TRIP DIARY SUMMER of 2000
Author: Kay Gilmour
Weeks of travel throughout the USA. The quintessential American road trip with friends and a small budget.
Table of Contents
JACKSONVILLE to KENTUCKY.......................................................... 5
BEREA KENTUCKY .......................................................................... 5
KENTUCKY to MILWAUKEE............................................................. 6
MILWAUKEE, TWO RIVERS, and EGG HARBOR............................... 6
DOOR COUNTY PENINSULA ........................................................... 9
GREEN BAY, FOND DU LAC, and HORICON MARSH WILDLIFE REFUGE........................................................................................ 11
MADISON, FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S HOME, and THE DELLS ....... 12
ELROY, SPARTA, and LACROSSE – BIKE RIDE DAY .......................... 14
LOOP - LACROSSE to DUBUQUE, thru IOWA - back to LACROSSE 15
LOOP LACROSSE to BAY CITY – cross to MN and back to LACROSSE .................................................................................................... 18 LACROSSE into MN, HARMONY, ADAMS, BLOOMING PRAIRIE, OWATONNA, MINNEAPOLIS to MONTICELLO. ............................. 19
AROUND SAINT CLOUD................................................................ 22
THE MALL OF AMERICA, BLOOMINGTON, MN. ........................... 24
ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL and CITY TOUR – and Kay’s Birthday........ 26
MINNEAPOLIS ST. PAUL to WASHBURN, ND................................. 27
WASHBURN to TEDDY ROOSEVELT NP – SOUTH UNIT ................ 30
TEDDY ROOSEVELT NP- SOUTH UNIT .......................................... 34
TEDDY ROOSEVELT NP – SOUTH UNIT......................................... 36
TEDDY ROOSEVELT NP – NORTH UNIT ........................................ 38
TEDDY ROOSEVELT NP – NORTH UNIT ........................................ 40
WATFORD CITY to INTERNATIONAL PEACE GARDEN to ROLLA, ND .................................................................................................... 44
ROLLA, N.D. to BAUDETTE, MN.................................................... 46
BAUDETTE to INTERNATIONAL FALLS and VOYAGEUR NP ............ 48
BOISE CASCADE PAPER MILL and SOUDAN IRON ORE MINE........ 49
ELY and THE INTERNATIONAL WOLF CENTER............................... 52
ELY and VIRGINIA, MN ................................................................. 55
N. SHORE of LAKE SUPERIOR – GOOSEBERRY FALLS and TETTIGOUCHE STATE PARKS ......................................................... 57
NORTH SHORE, LAKE SUPERIOR to GRAND MARAIS.................... 58
GRAND MARAIS and GRAND PORTAGE........................................ 60
GRAND MARAIS to THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO and FORT WILLIAM 64
THUNDER BAY to SAULT STE. MARIE ........................................... 66
SAULT STE. MARIE, ONTARIO ....................................................... 69
BACK TO THE USA - PARADISE, MI ............................................... 71
TAHQUAMENON FALLS STATE PARK and CRANBERRY FARM........ 76
PICTURED ROCKS NATIONAL LAKESHORE .................................... 78
PICTURED ROCK NL to SAINT IGNACE, MI .................................... 80
MACKINAC ISLAND (Mackinaw) ................................................... 83
MACKINAC ISLAND and ST. IGNACE ............................................. 86
TRAVEL DAY, ST. IGNACE, MI to YOUNGSTOWN, OH .................... 87
TRAVEL DAY – Ft. Frederick in Maryland and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Williamsport, MD.............................................................. 91
SHENANDOAH NP – DAY ONE ..................................................... 92
SHENANDOAH NP – DAY TWO .................................................... 95
SHENANDOAH NP to ROANOKE, VA............................................ 97
BLUE RIDGE NATIONAL PARKWAY ................................................ 98
ASHVILLE, NC to TOWNSEND, TN and GREAT SMOKIES NP........ 102
CADES COVE BIKE RIDE and RICH MOUNTAIN TRAIL.................. 104
TOWNSEND, TN to JACKSONVILLE, FL ........................................ 106
JACKSONVILLE to KENTUCKY
SUNDAY, JULY 16, 2000
Sunday, July 16 - We arrived home from our 2 weeks in Iceland and did the laundry. The next morning we drove from home to below Knoxville, Ky. this first day of the “Big Trip”. We’re off to pick up Sharon who is visiting with her brother and sister-in-law (Bill and Marilyn Feldkamp) in Berea. The first excitement was a tremendous rainsquall just outside Lake City with horrific rain, lightning and thunder. Had to pull off for about 30 minutes as we couldn’t see where we were going. After that, the drive was long and uneventful. We just suddenly got very sleepy and tired at about 8 PM with the Iceland jet lag and had to stop. Monday, July 17 - Pulled into Berea in the early morning. Bill and Marilyn’s “old house” is very impressive. The grounds are beautiful with woods around the house set up on a hill off the road. The long gravel driveway winds up a cut field with the vegetable garden and greenhouse at the road. Marilyn has decorated the house beautifully with many family pictures and other homey touches. They will have a lot to move to the new home they have just purchased. Terminal jet lag set in until Marilyn got back from work. We went to Berea to see the sights. The Berea College Campus is small and compact with 1500 students. There is no tuition charged. All BEREA KENTUCKY
