Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Awesome day today!

It was my first time selling at a rally today...over to the air conditioned building (yay!) to open up this morning about 8:30 AM...there were seminars running all day today so there were ebbs and flows to the people coming through the building....to give you an idea of some of the topics (if you are not a full time camper or RVer, you might think BORING) here's what some of the offerings were just for today:

Tire basics for the RV owner (I'll have to tell you some time about the time we attempted to put air in our tires at a truck stop and we pulled the entire stem out of the tire accidentally! Eldy held his finger in the valve stem until he couldn't squat and hold it any more and had to let go.. that's AIR PRESSURE, AIR PRESSURE, people!!! WHOOSH! and he had let the tire go flat. That sucker went flat in about 10 seconds. I'm running across the street to tell the tire people, "Please hurry, my guy Eldy has his finger on the tire valve stem holding the air in, and can you come now?" ....ok, I already told you the story...the conclusion of the story is that the tire people came long after the tire went flat, we got the tire fixed and got back on the road...thank goodness they were just across the street!)

Some more classes--Managing Digital Photos with Picasa, Beginning Geneology, Blogging Beyond the Basics, Preparing for Alaska (we're thinking about that one!), Cemetery Stories,  5 Insider Tips to Save Money on RV Insurance, Internet Love Story--Living and Working on the Road and lots more.

Jeannie at the rally
I sold some products today, I was happy! Not enough to pay for my booth yet, but that's ok, we are meeting some WONDERFUL new acquaintenances.....we are next to a delightful gal named Gail..she is so funny! We laughed and laughed all day....her husband has been seriously ill and is now feeling better, and after getting to know her, it's a blessing that she can be so delightful and witty despite all the difficulties in their life together...kind of reminds me that people come into your life for a reason...and sometimes it's to give you a lesson about life and the beauty of it while it's yours....you need to cherish the time you have with your loved ones, because you just don't know how long you have them....until tomorrow...Jeannie and Eldy

Monday, August 30, 2010

Who says RVers are boring??!!

what the heck????!!!!
You meet all kinds of people at a rally...we haven't met the gentleman who owns this rig yet, but I'm sure he's a character! After finding out that our RV was not going to get done today, (there's some serious issues with the bathroom floor), we decided to take it back as is, and head back for repairs AFTER the rally, and after Labor Day weekend.

We got into the Elkhart Campground just a few minutes before all the vendors were going to be introduced. A really nice family owns the Elkhart Campground. They've gone above and beyond ordinary service for all the people attending the rally. They've been very organized and quick about checking people in today...we managed to get 50 amp services for which we are very grateful! One air conditioner just doesn't keep the temperature very comfortable...so with 50 amp we can run both airs and beat the heat! It was 92 degrees today...but the humidity was down, so that helps!

At 3:00 this afternoon, all the vendors were introduced, myself included...I was nervous giving my little speech to all these adults! But Eldy says it went very well. I think I look like I'm giving a motivational speech...I am! BUY MY FOOD PRODUCTS, TASTEFULLY SIMPLE PRODUCTS ARE GREAT!  Met a GREAT bunch of people in the vendor room this morning while setting up for the show which officially starts tomorrow...everyone is friendly, witty and I have a hilarious gal at the booth next to me..she kept me in stitches all morning while I set up....I'm looking forward to meeting more people selling and buying at the show tomorrow...some of the people I met today have been RVing full time for 30 years!

We are learning so much information about this lifestyle, and starting to realize that people who do this full time are a very special "family" group....people go out of their way to help you in any way that they can....we found that out today as we set up, as we got into our site. People came over to talk to us, and it's just a wonderful feeling to "feel" this connection with others who are sharing the same lifestyle. We'll see what the day brings tomorrow...got my almond pound cake made, some beer bread, a couple of dips, and I'm the only one selling food!  Sounds like a winning combination to me!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Whirlwind preparations

The RV looks like a tornado hit it...boxes of Tastefullly Simple foods and samples everywhere....carted a bunch of stuff over to the building where the vendors are selling their wares...I think it's supposed to be air conditioned, but with the heat bearing down on the building today, it felt like more than 80 degrees in there...I'm the "little guy" (small table) amongst the regular vendors that have been doing this for some time...the great thing about selling at this rally, is, I'm the only food vendor! Everybody has to eat something, and I'll bet they will be by at one time or another to taste some of my beer bread, almond pound cake and crab dip this week....tomorrow the vendors are being introduced at 3:00, and I have to give a little speech about my products to a group of adults...I don't have any problems talking to kids, but when it's your peers, it's a little different! There are over 170 units here for the rally, and there are also people here from another rally that is being scheduled in two weeks in Goshen, the Escapees....they are here to begin preparations in Goshen for the rally. We met Nick Russell today of Gypsy Journal and Nick's blog...he came over to introduce himself to the RV repair side where we have been sitting since this past Wed.  It was great to meet him after reading his blog for quite some time...

Almost full Elkhart Campground
In the morning, we will be back in the RV shop at Total Vaue...finishing up work...our bedroom air conditioner is not working properly, that's something new (oh, no! not in this heat!), and we're getting an oil change. We're glad we're not in a diesel pusher--it takes over 20 quarts to change the oil in a diesel pusher...pretty expensive, but then again, you don't have to change the oil but about every about 15,000 miles. We have been very lucky with our coach, with not having to fix too many "bugs"...more about that tomorrow...The photo today is of some of the many coaches that have piled in to the Elkhart Campground next door where we move to tomorrow.  They are of all different makes and models, of all price ranges...there is a Prevost here...that's an RV that's over a half a million dollars...for my friends and family who follow our blog, check out an RV show sometime just for fun and see what the interiors of these expensive coaches looks like! They are amazing how they are decorated on the inside--they look like what I imagine a movie star's house to look like--lots of chrome, rope lights in the floor, chandeliers...but that's not our style! We will be joining the rally tomorrow in the afternoon. It will be nice to mingle, meet the other vendors and figure out what seminars Eldy will be attending in the next three days....

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Amish Country

Lolly's Fabric store
making delicious pretzels
We went to Middlebury, IN today to see Eldy's grandkids play soccer...great fun, it was a beautiful day, the heat hasn't hit yet. It's coming Sunday and Monday, going to be in the 90's...Middlebury is Amish country and you definitely share the road with a variety of closed and open horse drawn buggies when you are driving around...we went to Shipshewanna after the games to get some things. Shipshewanna is another Amish town with lots of culture to see and experience...there is a bi-weekly flea market/auction where great antiques are sold and bargains to be had, there are great cheese and meat places in Shipshewanna--Yoder's for one...there's a beautiful quilt/fabric store called Lolly's inside a beautiful building called the Davis Mercantile..where if you are a serious sewer, you definitely want to make that a stop on your journey through Elkhart county, should you decide to travel this way....and many many more shops selling all kinds of knick-knacks, garden decorations, scrapbooking supplies, toys, Amish furniture, and so many more different types of stores, it's impossible to mention them all. Your last stop should be at Jo-Jo's Pretzels...sweet, fresh, homemade pretzels made in front of you, topped with your choice of a variety of toppings...I bought a half dozen to take home and freeze. They are so good, the line waiting to get one snaked through the whole pretzel place today.

Tomorrow, I'm making preparations for the rally. I have to figure out how I'm going to bake my beer bread and almond pound cake on a 90 degree day without cooking us both in the process! I do have a toaster oven that I might take outside and plug in out there and that should work. Monday we take the RV in for more repairs..our toilet is still leaking, the tile floor is starting to separate from the wood flooring around the toilet, so we suspect there is more water damage than meets the eye. We've had our roof recaulked so far, and our water tank hoses reworked so we don't siphon half a tank of water out the overflow tube when we go around corners...when you "boondock" (RV speak for not having an hookups at all and relying on your RV's internal systems to run everything), you don't want to be losing half a tank of water before you even get where you are going! Where would you boondock you ask? Why, the Walmart parking lot, or Cracker Barrel in the back of the restaurant, or at a truck stop, or a beautiful primitive place where there are no hookups available....

