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8/12 through 9/17/2014 - Chicago and Elgin

When we landed back in Chicago after our bike trip we hopped the "Blue" line which dropped us off at our rental property.  Yes, we have a condo in Chicago in the West Loop which we rent out to  help pay for our travels.  Unfortunately, we found out in late June that our tenants were breaking their lease and leaving in July.  Fortunately, we have a very nice condo and it includes two indoor parking spots which makes it very desirable (especially after the winter that Chicago just had).  We stayed there for two weeks (8/12 thru 8/28) to spruce it up and get it rented.  We listed it on  Friday (8/15) and by that Sunday (8/17) after 6 showings we had it rented - YAY! 

The view from our balcony
We spent some of our time in Chicago cleaning the condo for our new tenant and watching thunderstorms come in from the west.

Best seats we've ever had!
While staying in the city I also wanted to go to a Cubs game (don't ask me why).   On Wednesday (8/20) it was Star Wars night and they were giving out Anthony Rizzo Jedi Bobblehead dolls and I know a certain 10 year old girl who really likes Anthony Rizzo so her grandparents drove her in and they even stayed for three innings of the game.  She stayed overnight with us and we drove her home on Thursday.  BTW, her hair looks like that because she was going for the "Princess Lea" look. 

Sarah and her new friends outside Wrigley Field

When we went to the ticket window to pick up our vouchers for the Bobblehead doll we had a nice
surprise, a note from our ticket rep, Kevin, saying he had upgraded our tickets  - that's never happened before!   Our seats were right by the bullpen in the second row - we really had to watch the game to make sure we didn't get hit by a foul all.   Too bad the cubs lost to the giants by a score of 8-3. Since it didn't look like there was any chance of a win, we left after the 7th inning.

We had visitors on Friday - my friend (and former boss) Mary and her 3 1/2 year old twin granddaughters, Faith and Lily.  Mary and I worked together for almost 15 years and she's a big part of the reason I loved working at the school.

After a month of being away from our rig we were more than ready to go back to Wisconsin and sleep in our own bed!   Jeff and Lori invited my siblings and his mom and siblings up for a Labor Day camp-out on his property.  He even borrowed a motor home for those who didn't want to sleep in tents.
Small portion of the Merkes Family - 1st & 2nd Cousins

Cousin Dave, his daughter Rebecca and Jeff's son Seth

How many people does it take to set up a tent?

Boys and their toys!  That's the borrowed motor home in the background, Sue and Earl stayed in it
Jeff has lots of boy toys (see above) and he also has an ATV which was quite popular with the guys.
Jeff and his son Luke
13 year old Mark going for a spin

This is what happens when you don't how to stop (Mark)
It was a fun weekend with campfires every night.  Thanks Lori and Jeff for putting up with all of us!

We hung out at Jeff and Lori's until Thursday, 9/4 and then headed to Elgin, IL.  We found a very nice county campground, The Paul Wolff Campground which is fairly close to most of my family.  We will be here until the 18th - they only allow 14 nights :(.

Once we got set up there (around 4:00), I wanted to go visit my friends at my old job so I hopped on the 6:00 metra train and visited everyone at SWS for "Back to School" night.  I had a great time visiting and wish I could have spent more time there but the trains only run once an hour so I needed to be on the 9:00 train back to Elgin. 

On Saturday (9/6) we welcomed Marty's sister Jan to our rig for a few days.  We even dragged her on a 2 1/2 mile walk on the trail surrounding the campground.

Hanging out with Jan at the campfire.
This campground is the closest that we could find to Chicago and we need to be near Chicago to take care of annual doctor and dentist visits.  I went to the dentist on 8/25 for a cleaning and the next weekend a filling fell out!  Luckily I was able to get back in on the 11th and now it's good to go (I hope).

Another reason we wanted to be in the Chicago area at this time is the "Astella Onocology Lung Run" which is held every year on the the 2nd Saturday of September.  Both my parents died from lung cancer and this run/walk is a nice way for my family to raise money and spend some time together.  There is a 10k run, a 5k run and a 1 mile walk.  Marty and Tom ran the 10k, Jenni, Jackie, Katie, Paul, and Sarah all ran the 5k and the rest of us either walked the 5k or walked the 1 mile.  I like to walk the 5k and this year my great-niece, 7 year old Abby kept me company.  Sue and Donna walked it too but they were too fast for us.  

Joe sitting, Donna, Paul, Katie, Sarah, Tom, Rob, and Amanda
Before running, Tom, Marty, Katie, Sarah, and Paul
Marty and I spent the early part of Sunday (9/14) driving around the suburbs looking for estate sales.  We found five of them but didn't end up buying anything (this is not the money-making endeavor we anticipated when we started our travels).

Our final stop on Sunday was back into the city to visit our great niece Emily and her boyfriend Chris.  They had visitors in for the weekend and we were very excited to see them - our new great-great niece Milena, her mom Helen, and her grandma Becky.  They invited us for a cook-out and we ate out on their amazing rooftop deck.  
Becky, Emily holding Belden, Mary, Marty, Milena, Helen and Chris

Great-Great Aunt Mary with Milena (Mila)
When we weren't visiting or shopping or going to doctor appointments we were busy planning our next few months.

Our next stop will be Chain of Lakes State Park (near the Wisconsin border on the Fox River) until 9/29 (come by and visit us).   From there we will take our time getting to Kentucky to work for Amazon.

We will be working for Amazon at their fulfillment center in Campbellsville, KY from 10/21 thru 12/23.  After that we will hurry to Mesa to work at a Cal-Am RV Resort ) from January 1st thru March 1st.  Working for Amazon will be WORK - 4 or 5 10 hour days on our feet.  I'm pretty sure we'll do fine - it is only for two months (and we've been going for lots of walks to get in shape). Amazon pays for the campground and we will get full hook-ups and we are staying right next to the state park so if we have any energy left we can hike and bike.

The job in Mesa will be much easier, we each work 12 hours a week and in exchange we get a full hook-up site and use of all their amenities.  Did I mention that it's in Mesa, AZ for the winter?  :) - here's the link if you'd like to see it.  It's the Good Life Resort.

That's it for now, thanks for stopping by!