Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Taking Care of Family

Our plan upon returning to Williamsburg was to putter some and do a few things around the farm. After all, we have two weeks here before we leave. But life has a way of re-arranging our schedule.

My sisters had informed me last week that our mother was in declining health and they wanted my influence to convince my brother (the administrator of her affairs) to move her to the care center in Amana. Gordon and I look at things pretty much the same way and I trust his judgment. However, on Friday he was told that he had an elevated white count and must admit himself to the hospital for testing. So obviously, Gordon was not exactly in any shape to re-adjust the care for mother.

Gordon shared with me the arrangements he has with Paula (the assisted living care center) when I visited with him on Sunday morning. We both felt that perhaps I needed to visit with Paula and re-evaluate mother's status, which we did on Monday. We confirmed with Paula that mother has been getting weaker and that probably she ought to move for her own safety. There are also rooms available in the care center now. We discussed the issue with Gordon and we both agreed that we ought to do it now unless one of the sisters has a strong objection. Needless to say, it is not a joyful job to discuss the subject with each of 5 sisters. Although some were a bit emotional about the subject, everyone agrees that she ought to be moved. So then we reconfirmed our results with Gordon and Paula.

On Tuesday, one sister and I met with mother and tried to gently express to her that the time has come where she needs the care that only the care center can provide. As expected, mother said she was happy where she was at. But then Bonita reminded her of the many times she has fallen. Also, that the care center has several aids on duty to help her at night. She agreed that it was okay with her if that is what we think. (I felt greatly relieved that she didn't really argue.)

We then confirmed with the assisted care administrator our wishes and thus started the ball rolling for her transfer. The move will be on Thursday and two or three of the sisters will be present to help get her settled into her new room and start the close down of her apartment. Isn't it amazing how much stuff can accumulate in only 8 years of living there. So we get another opportunity to down size a residence. The bigger issue is moving out but not disposing of her furniture, since she might use some of it if she could eventually move into a private room. Nothing is ever simple.

To often we feel that life is being difficult for us and then we learn of the problems that others face. On Monday we were informed that a cousin was hospitalized for Acute Leukemia that was only detected 2 months ago. This morning we learned that his Lord called him last night. Our challenges are minor when compared to the sudden loss of a husband, father and respected cousin. What really hurts is that he is of my generation! We know it must happen, but can't it wait until tomorrow? There never is a good time.

We have challenges but Sandy and I are both blessed with Good Health, for which we are very thankful for!


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday night on the farm

Sometimes blogs are easy to write and sometimes, very difficult. or should we say, little has happened since the last one.

We did get the lawn mowed yesterday, visited with Gene's mother and attended church Saturday evening in Williamsburg. Gene's mother is in declining health, but we found her sitting in her chair, alert and talkative. She does have problems walking and no, we didn't stick around to see how wobbly she is.

Today (Sunday morning), we were up at the crack of dawn so that we could join Sandy's niece for breakfast at St. Luke's hospital cafeteria at 7:30 AM. (That is an hour north of here.) But we made it and had a great visit with Judy. Judy had just finished riding across Iowa as part of the RAGBRIA bike ride. She was the usual Judy with lots of stuff to update us on.

After breakfast, Gene paid his brother (in the hospital) a quick visit. One thing about Gordon is that no matter what, he always has a great attitude. I hope I can react the same way in the face of adversity. It was then into our car and we took Judy and another Coe graduate to the airport to catch a flight. Then it was the long ride back to the farm, stopping in to see Gene's mother again. She was again in her chair, alert and talkative.

This afternoon, we moved the motorhome from the yard on to the lawn, the usual spot when parked here. I like the view better! Gene mowed some more grass and a few other little things. He also found that a swarm of bees have moved into an old waterheater tank. We think they just moved in today, so our intention is to try and smoke them out tomorrow afternoon. That probably won't make us any friends either. But we'll try.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

We're back at the Farm near Williamsburg

Yesterday seemed like a very long day even though we were slow rising. It was off to the coffee and roll tent for our morning bracer (no coffee for me, just a muffin or two). Then closing ceremonies which were brief and well done. Finally to the east room where there was an impromptu Computer help session scheduled (I guess).

At the computer help session, it quickly became apparent that my trying to ignore Visita is finally catching up with me. (Or is it an excuse to let someone else do it?) Anyway, there were about 10 folks their needing help and about 4 talented experts willing to give them a hand. It was close to noon when all seemed satisfied and cleared out.

