Friday, September 29, 2017

Fall Vacation Entry # 4

Last Wednesday, we headed home after a few days of visiting with the Hubby’s brother and sister-in-law in Iowa. I seem to have lost track of how many times I have driven around in Iowa and I always find new and interesting things to see. So, I’m tellin’ ya – don’t knock Iowa.  A person could take a week’s vacation there and not see it all. 
 Anyway, we only had those few days there this year and it was time to head home. We drove north along the Mississippi River crossing into Illinois at Savanna.
 Following highway 84, a small sign for a scenic overlook caught my eye and I hollered at the Hubby to turn west down Army Depot Road. Little did I know where that was going to lead!
This place was totally fascinating to me.
 This sign alone wouldn’t have kept me from wandering off into the restricted areas. I had my responsible Hubby driving the car, so there would be no wandering, no arrests and no explosions this day.
 The only sign of life we saw, other than a few flocks of birds.

  The Savanna Army Depot was a 13,000-acre site on the east bank of the Mississippi River just north of Savanna.  Opened in 1917, first as a weapons testing facility, it later became an ammunition depot. After WWI, warehouses were built to store ammunition. The base really boomed during WWII, when employment there jumped from 143 to 7,195. A construction boom built several new warehouses, a new power plant and 407 “igloos” to store ammo and other volatile weapons like mustard gas.

 The base went through several changes over the years, but by 1995, the writing was on the wall. Five years later, the Depot officially shut down, transferring 9,400 acres of land to the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
 Made it to the scenic overlook.
My imagination could still just go wild in a place like this. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fall Vacation Day 3

Twenty years ago, I was working with a nurse practitioner who told me about the Amana Colonies of Iowa, which she had frequently visited. I knew that someday I wanted to visit it as well.  You would think, since the place is only a six hour drive from where I live, that I would get there some day. Well that someday finally happened last week.

Listed as a National Historic Landmark and one of America’s longest-lived communal societies, the story of the colonies began in 1714 in Germany, with a group of believers searching to renew their faith through reflection, prayer and Bible study. Though they sought to avoid conflict, they were persecuted for their beliefs.

This persecution, as well as an economic depression in Germany, forced the community to search for a new home. They left Germany in 1843-44, and the group, numbering 1,200 people, first settled near Buffalo, New York.

When it became apparent that they needed more farmland, the religious group bought 26,000 acres in a river valley of eastern Iowa. The land they moved to in 1855 supplied fertile soil, stone, wood and water enough to build the community of their dreams.

In all their endeavors, they wanted to remain faithful, so the name they chose for their new colony was Amana which means remain true. Six villages were eventually established, each a mile or two apart – Amana, East Amana, West Amana, South Amana, High Amana, Middle Amana and Homestead.

The residents received housing, medical care, meals, all household necessities, and schooling for their children. Adults were assigned jobs, but no one received a wage, or needed to, as all property and resources were shared. Farming, production of wool and calico, clock making, and brewing, along with other well-crafted products, supported the community.

In 1932, Amana was forced to abandon its strictly communal way of life. To keep up with the changing times, they created the Amana Society, Inc. a profit-sharing corporation to manage the farmland, the mills and the larger enterprises. Private enterprise was encouraged and the Amana Church continued.

“‘Today the seven villages of the Amana Colonies represent an American dream come true; a thriving community founded by religious faith and community spirit. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965, the Amana Colonies attract hundreds of thousands of visitors annually all of whom come to see and enjoy a place where the past is cherished and where hospitality is a way of life.

“Evocative of another age, the streets of the Amana Colonies with their historic brick, stone and clapboard homes, their flower and vegetable gardens, their lanterns and walkways recall Amana yesterday. But a vibrant community, celebrating both its past and its future, is here today for you to experience.” (taken from

I really didn’t spend nearly enough time there that one day last week. I am sure I will go back again, and this time won’t wait twenty years.  

