Roads and Rails Museum Visit

Mountain Passes

I’m visiting our daughter and family for our youngest grandson’s first birthday and today we headed out to nearby Frederick, Maryland to visit the Roads and Rails Museum.  If you are at all interested in model railroading, you really should take the time to see this gem, located in downtown historic Frederick.  You can read about it here and take an awesome virtual tour of the place.

Pet Place Building

The attention to detail is amazing.  One of the fun things to do is to pick up their scavenger quiz sheet as you enter and then try to find the items and answers as you look around the layout.

Cows and Eggnog

Drive-in Theater

Look at the little drive-in theater.  It is actually playing scenes from a movie.  How fun is that?

Aliens have landed

Oh, oh…look who has landed at the farm.  Then again, I always suspected that there was more to Holsteins than met the eye.

Visit the Zoo

There is a little zoo in the layout and one of the quiz questions is to find how many animals are escaping from the zoo.

Bed Bug Motel

When I spied the Bed Bug Motel, I had to take a picture of it for my brother, considering our recent “wildlife” adventure on our sibling trip.

What’s in the woods?

Looks like those hobos better look out behind them.  I think something is coming out of the woods to get them.

Fire, Fire!

Look out!  A building is on fire but those firemen seem to be more interested in the hot dog stand then putting out the flames.

Come in for the Show

Along with a Big Top there is also a carny area filled with moving rides that light up.

What Lurks Beneath

Maybe you thought dinosaurs were extinct but they are alive and well under the train layout.

When you get tired of looking at all of the incredible details in the huge layout, walk into the next room and enjoy the LEGO display.

Garden Time


Hulking Out

Robin Hood at War

There are many others scenes set up in the LEGO room but I’ve just wet your whistle with the pictures above.  Once you finish your tour, there are many fine restaurants and quaint shops in historic Frederick so plan to make a day of it.

Traveling with Siblings

My brother and I have survived our summer trip this year, putting over 3300 miles on his Prius and we are still speaking.  What have I learned from this trip?  Well, here are some things.

Lessons Learned:

1.  You are bound to have some blow-ups when traveling with a sibling.  We had our moments.  The “Marinette Meltdown” comes to mind.  Boy, would I love to have been a fly on the wall for THAT one.  However, when you know that these tiffs will happen, you can also know that the storm clouds will blow over and soon things will be back on an even keel.

2.  Eating regular meals helps keep stress to a minimum.  I’m hypoglycemic and my temper flares when I go too long without eating.  It’s good to take the time to stop and stretch your legs and eat something.  My brother was really good about stopping to let us walk when we drove those long stretches.

3.  Don’t expect each other to have the same energy levels or want to do things exactly like you do.  I’m not much of an outdoorsy person.  My brother is much more outdoorsy.  He doesn’t like to sit for long periods of time.  I can sit for hours at a time just happily knitting away or reading.  It’s ok to have differences in this way.  You just have to respect that sometimes you might have to go a bit out of your comfort zone and vice versa.  You also have to respect the fact that your sibling might have a different way of doing things and that is ok, FOR THEM.  It doesn’t mean that either of you have to change. If my brother wanted to go for a walk on the beach, I was more than happy to let him while I relaxed at the motel.  He had to realize that I might not want to trek around and needed more down time.  “Respecting differences” is the key.

4.  Keep daily travel to short chunks, allowing time to decompress.  We had some days that were real corkers, with long distances traveled.  It was wearing.  In hindsight, we’d not go such a distance again without more time spent just relaxing.

5.  Keep your sense of humor.  Siblings are wonderful to travel with.  You have shared experiences and memories.  Sometimes you have to just not take things too seriously and then anticipate all the great experiences you will have to laugh over when your trip is finished.  We had a lot of fun on this trip and are already laughing over some of our antics.  Yes, we had our moments but we had our moments growing up together, too.  When all is said and done, my brother and I are the only immediate family we have and we love each other, quirks and all.  Yes, I’m a drama queen and yes, he’s a control freak but we both love to laugh at ourselves and to eat and to clown around and to honor our roots and our parents by making our treks to the old stomping grounds.

