Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hello from Du Quoin, IL

Hello from Du Quoin, IL

Saturday Morning June 26, 2010 (tenth travelogue of this trip).

We are at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds  (map) for a Fleetwood motorhome rally. We arrived here Thursday (6/24). Set-up day was supposed to be yesterday, but they let us set up on Thursday. That was nice and gave us a day to catch up on projects.

One of the projects was to pay state taxes for the last two rallies. I really need to vent here. Both the state of New Mexico and Wisconsin are terrible to deal with. I have had sign up ahead of time (a huge project where they want vast amounts of personal data and the birth certificate of our third daughter (sorry Judy {grin}). The latter is, obviously, an exaggeration, but not much. Then trying to file my payment (unfortunately very small) is equally a hassle. I would say that I have spent at least 4 hours (probably closer to 6) on each state. In the case of WI, I can't file it till we get home, since they mailed me a “Letter ID” which is separate from my tax account ID number which they emailed me. Arrrrrgh. Of course, CA is terrible as well, but we did not sell there this year. Other states like WY and here in IL make it so easy. They hand you a slip of paper and you simply enter your gross sales and extended tax and mail it in.

Now, lets catch up on Hannibal. We chose to stop there because of some very fond memories. In 1987 we headed out in a '56 Chevy that I had just finished a total rebuild with all three girls and headed to Springfield, IL for a big car show. To this day, we don't know how we talked the girls into going with us (Lisa was 21!) but somehow we did. They were getting a bit restless, so we decided to do something fun. Somehow we found Hannibal (famous for being the boyhood home of Mark Twain). One evening we took a dinner cruise on the Mississippi and had a ton of fun.

So, we decided to take the riverboat dinner tour again and it was fun again. I have attached a photo of the boat taken from “Lover's Leap” (an overlook on the huge bluffs adjacent to the Mississippi).

River Boat Cruise taken from "Lovers Leap"

I had mentioned that we had observed some serious flooding of the farm fields in the river bottom areas as we traveled south. Well, just before we went on the cruise, we got a call telling us that they had to move the departure location up the river a bit to higher land. Indeed, the city had to install the flood gates in the levy that protects the town (see photo)
Flood gates installed in the levy

We also toured the Mark Twain Museum and the buildings where he grew up in Hannibal. At the museum there was an actor that portrayed him and he did an excellent job!!

We drove south on MO route 79 which is a part of the Great River Road. It was a nice drive, but we did not get to see the river very much.

The Injun Joe campground was showing its age. The sites were very small and close together, but it was on our route out of town and had 50 amp service which let us run all three of our air conditioners at once. I was able to take a dip in the pool and that was really fun.

I mentioned air conditioners. Wow, do we need them!! There have been heat warnings all over the area for several days. The heat index has been well into the 100s most days. Even the locals comment about how hot and muggy it is. The same is true here in Du Quoin. We only have 30 amp service here, but that lets us run two of the air conditioners and that keeps us comfortable.

Got to get ready for the opening of the rally today, so that is all for now.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hello from Hannibal, MO

Hello from Hannibal, MO

Tuesday Morning June 22, 2010 (ninth travelogue of this trip).

Lots of miscellaneous stuff to catch up on. Our wonderful campground in West Salem, WI was right on the La Crosse River. It looked like a good place to fish, so I bought an out-of-state 4 day license ($24). I guess that is not too bad, but compared to the very reduced fee in CO for folks over 65, it kind of hurt. Worse yet, I never find the time to fish in CO. I did not catch anything, but had a lot of fun.

I talked about how neat the campground was. We were lucky and did not have any close RVs except for the last day. Even that was not bad. The camp hosts even had great rolls and coffee for Fathers Day. We had only planned to say a couple of days, but we enjoyed the area so much that we stayed 7 nights! I have included a photo which does not come close to showing how neat the area was.

I brought my bicycle with me on this trip and have been riding it a bit. Pat got it for me as a gift a few years ago and it is the first high quality bike I have owned. The shifting is flawless! I was able to ride it on some trails in the campground area and it was a ton of fun. Rides were not long, but I still got a bit of exercise.

I mentioned that I had been working on a problem with the bus. It is not a huge problem, but my charge air cooler air flow is not what it should be and it allows the air entering the engine to get hotter than I would like. I built/installed a hydraulic fan system before this trip. That should have solved the problem, but it did not. I have been working with the fan blade supplier and he said that I must have a shroud to make the fan work properly. So, I fabricated one out of fiberglass in the campground (see photo). The photo shows the raw shroud with the fan. I wrapped the fan with cardboard to get the best fit I could, given the situation. The shroud doesn't look all that impressive, but once I got it trimmed up, it looked pretty good. That did not solve the problem completely, so I am doing some more system analysis and working with both the fan manufacturer and the pump/motor manufacture.

