Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Land of Corn and Soybeans

Our Iowa home for 4 nights

The next and last planned stop on our 2021 Summer Of Covid Tour was Hartford, Iowa, just south of Des Moines, and home to our Lazy Daze friends Chuck and Carla. They have been trying to get us to come and visit them for years but we always had other summer plans that did not include Iowa.
Fortunately, they head out in their RV several times a year so we have always managed to meet up
somewhere else.

There is a lovely pond behind their house and although the days were hot and humid we were able to enjoy the cooler nights and mornings out on the deck. 

A friend of theirs we had met in Texas a number of years ago came for a visit, and we also got to meet their oldest daughter. I was remiss in taking photos, and we didn't really go anywhere other than a daily walk wherever Chuck directed us. By this point in our trip, we were tired of playing tourist and were just happy to sit around and talk, play games, and eat. Chuck makes wonderful pies, and he baked a large triple berry-rhubarb pie the day we arrived. It was not only tasty but beautiful and I should have taken a picture. We didn't even pay a visit to downtown Des Moines, but that will give us something to do the next time we stop and see them.

Gravel road route through corn and soybean fields

Summerset Rail Trail a few miles down the road in Carlisle, IA

The dirt road route, not doable after rain

Since we were tired of living out of suitcases and it was hot pretty much everywhere, we decided to make a beeline back to Arizona, stopping in Dodge City, KS at an okay Best Western Country Inn and Suites for a night, and then at a very nice Comfort Suites in Gallup, NM the second night. I doubt we will ever do a long road trip like that again so we will have to come up with some other ideas for next summer. It's definitely not the same traveling by car and staying in hotels, Airbnbs, and friends' places. We missed having our own bathroom, kitchen, and bed like we had in the Lazy Daze, especially with Covid, but we were much more comfortable driving the car for that many miles. We put around 4,500 miles on the CRV, a lot of sitting over the course of 8 weeks!

Lovely scenery along Hwy 87 south of Payson, AZ

Although we missed the big Arizona monsoons this summer, we got to see the benefits of all that rain as we drove home through the beautiful green desert. It was a huge change from the parched landscape we left a couple months ago.

So that's it for the highlights of our trip. It's still hot here so we're back to early morning walks, Fearless Kitty duties (I missed those cats), and enjoying our own very comfortable bed. It may be a while before you hear from us again!

Friday, September 10, 2021

A Taste of Wisconsin

Wisconsin, cows and cheese galore.

We had a week to kill after leaving Erie before we were scheduled to visit friends in Iowa. We tried to find somewhere interesting to stop in Ohio or Indiana but couldn't come up with anything and it was hot and humid, so Jim mentioned that he would like to visit Madison, Wisconsin. When we looked at the map we realized it was sort of on our way to Des Moines so I started searching for lodging and found an Airbnb in New Glarus, about 20 miles southeast of Madison. 

Nice 3 bedroom duplex on a very quiet residential street

Being over 600 miles from Erie we decided to take it easy and spend two nights along the way, driving on backroads and avoiding interstates as much as possible. Our first stop was in Defiance, Ohio, where we stayed at a pleasant Quality Inn, arriving early enough so that we could go for a walk and have a nice dinner out. We were not far from Independence Dam State Park and this trail.

Occasional views of the Maumee River

It was pretty warm and humid so we were happy to have some shade and only a few bugs.

After our walk, we stopped at Fired Stone Tavern, part of a restaurant/brewery complex at nearby Eagle Rock Golf Club. They had a great vegan pizza, okay beer, and a lovely open-air dining room.

The next day was almost a replay of the previous, driving a couple hundred miles and stopping early in Bourbonnaise, Illinois at a Comfort Inn. This time we walked at Kankakee River State Park on a pretty paved trail along the Kankakee River that looked much like the Maumee. It would have been nice to have bikes to ride on these trails but we knew bikes would have been too much trouble to deal with on this trip.

Kankakee River

The next couple hundred miles took us into Wisconsin, a state we never made it to in the RV. New Glarus is a cute little village settled by the Swiss and retaining much of its heritage. It's home to the popular New Glarus Brewing, which unfortunately remains closed to the public due to Covid, although they are still producing beer.

These and similar signs were plentiful, and a refreshing contrast to the F***Biden signs we saw driving the backroads of Indiana and Illinois.

