Category Archives: scenic

photo of Our Rig at the Somervell Roadside Park

On the Road Again!

Teardrop Trail Log: June 10, 2017

Omaha, Nebraska, where I grew up, sits astride the famed east/west Union Pacific Railroad mainline and is midway between New York City and San Francisco on Interstate 80 — the ninth busiest highway of the Interstate system. When combined with the Nebraska attitude of getting things done, I’ve always favored traveling on major roads. Let’s not waste any time driving!

Map of 281 to Wichita Falls

Map of 281 to Wichita Falls

A move to Austin, Texas in the mid-80’s began to change my thinking. Austin is on Interstate 35, the main north/south artery between Larado, Texas and Duluth, Minnesota. With all the border-to-border truck traffic, and major cities like Dallas/Fort Worth and Oklahoma City  along its path,  it is one of the most congested highways in the Interstate system. The faster Interstate speeds are usually offset by traffic and the ever-present construction needed to maintain this vital artery.

Texas is full of historic and eccentric towns connected by scenic highways however, and I have gradually learned to love the sometimes slower, but much more interesting trips they offer. Our route to Des Moines, Iowa for the Red Power Roundup was another opportunity to enjoy the backroads of Texas.

Although I enjoy laid-back travel more and more, I still like our modern conveniences — Google and Apple Maps have transformed our travel. A quick search produced routes for one of our favorite Texas roads, Highway 281 from just south of Johnson City to Wichita Falls, Texas. It varies between two and four-lane highway, interrupted by small towns and cities along the way. Each provides a chance to stop, stretch your legs and take in an attraction or two.

The Highland Lake culture near Marble Falls and Burnet, aviation enthusiasts in Lampasas, the beautiful courthouse in Hamilton (most of Texas’ 254 counties have preserved historic and beautiful courthouses), farming around the unique town of Hico, a Depression-Era roadside park near Stephenville and re-entering more urban travel (with the promise of a Starbuck’s Mocha!) in Wichita Falls. Surprisingly, the route clocks in with a faster travel time than Interstate 35 — as long as you don’t dawdle too much!

The remainder of the route to our first stop, Edmond, Oklahoma is Interstate 44. A toll road, it is new and fast. After all that Texas sightseeing, it’s time for a nice dinner and a bed.

photo of burros along the route

Local color

photo of maps and brochures

Des Moines – Here We Come

Teardrop Trail Log: May 2017

Planning for our trips on the Teardrop Trail is always an essential part of my experience. I love exploring the possibilities. This year, Red Power Round Up, the annual gathering of the International Harvester collectors, would take place at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines from June 15 through 17. We discussed places and events we might want to see before and after the event. Trying to limit the driving to around 6 hours a day, we prefer to take the scenic route, including time to stop and stretch, grab a photo or try a local eatery when time permits. Several months before our scheduled departure, I began an intensive Internet search of websites, blogs and travel emails that would inform our route. I even tried a few on-line planning tools. Hard to believe this would be the fourth year traveling in the Ambassador, our teardrop.

We’ve been part of the Teardrop online community for quite some time, so I began posting inquiries about campgrounds, restaurants and points of interest on several groups’ Facebook pages. Members of Heartland Tear Jerkers had some great suggestions and even extended an invitation to a gathering in Rock Creek State Park, just prior to RPRU. I also reached out to Sarah Tucker of Cool Tears magazine and Marsha Corbin, the Executive Director at Old Trails Region in central Missouri. We had seen a television program of the Flint Hills in Kansas and Jim had seen an event featuring video woodworkers he followed online in Skiatook, Oklahoma. so I started researching the possibilities and contacting organizations along the route requesting brochures.

Armed with our trusty National Geographic Road Atlas, Adventure Edition,  I began to compile our wish list and enlisted Google Maps to get the mileage from point to point and answer the inevitable question, “Are we there yet?” As the itinerary came together, Jim and I reviewed options. I printed out the notes that would be clipped to the cover of the atlas for quick reference. Next step –- the to-do list.

photo of Jim Experiencing Scenic Point near Jasper, Arkansas

The Ambassador in the Ozarks

photo of the Mimosa trees that are common along the road

Mimosa trees are common along the road

After having lunch at the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, it was time to beat feet. It looked like a 4-hour trip to Little Rock, but we didn’t know the roads and couldn’t go quite as fast as travel estimates since we were pulling the Ambassador. It looked pretty doable though, and Marilyn is a master navigator. As she considered various routes, I enjoyed the scenery.

