Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Wednesday afternoon October 26, 2011 (eight travelogue of this trip).

Well, as you can see from the title, we are home. As I write this, there is about 8-10 inches of snow on the deck and it is predicted to snow most of the day.

I wanted to comment about the Wal Mart in Topeka. After it got dark we noticed a large neon sign in front of the coach (all we could see from the windshield was the end of the sign). I went out to investigate, and it was a great looking sign marking the site of the Chief Drive-In Movie Theater (see photo). Apparently, they built this store on the drive-in movie sight and left the great sign. 

 Great Looking Neon Sign in front
of the Topeka Wal Mart

Monday night we stayed in the Wal Mart in Goodland, KS. We have stayed there before and it has pretty good parking and ease of entry.

Yesterday we left right at sun rise to make sure that we would beat the storm. They had predicted it would not hit until the evening, but you just never know. We got here at about 11:00 AM – plenty of time to unload and park the bus in the shop. I elevated the bus with the jacks and have it sitting of jack stands so that I can do some work underneath and in the lower bays (more comfortable working position) over the winter.

That is the good news. The bad news will be detailed in a minute.

Periodically I present a summary of our travels in the bus. The bus made it's inaugural trip in March of 2006. Since that time we have driven it over 65,000 miles, through 27 states and have stayed in the bus 716 nights.

This trip covered close to 3100 miles and we were on the road 41 days. The bus performed very well. We had one minor incident in IA where the charge air cooler hose came off. It took about 15 minute to get it secured back in place. Other than that, we had no problems.

Now for the bad news. As most of you know we tow a rather heavy service truck behind the bus. About a mile from the house, the hitch broke and the truck swerved from side to side quite a bit. It could not have happened in a worse spot, as the truck swerved into the ditch and the right front wheel hit a big rock and tore up the front end pretty good. I lost a tire, a high dollar aftermarket wheel and at least two of the control arms. Because of the snow, I can't inspect for further damage. My guess is that it will be several hundred dollars to repair – with me doing the work. Long ago, I converted to very robust safety chains, and the kept the truck from breaking away from the bus.

Funny thing was, I had just added to my to-do list, an item for me to thoroughly check all of the hitch components over the winter.

As a side note, I have a bunker where I store the trash bags until I can take them to the dump. It is pretty darn secure, as the walls are made of railroad ties and the top is made with 2X6 boards. When I walked around back it was fairly obvious that a bear had ripped the boards off and dug through the trash. What a mess. There have been several reports of bears in the area. We are careful not to have any food in the trash, but they probably smelled the food containers containers (we even rinse them out, but their powerful sense of smell tells them that food is/was present. It will be interesting to see if they come back.

That is all for this trip.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hello from Topeka, KS

Hello from Topeka, KS

Sunday evening October 23, 2011 (seventh travelogue of this trip).

We are parked at a Wal Mart in Topeka KS (map). This Wal Mart parking lot is large and fairly easy to get into. We can park quite a ways from the store and that makes us feel comfortable that we are not blocking valuable parking.

Yesterday we stayed at a Wal Mart in St Charles MO and it was rather difficult to get into and the parking was not the best. Indeed we had to unhook the truck to get parked in an appropriate location.

We left the Blue Springs parking area about 9:00 which should have easily gotten us to St Charles by 10:30 AM. The drive was less than 60 miles. It always seems that the short drives are the worst. Even though it was Sunday morning, the traffic was terrible and then, we came to an area where they had I 70 shut down for a accident. It took us about a half an hour to edge forward in the traffic (they were diverting folks off the highway.) When we got within a half of a mile of the wreck, they opened up the highway and we did OK after that. That said, the traffic was still pretty bad and our exit was a bit of a challenge, but we made it.

By the time I got into the Wal Mart lot (did I mention it was very tight?) I was a wreck. As I was unhooking the truck two folks came up and asked if I was a Colorado driver. I thought that was a strange question, and then the guy introduced himself as Kevin Brown – the son of the lady we were going to spend the day with.

