Home Away From Home, South Dakota

Our First Day in Custer

Since we only had a little over 100 miles to go and we couldn’t check in until after 12:00, we took it slow this morning. Of course, we had realized that the battery was dead so we had to jump it this morning. Dead battery on the car when we arrived and dead battery on the coach when we got ready to leave. At least, we’re consistent. We pulled out a little before 10:00 and fortunately did not have to go back through the park. That had been a harrowing ride and I didn’t want to repeat. Actually, we went right by Scenic but Jerry didn’t stop this time! We did see a herd of bison finally though they were at a distance.

We left flat lands in the Badlands and suddenly we were at 5000 feet. As usual, Jerry did a good job but was glad we weren’t going very far. We got to Big Pine Campground around 12:30 and check-in was easy and quick. We had an escort to our site and that is always so nice. We can stay at this site for three days and then will have to move across the way for two nights. The owner said he didn’t have a single vacant spot for the next week so guess we were lucky to have snagged two.
As soon as we had lunch we headed out first and most importantly for gas for the car. Jerry put over 14 gallons in it. It’s a 15-gallon tank! Yikes. As we rode along, we spotted a grocery store to take advantage of later.

We ended up driving right up to Custer State Park where we paid $20 for a week pass. Driving through Custer is very different from driving through the Badlands. Our intention was to go to the Visitor’s Center but we didn’t realize that it was on the other side of the park. It was a winding, curvy road with a speed limit of 25 most of the time so it took a while to reach the center. Fortunately, the video was just starting as we arrived so we got to take that in. It was absolutely spectacular. It features the bison running and I thought they were going to run right up to me!

We talked with one of the volunteers for a while plus looked at the different displays about the bison and learned some interesting facts. First off, bison or buffalo? Both words are used interchangeably but the correct name is bison. The more commonly used name “buffalo” comes from the French word for beef, “le boeuf” which was simplified into buffalo. Bison can run up to 35 miles per hour so be warned! There is no single safe distance from a bison as they can cover 100 feet in a matter of seconds. Signs that the bison are agitated are raised tail, snorting, pawing the ground or short charges toward someone. Bison live on an average of 12-20 years. Their age can be determined by their horns and like a horse, by their teeth as well.

There are approximately 1300 bison in Custer at this time. In September a buffalo roundup – yes, they call it a buffalo roundup, not a bison roundup – is held to cull the herd. They are all vet checked, given their immunizations and then their fate is determined. Either they return to the park or are sold at auction for various purposes.

After we left the Visitor’s Center, we decided to ride Wildlife Loop Road. In a few short minutes I spotted some pronghorn sheep. Jerry didn’t see them so we turned around and went back to try to find them. There the two of them were just grazing. We took some pictures and then traveled on. Our next sighting was three more pronghorn and this time with the binoculars I looked right in the face of one. Wow!

As we rode along, we saw a lot of stopped cars and knew something was ahead. Yep, the donkeys were there waiting for someone to give them a carrot. As soon as we parked the car one of the donkeys walked up right beside the car door and wouldn’t move. Jerry got out, walked around and finally hit him on the butt to move him up. We enjoyed walking around and looking at all 11 of them.

The next time we saw a lot of stopped cars it was for a herd of bison. There were probably over 100 in the herd and three adults and one baby made their way down near the road. Hopefully, we got some good pictures of that.

We finished the Wildlife Loop and continued to ride through the park back toward Custer. It is a beautiful ride and next time we go I’ll try to drive so Jerry can see how very beautiful it is!

A trip to the grocery store ended our riding around for the day. We headed back to the coach and caught up on some computer work that we’d had to delay this week. Internet at this campground is phenomenal. In fact, I think it’s better than what we have at home. Jerry and I talked about the different hikes and sights and we mapped out a tentative plan for the next few days. Since it’s unusually cool for this time of year we don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn for a hike! Cool weather means good sleeping!

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Home Away From Home, South Dakota

On to the Badlands

Our plans for an early departure were thwarted when we were awakened early to pouring rain, thunder, lightning and wind. What to do? We really didn’t want to spend the day at Porter Sculpture but the wind was blowing and the road out was groveled and rutted in places. About 9:00 Jerry went over to talk with Wayne, the owner, and he assured Jerry that RV’s came in every day with no problem. We hastily buttoned up everything, prayed and off we went. The road was not good but could have been a lot worse. There were portions of muddy, water standing in places and then everything would be fine and then more standing water, plus the ruts. I held my breath until we made it to the highway.

The rain continued as we traveled toward Mitchell for a stop at the Corn Palace. The weather cleared as we neared Mitchell fortunately because we had to go around our thumbs to get to our elbows. Of course, there was construction and a detour. We finally located an RV parking lot a block behind and a block over from the Corn Palace. In fact, it looked like an RV Park as there were several RV’s there. The bonus of driving in the rain is a very clean windshield. The negative is a dirty RV and an even dirtier car! When I got out of the RV at the parking lot I was astounded at how filthy my car was. We definitely will need to go to a car wash.

