Captivated by Cedar Rapids, IA

On our final travel day before reaching our friends in Iowa, we awoke at Cracker Barrel. After grabbing a Harry Potter-esque butterscotch flavored soda to share at lunch, we began our trip to Cedar Rapids, IA. Much of the scenery was repetitive, with open fields and farms, but there were absolutely gorgeous moments when the landscape would open up and we’d have nothing but gorgeous hills, farms and rivers ahead of us in a scene worthy of a painting. As we headed out of Illinois there were some especially beautiful waterfront areas – Moline and Rock Island were a couple of them. And crossing the Mississippi into Iowa was very exciting! 

I really liked Cedar Rapids overall. The new development areas we were in had affordable and fancy housing mixed and right across the street from a variety of food options, big box stores, doctors, dentists, banks and more. I love these mixed use communities and wish they were more common throughout the country. I also spotted a music and dance academy. (Musician goggles and all that.)

We saw more of downtown as we headed toward our destination. As we passed the Czech Village we saw the gorgeous, gargantuan Czech/Slovak museum, which we will have to return to. Downtown had a nice mix of buildings, older homes and different types of businesses. I enjoyed the river front, hills and green spaces and loved seeing more people of color than we are used to in New Hampshire too. Lots of bicycle lanes as well to make things more accessible. 

Our destinations for today included Walmart, Videogames Etc. and the New Pioneer Co-op, but without a doubt the real destination was the African-American Museum of Iowa. It is housed in a beautiful, inviting building that has unfortunately seen major flooding since it was built, since restored. The museum has two exhibits at one time. The rotating exhibit highlighted African-American authors, poets, playwrights and more throughout the history of this country, and was a great overview of both well-known and lesser-known figures. But the permanent exhibit is a definite must-see. It has elements throughout that encourage you to contemplate, interact with and wrestle with history. We learned a lot about Iowa’s role as a more progressive state, including how African-Americans were voting and holding elected positions in the 19th century before reconstruction had begun elsewhere. Really fascinating and complicated. And as we have found elsewhere, the video oral histories they’ve collected contain some of the most powerful material on our history, in this case on the role of segregation in daily life and on the civil rights movement. 

This was the second museum I’ve been to that was founded by a church – the first was the Harriet Tubman house. The idea that churches could take on this role hadn’t been on my radar previously, but so far both have been excellent so I think it’s a wonderful model when education and history are at its core. 

After a lengthy visit to Cedar Rapids, we headed two hours north. We are now settled in with our friends. We anticipate at least a few posts while we are here.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!

From Dayton to Peoria in a Day

Our night in Dayton was a bit different than planned. We had originally thought to camp at Walmart, but there was a part of us that wasn’t thrilled to be solo in their parking lot for the night. Not uncomfortable, but not comfy, I did a quick search and saw there was a Flying J only 15 minutes away. They’re a well-loved travel plaza chain, so we headed there, found a spot for the night and settled in. The next morning we had breakfast and hit the road after much discussion of interstate vs. not. We settled on interstate to allow time to visit the Luthy Botanical Garden in Peoria, IL. All went well on the drive, although the wind was often intense. We ate lunch at a beautiful rest stop in Indiana (our first time there) and we’re making great time. But when we arrived at the BP Google had suggested, it was tiny, so we retraced our steps to the Cracker Barrel in the outside of town. Once the night’s lodging was acquired, we booked it back to downtown, which gave us a half hour inside and all the time we wished outside to explore the beautiful garden. Ross gets credit for finding this and it was really wonderful! Tons of art and sculptures, birds and squirrels and a bunny, nooks and crannies and seating and the setting sun. Such a wonderful way to spend an hour or two. And it’s free!
Peoria didn’t WOW us like Cleveland, but it was nice enough and we loved the area with the garden, which had other things including a playhouse. Some of the residential areas were really fancy too – and some seemed to have two houses but one driveway. Old homes perhaps? Only negative was both children and adults crossing busy streets without crosswalks!

