Thursday, September 29, 2011

Buckeye Beauty Contest-Nick's Rally

the eventual winner!
My, oh my! We didn't know we had such talented "ladies" among our midst! Every year that we have attended Nick's Gypsy Journal Rally, Eldy heads the other way when he sees Nick coming a couple of days before the beauty contest. Nick always makes the announcement the first day of the rally that he's looking for men in touch with their feminine side for the contest, and if he doesn't get his recruitment quota as the contest approaches, he comes looking for guys to agree to be in it. What do the guys get out of it? A whole lotta fun and a chance to help a charitable cause. This contest was called the "Buckeye Beauty" contest. When we were in Arizona, it was the "Cactus Queen" contest. In Elkhart, IN last year, it was the "Hoosier Honey" contest. It's a riot!

The men get dressed up in the craziest, goofiest, most daring womanly outfits, embarrass the heck out of themselves, and the hilarity that ensues guarantees that somebody is probably going to pee their pants from laughing so hard as the event unfolds. Nick makes up really crazy stories to go with each "persona" that is invented, and reads the contestant's "background" while each one sashays down the aisle on the arm of an almost equally embarrassed escort. They wiggle (or waddle, as the case may be). Eldy was an escort last year, and I never have seen his face as red as a ripe tomato before! The "ladies" ham it up, usually one ends up kissing Nick with bright red lipstick on his bald head, fanning their own body parts or something similar, and the raunchy humor and jokes that follow Nick's interviewing each "contestant" guarantee that SOMEBODY in the audience is going to be offended. BUT--you can't say you weren't warned. Nick says ahead of time, "If you are a person who's easily offended, you probably ought to leave now," but nobody ever does until it's too late!

We had a great time last night, and there is one more night of door prizes....and the Washtub Two are going to play again Thursday night. They did a great job Tuesday night of entertaining the crowd, and even had Miss Terry and two other gals hamming it up on kazoos! (Sparky is still holding out for the Sea Eagle kayak, wish her luck! She needs all the luck she can get!) Tomorrow is clean up day at the rally, and Eldy and I will think about what other things can we not do without as far as RV supplies--he's got his eye on the "waterless" wash and wax system designed by a plane engineer and Boeing aircraft approved. Anybody have that or used that? So far we've purchased a couple of handy dandy gadgets for keeping your hoses under control, gotten our insurance updated and reviewed by an excellent couple that sells RVer insurance, and learned some driving tips and tips about systems in our RV. We've got a couple of seminars this afternoon and will report back tomorrow. In the afternoon, we'll be heading for Elkhart, IN our next destination, family here we come!...Bye for now!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Driver's ED 102- Rally Day 3

Got all those numbers straight? I don't! It reminds me of my old college schedules when signing up for classes. But it's the second driving class for Sparky. (One wasn't enough, E. explains.) And again, Dennis Hill, of the RV Driving School, was the instructor. This class was SPECIFICALLY for women. Dennis had a LOT to say about THAT. (I'll bet he did! laughs Eldo.) Not what you think, honey. Dennis has a lot of respect for women drivers. He says women can back up better than men. Hm-m-m-m, aren't you guys just dying to know why? No? Well, I'll tell you any way! BECAUSE WOMEN FOLLOW DIRECTIONS FROM THE DIRECTION GIVER WHO'S PARKING THEM BETTER THAN MEN!  And that's coming straight from the horse's mouth!
horse in training at Mercer County Fairgrounds, home of Nick's rally
If the woman is parking her man, she's telling the guy what direction to turn, and after a bit, he'll decide, no, that's not right and do something different than what he's told. When a more inexperienced driver (usually the woman) gets behind the wheel, she's going to do exactly what she's told because she's afraid she's going to mess up!

So-o-o-o-o, here's what Sparky learned today...a lot of repeats from yesterday's general driver's ed. class, but here are some more tips for the gals:

1. Practice in a BIG empty lot...get some cheap cones with vented holes (more like little orange domes) from the Dollar Store or Dollar General. Get boxes from Walmart or another store. Put them in rectangle configurations, in curves and practice for a couple of hours with the hubby OUTSIDE the rig and OUT OF THE WAY! Or in the way, if you are mad at him!  Practice backing up, turning corners, etc.

2. SL-O-O-O-W is the name of the game....the slower the better, the more you are in control on turns, on backing up, etc. Keep your foot on the brake. Slow is the speed of a "tired, old person walking". Dennis said "tired baby crawl", but I don't know any babies who crawl that slow even when they are tired! He demonstrated by walking very very slowly around the room.

3. Mirrors are set right if the other non-driver walks along both sides of the rig with arms held out to the sides. The driver should be able to see the person the entire length of the coach as they walk towards the back, first on the driver's side, then on the passenger side. The driver shouldn't have to crane his neck to see the outside person at all. You've really got to learn to trust your mirrors! You can't do that unless they are set right.

