The second stop was in Owatoona, MN at the Hope Oak Knoll campground. It was a really nice campground with lots of trees and bordered on a field of corn. We had a very nice stay there including a really big thunderstorm with loads of lightning. We pulled out the next morning, heading for Spooner, WI. We don't know where we will go when we leave Spooner but will post it here on the web site when we figure it out.
We pulled into the Highland Park Campground at Spooner late in the afternoon. It is a pretty nice campground with lots of trees and right on Cyclone lake. The big problem was so many nice trees that our satellite dish could not get a signal, so I had to go out and buy a portable dish and finally (after about 6 hours of moving the dish from here to there and figuring out the connections in the motor home) I got a good signal. While at Highland Park Campground, Ali and Syd (granddaughters) flew out to visit for 13 days. We had to drive to Minneapolis-St. Paul as it was the closest airport to Spooner. It's about a five hour round trip. It was a little crowded in the motor home but the girls had a great time. There is a small playground in the park and of course the lake.
On a Saturday while they were here, we took a train ride on a restored train. The night before the ride we had a tremendous thunderstorm with almost continuous lighting for about 3 hours and tons of rain. When we got up Sunday morning, we called the train to make sure they were still going.It was supposed to be a ride up the tracks to Trego, (a little town about 10 miles north) with a picnic at the end of the trip where they have a little picnic ground and some carnival rides for the kids. Since it had rained so hard the night before, the picnic was held on the train and then the kids were allowed to go ride the carnival rides for awhile. All of the rides were free as was the picnic. On the way up, we had to stop to let the crew remove some trees that had fallen across the tracks the night before and at one point the tracks were covered with sand from where the rain had washed it over the tracks. The train just went on through the sand as if it wasn't even there. The kids really enjoyed the trip.
On Sunday we took them to the Junior County Fair in Spooner, which included a small carnival. We went through the livestock barns and the kids rode on some of the carnival rides and also played some of the games on the midway. Lots of fun again. We did have a low point while staying here in Spooner. We had to put down Squirty, our youngest cat. He had kidney failure and the treatment included giving iv's which he did not like at all. He finally just quit eating and in general was not well at all. The vet was outstanding but couldn't do much for him. So that hit everyone pretty hard. On the brighter side, we have had a wonderful visit with Chris and Lisa (Merry's son and his wife) and their two kids, A.J. And Meg. A.J. Is in the terrible two's but really is good, Meg is about a year and a half and is a real sweetie. We have been with the kids quite a bit. Ali and Syd really got along with them very good.
After the fair we went to Shell Lake, which is about 6 miles from Spooner. Ali and Syd had A.J. Out in the water (very shallow water) and they had a ball playing with each other. Meg sat up on the beach with Grandma and Grandpa. She did get to wade a little bit but mostly stayed up with us.
One day we went up to Duluth, MN. It is a pretty town right on the shores of Lake Superior. It was a beautiful day, a little hot but not real bad. We had Ali and Syd with us so we went down to Leif Erikson Park, which is right on the shore. The girls went down and played on the beach for a while and wore themselves out.
We spent the remaining time in Spooner with Chris and Lisa and really enjoyed the time with them. We called to confirm our reservations in Eau Clair and were informed that they were still full so couldn’t accommodate us so late the night before we left we were scrambling to find another motel. We finally found a Super 8 that would take Wuzzy, but they didn’t have kitchenettes so we ended up giving Chris all our refrigerated food and meat, which included a huge pot of chili I had just made. He was thrilled, but I wasn’t.
Anyway, we got on our way and settled in the motel for 2 weeks while the RV was getting fixed. Wuzzy had never been in a motel before and wasn’t very happy about it, but he finally settled in. The couple managing it was from India and we got along really well. She even gave me a couple of massages using hot sand, which really worked. She gave me some of her sand before we left, plus a name of an ointment that is supposed to work for arthritis, etc. She cooked some Indian food for us the night before we left, but was too spicy for me. They plan on keeping in touch with us.
While we were there we went to the Wisconsin Dells (a 5 hour round trip), but well worth the trip. It is a kids paradise with over 200 water slides, several amusement parks and 70+ attractions. Each motel/resort has its own theme park going. It is really awesome. We did the Wisconsin Duck ride down the Wisconsin River, through the Fern Dell and back into the water at Lake Delton. It was really a fun ride. Then we took a boat up the upper Wisconsin River that made a couple of stops to see some unusual sights. We even got to see a German Shepard leap across a chasm and back. It is a beautiful place and there was a lot of things we still wanted to see but it was a long enough day as it was.
Later that week we went on tour through the Leinenkugel’s brewery at Chippewa Falls. It was interesting and we got to taste some great bears. Later we toured Irvine Park, which is fairly famous in these parts. We did get to see several varieties of ducks and swans and some old historic buildings. We did take another drive back to Spooner so Bob could get some pre-cancer spots removed from his face and had dinner with the kids. It was hard to leave them. The rest of the time we either did laundry or read. Even though I didn’t miss cooking, eating out got to be a pain and they didn’t have much choice of nice restaurants – mainly fast food. We never did find downtown Eu Clair and because of all the trees, we couldn’t even spot it. The RV finally got done so we got on our way to the Winnebago factory in Forrest City, Iowa.
