Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Small Town Living

 Not exactly sure how you define "small town", but since we have moved back to Elkhart, IN, there are a LOT of things we see that you might not normally see in bigger towns so we are just gonna go with Elkhart and the surrounding areas as small town living....Here we go.....Some little jaunts around the area that we have taken lately....

The South Side Soda Shop, Goshen, IN...This is a family run retro diner in Goshen that was started as a grocery store in the early 1900's. In the 1940's a soda fountain was installed. In the 1980's, the shop was restored and in 1993, a dining car was added to give it a more '50's vibe. 

It has been featured in several publications, Gourmet Magazine, and was featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri. The interior is definitely vintage. It's not like some retro diners with reproduction decor, this one is definitely a step back into time. Check out the juke box! There are many items that make you wonder how old they are!

The decor is definitely from the past.....
We enjoyed a simple burger dinner, nothing too special, just good home cooked food, but it was just kind of fun to immerse ourselves in a different vibe and the prices were reasonable. The seating area is decorated in a lot of different ways with  painted murals or displays of school spirit, or random bulletin boards.
We didn't try the ice cream, but there were a lot of choices. Bet it was good! The little dishes are those traditional metal ones.

If you like pie, this is the place for a BIG top loaded meringue on your pie.

And of course, there is the soda fountain. 

Something else we experienced lately... A small town parade! We happened to visit Shipshewana on a Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, and ran into the tail end of what seemed to be a little farm parade. It wasn't Memorial Day yet and we really didn't know what the parade was all about, but it was fun to see lots of Amish turn out to watch it. 

Not only were they watching, they were in the parade floats as well, throwing out candy to the crowd, much to these two boys delight! (above photo) This gentleman had a farm DOG walking a "treadmill" to churn butter! Didn't know if that was just for show, or if his dog really did do churn butter duty!

A vist to Kryder Gardens in Middlebury which is right on the Pumpkinvine Bike Trail and worthy of a picnic stop or a rest stop at least. The gardens are GORGEOUS in mid May and the volunteers who keep it beautiful are to be commended. So many beautiful flowers and plantings! There are water fountains and statues and artwork there a well. Sparky loves stopping in one of the many shaded bench areas to reflect a bit before heading back out onto the Pumpkinvine Trail. It's a small town treasure, for certain!

And how is Eldo? (really, Eldon, but doesn't Eldo sound a lot cuter? a name given to Eldon by his granddaughter. Sparky calls him Eldy around the house.) He's doing well. Round 2 of physical therapy after hip replacement is underway. Eldy is getting in stretchy band exercise for golf swing/hip movement. He is very mobile most often without his cane but carries it with him just in case. In about another two to three weeks, the doctor says he can get out and swing a golf club ! Yay! 

And so, life goes on for us in our senior years...Day by day we take it. You never know when life is going to throw you a curve ball. So we take it and run with it, or hobble as the case may be, as each day is different for us physically. Sparky has bad sciatic problems still, but we just sort of soldier on. Maybe she will be pursuing physical therapy soon, even though she has tried it before. It's time to revisit that again. Sparky is also finishing up subbing at school...She really loves that job. This past week, her class of little first graders couldn't manage to remember Mrs. Sparks, so it was "Mrs. Sparkles" and "Mrs. Sprinkles" all day long. Why they couldn't say "Sparks" we have no idea! 

Sorry for the repeat from FB but just had to share for the memory books: Sparky got to help a second grade class release butterflies this week after they nurtured them in the classroom. One little girl decided she would pick a dandelion in case the butterfly was hungry once we made our way outside. Lo and behold, the butterfly liked that idea. The little girl exclaimed loudly, "LOOK! The proboscis is coming out. He's going to take a drink!!!" And it did. Second grade. Proboscis. I'm impressed.

Two more weeks of school to go, then summer break. A family reunion on the Sparky side is in August in Charlevoix. That will be fun! Until later....

                                Sparky and Eldo

Sunday, April 21, 2024

How's It Goin', Eldo?

Eldy is four weeks out of surgery....He is doing well with P.T. and has left the walker behind, and that's not Sparky, haha. He still uses the shower chair, as 90 degree precautions are in place for another month or two, (can't bend the leg over a 90 degree angle) so he is not supposed to lift his leg that high over our deep high sided tub to get in the shower. That shower chair is a pain to move in and out, (because Sparky is a tub gal) but it has to be used!  He is still using the toilet riser seat for the same reason. He is able to drive himself if he wants to go somewhere, and did that after three and a half weeks. He walks with a cane, sometimes without it around the house and is trying to retrain his awkward gait to a more normal one as he was compensating for a bad hip for a long time and that made him walk more like a penguin! Eldy doesn't enjoy walking, so to get him outdoors and moving for longer periods of time is a struggle.

