Cedar Rock State Park, Iowa

The best part of our visit to The Field of Dreams was seeing a highway sign for Cedar Rock State Park and Lowell and Agnes Walters estate designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Since Nellie was with us at Field of Dreams, we had to make a separate trip to visit the Walter’s estate.  We actually ended up spending another night in Cedar Falls to facilitate the visit.  Another reason we like to make reservations last minute to be able to remain flexible. 

Lowell and Agnes Walters commissioned the house in 1948 and it was built between 1948 and 1950.  The couple lived in the house for over 30 years.  Having no children, they decided to leave the home to the people of Iowa and Agnes turned over the estate in 1982 after Lowell passed.  She later died in 1986 at the age of 90. 

This home is an excellent example of Wrights Usonian residential style, which is basically simple living in one with nature.  The living as one with nature is the main thing we love about Wright’s houses, but the simple living is taken a bit too far some times.  His homes (we have visited 3 now so we are not experts) are relatively small with low ceilings and lots of horizontal lines.  The main living area is the focus of the house, the kitchen and bedrooms seem to be an after-thought.   We live in a very small space so you wouldn’t think we would mind this aspect, but when/if we ever live in a sticks and bricks home again it will have a large kitchen since that is my favorite room. 

The Wright house we visited in Florence, AL Wright himself never visited, not before during or after construction.  They said he basically send a bunch of puzzle pieces and his apprentices assembled it.  According to our guide he was very hands-on on this project; he not only designed the home, but all furnishings, draperies, floor coverings and many of the decorative items.  He also remained friends with the Walters and there were a couple of pictures of him at the completed home as a visitor.  He even left his signature on the home which is pretty rare.

The Walters respected Wright and left the house the way he intended it even some aspects that they may not have liked.  Anyway, on to the tour.  Here is the front view.  The part of the house on the right separated from the main house by a carport is the maid’s quarters.  The Walters did not have a maid and used this as a guest house.  

And the rear, on this view you can see three sets of French doors leading to the three bedrooms.  And on the end is the “garden room” which is the main living and dining room and is a garden inside and out.  Note that these plants are planted in the ground inside the house, and some are decedents of the original plants imported from south America by Wright.   Also note how low profile the furniture is allowing the windows and nature in exterior become part of the décor. 

One of the features we really liked in the house is the dining room table.  Instead of having a “leaf” to make the table larger, you can add space by moving the coffee table and another side table to join with the dining table.  The main table has concave edges with the other have convex edges so they fit together. 

We have been told that most of Wright’s homes have a common theme or feature through the home.  Although our guide did not mention it and we didn’t ask, we believe this home’s repeat feature are these back lit reliefs in the brick filled with colored Corning Glass from New York.  

In this era of homes, the bathrooms are usually not very impressive and this one is the same.  They are so small it could be claustrophobic unless you live in a motorhome.  To accommodate the smallness, they used a design meant for use in railroad cars.  There is only one facet to fill either the sink or the tub, and when the tub is in use the sink swivels around and covers the toilet.  When you need the toilet or to drain the sink it swivels around over the tub.   Interesting use of space. 

Of course, he installed his favorite corners, of glass-on-glass corners so no view obstructions. 

The bricks inside and out have deep grout lines on the horizontal and almost filled in grout on the vertical to further emphasize the horizontal lines of the house.  Same with these long selves in the hall accessing the bedrooms. 

Love the double decker utensil drawer at Mom’s house, little did we know it was a Wright design.

Misc house pics.

For this estate Wright didn’t stop at the house.  He also designed a very large fire pit, entertainment patio.  They say they often cooked a hole lamb, a half a pig or a quarter cow over the fire.  Would have loved to be part of these parties.  These cute little tables (also designed by Wright) are for the fire pit dinners.  You place your plate on the top level and the lower smaller pedestal is for your drink.  I can’t believe that the design didn’t take off, seems like a brilliant idea.  Maybe our next career…

He also designed and built a boat house on the property about 75 yards from the house on the Wapsipinicon River.  What a wonderful space, a desk, bedroom enclosed area and sitting in a screen enclosed patio over the river.  There is also a small kitchenette and water closet. 