As a bit of background, Kenny and Kay Brown had three boys in the same time-frame as our three girls. Kenny and I were good friends and we attended a lot of car shows together all over the country. Kenny and I would work on some paint project in the garage and Pat and Kay would play all kinds of games an compare notes on what it was like to raise the “opposite gender” children. They moved away from Denver about 44 years ago, but we stayed in touch. Kenny passed away about 10 years ago.

Kevin and I have communicated a few times over the years and we have a lot in common. He is an engineer and loves cars (races a 2009 Challenger). After Kay, Pat and I had lunch, Kay dropped me off at Kevin's house and we had a great time. I got to see his car and we talked like old time friends.

Pat and Kay continue to have lots in common. Now, they are both into genealogy. They picked up where they left off many years ago without missing a beat. The three of us had two great meals in the amazing downtown historic district of St Charles.

Today we got an early start so that we could get out of the Wal Mart lot before it became “crazy”. We had planned to drive the 900 miles to Evergreen in four days so that the drive would be relaxing. I wanted to make sure that we got through Kansas City today (not a fun drive normally, and today they had I 70 closed for construction – had to take I 435 around the town to the south). By the time we got out of the traffic, we could not find a place to park, so we jumped on the turnpike and ended up here. That was a bit over 300 miles.

We are watching the weather in Evergreen and there is a winter storm watch for Tuesday, late afternoon (sever inches of snow possible). That is changing our plans. We will try to get around early tomorrow and get close to the CO/KS border, so that we have a fairly easy shot into Denver on Tuesday. If the conditions look bad, we will stay at Chatfield State Park for a Day or two until the weather gets better.

That is all for now.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hello from Highland, IL

Hello from Highland, IL

Friday evening October 21, 2011 (sixth travelogue of this trip).

We are in the parking area for the Blue Springs restaurant (map). We wrote about this place in a blog a couple of years ago (here). We have stopped here many times over the years and really like the home style cooking, blue plaid table cloths and there “foot high” pies. We called ahead to see if we could park in their lot overnight. They said fine. When we got here the lot was much smaller that we had recalled, but we have a spot for the night.

Getting here was quite an adventure. We were heading towards St Louis on I 64 and had to go across country to get to I 70 (about 25 miles). I forced the GPS to re-route us, but did not check the route. That is always an open invitation to disaster. The GPS put us on some very marginal farm road that were not wide enough for two vehicles to pass comfortably. In addition, there were at least a dozen sharp turns that were quite a challenge. One had a drop-off on both sides and I just barely made it. We came to a bridge that had a 10 ton limit and before I could think we were across it (we weigh over twice that amount!!!!).

We chose this spot because we wanted to be fairly close to St Charles, MO. We are about 50 miles away and can avoid the terrible traffic in St Louis by arriving early on a Saturday. We plan to visit a friend from many years ago. Kay was married to a good friend of mine who taught me how to paint cars. We were in the same car club and we really got to know them well as each of us began to raise our families. Ken passed away a few years ago, but we have kept in contact with Kay. She and Pat have a lot in common including genealogy. By arriving fairly early Saturday, Pat and Kay can have a few hours together. We will then start home on Sunday.

Now, let's catch up. On Tuesday, we left the site of the rally and returned to Choo-Choo Garage. I was scheduled to do a welding workshop today at Choo-Choo, but that got canceled. Tuesday we visited with some of the folks that came over from the rally. We went to dinner with Sean Welsh on Tuesday. We missed seeing his wife Louise (she went to CA to visit family). We have met up with them several times over the years in lots of different locations. They are neat folks and I love to pick Sean's brain on all kinds of subjects. Sean documented our visit in his great blog (here).

We set Wednesday aside to do some sight seeing. Our first stop was the Battles for Chattanooga museum. They had a slide show detailing the civil war battles in the Chattanooga area. We then went across the street to Point park. These are located on the top of Lookout Mountain. Even though the weather was cold and overcast, the views were great (see photos). The drive up to the top of the mountain was very steep and twisty. It was heavily wooded with gorgeous trees that were beginning to display the fall colors

 Point Park on Lookout Mountain

 Civil War cannons in Point Park overlooking 
Chattanooga and the Tennessee River

Our next stop was the Moon Pie General Store in downtown Chattanooga. Moon Pies are very popular in the south and they have been made in the Chattanooga plant since 1917. RC Cola was also formulated in Chattanooga. The video in the Moon Pie store said that the coal miners loved their 10 cent lunch (Moon Pie and RC Cola each cost 5 cents in the 20's).