When we were touring the upper Mississippi, we saw some strange purple contraptions hanging from trees along the highway. Then we found one in the campground. It turns out that they are bug traps that are mounted in selected Ash trees. It turns out that there is a terrible infestation of Emerald Ash Borer ( This threatens ash trees in North America.

We left the campground on Sunday and drove a bit less than 250 miles to a truck stop close to Mediapolis, IA on US 61. We then drove a bit over 100 miles to Hannibal. Normally we enjoy two lane roads, but the two days getting here were not a lot of fun. The trip through Wisconsin was not good at all. The roads were very rough and there was a lot of tight twisty areas. In addition, it rained heavily during parts of both days. Indeed, it has been raining in the Midwest a bunch. All along our journey we saw flooding of the farm fields. The rivers are out of their banks in some areas, and there have been a lot of flash flood warnings. It is probably not bad enough to make the evening news, but the huge number of folks affected are probably really suffering.

We are staying in Injun Joe Campground (map). We will have more about Hannibal in the next installment.

That is all for now.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hello again from West Salem, WI

Hello again from West Salem, WI

Saturday afternoon   June 18, 2010   (eight  travelogue of this trip).

Monday (6/14) we took a northern tour on the Great River Road.  We drove up the Minnesota side from the I-90 exit to Wabasha, MN and then crossed the river and came down the Wisconsin side.  That whole valley is so beautiful!  We stopped in Winona, MN for lunch in a great bar/cafe right on the Mississippi.  They are famous for their grilled cheese sandwiches.  Pat ordered the grilled cheese and I ordered a barbecue sandwich. We split the sandwiches and they were great.

Our next stop was Alma, WI.  That is a site of one of many dams/locks along the route.  Most of the dams are very shallow and are probably used for flood control.  The locks have an elevation change of less that 10 feet from the looks of it.  When we got to Alma, we saw a tugboat and 6 barges approaching the locks.  It was taking some time, so we decided to look around Alma (very small town) for a coffee house.  Well, not only did we find one, but it looked like it was straight out of the '30s or '40s.  As you can see in the picture, they use a very old espresso machine.  Not only that, they had great pie for Pat and I had a great scone.  By the time we got done, the tug and barges were in the lock.  I have attached a picture of them leaving.  I have also attached a photo of the main street of Alma.  It is very typical of the small towns all along the river.

Coffee House in Alma, WI

Tugboat and barges leaving lock in Alma, WI

Looking down on main street in Alma, WI

Almost all of this tour (a bit less than  200 miles) was in drizzling rain.  Sounds terrible, but it really made for some neat scenery. 

Tuesday, we just took it easy and I started a fairly major project on the bus (more in the next travelogue). 

Wednesday, we took the southern route from I-90 to Dubuque and back.  This was a bit over 200 miles round trip.  We took the MN/IA side down and the Wisconsin side back.  As was the case with our tour on Monday, the scenery was beautiful!  The weather was bright and sunny, giving us a contrast to Monday.  One of our stops was at the Effigy Mounds National Monument in IA.  The history of these mounds is not well documented, but it appears that the Indians created them as burial grounds.  Some of the mounds are huge in breath and width.  Some are shaped like the profile of an animal.  We took a fairly steep hike in the woods (about two miles round trip) to get to the Eagle Rock overlook.  It was much more picturesque that the photo shows.

Mississippi from Eagle Rock in Effigy Mounds National Monument

We then drove to Guttenberg, IA where we had lunch right on the Mississippi.  The first half of our return trip was a bit disappointing as we did not see the river.  However, we did go thought some very neat little towns.  On the last half to the leg, we were right on the river and it was again very picturesque.

Lunch on the Mississippi in Guttenberg, IA

With all of the pictures we are posting, we will cut this travelogue short and pick up with more details in the next one.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hello from West Salem, WI

Hello from West Salem, WI

Tuesday morning June 15, 2010 (seventh travelogue of this trip).

