A “World’s Largest” Kind of Day

As I mentioned before, DeDe and Denny are avid blog readers, and the last couple of times we have visited they have put together some very special days.  I’d love to say I had visited every place in Central Ohio, but as I have discovered hanging out with them that is simply not true.  What makes it so special is not only do they plan the days, but they go to great pains to pick things that they know would interest us and make great blog posts.

Well, they certainly outdid themselves on Wednesday with an adventure that was jam packed with cool museums and several “world’s biggest thing.”  If you know me at all by this point, you know I love, love giant anything.  Biggest chair, biggest iron, largest wind chime etc…I am there.  So when we were on our way tour first stop, Denny made a slight detour so I could see the world’s biggest basket.

Longaberger is a local company that in it’s heyday was the maker of some amazing handcrafted baskets.  They had so much success that their corporate office was built like a giant basket.  Nope, not making that up…see for yourself.

For scale see the orange traffic cone at the bottom.

The company also owns a large campus that used to have shops and beautiful gardens and was a popular tourist destination at Christmas time.  This campus, according to Roadside America, held the World’s largest basket of apples, and since it was pretty close by we also decided to stop there.  Technically it wasn’t open, but we drove in anyway and wandered about a bit taking pictures.  The facility is obviously being used for something (trash bags in cans and a few potted mums) but it had definitely seen better days.

The large;y empty facility

With the giant basket of apples

After seeing the apples we stopped at a gas station for “fry pies”.  These are made in Berlin, Ohio which has a thriving Amish community and are so much better than the standard fruit pies you see in stores.  These were more like a fruit filled donut and really yummy, but very sweet.

Despite the side trips we eventually made it to the Warther Museum and Garden.  Neither one of us had ever heard of this small museum, but DeDe and Denny had been a couple of times.  Ernest “Mooney”Warther led an extremely interesting life.  At the age of 5 his father died and all of the children had to go to work.  Mooney’s job was herding neighbor’s cows for which he was paid 1 penny a day.  When he was 6 years old he came across a carving knife in a field and started whittling. As the story goes, one day he met a man at a train station and the man taught him to carve wooden pliers.  Without any instruction, Moody duplicated the effort and spent years carving the wooden pliers.

Eventually he stopped his “whittling phase” and started carving trains.  The first few weren’t very good of course, but even the early works showed a high level of talent.  He started working in a steel mill at 16, got married, had 5 kids and eventually built a small house and work shop.  Despite having a regular job and family he never stopped carving and as his access to more expensive materials became possible he added ebony and ivory to his carvings.  He also started using blueprints and learned to carve to scale starting at 2:30am and carving until he had to go to work in the morning.  This was his hobby and despite numerous offers he never sold a train, and in 1963 the Warther museum was built to house the collection.

The museum building was built on his home property and around his workshop which he continued to use while the museum was open until his death. The workshop is that little white building to the left.

Workshop

He had an extensive arrowhead collection found during walks in the area and his early days he used the arrowhead material for embellishments on his trains

The museum itself costs $13, which initially I thought was high although I felt it was justified after seeing the train collection.  The grounds themselves are free and that included touring his home and the little button house he built for his wife.  Frieda, who was born in Switzerland (Mooney was second generation with Swiss born parents) started her own hobby after they were married.  She collected so many buttons that he eventually built her a place to put them all.  He also used the button material when money was tight for his trains and I loved the idea that she found her own hobby and passion in their marriage.

The button house

Each panel was grouped by a specific type of button and then put into a pattern

Her prized possession was the button in the center which was from Mrs’ Lincoln’s 2nd inaugural dress

The dining room was her work space and there were strings of buttons everywhere

The grounds were also very beautiful.  The grapevine on this arbor was over 100 years old

He built a large play area for the kids which included a 65 foot swing (that is not a typo). Lee was a little freaked out by this picture of one of the daughters swinging on it lol

After touring the grounds we entered the museum, which started with his earliest works.  One of the most interesting ting for me was that as his carving got more intricate he needed better knives to work with.  Eventually he created his own knife, with multiple interchangeable blades.  This carving tool was revolutionary and is actually not available for sale.  Only family members know how to make these blades. More importantly learning to make these knives led to him making a carving knife for his wife, which was so admired by the neighbors that the Warther knife business was born and the family still runs a knife business in a workshop attached to the building.

An early knife he created and used to whittle

Very cool fountain outside. The “whimpled” look on the blade was originally used to hide imperfections in the steel he could afford, but they continued the look even with better materials

The current workshop is part of the tour

The knives for sale were very beautiful, but way out of our price range

I did like this hanging knife rack though

Denny bought me a paring knife when I wasn’t looking and it is a beautiful knife. Wonderfully balanced and designed for right handers so Lee is not allowed to use it 🙂

But really it’s all about the trains and I know I am taking forever to get there, but there was alot going on in this museum.  There were three rooms of trains and they were all beautifully displayed.  Out tour guide was excellent, sharing lots of personal informaton about his process and although I am not really a train person I loved the craftsmanship.

One of the many display cases

This was one of my favorites and he carved this piece mutiple times to get it right. Whenever he recarved a piece he would usually throw the older “flawed piece” in the fireplace

There was a great display showing his materials including a block of ebony, an elephant tusk…

And the eyetooth of a hippo which contains the purest of ivory

He also had a fascination with Lincoln carving many pieces that pay homage to the type of man he felt the president was

This culminated in a replication of Lincoln’s funeral train which contained an amazing level of detail

Tiny carving of President Lincoln in his coffin

Truly the detail was amazing and some of the tiny carvers and train wheels are even on motors and parts of them move

My absolute favorite piece though was a recreation of the steel mill he worked in.  The piece is incredibly detailed and many of the pieces move, powered by a motor that he made using an old washing machine motor.  He created this device completely on his own and it’s clear what a creative genuis he was.  He only had a second grade education, but he was an avid reader and his mind never stopped. We took some pictures and Lee took some video, which is really the only way to really understand how wondrous it was.

