Thursday, July 31, 2014

I'm Catching Up

I'm finally writing about the state that we're still in.  We left the comfort of Mike's driveway and moved the 22 miles to the Moose in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  This Moose has electrical hookups, but thankfully we were in the Polar Vortex and didn't need them.  The Moose Lodge is in a nice quiet area and we really appreciate not having to dodge campfires.

Every Saturday there is a wonderful farmers market/craft show/whatever downtown and this Saturday also happened to be the annual 'Taste of Wisconsin'.  You would not believe all the people at both events.

Yep, this is Wisconsin.

I asked these girls if they were like 'Two Broke Girls', the TV show about two girls trying to start a cupcake business.  They said yes, but there are four of them.

Something that was being sold in another booth was cronuts - a cross between a croissant and a donut.  We had to try one.
It was airy in the center like a croissant, but kind of tasteless.  It needed lots more sugar.  We ate it anyway because we paid good money for it.

Ron was happy with his brat and beer.  (Note the wrist band designating him as old enough to drink.)

I really liked Kenosha.  It's one of those towns that is just the right size and, with its location right on Lake Michigan, it's very picturesque.

And we discovered the best grocery store there - Woodman's.  It is a chain, but only in Wisconsin and Illinois.  Their selection is unbelievable.  Ron only cared that they had his Danish Kringle.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Illinois Wrap Up

Although we spent 9 days in Illinois, I have almost no pictures.  What's up with that?  Since so many of the COE campgrounds were closed, we moved up river to Mississippi Palisades State Park.  Illinois, like Iowa, does not charge a day use fee for their state parks and this beautiful park was a reasonable $10 for dry camping.

We did a little hiking to the park overlooks.  The Mississippi is the far waterway, out where the bridge is.

The view the other direction is not the river, but backwater.  I don't know how much of that is normal and how much is flood water.

Look!  Two for the price of one.

The park was absolutely beautiful, but, even though it was mid-week and almost empty, we ended up with the smokers near us.  These people pulled in, immediately built their smoke (not worthy of being called a fire) and it looked just like this the whole time they and we were there.  Maybe they were trying to send smoke signals.
(Look at them just sitting in the smoke.)

We moved on to Chain O' Lakes State Park for a night and I have no pictures.  Not one.  I think I was just too hot.  Then we 'moochdocked' in Ron's brother's driveway for three nights, in the northeast corner of Illinois.

It was not an accident, but rather exceptional planning, that had us arriving just in time to attend Ron's high school reunion in southern Wisconsin.  I don't know who all those old guys are with Ron.

I actually had a really good time and it was fun to watch Ron with all his friends.  His best friend growing up was Jim in the center of the back row.  Oh, the trouble they got into.

The women were all very nice and made me feel welcome, although I talked mostly to one of the wives Diane, who is also an RVer.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Into Illinois

Like our time in Nebraska, we were also in Iowa for nine days.  That seems to be our normal speed for passing through a state.  In fact, I just checked (since I'm still way behind on the blog) and we also spent nine days in Illinois!

Our first stop in Illinois was at Fisherman's Corner near Moline.  This and one other were the only Corps of Engineer campgrounds not closed due to flooding along the Illinois section of the Mississippi River.  We could see dam number 14 from the campground.  I wanted to get a close up of one of the pretty lotus flowers in the foreground, but it would have involved getting wet.  Ron did offer me the use of his fishing waders, but I declined.

The pelicans were very interested in what came over the dam along with the water.

As you might know, Moline, IL, is the home of John Deere.  I reluctantly joined Ron to visit the John Deere Pavilion - ho hum.  But wait!  They let you climb on them.  I guess that's to keep the kids like me interested.

And Ron debated if he could tow this giant combine behind the RV.

But there was something there that grabbed the interest and imagination of both of us.  This logging machine walked!

There was a video that showed it in operation.  It seems it isn't widely used because, although it works well on uneven or soft ground, it is much slower that a standard crawler under normal circumstances.

Next we went to the Mississippi River Visitor Center in Rock Island.  I love locks.  From their viewing platform we could watch the whole process.  Here the gates are opening so the tug can push the barges in.

But the really cool thing at this lock is the swing bridge which rotates open

So the barges and tug can pass through.

The current bridge was completed in 1896 and, like its predecessor, is two tiered with the railroad utilizing the top tier and vehicular traffic on the lower.  Of course back then it was horse and wagon traffic on the lower.  The swing section is 365 feet and the entire bridge is 1608 feet.

It was interesting to me that the bridge was in place long before the lock and dam.  This lock and dam (number 15) was built in 1934, the first of 29 built between Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Granite City, Illinois.  They keep the channel at least 9-feet deep to allow for the barge traffic.  Conversely, the river can get too deep for safe navigation.  We were there on the first day that it was open after being shut down for 10 days due to flooding.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

More Iowa

We had a short stop at Rock Creek State Park near Grinnell, where we vowed to never again stay in a public campground on a weekend.  Even when the non-electric sites are fairly empty, the smoke from the campfires is just too much for us.  However we did have a nice view.

