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On Sunday Sept. 10th, we went to Dickeyville, WI to the Dickeyville Grotto. We were already in the area on vacation (see my last post). Greg’s mother had been there 70 years ago when her sister went to school at Sinsinawa with the Dominican Sisters for 3 years. It is really something to see! I hadn’t heard of it until I was researching things to do prior to our trip. It was built by Father Mathius Wernerus, the pastor of Holy Ghost Parish, from 1918 to 1931. It features a bunch of concrete structures covered in shells, stones, tiles, wood, glass, gems and geodes donated by people from around the world. It is not just religious, it is patriotic. Besides the shrines to the Blessed Virgin, Christ The King, The Sacred Heart, The Eucharistic Altar, The Holy Ghost Tree and The Crucifixion Group, there are depictions of Columbus, Washington and Lincoln. It is breathtaking and unbelievable. The work and dedication to finish it is unfathomable. The amount of items used to cover the grotto is mind boggling.

There is a gift shop on the premises. Plus a can collecting donations. I had to put in a few bucks to keep it going. Something almost 100 years old and still in such good shape needs to be maintained. There’s also a cemetery bordering the grotto. We all walked through it reading the tombstones. A lot of them are faded. A lot of them are extremely old like from 100 years ago. So many of them are children, only a few years old. There was one mass grave of 4 children that died on the same day (Jan. 17, 1992). I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I figured it had to be a car accident or a murder. My mother-in-law suggested it was a fire. Turns out she was right. There was also a newer grave that had a laser image on the tombstone of a truck pulling a boat and what looks like a family farm. I took so many pictures. Too many pictures. Years ago when Greg and I went on a swamp tour in Louisiana, we saw our first alligators. There were a ton of them off the sides of the boat. Tourists were feeding them marshmallows. This is 1989, before cellphones, and we’re taking picture after picture of alligators eating marshmallows. When we got them back, it was so much of the same thing and the pictures weren’t that good. The water was green and murky (it’s a swamp!!) and the gators blended in and the marshmallows are so small. Now whenever one of us (usually me) takes a ton of pictures of one thing, we say it’s like “alligator pictures”. Guess you had to be there. 😉
The sun was so bright that some of the pictures turned out too dark. I can’t see outside with my iPhone in bright sunlight so kind of have to guess how they’re turning out. From a religious and spiritual perspective, the grotto is awe inspiring. I had a hard time picking which photos to include in this post. None of them really do justice to the beauty. From an artistic perspective, it is glorious! I’m so glad we got to take it all in at our leisure and didn’t rush through it. It is free and all outside. Because it’s in the middle of nowhere, you have to make a point to go there or you’ll never see it. Now I want to make a pilgrimage to the other grottos in the Midwest. Most notably, the Grotto Of The Redemption in West Bend, Iowa.
Around the turn of the last previous century, when immigrants were coming to America in a steady stream, grottos were a somewhat common thing. The immigrants came from a culture where it was normal to promise to build something big if your prayers were answered. The type of commitment needed to undertake such a significant project seems to be missing nowdays. In any case, whether you are religious or not, I hope you can appreciate the artistic vision and all the hard work.

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Overall, we had a lovely time on our last vacation. We left Thurs. Sept. 7th and got back Friday Sept. 15th. We stayed at the Rustic Barn RV Park in Kieler, WI. Located in the SW corner of the state, it is in the middle of nowhere, yet within minutes of Galena, IL and Dubuque, IA. The RV park was expensive but also one of the nicest we’ve stayed in. It is surrounded on all sides by cornfields and cow pastures. We had a fantastic view of the cows and the dogs enjoyed going down by the cows every day. Elvis was a bit afraid of them due to their size but Amber wanted to get close to them and play. They weren’t afraid of the dogs but kept their distance. There was a sign saying that the fence was electrified so we didn’t push it.RV