students must work on the campus to pay their way. The school was started in the mid 19th century to give the poor of Appalachia a chance at higher education. The buildings are mostly brick and fit into the tree covered manicured lawns in a comfortable fashion. The town is cozy and friendly looking. Reminds me of Stetson and Deland. We went out into the suburbs to see the new house. It’s on a treeless lot but Bill will fix that quickly. The lot is one acre and you can already see the garden in progress in Bill’s head. The house itself is bright and airy and a very nice size and configuration for the two of them with the ability to have guests comfortably as well. They should be very happy there. Went to the Boone Hotel in town for supper and then crashed again early in the evening. Tuesday - Another long day of driving. Sharon is with us now and has the back seat with all the housekeeping duties. We are packed tightly but everyone has a comfortable space. Drove from Berea to Milwaukee in one day. The farms in Indiana were beautiful. Lots of corn but all in all, there wasn’t too much to see from the Interstate. We did get a glimpse of Chicago from the interminable Interstate Bypass. We were very lucky to be able to call ahead for rooms in Milwaukee as well as two nights in Door County. Got to bed very early again and slept to 4:30 AM. KENTUCKY to MILWAUKEE
MILWAUKEE, TWO RIVERS, and EGG HARBOR
Wednesday - Our first real day of sightseeing. We got off early in the morning and drove through some immaculate neighborhoods. The variety of trees was spectacular. The homes are of all different
architectures but they go a lot for the Tudor look. They can grow gorgeous flowers in this cool climate as they do in England. Some of the front yards are as beautiful as any professional arboretum. We were at the Zoo before they opened the gates. A clear sky day in the 60’s. The Zoo is located on low hills covered with trees with wide comfortable paths. There were many indoor exhibits that were more diverse and informative than any we had seen in any other Zoo. They have to have a lot of indoor winter accommodations for many of their animals even though they rotate them outdoors during the “heat” of the summer. There were so many children there. Little ones, holding hands with their partners. Mixed groups of elementary school age kids – blacks, whites and Asians. A very busy place by the time we left at noon. We then drove to the Mitchell Park Arboretum. Had a picnic lunch in the park – burr!! Then went to visit the indoor exhibit – three glass domes built in the early 1900’s. One dome was of Tropical plants, one of desert plants and the third for “showy” flowers with placards of Georgia O’Keefe scattered throughout the garden. A delightful couple of hours. We then drove down to the Michigan Lakefront. There was a huge marina of sailboats. In the sheltered bay behind the seawall, many small sailboats were successfully avoiding each other. We later learned that they haul the boats up onto the parking lots during the winter. Some of the largest yachts are left in the water and have some kind of bubbling device that keeps ice from forming next to them. We drove along Lake Drive – the beer barons built spectacular mansions along the riverfront. Fantastic homes with breathtaking grounds.
Manicured lawns with that soft lush green grass that calls out for you to roll around on it. Again the flower varieties were stunning. We then pointed north and headed for the Peninsula of Door County. We now entered the real farm county of Wisconsin. Thousands upon thousands of corn plantings. Haven’t seen the two story farmhouses and red barns since I left our family farm in central New York. The barns have up to 8 silos and open corncribs as well. The other crop that is huge here is snap beans – both for an exportable cash crop and for crop rotation with the corn. We stopped in Two Rivers (the home of the first ice cream sundae). The gentleman that served us was talkative and filled us in on some of the local color. We learned that the local corn is grown for the dairy herds. They chop the whole thing up and put it in silos. This is mixed – 75% hay, 15% corn and the rest barley and oats. Winter-feed. They get little snow here due to the effects of the Lake. Does get down to 20 below on occasions. Kids still go to school – only close school for heavy snow if the plows can’t clear it by morning. Charlton Heston’s wife was born and raised in this town. He drops by now and then but we didn’t get to see him to discuss the finer points of the National Rifle Association’s stand on hand gun control. Got the impression that our tour guide thinks very highly of the man so we did not get into the issues of gun control with him either. At last we found our way to Egg Harbor, our home for two nights in Door County Peninsula with Green Bay on the west and Lake Michigan on the east. Had a too large meal at a local “fine” restaurant. It’s a bar and also has to be where the Moose or
Kiwanis meets for lunch. Good food – Orange Roughy. Ran out the highway to catch the dying light for a picture of a particularly attractive farm and then fell into our motel on Green Bay. We did go out to the end of the yard to look over the water. Waves on the Bay, heavy clouds overhanging the water, temperature in the 50’s and a brisk breeze sent us indoors. It’s 10:30 – the latest we’ve manage to stay up so far. It’s been 4 long days on the road and I’m looking forward to two days of quiet puttering around on this finger of land. Thursday - Up for breakfast in our room. We were off at 8AM as usual. It was a cool overcast day with temperatures in the high 60’s all day. Had scattered showers as well. Went North on the peninsula to the strait dividing the tip of the peninsula with an off shore island. The strait is called Death’s Door as so many ships have wrecked trying to get through there. They run a car ferry every 30 minutes during the day in summer. In the winter, they run one icebreaker a day carrying 6 cars only. The 600 year-round residents have to plan carefully for those trips to town. The water in Green Bay really IS GREEN – and crystal clear. It’s hard to believe that there is still pollution from industry still lurking about. We drove up the west side and down the east stopping at a couple State Parks along the way. We were not very impressed by Door County. The towns have 100 – 200 residents all of whom are running establishments catering to the tourists. Small scale DOOR COUNTY PENINSULA
