Day 31: Event in Casper, WY
Another rainy day. Thought we were out of the rain for a while but I was wrong. We did get some clearing about 4pm, just in time for a high elevation side trip.
We held our first noontime event at the Natrona County Public Library. Don’t know if it was the rain or event time but in spite of the Library’s promotions we only had one person attend. This has been Sal’s biggest fear all along, that we would have an event without good attendance. Interesting that this situation came up in the largest town we visit in the West. Like every other event, we learned from this one, namely that the best chance for success is to partner with another event going on at the library.
We still did the safety pin chain creation and adorning local-interest books. This resulted in another beautiful group of adorned books that will become part of our exhibit at the Newport Visual Arts Center opening June 9.
Thanks to Betsy at the Natrona County Public Library for all her help with our event and her suggestions of restaurants and tourist activities. Betsy has lots of Northwest connections (native of Corbett, OR, U of Washington grad) and we had a great time talking about our NW home.
After the event, we had “linner” at FireRock Steakhouse (yum!) and took a side trip to Casper Mountain. I commented yesterday about gaining 2,500 ft of elevation in a day traveling to Casper. On Casper Mountain we gained 2,500 ft. of elevation in less than 30 minutes. Gorgeous views from up there. Casper has lots year-round sports options and Casper Mountain is a winner for winter sports.
Headed to Wapiti, WY today, just outside the SE entrance to Yellowstone National Park. This will be a beautiful drive to one of the most scenic areas of the US. Sunny forecast for the next 3 days; YAY!
Day 30: Travel day with a side trip.
Day 30 dawned clear and warming, a blessing after 4 straight days of continuous rain and cold. I got up early and went out to photograph the town. Valentine is definitely the City of Hearts, with heart images everywhere. The town is so connected with hearts that the post office processes about 10,000 pieces of mail a year from outside Valentine so the mail has a Valentine postmark for Valentine’s day.
Heading west out of Valentine we soon found ourselves gaining significant elevation. After taking 3 weeks to get from sea level to 2600 ft in Valentine, we got to 5,100 ft in one day, with lots of ups and downs between. I remembered western Nebraska having some beautiful country from previous trips across on I-80. US 20 had even better scenery and we got to enjoy it more since we were going 15mph slower than we would on the freeway.
Before leaving Nebraska we took a 100 mile detour to Alliance, NE to see Carhenge. Sal put this on our “must see” list soon after she found it on Atlas Obscura. Carhenge is one of the few tourist attractions in this part of the state and is just different enough to draw visitors to this rather remote town. We didn’t have as much time to play at Carhenge as we hoped due to the intense rain storms passing thru the area.
Crossing into Wyoming about 2 hours later was a symbolic milestone for us. Happy to be back in the High Country and the West again. Sal and I love the Intermountain West; feels like we belong here. Arrived in Casper just before dark after driving thru mile after mile of gorgeous countryside. 441 miles today; back in the land of long drive days.
We have an event in Casper at noon today, then the opportunity to be local tourists for the rest of day. Looking forward to both.
Day 29: Event in Valentine, NE.
We had our 8th event of the trip in Valentine, NE. In spite of cold, sleet, and rain, an enthusiastic group of artists came to our #connectingus20 event. This was the first library we put on our itinerary. Sal’s love of hearts made this an absolute must stop.
We started off as usual with connecting safety pins into chains. Our guests warmed quickly to the task and produced some nice chains for themselves, some of which made their way into the art created in the second part of the event. Sal explained what part 2 was about, adorning books as art. Our host Anna had pre-selected some great books on Nebraska history and culture for us, so our guests selected a book they liked and created a colorful theme around their book. The creativity shown by combining these simple material never ceases to amaze.
Part 3 was the playful part of the event. Using her skills as a laughter coach it only took Sal a few minutes to have everyone dressing up and waving large bands of color around. Kimber volunteered to let the other guests cover her with cheesecloth. This is a new element in this part of the event we added after watching how much fun everyone had covering a volunteer at our Clyde, OH event. Kimber was patient while being covered in layer after layer of colorful cheesecloth. She put on quite a performance when it was time to exit her “cocoon” to the laughter of everyone. Great job, Kimber!
Thanks to Hedda from the artist’s group and to the team at the Valentine Public Library for promoting another successful event. And thanks to Janette for suggesting Coachlight Inn; their BLTs are yummy!
Off to Casper, WY today with a stop at Carhenge, a great find out of Atlas Obscura.
6,439 miles so far; 1700 or so to go. Back to long driving days in this sparsely populated part of the US.
