Bily Clocks, Church in the Wildwood, Effigy Mounds National Monument, Farmland, Field of Dreams, Forest City, Iowa, Kevin Costner, Lichtsinn RV, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum
With sincere apologies for our long absence Ed and I send greetings with great appreciation to all of you wonderful blog readers. Thank you for sticking with us!
After the funerals for my brother and then Ed’s aunt, we ended up staying home in Maryland for some extra fun and games! Thank you Carolyn Mackintosh and the Maryland Horse Trials for putting up with us again. We did spend a week traveling to Upstate New York for a rally of 69 View/Navion owners (our type of RV) from around the eastern half of the country. We are part of a Facebook group and many of us have become “good friends” there so it was super to meet up and put faces to the names. We had very interesting weather. Cold, sunny and blustery one day, cold, rainy and blustery the next, but it was a great week and lots of fun.
Ed has Dupuytren’s contracture in his hands and after many years it had finally bent his fingers so badly the doctor said surgery now! Since it was both hands, it meant two separate surgeries so…..we were home an extra month and a half. Life’s an adventure! Pictures at the very end of this post for those curious!
Because our life is an adventure, the first place we had to go was Forest City, Iowa! Our RV fridge has been giving us fits for about ¾’s of a year now and finally simply just was not working. According to many, many reviews, and our personal phone exchanges, the best RV repair place is Lichtsinn RV and since it’s sorta on the way to the Pacific Northwest where we want to go…..here we are!
IOWA! Who knew? It is beautiful, at least the northeast quarter we’ve been in! Yes admittedly it’s mostly corn and soybeans but we love farm country and this is some of the prettiest we’ve ever seen. Contrary to what we expected, it is not all flat, in fact a great deal of it is big rolling hills. Often the roads seem to be on top of the world and we can see beautiful country side for miles and miles. Perhaps the most impressive thing is how amazingly clean and orderly everything is. The farms big and small, mostly big, are organized, yards full of flowers, grass cut, barnyards and surrounds clearly heavily used but not in disarray or knee deep in muck and junk. Every town, big and small is neat and trim. Even in the yards of clearly less prosperous homes the grass is cut, there’s no “stuff” lying about and there are often flower beds or pots. The paint might be peeling, but there is no question of their pride and belief in good honest living and hard work. There’s not even trash along the roads, just masses of wild flowers!
We spent the 4th of July overlooking the lake at the COE (Corps of Engineers) Dam Complex campground at Coralville Lake, IA where the celebratory boating was in full swing.
In our particular spot there was also a massive Mayfly mating and molting swarm going on. Eventually, the rain washed them off the side of the rig. We didn’t see any fireworks that evening but we did have maybe the best hot dogs ever for lunch! If you’re ever in Galesburg, Illinois stop in at the oldest restaurant in town, Coney Island and have their signature Coney Island hot dog. You won’t be disappointed and the decor is great too!
Being big movie fans we made a side trip to the set of one of our favorites, “Field of Dreams”. In Dyersville, IA the farm house (not open, folks still live there), baseball field and corn crop are open to the public free of charge. I don’t know if it’s the influence of the movie or just the story’s premise, but the place is kind of magical. If you’re a baseball fan (Ed is especially) you have to stop here (and he got a T-shirt).
We stopped in Waverly at the East Bremer Diner where I had a Midwest favorite called a Cheese Frenchee for lunch. Basically a grilled cheese sandwich made with mayo, dipped in egg batter, crumbs and deep fat fried!!! Pretty good heart attack on a plate 🙂
From there we headed up St. Rt. 218 to Nashua and The Little Brown Church in the Vale. In 1857 a young music teacher, William Pitts, was traveling by stage coach to visit his future wife. At a stop to change horses in the Bradford area while walking down Cedar Street he noticed an empty lot and thought how lovely a spot it was for a church. Upon returning home he wrote the poem “Church in the Wildwood”, later setting it to music and putting it in a drawer, forgot about it. Meanwhile back in the town people wanted a real church, which they didn’t have. Someone donated land, and finally in 1860 limestone was quarried and a foundation was laid. The Civil War slowed things but someone donated timber and others the sawing into lumber and the work continued. When it came time to protect it from the elements the cheapest paint available was Ohio Mineral Paint which unhappily was brown. In 1862 Mr. Pitts and his wife moved to the area to be near her parents and he was hired to teach singing at the Bradford Academy. To Mr. Pitts’ great surprise he discovered a little brown church just where he had envisioned it! He dug out his song, taught it to his choir who sung to the equally surprised congregation at the church dedication!
In the town of Decorah, where we stayed at the nice Pulpit Rock Campgound, we visited the Vesterheim (western home) Norwegian-American Museum. This area was where many Norwegians settled and this extensive museum documents their culture. Their love of decoration and color in clothing, furniture, household items, and even wall paint is I believe an effort to ward off the cold and depressing bleakness of the Norwegian winter. Fun and worth a visit, although I will admit to a bit of an overload by the end.
Just a bit outside of Decorah is the little town of Spillville and The Bily Clocks Museum and Antonin Dvorak Exhibit. This absolutely needs to be on your MVL (Must Visit List)! The brothers Frank and Joseph Bily (BEE-lee) made clocks in ALL their spare time! Many huge and intricately carved, most with moving figures and incredibly complex filigree, they never sold any. In fact they turned down Henry Ford’s offer of a million dollars for their 8 foot tall, 500 plus pound “American Pioneer History Clock”! Truly delightful and amazing!
Oh, and the composer Antonin Dvorak lived upstairs one summer in the building that houses the clocks. Seems he was very home sick and a friend told him about a lovely spot in Iowa where the towns folk spoke Czech as their native language!
Located on the border with Wisconsin, Effigy Mounds National Monument preserves more than 200 burial mounds built by Native Americans. Found in many states across the Midwest these mounds still hold sacred meaning to the Indians of this part of the country. While there is some academic discussion going on as to how relativity recent some may be, most agree the majority are prehistoric. We had a wonderful hike through the woods looking at them and wondering about the beliefs and meanings behind these complicated and work intensive mounds that can only truly be recognized as animal shapes from the air. Like the Blythe Intaglios we visited out west, one has to wonder who they believed would see them for what they are?
All in all….we might consider living in Iowa…..except we no longer grow corn or raise cattle.
SCARY PICTURE of Ed’s hands…