Merikay on bridge at Royal Gorge, CO, 2019

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Shipshewana and Elkhart

The drive over to the North Park Campground and Amish Log Cabins, in Shipshewana Indiana, was smooth and uneventful. I thought the campground might be manned by a nice Amish couple, but the man and woman at the office were both from India. The campground was small, a bit worn around the edges, but otherwise quite ordinary. On one of the three nights we were there, we sat outside playing Gin while listening to the clip-clop of the horse-drawn buggies going past. 

Pretty much everything is closed in Shipshewana on Sundays, so we decided to go over and see the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart. 

I have seen pictures of some of the classic RVs they had on display, and it was fun to see them in person.

They were all open for inspection, some with a rope across the door, but many that you could go into and "feel" their space.

This was touted as the "oldest" RV in the world, from 1913.  
The display did not include any newer models. Most were trailers, but a few early motorhomes were included.

Our modern cushioned leather drivers lounges are a great improvement over these wooden seats.

Notice the stove pipe above Craig's head. The heat in this truck-like vehicle was provided by a miniature cast iron woodstove.

This was the longest trailer on display. It even had bunk beds.

The RV Hall of Fame was interesting, and they are working on a large expansion. I would have liked to see more about the future of the industry. Perhaps it will be in their new wing.

I didn't take any pictures around Shipshewana. I just didn't feel like carrying the camera around.

Image from web
Monday we went to the Menno-Hof center. It is not really a museum, in that it does not display artifacts and collections. It is a very well done series of rooms with visual presentations about the history of the Anabaptist movement, which includes the Amish, the Mennonite and Hutterites. 

Picture from Trip Advisor on Web
In the evening, we had an excellent Amish  buffet dinner at Das Dutchman Essenhaus restaurant in Middlebury.

The food was good, plentiful, and reasonable.

On Tuesday, we went over to the Shipshewana Flea Market for a little while.

It is very large and it was starting to rain so we didn't walk it all. I didn't need anything, and just shopping is not one of my interests. 

We did buy some fresh Georgia peaches and took them back to the Alfa, where we ate them with ice cream for breakfast!

So now, on Tuesday afternoon, after an eleven mile drive, we are parked and hooked up in the Quadra Manufacturing parking lot, ready for our Wednesday morning appointment to get our new Big Foot leveling jacks installed.

The Midwest weather has been somewhat hot and humid, but we may be getting used to it. Well, not really. We usually turn off the air conditioning and open the windows at night, and this morning I felt very hot and sweaty when I first woke up. The air seemed almost "thick".  [From Craig] She felt that way because I had to close the windows in the night, when heavy rain started falling. I turned the air conditioning back on, but it can't produce that nice summer-morning feeling when cool 6 AM air comes in the windows.

If you ever want breakfast in White Pigeon MI, the Country Kitchen has nice home-style food. We both had Breakfast Burritos, so can't talk about any other offerings. Travel well or stay well, whichever applies to you.

Sunday, July 14, 2019


I want to start this post with a big THANK YOU for all my RV friends that have been following along and leaving comments. I write the blog to keep my memories, and to give us a good reason to take pictures as we go. But reading your comments is "the frosting on the cake" so to speak. Welcome aboard, it's more fun to have friends along than to travel alone. 

After our awning failed, and our neighbors at the Iowa State Fair Park Campground helped us secure it with Gorilla tape and ropes, Craig started calling RV repair shops, and found one about ten miles down the road that could help us remove and stow it.

We held our breath and successfully got there without any further disaster.

The guys at Plaza RV in Bondurant, IA got it off and helped us get the 17 foot awning, on its roller, into the Alfa through the side window in the slide. The arms fit into one of the bays. 

We bundled it up in bubble wrap, and will be stepping over it until we can arrange for a repair or replacement. That probably won't happen until fall. The awkward part is that we will have to move it every time we bring in the slide. The picture to the right is when the slide is out. 

The travel position, when the slide is in,  is up against the recliner chair and the kitchen cabinets. I can't cook or use the chair with it there! 

Oh well, just one more little thing to do before each move. Not wonderful but manageable. 

Just a note: I bought these Kokopelli Rugs from a roadside vendor last fall in Salt Lake City. There is one more in the bathroom. 

The drive to Davenport was uneventful, except for getting a bit lost when making the last turn to get to the park. My map showed a right turn, but Craig saw a sign that he thought was for our campground that indicated a left turn. We turned left and ended up having to make about a five mile detour. 

Eventually we did find the West Lake Campground and happily settled in. It is a very nice county park. We had full hook-ups for only $24 per night. The only drawback was that it is "first come first serve" and you have to have your rig parked on a site before registering. This was fine for a Tuesday arrival, but we noted that by Friday the park was full for the weekend.

The next morning, on recommendation of Flowergirl, we went for a nice country breakfast at the Machine Shed.

It reminded us of a Cracker Barrel. Good down home food. 

One of our morning adventures was a walk along the Mississippi River. 

No walking, no river?  Craig was just waiting for me to catch up, and he looked so relaxed I had to capture the moment.

Here's the river view! This was one big barge, made up of several smaller ones, that we watched go downriver.

Then we spent some time wandering around Davenport's 2nd street where several recommended places were located. The weather has been very hot and humid, and we just don't seem to have very much energy. The Sky Walk was closed for repairs, and one of the pubs near the river was closed because it had been flooded this spring.

The Chocolate Manor shop was on the "things to do list" so we stopped in and had yummy chocolate treats.

The Figge Art Museum was wonderful. We appreciated the free admission that extends through August of this year. The air conditioning was more than welcome as well.

I really enjoyed the Vanessa German exhibit. It was unique, playful, but had meaningful punch. 

These figures were a takeoff of the "Washington Crossing the Delaware" scene.

I like "fun" art. The museum also had a nice variety of classics, and some wonderful photography.

Fried pickles and portobello mushrooms at the Barrel House.

A good day of playing tourist ended with some interesting eats at the Barrel House. Each of these huge plates of food was just a "starter". But for us it was a filling lunch, and although very tasty, they have satisfied our desire for deep-fried goodies for a long time to come.

There is one thing no RVer wants to see while driving their rig:

There are many low clearance railroad bridges in the Davenport downtown area. Not all are as well marked as this one was.

Fortunately we were only driving the Jeep. But from the dings and dents, it was apparent that some taller vehicles have not made it under this one without making an impact.

We wrapped up our time in Davenport with a wash day at a local laundromat and the discovery of a Hy-Vee grocery chain store. We find Walmart Supercenters to be reliable places to shop, and I'm glad to see them all over, but it is nice to find a "better" store from time to time. Hy-Vee had some pretty good quality fresh produce and meats.

Our next stop is in Shipshewana Indiana, before we go to White Pigeon MI for new jacks!  

Gotta love those names "Shipshewana and White Pigeon."

What is your favorite place name?

Monday, July 8, 2019

RV Plans are Written In JELLO

I'm a planner.  Always have been, and probably always will be. I always read the reservation cancellation policies carefully, and accept the payment of a penalty from time to time.

Plans are made to be changed.

We had planned to head north out of Sioux Falls to the lake country in Northern Minnesota. Instead we have headed east and are heading for a small town called White Pigeon, Michigan.

Both of these pictures are from the web. I just enjoyed the total immersion into the greenness of the land as we drove along. I avoid taking pictures from a moving vehicle.

Although I find rock formations interesting and mountain peaks breathtaking, there is nothing like the vast rich green fields of corn and soy that blanket the Midwest in summer. I am a Wisconsin girl at heart, and green is the color that soothes my soul.

While we were in Loveland Colorado, we went to a very large RV dealership to look at some newer motorhomes. Our Alfa requires a few rather pricy repairs, and we wanted to be sure we were going to keep her for a long time before we did them.

We look at a half dozen very nice newer rigs, including a couple that were 2019s. Not only did we not like anything we saw, for a variety of reasons, but it would have cost us lots more money for a newer, bigger, but still used class A diesel motorhome.

We feel our Alfa is so much better when it come to storage, light, and odd little things like the large double stainless steel sink, the three burner stove with oven, the in-counter trash compartment, and the comfortable floor plan. 

I don't really need or want a dishwasher, and honestly I personally don't care if I have a washing machine on board. I am trying to use the convection oven in the microwave more now, but I like to pop a par-bake loaf of bread into the gas oven when we want a crusty side.  (Craig is a bread lover.)

So we're keeping the 2007 Alfa, and will fix or replace what she needs. We started that process in Sioux Falls with four new rear tires. Our next investment will be to have new Big Foot leveling jacks installed by Quadra Manufacturing in White Pigeon MI next week.

The dash AC is limping along with the recharge we got in Utah last month, but we are looking at some serious $$$ in fall for a more complete repair.

Meanwhile, we had a disaster here at the Iowa State Fairground Campground. On Sunday afternoon it was not seriously windy, and we had the awning extended. Without warning the top of the awning fabric on the roller suddenly ripped end-to-end, so that the awning fabric was left hanging from the roller, which was still supported by the awning arms. Fortunately a nice couple that we had met earlier in the day, and were about to leave the park, came to help us get it back up and secure it with Gorilla Tape. We have contacted a repair place that is less than 15 miles from here, and we have an appointment Tuesday for them to remove the awning for us.

