September 27, 2007 – Popcorn and Wind Power

We woke this morning to many geese on the lake – getting ready for their trip south.
Fall is definitely here!!

We continued our travels in Iowa. The countryside is so beautiful with the fall colors and harvesting.

We stopped in Danbury at a Ford dealer for a fix on our MH. We had a recall on the cruise control unit (apparently it can cause a fire!). The fix only took a short time and we were on our way again.

We stopped in Sac City to see the world’s largest popcorn ball:

This 3100 lb popcorn ball set a new Guinness world record when it was created in 2004. It is 7’ tall and 23’ in circumference and it is housed in its own building. The grounds also have museums on life in this area but all the buildings were closed. (One of the downsides in traveling this time of year is that many things are only open on the weekends.)

We traveled to Storm Lake and are camped at the city campground – Sunrise Campground – another nice place. One of the reasons we are here is to see the Wind Farm. The Buena Vista County Wind Farm is one of the largest wind energy projects in the world. There are more than 360 turbines up to 213’ tall.

The campground host gave us a brochure on a self-guided tour so off we went. What an experience. There are so many of these turbines throughout the area and they are HUGE!!

Some pictures:

Here is one of me at one of the blades:

This one is 79’ long for the smaller units. There are bigger units here and those blades are 113’ long – Incredible!!!

The reason that they are in this area is that the wind averages 17 mph on a daily basis. And today was not different - today’s average was 23 mph. So no campfire again tonight.

After supper we took a walk near the lake. Here is a picture of the lake – the campground is on the right.

And a sunset on the lake:

Tomorrow we are continuing our journey. There is a storm coming this way and they are calling for 40 mph winds for Saturday so we want to get as far east in Iowa as we can and hopefully we can get out of the winds.

Miles Traveled: 93
Routes Traveled:
Iowa: IA-175; US-71; US-20; US-71

September 26, 2007 – Travel to Iowa

We had a late start today – we slept in then just took our time getting ready to go. After saying our goodbyes and well wishes to our neighbors, we traveled to Iowa.

Some final pictures of Nebraska:

We are camped just over the border at the Lewis and Clark Lake State Park (Great deal at Iowa’s state parks!!).

Here is a picture of the campground:

Here is a picture of the lake:

On August 9 and 10, 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition arrived at this site. They spent time here exploring the region making observations about the geology, plants and animals in this area.

They also have a full size reproduction of the Lewis and Clark keelboat “Discovery” and an example of a pirogue that may have been used.

Here is a picture of the Discovery:

And Andy sailing the boat:

Can you imagine the expedition sailing, pulling, and poling this 55’ keelboat up the Missouri? WOW!!

Here is a picture of the pirogue:

What a nice place. It was too windy to have a campfire but we enjoyed the sights!!

Miles Traveled: 36
Routes Traveled:
Nebraska: NB-9; NB-51
Iowa: IA-175


September 25, 2007 – Sightseeing near Pender

Today is the 150th day of this incredible journey. We have seen so much and learned so much and met some incredible people and stayed in some incredible places. If I were asked if this journey met my expectations, I would have to say no – it EXCEEDED my expectations on a daily basis. And we continue to count our blessings every day!

We decided to stay another day at the Blue Ox campground so this morning we got caught up on a couple of things and this afternoon we did some sightseeing with our neighbors, Jeff, Deana, and Brianna.

The first place we went to was Winnebago, NE to see the statue garden. This is 12 statues that represent the 12 clans of the Winnebago tribe.

A picture:

A picture of one of the clans:

It was very interesting to learn a little about the Winnebago tribe and what each clan did within the tribe.

Right by the statue garden was a place selling native items made by the tribe. The building is also used for educational and training purposes and one area was made to look like a drum. We spent some time talking to the women in charge and learned a little more about the tribe and what they are doing for the tribe. They are in the process of getting some literature together about the statue garden. A really interesting place – well worth the visit.

Right down the street was an overlook to see the local bison herd. The herd was in the back field but we were still able to see them. They are such majestic animals!!

