Adventures in the Villa


Laura Ingalls Wilder

2022-10-19 Mountain Grove, MO

Today we visit a unique business: Seeds…

From the website:

“At Baker Creek, our mission is to provide the seeds of a sustainable food supply for everyone and keep heirloom varieties alive for future generations. We believe that farmers, gardeners and communities have the right to save their own seed, and in so doing preserve seed diversity and food security in an age of corporate agriculture and patented, hybridized or genetically modified seeds. All the seeds we sell can be saved, shared and traded, and we encourage people to save their own seed.

“Charitable giving is a foundation of our business. Working with non-profit organizations, a significant portion of our annual profits goes toward providing food, emergency aid, sustainable development and education to people in the U.S. and abroad. We also provide free seeds to hundreds of community and educational groups each year, because we believe that everyone should have access to nutrient-dense, delicious food, season after season.”

Founder Jere Gettle started Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. in 1998 as a hobby; it has since grown into North America’s largest heirloom seed company.

Baker Creek offers one of the largest selections of 19th century heirloom seeds from Europe and Asia, and our catalogs now feature about 1,000 stunning heirloom varieties.

The headquarters is in Mansfield, Missouri, and it includes trial gardens, greenhouses, a pioneer village and a seed store, all on the homestead where Jere started the business as a teenager. We also operate a seed store in Petaluma, Ca.

It’s about a half hour drive to Baker Creek…

We have arrived…

There are all these old buildings, some utilitarian, some used for their festivals…

They offer Vegan lunches in the restaurant…

This shows you how cold it was (and is today) here…

The seed store…

We learned the history and story of Baker Seed…

Since this entire enterprise is all about plants we all enjoyed a vegan lunch together – it was quite good… So good that I didn’t take any pictures…

But we did take a group photo to sum up our caravan…

After the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company we drove a short distance to the other side of Mansfield, to another old time location…

This is the farm house that Laura and Almanzo built, at the farm they called “Rocky Ridge”…

The house was built over a period of about 30 years, so it is quite a hodge-podge of rooms and features…

But there is another house on Rocky Ridge… We walked along a lovely path for about 3/4 mile to the Rock House…

Their daughter, Rose, a very successful writer and journalist, bought a kit house from the Sears catalog and had it built here, so that her parents could live in a modern house… Laura and Almanzo lived here about seven years; they preferred the old farmhouse, so they moved back… In later years, Rose bought them a house in town so they would be closer to services in their old age. They didn’t like that either… They moved back to the farm house…

We walked back to the Museum and enjoyed looking through the memorabilia… Pa’s fiddle is here, some of Mary’s Braille books are here… (If you don’t know the “Little House” books, none of this makes sense… Sorry…)

After this day of exhibits we returned to the Villa. Happy hours ensued, followed by an Ice Cream Social.

An enjoyable time was had by all…

2017-10-16 Westbound; Home!

We left the Visalia WalMart at about 8:15 this morning.  We pulled the Villa over the Grapevine, and arrived in Irvine:


2017-10-16 California 01 Irvine 032017-10-16 California 01 Irvine 02

Our intrepid crew was waiting to greet us:

2017-10-16 California 01 Irvine 01

Happy Hours and a home cooked meal ensued; an enjoyable time was had by all…

June 10-October 16

128 Nights

Over 15,000 miles, including about 1,000 miles as part of the WBCCI Nor’ by Nor’east Caravan

28 States, 5 Canadian Provinces, all 5 Great Lakes, 10 border crossings between US and Canada

Public transportation:  7 Train trips, 4 bus trips, and 3 Uber rides (not counting excursions as part of the Nor’ by Nor’east Caravan)

8 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings

5 Laura Ingalls Wilder sites and museums

Visited by our grandchildren:  2

12 Visits to friends and/or family

3 Visits for service on the Chevrolet Silverado truck

5 visits for service on the Airstream

143 Airstreams seen along the road or in RV parks ( plus 24 on the Nor’ by Nor’east Caravan, 31 at the Carson City Rally, 98 at the Jackson Rally, and many, many more at the various Airstream dealers we visited along the way…)













2017-09-15 Westbound; De Smet, South Dakota…

We have a leisurely morning of hot showers and grocery shopping…  We drove about two hours to De Smet, SD.