Back at our rig, it was "button down the hatches and prepare to move out". First we had lunch while the microwave was till powered. Before we headed to the dump station, I decided that if I let the pump empty the fresh water tank, we could measure how much fresh water we had left. We had arrived 13 days earlier with 70 gallons of fresh water, and tried to be very careful about water usage. We recorded the amount of time to fill a 2 quart container from the pressure drain line and the total pump run time. In the end, we concluded that we had about 2 gallons of water left in the tank. As Sandy said, "it wouldn't have lasted another day."

We then headed for the Mason City Walmart, where Sandy restocked the pantry while I decided to unhook the toad to fill it and then we filled the motorhome. (Walmart was well paid and we weren't even staying for the night.) Before we hooked up, Sandy spotted a tent across the road and suggested that we drive over first to get some sweet corn. Well, it was not a corn sales location, but we headed on down the road and found a pickup selling corn at the Kmart store. (We'll feast tonight.)

We hooked up the Saturn and headed south, intending to get onto the 380 interstate. But we chose the wrong county road and waved as we passed over it. So we took the lesser traveled roads south and east and picked up the interstate at Nashua. Wind was a factor in our driving, a cross wind going east and a stiff head wind once we headed south. Traffic was light and I enjoyed the country side looking at the clean bean fields and maturing corn. Iowa is set up for a record crop again.

We missed a turn heading out of Cedar Falls for Hudson, IA and ended up traveling on a mile of gravel before we got back to the highway. We finally took a break at the little town of Traer, known for its circular stair case on main street. I get a chuckle out of the welcome sign on the edge of two that says, "Wind up in Traer", a take off about the stair case. The stairs actually projects about 6 feet from the building and then comes straight down in the middle of the front sidewalk on main street. It is the emergency exit in case of fire.

It was past 6 pm when we finally arrived back at the farm, a very late arrival for us. All was in order and we just parked it in the yard. After we get the lawn mowed, we'll move it onto the lawn and our usual parking space. In the mean time, it was time to make more phone calls concerning Gene's mother who is rapidly going down hill health wise. Nothing specific, just old age. Then he learned that his kid brother who is on chemo for a return cancer was told to enter the hospital because of an elevated white count. They obviously took him seriously and he entered surgery at 5 pm for a problem in a kidney. Hopefully, it was treatment in time.

Finally, to cap the day, we heeded the weather man's warning and at 9 pm we headed into town because of predicted bad storms and high wind. That took an hour and thankfully, all we had was a brief heavy rain and a mild wind. Saturday will be busy, off to see mother and brother, perhaps mow the lawn and settle in for about 2 weeks of farm duty (watch the crops grow). But it is always good to be back with mother nature, parked on the hill, listening to the birds sing at 5 AM and relaxing.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's all over but the Shouting

The final night of entertainment was tonight and it was very enjoyable. It was a series of musicals walking us through the 20th century big band era. It was well done but sadly ended in the mid fifties. I guess we didn't contract for the second half of the century!

The rally (GNR) has gone very smoothly. It was a bit of a rough start with some very cool weather, but then on Tuesday, it straightened up and the temperatures have been fantastic since. It's been nice sleeping and sitting in a seminar in a tent has not been uncomfortable (most of the time). Best of all, there has been no rain.

Going backwards, my second seminar presentation (Boondocking) was this morning in a tent that only had 120 chairs, but Sandy counted 160 folks crammed in with people standing all around. Needless to say that even though we started it at 9 AM, it seemed to be just a bit warm for me. I guess that there were so many people standing in the tent openings (sides and rear) that very little air was moving. Of course, there was no real breeze outside either.

Before we started, I briefly visited with a couple and noticed that they had a small dog in a papoose like bag hanging on the side of the chair. Pets are not allowed in the seminars, but I decided to not mention it or make an issue of it. However, about 30 seconds after I started, the hound opened up with some sharp barking. (Apparently from a dog outside of the tent.) Anyway, I abruptly asked the owner to remove the dog and not come back. And while I was at it, I also warned the cell phone users that if they left their cell phones on and got a call, they also were asked to leave and not come back. I was told after the seminar was over by several people that it was obvious that many of the folks wanted to give me a round of applause for taking a firm stand on the issues. It is the rally policy that cell phones are to be turned off when in a seminar, but many folks ignore the request, which really irritates me. I guess I got my two cents in!

