Sunday, September 30, 2012

An Awesome Auction

Elkhart, IN     High:  72   Low:  47

Time to check out the awesome auctions going on at Shipshewanna Auction barn....Sparky used to go to the auctions when she lived in the South Bend area years ago...It's fun, it's great to see what STUFF comes in that people want to get rid of and what ridiculous prices you might be able to get for it. And since it had been years since the last time she visited the auction in Shipshewanna, she wanted to see how it had changed and it has....Just like  all things do, the auction seemed to be smaller and bringing in less money for the sellers, due to the economy, for sure. Sparky made all the photos small today in hopes that all the photos won't cause too many problems for viewing.

You would think that people would run out of "old stuff" to bring into these auctions...But there was old stuff a-plenty here today....Old toys, old lamps, old furniture....

Some retro stuff...interesting chairs, eh?

Sparky saw some things she remembers from her childhood...Her mom had an old jewelry box that was like a little cabinet that looked just like this!

She remembers some of these old toys....
Her little brothers sitting in a similar wooden high chair...
And just in time for Halloween....

Old metal music stands...Sparky just liked the way the light hit these old pieces.....
An auction is a great place to people watch....
It's also a place that's LOUD and the cacophony was deafening with multiple auctioneers in multiple arenas--at least  six auctions all going at the same time! Sparky and Eldo didn't bid on anything, where are we gonna put it? :-)  But here are a couple of items Sparky was itching to bid on....stenciled hat boxes to store--what else?--yarn in a craft room....
Old fencing to mark a garden plot....
A cool storage cabinet to put rubber stamp pads and scrapbooking supplies in.....

A spool rack for winding ribbons or yarn on...

And that's not all...but it is for now...Sparky would definitely drag Eldo back to Shipshewanna often if we were in a sticks and bricks house! (Thank goodness, we're not! says a relieved E.)
There were TWO antique Maytag wringer washers that went out the door....
(Hey, Sparky....Too many photos today! Time to wrap it up! warns E.) Oops! Sorry about that, got on a roll with all the neat stuff at the auction today....OK...we'll see you later!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What's New With Newmar?

Elkhart, IN     High:  68   Low:   46

Lots to do here in Elkhart, IN...You might not think so, but with the Amish and Mennonite communities nearby like Shipshewanna and Nappanee, (30 min.), the RV Museum (10 min.), Amish Acres, the Heritage Trail, the newly renovated Lerner Theater in downtown Elkhart, the Elkhart River Walk.......

The Pumpkinvine Bike/Hike Trail, and lots more...there's never a dull moment here!  And don't forget all the RV suppliers, too! From HWH (leveling system on many coaches) to RV and fifth wheel dealerships, to discount parts and supply stores for RV's, you could spend a lot of time here....And so, we are!

Eldy decided he wanted to take a tour of the Newmar plant in Nappanee, IN, one of the few remaining family owned RV businesses, and in his mind, one of the top three companies left out there who build quality RV's. The hour long tour is free and you get to get up close and personal with each factory line in the shop and with the owner, Mahlon Miller.  Mr. Miller came into the meeting room and chatted with us at the beginning of the tour. He described some of the quality that's built into each custom built coach, like the Comfort Drive steering option-- basically, a pushbutton that enables you to steer much more easily in a constant wind by adjusting the amount of pressure needed to turn the steering to your liking. Someone asked about how many coaches are built each day. The plant does not build a single coach until they have an order from a dealer. They are currently building three coaches a day. Want to know how much one of these babies cost? They had retail price lists in the waiting room....Sparky went into sticker shock after the first two, so the King Aire-top of the line is not listed, but it's over $700,000.

After getting our headsets, a young woman started the tour for us, and unfortunately, no photos were allowed, unless you order a coach from Newmar. (photos today from a King Aire brochure) Then you can find out when the line is going to start your rig, and you can photograph your rig being made from start to finish! We started with an RV that was just beginning to be assembled on the chassis. She took us down the line and at each "station", as the coach was built, she gave us facts about the wiring, the roof, the specs on the interior walls and such. As we walked the line, we saw the rigs from bare bones to receiving the appliances, to putting on the roof, to adding the slides to the finished coach waiting to be painted.

