Our fifth wheel and the truck

Monday, September 27, 2010

Week nine

And I thought this would be a fairly mundane week with nothing but driving! What I didn’t figure was the countryside that we would be driving through.

On Sunday morning we reluctantly left Mary & Bruce in Wisconsin to start our trek across to Seattle. A journey through seven states and about 2000 miles.

Sunday we drove about 400 miles, 616 miles on Monday and Tuesday we covered 656 miles. Tired? You bet! I was exhausted!

Sunday we drove through Wisconsin and into Minnesota. WI is the dairy state and all around us were green paddocks and rolling hills with lots of cows. Minnesota is the state with 10,000 lakes and is really beautiful as you drive you see why it has been given this description. Sunday night we stayed at the R & R RV Park in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Monday we drove through SD and it was amazing what two weeks had done to the landscape. On our way over to Indiana the sunflowers were all standing upright facing the sun. It was like a sea of yellow. On our return the sunflowers were all standing with their heads bent looking so dejected. SD from I90 is fairly flat until you get close to Rapid City and the Black Hills make their appearance. We reached Wyoming and the landscape changed again. WY had a dry flat landscape except when you drive around a bend in the road and there in front of you is a beautiful, green valley. We boon docked somewhere in WY - I was too tired to remember!

Tuesday was another long day but as we left WY and reached Montana it was just amazing. MT was one of my favourite places on our previous trip in 2007. I just love the valleys, the mountains and the rivers. Just one of the most amazing landscapes. We reached Idaho and I was disappointed to see that there was not a potato in sight!! Interstate 90 winds its way through north Idaho through the Bitteroot Mountain Range. It is spectacular and we will have to go there again as I would love to have stopped to take in some of the scenery. We kept driving and reached Washington state before it got too dark. WA was the real surprise of the journey. I had always envisaged WA to be mountains and green trees and lush growth. Wow was I way off! Western WA is wheat growing country and is reasonably flat and dry. I was blown away by the giant sprinkler systems that are used to water the wheat. Tuesday night we stayed at a lovely RV Park in Moses Lake, WA - the only problem was that it was right next to the Interstate and the noise of the traffic was really loud.

I was hoping to spend a couple of nights in Moses Lake but with the noise of the Interstate, Norm decided that we would push on about 130 miles which would put us close to Seattle.

So on Wednesday we moved on through WA to Lake Sawyer where we stayed for two nights. I finally found the WA state that I had pictured. Ginormous lakes, mountains, fir trees and lush undergrowth! Just my sort of country!

Today (Friday) we packed up (once again) and drove about 25 miles down to Seattle where we have arranged with friends of friends to leave the rig at their home while we are on the cruise. Kelli and Don have kindly offered to drive us to the pier as well as picking us up when we get back.

Norm did an amazing job of getting the rig into the space. It was really squeezy! I will make sure I take some photos just to prove he can reverse the rig! No more pull thrus for him!

Tomorrow we start our cruise so until next week bye and hugs from us.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Week Eight

‘Boot Camp’ on Goshen, Indiana this week.

Sunday we started looking around the Fairground for another couple that we had been chatting with on the Escapees forum and eventually found them. Only about 800 RVs in the place!!!

They took us on an excursion around the Fairground and we eventually located about eleven couples who are also members of the Class of 2010. For the uninitiated the Class of 2010 is made up of those people who take up full time RVing during the year of 2010.

By general consensus, the decision was made, that as we had the largest grassed area around our RV that the group would have a ‘pot luck supper’ at our place on the Monday evening. It was a really good night. More food than you could possibly eat and a beautiful evening to make it just lovely. Everyone came prepared with food and drinks, chairs, tables, cutlery and the best thing was that when they had all packed up and gone home there was nothing for Norm and I to do. Great way to have a large group over for a meal!