If the blog looks a little different today or like the writer has "slipped" a little in the presentation, it's because I am now using a mac and learning all over again how to place photos, clips, etc.!  I couldn't get that pretzel photo moved where I wanted it to be for anything! Then when I looked at the finished blog, the photos are not in the same place I put them! Oh, well, hope you will bear with me and thanks for your patience while I learn!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Back "home" in Fremont, IN

Fremont is a little burg right next to Angola, IN...it's a small town with a big heart, population about 3,000 or so.If you were driving on the interstate and got off at Fremont, it would be so easy to dismiss this little town as typical small town America. If you did, you would be missing a little nature's gem in the midst of Indiana cornfields...Despite its small size, Fremont, and it's neighboring city, Angola, right off interstate I-69, have a lot to offer...There are 101 lakes in Steuben County, which encompasses Fremont and Angola. That was one of the attractions that led me to move here back in 2003....Not only the lakes, but there's the Pigeon River, the Fawn River, three nature preserves and two state parks (Pokagon State Park and Chain o Lakes State Park) within a short driving distance..AND, if you need retail therapy, there are the outlet malls on interstate 69, exit Angola/Fremont....I used to kayak quite regularly, and the beauty of the Pigeon River and the Fawn are tough to beat...I have seen bucks on the rivers, a doe leading twin fawns to the river to drink, and many different kinds of ducks, sandhill cranes nesting, and many other sights that I fondly remember.

Would you believe that the little town of Fremont also has a great restaurant called Timbuktoo's, and an award winning winery called Satek Winery, and a super friendly post office that goes above and beyond taking care of their customers as only a small town post office can?  (thank you Cheryl Gleason and staff!)...As I went back and visited old friends today and took care of some appointments, I remembered why I came to this town seven years ago...to get away from the hustle and bustle of South Bend and Mishawaka, IN...the endless traffic jams during Notre Dame games, the constant building of malls and mini malls, the disappearing open spaces--all that made me yearn for a slower paced, less stressful life, a greener life in all aspects of the word, and I found it in Fremont...People have different opinions about small towns, some hate them  and their politics and can't wait to get out to find the urban culture, job opportunities and a  busy life that a bigger town offers, some people love small towns and everything about them and want to still raise their families  there...as we get older, we are gravitating away from the traffic and stress that accompanied us most of our hard working lives, so we really enjoy seeing smaller towns on our journeys, small towns just seem to reflect a better sense of pride and patriotism, or at least to us it's a little more noticeable ...if you ever get a chance to stop and experience Fremont or Angola, IN, check out the beautiful Ropchan Conservation Wetlands preserve on S.R. 827, going south out of Fremont, one of the most beautiful hikes across two forests, little streams, and a meadow, you can hike a half mile or go a little more than two miles....kayak or canoe on Chain o Lakes---five small lakes connected by water channels, paddle from one lake to the next..you can rent kayaks and canoes there if you don't have your own...swim at Pokagon State Park which borders one of Steuben County's largest lakes, Lake James. Pokagon has a beautiful inn there should you decide to get out of the camper or RV for a bit...(personally, I am missing my daily hot bath at night, but, it's a small price to pay for the life experiences we are having right now...)

It was great to see my friends at Angola Middle School today...but it was also great to be able to go home without having had a stress filled day...my blood pressure is definitely lower since I have retired...I really had underestimated what stress can do to your body, I had lots more aches and pains every day than I do now..'course that's age working on me, too, but really, the aches and pains went away once I extended my weekend relaxation journeys to every single day journeys...teachers have to keep calm under tremendous pressures these days..kids' attention spans are not what they used to be, behavior is not what it used to be, and the multiple types of disabilities of kids that both general education teachers and special education teachers work with, make teaching a much more difficult job than it used to be (that's a former special education teacher talking!)...I'd like to thank all teachers today, for coming back to school for another year, for their enthusiasm and desire to reach all kids, despite what kids' home environments might be, despite what's going on in the world today, despite all the pressures that legislators place on schools to test, test and retest.....it was great to see that enthusiasm very much present at the middle school today......

Wish I had some photos for you today of beautiful Steuben County, my home for the last 7 years...but they have been packed away in storage....Saturday is a visit with Eldy's children and grandkids at their soccer games...we're looking forward to seeing that! I am posting a photo, one of my favorites from the summer, from Acadia National Park..to Eldy and I, this is what full time RVing is all about...
seeing God's country

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What's there to do in Elkhart, IN anyway?

There's not just corn in Indiana...we could be here all day telling you neat stuff to go see in Elkhart and the surrounding area, but for the moment, we're going to tell you what retirees do while they are waiting for the rally to start in four days...Right next door is the Elkhart campground, and there is a huge tent that went up yesterday. Now when you are retired, the littlest things interest you. At least, that's what we have found being newly retired. That's because you have all the time in the world to watch the world go by, and now you have an interest in everything that's going on around you. Before, you didn't have time or didn't notice.  A bunch of people watched this tent go up, and took photos of the process. Actually, it's kind of cool...the stakes go 3 1/2 feet down into the ground in hopes that the tent doesn't blow away in any kind of wind..which is a distinct possibility, considering the last time we were here, we outran a tornado in our car to get back to our motorhome when we had some work done at the RV place in June....

My brother asked me what a rally was....in case you are just viewing the blog for the first time, it's a gathering of RVers to attend seminars to learn all about RVs, it's an RV community of vagabonds, of travelers, of friends, so there is a social component to it as well. And, there are always vendors selling products--after market add ons for RVs, cleaning supplies, food (that's where I come in, I'll be a vendor this week for the first time), air pressure gauges, kitchen supplies and or cookware, and in this one, there's going to be an RV driving school...Eldy says maybe I need to take that one? Not that I'm a bad driver, I just lack confidence. Some rallies have manufacturers there that sell towing systems, brake systems, etc. He and I will have to try and take turns at manning my booth so I can attend at least one seminar....I'll do my best to shut off the teacher mode while I listen! There are over a hundred rigs or more, we think, that will be at the rally. It should be fun!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back Home Again in Indiana

our site at Total Value RV
We arrived in Elkhart today, around two and set up at the Total Value RV, (Elkhart, IN) parking lot for rigs coming in for service...here's the fantastic part. Because we purchased our unit from them, and are going to have service most of the day on Friday, we can stay here for a few days for FREE, with 30 amp service, water, but no sewer. We've got neighbors on both sides of us coming in, they are very close, there are no trees, but hey--it's FREE!  This will really help the budget this week by being able to stay on the lot till Monday, when we can switch over to the campground right next door...

Wanted to mention today some of the blogs Eldy has been reading for years, and the ones that helped us get started and shortened the learning curve to full timing....One of the first blogs Eldy started reading was the Gypsy Journal--"Nick's Blog"...I don't have all the urls available, they are not on my computer, but I think you will be able to find these with the info I give you. I'm too busy trying to keep up with ours and learn how to make it better! The Gypsy Journal is an online newspaper about Nick Russell's travels or you can have it mailed to you. Nick Russell, the writer, is a newspaper guy, so his column is VERY informative. He reviews products, editorializes about the places he travels, and he has been full timing over ten years. Another blog that Eldy reads faithfully is "RV-dreams journal"..written by Howard Payne. He and his wife, Linda, have been full timing about four and a half years. They publish their financial costs and monthly expenses for the whole world to see, so you know exactly what it's costing them to eat and live on the road. They worked in the corporate world and retired early to go full timing. They are both in their 40's... yet a third blog is "Mike and Pat's Travels"...they publish twice a week on Sundays and Thursdays...this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as what's available out there for people to read about full timing...

