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10/11/14 thru 10/28/14 - From Michigan to Kentucky with stops in Indiana and Illinois

We arrived at Van Buren State Park in South Haven, Michigan on Friday, October 10th after a short drive from Dyer, Indiana. Van Buren State Park is on the shores of Lake Michigan and the campground is just a short walk to the beach.  There are a little over 200 campsites but except for Columbus Day weekend we were pretty much alone.  At one point there were only 4 other campers in the park - it was wonderful!  The colors were beautiful and the weather was cool but we had more sunny days than rainy ones so it was a good place to be while waiting for the phone call from Pete's RV letting us know that our parts were in and we could bring the rig in for repair.

This is the Life!!
It's a great campground but there are no sites with water or sewer.  When you enter the park you fill up your tanks and when you leave you dump them.  We stayed here 11 nights and the first few days we took navy showers every other day but then we just started using the shower house.  We were there 11 days and just squeaked by with our fresh water. 

We walked almost every day 2-3 miles trying to get in shape for our Amazon job.   We also took the bikes out, the Kal-Haven trail runs right thru the park. 

One project that needed to be done in our rig was adding some insulation inside the cabinets.  We are living in a tin box and it can be cold so anything we can do helps.  Reflectix is a quilted foil which Marty added to each cabinet located on an outside wall.  It may (probably will) get cold in Kentucky in December so we're hoping this will help.

We also had time to take the truck in for a tire rotation and best of all it was FREE!  Belle Tires is where we went and if you ever need a tire rotations while in Michigan, check them out.

We called our friends at Pete's on Monday, 10/20 to check on the parts and everything had come in except for a part for the leveling jack.  We brought the rig back to Indiana on Tuesday hoping that the last part would be there - it wasn't.  After many phone calls between Pete's and Keystone and between me and Keystone, Keystone admitted they had the part but the earliest they could ship it was Thursday so the rig wouldn't be ready for us until Friday.  We weren't thrilled but there was nothing we could do so we packed our bags and headed west to Crystal Lake where we spent two nights with my sister, Judy.  Go Gators! (that's my nephew, Zach's, soccer team and they are going to state sectionals on Wednesday, 10/29 and then hopefully continue on to the finals)

Taking Maddie and her cousin Buddy for a walk in Crystal Lake.

I have gone back to an old hobby, crocheting and have learned how to crochet rugs.  I've never been good at following patterns so sometimes they are shaped kind of strange but whoever I give them to should remember they are made with love :).  My great-niece, Abby got my latest creation and it actually doesn't look too bad and if you put something on top of it, it will even lay flat.
It fits perfectly with all her doll furniture and it's pink & purple, what's not to like?


Thursday night (10/23) was spent at La Quinta in Merrillville, IN so that we could pick up the rig as soon as it was ready on Friday and head south to Kentucky.   We did, finally, hit the road around 1:00 on Friday and made it as far south as Scottsburg, IN before pulling into a Walmart for the night.  On Saturday we were up nice and early and finished our drive to Campbellsville, KY a little after noon.

Amazon has made arrangements with five campsites in the area to accommodate their Camperforce.  We chose to stay at the Green River Stables and yes it really does have stables.  It also has karaoke every Saturday night but that had nothing to do with our decision (well maybe a little). There are 82 sites so it's not too large and everyone we've met has been very welcoming.  The campground is nice and we have full hook-ups (electric, water and sewer - YAY!).   After taking showers in the bath house at Van Buren and taking Navy showers before that at Chain of Lakes it is pure luxury to stand under the shower for as long as we want.  We back up to the State Park and there are easily accessible trails from our park - you just have to remember that the trails are shared by the horses and watch where you walk!

