Oh where to start??? It’s been a month since we last wrote a travel post. Let’s back up to June 6, 2017. We’ve been hitting the road hard and we have had an AMAZING summer so far! If you want to see details/pictures, we post almost daily on our Travel Facebook page, so stop by, look around at our photos and like it if you haven’t already. If you have, thank you! In addition to this lame excuse for not blogging, some of the remote areas we visited didn’t have many cell towers. Oh the internet access woes of full time travelers!
We decided to spend a month in WISCONSIN! How did that happen? When Bill was trying to plan our route back to Virginia, he originally planned to go via Michigan and a northern route. But then something drew his eye to Wisconsin. And we learned a lesson recently: No more “flying” through a state – we want to savor our journeys as we go….
So we decided to see a few new places as we headed north to Wisconsin from Lake Rend near Mount Vernon, Illinois. Bill does an amazing job of finding GREAT places to explore on our routes. Our first stop was in Utica, Illinois, home of Starved Rock State Park.
Our first leg there, to Utica was our longest so far, 284 miles, nearly 5 hours of driving – and not what we prefer, but thankfully, the trip went smooth as silk! We stayed in Hickory Hollow Campground, which had it all! It is a Passport America park ($20 cash and excludes weekends) for full hook up, 50 amp and wifi. It was conveniently located with easy access in and out and very well maintained. Our site, G3, was relatively flat. We did have an issue with the 50 amp circuit breaker. It blew a few times – so they sent out their on-site electrician who fixed it in a flash! He said they were going to close soon for a short time to re-do their electric hook ups.
We arrived around 3:00 pm. While Bill hooked up, I drove about 15 minutes to Starved Rock State Park to get a hiking map – the on-line access to figure out which trail to hike was complicated! Plus, it was great to get oriented as we are never sure how things will be until we get there….
After I returned with the map, I was excited as it looked like there was an easy hike to see a small canyon….Only for Bill to THEN say we were fortunate as we could have had a disaster like Wheeling It when their tow car became detached on one “arm” and suffered car and motorhome damage! Their clamp actually broke, but ours just didn’t properly attach – Bill learned a GREAT lesson that day! He hadn’t realized with over 10,000 tow miles there is a certain way to insert the pin.
We are loving the longer days in Central Time! We started this hike around 5:30 pm, after dinner. We finished it by 7:30. We stopped and talked with a few families, but by 7:15, the mosquitoes came out for their dinner! So we hustled back to the car. We had no idea how much we accomplished. Below are some map images of our three days of hiking, where we nearly hiked the entire park – but sadly, we didn’t go to the actual Starved Rock!
Let’s get oriented before we show you more pictures. This main overview of the hikes with individual hikes are on this website (go there and you will see why it was confusing to figure out the trails.) First is a snapshot of an overview of the park, with the hikes we completed outlined in yellow highlight. French Canyon, Lover’s Leap and Eagle Cliff were just too busy (and had lots of stairs) for us to try.
On day two, Thursday, June 7, 2017, we hiked about 8 miles and saw the majority of the Canyons and they were amazing. But it hadn’t rained for a while so the falls were not so magnificent – but it was still so amazingly beautiful. Here are just three pictures to try to show the magnitude of these canyons!
On our day three, a Friday, June 8, 2017, we figured it would be a busier day so we planned accordingly. But we never expected such HUGE crowds! We love solitude when we hike. We were so glad we covered most of the trails the day before. We tried to enjoy the magnitude and beauty of the remaining canyons, but we skipped some because of the crowds. We still managed to hike about 5 1/2 miles.
To see more pictures of Starved Rock State Park, click here for day 1, click here for day 2 and/or click here for day 3. Sorry, there are just too many for me to try and process….internet connectivity issues????
Our next leg of our journey out of Illinois was much easier and about as perfect of a route as it can get. BUT since we were heading to VERY unknown territory, we only traveled just under 100 miles. It only took over two hours drive time. We selected Thomson’s Causeway, a US Army Corps of Engineers due to it’s proximity to our route into Wisconsin. We arrived the first day it opened for the season, due to flooding! It was rather pleasant park, small and had electric only (we had a 50 amp site). They had water spigots around the campground, but we were about 5 feet to far away to top off our tank! We stayed there June 10 – 15, 2017 and at $10 a night, it was a real bargain!
