Old Diary, Travel

The Perfect Autumn Day

Days don’t get much better than yesterday.  It was the Perfect Autumn Day!  With sunny skies and temps right at 70º I couldn’t ask for a better last day in Shelbyville.  We had a chance to sit around in our lawn chairs, do a little reading and just enjoy.  I really don’t do that often enough.

I’m itching to be where it’s warm and I can smell the ocean again.

seawall-beachOur stop off in Galveston in Mid November is to meet up with  family members.  Knowing that we’ll be visiting in both in Galveston and Houston finding a place for the coach somewhere reasonably near to both areas  was paramount.  But sometimes you don’t get what you wish for.  The snag that we ran into trying to accomplish that one feat also caused that only-too-frequent cascading effect on other plans but now that we have those stops locked in I can relax, everything else is hunky dory.

Our former boss Belva on a Quad.

Our former boss Belva on a Quad.

In the quiet time we called Oregon and had a nice chat with our old boss.  They sky hasn’t fallen and she’s doing well.  We got updated on our favorite volunteers, and even those who weren’t our favorites.  It was good to hear her voice again.  And to get caught up on all our favorite soap operas. 🙂 So, it was mysteries, and sunshine for me on Wednesday. Thursday is another travel day.  Check-In at Rend lake isn’t until 4 p.m., so we won’t be leaving Coon Creek very early.  But we have the usual pack up and get ready routine to go through.  And with only 108 miles to travel even if it rains (as it’s forecast to do) it won’t be a big deal.

An easy drive

An easy Thursday drive

We’ll have 6 nights at Rend lake and then a 4 night / 5 day span to get to New Orleans. Whatever we do those nights will be decided on the fly.  There are a couple Corps of Engineers campgrounds, and we could do a night with a Passport America park,  and what we have seen of the Mississippi State Parks has been impressive so that’s always an option as well.  But mostly we want to see how easy it is to just show up, and find a place.  I need to get over my now-I’m-driving-a-longer-motorhome obsession.  And just winging it is going to be my way of handling that.  No reservations until November 17th and about 5 weeks of time to fill. OK — the boss is calling and I have work I need to do before we leave, so…. thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

Old Diary, Travel

Deciding What We Want

We’ve got another day here before we move on down the road, but I’m not sure the basement is going to see any improvement during this stay. It’s there on my list, but I’m not getting to it very quickly.  It’s been raining overnight regularly and that means the ground is still wet even in the afternoon when the temps reach their daily highs; so I don’t want to be strewing storage tubs all over the damp ground.


We did get out and about to do some exploring on Monday.  I can see us returning to this lake again in the future.  The other campgrounds are just as lovely but different and this lake is wonderful.  If we were fishermen it would be even better, but hey, you can’t be all things to all men!

new orleans

Still going to spend time here — just not at the time we originally thought.

Our daughter and son-in-law are waiting on further testing to find out what kind of surgery Michael may need for his foot.  This is something that’s been going on for nigh unto 2 years — the result of a single fall that resulted in a really bad combination of fractures in his foot.  He’s been in a lot of pain and he’s finally getting to the point that their house is habitable enough that he can afford to be off his foot for however long the recuperation period might be after yet another surgery.  The ‘upshot’ (in a strange way)  is that our daughter realizes that her initial idea of meeting up with us again in New Orleans is unworkable.  Which in turn opens up the possibility for us to change plans made with her in mind.

It’s a funny thing, this mobile lifestyle. There are voices from the edges of our life that have no concept of the realities of mobile living.  It’s easy for them to think, you have an RV, you can go anywhere, any time, for any reason.   And those of you who do RV know that’s far from true.  Like everyone else we have financial constraints we live within, we have practical limits — often dictated by one’s health or illnesses — that say what we cannot do; and we have likes, dislikes, and bucket lists.  We love listening to the ideas and suggestions of those who live in sticks and bricks but we still have to run real plans through our list of constraints.

