Creating the Wanderlust – 30 Years of Family Travel – Pt 3

Joselyn on the Beach - Hilton Head Island, South Carolina summer 2013
Joselyn on the Beach – Hilton Head Island, South Carolina summer 2013

This is the last in my 3 part series on “Creating the Wanderlust” through family travel adventures. (see the other two Part 1  Part 2 )

Autumn in Rhinelander, WI Aug 2012
Autumn in Rhinelander, WI  with the Hodag – Aug 2012

After three weddings in 2005 I was fried…and, to top things off I had knee surgery later in the year, so there was no travel the rest of that year.  In fact, I didn’t take any trips until 2007 when I had a couple of big ones.  These were with Solomon as Seth was off serving a Mormon mission in Utah.  Then, since that time many of the trips from 2008 thru 2013 have included grandchildren in one way or another.  It is wonderful to share these precious moments with my grandchildren as well as my now adult children….

Solomon in Toad Suck, Arkansas June 2007
Solomon in Toad Suck, Arkansas June 2007

In June 2007 my sister in Texas had an old car she wanted to give to my son Solomon as a reward for his obtaining an Eagle Scout (which my son Seth also completed).  So, we took a ride down to Keller to pick up the car and then the two of us drove back to Lexington.  Both ways we found fun on the backroads of America with the following route:


View Larger Map – Kentucky to Texas and Back

This would be a quick trip down and back, but we were determined to have a fun time.  We made our way to Memphis and into Arkansas and continued the drive all the way to Keller, about 1100 miles one way via the route we took.  Along the way we saw a few fun things…

Solomon at the Memphis Egg at the Memphis Visitor's Center, June 2007
Solomon at the Memphis Egg at the Memphis Visitor’s Center, June 2007
Solomon in two states - Texas and Arkansas, Texarkana, Texas June 2007
Solomon in two states – Texas and Arkansas, Texarkana, Texas June 2007

After an evening in Keller we joined my sister and her family for a day trip to Dublin, Granbury and Forth Worth for fun.

Solomon in Dublin, Texas home of the Dr. Pepper Plant in June 2007
Solomon in Dublin, Texas home of the Dr. Pepper Plant in June 2007

After our trips we then headed back home via Paris, Texas and then through Arkansas, Missouri and home.

Eiffel Tower with a Cowboy Hat in Paris, Texas - June 2007
Eiffel Tower with a Cowboy Hat in Paris, Texas – June 2007
Solomon with Popeye in Alma, Arkansas - home of Popeye brand Spinach June 2007
Solomon with Popeye in Alma, Arkansas – home of Popeye brand Spinach June 2007

The Texas trip was a fun short trip, but later in the year we took a second trip together.  This would be perhaps the biggest trip I had ever taken and it was going to be a fun with Solomon, who was 18 at the time. My daughter Amaree had her second child, my grandson Charlie.  As well, my good friend and musician Antsy McClain had shows in southeastern Washington state and I was heading out there to manage those as well.  Overall, the trip would take Solomon and me over about 6000 miles through fourteen states and three Canadian provinces and dozens of sites. We used almost 500 gallons of gasoline and I took over 2000 photos during the trip. (See entire trip post here)

Our Route to Washington and Back - September 2007
Our 6000 mile route to Washington and back – September 2007

The main purpose of this trip was to get to Montana to see my new grandson, but it was also a great opportunity to travel with my youngest son and truly Enjoy the Ride.  We started off early for the Chicago area with the first goal to see the famed “Spindle” sculpture by Dustin Shuler, better known as Cars on a Spike.  This was at the retro Cermak Shopping Plaza in Berwyn, IL.  It is a good thing we visited and got it captured on both photo and video.  In May 2008 it was demolished so a new drug store could go in.

Solomon and "Spindle" by Dustin Shuler, originally at Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, IL. Taken Sept 2007.
Solomon and “Spindle” by Dustin Shuler, originally at Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, IL. Taken Sept 2007

From Chicago we headed north into Wisconsin and then on to Minnesota.  We found lots of quirky offbeat things along the way!!

Solomon with a Big Orange Moose in Black River Falls, WI Sept 2007
Solomon with a Big Orange Moose in Black River Falls, WI Sept 2007
Solomon hanging with James Frank Kotera "JFK" the Twine Ball Man in Lake Nebagamon, WI.  Largest Twine Ball in the World. Sept 2007
Solomon hanging with James Frank Kotera “JFK” the Twine Ball Man in Lake Nebagamon, WI. Largest Twine Ball in the World. Sept 2007
Solomon has picked one of his favorite giant wooden trolls in Mt. Horeb, WI.  There are over 30 in town. Sept 2007
Solomon, an “American Picker”, has picked one of his favorite giant wooden trolls in Mt. Horeb, WI. There are over 30 in town. Sept 2007
Solomon at the Lake Superior Overlook near Duluth, MN
Solomon at the Lake Superior Overlook near Duluth, MN
Near Lake Kabetogama in Minnesota, Solomon found a deer to feed
Near Lake Kabetogama in Minnesota, Solomon found a deer to feed
Solomon riding the Big Fish at Lake Kabetogama in Minnesota - Sept. 2007
Solomon riding the Big Fish at Lake Kabetogama in Minnesota – Sept. 2007

Speaking of BIG FISH – we found the world’s largest Walleye in Baudette, MN

Solomon is dwarfed by the World's Largest Walleye in Baudette, MN Sept 2007
Solomon is dwarfed by the World’s Largest Walleye in Baudette, MN Sept 2007

From Minnesota we ventured into Canada and dove along the Trans-Canada Highway westward towards Alberta.  It continued to be a fun adventure for both of us….