This noon, we had the 365 club (full timers) annual meeting and luncheon. Thanks to the caterer providing a little extra, I was able to have a seconds on the main course and later on the cheese cake desert. Did the lasagna taste good, as did the two pieces of cheese cake. Of course, the real desert was that the local insurance company was providing free ice cream at 2 PM, so naturally we had to make a quick exit from the lunch (everyone did) and made sure we didn't miss out on the ice cream. We were on time and enjoyed a serving of ice cream plus some extra. (Tonight I noticed that the belt has slipped a notch.) Oh, the price of feasting once in a while!

Of course, I've been feasting every morning after my usual oatmeal breakfast. Our usual fair is to have some type of bread, such as toast, muffin, half a bagel or similar after the oatmeal. Here at GNR, Winnebago provides morning coffee and a bread from 7 to 9 AM. We've had muffins, bagels, or rolls each morning. Needless to say, the price is right, I have the time and there seems to be plenty of food, so I've indulged in one or two extras. They do taste good. So after tomorrow morning, I'll be back restricted rations again. (Isn't it an old farmers saying to "Make hay while the sun shines?", so I'm eating while available.)

I'm not sure what is going on, as Sandy wanted to tour the new models on display yesterday. I thought we were very happy with what we have and after seeing the new units, I'm more convinced than ever that we'll stick with what we have. Besides, we have the bugs all worked out I think. The only advantage of a new unit would be the HD digital LCD TV.

Yesterday I went on a factory tour of the chassis weld and assembly area. The tour leader was an engineer so I took advantage of our mutual profession and asked a few more questions. All told, Winnebago must have about 20 plus new models each year and they custom build a model of each one in their model shop. With that number of models, he said that models are being built over the entire year and brought out for showing here at GNR. When we toured the production line, everything was still 2009 models. It was also very apparent that production is really down from two years ago. The amount of vacant space on the line was unreal. He also said that it takes 17 days to build a new unit, that is the time from when an order is entered into the system until production drives the unit over to the delivery lot. As a comparison, when we ordered our unit 3 years ago, we had to wait over 65 days for delivery.

Tomorrow is the last day of the rally. GNR provides us with rolls and coffee from 7 to 9 and then it is closing ceremonies and retirement of the flags. A few folks have already left and most will depart tomorrow. However, parking is free on the grounds until Monday noon, or three extra days. It does make a difference when the host company is also owner of the rally grounds.

Tomorrow, to Williamsburg, IA to see family (mother) and friends, plus check out the crops.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

GNR 2009 has started

It has been a busy few days since the last blog. Sorry about not posting every day. At the end of the day, one seems to think nothing has happened, then two or three days later, it looks like so much. So we'll bring you up to date.

Saturday was kind of slow for us, other then we did the laundry 15 miles south of here. (The only Laundromat in Forest City closed.) On the way to Garner, we stopped at a small country Lutheran church that cousin Barb Gahring and her husband Don are supervising the construction of a new parsonage. We were a bit taken back when we heard that they were building a new parsonage for a country church, but on Sunday, we attended church there. Okay, it is a church that is really alive and well. Before we were even in the church, we were greeted by a local couple. After church, the local members likewise greeted us again. Also, the church was nearly full other than the choir benches along the front. The other thing about the church was that the front layout was nearly identical to what my home church was when I was a very small boy.

After church we spent some time with Don and Barb, catching up on their travels and challenges. They certainly enjoy the life style of helping on church building projects around the country. We can only say, God Bless them for their dedication and service to the Lord.

We then returned to the rally grounds and met others coming in just in time for the rally. At 6:30 PM, it was opening ceremonies in the grand stand, which is back from the Winnebago river, dug into the bank. It was the usual ceremonies, parade of chapters and specialty groups, and welcome by the local mayor. GNR has to be a real positive shot in the local economy, but only for one week.

Monday was seminars and we both sat in on one and presented one. My presentation went well, other than we had several power problems. Needless to say, when the power dies, so does the projector and the sound system. But with my printed copy of the presentation, we continued on while they restored power twice. One thing I will say was that in spite of the problems, no one left according to a friend of mine who was in the back row. So we can say that the subject was right on, entitled "Living on the Road". What we have found earlier was that the dealers do a great job of telling the folks what is in the RV and how to use it, but once they hit the road, new RV owners are at a loss about what they can really do with it other than drive it or park in "expensive" private parks. Now they know about a lot of the other options. They certainly are not experts, but they have a hand out and had a good introduction, all in 50 minutes.