4. Backing up straight---Pick an object far far away that you see in the driver mirror--like a telephone pole or a mountain top. Try to keep the distance from the rear and alongside the RV to the object in the mirror the same while backing up. (Hunh?) In other words, you are watching this object in the mirror, and trying to keep the driver's side and rear in line with the object as you are backing up. Dennis says that you won't be able to just steer straight, you'll have to turn the wheel a bit and turn back, it's not possible to just keep the wheel straight and back up.

5. Always know where your tail end is....If you hit something, you weren't looking for it.

6. The person giving directions should be telling the driver the directions for where the tail end is to go, NOT how to turn the steering wheel. (We got that right, says E. proudly. Sparky does a good job of parking me.) Well, I guess he forgot about that curved pull through we tried to get into and had to leave after all the neighbors started watching.  Speaking of watching...ever notice how people in 5th wheels get out their lawn chairs and sit down to watch others come in and park? And the people in motorhomes peek out their windows thru the shades to watch others park their rigs? Or they might even get out binoculars to watch? (Eldo is humming and looking around to see who that might be....)

7. Most accidents happen in campgrounds and gas stations! BE aware!

8. Both of you should walk the site before parking the rig. Two sets of eyes better than one to spot possible branches, and other obstacles high and/or low.

OK, end of lesson! Good job of paying attention, everyone! If you read all the way to the end of the blog today, you get an A! And Eldy gets an A+ just because he's my main driver. (You mean the ONLY driver! he clarifies.) Yup! For now.....Dennis's RV Driving School offers lessons that are about 400.00 for two, four hour lessons. You learn all kinds of stuff. And if 400.00 is not in your budget, then there are mini lessons for half that offered at various locations around the country, the mini courses are just at rallies. I'm saving up for that, too, besides a kayak....Tonight is the Buckeye Beauty Contest--five guys dress up as women and we vote for the best beauty. Always a hilarious time! See you later!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Driver's Ed 101-Rally Day 2

Sparky attended a GREAT seminar today at the Gypsy Journal Rally here in Celina, OH where we are for the week...Dennis Hill, of the RV driving school gave a seminar on driving tips. I learned a LOT, even though I have only driven our Tiffin once, for 55 miles...I have a LITTLE more confidence now, so I might try again! And I have a LOT of tips to share with Eldy...(Oh, crap! I knew I shouldn't have had Sparky go to that one! A front seat driver passenger, that's all I need! laments E.) Actually, he had taken Dennis's seminar last year, but forgotten a lot of stuff, so it will be good to refresh his memory. (Sigh!) And, Sparky took COPIOUS notes...In teacher speak, that means a LOT! There are some advantages to being with a school teacher, you know, Eldo....(Yes, don't I know!...sighs E Can we talk about the DISADVANTAGES? ) Another topic for another blog, dear. Now, if I can just make sense out of my chicken scratch notes....It's been a long time since I've had to take notes myself!

All right, listen up, guys and gals. There will be a pop quiz at the end of the blog! Don't say I didn't warn you! The tips are for more inexperienced drivers, but I'll bet there's something in here somebody might not have thought of or practiced. Here's what you need to know, the highlights recapped, in the five minute version:

1. Know your vehicle, length, width, and height down to the exact inch, including antennas and air conditioners. Physically measure it while your MH is aired up (Motorhome talk for air bags inflated). Put it on a 3X5 card and you'll have it when you come to a bridge or tunnel with how many inches to spare?

2. How to set your large mirrors--driver and passenger--You should NOT see sky but just barely the horizon line and below..The mirror sides should be reflecting a thin slice of the sides of the motorhome, then kick it out just a little more. The bottom convex mirror should be set as low as possible so you can see the length of the motorhome. Look at the small mirrors FIRST while driving--they show the traffic on each side of you. Top mirrors show what's coming up behind you. You should be resetting your mirrors to reflect your environment. If you are in a part of the country with a lot of trees, mirrors should be set higher and out more. Traveling out west? Small mirrors should be set inward and down more to see rocks and boulders.

3. Expect every green light to turn RED. Good drivers start the braking process LONG before they ever get to the light. (Hm-m-m-m, Eldo, are you paying attention?)  It's OK to coast, you are in a RECREATIONAL vehicle--TAKE YOUR TIME! Dennis stressed this over and over, that the driver needs to relax and SLOW down...don't let traffic stress get you!  You ARE the traffic jam, everybody will just have to work around you, let the traffic flow away from you.

4. Make lane changes and moves SLO-O-O-W-L-Y....don't think you have to move to the next lane over just because merging traffic is coming on. Even if it looks like you're going to have to brake, anticipate and slow down to let them on. The less lane changes you have to make, the better. For that crazy driver that's texting, eating, and has no clue that the BEAST is right next to them, lean on those Hadley air horns! I LOVE the sound of those! Scare the bejeezus out of 'em!

5. Hand signals--Dennis says women make better back up drivers, but if you have good communication and hand signals, it doesn't matter who does the backing up. Keep the signals simple, open palms and BIG. Communicate before hand what your signals are going to be. Walkie talkies are fine, but that involves picking them up, putting them down, waiting for the other person to talk back. In our case, we have our hand signals down pat. (We-e-e-e-l-l-l-l.....yes and no....) I know just what he means--sometimes I want him to turn the wheels just a teensy bit, and he REALLY turns them, a LOT. So I give him the pinched little fingers signal, and he goes, "WHAT THE HECK DOES THAT MEAN?" and over corrects the other way!