Eldy was totally absorbed in the structure of the motorhomes, so much, that as he was peering under the slide, looking at the new type of flush floor slide out (no bump to go up and over as the slide comes in) that a worker came over and asked him what he thought about the slide mechanisms. They had a nice conversation, and the tour just about left him behind! He could have talked with the guy a lot longer, but it was time to move on.

You know how the newer Newmars have the air conditioning units hidden up on top by the way the roof is framed in? And how a couple of their models look so tall, much taller than the normal RV? Well, they are. The tour guide lady said that the heights on these top of the line Newmars are 13 feet, 4 inches! That reduces a lot of bridges that you can go under, that's for sure! We've seen many bridges on our travels that are right at 13'-4" and 13'-6". Sparky and Eldo wouldn't want the worry and additional travel planning and restrictions that would cause, even if these are gorgeous coaches!
living room and kitchen area
Eldy loved the cockpit on the Newmar....It sort of wraps around the driver, making all the controls easy to see...He also loved the power cords on rewind wheels and the tire pressure monitoring system already on the coach...His favorite model and on his "wish list" if he hit the lottery, was the King Aire....That's one of their coaches that was 13 ft., 4 in.  A metallic looking porcelain floor, rear walk in closet, a full wall slide, a Fisher & Paykel Dish Drawer, a.k.a. a dishwasher, a 5 watt solar panel, a six camera external/internal monitoring system, heated driver and passenger seats, self-closing cabinets, power window shades, Bose radio system, King Sleep Number bed, ten fire extinguishers/smoke detector alarms, Ultra leather headboard and room accents, electric heat under the floor tile in the bathroom (an extra)....geesh! The list goes on and on......

They let us go inside some of the finished coaches that were waiting for cleanup after our tour was complete. We enjoyed seeing the work of a different manufacturer than our Tiffin. There was a couple from Australia on the tour, and they gave a glowing report of nothing but positives about their new Newmar that they had recently purchased.  Nice to know there are still companies out there that are taking care of their customers and products in the RVing industry...

We really enjoyed our tour today and highly recommend seeing the Newmar facility when in the Elkhart/Nappanee area......

Friday, September 28, 2012

Canine Cops Corral Criminals

Elkhart, IN     High:  68    Low: 46

Eldo heard about a special demonstration going on at Elkhart Memorial High School. It was a canine demonstration of police work involving handlers and their dogs from 26 police departments all over the midwest--Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri, to name a few.  The officer/handlers came with their dogs as part of a training session which culminated in the free demonstration at the high school and awards given to two retiring police dogs and their handlers.

The K-9 units have changed over the years from being trained to be strictly attack and narcotics seeking dogs, searching for missing persons and many other police duty dogs to more civilized, friendly public servants with multi-faceted personalities--we're talking about the dogs here :-) -- because that's what the public needs and wants to see. But the public's perception of police dogs perhaps remains still one based on a just a little bit of fear? Sparky doesn't know about you, but when she sees a German Shepard police dog barking its head off inside the car, she thinks the dog can't wait to get out and attack the first person it sees! The dogs look scary, especially when they are barking their heads off in the officer's car waiting to be put to work, and the perception is probably reinforced a little by signs like this:
How'd you like to be pursued by this car? It says "Hemi Pursuit" on the rear tail fender, and "Keep Away in red on the window along with "CAUTION Police K-9". Consider yourself warned!
nice car!

Did you know it takes 3 years to become a dog trainer for the police department? That it takes 6 years to become a master trainer? The dogs think their duties are play and the supreme reward for doing a great job is a tennis ball which gets returned to its handler with a big slobbery glob of drool each time they are rewarded. UGH!

