Monday, August 29, 2011

WDM, IA - Who Doesn't Like Corn on the Cob?

This is the season when corn is not the accompaniment to a meal, it IS the meal. Well, not by itself, fresh green beans, fresh tomatoes and a tall glass of milk are the rest of the meal. Corn on the cob in August is heavenly.

Now, now, don’t tell me that corn is not a vegetable. I know that and I am aware of how un-nutritional corn is: it is probably worse than white rice or white bread in the whosesome scale. It has two main uses: it is made into partially hydrogenated corn oil, and high fructose corn syrup neither of which scores even a .09 on the 1 - 10 nutrition scale. Check the middle aisles of almost any grocery store and one of these two products is on most labels. Corn is difficult to avoid. Not good for you and eating corn as a vegetable will help you gain weight every time. (I understand that a NY Senator presented a bill to make corn the state vegetable of New York, and it passed, even after another Senator pointed out that corn was not a vegetable. Amazing)

But, tell that to me in November or March when fresh corn on the cob is not sold at roadside stands all over Iowa. I don’t want to hear that now. I’ve got my hands over my ears, my eyes are shut and I’m humming, trying to ignore my food sensibilities. But, look, I also ate a large helping of green beans and fresh tomatoes. And, here’s the good part, I don’t put either salt of butter on my corn. Nope, I eat it plain, right off the cob, I love it that much.

On another topic, why do I reread and reread my blogs on the software which I use to write them but I don’t find the spelling errors until I read them online on my blog site? Tell me that one.

Laundry today. We are to the point in retirement that we wear t-shirts almost every day. But, at least I like them to look neat so I put them out to dry when they are still partially damp. I pull them out of the dryer and hang them on some drying racks we have in our guest bedroom. Sometimes we have so many along with other items that we begin to hang our drying clothes on furniture. Yesterday, after washing towels, sheets, t-shirts, shorts and underwear, I have furniture in almost every room covered. Anyone visiting would have thought we were running a haberdashery. At least I had the underwear upstairs, not in the living room. Again, this is not something for which I have pictures. Trust me on this one.

And on the topic of laundry. Who ever thought to put the lint ‘drawer’ on top of the dryer so that, when you pull out this long screen-like catcher, the lint which collects on the bottom of the screen, now falls all over the top of the dryer? Some engineer, who has never done laundry did it, that’s who.

When we were at the fair, we met a nurse who told us that, should we ever find ourselves in a hospital, we should ask every nurse and doctor who comes in our room if they have washed their hands. No kidding. That’s what she said. She said that she did when she was recently in the hospital. Don’t be afraid to insult them - it’s your body. Sounds like good advice to me.

Now, where’s that spelling error? I’m ready to publish..

Sunday, August 28, 2011

WDM, IA - Farmer's Market

We’re counting down the days until we leave in September and what we like to do around here and wanted to squeeze in one more Des Moines Farmer’s Market. We’ve read that it is one of the best in the country and the crops are coming in so off we went.


Since the weather has been so marvelous these last few weeks and promised to be the same for a while, everyone was there. But, then, that’s what makes it so good. It was a great time: the vegetables were ripe, the food was cooking and smelled yummy the music was hopping, and the people were relishing a beautiful day in a beautiful city. The guy sitting next to me was relaxing and listening to the nearby musicians too.


And, lest you think that Des Moines is all Wonder Bread and corn, let me tell you that you can enjoy Salvadorean Pupusas, Russian perogies served by a babuska (who wears this scarf only on Saturdays for the Farmer’s Market. Otherwise she wears capris and listens to her IPod.) all things Mexican and, would you believe? even American hot dogs. We are an equal oportunity world of food. We even had cinnamon rolls and smoothies.


I always find it amazing how many different types of greens one can buy. We have a large Hmong population here and their tables are covered by foot-long green beans, purple tomatoes, and more leafy greens than in a forest.


As my mother always said, my eyes were bigger than my stomach (didn’t your mother say the same thing?) and I wanted to try everything and take a sample of everything home for our meals. Of course, I keep forgetting that we are only 2 and can’t eat that much. But, I certainly can try.