For our last stop we went to the Choo Choo Hotel. This hotel is the converted train station (details). It is a fabulous hotel. There are several train cars that have been converted to hotel rooms. In addition there are several other train related displays including a Baldwin Steam locomotive. The hotel lobby is the original train lobby/waiting room with a beautiful domed ceiling. I have included a couple of photos.

 Choo Choo Hotel Garden with train cars used for sleeping rooms

 Baldwin Steam Engine

A lot of businesses and locations have the words Choo Choo in them. Apparently that all stems from the Glenn Miller song in the 40's with the title Chattanooga Choo Choo.

We left the Chattanooga, area on Thursday and drove to Kuttawa where we stayed at Huck's Travel Center Truck Stop. We don't normally stay in truck stops, as they tend to be very noisy with the truck engines idling and trucks coming and going. Since it was chilly (got down to 34 degrees) we did not have the windows open and the noise was not a problem.

The drive from Chattanooga, to Kuttawa was beautiful. There is a pretty good pass which the locals call Mount Eagle. There is a town at the top called Monteagle, which probably gives the pass its coined name. In any case, it is not quite as dramatic as some of the passes in Colorado, but it is still pretty steep and long. The road is lined with trees beginning to display the fall colors.

That is all for now

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hello from East Ridge, TN

Hello from East Ridge, TN

Monday Evening October 17, 2011 (fifth travelogue of this trip).

We are in East Ridge, TN at the Camp Jordan Park (map). This is the site of the Bus Conversions Magazine bus rally. The rally is over, and we are the only ones left in the park from the rally. Friday was “arrival day” (may folks arrived Thursday) and the majority of activities took place over the weekend.

Even though we moved from Rossville, GA to East Ridge, TN the trip was only three miles. Indeed, when we moved here, I did not hook up the truck. I put the bike in the bus and then rode it back to the shop so that I could pick up the service truck.

The rally turned out to be a compromised event. The editor had over 100 people respond that they would attend the rally and started planning accordingly. It turned out that only about a third of that number actually registered and that caused a significant scaling back of the activities. The events had to be moved from the large arena building to an open-air pavilion and an outdoor stage. That was not all that bad, as the weather was quite nice and the outdoor locations were not a problem.

A friend of ours, helped the editor arrange the music for the event. Saturday night had three good entertainer individuals/groups. Two of the Sunday groups were good, but the other two went way overboard with religious music and preaching to the audience. We stayed through the full program the first night, but left early the second night. Both nights the “crowd” was embarrassingly small. When we left last night, we were the last ones left in the audience, but we heard them continue to play.

There was also what sounded like good gospel music Sunday afternoon, but they scheduled the technical sessions at the same time. That resulted in only a handful of folks in the audience.

I did three seminars and they had reasonably good attendance, given the small number of people here. Because of the tight schedule, and all of the compromises, there was no vendor area, nor any time to set up a formal display. This morning I set up some fire extinguishers and ended up selling several. When we attend a bus rally, our sales expectations are not very high. Just the nature of the beast. Most of the folks know me and those that want to buy product don't wait for the rally.

Pat only had three ladies in her session, but they were all friends and they had a good time. She got a couple of good orders.

Our regret when we are vendors and doing seminars, is that we don't get as much time as we would like to talk to old friends and meet new ones. However, we made the most of the time we had and got to talk to a lot of folks.

The technical sessions associated with the rally did not draw registrations. It could have been because of the cost, or extended schedule (mine was scheduled for this Friday). As a result, they canceled the remaining sessions. That leaves us with some time to do a bit of sightseeing before we leave. Not sure what we will do, but the first order of business is to relax tomorrow. We came in several days early to help with the rally. Unfortunately, there were almost no other volunteers, so we have been running the whole week.

