Thursday, April 21, 2016

Almost Home

A hop, skip, and a jump through beautiful Iowa along the Mississippi River was a great way to celebrate spring.  Yes, Iowa has beautiful farmland along the river, wondrous with green fields and decorated barns.  We stayed in a county park near Davenport and a city park in the northern part of Iowa. Since it was early spring we had the parks to our selves. We enjoyed walking the pathways, feeding the geese, and our quiet alone time.  When we were throughly relaxed, we entered Minnesota, home.  From this direction we decided we would stop in Eureka Center, to visit Joy's relatives. 

Eureka Center is a rural location just south of Farmington, the county seat of Dakota County. Joy's mother grew up in Farmington and her nieces and nephews and their children continue to populate the area.  Growing up Joy's family would visit cousin Eddie's house every summer. He and his wife Arlene would host large family gatherings, often 100 people would be milling around their yard or the yard of his parents house across the street.  Joy used to say if you knew anyone from Eureka Center they were probably a relative.  Visiting them and playing along the railroad tracks and area farms are some of Joy's fondest childhood memories.  

The cousins welcomed us and we parked in their yard. Another cousin, Maryls and her husband Rocky parked their class A in this yard for many summers after their retirement. As fulltime RVers, they split their time between Minnesota and Arizona, so an RV in the yard wasn't anything new for the neighbors.  This was however, Kathy's first visit. She instantly fell in love with Joy's relatives.  

We got to visit with other cousins after lunching with several of Arlene's friends at one of local establishments. This fun bunch of women gather monthly to tell tales and support each other.  

During our short visit, we even got to meet with one of Joy's high school classmates, Barb and her husband.  They hadn't talked since graduation but we had a wonderful bridging all those years over a few drinks.

Kathy enjoyed driving around the Minnesota farmlands and seeing the local attractions. Northfield, MN is now on our list of possible town to consider relocating to after our travels. It meets a few of our criteria.  It's a college town with Carelton in the north and St. Olaf College in the center of town. It is beautiful, quaint, and historic.  Made famous in popular culture by Betty White back in the day of The Golden Girls, even though she never attended the school in real life.  The winters are much milder than northern Minnesota.  But, they still have real winter so I don't think this town will work out unless the perfect job at one of these campuses comes along.

We had one more stop on the way to the refuge.  Keewatin, MN to visit Joy's sister's Debra and her husband Terry.  We headed north to the Iron Range.  We drove through downtown St. Paul, one of the only areas on Interstate 35 where the speed limit is 35 mph.

We saw the worlds largest roll of 3M Duct tape while stopping for lunch near Ollie


We turned on north 73 through Moose Lake and arrived the corner of highway 169 in Hibbing.  This is where the cemetery is that Joy's dad is buried.  We later visited there with Deb and Terry and saw this beautiful grave marker my nephew Daniel made. We also got to watch a fox scamper through the cemetery.  It was nice thinking the acres of those passed was supporting life.

This was the first time we had visited Debs house in Keewatin.  It's a cute wood frame house with a well maintained yard.  We leveled the RV in the street and ran an electric cord to the garage. This would be perfect for a few days.  We were greeted with hugs and food and the comfort of home.  We got to meet new relatives, wives of nephews and a great niece.

We caught up and argued about old wounds. We forgave each other and ourselves again and reestablished our relationships.   Family is fickle and fragile. Our bond is like getting waxed.  First you are smeared with warm and sometimes hot wax. Then covered by a safe cloth that is rubbed onto you. And finally it is ripped away and all you know is pain. You're marked not only by the absence of what is gone but by the wax that remains. You get cleaned up and feel great and know one day soon you need to go through all over again.  

Now it was time for us to go establish our new household for the next few months in Rochert, MN at the Tamarrac National Wildlife Refuge.  We would be close enough to visit family and friends throughout the summer.  

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Missouri, the Show Me state!

Although we have a friend near Branson, we decided to skip the hoo-ha and head straight toward the Arch!  

Built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States, it is the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and has become an internationally famous symbol of St. Louis.  The arch sits on the west bank of the Mississippi River in St. Louis.  The Gateway Arch designed by architect Eero Saarinen in 1947 was completed on October 28, 1965.  My father Edward Wright helped with issues that plagued the elevator system during its construction and helped create the first working system used in the world’s tallest arch.

The Gateway Arch is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world with over four million visitors annually, of which around one million travel to the top via the elevator system. 

The downtown historic areas are part of a bustling citiscape.  We went to the area near the college that some compare to Austin.  Coffee shops, art houses, and Whole Foods, we felt at home reading the stars on the sidewalks, never realizing how many famous people have a St. Louis connection. 

We also loved the historic downtown area like this courthouse.  

The food was awesome!  Part of our travels we refer to as "eating our way across the US of A!"  St. Louis is definitely an edible choice.  If you go, try the pie, I mean St. Louis style pizza.  The thin cracker like crust is topped with oregano flavored sauce and topped with provel cheese.  You can add whatever toppings you want but this is good stuff!  The other food we ate was BBQ.  Although St. Louis is not typically on the list of major styles of barbecue in the United States, the city was recognized by Kingsford as "America’s Top Grilling City”.  St. Louis style means pork, grilled and then sauced BBQ as opposed to rubs like we ate in Arkansas.  It was guuuud!