Monday, October 20, 2014

House Keeping

I've redone the look of my blog (stating the obvious here) but I thought I would point out that you now can sign up for email updates.  This means that when I do add a blog entry, you will be notified that there is a new entry out there.  No more going out to the blog only to be terribly disappointed because there are no new entries. 


I've also made it possible for anybody to comment on any post that is out there.  It is amazing all the little bells and whistles that you can find if you spend just a few minutes looking into the features of the software you are using. 


I'm also toying with a new look - going for more drama with a black background.  Let me know if you like this layout better. 


Now if I can just figure out how to take better pictures......

Sunday, October 12, 2014

On Our Way Home

I am really sorry to leave Cincinnati.  I really feel like I just got here and there is so much more to see and do here.  Besides that, I'm really trying to slow down and not rush and this trip feels pretty rushed to me.  I think it has to do with the fact that I have a deadline - I am only able to be out on the road for two weeks - there is a finite end to this.  I really want to be able to spend time and then more time putzing along the road.  Oh well, you work with what you've got and grab what you can.

As I've said before, I don't like to drive more than two-three hours a day.  Ease into the day, take Miko for a walk, do the driving and then get to where I'm spending the night by around 2:00 in the afternoon.  That way I can settle in, set up camp and then there is enough day left that I can do something in the area I'm in.  Hiking, sight seeing, whatever.

Cincinnati to Home is about 11-12 hours.  Seems like about a four day drive to me.

When we hooked up the car to the RV there were no lights in the car.  We stopped by Coleraine RV and they checked out the coach and found that there is an electrical problem that will need to get fixed.  Another trip to my local Jayco dealer.  We drove on, I figured that we were driving during the day so we didn't need the lights on the car and besides that the back lights on the RV are huge so everybody would be able to see our turn signals and brake lights. 

Thursday
Drove through Ohio, across Indiana and ended up in Danville, Illinois at the Kickapoo State Park.  A fairly crowded state park - we were coming up on Columbus Day weekend and people were planning on getting their last fall campout.  I took Miko for a walk and the most amazing thing happened.  We came across a squirrel who ran up a tree.  Miko ran up the tree right after the squirrel.  This was a straight up and down tree and Miko just flew up it.  I have never seen this before.  Her hind feet were above my head and I'm five and a half feet tall. She didn't do this just once but three or four times. 

Friday
Drove from Danville Illinois to Rough Cut State Park which is by Rockford Illinois.  Another very crowded state park, but it is also a very large park.  I was looking at the park map and saw that they had a dog park.  Off Miko and I go.  The dog park was large enough for her to get a little bit of exercise.  Again, she found a squirrel and when she took off after it, she ended up on the other side of a gorge that was about five feet deep and about eight feet across.  When she realized that she was on the opposite side of the gorge from me, she got a little worried.  I tried to show her how to get around the gorge but she decided to take matters in her own paws and flew across that gorge.  She actually made it - her front feet hit the rim and I thought she was going to slide into the gorge but she was able to pull it off.  What an athlete this dog is - able to leap wide gorges in a single bound.

Saturday
Drove from Rockford to Tomah Wisconsin.  We stopped at a place called Grangers RV Campground, which was basically a large field with a lot of permanent residents - sort of like an RV trailer park.  The reason we stopped here was because it had full hookups - electric, water and sewer.  This was going to be my last trip for the year and I wanted to get all my tanks dumped and my water drained.  It was an adequate place for one night.  Although during my nightly walk with Miko, I looked up and the stars were huge.  The Big Dipper covered half of the sky.  Living in St. Paul, I don't get to see stars like this very often. 

Sunday
We are home.  Stacks of mail, an irate kitty who has been expressing his displeasure about being left alone (we did have a friend stopping in to visit with him everyday) and a very happy Tony and Miko who really love to be home and only travel with me to make me happy. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Signs! Signs! Signs!





Woke up to a glorious day - sunshine!!!  Seems like it has been forever since we saw the sun.

When I'm traveling and I arrive in a town, one of the first things I do is go to the Tripadvisor website.  This website lists different attractions for the particular city that you are interested in.  People who have visited the city write reviews and sometimes you can find some really interesting things to do or see that you normally would not even know about.  So today was the day that we were going to see the American Sign Museum based on reviews from Tripadvisor. 

Just the thought of the American Sign Museum amused me but the thing that really got me was that if you signed up for a tour they would take you to a working neon shop which I thought would be fascinating.  I made reservations for the 11:00 tour and we headed across town.  We ended up in sort of an industrial area which gave me pause for a minute but as soon as we passed thru the security gates I knew we were in for a treat.


Besides what you see above, they also had a giant pink pig on wheels plus a few other oversize signs.

We gathered with several others for the tour.  The Sign Museum mostly has signs from the early 1900s to about 1970.  We started with basic trade signs - the type where you would display what your shop was about outside - such as a big wooden hat if you were a hatter, or a wrench if you sold tools.

As people became more literate, signs started using letters to advertise.  They became quite fancy.  These signs used glass etching and also actual gold leaf.  Gold leaf is extremely delicate and it must have taken many many hours to create these signs. 


We then moved on to the old movie marquees of the twenties and thirties.  This was the era of the light bulbs - hundreds and hundreds of light bulbs spelling out what was showing.  They also had movie show posters which were all drawn and colored by hand.  A lot of movie houses had on staff somebody whose job it was to create these posters.

We then moved on to the Neon age.  In the beginning you would only see two colors depending on which type of gas you used.  Neon would produce red and argon would produce the blue color.  Then they started making glass tubes that had color painted on the inside and all of a sudden you could have any color of neon that you wanted. 

The displays were amazing - I felt like it was Vegas or The Great White Way.


This was 20,000 square feet of glowing pizazz.   Our tour guide would talk about the individual signs and how the museum acquired it.  They also had another 20,000 square foot warehouse filled with signs that were just waiting to be displayed.

