Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Exercise in Patience

12:30 PM
Wow! What a day yesterday...Eldy took the motorhome to Freightliner while I followed in the car. He said that it started and beeping and dinging at him with the low voltage meter the minute he started it up and started driving. It beeped and dinged all the way over to the truck shop until he crossed the bridge close to the shop and as he pulled into the lot, the beeping and dinging stopped and the RV voltage meter read normal. He was ready to tear out what little hair he has until he parked the RV. At that point, as he put it into neutral, the voltage dipped once again. "AHA! Got you now, you little, er, big Phaeton!" That's what I imagined him saying...he left the engine running and ran into to get a tech to read the error message. If they don't see it, it doesn't exist unless they can get diagnostics to find the error. The tech confirmed, "Yes, you do have a problem." Four hours into having the RV in the shop, they couldn't find the problem!...it's still in the shop and it's 9:30 PM right now. We are staying in a motel so they can keep working on it this evening...sigh! But, let's look at the good side, I get to take a really hot bath instead of a shower! No interesting photos today. The yarn photos are what occupied my time at the Freightliner waiting room. Ever try to wind your own ball of yarn ladies and end up with a bigger mess than what you started with? That's the ball of yarn I had on my lap for about two hours. I worked on it at Freightliner, and I worked on it while getting my oil changed at Honda. That is a very good test of patience, in my opinion!
What else happened to test our patience?I lost my checkbook over the weekend. After checking carefully everywhere I could think of, I came to the conclusion that I dropped it somewhere...then I started to hit panic mode, throwing the entire contents of my purse out on the bed (which is a surprisingly amount of stuff!), going back and forth from the car to the RV, dumping storage containers, ransacking the car, and Eldy is looking at a crazy woman running back and forth and throwing things around. The only thing missing was a hissy fit! (I'm pretty quiet most of the time when I'm upset.) I finally had to tell Eldy I lost my checkbook. Now this is not news to Eldo, as I lose my keys, my camera, my purse, my debit card--one or all of these things at least once or twice a day and most of the time they are right under my nose, in a pocket, in the car, etc. But it WAS news that I really did lose it this time and I got THE LOOK--("Oh, CRAP! She really did lose it this time!" ) All he said was, "That doesn't surprise me"....He had the patience of Job as he drove me from one bank branch to another while I transferred my account to a new one, ordered new checks, then we ran errands again on top of all this bank business. Back and forth to Freightliner to check on the progress of the voltage problem (none) and back out on the streets again to do a little Christmas shopping. About the only good thing that happened Monday was a really wonderful surprise dinner of sorts with some friends Eldy has known for over 35 years. We thought we were having dinner with one or two couples, but all of Eldy's friends that regularly get together several times a year wanted to see him so much they all drove to a central location in Elkhart to see him and catch up on the news with  him and each other. There were 12 of us all together.....We ate at Heinie's Back Barn in Elkhart...wonderful steak dinners, wonderful company, wonderful time with friends.....we sure hope tomorrow brings some relief to this voltage problem so we can get going south...they are expecting some snow to stick here in the next day or so....yay! (says Jeannie very softly)
good friends of 35 years and more, wow!

Monday, November 29, 2010

On the Trail Again....

Well, if you are going to work out the Thanksgiving sludge, might as well do it on a bike. I get bored with walking on a smooth, straight path, so I'd rather ride my bike. There was some good football on today, so Eldy passed on the Pumpkinvine Trail. Besides, it was 42 degrees and that's too cold for him. Me, being a Chicago suburbs girl having grown up with lots of blizzards and lots of snow, cold doesn't bother me. I suppose it will one of these days, when I get too nervous about walking on icy sidewalks and streets and take a good fall. "Wait a minute," says Eldy. "You aren't going to have to worry about that 'cuz you'll be with me and we'll be where it's WARM in the winter!"  Yes, dear...but Eldy knows I might have to go find mountains somewhere so I can experience COLD and that white stuff....I'd really like to try snowshoeing! But first, PICKLEBALL! (see previous blog on that one)

Observation deck over marsh on trail

I suppose many people just hop on a bike out on a trail and think, "Man, it's really dreary now that all the leaves are gone, no color to be found...boring!" I used to be one of those people, but now I have so much more time to pay attention to everything around me. I just seem to notice a lot more, but some of that comes from wanting to take better photos and having fun with my camera. Yesterday I challenged myself to an "I Spy" type of observation.  I went looking for color....I saw green plants still growing, bright red berries on trees, large yellow berries on shrubs low to the ground, some kind of prickly vine that turns from a cherry red in late summer to a bright deep lavender in the fall, and some beautiful wheat colored ornamental grasses. Lots of people out on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail walking Sunday, I passed at least 20 or more. I also saw a "big boys' fort", that's what it looked like to me. It was the biggest tree stand/blind I've ever seen, and it just looked like what a grown up little boy would call the ultimate fort. Made me a little nervous to see it, but don't think it's been used for awhile for hunting as the walls were starting to fall down. I rode a total of 11 miles yesterday...Good workout but I'm sure the sludge is still there!

The "Fort"

ornamental grasses at Abshire Park in Goshen, IN
Tomorrow is another day, and that's probably a good thing...there was much more stress to today but it will have to wait for tomorrow's blog...time to wind down...see you later....

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Second Thanksgiving

Gary, (Eldy's brother), Eldy, and Eldy's son Brian
Boy, are we lucky! Two family dinners with two days of each other and both wonderfully delicious! The company was great...Almost all of Eldy's brothers and sisters were there, his brother's children and grandchildren were there, and we just had a great time. It's always fun to find out some silly family secrets about your better half, or to hear how Eldy used to be when his kids were growing up (much more strict). We wished we could have taken the motor home there for a little tour for everyone, but it was too big a hassle to unhook and then maneuver our way into a residential neighborhood. 'Course if Eldy could drive a motor home with car in tow down the packed streets of downtown Bar Harbor, Maine, in the middle of summer as he did this past summer, to bring the motor home to Milford, that would have been a piece of cake. Speaking of cake, er, cookies, here's a great recipe for spice cookies, the kind you DON'T have to roll out. It's from an old cookbook by Peg Bracken called The I Hate to Cook Cookbook. You know, I think I need that one! We had these cookies at my sister's. They were so good Eldy didn't get any. That means my sister and I ate 90% of them, and that's why I'm going out on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail on my bike today. More about that tomorrow.

