"if you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much room"

Thursday, July 30, 2009

leading a ride

We take turns setting up and leading the Wednesday night dinner rides for our Goldwing group. Rudee and I had volunteered to take care of this weeks ride. We arranged for our group to go to Little Mexico Restaurant here in Crawfordsville. We left the 5th wheel about 5:20 and met up with Kadingers for the ride over to Lebanon to meet the rest of the group.
We meet at the same place and time every Wednesday so even if you don't know where the ride is going you'll always know where it is starting from.
We had 4 other bikes meet us and I led them back to Crawfordsville for dinner. We arrived at the restaurant and found several others already there waiting on us to arrive. We ended up with a total of 19 people and had a nice evening. Our waiter was a lot of fun, we were joking around with him and he was giving back more than he got. We all parted ways about 9:00.

This evening we met one of Rudee's coworkers, Matt and his fiance' Val, in Lebanon at Flapjacks. Matt's birthday is this week and Rudee had a card and some Jelly Belly Jellybeans for him as a gift. They are busy finalizing their wedding plans. They are getting married in September. They have decided on the cake and are doing a tasting on the dinner menu this week end to decide on the final menu. We are planning on attending the wedding so hope they pick out some good food for us. :-)

We have invited the grand kids over to spend the night tomorrow night. Amanda is having a garage sale tomorrow and Saturday so this will give her a chance to concentrate on the sale while we get some quality time with the kids. We will probably take them to the pool and maybe have a campfire afterwards. Here is a photo of them last time they were here swimming.

Looks like I have another project brewing. Rudee thought there was a hair in the bottom of the bathroom sink but that turned out to be a crack in the bowl. :-( Rudee thinks my after shave bottle fell from the medicine cabinet and did the damage, maybe but who knows.
I guess I'll be looking for a replacement sink. I would like to have a porcelain or metal one instead of the plastic we have now but not sure if they make them in the same size or not. I can always go to one of the RV surplus stores up near Elkhart and get one there. I'm just not sure which way to go right now. I did seal the crack with some silicone but I'm not sure it's going to 100% waterproof, just trying to buy me some time until I can get a replacement.

I have a long driving day tomorrow, back up to Fort Wayne to look at a couple of cars. I will probably drive over 350 miles tomorrow and only get 2 tasks done. I guess they think that is worthwhile but it sure seems like I waste a lot of gas and time without much to show for it. I guess as long as they are paying for it (and me) I shouldn't complain. Only 1864 days until I can retire, Rudee has another 180 days after that and she'll be eligible too. We got a plan and we're working the plan! I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

a little project

When we returned from our camping week end a week ago we had a small misshap. We were going thru the routine if setting things back up after arriving back at the KOA and I was working on the "outside" stuff and Rudee was inside getting things done. I heard the slide outs start out and then heard Rudee yell for me. I went inside and the TV which sits in a cabinet had fallen forward. I was able to support it while she let the slides out the rest of the way and then we both moved it back into it's position in it's slot. The TV's are held into place with drywall screws thru the cabinet and into the case of the TV. It was obvious that they had either pulled thru or had been broken. The TV was a tube style non digital 26" that weighed a ton. I had heard of others replacing them with 32" flat screens and figured one day I would probably do the same. I guess some day arrived sooner than I thought!

We decided to go TV shopping and checked out the local Wal Mart as well as looking on line at Best Buy and some other big box electronic stores. Wal Mart had the best deals so we headed back and finally decided on a 32" Samsung flat screen. They had several brands and they all boasted of having 10,000:1 of this or 50:1 of something else. To tell the truth I had no idea what they were talking about and we just went with the one that had the clearest picture and best looking face :-). We also bought a wall mount for the TV as this seemed like the easiest way to mount it.
I decided that yesterday was the big day and made a stop at the local Home Depot for the needed lumber and screws that I felt like I needed to get the job done. Now I'll be the first to admit that my carpentry skills are almost non existent and I would be over my head in a hurry if this turned out to be more than a simple install.

Back at the 5er I removed the fireplace fascia and then removed the fireplace so I could get to the screws that remained in the TV. Only 1 screw was left intact and it broke in 1/2 while I was taking it out, all the others were already broken or pulled through. I was then able to remove the TV from the cabinet.

