Thursday, August 7, 2014

up as far as we can go, then down and around to those flat bad lands

8/7/2014 Woodenfrog State Forest Campground, Minnesota

There is a bird whose call sounds almost like the Mockingjay from Hunger Games. Almost, but not all the way there. I think I’ve heard some loons too. It’s nice up here on Kabetogama Lake, by Voyageurs National Park. The night is cool, the day is hot. There is a breeze rustling different parts of the woods. I sat out on a rock and watched the sunset, and studied the ripples of the water as they crossed one another; combining into a supple grid of parallel lines under and on top of each other.

After two nights of car sleeping, it was good to stretch out in my tent. And the camping was onlt $14! With no out of state fees or day camping fee. It’s been many states since it was that cheap. Michigan almost got there, but the day camping fee brought it up.

Today I’m going to take a hike or two in Voyageurs by the lakeside. Most of the park is only accessibly by boat, but it’s still lovely to look at. Then I’ll see if I feel like driving to Bemidji or cutting due south and doing some more camping and then Bemidji tomorrow. There isn’t anything of much interest for me in Bemidji, except for a few photo ops. But it’s sort of my “once I’m here, I’m going to North Dakota next” point of reference. North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska. I have to drive over the majority of one of them and it is going to be North Dakota, because their National Park is way on the west side of the state. Right now I am cross referencing the going ons in South Dakota, to see where those various places are.

And having just done that, it looks like the monument of American Manifest Destiny that is Corn Palace is getting the axe. Mt Rushmore, Wall Drug, Badlands NP, and Wind Cave NP are all in relatively the same area of South Dakota, but Corn Palace is too far over to detour. So yes, driving over North Dakota, down into South Dakota for some of those sweet, sweet National Parks, and then Nebraska for… Carhenge. Then it is Wyoming time! I’ll get to Yellowstone and Grand Teton on the way out into Montana…but there is also Rocky Mountain NP in Colorado….it’s just a little bit south. I’ll see how I feel when I get to Nebraska, but I’ve at least resolved the Dakota Descent.

So, The House on the Rock was surreal, amazing, eclectic, overwhelming, and beyond any expectation. The rooms didn’t seem like they ought to be so big, because the structure itself doesn’t seem that big, but then again I never really got a good look at the building. Going up into the mountains, it’s all obscured by hills and trees, and you enter from the top and go down these walkways. There is never a moment of standing below something huge and approaching it. I paid to visit all three sections. If I had to pick a section after visiting all three, I would say the second is the one to put money on. The first one is the house, which is lovely. It is low ceilinged, with plenty of Tiffany lamps and retro and antique styling. It’s a little bit of a maze, but that just adds to the intrigue. It’s dark and warm and not practical, which is why it is so great. The second section is the automatons and the nautical exhibit and the street of yesterday. I wish I had more tokens for the automatons. If you hung around long enough, someone else was sure to put in tokens to activate it. The tokens cost money, not much, and it is smart to have it set up that way because if it was “push a button to activate” then everything would be playing at once and it would be such a cacophony. As it was, you would hear a player piano one room over, or a large music box tinkling away in the corner for a minute. I spent my tokens on a music box, a clown that called me a sour puss, a fortune reader (which gave me a very on point fortune), the Red Room which played the sugar plum waltz, I think, another orchestra automaton, and a magician automaton. I think the Red Room was my favorite, but oh if I could have listened to The Mikado or The Blue Danube. The Street of Tomorrow had jugs and drums. Automaton being an automated contraption. Some were little tricks, some were full orchestras with violins and drums and pianos. They were themed and stuffed with decorations, and lit to spur the imagination but not for clarity. Few exhibits and collections were labeled, which added to the mystery of the object, but it also allowed the collections to not be divided into “eras” or “make” or just general museum type guidelines. But I’m getting ahead of myself, that is section 3.

Section 2 had a nautical room with model ships and objects and pamphlets from various cruises, and it had a three story sculpture of a made up whale eating a boat, while a squid attacked the whale. After the nautical room, which has a name that I can’t recall (which comes after The Street of Yesterday, which is an old recreated street with facades), was a little food court. I bought some ice cream. There was a car covered in tile, Burma Shave signs, hot air balloons, and other things. The gateway to the third section is the carousel. The. Carousel. 200+ mounts spinning around with chandeliers and lights and peacocks atop. And not a one of the mounts was a horse. There were centaurs, nymphs, a bull dog. Mermaids, monsters, dragons. The horses were on the walls, stacked high and wide. There were angels crowding the rafters, and music played continually. No one could ride the carousel, but oh to watch it spin! It is a narrow hallway to get into the room, and you just see spinning and red and lights and my jaw dropped.

I stood for a long while, watching it spin. There is apparently now a “The House on the Rock” style of painting carousel animals. Something about going dark to light, and not as bright as others.

