John Deere World Headquarters and Pavillion

IMG_1101When visiting the “Quad City” area bordering IL and IA, no visit is complete without checking out what John Deere has to offer.  We visited the World Headquarters first and the kids got to sit in the driver seat of all of the display tractors except the antique ones.  They LOVED it!IMG_1081 IMG_1083 IMG_1085 IMG_1091 If you look closely, you can see “Dad” scooping the kids up!IMG_1088


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IMG_1094 After the World headquarters, we headed over to the Pavillion which is by the river.  There were more tractors to see and sit in but the kids really loved the hands on sections where you could build farms, operate farm equipment via interactive consoles and even play with toys in the gift shop.IMG_1097 IMG_1098 IMG_1099 IMG_1100

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Tips: You could bring your Rig to the World Headquarters and find a place to park without problem in their giant parking lot but do NOT attempt that in the pavillion area.  Even parking the dually was a little tight there.

There are other things to explore regarding John Deere if you are a real enthusiast! Guests 13 years and older can even take a factory tour or with an admission charge, you can explore the John Deere museum.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site: West Branch, Iowa

President Herbert Hoover had his humble beginnings in the city of West Branch, Iowa.  This historic site is a collection of preservations of the Hoover family’s residence’s and possessions.  IMG_1068

Below is the 2 room cottage where he was born and lived during his early years.IMG_1060 This is blacksmith shop where Herbert’s father, Jesse, worked.IMG_1061 The school room where Herbert and his siblings were educated.IMG_1062 The park had a really fun Jr. Ranger program that we finished while we were there.  We had a brand new Ranger swear the kids in.IMG_1066The kids also got their centennial Jr. Ranger badges!
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Tips: There is a large parking lot across the street from the Visitor Center that we parked in.  There were plenty of bus/RV parking spots but they were only about 40 feet long.  We parked along the curb taking up a LOT of regular car spots, but it wasn’t busy and all of the cars were parked in the small main lot by the VC.

The grounds are beautiful and it is a lovely walk around the grounds.  The Historic site is free to visit however there is a charge for the Presidential Library and museum (we did not choose to do this).

Iowa 80: The World’s largest Truck Stop

In the last 2 years we have driven 50,000 miles and stopped at 100’s of truck stops but it took this long to finally get to the “World’s largest truck stop” in Walcott, IA.IMG_1078 There are all sorts of amenities here such as a barber, dentist, showers, laundry, many food choices, trucker gadgets and of course fuel.  With over 900 Parking spaces, we had no problem finding a place for the rig and we headed inside to see what the fuss was all about.IMG_1076Austin had saw on the website that there was a Semi INSIDE the building and he just had to see it for himself.  To his surprise, there was not one, but 3 semi trucks inside the truck stop!
IMG_1074 With easy on and off service from I-80 in east Iowa, you’ve gotta stop, at least once.IMG_1073Tips: If you are towing, do yourself a favor and just follow the “truck” signs.  We turned it where it said “RV’s/Buses” and nearly got ourselves stuck.  The place was a zoo in that part and we would have had a much easier time if we just followed the trucks in to fuel up.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is located just south of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.  When we went to Yellowstone nearly two years ago, we didn’t have enough time to make it to Grand Teton and have regretted it since.  We are on a long trek back in MI but when we realized that we would be within a few hours of the National Park, we knew we had to take time to squeeze it in.IMG_6067The tricky park about getting to the Park is the “Teton Park” which is steep and windy and full of 10% grades that are no fun for towing.  We opted to stay in Victor, ID at TeTon Valley RV park and are so glad we did.  They had a last minute reservation for us on Memorial Weekend and we took that as a sign!  They even take Passport America for 2 nights.

The drive from Teton Valley to the Visitor Center is almost an hour but it is so breathtakingly beautiful that you hardly realize how long it takes.  If coming from Victor, ID you can enter off Moose-Wilson road through the Granite Canyon entrance, but you have to drive about 3 miles on a dirt road and the road is very narrow.  With out dually truck there were spots were cars coming the other way couldn’t fit past us.  The other option is to come in through Jackson and use the Moose Entrance.  This map will explain the options more.

