Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cold War, the Badlands and Wall Drug Store

On Wednesday we to the Minuteman National Historic Site. My dad was in the Air Force during the early days of the Cold War and I remember the bomb shelter in our basement in case there was a missile attack. The small Vistor Center was quite adequate.

We watched the 12 minute film and learned a little bit about the history. South Dakota no longer has any active Minuteman Missile sites due to the signing of the 1991 START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) with the Soviet Union.

The Soviets launched Sputnik in the late 1950's and the US began construction on the Missileman sites on 9/11 (interesting date) 1961. It only took the US two years to get the first network of missile sites operational.

From there we drove into the Badlands National Park. Wow - what a strange and beautiful place. Every turn through the scenic park produced an array of new vistas and overlooks.

We had a picnic lunch at the Visitor Center in the Badlands.

Then we continued our drive to a scenic overview along the way and met a couple from Tennesee. Jim and Marilyn are also RVing full time so we had a nice chat. Maybe we will be fortunate enough to see them in Texas later during the winter.

During a stop, we met Jim and ..... from Tennesse. That generated some good conversation. Very friendly people whom I hope we can see again in our travels as we both spend some time in Texas during some of the winter months.

Next (and last) stop for the day was Wall Drug Store in Wall, SD. It is right on I-90. I think we saw 221 bill board signs advertising Wall as we headed west on our drive from Sioux Falls last week. After our drive along the Spearfish Canyon scenic byway a few days ago, we saw another 47 more signs. We had to go see it.

Wall reminded me a little of Deadwood. It is a remade western town with one large tourist and sovenir shop. A very LARGE sovenir shop. That was no surprise and actually pretty well done. Not too cheezy.

The most interesting thing was the large amount of old (1880's) pictures and newpaper acticles on the back wall of Wall Store. If you go there you have to see it.

Good times in the Black Hills country. A fascinating state and providing plenty of material for the Roadrunner Chronicles. Until next time, thanks for checking us out. (If you haven't left a comment in a while -- please do so. We'd love to hear from you.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Air Bags, Wills and Bikes

Today we had an appointment at Eddies Truck Center in Rapid City, got our wills updated at Ellsworth AFB, cooked steaks on the grill and went for a nice bike ride around the base.

Yesterday before we could move from our Three Flags campsite in Black Hawk to the FamCamp here at Ellsworth AFB-- we had trouble with the airbags filling. A couple of weeks ago we had a similar issue when we left our campsite at St Ignace. Once we raise the jacks the airbags are supposed to fill up again. After calls to Tiffin Service department, we went through the steps a few times and they finally filled up.

We decided to take the RR in to Freightliner shop in Rapid City and have the experts look at it. Result: it all worked fine. They could not duplicate the problem. They raised and lowered the HWH jacks a and could not find a leak or any other related issue.
We will keep an eye on them and track it until we take the Roadrunner into the factory for a scheduled appointment in December at Red Bay, AL.

While that was being looked at, we got our wills updated at the Ellsworth AFB Legal Office. The office is located in the Rushmore Center and a very nice facility. Among other things, Ellsworth flies B-1 bombers and there was a cool shot of one passing by Mt Rushmore. I had to take a picture of the picture.

It took us about an hour to go through some questions and have the Captain and his staff help us complete new wills and get them all signed.
Ellsworth AFB is a few miles outside of Rapid City SD. This is the first time we have stated at an Air Force RV campground (aka FamCamp) and we like it.

This evening we had a quiet time cooking steaks with baked potato and iced tea. Then we took a ride around the neighborhood on our bikes for about 30 minutes.Pam said of all the campgrounds we have been to thus far, this is here favorite (in the summer time anyway...). For $18 we have full hookups (50 amp service, sewer and water), concrete hardstand, nice shower house with laundromat and it is quiet.

Tomorrow we will head east for about 60 miles and visit the Badlands and Wall, SD. Until then, thanks for checking in on this edition of the Roadrunner Chronicles.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Deadwood City, Spearfish Canyon and Wyoming

Yesterday was a full day.