That is all for now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hello from Rossville, GA

Hello from Rossville, GA

Wednesday Evening October 12, 2011 (fourth travelogue of this trip).

When I started this blog, we were parked at the Choo Choo Garage in Rossville, GA (map). This afternoon we moved to a different state (trip was all of three miles), but that will be the subject of our next post.

The Choo Choo Garage is a pretty famous bus repair shop and the site of the Bus Conversion Magazine Workshops. I helped with the first two workshops – mostly as a gopher and video camera operator. However, being me, I just had to jump in and “contribute” to the workshops {grin}. Indeed, the two presenters and I made a pretty good team as each of us came from different backgrounds.

Now let's catch up on some of the events since our last post. Last Friday we took an unbelievable tour of the KitchenAid factory in Greenville. This is the only plant in the world to manufactures the counter-top or “stand” mixer. When I say only, that is significant. They export this type of mixer all over the world including China – from this plant! The pride of the workers is amazing. But, even more amazing were the huge number of workstations hand assembling components for the mixer. This is work that is typically sent overseas, but KitchenAid has staunchly refused to ship jobs overseas (Tom are you reading this). Indeed they are working towards bringing jobs back to the US on some of their other product line.

They charge $5 for the tour but it is well worth it. The lady that gave us our personal tour was a great ambassador for the company. She took us all over the huge plant and had knowledgeable answers for almost all of my technical questions. Probably the most impressive part of the tour was seeing all of the beautiful colors that are used for the mixers.

Saturday we left Greenville and drove to Lexington, KY and stayed at a Wal Mart. Our main reason for stopping there was to visit with a customer and his wife. Bill and I have grown to be great friends over the years and he has offered great support when I was struggling with some issues a few years ago. I have told some of you about Bill - he was a government psychologist who evaluated many major criminals including John Gotti and the unabomber. I have talked to Bill on the phone many times on many subjects but had never gotten to meet him.

He was as fun in person as he is on the phone and his wife Genie is a great lady. We had a lot of fun looking at the Prevost that he converted himself - a beautiful bus. Bill and I also went to visit another busnut who is working on an Eagle with 4 slide outs. It has an amazing amount of great work. While Bill and I were looking at buses, Pat and Genie went to a horse race. In the evening we toured around areas where there were beautiful horse farms. Lexington is in the heart of the horse country that Kentucky is so famous for.

Sunday we drove from Lexington to Rossville and met with Mike Sullivan who is the president of the Bus Conversion Magazine and who has almost single-handily arrange the Bus Conversions Rally. Monday we helped Mike with some of the details. Yesterday and today were two of the workshops. There will be one more this week and several next week including the welding workshop that I will co-present.

The color of the trees on the drive down from Greenville were gorgeous. As we got closer to Chattanooga, we noted that the colors were not as great. We are quite a bit south of the areas with the best colors and we will probably see the trees change here in the next week or so.

That is all for now.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hello again from Greenville, OH

Hello again from Greenville, OH

Friday Morning October 7, 2011 (third travelogue of this trip).

This week has sure gone by quickly. We leave tomorrow.

Pat has been having a ball using the various resources available here. In addition to the great resources at the Garst Museum, she has spent some time at the county records facility looking at old documents. But the really great resource has been the Library. They have a genealogy department. The woman who works there is so very helpful. She is apparently a contract person (low pay, unfortunately), and just loves her job. She has been working directly with Pat and the two of them have made some pretty good progress.

We have again gone to a couple of graveyards. Some folks think that is kind of weird, but it is rewarding to find the markers of our ancestors. Besides that, the graveyards are beautiful in their own way.

I have been spending quite a bit of time on work related efforts. It seems that when we left town, the world discovered that our business exists {big grin}. I have had to process a couple of nice orders for our fire detection and suppression system and have an order for a specialized version for an industrial customer (indeed, all of my orders have been non-RV). That is a great trend. Hope it keeps up.