It took him almost four weeks to go from sleeping in the recliner to a bed, because our bed is so high, but he wanted to wait till he could get himself off and on the bed easily before trying sleeping on it all night and having to get up to use the bathroom. He slept with NO PROBLEMS in that Lazy Boy recliner all that time! One worrisome development--Eldy had bloodwork done because of extreme fatigue and some other issues and his blood count numbers were not good. He was anemic and had something show up near his stomach on an Xray, a 3mm mass which they thought might be a kidney stone. Since then, his white and red cell numbers have improved on their own two weeks later. He is going to have a CT scan this week. (Update: Whatever there was that was on the scan before is not there now.) He has good days and bad days mentally and physically. He was expecting to bounce back pretty quickly like he did after major heart surgery. Heck, he was playing golf after one month after heart surgery. But this is major hip JOINT surgery and a whole different ball game (like hip ball and socket haha) as far as recovery of the muscles and tissues. Patience is not one of Eldy's virtues, so it's going to be a long haul before he can swing a golf club and bend over to pick something up. Three to six months before you don't have to worry about 90 degree precautions. Some days the hip hurts, and some days it doesn't. Some days he gets up out of his chair, limping with stiffness, and other times he says he feels perfectly normal and forgets to use his cane.

Over spring break, Sparky crafted up a storm between PT appointments. A fancy patriotic pin cushion, a pillow cover for the month of May, a rope bowl, a patriotic mini quilt to display on a stand, and a patriotic table runner. A sample....

Sparky is back to riding the Pumpkinvine Bike Trail in between cold, blustery spring days. She got a new bike! A Trek FX4, a performance fitness bike with a lightweight carbon frame...It's a beauty, much more lightweight than her last bike and one step closer to a road bike. At her age, this is probably the last bike, no road bike for Sparky! Trail riding is all she wants to do these days.

Virginia Spring Beauties lining the trail

As always, Sparky rides for the views as much as she rides to try and keep moving. The wildflowers are just starting to peek out this mid-April. The first to appear are the Virginia Spring Beauty, little low to the ground purple and white flowers in abundance. They line the trail in some sections as seen above. At the same time these appear, here come the beautiful trout lilies (at the left)...small clusters here and there, often just one or two spread out, their heads down as if they were a little shy. Sparky had to bend down and look up into this pretty little flower to see the details. Aren't the mottled leaves cool? So is the name....

yellow trout lily

And some hepaticas....

and cut-leaved toothwort....

Cut-leaved toothwort

Buggies on shopping day in Middlebury
One of Sparky's favorite things to do is head over to Shipshewanna on a Saturday to visit the meat market, and two fabric shops--Lolly's and Yoder's Department Store, which has a great shoe department besides clothing and fabrics. On the way to Shipsee, as the locals call it, Sparky likes to pass through Middlebury, where the Amish also do their Saturday shopping besides Shipesee. Something was going on this past dreary Saturday, as many buggies were in Middlebury, and almost none in Shipshewanna! A trip to Shipshewanna is not complete without a stop at JoJo's Pretzels, in the Davis Mercantile building, where pretzels are handmade  FRESH at a frenzied pace on a Saturday. Watch them make the pretzels while you wait in line! They are SO-O-O-O good! The pretzel shop is right across the aisle from Lolly's Fabrics, so you know where Sparky is headed. (And she didn't bring me one...W-A-A-N-H! fusses E. But in all fairness, I didn't want one, kids Eldo).
Pretzel making at Jo-Jo's

And with having reported the latest news, we say, see you later down the road, or down the street in our case. You might see us next at the South Side Soda Shop, a cool retro diner in Goshen, IN...... So bye for now....

Middlebury, IN  2024

Monday, March 25, 2024

Part 2 Recovery from Hip Surgery-Helpful Tools

 If we were going to recommend any pre surgery tips, we'd say to do any exercises they suggest before surgery! You need to develop your arms for one thing. You're going to need strong arms to push yourself up out of your chair and to use a walker!  Eldy had trouble pushing himself up out of his chair using mostly his arms when he first started getting mobile again and he had sore arm muscles when he started using his walker.