Peg and I both like to be accommodating.  We have  been that way;  And, we have but one daughter with whom we are very close so it’s obvious that we’ll go to great lengths to facilitate opportunities to see each other.  Between her and us we have good communication and I trust that neither of us ever feel put-upon by the other to do things they don’t really want to  do.  So what I say about people putting burdens on you is not about Katy or Michael.  But I do think we’ve been trying to please too much and not listening to the voices within.

Being accommodating, by definition, suggests compromise.  But accommodation isn’t always about compromise — sometimes it indicates that prior to accommodation there wasn’t a strong sense of direction to be deflected into any direction.  I think even though we have been retired for 3 years we are finally starting to feel as if we actually have a sense of direction.

Let me explain.

When we bought Journey we had never RV’d. The RV was the best tool to get us the lifestyle we were aiming at.   We had camped, a lot, in the early years.  And then there was a while when I was driving truck and to be honest I felt like I was camping out every night — sleeping in your truck gets to feeling that way.  So, Journey was our re-entry into camping, and an initial entry into the world of RV’s.

For Sale Sign

I’m so glad to be done selling houses!

We loved our coach but at that time we still had a house to be sold.  It took us 6 months to get the house on the market and another 18 months to get it sold. The result was that we never really felt free to take off in the Coach without regard to time or expense.  It was always about, “what if we get a buyer for the house; and will we have to be there for the closing.” After the house was sold,  we could have been ‘free’ but what did we do?  We went and spent 10 months volunteering in one place!  By choice, mind you, but still we consciously chose to plop in one place and stay there.

In a way it feels as if we weren’t finally mobile until July of this year.  We have enjoyed every bit of the last three years, but at least for me  the last three months have meant a different kind of freedom than we have known until now.

But having traded coaches only 6 months ago and not ever having driven the new one more than a few miles the last three months have meant freedom but also trying  to figure out how to live in this coach.  Almost like starting out our RV life all over again — mostly because this coach is so much longer than the other one.  We’ve been learning about the advantages and drawbacks of living in something 40′ long — something that doesnt’ fit into a lot of places where our 32′ coach did fit, but offers us comfort the 32′ er didn’t.

Bayou_Segnette_State_Park_Sign grand-isle-welcomeWhen we left Oregon we already had a vague plan to meet up with Kathryn in New Orleans.  We had planned to take 2 months from the time we left Milwaukee to arrive in New Orleans, meeting Kathryn around the first of December.  Now, without having to worry about  connection, we’re going to compress that and arrive in NOLA near the middle of October.  That will allow us to spend longer at two Louisiana State Parks that have intrigued me:  Bayou Segnette and Grand Isle.   Besides, I wasn’t all that keen on dawdling through Mississippi. I would rather dawdle in Louisiana!

We’re also planning to spend a week at Galveston and another in Matagorda.  Those stops are on our way to Los Fresnos / San Benito TX.  There, we are going to plop down and veg for a few months.  We’re going to try acclimating to a warmer clime (not sure how successful we’ll be at that — neither of us has ever been super keen on REAL HEAT). While we’re there we’re going to reconnoiter the valley to see if there are parks, campgrounds, or anything thing that really calls our name to get us to return. I don’t see us returning year by year to the same place — but we’ve never tried this kind of rv’ing before either.  There are enough wildlife refuges to hold my interest — for sure.  But whether it’s an area we’ll feel comfortable has yet to be determined.

The plan is to find out:

  • whether we like being in one place (without a work gig) for that long.  We never thought we would — we still aren’t sure — but we’re going to give it an honest shot.
  • whether we like being with a bunch of RV’ers for an extended duration.  We aren’t super social and in general we don’t care for organized activities — can we be ourselves in that setting?
  • whether we care for S. Texas.  Culture, food, climate, all that and more.
  • whether we really can tolerate warm temps (our Journey handled heat so poorly that anything over the low 80’s was really uncomfortable.  The Ambassador does much better with heating and cooling and maybe, just maybe we may be able to enjoy the heat).

We have a sense of direction for next spring as well.  More on that when we get closer.