On the lower level is where the boat was kept, including a rail way to launch the boat on its special made carriage.  Luckily, they had a motorized wench. 

We were also visited by a bald eagle on the river while we visited the boat house, we saw one on the ride home thru the country as well.  Just love seeing them.

Just one more note, per the guide a typical house at the time was about $30k, and the Walters and Wright agreed on about $120k.  The final cost was closer to $160k.  Love, Love, Love his dedication to style, and simple functionality, but really.  

Since my rant on the Field of Dreams post I have to share this.  For this state park, the tour is free with a stated suggested donation of $5 per person.  This is remarkably lower than the other FLW houses we have visited.  When we arrived, it was never mentioned.  There was a sign or two, but never a word mentioned of donating.  When we were leaving, I had to ask where we could donate and gave the full $5 each suggested donation.

Peace Love and the biggest bestest happiest birthdays ever to the love of my life, you know who you are!!!

Field of Dreams Dyersville, IA

From SD we skirted Minnesota, but I really have nothing to say or show from our couple of days in Minnesota.  Weather changed it rained and got pretty chilly long pants were necessary, but no complaints.  This was our view, more corn.

On we went back to Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA to be exact.  The Cedar River runs thru Cedar Falls and Waterloo and although we were pleasantly surprised by the falls in Sioux Falls, they say that Cedar Falls are not much as far as falls go.  We did not go downtown for a couple of reasons, but mainly because I really wanted to go to the Field of Dreams movie set.  Don’t know much about Iowa, but knew that the movie was filmed there.  It was about an hour and twenty minutes trip, but according to their web site it was free to visit, donations welcome. 

We love free entertainment and if we enjoy the place/activity we donate as appropriate.  When we arrived, there was an entrance gate with a gate keeper requesting a $20 donation.  This really rubbed me the wrong way.  Of course, there were signs noting that it was simply a suggested donation, but it more resembled an entrance fee, after a long drive to get there.  I gave what I thought was a reasonable donation, not their suggested donation. 

If you know the movie you know that there is a lovely farm house surrounded by corn fields where they built a baseball field.  So basically, this is a baseball field in someone’s yard. 

You are allowed to play on the field, walk the bases and enjoy the grounds.  You can also spend more money to tour the house and or visit the gift shop to spend some more money.  We choose to walk around the field and watch some other folks throw and hit some balls. 

Part of the movie includes voices coming from the corn fields and some old ball players emerging from the corn similar to Randy and Nellie here.  There are warning signs to not venture further than 5 feet into the corn fields since you may get lost. 

They have built another field right behind this one, you can see the lights for it above the corn.  This was used for a Major League game between NY Yankees and the Chicago White Sox in 2021, but that field was closed while we were there. To the best of my knowledge they very rarely play on that new field, but guess they used the “donations” to build it?

Not really sure what I expected from this movie set, but it was just a little disappointing.  It is indeed a ball field surrounded by corn fields with a nice-looking house on the hill, what more could you want?? 

Dyersville was a nice-looking small town in eastern Iowa, it has probably prospered a lot from the notoriety of the movie being filmed there.  It is also home to one of two Basilicas in Iowa, the 125-year-old St. Francis Xavier Basilica. 

Peace and Love  

Sioux Falls, SD

Made it back to South Dakota our, state of residence.  To become a resident we had to prove we spent one night in the state, now five years  later it’s time to renew our drivers license and we again need to spend at least one night in the state so here we are.  Sioux Falls is in south eastern part of the state at an intersection of I29 and I90, so pretty easy access.  We found a really nice state park in near by Brandon to stay in, the Big Sioux Recreation Area. 