We are at the Veteran's Memorial Campground in West Salem, WI (map). Getting here was quite an adventure. We wanted to be close to the Mississippi in the La Crosse, WI area. We saw an advertisement for a campground as we traveled down I-90. Trying to find it with the convoluted route and very small marking signs was a real hassle. Indeed, we took the wrong turn and had to travel over some very narrow roads. Eventually we found the campground, but the first problem was it had the word “resort” in the name and we don't fit well in that environment. This campground did not look that fancy, but they were very proud of their real estate (close to $50 per night!). We were tired and decided to pay the horrible fee. When we tried to get to our site, it was obvious that it would not work out. We got our money back and headed to this campground. It is a wonderful place and less than half the price! It looked like it would be hard to get into the huge park, and my nerves were shot from our experience with the “resort”. We had to cross a small stone bridge to get into the park/campground. As we did, we noticed about four kids (perhaps teenagers or in their early '20s) fishing from the bridge. As we approached, they turned around and got grins on their faces. One gave us a big “thumbs up” and that made my day.

The campground is in a huge La Crosse county park that is dedicated to Veterans. The campground is quite large. It has a ton of hardwood trees, lots of cute little squirrels and is right on the La Crosse river. We originally paid for two nights, but have decided to stay four nights. We will use this as our base for at least two one-day trips along the Great River Road (more about that later).

We need to catch up on the FMCA rally. Simply stated, it was a disaster! Some of the organizers were less than friendly, the facilities were very marginal, and the attendees were not interested in spending money. They would not let Pat man the craft sign-up desk, and the result was a class of only 5 ladies. Normally she sells out very quickly with a class size of 25.

The building we were in was a barn on the fairgrounds. The booth size was not what was advertised/normal (9 ft front vs the normal 10 ft.). The booth size was not a big issue for us, since we had signed up for a double booth, but for some folks it was a very significant problem. One day was very hot and the building had very little ventilation. Traffic in the vendor area was very sparse. Usually some vendors are busy, but almost universally, most experienced very low sales. We were almost skunked, but did sell one Silverleaf unit in the last hour of the show! We have made the decision not to attend this event in the future.

Sunday, we drove a short distance to a very special restaurant in Delavan (Millies: ), WI at the suggestion of our neighbor Karyn. They specialize in pancake breakfast menu items. It was absolutely fantastic. The food was great, the drive was very picuresque and the little shops were fun for Pat. After we returned from breakfast, we packed up and headed west towards La Crosse. The terrain and farm buildings really reminded us of Germany. They have had a lot of rain and everything was green and beautiful.

I mentioned the Great River Road. This is national parkway of the Mississippi, established in 1938. It consists of many different highways that are designated as part of the system. It runs for 3,000 miles through 10 states. There are several websites detailing this parkway. One of the best I found was: We plan to travel along this route on our way to Du Quoin, IL for our next rally. We have several days to make the trip, and we plan to enjoy this wonderful part of our country. I will post some of the details of this adventure in later posts.

That is all for now.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hello from Elkhorn, WI

Hello from Elkhorn, WI

Tuesday evening June 8, 2010 (sixth travelogue of this trip).

We are at the Walworth County Fairground in Elkhorn, WI (map). This is the site of a regional FMCA rally where we will be vendors. Tomorrow is set-up day and the rally runs from Thursday to Saturday.

After our last post, I realized that I was really dating myself. KCKA was the airport designation for the old Kansas City airport in down town Kansas City. I flew in and out of there many times. It was a strange airport with both ends of the runway defined by the Missouri as noted on this (map) It is still an active airport. Pilots considered it to be a dangerous airport for commercial aircraft as there was no room for error. However the safety record was excellent. The “new” airport is in MO and is designated KCI.

Our flight from Orlando was interesting. There were huge thunderhead clouds and the ride was a bit choppy. The pilot did not turn off the seat belt for at least 45 minutes. Pat had to use the restroom and “violated” air policy to do so. She was not alone.

We were picked up at the airport by the hotel where we left the truck (free as a part of a package of one night's stay). Our drive back to Prescott was uneventful or nearly so. We saw a lot of standing water as we got closer to Corning/Prescott. As it turns out, they had a terrible storm during the night (over 3 inches) and there was a lot of flooding in the town and farm land.

We spent Sunday catching up on things and getting ready to leave on Monday. On Monday we still had some errands to run and we wanted to visit Pat's aunt before we left. We finally left about 1:00 PM and drove about 200 miles to Coralville, IA (close to Iowa City). We did our typical Wal Mart stay, as we needed to stock up on some supplies.

One of the activities during our stay in Prescott included some pretty significant genealogy work. I had mentioned about our visits with Pat's dad's relatives. Pat and her cousin Jeanne spent quite a bit of time visiting cemeteries to gather more information.

Our drive today was terrible! We ran into a lot of rain and wind. I-80 was closed over the Mississippi and we had to take a pretty significant detour in Davenport. What should have been a 220 mile trip was over 260 miles of downpour and construction. We left about 11:00 and did not get here until just before 5:00.