6.  Family is golden.  At the end of the day, family is who you can rely on and who you treasure.  I know there are many out there who have not had great family experiences.  For them, I feel sad.  For those of you who DO have great family memories, go out and make new ones.  Try a sibling trip.  You just might find yourself doing it again and again…and surviving the experience with a chuckle.

Geocaching on the Great Sibling Tour ’17

Recap:  We are two siblings who have driven over 3300 miles around the Midwest revisiting old childhood haunts.  Along the way, we’ve geocached and visited relatives and eaten a lot of good food.

Day 12:  We made it back to my brother’s home, tired but safe and sound.  I thought I’d post some pics of our geocaching adventures along the way.  I won’t tell you where these are located.  That would spoil the fun.

Suffice it to say that we found caches in all sorts of containers and all kinds of hiding places.

My favorite geocache was this one.  What a clever place to hide something.

We are getting better at looking at things and discerning what is out of whack or just doesn’t seem to fit in the landscape.

We’ve rooted around old buildings.

Traipsed through woods.

Climbed down hills.

Peeked into trees.

And sometimes we’ve just been plain stumped.

I’ve learned to bring along work gloves and my trusty knitting needle for when you have to poke around in vegetation.  My brother has learned that it isn’t always wise to wear shorts depending on the terrain you are hiking through.  And always, I’ve learned it is wise to bring along bug spray, a trusty pen, and paper.  The pen comes in handy to sign the logs and if you find a cache that is missing a log, extra paper is always handy to make a new log.

Above all, I’ve learned that geocaching can be fun and is something readily available wherever I find myself.  Happy hunting!

Great Sibling Tour ’17 Day 11

No More Schloegel’s

Recap:  We are a sibling duo who have been traveling around the Midwest retracing our childhood journeys.  So far, we’ve traveled over 3,000 miles and through 8 states.

Day 11:  We had received a “heads-up” from our cousin that Schloegel’s, a Menominee, MI landmark had closed recently but it was still so sad to drive by it and see the “closed” sign.  The kids are selling the business.  No more wonderful breakfasts of potato pancakes for us there.

Watering the graves

Instead we had to make do with breakfast at the hotel and then it was time to head out of town.  First, though, we swung by the cemetery to water the flowers we’d planted the day before.  Goodbye, Dad, Aunt Violet, Aunt Gertie, Uncle Lester, and the grandparents that we never got to meet.  Until we pass this way again…

Green Bay inlet

We crossed into Michigan and stopped along Green Bay in Menominee to take a few more pictures.  There were folks fishing from the docks and one fisherman was cleaning a huge fish he’d caught.

Looking for the Mackinac Bridge

Driving across the Upper Peninsula, we got great mileage.  It was around 68 mpg in the Prius.  Once we stopped at a gas station, we realized why the mileage was especially good.  There was a very strong tailwind which was probably pushing us along.  It was also very cold—about 63 degrees out.

We always played a game as kids to see who would spot the Mackinac Bridge first.  I’m happy to report that I was the winner this year.

Bridge View park

We got out to take some pictures on the St. Ignace side and marveled at how the temperatures had shot up.  It was now in the 80’s and approaching 90.  The wind was ferocious and I was amazed that they were letting big semi trucks cross the bridge.

Smooth Sailing

It was smooth sailing for us as we went to the lower peninsula of Michigan, only to be buffeted by a corker of a breeze as we toured around.


We did some geocaching and found all three that we had planned in advance to search for.

Injured geocacher

At one geocaching hunt, we had to walk down a trail to the beach and then back up into the woods.  There were bugs everywhere.  I’m convinced there was also poison sumac along the trail.  I tried to avoid touching the leaves and then tried to avoid the bugs, windmilling my arms non-stop as I called out encouragement to John who was digging around in the trees.  At one point, a tree retaliated by giving him a good gash.  He came back to the car with blood running down his leg.

