Saturday, August 27, 2011

Good Night Irene

We're home! About 12,500 miles and back safely. We had a pleasant ride through Tennessee and northwest North Carolina. Saw no rain or wind and got home about 5:30 pm and unpacked essentials. It is hot and we are tired. Ziggy seems happy to be home and is sleeping in every room. Watching TV to relax and soon will go to bed. We are lucky that Hurricane Irene didn't strike here and wish well to everyone in her path. We passed lines of utility trucks heading north on I-95. Thanks to all who help.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sunday I Got Friday on my Mind

No pictures today, just driving and fixing things. We woke up at 9:30 all refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead. We got ready to leave and all was good. We pulled over to the sani-dump to leave our sewerage and that's when the troubles started. Jeff keeps the sewer hose under the slide-out room and needed to put it out one foot. He got rid of our poo and shower/sink water and got back inside. When he pressed the button to retract the slide-out nothing happened. Now that is weird and all of our hydraulics were not working. This is both slides and the jacks we use to level us when parked for the night. Jeff figured it was a fuse and checked everywhere to no avail. Finally we called the folks who make the hydraulic unit and then Winnebago. They told us where the fuses are and had no more suggestions except that the pump must have failed. So, Jeff hooked up the winch and manually wound the room in with lots of sweat and strength. We got on the road after one o'clock and stopped for gas and lunch and by then it was after 2:30. So we drove through beautiful Kentucky and then arrived in Tennessee. Outside of Knoxville we got into a huge traffic jam and sat and sweltered. The we continued on and got into another back up which confirmed that I hate driving in cities with traffic. Meanwhile we were monitoring the progress of Hurricane Irene and making sure there was no rain or wind on our route. We got to a campground near Sevierville, TN at 7:30. We didn't realize that this area is near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, home of DollyWood. Luckily it is pretty quiet and the campground is more than half empty. What a day! Good news is that we are safe and sound and should be home on Sunday.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Old Kentucky Home

We are only 10 hours from home! We drove almost 8 hours today from the middle of Illinois and through Indiana. Arrived in Louisville, KY and sat in traffic forever and with 90+ degree heat. I hate traffic and now want to go home. Tonight we are in Frankfort and will cut through western North Carolina tomorrow. We passed a huge Jim Beam "Old Grand Dad" factory near here. We are monitoring Hurricane Irene and won't go home until we're sure she won't be visiting. A view from the bridge of downtown Louisville. Next time we'll take time to visit.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fight Fiercely Bradley

This afternoon we visited the campus of Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. I started college here in 1967 and spent 2 1/2 tumultuous years during the Viet Nam war and did lots of growing up. The campus was larger and quite different than I remembered and there are many new buildings. We met a professor who explained about some of the changes since I was a student. Jeff snapped my picture in front of Bradley Hall, the main classroom building which has been expanded. A new statue of Lydia Moss Bradley, founder, is situated where there used to be a grassy quad.

We were glad to see that they have the Osher Lifelong Learning Center (OLLI) on campus as we attend and teach in that program at USC near Sun City. It was fun to visit and reminisce and then we continued on our way home. Oh - I stole the title song from Tom Lehrer's Fight Fiercely Harvard. We had the Bradley Brave, but I don't remember a song.

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Ol' Man River

The view at our Wisconsin campground is fantastic. We slept late and then crossed the Mississippi back to Iowa and visited the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. This center is located on the riverfront of Dubuque. The river is dammed just above Dubuque and they have also built a flood wall. The city is cute with some very nice buildings and several large casinos and paddlewheelers along the river. Jeff is standing outside the museum which had two buildings - one is about the Mississippi and the other covers other rivers. There are several aquariums that hold fish and other creatures found at the mouth of the Mississippi and in the Gulf of Mexico. We also saw three interesting movies. One was about barges navigating the Mississippi and the other about the river and narrated by Garrison Keillor. Another movie showed canals and how they affected American life. All in all a good stop.

We headed south and turned east into Illinois and time for a little siesta in the heat of the day. Posted by Picasa

Some Lessons from Iowa

Who would of thunk we would wind up spending a week in Iowa? Part of it was because we needed repairs, but part was because we found neat stuff to do.

Judy will fill you on on the details, but I had a couple of thoughts I wanted to share. First of all, the view from horizon to horizon is planted fields in most of the state -- especially corn. Every once in a while there is a clump of trees with a house and other buildings. This is the farmer's home, and some of them are quite beautiful.

But sometimes there is a surprise right around the bend. We went to see the Winnebago factory (whence comes HaRVey the RV). We were driving through cornfields and the GPS said we were 4 minutes away. No way! No how! And then sure enough here comes this huge manufacturing complex virtually in the middle of the cornfields. The tour was great. More about that from Judy.

The other thing I found fascinating was that a large percentage of the trucks on the Interstates carried oversized loads. Some of them carried huge farming equipment -- no surprise there. But a large number of them carried parts for wind turbines. There are wind farms all over Iowa, and it's quite a pretty sight. I am not so sure that wind farms off the coast would be such an eyesore as opponents would like us to believe.