The Corn Palace was interesting. Built to encourage a flagging economy with an aim to becoming the state capital it attracted many fans during those early days. We watched a video on the history. Afterward, a guide took us in the gift shop and explained the corn murals on the wall. The left side of the shop paid tribute to the white settlers and the right side paid tribute to the native Americans. In the very center two hands were depicted indicating the union of the two.

Our next stop was the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center on I-90 accessible from both the east and the west. We went inside and were treated to a history of the expedition and several dioramas depicting various stages of the journey. Outside was the magnificent statue of Dignity of Earth and Sky. It is an astounding 50-foot statue honoring the cultures of the Lakota and Dakota people. I can only imagine how magnificent it must be in the evening when the light is shining on it. After a couple of photo ops we retreated to the coach and had some BLT’s for lunch.

As we traveled along I-90 we saw bales and bales of what appeared to be hay. We later learned that the counties sell the rights to people to harvest and collect the grass, etc growing on the side of the road. That’s a lot more useful than the mowing that goes on in North Carolina. Of course, it may not be grass but a combination of something else. As we looked out the coach windows we saw miles and miles, as far as we could see, of land. For the most part, nothing else could be seen and we wondered what as beyond our view.

I had to eat my words today. I had earlier declared that I would not be stopping at another Pilot station for gas but sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. We had about a half a tank which is when we like to start looking for a station. The only thing ahead was a Pilot. We decided to pull in a and assess it. If we could get in and out easily, we’d stop there but if it looked like the station we had gone to earlier when we blocked traffic the answer was no. Guess our surprise when not only did we realize we could get in easily but they had two dedicated RV lanes. Easy peasy. A few minutes later we had a full tank and were on the road again.

To get to the town of Interior you have to go right through Badlands National Park. The road was curvy, winding, bumpy and oh my gosh, what next! We were able to use our American the Beautiful pass for entry. At first glimpse, the Badlands were awesome, majestic, otherworldly, mind-blowing.

After we drove through the park we drove into Interior – did we miss it, population 94 – to get to the Badlands/White River KOA. Check-in was accomplished quickly and then we were led to our campsite. That always makes it so much easier than having to ride around trying to locate a site. As soon as we got parked, I went out to do my part of getting the car detached. Yep, the battery was dead. It hadn’t been started in 48 hours so dead it was. This is not the first time it has happened. Jerry thinks something may be wrong with the electrical system and plans to get it checked out when we return home. Meanwhile, we won’t go that long without starting it.

One of the neighbors came over and jumped the car and we left it running while we continued to set up. It was terribly hot and we were both dripping wet with sweat when we got everything done.

Jerry wanted to go for a ride to recharge the batteries and I had wanted to stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center to get the lay of the land for tomorrow plus we needed some basic groceries so off we went. Since we both needed to go into the Visitor’s Center we skipped that. We couldn’t leave the car running in the parking lot with no one in it and both of us needed to go into the center. We rode on to Wall, SD.

Like everyone, I had heard so much about Wall Drug and I accepted that it was a kitschy, tourist trap so was not surprised when we finally got there. By the way, it didn’t take long. The speed limit on I-90 is 80, quite a bit faster than we were going in the RV and quite a difference from NC. Wall Drug seems to be several stores all connected with most anything you might need or want. We wandered around briefly but didn’t spend much time there as our serious stop was the grocery store. We actually found a small store in Wall and were able to get everything we needed. It always makes me feel proud when I go in a store and see a jar of Mt. Olive pickles made in Mt. Olive, NC which is not far from our home. It’s a little bit of home while we are so far away and I always look for them in the store.

While we were on the way to Wall, I had my computer, my iPhone and my iPad. I needed to pay some bills and like we were told yesterday there is no Internet at the campground and no cell service so I took care of that while Jerry zoomed down the highway.

The guy that jumped our car told us that there was another camper from NC so when we returned we put wings out to thaw and walked around the campground looking for an NC license plate. We found it but no one was there. We were told two things about the campground. One, no cell service and the other, mosquitoes were abundant! Our walk was cut short as the mosquitoes and bugs were flying around like jet planes. We returned to the coach, had our dinner and settled our plans for the next day. Hopefully, we will be up early and out hiking before it gets too hot.

Home Away From Home, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota

South Dakota – Finally!

Though we hadn’t talked about it we ended up leaving the earliest we’ve left the entire trip. By 8:10 we were on the road headed to our next Harvest Host site. We enjoyed seeing the acres of green farmland dotted with plentiful windmills and no billboards cluttering our view. We saw no litter and of the states we have been through thus far, Iowa has the very best highways. There were acres and acres of corn at various stages of growth. We were told yesterday that a lot of it is field corn used in making ethanol. We were on a four-lane highway so lightly traveled that I could have driven although it would have been much slower!

We stopped around 9:30 for gas at a Flying J, possibly our last Flying J for a while as there don’t seem to be many on the roads ahead.

