More Fun Stuff©

Well, another interesting couple of days. After our visit to the waterfalls the other day we decided to have Connie work on Saturday since she had a phone meeting with her boss and then to do the bike ride on Sunday. So, after Mass on Sunday including the shortest sermon we’ve ever heard…so short in fact that I can repeat the entire thing here…

“Sometimes, actions do speak louder than words.”

Yup, that was it. Anyhoos; after Mass we changed into our bike shorts and headed off for a 19 mile as it turned out ride on the tow path of the now defunct Ohio and Erie Canal. It was constructed in the 1820s and 1830s and  carried cargo on barges pulled by mule teams until 1861 when competition from the faster and cheaper railroads killed it. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and is largely similar to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in the Washington DC area…it runs right alongside the river (the Cuyahoga River in this case instead of the Potomac) and has a regulated depth as well as locks to eliminate any rapids or waterfalls that would impede traffic if the river was used instead. About half of our ride was along the one section of the canal that still has water in it and is used as a water supply for local industries. The remaining part was through some nice wooded areas.

Connie almost quit after 16 miles as her butt was getting sore. Neil told her that if she did he would change her name from Connie to DNF (did not finish)…then pulled a quote from Jens Voigt and told her to “Shutup Butt!!” instead of his original “Shutup legs.”. So she hardened up and made it to the end with a couple of extra butt-break stops. Along the way Neil grabbed a couple of shots from a bridge where we were crossing over the Cuyahoga River.

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Following our ride we decided not to retrace the 19 mile ride back but instead used the Ride Aboard program of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad that runs nearby the canal path. The scenic railroad runs high dollar sightseeing trips for tourists but since it passes several stations along the canal tow path they have a program where you can use the railroad to return to your starting point instead of having to either have an out and back ride or pre-position a second vehicle to drive back to the starting point. Three bucks a person for the Ride Aboard program so we were glad we took advantage of it. After getting off the station we figured out how to find where the car was parked again and came home for showers and a dinner of leftover barbecued pork ribs that Neil had done on the grill on Saturday.

Today Neil paid a couple of bills while Connie did 2 work items that had to be done today…then we headed off for some more Fun Stuff©…a hike at the Ledges area of Cuyahoga National Park. The ledges are a series of sharply eroded stone walls alongside the valley that runs through the park. We visited the overlook for some nice photos and then did the 2 mile loop trail…we thought that this would not be a destination hike but just a hike in the woods. Turned out that it had a lot of interesting geologic formations that we also got some pictures of.

First up…we spotted this Red Shouldered Hawk right as we left the parking area…then after a 200 yard or so walk had a nice picnic lunch at the overlook itself.

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Not as cool as some overlook viewpoints we’ve seen but for the eastern part of the country with more foliage and lower mountains still it was a decent view. We then headed off on the hike. Essentially we hiked out to the left and down the back side of the ridge at the overlook then turned and walked underneath the ledge area for about a mile…then turned around the far end of the ledges, back up onto the ridge top and returned to our starting area. Only 2 miles but even with only 100 feet of elevation change we did that 100 feet up and back down multiple times. It was also quite rocky with lots of trip hazards so we called it a medium difficulty hike instead of the easy rating the length and elevation would normally earn it.

The first two shots are as we hiked underneath the overlook above…it’s right around the corner of the wall in the first shot.

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Following that Neil took a short side hike into a box canyon like area where erosion had worn away parts of the ledge rock. 

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This last one shows some steps that were built using natural stone gathered from the area (we saw the flat area that remained of where they likely cut it) by the Park Service. The steps follow a naturally descending cleft in the rock face and the idea was to provide an easily walkable way down without making it look like a lot of construction had gone on. 

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We stopped by the Ice Cave which unfortunately is permanently closed to hikers as it contains a large, healthy bat population and the Park Service is trying to keep White Nose Syndrome from getting a foothold here in the park. White Nose Syndrome was identified in 2007 and is a fungus that grows around the muzzle of hibernating bats. It kills them by forcing them to awake early from hibernation (because they can’t breathe) and they starve to death before spring due to the multiple wake ups…and it has decimated a large number of bat populations in the eastern and northeastern US as well as eastern Canada. It typically kills 90% of a population within 5 years in an area once it gets started and has no treatment or means of preventing infection. We wouldn’t have gone far into the cave anyway since we aren’t the spelunking type…way too dark in there for us without lights…but couldn’t get close enough for even a decent picture of the entrance. Oh well.

