Bill and Kit’s Excellent Adventure Chapter 41

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 The Bill and Kit Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #41

Wednesday, May 13, 2009:

 Left early from Lebanon Hills Campground in Apple Valley, Minnesota for points east. We took CR-42 through Hastings, Minnesota than CR-10 toward Prescott, Wisconsin crossing the Mississippi River. Traveled through some very pretty pasture and farm country and enjoyed passing through many small country towns. Hopped on US-94 to get to I-94 and then I-80 to make better time.

Crossed over into Illinois around 4:15 PM and a short time later encountered our first tolls in four months. Then they seemed to come every 15 miles or so. It was kind of frustrating, there were signs all along the turnpike that implored folks to slow down to conserve fuel but the state saw fit to have everyone slow to a crawl, throw a few quarters in a tool booth basket and then accelerate to merge with the locals who, by the way, are traveling at 80MPH through the same area due to the Turnpike Gadget on their dash.

I think I figured out why the eastern states have tolls…..how else can they pay for those tricked out toll plazas and all the folks to staff them? Plus the Toll Collector’s supervisors, managers and directors salary.

Since we were going broke paying tolls we decided to camp out at one of their Turnpike Travel Plazas to stay on budget.

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It worked out very well and in the morning I was able to walk across the parking lot and pick up some Egg McMuffins for breakfast. I did get some curious looks however…..I guess I should have wrapped a larger towel around my waist. Oh well, lessons learned.

Thursday, May 14, 2009:

Pulled off the interstate at Elkhart Indiana, the home for about 90% of the RV manufactures in the US. And also the home for the RV Museum and Hall of Fame, a must stop for any serious RV fan. The place was really neat with rigs from the early 1900 to today’s modern and well equipped RV.

RV Museum and Hall of Fame

RV Museum and Hall of Fame

Below are some random shots of the RV’s on display. I particularly liked the Griswaldmobile on the upper left. Oh by the way….that’s the back of the thing.

Griswaldmobile

Griswaldmobile

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Decided to continue east on some back roads that only Lucy (remember Lucy?) would know about. At one point we nosed over into Michigan, rolled along US-12 and almost as quick pulled down into Ohio stopping for the night at Pleasant View RV Park in Van Buren.

This large RV Park on a small manmade lake featured mostly seasonal sites. There were many park model trailers and large RV’s which appear to have been sitting on their sites for many years. There was a small 12 site “overnighter” section where we selected a nice secluded pull through site.

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Friday, May 15, 2009:


Leaving the RV Park on TR-218 heading east we drove through Fostoria, Ohio, a really neat and well taken care of small town. Then we drove a variety of county roads toward Akron, Ohio where we stopped at a nice county park for lunch. In talking to a park employee who was the “Aquatics Landscape” caretaker, he informed us that this was Springfield Lake; one of the few natural lakes in Ohio and one of the cleanest in the country due to their aggressive management of natural aquatic shoreline plantings. It was a really peaceful and pristine location except for the fellow in the  photo below who decided to hover about the lake.

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Come to find out the Goodyear Blimp hanger and airfield was just a few miles away and this is the time of the year the company trains new pilots for the upcoming season. It was fun watching the huge blimp lumber along while increasing and decreasing altitude and making a variety of sharp turns…..all right over Springfield Lake. Couldn’t have had a better lunch time show if we had paid admission.

Continuing easterly we entered Pennsylvania where we stopped for the night at the PA Turnpike’s Sideling Hill Service Plaza for another freebie overnight stay.

Tomorrow we head for the Philadelphia area, which is my mom’s home town, for a Byrnes family get together. Mary Kate has kindly offered us her long straight and flat driveway for dooryard surfing which we will be taking advantage of.

Stay tuned,

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit

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Bill and Kit’s Excellent Adventure Chapter 40

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The Bill and Kit Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #40

Thursday, May 7, 2009:


Today marks 16 weeks on the road and the day I traditionally update the travel statistics. However we should be back in Maine by the end of the month so I’ll wait to report out until then.

Heading up I-35 toward Minnesota we saw the most wind turbine generators in one place this entire trip. We lost count but there must have been hundreds of them slowly spinning in the breeze over a 10 mile stretch of the interstate.

