Monday, August 31, 2015


One last post on Iowa’s barns.

There are beautiful barns in Iowa—as there are in Kansas.   We started to notice them because each farm had one and so many were in a neat, tidy setting.  There are hardly any rock barns but there are a lot of pig sheds.    I guess it would stand to reason with all that corn that pigs would be plentiful.

Then, there is the lighthouse—in the middle of a corn field.  Not a barn but I know it was there for a reason.  As we whizzed by, I missed the sign. 

Here is a link to the Barn slideshow. Or click on the picture below.  Then, I promise, no more Iowa.


Oh, I forgot the one unusual mailbox… I think it belonged to a plumber.


Now, I’m done!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Roadside drama!

It’s a wonder this little groundhog didn’t cause an accident.  We came upon a car stopped on the road somewhere in west central Iowa.  We stopped behind and Dan helped do a good deed for the day.  One happy groundhog!

Ground hog

The good Samaritan said he was from the state of Arkansas which might explain why he thought the poor creature was a porcupine.  And, it did look a little like that because it had been raining and its fur was sticking up.   I am sure there are plentiful porcupines in Arkansas, but doubt any have found their way up to Iowa. 

Dumb me—I should have captured a movie of this exciting situation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Iowa Riverfront Trail and Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

The Western Trails Historic Center is located just off I 80 immediately before crossing the Missouri River in Council Bluffs—actually the same exit as the casinos only south.  The Trails Center was built by the National Park Service and operated by the Iowa Historical Society.  It has a short movie about the trails leading west.  Most of these movies are excellent, but this one was a bit confusing.  However, definitely still worth viewing.  The exhibits were informative and contained a lot of visual examples. 

Another bonus of visiting the Historic Center is that it is an excellent place to jump on the Iowa Riverfront Trail.  (If the Western Trail Center gates are closed the river front trail can be accessed at the casinos).   This seven mile route runs along the Missouri River for most of the route.  There is a short part through an industrial area, but it is easy to follow.  It also goes by a casino, a golf course and a nice riverside park.  The highlight, though, is the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge across the Missouri River linking Iowa to Nebraska.  It opened in 2008. 


Of course, I love bridges and this was a great one.  It has a modern “S” design with cables.  We rode our bikes across it but, since we were there around the lunch hour, there were more walkers and runners.  It is actually fairly low compared to the I 80 bridge down the way.  The Missouri was up with all the rain so I thought it was pretty thrilling to stop at the pull off places and enjoy the river below and the Omaha skyline to the west.


Once across the bridge we rode around the Omaha side to a small lake with a trail around it.  It would have been nice to be able to link to the Old Market area of Omaha which was not far away.  However, it would have required street riding and we try to avoid that.

There is a statue commemorating the steel workers on the Nebraska side.  Dan is showing how high the water was in 2011.  We had forgotten about that flooding event. This picture makes me laugh…



There is a Lake Manawa State Park in Council Bluffs that has a trail around the lake and links to this trail.  Another time I think we would do that.  Maybe because it was a beautiful day, but I wasn’t ready for the 16 mile round trip ride to be over.  Probably because I knew, from the Trail Center, it was straight home. 

We were only gone for three days, but it was a great little road trip.  There will be one more post.  Just some observations.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Loess Hills

The Loess (rhymes with bus) Hills are located along the east side of the Missouri River valley in Iowa.  They are visible from I 29 and anyone traveling on that road will see them rising off to the east. 

What is not obvious unless experiencing the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway is that these hills are formed entirely by deposits of fine windblown soil.  We learned we would have to travel to China to find larger but similar loess formations.  The hills are 200 miles long and are 15 miles wide at their widest.

This view of a road cutout shows how the same dirt is throughout the hill.


We started the National byway just below Sioux City and ended at Council Bluffs.  We took the Smokey Hollow Loop, the Wilderness Loop and the Orchard Ridge Loop.  The loops were 10 to 12 mile routes up into the Hills, giving us a feel for the interior hills.

We bypassed a information center by entering the byway at midpoint.  When we finally did stop toward the end of our drive, we found a very informative booklet that told mile by mile attractions and directions.  So, if you explore the Hills, be sure to pick one up before you start.  We missed a couple wineries and vineyards.  That is unacceptable.

