Showing posts with label RV Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RV Travel. Show all posts

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Goshen Fleetwood RV Rally and Fleetwood tour

Expensive computer technology and router with one of the employees
who uses the equipment and visually inspects it   He told us it was a massive
improvement from the old days where 8 would be needed to do what the
equipment enables one person to do.
Touring the Fleetwood RV plant yesterday in Decatur, IN was interesting with a great deal of walking and some of the people at the Rally are marginally mobile. All three tour bus options, Tuesday-Thursday were sold out with a waiting list.  I did consider scalping our seats for a good price, because we are often in Decatur and could do this on our own.  Well the facotry tour is something we have talked about doing for years, when we stop in Decautr but it is always relegated to the next time which next never comes. Having the opportunity for the tour here at the Fleetwood Rally was the remedy, so I did not scalp our seats.  Some people declined to get on the bus after it was explained they'd be walking for a couple hours after a two hour bus ride. DUh! What did they expect? Did they not read any of the registration material?  Perhaps they thought there would be scooters to escort and drive them through the factory?   It seems people pay no attention until reality smacks them in the face or falls at their feet in this case.   
Jerry near some wiring harnesses inthe plant wearing
safety goggles we all donned
Upon arrival we were greeted in the massive breakroom, gathering place and given safety goggles which we would wear at all times in the plant. Fleetwood  separated us into 6 groups about 10-12 of us  each and introduced us to our guide, who was a line manager or shop supervisor and who'd escort us through the entire mfg process.  All the guides wore red shirts, seen in some photos below, kind of an alert to the floor--"Tourists coming through!" Each group started their tour in different wings of the plant so we would not be a full busload of gawkers descending upon the workers at once which could be a distraction in a plant that is prideful of its safety record.  

Steering mechanism installed on the coach
Another shop supervisor explains processes for
installing side walls and cabinet
We were also cautioned to be aware of moving equipment and forklifts and the like.Our tour guides herded us carefully and shifted us aside to allow the forklifts to race by.   Three people from our group dropped out halfway through; they went back to the lunch room where they waited on the rest of us. They said they couldn't walk any farther. That was a good thing because they were the same who would not pay attention to the speakers then would ask dumb questions on the shop floor about something that had been covered. Questions to understand or to learn are OK, but to talk  to hear oneself is tiresome to others.  It takes all kinds! I wanted to thump these people on the head. This is why it is often best for me to participate in group activities; I have no patience for idiots. 
One lady may have some dementia or Alzheimer's. She wandered in the break room at first and  her husband had to fetch her. He doesn't seem all that well himself and may be in denial about whatever is best for her. Seems a factory tour would not be something for her.  She sat at our table when we arrived across from us but with a man who was not her husband. Thought perhaps she knew him but when the man's wife arrived with the woman's husband following along it became evident they were unacquainted. The other woman asked her to exchange seats to be with their own husbands. The demented one just stayed seated staring. Her husband switched seats with the other man but the woman just continued staring. It was obvious to a couple of us that she had something wrong which became more evident. I have sympathy for her husband but what is he thinking taking her into unfamiliar surrounding?  As I said he does not look all that all right himself, and remember these folks are driving RV’s!  The other couple began to say rude things about her so I walked over to them out of earshot of the demented one & suggested they might consider that she is unaware what is happening and suggested she had issues. This seemed to embarrass them both as  they gasped & said they'd not figured that out.  With this muttering they promptly went to another table. Maybe they thought this dementia contagious?  Maybe they wondered about me?
I chuckled later about this unfortunate situation. Think about the humor here.  Is that what's ahead with our age group? Like mainstreaming the Developmentally Disabled? Mainstreaming the demented here come the boomers!
Multiple Daily Information
MDI
I was most interested in all the shop floor data, measurements, analysis in constant quality improvement and their full adaptation of Kaizen, Japanese data driven processes. I studied all that in CA ; even attended seminars with the guru, W Edwards Deming. Governor Pete Wilson charged several of us from multiple agencies   to improve state government using these methods. There were some  substantial improvements in services such as at the Dept of Motor Vehicles but really it became an absolute exercise in frustration with most of the bureaucracies. Bureaucrats were so data resistant--when we'd show improvements by educating the workforce they were amazed.  I could write a book about many of those efforts, not all were successful but there was more than ample frustration for all. . As many of us feared it became fad du jour and today not one lasting effect remains. 
Four years ago in WY at the initial Fleetwood Rally Executives of AIM, the corporation which bought out Fleetwood addressed our group and promised improvements and absolute attention to customers. Ahh music to my ears.  I recognized the techniques they said would instill to revamp & revitalize their industry & ensure top quality. So today we see it in full practice in the consolidated Fleetwood operations in Decatur. And watching full blue collar staff enthusiastically explain data measurements shows that data based decision making modeled after what Deming taught the Japanese to reconstruct after WWII, was a testament to the process. The photo of the MDI wall to the left is only one of many all through the plant.  Each morning as their shifts start, all the employees gather at the board, go over the data, talk about the goals for the day and after they all stretch and move through some warm up exercises they go to work. 
Jerry inspecting the wiring harnesses behind him
Jerry was very interested in much of the construction materials and processes for the coaches. I did not at all like the Laminating wing--very noisy & dusty there so I told our guide I'd scoot thru and wait outside. Well Decatur has a population of 10' & Fleetwood employs 1100 so it's important to the community. Many families work there & our tour guide was 2nd generation & his son now also works for Fleetwood. Reminds me of the old PA mills--Alcoa, PPG, steel and I think of all my family who worked there.  The Fleetwood plant is very different though with staff wearing shorts and tennis shoes.  On the bus ride back to Goshen I thanked the Lord that I never had to work in a plant or factory. Not for me. 
Two of our plant tour guides with some of our group
outside the door of the laminating wing.  Very dusty and
noisy in there 
There is more railroad activity in Goshen than I knew existed. The railroad runs next to the fairgrounds. So all night we hear trains. The worst were dueling train whistles at night, a language I am sure the conductors understand.  We have become used to it and slept through it last night or was that the effect of little sleep the night before and a very busy day. When we attend events like this Rally we realize how easy our routine daily schedule is at home.  Here the day can start at 7:00AM gathering for breakfast and continue through 10:00PM.  We select activities to allow for some free time to visit vendors and still try to cram in as many seminars as we can.
This is a sign I saw immediately when we entered the plant.  I had
to photo this while laughing.  Don"t you know someone who
could be sharpened?  Send them to Fleetwood in Decatur.
  The plant guide was curious what was funny to me.  He sees
this sign all the time and didn"t find it odd.  He explained that there is a company
who comes in to sharpen equipment and this was to be sharpened.  I laughed.

One of the coaches with the tape and layer design painting
At first I thought this was Steeler country--go black and gold
But it is just the design team at work, notice factory casual dress

Last night’s Rally dinner for over 500 of us was good but to bring some semblance of order to getting food from the buffet, tables were assigned numbers which were randomly drawn and called for to get food.  The man who had this task asked a 10 year old girl, who was likely a bored grand daughter  to draw and call numbers.  Some people bring their grand children to these events, most do not.  Most of us are quite content to be empty nesters.   The caterer had set up 3 tables of food but the child responsible for the Table bingo.was not aware that more than one table seating 8-10 people,  could be called at a time.  Someone finally explained 3 or 4 at a time would work and that speeded it along.   

Then we had a great time entertained by Kenny Evans who entertains at Pigeon Forge, TN and who sings all the good 50”s 60”s oldies from the Diamonds to Roy Orbison to Elvis.  A fun time with some of us dancing in the aisles and wearing off our dinners.  I saw another strange (to me) sight—a man from Ohio who wanted to dance with his wife who adamantly did not.  He was up to his feet swaying along and begging her to take a spin, she finally agreed. Most men are reluctant dancers if at all, Jerry is in that group.  This man was different.  
Today was a barking dog day--over 100 degrees with a hot wind.  Our coach Air conditioning is cooling the coach and here we sit to recover from several trips to seminars.  It was  just too daoggone hot to leave and flag down a golf cart transport down to the seminar building, so we skipped one on Alaska, which we really wanted to catch.  Really, manybe not--the 5 minute walk to the buildings in 100+degrees even with potential to see glaciers on the big screen will be another day and or we can talk to the vendor at their booth.  . By 4:00PM the bright sun is a downer! Even the Amish bakery declined to show up today to sell their baked goods.  Tomorrow will be better and it does cool way down to 50 or 60 degrees at night.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Travels

Two short days on the road has us in Goshen, Indiana at the Elkhart Fairgrounds with perhaps 600-700 other owners of Fleetwood motor homes from all over the country and Canada for our 4th annual Fleetwood Motor Home Owner's Association Rally. Our next door neighbors are from Ontario, Canada.   Finally the Association has begun to collect annual dues which has not appeared to decrease attendance.  Fleetwood has been very generous sponsoring the rallies so there is no downside  and most easily afford the $20 annual pittance.  I found this great blog which tells lots about Goshen and has some dandy photos which I do not yet have to post  http://www.lincolnhighwaygoshen.blogspot.com/
This was an easy trip, a fun time 463 miles from home only 9 hours and 20 minutes driving time over two days.  We see the decrease in gas and diesel prices and a corresponding increase in traffic as families take to the highways.  In May we filled up at Flying J in South Beloit WI at $3.85 per gallon with our RV discount card and yesterday it was $3.40 per gallon, cheaper than regular gas at home in La Crescent. Do you think with the decrease in cost of fuel  that other prices will come down just as they escalated with the rising cost of fuel?  Don"t hold your breath as Mom used to say. That'll be the day!

 We found a delightful RV spot off I 80 in Utica, IL where we stopped last night, Hickory Hollow RV.  We seldom travel I 80 coming east but this trip it was the easiest route.

We thought we would be early because the Rally events begin tomorrow evening, so arriving today was  a day and half ahead, but others were already here.  Maybe 2/3 of expected attendees are already in place.  Tomorrow AM we board a charter bus to the Fleetwood Plant in Decatur to  tour the factory where our 2nd homes are manufactured and put together. We stop in Decatur almost every trip going east and we have said many times that we  should take the factory tour.  Do we?  No, so it was offered tomorrow and Thursday from the Rally and we will take advantage of that which means an early AM rising as the bus departs at 8:15AM.  That early curtain call is a challenge for the likes of me who has become accustomed to sleeping  in almost to 8:00AM and it's a challenge for Jerry who is accustomed to imbibing his entire pot of coffee and reading  a newspaper before he ventures into the shower and then begins his day.  We notice many RV'ers are early to bed and early to rise, but we have overcome that.
I continue to be amazed at the number of these people who cannot or choose not to walk short distances to the rally events in the buildings, , and or who all ride scooters or golf carts rather than get a little bit of exercise walking.  So there they are almost immobile and then they climb behind the wheels of these big rigs!  Something in not right about that, there should be a licensing and testing of RV drivers just as there are with truckers.
It has been very dry here in Goshen where rain is badly needed (but not while we are here)  All the lawns are brown, dried up and the farmers are irrigating their crops. This reminds us of northern California where everything is brown after spring unless irrigated.   Meantime Florida is getting the Debby Deluge.  Mama Nature is just not fair.  We are now adjourning for the party  forming outside as the sun goes down, it is warm here. Bad new is 101 degrees  predicted for Thursday!  That's just too hot for me, but without rainfall it should not have the accompanying Indiana humidity, still hot is hot and I don"t like it.   I"ll be inside at the activities in the heat of the day.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

May Travels Gettysburg 4 of ??

RV Ladybug
It was goodbye to Mt. Top and onward eastward, smiling along with my newest lady bug gadget, photo to the left courtesy of Carlie.  This cutie bug really waves her wings from sunshine she gets from the window on the ledge by the table, I think she likes the road. We are in our self declared ladybug year and so we are always on the lookout for our buggy gals to exchange.  
If April showers bring May flowers the roof high fully blooming azaleas and rhododendrons in PA validate that proverb.  I missed the flowering dogwoods which were very early this year, because March was so warm however, here and there were many gorgeous bushes to behold.  Like these twin beauties off Millerstown Rd near Mt. Top RV our home while back home.  You will notice the hillside, I come from a land of hills which makes it look as though one house is on top of the other but it is not.  Just look at the house  closest to the twin bushes, that  is the a rooftop of the house and yes the flowering shrubs grow that big.  We have seen some that were bigger than the home to which they belonged.  Absolutely gorgeous. 
Millersburg Rd, Tarentum, blooming beauties
 Today was mostly good fair travel weather, only a few sprinkles of rain and we logged a mere 202 miles in 4 hours and 35 minutes total time, less a 10 minute stop for  4 hours  25 minutes drive time.  Because Jerry had read something about the Lincoln Highway in some RV article and because Godfrey recommended it, we departed the turnpike (I 76, all good road) at exit 161, Breezeway to PA Highway 30.  Oh wow! 

Such a twisty, turny, curvy one lane primarily road through the Allegheny mountains with some spectacular views,  wildflowers through the trees and even a few dogwoods still in bloom this way.  BUT, I know there's always a but.....well, it was a road to travel one time.  For our RV and towing a car, it was tedious as Jerry adhered to the truck caution signs and drove in low gear at no more than 30 mph on over half the way and being a courteous driver he pulled over frequently to allow vehicles and motor cyclists to pass on the one lane.  There were plenty of motorcyclists on the hills and curves enjoying themselves.  The road made us deeply appreciate those hearty stalwart early colonial settlers of Penn's Woods back in the early days of 1700"s and later.  That anyone ventured and successfully arrived at Ft. Pitt (today's Pittsburgh) on the western side of the state through the mountains, the weather and the Indians at that time,explains a lot about the attitude of western Pennsylvanians.  The eastern elite (Philadelphians) considered the westerners riff raff, not as polished, not as distinguished as the ones who remained on the eastern side.  There is some truth because many of the early settlers were thieves, criminal element, etc.  It was their ticket to freedom to settle the country and they took it.  That roughness helped them persevere over trials on trails.  All these years down through history some of that attitude  prevails between the eastern and western state residents.  We westerners are more the rowdies, they say. 

We are signed up for a Battlefield guided tour tomorrow via climate controlled bus.  We have some light showers this evening and more predicted for tomorrow, so I selected the  enclosed air conditioned bus instead of the open double decker with audio phones.  I will be able to question the park ranger who will guide our tour instead of just having to listen to audio.  We find that it is a good practice to take these tours when available for a first time overview of the entire place.  Looking forward to tomorrow's morning departure. The tour will pick us up by van here at the RV park tomorrow and take us into Gettysburg to catch the bus.  We have two hours around the battleground and then are transported back here although the desk staff said, the tour company will allow us time in town if we wish and return us later.  That may be very handy if we get more liquid sunshine.
Artillery Ridge RV Campground Entrance
We are staying at Artillery Ridge Campground and RV which is also the home of the National Stables.  They offer battlefield tours on horseback.  Jerry thought that would be a good idea, I did not.  It has been far too many years since I have been on a horse and I am no longer featuring an Annie Oakley venture.  This RV park has a mixture of sites ranging from tents, to fifth wheels, to cabins to big rigs. On a short walk around the park I spotted the colony of tenters and there asleep in the front seat of one car that belonged to them was a young woman who apparently opted for the front seat of the vehicle in lieu of the ground.    And of course they have stables for horses and room for horse trailers for those who tow their own.  As soon as we arrived I could smell the horses; a horseman statue on top the roof welcomes arrivals.  

These are a few of the rental cabins offered by Artillery Ridge
 We are anxious to compare this to Vicksburg, MS where we visited in February.  The Gettysburg Battlefield is bigger, I believe.  The history that surrounds us and the town is amazing and gives us a sense of wonder just to be here years down the road honoring what held our country together.   

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May Travels food, and WTH Post 2 of ????

After I departed to California from Pennsylvania in the 60"s as a young gal,  with stars in my eyes, on the wrong path impulsive first marriage that would come to naught,  I still knew for sure that  I would never again live in my home state.  That's become a complicated term to me, "home state"  where is my home state?  For example when folks ask where I'm from and tell me that I  have an accent  as happens at times in Minnesota where we reside and where they do have accents, I launch with a sigh into my history, "I'm from California and grew up in Pennsylvania.but now we live in Minnesota."   Being Minnesotans who never ventured  farther than Wisconsin, they silently roll their eyes and confirm, "oh a Californian."  Truthfully I  lived in California far longer (40+ years) than I did in Pennsylvania and now we reside in Minnesota, Jerry's home state, adding to the number of years I have been gone from home.  Because no matter that my primary relatives all now reside securely in cemeteries, Pennsylvania is still home. But I know I will never live here. 
 Home is always home and as Robert Frost told us, it's the place where when we go there they have to take us in.  Hmm,  maybe not so, except  that yes, my childhood friends in Pennsylvania still do take me in and welcome both of us.  And that makes coming home, home after all. 
Like my estate attorney and old school pal who just educated me in the appropriate purchase of Chianti wine.  I  gave up Chianti years back because I did not like the taste, but Richard patiently explained  to me that there has been a bastardization of true Italian Chianti and to get it right I must limit my purchase to  Chianti Classico.  The Italian government,  fed up with the inferior  variations, and semblances of Chianti established standards and so today real imported Chianti is the Classico.  And you know what, Richard was right and  so we have enjoyed excellent Chianti with the traditional , real Italian food I get only when I come home to Pennsylvania--Chianti, is the wine to accompany pasta's, the Italian sauces, provolone, Wedding Soup; it's the wine one almost eats not drinks.  Shades of  old Mr. Luigi DeSanto,  across the street who made his own wine---red, aka Dago Red.  And as always coming homes means getting authentic food--Polish, Italian, bakeries of pastries and breads galore, real provolone, real salami, real pepperoni,,,,,and even great steak houses.  Good food, and extra  work outs mandatory. People here like to eat and all restaurants are filled every day and night, every day not just weekends.  I don't think anyone cooks around here, families, etc. everyone is eating out--and yet they will complain about the economy--go figure.  My friends and I cannot understand this but we are the older generation now you know.
But enough of the food, we had an experience that confirms why I will never live in the rip off-aholic state of Pennsylvania, although it is not near the level of California, it has some annoying practices instituted to part the fool and his money  or to absolutely affirm, buyer beware.  Pennsylvania has toll roads as do many eastern states, not such a bad thing  because the users of the roads pay the  price, however many who live here assert they have more than paid for the highways, over all these years of toll collections.  To this lament, I think, wise up and "kwitcher bitchin" know that once a fee aka tax is enacted it never  goes away--just like government programs it takes on a life of its own, it is perpetual.  Well, there is something known as an I-Pass in Illinois and in  Pennsylvania, an E-ZPass and I don't know what the term is in other states.  We often have considered  buying one which  means placing money in an account, on deposit, which is withdrawn electronically to get through the toll booths more quickly without having to wait in cash lines and face the  toll takers. The device and account can be used on toll roads in 14 states.   Well, we think about it when we are on toll roads and then once home forget about it until the next trip. There is a way to prepay  this online, but we are ready to   depart it is too late because one needs the gadget to display on the windshield  for electronic  scanning,  But  not to worry, we are in my home state where they are ever anxious to part the contents of purse ($) from the person and in my home state they sell these EZ Passes at certain super stores like Giant Eagle, here in New Kensington. So yesterday, Jerry stopped at Giant Eagle, gave them $43.99 and triumphantly became the owner of an EZPass Device.  This will enable us to whiz along the toll road on our next leg of this journey to Gettysburg.

 Here is a lin http://www.paturnpike.com/ezpass/ezpassINTRO.htm

All smug until later, we read the tiny small print which stipulates the EZPass is only for vehicles up to 7000 pounds.  Wait a minute!  We  drive a 41 foot  motor home and tow a vehicle; we exceed that weight limit  more than thrice!  So we call the Pennsylvania Department of Turnpike and in no time do reach a real live person in Harrisburg, not some East Indian in Mumbai!  Aha, Pennsylvania employment at work.  Jerry reports our dilemma to which the  response is "well they should have told you that when they sold it to you.  You need a commerical EZPass."  Jerry explains we are not commercial.  but alas that is no one's problem but our own. So what can be done, not so fast, there Bunky. The device must be activated before it can be used.  Jerry explains we cannot use it because we are driving a motor home and exceed the weight limit.  "Oh right, then you need a commercial EZ Pass" comments the rep who goes on to explain we must activate it regardless, on line and then we can mail it back and get some of our $$ refunded. That's right, some of the $$.    By this time, generally patient calm Jerry has  lost all patience and  hung up feeling he has encountered Abbott and Costello's rendition of "Who's on First?"  But I remind him it's my home state--it's Groundhog Day for sure.  Well not to worry, I figure we have not even opened the sealed plastic container so we will just take this thing right back to Giant Eagle tomorrow, which is today now.  We have not used it and surely they can just refund the $43.99.   Wrong, they cannot do that and tell Jerry they will call the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission for him---now he knows it's Groundhog Day stuck on the record and reel.  Same story, different day, and no way is Giant Eagle taking this EZ Pass back.  So we are stuck with sending it to Harrisburg, which we will pass on our way to Gettysburg; furthermore we are advised to send it registered mail at a higher cost to ourselves for proof of mailing and my home state will sometime when it is convenient for them or when the Groundhog sees his shadow refund a portion of the $43.99, etc. Yes that is right, this is Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth where I know for sure I will never be living.  Big rip off and another way to part the contents of the purse from the person.   Why don"t they publicize this EZ Pass is not for motor homes who must roll with the big rigs and purchase commercial EZ's. Likely they think we are out here earning big bucks in our rigs? 

Monday, May 7, 2012

May Travels 1 of ?? posts


Rainbow at Mt Top RV
Tarentum, PA
Just for fun I'm posting our trip looking back over the road miles so far while starting out with the rainbow here this evening in Pennsylvania after the short heavy cloudburst.  It absolutely would not be my home here if we did not have a shower or two duriong our stay, good PA rain just as I remember it from childhood when I  always tried to sneak off the porch or out the door  to run through the thunder storms, attracted to the downpours and distressing my grandmother or mom, both of whom sought to keep me dry while explaining to me the dangers of thunder and lightning.  My fascination continues today with living in the Midwest, although I do know not to get involved with lightning, I did outgrow that attraction, still I do enjoy watching a good downpour which I fancy as earth cleansing.


Jerry at Longhorn's door
We celebrated Jerry's birthday this evening at a favorite chain Longhorn Steakhouse,  and Jerry being a steak guy was quite pleased to return there.  Sure wish we had such a quality restaurant and steakhouse back home in MN.  We were early this evening but business was booming which indicates the economy is just not that bad in this neck of the woods.  Longhorn is at the Pittsburgh Mills Mall which hosts the gamut of restaurants Smokey Bones, Olive Garden, Red Robin, and ever so many more and every single one was busy--imagine that in Tarentum, PA on a Monday night, every one is eating out.   To the right is the birthday boy himself ready to enter although it sure looks as if he is questioning whether this is the place, whether this is what he wants to do, or maybe whether Longhorn is ready to provide the meal and service he expects.  We did and they did and all was great, goodtime had by all.

We are here 886 miles more logged onto the motor home this trip, 16.5 hours drive time, 132.9 gallons of diesel including a full tank now, $527 poorer with diesel fill ups, and the end of our  5th day of this venture but only $225 for lodging and that is paid up through next Sunday.  We have been blessed with good travels so far and today checked on Uncle's house (it will always be Uncle's house to me although he is gone  and I have the estate to  administer).  All is in order and other than a couple burned out light bulbs where evidently the realtors who have been inside neglected to turn lights off after leaving. all is OK.  The lawn needs a good mowing, so that meant a follow up nag to my nephew who runs a lawn and landscape service and assures me he is taking care of it all.  If that is really so, and I have to trust that it is, why when we showup  isn't the lawn freshly mowed?    We used all the roundup that we had left behind last year  on the bumper crops of weeds and giant thistles in the flower beds which no longer sport the flowers that Aunt Marge used to cultivate.   Because I worry about getting this home sold so that we can close out and settle the estate, I am grateful that all seems as in order as can be expected.  We will be meeting with the  realtor this week as well as the estate attorney and accountant.  Sigh......

Our first night of travel  we stopped for an over night  at  Caboose Lake Campground RV in Remington, Indiana.  This is a lovely RV site used by many local families in the area as a destination for weekends. Downside is that it is right along interstate 65 and the constant traffic from that highway makes sleeping difficult.  Jerry can sleep anytime anywhere, but I didn't get much rest despite using ear plugs.  There are many amenities here including a trout stocked lake and  easy access off Highway 24 which we drive across Indiana, wide pull through level sites, but I wonder why they don"t  plant trees  as a sound barrier to the interstate.  

Our first destination on the way though was  Decatur, IN to visit  friends Barb and Paul, who live on the outskirts of Monroe, IN and to  see their new home; they sold the farm house and barn to one of the sons and built a beautiful spacious home on the property.  I did not take a picture of their spacious 2000 sq ft. open floor plan with the same square footage downstairs in the finished basement complete with another kitchen.  Barb joked that not only could  they wheel around if they ever end up in wheel chairs but if they  need live in care takers, they can live on one floor and the caregivers on the other.  Barb has retired from her catering and cake decorating business but with 7 grand daughters from ages 3 to 23 and 2 sons and families all living near along  with cousins and long time friends she is always cooking and baking. She has a small chest freezer  filled with cookies alone that she bakes continuously for everyone to enjoy.  She had a pie ready for us, something called Indiana Cream which is delicious and which Jerry, the pie eater in chief has been eating nightly.  Barb has been using the kitchen downstairs and said since moving in Thanksgiving she still has not cooked a meal in the upstairs kitchen. 


Berne, IN Clcoktower  
Saturday May 5 was Kentucky Derby Day but we were both so full from dinner the night before with Barb and Paul and constant food from breakfast to midday, we  watched without snacking.  However before the race, I journeyed into Berne to see the local attraction--the Swiss clock tower park.  This area is replete with Amish but many of the others are descendants of Swiss settlers.  For several years the tiny town of Berne hosts Swiss Days right around the July 4th holidays; and for a few years there has been work to build  a clock tower park in the midst of the town.  There are local jokes about the cost of this, but it is a beautiful center and certainly a place depicting their heritage.  The massive clock tower still needs work and friends said the hands of the clock fell off shortly after they were attached calling for more craftsmanship. 

I think they can be rightly proud of their park, completed now at a time when so many municipalities are barely able to make a go of it, the hardworking diligent citizens of Berne with strong work ethic have built a monument to their heritage and the wisdom of remaining true to their values is center visible to anyone who drives by.


Swiss banners in the Clocktower Park 
Berne, Indiana

Monday, October 24, 2011

Birchwood RV Park Durham NC

So we are at our destination in Durham, Birchwood RV, the only RV park in the area other than a very expensive KOA in Raleigh.  http://birchwoodrv.com/  A beautiful forest like setting as we look out this morning the sun is way up there over the tall pines which block satellite TV reception.  Getting here was a big challenge with Godfrey, the new GPS who took us alongside a shopping center.  The area has lots of development but Godfrey although newly purchased in  April this year is out of date and is just plain whacko.  Somehow we arrived intact despite my fears that we were entering a scene of Deliverance.  The neighbor next door from AZ came  right over saying, "welcome to Deliverance."  We had a laugh at that as well as his tshirt which said, "I drink to make people interesting." He was towing a Hummer 2, a smaller version which I believe I would have had to have if we had stayed in Northern CA; my  fascination with the smaller Hummers is unexplainable.

  Pham the resident manager whose brother owns the  park is quite a character, a Vietnamese boat person, survivor, conservative and the agile happy go lucky  guy in charge who runs a safe place, "no trouble here."  With the experiences of his life he has learned to enjoy one moment at a time.  By our arrival I was beside myself, wondering how and where we were and was this trip worth it.  Two minutes with Pham who encouraged us to stay the week, "more cheaper that way" I felt better.  He later said, "I see you were trouble so I make you laugh."  Perceptive person. Another of his favorite sayings, "Oh we gonna' be in deep deep trouble now."

The people in the coach behind us were also at the rally  in Winston Salem and have lived here as full time RV'ers.  She told me more about Pham,  who calls the local cops if he suspects the strangest thing from the residents of the  mobile home park on the hill.  She says Pham is one in a million and I have already seen that.  They sold their home near here and travel between Durham where one son lives  and their other son in southern CA and visit family in FL along the way. Her husband is a retired computer program mer and  says he picks up odd jobs along their travels to supplement their retirement.  She has had medical issues about which she did not elaborate and says she is bound to enjoy life while she has it and do things while she can.  Good advice.

Neighbors on the other side are from South Dakota and have been here  six weeks but are leaving tomorrow. Showing me a picture on his phone of a big full sized pig and then two pot bellies which were in a corral up the path, he said, the woman driving her RV alone  was a retired surgeon who had rescued the pigs and brought them by trailer. Once long ago in CA I had the desire to get a pot bellied pig as a pet, a notion which Jerry vetoed without due consideration.  I thought they were cute and so on, but Jerry was vehement that no pig could live in our house.   By now you get the drift that everyone is a neighbor in these RV sites which makes for interesting conversations if you enjoy talking with people and hearing their stories as I do.  

It is only 91 miles here from Winston Salem much shorter than our directions courtesy of Good Sam travel planner indicated.  Once we were set up, I had a couple loads of clothes to wash and was happy to be all hooked up again from our semi-dry camping at the Rally.  Yesterday morning was our planned departure and at 9:00AM all electricity was shut off.  We thought that rude and so much for southern hospitality.  Fortunately we are self contained but what a surprise.  That is just one reason why we are unlikely to attend any other FMCA rallies.  Why not announce that instead of just unplugging everyone?   We have been spoiled at the Fleetwood Owners Association rallies and will stick to those.

We have been sleeping in late for us and not moving early this trip to the south.  Maybe it is dark earlier in the morning here or maybe we have a case of the retired lazies, but 8:00 or even 8:30AM is very  late for us.  Of course Jerry was recovering from his bout of   sore throat, cough, etc and I don't know what my excuse has been.  Although yesterday I started to feel a bit tired and head congestion. 

For two people who never get sick to both catch something on the trip is annoying.  Saturday  evening we skipped the entertainment at the rally because I just did not feel like trekking back and forth in the dark.  The neighbors here who also were at the rally said they did the same thing.  In my case I had not been sleeping well for a couple nights and decided it was just too much stimulation in the evenings and then the cold walk back to the coach awakened me.  I am so accustomed to my quiet reading time an hour or so before bedtime that my mind and or body were rebelling at the absence of quiet. 

Today we are off to visit with our long time friends from CA who moved here after we left CA.  They have visited us several times in MN and this is our first trip to NC, seemed each time we planned something in life switched the plan.  The four of us go back to about 1969 in Fair Oaks; for a time Nevin was in Vietnam with the army and Alicia who is Panamanian stayed there with the kids. When we are together she and I both talk  at the same time, making others ears very numb, but I learned this technique long ago with her otherwise I would not get in a word.  We both can keep up with our dual conversations to the amazement of observers.  There is something beyond the familiar or comfort in these long time connections, that is unexplainable.   Perhaps surviving life's bumps and billows leaves us with a deeper appreciation of knowing one another.

Our AZ neighbor departed this AM and another coach  has just  pulled in with "Christian Music Ministries" painted over their windshield, traveling minstrels perhaps.   Weather is once again optimal here in NC, temperatures in the high 70"s today and possibly 80. That is all good. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Yesterday we arrived in Asheville, North Carolina after losing an hour to the Eastern Time Zone, 309 miles from Nashville, TN, our previous stop and a 5 hour+50 minute drive with an hour+10 minutes of stops along the route.   If this is not the most beautiful place in the country it is certainly one of the top; we have autumn colors at home but nothing  like these Great Smoky Mountains which go on forever.  A photo absolutely does not do justice; this  beauty resembles walking into a magnificent painting.  I have only ever said that before about Yosemite.  There is nowhere to look which does not envelop eyes in color. 

Another disappointment is this TAPS RV park, which I checked on Good Sam and online. The website shows a better spot than the actuality.  These spaces are tight, the park is old and it is really a test to maneuver on the  access paths; we do have full hook ups for  2 nights then we have to move to a 30 amp sight  into which I hope Jerry will be able to back  because reportedly there is a reservation for the 50 amp site.  Now I know why my friend Loren recommended RV resorts when they were full timing.  Driving a 40 ft. diesel pusher with tow vehicle is not like driving a smaller pickup truck with trailer or 5th wheel.  So many of these places are set up for camping; I wish they would use that description and we would know to avoid them.  Just because they have hook ups and poured cement pad does not make them a suitable  RV spot for coaches like ours, more driving room is needed.  Well fortunately Jerry did it and here we are.  Thankfully we arrived in the daytime, this would be an insurmountable challenge at night.  http://www.ashevilletapsrvpark.com/index.html    I will be leaving a comment on the RV.com site for others to avoid if they are in a big rig.

This morning was a trip to the doc in the box, Asheville Urgent Care where a doctor saw Jerry and prescribed antibiotics for his sore throat, by tomorrow he should fell better and in two days be at 90% the doctor said.  This meant another day where I left him in the coach and went off on my own along  part of the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopping at the Folk Art Guild.  What a venue of quilts, weaving, wood craft, glass, pottery, jewelry, etc on display.  They absolutely forbid photos and enforced the no photos by the many staff on patrol through out the two floors.  Well I had forgotten my camera anyway so then I did not feel so bad; I did have my cell phone but did not risk sneaking a photo and being banned, arrested, or who knows what. 
http://www.exploreasheville.com/index.aspx  I cannot say enough about Asheville, so I post this link which says and shows the gamut. 

I talked to many locals today on my ventures who all said they could not imagine living anyplace else in the country.  Tomorrow is the Biltmore mansion visit which I am  anxious to see and determine how it compares to Hearst Castle in CA.  I suspect there will be no comparison, different. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Travel Thru Day 2 and 771 miles from home

We have driven south into showers which cleared out by midday today as we entered Kentucky. Stayed at WalMart RV last night in Mattoon, IL, what I call roughing it,  which means we were unplugged, not in an RV Park with hook ups.  Still this is a big step up from long ago when we  had tents and sleeping bags. We covered 437 miles in 7 hrs 39 minutes driving time, 9 hrs total time with stops yesterday, from home. Today, Day 2 we covered 334 miles in 5 hrs  53 minutes drive time, 6 hrs. 53 minutes total time with stops.  So far this trip 771 miles on the motor home, tomorrow we unhook the HHR and tour locally.   

We usually stop at Camping World near Madison,WI  on trips because it is convenient, off I 94. Their normally empty parking lot was over full yesterday with trailers, motor homes. We parked right at the front door behind a coach being serviced. Well the good I perceived  in this situation  was that Jerry would not spend too much time  strolling & browsing. The cashier told us that 2 local  RV service centers had closed so all those customers were now at Camping World. They will need a bigger lot. She gave us a free 4 pack of TP for our  inconvenience & also told us that the employees have been advised that Good Sam is buying out Camping World. We know there is an affiliation because we receive ads & discounts for CW from Good Sam. The customer behind whose rig we parked came in ready to go but was not that concerned when he saw us checking out. Said he'd has his coach there 3 days waiting for service but fortunately he lives nearby. . He admired our rig & he & Jerry talked awhile. Said he'd traded their 40 footer down to a smaller 32 foot but after the 40 footer neither he nor his wife could adjust to the downsized so they upgraded again this summer to their almost 39 ft Winnebago. He said it was a big mistake to go smaller. I can now relate to that because although I thought our Southwind was fine I do prefer this one.

Last night " roughing" it at Wally RV we had Progresso minestrone soup & grilled cheese sandwiches and later ice cream. Jerry felt a sore throat coming on so he hit the hay ahead of me. I started to read a  book that I bought at the booksale last weekend, "The Quilter's Apprentice". It's OK, along the lines of what I call brainless reading but the  quilt references and the fabrics & designs described  are of interest.

The way  Jerry parked last night the pole parking lot  light shined into the bedroom window on my side of the bed. I was not able to pull down the black out shade so instead I stuffed one of the decorative shammed pillows there, problem solved.

I went into Wally World this AM to buy all sorts of cough drops, thera flu, cough medicinals for Jerry whose voice is bass range today though he claims he does not feel bad otherwise, but he would say that. While inside I noticed many white/blue hairs shopping & visiting. There is an independent coffee counter inside where they were congregating. I have seen McDonald's & Subways in Wal marts but this was different.  As I entered the store  I noticed  a man who appeared  blind with a cane, delivered in a taxi. The greeter knew him, called him by name & said "just a minute and your assistant will be here.". I went on my way because Jerry waited back at the rig & I was advised to "not spend the day." I have not been to our local Wal Mart since early this year because they changed everything around thoroughly confusing me & I have stayed away. Well I have not needed anything there either. I did find a good buy on the Paul Newman's Bold Keurig coffee that I enjoy.  When I got to the check out right behind me came the blind  man accompanied by a WalMart employee. Evidently he's not fully blind because he knew and recognized the cashier. I heard him thank the other employee who returned his list to him, saying "are you sure there is nothing else?" No he was set to which she said, "we'll see you next week.  We are here to help. After you have your coffee we will call the taxi for you." Evidently she had shopped with him. He grinned & said that he might hitch a ride from one of the ladies waiting for him at the coffee counter.  I did not know WalMart provided that shopping assistance service but I do know they are extremely customer oriented. That was the Supercenter in Mattoon,IL & I take my hat off to them. Good neighbors!

The trees are in full autumn color  glory through southern IL, Kentucky and Tennessee, it looks just like the colors we left at home--red, orange, yellow, rust, brown, green.  Diesel gas was "only" $3.61 today with the Flying J discount in southern IL, who'd have ever dreamed we would consider that a deal?

We arrived at the Nashville Country RV Park in Goodlettsville, TN which is north of Nashville at 4:20PM today.  I had found this place online  http://www.nashvillecountryrvpark.com/ and although it is a Good Sam, I am not impressed.  Tight spaces, the pool is drained already for the winter, and it it almost full.  It appears there are many living  here full time and some of the same phenomena we see in PA at Mt. Top where construction workers have their trailers pitched.  On the plus side, it is quiet, has all sorts of brochures about local events and sites, a small post office  and we are only here for two nights.

We stayed put dining in  on meatloaf and potatoes, the  left overs I'd brought from home, green  beans and canned peaches finished our dinner tonight.  I thought it best to give Jerry more rest and I am  rather achy myself after our driving for two days and maybe twisting a hip oddly last night.  I miss my workouts, and my body does too although  I have had several good walks each day.  

Tomorrow is a big day--we will have breakfast at the Loveless Cafe, a place I've heard of for years that is noted for it's red eye ham gravy, ham and biscuits, and a place that is on my bucket list!  http://www.lovelesscafe.com/  Then we will go to the Hermitage, the  restored maintained home of President Andrew Jackson, on to the refurbished  new Grand Old Opry, and possibly on to Franklin an historic Civil war area of interest south east of Nashville.  Years back we toured all the local spots, the Reiman auditorium where at the time I jumped on stage and sang something so I could say I'd been on stage to sing  at the Reiman!  Somewhere I have a photo of that experience. After we return home,   A new urge came upon me today when I realized despite many winery tours and several breweries,  I have never been to a distillery.  To this Jerry reminded me of the still he and Bob Kelly built under our oaks in Newcastle years back following some obscure directions in an antique country living book to see if they could do it.   But we are in Tennessee, home of Jack Daniels, 70 miles from Nashville.  I am not a fan of bourbon at all, but it would be interesting to visit.  Maybe this trip, maybe next trip.   It seems the more  we travel the more places I want to see. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Farewell to PA,,,,,no place like home

Tomorrow AM we depart Mt. Top for home, two days on the road and if all goes as planned we should be back in our home late Wednesday.  I confess I am starting to feel about this area the way I felt when I left in 1963 and when I would come back to visit---I cannot wait to leave!  I am tired of the traffic and the hassles, the challenges with the house, and just being here for the 3rd time this year.  I am even tired of our coach and the daily commute back and forth around the hills and across the bridge from Mt Top to Lower Burrell.   I suppose I am just good and tired.

Yet I focus on the positives--seeing  long time friends again, participating in the  50th HS class reunion planning, and meeting folks here on the hill; the trip has been successful.  All we need is a buyer for the house.  All is well, thanks to Jerry and his skills and handyman talents and willingness to work maybe more than he should.  Imagine having to hire a contractor to build the railing he constructed on the partial part of the cellar stairs  where there was none.  Imagine finding someone around here to do anything small for a decent price.  Just imagine and the thoughts you can conjure  can be magnified by ten at least. 

When my old folks were alive both my mom and aunt complained how tough it was to find someone to do work here, to fix things. For a time I thought it was just because they did not want to spend the money.  Now I know differently. Once again, we never know until we step into the moccasins.

Enter the rip off artists, the scammers who dwell around the area and prey on the elderly especially.  There was one such guy in particular, Eddie, whose last  name I will not share here, who  replaced Mom's roof every two or three years until I intervened;  when I sold my aunt's home I found a receipt where  he had visited her too and replaced some parts of her hardwood living room parquet floor but only once.  And then going through documents at Uncle's home, even good old  Uncle Carl, another master handyman himself,  encountered  Eddies tentacles, but only once for a minor outside porch railing and fascia repair. The realtor tells me she has encountered tales of Eddie many times and if he is at one home in a neighborhood, pretty soon he is in action at most.  While his rates were not exorbitant, the suspicion is that he was not doing the work.  Eddie  charmed his way around the old folks.  It was not until one of my long distance calls that I questioned why she was having roof repairs and replacements so frequently.  There after, I managed to put a stop to that long distance, reaching from  California where I lived.  I heard that Eddie was ultimately sued by employees whom he had not paid and either left the area and or stopped his contracting business. 

Having been involved with trying to get work accomplished this trip I certainly share the frustration of locals when they need minor handy work done.  I am thankful for Jerry's skills and I am thankful I do not live here.  I am chagrined  that I could not find another lawn service and will have to rely on my nephew's company, though they do a lousy job when they do anything.   When we arrived none of the shrubs nor hedges had been pruned, so we did all that ourselves.  I tried calling other places because I doubt they will cost anymore and perhaps a stranger will be more reliable.  But no luck.  Most of the lawn landscape services do not come from the Pittsburgh area to Lower Burrell.  One reliable tip from a local friend was in vain because the young man is a school teacher and unwilling to take on anymore lawns now that school has started.  He obviously is a man who wants to work, supplementing his teaching salary with lawn care.  Oh if there were more of that level of ambition around.

Tonight I cooked  a  large chicken breast  using half the box of  the Betty Crocker Chicken Lemon Herb Helper mix for the two of us along with mixed frozen veggies and big tossed salads and delicious sliced tomatoes which we bought at the local farmers market Saturday.   When I see these Helper boxes at home, I quickly turn up my nose, and I think, "how lazy can you be?"  How hard is it to cook up some meat and noodles and make a sauce.  But in the motor home, easy does it.  Although I do have a small shelf full of spices, I have begun to appreciate these quicker dinners.  This one was very tasty, all I added was an extra shake of garlic powder and  several squeezes of lemon juice.  I have never known a recipe or mix I could not tinker with my adding or adjusting. 

The tomatoes from the Lower Burrell farmer's market are outstanding, large red, juicy.  I bought a basketful to take home and  3  big slicers, the last of which we will use tomorrow for BLT's at the end of the day on the road.  The MN tomatoes have been down right lousy this year  while this area has outstanding produce.  Oh  the plus and minus to all things, striving to create balance.

Another  accomplishment is I have not a trace of the right  strained/sprained Achilles tendon that has been annoying me since early June.  I believe that my new SAS sandals deserve credit.  Just as much credit to Carlie for revealing that her best therapy for plantar fasciatis

I have been doing 3+ mile walks around the RV hilltop, enhanced by going down and up the entrance hill.  This has helped keep the calories  from accumulating.  The weather has been lovely this trip. The visits have been good and yet, I am ready to depart PA.  Now that the tendon is healed, I will click my heels  together sharply in the AM and say,  "...there is no place like home, Toto, there is no place like home..."  I look forward to home and staying put for at least a month.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Some PA came back to MN

We are home safe and sound although coming  along on I 94/80  near Gary,IN  I was as close as I ever want to be to  a semi that was drifting into our lane, my passenger side,  to go nowhere as the traffic was heavy and all lanes were filled.  Fortunately the truck driver came to his senses or heard Jerry laying on the horn; when we finally got past him in our own lane to his  left, he glared as if we'd done something. I said a loud thank you to my "people" and guardians.  The trucker appeared to be in his 40's, skinny pointed nose and looked stoned, but don't ask me how I determined that as he was wearing those reflector mirror sun glasses.  Most often the truckers we have met along the road are decent folk who want to avoid accidents too, this character looked hell bent to crash.  This part of the highway has had lots of construction and likely will have forever.  Generally we go farther south in IN, but decided to take the shorter route.  The mad trucker veered off toward Chicago and proceeded to terrorize other motorists.  I was glad to be sitting high up in our coach, still did not want to share a seat and a tiny car would not have had a chance.  Another bump on the road was on  I 80 which was shut down to a stand still in IL while more construction occurs, which made for a long drive.  When we return to PA in July we will avoid I 80 as it likely will not be completed. The  funny thing was we veered farther north, to MI on 31, missing our Hwy 20 connection to I94. We have always wanted to go north along the Lake in MI and return down the WI side and sitting in the  traffic stop, Jerry said, "we should have kept going north."  Ah well, all's well that ends well. 

All is unloaded at home and the laundry is in full force.  I picked up MIL's clothes from the  SNF today to add to the heap.  She refuses to allow them to do her laundry while we are gone, my fault for doing her laundry while we are here.  Although I mark her clothing and it could have survived the facility laundry which is done by a local woman whom I  well know, MIL gets her hackles up and refuses.  She has plenty of clothes to last over a month, but the underwear is another story.  Her solution besides not changing daily (eeyew) is  to rinse them out in her sink.  I am tired talking to her about this and Jerry refuses to discuss further too.  You can imagine his reluctance,  how would you like to tell your 94 year old mother that she is not clean?  What I do not understand is how the SNF allows her to get away with this, rinsing them in her sink in her room and then hanging them over the back of a chair to dry?  She does have a private room and other than ensuring she is up and around and well, I suppose they  find so much going on that this is a minor thing.  Leave it to her to find something bizarre to do and to invoke her obstinate streak.  

Now to the title of the post, today we have a hot humid day here in La Crescent; very unusual.  It is a flashback to the PA humidity that  ravages the summers there and makes me unhappy to be there.  In August 2004  when Mom died it was as humid as ever and I really thought we would perish in her home.  How did we kids of the  60"s grow up without air conditioning in those old two story homes and thrive?  I don't remember being all that uncomfortable as a kid so I suppose we were acclimatized and then we had no idea about  air conditioning.  A fan was rare.  All what we get used to.  I know that my southern friends in La. move very slowly in the humidity if at all.  I think that's where the southern drawl  generates, no fast movement and speech even slows down. 

I dislike heat except when in AZ in winter and I do not like humidity, no not at all.  Here in La Crescent we generally have beautiful summers, seldom humid and 80's, real Chamber of Commerce weather.  I suppose we can take a day of this, tomorrow it will be different.  The weather is ever changing here, day to day.  So , I decided to hose off  the rose bushes and  budding flowers because the predicted rain has not arrived.   The ground has enough water but I know that budding flowers appreciate a sprinkle on a hot windy day  That's something else we rarely do, water flowers or lawns unlike CA where it was necessary else be barren brown.  I also thought it would be  a good way to get some  sun myself.  This escapade lasted about  45 minutes and I had enough, thank you.  Jerry told me so, the sun is so hot here in the north with not a cloud in the sky and no pollution to filter it.   Our rose garden is about to burst into magnificent bloom as as are the peonies out back along the garden fence.  Right now all the salvia and Jacob's Ladder are sporting purple which along with the aliums is attracting humming birds.  Generally the hummers gravitate to the red flowers but since I did not plant the front flower box they seem to be settling for the flavor purple.  Tomorrow I may tackle that.  I so prefer the out doors to the paper work and tedium inside. 

I spent several hours on the phone today notifying various  entities  about Uncle Carl's passing and requesting estate packets, beneficiary forms, etc.  Much to do, like being at work again for the state; this is a different state and I have no staff, only my own  fingers to press the phone or keyboard and recite the litany repeatedly, date of death, estate, etc.     The strangest contact was with the Veteran's Administration about cashing in his WWII Life Insurance policy which he kept all these years.  Actually he has received annual dividends over the years that have exceeded the value of the policy.  Good for him.  After  providing the necessary data to the woman who will  process the claim and mail out the packet with more paperwork for me to do, she advised me to call another number,  the Veterans national call center and report the claim.  I thought that odd and asked her, "you mean I have to call another number and tell them you are sending me information?"  She replied "yes" as though it were the most natural thing in the world and I must be dull witted to question.  Well, consider this is the federal government at it's finest,  slogging away, churning.   I called the 2nd number which entailed a 15 minute hang on the line to talk, as if to say, "how dare you call here, don't you know we are busy?"  I am thankful to use my walk around phone and do other things, not just sit and wait for a human voice.  When the man finally came on the line he told me to call the life insurance number, the same number which had told me to call him. I  told him I had already spoken to them and the process was underway and they directed me to him.  I was nearing  the limit of my tolerance  for exasperation when he finally said, "well if he was receiving no other VA benefits there is nothing to report, she must have thought he was getting other benefits."  So ended that call.  Of all the entities, I have had to contact, the VA gets the prize for wasting time.  I think of the absolute frustrations vets and dependents must endure dealing with them and then I think how fortunate are the members of the local American Legions and VFW's who have access to local veterans services officers as we do here, the ones who facilitate the process and save lots of grief for individuals.  That is worth the membership dues.    

PA  will appreciate this as they grab their stolen share via inheritance tax.  Do I complain about that too much?  Likely so,  I could do without the hassle, the attorney fees and the paperwork.  I am fortunate to have the ability and skills to deal easily with this, many people would be upside down and sideways even attempting. Many would  not  make the progress as quickly as I do.   I have one more stock fund to contact via computer Monday and I must write a  nice letter to his  809th US Army Tank Destroyer reunion group to let them know, most of his WWII buddies are gone, but the widow of one has kept in touch with Carl and has been religious about sending cards to him, signing her self by name and "the one who always could dance a good polka."  I wonder if she had eyes for my handsome old uncle?   And with that I wander away from the keyboard and will find a nice chilled glass and pour some chardonnay. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On the Road Home

We spent overnight here  at the Elkhart RV Park in Elkhart, IN after winding along some back roads of western OH and eastern IN.  We were here last year October 31 on our return trip from PA; the price at this RV park  has increased by $11;we are not surprised as everything is increasing in price despite what the fools who run Social Security say when denying old folks a COLA.  Even our trusty hosts, Ed and Fran at Mt. Top, our home in PA increased their fees by $5 per night, their first increase in many  years;  while Fran was apologetic, I consoled her, "we expect it, price of fuel is driving all prices upward."   There are fewer motor homes but the business is still flourishing as this Elkhart has added about 30 additional spaces for rigs.  We are again parked next to a million dollar rig, a Patriot; the folks are from TX and full timers. 

This morning we looked over the travel logues I keep on our journeys and  realized that regular gas prices are up over $1 per gallon just since October 2010, not even a year ago. And lately peiople are supposed to be happy when it recently decreased ten cents!  Hah!  Today with this coach which uses  diesel, that has also increased in price,  but Jerry is pleased that with the 10 to 11 mpg he gets with this coach we are ahead in what we spend on diesel fuel compared to last year's  gas consumption.  This is a phenomena which he understands and which makes my eyes glaze over.  Whatever, at least we can still afford to travel.

Elkhart has many open spaces but is looks like over 75% capacity.  Mt Top in PA had  many construction workers staying there again while they work in the ' burgh but not as many motor coaches, though a couple from FL were next to us and they are regulars there too.  They are from the area but live in FL, avoiding the PA inheritance tax.  Can't say I blame them as PA is ridiculous with that.

 Had a conversation with my friend who is also my estate attorney about that and while he being a full liberal believes it is right for the government to confiscate funds from estates, I fully disagree.  The money was already taxed and so if the person wanted to leave it to Disneyland that is their money and not the governments.  Rich on the other hand believes it is only fair; fair I say.  Well he says why should someone who didn't work a day in their life  inherit millions?  I say why not, again, the taxes were paid by the deceased and if they saved good for them.  Greed and government greed know no bounds. I tease my friend that I must hire a conservative attorney instead of a liberal.  However because we go way back and I can trust him, this is a game we play with words.  Naturally estate tax is on my mind as I will be administering Uncle Carl's estate and now that I  have experience with the PA tax greed from 2009 when my aunt passed, I will be more diligent in tacking and deducting every penny of expense I can.  I am pleased Uncle Carl designated a gift to his church as that money will put them over the top for the building fund they have underway on expansion.  He is smiling at that, I know as will the Monsignor when he gets the check.  But I digress, this is about RV travels homeward.

Each trip as we near home, I can't wait to get there.  Although we have house sitters who give us peace of mind, I want to be back in my own routine and off the road.  My body misses its workouts.  We will reach home sometime early evening today and along the road we gain an additional hour changing to the central time zone from eastern.   Jerry says to get a steak out of the freezer for tomorrow as he has not had a steak this entire time and his body is suffering withdrawal.  On travel days we eat lightly, a sandwich along the way and last night it was huge salads, more of the fresh asparagus Lowell gave us from his PA garden,  some left over pulled pork for Jerry and some seafood salad.  As Jerry looked at his meal, he shook his head and said, "pitiful."  He is missing meat!  I on the other hand am ok with greens and grazing.  After all we did have burgers on Monday courtesy of friends, the Hemprich's. 

Someday when we stop here in Elkhart we will stay more than a night and go to the RV museum.  Someday we will be other places than back and forth between home and PA.  But in July it will be back to PA to get the estate sale and home clear out done.  I can say I am not looking forward to PA heat and humidity, but it has to be.

I was so thankful for my homeys, my NK cronies who came to the viewing and the funeral and all around are fun good people to be with.  I am heartsick about Pam who is fighting breast cancer, but at least now her friends know as she has shared and they can support her as much as she will allow.  Patti, another friend has a multitude of health problems too but keeps on moving onward.  That's how we New Ken kids of the 60"'s are--get over it and get on with it.  No pity parties entertained.

Route home looks like  Hwy 20 to 94/80 then to 39, then 90 to the La Crescent turnoff.  Six hours driving time.         

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Arrived PA homestate

So here we are at our only place to park the RV at home in PA, Mt. Top RV, Tarentum, off Bull Creek Road.  Our hosts Ed & Fran finally had to raise their price after all these years; it is now up to $25 per night with our Passport America discount, still way cheaper than a hotel.  Jerry asked Ed when would he add the cable TV at those prices and Ed just looked at him strangely as he deserved.  There is electricity and water hook up here but that is it.  In years past they hosted an annual bluegrass festival in July but decided that they could make more money just opening this as an RV spot, there being none other in the area here near Pittsburgh. their home is on this property, which Fran inherited from her family.  Sad to see her on oxygen now but she looks the same, regrets those years of smoking which led to this, and she is not outside visiting RV's as much as her oxygen hose doesn't reach and she saves the portable for outings. 

