Saturday, October 29, 2011

2011-33 Mississippi to Florida

Biloxi Mississippi

Pensacola Florida

Campground:  Lakeview RV Resort, Biloxi.  Passport America ), $16 per night (2 night max, but I asked for 3 and was granted it.  Full hookups.  Concrete streets and pads.  Very neat and clean, though sites are relatively close.  All pull-thru’s.

Campground:  Gulf Islands, Davis Bayou Camping  National Park campground (east of Biloxi).  I didn’t stay here, but would def. consider on my next stay in the area.  1st come 1st served.  $16 reg. $8 senior rate.  Water and elect.

Campground:  Fort Pickens, National Park.  $20 reg. $10 Senior rate.  Water and Elect.  Reservations recommended.  Barrier Island camping at it’s best.  Scruffy oak hammock setting.  The trees look pretty weathered after all the hurricanes in recent years, but within walking distance of gorgeous sugar white sand beaches for miles and miles.

Biloxi Miss.

The casinos and hotels have rebuilt.  The wreckage of Katrina has finally all been removed.  Vacant lots and empty pristine beaches await the traveler.  Biloxi has built a huge visitor center across from the lighthouse.  An impressive building with huge (9 foot) doors even to the restrooms.  Static displays of life in the area fill the exhibit rooms.  A large theatre room on the second floor shows a 10 minute film on Biloxi.  The film is visually first rate but only has three words spoken throughout the presentation… “Welcome to Biloxi”.  Apparently there isn’t that much to share or talk about except pretty scenes of the Gulf of Mexico, sailing and smiling people.

I’m staying at Lakeview Rv about 15 minutes north of town, though I discovered Davis Bayou campground (see listing above) and would more than likely stay there next time around.  Though from Lakeview I’m only about 5 minutes away from a shopping area with the Super Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and good chain eateries right off of hwy 10.

Of course Biloxi is noted for all their casinos and I did stop in two of them.  However, I was intrigued to find out that a new Art Museum had open (partially anyway) called the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art.  It was designed by famed Architect, Frank Gehry.  A mix of 4 different styled buildings done in his most unique design.  It’s only been open for one year, with two more in the building phase.  The 4 pod building is not opened yet, so I look forward to coming back and seeing this structure completed.

It houses a local potters art, George Ohr.  Much of his work was shunned by the critics of his day.  His work was packed away and only recently has come to light.  Amid much praise for his work of course.  A special exhibit by Herman Leonard, a photographer covering the Jazz era was on display.  What an exciting  exhibit of black and white photography covering the like of Luis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra.  All with moody back lighting with wisps of smoke curling up around the artists.  Jazz music playing perfectly in the background.

There’s even a re-creation of the House built by Pleasant Reed.  The original was destroyed in 2006 by Katrina.  One of the first blacks to own property and build a house after the Civil War.  Helping to capture the history and life in Biloxi during the late 1880’s.

Nice to see ultra modern architecture next to an historically recreated building.  Reed even paid a $2 a year poll tax to enable him to vote in local elections and often did manual labor for the city to pay his property taxes.  Never giving in or giving up.

Florida, Pensacola

Santa Rosa Island

Lucky, lucky, lucky.  135 miles on down the road and I’ve arrived on Florida’s Gold coast.  Pensacola Florida.  Santa Rosa Island.  Glistening blue water over the Pensacola Bay Bridge.  Sugar white beaches that go on for miles.

I’m spending 5 days on this barrier island.  Touring Ft Pickens, walking along the beach.  Last night I walked out to the waters edge and watched an awesome sunset along with just 3 others.  A huge red ball of fire slowly sinking into the Gulf of Mexico.  I could almost hear it sizzle as it sank into the water and then with one final blurb, it was gone.  Just the sound of the surf as we all headed back to our campsites as darkness quickly envelope the night.

The next day I drove back onto the mainland to go pick up my mail from my mail forwarding service, American Home base (Good-Sam’s).  My replacement for my remote control unit came in and I couldn’t wait to program it for the camper.  My Montana has a remote control for the slide outs, stabilizers, awning and security light.

Oh and I stopped in the local Escambia County Library to get a library card.  I wanted to make sure I had it before my Kindle arrives later in Nov.  I’m looking forward to downloading E-books to the future Kindle.  And they told me I could download Audio books as well and put them on my Droid smart phone for playing while I’m in the truck driving down the highway.  How cool is that?  The gal that signed me up for the library card had also lived in Orlando.  She recalled the fun times she’d had there.  Telling me in a whisper the time she was kicked out of the Parliament House (a gay bar) for swimming nude at midnight in their swimming pool.  We laughed about the good times before Orlando became too big and outgrew itself.