We did explore the Preparation Canyon State Park, ultimately spending the night there.  I am not sure when we have stayed at a more quiet location.  Almost eerie.  We enjoyed a late meal of lasagna baked in the portable outdoor oven that heats by sitting on a stove.  Thankfully, we had wine with us despite missing the one nearby.


Preparation Canyon State Park has an interesting story.   I’ll quote, “A group of Mormons rested here in 1853 to prepare for continuing their journey to Utah, but they left the church to follow a charismatic leader who they later discovered was a swindler.”  Other information explained the leader talked the followers into turning over the deeds to land they settled when he found the value of the fertile soil.  When they discovered what had happened, the settlers set out to hang the “leader” but he escaped.  At some point, those who remained were able to get their land back.  The state park sits on land that was, at least in part, donated to the State for the park by the family of an original settler.

There are hiking trails that would be beautiful in the fall in Preparation Canyon and would be worth a return visit.  It was in this area that I remembered I hadn’t tried for one geocache.  So, I set about rectifying that except Dan is the one that finally located it.  I wish he enjoyed finding geocaches more because we would be an awesome team.

This picture is a good example of the wave affect of the blowing dust that created the Hills.


I guess farmers don’t care if this rich, deep soil erodes because here is how the corn—and there is a lot of corn in the hills—is planted.


This field had a type of terracing that we saw often in Iowa.  Maybe it works better when there is deeper top soil.  These, obviously, are soy beans.


After spending the night in these quiet hills, we headed back to Council Bluffs to see if we can complete the ride we were rained out on Monday.  That is tomorrow.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Grotto of the Redemption

The morning light at Ledges State Park was gray.  Forecast was more rain on the way.  We were looking forward to visiting the “ledges” but it was not to be.  The gate was closed to the area—high water.  Another time for the first state park in Iowa. 

I had at least three other possible trail rides circled on our map, but riding in the rain was not our plan.  So, it was north to Westbend,  which is only about 50 miles south of the Iowa-Minnesota line and about that same distance from where we were.  Destination, Grotto of the Redemption.

The literature says you must, “Experience the Grotto.”  I would say that is correct.  It is hard to describe. 

Father Paul Dobberstein (1872-1954) was extremely interested in rocks.  He traveled all over the United States and World gathering all kinds and sizes of ornamental rocks and gem stones.  He would bring them back to his parish in the small Iowa town of Westbend and set them in concrete.  Following his death, others continued in carrying out Father Dobberstein’s plans. It is the largest man-made grotto in the world.  It is often called the eighth wonder of the world and is valued at over four million dollars.

It is a “composite of nine separate grottos, each portraying a scene in the life of Christ.” For me, though, the scenes were meaningful, but the beautiful stones were breathtaking.    The one grotto portraying Jesus as a baby is made entirely out of petrified wood.  The fact that it was slightly raining only did more to make the rocks sparkle and shine.  The church has a Christmas scene inside using materials that were too precious for the outdoor display including a Brazilian amethyst that weighs over 300 lbs.

I did have to tell myself that the Father gathered his beautiful material at a different time.  He probably would find many of the sites he visited protected now.  Still, being able to visit one place with the variety of stones is awesome.  With the rain, the tour guide was not on site that day.  We visited with someone who had been there before and they said the tour guides are informed about the names of the stones and even tell stories about the gathering trips.  We were sorry to have missed this opportunity.

I will add that, because of the rain, I did not use my good camera.  Consequently I am disappointed in the quality of the pictures.  But, you will get the idea.  Click here or on the picture to go to Smug Mug and then on the upper right hand area for the “slideshow.”


Friday, August 21, 2015

High Trestle Trail–Woodward to Madrid

If we would have checked the weather earlier on Monday morning, we would have hurried on up to Council Bluffs for a Trail I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.  As it was, we ate a casual breakfast, didn’t brake any speed limits and pulled into the parking lot in Council Bluffs in rain.

So we took off for Woodward, Iowa which is in the Des Moines/Ames area.  Woodward is no suburb, though.  I saw the town’s slogan somewhere and I thought it was a great one, “Together for a Better Tomorrow.” 

