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

Saturday, September 27, 2014

What a wonderful week

Missouri Botanical Gardens

Yep, one more post. I now have had more posts this week than during the whole summer. I think it just feels so good to be back on the road. It doesn’t hurt that the weather has been almost perfect. 
Early in the week we got the bikes on the truck and took off to ride the Katy Trail. This is the longest rail trail in the US. I’ve heard a lot about it and wanted to get at least one day on the bikes. I found a good parking lot for us and then we rode both directions for awhile. I wanted us to stop and check out Trailhead Brewing near the St. Charles trail head. We had a hard time figuring out where it was exactly and before we found it we were hungry so we stopped at Hendricks BBQ for a bite to eat and a brew.  They had a great selection of craft brews that made it well worthwhile and a good brisket sandwich. Once fortified we finally found Trailhead brewing for just a brew. I have to say we were disappointed in the beers. The part of the trail we rode was very diverse. We road from residential to farm fields, from riverside to industrial and then urban.  All in all, a great day.
John and Father Mark

We had a couple relaxing days that we used to hike a couple of the park trails and just enjoy the weather. On Wednesday we met John’s brother Mark at the Missouri Botanical Center for the start of a wonderful day together. Mark is an Oblate priest who works at their retreat center in Belleville IL, just across the river. We don’t get to see him very often. He has a membership to the Botanical Center and was excited to show us around. It is definitely a beautiful place and a fun way to spend part of a day. After the gardens we drove to Belleville to visit his house. This is our first time to see this retreat center. We have seen so many photos of this area and it is a wonderful place, definitely a great set up for a special retreat. Mark shares a house on the retreat, they call the stone house and next to it is a wonderful retreat center. There are many little places that face the gardens for people to sit and reflect, it has a peaceful and spiritual feel. 
Marks 60th birthday was on Friday so to celebrate we took him out to the Main Street Brewery (imagine that) in Belleville. We had a good meal and the beers here were much better than we had earlier in the week. We always have a good time with Mark, love that guy!
Dinner at Main Street Brewery
Sean and Wags

As if all that activity wasn’t enough we had more visiting to do. When we lived in a sticks and bricks house one of the privileges we had was to house or as it’s called in hockey circles “billet”  young men who came to CR to play junior hockey in the USHL. One of these young men is from Chesterfield, a suburb of St. Louis. Sean and his parents Gary and Sandye are very special people to us and getting to see them was so wonderful. Sean is like a son to me and for a couple years was a son in most ways. I got to see this young man grow up in many ways. He has become just as engaging a man as he was a kid. He had to hang up the skates last winter when he took a slap-shot to the face. This unfortunate incident has resulted in several surgeries, one dental surgery last Monday. His diet is pretty limited so after a fun visit his parents took us to dinner. It was so wonderful to reconnect with these people and to get some hugs from Sean.
John, Sean and Janie

So all in all it was a full and fun week. Friday we moved across the river to the Red Barn Rendezvous in Edwardsville IL. We needed to get a drug test for our job at Amazon and do some grocery shopping.  Errand done so tomorrow we are going about an hour east of here to a Corps of Engineers Park on Carlyle Lake. We have 3 weeks before we have to be in Campbellsville KY to work at Amazon. I want to enjoy every minute until then.
I'll leave you with a few more photos from the botanical gardens.

Happy Trails.............................

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Captain's Log: What I learned from my granddaughter

You are in for a treat. In true John Dean style a special Captain's Log. Enjoy

She's wise beyond her year and a half. This is what I've learned so far: 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dr. Edmund Babler SP and adding to the list

Our site (#2)

Two blogs in a week, I almost don’t recognize myself. One reason is I wanted to write about this park, Dr. Edmund Babler Memorial SP, before I forget. I want it to share with you but also so I don’t forget it for next time. There are definite pros and cons to this park.
  • Location, location, location.  It is just east of St. Louis which is a fun city to visit, and it is about 20 miles to the trail head at Page Bridge on the Katy Trail. There is another trail head which may be even closer but the website said it is not well marked besides I have heard good things about St. Charles.
  • We have friends and family in the area. One of the fellas who lived with us when he played junior hockey in Cedar Rapids lives nearby as do his parents. It has been way too long since we have seen Sean and I think it may actually work out this time. John’s brother Mark lives across the river in Illinois and we hope to see him too.
  • This is a beautiful wooded oasis near St. Louis, you would never know the city was so close. Nice hiking trails and a paved bike trail in the park.
  • The sites are paved and level.

Virgina Day Memorial Trail
  • The road in is very narrow, however once you get to the park the road widens considerably.
  • The sites are electric only and mainly 30 amp with a few 50 amp.
  • Water is scattered around the park and in the dump station but water pressure is low and it took a long time to fill the tank.
  • The reservation booth and dump station are in an odd place. You actually turn into the dump station at the booth which is a ways into the campground and if you aren’t paying attention and miss the turn then you are blocking the only road around and out from the dump station which is what happened to us. A Motorcoach blocked our way to our site and took almost a half hour to move. the hosts showed him he was blocking the site but he didn’t seem to care even waited until he unhooked his toad to back up and go in the right way. Took him 15 min. to unhook. So by the time we got out of the dump station with a full tank of water and passed the guy blocking the way it was over an hour since we entered the campground.
  • Our site is angled such that we are pointed leaving the park and the only way to get to the dump station again is to leave up and down a couple very steep hills and turn around down near the visitors center and come back those same hills and enter the park again. Crazy set up. We have already decided we will use the blue boy to dump the tanks so we can just leave without going thru the dump station again.

Now all that said we would still probably come back here again because the pros out way the cons (family and friends always weigh in a little heavier) but I would try to plan ahead and carefully pick a spot. We walk the campground today and found some spots that would be more ideal. They are close enough to a water spigot we could fill at our site and fresh water is always what limits our stays. Our rig does not have an easy to add fresh water unlike many. It is definitely a flaw in the design that year and something they changed after that year.

A little Fall around the edges
So here is what we found: Sites 1, 7, 9, 15 and 16 and maybe 25 are the best. Sites 49 & 46 are great sites but the turn around at the end is very tight and would not work for most big rigs. Also if you are near 40 feet on most of the sites your truck would not fit at the site. I think 30 to about 36 will fit but beyond that I’m not sure. 

Today we walked part of the Virginia Day Memorial Trail, part of the bike trail and the campground. Its an absolutely perfect day. The high 60s, no wind and clear blue skies. Exactly the kind of day that reminds us why we love this lifestyle. I sit here in a beautifully wooded spot typing away at the computer.
John on the paved bike trail

Speaking of the Full Time RV Lifestyle Several others posted in the comments of my last blog so I would like to add their thoughts to the list:
  • I would add FREEDOM to your list. I love the freedom this life has given us. Also, the chance to travel and see much more of the beauty this country has to offer” from Evelyn
  • “FREEDOM, nature, travel, meeting wonderful people, sunrises, sunsets, waterfalls, birds, wildlife, 80 degree February days, bike rides through charming towns, kayaking, hiking a forest trail, finding a hidden treasure ,fishing, lobstering, National parks, The KEYS, no alarm clocks, two-hour coffee time, falling asleep beside a campfire, sharing stories with the neighbors, To re-define what it means to live the American Dream. Did I mention FREEDOM and no more grass mowing and snow shoveling.” -Jeff and Dawn
  • “If you don't like your neighbors you can just move. And, you can wake up every morning to different scenery out your front window if you so choose to move each day.” - Ruth

If more comments come along I will make sure to pass them along. I am going to sign off for now. Who knows maybe I will make it a 3 blog week, but no promises. I do have a few more things I want to put out there so maybe I will get on a roll. Until then,
Happy trails........................

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Goodbye Summer....Hello Fall

John and me on our 30th Anniversary, September 1st, 2014

Surprise, I’m back! Its been a long time since the last blog but such is life. This summer was probably the busiest we’ve had since we went full time. Adding the job with the Kernels baseball team really gave us a full schedule. Between it and spending time with our kids and granddaughter the summer flew past. 
One of my last photos of Evie for Summer 2014

We are back out on the road and just past our 4th anniversary of full time travels. We began full time living in our fifth wheel in April of 2010 but we didn’t start our travels until September. Passing that mark always makes me look back at this crazy life we’ve chosen. I was thinking about what’s different about this life than a stationary home base or as some full timers call it, a “sticks and bricks” . So here is my list and full timers feel free to chime in or share a list of your own.

  • Instead of just cleaning my home, I have to pack it up and set it up on a regular basis.
  • My home has very limited space (approx. 300 sq. ft) so we are constantly sorting out and purging things we don’t use.
  • Instead of needing to be painted, my home needs new tires every now and then.
  • We never have to mow a lawn or shovel out snow.
  • When we visit family we don’t need a guest room, we bring our own.
  • We change addresses on a regular basis. 
  • We have intimate knowledge of water usage and human waste. (Dumping our tanks is a regular routine.)
  • Travel planning is a regular activity.
  • Haircuts: John never pays for one as I am his barber, and I have rarely had the same person cut my hair twice in a row, seldom twice in the same city.
  • No more 2 drivers, 2 cars. Now we have just one big truck.
  • On a regular basis we have to find a new grocery store, somewhere with the best diesel prices and if the truck needs maintenance a RAM dealership.
  • We only get our mail about once a month and then we have to make sure we are somewhere it can be sent to.
  • I have 2 living rooms: one comfortably inside and one just outside my door under a beautiful awning. We definitely spend more time outside than we once did.
  • Less stress. Not that there isn’t any stress, just it’s from different sources and seems easier to handle. 
  • I finally get to have a house in the mountains and then on the ocean. Now that’s a deal.
  • No dishwasher or garbage disposal. Our laundry is done at a laundromat about every other week.

Kevin splits us some wood
We still love what we are doing and hope for many more years. We are realistic though and know that sometimes life changes plans and so we are thankful for everyday we are still on the road. Even when we have to pick up a little work. Speaking of that we are now making our way to Campbellsville KY to work at the Amazon facility there for the peak season. The last time we worked for Amazon it was at Coffeyville KS and when we were done I said never again. Life continues to remind me never to say the word never.

John by the abnormally tall corn by Derge Park

Evelyn and Janie relax by the rigs

After that, all I know is we will find a place that is warm.
Al, the birthday boy!
We left Cedar Rapids September 3rd and finally got to spend a week with our friends Kevin and Evelyn who are the host at Derge County Park in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. It is so much fun to connect with them. Lots of fun and laughs, so good to see them again. Then we turned around and spent a couple days back in Cedar Rapids, seeing our granddaughter one last time. We took this route because we needed to be in Valley, NE for a surprise birthday party. Al Boldra turned 60 and John didn’t want to miss it. Dixie and Dan, friends from Loveland CO, came also so it was a fun time reliving the days when they all started their work lives at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids. Such a good time with friends. It seemed like too short a visit.

Dan, Judi, Al, Dixie and John

Janie, John, Dixie, Judi, Al and Dan

Now we are in the Kansas City area and spent a couple days with John’s older brother, Walt. It is a quick visit. We did get to see nephew Andy for a little bit too. We take off tomorrow and will finally get to do a little back to nature camping. We got into Ed Babbler State Park near St. Charles MO for 5 days. The weekend was booked so I took what we could get. I want to ride part of the Katy Trail, which is one of the longest rail trails in the US. We have done very little bike riding and hiking this summer and I really want to get back to that. After that, it is a little up in the air. We have to do a drug test for our job so it depends on when and where they send us for that. Our start date is October 21st and I just got an email saying we should hear this week.
Walt & John

I really miss my granddaughter but I am glad to be out on the road again. I think what I miss the most is time with just John. Time to hang out and discover new areas. This is getting a little long but hopefully I will get back to writing more often.

Happy Trails...........