Old Diary

Recognizing the feeling of home

We relocated by 139 miles, and we’re settled in for the next 5 nights.  Blackhawk Park is once again home for a short time.


This site is far more open than many we have taken but when reserving I wanted time to play with our Dish Receiver and sites on our preferred side of the park don’t have a sight line to satellites.  So, there we are — right out in front of God and Everyone.  🙂

The most important part, however, is the sensation of being home as soon as we pulled in.  Have you ever thought about what ‘feeling at home’ feels like? 

This is something Peg and I have noticed a couple times now.  For some odd reason whenever we get to Blackhawk this sensation that we are ‘home again’ just floods over us.  This is not the normal heavy forest cover we seem to think we like, it’s flatter than some of the sites we have raved about, there is more activity here too.  And it sure isn’t someplace that we’d want to over-winter — or to be here during the annual spring floods.  …And yet when we arrive it just feels right.  We’re out in the sun — if the temps hit 90 as they are supposed to we might put our window insulation back in the cockpit windows.  And, I notice that the volunteers two spots over from us have put a small home a/c unit in their cockpit window.  It does get hot down here in the sun.

‘Home’ is a nebulous thing.  I suppose it means something different to everyone.  And yet we all seek it.  It’s easy to tell when you don’t  feel at home: knowing when we’re uncomfortable is kind of a gut reaction thing.

11949896971812381266light_bulb_karl_bartel_01svgmed1But is knowing when you are comfortable quite so easy?  I think not.  Have you ever gone to the furniture store to find an ‘easy chair’ — only to discover that finding ‘easy’ isn’t so easy?  I have.  I’ve sat in dozens of chairs and ended up walking out the door without buying a single one because none of them fit quite right.  Peg and I looked at nearly 100 different RV’s of varying size and manufacture before we bought Journey.  It was only when we realized that all three of the coaches we had liked out of that mad assortment of possible homes were the same floor plan and the same length.  Then we had our lightbulb moment when we realized we had already decided what we liked.

We aren’t making any kind of commitment to this place that seems like home… but we are put on notice.  The cosmic karma keepers are letting us know that settling into a place may not be what we are ‘looking’ for — it’s just going to happen — so it’s good to stay in the moment and not to prejudge.

Back to the subject at hand.

There’s a lot of difference from the last visit here 8 weeks ago.  I’ll put up some comparison pictures in a day or two:  the water level has to be down a good 4-5 feet than July.

Current Conditions Consecutive Days
Our Location De Soto, WI Blackhawk Campground
MAX Temp 73
Sunny Yes
Rain No
Fog No


Old Diary

Our Last Day on the River for a While

River At A GlanceWe are winding up our stay along the river for a while.  We’ll be back along the Great River Road soon, but before we head inland for a couple weeks I thought I’d share this resource.

If you are interested in rivers and river traffic — commercial barges and the like — you’ll want to check out the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers information site about the river system.  They recently re-did their site and I now find it much easier to use with more useful information.  Pick your river, (all the navigable rivers in the COE system) and the beginning and endpoints of interest and you’ll be amazed at the information you can find — including a real time map with the location of river tows!  It’s a great way to learn about the ins and outs of the barge world.

This map is from yesterday and it shows approximately 185 river miles on the Mississippi.  In that distance there were 8 barges on the move, six moving upstream, two moving downstream.  I found the site very helpful during our stay.  When we return to the river in a little over two weeks we’ll be further inland beyond the point of commercial traffic on the river — so I won’t be checking the website very much until we return — whenever that might be.

De Soto to OnalaskaWe leave Blackhawk today, and travel all of 30 miles to La Crosse.  I’ll be putting Journey in the shop for what we hope are three days (or parts thereof) to have a couple maintenance jobs taken care of. While we’re there we’ll stay at the local Microtel for two nights and hope we’re al finished up by Friday to make our next reservation at Spring Valley, WI

Stay tuned to our continuing adventures!

Old Diary

Gotta Make Me a Maintenance List!

Don't Forget to Maintain Your Furnace Filter!

Don’t Forget to Maintain Your Furnace Filter!

Chalk this entry up as a mea culpa.  Don’t forget to service the air filter on your RV!