We walked along the river afterwards. 6 years ago, the river was languishing but several corporations in Des Moines donated quite a bit of money and the time of their employees and the riverfront is coming alive: trails, 2 signature bridges, flower gardens, a Japanese pagoda, sculptures, an ice skating rink and the latest is a planned skate park. Several building are being refurbished and there already were some marvelous venues along the river including a stage which looks out over the river with the city int he background. However, it is still in the growing stage and more is coming.


On the way home, we took the city route rather than the faster interstate and heard the unmistakable sounds of the Isiserettes, a dance and drum corp with a sky-hig energy level. The guys play their drums and the women strut their stuff and they don’t stop until the show is over 45 minutes later. They are in constant motion.




One of the secondary shopping areas was having a festival and had invited the Isiserettes to be the afternoon entertainment. We stopped just to listen to and watch them. Des Moines at its finest and why we’re glad to live here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

WDM, IA - He Steers and I Drive

Breakfast out - at Panera. Just a nice relaxing way to start the day: classical music, the newspaper, a hot cup of coffee, a bearclaw, the hum of others in meetings, chatting or on their computer. And, did I mention the bearclaw? Most mornings we have shredded wheat with a teaspoon of wheat germ, a teaspoon of ground flax seed, cranberries and skim milk mixed with soy milk. Sounds pretty plain, doesn’t it? But I look forward to it every morning. However, it’s not so exciting that we don’t want a little change every now and again. We like to eat breakfast out once a week and today it was at Panera.

We leave September 22 for our annual winter journey. Only 24 days from now.

I’ve got most of our winter travels planned out. Am I anal? Just ask anyone with whom I’ve worked. They will tell you, a job knowing the rules and policies, collecting compliance paperwork and reviewing trades was tailor made for me. And, I approach our winter travels much the same way:

        I want to know what to see in the areas that we find ourselves - don’t want to miss a thing - I’m 65 and only have so many years left to explore and learn

        I want to know where we are going to stay each evening - I surely don’t want to find us at 5:00 in the evening looking at a rest stop and wondering where we are going to spend the night. That’s not so hard in a 15’ vehicle but we’ve got a 35’ RV with a Jeep attached. Little more difficult to find a safe spot to park this baby.

        I don’t want the our travels to cost a fortune. Spending a fortune this year and staying home next is not my choice. We try to keep our nightly campground fees fairly low. Everyone asks about our gas costs when we tell them we have a motorhome and compares that to what it would cost them to drive a car. No one asks about our nightly fees nor about our food cost which are so much lower than their hotel and restaurant costs.

For our winter trip this year, I’ve got a 5-page itinerary listing where we will stay and for how long, what we will see, how many miles between stops and how much it will cost per night. Do I have reserves going out to May 8th? What do you think? Actually, we want to spend April in San Francisco and there are not too many decent campgrounds there so we want to know that we’re staying where we want. With that date and place in mind, I had to back-fill all the other places we wanted to stay with the dates.

Gary laughs and repeats the old RV joke about how he steers and I drive.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

WDM, IA - More Fair Pictures

The Iowa State Fair has so many opportunities for photos that I just wanted to add another entry to show some more which I think help to capture the essence.

Here’s one of the biggest pumpkin. How many front end loaders does one family need to get that baby into the fair?


I always try to get to the horseshoe contests. I’m really working on my action photos. Looks like he’s trying to add a little ‘English’ to his shot.


Look how this RV is perched on one of the many campground hills. Do I want to camp at the fair? Sure, until I see this. Then I reconsider. I wanted to title this photo: ‘The Eagle Has Landed.”


Here are some of the kids in the midway. This young woman, grabbed the wheel with a death grip, turned it right and twirled for the whole time she was in the boat.


These young women look pretty serious - I thought this was supposed to be fun.


Now, this is a BIG bull. Remember, it’s all about BIG. Over 2700 lbs.


How would you like to be caged under a sign which said ‘Broilers’?


This kid looks so young and ernest. His goat is not nearly so interested in the judging as he is.