Solomon at the Saskatchewan Provincial Border Sept 2007
Solomon at the Saskatchewan Provincial Border Sept 2007
Solomon at Indiana Head, Saskatchewan Sept 2007
Solomon at Indiana Head, Saskatchewan Sept 2007
Solomon visits with the World's Largest Moose Statue in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan Sept 2007
Solomon visits with the World’s Largest Moose Statue in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan Sept 2007

I had friends in Alberta and we got to spend a night with Crafty Jack, a guitar maker and joint friend with Antsy McClain.  We got to look at his custom-made trailer shaped guitars…

Solomon with the Trailercana Guitar hand-crafted by Crafty Jack
Solomon with the Trailercana Guitar hand-crafted by Crafty Jack

We also spent some time with Crafty Jack visiting some of the more “unique” sites in Alberta…venturing to go where no man has gone before…

Solomon and Sumoflam become part of the Star Trek gang in Vulcan, Alberta Sept 2007
Solomon and Sumoflam become part of the Star Trek gang in Vulcan, Alberta Sept 2007
A StarStruck "Starship Sol" with some new pals in Vulcan, Alberta Sept. 2007
A StarStruck “Starship Sol” with some new pals in Vulcan, Alberta Sept. 2007
Sol and Sumoflam live long and prosper with the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta Sept 2007
Sol and Sumoflam live long and prosper with the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta Sept 2007

We proceeded to make our way down to Great Falls to see my daughter Amaree and her family, including the newest grandchild Charlie.  During our visit we made our way into the mountains southeast of Great Falls to Kings Hill Pass.  We got a nice family photo high up in the mountains…

The family at Kings Hill Pass near Meagher, MT - Amaree, Charlie, Sumoflam, Kade, Julianne and Solomon - Sept 2007
The family at Kings Hill Pass near Meagher, MT – Amaree, Charlie, Sumoflam, Kade, Julianne and Solomon – Sept 2007

We also made our way north on US 89 to a nice waterfalls called Memorial Falls.  Solomon climbed way up on a cliff…

Climbing up to the top of Memorial Falls in Montana - Julianne, Aaron (son in law), Kade and Solomon - Sept 2007
Climbing up to the top of Memorial Falls in Montana – Julianne, Aaron (son in law), Kade and Solomon – Sept 2007
Solomon up high on a cliff near Memorial Falls in Montana, Sept 2007
Solomon up high on a cliff near Memorial Falls in Montana, Sept 2007

During the time in Great Falls we also visited museums and other fun places with Amaree, Aaron, their two boys and Julianne (who flew out).  But soon Solomon were continuing west to Idaho and Washington.  Along the way we stopped in Couer D’Alene to visit with legendary rock music radio pioneer John Rook.  John was a close family friend of rock guitarist Bobby Cochran (Steppenwolf, Flying Burrito Brothers, Trailer Park Troubadours, Bobby and the Midnites), who was also the nephew of the famous Eddie Cochran (The Summertime Blues and C’mon Everybody).  Bobby is a close friend of mine as well. John Rook was practically family with Eddie.  So, on the encouragement of Bobby we stopped by to say hello to John, see much of his rock and roll memorabilia, including photos with the Rolling Stones and Beatles (see article about his work with the Beatles), groups that he had a major influence in bringing to the U.S. in the 1960s while the Program Director at KQV in Pittsburgh.  It should be noted that Rush Limbaugh and David Letterman count John Rook as a mentor in their careers.

Solomon with Rock and Roll Radio icon John Rook at his home in Couer D'Alene, ID in Sept 2007
Solomon with Rock and Roll Radio icon John Rook at his home in Couer D’Alene, ID in Sept 2007

This was a fun and interesting experience for rock afficianados like Solomon and me.  We ventured further westward to Washington to carry out my work for Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours, which included some road management and logistics management.  After four days of performances in the Tri-Cities and Dayton, Solomon and I headed south into Oregon and a visit to the amazing Hell’s Canyon.

Solomon at the overlook of Hell's Canyon in Oregon - Sept. 2007
Solomon at the overlook of Hell’s Canyon in Oregon – Sept. 2007

From there we went south to Salt Lake City to drop in on my son Seth who was serving a Mormon mission there (yes, there are even Mormon missionaries called to Salt Lake City!!).  It was a great chance for us to visit and have a quick lunch with “Elder Kravetz.”

Visiting "Elder Kravetz" in Sandy, Utah in Sept 2007
Visiting “Elder Kravetz” in Sandy, Utah in Sept 2007

We then finally made our way home through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and finally into Kentucky.  More unique stops were made along the way…

Solomon with a giant jackalope in Douglas, Wyoming, the "Jackalope Capital of the World" - Sept 2007
Solomon with a giant jackalope in Douglas, Wyoming, the “Jackalope Capital of the World” – Sept 2007
Solomon and his new friend at Ole's Big Game Steakhouse in Paxton, NE - Sept 2007
Solomon and his new friend at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse in Paxton, NE – Sept 2007

After a long trip, we finally made it home.  This was to be the last of my trips with just my children.  All trips with family (other than with my wife), typically included grandchildren and I even had a few opportunities to be with the grandchildren on solo Grampz/Grandkidz trips.  I now had (and continue to have) the blessing of Creating the Wanderlust in the next generation of my posterity.

The family visits Jakeman's a working Maple Syrup facility near Woodstock, Ontario - July 2008
The family visits Jakeman’s a working Maple Syrup facility near Woodstock, Ontario – July 2008
Adam, Marissa and Joselyn at Lake Victoria in Stratford, Ontario July 2008
Adam, Marissa and Joselyn at Lake Victoria in Stratford, Ontario July 2008

Following are a few shots of my grandchildren as they accompanied me and, in most cases, their parents, on road trips over the last six years…places and dates included…

Autumn - Green Bay Packers in Pink - at Lambeau Stadium in Green Bay, WI Aug. 2012
Autumn – Green Bay Packers in Pink – at Lambeau Stadium in Green Bay, WI Aug. 2012

In August 2012 I joined my daughter Chelsea and my oldest grandchild Autumn on a quick three day trip to Wisconsin.  We planned out the trip for a number of fun adventures in Illinois and Wisconsin. (see my Trip Journal posts beginning here)

Spicing it up at the National Mustard Museum - Middleton, WI
Spicing it up at the National Mustard Museum – Middleton, WI
Chelsea and Autumn follow the Yellow Brick Road at Curtis Orchards in Champagne, IL - Aug 2012
Chelsea and Autumn follow the Yellow Brick Road at Curtis Orchards in Champaigne, IL – Aug 2012
Autumn tackles the “Beast” – a scrap metal sculpture by the late Wally Keller located in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
Autumn and "Grampz" with the Hodag of Rhinelander, WI
Autumn and “Grampz” with the Hodag of Rhinelander, WI
Chelsea and Autumn know they love Kraft Macaroni at the Kraft plant in Champaign, IL
Chelsea and Autumn know they love Kraft Macaroni at the Kraft plant in Champaign, IL

On that trip we also visited the famed Jurustic Park, a chainsaw totem pole forest, the birthplace of the hamburger, Egg Harbor and the peninsula, and more.  See more here.