6. Tail swing out---for us, we measure the number of feet from the center of the hub on the rear wheel to the tail end and divide by 3. That's how much swing out there is in feet--a lot less than what you'd think!  Now, on a turn, let's say a right turn, if you think you aren't going to clear the curb with the tow, that's the time to turn the MH even harder to the right. The tow vehicle (car) is going to turn a foot to the LEFT before it starts tracking behind the motorhome, so that will help the car clear the obstacle. Any questions? Ask Dennis! I'm just the messenger! I'm still not clear on that one, the tail swing out formula. Dennis says to practice in a BIG empty parking lot on these kind of things. He suggested having the non-driver stand outside the coach while the driver makes a turn, but I suggest orange cones! Duh!

7. Adverse driving conditions--nobody should be driving in SNOW, FOG, HEAVY RAIN, HIGH WINDS OR BLACK ICE. That's it! 'Nuff said. If you're out in that stuff, use your flashers. Dennis also said when it says "Truckers use low gear" YOU should be following those yellow sign instructions to truckers as well.

8. Play the "What If?" game--what if my brakes don't do the job going down this hill? What if a deer runs out across the road? (HIT it!) Natural driver instinct is to swerve left of the object--right into the opposite traffic lane on a two lane road. Much safer to hit it....

OK, that's it for today, folks...I was just kidding about the pop quiz.....but I was tempted! Hope you learned something today....I sure did! (Are ya gonna drive next trip? E. wants to know....) Well, I really think I need RV Driving School lessons, honey! (To the tune of about 400.00 for two four-hour sessions). Yikes! But well worth it. After I save up for my kayak, I'll save up for the driving lessons, OK? (Guess I'll be the main driver for awhile longer...sigh! And doesn't she have her priorities in the right place???) Maybe I'll win that kayak, they haven't given that one out yet. Tonight we won two tickets to the RV Museum in Elkhart, IN...the place we just went to a few days before the rally! We'll be looking for people who would like to go to it when we get to the Elkhart Campground next month and we'll give them the tickets.  Eldy wants to know if I've finished the blog yet...I'm wired on too much Coke drunk today. (It's gonna be a LO-O-O-N-G night, Sparky can't sleep when she drinks Coke, her beverage of choice, after 2:00 E. explains.)

Sorry for the lack of photos, Sparky was busy at seminars today...besides, it was a crappy day. More rain, and it's supposed to rain tomorrow--60% chance. Glad we are in seminars, learning new stuff and seeing what stuff we need for the motorhome at the vendors. More about that tomorrow!

I love rainy days...just hope we don't get stuck when we pull out of here, we're sitting on soft grass that is getting deeper and plusher each day it rains....glad the fairgrounds has a tractor available! See you tomorrow at some more sessions.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sparky is a WINNER!!!!

(She sure is, that's why I picked her!) Awwww, isn't he a sweetie? That's why I picked him! We had the opening ceremonies earlier today with Nick Russell, the joke meister, opening the rally. Vendors were introduced earlier this afternoon, and there's a great lineup of classes to check out. There are classes from Electrical Management Systems, to Managing Digital Photos with Picassa, What Insurance Do I Need as an RVer, to Ten Things You Should Never Do With Your Computer. There's line dancing, craft sessions, and Blogger classes. There are LOTS of choices to pick from, so Eldy and I are going to spread ourselves out and attend lots of different things!
Good attendance for prizes but some didn't show! Their loss, our gain...
This evening, Nick did the door prizes at 7:00 PM. There were a TON of prizes, so many, that every couple won something!  If you are not there, you do not win....There is one ticket per couple, and because there are so many prizes this year, everyone who was present tonight won! Including Sparky, who won a Chinese lunch buffet for two!  Of course, Sparky had to scream and jump up and down, as Nick wants the winners to get excited and draw attention to themselves so the prize runners can find them. (She did, folks, she did!) And of course, Nick had to make a joke about when he met Sparky, he "knew right away she was a screamer."

All the tickets went back into the drawing so tomorrow night we are eligible all over again. Thursday night all the tickets go back in the drawing for some grand prizes. Nick is giving away a Sea Eagle kayak, and Sparky is working the crowd, passing the word along that if whoever wins doesn't want the kayak, Sparky will make a heck of an offer!  I REALLY want to get a Sea Eagle inflatable kayak!  (Easy girl, easy! We don't want to wear out our welcome! says E.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nothing Could be Finer Than a Sunday in Celina.....

It's raining, it's pouring, the "old man is snoring"....Well, not at this very moment...but he does admit to snoring on occasion. First, I give a hard tug on the covers, that usually moves him a little and he rolls over. If that doesn't work, then I have his permission to give him a hard push. Depending on how hard and how long he's been snoring, it might even be a REALLY hard push or a shove with my foot! (What she REALLY means is she kicks me! And just for the record, I did tell her to do that! says E.)  That seems to definitely work. Eldy doesn't have sleep apnea, he just snores or breathes extremely heavy now and then. (No jokes about that please!) Most of the time if I fall asleep first, I don't hear it, so not very many night's sleep is lost.