With that we came home for showers. Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain so it will be a work/laundry day for us. Wednesday we’re off for a 1 night stop near Hagerstown MD then on to Centreville VA right near where we used to live in Fairfax for a week…we have a couple of dental maintenance and Connie’s work related things to do. After that we’ll head south to visit Bryan, Jen, and the bun-in-the-oven Neil 3.0 that they’ve been so studiously working on since the spring.


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Transit to Streetsboro OH and Cuyahoga National Park Waterfalls

Wow…it’s been a pretty hectic couple of days. Come to think of it…it’s been a pretty hectic couple of weeks since our arrival at Amana for the NHOG Rally 2 weeks ago today. We’ve been going long and hard every day or traveling every day and are really glad to be here in Streetsboro OH southeast of Cleveland for 6 days to rest up. We have some Fun Stuff© planned along with some rest days and next Wednesday we head out for 2 travel days to Fairfax. After a week there for dental, seeing Connie’s boss and students, we’ll start seriously heading south as it’s continuing to get a little chillier.

So…after our arrival at Elkhart the other day (Monday) we met Gary who’s the service manager there in the evening and then went on a fruitless search for dinner (ended up eating leftovers instead as everything was closed on Monday) then had our inspection/greasing/alignment as I discussed in the previous post.

Wednesday Neil headed out early and by 1000 was back home with BAT having completed his oil change and we also got the rear dualley outer wheel moved 1 lug nut around the circle…the two valve stems were in the same wheel cutout and it makes it almost impossible to put air into the inner tire. That’s solved now.

We packed up…hey, it was pretty easy as all we had was electric…got hitched and hit the road. 200 miles or so later we arrived at Timberlands Campground in Van Wert OH and got a really nice pull through FHU site with a view out over the cornfields to the south. Really quite and peaceful…we would have liked to stay there longer and checked out stuff in the morning but ’twas not to be. The campground was just about 4 miles off of US-30 which was our toll free route eastwards toward Cleveland. We had dinner and watched TV until bedtime. Thursday morning we got ready (didn’t have to hitch as our site was long and level enough to stay hitched which cuts 20 minutes or so off of the departure time frame)…and hit the road about 1000 for another 200 mile drive here to Streetsboro OH. Once off of the freeway we had to inch ourselves under a 13’6” bridge…no worries, we cleared it by all of 2 inches…and then arrived at the Streetsboro KOA campground where we’re safely parked in site 701. Another nice back in FHU site with trees out the back window and it’s pretty quiet overall. We had a small bit of trouble making one turn…it was tight but doable and we’ll take another road out of the site area to miss that turn on the way out.

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Another great pick by Connie.

After our arrival Neil did the outside setup while Connie vacuumed and did her normal inside stuff. After that it was showers then we were off to the Rosewood Grill for dinner about 3 miles away. We had the best Lobster Bisque we’ve had in years and then Connie had a Caesar Salad and Neil continued the lobster meme with Lobster Mac and Cheese. Both were extremely rich and we have leftovers for dinner tonight. Along with dinner we had some Rosewood Red Ale…a specialty brew for the grill that’s made by a local brewery. Connie was a little leery about passing up Fat Tire on tap but in the end was glad that she opted for the Red. With really stuffed tummies we headed home and after a nap sandwiched around some TV we headed off to bed about 2300.

Today was scheduled to be a fun day…we had picked out 3 waterfalls in the nearby Cuyahoga National Park to visit. After breakfast we packed up a lunch of cranberry filled summer sausage and cheese and headed off. First up was the visitor center where we checked out the history of the place…most of the park is along an old canal towpath.

After that we headed on to Blue Hen Falls which was at about 6 o’clock on our sort of circular drive through the park. After a short but steep downhill hike we got some nice pictures of the falls. Not too much water coming over this time of year so we passed on the higher Buttermilk Falls about a mile hike upstream since it usually has even less water than Blue Hen. Neil crawled down into the creek bed and got both close up shots where you can see the falls nicely as well as a wider shot that includes the trees above the falls which are just starting to turn. We thought this one had a lot of character in it even though the flow was not all that great. After our trips out west in the past finding really tall waterfalls in the east is mostly an exercise in futility so we concentrate on smaller ones and try to take decent photos of them.