Gatlinburg. If you don’t want to play golf or go shopping in arts and crafts shops or antique hopping – not much else to do. The coast is pretty but hard to get to in most places either due to the lack of roads to the shore or because the shoreline is privately owned and out of bounds according to all the “Keep Out” signs. We did enjoy seeing a couple of lighthouses – one of which we walked to over a “causeway” of large stones that goes under water with a good Nor’easter. Lighthouses today are all automatic and run on electricity. There is only one lighthouse keeper left at the oldest lighthouse in the USA in Boston. When we were able to get to the shore away from tourist areas, we saw several of the local fishing boats. They’re called gill boats. They are about 35 feet long. From the side, they look like a cigar with a short square bump on the stern that serves as the wheelhouse. There is no deck – all the work goes on inside the structure from a door that when closed is flush with the back of the boat. With that door opened, the back end of the boat opens to put the gill nets out and bring them in. They go out 5 to 10 miles to put out their nets close to the bottom. They go back 3 – 5 days later to haul the nets and pull in the white fish for which they are famous. It looked cold and dangerous with the relatively mild summer weather and lake conditions. Can’t imagine what it’s like in the colder times of the year. Had wonderful berries – raspberries and cherries right out of the field. Ate our fill. Didn’t care for the wines they make with fruits – lots of wineries specializing in cherry wine. Too fruity with an aftertaste.
We have decided to leave here tomorrow morning and make our way to Madison, the capitol. We’ve seen about every square inch of Door County and it’s time to move on.
GREEN BAY, FOND DU LAC, and HORICON MARSHWILDLIFE REFUGE
Friday - We left Egg Harbor early and drove directly to Green Bay. Once you get out of the tourist area on the Peninsula, the farms take over again. Cows all over the place. One dairy farm after the other. Everywhere we have been in rural Wisconsin, we see a LOT of German names on the mailboxes. The Germans, Swiss, and other Teutonic peoples settled this state in the 1800’s when they came in droves to escape the depression in Europe. In keeping with our prejudices about the Germanic cultures, we consistently have seen absolutely pristine farms and small town neighborhoods. There is obviously a major culture of cleanliness next to godliness with flowers and beautiful landscaping thrown in. It’s really hard to have a clean dairy farm but they are – one after the other. If pride is a sin – I say more power to these folks – and am sure their sins of pride in their surroundings and home sites will be forgiven easily. We stayed in Green Bay long enough to see the football stadium and some of the downtown. Small town without any outwardly remarkable features. Not everything in town is the football colors of green and gold – but almost. On to Fond du Lac – literally – at the end of the lake. This beautiful little town lies at the end of Lake Winnebago. 80 miles around and
big enough to have white caps even with a mild breeze. The temperature had soared to 68 so we picnicked at the lake edge with only one heavy sweater. Took in the sights – Lighthouse, Spanish American War Memorial (?), churches and then took a audiotape tour out into the countryside to the Horicon Marsh Wildlife Refuge. There are several thousand acres of marsh, which act as a sanctuary for Canadian geese during their migration in the spring and the fall. We drove out on an old dike where you could see an endless vista of cattails – the largest cattail marsh in the world. This was our first chance to get out into the “wilderness” of this beautiful state and we were very happy to be there away from all those darned tourists. We saw bunny rabbits, mice, voles, musk rats, deer and birds of all kinds – white pelicans, great blue herons, robins, swallows, and of course – explosions of wild flowers. A delightful afternoon. Dinner was at a family restaurant with huge Friday four course meals for $6.00. Called ahead to get this Motel in the capitol, Madison so that I could have an Internet port in the room. Now if I can only figure out how to use it ----- Saturday - Our goal for the day was The Dells. The name serves for both the name of a city and the formation of sandstone rock that forms the banks of the Wisconsin River in the area. On the way from Madison to The Dells, we stopped at the sight of Frank Lloyd Wright’s home. His grandparents had land there from the early 1800’s when they came from Wales. He built his personal home, Taliesin, in the side of a high bluff overlooking a beautiful valley. MADISON, FRANK LLOYDWRIGHT’S HOME, and THE DELLS
We couldn’t stay long enough for the several hours’ tour but did go through the small visitor’s center with exhibits. Did a bit of shopping as well. Christmas will be here before you know it. Close by was a house we had read about in the AAA magazine. It is very unique and huge with architecture build into the rocks and a very unique glass corridor built out 50 feet into space over the valley below. We really wanted to see this house but apparently the current owners didn’t have the courage of their convictions that the house would serve as an attraction on its own so they really hokyed the place up with awful side attractions that you couldn’t avoid. We were horrified by the gaudiness of the place and ran from the site as quickly as possible. Made it to the Dells in time to get tickets for the boat tours of the river below and then above the dam. The glaciers a few million years ago were in this area that had previously been a shallow sea. There were massive sandstone deposits laid down. The glacier scraped most of this sediment away but spared a long strip of land in the middle. This then eroded with waters of the Wisconsin River and left the exposed banks as bizarre sandstone cliffs on both sides of the river for several miles. The cliffs then suddenly stop and the shoreline is flat again just as in all the other rivers in the region. We enjoyed the boat ride and the short walks they had us take from the boat. The town however is three Gatlinburgs rolled into one – thousands of people roaming the streets eating ice cream and shopping in tee shirt stores. We left.