We saw how the dogs of the dogs went down the football field searching for a very specific scent he was trained for, despite a football field that had seen a LOT of action during the day. Think of all the smells on that football field in an average high school day! We saw the dogs go after purse snatching muggers who attacked an old lady (a cop dressed up as a grandma), we saw them take down the suspect, and we THOUGHT we saw a dog open the back door of the police car and come running after the bad guy! It turns out that the police officer has a release button on his belt that opens the car door and lets the dog out.

At one point during the demonstration, word came out over the loudspeaker that officers were needed to respond to a situation out on County Road 19. Several officers left the field, ran to their cars and took off out of the parking lot, sirens going, lights flashing. We wondered what was up in the county? The program resumed and a few minutes later, the "suspect" that the officers were called out to apprehend, was driving a car back into the football stadium and onto the track! It was a setup! But it was cool to see the traffic stop, three guys in the car dressed in fat, padded Michelin Man type suits so the dogs teeth wouldn't hurt them. Two guys got out running and the dogs went after them and brought them down to the ground. The third "suspect" refused to get out of the car, but the dog dragged him out! Here the officers are getting ready to send out the dogs as one of the suspects jumps out of the car and starts running away. Not for long!

We saw how the dogs sniff out drugs and find them on suspects. When they have identified someone having narcotics hidden on themselves, the dogs sit down right in front of the person.

To counteract the general public's perception, trainers and handlers are wanting the general public to know that the dogs are working for THEM, to keep them safe, and when they are not working, they are VERY friendly and approachable. By having the demonstration, the general public can appreciate the skills and benefits working police dogs have to offer. It was eye opening to see these dogs being cuddled by little toddlers, petted and fawned over by LOTS of little kids and not a single gr-r-r-r in response. And we sure did appreciate their skills after seeing this demonstration!

This dog is posing for a photo at the end of the show with the little girl by waiting for a gentleman to throw him a big yellow tennis ball, what the dogs work for as a reward. We didn't see one treat being given out for good work, it was always the yellow tennis ball! Bet they get spoiled at home!

It was a very interesting program and the first time Elkhart has done a demonstration for the public. At the end of the awards for the retiring dogs and the demonstrations of the K-9's in action, they had a "meet and greet" down on the field. Meet the handlers, meet and greet the dogs. The dogs even gave kisses to the little kids who came up to pet them. The officers were passing out "trading cards", stickers and the kid were lovin' it. Sparky got a trading card for the blog.

It was GREAT! We REALLY enjoyed the program. Hope they do it again next year!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Old Bag Factory

Elkhart, IN   High: 74   Low: 44

Sparky went to a very special place yesterday while Eldo got some chiropractic care from his trusted doctor in Goshen. The name of this very special place is The Old Bag Factory located in Goshen, IN. It's an historic place, a factory built in 1896. It's kind of like a cross between a vintage shopping center and an artists' colony. It has a ton of history behind it AND it is an official site of the Northern Indiana Quilt Gardens along the Heritage Trail. This Goshen plant used to be one of the largest and most important factories owned by the Chicago Detroit Bag Company.

It's got beaucoup charm and atmosphere....It's cozy, it has a unique layout and architectural details to it, it's a wonderful place to walk around and visit...There are a wide variety of interesting shops and artists' studios there....Breads and chocolates, jewelry, vintage boutiques, heirloom furniture restoration, galleries, a cake shop, working artists' studios, sculpture, cafes and pottery....Sparky didn't visit all of these shops today, she ran out of time. She made it to two of them....Two very special ones....Goertzen Pottery and Shirley Shenk Quilt Designs.....

Goertzen Pottery has WONDERFUL functional pottery/cermaic items---bowls, soap dispensers, vases, all kinds of beautiful pieces of art for your home at very affordable prices....Sparky LOVED the colors......The studio and workroom were light and airy, and the sunshine pouring in through the windows just made it a creative, happy place. The studio was a warm and inviting place, and the people working there were lovely people to talk to.