2017-09-15 Map South Dakota

We pulled into the Ingalls Homestead RV Park.  This is adjacent to the Visitors Center. This is the actual homestead where the Ingalls family lived for several years, about a mile from the town of De Smet.  They have several displays and buildings, from the authentic to the replication.  They also offer covered wagon rides across the prairie.  We weren’t interested in the ride, but it was really cool to see a covered wagon pass by on the horizon:

2017-09-15 LIW 03 Homestead Covered Wagon

They had a real dugout/sod house to view:

2017-09-15 LIW 05 Homestead Dugout

2017-09-15 LIW 06 Homestead Dugout

And here is a replica of the claim shanty Pa built here on the homestead claim:

2017-09-15 LIW 07 Homestead Claim Shanty

It was fun to stand here on the prairie and see what the Ingalls family saw 135 years ago:


2017-09-15 LIW 02a Homestead Prairie

We asked at the visitors center how far it was into town to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum there.  We were told that it is less than a mile; she knew, she said, because the Ingalls girls walked to town to go to school every day.  Well, if three little girls could walk to town, certainly we could, too.

It was 1.6 miles to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society…

The first stop was the Surveyors House:

2017-09-15 LIW 15 De Smet Surveyors House

This was the Ingalls family’s first home in De Smet, even before De Smet was started. The Surveyor’s house was built  for the advance crew for the railroad; it was probably built somewhere east of here and dragged along from place to place as the railroad proceeded westward.  Pa Ingalls was asked to stay for the winter after all the railroad crews left to safeguard the railroad equipment, so the Ingalls family moved in.  To them, this was a mansion!  They lived here their first winter in South Dakota, with the house serving as an unofficial hotel/boarding house for settlers coming through on their way west.  The family was living here when Pa walked the 40 miles to Brookings to file his homestead claim.  As soon as he could, Pa built a single room of his claim shanty (see above) and the family moved to the homestead that spring.  At the time, the house was located By the Shores of Silver Lake.  When the Railroad was done with the house, it was bought by a family here and moved to town.  It was later bought by the LIW Memorial Society and moved to this location.

Also on this site is a replica of the Brewster School, where Laura taught when she was 15 years old:

2017-09-15 LIW 14 De Smet Brewster

2017-09-15 LIW 15 De Smet Brewster

Our guide said this replica is probably bigger than the original…

The best thing here is the original schoolhouse, the first school built here in De Smet:

2017-09-15 LIW 12 De Smet School

This is the actual location of the school that the Ingalls girls walked to from the Homestead…

The interior:

2017-09-15 LIW 13 De Smet School

The school had been used as a home for many years before it was acquired by the LIW Memorial Society and restored.  The original blackboards are here… These desks are not original, but the school did have store-bought desks, not the home made desks you saw above in the Brewster School.

After seeing these buildings here we went over through downtown De Smet; Pa built a store here in town as an investment; the family lived in the store during The Long Winter, in 1880-1881.  The store is no longer there, but we were able to see the location, here in “downtown” De Smet:

2017-09-15 LIW 12 De Smet Main Street

We then arrived at the Ingalls house, just around the corner:

2017-09-15 LIW 12 De Smet Ingalls House

The family only lived on the homestead for about seven years; Pa built this house, room by room, and the family lived out their lives here. (Laura never lived here; she had married Almanzo by the time the house was built…)  Carrie and Grace lived here until they married and moved a short distance away.  (Grace lived in Huron, Carrie lived in Keystone…)  Mary, Ma, and Pa lived here for the rest of their lives.  Pa wasn’t much of farmer, and he made his living as a carpenter, Justice of the Peace, and just about any other odd job he could get… They also took in boarders to help pay the bills.  All of the family had had constant health problems, probably due to malnutrition throughout their lives.  Only Laura lived into her 90s.  (Laura died in 1957 in Mansfield, Mo.)

So after this great time seeing the history of this family we walked back to the Villa, hoping to beat the predicted rain; we made it with no problems.  We met our neighbors, who had just pulled in, with tent trailers.  One was from Hull, Iowa, a town full of Dutch people.  This guy had even been an adjunct professor at Dordt College!

Lynda went to walk around the homestead, and she climbed the observation tower to see the views:

2017-09-15 LIW 01 Homestead

2017-09-15 LIW 22 Homestead Villa

There were awesome clouds:

2017-09-15 LIW 10 Homestead Clouds

2017-09-15 LIW 09 Homestead Clouds

Our neighbors had set up their chairs and prepared a campfire.  They invited us to join them… But we politely declined, as we already had begun dinner, and there was football to watch… And then it began to rain. And rain hard.

