Saturday, May 10, 2014

Escapade Prep

We moved about 15 miles yesterday morning in a rainstorm from the Elkhart Campground to the County Fairgrounds in Goshen. We’re parked in an area they call “the hill” where the sites aren’t very wide and there’s no grass, but we have 50-amps full hook-ups. And the neighborhood is nice, with Frank & Gloria King beside us, and Larry & Marilyn Forbes and W.C. and Leslie Earnst behind us.


The Kings and the Earnsts have helped us the past few years with the Volunteer/Information desk at Escapade. Not only are they all great and competent workers, we really enjoy their company!

As often happens at fairgrounds, maximum use is made of the facilities, and sometimes two different groups overlap. Early this morning the parking lots started to fill up with cars, trucks and Amish horse-drawn buggies. A huge auction took place and lasted several hours.





This afternoon all the staff members helped stuff information bags for everyone attending the rally. A long assembly line was formed on both sides of the tables, and one of every brochure was placed in a yellow plastic bag. (Sorry for the blurry picture.)


Marilyn Forbes laid all the full bags in a container to be parked beside the registration tables later.


Don hung the white board for the Volunteer desk. Yes, he did climb on the ladder, but I was nearby.


Later, he wrote on it all the various areas needing volunteers, while W.C. and Leslie observed.


I caught Wallace Lewis, Escapade Assistant Director, giving someone a finger!


Don took a break to talk over some serious Navy stories with Bob Guthrie.


Mary Olson is always ready to smile at the camera. But I caught her with her eyes closed!


Larry Forbes pretended to be important by carrying around a clipboard.


Mary, Gloria, Leslie and I draped the sides of our tables and put white plastic on top.


The rally’s mail room was opened by Paula Serra, retired Postmaster. Her hubby Carlin, with his back to us, worked on problem solving with Wayne Roberts, left, and Frank King. Gloria King is behind Frank.


Bryan Rose gave out pre-ordered rally shirts, while his wife Jane (left) looked on.


The official color of the event shirt is white this year, but there were other options that some people preferred. I really like the peach color and wish I had ordered that instead of white.


The Parking Crew work very hard to get all the RVs parked safely and expeditiously during the first few days of the rally, with staff and Boot Camp attendees and instructors arriving early, then the majority of attendees arriving on Saturday and Sunday. They all wear orange, and some of them get pretty creative with their outfits.


This picture is especially for Dennis Hill who loves orange. You’ll have to ask Michelle Jarvis to share her orange boa with you!


Bob and Molly Pinner, Escapade Directors, have worked hard for many, many weeks to direct the planning for the rally.


This evening there was an appreciation dinner for Escapade staff. Nell Dahl and her sweet mother Blondie enjoyed a glass of wine together before dinner was served.


Carlin Serra will be turning 80 on Wednesday, and he was surprised with a cake and cards at his table.


We were honored to sit with Carlin and Paula. Frank (a beer connoisseur) and Gloria gave Carlin a special 6-pack of beer, which he shared.


The candles were lit (but NOT 80 of them).


And he blew them all out.


Tomorrow all the staff will be at their assigned posts, ready to welcome hundreds of RVers as they arrive. Our weather has been beautiful since the morning of rain on Friday, and we’re hoping it continues for the rest of the week.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Elkhart, Friends and a Famous Signature

We got a fairly early start from Joliet this morning, after greeting this family of geese.


Traffic wasn’t any more than expected on I-80 until we got into Gary, Indiana. It was predictably heavy, but without slowdowns or construction for a change.


We stopped for fuel and I was ready to take my turn driving. Don offered to continue driving until we had completely cleared the congested area. I gratefully accepted!

A few minutes later, I was really glad not to be driving. There was a very short on-ramp, with heavy truck traffic in all lanes just at the moment when Don needed to merge into traffic. Instead, he had to brake to avoid being side-swiped, and then finally managed to get onto the freeway. Whew! That could have been an ugly accident.

The next challenge was an unmanned toll booth where you take a ticket and pay at whatever exit you take. Don pulled up to the booth, but there was no ticket. He pressed Help and a man asked what he needed. Don said we needed a ticket. One came out of the slot at car height, which he couldn’t reach. Don was a little excited a this point, with traffic building up in back of us in our lane. I jumped out to go get the ticket; in the meantime, the man remotely retrieved the ticket and put one out the top slot, which Don pulled out. So when I got around the motorhome, I couldn’t find a ticket to pull out! By this time, Don was *really* excited and hollered at me to get back in the motorhome!

This is one of those stressful situations where, after it’s over, you say “Oh well, lesson learned and no babies died!”

The next stretch of road was wide, with a good surface and light traffic. Ahhh! We changed drivers at the next travel plaza, and I drove the last leg of the trip into Elkhart. Total miles today 131, a nice short day!


I’ve never stayed at the Elkhart Campground, so I was pleasantly surprised by the pretty house at the entrance and friendly waves from staff and guests as we drove in.


There are over 300 sites on 25 acres, and the grounds are well-maintained.


We saw several familiar rigs as we drove to our site, and we knew we’d be seeing several friends here. Our assigned site is one over from Larry and Marilyn Forbes, who were the first to come outside and give us welcoming hugs.


It has been a long time since we’ve seen these friends, and it was really good to get together again.


The Forbes hosted happy hour and we were thrilled to see lots more friends. We shared some of our Hickory SPAM, and Chris had to take a picture of it!


Here’s Larry hugging Terry Russell with Marilyn awaiting her turn.


Nick and Terry Russell are such a loving couple. They even held hands while chatting with the group.


When Nick drove by earlier, I had to rush over to ask for his “famous signature” on my copy of his newspaper “Gypsy Journal.” (If you don’t read Nick’s blog, check out what he wrote today at I Used To Be Famous.


This is the issue he “signed.”


What did he sign? “Studmuffin.” You have to know Nick to appreciate this. I love it and will cherish it forever! Or at least until the next trash dump.


Our group grew to include 16 people.



Lots of stories were exchanged and laughs were shared. And the weather was great for sitting outside.


Ivan and Marlenna also held hands. This is the first time I’ve met them; Marlenna told me that Ivan reads my blog and recognized our rig as soon as they drove in. Nice to meet you folks!


Chris and Charles are traveling in their new “Stubby” motorhome. They’re headed to Alaska after Escapade, and wanted to travel light and be able to park in small spaces in search of good fishing, so they left the 40-foot diesel pusher behind.


Besides the Forbes’ Phaeton and ours, there are 3 more in the row behind us (#2, 3 and 5 from left). Three of the 5 (including us) are registered in Pennington County, SD, a popular place for full-time RVers to claim as their domicile.


Ten members of the happy hour group went to a small Chinese Restaurant for dinner. We noticed the “C” missing from the lower part of the sign.



The food was good, and the company was even better. Our conversations went on for about 2 hours.

After dinner I got the “one-cent tour” of the inside of Chris and Charles’ little motorhome. It’s well-laid out, with all the comforts of home, including a special place for their fishing rods.


The pantry is very handy.


And the shower is pretty big considering there’s not a lot of real estate here. I won’t mention Nick’s comment on the potty…but ask him if you see him. There’s plenty of space for two Toy Poodles, Max and Pepper (who loves having his belly rubbed). So I got my puppy fix with this sweet little guy.


We look forward to lots more hugs and sharing with these and many more friends in the week ahead. It’s great to be here and be off the road for awhile.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Long Day on the Road

Today we only drove about 300 miles, which isn’t really far, but a lot of the roads were very rough, we had to deal with a lot more traffic (especially trucks), and we spent 1.5 hours getting the motorhome washed. All of that makes for a long day for us, about 8 hours. I know a lot of others would think this isn’t very long. But we prefer a 5-6 hour day whenever possible.

We stopped for fuel, then I searched with my Droid and found a Beacon Truck Wash about 50 miles down the road. The entrance was almost hidden behind a huge Petro truck stop. By the time we got to the driveway into the wash and saw there were four trucks and a motorhome in front of us, we were committed. We could have unhitched the car and backed out, but as we were thinking what to do, another truck pulled in behind us.


We were locked in. That was a little before 10:00 a.m. Before long the line started to move.


It took about 20 minutes each for the next three vehicles. Almost an hour waiting and we still weren’t next.


As we followed the motorhome around the curve, we noticed three things. 1. It was a Mandalay, a very nice motorhome, the same brand owned by George and Valerie Mayleben (owners of the RV Driving School). 2. The top right side of the ladder was broken off. 3. The body section over the left rear wheel was gone (plus several other scratches and scrapes). Too bad this RV hasn’t had more TLC (tender loving care)!


Finally, after more than an hour’s wait, we were directed to move into the wash bay behind the Mandalay. The crew started working on our front end before finishing the other motorhome.


Our Phaeton is all clean and shiny now!


We moved uphill into a huge truck parking lot and put one slide out to have lunch.


I drove for awhile, but with heavy traffic, rough roads and (yes, again) a crosswind, I got tired after about 75 miles. Don had been able to get a little nap, so he was ready to take over again. I pulled into the welcome center as we entered Illinois. There was a sign restricting “Trucks/Semi’s” to a max of 8 tons. Since we drive an RV, I didn’t think it applied to us, even though our weight is about 16 tons. But the Rand McNally RV GPS didn’t like the fact that we were over the weight restriction, and I got scolded severely! The “Camper/Trailer” parking sites were pretty short, too. But the place was almost empty, and we got away with parking just long enough to change drivers.

Shortly after we got back on the road, we entered a toll road. The lanes were so narrow that the concrete barriers on both sides were chipped and scraped by other vehicles. Don made it through perfectly without touching anything, but we were both holding our breath!

Then, a few minutes later, we heard a really loud pop like a gunshot. It was almost as bad – a big ugly chip in our windshield. At least it’s down low, so it doesn’t interfere with the driver’s vision of the road.


The GPS took us a back way into Joliet, one which we’ve never used before. It was more direct, but it certainly wasn’t fast. Lots of small towns, traffic lights and construction.



When we finally reached the familiar road leading into Leisure Lakes Resort, we were glad we’d been here before and knew we could ignore this weight restriction.


And we didn’t worry about the fact that this underpass doesn’t have a height marking.


Seeing the RVs ahead should be comforting to those coming here the first time, since this is the only way to get to the RV park.


We have a site similar to what we’ve had before, with a beautiful view of the lake in front. If we were to be here longer, we’d definitely put the kayak in that water.


We went to Portillo’s Hot Dogs for dinner. I chose the Italian sausage sandwich, but it just didn’t taste right to me, and I only ate about half of it. Don enjoyed his beef sandwich, and part of my sausage.


We stopped by the Verizon store on the way home to get Don’s ring-back tone re-established. We pay extra for this and want to keep it, but it expires every year (although the charge of $.99/month continues) and we have to re-establish it. Don’s choice of ringtone, “Anchors Aweigh” (the U.S. Navy Anthem) is very special to him.