The whole week was very busy with workshops and seminars and both Norm and I learned an awful lot - especially some really important things that we were not aware of. Like not pulling into a service station with the fridge and water heater turned on as they both run on gas when we are on the road. They both have a pilot light which, if you are really unlucky, can ignite any petrol fumes around. Needless to say that now, before we pull in for fuel, we pull over and turn them both off!

Norm has a new mantra. He has become a bit of a story teller. But for those of you who know the man, I am sure you can just imagine him embellishing any story he is telling. His new mantra is ’Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story’! Boy does he do some embellishing! Some times I don’t even recognise the story!!!! He has often had his audience in stitches as he retells some of the more gruesome moments on our trip.

Wednesday was an early start as we were going on a bus tour of the Amish area of Indiana. It was really interesting and we were both so impressed by the attitude of the people to living their lives as simply as possible. In this day and age we had to admire that simplicity. We finished the tour off by having dinner in the home of a gentleman who, at the age of 25, converted from his Catholic upbringing, to Amish. He has married an Amish lady and has brought up three sons and established a successful horse breeding program. It was a fascinating day.

Finally on Thursday we had a chance to catch up with the ‘TrashQuiltLady’ and her husband Dick. I had met Nita on a quilt forum quite a while before we left home. The only problem was that the time was way too short but I am sure that we will meet again somewhere on the road.

The only positive about the end of the boot camp was that we would no longer have to listen to the numerous trains that moved around the perimeter of the Fairground at all times of the day and night! Apparently Goshen has the record for being the third busiest train depot in the US. And we heard every one!!!

We had decided to leave the boot camp after the closing ceremony on the Thursday evening. The thought behind this was to try to get through Chicago some time early in the night (8.30 - 9.00pm) and avoid some of the traffic problems for which Chicago is infamous.

It was very sad saying our farewells to the Class of 2010. We have been so lucky to meet such an amazing group of wonderful people and we will certainly miss them but will always have the opportunity to meet again somewhere in the great outdoor. Some have even said they may even come to Australia in the future. I have a list of those who said they would so they better watch out because I don’t forget!

We did manage to get through Chicago without too many problems - except for running a toll way. Oops we didn’t see it coming up and went straight through! Isn’t modern technology amazing. I got online straight away (as we continued driving down the Interstate) and using the computer and the credit card paid the exorbitant fee of $1.70 LOL! Norm thought I was mad but if you don’t pay it they add $20.00 to the fee to cover chasing you down!

We did witness the problems Chicago has with its traffic. For about five miles, the east bound traffic (thank goodness we were west bound) was at a stand still. There were probably two trucks for every car and they were just sitting in the biggest parking area you have ever seen. Four lanes of traffic standing stock still and not going anywhere!

We pulled off at a truck stop later in the evening and had a meal and then crawled between the sheets to have a sleep. Early to rise we headed north to Wisconsin where we are spending a couple of nights with Mary and Bruce. They have reliably informed us that we must not miss the ‘Cheese Days’ in Monroe, about half an hours drive from their home.

We arrived way to early - we had forgotten that we needed to put our watches back an hour!! Mary was trying to tidy the house before we got there and Bruce was still working but anyway it gave them both an excuse not to continue.

Back to the saga of the connection for the barbeque!! Mary had rung several times during the week to be told that it was in the mail!!! (US Postal Service again!) On Thursday she was told that it would be here Friday so I got on the phone to be informed that yes it had arrived!! Woo Hoo - Norm can start cooking now!!!!

The four of us climbed in the truck - the back seat is not a good place to sit for any length of time - and went to Camping World. Oops sorry Norm but the piece you need, and that they told you was all you needed for $25.00, was not all you needed and now you have to pay about $70.00 oh and that includes $22.00 for delivery because it was a special delivery. Not happy Jan!! To cut a very long story short they refunded us the delivery and we took home the two pieces so now at least we can have a barbie!