Elevator Lady Spice Cookies
3/4 c. shortening, 1 c. sugar, 1 egg, 1/4 c. molasses, mix this stuff together first. Then add dry ingredients-- 2 c. flour, 2 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 t. salt, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 3/4 tsp. cloves, 3/4 tsp. ginger. Form walnut size balls on greased cookie sheet. Bake 375 degrees for 10-12 min.  I write recipes like I cook, very casually! You don't have to roll these out and use cookie cutters which really appeals to me this late in life! And you know, by the title, this is an OLD recipe...how long has it been since anybody has seen an elevator lady or guy?

Eldy's grandkids
On our way to Milford, yesterday, we stopped off in Shipshewanna to stock up on fabulous Amish cheese, zucchini bread from the Blue Gate Bakery, and pretzels from JoJo's. We'll freeze them, and when the longing hits for a pretzel or zucchini bread from our home state, we've got some! Shipshewanna was all decorated for the holidays, mini lights on every single tree everywhere, garlands and Christmas figures and sleighs in the yards, too bad there wasn't any snow to be seen! (Eldy says, "No snow, no snow!)

Hope everyone had a great holiday....not much happening today...errands, laundry....tomorrow we pack up the motor home and head to Freightliner in Elkhart to see if the voltage problem will show itself to the service guys...it's definitely much worse than it was so hopefully diagnostics will catch what's wrong. We may be done tomorrow and it's our last day in Goshen, or we may be here another couple of days waiting on a new alternator! I'm sure I can think of some shopping I'd like to do...hmm-m-m-m-m-m,,,there's a cool shopping nook in Goshen called the Old Bag Factory..it's full of interesting shops and I've never seen it. ("Uh-oh!" says Eldo)...See you tomorrow.....

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Auction Time!

We saw a couple of signs for auctions this morning at the Elkhart Fairgrounds, where we are staying. Of course I just HAD to go, having been a very active ebayer until we hit the road this past June. I had some great successes in the past picking up stuff at garage sales and turning around and selling on ebay. I also had a pole barn back in Fremont, IN full of things I thought I could sell on ebay that didn't, which made for moving out in June much more difficult! I had enough stuff to have TWO garage sales. At any rate, I went over to the auction barns this morning to check things out. Because we had to leave soon for our family dinner, I didn't register to bid, which was probably a good thing.

Eldy wants to follow the rule "if anything comes into the RV, something must go out" but we haven't been doing very well with that, especially since we weighed ourselves (the coach, that is) and we are underweight. Well, anybody knows that if you are underweight, you should put on a few pounds, right? I'm trying to make that happen with craft supplies, but Eldy's not buying it!

The auctions were interesting....one was a flea market type...a consignment auction..saw some beautiful Carnival glass waiting for bidding, some great assortments and tables of estate sale stuff, it just made my heart go pitty-pat. I used to go to those things a lot and really enjoyed them. When we settle down a bit in one place, I'm gonna get Eldo to be my navigator and we'll check some of those out. Watching the Antiques Roadshow on TV or The Pickers, you KNOW there's a fabulous buy out there somewhere, but you really have to know your "stuff" that you end up buying...I think I've found a new retirement hobby for Eldy. He's such a great researcher! ("Uh, wait a minute now......") Guess who that is?!

The other auction was a quilt auction..many beautiful Amish hand quilted unfinished quilt tops and completed quilts. There was not a big turnout, so some amazing bargains were to be had today. I saw some finished bed quilts go for under $250.00, a gorgeous topper for $45.00. Wow! Wish I had had more time to pick something out for our bedroom or living room for a future change. There is a particular style to RV decor, and for most people, the bedspreads are very limited in choice and color if you don't like the one that comes with the RV, or if you just want to personalize it and make it your own. We are lucky in that our house decor is a very pretty light sage, light teal blue and tan decor, so I really shouldn't be thinking about a quilt! There were many Amish that came to the quilt auction today, and it is always interesting to me to see the buggies lined up along with the cars. There is a very large Amish community in Middlebury and the surrounding area, it's the third largest in the United States. When I lived in Fremont, IN, a little farther away from Middlebury, they had hitching posts at the town bank for the Amish horse and buggies. In the dead of winter, the Amish in my area did not have covered buggies. I would be driving to school and see them in their horse drawn wagons with nothing to protect them from the elements but a black umbrella held in front to ward off the driving snow. Such hardy people! And we whine about the cold! Off to Shipshewanna this afternoon to get the BEST zucchini bread and Jojo's Pretzels to freeze and then to the family gathering in Milford, IN. We'll share some cute photos with you tomorrow....bye for now....

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Day After

After a wonderful Thanksgiving in Detroit, we headed back this morning to Goshen where our RV is. I squeaked in another appointment this afternoon in South Bend while Eldy held down the fort with the grandkids for a short while without me. It's amazing what a trio of three kids ten and under can do in a very short period of time to decorate the motor home. I had the foresight to leave a movie and a package of colorful pipe cleaners while I took off for South Bend. Everything went well while I was gone. When I got back, here's what greeted me when I walked in the door....great imagination, these kids have!
The boys love their electronic games!
They had a ball decorating just about every single cupboard knob in the living room! They made visors, monsters, all kinds of stuff. We introduced them to the game "Angry Birds" on the ipad and the boys and Cate had a great time learning the strategies. After Eldy had to watch the kids on  his own for a couple of hours, I decided to give him a break and take the boys to see "Megamind", a new animated movie out for kids. Cate wanted to stay with her Papa.  Of course we had to visit McDonald's first and play in the play area. They played and I watched. I'm glad they are old enough that I didn't have to go in the tunnels if one of them got afraid or stuck like little ones tend to do sometimes....Then we got to the movie, which was 3D. I thought that would really capture their attention. It certainly captured mine! (The grandsons are 5 and 6.) They were not at all interested in the movie as I thought they would be, it was maybe a little too sophisticated for them. One of the boys fell asleep, the other kept asking when we were going to go home, so we left a little early. Back to our RV, and then for them, home to bed. Eldy and I are pooped! Long drive back today and watching active kids and keeping them busy wears you out! But, we enjoyed having them very much. It's a little bit tougher to keep them in the RV than in a regular house, we will say that.....tomorrow we head to Milford, IN for the afternoon for Eldy's family's Thanksgiving dinner. I think I'm going to have to ride my bike a TON next week to make up for eating all the great stuff these past three days! Bye for now.......