From there we journeyed to the Blackbird Hill overlook with great views of the Missouri River Valley:

And another interesting place.

The scenery to both areas was also amazing; rolling hills, cattle, lots of corn, and we even saw the corn being harvested. The colors throughout the hills was just beautiful and what a beautiful sunny day to enjoy it.

And this evening, we all had supper together and a great time chatting.

Tomorrow we are heading into Iowa and hope to spend some time on the other side of the Missouri so stay tuned.

The blog is now up to date. I have also added a section on how to leave a comment (see the right column) and my email address. If you are still having problems leaving a comment, please email me.
On the road again......


September 24, 2007 – Mouse, Blue Ox, and Storms

We have had a houseguest for a few days now. When we were in the Black Hills, I heard some scratching on what I thought was the roof. There were a lot of red squirrels there that ate our flag and tried eating our outside chairs so we thought maybe they were doing damage to our roof. Andy checked it out and all was ok so we figured it was probably birds just walking around. So we have heard the scratching on and off for the past couple days, just figuring it was birds on the roof.

Yesterday morning, I opened a drawer where I keep my gum and it looked like one of the packs had teeth marks in it but then I figured it might just be rub marks from opening and closing the drawer. Then last night, I pulled out my oven mitts and found that both the thumbs of the mitts were chewed thru and the stuffing taken out. So before we went to bed, we put cat food and peanut butter in an ashtray in the drawer and this morning it was all gone…

So off we went to the store for traps and when we set up this afternoon, we set up the traps and caught a mouse. The traps will be set for a while since we are not sure if we only had one or have more… Yikes!!

(If you are wondering about our cat, he expects us to catch the mouse. He will look at it and then at us as if to say "you expect ME to take care of this - NO WAY!")

We decided to move on today to Pender, Nebraska. A cold front is moving in with severe storms so we decided not to stay at the lake.

Pictures of the Nebraska countryside:

The storm is moving in on this one – what an eerie sky:

We are here in Pender at the Blue Ox factory and what incredible customer service. We have a tru-center and towing equipment from Blue Ox. On the tru-center, we lost our celanoid (sp?) somewhere during the trip to Alaska and we were here to buy another one. Doug, one of the employees, checked it out and they are giving us a new upgraded system. It will be coming out in November so they will send it to us – free. Isn’t that wonderful.

They also serviced our tow bar – free.

And we can camp in their campground (full hookups plus WiFi) – free.

And we received a factory tour – free.

And we received a complimentary package for staying (includes a collapsible cooler and other items) – free.

What incredible customer service. They go above and beyond!!! I would recommend this company to everyone – they stand behind their products.

We met our neighbors here at the campground (Jeff, Deana, and their daughter) who are also here for service. We had a really nice get together.

And the storm rolled in tonight. Our NOAA radio went off several times and some of the counties did get large hail but we only received the wind and rain.

We are not sure where we are going next so we may just stay another day and figure out our next moves. I would like to spend more time around the Missouri so we’ll see.

Miles Traveled: 95
Routes Traveled:
South Dakota: US-81
Nebraska: US-81; US-20; NB-15; NB-35; NB-16

September 23, 2007 – Lewis and Clark Lake

Our travels today took us into southeastern South Dakota and the countryside is still beautiful (and the wind is still strong).

We set up camp at Lewis and Clark Lake (SD state park) right on the lakefront.

Here is a picture of the lake:
We then traveled over to the visitor center at the Dam. There is a series of dams set up on the Missouri River to help in flood control as well as irrigation. This visitor center is run by both the Army Corp of Engineers and the National Park Service and had some great information and exhibits about Lewis and Clark and this area.

We spent some time talking to the two volunteers at the center and got lots of information on the Army Corp of Engineers camping areas throughout the country. (Many of the camping books and tour books that I have do not include these campgrounds and I am not sure why!) One of the volunteers saw all the pins on Andy’s hat and gave him an official park service pin on Lewis and Clark National Historic trail – that was so great!

