Wednesday, April 20, 2011

2010 Jun 6 - Jun 19 Monat Family Reunion Lansing, IA, June 2010

It has been over ten months since my last post. Where does the time go in this free-wheeling lifestyle? I will attempt to hit the highlights, with mostly photos, of our past ten months of travel.

With heavy hearts we said goodbye to our new Texas friends, Don and Reva, from Abilene. They spend the summers in Indiana and we were fortunate enough to spend some great times with them here. But it's time to move to Lansing, IA, for the Monat Family Reunion.

Sunday, June 6, Movin' On to Utica, IL and Slow Time! Don and Reva stop by to say farewell about 10:00 a.m. Sure going to miss them. We pull out by 11:00 heading west on 20 around the west side of South Bend to Hwy 2 past Mini-Mountain CG where we stayed four (?) years ago I think. We see the old Studebaker proving grounds. The big pillars still stand but the Studebaker logo globes are all gone. We connect up to I-94 west where the traffic picks up as we near Chicago's suburbs. We get on 80/294 Tollway okay but we almost miss the right exit to 80 west. Bob makes a grand maneuver at the last minute as I hem and haw with the map, completely lost. We pay $1.70 toll and soon zoom past Tinley Park (hi to Nathaniel and Marie!) Our old campground that we stayed at there is gone. The Loop 355 Tollway comes south to 80 as it is now complete.

Past Joliet and I-55 we find a rest area after exit 122. We have come 130 miles of our 170 mile trip but we need a break after that Chicago traffic. After a snack break we head back into a sw wind in our face. Only 40 more miles west to exit 81, past Marseilles where we stayed before) to Hickory Hollow CG, 757 N. 3029th Rd., Utica, IL 61373. The guy in front of us gets the last spot but she finally spits out that she has a full-hookup site thru Thursday so we pay $153.00 for 5 nights (with our Good Sam discount.) There was tornado damage near here yesterday and people from other places moved here. Our darned motor won't put the rear jacks down and we just paid over $500 for that thing in Goshen, IN! On top of that our battery charger on the PC gave up the ghost. I have to call our insurance agent to get the amount of our bill (since I can't get it on-line like usual.) Then I have to check with the office to see if they will accept a fax. The insurance agent faxes the bill and I pay it by mail--how quaint! While in the office I use the 'paper' Yellow Pages (also quaint) to find a Dell outlet for our batter pack for the laptop. The rear jacks motor is another thing. That's a blue job!

Monday, June 7, Cycle 16 Miles Illinois & Michigan Canal Towpath Life looks better after a good night's sleep. We're back in 'slow-time' as Reva called it so I got up at what I thought was 7:15 but the Atomic Clock didn't get a signal so it was really 6:15. It's sunny and chilly with a low of 58 and a high of 75. I take a walk before breakfast-you can do that if you get up at 6:15. Then I work one of the crossword puzzles that Betty (new friend at our Indiana CG) gave me. Bob has to work one of the Sudoku puzzles she gave him too since we have to PC and he can't get his on-line puzzle from href="">TheDailySudoku.

Off to Hwy 6 west to PC Connection Concepts where Tom looks at our adapter and says "You need a Dell, have you gone on-line?" We patiently say "No, we have no laptop as our batter hasn't worked in years-we need the adapter for the laptop to run." He shocks us by going on-line for us, calling his Dell rep and making sure he's got the right prongs. Then he says he'll order if for us and it should be here in two days. He doesn't even ask us to pay for it first. We were so happy we almost bought a new notebook from him. Things are looking up.

We get diesel at the Flying J for $2.96 gallon and try for a Chicago Tribune out of the vending machine-yeah, a real newspaper-but no, the machine is empty. We spy a mail box and make a detour to drop my insurance payment in the mail. One of the reasons we stopped here in Utica was to cycle the Illinois & Michigan Canal Towpath (we loved the Ohio Erie Towpath Trail.) Back home we pack up the bikes, take 178 straight south from the CG to downtown Utica and park on Canal St. at the trailhead. We look at the kiosk but that's a major waste of time. It tells us the trail is 90 miles, most of it to the east so we start off that way. We only go a mile or so and see a sign that says "trail closed four miles ahead." Bummer--we turn around. The trail looked all grown over like it was never finished, not like it was washed out.

When we get back to the trailhead the back side of the kiosk has a sign "Trail closed due to recent floods four miles east of Utica AND 2.5 miles west of Utica." Yikes! Well, we're here so we decide to go west as far as we can. The trail is much better this way. We zoom past where they said it was washed out by the floods. There's a fairly new bridge so perhaps they already replaced it. It's pretty here as the trail follows along the Illinois River on the north and Canal Towpath on the south to Lock #14. We manage to get 16 miles in so all is not lost.

Over the next few days we check out the local eateries, get a new Atomic Clock, pick up our battery adapter for the PC, browse Peru Antique Mall and get ready to move north.