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

We're in Pleasant Ridge, MI, a suburb of Detroit, about a block from the Detroit Zoo. My sister, Lyle and her husband started a tradition at Thanksgiving of having guests and/or family sign the tablecloth. People say whatever they want to say...it's so fun to read it! Some are the traditional thank you's, some are drawings and some reflect a child's perspective. Some of the comments from family and friends: "At least the power's on!" From my niece, age 12 in 2005, "I'm SO thankful for Johnny Depp!" on there more than one time,  "Thanks to the Robnetts for sharing their home and family Thanksgiving dinner with us,"  and Paige, age 7, "I am thankful for pancake's." We had a wonderful dinner, lots of laughter and my little cousin, Katie, 1 1/2 years old, ran circles around all of us...As usual, we ate too much all day long getting the dinner ready....got some new recipes to try from my sister.
youngest member of the family and her "Pa"
Earlier today, Eldy went with the guys in the family to see the Lions/Saints game in Detroit while my sister and I worked on dinner and the table....the fellas really enjoyed the game even though the Lions lost.

I forgot to bring  my family photos to put on the blog to show the family I am so thankful to have...we have a great family with lots of great wit to share. We had a great time playing Taboo...we laughed, we remembered, we ate, we drank, we toasted,  we wished some of our family could have been there, too...both my daughters live quite far away and they were not able to come in this year. My sister's second son was not able to come in...we missed them very much. It's really hard these days to get everyone together... We wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours. Tomorrow Eldy and I travel back to Goshen to get ready for his side of the family's holiday celebration on Saturday....see you later!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wild Wednesday

I left at 6:30 AM to get to Angola, IN in time for my early dentist appointment.. My front teeth are NOT ok from yesterday's hard hit on the slide, but nothing is loose, thank goodness. My mouth aches a little above the teeth. I'll just have to wait it out, says the dentist, for something funky to go wrong with the nerves...great....saw a GORGEOUS sunrise on the way. It's not the best photo, as I didn't hold the camera steady enough, but you can still see the fabulous colors....Took care of my appointments...Had a great lunch with a school friend...went to the storage shed to try and find our mini Christmas tree. Opened up the door, took one look at all the heavy boxes and non-descript black trash bags, one piled on top of another, and felt the cold, biting wind nipping at my back, and closed up the door again. We've got so much stuff in there, I had no idea where to begin looking for the tree. Do I ever think about what I am missing in the RV and wish I had retrieved it out of the shed? Sure, once in a great while...but a good percentage of it, we could probably give away and we'd never miss it! What do they say about if you haven't used it in a year get rid of it?  (Sh-h-h-h-h, don't tell Eldy! I'm not ready to give up all my craft stuff and some furniture I have an attachment to from my mom.....)

Eldy went thru the wringer, so to speak today. He had the tough job of driving all the way up to the General in Grand Rapids (a little two hours one way) with the darn low voltage beeper sounding an almost constant alarming chirp until he got well on the highway. Then it did the same thing when he pulled in to the General's lot. We are definitely heading to Freightliner in Elkhart, IN first thing Monday morning to get this thing worked out. The two times before they were not able to find the problem, the voltage read normal and nothing showed up in computer diagnostics. Personally, I think the RV knows when we are about to take it in and shapes up. So, Monday morning, I'm going to announce to Eldy, "So, honey, where do you want to head SOUTH (said loudly) today as we start our LONG (this said quite loudly) trip?" And then we will silently set our course for the Freightliner dealership. And if we're lucky, the low voltage display panel will start to party and show its true colors!

When Eldy got back from Grand Rapids, he had to set up all  by himself, no problem, but it's raining, it's bitter cold and it's just harder to do it by yourself. We each have our jobs that we do to set up and it's usually a quite efficient process. We're getting to be old pros at it. However, I'm still in Angola, so he gets settled in and decides to check the propane gauge, the main source of our heat now that the temperature has dropped. The gauge is flopping back and forth between 1/3 and 1/2. (RV gauge levels are notorious for not being very accurate) so Eldy decides that he better go get propane as it's going to dip into the teens Thanksgiving Day night. He's not sure he can trust the propane gauge. We need to be sure to have plenty for the next couple of really cold nights. Back up come the jacks, pull in the slides, and off he heads to the gas station to get propane. He makes it there ten minutes before they close. Whew! Tomorrow we head for Detroit for Thanksgiving Day very early in the morning. Have a very blessed Thanksgiving......I hope to post photos tomorrow of the things I am thankful for, but we might not have time to do the blog. If we don't see you tomorrow, we'll be back on Friday!  Bye for now.....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Trails to You!

We're doing the get caught up thing this week...go to the dentist (Eldo today)....go to the eye doctor and get the glasses fixed...(Eldo), run errands (Eldo), go grocery shopping (Eldo and Jeannie), do a little Christmas shopping (Eldo and Jeannie), get a haircut (Eldo looks G-O-O-D!)  Tomorrow, it's my turn...go to the dentist, go get a haircut, do a little Christmas shopping, have lunch with a school chum, get an oil change...etc. etc...We've got a full schedule...I'm sure most full timers when they head back to their former home base have a lot of catching up to do and appointments to take care of. Since we have not been away from our home state of Indiana for a long time yet, we've been kinda hanging around taking care of these things before heading out for points south, then west after Thanksgiving and Christmas....going to the dentist always makes me worry about what would happen if out on the road if I broke a filling, broke a tooth, a cap fell off, etc. I'm one of those people who would panic to have anybody else but their hometown dentist work on their teeth, but I guess I would just have to trust the opinion of a local resident wherever we were to get a tooth fixed. Eldy says some people, if they are in the south or close to the border, go to Mexico. Heck, I'd be worried about getting BACK from Mexico, I wouldn't even be worrying about my teeth at that point!