We have an excellent location with no close neighbors (not the norm). We have electrical power and access to water. The organizers hosted a dinner tonight for the volunteers and vendors (again not the norm).

That is all for now.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hello from the Orlando Airport

Hello from the Orlando Airport

Saturday morning  June 5, 2010   (fifth travelogue of this trip).

Tuesday we had a “down” day.  We were pretty wiped out from the two previous days.  Dan caught a nice bass (perhaps 4 pounds) in the lake that our condo adjoins.  We barbecued the fish along with hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner.  During the week, Dan and the kids did quite a bit of fishing.  They all  caught some nice bass, but they returned them to the lake. 

Wednesday we went to Kennedy Space Center and had a ball.  Two of the grandsons are pretty technically oriented and we had a great time looking backwards into the space program that put man on the moon.  They have a Saturn V rocket on display and we were blown away by how large it is.  We also took in an IMAX on the moon landing.  After that, we had Adam (our taxi driver) take us to Cocoa Beach.  There we had a great lunch at a restaurant on the beach and then went down and spent some time in the sand an surf.  On the way home we stopped at the famous Ron Jon surf shop to get some T-shirts.

Thursday was Josh's (our grandson) birthday.  We spent quiet morning in the condo.  In the afternoon, we arranged for Dan and the two boy to take a helicopter tour (Josh's suggestion).  It looked so fun that I scheduled a second flight with Josh and Brandon.  Attached is a photo of us in the helicopter.  For dinner Dan cooked a special shrimp pasta dinner (Josh's favorite).

Josh and PaPa

Yesterday, we again took it easy in the morning and then went shopping for souvenirs in the afternoon.  We again barbecued for dinner (partly to empty the fridge).

This morning we cooked a breakfast using most of the rest of the food in the fridge.

Without question, this was a great trip!!  We had a nice mixture of hectic touring and relaxing.

Our flight will take us back to KCKA where we will pick up the truck and head back to Prescott, IA

Thats all for now.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hello Again from Orlando Florida

Hello Again from Orlando Florida

Tuesday afternoon  June 1, 2010   (fourth travelogue of this trip).

We had two great days at the the parks in Orlando.  Before we get to that, lets talk about our transportation.  When the Bergmans (another daughter and her family) were here a few weeks ago they found a wonderful taxi driver that has a 15 passenger van.  Lisa negotiated a contract with him to drive us around this week.  That includes 5 trips to the airport, a few trips to mouseland and then a day at Cape Kennedy and Cocoa Beach.  This is a very convenient and and cost effective system.  Our driver is great and is always willing to work with us.  At the Parks, he drops us off close to the ticket booths and we get picked up in the same place.

Sunday we went to EPCOT.  Pat and I go there whenever we are in the area (perhaps every three to four years).  We love this park as it is pretty low key and has great rides and theme buildings.  It also has a large lagoon surrounded by several “countries”.  Each country has a structure representative of the architecture of that country.  Some are displays from that country (e.g. Canada has a great surround movie that displays the wonderful beauty of Canada).  Others have great restaurants  with menus representing they typical food from that country.  We always go to the German restaurant.  It has great food, wonderful beer and fun music.  Irina (our “German Shepherd” exchange student from '81/'82) often reads our blog.  I can picture her reaction to our going there {grin}.  Obviously, it is heavily slanted towards Bavaria and her very strong belief is Bavaria does not represent all of Germany {another big grin}.  However, we always think of Irina and her family when we are there.  This time it really brought back memories of her mother singing with a Bavarian entertainer when we visited Vail, CO.  We had so much fun and her mother was such a wonderful person.

Our German Lunch at EPCOT

We were very fortunate at EPCOT.  In spite of the holiday weekend, the lines were fairly short and we were able to go on all of our planned rides and a few extra.  We stayed for the 9:00 PM fabulous fireworks and laser show.  We arrived at the park at 8:30 and left at 9:45!!  One of the group had a pedometer and we walked 9 miles!  The weather was almost perfect, in spite of the predictions of rain.  It did get a bit hot and muggy in the middle of the day, but cloud cover quickly took care of that.

Monday we went to Magic Kingdom.  Again, the lines were not terrible.  With the FastPass option, we were able to ride all the rides on our list and quite a few more.  We were tired and decided to head home about 6:30 as opposed to staying for the fireworks at that park.  Again, the weather defied predictions and was favorable.  We only walked 5 miles there.  The crowds were larger at Magic Kingdom, but not what we expected for a holiday.

The group at Magic Kingdom

When we got home, we ordered in Pizza and just relaxed.  Today we are also relaxing.  Dan's brother Andrew and his friend Brian are flying home today.  We have had a ton of fun with them.

That is all for now.