"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Decorah IA

Vesterhiem Museum

We are in Decorah this week. I haven’t written anything partly because we have been busy. This is a beautiful little town in NE Iowa  and if you have never visited I encourage you to. It is the home of Luther college. This is a small private Lutheran college and it is where my youngest attends as a senior. This little town is of Norwegian American  heritage and houses the Vesterhiem museum which is the premier Norwegian American museum in the USA. The King of Norway has visited several times and you will see several large Lutheran churches here as well as the college. We have visited the museum and for me it was a treat as my Mother’s family immigrated here from Norway and I have a Norwegian bible an catechism that were printed here in Decorah.
Our current parking place.

 We have been here many times and never tire of it. It is a beautiful town set next to the Upper Iowa River. This river is a haven for canoeists and those who like to float in a tube.  The river is very picturesque with cliffs along the side with eagles and their nests. We are hoping to canoe on Saturday when our oldest son joins us. We have taken that trip before and it is always enjoyable. 
We feel very at home here. We are camped at Pulpit Rock campground (there is a campground review on Notes from the Flamingo). We have tent camped here several times and  in our 5th wheel earlier this spring. It is  nice little campground that is actually in Decorah and is no reservation CG. If you plan on staying here come early in the week it fills up fast.
Inside T-Bock's

A few of our favorite things here are of course our son (lol) along with several places we love to eat. T- Bock's is a little bar down town that has great food (including breakfast). They have several unique burgers like the Peanut butter burger that my son thinks is the best and several other unique creations. Also outside of town there is a restaurant named McCaffery’s that has great gourmet pizza and often has live music. We will visit it later this weekend (already been to T-Bock's). There are several more upscale restaurants like Rubiyat’s but that really isn’t our style. There also is a new brew pub in town but I can’t remember the name. We spent some time there and they have some good crafted beer.
The other thing we enjoy about this location is it within an easy drive to Harmony, Prescott and Lanesboro where the Root River State Trail is. I’ll tell you a more about it tomorrow (we biked it today).
Happy Trails..........

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Cramping" my style

Well it is 4 am and hear I am on the computer. Am I crazy? Probably a little but I am up because I pulled a muscle in my rib area that is making it hard to sleep comfortably. I am a side sleeper and the only way I can lay down without pain is on my back. That worked for 4-5 hours but then I was up and there was no getting comfortable. I'd love to tell a good story about how I was working so hard or doing something terribly physical but no I was just getting out of cousin Shelila's car at farmer's market and twisted the wrong way. Bummer!

I still wanted to do farmer's market so I decided to suck it up and keep going. The Madison Farmer's Market on the square is awesome. The inside of the square are all food and produce vendors and the outside of the square are the art vendors. The produce was fabulous and with Shelia as a guide you can't go wrong. Shelia likes to cook and is a regular at the market. Many of the vendors know her by name. I went a little overboard but wow will we be eating well this week.

Our time here in Madison has gone quickly and the weather has not been as cooperative as we had hoped but we did get to New Glarus to tour the brewery and biked the Sugar River trail from there for a ways. Nice trail that reminded me of the Cedar Valley trail near home. That night we stopped in Riley (John's mom's family home) and had dinner with his Aunt Helen.  Good thing we did as that night Helen got ill and was admitted to the hospital the next day. We were so surprised as she looked well when we were there but Shelia says she has had this sudden illness happen 3 times in the last few weeks so it was time to find out what is really going on. We were just glad we got to spend some time with her when she was feeling good.

This little park is in a great location for visiting Madison. It started filling up today but was quiet most of the week. When the weather wasn't cooperating John was working on all the projects he has going. He is wiring our router to work on 12v power and adding a signal booster and trucker antenna to the rig. He had all the inside work done and today (or actually yesterday) when the weather shaped up he was up on the roof installing the antenna. We definitely have seen an improvement in our internet with the antenna. He is still waiting on the booster, it was mailed to our son's where we will be next week. His goal is to have a signal that will reach the truck so we can pick up the internet there from the router in the rig. It will be interesting to see if it all works as planned. His engineering mind is always at work.