We had a great time at the Fair and we know why it’s one of the best in the nation.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Des Moines, IA - Iowa State Fair on a Stick

The Iowa State Fair is quintessential Americana and, since we did not go last year, we wanted to go this year. We usually go every year and cover every inch of the fair but last year, hadn’t been able to. Jack had come down yesterday so we all had a small bowl of fruit and yogurt (wouldn’t want to ruin our fair appetite) and headed off for our favorite parking spot, the VFW lot on Dean Avenue. A kind of out-of-the way spot but we like to support the vets so we always park here. (That this is an out-of-the way spot becomes ironic later in the day.)

Our first stop is at the cinnamon roll booth where the cinnamon rolls ate 4” inches square, are covered with pecans and have none of those fake ingredients with which I cook (see yesterday’s blog.) They stick to your fingers, melt in your mouth and go right to your hips (only on me). We bought one, asked them to cut it into 1/4’s, got some coffee and headed for some benches in the area. Ummm. Jack wasn’t sure he had enough of the suggary goodness so he bought another one. And, after some serious drooling on Gary’s and my parts, he shared.


There are just some things you have to see at the fair:

        the fruits and vegetables that people have submitted for judging (though by the 9th day of the fair, they are not their best)

        the butter cow which is a tradition in the fair. I was surprised to read that they use the same butter for about 12 years. This is the first year that the apprentice butter sculptor has sculpted the butter cow since the one and only original sculptor, Duffy Lyon, died earlier this spring. I also learned that the butter cow is not really a ‘butter’ cow. It is a hollow wooden structure with chicken wire shaped to look like a cow. Then the butter is molded around this. I thought it was a huge glob of butter on a stand all molded to look like a cow. I’m thinking Rodin.


        the tenderloins


        the campgrounds where the same families camp in the same places year after year and will this spot to their children and their children and their children. Some of these spots are terribly horizontally challenged. Look at the wood under the jacks on this 5th wheel.


        the seed and husk art


        the largest bull, the largest pig and the largest watermelon. The state fair is all about BIG.. But here is a small playful calf for petting


        the peach ice cream

        the animal judging

        the bunny and chicken coops

        the youngest and oldest fiddler contests

        the people watching.

        the fried butter on a stick. OMG - we did not have that nor did we even see it. Every year there is at least one new fair food and this year it was fried butter. Now, doesn’t that just curdle your insides? I read that it tasted like a cinnamon roll since they had cinnamon in the batter in which the butter was fried.

Now, lest you to think that all we come to the fair for is the food, let me inform you that your’re right. The fair is all about food. On the other hand, Gary and I share the ice cream, the tenderloin and the cinnamon roll. So, it is only 1/2 bad.

Actually, the fair is all about the animals and we always make it a point to walk through the cattle, the horse, the pig and the goat and lamb barns to see the 4H’ers and the families with the prize animals. Each family sets up its own area with its name, the ribbons it’s won, often an overhead photo of their farm and pictures of their prize animals. In each area are lots of coolers, cots, chairs and duffels. These people live here watching their animals.


The usual gag in the animal barns is a spider on a string rigged up in the rafters to bounce up and down in front of unsuspecting city-folk cruising the barns. We didn’t see it this year and that is unusual. We did see this chair. Yep, the fair is all about BIG.


Several years ago, we were at the fair in the evening and got to watch the horse pull where they hitch the team of horses to a large sled onto which they put ever heavier weights. One of my favorite but, since it’s held at night, we don’t get to see it often.

One of the funniest phenomenons to watch is the 5:00 changeover. During the day it is families and older couples like Gary and I and tends to be older. We hit the Varied Industries building to see what new hot tub, gutter system or siding we would like on our home. And, where are those Sham-wow’s? In the evening the families go home and the younger couples and singles come out for the concerts, the bars, midway and the games of chance.

Finally we three were tired, had eaten our fill and it was time to head back to the VFW lot to retrieve our car and head home. As we approached the lot, we noticed a Jeep which looked like the one we traded in in June. We looked more closely, there was tell-tale towing hook-up in front, there was the small dent on the right fender, there were the rub marks from our bike rack. Sure, enough, right in front of our new Jeep was parked our Old Jeep. We wish we could have spoken to the new owners but didn’t want to wait for them. What are the chances of these two Jeeps being in the same out-of-the way parking lot at the Fair? Here they are with our new Jeep to the right of the white garage and our old Jeep in front.