I had measured the area where I wanted to mount a cross piece of plywood in the old TV opening which would be a mounting point for the new TVs bracket. The old adage of measure twice and cut once never worked for me, I could measure something 10 times and still come up wrong. This time I was lucky and was about 1" too long on the plywood and was still able to use the piece, I just needed to trim it up some more. I had Home Depot cut the piece to size when I bought it since I had sold my circular saw in one of the garage sales. Now I had a dilemma. I really didn't want to go back to Home Depot and look like a dope so I started making some calls. Mike Kadinger came to my rescue and let me come over and borrow his circular saw. Thanks, Mike.

With the board trimmed to the proper length I ran into another problem. The wall mount for the TV was probably 1/2" too long to fit in the hole in the cabinet. Rats!! I had to give this one some thought but finally came up with a solution. I cut 2 more pieces of plywood about 2" wide and used them as shims between the long piece and the wall of the cabinet. This sits the long piece back an additional 3/4" and allows the bracket to wiggle into place. Worked perfect!

Rudee helped me mount it all into place and get the TV aligned and mounted. There are 2 brackets that mount to the TV and hook into the rail that is mounted on the plywood. The brackets lock into place and have 2 cords that you pull to unlock it so the TV can be removed. Here is the TV all mounted and looking good!

I think we did a pretty good job. The TV is very stable and the mounts are very sturdy. I don't see an issue leaving it mounted while traveling. We can also simply remove the TV and store it on the bed when moving if we wanted. I was pretty proud of myself (and Rudee of course) for getting this accomplished. I like it when a plan works out! :-)

Rudee has a crock pot of vegetable soup/stew on and it smells great. We are just planning on hanging around the 5th wheel tonight and enjoying our "big screen". I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 27, 2009

for the love of a Jelly Bean

We were up really early Saturday morning. We had the alarm set for 4:30 am anticipating leaving the RV by 5:20. Mother nature had a different alarm set. We had a heavy thunderstorm roll thru about 2:45am that woke us both up. The wind was blowing, the RV was rockin, the lightning was flashing and the thunder was boomin. The rain was heavy at times and we even had some hail. The storm lasted about 30 minutes and the rain lingered on and off for another hour or so.

We met up with Kadingers and Remleys at the gas station just up the road from the KOA at 5:30 and then headed north to Lafayette for breakfast. We then met the rest of the group at a shopping center to start our week end trip to the Jelly Belly factory near Racine Wisconsin.

The further north we rode the better the weather looked and we were soon under sunny skies and started shedding coats. The ride got a little hairy going thru Chicago but we all made it safe and sound. We stopped for lunch, and a much deserved break, at a nice family style restaurant just south of the Illinois/Wisconsin state line.

With our bellies full we rode the final 35 miles to the Jelly Belly Factory for our tour. The place was not crowded and we we lined up just inside the entrance to wait for our turn to take the tour. We were all given paper hats that we had to wear since there were food products in the area. We then boarded our tour "train".

The driver/tour guide then drove us around the so called factory which in reality was just a warehouse and distribution facility. I expected to see Jelly Beans being made or at least the equipment to make Jelly Beans. Instead we rode the tram to several different stops in the warehouse that had TV's set up and we were shown video clips explaining the process. It was pretty disappointing but we all got a free sample bag of Jelly Beans when we exited the tram, of course you have to go thru the gift shop to actually exit the facility. They do have a large selection of flavors and you can also buy "belly flops" which are rejects due to size or maybe 2 or 3 were stuck together but still taste good.

With the shopping over we all loaded up and headed to our motel. Rudee and I went to the pool to relax and were joined by Kadingers. That hot tub sure felt good after the long ride. One of the group got directions to a lighthouse on Lake Michigan and we all headed over to check it out and find a place for dinner.

The Windy Point lighthouse was built in the late 1800's and is in excellent shape. We were not able to tour the interior and the museum was closed but we enjoyed reading the information signs on the grounds.

We ate dinner at a nice place next to the harbor in downtown Racine. Rudee and I shared the nightly special of Ribs and Shrimp, yummy. After dinner most of our group headed back to the motel. Two couples decided to try their luck at the Casino near Milwaukee. Rudee and I enjoy an occasional gambling trip but with the earlier than usual start to the day we decided we had enough fun and needed some sleep!

Sunday morning we all met for breakfast in the lobby of the motel. We all agreed that we didn't want to ride back through downtown Chicago so we decided on a longer but less congested route. We stayed off the interstate and wound our way back thru the Illinois corn fields and into Indiana. Niles was our leader on the way back and had a little trouble telling the differance between right and left. He would turn on his left turn signal and announce over the cb radio we were turning right. After doing this several times Rudee decided he needed some help so she labeled his hands so he wouldn't forget!

