Sunday, July 21, 2024

Peaceful State Park (mostly pictures)

 Location: Illini State Park; Marseilles, Illinois (about an hour southwest of Chicago)

This is my second Illinois State park stop on this trip and I've been really happy so far. You can tell it's an older park but it is still being maintained and operated nicely. It feels like it's an old Corps of Engineers campground that the state took over but I haven't been able to confirm that.

My campsite is right on the banks of the Illinois River which connects Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. The campground is just upriver from the Marseilles Lock and Dam. It's an active river with about 9 or so tows that pass here daily. I expected most to be grain barges but so far it seems the majority are coal barges. There isn't a good vantage point to see the dam or lock but the river is very nice.

My campsite with the Illinois River in the background. Nightly cost for electric only, is $20.00 which is about a 25% increase from the average COE.

This is the view from my door. The super large building in the background overshadows everything in this area. The dam is also in view 

This is the area directly behind my campsite and the view out my back window

Sunset on the first night. I just open my door and there it is. Nice


I wasn't feeling to good yesterday evening so I'm finishing this post today. I had a belly ache that came on late yesterday afternoon, probably from eating too much watermelon. It sure was good while eating it though. So, without a nice looking woman to tell me I'll be OK, I went to bed early. You women don't know the healing power of your soft hands and soothing voices. I'll finish this post with some pictures and captions around the area. 

Nice set of boat ramps to access the river. 

This was taken from the end of one of the docks at the boat ramp. It shows an overall view of the area. To the left is the man made canal going to the lock. In the center is the dam and bridge. To the right is the Nabisco building and the diversion canal.

This narrow roads run parallel to the canal leading to the lock. The road got much worse before reaching the lock. I was hoping to find a nice viewing point but was disappointed. 

This is what is at the end of that rough road. It is the Illinois Fallen Soldier Surround of Honor. All of the trees are part of the memorial. Just to the right, about 1,000 yards is the lock for the river. Nice and peaceful place.

This is one of the small pull-offs along the rough road. Very calming place. 

This is the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial. It is located on the bank of the river just downstream of the dam. It is the only memorial in the country dedicated to the fallen military in the Middle East conflicts (undeclared war). It was erected by Illinois bikers. Nice find.

The dedication plaque at the Middle East wall

As I said earlier, this building dominates everything around here. It is the Nabisco building/factory. It was built in 1920 and manufactured the carton for Nabisco products (ie, oreo's). It was the first air conditioned factory in the mid-west at the time. 

One of the many tows that passed by. This is looking out my back window

This a sunrise, also looking out my back window. 

Last picture out my back window. A color coordinated tow boat and barges. 

Today is moving day and just a short tow of about an hour to another Illinois state park. This has been a nice and peaceful stop. 

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Hiding from Tornado and Busted Explorations

 Location: Johnson Sauk Trail State Recreation Area; Kewanee, Illinois.

This campground is an Illinois State Park and located about an hour east of Davenport, Iowa. It's about 10 miles south of I-80. I had mentioned I was looking forward to some interstate towing and it was all good. Especially after crossing into llinois where the quality of the roadway dramatically improved. I hope that continues since I'll be in Illinois for the next few weeks with stops at four more State Parks. 

Here is my required travel picture. It is a newly paved I-80 in Illinois. The blew by without stopping at the Iowa-80 truck stop which is supposedly the biggest truck stop in the world. I stopped there a few years and didn't fill like bothering with all of the traffic

This is the entrance road to the campground. No, my campsite isn't among those tall pines. But they look nice. They looked a little like a grove of aspens from out west.

This is our campsite. Not directly under the trees but close enough for some walnuts to fall on Liberty.

This is the front window in Liberty. I can lay in my bed and look up and out this window. The limbs of that tree on the left were blowing like crazy.

Freedom's cracked windshield

Corn and more corn on a nice county road

My current campground is the one I had to make reservations for just a couple weeks ago since the Corps cancelled by reservation at a COE park along the Mississippi River due to flooding. As I crossed the river on my way here, they weren't kidding, the river looked very swollen. But surprises didn't end with the flooding because I received an email informing me that there wasn't any water in the campground I'm currently at due to a bad well. Bad Juju,,,?? Maybe, I'm still not sure yet. I always use my fresh water tanks so that wasn't a problem and since I was was told in advance of arriving, all I had to do was fill my tank before leaving my old campground. When I arrived here, there were only two other campers in this big loop of campsites. Both of them left during the morning of the second day. I've been the only camper on this loop since then. 

