Sunday, May 31, 2015

Recuperating in Elkhart

Elkhart Campground, Elkhart, Indiana – May 23 to 31, 2015

EJ and I are both still feeling wiped out. Neither one of us has any energy and we are perfectly content to just stick around the RV and lay low.

I forgot to mention in the last post, that we stopped by a “Doc in the Box” in Goshen last Thursday on our way to Bradd and Halls. This time we both saw the nurse and we both got drugs. EJ has a cough that won’t quit and Frank’s ear infection won’t go away.

But once again we pull it together and decide to go find some food. EJ uses her smart phone and finds a waterfront restaurant not far from the campground. It even has a fun name, “The Flipping Cow”. We had an outstanding burger and a couple of craft brews to wash it down.


After the food, we wander down the dock and admire all the pontoon boats. There’s even a pair of swans and their babies to greet us.


A day or so later we stumble upon a neighborhood brewery named “Iechyd Da”. Yeah, I had to ask too. It’s pronounced “yakki dah”. It’s a Welsh toast that translates into Good Health.


On the morning of Memorial Day it rained. We passed the time reading the stories of those who served our country and the comments of those that had friends and family that were or had been in the Armed Forces.

After the rain stopped, we drove around Elkhart to see some of the displays.


Our flag display after dark. And yes, there is a spotlight shining on that flag.


On Tuesday, we make a trip over to Shipshewana to see the Midwest's largest flea market. The weather was a little iffy so there weren’t quite as many people as usual. But they had space for close to 700 vendors, or so we heard. There weren’t all there the day we attended. But plenty of things were left to look at.


One day we went to every RV parts salvage business we could find. We were surprised, that out of the 5 places we went, we only found a few items to add to the spare parts bin. I found some side marker lenses to replace some that were cracked.

Everyone has heard of Knute Rockne and Notre Dame. We were staying only 45 minutes from there and we figured since we were that close we ought to go see it. Driving over we marveled at the concentration of colleges and universities along the way. We counted 15 institutions of higher learning in a city with a population of 100,000 people. You can’t hardly throw a rock and not hit a college.

Notre Dame is very proper and stately. It just oozes history. While we were visiting it was kind of nostalgic to see all the young folks running around, moving into dorms and getting ready for classes.


I couldn’t be this close to the Studebaker museum and not go. The Studebaker President holds a special memory for me as my granddad used to own one. He was a Methodist preacher and a pretty cool guy.

I always thought of Studebaker as just a car company, not realizing it was also a major equipment supplier in both WW1 and WW2. It also acquired Packard and for a while sold Mercedes. But a combination of factors, excessive pay to employees and a failure to adapt to the times spelled its demise. For it’s last year, Studebakers were produced in Ontario, Canada. Even though it had it’s fans the Avanti was technically inferior and the new design was not enough to save the company.



Old cars are great! They are so unique, not at like the generic cookie cutter cars of today.

We were still recuperating from the plague of illnesses that seemed to be stalking us, but we had been in one place so long it felt like roots were starting to grow. Sometimes you just have to overcome the inertia of sitting still and go. It doesn’t matter which direction you pick as long as you’re moving. You can figure out the rest along the way.

The Elkhart temperature was beginning to hover in the 80’s and that was just too warm for us fair weather folks. We decided the best thing to so was to hug the coast of Lake Michigan. since the water temperature was in the 50’s, we were hoping some of that would spill over into the nearby air temperature. Chicago had too many people so that left the west coast of Michigan as a potential destination. So that’s where we are headed.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Gaffney and Elkhart or Bust (The Trip That Almost Wasn’t)

Elkhart, Indiana – Update from May 9 to May 22, 2015

It’s been a busy six weeks or so from the time we began preparing for the 2015 Adventure to now.

Using Big guy for 6 to 8 months at a time has taken it’s toll in little ways that has slowly made him look a little dingy. So we decided that a few things needed to be done to freshen him up a bit.

It began with a trip to Hudson, Florida to Suncoast Designers to have 4 doublepane windows repaired because they were cloudy between the panes. We chose Suncoast because they were rated very highly and are supposedly the best fogged window repair shop in the eastern half of the USA. Both we and Big Guy felt used and abused by the time that week long ordeal was over and hope to never repeat that experience again. But that’s a story for another time.

The Day Nite blinds have been a pain in the you know what because of their propensity for snapping the little cords that hold the whole thing together. We wanted something to replace them. Also we were getting tired of the valances around the blinds. So EJ started touring all the fabric shops she could locate to find just the right material to recover them. In the interest of time, she decided to let an upholsterer do the work so she could concentrate on other stuff.


Then it was off to the Appalachians for Frank and his buddies to do some hiking.


During this time, EJ made contact with Brad and Hall in Elkhart, Indiana about replacements for Big Guy’s blinds. We had heard great things about AMS roller shades. We had priced them at Classic Coach Works in Lakeland, Florida and got discouraged. EJ priced them at Brad and Hall and got a price we could actually afford. So they were ordered to coincide with the anticipated finish date of the valances.

Upon his return from Virginia Frank installed the 2 new window awnings ordered previously. Now we can keep the two main windows open in the main living area during rainy weather to get some cross ventilation.

Finally the valances were ready and the AMS roller shades had been delivered. I think the final result is pretty neat. It really adds some pizazz and the shades are so easy to operate.


In fact this worked out so well, we made an appointment at Brad and Hall in Elkhart to have the cockpit area measured for new roller shades and this time, we are gong to let them do the installation.

Another year old nagging project that needed to be fixed before we left was a fresh water system leak somewhere around the water heater. We had been living with it by turning off the water pump after every use. I had really been dragging my feet on this one because I was expecting to have to replace the whole water heater. But I finally decided to just do it and found out it was a cheap plastic fitting in a very hard place to reach. I can’t believe Winnebago uses parts of this inferior quality. This plastic connector had cracked just enough to drip anytime the water system was pressurized. Shame on you Winnebago. I replaced it with a brass fitting.


We had also gotten tired of fighting the Brake Buddy every time we towed the Element. Since we are normally on the move quite a bit, setting it up, breaking it down and storing it was a hassle we decided we could live without. A search of “stay in place” auxiliary braking systems revealed that the SMI Air force One braking system was the best choice for us. This was another project accomplished before the 2015 Adventure could begin.

During the last few days before our departure date, set by our appointment at the Freightliner Service Center (FCC) in Gaffney, SC, Frank started feeling a little under the weather. But preparations had to continue because appointments at FCC can only be made months in advance. Ours was May 11, so that meant we had to begin the journey on May 9. It was about a 420 mile trip which would take us two days.

We made it all the way to Hardeeville, SC the first night and stayed at Jasper Lake Campground. A couple of miles off I-95 it was quiet, peaceful and had full hookups. We push ourselves the next morning and left about noon for the final leg to Gaffney

We rolled into FCC about 6PM and got one of the last 2 vacant spots. They have electric hookups for 20 RVs. After getting set up, we removed the bicycles from Big Guy so they wouldn’t be in the way of the mechanic working on the engine in the morning.

Early the morning of the 11th, we finished our preparations, emptying the space under the bed (more engine access) and unloading the Element because that was going to be Mocha’s home for the day. At about 8:15 the mechanic showed up and we went over what we needed, an M2 service on the engine and chassis plus new oil and filters for the Onan generator.

Later, EJ finally convinced me to go to a “Doc in the Box” as I was getting wimpier and wimpier. Drugs were prescribed and Frank had a glimmer of hope at recovery. We returned to FCC and brought Mocha inside the waiting room where it was air conditioned. Frank found a recliner and took a nap. About 4 PM they declared Big Guy healthy and returned him to spot number 5 and we moved back in.

Come Tuesday morning, we decide Frank is not going anywhere. arrangements are made with Pat, the lady who controls all that happens at FCC, to spend another night. Frank and Mocha lay low to conserve energy for healing purposes.


Our first wildlife sighting occurred here and we don’t even know what it is.


The next several days don’t bode well for Frank so EJ makes arrangements for us to stay at FCC even longer. One day Frank feels a little better and he and EJ spend about an hour trying various arrangements for putting the bicycles back on Big Guy. Numerous positions were tried before the right mounting arrangement was rediscovered. By this time Frank was all used up and went back inside to lay down. EJ took numerous pictures of the bikes to make sure this onerous process never happened again.


On Friday, May 15, Frank had developed an even more interesting variety of ailments and EJ returned him to the “Doc in the Box”. More drugs were issued and now the bathroom room officially looks like a pharmacy.


On Sunday, Franks feeling well enough to drive again but now EJ is starting to feel puny. We begin to question whether or not to continue. Should we turn around and head back south to Orange Park and just give up on this summer? Having set so many things in motion and not yet wanting to give up, we decide to man up and continue on.

We managed to hold it together and made it to Otts at Fancy Gap, NC. A beautiful RV park and very peaceful.  A big fat robin even stopped by to visit. The next morning we really drug our feet and were late leaving the park even though they had a 2PM check out time.


We figure that the Virginia/West Virginia state line is somewhere above this tunnel.


We‘re finding that campgrounds, overpriced or not, are hard to find in this part of the country. So we wind up selecting an Elks Lodge that promises overnight parking with available electricity and water. The place is deserted when we get there so we scout around and find an 15 amp outlet in the picnic shelter. Since it is hot and muggy out, we’re gonna need the air conditioning tonight.


It took every extension cord we had, but Big Guy is connected to 110volt power. I had to turn off one of our two a/c compressors, but we had enough power to squeak by and stay cool.

Pressing on,  through the foggy haze of our off kilter bodily equilibriums, we were kind of running on auto-pilot. Hope nothing happens that requires any amount of deep thinking or lighting fast reaction times.

Ahead is the Ravenswood Bridge over the mighty Ohio River.


We found another campground located as far as we wanted to drive today. EJ called ahead and found out they had room for us. We were surprised to find out that the Lancaster Campground was owned by a church, although we never did figure out their denomination.


It’s official, now EJ is feeling under the weather. Since we have a little padding in our schedule and this place is so peaceful and quiet, we decide to hang out for an extra day to try and recuperate. EJ wouldn’t let me take a picture of her, so one of me will have to do.


Moving north, we pulled into a Walmart to park and do some planning. We spy this interesting item. Has the USPS expanded their scope of deliverables?


On Thursday, May 21, we pull into Brad and Halls to hook up to electricity for the night since it’s still pretty warm out. Our appointment is early Friday morning and we want to make sure we are ready. The reason we’re here is to get measured for AMS roller shades to replace the pleated shades in the cockpit area and to order new captains chairs.

Friday morning we check into the front office and they promptly send Charles and his helper out to measure and discuss ideas. Afterwards EJ and I check out all the captains chairs in the show room and independently choose our favorites. Darned if we didn’t pick the same pair of chairs. We placed our orders, made a new appointment to return for the installation and head off to our new home for next the 10 days or so.

For a city that touts itself as the RV manufacturing capital of the world, it sure doesn’t have many campgrounds. We end up staying at the Elkhart Campground just north of the city.

Elkhart Campground

We get our site set up and make sure our spot all ready for Memorial Day.


We had lot’s of little ground squirrels running around keeping us entertained at the campsite.


Now its time to kick back and do some more recuperating.