Some people always seem to know what they want from the get-go.  That’s not us.  We have always been willing to adjust our wants to our circumstances and so our wants have never been all that important — if we don’t do a thing this year, maybe we’ll do it the following year.  Except now the number of following years is dwindling and maybe we’re willing to say, Yeah — I really want to do it — This Year!

There is no ‘right way’ to RV.  Just yesterday we were talking with a couple who live 20 miles from Shelbyville and they’ve been here to this park 4 times this season.  They are spending their winter partly in Texas, partly in Florida, and then back in Texas.   That is not for me.  It works for them.  Good for them.  As long as I don’t have to live their retirement and they don’t have to live ours we’re all happy.  We haven’t been doing this RV thing long enough to KNOW what we want — so we’re taking it one step at a time.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow (briefly as it’s a travel day) 🙂

Old Diary, Travel

Always Improving – The Corps of Engineers

The cover of the Corps of Engineers new CD

The cover of the Corps of Engineers new CD

One of the aspects of the Corps of Engineers campgrounds I like the most is that they are constantly working on improving their campgrounds.  This is in distinct contrast to what we saw with the Forest Service.  There it seemed that they had their hands full just trying to hang on to what they have and actually improving something seemed out of the question.

There are two ways to illustrate that from recent experience.  For one,  when we arrived here last Thursday, after getting registered and pointed in the direction of our campsite we were handed a free CD.  It turns out that the old, obsolete maps from 2002 and 2005 and 2007 that had the Corps of Engineers campgrounds on them, but had not been updated have now been replaced by a hand CD.  Everyone has a computer — don’t they (he says sarcastically)!

The second illustration of the Corps dedication to improvement is the work that’s going on here in the campgrounds.

  • The shower houses are nicely tiled (as opposed to plain concrete block shower enclosures) and the water is (if not steaming) at least hot enough for a HOT shower.
  • They have enlarged all of their full hookup sites (10 of them) this year — they have made them wider allowing for easier pull through access.
  • They are enlarging sites in one of the several campsite ‘loops’ to make those easier to back into, offering a wider apron so that poorly trained drivers don’t go banging into their neighbors while trying to back into their sites.
  • And they are adding a lot of additional gravel fill to provide sure footing and more level sites for campers.

2014100510514405 2014100510511404This is the kind of dedication to quality that makes campers happy.  The philosophy at the Forest Service was if you reserve a campsite that’s the one you get — even if you don’t like it.  Over the weekend we were talking to the fee collector here and he asked us if we liked our site and he OFFERED that if we didn’t we could change to any unoccupied site if we chose because “You’re the reason that we’re here and we want you to be happy.”   What a completely opposite view to customer service.

Of course Shelbyville isn’t the whole Corps, any more than the Oregon Dunes were the whole Forest Service.  And we have been to campgrounds where switching sites was harder, and I’m sure the Forest Service has places where changing sites is easier — I can only comment on those things I know for sure.  But we have consistently seen the Corps building and rebuilding, improving and re-improving (after floods) their facilities.  Likey, Likey.

2014100608071502 2014100608072403Just before we moved from State Fair Park I had succeeded in shifting some of our internal storage around in the office so that I was pretty happy with it.  With it being so cool the last few days I have not gotten to the basement as I would have liked but I did have time to think about the way we have utilized the storage above the cockpit and passenger’s seat.  Today I’m going to move all those travel books, magazines, and literature from the cabinets up there and bring them back into the bedroom/office.  Then ALL of our library will be in the same place and  even though I may still have to go searching for books or maps — at least they’ll all be in ONE place.   It may not be pretty — but it’s all part of making an RV into your home instead of just a place to sleep.

I think I’m going to stop there, for today.  Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

Old Diary

Do Dishes Get Dirtier in Shelbyville Illinois

What is it about life in Shelbyville Illinois that would give spur to an inventor to devise a Dish Washing Machine?  In fact, one of the world’s first dish washing machines was invented in Shelbyville by Joesphine Cochran.

josephine-cochrane-inventor-dishwasherIt was in the 1893 Columbian Exposition  that Ms Cochran displayed her invention and won the highest honors for her efforts.  The machine was too large for typical home use, but examples of her washer were put to use in such commercial installations as the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago.Josephine-Cochran-dishwasher2

And so it is that spending a little time in a place like Shelbyville is that we find interesting things to see, and do, and get a chance to learn a little bit about the area.