Here is a picture of the dam:

And the Missouri River after the dam:

One of the things we learned is that there is a campground right by the dam run by the Corp. (for a lot less than we are paying at the state park.) So depending on the weather we may move there tomorrow.

We then traveled thru Yankton – what a quaint place. Maybe more exploring tomorrow???

One last note (and I am not usually a negative person) but the SD state parks charge a daily fee in addition to the camping fees. I have no problem paying a fee but I think it should be like the federal parks (good for seven days) especially if you are camping. Now you can buy a yearly pass but for those of us just passing thru, it is not cost effective. There are some parks in PA that charge a fee but it is waived if you are camping. So although the park we are at is beautiful, it becomes more expensive than one offering more amenities. (Enough said!)

Miles Traveled: 79
Routes Traveled:
South Dakota: MT-37; MT-50; MT-52


September 22, 2007 – The Corn Palace and Reset

This morning we finished our reset and went to the Corn Palace this afternoon.

The Corn Palace is decorated each year with a new theme with all of the crops that can be grown in the Dakota soil. There are 600,000 pieces of corn used (12 different colors or shades) and 3000 bushels of grains and grasses (Milo, rye, and sour dock). It is quite a sight.

Pictures of the palace with the designs:

You can really see the corn in this one:

Historic downtown Mitchell was also having a car show so we had a great time walking the street and seeing all the old cars.

Back at the MH we relaxed, watched football, got caught up with the blog and email, and finished charging all our batteries. Tomorrow we are heading south towards Nebraska.


September 21, 2007 – Wind, Wind, and more Wind

The wind started up during the night and woke us with the motor home shaking. NOAA radio had issued a wind alert (>45 mph) until 8 AM. It was wild. Afraid

We did decide to travel today even with the wind (they ranged ~ 20-30 mph) and Andy did a great job driving.

We crossed the Missouri:

And are camped at the R&R Campground in Mitchell. We will be here for 2 days for a reset (charging batteries, groceries, laundry, cleaning, etc.) This is a nice private campground with room between sites including grass and trees. Plus they have cable TV and free WiFi and the price was right with our Passport America membership.

So today was grocery and other shopping.

The wind did calm down tonight – YEA.

Miles Traveled: 243
Routes Traveled:
South Dakota: MT-44; MT-73; I-90

September 20, 2007 – More Badlands and Sightseeing

This morning we made our way from the campground to the north end of the park and made a few stops at the overlooks and did a short nature hike.

Here is a picture of the campground from one of the overlooks:
From there we went to the missile silo – 16 miles away. One of the things that I did not know was that these silos were not top secret. This one is about ½ mile from I-90 in the middle of a ranch. Here is a picture:

A closer picture:

The missile you see standing is a sensor and the glass is for observation only – it would have been covered by a thick block.

Here is the silo with the missile (unarmed):

It was an incredible tour. Next time we are here we will definitely make advanced reservations for the control facility. (The silo is 11 miles away from the control area.)

From there, we stopped at Wall Drug for lunch. Here is my hero (I just loved her boots and cigar):

And Andy’s new friend:

Then we did the loop road in the Badlands. The Badlands separates the upper from the lower prairie and is 60 miles long. It is known as the Badlands Wall (and that is how the town of Wall got its name). The Wall is constantly retreating as it erodes to the valley below. And in some of the stops we made, we could see where they have moved the overlooks due to the erosion.

A picture of the upper prairie:

This is where the upper prairie meets the wall:

The lower prairie:

And more incredible scenery along the way:

It was so amazing to see all of this. We were here 10 years ago and this place still fascinates us!

Right by the park is a historic landmark – Prairie Homestead. This is an original home of people who homesteaded these 160 acres in 1909.

Here is a picture of the house:

And inside:

There was a lot of information there and in the Badlands loop on the homesteaders. What a hearty group of people!

And the current owners of this homestead have the only white prairie dog town in the world:

Aren’t they cute!!!

And another incredible sunset and moonrise tonight!

We had a very hot day today – 95 degrees. But at least the nights get cool!!