Friday, April 27, 2007

Not Done

Well, Carriage worked diligently on our rig all week. Picked it up every morning at 7:00am, and brought it back at 2:15pm. Unfortunately, they need 2 more hours. One more big ticket item on the list (replacing the kitchen floor), and we also have to discuss a couple of items with them. The good news: we finally have an electric water heater that works!

Things to do in Indiana in the rain: 1) nothing; 2) go to the Amish "bulk food" stores. We decided to do the latter. We went to E&S Bulk Sales. Real interesting. A lot of the same stuff you see in "regular" stores, but also some local brands.

The weather has been terrible...rain, mud, more rain, and we are stuck here for the weekend. The good news is that it's supposed to be sunny and in the 70's this weekend. Tentatively, Monday we will be heading Holland, MI.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Carriage RV Park

Sunday we drove the 230 miles from Bloomington, IN up to Millersburg, IN. Quite a difference! From the booming college town of Bloomington of thousands, to the quiet Millersburg with a population of 200 in the middle of Amish country.

We are staying at the courtesy RV park located on the property at Carriage, Inc., the birthplace of our 5th wheel. When we arrived, there was a total of one more rig in the park (which has 20 sites). Last night (Wednesday), we were up to 6 rigs. Looking out today, it looks like it's going to be us and one other rig. We have new friends from Ontario Canada, and Michigan.

Monday night around 9:00pm, while watching TV, Donna said she smelled smoke, so we went outside to investigate. We had heard sirens earlier in the evening, sometime around 7:00pm. Outside, there was a lot of smoke, and we could see fire trucks and the glow of a fire off behind some of the buildings. I thought that one of the local residences had caught fire, but Donna was thinking that it was something at Carriage. She was right; the next day, we found out that the paint shop had burnt down.

We took the factory tour first thing Tuesday morning, and it was lucky that we did. All tours for the remainder of the week were cancelled because of the fire! Before we purchased our rig, we had come to the factory in October 2005 and taken the tour. At that time, we got to meander among several small buildings. There is now one huge building that encompasses the entire assembly process. We were very impressed with the changes.

As far as getting the rig serviced, they do not work on your rig at your site. Every morning around 7:00am, they pick it up, and haul it up to their service department; it's returned every afternoon between 2:00pm and 3:00pm. We've been getting up every day at 5:15am to accomodate the fact that we have to eat, then put in the slides, disconnect, etc. Once in a while getting up that early is OK, but every day? We're retired! Today is Thursday, and the list of things to get completed is dwindling. Maybe it will be done today, but we hope by tomorrow at the latest. There is not a lot to do in Millersburg, especially since it has been raining for 2 days!

Today we drove up to Elkhart, and went to the RV History Museum. The oldest "RV" in the museum is a wooden panel truck, which was hand-made in 1913. Unbeliveably, this rig was found intact in a barn in 1988. The engine actually started up, although it had been stored there for 40 years!! The number of old trailers from the 40's and 50's is quite impressive.

We were just told that there were "severe weather" bulletins issued for Elkart County tonight. Severe weather means T-storms and possible tornados. Great! The Millersburg Fire Department is right around the block, and we were told that they will come over here and warn us if we need to take shelter. We never seem to get away from excitement of some kind!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hoosier Daddy (Burp City, here we come!)

It took days and days to drive through Texas. Leaving Nashville, and heading north, we hit Kentucky, and then - three states in 5 hours! We ended up just south of Bloomington, IN, home of Indiana University. The Hoosiers! Our RV park was called Cedar Ridge Camping Resort, and is located at Lake Monroe, the largest lake in Indiana. The park was new in 2005, so it was very nice! No trailer trash to look at.

We had to have our monthly pizza fix, so we went into Bloomington to a pizza place that opened in 1953. We figured if it had been around that long, it probably was good (it was). IU is a huge campus, 1600 + acres, and from driving around, it's a big party university (ie, "Honk and I'll drink" signs at the fraternity houses).

