Travel Times – RAGBRAI

I’m starting a new series of shorter episodes that are going to look at general travel topics. Some of them will be me talking, others I will interview someone in the know. This is the very first one and I interview Arron Wings, Dean of Library Sciences at Kirkwood Community College and frequent RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) participant. I hope you enjoy it and will check back for the next time we check out Travel Times on Trundlebed Tales Radio Show.

http://tobtr.com/s/1854163

Learn more on the official website:

http://ragbrai.com

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Barn Quilts

Barn Quilt

If you’re not from the Midwest, you might well ask just what is a barn quilt. In short, it’s a large plywood tile, painted as a quilt square and hung on the side of a barn (sometimes they paint them directly on the barn, but due to traditional barn battens they tend to look better on a second surface). The idea is too increase rural tourism by combining two things people in the Midwest often already love barns and quilts. Although some people just hang the barn quilts on their own, most are part of a countywide program. You can just see them driving through the county or there is usually a map available giving you a route to drive to see all of them in the county. Some counties choose nice barns only. Some counties hang them on pole buildings or even put them on poles in front of a non-barn building. I even saw one once on the front side of barn in kind of bad shape where the back half had collapsed, so they vary a lot.

I really think this would be an excellent program for the counties with Laura homesites to adopt. It would give fans an excuse to see more of the area and get a better feel for what it was like for Laura to live there and they can also be used to promote stops at rural businesses (many of which set up in farmsteads now made unnecessary as larger operations took over the farms). I think Laura fans would really enjoy it. What do you think?

Find a directory of current projects, lots more photos, and more explanation at the link below:

http://www.quiltersnewsletter.com/articles/quilt_barns

Driving from Iowa City to the Burr Oak/Spring Valley/Pepin area you will see many counties that support these programs. This is just one I pass on the way that was nice and close to the road for a good clear picture. Please do remember that these barn quilts are on private property and take any photos from the road.

Also, they always photograph better if you can get the side of the building in full sun.

UPDATE: I really enjoyed updating my top 10 viewed posts and decided, just because I’ve been enjoying it, to keep going through the top 20. This is the first post of the second group. Barn Quilts have expanded in interest since I originally posted this in 2010. There has been an explosion of people privately creating barn quilts for their barn or house or even sheds and people have started making them smaller as another option, with some of these new barn quilts being about a quarter of the size of the originals. A lot of the standard size and quality has gone away as the phenomenon has spread and I’m sorry to say that to a big extent its original very clever purpose of promoting tourism has been lost. I’m afraid within a generation it will just be another of those things that were always done (probably, sigh, with a lot of phony explanations of why they are there and what they mean). They are still enjoyable to look for though, so next time you are driving to a Laura Ingalls Wilder homesite town, or just for a drive in the country keep an eye out and see how many you can see.

Sarah S. Uthoff is main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

Burr Oak – Spring Valley – Pepin

As I often advise people, Burr Oak, Iowa, Spring Valley, MN and Pepin WI make up a real nice Wilder weekend. I took myself up on my own advice this weekend on my way to Laura Days in Pepin. I hadn’t been to Burr Oak yet this summer or met their new director, as of March.

Burr Oak Tour in Masters Hotel
Burr Oak Tour in Masters Hotel

He led the tour himself and it was one of the better tours I’ve gotten there. Still using the “Sleep tight” myth, but other than that really good. The Masters Hotel looks like it’s gotten more love and attention this year in little things. The June Hawley card which had partially fallen apart had been fixed. The things about William Reed were put together in a notebook, not just piled up, and someone had added a couple of framed and matted informational displays. The museum itself hadn’t changed much, but they have found a strawberry butter mold,

Strawberry Butter Mold
Strawberry Butter Mold

like Ma’s in Little House in the Big Woods which was a very nice addition. They have totally rearranged the gift shop. They now have all the books in series order along the brick wall that makes up part of the vault. The ceramics display that was previously there is all gone. It seems like  they had fewer things than  before, but since it changed so much it’s hard to tell. The new item I found was a beautiful wooden bookmark with a Burr Oak tree on it. The letters are moved back to the corner and the named bricks display moved up higher on the wall. A simple device of adding Almanzo and Laura’s heights along the wall has proved very popular. The letters place in the front area has been filled by historic photos of Burr Oak. I was running late by then, so I didn’t stop anywhere else in town.

Chicken Salad Meal at Tea and Tarts
Chicken Salad Meal at Tea and Tarts

I had taken time earlier to eat at Tea and Tarts in downtown Decorah who I recommend as worth the drive to anyone. I had the chicken salad and the house tea. It’s two and a half hours from Burr Oak to Pepin by the fastest route and a little under an hour between Burr Oak and Spring Valley directly.