Tuesday, June 8, Laundry Twice, Ottawa Once and Peru Antique Mall. Cloudy, rained during the night. Spits rain all morning. Curbside neighbor in Class A packs up like a pro. Very Organized and tidy. I took a walk early. The big diesel pusher left and tooted his semi horn at everyone on the way out. Not too neighborly at 8:30 a.m.

Breakfast and then call to reserve a camp site at Prairie du Chein for the family reunion 6/17-6/20. She'll call me back. Sort laundry-we both go through and choose "gotta haves" (our first mistake of the day) since there are only two washers here. This is way too big of a park for only two. It's mostly weekend warriors and they don't want to encourage them to do their laundry here I guess. I stretch and we drive to the laundry room behind the office. There is stuff in two dryers but the washers are free (second mistake of the day.)

We go ahead and put ours in the washers then go around to the front porch to sit in patio chairs. A chilly wind is blowing and it's raining harder. A guy with a Canadian accent sits down at the next table. I say the rain is making it cold. He says "especially in a tent!" He was in a tent for 4 or 5 days here, even during the tornado the day before we got here. Not fun he said.

Our washers are done but the dryers are still running and the owner of the clothes is no where in sight. We decide to head to Peru. So we put our wet clothes in laundry hampers and put it back in the truck. We stop at our RV to get my purse and go west on I-80 to the exit for Hwy 151 south to Target to loo9k for a new atomic clock. They have one model we like but hate to buy the first one we see. It's raining harder now. We go south of the mall to Big K. They have a Timex atomic clock and we even like it. It's $5.00 cheaper than the other one so we go for it.

Time for lunch. One light north of I-80 to May Rd. We go west first and find Peru Antique Mall (we loved this mall last time we were in this area.) But first we want lunch. So we go just east of 151 on May Rd. and find Pine Cone restaurant (under new management.) The parking lot is full, mostly pick-ups, always a good sign. Turns out to be true this time. Great food, cheap, and lots of it.

The chicken soup has homemade noodles-I start with that. Bob has cheeseburger soup, both are excellent and they give us a great assortment of crackers in a big basket (Wheat saltines like the ones Reva's raccoon stole!) I have Monte Cristo Sandwich (waitress comes back to tell me they are out of turkey so I go ahead and get it with all ham and they really pile it on!) Bob has great tilapia with mixed veges and rice pilaf (a large fillet and very well prepared for $8.99.) We have go boxes and we'll be back.

We score a Chicago Tribune out front in a machine. It is way down-sized since we were last in the area-like a magazine format and is $1.25.) On to Peru Antique Mall. It's still raining, really comes down on the metal roof as we browse for two hours. There are lots of smalls in rows of glass cases. I find $40 worth of postcards. Bob finds a wooden golf tray from St. Louis (20% off.) We'll come back and do the 2nd half of the mall another time. Tom, from the PC place calls and says our adapter is in already. They are open until 6:00. Ten minutes later while we're still in the mall, Desire from the campground in Prairie du Chein calls. They have a site for us. I reserve it with a credit card. She says it's $10.00 more per night on the weekends.

A guy and gal at the check-out chat with us. They were at the Antique Show in Austin years ago and used to go to Frederickburg too. They couldn't believe how long it took to get out of Texas from there! We get that a lot. They were interested in our RV lifestyle. It's 3:30 and time to head home.

First we stop and get our A/C adapter in Peru. The young guy shows us HP minis and notebooks. Time for us to head home and dry the laundry. We stop at the RV first to unload our treasures. We miss exit 81 (oh my god we live here!) for our campground while talking and have to go nine miles east to Ottawa and back! Once we get to the campground, I drive to the laundry room and to find both dryers are running and there is a wet load on top of one dryer. Back home Bob says lets go find a laundry mat and get this over with.

Since we can't Google without setting up our laptop adapter, we stop in the office and the gal says the closest laundry is the one I saw on 351 south. There's a big crowd there but we find two dryers. They work well and we're home by 6:30 in spite of a foul-mouthed young gal doing 21 loads of laundry and bossing her sister/friend and husband around.

We stow the laundry. Our new adapter has the PC battery charge up. Yeah! Its works. We have leftovers for dinner. There is no CBS or ABC here so Tuesday night TV is a bust for us. We read the paper. Bob actually gets on-line. What a concept. He surfs and finds PJ's Courthouse Tavern and Grill in DeKalb, IL, our next destination. Motto is "Dieters should just walk on by!" I'm another 1/2 week behind on my journal.

It's 8:05 p.m. and 69 degrees with 73% humidity. It still looks like rain but it's not raining now. High 76, low 60. Four or five diesel pushers came in tonight with decals on the slides. There's a fancy Maudalay next to us.

Wednesday, June 9, J.C. Whitney, Kohl's and Pine Cone. I read until 1:30 a.m. last night. It started raining so I shut the bedroom window. The Fantastic Fan did not shut off automatically tonight like it did last night. I couldn’t sleep and I finally passed out on the couch.