If anybody wants to know what kinds of special equipment were needed for hip replacement, here is what worked for us: 

1. A walker with NO wheels. That way it can't slide away from you. For the first few days, you want something that you can pick up and plant firmly on the ground. When first recovering you want to pick it up and put it down, you really don't need wheels. You need total control of where that walker is going. It worked well even with the carpet on the living room floor and going across the lawn to the car. We got this one on Amazon, it is sturdy, and of good quality. It has adjustable legs as you want your arms to be slightly bent at the elbow when using it so it adjusts for different height users.

2. A toilet seat riser..our apartment toilet is a low 17" to the ground so we had to get the seat up higher to avoid bending at the hip to get down and up. (You have to avoid bending at the hip more than 90 degrees or you might pop the new ball joint out!) There are various models with and without legs. We got the Bemis 4.5" riser, again on Amazon for 76.99. It was also a very easy install and will fit round or elongated toilets. It requires more cleaning more frequently because it sits higher up and is not quite the same shape as the bowel, even though the hardware is designed for either type of bowl-elongated or round.  In hindsight, (see what Sparky did there? haha...) maybe one that was not quite as high would have sufficed. It's REALLY high up so that Sparky's feet can't quite touch the floor! (We only have one bathroom.) (Ok, Sparky, I think you've covered it, says a slightly embarrassed Eldo).

3. A cane....Lots of choices out there...take your pick.

4.  A sock assister--this helps Eldy pull on his socks and it works like a charm. First, Sparky thought this was a pretty silly invention, but after seeing the ease with which Eldy can get his own socks on, it's been a lifesaver and a great invention.

5. A long handled grabber--for odds and ends and dropped pills on the floor, haha--this is a great one and of good quality, not flimsy at all, and can pick up the tiniest of things-like pills. Wish we had had that one in the RV for when things fell behind the TV slot in the living room! Which they did, several times. One time Sparky used a yardstick taped with a bunch of doubled up duct tape to make a sticky trap and managed to recover the fallen items, but this would have been much easier!

6. A shower seat--our apartment tub is deep and has too much depth to get a leg over if you are hip impaired. We had little trouble with this particular seat as the old apartment tub has sloped sides and no matter how we adjusted the legs to the max on all the adjustments possible, the chair still sat at a very slight angle in the tub. You sit down sideways on the chair, then swing your legs over into the tub. Even though it was slightly off kilter, it still worked. Sparky had to take the nice shower curtain off and then cut a section of the plastic liner out for the shower seat to fit so the curtain could still keep the water inside. Eldy was not to shower for four days and to keep the bandage patch away from a direct water hit. One of the most useful tips Sparky found was how to cut a cheap shower curtain plastic liner to fit around the shower chair transfer bench. (That was AFTER she cut out a complete box for the chair to fit through and we had a flood on the bathroom floor! laughs Eldo). Don't do what Sparky did. Here is a link to how it's done: how to cut a shower curtain

7. A hand held shower head. We replaced the apartment shower head with a nice new one so Eldy can more easily shower with the hand held part. It fastens with a strong magnet to the main head. The apartment doesn't care if we change out the shower head, but we have to replace it back to the old clogged up one when we move. (!) The new one simply screwed onto the existing screw threads so that was an easy peasy install! This one is a Kohler from Lowe's and was 99.00. They had lots of choices!

toileting tool

8. A butt wiper, and that's all we will say about that...Angles are everything in hip replacement surgery. You might need one, you might 
not. Inventors sure think of just about everything these days! Sparky shouldn't have ended with that, butt--oh, well.... (Eldy is groaning in the background). In case you are wondering....(NO, they aren't! fusses E.) you stuff a little tissue in the slotted head, then wrap it around a time or two. 

Update: Eldy didn't like this one, so he bought a different one that look just like tongs with long handles.

We hope that this is helpful for anyone who has this type of surgery on their minds. Eldy did his usual research, watching TONS of videos on Youtube on how the procedure was actually done, and watching videos of people documenting their recoveries, so he was a well prepared patient. Now that he is on the mend....(After two weeks he is using a cane and is off all pain meds and doing well in physical therapy).

                                    Until next time.....

What's Up, or Down Eldo? Part 1

Warning: This post is an old fart's post separate from travel experiences, but memorable to us all the same...Here is the week of Eldy's hip replacement surgery and recovery.....It's a LONG post so Sparky has split it into two parts.

