Heading Home: Takin’ It Easy

After a full month in Wisconsin, it was weird to flip the page in our atlas (yes, we still use a paper atlas) to a different state … in fact, a series of different states, as we spent the last ten days of this 11-week adventure meandering back to Arizona. But just because we were heading home, doesn’t mean we were rushing …. au contraire mon frère! In fact, we were “takin’ it easy,” just like in the Eagles song. But more on that later!

Here are a few highlights and don’t-miss attractions along the route from La Crosse WI to Phoenix AZ!

Omaha, Nebraska

In Omaha, we sashayed across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, a a 3,000-foot long serpentine footbridge over the Missouri River. She’s a beauty, and one of the nation’s longest pedestrian bridges!

Twin 203-foot pylons support 80 steel cables that in turn support the platform.

The bridge runs between Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska, meaning indecisive people (or dogs) can be in two states at one time!

On the Council Bluffs side, the foot of the bridge is in River’s Edge Park. We couldn’t help but noticed that things are “Looking Up” for public art here!

This sculpture, called (you guessed it) “Looking Up,” is by artist Tom Friedman. This is actually the second one of the exact same sculpture, with the first one that was located here having being purchased by an art school in Austin, Tx. Council Bluff missed their humanoid so much that they ordered a replacement!

The creature/critter/alien/humanoid, gazing at the sky, is thirty-three feet high, and made of crushed EZ-Foil roasting pans, baking tins, and aluminum foil.  Super cool!

Also in Omaha, we took a very exclusive, privately-run tour of Philip’s childhood home and neighborhood, led by the man himself. He was here through the 4th grade, and all three brothers have extremely fond memories of this time in their family’s life; indeed, it was the last time they all lived together before eldest brother Dennis went off on his own.

Besides the home, we also checked in on Holy Name Catholic School, where he received mostly rapped knuckles and F-minuses throughout his illustrious elementary school career …

… and the movie theater where his older brother Dennis was the manager, and lived in the apartment above, employing Little Philip and his brother Michael, at around ages 10 and 12, on Saturdays to sell candy and sweep up popcorn in between matinees (Dennis claims they were overpaid, the boys say they were underpaid). Strangely, it is now a church.

Callaway, Nebraska

Our plans were to go to the Callaway Kite Flight, an event which is held every Labor Day weekend. Professional and amateur kite fliers from 21 countries and most U.S. states have attended the annual gathering here in the middle of nowhere over the last 30 years the event has been held.

The world’s largest windsock is usually a crowd fave, as is “The Caterpillar” and one of the largest American Flag kites ever flown. Here’s a video from 2017. The Callaway Kite Flight was started by Connie May, a local who was inspired by seeing a kite swirling through the farmfield skies one summer day.

Only one problem … this year, somebody forgot to order the wind. No, seriously. Or maybe the Covid-supply-chain-issues that have gummed up everything from lumber to Q-tips has wrecked wind delivery, too. The entire weekend the wind blew (or didn’t blow) at 1 MPH or less. So, for the most part, the expected images of traditional box kites and diamond-shaped kites, the flying squids and space aliens and more, all soaring majestically through the sky, instead looked like this.

A few children did their best to send their kites aloft for a minute or two, and an enterprising person brought out an all-terrain vehicle to try and use speed instead of wind to get those suckers aloft.

Alas, it was not to be, and nobody was more disappointed than we were, except perhaps the organizers. We wondered about the guts it takes to plan an entire festival based on the one necessary variable being uncontrollable. Ahhh Mother Nature … you fickle queen … but what can you do??

You can’t win ’em all, but it was a crushing disappointment on an otherwise extremely fulfilling trip. Back in the teeny tiny town of Callaway and its one (non-traffic-light) intersection, we consoled ourselves with a down home Catfish Fry, the annual Legion Club scholarship fundraiser, where everyone knew immediately “we weren’t from around those parts.” It’s just that kind of place!

Trinidad, Colorado

We stopped in Trinidad specifically to visit Art Cartopia, a nonprofit museum of cars that have been turned into art!

Just opened in 2018, this free-to-visit place is home to over 25 art cars and “serves as a regional center of creativity and shenanigans.” Because: who doesn’t love shenanigans!

There are two places in the country that host Art Car Parades … the biggest of them is Houston, Texas and its Art Car Experience each May. Click here to see photos of the ah-mazing cars in this year’s parade! Here in Trinadad, ArtoCade is their yearly art car parade which draws thousands of spectators each year and over 100 art cars, usually held in mid September. The rest of the year, many of them are displayed here at Art Cartopia. Most of them have clever, pun-ny and/or fun-ny names … this handpainted one is Aurora-Porschi-Alice! (I admit I had to say it a few times out loud before I got it.)

All of the cars must be driveable based on the “RULES” … if you can’t drive it, then it’s a float, not an art car!

Most of the cars have a theme, a story, a lesson, or an inspiration, and visitors get to hear the stories from fantastic, enthusiastic volunteer guides. For example, the Stinkbug Car is made entirely of cigarette butts picked up by the artist off the beach near her home, in an effort to raise awareness of how terrible smoking is for you AND the beach.

This is the newest addition to the collection, called Spellbound! It was made during the endless, pointless “Gosh I’ve got 12 months with zero plans, what should I do with myself” days of Covid 2020. Can you imagine how many Scrabble games they had to amass to have enough tiles for this one?

Here are even more of our favorites … click on any photo to enlarge and get a better look!


Cardi Gras! Topless girls not included.