When we first started full timing, he snored a LOT and I had to use ear plugs. We run a fan all night long that has a constant blowing sound. It's great for knocking out outdoor noises. It enables us to have open windows if we want and we still don't hear traffic or fighting cats or whatever. It really helps me sleep, that white noise. But it didn't quite knock out the sound of Eldy's snoring, so I went to work on getting him to lose some weight.  I read that the soft tissue in the throat shrinks and doesn't vibrate as much if you lose some weight, and if you snore, that is one of a doctor's first recommendations. (E. says, I gotta see that in print!)  I quit cooking big meals (Whaddya mean "big meals"? She just about quit cooking altogether!) No comment, says Sparky, other than I admit I hate to cook. But my sparkling personality helps make up for some of that, right, honey? (No comment!) :-) Did I just hear your STOMACH growl?  I got him out hiking and biking and we've both lost some weight this past year. Mission accomplished! Minimal snoring! To be fair, I snore on occasion....but it doesn't seem to bother him, nor does it keep him awake. I also talk in my sleep BIG TIME, sometimes full sentences, but never about him. (hahahaha) I told him to push me if I keep him awake! It's all about compromise when you live in a little box on wheels, right?
Downtown Celina, OH

It's a grey, dreary day today....It's gonna rain off and on again and maybe even tomorrow, too...great day for more crafting and laundry, so that's what I'm gonna do! I did the laundry, then drove around town a little bit to see some beautiful architecture. There are some absolutely gorgeous Victorian style homes and other styles as well, in the Main Street area.

There are many different styles here and that's what's so cool about older small towns. There were some amazing architectural details like frieze work on the buildings downtown, even though it looks like an every day small town downtown. There's a lot of history behind some of these buildings! Unfortunately, I don't have a clue to that! But I can appreciate it anyway!

There was a spectacular Catholic Church nearby..The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. I'll bet the inside is amazing....
I liked these, too....

It's Football Sunday, Eldy is getting football channels on the antenna setup, so life is good.....I headed over to Rally Central to see what I could do to help this afternoon, and they needed help with registration, so I did that. I really enjoy meeting people and joking around with them, and chatting with the ladies at the registration table.
Tomorrow is Monday, the official welcome starts at 3:00 PM and the coaches are rollin' in.....The town of Celina has welcomed Nick's Gypsy Journal Rally with open arms..all kinds of restaurant specials being offered, and the door prizes are amazing! They are giving away a Kindle, a Sea Eagle kayak, printers and all kinds of stuff! Woo-hoo! I told Nick if whoever won the kayak couldn't use it, I'd make an offer! Had my eye on an inflatable Sea Eagle for the past year....We'll see you at the rally--lots of great seminars being offered.....Should be a great week!

P.S. Eldy is not starving, folks, he gets plenty to eat....but he says he's going to have to learn how to cook, lol!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Cat in the Hat Came Back

Too cold to go out,
Too rainy to play,
So we sat in the house the entire day!

I racked my brain trying to remember more accurately the words to the Cat in the Hat before the action starts with Thing 1 and Thing 2 but couldn't remember at all! So I borrowed the "rhythm" sort of, and just to let you know, we didn't do anything all day but sit around! Because it rained off and on, pretty hard some times, so we just sat. It actually felt good to sit and do very little all day. I organized my craft cabinets and found some things I didn't know I had (story of her life, folks!) Eldy watched football and I knit some more ornaments for the craft show and tell later this week. It always amazes me how things can slide to the back of a cabinet, down and behind, never to be seen again until The Organizer (that's me, Sparky) starts cleaning. We're always asking each other, "Do you know where the _________(fill in the blank with your choice) is?"  "Nope, haven't seen it." Just like the Sock Monster swallows sock mates when doing laundry, the MH gremlin hides all sorts of things in all sorts of nooks and crannies. And then, like a cocktail shaker, it shakes the contents around while going down the road making it difficult to put your hands on whatever it is you are trying to find because it's no longer in the place you put it! (And that's her story, and she's sticking to it, explains E. I know otherwise!)

We didn't even do laundry!  That's tomorrow....We're playing the waiting, waiting game for the rally to officially start on Monday...There MIGHT be vendors setting up tomorrow, so we might check that out. We'll take another longer look at the town of Celina. It sits near a BIG lake, but I have no idea what lake it is. Wish we had a kayak....I'd go paddling!  Rode my bike around the neighborhood and found a nice park with a bike/walking trail so I got a little exercise today so as not to feel so guilty about getting and eating a pizza for supper!

Being as I have no travel photos for today, I will share what I did all day....Just one to have a LITTLE color in the blog today...See you tomorrow!
Three inches of "cuteness"

Friday, September 23, 2011

We're at the Fair!-Grounds

Wish we were at a summer county fair--they are always so fun with the crowds, the food, the midway, the live entertainment! You can almost smell the cotton candy, corn dogs and brats if you imagine hard enough! We are at the Celina, OH fairgrounds for Nick Russell's Gypsy Journal Eastern Rally.