Day 1- Tuesday, March 19...Eldy, 75, had his hip replacement done today, by Dr. Craig W. Erekson, a well known orthopedic surgeon (in Elkhart, IN) for this type of surgery. Eldy did really well. The actual procedure was done in less than 1.5 hours, as far as Sparky could tell. The doctor came out and let Sparky know after Eldy was in recovery that the procedure had gone well, and that he was doing well. She asked once the doctor was into the operation, if the hip was as bad as Eldy was thinking, and he answered yes, that the hip was basically "gone"...yikes! No wonder Eldy had been having a lot of trouble walking for quite some time! Eldy had been dealing with pain of all kinds, from a pinched nerve in his back, to neuropathy in his feet, not knowing what was to blame other than thinking old age. Not until he started having X-rays of this and that did the result come out that the hip needed replacing. The procedure was done as a one day, out patient surgery at the new Beacon Health System and Orthopedic & Sports and Medicine Center on Beacon Parkway in Mishawaka, IN. 

It's a beautiful, new center.  It has four operating rooms, one procedure room and twenty pre and post-operative recovery bays, each one separated from another, with room for expansion for more. Beautifully decorated, peaceful colors inside, with a very relaxing atmosphere. We loved it that you have your own room for pre and post surgery procedures and talking with the doctors and nurses. Orthopedic surgeries are shifting away from hospital settings to outpatient ambulatory settings. That makes sense keeping those type of injuries and surgeries away from the myriad of other health problems and germs contained in a hospital! 

Eldy had a posterior lateral full hip replacement. No robotics. The doctor has done MANY of these procedures and he prefers this method over others. There are three possible methods: 1.Anterior--an incision from the front, which is a less invasive with a smaller incision--3-4 inches, with less muscle damage and shorter healing time, 2.) Posterior-an incision from the back going towards the front, the most comonly used one in this country today. The incision can be up to 12 inches, and the chances of dislocation of the hip joint are a little higher with this method than with the anterior.  3. lateral--incision from the side. Each has its own pros and cons and the choice also might depend on how much arthritis is present. As the nurse told Eldy, HOW the procedure is done is not as important as WHO is doing it. Dr. Erekson is one of the best is what everyone says in this area. But there are new methods and materials for the hip replacement coming on the market all the time, so lots of research and questions need to be asked if this is something in your near future.

The staff was exceptional in taking care of Eldy. He was pretty goofy coming out of anesthesia, flirting with the nurses (I did NOT! says he.) He did, and it was cute to see a different side of him. They had him up and walking about 40 minutes after he was coming more alert. He was HUNGRY and thought a pizza for supper sounded good. NOT! said the nurse, unless you want to puke your guts out. So he settled for grilled cheese sandwich once we got home. Here is Eldy, making his way up to the apartment door same day surgery....Pretty amazing you can expect to walk on the SAME day with a major hip replacement!

He settled into his recliner and promptly fell asleep for awhile. The first independent trip to the bathroom was a learning experience, with negotiating the walker, (loose drawstring pajama or flannel pants with elastic cuffs best idea for now), and feeling lightheaded so taking his time. The nurse said to back up to a chair or the toilet till you feel the back of your legs against it, then stretch out your surgical leg slightly before sitting down, which were very helpful tips. You try to keep your back straighter as you sit or stand up to avoid bending that hip more than 90 degrees. That is hard for Eldy, as he has been walking quite bent over from pain for some time now. Time to retrain those back muscles and hip muscles! 

Day 2--Wednesday, March 20...Last night, Eldy slept in his lazy boy recliner. He used a pee bottle (purchased at Meijer) for nocturnal needs so he wouldn't have to negotiate getting up at night. He slept pretty well, off and on, and Sparky checked on him a couple of times during the night. He was snoring peacefully each time for awhile, then he would wake up, but not because of pain, he said. Partly because a bout of hiccups started. Today, Eldy is supposed to practice his breathing and building his lung capacity daily to help prevent pneumonia. It's a little breathing tube where you try to inhale and keep the little floater ball in the happy face range for a few seconds to strengthen your lungs. He does really great with that except when the hiccups attack. Eldy is in very little pain except for when pressure is put on the foot while walking and is not having to rely on big medication much so far. But he's taking his meds when he is supposed to so the pain is being managed very well. He is icing his hip off and on all day long for about a half hour each time. He bought a special strap on ice pack but that is too much bother. We don't even strap it on but just place it where it needs to be. Regular gel ice packs from the physical therapy place or surgical center work great and hold the cool for some time or you can also make some of your own with ice, rubbing alcohol and zip lock bags if you wanted to. We like the gel pack that was given us for easy freezing and no dripping anywhere.  He still has pain medication in his body from surgery (it's supposed to last 48-72 hours) so we are sure that is helping. He is supposed to take little short walks around the apartment when he is up to it. That will gradually increase in the next day or so. He says his biggest complaint is his very dry throat from having the anesthesia tube for surgery and his hiccups. They come and go. They improve when he is standing. They are so annoying, of course and we tried all the usual ways to get them to go away. None of them worked. 