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From there we headed off to Brandywine Falls which is the signature (and tallest) fall in the park…it had a lot more water going over it from Brandywine Creek and although it was only about as far as Blue Hen it was much steeper so the park service has put in stairs down into the gorge to see it.

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Neil also got a shot of the neat boardwalk that the park service built along the underside of the gorge rim to get to where you can see the falls themselves. You can just see Brandywine Road above the falls in both of the this above, the creek flows under the road just before it drops over the edge.

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We had lunch sitting in the viewing area for Brandywine Falls then hiked back up the 72 steps (bad, but not as bad as the 120something that we had to endure up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) we headed off to the third set of falls in the park, Bridal Veil Falls. Unfortunately, there was just about no water coming over them…so here’s a shot of where the falls would have been if there was only water. This is all bare rock in this picture; the falls are about 30 feet wide and there’s the barest trickle of water maybe a foot wide at the far left hand side of the lip of the falls. If the creek was higher you would have seen a wide, lacy cascade down those currently bare rocks. Sorry ‘bout that.

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With that our day was done. We headed home and after another quick trip out (Connie forgot her military ID the first time) to CVS for flu shots (free with our Tricare insurance), a stop at Lowes for some hardware stuff we needed, and a stop at Eagle Giant grocery for a couple of things we were out of we came home. Dinner will be leftover Caesar Salad and Lobsta Mac ’n Cheese from last night and Neil’s thinking some Blueberry Cheesecake Yogurt Dairy stuff we got for later.

Over the weekend we have a 20 mile bike ride planned on the canal tow path…and then we’ll take the scenic railway back to the house. That’s for Sunday, tomorrow she has a telephone meeting with her boss and Neil is going to build us some new jack pads for the rig. I’ll make sure he takes some pictures of the process so you’ll have a full appreciation of just how interesting and cool some of the stuff we do is:-) Next week…who knows. We’re leaving on Wednesday with about 350 miles to go to Fairfax…we’ll be at Bull Run Campground again as it’s the only RV park in the western ‘burbs. Monday and Tuesday are up in the air at this point; we’ll probably do laundry on Tuesday but maybe some more Fun Stuff© on Monday.


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Transit to Rockford IL, Saint Saëns Concert, and Transit to Elkhart, IN

Haven’t been able to post in a couple of days because (a) we wuz busy and (b) we had no internet.

Friday evening we had the end of the rally potluck…all the food was great and then we chatted with friends until way too late.

Saturday morning we got up early and finished packing and hitching at the Amana Colonies RV Park…after hugs and stuff with Lynn and Ed, Bill and Linda, and many new friends we were on the road by 0900 for the 200 mile trip to Rockford. On arrival there we got backed into site 115 at the Blackhawk Valley RV Park which is a pretty nice park by the river in Rockford. After a minimal setup for our 2 night stay we changed clothes and headed off for the 75 mile drive to Madison WI for the Madison Symphony performance of the Saint Saëns symphony. It was a pretty decent performance, very nice organ although it was lacking just a bit in the lower registers…we didn’t really understand why as it looked plenty powerful from the pipes in the loft that we could see. The orchestra played very nicely and a good time was had by all. After that it was the 75 mile drive home and we got sidetracked by the car wreck on the way.

Just a out midnight about 3/4 mile from our park we were heading down Blackhawk Road at the limit of 45 with another car in front of us a couple hundred yards. Suddenly a pickup came blowing through a stop sign on a side road almost hitting the car in front of us. The car swerved to the left to miss him and the truck to the left to get behind the car. This resulted in the truck getting airborne over a drainage ditch, into the far side of the ditch and up into somebody’s yard. We turned around and yelled at the truck to see if he was OK…got no answer so given that it was late and we had no idea what the guy was on we called 911 to report it. The dispatcher couldn’t believe we just didn’t go over and check on him…we were somewhat concerned that he might be drunk or have a gun or something but finally Neil went over to check. The couple from the house was outside and the 3 of them decided he was drunk or drugged up. Neil reported this to the dispatcher who sent help.

