Day 237 – Travel Day

Day 237 – Travel Day, August 10, 2011

Rest Area building guarded with sand bags

Well, I intended on doing some sight seeing today before heading west to Valentine, Nebraska, but I ended up slightly challenged in Sioux City.  First, I expected a city of 80,000 to have a Firestone, and I needed an oil change in the next 500 miles to keep my warranty.  No

Containers of sand lined the highway

Firestones here, so I had to adjust my route.  I still planned on making it to Nebraska, but my final destination for the evening changed to Grand Island with a pit stop in Omaha.  Of course, this required me to travel south along the flooded Missouri River which resulted in the main Interstate (I-29) to be closed in several areas and sandbagged in others…DETOUR.  I wasn’t really aware of the devastation.  The flooding here is very bad.  While I was able to stop at one overlook in Stone State Park, the other places I tried to visit in Sioux City were under water.  So, I had perfect weather for a travel day and spent the late afternoon and evening at Firestone getting my oil changed and unexpectedly replacing two more tires…they are not wearing properly.  The A/C

View from Stone State Park

technician was only on the clock until five, so I had to skip a possible A/C repair.  At least it was nice weather to drive with the windows down!  I finally reached Wal-Mart around ten.  I’m glad to be out of the flood…I’m sorry for those who are still in it and lost all their belongings.  ETB

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Day 236 – Loess Hills Scenic Byway

Day 236 – Loess Hills Scenic Byway

campground

Well, I considered driving an extra 155 miles to Hamburg, IA
last night so I could start off my day exploring Waubonsie State Park while it
was slightly cool.  I’m so glad I didn’t
do that for two reasons.

First, as mentioned yesterday, I found the only Original
Pony Express Home Station which operated as a museum, and I thought while
quirky, it was pretty neat.  A variety of
items were included in the displays, some relating to the Pony Express and some
items donated by local families that appeared to have nothing to do with the
1860’s mail carriers like a rock collection and wrench collection (weird).

Maps display the Pony Express route and exhibits included
old riding gloves with a trigger finger and bunk beds where the riders used to
sleep.  The pony rider which was
generally skinny and under the age of eighteen had to take an oath promising
not to use profane language, not to fight, and to represent the Pony Express in
a mannerly fashion.  The Mochilla had
four mail compartments; three which carried long distance mail and one that
carried way mail (mail picked up along the way).

The Marysville rider would arrive from St. Joe, MO after a
12 hour ride where a rested rider would take over on a fresh mount and carry the
mail to the next stop like a relay team.
The Marysville rider would stay at the Barrett Hotel for the next nine
to ten days waiting for the eastbound mail from Sacramento.  Due to the telegraph, the Pony Express went
out of business after 18 months in operation and several thousand lost dollars.

To compare travel times in the 1860’s, the Pony Express took
eight to ten days to travel from St. Joe to San Francisco, the Overland Stage
took three to four weeks to travel from St. Louis to San Francisco, the Steamship
took four months to reach San Francisco from New York, and the Transcontinental
Railroad took 83 hours and 39 minutes from New York to San Francisco.

After visiting this Pony Express location, I visited the
Hollenberg Pony Express Station not more than ten miles up the road.  The Hollenbergs, German emigrants, sold food
and other supplies, lodging, and draft animals to passing travelers.  Settlers, freighters, soldiers, stagecoach
passengers, and Pony Express riders stopped here.  Over time, the Hollenberg’s business catering
to passer bys dwindled and they turned to farming for a living.  Petey liked visiting this site.  No one was around so he could explore without
a leash.

The second reason why I am glad I didn’t go to Iowa last
night is that it seemed like every bridge and road was
closed…detour…detour…detour!  At the
time, I wasn’t thinking how lucky I was to skip all that in the dark, I was
IRRITATED!!!!  I think I spent fifty
miles on the wrong side of the Missouri River in Nebraska before I could cross
a bridge to Council Bluffs, IA which was well above the beginning point of my
scenic drive.  To add fuel to the fire, I
got behind a handful of slow 18 wheelers that generally blow right by me and
countless blue hairs crawling and weaving in and out of the northbound
lane.

