Saturday, September 17, 2011

A State A Day Heading West

On Monday, Sept 12, we left Elkhart, IN, and our friends, the Russell's and the Whites, to turn our nose West.  We were on our way back to California to see our wonderful family.  We took the lesser traveled county roads south around Chicago.  No need for that kind of stress as we remembered the crazy hit and run driver that challenged the Diplomat and lost on her maiden journey in 2005 on our way into Chicago.  It took us a little longer, but the scenery was much nicer and the drivers nicer, too.


We decided to stay the night in Utica, IL, at Hickory Hollow, a Passport America Campground for $17 a night.  This great campground sports a friendly staff that gave us a discount coupon for a pizza, and also very clean grounds.  We did not unhook DA TOAD, our Jeep, and ordered a mushroom pizza and a beef roll – delivered!  Outstanding!


Tuesday we drove west on I-80 into Iowa.  We saw a sign that the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum was ahead in West Branch, Iowa.  He was the only president from Iowa.  We have seen over half of the Presidential Libraries so we just had to stop.


Things we learned while visiting:

1) Herbert Hoover was raised a Quaker and graduated from George Fox University before entering and graduating from Stanford with a degree in Geology.

2) He was a mining engineer in Australia and China discovering  gold and a process for recovering zinc before becoming president .

3) He never took a dime in salary as president and used his personal wealth to entertain in the White House.

4) He, like all presidents from Lincoln to Obama, was vilified in the press, but had many world changing accomplishments.

We find that visiting Presidential Libraries is like a 3 unit history course, but a lot easier to learn.

We walked up to the Hoover gravesite, a simple grave with a view of his childhood home and birthplace.


There was a very interesting ‘traveling’ display at the Museum, School House to White House.


A couple of our favorite pictures were little Dick Nixon in his tie and bare feet (front row – far right) and JFK’s graduation picture (look at those shoes).


Then we were on the road again, but not before getting a cache in Iowa, our first in that state.

Our next stop for the night was in the Wal-Mart in Newton, Iowa, the town that my dad was born in, my grandmother was raised in, my grandfather came to after he arrived at Ellis Island, and my gr-grandfather, the city clerk, was killed while riding in a motorcycle side car. 

Wednesday morning we had a little hiccup  with our batteries as I had left the inverter on all night long with a bazillion things plugged in and the generator wouldn’t start.  The easy fix was to quickly unhook the Jeep, get out the jumper cables, and jump the RV batteries then start the generator. We were on the road by 9:20 am which is really early for us.

So our next state to stop in was Nebraska.  We passed by Kearney, but it was too early to stop so we went on to North Platte where we were familiar with the Hidden Lake Campground, another Passport America. Cost=$15 cash for 50 amp. That was all we needed.  This is right along the South Platt River which was in flood stage.


Thursday morning we left Newton in the rain. And it rained all day; that is the easy man’s way to wash the rig.  While getting a cache at a rest stop in Colorado we decided we were sort of close to an old (relatively speaking as he is lots younger than us) friend and colleague, The Dr’s Dahl, Richard and Frances.  They have moved to New Mexico and with a slight change to our route, we could visit them on our way home.  So with a quick email our Jell-O plans were changed and we drove south on I-70 and around Denver on the new toll road, E-470 south.  We never saw where we could pay, we might get a bill from a photo of our license plate, but our friends, the Willis’s said they haven’t gotten a bill yet since traveling on this road.  This was a great way around Denver.


When we got into Colorado Springs we hit a downpour. Traffic was stop and go for about 5 miles so we adjusted our travel plans from staying in Walsenberg, CO, to another Wal-Mart in Pueblo, CO.  We picked up a couple of things from the Wallyworld and had a nice evening watching TV while I worked on a program for the CCSPCA.  This time I remembered to turn off the inverter when going to bed!

This morning we opened our drapes to see the mess in the grass that other RV’ers had left next to the parking area.  We got out our trash bag and long handed “picker-upper” and policed the area just like we go with the Golden Spikers in Indio. Hopefully it will be an example to the several RV’ers watching us.

So now we on On The Road Again, driving down I-25 then on to 39 S to Logan, NM.

Addendum:  I tried to post this yesterday from about 1 pm on. NO Service anywhere near Logan. So last night and this morning we were out of contact with the outside world. Thankfully we had Richard and Frances as guides.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Famous Friends and Famously Found Cache

We are staying at the Elkhart Campground where the Famous Nick Russell stays when he is in this area of Indiana.  As a result all his friends seek him out as he is very famous.  He is the famous author of the Kindle book, Big Lake and many other books; he is the famous publisher of the marvelous RV newspaper, Gypsy Journal; creator of the famous Nick’s Blog, and he is the very famous Rally Master of the Gypsy Gatherings. From the day we arrived until we left, there was a constant string of friends visiting Nick.  We knew most of these friends as they are often at Nick’s rallies as we are.  Every night we went to dinner with the Russells and Greg and Jan White.  The Whites are parked next to Nick and Terry, and also very special friends though not quite as famous. 

Getting together with RV friends always results in lots of laughs, first with Chris and Jim Guld of Geeks of Tour then with Dennis and Carol Hill of RV Driving School.  We had dinner with the Russells, the Whites, and Al Hesselbart of the RV/MH Hall of Fame that resulted in more laughs and we enjoyed real good Mexican food.  We caught up with geocaching friends, Cindy and Will Olsen, who we first met at the Yuma Gypsy Gathering Rally.  We ate dinner with Mike and Elaine Loscher, another couple that is a part of Nick’s Rally startup team.  It was so good to see them again as it has been 18 months since we saw them last, but surprisingly we resumed our friendship as if no time had passed at all.  Funny about this RV’ing lifestyle, we meet with friends, separate for months and meet up again and our friendship remains as strong as always.  We just love it.

We did manage to do a few little touristy things.  We visited the New York Central Railroad Museum in Elkhart.  If you can judge a museum by the amount of ‘stuff’ they display, this is one of the best museum focusing on one railroad company.  In addition to the rolling stock and the history display they have a very extensive working model railroad display.



If this engine and the cab that Tom is sitting in looks familiar, it is because you probably saw the movie, Silver Streak. Tom even checked out the ‘dead man’ brake on the floor; yes, it was there.

A very interesting display in the museum was an engine made entirely out of toothpicks.  It took 7 years to complete, 40 pounds of glue, and 424,250 toothpicks to complete.

The other interesting thing we saw outside the museum was this:


This vehicle was perched atop two gondola cars, rocking back and forth, unloading RR ties as the train was moving along the tracks.  I posted it on Facebook and our friend, Leroy Willis, got back to us and told us it was a ‘car topper’ and it was designed to do this. 

Another museum we went to was the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
The displays were fantastic.  These are just a few of the RV’s in the museum.

While talking to Al Hesselbart we approached him on the possibility of placing a geocache at the museum.  Al thought it was a good idea so we went back to our RV and made up a cache, wrote up the description, hid the cache, and then applied to Groundspeak to publish the cache.  We thought it would take up to 3 days, but within an hour it was approved and published.  Within the next hour it was found.  SO COOL.  To see where this cache is placed, log on to Famously Found.   

This was a busy 5 days in Elkhart.  We pulled up next to the Russell’s and White’s rigs to say goodbye.  Even Greg’s cat, Mister, came out to say goodbye.
So we are On The Road Again, Caching Places that We’ve Never Been.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fast Track Travel

Just to think we were in Maine only 4 days ago. We moved to Massachusetts to the very nice Ludlow Elks.

Ludlow Elks

This is the picture on Google maps. We were parked on the grass between the red roofed building and the white roofed building. 


One of the things we enjoy about staying at the Elks are the great people we have the opportunity to meet.  The first night we stayed there (and were told there were no activities planned) the grassy area started filling up with people, beer, food, and there was lots of loud music.  The Jack and Jill event attendees were very curious about this big whale of a RV sitting in the middle of their party.  They did not have a problem with it, they just wanted a tour. So we did a couple of tours.

While in Massachusetts we wanted to get some caches and since we were only only a couple of miles from Connecticut wanted to get some caches there too.  There was a town called Windsor Locks down in Connecticut and Tom wanted to see the Locks.  The TomTom took us to the town, not the Locks and we got lost.  We turned around in a driveway at the end of a dead end road.  Two girls, twins, about 16 came to the car as we turned around and we asked them about the Locks.  Well the conversation continued… California, school, their future, etc.  We had so much fun visiting these friendly girls.  Before we left a crowd of about 10 other teens joined the twins.  I wonder what the neighbors thought.  The twins eventually told us how to get to the Locks.  We first took a slightly wrong turn and this is what we saw: a deserted, graffitied, and recently flooded area.  I thought we were in a CSI story.

