Communication & Compromise: key ingredients for a happy marriage

Cypress Cg. & RV Park, Site #97, Winter Haven, FL

Well here we are in central Florida. This wasn’t part of our original plan but it works for the time being. We had intended to spend 1 week each in 3 different locations to do a little exploring but alas, it was 3 weeks for me, a little less for Don, before we started to feel “normal” again. It’s good to have our stamina back.

Sandhill Cranes

This trio of Sandhill Cranes are frequent visitors to the park. (The photo quality is poor as I had Beau with me so I took this from a distance as I didn’t want to scare them away)

Don knew I was back to my old self when I went into cleaning mode. I had us both whipping the Suite Pea back into shape inside and out. It took us 3 days before I was satisfied but once done, it improved my mood significantly. (I should clarify, neither of us had been up to cleaning since becoming ill and Beau’s hair was everywhere.) Then it was off to the doggie spa for Beau to spiff him up too.  Now, with that all done, we’re ready to explore our surroundings.

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Lego serpent of the lake. He’s been greeting visitors to Disney Springs since it opened.

First on the agenda was Disney Springs. We had been here once before, 13 years ago, and was surprised to see how much it had grown. We enjoyed browsing the shops and checking out the art sculptures, most were new to us but we did find a few old favorites. This was the perfect outing to finish up our Christmas shopping for the grandchildren. Afterwards we had drinks and lunch at Bongo’s Cuban Cafe. We liked the mosaic tile art on the walls as well as listening to the upbeat Rumba and Salsa music. Always a good time when visiting any Disney property.

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Folks who know me well know that I’m a Donald Duck fanatic. My “Duck” collection was one thing I simply could not part with when we became road gypsies. My mother graciously offered to store it for me.

At bedtime one evening, Don and I both were having difficulty falling asleep. Don’s restless leg syndrome was in overdrive and my brain refused to disengage and quiet down. So with us both laying in bed wide awake staring at the ceiling, it was a good time to talk. And talk we did, until well after 2 am. Don is not as crazy about the full timing lifestyle as I am, he’s more of a some timer or snowbird(er). He doesn’t object to the scenery changes, it’s just that he prefers to sit longer than I, and he doesn’t care for the frequent packing to move process. I on the other hand can’t travel fast enough or often enough. After one or two weeks of sitting in one place I  become antsy, except for when we are parked for the winter. Probably because I understand that moving around from place to place in Snowbird Season is virtually impossible in warmer climes. We both agree that the only way to make this lifestyle work for the two of us is through compromise. The fact that we both want for the other to be happy too helps. So we are going to change things up a bit.

Don and I both are fond of Florida. We love the tropical atmosphere, the warm weather, and especially the beaches. He longs for familiarity. Don wants an RV park that he can return to year after year, seeing familiar friendly faces. He wants a town that he comfortably knows his way around in. He wants to establish Florida as our state of domicile, and he wants our health care professionals to be in Florida. Lastly, he wants to do all of this for at least 4 months during the winter, preferably for 5-6. The remainder of the year is all mine. Mine to decide where we’ll go, where we’ll stay, and for how long. This sounded fair to each of us. I did however remind Don that it could take a couple of years before he finds his perfect slice of Florida.

Since reaching this decision we felt we were in the perfect location to do some exploration of RV parks and towns that could fit the bill for Don. Our first all day adventure took us north to Bushnell, then west, all the way across to The Gulf, then we headed southward as far as Dunedin before calling it a day. We checked out several parks we had researched beforehand along the way, and drove through a few of the  towns trying to get a feel for them. Nothing captured, nor held our attention. At least we were able to rule out a sizable area.

Our second all day venture took us east to Titusville. We have visited this area in the past and it seemed like the perfect location for us with easy access to many of the places we like to go. We did our research and came up with 3 RV parks that sounded promising but unfortunately none of them proved to be a good fit for us. It was very disappointing.

Our third and final outing took us southwest to Bradenton and Sarasota, then down the gulf coast as far south as Punta Gorda. It was in Punta Gorda where we struck pay dirt, not once, but twice. One park was already taking names for the 2017 winter season so we immediately added our names to their list. The second park asked me to call back in January which I intend to do as we liked this facility a wee bit more than the first because of the larger campsites. So now we wait and keep our fingers crossed.

Our off days have been full too. Don has been working on his music, we’ve attended some park functions, and we’ve found two nearby dog parks that have worked wonders for our fur baby’s high energy. He’s gotten in plenty of off-leash socialization and has become fast friends with an 8 month old Husky named Coach. Coach and Beau meet here regularly.

Bok Tower Gardens Visitor Center, Lake Wales, FL

Bok Tower Gardens Visitor Center

The entry

The entry

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An old habit of mine that I have carried over into the gypsy lifestyle is capturing some of the spirit of Christmas in the 3 days immediately following Thanksgiving. I reason that most people are out hunting for Black Friday sales thereby making the holiday attractions less crowded for us.  I was told that Bok Tower would be ringing out Christmas carols throughout the day and that Pinewood Estate which is on the grounds, would be decked out in Christmas finery as well. On Friday morning we drove past the local mall and several department stores with full parking lots and made our escape to 50 lush acres of flower gardens, orange groves, pine forests, and wetlands.

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We began our exploration of Bok Tower Gardens at the visitors center where we watched a short 15 minute film on the history of the tower and estate. From there we followed the intricate River of Stone from the courtyard to Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden. I thought the flowing pattern of the pathway was beautiful. Whimsical pavers etched with wildlife were scattered here and there amongst the stones. It must have taken many man hours to lay it all so perfectly.

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The children’s garden was just as delightful as the stone pathway. It had many unique features encouraging tots to climb, build, dig and create. It made us wish we had our youngest grandchildren with us. They would have enjoyed it as much as or more so than we did. Something else we noticed, volunteers had strategically placed little snowmen ornaments around the garden for children to find and keep. Every so often we’d hear a squeal of joy from a child having found one.

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The River Walk is a water play area of misters & sprays.

Giant spider web to climb in Childrens Garden

Giant spider web to climb in the Children’s Garden

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I found the perfect spot to hang out for awhile.

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We followed the path that took us by the Endangered Plant Garden and Window by the Pond then cut across to Bok Tower, also known as The Singing Tower because of the 60 bell carillon housed inside.

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The tower was built in 1929 and dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge. Commissioned by Edward Bok, former editor of “The Ladies’ Home Journal” and a Pulitzer Prize winning author, as a centerpiece to the landscape garden and wildlife sanctuary. It’s made of pink marble and coquina shell, a combination of neo-Gothic and Art Deco, it stands a lofty 205 feet tall. The stunning brass door has panels depicting the story of creation from the Book of Genesis. Upon Edward Bok’s death in 1930, he was laid to rest at the base of the tower, between the Genesis door and the lily-padded reflecting pond.