When we bought our rig it came with two recliners.  We took one out and replaced it with a file cabinet which we have had issues with ever since.  The drawers sometime open while we're traveling and Marty has made many repairs and adjustments to keep it working for us but after the drive to Kentucky it finally bit the dust.   Luckily, there is an antique mart/flea market in Campbellsville and we found a cabinet which should work out just right.  It is solid wood but had been painted an ugly brown so we went over to Lowe's for some paint and glaze and now we have a beautiful new cabinet and, best of all, some color in our home - everything else is boring beige.  We bought the cabinet Sunday morning and by Monday afternoon it was painted and sitting in it's new home. 
Ugly Brown
Beyond Repair


With a little paint and glaze we now have a new cabinet

We started at Amazon on Tuesday, 10/28, with an eight hour orientation and safety training.  We will be working nights (5:30 P.M. until 4:00 A.M.) and our shift is what they call a donut shift, we work Sunday and Monday and Thursday and Friday.  Once mandatory overtime starts in mid-November another day will be added, I think it will be Wednesdays.

Camperforce Group #10 after finishing our orientation/safety training
There are four different departments; Receiving, Picking, Stowing, and Shipping.  We will be in Toys which is part of the shipping department so we'll learn early what the most popular toys are this year.  We start training in our specific job tomorrow so I don't really know much about what we'll be doing except that we are in one spot for the whole shift.  We were hoping to be working in stowing which is exactly what it sounds like, you take packages from the receiving department and then find a bin, any bin, and stow the item after scanning both the item and the bin.  You walk 5-7 miles every shift and it's an excellent way to get in shape and lose a few pounds.

The best department for getting in shape is Picking.  In picking you pick up an order and then track down the items throughout the plant with your scanner from wherever the stowers placed them.   In that job you can walk 12-15 miles per day!! 

One good thing about being in Toys and working nights is that our next door neighbors and their next door neighbors are all in the same department and working nights.  We'll learn from them and we'll all be quiet (or loud) at the same time.

Since we're in training this week and next, we are only working 5 hours a day (5:30PM to 10:30 PM).  We will start working 4 10 hour days on Sunday, 11/9/14 and probably start the mandatory 5 10 hour days the following week.  It should be interesting, especially the working nights part.  I'm looking forward to working but I'm also glad that we'll be done on 12/23 and then heading southwest to Mesa for a less stressful job and warmer weather. 

10/20/2013 thru 10/20/2014 - One Year on the Road

ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF BEING ON THE ROAD!!

It's hard to believe that we've been on the road for one whole year!  It went by so fast and we still have so much to see but here are some highlights from the past year and some of our "lessons learned".

First night on the road and first "boondocking" experience - Walmart in Greenberg, IN - 10/20/2013

First time using power tools - Habitat for Humanity in West Liberty, KY - Ocbober 23, 2013
Biggest Surprise - Sue, Tom, Megan & Sarah surprised us in Louisiana - December, 2013

First Frost - January, 2014 in Lockhart, TX (we thought we were done with that stuff)
 
Darkest Sky - City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico - February, 2015

Southernmost Spot Visited - Puerto Palomas, Mexico - February, 2014
Most Interesting Visitor - Flat Stanley in Arizona - March, 2014

Westernmost Spot Visited - Pacific Ocean in Carlsbad, CA - April, 2014


Northernmost Spot Visited - Brooklyn, WI - August, 2014

Easternmost Spot Visited - Tallin, Estonia - August, 2014

Lowest Point - Queen Bee Mine in Bisbee, AZ - 1500 feet underground - February, 2014

Highest Point - Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, CO - 5/3/2014, we were about 11,000 feet high

Stormiest/Scariest Night - Hanover, IL - 6/30/2014


LESSONS LEARNED

10/9/13 - Always make sure all the valves are closed before starting a dump or you will be doing the "black water dance" (luckily, this has not happened to us yet!)


10/19/13 - Always make sure you hear TWO clicks and a CLUNK before pulling the truck out with the trailer attached!  We almost didn't make it out of the driveway in Elgin heading out because the trailer wasn't attached properly and landed on the bed of the truck - Yikes!
TWO CLUNKS!
11/02/13 - Always make sure you put your steps up if you go back in a the rig for anything!  After pulling into an empty lot so I could run into the rig to use the bathroom we forgot but luckily heard the scraping noise and stopped right before we got to a high curb that would have ripped the stairs right off.