Oh by the way, I forgot to tell you that just after we arrived at Mary’s, Norm was leveling the fiver while I stood and gave him directions and all of a sudden there is this almighty bang followed by a prolonged hiss! Scared the proverbial out of me! I walked around the fiver to discover that one of the tires was flat on the bottom! LOL. Made Norm’s day as you can imagine. Anyway we did some ringing around and found someone to fit a new tire on Saturday. Very fortunate as it turned out that the tire place was also in Monroe which is where we were headed for the Cheese Days.

Now to tell you about the Cheese Days. Wisconsin is the dairy state of the US and they have a three day festival every second year to celebrate the cheese makers and their products. And we just happened to be able to fit it in to our itinerary!!!

There are tents around the town square of Monroe that are full of cheese to be sampled. As well as many food vendors and entertainment. The big thing is cheese curds! The only problem is that if they are any good as you eat them they squeak which puts my teeth on edge. Monroe has a Swiss heritage with buildings resembling those found in Switzerland. In fact Bruce has a Swiss heritage. We had a great day and, as always when we are with Mary and Bruce, spent much of the time laughing.

Tomorrow, Sunday, we will be getting an early start to our trip to Seattle because next Saturday we will be getting on board the Norwegian Cruise liner Star Princess for our cruise to Alaska. Week nine will be pretty boring as we have to cover 1877miles from Wisconsin to Seattle, Washington in about five days.

Take care and love to all our family and friends.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Week seven

Week Seven

Welcome back!

Monday and I finally got to cut out all the pieces for the quilt I am making for the fiver. Norm spent a constructive time washing down the fiver and Bruce got the lawn mown (huge lawn - split between a push mower and a ride on) and then sat on the front verandah watching Norm!!! We had a quiet day which was much appreciated by yours truly.

Back to the saga of the connection for the barbeque on Tuesday morning. Well, as you can guess, when Mary and I got to Camping World we were informed that it hadn’t arrived and they expected in on Wednesday morning. Needless to say we weren’t impressed! And neither was Norm as he had already hooked the fiver and truck ready to leave. As it was far too windy to be driving the fiver anywhere, Mary and I decided some retail therapy was in order!! Norm was left at the house watching some TV as Bruce was already back at work.

On Wednesday we left for Bass Lake in Indiana. Well that was the destination when we left. We had planned a route that would see us avoid all contact with Chicago. Apparently Chicago is a nightmare to drive through!

Along the way our plans changed and we ended up in South Bend, Indiana not far from Elkhart and Goshen. We were getting some warranty work done on the fiver in Elkhart on Friday . So Thursday was spent doing boring stuff that has to be done no matter where you are.

This whole week was a bit on the tame side really - no amazing sites at all. But we are really looking forward to the ‘boot camp’ in Goshen. Hopefully we will meet up with some of the folks we have meet on the forum and especially the Class of 2010.

We arrived in Goshen on Saturday and were taken to our “back in” site! Yeah right!! Norm’s reversing skills with the fiver are not that flash yet so we pleaded for assistance and the parking people took pity on us and got us to drive straight in to the bay. The poor people behind us had to wait till we were in before they were asked to back in behind us. They were probably better at reversing than we are just yet!

Next morning we were up early. I wanted to finish making the cauliflower pickles I had started (only because I couldn’t find them anywhere and I like my piccalilli!!) Norm is a bit worried, he thinks he will be eating piccalilli every day for the rest of our stay. I made 13 x 1 pint jars! (Can’t translate to metric for the Aussies)

Next job, head off to the welcome ceremony and see if we can locate some members of the Class of 2010. We finally found one couple and then walked over the Fairgrounds in search of others. We are all spread out all over the Fairground. There is somewhere in the vicinity of 800 RV’s at the Escapade! So it could be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Week seven - a slower pace but very enjoyable. After all the running around we have done it will be a pleasure to spend a week in one place. Week eight here in Goshen then at the end of the week a cross country run ( >2000miles) to get to Seattle for our cruise to Alaska.