My plans for this area was to explore the Hennepin Canal and Visitor's Center, visit the local Historical Society Museum and pick up three prescriptions from the local Walmart. I went to the visitor's center and saw a part of the old canal. The canal was built more than 100 years ago and allowed cargo to be shipped from Lake Michigan at Chicago to the Mississippi River below Davenport. It was essentially outdated soon after its completion so it sits as a reminder. It was mostly a let down with a ranking of 3. For ya'll bike riders out there, there is a trail that runs parallel to the old canal with campground (tents) located along the trail. The local museum was closed and not due to re-open until Thursday. I did have success at getting my prescriptions fill. I called the Walmart late last week and I picked them up on Day 2 after the disappointments. My love affair with Walmart continues.

At midnight on the evening of day 1, Liberty started rocking and rolling with wind buffeting her badly and strong rain pelting her. Some unripened walnuts hit her roof a few times with a big thud. At the time I wasn't sure what it was that was hitting us and only found out the following morning. I opened the shade that covers the front window on Liberty and could lay in my bed to see outside. I swear the limbs of the tree near us was spinning in circles. This all lasted about 30 minutes. The following morning I checked for damage. I didn't see any on Liberty's sides and decided to check her roof today since the weather would be better. No damage there either. I can't say the same for Freedom. Something hit her windshield and cracked it pretty good. I'm still not sure what it was but suspect it to be a limb that the wind threw like a javelin. I don't know if I'll attempt to get the windshield replaced while on the road or wait to be back to home base. The only warning I got on my phone was severe thunderstorms but it sure seemed like more than that. There were limbs and trees down everywhere.  

The evening of day 2 had the storms coming back, but this time it was a tornado warning on my cell phone. Luckily, I knew the name of the county I was in so I knew it was close. What surprised me though was the warning on my phone specifically called out the name of the campground. Wow, that was a first. About that time, the camp host knocked on the door and said they were headed to a shelter down by the lake. I told her I was thinking about riding it out but if I changed my mind I would take shelter in the bathroom about 100 yards away. She said they are all locked up due to the campground not having water. So, for the first time in my travels, I abandoned Liberty and drove to the shelter near the lake. Reports were coming in about a tornado to the west of us and I could hear tornado sirens going off in all directions. It got a little hairy there for while. After about 45 minutes the Tornado Warning expired and Accuweather was telling me that the weather front had passed on to the east. I drove back to Liberty and didn't see any damages. Today, day 3, has been a nice weather day with the temperature being a little cooler but the high humidity is sticking around a little longer. I stayed around the campground today and checked Liberty's roof and just took it easy.

The view out the back window of Liberty. I'm still the only one in this loop and it's a little bit spooky. I would imagine that area is full of kids on a normal day.

Tomorrow is moving day with only about a 75 miles tow along I-80 to another Illinois State Park east of here. I think I have a nice campsite reserved along the Illinois River. Fingers crossed.

Good news!! I had a giant epiphany which killed one of my major memory demons. I believe that one will be gone for good. I think I'll tell myself the tornado took it away. Good riddance too because it had been around for a very long time.  

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Which Wolf Wins & The Last COE

 Location: West Overlook COE Campground; Iowa City, Iowa

There are two wolves inside all of us.

They are constantly fighting each other.

One is darkness and despair.

The other is light and hope.

We should always be asking ourselves......

Which Wolf Wins ???

(The answer is at the end of the post. Ponder on the question for a while before looking) I read this a few days ago and it's had a pretty good impact on me so I wanted to document it in the blog. 


This is the 13th Corps of Engineers campground on this trip and sadly my last for a while. I haven't made reservations for my return trip to Louisiana after the FROG Rally in Goshen, Indiana during the week of August 11th so I may be able to stay in some on the way back. I've stayed at this COE before, back in 2016. Wow, 8 years. But one of the great things about a blog is that I can re-read what I wrote back then and immediately be transported mentally and emotionally back in time. I'll post the link to that post instead of re-writing all of the same information. Here's the link >> Old Blog Post

 I think I made the link correctly, if not, the date of the post is August 22, 2016 and you can go to it by using the archive listing on the right side of this post.

I was greeted with a nice sunrise before hitching up. That campground was great for both sunrises and sunsets. I'll try to remember that.

More southern Iowa highways. Years ago, a few people requested these types of pictures so they could see the change in landscape. I don't know if they are still following the blog or not.

Our campsite on the left with Coralville Lake in the background

The view of the lake out my back window. Lots of boats on the water today.
The emergency spillway for the dam. Imagine 5 feet of water flowing over it for 28 continuous days. Just a hint about what's in the old blog post.