No — we didn’t have a major equipment malfunction but I am seriously embarrassed by my own neglect.  I have maintained the furnaces in our houses and also maintained furnaces for the 11 tenants in our old apartment building so I’m not a novice to routine furnace maintenance.  But I AM a novice when it comes to RV’ing and I’m embarrassed to admit that I have been forgetting all about the 14″ x 20″ x 1″ filter for the HEAT PUMP in Journey.

We haven’t seemed to get much cooling out of the heat pump lately.  Seeing as we were putting the coach in the shop later this week I got to wondering whether or not a check on the freon level might be warranted so I pulled out my Winnebago Owners warranty / manual bag and dug around looking for the information for the heat pump.  Winnebago does a great job of providing owners with the information they need to keep their coach operating in peak condition but that information is only good if you use it.

Reading about my Onan generator alerted me to one of the routine jobs we are having done this week — replacement of the primary V-Belt at 1000 hours or 5 years.  I have no idea if the belt has EVER been replaced and with the coach’s age I decided I should have it done NOW instead of after a failure.

knew that the coach heating system had an air filter but somehow the fact never processed in my brain beyond that point.  I checked it last year — but whether I checked it 2 months into our 4 month full-time adventure, or did it just before we put Journey into storage for the winter I have no idea.  But today when I took the filter out I was gob-smacked at how dirty it was.  The fact that I had read (just a few minutes earlier) that the manufacturer recommends checking it every WEEK only added to my embarrassment.

Needless to say I cleaned it out with a vacuum tonight and tomorrow I’ll get a replacement tomorrow — and check it regularly thereafter.

After Kathryn left today it was a quiet day.  I have just about finished the McNaught book I started just a couple days ago — I may finish it tonight or tomorrow.  We got the screen room packaged up for the move, and the outdoor carpet — before we get more rain tomorrow!

I’ve been feeling better now that the house is sold and we’re out here full time.  I won’t dream that I’ve gotten back to normal — that’s foolish.  But our exercise regime — even in the heat — has my stamina improving and tomorrow I’ll find out where the weight loss stands — we were having a good time with Kathryn — no sense in ruining it by weighing in!

Neither of us has really picked up our creative outlets yet.  Peg’s not really felt creative and poems haven’t been falling from her fingertips.  I haven’t felt like getting cameras and lenses out so my iPhone has been doing double duty to record the ‘happenings’ here, there, and everywhere.  I did find my watercolor pad the other day when I was reorganizing the basement, and my sketchbooks.  Peg’s crafty stuff is down there too — waiting the the spirit to rekindle and move us to activity.  All that will come as the novelty of our new life wears off and we get back to living.

But, at the end of the day I realize I need to make  myself a maintenance list.  Just to be more organized.  We have a pre-trip checklist for the coach and our toad.  We are religious about checking that to make sure that Journey is ready to journey.  And we have a checklist for auto maintenance and Cummins diesel maintenance.  What I need, and what I’m going to work on is a list of other sorts of maintenance items.  Little by little I’ll get this sussed out and maybe some day I’ll be expert at this RV’ing stuff.

I hope….

Old Diary


UFO Hunter – Unidentified Floating Object hunter

UFO Hunter – Unidentified Floating Object hunter – Kathryn trying to figure out what she saw floating downstream!

Monday after a holiday week; calm descends on the campground and campers leave behind a hill of trash!  I am amazed at how much trash campers can leave behind.  But one thing seems sure:  if the campground recycles and people put out bags of empty beer cans there will be some camper who will pull up to the recycling bin and grab all the aluminum cans they can find and TAKE them.

Sunday was a really sweet day for Peg and I.  Having Kathryn come to visit is always a treat.  We laugh a lot, well smile a lot, tell a lot of stories and can enjoy just being together without having to be “doing” things.  That was Sunday.

The only thing we managed to “accomplish” was having a meal at the local river front resto. The Great River Roadhouse seems to be a really popular stopping point for bikers and it’s about the only roadside resto with a view of the river for quite a few miles.  The food was great – the pizza looked amazing (and we might have to come back here some time just to try the pizza).  We had a nice meal and enjoyed the view of the river from an air conditioned vantage point.   We must have been in an italian mood — all three of us — because it was pasta all around.  Real tasty!

Kathryn heads back home on Monday — today.  So life life will return to being a little quieter and (just kidding) a little roomier!  Our 32′ coach is big enough for a couple guests occasionally but as a strictly an observation that third or potentially fourth person make a significant difference in the amount of personal space you have to call your own!!!!!!  None of which is a complaint — we intentionally wanted a small coach to LIVE in, knowing that there will be times when we’re a little chummier than others.