Goofing around

Of course, we had to recover with some Starbucks and of course, there were things in the area that we could have some fun with.

The Great Scout

No major blowups today.  I DID tell my brother over an excellent meal of whitefish, to go ahead and make a comment about my butter usage in advance so we could get it over with.  He didn’t take the bait.  He DID lecture me about hanging out outside tonight.

“You need to go outside,” he said.

“I don’t NEED to do anything,” I told him.  “If I CHOOSE to go outside, I will.  If I want to stay in the motel room, that’s fine, too.”

That was almost the end of it but not before I heard his theory of why bugs go after me (my perfume – which I don’t wear) or my hairspray (which I do use).  He even lectured me on how my body emits an odor when I am afraid that dogs can pick up on.  I’m not quite sure how dogs fit into the bug problem but I’m sure there must be a logic there somewhere.  In the meantime, I’ll just keep my “fear stink” inside and enjoy the air conditioning and the quiet.

Now we have this last night on the road and then, Lord willing, we will be back at my brother’s home tomorrow.  It has been a very LONG trip.  I’m ready to relax, put my feet up, and do some laundry.


Great Sibling Tour ’17 Day 10


Recap:  My brother and I are touring the Midwest on our annual sibling trip where we retrace our family vacation routes that we followed growing up.  We also try to do something different each year.  This year, we’ve been geocaching.

Breakfast Blowout

Day 10:  We headed off to a restaurant in the Wisconsin Dells that has very good bacon.  The day didn’t get off to a very good start because my brother started in with the “sibling advice”, telling me that I shouldn’t be buttering my hash browns so much.  Oh, come on!  The butter containers they gave me had about as much butter as the size of my little fingernail.  And really, if potatoes aren’t swimming in butter, I have trouble getting them down.  They are simply too starchy for me.  Then John hit “Strike Two” when he decided to chastise me for taking more than a little sample the night before at a buffet “in case you don’t like it.”  It wasn’t like I was loading up my plate.  I might have taken a healthy scoop of the pasta salad, which proved to be almost inedible.    John thought it was, too but ate the whole thing because he didn’t want to waste food.  My philosophy is that I was paying for it and if it didn’t taste good, I wasn’t going to force it down.  So we had words over that and we hadn’t even hit the road yet.


We eventually arrived in Marinette, WI and made a quick pit stop at Mickey-Lu’s for lunch.  We always eat here and love their hamburgers.

The owner and John

Chuck, the owner, came over to welcome us back.  He told us, “Come on, you really didn’t drive 2800 miles for my hamburgers, did you?”

“You betcha!”, we assured him.  John ate 4 for lunch and 3 for supper.  I had 2 for lunch and 2 for supper.  You read that right.  We came back and ate our supper there, too.

Visiting Dad’s grave

After checking into our motel, we went to the local Menard’s and picked up some marigolds for the family graves.  That led to Strike three for my brother.  He was digging up the planting area on all four graves and then I was supposed to get on my knees and plant the marigolds.  Well, darn-nit, it really hurt to be on my knees on the ground planting them.  Somehow we got into an argument about my inability to crawl around between the graves that ended with me in tears and John shouting at me.

“You’re just too sensitive.  You’re SO dramatic!” he shouted.

“You aren’t sensitive enough,” I shouted back, along with some choice words.  I haven’t sworn this much in years.  There is something about siblings that just bring out the worst in me.

“Where’s that other marigold,” he shouted.

I threw it at his head.  It’s a wonder Dad didn’t rise out of the grave and box our ears.

Loose Family Plot

At least the graves looked nice when all was said and done.

Geocaching in Marinette

We calmed down enough to geocache.  John found two and I found one.  We also met another geocaching couple and traded stories with them for a bit by the shores of Green Bay.

Tracing Ancestral Homes

One other thing we did today was drive around Marinette and take pictures of all the places our ancestors had lived in town.  We found all but four out of nine.  Three were now either empty lots or parking lots.  One was on a street which no longer exists in Marinette.  Ancestors of ours lived in the house shown above from 1897-1913.