Neil saw the deputy coming so flagged him down (he would have missed the location of the accident otherwise)…then the deputy got all pissed off because we flagged him down. One thing led to another and pretty soon we had 5 or 6 cop cars, a fire engine, and an ambulance on scene but the driver had vanished by that time. The cops got his description from Neil and the other couple and the K9 unit showed up. We were told to sit down in the car and wait. By 0030 we were tired and a supervisor showed up so Neil gave him our contact info for a statement if they wanted one and we went home to bed. Still haven’t heard from the cops though…maybe they don’t care since it was a single car accident.

Here’s a shot of the organ at Overture Hall in Madison where the concert was held.

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Sunday we just lazed around.

Monday we got up early (again, seems to be a recurring theme the past couple of weeks) and drove another 200 miles to Elkhart IN where we parked at the MorRYDE factory. MorRYDE makes the independent suspension on our rig and after two years we figured that since we were passing through anyway an inspection and such was warranted. We parked in their 50 amp only parking area (we had taken on water before leaving Rockford) overnight and right on time at 0700 this morning Neil backed into the service bay. Wednesday Connie has a webinar to attend and Neil needs to get the oil changed in BAT so we’ll hang here at MorRYDE tonight and tomorrow as well. Our final bill was $556 for alignment of 4 of the 6 wheels and inspection/lube on all 6…everything was fine other than the rear two axles needing alignment. Good thing we caught it before any uneven tire wear.

Don’t know what we’ll do tomorrow…Connie has it under dynamic observation. Neil is going to get BAT oiled and she has a webinar for training at 1200…after that we’ll either head halfway to Cuyahoga or stay here again tomorrow night.


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NHOG Rally

Well, we’ve been pretty busy since our arrival but it was almost either Connie work, rally stuff, or working on maintenance items with other New Horizons owners and friends so here goes.

First off…just what the heck is an Amana Colonies anyway…and why is it the Amana Colonies instead of the singular Amana Colony? I’m sure that everybody has heard of the Amana Radarange which was the first commercially available microwave oven and later the Amana Appliance company branched out into stoves, washers, dryers and other stuff…and I’m relatively sure that most of you have at least heard of the Amana Colonies but have little idea of what they are.

The Amana Colonies are/were a long lived communal society that started back in 1714 in Germany with a couple of gentlemen that founded a religion known as the Community of True Inspiration and later became known as Inspirationists. After a long period of persecution and economic depression in Germany the group left Germany in 1843-1844 and originally purchased 5000 acres near Buffalo NY and established a community called the Ebenezer Society. Things didn’t work out so well for them size wise as the community grew so after some researched the group purchased property in Iowa and the community relocated in 1855 establishing the colony of Amana. The colony was a communal living group with no money used except for outside economic activity…internally the colony produced wool, calico and agricultural products. Over the next couple of dozen years the original colony of Amana was outgrown so six additional villages were established…each specializing in one type of economic activity but all contributing to the whole. By 1861 the 7 villages of Amana, South Amana, East Amana, West Amana, Middle Amana, High Amana, and Homestead were all established and all 7 became known as the Amana Colonies run in toto by the Amana Colonies Board of Trustees for the benefit of all residents. This lifestyle persisted until the 1920s when the young folk started to move out due to wanting to have money and the things it bought. In 1932 the Colonies set aside the communal way of life, renamed themselves to the Amana Society and transitioned to a large group of both privately owned and Society owned businesses that continues to the present day. The Amana Church was maintained and is still an active Christian sect in this area.

After our arrival Friday we got setup and then went out with a large group of pre-rally arrivals (about 14 of us total) to P.H.A.T. Daddy’s…a local restaurant that happened to be catering the rally as well. After a great evening of brews, dinner, and talk we got home about 2200 and went almost immediately to bed.

Saturday we did some important work (afternoon naps) and then a campfire outside of our rig for all the pre-rally arrivals. There were a total of about 20 or so of us here by the evening and a great time was had by all. In fact; it was so good that after Mass and another nap on Sunday we repeated the experience. Both nights we finally called it a night about 2200-2300.