One of the artists, Moshe Hodges, was there throwing an extra large mug in a series of them for the local NPR radio station.

From there, Sparky decided to check out the log cabin on the Old Bag Factory site, the home of Shirley Shenk's unusual and award winning one-of-a-kind quilts. The sign on the door says NO PHOTOS. The signs inside the shop say, NO PHOTOS. It's the kind of place when you walk in, even if you are not a quilter, you say, WOW!

And you understand WHY they don't want you to take photos. Shirley's designs are a fantastic modern take on quilting. She's a FIBER artist. Her patterns are not your classic wedding ring, log cabin quilt patterns.  If her designs were shown on quilt magazine covers or in articles about her, in a matter of time, cheap imitations from abroad would flood the market. No siree, not happening! Sparky put away her camera. But here's the great thing...A nice gentleman met me at the door and he started asking a few questions after I asked him if he had literature I could take back with me to mention Shirley's quilts on my blog.  What kind of blog was it? I told him it was a travel blog about our RV travels and  about "off the beaten path" places that we love to visit. It turns out that the nice gentleman was Shirley's husband and once he felt that Sparky was an honest "reporter" of the cool and noteworthy places RVers would love to see and visit, he gave me a great tour of the cabin, of Shirley's studio and proceeded to let me take a photo of the quilt garden from Shirley's studio window and a couple more photos. Thank you!
Shirley's studio  supports other fiber artists as well, so there are unique cards, gifts and fiber sculptures inside to marvel over. "Grandma" is a soft sculpture. I'm sorry I don't remember the name of the person who does these sculptures.

One last thing about Shirley Shenk's quilts....They have security "watermark" stitching built into every quilt. If someone were to steal one of her quilts and attempt to sell it by cutting off the copyrighted name tag, Shirley's initials and the name of the Amish stitcher who completed the quilt stitching are embedded in the quilt somewhere in one of the quadrants. It really opened Sparky's eyes to how difficult it is for crafters and artists to make a living without having their ideas stolen and copied right and left.

If you get a chance, check out the Old Bag Factory in Goshen, IN, on 1100 North Chicago Ave. It's a wonderful place to spend a day!

By the time Sparky got done with the quilt tour and pottery, Eldy was back from the chiropractor, almost as good as new! Got lots going on in the next few days.....Check back in and visit with us!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Schlepping Around Shipshewanna

Elkhart, IN    High:  72    Low:  44   Fog

Yesterday we decided to visit the gorgeous Elkhart Visitor's Center. It's behind the Cracker Barrel Restaurant off Cassopolis Street very near the Indiana Toll Road entrance and exit.  It's very beautiful, there are many unusual quilts on display in the various areas of the center and a great selection of pamphlets and information about Elkhart County. Even though this is Eldy's hometown, we stopped there anyway to learn some new things about Elkhart County, like the Heritage Trail tour. It's a wonderful place to stop, sit and relax and read about all the things there is to do here. Don't miss this beautiful center when you are in Elkhart!

You can also get a free CD for the Heritage Tour that Elkhart has every year. The Heritage Trail Tour is all about the Amish culture that's so big in this area, the art, the area attractions, the treasure filled shops, the historic stops, and the Amish and other fine restaurants. (Sparky knows every fine restaurant in the area already, explains E.) Along the Heritage Trail Tour are the Quilt Gardens and Murals. We are going to do the Heritage Trail on another day, but just to give you an example, here is one of the quilt gardens for 2012. It's in front of the Menno-Hof Museum, a great place to learn about the area and the Amish. For 5.00, you can tour the big red barn and learn about this area.

Sparky is going to do that on another day....There is a TON of stuff to do in this area! Even though we've lived in the area for many years, there are a lot of things we've never explored. Time to change all that!

