Monday dawned sunny but still windy as we said goodbye to Rapid City to make our way to Mitchell, SD. This day put us firmly back into the flat farmland of the Midwest and while pretty in its own way, it’s not quite as striking as the landscapes we passed through in our first week on the road. We did, however, find a nice rest area for lunch in Chamberlain, SD that was situated on a hill overlooking the Missouri River below. An interpretative center provided information on the Lewis and Clark expedition and a striking statue of a Native American woman titled “Dignity” dominated the grounds.
Once settled in Mitchell, we decided to play the tourist and drive into town to see its famous Corn Palace. An interesting piece of Americana, this building is covered each spring with murals made from corn, husks, wheat and assorted grains. The theme this year was Rock of Ages and so images of Elvis, Willie Nelson and other musicians fashioned from the aforementioned materials decorated its walls. Now while this may sound a bit silly in actuality it was pretty impressive to consider how painstakingly these elements were applied to create such a vast mural. This venue was about as exciting as it gets in this small quiet town.
Tuesday we packed up and made our way to Mason City, IA. The most remarkable tidbit of this day’s drive was that we finally said goodbye to I-90 to begin our turn south. For the most part it was a good road and it sure took us to some wonderful places!
Our campground in Mason City was located near Clear Lake – a large recreational lake for people in these parts. An afternoon walk to its shore wound us through a neighborhood of homes that ranged from small to grand – all enjoying life on or near the water. It was another blustery day with white caps on the water and the flag blowing at right angles to the pole. In other words, not a great hair day!
Because of the wind that continued to dog us, we decided on Wednesday to take some back roads to afford us the opportunity to go a bit slower and prevent the buffeting about we took the last two days. This route led us through the center of Iowa passing through towns such as Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids before depositing us to the highway that will bear us east, I-80. Swollen rivers and overflowing banks were evidence of the heavy rains and flooding that occurred here last week but according to local reports, the barriers put in to prevent serious flooding appeared to be working.
Once on I-80 we drove another hour to our stop for the next two nights, Geneseo, IL. This puts us just east of Davenport, IA and Moline, IL. It sits long the banks of the Hennepin Canal which runs 75 miles to connect the Illinois River with the Mississippi. While only used commercially for a short time in the early 1900’s, it is now used as a recreational waterway and in fact, if we were so inclined, we could rent canoes here and row away! A path runs along the shore which has been ideal for walking Sadie.
For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t before this trip) John Deere’s International Headquarters are located in Moline. So, on our down day, we headed out in the Kia to check out its tourist facilities and store. The pavilion contained a large display of farm equipment including a combine that was huge! We wished we had our 5 year old grandson along as he would have loved this place! It is very hands on, so you are allowed to climb into these mammoth machines and pretend you are harvesting your own field of corn. Fun, fun! The store adjacent to the pavilion sold everything imaginable brandished with the John Deere logo. We left with a few little gifts and took home the catalog just in case we might want some more!
Our drives on Friday and Saturday can only be summed up as dismal. Dismal weather, flat farmland, horrible roads. We spent Friday night in Crawfordsville just west of Indianapolis and were greeted with torrential rain and a muddy campground. Had to wait an hour before the weather broke enough to hook up without being deluged. Needless to say, we hunkered in for the night and played Scrabble. Saturday we left the rain behind us but not the clouds as we made our way to Frankfort, KY. This, however was the day of horrible roads. Construction delays, work zones, detours and bumps made for unpleasant travel most of the day. Fortunately, we arrived at a lovely campground in Frankfort where we would spend the next two nights to allow us time to take in a distillery tour or two!
We chose Woodford Reserve to tour on Sunday afternoon because on Art’s previous visit to this area he found this one to be particularly informative and in a scenic setting. And, indeed it was. The drive winds you through the midst of Kentucky’s horse country and all I can say, if I were a horse here is where I would live. Rolling hills to gallop upon, Kentucky blue grass to eat and stables to bed down at night that look like one of HGTV’s dream homes – these horses have it pretty darn good!
The tour ($14/person) lasted one hour and from the visitor’s center the guide led us to the fermenting room, distillery, limestone rickhouse and the bottling facility (which was not operating on Sunday).
Though I am not a bourbon drinker, I found the history of this distilled spirit and the process to produce it very interesting. The tour ended with a tasting of two of their bourbons and to fully participate, I did sample both. And, by sample, I mean take a small sip, sputter and cough and pass the rest to Art who was happy to finish it for me!
Before leaving on Monday morning we went to the Buffalo Trace distillery located close to downtown Frankfort. We opted for their Trace tour and had a delightful tour guide whose presentation was even more informative in understanding this thing called bourbon. I enjoyed this tour better (and it was free) as this distillery has quite a long history dating back to the late 1700’s. The story of how this distillery survived during Prohibition (hint: bourbon prescribed as medicine) was particularly fascinating. This also ended with a tasting where everyone had a choice to sample 2 of 4 of their products plus a taste of their “dessert” Bourbon Cream. I passed on this tasting except for the Bourbon Cream. Mixed with the provided root beer and you have got yourself one heck of a root beer float – yummy!
We are spending our last night tonight where we spent our first one 2 ½ months ago – Milton, WV KOA. Tomorrow we will say our goodbyes to Caryn as we each head our separate ways to home. Hard to believe that this long awaited trip is over, but home is calling now and we are excited to see our daughter and grandson, to sleep in our bed, to sit on our front porch and to reminisce…