As we crossed the border into Arkansas, Marilyn settled on Highway 7 — a route that would take us through the Ozarks. Based on the National Geographic Road Atlas, it looked like the most direct path and seemed to be on a substantial road. It was very scenic, but the road was winding, narrow and hilly. I was hoping the travel estimates accounted for diminished road speed and began to think we might be a little late into Little Rock. This is part of traveling through new territory. You can’t always predict what you’ll find, and you just have accept it.

photo of The Tower

The Tower

The forest and road seemed to go on forever. We had passed through Harrison some time ago and the road was still narrow and hilly. The dense Ozark forest was interesting though.  Then, we began ascending and had to slow down. After passing through Jasper, we continued up the mountain. In a little while, we broke into a clearing and were on top of the world. Stopping at the Scenic Point Gift Shop, we got out to look around. The views were spectacular, and best of all, there was an old wooden tower to climb. From the top, you could see the Buffalo River basin. Missouri is visible to the north, with views that encompass about 1.3 million acres in all directions. Far from an unwanted delay in our trip, this had turned serendipitous, with the discovery of a place we would have to revisit and explore. Salute!

 

photo of Buffalo River Canyon

Buffalo River Canyon

photo of One happy gardener!

Seed Geek’s Heaven – Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Teardrop Trail Log: June 24, 2016

graphic of Baker Creek Banner

Baker Creek Banner

As we started planning our trip, I noticed that we would be going close to Mansfield, Missouri, the home of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I became aware of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds at The Natural Gardener, one of the most unique and beautiful garden centers in the world. I discovered it in 2005, upon my arrival in Austin. A rack of colorful seed packets from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds had appeared in the store and I took a few to try. I was hooked. I started searching for more information and discovered some of the interesting facts about the company. The business has grown since it was founded by Jeremiath “Jere” Gettle at age 17, in his bedroom on his family’s civil war-era farm in the rolling hills of the Ozark region. The catalog, lavishly illustrated with vibrant, colorful photographs, offers more than 1,800 varieties of vegetables, fruits and flowers from 75 countries.

We drove from Springfield to Mansfield and followed the directions to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They have created an old-timey pioneer village that was built with the assistance of Amish and Mennonite carpenters. Bakerville is reminiscent of a late 19th century homestead. We began exploring the village that includes a mercantile, restaurant, a natural bakery, garden museum, blacksmith shop, a windmill, speaker and music barns. It is also home to many breeds of historic poultry and livestock. I was amazed by the seed store with hundreds of seeds and wanted one of everything. As we were looking down on test gardens, seed warehouses and the Amish barn where orders are processed, I recognized David Kaiser. He appears in many of the catalogue photographs, videos and on the website and has achieved celebrity status. He was a neighbor who made friends with Jere and has assumed the role of sidekick modeled after “Gabby Hayes.” Dave has been described as a people person. He greeted us and chatted with us as we ate lunch. A true talking icon who made us feel very welcome. Check out Baker Creek’s Whole Seed Catalogue.

photo of Dave Kaiser, one of the faces of Baker Creek

Dave Kaiser, one of the faces of Baker Creek

photo of An Amish "tractor"

Touring the Amish Country

Teardrop trail log: June 23

photo of A shock of oats

A shock of oats

After the memorable breakfast at Funny Pages, we had a few hours to explore. Our friend Kevin Darst, a mail carrier in the area and International Harvester collector had suggested visiting the Amish country in nearby Clark, Missouri. We set off, expecting to find the businesses located in the center of town but that wasn’t the case. A quick search on the Internet produced a map of the stores in the Amish Community. The colony was founded in 1953 and is one of the three largest in the state. The region is described as “a tightly knit area with Amish farms adjacent to each other for miles along its country roads.” The shops, located at the farms and along the rural roads sell rugs and leather, and other businesses dot the community. Many homes sell eggs, baked goods and produce in season.

photo of Amish buggy

Amish high style transportation

We stopped at South Side Sales, an Amish Grocery. A buggy was parked across from the entrance. They specialize in bulk foods with 16 kinds of beans, 18 kinds of flour and over 100 kinds of spices. They also sell produce from neighboring Amish families. Many of the products sold in the store come from a company in Pennsylvania that sells products from many of the Amish farms in the southeastern part of the state. We picked up some egg noodles to enjoy at home, memories of our trip.