More Repairs:  Then I went to take a shower the other day and darn it if the shower faucet won’t redirect the water to the shower head.  And I’m down to my last month of a one year warranty on the camper.  I’ll have to schedule repairs for later next week when I get further into Fla.  Sure hope this is the last repair for a long time.  I must admit, I’ve been a bit disappointed with the number of times I’ve had to bring the U.S. made camper in for repairs.  Guess I was spoiled by my Canadian built Titanium’s that I’ve previously owned.  Fortunately after finally getting the bad tire replaced, all the vibration issues have ceased and the camper in traveling beautifully without everything coming loose.  

 And of course now that I’m back in Florida, I have to start having more seafood.  In Pensacola, there’s an old restaurant called Halls Seafood.  It has that old 50’s look to the round booths, fish tanks and captains chairs with heavy lacquered tables.  The waitress told me to order off of the dinner menu because any dish that had an * next to it was only $8.95 for seniors.  I ordered a $16 dinner for the $8.95 price and got lots of shrimp, bay scallops, baked potato, really great hushpuppies and a salad.  What a deal.

And speaking of deals, as you may have noticed, I’ve taken advantage of staying at a number of Gov. campsites, like Army Corp reservoir campgrounds and National Parks for half price.  That senior discount card is really coming in handy.  I was able to keep my monthly camping fees down to an average of $13.73 a night.  My best month ever.  And of course I also used my Passport America half price club membership quite a bit this month as well.  My good friend Al told me he and his wife Maria spent a high of $68 one night on a recent camping trip.  Yikes, I think I would have had a cow if I’d paid that much.

I’m already missing all my Desert Trails Friends in Arizona, but Florida has called me once again to spend my winter here.  With the warmest regards, wishing you many happy travels.

and you know, more photo's on my PICASA site.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

2011-32 Missouri to Mississippi


Arkabutla Lake Resevoir
Union city



Mount Olive

Campground:  Union City Rv Park.  Passport America Rate: $15, Regularly $20 so they are not giving the expected half/off rate.  It is a simple new campground, clean white gravel sites  with  darker gravel to indicated each site clearly.  It sits behind a small shop off the main road leading into town.  Full Hookups and good free wi-fi.

Campground:  Arkabutla Lake Reservoir (Army Corp Campground).  $10, senior rate. Reg. $18-$20.  Elect/Water, paved pads, large picnic tables and grills.  Lots of shade trees.  20 over air TV stations, minimal cell phone coverage.

Campground:  Dry Creek Water Park (Mt Olive).  $9.10 Passport America rate.  Full hookups.  Beautiful open forested setting, very quiet.  25 HD over-air TV stations.  3G service available, no cell signal.  Good lake fishing.

I’ve left St Louis.  They were expecting a couple of days of lousy weather and even though I didn’t really feel all that up to moving on, I knew I’d feel better on the road.  With a slightly queasy stomach I headed out around 9:30.

The further I got from the epicenter of the dreaded “bug” the better I felt.

The flat cotton fields on the eastern boarder of Missouri were waiting to be picked, leaving the fields looking like snow covered fields on an overcast day.

Since I wasn’t in much of an exploring mood, I missed stopping in New Madrid and a visit to the earthquake museum.  It’s the epicenter of the New Madrid Fault Line.  The Mid-West has a fault line that apparently has a major earthquake about every 200-300 years.  The last ones  being in 1699 and 1811-12. The largest being in the 8.0 range.  My niece Kim said they have felt small earthquakes in St Louis, but they are not worried about it at all.

While traveling through the Madrid area I noticed that a number of the highway overpasses have been retrofitted with heavy cables connecting the horizontal concrete structures to the side walls.  Otherwise, many of the overpasses will most likely slide off their bases, blocking all traffic during the next big one.  A Missouri PBS station  had quite an interesting piece on the Madrid Fault and the locals in that area are very much aware and preparing for what a large earthquake in the area would mean.  200 “events” occur each year in this area.  Averaging 20 a month.  Imagine.  That’s a lot of earth rumblings.

Food Note:  After feeling much better this morning, I went out looking for a quick breakfast.  Found Hardees.  They have a great breakfast special, biscuits & sausage gravy, tater tots, egg and bacon for $2.99.  Wow.  And some really great coffee.  Just what I needed to get back to normal.

