Friday, November 6, 2009

Gate, OK

As we travel through Oklahoma on a business trip, we were able to stop in Gate, OK. We found some very interesting pictures and museum. They have a store that is run by the museum at this time, although they were looking for someone to run it for them. Had a nice big glass of tea at the small cafe. The stories that we were told of a town taking over and running the bad guys out of the terrority were very interesting. The bank vault still stands today, they have made a small park area out of it. It was a fun town to visit.

Fort Sill, Lawton, OK

Our Business Women's group was given a tour of the Fort Sill Base. Our tour guide was wonderful. She was in a medical company and had been to Iran. We started our tour with the educational center. They really want our troops to have their education, they will even help them to plan a small business for when they leave. Leaving there we went to the parade grounds where the Field Artillery Half Section, gave a demonstration. They even fired the cannon for us. They did a wonderful job. We then went to the mess hall for lunch with some of the women officers. They were very good about answering our questions. After lunch we toured the barracks, where we saw the art work that they had on the walls and floors. They have some very talented people there. We then went to visit the dogs. They train the dogs in taking down a fleeing person, bomb detection, and drug detection. These people do a lot for us that we don't know about. Thank you goes out to our troops.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bridges and a Castle

One of the places in Iowa that I had long wanted to visit was Madison County, home of the famous covered bridges. The movie brought a lot of attention to this part of Iowa and it was a place I had never visited. Winterset is also the birthplace of John Wayne, and I had been to that house once before, but it was winter time and not a good season to go exploring bridges!

June, however, is a perfect time to go exploring and great weather for a drive in the country. The sign said it was 7 miles to the Rosemon bridge and after what seemed like 17 we did find it.

The view down the river was pretty cool! At this location there is a gift shop and the most impressive thing I saw was the vehicle license tags from so many different states and even Canada in the short time that we were there. The movie is history and so are the bridges, and it seems like lots of folks are still interested in seeing them.

We returned to Winterset and found another bridge that had been relocated into the city park. and when we drove past this bridge we found a one way trail that appeared to lead into dense trees and then we saw a sign telling us that we would find a castle on this trail. So being adventurous people in a Dodge pickup (this trail was really rough!) we headed up to see the castle.

The castle was erected in memory of Caleb and Ruth Clark who were pioneer settlers in Madison County in the 1800's. the most impressive thing about the castle was the view from the top! I did go up and take a look out one of the open "windows".

And just when we were thinking we really accomplished something getting up that winding rutted trail and dodging tree limbs and navigating hairpin turns, we found these two couples who made it to the castle on their Harley's'! So much for our skills!

You can find history of Madison County area at

There is a Madison County Covered Bridge Festival October 10 & 11, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Arnold's Park IS Amusement!

Arnold's Park Iowa was a favorite place for me growing up. The park is now 127 years old and still one of the most popular attractions in Northwest Iowa and Southern Minnesota. the famous Roof Garden is home to many summer time concerts and shows. The park hosts rides and amusement games as well.

From the roller coaster to the fun house with its tilted floors and magic mirrors, it was a great place to go with friends when you were a teen. the roller coaster was built in 1927 and is the 13th oldest in the US. It is like Coney Island in the middle of corn country! Something for everyone seemed to be the theme of this park, young children and adults alike enjoyed a day at the park.

The miniature golf course was always a hit and you can see why from the photos.

Once I was grown my favorite was a trip on the Queen II. lake Okoboji is amazingly deep in spots and the entire Great Lakes area that includes Big Spirit Lake is a tourism mecca. the QueenII cruise around the lake is a refreshing trip and the view of all of the lake properties something you won't want to miss.

Built by Palmer Johnson and launched in 1986, the Queen II looks and feels like the steamboats of yesteryear. Tours last one hour and fifteen minutes, and include narration on various historical landmarks around the Iowa Great Lakes. A full bar and snacks are available on board.

You can find out more at where tickets are available online! This is an affordable family vacation spot so keep it in mind for your next summer vacation.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pleasant Valley Christian Church Est. 1884

On our recent travel through Iowa we spent a night with my brother in law, Jim Cole near Thayer Iowa. A couple miles from his house out in the country is this old church. I have driven by it many times in the past 15 years when I have visited with Jim but never stopped.