 Stopped in Clear Lake, Iowa to pay homage to the Surf Ballroom and the last rock and roll concert before the day “the music died”. Three of rocks greatest late 50’s performers perished in a small plane flying out of Clear Lake the morning after their concert. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson were gone too soon and will forever be remembered by the Don McLean tribute “American Pie”.

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Rest in Peace, rock legends. You are gone but certainly not forgotten…..at least by the rock faithful!

The Surf Ballroom is still hosting concerts and some of modern rock’s most popular bands play there on a regular basis. An interesting tidbit about that fateful morning is that Waylon Jennings, a then unknown back up guitarist, was scheduled to go on that plane as well. However, he relinquished his seat to the youngster Ritchie Valens and decided to take the band bus to the next gig. Buddy Holly on hearing of the switch told his friend Waylon “I hope the bus breaks down” to which Waylon replied “Well, I hope your old plane crashes”. Waylon Jennings has kept that conversation a secret until just a few years ago.

Somewhere south of the Twin Cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis we came across this interesting piece of roadside sculpture.

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Yep, those birds were painted in the colors of the USAF Thunderbirds. Not sure why or why they were even in this location. Pretty dramatic display however.

We decided to stay for our duration in the Twin Cities at Lebanon Hills Regional Park. This Dakota County campground is located in Apple Valley, Minnesota and is very nice with full hook-up’s all at a very reasonable price. We picked a real nice wooded site.

Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Lebanon Hills Regional Park

The rest of the park has numerous hiking, horse and biking trails. A mere quarter mile down the road there is a Mountain Bike Park maintained by the Minnesota Off Road Bicyclists. I’ll have to fully check those trails out soon.

Friday, May 8 through Tuesday May 12, 2009:

We contacted family in the area for availability to visit, which is the actual reason we came to the Twin Cities area in the first place. As a side note, I bet those cities are fraternal as they don’t look like each other at all.

We were able to spend a lot of quality time with my Dad and his friend Henrietta.

Dad and his friend Henrietta

Dad and his friend Henrietta

 

 

Dad is doing well and has little residual effects from his stroke of a few years ago. We had a great time reminiscing and he was able to fill in some gaps from my childhood. He handed down to me some family items as well as a personal history document he has been working on. This incredible detailed history makes for fascinating reading as it describes his early childhood, his war years on a destroyer in the pacific during WWII and his life after he retired from the Navy. I intend to make copies for all the kids and Dewey which I’m sure they will enjoy reading as much as I have.  

We spent a very nice afternoon with my Aunt Vi, Uncle Howard and cousins David, Mark, Michael (Marks son) and friend Dawn. My aunt and uncle have recently moved to a new Senior Apartment Complex which is much closer to David who helps out a lot with transportation to doctor’s appointments, etc. It’s a nice homey place and they seem to have adjusted to their new “digs”. It was great to see Michael, who has grown quite a bit since the last time we saw him and is doing well in school. David was kind enough to scan several family photos for me, photos he gave me to scan last September. We never got around to purchasing a scanner so I brought them back for him to scan. Both Aunt Vi and Uncle Howard seem to be doing well. Aunt Vi just celebrated her 90th birthday in March.

Aunt Vi and Uncle Howard

Aunt Vi and Uncle Howard

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Another delightful afternoon was spent with Billy and Char. Billy is my cousin on my mom’s side of the family. They live in Blaine, Minnesota, just a bit north of Minneapolis. We were able to get caught up on news in both of our families and share some of our trip stories over a nice lunch. Billy and Char spent time traveling with a 5th wheel in tow several years ago so it’s always nice to hear how their adventures went. They are both enjoying retirement now. Char spends a lot of time doing genealogy work and Billy works part time as a security guard at a local shopping mall. They also spend time with family activities and their grand kids. In addition, we were able to return the family pictures Char had given us last September to scan.

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Billy and Char

I spent one afternoon riding the trails at the Mountain Bike Park down the road. They were in very good shape and offered most any challenging terrain that a mountain biker would want. The trails were well designed and marked as Beginner, Intermediate and Expert level. I rode the beginner loop of 3 miles followed by the intermediate loop of 7 miles and attempted (walked some of it) the expert loop for another 3 miles. A number of the turns featured high bermed swooping turns with excellent run-outs. They were designed so well, and since they were marked for one way traffic, you could just let off the brakes and rail down the trail. Those 13 miles took me over two hours and I was beat…..but I really had a good time.