Day 28: Travel day to Valentine, NE.
We left Cherokee mid-morning in pouring rain. We're on the fringes of the big storms going on in the Midwest. Fortunately, we're only getting the rain, not the brutal winds hitting the eastern half of Iowa.
Crossed into Nebraska about an hour after leaving Cherokee, still in the rain. Went from smooth 4-lane road to not-so-smooth 2-lane road. Not bad travel though, as traffic was light and moving at a good speed.
One of our travel aids is Bryan Farr's book "Historic US Route 20". I have a copy on my iPad and it's providing some interesting ideas for side trips and little "gems" we might have missed otherwise.
One of those gems is the Ashfall Fossil Beds near Orchard, NE. This 15-mile side trip took us 12 million years back in time to the days of a huge volcanic eruption in what is known as Idaho today. As the ash rolled in, it killed the animal life around a large watering hole, covering the bodies in ash and creating a rock casket around thousands of animals.
While on the site, we were fortunate to meet up with a student paleontologist, Colton, who explained the some of the fossils and talked about the one he and a partner found and how they excavated it.
This was a great history and geology lesson in a place we least expected it.
We arrived in Valentine, "The Heart City" in the late afternoon. We have an event at 12:30pm today, then off to do some more exploring in the area.
Stubbs Memorial Library in Holstein was the site for Iowa's #connectingus20 event. We were a bit concerned about whether guests would come because of the late substitution of Holstein for Fort Dodge. (Turns out this substitution was a blessing after what happened in Fort Dodge 2 days ago with the storm.)
Our concern was unfounded. Thanks to our host Emily and willing library patrons we had a fun event that produced more beautiful book art. Having community elders, young parents, and middle school students as a mix created an interesting and dynamic environment.
One of the best things about this project is that each event is a unique experience. Area natives give perspective to stories of local people and events. Others tell personal stories of how they came to live in that place or about events that stand out in their memories. We appreciate the sharing and friendship that come with each visit.
Sal and I are blessed with the opportunity to experience firsthand what America is all about and to celebrate the similarities and differences between the places we visit. In spite of what we are sometimes lead to believe, America is still a place full of people of good will and honest intentions.
In the News: We found out late yesterday we have another article about #connectingus20 coming out in June's Regal Courier. Thanks again, Barbara Sherman!
On to Valentine, NE today. Sal loves hearts and Valentine's Day, so a visit to Valentine is a must.
Day 26: Travel day from Galena, IL to Cherokee, IA.
Left Galena in late morning. We're so glad we had the opportunity to experience such a warm and welcoming town. 15 minutes out, we crossed the mighty Mississippi at Dubuque, IA and headed into miles and miles of straight, 4-lane limited access highway. This was a pleasant change after all the 2-lane US 20 we encountered to this point.
\We stopped in Ft Dodge, IA for a late/early dinner we term a "Linner". We noticed large amounts of debris and numerous stoplights that weren't working. It turns out a huge storm had passed thru the night before with 110mph winds and driving rain. The storm hit Ft Dodge hard.
We got to experience some midwest storm weather ourselves as we drove west. Having watched a good many "storm chaser" shows, it was obvious we were in severe thunderstorm/tornado formation weather. We got thru okay with only hard rain in a few spots and lots of wind for about 100 miles.
We have an event today in Holstein, a small town about 20 miles south. Had to stay in Cherokee because the only hotel in Holstein is full of workers from a nearby US 20 construction project.
No pics from yesterday so I'm posting a few from my museum day in Auburn, IN.
Day 25: Tourists for a day.
We spent our second day in Galena, IL being tourists. This is one of the fun parts of the Connecting US 20 project, getting to see the great towns along the way and having a chance to talk with people in the community.
I got out in the early morning to take some pictures of the town in the morning light. Galena is a beautiful town and I wound up taking WAY more pictures than I originally intended. Sure am glad we don't have to develop film any more; I would have burned thru about 20 "rolls" yesterday. Yay, digital!
Sal worked on art from the Galena Library until a little after noon when we went exploring together. Had lunch in a local restaurant called the Market House (chicken and dumplings were yummy). After wandering around in the heat for a few hours, we headed southwest out of town and found a ski resort with a spectacular view of the Mississippi River at the end of Blackjack Road. Didn't expect to find either a ski resort or the Mississippi; what a pleasant surprise.
We visited 2 preserves of Native American burial mounds on the way back to town. More great views and a quiet reverence that added to the tranquility of the area.