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Edward Bok’s gravesite between the brass door of Bok Tower & the reflecting pond

Spanish Moss draped Live Oak

Spanish Moss draped Live Oak

We sat on one of the many benches surrounding the tower, admiring its architecture and listening to the bells toll out Christmas tunes. Eventually we made our way to our final stop, Pinewood Estate. Pinewood is a luxurious 1930’s Mediterranean-style home. Decorated for the holiday season, the 20 room estate is open for public tours. We chose not to tour the house, opting to tour the gardens instead.

Pinewood Estate

Pinewood Estate

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Having completed our outing sooner than we expected, we elected to stop at Fiddlers Ridge Farms & Winery to sample it’s very popular blueberry wine. The owners are quite proud of their honey wines and encouraged us to sample some. I was reluctant as I had sampled some honey mead wine at our favorite Indiana winery and didn’t care for it at all. I acquiesced and left with 4 bottles of honey wine in my procession, along with 3 each of the blueberry and peach. I understand the honey wine will go well with our Christmas ham.

Our time here will soon be coming to an end. We will depart Dec. 1 for Carrabelle, our winter spot for this season.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid……

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I Share Everything With My Mate

The day before we pulled out of Sevierville, our check engine light came on. Of course it would happen on a Sunday. I pulled the maintenance manual out of the glove box and relaid the info to Don. He followed all directions as written but still the indicator light held steady. Soon as we returned to camp and got the groceries unloaded, Don was on the Ford hotline. They suggested he take the truck to AutoZone and have them run a diagnostic test. The consensus was that the thermostat was stuck in the open position and we would need to get the truck serviced soon.

After locating a Ford service department at our next destination. We made the decision to go on ahead but we would leave very early in the morning to avoid traveling in the heat of the day, less stress on the truck, less stress on us since we would not be using the AC. It was a first for us, packing up and pulling out in the dark, an occurrence we hope not to make a habit of. We pulled into Stone Mountain Park and had Suite Pea set up by one. Don was able to get the truck scheduled for service at 7:30 the following morning.

Stone Mountain Park Orange Site #4

Stone Mountain Park, Georgia has a very nice camping facility, as it should since the daily rate is not cheap, almost twice what we budget for. I did learn at check in that the campground excepts Passport America, Good Sam, and FMCA discounts. I used our Passport membership for a $28 discount on our 4 night stay.

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We really liked our tiered site with its views of the water. I could see us having a campfire one cool evening under the trees but by Monday night I had developed a loose phlegmy cough and assuming it was seasonal allergies, knew I wouldn’t be spending much time outside.

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Tuesday morning Don drove the truck over to Stone Mountain Ford. He returned 2 hours later sans the truck. The mechanic said it needed a new thermostat and he wouldn’t have it replaced until the following day. Meanwhile, I was spending my day alternating between the bed and my recliner, in flannel pj’s and wrapped in a quilt. I ached, had chills, a low grade fever, and my cough had worsened. Still, I insisted it was just allergies when Don suggested I see a doctor.

Wednesday was more of the same but at least the truck was fixed and back with us again. I encouraged Don to go out and explore the park. I didn’t see any sense in both of us missing out on it. But, as expected, he wouldn’t do it without me. By Thursday the aching and chills had passed but I still felt like crap. I told Don I thought I felt well enough to view the Confederate Memorial Carving with him.

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The carving depicts 3 Confederate Civil War heroes, CSA President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. The mountainside carving measures 3 acres, making it the largest high relief sculpture in the world. Everything else we had hoped to do we tabled for a future visit.

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I was spent by the time we returned to the camper and told Don I really wasn’t up to making the 8 hour drive to Welaka, Florida the next day. He contacted registration to see about extending our stay through the weekend but unfortunately for us, the park was full due to Fall weekend activities and a vendor event. Instead Don found us an rv park right off I-75, less than 200 miles further south for us to hole up in until I started feeling better. It was a good decision as that evening Don started having a loose phlegmy cough too. I knew then it wasn’t seasonal allergies because he doesn’t have them.

Even though the park wasn’t much, just 14 pull-thru sites literally right at the interstate Exit 61 ramp, we were relieved to be there. Not having much stamina, we set up the basics and went to bed. Saturday morning I located an Immediate Care Clinic nearby and we were there waiting when it opened. The diagnosis? Bronchitis. With 2 shots to my hip, 1 in Don’s, and 3 prescriptions each, we left the clinic, picked up a few groceries and headed back to camp to rest.

I-75 RV Park in Tifton, GA

We holed up at the I-75 RV Park in Tifton, GA

This is our fourth and final night in Tifton. We both still feel puny with little energy but we are ready to move. Another long day of travel lies ahead. I hope we’re up for it. Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

 

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We Got Lucky

Hurricane Matthew blew in and wrecked havoc on our travel plans. After closely monitoring the storm via the weather channel and newscasts, we agreed to tweak our route and come more inland. Then updates gave reports of rivers cresting, flooding occurring inland, dams giving way and roads crumbling. I decided to touch base with friends living in both North and South Carolina for their input. Both advised us to rethink our route or sit tight where we were. Friends suggested we move westward into Tennessee then take I-75 south. We cringed at the idea. No one in their right mind would willingly take I-75 south through Atlanta at this time of year, yet here we are and we count ourselves lucky to be here. I called several campgrounds before finding one that had an opening for the time frame we were looking at. After all it is Autumn in The Smokies.

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One of the best things about passing through this part of Tennessee is Don’s aunt Bev.  She’s one of our favorite people. We spent our first day in Sevierville visiting with Bev and Jim, and Don’s cousin Tracie and her granddaughter. It was good catching up.

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Don and I with auntie Bev

Having vacationed here many times we chose not to do any sightseeing this time through. Other than breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants, we’ve been soaking up the sunshine and warmth at  Ripplin’ Waters Campground with they’re Florida-tight campsites, as Don calls them. It’s been a pleasant and restful 4 days. Tomorrow we make the push south.

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Old Mill restaurant in Pigeon Forge

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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Virginia Is For (History) Lovers

If you’re a fan of American history then Virginia is for you. From the Revolutionary War to the Civil War to the terrorists war on America,  from the earliest pioneers to famous explorers to our country’s founding fathers, America’s story can be found in every town and region of Old Dominion.

This is the third time we have visited Virginia and we have barely scratched it’s surface. After leaving Luray we made an unscheduled 2 night stopover to Charlottesville. The reason was Thomas Jefferson’s beloved Monticello.

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Thomas Jefferson stood 6’2.5″ tall

Monticello (Italian for Little Mountain)

Monticello, circa 1812,  (Italian for Little Mount) Notice the weather vane front & center.