Monday Connie worked and Neil did laundry then worked with our friend Bill Napier. He had an issue with his batwing TV antenna not turning and after a couple of hours of troubleshooting we narrowed the problem down pretty well and he talked to the folks at the Wineguard factory who shipped him a part that arrived Wednesday afternoon. In the evening the rally kicked of with a BBQ and introductions followed by social hour.

Tuesday and Wednesday were taken up with seminars on various topics during the day and nice catered meals in the evening…sandwiched around Happy Hour and some showing of pictures from various great places the rally participants had been. Tuesday’s dinner was roast beef and cooked to order pasta was on tap for Wednesday. All was outstanding.

Thursday was another work day for Connie in the morning while Neil and Bill installed a new antenna that had arrived the day before. That took until around 1300. After that Neil and Connie went on the audio driving tour around the 7 Amana Colonies. Following that it was another 14 or so people gaggle out for dinner; this time at the Ox Yoke Inn. This is a mostly German food restaurant and most of us had Schnitzel of some variety. After that it was back to the park for more Great Places then bed.

Friday (today) was more seminars with a pot luck dinner scheduled for this evening along with the end of the rally. After that we’re off early Saturday morning over to Rockford, IL about 200 miles away. After a brief setup we’ll change clothes and head another 75 miles back to Madison WI for a Saint Saëns concert and return afterwards to the house. Sunday’s a rest day then Monday we’re off to Elkhart IN to get our MorRYDE suspension and Dexter brakes inspected, lubed, and whatever else is needed.

Neil took a couple of shots at the campfire…these are from Saturday night.


Also thought I would toss in another funny.

Doing it Wrong

And this next one will need a bit of an explanation. It’s about the Oxford comma (or lack thereof). When you’re writing something and you have a list you can use either the correct (according to the Oxford folks)

something, something else, and something other

or the incorrect

something, something else and something other

The big difference is whether the comma is put in after the next to last item and before the word and. The correct (Oxford) way has the comma and the incorrect (and much more commonly taught in American schools) was is to leave it out. Here’s what can happen if you leave it out.

Oxford Comma Damage

Now you can say what you want about Mr. Mandella…and I’m sure he’s a lot of things…but one thing I’m pretty sure he’s not is a dildo collector which the above newspaper story seems to imply.

See…you can learn something from reading this blog:-) Next time (or whenever if not) I’ll have to tell you the story about the Meanest Animal in the Jungle…the Wild African Duwalley.


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Transit to Amana IA for NHOG Rally

Well…after our trip down to Madison last Tuesday Connie had to buckle down and crunch out some work on Wednesday and Thursday. Fortunately for us the weather was lousy both of those days so we wouldn’t have done anything fun anyway. Late Thursday afternoon Neil got out and did all the outside storage stuff for our planned departure on Friday after we ran some errands…needed some DEF for BAT, some groceries, and some new rope lights for going under the house.

Friday morning we got up and finished packing, hitching and left…all of that was done in a light drizzle on and off rain and it was only in the 40s. Not a great morning but we’ve had worse. Our destination for the day was Amana IA about 210 miles away where we had a reservation at the Amana Colonies RV Park for our attendance at the New Horizons Owners Group (NHOG) rally. After an uneventful if slightly bumpy trip (have I mentioned the roads up in this part of the country are terrible!!) we arrived at the park and got backed in next to a couple of our NHOG friends. Stuart and Lynn Jeffries and their greyhounds are parked almost next door and we immediately spent awhile talking to them instead of setting up along with several others who we’ve met either at the factory or the previous rally along with Mike Williams who is the rally master this week.

Following all that we got setup on a nice long 50 Amp FHU site and finished our setup. Once that was done we sat down to rest awhile until Connie spotted more friends Bill and Linda Napier a couple rows over…so we were off and running socializing. Lo and behold…an hour or so later we looked around from our various inspection of each other’s rigs, discussions about various technical issues we were having, examination of cool stuff we all have…and noticed that Lynn and Ed Asher-Harrington had also arrived from Elkhart where they were getting some warranty stuff done at MorRYDE. So…more socializing and visiting in their rig with some wine until it was time to head out for dinner. We had purchased a pizza and planned to eat in…but that plan was overcome by the group herd mentality and off we went to P.H.A.T Daddie’s which is a local restaurant with a couple of locations. A group of 15 or so of us met there and had a great evening of dinner, brews/wines, and talk until leaving the restaurant about 2030. At that point we came home, flipped on the fireplace as it was in the 40s by that time (and the low overnight was 36…we gotta head south I’m tellin ya) and watched TV until bedtime.