Of course, our two GPS’s deviated and Jerry decided to go with his. In retrospect I’m not sure that was a good idea. As we entered Minnesota, we ran into road construction and a detour. Forty minutes later we had seen a lot of Minnesota that we had not planned to see and the roads were one-lane and very nerve-wracking. We had skirted the rain clouds most of the morning but by noon we were in steady rain although we could see blue skies ahead.

We stopped once more at a Love’s in Sioux Falls for gas and then by 4:00 were at our Harvest host site for the night. The road leading into the park is dirt and at one point we had to go over a cattle guard. That is fun in an RV with a tow!

Look hard! I’m there.
Porter Sculpture Park is located in Montrose, SD and is rated as a Top Roadside Attraction in America. There are more than 50 larger than life sculptures scattered around the acreage. Most of them are quite large and a couple are enormous. In fact, I was looking at the picture of the horse that Jerry took and didn’t even realize that I was in the picture. It’s a big horse! As we walked around, we saw numerous “thirteen striped squirrels” and some flippertails – not sure what they are. I quickly went inside to replace my sandals with some closed-toe shoes!

As soon as we arrived, we took the walking tour of the park and then due to the heat spent the rest of the evening inside. One other RV arrived and we ended up chatting with them for a few minutes. It’s kind of good to know that we are not the only people out here as it’s a little desolate.

It’s still taking us a while to get use to the late arrival of the night as it’s dark by 8:30 at home whereas here it’s still quite light. Jerry had mentioned this morning that it was light at 6:15 so there must not be a very long night.

Home Away From Home, Iowa

Harvest Host Extraordinaire

A very late start this morning but taking care of repairs on the road can slow you down. Our dash AC stopped working on Friday and although we could run the generator while traveling to keep the house AC on, we didn’t want to do that unless necessary. The house AC needs a break! We have been at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Campground since Friday and while it has been just what we wanted there are NO trees and we have been in direct sunlight the entire time and it’s been HOT!

I made numerous calls Friday trying to find a mobile RV Tech and it’s not easy to find someone. We finally found someone on Saturday but guess what he was doing? Camping a couple hundred miles away. There really was no one to call on a weekend so we planned to try again Monday morning and fortunately we were able to reach the tech we had talked with on Saturday. They arrived around 8:30 and discovered that we needed a vacuum hose so off they went to get one. Time was ticking and I really wanted to get to our Harvest Host site in Hudson, Iowa as soon as possible. They have kangaroos!

As we are traveling, I often start humming a song with no conscious thought of what I am singing. Today it was “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go”. Interesting. Where is the Lord leading us today? I prayed this morning for our safety and then as we were leaving we prayed. What a reassurance to know that we are in God’s loving hands.

Today was possibly the most uneventful travel day we have had. Other than a little hiccup when we missed the exit everything went well. We had no major cities to traverse and the traffic wasn’t too heavy. We stopped around noon in Iowa for gas at a Flying J. With our discount the gas was $2.54 a gallon – love it! I prayed that we could get gas with no drama and thank you Lord, we got in, got gas and got out quickly. No drama! We stopped about an hour later at a rest station in Iowa for a quick lunch and then back on the road. As we rode along, I noticed a lot of flat land, road signs quite a distance from the highway and an occasional whiff of cattle although we saw no cattle.

We arrived at Hansen Dairy Farm, our Harvest Host home for the evening around 4:00 and immediately joined a tour of the farm. It was absolutely fascinating. The dairy farm is family owned and has been for 150 years. The four sons and their families all work with their mom and dad. What a work ethic the grandchildren are learning. We got to milk a cow plus we got a private visit with their four kangaroos. Their fur is so soft. We fed them some bread but I think they had been treated earlier today so weren’t as hungry. I just loved sitting on the ground rubbing them.

Despite his grumpy looking face the butter was delicious.

When we arrived, the tour was at the barn where the babies were and kids were feeding them milk from bottles. There were three sets of twin calves and then across the way were a set of triplets. It’s the only set of triplets born on the farm in the 150-year history. Apparently, it’s so rare that they made the local and national news. At the end of the tour we were able to sample the delicious milk, white or chocolate (and I usually don’t like milk), made some butter that was just as good and then ate some luscious ice cream.

We couldn’t have asked for a nicer place to spend the night. We’re settled right next to a lovely pond where we could fish – if we fished! After dinner, I sat out by the pond and enjoyed the serenity and the quiet while watching the beautiful sunset. Ah….

Home Away From Home, Illinois, Missouri

A Spur of the Moment Trip to St. Louis

Yesterday we decided that we had about “Lincolned” out and wanted something a bit different for today. While talking with one of the members of the brass band yesterday he mentioned having gone to St. Louis the night before. That remark got me to thinking about the Gateway Arch so I asked Jerry about going to St. Louis for the day. He readily agreed so off we went. I always do a lot of research before we visit somewhere but on this day we were shooting in the dark. Knowing nothing about the arch, the park, the museum, the lake we decided to wing it.