On Thursday we present another seminar on "Boondocking" which I look forward to. RV park pricing has just become out of step for what many folks want in their travels. Our observation is that most people are comfortable with what they have in the rig and are really looking for a safe place to park it. An electrical post would be great, but not at the inflated numbers that have become the norm. This is especially true when folks are in travel mode from one part of the country to another.

Finally to wrap up yesterday, we were invited to join a number of others in the 365 group to an impromptu dinner outing at Thompson, a neighboring town. I was in wind down mode and the specialty for the night was Prime Rib, something that I hadn't had in ages. We were at a table of 10 and everyone had a prime rib dinner and no, most didn't finish it. Sandy and I split one and we still brought home noon lunch for me. It was done well and brought back memories of my many dinners out during my working days on the road. Now back to reality!


Friday, July 17, 2009

Wind, Wind and More Wind

We are here in north central Iowa and at this time of the year, we'd expect temperatures in the 80s and sometimes in the 90s for a while. What did we get today? It reached 60 degrees and no more, with a steady 25 to 30 mph wind out of the northwest. To put it mildly folks, it was cold.

Needless to say, little was accomplished in our me. Yep, we caught up on some shut eye, both in the AM and PM. I also decided to bundle up with my jacket and rode the shuttle around the grounds to give me a perspective on the rest of the grounds. Tonight when Sandy and I were out for a quick walk, we observed that they were using an old binder to start the harvest in an adjoining wheat field. My first reaction when I saw it was that the people who were doing the shocking were not very skilled. In my days on the farm (years and years ago), my uncles were very careful to make sure that the oats shocks were in a straight line. That way, the horses pulling the rack could just walk straight and the shock would be the proper distance to the rack. (A good team of horses didn't need any direction to walk a straight line. All the stacker needed to do was shout "ge-de-up" to go forward and "woha" for them to stop.)

A few of our hardy souled friends did gather near one motorhome for a social hour at 4 pm. The best part was that one of the ladies had made a couple dozen balls of rice krispes and peanut butter rolled into a ball and then covered with a nice layer of chocolate from a Hershey's bar. It was very good and was a best seller!

Every time we stepped outside, my thought was that at least the wind-farms are happy for the wind.

Tomorrow will be nicer.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The 365 Rally is over and now for the Big one.

The pre-Rally gathering by the 365 group is all but over as I write this. A
wine and cheese party tonight to finish off the left overs and that is it.
Was it a success? Well, if you like to eat and eat some more, yes. For
me, I'd like to see a few other things thrown in for activities such as some
tours. We have been privileged to meet a number of nice friendly folks
which will add to the resume of "Haven't we met you before?" as we travel
down the road.

The weather here on the rally grounds is a real challenge for all. On
Tuesday night, we had a short, but sharp rain and wind storm. No damage
anywhere, but enough lightening and thunder to get everyone's attention.
Yesterday (Wednesday) was a very windy day with a northwest cool breeze.
Today it is again a strong NW wind and the projection is the same for
tomorrow. But then the trust worthy, never be wrong weather man is
projecting that we'll have wall to wall sunshine for the weekend. That is
exactly what we'd like to see so that the other 800 rigs can be easily
parked. One good thing about the wind, it dries the soil some. Rigs have
been leaving for service without a problem, so either the soil has firmed up
or the folks are leaning how to drive on spongy soil.

Today we were able to pick up our rally programs and begin to plot out which
seminars we want to attend. We are a presenter for a Monday afternoon
seminar and a second one on Boondocking scheduled for Thursday morning. The
Monday seminar on "Living on the Road" is in competition with 5 other seminars during the same time slot, so we shouldn't be overwhelmed. The Thursday seminar has only
one other seminar in the same time slot. Perhaps by Thursday only the
diehard attendees will be left, so again no overwhelming numbers. It will
be interesting to see how well it goes over. We'll see if Winnebago owners are interested in Boondocking.

