Our fifth wheel and the truck

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Welcome back and you can see that I am determined to get this blog up to date very quickly! I am getting back in the groove (did I hear someone say - rut?!) Once again we are driving down I90 and I have the computer on my lap. We are on our way to the Badlands in South Dakota but that is a story for another blog!

After Tess! Well things have been very quiet around the rv since we said goodbye to Tess. Our plans are to drive back to New Castle, Indiana to get some warranty work done on the fiver as well as having slide awnings put on both slides. We had one night of rain and the pitter patter of the rain drops above our heads on the bedroom slide kept both of us awake so the awnings hopefully will improve that. Here’s hoping.

We overnighted in a Rest Area in West Virginia on our way to Indiana and again awoke to clouds blanketing mountains and drifting through the valleys. It is just so beautiful that West Virginia is definitely on my bucket list but will have to wait for another trip as we start heading west in anticipation of the end of our journey in two months.

Wow, this is a small world! In September last year you may remember that Norm and I attended an RV rally in Goshen, IN. Well we have stayed in touch with a number of people from the rally including Jim and Jan, with whom we are planning to drive to Alaska in June next year. You wouldn’t read about it, Jim and Jan happened to be in Indiana at the same time we were there and we were able to have dinner together. Jim arranged to meet at a restaurant half way between them and us - yeah right Jim - it took them 45 minutes to get there and us - 15 minutes! LOL It was really good to catch up with their travels and the plans for the Alaska trip next year. Jim has been doing so much homework to plan for the trip and I guess as the time gets closer we will all be more involved in the plans. There are four (I think) rv’s going to go in a convoy for 90 days leaving in the middle of June. What an amazing trip it promises to be!

We left Indiana with our destination Blanchardville, Wisconsin where we will be staying with our friends Mary and Bruce. They were expecting us on 7th May however during a phone conversation with Mary recently she asked me if we were outside her house already (we were still in Indiana) and so we decided to surprise them. They were supposed to be away until the 5th and we were hoping to get to their home before them and have the rv set up in the front drive with chairs out on the lawn and the wine in hand. Unfortunately they arrived home about half an hour before we got there but none the less were very surprised by our early arrival.

After all the running around that we have done over the last four weeks we were grateful for the time to catch our breath while in Blanchardville.

We had experienced some problems with the radio cutting out so we took a trip over to the nearest Ford dealer in Monroe to get it replaced, visited a cheese factory and took various road trips in the areas surrounding Blanchardville.

The highlight of our stay - apart from Mary and Bruce’s company of course - was our visit to the House on the Rock. It was amazing and such an eclectic collection of ‘stuff’. Alexander Jordan had built this house on a rock over quite a few years and then spent his time collecting so many different things. He had to climb a 75ft ladder to begin the construction just to get the materials up to the site before he built steps. It is quite a feat of engineering - sort of - as he has literally built the house around, over, and between the rocks on a promontory over the valley. The house is so interesting - lots of nooks and crannies, very low ceilings, lots of Tiffany glass and lamps and sitting areas everywhere and the walls and ceiling, in places, are huge boulders. The ceilings are all covered with red carpet, so you don’t bang your head on the rocks I assume! The photos may not do it justice!

There is the Infinity Room which is difficult to describe but is a long triangular shaped needle like extension that protrudes out of the house and over the woods. It is made of glass and has windows that allow you to look on all sides, including down. It is almost like being right in the canopy of the woods. Mary was a bit reluctant to come all the way out as it does have a bit of movement as you get out towards the end of it. Very interesting.

There are great big sheds chock a block full of interesting things. There is an amazing collection of dolls and dolls’ houses, replicas of the English monarchy’s crowns and robes of ceremony, weapons of all kinds including a couple of Gatling guns, decorated eggs including a couple of Faberges, bells, sleighs, clocks, the most amazing calliopes of all shapes and sizes, old cars and vehicles, carousel horses, angels and so many other things. The list goes on! While the house and its environment are so different from what we usually look at, it really is a ‘not to be missed’ activity. It is just amazing that all this is under one roof. You have to see the carousel with its 20,000 lights and every horse on which you ride is not a horse - there are monsters and animals of every description on it. It is a wonderful experience and we spent the whole day there and still didn’t get time to look closely at everything.

The calliopes were absolutely amazing. There were big ones and small ones, there were some with violins, bass, drums, bells, whistles, jars with air going across them, and there was even one there that was made up of a complete orchestra with dummies being manipulated to play the instruments. It was truly amazing to see the work that had been put in to building them. I really liked the octopuses garden one (and yes it played the Octopuses Garden by the Beatles) with all its under sea creatures. And every one of the calliopes was in working order and using the tokens you get when you go in you can play each one. The range of music played was wonderful.

Mothers’ day was spent having lunch with Mary and Bruce’s family which was really lovely and when you can’t be with your own kids - Hans, Tom and Emily (Hans’ wife) are the next best thing. We had a yummy lunch of my favourite American fare - ribs and salad. Lip smacking good thanks to the heroes of the barbecue - Bruce and Norm!

