Saturday, January 17, 2009

Fall Tour- 2008


A colorful flock of 'Birds flew into the Belvidere Oasis for the Fall Tour to Wisconsin on Friday morning, October 3, 2008. Early morning greeted us with rain on our drive to the Oasis, but 19 little 'Birds and one late-model 'Bird left in sunshine, promptly at 10 AM, for the Badger State.
Photo- T-birds at Mt. Horeb Days

We arrived at the Angel Museum in Beloit, Wl, at 10:50, and we were greeted in the parking lot by the owner, Joyce Berg, dressed in angel attire, complete with halo and wings. The Berg Angel Collection is the personal collection of Joyce Berg, and it is the largest in the world (13,599 angels). Mrs. Berg is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. This collection is now housed in an old church built in 1914 by Italian immigrants. Previously it had been in her home, and she moved the collection to this location ten years ago.

At the museum, our group was divided between two docents, and our docent was Bev Melton (owner of a 1950's Kaiser parked in the lot). In this private collection, there are over 60 countries represented and over 100 different materials used in the angels. We saw angels from Precious Moments, Hummels, to Lladro. The oldest was made in 1860 in Germany. This stop was very interesting, and many of us plan on returning to enjoy the collection at our leisure.

At 11:30 we left for Quaker Steak and Lube in Middleton for lunch. These restaurants are housed in a gas station setting and were started to preserve the culture of old gas stations and high-powered muscle cars. We were seated in the garage area with our cars parked out front, and they looked absolutely beautiful in the bright sun. Now it was time to choose from a menu that included choices such as: Thunderbird Steak, Mustang Chicken, LubeBurger, Fish Tallin', Hot Rod Chili, and Garage Salad. There was even a lift in the restaurant with a car raised on it with seating underneath. Very appropriate dining for our group!

After lunch, we proceeded to House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wl. This attraction is the result of the creative energy of one man, Alex Jordan. In the 1940's he was content to camp at this site until a storm blew his tent away. He then started the original house, building one room at a time, for his own use. In 1960 he opened The House on the Rock to the public. Once the original house was completed, he turned his attention to creating an attraction with room after room of unique and eclectic collections. There are variations of sights, sounds, and splendors (from the smallest details of an intricately furnished dollhouse collection to the world's largest indoor carousel). One of the most interesting sights was in the Infinity Room as it extends 218 feet out over the scenic valley and is 156 feet above the forest floor. What a spectacular view!

Our day of driving and touring came to an end as we checked into the Holiday Inn Express in Verona, Wl. Our group had a large hospitality room where we enjoyed several pizza combinations that were delivered to the hotel from an Italian restaurant. This was a welcome meal and gave us a chance to relax and enjoy each other's company. Annie had a lovely selection of beaded necklaces she made, and we each got to choose our favorite. Thank you, Annie! We were also entertained by Gordon and Mary - with some magic and twisting of balloons into different, unusual shapes.

Saturday morning started with breakfast at the hotel. After filling up on eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, muffins, etc., we met at 9 AM in the parking lot. The first stop of the day was Little Norway in Blue Mounds, Wl. Little Norway is the homestead of early Norwegian settlers, Mr. and Mrs. Osten Olson Haugen from Telemark, Norway. They came across the ocean on an eight-week voyage in 1856. The Haugens purchased this 40-acre homestead at $1.25 an acre.

In 1927, a Chicago insurance man, Isak Dahle, purchased the property and spent eight years remodeling, opening Little Norway to the public in 1936. The original farm buildings have been preserved and are authentic Norse architecture, simple and durable. Most of them are trimmed with warm, fresh blue paint that is typically Norwegian and contain America's largest collection of Norwegian artifacts.

In addition to the cluster of log farm buildings, there is the 12th century-style Norwegian Stave Church, built in Norway for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. It was shipped to Chicago for the World's Fair and had been in Lake Geneva for 30 years, until Mr. Dahle purchased it for $1,500 and moved it to Little Norway in 1935. Beth, our tour guide, said, "It has been disassembled and put together like a Lincoln Log set."

Little Norway is an absolutely beautiful piece of property nestled in the valley. It was interesting reliving the life of these early Norwegian immigrants and stepping back to a more peaceful, less rushed period of time.

We got our caravan back on the road and headed to Cave of the Mounds. Again, we were divided into two groups with Chris and Amy as our tour guides. Our guides took us past a varied collection of colorful stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and other formations along paved and lighted walkways in the cave. An interesting note is that the Cave has the same temperature all year long - 50 degrees. Also, there are no bats or other typical critters in the cave, thank goodness. This cave was accidentally discovered during a routine quarry blast in 1939 and was opened to the public in 1940. Over 59,000 people came to visit the cave in the first eight weeks of operation.

Leaving the cave, we headed to Mount Horeb for their Fall Heritage Festival. Our T-Birds were lined up on Main Street and, of course, they drew lots of onlookers. This was a typical festival featuring craft booths, wagon rides, and food booths. An interesting note is that Mount Horeb is known as the "Troll Capital of the World."

Upon leaving Mount Horeb, we headed back to our hotel. Our dinner Saturday evening was at Avanti's Italian Restaurant in Verona. We used the hotel shuttle bus, so our cars remained parked for the evening. Returning to the hotel, we enjoyed visiting in the hospitality room, and Jane made a hit with her homemade oatmeal cookies. They were gone in a flash! We are hoping to see the recipe printed in the newsletter. Thank you, Jane!

Sunday morning started with breakfast at the hotel, a group picture in the hotel lobby, getting our caravan together, and heading home. We had one final stop at Culver's at the WI/IL line. You can't guess what we ordered!!!

Our group thanks Pete and Lisa Ekstrom for planning an enjoyable Fall Tour. Along with Pete and Lisa, other members on the tour were: Bert and Jane Eisenhour, Gordon Gluff and Mary, Maryann Graziano and Paul Ureche, Joel Greenberg and Annie Luginbill, Bob and Helen Hoge, Larry Johnson and Sue, Len and Mary Keil, Larry and Karen Kelly, Joe and Sandra Kraatz, Pete and Marylu Kramer, Ed Levin and Rose, Paul and Urszula Mounts, Dan Mrozek, Jerry and Pat Peterson, Lloyd and Joan Schellin, Ken and Kathy Smizinski, Bill and Bonnie Thelen, Len and Irene Vinyard, Joe and Madeline Zambon, plus members joining us in WI. Dave and Mary Jane Osborne and Phil and Christine Kneebone. Thanks again Pete and Lisa; it was a wonderful trip.

Sandy (and Joe) Kraatz

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