This afternoon we had a wine and cheese party at the 365 tent at 4 pm and then a pizza party at the Computer group site. By 5 pm, the wind from the northwest was strong and cold. The pizza order was either too small or some of the early members took more than their fair share. Gene obtained his two allocated slices, but Sandy who kind of waited to be served was only allocated one slice, a bummer. While she was waiting, she observed several members pigging out with three slices. I guess it is a management issue where members have to be told that only two slices per member until all have been served.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

At the 365 rally on the grounds

Here it is Tuesday and my last blog entry was on Saturday (so I see). Sorry to be so late for you folks.
After being parked on Saturday, we relaxed and did little or nothing. On Sunday it was church at the big Lutheran church here in Forest City. It is similar in design to the church that I went to as a kid with lots of steps up to the front door going in. Of course, there was no problem getting in because of snow and ice in those days. We always enjoy the reaction of people to a visitor to the church. Sadly many people don't know how to greet a stranger and this one is no different.
More rally members arrived for the rally on Sunday and again on Monday. There is lots of room to park everyone if they pay attention to the lay of the land. Some of the areas a just a bit soft from the rains of last week. Needless to say, we are parked and I intend to remain in one spot until the rally is over. Then it is down hill to the gravel road out. A few folks have had some problems, but nothing major yet.
Yesterday also brought our first computer user in for help. So last night we used our usual tried and true solutions and I think we solved his problem. In this case, it was a sneaky malware that really was a nasty thing. On Saturday, we helped a lady get her mother's computer to connect to the grounds wifi. The never ending stream of little things that throw users for a loop with the computer.
Today began bright and shiny, but has sunk into another overcast day with a bit of a southeast breeze

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Back on the road, Leaving Dodgeville, WI

As happens so often in the RV world, when you plan to leave, it starts raining. So it was Friday morning for us. But we had restored, packed or whatever you call it on Thursday evening, so we had little to do other than our bag of clothes and some food that Beth wanted us to take. (She subscribes to a food source called "Consumers Supporting Agriculture" and gets a garden package every week.) The package is enough greens for a family of 4 for a week, so a family of one (herself) has an excess of everything.

Since she had left at 6 AM already, there was nothing to cause us to linger around, we were on the road early (in the rain). It soon tapered off to a mist and then nothing, but there were lots of overhead threatening clouds until we neared Prairie du chien and our grocery stop at Walmart. It took a while but Sandy did a nice job of refilling the rig so that we're good for another week.

It was then on to Iowa and Effigy Mounds National Monument. We've been there before, but a friend of ours volunteers there, so it was a convenient place to meet. (Their house is not on an RV friendly road.) We met Jerry and Connie Mays years ago in Marion at our church. They are recently retired and loving it. We went to lunch at a small restaurant in a wide spot on the road called Rossville, about 10 miles west of the monument. What a delightful place. Jerry is a "people person" and told us all about the owners, the town and people around the town. (And he has only been a retiree living there for a few months.)

After lunch (nicely done), we went out to an Amish bakery northeast of the town. (I didn't know there were Amish in that part of Iowa.) I eyed the cinnamon sweet roll pie tin with 6 rolls in it and knew better and decided to take a loaf of whole wheat bread. But Sandy came through for me and picked up the sweet roll package. She limited me to just a half a roll last night and was it delicious (sweet, sticky and a great flavor). Not only is the baker a great cook, but she is a very productive mother, with 15 healthy children and my guess would be that #16 is in the hanger. I guess some people are like rabbits, they just keep happening.

Jerry first met the family when he had their retirement home built in the Marquette area. It was done by Amish craftsman working for the developer and his wife, the interior designer. And what a home they have. It is kind of like buying an RV, they acquired the home and all of the interior furnishings as a complete integrated package, all well coordinated. I kidded them a little bit that it would be hard to put wheels under it so that they could be south in the winter so that they could continue doing volunteer work with the various parks. Jerry is a real people person and loves giving tours at the mounds and meeting people.

When you're having fun, time moves so fast and before we knew it, the day was well spent and we had to get moving on up the road. So regrettably, we parted company with a commitment to stop in again. We then trucked on up the road to stop in the city campground at Decorah, IA. But to our surprise, it was FULL and we were turned away. Next stop, on up the road to the little town of Cresco, a county seat with a fairgrounds. Thankfully, the fair is not this weekend and we nearly have the grounds to ourselves (2 other rigs here and both appear to be vacant.) The grounds are immaculately trimmed. Cresco has a division of Featherlite trailer manufacturing here, as well as a division of Donaldson, a printing company (I think). Both may be suffering some economically, but there was a lot of truck traffic at Donaldson's last night and there is activity this morning at Featherlite (on Saturday).