We drove out of the earlier rain, but it looked to be headed our way so we found the old depot on the edge of town where the High Trestle Trail starts.  This Rail to Trail is an Iowa State source of pride.  To quote from the literature, “This dramatic trestle is a work of art; a half-mile long, the bridge rises 13 stores, that’s 130 feet and includes scenic overlooks of the valley below.” The name is derived from the 1913 train bridge that spanned the Des Moines River.  There is a lookout and information kiosk on a portion of the original bridge.  That original bridge was replaced by the current Union Pacific Railroad bridge which was then abandoned in 2003 .  With private donations and help from UPRR, the rail to trail including the bridge was opened in 2011.




This was an awesome experience to say the least.  I read that at night the artistic covers are lite in a way that when riding under them it gives the impression of going through a light tunnel.  For me, being able to just ride across and stopping at the lookouts was enough. 

We continued on the trail to Madrid where we thought we would eat.  Monday mid afternoon is not a good time for small town restaurants.  We finally found a Subway several blocks away from the trail.  Then we got a little lost trying to get back.  We met the Mom with three young girls in town that we had earlier seen out on the bridge.  No problem, go to the post office and then down this narrow slippery dirt trail.  Nothing like local knowledge.

We rode back the way we came, once again enjoying the bridge.  The rain drops started just as we strapped the bikes on the back of the PW. 

Here is the bridge from a distance.


Kim, Marc and family lived in Ames for a while and we always talked about going to the Ledges State Park at Boone.  By the time we arrived there, it was raining in earnest.  So, after a shower in the well maintained bathhouse, we listened to it rain while we watched an hour long show about the Iowa State Fair by the local public radio station.  Tempting to go, but decided to check out the Ledges in the morning and then head to northern Iowa and what some have called the eighth wonder of the world…

Steamboat Trace Brownville Nebraska

We had two goals on our mini road trip.  First, ride Iowa’s famous trail system and second, don’t get hung up on itinerary.

Keeping in mind goal two, I didn’t get upset that we didn’t get away until 4:00 pm Sunday.  We said we would just go as far as daylight takes us.  But, I usually do have some kind of notion of where we might land and  I thought that would be an orchard that allows overnight camping near Nebraska City.  However, when using the Harvest Hosts sites, you must arrive before closing and that wasn’t going to happen.  So, we decided to check out Brownville, Nebraska.  There is a bridge over the Missouri there and a National Historic Landmark. 

The Landmark is the Captain Meriwether Lewis, a 250 foot long “dustpan” dredge that labored 24 hours a day up and down the Missouri River from Rulo Nebraska to Sioux City, Iowa starting in 1931. 


Unfortunately, the museum was not open so we only relied on information nearby for how it worked.  It took a crew of 58 to run the vessel using 6,000 gallons of fuel oil a day.   It would dig to a depth of 20 feet, scooping 200 feet of channel every hour.  It was retired by the Corps of Engineers in 1969 and placed on exhibit in 1981 along the river outside the small town of Brownville.

There is a lot of camp sites nearby, but the area was entirely empty so we just parked the PW in the parking lot where we had a great view of the river and bridge.


Dan decided he wanted to sit by the river with a little wine.  So, I got on my bike and rode six miles up and back on the Steamboat Trace—a former Burlington Northern rail bed.   I know Dan would enjoy the area, so I am sure we will be back—it is only 130 miles from home.  According to the map, the trail runs from just south of Nebraska City to about a mile south of where we were parked.  The information says Peru Nebraska has a campground near the trail as well.  That would be a good starting point to ride both directions. 

The trail ran under the bridge (I do like those bridges) so here’s a shot of that. 


The information says it is a diverse trail.  I believe it as I had just exited a heavily tree lined area right next to the river to this area where crops were growing.


When I got back, there was just enough wine for a glass for me.  Dan had decided we were selling everything and buying a houseboat and explore the rivers.  It was the wine talking—I think….  Anyway, a relaxing evening.


Finally, the mosquitoes drove us inside at dark.  Even with the late start, it was a fun beginning to our little trip.

Tomorrow, you won’t believe this trail is in Iowa.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Corn State—Nebraska or Iowa?