After we saw the signs, we moved to the Neon factory.  The neon artist showed us how they take glass tubes and bend them into the shape that you want.  Electrodes are attached to each end and then you fill the tubes with neon or argon.  Once you hook up the electrodes to electricity, they glow.  There is no heat and they seem to last forever.  It was fascinating.  I'm thinking I need to take this up as a hobby (or maybe a career?)  I highly recommend anybody visiting Cincinnati, check out the American Sign Museum.

On the way back to the RV, we stumbled across the Spring Grove Cemetery.  This was also highly rated on Tripadvisor so we swung through.  This place was massive.  Many people use this Cemetery as a park to picnic or jog in.  I don't think I've ever seen so many mausoleums or such impressive statuary and grave markers.  It was almost like everybody tried to outdo their neighbors when they decided on how they wanted to mark their graves.  I think they give tours - that would be something that I would find interesting to do. 

One of the mausoleums:


After our little cemetery side trip, we got back to the RV and set up some chairs and sat out in the sun, just enjoying the day.  This was just a wonderful day - laid back and interesting also.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Culture R Us



Woke up to a rainy day but that is ok - we have indoor activities planned.

Today is Tony's birthday - as is tradition in our family, when it is your birthday, you get to do and eat whatever you want. 

We started the day taking Miko for a walk around the campground.  It was sort of lightly misty when we left on the walk - halfway through it started pouring.  I bailed out of the walk leaving Tony and Miko to soldier on.  Tony at least had an umbrella but Miko came back totally drenched.

We left Miko in the RV and headed back into Cincinnati.  We were going to the Cincinnati Museum of Art.  Finally a little culture on this trip.  I had heard great things about this museum and what I had heard was so true.  The museum's collection was quite expansive.

Entrance to the Museum:
 
The Grand Staircase
 
 

The special exhibit that was showing was called American Gothic.  It had several paintings from Grant Woods, Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry. 

Interesting facts about the painting American Gothic:  The models were Grant Woods' sister and the town dentist who was not thrilled at all about posing.  When the painting became famous, Iowan farm women were not pleased.  One even telephoned Grant Wood and told him that she wanted to smash his head in.

Current Exhibitions

I was amazed at the pieces of art that we came across - Picasso, Monet, Manet, Seuret, O'Keefe, Van Gogh, Hassam, Cassett.  There was quite an extensive collection of Tiffany glass which is always wonderful to look at.  I guess I never thought of Cincinnati as being a cultural center.  Travel is always so enlightening.

We ate lunch in the museum cafĂ©.  I had flat bread with sweet Italian Sausage, Manchego cheese, caramelized onions, candied walnuts. Lovely.  Tony had scallops on a bed of orange quinoa with pea pods.  Don't we sound like elegant diners?

Got home in time for naptime at the RV, followed by cocktail hour and then a small little hike with the dog. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

General Butler to Cincinnati





Today we are moving on to the big city - Cincinnati.  It is only an hour and a half drive - what could go wrong?  Well let me tell you - rain, rain, rain - oh and road construction. 

We took off in a timely manner and headed north to Cincinnati.  It was a pretty drive, lots of rolling hills of the mountain variety.  Leaves are just starting to change here.  Overcast clouds for the first part of the trip. As we approach Cincinnati, the heavens opened up.  There is a long long hill down into Cincinnati or Cincy as the locals seem to call it.  If there wasn't so much rain, it would be quite picturesque. 

Lots and lots of traffic of the truck variety plus the aforementioned road construction - lane closures and very narrow lanes.  Our campground is on the north side of Cincy, we are coming in from the south so we have to go completely across town.  Total white knuckle driving. Uneven lanes that are making the china crash and bang. 

We headed for Winton Woods Campground which is a county park in Hamilton County.  We will be staying here for three whole nights - I am really looking forward to this.  The best part is that we will have full hookups - water, electricity and sewer.  PLUS - full TV and internet.  Does life get any better than this?  The developed section of the park is very much like the traditional RV park - sort of an open field but there is quite a bit of space between the sites.  The undeveloped part of the park where there is just electricity is lovely - right on a lake and lots of trees.  Oh well, one must make sacrifices for looonnnngggg hot showers. 


This is the view from one of the sites along the lake - peaceful.


Anyway - got all set up with all of our civilization trappings - had a bit of lunch and headed out to the William Howard Taft Birthplace.  President Taft was handpicked by Teddy Roosevelt to succeed him as president  and then ended up disappointing Teddy by not following Teddy's direction. Teddy believed that the president could do anything not specifically prohibited by law whereas Taft felt that a president could only do what was specified by law.  Totally different styles.    It was an interesting homesite - mostly reproductions and info from when Taft grew up in the house in the late 1800s. 

When we got back to the RV, I learned that there were laundry facilities available for campers.  Wash Day!!!  Did a couple of loads of wash.  As I'm heading back with my nice clean laundry, the sky has turned quite black and there are really strange pinkish grey clouds rushing in.  I stop to take pictures (which didn't turn out) when all of a sudden I realize - this is some nasty weather coming - siren type weather.  I run with my laundry bag through the park and get to the RV just as the rain and wind starts.  It is raining so hard that you cannot see two feet out the windows.  Massive storm system coming through.  I felt very bad for the tent campers.  Of course we were nice and snug although a little nervous because of the way things were shaking.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Moutadier (Moody Deer) to General Butler


Closed up shop and headed out at a fairly decent time. I really liked the Moutadier (pronounced Moody Deer) – I liked our view, I liked our site. Didn't like one set of neighbors – they were the stereotypical redneck type of people – let's just say they used a lot of duct tape. I also like the fact that we spent two nights in one place. That was really nice. I hope that when I'm on the road in the future, I will be able to do more of that super slow travel. This trip will not have a lot of that, we are on a time schedule to get back to Minnesota. Not too sure why, but I have to work within the constraints that I have been given.

We moseyed over to Hodgenville Kentucky which was about an hour drive away. It is where the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Memorial is. We watched the movie, toured the museum and then went t hike around the property. Lots of fallen leaves so it felt a lot like fall scrunching through the leaves. This memorial was built in the early part of the twentieth century. There are the same number of steps leading up to the door that match how many years Lincoln was alive.   What is sort of funny is that inside this memorial is a replica of the log cabin that Lincoln was born in. Sort of a strange juxtaposition.