Friday, August 19, 2011

WDM, IA - Treats without Calories? Yeah, Right

I made some bars today. I used to make bars or cookies or cake, whatever, every week. When one batch was gone, I’d whip up some more. Most of these treats had chocolate in them but we’re both equal opportunity sweets eaters so would eat anything that had sugar in it. Actually, Gary ate more than I did since he is the one who has weighed 125 his whole life and doesn’t seem to be fighting a weight problem. I’d feed him and get a vicarious joy out of watching him eat. Yeah, right.

However, some time back, Gary told me to stop making ’treats’ since he’d only eat them. Hel-l-l-o-o-o. Isn’t that the idea? So I stopped. However, I’ve been finding ways to cut down on the calories in them and still be able to enjoy them. I’ve been able to substitute Eggbeaters for real eggs, whipped margarine for butter and applesauce for canola oil. I used to cut the sugar in half but have now found that I can use Stevia or other no-calorie sweeteners and save all those calories. Isn’t this great?

Please note that I am still using real chocolate. When they come up with calorie-free chocolate chips, count me in.

Are my brownies or bars or cookies as good as those with real butter, real eggs, real sugar and/or real oil? Well, does it matter? At least, we can eat them and have less guilt than those real things. And, isn’t that the goal?

So, today, we’ll enjoy the new bars I’ve made. And, maybe I’ll make some more when these are gone.

On another topic, I paid my prescription insurance premium today and, because they have not yet processed the direct payment from my Social Security, I actually had to WRITE a check, FILL IN the stub and MAIL it out. I used to do this all the time with mortgage payments, car payments, dental payrments, etc. Now, I use Wells Fargo bill pay and never have to write a check at all. Luckily, I knew where we hid the checks. Now, if I could only find that stamp.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fort Dodge, IA - Planting the Flag

I know that you’re anxious to know how the flag pole story turned out and, while I don’t have the final entry, which would be the flag flying high and majestic on a new flag pole, I do have some more about the long process.

Lug had bought a new flag pole at Menards and the directions said that it would sit in a cement form which should be 16” by 24”. Somehow, in the translation, Gary heard that it was supposed to be in a 16” x 16” by 24” form and he set about building this in our garage. We knew it would be huge but that is what his father wanted. We also took up an old 5 gallon paint bucket thinking that this would be more appropriate for the flag pole that Lug had bought and hoping we could convice Lug of this.

We drove up to Fort Dodge early so that we would have time to work on the hole, the cement and the pole base. I actually took my work clothes but figured that it would be a 2-person job and I was not going to be one of the 2 people. Shucks. But, you know me, I’m the chronicler with the camera.


Lug had already dug a 21” x 20” hole by the time we got there. At 89, he’s out in the yard digging holes and piling the dirt into his wheelbarrow for the journey to the back yard. We wish he wouldn’t do this but he is still spry and wants to keep active. Gary unloaded the mammoth wooden form and we all knew it was too big, would require more digging (yech-h-h) and that 5-gallon paint container looked mighty inviting. Lug didn’t need too much convincing.


They put sand inthe bottom of the hole, cut a hole in the bottom of the bucket for drainage should water get into the pole itself, put the bucket into the hole and filled in around it with dirt - remember that dirt in the back yard? - they brought it back to the hole in the front yard in that same wheelbarrow. That dirt had a great round trip through Lug’s yard and hadn’t even had to go through security.

Meanwhile, after taking a few pictures, I went for a walk and ended up at HyVee, one of the local grocery stores. I thought I’d buy some bananas for lunch but, I smelled the aroma of the barbeque in front and heard the price of $1.00 hot dogs and $1.00 steak sandwiches. I knew my guy would want one of those (and a break from the flagpole project) and thought Lug might also. I called and they were on their way.

A $1.00 steak sandwich? I need to clean my ears. Yes, the hot dog was $1.00 but the steak sandwich was $7.00. And who would settle for a hot dog when there were cheese burgers and steaks on the grill? So, what I thought might be a cheap $3.00 meal for the 3 of us turned into an extravaganza of 2 cheese burgers and a steak sandwich for $13.00. And, Lug had said he’d pay. Oops. Well, at least I could donate the bananas for dessert.