Here’s a shot of our setup…this is a really quiet campground out in the middle of nowheresville but it’s supposed to have great rally facilities (we’ll see them Monday) and the Internet connectivity is great…which makes both of (but especially Connie) really happy as we’ve had lousy wifi for most of the last two months and had to keep running out to the library if we needed any serious bandwidth.

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Thought I would also toss in a couple of fun shots…two for Jen and Bryan who are eagerly awaiting Neil 3.0 and another funny one we found on the net poking fun at all the NSA surveillance controversy…which is way overblown in our opinion. Any idiot knows that once information leaves your control the whole Internet is basically not encrypted and hence whatever you put out there might not stay private. Sort of like the recent nude photo controversy where all those famous women took nekkid pictures of themselves with their phones, put them out there with an easy to guess password and are shocked, shocked I tell you that somebody had enough interest in seeing them to break their password and steal their pictures.

In other news…water is wet and the sun will come up in the east tomorrow.

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Buy one get one

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We’ve got nothing really planned for the weekend…but will probably keep getting together with friends. Monday Connie will likely work as she still has a bit more to go and we’ll be busy the rest of the week with rally activities. Once it’s over on Friday we will head back up to Rockford IL That’s about 200 miles mostly east from here…we’ll just stay there 2 nights so we can run back up to Madison for a Saint Saëns concert before heading off to Elkhart IL as week from Monday…we have an appointment to get our suspension and brakes inspected, lubed, aligned if necessary, and any parts that are wore out replaced. No real issues with it…but New Horizons has been known to be less than fully competent in installation of all the running gear components, it’s been a bit over two years on the road, and we’re passing near Elkhart anyway. So we will stop in and have Sergio (he’s the tech that Bill and Linda have been using for years and comes highly recommended by them as well as others) take a look-see and fix whatever needs fixing. From there we’ll head over near Cleveland to Cuyahoga National Park or 4 or 5 days…then we’ll start the trek southward and warmward for the winter. We’re starting to look forward to oysters and shrimp on the Gulf Coast on the way there.


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Day Trip to Wisconsin State Capitol Building in Madison WI

We got up this morning and after coffee and a breakfast of leftover Orange Cinnamon Rolls from yesterday (they came out of a refrigerator can but were still pretty good) we headed off to downtown Madison WI about 12 miles from here for our Fun Stuff© for the day; the 1100 Wisconsin Capital tour.

We were a few minutes early but right at 1100 our guide Dinah came out from the Visitor Desk and started our tour. We started on the ground floor then went up and toured 2 of the 3 branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial are all headquartered in the building…but alas the Governor’s Conference Room was occupied with some sort of state business so we didn’t get into see it) on the first floor (which would be the second floor in US building terminology but it was designed as a European building for some obscure reason.

Dinah told us that the dome was the largest in the country (including the US Capitol) by volume and gave us the measurements. Neil…being the trusting soul that he is came home and verified her numbers. It turns out that it is smaller than the US Capitol in both volume and height but only slightly. 790,000 cubic feet and 284.4 feet high vs the US Capitol’s 850,000 cubic feet and 288 feet high…but maybe it just depends on how you define volume and height so it’s possible that she’s correct. In any event…it’s almost certainly the largest state capitol building and it was pretty impressive.

The building was constructed between 1906 and 1917 at an original cost of $7.25 million…which is probably hundreds of millions in 2014 dollars…but the building simply (according to Dinah) could not be reproduced today as some of the rare stone that was used is no longer in the sizes needed no matter how much you were willing to pay. It has 43 different kinds of stone in it from 8 states and 6 countries.