Once I finally got to a destination I relaxed and despite
the fifty miles on the wrong side of the river, I only missed one attraction.  I just couldn’t understand why two bridges
within thirty miles would be closed, but then it dawned on me that there had
been recent floods in Iowa.  Once I
crossed the third bridge, I saw houses, barns, and grain silos half way
underwater…very sad.

My first stop in Iowa was at Hitchcock Nature Area where
nature trails criss-cross through dense forests of oak, hickory, and red
cedar.  We took a short walk along the
ridge for a view of the Missouri River and then ducked into thick vegetation
knocking down spider webs along the way.

Next we followed the railroad tracks past flooded farmland
to DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge which was closed.  I presume due to flooding as the water in
some places was near the main highway’s edge.
We continued through the rolling hills and corn fields to a dirt road
that took us to Preparation Canyon State Park.
I had planned on camping here for the night, but really wanted to take
advantage of modern facilities; in other words – take a shower.  This was definitely not the place.  I really felt like I was out in the middle of
nowhere, though it was nice to have the roads and basically the park to
myself.  Petey got to explore without a
leash for the second time today!

A geocache was hidden just down the dirt road at the Loess
Hill Forest Overlook so we made a brief stop here to take in the view of the
tree covered hills.  Standing on the wood
deck, I spotted a rabbit on the path and reached for my camera which spooked
it.  As it darted down the trail, Petey
took off after it.  Petey had no
chance.  While it was the fastest I’ve
seen him move in weeks, and I was glad to see him feeling better, he gave up
after ten yards.  I think his arthritis
has kicked in.  Surprisingly, I had cell
service here, so I looked to see if Stone State Park near Sioux City provided
modern conveniences.  It did, so the park
became my final destination for the evening.
Of course somehow my cell service was non-existent in this park only a
few miles from a major city.  Go figure!

As usual, I have failed to mention the handful of deer
including a mom and spotted fawn as well as turkey that I’ve seen in the last
week.  It seems I’ve begun taking them
for granted.  I’ll have to work on
appreciating them like I did at the beginning of my travels.  I also need to work on appreciating hardwood
forests too.  I think I like the dry and
cool climate as well as the scenery of the mountains so much that I’m antsy to
head west again.  ETB

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Day 232 – Great River Road and Illinois Northwest

Day 232 – Great River Road and Illinois Northwest, August 5, 2011

We started out the day at Pikes Peak State Park where we
walked to yet another overlook of the Mississippi.  This overlook also happened to be an earth
cache, so I check marked Iowa off the list presuming the creator of the cache
takes my answers.  All the answers but
one were on the associated signs; however, I am also to look at the bend and
valley depth to determine the speed of the current here.  Anyone want to look at the picture and take a
guess?  That’s what I’m doing!

From Pikes Peak State Park we followed the river south to
Dubuque, Iowa.  What an interesting,
historic town.  We first visited the Fenelon
Place Elevator, the world’s steepest, shortest scenic railway that transports
passengers 296 feet in length and elevates them 189 feet from Fourth Street to
Fenelon Place.

The cable car was originally built in 1882 by J.K. Graves
when Dubuque was an hour and a half town, meaning businesses closed at noon for
an hour and a half while everyone went home for dinner.  Mr. Graves, a former mayor and former State
Senator, lived atop the bluff and worked as a banker at the bottom.  Despite his home being only two and half
blocks away from his business, it took his horse and buggy thirty minutes to round
the bluff to his home and thirty minutes to return to the bank which only left
him thirty minutes for dinner.  He
preferred thirty minutes for dinner and thirty minutes for a nap so he
petitioned the city for the right to build the Swiss-style, one-car cable.

Graves hired John Bell, a local engineer to design what
would be a plain wood building that housed a coal-fired steam engine boiler and
winch and a wooden car which was hauled up and down on two rails by a hemp
rope.  Upon completion, Graves had his
gardener raise and lower him.  Soon his
neighbors hitched rides.  Approximately
two years into operation, the elevator burned from the fire that was banked in
the stove for the night.