Our neighbors re-grouped inside their trailers and we settled in for Happy Hours and dinner.  Later that evening we looked out at and saw more beautiful cloud formations, accented with flashes of lightning.  No thunder, just flashes of lightning. Amazing. We had never seen such a thing…

2017-09-15 LIW 11 Homestead Clouds

And an enjoyable time was had by all…







2017-09-14 Westbound; New Refrigerator and Minnesota…

We were up at 5:00 am to get the Villa ready to be moved into the service bay here at Shorewood RV, just outside Minneapolis.  All went well, and by 6:15 the Villa was in the Service Bay and we were on the road to the town of Elk River, about 6 miles down the road…

2017-09-14 Elk River 01

Elk River is a delightful town along the banks of the Mississippi River.  The town has been around a long time, but recent developments have nicely enhanced the town and the feel of the downtown business district.  As you see in the photo above, the historic buildings are on the left and a new apartment building is on the right.  The new building fits the scale of the street, contains retail spaces at the street level, and provide a very human scaled space.  The same thing is going on around the corner:

2017-09-14 Elk River 02

We walked about the town, then had breakfast at the Olde Main Eatery.  It is what a small town diner should be:  friendly people, regulars sitting at their regular tables, with olde time photographs on the wall.  We enjoyed a nice breakfast and looked at maps to better understand the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore.  We hope to be there the day after tomorrow (Saturday).

After breakfast we walked down to the Mississippi River; it was very quiet in the early morning light:

2017-09-14 Elk River 04 Mississippi River

2017-09-14 Elk River 03 Mississippi River

The town has developed a nice waterfront park with an informal amphitheater for community events.  All in all, it is a very nice town!

We returned to Shorewood RV to find out thet there was a small snag in the parts that had been delivered, so it was going to take a little longer to complete the new refrigerator installation.. We spent the morning in their lounge, planning our stays for the next few days…

By 11:30 the refer was done and we were hitching up.  We were underway just before noon.  We are heading west, across most of Minnesota, but first we had to get out of Minneapolis.   We even encountered our first detour of our trip; we were led off the southbound freeway and re-routed back north again for five miles, then west and south again.  Hopefully, we won’t see this type of thing again any time soon.

Once we were out of the city we traveled easily along two lane roads through endless farmland.  While it was quite beautiful, it was not as lush as Wisconsin.  On the other hand, it is one week later and fall is clearly on its way.

These photos show what we saw all day:

2017-09-13 Minnesota Farms 03

2017-09-13 Minnesota Farms 04

2017-09-13 Minnesota Farms 02


2017-09-13 Minnesota Farms 05

2017-09-13 Minnesota Farms 01

We did see a little Minnesota humor adjacent to one gas station:

2017-09-13 Minnesota Humor

And then, out of the blue, the road was closed.  We had to head back east about 15 miles before we could go south and then west again.. These detours are maddening!  Why can’t they put up better signs and prior warnings?

There are also some small towns that we passed through.  Some are really tiny; this is Gibbon.  It is a little more substantial than many:

2017-09-13 Minnesota Town 01

2017-09-13 Minnesota Town 02

2017-09-13 Minnesota Town 03

2017-09-13 Minnesota Town 04

And churches.  Lots of churches:

2017-09-13 Minnesota Town 05

Our mid-day break was to stop and see the town of Walnut Grove and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum:

2017-09-14 Walnut Grove LIW 01

The Ingalls family lived in Walnut Grove in two increments of two years each.  In between, they moved to Iowa and managed a hotel for two years.  In contrast to the Little House on the Prairie TV Show, they had a miserable time here.  They lived in a dug-out, and their wheat crops were wiped out two years in a row by grasshoppers; they pretty much lost everything and moved to Iowa. Also, Mary had a stroke (not scarlet fever) that left her blind, and a newborn baby boy died.  After their years in Iowa they returned to Walnut Grove, and “Pa” opened a butcher shoppe, while Laura worked as a housekeeper in the local hotel.  But I digress…

The museum has very little memorabilia that is actually from the Ingalls family.  There are lots of historical references, photos, book excerpts, and antiques gathered from many sources that attempt to show what life was like on the prairie.  It was interesting in a modest way.  But, in general, a giant waste of time…

2017-09-14 Walnut Grove LIW 02

They have a re-creation of a typical dugout, but it is made from reinforced concrete…

2017-09-14 Walnut Grove LIW 03

They have a recreation of a typical school house from the 1880s; Laura taught school for two years, starting when she was 15 years old, but it was not here:

2017-09-14 Walnut Grove LIW 04

To prove to you readers just how old I am, I actually did attend a two-room school, and we had desks exactly like this… (We never could figure out what those holes in the desk-tops were for…)

So we moved on; tomorrow we visit De Smet, the actual “Little Town on the Prairie”…

We drove to our RV park for the night, in Pinestone, MN.  We have full hook-ups (water, sewer, power), plus good internet access and satellite TV.  We had a quiet night, with Happy Hours and burritos for dinner.  Tomorrow we can shop to re-stock the refrigerator.

