Determined to finish her bucket list of traveling to 48 states of the United States, Irene Allgayer and her daughter Cathy Wood set out earlier this month to check off the six remaining states left on her list.
Long before the term ‘bucket list’ was a popular expression, Allgayer and her late husband Robert had visited all but 12 of the 48 states.
Then in 2019, her daughter and granddaughter Tracey Wood decided to help her check off six of them as a birthday gift. On that trip, they checked off Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Rhode Island.
In 2020, their plans to travel the six remaining states were put on hold because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but this year they felt it was safe to travel again.
Departing Sunday, June 6 and returning home to El Campo on Sunday, June 13, the mother-daughter traveling companions made their way through Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Nebraska.
“We just made a loop,” Wood said of their driving trip.
With no particular plans or places to see, they visited museums and other sites of interest as they came across them along the way. One such unexpected surprise was the John Wayne Museum in Winterset, Iowa, the birthplace of John Wayne who became a popular actor of Western motion pictures. Allgayer said her late husband was a fan, as well as she.
“My husband liked the war and army pictures; I liked his Westerns,” she said.
She also shares the same name as Wayne.
“I knew his real name was Marion Robert Morrison,” Allgayer said. “My first name is Marion too, spelled the same way. John Wayne hated his first name.”
They also discovered the “Freedom Rocks” located near the museum.
Supposedly there are several Freedom Rocks across the state of Iowa, Wood said.
“They are painted (with depictions of) MIA, POW and all the branches of the military,” Allgayer said.
Another impromptu stop was Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook, Iowa.
“It’s fantastic,” Wood said.
“The matchstick place was wonderful,” Allgayer added.
Matchstick Marvels features handmade models constructed of wooden matchsticks with some dating back to the late 1970s. Early creations were small, but the museum boasts several fairly large exhibits today.
Another stop was a gallery containing a collection of a 97-year-olds’ salt and pepper shakers.
“There are more than 17,000 salt and pepper shakers,” Wood said.
“Three rooms, floor to ceiling, are full of salt and pepper shakers,” Allgayer said. “I collect salt and pepper shakers myself, but I don’t have anything like that.”
They just drove through Wisconsin, enjoying the scenic drive. In Minnesota, they did the same.
“Minnesota is just lake after lake,” Allgayer said. “We just drove through. We went from the eastern lower part to the northwestern part.”
In North Dakota, they traveled the Enchanted Highway, taking in the sights along the way.
“There is only one interstate, a big international highway through North Dakota,” Wood said.
“There were metal structures, they were huge,” Allgayer said, as they drove along Enchanted Highway.
The next stop was the Teddy Roosevelt National Park.
“The Teddy Roosevelt National Park is one of the largest parks in the United States,” Allgayer said. “We also went through part of The Badlands ... it was really windy. It was pretty, but nothing compared to the Grand Canyon.”
Next on the list of attractions was Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
“Mount Rushmore, that’s one thing I have always wanted to see,” Allgayer said. “They started it in 1927 and finished in 1941.”
On their final leg home, it was time to pay a visit with Allgayer’s niece, Terry Allgayer of Scottsbluff, Neb., where they also visited Monument Rock and saw remnants of wagon tracks along a portion known as the original Oregon Trail. They also learned the Pony Express route was once located in that same area.
Now back home in the comfort of their own homes, they’ll have lots to reminisce about as they recall favorite stops along the 4,007 miles of highway they traveled in eight days.
“I really enjoyed the John Wayne Museum,” Allgayer said. “But the Matchstick Marvels blew us away. Standing there, I couldn’t believe it. Who could glue match sticks and make that stuff?”