Back in the front yard after lunch, they put the sleeve for the pole into the bucket and braced it in the middle. Gary mixed some cement and poured it while Lug tamped it down. Finally, finally, the flag pole project is nearing its end. Lug has confessed to us that he is losing sleep over this (he sometimes gets pretty anxious) and is looking forward to seeing it done. My brother called to tell us that it was supposed to rain so they then covered the cement with boards and plastic bags. And, yes, it did rain.

When all was done for the day, they posed by their masterpiece. The directions for the cement said to wait 5 days before putting up the flagpole so we were done for the day.



One last treat. Lug is having some problems reading the letters on his computer keyboard and Gary had bought some large letter stick ons. Inside, he began to put these on Lug’s keyboard and Lug was terribly pleased.


Jack, my brother then came over and I drove back to Des Moines in his truck while Gary followed in our car.

It’s the Iowa State Fair and we’re on our way tomorrow.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Amana, IA - Brats, Bugs and Quilts

We’ve lived in Iowa for a good part of our life and have yet to visit the Amana Colonies. One of our goals for the summer was to tour Iowa like we tour other states and today we chose to visit Amana. We had thought about staying another night in this campground to spend more time in Amana but decided to take the RV into town, park it at the Visitor Center, tour and head home from there. Luckily we did since, had we stayed in Amana another night, we would have had to drive back to Des Moines in the rain.

From the visitor Center, the town is a short 4 - 5 blocks long, 4 blocks deep and full of shoppes. But first, a bit of history. How many of you think that Amana was settled by the Amish like I did? Nope, they are two completely different groups. Amana was founded by the Community of True Inspiration in 1855. This group had come from Europe where they faced persecution and economic depression, landed near Buffalo but expanded so much that they needed more land. Thus they moved to a fertile valley in Iowa and established 6 smaller colonies: Amana, East Amana, South Amana, Middle Amana, High Amana and Homestead.

The Amish on the other hand, also emigrated from Germany with a different religion, different customs and an entirely different history. That both groups established colonies within a hundred miles of each other is purely coincidence.

Each Amana colony was a separate communal group, sharing all property and resources. Men and women were assigned jobs by the village council of brethren. All worked without a wage but were provided with a home, food, medical care, all household necessities and schooling for their children. Farming and agriculture were the primary focuses but all villages need craftsmen and Amana became known for the fine work of their craftsmen.

Here’s an interesting tidbit. They bury people by the day they die, not in family groups. The husband might be at one end of a row and the wife at the other end, depending upon when they died.

I was intrigued by the ‘moving’ days which were designated by the village elders. Since all housing was owned and assigned by the community, whenever a family changed by marriage, death, or childbirth, a new house was needed, whether larger or smaller. Thus, there were ‘moving’ days when many families in the village moved to accomodate all the different needs. Lots of people packed up and moved to a house which suited them better. All on the same day


But all of this you can read elsewhere. Gary and I had perused the map and knew where the village bakery was so made a beeline for it. Here’s Gary looking at his smart phone which has an app to calculate distances walked. He’s wondering how many miles he will need to walk to ‘earn’ that pastry.

Many of the homes are made out of stone but note the intricate placement of each stone in this home. So many small stones, each fitting perfectly. Obviously an example of the exquisite craftsmanship.


We had gotten a coupon from our campground which enabled us to buy a 1-lb package of brats for $1.00. When we got to the Amana Smoke House, we noted that a package of brats cost $4.79, a savings of $3.79 with the coupon. Not only that but we are members of a camping club and only had to pay 1/2 price for the campground. Such a deal. Guess what dinner is tonight?


We spent most of our time in the museum whice we enjoyed immensely. I had about 8 pictures in my camera when Gary pointed our a small out-of-the-way sign which asked us not to take pictures. I should have asked thw docent. Above is one of a true Amana quilt which is actually stitching on a large piece of cloth, rather than many smaller pieces of cloth stitched together. Here’s where women showed their craftswomanship - sewing in the tiniest stitches possible. The museum had a home with original period furniture, an attached shed with original tools and lots of information about the colony, an interesting smaller museum.


However, it is time to go. I reached up to shut our front door with my right hand and shut it on my left thumb which I had wrapped around the door jamb. No picture of this and no recording. Trust me on this - it’s all for the best. Gary put on his ‘Old Dude Driving into the Sun’ glasses and we were off.


