Monthly Archives: June 2015

Sightseeing review: Iowa Living History Farms – Des Moines, IA

PHOTO_20150629_132932.jpg At Living History Farms near Des Moines, IA we stepped back into the early days of Iowa. From the visitor’s Center we rode a tractor pulled wagon back in time to the 1700s farm which was represented by Kiowa Indian garden and housing. I thought it was interesting that these Native Americans constructed their homes so that they stayed warmer in the winter than did those of the earliest European settlers from the east.

IMG_3689.JPG Our time travels continued as we walked a short distance to the 1850s Pioneer Farm. These farmers had a small barn, a smoke house, and a one room log cabin – kitchen and bedroom all in one. We found the “family” of folks, dressed up in period clothing finishing up their noon meal. The farmer was about to go back to field and the women chatted with us as they scraped the leftovers into a container for the pigs later and prepared to wash dishes. Let me mention that, while the people are dressed up in period clothing they aren’t “in character.” They are interpreters rather than actors.

IMG_3709.JPG From there we walked down a rather steep trail and across a lovely stream to the 1900 farm. This is a more substantial property with a large barn for keeping the animals, a corn crib, a machine shed, a chicken coop, and a period house with several rooms set up for an average family of the day. This farm has horses, mules, and pigs. Here, too, the “residents” were cleaning up from lunch and going back to their farm chores. Chatting with them was a lot of fun and quite educational.

Our journey back to the present concluded with a visit to the Wallace Exhibit Center. One interesting exhibit was a modern day kitchen, but with 1940’s-50’s versions of the same appliances next to the more current ones. Outside the building is a small play area for younger children.

100_4063.JPG Our time travel wasn’t yet complete because we rode the wagon back to the 1875 town of Walnut Hill that we had bypassed earlier. The Flynn home mansion on the hill is the original house on the property. It was built by a wealthy railroad man turned cattleman, turned business man. It has two stories with three kitchens and is filled with beautiful furniture. The wood is all original and it is lovely! We walked through the town enjoying seeing the smithy, drugstore, general store, doctor’s office, implement dealer, newspaper and church. At most of the buildings there’s an interpreter who told us about the building and its contents. The last house we visited as the Tangen Home; a house representative of that which would be owned by a successful family in 1875. In this case the family was Norwegian. They lived in Iowa in the late 1800s. The house is nicely, but not lavishly, furnished.

Our final stop was back at the visitors’ center gift shop where a variety of candy, toys and other gift and souvenir items are for sale. Let me mention that traveling from farm to farm does require a lot of walking and the trails are dirt with some steep areas. If you ask, the staff can suggest ways to limit walking if you want. We think our time traveling visit was well worth the effort and the price of admission.


Shortstop: Crows Creek Campground, Smithville, MO

We’re in what we call “repositioning mode” – a few days in which we travel longer distances and do shorter stays to get to a different part of the country. Because of that we did a one night “shortstop” at Crows Creek Campground on Smithville Lake, just north of Kansas City, MO. Crows Creek is a big county run campground with over 400 campsites. Around half of the sites have 30 or 50 amp electric and a good number of the 30 amp sites have water hookups too. I think all but a couple of sites are back-in. There are no sites with sewer connections, but there is a large dump station near the entrance to the campground. We saw a nice playground and the grass was freshly mowed. The restrooms were clean. Many of the campsites are near the lake, although I think all the lakefront sites are electric only (no water hookups). The campground is less than 10 miles west of I35, but County Road E, which you travel the last 3 or 4 miles is rather narrow and a bit rough in spots. Our Verizon signal was a good 4G and it should be pretty easy to get a satellite signal there.


Sightseeing Review: Branson, MO and vicinity

100_4025.JPG Branson, MO is a very interesting and entertaining town. There’s something for everyone – from shopping malls to independent stores, from amusement parks to shows. Since this is a world-class tourism area there’s no shortage of things to see and do. You can search the internet to see all that is available…I’ll just tell you about what we did on this visit. On future visits we’re sure to find many other attractions to enjoy.