Autumn and Savannah (my niece) at the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY in Aug. 2009
Autumn and Savannah (my niece) at the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY in Aug. 2009
Autumn and Savannah with my sister Sherry and her husband Brian - Aug. 2009
Autumn and Savannah with my sister Sherry and her husband Brian – Aug. 2009

We have also taken Autumn to the Cincinnati Zoo, on a riverboat ride down the Kentucky River and to the Louisville Children’s Museum.

Grandson Kade at the Louisville Children's Museum - Dec. 2012
Grandson Kade at the Louisville Children’s Museum – Dec. 2012

I have four grandchildren living in Shelby, Montana and have not had as many opportunities to travel much with them.  However, their parents (my daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron) have taken my liking to travel and have introduce the wanderlust to their children through visits to California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Nevada, Idaho and even across the country on visits to Kentucky to see us.  I have visited Shelby on three occasions and each time take the kids collectively or individually on small road trips.  Here are a few scenes…

Kade and Charlie, with their Dad Aaron at Leaning Tree Cafe in Babb, MT at the base of Glacier National Park – March 2013
Kade, Charlie and cousin Autumn in the vacuum at Louisville Children's Museum - Dec. 2012
Kade, Charlie and cousin Autumn in the vacuum at Louisville Children’s Museum – Dec. 2012
Charlie at the giant wind farm near Shelby, Montana - Feb. 2012
Charlie at the giant wind farm near Shelby, Montana – Feb. 2012
Olivia at Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville, KY - Dec. 2012
Olivia at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe in Louisville, KY – Dec. 2012
My youngest grandchild Benson with his Dad Aaron at Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville, Dec 2012
My youngest grandchild Benson with his Dad Aaron at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe in Louisville, Dec 2012
Grandson Charlie is dwarfed by the giant penguin in Cut Bank, Montana
Grandson Charlie is dwarfed by the giant penguin in Cut Bank, Montana
Charlie at Jerusalem Rocks in Northern Montana
Charlie at Jerusalem Rocks in Northern Montana

My little granddaughter Joselyn is really quite the traveler and, even at age 6 she is always up for another long drive adventure, especially with Grampz, who she thinks is “funny.” This little girl has probably traveled more in this United States than most kids do by the time they are 18.  Jos has been to Niagara Falls in Canada, Tucson, Omaha, Hilton Head and a gazillion places in between.  Her little brother Landen has accompanied on a couple of trips as well.  Here are a few shots from the last couple of years, including some recent ones.

Little Joselyn hanging with Uncle Solomon at San Xavier del Bac Church in Tucson, Arizona - April 2011
Little Joselyn hanging with Uncle Solomon at San Xavier del Bac Church in Tucson, Arizona – April 2011
Joselyn with her mother at White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico, April 2011
Joselyn with her mother at White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico, April 2011
Joselyn with her cousin Autumn and Second Cousin Savannah at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2010
Joselyn with her cousin Autumn and Second Cousin Savannah at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2010
Joselyn and sister Lyla with Grandma Julianne on the beach of the Atlantic Ocean on Hilton Head Island, April 2013
Joselyn and sister Lyla with Grandma Julianne on the beach of the Atlantic Ocean on Hilton Head Island, April 2013
Joselyn runs on a sand dune at White Sands National Monument in NM
Joselyn runs on a sand dune at White Sands National Monument in NM
Running through the cement corn cobs in Dublin, Ohio July 2011
Running through the cement corn cobs in Dublin, Ohio July 2011
Joselyn makes a visit to Earth (TX) in April 2011
Joselyn makes a visit to Earth (TX) in April 2011
Jos with Grampz at rest area n North Carolina - April 2013
Jos with Grampz at rest area n North Carolina – April 2013
Cussling with an alien in Roswell, New Mexico - April 2011
Cussling with an alien in Roswell, New Mexico – April 2011
Jos and her mother Marissa at Stone Mountain in Georgia, April 2013
Jos and her mother Marissa at Stone Mountain in Georgia, April 2013
Joselyn at Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Sept. 2013
Joselyn at Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Sept. 2013
Holding a butterfly at the Butterfly House near St. Louis
Holding a butterfly at the Butterfly House near St. Louis
Joselyn and Landen at Antique Archaeology, home of American Pickers TV Show in LeClaire, IA - Sept. 2013
Joselyn and Landen at Antique Archaeology, home of American Pickers TV Show in LeClaire, IA – Sept. 2013
Jos and Landen at Gothic House in Eldon, IA - Sept 2013
Jos and Landen at Gothic House in Eldon, IA – Sept 2013
Joselyn as a baby at Niagara Falls with her parents in July 2008
Joselyn as a baby at Niagara Falls with her parents in July 2008

Of course, Landen is not totally exempt from all of this either…he is catching the bug!!

Landen with the Transformer "Bumblebee" at the Children's Museum in Indianapolis (told you he "caught the bug") - Sept 2013
Landen with the Transformer “Bumblebee” at the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis (told you he “caught the bug”) – Sept 2013
Landen with a butterfly at the Butterfly House near St. Louis (caught the bug again!!)
Landen with a butterfly at the Butterfly House near St. Louis (caught the bug again!!)
Landen goes Dutch in Pella, Iowa - Sept. 2013
Landen goes Dutch in Pella, Iowa – Sept. 2013
Landen with the corn cobs in Dublin, Ohio, July 2011
Landen with the corn cobs in Dublin, Ohio, July 2011
Landen the beach bum at Cave Run Lake, KY in June 2013
Landen the beach bum at Cave Run Lake, KY in June 2013
Landen and Joselyn visit their Great Aunt Nicole in Cleveland, OH July 2011
Landen and Joselyn visit their Great Aunt Nicole in Cleveland, OH July 2011

Jos and Landen have a little sister Lyla who has also turned out to be a good traveler having gone to South Carolina and Georgia on one trip and then on a trip to Nebraska in September.

