Carolina: Cruising Past 70: WOW: Becoming More Than Tourists

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

WOW: Becoming More Than Tourists

colorful murals on old grain elevators off I-80 in Omaha, Nebraska 
We started this cruising lifestyle right after Bill sold his business in February 2009. We went to the Philippines for a 2-month visit, after which we visited Bill's friend in Taiwan for 2 weeks and flirted briefly with the idea of teaching English there! But as soon as we were back in Seattle, we sold most of our belongings in about 3 garage sales and several listings on craigslist and bought Star, our very first RV. Then we had our condo rented out, off we went to become full time tourist!

We have completed these trips: from Seattle to the Arctic Circle and back to Seattle-July to September 2009,  from Seattle through Mexico to Florida-September 2009 to March 2010, and from Florida back to Seattle-April 2010 to February 2011.  On this last trip, we bought our current RV/dinghy, M’A ‘turn. Then we visited the Philippines and HK for 3 months and now we are on the 2nd month of our 4th trip, from Seattle back to Florida (June 2011 to March 2012)...about 50,000 miles among Star, Vino, & M'A'turn!

Our 5th trip will be from Florida to Nova Scotia to Nevada (April to November 2012) , after which we may return to Asia or begin our European tour! You may see the two maps on our left side bar to see our progress! We started out as tourists, armed with a bucket list of 50 states and 88 countries. Thus far we have visited 27 and 5, respectively…certainly a long way yet to go. But now our 2 boards are heavy with  our collection of magnets and are we glad we bought our Nikon SLR!

A tourist is defined as a person who is traveling for pleasure. We have certainly fitted that description! Just look at our last 3 posts which cover the Great Plains. Driving through the I-80 leaving Omaha and going to Council Bluffs, Iowa, we spotted these huge old grain elevators painted with murals! Then, while our RV’s heating/air-conditioning system was being repaired at Camping World, were told there is a unique rotary jail that served as the county jail from 1882-1969!  Yes, that’s right…rotary!
the model of the rotary jail

The jail has 3 floors and looks like…a large bird cage, actually! It is cranked by hand to let any cell open to a fixed door on each floor which has 10 cells. Designed for 2, sometimes 5 were made to fit each one! The ground floor of the shell had tables for free time.  Efficiency, not only in space but in guards (needed only 2), and security were the reasons for the design. It was discontinued when it suffered a slight tilt and people realized that it could be a fire/death trap.

Carol with an inmate
From this place of inhumane conditions, we next found the Grotto of Redemption. The problem was it is about 70 miles from I-35, our route to Minnesota! That meant about a 3 hour diversion and about $65 in gas. But the little ad on the Iowa travel mag said it is considered to be the Eighth Wonder of the World, much like what Filipinos say of the Ifugao Rice Terraces in the Philippines! So we unhooked our ‘turn, left our M’A at a church parking lot in Clear Lake, Iowa and proceeded to West Bend.

frontal view of the Grotto 
Indeed, the Grotto is a very special place. It is a complex of 9 grottos (Garden of Eden, 3 grottos of the Stations of the Cross, Stable of Bethlehem, Jesus'  home in Nazareth, the Trinity, Ten Commandments, and Gethsemane), made from 43 different kinds of gems. The most delicate stones are in the Grotto inside the Christmas Chapel. They were made entirely by the hands of 3 men. Father Dobberstein, who studied geology in Germany before migrating to America and entering the priesthood, offered to build this shrine to the Blessed Virgin for her intercession when he was with pneumonia.

back view of the Grotto
He became a pastor in West Bend in 1898 and started collecting rocks and gems from all over the US with the help of his right hand, Matthew Szerensce. Work on the Grotto officially started in 1912 and upon his death in 1954, about 80 % of the plan was done. 8 years before his death, Rev. L.H. Greving started to assist him in the parish. Together with Matthew, he continued his work after the death of Father Dobberstein until his own passing in 2002.

Grotto of Incarnation
at the Christmas Chapel
Now the Grotto is estimated to be worth over $2M in materials, priceless in labor!  That was, I thought, a true, though little, pilgrimage! A pilgrim is a person who travels, especially over some distance, to a sacred place as an act of devotion. There was a smile of my face…we are probably becoming more than tourists! And that song I have come to love so much, America the Beautiful, took on greater significance. ‘O beautiful for spacious skies…..O beautiful, for pilgrim feet!

The better known first stanza is for America’s natural beauty which we have certainly visited as tourists. But the second is for America’s human beauty which we are also discovering as pilgrims! After all, Bill and his forefathers were pilgrims and I may have just become one! When we visit Wisconsin, we plan to make another little pilgrimage to Holy Hill, suggested to us by our friend, Didi Manarang, Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs in the Philippines. And we will embark on more!