After listening to one of our favorite preachers/teachers (Mike Minter) we headed out to the old western city of Deadwood SD. The whole city is registered as a historical national city.

We got there about the time they were about to hand out trophies for the classic car show. There were hundreds of great looking cars.
The Adam's museum was nearby and we took a self guided tour. Deadwood City was definitely a mining town and at the center of the Black Hills gold rush back in the 1870's.Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane were here about the same time. Wild Bill was shot in the back by Jack McCall in Aug of 1876 while playing poker. His grave site was eventually moved to Mt Moriah Cemetery. We went up to the top of the hill above the city where the cemetery is located.After Deadwood, we took a very beautiful drive through the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway.
When we connected with I-90 again, we were only a few miles from the Wyoming border. We spent another 30 minutes and went across the border to see the historic site for the Vore Buffalo Jump. The site is preserved and an archeological dig for the Univ of Wyoming. It is a large sink hole that was used by the Prairie Indians over the years to hunt buffalo. The Indians would stampede the buffalo off the edge of the cliffs into the sink hole.
Back home, we tried to cook some fish outside, but it was too windy so we brought it inside the Roadrunner and Pam cooked up some fabulous Canadian Talon Lake bass. (Thanks Jeff!)
After dinner, we settled in for a baseball game and then hit the rack.

Hope to see you next time on the Roadrunner Chronicles.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Errands and Mt Rushmore

We had breakfast and checked out some of the local shopping: Kohls, Cabella's and the commissary at Ellsworth AFB.

While at Kohl's our friend Pete (and Roxanne) called. It was great to talk with them. Pete bought our Tacoma and wanted to get the maintenance records so we gave him the number of our mechanic (Tom at Fix-Your-Toy) in Manassas Park.

Next we checked out Cabella's. It reminded us of Gander Mtn and a smaller version of Bass Pro Shops which is one of our favorites. We didn't find anything we could not live without but did pick up a Christmas present. (Pam always starts about Aug so we are done well before the rush).

We went out to Ellsworth AFB and it is a very nice, well maintained place. We will be moving to the RV campground (FamCamp) on Monday. I read some not-so-favorable reviews which we found out were written by a sales guy for one of the campground memberships.

NOTE to self: read more than one review and don't believe all you read...

We finished our grocery shopping and headed out to Mt Rushmore. Wow! What a magnificant place. The Park Service has done a very nice job with it.
The same guy (Gutzon Borglum) that worked on the granite carving of Robert E. Lee at Stone Mtn GA did Mt Rushmore.We took a walking tour with a park ranger along the Presidential Trail. He gave a bit of history on how the presidents were chosen: Borglum was the decider.
The ranger also indicated that Jefferson was originally on the right side of Washington but a crack developed so they removed what they had started and carved him out of the granite mountain to Washington's left.
We will be here in the Rapid City for almost two weeks so we will be back to see more of Mt Rushmore.

That's it for this production of the Roadrunner Chronicles-thanks for checking in.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

On the road to Rapid City SD

Steve picked me up at the campground at 6:15 so we could make it to his church's Bible Study "Friday Guys". It was great! I miss not meeting other men for breakfast so this was a real treat. As full-timers with no regular church, sometimes we miss the fellowship of other believers.

They meet every week at the Frying Pan Restuarant. I thought there was a real good turnout - about 20 guys. The pastor gave a couple of updates on folks needing prayer, we ordered and ate, and then he gave a short devotional on John 6:56-59. He was well prepared, had a handout with a couple of questions and provided some good food for thought.
Steve got me back to the Roadrunner in time for Pam and I to depart about 8:30 for our 350 trip to Rapid City SD. Along the way we made a stop at the Rest Area/Visitor's Center near Chamberlain SD. Seems like Lewis & Clark were here about 100 years ago.Besides being able to take a stretch break, it was a good chance for Pam to call Joan. The rest area was not an official National Historic Park, but it did have some good information.
I liked the gallery and display of the Plum Camp which was a replica of what Lewis & Clark might have had in their day. Plus, the plaques and displays provided history of their travels and their crossing of the Missouri River back in 1804.
South Dakota is a beautiful place. I expected it to be wide open plains of parched grass. Wasn't it like that in Dancing with the Wolves? Instead -- it also has beautiful rolling hills of green farms, ranches and country side.