Well, we did get turned around and found the right road right by the canal that bypassed the mighty Connecticut River.  We found a cache then drove 4 miles down the canal and saw the actual Locks, built in 1829.  They are not used any more, in fact haven’t been used in many years.



Just on the other side of the canal was the Connecticut River. There has been so much rain in this area, the river is closed to boating and swimming. 

We left the Ludlow Elks and drove 273 difficult miles to the Waterloo Moose. The non-toll roads were so hilly that when we left Waterloo we decided it would be toll roads on the rest of the way to Elkhart, IN. 

The next day we drove 249 miles to Ashtabula to the Elks lodge which sits right on Lake Erie.  We sat on the patio and watched the white caps on the Lake.  We left Ashtabula this morning and drove 304 toll roads to Elkhart.  These two days cost $65 just to drive on bumpy roads and through construction zones, but the road was pretty flat and we probably saved the toll fees in fuel. 

We arrived this afternoon at Elkhart Campground and soon were greeted by the greatest welcoming committee, Nick and Terry Russell and Greg and Jan White.  There were lots of hugs, but not much conversation as Michele, the lady who will be fixing our damaged slide topper, arrived and we spent the next 2 hours disassembling the cover.  We went to a quick dinner at Perkins, a real come down from the fabulous lobster we had been enjoying.  More about our Elkhart visit later.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Down East Maine

We left Bangor and checked into an RV park, Naples Campground, in Naples, Maine. 


This area, called The Lakes, is much like the Finger Lakes area in Upstate New York.  There are a number of finger shaped lakes in this area and we were parked between Brandy Pond Lake and Tricky Lake on the south side of Sebago Lake.  When we arrived, the camp owner said we had arrive just in time as the power which had been out since Irene hit southern Maine – 5 days ago had just come back on.  This area had been hit real hard and there were trees down everywhere as we drove in.


Our first day in the Down East area we drove to Yarmouth. This is one of the places that I have wanted to visit for a long time as it is where DeLorme has its corporate offices.  This is the company that makes my favorite GPS.  We got a cache while there, bought a few geocaching things, and ALMOST bought a new DeLorme PN60.  I would have, too, but they had sold out and would not have any in until the next day at the earliest.  After ‘sleeping on it’ overnight I decided I could live with my PN40.  Wow, saved $250 without even trying. Open-mouthed smile  One of the features of the DeLorme facility (e is silent as per the staff at DeLorme) is the worlds largest printed globe of the earth, called Eartha.  You can see Eartha behind the 3 story high windows at the corner of the building.


We saw the funniest thing in the parking lot.  A Mercedes that thought it was a pickup truck.  Now that is creative.


Tom had wanted a Fish Stew or Chowder and I wanted a Lobster Stew so I Googled “best lobster stew in Maine” and found The Dolphin in Harpswell. The restaurant is at the very end of one of the peninsulas that are all along the Maine coast. Tom had his fish stew and I my lobster stew. NEVER have I had a better lobster stew. The broth was simply superb and lots of lobster. It came with a fresh salad, blueberry muffin, and baked sweet potato. Even now my mouth is watering.


The views were terrific, too.

The next day, Thursday, we drove to Augusta, the capitol of Maine.  We parked and noticed the State Museum, State Library and Archives right across the street from the capitol and decided to go there first.  I went to the genealogy section of the state library to see if there was any information on the Ward family that settled in Fort Fairfield, Maine, in the late 1700’s.  I did find several books with Moses Ward mentioned, but there was not a lot of specific information about him. 


Tom went into the Museum. I joined him after about and hour and a half looking through books and we closed the museum.  There were so many fabulous displays and these are just a few.




There were 3 floors of information about Maine displayed in a ‘living history’ type of exhibit though all the people in the exhibits were manikins.  There was even a working water wheel driving belt driven machinery.


After the museum closed we walked across the street and got these pictures of the lovely capitol.


Augusta is the third smallest capitol city in the United States behind Bismark, North Dakota, and Montpelier, Vermont.

Our last day in the Down East was spent geocaching and exploring the countryside.  We finished by driving out to Five Islands to have… guess what??? Lobster. 


This time we ate on the dock surrounded by mosquitoes.



On our way home one of the roads we traveled on was Quakermeeting House Road. 


We are finally, after 4 months on the road, making the turn west.  Our next stop will be in Massachusetts.