We left Austin on Friday October 1st and made it back to Forest City (Iowa) by Sunday evening, as planned. WAY too much driving in a short period of time!! We vowed during that drive that it will be the LAST time we have ANY deadlines (barring any emergencies, of course). We did have some entertainment along the way – listened to every minute of the heartbreaking “Red River Rivalry” (Longhorns vs. Oklahoma) football game. Oh well – UT can’t be national champs every year… Watching the autumn leaves turn colors was awesome – but what a shocking weather change we had to survive driving so far in a short period of time…85* leaving Austin, 35* that night somewhere in Kansas, and highs in the 50’s during the rest of the drive! Then we got to Forest City in time for the warmest first week of October they’ve had in many years. Thunder and some rain one morning and when we left Forest City that afternoon it was 85* again. So much for packing for the season!
Our new cabinets are BEAUTIFUL and so functional – we finally feel like we have all the room we need in the RV. We were still organizing stuff (&getting rid of stuff) well into November but those of you who saw the RV when we left CA would not recognize it any more. And we can’t say enough good things about the Winnebago Customer Service – they were amazing in every way that could possibly make the week comfortable. They also found & fixed several problems we didn’t even know we had (including bad batteries that they replaced for free). We actually were done and driving away on Thursday morning, only to have the radio speakers break as we were leaving! It turned out to be a stroke of luck though. When all was said and done it was something fairly minor, but took several hours to diagnose, yet they did ALL the work for free because we had JUST finished our appointment when it happened. They didn’t even charge for the new parts! We tell everybody now that the only RV to own is a Winnebago. Oh – and we can’t forget to mention that the local breakfast place cost us under $9 for BOTH of us, including tip. Can’t beat those small town prices anywhere else!
We also met so many really nice people while “hanging out” in the service lobby and the city for the week. The first couple we got to know, as soon as they found out we had no car, invited us to join them on a trek to the memorial at the crash site where Buddy Holly died on February 3, 1959. It was well worth the short drive & walk through the cornfield, as you (hopefully) can see by the photos. When we got the RV back we also drove down to Clear Lake to see the famous Surf Ballroom where they had performed the evening before the crash. They still have concerts there regularly. The city of Clear Lake is also amazingly beautiful. We walked out on a boat dock over the lake then around to view the well preserved historic downtown and the well kept Victorian & Craftsman style homes in the neighborhood. Midwestern aura at its absolute best!
And sooo affordable – for example, we saw a 4500 square foot, 5 bedroom, 4 bath, classic Victorian home with wrap around porch, originally built in 1895 but completely restored in 2000, on half acre wooded lot IN the city, & listed on the national registry of historic homes – for (drum roll) $350,000. And for those of you on a tighter budget – a 2 bedroom, 1800 square foot, Victorian style remodeled home; adorable with fenced 1/3 acre back yard (are you ready?) $150,000!! Both of these homes are one block from the beautiful waterfront.
The entrance to the memorial is marked by this large metal replica of Buddy Holly’s famous glasses. Since the memorial is about a half mile into the cornfield this is the only way a passerby would know where to go.
We also stopped in Mason City, Iowa on the way to Forest City and “stumbled upon” the Frank Lloyd Wright Stockman House. What fascinating stories we heard from our 70 year old tour guide. She knew everything about the house and its history & also encouraged us to look around the neighborhood at other historic homes. The house was just completing a renovation when we were there, and no photos were allowed inside the house, but the outside pics are pretty good for showing the uniqueness of his style for that time period.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Stockman House in Mason City, Iowa was undergoing some renovation when we were there.
We met up with some friends just outside of Minneapolis and spent Sunday afternoon (10/9) with them at their “cottage” on Lake Ada. What an incredible way to spend an afternoon! The unseasonably warm weather continued into the weekend so we were able to watch the sunset from the porch, as they explained how normally this time of year all the lake homes would be boarded up and vacated for the season and there would be cold winds blowing across the lake and maybe even light snow – oh well, lucky us!
From there we headed west to Fargo, ND. We had decided it was time to “put into port” for a few days and finish re-organizing our lovely new “living room” that we had created with the new cabinetry. Fargo turned out to be a great place to do that – we had many miles of bike trails to explore in between work sessions in the RV. From there we headed toward Bismarck but got sidetracked when we saw the world’s biggest buffalo (statue) by the side of the road. It led us to the National Buffalo Museum in Beach, ND where we spent about an hour learning about the history of the American Buffalo and not seeing any from their viewing platform. (Kinda reminded us of the bats in Austin.) We then checked out the historic power plant next to the ND State Mental Hospital for the Criminally Insane (they didn’t catch us) where the plant manager told us to be sure to stop at the Mandan power plant. So we moved on and stayed the night in Mandan (ND) so Dave could check out the power plant the next morning. However, they were not as happy to see us as we were to see them and could only leave an info packet & move on.