The “storm clouds” had rolled away by the time we had supper at Mickey-Lu’s and topped it off with a sea salt caramel malt from Culvers.  Who says that food can’t soothe the soul?

Tomorrow we head off to Mackinaw City and the final stay of our trip.  Stay tuned.

Great Sibling Tour ’17 Day Nine

Recap: Total Miles Driven so far: 2,772
Average Miles Per Gallon today: 59.8 MPG
Car being driven: 2016 Prius 4
Miles Driven Today: 263 Miles
Weather: Perfect with temps around 80 today
Weather during the last 9 days on the road: PERFECT between 80 and 96 degrees.
States driven through: Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin

A Cousin Reunion

We started our day by meeting one of our cousins for breakfast before we headed off to Wisconsin.  It is always fun to see Jeff and talk to him.  We had quite the lively discussion going at our little table at Panera’s and I’d like to think that we solved some of the world’s problems or at least, enlightened a few of the folks sitting near us.


We did some geocaching while in the Dells and found three.

River Cruise

We bought tickets on the Duck cruises and took the Duck boat ride around the Wisconsin Dells area, including down the river.  What a fun time.

Then we tried to blog about our experiences last evening but our internet was SOOOOOOO slow that we finally gave up.  It really makes you appreciate fast internet service when you don’t have it at all.  We couldn’t even upload one picture.  Ugh!  Thank goodness we have lightning fast internet tonight in the motel.


Great Sibling Tour ’17 Day Eight

Recap:  We are two siblings who go on yearly road trips together.  My brother lives in Michigan and I call Texas home.  Our trips usually center around the Upper Midwest where we can relive the glory days of our childhood and visit our relatives (at least those who don’t bar the door when they see us coming.  Just kidding!)    Sometimes we pick a theme for our travels.  Last year we tried to see a lot of roadside attractions.  This year, we added geocaching to the mix.

Psychedelic Car Wash

Day Eight: Today was a relatively quiet day.  Not a lot of traveling involved but a lot of visiting with our cousins.  First, though, we stopped in at Heintz Toyota in Mankato to say hello to the saleslady who sold my brother his last two Prius autos.  She really knows her stuff and we always enjoy seeing her when we are in the area to just brag about how much we love our Priuses.  Before we left, she treated John to a free car wash.  Now that is the type of service that keeps you coming back.

We sat in the car wash and enjoyed the “show” as the multi-colored suds created a pleasing display on the windshield.  It doesn’t take much to amuse us.

Another cache found

Armed with a clean car, we headed off to do some more geocaching.  This was a clever hide.  We needed to have a confidence-booster after struggling to find another cache and coming up with zip.

Since John got to visit his Toyota dealer, I was able to bargain successfully to go visit a local yarn shop.  It was Mary Lue’s Yarn and Ewe.  The shop is well-stocked with fun yarns and very creative shop samples that use those yarns.  I got lots of ideas and helped support the local knitting community just a tad.  If you’re in the area and a knitter, I recommend you stop in.

From there, we checked into our hotel and then headed off to visit our cousins.  They had lots of questions about geocaching and we just happened to have a location in their area where we could hunt for another cache.

Let’s just say that our cousin is no longer a “geocaching muggle.”  We might even have made a new convert because I think she might give it a try on her next family vacation.  If all this talk of geocaching has piqued your interest, go to this website where you can create an account for free and then search for locations all over the United States that have geocaches waiting to be found.  The website has informative videos explaining the geocaching sport that you can find under “Learn” on their home page.

It was great seeing our cousins again and catching up on the news.  However, when we got back to the hotel room, John and I suddenly looked at each other and said, “Oh, no…we didn’t get a picture of us with Monnie!”  We certainly had plenty of opportunity but were so busy gabbing that we completely forgot to snap some pics.  I guess that gives us the perfect excuse to stop in again next year.

Tomorrow we head off to the Wisconsin Dells.  For tonight, I’m signing off and putting my feet up.