Lyla follows in the footsteps of her cousin Autumn by following the Yellow Brick Road Champaign, IL
Lyla follows in the footsteps of her cousin Autumn by following the Yellow Brick Road Champaign, IL
Lyla rides the old 1930s St. Louis Carousel in Sept. 2013
Lyla rides the old 1930s St. Louis Carousel in Sept. 2013
Sumoflam teaches granddaughter Lyla how to drive the backroads of America at an early age
Sumoflam teaches granddaughter Lyla how to drive the backroads of America at an early age

Only one grandchild has not really traveled much with us though he has traveled with his father Seth and his mother Holly.  That is little Rockwell, our blonde cutie….

Grampz and RockE
Grampz and RockE
Rockwell in West Chester, OH - 2012
Rockwell in West Chester, OH – 2012

Of course, as time goes on I will continue to Enjoy the Ride on trips on the backroads and will do it, not just as a good father, but also as a helluva grandfather!!

Sumoflam - Enjoy the Ride
Sumoflam – Enjoy the Ride
Sumoflam - An Okay Parent
Sumoflam – An Okay Parent
Sumoflam - Helluva Grandparent
Sumoflam – Helluva Grandparent

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A 5 Day Midwest Adventure – Day 2: Walcott, IA to Nebraska City, NE

Welcome to Nebraska
Welcome to Nebraska

Day 2 of my trip with Marissa would take us through Iowa and into Nebraska.  I promised to be a fun day of driving the backroads of the Midwest (kind of….)


View Larger Map – Walcott, IA to Nebraska City, NE

With the Grandkidz with us, every morning was an early one, so we were on the road in Walcott fairly early.  First thing I saw as I stepped out of the hotel was this big semi carrying a blade for a wind turbine.  This would set the stage for some subsequent visits along the road this day. You never really know how big these are until you have a frame of reference, like a huge truck.

Truck with Wind Turbine Blade in Walcott, IA at Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Truck with Wind Turbine Blade in Walcott, IA at Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Iowa 80 Truckstop - World's Largest Truckstop
Iowa 80 Truckstop – World’s Largest Truckstop
Iowa 80 Truckstop is so big it has its own water tower
Iowa 80 Truckstop is so big it has its own water tower

From the truckstop we meandered into the small town of Walcott to get a glimpse of something really unusual.  A house built to look like a medieval castle…  Castle Hall. According to stories, this was built in 1905 to look like Balmoral Castle in Scotland, but it is nothing like it in my eyes.

Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
One of the Towers on Castle Hall in Walcott
The Main Tower on Castle Hall in Walcott

This goes to show that you never know what you might see in small town America!!

Scrap Metal Flower
Scrap Metal Flower

Of course, then there is my penchant for scrap metal art.  This scrap metal flower piece was just across the street from the Castle Hall.  Had to snap a shot to add to my “collection.”

Walcott Corn Fields with water tower in the background
Walcott Corn Fields with water tower in the background

From Walcott it was Westward Ho towards Iowa City, with a quick stop in Coralville.  I got to visit with Thomas Jefferson there while waiting for Marissa and the kiddos at the Coral Ridge Mall.

Thomas Jefferson Statue at Coral Ridge Mall
Thomas Jefferson Statue at Coral Ridge Mall
Hanging with TJ
Hanging with TJ

While I was waiting I also caught a couple of bugs on flowers….

Lady Big on a flower at Coral Ridge Mall
Lady Big on a flower at Coral Ridge Mall
A bee flying into a flower at Coral Ridge Mall
A bee flying into a flower at Coral Ridge Mall

From Coralville, we headed south on US 218 towards the small town of Riverside, IA. Why Riverside?  Well, the small quaint town is “officially” the Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk, Captain of the Starship Enterprise — Star Trek. Apparently, Gene Roddenberry approved the Riverside Town Council’s recommendation to make it so….in 1985. The future historical birth, which is set to take place on March 22, 2228, is also celebrated annually by the people of Riverside.

Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk
Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk

The town even has its own Starship…the Starship “Riverside”

Starship Riverside in Riverside, Iowa
Starship Riverside in Riverside, Iowa

There is also a small History Center and Souvenir shop in town as well as a bench dedicated to someone and it was donated by none other than William Shatner, the original Captain Kirk from the old Star Trek TV series in the 1960s.

Star Trek Visitor Center - Riverside, IA
Star Trek Visitor Center – Riverside, IA
William Shatner presented a bench in memory of Nita Wingler Rath, a well known resident of Riverside
William Shatner presented a bench in memory of Nita Wingler Rath, a well known resident of Riverside

The town holds an annual TrekFest in June that draws thousands of Trekkies.

Trekfest Promo on Starship
Trekfest Promo on Starship

This was not my first venture into Trekkiedom….  back in 2007 I visited the town of Vulcan in Alberta, Canada (see my blog post) with my good friend “Crafty Jack” Burger (see my longer post about that visit), a guitar maker from Lethbridge.  I got a good shot with the scale model of the Enterprise there.

Visiting the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta in 2007.
Visiting the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta in 2007

Well, enough about boldly going where no man has gone before.  We ventured further south for a quick stop in the small town of Swedesburg, IA….a little taste of Sweden.

Pastoral scene north of Swedesburg, IA on US 218
Pastoral scene north of Swedesburg, IA on US 218
The famous Straw Goat from Swedesburg.
The famous Straw Goat from Swedesburg

The straw goat, also known as a “Julbock”, is one of the biggest symbols of the Swedish Christmas tradition and also serves in this town as a lure to come visit the town and its famous museum.

Welcome to Swedesburg
Welcome to Swedesburg
Caution - Swedish Crossing in Swedesburg, IA
Caution – Swedish Crossing in Swedesburg, IA
"World Famous" Swedish Heritage Museum in Swedesburg, IA
“World Famous” Swedish Heritage Museum in Swedesburg, IA

Since the Swedish museum was closed, it was further south towards our planned for destination.  But, we had to go through Mt. Pleasant and so I stopped to get a shot of their local Statue of Liberty.

Statue of Liberty in Mt. Pleasant, IA
Statue of Liberty in Mt. Pleasant, IA

From Mt. Pleasant we proceeded west on US 34 until we hit Iowa Hwy 16, which we took south to the town of Eldon. Why Eldon?