There was no place in the inn for miles around this most popular tourist area so we ended up staying in a truck stop motel. Really nothing fancy – but after Iceland, indoor plumbing rates at least 3 stars in our categorization of facilities .
ELROY, SPARTA, and LACROSSE – BIKE RIDE DAY
Sunday - Got to the bike trail head at 9 AM and headed off on our 32 mile bike trip. The trail follows an old train right-of-way improved by the Rails-To-Trails Association. Neither Lois nor I have ridden a bike more than a couple miles in the past few years. Oh well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Sharon drove the car ahead and met us at the small towns along the way. The first 9 miles were a steady uphill grade – just enough to make your legs holler. The weather was perfect. Temperatures in the low 70’s, beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds, the smell of new mown hay, birds singing in the fields and groves of trees along the trail, Amish farms with the buggies at the doors, deer, cows and horses everywhere. It was a perfect day. There are three tunnels on the route left over from the old train days. The first and second were ¼ mile long and the third was ¾ mile long. You were required to walk through which only made sense as it was pitch black and you’d have killed each other coming and going if riding. Most everyone including us had flashlights. Finished in 6 hours with a break for a picnic lunch and a couple of cold drink breaks and then drove into Lacrosse. Spent the evening trying to get the pictures onto the Internet for the family. It seems to be working. To bed earlier than usual. Seem to be tired for some reason. Maybe it’s from trying to eat and type standing up.
LOOP - LACROSSE to DUBUQUE, thru IOWA - back to LACROSSE
Monday, July 24 - Took US 53 South down the Mississippi River. What a surprise we had when just on happenstance we had stopped at a dam and lock to see how they worked. In came the Mississippi Queen on her yearly trip from New Orleans to the Upper Mississippi for the summer. She almost filled the 600-foot lock. The calliope was playing as she left the lock. It t took about 45 minutes to get her through. The whole neighborhood turned out for the event - families with children, grandparents with folding chairs and every tourist passing by at the time. The railroad runs right along the river. The train tooted it’s welcome and all the trucks on the highway sounded their horns in salute. We even had a bald eagle fly overhead. A very festive occasion. There are 29 locks between St. Louis and St. Paul. The waters between the locks/dams are called pools. The level of water in the pools stays almost the same throughout the year. The total drop from the Upper to the Lower Mississippi is over 400 feet. Lock #8 where we saw the Queen has only an 11-foot drop. We stopped at the next lock, #9, as there appeared to be a barge coming towards it. Turned out it was a barge group with three barges carrying diesel fuel and the massive, extremely powerful pushing tug. The combination was over 1400 feet long and too long to get into the 600-foot lock. So they pushed the first two barges into the lock and decoupled them from the remaining combination. The tug and its connected barge then pulled into the lock snuggled up next to the decoupled pair. They strapped the two segments side to side. The back doors closed and the water
level rose. When they opened the front doors, the combination moved forward. When the front two barges were out of the lock – they attached them to the concrete wall extending beyond the lock. The tug and first barge unhooked their side-to-side coupling. With only inches between the lock and the tug on one side and the free barges on the other the captain backed the tug back into the lock. He then pivoted across the lock to position behind the front barges. They recoupled them end-to-end again and off they went – to the next lock where they would start the whole process again. That explains why it takes 5 days to make the trip. Each of the three barges carried as much fuel as 870 fuel tanker trucks. They gave the number that a barge combination ¼ mile in length would carry as much cargo as 18-wheelers lined up for 11.5 miles bumper to bumper. The barges primarily carry fuel products, fertilizers, and chemicals from south to north and grain, corn, and soybeans to the south. A lot of the corn goes all the way down the Mississippi to New Orleans to be exported out of the country. What stays in this country is used for cow feed and for products made from corn. Very little of it is sweet corn for table corn. We went down to Prairie du Chien where we found a wonderful state park. The park is on a high bluff overlooking the confluence of the Wisconsin River and the Mississippi. A beautiful vista. Crossed the Mississippi and drove into Iowa. Turned south again and drove along the high bluffs. Tremendous views of the massive river for miles and miles. We were then turned inland on a road marked on the map as “scenic”. That was an understatement of great magnitude. None of us had ever seen that sweep of
The hills were rolling so we would get up on a crest of a hill and be able to see for mile in all directions. What we saw was a sea of neatly arranged cornfields. Those sections that were cut were done so on the contours of the hills producing a tableau of greens and golden yellows with white farmhouses and red barns jutting up out of the waving stalks. A glorious sight. At Dubuque, Iowa, we crossed the Mississippi back into Wisconsin. In this area along the river, the road ran up to the high bluffs and then plunged back to river level over and over again. There was also more forest then farming. Talked with a couple of local men to learn more about the area. They still milk the cows twice a day as we did on my grandfather’s dairy farm in Central New York. But instead of the farmer having to transport his milk to a central milk station, tank trucks come to the farm every other day to pick up the milk. There has been consolidation of dairy farming with Land-o-Lakes and Foremost having contracts with various farms for their milk. The corn has to be cut at maturity. There would not be enough barges to carry it all away at once. We learned that there had been a white sand mining operation in Iowa near the river. The mine stretched back for miles into the hills. Those mines maintained a constant temperature and humidity. They are NOW used to store the corn and soybeans between harvesting and shipping. Clever. This was a long day with many firsts in our books of experiences. Just what I’d hoped for in making this trip. It’s so exciting to see our fellow citizens working and playing so hard with skills and