We made it home about 6:00pm tired and hungry. Rudee heated up some ham and beans for supper and we just relaxed the rest of the night.

The new cargo carrier worked out great. I really liked that we could take it off the bike and just wheel it into the motel room and Rudee liked having the extra space for all of our goodies. We have no big plans for the week. We do have a project to complete on the 5th wheel so maybe we can get that done in between working and playing. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Whoo Hoo ... FRIDAY!!

Looks like we made it to another week end!! I know those of you who are retired and already fulltiming are scratching your heads thinking "what's the big deal?" For those of us still doing the 8-5 Monday through Friday grind, today is the best day of the week. Friday means only 8 more hours of work and we can start the week end. Friday is full of anticipation and expectations of fun and games for the next 2 days. Friday is like being born again with your whole life ahead of you. I LOVE FRIDAY!!

Wednesday night we hopped on the bike and met Kadingers at a local parking lot to ride over to Lebanon to meet the rest of the Goldwing group for our normal Wednesday night ride to dinner. The sky was threatening rain and the reports talked about some light showers south and east of us and we hoped to be able to miss them. No such luck. We hit misty rain about 1/2 way to Lebanon that lasted until we got there. No one was at the normal meeting place so it ended up to be only the 4 of us on our 2 bikes. The ride was up to a restaurant in Frankfort, In. We rode in light rain pretty much all the way but it was not too bad, we didn't even need our rain suits it was so light. We arrived and found several of our group already there and joined them (they had all come in cars, chickens!!). We had a nice meal and the rain quit by the time we left to ride home. :-)

Thursday we got a delivery from the UPS man. When we went on our trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway last month we had a suitcase strapped to a luggage carrier on the hitch of our bike. The exhaust is right by the hitch carrier and melted some of the plastic on the suitcase ruining one of my shirts. We wanted something a little better than this to haul our stuff in. We used to have a cargo trailer but sold it when we went fulltime because we had no way to haul it around. Let's face it with a motorcycle our semi and pick up truck and my company car as well as 2 bicycles, we have enough things with tires and wheels. I found this in our Goldwing magazine and felt like it may be the answer so I ordered one, after getting clearance from the boss of course :-).

They were first designed to be used for golf clubs, hence the shape. The unit comes with 2 lids that are interchangeable. One lid is taller than the other but both give a waterproof seal. We have the shorter lid on now and it gives us plenty of space for 2 bags, jackets, and a lot of other stuff too. The main compartment comes off the hitch and can be wheeled into the motel room saving you from having to empty it in the parking lot and carrying all your stuff in, pretty cool. We are going to try it out this week end when we go to the Jelly Belly factory for an overnight trip. I think we'll like it. I plan to store it in the bed of the Dakota and we can even store things inside the unit as well.

Speaking of the week end trip. We are meeting Kadingers and Remley's at a gas station parking lot here in Crawfordsville at 5:30 tomorrow morning. Wow, that's early :-( We are going to stop for breakfast on the way to Lafayette where we are meeting the rest of the group at 7:00am. The weather sounds iffy but we'll be there rain or shine. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

waiting on parts

The replacement winch to fix the bike lift has not arrived yet. I figure I will give it until the end of the week and if it isn't here I'll call the guy back. I did have a good experience with another product we use to make our life a little more "normal". We have an "On the Go" water softener that we purchased at Camping World just prior to our moving into the 5th wheel fulltime. The softener hooks up between the 5th wheel and the campgrounds hydrant and voila you have soft water. To recharge it you use a canister of table salt. Just pour it in from the top and let the water run a very small stream for 15 minutes and your good to go for another 750 gallons. I usually recharge ours about every 2-3 weeks.

Just before we left on vacation I had recharged it and was hooking everything back up when one of the plastic fixtures on the tank cracked and leaked. I sent an email to the company since it was after hours and got an email back the next morning saying they were mailing out a replacement part no charge. Sure enough 3 days later I got the new part and we were back in business. I like it when a company stands behind their product and doesn't leave you hanging.

Tomorrow is our 31st wedding anniversary so we are meeting Kadingers, Suters, and Remley's at a local restaurant to celebrate. Rudee and I met in high school at a basketball game (she was a class behind me). I used to work the games helping park cars and directing traffic when they were over. Rudee's brother in law did the same thing and she always caught a ride to and from the games with him. She came up to me and introduced herself and said "you'll be seeing a lot of me". Little did I know it would turn into a lifetime! We were married right after she graduated, just a couple kids in love who thought they knew it all. We have had some great times and some not so great times, just like any other couple, but we have always loved and supported each other. She is a wonderful partner and I love her with all my being. Happy Anniversary Honey.