One thing I found interesting had to do with the way the cabin was built. It was logs, but in between the logs, there was a mixture of Kentucky mud and straw. The ranger guy said that in the summer, they would knock this mud out which would allow some cross ventilation and help keep the cabin cooler. Then when winter came, they would re-mud the space between the logs and bam, you would have your house winter ready.

We continued on north, passing around Louisville. Six lanes came into Louisville – I am so glad that I was driving on a Sunday afternoon and not during a work day. It was stressful enough as it was. We ended up at General Butler State Resort Park. We did not score a full hookup, so we only have water and electricity. BUT....we are sitting right underneath the WiFi antenna. It is really nice to be able to get online and see what is happening in the world.

Our site:
 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Mammouth Cave National Park


I had called and made reservations for the Frozen Niagara tour at Mammouth Caves National Park for 9:00. Supposedly, it was a half hour drive and we left at an appropriate hour. Getting better at this on-time thing or so we thought. Our GPS took us in a slightly different direction and we ended up being about ten minutes late for the tour and thus we missed it. We re booked the tour for 1:00. We had quite a bit of time to spare, so we decided to do a few surface hikes. Leaves are just starting to turn, but they still aren't as vibrant as up north. Lovely weather though, but a little chilly.


A little dog named Oliver that we met on the trail.





We also toured the museum part of the park and learned about how the caves were formed. There are a lot of interactive displays which always make for a fun time. I am a big fan of pushing buttons and seeing something spectacular happen.

We actually ate a meal out. There is a hotel/restaurant on the park grounds. Sort of diner food, but it worked out for us.

Then it was time for the tour. The Frozen Niagara tour is listed as an “Easy” tour. None of that climbing through tiny little openings or dangling from some sort of pulley system for us, nosirrebob. They loaded us in a bus and took us to one of 27 cave entrances. The Frozen Niagara tour takes you into the part of the cave that has the most decorative and impressive parts of the cave. It is only ¼ of a mile which is hardly worth mentioning in a cave system that has 400 explored miles. The tour itself only took an hour, but since I'm not all that crazy about caves, it was just about the right amount of time. I must say that what we saw was impressive. Some really beautiful formations. Our ranger (Ranger Jennifer) also pointed out some wildlife that resided in the cave – cave crickets. These things were really huge – maybe about two inches long, crawling all over the ceiling. Gross but interesting.

My phone camera isn't all that great and although I did take pictures of the inside of the cave, none of them turned out very well.  The following is about the best that came out. 



When you finish the tour, the bus takes you back to the visitors' center where once you disembark from the bus, you have to walk through a Woolite/water mixture designed to keep from spreading a deadly bat disease called White Nose Syndrome. It doesn't affect humans, but wreaks havoc among bat colonies.

On the way home, we did a little grocery shopping and then came home to the RV. We just sort of hung out there. I took Miko down to the lake where she spent a great deal of time chasing waves.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Vincennes to Bee Spring Kentucky


Busy day today so we actually set an alarm. The last few days, we have noticed that time seems to slip away, so today we decided we were going to do our best to stay on schedule.

First on the agenda was a two mile walk around the lake at the park. It was a fairly level trail, lots of boardwalks across the muddy areas. Miko enjoyed finally getting out and walking. Lots of doggy smells to check out when you are out in the woods.

We then put Miko in the RV and took the car across the street to the Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home National Historic Site. Lincoln lived in the area from the time he was seven until he was 21 so these were very formative years for him. I missed having Ranger Pam guide us through the site, so we just settled for the little movie that they show and a quick jaunt through the exhibits.



We ran back to the RV, got loaded up, hooked the car up and hit the road. As I said, we were determined to keep to our schedule and at this point we are only a half hour behind schedule. Yay us!!!



We drove a couple of hours, heading into Kentucky. We were going to stay at an Army Corps of Engineers campground. We got a little turned around – my GPS got a little confused. I stopped to ask directions in a small local cafe in the town Bee Spring. Isn't that a great name for a town?  When I walked into this cafe, I got a little bit of a shock. Everybody in the cafe was smoking. I guess I've gotten so used to smoke free environments that this took me by surprise. Everybody here is talking real Southern now and moving real Southern also (slow.......). It will take me a few days to adjust to the slower pace here but I think based on our past few days on this trip, it won't be long before we move just as slow as everybody else.

Corps of Engineer campgrounds are usually on some water of some sort and are usually very nature orientated. This one is sort of like this except the campground sites are really close to one another. It is the weekend (Friday) and the park is pretty well packed. Lots of family groups trying to get in the last camping trip of the year.

A storm came up and huge winds also. The RV was rocking. I think we are under an oak tree. The wind would blow, knocking acorns down onto the RV roof and then they would roll down the length of the RV rattling all the way. Quite the racket. I sure am glad we are not tent camping.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Vincennes to Lincoln City - Still In Indiana



Today was going to be the first day we left Miko in the RV by herself while we did tourist stuff. I gave her a stew bone that I had been saving, hoping she would not miss us for a while as she was busy chewing away. Locked her up and headed into the town of Vincennes.

First stop was the George Rogers Clark National Memorial. We lucked out big time when we walked in and ran into Ranger Pam. Ranger Pam was absolutely thrilled with her subject and rather upset with the fact that hardly anybody knows who George is. Short bio: George is the older brother of William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame. He led a heroic march against a British fort in Vincennes during the Revolutionary War. According to Ranger Pam, without this victory, the United States would only exist south of the Ohio River. Nothing but New England and the southern states. Ranger Pam was just about jumping up and down with joy talking about George. It was fun to see somebody as enthusiastic about their subject and she really made the history come alive. This is a huge architecturally classic structure (only 18 ft shorter than the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. - Ranger Pam) that was built during the depression. It took that long for George to be recognized. It was officially dedicated in 1966. Ranger Pam made sure to take pictures of Tony and me along with the statute of George so we can remember how huge he is. You could watch a movie about George but we didn't see it because we figured it couldn't have been as good as Ranger Pam.



