Day 1 started with us pulling out of the driveway around 8:30 - a bit later than we had planned. The first stop was Harlan and an overnight stay with Betsy's sister Charlotte and brother-in-law Joe.

The 6.5 hour trip was uneventful except for the fact that I finally relented and ran the AC for the last hour or so of the drive. This is something I rarely do, but the heat, humidity and beating by the wind finally wore me down. Plus, with the windows closed we could listen to NPR instead of the roar of passing tractor trailers.

We arrived in Fort Wayne around 4:00 and set about removing one of the boats and refitting it with the cockpit cover which had blown off and was flapping all about.
While Betsy visited with her kin, I caught up on my email and put together and sent out the "3 Weeks in Minnesota" intro.

Then it was time for a nice dinner of delicious roast beef, mashed potatoes and fresh, local corn on the cob. There was also plenty of Joe's home-made horseradish sauce to top it off with. Yummy... Thanks Char and Joe!!!
Later on Matt, Charlotte's son, arrived with his 4 kids. He was there for a family reunion on his father's side. While the kids played, Matt and I talked about cameras and he showed me his new Canon SLR. Pretty slick and much smarter than my now 4 year old one.
Then it was off to bed as we had a 6 am departure time planned.

We did indeed hit the road at 6am on Sunday morning. As we pulled out of the driveway, the lighting flashed and the show started. But the time we had stopped for few groceries and hit the road it was raining steadily. Driving in the dark is no fun, but add the rain and it can get dicey - at least for me.

By the time we had reached the Illinois border the rain had diminished and when we hit Iowa the sky started to clear and a nice day was on the way. Gone was the heat and humidity, and much cooler, dryer air had taken its place. What a relief!

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This was taken at the Iowa Visitors Center on I 80 about 45 minutes east of Iowa City.
The sculpture represents that which is Iowa: Corn, pigs, prairie grass, acorns, books, plow share, tractor tires, fish, cone flowers and a Grant Wood scene. The sculpture is by Thomas R. Stancliffe.

Tom Stancliffe, originally from the Chicago area, is a sculptor who now lives and maintains a large studio in rural New Hartford, Iowa. In the early 1990’s he shifted the scale and venues for his work from galleries and museums to outdoor public spaces.

He is best known for his large scale sculptures of bronze or stainless steel that find expression in both the historical and environmental context of a given site. He has completed over twenty commissioned works for public art collections throughout Iowa and across the nation. He is a Professor of Art at the University of Northern Iowa and serves on multiple civic Public Art Committees.

Source: Tom Stancliffe: Public Art / Sculpture

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This piece was inside next to the rest rooms. What might it be meant to represent?

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Here, next to one of the visitor center planters, Betsy hams it up for the camera.

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A mustachioed beauty!

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The open country was a mix of corn and soybean fields with a few trees here and there. This was to be the scenery for most of the rest of the day.

After 12 hours and 573 miles, we reached our destination of Houston MN. Happily, we had left the flat fields behind and now were in an area of wide valleys surrounded by small hills. Very scenic and a welcome sight after a day of uninterrupted corn and soybeans.

Our route and current location

This shows our current location and our general route. To the west is prairie, central are the lakes and to the northeast is the "Arrowhead" or North Shore.
The eastern border south of Minneapolis is the Mississippi River. Minnesota is the birthplace of the "Mighty Muddy".

Mississippi River

This shows the route of the Mississippi and it's origin at Lake Itaska Minnesota.

   Loken's Sawmill Inn & Suites 809 E Cedar, Houston, MN 55943

Here is a picture of the place we are staying - Loken's Sawmill Inn. It is from their website.
What they don't show is the gas station right next to it. Unfortunately the gas station turned out to be the view from our front door.

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Here is the view from our back door. Isn't that lovely?!
We set up this Happy Hour station useing the chairs from the room.

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Here is what we would see if the giant metal building was not blocking out view.
The view from the front is the highway and to the side a house and yard complete with an annoying, yapping rat dog.

After unpacking and starting dinner preparations, we headed out the door on foot to walk the 1 mile to the Nature Center and trailhead for the Root River Rail-Trail. After walking part way there, I realized I had left the burner on under the spaghetti sauce so we walked back, turned it off and then drove down to the park where the trailhead is.

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The Nature Center is loaded with bike themed sculptures and some are quite imaginative. This one is called "Pedal Flowers"

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We walked down the Rail-Trail for awhile enjoying the early evening sun and nice breeze. Both of us kept our cameras busy.

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This tall flower was all over the place and it was one of many I did not recognize. Prairie species, no doubt.

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A closer look with a field of soybeans for a backdrop.

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Here Betsy stands next to one to give it some scale.

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On our way back past the Nature Center I took this shot of another sculpture.

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The artist used chain rings and pieces of welded chain to represent the flower. Clever.

Then it was back to our "suite" for a dinner of salad and spaghetti. Then reading and web work.


Stay tuned