watch the lights on the Falls when it got dark. We called our insurance company this morning and they emailed us a statement of coverage in Canada. I got our passports out of the tin box and we thought we were ready to go.

We drove down Rainbow Boulevard and over Rainbow Bridge, paying the $3.50 toll. Then pulled into line for the Canadian border check. We waited in line for about twenty minutes, then pulled up to the agent's booth. She asked a whole bunch of questions and didn't seem to like it when we told her we lived full-time in an RV. She asked twice where the RV was; where our mailing address was; why did our jeep have Washington plates?

Then told us to pull into the parking area. Another agent met us there and asked to look through the car. He did a rather cursory look through it without taking anything out, then told us to go inside the building.

Once inside we waited in line for 25 minutes; when we got to the front of the line, the agent told us to get into the other line for immigration (it was a l-o-n-g line extending the length of the building with people three and four deep in line and every chair along the wall filled. When I asked the agent what we were there for, he got very snotty and said, "You're coming into our country. We can make you go through immigration just like your country does!"

So we get in the long line. There are five computer stations here, but NO agents. Finally one woman comes and starts processing people. She calls them up, takes their passports and tells them to go sit down (though there are no empty chairs) and she'll call them when she's ready. She processes three groups of people, then gets up and leaves. In the meantime, there are anywhere from three to five agents in uniform standing in the back of the room talking. Occasionally one would walk up to a computer station, get a coffee cup or a water bottle and walk back out.

This is a small portion of the line as we got closer to the front (I was a bit hesitant to be taking pictures even with my cell phone.) I counted 78 people in the line!

Finally another guy and then another came out and started processing people. TWO HOURS after we had arrived, we finally got called to the desk. The agent barely glanced at our passports, asked us how long we were staying and told us we could leave... Absolutely no explanation, no paperwork, nothing!

 We drove along Falls Boulevard and got some good glimpses of the Falls. We were going to park and take a closer look, but the parking area was a long walk from the Falls and they were charging $20 to park. So we decided just to go to dinner instead. This is the Skylon Tower with a revolving restaurant WAY UP there on the top!

 Can you see the little yellow elevator going up the side?

We had an okay, but very pricey dinner while we watched the Niagara and Toronto communities go by. After dinner we went up another story to the Observation Deck and got a couple of pictures of the American Falls --

And the Canadian Horseshoe Falls lit up at night --

After our earlier experience,we were a little concerned about going back through the American customs. There were three lanes open when we arrived and we waited about fifteen minutes for our turn. As more cars arrived and the lines got more then five cars deep, they kept opening more lines. By the time we got to the front of our line, they had six lines open!

The agent asked us how long we'd been in Canada and if we'd bought anything? He noticed the hitch on the front of the Jeep and commented that we must have left our RV in the US, then wished us good evening and sent us on our way...