We are heading to Chattanooga next week to participate in the Bus Conversions Rally (website). I have been working with the Bus Conversions Magazine owner, offering several seminars (including Pat's rubber stamped greeting card seminar) as well as any type of help he needs. I am also scheduled to be a co-presenter of a one day welding workshop (assuming there is sufficient registration). We will arrive a couple of days before the workshops begin and help with the various activities needed to facilitate a rally of this magnitude.

The welding workshop will be a first for me. I am doing the “textbook” presentation and the other person will work with the attendees to do actual hands-on welding. I think it has the potential for being a good session. I have been spending a lot of time pouring over welding books to get the slide presentation developed. I have a lot of welding experience (since I was 15 years old), but I have never tried to “teach” a class.

Our daughter asked about the fall colors. The trees here are just starting to turn and the colors, so far, are great. I think we will hit the best colors in Tennessee. I had mentioned that the weather was rather cold when we got here. It has now gotten pretty nice with daytime temperatures in the high 70s/low80s and nighttime in the mid 40s.

I had noted that we are staying in the campground at the Darke County fairgrounds. I had linked to a satellite view in the last blog and that view shows how extensive the facilities are. Here is the link: (map). There are a large number of barns and facility buildings. The grounds are immaculate. Many years ago, I attended a car show in the '56 Chevy in Hamilton, OH. My brother-in-law and I drove up here to attend a very large steam tractor event. I fell in love with the fairgrounds when we were here and it has been just as neat as I had remembered. At least one source says that the fairgrounds is located on 176 acres and has 1000 campsites. The Darke County Fair is said to be among the largest county fair in the US.

Last night and this morning we are trying to catch up on washing. It is sure nice to have the washer and dryer in the bus. That lets Pat do the washing while we relax and do other things. We have 30 amp service at the campground, but that is not sufficient to run the dryer. We are running the generator when we do the drying, but that is a very small price to pay for the convenience.

That is all for now.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hello from Greenville, OH

Hello from Greenville, OH

Tuesday Morning October 4, 2011 (second travelogue of this trip).

We are camped in the Darke County Fairground campground (map). We planned this stop as a part of a large circle trip including being vendors/presenters at the Bus Conversions Rally in Chattanooga, TN.

If you have been a long-time reader of our blog, you might recall that we stopped here as a part of a trip to an FMCA rally in Bowling Green, OH in 2009. This is the town that Jim's father and grandmother were born in. The blog detailing the information is (here).

Our trip here took a day longer than we had planned. We left Prescott on Wednesday 9/28, planning on driving about 300 mile (half way to Greenville). However after a bit over 100 miles, Pat saw a sign for Fairfield, IA. Her genealogy work had indicated several of her grandmother's relatives were buried there. She had wanted to travel there for sometime, so we made the decision to spend the night there. We were able to find the rather remote graveyard and located the gravestones of her relatives. Two of the gravestones were impossible to read other than the name Miller. Pat called a relative in Iowa and confirmed that both of the grave markers were her ancestors. When asked how they knew, they said that they lucked into visiting the grave just after a hail storm and the markers had been “cleaned” by the hail!

Thursday night we stayed in a Wal Mart in Champaign, IL. We arrived in Greenville on Friday afternoon. Saturday and Sunday we spent some time at the Garst Museum ( They bill themselves as “Home of the Annie Oakley Center”. Anne was born in a log cabin close to Greenville and is buried in Brock Cemetery in Greenville. Frank Butler, her husband of over 40 years (also fellow showman), is buried beside her. He quit eating after she died and passed away 18 days after she did.

The Garst museum is a wonderful place. It has great exhibits. More importantly, it houses the Darke County Genealogical Society. They have extensive resources.

Prior to our trip, Pat had sent letters to several people with the names Shepherd or Culbertson (Jim's grandmother's maiden name) in Darke county. As a result of one of those letters, we got to meet Rick and Nancy Shepherd. They are great people and we hope that we find that we are related – so far no link yet, but we are both searching. Yesterday they took us on a tour of the Ithaca and Abbottsville cemeteries. We were able to locate several grave sites of Jim's relatives. We will be going back and spending more time at both locations.

That is all for now.