Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Time for Camp Taz

Ellie_ct 026 Once again, it is time for me to make my semi-annual trek to Mississippi to join my Weight Watchers friends for a week of exercise, eating right, and having a great time.  This time, we are based at Birmingham South Campground which is actually in Pelham, Alabama.  Jim will be able to get around while I’m gone, thank goodness he has his own Droid with the navigation feature!

We traveled yesterday from Shepherdsville, Kentucky to south of Birmingham, Alabama, a trip of about 360 miles.  We averaged around 9.0 mpg fuel for the 7-hour trip.  We did have one rather major mishap, just proving that mistakes can be made by anyone!  Our friends, the Wishnies, admitted to some recent “newbie” errors, but this one of ours is a pretty big one.  Part of our usual “getting ready to travel” procedure calls for us to double-check each other after the car is hooked up to ensure that the car’s steering wheel is loose, the emergency brake is off, and the transmission is in neutral.  For whatever reason, we didn’t do that double-check yesterday, and yes, you guessed it – one of those critical pieces was not right.  The transmission in our 2006 Saturn Ion is manual, and it is not always easy to immediately tell if it’s in neutral, and it wasn’t.   We towed the car less than 2 miles with the car in first gear, but that was enough to ruin a perfectly good engine!

Luckily, we have friends in the neighborhood of Pelham, Alabama where our campground is located.  We got a recommendation for a good, honest mechanic and had the car towed over there yesterday afternoon.  Our Good Sam Emergency Road Service paid for itself with their fantastic response to our call when we arrived at the Birmingham South Campground.  A tow truck arrived in less than 30 minutes after I placed the call.  The campground manager here was also very helpful, she let us park in a vacant site to drop the car so it would be convenient for the tow truck driver to pick up.

At first, we thought we might just buy a new car and let the Saturn go, but Jimbo at Barrett Automotive here in Pelham found us an engine with fewer miles on it than we  currently have on the Saturn, at a pretty good price.  We won’t know if the transmission was damaged until he gets the engine in, but at the price he quoted us, even if we have to replace the transmission, we’re still going to be OK.  We are feeling very blessed that we were able to get going on a resolution to the damage we caused without further, even more serious trouble.  Whether we’re sitting in a house or living our dream on the road, “stuff happens” and we know there will almost always be something we’ll have to fix.  No one was hurt, our home on wheels is fine, and our “newbie” error will be overcome, with a lesson learned!

So, we’re moving on, a little poorer in cash, a lot wiser in following established safety procedures, with a rental car to use while the Saturn gets it’s “heart transplant” and I go off to Camp Taz tomorrow.

While I’m gone, blog updating may be delayed, or not, depending on what’s going on!  Stay tuned for more of our adventures, Justravelin!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bourbon For Breakfast?

Not exactly, but it was pretty early in the day when we completed our visit to the Jim Beam distillery and stopped in at the tasting room for our 1 ounce samples.  At  this distillery, there isn’t an actual tour, just a film and a short talk about their history.

In the history room, they have this life-like distillery model on display.  We were told that it can produce 1 gallon of bourbon per batch, but because of licensing and so forth, it isn’t currently working!

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About 30 miles down the winding Kentucky roads, we finally found our next destination, Maker’s Mark.  This is a more recent addition to the market, although the Samuels family has produced bourbon for many generations.  The current recipe was developed in the 1950’s.

We did get to tour this distillery, although in comparison to our tour of the George Dickell distillery a couple of years ago, we didn’t see as much as we did there.

Maker’s Mark is known for it’s wax-dipped bottles, and Jim has been wanting to dip his own bottle for quite a while now – yesterday was his chance.  Here he is, getting suited up after signing his bottle.  The blue triangles in the picture below point to his signature:

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He’s dipping his bottle in the 350-degree wax:

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Now that he has that special bottle, I wonder how long it will be before he gets into it?

When we’d completed both visits, it was time for a late lunch and return trip back to the Castle.

Today is football and relax.  Jim has just lit the grill, we’re eating at home today!

Tomorrow is travel day, we’ll see you from Birmingham.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Through The Windshield

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The 50th Escapade is History!  It was a great experience, and we’re both very glad we did it, but we’re also glad to be viewing our world through the windshield once again!

True to form, neither of us slept through the night.  I kept waking up, wondering if it was time to get up and get ready to travel.  We somehow did manage to delay getting up until after 6:30, a luxury after the past few days of waking up to an alarm going off at 5:15!

It was probably a little after 8:00 when people were out and about, telling each other “See you down the road”.  We had one more flash drive to deliver to the Escapade office and we did that in conjunction with the last dog walk before taking off.  I know we missed saying goodbye to several people who didn’t make it over to see us before we left, so “we’ll miss you until we meet up again!”