The mill replication

Each little figure was a recreation of someone he actually knew

The sitting sleeping guy in the middle was a worker and  his head would nod up and down, and the guy on the left was a foreman who would slam his fist into his open hand and the other guy would wake up.

He included himself in the work and I think he is the guy on this machine

Really amazing museum, but we weren’t done yet.  We stopped for a quick lunch at McDonald’s and headed to Berlin to see the museum of ships started by David’s grandson.  We found time on the way to stop at the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock and this may have been my favorite part of the day.  The clock performs on the hour and on the half hour and through sheer luck we only had to wait 8 minutes to watch it chime. Very cool and we all enjoyed watching the free show in the town square of Sugar Creek.

DeDe and Denny

The band started to come out. The figures were probably 4 feet tall

The second museum is the David Warther Carvings and Museum and inspired by his grandfather he started carving ships as a small child. His museum is $10 to enter, although they gave us each a $2 discount when we showed a coupon from the other museum.  David is still a working carver and when we joined the tour in progress he was actually explaining how he makes ivory thread for the masts on the ships.  He couldn’t find what he needed so he and a friend invented a block of steel which he rubbed the ivory in to create very tiny threads.

David Warther..really nice guy

His thread creator

The ships were beautiful and almost all in ivory, but I have to say I liked the trains better.  Lee though, who loves ships, was fascinated.  He started with the oldest ancient ships and works his way up to ships from the 1800’s.  One of the things I did like was every ship had a magnifying glass in the case so you could see some of the detail.

David works in his workshop and stops and gives part of the tours

The detail is even more amazing when you realize that to create the black line he scratches the ivory lightly then blots the piece with ink.  The ink wipes off the polished ivory but stays in the scored material creating the thin detail lines you see above.

One of my favorite pieces

Lee loved the pirate era ships

This ship had 179 oars and each oar took 1 hour to carve

My favorite ship looked very different from the others but the tour guide wasn’t sure why.

This piece was really neat though and I was curious about how he made the “basket look”

The level of detail was really beautiful

 

After the ship museum we headed into Berlin to eat some dinner at Mrs Yoder’s one of our favorite Amish restaurants.  But we had to stop at a couple of places first.  We saw the World’s Largest Amish Buggy first inside the Wendell August Forge and we stopped at DeDe’s favorite gift shop The Village Barn

I bought this really cool triangle basket

It was made by a 6 year old Amish child and I made sure that the kids receive 80% of the profits before I bought it. It was really well made

And pretty inexpensive. . . I also bought this silverware basket to put pens and pencils in.

Loved browsing the gift shop although we don’t have room for anything

I think this is one of my favorite pictures I have ever taken of Lee and his mom

Tempted by this little sign but again no room

By the time we drove back it was almost a 13 hour day and I was pooped.   It was a truly lovely day and incredibly thoughtful of them to plan it.  Loved that we saw so many cool things, but I definitely needed a good nights sleep!


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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Instant Pot recipes, Travel Days recipes, and Pot Lucks recipes.    You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

First Time in Winslow, Arizona

We had a rough idea of where we wanted to spend the next 10 days between our visit to Cottonwood and our week in Las Vegas, and we also knew we wanted to spend it boondocking to help keep costs down for the month.  Northern Arizona is a pretty good choice for that, because there is quite a bit of free land to camp on.  When Lee couldn’t get the furnace started we knew it would be a little challenging as night-time temps are supposed to be down in the mid 30’s, but we decided to go ahead and give it a try to if we needed to we could head down to the lower elevation and warmer Vegas area sooner rather than later.

My number one thing to do in this area was see Winslow, Arizona.  My friend Deb visited the area and had her picture taken “standing on the corner” and I have wanted to do that ever since.  Unfortunately our routes have always taken us a little north or a little south of I-40 and we were close, but not close enough for us to reroute.  Finally the perfect opportunity with some free time and it was on our way, so Lee looked on Ultimate Public Campgrounds and Freecampsites.net and found a great free campground right outside of Winslow.  So we hitched up the night before and headed out early on Friday morning.

Our appointment was moved to 8am, but we still had to dump and take on fresh water, and then park and walk to the clinic, so we arrived at the parking lot around 7am.  After 15 minutes we started walking and it’s a good thing we did because Lee’s shortcut wasn’t so short after all! We made it with plenty of time though, and they took us both right away, staggering our tests slightly so the whole thing for both of us only took an hour.  We had drug tests, vision tests, color blindness tests, hearing tests, a flexibility test, and a test to show if we could consistently lift 30 pounds.  The whole experience was very pleasant, but it also felt like serious overkill for a campground host job, but we both passed and learned about our hearing.  Lee’s right ear and my left ear are the weakest, which is super funny because those are the ears closest to each other when we are driving most of the time.  Lee now has proof he can’t actually hear me from a doctor, which I was a little skeptical about before 😛

We left at 9am and then headed up towards Winslow.  It was another short driving day, only 128 miles, but did include an 18 mile 6% climb,  which took us from 3100′ to 7000′! Lee took his time going up the long grade at a very slow speed, but a few others didn’t and we saw folks pulled over because their engines overheated.  Our temperature was nice and steady and Lee put the blinkers on, stayed in the slow lane, and took his time.  About an hour later I saw a rest stop and asked Lee to pull over so we could eat.  He wasn’t crazy about that since we only had 39 miles left, but I don’t like to pull into campgrounds hungry.  The setup process can take a while and is not something we like to do when our  blood sugar is low, so he agreed and we had a quick-lunch at a very busy rest area.

Even with the quick-lunch we pulled into McHood Park at noon and saw a few campsites were available.  Luckily a prime spot by the water was open and we snagged it.  Each site has a picnic table and trash can and the view of the lake was awesome.  We set up pretty quickly and then enjoyed watching the fish and many birds around the lake. It was windy, which drove me inside, but Lee enjoys the wind and stayed out for a while.  He also went and found a geocache in the area which gave me a chance to do some blogging.

View from our campsite

Several fish were spawning really close to us.

These guys were huge. Maybe catfish?

The American Coot’s were going crazy eating the eggs.  I learned these are not actually ducks, but birds.

The trees were full of several types of birds including this Yellow-rumped Warbler. A first for me

Later we saw some boats come by, but no one fishing from them. At least the water is deep enough for a kayak if we decided to try it.  It’s really pretty, but need the wind to die down a bit.

The sun was bright all day and our batteries were fully charged so we closed the windows when it started to get chilly to keep the heat in the RV.  Our camper holds heat well and it was nice and pleasant all the way until we got to bed.  It was chilly in the morning, about 38 degrees, but Lee had built a fire ring the night before and started a fire, which helped take the chill off.  Then we took quick showers and headed out for breakfast at The Turquoise Room.

Lee built this fire ring by gathering a few rocks from all over the campground.

Lee watching the sun come up at 6am.  The birds were in a frenzy of mating activity.

I reached out to our friend Deb to tell her we were in Winslow and she recommended one of their favorite breakfast spots.  The Turquoise Room is in the La Posada Hotel, which is the last open hotel of the Harvey Railroad chain.  It is an amazingly nice hotel and the restaurant is very pricey, but we thought the treat would be worth it since it came so highly recommended.  The coffee for example is $3.50 a cup, but it was an excellent cup of coffee.  Much better than what you would pay similar prices for at Starbucks.  The breakfast was reasonably priced at $10.50, but was a mixed bag.  The sausage and bacon were mediocre, but the cooked potatoes were fantastic.  They had chilies in them and even though I don’t usually like spicy food, the flavors were so delicate they were absolutely delicious.  My main complaint was we only received one slice of sour dough toast and when it came out it was cold. I’m OK with occasionally splurging on a meal, but I expect it to be practically perfect in those cases.  The ambiance couldn’t be beat though, and our waiter was excellent, so if you have the means and you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth trying.  They had a really nice dinner menu, but the entrees start at $32 and that was just out of our price range.  Breakfast was $32 plus tip. We were curious about how this place could keep going since Winslow seems a bit depressed, but we were told by a local that the main railroad hub is in town and many railroad executives come through here.

The courtyard had lots of cool animal statues

Loved the architecture

This fountain was really neat

The gist shop was amazing, but not surprisingly pricey

Almost lost Lee in this specialized bookstore

The hotel was full of antiques. I loved this clock. The lobby and restaurant also had $2,200 Navajo blankets hanging on the walls for sale

The restaurant tile was amazing

The glass was very thick so even though there were trains running outside you couldn’t hear them

My favorite was these amazing lamps and the turquoise colored beams

The potatoes on the top of the plate were awesome. You can see my one slice of toast 🙂

Really good coffee and I liked the cup

After we ate we drove down to the “Standin On The Corner” park, and I was super excited.  As someone who adores Roadside Attractions, this was a great one, and taking a picture with the statue of the anonymous man and the other, newer statue of Glenn Fry, and listening to “Take it Easy” played on the corner area was awesome.  Plus we got there earlier enough there were few people and were able to take all the pictures we wanted.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

Great statue.  Check out the mural painting in the background, which is designed to look like a store window with a reflection of the flat-bed Ford from the song, with a girl “slowing down to take a look at me”. And below, the actual flat-bed Ford, sans girl. It’s a pretty neat effect.

 

Me and the flatbed Ford

We also stopped at another great Route 66 gift shop and I had to get a T-Shirt.  It may be one of my favorites since coming on the road and I’ll make sure I point it out when I wear it in future posts.  The owner of the gift shop was incredibly nice and was career Army and then he did a stint in the Air Force.  Really nice man and I was pretty happy to give him my money since his merchandise was unique and his prices were reasonable.  Plus, nice goes a long way with me.

Next up on the Roadside Attraction tour was the nearby Meteor Crater.  Lee had stopped here many years ago to see it, but it is much changed since that visit.  They have improved the visitors center and added a movie, but they are also now charging $18 a person to get in.  We almost didn’t pay it, but I was on a high from our last stop, so we went ahead and went in.  It is a cool site, because it is the first crater proven to be caused by a meteor impact (prior to the 1950’s scientists thought they were from volcanoes) and was also used by astronauts to simulate conditions for the moon landings.  We enjoyed it and the movie was particularly good, but I still think the price was way too steep.  So my advice is if you will only see it as a hole in the ground definitely skip it, but if you are interested in the phenomenon and its historical significance check it out.  We found it pretty interesting. Definitely watch the short movie before you see the crater.

Visitors center for MEteor Crater had a very nice gift shop, Subway, courtyards, museum with lots of exhibits, and a good movie

Piece of the original meteorite that hit is at 26,000 mph. They explained ta plane moving at this speed would get you from LA to NYC in 5 minutes

It’s a multi level complex and this was the first viewing area

It was greener than I expected and the bottom has a shaft for research.  They don’t allow anyone but scientists on the bottom

Really hard to show the size of it. The square rock (top center) for example is as big as a house and the crater could hold 20 football fields next to each other with a stadium of 2 million people. It’s big

Check out the little man-sized space person and flag in the middle right to give you a feel of the scope

The sides were amazing. I kept thinking of Independence day with the space ship plowed into the ground.  Looked kind of like that, only real.

Short walk down to this platform

These viewpoints were great. Each one was labeled and the scopes were locked in place to give you a better view of things at the bottom

The third tier was pretty steep, but the hand rail had sandpaper grips on it

Lee’s Panoramic from the middle level

Picture of us at the top

 

The parking lot had plenty of RV parking

Loved how they left this part of the wall out so you can look at the mountains

One last roadside attraction was down the road a little bit and was the ruins of Two Guns. If you are curious where I find these places, I am a huge fan of Roadside America, which you can either see for free online or pay a very reasonable $5.99 for the phone app.  I love it and use it all the time.  The story behind this place was a little confusing because multiple things have sat on this land so I will share what a local we met, Chris told us.  The land was part of a wild west town in the 1800’s, but in the 1930’s two men built a complex which included a zoo, hotel, and other attractions.  When the venture started to get into financial trouble, one partner killed the other than sold the property.  The new property owner found the dead partner in a shallow grave on the land and that is why people think it’s haunted.

The zoo had desert animals and featured mountain lions

Very cool canyon that splits and the attraction sat between both of them

 

This bridge is still open to drive over but I wouldn’t recommend it

We walked instead although I still had my doubts

Lee found a geocache!

The barbed wire is mostly pulled down so you can walk anywhere but be careful

What’s left of part of the hotel

The top of this stair for example was all rotted wood. Cool though

It was a Route 66 attraction, but eventually went the way many of them did and now it is just ruins.  We had a great time walking around and I had to get a little creative with some of the pics, because the place called for it, but it’s very picturesque.  After we were done, Lee brought me back and I did some blogging, but he ate some lunch and headed back out with the drone.  I am happy to wait while he drones, but he would rather take his time and a little alone time isn’t the worst thing.  Plus this was a 320 picture day and those take a while to go through so I was happy for some computer time to get caught up.  Plus I got to play with sepia tones a bit.

 

It was a  great day,  $100 between breakfast, the meteor admission, T-shirts, and magnets, but a great day nonetheless  We need to have these “touristy” days every once in a while, and we thankfully we have the budget for it.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer. 

First Time in North Dakota

(To begin with, I thought this post should be called “Go West Young Man And Ferociously Hanging On To Middle Age Woman”. It has a certain zing to it, but I’m not the writer, I’m just the editor, and so I have no vote, and so you won’t be seeing that. Except for in this part that I just wrote. – Lee)

Finally, we are headed west!! When we started this journey that is all Lee talked about, and he has been very patient, or at least what passes for patient with him, with doing the stuff on the East Coast first that needed to be done.  For the first time Lee planned the whole trip by himself as well, which was great for me because it can be a very time-consuming process.  (I also dress myself, and do my own hair. – Lee) He used Good Sam Trip Planner, which is what Cori uses, and not only planned our travel days to coincide with some stops we wanted to make, but also found us very inexpensive campgrounds along the way. My contribution was to pull out the Roadside America app.  I absolutely love this phone app which shows you all the quirky and unusual things along your route.  It helps break up the long drive days and we got to see the World’s largest Buffalo statue, World’s Largest Sand Crane, and World’s largest black duck statue, among many other cool things.  Plus, it led us to the Enchanted Highway which is the mother lode of quirky and unusual, but more about that later. (That’s what we call, in the business, a “teaser”. – Lee)

World's Largest Black Duck in Black Duck ND

World’s Largest Black Duck in Black Duck ND

Polar Bear eating a sea lion statue in front of a gas station

Polar Bear eating a sea-lion statue in front of a gas station

The baby looked cranky

The baby looked cranky

The mom looked cranky too :)

The mom looked cranky too 🙂

The cool think about slowing down or stopping for these attractions is you often find other neat stuff as well and a little history of an area.  Makes you feel more like you visited a place than just passed through.

Old lumber tractor

Old lumber tractor

Lumber sled

Lumber sled

Loved the fire engine since I am in the fire sprinkler business

Loved the fire engine since I am in the fire sprinkler business

First white settler in this small town

First white settler in this small town

Basically, the travel days work out to be two long days, with two short days in between, and the first day ended up being 7 hours.  Thankfully Lee found us a wonderful campsite to stop at.  The non-designated sites were free and designated were only $10, and the place was practically empty.  All dry camping with no water, sewer, or electric, but the view of the reservoir was amazing and it was a great place to stop after a long day of travel. Paying was on the honor system and since we really couldn’t figure our what was designated and what wasn’t we just paid the $10.  Totally worth it.

Parkhurst Recreation Area

Parkhurst Recreation Area

Our view from the site

Our view from the site

Lee checking out the view

Lee checking out the view

Then he picked me flowers on the way back...so sweet.

Then he picked me flowers on the way back…so sweet.

I think this is the first time Lee ever picked me wild flowers

I think this is the first time Lee ever picked me wild flowers for me.  I think the West agrees with him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Again, I know I’m just kibbutzing here, but I really think there should have been several paragraphs about the wildflowers I picked, but alas, the “writer” didn’t see the need. – Lee) 

The next day was a much shorter travel day since we were going to see the homestead where Lee’s mom was born.  She spent her childhood on a farm in North Dakota and we have both heard about it and we knew we had to see it.  Oh I should definitely mention that my new truck office setup worked great,  I used my MyFi box for internet and had strong phone and WiFi almost the entire way.  I actually had numerous conference calls, and did two presentations from the car and it worked beautifully.  If you want to see the setup link back to here.

On our way to Dickinson, our next stop, we had the added benefit of huge beautiful fields of sunflowers along the way.  I have been seeing pictures of these sunflower fields my whole life and was very excited to try my hand at taking some of my own.  Also, there were more roadside attractions and that’s always a good thing! (Notice how she’s taking her time and building suspense getting to the Enchanted Highway? Apart from leaving out things I think she should put in, and her atrocious grammar, spelling, and insistence on using emoticons, she’s not a bad writer. – Lee) 

Y051 Y062

Y057 Y069

 

After stopping several times for pictures, we made it to the campground.  I have to admit after the previous night’s experience I was a little disappointed.  The train tracks ran right behind the campground and there was also industrial noise from a plant nearby.  Still at $15 it was fine for one night so we quickly dropped the trailer then took the truck back out on the road.  It took about an hour to drive from Dickinson to the farm where Lee’s mom grew up and I am so glad we did it.  We got to see the back roads of North Dakota plus Lee was obviously moved by being in the place his mother came from. (Nuh uh. A bug flew into my eye. Shut up. – Lee)

The remains of the house

The remains of the house

What was left of the outhouse..with it's old wooden seat

What was left of the outhouse..with it’s old wooden seat

Lee in front of the backside of the house

Lee in front of the backside of the house

The barn and shed

The barn and shed

Plus along the way we got to see some other cool stuff including Lee getting some amazing pictures of a Swainson’s Hawk who because he was startled from his meal of rabbit on a hay bale continued to circle the area and screech at Lee until we left.  VERY VERY cool and my first close up sighting of a hawk.

A Hillside metal sculpture of a cowboy on a horse

A hillside metal sculpture of a cowboy on a horse

A minion made from hay bales...Lee loved this

A minion made from hay bales…Lee loved this

Tons of ducks

Tons of ducks

 

The hawk with it's squirrel

The hawk with it’s squirrel

It was not happy with us

It was not happy with us

Loved this one

Loved this one

 

 

 

 

And the best of the best (ah, finally, here we are….- Lee)  was that along the way we saw signs for the Enchanted Highway. The Enchanted Highway was the brainchild of a local teacher, Gary Gref, in Reason, ND who felt his town was dying when the local high school closed.  Although he was not a sculptor, he raised the money to create huge sculptures along the road leading from the highway to his town.  We love weird stuff so of course we were intrigued. and it was absolutely. positively, amazing. Depending on who would donate the land, the artist created sculptures all along the 32 mile stretch of road to his town.  Although the longest stretch was 12 miles, we kept going and the sculptures got better and better.  Each one costs him around $60K to make so it takes about 6 years to get the money and material together for each one.  It’s a true labor of love and for me an example of the American spirit.  But don’t let me convince you, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.  We spent several hours doing this and I loved every minute of it. (She’s not over selling it. It was just delightfully kitschy and all American. The sculptures are wonderful, and the drive along the road is beautiful. They are impossibly gigantic, and most of them you can see from several miles away, and each one has a sign telling you the name and distance to the next one. The whole road is 32 miles, and again, worth every minute. If you don’t do this, you’re a big dummy head. – Lee) 

Geese in flight

Geese in flight

Antelopes

Deer crossing

This fun maze was next to the antelopes

This fun maze was next to the deer

My favorite was the grasshopper

My favorite was the grasshopper

Rideable Grasshopper

Rideable Grasshopper

Leeetle grasshopper

Little grasshopper

This one was called Fisherman's Dream and was huge

This one was called Fisherman’s Dream and was huge

Check out me in the bottom to show the scale

Check out me in the bottom to show the scale

Lee loved the boat

Lee loved the boat

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt

Lee liked the Stagecoach also

Lee liked the Stagecoach also

Giant Partidges

Giant Pheasants

 

What was cool was we saw the real thing near the statues another new bird for me

What was cool was we saw the real thing near the statues another new bird for me

Baby Pheasant

Baby Pheasant

Pheasant blends in the grass...Lee has an amazing eye but I took this pic

Pheasant blends in the grass…Lee has an amazing eye but I took this pic

 

 

 

 

 

Finally we made it to the end and saw the World’s Largest Metal Family. This is what was in his mind the entire time because he thought people might drive 32 miles to see the World’s Largest something.  He was right…and I did…and it was amazing.  As a side note when researching links for this story I saw this attraction is one of National Geographic’s Top 10 Roadside Attractions.  How cool is that????

The Tin Family

The Tin Family

The World's Largest

The World’s Largest

Lee's closeup pic...amazing detail

Lee’s closeup pic…amazing detail

 

At that point we just HAD to see the town, which is of course the whole point, and stopped at the Enchanted Highway gift shop.  We went inside and a nice unassuming man got us some ice cream and a magnet.  Lee asked about the artist and we were surprised that it was him! He raises about $10K a year from the gift shop and the rest come from donations.  That’s why it takes him so long to do the sculptures.  Really interesting guy and seriously if you are ever in this area check this out, or you can go to his website and email him.  He’ll write you back!! And if there are any philanthropists out there, this guy deserves the help.  His next sculpture is a Spider Web and looks pretty cool!!

Teh gift shop with a metal Christmas Tree outside

The gift shop with a metal Christmas Tree outside

Me and Gary

Me and Gary

Finally, on his recommendation, we went to check out the Enchanted Castle. Some enterprising people in the town had turned the old high school into a Hotel, Restaurant, and bar.  Again, American ingenuity and I loved i,t although the restaurant prices were too steep for us.

Old School

Old School

Enchanted Castle frony next door

Enchanted Castle front  door

Hotel Lobby

Hotel Lobby

The school hallway with hotel rooms on the left

The school hallway with hotel rooms on the left

Loved that they left the gym

Loved that they left the gym

Didn't get to see inside the rooms but guessing they were classrooms

Didn’t get to see inside the rooms but guessing they were classrooms

The cafeteria was turned in a bar with a medieval dungeon motif

The cafeteria was turned in a bar with a medieval dungeon motif

 

 

The restaurant was a nice steak house

The restaurant was a nice steak house

 

It was a terrific day, but next up is Montana which we are really looking forward to!!

Campground Reviews

Parkhurst Recreation Area  HWY 281 Jamestown, ND 4 out of 5 pine cones

Beautiful sites with strong ATT 4G coverage.  No services but there is a dump station and several sites for people with horses including a corral.  $10 a night and there are some free non designated sites according to there website although we weren’t sure which ones their were so we just paid the $10.  Really beautiful and quiet yet close enough to the highway it was not far off our route.3749 114th Ave. S.W., Dickinson, ND

Patterson Lake Recreation Area  3749 114th Ave. S.W., Dickinson, ND  2 out of 5 pinecones

$15 a night for primitive camping and $25 a night for full hookups.  We stayed on the primitive side and the lake was beautiful but the recreation area was behind a train track and industrial area and there was quite a bit of environmental noise.   We booked online but the booth was unmanned because it was off-season and the signage was very unclear.  We called and the person who answered was friendly and directed us to our site. The sites were small and we actually had to move to 25 to accommodate us.  Fire rings are set behind the RV or on the wrong side.  It’s really designed more for tent campers and the site itself was more of a patch in the ground.  It was ok for an overnight but I wouldn’t stay here for any length of time.

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Second Time Camping in Luck

Twenty-one months ago Lee and I took our travel trailer on our first long-term road trip to visit our daughter in Minneapolis and we stayed on her fiance’s parents farm in Luck, Wisconsin.  We were very new to camping at that time and that trip convinced us that not only did we like it, but actually living in a camper was an interesting idea and one we should seriously explore.  Fast forward and we have been full-timers for 7 months, we have a MUCH larger RV, and we are back on the farm getting ready for Kat and Micah’s wedding.  So much has changed, but the pleasure of being here and spending time with Jim and Linda thankfully has not.  They are the warmest people and went out of their way to make us feel welcome and comfortable.   As a side note, for those of you who have a piece of property and want to open it up to full-time RVers all I can say is what a wonderful gift that is.  We have a free place to stay (very friendly on the budget) and we are hooked up to their garage for electric and water.  The power is 15 amp which is working just fine for most everything plus we have the generator if it gets really hot.  We also borrowed a box fan which is helping greatly with air flow.  And we don’t need to empty the grey tank at the nearby campground as we have a macerator pump and are parked next to a large grazing field which we are watering.  Plus they have a salad garden and we have had the most wonderful salad and meals every day since we’ve been here.  Nothing much like eating a chicken that was farm raised and killed recently. 

Our rig at the farm

Our rig at the farm

The salad garden

The salad garden

Jim and Linda's house made from reclaimed old wood is really cool

Jim and Linda’s house made from a reclaimed log home is really cool

 

Grey water (after going through the macerator pump) sprinkling the field

Grey water (after going through the macerator pump) sprinkling the field

Lee and I are both fascinated by the economics of running a farm.  Once the major infrastructure elements are in place raising your own animals is very inexpensive.  We did some loose math and beef is costing them roughly $1.60 a pound; pork and chicken around 60 cents a pound. Yes there is labor involved, but since they mainly raise livestock for their own usage and some extra to sell to friends it’s not too terrible.  Mike (Jim’s brother who lives next door) is an expert at sustainable farming and Jim and Mike have been using techniques from as far away as Australia to raise their livestock.  What they are doing definitely shows in the end product as the meat and eggs taste absolutely terrific.

They currently have 5 cows

They currently have 5 cows; two will be butchered soon

The egg laying chickens

The egg laying chickens

Lee discovered they peck you sometimes when you try to get their eggs

Lee discovered they peck you sometimes when you try to get their eggs

Beautiful egg breakfast Lee made from eggs gathered the same morning yummy

Beautiful egg breakfast Lee made from eggs gathered the same morning yummy

Mike has a very large garden and grows potatoes for the local food Co-Op along with lots of produce that his wife cans and freezes.  They feed the scraps and unused greenery to the pigs they raise which also go to the table, so almost nothing is wasted.

Meat chickens live in the barn under a heat lamp at first

Meat chickens live in the barn under a heat lamp at first

Then they move to a chicken coop that can be picked up and moved allowing for free grazing

Then they move to a chicken coop that can be picked up and moved allowing for free grazing

The pigs

The pigs

Garden with greenhouse

Garden with greenhouse

Rows of potatoes

Rows of potatoes

They rotationally graze the cows using some portable fence and move them almost every day to make sure the cows don’t only eat the parts they like.  They also have a very large meadow that they allow to grow and then cut for hay.  Hay making is a three-step process and it is very important that it doesn’t rain during it, so the hay days make for very long days.  First you cut the field, then you rake it to fluff the hay up, and finally you bale it. Out of this large back field they got 800 bails of hay this year which will be more than enough to get the cows through the winter.

Field recently mowed for hay

Field recently mowed for hay

The bailer

The baler

It makes a square hay bail and shoots it but it needs stacked

It makes a square hay bale and shoots it but it needs stacked

The harmony of the entire operation is really interesting to me and I love that they research and implement the latest techniques relying on both the ancient and the modern to run the most efficient and environmentally friendly farm possible.  Lee was very bummed that we had just missed chicken killing day where they processed 70 chickens.  I, on the other hand, was just fine with missing that day, but we definitely do want to pitch in and help with some things as a thank you for allowing us to stay here.  I bought Jim and Linda a couple of bottles of their favorite wine and alcohol to say thanks but a little manual labor wouldn’t kill me.   They still have some hay bales that need to be moved so hopefully we can help with that.  Plus I’ll get to look at the flowers and butterflies some more.

YFlowers YButterfly

Y072 Y015

Y014 Y013

I had Friday off for the holiday and Kat & Micah did as well so they came out in the afternoon.  The six of us spent some time talking about the wedding details and since the kids aren’t having a bridal shower decided to give them their presents.  Jim and Barb bought them a really nice cookware set and I made Kat a cross stitch and had it framed.  I don’t cross stitch much, but I wanted each girl to have a pictorial representation of what I thought of when I pictured them in my mind.  With Kat it is a picture of an angel, because when the kids were small my mom had some beautiful pictures taken of them in angel costumes. Kat was an awesome baby and quite angelic (during her early years) so I thought this was a good representation.  Plus I changed the eye color to green and the lips to ruby-red to match her.  Her reaction was all that I hoped for and Micah was very cool about the fact that their present was really more for her.  He seemed genuinely touched as well which is really all a mom could hope for.

Kat and Micah with their cookwarer

Kat and Micah with their cookware

The look on her face was awesome

The look on her face was awesome

Kat and Micah looking at the picture

Kat and Micah looking at the picture

I got a big hug!!

I got a big hug!!

I also need to mention the town of Luck (population 1119) which is about 7 miles away from the farm.  It is a very small town with one main street and lots of local store owners.  We went into town to pick up a few things and had a chance to visit the hardware store, local butcher, Food Co-op, and liquor store.  The prices were of course a little higher but the quality was really good, especially at the Food Co-Op and the local butcher.  We bought some pork chops and spareribs for a reasonable price and locally grown tomatoes, cucumbers, and Wild rice.  I like shopping local when I can and am willing to pay a little more to get fresh local products and support local merchants and farmers.  We also stopped on the way and took a picture of some dinosaurs made of rocks someone had made in front of their house.  It isn’t on Roadside America yet but I am definitely submitting it!!

Downtown Luck

Downtown Luck

Food Co-Op

Food Co-Op

Local butcher

Local butcher

Cool dinosaur sculpture in someones yard

Cool dinosaur sculpture in someones yard

More dinosaurs

More dinosaurs

On the fourth of July more of the family gathered and we listened to music, drank some beer, and played lawn games.  I’ve never seen Lee play so many games and he actually won the croquet game hands down.  Turns out I am pretty good at ladders (which I have never played before) and we both kind of sucked at a game called bags.  Later in the evening some folks went to fireworks but since it was so buggy many of us stayed in and played the Bigger Blacker Box of Cards Against Humanity which was hysterical.  I have to get the expansion packs.  It was a really fun weekend and it was nice getting to know some of Micah’s extended family better.  We have a week of working and then the true wedding countdown begins. 

Kat, Lee, Jim, and Tony

Kat, Lee, Jim, and Tony

Lee discovered he likes games that he can play and drink

Lee discovered he likes games that he can play and drink

Jim showing me how to play ladders

Jim showing me how to play ladders

Sterling and Pepper

Sterling and Pepper

Leila

Leila

Marley

Marley

Recipes

Warm Walnut and Cranberry Salad

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 TBL balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBL honey
  • 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • Salad Greens
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • Feta Cheese crumbles
  1. Heat Oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cook walnuts for 8 minutes
  3. Mix vinegar, honey, olive oil, and Dijon mustard
  4. Mix Greens, walnuts, cranberries, and red onion
  5. Mix with salad dressing
  6. Sprinkle with Feta cheese and mix
  • Walnut and Cranberry Salad

    Walnut and Cranberry Salad

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

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First Holiday – Day 3

Woke up pretty refreshed this morning.  We have been trying different things with the bed since the mattress is hurting my back and last night we took the air mattress from the couch and put it under the light, thin mattress that came with the camper. It actually worked pretty well, although being up so high was kind of weird.  It’s not the ultimate solution, but worked better than anything we have tried so far. Next time we are going to bring the mattress topper from our home and give that a try.  All the good solutions seem to be in the $500 and up range, and since I am nothing if not thrifty, I am trying everything else before making that investment.  Lee’s been pretty patient with the whole thing.  He, of course, could sleep on a board. (And I have. You should try it, it’s awesome. – Lee)

We decided to go exploring and stopped at the McDonald’s on the way.  (Intrepid, aren’t we?- Lee) I love their iced tea, it’s cheap and tastes great, and I took in a half-gallon decanter to ask how much it would cost to fill it.  The thought being I could keep it in the camper fridge for a cheap beverage.  The manager only charged me $1 stating they had free refills.  Say what you want about McDonald’s but they are consistent, and generally the staff understands customer service.  Next stop, Big Lots to look for a cheap mattress fix.  I worked for Consolidated Stores for 7 years when the kids were young and they are a great company, filling a need for a low-cost alternative for many people.  They often carry name brands at really low prices so I thought, why not give it a shot?  They had a 3″ egg crate foam pad which was exactly what I thought would solve the problem.  I should note here Lee said all along this would not work.  The saleslady was very helpful and we got to feel the foam but I quickly saw Lee was right (drat!!) and it was too thin.  We bought some other miscellaneous stuff (100 bamboo skewers for $1.50) and headed on our way.  Mattress problem not solved but more information in hand.

As we came out of the Big Lots we saw a sign for the Saugerties farmer’s market.  One of my ideas is to get local produce at the farmer’s market and try to incorporate it into that night’s meal. It was very nice, although small, with a cool selection, and we bought a few things including a tiny jar of local honey.  Someone I work with told me that the natural cure to allergies was to buy local honey.  The idea is that because it is made of local nectar it would provide some immunity.  I took a teaspoon (it was raw honey and tasted incredibly good) thinking even if it doesn’t work I got a nice treat out of the deal. I have to say it did seem to work.  My nose was much clearer although after about 5 hours I had to take another spoonful (no hardship there).   Personally I am sold and will try this wherever we visit.

Since Roadside America  was such a hit yesterday we decided to try it again, but in the interest of “Get off the interstate Ben Stone” (Doc Hollywood reference – great movie) we took a detour to a nearby historical lighthouse.  The lighthouse was a loooong walk down a semi-shaded path,  but at the end there was a lighthouse that also serves as a B&B.  Pretty neat if a person likes to stay in historical places.  Back on our path we passed by a rocket in the front someone’s yard.  Wouldn’t go far out of my way to see it but it was very close to the Catamount People’s Museum which I really wanted to see.  The Catamount People’s Museum is a very cool sculpture shaped like a giant bobcat made on a vacant lot out of natural materials, right in the middle of town.  I thought it was great, although it seems from the literature it’s a constant struggle not to have it torn down by the city.  We stopped for a few minutes and took some pictures and then off we went to our next adventure.

IMG_0223

I should probably mention here that it sounds like we were “drive by’ing” and to some extent we were.  I have perfected this skill (learned from my mom) of getting out, seeing something, and moving on.  I will say though that it is important to mix in really  spending some time at a place if it’s interesting, but you can pack a lot in a day if you stop, take a picture, and move on.  Figuring out when to stay and when to do a quick stop has been a delicate marriage negotiation over the years, but I think in generally we have come to a healthy compromise.

Finally, we wanted to see Woodstock.  I am not particularly interested in that piece of history, but it was right there, so we drove through.  Woodstock was packed.  It’s a funky little town with a lot of new age shops and aging hippies everywhere (no offense to those aging hippies out there… good for you for sticking to your guns).  It just wasn’t our scene, so we slowly drove through town and then had lunch at a little Chinese place outside of town.  I just wasn’t in the mood to fight the crowds, plus we had decided to do some streamlining in our camper.

