Sunday, June 29, 2014

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo

Blogged from Papillion, NE     (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

Today we traveled up to Omaha to visit the Henry Doorly Zoo.  It was listed on as one of Omaha's top attractions and we weren't disappointed. Although the weather was a bit uncooperative at times with periods of light rain and some high humidity, we still had a nice time. I do think that we're getting old, however, as we were pretty tired out by the end of the day.

This zoo is a bit different from some that we've visited as many of the environments are created inside.  The exhibit on desert plants and animals is contained within this "Desert Dome" structure.

Inside this building many of the world's "tropical" environments are re-created.  Southeast Asia and tropical zones in South America are a few of the many areas represented.

There is a large area called Hubbard Gorilla Valley. The way the exhibits are constructed, visitors are able to be a lot closer to many of the animals. (I believe I've seen this guy behind some 7-11 stores back when I was still working.)

I love to watch the orangutans. They are so expressive and it seems as though they are watching us as much as we are watching them.

A new area just opened called Stingray Beach.  It gives visitors a chance to feed and touch stingrays. Although we've touched these guys in the wild, it's still a strange feeling to feel their little mouths attempting to take food from you.

There is a beautiful exhibit on life under the seas. A whole section is set up to highlight jelly fish, man-o-wars, sharks, moray eels, and much more.

Being from the east, last year we had the opportunity to see our first prairie dogs when we arrived in South Dakota (Custer State Park, I believe).  There is an area of prairie dogs called Prairie Dog Hill here. They are very used to visitors and many, many signs warn against touching and feeding them.

The entire zoo is laid out beautifully.  Aside from animal exhibits and enclosures, there are many gardens and ponds to view as well.

We arrived when the gates opened at 9 AM and were tired out by 4 PM (closing time currently is 5 PM).  We did not get a chance to see all of the exhibits. I would suggest spending 2 days to really take in the entire experience and get an opportunity to see a lot of the handler "feeding" and "training" sessions.

We noticed while exiting the large "Rosenblatt" sign toward the edge of the parking lot.  Rosenblatt Stadium was the former home of the College World Series. It opened in 1948 and closed in 2010.  The stadium was demolished in 2012, but the scaled down infield was built as a tribute to the old stadium.  The right and left field foul lines are still in the exact position in which they were when the stadium was still in use.  The foul poles still stand.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Are We Truly a Jinx?

Posted from Papillion, NE   (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

After our most recent visit to a baseball game and the subsequent loss by the home (or favored) team, this got me to thinking.   Are we jinxing these teams who we go to watch and cheer for?  I'm beginning to think so.  More on this at the end of the blog.

The College Baseball World Series is played each year (since 1950) in Omaha, NE.  We weren't even aware that the series was going on when we made plans to come to the area last week. We certainly didn't have any idea that we'd be able to get a ticket to one of the finals games.

The TD Ameritrade Park opened in 2011 and is also home to the Creighton University Bluejays baseball team.

The park is a beautiful venue to watch a game.  The concourse is wide and the atmosphere for a college world series game is VERY upbeat.

It was a great evening for baseball. We were able to purchase seats online at a reasonable price and
the views were very good.

Since we were longtime Virginia residents, it was an extra treat to be able to watch the University of Virginia compete in the deciding game of the series against Vanderbilt University for the National Division I Championship.

Although it was a good game, Vanderbilt was the eventual winner after John Norwood hit a home run in the 8th inning to secure the victory 3-2.

Now, back to my original question of whether we jinx the teams we go out to watch.

I did a bit of historical data gathering on baseball games which we've attended since we started fulltiming and came up with the following:

June 1-3, 2013         Attended 4 games for the Omaha Stormchasers, Papillion, NE
                                                 Result:    Stormchasers LOSE 3 of 4 games

April 20, 2014         Attended Norfolk Tides vs. Durham Bulls, Norfolk, VA
                                                  Result:     Tides WIN 6-3

June 9, 2014            Attended Quad Cities Riverbandits vs. Peoria Chiefs, Davenport, IA
                                                   Result:    Riverbandits  LOSE 4-8

June 13, 2014          Attended Cedar Rapids Kernels vs. Burlington Bees, Cedar Falls, IA
                                                    Result:   Kernels  LOSE  5-6

June 23, 2014         Attended Omaha Stormchasers vs. El Paso Chihuahuas, Papillion, NE
                                                    Result:   Stormchasers LOSE  2-6

June 25, 2014        Attended Game #3 (final game) of the NCAA College World Series
                                          in Omaha, NE  between Univ. of Virginia vs. Vanderbilt Univ.
                                                      Result:   UVA LOSE 2-3
In summary, we have watched 9 games in total.

The home (or favored) team has won 2 and lost 7.

What do you think?  Are we a jinx?  Should teams ban us from their games?