Here is a rather unfortunate picture of Ranger Pam.  She really was  a sweetheart



Next stop was a real treat. It was the newly opened Red Skelton Center. I remember as a kid watching his TV show. Red was born in Vincennes and after his death, the town built this Performing Arts Center and Museum in his honor. The museum was a lot of fun. They had a lot of little film clips of his comedy bits and there were also some interactive displays. One of the displays had numbered feet painted on the floor and you had to step in the right order to try and match one of Red's dance routines. Tony did one where you tried to copy one of Red's physical gags (in this case a guy lifting a super heavy barbell) and you got taped doing it. You could then watch to see how your act compared with Red's. I would say that Tony's was every bit as good as Red's.



We got back to the RV and it looked like Miko had not touched her bone or water the whole time we were gone. I hope she gets a little bit better about that. We packed up the RV and headed to southern Indiana, to Lincoln City. We stayed in the Lincoln City State Park. It was the most expensive place we have stayed so far at $27 a night.   Here is the view from our campsite.

 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

LeRoy to Vincennes

I find that I don't like to drive more than three to four hours a day.  That means that it takes us forever to get anyplace.  Back in my youth, I remember driving 10-12 hours a day and it was a piece of cake. That is definitely not true anymore.   Is it old age or have I just decided that I need to slow down and smell the flowers?  Our destination today - Vincennes, Indiana - home of the George Rogers Clark National Monument.

We decided that since Moraine View seemed like a lovely park, we would try to get in a morning hike before we left.  We got the RV ready to move and headed out to the nearest trail head and then proceeded to drive right past it.  When I am pulling a car behind the RV, you never, ever back up.  All sorts of terrible things could happen to your car, tow bar.  So, we passed the trail head and decided we would just get on the road to Vincennes. 

We traveled mostly on the freeway, but at one point my GPS took us off of the freeway. My father would have hated it - he is a freeway type of guy all the way - pedal to the metal - lets get there as soon as possible.   I, on the other hand, get a big kick out of it.  It was really nice to drive down these country roads through all of these small towns.  Americana and all that.  Of course travel is a lot slower - you can't go too fast when there is one of those monster farm tractors driving down the road in front of you. 

We were planning on getting to Vincennes around 1:00.  Besides putzing along, we forgot that we were changing time zones from Central Time to Eastern Time.  So we rolled into the Ouabache County Park around 4:30.  There goes this day - no time left for any of the tourist events we had planned.  Interesting tidbit:  Oaubache is pronounced Wabash.  I had high hopes for this park.  We drove a couple of miles down a narrow road with trees right up to the edge of the pavement.  The leaves were just starting to change.  We climbed a monster hill - the coach did just fine pulling the car up the hill.  When we got to the top into the campground, I was very disappointed.  It looked like the typical RV park - rigs parked very close to one another, no privacy.  On the other hand, we have water and electricity and the weather is glorious - high seventies and sunny.  I heard that back in Minnesota, it was drizzly and cold.  Although I'm sorry for the people back in Minnesota, I am pretty darn happy that I am not drizzly and cold. 

After talking to Tony and realizing that perhaps our original trip plan might be a little too ambitious, we are going to regroup, slow down and probably not get to Ohio as we had planned.  I think we are just going to spend some more time in northern Kentucky/southern Indiana.  I know that you are all going to be disappointed because this blog will not be as riveting and action packed as it normally is (ha, I crack myself up) but oh well.  I think one of the joys of this RV lifestyle is that there is no rush, there are no shoulds only coulds and it is all subject to change at any minute.  I have spent most of my life chained to the two week vacation where you try to pack as much as you can into your two weeks and I don't have to do that anymore.  It has been a bit of a struggle for me to slow down and take the time to appreciate where I am.  I'm hoping practice makes perfect. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Madison to LeRoy

Tony decided to try the public shower at the campground so he could have a long hot shower which you really can't get in an RV.  The showers are in a cement block house and rather depressing.  Tony said he felt like he was in the TV show "Orange is the New Black" which is a show about a women's prison.  Depressing cell block stuff.

We found out a wonderful benefit that Lake Farm Park Campground had.  It was kitty-korner from a dog park.  We took Miko over there and she ran and chased balls and had a wonderful time.  She is a little strange at dog parks.  When she first gets there, she is very well behaved and extremely social with the other dogs.  After about a half hour, she starts to become rather a bully.  She sees another dog in the distance and crouches down to stalk them.  She then rushes them and won't let them alone.  She does not play nice and it ends up with me giving her a time out.  I hate to have that happen but I can't let her bully the other dogs. 

After the dog park, we headed on down the road.  Today was just going to be a travel day.  It got warmer as we went and just about the end of the day, we actually saw sun.  We ended up at Moraine View State Park right outside of Leroy Illinois.  Educational Note:  A moraine is a ridge that was created by glaciers.  We showed up at the registration desk and there were two guys there to check us in.  Really sweet goofy older guys.  They had a big basket of Buckeyes which are also called Horse Chestnuts.

From Wikipedia:
All parts of the buckeye or horse chestnut tree are extremely toxic, including the nut-like seeds.[7] [8] The toxin affects the nervous system, causing paralysis and death. The USDA notes that the toxicity is due to saponin aescin and glyside aesculin, with alkaloids possibly contributing.[9] Native Americans used to crush the seeds and the resulting mash was thrown into still or sluggish waterbodies to stun or kill fish. [10][11] They would then boil and drain (leach) the fish at least three times in order to dilute the toxin's effects. New shoots from the seeds also have been known to kill grazing cattle.

I had never seen these before - they are really beautiful nuts.  Very shiny and dark brown, they just feel good to hold.  These camp hosts told me that the buckeye is considered good luck if you carry it around in your pocket.  I now have a pocketful of them.



We really lucked out in our campsite.  We got a pull thru campsite so we did not have to unhook the car.  It looks over the lake and was peaceful and very soothing.  It was another glorious cocktail hour, watching the sun set over the lake.  Just what I needed and what I was looking for. 
Moraine View State Park Illinois
 
 

Monday, September 29, 2014

On The Road Again

It has been a busy busy summer, early fall.  My parents are in the process of moving from their lake residence of sixty some years to a senior apartment in the Twin Cities.  I am thrilled.  They will be closer to me and my brothers and we will get to see them more often.  They will still keep the cabin and spend their summers up there, but winters are in the cities.  My time has been consumed with packing and all the little details that need to happen with a move.  The move date was September 20 and all went extremely well.  Now that the basic move is done, I get to move on down the road.  I cannot wait.  To top it off, Tony has decided that he will accompany me again, this time for two weeks.