We know the arms will fit in a bay, and the 17' roller and awning can ride in the center of the living area of the rig. It's a pain in the butt, however we have done this before. We will ask about stopping in at the Carefree plant in Colorado in fall on our way south. If not, we will get it fixed in California.

Meanwhile, we have spent a couple of days in Des Moines at the Iowa State Fairgrounds Campground. When we arrived, there was a classic car event going on, and the place was fairly full.  The camp host told us that most of them would be gone by Sunday evening.

And so they were! The ISFC offers 2,334 RV sites with electric and water, of which about 700 have sewer hookups. So, the next time you're feeling put-upon by the crowding in the campgrounds you've been visiting or considering, you might want to come to Des Moines!  🙂

This is the view uphill from our site on Monday
This is the view downhill to our lonesome coach

We looked up "things to do in Des Moines" and came up with the Papa John's Sculpture Garden, St. John's Basilica, and the State Capitol building.

Papa John's Sculpture Garden is in downtown Des Moines. It is not very large, but the displayed sculptures were delightful.

Craig communing with a giant rabbit sculpture

These two were fun

Don't worry, be happy

We had seen the signs for St. John's Basilica, so we headed there next. It was a disappointment because it was all locked up. It seemed odd that a church would be closed on a Sunday, but it was.

We also went to the Capitol Building. The day before, when we saw it from the freeway, I thought it was the Basilica because of the golden dome. 

It does seem to have a cross at the top.  Maybe it's a lightning rod. 

We  didn't go inside because it too was closed.

All in all, Des Moines reminded me of my home town of Milwaukee Wisconsin. The older houses looked familiar, and the brick buildings could be anywhere in the Midwest. 

Our next stop with be in Davenport, another place we have never been. Have you?

Monday, July 1, 2019

A Walk Along Devils Backbone

Time flies, and the miles zip by. This is a catch up post about two of the places we visited in Loveland, Colorado.

The Devil's Backbone open space and hiking trails were about two miles from the RV park we were staying at.  

It is another extended sandstone protrusion. From the road it does look like vertebrae rising up from the earth.

The hiking trails were easy and well marked. We walked a couple of miles, round trip.

One section of trail went up to a opening in the bottom of the ridge. It is called the "Key Hole".

We met a group of other hikes there and as is a common practice, we took their picture and they took ours. We had bought the camper shirts the day before at Rocky Mountain National Park.

The backbone ridge goes on for a couple of miles.

Later on the same day we went to the Benson Sculpture Garden in Loveland proper.

It is a beautiful public park with many large sculptures.

This happy frog was one of my favorites.

Of course he was happy, he was positioned very close to this perfect pond.

These are just a few of the other sculptures.

This was Craig's favorite.  He enjoyed taking a lot of pictures of them all. Fo me it was like a visual candy shop. So much movement and energy.

NOT at the sculpture garden

I tried to adopt a new pet at the Sinclair station, but he wouldn't fit on the motorhome dashboard.

We stayed in the Alfa on Friday to watch the US vs. France Women's World Cup game, and to rest a bit. 

Over the next few days we drove northeast through Nebraska to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We drove mostly "two lane" state and US Highways. We enjoyed seeing miles and miles of lush green corn and hay fields. It is a pretty time in the midwest.

We both need to renew our driver's licenses and voter registrations. (It can be done by mail, but it is much easier in person.) Craig is looking forward to taking a new eye exam so he can get the "glasses required" removed from his license. He doesn't need them to drive since his cataracts were removed last fall. 

image from web
We are also getting new rear tires this week. They are only five years old, and it was a toss-up on whether we could get another year of use out of them. Since we expect to drive at least another 4000 miles this summer, we decided to be safe rather than sorry. A rear blowout can do a lot of damage, and it is so much more relaxing to ride along if you are not worried about the tires.

image from web
It was quite a shock to come into the sphere of the midwest heat and humidity after such a delightfully cool June in Colorado. 

When we arrived in Sioux Falls on Sunday the temperature was pushing 100°. We are so glad we have full hook ups here at the Fairpark. Love that air conditioning!

We bought a bottle of Champagne that we are going to enjoy on Wednesday to celebrate our fifth anniversary of South Dakota residency. I count our full time life from when we moved into the Alfa permanently while waiting for the house to sell. That will be six years on August 16th. 

However we count it, it has been a good ride, and we hope we will be able to keep going for a few more. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

Cottonwood Fluff

[From Craig] Our last post was about snow in Rocky Mountain National Park.  This one may look a little similar, but the images were shot in 90° F.  Here at Riverview Park near Loveland CO, there are many cottonwood trees.  I think cottonwood trees like riversides.

It is their time to make cotton fluff.

For us this is fun because we just didn't have Cottonwood trees in Wisconsin where we both grew up.  Just real snow. 😉