Sunday rolled around and this time we were determined to attend church services. We were welcomed by about 25 people in this amazing little church. After services we stayed to visit and learn a little about the history. The church was actually organized in 1875 and services were held in a country school prior to building the church. Named Pleasant Valley because it was near a river noted for scenic beauty, they celebrated 100 years in 1984.

Church member Don Bowman put together a little history called Fragments of the Past in their centennial booklet. Things I found interesting to read included: the cost of insurance in 1901 was $5.40 and they took a collection to raise the money; in 1938 they hired a pastor for the coming year. His salary was$10 from the Sunday School treasury, $20 from the Ladies Aid treasury and this is the good part; each family would donate what eggs they gathered on Easter Sunday to the pastor’s salary and each family was asked to donate one hen for the same purpose. In 1948 the church got electricity and in 1954 the pastor’s salary was raised from $56.50 per month to $75 per month.

Pleasant Valley holds Sunday service at 9:30 and visitors are always welcome there. From I-35 exit at Osceola Iowa and go west to Thayer then go south on the county blacktop past the rock quarry and watch for the sign on the west side of the road for the Pleasant Valley Church. And those are Iowa directions, folks!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Frontier Village in Adrian Missouri

Frontier Village, in Adrian, Missouri, is owned and operated by the Western Missouri Antique Tractor and Machinery Association. This park is host to tractor and machinery shows and boasts attendance from more than 20 different states.

We traveled there in late June to attend a Keller et al family reunion, our first time to meet this branch of the family tree. We found this little village a week before their next scheduled tractor event and visited briefly with some tractor enthusiasts who were starting to prepare for their next big event.

A drive down the dirt lane was like a trip back in time with old fashioned businesses and buildings on each side of the road. The old church was modernized with a ramp to accommodate handicapped visitors.

Our reunion was held in a very nice modern community building that was air conditioned, a good thing in Missouri summer humidity!

According the web site I found when I got back home, “The village was a result of interest in preserving history and old agricultural ways and produced its first gas engine show in 1982. The growth continued with the first building, a school, in 1983, a red barn in 1984, and now a total of 20 buildings with 2 more under construction. In addition, there are three county bridges donated to the Village from Bates County. On a state level, the Village has the largest steam engine, the largest separator, and the oldest portable running steam engine in Missouri.”

Adrian is right on US 71 in Missouri, the park complex has some really nice shade trees and would be a welcome rest spot on a trip from either direction. See their chamber web site for monthly events listings

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The "Big Mouth"

Vacation time at last! Our first real stop was to see some family in El Dorado Springs MO. We planned to attend a family reunion in Adrian MO and on the way found this small town with a "rich" history.

The Big Mouth resides on Park Ave and 7th St in Rich Hill Missouri. The Big Mouth is a coal bucket that was used to mine coal in this area. Rich Hill is known as “the town that coal built”. Sadly, when the coal mining left the area, the town became little more than a stopping place to take a picture of the bucket.
Big mouth was owned by the Pittsburg & Midway Coal co attached to the Midway Princess, a dragline that was used to remove the overburden (rocks, dirt and vegetation) from the coal deposits. (I sure wish I could have seen this in operation!) To get an idea of the size of Big Mouth, a dump truck that was used to haul out the coal could be parked inside the bucket. It held over 70 cubic feet of dirt and one scoop had a depth of 125 feet. The estimated weight was between 40 and 44 TONS!
The Midway Princes was dismantled and moved to Raton NM in the early 1990’s but Big Mouth is a permanent Rich Hill resident. The Coalminer’s Daughters use Big Mouth to host their life sized nativity scene every year for Christmas.
Visitors may stop by and take pictures and read about the history of the Big Mouth for free. Rich Hill is 20 miles north of Nevada MO on US Highway 71.
An interesting bit of history I found when I did some additional research for this post:
Dateline: Dec 4, 1919; Missouri Governor seizes closed coal mines and vows to operate them because the residents of his state are freezing in their homes due to no availability of heat source. (seems the mines had been shut down)Volunteers in Mo and from neighboring Pittsburg KS worked the mines to provide coal to the state residents and those in institutions.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Elk City Route 66 National Museum

We started out early Saturday from our home in Waynoka and met up with two couples in Woodward for breakfast. Then it was on south about 75 miles to Elk City. While we normally are focused on car show activities, we decided in advance of the road trip that we were going to drive the classics, but be spectators at the show and see what else was going on in Elk City.

