Tag Archives: Red Power Roundup

photo of Camp Des Moines

Navigating Des Moines

Teardrop Trail Log: June 14, 2017

As we drove into Des Moines, we started looking for our destination. Centrally located just off I-80 and I-35 in Des Moines, the Fairgrounds are located at East 30th Street and East University Avenue. We found the entrance.

Iowa State Fair Logo

Since our first Red Power Round Up in Huron, South Dakota in 2014, we had decided that it was a distinct advantage to camp on the fairgrounds. The convenience of walking to a parade or even going back to the teardrop for a nap after lunch was much easier that driving back and forth from a hotel somewhere in the city.

One year, I booked our campsite for the next year even before we broke camp. This year, I started by calling the Iowa State Fair for information on camping. I finally got through to a very nice lady, and learned that there were 160 acres of camping!

Although we had printed out a map, finding our way around the Fairgrounds was no easy task. One-way streets, blocked off sections, locked gates, dodging tractors and people contributed to the difficulty. Eventually we made it to check in. Armed with a map we finally located a site, close to one of the bathhouses but not crowded in amongst other campers. Setting up our camp is always a pleasure. We found a large tree to provide shade during the hotter part of the day.

Since we had been visiting friends and family in Omaha, we decided to put off the purchase meat and other food stuffs that needed refrigeration until we reached Des Moines. We pointed the Lady in the direction of the exit. Jon, Jim’s brother, provided an address of a new market. How simple can this be? We were already on University Avenue so we assumed that we could drive to another destination on University Avenue without problems. We watched the street numbers as we traveled. When we reached the number provided, there was no market in the neighborhood. Out of frustration, we finally ended up asking “The Girl” for directions. The market was in West Des Moines which has its own numbering system for University Avenue. Back on course, we were finally able to buy food for the next few days.

Map of the Iowa State Fair Campgrounds

Map of the Iowa State Fair Campgrounds

photo of Wind Power in Rural Iowa

On to Des Moines: Windpower in Adair

Teardrop Trail Log: June 14, 2017

I’ve been across Iowa many times. My friend Bob and I used to promote the Surplus Sales business at area Hamfests, and there were big annual gatherings in Cedar Rapids and Chicago. It has been 20 years or more since then and things have changed. Wind farms. Since Iowa produces corn, which was once called the fuel of the future when used to make gasohol, I assumed it was the main renewable energy industry in Iowa. Poor assumption. What a great surprise!

A little research around the Web told the story. Although Texas has the largest capacity of wind power generation in the nation (20,321 megawatts at the start of 2017), Iowa is second with a capacity of 6917 megawatts. The real surprise, it leads the nation in percentage of generation by wind — supplying over 36 % of the state’s power needs (as of 2016).

There are several reasons for this. First, Iowa is located in the wide swath of land reaching from South Texas up through North Dakota blessed with ample, year round wind. This includes other states located east of the Rocky Mountains and west of the Mississippi River. These states enjoy 50 to 100% more wind than most other states with Iowa coming in as the seventh-windiest.

Second, the Renewable Electricity Portfolio Standard, signed into law by then-governer Terry Branstad in 1983.  It required utilities to purchase electricity from renewable sources at a fixed price. The state was in a farm crisis, and this was seen as a way to provide extra income to farmers who really needed it. The law was the first of its kind in the nation and was the first guaranteed market for wind energy.

On top of that, Iowa has available land, and practical farmers who saw wind “farming” as just another crop. The icing on the cake? The state attracted companies that manufacture turbine components.

When we arrived at the Iowa State Fair later that day, the first thing I noticed was the giant wind turbine on the hill next to the campsites. I never fail to learn new and inspiring things about our country as we travel in our teardrop trailer.

photo of Wind Turbine at the Iowa State Fair

Wind Turbine at the Iowa State Fair

photo of Interior Othello's

Another Stop on the Tasty Trail – Edmond, Oklahoma

Teardrop Trail Log: June 10, 2017

Our first night on the Teardrop Trail was spent in Edmund, Oklahoma. On the edge of Oklahoma City, it is a great stopping place about half way from Dripping Springs to Omaha where Jim’s brother and Bob, his high school friend live.