We decided that we would head down south - northern Kentucky, southern Indiana and Ohio.  No special reason, it just seemed like a good place to go.  I spent may hours planning the trip (which I love to do) and getting ready to go. 

The big day arrived, overcast skies, but the weather people said that there was only a chance of scattered showers.  That is ok, overcast skies are great for driving  No sun to get into your eyes.  Well, let me tell you - never, ever believe the weather people.  They just make up random stories to keep themselves amused. 

We got to the barn and started hooking up the car behind the RV.  It started to rain, not just rain, but pour.  Ok, that's ok - they said scattered showers, we can deal with it.

Well, there was a thin, thin strip of clouds showing up on the radar.  As we drove southeast, what happens but this thin, thin line of clouds decided that they will follow us all the way to Madison .  Blue skies ahead of us, blue skies behind us - but right above us, nothing but dark clouds and rain, rain, rain.  Lots of fun driving.....Not.

We ended up at a campground called Lake Farm Park within the city limits of Madison..  We got one of the last sites available that had electricity.  This is one of those parks where you feel like you are just out in an open field - not much charm.  We were only staying for one night, so that was ok.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Horse Camping at Wild River State Park

It has been quite a while since I've been horse camping.  My horse Andri has spent the last two years recovering from a serious suspensory ligament injury.  For a long while, I didn't think I could ever ride him again.  Starting this last January, we have very slowly been rehabbing him and he has finally gotten well enough that some trail riding was in order.


I hooked up the horse trailer to the back of the RV.  The horse trailer is sixteen feet long, so that plus the length of the RV makes me 49 feet long going down the highway.  Move over you big semi truckers - the new girl is in town.   One of the trailer tires was flatter than a pancake, when we pulled it off the trailer, there was a huge gash in the side of the tire.  One of the fellow boarders at the barn - Pete - changed the tire for me - what a saint.  I'll have to find a nice bottle of red wine for him.


Loaded the horses - besides Andri, we are going up to Wild River with my friend Jackie and her horse Leo(pronounced Lay-oh), another Icelandic gelding.  It was a short hour and a half drive.  Stopped at the park dump station so we could fill up with water in our fresh water tanks and then travelled over to the Equestrian Campground where we unloaded the horses, hooked up to the electricity and set up camp.  We had a few hours before our friends Eve and Dave joined us, so we practiced lounging around camp with appetizers, beer and wine.  Made a dinner with a curried chicken, onion and tomato stew. 


Saturday we eased into the day.  We had more friends coming to join us on a ride so there were seven of us hitting the trails.  The south trail at Wild River is a wonderful mix of prairie and woods.  At some points we were riding along the St. Croix River.  The paths were wide and very well groomed.  There is nothing better than cruising down a trail in a herd of Icelandic horses (and one TWH).  There is such a sense of freedom, just sheer joy, being on the back of your horse.  We were flying. 


Back to camp for lunch and naps.  We had Jackie's wife Jan joining us for a potluck dinner and then we had a campfire where several adjoining campers joined us.  Lots of wine, lots of talk.  You could not ask for a better evening weather wise, it was cool enough that the campfire ambiance was the perfect ending to the day.


Sunday, it was just Jackie, Eve, Dave and me who hit the trail.  We decided to do the same trail we did on Saturday but instead of doing the trail in a counter clockwise direction, we went clockwise.  Just changing the direction of the ride made it seem like it was totally different scenery. 


Lunch, load up the horses and head back to the barn.  It was really starting to get hot now - my RV thermometer said it was 93 degrees.  I hate it when it gets that hot - the poor horses stand back in that tin can trailer, it gets to be very oven-like in there.  When we pulled them out of the trailer, they were dripping sweat.  They were very happy to be home. 


All in all, this weekend we put fourteen miles on the horses.  Andri did phenomenal when you consider where  he started from this year.  He even got in a good gallop - who would have thought that he could come back so well.  I am thrilled.


So sorry - there are no pictures from this weekend - I was too busy either riding or sitting in the lawn chair. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Into Wisconsin


Travel Day – starting to head toward home.

We left McLain State Park in a slight rain storm. We were heading around the southern tip of Lake Superior. Our path went through the Porcupine Mountains so there was a little bit of up and down but not too bad until we got into Wisconsin where it really started to pour and the wind picked up. Y'all know how much I love wind (Not). Through Ashland which caused me to think of my nephew Tyler and Carly who went to college in Ashland and who are expecting a baby who is only a whole week overdue. Come on kid – we want to meet you. Ashland also has a bunch of murals painted on the side of buildings and I think we will have to go back to check them out.

Ended up in the West Side Campground in Washburn Wisconsin. Another RV park, but it has WiFi and Cable TV. After five days without any sort of wired access, it is almost overwhelming. Sensory overload. We are only a few miles south of Bayfield and a couple miles north of Ashland. We are on the shores of Lake Superior again but there are not really any sites directly on the lake. But I can see it off in the distance. There is a gravel walking trail right along the shoreline which we walked. Maybe about a mile long. Miko went nuts in the waves again. She is now getting into the water about shoulder deep. Won't be too long before I have a swimming dog.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Quincy Copper Mine


Today we had to move the RV to a new site. The one (83)we had been in for the last three days had been reserved so we moved over to 79 which was still overlooking the lake. We had to move anyway because we were out of water and our tanks were full. Turns out that traveling with another person fills your tanks up so much quicker than traveling solo. Duh... Emptied the tanks with no accidents and settled in to the new home.

Tony thought it would be great to go see another mine. Do I love my man or what?  Off we go, leaving Miko at home. This time we went to the Quincy Mine which is located about 10 miles south of us in Hancock Mi. What a different experience this turned out to be.