ways of life we have never noted before. The people we have met are very friendly and gregarious. They are anxious to tell us about their lives. They are also incredulous that we from Florida are here for vacation. “Why are you here?" is a universal response to our answer concerning our home state. We must admit, we have not seen any other licenses other than Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Iowa. There really is not much to do here other than to take in the sights. But what sights there are!! Tuesday - Started the day in the rain. First inclimate weather we’ve seen. Within an hour, it had cleared and by the late afternoon it was actually hot. The temperature got into the mid 80’s. Stopped in a tiny town at the local diner/market to get a coke. There were 8 men and women sitting around a kitchen-type table drinking coffee and discussing the news of the day - the arrival of the Mississippi Queen into Lacrosse the day before. There was a great deal of vocal disappointment with her failure to play the calliope all the way into port. “Things just aren’t done like they were in the old days!” Ever thus. Didn’t get to stay long enough to hear their opinion of the current behavior of today’s children. The high point of the day was a visit to the Tremplealeau National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1936, it is 5700 acres of hardwoods, marsh and real wild prairie. We saw deer, rabbits, skunk, wading birds, songbirds, red headed woodpeckers, and hawks. We had the place to ourselves most of the time. The smell of the wildflowers and the songs of the birds in the prairie grasses were restful and relaxing. A very peaceful place. LOOP LACROSSE to BAY CITY – cross to MN and back to LACROSSE
The rest of the day was not much. We drove up the two-lane road on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi and then crossed the river and drove back down the Minnesota side. We were on a low ridge on both sides with 500-foot bluffs above us. The views were occasionally good but a lot of the time we couldn’t see too much. There were a few little towns along the way. Stockholm with a population of 89 was one of them. I did have a chance to meet a very nice young man named D.L. Nazch. He was a redhead with a little gap between his front teeth and a nice Midwestern twang in his voice. He was also a Wisconsin Highway Patrolman. Once we got past the formalities of the warning ticket for my doing 65 in a 55-mile an hour zone, we got out the Wisconsin map and he helped us map out our route up to Lake Pepin. Sweet fellow for not giving me a real ticket. Lake Pepin is NOT a lake. It’s just a very wide place in the river – 23 miles long and 2 to 3 miles across. There are islands in the river all along the way. Some are wide enough to have a causeway leading to them so that a few homes can be built. Wonder what happens to them when the river floods? Early dinner at a local steak house buffet that will never compete with or cause concern at Ruth Chris’ Steak House. Lois and Sharon are off doing a monumental laundry. I’m getting the pictures together and listening to news of the tragic Air France Concord crash. All for tonight.
LACROSSE into MN, HARMONY, ADAMS, BLOOMING PRAIRIE, OWATONNA, MINNEAPOLIS to MONTICELLO.
Wednesday - We left Lacrosse in a driving rainstorm. Last night
there were severe storms in the Milwaukee area with tornadoes. We crossed the Mississippi at Lacrosse and left Wisconsin behind. It is a beautiful state and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. We went south and west to the small town of Harmony. We went there as we had read it was Amish Country. We stopped at the Visitor’s Center and got a map of the area. Before driving out into the country, we shopped at a couple of stores selling Amish goods. We got a picture to add to our travel wall at home and a couple souvenirs. Then we headed off to see some Amish farms. We didn’t. No matter which way we turned or whichever direction we went, we ended up back in Harmony. It was like the movie “Groundhog Day”. We couldn’t get out of the loop. We glimpsed one man in a buggy and the back end of an Amish clad woman in front of a house but no farmhouses, barns or fields. We were in hysterics after an hour. There are only 139 people in Harmony and we saw every one of them unless they were Amish. We figured the locals had seen our distinctive car going in and out of town so many times that they would think we were casing the bank. We were out in the countryside and came upon a John Deere sales lot. I found a fellow that was washing a tractor in a shed and asked him to take me for a tour of the equipment. He gladly complied and I learned about the monster combines, planters, gravity wagons, combine attachments for grain, beans and corn harvesting. A farmer, who Sharon correctly said looked more like a banker, drove up and just couldn’t stand it. He had to ask what 3 women with bikes on the back of their car were doing looking over the big rigs. He was very gracious and took the time to tell us a lot about corn growing. This included the difference between
the types of corn to plant, the uses for corn, when to plant, when to harvest, how to harvest for feed or for getting the corn off the husks. Later as we drove towards St. Paul, I saw some men in a large parking area with the large short metal round storage sheds we had seen for days. Not the tall silos – much shorter and fatter. With nothing ventured, nothing gained; I stopped and asked if they would teach me about the sheds. There were three men in their 50’s. Two probably brothers and they took to their teaching with gusto. Learned how the combine takes the kernels off the husks, drying to 13% water content, heating the corn bins in summer and cooling in winter to avoid condensation, storage of the kernels, pricing, corn futures, size of farms, transport to the Mississippi, the difference between storage in the silos and in the bins, and the average production on their farms. They get about 150 bushels an acre. One of their farms was 2000 acres. Of course, their first question was what we were doing in this area. The locals can’t believe we are actually just driving around the countryside on a vacation. In the mid-afternoon, it was time to get back on the Interstate and head north towards St. Paul. This required taking the beltway around Minneapolis. Word to the wise – never try this in evening rush hour traffic with a full bladder after drinking two diet cokes in a row.
