My 2019 Great Lakes Road Trip Part 8A

20 Nov

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Day 8 – Tuesday July 30

I headed west 20 miles on I-90 this morning, to visit the Deke Slaton Museum located in Sparta, WI.  This small museum is situated on the second floor of the Sparta Public Library, and was conducting a Space Camp meeting today. 

 When I asked for a brochure about the museum, the curator said she would have to check upstairs for one.  When I happened to mention that I had worked on the rocket that sent Deke Slaton into orbit, I became an instant celebrity, and she couldn’t do enough for me.  She said if we were very quiet, she would take me upstairs to the museum.  She showed me some of Deke’s space related artifacts and memorabilia, including one of the spacesuits worn during his Murcury-7 training, and two home-built airplanes that he owned.  Deke worked as chief of the American Astronaut Corp who selected astronauts for the Gemini, Apollo and Skylab missions.  Deke flew on the 5-day Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission in 1975, which turned out to be the last Apollo mission. 

While I was in Sparta, I tried to find the Little Falls Railroad Museum, where I expected to see the largest collection of railroad art in the US, and the not so interesting, Madame Alexander’s doll collection.  The address I gave Greta (my Garmin) took me to a section of railroad tracks, at the dead-end of some street, but there was nothing that looked like a railroad museum in the area.  I later discovered that, even though the museum had a Sparta address, it was actually located 13 miles north of the city of Sparta.   No wonder Greta and I were so confused!  But, Oh well, I also found out this museum was not open on Tuesdays.   

Since the Railroad Museum was nowhere to be found, I headed southwest another 20 miles on I-90 to La Crosse, WI to visit the Dahl Auto Museum.  This museum is situated in one of the local Dahl Ford dealership showrooms, and displays a collection of 20+ beautifully restored vintage and classic cars dating from 1905 to the present.  There is also an impressive collection of vintage hood ornaments on display as part of the museum.  The museum shows a film history of the automobile’s development over the years, as well as sponsoring many special events throughout the year.

Now I headed northwest roughly 40 miles on I-90, across the Mississippi River (border between Wisconsin and Minnesota), and then north on US-14 to Winona, MN.  That’s where I picked up SR-54 and went back across the border  into Wisconsin.  Then I followed SR-35 north to visit Elmer’s Auto Museum located in Fountain City, WI.  I was looking forward to seeing Elmer’s collection of 100+ antique and classic cars, dating from 1910, plus motorcycles and bicycles.  However, upon arriving at the museum, I was informed the museum was closed because Elmer had passed away just the day before.  The museum volunteer I talked to was very kind, and even invited me to Elmer’s funeral, if I was going to be in the area until Friday.  I thought that was very courteous, of him.  I thanked him and headed for my next museum. 

—–This day’s activities will be continued next week—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 61 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.




One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

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