Monday, August 22, 2016

Four stops....

Elkhart, IN

On August 4, 2016 we headed to Elkhart, IN for a one night stop.
We stayed at the Elkhart Campground which is just off of I-80 but there was very little road noise. This is a large campground with over 100 sites, most are well kept.
The sites are very narrow, when we opened our living room slide we almost hit our neighbors picnic table. There is a very large fenced dog park, a pool, playground, mini-golf and other activities. We paid $41.41 with our Good Sam discount.

On August 5, 2016 we headed into Michigan. Nancy's nephew Mike and his wife Jennifer once again let us store our RV in their backyard. It is so nice knowing that it is safe and secure when we are not in it. We stayed with Katrina and Steve, which always makes us happy. We were there for eleven nights and kept busy the whole time.
Connie and Nancy
Gail, Nancy, MaryRose
friends since Kindergarten
Katrina and Steve had an Open House to show off their new home, celebrate Nancy and Katrina's birthdays and give everyone a chance to see us. It was so much fun, and a lot of family and friends were able to come. 

Steve's niece Cora celebrated her 4th birthday, another chance to see the Fox and Berry families and friends from our church. 

Cousin Tavi getting a hug from Grandma Chaloux and
reading with Katrina

Cultivate Coffee & Tap House in Ypsilanti

We ate great food, drank good beer and good coffee, played games and became obsessed with Paint by Sticker Books. 
No matter how long we stay it is never enough time together, but it was time to move on. We hate good-byes but are grateful that they mean we had time together. Yes, Nancy cries every time. 

Back on the road again on August 16, 2016. We headed to New Paris, OH for a one night stop. We stayed at the Arrowhead Campground. This is a really nice campground in the middle of farms so it is very quiet and very well kept up. There is a small pond with benches for relaxing, a play ground and a pool. There was no WiFi but our Verizon Jetpack worked great. We paid $30 a night with our Passport America discount.

Before we pulled out of Mike and Jennifer's we had a visit from a beautiful butterfly.

On August 17, 2016 we moved to Scottsburg, IN. We try not to drive more than 3 or 4 hours as it is really tiring and this was a great stopping point before hitting Effingham, IL. Plus, as an added bonus we were only an hour north of Nancy's niece Sherrie. So Sherrie and her husband Eric and daughter Lilly came to see us. We had a great visit, so nice when we can just hang out. We stayed at Yogi Bear Jellystone Park. The campground is very pretty with a small lake. The sites are pretty narrow, with a picnic table and fire pit. There had been a lot of rain so our site was flooded, large puddle as we stepped out our door. Lots of places to walk the dog. We paid $25.68 with our Passport America discount.

Effingham, IL is the next stop, the start of our Route 66 adventure.

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to You!

Tips and things we have learned along the way.
~ Ants!!!
Yep, we had ants again. When storing your vehicle for any length of time you run the risk of uninvited guests showing up. We have had mice and ants, and while we would take ants over mice any day, we really don't want either one. Spraying the wheels where they touch the ground, and around the doors with an ant spray, is a good idea. Of course there is no guarantee that they won't find a way in but when we remember to do this it seems to work.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Illinois - North Utica

North Utica

Easy drive on July 29, 2016 took us to North Utica. We hit a little rain but not much. The only frustrating thing was our stop for gas. The guy at the first pump, pumped his gas then went inside McDonald's for lunch without moving his car. We were third in line waiting, the two cars in front of us moved to other pumps, but with the RV we couldn't. He didn't come back out for all most 15 minutes! If you are going inside after pumping your gas, be considerate and move to a parking spot. 

We stayed at the Hickory Hollow Campground. It is right off of I-80, depending on where you are in the campground the road noise could be an issue. We were in the very back and it wasn't bad at all, up in the front it is louder. 
The sites are about average width, gravel but level. There is a picnic table and a fire pit. The campground is very well maintained with lots of open spaces for dog walking and some nice paths through the woodsIt is surrounded by farm land, and next to a rock quarry that does blasting every now and then and it rocked the RV. They don't tell you this when you check in so it was a bit of a surprise. WiFi was good and Verizon signal was strong. We paid $30.60 a night with discounts from both Good Sam and Passport. 

The reason we picked this area is that there are three Peter "Wolf" Toth Indians here. 
The first up was in Ottawa. He sits in Allen Park, right on the Illinois River, it is the 61st carving on the Trail of the Whispering Giants. It stands 13-feet high and was carved in 1989. The name is "Ho-Ma-Sjah-Nah-Zhee-Ga". 