We came in early to make sure we had adequate power as there was some question about the fairgrounds being underpowered for lots of big rigs. We were initially expecting to have only 20 or 30 amp, but the fairgrounds has upgraded their facilities since the last time Nick's rally was held here two years ago. There are LOTS more 50 and 30 amp sites available so it's not a problem....terrific! It's a pretty fairgrounds and the sites have lots of shade. No sewer or water hookup, just electric. But we happened to get a site with 50 amp so no worries about the residential fridge.
I just walked around today, rode my bike a little, and went over to a very nice track to watch some horses being trained. They were beautiful animals....
A beautiful day, glad we got to enjoy it....Weather Channel says it is supposed to be crappy all week, rain every single day during the rally! Thought maybe if I said that, our luck will change...we'll see!  See you in Celina for the next six days and we'll keep you posted as to the happenings..rally officially starts Monday.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Elkhart RV/MH Hall of Fame/Museum & Library

A relaxing day...Eldy had lunch with his son, which was good for the two of them to be together, just father and son. I finished some craft projects here at home. In the afternoon, we went over to the RV Hall of Fame Museum. Neither one of us had ever seen it, and it's practically in our hometown backyard!

What a cool place! Vintage historical RV's, the history of motorhomes, hall of famers in the RV industry...the latest in technology for appliances in RV''s all here...I looked for a Shasta little mini trailer, like the one my brother found in a farm field and fixed up for his new bride. I didn't find one, but here's what I did find.....A 1916 automobile telescoping "apartment". The side cabinets slide in and the back telescopes into the front. Warm water for the shower is provided by heat from the radiator!
The oldest travel trailer in the world.....refurbished, of course!

A 1935 version of a Covered Wagon...Covered Wagon was the largest trailer manufacturer in 1935. They produced one out of six house trailers made in the country at that time...
How about this Cortez cruiser? The first American production front wheel drive motorhome. The dinette converted into an upper and lower bunk bed. The upper bed was suspended from the ceiling on leather straps--cool!
One of my favorites was a vintage motorhome called the Road Chief. Not sure of the year, somehow I didn't catch that, but it was in the 1930's...It was designed by a famous sailplane builder named Hawley Bowlus. What was his mother thinking when she named him!?  The Road Chief was a predecessor to the modern day Airstream clipper style. It had a segmented aluminum roof design and on the inside, it looked like silk fabric stretched over a wooden frame, just like the gliders Bowlus designed. It was very elegant!  Here's the outside:
And here's the beautiful inside:
There were many very cool vintage trailers, campers and motorhomes on display today along with very interesting explanations of the chassis, the components, etc. The interiors on some of these were beautiful woods. The examples of vintage trailers and motorhomes were in wonderful condition, some almost completely original fabrics and interior, others had been refurbished. You really got a feel for the evolution of the motorhome through this wonderful museum. There was also an extensive research library on the premises as well for the public to come in and browse. We're glad we took the time today to come out and explore the museum.....the vintage motorcars, trailers and forerunners of today's modern luxurious motorhomes were a real treat to see.  Admission was a very reasonable 6.00 per person, if you are a senior (60 and up)....There really are some perks to being a senior!

Tomorrow we leave for Celina, OH, to come in a little early for Nick Russell's Gypsy Journal Eastern Rally. Should be a LOT of fun! We'll tell you all about it in a couple of days...great seminars are lined up with some great entertainment....see you in Ohio!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Five Hundred Miles, Five Hundred Miles?????

Remember I said we were going to travel through Minnesota and Wisconsin yesterday? We WERE going to stay overnight at a casino  in Joliet, Illinois, but Eldy decided he wanted to keep going, keep going, and he kept going, just like the Energizer bunny....We didn't do quite five hundred miles today, (You mean I didn't quite do five hundred miles, but I did do 430! says E.) That's quite an accomplishment, in my opinion! I don't know how the man does it, but he LOVES to drive! And no, nobody can borrow my Eldy to do their driving for them!

There wasn't much to see out on the road today....but lots and LOTS of corn, a familiar sight to us Hoosiers. (We've both spent much of our lives living in Indiana so we still consider ourselves "Hoosiers" even though we now both are officially South Dakota residents. Our hearts will always be in Indiana where our families grew up.....

I WAS going to offer to drive today, but when I realized that we were going NEAR Chicago, on interstate 80 on our way through Illinois, I decided to retract my offer...(Uh, you actually didn't even mention it! laughs E.) Nope, honey, didn't want to disturb your terrific momentum you had going. The man is like a machine!...Four hundred thirty miles later, we are in Elkhart, IN in a VERY nice campground--the Elkhart Campground in the city of Elkhart, IN. It's a Good Sam's park, but the rate, even with that, is about 30.00 a night. We are on a big corner lot, cement pad, full hookups, although 30 amp, our choice, with one of the few fire pits in the campground. This is the campground we will  be staying at after the Celina, OH Gypsy Journal Rally next week. We'll be coming back to stay in Elkhart the entire month of October. The monthly rate is 425.00 at this campground which is a great rate and well within our budget. We're close to Amish country, many excellent restaurants, (Uh-oh! There goes the budget moans E.) and most importantly, friends and family...We'll be here for two nights so we're just going to take it easy tomorrow and rest and relax....Unless Sparky finds something that captures our interest! (She probably will, folks!)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Taking Care of Business....

