Sunday, October 24, 2010

Back to Thompson

We spent another day wrestling the wind across Iowa and blew into Thompson on Friday afternoon. Things look quite a bit different at Gary and Francile's farm since we were here in August. Most of the trees have lost their leaves, the crops have been harvested and most activities are about preparing for Winter. Of course, when you have a balmy day in late October, it's a perfect day to get out and enjoy the tree swing one last time.

Our dear friends welcomed us to a family Thanksgiving feast they hosted Saturday afternoon. Besides the turkey and all the trimmings, the big event was that their granddaughter lost a tooth. Now, all the wants for Christmas is her two front teeth! She was delighted to discover the tooth fairy got the memo that she was spending the weekend here in Iowa. With new treasures in her pockets, Anika was grinning ear to ear. What a wonderful smile!

After all of that food and fun, everybody was ready for a good night's rest. Little Coffee (who isn't quite so little anymore) got a head start. She's a championship napper (and purrer)! Many thanks to Gary and Francile for making us feel like family. It's been so wonderful to see y'all again!

This afternoon we bid our friends farewell and made the quick trip to Forest City. Tonight we're parked at "Camp Winnebago" before we check Bullwinkle into the "hospital" in the morning. While he's at Winnebago a few days getting some warranty work done, we'll be exploring nearby Clear Lake.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Iowa City

We decided to take a break in our 900-mile sojourn to Winnebago and spend a couple of nights resting up in Iowa City. This destination was an easy pick for us. We love to visit capitals, colleges and towns we've never been to before. And, Iowa City is all three. Plus, this is the town where Paul's parents met many years ago. So, we owe a lot to Iowa City! It definitely deserved a stop. Some 400 miles after leaving Whittington bright and early yesterday, we blew into Colony Country Campground, a lovely little mom-and-pop campground just north of town. Just take a look at those flags. We really did blow in! That's the kind of weather that makes driving a 40-foot rolling billboard tons of fun.

After a good night's rest and an early lunch at the tasty Bluebird Diner, we strolled over to the University of Iowa campus. The campus sits adjacent to Iowa City's bustling downtown district, making the college and the town inseparable. (It's very nice!) The centerpiece of the campus is the Old Capitol Building. This historic landmark served as Iowa's last territorial capitol, and its first state capitol. When the state government moved the capital to Des Moines in 1857, this stately building became part of the University of Iowa.

We stepped inside and were cheerfully greeted by Vilda, a lovely docent who provided a very interesting an informative tour. She explained that the University moved out of the building in 1970 and embarked on a six-year effort to restore the capitol to its statehouse splendor. A 2001 fire closed the building for six years. The former statehouse reopened to the public in 2006 as a museum. The interior paint colors are all circa early Iowa statehood. The very red walls of the old state house chamber cast a warm glow on the rows of representative desks adorned with candlesticks and quills.

The building's prominent architectural feature is its unique reverse spiral staircase at its center, which extends from the ground floor to the second floor. Vilda guided us upstairs for a peak at several former state office buildings.

The old governor's office is available to modern day Iowa Governors who need to conduct state business in Iowa City.

The President's Office is furnished just as it was when the University moved the president's office out in 1970. With big windows and a fireplace in the corner, this cavernous space is quite cozy.

A bookcase across the office contains several books. On the bottom shelf we spotted a row of Hawkeye yearbooks from back in the day when Paul's parents attended school here. We could look, but as much as we wanted to take a peek inside, we could not touch.

Like most colleges at the time, the University of Iowa campus was the site of protests in the late '60s and early '70s. That turbulent time is featured in an exhibit in the ground floor gallery. "Chaos and Creation on the Pentacrest" highlights the impact on the university.

This May 12, 1971 memo from the Office of the President advised students to avoid protests and stick to their studies.

The exhibit also features a University of Iowa dorm room, circa 1968. Pretty trippy! Just to the left of the lamp near the bed is the requisite pile of collegiate clothing on the floor. The very scary thing about this display is the number of "antiques" that we could easily identify, like the Polaroid Swinger camera!

With our capitol tour complete, we strolled around the rest of the Pentacrest, a collection of five campus buildings, including the capitol, that sit on a four-block-sized parcel. Schaeffer Hall, located on the southeast portion of the Pentacrest, is a spot where Paul's dad spent many hours as a student.

We suspect Dad and Mom spent some time just across the street from Schaeffer Hall, here at The Airliner. Paul's dad told us to check out this old haunt, so we did! This hotspot has been keeping Hawkeyes fed and watered since 1944.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day on campus. This picture perfect October day sure didn't hurt, but there's a lot to like about Iowa City. We'll definitely be back.

As much as we'd love to stick around for awhile, we're getting kicked out of here tomorrow. Iowa is hosting Wisconsin for a big game this weekend, and our cozy campground is booked. So, we're moving north for a weekend of fun with friends before we take Bullwinkle back to Winnebago.

Meanwhile, Go Hawkeyes!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Whittington Revisited

We passed up a return to Paducah so we could stick around with our friends at Defeated Creek as long as possible. Paducah's National Quilt Museum will have to wait for next time!

After saying so long to our friends and leaving Defeated, we headed west to Nashville then north into Illinois. We're making tracks to make a date for our moose. Bullwinkle has an appointment at Winnebago in Forest City on Monday. With 900 miles to cover between now and then, we decided to make our first stop at one of our favorite "overnight" campgrounds in southern Illinois.

Whittington Woods Campground in Whittington, IL is the perfect blend of easy access and a quiet getaway. It's a great place to park after a long day of driving to get a good night's rest before the next long day. We found this gem last November on our beeline return to Kansas City and vowed to return. We're glad we did.

Tomorrow, on to Iowa!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Defeated Creek

Sometimes a question is best answered with a picture. This is my answer to the question, "Mary, what'cha been doing the last couple of weeks?"

We are parked in this beautiful spot in our now favorite campground. Defeated Creek COE Campground is located about 10 miles northeast of the tiny Tennessee town of Carthage. Our site sits on the shore of Cordell Hull Lake, which is the reason I've spent as much time as I can parked in a recliner enjoying the view. (And, oh yeah, maybe I've read a few pages on my Kindle.) This place is simply the best!

This stunning campground is the "home park" for our friends Lisa and Tony, who live just minutes away. I met Lisa online a couple of years ago and have been promising to visit her and her family here in Tennessee since. We almost made it last year, but had to bypass this stop to get our ailing moose to Kansas City. Lisa extended an invitation to her RVing friends to join her family at Defeated during her Fall break. We all made our reservations six months ago (This place is understandably that popular.) and descended on Defeated en masse. Lisa and Tony and their son Tez were the most wonderful hosts. (How did I miss getting a picture of their younger son Rick? That cute little boy moves pretty fast!)

As much as we love the scenery around here, the chance to spend time with Lisa and her family and a bunch of our RVing friends is the real reason we came.

We hadn't seen our friends John and Sandy since June in Sacramento. These brave folks didn't know anyone else heading to Defeated. (And, they came anyway!) Of course, they fit right in and will leave here with many new friends. 

It was a treat to catch up with Jim and Ellie and their adventures since we met them in Jerome in April. Ellie did an outstanding job of leading our impromptu morning line dancing class. And, Jim opened their patio to all the football fans in the group. No matter the outcome, these games were great to watch with friends.

Fellow native Kansans Mac and Netters have been busy since we saw them in Texas last winter (and in frigid Kansas City before that!). These two mixed up some mighty fine fajitas!

We met Leno and Kevin in Texas, too. They are looking good, as always. And, so is their beautiful rig. Kevin set the standard in our group for the most sparkling RV. That's probably why theirs was usually the place we gathered at happy hour. We just followed the light!

More of the clan we connected with in Texas! Chuck and Kathy got lucky and were able to extend their stay beyond a couple of days. We're so glad!

We sure met a lot of nice folks in Texas, including Nolan and Donna. It was great to see them again.

Doug and JoAnn (aka Filmore's Folks) came over from their new favorite town, Asheville. It's one of ours, too! It was great to catch up with them since first meeting them in Rockport.

We hadn't seen Jenny since our stop in Spokane in August 2009. Lots of good things have been happening for her. She calls Tennessee home these days and beamed as she introduced us to her new husband Don. Congratulations, you two!

It was our pleasure to meet Cindy and Ken for the first time. We follow each other's blogs and finally got to meet the people behind the words. Nice to meet you both!

Our not-so-small gathering attracted the attention of other RVing friends who were camped not too far away. It was a special treat to finally meet Darrell and Judy, whom we've known "virtually" for quite awhile. Thanks so much for coming over to visit. We look forward to seeing you again down the road.

Darrell and Judy brought along their friends, Gene and Judi. Turns out we have mutual RVing friends, and actually missed this lovely couple by just a few days when we stopped at Port Orford last year to visit our dear friends Gordon and Juanita.

With all these good folks around there was lots of wonderful conversation and gobs of laughter. And, of course, there was plenty of good food. After dark, Tony treated us to his fine campfire building skills. (We're definitely going to miss those campfires!)

One evening Lisa and Tony's friends, the Hackett boys, stopped by the campfire to play and sing. They're very good! Thanks, guys!!!

It's been a very special couple of weeks. Mother Nature has brought on a brilliant display of fall color during our visit. Some days I swear you could literally see the leaves change!

From the first hints of Fall color... a variety of shades... full brilliance. Stunning!

As the sun sets on our visit to this very special place, we thank our friends for a very special time. We are leaving here rested, refreshed and filled with cherished memories.

We wish everyone safe travels and look forward to seeing you here again next time, if not sooner.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Nashville is one of the cities we've driven through but never stopped. But, when our friends John and Sandy suggested a day trip to Music City from our campground an hour or so away, we decided to make the time. On this gorgeous fall afternoon, our mission was simple. See a couple of sights and get out of town before weekend rush hour. Our first stop: the historic Ryman Auditorium.

Growing up in a house that appreciated country and western, I've long known the Ryman as "The Mother Church of Country Music." What neither of us realized was that it actually was a church. Built by Thomas Ryman, this historic landmark opened in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle. The pews and stained glass windows remain as vestiges of the Ryman's religious beginnings.

From 1943 to 1974, the Ryman was the home of the Grand Ole Opry. For three decades, folks filled the pews and others tuned in on radio and television to hear the hits from Nashville. When the Opry moved to the Opryland Hotel in 1974, a six-foot diameter circle of the Ryman stage was removed and inlaid at the new Opryhouse behind the lead singer's microphone.

Standing where legends like Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson have stood is really something. Imagine how it felt for a aspiring performer to step up to the microphone for the first time in this place.

Today the Ryman includes an exhibit of musical memorabilia. This display honors Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. The Johnny Cash Show was filmed on the Ryman stage from 1969 to 1971. (I remember it well!) This ensemble was worn by Johnny and June on her first appearance on the show after the birth of their son John Carter Cash. (Check out Johnny's boots!)

As a drama student at a Nashville finishing school, Sarah Ophelia Colley dreamed of being a Broadway actress. Instead she developed a comedic character based on a woman she met in Alabama. This gossipy character hailed from the fictional town of Grinder's Switch and hollered an unforgettable greeting: "Howww-dEEEEEEEEEE! I'm jes' so proud to be here!" Sarah's alter ego, Minnie Pearl, was a fixture at the Grand Ole Opry for more than 50 years. Her simple dress and trademark straw hat with the tag attached is on display at the Ryman.

The Grand Ole Opry had one singer who I knew simply as "The guy with the sparkly suits". One of Porter Wagoner's famed suits caught my eye at the Ryman. It's still really sparkly!

Though the Grand Ole Opry moved on to its new home, the Ryman continues to attract performers from all genres. Signed performance posters from Coldplay, The Pretenders and others grace the walls of this historic venue.

From the Ryman, we walked across downtown Nashville toward the Capitol. Along the way we stopped at the Tennessee War Memorial Plaza, which was built in 1925 to honor soldiers who died in World War I. A quote from President Woodrow Wilson is engraved above the pilars.
America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured.

From the War Memorial Plaza, we headed for the Capitol. When John and Sandy offered to take our picture, this was Paul's idea of a pose!

The Capitol is dark and chilly. We wandered around its dark halls and admired the portraits of Tennessee's past Governors. I found myself attracted to the warm glow of this chandelier.

The three U.S. presidents from Tennessee are commemorated on the capitol grounds. James Polk and his wife Sarah are buried here. One statue honors Andrew Johnson, and this equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson is impossible to miss. This is one of four identical statues honoring our seventh president. The other three are in Washington, DC, New Orleans and Jacksonville, FL.

With that, we enjoyed a tasty late lunch and gave a tip of the hat to downtown Nashville. Thanks to John and Sandy for a great day. We're so glad we finally stopped here.

And, yes, we made it out of town before evening rush hour!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Two Sides of the Smokies

When we booked our stay here in Townsend, one of the things that attracted us to this area was that it billed itself as "the peaceful side" of the Smokies. And, it is! Over the weekend, we decided to venture over to "the other side" and explore the towns of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. We took advantage of a gorgeous Saturday and took Rocky for a "topless" drive.

Any visions of we had of Gatlinburg being a quaint little town were dashed as we pulled into this very touristy - and crowded - town. We didn't even stop.

And, this is what greeted us in Pigeon Forge! We had heard this place was crowded, but we couldn't believe the traffic. This is definitely the crazy side!

Do not adjust your screen. This is just one of the zillions of tourist attractions along the strip in Pigeon Forge.

And, did you know the Titanic hit the iceberg right here in Pigeon Forge? Apparently this young couple was compelled to document that fact.

But, wait. There's more! With places like Magic Beyond Belief, this side of the Smokies reminded us of Branson, but on steroids.

The only stop we made was the Walmart in Sevierville. (That's pronounced Se-VEER-vul.) While we were shopping I thought I saw a bride and groom, but told myself I had imagined it. As we made our way out to the Jeep we saw them ahead of us. I had to snap a picture. We've been in a bunch of Walmarts, but that's a first! What a way to start your married life: Stopping by the Walmart on the way home from the wedding.

This is the kind of stuff you see on this side of the Smokies!

We ventured back to Pigeon Forge yesterday to enjoy a tasty brunch with our friends Craig and Anne. We met them in Niagara Falls, caught up with them in Gaffney and finally had a chance to enjoy a meal together here in Tennessee. That was, without a doubt, the best part of our visit to the other side.

Back at our quiet campsite, we're ready to kick back and enjoy our last couple of days on the peaceful side of the Smokies.