We had a fire 4 of the 8 nights and sat around the campfire making smores. I bet it’d been 10 years since we’d done that. Mom used to love it but as she got older, she didn’t want to sit around the campfire and we didn’t do it without her. We had a picnic table on a concrete pad right outside of our campsite. We ate at least one meal a day out there, usually lunch. It was like a picnic. I didn’t bring a tablecloth so spread out a large beach towel. The bugs weren’t bad and the weather was ideal! It was in the 70’s every single day and not a drop of rain. 
Of course, when we got home they hadn’t had any rain here either so our garden was mostly dead. We only got 3 more cucumbers for a total of 40 this year. We got a few peppers and all our tomatoes are green and not turning red. I don’t know what that means. Now we’ve had a heat wave for the past week with temperatures hitting 90-95. The past 5 days we’ve broken heat records. Our grass is starting to look dead. So is everyone else’s. We watered the backyard the past 2 nights since there’s still no rain in the forecast. 
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The first day of vacation, both Amber and Elvis ran away. Into the cow pasture when the cows weren’t there. Greg went to get them and after they had a good run, Elvis came back. Amber was having too much fun so Greg went under the electrified fence and laid down in the field and Amber came over. I was afraid we’d never see her again. The thing is Ivy is the big runner and she didn’t get loose. It is truly nerveracking to have them run away plus embarrassing and disheartening. Having a dog that won’t come to you when you call them hurts. But I guess it’s just “dogs being dogs”. 
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We did a lot of fun things that week. We went to 2 casinos in Dubuque, IA: “The Que” and Diamond Jo’s. The Que was terrible and we didn’t even stay longer than a half hour. Diamond Jo’s was a lot of fun. We ate there twice at the buffet—once for free and once for $7. We enjoyed playing there but didn’t win anything to speak of. Our money lasted longer than at The Que though. 
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We went to downtown Galena and split it between 2 mornings. We brought the wheelchair along but Greg’s mother didn’t use it once! It takes up almost the entire back of the truck so we’re not bringing it next time. My mother-in-law walked some and then sat on the benches that they have along the main street. She doesn’t do stairs at all. Galena is a quaint little town that is basically a tourist trap. There are stores but not really to my taste. Only a few antique stores there and I only bought 2 books. Greg’s mother bought a purse at a shop that was going out of business. The prices were kind of ridiculous and I’m too cheap to pay them. I love the name “Galena” though. I think it would be a beautiful name for a girl and then call her “Gal”. 🙂 
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Sat. Sept. 9th, we took a drive up north and the area is really pretty desolate. We drove through Dodgeville and by chance, there was an estate sale auction going on! It was maybe a few hours into it but lots was left. It was mostly commonplace household items. Nothing that got my blood pumping. Greg bid on 2 boxes of books (for $5) which we sorted through and ended up giving his mother half of them. There was nothing earth shattering in there. Mostly oddball cookbooks and kids’ books. Hubby and I used to go to antique auctions every week. This was about 17 years ago. We haven’t gone to any since. The prices started going too high and it just wasn’t fun anymore. The nice thing about this is there wasn’t any buyer’s premium which is usually between 10-20%. We ended up staying about 2 hours standing the whole time. It was held outside with everything loaded in boxes on flatbed trucks. We stayed until hubby got a chance to bid on some antique wagon wheels. They had 2 half wheels that went for $65 each, then 2 giant wheels that went for $25 each. Greg wanted the large ones but didn’t want to pay over $20 each for them. Then the small wheels came up and he got 3 at $15 each. That was a really good deal. He’s already put them in our backyard.
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We also went to Dickeyville Grotto on Sunday, Sept. 10th. I’m writing a separate blog post on it so I won’t go into it here. There are so many pictures and details I want to share about it. It deserves its own blog post.
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Monday Sept. 11th, we were heading to Elizabeth, IL and got into a car accident. It makes you wonder if nothing good can happen on that day?! We were pulling out of a scenic overlook and a dump truck was coming up the hill with his right turn signal on and didn’t turn. Instead he speeded up and hit the rear driver’s side of our Jeep. It spun us around but we didn’t go off the road or get hurt. Greg’s mother was sitting behind me and kept saying how wonderful Greg drove to keep us from getting broadsided. She was very calm which I appreciated. Thankfully, no one was injured but we were a bit shook up. I didn’t realize we were only 3 miles from Elizabeth and said we should go back to the RV for the day. So that day turned out to be a waste. We did make it Elizabeth 2 days later and I found some more books. The windows weren’t even broken which leads me to believe that our 14 year old Jeep fared much better than a newer one would. The new vehicles tend to crumple up when hit and have less weight to them. Greg took the Jeep in to Gerber Collision in Des Plaines, IL on Tues. for an estimate. They quoted $2500 and we’ve got a $250 deductible. Wed. night after work, we dropped Greg’s Jeep off there to be repaired. Since they already had the parts and only had a small amount of body work to do, we hoped to get it back in a day or two. Now they are telling us 2 weeks! If they couldn’t work on it right away, we never would’ve dropped it off. Poor Greg has had to drive my old Pontiac that has NO A/C during this horrible heatwave! He’s got an hour drive to and from work. It sucks so bad. On Friday we went out treasure hunting in my car and almost died. It was too hot so we ended up hitting a few places and coming home. We stayed in all day Saturday as it was too hot!!
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While on vacation, we tried to find other antique shops to go to and even tried Dubuque. That seemed very run down and a lot of the antique shops listed on Yelp were actually seedy pawn shops. We did find one antique shop that seemed decent. It had mostly furniture. Hubby got a display cabinet for drill bits, a pulley and a brass nozzle for a fire hose. The highlight was my mother-in-law finding a chair she had to have! It was a heavy duty walnut chair that had been refinished by the guy who owned the shop. It was built by the Sikes Co. when they moved to PA. It must be 100 years old. She wanted it for $80 but he gave it to her for $100. He said he’s sold them for $200 and up. I looked them up on eBay and they sell for $400. We had a heckuva time fitting it in the truck with the wheelchair in the back. We ended up putting it upside down in the backseat. I had to sit in the  back with it because it poked over into the other side. I’m used to accommodating whatever I need to and she isn’t. Then she used the chair the rest of the week inside the RV. After I sat in it, I wanted one also. Hubby never lets me get furniture. Mostly because we can’t move it ourselves and he doesn’t want to hire someone. 
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Another fun thing we did that week was go to 2 different supper clubs. We went to a fish fry the day after we got there. Then the night before we left, we tried another supper club. We didn’t eat all our meals out though. We ate most of our lunches in and a few suppers. I had made a batch of stuffed peppers and a huge bowl of bean salad before we left. I like bringing food along but everyone has to be on board to eat it. If people want to eat out all the time, I have to be the bad guy and nag them into eating my food so it doesn’t go bad. 
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I’m glad we finally made it to this area but Greg was fairly disillusioned. I think coming from Chicago, things tend to be not as exciting elsewhere. I liked it but I’m not in a hurry to go back. We’ve only got a few weeks until our next trip. Maybe we’ll have more fall like weather by then.
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