Tunica's Museum

I’m in Tunica which is a small rural town in Mississippi.  It’s about 30 minutes south of Memphis Tn.  Around 1990 Tunica was the first county to approve gambling along the Mississippi river.  The area went from about 26% unemployment and being a cotton growing community, to having 4% unemployment after $4 billion dollars of casino investments in the area.

As I drive into town from the my campsite at the reservoir, I pass huge combine type farm machinery on the rural roads.  Huge tires easily 10ft high and each as wide as a car.  I have to straddle the edge of the road as the machines pass, half on, half off the roadway.

The flat rich delta soil is still farmed in cotton and soybeans and the casinos huddle next to the Mississippi.   like giant colorful painted cardboard boxes made to look like castles and fanciful imaginary cities.  Most of the fields have been plowed under for the next seasons crops and butt up against the new highways and casinos.  There hasn’t been enough time to build subdivisions and huge malls or strip shopping centers as of yet.  Not sure they ever will be built.

I had planned on traveling along the river highway, which isn’t exactly along the river but close enough I guess, since the Mississippi is known to flood quite often.  But, as a good Rv-er, I changed my mind and drove down hwy 55 through the heart of Mississippi, through the state capital Jackson and even saw a big new Nissan plant on the outskirts.  Lots of thick forests along hwy 55, but almost no services off of any of the turn-offs.  It was a pretty boring drive all in all especially since I rarely drive on major highways.

I arrived at my next destination of Mount Olive, mainly to stay at a Passport America park as it is on my way as I head back to Florida.  What a fun find.  This is after a windy drive along a road just about as wide as the truck and camper.  Had to pass one truck but all went smoothly as I crept along.  I planned on staying just two days but will extend an extra day because it’s such a nice place.  Dry Creek Water Park is a pretty State owned campground with a lake for fishing and picnicking.  It’s referred to as a “water park” because it is a watershed area with a small earthen dam.  The park itself could be flooded if need be to protect land downstream.

Picked a large bag full of pinecones for a craft project later on and enjoying this simple super quiet park, the big pine trees, small lake and perfect 77 degree sunny weather.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

2011-31 St Louis Missouri


St Louis Missouri

Campground:  Belleville MH and RV Estates.  $150 wkly rate.  Full hookups, 50amp.  An older established park on the SW side of town, Fenton.  A few well maintained MH’s separated from the mainly Rv park.  Neat, clean and nice concrete pads.  Quiet tree lined area and close to shops and restaurants.

Before I left the Mark Twain Lake area, I stopped into a General Store to do laundry.  The place is a regular country store selling all the usual convenience store stuff, coffee and quick lunch items.  The store has tons of fishing lures including live bait and camping equipment, even clothing and way in the back of the store are 4 washers and dryers.  Oddest place I’ve been to too do my laundry.  Kind of funny walking through the store carrying my laundry basket to get to the washers and dryers.

St Louis

I’m not usually this close to a big city, but of course I had to come visit my Niece Kim and family.  So while here, I’m taking advantage of  some big city attractions.  I’ve already done the wonderful zoo and Budweiser Brewing Beer tour on past visits so today I headed downtown to their large Art Museum.  It’s housed in one of the original buildings built for the World Fair held here back in 1904.

I was able to attend the “Monet’s Water Lilies” exhibit $10.  Otherwise the art museum is free to the public.  The special exhibit include the three large three piece painting of Water Lilies.  A grand scene that hasn’t been put together since it was first created.  The exhibit included Ipods for a personalized tour of each of the paintings.  Something I really appreciate.  It was perhaps one of the smallest special exhibits  I’ve ever attended with only about half a dozen Monet paintings in all.

The rest of the museum contains a mixed collection of art, my favorites being the European Art collection, Cubist and Contemporary art.  A few rooms had recently been redone.  The walls were painted in deep rich jewel tones and the paintings were all hung at perfect eye level making for a grand intimate display.  Amazing how the art work popped out against those darker rich colored walls.  One of the security attendants said they had just re-hung the paintings in those rooms and it was like having friends come back into your life.  She had missed seeing them for most of a year.

I’m visiting my niece Kim and her two daughters Megan and Camy and hubby Aaron.  They live in an elegant Dutch Colonial style home in an older established neighborhood.  The house has been expanded upon and is a perfect mix of traditional and modern open style concept living.  A warm home with tons of light and two active kids who I might add like their Uncle Dougie a lot.  