We think of Nebraska as the “Corn Huskers.”  I even think the Nebraska Capitol building resembles a corn ear.  But, we’ve been in Iowa for a day and there is corn everywhere.   Then there is this


Everyone knows the Iowa State Fair is going on this week.  It is probably one of the best fairs in the Nation.  However, we are not attending.  Tempting, but too many people. 

Several weeks ago, Dan suggested we take the PW out for a couple day spin.  I discovered Iowa is not only known for its fair, but also for its Rails to Trails.  That is what we are doing.

So far, I haven’t had cell service except in major towns and interstates.  I’m writing this on Monday evening, but won’t be able to post it until we find a decent connection.  For that reason, I’m going to wait to tell about our stops along with a few pictures.  Give me a couple days—this isn’t a long trip….

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mayfly Madness


Life was even shorter than a day for most of these Mayflies.  This was taken around 10:00 at night.  There is a light above the garage door.  Light must be an overwhelming draw because they fly into it to their death.

Maybe they don’t call them Augustflies because it is not a glamorous name.  They are certainly thick around here right now.  There was a story on the internet on how they were ankle deep on a bridge over the Mississippi River which made it as slick as ice.  According to one source, they do tend to hatch from the water in large groups.

Last evening  the kitchen window was covered with Mayflies.  I actually saw a tree frog try to eat one. 

What with the deer eating the tomatoes, the bunnies eating the green beans, the cat eating most of the mice and leaving the rest by the door and the tree frogs eating the mayflies, there is real drama around here this summer…

Monday, August 03, 2015

July 31, 2015 Blue Moon

By now there are enough blue moon pictures out there that everyone has seen one.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some just skipped this post thinking, “Not another picture.”  For those who have been out of touch, there was a second full moon in July.

I read there will not be another until 2018—the last was 2012, which I wrote about here.  Those who follow me might remember I made a list of songs that had Moon in the title.  Oddly enough, in that post I did not list the song, “Blue Moon” that was done by:  The Marcels, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin and Billy Holiday—probably more.

Here are some pictures put up by NPR from around the world.  I have no idea how pictures are taken with the moon so huge.  I suspect a BIG telephoto lens.   Kevin Kirkwood, a neighbor with a gift of great picture taking, took this picture over the silos at the farm. 

Yes, I was out there with my tripod.  I deleted most of them.  As with most of my attempts at picture taking, the first one is the best.   The bell picture was taken with the garage lighting.  I actually think it isn’t too bad, except for the bird poop.   Dang Barn Swallows…


Well, here are my pictures—bird poop and all.



Thursday, July 30, 2015

North Fork of the White 2015

Sometimes the timing is just right for a plan to come together.

Drue was planning on coming back to Kansas from Colorado to visit her Dad.  The float trip was a week early this year.  And, we were invited to a 60th birthday party for my cousin who leaves in the Black Forest area near where Doug and Drue live in Colorado 

So, that is how the plan came together for Trent and Carly to go with us to the North Fork. 

I have to admit there was some consternation on my part.  I follow our Sunburst Ranch camping spot Facebook page and from that, I knew the river has been closed twice this summer because of high water.  Thankfully, my calls to Sunburst were met with assurance that there would be no problems.

And, there weren’t.  The river was about a foot high but that only made the float easier.  We floated right over some of the rocks that usually have to be maneuvered around. 

The upside was that each day on the river was absolutely beautiful.  If there was a little bit of a downer, it was that it rained each evening we were there.  The canopy that we intended to be over the picnic table was placed over the kid’s tent just to make sure they stayed dry.  All went well—we just weren’t able to have the campfire chat or crawfish hunt this year.  The last picture in the slideshow shows our drying out program when we got home because everything had to be put away wet then sit back up when we got home to dry. 

The first day Carly rode with us in the canoe and Trent had a kayak.  The second day Carly had her own kayak and that was a lot of fun for her.  Both of them were all over the river chatting and exploring. 

Here is link to a slide show of our trip.  Click on this link, then “slideshow” in the upper right area.  To explain the video, the kids could walk down from our site and float on life jackets around a bend and through some rapids to the area where we parked our canoes.  The part on the video is actually right where the canoes are parked.