American Gothic House Sign
American Gothic House Sign
Eldon, Iowa - Home of the Grant Wood Gothic House
Eldon, Iowa – Home of the Grant Wood Gothic House

Well, this actually is a very famous place in the history of American Art as it is the location of artist Grant Wood’s 1930″American Gothic” painting — you know, the one with the two folks, the guy with the pitchfork in front of the house.  Not only is the painting famous, but it is probably one of the most parodied pieces of art anywhere (in my opinion). Only a few other images, such as the Mona Lisa or Scream, by Edward Munch, are as widely known as American Gothic, and because of its high visibility, the painting is an easy choice as a parody.

Sumoflam at American Gothic House Center in Eldon, IA
Sumoflam at American Gothic House Center in Eldon, IA

The visit starts at the American Gothic House Center, just a few yards from the actual house in the painting. This is not only a museum dedicated to the painting, but it also houses a number of parodies, provides visitors with prop clothing to wear and do their own photo in front of the house, etc.

The American Gothic House
The American Gothic House
Another view of the gothic house
Another view of the gothic house
American Gothic Road
American Gothic Road

The original portion of the house that contains the two Gothic windows was built in 1881-82 by Catherine and Charles Dibble. As the original owners of the home, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Dibble House.  Grant Wood used his sister Nan and his dentist Dr. B.H. McKeeby as the models (see more here).  Ironically, the models for the artwork never posed together when they were drawn prior to, or during the painting of American Gothic.  This was conceptualized by the Grant Wood.

Nan and McKeeby - the models
Nan and McKeeby – the models

So, what about the parodies? There are a number on display in the museum, some of which I am showing below.  There is actually a page dedicated to a number of them here.  There is also a blog dedicated to the parodies – American Gothic Parodies.

"Klingon Gothic" by Jason Tracy
“Klingon Gothic” by Kansas photographer Jason Tracy

Shawnee, Kansas photographer Jason Tracy (see his site) has kindly given me permission to use his high res photo of a Klingon man and woman at the Gothic House.  Jason has a number of unique and offbeat Conceptual Portrait works (see them here).

Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy
Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy
1960s TV show Green Acres
1960s TV show Green Acres
Little Chicken Carvings
Little Chicken Carvings

Of course, we can also do our own!!  And that is the real fun of this place.  Here we got my granddaughter and grandson to pose (not too willingly mind you…)  And then I got a couple of them in myself.

Jos and Landen Gothic
Jos and Landen Gothic
Lyla and Grampz Gothic
Lyla and Grampz Gothic
Sumoflam Gothic
Sumoflamerican Gothic

Besides the Gothic House, Eldon does have a couple of murals, an old (and famous) opera house and a few other goodies….

Flower Wall Mural - Eldon, IA
Flower Wall Mural – Eldon, IA
Old Pepsi Wall Advertisement - Eldon, IA
Old Pepsi Wall Advertisement – Eldon, IA
McCaffey Opera House - Eldon, IA
McHaffey Opera House – Eldon, IA
Old Signs - Eldon, IA
Old Signs – Eldon, IA
Indy's Cafe - Eldon, IA
Indy’s Cafe – Eldon, IA
Main Street - Eldon, IA
Main Street – Eldon, IA
Don't forget your Retiremints
Don’t forget your Retiremints

As we left this fun little town, lo and behold, I ran into another rooster with a top hat.  Two in two days!!

Red Rooster (looks white to me) - Red Rooster Collectibles Eldon, IA
Red Rooster (looks white to me) – Red Rooster Collectibles Eldon, IA

After such a fun time in Eldon, it was hard to move on, but we did.  We returned north on Iowa Hwy 16 to US 34 and then continued west until Ottumwa and then north on US 63 towards Des Moines.  At the junction with Iowa163 we veered west in order to take the children to Pella to see the giant Vermeer Dutch Windmill and even get them a treat at one of the fabulous Dutch bakeries there.  This was my second time there and I am always impressed with the architecture, especially that of the Pella Opera House and the Pella “Klokkenspel”.

Vermeer Dutch Windmill in Pella, IA - the largest working windmill in the United States
Vermeer Dutch Windmill in Pella, IA – the largest working windmill in the United States
Grandson Landen in Pella
Grandson Landen in Pella (photo by Marissa Noe)
Beautiful Architecture on the Pella Opera House
Beautiful Architecture on the facade of the Pella Opera House

The Historic Pella Opera House was opened in 1900 and has gone through a number of renovations and uses.  Today it is a colorful reminder of both Dutch heritage and early 1900s architecture.

The Pella "Klokkenspel" or Glockenspiel
The Pella “Klokkenspel” or Glockenspiel

The Pella “Klokkenspel” has eight four-foot mechanical figures that perform at regular intervals to the music of a 147-bell computer driven carillon.  This is one of only a handful of animated musical clocks in the United States.  Unfortunately, we were not there during a performance time of these characters, which are held daily at 11:00 am, 3:00 pm, 5:00 pm, and 9:00 pm.  The building also adds a unique flair to the beauty of downtown Pella.

Vander Ploeg Bakery in Pella, IA
Vander Ploeg Bakery in Pella, IA (photo by Marissa Noe)

The bakeries in Pella are absolute delights.  On my last trip to Pella (see post here) my wife and I visited the Jaarsma Bakery, but on this visit Marissa and kids dropped into the Vander Ploeg Bakery, which is only about 5 doors down from the Jaarsma. Both of them offer “Dutch letters,” those crispy, flaky, buttery pastries filled with almond paste, shaped into an “s,” and covered with large, crunchy sugar crystals.  The kids loved them!!

Dutch Letters pastries at Vander Ploeg bakery in Pella
Dutch Letters pastries at Vander Ploeg bakery in Pella, Iowa
Other tasty Dutch treats in the Vander Ploeg bakery in Pella
Other tasty Dutch treats in the Vander Ploeg bakery in Pella

A few more scenes from Pella:

Protruding windows on a building in Pella
Protruding windows on a building in Pella
Unique corner turret on building in Pella
Unique corner turret on building in Pella
Windmill in Pella Town Square
Windmill in Pella Town Square

From Pella we continued on Iowa 163 all the way into Des Moines and then on to Interstate 235.  Along the way we passed the impressive Iowa Capital building with its gold plated dome and four other domes.  One of the most impressive capital buildings I have seen in my travels.