The high today in Goshen was about 41 degrees. It's supposed to get down to 22 tonight. Earlier today we unhooked the water, drained the hose, and put it away. Although our bays are heated, the water hose would freeze at the campground tap and down the line if we didn't disconnect it. So we are self-contained totally this evening for water and sewer to prevent frost/freeze damage. We ran our heat pump today instead of using propane fuel as the temperatures were above freezing and that really helped save on propane consumption. Those heat pumps are a nice feature on the Tiffin Phaeton. Tomorrow Eldy takes the motor home up to General in Grand Rapids to get the levelers checked out, to get a dining chair replaced, to get the right vac system equipment (hopefully!), and our stove burner fixed before returning back to Goshen. We won't be hooking our water back up until our freshwater tank gets low, and then we will only hook up to the campground water supply to fill the tank as it is going to be in the 20's at night the next few nights.

Despite the cold, I hopped on my bike today to check out the Pumpkinvine Trail in Goshen near the fairgrounds. I just wanted to see if anybody else was a polar bear today and out on the trail...They weren't. Just me and the chickadees...I biked for about five miles total and really enjoyed it! Not much to see but the muskrat lodges in the farmers' ponds and lots of squirrels with nuts in their mouths. I did not know that some of the countryside you pass thru on your bike on the trail passes through the third largest Amish community in the United States. If anyone is interested in learning more about the trail, you can click on this link, Pumpkinvine Trail.  I guess the cold kind of froze my thought processes after I got back because as I was walking around the coach to get into one of the bays, WHAM!!!! I hit my head so hard on the corner of the slide, I thought my front teeth were going to fall out. What is it about slides that you can't see them until you are brutally reminded that they are there and so many of us bang our heads on them on a regular basis? I guess the tan paint job on ours blends in with the side of the RV so well that it's not so easy to see it sticking out. I swear our slides stick out further on this one than they did on the old coach. I'm going to have to ask Santa for some swim noodles to put on the RV slide corners after I take some aspirin for my headache and go lie down. I hope I didn't loosen my front crowns! (I've had those since second grade when I fell on the ice teeth first, trying to learn to skate backwards. There's a visual for you! That's where my dentist trauma/fear comes from.)  Good thing I'm going to the dentist tomorrow so he can check them out. I may be singing that Christmas song, "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" after tomorrow (arrrrgggghhh--I really don't like that song!)....See you later.....
Self-portrait of a winter biker

Monday, November 22, 2010

Apples in South Bend!

Don't we look studious?
Not an apple orchard, but a new Apple Store at the University Park Mall...oh, boy! With rain in the forecast, and nothing special planned for today, we are headed to the Apple Store. We can't get into too much trouble, Eldy already has an ipad, and we have iphones...However..............(notice the big pause here) we DON'T have iphone 4's...BUT that's ok. Judging from a recent message we've gotten about somebody suing Apple due to iphones before the iphone 4 not working as well once you get software upgrades and updates, so they push you to the new iphone 4, I'm going to sit this technology upgrade out and wait till I'm due for a better phone about 9 months and a few days from now. No pregnancy jokes, please! No harm in looking, though, right? Yeah, right! We will get our computers updated for software, and do some free downloads in the store while we are there. I also wanted to try and get my 800+ songs off my ipod from my old computer onto my mac. Unfortunately, today they were not able to help me with that. Something about a one way transfer, that is not allowable for the staff to do...looks like I will have to buy some third party software to get my songs onto the mac. I downloaded two different tomes of directions (11-15 pages each) of how to do the transfer without having to buy the software, and apparently, my ipod doesn't correspond to the files and folders I'm supposed to see as shown in the directions. Stopped in my tracks! Techno geek, I am not! Oh, well...it was worth a try. Besides, Eldy wanted to check to see if the South Bend store is as friendly and knowledgeable and full of nice techy geeks as the Grand Rapids store is. (They were.) He also got a brand new iphone 3GS to replace the one he had where the volume kept going down to the point where you couldn't hear voices very well. Another reason we headed to the UP mall, we'll take the mile long  Christmas wish list (grandparents love choices!) for the grandkids and see just what's out there for two little boys this year and a maturing young granddaughter. It certainly is a different shopping experience looking for kids' gifts these days compared to when our kids were growing up!

The University Park Mall in South Bend was wonderful. It's been a couple of years since I've been there and they've updated and remodeled and grown. It was really beautiful and decorated for the holidays, of course. But the atmosphere was so much nicer than previously and it really got you in the shopping mood. ("Uh-oh!" says Eldy) They had this train with a real sounding locomotive whistle...kinda cute...this will set you back $3.00 a person to ride around the mall to rest your feet and give the little ones a thrill.

This is going to be a short blog today..we're under a tornado watch for Elkhart County. Time to get the NOAH weather radio out. The winds they are a blowin', the awning toppers are making a terrific racket, so it's hard to concentrate at the moment. We hope we don't have to worry about a safer place to go because the bathrooms are not open now. Not that bathrooms would be that much safer in a tornado...kinda reminds me of this summer when we were in Elkhart county driving away FAST from an oncoming tornado about a half hour behind us. Makes me wish we had asked when we checked in yesterday where a safer location would be if the bathrooms are not open. Eldy says, he'll ride it out...guess that means I will, too. Where he goes, I go!  I wouldn't have it any other way....See you tomorrow.....