Later today we will go visit Eldy's daughter who has been graciously keeping our forwarded mail...in a few months, we will be needing to establish residency in a state that has lower health and RV insurance costs, no state income taxes and to set up a mail forwarding service..we're thinking South Dakota, or Florida or Texas...this is what many full timers do...pick a state that is RV friendly to get retired health and living costs down with no state income tax...we WON'T be living there, but can plate our car, apply for lower health insurance, and save a lot of money on taxes and still travel the country. For example, South Dakota's requirements to get state residency for RVers simply requires you to spend one night in their state! Eldy has ruled out Texas because it requires vehicle inspections regularly, and the driver of the motor home has to pass a driving test in the motor home. Now Eldy is an excellent driver--he can navigate major construction areas with cement barriers on both sides with inches to spare and orange cones to boot (and I have my eyes closed the entire time) without knocking a single orange cone over!  He hasn't squashed one yet!  But that's just additional problems for us to plate and have the car inspected, take the tests, etc. so we're leaning towards S. Dakota...

Just a heads up...there's not a lot to do here at the Total Value lot and the Elkhart campground until the rally starts so we may not have a lot to report for the next few days...IF you don't see a post for a day or two, or a day or two is missed next week, the week of the rally, it will be because we are doing the same thing every day--I'll be selling Tastefully Simple (if you haven't heard of it, check out their website, it's beautiful--tastefullysimple.com/web/jsparks3), Eldy will be attending rally seminars, and when we get back on the road after the rally, heading south towards the Atlantic Ocean and coastal highways, we'll be back on a daily track with the blog! Thanks for reading and staying the journey with us!
Jeannie at S. Haven pier

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Happy to be in the Midwest

After seeing some of the fabulous eastern states, and it's not even the fall season yet, to come back to Indiana and say I'm happy to be here, might be a puzzle for some who have traveled the country a great deal. I'm happy because I get to visit Fremont and Angola, IN, where we have our storage shed, and where my teaching job was, and where two months of mail is, and I'm going to unload a BOATLOAD of shoes, clothes, and miscellaneous STUFF that I thought we absolutely had to have on board the RV, which has proven to be not necessary at all...did I say shoes?

When we first started out full timing, and closed out two houses, I have to say Eldy was the one very willing to let go of personal possessions, either giving them away to his children, or out to the dumpster. Me, on the other hand, with the smaller house, for some reason had much more difficulty letting go of crafts, clothing, personal articles, etc., so I had to have them in storage to feel comfortable going out on the road full time. I figure if I don't miss it after a year in storage, or remember that it's in there, then more is going to Goodwill or another charity or somewhere else! Then, after storing a lot of crafts, a few pieces of furniture, and  other household items, I tried to get on board the RV what was left, thinking small projects when it came to fabric, needlework, sewing machine, things that would keep me busy in retirement as well as sightseeing and traveling. (I had a lot of hobbies!) That was a tough one for me. I sewed, I quilted, I scrapbooked with tons of supplies and fabric at home. I did all kinds of crafts and my interests rotated as I did them. I had to rethink what I could take with me!  The good thing right now is we think we are not at our full capacity as far as cargo goes (we've weighed ourselves once), so we're doing ok in that department. Every RV has a gross vehicle weight of what you shouldn't go over if you are fullly loaded, with people, "stuff", water, propane, etc.,  and ours is 22,000 pounds. Sounds like a lot, but it really isn't! We haven't checked our weight lately, (gee, the coach might have to go on a diet!) but that's important since we are now full timing and have added more household things. Our storage bins are not completely full, so we are waiting to get to Elkhart as they will have scales and we can check our weight then. I'm waiting to see if I can add more STUFF! (just kidding, hon..I'm really gonna get rid of lots of shoes, and other things) LADIES--PAY ATTENTION! You don't need a lot of clothes, dresses, shoes, or jewelry when you go out on the road,nor do you need all those kitchen gadgets!..Guys, you don't need a lot of shirts and pants or tools....space is a premium, it really is with an entry level RV, so less is more!

To prepare for this journey, you need to know that Eldy has been looking at RVs for over six years before he ever got close to buying one. He's been reading RV blogs and those blogs that talk about going full timing for about the same number of years. When I met him, he was very well prepared to go looking for an RV, knowing all the makes and models, who was still in business, who supports their buyers with customer service and who didn't. Then, after we met each other and determined that we were ready to buy an RV together, he continued his research, and then I got on board with outfitting the inside of the RV once we purchased the 39 ft. Damon Challenger (Platinum edition). First we went camping every weekend as we were both still working. We did that for a year. We worked the bugs out, we learned about our RV, the sounds it makes, how to fix small things, how things work, and we had a few things go wrong that the company had to fix. We read all the magazines that pertain to motor homes--Highways, Motor Home magazine, etc. Then we got serious about making the RV our full time home as things fell into place for both of us to retire. Every chance we got before we started full timing, we'd head out to a Camping World store. We were Camping World junkies! We'd go thru RV catalogs while we were camping, that was our reading material, trying to figure out what devices and gadgets we needed, and Eldy read many, many blogs about full timing to see what things we needed....satellite vs. dish, (neither, we use cable when it's available and antenna when it's not), water regulator vs. not having one (jury still out on that one, but we're probably going to get one soon), the right color hoses for fresh water, gray water and back flushing the tanks, hose on a reel vs. hose that's not, brake assist system, (more on that another time)...and then we'd talk to other campers, gather, gather information...one of the best ways to get prepared to go full time on the road is to read, read, read blogs and columns, and get to know your particular RV very very well! Eldy let me be in charge of fitting the inside cabinets, storage areas and stocking the RV with linens and kitchen stuff because that's my domain (notice the territorial edge here?)...it took a few starts and tries to get things so they didn't fall out of cabinets, to get the right size baskets to fit odd shaped cabinet interiors, and to work at keeping the weight down...

Now that we've covered a lot of that, what happened today? I spent the morning on the phone working on getting health insurance for when my school health insurance putters out at the end of September. I was quoted a premium that ended up being almost 150.00 higher because I had a bad Achilles tendon that was a temporary condition and one other health issue to what I considered to be a normal, temporary issue in life, but Anthem did not. In a year, I can request a "risk assessment", and if I haven't seen the doctor for that particular condition, they MIGHT lower my premium. Geez, it makes you feel like you can't even  go to the doctor to take care of yourself!