Iowa State Capital - Des Moines
Iowa State Capital – Des Moines

After passing through Des Moines, we made our way into Iowa Wind Turbine country around Casey and Adair.  The Rest Area on I-80 near Casey (on the Westbound side) has a giant wind turbine blade installed.  The kids were all asleep, so we didn’t stop.  But we did get a photo of it:

I-80 Rest Area - West bound near Casey, IA with a giant Wind Turbine blade
I-80 Rest Area – West bound near Casey, IA with a giant 161 foot tall Wind Turbine blade

Continuing westward toward Adair we could begin seeing the huge MidAmerican owned Rolling Hills wind farm, which currently consists of nearly 200 Siemens 2.3 MW turbines, making it the largest wind farm in Iowa. According to a number of reports, the state generates nearly a quarter of its energy from wind, first in the nation, and the number will soon grow as more than 600 more wind turbines are slated for installation through 2015.

Wind Turbines of the Rolling Hills Wind Farm near Adair, IA
Wind Turbines of the Rolling Hills Wind Farm near Adair, IA
Wind Turbines seem to blossom like flowers out of the corn fields of Iowa
Wind Turbines seem to blossom like flowers out of the corn fields of Iowa

Wind Turbines are massive monsters.  Unlike the old Dutch windmills (as seen in Pella), these units are about 262 feet tall from base to rotor shaft (twice as high as Niagara Falls!!). The blades are each 161 feet in length and the rotor diameter is 331 feet.

Giant Wind Turbine straight ahead
Giant Wind Turbine straight ahead

The wind farms are a boost to the economy of the counties involved as farmers and other land owners get thousands of dollars for the utilities to use their lands.  Some consider them unsightly.  I love the graceful feel of these “modern flowers” blossoming out of the fields.  With these added funds, it is no wonder that Adair, Iowa has a famous Smiley Water Tower!! The town of Adair is humorously known as “the happiest town on Earth” and its town welcome sign greets visitors with “Welcome to Adair It’ll make you Smile!”.

Smiley Water Tower in Adair, Iowa
Smiley Water Tower in Adair, Iowa
At the gas station in Adair there was a flag made from plastic cups inserted into a nearby fence.
At the gas station in Adair there was a flag made from plastic cups inserted into a nearby fence.

Adair also has a not so friendly history as it was the site of the first train robbery in the West and was also the world’s fist robbery of a moving train. The notorious Jesse James and his gang robbed a train supposedly carrying $75,000 in gold on the evening of July 21, 1873. Unfortunately for them, the shipment was delayed and they only were able to get away with about $3000 worth of gold. There is an historical park in the town that we didn’t have time to visit.  There is more about it here.

Interstate 80 runs through the beautiful rolling hills of northwestern Iowa.
Interstate 80 runs through the beautiful rolling hills of northwestern Iowa.

The drive down Interstate 80 from Adair to Council Bluffs is really beautiful in mid-September as the corn has turned brown, wildflowers are in bloom everywhere and the soybean leaves are turning yellow. Here are a few scenes from the road…mind you, it was late afternoon so the shadows made things even more thrilling!

Yellow soybean leaves add a splash of color to the greenery
Yellow soybean leaves add a splash of color to the greenery
Rolling Hills of I-80 north of Council Bluffs, IA
Rolling Hills of I-80 north of Council Bluffs, IA
Beautiful farmland of Iowa
Beautiful farmland of Iowa
A pastoral setting just east of Council Bluffs as seen from I-80
A pastoral setting just east of Council Bluffs as seen from I-80

Soon after hitting Council Bluffs we arrived in Nebraska and headed toward rain. We made our way to Nebraska City, the birthplace of Arbor Day.

Welcome to Nebraska
Welcome to Nebraska
Beautiful clouds in the sky south of Omaha
Beautiful clouds in the sky south of Omaha
Sunbeams peak through the clouds outside of Nebraska City, Nebraska
Sunbeams peak through the clouds outside of Nebraska City, Nebraska

Overall it was a great day of travel and the grandkidz had a fun time.  Rest up for Nebraska City promises lots of fun on Day 3!

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A Few Days in Shelby, Montana and surrounding area

Shelby, Montana
Shelby, Montana

March 28, 2013:  On our way back to Kentucky from Rexburg, Idaho we made a three day detour to Shelby, Montana to visit our daughter and her husband and their 4 children. Thanks to our new best trailer tires we were able to go on rough roads quite smoothly, and I have to say till date they have been my best investment on the RV. During our three days here, we were very busy with a trip to the base of Glacier National Park, a drive around town capturing the “Neon Essence” of Shelby, and a trip north to Sweetgrass, just south of the Canadian border, where we also visited a Hutterite colony and learned of their amazing communal ways.  This post will cover these activities through photos and some details.

Shelby, Montana -- a train town
Shelby, Montana — a railroad town

Shelby is a city of about 3400 people (including 6 of my children/grandchildren!!). It was started as a railroad town and continues as such today.  Named after Peter O. Shelby of the Montana Central Railway, the town really got its start in 1891 when the Great Northern Railroad was making its way to the Marias Pass.  The story goes that the builders threw a box car from the train and called it a station.

Old Motel Sign in Shelby, Montana
Old Motel Sign in Shelby, Montana

One of the endearing characters of Shelby is all of the old neon signs still hanging around the town. Obviously, as an Amtrak town, there are still lots of motels in Shelby.  As well, it is a nice pit stop for many.

Vista Motel - Shelby, Montana
Vista Motel – Shelby, Montana
Sherlock Motel - Shelby, Montana
Sherlock Motel – Shelby, Montana
Big Motel sign in downtown Shelby
Big Motel sign in downtown Shelby
Old Motel Sign - Shelby, Montana
Old Motel Sign – Shelby, Montana

There are lots of bars and restaurants as well…

Oasis Bar - Shelby, Montana. Love the old Dancing neon sign
Oasis Bar – Shelby, Montana. Love the old Dancing neon sign
Sports Club - Excellent Food - Shelby, Montana
Sports Club – Excellent Food – Shelby, Montana
Mint Club - Shelby, Montana
The Mint Club – Shelby, Montana
Montana Grill and Roxy Theater in Shelby, Montana
Montana Grill and Roxy Theater in Shelby, Montana

On a previous trip I took the kids to see a movie at the Roxy.  Old style theater still in operation.  It was fun.