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Great time in Minnesota but we are getting anxious to get home so tomorrow we hit the road.

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit

Bill and Kit’s Excellent Adventure Chapter 39

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The Bill and Kit Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #39

Tuesday, May 5, 2009:


Left Oil Patch Russell’s Oil Drilling Museum and RV Park after an uneventful night…..this is Kansas after all.

To escape I-70 we headed north on US-281 which turned out to be a much more scenic drive with gently rolling farmland interspersed with small towns.

Came upon a sign that proclaimed the area as the “Geodetic Center of the Continental United States”. A survey marker was placed near this spot in the early 1900’s by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. This survey marker defines the point of reference for all of North America’s property lines. Well…..you know, I got to thinking (which is a rare occurrence). Since I had to get a site setback variance for my garage back home due to its proximity to the lot line, I thought if I could find that marker, dig it up and move it about 3 feet to the east….I would then be in compliance! No luck however, the marker is on private property in the middle of Mr. Meade’s hog farm. Drat!

Disappointed, we turned east on US-24 and continued on into Cawker, Kansas, a sleepy little farm town, where wonders of wonders…..there stood the actual worlds largest ball of twine! And yet another of the historic points of interest on my Life (Bucket) List. Other travelers may not have known of this cultural artifact as we had no trouble parking right in front of this major attraction.

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Worlds largest ball of twine.

There wasn’t any admission to see this historic site, or guards or anything!  We could walk right up and touch this shrine to thrifty saving.  As Kit walked across the street to the Largest Ball of Twine Museum and Gift Shop I sat there in awe wondering about what might have been the very beginning of this awesome feat so many years ago.  Remember those little voices I hear sometime?  Well they were suggesting that if I tie the bitter end (that’s sailor lingo for the “end” of a line) to one of the posts that support the shrines roof, and if I could getthat ball of twine to rolling down the gentle slope of Cawker’s main street than I might be able to unravel (pun intended) the mystery of the origin of the Worlds Largest Ball of Twine.  Just than Kit returned with about 8 feet of twine the gift shop lady gave her to add to the ball’s girth.  I decided that Kit might not see the wisdom in my plan so it was abandoned.  Some mysteries are best left mysterious, I suppose.  We did stop at a nice little town park on the eastern edge of Cawker for a lunch. Walking around the grounds I discovered two RV sites provided by the town for overnight stays and both had full hook-up’s!  According to the sign they were free and the only stipulation is that there is a maximum 24 hour stay.  What a friendly town!

Driving through Manhattan Kansas we stopped at the True Value Hardware store to pick up a honkin big wrench in case our hitch ball had any plans to loosen again.  Also “had” to pick up some other stuff.  It is truly un-American to go into a hardware store and not come out with something in addition to what you went in for.  On the road again we noticed those yellow diamond caution signs with the silhouette of a bounding deer on them.  Well someone with a great sense of humor placed a little round red sticker on the nose of the deer silhouette on a couple of those signs along US-24.  Couldn’t find a safe place to stop and take a picture so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Heading into Independence Missouri we stopped at a very nice LDS campground next to the LDS church. It was clean, neat, well equipped and inexpensive.

Independence Missouri

Independence Missouri

The only downfall was that you had to put up with all those LDS folks riding their bikes around the park in their dark suits and coming to your trailer door to give you LDS literature.  Kit did meet a very nice couple while out on a walk around the park by the name of Guy and Pamela Selbert.   The woman was a writer for Trailer Life and Motorhome magazine and her husband was the photographer.  When Kit returned and told me of this encounter I found our current copy of Trailer Life and sure enough there was their byline on a story.  Thinking it would be neat to have them autograph the magazine I walked down to their campsite but they had already pulled out.  Drat!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009:

The main reason for being in Independence Missouri was to visit with the folks of our son-in-law, Kevin.  We called to see if they would be available to meet at the local Cracker Barrel for a late breakfast.  To our delight they were and we had a great time visiting, catching up on what is new and hearing some interesting stories about Kevin’s childhood growing up in Missouri.