We are going to our normal Wednesday night dinner ride with the motorcycle chapter tomorrow night. Thursday evening we start packing for an overnight trip with the group this week end. We are heading out early Saturday morning and riding up to the Jelly Belly factory north of Chicago for a tour. We are spending the night up there somewhere and riding back home Sunday. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

camping week end

We got away Friday around 4pm. We headed west on I-74 but didn't have to travel far, a little less than 10 miles and we exited at SR 25. Traveling into Waynetown we turned west for a couple of miles and then onto county roads to get to Charlarose Lake Campground.

Robinson's, Remey's and Kadinger's were all there and set up waiting on us to arrive. We paid our fee and quickly got parked and set up. We had a pull thru site with water and 30amp electric. After getting settled in Rudee and I walked up to the office and retrieved the Goldwing from the campgrounds utility garage.

Supper was the first order of business and Kadinger's Robinson's and Rudee and I headed out on the bikes in search of food. We landed at the Waynetown Bar and Grille where we enjoyed a good meal. We rode back to the campground and started a fire and just vegged out telling stories and enjoying each others company until well after dark.

Saturday morning we all loaded up on the bikes and headed out for a day of riding. We stopped for breakfast at a little diner in Hillsboro. While eating some other bike riders came in and Rudee recognized one of the guys from her work and they talked for awhile. We were in the lead leaving the restaurant and worked our way thru the countryside to Rockville Indiana. The gals all wanted to go to the variety store. It used to be a GC Murphy store and has spread across most of a city block. There are aisles and aisles of goods and reminds me of the old five and dime stores that were all but wiped out by the big box type stores. The guys sat outside and watched traffic while the girls shopped.

Rockville is in Parke County Indiana and is the self proclaimed "covered bridge capitol". They have a large festival that lasts for 2 weeks in October and is a very popular event. There are several covered bridges scattered throughout the county and we rode by a few of them. We made a stop at Mansfield where they have a restored Mill ran by the Dept. of Natural Resources. We toured the Mills 6 stories and learned how cornmeal and flour were made. There was even an ice cream store open next door!

Rudee and I left the group after the Mill tour and headed towards Amanda and Ryan's house. Olivia, our youngest grand daughter, was having a birthday party. We arrived there at 2pm and Ryan had the grille fired up. We enjoyed hamburgers with all the fixings and ice cream and cake of course. Olivia had a great time on "her" day and we all had fun getting together.

Back at the camper I took a short nap while Rudee hung out with the others. Since we had a late lunch I cooked us each a hot dog over the campfire for a late supper. Charlarose Lake is a nice campground and is rarely crowded. They have a nice fishing lake and their sites are roomy and their are lot's of mature shade trees. They have several domestic rabbits roaming the grounds and Rudee likes to feed them saltine crackers.

Sunday morning we were treated to breakfast thanks to Penny Kadinger and Jane Remley. They cooked an egg casserole a hash brown casserole along with biscuits and gravy. What a great way to start the day, it was all great, thanks gals!

After breakfast Rudee and I climbed up on the roof of the 5th wheel and washed it. One of the issues with modern RV's are the black streaks that form on the sides. The streaks come from the dirt draining off the rubber roof when it rains. Keeping the roof clean helps cut down on the amount of black streaks which makes it easier to keep the sides clean.

We finished the roof and then the rains came, figures. We decided to just go ahead and get packed up and head back to the KOA. We made it back and got set up in our normal spot. We did have plans to meet our bike group for supper in Lebanon. The rains stopped and we were able to ride the bike. There were nine of us at the Pizza Hut and we had a nice time sharing stories and eating pizza. Tomorrow it is back to the old grind. I'll keep you posted!

Friday, July 17, 2009

ramp broke!

Thursday evening we decided to go ahead and load the bike onto the truck in anticipation of our week end trip. I pulled the truck up out of it's normal parking spot in the overflow parking here at the KOA and extended the ramp down to the ground. I pulled the bike onto the ramp and Rudee helped me tie it down. While raising the bike onto the truck the winch stopped, it would reverse but every time it came under the maximum load of the bike it would stop. I thought it may have been a bad electrical connection so I checked those first. They all looked good and were tight so I called the manufacturer to get some advice. I actually got thru and was able to talk to one of the technicians who walked me through a few things to try and then said it could either be the relay or the winch itself was going bad. They are supposed to send me new ones so I can replace them and send the old ones back to them. Hopefully they will be here by the middle of next week and I can get them installed next week end.