Chataqua AuditoriumAn interesting location in Shelbyville is the Chatauqua Auditorium.  Who would expect to find the largest example of a given architectural style here?  The Shelbyville Chataqua Auditorium is just such a building.  It was built in 1903 and is one of the few left in the state, but it is also the largest of it’s type still in existence.  A bowled floor provided seating for 5,000 and the dais is decorated above with grecian statues.  With 15,000 sq ft of interior space  there are no posts in the interior floor space of the auditorium, the roof is supported by beams and supports in the ceiling.  maxresdefault

As for us,  Sunday is a quiet time here at the campground and we spent part of it watching campers come and go while staying out of the cold breezes.  A year ago it was hot and swelter-y here; this year — not so much.

Old Diary, Travel

On the Move Again

Just a short one today.  We have 300 miles to travel and that’s up there at the top end of how far we like to travel in a single day. never this happyHaving said that I kind of feel like this baby elephant: just happy as can be!  I’ve been eager to get started and poor Peggy has had to wade through possible permutations of our trip.  I can tell when she’s had enough by the glazed look on her face.deer-in-headlights

So, we’re off to Coon Creek Access Area at Lake Shelbyvile, IL.  The flood control project at Shelbyville is more than 40 years old and as in many cases it’s the Corps that has assured millions of americans live lives much less troubled by floods and catastrophes than would otherwise be the case.   Yay Corps of Engineers!  The Dam at Shelbyville backs up an 11,000 acre lake with some 23,000 acres of recreation facilities (both private and public) There are 8 campgrounds around the lake (that I know of) and lots of campers, boaters, fishermen and hunters frequenting this area.

Look in the SW corner for Coon Creek and that's where we will be

Click on the map and look in the SW corner for Coon Creek and that’s where we will be

Choosing Coon Creek over Lithia Springs was a conscious choice. Lithia Springs seems a bigger draw to boaters, marina dwellers,  and party-ers, at least from what I’ve gleaned from the available information. And we are at the end of their season, so some of our options were limited — a couple campgrounds already being closed.

We have friends in Springfield IL who have been telling us about Lake Shelbyville for years and this is our first chance to give it a try.  Who knows, it might become a semi-regular stop on our irregular returns to Wisconsin — or not.  At any event it’s a good sized lake and one week there will be enough to check out how much we like it before heading a little over a hundred miles to the South in another week.    We’ll have time to bop over to Springfield to visit our friends (big homecoming parade) and they’ll have time to bop over to see our new-to-us coach.  We anticipate a good time will be had by all.


While we’ve been here in Kansasville I also had time to tweak both  the Silverleaf display screen, and how the notebook sits on the dashboard.  Today’s trip will be a chance to test drive the changes.  Among other things I learned on Sunday that colored gauges were not a good idea (I had thought the colors might be instant recognition of the engine system I was reading)  and I needed to make the gauges a little larger for better visibility.  I’ll try to take some photos when we hit the road and there’s better light.  Coming tomorrow.  If I don’t forget.  :-p  I don’t think the installation is where it’s going to be, or how, but I need a few more days of driving to settle that all in my brain.  If we had had this coach longer and I had more time behind the wheel I might have had location twigged before we bought anything but this way I get to tinker with it until I’m satisfied.

Today’s drive:

Like many of the Corps sites Coon Creek  offers electric but no full hookups,  there are flush toilets and showers, and even a laundry facility.  The state of Illinois does not have a nice Fall Color website like Wisconsin — so I don’t know what the autumn foliage will be like but we’re hoping to stay at the leading edge of color.

Ok — I have to run.  We have slides to pull in and leveling jacks to raise and a toad to hook up.  Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.