Tag Archives: scenic

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 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 building that is All dolled up

Antiques in Perry

Map of the Mark Twain Lake area

Mark Twain Lake area

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2016

We’re rarely on the road early, and by the time we visited the Mark Twain Birthplace and navigated across Mark Twain Lake it was nearly noon. Just as the thought of lunch was occurring to me, we pulled into Perry, Missouri. Once a booming coal town, it is now a destination for lake fun and antique shopping. It is also one of the prettiest small towns in Missouri.

After lunch at the Hootenanny, I wanted to walk around and photograph some of the buildings. Within a block of Palmyra and Main, there are several ornate examples of late-nineteenth century commercial architecture including wood, brick and cast iron façades.

photo of Miss Daisy's Antiques

Miss Daisy’s Antiques

Many of the buildings now house antique stores. We took the time to explore one particularly promising one. I’m a woodworker and enjoy finding, restoring and using old hand tools. This store had a generous supply of old saws, planes, chisels and the like and I couldn’t resist exploring. There were lots of other things to look at, and we spent about an hour there. We were definitely going to have to visit again when we had more time. Sadly, we needed reach Peoria by late afternoon and play time in Missouri was over for now!

photo of interior of River Reader Books

On to Lexington

Teardrop Trail Log: June 14, 2016

photo of stuffed bear in Pat's Army Store

Pat’s Army Store Inmate

I was introduced to historic Lexington, Missouri when I was in the neighborhood for a presentation in June on my cookbook – Canning, Pickling and Freezing, with Irma Harding. The meeting of the Missouri Cattlewomen was held at the historic Elms Resort and Spa in Excelsior Springs. I researched the Resort built in 1898, and discovered it was “haunted.” I had previous experience with haunted hotels when I worked in Santa Fe so I felt right at home. Actually, the hotel had several interesting guests including Al Capone and Harry S. Truman. It was an amazing experience. My talk, “Eat, Drink, and Pickle!” was at VanTill’s Family Farm & Vineyard. I fell in love with the area and the people.

Photo of River Reader Façade

River Reader

As we left Kansas City, I was looking at the atlas and Lexington was only about 50 miles away. We were so close, I suggested we take a side trip so Jim could meet my friends and see Lexington where there is lot’s of history from the Civil War. After parking the Lady and the Ambassador, we stopped in at Pat’s Army Store, located in an old Baptist Church. Next, we stopped by the Old Trails Region to see Marsha Corbin, my host. I met Marsha at last year’s Red Power Round Up where she’d heard my presentation. She was just down the street for a meeting, so we proceeded to say hello. Next stop was one of the most amazing independent bookstores, River Reader owned by Pat and Gary Worth. I had a great book signing at River Reader. Pat offered a couple of bottles of cold water on the warm day and It was nice to connect everyone with Jim.

We left River Reader and Jim was taken by the scenic beauty of the town. The Greek Revival Lafayette County Courthouse built in 1847 and other historic buildings led the town to bill itself as the “Athens on the Missouri” and became subjects for his photography.

photo of Marilyn and Jim in front of a teardrop trailer

The Adventure Begins …

Teardrop Trail Log: June 12, 2016. Red Power Roundup trip start.

Building, modifying, cleaning, planning and packing complete, the day of departure finally arrived. If we didn’t have it, we didn’t need it. We left midday, intending to reach Lake Bob Sandlin State Park in northeast Texas by early evening. Marilyn had a route, and it looked like a great day for travel.

All went well for the first hour or two and we joined I-35 at Round Rock. It was Sunday and I commented on how well traffic was moving. I must have jinxed it, because we encountered the first construction shortly after around Salado, and it continued all the way to Waco. What should have been an hour took more that two. Not a great start.

photo of American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea)

American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea)

To avoid further construction, we turned onto Highway 31 towards Corsicana, reasoning we would see the back country, and go through a few quaint, small towns. The scenery was beautiful, and we encountered a vast expanse of American Water Lilies in Henderson County between Trinidad and Malakoff. We pulled into the roadside park to make photos. The sky was threatening however, with consequences later in the day.

photo of threatening sky

The sky threatened …

Turning north on Highway 19 at Athens, Texas, we were still making good time. Marilyn wanted to head northeast, more directly toward the state park. At Canton, we turned onto FM 17 (a two-lane “farm to market” road). More great scenery. Lush fields of hay with stands of tall pine trees dotted the landscape, set off by a dramatic sky. Although not Interstate speeds, we were sailing along when …

photo of car fire near Fruitvale, Texas

A fiery road-block near Fruitvale, Texas

We encountered a blazing car fire with traffic stopped in both directions. Sitting in the long line of cars for about 10 minutes, it was clear that it might be hours before the road opened. We had to go back. Now I had to turn our rig around on a narrow, two-lane road with no shoulders and no place to pull out — all with an audience of the several dozen.