We found the National Route 66 Museum Complex just blocks from the park where the car show was being held. After checking out all of the classics and watching the burn-out contest, we took a short rest under a shade tree before heading to the museum.

The museum complex is open to the public from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Since we now classify as seniors, admission was a mere $4 ($5 if you aren't old enough). Seemed like there were about a dozen different buildings on the grounds, some set up as store-front with big windows to see what was inside. Others allowed a full tour in welcome air conditioning. One of the most interesting was the Old Town Museum, a home purchased by the city in 1966 that was the beginning of the complex. is the web site I found to get the best information.

We also enjoyed our visit to the Paul Jones Drug Store where old fashioned bottle pop and ice cream were a welcome treat. Oh, and did I mention the chain flush toilet? This was a fun step back in time and brought tears to our eyes as we watched some children stare in wonder!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cruise to Great Salt Plains

Picture January and a day that feels like April or early May, good friends and classic cars. It's a day that screams ROAD TRIP! Friends from nearby Woodward OK joined us and one other local couple and we headed east.

First stop was for food, (remember early on I told you to never pass up food!) and we found the Nifty Fifties restaurant in Carmen Oklahoma the perfect place to cruise into for a tasty hamburger and fries while we enjoyed the retro decor of the small building. Black & white tiled floor, posters of rock n' roll stars of the past and most important, music to fit the era kept us entertained while we ate. Lots of story telling time while we enjoyed ice cream cones as well.

Then we were on the road again, further east to the Great Salt Plains Lake. We stopped at several of the landing places along the road around the lake to check out the water level and the many varieties of birds hanging out around the lake. The scenic area around the lake begged for camera use and we all took our share of memory shots.

Of course, most people will tell you that summer is the time to go to the lake, but I can tell you that this group of classic car lovers enjoyed a day at the lake as much as anyone who goes in July!

Fishing season has started now and the park is packed with boaters and campers and those who just enjoy a weekend away from home. Check out the Great Salt Plains and remember the crystal digging area (see April post on Crystal Digging) is now open again!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Waynoka Station; It’s About Trains!

· April 30, 2009.
· Waynoka Oklahoma.
· Santa Fe Depot ribbon cutting.

I received an invitation to lunch (never turn down food!) and to attend a ribbon cutting ceremony in my home town. The historic Harvey House sits along the tracks of the main line of the Burlington/Northern/Santa Fe Railroad and next to it an old depot building.

Sandie Olson and friends who make up the local Historical Society have worked many years and successfully completed the restoration of the Harvey House. It now houses an El Charro restaurant on the main floor and a wonderful museum upstairs. But that’s not all! Across the street are a fully restored section house, a weigh station and a log cabin that was moved in from the country and reassembled. The first phase of restoration on the depot building is just finished, thus the reason for the party. Oklahoma’s Executive Director for Tourism & Recreation Hardy Watkins came to talk to us about tourism.

The best part of the event was the opportunity to tour the museum! Waynoka was a destination for famous early flight leaders such as Charles Lindberg and Amelia Earhart and you can almost feel their presence as you walk among early train and plane history in the museum. A scale model train makes its way past recognizable landmarks in one room. Another looks just like an original sleeping room for one of the hard working Harvey House Girls.
This is not your typical small town dusty museum filled with cast off old items. The Harvey House Museum is a class act; the guides really know the railroad history and are passionate about what they do. Carol King was our guide and was quick to point out all of the interesting details told on the walls. While this was not my first trip to the museum, it was the first in several years. Sometimes we forget what we have at home and while traveling is one of my biggest enjoyments, sharing what is in my backyard seems important too.
So if you ever get the opportunity to visit Waynoka, make the Harey House Museum Complex a "must see"!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


The Crystal Dig Area at Great Salt Plains near Cherokee Oklahoma has been closed to the public since April of 2007, when vials from Chemical Agent Identification Sets were found in the area by a boy scout. The vials were used to train troops during World War II to recognize chemical agents. The vials contained diluted mustard, lewisite, chloropicrin, and undiluted phosgene. The final report from the Corps of Engineers recommends the use of educational materials to warn the public of potential hazards. The report states: “it is unlikely that munitions and explosives of concern (MEC) or Chemical Agent Identification Sets (CAIS) remain at the project site. It can not be stated with certainty, however, that no MEC or CAIS remain.”