I’ll save Pepin for tomorrow and skip to my stop on the way back in Spring Valley. I didn’t stop at the museum because I’m hopefully going to get to see that when I come back later in the month. I can report that the barn is STILL standing and, praise be, they moved the stupid boat so you can get a decent photo. Royal’s grave was still in shadow. I had lunch with James Wilder family expert Sharon Jahn which was great fun and I learned a lot about Wilder family and Spring Valley history. Including the distant Wilder connection of why you might want to visit Howard, South Dakota, just to say you’ve been there. 😉 I hope to get a look at her notebooks and all the good research she and the Spring Valley Historical Society have put in researching the Wilder family.

UPDATE 2014: Things have changed in Burr Oak since 2008. They have once again changed directors, they have redone several of the displays. They’ve opened up the pantry so you can see more of it. They have sent the Jane Hawley dolls back to their creators family. Lots has changed, but most of the good things and improvements I mentioned in the post are still there.

Also the Tea and Tarts Tea Room that I think you can tell from the post that I simply ADORED is no longer in operation. Their menu board was even at the What’s New Antique Shop the last time I went through, so it is well and truly gone. My allegiance had switched to Tea and Tarts after the Victorian Rose shut down. There are quite a few interesting restaurants in Decorah, but not one of them has become my current favorite. Let me know if you find one you especially love.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

Peppy – the Lake Pepin Monster

Its only connection with Laura is its location, but Dakota Girl Cheryl Whitlock just pointed out an article providing information about Peppy, the Lake Pepin monster first spotted in 1871 and offering a reward.

Lake Pepin from boat
Lake Pepin from boat

http://wcco.com/local/lake.pepin.monster.2.717605.html

Pepin isn’t about to let Lake City take the title of Peppy’s home. Read more about Peppy including how to get your own Peppy shirts and mugs. You too can take part in creating a myth.

Read more about Peppy or Peppi here: http://www.widlertrailbooks.com

And buy your own Peppy mug and shirt here:
http://www.wildertrailbooks.com/GetPeppyProducts.html

UPDATE: A lot has changed since I made this first post. Sadly Wilder Books (which I thought had great potential) has closed down. You can no longer get the Peppy Products I originally linked to, although I’ve left the link in the original post. You can still get a Pepie, the Lake Monster T-shirt of your own.
http://www.strolldownmainstreet.com/collections/treats-and-treasures/products/treats-17

One thing that hasn’t changed is the level of interest in Peppy or Pepie or several other spelling variations. Read about the various versions of the name, along with a local’s report here:
http://inaholdingpattern.blogspot.com/2008/05/lake-pepin-monster.html

This post is one of the top 10 post for views of all time. It’s such a popular subject that I returned to it again earlier this year where I covered Pepie getting his own homepage.
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/peppy-the-lake-pepin-monster-2/

The reward still seems good. Have you ever seen something strange in Lake Pepin?

UPDATE 2014: In July 2014, The Star Tribune published a couple of articles on Peppy.

Lake Pepin’s rumored creature may be folklore come to life
http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/267579381.html

Creature, monster, serpent – it’s still a mystery
http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/267580161.html

Sarah S. Uthoff is main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

St. Ansgar, Iowa and its Blue Belle Inn

A Lovely Bed and Breakfast

Just approximately 25 miles from Austin, MN, St. Ansgar, Iowa is barely off the Laura Ingalls Wilder trail. While there wasn’t anything on my life list to cross of in St. Ansgar it is a very well preserved and still active little town. Its active main street (complete with antique shops and a soda fountain) and neighborhoods of big Victorian homes (still with the large trees lining the street), look much like the old photo postcards you see of DeSmet, SD.

While I was there, I stayed at the Blue Belle Inn, a bed and breakfast that also serves as a tearoom at lunch time. The outside is painted in the colors of the blue belle flowers (probably closer to the Virginia variety of blue belles which is what we grow at home rather than the Texas version). The rooms are decorated after classic children’s books. If you only go for tea, you can tour any unrented rooms.

Anne’s House of Dreams

I stayed in “Anne’s House of Dreams,” after the book by L.M. Montgomery. Although the owners’ style of decoration seems to fall closer to buying things related to rather than creating a setting from the book, I did enjoy it. I should warn you if you want to stay in that room that it is in a smaller house behind the main Victorian which has some advantages, but it is also the room that is designated handicapped accessible, including the shower (which can be a wet surprise if you haven’t used one before).