bar inside Clementine's
inside lobby of Clementines
Laundry in the afternoon, and into town for a nice dinner at Clementine's Restaurant, a restaurant housed in an old bank building with a gorgeous interior..It has incredible woodwork inside, and great food at reasonable prices.The bar area is beautiful--the large ornately carved wooden bar came from a ship that used to run the Great Lakes. The man who started this restaurant in the 1980's is from Auburn, IN, a fellow Hoosier! Tomorrow, we drive to Elkhart, IN, about a two hour drive or less, to settle in for a week at the Elkhart Campground. No handy bike trails, no hiking trails close by, this is a city campground, so we'll have to get creative on our exercise!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A great partnership

covered bridge on the Kal-Haven Trail
We really complement each other well....Eldy is the master trip planner--figuring out about how many miles a day to travel, where we might head next, investigating campgrounds, etc. and I am the "activity director"...being bound and determined not to let us get sedentary and fat, and because I really enjoy eating out, I work hard at getting exercise for us both, well, some of the time. Right now, the battle of the bulge is even, I can't speak for Eldy, but I'm burning lots of calories and I'm eating lots...So last night, I turned to Eldy and said, "Honey, I have an idea..." and he knows that means that 1) this is going to involve exercise, and 2) it's going to involve sweat...I continued quickly, as I was on a roll, "Why don't we bike to town for breakfast in the morning?" You should have seen the look on his face, you could see the wheels turning-- for a brief second...it was, "You gotta be kidding! Ok, let's see, I have to bike 6 miles in order to get breakfast, then bike 6 miles back..." So I quickly added, "Of course, you could drive the car in, I'll bike, and you meet me there..." Now Eldy is an old fashioned guy, he's not going to let some 60 year old upstart like me show him up! So, he says with resignation, "No, I'll bike in with you"....so I sweetened the deal and told him I'll buy breakfast..We biked 6 miles into town, we ate at a great place called the Phoenix Street cafe...one of our favorites...then we walked around for a bit to see the town.

a tall ship
There was a tall ship in the harbor getting ready to sail to Chicago (that's like a schooner or sloop, matey!)...I guess you can take an hour and a half cruise during the day on this working sloop called the Friends Goodwill for $30.00, or a sunset cruise for $40.00. But today, this ship was headed for a tall ship regatta in Chicago and won't be back for a month. We found out that there had been three tall ships in the harbor this weekend, and we had just missed them.The Friends Goodwill ship is a replica of a battleship that saw action in a naval war  (the War of 1812), and the  Battle of Lake Erie. This sloop is owned by South Haven's Maritime Museum, so it's around usually ..these tall ships are so cool to see up close! The older we get, the more we appreciate the work and sweat involved in old time machinery, ships, and historical things. It's like we are more capable of identifying and making an emotional connection as to what must have been involved to keep these things going, the perils involved with people's everyday lives, and how hard they worked for their living in a different kind of way than we do today....we watched the Friends Goodwill sail away, then headed back on the bike trail for our home. We will be leaving for the Elkhart Campground Wed. morning. Our RV is going in for a few minor repairs on Friday, so we'll stay at the Total Value RV lot right next to the campground until then. The Gypsy Journal Rally starts next Monday...it's our first one!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's SUNNY in Sunnybrook!

club house living room
It took us about two and a half hours to get from Manistee, MI, on the west coast of northern Michigan, to come south on 131 to the great harbor town of South Haven, MI. We are staying in a gorgeous RV resort called Sunny Brook. Normally, the rate runs about $50-55.00 a night, which is now above our retired budget amount but we saw an August special online that was $99.00 for three nights if you stayed Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, or Tuesday, Wed., Thurs. so here we are!...this is one of our favorite places to stay. We watch for specials when we are in the area because it is one of the most beautiful places we have stayed that are the RV resort type...whoever did the interior design for the clubhouse has outdone themselves on a cozy, warm and inviting decor--it's nautical in colors--red, white, and blue tied in with light lemon yellow and sky blue colors...the pool is one of the larger ones for a resort of this type. There's a hot tub right next to the pool. The clubhouse has a massive stone fireplace, game area, a fitness room, a large  full kitchen for throwing parties and for larger scale entertaining. There are quality restrooms, computer room, game room and playground for kids... The laundry facilities are decorated just as beautifully as the clubhouse. There's a small pond you can paddleboat in, and a beach available for swimming if you don't want to use the pool. There are people with all different sizes and shapes of RVs--from travel trailers to 5th wheels, to RV coaches ranging from $90,000.00 to $500,000.00 to a million dollar coach sitting on a site a few doors down from us. The resort fusses a little about the age of the unit--it can't be over 10 years old, or it has to be in mint condition for its age...
The RV resorts really want you to buy a lot, and then you can customize it with a small "coach house"/garage, stamped concrete patio, custom brick grill, etc., but Sunny Brook has plenty of lots for RVers to come in and spend a night, a couple of days, or longer. Our favorite places are in the back row, up against the beautiful woods, but they are all now taken by seasonal campers who have purchased the lots. The sites are nicely spaced out, you are not crowded up against your neighbors at all...they have concrete pads,  fire pits and picnic tables..

Now the best part? South Haven is a short bike ride away (4 miles one way) on the Kal-Haven Trail, or 10 min. by car...wonderful restaurants and shops and tomorrow, we'll tell you and show you our favorites!
seasonal site

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday Night Fever

Wouldn't that be a great song to play for today's blog? One of my favorite soundtracks from the movie of the same name....boy, that movie is getting to be OLD, but it's still a goodie if you like dance music and I sure do! Well, we danced our sox off last  night...great band by the name of Power Play...they played covers for many great songs of the 60's, 70's and into current music by the end of the evening. It was a  really old crowd at first, so there wasn't a lot of dancing going on...but we helped get things going..Eldy doesn't mind being one of the first ones out on the floor...we left about midnight after burning LOTS of calories...
Little River Casino RV site
This morning we ate breakfast at the casino...if you have a player card, you can get the buffet for half price for 4.00 a person, for people 55 and over on Monday thru Thursday, a terrific deal! Today, regular price...While we were sitting there, as Eldy unwrapped his napkin, something weird happened. The knife was sticking to the fork at the base of the handle. He moved the knife, the fork moved with it. We thought there was some sticky residue on the knife, but there wasn't. He was almost able to lift the fork up off the table using the knife. I took the knife and did the same thing with my fork and spoon. Somehow, the handle of the knife had become magnetized. Weird!  (It doesn't take much to entertain retirees!)

Eldy doing his research
Today is going to be a quiet day....I'll probably go use the fitness center early this afternoon, and Eldy is going to go sit in the hot tub...I think he's a little sore from keeping me up dancing last night..but we loved it and I got my mojo back!.. We might even go back to hear the same band this evening. We really enjoy live music, a band and/or dancing. As you get older, you have to keep moving, you know the old saying, "move it or lose it"..tomorrow we head for South Haven, MI...it will be about a two hour drive from Manistee...South Haven is a fantastic harbor town, vibrant, and the struggling economy doesn't seem to have hit it as hard as other harbor towns. Lots of interesting, funky stores...There's a great bike trail there, on an old rail bed that's quite level..it's called the Kal-Haven Trail. It's about a 6 mile ride to the town of South Haven on a beautiful heavily shaded, wooded trail.  We'll definitely be getting the bikes out to ride! See you tomorrow!

Friday, August 20, 2010

I feel lucky (or not so lucky) today...

It's Friday, and the RV lot is starting to fill up for the weekend...we've got a great site location, it's a corner, so we have a much bigger grassy spot with a couple of trees to put our chairs and little table than if we were in the middle of the RV sites. No picnic tables for the economy rate, though. Not only am I mentioning this in the blog but I also have a little camping log book that I bought a few weeks ago in our travels. It's pretty cool...it's specifically for camping and is called "The Camper's Journal"--it has categories for everything you might want to remember about a campground--phone numbers, contact info, comment section, people you met, memorable events, etc. On the opposite page, it's a full note page. You could tuck some photos in there or add a lot more journaling. They also had another one available that was a "states" journal...tidbits about each state, a little map, historical places visited, memorable restaurants or places, etc. and it was titled, "Let's Go See all 50". In case I have a hard drive crash, I've got a backup log and for people who don't have time to blog, this would be a great gift idea...and sometimes it's nice to still do the handwritten thing, ya know? I get a little wistful sometimes with the demise of the handwritten notes and cards that seem to be going by the wayside. When you travel, it's so easy to send an ecard for a birthday or an email for a personal note, that it seems that many people don't bother with the handwritten card or note any more. In this day and age, it's a special treat to get one, that's for sure!