Dazed I continued on to the third section. The collection section. Circus figures, automated toys, a giant orchestra that played up this two story circus … caboose? I think is the only way I can put it. Doll houses and dolls. Little doll scenes in bell jars, that struck me as sad. A gun collection. Antique guns, art object guns that were never meant to be fired, and the highlight: a prosthetic leg with a built in holster. There was a reproduction of the crown jewels, and armor, and a diorama of knights with one on an elephant, because why not? The third section was also home to a winding room of structured things. Horsemen of the apocalypse, a tree made of cheese drums, organs and organ music, mannequins on a bridge, winding staircases to nowhere, up and down and all around and way too dark to really get a hang of any one thing.

A good five hours I spent in there. I’ll have to go back some day, and drop a tenner on tokens just to listen to everything. And the instruments had several songs, so even everything wouldn’t be it all.

Overwhelmed I returned to my car and set about driving for hours back across Wisconsin and up into Minnesota. I hung a right at St. Paul (I have no interest in the Mall of America) and camped at a rest stop on i35. A nice one that clearly allowed people to sleep. I managed to sleep in even, and got into Duluth at around noon, where I got a haircut. It was a quick trim and I’ll have to work on my bangs a bit, but oh I feel so much better having clean hair, and less hair too. I had about 4 inches removed and it is much lighter. My split ends were getting scratchy and uncomfortable. Onwards north on 53 to Voyageurs National Park. Got in at around 3:30, got one of my NP stamps, and went on to Woodenfrog Campground, unsure if I would camp or continue on. But at $14, I obviously was going to camp. So I saturated myself with bug spray, set up the tent, went to the swimming hole and read, then went back to my campsite and sat on a rock by the lake and watched the sunset. I retired to my tent, intending to read further, but I instead just went to sleep. Rest while I can in case I end up in my car for a few more nights.

There are no showers here, but with my hair clean I feel much better as a whole. And I’m not sweating like I was a few states ago. I’m leaving humidity behind, and the nights are cool. The space around me is changing. Nature and location. The oceans are far away from me now. Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior. I’ve seen them, touched a few of them, and now there will be smaller lakes and then no lakes and then those blessed mountains.

8:45 pm a rest stop on I94 in North Dakota

Well, I decided not to camp another night in Minnesota. I got really bug bitten for one when I went hiking, even though I put on bug spray, and for two the first camp site I got to was way expensive and it didn’t have showers so I was like “feh!” and decided to start the journey across North Dakota. Knock out a bit of it tonight, so that tomorrow I won’t have far to go to the National Park, and then I can camp for a bit!

I did a little hike at Kabetogama, but like I said I got bug bitten so it was cut short. I drove up to International Falls, swung by Menard’s (pronounced apparently muhNARDS and not MAYnards as my mind kept pronouncing) and got more bug spray (mine is almost out) and oil for the car. It’s due for a change soon, but figured I’d put more in and then I can get it changed a little bit later. Not much later!

I drove to Bemidji and it was a very repetitive drive. The trees were nice but they were not all close in. I guess with winter, you don’t want trees close to roads. So while scenic, it wasn’t spectacular. I got the campsite tip at the visitors center and scenic drove some more, and then after I decided I didn’t feel like camping, I went west on 200 and then down into Fargo, and finally got onto 94.

I’m going to get a small peppy bevvie and set Bismark as the goal, and then camp at a rest stop…unless they don’t allow over nighters then I’ll find a Walmart in Bismark. This rest stop doesn’t allow them, so I’ll drive through the next few and see if they keep with that custom.

Catch you on the flipside! Flipside being Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

day tripping in Iowa

Holla from a McDonald's ~1 hour from The House on the Rock. Got a wee breakfast and got on their wifi and plugged in my devices. Got about an hour to hill till I can leave to get to THonR till it opens.

Iowa was fun! I had a nice scenic drive across to Iowa City and down to Riverside and then up to...uhh this place and then further up to McGregor. Though I suspect I would have hated it if I had had to spend ~6 hours driving to any of these locations, as it was I only had a little over an hour between each place, and it was lovely golden corn fields at top, which finally started rolling up and down after two states of flat.

I swung by a rest stop/visitors center and picked up a map and a pamphlet for the Hobo Museum which used the Hobo typeface, because I find that kind of thing funny.

First up: Riverside. The proper Riverside, because there are many across America. This Riverside is the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk. You know, from Star Trek.The town has a carved stone sign commemorating this event. It's tucked behind a building, but there is a sign on a telephone poll pointing which way to go. As I left, a family showed up to grab photos. I wonder how many Trekkies/Trekkers come through every day to gt a photo? I continued up and east to the Field of Dreams filming site. And on a Monday afternoon in the middle of summer, there were plenty of people at the location and some were playing baseball! How long ago did that movie come out, and people still come? I walked in the corn a while, and talked to this older guy Jack who was from California and also a roadtripper.