First off, they take you down a 35 degree grade on the outside of the hill in a tram. 35 degrees is super steep. They said that normally the miners would be going down the shafts at a 50 degree grade at three times the speed that we were going. Once we got to the bottom of the hill, we loaded into a wagon which was pulled by a John Deere tractor. It pulled us into Level 7 of the mine. This mine eventually got to 92 levels, but everything below Level 7 was flooded out. The Michigan Tech School had Mining classes there and we saw a classroom carved into the rock. We probably went in the hill about 1800 feet and stopped and got out. Our tour guide Nate took us around the corner and explained how the miners worked through the decades, showing us the various types of drills and explaining how they worked. This mine was in business from 1850 through 1940 or so. He also followed the cave tradition of turning off all of the lights so we could see what true dark was like. Back into the wagon and then the tram up to the top of the hill.

Perky Audrey then took over the tour. Quincy Mine had the largest steam hoist in the world and Audrey explained how it worked and what happened to the copper once it got out of the ground. This was an impressive piece of machinery - it was a gigantic cylinder.   I can't remember how much it weighed but we are talking tons. They said that they have only extracted about 50% of the copper in this mine, but it just became too cost prohibitive to mine the rest of it out.

Home again – we are moving out in the morning so there is some maintenance items that need to be taken care of.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Delaware Mine and Copper Harbor


Another cold, rainy day.

Since the Keweenaw peninsula was mostly settled because of the copper mining, Tony thought it would be interesting to go to a defunct mine. We headed north on the peninsula to the Delaware Mine in the now ghost town of Delaware. It was a self guided tour, cost $11 to get in but it was dog friendly meaning that we could take Miko down into the mine with us. I was a little concerned that she wouldn't be able to handle it because she is not too crazy about closed in spaces. She did great. Me not so much. First you have to descend about 100 steps. About halfway down there was a gigantic iceberg which the guy at the top said came in this past winter with the cold and they had to chainsaw it to get the mine opened in the spring. Then you walk along a long corridor, I think it was about 1450 feet. They kept it lit as as it was when the mine was being worked which meant it was pretty darn dark. It was just the three of us, Tony, Miko and me. Damp and cold. There were signs along the way explaining various parts of the mine, but mostly it was just a dark dark corridor. I got a little spooked. Not liking it too much.

After we got done with the Delaware mine, we traveled further north on the peninsula to the town of Copper Harbor. We stopped and had lunch at a place called the Pines. I think it was the first time that I remember having a pasty which is a meat/potato/carrot pie that the miners used to take down into the mines. The waitress said that most people ate a pasty with ketchup, me – I asked for Ranch dressing. How upscale am I? We also stopped at Studio 41 which had 75 different Michigan artists. Nice to see art again. There were lots of copper articles. There was also a Pug puppy there who had a cleft palate. Black dog with a tongue hanging out even though his mouth was closed

We then drove up the Brockton scenic highway that goes along the west coast of Keweenaw. And I mean up – extremely steep. I had to laugh, after the first steep, steep hill, somebody had painted on the road like Burma Shave ads “You    Are    Not      Done     Yet”. They were right, it just kept going up and up and up.  I am so glad that we were in the car instead of the RV.  When you got to the top, you had a really great view of Copper Harbor. Continuing on, we got to another scenic site which overlooked Lake Superior and a few inland lakes. Breathtaking, although we almost got blown off the mountain, it was so windy.


Home for dinner and to finish off the fourth episode of Orange is the New Black – loving it.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Start of the Copper Highway Tour


It rained all night – downpour type rain, but the interesting thing is that rain on the roof of the RV is not like rain on a tin roof,but more of a gentle pitter patter which is great for sleeping so we sort of putzed around – sleeping in, moving slow.

Tony took Miko for a short walk and then we left Miko in the RV and took off for Calamut Michigan. This was a copper mining town back in the day. Reminded me a lot of some of the mining towns in northern Minnesota. Sort of depressed and quaint at the same time. We ended up at the Calamut Visitor Center which was in the old Masonic Hall. This was an amazing museum. They had many interactive displays about life in the mines, life in the town and the big troubles between the unions and the mining companies. This was a fairly small town, but it had 63 saloons at the height of the mining effort. Woody Guthrie even wrote a song about a 1913 massacre that happened in the Italian Hall. There was a Christmas party and somebody yelled Fire and in the panic that happened, 73 people died, mostly children, just trying to get down the stairs. On the third floor, there was a display about the Odd Fellows and some of their rituals which I found very interesting.

They torn down the Italian Hall and this is all that remains of it.


 

We then walked down Fifth Street and stopped at several different art galleries. I really enjoyed that. Up to this point, when I've traveled with the RV, I have not been able to stop at places like this because most of these places don't have parking for RVs. Now, with towing the car, I have the ability to now mix up my touristing and see much more.

We also came across a roadside attraction that commemorated a mega snowfall that occurred.  Here is a picture of Tony standing next to the snowfall marker.

  

Got back to the RV around four to find a wind advisory in effect. Winds up to 45 mph. I am so happy I am not driving in this. The wind is wild and the lake is rather agitated. It is like being on the ocean, the waves are so big. The RV seems to be handling it OK, we can hear the roar of the wind, but we are not shaking very much. I think it is because our nose is pointing into the wind which is giving us a smaller exposure. It is going to be a crazy night.
 
These are really big waves - you could surf on them.
 
  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Keweenaw Peninsula Michigan




Travel Day. Heading up to the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Packed up and went over to the dump station to dump out all of our tanks. I guess I can now call myself a real RVer. They say that you can't call yourself a real RVer until you have had a black tank accident. My sewer hose popped out of the sewer hole and let's just say it wasn't pretty. I must say though that my reactions were pretty quick for an old person and I got everything under control with a minimum of spillage. Cleaned everything up and got on our way across the northern part of the Upper Peninsula.

A new Jack White CD had come out this week and Tony became obsessed with getting it. What that meant was that when we got to Marquette, we had to go into a Target (they were sold out but we did some grocery shopping) and then on to a tiny tiny Best Buy Parking lot where he was able to get his CD. I am particularly proud of my maneuvering capabilities. Tony had measured the length of the car I'm towing and that plus the length of the RV is a little over fifty feet.

