Friday, October 31, 2008

Table Rock State Park, Missouri

It was time to continue our southward travels so we left Lake of the Ozarks and drove south to Table Rock Lake and Table Rock State Park. Its near Branson, so we decided to stay a while and do some exploring.
The lake itself is huge and the campground at the state park is really nice, Missouri definitely has good parks and campgrounds. The bike/hiking trail is 2,2 miles long and goes from the marina to the dam. It's a pretty nice ride with a little up and down but nothing really hard. The views along the way are picturesque, with eastern bluebirds, red headed woodpeckers, and lots of chickadees providing company.
The Branson Belle, a paddle wheel theater, greets you as you round the bend. Kind of funny, the ship was built locally and they launched it by greasing the slip with bananas! Talk about environmentally friendly!
We also had to post a picture of the albino squirrel to contrast that with the black squirrels we saw in Minneapolis. We don't think its a true albino as it doesn't have pinkish eyes, but it posed nicely, probably waiting for a treat.
Anyway we are enjoying it here and have only been lost twice while driving to find a grocery store. Luckily we stopped before driving over a cliff and found our way out of the silver dollar city parking lot. WE do think the teenagers in the area might be a little ou of control. Other than that no misadventures. Clear skies

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Missouri

The noise of two different woodpeckers drilling in dead trees greeted us as we walked on our morning stroll. One set of tapping was the loudest, a distinct low pitched thump that made me hope for a view I hadn’t seen in thirty years……
Driving in rain from Keosauqua, and Lake Sugema, we headed east and then south. Our goal for the day was to reach Lake of the Ozarks State Park. The drive itself was slow along good roads and the park itself was so nice that we decided to stay for four days instead of the two nights we had planned.
Towing the house through a dense hardwood forest, and narrowly avoiding the tress we found a great campsite, into which our house and truck fit, leaving room for more. The ground was filled with leaves and hickory nuts, which luckily had all fallen from the tree above. A neighbor camper came over and pointed out the tree branch ready to fall on our house, (I think he was trying to save the spot for a friend).
The next morning the rain stopped and Molly and I took off exploring. As we walked the campground we had to avoid stepping on the nut husks and persimmons that littered the forest floor. Nearing our campsite, loud tapping greeted us and then stopped as two pileated woodpeckers flew though the trees! Now the pileated woodpecker is the one that woody woodpecker was drawn after and is a huge woodpecker, about the size of a crow! The red topnotch is so distinctive that identification is simply. The last one we had seen was in Renita’s folks back yard, over thirty years ago. Later we saw the pileated woodpeckers from inside our house.
The park itself is over 16000 acres of hardwood forest and lake. Later that day we went to Osage Beach, for supplies, and discovered condos and marinas and a whole city, next to this beautiful park. That evening we walked Molly along the lake, in the lower campground. The people here were so smart to save this place as a park!

The Amana Colonies

Pam and Roy offered to take us to the Amana Colonies, and since we hadn’t been there in years we loaded up and headed north and east for a day of antiquing, furniture shopping and exploring. The drive was pleasant and the time passed swiftly as we visited about our kids and family and general stuff.
Arriving there we parked and started our shopping tour by visiting one of the largest craft antique stores we have ever seen. As we wandered we both laughed as we saw a nut grinder that was twenty five dollars and nowhere as nice as the one we had at home, (ours cost .10 cents at a garage sale). The store seemed endless as we passed though room after room of high priced antiques and newly made to look antique products. Still there was enough old to justify the wanderings.
From there the next stop was lunch and we ate at a restaurant that served the food family style. Sauerkraut was one of the staples! The food was good but pricey, is there a pattern here? The furniture store was next! A walnut table and chairs greeted us upon entry and it was a fine example of the exquisite furniture the store contained. One room was filled with clocks, all set to different times so that the chimes rang almost continuously. Closing our eyes the Westminster chimes transported us back to my grandparents’ house. Luckily, none of the furniture fit into our fifth wheel as the prices were the highest we have ever seen, anywhere.
The Amana Woolen Mill was the next largest building we entered and there for the first time we got to see looms running full blast, making rugs and clothing. They were working at a much faster rate than the Navajo loom we had operated in Cortez, Colorado! The smell of machine oil filled the air, much like the battleship and observatory. Machine oil runs the world, (Of all the stores and shops this was my favorite)!
Tiring Roy and I sat on a bench outside, while Pam and Renita continued their exploring. Luckily the stores finally ran out and it was time to drive back home, to Keosauqua and Lake Sugema. A fun day, and a place worth visiting. Clear skies
(Two days later Pam showed us an Amish furniture store outside of Keosauqua where the furniture was one fourth of the price, and of equal quality), of what we had seen in Amana. We found and purchased an oak end table that was perfect for our traveling house.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Villages of Van Buren County