Bob figures out the diesel pusher on our curbside. The Mandalay left at 8:00 and we got all of our TV channels back-go figure! I go for a walk, stretch and we have leftover Monte Cristo for breakfast (heaven with a raspberry jalapeno jelly and powdered sugar!)

I get on-line before breakfast and work on emails from the past four days while our PC was dead. I have a nice email from Reva. They miss us kids! I emailed her back (after several failed attempts-our 3G card and campground wi-fi are interfering with each other.)

We're off to J. C. Whitney across I-80 from the campground. We take our picture of the RV hubcap that we printed out. They didn't have the right size. On to Kohl's where I find new sandals (my Ecco's shredded) and flats. Bob finds two new shorts. Then we have lunch at Pine Cone across the street. Chicken Salad Melt on Caraway Rye for me. Perch for Bob (not as good as tilapia.) We both have stuffed pepper soup (yesterday's cheeseburger soup with rice added.) Chocolate ice cream comes with it for dessert. Home to 91 degrees in the RV. We open the windows. It's 1:42 p.m. and 79 degrees with 43% humidity.

We put the awning out to dry. Bob takes the burnt stabilizer motor apart. It was a plastic gear-can you believe it? It's stripped. He's doubtful of fixing it and the new one is probably the same plastic gear that has failed. A young couple with a little boy pulls in two sites over in an expensive diesel pusher. She says "this weather is great; glad to see it, left in the rain this morning." Their plates are Pennsylvania.

Bob and I go for a walk; I take the camera. Get a pic of farmhouse in the back section. Our whole section out front is full when we return. Our first neighbors streetside are setting up and seem to know the folks next to them. They have BBQ pits, lawn chairs, and a dog.

Farm behind our RV Park in Utica, IL

We have TV channels tonight but naturally since nothing is on Wednesday! I try to backup the hard drive on the laptop but it gets stuck at 25,000 of 74,000 files. At 11:30 p.m. I cancel it and go to bed. Our new atomic clock won't get a signal yet. (Not supposed to use rechargeable batteries maybe?) Nothing's ever simple anymore.

Interesting balcony on top of this motorhome

They have a Smart Car like our friends Tom and Nan Marie

Thursday, June 10, Canalport Bar & Grill, Utica, IL. I slept like a rock until 8:00 a.m. Breakfast, walk, stretch, clean bathroom, clean myself up and around noon we leave for lunch at Canalport Bar & Grill in downtown Utica. There are two 5th wheel RVs in the bike trailhead parking lot. Wow! That's a tight squeeze.

There are only two other guys at a table on the restaurant side when we arrive. The bar side is empty. But it fills up by 12:30. The cream of asparagus soup is one of the best I've ever had. Crab Cake Hoagie with Roasted Red Peppers is in the top three! Bob has chicken Portobello sandwich (light on mushrooms but good.)

Next to us is a 35 to 45 year old Dad who is short and pudgy with a look-alike son with him who seems to be 11 to 13 years old. The kid is trying to pour his heart out about something he's afraid of at school on the soccer team. Dad gets three phone calls and answers them all, then gets off the phone and turns around to watch the big screen TV. The kid says "Daaaaad!" I felt so sorry for the young kid.

We go back to Peru Antique Mall to do the other half. We see some interesting items but don't purchase anything. We're done by 3:00. We get fuel on the way home and get a News Tribune (North Central Illinois) for 50 cents at the Shell Station. There are informative signs in this gas station directing RV's to the correct pumps and where to park on the side of the building and/or thruway around back. How simple is that!

Home to do pre-move stuff. We bring the bikes in. Grease drips out of Bob's front sprocket. We save the carpet. We discover the atomic clock has found a signal at last after Bob restarted the procedure this morning. I'm trying a third time to back up the hard drive. The second time it got stuck over an hour on file 846 of 24,000 (I'm only doing the C: drive and my Documents today.) The Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961!

It's 6:46 p.m. and 78 degrees with 48% humidity. We had to turn on the A/C after bringing the bikes in. The humidity is so bad. Supposed to rain tomorrow. Great. We'll need a window to pack up and leave. Leftovers for dinner.

Friday, June 11, Movin' on to Sycamore, IL. A/C on, hot and muggy; Low 67, High 68. Leisurely morning as our trip is only 64 miles today. We watch the streetside neighbors pack up and are surprised they are leaving already. Amateurs! We watch them pack for 2 and 1/2 hours, have our Crispy Thingies for breakfast, clean up the kitchen, pack up and still leave before they do. I think they're all ready, just visiting with their friends on their streetside. The guy gets chatty with Bob as he's trying to concentrate on raising our jacks with the broken motor. Go figure! Why didn't they ask us over for the last three night's happy hours they had right outside our window? That's my "safe to be hospitable when people are packing to leave theory!"