When we first got married we often had lots of visitors.  We were active at church and conferences and weekend visitors were frequent.  At the time we were living in a 700 sq ft apartment and we had as many as 15 people staying over 2 nights with us — all using only one bathroom.  So, three people in 230 sq ft is still a luxury!!!

As we get closer to moving day (this Wednesday) we begin our routine of pre-moving stowage.  It rained a nice rain last night — but our poly-something outdoor rug is now thoroughly wet.  We’ll make sure it gets dried out today because we have more storms in the forecast today and tomorrow and we don’t want a wet outdoor rug stored int he basement while the coach is in the shop.  If our outdoor chairs got wet we’ll make sure they see the sun and get thoroughly dried as well.

There is NO “right way” to RV,  we just do those things that make sense to US for the plans (or lack of plans) that we have at any moment.  We watch neighbors arrive and depart and everyone has their own way of doing things — which is great – it’s a big world and there’s room for all sorts of people.

Ok – my ladies are hungry so I better get on the stick and make some breakfast — talk to you later.


Old Diary

Finishing Up 5 Weeks As Full-Timers

quaint old bathroom

quaint old bathroom

Time she do fly!  We’re on the last day of our 5th weeks as honest-to-goodness fulltime RV’ers.  After 18 months of waiting time is flying by slowing — which is good!

The Safe House

The Safe House

A couple days ago we got over to The Safe House — in Lansing IA for lunch.  It’s a cute little place, with accoutrements making you think of the roaring twenties — or at least it made ME think of the roaring 20’s.  At the time I wrote about our ANGY CHICKEN PIZZA, but I didn’t have images to share.  These will give you an idea of the mood of the place.

Mississippi from the bluff @ Effigy Mounds National Monument

Mississippi from the bluff @ Effigy Mounds National Monument

Kathryn, Peg and I drove back to Effigy Mounds National Monument yesterday.  We all wanted to do a little walking — although in temps forecast for 90° we also wanted to do our walking early in the day!

Safety Signs

Safety Signs

We did manage to get an early start on the day for which we were thankful.  The first 1/2 mile on the North side trail lead straight up hill!  It took our breath away.  In a fun sort of way!  I was surprised at how relatively few people make it to the trail when the parking lot is quite full!  I hope we will not be those people as often now as we have been in the past.  This was a wonderful walk with delightful views of the Mississippi River and of the Effigy Mounds at the site.

If you are unfamiliar with the reason for the national monument it’s an attempt to save some of our nation’s pre-historic remains.  This site is an ancient burial grounds for peoples residing in this area as much as 1800 years ago.  That in and of itself is hard for me to fathom.  Also there are relics at the site that indicate that the First Peoples of this area were trading with other First Nations as far away as West Virginia and the Coastal regions along the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s so easy to look down our modern-day noses at so called Primitive People as if we were better than them.

We occupy the same piece of earth as those who went before us. TIME is what separates us – that and vastly different worlds.

Mississippi from the bluff @ Effigy Mounds National Monument

Mississippi from the bluff @ Effigy Mounds National Monument

If you are passing through the Prairie du Chien area, in S.W. Wisconsin, take part of a day (at least) to stop and let your spirit commune with those who have gone before.  Take a moment or an hour or maybe even a week to consider how differently we of the 21st Century may view this sacred place.  We tromp all over the hills in our high tech shoes with earbuds in our ears and nylon rucksacks on our backs.  They lived in rocky crags where a nighttime’s fire would warm the rocks enough to keep a small family warm through a January’s night dressed only in the skins and clothes they could make with their own two hands.

The Monument contains some 97 burial mounds out of 200 in the region.  These are the only easily accessible to tourist mounds and are well worth the visit.  While you are in the area you should realize that you are in what is called the Driftless Region — meaning that the glaciers never quite made it here and that the topography today has never been shaved and chiseled by the glacier’s massive ice!  It’s a hilly, verdant, amazing area.

My Ladies!

My Ladies!

After our trudging around we took time to check out the little town of Marquette IA, and grabbed an ice cream at Culver’s in Prairie du Chien before heading back for a delicious Rockfish dinner.