Iowa is quite different from states in the east. But different means different -- not better or worse. We enjoyed our stay in Iowa and learned a thing or two as well.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

King of the Road

Happy Birthday to my sister, Carol. While you were celebrating we were on a very informative tour at Winnebago. The company was started in the 1950's to provide employment opportunities in Forest City. After a few years a local businessman took it over and the company and RV industry took off. In the 60's it was the most successfull business on the NYSE for one special day. Our tour took two hours and was conducted by a retired engineer for Winnebago. He drove us around on a bus and we went inside several facilities. Winnebago buys the chassis and then customizes them for each model. They manufacture the fiberglass roofs, walls and most of the other parts of the RV's. They have a sewing shop where they make the seats and furniture. We watched as carpets, linoleum and ceramic tile floors were laid. RV's roll down assembly lines where the cabinetry and appliances are installed. They put out 100 RV's each week. It is amazing and we were so glad to see how it is all done. They don't allow photos, so can't share the experience beyond words.

Later we headed east towards Dubuque, Iowa. Our campground tonight is just across the Mississippi in Wisconsin. We always crack up at the speed limit signs in campgrounds as they just want to get your attention. We are staying in the middle of corn fields and there is a dairy farm on the hill below us. Very beautiful here as the landscape has changed dramatically to hills and lots more trees.Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

We arrived in Forest City in northern Iowa and the middle of nowhere. It was worth driving two hundred miles to visit the Winnebago Industries manufacturing plant where our RV was built. Winnebago provides a row of parking spaces with electric, but we were too late to get one of those, so we simply parked in the lot. Other Winnebago owners were walking their dogs, riding bikes and enjoying the evening. Many were here for service to their RV's and others, like us for the plant tour. There was a beautiful sunset and later a terrible thunderstorm. Poor Ziggy was terrified and I sat up with her at 2:30 am while we watched the rains pour down and the lightning and thunder put on quite a show.

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Ought to Give Iowa a Try

Iowas is incredibly beautiful even though it is flat and full of corn and soy fields. Our campground last night was delightful with big grassy lawns and lots of shade trees. Second photo is the tiny city of Tipton - right out of The Music Man even the town square complete with gazebo. We stopped near here to have our jack fixed since the repair in Council Bluffs didn't work. Photo #3 is a tanker carrying a weird load. Last photo is few brand new John Deere items. We passed near their tractor factory and were tempted to take their tour. However, we are on our way to Forest River and the Winnebago Industries tour to see how they make RV's.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

We'd Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover

Just like the song from Annie, Herbert Hoover is a much maligned President. He was a scapegoat who took the blame for the 1929 Stock Market crash and the Great Depression. Today we visited the Hoover Presidential Museum and Library and came away with a very different view of this man. I was amazed to learn about Herbert Hoover and the successes of his work career and dedication to public service and people in particular. I did not know about his personal, self made wealth, feeding Europe during WWI and becoming US Food Administrator for President Wilson. Later he headed American relief in Europe, founded the Hoover Institute of war at Stanford and became Secretary of Commerce for Presidents Harding and Coolidge. He served one term as President and then retired to do more public service and became an author. Hoover was Chairman of the Boys Clubs of America from 1936 to 1964 and headed the Hoover Commission for Presidents Truman and Eisenhower.

Later we visited the graves of Hoover and his wife Lou and his boyhood home in West Branch, Iowa. Second photo is a display of Hoover working as a geologist in Australia after college at Stanford. I'm standing by a display of appliances used during his early adult years. Last photo is his boyhood home.

Jeff and I have now visited many Presidential Museums and Libraries.We still have to see two in Texas, Johnson and the senior Bush, and Carter and Nixon. Each one we have visited has been so interesting and well worth the time and effort to get there.
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Saturday, August 20, 2011


A laid back day with the morning devoted to laundry and housekeeping duties. Lunchtime we checked our book, RoadFood, and found some interesting places nearby. We selected Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop where they specialize in "loose meat." We sat at the counter in this small place on the main street in Newton. In front of us they had a huge tub of ground meat which they shovel into buns and have different sizes and condiments that can be added. Jeff tried the regular and it was served with a spoon to scoop up everything that falls out of the bun. He declared it "good" and different than anything he'd had before.

Next stop was the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. This is named for a former Congressman and we decided that a lot of pork was involved to establish this 8600 acre reserve and the beautiful learning center building. We changed our minds after viewing the exhibits and watching their excellent movie. The quest is to reestablish the plains that once existed in Iowa. It is a noble endeavor and this refuge is so important for people to understand what was once here. Outside the building are gardens of wildflowers and these and grasses are being planted all over the refuge. They have also introduced herds of bison and elk since these animals had once dwelled on these plains. With the large animals come coyotes and other animals and lots of vegetation that has disappeared. We drove their auto route and did not see anything but some butterflies and birds. Jeff is posing with a huge ground squirrel in the kid's underground area. The bottom photo shows the edge of the refuge with the difference in environs from plains to the current adjacent farms.