Mr. Graves rebuilt the elevator, but this time opened it to
the public for the cost of five cents.
The elevator again burned in 1893, only due to the recession, Mr. Graves
could not afford to rebuild it.
Neighbors had come to rely on the elevator to get them to school, work,
church and the market, so ten of them banded together to form the Fenelon Place
Elevator Company.  Graves gave them the
franchise in exchange for the right of way for the track.   The group traveled to the 1893 Columbian
Exposition in Chicago to look for new ideas.
They returned with a street car motor, a turnstile, and a steel
cable.  They installed additional rails
to allow for the operation of two counterbalanced cars.

By 1912, C.B. Trewin, who had built the house next door, had
become the sole stockholder as he had purchased the shares from the original
ten investors as they passed or moved away. He made additional improvements,
including adding a room for men to play cards without the wives
interfering.  In 1962, the house burned
down, yet again, this time due to an electrical fire.  With the next rebuild, the price went up to
ten cents.

In 1977, the original gear drive was replaced by a modern
gear box with a DC motor.  The
elevator was featured in the movie F.I.S.T. as well. I personally liked the elf exit.  And finally, now the
roundtrip price is two dollars!  I paid the two dollar fare to take Petey to
the downtown area where we walked around several Monument Square, passed the
Dubuque Museum of Art with a giant statue of a farmer and wife outside, listened to a band play Simon and Garfunkel, passed by a
parking garage where a cache was hidden on the top floor (I was on the bottom L), and through
Cathedral Square before returning to our ride to the top of the bluff.

Since Petey hadn’t been feeling the greatest the last few
days, I took advantage of the big city and found a vet.  Normally I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the
middle of the day waiting on a pet doctor, but frankly the air conditioning was
welcoming for both Petey and me.  I was
inclined to say take as long as you want!
As suspected, Petey has another urinary tract infection.

After our time at the vet, we went in search of a cache.  I wanted to be sure I found one regular one
from Iowa in case my earth cache answers were incorrect.  This proved slightly challenging as I had
been trying most the day.  I was very
surprised that there wasn’t a micro cache at the cable car.  There was a muggle in Cathedral Square and
the last few logs claimed a wasps’ nest was in the area, so I skipped that one
as well as the one on the top floor of the parking garage.  I drove from the vet to a neighborhood park
and was greeted by a greasy, long-haired guy from a neighboring apartment complex that
looked like the motorcycle type: shirtless, a beer in hand, and few chains
hanging on his jeans.  While he may have
been as nice as can be, I promptly returned to VANilla as a father and son went
to the playground.  As such, the guy rejoined
his friends around the corner.  I finally
found one a mile or so away.  It was a magnetic
switch plate in plain sight.  I was very
thankful to have one like this with clients in Mississippi a year or so ago as
I noticed it immediately.  In Mississippi
it took four of us a while to find it!

In the late afternoon we finally left Dubuque and ended in
Galena for the evening.  What a pleasant
surprise!  Galena (Latin for lead) was “a
19th-century boomtown beautifully preserved as a living museum”.  The town sits above the Galena River, a Mississippi
tributary that once carried ore to market.
The bustling port died with the railroad.  Now, the charming town caters to
tourists.  Main Street is lined with
coffee houses, wineries, book stores, antique stores, galleries, canneries,
restaurants and the like.  In addition,
the Dowling House (the oldest in Illinois) and the Galena History Museum are
just a block off Main.  I strolled around
town and stopped in a few stores.  One
cannery was full of hot sauces…my personal favorite was “Pick This”.  The bottle came with a rubber nose complete
with boogers hanging from it.

