Monday, October 7, 2013


Our 32- day road trip came to an end on Wednesday, October 2.  We struggled out of the car to take this final welcome sign photo.

Below is a map that shows our route from Akron west and then back home.  The northern path is the westward line, and the southern line is our trip east.

I promised a few statistics from this trip, and here they are:

We visited 16 different states.

We saw 8 state capitol buildings.

We went inside 5 state capitol buildings.

We drove 7,094 miles.

We visited 3 National Parks.

We stayed in 29 different motels or hotels.

We stayed 2 nights in the home of Bill and Renee Voss, in Port Townsend, Washington.

My suitcase never left the back of the van, but acted as a dresser.

We each took 3 pairs of shoes that never saw the light of day and an outfit for "dressing up" that never left the car hook.

We visited 3 Catholic basilicas and 1 cathedral.

I took 1,400 -some photos, and Randy took 1,350-ish.  That's close to 2,800 shots!

Our packing included AAA Tour Books for every state west of the Mississippi River, just in case we ended up wherever................because we really only had a vague "plan."

We got in and out of the car 8,321 times in Glacier National Park to take least it felt like it.

We yelled, "Oh My God!" 500 times going up the Road to the Sun, and screamed like banshees on the way back down.

Our wills were on our desk tops, back home, just in case...........

Our favorite hotels were The Grand Hotel in Kalispell, Montana, The Castaways, in Port Orford, Oregon, and the 22nd floor of The Silver Legacy, in Reno, Nevada.

We saw the homes of two authors and the rotting boat of another.

We "read" 3 audio books along the way.

We visited 2 art museums and 3 'other' museums.

We saw 3 separate displays of the glass of Dale Chihuly.

I wrote 31 blog entries during the trip.  If I hadn't written my journal, I would forget when we were wherever we've been!

We went into 2 restored, vintage train depots.

We saw 4 major statues of Abraham Lincoln on the trip.  He is loved.

We visited 2 food museums and a cheese maker.

We went to 8 historical sites or museums.

We rode one ferry and one merry-go-round.

We ate Chester's Chicken three times.

We wore our Western hats home, and maybe you will see us wearing our house, in the dark.

We survived many dangers along the way, usually announced by road signs to warn us of the threats:

                               This buffalo's baby is under the bush. She let us know not to come any closer.

We see waves of tennis shoes rushing to shore, in our minds.

 O J Simpson is in this one, in Nevada! We waved.

Do YOU see one anywhere?

One of the most interesting things we avoided was the Federal Shutdown, which happened the day we got home.  Imagine Glacier National Park, The Redwood National Park or Theodore Roosevelt National Park shut up like Wally World when we arrived, had we been there earlier!
We also left Oregon and Washington just before a monsoon arrived, drove through Wyoming before the blizzard hit, and finished seeing Iowa before the tornado sirens began.  (A bit reminiscent of our October, 2012 trip to the beach and running from Hurricane Sandy.............we thrive on danger!)
A good time was had by all both of us.   Thanks for traveling with us! 
I will end with a few out-takes..........after all, we have 2,800 pictures, and you've only seen several hundred of those.............

We asked the guy to get us in front of the Space Needle.  Hello, did he look UP?

                                                                       "The Shadow"


                      Thelma told us to turn right..........I think this is when we turned her into a man.

                                             You notice that the photo was taken by the driver...........

                                                                  Fog Eyes!


Copyright: KP Gillenwater 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I-O-W-A ! The State Capitol in Des Moines, Amana, The Iowa Machine Shed

This morning we crossed into Iowa from Nebraska in the middle of a bridge. The sign was hanging overhead, and even if we had tried to stop the car in the middle of the bridge for a photo, we wouldn't have gotten it, and I would not be here to write about it.  Imagine it.

The first thing we noticed is that Iowa has the BEST rest areas ever!  They are working as I type to improve all of the interstate stops with clean, new facilities and beautifully landscaped picnic areas.  Anyone would be impressed.  We were.

Iowa is a farming state.  We passed some beautiful fields of corn today.  I don't know when their harvest is over, but if it is, then whatever's out there is still beautiful, to this non-farmer.

 After all of those mountains, Iowa seems very flat, but there are rolling hills between the small towns.

Our sightseeing today was in Des Moines, the capital city of Iowa.  We had one goal in mind, but when we saw the sign for The Basilica of St. John, we had to alter the plan. You know that we visit basilicas, just because they are usually unusual and lovely.

When we got to The Basilica of St. John, we were disappointed to find it locked up tightly.  We tried every entrance, to no avail.  I did take a picture of the outside, but the inside will have to remain a mystery, so the picture of the building as a whole will also remain a mystery.  You will see the front door and one cross from a corner of a rooftop.  The sky was so clear and blue that I need to show you that.