The second one is in Hopewell, it sits at the entrance to Hopewell Village which is really just a subdivision. This is the 16th one carved, it was done in 1975 out of Burr Oak and stands 18-feet tall. He is titled Hopewell Giant

The last one is in the Starved Rock State Park in front of the lodge. It is the 62nd carving and stands only 12-feet tall. It was carved in 1990 and is called "Chief Walks With the Wind".

In our travels to get the Indian pictures we came across a few Roadside Oddities. 
In Allen Park,  where we found the Indian carving there are two very large metal sculptures. Artist, Mary Fanning created the sculptures in 1982 from sections of the Hilliard Bridge that was replaced with the current bridge over the Illinois River.  The red one is titled "Bending", it is standing and bending over to the side to touch the ground. The yellow one is titled "Reclining" and is lying on its back while propped up on its elbows. The flower was very cool but had no sign to identify the artist.

 "Rootbeer Man" lives in Oglesby, the Lincoln-Douglas debate monument is in downtown Ottawa, and Peru is home to the Star Trek Hand.

Also in Ottawa, we found "Radium Girl", it is a monument to the woman who worked for the Radium Dial Company. They painted the glow-in-the-dark dials for clocks and later for WWII aircraft. They had a practice of wetting the paint brushes with their lips to keep a fine point on the brush. Once the women started getting sick, suffering from cancer, honey-comb bones and other fatal diseases the company hired doctors who told the woman that the material was safe and it would help to make "their cheeks pink". In the early 1940's a group of 14 women who called themselves "The Society of the Living Dead" sued the Radium Dial Company. After numerous appeals, the women eventually won meager settlements, some died before the case was ended. 

We were camped just off of the Michigan/Illinois Canal. The 96-mile canal originally connected the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River. It was opened in 1848 and was used until 1933 when the Illinois Waterway was completed. Today sections of the canal have been closed, but along the 96-miles you will find state parks, restored historical sites and a diverse landscape of bluffs and rolling hills. In LaSalle there is a Visitor Center which also is a cafe, and where you can take a mule driven boat ride. A 61.5-mile trail follows the old towpath, where you can hike or bike. Over the years a number of towns grew along the canal, today most of them have historic buildings and artifacts.

Starved Rock State Park is not only the home of the Peter "Wolf" Toth Indian, it has hiking trails that take you through a number of canyons as well as along the Illinois River. 
According to local legend, a group of Native Americans of the Illinois Confederation (also called Illiniwek) were pursued by the Ottawa Indians and they fled to the butte. The Ottawa continued their siege and the Illiniwek starved, hence the name. 
We hiked through the Wildcat Canyon, a little over 2-miles and the heat was a killer. We did get to see some beautiful sights, the rock formations were awesome.  The view of the Starved Rock Lock and Dam was pretty nice too. The waterfalls were mostly dry but one had a little water running over it. There were signs everywhere telling you to not go in the water due to chemicals from the surrounding farms, but people were still swimming. 

Of course there were lots and lots of stairs and some of the most amazing tree roots we have seen in a long time. 

Some interesting "graffiti". Lots of bird stencils and the word Poop. This reminded us of Nancy's nephew Don, who passed away last year, he had a favorite saying "Say Poop with me, it's fun, you get to pee twice". The away and return signs were helpful, so you knew if you were heading to or from the visitor center. 
While the hike was beautiful we were disappointed in the trash that people had left behind. We stopped counting water bottles at 48, under one stairway was 15. We usually carry a plastic bag when we hike to pick up any trash, this time we didn't have one and it would never have held all of it. 

The Starved Rock Lock and Dam was very interesting. They have a 2nd floor observation deck so you can get a good view of the boats coming through. 

The tug boats are usually pushing up to 15-barges at a time and only nine will fit in the lock.
They push in the nine, (three barges across) unhook and then back out with the rest attached to the tugboat

They lift the barges, then pull them out with cables.

The water is lowered, and the tugboat comes back in, they lift it and then it pulls out and they reconnect and move to the next lock. We talked with one of the crew members while all of this was going on, he told us that there are 27 locks they go through, and they have to do this at each one. The crew works one month on the boat and one month off the boat.

Next up, a one night stay in Elkhart, IN and then Michigan! 

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to You! 

Tips and things we have learned along the way.
~ Watch those spills
We should have known better than to put the hydralic fluid bottle in the underneath storage without wrapping it up. 
When storing any type of fluid it is best to place the jars and bottles in a plastic tote or enclose them in a gallon zipbag. This will keep you from having to clean up a big mess. By the way cat litter works wonders to help soak up spills. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Illinois - Springfield


Drove to Chatham, IL on July 25, 2016. We were just south of Springfield, the land of Lincoln and portions of Route 66. We stayed at the Double J Campground. It is on the service drive of I-55 so there was some road noise, but very convenient for those just stopping overnight.
The sites are great, gravel but very level, wider than normal so not on top of your neighbor and very ample in length. There is a picnic table and a fire pit.