After a quick snack on our drive, we were back at Cracker Barrel. After some debate we decided to sit down for dinner. Unfortunately they aren’t very good at taking to people with allergies but we had a good meal (and I got my coveted cinnamon sugar baked potato) and Ross has more than enough food for a meal or two today. We’re hoping for a midday adventure before meeting our friends tonight! 

Besides seeing two new to us states yesterday, Ross described how much he enjoys seeing things that are different from what we know in New England. Big farms and open fields, wind turbines and even the steel architecture (including some reminiscent of Dayton’s plane history) excited him. To me, they weren’t that much different from North Dakota, but I do love realizing we aren’t in NH anymore. The adventure has definitely begun!

Rainy Days are not Lazy Days

What a wonderful two days we have had! Wonderful is subjective, of course, but we have had so much to be thankful for. I still can’t believe we are doing this! 

After our wonderful Thursday adventures visiting Auburn and the House of Guitars, we settled in for dinner and for the night at Cracker Barrel. They had six RV spaces I had learned were highly coveted, but we were shocked to be the only overnighters! It was a great neighborhood, only about 25 minutes from Rochester, very high end. We got cozy there quickly and had a nice night’s sleep, even if using the restroom and such were a bit awkward. (We bought another treat the next morning as a thank you.) We decided to winterize our RV before leaving NH, which was the right call but which means we need to avoid using our on board bathroom unless it’s an emergency. 

Enough about bathrooms. The next morning the deluge of rain continued, so as soon as it was light – in fact, quickly after 8, a new record for us – we hit the road to try to escape the rain and at least take advantage of daylight. I was worried our drive would look like our stressful Rochester driving (pretty tame compared to Boston but still), but we were quickly out of the city and enjoying the hills and mountains of NY, incredible foliage and my favorite, a gorgeous drive through New Harmony that combined big mountains, lakes foliage and an aerial view. Wish I had a camera to capture those! 

We left as early as we did, in part, to give us time to visit Cleveland. After much investigating I had settled on Punderson State Park, 45 minutes outside the city, to spend the night. With 20 amp electric, showers, restrooms and a gorgeous setting for only $25, we were really excited. After we chose our site, hooked up and made an early dinner, we headed to the Cleveland Museum of Art. The drive was a breeze until maybe 3 miles in. Old historic homes, huge forested properties, bike trails and bus lines – we loved it! The last few miles were a little stressful as it was true city driving, but Ross handled it like a pro. We loved the architecture in Cleveland and despite the rain we were really looking forward to it.

I think Ross fell hard for the museum almost as soon as we got there. I had to check my water (!) but there was no ticket required for this gorgeous free museum. To do it all would have easily taken 4-5 hours, but we crammed as much as we could into less than 2, marveling at Monets , Tiffany windows and Egyptian tombs as we learned more through the museum’s easy to use app, which included audio and visuals to enhance our experience. When 9 pm arrived, we and the multicultural crew who were also enjoying the incredible exhibits made our way out of the building and to the parking garage. We love you Cleveland, and we will be back! 

Yesterday was a nice break. We relaxed at the campground since we had learned we didn’t need to checkout until 1 pm! We were on the road by noon, and we stayed at a Flying J in the Dayton area which was a wonderful, comfortable plaza for the night. I visited the Carriage House MetroPark which is charming – a living history museum, horseback riding, petting zoo and more animate this charming historic 1880s country setting in the middle of the city. Today I we continue on to our destination, which we hope to arrive at tomorrow. 

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

History & the House of Guitars

This morning we awoke at the Petro “stopping plaza” in Tyre, NY to a gorgeous sunrise. Well, I awoke to that. Ross was asleep of course!  We loved it here! They cater to truckers but it was perfect for travelers and I slept like a baby too. 