Jim had introduced me to Edmond when stayed at the Best Western on the way to and from his high school reunion in July of 2015. It is conveniently located near I-35. On that trip, we explored a bit before having a wonderful dinner at Moni’s Pasta and Pizza, a culinary gem hiding in a strip mall on North May Avenue with great food and a casual, comfortable atmosphere.

photo of table with candle and check

A Lovely Evening

On the Tasty Trail this trip, we continued to explore the local culinary scene. A short Google search lead us to Othello’s, a family-owned Italian restaurant downtown, located in the building that was the original home of Edmond’s first hospital which was on the second floor of the town’s first movie theater. It is a picturesque dining destination with a classic vibe, complete with a pressed tin ceiling and candles melting over wine bottles. The walls were decorated with colorful murals of the Italian countryside. The service was friendly and we started with glasses of lovely Italian red. The menu contains many Italian favorites. Jim ordered Hellen’s Baked Ravioli and I ordered Nancy’s Penne Tomato Alfredo with Chicken from the Customer Creations section, a unique feature of Othello’s menu.

After dinner, we went in search of a bottle of wine for a night cap, but discovered that the liquor stores closed at 9:00. Disappointed, we returned to the cozy comfort of the Best Western for a much-needed rest. The morning brought a trip through the free continental breakfast buffet before we headed to Omaha.

photo of Hart's Firehouse BBQ in Lampasas

On the Tasty Trail – Lunch at Hart’s Firehouse BBQ

Teardrop Trail log: June 10, 2017

photo of Smoked Turkey and Potato Salad

Smoked Turkey and Potato Salad

Traveling north on US 281, we began to search for lunch. I started looking on my phone for dining options. BBQ – after all we are still in Texas. Hart’s Firehouse BBQ popped up in the Google search. We were not far from Lampasas and spotted the restaurant as we rolled into town. We parked the Lady and the Ambassador behind a rather large RV and as soon as we opened the doors, we were greeted by the heavenly scent that brought back memories from my childhood in west Texas. We explored the quirky exterior, finding the entrance. Approaching the counter, we surveyed all the delicious options! It was hard to choose. The potato salad reminded me of my great grandmother, MaMaw’s recipe and was a must accompaniment for the pulled pork and brisket sandwiches. We placed our order and soon added sauce and selected a table inside. Although there were wonderful tables for outdoor dining under the spreading oaks, it was already summer so we chose air conditioning. Looking around the dining room, all the other diners were in BBQ heaven!

There were so many tantalizing options that we will definitely be back. Thank you Google. Finding amazing dining experiences is one of our special pleasures on the Teardrop Trail.

photo of Hart's Firehouse BBQ interior

Food and Fun!

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 Cutting 5/8-inch threaded rod

A New Way to Level a Teardrop

photo of Original scissors-jack handle

Original scissors-jack handle

Teardrop Trail Log: June 8, 2017

After three seasons of Teardropping, I still wasn’t happy with my trailer leveling solution. I originally purchased a pair of scissors jacks, but the folding handles they came with were frustrating to use. Also, the jacks had a tendency to fall over before they came in contact with both the ground and the trailer.

Stabilizers Aren’t Perfect

Next I tried stabilizers, and although they had advantages, they didn’t work as well with uneven ground. They were perfect in combination with a scissors jack though. By lifting each trailer corner where a stabilizer was attached, they could be easily extended and provided a rock-solid platform once set.

So, back to the scissors jack. What could I do to improve on the basic Harbor Freight design? I didn’t want to modify the actual jack, but wanted an adapter that would allow the use of a cordless drill instead of the wacky and hard-to-use folding handle.