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Best of Intentions

I've gotten to be a real lazybones in my retirement. I used to claim I only needed about 8 hours of sleep a night when I worked full time. Now, I need ten, at least that seems to be my pattern these days. Whats with that?  Maybe it's because I'm getting more physical exercise than I used to, I don't know. At any rate, Eldy gets up early every morning and I get up a couple hours later. He said he wanted to leave much earlier this morning as we were going to lose an hour driving east towards Elkhart, IN.  I put a little "note to self" in my mind before I went to sleep last night and most of the time I can sort of program myself to wake up earlier. I did, we packed up and left at 7:45 this morning. Things were going great until we got to the Goshen, IN (Elkhart County fairgrounds) and proceeded to choose a site. I didn't have to do my "carry the computer around in the car to find a good site" method (see previous blog a couple of days ago), it's 3G everywhere in the main part of town and at the fairgrounds. Several parts of the fairgrounds were closed off to camping, ok, no problem, we picked a site and backed in. Not to worry, we had plenty of daylight left to get hooked up, because we left about three hours earlier this morning than we normally do. Even with the time change, we still had plenty of time to get situated.

After we backed in, I noticed that we were butt up against the backs of two other units. Eldy had already put the jacks down.  I, being the thoughtful, considerate person I am, say to Eldy, "Honey, would it bother you if a big rig pulled up right behind our living room when there are lots of other spaces to choose from?" And Eldy, being the polite, considerate guy he is, says, "Yes, it probably would. (Big pause) So I guess that means you want me to move?" (I was the one that picked out the site in the first place, because I didn't want to be snotty and put our rig far away from everyone else as if we were too good to park in the same place as everyone else) I said, "Well, I really think we should." He says  nothing but sighs--which in Eldo speak means, "I wish the heck you would make up your mind!" He pulls up the leveling jacks, and we move across the way to a totally empty part of the lot with nary another coach in sight on this part of the lot. Clue #1.  We let the air bags down, then down come the levelers but they weren't coming down right and didn't look right. Eldy retracts the leveling jacks. I get down on the ground to put leveling pads down under the rear levelers. Down again come the jacks slowly, I'm peering underneath the coach to see if the plastic pads are right under the levelers , when POW! A loud pop about blows me off of my crouching stance. It scared me to death! "What the heck was that?!!!"  Something is definitely wrong with our leveling jacks. That's the second time we're heard a loud POP coming from them. They aren't coming down right and they aren't leveling right. But, we got them down...Eldy goes to hook up the electric and flips the switch--nothing, nada, zip. We try different switches, nothing. It's a dead pole, there's no electric to the site. That was clue #2--At this point, Eldy gets back in the RV, retracts the jacks AGAIN, and heads over to a third spot, back amongst the other RVers. He's feeling a little embarrassed, I'm explaining to anybody within earshot who happens to be out and about, that he's practicing his parking skills. No, just kidding....I did mention to a guy who happened to be outside his rig, that we were having electric problems and had to move again. In the third spot, we finally got settled just as darkness was setting in...good thing we had some extra time today...I hate to see Eldy get stressed out when darkness is falling, we can't see things as well when we are setting up. I should have brought him a beer.  (I did, after we got finished.)

We are in the city of Goshen...at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds....the rate is 26.50 a night for full hookup...it seems expensive after those corps of engineer parks...but this is the only place open all year round in this area this close to Eldy's family. Oh, yes, this is also the campground that has trains running night and day in their backyard because there is a main rail system between Elkhart and Chicago.  I'm going to have to find those earplugs! Photos today are left over from yesterday's Gun Creek Campground in Benton, IL, the Rend Lake Recreation Area. This was our site, and the heron was down at the water's edge just as the sun set....nothing planned for tomorrow, but we'll see what happens. Bye for now.....
Our site

Pheasant Hollow Winery

Bruce with a bottle of Gun Creek white
We finally made it back to the Pheasant Hollow Winery yesterday and they were open after all....Beautiful log cabin, nestled in the woods nearby Rend Lake...I guess it's one of the biggest wineries in southern Illinois. We had a great conversation with the manager, Bruce Morgenstern,  about grapes, wines, sizes of tanks carrying juice, and how many tons of grapes and blueberries he buys a year. Try 50 tons of blueberries a year....he's a small fish in a big pond as far as bigger wineries, but that sure sounded like a LOT of blueberries to me! He goes to the Pickin' Patch, in Plymouth, IN to get his blueberries. That's just down highway 31 in Indiana from South Bend, my old hometown where I raised my kids. The Plymouth Blueberry Festival is a huge event there every year Labor Day weekend. What was most interesting to me was, Pheasant Hollow doesn't grow their own grapes, they buy them from everybody else and make their wine in the basement! Sounds like a budget operation, but no, the basement is really big and there are two buildings devoted to making wine. He said the land is too valuable to put grapevines on it...I could see why with all the mini oil rigs pumping oil out of the ground in the county there....you could see oil drill rigs in southern Illinois in the darnest places, in the middle of a farmer's field, by the side of the road, etc. They were all over the place. There could have been an oil rig on the winery property for all I know!

I tried to ride my bike yesterday, I really did! ...I went to Rend Lake College, and on the way into the college grounds, there were hunter's trucks everywhere at the sides of the road.  Once I got to the parking lot, a couple of college kids warned me that the trail goes into the woods and they recommended NOT going on the trail. Ri-i-i-i-g-h-t! Then I tried Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park . The trails were closed because they were having a handicapped hunters' controlled hunt on the premises. Rats! Back to the campground I went. I did find a section of the Rend Lake Trail I could ride that was out in the open until I reached this sign entering the woods:

Back to the campground I went. I finally got the message!...Riding on the way back to our campsite, I saw a lady driving down the road. She opened the car door and out comes a big husky type of dog a runnin'. The dog proceeded to chase the car down the road a bit, the lady would open the car door again, and back in the car bounded the dog. I thought she was corralling a lost dog or keeping the dog from coming after me, but nope! She was exercising the dog. I watched her open the car door again and out came the dog who chased the car very willingly quite a ways down the road again, then back into the car again, hangin' out the window and panting like crazy trying to catch his breath.  I really thought it was sad that she didn't get out and run/walk with the dog herself, but being the big dog that he was, he would have probably would have been running her instead of the other way around as fast as he wanted to go. Her loss, the dog's gain....and I patted myself on the back because I was out on my bike doing my best to try and stay in somewhat good shape in order to pig out on Thanksgiving Day!  Photos below are of our campground at Gun Creek Recreational Area. By the way, that 8.00 a night was just for electric. They did have other sites with water, electric and sewer, but they weren't open this time...See you tomorrow.....
typical site at Gun Creek
sunset at Gun Creek Campground

