Monday, August 1, 2005

The Minnesota and Iowa Research Trip

The end of June finds us packing Montana with tons of research, books, files, and computer gear for a month long trip to Minnesota and Iowa for family research. We drove from lower Michigan to the UP of Michigan, crossed the Big Mac bridge, drove the UP westward into Wisconsin. There is some pretty land up that way! We enjoyed our trip on Route 8 of Wisconsin. We eventually dropped down to Wausau Wisconsin to find a place to park Montana for the night. We ended up at Rib Mountain State Park. That turned into quite a little adventure. It is 700 feet higher than the elevation of the town, and we did not measure, but think that 700 feet took less than a mile to go up! Whew, what a pull, the next morning, we took the same road down, in FIRST gear, all the way, and Al still had to do some serious breaking. Got to the campground to discover there were only 2 electric sites, for handicapped campers. They said it would be ok to take one, as long as we knew that we might have to move if a handicapper came in. We tried for 45 minutes to get settled in the site, the view was unreal! But, alas, it was not meant to be, so we carefully pulled around to another site and enjoyed a very early evening. When it got dark we turned off the lights and went to bed. No electric, which is Ok, but we were not prepared for boondocking. It was worth it tho to see that view and have the experience and the story to tell!

The next day brought a scenic ride through the heart of Wisconsin. Dairy country, and home of the most wonderful silos. Have never seen that many silos! You would crest a hill and before you in the miles of farm land, you might see 30 or more silos.

Onward to Minneapolis, we stayed in a wonderful park at Apple Valley, just south of Minneapolis. It was close to the Mall of America, IKEA, the libraries we wanted to visit and turned out to be a wonderful place to stay. Very clean, neat and well patroled on a July 4th weekend.

Next we moved down to Austin Minnesota area, we traveled east and west of Austin to cemeteries and towns where Al's ancestors lived. We visited the Spam Museum in Austin. What a hoot! They sure had a sense of humor when they set up the displays, but, it was also rather interesting.

One thing that we noticed was the unusual flower displays in many of the cemeteries in this area. This was the first time we had seen the poles, and flowers, well, here is a picture, better than trying to describe with words.


Each pot of flowers is held about 2 to 3 feet above ground on a sturdy metal pole. The pots are a decorative clay type, heavy and probably 10 inches or more in diameter. The pots can be removed in the fall for the winter season and safe storage.

One of the most memorable days we spent in Minnesota was the day we drove over to Whalen. Al's grandfather was born there in 1879. We had no idea what we would find, just just drove over one Sunday afternoon. It was hot, we had the dogs with us, which of course, limited our choices of restaurants for the day. We happened to find a A & W Root Beer Drive In. Been a long time since we had visited one of these, brought back a lot of memories from our early days of marriage. What fun! After lunch we drove on to Whalen, here is the sign at the edge of town.



We discover that Whalan had 135 people living there in 1880, and that the highest population ever reported was 156. It is a charming town, has a bike trail and a great little museum. There is river rafting and tubing near by. Whalen lies in the Bluff area, very charming, with hills, and rivers.

Our Minnesota/Iowa Research trip took us next to Nashua, Iowa. We stayed in a riverside campground, nice place, but they had horrendous rains about a month before we arrived, and the "skitters" were horrible. When they are still attacking at 4 AM, you know they are bad! We spent about a week there, again visiting many cemeteries (9 in one day in one county) and libraries. We took LOTS of photos and the library visits resulted in a few successes and a few failures.

The weather turned HOT! The weekend of July 16 and 17th the temps were in the mid 90's, heat factor was well over 100. OUCH!

Next, we traveled down to Cedar Falls, Iowa. We met up with some Jaquis family members, nice people, great visit. Stayed in a county park, very reasonable rates, full hookups, beautiful scenery. Very hot while we were here as well, and the humidity was also very high. Our glasses would steam up when we left the trailer.

When we left Cedar Falls the fun and working part of the trip was over. We headed back east, stopping in Elkhart Indiana for some repairs to the air conditioner on Montana. Spent a few days there and then headed back up US 12 and home. We were on the road for a little over a month.

This was a trip that will be part of our hearts and souls forever. We hope to go back sometime.

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