Monday, August 29, 2016

Altoona, IA - Gee, But It's Great To Be Back Home 2

Perhaps Paul Simon said it best in his song: ’Keep The Customers Satisfied.’

Gee but it's great to be back home

Home is where I want to be.

I've been on the road so long my friend,

And if you came along

I know you couldn't disagree.

We’ve been gone a long time - since October of 2015. We love to travel, to see new places, have new adventures, meet new people but there’s something satisfying about living with familiar things. We can see Cathy and Tom, we can see my brother, Jack, we can see our friends, Shirley and Jerry (when they get back here from their year’s journey) and other friends that we miss, we know where the grocery store is, we know where to get our hair cut. We know the best way to get where we want to go - though the first time we went to Cathy and Tom’s, we took the wrong road.

We’re the red, black and silver RV in the picture here. Seems that the setting sun is shining on us. Nice campground, look at all the space we have.


So, we’re happy to be back. Of course, now we have our annual appointments and there is always RV maintenance along with RV cleaning - lots of RV cleaning (we usually don’t clean the basement storage areas since they usually don’t get too dirty but this time we will). Our refrigerator slowly gave up the ghost during our last few weeks and has died altogether now. Our washer/dryer has quit also. We need to get the RV to Freightliner for an engine tune-up and the Jeep to Stew Hanson, where we bought it, for its tune-up. Plus a myriad of little things that we need to get done before we start off again.

But over the last 2 weeks we haven’t been idle. Gary has gotten the washer/dryer to work and we’ve caught up with our laundry now. He did lots of things but here you can see where he took it out of the little cubby where it resides, balanced it on two chairs and took off the top so he could get at the wires inside.


He’s not sure what he did but he took it apart, cleaned all the contacts, put them back more securely and it works. Did all that bouncing along the highways in Alaska jar something loose? Who knows.

After spending quite a bit of time finding a new residential refrigerator that fits our hole, we’ve ordered it - a special order since it is not a usual size - it’s on its way and should be here by Friday - in 3 days. We can only hope it isn’t delayed until Monday. During this time we’ve been living out of a small electric cooler that Shirley and Jerry loaned us.

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Meanwhile Gary disconnected our old Norcold refrigerator and we had it in our living room for a while as he disconnected that black thing on the back called the cooling unit. Then we wrestled it out the front door and it now sits in back of our RV waiting for the delivery crew to take it to the refrigerator graveyard.


The parts sat by our RV for a bit until we got them into the trash.


We took a nice sunny, calm day to clean the RV and it gleams now though we still need to find another calm day to wax it.

We spent some time with my brother, Jack, in Fort Dodge where he made us a pizza - lots of meat, lots of cheese and lots of sauce. He was too busy and too focused putting all his toppings on and couldn’t smile for the camera. He wanted to make it perfect for his favorite (and only) sister and favorite (and only) brother-in-law.


We’ve had our annual physicals and our dental and eye exams.

But these are all such mundane idems, not something for a blog. Who wants to read about an eye exam? The refrigerator removal might have been remotely interesting but I have no pictures. What was I supposed to do? Put down my end as we were carrying it outside, pick up the camera and ask Gary to smile while he’s holding his end?

I was able to finish all the blogs over the last 3 weeks of our trip back to Iowa, put the pictures with the stories and get them published, starting with August 10th: ‘Let’s Start With a Cinnamon Roll.’

Our September is too dull to blog on and I’m plain out of words. I’ve been blogging for 8 years now, starting in 2008 with our first winter in Big Bend, Texas. I’ve enjoyed it and have enjoyed your comments both on the blog and in e-mails. But it’s time for a rest. Maybe I’ll pick it back up in November but for now, I’m resting.

Thanks for reading. I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I’ve enjoyed writing. I hope I’ve piqued your curiosity about some of the places we’ve been. I hope I’ve interested you in some of the history that we’ve learned about. It’s a great big wonderful country that we have here and we’re enjoying seeing as much as we have. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing it through our eyes or have enjoyed comparing what we’ve seen to what you’ve seen in the same places.

Again, thanks.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Fort Dodge, IA - Back to Iowa

We drove from Medora, ND over to Fargo, ND and we passed by the largest Bison
and the largest cow before we hit the border.
It’s difficult to miss the oil fields of North Dakota, though they are much quieter than they were several years ago.

And, of course the herds. 

Here you’ve got oil refineries and hay bales - both a large part of the North Dakota economy.