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Everybody Has a Story to Tell

On the way here, we stopped at a Flying J to get fuel. I saw this vehicle out in the parking lot. It caught my curiosity. What kind of boat is a "Magic Boat"? What does this person do for a living? There was an interesting message on the side. I'll let you read that and decide what it means to you. I decided to check the web address out online. There isn't much to the website to give you much information: The Magic Boat  Apparently, the fellow that owns this boat is a singer. I just love that, that here is someone following their dreams, traveling around in this delightful vehicle. I wondered if this is his only way of making a living? Here is the message that was on the side of the vehicle...........

Here's another story you don't see very often, at least we haven't, in campgrounds we've stayed at...But I'm sure many people have seen this sight. I didn't see the guys to ask them their story--how long did they have to wait till to get these deer? Does they always go to the same hunting grounds every year? The Gun Lake Campground where we are staying at Rend Lake is full of hunters and I guess they are hunting all around Rend Lake. Campers here only have ten more days and the campground closes for the season.

Today we stopped off at the Visitor's Center in Rend Lake, which is officially called the Southern Illinois Art & Artisan Center. It was an unusual welcome center. It is a gallery for Illinois artists, run by the Illinois State Museum. Over 850 artists' is on display and for sale. Metals, wearables, jewelry, paintings, ceramics, textiles and more were displayed. I was not allowed to take photos, but the gallery was beautiful. On the way back, we stopped off at the Pheasant Hollow Winery which was supposed to open at 10:00 AM. It was closed! Bummer! We'll head back there later today....time to go for a bike ride at Rend Lake College..that's the only safe place to ride this weekend, they told me.

Blogging is sometimes hard work to think of interesting things to say, clever titles to catch one's eye, but it's also great fun to keep a traveling diary. Some day, grandkids will read about these things and marvel at what we did...our families today appreciate it that we take the time to write and photograph about what we are seeing and doing, and strangers get to participate in a very real way if they aren't able to travel themselves at this time. Others want to just know out of curiosity what you're up to! It's great to see so many blogs out there. There are so many interesting travels, places and people to read about. It's a great way to document your life, a way to digitally scrapbook in a story telling form. We'll keep writing even when things slow down. The ordinary things are important to document and save as well, I think. How we travel, what we eat, the company we keep....we want to remember this very special time in our lives. It's been pretty exciting and amazing, and we've been very fortunate to be able to do this. Hope you will continue to enjoy reading as much as we enjoy writing, and......... see you tomorrow.....

Friday, November 19, 2010

We're NOT "Roughin' It Smoothly"!

We left at 9:45 this morning, planning on driving about 6 hours today...we were about an hour into the trip, and we hit slow traffic on I-55. DING!  DING! the low voltage warning light came on, it's a pleasant little chime, but one we hate to hear. DING! DING! DING! After a couple more pleasant chimes, you really start to get nervous! After two trips into the Freightliner center in South Dakota, they tinkered with it, put computers on it, and they couldn't find anything wrong or duplicate the problem. We thought with their tinkering whatever loose wire or terminal was acting up was fixed, but the problem is here again. If the voltage gets low enough, below 12 volts, we're in big trouble...Someone has said the entire engine and coach will literally shut down and stop you dead in your tracks. We started planning on finding the nearest Freightliner truck center. We made a couple of phone calls on the way today, and talked to service techs a couple of times. Basically, we have to wait until the problem is more severe, even though the coach is under warranty, since they didn't find a darn thing wrong with it in South Dakota, it's our money out the window if we can't get the problem to occur when we bring it in. We pulled into the Freightliner service center in Mount Vernon, Illinois today, not far from our destination of Rend Lake, and they were swamped and couldn't get to us. Wouldn't you know, the voltage problem went away, and the batteries appear to be charging normally once again!  arrrrrggghhhh!

So, here we are, at Rend Lake in south central Illinois....we got in around 5:00, to the corps of engineer Gun Lake campground. ($8.00 a night, folks!) I go to the car to turn it on and put it in gear, and the car is D.O.A. Dead battery! Double arrrrgggggghhhhh! We have no idea why the Honda is going dead after about six hours of towing, we didn't use to have this problem...We'll have to do some investigating and researching on this..Our little charger that we carry in the car for just such emergencies, was still in the car and hadn't been charged from the last emergency. We had this same problem in Branson, when  the car went dead. At that point, we both said, "We need to charge up this little red charger just in case this ever happens again." Did we do that? No-o-o-o-o, of course not!....so here we are, it's getting darker by the second, we're in the parking lot of the campground entrance, no one in sight, no charger available, and Eldy is trying to figure out how to hook up the jumper cables to the batteries in the RV. Luckily, there was a lady at the entrance booth a little ways away who was a sweetheart and I''ll tell you why. I hustled over there to let her know we might be boondocking in the parking lot. She said to take her truck over to the parking lot and we could use it for a jump. Bless her heart! We did, the Honda started up immediately, and we made it to our site just as darkness fell. While pulling into our site, we saw 7 deer right on the ground around and beside our site. It's hunting season, and the deer are being pushed into this campground...We found out one disappointment this evening, the great bike trail they have here is closed for the weekend because of hunters in the area....Well, we just might have to visit three wineries in the area tomorrow so I can get over it. Good internet connection for the Verizon air card, not too bad AT & T service for the cell phones, and just so-so TV channels...we can get a couple of regular TV channels, lots of religious channels, but no NBC, so no Notre Dame football game Saturday night...drat! says Eldo. (I plead the 5th)...When technology is available, we love it! You should have seen us pick our site at the South Abutment campground in Mississippi.