We are staying at McLain State Park which is on the west side of the Keweenaw Peninsula. We are in spot 83 which is overlooking Lake Superior. Lots of woods around us – can barely see any of the other campers. The only issue has been the electrical hookups. For some strange reason, they are not very close to where we park the RV. I've had to use several extension cords to get hooked up. There is just electric here, we had to fill the water tank at the entrance so we would have water. There is also hardly any internet service or phone service. This will be interesting to see how we do without being wired in.

Pulled our lawn chairs out and sat and watched the sunset. Me with my wine of course. Something about wine and sunsets just seem to go together.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Waterfalls and Beaches


We headed over to the Visitor's Center and lucked out with getting a ranger who knew her stuff. We told her that we had only one or two days and what should we spend our time doing. They have boat rides where you can view the Pictured Rocks, but they take two and a half hours and it didn't sound all that much fun. I wanted to see waterfalls and hike a little bit instead.

First up was Munising Falls. You hike a short distance on a dog friendly trail and see it. It is about fifty feet high. Again I apologize about the quality of the pictures. Some day I will figure out this iPhone picture thing.
 



Next up was Sand Point which is just a very very sandy beach. Beautiful white sand. We took Miko down to the water's edge and discovered that she is a wave chaser. Anytime I have had her near a lake or pond, she is totally non interested, to the point of refusing to even go close to the water's edge. Well, let me tell you – she went nuts over the waves. Running back and forth, trying to catch every single one. She ran herself ragged trying to keep up with them all. I think it was the happiest I have ever seen her – what a joy it was to watch her. After a while, we had to drag her away from the waves. What is interesting is that when we got back to our campsite, she heard the waves and practically pulled my arm out of the socket trying to get to the waves.
 


After Sand Point, we drove to Miner's Castle which is a rock formation jutting into the Lake. They have several observation points which allowed us not only to see some of the Pictured Rocks, but also we could see all the way to the bottom of the lake because the water was so clear. I think this was probably the favorite part of my day. It was one of those “Nature is just so friggin' cool” type of days.
 

On to Miner's Falls. This is the only time that we could not take Miko with us on the trail. She waited in the car for us. It was really a cool day with temperatures in the 50s. As we walked away from the car, she barked a few times and then did her little baby howl – she sounds so pitiful when she does that howl. We had to walk about a ¾ of a mile through the woods. It was really pretty – tall pine trees and some sort of blue flower blooming everyplace – sort of solid blue carpet under the pines. At the end of the trail, you descend down about 75 steps and see some massive falls. This time I was prepared for the army of mosquitoes and I could spend some time just watching the falls. 
 
 

Back to the RV for some lunch and a quick nap and then we went to two more waterfalls – the Alger Falls and Wagner Falls. This falls were only about twenty feet tall. Wagner Falls was pretty – it was more of a cascading falls over several different levels and wider than the other falls that we had seen.

We have spent quite a bit of time today trying to decide if we are going to stay here in Munising for another day or take off for the Keweenaw Peninsula further west in Michigan. We will probably decide for sure tomorrow.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Munising Michigan



Walked around the campground, there is a Disc Golf course here. We made a major mistake in forgetting that it is mosquito season and we did not put on any bug spray. We almost got carried away, there were so many of them. It made it very easy to leave Holtwood Campground.

We drove up a scenic route along the west coast of Lake Michigan. It reminds me a lot of northern Minnesota. Lots of little towns and lakeshore homes. Pleasant Drive.

Our next destination was the Munising Tourist Park Campground on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan . I like the name of the campground – it sort of reminds me of something out of the fifties. We lucked out big time and got a place right on Lake Superior. Our whole front window is filled with nothing but the lake.

Unhooked the car – it took all of five minutes. I dragged the lawn chairs out and a glass of wine and settled down to watch the sunset. Going to like this place.
 
My view out the window:
 
 
 
 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Tony's First Venture into the World of RVs



Big day today. This is the start of a trip with Tony. Tony has been rather hesitant to join me on my RV adventures. The whole idea of travel is not something that appeals to him. He truly loves his home and because his home is so satisfying to him, he doesn't see much point in travel. Since I am sort of on the opposite end of the spectrum, it has been rather difficult to span that gap in a way that would make both of us happy. Tony has graciously agreed to venture out and see where the road leads us. Not only that, he agreed to go for a week and a half. This is huge. Of course his week and a half is different than my week and a half, but I'm sure that we will work something out.

We decided to go to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and along the south shore of Lake Superior. Several tasks will be accomplished. I will be able to knock off three more National Sites and Tony will be able to see what life on the road is like. I have tentatively planned a partial itinerary, some of it will be as the wind blows.

We spent the last few days getting everything ready. I told Tony that this will be just like living at home and he took me seriously. Let's just say, Tony does not pack light. We got everything loaded up and ready to hit the road.

I bought a new rug for the RV.  I wish it was a little bit bigger, but I think it works.  You can see where Miko's bed is right by the driver's seat.

 

The other big thing today is this is the first road trip where I am towing my car behind the new RV. I used to have a trailer that I would drive the front wheels of my car up on and tow that behind the RV. The setup I have now is totally different. I had a base plate installed on my car which allows me to tow the car with all four wheels on the ground. After spending about ten minutes hooking it up this morning and then towing it behind my RV, four wheels on the ground is definitely the way to go. Super easy, I can't even tell it is back there. The main benefit though is how easy it is to hook and unhook the car.

We took off about 10:30 from River Falls and headed straight east across Wisconsin. Mostly four lane highways until the last hour when we got off the main drag and started going through some of the tiny little towns in rural Wisconsin. What is so interesting about Wisconsin is that no matter how small a town is, there will always be a minimum of two bars. Each bar would have several locals hanging out in front on the sidewalks. We rolled into the campground around 3:30.

