Midwest Wanderer Newsletter – July 15, 2022

I felt guilty, sitting in a chair outside our travel trailer, squandering time. I should be doing something, but what? After a late lunch, we weren’t ready for dinner. Go for a walk? Too wiped out from a busy day. I forgot to pack reading material, and was tired of looking at my phone. Skip joined me, and we both just sat, watching the squirrels scamper up and down trees and robins bob along the ground. Then, a red-headed woodpecker swooped in and landed on a tree trunk just twenty feet or so from where we sat.

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Neither of us had seen a red-headed woodpecker before. How stunning it was, with a bright red head and black-and-white plumage. I grabbed my phone to take a photo, but before the bird even began a rat-tat-tat on the tree trunk, it flew off.

Red-headed woodpecker
Credit: Getty Images/Benjamin King

I missed the photo but not the moment. Had my eyes been focused on a book or my phone, I would have missed seeing the bird. On our next camping trip, I’ll be sure to just sit and watch nature for a while.

What nature surprises have you seen? Let us know in the Comments section below.


Roadside Attraction: World’s Second Tallest Concrete Monolith Statue

The camping trip I mentioned above was at Lowden State Park near Oregon, Illinois. The park is home to the statue known as Black Hawk, created by sculptor Lorado Taft and artist/engineer John G. Prasuhn. Dedicated in 1911, the statue stands on a bluff 125 feet above the Rock River. At 48’ 4” tall, it’s the second tallest concrete monolith statue in the world.

Black Hawk Statue

Fun Facts:

  • The statue does not portray Chief Black Hawk, the Sauk leader. In fact, the features are those of Taft’s brother-in-law, who Taft felt had “noble features.”
  • The statue was meant as a tribute to all Native American people. However, the name “Black Hawk” appeared on the dedication program, and it’s been known by that name ever since.

If you go…

For a good view of the Black Hawk statue above the river, drive a mile or so north from Oregon, Illinois, along State Route 2, which parallels the Rock River’s west bank. There is pull-over parking available across from the statue. For a close-up view, enter Lowden State Park on the east side of the river and follow the signs.

Trivia Question

As we mentioned, Black Hawk is the world’s second tallest concrete monolith statue. Do you know what the tallest is? Find the answer at the bottom of this newsletter.

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Featured Article

Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site: 10 Fascinating Facts

When you think of Mark Twain’s home, Hannibal, Missouri, comes to mind. It’s true, he grew up in Hannibal, starting at age four. But he was born about 40 miles southwest of Hannibal, in Florida, Missouri. Today, the preserved two-room cabin where the writer was born is on display at the Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site, near Florida.

See the slideshow

I have found out there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.

Mark Twain

Camping Corner: Corps of Engineers Campgrounds

We discovered the Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site while camping at the Ray Behrens Corps of Engineers Campground at Mark Twain Lake in Missouri. In fact, we stayed at three Corps of Engineers campgrounds in one trip (two in Missouri, one in Illinois). They were all well maintained and had full hookups (not all have full hookups, so check the individual parks and sites).

The best part? They’re a real bargain, especially if you hold a National Park Service Senior Pass. The Corps of Engineers honors that pass, usually with half-price camping. We paid only $10 to $15 per night for the campgrounds where we stayed.

Guide to Corps of Engineers Campgrounds

We recommend The Write Guide to Camping with the Corps of Engineers, available on Amazon. The book includes a state-by-state list of campgrounds, including number of sites, hookup information, activities and price (as of the book’s published date).

Dam at Mark Twain Lake
The dam at Mark Twain Lake

Hilarious Press Release

We often receive press releases from visitor bureaus notifying us of events. We don’t usually print them word for word, but we’re including the first half of the Pierogi Fest press release here because it’s too funny not to.

Pierogi Fest is an event in Whiting, Indiana, that pokes fun at their own heritage. You’ll see more people (men and women) wearing housecoats and babushkas than you’ve ever seen in your life.

We wrote about the Pierogi Fest a few years ago, and have updated it for 2022. Read it here, and be sure to watch the video of the parade. It’s unlike any other parade you’ve ever seen.

Here’s the excerpt from the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority press release:

Pierogi Fest Takes A Stand of Sorts!

Either way, it is the only festival in the Chicago area that offers flush toilets to festival attendees. Traditionally, the festival has dedicated its bathroom trailers to the British monarch. However, this year, it has found another leader to insult, hereby announcing that it will refer to its bathrooms as Putin Stations. That’s right in addition to more than 70 food booths, 3 beer gardens, 40 arts and crafts and tchotchke vendors, 6 stages with more than 50 acts, including Six String Soldiers and Allie Sealey, the festival is truly interactive by giving “goers” a chance to put in to these stations what they have consumed.

 Pierogi Fest, where you can have so much fun, the world’s problems can get flushed away!


Answer to Trivia Question

The Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is the world’s tallest concrete monolith statue, at 98 feet, excluding the pedestal.


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