Bye all and take care of you and yours.

Week Six

Okay, so now we are on our way to Goshen for the Escapade on September 11th. Just a nice leisurely trip - if that is possible with Norm at the wheel? Just kidding.

We left Custer and headed east. Along the way we were going to visit the Badlands but unfortunately there was a severe weather report and as we traveled it was coming up behind us very quickly. We got caught in a bit of rain along the way but decided that our best bet was to get to our next stop in Mitchell before the worst of it hit. It was just as well because at about 7.00pm there was a tornado warning in Mitchell. It appeared to just pass to the North of us but was pretty awesome. The rain pelted down and the wind, thunder and lightning were brilliant. We sat in the fiver with all the blinds up just watching it.

Tuesday saw us still in Mitchell as Norm wanted to get the first service on the truck done before we moved on. And of course I had housewife duties to perform, namely the laundry! We met a really nice young couple and hope to catch up with them through the winter when we are in the southern states away from the snow.

Wednesday we took off again to make it to the Eagle Cliff Campground in Lanesboro, Minnesota for a two night stop over. Lanesboro was the most beautiful little town. Really picturesque with beautiful homes and lots of character. Thursday was a bit rainy and cold so we stayed around the campground and only went out for dinner.

Friday morning it was pack up again and point ourselves in an easterly direction heading for Wisconsin to stay with Mary and Bruce who we met in Leadville. It was a long weekend so the plan was to stay with them for a few days and then on Tuesday to go to Bass Lake in Indiana for four days before the Escapade. You all know about the best laid plans of mice and men!!!!

We had an excellent time with Mary and Bruce. We arrived on Friday evening much to Bruce’s surprise. Because we were so late I think he had given up on us! We went out for dinner with some other friends of M & B, Margaret and David. Dined at the Grumpy Troll in Mt Horeb. One of Mt Horeb’s claims to fame is the many trolls that dot the area. When the government put the interstate highway around Mt Horeb instead of through the town businesses came up with a tourist attraction that would draw visitors to the town - hence the many troll statues.

Saturday we went to Camping World where Norm finally bought a barbeque!!! Woo Hoo! But don’t get too excited - yes we have the barbeque but unfortunately the connection for the barbeque to the fiver wasn’t available. Finally got the young sales assistant to order one so it would arrive Tuesday morning, we would pick it up then and head off to Goshen! Haha - another plan gone awry!

After Camping World we went to Madison to visit the ‘Taste of Madison’ festival. Around the town square (?) all the local restaurants were serving food so patrons could sample their menu for a small price ($1 -$4). All proceeds went to charity. Norm and I sampled a ‘Corn Dog’ (Hot dog covered with corn meal and deep fried) and while we were reliably informed that restaurant corn dogs are better (So say Mary and Bruce!), we were not that fussed about them. We also sampled deep fried cheese curds and while Norm turned up his nose (cheese AGAIN) I thought they were great except as Norm said he could feel his arteries hardening just looking at them! We finished off our visit with cream puffs - really yummy. Norm didn't turn up his nose to cream puffs!

Sunday we stayed at Mary and Bruce’s home and had a lovely lunch with the whole family. Sons Hans and Tom and Han’s wife Emily. We had our first taste of Bruce’s famous Brat sausages. They are boiled in beer for a short time and then put on the grill (Aussies read barbeque for grill). Sound horrible? They were great really!

That evening we went to Margaret and Dave’s for a bonfire. Dave thought it was time he got rid of the Christmas trees from 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006 which had been waiting to be burned off! Mary took a jaffle iron and made cherry and blueberry pies on the bonfire. I had marshmallow and blueberries in mine - made an awful mess but tasted really scrummy! Norm also discovered that dark brown ale doesn’t cause hangovers!!!!! Need I say more!

Another brilliant week over - at this rate it will take us more than a year to see all the places we want to visit .. Oh well such is life…….