Marshaling my best backing skills, I completed the U-turn in a few minutes. Thank goodness our rig is small. Anything larger and we would have been stuck. Retracing our steps back to Canton, we took I-20 West and re-joined Highway 19.

By now the light was fading, and we would have to set up in the dark. We’ve done it before, and it’s not so bad. Then it started to rain. Hard. Driving toward Sulphur Springs, the downpour worsened, with poor visibility as well. Perhaps a nice motel room would be best.

Reaching Sulphur Springs and I-30, we headed east toward Mount Pleasant. Marilyn called ahead and made a reservation. Arriving around 10, we loaded into the room in the pouring rain. Although low cost, a warm, dry room seems like a palace when compared with setting up in a dark, rainy campsite. Roughing it in a Motel 6 is still camping, right?

photo of car and trailer in the rain

Mt. Pleasant Motel

photo of Hoodoos of Big Bend Ranch State Park

Wildflowers in the Big Bend

Teardrop Trail Log: March 27, 2016

We were a little early for the big flush of wildflowers, but there were quite a few blooms — especially cactus — anyway. These are a few of the beauties we encountered in the Big Bend area.


photo of Big Bend Ranch State Park

Big Bend Ranch State Park

Photo of Santa Elena Canyon Trail

Hiking the Santa Elena Canyon

Teardrop Trail Log: March 26, 2016

After a lunch break at Castolon, we drove on to the Santa Elena Canyon entrance. The park ranger in Castolon mentioned that parking might be a problem, and we could see why as we approached the canyon. It’s a very popular attraction in the Big Bend, and a modest amount of parking. Cars were parked on either side of the entrance road for quite a distance. Luckily, someone had just left, creating a space, and we slipped right in. Another advantage of a smaller vehicle! A short walk on the road, and we entered the trail.

Photo of switchbacks on the trail


It starts out with a longish beach “paved” with boards which really help with the deep sand. A turn or two and you get the first unobstructed view of the canyon. Amazing. With walls up to 1500 feet directly bordering the river, the views are really dramatic. After crossing Terlinqua Creek, you begin climbing the improved trail on the U.S. side of the river. A series of switchbacks consisting of paving and stairs, form the first part of the trail.

Photo of The view from the top

The view from the top

With a vertical rise of several hundred feet, the 1.7 mile trail provides a decent workout, but a walking stick is helpful as the trail is on the edge of cliff faces at several points along the trail. Great views, but a little challenging for those who aren’t as sure-footed or suffer from vertigo. The paving ends once you reach the highest point of the trail.

photo of The trail near the river

The trail near the river

Later, the trail descends back down to the river level with sandy, grass and plant-lined paths that end up at the river. It’s very shallow here, and in places you can walk across the river to the Mexican side — many hikers do. In all, we spent 2-3 hours enjoying the canyon and taking photos. One of the most spectacular experiences I have had on the Teardrop Trail yet!

photo of Near the end of the trail

Near the end of the trail

Photo of Alvino House, Castolon, Texas

Adobe Architecture in the Big Bend

Teardrop Trail Log: March 26, 2016

In Castolon, we encountered the Alvino House, named for Alvino Ybarra who lived there with his family from 1918 to 1957. It was originally built in 1901 by Cipriano Hernandez, who irrigated the bottomland to grow melons, pumpkins, squash and beans. To make extra income, he operated a store out of the house and tended the steam-powered cotton gin.  It is the oldest adobe structure in the park, and represents the everyday life of families who lived and farmed along the Rio Grande.

photo of Detail of Front Entrance

South Entrance

photo of Detail of Front Entrance

Detail of South Entrance

Photo of Window Detail

East Window Detail

photo of Interior Hallway

Interior Hallway from West Window

Photo of Interior Room

Interior Room from North Window

photo of Detail of Roof

Detail of Roof

Photo of Detail of Hatch

Detail of Hatch on East Side

photo of Courtyard Entrance

Courtyard Entrance on North Side

Photo of Courtyard Detail

Courtyard Detail

Photo of Santa Elena Canyon visible in the distance

Santa Elena Canyon is visible in the distance