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Westward with Travel Uncertainty

Writing from Papillion, NE     (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

We left the Amana Colonies this morning after a very enjoyable week.  Roger and Mary Baird arrived yesterday so, of course, we had to go out to dinner.  It seems that's what RVers do a lot!  We had a very nice dinner at Ronneburg's Restaurant in Amana.
Photo: Courtesy of "dpcutler" Google Earth
After dinner we sat around the rigs for a bit as both Bill and Kris Osborne and we were planning to leave on Wednesday morning.  We'll meet up again with the Bairds in Casa Grande, AZ later this year, but the Osbornes are unsure of their travel plans which makes when we might see them again uncertain.

We had planned to leave Amana between 8 and 9 AM this morning, so we finally left around 10.  Fortunately, we had a short drive of 255 miles west to Papillion, NE where we will stay for a few days at Walnut Creek Lake and Rec Area. We stayed here last May, so if you'd like to learn more about the area and this city-run campground you can take a look at that blog entry.

On the way we had to make a fuel stop.  We filled up at a Pilot station near Brooklyn, IA for $3.61 after our Good Sam Lifetime discount.  I believe that's one of the cheapest per gallon prices we've seen in quite awhile.

We arrived around 3 PM and let me say that we are certainly not acclimated to this heat and humidity yet. I know the temperature itself is not that high (for you folks truly out west), but the combination of heat and humidity is not my idea of a good time.  Will have to move to cooler climes.

Oh, yes, about the title of this blog.  That's a reference to the fact that we have no idea where we're headed after leaving Papillion at this point.  We do need to make a reservation for the July 4th holiday, however, so that we don't wind up spending the holiday in a Wally World lot.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Monday, June 16, 2014

It's Blog "Catch Up" Monday

From The Amana Colonies, IA    (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

It's been a busy past few days and I've really neglected the blog.  I'll try and be merciful in the length and depth of today's "catch up" blog.  Hopefully, some of the discussion will whet your appetite and give folks more of a desire to come and explore this area.

After arriving in the Amana Colonies area last Wednesday and taking a day off to just rest, I (meaning Steve) did what I like to do.  That was, look and see if I could find a minor league baseball team in this area.  I did and we traveled 16 miles north to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to watch the Cedar Rapids Kernels (Single A) play the Burlington Bees.  We managed to jinx another team and the Kernels lost 6-5.

On Thursday we did a bit of internet research and found that the area has a multi-use recreation trail named the Koloniewig Recreation Trail.  We decided to check out the trail on-foot to see how it might be for bicycle riding.

The trail looked very promising, so we decided to check and perhaps get some exercise and do some geocaching at the same time.
Here's a map of caches in the immediate area of the trail (with smiley faces to indicate the ones we found).
Here's an easy one near Lily Pond Lake.

Here I take a break along the geocaching trail and decide to make friends with the local livestock.

All playing aside, the main reason we came to this area was to visit the Amana Colonies.  I am not going to go into detail here about the formation of the colonies, but you might take a look at the abbreviated version of the History of the Amana Colonies on their website. I will sadly admit that I knew nothing about this group and their communal way of life prior to coming to this area.  In the past couple of days, however, we have learned a tremendous amount of knowledge after touring and listening to many speakers.  Basically, the Amana Colonies consist of 7 villages which can be easily reached via automobile in a short period of time.  The red line on the map below indicates a route to reach all of the communities.

(Map Courtesy of Amana Colonies Convention and Visitor's Bureau)

Should you decide to visit, I would recommend a first stop at the Visitor's Center located in Amana.  The center is housed in an old corn storage building.  The woman working the desk was very helpful for us to get a handle, so to speak, on how we should tour the area.

The next stop should be the Amana Heritage Museum, located just a short few blocks from the Visitor's Center.  We attended a panel disussion on Sunday afternoon at the Museum on the 300-year religious history of the people of the Amana Colonies, but I wish that we had toured the Museum first to give us a better understanding of their history.

Part of the Museum is housed in a building which most recently was the residence of Dr. Noe.

Advertisement from 1948
The Museum depicts stories and exhibits from the early years of the Amana Colony (1855 in Iowa) until recent times.  For some reason, I never connected Amana appliances with this area of Iowa. But after The Great Change (1932), in which the people of the colonies voted to change their lifestyle from a communal to a capitalistic society, the Amana factory (now owned by Whirlpool Corporation) played an important role in the economic welfare of the community.

Here's a prototype of the Amana Radarange developed just before 1968.

A short drive to Middle Amana led us to visit one of the very important aspects of communal living. This was the communal kitchen.

The docent inside (who has lived in this area for years) was a wealth of information.  She described how the communal kitchens were responsible for feeding everyone in the colonies. This building, as are all of the buildings we toured, are original and the articles inside are were originals.

Here's a picture of the cooking area.

.....and a real "ice box".

Here's an area we really wanted to visit, but found that it was closed on Sunday and Mondays.  A sign on the door indicates that when the baked goods are sold out, the bakery is closed for the day.

Another very interesting area we visited was the Amana Community Church in Homestead.  Several things struck us as being different from other churches before we even entered.  Notice the lack of any steeple or crosses.

Here's a picture from the back side of the church. Doesn't it remind you more of a meeting house than a church?

Once inside, the docent explained that the religious beliefs of the community dictated against having the extravagant buildings (cathedrals) and expensive decorations of the religious places of worship in Europe. You'll notice no religious symbolism at all inside the church.