Plans have been aborted since first Megan was ill and now Camy has gotten the same bug.  Hope I didn’t catch anything.

Electronic Gadget Update.

For all you Rv’ers who travel a lot, having your favorite music in the vehicle is a must.  Since many of us have converted our Cd’s into MP3 music, we need a way to play it through our vehicles stereo system/radio.  Now of course the newest vehicles already come equipped with connections for your Ipod and MP3 players, but those of us who have vehicles say pre 2007, we don’t have the built in connections.  I recently discovered that there are wiring kits that can be added to ones car radio to permit the plugging in of MP3 players as well as smart phones which of course have everything from Internet radio apps to Pandora radio stations.

I had used an FM transmitter, a small device that sends out a radio frequency and connects to the MP3 player.  Unfortunately it doesn’t always work well when near larger  metropolitan areas that have a lot of completing radio stations to interfere with ones signal.
I went to a Best Buy and had them install the wiring kit for me.  Not cheap, but so well worth it.  The handy person can go online and find the right kit for their car radio and install it themselves for around $65.  Of course the other option is to just install a new radio with the headphone and USB connections already built in but that also requires a special wiring harness and kit to make the new radio fit the vehicle.

I am beyond ecstatic to be able to plug in either my MP2 player or my smart phone (an Android) to be able to play music and it can even transmit the GPS ladies voice over my radio for instructions on how to get to that next destination. She now gets to tell me I’ve taken the wrong turn in stereo. Imagine.

Cahokia Mounds

Wow,  after stopping by Kim’s house and picking up the girls, we all headed out to the Cahokia Mounds.  There on the Illinois side of Mississippi river and within viewing distance of St Louis.  Now all those who have followed my travels know that I’ve visited a number of Indian mounds as far south as Florida on up through Ohio and now I’m getting the chance to visit the largest Indian Mound site in North America.  The Cahokia Mounds are the largest prehistoric Indian site north of Mexico.  It’s big.  Really big.  The 2200 acre site is protected through the Indiana State Parks and is a World Heritage site.

This is the 1st level of steps to the top, the 2nd set is just as long

All of the mounds that were in St Louis have all been bulldozed away during it’s rapid growth as a city.  But these 80 plus mounds on the east side of the Mississippi have been preserved.  With an estimated population of 20,000 it was the largest prehistoric Indian settlement north of Mexico.  Monks Mound is the largest covering 14 acres with multiple levels and rising to a height of 100 feet.  It’s definitely the largest Indian Mound I’ve seen in North America.  Archeology has gone through quite a transformation over the past 50 years, as one of the mound sites was excavated in the 1960 and completely destroyed.  That wouldn’t happen today and some of the new techniques for looking deep within sites like this without disturbing them will no doubt provide new discoveries in the future.  A 40 foot high peaked building would have sat on the top of Monks Mound.

During a planned expansion of hwy 55/70, archeologists completing a survey of the area discovered 5 circular sun calendars.  Tall wooden posts evenly spaced with one in the center for determining the changing seasons.  They call it Woodhenge and it may never have been discovered it it hadn’t been for the planned road interchange construction.  Which was later revised and moved.

Imagine the sophisticated structure they must have had set up to manage, feed and sustain a population of 20,000 Indians.  And with only wood and stone tools to create not only these structures, but to farm with and develop such a large community.  All to gradually decline in numbers and dissipate after about 250 to 300 years.

On my last couple of days in the St Louis area, I finally caught the dreaded “bug” from Camy or Megan and have been really under the weather.  I’m just starting to feel better and will begin my trek south tomorrow.

And more pictures on Picasa.

Monday, October 10, 2011

2011-30 Hannibal Missouri: A Bonus Report


Hannibal MO
Florida MO

Mark Twain Lake

Campground:   Mark Twain Lake, Army Corp campground.  $9 (half price senior rate)  Electric 50 amp.  Paved driveway.  Both reserve able (full hookups) and drive up sites.  All easy to back into, most are deep sites with plenty of space for those big rig campers.

I headed south out of the Iowa City area on hwy 218, (US 27), which became SR 923, in Missouri it becomes SR B, US 136,  and finally US 61, whew, thank goodness for GPS to keep me on essentially the same road except for all those name changes.  The winds picked up half way through my 173 mile trek.  Gusting to 25-35 mph , but the camper remained steady and comfortable to tow.