BG Art Car … made by some students at Bowling Green (Ohio) State University

Boney Whitman … neon lights race all around his body!

Because nothing’s more inspiring than rock music … here’s Earth Wind and Fire!

Freddy Mercury fans out there? Here’s a Queen art car … complete with a Fat-Bottomed-Girl!

We had previously seen this Phoenix Rising dragon car live-and-in-person during a 2015 Fourth of July Parade in Steamboat Springs, Colorado (second photo below)! So fun to see it again in a different setting.

This one was made entirely of stained glass!

The ten-year-old in Philip couldn’t resist being naughty with the Pigmobile, but … I mean … there they were, right at eye (and arm level) … hard to resist, regardless of age. I guess boys will be boys!

When in far southeastern Colorado, you’ve simply GOT to stop by Art Cartopia and check it out!

Winslow, Arizona

Yes, yes, we know … you can’t hear the words “Winslow Arizona” without automatically starting to sing the Eagles song in your head, and once you start, they are pretty much stuck there for a long time! Located in Winslow, the Standin’ On The Corner Park celebrates its inclusion in the song “Take It Easy.”

Written by Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne, “Take It Easy” became The Eagles first hit single in the 1970s, and created interest in Winslow. Read a really interesting Washington Post article about the origins of the relevant lyrics:

Well, I’m a standing on a corner

in Winslow, Arizona, 

and such a fine sight to see. 

It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford

slowin’ down to take a look at me. 

Here on the corner in question, they’ve got it all. The anonymous “guy” with his guitar. A statue of Eagles band member Glenn Frey, who co-wrote the song with Jackson Browne when they were roommates. An actual flatbed Ford. An Eagle painted in a window.

Also, people. LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of people, indeed over 100,000 visitors a year. But as we patiently waited for our turn to attempt a photo, it felt more like 100,000 an hour. Presumably, there are even more people during the “Standin’ On The Corner Festival,” held in late September each year.

The corner predictably has corner souvenir shops with Eagles music blaring, as well as few restaurants and gift shops to visit. One of the shops displayed this quilt (not for sale), of particular interest to me because I have made multiple memento t-shirt quilts for each of my kids. But this one is even cooler, made of made of vintage Eagles concert t-shirts!

Winslow strangely has the largest pieces of 9-11 World Trade Center wreckage given to any community in the nation, for reasons I cannot fathom, but I just report the news, I don’t interpret it. The 14 and 15 foot beams are displayed in their 9-11 Remembrance Memorial Garden as the centerpiece of the garden, and being there one day before the 20th anniversary of 9-11 made the visit especially meaningful.

When in Winslow, do not miss a visit to the stunningly gorgeous and truly interesting La Posada Hotel. It would also be a great place for a special occasion weekend getaway.

The original La Posada was built in 1929 as one of the grand railroad hotels, and there is still an Amtrak station located right at the hotel’s back door (which used to be its front door, before the golden age of the automobile had more guests arriving by car than train).

After several iterations over the last 90 years, La Posada was recently restored to its original grandeur with extensive gardens, historic rooms (reasonably priced) and world-class fine dining (fantastic/expensive) in their Turquoise Room Restaurant. In Winslow! Who knew?

Our campground host told me to set aside a “couple hours” to wander around here. How in the world could it take a couple hours to see a hotel lobby, we wondered? Well, besides the gorgeous grounds and interiors, historic photos and videos, an actual history museum … wait, there’s more! … you also get to enjoy hundreds of fascinating artworks on permanent installation here, all by contemporary artist Tina Mion, who (along with her husband) owns the La Posada Hotel.

Even if you don’t like contemporary art, everything we saw was fun, thought-provoking and fascinating! Each had extensive descriptions and explanations, which really made it fun for non-cultured people like us.

Tina Mion art has been on display around the world (including in the Smithsonian!), so it’s not like she had to buy a hotel in order to get somebody to hang her stuff. But it sure is nice to have it all in one place, with plenty of cozy nooks and places to sit and soak it up.

The most gasp-inducing painting is as enormous (3 canvasses 7′ x 6′ EACH) as its title:


Besides the actual birthday party setup in front of the painting …

… just the “guest list” alone (primarily all people who have committed suicide, with a few exceptions) really makes you think! Whom do you recognize?

There is a complex theme involving Dante’s Divine Comedy series of books (circa 1306) entitled Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, that you should really google if this painting fascinates you as much as it did me. But for the casual observer, if you recognized Virginia Woolf, Jim Morrison, Ernest Hemingway, Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe, Sid Vicious, Diane Arbus, Judy Garland, Kurt Cobain and more, give yourself a gold star!

While in Winslow, we stayed at Homolovi State Park, created to preserve two archaeological sites of pueblos that were once home to ancestors of the present-day Hopi. While certainly nothing like the marvelous Mesa Verde National Park or Bandelier National Monument, the astonishingly nice campground makes it a worthwhile stop while traveling through the area.

And thus ends another wonderful adventure, eleven weeks of marveling at hidden and not-so-hidden treasures through the Midwest. We logged 4,922 miles, two new National Park posters for our collection, a second RAGBRAI bike ride all the way across Iowa, and a gazillion fun memories with friends and family who joined along the way!

Lastly, I offer a 5-star shoutout to my love Philip for making every day (traveling, or non-traveling) a grand adventure, and always standing resolutely by my side (like these cute burros at Homolovi!) through misguided navigation, broken water pumps, disappointing attractions, and the occasional complete lack of cell service during our travels!

Thanks to our faithful readers for tagging along virtually, and we’ll be back again in 2022 with yet more travels!

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