Our first stop was the beautiful Craig Thomas Visitor Center.  This is where you can pick the brains of rangers, shop in the gift shop, get Jr. Ranger information, check out the exhibits and watch the park film.  There are amazing views of the Teton Mountains right from here.
IMG_0974 IMG_0976 After a stop in the Visitor Center, we headed to the Taggart Lake Trailhead parking lot and small picnic area.  We brought lunches on the hike and found this awesome brook to have lunch by instead.  This is “bear aware” area so make sure you pack your bear spray for the hike.  We didn’t see any, but a woman we passed spotted one from about 500 ft. away.
IMG_0978 IMG_0981 The views on this 3.3 RT hike were amazing and I would high recommend this for a family hike.  You can go out and back or take a slightly longer way back for a loop.IMG_0982
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IMG_6065Tips: The parking lot has room for a couple of RV’s and maybe 50 cars but there is a wide area of the roadway that allows for extra parking.

IMG_0989There are vault toilets at the trailhead but no water

 

 

The Idaho Potato Museum

The Idaho Potato Museum is located in Blackfoot, ID and is in the heart of the proud Idaho potato farming community.  Located just 2 miles off Interstate 15, its a great place to stop and stretch your legs for a few.FullSizeRender IMG_1024 Where else can you see the Guiness Record Holding Pringle?!?IMG_1025 Many examples of farm equipment are on display along with information about the potato farming industry.  It was a small museum and short visit but we just couldn’t help but stop as we passed through the area.IMG_1026 IMG_1027 IMG_1028There is even a small cafe to purchase potatoes in your favorite form!IMG_1029Adults: $3.00  Kids (6-12): $1 5 and under: Free.  AAA discount: .50/adult

Tip: There is a long parking area that can be accessed off Alice or NW Main Street.  We visited on a Tuesday and had NO problem fitting our set up (60 ft. total).

Julia Davis Park: Boise, ID

We spent a few nights in Boise, ID while our truck was getting worked on and took a chance to explore Boise a little.  Julia Davis Park is home to a beautiful park, the Zoo, Discovery Center and more!

This statue is a replica of the one originally made by the Mount Rushmore sculptor.IMG_0927 The Boise Zoo is quite small but it was free with our AZA membership or we went to check it out.  We only spent an hour there and had lunch in the picnic area.IMG_0913


Even with our quick visit, the kids had a blast, especially on the playground animal equipment.
IMG_0911 IMG_0904 IMG_0905 IMG_0901The Discovery Center of Idaho is a short walk from the Zoo but does have its own free parking like the zoo.   The Discovery Center was also very small and really only had 3 large rooms.  We were able to visit for free because of our ASTC membership but would have been disappointed if we had paid full price.

IMG_0917None the less, the kids really enjoyed themselves.  There was a special exhibit made of packing tape!  This was a giant tunnel made of tape that could be walked through.
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Just hanging out!IMG_0918

For anyone passing through quickly, we stayed at a Passport America Park in Nampa, just 20 minutes away.  It was good for a night or two but not much longer.  Garrity RV was only $13/night with free cable using our passport America Discount.

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is located just west of Arco, ID along Highway 20 and a recommended stop if you find yourself within a few hours of the area.  The amount of basaltic rock and lava tubes was like nowhere we had ever visited.IMG_0944
There is a seven mile scenic drive with many stops for pictures, overlooks and trailheads.  We only had a few hours in the area so we dropped our RV in the Visitor Center parking lot to do the drive and headed out to the “Caves area.”  This parking lot has vault toilets, plenty of parking and the trailheads for the different cave hikes.
IMG_0955Here is one view at the end of the Indian Tunnel
IMG_0954 Hiking through the 800 foot lava tube called Indian TunnelIMG_0953One of the views along the caves trail.
IMG_0945 IMG_0946 The path to get to the cave openings is flat and paved so you could bring a stroller and then just leave it at the top to explore the lava tubes.  The opening of Indian Tunnel has a set of stairs to help you enter the tube.IMG_0949 IMG_0952 IMG_0943 IMG_0940The Visitor Center has some exhibits, 2 park films, a gift shop and outside picnic area.  There are 2 spots for RV’s to park.  The “pull thru” spots were too short for us but I would estimate them to fit a school bus.  IMG_0957

The section along the sidewalk allows for longer rigs to pull up.  This is where we left the RV to drive the scenic drive. IMG_0956 PSA:  If you are driving a passenger vehicle (like the people behind us!)  DO NOT park in RV spots.  It is so frustrating to have spots taken up my vehicles that fit in standard spots.