We're taking our time getting started this morning, as we have a short run to get to Forest City and the Winnebago GNR rally. (Sign in is not till 1 PM.) Then it is renew old friendships and sit tight for 2 weeks. From the reports we've heard, we were lucky to not have arrived earlier, as they have had much wind and rain the last few days. An RV is just not the place to be in stormy weather.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thinking about traveling again!

Our rest and relaxation time at daughter's is slowly drawing to a close. Today, we went over to the church where we parked the MH for 2 nights and brought it back to the house (another night on the street.) So with it available, naturally we've started the process of reloading it. We hope that by taking more time, nothing will be left behind.

Daughter has been feeding us real well and tonight was to be a less elegant meal, with the main course being deviled eggs. Sandy finished the preparation this afternoon and just like when I was a little boy at home, I got to lick the spoon and clean out the bowl. I then left the kitchen, only to hear an unusual reaction from Sandy. I turned around to see her holding the plate of about 15 deviled eggs, with another one out of place on the floor in front of the refrigerator. I guess the eggs still have a bit of life in them yet. The real downer for me was that when I saw it, I busted out laughing (Sandy didn't think it was a laughing matter.) Needless to say, I wiped the smile off of my face and helped her clean up the small mess.

One thing we're really going to miss is the high speed internet connection that we have here. What a joy to click on a link and have it almost instantly appear. I guess that is one of the benefits of having a "sticks and brick" house. Don't draw any conclusions to that comment, as we're in this full time traveling for a long time. (In June, we finished our 15th year of full timing.) One thing we have learned is that most of the stuff we stored in 1994 in our storage trailer isn't very important.

Tomorrow we stop at the Prairie du Chien Walmart to restock the pantry, then on to Effigy Mounds National Monument to have lunch with a friend from Marion that retired last year and has become a full time volunteer at the monument. From there we'll continue on Iowa Highway 9 and find a place to park it for the night, most likely a county park. Saturday we will arrive at Forest City, IA for the annual Winnebago Grand National Rally. We're going in a week early to join the other full timers for some pre-rally fun.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Relaxing in daughter's house

Being on the road is fine, but now and then one needs to connect with family. So last Sunday we pulled our stakes up and slowly headed for daughter's house in Dodgeville, WI. While here, we always move into the house with her since we get to use the spare bedroom with our old "King sized" bed in it. This thing is so huge that I can toss and turn and never realize Sandy is nearby.

Of course another reason is that the drive into her alley is a little narrow to put the motorhome into her backyard. Or we could say that we don't want to park under the walnut tree. Any way, the motorhome was on a busy street for 2 days and is now off the street and into the church parking lot. She lives on a street that is a minor highway out of Dodgeville and it is amazing how much traffic comes this way.

Of course, while here I'm expected to fix (or work miracles) on a number of things. She has a list and it gets published when we arrive. (It used to be penciled notes on scrape paper but she has graduated to a computer list.) Some of the items are pretty simple like burn the brush in the fire pit. Others are more challenging like "water is dripping out of the front of the dehumidifier instead of the back."

But there are great rewards to being here also besides getting an update on family. She has a high-speed DSL line and surfing is a real joy when using her DSL line. We stayed three nights in Viola, WI where our air card was down to less than wireline speed. It was the real pits. The joy of being there was how quiet and peaceful it was. We did have a downer also. I had broken out the electric chain saw and cleaned up a dead tree on the river bank. To get to it required me to tramp through about 5 feet of tall grass and weeds. It turns out that the weeds must have contained poison ivy plus numerous no-see'ms and other critters of the itching variety. For the next two days, my ankles itched and itched plus I had two bad spots of poison something. Thankfully, we had some skin cream left over from the last time and it has made quick work of it after I finally remembered to apply it.

We're here until Friday when we'll pack up and head to the big Winnebago GNR (Grand National Rally) in Forest City, IA. For me the highlight is taking the factory tours where we get to walk among the employees instead of being confined to the overhead balcony. It gives one a much better perspective of how they are built. We are also committed to leading a seminar on "Living on the Road". When we were there in June for some service, we met a couple that had used their RV for 3 years, but had no idea that there are parking options other than what is listed in Woodall's or the Trailer Life Campground Directory. Our opening line is that the dealer has told them how to use what is in the motorhome, but he didn't tell them where to use it. It will be interesting.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Kickapoo Valley Preserve

Last night we read about the Kickapoo Valley Preserve north of La Farge, WI. We decided to drive the 10 miles to the visitor's center to see what it was all about. It was one of the few government functions that is actually open on the Fourth. But then, we learned that it is only quasi government. It is owned by the state and operated by a local board of directors.
How did that all happen? It seems that over the years, people became upset with the Kickapoo River and wanted a dam built to control it. All of the small towns downstream were in favor of it. So enter Uncle Sam and you bet, we'll build you a dam the likes you've never seen. We'll create a recreation mecca and it will bring all kinds of money into the local area. Of course, they chose to ignore the 150 families that had been farming the valley for generations. They didn't count to put it simply.

So in the Sixties, about 9000 acres were purchased and work began on the Corp of Engineers latest dam building project. Of course nothing happens simply on a project like that without a continuous litany of lawsuits against the project, but work continued. But the great white father knows what to do and in the early seventies Washington passed what is known as the National Environmental Protection Act (our friendly EPA). So while work had begun on the dam, the Corps of Engineers was then forced to do an Environmental study. Their report was a simple white wash and work continued. But others were not convinced and therefore they had the state extension office do an environmental assessment of the project.

When the Extension Service report published, it upset the apple cart. It concluded that the creation of the reservoir would be an environmental disaster, it would adversely affect ground water, was economically unsound and was poor public policy. In 1975, the Corps finally agreed to stop work on the dam with the project 39 percent complete. They had spent 18 million dollars on a project that was initially projected to only cost 9 million and estimates had risen to over 50 million to completion. All work ceased on the project, the contractors were paid off and left and the land abandoned by the government.

No management, oversight or control was exercised over the land for the next 25 years. Horse back riders made their own trails, snowmobile riders made their trails, locals cut timber and firewood at will. In short, it was uncontrolled abuse of a public entity. Finally in the late nineties, the land was returned to the state and they had to decide how to manage it. In the end, it was decided that it would not become part of the state park system, or be controlled by the state DNR. A local entity was created to manage it. (There was a lot of anger about how the state managed (or mismanaged) the project. Earlier, the local business community had been licking their chops about the huge reservoir to be created and the millions of tourist that would flock to the area to spend their money. All of that was now down the drain. In short, they wanted to control their own destiny.

So they now have the Kickapoo Valley Preserve consisting of about 9000 acre's of valley and hillsides. Numerous horseback riding trails, snowmobile trails, walking trails and backwoods campsites have been created. As an old duffer (I'm past my prime), I'll say that it is really a dream place for the young at heart. No small or large RV parks have been created. If you want to camp in the preserve , pack it in on your back or in the canoe or on the horse and head in. I think there is only one or two campsites (for tents) where you can drive to.

Since the purpose of the dam was flood control, nothing has been done since then to control the downstream flooding. Many of us remember the major flooding that occurred at Gays Mills at the lower end of the Kickapoo river just 2 or 3 years ago. The community of Soldiers Grove moved itself about 15 years ago to higher ground when it was flooded yet another time. (About once every 10 years in the last one hundred years.)

Of course when you build a dam (or plan to), roads have to be moved, and one of them was state highway 131. The old highway 131 is still kind of usable and once a year on July 4th, they allow car traffic in one direction. So obviously, we took advantage of the opportunity to drive the old road. My first reaction is that the valley is a miniature of that major valley in front of the Teton's called Jackson's hole. On our drive, we stopped and ended up meeting some of the people that had been forced off of their land who return each year to see it once again. It was very much a urban verses farm conflict.

So much for our day. We have our fire going again since we had lots of wood. We'll probably leave some for the next site users.

Tomorrow, off to the big house (daughter's house) where we'll have really speedy internet. Out here in the sticks, our air card is about wireline speed or slower.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Whitetail Crossing Casino to Viola, WI

One night in a small casino is enough! I think we stayed in a casino lot some years ago and it was a big one with RV spaces. In this one, the marked parking was for Semi's and RVs. Needless to say, all was not quiet. But we survived. I guess we got what we paid for!
Our goal this morning was to stay in a small town RV park, first choice was Wilton, WI. When we arrived, the park was nearly filled, with one space at the very entry. We decided to move on. (What I hadn't told Sandy was that one reason I liked the idea of Wilton was because they serve a Pancake breakfast on Sunday morning. I guess No Pancakes again.)

