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 !

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.

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.