This is looking downstream from the emergency spillway. That is the bedrock with fossils that was exposed after the Flood of 1993.
This is from the fossil gorge looking back at the spillway. I'm standing on the bedrock with fossils.

This is from the visitor's center, which was closed, looking down on the dam/lake. This is the same place I took a picture back in 2016. The difference is now there is a bench but before there was a swinging bench.

Iowa City is the hometown of the University of Iowa. One of the most famous recent graduates is Caitlin Clark. She is a rookie in the WNBA for the Indianapolis Fever. I've seen a lot of video of her lately and really enjoy the way she plays the game. I'm not going to get into it any more than that, but if you see some of her highlights, think of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. 

I went to the Museum of Natural History located on the college campus. It is an urban campus and everything looked great. You can feel the pride everywhere. I like going to Natural History museums to see what the latest tricks are to make me believe something that, according to "them", happened 375 million years ago. The museum is laid out well with nice looking displays. The building itself was one of the most interesting things for me to explore. It was worth the 1 1/2 hours I spent exploring it. I'm also glad I saw downtown Iowa City and the campus. It is a good vibe location.

This is the only picture I'm posting from the Museum of Natural History. It is an Ice Age Giant Sloth. A sloth is one of my grandson's favorite animal. Maybe someday in the future, 20 or 30 years from now, Nate will read this blog post and know that I was thinking of him when I posted this picture. 


Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be entering Illinois for a 3 day stay at one of their state parks. The tow will only be a little more than 100 miles with almost all of it being on I-80. I think it will be nice to be back on the interstate system again. My route so far has avoided the interstate because the FHWA didn't build any interstates where I wanted to go. Oh well, we'll see how it goes. I do remember a lot of the interstates in Illinois and Indiana were rough and bumpy. 

Answer: Whichever Wolf you Feed !!

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

A Nice Hug in Walmart & Coal Mining in Iowa?

 Location: Island View Campground (COE); Mystic, Iowa (south central Iowa)

I crossed into Iowa with the only noticeable change in landscape being flatter land and more corn and soy beans. It seems I left the hills of the northern edge of the Ozarks behind. It surprised me, but I like the change. I've been in the hills/small mountains since I left Louisiana back on June 1st. I expect the amount of corn and soy beans to increase as I go deeper into Iowa.

You know you're in Iowa when you see a large American flag over some grain silos next to a John Deere dealership.

I got lucky on moving day as some thunderstorms passed across my path. Accuweather kept me up to date and to give the storms more time to move along, I stopped at a gas station to fill up with gas and get some Godfather Pizza. 

Liberty is lined up just right for a sunset right out her door although the clouds were blocking it on the first night.

Sunrise on the morning of Day 2 as I'm looking at a little bit of angle out my back window.

I've gotten into the habit of stopping at Walmart on moving days. All of my tows are short enough that I don't have to stop for fuel but long enough where I need to use the restroom and stretch my legs. I also pick up anything I need to top off my pantry, icebox or freezer. It's nice to take things directly from the store to the icebox (that's refrigerator for my yankee friends). Anyway, as I was walking around the aisles picking up a few things I noticed a large, older woman hugging a few people. Apparently, she had run into some family or friends that she hadn't seen in a while. As I passed them, I said, "Are you the designated hugger for Walmart?" She replied, "Honey, if you need a hug, I'll sure give you one", and she did. It was a good one too. I couldn't remember the last good hug I had received/gave. I'll be on the look out for more huggers in the future because I hadn't realized I was "hug starved". 

My campsite at Island View. It is nice to have a lake view from Liberty again. I've been missing it.

The Mayflies showed up on day 2. I'm guessing this batch hatched due to the rains from the day before. They aren't harmful and don't bite. They just sort of hang out.
A lot of the Mayflies had already flown away before I took this picture. I feel sorry for them because their lifespan is only a couple of days.

A better sunset on Day 2

This campground is on Rathbun Lake which was built between 1964 and 1971. Sadly, it isn't a hydroelectric dam but it does provided water for 16,000 families around here. This is the kind of infrastructure that has so many uses that it should be a no-brainer to build more. Just like the lake at my last campground, this lake has its gates closed and not releasing any water. I'm assuming that is because they are serving another one of their purposes and that is to help alleviate any flooding on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. It's probably working like it should and they don't need another engineer butting into their business.

Another roller-compacted earth fill dam with a very pretty lake behind it.

This is some of the native prairie grasses that were planted and thrived. It helps to visualize what the pioneers first saw as they crossed the Great Plains.