We ended up in Oconto Wisconsin which is just about 30 miles north of Green Bay. We are at the Holtwood Campground, right on the Oconto river. Not a lot of charm, but it is passable for an overnight visit. There are two types of camping spots, the type where you have to back in and the pull thru ones which is what I really wanted so I did not have to unhook the car. Settled in and about the time we got everything hooked up, two guys showed up and told us that we had to move because we had parked in a reserved spot. Of course, they had forgotten to put up reserved signs so there was no way we could have known. We had to move because there where three rigs coming in, each of which were seventy feet long (RV plus they were towing very big trailers) These made my RV look like a baby RV. The managers apologized up and down about the hassle and ended up giving us a free night of camping for our troubles. One of the managers (the slightly inebriated one) went so far as to tell us that we needed to come back again sometime and we could have a whole weekend free. Hmmmm.

Showed Tony how to set up the RV, washed the windshield and then had some sort of frozen dinner. Day 1 completed and everybody is still happy. Well, maybe not Miko – she has such a hard time traveling, I really do think she gets a little sick. She seems to have recovered although I'm sure she is not going to be happy when we have to road trip again tomorrow.



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Last Day Out


Today is Mother's Day and we are on a mission to get to my mother's house in Crosslake Mn. She does not know we are coming, it will be a surprise.

Had a small mishap closing up shop. We were bringing in one of the slides and I didn't make sure that the passenger seat was up far enough. The slide scrapped on the chair and took off some of the molding. Another thing to add to my maintenance list when I next bring the RV in. It looks like an expensive repair.

Then as I'm driving down the road I hear a banging noise from the rear of the coach. Turns out that the back window – the exit window is flapping in the breeze. The latch has worn away and is no longer catching it. Another item for the list.

We drove some back roads through Hawley, Sebaka and Pine River. It was fun seeing these small Minnesota towns that I've only heard about during Hockey playoff time or tornado season during the weather broadcasts.

My mother was totally thrilled and surprised. She rounded the corner and saw the rig and started screaming (with joy, with joy). I am so glad that we were able to pull it off. It was the first time she saw the RV in person and she was suitably impressed. I think it would be great fun to go on a road trip with her.


Tomorrow I head home

States I've slept in while in a Motor Home or Horse Trailer

 
 


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Buffalo River State Park Minnesota


Got up early to an overcast day. Guess what? It is a miracle – we have hot water. We quickly took showers before the tankless water heater decided to change it's mind. Nothing beats that clean feeling.

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park used to be a Mandan Indian settlement. The CCC reconstructed some of the earth lodges. The park was also the home of the 7th Calvary which is the outfit that was lead by General George Custer and ended up at the Battle of Little Big Horn. We spent a couple of hours touring the museum and the Commissary before hitting the road. Oh – there was a history movie also.

Ended up back in Minnesota at the Buffalo River State Park. I was a little worried that there wouldn't be any room at the park because it is fishing opener, but this is not a fishing park. Got our spot and I took off on an hour long hike around the park. The Buffalo River is a good size river and is full into the spring rush, rapids and all. The park is fairly close to Highway 10 which means there is a lot of train traffic heard off in the distance.
 
 
 
 
 

 

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Long Road Back


Got up and lounged around a bit. My nephew Tyler just bought a farm and his dream was to raise bison. It will probably be awhile before he reaches his dream and I found the perfect present for him while he waits. I found the most perfect pile of buffalo dung, perfectly shaped, perfect size. I wrapped it up in a plastic bag and I just know he will love it. It will probably be the be the center piece of his farm.

Said goodbye to my beloved badlands bluffs. I really wish that I had more time to spend in Teddy Roosevelt. Since Barb is a working woman, we are limited on time and have to pull up stakes. I definitely need to come back and explore the area a bit more although I do find the bison rather intimidating.

We stopped at the Painted Canyon area of the park. It is sort of funny in that it is a rest stop and part of the National Park. The ranger pointed out some of the bluffs way out in the park that we had been hiking on the previous day.

Got to Mandan where we stayed at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. The camping is right on the Missouri River. The highlight of the night was going to be taking showers. I have to admit, it had been several days since showers had been available. We needed showers in a big way. Barb goes first and there is NO hot water. What? No matter what we try, we can't get the hot water to work. Oh well, it will be another rank day.
 
On the other hand, we figured out how to get the DVD player working and we were able to watch a dvd.  Not that it made up for no shower, but it was a mild diversion.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Amazing Teddy Roosevelt National Park


Much as we enjoyed our site last night, we decided to check out all of the other sites just in case there was something better. Found a great site that overlooked the Little Missouri River and a bunch of bluffs. We walked the camping loop and ran into a couple of male buffalo grazing away. Barb hid behind some trees and took photos. They came with in a few feet of our campsite. Boy, are those things massive.

We lounged around the campsite waiting for the buffalo to leave and then packed up the RV and headed into Teddy Roosevelt park. They have a 36 mile driving loop that encircles the park. There was nobody on the road except us. The speed limit was 25 and most of the time we were going around 10 MPH. It took us almost 4 hours to go the 36 miles. The scenery was other worldly – huge vistas, towering rock formations and lots and lots of buffalo and wild horses. We only saw one foal, no calves, it was maybe a couple of weeks too early to see the babies, although the ranger said that there were 20 foals on the ground already in the park.

We stopped several times to do some of the shorter hikes away from the road. We went to Buck Hill which is the tallest point in the park. Jaw dropping views. Camera shots just don't do it justice. The road up to the Buck Hill trailhead was probably a 45 degree incline. It felt like we were off-roading.
I guess that is something different to do in an RV. Going up wasn't too bad, going down I put the RV into 1st gear but it didn't seem to be much of a speed deterrent.

Another hike was the Wind Cave Hike. Extreme cliffs and beautiful wind sculpted rock formations.

I really hate being near an edge and this hike had lots of cliff edges and not very many railings. There was a bunch of wild sage growing along the path and it was all Barb could do not to pick any to bring home.

Got back home to our new site and pulled a couple of lawn chairs down to the Little Missouri River for Happy Hour. It was a very happy Happy Hour. Sun was finally out, nice breeze – scenery breathtaking. I wish that when you take a photo that it would do justice to what you are photographing. Tons of frogs croaking and I tried stalking a few of them, but as soon as you get close to the sound they stop so I never saw a frog.
This is our Happy Hour View: