Wednesday, September 23, 2009


From Table Rock Lake at the COE Campground
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Each time we turn off the main road onto the smaller road leading to our campground we pass a small white house with rag rugs hanging on the fence.  Yesterday we noticed that the sign also said Hand Made Soaps.
Today we stopped and went in.  Very nice lady (yes, she has all of her teeth and her home was spotless) greeted us.  She makes everything by had in her home.  Sandy loved the soaps and bought 6 bars. 

I asked the lady if she could recommend a place for lunch.  She suggested Cedar Lodge about 4 miles down the road.   We followed her suggestion.  Huge complex of scattered single family cabins and smaller lodges.  Very, very upscale and expensive homes with mountain views and streams everywhere.  The restaurant we went to is inside the original lodge built nearly 80 years ago by a wealthy businessman.  I took a few photos outside because outdoor pictures are more pleasing than snapshots of buildings.

Then we went to see our third and final show in Branson.  The featured entertainer is Socchi Tabucci.  We left at intermission.  Not only was it poorly done (like looking at Japanese version of the Lawrence Welk Show), but a lady in back of us thought we came to hear her sing.

Tomorrow we leave for a one day stay at DeGray Lake at a CE campground in Arkansas. Then on to Wright Patman Dam in Texas for three days.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Different Way of Living and Rule #3

Thursday, September 17
Carlyle Lake, Illinois

Life is different.

Gone is the nagging thought in the back of my head that something needs to be done on the house. Grass cutting, window washing, weeding, leaf raking, snow shoveling and countless other chores are a thing of the past. To be sure, we have to keep our house on wheels clean and perform maintenance and repairs, but we also have a lot of spare time and freedom. I can transition from doing e-mail, to walking outside, to cleaning inside the coach and then to just contemplating what a great life we are enjoying. Or I can assemble the paper, kindling and logs for tonight’s campfire. A mental list of things to do is much more fun than a written one.

Just this morning I took a lawn chair and a book and sat under a tree to read for an hour or so. I did not feel like I only had a specified amount of time before I had to do something. In fact, when I got tired of reading, I walked the shore line and watched little fish jump out of the water and mud daubers fly in for more building materials.

This is a beautiful and an amazing lake. It is the largest lake (26,000 acres of water) within the boundaries of the state of Illinois. It is a man-made lake due to the efforts of a local businessman who in 1952 recognized the need for flood control and the recreational areas that would occur as a result of creating a large body of water. The lake was completed in 1967 for a total cost of only $41 million. We are in one of 13 camp grounds, nine of which are maintained by the COE.
Our two dogs – Trixie and Norton are doing better every day. This morning they did not bark at any people or at any other four-footed creatures. We think they are beginning to adjust to the campground lifestyle.

This morning Sandy saw a skunk in back of our motorhome. But we ALWAYS, ALWAYS have the dogs on leashes. Getting sprayed by a skunk now would be a huge problem. And speaking of that, even six months after Trixie was sprayed by a skunk in our back yard in March, if her head gets wet I can still detect a faint odor from that skunk.

Sandy and I have both vowed to get more exercise. The last few months in the house and then in the motorhome were just not conducive to exercising and we both put on a few extra pounds. So by mid-afternoon we decided to drive to another area of the lake that has some hiking trails. We set out on the closest one to the parking lot. And here is where Rule #3 was written. We will never, never take another trail without a map. Yup. We two scouts got lost. Not badly lost and we did find our way back, but it took us an extra 25 minutes past the point where our legs were getting tired. But the hike was really wonderful. The path took us across prairie and huge areas of Goldenrod, through savannahs checkered with lots of oak trees and through the woods were we saw white tail deer and several ground hogs.

On the path through the prairie we saw several Monarch Butterflies stoking up on nectar as they prepare for their migration south.

Following dinner on our walk with T & N we were treated to a nice (not great) sunset, and tonight’s campfire included a special reward. I wondered what a s’mores would taste like with a layer of crunchy peanut butter spread on one graham cracker. And the answer is: INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS.

All in all this was a terrific day. We will sleep well tonight.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Two new rules

September 16 , 2009
Carlyle Lake U.S. Army Corp of Engineers campground

Sandy and I decided on two rules today.

Rule #1. If we walk into a local restaurant at 12:20 for lunch and only one table is occupied then we are to turn around and walk out. More later.

Rule #2. Take the camera with. If we don't, we are sure to miss a photo opportunity.

Even though we are on a permanent vacation, we still have to do such necessary stuff
like grocery shopping. So we got out the trusty Garmin (we call him Jack). Yes! sometimes he doesn't know Jack _ _ _ _! So we got Jack to take us into the closest town for groceries.