I visited the local museum today. It was the Appanoose Historical and Coal Mining Museum at Centerville. The coal mining is what caught my attention since I was unaware of coal mining in Iowa. From what I learned, at one time there were close to 300 small coal mines in Appanoose County. A small coal mining town would spring up around the mine where the miners lived and shopped. Most of the miners were immigrants from around the world. Most would arrive in New York City and be processed through Ellis Island. The ones that couldn't speak English had a piece of paper with the name of the town and state they wanted to go. In this case, it was Centerville, Iowa. The 1920 census showed immigrants in Appanoose County from 40 different nations. Married men with mining experience in the old country would come first then after enough money was saved, he would send for the rest of his family. He earned $50.00 per month. Most of the miners dreamed after getting their families here and then begin saving money to buy a few acres of farm land and become farmers. American farmers. Not Armenian-American farmers, just American.

Most of the mines were small and somewhat shallow with a minimum head room of 5 feet. That minimum is due to the use of Shetland Ponies to haul the coal sleds out of the mine. From what little I've learned, the coal in this area is mostly block coal and was mined with pick axes into large blocks. It was used locally for heat during the winter. Lots of the miners would farm during the late spring into early fall then go back into the mines for the winter. The last mine in the county closed down in March of 1971. It wasn't because the mine played out, it was due to a highway being located on top of the entrance and the owner deciding it wasn't worth opening another entrance somewhere else.


It was a small museum and I was mainly going to see the coal mining section. I was happy to see the military memorial section. Notice the flag with the 48 stars. Remember, Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the union in 1959.

I liked the advertisement of "block coal". Also the picture of a typical mining town.

The list of the 40 nations that were living in the county in 1920. By the way, Japan was not one of the 40.

Tonight's sunset. This is looking out my door. I was lucky the wind had blown the Mayflies away for a while.

Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be headed to another COE campground just north of Iowa City. 

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.  

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Some Good Vibe Places from 10 Years of Travels

Location: Frank Russell Campground (COE); Monroe City, Missouri about 100 miles northwest of St. Louis

The tow to this campground is one of the shortest in my history. It was only 5 miles. I'm still camped on Mark Twain Lake although I don't have a lake view. I had a lot of those at the beginning of my trip and I miss them. Maybe I'll get lucky again soon. It's a nice quiet campground and I used it for just hunkering down for the fourth of July. In the past, it has been a wild time in the campgrounds during holidays, but this one was quiet and calm. Not many kids running around and fireworks are banned in the COE's. I'm sure the dogs of campers like that a lot.

The driveway slopes a little bit but if you plan ahead you have enough tongue jack to level up.

Most people that know me, know I'm a believer in vibes and signs. That may sound a little counter-intuitive and go against someone with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. I have definitely relied on logic and science all of my personal and professional life and I've paid a price for that a few times in my personal life, hence some of my memory demons. The way I've resolved the conflict is I've sorted things out like, God is the bedrock with science taking a predominate role followed closely with "vibes and signs". Since I retired, science began taking more of a back seat since I didn't need it every day and I found myself relying more and more on my feelings, vibes and signs. Fortunately, I can turn my science side on,,,,wait a minute, that doesn't sound right, let me re-word that. Fortunately, I can use my science side whenever I need it. 

I have always recognized good/bad vibes but since I started traveling solo 10 years ago, I've become more in tune with it. Most of the time, I can get a read on the vibe of a place immediately. That place can be a campground, campsite, whole town, cafe, gas station or an entire state. I'm beginning to sound like a hippie, but I've also began to believe they were about 80% right back then instead of my believing they were 80% wrong. 

I guess I need to try to define what a "good vibe" is all about. Usually, it is an immediate sense of "peace and good will". A feeling that everything is alright. I was just reminded of the biggest good vibe feeling I ever had. It was when I almost rode a motorcycle off a mountain road. I was absolutely sure I was about to die and suddenly I had a complete sense of peace which I have ever since called a "good vibe". A "bad vibe" is the exact opposite. A sense of foreboding (wow, I've never used that word before, but it works here). It can sometimes be a sense of danger or extreme sadness. 

OK, now that I've put in writing my near craziness, I guess I should call out some of the good vibe places I've found in my 10 years of traveling around this great country of ours. By the way, Washington D.C. is a good vibe place for me.

I thought about putting them in order but I decided I couldn't do that. As much as I rank things ie, Reuben sandwiches, states, women, sunsets, etc., I couldn't find a way to rank a feeling. Maybe it's impossible to do so. 