Plum Creek

The big news is that they have a Laura Ingalls Wilder themed room. They call it “Plum Creek” and besides many of the books scattered around they have a framed original Sewell book jacket and their version of Laura’s red velvet dress (not a very close one) on a dressmaker’s dummy in the corner. Plus several versions of quilts mentioned in the series are used as quilts, pillow, and wall hangings. You can see their page for the room here:

http://www.bluebelleinn.com/html/plum_creek.html

A final room of special note for Laura fans is the one for “Heaven to Betsy” named for the book by Maud Hart Lovelace, another SW Minnesota author who is also enjoyed by many Laura fans.

Other Laura Bed and Breakfasts

This is the third b and b I’ve found with a Laura room (the other two are in Tracy, MN and Springfield, MO) if you know of any others please let me know!

info@trundlebedtales.com

UPDATED April 8 2017: I added the headings, the signature block and made a few minor edits for corrections.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her onFacebookTwitterGoogle+ LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

Iowa State Fair

UPDATED August 6, 2017: This is my trip report from 2007. If you’re planning on going, find a link to my podcast with my travel plan.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Iowa State Fair

Yesterday my family hit the Iowa State Fair. It’s one of the best state fairs in the country with some of the best examples of Exposition style architecture. Normally I feel that it is too crowded and if attendance keeps increasing they will either have to length the days or the buy more ground because they are running out of room. This year was a little better than usual because we were able to go on a weekday and it rained. It was still pretty busy before we left.

We have some places we hit every year and then we try to do a few new things. We usually start out in Agriculture Building. Besides the display of crops and the Master Gardeners Display, they have lots of booths and interesting things to see. I really liked the weed identification display. I picked up some more Morgan horse information, almost bought an ostrich egg, and saw their new giant agriculture coloring board, an idea I hope some of the Laura sites copy. I also saw the butter cow. Usually the first few days of the fair they are still working on it, but it’s done now. Iowa was one of the first places to have a butter cow. It’s different every year and built  on a chicken wire frame. They reuse the butter several years. For at least the last 10 years they’ve done something else besides the cow. This year it was Harry Potter, Hedwig, the Fat Lady’s portrait, and a broom. It was a big display.

Next stop is Pioneer Hall to check out the antiques for sale and on display. Last year we got a great piece of red glass, but nothing this year. The old time music is very pleasant when you look around and I love to look at the lithograph machine. Next stop was our something new of the year, the fairly new State Fair Museum. I was rather disappointed it looked like a traveling exhibit, filled with things that I’m sure looked really good on paper and not so good in real life. The old museum where they left 99 percent of the objects in the collection is much better. I did enjoy the looping video that featured the car-airplane race, the airplane hits the house, and the two trains crashing in the 1930s (the 1920s one had been disappointing so this time they put gasoline and dynamite behind the engines). I admit it, I love it when the trains crash.

Then we stopped at the Buckskinners Rendevous. It has been shunted aside by a new stage and was partially closed up due to the rain, but I like to look in their sutler shops. I don’t know what happened to the model train exhibit, it was supposed to be getting a new building, but I couldn’t find it and bathrooms and the previously mentioned stage were in its old location.

Lunch was a REALLY big, Green River Phosphate in the Soda Fountain. No trip to the fair is complete without stopping at the Soda Fountain in Pioneer Village. Be sure to make a special trip, it’s worth it. Then we went to the Varied Industries Building. The booths from the Iowa Travel building have been squeezed in the former craft addition. I preferred it where it was, but the Travel was the only section we had a chance to get through. I stopped at several of the building places to get quotes for a building to hold my Laura collection and research equipment. Finally, I made a very quick run through the 4-H building and then it was time to go home. It was a great time as usual. My family has been going every year since they went in the Model T when my grandmother was just a little girl and it’s a different experience every year.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook,  Twitter,  Google+,   LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

Simple Living TV Show

One of the ladies involved with the Affluenza special, now has a TV Show on PBS called Simple Living. A recently broadcast

Burr Oak Tour in Masters Hotel
Burr Oak Tour in Masters Hotel

episode from season 3, shows a little bit of the Masters Hotel in Burr Oak, Iowa and talks about reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. Find episode descriptions and a way to buy DVDs on http://www.simplelivingtv.net . It isn’t available as a single episode, but it is included in the season 3 set.

Sarah Sue

UPDATE: Unfortunately for Simple Living‘s host and creator Wanda Urbanska, people didn’t really take to the show and it only lasted one more season after the one that included the quick Burr Oak tour.  Find a short description and episode list here:
http://www.tvguide.com/tvshows/simple-living-with-wanda-urbanska-2007/episode-4-season-3/what-we-can-learn-from-historic-villages-living-history-museums/194989

Her website is now dead, but the TV Guide website has a deal with Hulu so for now anyway (in April 2014) you can watch the episode for free. Click here to watch it. I did buy Season 3 on DVD before her site closed down. I doubt you can still find new copies, but if you’d like one of your own keep an eye out on used book/DVD sites.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.