We had a perfect Autumn day for our outing. Blue skies, low 70’s, and plentiful sunshine. Good thing we got an early start because I believe half of Charlottesville had the same idea. Our first stop was the visitors center where we watched a short film on Monticello, Italian for “little mount” and picked up a map to give ourselves the lay of the land. The visitor center also has a model of the plantation, a cafe, shops, and an exhibition gallery which we toured prior to leaving. From here you can hike uphill for a half mile to the house and grounds, or you can do what we did and take the shuttle.

View from Mulberry Row

View from Mulberry Row

Since we had time to kill before our scheduled house tour began we decided to explore the north and south cellar passages first. The North Passage housed privies, storage, and the wine cellar with its ingenious dumb waiter. The dumb waiter was designed to securely hold several wine bottles, each in its own slot, that with a pulley system could be transported up to a hidden cabinet in the dining room’s fireplace. Once deplenished, the empty bottles could be returned back to the cellar using the same method. This enclosed passage way also allowed easy access to the ice house, stables, and carriage house. The South Passage likewise held privies, more storage, and the beer cellar. It gave access to the kitchen, cook’s room, smokehouse, dairy, and slave quarters.

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Jefferson could read weather direction of the vane by viewing this from the underside of the portico roof.

We then met with our house tour guide at the bottom of the front portico’s walkway. House tours are given in small groups of about 20 or so. We were told no photography was permitted while inside the house and under no circumstances were we to touch anything. Our guide led us onto the front steps where another of Jefferson’s designs was pointed out to us, his weather vane whose wind direction could be determined without ever having to leave the shelter of the porch. An avid weather watcher, Jefferson recorded wind direction and velocity, humidity, and weather conditions twice a day, every day, for 40 years. Our guide informed us that 90% of Monticello’s structure was original and explained how the columns, stone facade, and bricks were made. Amazed, I reached out to stroke the stone facade to feel it’s texture for myself. I was quickly admonished for doing so. Needless to say I was more than a little embarrassed. I knew not to touch anything inside BUT I had no idea that extended to the outside as well.

Our tour included the parlor where Thomas Jefferson displayed artifacts from Lewis and Clark’s expedition of the Louisana territory, as well as a variety of horns and antlers from North American animals, and even bone fossils. Jefferson was a man of many interests. Another of Jefferson’s inovations is located in the parlor, that of the Great Clock which displays the time as well as the day of the week. It is so well designed that it has only been tweaked twice in 200 years and still keeps accurate time.  Other rooms on the tour were the dining room, tea room, book room, guest bedroom, and Jefferson’s chamber and cabinet.

The book room was where Jefferson kept his library of 6,700 books. During the War of 1812, the British burned the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., along with the congressional library. Jefferson sold his book collection to the government which became the nucleus of the present day Library of Congress. Jefferson, not being able to live without his books,  soon began to purchase more. He was a firm believer in an educated society being essential to democracy. This belief extended to his slaves who were educated if they so desired and to the founding of the University of Virginia.

Jefferson spent much of his time in the study connected to his bed chamber. Here, were many other innovations of his time, a polygraph machine, a copying machine, and the first Kindle type reader to name a few. The adjoining chamber is where Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after Congress approved the Declaration of Independence.

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The gardens. The view.

A very small section of the gardens. There were tobacco & wheat fields, orchards & vineyards also.

After our tour was complete we explored the plantation grounds beginning with the south lawn which is depicted on the back of the U.S. nickel, the gardens, and Mulberry Row. Mulberry Row derived it’s name from the mulberry trees planted along it. It was the center of plantation life. The homes of enslaved, free, and indentured workers and craftsmen were housed here alongside buildings such as the forge and the joinery. This is also where the  Hemings cabin was located.

Mulberry Row

Mulberry Row

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Stone House, circa 1776. Served as living quarters for free or enslaved workers until 1814. During the building (1769-1783) & remodeling (1796-1809) of the main house, skilled white workers lived here.Between the two construction periods, enslaved house servants, principally members of the Hemings family, lived here.

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Slave Cabin on Mulberry Row.

“John & Priscilla Hemings lived a cabin similar to-or even better than-the dwellings of many poorer free whites. Yet the material comfort suggested here did not lessen the enslavement of the Hemingses. All enslaved people, as property, endured the constant threat of sale & separation from their families subject to the needs & wishes of their owners, a reality that no poor free person had to endure. Physical violence & force were the hallmarks of bondage but the threat of separation to enslaved families was an equally powerful & devastating aspect of the American slave system.”

(Like many enslaved people, Jefferson’s slaves were consumers in plantation based & local economies. To earn money, they raised poultry & sold eggs to Jefferson’s family. Jefferson rewarded the best workers as an incentive to increase their productivity. The slaves, with their earnings, purchased goods from Charlottesville to enhance the comfort of their home.)

( Spirituality helped sustain the lives of the enslaved people. The slaves at Monticello were allowed to worship without interference. Later in the 19th century, increasingly repressive laws prohibited slave assemblies in Albemarle County, including worship services.)

( The reason I’ve gone into detail about the enslaved at Monticello, particularly the Hemings family is because of Sally Hemings, 1773-1835, an enslaved lady’s maid. DNA test results in 1998 indicated a genetic link between the Jefferson & Hemings families. Based on existing scientific, documentary, & statistical evidence & oral history, Monticello & most historians believe that years after his wife’s death, Thomas Jefferson was the father of Sally Hemings’ children, Beverly, Harriet, Madison, & Eston.)

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Interior of slave cabin.

Taking advantage of the day, not to mention we’d be going downhill, we opted to walk back down to the visitors center stopping at the Jefferson family plot on our way. President Jefferson too is buried here in a site chosen by him in 1773. Although Monticello is deeded to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the cemetery is owned by an association of Jefferson’s descendants and is still used as a burying ground to date.The epitaph he wrote for his tombstone reads: “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.’

Family cemetery gate

Jefferson family cemetery gate with the initials TJ

The slave cemetery

The slave cemetery at Monticello. Buried in this graveyard are more than 40 of the nearly 400 men, women & children who lived in slavery at Monticello from 1770-1827. Although  the names of Monticello’s enslaved residents are known, it has not been possible to identify the individuals buried here. Notice the stark contrast between the 2 burial grounds.

Monticello additionally offers 4 other tours, the Gardens and Grounds tour, Slavery at Monticello tour, Hemings Family tour, and a Behind the Scenes House tour. I would’ve loved to have taken all of them but not wanting to leave Beau caged for too long, we just did the one.

Monticello is a continuing work in progress. Ever changing as new facts come into focus. During our visit there was restoration work being down at the stone stable house, the north promenade, and at the joinery chimney.