Knowing nothing about the area our first question was are there really falls here?  Well, yes there are, and the main downtown park, Falls Park is beautiful.  The signs in the park state that these red rocks are quartzite.  From our time in Quartzite, AZ I thought that quartzite was more like quartz, crystal like rocks, but this is not.  Not that I question the signs, just thought I would mention this.

The Big Sioux River flows thru downtown and is the major feature to the park.  These are the largest of the falls present while we were there, but we would love to see it with higher water flow.  The other parts of the Big Sioux have been almost dry so this is a very low flow time. 

The park has numerous walking trails with overlooks for fall viewing.  There are also a couple of sculptures and some informative signs. 

In prior times, the river powered a large mill, the Queen Bee Mill.  This was a seven-story mill to mill wheat which was built in 1878 and was destroyed by fire in 1956. 

The saddest part of the story at least to me is that there were once a third level of falls in this area.  That part of the rock formations creating the fall was destroyed and removed to install a hydroelectric plant.   Shortly after the plant was operational it was determined to be ineffectual due to inconsistent water flow in the river.  Should have just left the falls…

Peace Love and prayers that EVERYTHING will start flowing!

Onawa, IA

Another new state, knocking them off even if close to the border.  Onawa is about 5 miles from the Missouri river and Nebraska, but close enough to Sioux City to get RX refilled, bonus!  Have usually not had a problem finding a convenient drug store, but KS was a little different in many ways.   

Corn and beans (soy beans), bean and corn.  We love some good summer corn, but I’m not sure that is what this is.  Its kind of like central Florida near Lake Okeechobee where there was so much corn and no fresh eating corn available.  Really wish we knew what they do with all that corn.  Many fields have ears of corn way beyond ripe and ready to eat still on the stalk. 

 Is this feed corn for all that cattle processed in KS, corn for meal or oil, we really don’t know, but there is most definitely A LOT of corn here in the heartland.  Fields and fields, miles and miles, you can not imagine how much corn we have seen in the last couple of weeks. 

Labor day was approaching and Onawa had a spot so there we were.  Not a bad place to spend the holiday, it really packed out yet we had a nice quite site with shade trees!!   Here’s a view of the Missouri River and border between Iowa and Nebraska.

We made a nice loop thru Nebraska to Sioux City and the drug store following the Lewis and Clark Trail.  A couple informative signs along the way, this was a pleasant surprise.  They started their journey going up river on the Missouri, doesn’t sound like a great idea.  They pulled, poled, dragged and sometimes sailed up the river.  Mission to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean.

Anyway, on the way back we took the Loess Hills scenic byway. Loess rhymes with bus, who knew.   This is what Iowa has for hills.  The byway is more popular during the fall for color, maybe the only place they allow trees to grow instead of elevation allure.  Here are the hills.

As said before there are miles and miles of corn.  And around the hills you got a pretty overview. 

Coming in to Iowa we saw our first evidence of terraced farming.  We read about it in Kansas but I had never seen it.  This makes since for leveled riding of machinery as well as for water retention…  Not exactly sure of the benefits, but looks good. 

Peace Love and gratitude to all the farmers!!   

Council Grove, KS

Last Kansas stop is Council Grove.  We are spending the rest of our summer trying to visit the few remaining states we have not yet visited.  In our book states count only if we spend a night there.  The majority of states we have not visited happen to be here in the heart land.  The main reason we have not been here is that there is not a lot here to see.  We can always find something to see, but not as much here as some of our other summer adventures.  Because of this we have not been posting as much as other years, there is simply not as much to post about and I have really been enjoying doing a lot of reading this summer and it gets in the way of my free time spent posting.  Therefore, I am once again playing catchup. 

In Council Grove we found a nice COE campground on a Council Grove Lake just north of town.  There is really not much to the town, but as I said above, we can always find something to check out.  Council Grove is in the Flint Hill area of Kansas and is I think the prettiest part of Kansas we have seen with rolling green hills full of tall prairie grass, and probably a lot of cattle (sorry no pictures).  On the way into town, I noticed a large tree stump under a shelter and had to go see what it was all about. 