There was no lack of worship services, however. Prior to 1932, the community members were required to attend service 11 times during the week. I found it interesting, however, that no ordained members led the services.  The religious meetings were led by the "Elders" of the community.

I've purposefully given you just enough, hopefully, that you will want to visit this area and learn more about the peoples of the Amana Colonies.  To me, this is one of the reasons we fulltime and travel to places we know little about.  I also have many more pictures not included in this blog posted in my Google+ albums for viewing.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Short Move West to the Amana Colonies

From Amana, IA                                (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

Well, I was going to write a blog detailing our activities on Tuesday, but after taking a look at Bill and Kris Osborne's last post, I've decided to just let you link to his blog instead.  We "toured" all day with Bill and Kris, went to the same places, saw the same things, and even ate lunch together.  I have many of the same pictures that he posted, so if you'd like to see more information on the Cody Homestead, the Buffalo Bill and Regional Museum, or the John Deere Pavillion just jump on over to SeeingtheUSA by the Osbornes.

If you would like to see my pictures for:
        The boyhood home of William "Buffalo Bill" Cody,  click this link.
        The John Deere Pavillion,                                        click this link.
        The Buffalo Bill/Regional Museum,                          click this link.

On Wednesday we moved west about 90 miles to the Amana Colonies RV Park.  Very easy drive and the campground and entire area seems as if it will be very relaxing.

For those not familiar with the Amana Colonies, the community was initially made up of six villages (the Village of Homestead was added later) by German peoples arriving in Iowa in 1855 to escape Germany's depression and religious persecution. The group was led by Christian Metz.  The community initially settled near Buffalo, NY, but as the group grew new lands for farming were sought.  Land was cheap in Iowa and the group settled into what is now known as the Amana Colonies. The area was one of the earliest communal societies in the United States.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Biking, Baseball, and "American Pickers"

Events While Staying in Hampton, IL                                                                                                  (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

The last few days have been very busy.  In an effort to give each activity enough "blog" space (and to keep from boring everyone with a lengthy account), I'm going to split up the last couple of days.

Last Sunday (6/8) Karen and I decided to take a bicycle ride north out of the campground along The Great River Trail. It was a beautiful morning for a ride, so we pedaled about 10 miles up to the little town of Cordova, IL and back. We first passed by Mean Mel's Steakhouse.  I'm sorry, but if I go to a restaurant, I expect them to cook my meal.  Different, however.

About midway we reached Port Byron.  A cute town along the railway.  They must really appreciate their cycling in this part of the country.

We reached the town of Cordova, IL where we stopped for a packed lunch and took a few minutes just to relax and look at the Mississippi River.

I thought this was a pretty interesting "fitness" center placed near the pavillion.  We saw one yesterday down in the Moline area, also.

After the morning bicycle ride, we jumped in the car and crossed the river to Le Claire, IA.  What's in Le Claire you might ask?  Actually, quite a few interesting attractions, but today we were heading to the shop of The American Pickers, a show which airs on the History Channel. If you've never seen the show, the two main characters, Mike and Frank, travel the US "picking" old and interesting items from days gone by and meeting up with some pretty interesting characters along the way.

Mike's original shop Antique Archaeology is based in Le Claire, IA (there is also one now in Nashville, TN).  He loves antique bicycles and motorcycles and many of his personal collection items are on display.

Here's an item "picked" from the Luray, VA area.

This is a pretty rare Merz Cycle Car which was featured on one of the episodes.  Pretty nice condition for this one, but usually the pair pick up some pretty rough items.

This was the frame of an old Indian motorcycle which was dug up in a woman's back yard.  The story was that a gentleman's grandfather had buried it years ago (for some reason).  During that episode it looked as though the story was a tall tale until they finally located it buried several feet underground. I think this one was too far gone to hope to restore.

This new building was recently completed and holds quite an eclectic group of items.  Of course, there's also a small retail area to sell Antique Archaeology goodies, but no where nearly as blatant as our tour of the Duck Dynasty building in Monroe, LA.

All in all, I would recommend a visit to the Antique Archaeology shop if you're in the area of Le Claire, IA.  More on some attractions in this area in tomorrow's blog.

Ok, if you've read our blog for any length of time you know that we try and attend a minor league baseball game when we're in towns with a team.  On Monday night we traveled just across the river to Modern Woodmen Stadium home of the Class A Quad City River Bandits.

This is one of the oldest stadiums in the minor league system, but due to several renovations, watching a game here is very enjoyable.

Of course, every team has to have a mascot.  The Quad City River Bandits have "Rascal" as their mascot.

Minor league baseball always features "between innings" contests and this one was no exception.  At the beginning of the game, however, several hopeful Miss Iowa contestants were introduced to the crowd.

Almost forgot, one of the contests was a race between these two little guys in their John Deere quad runners.

The home team lost 8-4 tonight, but the evening's weather was one of the nicest evenings we've had for a ballgame yet this year.  Also, the view is one of the prettiest I've seen in a park.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!