We then headed on down the Kickapoo river valley to the next little burg of La Farge where we had seen a sign earlier about a city campground. We found it, high on a hill again with lots of campers already there. Two things we didn't like about were the site spacing was very tight. I'm not sure two adjoining units could have put the slides out and still have space to walk between units. Plus they were not bashful about the parking rate, $20 a night, plus $5 to dump. So we headed on down the road
Our next opportunity was Viola with a river front mostly open park with 10 sites. Two sites are occupied and we are number three. (But no pancakes and no parade tomorrow.) But they have a very nice dump station -on the wrong side- and the parking rate is only $8. Okay, we can handle that.
An investment advisor for many SKPs has said that the inflation rate for fulltimers like ourselves is much more than the national rate of 3 or 4 percent because of food, fuel and parking rates. It wasn't too long ago that you could hardly find a city park charging more then $10 or $12 a night. Now the norm seems to be $15 and a number are already at $20 a night.
We could get by without park services if there was a decent place to park it because we have a good solar electrical setup. But where to park it then becomes the challenge. I guess we'll continue to pay the fee. Whenever I get a chance, I put in a plug in for cities to provide a bare minimum. They need to skip the little things like fire rings and picnic tables, at least not one for every site. (We never use them.)
It's now nearly 11 AM, so I suspect that it is going to be a quiet day, with lots of computer time.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Exploring Warrens, WI again

Today was our scouting day for information so that we can host the rolling rally in late September. I think we did pretty good over all. There were a few kinks, like doing the marsh tour on Friday was out (they're getting ready for the big show and tell on Saturday). So we'll do it Saturday morning.
We also drove around and located two restaurants that could serve our needs. We have phone numbers when needed. Just for kicks, we stopped to obtain a price for parking at the Jellystone RV Resort Campground that is between Warrens and the interstate. I guess I'm losing touch with prices. She quoted me only $157.50 for a 3 night stay in late September. By that time, they have already disabled the water park, but you pay full price. I think our choice of the county park is just fine.
Tonight, we're roughing it at a Casino east of Tomah, WI. I really should have stayed in at the Walmart, as the truck noise is very irradiating. (Semi's pull in and leave the motor run for hours.) We considered going to a national wildlife refuge, but camping is not allowed there even in the parking lot. Primitive camping is permitted in the adjoining state refuge, but when we drove in with the Saturn, we decided that the trees were too close (or the road was too narrow.). So here we are. There are two RVs here and currently two trucks. Tomorrow we head to a small city park, either Wilton, La Farge or Viola.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gays Mills to Warrens, WI

After reading about Soldiers Grove last night, we changed our plans and drove the Saturn the 8 miles to Soldiers Grove to look around. They have a campground on the river where the old downtown was. The downtown businesses have relocated to higher ground and all of the buildings are "solar approved". What we found is a town that no longer has an old "main street" of businesses. (The old downtown area in the flood plain is now a big nice city park.)
The campground is nice to say the least with 30 Amp connections and water and plenty of space. Plus only 2 rigs were there today and space for about 20 or more. (We're paying the same fee in Gays Mills for no water and a poor 20 Amp connection.) Next time, we shall be parked in Soldiers Grove. We finally located the "downtown businesses" that are now uptown (and nearly out of town). They are high and dry, with a decided solar style so that they can catch much of the winter sun for heating purposes. In reading the descriptions of the various buildings, they have really emphasized quality building to reduce heating costs. We also located a restaurant for a dinner this fall. It appears that they had a nice grocery store that didn't survive.
We then returned to the motorhome and headed north to Warrens, WI. The roads are narrow and very curvy. But we found Warrens okay and headed to the park where there is hardly a vacant space. We did find a vacant site and made ourselves at home. Later we went for a walk and observed that just about all of the tickets read "Out 7/5". This place will be very dead by the end of next weekend. The other thing that surprised us was how parking is done here. Apparently you can have as many friends park at your site as you wish. So since it is the Fourth of July weekend coming up, someone from a group has arrived early and obtained a site. Later the rest of his group shows up. One group near us has 6 trailers on the site. We also observed some trailers that were parked at a site but not opened up. I guess it works here.
This park also does it differently as to collecting the fees. They only allow real green backs or checks written on Wisconsin banks. No credit cards or out of state checks! Isn't that a bummer.
Tomorrow we explore Warrens and the local area so we can make plans for this fall's caravan/rally.