Our next stop took us to Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby, Illinois where we stayed for two nights. This was the first park we had been to in quite some time that only offered electricity. No water or sewer was available there but with our motor home, we certainly could do without either one for a two night stay. We enjoyed our one full day at Starved Rock State Park where the three of us hiked throughout the park and learned a lot of interesting things about the area that once contained one of the oldest Native American settlements in Illinois, going back thousands of years. The settlement is long gone of course but the area has been turned into a beautiful park with miles of wooded trails and some very nice boardwalks.
We spent the next few days enjoying the Amana Colonies in Iowa. The Amana Colonies are a group of seven villages that were established over 150 years ago as a communal society of Germans that wanted to practice their own version of the Lutheran religion. It is a very interesting area full of great history and consisting of many of the original farms and structures. We began our visit by taking a tour that turned out to be one of the most interesting tours we’ve been on. We then enjoyed dining at a restaurant in one of the original buildings that used to be one of the communal kitchens followed by some shopping in many of the old shops within the quaint and beautiful villages.
Following Amana we headed to Altoona, Iowa for a four night stay at Adventureland Campground. This campground is part of an amusement park where we were greeted by our close friends Randy and Sue who were waiting for us. Their dog Herk was also there to greet the three of us and the dogs were as excited as we were. We spend our winters together in Texas and were excited to learn that they had taken the next three days off and would be able to spend some time with us. The first day had some gorgeous weather so we decided to spend it at the amusement park. We were thrilled when we learned that Randy & Sue’s daughter, husband and grandson were joining us. The four of us have shared so many stories about our families. When you do that, and you finally meet them you feel like you already know them and this was definitely the case. Randy & Sue surprised us by reserving a cabana in the water park right along the lazy river for the day. This meant that we had a place to relax out of the sun when we weren’t out on the rides and could go in and out of the lazy river directly from the cabana. We spent most of the day in the waterpark, riding some water slides of course but mainly just relaxing and floating along the lazy river. Iowa allows beverages, including beer to be served at the waterpark and can be taken with you as you float along the river. Do you see where I’m going with this? Yes, I spent a good part of the day just floating on a tube on this bright sunny day with a cold beer in hand with some wonderful people. It was a very good day for sure. Once we did leave the waterpark we rode a few of the amusement rides. The highlight of my day turned out to be a ride on The Monster. Randy had been looking forward to this ride so there was no way I could chicken out. Believe me, I thought about it. 133 feet straight up on your back, then a vertical drop MORE than straight down followed by a half dozen or so loops and corkscrews. I actually enjoyed the ride quite a bit but it sure was an adrenaline rush. For the next couple of days we received a personal tour of the Des Moines area, dined at a couple of great restaurants, enjoyed a visit with another friend of ours and were treated to a fabulous steak dinner at Randy and Sue’s.
Our next stop took us only 16 miles away to Prairie Flower Campground in Polk City, Iowa where we spent the next three nights. This was a beautiful recreation area with plenty of hiking as well as some dog friendly beach areas for Stella to go swimming. We started our first morning off by having breakfast with Randy, Sue and three more of our friends from Texas. Then it was time to do some hiking. We ended our hike at one of the dog friendly beaches where Stella was able to run around and swim off leash. Claudia started the next day off by taking a walk back to the beach with Stella so she could have another swim while I took care of some computer housekeeping. Next it was time for some grooming for Stella so Claudia took her out for a bath and we gave her a pedicure. We wanted her all nice and clean for our reunion with several of our Texas friends at our next stop. That night we were surprised and thrilled to be joined by Bruce and Sue, our two friends from Texas who will be traveling with us for the next 10 weeks. They arrived in their new motor home and camped in the site next to us. We enjoyed a nice dinner together and were able to catch up on each other’s adventures since leaving Texas.
The following morning we hit the road and headed north to our next stop where we met up with many of our Texas friends whose company we enjoyed for the next week as we visited Avatan, a beautiful camping resort in East Bethel, Minnesota. Two of our friends, Dick & Frankie are caretakers at the resort and when word got out that a few of us were planning to visit, others wanted to join us so we enjoyed the company of over 20 friends we normally only see in Texas. It was such a wonderful time. Dick & Frankie kicked off our visit by hosting a spaghetti dinner where we all had a chance to enjoy each other’s company. In addition to lots of pool time including some great water volleyball, we carried on the tradition of happy hours each afternoon at various campsites throughout the week. I was also able to get in some tennis as we headed out a couple of times to play at the local high school. We had one rainy day while we were there so we took the opportunity to drive into Minneapolis to visit the Mall of America. It’s a mall like no other we’ve ever seen with an amusement park filling the atrium and an aquarium with glass windows along the walls. We were happy we got the chance to see it. We headed out for dinner on two separate occasions, first at Moonshine Whiskey’s where about 20 of us enjoyed some great grub at the pub and then again at the local Golf Club on our final night with many of our close friends as we said our farewells. We also got the chance to meet lots of new friends who are regulars that spend their summers at the resort. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be back some day, maybe for more than a week.
The past few weeks have been so much fun as we’ve visited with and enjoyed the company of so many friends, both old and new. We really are very lucky to have so many wonderful people in our lives.