Wednesday, April 26, 2023

We Wait.....

We've been throwing a LOT of scenarios around in our heads, while waiting to hear the fate of our Pinnacle 5th wheel. (The truck is now in the shop undergoing repairs). After we got over the shock of the cost of parts and labor to fix the RV, which is just under what we initially paid for it, we started planning alternatives should they total our RV. We might rent an apartment and recoup some costs while Sparky teaches, we might sell our truck and get a smaller, towable car in the event we go from a fifth wheel to a class A motorhome (the drivable "box on wheels"). We might come off the road altogether, but that is at the bottom of both our lists of "what ifs...."

massive burrito at El Maguey
In the meantime, we are enjoying driving a smaller vehicle, the Nissan Rogue, eating at some great Elkhart restaurants (Michael's Italian Village-terrific Italian), Heinnie's Back Barn (great steaks), El Maguey Mexican Restaurant (great street tacos and burritos) and Sparky's subbing adventures.

This past week there was an active shooter drill at one of Sparky's subbing assignments. In the old days, it was just called a drill. It might have been called a Code Red, or a Code Blue drill or an acronym, and we used to just have weather drills (!), but now, in many schools, there are ALICE drills. ALICE stands for: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter (countermeasures), and Evacuate (when necessary). If you google this alert, it tells you all about the different steps when an intruder or active shooter is in the building and the pros and cons of such a program being used in the schools.

Because of the current events and school shootings, ALICE drills are conducted by announcing over the intercom using very specific scenarios, at least they are IN THIS AREA--like "There is an active shooter in the northwest corner of the building. He is wearing a blue hoodie. Take cover." Sparky was in a first grade classroom, helping the teacher. No matter how many times we tell the kids it was just a drill, there will always a couple of kids who constantly ask, "Is it real? Is this the real thing? I'm scared. I want my mommy." They cry or they shake like a leaf, with tears rolling down their face. It was so real. That's the idea, make it so real to expose the kids and staff so often in these drills, that it will become a habit to take cover silently or to exit the building as fast as you can and not cry or make noise the next time. Sparky witnessed a little girl comforting her classmate by stroking her arm, trying to soothe her as tears ran down her face. Geez, that's a lot for small children and their teachers to have to endure. A friend said to Sparky that whenever she goes anywhere any more, she always looks for hiding places and exit strategies thanks to her active shooter training when she was a teacher. Isn't that a sad commentary on the state of affairs these days?

On a more positive note--There are some interesting sights to see in the Elkhart area and Elkhart County. Most people know about the RV Museum, the quilt garden trail in the spring and summer, the Riverwalk, but there are also cool art installations all around town. The famous themed elk statues grace many corners of businesses and RV factories in town. They've been around for awhile but still are cool to see. This one is in front of a library.

We were driving around Nappanee, IN, and saw a short bike trail with art installations on it. This was called the Apple Orchard, and had "It's a-peeling" artwork to see. (Groan....) You can see the Amish and dairy culture is important here. Sparky will have to check out the bike trail on a nicer day.

Sparky liked this one...It's called "Work Until Dusk" by Karol Keller.

It's been very cold and rainy here, and occasionally sleeting. Temps are near freezing at night. We have seen little bits of snow here and there, too, so too cold to go ride the Pumpkinvine Trail. So when you can't ride, it's time to go get Amish "crack" donuts! We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Rise and Roll Bakery. THE best donuts in the area, if you like yeast donuts. These are maple glazed....YUMMY!

The classic best seller is the cinnamon powdered sugar donuts. And, there are now more locations of Rise and Roll in the area for your donut eating pleasure--Rise and Roll Bakery in Middlebury, Rise and Roll on Cassopolis St in Elkhart, Rise and Roll on State Road 19, and Rise and Roll in Mishawaka. (Hmmmm...somebody has been attacking the cinnamon sugar ones, laughs Eldo.)  Sigh....They are SO-O-O-O good.

Sparky is crafting......she is working on peyote stitch beaded pen wraps....This one is for the horoscope sign in July--Cancer the crab. It's almost finished...It will be wrapped around a G-2 Pilot ball point pen and is reusable over and over again. All you have to do is replace the ink cartridge without taking off the wrap. But you could slide it off and put it on another G-2 pen barrel very easily. Here is a camo one she did awhile back. 

These are going in Sparky's Etsy shop, JeanBeanGifts.