As you can imagine, Winnebago has a huge factory complex. We all line up at 7am to get work done and we pick up our rigs around 3pm. Getting up that early every morning is becoming a hassle. We have to put Wuzzy in the back of the jeep with his litter box, food and water. He is tolerating it but not happy. Poor Wuzzy. It really is a pretty place. We did take a tour of the factory and is very impressive. There are a lot of women working here so I figure when our RV went through the quality control portion it was during the wrong part of the month.
Winnebago also has their Rally Campground across the street which has about an 40 acres of grassland with 200 electrical outlets. There are several places to dump and refill the water tanks so it isn’t too bad. The campground also has small carnival rides and an arena that are only used during the company picnic. The employees also get to use one of the RVs for their vacation. The park also has a big clubhouse and meeting hall, but again, is used only during the yearly Winnebago/Itasca Rally.
The first day we were here we went to a nearby draft horse show and the Budweiser Clydesdales were featured. There were some beautiful teams there, but during the judging it started to pour and right after the Budweiser team came out they canceled the rest of the show. We got soaked, but we did get
Yesterday we took a trip to Mason City and was Meredith Wilson’s boyhood home and wanted to go in the Music Man Square, but it didn’t open until 1pm and we had to be back by 3 so couldn’t wait. We also went by the Frank Lloyd Wright Stockman House which is the first and only Prairie School house designed in Iowa by Wright. There were other beautiful old homes and churches so thoroughly enjoyed it.
We stopped in Clear Lake and stopped at the Surf Ballroom which is the last big ballroom in Iowa and was the final concert site of Buddy Holly, Valens and Big Bopper. It is really famous, but was closed on that particular day. We also walked around the seawall of Clear Lake and took a look at the Lady of the Lake. We would have liked to taken a tour, but not enough time.
Hopefully our RV will be done today and tomorrow (Friday) we will be on our way to Branson, MO. (we will have to make 2 overnight stops). I have to say Wisconsin and Iowa are beautiful states and if it wasn’t for the humidity and bugs, would be a great place to live. We are so glad that we stopped at the Winnebago Factory – they were very professional and knew what they were doing. They not only fixed everything on our list, but found other things, like what was making the motor to cut out. We have gotten better mileage and power. We can’t say enough good about them. All through Wisconsin and Iowa we had on and off thunder storms and even an occasional tornado warning – nothing like I used to see in Nebraska though. Another bit or useless knowledge – even though there are Super Wal-Marts, there are also Super K-Marts. I thought they were going out of business, but they are huge out here.
The first night we spent at Terrible’s Lakeside Casino and RV Park at Osceola, IA. The RV park was really nice and right on the edge of part of a lake (never found out the name) with trees and power hookups. The casino itself was in the motif of a river boat. We had to get a “player’s card” so we could get our RV spot for $10. We also got a free cap and t-shirt, plus $5 free slots. I made my free $5 last, but Bob had to put in more money. They had a seafood and prime rib buffet, which was okay, but have had better. It was a really nice place to stop, but was on the edge of the highway so had a lot of traffic noise, plus a lot of trains going by. All in all it was worth stopping at.
The next morning we took the Jeep and backtracked to see the bridges of Madison County, plus John Wayne’s boyhood home. Our first stop was at the visitor’s center which is located in an historic restored Presbyterian Church. The historian was very helpful and gave us a map showing all the locations of the 7 remaining bridges (there were originally 19). All have been restored and moved from their original locations and we were able to see 6 of them: Cedar (built in 1883: featured on the cover of the novel “Bridges of Madison County”; was destroyed by arson in 2002 and rebuilt in 2004; the only one you can drive through, which we did) – Imes (built in 1870 which makes it the oldest remaining bridge) – Cutler-Donahue (built in 1871 and is 79' long) – Holliwell (built in 1880, is the longest at 122' and was also featured in the film) – Hogback (built in 1884 and is 97 ‘). There also was a lot of places of interest that were in the movie – Northside Café; the Martin Gas Station that was transformed from an old Conoco into a Texaco station; Pheasant Run which was used for the interior shots of the Blue Note Lounge; and the Stone Bridge where they had their getaway picnic. We went by “Francesca’s House”, but it was destroyed by arson in 2003 and is closed off. It is not planned to be restored which is a shame. John Wayne’s home is a beautifully restored 4 room home built in 1907 with period furnishings and memorabilia, but we didn’t have the time to take the tour. There were also a lot of other sites of interest that would take another day to get to so we didn’t get to them. I will have to say there were a lot of gorgeous homes in the green rolling hills in the area. Very breathtaking.
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