An an enjoyable time was had by all…
















2017-08-10 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – More Lobster!

Today we had another day on our own; we spent the day planning the remainder of the trip and enjoyed some quiet time.  We need to rest up, because tonight is: More Lobster!

2017-08-10 Lobster Dinner 03

Once the caravan ends (in five days) we have about 2 months to get home; we will travel back through Canada, through New Brunswick and Ontario, stopping off to see the 1000 Islands; we will stop at CanAm RV in London, ON, then meet up with the McAnoys and see our Grandchildren on Boblo Island, located between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. After that interlude, we head north, over the top of Lake Huron and Lake Superior, through Thunder Bay, and back into the USA in Minnesota, all by September 1… After that, we’ll go through Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota, checking out all the Frank Lloyd Wright and Laura Ingalls Wilder sites we can manage.

But tonight we have a dinner at St. Ann’s Lobster Galley. This is a very nice restaurant set on a lovely lake.  Once again we enjoyed time eating together; meals like this create opportunities to get to know the other caravanners and enjoy a stress-free time together.

2017-08-10 Lobster Dinner 01

2017-08-10 Lobster Dinner 02

2017-08-10 Lobster Dinner 06

2017-08-10 Lobster Dinner 07

2017-08-10 Lobster Dinner 04

2017-08-10 Lobster Dinner 05

We had a Drivers Meeting to discuss our last travel day within the caravan; tomorrow we take a ferry from Caribou, NS to Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island…




















2017-06-16 Missouri, and Eero Saarinen

Before I get to today’s activities, a thought struck me regarding Frank Lloyd Wright and Laura Ingalls Wilder:  They were both born in 1867; she died in 1957 and he died in 1959. They were contemporaries in time, yet I can’t think of two more different people who lived two very different lives… They were born in the age of horse and buggy and covered wagons; they lived to experience trains, planes, and automobiles. She was modest, a simple homebody, and quite introspective; he was arrogant, a home wrecker, and a master designer of our built environment… A very interesting contrast that just appeared on our trip on two adjacent days…

Now, back to our travels:

This morning we walked to Mansfield, and found a delightful little cafe where we had coffee and Belgian waffles. (Ma and Pa’s Diner had terrible Yelp reviews…) Then we packed up and headed the Villa towards St. Louis.

We did our best to avoid the Interstate, because we could. However, whilst driving the back roads of Missouri, it started to rain. Not just any rain, but a true cloud burst like I have never seen. We drove for about 45 minutes with the windshield wipers at full speed, travelling maybe at 30 mph because we could not see any further ahead.  There was thunder and lightning (luckily, no hail – Airstreams hate hail like Superman hates kryptonite…).  Then, suddenly, within a 5 minute time-span, the rain stopped, the road was dry, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and a guy passed us by in a top-down convertible… I’m just glad we had that vent cover fixed!

We proceeded to St. Louis, then immediately crossed the Mississippi river into Illinois to camp at an RV park behind a casino in East St. Louis. It was 94 degrees and very humid, not a breath of air moving. We plugged into shore power, turned on both AC units, and headed back to St. Louis. There was a convenient light rail train service right at the casino, and we soon were walking the streets of St. Louis.

2017-06-16 Map Illinois

We had two goals to accomplish in St. Louis:  BBQ for dinner, and a ride the top of the Jefferson Memorial Arch, designed by Eero Saarinen. (Eero Saarinen died in 1961, so he did not live to see the arch completed.) But remember the name…

We headed towards the Jefferson Memorial. It was started in 1935; they cleared 40 acres of riverfront property to make way for the Arch. The Arch was completed in 1965, and tours to the top began in 1967.  We found that most of the tickets for the day had been sold out, but we were able to get tickets for the 8:35 pm tour.  This left us plenty of time for our BBQ dinner.

