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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Craig's caught with his pants down!







(Craig/Karin) Our next stop brings us to Middle Fork River Forest Preserve. It's near Penfield, Illinois. That's about 30 miles north of Champaign, Illinois. As we get close to arriving, all we see around us is flat farmland....miles and miles of it. Is there really a forest out here? Much less a river? Well, the forest pops up out of nowhere as we get to within a mile of the preserve. So we find the entrance and weave our way back towards the camping area.
There are about 200 camping sites in the preserve. We are the only ones camping here! There are a couple of cars around....people walking their dogs, jogging and fishing. We pull up to the registration office and it's deserted. We're on the honor system. So we put our $12 into an envelope and shove it into the slot.
We decide to take a hike. We find a trail that leads us back to a bend in the river with a large sandbar. The water is crystal clear! Hmmm....it's a warm day, should we take a dip? Well, we check the water temperature and it's pretty chilly! So we sit and enjoy the surroundings for a few minutes. We see a beaver here and there, but they're pretty quick. Just can't get the camera ready quick enough to snap a shot.
We head back and get our bikes. There's a 2 mile trail that looks like fun. Shouldn't be too tough, right? We got quite the workout on this one. Steep hills and winding turns. We finished up the trail and headed back to the camper. As we dismounted our bikes, we noticed that Karin's front tire was flat. Better that it happened now rather than a mile or so ago!
Craig's wanting a shower pretty bad. We see some forest rangers and ask if the showers are open. We were trying to conserve our water, because we didn't completely fill it up at our last stop. The rangers responded that the showers wouldn't be open for another week, but the water spigots around the campground were operational. We did buy a "solar" shower before our trip. Craig wants to use it now. It takes about 3 hours for the sun to heat the water in this solar shower. Craig says he can take a shower now, for no water is too cold for him.
Each campsite has a steel pole that is made to hold a lantern. Craig hangs the shower there and strips down to his underwear (or skivvies, per his Navy term). He screams a bit as the ice cold water pours over his head. Wow! Look at him move!! This is gonna be a quick shower :)
Whoops...here comes a car! Craig runs to Karin's side and sits by her as the car approaches, using her as a shield. Karin decides to run and get him a towel...but as she stands up and moves, his cover is blown. I wonder what the people in the car were thinking as they see a middle-aged man, soaking wet, in his "skivvies", sitting at a picnic table, shivering...with his legs crossed. Needless to say, the car made a beeline for the exit.
Later on, we made a campfire. We cooked up some hot dogs and marshmallows. Ok, not the most nutritious meal, but it was good!
We wake up the next morning and pack up. Our next stop will be in Hoosierville! Karin's niece, Megan, lives in Bloomington, Indiana and attends college there. Indiana Hoosiers, here we come!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mississppi Queen

(Craig/Karin) We set the GPS, said our goodbyes to Karin's family and began the final leg of our journey towards West Virginia! We decided to go east of Minneapolis/St Paul and catch route 61. This would take us south along the Mississippi River. What a great choice!! Beautiful weather and the scenery was awesome. Dotted with small towns along the way, many of the surroundings seemed untouched by man. We made our way down to Winona, Minnesota. As we were on a small road (supposedly) getting near our next campground, the GPS said "you have reached your destination". There was nothing around us, except for water on both sides of the road. So Craig says "computer, please recompute". I guess he had a Star Trek flashback. The GPS didn't respond. This would be a very tough turnaround for our rig. So we just kept driving. About 2 miles further down the road, we found the campsite. "I knew it was down here" Craig said with a smile. Yeah, right :)
When Craig pulls into a campground, he wants to park. Period. The manager at Prairie Island Campground was very nice, and asked us if we'd like some information on Winona. We both agreed to listen. Well, he took us on a verbally guided tour which lasted about 20 minutes. It was a bit painful listening for this long after driving for hours. We both agreed that if we're ever asked if we'd like to hear some information again, we'll respond with "let us park and we'll walk back over".
We parked on the bank of the Mississippi. Nice. Peaceful. Not very many people there. We jumped on our bikes and rode into Winona. Lots of barbecuing going on. Everybody waves at you. Beavers on the riverbank. Tugboats pushing barges. We finished the day with a cookout of our own, by our rig, on the Mississippi River.
The next day, we moved on to Dubuque, Iowa. We again drove along the Mississippi, but this time on the Wisconsin side. Craig kept saying that he smelled cheese :)
Ok, Karin is the navigator, but I also have "another woman" with a lovely voice.....the GPS! Karin tends to tell the GPS how wrong she is....but the GPS never fights back. The GPS is always calm and sweet. I think that there's a bit of jealousy going on here. But it came to a head in a small town before Dubuque. The GPS told me to go straight, and Karin told me to turn. Well, I listened to the GPS. Ok, so she (the GPS) took me through a little residential street or two. I was then informed that I needed to respect my navigator (and partner) on this trip a little more than the "other woman". So, for the first time, I had to make a choice. There was no on/off button on the navigator in the passenger's seat....so I chose wisely, and proceeded to de-energize the GPS.
We arrived in Dubuque and parked at the Mystique Casino along the river. Great bike trail along the river. We had a couple approach us and ask us about our travels. We explained to them that we're heading to West Virginia to work. They said that they've been thinking about buying an RV. The wife seemed excited about our travels. The husband said that he'd prefer to just drive to one area and park for awhile. We're not sure if there is any compromise there....so it may never happen for them. Compromise is a large part of fulltiming.
The next morning, we took a walk in the opposite direction. We found a skate park just down the road. Well, Craig just happened to bring along his skates. Forty-Seven years old and going sideways up and down half-pipes!! We got some pictures of that and will post them soon.
On to our next stop in Bettendorf, Iowa. Another casino with free parking! Another great bike path along the Mississippi! We rode into Davenport and back. We did take a wrong turn in Davenport and became a little concerned as we passed the jail and seemed to be in a "seedy" part of town. It wasn't that bad, but we just do not want to take any chances in unfamiliar territory.
Our next stop will be in Illinois, the Middle Fork River Forest Preserve.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Northern Exposure