I’m staying at another Army Corp campground, taking advantage of my senior discount card.  They’ve already closed a few of the camping loops making for crowded camp loops at the ones that remain open.  I take the first open campsite I find and luck out with one that is surrounded by a forest of fall colors.  Mainly bronzy yellow/browns and light pumpkin oranges and yellow/oranges.  What a dramatic setting.

Oddly the Army Corp campgrounds permit people to place chairs, small tents, table or what ever to reserve sites for their friends who haven’t yet arrived.  It’s the only campgrounds that I’ve ever seen where one can hold a campsite without paying for the site or having the campers already there.  Not sure I like that.


The campground is about 20 miles from the Mississippi River and the famous town of Hannibal.  The town made famous by Mark Twain and the stories he wrote about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.  The home Mark Twain grew up in is hear (1839) and all a part of a multi-building museum complex.  It’s almost like stepping back in time, wandering the streets, listening to banjo players in the downtown area.  Seeing the buildings that became a part of the stories Mark Twain wrote about with such skill.  Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) got his start working as an apprentice at a newspaper.  As I read the blurbs about his life, I found I had similarities in common with his upbringing.  He never saw anyone in his family kiss, he started work at age twelve and need I even compare our writing skills? ….  One of the Mark Twain museums in town contains many of Norman Rockwell’s painting that he did for an illustrated Tom Sawyer book.

What better way to get the feeling of this river town than to take a river boat cruise down the Mississippi.  It’s an hours tour, 30 minutes down river and 30 minutes back.  Not much of a tour except the great feeling of being on the river, the fresh air and the perfect sunny fall weather.  Seeing barges slowly moving up river.  And talk about realism, as we were boarding the paddleboat, someone in line pointed out a fat happy river rat on shore scampering among the rock walls,  Munching on tall grass and weeds.  

I later stopped into the Missouri State visitors center.  Which was located in the most unusual place in a house on the side of a hill and not even on a major highway.  The attendant was very helpful, even limping off on crutches to get me a few more brochures.  He said he’d broken his leg breaking in a horse and it wasn’t the first time and wouldn’t be the last time either.  He loves to break horses.  Sounds like the horses like breaking him.  But he was in a great mood and provided me with a brochure on the “Great River Road Travel and Map Planner”  It’s a map that covers the roads that follow the great Mississippi River and I’ll be taking a portion of that route on my trip back to Florida.  This could easily take up a full summers journey.  Hmmm something to think about.

On my last day in the area, I drove around the southern end of Mark Twain Lake to the town of Florida.  Yes, Florida Missouri.  It’s where Mark Twain was born and the State park, just outside of the small town contains the Mark Twain Memorial Shrine.  The original two room house was moved a short distance from the town to the Museum where it is protected from the elements.  Since so much of Twain’s life as a boy is centered on Hannibal, I wasn’t expecting all that much.  But after arriving at the Shrine, I must admit that I really did feel the essence of the man who is truly one of Americas favorite authors.  He was born two months early in that two room house and was ornery from the start.  And even a drive through what remains of the town of Florida, barely a cross roads with a few houses and open plots of land, I once again got the feeling of being somewhere special.  Perhaps it was just the clear sunny autumn day.  A freshness in the air not always felt during the hotter summer days. Or maybe is was the silence only broken by the rustling of the dry fall leaves.   So with wonderful quotes from the great author swimming in my head “my books are water: Those of great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water”… I headed on back to the Army Corp campground to enjoy a late afternoon of reading a book outdoors surrounded once again by those wonderful pumpkin colored autumn leaves.  

More photos on my Picasa site.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

2011-29 Iowa City Iowa

Iowa City, Iowa

Coralville Lake, Iowa

Campground:  Coralville Lake Army Corp of Eng. $9 Electric. (half off the regular price with my Senior Card).  This is the first time I’ve had a chance to use the senior card, Yippee!  Great views of Coral Lake.  Some sites have full hookups and reserve able sites.  Beautiful, easy to back in sites.  Full hookups usually have concrete pads as well.

Well as you know from my last report, I’m visiting with friends Kathy and Randy in Iowa.  This is one of those rare times where I have two built-in tour guides and Randy has already done a great job of taking over the driving for our tours.

We didn’t even have to leave the Army Corp campground site for my first tour.  The Coralville dam, or Dam Complex as it’s called.  They have a small museum in the visitors center including a movie that discusses the building of the dam to prevent flooding.  Though twice in the 1990’s there was enormous flooding, one that had tons of water flowing over the spillway for over a month.  It wore down the river bed exposing the shale beds of a 35 million year old lake bed.