We managed to pull ourselves onto the road by ten o’clock. Our first destination was the Harriet Tubman house in Auburn, NY, which has been designated a National Historic Site by President Obama. Our tour guide was phenomenal and accommodating, full of animation and humor. The house had been maintained by the African Methodist Episcopal Church which I found fascinating. After learning a lot, we headed to the Cayuga Museum and the Case Research Lab. The museum is cute, with rotating galleries in a gorgeous mansion, and we walked amongst Native American art displays and a fascinating prison exhibit highlighting Auburn’s prison and its roll nationally in the prison industrial complex. The mix of races and classes in Auburn for hundreds of years must mean we’ve only heard the tip of the iceberg in terms of interesting history here. 

The reason for visiting the museum was to check out the lab. Case actually was the first person to figure out how to put sound on film, literally, and Ross was especially excited to see the old equipment and learn about this rich man who achieved his life’s dream and then quietly sold it to Fox who continued using it on the West Coast. 

Our final destination was the House of Guitars in Rochester. Our two earlier visits had cost us $5 each, not too bad! The visit to this historic music store would have been free, but Ross finally found the loop pedal of his dreams…luckily he had set aside money specifically for it! 

We are hoping to pick up the pace to Iowa from here on out, but with a few fun stops along the way. Thanks for reading! 

Exploring Women’s History in Seneca Falls! 

Today was fabulous. After waking up from a pretty good night’s sleep at a travel plaza in Warners, NY, I did my morning routine and fielded emails before reheating my breakfast on our stove for the first time! Ross had to help me figure it out but it was worth it. 

After Ross was up and had his coffee and breakfast, we headed toward our first destination – the National Women’s Historic Site in Seneca Falls! I have wanted to see it since I was 16 and passed the sign on the highway during a college trip. Literally a dream deferred but it was worth it! After some fun games getting the RV parked (tons of free parking available but not oversized), we headed into the site. We saw a brief film that gives an overview of the movement (and I had a coughing fit) and we saw some wonderful exhibits. Having worked up an appetite, we headed to the RV, grabbed the lunches we had packed and walked across the street to the Elizabeth Cady Stanton park to have lunch by the canal. (The foliage here is wonderful!) We even stumbled on an open air market with live music, where we bought some local coffee for Ross and shared a few gluten free chocolate chip cookies as a treat. (Not on the diet but the cookie indulgence went well.) 

We stopped in the Wesleyan Chapel, where the Women’s Rights Convention of 1848 was held, and we dropped off our things before beginning the walk to the Elizabeth Cady Stanton house. While we were there, we checked out some locks on the canal. 

After the guided tour we experienced an absolutely moving performance by a woman who portrays Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I idolized her in many ways (not all) as a kid and getting to experience this was seriously as good as it gets. After a brief stop at the National Women’s Hall of Fame (free because they were closing in a half hour), we packed up and did a driving tour of the Montezuma National Refuge before finding a place to crash for the night. 

Sorry for the lack of photos – we are trying to utilize free wifi and it’s not very good right now. 

What an epic day. Thanks for reading and talk to you soon! 

Day 1 – Heading to Upstate NY

What began as a dreary day turned sunny and warm while we drove. We passed some gorgeous towns in New Hampshire and Vermont, including Woodstock and the Killington area, but Quechee was the best and perhaps worth a return visit. A tad touristy but in a super New England way; driving over the Quechee Gorge was amazing! 

Ross’ favorite parts of today were napping and using the walkie talkies. Upstate NY thus far wasn’t as scenic as VT or NH but we got some really neat views and bridges here and there. We took a great route that only had us on the interstate for about two hours. 

Tomorrow we explore. Can’t wait!

Eight days until departure!

I can’t even believe I’m writing this. The summer flew by, we packed up Ross’ studio, and next weekend we begin our epic RV adventures!

I have so much to do. As does Ross. But we are ridiculously excited to begin.

Our car visits the mechanic Monday, so fingers crossed that we can keep this thing going for a while without major expenses. The RV is happy except we don’t have a working hot water heater, but we lived without it all summer so we will let it go for now. (Estimated to cost about $350 and no guarantee the part would fix the problem.)

Tonight we perform our first church concert, and we have lots of family and friend visits planned on top of our mad dash to digitize and store before we leave. Thanks to everyone who is fitting us into their busy schedules.

Send us some happy car vibes and lots of energy. We will need it!