An Improved Scissors Jack

photo of The scissors jack adapter

The scissors jack adapter

The solution turned out to be very simple. The handle receptacle, a “U”-shaped piece of metal the connects with the handle hook, was large enough to receive a 5/8-inch piece of threaded rod, and then capture a 5/8-inch nut inside the handle receptacle. A 9/16-bolt welded perpendicular to one face of the 5/8-inch nut, would then turn the handle receptacle when captured by the 5-8-inch rod.

photo of Drill driving the scissors jack

Drill driving the scissors jack

I talked with my friends at Vintage Auto, and they had it welded up in a few minutes, and even painted it. Back at the house, I found I could easily run the scissors jack up and down with a 12-volt DeWalt cordless drill. A test on the trailer was successful also — the combination easily lifted the trailer.

We would use it camping for the first time at the Red Power Roundup in Des Moines, Iowa (that’s why the bolt has an International Harvester Red head), and I had the trailer leveled and on the stabilizers in about 20-minutes. A new record!

photo of the scissors jack adapter in use

Scissors jack adapter in use

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.

Latching the Hatch

Teardrop Trail Log: April, 2017

We’ve been generally happy with our teardrop trailer, but have had one recurring problem. The galley hatch lid will not stay down. We encountered the problem on our very first trip to the Red Power Roundup in Huron, South Dakota in June of 2014.

The problem usually occurs when we hit a rough patch of road or rumble strips, and is more an annoyance than a real problem. I finally decided it was time to fix it, and found some chromed hood-latches on eBay that would do the trick. This video describes the installation process.

photo of the Darst International Harvester Museum

Darsts’ International Harvester Museum

Teardrop Trail Log: June 23, 2016

movie of Tracto, the Talking Robot

Tracto, the Talking Robot

Next stop – the Darst International Harvester Museum. One online source describes a visit to the museum as a history lesson because the couple, Darrell and Kevin, have a story to go with each item. We met Darrell at our very first Red Power Round Up in 2014 at the State Fair Grounds in Huron, South Dakota. Last year, we had the pleasure of stopping in Madison and seeing both Kevin and Darrell as well as their amazing collection of tractors, thousands of IH keepsakes and memorabilia. Darrell is the editor of Harvester Highlights, the quarterly publication of the International Harvester Collectors Club that provides for the preservation of International Harvester history, products and memorabilia. Tracto, the 8-foot talking robot, built from 227 tractor and implement parts, greets visitors at the museum like he had done at county fairs, state fairs and special events for 60 years. Darst had known Tracto since he was 13 when he met the robot at a corn picking contest and now has lovingly restored him.

Kevin has been described as the queen of IH refrigeration and freezer collectables. She has a corner dedicated to International Harvester refrigerators, freezers, documentation and mementos. My publisher, Lee Klancher introduced us as I began working on Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding, the IH “Betty Crocker” spokeswoman for home refrigeration . Kevin had known many of the IH home economists from the promotional team and has letters describing the role of these women in the company. It was good to see the Darsts again as we started discussing another book project.

photo of Marilyn and Kevin with Irma Harding in the Darst Museum

Marilyn and Kevin with Irma Harding

photo of Chicken Fried Steak

Funny Pages — Chicken Fried Steak and More

Teardrop trail log: June 22

We discovered Funny Pages as we passed through Moberly in north-central Missouri on our way to Red Power Round Up, earlier in the month. Just by chance, I’d seen their sign that advertised baked goods and coffee drinks. It was easy to fall in love with a place that combines a comic and cartoon décor, with the tantalizing smells of amazing baked goods fresh from the oven . . .  We noticed that the staff posted three different silly jokes around the dining room. As the website says, “The jokes will either make you smile and laugh or just shake your head . . .”

photo of Funny Pages Cafe Sign

Funny Pages Cafe Sign

One of our favorite indulgences on the Teardrop Trail is sampling chicken fried steak and we’ve tried out many variations of this road food staple. At Funny Pages, the Chicken Fried Steak, served with peppered gravy did not disappoint.

Dinner at Funny Pages was so much fun that we returned for breakfast. Jim ordered the Junkyard Boss, three scrambled eggs, one biscuit, hashbrowns, all smothered in a sausage gravy with two strips of bacon on the top, complete with Mocha. No, we weren’t at iHop anymore . . .

photo of the "Junk Yard Boss" breakfast, complete with Mocha

“Junk Yard Boss” breakfast, complete with Mocha