Day 3--Thursday...March 21...Eldy still has the hiccups. Sparky did a little research. Post operative hiccups are not uncommon and usually subside within a day to a few days. Amazingly, he can sleep while hiccuping, but then they wake him up if they continue. He is exhausted and sleeping a LOT during the day, but we don't know if that's the hiccups or the strong pain meds, probably a little bit of both. He is drinking lots of water so getting lots of practice walking with the walker to the bathroom! When he first started hiccuping, it sounded like a barking dog. Sparky thought the apartment neighbors had gotten a dog. Oh, no! Nah, it was Eldy hiccuping. The medical staff is just kind of shrugging their shoulders and saying they don't really have a relief nor do they know exactly what is causing the hiccups so he should just ride it out. Eldy is not having much pain at all. He has stayed on his pain medication on schedule, and sets an alarm to take it at the correct times, even waking himself up in the middle of the night. He is doing so well with pain management, that he started weaning himself off the strong opioid (Oxycodone) almost right away, stretching out the time frame more and more. Instead of every 4-6 hours, he now waits about 7 hours to take one.

Day 4--Friday, March 22....The hiccups continued through last night. They seem to subside when he gets up and walks around a bit. Sparky called the doctor and the doctor said...."No more monkeys jumping on the bed!" (He didn't say that, that's an old kiddy rhyme Sparky just could not resist throwing in there.) Actually, the doctor's office staff said there really wasn't anything they could do about that and that they probably would subside. Sparky was surprised at that. There are medications out there that can be administered but the medical team seems to be on the really conservative side and is saying for now he just has to deal with it. Sparky is concerned about the length of time that this has been going on (three full days) and Eldy's recovery and rest being affected by persistent hiccups. There are probably some crazy hiccup remedies we haven't tried, so if anybody wants to chime in, we are ears....Eldy says his mother swore by sipping water through a WHITE handkerchief held over a glass and it had to be white. We don't have a white handkerchief, but we are about ready to try anything! We will try to be patient for a couple more days....

Eldy had his first physical therapy appointment today. He walked a bit with his walker, trying to remember to "roll" his right foot (operation side) as in normal walking instead of just plopping it straight up and down. He got some exercises to strengthen his muscles around his knees and some leg lifts. The therapist measured the angles of flexibility in his knees and how much he is able to straighten them out and bend them. 75% on the operation side, and 91% on the "good" hip side. Amazingly, the hiccups stayed away but came back when he got back home and back in his rocker. Some articles say that the hiccups are related to the interference with the gastrointestinal system and that the anesthesia irritates some nerves related to that and the diaphragm. So far we are just guessing and trying different things to stop them, but to no avail.

Day 5- Saturday, March 23...The hiccups are continuing. Eldy is not able to transition to a bed yet, so we can't test out the theory of the recliner vs. the bed as far as improving the hiccups. He is able to recline way back in the recliner so he is almost all the way stretched out and somehow manages to get some sleep while hiccuping, but it's a very fitful sleep of about an hour or two at the most. We're not sure that the bed is going to help much. He has to be completely vertical for the hiccups to go away. As the day went on, the hiccups seemed to slow down and actually stopped for about three hours, enough to give Eldy time to get some restful sleep. Yay! Here's hoping that continues to improve....One of the hardest things about surgery recovery time is regaining full use of your bathroom habits and that is really lagging behind right now. It's a problem for just about everybody. Hope we get that resolved really soon! 

Day 6-Sunday, March 24th...The hiccups are gone! Woo-hoo! We came up with another theory that may explain the hiccups. As Eldy started his recovery, he was requesting nice and thick strawberry milkshakes from a local ice cream shop. He was drinking them through a large straw but sucking up a lot of air trying to get the shake up through the straw. He had them three days straight. We think sucking the air through the straw might have aggravated his diaphragm. Who knows?