After visiting the beautiful Elkhart Visitor's Center, we hit the Shipshewanna Flea Market...It's really changed over the used to be household items, tools, crafts --people would come and sell HOMEMADE crafts, signs they painted themselves, garden art they made themselves, now it's just about all from China. Everything there is from China or India, including the quilts and rugs.  Phooey! But you still can see all kinds of stuff.....From big girl panties.....

To acres of socks, to tools, to discounted perfume to garden art, to FOOD....Oh, yeah! Sparky's eyes don't miss a single food booth...Dips? She's in...(Now where did that woman of mine go? wonders E.) Actually, he doesn't have to wonder...if he sees a DIPS sign, or a CHEESEBALLS sign, he knows Sparky went inside to taste test and perhaps buy some. Sparky LOVES taste testing...You know all those little dishes with a bazillion types of cheese ball mixes and you taste them with little pretzel sticks? Did she buy any? Nope! Didn't buy a single one this time, but did taste test a bunch! :-) She just couldn't decide what flavor to get!
What else did we see?   Hm-m-m-mmmmm....Hubby chairs for the guys to sit and wait....
And those Sky Lanterns!  We saw those for the first time on July 4th weekend in Tennesee. People light them and send them aloft in the sky...Great for weddings, great for memorials...Now before anybody gets upset about the environment, Sparky asked a lot of questions and read about them. The paper for the lanterns is bio-degradable. Each lantern has a small heat source such as a fuel pad or a flat candle. The heat lasts just long enough to fill the lantern with hot air. They rise about 1,000 to 2,000 feet, then the cooler higher air extinguishes the flame. Sparky only bought four. Two for five dollars, but you can find them cheaper on the internet. She thought this would be a cool thing to launch at Christmas time with the grandkids when they come for a visit.

If you have any complaints about the stuff you get at the flea market at a certain shop, pay attention and buyer beware! :-)
We had a lot of fun at the flea market today...tomorrow, it's the Old Bag Factory! Wait till you see what Sparky saw!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Can You Believe This??????

Elkhart, IN     High:  66   Low:  50

It's a miracle! Sort of...Sparky and Eldo got their usual monthly mail from Alternative Resources, the mail forwarding service they use out of Sioux Falls, SD. Inside amongst the usual statements and bills there was a small package with the return address of Acadia Dispatch on the front. Sparky started getting excited!   Inside the package....DRUM ROLL PLEASE.....Sparky's lost set of car keys that she dropped somewhere on the Giant Slide Loop Trail at Acadia National Park about five weeks ago!

WOO-HOO! Sparky started yelling, "ELDY! YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS!!!! It's the KEYS! THEY FOUND OUR CAR KEYS!!!!" Can you believe that???? What are the chances of somebody finding them before the year was out, in the grass, on the trail somewhere before the snow hit, before the rain totally rendered the automatic lock useless? They still work great! Sparky called the dispatch office immediately, curious about where they turned up to see if the office knew, but the lady who mailed the keys wasn't there.. Gonna call tomorrow and see if a location was mentioned...just curious!

The rest of the day was anti-climactic....Eldy got a new pair of shoes from the New Balance store in Granger, IN.  He's the kind of guy that will wear holes in his soles before he breaks down and gets a new pair. And he wonders why his back hurts and his knees hurt! And then, when he gets his new shoes and his feet sigh with relief and say, "Oh, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!"  he wonders why he waited so long to get new ones! (Because good shoes cost an arm AND a leg! explains E.) The New Balance Store takes your old shoes and donates them to a good cause.

From there, we hit the Apple Store...always an interesting place with all kinds of people in there.  Sparky loved the kids' table where they have round balls for the kids to sit on while they play on iPads. A round ball helps kids' ground themselves with their center of balance and it helps them focus and pay better attention while they sit on them! Way to go, Apple!