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On our final full day in Charlottesville we woke up early to get fresh potato flour doughnuts from Spudnuts since we’d heard that they often run out of doughnuts by about 10 am. A decades old coffee shop in the old part of town recommended by fellow blogger and most of the time RVer Sherry. We bought an assortment, enough for 2 days breakfasts. We agree, they were all delicious but our favorites were the pumpkin and the coconut.

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For dinner we dined at the historic Michie Tavern (pronounced Mickey, like the mouse), circa 1784. The 18th century inn offers traditional Southern-style fare of the time period. The  servers wore period attire as well. Afterwards we took a self guided tour of the inn and grounds. A very unique and interesting place.

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BALLROOM/ASSEMBLY ROOM served as the social center of the tavern & countryside as well.

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PUBLIC BEDROOM Unlike modern hotels where you rent a private room for the night, in a tavern, the traveler’s payment entitled him only to a space to sleep within the room for the night. These typical rope lashed beds filled with either straw or feathers would have been shared by strangers, no more than 5 to a bed according to house rules. Later arrivals slept on the floor.

“Necessary” or “Necessary Houses” & “Privy” are a few of the 18th century terms used to describe an outhouse. Old newspapers would often describe plantations for sale where the owner noted how many “Secrets”-another name for the outhouse-were on his land. Many privies were located near or concealed by the garden. By this photo I assume after sharing your bed with a stranger for the night, one felt no compulsion against sharing the toidy room as well.

Now, a little about the campground we stayed in. The Charlottesville KOA was typical of what we find at the majority of the KOA’s we’ve been in. It was rustic, old, in need of upkeep, and highly overpriced. Our voltage was fine but the Verizon signal, the park’s free wifi, and the water pressure were all poor, as was the site quality. Grass was hard to come by much to the chagrin of all the dog parents in the campground. The website states there is a fenced doggy play yard and indeed there is however it was unkempt and had numerous large toadstools growing in it. None of the dog parents we met utilized it. As far as location goes, it’s perfect. Just far enough out of town to be away from the hustle and bustle yet convienent to all of the historic attractions. It’s also the best of 3 camping options for sightseeing in Charlottesville.

Charlottesville KOA

Charlottesville KOA

Until next time, here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

 

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Shenandoah Valley

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Our campsite at Outlanders River Camp in Luray, VA

 

John Denver sang about her,

“almost heaven, west Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River”

Carl Sandburg wrote about her,

“a butter of dandelions slung on the turf, climbing blue flowers of the wishing woodlands wandering; a midnight purple violet claims the sun among old heads”

When you’re here it’s easy to understand how this valley has touched the hearts and minds of those that pass through. From the lush green, round topped mountains to the crystal clear mountain streams; from the rich history of the valley to the southern hospitality of the people; we have delighted in the beauty that has surrounded us this past week.

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Our view to the west.

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Our view to the east.

The view from our campsite alone has made this a favorite stop. Nestled in a bend of the Shenandoah River, we look westward and see Massanutten  Mountain and the Appalachian range. To the east lies the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains and the historic Appalachian Trail. It is so very peaceful and until Friday evening, we along with one other couple were the sole campers. The 4 of us reveled in it. At night, being a good 5 miles from the town of Luray, no lights penetrate. The darkness is so complete. The star gazing would be awesome except we haven’t had the blessing of a cloudless day (or night) since we arrived. Because of them, my photos don’t do justice to the views from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park but they did contribute to the somber setting of the Civil War battlefield we visited.

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The Shenandoah runs just beyond the tent sites.

I imagine the views from on top the Blue Ridge Mountains are breathtaking no matter which season you visit but there’s something about the crisp mountain air and splendid array of Autumn colors that makes it a little more special. We had such high hopes of finding color in the higher elevations but that wasn’t the case. We arrived too early and will depart too soon, and yet, the scenery didn’t disappoint us. We even took the time to walk a small portion of the Appalachian Trail just so we could say we did.

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                                            Beau works up a mighty thirst from hiking the trail. 

Virginia is rife with history, and Don and I are history buffs, the period that we find most fascinating is that of America’s Civil War. We discovered one of the war’s lesser known battles occurred not too far from us, the Battle of New Market.

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We took a day to walk the battleground and learn about the day the Virginia Military Institute’s cadets were reluctantly called into action, some as young as 15 and 16 years old.

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Flag of the Southern Grays, Company C, 10th Virginia Volunteers

 Taking the Oath & Drawing Rations, a popular period sculpture by John Rogers & one of the 6                                original VMI cadet grave markers displayed at museum entryway. 

                                                              THE BULLET THAT NEVER FIRED

“The musket was knocked off my shoulder by a piece of shell…I was struck over the right eye and Dr. Ross sewed up the wound immediately in the rear of our line and while it was going forward into fight.”  –  Charles H. Read Jr. VMI Class of 1867 Private, C Company

The useless musket was taken home by Cadet Read with its unused powder & bullet lodged in the barrel. The unfired .54 caliber Minie Ball was forgotten about for 135 years until it was discovered during a safety check and removed in the spring of 1999.

On the right is body armor taken from a Union soldier. While armor was never officially adopted by either armies, it was popular in the Union army very early in the war.

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Stained glass window depicting the war in the Shenandoah Valley by abstract artist Ami Shamir. This photo does not depict all of the detail seen by the naked eye.

Our first stop was the Virginia Museum of the Civil War where artifacts and dioramas convey the story of the Civil War in Virginia. In the adjoining theater the Emmy award winning film “Field of Lost Shoes” is shown. It tells the account of the battle.

The Bushong Farm

In 1864 the Bushong farm’s field of wheat became a battleground. Three generations of the family took shelter in the basement of their home. After the battle, they continued to live in the basement as their home became a hospital for the wounded.

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In the Spring of 1864, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant sets in motion a plan to press the Confederates into submission via taking control of the strategically important and agriculturally rich Shenandoah Valley.

Having received word that the Union army under Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel had invaded the valley, Confederate Gen. John C. Breckinridge pulls all available forces to meet the threat. The VMI cadets heed the call along with Breckinridge’s 4,500 army veterans. The two armies met at New Market on May 15, 1864.

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The orchard fence line.

Experiencing devastating fire to the center of the line, Breckinridge is forced to put in the 257 VMI cadets. Stationed along the orchard fence line of the Bushong family farm, the cadets charged valiantly across the Field of Lost Shoes sweeping over the Federal position and capturing a battery. Sigel made a hasty retreat leaving the valley. Of the 257 cadets that fought, 40 were wounded, and 10 lost their lives.

"The Field of Lost Shoes"

“The Field of Lost Shoes” The wheat field was so saturated by days of rain that the deep mud sucked the shoes from the cadets feet as they advanced across it.