We do leave at 10:50. The humidity is unbearable this morning; 71 degrees with 79% humidity. Aah, the Midwest! I-80 for one mile to I-39 north for 40 miles then east on 64 for 17 miles. The last 1 1/2 miles we get right behind a guy striping the white line on the right side of the road. Bob was careful but later when we stop we discover white specks of paint all over our black undercarriage on the RV. Six years with The Beauty, never a spec of paint on it! Finally after 1/2 mile north on 23 we arrive at Sycamore RV Resort, 375 E. North Ave., Sycamore, IL 60178 (815) 895-5590 in DeKalb County. We pay $192.00 for 6 nights (we could have had a pull-thru site for $212.00, maybe we should have gone for it as the guy from the office leads us over there and "over- helps" us back in to a 90-degree angled site.) We're glad when that control freak leaves. He had to come back and say "oh, by the way, do as I say, not as I do, don't cut through sites like this." I say "Yeah, we're full-timers so we know about RV and Camper etiquette." Geez!

We set up in the heat and humidity. Kind of bummed about the white paint. Whatever. I put the decor out, we go to lunch at Town Square Family Restaurant just south on Main from the campground. Great little place. Baked white fish special for me, Bob had Parmesan Tilapia, nice rolls, fresh salads and Jell-O for Bob and Rice Pudding for me with whipped cream and cinnamon. What a treat. Daily Chronicle in vending machine for 75 cents.

Drove east on 64 to locate the bike trail head (limited parking for four vehicles.) Then we go south on 23 to DeKalb. Stop at Jewel Osco grocery. A surly checkout guy didn't offer a courtesy card for a discount. Home to stow groceries. Bob gets on-line with our card-Yeah! We have Tengonet here but couldn't get on.) It's 5:12 p.m. and 87 degrees with 43% humidity; feels like 90%!) A heavy brush won't take the white paint off. I get the Steadyfast rear handle clean with a pot scrubby. Bob pulls a spot of wallpaper off in the bedroom removing the old atomic clock. Now we always have to hang something there.

I go for a walk, stop in office. The guy in there "don't know nothing about no wi-fi!" He gives me a sheet of instructions for Windows XP (why didn't we get that is the first place?) I continue my walk around the lake. It's pretty here. A mother with a brood of ducklings swims by. It's a relief to get home out of the sweltering heat.

RVs along the pond in Sycamore, IL
Family of ducks scurries away as I walk by

Our broadband card works long enough for me to send an email to Nathaniel. We stopped here so we can try to meet my nephew Nathaniel and his wife Maria between here and Chicago (maybe in St. Charles, IL) But alas it's not to be as his low-tech Aunt sends an email. He doesn't check his email often. Seems I should have texted him or called. Next time I'll try to be more hi-tech.

Nice landscaping at Sycamore RV Park
Peaceful walking along the pond

Saturday, June 12, Eggclusive Cafe. Up at 6:15. Still hot and muggy. A/C was on all night. Early morning is a good time to get on-line (our GSM card is working! -well enough to pay bills.) I send an email to Jeff and Marilyn in Pine River, MN, our next stop after the reunion. I redo and print the "Move Checklist". I print the RV Hall of Fame journal pages to send to Mom for her birthday. I sent a postcard from there to Dad for Father's Day.

After breakfast and a stretch I have a whole house vacuuming session. Bob starts a 1500-piece puzzle (we use our new coffee table for extra pieces as Don and Reva now have our TV tray table. Rain/thunder/lightening off and on all day. It clears a bit after lunch.

We go north on Main to Pearce to Eggsclusive Cafe, an upscale breakfast eatery. I have eggs benedict, Bob has Tuna Steak sandwich on kalamari olive bread with red cabbage kraut and hash browns and slaw. This place is great. Huge menu. We have go boxes.

I have a terrible migraine. This is the second one in a row that started with a sore neck on the left side. Before that one, all my life my migraines started behind my left eye. So I didn't even recognize it as a migraine when it started in my neck. Until it really got to throbbing; then there was no mistaking it.

I stop a female letter carrier on the parking lot and I give her my letters/cards. Home to work the puzzle. I lay down for 15 minutes to get rid of my migraine (thank you miracle drugs!) Then I'm good to do my nails. Bob goes fishing in the two nice ponds here.

I call Patti who is on her way to a co-worker's wedding. No mailing from Tony and Gertie (the reunion hosts) yet. I call Glenda and she has a dog! Toby-a rat terrier! She's had him since Memorial Day. How fun! I'm jealous. It's 5:40 p.m. and 74 degrees with 65% humidity. Sixteen RVers and campers were killed by flooding in Arkansas. Yikes! I always worry about floating away in the middle of the night.

Sunday, June 13, Rain and Ruby Tuesday's. Slept like a rock; no neck pain this morning. We work the 1500-piece puzzle and finish it after breakfast of leftover Eggs Benedict from Eggclusive.) I check email-nada. Coffee table is still out but all of the puzzle pieces are on the kitchen table. So we have our first breakfast on the coffee table. Bob is on the loveseat, I'm on the ottoman. Voila! Instant breakfast nook.