And so...We wait some more.....Couldn't think of a better place to wait than surrounded by family, Eldy's family has welcomed us with open arms. We're so glad to have a comfortable place to stay while we work out these issues with our rig and truck. Thank you, Brian and Lori and family.....See you around Elkhart.....

                                        Sparky and Eldo

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

The Beast Goes in for Repairs...

The beast is our Dodge Laramie Ram 350 dually diesel. It went in for repairs this week to Caliber Collision in Elkhart and parts are present and accounted for at the shop. Woo-hoo! Three weeks is the estimate...So our insurance company has a rental agreement with Enterprise. We're glad of that, we've had good experiences with Enterprise in the past and this time was no exception. Somehow, the appointment time was mixed up and we had to sit and wait about an hour past our time for them to come and get us to take care of the rental paperwork. When the agent got there, she was SUPER nice, and said that since we had to wait past our appointment time, she upgraded us to a nicer car for no additional charge! Thank you, Danielle! Here is our ride for the next 3 weeks or so....A Nissan Rogue SV. It's almost new, with only 4,000 miles on it. It's really pretty on the inside and gets really great gas mileage. We're really going to enjoy not paying diesel prices (3.99 and up locally) for awhile.

fabric panels on the side doors
And, it's wonderful to be driving a vehicle that is so easy to park! And it gets over 30 mpg. in town and over 36 on the highway! It has blind spot monitoring! And it's super comfortable to ride in and fun to drive, too! (Hmmmm....Sparky REALLY likes this car, doesn't she?) Yup.

Sparky has been subbing a LOT lately. The kids have been amazingly awesome so far, and really, not any horrendous classes--YET. Guaranteed there will be a few of those. Sparky would like to share one story that she shared on FB, so it will be a keeper in the memory bank. Apologies for repeating the story if you saw it on FB. So-o-o-o-o....One teacher left a conglomerate set of complicated lesson plans that were almost 80% technology reliant, on a Windows computer. Problem #1. Sparky hasn't worked in Windows for over 15 years. Problem #2. Sparky is not familiar with all the cute little icons that represent specific school programs--the ones that tell you which one is attendance, which one is the document camera, how to access power point slides, and how to move back and forth all morning long with the different little tabs, opening and closing without permanently closing something needed, etc. etc. Problem #3--it takes TIME to figure out the bazillion tabs open across the top of the computer, but there were also TWO computers at the teacher desk. Which one was the right one that connected to the overhead projector or the white board? Hmmmmm...the kids were getting antsy, Sparky was opening one tab after another trying to find the morning work slides, trying to figure out how navigate between different programs on the Windows computer without accidentally closing a window she might need later, etc. Not only were the computer screens in back of her, but she had to turn her back on the class to fuss with them--never a good idea. As her frustrations were mounting, the kids could tell she was getting a little upset. All of a sudden, it got deathly quiet in the room. That's usually NOT a good sign. Sparky turned around, and every single kid, all 20 of them, second graders, had laid their heads down on their desks and were waiting patiently and silently for her to resume teaching. NOBODY told them to do that, they just did it. Sparky almost cried, she was so moved and grateful for their understanding. THAT was a magical moment. They got a special treat later in the day. Teddy Graham treats. Sparky ALWAYS carries some kind of treat in her "bag of tricks". Welch's Fruity Snacks are another kid fave. These days the snacks should be gluten free, free of red dye #3 if possible, and other cautions have to be researched before passing out. Any peanut allergies? Could somebody possibly choke on a Jolly Rancher? These are serious considerations! Stickers are not as popular as they used to be. Food is ALWAYS popular. There are ALWAYS hungry kids who haven't gotten enough to eat during the day....

Next up, an on site inspection and estimate for our Pinnacle RV. That happens next week. We'll keep you posted!

Saturday, April 15, 2023

The Process Begins.....

We arrived in Elkhart on Tuesday, ahead of a big midwest storm. We were supposed to get large hail and bad wind, but it went to the north of us. Whew!

We are all settled in at Camp Tompkins, (Eldy's son's house). We have a HUGE site (haha--Brian's side yard), access to a fitness room (an exercise bike), a fire pit outdoors with beautiful Amish made Adirondack rockers, and a gorgeous flowing pond.