We along with everyone else in the east and southeast section of the U.S. are busy monitoring Hurricane Matthew. Our future travel plans are contingent on how severe the damage is and its impact on our preferred route south. Our prayers are with the good people of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina at this time. Be smart. Stay safe.

                                                  Woodson’s Monument, the inscription reads, 

                                                                                  This rustic pile

                                                                          The simple tale will tell:

                                                                                 It marks the spot

                                                                    Where Woodson’s heroes fell.

Heres lookin’ at you kid…….

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Just Passing Thru

Looking for a place to overnight on our way to Virginia, we decided Donegal, PA fit the bill. About halfway to our destination and close enough to Ohiopyle State Park to do a little sightseeing of the Youghiogheny River (pronounced Yawk-uh-gay-née) and Ohiopyle Falls.

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During check in at Donegal Campground our plans took a detour. It was then we learned we were only about 30 miles away from the Flight 93 Memorial. Having only enough time to do one or the other, it was unanimous that we would see the memorial.

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September 11, 2001, our generation’s Pearl Harbor as Don calls it. It is morning on a beautiful late summer day and 4 commercial airplanes have just been hijacked by terrorists. Two are flown into the World Trade Center’s towers in New York City. Another plane hits the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The fourth and final plane, United Flight 93, bound from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco, California, is delayed 25 minutes from its scheduled departure. It is that delay that enables the passengers to become aware of the terrorist attack on America and, to know just what fate had in store for them once the terrorists on board begin to put their plot into action.

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Western Overlook. This area was the location of the command post for the investigation & the location of multiple temporary memorials. It is aligned with Flight 93’s crash path.

The open green space was the debris field.

The open green space was the debris field. It encompasses 40 acres. It is the final resting place of the passengers and crew. 

Looking straight down the flight path.

Looking straight down the flight path from the overlook.

Overlooking the Allee & 40 Memorial Groves.

Overlooking the Allee & 40 Memorial Groves.

The memorial is for them, the ordinary citizens who with extraordinary courage, fought back and in so doing, saved the lives of countless others. This national memorial tells their story. It was a very somber, moving experience.

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Pathway to the Arrival Court where interpretive panels tell the story of Flight 93.

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Heroes all

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Memorial Plaza. The long sloping black wall marks the edge of the crash site & debris field. Visitors can leave tributes in small niches in the wall.

The Wall of Names

The Wall of Names & Flight Path. The Wall of Names has 40 inscribed white marble panels to honor the passengers & crew. The inscriptions are all in black except for the panel with the date inscribed. It is to the right of the open space.

The Ceremonial Gate overlooks the impact site.

The Ceremonial Gate overlooks the path of the impact site.

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Hemlock Grove & Impact Site. At the edge of the field is what remains of a hemlock grove damaged by the crash of Flight 93. A gap is visible where the damaged trees were removed. At the base of the grove is a boulder which marks the general location of the impact site. The FBI excavated the site & the crater was later filled in at the direction of the coroner.

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Looking back toward the visitor center observation deck.

Looking back toward the visitor center observation deck.

If we had only known there would be so much to see and do here, we would have planned accordingly. Suffice it to say that if we find ourselves near here in the future we will one, find a different park to stay in, and two, stay longer.

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Vial of Soil. The American Red Cross gave each family member a small vial of soil from the crash site at the memorial service in September 2001. 

Now for a little info about Donegal Campground. I chose it because it’s conveniently right off the I-70/Pennsylvania Turnpike (there is road noise but it’s not overpowering) and it has 50 amp full hookup sites. Don balked on first sight. It’s heavily wooded and has a rustic look to it, he’d have no satellite tv. No U of M football, no Detroit Tiger baseball! He was ready to go somewhere else.

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The Suite Pea at Donegal Campground

I convinced him he could manage for 2 nights. Once we settled in though, his attitude changed. Much to his surprise and mine, the site was level, the hookup included cable, and the park’s free wifi worked perfectly.

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As you can see, we have the place all to ourselves.

Although this type of facility wouldn’t be to our liking for a week or more, it definitely works for a night or two if you can tolerate the very poor water pressure. It is the worst we’ve ever seen.

Until next time, here’s lookin’ at you kid…..

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Quaint Hamlets & Scenic Byways

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Last Thursday we left Indiana’s Amish country behind us. We had expected a 4.5 hour travel day to our next destination but the day ran longer than anticipated.  Not only were there several construction sites along both the Ohio Turnpike and I-75 that slowed us but we also passed a horrendous accident scene involving a semi tractor trailer that had us at a short standstill.  That, and given the day’s high was 86 degrees, Don had dropped his towing speed down to 55-60 mph instead of his usual 65. He doesn’t like to push it in the heat. Eventually we arrived, no thanks to either of our GPS systems. It was past our usual dinner time once we got Suite Pea settled into her new location. I was grateful for my foresight of preparing extra food the previous day so that all I had to do was nuke it. Once the supper dishes were washed and put away we called it a day and went to bed, saving our exploration of the RV park for the following day.

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Welcome to Holmes County

We traded one state’s Amish area for another’s. Our “home” for the time being is Scenic Hills RV Park in Berlin Township, Ohio. Berlin is at the heart of Ohio’s largest Amish community and is the oldest existing village in Holmes County. The entire area is a scenic vista of rolling hills dotted with family farms.

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Scenic Hills is conveniently located just south of the Amish Country Byway. With only 113 campsites, it’s a small park, but the way it’s laid out it appears larger. I’m sure all of the green space contributes to that.  Other than the 5 super sites near the entrance the remaining campsites are of average spacing in between them with an equal number of them being pull-thrus and back-ins. All have full hookup with great water pressure, and all are level. The campground offers no amenities other than a laundry, a dump station, free campfire wood, and free wifi, which we did not use so I can’t say how fast or reliable it is. This is reflected in its rates which are very reasonable. Cash or check only accepted. One other thing I might add is this is one of cleanest, most well tended RV parks we have ever stayed in.

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One of the back-in sites. That’s Suite Pea on the left.

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The 5 super sites near the entrance. The only difference between these & the other campsites is the width & the bricked patio areas. When we changed sites we were moved to where the Montana 5th wheel is in photo.

                             Two different styles of pull-thru sites below. One graveled, one grass

On our first full day we spent half of it visiting with friends. We met up with Barb and Tom, and Glen and Sue for lunch at Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen. As it is with most RVers, we spent more time gabbing than we did eating. It sure was nice catching up on everyone’s travels. Speaking of friends, Beau made some new acquaintances too, sisters Gracie and Baylee. They have scheduled a few play dates together.