The forecast for St Paul was cold, so we decided to head south and did so in a steady to hard rain. It rained all day so we drove a lot further than we planned,390 miles, all the way to Keosauqua and our intended new campground at Lake Sugema.There we found a nice spot with full hookups and had a place where we could sight see around southeast Iowa.
The Lake itself is about 600 acres in size and is a really beautiful lake. Geese are protected here and they wake us each morning with their honking. Blue jays fight with robins out our back window, (I have yet to get a good picture, grrrrr). We did get a great view of the moon, reddened from the Alaskan volcano. From there, we either drive into Keosauqua where we meet Pam and Roy and began our days adventures or they pick us up at the lake. So the days have passed quickly as we have explored the area.
One of our trips was to Bentonsport and Bonaparte, two small and old towns on the Des Moines river. Once thriving communities the towns nearly died before being reborn as historic sites, filled with red brick buildings.
At Bonaparte we ate the best tenderloin sandwich we have had in quite a while! Greasy but good, (pork tenderloin sandwiches in Iowa are the Louisiana equivalent of oyster and shrimp poorboys), After antiquing, and sampling the local fudge, we next drove to Bentonsport. There we watched a blacksmith, working on an custom iron gate.
(It made me want to work the bellows and then pound the iron....maybe another lifetime.) One antique shop was actually filled with antiques, not the usual modern crafts stuff,(that I detest). Luckily, we don't have a lot of room so we only bought a hand drill, like the one that we had in my parents basement. Another interesting spot was a small private museum filled with arrowheads and fossils.
The bridge had been redone into a pedestrian bike and foot bridge, and we remembered when we had driven across it many years ago.
Returning to Pam and Roy's, we discovered our niece Krista, had arrived and so we looked at her rock and fossil collection before eating and returning home. Another fine day, we are truly blessed. Clear skies.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Last year we had driven through Minnesota just before the peak fall colors. This year we hit it at the peak. Most amazing to us were the orange maples, along with the bright red sumacs. Driving around the Twin Cities made us want to pull over for pictures, but of course we couldn't.
Jenny suggested another way to enjoy the colors, a visit to an apple orchard, so we loaded up and headed to Apple Valley and the Afton Apple Orchard. It turned out to be quite a treat!
As we got there we pulled into a huge parking area filled with other fall frolickers! The first stop was to the booth for apple tasting, where they had all of the apple varieties. Walking down the apple line we tasted eah variety and decided what type of apples we wanted to pick. Our favorites were Honey Gold and Harelson. Next you picked up some apple bags, which looked kind of small. but held a lot of apples!
Paying two dollars to enter we had our hands stamped and then got on the hay wagon, which took the "apple pickers", around the orchard, stopping as you shouted out halt to the driver. We first picked the Harelsons and then walked to the raspberry patches to taste their sweetness. Everywhere people were tasting and picking the fall harvest. High electric fences warned the deer to keep out!
Walking down the road we passed Connel Reds, Honey Crisps, to name a few. The apple trees were interspered with pumpkin patches filled with children picking out their Halloween decoration. Tired of walking, and carrying our harvest, we waited for the hay wagon, then reembarked and continued until we got to the Honey Golds.
Tree after tree was filled with golden apples. We tasted one as we strolled and picked until our bag was bursting with sweetness. We felt like children again and thanked God for such goodness.
Returning to the start point we went to the apple press, where the pressers told us 200 apples were needed for one gallon of juice! Walking into the store we got some pumpkin butter and apple butter, before paying for our apples and heading home.
All in all a day of color and sweetness and fall foliage. A treat for all the senses.
Clear skies

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dance Jen Brackin, Dance!

We left Rapid City and drove across South Dakota, boondocking at the Mitchel Cabelas. High winds, of over 40 mph, caused our mileage to plummet and nearly forced us to stop, but we were able to slowly make our way across the prairie. The second day the winds abated, as we traveled east, and we drove to Shakopee, Minnesota, where we stayed at the Dakotah Meadows Rv Park, (The park is really an extension of the Mystic Casino).
Calling Jenny, we discovered that she had two performances, one was at the Varsity Theater, in Dinkeytown, and the other was at Valley Scare! Yeah, Jenny dancing!
The first performance was at the launch of a new performing company, Fair Trade. Jen's Friend Colleen, an outstanding singer, was celebrating the start of her new performance company and Jen choreographed and danced a solo during the festivities.
The show was at the Varsity Theater in Dinkeytown, and included Rap Artists, A Shakesperian soliloquy, solo singers, and of course Jen's solo.
The next night we were treated to a performance of a much different type as we went to Valley Scare, at Valley Fair, and got to see Illumination. Illumination is a fire dance company which is working with a magican during the pre-Halloween festivities. Jen not only danced but also coregraophed the dancers and the magician;
It was our first time to see her spin fire, and it was amazing to see how the dancers worked with the flames in a safe and controlled environment. Well done!
Afterwards we went behind the stage to talk with Jen and meet her friends and fellow company dancers.
We were able to see a second performance, after I rode the Power Tower, a ride which features a vertical drop of 200 feet. The ride takes you slowly up and then drops you like a stone before yoyoing to a final stop,( The reason I had to ride it is because it's as close to free fall as you can get, without riding in outer space)!
The ride to the pre-drop position was acrophobic, to say the least. How I wished for my seat harness and climbing rope! The drop itself was pure pleasure! Much more fun than a leader fall. (of which I had done several while rock climbing at Devils Tower).
All in all two nights of enjoyment! Clear skies.