Also a shower house comes with the site (bathroom basement shower) should we happen to fill our grey tanks too quickly, haha. We don't have a sewer connection, but we found a local company, Cripes Sewer, that will pump out our black tanks for 80.00 each time if we are here for longer than two weeks at a time. Wastewater management is a must when you are mootchdocking-(staying with relatives) and you only have water and electric hookup. We have onboard storage tanks for when we are not hooked up to sewer. We have two black tanks-one for the main bathroom in the RV and one for the half bath. We have two gray tanks--one for the shower and sinks, and one for the kitchen sink. Gray water (the soapy dishwater and running water from sinks) can be dumped into a drain or at the edge of the woods on the property, but the black tanks have to be pumped or cleared out by dumping into a portable potty type canister, which we don't have, or by a septic service.  The black tanks will fill in about two weeks, the gray tanks fill much sooner. So we watch and make sure to be ready when we need to dump. 

How do you know when you need to dump? Most RV's have gauges that are supposed to show you how full your tanks are. But many RV black and gray tank gauges quit working after awhile because "stuff" gets stuck on the sides of the tanks and gunks up the gauges, rendering them pretty useless. There are all kinds of methods out there to supposedly clear your gauges and get them working again. Dawn dish detergent, fabric softener, ice cubes--(dump them down the toilet and then while you drive they are supposed to knock the stuff off the sides of the tank as they melt.) But despite our best efforts to keep the tanks clean and using different methods to clean them, our gauges quit working accurately not long after we got our rig. So how do you know when to dump if the gauges are not accurate? When you can see the water in the tank in the toilet start to come up to the opening in the toilet bowl, it's time to dump the black. When the shower stall drains super slow, it's time to dump the gray. (Or else your drain might be clogged with hair and gooey soap.) We are very informal about keeping track. That's just what we do.  After you've been RVing for awhile, you learn when it's time. The size of your tanks also determine how long you can go before dumping. (SPARKY! That's more than anybody wanted to know!....exclaims Eldo.) Well sure, but some people have no idea what living in an RV is like and how essential things are handled, so Sparky just threw that in today....She didn't intend to get anal about it.....HAHAHAHAHA! (GROAN.......)

The Pumpkinvine Bike Trail as Abshire Park in Goshen, is about seven miles away, so Sparky is going to get back on that while we wait each day to hear about estimates for repairs. The truck goes in Tuesday for repairs and will be tied up for about three weeks.

Sparky is glad to have the Pumpkinvine bike trail to take her mind off things like insurance claims. That is such a great trail! Paved most of the way, solid level gravel in parts, it's always a great way to see the Amish lifestyle and Amish folks out and about. 

Today, Sparky rode on the trail for 14 miles. It was a beautiful Easter Sunday and the Amish were dressed in their finery, returning from church and walking home. The women had on starched white bibs over long black dresses and wore black bonnets. The men wore white shirts, black coats, black pants and black hats. The kids were dressed in black and white as well. Sparky saw a little boy go running down a county road towards his farmhouse, all dressed up for Sunday church but no shoes on, running barefoot and carefree down the lane. It seems like the Amish are ahead of the theory of "grounding", letting your bare feet connect with nature, the woods, the grass, the earth, which is becoming a trendy term these days, as they go barefoot a LOT, even in cold weather! They go barefoot, it is said, to feel closer to God and the earth. The connection with nature, as part of God's creation, is an important part of the Amish culture.

It's early April and the only wildflowers spotted today were hepatica, the first among the many wildflowers that will eventually bloom along the trail.....The flowers are most commonly blue or lavender and they are really starting to pop along the trail.

Sparky went riding a few days later, and more is blooming. How about the beautiful Star Magnolia? Incredible blossoms.....
Sometimes you can see a small bison herd right outside the Jayco factory plants along the trail...the calves are out and about with their mamas. It just seems a little weird to see bison grazing right outside of RV factories.