I forgot! There was another huge highlight of our stay with Bruce and Mary and that was when Bruce took me for a ride on his Harley Davidson!!!! Woo hoo!! It was ….. Words fail me! We were gone for about ¾ hour and went up hill and down dale all over Blanchardville and surrounding areas. Drove through Yellowstone State Park (saw people swimming - they have rocks in their heads - it is still really cold!!!), along river banks and through woods. Bruce is now my hero!!

One more thing - the fresh dairy air of Wisconsin!!!!!! Thanks Mary for that description, it will stay with me forever!

We stayed in Blanchardville for just over a week and then had to start thinking about moving on. Saturday morning - all packed up, hitched up and ready to rumble!!! Oops the driver’s window is down and won’t go up!! We had had some problems with the window and had a new switch put in it in Cary, NC but prior to this we had always been able to get it up but there was no way it was going up this time. Sooo, unhitch and Norm has to drive over to Monroe (with the window down and in the freezing cold) with Bruce as I wasn’t going out in that cold. They were all rugged up with jackets and gloves! Can’t be fixed, needs a new motor and regulator but we can put it up for you so you can get to your next destination and have it fixed there. Well the Ford dealership got it nearly all the way up and Norm and Bruce managed to finish it off and with the aid of an eraser and some duct tape, kept it up for our drive to Minnesota! More warranty work to be done - this time in MN! Thanks goodness for warranties!

It was a bit sad leaving Mary and Bruce however we have made arrangements to meet up in the Grand Canyon just before we head to Phoenix where we will put the rig in storage before coming home. There was also talk about them visiting Aust. in February while it is still freezing in Wisconsin. To say that Mary hates (with a passion) the cold is an understatement. She would love Australia in the summer time.

Our next stop was Byron, Minnesota which is just out of Rochester, with our friends, Judy and Pete who we met while in Livingston, TX and with whom we traveled around Louisiana and then met up with again just out of Atlanta, GA.

We stayed with Pete and Judy for three days prior to us heading west and them heading east to babysit their grand daughter for a while. Sort of reminded me that I have grand kids at home that I will be seeing in a couple of months. Can’t wait to see how much they have all grown especially Blayd who was 18 months old when we left and will be 2 ½ when we get back. I will just have to make up for lost time!!!

During our stay with Pete and Judy they took us on some sightseeing excursions. We checked out the local gourmet bakery - and they are gourmet! The pastries were really lovely and I could see that if I was staying very long I would need to put myself on a diet.

Our first day we took a long drive up to the Mall of America. Now I can safely say that you haven’t seen a shopping mall until you have been to the Mall of America! Apparently this is the biggest shopping mall in the US. It has three levels (I think) and four wings - North, South, East and West and in the middle is an enclosed amusement park with all sorts of scary rides and entertainment. Some retail outlets have two shops because the mall is so large. We had lunch in the mall and Judy and I got some retail therapy. Norm even found the storage space bags that we are planning on using to put all our clothes in when we leave the fiver in storage. Bugger - not long now!

We had an absolutely beautiful day when we visited the Oxbow State Park with an animal rescue service that was really busy. It had a bear, wolves, foxes, a seriously crazy porcupine, bison, bald eagles and other animals. All the animals except the bison and deer are being kept in captivity as they wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild.

Another day we went to the Mayo Clinic. Now I have heard of the Mayo Clinic but never realized that it is in Rochester, MN. Everywhere we went Judy or Pete would pass a comment about a building that was part of the clinic. Talk about a company town. The visit to the actual clinic was really interesting and the history behind the beginning was fascinating. The actual clinic building is awesome and like many hospitals the art work is stunning. There is even a grand piano in the atrium area where someone plays each day. While we were there a lady who seemed to be accompanying a guy in a wheelchair sat down and played beautifully for about 15 minutes. I reckon Rochester is the place to be if you get sick. Pete said he thinks that the ratio of residents to doctors is about 25:1. Wonderful odds when you consider what they are likely to be in other places including Australia.

After a gourmet bakery breakfast thanks to an early morning run by Judy, we said farewell and thanks for having us, to Judy and Pete. It is times like this, as we say our goodbyes, knowing we won’t see friends for a long time, that I realise just how precious our time in America has been and what wonderful people we will be leaving behind. We will just have to come back again next year! Haha - that is the plan!

From here we head further west into South Dakota, then Wyoming and Utah. So look out for the continue adventures of these two Aussies in America!

The wonderful thing about this blog is that it brings me up to date - at last! I promise faithfully that I won’t get so far behind in the future (fingers crossed).

Be safe dear family and friends and don’t forget to leave a comment when you visit - it means a great deal to us. Take care of you and yours.

1 comment:

  1. I am traveling with you. You do visit such interesting spots.