I've got John working on a post...told him it was his turn so stay tuned and hopefully this week you will get to hear from him. He is always entertaining.
New Glarus Brewery
Happy trails........

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Christmas Plans

While John was working on more projects here I was working on our Christmas plans. We have the boys flying into Las Vegas to join us. We checked into using our family (inherited from my dad) timeshare but with location upgrade and time of year our free week would be $400. Decided instead to go with the first idea we had which is to pick the guys up and stay on the strip for two nights, rooms at the Flamingo are just $40 a night. Take in one show and a nice restaurant then leave Vegas for more active pursuits. Luckily I have boys who do like to hike and be outside.

Zion River Resort
I stumbled on an RV resort that really appealed to John and I and have a great Snowbird rate if you plan ahead. The resort is the Zion River Resort and Campground. It is in Virgin UT and after reading lots of reviews and talking with the manager about the weather and hiking opportunities at Zion National Park this time of year we decided it was a good fit for us. We reserved the month of December in a back-in site along the river. This looks like a great jumping off spot to do things with the guys and it is 160 miles from Vegas so not an overwhelming drive. This is the only reservation we are making this winter but with the guys coming and the holidays I feel more comfortable knowing where we will be. This also gives our travel plans a little structure knowing we need to arrive there December 1st but not so much to crimp our style.

We are still in Madison and hoping to visit the brewery in New Glarus today and do a little biking. It is not suppose to rain until tonight. So off we go!
Happy trails.......

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

TV & IPad

The weather has kept us from riding bikes here so we have been working on projects. We have a wonderful flat screen TV in our 5th Wheel home but it is directly mounted to the wall and cannot be swiveled to the direction we are sitting. So at the Escapade John found a wonderful wall mount at the Mor-Ryde booth that will allow us to move the TV but also locks into place for moving. Like most things Mor-Ryde makes it is pretty beefy, a real plus in John's book. So John had a project and I was the assistant (mainly holding things). He got it done without even visiting the hardware store. Amazing. So here are a couple photos of our home improvement project.

He is a handy guy to have around.

After that project we were both cruising the web. I had out the Macbook and John was on the old Alienware laptop. The Alienware was actually a good computer for us. It had some issues the last couple of years but it is almost 6 years old, ancient in computer years. Well it finally died. Earlier this year we thought it was a gonner but John resurrected it. No miracles this time.  Time to shop! John won’t buy a Windows based PC again so luckily Madison has an Apple Store. All we need is something to surf the web and the new IPad is perfect for the job and of course the fact that it a new toy doesn’t hurt. So a new IPad has come to our home on wheels. You can take the engineer out of the job (retirement ) but you can’t take the “nerd” out of the engineer.  :)


Happy Trails.........

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Thanks for the support

I  just wanted to make a quick post to thank all our followers and for all the kind comments on that last post. I think Gypsy G-mas had it right sometimes we know how we should do things but learning the hard way is human nature. After we relaxed a little, that and a few projects around the rig are all we have done since arriving here, we see things a little clearer and will go back to the plan. Today is Sunday and we have a plan for our move. We don't have to be out of here until 4 so we are going to drive into Madison and check the campground to see if some spaces have opened. If one is open for a week then we will stay for a week but if not we will try for 3 days and move to Decorah IA on Wednesday.  We know the Decorah area well so have several places we can check and it is within our driving distance so not a long drive. 

I have updated reviews on Notes from the Flamingo so if you think you'll be in this area they might be helpful I am doing them for us as I know if I don't write it down I will forget and I figure we might as well share it with others.

We may have found a spot to stay for a month in December. We are flying our sons into Vegas to be with us at Christmas and we want to firm up those plans. It will be the only reservation we make but we want to be sure we have a good place to spend time with them since it will be the only time this winter we see them. I'll share that with you after we firm up the details.

Happy trails....

Saturday, September 18, 2010

End of Escapade and crazy travel day

The Escapade is over and we packed up our stuff to move on. One last task was to have our rig weighed. Thursday they weighed the truck by itself and today on the way out the whole thing gets weighed. John has fretted about the weight of our trailer and truck combination from the start. Don't want to be in the position of too little truck for the trailer we are pulling. Well, good news we are under on all of the parameters. The axel weights were good, our balance from side to side and front to back was good, pin weight was good. We get the final report in a few weeks but it was good to know all our purging of "stuff" was worth it. It even leaves room for the batteries and solar panels John intends to add one of these days.

So we left Goshen and headed towards Wisconsin. Now we are traveling on a Friday which we said we wouldn't do and for good reason (the reason is forthcoming). Well, we tried to miss most of Chicago by going on I80 and that was good. Now we were told by a fellow traveler that I39 was really torn up in Illinois so we decided to try a state highway North. Where we turned off we did check out a State park, Illini State Park to be specific. Nice park on the Illinois river but the sites were not even close to level on the ones not reserved so we decided to keep going which was our first mistake. We headed north and the road meandered a little but was pretty good, then we hit a section with the dreaded sign "recently oiled" and there was no way John was taking us down that road. So are only choice was a state highway going east and the bad part was we were't going to hit another road north for awhile. Then it gets worse as we run into crazy construction, the worst we've been in. That slows us down even more. We finally get into Wisconsin and start looking for signs to campgrounds and there are none for the longest time. By the time we see any we are close to Madison so John says lets keep going and checkout the one we were going to head to on Monday. Ok, did I mention it was Friday and now it is late? We find the park it is small by right on the bike trail but guess what - no sites that weren't already reserved. So we decided to head back to a State Park we  passed on the way, only about 20 minutes away, Lake Kegonsa, did I mention it is late Friday? No sites except a handicap that he was willing to give to us for one night if we thought we would fit, we tried, no go. So now we start looking for a private park. We passed a park called Hickory Hills so I found their number and called yes they had something so 45 minutes later in the dark we pull in and luckily it is a pull through, unluckily it is 40 dollars a night. So paid for two nights. It rained hard last night and we did get set up before that. We slept in and are waiting for the sun  so we can check this place out. It is on a lake but most of the sites are seasonal but at lest we have a place.

So let's see in the two weeks we have been gone we have broken almost every travel rule we made. On the way to Goshen we spent only 1 to 2 night at each stop. Leaving Gohen we traveled on A Friday, drove too far,  too late and had to set up in the dark. Hmmm - seems like we are slow learners. I think we will slow it down now and get back to the original plan, we really don't want another day like that. The good thing now is we have nowhere we have to be until Christmas. 

Happy trails....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Escapade Overload, Shipshiwana, and Big Trucks

It is the 4th day of the Escapade and we re already exhausted. We did get to sleep in this morning as today there were no seminars. In the past 2 days we have gone to seminars on Basic RV systems, Driving basics, Fire Safety, Weight safety, a full timers panel discussion and RVing in the Southwest USA. Now it is almost system overload and we aren't quite through yet. One more day of seminars and a big party tomorrow night. Friday we leave but not until we get the whole rig weighed wheel by wheel, and that includes the truck.  That is a lot for one week. Man, I need a nap!
Today was kind of a free day, there were things going on but nothing that really trips our trigger so we took off to the post office and for Shipshiwana. Shipshiwana is a little town in the middle of Amish country. Buggies galore and the traffic was crazy. I was just looking for fresh produce but we ended up in the middle of a huge flea market. When you live in a space as small as ours it makes you look at shopping differently. There was very little there that interested us. Anytime you want to buy something you have to ask "Where will it go" or"what am I going to get rid of to make room for this" It is the best shopping control device I have ever had. I did find my produce and I am now have the makings for fresh salsa.

For those of you who have seen our 1 ton pick up know that John wanted a big-a$$ pickup, and he loves his big truck, but being here has given a different perspective on big trucks. I'll leave you all with a couple of photos of the BIG trucks people pull 5th wheels with these days. It is starting to give John ideas???!!! We need to get out of here soon! LOL


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Meeting our Mentors

We arrived at the Elkhart County Fairground in Goshen yesterday for the 50th Escapade. This is a very large rally put on by the Escapees RV club that we joined. I have never seen so many RVs in one spot. All makes and models. John did a good job of listening to the parking crew as he got us parked in the tightest spot we’ve ever had to get into. We are packed tight enough that if we opened our window and the neighbors opened theirs we could shake hands. This is the first FHU (full hook up site) we have used. We had one the night before at the Elkhart Campground but we used so little of the tank we didn’t need to dump before coming here. John finds out we are missing a part we need for the sewer connection. With the help of a neighbor Carol, who has been full timing for 16 years we got it all figured out with an extra coupler she had that she lent us. So two learning experiences before the seminars even began.
John, Janie, Linda & Howard
Today was the opening ceremony and we are meeting lots of people. We went to a social with a group part of whom are people from the RV-Dreams site (thanks Jim and Dee for letting us tag along)  that inspired this whole lifestyle change. It really is the Class of 2007 but we were invited along by Jim and Dee. I am so glad we got to go because who should show up but Howard and Linda Paine who are the couple who have the RV-dream site. In a way they are very much our cyber mentors. All the info on their site is what made us feel we could do this. I’ve emailed them before but it was so nice to get to meet them and thank them in person. For anyone out there that is considering this lifestyle the RV-dreams site is a great place to start reading. So that was the highlight of today. Tomorrow the seminars, for us it is the FullTimers Bootcamp ones begin. Should be a great day. We hope to meet more of our cyber friends from the RV-dreams forum as well.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A much better day

Well we took our time today since we knew Elkhart was a short drive. Got our workout in and showers before packing up and leaving. I think we are both ok with moving even if is for only one day. We drove up on IN 5 to try and miss some of the construction and the nice part is it took us through Shipshiwana. I've read about this Amish area but have never visited. We have Amish communities just south of us in Iowa at Kalona and there are Amish in both the Decorah IA area and southern Minnesota which we are through from time to time so I find that a more normal occurrence then some might. We treat many Amish families in the Iowa Dental School also. I have to say though I was very impressed with what we saw. Many of the farms were right along the highway, we saw many buggies and even a team of horses taking some harvesting equipment to the field. In one field we watched as they were harvesting corn. It is definitely different from the huge combines we see routinely in Iowa. We really weren't able to stop at all but I hope we get to explore this area a little more before we leave, If not I guess we will just have to get back.

This afternoon we pulled into the Elkhart campground. It is built for RVs so no worry about level spots and we even took a pull through. With our Escapees discount we paid less here than we did at Chain O Lakes and we have full hookups instead of just 30amp service only. The ambiance of the place isn't much but it is a good stop over for this area. We wanted to go to the RV museum but we arrived later than we thought (really just because we slept in) and we had to make a stop at Wal Mart and Lowes.

Followers Judy  and Emma asked where the Flamingo has been on this trip. Well, John is making him a new roost so he hasn't been up the last few nights. The trip to Lowes was all about the flamingo so soon he should be showing up in the photos again. Tomorrow its on to Goshen where we get to stay put for a few days Yeah!!! Until then Happy trails...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Illinois to Indiana

Kankakee Rive trail
We had a great day Wednesday. Started out with a workout, today’s was upper body so we decided to make our lower body workout on the bikes. The bike trail in the park is beautiful and we rode the length and back which according to the trail markers is suppose to be 10 miles so that would put us at a 20 mile bike ride which is a great length (not too short,not too long). Our campground was about 4miles from one trail head so we went that direction first. I should also mention that it was a perfect day. It was sunny and about 70 degrees,low humidity and a slight breeze - I don’t think it gets any better than that. This end of the trail is limestone which is fine with us but if you ride it you need to watch out on the hills as they have had some washout and so there are a couple sandy areas that can throw you. It was mainly shaded with a couple significant hills. When we got to the 10 mile marker the trail went on further but we decided to turn around because we knew we wanted to make it to the other end. When we turned around the same post that declared we'd reached 10 miles now says 1/2 mile. Huh??  When we got to the other end we found the same thing (we did go all the way to the trail head this time). So there so called 10 mile trail is really 11 miles.The trail is a real gem, it follows the Kankakee River, has a suspension bridge you ride across and when not by the river it is heavily wooded, just gorgeous.

Chippewa Campground
At the far trail end from our campsite there is a second campground. When we pulled in yesterday I noticed that and we chose the Potawatamie campground because it was posted as the “A” sites which means it has mainly electric sites so I thought the other campground probably had the more primitive sites. When we came upon the Chippewa campground there were quite a few RVs and many electric sites. This campground is a little more open and definitely easier to get around. So basically we decided we had picked the wrong campground. The Chippewa campground is one we would come back to. So if you go to the Kankakee River State Park and want heavily wooded but fairly private sites (and you aren’t overly big) go on over to the Potawatamie side but if your like us and want somewhere that still has a state park feel but a little more room to navigate then the Chippewa side is the way to go.
This morning we got up and headed for Indiana and it has been an interesting day. Indiana is one big construction site this summer. I got on Indiana’s DOT site to check when I planned our route. We ended up taking mainly IN highways and at one point a couple county roads that were interesting but we finally made it to Chain O Lakes State Park near Albion IN. First you hit a kiosk that charges you to enter the park, that will be $7 please and the she says there is a kiosk at the entry to the campground that will help us get our site - cool this will be easy--Not!  Get to the campground and it says no attendant on duty go to the park office to get your permits and if it is after 4 a ranger will be around. So we started searching for a site. Nothing is marked as reserved so we thought any site would be ok (again not!). The even more difficult part is most of the sites are pretty short and the ones that are long enough are not very level. We tried one and got backed up and looked at the side to side level and it would have taken more leveling blocks than we own. Finally we pull into site 68 (John is getting lots of practice backing up) and it is level enough and if we get creative parking the truck we are in. I suggested we go check in with the ranger at the office before we do anything else. Drove to the office notice it is 4:30 now the office is closed but a ranger noticed me from the parking lot and said an attendant comes on duty at the campground around 6 but our site might be reserved. No way to tell until she arrives- could it get anymore complicated? Well actually yes. She arrives and I get in line and when she checks our site is only available for one night. Well that will work as I do have a plan B for tomorrow. She puts in all my info and credit card and the computer freezes up. All my info disappears so we try again and I suggest we go with a check so then the computer doesn’t have to deal with the card. Ok --computer freezes up and all my info is gone. Finally she after 20 min on the phone she let us go and would bring the receipt when they figure it out.  So we are here for the night and I got on the phone and reserved a site at the Elkhart campground that I had heard about from others for tomorrow. This is not the way we intend to travel but sometimes you just have to go with it and always have a plan B.
I do have to say I checked both these campgrounds out on RV Park reviews and both got good reviews. While we would return to Kankakee River StatePark and stay in the Chippewa campground. I don’t think we would ever return to Chain O Lakes. They have very few spots that will work for us and there set up system is awful. There is no way to know what is reserved and what is not without someone physically there and the computer system obviously has problems. It has me a little leery of the reviews

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Off we go!

We are at our first stop after leaving the Cedar Rapids area. We arrived yesterday at Kankaee River State Park in eastern Illinois. It is a heavily wooded park with electric only. The sites are fairly private but the loops are pretty tight and in fact getting out of our loop tomorrow could be interesting the last turn is a doozy! One of the really nice things in this park is there is a 10 mile paved bike trail. We road part of it yesterday and plan to ride the whole length and back today. Tomorrow we take off for a park in Indiana nearer to Goshen. We are due into the Escapees rally on Saturday. I'm sitting in a Starbucks in Boubonaise Il. Our signal at the park is pretty weak so I will upload some photos later. Till then --Happy Trails!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Brady & Biking

This week one of our hockey sons was back in town. Brady lived with us his senior year of high school while he played for the USHL hockey team the Roughriders. Then he went off to UMD for 2 years but was unhappy with his hockey situation there. Long story short he is back with the Roughriders for another year and hoping to find a college team that will be a better fit for him. Brady is a very good goalie and is glad to be back on a team he loves and with a coach he respects. On Saturday we met him after practice and took him to lunch. He is such a great kid and to us he will always be one of our kids. He gets a new hockey mom this year but I know she will take good care of him. We will miss getting to see him play, luckily the team has an audio feed of the game we can listen to online. For those of you from Cedar Rapids  we hope you will go to a few games and cheer him on for us.