Well, I may not have had any lucky intuitive feelings, but we did sign up for a casino player card for free, and you can earn points towards free or discounted food, slot machine credits, and other merchandise, so last night we swiped our player cards for a promotional bonus, and Eldy received 10.00 in credits to play the machines and 5 entries for a drawing for a mint '57 Chevy, and I won 20.00 in credits to play and five entries for the Chevy. Of course you have to be present to win...we won't! The psychology of a casino would be an interesting study in itself--the music riffs the machines play, announcements that so and so just won a $1,000.00 on the penny slots (makes you want to keep playing, right? It could be one of the machines in your row, try another one!) After blowing through the slot play credits on our member cards in a very short period of time with no luck, we decided to go check out the town of Manistee...downtown had many empty storefronts and it looked like it was struggling. We then went on a tour of the S.S. Milwaukee, a car ferry built in 1930, that carried cars and train boxcars across Lake Michigan for many years. I find all things maritime interesting, and thought this would be something for 6.00 a person that we could learn about...did we learn much? Unfortunately, not very much...the guide just didn't know how to engage his group and make it interesting. As a former teacher, I have a bad habit of mentally critiquing people who do tours and I start thinking about how I would give the information to the group and how I would pace the tour! Notice the missing variable in this equation: how about the learner making an attempt to be alert and paying attention? I tried taking notes on my little notepad on my iphone, but  these aging fingers just can't text fast enough! About all I remember is the ferry carried 32 train boxcars filled with an incredible amount of weight four times a day across Lake Michigan, that it was 118 degrees in the boiler room, and they had salt tablets to keep their hydration up! The guide talked about these ships running 12 months a year, (they were the original ice breakers for the Great Lakes)...he talked about waves coming aboard as high as the pilot house! ( I remember dramatic things...)

Off to the dance floor this evening...a classic rock band is playing at the casino, and Eldy has promised me that we will dance our socks off!

PS. I had the Mary Chapin Carpenter song, "I Feel Lucky" ready to play on a downloaded player for the blog, thought that would be so cool, but I couldn't figure out how to do a song download for one day with the drop in player. It was going to have that song playing for all my posted blogs..didn't want that.. Note to self: learn more about how to blog and add "gadgets"...bloggerspeak for "extras" on your web blog page. BTW, While trying to download the player today, I inadvertently tagged onto a promotional game ad and gave them my cell phone number before realizing the info they were asking me for was separate from setting up a playlist.com account!  I backed out of the site as quickly as I could, but not before kicking myself that now they have my cell phone number and my allowable texts are going to dwindle at an alarming rate! Maybe!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Too tethered to technology!

Say that ten times really fast! Being of the boomer generation, we've stretched ourselves to learn the latest technologies, kept up with the latest smart phones, have a router/network on board the RV, hooked up our own RV network, encrypted it, I compute while Eldy drives, I digitally scrapbook, get my recipes from the internet, we text, we blog, we Facebook, we love our technology when it works! Yesterday, the entire campground went down--satellite, all cell phones, our air card didn't work, no internet, and when I called the office to report that the wi-fi was down, I got a message that the call couldn't be connected because of a phone outage in the area. Whoa! One of the gals thought that was weird enough that she turned on the TV to check for terrorist news or explanation of what was going on....I thought the same thing! We twiddled our thumbs, we checked in with the neighbors--"are you having phone trouble, wi-fi trouble?" we kept thinking we'd like to get on the computer to do this or that, then remembered we couldn't. Couldn't check our emails, couldn't do research about the next campground we were headed to, my gosh! what were we going to do???? We felt lost, disconnected, literally!...but it was kind of a wake up call to realize, hey! We don't need all this "stuff" except to stay in touch with family, or in case of emergency. We should leave our phones home more or just carry one instead of two, not check them constantly for messages or email so often (like several times a day), and get into reading our Kindle (just kidding, we don't have one of those).

So, I attempted to teach myself how to knit a sock--no luck there, I need lessons! I read, Eldy went to the putting greens to practice his chip shots...we went to Alpena to pick up some things, and then we played golf on the back nine of the Thunder Bay golf course when we got back. There's a LOT of water on the back nine. We won't say how many balls we lost, but it was more than normal for the both of us! We watched the carriage go by around dinner time..the elk viewing and gourmet dinner we passed up, just a little too expensive despite a 10.00 discount for RV campers. (Cost: $75.00 a person) The photo is the closest I got to the carriage ride.

We will miss our new friends we made while we were at Thunder Bay--Ted and Jan Foster (check out their blog--www.rockytopramblers.blogspot.com) and Howard and Linda Payne and their blog-- RV Dreams...Linda makes beautiful beaded jewelry and sells her gorgeous creations online. She also does classes. Wish we were staying longer to get to know them better and so I could pick up another craft (like I need another hobby!), but we are heading west and south today to get closer to the Gypsy Journal Rally in Elkhart, IN at the end of this month.

Today we are headed to the opposite side of the state--Manistee, to the Little River Casino RV resort on the west side of Michigan, the "sunset side"..."Resort" can mean a lot of things, depending partly on whether you are in a northern state or a southern one like Florida...access to amenities, great pool, etc., or sitting in a trailer park so close to your neighbor you can't have a campfire, never mind the amenities..but we were pleasantly surprised when we got here. The sites have newer concrete pads, decent space and grass between you and your neighbor, and they offer a Good Sam's camping discount. The economy rate w/discount for water, cable, and 50 amp electric (but no sewer) is about 25.00 a night during the week, and about 28.00 for a Fri./Sat. night. In addition, despite this being the "economy" pricing, we get to use the casino hotel pool, hot tub, fitness room, and they have free entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights--woo-hoo! I haven't been dancing for so long, I think I forgot my mojo! Eldy says he will help me get it back Friday night..he likes to dance, too! With forecast of rain for the next two days, we'll definitely use the indoor free facilities offered to us....we might even check out the casino, if we're feeling lucky!
(Part of the casino hotel lobby on the left)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In honor of Millie Baughman--1912-2008

I wish to honor my mom today...she lived to be 96 years old before she passed away, in September of 2008....today would have been her 98th birthday......she had so much life and joie de vivre all the way to the end. She went dancing to clubs with my sister and her husband in her 90's. Lots of times she was the last one ready to go home! She made friends wherever she went, young guys would see how much she loved music and bebopped to it that they would ask her to dance when she was in her 80's and even into her 90's. She would never hesitate to listen to our problems, guiding us gently in finding solutions. If we thought we were wronged, Mom always took our side, even if we didn't deserve it..she was always there for us. When life got tough, she gave us some of her strength to get through the tough times. She had resilience that most people would find hard to have, having lost two husbands in the war and my father, the third time..She found the goodness in everyone, she loved anybody who loved life and it didn't matter what your politics were or your sexual persuasions, she just accepted everybody and was their friend....she never had a bad word to say about anybody...she really was a wonderfully tolerant, patient person...

Her way to pass endless amounts of time as she got much older was to do crossword puzzles....she did the New York Times one every week and polished off many others during the week, every week...I can still see her white hair, wearing a bright rose pink top, head bent down, working so industriously over the latest puzzle. She would consult a crossword puzzle dictionary on the rarest of occasions, but most of the time she conquered them without using anything but her great knowledge which was self taught..She inspired all five of us kids to attempt to challenge our ourselves to do our best. At the age of 95, she suffered a massive cerebral hemorrage, one that should have done her in, but Mille came back, 90%. It was really interesting how she taught herself to speak again, learn her letters and write, almost like a child reciting their alphabet and learning their numbers. Millie worked and worked and worked to get her mind back, and she did almost to the point where she was attempting her beloved crosswords again. I'm sure that was key in reestablishing the nerve pathways...we had her for another year when she suffered a second stroke. At that point, Mom decided she'd had enough therapy, and it was time to say goodbye to us...We got to say goodbye to Mom before she slipped away...we were very blessed that we did...There's definitely an angel in heaven named Millie...my mom....I miss you, Mom...Love, Jeannie and family

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A peaceful day....