I tried to go to a winery for dinner, but ended up at Boone’s
Place which was above the wine shop and not affiliated.  Oh well, the portabella mushroom sandwich and
beer was tasty!  ETB

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Day 231 – Great River Road (Part 2)

Day 231 – Great River Road, August 4, 2011

Since Hastings was only about twenty miles from
Minneapolis/St. Paul, I took a detour for a simple drive by as I had never been
there.  I had Gina, my GPS, take me to the
city hall of each town, that way I would at least get a glimpse of
downtown.  I crossed over a few bridges,
passed by several office buildings connected by skywalks, and even spotted a
few historic churches in the mix before I ended at Mall of the America’s.  While I can’t think of anything I like about
shopping, I figured I had to at least see the largest mall in America.

After our detour, we returned south and made a handful of
stops in Red Wing, our first at Memorial Park which provides a superb view of
the Mississippi and the city below.
During the ice ages, with four major cycles of glaciers melting, floods
of meltwater eroded the Mississippi 200 feet deeper than the present
channel.  Because the tributary streams
carried less water than the main river, they were unable to cut down the
terrain as rapidly, resulting in steeper slopes.  As the meltwater diminished, the velocity of
the main river was reduced and it was no longer able to remove the sediment
deposited from the tributaries.  Thus,
the valley today was filled to its present level and exhibits a series of
meanders, oxbow lakes, side channels, sloughs, swamps, and tillable land.

From the park, we curved back down the steep, winding road
and visited Barn Bluff.  This was a
really neat place.  I felt like I was in
Missouri again, walking beneath a canopy of trees and past walls of rock and
quarries to catch a few peaks of the Mississippi in the rare open spaces.  Before even climbing the stairs, each inscribed
with a benefactor’s name in block letters, to reach the path that ascends atop
the bluff we took a short walk to an old kiln.

The G.A. Carlson Lime Kiln, built in 1882, was once one of
thirty such kilns operated between 1870 and 1908 in the Red Wing area.  The kiln was used for the transformation of
Barn Bluff’s raw material into commercial lime, quick lime, or unslaked lime
for the use in mortar and plaster.  The
wood fired kiln was heated to temperatures of 2,000 degrees to burn the
limestone.  One ton of limestone produced
1,000 pounds of quick lime.  The kiln
ceased operation after forty years of quarrying when the limestone industry
began weakening.

After visiting the kiln, which was also an earth cache, we
meandered along the bluff, also an earth cache. 
The bluff towers 343 feet above the City of Red Wing and is one of the
best known natural features along the Mississippi.  It was climbed by many of Minnesota’s early
tourists including Henry David Thoreau.

We continued south, paralleling the Mississippi River as
well as the Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, a network of
wetlands, islands, forest and prairie that extends 260 miles through four
states.  We stopped at a roadside rest
area for a tranquil view of clouds reflecting in the glassy Mississippi waters.

As we continued along the river past towns such as Winona
and La Crescent, we crossed into Iowa where we attempted to visit Effigy Mounds
National Monument.  The park is home to
over 200 Indian burial pits topped with low, rounded earthen mounds.  We got there at 6:15, fifteen minutes too
late!

Given the time, we carried on through a few more towns where
houses on stilts lined the edge of the river and claimed a campsite at Pike
Peak State Park.  Yes, the park is named
for General Zebulon Pike, the explorer who sited a bluff in Iowa a year before
reaching the more famous Pike’s Peak in Colorado.

After snagging a camping spot for only eleven dollars and
getting a free shower out of it, I drove back to McGregor, a quaint old town
with a handful of restaurants and B&B’s.
I tried going to one bar type place, but as soon as I arrived at the
intersection, a train stopped, blocking my way.
I almost opted for homemade pizza, when I decided it would be nicer if
Petey could join me instead of being left in VANilla on this muggy day, so with
much trepidation I chose a Mexican food restaurant that had a patio.

I ordered safely, a fajita chicken salad.  While the chips seemed slightly affected by
the humidity, the restaurant carried Dos Equis Amber (my favorite) and served
up a tasty salad, though not all toppings listed on the menu were included (a
pet peeve of mine).  Regardless, I was
pleasantly surprised, not only by dinner but by the brilliant sunset!  ETB

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