A few blocks from St. Johns, we saw the dome of the Iowa State Capitol Building shining in the distance. It should shine!  It's 23 carat gold-plated! Now, THIS is a DOME !

Iowa didn't just stop with this dome. They have four more of them, one on each corner!  Actually, we decided that this is the most beautiful state capitol that we've seen yet. (We also promised each other that we'd go back to all the ones we've seen but didn't go into, now that we've found out how wonderful the insides are!) 
Here is the inside of that main dome. The flag that you see up there is actually suspended from the top. (No, I did not lie down on the floor. There were visitors from other countries in there getting a tour.) If we had gone on a tour, we could have walked up there around the top. We did the self-guided tour.

In one hall there is a glass case filled with dolls. I learned that they each represented a First Lady of Iowa, a wife of the governor.  Although all the dolls have the same face, each was dressed in her inaugural dress, so it was fun to see all the style changes over the years portrayed by clothes.

At the top of the Grand Stairway to the second floor is a mural painting titled Westward, by Edwin Blashfield, which symbolizes the pioneers' arrival in Iowa.  It is absolutely beautiful with its almost ghostly Conestoga wagons.  You may have to go there, just to see this.
On the second floor are the Senate Chambers and the House of Representatives.  Here is a peek into the Senate Chambers.
We were also permitted into the Law Library on the second floor.  By the time we had entered the building we had already heard from two people that the library was not to be missed.  It contains over 100,000 volumes.
 We finally left Des Moines and kept on moving east. No visit to Iowa seems complete without a stop at the Amana Colonies. We did not actually go to the "colonies," today, but we did stop at Little Amana, which is a retail area near the interstate to be sure that nobody gets by the area without seeing and/or buying something produced there. There are technically seven villages that make up the "colonies" formed around 1855 in Iowa by a religious group of hard-working people from Germany. One trip through Iowa I will revisit the whole thing, but today we bought some gifts and went on by.

Tonight we are in a lovely Comfort Inn in Davenport, Iowa.  We've used the fitness room, Randy has been swimming, and we have had a most unusual dinner.  We called it "a happening!"

 The young lady who checked us in to the Comfort Inn mentioned The Iowa Machine Shed as the place to eat.  I wasn't sure I'd heard her correctly, but away we went!

My first time to sit on a tractor
What a fun place!  The outside has farm machinery all over the place, as does the inside.  It's sort of country, sort of hillbilly, sort of home cooking, or barbecue, or health food.  The menu is incredible, and it honestly took me twenty minutes to decide to order the barbecued beef brisket sandwich. Well, that wasn't enough, because then we had to pick two "sides" to share with our dinner.  Randy ordered the "burnt ends" dinner, which was both pork and beef barbecued meat. I added a cup of the thickest and most delicious chili I've had in a long time, for one dollar, to my meal.  We sat there and literally stuffed ourselves, then packed up the rest to bring back to the motel.

 The waitresses wear farmer clothes. We watched one young girl bus a table, and it was unbelievable to see her clear eight table places onto one large tray and then carry it away on her shoulder.  I'd bet that she'd need two trips.  Hardworking people are not only in the Amana Colonies, apparently. When they all gathered to sing a Happy Birthday greeting to a customer, the song sounded a whole lot like "Old McDonald Had a Farm."

Apparently there are five more of these Iowa Machine Sheds spread around Iowa and Illinois. The one in Davenport was the first one opened.

We drove 323 miles today, but who's counting? (Randy is.)   There are about 600 more to go,  and we've enjoyed Iowa today.

 My dad took me with him to his 40th college reunion at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, about 1963, when I was fifteen.  He drove me by the state capitol on that trip, and we had a really good time together. It was the only trip I ever took with him, just the two of us.  I felt him with me today, and that was a really, really nice feeling.

Copyright: KP Gillenwater, 2013


Monday, September 30, 2013

Buffalo Bill Cody in North Platte, Ernie Palmquist's Carvings, The State Capitol Building in Lincoln, Nebraska

 I had spotted the Buffalo Bill Trading Post last night, in North Platte, Nebraska, when we were at the Whiskey Creek Grill, and insisted that we go back when it opened this morning.  A trip west is not complete without a stop or two at a trading post!

This one is dedicated to the memory of William Frederick Cody, known as "Buffalo Bill" to most of the world.

 Bill Cody was born in Iowa, but his wild west show was stationed in North Platte.  People came from all over to see it here.  He also took it abroad and traveled the west with it. Randy and I have been to Cody, Wyoming to see the dam named for him, and we've visited his grave on top of Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado.  Everywhere you go in the West, Buffalo Bill Cody is a figure larger than life.  He owned a 4,000 acre ranch in North Platte.

This trading post was more than a store. In the back of the large fort-styled store is an entire room with glass encased areas filled with tiny little figures portraying the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, which had its home in North Platte.