It's Tuesday, but it could be any day..the days just blur one into another, and that's the nice thing about retirement...we usually ask each other, "What day is it today?" and you know what, it doesn't really matter! For those of you who are still working, if you are close to retiring or hanging on in the hopes that the stock market is going to get better, or you can't retire until things are just right....the time should be as soon as you can! You don't know how long you have, how long your health will hold out, or when some catastrophe is going to intervene...I'm so glad I retired at 60....I was going to wait till I was 65, but things just kind of guided me to the place I am today, with Eldy and traveling in a motor home. I didn't sell my house, but a renter approached me, I didn't go looking for him. Eldy sold his house, our possessions ended up where they were supposed to be, either with family or in storage and here we are.....

We didn't really plan things out well ahead of time...we just both knew that we wanted to travel, and Eldy guided me to the RV route---and I'm really glad he did! I think flexibility is the key, you can't be set in your ways...but I am finding out that both of you really need to be flexible to live in a small space in an RV...you have to treat each other as if you were best friends and we are...you have to be considerate about sharing such a small living space, and you have to be problem solvers to solve those sticky issues that are bound to come up, such as one of you being a TV watcher and the other one not, snoring issues...how do we work together to solve that one? and I'll bet it's a common one...right now we are trying ear plugs...(just for the record we both snore, but we'll leave you guessing as to which one is louder! lol), if one of you needs more "space" than the other, then you get creative about how to honor that...

One of the things we love about RVing, is the great people we are starting to meet! There are several couples at our campsite who "work camp", they work at the campgrounds in exchange for free camping or other special amenities to make their stay very affordable. I learned about a lot of different things from just chatting--what constitutes "high altitude" when baking while traveling, ideas for promoting my Tastefully Simple business, where to stay when traveling, what work camping is all about, some tips for blogging, and how people spend their time in retirement in their RVs and fifth wheels....we just covered all kinds of topics while chatting! People who RV are very outgoing, and love to share what they have learned in their journeys...

At the end of the day today, we played golf on the course that is in the "front yard" of our campsite/campground. I'm a beginner and Eldy is the experienced one...never thought I would pick up a golf club, but it's fun and I'm glad I tried it! The course is a lovely course, and we attempted the back nine which was quite challenging for us! The weather has been wonderful today--in the seventies and in the 50's at night. So we've turned off the air conditioners and turned on the "fantastic fan"(that's really the name of it) which really does a fantastic job of drawing fresh air through the motor home, and at night, with the bedroom windows open, a nice cool breeze wafts through the house. We both like it so cold, that we sleep with the air blowing through the windows right next to our faces...like the old days of sleeping in the tent with the cold air coming through. Nighty nite!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wanna see a shipwreck?

Then you need to go visit the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Alpena, MI., to find out where they are! What is a marine sanctuary, you ask? Well, bird sanctuaries protect bird species and their habit, a marine sanctuary protects the waters above and below designated areas such as coral reefs, ocean gardens, deep sea canyons, shipwrecks, whale migration corridors and other underwater historically significant sites. The sanctuary protects such things as the rigging, gear, property of the ship and its officers, and cargo that sank. They also teach conservation and stewardship of these marine areas.
There are more than 200 shipwrecks in Thunder Bay, which is the bay that Alpena is beside in the upper northeast side of the Michigan "mitten". The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Museum is a wonderful gem to go explore. They have replicas in scale of many of the shipwrecks that have occurred in Thunder Bay along with the history of the causes of the sinkings. They have a full size model stern of a typical schooner set up to pretend as though you were battling the high winds in a typical bay storm that caused many a shipwreck--a recording simulates the storm and conversation of some of the people on board--lightning flashes, the ship is tilted, the replica kerosene lamps sway to and fro as if the ship was rocking, you see their living quarters, you really feel almost as if you were there!...They have a simulation exploration room where you look as though you are on the lake floor exploring the wrecks with divers swimming in front of you....(top left photo)

Thunder Bay's shipwrecks are among the best preserved in the world because of the cold, fresh water. The wrecks that are in deeper waters are like time capsules. When you view the museum, you realize how important it is to preserve this underwater history for future generations. Wrecks that are in shallower water are readily available for snorkelers, divers, and kayakers of all abilities to make this a prime educational area for many people and there are companies in the area that promote kayaking trips to see these shipwrecks. The shipwreck sites are marked by NOAA buoys like the one pictured.
I like going to these types of museums because it can teach people to value these things. I read somewhere that people preserve what they value, and value what they understand. The museum sanctuary provides LOTS of educational resources for teachers to bring these unique resources back to their classrooms. If you go on their website, you can access some of this wonderful information and get lesson plans as well. http://www.thunderbay.noaa.gov/ After we came out of the museum, we saw a large barge in the Thunder Bay harbor, unloading what appeared to be salt. When you see these barges up close, it's always amazing to realize how HUGE they are, and what tremendous storms it must take to sink one of these. I believe the last sinking was a barge in 1966 in the bay.

Until tomorrow then, if you didn't get anything valuable from this blog, at least remember this--when times get tough, as the flag on the big barge in the Alpena harbor said, "Don't give up the ship!"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday at Thunder Bay RV Resort

It's a hot day today....we're going to take it easy and stay cool...here are some of the local attractions mentioned in the literature that are in this area of Hillman, MI: besides three golf courses nearby, within a 30 min. drive, there is Lumberman's Monument, Brush Creek Mill, a Charity Island Lighthouse dinner cruise, Eagle's Nest overlook, Tyttle Marsh Wildlife area....fishing, Lighthouse Festival Museum, the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center (30 miles away in Alpena) two wineries, a canoe and kayak livery (I'm going to have to check that out, I LOVE kayaking). Alpena, MI is 30 min. from here..There's a wildlife sanctuary in Alpena that has a 3/4 miles barked trail that would be nice to explore and take photos in, I'll bet..There is also a canoe and kayak blue Heron Water Trail along the Sanctuary in Alpena, so Alpena just might go on our to do list in the next day or so...
We're b-a-a-a-c-k! We went on a bike exploration tour today....there are some nice trails over the river and through the woods, to grandmother's--whoops! I mean through the woods to a beautiful cabin/lodge where the gourmet dinners are held...gee, sounds like a new song version. We decided to do the dinner/elk carriage ride on Wednesday evening after seeing the pretty lodge nestled in the woods. I'll bet the sleigh ride they offer in the winter time is beautiful!

The Thunder Bay resort area has lodgings available for people who do not wish to to the camping RV thing...They also have beautiful residential lots and homes available near and on a gorgeous golf course. There's a driving range and practice putting greens as well. For RVers, they honor Passport America, which is a fantastic deal, netting you 50% off the camping rate for at least a couple of days during the week, and a Good Sam's discount. This resort is truly a beautiful development. There are many other amenities such as murder mystery weekends, scrapbooking and quilting retreat weekends, and lots more. Sounds like a great getaway weekend to me! The RV park itself is quiet and peaceful, with well spaced sites. They provide a wrought iron patio table and 4 chairs for your dining pleasure! We've met some really nice people here and have been made to feel very welcome...