(Craig/Karin) Flandreau, South Dakota is in the middle of nowhere! When we pulled into town, a road sign gave us directions to the casino. It read "Royal River Casino, first right past the water tower." The directions were very accurate:)
We planned to boondock but noticed that the casino had a small RV park next to it. We inquired about prices first. Since the water was not turned on yet, they rented the space for only $5 including electric hookup. They also let us use the hotel pool, hot tub and showers. Wow! Craig couldn't get the $5 out of his pocket quick enough!
The casino was rather small, but we really didn't care. Karin played a couple of dollars in one machine and cashed out for $30. After that we rode our bikes through the small town of Flandreau. The highlight was a Ben Franklin five and dime store! It's been a long time to see one of those! Ok, it had been turned into a thrift shop, but it was really cool to see the old signage.

The next day would be our final driving day for awhile. We headed for Karin's hometown of Spicer, Minnesota. Her father, brother, aunt, uncle and cousin live on the lakes and close to one another. The weather was great..in the 70's. Ice was gone from the lakes. Many people where fishing on Nest Lake, searching for that great tasting fish, the Walleye! We parked at her father's house, a heavily wooded area with a skinny circular driveway. As Craig carefully pulled the trailer into the driveway, a low hanging branch whipped around and cracked the rooftop refrigerator vent! That afternoon, Craig purchased Goop sealant and and repaired it. Goop....another handy item for the toolbox!!
We met Karin's brother, Gary at his geometric dome house for the "Sunday Social". All of his friends meet there every Sunday and have a beer...or two....maybe three....or more :) What a great bunch! They are the "connoisseurs of beer". To celebrate, Gary popped open a 10 year old brew that he had made from birch sap! Ok, the fizz was gone, but it was rather tasty!
We biked 20 miles along the Glacial Lakes Trail that runs from Paynesville to Willmar. The trail was created from old railroad tracks that were pulled up and replaced with asphalt. We spotted several deer and wild turkeys along the way. This part of the country is very beautiful and very green!
We've been here for nearly a week, so we will hit the road for the final leg of our journey tomorrow. We need to be at the campground in West Virginia by May 10th, but are planning to get there a day or two early. We've traveled over 2000 miles now, with at least another 1000 to go. So far we've been very blessed in our travels. Our final stop will be the beginning of our workamping experience.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Heartland Tour

Our next stop was in Lyndon, Kansas at the Crossroads RV Park. It was raining as we pulled in and quite cold. This was the fastest we have ever setup our rig. It was the first night we needed to use heat. We decided to try the oil-filled radiator that we bought along. What a blessing. The radiant heat was wonderful! We even had to turn it down.
At sunset we heard a pack of coyotes howling at the outskirts of the park. Craig said he had not heard that since his Tucson days, many years ago. Karin, a seasoned Colorado hiker, recognized the sound and suggested that Craig go get a box of milk bones for the cute little guys. :)
The next day we biked fifteen miles on the Old Flint Coal Mine Nature Trail. It was a wonderful ride to Vassar, KS and back. Craig, being a good citizen, even cleared a fallen tree from the path.
The recession was apparent in Lyndon. Only a bank, of course, was open along with a cafe, and small grocery. All the other businesses along the three blocks were shuttered or for sale.
After two nights in Crossroads, we headed for Council Bluffs, IA. We parked overnight at the Harrah's Horseshoe Casino without hookups. We were surprised they charged $30 a night to hookup to electrical so we boondocked for the night. The highlight of our stay was the greyhound dog track attached to the casino. We arrived at the middle of the racing session and watched several races. We finally decided to bet on a race. Craig bet on two dogs that pooped right before they were placed in the box at the post. We won, so for a $2 bet we won $27. We tried to use this "handicapping" technique for two more races but it did not work. So we still walked away with a little extra cash in our pockets.
Our next stop is going to be in Flandreau, South Dakota. Our cats have figured out the routine. As we begin to pack the trailer for the next journey they find their hiding places. Karin's cat Princess, goes under several blankets on the bed, curls up and sleeps. Craig's cat Smokey, finds comfort by hiding in the litter box. Craig said the aroma has never been calming to him, but to each their own. Now the litter box is the last item cleaned before we leave, just for Smokey.