A man named Ernie Palmquist and his wife, of Pennsylvania, carved each and every one of those 20,000 figures from wood.  He created tents, railroads, picnic tents, horses, crowds of people, and Indians dancing war dances, all out of wood. It took over twelve years to complete all of this.

Every thirty minutes of the day, for five minutes each time, the Wild West Show in the back of the trading post comes to life, and the train starts moving, the Indians dance , the picnickers eat, the bronco riders get bucked off, and all the rest of the scenes have something moving.  It was amazing when it started, and I walked from case to case, totally in awe of what this man had created. For the five minutes that the figures came to life, I was a little kid again, excited over something simple but yet not simple.

In the second photo above, even though it's not a good one, I want to show you the overall picture of the enormity of this creation. Look through the first display.  It was dimly lit in there, but you can see many of the little figurines.  Check out the crowd under the big tent in the last one, below.  Each one is a hand-made and hand-painted person! What a great legacy!

The Wild Bill Trading Post was complete with Native American Jewelry and some Chinese-made souvenirs.  One major attraction is the two-headed calf.  Here it is in all its glory. Or should it be, "Here they are in all their glory?"

We drove 300-some miles today, and as we had finished our Iris Johanson audio book, we reached into the box behind the driver, and brought out the next one.  Now we're listening to O is for Outlaw, one of the "alphabet mysteries," by Sue Grafton.  I've never read one of her books, so this is a good way to find out if I like them.  So far so good.   I have to admit that we tried "Learn Spanish in 3 Months," before we got out the mystery.  Randy and I rode along trying to perfect how to speak Spanish for all of fifteen minutes, before we tossed that one back into the box and said, "Later!"
We've also stuffed an imaginary rag into Thelma's mouth, and technically gagged her.  She talked too much. We've replaced her with a man's voice, and named him Sam (for Sam Elliot) until he talks too much and we bring Thelma back. Ya know how you get sick of someone's voice? Four weeks of hearing Thelma say, "Make a U-turn!" and "Recalculating," was enough.
Near Kearney, we saw a sign that declared the city to be "The Sandhill Crane Capital of the World."  I know you won't be surprised that we didn't see a single one.  We also read that there are over 400 species of birds that can be seen there over time.
One thing we did see in Kearney was the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, which is a huge arch that looks like a covered bridge. It arches over the interstate.  We understand that there are  interactive displays telling the history of the Platte River area inside this arch.  We had to drive under it and keep on going today.
We had a picnic lunch at a rest area shortly past Kearney, then drove on to the capital of Nebraska, Lincoln.
We had the tripod out of the car in a flash and tried to take our regular Capitol Building picture, but this capitol building is an odd one!  It's tall like the one in North Dakota, but it has the dome, which I consider a requirement.  So tall and domed was hard to get into one shot, and we even asked a young man to shoot one, but he somehow missed.  Here is my rendition of a composite photo of Randy and me in front of the Capitol Building of Nebraska. The statue on the top of the building is a man sowing seed, named "The Sower."
This may take a bit of imagination on the part of the viewer.....but it's the best I can do without a hard copy and a pair of scissors. You get the idea, anyway.............right?
The inside of the capitol was totally different.  We've noticed that the insides have a flavor of the state they represent, and Nebraska's gets across the idea that there is a Native American heritage and that the state depends on agriculture.  This picture, of the top of the ceiling in the rotunda, was taken as I stood below it and off-center.  That is actually a chandelier hanging there, and it hides the beautiful ceiling if seen from directly below it.  Since the dome is all those floors above this room, there is no light coming through the rotunda ceiling.

My favorite part of the interior of the capitol is a closed door. It was explained that the Nebraska government used to consist of two bodies, but due to cost factors it was reduced to one.  That means they closed off the chambers where the second body used to meet.  Instead of just locking the door, they chose a magnificent piece of artwork depicting the Native American heritage of Nebraska.
Four large paintings surround the rotunda walls.  This one, bright and modern, honors Nebraska's agriculture and farmers.

One last picture, this from the street.  Directly in front of the capitol building is a statue of Abraham Lincoln.  His Gettysburg Address is etched into the wall behind him.

Tonight we are settled into a Comfort Inn on the west side of Omaha, Nebraska.  We stopped here because we didn't want to deal with the casinos and casino motels over the Iowa state line.  Our hotel clerk told us that Guy Fieri, of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, on the Food Network, had done a segment at the sports bar next to our motel.  We went.  We ate.  I don't think Guy had the salad that I tried to eat.   'Nuff said.
Tomorrow we will go on to Iowa, birthplace of my father.  We won't be visiting his hometown this trip, though.  We've done that before............twice.   Instead, we are working our way home!
Copyright: KP Gillenwater 2013