2013 Rear view

Last year was chock-full for us. We traveled over 30,000 miles, worked at 101 different job sites, flew to Montana to help Mom get settled into her “Last Best Place”, purchased a motor home, damn near froze to death in the coldest winter in over 100 years and recommitted to staying with our jobs for at least 5 more years.

2013-states worked

Blogging had become more of a chore to me in late 2012, so I simply decided to not commit to this blog in 2013.  I did enjoy the blog posts of others, along with more time on Facebook. I volunteered to admin 6 FB groups – all RV related – and have shared more RV tips N tricks on FB than I can remember.  We even met some FB friends in person (THAT was fun!) and discovered new RV parks and apps too.

For  2014 now that I have a permanent desk in the RV, I can get back to blogging – but only every now and then, so don’t expect a daily report from me! We work full-time, moving every few days to our next location. I handle all the logistics, reservations and lead the 2-vehicle caravan using the GPS app on our smart phones. On weekends, I appreciate some down time and we don’t have satellite TV – by choice.

Lucy in Cincy

My blog posts now will be more of a review format – of places we have seen that are worth my taking time to write about. There are so many RV bloggers now that it boggles my mind – in comparison to just a few years ago. Many of the blogs I follow have committed to writing every day – and that is their decision. But when there is nothing to really write about, other than to say what we had for dinner or who we talked with I don’t see the need to blog about it. I am choosing quality over quantity.  Many folks have realized that we have to design the lives we want, rather than wait for it to come along …someday.

Neil Armstrong Museum – Wapakoneta, Ohio

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We visited the Neil Armstrong museum, located just off I-75 at exit 110 in Wapakoneta, Ohio. This is a small museum, but loaded with pictures and items familiar to me and many of us who watched intently the NASA space program on television growing up. 

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Mr. Armstrong was born on a farm in this historic town, having started flying at 16 years of age. Much of the items in the museum are items donated from his family to the museum to share with others. 

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Since Neil was the famous astronaut who first stepped on the moon and gave his “One Step for a man, a giant leap for mankind” speech … this museum was something both Terry and I wanted to see. There is a fairgrounds, KOA and a couple other campgrounds in the area, so RVers interested have options for parking nearby. 

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Downtown offers some shopping and a nice lunch at the Cloud Nine Cafe – who make fresh fudge and cheesecake daily. We enjoyed a nice lunch of Quiche Lorraine and a grilled Reuben sandwich along with flavored coffees.

The downtown area also offers beautiful mansions from the late 1800‘s as well as a beautifully restored courthouse.  

At the museum, Terry played with a couple of the flight simulators as well as perused the gift shop at the exit of the building.

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The $8 per person admission fee was worth the couple of hours we spent reading, taking pictures and watching a short video of the Apollo 11 mission.

Heartland Treasures – Kentucky & Ohio

June started off with another location checked off both Terry’s and my bucket list. Since we recently watched I’ll Have Another win the 2012 Derby, we decided to visit the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs, then stayed later to bet on a couple of races that evening at the track.   The upshot is …. the first horse I ever bet on in my life …. to win-place-show WON!  So my $6 bet earned $13.20 !  We sat trackside at the finish line and experienced in person all the sights we had only seen on TV previously.

The following week we worked at one of the historic distilleries near Bardstown, KY, and enjoyed the small town atmosphere the south is so famous for. THIS town is extra special though.

Bardstown, KY – a real treasure

Bardstown, KY was voted by the USA Today Best of The Road Best Small Towns in America: 2012 Most Beautiful and we can see why. Many of the 1700 and 1800’s homes have been restored. Even the old 1700’s cemetery is well cared for. We checked out 2 campgrounds and the My Old Kentucky Home State Park named after Stephen Foster who wrote the Florida state song Way Down Upon The Suwanee River that I grew up listening to as well as the Kentucky state song.

We enjoyed green fried tomatoes at Kurtz’ Restaurant that has been serving travelers since the 1800’s. The owners’ great grand daddy built the home on a ridge to avoid the floods that had destroyed their other home previously. Then the family lived upstairs serving travelers from the downstairs kitchen and 2 small rooms. Now, the granddaughter and her children are still serving hungry travelers after 75 years! We also ate at the Old Talbott Tavern, the longest continuously operating tavern west of the Allegheny mountains.

The highlight of our Bardstown experience was the Heaven Hill distillery tour and trolley tour of downtown. I HIGHLY recommend you take the trolley tour FIRST to familiarize yourself with the town’s must-see stops. We also took the horse-drawn carriage ride at dusk.

In central Ohio we explored Lyme Village – a restored “firelands” 1800’s village. Our tour guide was a 14-year NOT YET high school student who obviously has spent much time learning and researching relative historical facts. His appreciation of and knowledge about the use of antique tools was amazing.  He got so excited telling us he had found his ancestors in many of the record books displayed in the various buildings on display. We shopped at the Pepperidge Farm factory store in Willard, stocking up on VERY FRESH cookies and Goldfish crackers.

Fulltime RVing friends of ours, Nick & Terry Russell who write The Gypsy Journal recommend we visit the Warther Carving Museum when we were near Canton. So in addition to the Pro Football Hall of Fame that was on Terry’s list that’s exactly what we did. Thanks for the tip Nick & Terry!

The intricate carvings of 10,000 pieces of wood assembled into historic trains were fascinating to behold. Descendants of Mooney Warther who made all of the carvings as a HOBBY still operate the museum to this day, which is a feat in itself. We purchased a hand-made knife at the gift shop which includes free lifetime sharpening.  An old-timer we met in the parking lot visiting the museum one more time says when he was boy almost 70 years ago, he used to play and swing in The Warther’s back yard.

In July we returned to Kentucky and met a new friend from our earlier Bardstown visit at a local restaurant before we began work in Lexington.  It was only an hour drive and we gladly drove over via the Bluegrass Parkway. We passed Keeneland Race Track and other beautiful horse farms around Versailles (which the locals pronounce Ver-sails)

We wrapped up the month of July by enjoying two full days at the KY Horse Park which has been on my bucket list since my Mom camped there 10 years ago when she first started RVing.  The KY Horse Park Campground feels like a resort with well-groomed spacious RV sites under beautiful trees, a tennis court, swimming pool and paved golf cart paths – all for $30 a night FHU!

The KHP is HUGE and offered not only the park to enjoy, but two completely different shows happening at the same time.  In the KHP itself there are museums, historic barns, shows and rides all included in the $16pp admission fee. Included is a horse-drawn carriage ride, a show of various breeds, beautiful barns and horses everywhere.

A full day of walking the grounds had us worn out, but we went back on Sunday to take a horse farm bus tour. That was $30pp and well worth it. Our driver is a Lexington native, with extensive connections into the operations side of many historic farms. At Keeneland we fed some of the horses in training peppermint candies, rubbed noses with million-dollar foals and heard about some of the farms that have been purchased by sheiks and multi-billionaires as we passed by on the tree-lined back roads. One of the custom-built barns cost over $750,00 to build and was truly a beauty to behold.

One of the guests on the tour was a gal from Australia who is travelling the USA for the year with her family in an RV. They sold their property development business last year, flew to LA, bought a tow vehicle, travel trailer and GPS system.  They’ve been out west and are now heading east and will finish up in Florida at Christmas.

The most unique feature of the Lexington area are the miles of dry stacked field stone fences that line many of the roadways and pastures. Some are from the early 1700′s when crews were taught how to build them by the Irish emigrants who settled in the area. It’s almost a lost craft now, and they can not be removed, only repaired.

The area between Paris, KY on the east side of Lexington and Louisville, KY with Bardstown in between is simply amazing countryside and one we could easily spend a couple more months exploring. If you love horses and/or beautiful countryside, there aren’t many places in the world that can compare.

Kentucky is a true American Treasure.  Come On Over … they’ll leave the light on for ya !

Airstream factory – Jackson Center, Ohio

My first RVing experience was in my grandparents’ 1971 Airstream. ImageMy then-husband and I borrowed it when we moved from Florida to North Carolina. After getting separated in heavy Atlanta traffic, we finally made it to our friends’ horse farm and set up shop.  When the shower pan leaked water all over the hallway, it was time to get it to an RV repair shop so at that point we vacated the RV lifestyle and moved into a mobile home on the property.  It was another 30+ years before I ventured into even THINKING about RVs as a viable roof over my head!

When a work project located us 30 miles from THE Airstream factory, I just couldn’t resist. Besides, it had been on my bucket list for “someday”, so why not? I had also read it was one of the best factory tours RVers should take advantage of, so off we went. Their website said they only offer 1 tour a day, at 2pm but we arrived 45 minutes early and entered the Service Center building. Parked out front were 4 vintage Airstreams.

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As soon as you enter, you are greeted by desks built like the ends of an Airstream RV.  It’s quite a thrill to be standing there looking at the aluminum clad walls and desks with the familiar logo.  Image

With plenty of time to shop, we walked around the gift shop, resisting the urge to pick up polo shirts and other trinkets with the Airstream logo.  Since we are VERY limited on storage space, our purchases are limited to NECESSITIES or a post card for our travel board. The furniture in the waiting area is the same kinds of couches and chairs that are installed in each Airstream. The TV stand looks like the rear window of an Airstream. The video that runs continuously  explains WHY an Airstream is a superior travel trailer.  Image

Once our group had registered (there were 45 on this particular day) our tour guide began his presentation. This gentleman began working for Airstream when most of the buildings on the complex were still cornfields.  He has been presenting the tour for the last 20 of his over 50 years working for the company.  He loves this company AND his job and it shows!

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After 45 minutes inside, we ventured out to the parking lot and on to the manufacturing plant where workers were in various stages of assembling the latest models. First we checked some of the units being serviced or refurbished at the service center.  RV owners come from all parts of the country to have their Airstreams serviced at the factory.

Some Airsteram owners will drop them off for a complete re-do that costs as much Imageas a new model because they want it done right, but they want to keep the vintage look on the outside! The above RV was a 1973 model!

No pictures are allowed to be taken INside the factory and we had to put on safety glasses and ear plugs which are given out in the reception room.  The walk to the factory gave us an opportunity to view some of the RVs waiting for their turn in the refurbishing area.  An RV park behind the service center had another 10-15 units with owners waiting for their turn to get into the service area.  Sometimes they will have a 3-4 day wait, but it’s only $10 a day for their space.

We walked past the VERY FIST Airsteram that ever rolled off this property. The originals owners’ estate had donated it back to Airstream to be placed in the future Airstream museum, which is still in the planning stages.  Many families have kept their Airstreams in the family and respect the icon of camping.

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Once we completed our factory tour our total time at Airstream had been over 3 hours and our legs felt like rubber bands.  Thank goodness we had worn our walking shoes!  If you are ever in the north central Ohio area, make time to spend an afternoon at the Airstream Factory. A quick exit off of I-75, it very easy to get to.

The tour is free and it’s well worth your time to hear a 100% Airstream fan share his heart & soul about the Airstream story of which he has been a critical and devoted part to their world-wide success. Wally would be proud … very, very proud. 

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2012-04 – Michigan, mostly …

April took us north into Michigan again. We were here last year in September. This visit the weather was how I always remembered it from our trucking years …. cold, gray and rainy – mostly.  We did enjoy a nice meal in Owosso at the Wrought Iron Grill which is located in the old Woodard Patio Furniture factory building. Wrought iron patio table & chair sets have always reminded me of steamy summer nights enjoying my homes in Florida, so it was fun to see the factory where many of these sets were built.

  The building is beautifully restored and repurposed

Then, we ran over to Holland from our Grand Rapids location to see the tulips in bloom at Dutch Village.  Being in this area manifested another one of my bucket list items. They had not completely opened all shops yet as their annual Grand Opening day is closer to May 1st, but the weather was beautiful when we were there so we stopped at the Holland State Park first – just to see the beach on Lake Michigan.  Here is a link to ALL the pictures I took in Holland, Mi.  

On a Saturday while we were in Grand Rapids (GR to the locals) we visited the Meijer Gardens butterfly display.  Meijer is a wonderful grocery/department store chain in the 5 state area around here. IMHO Meijer is MUCH better than Wal-Mart because they offer organic and locally grown/made products and they contribute back to their communities.  They also have VERY happy employees, which means that the positive attitude starts at the top and filters down.  If we lived here, Meijer would be our #1 choice for MOST provisions.  They also offer some really cool products I have never seen anywhere else – at very reasonable prices.  Check out this retro micro I ALMOST bought …not that I need one at the moment, but boy, was I TEMPTED!

Next we returned to our 2nd favorite locale in our Heartland regional work territory …. The Amish Country of Northern Indiana – where 9 out of 10 RVs are made ….we were in THE RV capital of the world!  Goshen was our hub for this week-long stay even tho our 2-day project was 15 miles north at Dometic in Elkhart. One of the benefits of using the Law of Attraction is that WHEN something you have been focusing on “suddenly” manifests, you know EXACTLY where it came from … there are no coincidences and no 2nd thoughts!

Purchasing a truck & fifth-wheel is our primary focus for this year, so we bought a 2007 F-350 diesel dually 4WD King Ranch  from a local Goshen dealer and spent a long weekend enjoying our new ride thru the Amish countryside.

We also visited Heartland RV’s #1 dealer in Elkhart and walked thru a 2012 CrossRoads model to check out the front living room floor plan.  Front living room fifth-wheels were really popular in the 1908′s and they are coming back again so we wanted to get a feel for them in person. Redwood and Open Range both also makes a front LR floor plan we like.  Isn’t this beautiful ? 

We took an Amish buggy ride in Shipshewana

 after doing some shopping at Yoders Hardware and seeing the restored 1906 Carousel at Davis Mercantile.  Driving the back country roads in this area is such a pleasure when the weather is nice, which it was for our full day riding and walking around.

Mid April found us back in Michigan – first near Kalamazoo, then Lansing, then Detroit and Auburn Hills.   So far in 2012, we have been to the following states working as mobile OSHA hearing technicians.

