Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Not so Balmy in Briggs

Briggs Woods County Park, Webster City, IA – April 29, 2014

The high predicted today is 43. It’s rainy. Frank goes off in search of propane for Big Guy. After asking around several places it appears only the local RV dealer sells it in bulk, for $4.57 a gallon. Wow! I think we’ll see how the prices are down the road.

The rain has been so constant we’ve developed a window leak.

Window Leak

I think we’ll just hunker down and stay warm. Here’s our answer to a day like today.

Rainy Day Solution

Guess we’ll be staying another night and see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Frolicking in the Fog

Briggs Woods County Park, Webster City, IA – April 28, 2014

Yesterday, we decided that taking a 160 mile side trip in Big Guy didn’t make sense from a fuel conscious point of view so instead we parked Big Guy in the campground at Briggs Woods. That meant the Element was going to make the trip from Webster City to Forest City where the Winnebago Factory is located and save some money for that expensive Canadian fuel.

It was overcast this morning and the air was thick with moisture. It wasn’t raining, but if you moved you got wet. We got an early start for us, up at 7:45 and on the road by 9:45.

First stop was McDonalds. This one had biscuits and sausage gravy. It was pretty good. After breakfast we got our mocha coffee for the road. After another quick stop for gas we checked out the county campground closer to town. Boy were we glad that we decided to stay at the campground next to the golf course. The one close to town was in a seedy area and after all the rain it was pretty much mud puddles and mud. And it was right next to the railroad tracks.

Then it was off into the fog.

Foggy Apparition

And we just had to stop and admire this person’s ingenuity.

Small guitarLarge Guitar

And they continued this theme in a big wood carving.

Wood Guitar

One detour later plus the above mentioned side tracks, we arrived at Forest City 3 hours later.

 Forest City Sign

The Winnebago Factory, Big Guy’s birthplace. Frank is salivating at all the gadgets and doodads available.

Winnebago Forest CityWinnebago Cust LoungeWinnebago Parts

Alas, they didn’t have all the parts we wanted, and one very small part was apparently made of titanium or gold, so instead of getting 6, we only got one.

Gold Part

But we did get most of what we came for.

After all that shopping and spending we were famished so we stopped at the coffee shop in town to recharge. Looks like it didn’t take someone very long.

Bronco EJ

Finally it was time to head back to Webster City. Still raining and windy.

Foggy Drive Home

Back at the campground  it was so cold and nasty out even the pelicans were huddled up on a floating log. And by the way, what are they doing this far from the ocean or the Gulf?

Briggs Woods Pelicans (1)Briggs Woods Pelicans (2)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Any Port in a Storm

Briggs Woods County Park, Webster City, IA – April 27, 2014

We left Isle of Capri Casino when it looked like there was an area west of us where no storm activity was taking place at the moment. The weather prediction is looking dicey with rain and stout winds forecast for the next week.

We weren’t sure how far we are going to go today. We just know that the lack of Nebraska on our camp map is a major eyesore and must be corrected. So our route is loosely based on remedying that glaring omission. That means we’re not quite ready to turn north just yet. If we stay on US20 it will take us through northern Nebraska where we can camp and add the state decal to our US camp map.

Also, Frank wants to go to Forest City Iowa to pick up some parts for Big Guy. So we will at least continue to the US20/I-35 junction where a decision must be made. Our resources indicate several over night possibilities in the area. A Best Western parking lot, a Flying J truck stop, and 2 county campgrounds.

The weather window begins to close and we must find a landing spot. We rule out the Flying J. The Best Western is still a maybe, we can’t find any information about the county campground in Webster City, but the county campground out by the golf course sounds pretty nice. So we opt for the golf course.

The clouds continue to get darker and thicker. The wind has been blowing like crazy all day long. I’m surprised we aren’t leaving skid marks behind us from having to over steer just to go straight.

To Webster City in the Rain

We pull into the Briggs Woods campground and make a couple of circles like a dog preparing it’s bed. We finally find the best spot in the whole campground and claim it as ours. As soon as we get parked, the rain begins in earnest.

One nice thing about camping in the “off season” is that you have the campground pretty much to yourself.

Briggs Woods CG (2)Briggs Woods CG (1)

Even though we haven’t driven a lot of miles today, the weather kept things interesting and we were ready for it to be over. That plus the cold and damp that chills you to the bone require a special treat to end the day. EJ comes up with just the right thing!

EJs Hot Coco

Hot Cocoa with whipped cream and marsh mellows. That’ll do!!

Cocoa the final produt

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Cashing In At The Casino

Isle of Capri Casino, Waterloo, IA – April 26, 2014

After leaving Seward Bluffs our direction for the next several hundred miles was going to be decidedly West. After all, that (and a little North) is the direction Alaska is in. Jeff and Debbie had recommended we stop in Galena, Illinois to get a little “river city” ambiance.

We had scoped out two places to park Big Guy before hand, the Chamber of Commerce parking lot and a river front parking lot. But when we got to Galena, a full blown Civil War reenactment and Scout encampment was underway.

Galena Reenactment (12Galena Reenactment (1)

And all this was taking place near the Galena River.

Galena River

Even though we wanted to spend some time here exploring Galena and that the reenactment looked like fun, we couldn’t find anywhere to park Big Guy and the Element. Too bad because it looks like a really interesting town. Instead we head on west.

Hiway to Galena

Pretty soon we start to see signs that we’re approaching some big water. First, there’s yachts.

Mississippi Yachts

Then we see a riverboat pulled to the waters edge.

Mississippi Side Riverboat

Which all led to the Mighty Mississippi.

Mighty Mississippi

Crossing the Mississippi we spy the Dubuque Iowa Courthouse.

Dubuque Courthouse

Having gotten nipped pretty severely last night, paying $21 to dry camp, we were in search of some decidedly low cost camping tonight to help offset the cost. We zero in on a Casino in Waterloo, Iowa.

Isle of Capri Casino

We check it out. Overnight parking is OK. It’s reasonably level. And, it’s close to the casino entrance. And best of all, it’s free. Next door is a waterpark that looks like it would be loads of fun in the summer.

Waterloo Waterpark

After we got Big Guy settled in, we walked over to the casino to see if they had any free money they were giving away. It wasn’t quite as good as Michigan where some of the casino gave you cold hard cash. But Isle of Capri Casino did end up giving us a total $30 dollars of play money. Frank turned his play money over to EJ and went back out to BG to set up the TV for some recordings we wanted to make later in the evening.

There are several TV shows we enjoy that we record so we can watch them without commercials. Last year it was so convenient because we had All American Direct TV which supplied the major networks nationwide. That meant I could set the recording timers once and forget it no matter where we went. Well they went out of business. Now to get the network channels every time we stop we have to call Dish, tell them where we are and get them to change our service address. Often we have to contact them at least twice to get it set up correctly. Then we have to search the new stations to find the shows we want to record and set up the timers. What a PITA.

After that was completed, Frank went back into the casino for an adult beverage while he waited for EJ to bring home the bacon. You see, Frank’s opinion of gambling is that you may as well just throw your money on the floor and walk away. Or spend it on something useful, like a beer. I opted for the beer. About 9PM EJ finds me in the bar and waves cold hard cash in my face as she does a little victory dance. With our future finances thus secured (ha,ha) we retired to BG for the evening.

The wind blew and Big Guy rocked and rolled all night long. It was blowing so hard we put the Dish down and brought the slides in for fear of the awnings over the slides ripping and tearing. In the morning we were awakened by a sound no car owner ever wants to hear. And that goes for RV owners too.

Hail at Isle of Capri Casino

Yep! That’s hail. It was a little bit bigger than pea size, but not quite marble size. What a racket it made! And it happened not only once, but three different times this morning. Fortunately there were no new dents and the solar panels survived.

Big Guy says he’s had enough of this place, it’s time to go.

After the Hail at Isle of Capri Casino

Friday, April 25, 2014

The I’s Are It!

Camp Walmart, Rochester, IN; Elkhart CG, Elkhart, IN; Camp Walmart, Algonquin, IL; Seward CG, Pecatonica, IL– April 20 – 25, 2014

We surprised ourselves and decided to attend the Easter Sunrise service in the amphitheater at the Mammoth Cave Campground. One of the rangers at the entrance station to the campground had mentioned it to us. This was a lady we had been dealing with almost every day as we continued to extend our stay on what seemed like a daily basis.

We set the alarm early so we would arrive on time for the 7AM service. We thought the turnout would be minimal and just consist of folks from the campground and the Mammoth Cave hotel. We put on our best jeans and cleanest shirts and figured we’d probably be among the best dressed folks there. Boy were we surprised. There must have been over a hundred people there and real quick it dawned on us that this was a big deal for the surrounding communities.

There were coats and ties, big ole Kentucky Derby style ladies hats, pink hair and short-shorts, you name it, it was probably there. It was also in the low 40’s and there were blankets and heavy jackets.

The preacher was good and when he got wound up it was a sight to behold. We didn’t realize any one could talk that long and fast and loud and never breathe. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and were glad we went.

Leaving Mammoth Cave we headed north. We had the three I’s in sight, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. The RV Hall Of Fame is in Elkhart Indiana, long time friends Jeff and Debbie live just outside Chicago, IL and Iowa was just on the way west. EJ also wanted to fill in two more state on our travel map as BG had not done IN or IL.

Back on the interstate, I-65, we encounter another traffic delay.

I-65 backup

And we got passed by a brand new Corvette. It’s owner was more interested in talking on his cell phone than occupying his proper lane.

14 vett yakking on fone

Mocha however, could not be bothered by any of these mundane activities.

Mocha resting

We had several interesting experiences attempting to purchase fuel in Indiana. We attempted to fill up at a Flying ‘J’ only to find out that our discount cards would not activate the pumps in the truck lanes. So we tried a different filling station. At this one we found out that you have to have a DOT registration number and provide your license plate number before you can fill up at the truck pumps. Uhhh, that sounds like the government is getting a little too involved in my personal life for comfort. We finally found a Fuel-Mart station where we could fit in the car lanes and filled up. This would be the last time we attempt to buy diesel in Indiana.

We arrived in Rochester, Indiana and decide to stay at another Camp Walmart. Nice and quiet and we were one of three RVs staying here. Even though Rochester is not a small town, we could get no AT&T cell service or Verizion data service. Even the McDonalds located about 200 feet from where we stayed could not keep their Internet connection up and running. It had been a big day for us, we actually traveled 306 miles!

Before we left the Walmart parking lot we encountered another first for us, reserved parking for horses. Yes, we are in Amish/Mennonite country.

Amish Buggy (2)Amish Buggy (1) 

We only have about 60 miles to go today to get to the Elkhart Campground. We arrived about 2:15 and decided it was time to empty the clothes hamper and turn dirty clothes into clean ones. Just about the time the clothes were half done a furious storm front moved in really kicking up the wind and rain. Frank raced back to BG to close all the windows and roof hatches. The outside temperature immediately dropped 10 degrees.

The next morning we were up and off to the RV Hall of Fame Museum. They had Model Ts pulling camping trailers, Model Ts converted into campers, house cars, Cadillac motorhomes, Class Bs and Cs and much more. Some really cool and creative stuff. Over two hours well spent. Frank now gets to check that one off of his bucket list.

HOF (8)HOF (7)HOF (6)HOF (5)HOF (4)HOF (3)HOF (2)HOF (1)

Since EJ had indulged my whims it was time for me to reciprocate. Time to go explore some Amish County. But first we stop at the Hill Top Restaurant for lunch and the first of many cinnamon rolls which we will review on this journey to Alaska. It filled up the plate and it was guuud! You kinda have to use your imagination to see what this magnificent pastry once looked like. We dug in and then thought, OH we should have taken a picture of it.

Missing Cinnamon roll

Now on to Amish/Mennonite country.

Amish Buggy (4)Amish Buggy (3)Dutch Country

We saw lots of horse and buggies and they were really booking it. We also saw some really cool furniture although it was pricey. We picked up a few goodies from the bakery for later. Which lasted about 10 minutes once Frank was entrusted with their possession.

The next morning, we decided to explore some of the RV businesses around town. The first was an RV Salvage parts place located up in White Pigeon, Michigan. If you needed it, they probably had it. Boy would I love to have one of these in our neighborhood.

RV Salvage (5)RV Salvage (4)RV Salvage (3)RV Salvage (2)RV Salvage (1) Then it was back to Elkhart for some sightseeing where we found this sculpture which we think means “Elkhart”. If you squint and tilt your head to the right you can see it.

I Luv Elkhart

We also stopped at Brad and Hall to drool over some fine RV furniture and flooring. EJ picked out the seats she wants for Big Guy.

Passenger seatDrivers Seat

After 3 nights we moved on to Algonquin to see some old high school buddies of Frank’s. But first though, we had to negotiate the Chicago traffic to get to Algonquin.  Frank did great, but EJ was a little tense. She was at least able to snap a few pics of the elevated train and the skyline.

Chicago Freeway (3)Chicago SkylineChicago Freeway (2)Chicago Freeway (1)Chicago EL (2)Chicago EL (1)

We made it through and arrived at Camp Walmart Algonquin and gave Jeff and Debbie a call. We thought it was about 4:30 but found out we had crossed back into Central Time Zone.

Algonquin Sign

We had them over to Big Guy for a tour and then went to their house for a cookout and lots of stories. The next morning we got together for breakfast before saying goodbye. They are taking an RV trip from Chicago to Seattle in a few weeks so we may see them again.

P1010924 (1024x741)

After leaving them we did some shopping at Trader Joes and got an espresso from Starbucks. Still can’t kick the habit, not that we’re really trying.

While we were getting Big Guy ready to roll Taz found a little patch of sunshine and glommed on to it.

Taz Sun

We drove a whole 67 miles to Pecatonica, Illinois to stay at Sewards Bluff Forest Preserve where we received one of those shocks you never like to get. Our sources indicated the sites fees would be $8 with a $2 surcharge for electricity. After trying to interpret conflicting rate schedules posted at various places in the campground we finally decided to use the fees posted on the envelope you place your payment in. It had rates for Class A, Class B and Class C although strangely it didn’t even mention trailers or tents.

So we ponied up for the Class A rates and deposited the payment in the ‘Iron Ranger’. Later the camp host came around to introduce himself and I mentioned how confusing the rate schedule was. He explained to us the Class types referred to the different campgrounds not to RVs. I mentioned that was very misleading and caused us to overpay. He apologized (not his fault) and refunded the overpayment to us saying he would collect from the ranger in the morning. But that still didn’t change the fact that in the last year rates went from $8 for seniors to $21. And that’s to dry camp. If you want electricity it’s an extra $8 per day. Hmmm, we think we’ll cross this one off our list.

Seward Bluffs