11/02/13 - Always check the map to see where you are going.  Hurricane Mills is not just outside of Nashville (more like 1 1/2 hours away).  We had planned on visiting Marty's cousin, Mary Jo,
but ended up too far away.

11/02/13 - Always check electric before settling in -  its no fun to pack back up especially after a long day of driving.   Once we did get to Hurricane Mills and finally backed into our spot we discovered that the electric wasn't working.   It was after 5:00 and the office was closed so we stayed at that spot and froze until the next morning when they let us plug in to the spot next to us.

11/18/13 - Always bring bug spray, keep it in the car!  The bugs by the Mississippi River were horrendous!

1/19/14 - Always check tree branch height before backing into new spot (or prepare to do some patching).

4/17/14 - Always make sure you are clear of all barricades before turning (or you might scrape the rear drivers side of your rig).
Uh-Oh!
This has been an exciting first year and we've learned a lot! (notice that our first 6 lessons learned were all during the first month of travel).  We've had so many memorable experiences that I really can't think of just one as a favorite (although the surprise visit from my family in Louisiana was pretty amazing). The best part of the year was reconnecting with far-flung family and friends and making new friends; we look forward to more of the same in Year #2.. 

9/17 - 10/11/2014 - Visiting and Rig Problems


Aunt Mary, Uncle Bob, Mary, and Marty in Huntley, IL
While staying at Paul Wolff Campground in Elgin we visited my Aunt Mary and Uncle Bob who recently sold the home they lived in for over 50 years in Addison and moved to Del Webb in Huntley.  We had a nice lunch with them at Jameson's Restaurant in their clubhouse and then they gave us a short tour of the activities available to them. There are a lot of activities!  We also got to see their new home which it turns out is actually more square footage than their old one.  The big difference is that it's all on one floor - no more going down to the basement to do laundry!   Later that evening we took a short drive to South Elgin to visit our nephew Michael at his new job - Manager of YUMZ Frozen Yogurt - YUM!

I love when my family works anywhere with food involved!

We loved our stay at Paul Wolff - it was close to family and friends and there was a nice trail which we walked on most mornings.  It was quiet and uncrowded, our favorite kind of campground. 

It wouldn't be a blog post without a picture of Sarah :)
Our final cook-out in Elgin. 

On Thursday morning we packed up the rig to head north to Chain of Lakes State Park.  We got everything put away and I pushed the button to bring in the slides and NOTHING happened!  We have a service plan so we called CoachNet and the tech was out within the hour to see what was going on.   Unfortunately, we had a melted solenoid and needed a new one.   The tech didn't have one so he gave us some recommendations where we might be able to find one and we started our search.   We called RV General in Huntley, they didn't have the part but could order it and have it in their store by Saturday.  We still wanted to see if we could get it sooner so we drove to two RV shops, Barrington RV and Camping World. Neither place had one and the soonest they could get it would be Monday.  We called RV General and got the part ordered and then notified our campground that we had a broken rig and would need to stay until Saturday.   We were supposed to leave on Thursday because there is a 14 day limit at this campground.  We explained the situation to the camp host at Paul Wolff and, although he wasn't happy about it, he agreed to let us stay until Saturday.  We had a reservation at Chain of Lakes so now we were paying for two campgrounds. 

On Saturday we were anxious to get on the road so we drove to RV General to wait for the UPS delivery of our part.  We were told that their deliveries come in anytime between 10-1 so we got there at 1 to see if it was there yet - nope.   Since RV General is right next door to the Huntley outlet mall we went shoe shopping (we both bought new gym shoes for our Amazon job).   We stopped for some lunch and then went back to RV General - still no part.  We waited until they closed at 4 but the delivery never came.  The service department was very apologetic and promised to call us as soon as it came in on Monday.   Now we have to pay for two more nights in Elgin and we still had our reservation for Chain of Lakes.   We decided to cancel our reservation and just go there whenever our rig was fixed. 