We have seen very clever traffic control in all the big city beltways. The traffic that is trying to get onto the Interstate is held by a red light on the access ramp. Some sensor on the Interstate checks
the distance between cars and when there would be a break for the merging car, the light turns green and the car is released to blend onto the oncoming traffic. Seems to work very well. Didn’t see many people jumping the gun and running the lights. We are in the Day’s Inn in Monticello tonight. The plan is to tour places in St. Cloud tomorrow. No other farmer interviews planned for the immediate future. Thursday - It was hot today and humid. Temperatures got into the mid 80’s. The natives liked to tell us that it really gets hot in August. But their eyes light up when they tell you how cold it gets in winter. There is great pride in the fact that they survive the winters here. Saint Cloud is a lovely city of 50,000 folks about 60 miles west of Minneapolis. We’re staying three nights in Monticello – about halfway in between. Once again, we’re on the Mississippi River. It seems to be following us. Saint Cloud was founded in the mid 1800’s like most every other city in this part of the country. Another standard feature of all communities in Wisconsin and Minnesota, no matter what their size, is the presence of lovely small to huge public parks. AROUND SAINT CLOUD
They have manicured lawns, picnic tables, trees, walkways and whatever other amenities that size allows.
One of the parks in Saint Cloud was started in the mid 1900s by the city as a garden along the river. In 1992, one of the industrial barons in this area donated land, rosebushes, fountains, iron works and yearly monies to extend the garden above the river to just across the street from his palatial home. His wife has had multiple sclerosis for years and is now restricted to the glass enclosed summerhouse on the lawn of the home overlooking this new expanded public garden. The result is a two-block long formal flowering piece of Paradise. It is surely the most magnificent formal garden I’ve seen since Butchert Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia. After a couple hours oohing and aahing among the posies, we went to visit the two centers of higher education on the outskirts of town. One is the College of St. Benedict for girls and the other St. John’s University for boys. They are both splendid campuses with large grounds. They share faculty but the girls live on one campus and the boys on the other – about 10 miles apart. The nuns, priests and monks keep a close eye on everything. The Benedictine Monks established and administer St. John’s University. The nuns of The Order of St. Benedict run the girl’s school. St. John’s has one of the most extensive collections of ancient manuscripts in North America in the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library. The monks are in charge of this institution that cooperates with other Universities around the world to catalog, microfilm, and store these precious documents. It was a moving experience to view some of these antiquities. There are pictures of the Abbey on the Web site. This huge edifice on the St. John’s campus is where the monks gather three times
daily for communal prayer. The public is welcomed to join them. The parish has it’s own sanctuary which is a large space under the Abbey. We left St. Cloud and in the early evening drove a couple miles from our motel to the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. It had a 7 miles one way loop road around the prairie grasslands, ponds, and forest. We absolutely could not get out of the car due to the hordes of deer flies and huge horse flies that we know from experience bite like fire. They threw themselves against the windows trying to get in. Hitchcock should be alive to make a movie on this phenomenon. It was a pretty place to spend the evening and we saw many beautiful birds. Another gourmet meal at Perkin’s Family Restaurant and off to bed. Friday - The people of this area say they have two seasons – Winter and Road Work. That’s for certain!! We have never seen such bottlenecks and complete confusion on major roadways ever. To avoid that chaos, we decided to take the back roads towards the Mall and took a couple hours to visit The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. We know you’re getting tired of garden stories, but each place has been very distinctive in size, formality of presentation and the types of botany presented. This place had a 3-mile drive through. Their most outstanding features were the great variety of different species of trees and the rose garden. Adjacent to the main building was a formal garden. In that garden was an area of Dahlia plantings that blew THE MALL OF AMERICA, BLOOMINGTON, MN.
our socks off. Those flowers were as big as dinner plates and of every color but black. Fabulous! Also had an interesting bathroom experience. Ask in person some day. The nice retiree who manned the front gate asked where we were from. When we answered Florida, guess what he asked? Right!! “What are you doing up here?” We said we were enjoying his beautiful state. He gave us a cute, devilish grin and invited us to “winter over with us once or twice”. Opened in 1992, it covers 78 acres, has 520 stores (we missed going into one or two), with 12,000 employees and 2.5 million square feet of retail stores. In the middle of the four-story complex is an amusement park with a full sized ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and several other horrible looking rides. Not the place to visit after partaking of any of the forty some places to eat. We shopped till we dropped. Then with feet ablaze, we retired to one of the movies houses in the Mall to see “The Patriot”. They were preparing the populous for the winter by air-conditioning down to the 50’s. Never been so cold in a movie in my life. Pretty good movie though. Ate at a fast food emporium and then drove back out to the boondocks for the night. Then it was off to the MALL OF AMERICA. YES – it is HUGE!!
ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL and CITY TOUR – and Kay’s Birthday
Saturday - If we hadn’t had the GPS system in the car, we would still be looking for the cathedral. The main roads are all under repair so you are detoured all over the place. With the direction finder, we just kept reentering the coordinates and by golly – it got us there. And were we ever glad. It is a spectacular monumental structure of external granite and internal travertine marble based on the design of St. Peter’s in Rome. It seats 3000. As the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, it is recognized by the Holy See as the bishop’s official church and it holds the cathedra , or bishop’s chair. As soon as we arrived, the organ began to fill the vault with music. Heavenly! Then we noticed people being escorted into the sanctuary for a wedding. We stayed long enough to see her come down the aisle and then slipped out. Back to the Mall for a quick lunch and then we took an escorted bus tour of the Twin Cities. The lady that drove and narrated is a native with generational roots back to the original settlers. She was witty and wise and took us for a three hour tour of both cities including historical sites, parks, beautiful neighborhoods with stately mansions, State government buildings including the capitol, Jesse Ventura’s governor’s residence, the campus of Minnesota University (45,000 students – The Gophers), the Mississippi riverside, and the old industrial areas of Minneapolis where Gold Medal Flour, Pillsbury, and General Mills began. The fathers of the cities decided in the early 1800’s that no one would be allowed to build any structures on the lakeshores. This has allowed them to have parks around the many lakes for the free
recreation of the people. Each of the big lakes has TWO paths around. The inner path is for foot travel and the outer path is for wheeled traffic – one way – on roller-blades or bikes. There were so many people out enjoying a Saturday in the sunshine. She tld us it is below freezing consistently between January and the first of April. That’s why the lakes all freeze for skating and ice fishing. They make the most of it – but BURRRRRR. Sharon and Lois took me out for Birthday dinner. Had the state fish – Walleye Perch. Delicious. A must try if available in the south. Sharon has gone to her room very early, as she will be up at 4 AM to go to the airport. She is flying to Atlanta to meet her sister and niece for a visit before returning to Jacksonville. Lois and I will continue west as we head for North Dakota. Sunday JULY 30 - To get to North Dakota, leave the Minneapolis bedroom community of Monticello, turn west on I-94 and keep driving the rest of the day. As we moved west through Minnesota, the land became hillier. When we got to Otter Tail County, there were fewer and fewer cornfields and more and more grain. We entered North Dakota at Fargo as we crossed the Red River. The Red River Valley of song fame is there and extends for miles to the west. They grow barley, oats, dry edible beans, durum wheat, winter wheat, and sunflowers. The fields of sunflowers are brilliant in the wide-open blue-sky country. WEEK THREE MINNEAPOLIS ST. PAUL to WASHBURN, ND
The land is obviously less arable as the farms are further and further apart the further west we go. It’s drier and there are stretches of open pasture and small lakes taking up the land. The farm homes and barns are not as large and prosperous looking either. There are more beef cattle and no signs of milking. The farmhouses do not have the acre or more of mowed, manicured lawns that we saw throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota. Is this the result of a lack of leisure for its care or lack of cultural importance of this type of landscaping? We have also left the land of the rural skyscrapers of silos attached to the barns. In their place are gigantic, freestanding grain elevators. They can be seen for miles and fill the horizon. Trains of great length race the automobiles on parallel tracks off in the distance as they carry the grains from the elevators to the big rivers to be loaded on barges. From there, most of the grains end up in the distribution centers of the Mississippi River Basin. We stopped in Jamestown to see the Bison. They’re a tourist attraction – not free roaming. One of them was all white. Strange looking beast with a brown calf of her own. We had our picture taken with a massive statue of a Bison just like the tourists that we are. The further west we go, the hotter it gets. A fellow we talked to at Jamestown was traveling from Idaho towards Minnesota. He snickered slightly when he informed us that it was 105 degrees around Teddy Roosevelt National Park where we will be hiking and biking over the next few days. And we thought we were leaving Florida to get away from the summer heat!
Lois read aloud many miles and helped the time move along through the hours of travel on the Interstate. Poetry and literary criticism. We turned north at the Capital, Bismarck and have stopped for the night at Washburn. I had the time to reflect on the constant question asked of us by the locals as to why we were in their part of the country. I believe this is simply a case of what we all do in failing to see the details of our surroundings after experiencing them for a while. In the case of this farming country, these fine folks exposure to the land has been for decades and generations. This is not an example of familiarity breeding contempt but rather breeding complacence. What do we see with our unaccustomed eye as we drive for miles and miles through the countryside that they understandably no longer note? We note that there are multiple variations in the silos with some a deep metallic blue with Old Glory on the side, some with blue and white-checkered bands around the top, and white ones with red stripes over the top. We see the beauty and distinctness of the hues and depth of the colors green and gold in the crops, the symmetry of the contour plowing and plantings, the ingeniousness and massiveness of their farm machines, the special, hard won, knowledge of crop and livestock management, weather, economics, and the manner of using the roads and great rivers to move their products to market, the clarity of the air, the immensity of the sky, the smell of new-mown hay, the deer and rabbits in the mornings, the plenty and simple loveliness of the churches, the symbols in the communities of the heritages of those who came to settle the land, the love of our Country shown with the Stars and Stripes flying in the farmhouse front yards, the accents and friendly ways of the people who gladly talked to strangers about their lives, and everywhere – the flowers, the
flowers, and the flowers.