Heartland Tour

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Camp Graveyard




(Craig/Karin) We woke up in Durant, Oklahoma and decided to get some coffee at the casino before we departed. Hey...look, Craig just happened to bring along $10 :) We split it and off we went to try a quick machine or two. Within about 30 minutes, we had tripled our money, which nearly wiped out our losses from the night before. We pocketed the money and headed North.


Another windy drive, but it was a very beautiful one. We were heading to the Pine Island RV Resort in Jay, Oklahoma. As we were nearing the resort, Craig met a flying friend. Ok, it's kinda funny now....but it really wasn't when it happened. If Craig tells the story, then it would be that a foot long wasp flew into the window and attacked him! It was a large wasp...and it did fly into his hair...and the panic attack began. He did knock it to the floor. Then, while driving, he cracked the driver's door open to get it out. Well, that didn't work. So as it crawled up his leg, he swatted it. End of story.


Our GPS decided to take us into the resort via a very "scenic" route. You know that you came in the back way when the camp host proclaims "Wow, you really came in that way? You must be using a GPS".


The 10 mile shortcut was full of sharp curves and short/steep hills, or as Karin says: "Ravines". I guess that's Oklahoma's version of a roller coaster. :)


Pine Island Resort was very beautiful and very empty. We had the place to ourselves. Many white tail deer, a muskrat or two, hawks and one pesky owl that was eyeing our cats for breakfast were our only neighbors. We titled this blog as "Camp Graveyard" because there were several deserted rental trailers. They looked a bit spooky. One night, we thought we heard music at one of these trailers. We went outside and saw lights on inside the trailer and people talking. As we walked closer to see what was going on, the lights went out. No more voices. No more music. We peeked inside to just see dusty old furniture that was straight from the '50s.


Ok, we are pulling your leg :) Did we get your attention? No, we didn't hear music or voices. But they were still spooky!


Craig took a spill on his bike! His bike is new. When we bought it, the salesman supposedly took it back for "inspection and adjustments". Well, the handlebar came loose and fell off! It was only his 2nd time on the bike. Thank goodness it didn't happen on the hill we went down just moments before. He got a bump on the shin. We walked the bikes back to camp and tightened up the handlebar. All went well after that.


The next day we drove into Grove, Oklahoma. We spent time at the Har-Ber Village museum. Many antiques were on display. Next, we had some home made sweet potato fries and coconut cream pie at the cafe next door.


We did take a couple of pictures overlooking the lake at Pine Island. This lake is called Grand Lake O' the Cherokees. Very big and beautiful. I'll try to attach those.


So after 2 nights, we are now heading up to Lyndon, Kansas. That's our next stop. The Santa Fe Trail is nearby. We hope to do some more hiking and biking there. We have heard that there was snow in Denver. Hopefully, it misses us :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Texans are great!