Onwards to Effigy Mounds National Monument. There are these mounds across America that were made by the indigenous people centuries ago, and some have managed to preserved. I did a little hike, though their definition of "steep switchbacks" needs to be revisited. The mounds were lovely, and it's great that they were able to be preserved. I got rained on a little during the hike, but what's rain to a Washingtonian?

I drove on up back to Wisconsin, so that I wouldn't have to drive far to The House on the Rock. I found a Walmart and read in the parking lot till I dozed away. Woke up early and wet to McDonald's and refreshed. Now the Montana Christmas episode of King of the Hill is on the tv and I couldn't be happier.

Fun is abound today, too bad the weather is a bit dismal. Oh well, I'll be continuing west later on. Hopefully Minnesota has nice weather. There is a chance of storm Thursday - Monday.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The highest function of love is that it makes the loved one a unique and irreplaceable human being.

I’m currently at a rest stop just south of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. All sorts of rapids out east, eh? The rest stops are nice in Iowa. They have individualistic designs, wifi, and seem cleaner too. I wonder why they are so much nicer than those in more populous states?

The Wedding:

So beautiful! And the weather was perfect. A week ago, the prediction was thunderstorms. But there was none of that. It was all sunshine and heat and clothes sticking to skin after sitting down for a while, but there was plenty of refreshments. Where the ceremony was held was in a clearing, but people clustered in the shade till the groomsmen showed up, due to the seating being in the sun. Last possible moment we all sat down. It was a short ceremony. The officiant was a shaman named Two Dogs and he smudged them and sang a prayer and put a blanket over them as a symbol of them becoming one. The vows were short and sweet, and I managed to not cry till the end, but I did cry. I cry at weddings.

I hugged Megan and shook Eric’s hand after the ceremony and went to full my personalized keepsake glass with a drink. I sat with Suzan and Brandon and some others and hydrated and got a bit of a tan line from sitting in the sun. The wedding party was carted up in a hay ride towed by a tractor, and it was time to find our seats. Table 7 sounds like a good priority table, but we were pretty far near the back. I was between Ryan and uhh… shoot I forget her name. But it was jovial none the less. I got through the food lane too late for mac n cheese, but I did get chicken, pork, corn, potato, pasta, and biscuits. The cole slaw was plentiful and neglected. No one wanted the slaw it would seem. I also grabbed a slice of cheesecake and a cupcake and was oh so full. And I had a few more cocktails. The night wore on. Bands played. Dances were had. The bouquet was tossed and while I didn’t catch it, I was the one who grabbed it from the ground. The first bouquet I’ve ever got my hands on! How wonderful. As if I’m marriage material. A bonfire was started too, and the wedding party and those invited changed into more casual clothes. Unfortunately for me I got tired before I got to the fun stage of drunkenness, so at 10 I retired to my tent and dozed. The party continued past 3, and I was one of the first up in the morning. I changed. Charged my phone. I heard the tinkling of brunch happening, so I went downstairs (all my stuff was in the attic space).


I had bagels and shmear and coconut water. As I would be driving soon I did not partake in the bloody marys. The wedding was 200 people strong, as both Megan and Eric seem to have big families, so there were plenty of revelers in the neighborhood who showed up. Nice when a shindig like this continues. Much better to spend the time that you want than to spend the time according to a time frame. I chatted with an assortment of the familiar faces, moved my car to my tent and packed it up. I was slow to leave, but I made sure to say goodbye to Megan and Eric and Deb. I think I left around 3.

South and West:

I headed down to Plymouth, Indiana because that would take me down past all the westward toll roads. 31 south and then I turned west on 24, and that took me into Illinois, though there wasn’t much of a change in landscape. Flat corn fields as far as the eye can see, with gray farm buildings in the distance like paper cut outs. I yearn for mountains now. A change in elevation. An up and a down. Some sort of marker that shows I’ve gone past something.

I lost an hour of time as well, which is a bummer when you are driving and want to rest and time changes in such a way that you have more daylight than you want, and you find yourself driving into the sunset and it goes slower than it ought. Miserable experience. The sun did go behind a cloud for a short while, but it was all too short because I drove around the cloud and out came the sun once again. I stopped at a rest stop for the last 15 minutes of its setting, and swung on the swing sets. I hopped one more rest stop and slept there. There were no swings at this rest stop, though other playground items such as a log rolling simulator. I had a good sleep, and woke thinking I slept in but since I had lost an hour, I had not. I checked my notebook of things to do and found that I had missed House on the Rock in Wisconsin!! But it is in the south west part of Wisconsin, near the Iowa border, and also near a National Monument. So it won’t be much of a back track, and then I can go right into Minnesota. I’m planning that for tomorrow. Today is Iowa. I’ve already been to Riverside and grabbed a picture of the “Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk” sign. So now it is just north and east.

And then west! 39 states down, 9 to go.