Sparky started subbing in the local schools. Whoooo-eeee! The kids are a handful! Doesn't matter whether you are in kindergarten (average class size of 20 little rascals, you can count on somebody always pitching a royal hissy fit over some perceived wrong, somebody kicking and hollering on the floor, and somebody who is already VERY ADD or somebody just not ready for kindergarten), or managing a tough 4th grade class--(the highest Sparky will go, since girl drama has now gone from middle school down to 4th grade). BUT--she still loves it. Kindergarten especially, even if they are a handful. Who doesn't love a young child who, within minutes of meeting you, comes up to you, gives you a great big hug and says, "I love you!" and that's multiple times a day! Sparky has brushed up on lots of useful classroom management tips gathered over the years and some fresh new ones. And here's how you know you are teaching kindergarten for the day...
Teachers of elementary kids like to use "call backs" to get kids to simmer down and focus, even if it's for short periods of time. It works pretty well. You say, "Macaroni and cheese!" And the kids respond with, "Everybody freeze!" And they stop what they are doing...Hopefully. Times have changed. Now we use...Teacher: "Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?" Kids: "SpongeBob Square Pants!" Or this from DoJa Cat on Tik Tok.....Teacher: "Why don't you......Kids: "Say so!" Sparky doesn't do Tik Tok, so that one probably is not going to be used. She likes to use, "Waterfall, waterfall...." and the kids make movements with their hands like a waterfall running down and say, "SH-H-H-H-H-H...."

After the first day Sparky was EXHAUSTED. Her feet hurt, her back hurt, and it was challenging. But--she is meeting some great young minds, teachers' and kids', and loving to see what teachers are now doing and using in the classroom. It's been three years since she last subbed. Stay tuned for a few school stories now and then. After all, this is still a travel blog but we aren't moving for awhile while we wait to get stuff fixed. But, we might take some day trips, you never know! So Sparky is going to mix it up a bit as far as topics.

This week Eldy (a.k.a. Eldo) celebrated his quarter century birthday! We had a great family dinner at Michael's Restaurant in Elkhart, which gets 4.5 out of 5 stars. It's a terrific Italian restaurant! Great Italian subs, mostaccioli, lasagna, pizza and more. Here is the birthday boy and his new toy from his family.... A remote control car....Vroom, vroom!
Eldy's 75th birthday
Happy birthday to my sweet guy!                         
                                                                        Bye for now.....

Monday, April 3, 2023

A Stopover to See Family

Cornersville, TN.    High:  70's   Lows: 40's  Stoney Creek Travel RV Park (formerly Texas T)

When you are a full time RVer, and your home is where you park it, you have to REALLY pay attention to the weather a lot more. We use two to three apps to keep track.

We were going to just stay one night at Stoney Creek, but a severe weather system was going to be passing through the area and would follow us all the way to Kentucky if we chose to leave. So, we checked the park, found another night available and stayed to weather through the storm. The weather reports listed possible tornadoes (risk assessment 3), big wind and nasty rain. Yikes! We wanted to stay right in the site we were in, but the park said it was completely booked and we'd have to move out of our 30 amp site and move to another 50 amp site so the smaller rig coming in would have appropriate power. It involved moving just two rows over inside the park. You can't just drive a short distance without a complete pack up, shut down, stow stuff and bring in the slides. It's the full Monty, haha. We waited till the last minute to move, hoping someone would cancel and we could just sit tight but as checkout time approached, we had to hitch up just as a cloudburst occurred. Phooey! Thankfully, it was over quickly. BUT--as we were driving out of our site and over to the next site, our phones rang, and wouldn't you know--someone cancelled and we could have stayed put! Oh, well...... We were now in the backside of the park and right behind us is the Quonset hut where the emergency shelter is if we need it for tonight's storm.

Even though there was a storm coming, we got to see Eldy's daughter, Kristi, who lives in the area. Can't believe we didn't get a photo! We were so busy talking and catching up, we forgot. Here is a photo from a few years ago of the two of them, Eldy, pre-beard. We had a great dinner at Whiskey Creek Grill in Fayetteville. They have good steaks and a great chop salad. It's definitely a Tennessee country bar with live music at times and waitresses wearing tight, ripped jeans. Sparky doesn't get the whole ripped jeans thing, but she's old.

Stoney Creek Travel Park is a great overnight stop and is super popular this time of year as it is right off I-65 at Cornersville, TN so a lot of snowbirds hit it on their way north. It is a park of about 42 sites, gravel and nicely level, all pull throughs, 30-50 amp service. Some of the sites are 30 amp only, it's about half and half, it seems.

They have a really big dog park for the size of the campground! It takes up the entire front yard of the entrance to the park and there's a sweet swing to sit on while your furry friend runs all around.

They have a nice front porch to the office with a couple of rockers where you can sit and watch the traffic go by on I-65 lol, or maybe rock and read a book!

It is very close to the highway, so there is road noise, but that never bothers Sparky, as she sleeps with ear plugs. 