Some may surprise you, I know some surprised me:

Duluth, Minnesota: 

You go down a long hill to reach Duluth and as soon as I started down the hill, I immediately got a good vibe about the whole place. In this case, the good vibe covers the entire area from Duluth to Superior, Wisconsin and up the coast of Lake Superior.

Looking down on Duluth and Lake Superior

The Columbia River Gorge:

This good vibe area covers the entire length of the river from the Pacific Ocean to the Bonneville Dam. It also includes most of the Oregon coast or at least the northern half. While we're talking about Oregon, I was surprised that I did not get a good vibe while at Crater Lake. It was an absolutely beautiful place and I can fully understand why someone I knew once cried when she first saw it, but it didn't light my vibe meter up one way or the other.

Looking up the Columbia River from the Vista House

One of the best sunsets I've seen. The thing on the beach is what's left of the Peter Iredale, a shipwreck from 1906.


Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park:

When I explored Sedona, Arizona, I was expecting to be bombarded with good vibes from all of their supposed vortexes, but I wasn't. However, when I explored the Stupa in Sedona, I was immediately surrounded by good vibes and a sudden sense of peace. This is also one of the few places where I could feel the good vibe leaving me as I left the Stupa area. I have personally known other people who have felt the same way, so it may be crazy, but maybe not. It definitely is a little spooky though.


My first sight of Lake Huron:

I couldn't figure it out at first. The campground I was staying at was Lakeport State Park which is just a little north of where Lake Huron empties into the St. Clair River on its way to Lake Erie. The campground emitted a good vibe but I couldn't put my finger on why. The campsite wasn't easy to back into and there were lots of people around so I expected it to be bad. I found out the reason for the good vibe while walking on the path from the campground to the lake. The lake was the brightest blue I had seen in a very long time. It was a fantastic sight. I thought maybe that was what was giving off the good vibe but it wasn't. On the way back to Liberty, I noticed the pile of small hand-painted stones that I had missed on my way to the lake. I was standing there looking at them when a child walked up to the pile and placed a stone down. He turned to look at his mother for approval and she nodded her head as if to say "good job". I couldn't hold it in any longer and asked about the pile. She said, the campground is a favorite place for the locals and they all come there during the summer. She didn't know when it all started, but during a person's last stay at the campground for the season (fall), they would find a nice stone, which are everywhere around there, and take it home for the winter. During the off season, the family would paint it with personal things then bring it back to the campground on their first camping trip the next year. They would place the stones in a pile and I was looking at the beginning of that pile. The woman said she could recognize the stones of several people she knew. I was there in July and she said by the end of the season, the pile may be 10 times the size that it was. I figured the good vibes for the area were coming from all of those stones. They had absorbed the good vibes of the families as they painted them and placed them in the pile. It was one of my biggest "wow" moments. I've thought about going back to the campground to check it out again, but am worried about tainting a good memory.

Just a pile of stones? or a pile of "good vibes"?


Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula

I usually go through High Island to get to Galveston. As you leave High Island, you suddenly see the Gulf of Mexico and then turn right. The good vibes begins there on arrival and ends there when you're leaving. You drive next to the Gulf for the entire length of the Bolivar Peninsula. At the end of the peninsula, you catch the free ferry to cross the Houston Ship Chanel to go onto Galveston Island. My family has had several trips/vacations to the island over the last 45 years. All of those good memories add up to good vibes. I thought I might get afflicted by bad vibes on my last visit because I learned something new about the island. I had known for years about the tragedy and thousands of deaths caused by the Hurricane of 1900, but that, surprisingly, never caused me a bad vibe. I've been to other places of mass death and gotten uneasy feelings but not here at Galveston. On my last visit, I learned about the orphans, from the orphanage, that died during the storm after they were tied to each other by a clothesline that was also tied to a nun. This was an attempt to save the children. It didn't work. But as with most things, the silver lining was it helped with finding the bodies after the storm. It seems for weeks after the storm, bodies were being found where the clothesline had snagged on fences, trees or other obstructions. The other twist to the story I learned on my last visit is that Walmart is built on the site of the old Orphanage. Stories are told of toys being mysteriously found on the floor of the toy aisles and children's voices can sometimes be heard. I don't know about that, but I know my Galveston Good Vibe continues even when visiting the Walmart.          

A statue along the seawall for the people who died during the storm. Even with all the tragedy, good vibes are always here for me.


This is only a few of the good vibe places I've experienced. I may add more in future posts.

Moving day is tomorrow and it is on some two lane roads without any shoulders. Freedom has been acting up a little so I hope she doesn't freak out again.

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.