Monday, July 27, 2015

2015 RV Survey

In 2007 Dan and I were returning from visiting our Colorado family when we decided to count Recreational Vehicles on I70.  It was the end of May, Memorial Day weekend.  We started counting at the Kansas State line and ended at Salina—250 miles.

Today, July 27, 2015, we did the same survey while once again returning from visiting our Colorado family.  We started counting at Limon Colorado and ended at Topeka—449 miles. These were our rules:  opposing traffic, anything we could see at interchanges or rest stops that appeared to be stopped a short while (gas stations, etc) and those we passed, making sure we didn’t count them twice when we stopped ourselves.RV Survey 3

Obviously, there is one column missing.  I do not have the original count from 2007 and the number of RVs per type came out to 1/2 vehicle when I used the percentages.  I decided to just leave that column out—it is close enough.

The blog post I wrote from the 2007 is here.  I mentioned that the price of gas/diesel was not making a difference in choice of type of RVs.  However, I think in the eight years since the last survey, it is making a difference.  The new light weight hitch pull campers seem to be making a significant change in choice of RVs according to our little informal survey.  I didn’t make a breakout count, but definitely there were a significant number of the 14 to 16 foot hitch pull campers similar to the brand name R Pod.

Another big jump was in the Van Conversions—our RV of choice.    It does not surprise me that interest in these have grown because, obviously, the public still likes RVs that put the driver with the passengers (note the  Class A Bus numbers and the Class C square back numbers).  The advantage the Class B, Van conversion is the mileage, which could reach up to 10 miles per gallon better than other RVs of that type. If the buyer likes road trips, that becomes significant.  And, it is not necessary to tow a vehicle behind.

We counted 11 motorcycle trailers (those little tiny things) and could have missed a few because there were a bunch of motorcycles on the road—maybe because Sturgis starts next weekend…

Another observation were the number of vehicles that might be packed to tent camp.  We didn’t count because that is a hard one to call, but honestly if we would have counted the ones we thought looked most likely, it would have ranked right up near the top.  That might be the young married and young families.  Certainly I could understand that with the cost of RVs now days.

Finally, we are at the height of tourist season and the last survey was taken at the very beginning.  But, even with the informality of it all, the percentages do say something about current trends.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sweating with the Fam

Recently Doug, Drue, Trent and Carly from Monument CO flew out to Cary NC to visit Marc, Kim, Aaron, Adam and Evan.  We kept thinking we should also make the trip just to be with the family, but decided to let the kids visit, get to know the area and talk about usSmile

The word we got from all was how hot and humid it was in North Carolina.   

So, as this Sunday evening slips away, I am thinking about the family and wondering what is going on in their lives right now.  Here’s what my research tells me about their outdoor activities.





Very interesting—Cary wins for coolest temperature, Berryton is high with Monument right in the middle.  Monument and Cary tie for “Feels Like” of 79 degrees.  Berryton wins with 102!!  That’s why I’m here at the computer instead of outside.

Of course, there is one more HUGE difference.  And, I’m sure the Colorado family caught this right away.   Cary’s humidity is 67%, Berryton’s is a crazy 77% and, to no one’s surprise, Monument’s humidity is a very low 24%

And, that is why when the Colorado family visit us “down low” altituders  they usually point out quite frequently how hot and sweaty they feel.  While, the rest of us, even in the summer,  are cold at some point when we go to Colorado.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Grabbing some lunch

Dan and I took a tour after another 2 1/2 inch rain several mornings ago.  It wasn’t enough to bring the water up enough to go over the spillway on the new pond, but it did cover up the outlet tube. 

We decided to go around the back side of the pond to take a look at the flow.  It was substantial even though this picture doesn’t show the real amount.  Also, this picture doesn’t show the snake, which only seconds before had its head a little way up the tube waiting to grab any minnows  or tiny perch that get sucked down from above.  IMG_7443

Dan then spotted the snake down in the grass about nine feet from the outlet tube picture above.  I set the camera on center focus and pulled the telephoto up as far as it would go.  I took three pictures—for some reason, all with the same setting.  At first I was disappointed, but the more I look at the picture, the snake head in the bubbling water is sort of interesting….