Hey, if you need good sleeping ear plugs, Mack's is the way to go. They are the waxy moldable silicone putty kind and really block noise,  but only up to 22 decibels...Snoring is like 50-60 decibels. (HEY, NOW....cautions Eldo.) If you are a really loud snorer, and Eldo is not, he's softened up these days, these might not work for you because really loud snoring registers at about 80-90 decibels, equal to that of a vacuum cleaner! WHOA!

Back to the threat of severe weather...(Sparky is a little ADHD, you probably know by now, explains Eldo. She's all over the place.) But she can really focus on a craft for HOURS, we will say that! (The WEATHER, Sparky, the WEATHER! FOCUS!) Ahhhhh, yes. What was the storm like?

Extremely heavy rain, and because we were in a low lying area in hilly Tennessee, we did not experience the heavy gusty winds we were expecting. However, there was a tornado touch down in Hazel Green, AL, 47 miles from the RV park, but not far from Eldy's daughter's area. 

We woke up this morning to sunshine and just a little breeze. The weather is expected to be very windy on our way to KY, so we got moving early this morning to head to Cave City, KY. to the Thousand Trails Diamond Caverns RV and Golf park. It's right outside Mammoth Cave National Park. We've been there several times, it's a park that's FREE with our membership. We can stay for three weeks for free if we wanted to, but we've got to get back to Indiana, as soon as we can to get our rig and truck repaired. At any rate, we are going to SLOW DOWN and take the next three or four days to breathe and relax a little more. I-65 was NUTS today with traffic, snowbirds heading north, Canadians ]returning home and construction slowdowns for many miles.....

Next stop: Park City, KY.  Thousand Trails Diamond Caverns  Site: A-8 

Weather: Highs--59-80.    Lows--36-68

Thousand Trails Diamond Caverns RV and Golf is in the heart of Mammoth Cave country where it's VERY hilly, so the sites are often unlevel but doable. If you review the reviews, people talk about "creative leveling" for this park which means they have to use a variety of leveling blocks under their RV and situating the rig just so. The RV park has about 7 pull through sites, about 15 in the center of the RV park that are buddy sites (narrow and living space facing each other), 11 decent sized back ins and other sized sites spread around at angles. We think the back ins are the nicest and roomiest. Here's site A-8:

another view of our site A-8
There are a total of about 68 sites. They also have tent camping, a small laundry, a nice playground for the kids, a pool, restrooms and showers. It's an older campground, but we really enjoy it. The back in sites are up against a woods and each site is offset from the next one so you aren't looking straight into your neighbor's RV. This is an older park, so it is a little run down. Facilities are very old, but clean. In the center of the park and on the sides, are beautiful green areas with rolling hills. The golf portion of the park is separate and down the road a bit. We did not explore that part of the park at all, but there are nice cabins and motel style or condo rentals there as well. And of course, you are VERY close to Mammoth Cave National Park. It's showing its age as well, but recent upgrades to the visitor's areas like the hotel and restaurant on site, are nice to see. 

There is a hiking/bike trail fittingly called the Hike and Bike Trail. It's very rocky and uneven and a challenge on a regular bike with very chunky rock portions on it, but it takes you right from the campground all the way down to Mammoth Cave National Park, if you're up for the cardio challenge. From the campground to the NP and back, it's 14.5 miles. Of course, an e-bike would be a lot easier...About 50% of the trail is like the photo at left and it's very hilly up and down all the way. Sparky is glad she has puncture resistant, tubeless tires on her Trek Verve 2!  The redbuds are blooming all over the place in KY, so it was nice to see those along the bike ride. There are benches along the trail once in awhile to stop and catch your breath and enjoy the breeze in the trees.

Also, LOTS of butterflies were out and about. Sparky saw a mint and black colored butterfly, but couldn't get a photo of it and couldn't find out what kind it was. It was so pretty! It looked like a Monarch only mint green in its patterning.

We didn't stay long enough to do any cave tours, and since we've done the main Mammoth Cave tour a couple of times, we'll wait till next visit to do some of the caves we haven't seen before. Not only that, but it was spring break in Kentucky, and the park was FULL of visitors. Tomorrow, we head out on our last leg to Indiana. Bad storms are coming in around Wednesday and we didn't want to delay our return to Indiana any further to later in the week, so we will complete our journey to Elkhart, IN on one day tomorrow, hopefully, a distance of about 387 miles, so we can settle in before the storms and wind come once again. we go again. Next time, we will be in Indiana, getting repair estimates and settling in one area for a long, hot Indiana summer. Bye for now.....