We left about 8:30 for the 100 mile trip. It was an easy drive, a lot easier in a car! I did some research as we were traveling and found a parking deck that seemed to be near to where we wanted to be so we headed there. Turns out we were quite close to the Arch.

As we were walking to the Arch we chatted with a couple who lived in St. Louis. They gave us some ideas of what to do and emphasized that we should ride the tram up the Arch. That was definitely on my list of things to do.

We got to the main building, bought our tickets for the movie and the tram. The river cruise was not opened because the river was flooded. We only had a few minutes before the movie stated so we headed that way via entrance in the museum. Of course, we had to go through a security check and all of the men had to take off their belts. I was hoping Jerry’s pants didn’t fall down!

Soon it was time to see the movie which explained the building process with original video and pictures. It is truly amazing to watch the process and also to realize that no lives were lost as they forged those tremendous heights and dangers.

The original intent of the Gateway Arch National Park was to bring something to St. Louis to fight a flagging economy that had been changed due to railroad use rather than shipping. The idea was presented by lawyer, Luther Ely Smith. He thought St. Louis needed a big national memorial on the old riverfront. Smith won over Mayor Bernard Dickmann and in 1934 they formed the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association (JNEMA) to develop the riverfront. Dickmann found political support in Washington and the local project turned into a national one. President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Jefferson National Enterprise Memorial by presidential proclamation in 1935.

Sometime later a contest was held to determine a winning design for the monument. Eero Saarinen, an immigrant from Finland was the winter and received $40,00 for his efforts. He went on to become a noted and respected architect for his designs. Prior to the contest he was most noted for his furniture design, particularly the tulip chair which is on exhibition in the museum.

Construction on the Arch started in 1962 and a mere two and a half years later, in 1965, it was completed. It rose to 630 feet, the tallest structure in the United States. Not only is it 630 feet tall but it is also 630 feet wide.

A view from the top, a Cardinals game
The trip to the top via the tram takes four minutes rising at a rate of 340 feet per minute. I had my ticket and was planning to ride but admittedly I am claustrophobic. I thought I could handle it though until I saw the capsule – and that’s being generous – that only five people could fit in. Just as I was about to bend over to step in, I realized that I just couldn’t be closed up in that small space even for four minutes. I quickly apologized and backed out. What a disappointment. Jerry went on to enjoy the ride up, take a few pictures, one of the Cardinals paying a game and then the three-minute ride down. Meanwhile I sat waiting for him feeling sorry for myself. He was quickly down and reminded me of the horseback ride he backed out of at the last minute when we were in Amararillo. That made me feel just a midgen better.

The top of the Old Courthouse
We walked over to the domed Courthouse next and spent a few minutes there. Simply put, it is stunning. A series of kites depicting Lewis and Clark were hung along the balcony of the second floor.

By this time we were pretty tired so we headed back to the car and Springfield. Our GPS got a little confused so we circled the block a couple of times before we got on the right highway. We arrived back in Springfield just in time to go see the Old State Capital Historic Site. It was interesting to note how Lincoln’s political stance emerged throughout his tenure as president. I had questioned who his vice president was and who took over upon his death. Amazingly, a couple of people I asked seemed to have no idea and were surprised at the question. It was Andrew Johnson from Tennessee, a southerner who Lincoln hoped would help balance his ticket for re-election.

A quick run to the grocery store and we were done! It was time to start thinking about leaving in the morning headed for the next leg of the journey to South Dakota. Plans are to spend tomorrow night in Hudson, Iowa.

Home Away From Home, Illinois

Abraham Lincoln Museum

Three days of hard driving can be exhausting so last night and this morning have been a time of rest. A good night’s sleep always helps too. We had planned to get an early start but Jerry slept in and I knew he must be so very tired so I didn’t bother him. As it turned out we were still out and about by 9:30, pretty good for us!

We decided to go to the Abraham Lincoln Museum first hoping it wouldn’t be as crowded in the morning. As we rode down the street and started to turn into a parking deck a gentleman stopped us and explained that street parking was free on the week-ends so rather than spend $20 to enter the deck we found a place right there on the street. What a welcome to Springfield!

As we approached the museum we saw a couple of guys dressed in period costume and they explained that they were part of a brass band that would be playing songs popular during the Civil War at 10:30. We enjoyed chatting with them for a few minutes and then entered the museum with plans to come back out for the concert.

After buying the tickets – oh, that was fun. The ticket agent said to Jerry, “one senior and one…” at which point we just laughed and told her two seniors. Wonder which one was the senior?

After we passed through the entry to the actual museum we stopped by a grouping of Lincoln and his family. They are amazingly real looking. We were greeted by a lady volunteering to take pictures but also dispensing a lot of information about the Lincoln family. The stories she told were fascinating and as with the rest of the museum presented a picture of Abraham and Mary Lincoln that one doesn’t read in the history books.