Since the park was small and the town very rural, we decided to explore the area. We saw a “Visitor Center” when I googled it, only about 10 miles away, so we headed out to get information about the area. What we could see via the internet, there just wasn’t much to do or see around here…and as it turned out, it was no longer a visitor center. It was now called the “Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center.” This is a very rural and remote location we were staying in. They tried to be helpful, but couldn’t help us with hiking options. The center had nice geographic maps on the walls of the area so we were able to quickly learn, our best “hiking” was going to be around our campground. We went back to the campground and learned our way around – we discovered we could get in a 5 mile walk a day without going in circles! And we learned what “pit” toilets were! Thankfully, since we have our own bathroom, we’ll do all we can to avoid visiting a pit!
The next day, Sunday, while looking for a church, we learned we were close to Iowa! We selected a church there to attend and discovered a sweet little town with some tourism options. We ended up spending a few days touring around Clinton, Iowa. We hit up a grocery store but missed a 1:00 pm tour of the Lock and Dam 13. So we went back on Monday, we watched a barge go through it on our way back over to Clinton.
We then visited the unique Sawmill Museum and learned about the lumber business that put Clinton, Iowa on the map! Here is an excerpt to explain what we experienced in a nutshell in this quaint museum:
Located at 2231 Grant Street, Clinton, IA, Phone: 563-242-0343
Lumber built Clinton, not just the buildings and barns, but it fathered the industry that brought the railroad, the immigrants, and the entrepreneurs. Listen to the legends and stories that made the lumberjack a national hero, then experience what life was really like in a lumber camp. Hear the buzz from the saw mill as logs are cut into the lumber and envision the workings of the Struve Mill where hundreds of pieces of wood became beautiful trims, doors and flooring. Catch a glimpse of a worker’s life or entertain with the millionaire’s family as you visit “Clinton, the Lumber Capital of the World” and other exhibits at the Sawmill Museum.
Click here to see more photos of the Lock and Dam and the Museum.
One such millionaire we learned about in the museum was George M. Curtis. We decided we had to tour his mansion (see our pictures here) the next day.
Located at 420 5th Avenue South | Clinton, IA | 563-242-8556
Constructed in 1883, the Mansion was the home of lumber baron, George M. Curtis. It served as a showcase for his business with each room featuring a different wood and decorated with the flower of the tree from which the wood was obtained. Feel the essence to what it was like to enjoy afternoon tea on the veranda of a Victorian mansion – home of millionaire lumber barons.
After we toured the home, we still have time to do something else interesting. A friend and her husband just did some traveling in their new Class C. They stopped in LeClaire, Iowa to visit the Antique Archaeology store, you know, the Pickers? Since we are fans of the show, we decided we’d make the additional 20 mile trip down there. This map shows us in Thomson, Illinois (green dot), trip around the lock and dam area of the Mississippi, to Clinton, Iowa (B dot) then down to LeClaire, Iowa. The round trip was about 60 miles – more than we normally like to do, but we’re so close!
The day we arrived in LeClaire, they were filming the show. We could hear Dani on the phone with Mike Wolfe and Frank. If you don’t recognize these names, they are on the History Channel, The American Pickers. We weren’t able to see inside the storefront where Dani allegedly holds down the fort. But we were able to shop in the “warehouse” next door. Bill has been an iced tea drinker since a teen. NEVER would he drink a hot drink. But that changed with his “heart disease” (he’s fine, really, some doctors just overreact to what a heart CAT scan might reveal)….he had to radically change how he eats and drinks! He did a lot of research and learned a cup of hot green tea of a morning would be good for him. He was using a wimpy “tea” cup so we finally got him a manly tea cup:
For a few more pictures of our time in LeClaire, click here. I spoke to a new employee in the store. Since she was new, she couldn’t tell us much. She did tell us Mike’s mom lives in town so he does come by periodically. She did like the fact we said we were fans of the show – job security for her!
So why did we decide to spend five days in this remote location? And then we seemed to travel to do anything fun? Well, we really needed the time to also figure out what we were going to do in Wisconsin. We hadn’t had much time to do that research. Sometimes you just have to get away to get away! But we actually really liked this location since it helped us discover Iowa! We’ll add Iowa as a state to spend more time in after the positive experiences we had.
And finally, we headed to Wisconsin! So much to do and see and so little time!!! For our first leg there, since it was going to be all new territory, we kept it short. We only drove 90 miles and took under two hours drive time to get to our first destination. We were limited on where to stay as we learned many RV campgrounds don’t have full hook ups – we are spoiled since we have a full sized refrigerator – we need 50 amps, and I love to wash a load of clothes every day. Hiking like we do means we could “dirty” two sets of clothes a day. We had wanted to get closer to Madison, but as it turned out, Dodgeville was the perfect location and we had a fabulous introduction to Wisconsin. So stay tuned…..
Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you!” Psalms 37:5