But we arrived on a Sunday at Coralville Lake, north of Iowa City, and had our pick of sites.  Since this is another Corps of Engineers lake, it's cheap enough even with electric.

As I mentioned previously, we had been seeing some minor flooding on our way across Iowa and Coralville Lake had its share with some sites under water.

Can you see the pavilion out in the water?

The water was pretty close to the top of the emergency spillway, but we were told it was actually receding.

We went to the visitors center and found there is something very special about this spillway.  Only twice since the dam was built in 1958 have flood waters flowed over the spillway, in 1993 and 2008.  The 1993 overflow continued for 28 days and carved out the Devonian Fossil Gorge below the spillway.  Fossils from 359 to 416 million years ago were exposed in the limestone.  And they're everywhere!
Hexagonaria, a fossil coral

Stalk of a Crinoid - an animal  that lived attached to the sea floor.

I couldn't find an exact match to this one in the literature.

Like I said, they're everywhere.  It's really pretty cool.

Our last stop in Iowa was at the HWH factory where we had a little work done on one of our jacks.  They have spots for the customers to stay overnight and even offer electricity.

While there, we dashed over to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library.  On the grounds is the house where he was born in 1874.

Although I think the modern presidents have more elaborate presidential libraries, it was very informative and well done.  We learned that he earned his wealth as a mining engineer and was acclaimed as 'the Great Humanitarian' because of his work organizing relief efforts for 57 nations over the course of his career.  Then he had the misfortune to be elected president right before the stock market crash and was blamed for the Great Depression.

My favorite Hoover quote - Fishing was a lesson in democracy because all men are equal before God and before fish.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Iowa Capitol Building

I had heard how beautiful the Iowa Capitol is and dragged Ron to tour it.  Built between 1871 and 1886, the exterior is certainly imposing with five domes.

The center one is gilded in 23 3/4 karat gold, that is 250,000th of an inch thick.

Standing in the rotunda, I almost fell over looking up into the dome.  (I guess that's why I didn't move just a bit and get the flag straight.)

We saw the Senate Chambers . . .

With the magnificent ceiling and chandeliers.

And the House of Representatives.

But I don't think I've ever seen the Library in any other capitol.  It contains approximately 100,000 law books and is stunning.

It's hard to believe, but we were told they still use this hand-cranked dumb-waiter to move the books.  I guess nobody cares about the poor librarian.

But the building had some other features that I found fascinating.  There was a collection of dolls depicting all of Iowa's first ladies in their inaugural gowns.  Before you ask, they have never had a female governor and our guide wasn't sure what they would do if that was the case in the future.

This picture above the doll case was pretty interesting.  Measuring 26 feet long and 6 feet high, it is an actual photograph of the Rainbow Division, 168th Infantry after its return from France in 1919.

The two statues at the base of the staircase have a story.  They originally belonged to Illinois and were destined for their capitol.  There were complaints that the statues were too scantily clad and Illinois asked Iowa if they wanted them.  How funny is that?

I loved the ceiling above the main entrance.

And this mural painting Westward by Edwin H. Blashfield of New York.  I like the thought of angels watching over those brave pioneers.

But my very favorite thing was this set of six mosaics made of small pieces of glass tile.  They were created by Frederick Dielman of New York who must have been a genius.
Not only are they gorgeous, but the perspective changes as you walk by them on the balcony.  For instance, this picture is taken from the left side . . .

And this is from the right.

See how her eyes follow you?  Spooky, huh?  Other panels seemed to change too.  In one, the feet of two boys seemed to change position.  That one didn't really show up in a picture, so you'll just have to go there.

One more picture of the building with some of the beautiful day lilies.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Saylorville Lake

Our next stop was at Saylorville Lake, a Corps of Engineers campground.  The COE campgrounds are always fantastic, but we did wonder what happened to the trail that was supposed to be here.

Now we've already seen hail, wind, and fire damage, and by the time we got halfway across Iowa, we were seeing some flooding.  Sad as that is, I would think that, give a choice, the farmers would rather lose a small part of their field, as opposed to experiencing the dust bowl we've heard about in Oklahoma and Texas.

Saylorville Lake was 41 1/2 feet above normal and the amount of water being released through the dam was pretty impressive.

One day we loaded the bikes in the back of the car and took off to Madrid to bike the High Trestle Trail, a paved rails-to-trails with a special bridge.

Under this overpass, someone had painted a really cool mural.  Unfortunately, there was no way to take the whole thing.

After a couple of miles, Ron wondered, is this it?  Nope, not spectacular enough.

THIS is it.  Dedicated in April 2011, the bridge is part of a 25 mile rails-to-trails bike path.

The steel cribbings are to commemorate coal mining, historically a major industry in the area.

Technically, the bridge is not a trestle, despite the name.  The concrete piers are from the railroad bridge that was built in 1971 to replace the 1912 trestle.  The bridge is 1/2 mile long and 130 feet above the river.

We continued another few miles to Woodward before returning for a total of 11.6 miles.  Wimps that we are, we were ready to stop.