Great Sibling Tour ’17 Day Seven

Recap:  We are two siblings who go on yearly road trips together.  My brother lives in Michigan and I call Texas home.  Our trips usually center around the Upper Midwest where we can relive the glory days of our childhood and visit our relatives (at least those who don’t bar the door when they see us coming.  Just kidding!)    Sometimes we pick a theme for our travels.  Last year we tried to see a lot of roadside attractions.  This year, we added geocaching to the mix.

Sneaky Geocache

Day Seven:  We headed off today and pointed the car towards God’s Country, also known as Minnesota.  As we crossed the state line, I serenaded my brother with the Minnesota State Song.  It was a yet another beautiful day.

We managed to find three geocaches today, including one of the sneakiest ones we’ve encountered to date.  This one was actually inside a fake light bulb.  Wild!

Visiting Mom

We visited our mother’s gravesite out in Nobles County.  Our grandparents are also buried there in this tiny rural cemetery sandwiched between farmland.  We can stand at the back of the cemetery and look out over the fields to our grandparents’ farm.  It was a bittersweet morning, reflecting on how many folks we’ve known in that area who are no longer with us and also looking around and seeing how much things have changed.

The Old Homestead

As much as it pains me to admit it, one thing that has changed for the better is our old farm.  The current owners have taken down all of the old buildings, including the barn and farmhouse, and built new buildings.  The only original building left standing that we could see was the old grain bin.  The farm is looking good, though.

Cousin Doris

We stopped in Heron Lake to visit our cousin, Doris and this time we remembered to take pictures.

Hystad Cabin

Then we headed off towards Lamberton to see more cousins.  On the way, we stumbled across this little settler’s cabin in Storden, MN.

It was a lovely little stop to walk around and take pictures of early cabin life on the prairie in these parts.

Aunt Maxine

We got to visit with our Aunt Maxine in Lamberton.  She doesn’t talk much but today she was alert and smiling.  She even laughed some and said a few words now and then.  We love her so much.  She was like a sister to my mom and beloved by us from the time we first met her as little ones.

We visited with our cousins in Lamberton and then corralled several to head off for a treat at the local Dairy Queen.  Thanks, Anita, for the nice supper.  Yummy!

Then it was time to head to our motel for the night.  All in all, today was a much easier day physically but emotionally, it was still tough to see so much change in the area and to have to say “goodbye” yet again to our mom.

Tomorrow, we are off to Mankato.  Stay tuned.


Great Sibling Tour ’17 Day Six

Welcome to Wall Drug

Recap:  We are two siblings who go on yearly road trips together.  My brother lives in Michigan and I call Texas home.  Our trips usually center around the Upper Midwest where we can relive the glory days of our childhood and visit our relatives (at least those who don’t bar the door when they see us coming.  Just kidding!)    Sometimes we pick a theme for our travels.  Last year we tried to see a lot of roadside attractions.  This year, we added geocaching to the mix.

Day Six:  It’s Day Six and we started our day by leaving Rapid City, South Dakota behind and heading off for Wall, South Dakota.

Yippee Ki Yi Yay!

Wall Drugstore is in the center of Wall, SD and it is such a fun place.  We went there often in the summers as kids.  One of my earliest  Wall memories is of my dad lifting me up into a stagecoach in their courtyard where he told me to wave as he took my picture.  I was around 18 months old.

Riding the Bunny

There were still all sorts of animals around that you could crawl up on and take pictures with although I swear the bunny I remember had fur on him years ago.

We wandered around and generally made fools of ourselves but had a blast.  At one point we looked at each other and said, “THIS is why they shouldn’t let senior adults loose in Wall Drugstore!”

Minuteman II Launch Silo

Next we headed off for the Badlands but were diverted by a small sign pointing out into the plains for a Minuteman II Launch Site.  We drove down a dusty dirt road and suddenly there was a tiny fenced area and we were at the launch silo.  There was a very nice, knowledgeable park ranger there who gave us a thorough briefing of the old Minuteman II missiles  It was scary and fascinating at the same time.  Here is an interesting video that shows the launching of a similar missile.  Yikes!