Here's how dependent on technology we are...when we pulled in, we disconnected the car from the RV. I took Eldy's Mac, put it on the front passenger seat, then drove around the campground watching the air card signal fluctuate. When I got a really good signal down by the lake, I drove back and said, "I found the perfect spot!" Well, I did...it was beautiful! We certainly don't do that very often, just thought it was a funny commentary on the modern ways of camping and using technology with the RV these days. After all, we are living in our RV full time, so we have to be connected....some of the time, uh, OK, much of the time... See you tomorrow!
the perfect spot at Lake Arkabutla

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mystery Solved!

It's a rainy, dreary day today so this morning we headed over to another small town to try and find some craft supplies for some of my projects. We couldn't find what I needed yesterday in the town of Senatobia, so we headed north. The town we found is called Hernando (named after the explorer Hernando DeSoto). Hernando is a great town from the looks of it...modern, up to date, cute shops and stores and a Super WalMart. There was a DeSoto Museum but we didn't check it out this visit. I found the supplies I needed and we took scenic route 304 back to Arkabutla Lake. On the way back, we saw a couple of signs about the out of control plants. So that monstrous vine/bush that is overtaking the south IS Kudzu.....I feel badly for this part of the state...it really makes the environment down here look depressing, sort of like swamp monster movies where you see all the heavy heavy vegetation just hanging everywhere. It just looks like they gave up trying to eradicate it.....Of course the gray, foggy, misty dreariness of the day certainly added to the depressing look of the area. But when you are out driving around, and that's all you see, this vine overtaking trees and smothering everything in its path, that truly is a depressing sight.

I am really getting a big chuckle today out of how Eldy is spending his time today...he is researching disc golf---the discs, where to buy them, and where the courses are. He also started telling me stuff I didn't know like there are different kind of trapping baskets for the discs. ...This is a guy who said he doubted he would go back to play again after his first time out...but that's because he didn't know how to throw the disc! Now he is REALLY enjoying it and has figured out the throw...that's a wonderful thing. He's even got me thinking about what kind of discs I  have. (I have five drivers and one putter)  Are they "understable", "overstable"?  Geesh, I don't have any idea! He's studying disc golf players throwing styles and grips online...I'm in trouble!  When he starts researching something, LOOK OUT! I won't have any kind of edge on him after this. But I didn't have much of an edge in the first place, seeing that he has already whipped my butt at my own game! Uh, beginner's luck, maybe?  After Christmas, we are heading to Galveston, Texas. Eldy informed me that there are 234 disc golf courses in Texas. YEE-haw! But then he told me there are ZERO disc golf courses in Galveston, at least none that showed up on his website he was checking out...drat!  But it's great to know that wherever we travel, we're sure to be able to enjoy a round if we decide to find one...I never knew there were so many!

Tomorrow we head for southern Illinois to a great recreation area and another Corps of Engineer park at Rend Lake. The campground pickin's are getting very slim. We'll be in Rend Lake for the weekend. On Sunday, we head for our "base" camp at the Elkhart Fairgrounds in Goshen, IN for all next week. We're going to take care of dentist and doctor appointments and spend time with some of our family. It's the only campground open in the area all year round. Temperatures are only going to be in the high thirties, low forties! Br-r-r-r-r-r!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Beautiful Day at the Disc Golf Park

I should be so lucky...two disc golf courses in two different locations in two different states almost back to back...this one is at the Arkabutla Dam park area. The course is called the Lost Indian Spring Disc Golf course...the wind picked up a little this afternoon, but we still decided to go..Here you see Eldy warming up, he did all kinds of crazy warm up stretches and had me laughing so hard I could hardly hold the camera straight. I was laughing because it wouldn't have taken much for him to pull something while horsing around! He was doing all kinds of contortions! Eldy is starting to enjoy it more and more now that he has picked up how to throw the driver disc and boy, can he putt!  It's disgusting how fast he picked up the game and how fast he learned to beat me. This is his first year playing, my fifth. He must be a natural athlete. Sigh! It took me  lo-o-n-n-n-g time to learn to throw with some distance. He's doing so well he beat me by four strokes on the 18 hole course today! Gr-r-r-r-r.....

This was an interesting course but a whole lot easier than the championship one we played in Russellville, AR. The throws today were all straight on to the basket, BUT sometimes you were to wing it thru two trees narrowly spaced apart. On one hole, there was a cautionary sign about water moccasin snakes and other water snakes that could be in the grass in case your disc just happened to land by the water...whew! it didn't...Eldy said if he saw a snake, he would boogie out of there so fast, he'd leave me in the dust! I think he said something like, "Don't expect me to wait around while you throw your disc if I see a snake!" Eldy is a manly man, but snakes are one thing and about the only thing that I know that freaks him out! I sorta half way wanted to see a snake so I could take a photo of one and a photo of Eldy running as fast as he could outta there! Makes for an interesting course to have something else to think about besides throwing the disc. It's bad enough when you have to worry about throwing a slice or a hook into nearby briars or kudzu, but SNAKES! Gives a whole new meaning to "snake in the grass" for me....Yikes!

Another cool hole was on number 5, where it said the largest population of deer in the county was found just across the pond at the side of the woods by the hole. That would have been cool to see some had we been playing late in the day, but it was too early for them. We saw a lot of kudzu, that invasive plant that was so kindly identified for us by a couple of followers. I thought it would be bad to lose your disc in that stuff. You might not be able to find your way out! We had lots of fun today and it was great to see Eldy enjoying this sport so much more now, mainly because he likes to beat me at my own game.We both get fresh air and exercise, and Eldy can't use a golf cart on this golf course, heh, heh, heh! And he he has to walk 18 holes, heh, heh, heh! (You'll never catch him walking a regular golf course, of course that's YARDS of walking, not feet, but I'm working on him, heh, heh, heh! One more day here at this beautiful park, with nobody here but a couple other campers in far corners of the park....more and more parks are closing at we start to think about moving east towards Indiana. We'll be heading out Friday for Illinois....here is a pretty closing shot of the sunrise this morning at Lake Arkabutla.
Lake Arkabutla, Mississippi

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Arkabutla, Mississippi

South Abutment Campground typical site
Arka who? We are at the Arkabutla Dam area, in one of three corps of engineer campgrounds here. It only took us 30 min. to get here from Tunica, Mississippi. We are staying at the South Abutment Campground, $9.00 a night with Eldy's senior pass. It would normally be $18.00 a night if you didn't have the pass. It's been recently renovated from old 20 amp electric to 50 in the last two years and everything about the sites at the campground looks really new--the picnic tables, the little white grilling tables, the cement or asphalt pads. The sites down by Arkabutla Lake are wide, roomy, beautiful, and they have grills with small white grilling tables right next to the picnic table. As a matter of fact, all the campground sites have these little white grill tables next to the BBQ grills. Isn't that a nice touch?! If you didn't want to be down at the lake where there are few trees, there are wonderful sites in the pine forest area. We are by ourselves at this end of the campground, overlooking the lake. It's a gray and dreary day so photos will have to wait till tomorrow when it's supposed to get sunny. Are you ready for this? There's a disc golf course here! Whoopee! That's on the agenda in a day or two after  the grounds dry out from today's steady rain.....There are some trails for walking here, and it's a nice area to ride around the grounds by bike...
These vines are covering up trees!
While driving here, we noticed an overabundance of a creeping style vine/bush type of plant. It's climbing everything and appears to be covering everything in its path...it looks very invasive and is an ugly brown in most places. I'm thinking the common name might be "creeping Charlie", (or is there such a thing as creeping Jenny?) I need to be politically correct here--but at any rate, not sure what the real name of the plant is...it's all over the place in Mississippi--climbing up telephone poles, trees, and fences and it is a VERY dense heavy cover.  Does anybody know the name of the plant? I'm very curious as to what it is....some of it is still very green but most of it looks ashy brown right now.

While we are on the subject of flora and fauna, here's a photo of a tree back in Tunica with interesting bark and berries. The leaves kind of look like elm leaves. Don't know the name of this tree, I'll have to get a tree I.D. book and start learning about that! Guess I should have been a geologist or an arborist--a tree specialist in my "other" career, as much as these things interest me now.....I never did that "find a million leaves and identify them" for a science class assignment when I was in grade school, so see what I missed out? I'll bet any 5th grader is smarter than me on this one! I doubt this tree on the left is in Indiana, but I could be wrong....well, see you tomorrow...it's going to be a great day, sunny and in the 60's...or so they say......

Monday, November 15, 2010

Impressions of Tunica

We are leaving Tunica tomorrow, for Lake Arkabutla, Mississippi, where another corps park is...We've enjoyed our stay in Tunica at the Hollywood Casino RV park. The Hollywood Casino itself is full of interesting movie memorabilia, including a sinking of the Titanic reproduction with the water, iceberg and all! There's a "Jaws" shark hanging over one of the bars,  and that cool car, the Cobra 45 Elvis Presley drove is displayed along with the DeLorean from the movie "Back to the Future", and the Batmobile. They even have a portion of the casino decorated with a movie set from Jurassic Park, with a real lagoon! It's pretty amazing what's inside these casinos besides the machines! If you stay at the Hollywood RV park, you can use the hotel facilities---the pool, the hot tub, the fitness room. We visited several casinos on a walk thru basically, and there certainly is lots to see and lots of food choices, some rather expensive, as you might expect. We ate at a beautiful restaurant called "37" in Harrah's, which offered a dinner special of great bread, a fabulous salad of greens w/ sugared walnuts and feta cheese, filet mignon with potato/vegetable garnish, a glass of wine, and creme brulee (my favorite) for dessert for $37.00 each. The meal was EXCELLENT! And so was the dessert, by the way....YUM!

We were really surprised at how spread out the casinos are, some are quite a drive from each other except for a pair here and there...Sam's Town Casino and the Hollywood Casino are right across the street from each other. You can take a shuttle from Harrah's to the other casinos if you want to. We tried the buffets a couple of times, they were all right, nothing outstanding.  Of course, a lot of fried food was on the menu! Never having seen the Mississippi Delta area, we were also surprised at how flat the land is, how much farm land there is, and the lack of buildings and structures in this part of the county along the Mississippi River. There are leavees everywhere with an average height of 40 feet...Of course, floods are not uncommon, so naturally there isn't going to be much development along the riverbanks.....duh, Jeannie!  But you can drive for miles and not see any houses or residences, that was different!

We didn't experience the three golf courses in the area, nor the blues music side of Mississippi...we were only in Tunica while here...we'll have to explore the Blues Trail next time---where "the music meets the soul" in the Mississippi Delta on Highway 61, America's Blues Highway. There are over 100 historical markers across the state. There are performance sites, gravesites, and birthplaces of some of the world's greatest musicians. We'd love to see that...we'd love to visit the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center, and the Ground Zero Blues Club next time, a day trip away. So much to see, but it will have to be next time.......

So we're going to leave you today with a road trip song playlist that's perfect for this part of Mississippi, courtesy of the Tunica Visitor's Guide, since music is such a big part of the Mississippi Delta.....here it is: On the Road Again-Willie Nelson, The Race is On--George Jones, The Gambler--Kenny Rodgers, Good Luck Charm--Elvis Presley, Green Onions-Booker T and the MG's,  Crusin'-Smokey Robinson, Freeway of Love--Aretha Franklin, Low Rider--War, Fantastic Voyage--Lakeside, Life is a Highway--Rascal Flatts, Tumbling Dice--the Rolling Stones, Ramblin' Man--The Allman Brothers Band, Roadhouse Blues--The Doors, Back of a Car--Big Star,  Born to Run--Bruce Springsteen, Slow Ride--Foghat, The Passenger--Iggy Pop, Behind the Wheel--Depeche Mode,  Roam--the B-52's, and Every Day is a Winding Road--Sheryl Crow.....  See you tomorrow at Lake Arkabutla, MS.....
the main floor in Hollywood Casino