Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Down on the farm

A couple of trips to Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti finished out our stay in the Dearborne area.

This also completed our Michigan part of the trip and it was time to consider the rest of our year before heading back to Arizona.

Our ambition this year has been to fill in some of the “Blanks” in our list of States visited. You may have seen the columns to the right of the blog? They list “States and Provinces Visited”, “Countries Visited”, “Links to our Technical Pages”. “Links to out favorite places”. Links to “Maps of our travel” and lastly “Some of our favorite Blogs”.

The list of States visited is only the ones we've been to since we started full timing. We have traveled all our lives and visited many more countries and States in those journeys. The ones we have (so far) not visited at all are Minnesota, Nebraska and North Dakota. We want to get them “Taken Care of” this year. If we don't that's no big deal, there's always next year, or the year after.

Heading from Dearborne to Minnesota means heading west. West of here is Chicago, a city we have visited in the past and which I have visited a couple of times on business. Like all big cities the traffic is horrendous, and with us not liking Interstates we decided to avoid it completely.
Lots of room at the Plymouth Elks Lodge
We picked a route well South and found Plymouth and Kankakee, both had Elks Lodges. Plymouth have electric hookups for RV's but Kankakee doesn't say anything about allowing RV's but they do own a golf course. We called them and were told “Yes! We have no hook ups but you are welcome to stay overnight.
Even more room at the Kankakee Lodge
Off we set. The GPS in the rig decided on a route different than the one we had in mind and seemed to have a knack of finding roads that were closed due to construction. The resulting detours and wasted time had us very frustrated. In the end I turned the GPS off completely and Barbara did her usual great job of finding our way.

The Plymouth Lodge was pleasant but closed on Tuesdays, however the ER was playing golf and saw us so he came over to welcome us and gave us a Lodge Pin for our collection! Kankakee was closed too but the golf course was open and we spent a very pleasant and exceptionally quiet night there

So where to next?
Down on the farm has lots of space too
Once we were past Chicago we needed to head North. And who lives there? Why Sheri and David who we met up with back in June. (which seems a whole long time ago!!) We told them we were going to be passing by and they kindly invited us to stay on their farm near Beloit WI. We asked if we could get our mail forwarded to their address and we took the opportunity to order some small stuff from Amazon like cell phone batteries and an inverter we can hook up to the coach battery so we can watch TV when we don't have 110 volt power.

We had constant entertainment provided by these 2 guys. 


Festus and Newly (think about the Gunsmoke TV show). 3 months old and constantly on the go, they liked to alternate between jumping in the paddling pool and rolling in the dirt. Their next trick was to come over for some cuddles which meant we had as much mud on us as they had on them! But they were too cute to push away.

Dinners out, lunches out, dinner at their place, it never stopped! Family and friends over for cookouts. David has a very good band and we went to one of their events for an evening. The diet is very much shot, I gained a couple of pounds almost instantly!
David's Band, David up front.
The cell phone battery we had order thru Amazon arrived with all the other stuff. Unfortunately it was junk and wouldn't hold a charge. We decided to just get Barbara a new phone, while we were out we could renew our prescriptions at Walmart.

10 minute job right?

HA! All afternoon! ATT store took 2 hours, only 1 person working. He was very helpful though and eventually we got done and over to Walmart for our prescriptions. Another 2 hours when the trainee at the pharmacy couldn't find us in the computer. Eventually he called somebody and they figured it out. We all have days like that and we have to keep smiling and saying “We're retired, there's no rush”.

Beloit Snappers Single A associates of the Oakland A's
We found that there was a minor league baseball team just a couple of miles from the farm and we went to watch the Beloit Snappers play the Kansas City Kernels. A fun evening of A class ball. Really fun and we had the best box seats in the stadium for $9 each. Brats for $2 and a large craft beer for $5, free parking and no traffic jam getting out. Got to love minor league teams.
Snappy says Hi!
There is a very interesting “Auto Museum” in nearby Roscoe IL. Except it's not just an auto museum, it's a collection of lots of things. There are themes that run thru sections of it like TV shows, Presidents, Movies, and Country Music. Each section has cars of course but also memorabilia and wax work figures of the people. There's one whole section that is the Illinois Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame. On top of that are several totally amazing cars. How about Mussolini's limo? How about JOSEPH STALIN'S armored limo with 3” thick armor platted windows? Or the Big Foot monster truck? We spent all day there just totally absorbed by it.

Conway Twitty's Lincoln

Buddy Holly's Motorcycle Registration.