The weather is going to be cooler tomorrow, it's probably going to be a golf day...I think I've forgotten how to swing! "FORE!" (How come they don't say, "DUCK!"?????)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Highways and byways of Michigan

We were thinking about heading to Sault St. Marie, with ten days remaining till we need to be back in Indiana for our first rally, an assembly of a LOT of RVers who come together for about a week to attend seminars, and to buy from vendors who have things to sell relating to travel and RVing. I will be a vendor at this Eastern Rally in Elkhart, IN,at the end of the month, selling Tastefully Simple products, a gourmet food tasting company. We had to change our plans when we found out that our favorite campground, which is on the St. Mary's River, a conduit between Lake Huron and Lake Superior for all the freighters, was full all the way through September! This campground is located on the St. Mary's River, and you can see freighters--HUGE-- up close and personal as you sit at your campsite. Last year, the campground was hurting so badly that we had no difficulties getting a spot at the last minute. This year, the campground had 500 people write in and try to reserve spots for the season before they even opened and they are full well past September. Darn!

So.....change of plans...Eldy did his great research on the computer as he always does, and found Thunder Bay, a very small RV resort sandwiched between a golf course and cabin style lodging with the RV park in the middle. The RV resort has only 23 full hookup sites, so we were lucky to get one. There is an elk ranch nearby, a golf course right on the premises, and lots of activities in addition to those. From Birch Run, MI, we hopped on I-75 north, then M-33, then M-32, about a two hour drive. If you look on the map, we are almost straight west of Alpena today, in Hilman, MI, in the upper portion of the "mitten" of Michigan.

We were met at the campground by really outgoing and friendly campground hosts and escorted to our site. Shortly after that, we were hit by a cloudburst for about a half an hour, which made leveling the RV and getting set up a longer process today. We had gotten leveled and all our slides out, then read in the literature that they gave us, that they preferred for leveling jacks to be on pads to avoid damaging the asphalt/concrete pads. The pads were sitting at our campsite, but we didn't notice them until AFTER we had all the slides out! So, we had to pull all our slides back in, and start the leveling process all over again. For some reason, the tires at one side of the RV in the rear got off the ground and made the coach seem tippy. In the pouring rain, we took turns going out and checking the pads as we leveled and re-leveled the coach to get the jacks on top of the pads instead of the asphalt. But at the end of the cloudburst, a rainbow graced us for all our efforts.

One of the highlights of this campground is an elk viewing/carriage ride/gourmet dinner and wine tasting package, which is offered every few days and requires reservations. A little pricey at $75.00 a person if you are staying in the resort, but we are considering it for next Saturday, the first available dinner time reservation. They take you for a carriage ride in the summer, a sleigh ride in the winter to a log cabin lodge, then prepare a multi-course gourmet dinner, with wine tasting thrown in for good measure!
In the meantime, we heard that there was entertainment this evening--Michale Lee Seiler, a blues artist and folk singer. He was voted as one of the best acoustic blues artist in northern Michigan. We really enjoyed hearing him, he was very good. We are really looking forward to staying the rest of the week here at Thunder Bay RV resort--they gave us a Good Sam camping discount which brought the price down a little bit, then Eldy's Passport America will give us a 50% discount for a couple of days during the week. This helps us stay within our budget range of 30.00-35.00 a night.
After listening to Michael, we came back to our campsite, and were treated to a fireworks show that was visible in our motorhome from the town of Hillman, about ten miles away. I guess they were having a fireworks show to celebrate a veteran's commemoration of some sort. A wonderful evening to close out a traveling day.....see you tomorrow!

Friday, August 13, 2010

"I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas"

All right, this is for the baby boomers, although Eldy had never heard of this song before. "Really?? Are you kidding?" "Really!! I've never heard that song before." And then he politely refrained from adding, " That's the dumbest song I have ever heard!" Anybody younger than 60 reading this, I'm going to give you the link so you at least know where the title of today's blog came from. This song title was a very popular Christmas song growing up in the 50's, for some people, in particular, my father. If you type in the song title in your browser, it should take you right to the song...the address is http://www.sandysworldonline.com/go_nuts_at_xmas.html
Not sure if the link works, hope it does!

Ok....I really do go nuts at Christmas (tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving, I make most of my ornaments for my tree, I keep the tree up till well into January, lots of Christmas decor in the house), so I HAD to see the Bronner's Christmas store in Frankenmuth..after spending the morning for a good two hours at the local Med Express in town for an ear infection (haven't had one of those since I was a kid!), I was ready for some retail therapy...but not at the outlet mall, instead at Bronner's Christmas store today...

WOW! If you like visual stimulation, (I would not take anybody who is identified as having attention deficit disorder here) this is the place for you...gaudy, glitzy, the wow factor was huge--it was cute to see children's eyes taking in all the eye candy...lights blinking everywhere, every type of Christmas yard display imaginable, themed trees, a bazillion ornaments, personalized or otherwise, themed ornaments, and just everything Christmas. Bronner's has been there in Frankenmuth for 65 years and is still going strong. They've added on several times, and it is a beautiful store. Personally speaking, it seemed that a large proportion of their inventory is made in China, and I saw very few original ornaments...a few artists from around the U.S. and Michigan are represented, and a few other countries' offerings are displayed. Whatever possible interest/career you might have, there's an ornament for you! A few facts: there are more than 350 decorated trees in the store, half of Bronner's items sell for under $10.00, and 2/3 sell for under $20.00, over 2,000,000 guests visit each year, don't go the weekend after Thanksgiving, there could be as many as 50,000 people trying to buy stuff there, and their electric bill is $900.00 a day.

Can't leave the blog today without mentioning a GREAT place to eat in Frankenmuth, The Bavarian Inn...boy, do you get value for your money! We decided to get away from burgers and sandwiches and try some German food. I had weiner schnitzel (breaded veal), and Eldy had beef rouladen...we had no idea how much food was about to be presented when we ordered. We thought we were getting a meat, vegetable, and salad. Out came the first course--fabulous homemade coleslaw, pasta salad, noodle soup, cranberry/orange/apple relish, bread with strawberry rhubarb jam, and cucumber salad. Then the main course--the wiener schnitzel came with potato puffs, dressing, sauerkraut, and mushroom gravy. Eldy's beef rouladen came with a slice of pork roast as well, green beans, and potato puffs, all of this for 21.00 each..what a deal..needless to say, that was our main meal and the kitchen is closed, Eldo, for the rest of the night! PS..Eldy did his laundry today--"Well, I'm good for another month now!"

Thursday, August 12, 2010

On the MOVE!

Yesterday we traveled to Pennsylvania, and were close to Lake Erie, in Fairview, PA. We stayed at a campground called Camp Eriez. It was very nice, mostly seasonal campers but they had pull in long sites for overnighters which is basically what we were last night. Full hookup was $25.00 a night, with a Good Sam's Club (camping discount) discount. Lake Erie was very close by but we never saw it, we had driven all day and gotten there kind of late so no exploring the area this time. We have moved so much in the last three days, I forget what state we are in! That's ok, I forget what day it is, too! It doesn't really matter when you are retired...Today we are heading towards Birch Run, Michigan, in the general direction of north and home of the outlet shopping malls (whoopee! retail therapy! I think I need some!) You know, forests, pines, ponds, mountains and lakes are great, but every now and then, it's great to see a Walmart, Starbucks, a pizza place, or other signs of civilization. Besides, Eldy hasn't done his laundry now for almost three weeks, and he needs more underwear. He says, oh, good! He'll be able to buy some more underwear at the outlet mall. I told him he shouldn't buy any because the Birch Run campground has a laundromat. We each do our own laundry as I air dry much of what I launder and we're both used to doing our own. As an aside, when I lived in Fremont, IN, I never got around to buying a dryer. I ended up using a beautiful Amish wooden drying rack. Never shrunk a single item of clothing in the last 7 years of being dryerless! So in the RV, I have some necessary racks to dry clothes on--one for outdoors that clips on the back of the RV, and one cute "umbrella" drying rack that I hang unmentionables on in the shower if it's a rainy day outside, or if campgrounds don't want to see your laundry--(sometimes they say that!) If I have a lot to do and it's a sunny day, then I use the ladder rack on the back of the RV, hide my undies in and amongst the pj's and jeans and hope that nobody is checking out my underwear!