Up at the top of the dome is a mural named the “Resources of Wisconsin”. It’s 34 feet in diameter and strangely enough does not include cheese as Wisconsin didn’t become a big dairy state until well after the building was completed. The mural has a woman named Wisconsin in the middle with other women around it holding out various products from Wisconsin The thing around the picture that looks like a frame is actually a balcony although we didn’t get up that high. Here’s a shot of the whole dome from the center of the floor and also a closeup of the “Resources of Wisconsin”.

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The building has 4 wings oriented in the four cardinal directions that were constructed in series so that the building was partially usable after just about 4 years or so and gradually expanded to it’s current size. Situated around the base of the dome are four mosaics…one each dedicated to the Judicial, Legislative and Executive branches of government and the fourth dedicated to Liberty. Each is over 110,000 pieces of hand cut glass.

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From there we moved upstairs and into a large room used for committee hearings then into the Supreme Court chambers. Here’s a shot of the latter…Neil wanted to ask why there were only 6 chairs since Dinah said the court has 7 members. The large uncomfortable chairs in the back are original equipment in the building and aren’t used in favor of the more comfortable desk chairs at the bench. Our guide Dinah is in the lower right corner.

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Moving on into the Senate chamber…we were allowed to go everywhere but up on the dais and sit in the Senator’s chairs. The Senate is run in an old and formal manner with no computers, voice vote and paper used for everything. From there we moved into the Assembly chamber…where we were not allowed to sit in the chairs and which was completely modern for the 99 members with computer terminals and an electronic voting system. Just like it’s national counterpart…most state legislatures follow a similar pattern of staid formality in the Senate and a more partisan and modern approach in the lower Assembly or House chamber.

Here’s a shot of the mural over in the Assembly chamber…you can see a stuffed Bald Eagle in the center…this particular bird has a history. Seems that a unit of the Wisconsin militia during the Civil War had a mascot eagle who was donated to the state after the war and lived for many years in the building. After it’s death…Old Abe as it was known…was stuffed and mounted in the Assembly chamber. Unfortunately…it was lost during the fire of 1904 that destroyed the previous Capitol building so it was replaced with another eagle who died of natural causes later. This particular mascot is also the genesis of the mascot of the US Army’s 101st Airborne Screaming Eagle Division.

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Dinah passed along another story about this mural as well. When it was finished after about 18 months of work by the artist…the architect decided that the painting should include the Wisconsin state animal…the badger. Unfortunately for the artist’s artistic feel…there wasn’t any way to add the badger without removing something else…so the decision was made to paint out a Civil War soldier and put the badger in his place. Looking to the right of center in the above shot you see the large light are with the woman in gold surrounded by other women then further to the right there’s a man holding an American flag. The Civil War soldier occupied the open are between those two. Now shift your attention to the closeup below of the area between those two figures and you’ll see where the badger was added in after the soldier was painted out. When completed the soldier was no longer visible…at least until the painting was restored between 1988 and 2002. After that restoration the outline of the soldier became visible again…if you look in the closeup below you can see the solder in left side profile just to the right of the red woman’s dress directly above the badger. His hat, ear and shoulder sloping down to the figure with holding the flag are clearly visible. This solder is known as the Ghost of the Assembly.

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From there we headed up to walk out on the outside balcony and take a look at Madison…the views from up there were pretty nice but Connie was feeling a little shaky with the open heights…she was holding onto Neil for support against her vertigo and he plumb forgot to get any photos. After that we went back into the inside of the dome and went…very, very, very briefly as Connie liked it even less than being outside…onto the inner balcony you can see just below the windows in the top photo. No photos from there either as there was a plexiglas shield to prevent things from being thrown/dropped and they would have ruined any pictures.

After a walk around the inside of the dome corridor looking at various exhibits from construction and renovation of the building we headed back down with the intention of getting lunch. On the way we ran across a demonstration on the rotunda floor…it was called a Solidarity Sing Along and was a bunch of union nuts ranting, raving, and singing songs against Governor Walker…who as you might recall was involved last year in a political fracas up here over limiting union benefits in an attempt to keep their pension fund solvent. It was a bunch of overweight, bearded guys in overalls and even more overweight women in all sorts of trailer trash clothes exercising their right to protest. Buncha wacko’s I tell ya.

On the way to lunch we were able to get a nice shot of the dome itself and also the 15 foot high gold gilded statue on top. Her name is Wisconsin…and when Neil zoomed in on her to take the photo he saw her obvious name…First Down Wisconsin. And by the way…that’s a badger on her helmet.

