A Season of Family and Friends – Midwest Style

We’re back out on the road with the RV and the dogs and we’ve got six months of travel ahead of us. We hope you’ll follow along and keep in touch. Hey, if you are going to be in our area, let’s connect! 

Our itinerary will take us to the Midwest to spend time with family in Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas City. Then we’ll head south to Fayetteville, AR for a trail running event. From there we’ll hit Vickburg and Natchez on the Great River Road before settling down for awhile in Gulf Shores, AL and Pensacola, FL. After another marathon on Florida’s Space Coast we’ll hang out in the Keys for the months of December and January. Eventually we’ll head north with stops in Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Ocala, and St. Augustine before finishing our trip with the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah. After that, who knows?

Steve left home with the dogs and the trailer at the end of September, spending a few days in Colorado with Sam and Russ. When these three guys get together it’s always fun!

From there Steve headed to Nebraska and moochdocked for two weeks at his brother Brian’s house in Elkhorn, NE. In what’s become an annual event, Steve helped around the house, attended Lydia and Nathan’s games and practices, and attended two Cornhusker football games.

By the time I got there, Bob was a full-fledged Husker, well taken care of by our niece Lydia!

While we love hanging out with the Greens, it was time to move along, eastward to Des Moines. The Des Moines marathon was Steve’s 21st state and 30th marathon. What made it even more special was that he was joined by high school buddy Kent Ferris. These guys ran cross country together in high school, so it was like old times. I ran the 5K and then took care of the pups while the boys covered their 26.2 miles on a beautiful fall day.

Also while in the Des Moines area we connected with our friends and Prescott neighbors, Jackie and Dan (and Smeagol). They live in nearby Polk City and showed us the beauty of their midwest home.  We explored the Saylorville Lake area, had yummy Mexican food, and finished up with pie back at their house. Thanks, Jack and Diane, for a fun day!

On an extra day in the Des Moines area we drove to the town of Winterset to check out the famed Bridges of Madison County. You probably know about these covered bridges from the 1995 movie of the same name starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. At one time this area had the largest collection of covered bridges west of the Mississippi. Now, the six bridges that are still standing are a draw to this pretty area, made even more beautiful in its fall colors. 

From there we headed south to Maryville, MO to pay a visit to our niece Elise. She is a busy sophomore at Northwest Missouri State but found a little time to hang out with her aunt and uncle and introduce us to a few of her fun friends. Thanks Elise!

Our next stop was Kansas City for a few days with Gary, Kristy, Hudson, and Brynn (and the dogs Ruby and Nellie). We always enjoy our time with these guys and especially love the home-cooking offered by Kristy. Mia and Bob barely hit the ground and Brynn and Hudson took extra special care of them. We even got to help celebrate Hudson’s 11th birthday while there. Happy Birthday big guy!

Our final midwestern stop was for Steve’s aunt Sandy and uncle Jerry’s Celebration of Life in Prescott, IA. Sandy and Jerry passed just five days apart last month after 65 years of marriage. Their five girls and the large Freshour family are a testament to their love and commitment.

Attending the service was an honor and the celebration that followed would have made them proud. Steve’s entire family, including Mom, Dad, and brothers Brian and Gary were in attendance, along with Brynn, who was a great dog sitter. Connecting with the cousins from near and far was a great bonus. Thanks to cousin Linda for hosting us in our trailer on her property.

We’re heading south now, away from the impending winter and towards warmer weather (we hope)! We’ll have another update in a week or so. As always, we love reading your comments.

Devils Tower, Fort Robinson, and Great Friends

Both were out of the way a bit but definitely worth the journey. After leaving North Dakota we headed south and west to reach the other-worldly Devils Tower. Teddy Roosevelt’s first national monument in 1906 has been attracting crowds for centuries.

A sacred place for native Americans and a draw for climbers since the first summit in 1893, Devils Tower is a geologic wonder.

We walked the easy Tower Trail around the monument and watched climbers high up on the cliffs. Can you see them on the photo above? The views of the surrounding pine forests and distant grasslands were also pretty cool from the trail.

It was a short visit. You can see it in an afternoon unless you plan on climbing. We stayed at the KOA just outside the monument and had great views of the tower from our campsite. The Devils Tower KOA screens Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind each evening in its outdoor theater. The movie was filmed on the grounds of the KOA in the 1970s. We watched the show and realized neither of us remembered seeing it in its entirety before.

After getting our passport stamp at Devils Tower we headed south to visit another of Steve’s childhood memories. The Greens visited Northwest Nebraska’s Fort Robinson State Park in the late 70s.

Steve says the park hadn’t changed much but we were impressed with how the historic site has been maintained and preserved. The campground was a great base from which to explore the fort that saw Indian wars including the death of Crazy Horse, a WWII German POW camp, and years and years of family reunions in the old officer’s quarters.