Reminds me of that "Taking Care of Business" song by Bachman Turner Overdrive...There are so many song titles that would be great on a blog! (BUT--you'd drive everybody crazy, Sparky!)

It's been a long time since I've year to be exact...I've spent much of my life in South Bend/Mishawaka, IN (about 26 years), then moved to Angola, IN for 7 years, and now, when somebody asks, "Where are you from?" I can be a smarta** and say, "From all over!"  Or, I can say, "South Dakota". Sparky is officially a South Dakota resident! But I'm not gonna live there....It's just that South Dakota has ZERO state income tax, low sales tax (3%), lower insurance rates for health, car, and home, no personal property tax, no intangible tax on investments and much cheaper rates for licensing. Last year we saved over 1500.00 (!) by getting the motorhome plated in South Dakota. My Indiana plates would have been 265.00 this year. In South Dakota, my plates will be about 71.00. Woo-hoo! So that's why you see many full time RVers with South Dakota plates. I have to wait on my plates, they have to send for the title first, so I'm still running Indiana plates on the Honda CRV...they don't expire till October, so hopefully, the new plates will come in before the old ones expire. 

(Photos today are all from the annual Sculpture Walk held in downtown Sioux Falls)
(E. says, Sparky can be such an egghead at times!)
While we were conducting our business, we stayed at the Tower Campground in Sioux Falls. This campground is VERY centrally located to everything, malls galore, restaurants, (10 minutes to the license branch) and you get a discount for staying there if you have business with Alternative Resources, a mailing service that we use for our mail delivery. Alternative Resources helps you with licensing, referrals to other agencies, and they are REALLY helpful to RVers in a lot of ways. We stayed one night for 27.50 a night with full hookups in a nice, shady campground. Sites are about average as far as distance between the sites. It's a great overnight or two destination, and the office people are so nice and really friendly. They even remembered us from last year even though we were only there three days! 

What did we do in the one day we were here besides get Sparky's license? We got an oil change for the car, that is, Eldy got the oil change while Sparky explored downtown Sioux Falls and the 2011 Sculpture Walk.  Lots of statues with interesting explanations of the artist's viewpoint on why they made what they did...It was fun walking around downtown Sioux Falls...There is lots to see in other parts of town and check out the waterfalls the city is named after! We did that last year, so the annual Sculpture Walk this year is all we had time for.....Sioux Falls is a nice, clean town and very pretty...There is everything you could possibly want in Sioux Falls, should you stop for a few days...(except for an Apple Store, says E.) Being that we both have Macs, it's always nice to find one in case we have a problem...

I walked into an interesting shop and gallery on Phillips Street in downtown Sioux Falls that advertised all native American artists. Just about everything was made by a tribal member. I talked to the shop owner for a little bit. She said the shop, Prairie Star Gallery, had been open for 14 years. She mentioned the poverty level for native Americans is much more severe than for average Americans, that the native American Indian income poverty level is about $4,000 for a family of four compared to 22,000.00 for white Americans. This is why they started their shop, to provide a base of support for native Americans to sell their wares and help their families survive.  There are nine tribes in South Dakota, and it was cool to see this store promoting Northern Plains and Southwest Indian authentic arts and crafts. The shop's managers personally know every artist and trader represented in the shop. 

There were beautiful rugs, dolls, feathers, music, sage, sweetgrass, paintings, clothing, jewelry, books, and many many other kinds of arts presented there. One of my favorite things in the shop was the "talking stick." The talking stick was like a peace pipe, a decorated stick with feathers and beads. The stick is used in discussions, moments of crisis and interventions, for families, etc. Whoever holds the stick, holds the attention and respect of everyone else, and the person who holds the stick, gets to speak. Everyone else remains silent until the stick is passed. It reminded me of a "koosh ball" that I used to use in my classroom, using the same principle. You couldn't talk unless you were holding the koosh ball. At least, that was the principle of the thing!

I learned that the term "Sioux" Indian  was a term generated by the U.S. government, and it really applies to three tribes--the Dakota, the Lakota, and the Nakota. The term comes from the French and Ojibwa, and is believed to be a derogatory term meaning "Little Snakes". The Sioux Nation really prefers to be called by the Dakota, Lakota, or Nakota names instead.  More than 62,000 native Americans live in South Dakota, and the evidence of that is everywhere you travel in this state....There are lots of reminders for you to respect them as you ask before taking photos, video, audio, etc. You might come across pipes, bundles, ties, flags of different colored  material, food offerings and other items at sites you visit, like we did in Bear Lodge (Devil's Tower) or on hikes, or other places, which are considered sacred by native Americans. 