So that was our adventure for the day.  The tree was the “Custer Elm” apparently General George A Custer and part of the 7th Cavalry camped beneath this tree during the Civil War in 1867.  Unfortunately, the tree itself is no longer here, but its stump is and is well protected under a nice shelter for future generations.  We thought it was kind of weird to have a shelter built over a stump, but as I said there is really not much here. 

After the Custer Elm, we were just driving around town and lo and behold there is another stump covered by a shelter.  Of course, we had to check it out.  This one is the “Post Office Oak.”  The Santa Fe Trail passed thru Council Grove and from about 1820 to 1850, travelers would leave messages under this tree for other travelers therefore the name Post Office Oak.  Usually trail conditions and such.   This tree died in 1990 and its stump has been preserved under this nice shelter.

So, two preserved stumps in the same town, who’d of thunk.  But it gets better, a couple of blocks down there is a third stump and it too is covered by a shelter…  Kind of strange since much of Kansas has few if any trees, this area does have a lot of trees and even at least three large notable stumps.  This one is the “Council Oak.”  Here a council was held between the Kaw and Osage Indians and the US Government.  This was Indian hunting grounds until the Americans and Mexicans began using the Santa Fe Trail to transport goods in the 1820s.  It then became important to the US Govt and treaty negotiations began.  How much you want to bet the native Americans came out on the loosing end in this negotiation? 

Peace Love and preserve what history you have even if its just an old stump or three…

Dodge City, KS

We went from Lake Scott to Dodge City, because it is Dodge City, you know The Dodge City.  Staying at the Gun Smoke RV Park we hoped for the chance to run into Miss Kitty, Festus or Matt Dillon; or at least see a gun fight some cattle wrestling something…  but no such luck. 

Boot Hill is the one and only attraction in Dodge City, they have the old timey street with daily gun fights, dinner theater and a museum, but their entrance fee was a little to pricy for our taste.  There literally is nothing else in Dodge City except a lot of hotels, restaurants and bars.  Downtown seemed mostly closed down except this specialty dress shop, which reminded me of the azalea belles in Wilmington.

If you follow us, you know that we have been around the Arkansas River quite a bit this year.  From Tulsa, OK and other points south to Buena Vista, CO it has been a large and thriving river.  As it flows thru Kansas especially in Dodge City it is completely dry.  We were warned about that by one of our Wanderlodge friends, they said a local told them that the river was embarrassed by Kansas so it went underground, haha.  Looking into it a little they say that it has run dry here in July and August ever since 1910.  Another effect of over use of water or lack of water in general, but all the diversion for agriculture sure makes it look a lot different that the other parts we have seen.  It’s a large river bed, though shallow, so it must flow better other times of the year. 

The other thing we found is cattle, specifically a slaughter house for cattle.  There are at least two slaughter houses or as they may be called “processing plants.”  Don’t get me wrong we love beef and eat it a couple of times a month, so this is not exactly critical to beef eaters.  But these two processing plants process 10,000 heads of cattle per day 6 days a week.  Read that ten thousand per day!!  The one pictured process 6,000 and the other 4,000 per day.  That is an unimaginable amount of cattle in only one city.  Should have gone out for a big fat steak?  Kind of brings about the question what water source do they use?  The Arkansas River and many others appear dry or practically dry, in a prior post we discussed the low level of the aquafer, and I understand that cattle use a lot of water during their lifetime.  Just a curious thought.   

Seems really weird to be talking about water shortages while so many places are flooding, feast or famine as the saying goes.  Peace love and conserve our natural resources (water) unless it is covering the floor of your house??  

Little Jerusalem State Park, KS

After Monument Rocks we drove across the highway, about 15 miles as the crow flies, to Little Jerusalem State Park.  This is Kansas’ version of the badlands.  From the parking lot and viewing area, it looks a little like the walled city of Jerusalem. 