Rudee had the idea of taking the bike on over to the campground and leaving it there. We called Charlarose and talked to Gerald, one of the owners, who said no problem. I rode the bike over and Rudee followed in the Dakota. The campground is only about 15 miles away and we have camped there regularly for several years. Gerald met us at the office and had me park the bike in his equipment garage where it would be locked up and out the weather. He sure didn't have to do that and we thanked him for his generosity.

Rudee gets off at 3pm and we are going to hook on and head out as soon as I can sneak away. We wont have internet for the weekend but I'll update things as soon as I can on Sunday when we return. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

ho hum week

So far it has been a pretty boring week. We have just been going to work and then laying around watching TV in the evenings.

We did venture out to our GWRRA chapter meeting last night. We hold an auction every other month or so to raise operating funds. I have been the auctioneer for the last couple of years and it's kind of fun but means I don't get to bid on any of the goodies. All the items are donated by the various members and range from knick knacks to motorcycle goodies to home made baked goods. We usually raise anywhere from $150-$200. Most of the money goes towards paying for our Christmas party in December where we rent a hall and have a catered meal.

We started watching a new reality TV show called "Great American Road Trip". They put a bunch of families into class A motorhomes and they are traveling Route 66. They have stops along the way and have competitions and the loser goes home. They are not racing (thank goodness) so they can all travel at their own speed and they all camp together at the same spots each night. The producers apparently didn't think that motorhome driving lessons were important because several of the families are having difficulty navigating the big rigs. I can't believe they wouldn't give them some kind of instruction before turning them loose on the highways. Makes me shudder to think how many people just hop into a big rig and think it drives just like their Honda Accords. One guy refuses to empty the black tank so his wife has to do it. Rudee would not stand for that!! :-). Overall it's pretty funny and the first family out was no surprise. They were an overconfident bunch from the east coast. When they interviewed them she made sure everyone knew how big a diamond ring she had on (7 carats). I guess that's impressive to people who have to judge themselves on materialistic things. I was not unhappy to see them go.

We are planning on a camp out this week end. Our group has swelled to include several of our camping/motorcycling friends. We are looking forward to a nice week end. I'll keep you posted!

Monday, July 13, 2009

1 out of 2

That's the way the weather went this week end. Saturday was wet with off and on showers most of the day. We decided to take a drive to Plainfield and visit Rudee's Mom and Dad.

We had a nice visit with them and decided to slog our way back home thru the rain and just chill out. We were about 10 miles from home and the weather turned even worse. There was lightning, wind and a heavy downpour. Cars were pulling over onto the berm of the interstate and under the overpasses to try and wait it out. We had to slow way down but made it to our exit safely. When we pulled into the KOA there is a small creek that you hardly notice as you pull in and drive up the hill to the office. Today the little creek had swelled over it's bank and was flowing over the driveway. We got to our site and were pretty much under water. Our patio mat was floating! Luckily I had staked it down so it wouldn't blow away in the wind, little did I know it would keep it from floating downstream! We waded to the front door in ankle deep water and made it inside a little damp but safe and sound. The rain quit shortly afterwards and the water receded. I did venture out again to pick up some Chinese food and a movie. We ate, watched a so-so movie and headed to bed.

Sunday was a much nicer day, weather wise. We rode the bike to breakfast and decided to keep on riding since it was so nice out. We headed south in search of some more towns with "country" names. We headed for Cuba, Indiana south of Cloverdale. We found a church that had the name of the town on their sign and took a quick picture before heading on to Jordan, Indiana.

I had looked at our route on mapquest and had a good idea of the route to take. The bad thing about mapquest is it doesn't give you any idea of the actual road type and it's condition We ended up on a gravel road that was only 1 1/2 cars wide at best and twisted and turned thru a National Forest. We eventually found Jordan and took another picture for the contest.

Next stop was Poland, Indiana. My great Grandparents lived in Poland and my Grandparents lived there when my father was born. They moved while he was still very young but I have a lot of cousins there that I have never met. There is even a road named after us.

We headed for Brazil, Indiana where we had lunch at a nice little cafe after getting our photo at the "welcome to Brazil" sign. While eating lunch Niles called and made plans to meet us and join our ride. We headed towards Bainbridge where we fueled up and met up with the Robinson's.

With Niles in the lead we headed west on US 36 and were soon in Illinois. Rudee spotted a sign showing a turn off to Scottland, Illinois so of course we had to go back so we could get another picture, this time with Niles and Deb too.