I called to cancel the reservation that we had already missed 3 nights of and expected to lose the 75.00.  I was very pleasantly surprised to see that we were credited for all but one night and the camp host in Elgin gave us one free night so we actually broke even - amazing! 

The part did come in early Monday morning and Marty was able to install it and get us back on the road around 1:00.  This was our shortest trip with the rig, it was only about 40 miles to Chain Of Lakes so we were there and all set up by 4:00.  We even had time for a quick hike.

Chain of lakes state park is near Richmond, IL and very close to the Wisconsin border.   It's a pretty park on the Fox River.  We hiked and biked almost every day and had a very nice time there relaxing.   We also talked to the park ranger about the possibility of becoming camp hosts there next fall.  They seem to need people in the fall because the summer hosts are snow birds and like to get started south.  I like the idea of being in Chicago in September/October because I know that SOMEDAY my favorite baseball team will play baseball well into October.   Yes, I've drunk the Cubbie Blue kool-aid (and if you go to Epic Deli in nearby Johnsburg you can even have it deep-fried.
Sue and Sarah - how many kids get to swing with their grandma's?

The last weekend of September was Beatles Camp for Marty.  It's a gathering of Beatles aficionados who play music, games and just have a good time catching up with each other. They do this twice a year at Camp Wonderland just over the Wisconsin border. 

While Marty was gone, Sue and Sarah Beth came to keep me company and we did some more biking and hiking. 

We've been on the road for almost a year and we thought it would be a good idea to take the rig back to Pete's RV in Dyer, IN for a general maintenance checkup.  We left Chain of Lakes on Tuesday, 9/30 and headed south.  When we got there we found out that we could leave the rig on their lot overnight but we couldn't stay in it.   Luckily we found a LaQuinta nearby that allowed pets and was very reasonably priced.  It was sooooooo nice to be able to take a loooooong, hot shower in the morning!

The truck needed an oil change so we took a ride over to Mike Anderson in nearby Merrillville where we bought it.  We had a coupon for 1/2 off so it made sense to take it back there.  We also needed our tires rotated but, surprisingly considering we bought it from them, they couldn't rotate the tires on our dually.  They didn't know how to do it so that's one thing we still have to do. 

Once we were finished with the truck we headed back to Pete's to pick up the rig and get back on the road or so we thought.  Unfortunately when we got back to Petes and went through what they had done they missed a few very important things which we pointed out to them.   The slide outs were very squeaky and when they looked underneath they discovered a problem with the gears and parts needed to be ordered.  There's also a problem with one of our levelers and a part needed to be ordered for that as well.  Oh, I forgot to mention that when the tech guy was checking under the slide he caught his hand under it and flattened his fingers - OUCH!  Marty had to get a crow bar so that he could get his hand out.  After a quick trip to the ER, he's fine but if you saw his hand you wouldn't have thought so (sorry, no pictures).

We have an extended warranty that should cover all this but Pete's  needed to confirm that and also get the parts ordered.  We ended up staying another night in Dyer but this time we got them to let us stay in the RV on their lot.  The parts will take at least 10 business days and the work will take two days so we have to come back to Dyer in about two weeks to have the work completed.  

Our campsite at Apple Creek
I can't believe he ate the whole thing!


After finally leaving Indiana Thursday morning we drove East to Jackson, Michigan - Marty's hometown.   We stayed at the Apple Creek Campground and on Saturday did some touristy things around town.  We visited the oldest continuously operating train station in the United States and then went to lunch at Coney Island hot dogs.  Marty ordered 3 Coney Island dogs and I ordered a foot long Coney Island dog.  Coney Island dogs come with mustard, onions and Coney Island sauce which I soon discovered isn't sauce but rather chili meat - interesting!
Jackson Train Station

Amber, Marty, Austin, Mary and Maddie

On Sunday we had a nice visit with Marty's brother Gene and sister-in-law Geri. Their son, Creig also came over with his two kids, Austin and Amber.   Later that evening we went out for some really good stuffed pizza with Creig, Austin and Amber at Klavons. 