At Fargo, we headed south through South Dakota and into Iowa. We stayed at a Walmart in Sioux Center overnight because we wanted to stop to see some friends in Orange City. We woke up - earlier than we had planned - and not the way we had planned. No one plans the screech of a train whistle piercing their deep sleep - 4 times at 5:05. Nope, the dulcent tones of an alarm for me. But, we were awake, ate a hurried breakfast and headed to Orange City. During the winter Smitty and Delores live in their home in Val Vista in Mesa where we stay. In the summer they move back to their home in Orange City. Both of their spouses died a while back and they have now married and are a happy couple. We can hear Dolores laugh in her kitchen, it crosses the street and enters our RV. Neat.
Then it’s across the fields of Iowa to get to Fort Dodge where my brother lives - the corn looks lush: tall and green. the soybeans look equally as good. Looks like a great harves for the Iowa farmers.

Lots of wind turbine blades on the move. We noticed lots of new turbines as we drove through familiar territory.
In Fort Dodge we like to stay in Kennedy Park a country park. but there is a problem with Kennedy - there are no reserves. Well, not the usual kind of reserves. But there are those who ‘reserve’ for their friends by putting cars in the sites. This cuts out those who truly play by the rules of the park: first come, first served.

We got there about 11:00. Gary parked at the entrance to the park and I walked around looking for a full hook-up spot. I found the last available one, asked the family next door if I could borrow their wagon to put on the spot until Gary got there with the RV. As Gary drove in, I walked to the spot, took the wagon back, walked back to the spot to guide Gary in when: a woman almost ran me over with her Jeep to get into the spot then smugly said: ‘we’ve paid for it.’

If I had remembered the system, I would have checked the tag on the electric pole and read that they had paid (maybe) for 8/24 and this was 8/26. But, her car was there. Kennedy park is nice but the management is extremely poor. No one - not the host, not the hostess, not the rangers - ever seems to notice that people reserve spots with their cars for days on end. Put your car in a spot on Wednesday, leave it there til Saturday when your friends come with their RV. It’s a lose, lose, lose, lose, win situation. Those who wanted to rent the spot on Wed, Thurs, Fri lost the spot, the campground lost money. Only one person won: it’s all about them. I don’t mind ‘First come, first served’ but let’s be fair about it.

Here are 3 spots with a car, a Jeep and a truck in them with tags that say 8/24. All ‘reserved.’ NO RV showed up until 8/27 in any of these spots.
AND, here’s the kicker: at $22 per spot per night - that’s $88 times 3 or $264 the campground lost.

Love the clouds massing across the sky. Long ago, when we moved here from a wooded lot in New Hampshire, the first thing I noticed was that we could see weather systems coming in. In New Hampshire, all we could see was the sky over our house. Here we can see from horizon to horizon.

And, now we’re back in Altoona, IA.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Medora, ND - Beef Packing Plant

After we visited the Chareau de Mores, we headed on down the hill to where his beef packing plant was. The Marquis could see it from his home on the hill. Nothing is left but the chimney now but it was quite big at the time.
Here is the outline of the slaughter house.
It was right next to the railroad tracks.
The ruins of the packing round out the unfulfilled dream of the Marquis. Grand idea, poor execution and he was done in by Mother Nature.
We then walked through town where we saw ond of the hotels that you could stay in while you were here. All done up in prairie western style.
The Catholic Church which the Marquise built.
Then out to the Park again. Lots of wild horses and we even saw a lone bison foraging for food. We were with a family - 2 adults and 4 kids. We were pretty high up on a steep ledge looking down on the bison when the father though he was too close and moved back considerably. The kids stayed with us. He was a long ways away and he cared more about food than us. In fact, you can tell we were quite a distance from this bison by the quality of this picture. I had to zoom in so far that it is blurry.
But we were out here to see the sun set on the Badland hills.
Back to the RV. Quite a day.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Medora, ND - The Marquis & the Marquise

“I shall be the richest financier in the world!” - Marquis de Mores

Well, things do not always turn out the way one wishes - as the Marquis de Mores found out. In 1883 he bought a 6- square mile section of land near the Little Missouri, founded a town he named after his wife, Medora, built a 26-room home that the locals sarcastically called a ‘chateau’, a hotel, several stores, built a packing plant, bought refrigerated railroad cars and planned to ship cattle already dressed to the East.
At the time, cattle were being shipped live by train to the stockyards in Chicago. However, they needed to be fed and watered along the way, most lost weight in shipment and many suffered disease and damage in the 1000-mile trip in railroad cars. Thus, the weight that the cattle man shipped and was charged for by the railroads was much more than the weight that the cattle arrived in Chicogo and the cattlemen got paid by the stockyards.
Great theory but the exection ran into some unexpected problems. The blizzard of 1887 caused many cattlemen to lose 80% of their herds, he was overextended in his finances, was too involved in other plans and schemes to manage this business, neither the railroads nor the Chicago stockyards were happy with his idea and thwarted him at every opportunity, he got into some legal problems in the area, and unfortunately Easterners preferred corn-fed beef to grass-fed beef. In the end the summer of 1886 was his last in this area.