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Week Five

Hi again,

We arrived in Loveland on Monday afternoon and set up the van and then went out for dinner. We seem to be eating out a lot and I keep nagging Norm to buy a barbecue so we can have some steak or chicken or something that doesn't have some sort of sauce over it. It just seems that so much that you order has some sort of sauce over it or it is smoked or it is covered with cheese! Still as one lady told me when I asked for no cheese on my chicken and salad sandwich, you are in America now and we eat cheese! So maybe while in Rome I do as the Romans! LOL

On Tuesday we went up into the RMNP for the day and once again I run out of superlatives to describe it. Hair raising would be one when you look out of the truck window and you can see a drop off that must be 100metres - STRAIGHT DOWN! Forget the white knuckles I have chewed my nails down to the knuckles!

Even this late in the summer there is still snow in some parts of the mountains. The valleys between the mountains are just beautiful and around every bend in the road is a new vista that takes your breath away. We went up into the alpine tundra area - and while we were standing on the top of a mountain in Colorado we ran into a couple from Wollongong in NSW. The tundra is an amazing example of how nature can adapt to extremely harsh conditions.

On Wednesday we went back to the RMNP to take another road through however we ended up taking a one way dirt road with so many hairpin bends that Norm was a little stressed when we got to the end of it. One of the bends was so tight that he had to do a three point turn to get around it. Not fun when you are sitting in the passenger seat looking straight down the mountain - not fun for the driver either!

Thursday we spent just looking around Loveland, me getting a pedicure (so lovely) and doing some shopping. I love outlet stores!! Mind you, having said that, I didn't buy anything for me but Norm certainly got some good deals on a jacket and some t-shirts.

After we left the park, we wandered around the gorgeous town of Estes Park for a while and then headed home. We were suffering from what I have diagnosed as SOD! Sensory Overload Disorder!!!!! But you do get to a point where you just can't take any more in.

I love Colorado but there comes a time when you have to move on and we need to be in Goshen Indiana for the boot camp on 12th September so on Thursday we left CO. and went north east to Custer in South Dakota.

I can now understand why that song talks about 'The Black Hills of Dakota' because from a distance they really do appear black.

Enroute to Custer the GPS took us down a narrow,gravel track to a dead end. Whoa!!! Norm had to do a twenty point turn inbetween a farmer's gateway (equipped with a cattle grate) to get us out of there. He certainly got lots of practise at reversing the rig! We can laugh about it now but at the time it was pretty hard work. Mind you it probably looked really stupid with me running to the back of the rig to make sure it didn't hit anything then running to the other side and back again and Norm trying to get this thing backwards through a narrow gate! I had a pair of low heeled sandals on and nearly broke my ankle on the cattle grid a couple of times. The farmer was probably sitting somewhere having a good laugh at these hopeless tourists!

So a very valuable lesson - Don't trust your TOMTOM completely!

While in Custer we visited Bear Park USA. It is like a zoo the only difference is the people are in cages - not really. But you have to stay in your car with the windows up especially in the bear enclosure as the bears and wolves in the same enclosure can wander wherever they wish. We really enjoyed the close up and personal view of the animals living in an almost natural environment.

We then went to the Mt Rushmore NP with the mountain carvings of the four presidents. It really is an amazing achievement the way it has been done and the size of it.

After Mt Rushmore we went to see the Crazy Horse Memorial that is currently being carved from a mountain. The guy who started it took two years just to construct the steps to get him and his gear to the top of the mountain. It has already taken 50-60years just to get the face carved from the mountain. This is a family thing as the man who started it has died and now his wife and seven of his ten children are carrying out the rest of the carving. They are using his original measurements and the models that he made to complete the work.

The next day (Sunday) we just went for a walk through the town of Custer and had an easy day as we were taking off on the next leg of our trip to Goshen.

The next instalment will be from Wisconsin. See y'all later.