We took the next day to take a casual drive, almost up to Indianapolis, so that Donna could see a highly rated quilt shop. We returned via rural roads, and went through some picturesque towns: Beanblossom and Nashville. Yes, there is a Nashville, IN. We stopped outside of Beanblossom and had a picnic lunch next to a covered bridge that was built in 1880! The town of Nashville is a quaint artsy town, full of small shops. We meandered our way back to Bloomington, only to end up in Friday afternoon traffic. Yuck!

Yesterday (Saturday), we headed north of Bloomington to visit a local winery, Oliver Winery. We did some tasting, took the tour, and did some more tasting. We ended up buying 3 bottles. After that, we headed back into town to try a southern Indiana specialty: pork tenderloin sandwiches. They consist of thin sliced pork, which is pounded flat to about the size of a pancake. It's then breaded and fried, and served on a Kaiser roll. Since we don't each much fried food, these sandwiches, while very tasty, didn't settle well with either of us. At least we've tried them.

This morning, we headed up to Millersburg, IN, where our fifth wheel was made. They have an RV park behind the facility, and we are now settled in. Service opens at 7:30am tomorrow. We've heard that they actually do some work right at your site, which would be great. We'll find out tomorrow! Weather is now hovering around 80. Time for an adult beverage!

Friday, April 20, 2007


Nashville, home of country music, the Grand Ole Opry...and trailer trash. We got to our RV park, and it looked pretty good going in. When we got to our site, we noticed that, just a few rows back, were the "permanent residents". Most of them were in older rigs (you could tell by the moss growing on them); some even had window air conditioners installed. That, and the fact that they parked their work vehicles (dump trucks, tree trimming trucks, etc.) in the park.

We were in brand new sites, and the owner had tried to squeeze as many as possible into this area. I think 3 spots would have covered it, but they put in 5. When our fellow RV'ers pulled in, with everybodies slides out, we had maybe a foot of separation. OK, we won't be staying at the Timberline RV Park in Lebanon, TN again!! We had rain and cloudy weather for much of our stay here, but that beats the snow that Chicago and other places farther north were getting. At least we didn't have to contend with snow.

We headed into Nashville and visited the Opryland Hotel. We didn't catch a Grand Ole Opry show; we'll do that the next time through. The last time we were here, the Opryland Hotel was barely started. Let's just say it's huge (think hotels in Las Vegas), and very beautiful. We also explored some of the backroads surrounding Lebanon and Nashville.

The highlight of this week was our trip to The Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson, our 7th President. This home was originally constructed in the late 1700's, and due to fires, was rebuilt in the early 1800's. It is now completely restored, with about 95% of the original furniture. Even the wallpaper that had to be replaced is exactly as originally installed. The restorers contacted the original company who had made it. Amazingly, they found the exact patterns used, so they were able to reproduce them.

Since the weather is supposed to improve, we'll be heading north again. Monday we have an appointment to have the rig serviced at the factory.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

From Red to Blue

After several weeks in Texas (a "RED" state), we journeyed north and east, ending up in Hot Springs, Arkansas (a "BLUE" state). In case you are ever gaming and have presidential trivia as your topic, this is the boyhood town of Bill Clinton.

Two days ago, the weather turned gray, then rainy. Undaunted, we headed off to the old section of town to Hot Springs National Park. Some more trivia: it is both the smallest national park, and the only national park to be completely contained within the city limits of one town! Hot Springs main claim to fame is the very pure and very hot water (148F) that flows out of the mountain. In the late 1800's through the mid-1920's, several bath houses were built here to take advantage of the steamy waters. During that era, weathly people from all over the world traveled here to soak, relax, and revive. In those days, you actually needed a doctor's prescription to come to one of these spas! We took a guided tour through one of the restored spas - it was very interesting to find out what people went through back in those times.

The water is actually so pure, that NASA uses it to store moon rocks - no contamination. In the center of town, there is a place where you can bring jugs and take all the water you want. Local businesses sell empty plastic jugs at a killing to the tourists. I went back and filled several containers. It's very good!

Last night the rain and thunder were so loud, that Abbey kept us up pacing and panting. She finally settled down about 4:00am I think.

Due to the storms moving through Illinois and Indiana and the rest of the midwest, we decided to move east, not north, and hang out for another week before heading north to Indiana. Today we moved further east into Tennessee, and are staying at an RV park in Hornsby. The wind following that front gave us a great tail wind on our journey today, but was no fun once we got to our site. We had a little excitement getting to our site - the office is closed from about noon on, and we got here around 2:15pm. The instructions on the door said: "Find a place; we'll catch up to you". Great, except there weren't any maps. So we took off, logically, on the main road from the office. Hmmm, as we made the loop, we saw that we should have gone the other way. No problem, I'll back the rig up on that big field, straighten 'er out, and back in to that nice spot facing the lake. Good plan, except that the field was rain soaked. The "back-up" part went great, but the "go forward, up the slight hill" part didn't...sneaky mud. Another rig that came in right behind us did the same thing, so there were two of us stuck. The elusive manager showed up and got us both out. We got turned around, and parked on a high-ground site.

We're heading for Nashville tomorrow, where we'll hang out for about a week before heading north.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Becoming Texans

When we arrrived in Livingston last Monday, the Escapees RV Club gave us a map that contained all of the places we needed to go to get our driver's licenses, vehicle registrations, etc. We planned to take care of those things on Tuesday.

The site we got was in the old section of the park, in "the trees". Beautiful setting, but no way the Dish satellite would work. I tried unsuccessfully for 4 hours to find the elusive satellites, but to no avail. I even moved the dish 4 times, finally admitting defeat (the mosquitos won), and we watched fuzzy, snowy TV (remember, it's NOT camping, it's RV'ing!). On Tuesday, we asked to be moved out of the trees into the newer section of the park, where a few spots had opened up.

Since we had to move the rig, we decided to begin the process of becoming legal, Escapees map in hand (no Garmin, since we had a map!), headed off to the inspection station to get our VIN numbers verified on the truck and 5th wheel. Guess what? The map was soooo bad, we missed the inspection place by several miles. Of course, they didn't have the addresses on the map, only a dot, name, and phone number. I called and found I was 5 miles north of them...after finally getting there, we got the VIN numbers verified, got our paperwork completed, and headed back to the park to get set up again. This time it took less than a minute to get the satellite working.

On Wednesday, we completed the process, by getting plates, and applying for drivers licenses. You have to do these things in a specific order: 1) get VINs verified; 2) get plates; and 3) get Driver's Licenses. Of course, it didn't tell us that on "the map". So we did 1, then 3...and oops, that didn't work. We were redirected to item 2. Lucky for us, because you needed to show them your actual SSN card, which we didn't have with us. So we were off to the tax assessor to get our plates, only to find that we needed a picture of the weight sticker on the 5th wheel. Another trip back to the rig to collect all of our missing information. Finally, after getting our plates, we headed back to the DL place. If you have a current DL, you just have to take an eye exam, fill out an affidavit, and pay your fees. I mentioned to the lady at the counter that I had had Lasik eye surgery, and that one eye saw close, and the other far. She said that might be a problem. The problem was that the close vision test was with the right eye, and my left eye is my close eye. It took me 20 minutes to read that line...and I only got it after she told me the first 2 letters were all I needed to get. She noticed I was struggling, and turned away from me (on purpose I think), and kept herself busy not watching me. I saw my chance, and snuck my left eye over into the right side and read the correct numbers.

We found out later, after talking with other campers, that everyone thinks the map is really, really, bad.

Saturday, the weather turned ugly. Low to mid-30's, rainy and cold. Quite a change from the 70's we had been experiencing. Today is Easter, the rains have departed, but it is still cloudy, with temperatures in the low 50's. I played chef today, and cooked up a shrimp dish, with cupcakes for dessert. Not bad!

We will be leaving tomorrow, heading Northeast. It's two weeks from our appointment at Carraige, in Millersburg, IN, to get our warranty work done. Hopefully the weather will cooperate!