We ended April with Terry in a local Detroit hospital.  With a prior history of a heart attack, when his symptoms developed beyond what we thought was just the flu, we headed for the ER.  That meant TK had to cancel our last 2 jobs scheduled in Michigan at the last-minute.  The upside for us is we had already checked into a kitchenette suite and had purchased groceries for a week, so we were set for a longer than usual stay.  All worked out OK, heart is fine, he just needs to get over the flu and will be back on his feet shortly.

2012-03 – Iowa and Indiana

Working the month of March in Iowa changed some of my opinions about this state.

See my blog post about the historic Des Moines Water Works property we visited early March  here

There are quite a few locales I would like to visit when we are in the area again.  Dyersville, IA is where the movie “Field of Dreams” was filmed and the site is open to visitors still.  The old farm house is typical of the many, many farms in Iowa – all well landscaped and neat as a pin.  When the unusually warm weather took off we had the pleasure of seeing the Daffodils pop up along white fence lines and under mailboxes, the flowering shrubs & trees blooming on the hillsides, the light green leaves on the trees and the green pastures coming to life after a mild winter.  Sheep and cattle happily graze and calves and lambs romp in the mid-day sun.  Such a beucolic scene we enjoyed all over Iowa.

While at our corporate office getting the truck & trailer serviced, we were able to attend a local RV show and picked up a wonderful gadget called the BoomBox.  It’s a 3”x3” square plastic gadget that attaches to ANY boxy object to create a speaker !  The RV show demonstrated it playing music from an MP3 player while we heard the sound emanating from a small garbage can, then a paper soft drink cup, even a small Styrofoam cooler.  And you could hear the music perfectly!  I was amazed.  For the $20 show special we picked up one in lime green (see it to the right of my laptop?) and I watched the movie The Bodyguard (for free with my Amazon Prime account) listening to the sound thru the Boombox using a small trash can as the speaker… MUCH better than my little PC speakers …. I am amazed at the quality of the sound from this little gadget.  Not like our  Bose, but so much better than the PC speakers alone.

We finished up March 2012 in the Amish Country of northern Indiana – one of our FAVORITE RV-centric locales.   Staying in Goshen, we visited Middlebury and Shipshewana also.  Amish restaurants are famous for their family-style dining and desserts galore! Spring was getting underway so the countryside was spring-green and flowers were blooming. Amish buggies clop-clopped down the narrow roads past draft horses grazing in the fields where the home-schooled children played outside. One of the owners of Evergreen RV – a new manufacturer and the first LEED certified RV manufacturer – gave us a tour of their plant and 2012 models.

Our hope is to be able to visit the area again during May when the quilt gardens are in full bloom !

I review each of the hotels we stay in on TripAdvisor under the name RVingFT …when we are staying in RV parks & Campgrounds, I’ll review those also.

2012-03 historic Des Moines Water Works

DES MOINES WATER WORKSworking at the historic Des Moines Water Works was a real treat.   This business was started back in the late 1800’s by private investors.  Back then, the City of Des Moines thought they should get their water for free, so they NEVER paid their bills, which eventually forced the private company to sell out to the City.  Sounds kind of like Mafia tactics to me …. but apparently it worked “back in the day”.

DMWW have thankfully (and thoughtfully) preserved their historic buildings and it was a thrill to have a private tour by Safety Manager RW Smith after our work was completed.  The original terrazzo floors, glazed brick tile walls, polished granite countertops, HUGE glass block windows and long hallways housing the filter pools were so exciting to see.

You could FEEL the commitment to detail these old buildings exuded.  Pride of construction was everywhere. Even many of the pumps and water fountains installed over a century ago are still in use today.

Some, but not all of the machinery has been upgraded over the years, because of flooding of the Raccoon River, which provides much of the source water.   Those original visionaries even offered SOFTENED water to their customers, and DMWW still does today.  We really appreciated the soft water while staying in a nearby hotel.

DMWW spends much of its revenue protecting and maintaining VERY nice park grounds which are well landscaped, along with a landscaped median down Fleur Drive.  It was early March when we visited, so we were NOT able to enjoy the flowering trees in the arboretum, which bloom in May.

I can only imagine how fabulous they are, but will definitely put THIS park on our travel route if possible during bloom season. Why travel all the way to Washington, DC with a show like THIS out west ?

And …because just 5 miles west of Des Moines Water Works’ 1500 acre complex is the Walnut Woods State Park, which offers spacious paved full hook-up RV sites under the shade of Walnut trees. It’s hard to believe with these 2 wonderful natural settings, you are in the Des Moines, Iowa city limits.

To see more of my pictures of the historic Des Moines Water Works buildings on our Picasa web album, click here.