Birth Place of Herbert Hoover

So after exploring the small museum, we were able to walk along the river bed (now dry of course) and find ancient sea life fossils.  What fun to see and touch fossilized creatures that had been buried for over 35 million years, exposed and viewable to us after all those years.  Small creepy crawly creatures, sea shells, tracks from creatures crawling along the bed of a once ancient sea.

Another day we drove over to West Branch Iowa to visit the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and birth place.  Now as a full time Rv’er, I have an agenda to visit as many Presidential Libraries as possible.  Others including me like to visit lighthouses or national parks.  But it’s more than just adding one more library to my bucket list of things to see and do.  You see, when I visit a site like the Hoover Presidential Library, I’m introduced to a man who made something of himself in life.  I learn how he got to where he did in life.  I get to follow his path and see what inspired him, built his character.  And of course, I think this makes me a better person, learning what makes a person a leader and someone I can look up too.

Herbert grew up in a Quaker community where his parents where both educated and leaders of their community.  His Father died when Herbert was 6 and his mother, died when he was only  10.  His brothers and sisters were scattered among relatives and he was sent west to Oregon to live with an Uncle.

He went to Stanford and became an Engineer in Geology, traveling the world for mining companies.  And all along the way was a humanitarian who found ways to help the hungry and homeless.  Often by encouraging others to volunteer their time, effort and food.

I could ramble on about his highs and lows as President, but will let you explore and discover those stories on your own,  including his final years at the Waldorf Astoria Towers.

The next day we drive around this farming communities that surround Iowa City.  On the way to Kalona, Kathy and Randy take me on an adventure into small town shopping.  Out in the farming country are many small Bulk food centers run by the Amish as well as dairy farms where cheddar cheese can be seen being made right on the farm.  We’re able to buy spices of every type in bulk packages, hand made pasta, dairy products and fresh baked goods all at very reasonable prices, some almost too good to believe.  We go into a general store on an Amish farm where one can find all those basic household supplies.

bulk shopping at it's best

We even see a newly built Amish co-op that’s like their version of a Sam’s Club.  In the small town of Kalona we go to a sandwich shop (the Kalona Bakery) where they make fresh sub sandwiches and a whole counter of fresh bakery that calls to us… of course we have to get something sweet along with our sub.  A small store packed with customers eager to experience the small town atmosphere.

Then it’s onto Riverside Iowa, The town came to fame when it decided to call itself “The future birthplace of Capt. James T Kirk“ as of course Star Trek takes place in our future you know.  Later, William Shatner came here to film a movie (of sorts).  It was a spoof on the town and ended up on Spike TV.  The town has the original mock up of the spaceship, a museum of  Star Trek items and of course the filming of the movie/spoof.  Talk about a quirky, fun, unique experience to see a small town caught up in and forever wrapped in the dazzle of being a part of Hollywood.  There 15 minutes of fame now enmeshed in who they are.  And the site is even highlighted on my National Geographic’s map.

One of my last stops in Iowa was to the 7 Villages of Amana.  It was an experiment in communal living that began way back in 1714 as an offshoot of the Lutheran movement in Germany.  They believed in the gift of prophecy and divine inspiration.  They were referred to as The Inspirationalists and eventually took the name of the Ebenezer Society.  After continuing harassment by the governments in Europe, they moved to America where they eventually settled in Iowa.  Creating 7 villages where the farmers and workers lived, radiating out to their farms and factories to work.  They were most productive for over 80 years, but as time went on and younger member grew up, they balked at being told which job they would be assigned too.  After a huge fire destroyed two of the manufacturing factories, the communal life came to an end.  Today only a small weaving mill continues to make blankets and other products though the communities continue to thrive.

Randy and Kathy

I find the communities an inspiration of what can be done with talented people working together to make not only good products but a community where people work together for a common cause.  And what a way to be able to learn new skills than at the hands of inventors and craftsmen.  Though they learned the hard way that a person needs the freedom to decide what kind of work they would like to learn and not be told by an elder, this is your path….

A final note on my visit with Randy and Kathy.  Along with great conversations, I had a chance to meet their daughter Christine and her husband John.  They have adopted a few kids and are foster parents to some who are mentally challenged.  What a loving, fun, energetic family.  Good people doing good deeds every minute of the day.  Whew, I could never keep up.

Oh, and a final final note, I beat the pants off of Kathy and Randy winning two games of Mexican Train.

More photos on Picasa