(Craig/Karin) Well, Texas blows! Ok, we're just talking about the fierce winds (gusting 50+mph) that we encountered from the panhandle to the Dallas area. We pulled into the Shady Creek RV park in Aubrey, Texas just north of Dallas. This place just opened this past December. Very nice and clean.
Scott and Shawna stopped by to have us follow them to a local Mexican restaurant. It was great to see Scott! 30+ years had gone by. He is looking good and in great shape. What a beautiful family! His wife Shawna is just so sweet and kind. They have four unique and wonderful kids. The food was great and the company priceless.
The next day, Scott treated us to a 15 mile bike ride through some of the suburbs and countryside near us. Craig really wanted to break out the Lance Armstrong pace, but He didn't want to embarrass anyone :)
That night the Browns (ok Shawna) cooked us up some brisket. Then Scott and I went into the reminisce mode. Kinda strange how we can remember so many things from so long ago. Then we got onto the subject of our own current health. I asked Scott later if we ever thought during our teenage years that we'd still be in touch and discussing each other's colonoscopy.
We wanted to return the hospitality that these Texans had offered us, so we took them to a local steakhouse, the Prairie House. Excellent sweet potato fries! After dinner, we discussed a cruise for next year, and then said our goodbyes.
So far, knock on wood, no problems with the truck or trailer. Ok, well we did have some water squirting out of the fresh water connection one time, but that was fixed with a little teflon tape. Duct tape and teflon tape are you best friends when on the road. :) Oh, and when you're moving stuff around under the bed, next to your fresh water tank....make sure you don't accidentally bump the tanks drain valve. It'll kinda surprise you when you arrive at your next stop.
We left on Easter morning heading towards Durant, Oklahoma. Another friend from years ago, Marcie, lives there. Unfortunately, we could not get together, so we will hopefully see her on the return trip. We parked in a casino parking lot for the evening. Choctaw casino is very large. We actually became somewhat dizzy with the size of the place. We played some slots. We lost a little bit of money, but not much. It was our first "boondocking" (without facilities) at a casino. A little loud up front near the highway, so we pulled around to the rear. Ahhh...it was much quieter until the trains went by :)
Our next stop is Grand Lake O' the Cherokees in the Northeast corner of Oklahoma. We may stay a couple of nights there, depending upon the scenery and cost. We are slowly making our way to Minnesota to see Karin's Father. We'll write some more from Grand Lake. Chow!

Friday, April 2, 2010

On Da Road!

(Craig/Karin) Well, we finally made it! And we're just gonna say it now....it wasn't easy :) Let's back up to several days ago. Our furniture guy rescheduled on us a few times as well as our mechanic. But we did get those knocked out last Saturday. Here's another thing: our trash day is on Fridays. We put all of it out on Friday, but come Sunday (our scheduled day of departure), we had another 15 bags!! What do we do with this? The renters will be moving in on the 1st and we didn't want to leave it for them! So Craig heard a trash truck across the street and took off....flailing his arms like a madman! He offered the driver a quick $20 if he'd come and get our bags. And just a few minutes later, the remaining trash was gone.

Going through the house and choosing what to take and what to sell or give away was very hard. Squeezing everything from our 2400 sqft home and garage into a 200 sqft trailer was tough. We had heard from seasoned RVers that this would be the hardest part of our journey. They were right! But we got it done. The house was unloaded and Craig made Karin quit cleaning. His suggestion was let the Property Manager take charge of any loose ends or dust bunnies. Whew!

Our journey began on Monday March 29, 2010 at 1:30pm, a day later than planned. At our first stop to get gas we checked the trailer to find Smokey our cat with eyes bulging out like he had seen a ghost. Princess our other cat was located beneath about twenty blankets. We knew it would take time for them to get used to it so we calmed them down and moved forward.

Our first stop for the night was Lamar, Colorado. We stayed at a small RV stop right off the highway with few parking spaces. It was good for practicing setup. We saw a beautiful sunset and a full moon rising. Sleeping was tough next to a highway full of truck traffic but we made it.

We headed out the next morning with tremendous winds across the Oklahoma panhandle and into Texas. Craig's experience driving a nuclear submarine came in handy :) Being a novice at pulling a trailer, he was quickly educated in trailer road handling in severe winds. We passed many huge wind farms, a benefit for the world getting greener.

A small town in Dumas, Texas offered us a free site next to their city park. Free electricity was included which was great. However, road construction near the entrance created some severe ruts in the driveway. We scraped the tow bar on the way in. So when we left, Craig figured out how to drive carefully. We left with no more scrapes. Even our cats remained sleeping and relaxed. No more buggy eyes. Dumas was a cattle town, with a busy main street.

With the winds just as gusty the next day we left for Lake Meridith. Lake Meridith is located about an hour north of Amarillo, Texas. This was our first "boondock", with no services at all. When we arrived we found a beautiful lake with hardly anyone camping there. Although it is beautiful, it seems like the water was at one time 30 feet higher or more. We camped on a cliff overlooking the lake and again enjoyed a wonderful sunset. While cooking burgers on the grill Craig heard a strange buzzing noise. Walking into the noise we found a "humming bush". We discovered the humming bush was loaded with a fresh crop of mosquitoes!! We immediately stopped our investigation preferring to keep our distance from these pesky blood suckers. After that we finished our burgers, enjoyed seeing stars and constellations without city light glare. We enjoyed a quiet night and our most restful sleep.

Our next stop will be in Aubrey Texas, just north of Dallas. We will visit Scott Brown and his family. Scott and Craig worked together at a skating rink in Tucson, Arizona, over thirty years ago and will be meeting for the first time since then. We will share the details of this reunion in our next post. See you then.

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