(left to right) Chester, JoAnn, Kathy, Bill

(left to right) Chester, JoAnn, Kathy, Bill

Being fellow RV’s they had an interest in our trip as well as our rig. I think we may have enticed them to come up to Maine this summer for a visit. Hope so, anyway.

If you live north of the Mason-Dixon Line or west of the Mississippi you may not have heard of the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain. It is basically a huge gift shop with a restaurant attached. The parking lot is RV friendly and the down home country style food is excellent. If you see one in your travels….stop, you will not be disappointed.

Following a very nice three and a half hour visit we headed out going north on US-24 and then on US-291 in order to avoid Kansas City. We eventually hopped on I-35 since the day was getting long and we wanted to get into Iowa before nightfall.

Stopping at the Iowa visitor’s center I asked this distinguished Amish gentleman for information on state park campgrounds.

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Amish Imposter

 

He was pretty much clueless so we picked up some brochures and continued on. We did notice that Ahquabi State Park was a few miles to the east so we headed there. Keeping with our weather luck this past week…..this is the sight we witnessed.

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However as the weather passed us by, the sun came out and this great sight appeared. You can’t tell from the photo but that rainbow was in a complete arc, from horizon to horizon. Hard to believe the overall time span between those two pictures was less than ten minutes.

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Pulled into the state park and had our pick of sites.

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What a nice park. There were no hook-up’s but the price was good. And there are a few bike trails indicated on the map, one of which circles the lake. Early tomorrow morning my goal is to check those trails out.

The campground was right on the lake and there were a boat launch, fishing pier, swimming beach and lots of room to roam around. This would be a perfect spot for a family reunion! Here are some random shots down by the water.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009:


Up early and on the trail. What a great ride, lots of wildlife, deer, beaver, and tons of birds. The trail was in great shape even with all the rain yesterday. This is a multi use trail but I didn’t notice and foot prints or other bike tracks the whole way. The seven mile trail pretty much followed the shore line however there was a bit of elevation gain and loss as the trail veered inland a few hundred yards. The trail builders even built bog bridges to span the marshy areas.

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All in all a great ride on a nice morning in a beautiful spot…..life is good!

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit

Bill and Kit’s Excellent Adventure Chapter 38

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The Bill and Kit Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #38

Saturday, May 2, 2009:


Left our great spot at the Green River State Park and headed for the John Wesley Powell museum in town. This is a very interesting museum chronicling the Powell expedition on the Green and Colorado River, including some first descents of “The Cataract” and other rapids in the Grand Canyon. Below are the styles of boats used to run the river years ago.

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An interesting fact about the Powell expedition is that there was a boat in the group that splintered in one of the rapids and the survivors were divided up amongst the remaining boats. Well after a second scary descent those men decided to take their chances with the desert above the canyon and left the expedition to hike out; never to be heard from again. The men that decided to stick with the expedition made it safely out. Might be a lesson in that.

Leaving Green River, Utah we hopped on I-70 to make time toward eastern Utah, Canyonlands NP, Arches NP and Moab. Now Moab is a mountain biker’s dream destination and I had been anticipating visiting this Mecca for years and riding some of the famed trails. Well, as most things that get a lot of hype, it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be…..at least in my opinion.

To begin with, as we threaded our way south on US-191 we encountered some threatening skies.

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A few minutes later all heck broke lose…..strong wind, sideways rain, thunder, lightning, and very limited visibility. We were able to pull off a side road and park the trailer in the lee of a large bluff. Apparently others thought that was a great idea as the small lot became quite crowded. After about a half an hour the wind died down and the rain let up so we continued on into Moab. By the time we rolled into town the storm had passed and blue skies once again were the order of the day.

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Moab is the typical outdoor destination town. On any weekend, such as today, it is crowded and prices are likely to be high. The few mountain bike trails that I spotted from town looked to be well worn and had a lot of riders on them.

We stopped in at the visitor’s center in town to check for campsite availability. Everything was full in both National Parks…..what the heck is going on? Oh yea, it’s the weekend, drat! So relegating ourselves to a commercial campground we parked the truck and trailer along the main drag and checked a few out. They were small, tight, crowded, overly priced and…..full!