But what a run they had and what a colorful swath they cut while they were here in Madora.
Their home is still here and now a State Historical site, and several other buildings they built are also though the packing plant burned down in 1907 and only the chimney survived. We toured the visitor center, the exhibits and the home today. Since they closed the home expecting to return, many of their furnishings were still in it when it was given to North Dakota by their son in 1936.
The home was quite elaborate for this time and place. Compare it to Roosevelt’s cabin on the range.

The Marquise was a great horsewoman, an excellent shot and loved to hunt. She joined most of the hunting trips that they organized and - get this - even wore pantaloons while she was riding.
The only trips she missed were when she was pregnant. At one time she actually took a trip to Wyoming - alone - to hunt. She rode side-saddle and the house even has her saddle along with that of her husband.

The Marquis was a most irascible man, and his arguments and fights were proverbial. He was also a formidable marksman who regularly engaged in duels. At one time he was accused of murder, was acquitted 3 times and in the end another man confessed to the murder. He almost challenged Roosevelt to a duel, because he assumed that Roosevelt was the instigator of the accusations. Had this duel taken place, the course of American history would certainly have been very different since Roosevelt was certainly no match for the Marquis. Years later Roosevelt would be elected President of the U.S!

She was quite an accomplished woman: she played the piano well, was an excellent artist and she spoke 7 languages and we saw one book in their library that was a French/Spanish dictionary.
The home was exquisitely furnished for a home on the prairie in the 1880’s. The home had lots of windows and a long hallway between the rooms on the front of the house and those on the back. This all allowed for good ventilation and cooling breezes during the intense summer heat. Here’s the office of the Marquis. Note the bricking in the corner, that is the back of the fireplace in the living room. Radiant heat in the office - how cool, or should I say ‘how warm.’
Here is the bedroom of the Marquise.
Here’s the guest room for her parents when they visited from New York. 2 twin beds AND in the same room. Certainly not something they were used to - no wonder they built their own home in town.
Maid’s room. The maids used the same stairway and the same floor that the rest of the family used. Very unusual - for New York where the Marquise came from. But, this was the North Dakota prairie and there was no bridge between the chateau and town so the maids could not live in town and walk to work in the morning.
Wine racks. Many of the bottles were still full when the home was given to the ND Park Service.
Living room lounge chair.
Dining room. Note the bricking in the corner - another part of the radiant heat.
Dining room set. The blue bown off to the left is the finger bowl. When guests were finished with their dinner, they dipped their fingers in the finger bowl, wiped them on the napkin, set the finger bowl to the upper left and the servants knew that this gues was ready for dessert.

I was especially intrigued by the folding candle stand. All folded up, it rests inside a blue velvet case.
The kitchen. The window off to the right is the passage to the dining room for food.
This is the yellowed booklet off to the left. It is a listing of some of the provisions they bought fot the house, the date and the cost.
Here’s the room that all the guests gathered in before the hunt.
And, here they are mounted and ready to go. The Marquise is to the left of center.
The view from the home over the town to the colorful Badlands on the other side. If you look closely, you can see the chimney of the packing plant off to the left of center.
It was really quite a fine home and the furnishings were quite elaborate for the frontier.

In the end:
        the meatpacking factory closed in 1887
        the hotel burned in 1886 and burned to the ground in 1907
        the stage coach closed in 1885 after only 7 months operation
        the left the chateau for the last time in 1886
        the Marquis was assassinated in North Africa 1896

But the town of Medora and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park are thriving and attracting more and more visitors every year.

You know how we enjoy the works of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Well, there was small museum on the property right next to the entry that they built for the home when the state took possession.

We really enjoyed the home and the museum. Both combine to tell a unique story: the story of the founding of Medora and the short-lived story of the Marquis and his idea. His ideas were ahead of his time but just couldn’t make a go of it.