Our first visit was a replica of the cabin where young Lincoln lived and then further displays and information about his life before the presidency. At one point, Lincoln was a store owner and one of the displays showed Lincoln and a lady looking at a book. I tried to see what book it was and I think possibly it was an English book because I saw a couple of references to “nouns”. I couldn’t get close enough to really read anything though. The figures were so very real looking, almost spooky. Their hands looked so real and his arms actually had hair on them. Eeek!<a

Since it was almost 10:30 we ventured outside to hear the brass band. They played a number of songs, one a medley of patriotic songs including the Star Spangled Banner. The speaker said that people did not have to stand for that but some, including us, did. A refreshing sight.

Knowing my dad faithfully and willingly served our country during World War II, the D Day exhibit was especially touching to me. It very explicitly and sometimes graphically showed the pulse of our country plus the devastation that occurred during that time. It was a time when our country came together for a united purpose. Those at home, men, women and children came together to provide in any way they could whether it was working in a factory or conserving. Patriotism was at an all-time high. What a compelling exhibit.

The next stop was a video about the Lincoln that people don’t know. The narrator was an artist and explained that one could tell a lot about a person from their eyes. “The eyes are the windows to the soul”. He explained that Lincoln’s gray eyes showed a great deal of sorrow and sadness.

After the movie, we ventured into the White House years and as with any president, Lincoln had his opponents. Several walls were filled with caricatures of him and interestingly enough the doors and some of the frames were slanted either left or right. Umm…

After another short video we decided to call it a day. I had read that the museum could be seen in three hours but it took us nearly four and we could have spent more. We walked over to Union Station and then headed back to the coach for lunch.

After lunch we went to the Lincoln home. After a picture with “Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln” we headed to the house. Some of the items in the house are authentic, about 50 I think the park ranger said and of course most are reproductions. There was one large room that could be divided into two rooms, one for Lincoln’s study and one for Mrs. Lincoln’s entertaining. If the rooms were not being used for those purposes they were closed off. Children were not allowed in those rooms.

From what we heard the Lincolns were very lax parents and let their kids run wild wherever they were be it in Lincoln’s law office or at home. It seemed the older Lincolns were unaware of their children’s antics. Sadly, two of their children died at a young age, one while the Lincolns were in the White House. The water at the White House came from the river and unbeknownst to them the water was toxic due to the dead bodies of the soldiers lying on the banks. Apparently, this is what caused the young boy’s illness and subsequent death.

After the house tour we wandered around the area for a while looking at the various houses which are now used as offices. By this time, it was getting so hot that we decided to call it a day and return to the coach.

A messy law office!

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After dinner we decided to walk over to the arena where we had heard there was a horse show. We missed the show but were able to see a couple of reining horses working out in the ring.

It was a busy day and we learned a lot about President Lincoln, his wife and his children. We got to see the personal side of a president as well as his political side.

Lincoln as a young boy
Home Away From Home

Springfield, Illinois

What a beautiful, glorious morning! We had planned to be up and out early – yeah right – but the coach was cool and it was difficult to get out of a warm bed! When I walked outside it was 61 degrees and the sun was shining brightly. A perfect day for sightseeing but we had a destination to make.

We got the car hooked up, slides in, jacks up, etc and got ready to pull out only to discover the dash AC was not blowing out air. Arrrrg – That’s a problem for a later time. Jerry turned on the generator and the house AC and I posted a question on our Newmar Canyon Star FaceBook page hoping for a solution. Quite frankly considering the absolutely horrible highways we’ve been on it’s a miracle that every screw, hose, etc is still intact. Five states and bad roads in every one of them. We eventually called NIRV and they felt that a hose might have come detached. They suggested we get it repaired and send them the bill. Well, that sounds great but after numerous phone calls we realized that finding someone to fix it would not be easy. One guy only works on RV appliances. One guy doesn’t work on anything under the hood. One doesn’t work on air conditioners. Oh well, hopefully we’ll get it figured out before we hit the hot South Dakota weather.

Our gas station of choice is Flying J as they are very RV friendly – friendly toward gas RV’s. Unfortunately, there were none in the area so we were forced to choose a Pilot. Big mistake and even if I have to pay $.20 more a gallon I hope I don’t ever have to go to another Pilot. We got in and got the gas with little problem but leaving the station was a mess. It was set up like a maze with twists and turns. We eventually had to unhook the car so Jerry could get it out. Meanwhile traffic was backing up at where they thought the only exit was. One person even blew the horn. Really. We were doing all we could do. I finally just turned around and threw up my hands. Almost immediately the gentleman in the first car walked over explaining that he had not blown the horn and then gave Jerry some good advice on how to get out. That accomplished we rehooked the car and took off again. Whew!

We arrived in Springfield, Illinois at the Illinois State Fairground, our home for the next three nights. Check in was done quickly and hurrah – we have full hookups! No generator noise tonight! Basically, it’s just some big parking lots with no trees and no amenities but I can’t complain at $20 a night. Also, we don’t generally spend a lot of time in the coach when we’re touring so amenities are not important. At least they aren’t after three days on the road. That might change later in the trip!

As soon as we were set up we decided to take advantage of the short afternoon to visit Lincoln’s tomb. What an impressive place although I will say that after reading some of the information it’s a little daunting to be in Lincoln country and be from the south!

Lincoln along with his wife and three of his sons are entombed in the structure. Upon his wife’s request, the fourth son was buried at Arlington. The tomb’s exterior is of granite and the point of the obelisk is 117 feet high, a very impressive sight. After observing the outside we were able to go inside where there were statues of Lincoln at various stages of his life – Lincoln the Debater, Lincoln the Circuit Rider, Lincoln the Soldier plus others. The entire structure is various shades of beige marble, absolutely stunning. It was so sad to see the tombs of his three sons who were so young when they died, one was only 4 years old.

Viet Nam War Memorial
Afterward, we drove over to the war memorials which also was quite impressive. There were memorials to the people lost in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Quite an honor to those who have given their lives so we might enjoy the freedoms that offered in our United States.”

Our next plan was to visit one of the historic houses but by then it was nearly four and too late for that so we headed to the grocery store for some essentials. It was a good day. Traveling around Indianapolis was, um interesting but other than that the travel was noneventful. We pray every morning for God’s protection for us and every evening we give thanks for that as well.

Wonder how many people have rubbed his nose!
Home Away From Home, Ohio, West Virginia

Just Adding Miles

What a quiet and restful night. I fought sleep until 9:00 and then just gave up, turned the lights off, put up the book and was sound asleep within minutes. We had been told that it was quiet at night and they were right. I never heard a sound. Jerry slept well too. But then …

If it’s not one thing it’s another! We realized yesterday that our TPSM was not reading the pressure in our tires and Jerry felt that the batteries in the sensors were dead. According to the powers that be they are supposed to last from 10-12 months. Ours have not been changed since we bought the system so it was definitely time for replacements. Jerry had decided to wait until this morning to work on them hoping that the temperature would be lower plus we were on hot asphalt. I had gotten a youtube how-to video produced by TechnoRV where we had purchased from so we knew what we needed and how to do it – kind of! Jerry had gone to Home Depot last night and bought all of the batteries they had – four and we needed six – but he didn’t buy the tiny necessary screwdriver so off to Home Depot he went again this morning. Parking between Cabela’s and Home Depot has certainly been advantageous!
Jerry decided to get started immediately on replacing the batteries before it got too hot. Afterward, we got permission from Cabela’s to empty our black tanks. It’s free if done during working hours. It’s a bad job but someone has to do it.

For the most part, Ohio roads seem to be better than West Virginia but it’s like Jerry said, “Every state has good roads and bad roads and every state has construction!” So true and some construction crews think we have a skinny van rather than a motor home.

We had to try two Pilot stations before we could access one to get gas. Pilot says they are RV friendly and perhaps they are for the Diesel RV’s but not so much for gas coaches. We later stopped in Washington Court House, Ohio at a Walmart and had lunch plus were able to pick up two more batteries for the TPMS.

We arrived in New Paris, Ohio around 4:00 with plans to stay at a Harvest Host site. Although we knew we would not actually be staying at Wesler Orchard, when I had called earlier they told us to go there first and possibly buy some produce. We would be actually be staying at their winter business, Valley’s Edge. We got to the Orchard, bought some produce and quickly assessed that we couldn’t possibly turn around without detaching the car. That done and with directions to Valley’s Edge we proceeded on. Located on the edge of town we had the large parking lot to ourselves.
As soon as we were settled Jerry wanted to ride around the town – like we hadn’t been riding all day! Sorry to say there is not much to see in New Paris. In fact, we never even saw a grocery store so we came on back to the coach and read for a while.

I had prepared some spaghetti sauce and also had, upon a recommendation from someone’s blog, frozen some leftover vermicelli. Believe it or not the noodles were fine. I would never have thought of preparing and freezing them but knowing we would be boondocking for a couple of nights I tried to use every trick I could think of and surprisingly it worked.

After dinner we hooked the car up and Jerry finished putting all of the sensors on the tires only to discover that we had two tires that were low. Bummer but at least we knew so Jerry drug out the air compressor and began that hot job.

But that was not the end of the day. After resolving the TPMS problem we realized that the coach was getting warmer. Ah, the breaker on the generator had tripped. Jerry went outside, flipped it and it tripped again indicating to Jerry that the oil was probably low. Where to find oil in New Paris at 9:00? We unhitched the car and headed out. Fortunately, the Dollar Store was opened and had the oil. Back to the RV only to discover the bright yellow dip stick was missing. We walked all around the coach, the car and the parking lot but could not find it. Jerry even went back to the Dollar Store to see if perhaps he had left it there. We looked a little like CSI walking around with our flashlights pointed to the ground. Finally, after probably 30-40 minutes Jerry opened a bin next to the generator and there it was, just where he’d left it.

All in all, not a very exciting day but we’ll take it. We’re just making miles headed to Springfield, Il tomorrow for a few days. It was a good travel day with just a few hiccups at the end.