Bob’s Red Mill Factory Tour

Bob’s Red Mill is committed to health, quality products and people.  They have grown to quite a large company but truly seem like they “got it right.”  This employee owned company is committed to helping people eat “real food” and boasts an impressive variety of ALL GMO FREE foods with a special interest in their gluten free line.IMG_0765 Free factory tours are given on weekdays at 10am at their world headquarters just south of Portland, OR.  They are about 75 minutes and filled with company and product information.  We even got free samples at the end :)IMG_0766 This is an example of one of the stone grinders still used today (inside a fancier automated machine).IMG_0773“Bob” himself even said hello to our tour group.  At 87, he is still leading the company and going strong!
IMG_0846I highly recommend you stop by for this tour and then drive about a mile down the road to the store where you can buy every Red Mill product in packages or bulk and you can also have a meal in the cafe.

Note: Parking is limited at both locations, do NOT bring your trailer with you to this adventure!

Wahclella Falls Trail: Oregon

The Oregon Scenic Byway area is just beautiful and there are so many waterfalls that you can see right from the road but we decided to venture off a little and hike out to this one.  It is a 2.0 mile round trip hike with moderate elevation change.  Our 5 and 7 year olds did it with no problem.IMG_0749 Not too far into the hike you will see this waterfall pouring down the side of the rock, its a beauty for sure, but not your final destination!IMG_0750 IMG_0751 IMG_0756Near the falls there is a great flat area for rock throwing and I imagine, in the right weather, would be great for cooling off at the 1/2 way point of your hike.
IMG_0760 A large part of the hike is along a streaming river, so pretty!IMG_0764We stayed at Ainsworth State Park, just 5 miles down the road.  It was a great launching spot to visit all of the natural beauty’s in the area.

Tip:  parking is limited at the trailhead.  Arrive early or late to have your best chance at a spot.  Oregon state park pass or NPS pass needed for parking (or pay daily fee).  Port a Potty’s are available.  No fresh water.

Bonneville Fish Hatchery and Dam

The Bonneville Fish Hatchery is an amazing FREE place to visit.  Depending on the time of year there are all sorts of things you will see.  We visited in late spring and a lot of the pods were empty but the kids had a lot of fun feeding the rainbow trout (bring your quarters) and viewing the gigantic sturgeon from the underwater “house”.IMG_0734You can follow the fish painted on the ground for the self guided tour.  Don’t forget to stop in the gift shop for a latte or to find a perfect gift for someone.  They had a lot of unique finds in there!IMG_0735Feeding the rainbow trout.  The 25cent portion the machine gives you is VERY small but we lucked out and a worker gave us a big handful!
IMG_0722 The fish were jumping up for a bite of food.IMG_0724 IMG_0730“Herman” the Sturgeon is like a celebrity around here!
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Both the hatchery and Lock and Dam are located off exit 40 on I-84 and make for a great day trip (just 5 miles from the campground at Ainsworth State Park).  
IMG_0740 The Visitor Center is free to visit and is has 5 floors.  There are exhibits, bathrooms, observation decks and underwater viewing here.  We didn’t know ahead of time, but we lucked out and took the free 11am tour of the Dam.  This is the only way to go inside of the powerhouse.

The Army Corps of Engineers runs this and offers a Jr. Ranger program for the kids.  Ask at the desk for your books.IMG_0742This is a part of the ‘fish ladder” that allows the fish to make it through the Dam.
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Double check before going but at the time we visited the FREE dam tours were offered at 11am, 1pm and 3pm and leave from the visitor center.IMG_0746

 

Tips:

The parking lots at the hatchery and the Lock and Dam offer RV parking and have huge parking areas.  I would caution you that the road between the two crosses a few bridges and narrow areas.  You can make it while towing but take it slow.

There is a playground and open green area on Robbins Island Rec Area in-between the hatchery and dam.  We enjoyed a great picnic lunch there.