Farming remains an important aspect of life. We watched the farmers cutting and loose stacking the hay in the field with their horse-drawn equipment. What a contrast between men with draft horses doing the tasks and the farm equipment at Red Power Round Up! Watching for the horse-drawn buggies we headed toward Madison.

photo of a horse-drawn buggy

A friendly wave

photo of Taliesin tour

Taliesin

Teardrop Trail Log: June 21

We left Governor Dodge State Park and headed to Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and architectural school located in the rolling hills near Spring Green. Visiting Taliesin had been on my bucket list after knowing several friends in Arizona who had attended Taliesin West. The name, Taliesin meaning shining brow, is a nod to Wright’s Welsh heritage. The Visitors Center was originally built as the Riverview Terrace Restaurant in 1953 where we met our tour guide as well as the rest of the folks on the house tour. We drove past the waterfall at the dammed stream and up the winding road of the 490-acre estate. Our knowledgeable tour guide introduced us to the court yard, studio and living quarters. She shared the history and important aspects of his architecture, interior design, furniture and light fixtures. She also discussed the challenge of maintaining the various aspects of the architecture as it was in Wright’s time. He was fond of Asian designs and collected artifacts. But he also collaborated with sculptor Richard Bock on other sculptures. Wright was not a very tall man and he had a fondness for lower ceilings and passage ways that challenged a member of the tour who was seven feet tall.

Wright loved music and felt that music and architecture were closely related. The tour explored the famed living room, complete with the Steinway Art Grand Piano and the unique music stand he designed for a quartet. It had been the scene of nightly concerts. Wright was an accomplished pianist. In addition to the works of many composers, he performed works by his father, William Carey Wright who was a composer, music teacher and itinerant Protestant minister. Please enjoy his 1851 composition, L’ Agréable Réverie, played by Jim for this post.

Stories about the people who had lived in Taliesin were an important part of the tour. From his mother to Mamah Cheney – his mistress, the two later wives, his children, the community of students and clients, the property was the setting of a tempestuous domestic life complete with scandals, murders, fires and other dramas.

After the tour, we returned to the Visitors Center and enjoyed a wonderful lunch in
the Riverview Terrace Café, complete with an awe-inspiring view and equally inspiring meal of local food and beverages.

A view of Taliesen

Taliesen

Learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and listen to his father’s music:

Building Taliesin: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home of Love and Loss

The Music of William C. Wright: Solo Piano and Vocal Works 1847-1893

photo of car and teardrop trailer

Governor Dodge State Park

Teardrop trail log: June 20, 2016

photo of Campfire cocktails

Campfire cocktails

Before we left for Racine, I asked Facebook friends for places to visit in Wisconsin. Jim also polled the members of his international online Bridge group. We got some great suggestions. We headed to Governor Dodge State Park near Dodgeville about 48 miles west of Madison to set up camp near several of the most highly recommended attractions.

Humans moved into the area that is now Governor Dodge State Park, just after the glaciers retreated. The park’s scenic hills and valleys provided shelter from snow and cold to the area’s first human inhabitants. The forest, mostly oak and hickory is thick, beautiful and green. The park was named for Henry Dodge, the first governor of the Wisconsin territory.

photo of campfire with human

light and warmth and insect deterrence

We pulled in and established our camp. As is normal, we soon had neighbors. It’s always fun to meet other folks who enjoy camping and they wanted to see the inside of the Ambassador. They told us about another teardrop trailer a few sites away from us. As we left for a day trip, we caught a glimpse of the tiny trailer.

The highlight of our stay was an honest-to-goodness campfire. The glow of the fire was absolutely magic.

photo of a teardrop trailer and campfire

A magical evening

photo of The View at Seminole Canyon

The Wildflowers of Seminole Canyon State Park

Teardrop Trail Log: March 23, 2016

We stayed in Seminole Canyon State Park our first night out, and found there had been recent rain in the high desert. That, combined with the time of year (late March) led to a profusion of wildflowers — the best I have ever seen in the arid Texas landscape. Marilyn and I spent a couple of pleasant hours photographing what we saw.

The light was perfect too. Many of the photos were taken less than an hour before sunset — the Magic Light that photographers love …

photo of The Golden Hour in Seminole Canyon

The Golden Hour in Seminole Canyon