Day 7-Monday, March 25th..Eldy's lower legs are swelling...too much sitting in the chair maybe, even though he is up walking to the bathroom frequently. The doctor told him to elevate his feet higher than his heart and to ice above the knee on the one that is swollen the most. In the next few hours, the swelling improved. We will keep an eye on that. He says he was using his cane a lot today. So here we go! No holding this guy back! He is using his cane now for walking instead of the walker most of the time in the apartment. But no outside walking yet. We are going to try that tomorrow...

So here we are, at the end of seven days. Eldy is really moving around well. So going to say by for now, and if you are contemplating hip replacement surgery, check out part 2 of the blog for all the paraphernalia we bought in preparedness for the surgery. Thanks for following along! 
                                        Sparky and Eldo

Saturday, March 9, 2024

SOLD!! The Pinnacle Has New Owners!

It didn't take as long as we thought it would. Our 40 foot Pinnacle was sold last week to a couple that is interested in traveling more and in more style and room than what they had.

We were so grateful to Allegiant RV Repair Service in Middlebury, IN, who not only repaired our RV after the accident, but did such an amazing job that it looked brand new when finished! The owner, Tony, is a wonderful and ethical person to work with. RV repairs are top notch. Service is top notch. If you EVER need repairs in the Elkhart area, we HIGHLY recommend Allegiant RV Repairs and Sales. On a whim, we asked him if they ever do consignments, and they do! We cleaned it and got it ready for sale, they posted it online in a number of places, put it out front on their lot which gets a lot of local transporter traffic, handled all inquiries and paperwork and  at the first break of warm weather in late February, we had a buyer. Not only did the first people who looked at it decided to buy it, but the same day, another couple was ready to sign a check to purchase it if the first sale didn't go through. We were blessed in that we bought it just before the pandemic hit in 2000, and sold it in the middle of current pricing where RV prices are just now starting to come down. We came out a little bit ahead and we are thrilled and relieved.

When we bought it in 2020

It's bittersweet to not have the rig any more, but it was time for us. It's going to be even more bittersweet going back through our blogs and photos as we reminisce. What a time we had! What amazing experiences and beautiful scenery we got to see! Sparky is really glad she was diligent about recording all our travels and adventures. It was quite the life!

Eldy is going to be 76, Sparky is going to be 74 this summer. We hope to travel again some day in a much smaller rig, but we shall see. Eldy is going to have hip surgery in a couple of weeks, Sparky is subbing a lot for now....

Sparky is busy crafting on non-subbing days, which aren't very many! Here are some things she has made in the past month or so....She's really into making zippered pouches, totes and rope bowls right now. Next month, it will probably be something else. If you ever want to see how A.D.D and random Sparky is in her craft endeavors, check out her Etsy shop here: JeanBeanGifts

Our next "adventure" is Eldy's hip replacement surgery on March 19th. If anybody has any advice of any kind about recuperating, please let us know! And thank you in advance....

Bye for now.....   Sparky and Eldo

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Hitch Itch?

When we were first traveling in our class A motorhome years ago, (a 40 ft.Tiffin Phaeton) we would pack up and move every few days or a week and head out to our next destination. We were so eager to travel and see the country, and campgrounds were so reasonable and available, we could do lots of spur of the moment traveling. So we did! We loved it. If we didn't like the area where we were, we'd say, "Let's head out tomorrow and plan along the way." There was lots of flexibility in our planning and spur of the moment decisions while driving down the road. Call a campground while driving and see if they had room? No problem, and they usually did. Don't like the particular campground? Pack up and leave and head out for a different one the next day. Sometimes we'd pull into a campground and it was so bad we pulled right back out and kept going!  A motorhome was a LOT easier to pack up and go in those days than a travel trailer or fifth wheel which we last had so that made it easy to change our minds.

Full time RVers, which is what we were, would nickname that urge to get back out on the road and head out, getting the "hitch itch". Eldo used to love to sing that first line of Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" song because we had the hitch itch quite often. But-after three years of busy traveling, we loved Florida's west coast so much we settled down and bought a house in Bradenton and lived there for seven years. Eldy loved his golf, Sparky loved her subbing.

Fast forward to our second interval traveling full time-- We got the hitch itch after living in crowded Bradenton/Sarasota, with all it's humidity, hurricane threats and jumble of constant newcomers heading to Florida to the land of sunshine and beaches. Eldy got the hitch itch really badly after seven years, and Sparky was right there with him. He said, "What do you think about heading out on the road again?" Sparky said, "SURE!" This time in a 40 ft. fifth wheel with a big honkin' dually, which is all we could find at the time of Covid and once again off we went as full timers. 