Big Foot
We had a great time at Sheri and David's cookout too. A huge amount of good food, great company, tons of kids and a bunch of dogs was a perfect mix of fun and noise. The evening flew by and we eventually crawled off to bed deaf and happy.

They have super neighbors who keep chickens. Those chickens must be the worlds best egg layers! They constantly supplied us with the best eggs we have tasted in years. Luckily the diet we “Follow” (Almost), rates eggs as “0” points because we ate lots and took 2 dozen with us when it came time to leave.

I spent a happy half hour mowing the lawn, not knowing the belt had come off so it didn't cut anything!
Sadly we did have to leave. We could have stayed and enjoyed Sheri and David's company for ever. They wanted us to! But we have to move on. September is almost here and we want to head a little further West before we turn South again. We don't want to be this far North after the beginning of October. So reluctantly we left.

We hope to see them again in April in San Diego where Sheri's Brother Jason was our neighbor before we sold up and moved out on our adventures.

Thanks Sheri, Thanks David. See you, you muddy puppies!!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

There is Mail!!

“So how do you guys get your mail?”

That's a common question so let me explain.

First do we actually need to get mail?
No, in a perfect world we could switch everything to electronic delivery. Bank statements, credit card statements that kind of thing is easy to switch. Just go to their website and in preferences select electronic statements.

How about magazines etc?
Well we get some of them electronically too but we canceled all our subscriptions to regular magazines because we really didn't read them.

What about junk mail?
We don't get that much because we use a mail forwarding service and they throw it away before we even see it.

A mail forwarding service? How does that work?
We use they have a big mail facility at their Livingston TX headquarters. We use our mailbox details as our address for everything. They have a big bag with our mailbox number they they drop anything for us into, then they send us an e-mail telling us they have mail for us. When we want it delivering we call them and they put it all in a big envelope and mail that to us.

How do they know where to send it if you are traveling so much?
We figure out where we will be in about 5 days. Based on that we find find campgrounds in the area and call them to find one that will accept mail for people staying there. We make a reservation for a couple of nights starting 5 days from when we call and get their mailing address. Then we call the escapees and give them the details.

What if they won't accept mail?
When we get in that position (which is rare) we ask them if there is a main post office nearby and we look up if that Post Office accepts general delivery mail. If they do we call Escapees and ask them to send the mail to “General Delivery, Notown, 11111, Somestate”. That Post Office will get the mail and hold it up to 30 days. When we get there they ask to see our ID and give us the envelope.

That sounds pretty easy
And we improved things a little by paying extra each month for them to scan the outside of the envelopes. That way we can usually tell if it's something that needs attention straight away like taxes or medicare. If not we'll let the stuff pile up until we feel like getting it sent. We generally don't get it done more than once a month if that. When we hole up for the winter the service knows the address and when we call they just say “Still in Casa Grande? And they send it. The park we stay the winter at has a mail room and we have a box there that they put our stuff in, together with any park generated mail and some local fliers.

Last year we spent 4 months in Europe and we even had them send our mail to us at our daughters house in England once.

We also us the Escapees address as our legal “Domicile”, which means our legal residency, we register our vehicles there and pay our taxes based on being resident of that state. 

Everyone who uses the Escapees has a mailing address on Rainbow Drive and occasionally we pull into a campground, fill out the form and the desk person will say “That's amazing another couple just checked in and they live on your street too!!” Once the other couple were just getting ready to leave the office as she said that and all of us started laughing, We turned to them and said “We're the house on the end with the red roof” and we all started howling laughing again. The desk lady was totally confused!!

Which is why when we get asked “Oh you live in Texas!” we say “Well kind of” or most of the time “Well we don't live anywhere anymore” which always starts the conversation off that leads to the question “So how do you get your mail??

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Replacing the power cord plug

This was one of those jobs where I had to find the right time and place to do it. Replacing the plug at the end of the 110v power cord on the rig.

I needed somewhere we could get the part delivered to, where we had enough time to do the job, and where we wouldn't be dependent on the 110v while I did it. Some friends had invited to stay at their farm for a week so that was just what I needed.


This isn't a big job and with a few hand tools it should be an easy 1/2 hour job.

First why replace the plug?

The plug on our RV was old and the blades showed some corrosion. That builds up heat in the plug when higher loads (Like when the AC is running) are put on the AC power.

Heat is a big problem. Heat melts the plastic in the plug, the insulation of the wires. The hotter it gets the higher the resistance in the plug. It's a downward spiral and if you ignore it long enough it can start a fire.
See how the plastic around the right blade is melted?

If you look at the base of the right hand blade you can see where the heat has melted the plastic body of the plug, time to fix it.