Two big rigs behind us leave early with their medium duty truck and 5th wheels. The gal chats with the neighbor for 45 minutes while the guy packs up (once again proving my theory of "we're leaving so it's safe to talk to you".) Then her husband has to wait for her to catch up her part of the packing. The motorhome guys we saw tool back in with bikes on the rack (their bikes were leaning against the picnic table ever since we got here.) Bob said "Hey, maybe they're going to ride the trail. NOT! They just put their bikes on the rack to pack up and move on down the road. At least we have a view of the smaller pond now.

We get cleaned up and go to Ruby Tuesday's for the salad bar. I take the umbrella in to ward off impending rain (the reason we are not cycling today.) They seat us in the bar-we hate that. A mid-life crises at the bar is hitting on our young waitress so we get no beverage refills (Note to self: refuse to be seated in the bar section!)

My umbrella plan works; it is not raining as we get back in the truck but it pours all the way home. Sycamore Antiques downtown is closed. We wait in the truck at the RV Park for the rain to subside. Some poor guy in a 5th wheel is just checking in. He runs from his rig to the office with a windshield sunscreen over his head. He needs to invest in an umbrella.

We finally get inside and check the weather channel. Two lines of thunderstorms are moving over us going west towards Chicago. We watch a TV infomercial about Old Dean Martin Variety Show CDs. I loved watching those old shows with Gram Rood. It's 3:11 p.m. and 69 degrees. A cool front blows through when I walk around the lake at 8:00 p.m. We turn of the A/C and open the windows. It's still drizzling rain. I find a voice message at 10:30 from our Elgin, TX, neighbors Joanne and Bill. They are leaving Milwaukee tomorrow, heading towards the Mississippi River (Bridgeport.) They must have called while I walked and the voice message just now showed up (that happens in a new cell area sometimes.) Too bad. I'll call them in the morning as it's too late now. I read Janet Evanovich 'til 1:00 a.m.

Wednesday, June 14, Stuck Inside with a Puzzle. Up at 8:30. Cloudy, severe rain is predicted afternoon and evening. We have Crispy Thingies for breakfast and work another 1500-piece puzzle. I take time to scour the kitchen sink and stretch. Around 10:00 I call Joanne and Bill. Bill answers. They are in Madison, WS, in a McDonald's for a lunch break. They are heading 180 miles total today to Bridgeport near Prairie du Chien. They leave Prairie du Chien Thursday morning, 6/17, and we arrive 6/17 in the afternoon! What a bummer! We're only about 100 miles apart. So close yet so far. They have to be in Amana, IA, 6/17 to 6/20 for an A-Liner Rally. Then they go northwest heading to ND and WY. We go north heading to MN. Maybe next time.

We have a better view this morning as several big motorhomes left yesterday. There are several lined up at the front office so more are coming in I guess. Around 1:30 we go to lunch at P&J's Courthouse Tavern Grill. Oriental Tuna Teriyaki for me. Tuna Steak Sandwich for Bob. We split so-so Toasted Ravioli (hard to beat the St. Louis original!)

Lily pads on the pond at Sycamore RV Park
Lots of things blooming here

Home to work our puzzle. I balance bank statements and work on bills, download email and find the maps and family reunion schedule from Tony and Gertie. It threatens rain but never happens. I go for an afternoon walk. When I return I have a recorded message from the health insurance company about coordination of benefits (all I have to do is step outside and I miss phone calls.) I know, it's a cell phone, but I hate to have it ruin my peaceful walk. I'm weird that way. We watch "Lie to Me" and "The Good Guys." End up by picking up the puzzle-it's frustrating. It's 9:30 p.m. and 66 degrees with 71% humidity. High 72, Low 65.

Tuesday, June 15, St. Charles, IL, population 31,900 ten years ago. But we drove there instead of cycling as it's cloudy with a threat of rain. We follow the Great Western Trail all the way there. We antique and have lunch at The Filling Station. Then walk around and I snap a few pics.

St. Charles Illinois

St. Charles Illinois

St. Charles Illinois

Wednesday, June 16, Paint On; Paint Off. Up at 6:15. Sunny at last. Too late for us. The bike trail is still wet and we do our pre-move checklist so we can leave tomorrow. I finally had an email last night from my nephew Nathaniel. I should have called him as he didn't see my email until yesterday. He's working two long days this week so we'll have to catch them next time.

After breakfast Bob takes the stabilizer jack motor off. It's too hard to turn manually. He checks the roof and gutters. I'm a crazed maniac and use good old-fashioned elbow grease to get the majority of the white paint off the under-carriage of the RV. I started out to wash the dirt off so Bob could spray paint it black but I found the paint came off with a scrubby and water. My fingers are raw, nails destroyed and hips hurt but the RV looks better. I won't even mention my right arm and shoulder. Nothing like being at my best for the once-every-three-year family reunion! Might as well clean the bugs off the front of the RV while I'm at it. I find some white flecks on the lower front of the RV that were thrown up by the truck tires. I removed that paint twice--the first time, and the last time!