I want to demonstrate one thing I learned in the camera class I took at the Rally. I often take pictures out of the front windshield of the RV and - you guessed it - get lots of pictures of bugs since the camera focuses on them. Look at that great bug in the middle of the picture above. Well, now I know how to avoid this and here is almost the same picture using the new technique I learned. Wow, what a difference. The same bug is there in the middle behind the truck but now that isn’t the focus of the picture. I won’t have to delete so many buggy pictures now.


Home late, brats for dinner, showers and to bed. We’ll unpack tomorrow.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Madison, WI - You Gotta Get Those Slides In

The Rally is over and we’re closing up the RV to start the journey home. Since we have no hook-ups and are just parked here on a grassy field with hundred’s of other RV’s, we don’t have much to do to get ready to rock and roll. We just need to bring in our 2 slides and hook-up the Jeep. We had an appointment to weigh our RV at 9:45 so we had a leisurely breakfast knowing we had more than enough time to do all we needed. We have 2 checklists: one for Gary outside and my list for the inside. I checked mine all off and was just about ready to go.

Here we are all lined up on the grass field. Very nice locale - grass is always nice to park on. We are the 6th RV from the left hand side, to the right of the second white rig. We were in the front row of our section and had great views since no one was in front of us. We have a 35’ long RV, a size that we call a ‘sweet spot’, big enough for 2 people to be comfortable in for 9 months, yet small enough to be able to camp in National Park campgrounds. Were we the smallest rig at this Rally? Heck, no, there were actually some 22’ RV’s but these were few. However, we saw many more 40’+ rigs than we saw 22’ rigs. There were even quite a few 45’ rigs with 2 axles in the rear. I would love to live in a 45’ rig but I sure wouldn’t want to drive down the highway in one nor maneuver in some of the campgrounds we’ve found with a 45’ rig. Whoo-eee.


One of our neighboring RV’s is owned by an older couple, Sandy and Chuck, who have a home in the Phoenix area but travel extensively. When they started RV’ing, they were going to rotate driving the RV in 3-hour shifts but he liked it so much that he actually did most of the driving. Last year they drove up to Alaska and worked up there in and RV park. When it came time to drive back south, he began but, after about an hour, he asked her to drive since he was having a hard time seeing the side of the road. As it turns out, he has macular degeneration and will probably be blind soon. She has driven every mile since. They are full of life and we hope to meet up with them in the Phoenix area this winter. Their RV is the first white one from the left in the shot above.

Gary and I were in the process of hooking up the Jeep and talking with the guy next to us when Sandy came over and asked if we could come over to help them get their slide in. It was their living room slide and therefore about 10’ long and 3’ wide, sticking out of the side of their RV. Sure can’t roll down the highway with a slide out.

Gary and Jack, the other guy, rushed over to help. I stayed behind to get our RV ready since it was 9:15 and we were due for the weighing at 9:45. They reviewed the manuals, peered under the slide to understand the mechanics and got our their tools.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to get the Jeep ready to tow but notice that the new tow bar cover we’ve bought and had installed here at the Rally is not working as designed. The mechanic who had installed it had made several grievious errors and we will be taking this up with the company. (More on this story later.) Finally, I just rolled it up and tied it down.

To make a long story short, they cranked the slide in, we got to our weighing and all was well. Sandy and Chuck then drove off to a local RV repair facility.

We had no hook-ups here at this Rally. We could have gotten electric hook-ups but it would have cost considerably more and, being ‘cheap’ as I am, we decided to forego those. Thus we can use our batteries for electric power with a diesel generator to restore these. We also arrived with a full clean water tank and empty grey and black tanks. The goal is to be able to stay in our spot the full 6 days of the Rally without having to either replenish our clean water nor empty our black or grey tanks. And, we did - with room to spare. We could have gone a 7th day. Right in front of our rig on the grass was a water fountain which got heavy use the last day of the Rally with people who had run out of clean water and were filling 5 and 6 gallon jugs at a time. We are staying at a full-service campground tonight and will be able to fill and empty there.

Finally, before we left, I rolled out our bedroom slide to get to my shorts, which are in a drawer in the slide, changed and we were off. You know where this story is heading, don’t you? Sure enough, before we got onto the main road, some other RV driver honked at us, we stopped and - holy Toledo, I had left our bedroom slide out. That could have had some awful repercussions. Oof-da mega. I am so embarassed - I almost didn’t put this incident into the blog but - ah, it did happen.

We drove Southwest, over the mighty Mississippi and down to a campground in Amana, another grassy field. Here we found ourselves surrounded by another Rally, for RV’s with a Freightliner chassis. And, you can guess, lots of the people at this Rally had driven down from Madison right from the FMCA Rally where we had been. And, some of them had been at a pre-rally for their type of RV. Imagine, beginning with a Winnebago pre-Rally, then going to the FMCA Rally, then driving down for the Freightliner post-Rally. Too much rallying for me. I can only learn so much. But, we did get to see the Freightliner chassis which they had brought down.


Again, we got the front row with the view.


But, it was not all grass and you can see the white stony, sandy mixture on the campground roads. Sure enough, it was plenty dusty. Here’s an RV leaving the park with a full head of steam and - dust.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Madison, WI - Oreo Stacking

Last day of the Rally and we’re ready to go home. It has been a good experience and we’ll attend more in the future but they do keep you active. Lots of people just come for the entertainment and the trade show but Gary and I wanted to make it worthwhile and we’ve been spending most of our days on the seminars. We have take lots of notes, talked with loads of people and will need some time to digest all we’ve learned.

Today I finished up about 12:00 and headed to the lunch room to wait for Gary, who was finishing up the Allison transmission seminar. He’ll need lots of caffeine now. We sat down at a table and, since there were many more people than tables, we invited another couple with their grandchild with them to sit with us.

The guy was a ‘Cat’ guy meaning that he had a Caterpillar motor in his RV and belonged to the ‘Cat’ Club whose motto is: ‘if you aren’t driving a Cat, you’re driving a dog.’ Well, luckily we have a Cat in our motorhome also so he knew he had a rapt, captive audience in Gary. I immediately turned away and engaged the woman and her grandson in conversation. Anything but ‘Cats.’ Gary was so jealous.

Actually, he gave us some good information and Gary will join the Cat Club to get the discounts and information packets they give out. Meanwhile I was asking the grandson what he was doing during the seminars and trade show. They have lots of activities for kids during these Rallies since there are a lot of kids with their parents in RV’s traveling over the summer. He told me that there was a hot Oreo stacking contest this afternoon and he had been practicing all day on it. His grandparents had also bought him some Oreos to practice in the evenings in their RV.

When we finished lunch, we headed to the trade show to see what we could just not do without. There wasn’t much I needed but Gary had some further questions so I walked out early to head back to the RV. And, needless to say, I dropped in on the Oreo contest. The grandson had been eliminated before I got there and he was telling me that they did not use ‘real’ Oreos, which he had been practicing with. These cookies had a flower in the middle and not the word ‘Oreo’ on them. Shucks.


The competition was head to head with only 2 competing at a time. Some of the competitors had a real strategy: they’d build as high as they wanted then checked to see how tall their competition was doing. If their competition’s stack wasn’t as high as theirs, they stopped and waited. Some just built without looking at the competition and they were often the ones who lost, trying to build up their stack without regard to how their competition was doing.


I sat down to watch since it was pretty intense and got some good pictures. In the first picture above you can see a young boy building his stack. He stopped, told the two boys on the other side of the table to not touch his table, then when one of them did and his stack fell, you can see him pleading his case to the judges.

Next you can see a young woman building her stack and then straightening it. It was great fun to watch the this contest.

CompetitionforYoungPeople-8-2011-08-13-19-56.jpg CompetitionforYoungPeople-10-2011-08-13-19-56.jpg

The next contest of the day was the water balloon contest but I had already showered so I left for some shopping. We were out of fruit, milk and a few other things. Walmart was the nearest store and I wanted to make it a quick trip. Interesting Walmart with a parking garage below the store. Because they had a narrow strip of land to build on with no room for a parking lot, they built the parking garage below the store.

That done I headed back to the RV to begin dinner. Meanwhile, Gary had left the trade show and was checking the oil. Wouldn’t you know? We’re low on oil and need to go to Walmart to get some. Yikes, back to Walmart? I didn’t have that great a time the first time there.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Madison, WI - More Rally

No donut today since I decided it was not worth the calories I would be ingesting. The band played some jazz tunes for our donut hour and one was ‘Watermelon Man’ a jazzy bluesy tune which had me dancing all the way out the hall into the seminar classrooms. Gary trailed about 5’ behind me - I wonder why.

By the way, today we both walked out of the RV with the same t-shirt on. We actually have a lot of the same t-shirts but try to wear them on different days. We do a lot of charity walks and they usually give out t-shirts to the walkers and we get duplicates this way. Secondly, since we visit the same places, we often get the same t-shirt to commemorate this although I try to buy different designs. Usually we catch the fact that we match over breakfast and one of us changes. Today, since I was wearing a hiking shirt over my t-shirt, we didn’t notice it until we were leaving the donut hour and heading off to the seminar. By this time I had taken off my hiking shirt since it had gotten warmer and - oh, shucks. Don’t we look cute?

Are these wonderful temperatures or what? It’s warm enough during the day to wear shorts but cool enough at night to get a good night’s sleep.

Today I’ve got a seminar on RV destinations, a seminar on Full-Timing (the usual definition is that a full-timer does not have a ‘stick’ house but lives in the RV full fime), RV’ing in Mexico which seems inceasingly dangerous, a seminar with Gary on computer safety and then some time to check out the exhibits and venders. There are lots of seminars on crafts which I didn’t attend. There are also lots of seminars on things like the Allison transmission and the Caterpillar engine but I will willingly leave these technical seminars to Gary.

Here I am in a seminar, intently waiting with my notepad ready.


We’re both learning a lot, enjoying it all and meeting others, just what we’re supposed to be doing.

And, on that topic, at the trade show, I had something in my hands and reached to give the woman my credit card and - oops, I had walked out without any money, identification and / or credit cards this morning. I’ll be back, I said.

We’ve had some rain in the evenings but, the sky clears, the sun peeks through the clouds and gives us an amazing show. Gary says I’ve never found a sunset that I didn’t want to capture.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Madison, WI - Let's Get Cleaning

Today, the bunched seminars are on cleaning and I’ve got two of them lined up back to back.

First, the donut hour. We’ve been getting up at 6:00 so we can eat a short breakfast and still squeeze in a visit to the coffee/donut building before our 8:00 seminar. 8:00 seminar - I feel I’m back in school - don’t they know we’re all retired and want to sleep in? And, by the way, there’s a workout seminar at 7:00 every morning. These people get up early.

My first seminar is on writing a blog. I thought I could pick up some tips about the web site I’m blogging on now. Since it is a new site, I’m open for any help I can get. And, while Gary has taught me some and I’ve learned more, I did find out about some other travel blog sites and got some other tips so the time spent here was well worth it. Next a seminar on exterior RV care and then a seminar called ‘Honey, Let’s clean the RV.’ The woman claims she can teach us how to do it in an hour. And, boy, am I ever ready for that.

After this we grabbed a bite to eat and then hit the ice cream line. Nothing like free ice cream and here is the line. Gary is off to the left getting his and saving me a place in line. He’s to the left of the second yellow pillar on the left.


They have a Tony Stewart race car here. Now, what i know about racing can fit inside a raindrop. But, my brother follows racing.

        I called him and asked him if he knew Tony Stewart.


        Did he like him?


        Would he like a picture of Tony Stewart’s race car        


        Would he like a picture of me beside the race car?

        Oops, I asked done question too many.

But, here’s what he’s getting.


Meanwhile we found some time to visit the new RV’s they have displayed outside. I mean, what’s an RV show without new RV’s to tempt us? They had some 22’ RV’s with no slides and they had some 45’ monsters with 3 axles and 4 slides. Obviously, Gary and I are not in the market for any new RV but it is fun to spend some time (not too much) looking at the new RV’s. Here is one of the more amazing ones- which cost $748,000.


I heard that there was a $1,000,000 one here and, while usually my radar can find the most expensive item among many, I failed to find this one.

It rained a bit today and was raining steadily while we were eating dinner but the sky cleared off and the sun peeked through right before it set behind the trees.