From there, we drove into the Badlands and made the loop through the national park.  Temperatures were in the 90’s by this point and it was easy to think how intimidating it would have seemed to any pioneers who found themselves wandering through these badlands in the early days.  It’s grim enough in an air-conditioned car.

When we left the park, we encountered THIS prairie dog.  However, we’d been warned by rangers that prairie dogs carry the plague so we didn’t try to get too cozy with him.

Next stop was the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD.  This is redecorated on a regular basis, using actual corn and grasses.  They pick a theme and decorate around that theme.

This year’s theme was “rock and roll.”

We left the Corn Palace and went off in search of two geocaches in Mitchell, which we DID find.  One was an easy find and one was a very clever hiding place.

Now we are relaxing and getting ready to head into Minnesota tomorrow where we will be visiting with relatives and also visiting the family graves.  Until then…

Great Sibling Tour ’17 Day Five

Hello, Mt. Rushmore!

Today was dedicated to exploring Mt. Rushmore, Rapid City, and Deadwood, South Dakota.  We started bright and early with a drive out to the Mt. Rushmore National Monument.  The monument itself is free but parking is $10 (that pass is good for a year).  If you are a senior, you only have to pay $5.  When my brother pulled up to the gate and asked the attendant for the senior parking pass, she looked us over and said, sarcastically, “You’re kidding, right?”

“Hey, we’re over 55,” my brother insisted.

“You have to be 62 or older,” she said.

We both are over that so she eventually reneged and gave us the cheaper pass.  Made my day!

Presidential Trail View

After a bit of a walk to get to the amphitheater to take some pictures, we decided to walk the Presidential Trail.  John assured me that we only had to go a little way, if I wanted but I was game to walk the entire trail.  Oy!  Did you know that there are 422 steps along the path?  I’m talking wooden and uneven rock steps that you have to either climb up or walk down.  Unfortunately for us, we started the wrong direction so ended up having to do the majority of the steps climbing up at the end.  Groan.  At one point, I seriously considered offering a kid $20 to haul me the rest of the way up in the stroller he was carrying for his mom.

By the time we reached the top, returning to the amphitheater area, my brother and I weren’t talking.  I’d about had it with his advice on how to breathe and the need for exercising on a regular basis.  I got over it.

Awesome artist

As we left the Mt. Rushmore area, we saw this artist and his work next to the road so we pulled in for a look.  Wow!  He does amazing work.

Jeffrey Dahl is a young artist who studied his craft while doing an apprenticeship in Alaska.  His sculptures are really something.  I wish I hadn’t been flying home because I would have loved to get one of them.

Amazing Gate

Look at the detail in this gate.  The back side of it is shown in the previous picture with the motorcycle.

Dinosaur Park

Next we headed on over to Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, SD.  I have a grandson who loves dinos and I’d promised him some photos.

Silly humans

Did I mention that this park involved climbing a lot of stairs?  Ninety, to be precise.  My legs were like jelly. Before we’d even started on those steps, we had hunted down a geocache in the area that involved climbing a steep hill and striking off the path.  I was plumb tuckered out.

Upside Down Rainbow

One unusual thing we saw while standing at the top of Dinosaur Park was this upside down rainbow.  It is actually called a circumzenithal arc and is caused by a refraction of sunlight through ice crystals.  It really isn’t a rainbow at all, but an optical phenomenon.

Mount Moriah Cemetery

After lunch, we drove to Deadwood where we found two more geocaches and then we continued on to the Mount Moriah Cemetery.  MORE STEPS!  I couldn’t help but grouse, as I stood by Wild Bill Hickok’s grave, “I am appreciating Houston more and more.”  God bless that flat city.

Now I’m putting my feet up and relaxing.  You should have heard the two of us groaning each time we had to stand up and move once we got back to our room tonight.

More tomorrow!


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