BUT- campground prices and availability had become much more of a logistics challenge, so we'd have to stay longer, at least a week to three weeks, juggling our special thousand Trails membership requirements, and campground availability. It had to become a much more regularly scheduled journey with regular stops as we traveled this past three years. That part, we didn't like as much. BUT--if you have the funds and can do it, you can still have "hitch itch", not be tied to specific campgrounds, move around more and travel farther, but you will still have to plan ahead. Many more people are still RVing after Covid, and campgrounds are not keeping up with enough spots and updated amenities nor are there enough campgrounds to meet the demand, so there are many more people competing for spots.

We still got the hitch itch, but now we were forced to plan WA-A-A-A-Y ahead, weeks out in advance where we were going, where we were going to stay, and how to use our Thousand Trails membership to the max. That created a similar travel plan each year, due to budget constraints of traveling to the same areas at about the same time each year. For three years, we followed a similar path--the northeast in the summer, fall in the midwest, winters in the southwest, then back to spring in the midwest. Even though we were in a somewhat predictable travel pattern, we still would find interesting things to do and branch out with short day trips looking for unique activities at each location. If you have been following our blog, you would see some repetition but also some great new things we did each year. Once we decided to come off the road, due to our accident and ages, we settled down in our hometown area of Elkhart.

Do we miss traveling in the RV? Yes, we do...BUT--there are lots of wonderful things going on in our area, and we can still travel and do little trips when we get the "hitch itch". 

Just recently, Sparky went to a "Fire and Ice Festival" in downtown Goshen, IN, the next town over from where we currently live. It was a small festival, but supposedly, there were to be over 30 ice sculptures, each made from a 300 pound block of ice, an ice throne you could sit on for photo ops, an ice sleigh as well, and fire dancers. Because Eldy is having hip troubles, he chose to have Sparky go check it out as there would be a bit of walking all around downtown.

Some of the ice sculptures were very cool! (ouch! Sorry about that one!) 

This guy was working on a frog eating a pretzel in front of Jojo's Pretzel Shop. He said he'd been coming to this festival and carving for years. 

Sparky got to sit on the ice throne for a brief moment--any longer and she would have froze her tushie off!

Entering Clementine's
Over Sparky's Christmas break (she is working at substitute teaching pretty steadily again) we took a couple of little trips to see family on both sides, and then we decided, on the spur of the moment, (yay!) to head up to South Haven, Michigan, one of our old stomping grounds years ago when we had our class A motorhome. It's a beautiful little lake town with a nice harbor, a lighthouse and a great summer or winter destination. There are lots of cool little shops downtown. There's also a beautiful RV park there, where we had stayed years ago, called South Haven Sunny Brook.  We did not drive by there, but we decided to visit Clementine's, a beautiful restaurant in an old bank building downtown South Haven.  There are two locations, one here in South Haven, the other Clementine's Too in St. Joseph, MI. The old restored bank building made into a restaurant at the South Haven location is AMAZING! Even more so with the holiday lights and decorations. Here's what you see when you enter the lobby:

Here's the bar area:

The food is delicious and the menu extensive...We love their onion ring towers--two sizes to choose from. We recommend the smaller one, it's plenty big enough for two people, but our eyes were bigger than our stomachs so we had to have the tall tower. That's a lotta onion rings! Then Sparky had to have fried zucchini, with a ranch/dill sauce.

After a wonderful meal, Sparky had to walk the pier to see the small lighthouse there. During the winter, photographers have captured amazing shots of the winter weather--huge ice slab buildups with huge waves crashing over the pier, but today, it was a calm day very little wind, so Sparky walked out to the end of the pier where the lighthouse is, and walked back. (Eldo has a bad hip so he is being careful, it was an icy, slippery walk!) And, it was COLD and a wet chilly day! We're still trying to get used to that after living in Florida for seven years. Those midwest winters were a distant memory for us, but they have returned to the forefront with a vengeance! We are living it as we write...
After the pier walk, we headed back to the car and spotted an outdoor skating rink--how fun! Sparky would try that, especially since now, a lot of rinks have plastic grown up sized "sleds" that you can push around in front of you so you won't fall down. Sparky would definitely need one of those, her balance is terrible as a 73 year old.