Here are a few other scenes from around the town itself…

Wall Art in downtown Shelby
Wall Art in downtown Shelby
H-O Motor Supply - old advertising
H-O Motor Supply – old advertising
Bowling anyone? - this is the only place to bowl in Shelby.
Bowling anyone? – this is the only place to bowl in Shelby.
Unusual sign seen in a shop in Shelby
Unusual sign seen in a shop in Shelby
Iwo Jima Metal Art at Veteran's Memorial in Shelby, Montana. This was made by local veteran John Alstad
Iwo Jima Metal Art at Veteran’s Memorial in Shelby, Montana

Vietnam War Veteran John Alstad of Sunburst created most of the pieces at the Veteran’s Memorial in Shelby. He estimates he spent nearly 700 hours working on the various pieces at the monument, the most prominent of which is the Iwo Jima piece.

Found this old truck driving through a neighborhood in Shelby
Found this old truck driving through a neighborhood in Shelby

As I noted, Shelby is a railroad town.  As I drove around town getting the shots above, we were stuck at a track for nearly 20 minutes as a long train made its way to a grain elevator.  The photo at the top shows the train at the elevator.

Long train running in Shelby, Montana
Long train running in Shelby, Montana

I have always enjoyed looking at the graffiti on trains.  You see it all over the country.  Here are a few examples I got as the train moved slowly past us.  I couldn’t go anywhere, so, why not?

Train Graffiti
Train Graffiti
Train Graffiti
Train Graffiti
Train graffiti
Train graffiti
Train graffiti
Train graffiti

After the trains, I drive a bit east of town on US 2 to get a view of Shelby from the hill.  We came across this unique Historical Marker.

The Oily Boid gets the Woim - a unique historical marker
The Oily Boid gets the Woim – a unique historical marker

One of the evenings Julianne and I went with my daughter and her husband to the “premier” steak place in the Shelby area. Trust me, you would never know how good this place was inside by driving by it!!  It is in an old whitewashed building literally in the middle of nowhere in a place called Dunkirk, on the outskirts of Shelby.  All that is indicated is the sign.

Frontier Restaurant near Shelby, Montana
Frontier Restaurant near Shelby, Montana
Mailbox outside of Frontier Bar and Grill
Mailbox outside of Frontier Bar and Grill
Hanging with the Frontier Guy
Hanging with the Frontier Guy
Frontier Bar in Dunkirk, east of Shelby
Frontier Bar in Dunkirk, east of Shelby
I guarantee that this place is no bull!!
I guarantee that this place is no bull!!

Once in the place, it is a whole different story.  Linen napkins and nice china. The water glasses were the nice stem ware one sees in an upscale restaurant.  The prices are also synonymous with ritzy…  But so was the meal.

Dinner at Frontier - 16 oz. Cajun blackened New York Strip with a huge potato and green beans.
Dinner at Frontier – 16 oz. Cajun blackened New York Strip with a huge potato and green beans

After a nice dinner, we walked out of the restaurant and OH WHAT A VIEW!!

Mountains to the north of Shelby, with an awesome sunset.
Mountains to the north of Shelby, with an awesome sunset
Close up of Gold Butte - mountains on fire
Close up of Gold Butte – mountains on fire

The next day my son in law Aaron, his two boys and I all took off west towards Glacier National Park.  Though it was officially closed, we were able to get close enough to the mountains to catch a beautiful sunrise.  I will have a special photo album of shots of the mountains, but will include a couple of them here as well.

We left early, while still dark and headed towards Cut Bank and Browning.  We then took Hwy 464 towards Duck Lake. As we headed north towards Babb, the sun began to rise.

Sunrise in Northern Montana
Sunrise in Northern Montana near Babb, Montana
Snow covered prairies north of Browning, Montana
Snow covered prairies north of Browning, Montana
First sunrise on the mountains of Glacier National Park near Babbs, Montana
First sunrise on the mountains of Glacier National Park near Babb, Montana
Sunrise a little later in Glacier
Sunrise a little later in Glacier – Chief Mountain on Right, Sherburne Peak and Yellow Mountain on the left
Chief Mountain at sunrise
Chief Mountain at sunrise
Heading to the mountains on Montana Hwy 464 near Duck Lake
Heading to the mountains on Montana Hwy 464 near Duck Lake
Clouds in the Mountains near Babb, MT
Clouds in the Mountains near Babb, MT
Old truck - Babb, Montana
Old truck – Babb, Montana
Babb Bar and Supper Club
Babb Bar and Supper Club

After the sun was finally up, we backtracked to Babb and dropped in at the Leaning Tree Cafe, which is about a mile from the US 89 Junction.  It opened at 8 AM and it was time for a great meal.

Leaning Tree Cafe, Babb, Montana
Leaning Tree Cafe, Babb, Montana
Leaning Tree Menu - lots of good breakfast
Leaning Tree Menu – lots of good breakfast
The kids were excited to eat at a place like this
The kids were excited to eat at a place like this
They sell grubs here too - didn't have any of those for breakfast
They sell grubs here too – didn’t have any of those for breakfast
Mary runs the Leaning Tree Cafe. She makes a great breakfast
Mary runs the Leaning Tree Cafe. She makes a great breakfast
My breakfast at leaning tree - eggs, sausage, hash, potatoes and toast - YUM
My breakfast at leaning tree – eggs, sausage, hash, potatoes and toast – YUM
Happy after my breakfast
Happy after my breakfast

You can see a complete gallery of the Glacier N.P. Mountains –> Click Here

We headed back towards Browning, and along the way saw a couple of bison.  Not too good of shots, but, I didn’t want to get out of the car

Bison on Hwy 464
Bison on Hwy 464

We made our way into Browning, Montana.  The mountains were beautiful, but I was actually quite shocked at all of the garbage in the fields (mind you, I come from Lexington, KY which always looks like a park)

Browning, Montana - notice all of the garbage
Browning, Montana – notice all of the garbage along the fence
Don't Drink and Drive sign - makes for empty lodges
Don’t Drink and Drive sign – makes for empty lodges
Big Lodge Espresso - the Espresso Tipi in Browning
Big Lodge Espresso – the Espresso Tipi in Browning
Cowboy Museum in a Native American town
Cowboy Museum in a Native American town
Murals on the side of a shop in Browning
Mural on the side of a shop in Browning
Metal Teepees in front of a shop in Browning
Metal Teepees in front of a shop in Browning
Another nice mural in Browning, Montana
Another nice mural in Browning, Montana

From Browning we headed east again towards Cut Bank, we took a small detour off of US Hwy 2 to visit the Camp Disappointment historic site and monument near milepost 233.  There is a historical marker as well as a large obelisk monument dedicated to the site.