The campground, Pine Ridge Campground, is between Birch Run and Frankenmuth, exit 136, off I-75. It's a beautiful campground, plenty of shade, and it is very relaxing. Tomorrow, we will check out Frankenmuth and the outlet malls. Weather looks to be continued HOT, HOT, HOT and muggy. We are going to spend two days here, at $34.00 a night, which is full hookup but no cable. Definitely, we'll go to the Christmas store, Bronners, and see what else is going on in town the next couple of days. If you are familiar with Frankenmuth, you'll be glad to know that the Frankenmuth Brewery, which was an upscale well known brewery, and up till now, had been closed, is now reopen for business. The menu has been greatly scaled down, and they don't serve wine during the week. Burgers, fried fish, hanger steak, salads, these are some of the items that comprise the new menu and Eldy said the prices are much more reasonable...It's a very cool place, the decor is the same as it has been for many years...huge vats, beer making room, and lots of wooden beams, chrome, etc. We enjoyed supper here after a long day of driving, well, ok, after Eldy's long day of driving, bless his heart!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Marathon Man

Where's Eldo today? NOT at Tompkins Campground near Tioga, PA, that's for sure. We were on our way there, and Eldy says, "Why don't we head to northern Michigan instead?" and I said, "Why not?" We had found out that there was a detour to get to the campground we had planned on, and after dealing with traffic and a wrong turn first thing this morning, we decided not to hassle with our choice. Don't like the weather? Head north instead of west, or south or east...we can change our minds at the drop of a hat. So-oo-oo, we've been on the road since 9:30 this morning, and we have crossed New York and are headed to Pennsylvania on I-86 (very rough highway for quite some time) near Lake Erie to spend the night. Eldy drives like a trucker, all day, with no signs of fatigue...I'm road weary, but not crazy like I'd be if I was in the car. So what have I done all day to keep myself busy? Navigated occasionally with maps, iphone, and web, checked websites for campgrounds, worked on Christmas ornaments for gifts later in the year, clipped recipes from magazines to try and improve my cooking skills, (ALL RIGHT! says Eldy), fixed Eldy and I a bite to eat from the kitchen while he was driving...(he turned on the generator so I could use the microwave) and caught up on my emails, talked on the phone to family, ordered some products from Tastefully Simple's website while driving down the road, watched the scenery for awhile, and rested. We have to stop after 8 hours of towing and reset the car (Honda CRV)...that protects the transmission and helps keep fluids up and running through the system. That means I run the car thru all the gears in a certain order and timing, set it back in neutral for 3 min. then turn it off to the accessory position. That gets it set to tow another eight hours if needed. Of course, we plan to stop around 6:30 this evening, right Eldy? (He's not answering, he's driving!) I think I'll start calling him the "Marathon Man" 'cuz he can drive for such a long time! PS. Let it be known that I did offer to drive....

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Who needs Mt. Rushmore?

When New York has its very own set of carvings on the side of a mountain...a small mountain, but mountain nevertheless. The set of carvings is called Pratt Rock. Zaddock Pratt was a very successful local tanner and later a congressman (he ran the biggest leather tannery around back in 1843) and he was full of himself. So full of pride, when a jobless man asked him for a handout, Pratt asked him what he did for a living. The guy was a stonecutter, so Pratt said in exchange for a place to stay, Pratt asked him to carve his life story. Twenty-eight years later, the stonecutter was still at it, the story goes, when Pratt died. The carvings include Zaddock Pratt, his son, a horse, an arm holding a sledgehammer, and a circular stone carved with Zaddock's motto on it. The trail starts off route 23 near Prattsville, NY, close to the junction of route 23, and route 23A. The trail is a STEEP climb to the carvings. Unfortunately, what we thought was the .5 hiking trail to see the carvings ended up being 3/4 of a mile hiking trail to the top of the mountain, which heretofore, will remain nameless because we don't have a clue what mountain it was! Probably Pratt's Mountain. At any rate, the true trail branched off to the right of the first resting point we came to, but we missed it going up..and up...and up....so the photos today are of the view on top of Pratts Rocks.
The true trail is unmarked, unmaintained, and extremely narrow. We're talking about a dangerous trail with a crumbling rock path, overgrown with weeds and poison ivy and it would be easy to take a misstep and have a serious fall. We discovered the correct trail on the way back down, after hiking the mile to the top and back, so we explored it briefly. I would not recommend this hike to see the carvings as the trail was so poorly taken care of and seemed risky to just about anyone attempting it. We never did see the carvings, but there's a kiosk at the picnic grounds down at the bottom of the trail with photos of the carvings, so you can get an idea of what they are like. I think we do need to see Mt. Rushmore!

We will be glad to get going Wednesday morning to Tioga, PA. This part of New York where we are now, near the Catskills, seems to be a very depressed and dying area. The motels are shuttered, the homes are in disrepair, and the local towns are struggling. The town of Tannersville on Rte. 23, on our way back to the campground, was an interesting little town, with cool restaurants and offbeat, quirky little stores that would be fun to explore. We ate lunch at The Last Chance Cheese Shop and Restaurant. The restaurant is listed in Zagats travel guide--more for atmosphere than quality of food, in my opinion...good food, a little on the expensive side, but the antiques inside were wonderful to look at. There was a side room full of hanging antique musical instruments which caught Eldy's attention very quickly. (He used to be a buffing supervisor for Blessings Music in Elkhart, IN) so we took a couple of photos of them and the restaurant. A little further down, we saw a beautiful, Ukraine Catholic Church. I just had to get a photo of it!

Tomorrow is about a four hour drive from Catskill, NY, to Tioga, PA. Hope we have some shade for the next few days!

Monday, August 9, 2010


Where do you go exploring when it's going to be over 90 with high humidity? To a beach, swimmin' hole, waterfall, somewhere where's there's WATER! There is a small pool here, but it's packed with kids, and there are no shade umbrellas to be seen. We decide to go to a famous waterfall site off 23A south of Catskill, N.Y. which is less than ten miles from our campground. Kaaterskill Falls is a two stage waterfall near the eastern edge of the Catskills Mountains in New York. The dual cascades make it about 260 feet high, one of the highest waterfalls in NY. It is also one of the oldest tourist attractions, having been a subject for painters of the Hudson River School back in the 1800's. The water flow was way down, the river bed was almost dried up, but the actual falls, when you reach the rigorous trail end, are beautiful. There is a pool of water at the top of the lower falls that you can't see in the photo. It is possible to climb to the very top of the falls thru an unofficial unmarked trail, but we were tired enough after the half mile one way steady climb of boulder after boulder after boulder to be content to watch others continue on. The dual cascade is hard to see because of the sun, but it's above at the top of the tree line in the photo at the top.

We saw this fungus growing on the tree as we were climbing. I don't know what kind it is, but it was such a bright orange growing out from all the greenery around it, I took a photo of it. We hiked almost two miles total from the parking lot to the end of the trail and back...it was hot, hot, hot! We decided to head back to the campsite to cool off indoors for the rest of the afternnoon!