On the way there we saw a farm stand selling corn, so we figured we'd stop there on the way back. More later.

I told Sandy that I'd buy lunch and we saw this little place next to the village hall and went inside. At first I was impressed because they had real linen table cloths. That was the best part. End of story.

I also had to make a stop at a hardware store and bought a small brass nut for .22 cents. When we were driving yesterday we heard a flapping noise (like something loose) coming from the roof. The guy from Direct TV who visited us in Cary to connect us to a dish about 2 months ago, opened the dome over the roof-mounted Track Star system and did not tighten the bolts after he was done looking around. The vibration of driving loosened the bolts even more and the nut holding one bolt came loose. The 22 cent replacement nut -- plus tightening the other seven solved the problem. I used some of Sandy's clear nail polish to seal each nut in place so that they can't come loose.

Today was great.

I am including three photos. The first is of a very large parking lot, the next is a view of where we are parked and the last one is taken from a window of the motor home.

Here is the story on the parking lot. First, my photo does not do it justice. It could easily hold 500 cars. In 5 hours two trucks and about 4 guys completly covered it with a sticky black oil and then spread limestone chips over the oil. In the Chicago area, this would have taken six trucks, 12 men, three days and a column by John Kass to finish the job.

Here is the story on the farm stand. We did return to it. Every ear of corn we picked up was loaded with worms. It was a pay via the "honor system" -- probably because the farmer was ashamed to collect money fact to face. We did not buy any corn, but we got a really large bundle of fire wood for three bucks.

The firewood made a nice fire and we had s'mores in the evening.

Highlight of the day: No problems! And we made friends with Katie, the Black Lab/Airdale mix dog at the adjacent campsite.

George & Sandy are officially full-timers

We did it!

It was a long process and it got messy at the end, but we are truly living full-time in our 2000 Foretravel.

At times I am technology-challenged and for the last week I could not access this blog and so I sent a daily e-mail to family and friends. For those of you who want to read them, they are below:

From Illinois State Park at Starved Rock, Ottawa, IL

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

We figured it would be a routine drive to Starved Rock State Park, some 80 miles from Cary.


We began our day by going to the nearby BrunchCafe for breakfast and then headed back to the motor home to finish getting ready to depart. We "cast off" the lines at 10 a.m.

After about an hour of driving Sandy was chomping at the bit to drive and so I pulled off the road and we switched drivers. Fate was about to deal us a dirty hand.

As we got closer to the state park, the Illinois highways began to get narrower, more winding and in need of serious repair.

Poor Sandy was rounding a hairpin turn and didn't want to get too far into the other lane and the coach and Honda rolled over a curb and cut open one of the metal valve stems on the CR-V. We were flat within 3 or 4 minutes. But we found a long, level and straight stretch of road. We really could not pull off as I had to change the tire and needed solid pavement underneath. The uncut grass and weeds alongside the highway just would not work -- so we parked on the highway. Fortunately, the road was practically deserted and the speed limit was 30 MPH.

Changing tires has never been one of my favorite things to do. We could have called Coach-Net and waited 2 to 4 hours for service, but I opted to do the macho thing and change it myself. The weenie tools that come with cars were barely up to the task, but at least I could get the lug nuts off.

But when I got the flat tire off I could not get the spare on because the scissors jack would not extend any higher. So I let most of the air out of the spare and then used the Power Tank (do I hear some cheering) to refill the spare. We were on our way. Tomorrow morning I am getting up early to drive 40 miles to a big Honda dealer in Joliet who has the special metal valve stems in stock and will get me out of the door in an hour or less.
For those of you who are not conversant with RV lingo. We have two products that can really save lives, eliminate or reduce damages and save time.
The First is a Pressure Pro System. The Pressure Pro sensors are about as big as 8 quarters in a stack. Each sensor is attached to a valve stem on every tire. In our case it is 6 tires on the coach and 4 on the Honda. We have a read-out device on the dashboard that continuously scans the tire pressure in every tire. If pressure drops below a certain percent (I think it is 7%) a warning light appears on the Pressure Pro monitor panel and it begins to make a loud chirp. So if we start to lose pressure in a tire, we know very quickly.

The other device we carry is a Power Tank and is similar to a SCUBA tank, but ours carries CO2 and is designed to fill truck tires quickly. So if we get a flat or just need to top off the tires, we can do so without having to find a service station with an air hose and entrances and exits large enough for a large motorhome.

One last comment. Until I figure out how to make additions to our blog, I will send you all frequent update.

End of day one on the road.