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Beau with new friends, Gracie & Baylee

Saturday we made the mistake of going sightseeing along with a few hundred other weekend tourists. We opted to start small with the exploration of the area by just focusing on Berlin. We were surprised to see just how commercialized it is. Lots of craft and trinket shops with many having nothing whatsoever to do with the Amish or their lifestyle, several bakeries and cafes, and a few farm markets thrown into the mix for good measure. Close to lunchtime we spotted a pretzel shop and decided to check it out. After perusing the display case we left empty handed. Don summed it up well, after having sampled pretzels in the Amish communities of Shipshewana, Indiana and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the offerings at the Pretzel Nook was a disappointment. Heading back to the truck we spotted a line at a little hole in the wall advertising homemade ice cream. Sure enough, alongside there was a man making ice cream with a large salt and ice packed wooden bucket attached to the motor of a John Deere tractor. Don ordered the pecan pumpkin and I sampled the black cherry. Both were delicious.

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One of the 95 parochial Amish schools in Holmes County

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Tiring of the crowd we decided to move on to Mount Hope and the Heini’s Cheese Chalet that Glen told us about. It was pretty crowded too but the cheese people are obviously use to it. They have it down to a science. The cheese tasting is done in single file around a horseshoe shaped area. With over 35 varieties to sample, not to mention dips, spreads, sausages, salsas, and more, we were there for quite awhile. We both left carrying bags to stock our fridge and pantry with.

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We spent Sunday tackling the housework and grocery shopping then topped it off with a campfire. The ensuing day was drizzly and chilly. I felt it was a good day to tackle the laundry and bribed Don into helping me by taking him out to breakfast first. He chose Boyd & Wurthmann’s restaurant after looking at dining reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor. It was obvious why the place is always packed when we drive by, the food was local fare, tasty, and ample. It’s where the locals go. Rather than use the laundry facilities in the park which consists of only two washers and dryers each, we drove into Millersburg to use the laundromat. With four loads, I didn’t want to make it a half day event. The owners showed up to clean the already immaculate shop and struck up a conversation with us. Once they learned we were full time RVers the conversation ran the usual course with lots of questions about the lifestyle, mail forwarding, why we chose South Dakota for our domicile, etc. We are always delighted to share our RVing life with others.

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The park offers free fire wood from the lumber yard next door.

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We spent Tuesday cruising the back roads and discovering what a few of the other villages had to offer but first a stop at an authentic Amish bakery for morning sustenance. Diligent research took us to Miller’s Bakery.  Located on a narrow country lane in the middle of nowhere, even our GPS had a difficult time finding it. But WOW,  was the hassle ever worth it. The cheese tarts and blackberry filled doughnuts were delectable! From there we visited the towns of Walnut Creek and Sugarcreek.

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Plaited in 1826, Walnut Creek has a large Amish population and is popular with the tourist. Smaller in size and with fewer shops, it’s not as commercialized as Berlin. The draw here is The Amish Country Theater with it’s comedy variety shows and the Walnut Creek Cheese, a grocery and retail store that offers a little bit of everything. We browsed the aisles but made no purchases. Then we moved on to Sugarcreek.

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Sugarcreek is actually in the neighboring county of Tuscarawas. It’s known as “The Little Switzerland of Ohio.” Founded in 1814 at the intersection of two Indian trails, it’s where the first Amish to arrive in Ohio settled in 1808. In the center of town stands the world’s largest cuckoo clock, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, it’s perhaps the town’s biggest draw. The clock chimes on the hour and half hour. We stationed ourselves in the little seating area in front to await the show. Very kitschy! One other thing that caught our attention, polka style music is piped out to the population in the streets.

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We finished the day with fresh German brats on soft pretzel buns washed down with ice cold Yuenling beer.

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A couple from the campground told us about a huge Belgian horse on display at Hershberger’s Farm and showed us a photo they’d taken. We were so impressed, yesterday we went to see him for ourselves. His name is Hershy’s King Buck. Born in 2012 and weighing in at 2650 lbs., he still has a few years of growth ahead of him. We were told that Buck could top out at over 3000 lbs. His size is intimidating but I quickly learned he was very gentle and loved having  his nose stroked. The farm is a perfect outing on a beautiful Fall day. It has something to offer everyone, no matter the age. All of the pumpkins, gourds, colorful mums, and Amish buggies against the deep red barn made the setting visually appealing too.

                                                                                 KING BUCK

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Hershberger Farm grows more than just huge Belgians. Check out those pumpkins.

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Today was moving day. Our shortest one to date. We have extended our stay by 2 nights but with the park being booked for the weekend it meant we had to change sites. The only site available was one of the super sites in the front. It’s been a big hit with Beau. Our rear window looks out over the street below and with Amish neighbors beside us and up and down the road, Beau has taken up residence on the couch to watch the horses pass by. A happy dog makes for a happy home.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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Movin’ On

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The past ten days have been busy ones. Friends, Pat and Carol, are parked just down the lane from us. They’ve been hosting a rally for their Bounder MH travel club. They graciously extended an invite for us to join in their activities but not wanting to feel like “fifth wheels”, pun intended, we declined. However, we have stopped to chat for a couple of times during their evening campfires.

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Shopping day at the local market.

On Sunday we pulled up stakes and headed over to Indiana Enterprise Interstate to spend the night in their parking lot. The Suitepea was first on their list for scheduled repair work on Monday. It didn’t take long to have our water pump and entry steps replaced, as well as a few other minor things tended to. By mid-afternoon we were back on our site at Shipshewana Campground. We did have one glitch in the moving process. The side mirrors on the truck wouldn’t extend. It’s not a deal breaker for towing but Don did have it looked at.

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Beau celebrates his 1/2 year birthday with a bowl of Yup’s vanilla custard.

Tuesday found Don at the Ford service department where the tech said it was a minor fix. It just needed a new fuse. Before Don left Ford’s he tested the mirrors and they extended and retracted just fine. Later, on our way home from dinner, I suggested Don extend the mirrors again, you know, just to be sure, and nothing happened. The mirrors weren’t working again. Don called the service department and made another appointment for Wednesday, today.

Eby Ford had the truck in a service stall for 3 hours before finally determining that the motorized mirror was bad and needed to be replaced. The total for the mirror with installation would run $1700 and they did not have the part in stock but could have it sometime tomorrow. Don made the decision to get their determination in writing to take with us, then when we have the time and opportunity to deal with it, we would. He also had them physically extend the mirrors out until that time. So…..

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our time in Indiana has come to an end. Tomorrow morning will find us with wheels on the ground, rolling in a south easterly direction. It feels good to be moving again. We’ve sat too long. Since April of 2015 we have found ourselves parked for months at a time in either Indiana, Michigan, or Alabama. Grant it there have been good reasons for it, the birth of grandchildren, repairs to the truck, RV, or both, and deaths in our families,  and yet, the urge to travel, hitch-itch, as we fulltimers call it, has been patiently waiting to surface anew. I can’t speak for Don but I for one am giddy with excitement. If everything goes as planned from tomorrow until next April, we will be visiting places and seeing sights we’ve never seen before. And that is the very reason we embarked on this lifestyle in the first place.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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Playing Catch-Up

           Quilt patterns are displayed on buildings everywhere. These are just a small sampling.