(Yep, and I wouldn't let her out on the rink unless she had one, firmly says E.) There was also a cool fire pit right by the rink, for warming yourself. This reminded Sparky of skating on her elementary school football field that was flooded each year in the wintertime, and where she lost her two new permanent front teeth in a fall in second grade while skating backwards. (It was so traumatic, she still talks about it 66 years later laughs Eldo.)

Cool mural near the rink
South Haven is a cool town....we really enjoyed our visit today. We love doing little day trips and venturing out once again. With the day coming to a close, we head back to Elkhart, our home for now and for awhile. Have you ever had the "hitch itch"? For us, hitch itch just looks a little different these days.....

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

A Trip to the Motor City

Holidays are wonderful times to get together with families, especially if you don't have to fly! Sparky's sister lives near Detroit, so off we went for a quick trip to the Detroit area close to Christmas. It's about a 3.5 hour drive from Elkhart, and we needed to put a few highway miles on our baby Bronco to "break in" the engine. Guess that's still a thing--vary your driving speeds the first thousand miles. We definitely have been doing that!

We went to Belle Isle Island, a 982 acre island park that is 2.5 miles long, in Detroit, developed in the late 19th century. Belle Isle, also known as the "Jewel of Detroit", is the main island with several surrounding islets. You can walk or bike all around the island which would be 5.4 miles. One third of the island is a natural wooded area. Of course, it's surrounded by water, with 7 miles of shoreline. There are three lakes on the island, and 230 acres of forested wetlands. You can rent kayaks there, picnic, fish, swim and visit all the wonderful resources. There's an aquarium there, which is ranked among the top ten aquariums in the country by visitors, a gorgeous memorial fountain, a beautiful conservatory that is under renovation, a nature center, and the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, which we visited today. That's the Edmund Fitzgerald anchor Eldy is standing in front of outside the museum.
Eldy in front of the Edmund Anchor

The museum was very cool. The museum is all about the steamships that have traversed the Detroit River from the early days and the boating history associated with the Detroit River.

When first entering the museum walkway coming in, you see the Miss Pepsi hydroplane racing boat. It's about 36 feet long and about 9 feet wide, and ran on 230 gallons of jet fuel. It was built in the late forties and retired from a successful racing career in 1952 because no one could challenge it. It was the fastest hydroplane on the Detroit River during its time. No wonder, as Detroit's expertise in engines and motors was legendary.

The Gothic Room

As you continue on into the museum, the most beautiful oak carved entry room awaits. This is part of the Gothic Room, a smoking room from the City of Detroit III steamship. The steamship was a side wheel steamer, one of the largest sidewheel steamers on the Great Lakes and at the time it was built and launched, the largest in the world. The Gothic room had intricate English oak carvings and was located on the top deck of the ship. There was plush leather upholstery, leaded glass windows, and a pipe organ for entertainment. The ship also had a winery on board, a palm tree court, and salons. These luxury steamers were the forerunners of today's cruise ships. The ship ran between Detroit and Cleveland, or Detroit and Buffalo. Nothing but the finest china, crystal, and accommodations for passengers who wanted a luxurious cruise during the early 1900's.

The museum had a pilot house where you could try your hand at navigating a freighter past buoys to dock it. That sounded like fun! The video said Sparky crashed into a buoy, but she swears she never hit anything! (That's what she said about the dent in the truck, says Eldy.) There were many more wonderful exhibits. Sparky loved the freighter horn area, where you could push a button, and hear all the different signals that a freighter uses while navigating the river. Love the sound of those horns!
The museum was small and easily walkable, but interesting and informative. There was a sizable section devoted to microplastics and how damaging they are to people and the environment. Even beer has microplastics in them, sad to say.

While in the Detroit area, we visited the Motor City Brewing Works, a brewery and grill. It had the most fantastic pizza and salad, and Eldy loved his tavern brewed Witt beer that he had. The salad had fresh mozzarella on it. Yum!
We also drove around downtown Detroit a little bit. We viewed the Brush Park district where opulent old homes at the turn of the century are being renovated and restored to their former glory. This area used to be called the "Little Paris of the Midwest" in its heyday. We didn't get any photos, because it was such a dreary day. But here is one from the internet of one of the more famous ones--the Ransom Gillis house, which has been restored.
Our brief Michigan holiday was over too soon...then it was back to Indiana to share Christmas Eve with Eldy's son and his family.  Here are the Three Musketeers-- (Sparky's brother-in-law, sister, and Eldy) at the brewery:

Back in Indiana.....Eldy's son's family...

From our family to yours...may the coming New Year bless you with good health and good tidings....
                                     Sparky and Eldo