We clean ourselves up and go to lunch at Eggclusive Cafe. I love this place, Blackened Tuna Warp for me with Cranberry Walnut Cabbage Slaw. Bob has a great grilled chicken, candied pecan, avocado salad. Professional guy is washing the windows out front. He has neat equipment (holster for squeegee heads) to make the job easy but I hurt just watching him.

Eggclusive has a neat napkin fold (silverware is tucked in pickets.) I fold a post-it note to remember how to do it. After lunch I mail letters at the post office. I try to put a bag of stuff in the Goodwill box but it is marked clothes and shoes only so we don't. Tom and Nan would have showed us how to do that! I saw his blog finally yesterday. They had a bent axle in Canada-what a bummer!

We get a Chicago Tribune at the gas station where Bob fills up. The only Goodwill is south of DeKalb so we pass on that. Home to pack up decor. It's 3:15 (how did that happen?) and 79 degrees with 42% humidity. Sunny and 86 degrees inside the RV. Read paper, have leftovers. It gets up to 89 degrees in here. High of 81 outside. I go for a short walk. We put the awning out to dry and to block the sun.

Motorhome couple behind us with a motorcycle garage down under is sitting outside with a highball and a glass of wine. I heard him say "If I owned an RV Park I wouldn't have these fire rings." We agree but four million seasonals in the upper Midwest would strongly disagree.

We bring in the bikes. Bob's handlebars leak grease again on the kitchen floor and doormat. Bummer. Just what my raw fingers needed was more scrubbing. Ouch.

Thursday, June 17, Movin' on to Prairie du Chien, WS. Low 64; High 91! Pack and leave by 9:59 a.m. I-39 north for 15 miles to 39/90 Tollway NE around Rockford (the Rockford pocket watch museum is defunct now, bummer we missed our chance to see it last time we were near here in Marseilles.) We pay $3.00 toll and cross into Wisconsin. We follow a Military Bike Trail along Hwy 18. Stop at a defunct gas station/rest. near Fennimore that we didn't know was abandoned. But thankfully we did stop as Bob always walks around the rig when we stop. He discovered the rear stabilizer jacks had fallen half way down on the driver's side and a little lower on the passenger side. He digs around 'downunder' for some zip strips to tie the jacks up with. That could have been a disaster and torn the jacks completely off the trailer. I'm getting more and more unhappy with Lippert and their crappy stabilizer motor system.

We continue west on 18 and encounter a 5% grade down to cross the Wisconsin River to Bridgeport. How sad that Joanne and Bill, our Elgin, TX, neighbors, left here this morning. We tried hard over the email and phone calls to meet up with them but they had to be at an A-liner rally and we weren't arriving in Prairie du Chien until today. We go north on 35 through Prairie du Chien past the golf course we played out by Wal-Mart when we stayed at Spook Cave across the Mississippi River in IA a few years back. We pass Cabela's on the Great River Road and miss our turn west on Limery so we had to go a few miles north to be able to turn around on the narrow space between the bluffs of the River and the railroad tracks. A bit more road construction and we arrive at Sports Unlimited, Frenchtown Rd., Box 210, Prairie du Chien, WI 53821, Crawford County (608) 326-2141. The office is in the Par 3 golf course club house. They have our reservation and we pay $148.00 for 4 nights.

Then the trouble starts. Our site is #235 a back-in site with a tree streetside in the "transits sections!" I take exception to that. The site slopes way down to a gully curbside. We adjust several times and still can't stay out of the overhead tree limbs. Bob ends up trimming them later since if they touch the RV you get ants marching in. As we ponder our position in the site Bob notices the RV hubcap and grease cap on the front axle on the driver's side is missing. It was there when he tied up the stabilizer jacks earlier.

We can't put the rear jacks down until Bob cuts the straps off. So I leave the kitchen slide in until all of the utilities are out on that side of the RV. We did remember to measure for the electric cord. We only have about 1 1/2" extra so it will be close. We did not consider the sewer hose however. Bob has to stretch it way out to avoid getting out an extension. Geez!

I go inside to start unpacking. The bedroom and living room slides go out perfectly. Bob's all done outside with the utilities and comes in to put out the kitchen slide. It won't budge; it's stuck. We are sure bummed. Bob says in a loud voice "That's it, I'm done." I'm not sure if he means done RVing or done fighting this move today. I don't ask. We've never had trouble with our slides in either RV all these years. This will require the owner's manual. It's 85 degrees and 90% humidity and we are hungry. So we call a halt and go have a so-so lunch at Hungry House Family Restaurant. We can't keep our mind on the food as we keep thinking about how we will get that slide out. Get fuel first as we're almost out. That's all we need to run out fuel.