There were two trails to get a closer look, but at the time of the afternoon and absolutely no shade we decided to come back the next morning and take advantage of the cooler weather.  These days in the mid to high 90s with very few trees for shade are hard to tackle after spending much of the summer at higher elevations. 

The next morning it was mid 70s and we took the longer trail, 3 miles with two spurs heading out on a noneroded point of land above the badland erosion.  It is just incredible to us that this flat farmland turns into these wonderful formations as they erode.  You can see imagine this as a field before the canyons were created. 

You can also notice how flat the land is all around it, sticks out like a sore thumb. 

There are other examples of badlands and monuments in the area, but just small spots scattered about.  Crazy to think that this kind of stuff could be under any or all of these vast fields??

The Butterfield Overland Dispatch also crossed this area.  This was a stagecoach trail cross country that started in 1865.  It was the first stage route to carry US Mail.  There markers where the old trail crosses current roads. 

Peace Love and Rock On!!

Monument Rocks

From Goodland we moved south to Lake Scott State Park.  The drive was pretty much the same, fields and fields of crops and cows.  As mentioned in a prior post, sunflowers are not only the state flower of Kansas, but they are also one of the crops.  These fields of sunflowers are not as you would expect, typically sunflowers are pretty tall, but around here what we saw were about 3 feet or less.  The flowers are still large and yellow and follow the sun, but the plants seem to be stunted.  Thinking about it the corn is pretty short as well.  The stalks have mature ears on them, but are only 3-4 feet tall.  There is no way they could have a corn maze this fall cause you could easily see over them.  Not sure if this a result of the dry conditions, or if they have found a way to grow producing crops at a smaller size??  Some of the corn fields with the circular irrigation seem to be taller, but still not as tall as I would expect…

The further south we traveled we began to see small “breaks” in the landscape, similar to the Arikaree Breaks we saw up north.  The breaks sometimes leave rock formations like a mix between the red rock monuments in Utah/Arizona and the North/South Dakota Badlands formations.  The most famous Monument Rocks are about 10 miles off hwy 83 right across from Lake Scott.  The landscape is mostly flat, we had no idea what to expect.  Until you could see them in the distance.

They are located on private property that the owner graciously shares with the public.  They just ask that you respect and don’t damage the monuments or the cows that roam around.  They were way cool and so unexpected in Kansas.  Although the monuments look and feel like rock they are more like badlands dried clay like substance, the are light in weight and sound hollow if you knock on them.

On the eastern side of some of the monuments there are numerous barn swallow nests. There are a lot around the area.

Peace Love and gratitude for natural sculptures!!

Land and Sky Scenic Byway, Kansas

Back to the Byway we were on before our detour to the Arikaree Breaks.  The drive itself was not all that interesting although there was plenty of land and sky the entire way, about 180 degrees of each.  Some more impressive, some less.  But we did learn a number of things along the way.  We always stop at roadside informative signs…

Kansas, at least this part, is strictly farm land.  Both crops and cattle rule the land.  Based on the signs, their main crops are sorghum(?), wheat, corn and sunflowers.  Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers, and apparently the Kansas state flower.  Their state highway signs are the number in the middle of a sunflower, pretty cool.  We enjoy checking out the different state highway signs, some take a while to figure out what they are supposed to be…

But an interesting thing we learned was about corn.  The silks are the male organ of the plant and each silk can pollinate a kernel (female part).  So, the number of kernels depends on the number of pollinated silks.  See “silking and tasseling” below. 

Another fact we learned is about cows.  They also have a heavy cow population, at least on the western edge.  Anyway, cows only have bottom teeth.  Did not know that, here are some more cow facts.