 So we decided to walk the main drag and check out some bike and souvenir shops. At Moab Cyclery I asked about any “Old Guy” trails. His response was that most of the local trails were in bad shape due to all the recent rain. He also informed me that the famed Slickrock Trail, even though on sandstone was, well….slick when wet. I later learned that those trails are also used by off road motorcyclist and 4X4 folks as well.

Contemplating what to do, Kit and I had a late lunch at the Moab Diner where I discovered a local brew…..“Polygamy Beer” and its slogan…..“So good you’ll want to take some home to your wives”. A bit of Utah humor in that.

After lunch we walked around some more and decided it was best to save Moab for another time when the weather might be better and the trails not so crowded. I guess I’m beyond putting up with all that insanity just to say I rode Moab.

To punctuate our decision, this is what we encountered as we were heading back to I-70.

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More rain and wind and this time…..hail! I guess you could say “All hail broke loose”. We drove out of the storm in about an hour and continued on into Grand Junction, Colorado pulling into a very nice private campground.

Sunday, May 3, 2009:


Left Grand Junction early for our anticipated transit of the Rockies. Followed the swollen Colorado River up into the mountains toward Vail. There appeared to be a walking trail/bike path along much of the river….nice touch!

Topped out at Vail Pass which sits at 10,603 feet elevation and pulled over in a rest area. There were lots of snowmobile’s, skiers and folks on snowshoes in the mountains. Now, let’s see…..did I remember to bring my backcountry skies, or maybe my snowshoes? Nooooo….In January, when we left I was trying to get as far away from snow as possible. Today would have been a great day to get out and play in the snow however.

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Dropping down the eastern slope we encountered some snow flurries but nothing was sticking as it was 43 degrees. Traveling north of Denver we decided to pull over in a large parking lot for lunch. Doing my customary walk around the rig a few times to stretch my legs and visually check everything out I noticed the hitch ball had rotated about a quarter turn. The 1 ¾ inch nut that secures the hitch ball appeared to be tight so I scribed a witness mark on the hitch ball flange and hitch to monitor any possible movement.

Sure enough, when we stopped for gas a few hours later the ball had rotated again so we made it for the nearest campground in Limon Colorado. Ironically this is the same town we stayed at back in 1974 when we made that 21 day, 6,000 mile trip in a Chevy van with all three kids; and we slept in a 10’x10’ canvas tent every night. A lot more luxurious traveling in our trailer this time through.

Now, here is where the comedy of errors began. Fortunately the gentleman that owned the campground had a wrench large enough to tighten the hitch ball nut. Unfortunately as I left the campground the next morning I forgot about the wrench that I use to raise and lower the stabilizing jacks was laying on the rear bumper of the truck. Somewhere along I-70 there is a very nice Craftsman Speed Wrench with a ¾ inch socket attached. Find it and it is yours.

Also noticed a crack in the tub pan of the shower near the drain. Immediately called the Arctic Fox dealer who was very helpful in advising on emergency repairs and starting the ball rolling on a new tub being replaced after we return home.

Monday, May 4, 2009:


Left the campground early and continued on into Kansas on I-70.

This is the view as we entered Kansas.

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And after 350 miles this was the view we enjoyed.

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In all fairness we did see lots of roadside signs for some pretty interesting historic sites:

1.  The Walter P. Chrysler boyhood home-might have liked to see that but was concerned they had already started packing everything up in order to ship it over to Turin, Italy…..the new corporate headquarters for Chrysler.

2. The Bob Dole boyhood home-Not sure why a spokesperson for Viagra is that important but, well….this is Kansas after all.

3. The Alan Specter boyhood home-you know the Republican senator from….what, wait a minute….I just heard over the radio he is a Democrat, again.

4. Tumbleweeds

5. Miles and miles of miles and miles.

So getting bored out of our skulls we decided to get off the Interstate and see some of the back country. We came upon Oil Patch Russell’s Oil Drilling Museum and RV Park. Sounded interesting, it was late, so we stopped.

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The skies looked kind of threatening…..good thing there is a storm shelter on site.

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I think that old red car is safer outside in a storm than in the “Storm Shelter”.

Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit