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.

2012-02

Route 66 – The Mother Road … so many icons from its’ heyday are still visible or in use today.  And visiting many of them is on our bucket list.  Some of our friends and family members can remember travelling Route 66 “back in the day”.  The old “filling stations”  and roadside cafes we have seen on calendar pages and blogs symbolize the freedom of travel and exploration to many of us.  As such Terry and I have made an effort to check out some of the locations in person as we travel the heartland. 

While working in Oklahoma in January, 2012, we discovered many of the Route 66 places are a short drive off the main highway, or on our way to a work project, so we stopped.

MIAMI, OK – when we first arrived in town for a 2 day job, we passed right by Waylan’s Ku Ku Burgers so made that our first Route 66 experience. Later that evening we visited the Coleman Theater beautiful, but since it was after hours, we couldn’t go inside.

TULSA, OK – There are many, many Route 66 resources easily reached by a google search.  Our recommendation is to do a little preliminary research and then either go see them, or at least put it on your bucket list like we did.  We drove thru the historic Fairgrounds and saw their homage to the oil industry started in the area, and enjoyed a meal at a historic Route 66 diner. 

In Kansas for a few jobs, we toured quite a few fifth-wheel RVs at the Nu Wa factory.  Nu Wa RVs are highly rated for full-time living and they reburbish traded-in RV’s to resell on their used lot.  It’s a great source for those looking for a full-time RV and need or want to save on the dealer mark-up.  Nu Wa also done sales prep for CrossRoads RV’s. 

In Missouri, we walked thru brand new Open Range RVs and were really impressed.  I really like the front living room RV floorplan, but am not interested in the Montana by Keystone.  The Joplin RV dealer we visited also has a very nice RV park behind the dealership that we would stay in when back in the area.

When in Omaha, Nebraksa we discovered an authentic Cuban restaurant, Gusto’s Cuban Café – that was a real thrill for me, because I am of Cuban decent.  It has been almost 10 years since I left Miami, Florida so I have REALLY REALLY been missing the local food.  Cuban food is completely different than Mexican food.  Cuban food is seasoned similar to carribbean food, and it is not spicy, like Mexican food.  We visited with the owners and thumbed through a 1958 yellow pages directory. 

We ended the month back in our favorite hotel stay, Candlewood Suites – Olathe, KS.  Having been in and out of KCMO every other month or so, we are able to stock up on our favorite products at the new Trader Joes.

We also had RV Anywhere install our repaired propane heater in the testing trailer. We met Mike with RVAnywhere on Facebook and were pleased with his services.

Click here for our 2011 recap

Blogging for practice

I really admire bloggers who post daily about their activities, and I have a couple favorites that I read before we leave for the day.  It gives me a chance to follow along virtually and I can almost taste the dinners they enjoy as well as experience the sights they see … most of them are not employed (or are self-employed), so their time is more flexible than ours at the moment.

BUT … I won’t be doing that on this blog for now.  At this point, for me, blogging – daily anyway – feels more like a job (that I enjoy, but takes a commitment), and we are already working full-time. When I think back a couple years ago, I didn’t even have a Face book or Twitter account, had no clue about blogging and hadn’t registered a website name either. Now, I have all 4.  And it’s MUCH easier than I thought.  Every link reference and photo in a blog takes a few steps to implement, which means a great internet connection and being organized.  The 2nd part is a breeze for me, the 1st we don’t have consistently.

Writing doesn’t come easily to me, although I enjoy expressing myself.  When writing, it takes me time to think and then re-think the wording before I am ready to press “send”, so my blog is more than a quick sentence or two, like our FB page.  And that’s what I started our blog for in the first place.  I wanted to use it as an online diary of sorts, something where I could document our travels. Some friends have expressed an interest in following along, so they do.  But at this point it is not intended to be “monetized” (make money from it) as many bloggers do.  That would be a 2nd job for us.

At this point in our lives, we are more focused on HOW we spend our days. On the other hand, because LOA is always working always (whether we understand it or believe it or not) we are the ones who have to remember to FOCUS on what we want vs. what we do NOT want.

Our focus for now is enjoying our time off and exploring the sights in the areas we are working.

 

Click here for our 2011 recap

2011 recap of our first 6 months as mobile OSHA technicians

Image Well, it’s been six months since Terry and I changed careers.  And we are STILL lovin’ it. The honeymoon is over, but we are so grateful for this opportunity.  The timing was PERFECT for us although we didn’t realize at the time, HOW that change would manifest itself.  NOW we are shopping for a full-time RV to finalize our jobs as mobile OSHA Certified Hearing Technicians with The TK Group. As I write this entry we are at our favorite location in the Kansas City, MO area, which we have decided we like VERY MUCH. We’ve either worked or stayed in this area many times over the last six months, so we have learned where everything we need is located, enjoyed lots of GR8 Bar-Be-Que, made some friends and really feel like we are coming to our home away from home when we return.

For now, our favorite crash pad is a Candlewood Suites hotel, but we are looking for a suitable MHP or RVP we can use near this area once we are RVing full-time as we work.

January provided us a week long project in Oklahoma City so we visited the OKC Museum of Art to see the exhibit of Dale Chihuly.  This is the 2nd time we have seen his work, and it always is impressive.  We also took in a rodeo.  The last week in December we spent a whole day at the National Cowboy Museum.

Christmas was spent back in Arizona in our vintage travel trailer, which we left in dry storage right on the same site we camped on. Our trailer is for sale so that is nice, not having to haul it in and out of the previous storage property.  Quail Ridge RV Resort is a great RV park, with full-timers, permanent residents on their leased lots plus overnighters all comfortably on spacious lots.  They often host the annual Cowboy Poetry Festival event, which is coming up in February. It’s only a 20 minute drive into Sierra Vista, Tombstone, or Patagonia from Quail Ridge. Our 2 weeks off at the end of the year included a 3500 mile round-trip from our last work location (Tulsa, Oklahoma) to Arizona, thru Kerrville, TX to visit Mom and back to Tulsa.

November took us to Alabama to visit with my Dad, and we worked in Arkansas and Oklahoma.  By Thanksgiving we were back in KCMO and I was able to cook a full turkey dinner with trimmings in our crock-pot.  Had never done that before, and it turned out better than I expected.

In October, we spent a day in Branson, Missouri where we met with Phil & Lorie, friends of ours who drove over from their new job location in St. Louis, Mo. Four years ago we met them when we both managed self storage locations in Phoenix, AZ.  Phil & Lorie loved living in their motorhome years back, so they are looking forward to purchasing another one some day.  We also enjoyed a few hours in St. Joseph, MO at the Patee House museum and Jesse James museum.

September we were working in Michigan and discovered how many great RVing spots there are in that state … we never knew!  Stumbling on the annual Woodward Dream Cruise was a blast from the past as we drove our Freightliner MDT along with the classic cars for a few miles.  They were taking pictures of us as we were taking pictures of them, laughing all the way. What a blast that was!  We crossed 2 items of our bucket list – the Henry Ford and The Ford Rogue factory tours. We also had a nice tour of the Laura Ingalls Wilder farm home in Missouri.

August was HOT everywhere and Indiana and Illinois were no exception. Having acclimated to the Arizona desert, the corn fields triggered allergies that I never knew I had.  Next year, I will carry Quercetin with me 24/7.  I almost couldn’t get to work one day, I was so miserable. When we took off from AZ in July to take our training classes in Illinois, we crossed another item off our list … the Great Platte River Pioneer museum.  You know, that HUGE bridge that crosses over both the east & west bound lanes of I-80 in Nebraska?  The one everyone says “what IS that thing?” the first time they see it?  Along the way, we stopped at the NRA Whittington center for a visit where Terry became a member before we left.