The flat blades are discolored and green. Corrosion and signs of excessive heat.
What did I need to do the job? Basic hand tools and a new plug! The tools: a couple of Phillips head screwdrivers, a pocket knife, a set of wire strippers, a pair of scissors or long blade metal shears. Harbor Freight has what you need.

I got the plug from Amazon. Make sure you get a 110 volt 30 amp plug, either male like this one, or female depending on what you are replacing.


Step one was to cut the cord below the plug sufficiently far back that any signs of heat like melting of the outer sheath is removed.

Next I read the comprehensive instructions. More on those shortly!!

Following the directions I carefully cut the outer sheath with my pocket knife to expose the inner conductors. Take care not to cut too deeply and cut into the inner conductors insulation.

This will expose the black, green and white conductors and 3 brown paper pieces. Cut the brown paper pieces using scissors. These are to help the cord flex more easily.

I carefully cut the conductors to length and stripped the ends of the insulation according to the the diagram.

Very concise cutting instructions. Very concise WRONG instructions!

I opened the back of the plug. The insulators were cut wrong!! AAGH!!

Looking even more closely at the instructions I found the instructions were for a female plug. I of course had a MALE plug.

Several muttered curses later I re-cut the outer sheathing and conductors to suit the male plug.

I slipped the whole cable thru the grommet at the bottom of the plug and after a little struggling (and more cursing) I had the conductors attached to the blades and all the screws snugged up.


Here's the completed job. I like this style of plug as it should make pulling the plug out of the pedestal easier using the little handle.

Job done.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Henry Ford

Warren ought to have a PBS special about him, the house and the story of the timber barons.

Dearborn MI, home of the Ford Motor Company and one of my personal bucket list items, the Henry Ford Museum. 


I'm a life long airplane nut. I just love them. The ones who perfected powered flight where a pair of brothers from Dayton Ohio. The Wright brothers. Orville and Wilbur. They started making bicycles before starting their experiments with airplanes.

I've been to Kittyhawk, seen the original (ish) Wright flyer, read the books, been to Dayton. What else can there be to see about them?
Interior of the Wright Bicycle shop
Well maybe their bicycle shop? 

Which is not in Dayton nor at the Smithsonian. It's at the Henry Ford Museum together with tons of other stuff that Henry collected and put here. Cars, airplanes, steam engines, horse drawn carriages, farm equipment. Quite a broad collection of stuff in a huge purpose built building that must be worth many, many millions.

Ford Trimotor Airplane
Which much to my amusement has a leaky roof!
The bus that Rosa Parks rode on in protest against segregation.
We spent 2 days there, one just in the museum, a collection of things showing the innovations that lead to industrialization and our modern world.  Quite absorbing and a very long walk.
One of many giant steam engines
The second day we spent exploring Greenfield Village which is a kind of Theme Park dedicated to the people who invented the things that brought our modern world into being. Harvey Firestone's first factory, Edison's original Menlo Park building, Henry Ford's family Farm and what I wanted to see most: The Wright Brothers bicycle shop and their family home.
The Wright brothers workshop from Dayton Ohio
When Henry Ford started this place he bought the ACTUAL buildings and transported them piece by piece to be reassembled in his park. Ford was a great friend and admirer of Thomas Edison and there are lots of things associated with him. 
Edison's original factory
I pointed out that Edison wasn't the magnanimous gentleman the park seemed to suggest. Far from it, he cheated Tesla and was involved in dirty dealings trying to cheat the Wright Brothers too. He was a pretty scurrilous person.
Presenters in period costume explain everything
The “Presenters” were quick to point out that their scripted viewpoints were from a time prior to Tesla's association with Edison!!
Working water tower for the steam trains
Overall we enjoyed the experience and took the opportunity to ride the steam train around and around the park a couple of times. 
The train runs around the perimeter of the park
If you visit the “Henry Ford” as it's now called look for the combination tickets that get you in both the museum and the park.
Horse drawn wagons, model T's, 1920's buses run around the park too
You don't have to do both in one day so you can spread it over 2 days and they don't have to be consecutive. We did the museum on Tuesday and the park on Thursday due to weather concerns. DO be aware though that there is no re-entry. Once you leave one of them you have to pay again to get back in. So do the WHOLE museum before leaving.
Heron on the lake
That's not difficult to do as there are places to sit and a couple of restaurants too.
The last original windmill apparently
Our good friends Graham and Ellaine Butler recommended a place close to the park for dinner called “Fords Garage” which was big and packed with customers when we went. Obviously it's a Ford themed place. They have decent beer and a large burger selection.
Ford's Garage. Burgers and beer.
Also close by was the Dearborn Elks Lodge, which I imagined would be quite large being so close to Fords Technical facilities but turned out to be extremely small having been downsized 3 years ago due to falling membership. If you have the Elks RV listing this Lodge is listed as having RV facilities but it's out of date. The parking lot is tiny with only room for about 10 cars, so beware!