Last stop for the day was at U.S. Grant's home after the Civil War. The town was so grateful for its native son war hero they GAVE him a mansion on a hill overlooking the town.
The pictures give an idea of what this picturesque riverside town holds in store. We really enjoyed our time here.
On to Cherokee, IA today. We are running just ahead of another batch of big storms. We got caught in one on Monday night and don't wish to have THAT experience again.
Day 24: Event in Galena, IL. Travel today found us traveling thru an area of abject poverty followed by unexpected beauty a few hours later.
We left South Bend a bit behind schedule with the specter of Chicago looming in front of us. From all accounts I could find, Chicago’s South Side was a place to be concerned about and that US 20 was difficult to follow thru Chicago. We didn’t find either to be true.
The difficult part of the journey was thru northwestern Indiana and the 40 miles or so leading to Chicago. Driving thru Gary, IN was the most depressing situation we have encountered so far. It is a scene of abject poverty; burned out buildings, boarded up businesses, trash and debris everywhere. Factories that once employed thousands now silent. The only businesses that seemed to survive/thrive in the area were the oil refineries. Ahh, the smell of petroleum so early in the day.
Navigating thru Chicago turned out to be simple. The road was well marked and with my sign spotter Sal Strom, we got thru the dreaded Chicago with ease. Was worried a time or 2 that one of the potholes would swallow our car; otherwise, it was pretty smooth sailing.
Once we cleared Chicago, we were back in green hill country. We didn’t expect to find tall hills in this part of the country so we happy to find rolling hills and beautiful farm country. When we finally arrived in Galena, we were amazed at the town. Will publish some images in the next few days. Let’s just say we were surprised at what we found.
We were running a bit behind due to some delay in Gary (sat for nearly 20 minutes waiting for a train to move off the US 20 crossing). We arrived at the Galena library at 5:23pm for a 5:30 event. Our experience at doing these kept stress to a minimum as we set up for the event. We eventually had 6 people attend, 3 of them local writers whose books were adorned in the second part of the event. We had a great time talking with our guests and learning lots of fun facts about the area.
Thanks to Larissa at the Galena Public Library for inviting the authors to our event. Connecting with them and their literary works added much to the richness of the event.
Being tourists today, following up on suggestions from Larissa and our guests.
Day 23: South Bend, IN. History and art.
South Bend was home to Studebaker Corporation for many years. The Studebaker history museum is one of the last remnants of the company. Studebaker had a long history of vehicle production, starting with wagons in the 1880s and ending with cars in 1964. Even though company finally expired in the mid-1960s, they left behind a large fan base and a rich history.
The vehicles in this post are a small sample of what the Studebaker museum holds. I'll do a broader survey as time permits.
While I was at the museum, Sal Strom worked on the book art created in New Carlisle, IN. The ladies in New Carlisle created some gorgeous pieces that became part of the mosaic of this project.
Late afternoon we cruised over to the Notre Dame campus. Impressive, beautiful, picturesque; hard to describe in mere words.
Then we went looking for dinner, which turned out to be an exercise is closed restaurants, places too noisy even for Sal, and nearly empty restaurants only taking reservations that would not seat us (this was at 7pm). Finally wound up at Chili's on the far side of the city from where we were staying.
Hope all the mothers on our list had a great Mother's Day with many more to follow.
We're off to Galena, IL later this morning. Navigating Chicago on US 20 is rumored to be an "interesting" task. We'll find out firsthand in about 2 hours.
Day 22: Event in New Carlisle, IN. Short drive day for an early afternoon event.
Our event in New Carlisle was a different format than the ones we usually do. We were part of a Woman’s Day event at the New Carlisle Public Library, an event with about 15 participating organizations. Instead of a group who came for our entire 3-part event, individuals and small groups came past our table at random intervals over a 2-hour period for book adornment.
No safety pins this time; only cheesecloth and book art. We had about 25 ladies that adorned books during the event. We got some quizzical looks as we explained what we wanted them to do, but everyone got in the spirit and created yet another batch of amazing colorful art adorning the books. Sal kept busy talked about our project and guiding the book adornments while I performed my dutiful role as photographer and assistant project manager. The event lasted 2 hours and we were busy almost the whole time.
The library itself is a large, beautiful building that serves many constituencies. They offer a variety of programs and have broad public support, a true public service organization. They even have their own pair of guinea pigs. Thanks to Roanna for making this a fun and unusual opportunity to talk about our project and create new art.
Overnights Saturday and Sunday in South Bend, IN. I’m going to the Studebaker National Museum today for my last car museum while Sal Strom busily works on processing the art from New Carlisle.
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