We upgraded our software on our computers so we didn't have to use our own bandwidth. Sparky upgraded her computer to Mountain Lion, the latest operating system for Macs hoping to keep the level of security high enough to not have to purchase anti virus software. Apparently, the operating system now makes software companies get permission to access the operating system to help keep the hackers out. If Apple doesn't recognize the software company, it could conceivably block the software installation. What you do after that happens, Sparky isn't sure! It hasn't happened yet!  Speaking of apples, how about them Apples? Guess the iPhone 5 is going to boost the economy just about all on its own. Wish Sparky had bought some Apple stock way back when. (So does 85% of the rest of the country laughs E.).. That's as far as Sparky is going to get into the economy discussion. Back out she comes!

Eldy just got his iphone 4S upgraded on the operating system, and now Siri, the "personal voice assistant" has been updated as well. He's busy asking her what the scores are on various football games and when Notre Dame plays again. He asked about the Michigan/Notre Dame game knowing full well the outcome and Siri gave a quarter by quarter score card!

A dinner at Texas Roadhouse for the 7.99 Monday thru Thursday special  4:00-6:00 PM (several meat choices to pick from, salad, cinnamon butter with fresh hot dinner rolls, a salad and a potato) topped off the day with a special guest appearance here at Texas Roadhouse. Eldy keeps saying each time we come to Elkhart, "I wonder when I'm going to bump into someone I know here in Elkhart?" Tonight, he kept looking at the guy sitting behind us. It turns out that it was Bill Beck, Eldy's mentor from his first main job, 46 years ago (!) at Blessings Music. Bill is president of MSI, a company here in Elkhart. Bill was shocked to run into Eldy and it took him a little time to remember, guess he didn't recognize Eldy without so much hair! :-)  They had a great, although too brief chat, but Eldy plans to look him up again soon.....Bill was a great mentor and friend to Eldy in his young days, and taught him a lot about life. Eldy really looks up to him and appreciates the life lessons he received from this great guy.....

Another great day in the life of retirement......

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dad and Daughter Day

Elkhart, IN    High:  55  Low:  38 (!) Br-r-r--r...Is the heat on?

Yep, we are running the furnace which got fixed back in Wayland, MI. It's working great! Most of the time we use our heat pump, so we really don't use much propane as long as we stay in warmer locations. (WARMER, WARMER...remember that, Sparky! reminds E.) Yep, but I'm sure enjoying the crisp fall weather! Love it!
I've been riding my bike around the Elkhart Campground neighborhoods......Not the best views in residential neighborhoods except for the beautiful summer homes on the shores of Simonton Lake here in Elkhart. Sometimes there are beautiful or interesting sights to see, but not always!

But, it gets the job done. I'm up to 6-10 miles almost every day on my bike, so whatever it takes to get the job done, I'm gonna get out there and RIDE! I love riding my bike in this weather!

Today, Eldy's daughter, Kristi, her husband Ted, and their son Connor, came for a visit on Ted's birthday....We had a great visit that took up much of the chilly afternoon as we chatted the day away....

Kristi has been on a weight loss journey and lost over 50 pounds this year with mentors Chris and Roy Pickler  from Middlebury who were on the TV show America's Biggest Loser last season. Kristi never exercised when she was growing up and has always struggled with her weight. She is now running 5K's, riding a bike, drinking special shakes called Visalus, Body by Vi 90 Day Challenge, she's walking, using exercise equipment and working very very hard to maintain her weight loss and take care of herself for herself and her family.  WOW! She also has the support of a running group of friends who cheer her on and help keep her going. But it takes a strong person to decide to take better care of oneself. It all starts with the inner YOU. We are very proud of Kristi, and her husband and son are very proud and supportive of her, too.

Connor, her little son, 7 years old, has ridden as many as twelve miles with his mom on his little bike!   Here he is on his little scooter, wanting to show Sparky how he does a "pop wheelie" on his scooter...all of three inches off the ground!
I didn't get a good photo of Kristi's husband, Ted, the birthday boy, but we'll get one in here soon. It takes a good man to support his wife losing all that weight and letting her have all the time she needs to get her workouts and exercise in.

It was a great fall day spent with family! Thanks for spending time with us today.......