Peg and Kathryn went to the rangers talk in the evening — all about TURTLES!  Last week’s talk was a bust — no one showed up — but then there were only 5 families in the park with all the water.  There were nearly a dozen adults and as many kids in the audience for this talk and it sounds like a good time was had by all.  In addition to learning about 11 species of turtles they also learned about eating them!  One of the families there are avid turtle hunters (Turtle season opens sometime around the end of July).  It seems that the turtle bisque I loved so much in the English Room of the Pfister hotel is within my grasp right where we are — if only I had the heart to butcher a poor little turtle.  I was interested to note that the rangers have no love for snapping turtles and rather encouraged their hunting!

Anyway…. Katy’s with us for another day, she heads home sometime tomorrow, so we’ll enjoy her companionship another day.

Talk to you later.

Old Diary

Screening In

Verizon is still giving me fits, so I’ll try this post from my iPhone.

20130706-055358.jpgWe put up our screen room yesterday!  This is the one we bought on Wednesday.  I had to do something for Peggy.  The gnats are abundant to say the least.  Besides, last year peg got so bitten up it was crazy. I vowed to make this summer better for her. That fortuitous trip to Cabela’s got us a nice screen room  for about 60% of retail and it’s a pretty nice product.

We’ll see how long it lasts though.  Like almost everything else in their store it was assembled somewhere over in the Far East.  At least it’s better built than that we saw at Walmart!


The turtles are still laying eggs here.  We see these guys all over the campground! They had finished mating season in Thomson before we left, but this far North, they are still going strong.  The eggs will hatch out in another couple months — but the hatchlings will stay in the nest over winter. Not sure how their metabolic system works to enable that — unless they eat grubs and such that might be in the nest, but that’s what the turtle experts tell us..

We didn’t “do” much yesterday.  Peg was eager to see Kathryn’s arrival, so after a quick trip to La Crosse for FRESH fish we pretty much just enjoyed the heat (86 yesterday, 88 today), read until she arrived, and then spent the day getting caught up. Lovely to have her with us.

I have come to the conclusion that La Crosse is biased against the French — in spite of their name.  I can’t find Herbes de Provence in any of the groceries and I cant find Pastis (not Pernod, or Rickard, or 51, or any other) in any of the liquor stores.  What is this?  Seems every store I went to had Campari — which is no easier to find in Milwaukee than pastis.  But neither are to be found.  Oh well, I guess I’ll have to turn Italian or something.

Ok — I’ll talk with you more tomorrow — for now my “girls” need attending to!

Old Diary

Behold: The Sun!

All the gates are Open

All the gates are Open

Isn’t it wonderful how 24 hours can change everything!  A few hours of sunshine go a long way to clearing the cobwebs out of your head. 88° helps a lot too!

We took a drive today — sort of a typical thing we do after we settle into a new place and we got a lot done!  For one thing the drive took us past the next lock and dam up river from us — the one at Genoa Wisconsin,  Lock and Dam #8.  I wanted to show that there’s so much water up here that the Corps of Engineers has the sluice gates completely open — they’re sending as much water downstream as will go!  According to the latest COE report this dam is releasing almost 100,000 cubic feet per second!  Just in case anyone wonders — over 60% of all U.S. grain exports are transported along the Mississippi and it’s tributaries.

2013062711140018Part of our purpose today was to visit Sidie Hollow County Park — it’s located in Vernon County, near Viroqua.  It was our fall back location if Blackhawk flooded out and I have to think at some point in time we are going to come back here and try it out for a couple weeks or a month.

This is a small park, with three campgrounds located at different points around a lake.  Not all are RV friendly but if you want a small park atmosphere this is a good place to check out.  They take online reservations for some of the sites and sites with electricity go for $20.00 a night — and 7 nights for the price of 6.

Proximity to Viroqua makes it a nice location.  Here in De Soto we are 28 miles from the closest decent size grocery — at Sidie Hollow a mere 5 miles or so.

Brrrt and a momma turtle

Brrrt and a momma turtle, photo credit to Peg

Our friend BRRRT the penguin is making friends with the turtles!  I’m not a turtle guy — so I know for sure this is NOT a painted turtle but beyond that I have no idea what kind it is. In Thomson the turtles were just about finished laying eggs — but up here — 150 miles by road — they are still going strong.  In just 1/2 a day we’ve seen about 6 of the little gals burrowing for their eggs within about 50 feet of our RV.