At Amana Woolen Mills

My husband and his brother, walking the streets 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Fall Vacation Day 2

Whenever we leave the Renaissance Festival, tradition dictates that we stop at Jim’s Apple Farm (aka Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store) before we head to wherever we are going for the night. Last Sunday was no different. 
Unbelievably, they added on since last year. 
But even with all that stuff – aisles and aisles of candy and other treats – driving down the roads of America’s heartland is still more mouth-watering to me. 
St Mary’s Catholic Church in New Trier. 
We spent Sunday night in Red Wing and the next morning, explored Corvill Park before heading down along the Mississippi River. 
Seems like these Fairy Houses can be found everywhere. I need to get some for my yard. 
The historic Anderson house in Wabasha. The whole town was filled with scarecrows and pumpkins for the fall. We drove around checking them out, but it was starting to rain. Then we ended up going the wrong way down a one-way street, so I just wanted to get out of town
There was just as much to see in Winona, but we were feeling pressed for time. A quick drive through town and a walk through Windom Park. This dad zipping his son’s jacket was too adorable to pass up. 

Further down the Mighty Mississippi, we crossed the bridge back into Wisconsin as we came to La Crosse. I went to college here for one year back in my foolish youth. And unbelievably, never went to up to Granddad Bluff, overlooking the city. 
Beautiful views. 
And I made another friend. Ellen Pennell Hixon. In the early 1900s, the bluffs overlooking La Crosse were being whittled away, the stone being used for home foundations and roadways in the developing river town. Mrs. Hixon couldn’t stand to have the beautiful Grandad Bluff destroyed. She started a fund to buy the piece of land and donated $12,00 to get the ball rolling. Only another $5,000 was needed to purchase the property and build a road to the top of the bluff. The funds were all raised by 1909 and in 1912, the bluff and surrounding land were turned over to the city of La Crosse. 
I’m looking at the map now, trying to figure out where we went next, how many times did we cross the Mississippi. And how many times we went back and forth between Minnesota and Wisconsin and then Iowa. (We hit Illinois before we came home, but that’s for another day.) 
At Marquette, Iowa, before crossing back into Wisconsin. 
No matter what, I still love the symmetric beauty of the farm fields the best.   
It's been suggested that I write a book of all my travels across America. If you saw the files on my computer, you would realize that I already have.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fall Vacation, Day 1

I’m so sorry that I haven’t blogged in so long. Other times, when I’ve been on vacation or out of town for more than a day or two, I plan ahead – and write ahead – so that my blogs can post even when I don’t have internet. This time, I even had internet access (most of the time at least), but I just didn’t get my act together before we left home last Saturday. I had decided that I was going to have an actual vacation for the first time in I don’t know how long and spend four days unconnected. It didn’t really turn out that way, but oh, well, some of me unconnected.

The good news is now I have lots of material to share. (Good for me at least, you will have to let me know if it works out for you or not.)

Saturday, Hubby and I headed off to Minnesota to attend the Renaissance Festival for the umpteenth time. I was going to look back through my records and see just how many times I’ve been there, but you’ll have to trust me – it’s somewhere between seven and twelve. I think I am going to have to keep going to it and continue writing about it until I remember how to spell it. Renasaince? No. Reneasunce? No. Renasanince? No. Didn’t you already try it that way? Don’t know what I would do without spell check.

Sunday morning we woke up bright and early in our dumpy hotel room in Chaska, Minnesota, jumped in the car and off we went. We hadn’t come up on the Festival Grounds from Chaska before, so as we were heading to the usual route a sign popped up pointing us in a different direction. I was naturally nervous, coz that’s what I do – fret over everything.

We ended up at the Queen’s Gate instead of the King’s Gate. Worked out all right I guess, as we parked three rows from the gate and there were easily a thousand less people waiting to get in this gate as opposed to the main gate.
 I love all the buildings throughout the grounds. So cool. 
 Here are the King and the Queen, with their random servants. A little different from kings and queens of today, except maybe for the entourage.
 I love this picture of the Queen with this adorable little girl.  
 These guys are the Danger Committee. Reynaldo, Bald Guy and Other Guy. Hysterical.
 And talented.
 Crazy guys too.
 More of the fascinating buildings.
 Met a new friend. He is a native of Minnesota and quite a sweetie.
 The full-armor joust is always cool, even if it is totally staged.
 Whatcha gonna do. Try to get the best pictures you can, I guess.
 Like this one. Look at those horses’s hooves off the ground. Thank you again to the Hubby for my camera.
 Last thing before we left, we went through the Fairy Garden.
  A calming place. 
 But didn’t relax me quite this much. But close.
Next time, I’ll be posting here about our trip down the road from there.