New Job + New Locations = More Enjoyment for Us

When Ryan & Natalie from  Mind Movies.com came out with a new software version I purchased it and made my 2nd Mind Movie ever. Having recently reached a frustration level with our employer and taken the property to the highest level ever in many years, we were ready for a change – BIG change. Not knowing what or where the change was going to come from, now HOW we were going to make it happen, I decided to let The Universe handle it again.

This is the 2nd time in my life I’ve made a huge lifestyle change, and I could have never pulled either change off myself. First, Terry and I decided – together – what we REALLY wanted at this stage of our lives. How we wanted to live, where, what kind of day we would experience. It was hard NOT stating the minute details of the work we would do, but we focused on what our day was like and the general details rather than the specifics.

Example: TRAVEL FULLTIME vs. we want a 32′ motorhome; GOOD PAY vs. $50K a year; ENJOY OUR WORK vs. the kind of work we would do. It only took a couple hours – mostly thinking vs. creating, but before I knew it, there it was – my new Mind Movie, complete with sound, affirmations and pictures that represented what my life would be like.

That was in November – in June it materialized. Could it have happened sooner? Maybe. Did we hit some detours? Possibly. At the end of the day, we now think our perceived delays and detours were simply tests we needed to pass to determine that THIS direction is the right one for us.  Destiny is a matter of CHOICE, not chance.

So ….. what DO we DO – actually?

We are now certified OSHA hearing conservationists. I didn’t even realize there WAS such a position, so I KNOW this opportunity came NOT from my own creation. We travel full-time – so yes, we are technically homeless – working around the country (mostly east of the Mississippi) at different manufacturing plants performing annual hearing tests for their employees. 

Our employer pays us well, provides the tractor and nicely equipped office in a 40′ fifth-wheel trailer with sound booths. ALL our business expenses are covered by the company, plus we receive a per diem, insurance and 3 weeks paid vacation a year. It’s a great package, and gives us the mobility we love. We stay in very nice motels  that we book ourselves, keeping the points to use during vacations (3 weeks a year) and with low personal bills, we can bank most of our income.

The REAL perk to this job for us, is that when we have the right RV, we will be able to drive it along and receive an additional per diem for staying in our own RV instead of motels! How SWEET is that?!

With weekends off, we get to visit places we never had time to see when we were truck drivers. Monday thru Friday is a normal work schedule for us, staying in a regional area. When we do have to drive to a new location, that is scheduled into our Monday thru Friday work schedule.

Other teams have been able to purchase homes & cars as well as visit places they never would have seen in a more location based job.

The only negative we have found is that sometimes we  have long days because we might start at 4am and finish at 6pm  (but there is a 4-5 hour break in the middle of the day for naps); and we aren’t connected to a fixed neighborhood.

The positives are many: we can eat at restaurants or cook meals in the motels; we keep any points earned on motel stays-even tho the company picks up the tab;  living frugally, we can bank most of our income (we have FEW expenses); we get to enjoy the change of seasons. 

UPDATE: It’s been a month on the road and we are enjoying it all ….. we’ve been full-time OSHA certified hearing technicians for over a month now and we really like it.  We spent a week travelling from AZ to IL for training and certification. After a week in class we trained for 2 weeks working near the office with a couple who have been with the company for over 15 years.  Judy & Harry train most of the new couples with this company. 

In 1 month so far we’ve worked in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. We were able to check off a couple of our bucket list items, such as the

NRA’s Worthington Center, the RV MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, IN and the Great Platte River Monument in Nebraska.  Making stops to shop at Cabelas’ and participating in the annual Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit have been highlights along the way.  Seems there is something fun to do most every weekend.  As long as we are in the area, we love to be adventurous and enjoy the sights.

We’ve been able to take a tour of the Newmar RV manufacturing plant in Nappanee, IN and the Ford Rouge plant in Detroit. Sometimes we just chill in the motel spa.

This job is fun and rewarding – it’s a great fit and LIG – Life is Good.