Camp Disappointment Historical Sign
Camp Disappointment Historical Sign
Camp Disappointment Monument west of Cut Bank, Montana
Camp Disappointment Monument west of Cut Bank, Montana

The biggest disappointment is all of the graffiti on the obelisk.  I don’t know why people feel like they need to vandalize monuments like this.

Close up of text on the monument
Close up of text on the monument
Another shot of Camp Disappointment Monument
Another shot of Camp Disappointment Monument

From Camp Disappointment we continued east into Cut Bank.  The skies were clear blue and it was a great opportunity to stop and get some close up shots of the Blackfoot Warriors, made out of scrap metal. These were created by native Blackfeet artist Jay Polite Laber and were commissioned by the Blackfeet Tribal Leaders.  They were created in 2000.  He actually created a set of these to welcome travelers into the Blackfeet reservation from all four directions — the northern site is at the US/Canadian border on US 89,  the eastern site in East Glacier on US Hwy 2, the western site is near Cut Bank on US Hwy 2 (these are below), and the southern site is on US 89 near Birch Creek and Heart Butte.

Blackfeet Warriors by Jay Polite Laber, in East Glacier, Montana
Blackfeet Warriors by Jay Polite Laber, in Cut Bank, Montana
Warrior 1
Warrior 1 – by Jay Polite Laber, near Cut Bank, Montana
Warrior 2
Warrior 2 – by Jay Polite Laber, near Cut Bank, Montana
The Warriors, by Jay Polite
The Warriors, by Jay Polite
Closeup of horse
Closeup of horse

From the warriors we went through town and made the requisite stop at the world’s largest penguin!

Cut Bank Penguin
Cut Bank Penguin

Being another train town, there is a large Train Bridge in Cutbank

Cut Bank Creek Trestle, built in 1900
Cut Bank Creek Trestle, built in 1900

Even though we had a busy morning and got into Shelby around noon, we were then again back on the road north towards Sweetgrass and off to visit a Hutterite colony, which was an amazing experience.

Striped fields in Northern Montana
Striped fields in Northern Montana
Blue roofed church in Sweetgrass, Montana
Blue roofed church in Sweetgrass, Montana
Another view of the Blue Roofed Church
Another view of the Blue Roofed Church

From Sweetgrass we headed west on a dirt road  towards the Hillside Colony of the Hutterites.  AS we visited we learned some amazing things: the Hutterites are almost totally communal.  All of them share everything.  Unlike the Amish, the Hutterites have adopted technology and are fabulously industrious.  They make their own clothes, they grow most of their own food, they all live in a small community.  Their homes are sparse.  It should be noted that I took a number of photos, with their permission, but, by their request, very few and only select photos are being added below.

Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass
Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass

We saw the above rock formations on the way to Hillside.  However, these were just an inkling of the bigger ones, which I have visited in the past.

On the road to the Hillside Colony
On the road to the Hillside Colony
The Hillside Community
The Hillside Community

As seen above, the Hutterites in Hillside Colony live in the prefab buildings as seen above.  The apartments are small and have little or no belongings in them.  Each of the steps represent a single domicile.

The belongings in the kitchen
The belongings in the kitchen

One thing noticed immediately, there are no stoves, ovens or refrigerators in the homes.  They have a couple of chairs, perhaps a bench, a bed or two and some dressers.  The bed frames, dressers, kitchen tables, the cup holder above and the chairs are all hand made in the community.

Home made chairs
Home made chairs
The hat rack - the men wear hats in the public
The hat rack – the men wear hats in the public
Laundry Carts are used and they hang the laundry out. They do use washing machines
Laundry Carts are used and they hang the laundry out. They do use washing machines
Communal Dining Room
Communal Dining Room

All meals are eaten together as a community — men on one side, women on the other.  The women prepare the meals while the men work out on the farms, the chicken coops, the woodworking section, or otherwise.

Hat hanger in the Dining Room
Hat hanger in the Dining Room
Hutterite Food Storage
Hutterite Food Storage

Overall, we were so impressed about the kindness of the Hutterite folk.  We picked up some potatoes, home made sausage and some of their wonderful bread.  They are as industrious as bees and ants and all share completely.  Each individual has their own assigned jobs, many for life.  It was a great visit.

Cousin Thomas
Cousin Thomas

One last little visit was made while we were in Shelby. We got to visit Harry J. Benjamin, who makes all kinds of trains and pedal cars.  Below is his “De-Railed” Steam Engine, which he shows off in parades in northern Montana. This engine pulls a set of cars that reaches 60 feet long.

Harry J. Benjamin
Harry J. Benjamin

Well past his 80’s, Mr. Benjamin, a former farmer and mechanic, is famed in the area for building things out of junk parts and pieces.  He has built a number of trains, some other vehicles for the local high school and a number of children’s toys.

Harry driving his smaller train
Harry driving his smaller train
Smokin...
Smokin…
Benjamin's creations - a couple of tractors
Benjamin’s creations – a couple of tractors
De-Railed
De-Railed
Toy Tractor
Toy Tractor
Grandkids Enjoy the Ride
Grandkids Enjoy the Ride

Here’s a video of one of his creations:

But, I must admit, the BEST part of the entire visit to Shelby was this….

....Reading to the Grandkids
….reading to the Grandkids

Next stop…heading home via US 2.  Watch soon for the next great adventures on Less Beaten Paths.

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