Reopening day was April 25, 2009 and many happy crystal diggers were on hand. The Crystal Dig Area has been a popular destination for school groups, scouts, tourists, birders, and rock hounds for many years. An estimated 30,000 visitors are at the area annually to dig for the selenite crystal with its unique hour glass inclusion. This is the only known site where these crystals are found. The selenite crystal is designated as the Oklahoma State Crystal. A video is posted on YouTube that gives first time diggers the lowdown on what to take and what to expect.

The re-opening coincided with the annual Birding and Heritage Festival held in Alfalfa County. The Selenite Crystal Dig Area is located on the salt flats of Salt Plains NWR. The salt flats provide important habitat for nesting and migrating shorebirds including interior least terns and snowy plovers. Recent surveys indicate that Salt Plains NWR is the most important area in the United States for snowy plovers.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Watchable Wildlife Weekend

Just received a notice of this event coming up! The Alabaster Caverns State Park near Freedom Oklahoma is an awesome place to visit just to tour the caverns. With all the added events centered around watchable wildlife this could be THE PLACE to take the kiddos this weekend!

Alabaster Caverns State Park WatchableWildlife Weekend
April 30th, May 1st and 2nd, 2009
(6 miles south of Freedom, OK on Hwy 50)

Here is a partial listing of the activities planned for the weekend. Most activities repeat daily, Thursday, Friday and Saturday with some one time only events thrown in each day.

“Skulls and Skins” presented by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife
Conservation Wildlife Technician Russell Perry and Major County Game
Warden Frank Huebert. Can you identify these native animals by their skulls and skins?

“Native Animals andWildlife Rehabilitation”
“Geology and Cavern Formation” presented by Alabaster Caverns State
Park Naturalist Tandy Keenan. Do you know what's "in your backyard?"

“Did you have any idea you could make that from a Bison?”
presented by National Park Service Ranger Dick Zahm. Display will highlight some of the
uses of the American Bison from Native American traditions as well as more recent.

Making Tracks” presented by Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge's
Outdoor Recreation Planner Becky Wolff from the Salt Plains National Wildlife
Refuge. Make some tracks and take one home with you.

for early morning risers this will repeat Friday and Saturday at different locations and times

Saturday May 1

7:00am-9:00am Early Morning Birding Tour at Boiling Springs
State Park (Hwy 34C and 50B) presented by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife
Conservation Biologist Melynda Hickman. This tour is free and participants will
be driven through the park via flatbed trailer with seating for optimal
viewing. However, pre-registration is required and limited to 25 people.
Please call Tandy Keenan at (580) 621-3381 to register.

Saturday May 2nd
6:30am-8:30am Morning Birding Tour at Alabaster Caverns State
Park presented by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Biologist Melynda
Hickman. This activity is free and is a walking tour. Participants will meet at the Clubhouse
Picnic Shelter (just west of the park office) and be ready to depart at 6:30a.m. Please wear
dark or earth-tone colors and don’t forget your binoculars!

I have posted a complete weekend events listing at

Monday, April 27, 2009

Freedom Rock in Iowa

Late last fall we headed to Iowa for a wedding and stopped at my brother in law’s for a night on the way up. If there is anything more rural than northwest Oklahoma it is anywhere rural in Iowa. We decided to take the scenic route north from Crescent and wound up on Highway 25. We were traveling in the classic 58 Ford we own, a pleasure in itself. Mid morning with the windows down and this bright rock by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere (really) caught my eye. I knew I had seen it before, that is pictures of it, passed around in email probably a couple years ago. But here was the real thing!

A twelve foot high rock that is said to weigh 56 ton is sitting right beside the highway with the most beautiful art work depicting patriotic images. We quickly turned around at a safe spot in the road and went back for a closer look. A kiosk is located near the rock with information on the artist and the history of this tribute to freedom, aptly named the Freedom Rock. Ray “Bubba” Sorenson has been changing the faces of the rock every year since 1999.