We have been parking here since 2008 when we had our first new Southwind.  Just like everyone who arrives here for the first time, down winding Bull Creek Rd and then up Sun Mt. Road of sorts, one wonders where you will end up.  It looks like driving back into Deliverance deep in the woods and hills;  these are real Pennsylvania woods not just a clump of trees as someone we know in MN  refers to her backyard clump of trees.  Right now the spots of natural dogwood trees are making the woods even more magnificent.  Pennsylvania is known for its hills and woods, PennsWoods, for the founder, Quaker William Penn pre colonial times.  
Every one who RV's here that we talk to says the same thing, "what did you think the first time you drove here?" Previous to finding this place, we had parked the old Southwind   which had no slides in Aunt Jinx driveway, but then we did not spend weeks there.  When we  upgraded there was no way we could fit.  Jerry cusses out the streets in these towns which are very narrow making RV driving not so compatible and down right undoable in town.  I remind him this is not new, these roads are from the colonial era, old settler trails where homes popped up and 1800"s at the latest.  Wide enough for horse and buggy maybe, not today's vehicles with cars parking alongside the  curbs.  This is a historic area from the country's early times.
Many young guys working construction have trailers and RV's here which is their home while they are working in the area.  When the job moves on so do they.  This shows industriousness and sense for those who want to work and not draw unemployment and complain about "can't find a job."  There is a young family in one trailer with 3 youngsters, about 5, 3, and 2 years old.  We watched the little bitty 5 year old, at least so we guess, driving round and round in a mini little Kawasaki ATM, giving her  younger sibs a ride in front of her.  I told Jerry, "No way would I let a little girl do that" to which he  laughed, "you wouldn't even ride such a thing."  Correcto!  But she, though itty bitty, teeny tiny,  is very cautious, wears a helmet and we watched her pull off the gravel into the field astutely when a vehicle was pulling in yesterday.  She made several loops around and around, quite cute. 
It's very quiet out here in the boonies and we slept well and long last night.  It is also very safe as Ed is always around mowing, fixing, tinkering and the local police drive up the hill and make the loop. I will post photos later.  This morning we are soon off to visit Uncle at the assisted living center and then over to his home to begin to clear out the trash for Thursday pick up. 
Yesterday  we covered a saner 333 miles from Decatur, IN; purchased 47.7 gallons diesel in Beaverdam OH for $194 and topped off again with 35 gallons for $150 at Sam's at Mills Mall before arriving here--that fill up at expensive PA prices will get us across the state to Gettysburg and beyond and south if all works well.  Road tolls have increased since last year; OH charged $3.25 for a short segment of Interstate 76 and then welcome to my home state of PA where we paid $17 on I 76.  I do agree with user fees for many activities so I cannot  complain too  loudly about the tolls.  Except I recall when the first PA turnpike toll road was set up, to pay for the road and then the toll would be done!  Hah1  A tax once set in place never goes away.   Still the toll  roads are in good shape so they are keeping them up; that is  except for the I 76 around Akron Ohio which gets worse and worse.  We must find an alternate route to that; Jerry has decided even I 80 toll road a bit farther north would be preferable to the washboard through Akron. 

Photos later.

Monday, May 9, 2011

On the Road, the sunny road and 50's memorabilia

Well we arrived in Decatur, IN at some very late midnight hour last night, or is that this morning?  A long drive  but with the madman at the wheel of his new diesel, intent on persevering, pushing onward toward the goal!  I did not realize Decatur in one day was  the ultimate goal, but it turns out he was looking to beat his  best time even venturing onto I 80 south east to Gary, IN an area we usually avoid. I dozed off on the couch about 10:00PM, enough for a day.  Something happens to Jerry behind the wheel of the coach and actually all previous motor homes, and truck  campers.  He loves to drive and he just keeps at it.  Many years back on a caravan to Calgary, Canada with friends we talked about how he and another man became boars behind the wheels, just driving on.  Not sure if we meant "bores" but we laughed and decided Road Hogs fit, years before Wild Hogs, the movie.  I have said many times that in another life he must have been either a long haul truck driver or pony express/stage coachman.  He absolutely loves driving.  Me, not so much, but I can keep myself entertained with my Blackberry and other gadgets.  Advantage to the coach travel  is my frequent potty calls do not have to rely on the driver pulling over. 

We went 558 miles yesterday over 14 hours, of which only 10 hours and 27 minutes were moving, one hour lost to time change as we transitioned  into the  Eastern zone, 45 minutes to refuel, 5 minutes at a rest stop,  23 minutes at Madison, WI Camping World where himself loves to shop, 1 hour and  20 minutes to dine!  The rest of the time he was behind the wheel, eyes ahead.  I cannot sit still that long, so it is a good thing to be able to get up and down and around!

About his shopping escapade; I waited inside the coach because I have seen enough of the insides of Camping Worlds to last me the rest of my years; I feel the same about Cabela's  and other stores of the like.  This trip Jerry was intent on procuring some special vent covers sold nowhere else to his specifications. He also picked up a belated  birthday present for himself, a new shower head for the coach shower.  I liked the old one just fine, but he did not.  However, after my morning shower today, the old one has been reinstalled as I complained loudly that I did  not appreciate standing in a shower with a hose turned onto me.  He had showered first and commented that it was "forceful", which must be the understatement of the month, so far.

Our coach has a tile floor in the bath and in the kitchen  and dining area, just fine with me, but himself wanted matching carpet runners for the tile, which he found on sale at Camping World.  Another $33, unnecessarily spent to me, but I have abdicated any hope of curtailing his expenditures on this coach.  When at home, I purchased an additional decorative pillow for its sofa, he thought that not needed.  The sofa is  creamy colored  leather and I like the  pillows adding color and felt one more was needed.

So yesterday's purchases  leave us $461 poorer of which  $268 was  for diesel fuel which was the first fill up since our  return trip from AZ when we filled up in Des Moines, IA.  Most often we dine at home, but we did  get out  to dine at an Iron Skillet in Remington, IN whilst deciding whether or not to press on to Decatur.  Why did we have that conversation?  He already knew what he was planning, but took a break to indulge in a steer burger while I feasted on shrimp alfredo with ziti pasta.  Here in the Midwest where food is too plentiful and the cooks are all excellent  makes it an experience! 

We stay free here in Decatur at the Fleetwood Factory RV ground, a perk for Fleetwood owners in the area.  It was nearly full last night when we pulled in but nearly deserted today.  Jerry wanted a factory kit to mount the front license plate but after waiting around for an hour, decided to forego that. 

Today we lunched at Arnold's a Decatur, IN landmark, a 50's burger joint.  My favorite there is the old time cherry coke which I do not even  try diet style, instead reveling in the only authentic  cherry cokes  today, made just as I enjoyed them in my adolescent years in PA. The burgers are some of the best in the country and they make their own potato chips.  Health food!   There is ever so much stuff and  genueine 50's collectabilia inside, that one really feels back to the  50's  especially while moving to the original rock n roll music played.  We will not be here next week, May 14th  when they hold their car hop auditions, yes they really do.  Not just anyone can be a skating car hop at Arnold's. Foiled again,  I never worked as a car hop yet always thought that would be fun as a teenager. I would be unlikely to pass the age requirement for the auditions; I wonder how they get around that but it is hearland, Decatur. Anyone who gets to this area should experience Arnold's. 

I am curious  and must learn where the waitresses buy their saddle oxford shoes that all are wearing.  Oh I loved those shoes. I recalled  being a teeny bopper with a new pair when the game was to purposely step on our toes to scuff up our new whites.  One boy tried to do so to my  new shoes, but I responded swiftly  by hitting him upside his head with a book I was carrying and knocked him to the floor.   Another boy witnessed this and said, " Patty, you killed him!"  "No I didn't but if he ever tries that again I will!"  I was telling Jerry this story today in Arnold's and he shook his head; he marvels that I have friends today after all these years in PA who are glad to see me when we are home, next stop.   I said that word got around and no one ever  tried to step on my whites again!  No shy retiring violet was this girl!  By the way that was the same boy I pushed into the waste basket in 8th grade then grabbed him by his hair and out came a handful.  One would have thought he'd have known better thanto mess with Patty Lou; Robert Baldridge was his name and I believe he is dead.  No I did not kill him! 

 On to visit friends this afternoon.
Front counter at Arnold's Decatur, IN