We arrived at our campsite which is on the outskirts of Rapid City (actually in Black Hawk SD).
We have plenty of space, 30 amp hookups with water and sewer.

With our Passport America discount, the nightly rate is $17.41 (well under our $25/night budget). It has turned hot again (86 degrees again today) but it has been clear.

The grasshoppers are thick and the mosquitos are here, but the a/c inside is working fine! We had a nice dinner of grilled chicken and saw some TV before we headed for bead and called it a day.

Until next time, Roadrunner Chronicles out!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More of Sioux Falls

We got into town about 2:30 from Forest City, Iowa and immediately set out to see if we could get our lights working on our toad (Honda). We were not able to get a service technician see us at first RV dealer but they were nice enough to call and find another dealer who could work with us.

After about 45 minutes we found a defective fuse on the Roadrunner and a burnt out left rear blinker bulb on the toad. That was a relief to get fixed and only cost us an hour and $57.

Next we found the Sioux Empire Fairgrounds, picked a spot and got set up. The site has full hookups with railroad tracks 50 yards away and in the flight pattern for the local airport! But the price was right and we have plenty of room. We only heard trains and planes a couple of times so we were fine.

When we were here in April becoming SD residents, we were able to renew our friendship with Steve and Therressa. Yesterday after work, they met us at our site and we gave them a quick tour of the Roadrunner. Next, we went downtown to eat at the Phillips Ave Dinner. Since we had to wait a few minutes we looked at some outside sculptures nearby.

The city of Sioux Falls has developed the idea of SculptureWalk into a neat tourism activity. The sculptures are owned by the artists and loaned to the exhibit for one year. The public votes on their favorites which the city purchases to become part of their permanent collection.All of the sculptures are for sale to the public. What a great idea.

After dinner we were treated to a windshield tour of some of the cities great parks and notable expensive homes.

This morning I paid some bills and we found a campsite for our next stop: Rapid City, SD. Later we went into town and got our library cards so we could get access to some ebooks and downloadables.

We had lunch at Taco John's which reminded me of a Taco Bell/Baja Fresh combination. The tacos and bean burritos were pretty good. While we were there, Steve called and suggested we visit the Washington Pavillion downtown. He knows the Director of Operations and suggested we go say hi.

The Washinton Pavillion of Arts and Science is a non-profit organization that includes the Kirby Science Discovery Center, the Husby Performing Arts Center and the Visual Arts Center. Portions of the building have stood over 100 years. In 1992 the city was going to raze the Washington High School but some prominent citizens developed the idea of combining science, art, history(museums) and the performing arts into one building. The place that opened in 1879 has expanded and is now a much larger facility.
We were able to get a tour of the art galleries and the Performing Arts Center and saw "Red Flag" in the IMAX Cinedome. The Pavillion is an impressive center and brings first class talent to perform. Next month they have Mama Mia scheduled and they have had Bill Cosby and Yo Yo Ma also perform.

After the Pavillion, we found a lynch pin for the Blue Ox towing system and spent another enjoyable evening with our friends. It was a nice day in Sioux Falls and time to conclude the Roadrunner Chronicle for today. Check in next time for Great Faces and Great Places.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Roadrunner at Winnebago factory

We had an uneventful night at the WalMart in Sparta, WI. We left yesterday morning and had a beautiful drive through Wisconsin, into Minnesota and to Forest City, Iowa. I didn't realize Minnesota had so many beautiful rolling hills and valleys.We crossed the Mississippi River which looks a lot different than it does in Memphis, TN where I have crossed many times over the years.

We arrived in the Roadrunner at Forest City in time to register for the 1:00 Winnebago factory tour. It was a very interesting place. In fact, Winnebago has the largest motor home manufactoring facility in the world. It kind of reminded me of large (8 football fields large) aircraft assembly plants.
I also thought of the Corvette Assembly Plant tour we took years ago with Kirk & Susan in Bowling Green Kentucky.