We rode for most of the afternoon just making a big loop and finally ended up back in Lebanon where we met up with Bill and Jane Remley at Arni's for supper. We did make a stop at the post office to get our 6th country of the day. After dinner we parted company with Niles and Deb as they headed east and we rode with Bill and Jane back to Crawfordsville. What a great day on the bike and the week end weather cooperated on at least 1 of the 2 days.

No big plans so far this week but that may change, you never know. We are going camping with Robinson's this week end to Charlarose Campground so no Internet or TV after Friday afternoon. YIKES!! I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

miles and miles

I have driven more this week at work and got less accomplished then ever before. Since there are 3 appraisers here in Indy and not much much work they are expanding our territories. We alternate covering the Fort Wayne Indiana area and July is my month to have it. I drove the 330 mile round trip 3 times this week to look at 4 different cars up there in addition to my normal workload in "my" territory.

To explain a little about my job, I work from a "remote" location (basically my car) and get assignments over my computer through my damage estimating software. Once I get a new assignment I have 24 hours to make contact with the customer and schedule the inspection. I then inspect the damage and write an estimate to repair the car. They are pushing us to write as many field checks as possible so the files get closed as soon as they can be, so if it's one the adjuster has ok'd to pay I can write the customer a check for the damage. I also have to deal with supplemental damage on prior estimates I have written.

When the cars go into the body shop for repairs, the shop disassembles the damaged area and calls me if they find any hidden damage that is not on my original estimate. I must then either go to the shop or, if it's minor, can have the shop email photos, and then complete a supplement to the original estimate.
The job is not too bad I guess and in these times I suppose I'm lucky to be working with a 10% unemployment rate. In the last year I have have become increasingly dissatisfied with the company I work for and their way of doing business. My hope is since we have been bought by a different company things will change. I'm trying to keep an open mind but have heard from several sources that my new company is just as bad, guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Rudee has 5 years 7 months and 26 days until she is eligible to have medical benefits in her retirement package. Medical insurance is a huge concern for any retirees under medicare age. I keep hearing that the government may offer some kind of medical benefit but am skeptical about a government ran health care system, nothing we can do but wait I guess.

Rain and thunderstorms around here today (Saturday) so looks like no motorcycling today. We may try to go to the races in Peru to watch Stephanie run if the weather cooperates. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

gettin back in the groove

We are settling back into the routine here in our palace at the KOA. We have new neighbors next door who have 2 dogs that tend to bark at every little thing with a loud baying bark. They do take them inside at night and they are quiet when inside but they are out most of the day and it makes things a little unpleasant. They are on a monthly site and look like they may be set up for a long stay, hopefully the dogs will calm down and get used to the people and activity of the park.

We have made a couple of purchases to make our life here in the 5th wheel more tolerable. We have a portable ice maker that we bought at Camping World which we both love. We drink a lot of tea which means we use a lot of ice and by having a separate ice maker we can free up room in the freezer for more important things like ice cream!! We have a closet as soon as you come in the door and the ice maker sits on top of the washer/dryer in the closet where it is out of the way yet still handy. We simply sit it on the floor when we are moving.

I mentioned our washer/dryer. We purchased a used Splendid combination unit that was listed on the Escapees website. We bought it sight unseen and had to drive to Atlanta to pick it up but the price was right and it was nearly new. The prior owner had taken it out of their previous unit and decided not to install it in their new one. They had only used it a couple of times and it looked like brand new. The thing works pretty nifty. You just load the clothes in, pour in a tablespoon of liquid detergent and another of fabric softener in their respective slots, set the dial and turn on the power. The wash cycle starts and when it's done the dry cycle begins, your clothes are nice and clean and dry at the end. The biggest drawbacks are the small size of the loads and the clothes will wrinkle if you don't get them out right away.

While we were on vacation my company was sold. I guess I am "owned" by Farmer's Insurance Group now. I expected to find a huge amount of emails with all kinds of information about changes taking place but it has been eerily quiet. Makes me nervous. You can never fully know what's in the plans of these huge corporations, guess we'll just have to wait and see.

We have pretty much just hung around the 5er here since we got home Saturday. Amanda, Ryan and the kids all came over Sunday and went swimming and we had a nice cook out. We then went down to the city park where they had a small festival of sorts for the 4th of July celebration. We are planning on going on the Wed night dinner ride with our goldwing buddies tomorrow night. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

vacation wrap up

We left Columbus after having breakfast with Mandie and Matthew. There was the threat of rain coming towards us from the west so we decided to "cut and run" and we hopped on I-70 so we could make time. The rain started about 1/2 way home and we stopped in a rest park to put on our rain suits for the remainder of the ride. We made good time in spite of the rain and we arrived safe and sound at the 5th wheel around 2pm. We unloaded the bike and Rudee started doing the laundry while I got our campsite set back up and comfy.