We will move on to visit a replica of Fort Mandan tomorrow. Lewis and Clark wintered here in this area in 1804 before pushing on along the Missouri towards the west coast. Perhaps it will be cooler tomorrow.
WASHBURN to TEDDY ROOSEVELT NP – SOUTH UNIT
Monday - When Lewis and Clark returned from the Pacific Coast to civilization in the East, they occasionally divided their party in order to more thoroughly explore the territory. They almost missed rejoining at Yellowstone as one of the parties had pushed ahead early and hastily to escape the mosquitoes that were bedeviling them. Unfortunately for us, many of those nasty critters’ progeny awaited us at Fort Mandan this morning. Let’s all give three Hip, Hip, Hoorays for Deet Bug Spray. We escaped with our lives and blood intact. The Fort replica shows how small it was – about the size of our house. Small, low-ceilinged rooms accommodated the men for four months of brutal winter weather. There were 33 of them and one dog. Each room had a fireplace so perhaps they were able to stay warm. We decided we could make as good time traveling the state road 200 as the frost heaved I-94 so we turned west again on the back roads. As another example of the seriousness of the winter weather, there are road signs reminding the residents that the emergency phone number to call in case they’re stranded in the car is printed on their driver’s license.
This part of the country was not the bottom of an ancient sea.
Rather, it was marsh and near tropical swamps after the retreat of the glaciers. There is resultant coal under most of North Dakota. They have done strip mining here in the mid section, but a law was passed by the state mandating that the pits be smoothed and replanted so there are no scars upon the land. There are huge coal powered electrical generating plants in the area of Washburn attesting to the fact that coal is still plentiful in the area. There are also a few of the oil pumps that look like the bird dipping its head into water. There has been a small oil industry here for most of the 1900’s. The topography around Washburn is that of peculiar cone-shaped mounded hills. Lois and I dubbed them the Dolly Parton Hills. These make it difficult to farm much of that area. As we moved west, the land flattened out again and rose to a plateau. The crops there were all manner of wheat and hay. A wonderful juxtaposition of green and yellow colors. There were fields of sunflowers again – they harvest the seeds for oils and for eating. Much like the Grand Canyon, the flat plateau suddenly opened into a wide, sculptured, multihued landscape of deep canyons and interspersed tableland. The Little Missouri River has been very busy carving out this land for millennia. We had reached the Bad Lands of North Dakota. This place is NOT on the way to anywhere else. You really have to make an effort to get to the western border of North Dakota.
We’re staying in the town of Medora. It’s a tourist town of modest proportions and a serious lack of hokum. Most of the license plates are from North and South Dakota, Montana, and
Saskatchewan. There is some non-profit organization that runs most of the concession places in town. There are also businesses that advertise that they are privately run. This is advertised in a strident tone that immediately tells the visitor that there is friction between these two groups. We never did get to the bottom of this, as both sides were reticent to clarify the situation. The park was the inspired idea of Teddy Roosevelt, our 26 th President. He lived here as a young rancher in the 1880’s. In just a few short years, he saw the dramatic degradation in the land and wild animals caused by westward expansion. As President, he got through Congress several seminal acts of legislation that sparked the concept of National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries. This Park is dedicated to his efforts at conservation. It is strangely divided into two sections that are separated by some 60 miles of private lands. We are presently staying in the South Unit in the Bad Lands Motel. We arrived at noon, went to the visitor’s center for literature and maps and headed out onto the 30-mile loop road to scout out the place for later, cooler hiking and picture taking. We did strike out on one self-guided trail just as the thermometer read 101 degrees. We plan to be up before dawn tomorrow to get an earlier start. Will describe the land more tomorrow. Today, I must report that we had unbelievable luck in sighting animals and birds. Of course, we saw hundreds of Bison. We saw several prong horn antelope in the distance. Two female wild turkeys with their 7 chicks walked right in front of our car. Two King Birds were harassing them. There are several small herds of wild horses in the Park. We saw a couple dozen mares and a few stallions.
Then, there was the coyote. We spotted her walking along a ridge. Followed her around the ridge and found her luxuriating in the prairie grasses above a prairie dog colony. We watched for 30 minutes but all she did was groom and intermittently doze. She was waiting for the right time to go down to hunt. Also watching her was a PBS crew photographing a special “Any Wild Place” which will feature this Park. The segment is to air in late November. If a man and woman riding horses waves at passersby in the show – they were waving at us. We left our dozing coyote and drove on. Suddenly, out of the grass to our right ran a badger. A real, live badger. We had never seen this secretive animal before. He also was heading for a prairie dog village across the street. Those cute little guys are on everyone’s menu. The badger stopped some 50 feet from us and began furiously digging into a prairie dog hole. No luck – so far. He wandered out of sight. We decided to go back to our coyote. We found her still lying about in the grass where we had left her an hour before. After a few more minutes, we decided that watching a coyote sleep had lost its appeal so headed back to dinner, a Laundromat, and an early night’s sleep.
On the way, we saw the same badger and he saw us. He rested on a rock and just stared at us for a few moments and disappeared again. Was there long enough for me to get a picture!
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