Sassafras Tree along the bike trail

Jackson has a nice bike trail called "Falling Waters".  It runs about 10 miles through mostly wooded areas and is completely paved and flat.  We took a ride on it on Monday and it was one of the nicest trails we've been on since we've started our travels.  We rode about 13 miles round trip and almost made it back to our truck before the rain started.

On Tuesday we did a few more touristy things.  We went to Schlenkers for a hamburger - they've been in business since 1927.   For dessert we drove over to The Parlour for some ice cream.  We also made our second trip to Marty's favorite bakery on Page Street.


Our final tourist activity was to search out the plaque claiming Jackson as the birthplace of the Republican Party.  I say claiming because Ripon, Wisconsin (where my brother Tom lives) also claims the same thing.   I've listed both Wikipedia entries, you can decide. 

RIPON'S WIKIPEDIA ENTRY  

Birthplace of the Republican Party 

Meeting at a school house in Ripon on February 28, 1854, some 30 opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Act called for the organization of a new political party (to link their cause with the Declaration of Independence). The group also took a leading role in the creation of the Republican Party in many northern states during the summer of 1854. While conservatives and many moderates were content merely to call for the restoration of the Missouri Compromise or a prohibition of slavery extension, the group insisted that no further political compromise with slavery was possible.

The February 1854 meeting was the first political meeting of the group that would become the Republican Party. The modern Ripon Society, a Republican think tank, takes its name from Ripon, Wisconsin.




JACKSON'S WIKIPEDIA ENTRY

Birthplace of the Republican Party – "Under the Oaks"

Jackson is one of the birthplaces of the Republican Party. Undisputed is the fact that the first official meeting of the group that actually called itself "Republican" was held in Jackson under the Oaks on July 6, 1854. A Michigan Historical Marker at what is now the northwest corner of Second and Franklin streets in Jackson commemorates an anti-slavery county convention on July 6, 1854. Meeting outside to avoid a hot, over-crowded hall, the group ultimately selected a slate of candidates for state elections. The marker identifies this as the birth of the Republican Party. The site, an oak grove on "Morgan's Forty", then on the outskirts of town, became known as "Under the Oaks".




 
Pete's RV Center called us while we were in Jackson letting us know that we needed to go back to Dyer, IN so that Easy Care could verify the problems with the rig and approve the cost.  The technician could not be scheduled until we had the rig back on their lot - this meant two nights in Dyer, Indiana and two nights in a hotel - we were not very happy about this.  I called Easy Care to see what we could do to make this a little easier on us.  They agreed that we could schedule the appointment before the rig was actually there as long as we made sure we were there at the scheduled time.  We set everything up for 11:00 A.M. on Wednesday and made sure we were there on time.  And then we waited, and waited and waited - the technician never showed up and when he was called to see where he was stated that he wasn't coming but would be there by noon on Thursday.  Again,  we called Easy Care to see what was going on - we did everything that we were supposed to do so why didn't the technician show up?  They had no answers but did agree to pay for our motel that night so we weren't too upset just a little frustrated.

On Thursday morning we hung out at the hotel until about 10:30 and then headed back to Pete's to be there when the tech came.  Unfortunately he was once again a no-show.   When contacted, he promised to be there by 8:30 on Friday but at this point why would we believe him.  Once again, we got on the phone with Easy Care (with a little more emphasis on how inconvenient this all is) and they agreed that pictures of the problems could be emailed and finally, around 4:30, we received approval that all our repair would be taken care of.  Since it was too late to head north we are staying in our rig at Pete's and will head out first thing in the morning - YAY!

It was very frustrating dealing with all this but everyone at Pete's and at Easy Care were very helpful.  It was the technician/adjustor who seemed to be the problem and now we don't have to worry about him (and hopefully never will). 

Our next stop is Van Buren State Park on the shores of Lake Michigan near South Haven, Michigan.  We will stay there until the parts for our rig come in and then we will finally start heading south to Campbellsville, KY to work for Amazon.  It should be beautiful in Michigan with the leaves changing, I'm sure we'll have lots of photos to share in our next post.