We had some super delicious corn for dinner and Ziggy and I sat outside and enjoyed the fresh air and quiet surroundings.

BTW - the title is a Cream song according to my source - Jeff.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

76 Trombones

A special visit to the Iowa State Fair and celebrating 100 years of the Butter Cow. Let me explain. We left Omaha/Council Bluffs with all our RV problems fixed and headed east to Des Moines. We stopped for lunch at a little cafe and ate and laughed the entire time. I got a tiny speck of toast in my eye. I don't know how, but it happened and Jeff couldn't resist making a toast to my eye and other horrible jokes. We just sat there and giggled. Anyway we got to our campground and collapsed. When we woke today the sun was shining and a perfect day to spend at the fair. The Iowa State Fair is reported to be the largest in the country. It is very organized with huge fields for parking and Shriners driving golf carts to take you from your car to the main gate.The grounds include a few large exhibition buildings as well as livestock buildings. There's a full amusement park and, of course, the food. We did not see the now infamous deep fried stick of butter, but did see a booth with every kind of candy bar fried with long lines waiting for the cholesterol elevators.

Our first stop was lunch and I saw these potato chips going by and couldn't resist. They are called tater ribbons and they are fried strips of potato chips with a cheese dip. OMG - Good! Next we visited the agriculture/egg building and Jeff posed with a huge pumpkin. We stood in line to see the butter cow and I'll put the pictures in another blog. We did lots of fun things like pretend to drive the big tractors and rode the ferris wheel.

Seeing the livestock is always fun and we went to an air conditioned building to watch the judging of horses. Also saw sheep, pigs, goats and lots of cows. The biggest boar was named Tiny and he weighed just under 1200 pounds. Bubba, the bull, weighed almost 2000 pounds and had a gold ring in his nose. Thought the cow in the last photo was very pretty.Posted by Picasa

I Like Bread & Butter

100 years of the butter cow. This is a big deal here in Iowa. They have a great love of dairy and each year they have a cow sculpted from butter and kept in a 40 degree cooler. We stood in line to see the 2011 winning sculpture in the top two photos. Later we actually attended a sculpting contest where these folks were given a 55 pound block of butter and a half hour to create a masterpeice. The corndog dog won and he was adorable. His claws are Cheetos and his brown fur is crumbled ginger snaps. He had plastic clicker teeth - very funny.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

I've Been Working on the Railroad

We got up around 6 am when the parking lot at Camping World got some activity. They opened around 8 and we left the RV there to have them look at a few problem areas. Ziggy stayed inside and we were told was very well behaved. They recommended we go to a nearby casino for breakfast and we did. Iowa is full of casinos and this one is large, clean and, surprisingly, crowded. The grounds also included two hotels, a RV lot and a dog track. They had a nice breakfast restaurant and we hung around for a while afterwards using our Smartphones and generally loitering. I am the proud new owner of an iPhone and couldn't be happier. I had resisted, but now wonder what took me so long to get on board. The thing is amazing and I haven't done the app thing yet. Jeff got it for me online and had it sent up to Alaska since my phone was on its last legs. Little did we know that there is no Verizon in Alaska or Canada and I could not get the phone activated. As soon as we crossed the border to Montana I called Verizon and they turned me on. I had purchased the book iPhone for Dummies and am methodically learning how to do all the cool things the phone can do. Poor Jeff has to listen to my aha's and ooh's. I am so annoying and I keep taking his picture and e-mailing it to him for practice. Anyway, I digress. We got our act together and drove across the river to Omaha, Nebraska. WAIT! Did I say Nebraska? Jeff and I have a big white space on our RV map for Nebraska as it is one of two states in the lower 48 that we have not visited in our RV. And, we have pledged not to visit Nebraska because the white space in the middle of the map looks so good. Not to worry, we were in the car so off we went to Nebraska and visited the Lauritzen Gardens. The Camping World guys had recommended this botanical garden as a pleasant way to spend our morning and it was delightful. We took a tram tour of the 100-acre site. Luckily for us they have an exhibition of sculpture by Jun Kaneko and it is very interesting work. He does sculpture, fused glass, drawings as well as sets and costumes for opera and theatre and probably more. Photos 2 & 4 are his pieces that are a dango and a head. In photo #2 Jeff is standing at the model railroad garden. This is a large, permanent installation with four different sets of tracks on many levels. Who doesn't love watching a train? Amidst the tracks were replicas of Omaha buildings and plantings. Last stop on the tour was adjacent Kenefick Park with two humongous locomotives that had powered trains on the Union Pacific Railroad. One was steam and the other diesel-electric. They are positioned high above the highway that welcomes you to Nebraska. Could have stayed for hours, but our RV was ready and it was time to hit the road. Top photo is two of four funky metal sculptures on a Council Bluffs bridge.

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