BBQ, as most of you know, is a generic term that literally has no meaning. Saying “I am eating BBQ” is like saying , “I’m eating soup” or “I’m eating meat”.  What kind of soup? Cream based or broth based?  Or, what kind of meat? Braised, grilled, or roasted?  All meaningless without many more descriptors.  Having endured living in Texas for some time, there is exactly one thing I love from Texas and that is their style of BBQ. But I am always happy to try others.  St. Louis BBQ refers not to their sauces or type of cooking – you can find both slow smoked and fast grilled BBQ in St. Louis, with a variety of sauces – sweet, vinegar-based, tomato based – whatever you want.  What is unique about St. Louis BBQ is the way they cut their ribs:  According to Wikipedia, “St. Louis-style spare ribs are cut in a particular way with the sternum bone, cartilage and rib tips removed so that a well-formed, rectangular-shaped rack is created for presentation.”

There are 2 local places that seem to have their fans – Pappy’s and Bogarts. We opted for Pappy’s, because it was a nicer walk through the city to get there… always a determining factor in our lives…

2017-06-16 St Louis - Dinner at Pappys

It was terrible.

OK. On to the arch…

2017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 12

The Arch is officially called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, to commemorate Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase and the massive migration west by the pioneers in the late 19th century as the Federal government literally gave away hundreds of thousands of acres of land. It is probably the largest planned migration of people in the history of the world, and it totally reshaped the USA.

The shape of the arch is what engineers call an inverted catenary arch. It is the shape that a loose chain takes when suspended between 2 points, just up-side-down.  This shape can be calculated using integrated calculus, and it is also the the graph of 100% tension and zero compression, since a chain, while strong in tension, can withstand absolutely no compression. And that is the limit of my knowledge of structural theory, strength of materials, and calculus…

The arch is 630 feet wide, and 630 feet tall. (The Washington Memorial in Washington, DC, is 555′ tall, and would fit under the arch…) The shape of the cross section is an equilateral triangle. As the triangular form ascends to the top of the arch it gets smaller, creating very interesting perspectives…

2017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 042017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 022017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 062017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 012017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 112017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 17

The designers knew people would want to ascend to the top, so a complicated tramway system was custom designed to carry 40 people at a time. There are two trams, one in each leg, and the viewing space holds about 100 people… The trams consist of 8 cars each, holding 5 people each. The cars are tiny, cramped compartments, less than 6 feet tall, with a door about 2 feet wide and less than 5 feet tall. As the tram ascends along the curved path of the arch, the tram cars must articulate, a bit like a Ferris wheel, except not in a smooth manner. As the cars ascend they tilt (forward or backward), then abruptly snap back into a vertical position.


Once at the top, you can see forever. Since we were there just after sunset, our views are all at night…

2017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 31


The old courthouse, where the Dred Scott trial was held


2017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 35

Illinois across the Mississippi River – our RV park is back there somewhere…


2017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 34

Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals…

After our terrifying experience (for some reason, Lynda didn’t find it terrifying at all…), we returned home back to the Villa. We have a long drive tomorrow across Illinois and into Indiana…
























2017-06-15 Kansas, Missouri, and Laura Ingalls Wilder

We left Bartlesville after breakfast atop the Price Tower.  We were only a short distance from the border…


A short time later we were at the location of The Little House on the Prairie (No, not the stupid TV show…).  The exact site was only discovered a few years ago, and it is on privately owned farmland, but the owner has erected this small wayside memorial. It includes a reproduction of the log cabin, and some other typical pioneer buildings. The only “real” item is the hand-dug well that Laura’s Pa dug with Mr. Edwards…

2017-06-15 Little House on the Prairie 7


The other structures are fun, but not original…


And the view of the wild prairie Laura must have had from the cabin:

2017-06-15 Little House on the Prairie 4


From here we proceeded east across Kansas…


Our destination:  Mansfield, MO, where Laura and Almanzo Wilder lived for 60 years.  This is where all the Little House books were written. It now has a beautiful museum full of memorabilia, including the Ingalls family Bible, which recorded all the deaths, births, and weddings. Also, Pa’s fiddle is here…

There are 2 houses on the property; the original 1- room farmhouse, built by Almanzo from 1896 to 1913, plus a “modern” cottage (The Rock House), ordered from the Sears, Roebuck catalog, bought by Rose, their daughter, and built in the 1930s.

2017-06-15 Rocky Ridge Farm 2

2017-06-15 Rocky Ridge Farm 3


There is a nice RV park across the street from the museum, and it is about 1 mile into the town of Mansfield.  Lynda found a nice place to “read”…

2017-06-15 LIW RV Park 2


Tomorrow our odyssey continues as we head to St. Louis to see another architectural icon…





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