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. 

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. 

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.

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. 

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.