We initially over packed the camper.  Not surprising, because we didn’t know what we would need and we finally both felt ready to get rid of all the excess.   It required some delicate maneuvering for us both to work in the small space, but we covered the dining room table with “extras” to go back home and reorganized the cabinets.  I definitely recommend this activity after a few camping trips, because most things now have a permanent home and we freed up a lot of space for anything additional we wanted to add in the future.  I like having some open cabinet space just in case and truly there is plenty of it after the rearranging.

One nice thing I wanted to mention about the campground Saugerties KOA is at 4pm on Saturday they have a fire truck rides for the kids (and several Dad’s).  It was a nice extra and everyone on board looked like they were having a great time.

IMG_0104

Finally it was time for dinner and I wanted to try a new recipe… pizza on the campfire!  Honestly I was dubious that it would work out but it looked fun and challenging.  The pizza turned out great!!!  Lee loved it and said it tasted just like fancy, artisan pizza.  This made me pretty happy because I am only having about a 50% success rate on the new recipes I try and I haven’t hit a home run since that first fish dinner we had.  Anyway, this recipe tastes great, and is fun to make (kids would love getting to make their own custom pizza) so please see the recipe below and give it a try.

 

 

 

 

 

 Lessons Learned

  • Putting the camping mattress on top of the air mattress works
  • Try Big Lots/Odd Lots before spending full price
  • 1 tsp of local honey helps with allergies and if it doesn’t work it still tastes great
  • Roadside America is a great app
  • After a few camping trips reorganize and remove anything you don’t need to free up space
  • Pizza on the grill tastes yummy

 

Grilled Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 roll of Pillsbury Pizza Crust 
  • Pizza sauce
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Toppings as desired (for a cheaper alternative get just the right amount of pepperoni from the salad bar at the store)
  1. Heat the grill over the fire making sure it is clean of any residue
  2. Open the roll and lay the pizza dough on a flat service
  3. Cut to the desired size
  4. Using an old towel folded and held with tongs well oil the grill with olive oil
  5. Lay pizza dough flat on the grill
  6. Cook for 2-3 minutes until underside is marked and top side is bubbling a little (do not walk away from the grill as this must be closely monitored)
  7. Flip the dough and cook an additional 2-3 minutes on the other side
  8. Remove dough to a cookie sheet
  9. Place pizza sauce on the dough and top as desired.  Lightly portion the toppings
  10. Place pizza’s on a griddle covering with foil and ensuring the foil does not touch the cheese
  11. Place back on the fire cooking for 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted (again closely monitor)
  12. Plate and serve

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First Holiday – Day 2

Apparently I was very tired….I slept in until 10:30 this morning… can’t remember the last time I did that.  What was great was Lee shut the door and I slept through him going about his normal morning routine.  I wouldn’t have thought that was possible in such a small space, since I am a very light sleeper (many years of child rearing have programmed me)… not that I plan on sleeping that late often, but it’s a nice option to have.  When I woke up and got some coffee I was a bit agitated, but Lee was completely relaxed.  I don’t mean somewhat relaxed, or sort of relaxed but completely 100% relaxed.  Now my husband is a pretty intense guy… not in a bad way but he’s always working on something and I rarely see him just sitting.  He was outside on a chair, hair all messy, completely relaxed.  I can probably count on two hands the number of times I’ve seen him look like that and it was really nice.  He was also very frisky, you know, kissing and stuff, which was also nice.  Who knew that camping would  lead to  kissing and stuff … let’s just leave it at that since my kids will probably read this 🙂

After a nice big breakfast we decided to head out to Kingston.  I had poked around a bit on the web and had heard from a couple of people Kingston was nice and we headed down that way expecting a quaint little resort/tourist town.  Kingston used to be the capital of New York  and sits on an outlet of the Hudson River so we were expecting something like Lake Placid.  Unfortunately that is NOT what we found.  There are some beautiful old houses but they are really run down and Kingston is definitely a city in decline.  Even the waterfront area looked dilapidated and there was nothing worth getting out of the car for. As a matter of fact there were places I wouldn’t want to get out of the car.  This was a real bummer as I didn’t really have a plan B, but I pulled up this new app Lee had got me Roadside America and took a look for the nearest weird attraction.  As I’ve mentioned before I am a girl who would go out of her way to see the giant ball of string and Lee found a website full of just such attractions.  The website is free and the Iphone app was only $2.99. I saw that the giant fork in the road was only 25 minutes away.  In regular life I would have skipped it because it was an hour round trip, but Kingston was such a disappointment I wanted to try to see something.   This is where Karma comes in.  Karma and taking the road less traveled because you never know where it will lead you.

We were driving to the fork ( Lee was way more patient with my navigation struggles) when we saw a sign that said Historic home of FDR.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt is my favorite president and we had recently watched the movie “Hyde Park on the Hudson” so it suddenly clicked that we were very close to Hyde Park.  We made a right and I scrambled on the Ipad to find where we were headed and what was close by.  Hyde Park is a beautiful town.  Everything I expected Kingston to be, actually. As we were driving to FDR’s house, Lee saw a sign for a Vanderbilt mansion and we decided to turn in.  I have visited the Breakers and Marble house in Rhode Island and the Biltmore in NC so I was very excited to see another Vanderbilt house.  Because Karma was with us we arrived at 2:45 just in time for the 3pm tour.  The tour was fantastic and because this house was donated as a federal park (at the behest of my guy FDR) it only cost $8 for the tour.  We finished just in time to drive down to FDR’s house and take a quick look at the grounds and see he and Eleanor’s grave site.   The grave in particular meant something to me and held the same gravity of moment that I felt when I visited John F. Kennedy’s grave.

IMG_0216

We had gone far off the path but found a wonderful way to spend the day, so we grabbed a quick bite and headed to the fork in the road.  I have to say that the fork was the best part of my day.  Completely tickled my funny bone and Lee said I was wonderfully weird, probably because I am equally impressed by a mansion,historical grave, and a goofy fork statue.  The fork statue pic is below… seriously don’t you love it.

Lessons Learned

  • Roadside America is a great app
  • Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled; you never know what you will find
  • If you see a giant fork in the road stop and take a picture

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