Home Away From Home, West Virginia

Cabela’s

As always getting prepared for a long trip is exhausting and I must admit this preparation was even more so. Because the motor home had been “vacant” for six months, I wanted everything in it washed and cleaned, i.e. glasses, plates, silverware, pots, pans, towels, sheets – well, you get it – everything. We did not hook up to water at home so Monday was spent going back and forth between the house and the coach since I did all of the washing in the house. Thank goodness for a dishwasher but … who knew we had a child lock on it. After using it a couple of times I couldn’t get it to come on again. After trying every button on there I finally got out the manual only to be used when all else fails! Voila! It was in child lock. In addition, I vacuumed, swept, mopped and dusted every space I could including the drawers but I can safely say that the RV is most likely as clean as it’s ever been.

Tuesday was a day of appointments, haircuts for both of us, a doctor’s appointment for Jerry so a busy day. In between appointments we carried things out to the RV and slowly loaded everything. We met Trent for a quick dinner and then home to complete the preparation.

For some reason I didn’t sleep well Tuesday night and I’m not sure why. Jerry and I had both noticed that neither of us seemed to be very excited about this trip. He thought he was because of spending so much of our time at our happy place on the river and hating to leave there. Perhaps. I know I have been a bit nervous about traveling since our accident so maybe that’s why. Also, we are going to be gone for a LONG time!

As soon as I knew the coffee was ready I got up. All was quiet as Jerry continued to sleep. I didn’t want to awaken him as I knew he had some long driving days ahead. I took care of paying some bills, etc., took a shower and was already dressed before he got up. Our plan had been to leave by 8:00 but we were running just a bit late. We always begin our journeys with a prayer for safe travel and this time I added accident-free travel and then we were off by 8:30 so that was pretty good for us.

We stopped briefly at a rest stop in Alamance, NC and then were back on the road trying to decide where we would spend the night. Walmart in Princeton, Beckley or Cabela’s in Charleston, WV? Other than a stop for gas and a quick sandwich we spent the day on the road. As we were entering West Virginia I commented on how good the highway was. I really shouldn’t have said that because as soon as I did the road conditions deteriorated drastically. I thought tolls were used to make improvements in the highways but apparently not! It was a bumpy ride but we soldiered on.

Having decided on Cabela’s in Charleston, WV we continued on past the 330 rule. As we were twisting, turning and bumping suddenly the refrigerator and freezer doors started opening. Finally, in desperation I went back and sat across from the fridge holding the doors closed with my feet. Not only was it not comfortable but it began to get a little warm plus I wasn’t able to have a seatbelt on. I’ve always worn my seatbelt but since our accident I’ve become almost neurotic about it. Yikes!

I had called Cabela’s earlier to verify that we could spend the night there but was pleasantly surprised when upon arrival we realized that instead of parking out front in the big parking lot they had a designated parking area just for RV’s. No one else arrived so we had the space to ourselves

Jerry felt that he could temporarily solve the fridge door problem by using some extension rods and we were able to purchase them at Cabela’s. When we are able to stay somewhere free we always make a purchase in the stores so that worked out well for us. In addition, there was a Home Depot next door so he could find an additional tie for the upper doors. Hopefully, that will solve our problem until we can get home and get a more permanent fix.

I had put a chuck roast with potatoes and onions in the crockpot before we left this morning and with a package of steamable broccoli cooked in the microwave we had a nice dinner. As we were cleaning up Jerry noticed that one of our shelves was coming apart so back to Home Depot he went to buy some glue to fix that. It is so reassuring to have a husband who can and will fix almost anything!

Hopefully, we can both get a good night’s sleep and take it easy in the morning as we only have a little over 230 miles to go to reach our destination, New Paris, Ohio at a Harvest Host location.

Georgia, Home, Home Away From Home

We Have Our Motor Home Back!

June 24: Was I nervous, excited, awed? Not sure, but I woke up today before 6:00 a.m. thinking about what lie ahead. Our accident occurred December 28 and we haven’t even seen the motor home since January 3. In fact, we haven’t seen it since it was towed to NIRV in Lawrenceville, Ga. Why you wonder haven’t we been in to check on it? We live in eastern North Carolina so a “little” trip to Lawrenceville just wasn’t possible.

We left Pamlico Beach around 9:00 only stopping twice, once at a rest stop and once to fill up our gas while we were still in South Carolina where gas is considerably cheaper than North Carolina. We had prepared a picnic lunch – doesn’t that sound fancy – it was just a sandwich – so we ate as we traveled. We actually got to our hotel in Augusta around 3:00 and wondered why we hadn’t plan to drive on to Lawrenceville. Well, we probably would have arrived during the worst of traffic so it was probably a good decision.

We rested for a bit and then went to check out the very nearby Gander Mountain/Camping World where we actually bought some bear spray in preparation for our summer trip out west.