What a surprise to actually see this neat spot in the middle of Iowa corn fields. A quick search when I got home produced the web site that gives the whole story. I will never snooze on a cross country trip again, hard telling what I might miss!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Under the Kansas Prairie

650 feet under the earth surface around Hutchinson Kansas lies an amazing vista of salt. Yes, I said salt. the Kansas Underground Salt Museum is located underground in 100,000 square feet of space unlike anything I had ever seen before. A quick and dark elevator ride takes you to the mine floor. The temperature stays a comfortable 68 degrees in this mine. Trams with tour guides take you through some of the mine chambers where you are literally surrounded by salt. You will experience total darkness when the lights go off, but you can trust the guides to take good care of you. Lonnie and Larry, our tour guides are retired salt mine workers and really know their way around. This is the only museum of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Hard hats and small respirators are required for all visitors during the tour.

The museum itself hosts everything from Dorothy II of the movie "Twister" fame to original Superman and Batman costumes. I was surprised to find Dorothy there as previous to this trip I thought the Wakita OK museum was the only place to see her. The mines are also used for storage and Kansas public records such as birth, marriage and death certificates are kept there.

Of course everyone wants to take some salt home and there is always a small pile available and they even provide the bags!

Plan to spend a couple hours on the tour; after you take the tram ride you can wander around and see old mining equipment on display and view the history of a salt mine that was formed about 250 MILLION years ago. The gift shop has among other things, a selection of t-shirts and salt lamps.

The general admission rates are $8.50 for children and $13.50 for over 13 to adult, making this an affordable family trip.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Beaver OK Cow Chip Throwing Capital

This is the famous Big Beaver and that is a cow chip he is holding, not a cookie or a donut. Beaver holds this week-long event every year the third weekend in April. They have cook-outs in the parks, vendors everywhere and of course no northwest Oklahoma event would be complete without the parade down the main street.

Beaver proudly promotes the Cow Chip Throwing contest and they have had contestants from Euopean countries as well as all over the U.S. This is big business for them and the pendant street signs say it all. In addition to the annual event, this small Oklahoma panhandle community is located just across the river from one of Oklahoma's State Parks. The Beaver Dunes State Park has about 450 acres of sand available for ATV and off road riding. They offer camping with electrical and water and if you are a fishing enthusiast, try out the pond. Photographers delight in the changing seasons in this area and the wildlife viewing possibilities. learn more at

Kansas Cosmosphere

We were scheduled to visit the Cosmosphere space museum first. When I first walked in I was simply amazed. Then I thought, why do they need help promoting this? Everyone should already know; but I didn’t, so that theory was quickly shot down. We spent most of an afternoon there and then went back the next morning for more. Honestly, I could have spent several days there and not grown tired of what I was seeing, and I am NOT a space nut at all. In fact if you had asked me before I actually saw this place, I would not have said it was on my top 20 list of places to see.

Cosmosphere CEO Chris Orwoll gave the guided tour himself, so we knew it was important to him. We were treated just like VIP’s while we toured the facility. This is an amazing place, and they have Future Astronaut Training Programs that include trips to both Johnson and Kennedy space centers for the youth in the programs. Follow Chris @cosmosphereCEO on Twitter. Check out their web site and if you are in the area, stop for a day to tour or an hour for Coffee at the Cosmos where you can get upclose to space artifacts.

Hutchinson Kansas started my blog

All of this started when I was invited by Becky McCray to go along on a FAM tour to Hutchinson Kansas. What is a FAM tour, you ask? Familiarization is the FAM, tour you should get! Designed to bring in people who can influence their (not your) tourism target market, the tour provided free lodging and meals and entry to the attractions they wanted to promote. Never one to pass up a trip (free or otherwise, but especially free) to somewhere new, I took some annual leave days from the OSBDC and packed a bag.
Bloggers were invited and came from Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas and of course Kansas. Not just “travel bloggers” but a mix of interested people who just love to write and share what they know and see and learn with others. This is the think outside the box theory times 8 or 10. This is the “decide who will tell my story” and this is “finding those experts who want to tell others”. The group was diverse not only in where they came from, but a mix of male and female, young and old with a common twitter connection.
So in the coming days I will be posting about Hutchinson, what I saw, did and most importantly what I learned about tourism promotion from @codyks on twitter.