Time is passing so quickly. It’s hard to believe we’ve been here five weeks already. It’s not that we’ve been overly busy although we have managed to get a few chores checked off our To Do list.

                                       Beau’s Summer romance is a Spaniel pup named  Zoey

Don tackled the biannual task of cleaning the RV’s roof then inspected it for any issues. In a couple of spots he removed old sealant, replacing it with new then proceeded to check and clean both air conditioning units. I surmised that since he was already up there it would be a good time to tackle the nasty job of cleaning all three Fantastic Fans too. With only a little moaning and groaning (from Don), we were able to knock that off the list as well. I thought it would be a good idea to give him a day off before hitting him up with the remaining chores I wanted to tackle. I even threw in a trip to Don’s favorite bakery for breakfast just to sweeten the pot.

                                            A few of the older beauties in the campground

                                                                   1983 Sceptre by Apollo

                                                                An old style pop-up, new canvas

                                                                           Restored 1965 Shasta

We wrapped up our To Do List by getting an oil change on the truck, having Beau groomed, washing the Suite Pea’s windows and screens, then cleaning the interior air and heat vents. We are finally done! (For the time being.)

                                             Beau looks so hound-some after grooming

Another item we were able to check off was the Suite Pea’s yearly wash and wax job. It’s a chore that Don no longer does himself, at least not the entire rig. He does do the cap occasionally, when he feels it needs it. We were going to swing through Myrtle Beach on our way south this Fall as there’s a company there that does a nice wash and wax at a reasonable price, but Don had a local company come out instead. He had seen them at work in the campground and liked the results,  and their rate beat out the South Carolina company’s. So if you find yourself in the Shipshewana area in need of an RV wash and wax, we recommend  contacting Xtreme Auto Detailing. The awning and the tires were also included in the price.

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One of the many Quilt Gardens in the surrounding area. This design is an Indian Star. It  first appeared in the Kansas City Star in 1937.

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This pattern is called Indian Sunburst. It debuted in 1981.

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This is the Hearts & Flowers pattern. It debuted in 1841, the same year the Amish arrived in Elkhart County, Indiana.

Don noticed the  sight in his left eye had progressively been getting worse. He’s been putting off having an eye exam until we reached our winter location in Florida. Beau however nixed that idea. Don unthinkingly left his glasses within reach of the pup and well, you can guess the rest. We were able to get Don in right away with the local eye clinic. The eye exam told us that he has developed a cataract in his left eye. The optometrist felt he could improve Don’s vision temporarily with lenses but that Don would be looking at laser surgery within 2-3 years. Don’s comment was he thought only old people developed cataracts. Guess who just registered for Social Security this week? Huh.

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A few of the murals I found in Shipshewana

It hasn’t been all work and no play. I gave Don a weekend break (from me and my Honey Do list) by going down to my mother’s. Actually it was because my youngest had scheduled a photo session to have a four generation picture taken with her daughter, herself, mom, and I. I added an extra day so I could tag along on my granddaughter’s first visit to the zoo. Bobbi and Kendra ended up with two tag-alongs as Kendra’s paternal grandmother decided to make it a foursome. Kendra wasn’t overly thrilled with any of the animals other than the colorful parrots and the dolphins. Her mom and grandmas sure had a good time though. As an added bonus our admission to the Indianapolis Zoo included admission to the White River Gardens next door AND the gardens was hosting a Lego exhibition. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Lego exhibits? Well I do! I have been fascinated by them since seeing my first one at Disney World in 2003. The Indianapolis event did not disappoint either.

Kendra's first trip to the zoo. With mama, & grandma's Lisa & me

Kendra’s first trip to the zoo. With mama, & grandma’s Lisa & me

 

                                                      Below is a few of the Lego exhibits

Back in June, or possibly it was July, I contacted Jim Bennett of Palmetto House Signs to replace the dog bone portion of our RV sign. We stumbled upon Jim and his sign company seven years ago while on vacation at Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach. Jim and his wife had a home there. While exploring the facilities which includes cottages as well as the park, Don and I couldn’t help but notice and admire all of the colorful and unique house signs on many of the cottages. At that point in time we knew that we were going to be full time RVers one day AND we knew we wanted to have a sign to hang with our names and (newly started) blog name on it. Up to this time we hadn’t seen anything that jumped out at us.Until we saw Jim’s signs. I stopped in at the park office to inquire if they knew who to contact. The lady manning the desk laughed and said “Yes, my husband.” Then she gave me Jim’s number. Talk about luck!

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Our original sign

We called Jim right away and made arrangements to meet at their cottage the following day. The day before we were to leave for Charleston. Jim was wonderful to work with. We explained what we wanted, and why. Jim showed us his product, how it was made, and  gave us a time frame in which he’d have our sign completed. He said not to worry about how or when we’d pick it up, he’d mail it to us.

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Our present sign & Beau’s

That sign worked well for us for five years until we decided we needed something a little more classy and less Parrotheadish. Is that even a word? We also wanted to add a bone shaped sign for Tucker. So two years ago on our last pass thru Myrtle Beach we again contacted Jim and once more he delivered. We’ve been very pleased with our Palmetto House Signs appearance and durability. We’ve received numerous compliments on both over the years. After we lost our Golden boy Tucker in May, I packed up all of his things including his sign into a keepsake box which is stored at my mother’s. Then along came Beau. We needed a new bone sign. I sent off an email to Jim to see if he would make us a new one with Beau’s name on it. Not only did he make a new sign and ship it to us, he refused to take payment for it. He told me it was in memory of Tucker. Jim also mentioned that after meeting Don and I at Ocean Lakes, he and his wife were inspired to travel. They sold their cottage and purchased a travel trailer. I teared up and when I shared Jim’s message with Don, it touched his heart as well. Thank you Jim for your kindness and generosity.

Jim gave me permission to share his company info on our blog. So folks if you like what you see, contact Jim Bennett at

http://palmettohousesigns.com

You can find him on Facebook too at

https://www.facebook.com/PalmettoHouseSigns

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We were surprised to see this campground packed over the Labor Day holiday weekend. Weekends at Shipshewana Campground are normally quiet with less than a third of the sites filled. It’s Tuesdays and Wednesdays that pack ’em in. Those are the days the auction and flea market are in operation. There’s no pool, no playground, and on Sunday’s,  Shipshewana, as well as the surrounding towns, close down in observance of The Sabbath. But packed it was, and so was the Suite Pea. Our daughter Bobbi and granddaughter Kendra drove up on Friday evening and stayed until Monday afternoon. It’s the first time in twelve years of employment that Bobbi’s been given a holiday weekend off. (Just one more reason to like her new job.)