Today was a beautiful day here until the last few minutes, now we are having another storm, the trailer is shaking a bit. This is typical of this summer. Earlier today it was warm and sunny but low humidity so very comfortable making it a perfect day for a bike ride. We have a trail that goes through Cedar Rapids, we ride the northern portion quite often but haven't ridden the southern portion since before the floods on 2008. A portion of the trail was washed out by the flood but it has been repaired and to our delight they have also extended the southern end. It was a beautiful ride. Bike trails are one of our favorite things to do but it seems this last year we have not been able to do as much riding as we would like. It was great to get back to one of our passions. It is one of the things we hope to do more of as we travel. A great source for trail information is Rails to Trails conservancy's trail link for anyone who would like to find trails in the area they are traveling. I plan on using it a lot in the near future.

Hope you enjoy the photos with Brady - what you think of those shades?!  

Friday, September 3, 2010

Kickin' back

Well as the week has moved on we are getting more in the swing of this retirement thing. John has decided to let his hair grow (maybe even long enough for a pony tail) and to grow a beard. Right now he looks like a homeless guy, pretty scruffy. I'm kind of excited about the beard, he had one when we met and it doesn't take him long to grow one. Someday I'll get him to write the story about how he shaved it off the morning of the wedding. I'd never seen him clean shaven and it was quite a shock. But that's another story.

For me it is a bit opposite. I polished my nails! As a dental hygienist I was never able to let my nails grow or wear any nail polish so doing my nails was a little celebration. I'm enjoying it but we will see how long that lasts. A very special friend of ours, Amanda, is into hair and fashion. She came to the party bearing gifts to keep us beautiful. She actually brought a bag full of hair and nail goodies for me and one of hair and shaving products for John. It was a very cool gift. So thanks Amanda for making us the beautiful people we are. :)

Things are slowing down but right now it just feels like a vacation, I think it will be awhile before we realize this is just our way of life now. We are getting ready to hit the road on Tuesday. John is finishing up a few projects on the rig and I am planning our route to Goshen IN. One thing we are trying to stick by is not traveling more than 200 miles at a time and staying 4-5 days. On the way to Goshen we will stop twice but we will only be able to stay 2 nights each so we are already breaking the rules. 

Our first stop will be Kankakee River State Park in eastern Illinois and then to Chain O'Lakes State Park in IN just a little south and east of Goshen. I spent some time on the web checking them both out and both got great reviews on I checked out their reservation sites and it looks like both have plenty of spots open. I don't want to reserve as you never know what may change and if that state goes through Reserve America as many do, you pay an extra $8-10 dollars to reserve a spot. Since we are starting our journey after Labor Day I think we will find most parks will have openings.

We are headed to Goshen to attend the Escapade Rally put on by the Escapees. This group is out of Texas and are mainly full timers and snow birds. The price of membership is very reasonable and there are lots of discounts at RV parks around the nation as well as other resources they have available. We are interested in their full-timers boot camp seminars and John is hoping they will have some of the Solar vendors there as this is something he really wants to add to our rig in the future. We figure as newbies we can use all the help we can get. We will let you in on what we learn there.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

We forgot?

In all this madness of getting ready to leave, parties, etc., I was sitting at the computer on Tuesday night and my phone alerted me with a reminder. I looked at the phone and there it is September 1st, Janie and John's anniversary. I just started laughing, of course John wanted to know what I was laughing about. "Well it is September 1st, our anniversary, did you remember?" John being the honest guy that he is says"No" and acts a little embarrassed. Thats when I really started laughing cause guess what honey - neither did I!!   I guess we are getting old.
So Happy Anniversary to my Sweetie. The best decision I ever made was 26 years ago on September 1st. He once gave me a card that said "Get old along with me, the best is yet to be". And so it is.