August 2, 2014

RV Travel: Looking For Hidden Treasure

As I write this Betty, Bailey, and I are packing up to leave Wisconsin Dells, about 2,220 miles into our RV journey. Billed as the Water Park Capitol of the World, this town does seem an odd place to build so many of them. After all, the swimming season is not even four months long this far north. 

But, no matter, the Dells (the shortened name is preferred by locals) loves water and amusement parks, roller coasters, magic and ski shows, and boat tours of the Wisconsin River. With daytime temperatures in the 70s (and nights around 60) we passed on the chance to jump into very chilly water. Our campground is a few miles out of town, so we can avoid the tourist traffic and still enjoy the cool weather and beautiful woods all around us.

One of the real treats of RV travel is the likelihood of stumbling upon both hidden gems and some of the oddities of roadside Americana.  So far, we have managed to find several of each. I thought you might enjoy a little about a few of them, along with Betty’s photos.
One week into our trip found us in Grand Junction, Colorado. As luck would have it, the RV park was next to the Mesa County Fairgrounds and the festivities began while we were there. It has been forever since we have been to a small county fair so this was something we didn’t want to miss. Everything from sheep judging, horses pulling thousands of pounds of cinder blocks, two bands, and an oddly amusing lumberjack show kept us entertained. I had my first ever corn dog while Betty enjoyed a big wad of cotton candy. The midway had all the small rides you might expect.
To cap off the perfect day, there was an amazingly vivid sunset as storm clouds raced across the mountains. Betty snapped dozens of photos, each more spectacular than the next. Here are some of what we saw during the fair.
A corn dog? My first ever!

Betty loves cotton candy








Perfect end to a perfect day
Grand Junction has a way of naming streets that I have never encountered before: the use of fractions. You are familiar with a 29th street, but how about 29 ¾ Road, or B ½ Street? This was a first for us. Funny at first, after a few days it seemed downright logical.
Several hundred miles down the road two very pleasant surprises greeted us in the small Nebraska town of Ogallala: A beautiful lake and picnic area and a tiny church with a story to tell, and a few local folks to tell it to us.
Lake Ogallala is an absolute gem. Complete with large RV park, picnic areas, fishing, and hiking trails galore, it is a green oasis in the semi-arid western part of the state.






 About a dozen miles from the lake, the small hamlet of Keystone is home to a few hundred folks – and a tiny church. Though no longer in regular use, we happened upon it when a young man was doing some repairs to the front steps as part of a Boy Scout merit badge project. His father, brother, and mom were there with him. When Betty and I pulled up to take some pictures, the mom offered to drive home to pick up the key to the building and let us inside. We accepted and soon were inside a church that couldn't be more than 30 feet long and maybe 15 feet wide. For many decades, it had served two different faith communities. There was a Catholic alter at one end and the Protestant version at the other. Reversible pews allowed the worshipers to face the proper way each Sunday.
Hard at work supervising the project

The Protestant side

The Catholic side



We have managed to find a few of those strange sights that are so typically American: a buffalo made out of chrome car bumpers in Grand Junction, a lighthouse in Nebraska (at least 1,100 miles from the nearest ocean),  and a pink elephant in Marquette, Iowa.

 



As a special treat, we stopped by the baseball field in the middle of a corn field: the setting for the 1989 Kevin Costner movie, Field of Dreams near Dyersville, Iowa. 65,000 folks stop by every year to see and dream.




Oh, and in Ashland, Nebraska, we attended a local community theater presentation of an old style melodrama, complete with cheering for the hero and booing and throwing popcorn whenever the villain come on stage. What fun!
Yes, that is popcorn all over the stage: boo the villain!
The road stretches before us for another five or six weeks and 2,300 miles. Who knows what lies ahead.
Space and time: what blessings

 

28 comments:

  1. Just delightful! So glad you are enjoying the hidden treasures in this beautiful country of ours! The cooler weather must be quite a contrast to summers in AZ! The photos are just gorgeous.

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    1. We are enjoying temperatures 30 degrees cooler than home, though that does come with some drawbacks: lots of bugs and humdity. But, it has been a wonderful change.

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  2. A reversible church - love it!

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    1. For a town with too few people to support separate churches it was quite an inventive solution.

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  3. Cari in North TexasSat Aug 02, 06:48:00 AM MST

    Thanks for sharing your travels with us. I'd always envisioned as Nebraska (and Kansas, too, to be honest) as flat, boring, farmlands, so your photos of the lake have proved me wrong. I too love coming across the unique little Americana touches such as the ones you did. And you've never had a corn dog???? That is a Texas staple! It used to be that you could only get them at the Texas State Fair, but now you can buy them in stores. :-)

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    1. Nebraska is rather flat but so green and clean-looking, with a surprising number of lakes and rivers.We were pleasantly surprised.

      Yes, that really was my first corn dog. Betty insisted I get one so she could take the picture and prove I ate it.

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  4. I feel like I was right there with you! Love the little church. Betty's photos are gorgeous! You might want to turn this into a book, with your posts and the photos. MyPublisher.com is a quality, and affordable option. I did this after our Med cruise. I only got 2 printed, one for us and one for our travel companions. This trip of yours is definitely book worthy!
    b

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    1. Monday (August 4) will mark one month on the road. Betty has taken over 3,000 pictures so far...there will be plenty to choose from!

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  5. Bob, Tell Betty her photos are absolutely luscious. I love the church. We seem so saturated with people fighting over religion. What a wonderful surprise to see people of different faiths sharing a home together

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    1. While the church stopped having regular services in 1949, it is still used for weddings and family religious events. There is now another church in Keystone that serves all the people in town.

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  6. I felt like I goto to experience part of the trip,through Betty's beautiful photos.. ah, the joys of small towns! Your summer sounds like an adventure,with many more miles of fun ahead.. keep us posted when you can! Ken and I still not ready for an RV but we have begun tent camping once again just for this summer,since we're staying close to home, it's not as bad as I had thought!! LOL!! Our next camp. trip will be Prescott so we can kayak Watson Lake.

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    1. We are just about one month into the trip with 5 weeks or so to go. As of today we are in Door County, Wisconsin which is the farthest point away from home. On Monday we begin the slow turn toward home. It has been quite a learning experience.

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  7. Boy, 4,500 miles in all -- now that's a road trip! And you've saved me a lot of mileage in my own car, since I feel as though I'm coming along for your ride. Love the pics, esp. the Grand Junction buffalo. Happy trails!

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    1. The buffalo is right downtown, in the section that has been nicely renovated with plenty of parks, restaurants, galleries, and bars. I didn't have any idea what to expect in Grand Junction; we were happy we took the time to explore the town.

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  8. Thanks for the gorgeous photos. Gotta love the wide open spaces of the midwest. Hope you continue to find treasures along the way.

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    1. The 65-75 degree temperatures of the last week have been a blessed break from home and the 90 degree temperatures in Utah and western Colorado.

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  9. I love discovering the quirky monuments and interesting stories along the road - here or abroad! Country fairs are so fun - you can get so much closer to the action. The pictures are amazing - took me right to the midway! Thanks for sharing your fun!

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    1. There was another county fair in Wisconsin that we just missed! This is the season.

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  10. I experienced Nebraska and Iowa for the first time three years ago. Such a treat, the "flyover states"!

    Your words and Betty's photos captured the feel of the places. Thanks for that.

    Your first corn dog? Where have you been, Bob?

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    1. Yes, my first corn dog. I have been less than adventurous with my food choices!

      Betty and I lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for a few years and loved the area. It was clean, green, and friendly. The winters, however, drove us to look for warmer climes.

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  11. It's good to hear from you again and know that your trip is going very well. Such wonderful--and beautiful--places you've found to visit! What luck to be able to park your RV next to a county fair! I love the little church--and we thought our city's Interfaith Centers were a new idea--and the pink elephant. What's a pink elephant doing in Iowa?

    That Other Jean

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    1. There was no explanation for the pink elephant. It was right in front of a casino, but that doesn't really explain its purpose!

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  12. You are not alone, Bob. I have been a really picky eater since childhood, and 63 years later, nothing much has changed. I have dual citizenship (Texas and Oregon) but still have never eaten a corn dog (or as we say in the South "Corny Dog). Though I love hotdogs and cornbread, somehow cornbread wrapped around the hotdog just never sounded right to me. Maybe I'll give it a try at the State Fair this year, though, just to say I have.

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    1. I am not likely to have another, but it was a rather harmless experience. Believe it or not, I have never had fry bread either, a staple of fairs in Arizona. Who knows, maybe that is next. Call me wild and crazy.

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  13. We traveled most of our route many times going from Utah to Wisconsin, and occasionally farther to the East Coast. We missed some interesting spots; you've just made up for that with the neat photos and descriptions. Our favorite stopping place of all was the Amana Colonies in Iowa. You are well past there now and on the way back from our home Badger state. Happy traveling!

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    1. We actually did pass through the Amana colonies on our trek through Iowa. We once lived in Cedar Rapids so we were familiar with them.

      At the moment we are in Menominee, Michigan at a lovely, city run campground right on the banks of the Menominee River, and across from Marinette, Wisconsin. With all the waterfalls in the area to see we have been quite busy.

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  14. Really, you've never had a corn dog before? Wow. I used to get the best one at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk when I was a kid. The last few I've had at fairs and boardwalks have left me very disappointed. But the one I had last weekend from the hot-food section of the grocery store in Calistoga was wonderful! Go figure. I hope you had a good one or you might not try again for a proper one.

    Ann R. You forgot the most important part--DEEP FRIED. What's not to love?

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    1. We are in Menominee, Michigan this week. A waterfront festival with a parade, bands, and fireworks takes place this weekend. I bet they will have corn dogs (along with brats and lots of beer).

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