Our next destination was to be Billings, Montana, but we did not get very far when we were totally distracted by a HUGE metal sculpture by the side of the road. Naturally we had to investigate it. As it turned out, we were at the beginning of the “Enchanted Highway” a road lined with monumentally sized sculptures made of various materials and spaced along the highway for the purpose of attracting the attention of passersby to entice them down the road toward the tiny town of Regent, ND. A former school teacher/principal had started the project in hopes of saving his hometown from extinction. While stopped at the first sculpture we met a young guitar salesman who was on his way to Rapid City, SD to catch a plane home to San Diego, CA. For the next hour and a half we “leap frogged” with him to each of the sculptures, chatting at each stop, and finally meeting up in the town of Regent before parting ways for good.
Needless to say we did not reach Billings that day, but stayed in Theodore Roosevelt National Park that night. (Can’t beat the price – $2.50 for the night!) What a GREAT decision that turned out to be. Dave went for a morning walk and met several wild buffalo along the way. As we left the park we decided we should take the scenic route and WOW was it worth it. We saw VERY up-close several small herds of wild buffalo, incredible scenery (the pictures just do not do justice to their beauty), and then we unexpectedly came upon a herd of wild horses. While Dave was photographing them Roberta noticed something in the distance and was shocked to see a gorgeous black stallion with a white diamond on his forehead galloping directly toward the RV. At the last moment he veered off the road and joined the wild herd – leaving her speechless in the middle of the road pointing and mumbling something like “Are we in a movie? Is this for real?” As we left the park we drove past an area filled with prairie dogs popping their heads up and down just like you’d see in a National Geographic special.
Or a herd of wild horses!!
We finally got through Billings, shopped at an awesome coop store to restock our provisions, then spent that night in Reed Point, Montana next to the Yellowstone River at a town with a population of 96. Dave socialized with 15 of them at the bar that afternoon.
From there we drove through Butte, stopping at Starbuck’s (to watch a missed episode of The Biggest Loser online before viewing the current episode on TV in the RV in their parking lot – yes we have some addictions). Then proceeded to dock for the night in Missoula, Montana. We loved it there – spent some time in a little café while trying to figure out which WA state campus Roberta’s niece, Michelle, was attending. Once we found out she was in Pullman, Dave decided that Roberta HAD to see the Jerry Johnson Hot Springs along Route 12 in Idaho.
And now for the great Idaho adventure – THIS is why we are doing what we are doing!!!
The drive through the Clearwater National Forest alone would have made the trip worth it. If you don’t think our photos are unbelievable, re-watch the movie “A River Runs Through It”. This is where it was filmed. We stopped at the Lochsa Lodge for gas and to confirm our directions to the hot springs then stayed the night in the campground there – DEEP in the forest. No TV, no cell phone service, no wifi (but we did have electricity, we are not cavemen). We headed out the next morning to the trailhead, from where we hiked in the 1.5 miles to the hotsprings – check out the bridge in the photos! It even swayed when we walked on it. After bathing in the hot springs at the end of the trail we discovered a hot spring waterfall on the way back down the trail. Dave’s curiosity got the best of him and he just HAD to climb down to the pool below the waterfall to check it out. As usual, Roberta soon followed him. Again, the pics don’t do the scene justice. The air temp was about 55, the waterfall was about 120, and the pool into which it fell was a cozy 100 or so – yes we got into it, couldn’t resist. There was cool water flowing around our feet, and the water around the rest of us was fabulously warm. For all you arm chair tourists – we met a 70 year old couple on this trail, so there is no excuse for ANY of you not to get out and enjoy the healing waters of a local hot spring!
The drive from there to Pullman was no less fabulous than before. Every turn of the road brought us new sights and sounds that were just breathtaking. The road crossed over the river several times, there was forest & ranch-land, horses and cattle, deer, blue sky, and at the end of this road we stopped for homemade pie at the Wilderness Inn where Dave had stopped for a piece of homemade pie 16 years previously.
We got to the home of our Seattle friends later that week and spent a lovely visit with them through Halloween weekend.
And so as October came to an end, our Washington outdoor adventure began.