Sunday, August 19, 2018

Clear Lake State Park

The town of Clear Lake Iowa is not very big but it is a wonderful resort town. The park is on the water. The beach is full of people along with boats anchored everywhere.

On weekends the campgrounds fill up.

The houses are neat with some interesting art. Here’s the disappearing mermaid.

This is the pyramid house. An interesting place to live!

On a scary note, the fire hydrants have sticks attached to them so they can be found in the winter snow. They were about 5’ high. A local mentioned that the snow has gotten much higher than that in the past.

The latest issue with our RV is the door. John was outside the RV when I hear him yelling to me to unlock the door. I hadn’t locked it. Turns out a part broke in the latch. John fixed it so that the lock will keep the door closed but the latch portion was removed. Until we get to an RV store, we’ll work around this and use the front cab door more.

On a better note, turns out our RV neighbors are originally from Germany and the wife’s mother’s name is the same as my maiden name. She is also fairly short. We figure we’re long lost cousins!

John Deere

On the way to our next campground we stopped at John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum in Waterloo Iowa. Since I grew up on a farm, it was quite interesting. We learned all kinds of things like John Deere originally sold plows and really were hesitant to sell tractors when they were first available.

“Traction engines” was the original name until a salesman shortened the name to “tractor”. During WWII, many John Deere workers served in the John Deere Battalion which specialized in tank and tractor maintenance.


The tractors and farm equipment were very colorful.

There were excellent guides that could answer questions that used to work at the John Deere plant. There were lots of things to do in the museum including being able to sit on a few of the newer tractors.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


We are in FW Kent Park in Iowa. One of the great things here is that they have internet! So that is why you see the mass loading of posts.

Another great thing is that the place is almost empty. The place is really dark so I was hoping to see meteors with the Perseid meteor shower. I saw a few meteors, but the skies were hazy. Turns out this is from the smoke from Canadian and California wildfires.

The wildflowers are terrific here. The trails are through masses of flowers. Plus, I saw rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, and deer. Not incredibly special but seeing them all on one morning walk is always nice.

An interesting find on the path. This pony truss bridge is from Iowa City and was built in the early 1900’s.

BTW, we have been passing lots of wind turbines in Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa.

Monday, August 13, 2018


Kids are back to school in many places of the country but weekends are still busy in campgrounds. We’re not on a schedule, so it is difficult to decide where we will be and get reservations. On Wednesday, we started looking at where we wanted to be for the weekend and found that most campgrounds/parks were already fully reserved for the weekend. So, I found a later stop that had walk-ins available. By coming in on Thursday we could get a spot for the weekend. So we are at Kickapoo State Park in Illinois.

While we love that we were able to get a spot, weekends can also be a hassle with “weekend people”. The camper beside us must have decided his music was the only one good enough to be heard by all the campers in the area as he cranked it up during the day. At night (12:30 pm) he must have decided that everyone needed to hear his opinions as he loudly talked around their campfire late into the night. Sigh.

We’re camping with only our RV and not pulling a car. That makes it more challenging in getting around to places. We’re also using our bikes more to see things within the park. We’ve visiting more distant places in the morning after we leave the campsite or stop on the way to the next park.

The unique part of Kickapoo is that it is reclaimed land from strip mining. The mining was done back in the 1920’s and 1930’s so the reclamation wasn’t a priority for the coal company but time has repaired the damage. Here are the remains of a slope mine.

There are quite a few ponds here…
…and lots of deer at this park. On one walk I saw 19 deer in smaller groups of two, three, or four. Lots of moms with their kids.

Kickapoo has quite a few hikes but they aren’t necessarily in great condition or marked well.

The best one is Spooky Hollow that had these faces in the trees. We were told they were put up high in the trees so no one would damage them.

McCormick’s Creek

McCormick’s Creek State Park in Indiana was a one-night stay. The campsites are in the trees, which can be good since it is cooler and more privacy. But we were given this site where the trees made a narrow lane for the RV. Close quarters.

I did my morning hike. I hiked out to Wolf Cave. I first questioned why I hiked more than a mile to get to a small stone shelter in the woods.

I looked inside and was about to leave until I read a sign above the cave that talked about it being OK to crawl through the cave. After more intense use of the phone light, I found this narrow cave that wound around.  The full length of it was basically a fat man’s squeeze. I was glad to be short since there were parts I could stand up in while others might not be able to stand. Very cool!

We stopped at an overlook to this falls in the park.

The Art of Getting Lost

We were somewhat lost while hiking at Mammoth Cave but still were able to find our way around the area. At Lincoln State Park I got lost from the trail but then ended up seeing a young opossum cross the unplanned path. At our newest park (Spring Mill State Park), I got lost again. I tried to find Donaldson Cave on two different trails but couldn’t find it. I gave up and was hiking a third trail when I got turned around. Suddenly the cave was in front of me. Getting lost can be good! BTW, there were 212 steps on that 3rd trail. Quite a good morning exercise.

Alexander Wilson monument is pretty cool. He was considered the Father of American Ornithology since he published 9 volumes of North American birds. The story is that he wanted to be buried “where birds would sing above him”, but was buried in Philadelphia instead. The original owner of this park (George Donaldson) was born in the same Scottish town and decided to memorialize him here. 

Snapping turtle at the nature center.

There was a pioneer village within the park. The best part was a grist mill.

This sycamore tub was pretty amazing.

My favorite park of the park was the Gus Grissom Memorial. He grew up in Mitchell Indiana. Gus was the 2nd American astronaut to go to space in the Mercury program. He was one of the two astronauts in the first capsule in the Gemini program. He, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee died during tests for the first Apollo launch when a fire started and they couldn’t get out.

The museum had items like this hat…

…and this helmet.

Abraham Lincoln

We are VERY slowly following Abraham Lincoln’s path.  Back in 2011 we visited his birthplace in Kentucky. In 2013 we visited Gettysburg. We’ve been to Washington DC and saw Lincoln’s Memorial years ago and I revisited in 2015. We haven’t visited Springfield Illinois yet. But now we’ve seen Lincoln CityIndiana where Lincoln lived from age 7 to 21.

Lincoln State Park had the campgrounds and several miles of hikes. Lincoln’s older sister was buried here.  The Lincoln penny was frequently used by visitors as a remembrance on Lincoln graves.

Not related to Lincoln is the Moon Tree. The seed for this tree flew on Apollo 14. We saw a similar one in Florida.

Across the street from the state park was the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, our 130th national park.

Lincoln’s mother’s grave is here.

Lots of split rail fences…

The coolest part to me was the bronzed cabin remains of his cabin home. The story is that the remains of the cabin were shipped to Germany (ironically during Hitler’s time but before WWII). They made a casting from the wood and some stones to make these bronze castings. The fireplace is a German versus of a fireplace, not what the Lincoln family would have. But hey, it’s cool looking!