Jerry wanted something different for dinner and suggested Thai. We have only eaten Thai a couple of times but we liked it so I went on Yelp and found a restaurant fairly close, Sawasdee. Fortunately, there weren’t many people there when we arrived so the waitress could give us some extra attention and offer suggestions which we sorely needed. I’m not sure what either of us got but I do know both entrees were delicious – and hot, just like we like it. Needless to say we drank a lot of water and fortunately the waitress kept our glasses topped off!

June 25: Again Tuesday morning I was awake before 6:00. After a cup of coffee we stumbled downstairs for the complimentary breakfast, then showers, packing up and on the road to Lawrenceville shortly after 9:00. Were we excited much? Although we got a call saying they were running behind and we could delay our arrival we continued on to the dealership anyway. We were ready to see our RV!

Upon arrival we met with Mike, the paint and body manager, who was working with our coach. He took us to the coach and I can tell you it looked grand! The front is beautiful! We ended up spending three days, four nights at NIRV. They wanted us to stay several nights in case there were any hiccups with the coach and there were some small issues.

Mike got it parked for our overnights and then our work began. Our sheets and towels had been in the coach six months and a lot of that time it was parked outside so our first order of business was getting them washed. Since we didn’t have septic hookup I was hesitant to wash several loads so off to the laundromat we went. We know nothing about laundromats and that quickly became obvious. We saw the machines, a triple load (yes, we could have washed everything in one load had we known) and it had the number “14” on it. We incorrectly assumed that it meant 14 minutes which in retrospect would surely be a short wash cycle. The “14” stood for the 14 quarters needed and Jerry only had $5.00, 20 quarters and of course as usual I had none. Needless to say we didn’t wash much, just the towels and damped dry them. Lesson learned – always have some cash with you!

Afterward, we found a restaurant for dinner and then a grocery store for some coffee! The rest of the evening was spent washing sheets. We only got the bottom sheet washed and dried before we collapsed in the bed pretty tired but glad to be back in our coach.

June 26: They picked it up by 8:00 on Wednesday morning for some more work. After lunch they took our Jeep to install a new base plate for the tow system plus they worked on a few more hiccups. Jerry noticed that the refrigerator was pushed out further than it had been so they addressed that.

The biggest issue seemed to be that we needed two new front tires. What to do? Was it safe to drive home where we knew we could get the tires? Questions, decisions! We had been given the name of someone to call at University Tire. Unfortunately, that gentleman was out for the day and the person Jerry talked to gave him a price of $1800 and said they did not honor the FMCA Michelin program. Ouch. Thus began the process of seeing if we could find a dealer in the area that did honor the program or find someone at home. We did find someone in Lawrenceville with a considerably lower price but we found out on Thursday morning that he could not get the tires. Regroup – Order the tires at home and hope for the best?

At this point I looked at Jerry and said “we need to pray” so right there in the car we bowed our heads and prayed. I asked the Lord for wisdom and to work out our problem the best way possible. If it was ok to drive home on the tires we would but otherwise I prayed that the right door would open.

Jerry then tried once more to call Matt at University Tire. So glad he did. He was able to talk with Matt and found out that they do honor FMCA and they had the tires in stock at a considerably lower price. Answered prayer and yes we did immediately thank the Lord and give Him the honor and the praise!

Although there was a lot of waiting, our time spent at NIRV was not so bad. They were numerous couples in and out waiting for their coaches and we developed quite a camaraderie. Everyone discussed their various travels and we got some good tips for our upcoming trip out west. Kudos to NIRV, namely Todd, Mike, Amanda, Miles, Alex, Justin and Nikki who is the beleaguered receptionist and I’m sure hears many “interesting” stories but always with a smile on her face. I don’t think we have ever done business with a company where everyone was so genuinely pleasant. They always had a smile and the time to listen with an attentive ear. I’m quite sure some of our questions were rather mundane to them but they always answered as though it was the most important question of the day.

June 26: Although Jerry had wanted to get on the road really early I knew that wasn’t going to happen (it rarely does) so it was 8:45 before we were hooked up and on the road. As always we had prayer before pulling out asking for God’s protection for safe and accident-free travel.

Although traffic was heavy it moved along until we ran into construction ahead. On the left was a sign indicating that the left lane was closed. On the right was a sign indicating that the right lane was closed. Really? Were we supposed to fly over? Jerry changed to the left lane only to realize that we needed to be in the right lane so back we went. Needless to say it was a little nerve-wracking to immediately run into traffic issues but Jerry soldiered on with great aplomb.

It was a terribly long day filled with continued construction in numerous places, bumper to bumper traffic in places and then pouring rain in bumper to bumper traffic very reminiscent of conditions when we had our accident. Jerry did a fantastic job but I must admit I was a bad passenger. Lots of gasps, “oh mys” and “watch out”! It continues to amaze me when people suddenly pull in front of us as though we could stop on a dime. Really folks!

We finally arrived in Kinston 11 hours and 501 miles later, very tired and hungry with another hour and half or driving ahead of us to get to our river home. Driving that distance is something we rarely do and for good reason but thankfully we made it safely and the RV is ready for our planned summer trip.

Now to spend July 4th with precious family!