Back home to get out the paperwork and manual for the slide-out. I can't find it anywhere. At last I see a paper that says Lippert, Inc. Slide Mechanism. My heart sinks. Those are the same idiots who made our rear jack stabilizers. Their instructions say the manual crank for the slide is outside of the chassis rails underneath the RV. We look everywhere and can't see it. Finally Bob spots it inside the chassis rail. They say use the crank for the front stabilizers; it's the same crank handle. Or use 3/4" socket/rachet. NOT! Neither one fits in the slot. Bob has to dig 'downunder' for the right size socket. We're sweltering in this humidity mind you. Success at last. He turns it just a little and hears the slide mechanism release. It must have been jammed by either our very rough ride here through Madison or the slope we maneuvered on here at the campground. We should have put the streetside slide-out first I guess but there was that whole stabilizer jack thing. Anyway, I go inside and the motor slides it in and out perfectly. We are so relieved. Bob goes on the roof and trims limbs. Then he puts sheet metal tape over the axle to keep the dust out. We put the A/C on and I'm such a crazed lunatic I leave the bathroom vent open and hit the wrong remote button on the Fantastic Fan in the bedroom. The vent closes but the fan is still running. Not very good for the motor. What else can go wrong?

We sit down and cool off for a few minutes and feel better. We're so relieved the slide worked that we get energized and head to Wal-Mart for groceries. We see a DQ on 35 and pull in for a well-deserved ice cream treat; Mocha Mulatte for me and M&M Blizzard for him. He says "I knew you'd get one of those." And I said "I knew you'd get one of those too." Just goes to show you, duct tape and ice cream fixes anything.

No TV channels down below the River bluffs, one bar on the phone and we can probably scratch the Internet too but I'm too tired to try it.

Friday, June 18, Old Man River and Smoking

Friday, June 18, it is hot already when I get up at 6:22 a.m. The low is 67. It rained several times during the night. The trains didn’t wake me up anyway. There are puddles everywhere this morning. After breakfast and a stretch I clean the bugs off the front of the RV from our move. It is muggy and hot. The sun is out at first but then clouds come over and the mosquitoes are out in force.

A seasonal guy comes by and asks “What’s in that little part up front?” We chat then he asks about the Steadyfast. He’s been looking at them. I ask him about getting a weather forecast here. He says you can get 97.7 radio station from across the River. I say so long and go inside to clean up. After an iron of ironing various outfits (since we don’t know what the weather will be like all weekend for the reunion) around 1:30 Bob and I pack up the PC and the A/C charger we found ‘down under’ that we use in the truck. We’re off to McGregor, IA, across the River for lunch.

It is weird to be back here. We can’t figure out where we ate before and I didn’t check my journal. We can’t find the ‘chicken’ place Bob saw on-line when we were still in Sycamore (back when we had a connection—we should not have been complaining about our come-and-go connection there; at least we had one!) We end up eating at Old Man River on the main drag. Bob has a Raben (half and half—turkey and corned beef.) Pulled Pork for me. It ticks me off that Bob gets French fries as a side—a mound big enough to choke a horse. I get a side salad and it comes in a bowl the size of half of a softball. I swear this country does not want you to eat healthy. In fact, you are encouraged to eat poorly. The US Open is on the cable TV but the screen is behind a pole. Soon the patrons switch the channel to World Cup Soccer.

It clouds over and is rainy. We go out to the truck and plug in our A/C charger into the cigarette lighter. The unit starts smoking like crazy so we don’t plug the PC into it. We have to open the windows and air out the truck. So much for that. We get a Telegraph Tribune (DuBuque) on the way home. Maybe we can see a weather forecast in the paper. On the way back to the RV Park we go in the second entrance but it is not a good exit for the RV when we leave here. Back home Bob checks our charger. It has stopped smoking and the voltage meter says it’s putting out 125 volts. Go figure. Maybe there was a bug in it that burned up. It’s 3:26 p.m. and 73 degrees. It is cooler now with 63% humidity.

My migraine is almost gone. That is my second migraine after the left side neck pain that I started experiencing. Whatever. We read for a while then get ready for tonight’s family gathering. Around 5:00 we head north on K to 35 and continue north along The Great River Road, across the Mississippi to 9/26 to Front St., past the boat landing place for tomorrow’s reunion cruise, on to Columbus Rd. to Tony and Gertie’s, Bob’s cousins’ home. The whole gang is in the garage.

Bob's cousin's Tony and Gertie treat us all to brats and a fun dinner in their garage at their lovely home in Lansing, IA. Gertie later generously shares her honey mustard pretzel dip recipe. Very Tasty! I'll just post a picture of our festivities in their garage and say a good time was had by all.

Friday night brat fest at Tony and Gertie's

Saturday, June 19, Up at 6:22 a.m. Cooler, sunny, blue skies and windy. Stretch, breakfast, get cleaned up and hit the road by 10:00. It's 10:12 before we find the trash dumpster and get out of the campground. Bob cleaned up off the windshield-lots of bugs from last night.

Gorgeous drive along The Great River Road. We get to the Mississippi Explorer Landing at 10:45. Tony is out front flagging folks down. We park at the ball diamond. I hop in the restroom (saw Donna go across the street.) We file down the ramp to board the boat and leave promptly at 11:00. As we come down the ramp, those already on board show us their better sides!