The scariest thing we learned is about the water supply.  We hear all the time about the lack of water in the west, Colorado river, etc.  but little is said about the lack of water here in the heart land.  The river beds are mostly dry, the grass is crunchy and the mountains in CO were bare, no snow in sight.  Water, nature’s fruit juice is a problem for the earth right now.  Climate change, cyclical activity what ever the cause, we need to respect and use water responsibly.  Read the final paragraph of this sign.  Kansas has used 30% of the aquafer in 60 years, that use can’t be made up at the current usage rates and will continue to decline. 

Other stops on the byway included this display at Cherry Creek.  Where there was a large battle. 

There is a large steel cricket painted John Deere green just north of Goodman proper. 

Finally, the most interesting stop on the byway, actually 20 miles off the byway on another gravel road.  Many roads in the Midwest and west are gravel or dirt, we have found.  Mount Sunflower!!

Mount Sunflower is on private property and was surrounded by cows when we were there, but it is also the highest elevation in Kansas at 4,039 feet.  Is must also be right on or very close to the Colorado border.  I really couldn’t say that this was the highest point, but who am I to question.  Someone Somewhere Sometime determined it was the highest and there you go. 

Almost forgot, Goodlands own claim to fame, the largest easel. Not necessarily the largest painting, but the largest easel. Love the sunflowers.

Peace Love and gratitude for roadside signs, and sunflowers!!

Arikaree Breaks

Another new state – Kansas.  First stop Goodland, KS less than 20 miles from the boarder to Colorado.  A couple of things I noticed on the way across the plains.  Colorado was full of windmills and I didn’t see a single bit of irrigation at least not overhead.  As soon as we crossed the Kansas border, I started seeing rotary irrigation systems and no windmills?  But like I said we are only 20 miles into the state. 

Little did we know we were on the edge of the Land and Air Scenic Byway.  Kansas has at least 12 scenic byways across the state, our byway and a lot of Kansas basically looks like this. 

Sometimes there were crops on the side of the road instead of pasture and an occasional grain elevator or large silos, but not much else for the entire 88 miles of the scenic by way.  The but not much else became a quest to follow an area self-guided tour.  This did diverge off the scenic byway in St Frances but ended up making a loop as we returned on the byway. 

We started at the county court house which we neglected to get a picture of, but it was only used as a reference to stop one.  I love the sculpture and sentiment, but find it odd to be the first stop on a town (county/area)’s self-guided tour.  Power to ‘em!!

Next stop was this Indian camp and Calvary encampments and battles.   

And then the G. A. R. cemetery, it was opened after the civil war and was free for burial for poor or destitute service men on the east side and poor or destitute townsfolk on the west side.   Hard to find and unimpressive, but a nice idea. 

The rest of the road was kind of like this until it passed a couple of bone-dry creeks.  The creek beds did have lovely large trees, Cottonwood and others.  You don’t see many trees in Kansas so far, only in towns and planted around houses as weather breaks.   But all of Kansas has been so dry.  Crunchy grass and everything.

We started on a side excursion to see the horse thief cave and did pretty well about 8 miles off the main road (which was gravel too and we had not seen another car for 20 miles) the road started to get a little curvy with some bad lands and deep ruts.  We decided to turn back before the cave, but word is it has mostly caved in anyway.  Didn’t want to get caught with the horse thief’s and no way out. 

Ultimately, we were on the hunt for the “Arikaree Breaks”.  These were created by soft material deposits left over 80 million years ago by an ancient sea.  The area is known for its fossils, need to pay more attention.  The breaks were sculpted by the Arikaree and Republican Rivers and run about 35 miles long and 2-3 miles wide.  Pretty exciting compared to the flat farm land.  Interestingly enough the landscape changes with in a half mile.  From flat prairie farm land to these hills with “breaks.”

Luckily, we did not have to backtrack on the gravel road, although it was pretty nice for a gravel road 50+mph.  We stopped in Haigler for a picnic lunch and a view of the Arikaree River.  Pretty low this time of year, but still hard to believe this little creek created the massive breaks. To be fair, it must flow larger sometimes, the bridge was much longer and the grass filled river bed was quite large.

Peace Love and impressed again by the power of water!!