The campground has over 100 sites, some permanent, but well kept. There is a dog area, not fenced but a large area for walking. The laundry room and bathrooms were very clean. WIFI was good, and our Verizon service was strong. The pool was very nice, large with lots of chairs and a handicap lift chair. We paid $40 a night with our Good Sam discount.

Sugar Creek Covered Bridge is just south of the campground. It sits in a small public park.

Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809 in Kentucky and at the age of 7 his family moved to Indiana. In 1837 he moved to Springfield, IL. The Lincoln Museum and Library is here as well as a number of other historical sites.

The museum was very nice, it is laid out in loops.
The first one takes you from his childhood home to his Presidential election.

As a teenager he was restless and wanted to explore past the frontier. He built a raft and made his first money transporting people and products down the river. One trip took him to New Orleans which gave him his first glimpse of slavery and there was never a time in his life, he observed later, when slavery did not have the power to make him miserable.

Abe met Mary Todd in 1840 while she was in Springfield vising family. They married in 1842. Willie and Tad, their two youngest sons, were given a great deal of freedom. Lincoln's law partner, William Herndon was quoted as saying "These children would come to our office - take down books - empty buckets - coal ashes - inkstands - gold pens and put them in a pile then dance on the pile. Lincoln would say nothing, so blinded was he to his children's faults."

The Lincoln-Douglas Senatorial Debate
October 7,1858

The second loop is the White House and takes you through his presidency and all of the turmoil of the time.

Like today there was no shortage of opinions from the press and the public. A whole room was depictions of newspapers articles and cartoons.
 Also, very much like today the first lady could never do right!

The festive night of the Presidential Ball was tempered with fear as young Willie was into the second week of being very ill, he passed away just weeks later.

The man in the center picture is a real person - when you enter the room he is standing perfectly
still like the wax figures, but then starts to speak. He scared more than one person.
We loved the toy in the desk cubbyhole in the left hand picture.

Of course the Emancipation was the biggest news of the day. Can you imagine what TV news reports would have been like? Yikes!
The war took it's toll on the whole country.

It also took a heavy toll on Lincoln. He visited the telegraph office many times a day to follow the news of the war.
The fatal day of April 14, 1865 at the Ford Theater.

In between the loops are an art gallery and two movie theaters, both movies were very informative, there is also a gift shop.

Union Station has also been turned into a museum. The exhibit is rather small and is strictly about Stephen Spielberg's movie Lincoln that came out in 2012. We bought the combination ticket packet that got us into this exhibit and the museum, in all honesty we would have been a little disappointed if we had paid $12 to see just this.

The building is beautiful as are the surrounding grounds, with interesting flower pots and additional statues. 

The two "charred" chimneys represent the ruins left after the race riots in August 1908.

The left picture is of the "new" capital building and the one on the right is the old capital building which is also a museum.

Lincoln's Tomb is located in the Oakridge Cemetery. It is a large tomb that has a number of statues and displays in it. You cannot go past the first level, as the railings no longer meet the safety requirements for height.

At one time the caretakers family lived next to the tomb. There house was a small castle. We thought it looked like a pretty cool place to live.

We toured the Dana Thomas House, it is the 72nd house designed and built by Franklin Lloyd Wright, and his first "blank check" commission. The 12,000 square foot home has 3 main levels and 16 varying levels. It has the largest collection of site-specific original Wright art glass and furniture. It was built in 1902 for forward thinking socialite, Susan Lawrence Dana.

Springfield has a number of Roadside Oddities and we had great fun finding them.

Of course there were some of Abe. A young Abe greets you at the entrance to the State Fairgrounds.

There is also a very tall Abe Totem Pole and a pixel mural on the side of a building.

A very casual Martin Luther King Jr
at the Capital Building.

A happy elephant
Go Spartans! 

The Muffler Deer
Next up is Utica, IL

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to You.

Tips and things we have learned along the way.
~ Keeping connected
While most campgrounds offer a free WiFi service, not all do, and not all WiFi is created equal. In a number of campgrounds you really need to be sitting in their office to get the WiFi to work!
We admit that we cannot go without WiFi. We do not watch TV, so the internet is our connection to the world, as well as friends and family.
The hotspot on our Apple phone was our go to last year, and while Verizon signal is pretty strong in most places there are a few spots where it is not and the hotspot doesn't always work.
This year we got a Verizon Jetpack and it works much better than the hotspot when we have less signal. So we can keep up with all that is happening in the world, and play a game or two!