Day 3 from Coralville, Iowa

This was much more fun than the first two days. We went to Iowa factory that makes the automatic leveling equipment for our motorhome. A huge factory in the middle of an Iowa cornfield. The system checked out fine and while the technician spent just over an hour with us they only charge a half hour . In Barrington, it costs more for an electrician to show up at the front door than what we paid for factory service -- $37.00. I love these Midwestern values.

Sandy and I are getting more comfortable at driving the motor home and more skilled. There is no side to side sway when those big semi truck blow by because at 34,000 pounds, we are not easily swayed.

I spent some time doing a better job of organizing the storage bays. Threw out even more stuff that we decided we would not need.

We cooked our first meal outside tonight. No wind. No mosquitoes. We used our new Weber Q grill and it works really well. Did wild Alaska salmon with rice and fresh green beans. Yummy. Later we had a camp fire and smores. Delicious.

Tomorrow we will do some hiking and picture taking in the park/campground.

This is truly a great way to live.

Days 4 & 5 Coralville, Iowa

Now, you all know I am not going to do this on too regular of a basis. Fun wins out over responsibility in my new book of motorhoming.

Anyway, the last two days were pretty neat. Sandy and I got to take in some of the scenery around the park as well as do some local tourist things. And I had another surprise with the motorhome.

Most, if not all Army Corp of Engineers parks involve some sort of a dam. Dams usually create lakes and lakes provide recreational activities. Here in Coralville, Iowa you can actually drive across the dam. Not for the faint of heart. When crossing we noticed that about a hundred vultures were hanging around (see picture of two of them).

We were kind of impressed by the huge amount of water rushing out of the flume another photo) at the bottom of the dam, but I won’t bore you with a lot of statistics about how much water the dam hold sna how much is released every second. But it is a LOT!

Today was another learning experience. This time with tires. Long story short. I could not get air into or out of one of the inside rear tires. This is not good. Four and a half hours later and some phone calls to resourceful RV people I know, I was able to figure out what to do. A one hour round trip drive to get a $6.00 part was part of the deal. We are now good to go. Tires are something not to be taken lightly.
As an aside. I was talking to the owner of a huge and mega bucks motorhome yesterday. During the course of our conversation he told me he regularly checks his tire pressure once a year. Our tire monitors check pressure in every tire every six seconds.

This afternoon we drove to the Amana colonies. An interesting area with beautiful, rolling farmlands and lots of history. The Amana colonies were founded by German immigrants in the early part of the 19th Century. These brave souls fled their homeland for religious freedom and established a number of close-knit communities in Iowa. Today the communities are very touristy, but still worth seeing. We avoided 99% of the shops, but did have dinner and stopped in a small bakery for some German pastries for Sunday breakfast.

Tomorrow late morning or early afternoon we begin our slow migration to Branson, Missouri where we plan to see some shows. We are in no rush. Tomorrow’s trip will be 77 miles and we will stay two days.We will be in Branson by September 19. That’s 521 miles spread over eight days. You might call us the Slowskies

Day 6

From the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers "Fisherman's Corner" campground within sight and sound of the Mississippi River near Hamton, Illinois. Sunday evening, September 13, 2009.

One of the many things that we read about living full-time in an RV is the ability to change ones plans when necessary or desired.

Today we learned that we have to take the motor home to an Illinois EPA testing facility
before the end of 2009. But once we leave Illinois later this week on our way to Missouri and Texas and points west or southwest we will not be back in Illinois until 2010. So we gotta get this taken care of ASAP. And tomorrow works best for us.

So instead of kicking back and being a couple of lazy slobs tomorrow, we will be motoring to Pontoon Beach, IL for the EPA test.

We have enjoyed our half day here. It is a lovely little campground and well maintained, but as we are discovering, COE campgrounds are not easy to find. And when one is driving a motorhome with attached car for a total of 58 feet in length we can't make sudden turns. So I need to master the Google Earth skills to check out in advance the roads leading up to COE campgrounds. That way we can be better prepared to get to the right place the first time.

TODAY'S HIGHLIGHT-- We found a small orchard in the area and bought some fresh Honey Crisp apples.

Time to turn in. We will be on the road early.

Day 8
September 15, 2009
from COE Campground at Carlyle Lake in Carlyle, IL

We are at a brand new camping loop on Carlyle Lake. We are surrounded by water on three sides. Our 8 x 10 carpet is rolled out. the Baby Weber is on the picnic table. We have water, 50 amp service and a sewer connection -- and all this for $12 a night.

Four days of exploring, walks in the woods and being lazy slobs.

Geez. I am so glad I don't have to go to work tomorrow. And you???