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September 12, 2018
Iowa and Minnesota: Little House on the Prairie

Our rental car, a Jeep Compass 4WD (not our choice), parked in front of Colleen’s house

We have mentioned that Gail had two historical heroes she wanted to connect with on this trip: Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain. She actually had a third hero: Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the “Little House on the Prairie” book series.

So today, while our granddaughter Avery was in school, our son-in-law Daryl was at work and our daughter Colleen was running errands, we decided to take a driving tour. This would give us the opportunity to visit both Iowa and Minnesota, two states that had been on the original steamboat cruise itinerary but were later omitted.

Welcome to Iowa!

Years ago, when Gail and our son Cameron visited Iowa for college tours, they observed that you could look in any direction and see the same thing: flat cornfields. This has not changed.

At the top of Gail’s list was the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum across the border in Burr Oak, Iowa. Wilder does not mention Burr Oak in any of her books, but it is in her memoir, “Pioneer Girl.” The family lived briefly in the Masters Hotel in 1876-1877 after they left Walnut Grove, Minnesota.

The Masters Hotel, then and now. 1800s photo from “Tales of Travel, Life and Love” by George P. Bent, 1924. (source: iowahistory)

Today, the Masters Hotel is the only childhood home of Wilder that is still on its original site. Gail was disappointed to learn that after Labor Day, the museum is only open Thursday through Saturday. When she contacted them, however, they said they would be willing to open especially for us on Wednesday. Sure enough, we were met by Barbara, who graciously gave us a long and private tour of the home. Gail was thrilled.

Gail and Barbara tour the restored Masters Hotel, now a museum

We drove back through Minnesota, so that we could see some more of that state besides the airport. We took a scenic drive through Amish Country in Lanesboro, but we didn’t see any Amish farms or people (except for one woman driving a horse and buggy). So we headed to the Mississippi River and drove back to Colleen’s via the Great River Road.

Welcome to Minnesota!

Some snapshots from Minnesota

This is our last full day in Mississippi River country. Tomorrow will mark exactly four weeks since we began our adventure. We will say goodbye to family, make one last drive up the Great River Road, and fly home to California.

We couldn’t resist a brief grandparent brag book. Our granddaughter Avery is the only female on the local football team! (She is wearing her new American Queen Steamboat tee shirt.)

Avery was also very excited to show us her new bicycle riding skills!


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