We did walks around town and along the Sugar River Trail, on an abandoned rail line.

The trail started near the old train station.

One day we drove about 15 miles north to do a hike at Donald County Park near Mt. Horeb. Pretty scenery and the first time we've hiked on a mowed trail.

We picked Sunday to drive into Madison, since we wanted to avoid traffic and have an easier time with parking. Also it was the most pleasant day of our stay, with low humidity and in the low 80s. We really enjoyed walking around downtown.

The Capitol was open for self-guided tours so we went in to check it out. This was another capitol building where anyone can just walk in, no passing through security, although we did see one security guard sitting in the rotunda.

Badger, the Wisconsin state animal

There is a nice museum on the 6th floor with a spiral staircase leading to an observation deck 236' up from ground level. 

From there we walked down to the Capitol City Trail along Lake Monona. 

There was a bike shop along the trail where I lusted after this mountain bike. Maybe when they put it on sale!

Then we walked along State Street towards the university and had lunch at Mooyah Burgers, where they had a surprisingly delicious veggie burger and sweet potato fries. For dessert it was vegan ice cream at The Chocolate Shoppe. We really liked Madison and wished we could have spent more time there.

Glad we picked Sunday as it was very quiet downtown.

Next up, Iowa, another state we never made it to in the RV. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

"Dreary Erie" Lived Up to It's Nickname

13 mile paved trail at Presque Isle State Park

After leaving Middle Bass Island we drove on to Erie, PA where I was born and raised. Erie has always had a reputation for being gloomy and dreary, and during our ten days there it upheld that reputation. We had rain most days except a few, so not only was it dreary, it was very steamy with humidity. As expected, my brother said that since we left the weather has been great.

We spent 10 days in a decent Airbnb near Presque Isle State Park, what Erieites call "the peninsula". It's a lovely park that makes Erie worth visiting. We did several walks there in between showers and thunderstorms.

But of course the main reason we visited was to see friends and family. It's not quite the same since my dad and friend Joann died, but we enjoyed seeing my brother and his family. We had a fun dinner and good beer at The Brewerie downtown.

Me, my brother Bob, his wife Sue, great nephew Marques, niece Kara, (Marques's mom), great nieces Lexi and Kendyl, niece Lisa (the girls' mom) and her husband Rick. Kara's daughter Khloe was out of town with her dad so she didn't get to join us.

We went for a walk at the peninsula with my childhood friend Denise and also walked with her at Asbury Woods, a pretty area with hiking trails.

It was pretty muddy where we had to get off of the boardwalks

One day we spent a long time trying to find my parents' headstones at the cemetery where they are buried and finally succeeded. I was amazed by the number of names I recognized that were relatives or parents of old friends and classmates. 

We enjoyed wandering the cemetery so much that we walked around another one on a different day. A large number of Polish immigrants landed in Erie so we found the names entertaining.

Can I please buy a vowel?

There was a neighborhood music festival with live bands playing at five different parks around town one Saturday. We went to Perry Square downtown since there was jazz. Fortunately, it was one of the nicer days with no rain. It surprised us how few people were there, but maybe with five stages there was better music elsewhere.

After we got tired of sitting and listening we walked down State Street to the marina on the bay to check out the boats.

Here are a few more photos from Presque Isle. I realized I didn't take any of Lake Erie, just the bay, since it was gray and unappealing when we walked on the lake side.

Storm brewing over the bay

Nice ride

Perry Monument

We were happy to see that the houseboats are still there. We never knew anyone who owned one but it always seemed like fun since people got to stay in the park even after it closed for the day.

During our stay Jim thought that perhaps we should consider Erie as a place to live so we investigated some possibilities. From talking with friends and family there, they are surprised at the home price increases that have taken place since Covid but to us they were minimal compared to most other places. I just don't think we could tolerate the cold and snowy winters despite the benefit of having family nearby. 

That's about the extent of the excitement that took place in Erie. We also had bittersweet visit with Joe, my friend Joann's partner. She was killed on her bike back in 2013 and this was the first time we'd been back since her accident. It was sad enough visiting Erie after my dad died but with Joann gone it really felt like something was missing. But, life goes on, and since we can't change things we adapt.  

Next up, changing direction and a new state for us.