The park has a ton of hiking/biking/riding trails which we really enjoyed. As you know, we don’t pass up a good trail!

The free Thursday night rodeo was a kick. And we couldn’t miss the chuck wagon dinner, which Steve and his family also enjoyed years ago. The bison stew and cornbread is the same but now the wagon is powered by a truck instead of horses.

Being back in Nebraska gave Steve an opportunity to enjoy one of his favorite treats, a Runza. He says they order these meat pies at Cornhusker football games and holding it keeps your hands warm until halftime.

While both Devils Tower and Fort Robinson may be new destinations for many people, we highly recommend both.

On our way home from our two month adventure we stopped in Colorado to visit two sets of dear friends. In Fort Collins we connected with the Shoemakers for breakfast. Susan and I worked together at the City of Phoenix back in the 90s, and her family is very special. It was great to spend time with Susan, Russ, Steve, Rachel, Griffin, and Fletcher.

In Denver we spent a few days with Sam and his family. We all go back many, many years, and it’s always fun to hang out with this crowd. In fact, we even left for home with a stowaway…Sam is riding to Arizona with us to hang out for a little longer.

As we close this trip out and prepare for the next, we feel super grateful for the opportunity to explore at our own pace and in our own way. This summer we covered nine states and four national parks, staying in twenty three different campgrounds. It was a fun summer, and the best part was connecting with family and friends along the way.

We are now preparing for our next journey, and we’d love to see more friends and family along the way. If you want to join us on the road, we’d love to have you!

Branson, Bentonville, and a Tornado Warning

We’re continuing our winter RV trip south by exploring some of the places we’ve always heard about but never thought we’d have the opportunity to explore. First stop: Branson, Missouri.  From Gary and Kristy’s house in Kansas City we headed to the southern most part of the state and based ourselves at Table Rock State Park, just outside of Branson. We prefer to be a little removed from the cities at this point. We have more room and it gives us plenty of space to social distance.  This campground was just the ticket. 

While at Table Rock, Steve got in some long runs in preparation for his marathon in Nashville in a few weeks. He really enjoyed the fall colors along the trail. We had one day of wet and windy weather but otherwise it was cool and clear. Branson, we found, is a lot like Las Vegas for families with a central strip packed with big attractions and theaters. 

While in Branson we took in two shows. First we got discount tickets to see Anthems of Rock. It’s not the typical country-western show you find here, but we knew the words to every song and sang along. 

We also attended the Dolly Parton Stampede, a legendary show that features 32 horses as the stars.  A little singing, a little comedy, and a lot of horsemanship made for a very entertaining evening. We kept saying that Dad would have enjoyed this one. 

One day we took a little road trip to the south and drove through Berryville, Arkansas. Steve lived in this little town when he was around six years old. He couldn’t find his old house but we did drive by the plant where his Dad worked. It’s now a Tyson Foods processing facility and the entire area smelled like chicken nuggets.

From Berryville we headed to nearby Bentonville and the home of Walmart. We’d heard that this was a happening area and we weren’t disappointed. If I had been fit to ride, we would have hit the many, many mountain bike trails in the area. Since I’m still in the surgical shoe, we’ll have to save that for the next visit.

Instead we toured the Walmart Museum and learned about the founding and subsequent growth of the world’s largest retailer. The museum is in the location of the original Walton’s 5 and 10. Steve particularly liked Sam Walton’s old truck, which Sam drove until his death in 1992.

If you are ever in Bentonville we highly recommend you visit the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Established by Walmart heiress Alice Walton, the world-class collection of art and the stunning architecture rivaled most of the museums we visited in New York.

My favorite piece was the Georgia O’Keeffe Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1. which I later learned was acquired by Walton in 2014 for $44.4 million.

We left Branson and continued our trek south. As pitstop on our way to Memphis, Davidsonville Historic State Park in Arkansas was a fun choice. Again, there were very few people around and we could explore the adjacent historic park on our own.

Davidsonville was the site of Arkansas’s first post office and courthouse. The townsite was established in 1815 and abandoned within 15 years in favor of more readily accessible locations along the Black River. Today there are two “ghost structures” that indicate the location of the original post office and courthouse, along with an interesting interpretive walk through the historic site. 

The real fun at Davidsonville occurred around midnight when we were awakened by our weather radio alerting us to a tornado warning in our area. We were invited by the ranger to wait out the warning in the visitor center and it only took about 30 minutes to be back in our beds, safe and warm. No tornados, no damage, just a false alarm, but it made for a little excitement!

Our next stop is now Memphis, so stay tuned for the next blog featuring the blues and a little Elvis.