In spite of the number of rigs getting on the road at about the same time, we had no problem getting out of our space and out on the road at 9:00.  We took the long way out to go south, we took Highway 33 to Highway 6 East to I-69 South near Fort Wayne, Indiana.  That took us to the loop around Indianapolis and I-65, which we followed all the rest of the day.

After we got on I-69, I took my turn at the wheel:

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And Jim found an old barn to photograph:

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We stopped at a Love’s Travel Stop along the southern portion of Indiana, and pulled in to the truck lanes, where we usually go.  Even though we sometimes pay a higher price when we use the truck lanes because we’re not a commercial vehicle, we feel it’s worth it to not hassle with the car lanes at most gas stations.  Today we had a new experience – the Love’s “could not” turn on the pump at the truck lane unless we have a DOT number.  Hmmmm….there was a Pilot across the street, so rather than try to maneuver into a too-small car lane, we just drove across the street and pulled in to the Pilot Truck Stop.  No problem there!  Yes, we did have a to pay a few cents a gallon more, but we now have a full tank again.  It’s strange, we usually have had much better luck at Love’s than Pilot, but I guess you just never know.

Otherwise we had a smooth travel day and made our way to:

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Yes, we waved when we drove through Louisville:

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We’ll spend a few days at Grandma’s RV Park south of Louisville.  Jim wants to tour some area distilleries, and I’m sure I saw a sign for a winery around here someplace!

We traveled 325 miles in 6.5 hours today and got about 9.5 mpg.

More windshield time coming up!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Quick Update

How’s this for a twist:  Jim and I are taking an average of 500 to 600 pictures between us every day, and I don’t have anything ready to post for the blog!  Every morning, I get up way too early to be ready to turn in my flash drive to the Escapees Director so she can go through them and prepare a slide show for that afternoon.  So, later on down the road, after we catch our breath, I will catch up with our own pictures!

Our days are full here at the Escapade, making sure we get to each location we’ve been asked to photograph.  It’s a good job for us, even though we have several places to be, we get to pop in and out!

I’ve attended the beginner’s session of line dancing for the past couple of mornings, but I still can’t convince Jim how much fun it is and that he should try it too.  Maybe one of these days…

We still have time to visit with our friends, and even got to spend a few minutes catching up with Linda and Howard Payne of RV-Dreams, who surprised us by showing up here, even though they were not expected.  They arrived Sunday evening and had to leave early Tuesday morning, but it was great to see them!

One of our readers asked if I could provide the model and ordering information for Jim’s new recliner.  Since the company that made it is Amish, they don’t have a web site, but I can provide a link to a company who does carry the Lambright “Lazy Relaxor Swivel Wall Hugger Recliner”.  Check out Bradd & Hall’s web site, they do have contact information as well as a description of this and other Lambright pieces.  They are a family business located in Elkhart, Indiana and they do carry several brands of RV and marine furniture.

I’m off to another seminar session to take more pictures!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rainy Saturday in Goshen, Indiana

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Did I mention that Jim loves his new recliner?  He tried it out again some today, and this evening Jazz decided she likes it too, after she jumped up and curled up in Jim’s lap while he was watching a football game.

We woke up to clouds, and before long, it was raining.  Most of the day the rain stayed in the drizzle stage, but we did have a few hard showers, seems like most of those occurred as we were outside!

There wasn’t a lot happening here as far the Escapade, it’s the day before the opening ceremonies, so things were a little quiet.  We took the opportunity to make a run to Sam’s and Wal-Mart and have a quick lunch at a local Chinese restaurant.

I believe the count of rigs that got parked yesterday was around 325.  Another 200 or so came in today.  Tomorrow there will probably be another 300 coming in.  RV’s are parked everywhere!  The pictures below are just 2 of the parking areas:

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This is looking out towards the race track.  It was a muddy mess today:

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Several of the “RV Dreamers” group is parked in this row, we have a fence behind us and a couple of buildings in front of us, so we don’t feel all that crowded, nice!

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Our little group even managed to find a dry, warm place to have a happy hour:

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But, remember:

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In spite of the rain, it’s been a great day!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Moving Along

When we last left you, we were getting ready to go to dinner at an Amish home.  I had no idea what to expect, but we have read and heard that the Amish people do not like to have their pictures taken, so I didn’t take my camera.  Luckily, a few others in our group did take theirs, so I’ve “borrowed” a couple from them to share.  No one took pictures of the hosts, but there were pictures taken of the house and our group.

Molly and Bob, who are working hard on the Escapade, took time out of their busy schedule to set this dinner up with the Amish family and invite us, so we started by meeting them at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds where they are parked as staff.  They led the way to our destination, since they have been to this home once before.  There are several Amish families in the area who do these dinners for groups.  We went to the home of Levi and Esther, who serve the dinners in the basement of their beautiful home (Thanks, Dee, for the use of your picture!):

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Another group had a dinner just before us, they were still clearing out when we came in.  This is a business venture for the Amish, each person pays about $20 for their dinner, which is served family-style at long tables (Thanks, Dee & Darrell, for these pictures):



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Levi started the meal by offering a blessing, spoken in German.  He followed that by bringing baskets of homemade bread and drinks, either punch, coffee or water.  The next course was a delicious salad with chopped vegetables in a mayonnaise-type dressing.  After that out came stuffing, homemade noodles, mashed potatoes and gravy, roast beef, baked chicken, and then seconds of all of that.  Plus more bread with homemade jellies and jams.   Each time Levi came out of the kitchen, he had two bowls or platters of food which he handed to the first people on each side of the table.  This was some of the best tasting food I’ve ever had!  But we weren’t done yet – just when we all thought we were too full to move, Esther appeared with a cart of desserts – slices of homemade apple, coconut cream, raspberry cream or chocolate cream pies, and a huge bowl of scoops of ice cream!

Finally, after we were all groaning at the amount of food we’d consumed, we were given a short tour of the grounds around the property, and Levi’s garage, which is as spotless and neat as the rest of the property.  In fact, it is so nice that when they have very large groups, they use the insulated garage as a serving area.  Since they don’t have cars, only buggies, stored there, even the floor is spotless!  They do have a boat, however, and a travel trailer, which they hire someone to tow for them.  Even though they don’t drive cars, they will ride in them.  I noticed that there was power to the garage, so when I asked Levi about it, he said they do have a generator to provide power, but they are not hooked into public power sources.  If they need power for conducting business they can use it.

We asked Levi a few questions about how they prepare the meals, if he helps, and so forth.  Esther has been cooking these dinners for about 20 years.  Her first husband developed health issues that prevented him from working, so she started off baking, and eventually started serving dinners from her home.  She continued to do so after her husband passed away.  She and Levi, who was also widowed, have been married about 3 years now, and he does help with the food preparation as well as the serving.  They do about 3 or 4 dinners a week during the summer months.

If you visit this area and have the opportunity to attend one of these dinners, don’t pass it up, it is a very special occasion!

Yesterday, Jim and Mark took our Euro-recliner to Lambright’s Comfort Chairs factory near Shipshewana and left it with them to be sold and the money donated to charity.  They came back with Jim’s new, Amish made recliner, which he likes so much I haven’t had a chance to get a picture of it yet – but I will and promise to post it soon.  I like it too, because when he’s not reclined in it, there is no footstool sitting in the middle of our floor, and our home looks much roomier!

Last evening, a “few “of us gathered for one last happy hour at the Elkhart Campground, where we’ve been hanging out for the past few weeks.  The group just keeps growing:

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This morning was moving time!  A big group of us, I never did figure out exactly how many rigs total, but I think there are 12 to 14 RV’s, all moved about 12 miles from the Elkhart Campground to Goshen and the Elkhart County 4H Fairgrounds, where the 50th Escapade will be held, starting this Sunday.  It was quite a parade of RV’s rolling through Elkhart and Goshen!  As we were getting parked and settled, Molly stopped by to welcome us, and to see if Jim and I would fill in for staff photographers who had to leave due to a family emergency.  Of course we said sure, so not even an hour into our first Escapade experience, we are now “official” photographers for the event! 

Our new yard at the Fairgrounds:

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There was one upsetting event that took place today, however.  One of our group, Greg (Mac), began having difficulty breathing and experiencing chest pains just after he got here.  He was taken to the hospital where he was taken care of and given lots of tests.  He is ok, though and back at his rig tonight.  Our prayers are with you, Mac, take care of yourself, we hope to have lots more fun times with you and Netters!

This evening we attended the staff appreciation dinner, and guess what – I won the first door prize (just what I need – 4 free servings of ice cream here at the Escapade!):

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The next few days are going to be even busier than we anticipated, and I will try to save some pictures to share with you!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rally Over, Fun Continues

Jim 001 Our first Gypsy Journal Rally has become a fond memory!  We both learned some new things, met some new friends and enjoyed our experience.  Our group of friends is still here at the Elkhart Campground, and we’re still having a great time this week as we wait for the Escapees big 50th Escapade, which begins on Sunday.

Sunday morning we got up bright (well, maybe it wasn’t so bright that early), packed up the Castle and I drove it over to a big, empty parking lot just a few blocks away for my driving lesson.  Yes, I signed up with Dick Reed’s RV Driving School to take a 4-hour, personalized class to learn more about driving this coach.  My instructor was Denny Orr, who is a very brave and patient man!  We started out with some backing up practice.  Below, Denny is setting out cones.  He instructed me to stay about a foot away from them as I backed in a straight line:

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And before long, I was backing around corners and between cones to replicate a back-in space at an RV park:

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I drove around the vacant parking lot for quite awhile, practicing turns and backing until I was pretty comfortable.  Ok, time to get out on the road!  Denny had me drive around the streets of Elkhart, down a country road, and into a Wal-mart parking lot that was most definitely not vacant!  Yes, I even turned right down a row between parked cars!  I did highway driving, drove through construction zones and more city streets.

What an adventure!  Finally it was time to bring the Castle home, and Denny had me going through some very tight turns in the RV Park on the way back to our space.  He had Jim guide me as I backed into our space, even though we are in a pull through, he wanted me to have the real-world experience of a back-in site.  Once safely parked, I got my certificate:

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Yay!  I passed!

On Labor Day, we rested from all our labors of the past year.  Good thing we have that one day each year to rest up!

Yesterday, a bunch of us went to breakfast.  Afterwards, we rode with Dortha and Mark over to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  Dortha and I walked the dunes and beach:

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While Jim and Mark stood guard over our shoes:

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After our walk, we drove through a Michigan City park to get a good view of the lighthouse there:

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To make it just about a perfect day, we stopped by the Blue Chip Casino, and played a few slot machines, just long enough to lose some and win it back.

When we got back to the Elkhart Campground, we found that Dee & Jim and Judy & Darrell have arrived.  They will be going to the Escapade too.  After a quick dinner at a local eatery, The Chubby Trout, several us got together for the regular evening game of Hand & Foot.

Tonight, a group of us are going to dinner at an Amish home.  This is a pretty special event, from all that I understand.  More details in the next entry!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Busy Days, Fun Evenings

The rally is underway and already into the third day.  Time is flying, and we are not still for long! 

Before I get into activities and pictures, I want to answer a question from a reader about the “lime cure” for Jasmine’s barking.  When she barks, I just squirt a few drops of lime juice from the plastic lime directly into her mouth.  Most of her barking, especially when we’re out walking, has stopped.  She still reacts when someone knocks on the door, but now she’s responding to “stop” when I pick up the lime.  Progress!

Monday was the opening day of the rally.  Most of the vendors were all set up and ready for business.  We picked up our name badges, got signed up with our door prize ticket, and went to the opening ceremony in the afternoon.

This is the big tent, where we all gather for the evening announcements, door prize give-aways, entertainment, etc.  Some of the seminars are held here during the day:

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Visiting and getting acquainted:

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We won the last door prize of the evening – a new patio mat!  WooHoo!

Nick, just about to read our name:

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Yesterday was a busy day!  Jim and I both attended several seminars and picked up some great information.  Oh, yes, and also picked up some items we needed, but didn’t know we needed!  The most significant is an Electrical Management System.  We’ve been dragging one of those big, bulky surge protectors around with us since we bought the Castle.  It protects against electrical surges, but not much else.  Today we’ll have the new system installed that will protect us from low voltage, reverse polarity, open neutral, open ground, as well as surges.  If you are interested in more detail, it is the EMS-HW50C from Progressive Industries.

Last night was a special entertainment opportunity, with the “beauty contest” to select the best Hoosier Honey!  Many of you have probably seen either a Facebook video provided by Chris Guld (Geeks on Tour), or other blog pictures.  I have an inside look, since Jim was a participant! 

Check out some of these beauties:

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One by one, these “gals” were escorted to the stage:

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And finally, the 2010 Eastern Gypsy Jornal Rally’s Hoosier Honey (AKA Jim Guld of Geeks on Tour) was crowned.

It was all for a good cause, though, as $450 was raised for the Escapee’s CARE organization.  CARE stands for Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees, which is basically a type of assisted living for full-time RVer’s and is located at the Livingston, TX Rainbow’s End park.

The Hoosier Honey, collecting some money:

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But these weren’t the only honeys having a great time:

Dennis Hill , RV Driving School owner, and Stu (2 Taking a 5th) ham it up before the beauty contest:

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Someone put on some dancin’ music after the show, and my our line dancing classmates and I just couldn’t resist!

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What a great time we’re having!