Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bottle Update

My cousin asked what brand name is on my new water bottles. So I checked and they are made by Copco.  Then I Googled the brand and discovered they are sold in Walmart, Kmart, and Target, as well as various places online, including Amazon. I guess they aren't quite the find I had thought,  but I still really like them.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


Close to Pikes Peak State Park is the cute little town of McGregor, Iowa.  Coming into town, my first thought was, "Shouldn't that be MacGregor?"  Well the founder was named MacGregor, but I guess the 'a' was dropped somewhere along the way.

Although I don't write a post about every town we see, McGregor had some quaint sights.

Sadie's Log Cabin was built in 1848 and moved to town.  It's now a part of Little Switzerland Inn and you can stay in it.

I googled it and the inside looks nothing like you would expect.  To see it, click here.

We were amazed when we spotted this 'House IN the Rock'.

For a town with a population of less than 1000, it seems to be doing pretty well.  Even the building that was boarded up was done so artistically.

This statue is by the riverboat casino.  Is it some kind of a warning?

I just have to show off my big find.  When it comes to drinking water on a hike, I prefer to use a regular water bottle.  I've been refilling used ones and know it's supposed to be unhealthy.  Since I'm cheap and have environmental objections to buying cases of bottled water, I've tried a couple of options with unhappy results.  I don't like the taste of the metal bottles and using the wide-mouthed BPA free bottle results in me dribbling the water down my shirt.

Then I happened upon these BPA free bottles in ShopKo.

Nice hard plastic with an added feature for easy filling and ice.

I'm a happy camper!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back into Iowa

Crossing into northern Iowa, we stayed a few days at Pikes Peak State Park.  Iowa Parks have no day use fee and the camping fees are a bit cheaper than Wisconsin.  Our electric site was $16 a night, well worth it since it was hot and unbelievably humid.

The park is situated on a 500 foot bluff overlooking the Mississippi.  I didn't take any pictures.  (What???)  Well, except for this coleus that I thought was unique.

One hot day we decided to drive to nearby Effigy Mounds National Monument.   In 1948, President Truman established the monument to protect the 200+ mounds located within its borders.

The effigy mounds, for which the park was named,  were built from 700 to 1300 and are most commonly in the shape of bears and birds. Although we saw a couple of bear mounds, they are impossible to photograph.  Luckily, at one time, the park service outlined them with lime and took aerial pictures.  I snapped this during the movie at the visitor center.

There are also many circular mounds which were created as long as 3000 years ago.  Archaeologists have determined that they are burial mounds.

Perched high atop the bluffs, it seems like a nice place to honor the dead.

The views of the Mississippi were lovely, but you could just see all the humidity in the air.

Along the trail, this artistic-looking toadstool (?) grabbed our attention.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wisconsin Wrap-up

After reading my last three marathon posts on the House on the Rock, you'll be happy to know I just have one short one to finish our trip west across southern Wisconsin.  Near HOTR is Tower Hill State Park, home of a shot tower that was in use from 1833 to 1861.  It was used to form molten lead into shot (buckshot size and smaller.)

I found the whole process fascinating.

Wow!  Who came up with that idea?  Actually, the answer was provided.

The method used was the “Watts Method” named after an English plumber who, watching raindrops fall, envisioned droplets of melted lead falling in the same manner and becoming round as they fell.

 We hiked first to the base of the 60 foot tower,

Where we could look down the beginning of the 120 foot shaft hand-dug through the cliff.

After we climbed to the smelter house at the top, we could see the path of the falling lead, though the 60 foot tower and into the 120 foot shaft.

Here's a diagram of how the system worked.

Although the smelter house and tower were certainly reproductions, the shaft is quite a story.  In 1831, Thomas Bolton Shaunce was hired to dig the 120 foot shaft, plus a 90 foot tunnel connecting it to the riverbank. He worked mostly alone, but had some help from a fellow miner, Malcom Smith.  They dug the shaft and tunnel with typical miners tools, pick and gad (a straight pointed bar), and hauled the rock out with buckets. The work stopped temporarily in 1832 during the Blackhawk War when both men enlisted to fight.  After the war, Shaunce returned to finish the job.  He worked a total of 187 days and was never paid the $1000 he had been promised, but did receive some land instead.  What a feat!

Almost just as amazing were the following statistics:

When in full operation, a crew of six operated the shot tower, dropping up to 5,000 pounds of lead per day. Of this, only about 600 to 800 pounds was usable shot. The rest was hauled back to the top of the tower, melted and dropped again.

Truly back breaking work, even with ox carts to haul the lead back to the top.  This might go at the top of jobs I would never do.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

HOTR - Part 3

After a good night's sleep, we were ready to tackle section 3 of the House on the Rock tour.  This is another long post, so I'll keep the commentary to a minimum.

First up was this ginormous carousel, billed as the largest indoor carousel in the world.  Too bad you can’t ride it.

All the ‘horses’ are strange creatures as befitting the mind of Alex Jordan.

Next we moved into a huge area with an eclectic mixture of objects on display.  For instance, this 10 foot boat propeller,

Still attached to the equally huge motor, oops, engine (my father just called to correct me,)

Several organs and pianos,

And a weird collection of steins, to name just a few.


Next up was the very impressive doll carousel - three main tiers alternate with three smaller ones.  I took a picture of the postcard I bought for this one.

The dolls are really cute, endlessly spinning on their ride.

Then we admired the doll house collection.  I never saw so many different ones.

I loved the tiny, perfect rugs.  Ron wondered if this was a spa shower.

Moving on, we passed by miniature circus venues.

Pretty impressive details.

We were confused by this next collection.  They were plaster castings, about a foot high, that seemed to advertise diamonds, but had no company name on them.
There were more than a hundred of them.

These are the diamond inspectors.

Then came an amazing collection of weapons - pistols, rifles, swords.  I’d say there were a couple hundred of them all in customized cases.  I’m not a gun fan, so this is the only picture I took.  Probably not a lot of call for this particular weapon.

There was a room with armor.  Ron remarked they must have had big noses.

But wait!  Here’s another doll carousel.  This one was more like a doll/chandelier carousel.

There are dolls and then there are dolls!

On our way out, we passed the main carousel again.  I hadn't noticed the angels flying overhead the first time.

All in all, I would say the complete attraction of House on the Rock is well worth the $28.50.  After all, we got two days’ worth of entertainment for our admission fee.  I didn't care if all the objects are antiques or reproductions, which I understand many are.  I didn't even care if all the automated musical instruments played or if the sound came from a synthesizer, which I read is true of the woodwinds and stringed instruments.  Come with an open mind and prepare to be entertained.  It’s a fun place and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

HOTR - Part 2

The House on the Rock is more than just an unusual house.  Sections 2 and 3 of the tour consist of amazing collections of everything that interested Mr. Jordan.  For instance, this glass collection was in the ladies room, of all places.

This is just a small sample of the gun collection.

I liked the old-fashioned bank collection.

And many collections were housed in stores along The Streets of Yesterday.

There was a doll store,

A clock shop,

And a china store, just to pick a few.

Next we entered The Heritage of the Sea, a massive nautical exhibit.  There were many large ship models.

Quite a collection of scrimshaw,

And a model of the Titanic complete with iceberg, which I estimated to be 12 feet long.

All of this was surrounding a 200-foot whale like creature.  It looked similar to a blue whale, but with inaccurate teeth instead of baleen plates.  Otherwise how could he chew up the boat?

There was a fun picture of Mr. Jordan inside the creature's mouth.

Leaving the nautical section, I was creeped out by these marionettes
But I liked the vases, even though each pretty lady has a hole in her head.

Personally, I don't believe these are real ivory, but they're very pretty.

By this time we were tired and hungry, especially since we had been smelling pizza for awhile.  But, never fear, the tour routes you right into the restaurant.

After indulging in a slice each, we were ready to move on.  At the beginning of section 2 and again near the end were many, many automatic music machines.  They started out fairly simple, but became more complex as you went along.  Here are a couple of short videos.

By the end, the instruments filled whole rooms.

This is the end of section 2 and we decided we were just too tired and overwhelmed to go on.  Luckily, although they don't advertise it, you can leave at the end of any section and come back to continue with the next section.

I'll leave you with a pretty water lily from the Japanese garden.

And this canon that Ron found interesting.  He thought it had some kind of pneumatic recoil system.