Bernie shows us his best side

Captain Jack takes the whole family reunion group on a cruise up the Mighty Mississippi River. The weather is perfect, we enjoy a great lunch on the boat and have a nice relaxing time to visit and catch up.

Bon Voyage!

We leave promptly at 11:00. We sit out on the front sun deck with Pat, Jackie, Megan, Julie, Amber and Adam. Pat has us all roaring with her definition of a Whale Tail (big gal bent over with a thong!) The cruise is very relaxing. We see an eagle and its nest. Our lunch is fresh rolls, turkey, ham, cheese, cheese curds (of course), Jell-O, veges with Gertie's great mustard dip and heavenly cookies.

Bob and his Colorado cousin, Donna Monat, enjoy the cruise

Dan is finally here this morning. And Ted and Cindy too. We all have time to chat and relax on this perfect trip. We're back by 1:00 and after the cruise we all make a caravan in our vehicles up to Mt. Hosmer. At 6th and Main we navigate the longest, steepest paved incline in Iowa and stop at the overlook on the way up. You can see where we just cruised. On to the top where we play Frisbeer, take official reunion pictures and enjoy this gorgeous day.

We all enjoy the view from Mt. Hosmer on the bluffs above the Mississippi

Reet and Donna at Mt. Hosmer

Another group is using the pavilion (there are no reservations here.) But the threat of bad weather led our hosts to get the Community Center in town for our dinner later. We all play and visit at City Park until 5:00.

Gertie, Cindy, Donna, Patti and I re-enact our "ladies' sculpture garden walk" from the Colorado Reunion. Patti replaces Bob and we're missing Nancy this time. Brandy takes our picture as we deface the WWII Memorial in the park. What a hoot.

Cindy, Rita, Donna, Patti and Gertie at WWI Memorial re-create our "sculpture" photo from last reunion in Colorado

Gertie and Donna brave the poison ivy on the dirt trial down to Lansing overlook. I wanted a picture but no way I was walking in sandals with poison ivy. Back in the park, Callie and Darlene work furiously on embroidered tea towels for the auction later. Big games of Corn Hole and Frisbeer (bottles of beer on a pole that you knock off with a Frisbee while the other team tries to catch it.)

Love this picture of the train roaring along the River just below Mt. Hosmer

Each family in attendance poses beneath the reunion banner for an official picture. Mike and Donna Monat adopted Bob and I for this family shot!

Donna, Mike, Rita and Bob

Reunions are held every three years and each time a new section is added to the banner. Here's the Lansing, IA, 2010 addition

Here's the whole gang

Here's Bob with all of his first cousins

Next stop is the community center at 4th and Main in town around 5:00 for dinner and the auction. Doug, Darlene and their grandson ride with us. Everyone brings items to auction off to help defray costs for the next reunion. It's fun to see what everyone brought. We have a great dinner including; chicken, mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, veges, and 100 desserts! Great strawberry cream Jell-O salad on graham/pretzel crust. Bob and I sit at the table with Pat and Dan's girls (Adam too) and Ben and Heather.

Our reunion hosts, Gertie and Tony, get the auction kicked off

Gertie and Tony hand out fun prizes. Mike and Donna get "traveled the greatest distance from Colorado." Patti gets "first to RSVP." Bob and I get a Minnesota map so we don't get lost when we leave. Linda and Richard have been to every reunion since the first. Michael starts the auction as Donna hands of record keeping duties to Amber and Lorraine.

Gertie's friend quilted this photo quilt for the auction

Can you spot Bob's Dad amongst his aunts and uncles?

Bob's cousin Patti from Missouri made this signature quilt. She collected signatures at the last reunion in Colorado three years ago

Here's a close-up of Bob's 15 seconds of fame on Patti's quilt

The auction is a big success. We all pack up and head to the next event. Our final stop for the day is 'the cabin' where we have a huge bonfire, hayride and say our farewells. We take Michael's drink stand that he bought at the auction (Jim made it from Black Walnut wood off the farm-it has Rockies beer and wine glasses.) Hmmm....those might just stay in our truck!

We get to tour Jim and Nancy (Iowa Monat's) Cedar Creek, rear kitchen RV!

Jim finally gives us a tour of their 30-foot 5th wheel. It's a 2004 and loo9ks like new. Very nice floor plan. I get Deet out of the truck for Lorraine and Amber, put my tennis shoes on and we all keep moving back from the huge bonfire.

I stood by the fire so you could get the idea how big this blaze was!

Several of us took pictures with our "moon", "candle", "fireworks" settings on our cameras. I'm sure someone has a better one but I thought this one came out pretty good

Goodbyes all around. We sure hate to say farewell to Michael and Donna. Bob and I leave at 11:15. What a day. We get home by midnight as we watch a half moon hang over the Mississippi all the way back to our campground in Prairie du Chien. We're exhausted but it sure was a grand time! There is thick smoke hanging in our campground from the seasonal campers.