It’s funny too, because you look at them and think they are such slow critters — yet look away for 2 minutes and the little buggers disappear on you!  They can move FAST when they want to!

We’ve made an appointment at the local Freightliner shop to have some maintenance work done at the end of our stay here.  This is one shop we know (having used it last year) and have some confidence in. We’ll get some maintenance done on our Onan Generator as well as a check on a braking situation we just noticed.  This is the most convenient Freightliner shop that does RV work for the next couple months so I want to get the work done while it’s convenient and not a safety issue.

Other than that — all is well and we’re enjoying life!

Talk to you tomorrow.

Old Diary

A Look Back


My first tractor — a single axle White, 290 hp cummins


A couple days ago I got onto a nostalgic kick about trucks, and I mentioned my history driving semi.  Just for the fun of it I pulled out some of my old photos from that period on my life.  (I don’t seem to have any of my time driving Motor Coach — I guess having people (passengers) around all the time kept me from taking pictures.


We moved to Illinois from Swanton Ohio when Kathryn was about 1 1/2 years old and some 2 years after that I started driving semi.  For a couple years I hauled “new products” for North American — that was anything from a load of washing machines going to a Sears warehouse to in insides of a McDonald’s restaurant going to a jobsite.


This one had so many horsepower you could look in the rear view mirror and SEE the rubber coming off the tires!


I hauled boxes around for a while,  filled with freight and later on boxes filled with food — meat from Oscar Meyer and Patrick Cudahy and a variety of other stuff.  It didn’t take me long to realize two things:

  1. people who ordered truck fulls of food often weren’t happy to be receiving it — meaning that the people who ordered it weren’t the ones having to unload it.
  2. the further East you travel in a truck the less likely you are to be treated like a human. Driving on the East Coast seemed to be a continual cacophony of swearing and cursing punctuated by labor stoppages.

My solution to all of this was to stop running EAST!  I changed companies once again and bought a flatbed trailer and pointed the nose of my truck WEST for a change. I hauled lot of steel, a lot of construction supplies and … well… a lot of crazy stuff.


Kathryn Checkin’ out Dad’s truck

My family was apt to stop by and see what I was up to, so people popping into my cab was not unheard of!  This trip I happened to be in Toledo at the same time the family were visiting Grampa Frank at his house.


A load of waste water treatment oxygenation piping

I loved the challenge of trying to tie down the ugliest loads with a limited number of straps and chains.  Never lost anything! But the loads didn’t always look like the prettiest thing to go down the highway.

I never did much oversize hauling — a few loads here and there, and some of them weren’t hardly enough to be considered oversize.  This load of steel was over WIDTH, but not by much. But that didn’t matter.  If it was 1/4″ over sized it had to be placarded and treated the same as if it was 20′ oversize.


A wide load of steel

All in all it was a good life on the road — oh, there were problems to be sure; and it wasn’t easy being away from home for 2 weeks to 6 weeks at a time but you get used to some things.

I didn’t drive commercially for all that long of a period of time. A few years hauling a dry box, a few hauling a reefer, a few hauling a flatbed.  I guess it was only about 7 years trucking and 3 years a motor coach.  The two worlds are very much different and apart from each other. Both have distinctive subcultures of people associated with them.

Wisconsin Coach Lineslamers

I want to be able to say that my favorite time was driving people, instead of freight — after all, the people get on and off the coach by themselves, and don’t need to be tied down either.  However that would not be true.  The interesting thing about driving a coach is that you realize just one of many ways in which service people are considered less than human.  I saw sides of people I had previously respected that made me think differently about them.  When you aren’t thought of as human — or even BEING THERE — people forget their good behavior and let their real selves out to play — it makes you realize the hypocrisy involved with the masks we all wear in public.  I freely admit that part of the reason I have done what I’ve done and lived the way I lived has been because I grew tired of hypocrites.  Not everyone may approve of all my actions but one thing for sure — you get what you see.  I’m open about the things I like, appreciate, find beautiful, and I’m open about the things I dislike, don’t appreciate, and find ugly.

Well, enough walking down memory lane for now.

I’ll talk to you tomorrow – Today I’m travelin’ 100+ miles North to De Soto, WI and  the Corps of Engineers campground there:  Blackhawk Park.