A couple of trips to Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti finished out our stay in the Dearborn area.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Huron Circle Route

We were recommended to try the Harbor Haus restaurant which has several German dishes on the menu and a selection of real German beer. If you go make reservations for upstairs, the view is just great. The food was good too.
Kayaker's at the Pictured Rocks

Natural arch at Pictured Rocks
We worked our way East along the shores of Lake Superior to the Ojibwe Casino from where we explored The Pictured Rocks and Munising before a hop to Sault Saint Marie and a great Elks Lodge with camping right on the St Lawrence seaway. So close you could hear the engines of the big Lakers as they went by.
Elks camping spots right on the seaway
We parked and I posted a video of the ships going by on the Elks BOF Facebook page and we found out that Tony and Dee Dee, who head up that site, were camped right next to us!! We only got to spend a couple of hours with them before they headed out but what a fun time we had.
We didn't know we were camped right next to Tony and Dee Dee until we posted on Facebook!
We agreed to needing a longer stop and spent 7 days exploring the Soo Locks and the general area, taking a dinner cruise thru the locks themselves. The Valley Camp steamship and the Tower of History were interesting and there are no less than 3 breweries/brewpubs in town. Laundry, grocery shopping and Elks Lodge food were all caught up on, this Lodge has Ship Shots. If a big Laker goes by the windows it's a free drink for all at the bar!
A big push barge 
Maintenance reared it's ugly head again but only oil changes for the car and rig courtesy of Walmart. Didn't know Walmart does oil changes on RV's did you? Well if the store has a bay with high doors they will do oil and filter changes on Gas powered rigs. Pretty good deal too. $20 for the Miata and $50 for the Rexhall.
Oswald's Bear Ranch, not a happy place we thought

Toquemon Falls
A day trip to Drummond Island on a small ferry across the Northern part of Lake Huron, means we've now been on the shores of all 5 of the Great Lakes, another significant (to us) milestone.
Canadian Steel mill where the lakers unload their iron, coal and limestone.

Cruise boat under the road and rail bridges 

Whitefish Point lighthouse and shipwreck museum

Looking down on the Valley Camp museum ship from the Tower of History
Finally we moved on having met some great new friends in Sault, Going South means crossing the Mackinaw bridge which we've been told is a “Must Do” but which was challenging in the rig because maintenance on the roadway left only 1 lane in each direction, and narrow lanes at that.
Mackinaw Bridge
We have been following marked roads for the “Lake Huron Circle”, having already been on the “The Lake Michigan Circle” and the “Lake Superior Circle”routes. We have expected very scenic roads, and they are marked on our big Rand McNally atlas as such. If you like trees these routes are for you but if you expect vast vistas of the great lakes you are in for a disappointment.
Nice sunset at Sault Saint Marie Elks Lodge

We have a target in mind. I want to visit the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn Michigan, in fact it's one of my personal bucket list items. We have about 380 miles to do to get from Sault Saint Marie to Ann Arbor and so we split it into 3 stages. The “about 150 miles” spot on the second leg just happened to be Bay City MI. 

We have never heard of this town and have never heard anyone talking about it. The maps show nothing special and searching for things to do there doesn't bring up much, so it was a surprise to see wonderful mansions lining Center Avenue as we drove through town heading for the Finn Park Campground. 

We were so intrigued we drove the Miata back there the next day and I took a ton of pictures. The whole street is a National Landmark Area and the houses it turned out were built in the 1830's by timber barons whose timber businesses developed the whole area.
Finn Park Campground near Bay City MI
Barbara had a favorite pink house she wanted to take pictures of and as we walked up to it a gentleman came out and started to tell us his fascinating story of restoring the house to its original glory over any years. 

A fascinating and generous gentleman Warren Smith. Thanks Warren for sharing this with us.
Many mansions

All different



Barbara's favorite the "Pink" huse
It turned out that the same timber barons who moved to the area for the timber moved on when they exhausted the supply, so the town slowly decayed until the present owners stepped in. Said barons built more mansions as they moved west and apparently there are similar places in Oregon where the same families still run the businesses.
Barbara, Warren Smith and Matia 
Warren ought to have a PBS special about him, the house and the story of the timber barons.
The story behind Warren's house.