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The Ten Commandments prominently posted on a barn

It was too late Friday to do anything but Saturday morning after a big breakfast of my cinnamon pancakes with locally produced eggs and bacon, and a stroll through the campground, Bobbi, Kendra, and I were off to do some shopping. I took the girls to a little bakery I knew of that’s off the beaten path. It’s Amish owned and operated right on their farm. Mom and daughters start baking at 2:30 in the morning then open for business at 5 am. One of her son’s operates the till. I needed to purchase bread for the vanilla French toast I was planning to make and Bobbi picked out a pumpkin roll for her dad. We dropped these off with Don. Next stop, Davis Mercantile. The mercantile has four levels of shops, cafes, and,  an antique carousel. The 1906 Dentzel Carousel was the purpose for our visit. I thought Kendra would like to ride one of the beautifully hand carved farm animals. It was her first time on a ride of any type. She was leery at first but once the music started and the carousel began to move, she was all smiles.

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Kendra is an avid book reader. Books have been her favorite “toys” since she was able to sit up. The mercantile has a wonderful children’s bookstore called Red Wagon, it was our next stop. I don’t know who was more excited about finding Corderoy in board book form, Kendra, or Bobbi, who squealed so loudly with delight upon finding it that it made the staff and other customers laugh. I also purchased a variety of treats at Aunt Millie’s Candy to send to my father. Aunt Millie’s carried three of his favorites, pecan brittle, salt water taffy, and good black licorice. I bought enough to last him for a good long while. After stopping for lunch at a little cafe we decided to call it a day and headed back to the rig. Later, Don and I took our girls to Das Dutchman Essenhaus for a Amish-Mennonite family-style dinner.

Sunday we went to Krider Gardens in Middlebury for a photo shoot with the baby but the mosquitos were so bad that we didn’t stay long. Then on Monday, Don wanted to take Bobbi to his favorite ice cream parlor before she got on the road. Yes, we’re nuts, we drove 33 miles just for ice cream but it doesn’t come any fresher than Rocket Science Ice Cream where it’s made to order than flash frozen with liquid nitrogen. All too soon our babies visit came to an end.

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We haven’t done much in the way of sightseeing while here. We’ve pretty much covered all of that on our many previous visits. There was one thing I’ve always wanted to do but for various reasons it never panned out. This time though I found a playhouse that was featuring the musical comedy “Plain & Fancy” and purchased tickets for a Saturday matinée. It was one of the first depictions of the Amish community in American pop culture and ran on Broadway back in the mid fifties.

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The Round Barn Theater

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Blue Bird Thing, this bluebird with both eyes on one side of it’s head, is a central focus in the musical “Plain & Fancy”

When I started typing this post I didn’t feel I had much to say. I guess I was wrong.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…..

Beau loves to watch the horses go by

Beau loves to watch the horses pass by (If you look closely, in the lower left corner of the window you can see a horse drawn buggy.)

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Decision Made

After two 8 hour drives into the early morning hours I made an executive decision. We packed up the Suite Pea and moved to a halfway point between my father’s northern Michigan home, and our youngest daughter’s southern Indiana one. This way if I’m needed at either location, I can make the drive in a relatively short period of time. Even though it’s nice to be needed, I’m truly hoping that won’t be the case. As it is, we had intended to land here at the end of August anyhow, it being the RV Capitol of the USA and us being in need of repairs. As an added bonus, it’s one of our favorite destinations to visit (& to eat).

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Fill ‘er up please

As some of our blog followers are aware of, our water pump malfunctioned while we were in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula last month. Don scheduled an appointment to have it repaired along with our water cabinet seals getting replaced. (They’re becoming harder and harder to open and close). Then, while I was in Indiana last week our entry steps broke. That’s three things, right? And the saying is, these things come in threes, so I thought, okay, we can deal with that. WRONG! Today, a 90 degree day with more to follow, our AC quit.

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I asked in the park office if they could recommend an RV tech in the area. They did indeed, in fact they highly recommended we talk to Al of Tri-Star Mobile RV Service and gave me one of his cards. Don called immediately and left a message with his office. Al was out on another job at the time but did give us a call back to say he would come by when he was finished. From Don’s description of what happened with our AC, Al said it sounded like the cable was bad. True to his word, he arrived later in the afternoon and had us up and running again within 15 minutes. I must mention that unlike technicians we’ve used in the past, Al only charged us for the 15 minutes he worked and not for a full hour. Can’t beat that kind of service and yes, it was the cable.

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Beau in the morning light

Now I’m going to back track a little. When our water pump went out in July, Don contacted Interstate to get us an appointment after which I called Grandview Bend Campground in Howe to make a reservation. We have stayed there many times in the past. I requested site #1 and was told it was available during our time frame. My reason for requesting this specific site was because it is an end site and therefore no one would be on our door side giving Beau an open area to run and train, it also has one of the few 50 amp hookups.  (Grandview Bend consist mainly of seasonal sites with only one row for short term campers, most of which are 30 amp sites. Sites are tight with little more than the width of a picnic table between them). Not exactly our cup of tea but the location and price is right.

I called again 5 days before our intended arrival and was once more assured that we would be on our requested site. Satisfied, Monday we pulled out of Kalkaska and made the trip south to Howe, Indiana. Imagine our surprise upon our arrival at Grandview Bend to find another RV in our reserved site! I immediately contacted the manager to find out what was up. She informed me that she took the liberty of moving us to another site because the motorhome that was parked on it wanted more room for his tow vehicle. Now had we planned on staying for only a few days to a week, it would have been fine for us BUT NOT for a whole month and a half in a cramped campsite!

I reminded the manager of our prior two conversations, that we were returning guests, and at the very least she should have called me first since she had our number. At which point her husband jumped in and let us know in no uncertain terms that we were just plain lucky to even have a campsite. What!!! Do reservations not mean anything??? Did I mention this park is under new management? Well it is and unfortunately their management skills are not as courteous as those of the previous manager’s. After some discussion with Don we decided to pay for one night so we could unhook then take off in the truck on a scouting trip for another campground in the area.

We were in luck. We scored the last site available at Shipshewana RV Park South, and another stroke of luck, it was open for the entire time of our stay. I checked us in then we returned to Grandview to get Suite Pea and bring her to South. At check-in we learned that we were the fourth RV to leave Grandview Bend within the past couple of days on account of the treatment they’d received. It goes without saying, we will never return to Grandview Bend.

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Amish homesteads abut the campground on 3 sides. Our view on the left…..

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to our right…..

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and our view to the rear.

Thus begins our stay in Shipshewana. We’re looking forward to meet ups with old friends, making new ones, and having our repairs behind us.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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