The owner gave me a wonderful book put out by the state of South Dakota, called Native South Dakota, A Travel Guide to Tribal Lands. I'm really looking forward to learning more about the tribes of our lands.......But before we go, I have to show you one of my favorite sculptures from the Sculpture Walk. It's called "Hey, Mary Lou/Blindside".
"Skinny but enthusiastic third stringer gets distracted on his sprint along the sideline. A study in "achieving your dreams one second and launched into the second row the next".
It's "On the Road Again" for Eldy and Jeannie tomorrow...We're heading east towards Minnesota and Wisconsin.......see you on the road!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dakota Badlands National Park

This is Eldy speaking.....Hey, folks, hang onto your hats! Sparky drove the motorhome!!!!!! I decided it was about time and put my foot down! She drove for an hour, but she drove the motorhome. For the first time, he's right (not for the first time, I mean, he's usually right...I really did need to drive the big rig for experience. (What was that, Sparky? What did you say? I'M USUALLY RIGHT???? Everybody heard that, right?) Ahem! As I was saying, it wasn't bad, we picked a really straight stretch, and instead of trying to explain all the gauges all at once, Eldy did it in stages, and then I felt more comfortable behind the wheel. There wasn't any wind, there was only one construction zone and the orange cones were only on one side, I can handle that! I drove from one rest stop to another, and decided that was enough for one day! (She'll be back in the driver's seat, folks, she needs some more practice.) That I do, sweetie...practice with bridges, cement barriers, cones on both sides, wind, etc. etc. I think I just talked myself out of driving for quite some time! And I think I just heard a big (sigh!) from E.
The Badlands
To back up for a moment....we left Custer and our friends Sherry and Dave yesterday at Broken Arrow RV park in Custer, getting ready to pack up and leave. We got ourselves going and decided to drive through the Badlands National Park to see the views on our way to Mitchell, S.D.  We drove highway to 16, to interstate 90, and then thru the national park, on highway 240 Loop Road, a 60 minute drive through part of the 244,000 acre park. We drove the motorhome with car in tow with no problems whatsoever. There were incredible, awsome views!  Awesome buttes, flat top tables, spires and rolling grasslands....We stopped for lunch at an ample pullout big enough for MANY big rigs....
Cool colors! Even more awesome after a rainstorm or early in the morning or late in the day...
The Badlands were formed from water eroding and rock and soils being deposited. Erosion is ongoing, and every time it rains, more sediment gets washed from the buttes. You might see a tower one time on a visit, and the next time it will be gone. These formations are relatively new on the geologic scale.

Erosion rates suggest that they will erode away completely in another 500,000 years. Glad people will be able to see them for a long, long time!
Weird how they come up from totally flat ground all around some of the formations
You can see the very distinct layers of soft, sedimentary rock..they are made of silt, sand, and clay that have been cemented into solid form....The different colors of layers tell geologists what time period they were formed.....

The only animals we saw today were prairie dogs and mountain goats as we passed through the park....but there are black footed ferrets, big horn sheep, prairie rattlesnakes, bobcats, fox, bison, and coyotes should you be so lucky to see one of those...

The park is divided into two parts--the North Unit and the South Unit. Certain parts of the South Unit contain many sites sacred to the Oglala Lakota Indian culture. What's also interesting about the South Unit is that 122,000 acres were used as an aerial bombing range during World War II. Much of the South Unit remains largely undeveloped and that's a good thing. The park newspaper talks about still clearing the area of unexploded bombs that litter the area and that cell phones can detonate those devices!

There are some great hiking trails off the main road through the park...they range from .75 miles to 10 miles, taking you through the buttes and spires....

There is another interesting tour not too far from the Badlands---the Minuteman Missile site, home of an underground launch center and missile silo. The site, Delta-09 is located on the south side of interstate 90, exit 116. We did not have time to check this out today, although we would have liked to, being kids having grown up in the Cold War era.

After driving through the badlands, that's when Eldy turned the wheel over to Sparky and she did her short stint as a driver....Back to you, Eldo!  We landed in Mitchell, S.D. for the night, boondocking in the great Cabela's parking lot, which is VERY RV friendly...they have a free dump station for RVers, picnic tables at a little park with a pond, and it's very clean and safe to stay there. We still didn't put out any slides, it's just polite not to look like you have moved in for the weekend when you stay in free places. There were at least five rigs of varying sizes pulled up side by side in the parking lot, and one person did have their bedroom slide out...tch! tch!  Had we had more time, we would have checked out this year's decorations at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, which decorates the front and the insides of this meeting center with all kinds of grains and artwork each year. But--we'll have to wait till next year, on to Sioux Falls, S.D.  tomorrow morning. Sparky is going to switch her Indiana plates to S.D. plates and get a S.D. driver's license. The price difference between Indiana and South Dakota is huge when it comes to licensing plates. We'll let you know the costs tomorrow...see you at the license branch!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

World's Largest Mountain Carving

From the first blast in 1948, when ten TONS of rock was removed, millions of tons of rock have been removed from the Black Hills of South Dakota since to form the world's largest mountain carving, Crazy Horse. We went to the beautiful visitor's center at the Crazy Horse Memorial today, to learn more about it.

The sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, singlehandedly started this mountainous project in his forties, refusing to take any government money for his efforts. Korczak was invited by the Lakota Indians to carve a statue to remember the "red man heroes". Korczak had 174.00 to his name when he started. He battled a balky compressor which he called "Kaput!" because it quit on him often, and often after he climbed many many hand built stairs to get to the top of the mountain, only to have the compressor quit, and back down he would go to crank it up again to get power for blasting his way through the mountain. It is absolutely incredible what this man had to go through all by himself when he first started.  He believed Crazy Horse should be built by the interested public and not the taxpayer and turned down offers of federal funding more than once. To this day, his family (7 out of 10 children) and his wife have carried on with his dream. (He died in 1982) and this memorial is totally funded by private donations and visitor admission fees (10.00 per adult).

The visitor's center is beautiful....From the nature gates on the outside to the start of the video inside the theater, to the Indian Museum of North America, to the Cultural Center, to the sculptor's studio home and workshop, it is a fascinating tour of this man's life and his family. We saw the scale model of the statue, 1/34th the size. If you are there during the day, you can view the blasting going on...We went at dusk in order to see the laser light show, which happens nightly from May till October. We enjoyed that, but the laser light show was inconsistent in brightness and difficult to see sometimes. Still it was very patriotic and cool to see, even if it wasn't the best performance. It culminated in lasers outlining the statue as if it were completed, which was awesome!

To give you some idea of the magnitude of this colossal project, the head is 87 1/2 feet high, the hand is 33 feet long, the mane of the horse will be 62 feet high and the arm is 263 feet long. The arm is pointing to "where my dead lay buried," Crazy Horse's answer to a white man's derisive question, "Where are your lands NOW?" The height of the final carving is to be 563 feet high.

There is a heart wrenching letter written in 1949 by the sculptor explaining the meaning of the carving, and how the statue is not so much the likeness of Crazy Horse, as no known photograph exists, but it represents the spirit of the Indian people...and THEY chose Crazy Horse to be representative of the spirit of their people and Korczak to carve it.

We really enjoyed our tour today of the facilities, and  highly recommend this self-guided tour of some amazing native American artifacts housed in three huge exhibit halls-- clothing, teepees, beadwork, tools, implements, rugs, native tribe flags, and many many other interesting things to see, learn and purchase....Tomorrow we leave to head towards Sioux Falls, boondocking at Cabela's in Mitchell, SD, home of the world's only CORN PALACE. See you there!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sparky in Pursuit!

We woke up to a beautiful morning this  morning after two days of dense fog and highs of only 38 degrees! It quickly warmed up and turned out to be a balmy 72 degrees, a great day to be out exploring Custer State Park. This is our second visit to the park, we were here last year in October. This time more things were open even though the season is winding down.

We saw LOTS of wildlife today on the wildlife loop drive through the park....bison close to the road, pronghorn antelope, begging burros and we saw our friend, Pete, the fat and sassy prairie dog. This time last year when we came through the park, the prairie dogs were popping in and out of their holes like one of my favorite arcade games, "Whack-A-Mole"--where you whack the pop up gophers on the top of the head with a mallet as fast as you can. (And I thought my Sparky was a tenderhearted soul, laments E.) The bison were all spread out as the mating season is pretty much over....a single one here, a big guy over there.....The burros are quite bold, coming right up to your window for handouts but we know better! Park rules say,"DO NOT FEED WILDLIFE!" (At least that's one rule Sparky follows, says a relieved E.) SOMEBODY must have fed them or why would they come right to your window and attempt to stick their heads in?

Pronghorn antelope are interesting creatures...a sign said they are the fastest land animal and can run up to 70 m.p.h. (Au contraire, Sparky, CHEETAHS are the fastest land animal they say.) Well, I just read the sign, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it. They can sustain those speeds longer than a cheetah, I also read..They have supersized lungs and heart to be able to take in more oxygen to run that fast. Females have horns, too--I did not know that, but the female horns are seldom pronged. So this guy COULD be a girl, me thinks. I know, who cares? :-)  I just like reading about animals and geology and then sticking it in my blog so I can remember it for later....

The big bison roundup is coming soon--the last weekend of September...We're sorry we have to miss looks to be a huge deal around here! Maybe that's why the herd is all spread out and there are just single ones here and there....

(Uh, Sparky...the folks are wondering what you were in pursuit of, today...reminds E.) Oh, yeah! I was in pursuit of a humongous elk with his harem of three fat and sassy females in the woods off to the side of the road as we were driving through the park. I got out of the car with specific instructions from my better half NOT to venture past a certain log. I didn't...the cagey big bull elk started looking my way, then wandering off deeper into the forest looking back over his shoulder as I ventured into the woods, as if to say, "C'mon, ladies, time to get a move on!" I did get a shot at him, but the trees are blocking the view. We got lucky later in the day after we returned to the campground, took a break, then headed over to the Crazy Horse Memorial to check the place out and see the nightly laser light show...another bull elk bounded across the road, jumped over the fence, then posed for his picture for us!

We'll tell you about Crazy Horse Memorial tomorrow and the drive through the Needles...see you then!