Looking back on our trip, we had a really great time. We rode a total of 1906 miles with all but the last 200 miles avoiding interstates. I had initially wanted to take the whole rig down to Gatlinburg and just use the bike to tour the area. Rudee suggested that since our 5th wheel was our home now maybe we should consider just taking the bike and having a "real" vacation away from home. I'm glad she did. We have taken motorcycle trips in the past and really enjoyed them but it has been a few years since we have been able to do something like this longer than just a week end trip.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a marvelous road. The views are incredible and we are indeed blessed to have areas like this we can retreat to. Our ride took 4 full days, 3 on the Blue Ridge and 1 on Sky Line Drive, with hardly any other traffic. We were often the only ones at the overlooks we stopped at. The ride gives you the feeling of being an explorer traveling thru an unknown wilderness not knowing what magnificent sight you will see around the next corner.

For us it was a great vacation but if your goal is to ride as many miles and see as much as you can in a day then this trip wouldn't have been for you. We enjoyed slowing down and seeing the countryside and just enjoying each others company. We rarely rode over 40 miles per hour and if another vehicle came up behind us or we caught up with someone we would simply pull off and let a gap develop. This way we could tour at our own pace and keep that "private" feeling that made this trip so enjoyable.

I would definitely go back and do it again, maybe start on the North end this time and ride it the opposite way. The trip was truly a dream vacation since we started motorcycle touring 20 years ago and it should be on every motorcyclists "bucket list".

We are expecting company today. Amanda, Ryan and the grand kids may come over to hang out. Our grand kids have been taking swimming lessons and love to be in the pool. The weather is supposed to warm up today so maybe they can show us what they have learned. They may even talk Papaw into grilling out some burgers and hot dogs!! I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

heading home

Friday morning we woke up to grey sky and the threat of more rain. We decided to start our day in our rain gear instead of having to stop and put it on down the road somewhere. We continued West on US 50 which is also known as Northwestern Pike and the road construction was commissioned by George Washington as a means to expand westward. The current road follows the same path as the early wagon trails. Yesterday's route was on 2 lane and wound it's way around and over the mountains of northern West Virginia and we even had a 10 mile stretch into Maryland which is a new state for us to have ridden in. Today was much different because US 50 from Bridgeport to Parkersburg was all 4 lane.

We made good time on the improved (and straighter) road but the scenery was not as nice. The rain never materialized but we kept our rain suits on the whole ride. Just past Parkersburg and into Ohio we hopped on US 33 and headed North into Columbus. We arrived at our motel about 2pm and took a quick dip in the pool. We waited until around 4pm to call Matthew who works nights and would be sleeping until late in the afternoon.

Matthew came over about 5pm and we headed to Red Lobster for dinner. Mandie had to work and couldn't make. She works at a retail store at a nearby mall and after dinner Matthew and Rudee dropped me off at our room and they went to see her. I think Rudee just needed an excuse to shop :-). She didn't come home empty handed either.

This morning (Saturday) we are meeting them at a restaurant for breakfast and then we are riding the last 200 miles home. I just checked the weather in Crawfordsville and there is a 90% chance of rain and storms with temps in the mid to upper 60's. I guess we are going to give our rain suits another work out! I can't complain about the weather though, it has been perfect up until the trip home. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

End of Blue Ridge, on to Sky Line Drive

We headed back onto the Blue Ridge Parkway bright and early Wednesday morning. The weather was just about perfect with mostly sunny Sky and temps in the lower 70's. We both had our jackets on most of the day and were very comfortable. We got back into the rhythm of the ride pretty quickly and the mile markers continued downward at a fast pace.

We made a stop where the James River and the parkway intersect. The NPS have a visitor center and after walking across a bridge over the river they have a portion of a canal and a lock that has been preserved. George Washington was instrumental in the development of this area and a waterway to move goods was constructed to help colonize the region.

Back on the bike we made a few more stops at different overlooks and took some scenery shots. We made it to the final visitor center at the Northern End of the Parkway about 2pm and took our time visiting a 19th century farm they have on display with workers in period dress explaining what it was like living on the farm back in that day.

There were several buildings on the grounds and we enjoyed touring thru them until Rudee spotted this sign. She was pretty much done after that and was ready to get the heck out of there.