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We walked over to a local Irish Pub named Brocach and had a couple of pints of Murphy’s along with a fish sandwich for Connie and a pulled pork sandwich for Neil. Brocach means Badger Den in Gaelic and while it was supposed to be an authentic Irish Pub Neil was not sure about that…as there was no Bud Light on tap and absolutely every one of the pubs we were in over in the Emerald Isle had Bud Light on tap. We asked the bartender about it and he was amazed that we had seen it everywhere over there.

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It was a mighty tasty lunch.

Afterwards we walked over to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum but were disappointed on not getting in…their web site says they’re open 7 days a week but the poster in the Capitol said they were closed on Monday’s and sure enough, they were closed. We did see a young woman in combat boots, jean shorts, a black camisole with an orange bra and bright purple Peter Pan haircut…but didn’t get a picture. We headed back for the car, paid our $3.50 parking for 3+ hours and came home for a nap.


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Transit to Deforest WI, Kayaking and Hike in the Woods

Tuesday morning we took our time getting ready to depart since we only had 90 miles or so to go to our next destination in Deforest WI. We finally departed around 1100; we had figured we would have a slight bit of difficulty making the turn out of the campground onto the road since it had a fairly narrow entrance and ditches on both sides of Lake Drive. Neil got way over to the right side of the exit and we were turning left and actually had 2 or 3 feet to spare making the turn. We headed out to the highway and after our 90 mile trip we got to the Deforest WI KOA right outside of Madison WI around 1300 and got checked in and parked in site 14D. This is a pretty nice campground albeit a little more expensive than our usual…but that’s typical of our stops at KOA (Kampground of America) campgrounds. It is what it is we figured.

Site 14D is on the outer ring and we have some fairly nice views out our side windows over towards some grassy areas…there’s a bit of highway noise since we’re only a half mile or so away from it but the traffic dies down in mid evening and hasn’t been too bad.

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Wednesday we headed off to a local lake that was adjacent to a Nature Conservancy preserve for some kayaking. After getting our Sea Eagle inflated we launched and after a tough half mile or so paddle upwind across the lake we entered the conservancy boundary and spent a nice hour and a half wandering around some narrow passages through the marsh; frequently we were in channels less than 10 feet wide and while there was plenty of water to float the Sea Eagle the Duck Weed that was growing in the water was scraping across the bottom. We spotted some ducks, a batch of grebes and generally had a nice paddle through the marsh. After an hour or so of that we struggled back across the lake with the wind and then headed home.

Thursday was a work day for Connie and Neil took care of some important napping and computer stuff.

Friday Connie worked again in the morning then after lunch we headed of for a hike at the Cherokee Conservation Area Marsh on the River. This is an area jointly administered by the city of Madison, the state, and there’s federal involvement somehow I think as well. We had a nice couple of miles hiking through the grasslands and woods…it was a nice cool day with some breeze so the skeeters weren’t so bad. We didn’t see much wildlife…but then some hikes don’t have much and it was still a very nice walk in the woods.

So…what did we see? Some wildflowers, berries, bees, a grasshopper, a couple views of the marshland. Nothing really superb but again…it is what it is. We spotted (and heard) some Sandhill Cranes but they were too far away for a shot. The first shot is of these really weird seed pods we saw on some trees…they were about 6 inches long and we’ve never seen anything quite like them.

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After that we headed home and stopped by a pub near the RV park named Timbers. Met a nice bartender/owner named Ron who served us a couple of quite tasty brews. He also had a bottle of Booker’s 8 year old 127 proof bourbon that he offered us a sample of …we were pleasantly surprised how smooth it was given the high proof out of it. It’s a single barrel bottled bourbon…which means that rather than mixing a hundred barrels at a time to ensure consistent flavor it’s bottled directly from the barrel and the next barrel might (or might not) taste completely different. We’re going to have to remember this brand…as it was really, really good.

After our brew (Neil had Shocktop Apple Ale and Connie had Spotted Cow) we headed home and Neil cooked up some spaghetti with tomato/garlic/bacon sauce for dinner. After that it was showers and then TV until bed.


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