PHOTO_20150620_194057.jpg Our family caught the courtesy downtown trolley near the free parking at The Landing and rode to Main Street where the old downtown Branson shops are. We especially enjoyed Dick’s Five and Dime store which is very popular and is a great place to pick up small items. I also enjoyed the ice cream and fudge shops. There are several antique stores around town and we had fun looking at all the things for sale. Saturday night we went to a free outdoor jazz concert by the Taneycomo Festival Orchestra at the Fountain on The Lake. This group is a nonprofit organization that gives two weeks of free concerts during the summer. They were very good!

Silver Dollar City was fun and in spite of the rain we enjoyed the shops, rides, and a special exhibition by the Harlem Globe Trotters. Our day at Silver Dollar City was special to us because our son and family planned a vacation trip to coincide with our being here. It was fun being with them at the amusement park.

PHOTO_20150620_125719.jpg We also visited the Ralph Foster Museum, at the College of the Ozarks. This is a great museum with something for everyone. We got a kick out of seeing the original vehicle used in the “Beverly Hillbillies” TV series – after all Jed and his family supposedly discovered “Texas tea” right here in these Ozark mountains. There are several collections at the museum including dolls, weapons, and natural history.

Branson and vicinity a great vacation destination and we’re looking forward to future visits and adventures here on future travels.

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Campground review: Turkey Creek RV Village, Escapees, Hollister, MO

100_3963.JPG Our week at Turkey Creek RV Village, the Escapees Park in Hollister, MO, has been an interesting one. We’ve had extremes of weather, with lots of rain, including flash flood warnings, and then the hottest days we’ve seen in a long time with our a/c not being able to keep up with the heat and super-high humidity.

On the other hand, we thoroughly enjoyed time with our son and family as they timed a trip to Branson to coincide with our being here. We especially liked our day with them at Silver Dollar City. In spite of times of rain downpours courtesy of the remnants of tropical storm Bill it was a lot of fun. One good thing about it was that we didn’t mind getting wet on some of the water rides since we were already pretty wet as it was!

PHOTO_20150619_203642.jpg The campground itself has around 70 sites, most of them back in, with one row of pull-throughs. The sites are somewhat small and your neighbor to the back of the campsite is within a couple of feet of you. I think all the sites are full hookup and several are 50 amp. There’s a bit more space side to side. We’ve found Escapees members to be some of the friendliest RVers around and it’s easy to strike up a conversation here. There’s an activity center, office, and laundry but really, the draw here is Branson and all it has to offer rather than the campground.

PHOTO_20150619_201720.jpg Near the campground (at Hollister City Hall) there’s a short, paved trail to Hackett Falls. It’s a small, pretty waterfall. After all the rain we had, the water flow was great when we went there. Even without all the rain, you might want to check it out.

The campground is bordered by Turkey Creek and because of all the rain we’ve kept an eye on the water level. The creek has been a few feet above its banks all the time we’ve been here. Then, when the deluge of rain finally stopped and we thought we were home free, the officials at Table Rock dam announced a water release to take pressure off the dam. That meant another night of keeping an eye on the creek water level. That, thankfully, turned out to be a non-concern.

If nothing else, Turkey Creek is handy to Branson, with one of the primary shopping areas, Branson Landing, being only minutes away.

My satellite TV was easy enough to set up and I enjoyed a good Verizon 4G cell signal. All in all, this has been a good place for us, especially because of our Escapees connection and the camping discount we got here. We’ll likely return here on future trips to and through Branson.


Sightseeing Review: Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Little Rock, AR

Pinnacle Mountain State Park is just a short drive from our campground, Maumelle CoE Park and at Little Rock, AR. We especially enjoyed having our grandson, Matt, with us for our visit there. At the visitors’ center there are several dioramas, a touch table with bones, rocks, antlers and other items. There is also an area with live snakes, tadpoles, and a baby alligator. Just an easy walk from the Visitors Center is a short trail with stairs is an overlook of the Arkansas River. We enjoyed the view and while there we saw six deer come out of the trees below and cross the field. From there we drove over to the Arkansas arboretum. The paths are paved and along the trail are markers with the names of trees with several stops that have a self-powered, hand crank machines that you crank and to hear recordings of facts about the area. We took a short walk to a river overlook with a bench. I highly recommend this day use park.