We rode the final few miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway where it ends at the entrance to the Shenandoah National Park.

We found a Motel in Waynesboro Virginia and settled in for the night. We were just finishing putting the cover on the bike when the rain started. It poured on and off for most of the evening and we were sure glad we decided to stop early. The motel had a nice indoor pool and they even had a free Lasagna meal in the breakfast area, we took advantage of both before calling it a night.

Thursday morning we got a little later start then normal. We wanted to ride thru the National Park on the Sky Line Drive which is an additional 105 mile extension of the Parkway that travels from one end of the park to the other. We entered and paid our $10 fee for motorcycle (cars are $15) which allows us into the park for 6 days. The drive here is similar to the Parkway. The speed limit is 35 where as the Parkway is 45 and there is more traffic from others availing themselves of the parks facilities. There are more facilities here since this is a "working" National Park and there are several pull offs that offer fuel and food as well as the usual gift shops. We did see a lot of deer today, 16 total in the 105 miles we rode in the park. No bears though :-(

We made it to the end of the drive about 2pm and turned the bike towards Indiana.

We rode for about 50 miles and the Sky was getting grey and cloudy and it looked more and more like rain. Rudee had been wearing her rainsuit most of day since it was in the low 60's and I had my chaps and coat on. We were heading across US50 into West Virgina and our good weather luck ran out. We rode in and out of rain the rest of the day and were pretty cold when we finally made our stop in Fairmont West Virgina about 6:30 we both agreed that we had had enough. Our plan is to head to Columbus Ohio and visit with Matthew and Mandie before heading home on Saturday. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mayberry and back on the "Mother Road" day 5

We made the decision to head to Mt. Airy N.C. first thing Tuesday morning. We were not too far away and the Parkway was closed in 2 separate areas between Boone (where we spent the night) and Mt. Airy so the decision wasn't too hard to make.
We walked next door to Troy's 105 Diner for breakfast. This was a classic diner right out of the 50's with the stainless steel walls and counter stools. We found a booth and finally had some good biscuits and gravy! There were several motorcyclists there and I wondered if we would meet them again on the Parkway.
We headed east on US 421 which is a nice 4 lane road that rises and falls thru the N.C. landscape. We passed field after field full of fir trees being raised. I had heard that most of the Christmas Trees sold in parking lot stands near home come from North Carolina. I guess this must be where they all come from because there were acres and acres of them on both sides of the road.
We headed north on US601 about 30 miles to our mornings destination.

Mt Airy is the hometown of Andy Griffith, Donna Fargo and Eng and Chang Bunker the famous Siamese twins. We were here to visit some of the tourist traps that sprung up from the Andy Griffith Show.
We parked in the downtown area and walked the main streets which were mostly just tacky souvenir places selling t-shirts and junk. We did go into the Snappy Lunch for a bite to eat. They are the only Mt. Airy business to be named on the TV show. We split one of their "famous" pork chop sandwiches minus the usual cole slaw and chili they top it with. The walls are filled with pictures of celebrities eating there and we sat near the Oprah collage of photos.

We were both pretty disappointed in Mt Airy and decided to head out soon after lunch. We rode north on US 52 a few miles and got back on the Parkway once again. We were now starting into the Virginia portion and it was quite a bit different than the North Carolina part of the Parkway. The elevations were not quite as high and the roadway had fewer sharp switch backs and tunnels. There was more of a feeling of being in the wilderness verses being in the mountains. We visited Puckett Cabin named for it's owner "Aunt" Orlena Hawks Puckett who lived here most of her 102 years. She was a midwife who reportedly helped deliver more than 1000 babies. She charged $1.00 if times were bad and $6.00 if they were good. She died in 1934 and sadly none of her own 24 children lived past infancy.

We also visited Mabry Mill which is the most photographed location on the Parkway. The mill was built around the turn of the 20th century and was operated by the Mabry family. The National Parks Service operates it today and they have a gift shop and restaurant at this stop. While visiting the mill we met with some of the bikers we saw at the diner back in Boone :-).

We continued North and were amazed at all the Rhodendrums that lined the Parkway, it was almost like a tunnel of flowers, BEAUTIFUL!

We also began to see a lot of deer which is never good on a bike. We spotted 6 deer beside the roadway in the last 50 miles or so. Rudee was able to snap a photo of this small one running back into the trees as we passed by.

We made it to Roanoke Virginia and pulled off for the night. We only have another 106 miles of the Blue Ridge left to explore. I'll keep you posted!