Sadly, there were no pictures allowed in the factory. But I was able to take some of the Visitor Center and some of the Winnebago grounds.
We were able to park the Roadrunner overnite at the Visitor Center along with all the Winnebago's and Itascas.

What impressed me most about our time here was the history. The man who was the driving force behind it all (John Hanson) worked with some other men in town in 1957 to bring a trailer plant to Forest City. They were concerned that young people were leaving the area so they found a way to bring work to the area. Years later they are still at it and the largest motorhome maker in the world.

We have also been to other motor home factories: Newmar, Monica and Tiffin.

It was an interesting day. That's all for this edition of the Roadrunner Chronicles. Be safe and enjoy your summer.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Empty air bags & the Green Bay Packers

It was a memorable travel day yesterday but it started out innocent enough: We got up about 7:00ish and had breakfast. Next as I was reeling in the power cord a fellow camper came over and we chatted for a few minutes.

He was on his maiden trip in a beautiful new Winnebago Itasca. Turns out his wife is an author and he helps her (LL Foster). He retired from Kroger's a little while ago.

After that he headed toward the showers and we pulled up in front of the KOA office to hitch up the Honda. Man - it seemed like a bouncy ride around the loop through the campground!
Then when we got on Highway 2 West, it took us about 150 yards before we realized--something is wrong!

The air bags had not inflated. Now what do we do?

My first thoughts were, how much is this going to cost, I am glad we have CoachNet. The Roadrunner was hanging pretty low to the ground so we kept going slow and pulled over. We were in a narrow place to pull over but we had to stop.

I called Brent Bullard (sp?) at Tiffin Motor Homes/Service Dept and he said it sounded like the air bags had not inflated. (Confirmed our suspicion). We checked the air pressure gauges (at 105 -115) and that seemed to be ok. Next we looked at the HWH buttons and pressed the 'STORE' button again and they seemed to check out fine. Apparently the air bags did not inflate all the way in the campground when we raised the jacks.

He said we may have to pull out the generator and crawl under the Roadrunner to press the Passenger Side (PS) rectangle release button on the crossmember bar behind the generator. (We learn something new every time we call those guys.) He said to be careful I didn't press the other one because it deflates the air bags.

We inched up the highway another 100 yards and found a place where I could crawl under the front end of the motorhome. But as we went through the big parking lot we noticed the ride was back to normal--the airbags had re-inflated. Yeah!

When I pressed the 'STORE' button again it must have been like rebooting a computer when it locks up. We drove a few miles and kept an eye on the air pressure and all was fine. Problem one solved!

As we were traveling down scenic Highway 2 West I noticed the DS front bay door was raised up. Yikes! Not good at 58 mph! I immediately was able to pull over and shut that bad boy and lock it.

Wow -- that was close. Problem two solved.

Now back to our scenic drive along the Upper Peninsula and Lake Huron. Beautiful country and this side of the Lake has sandy beaches. The highway was a very good one for only being a two laner most of the way.

We headed around the top of Lake Huron and travled down the western shoreline Lake Michigan. Beautiful country (did I just say that). Our mission was to stop in Green Bay and see Lambeaux Field.

That is what we did and we arrived about 2:30. It was pretty exciting. We saw some statutes and pictures of the great personnalities in the Green Bay history.

They have a first class, new looking stadium with great facilities.The Packers were practicing on the field near Don Hudson Stadium so we got to seem them for a while. That was cool.After Green Bay we decided to head on down the road since it was a nice afternoon and the weather was good. We made it as far as Sparta, WI and parked in WalMart where we spent the night.
While en route to Sparta, Pam fixed a delicious dinner of chicken cordon bleu and tater tots. We had to run the generator and microwave but it was the first time we had dinner while rolling down the road!

That's it this time for the Roadrunner Chronicles. We'd love to hear from you.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sunday at Mackinac Island

I can see why Mackinaw Island is the top tourist attraction in Michigan. This is one of the best places we have seen since we have started full timing!

No motorized vehicles are allowed on the island, but it is a great place to see on bikes. So we decided to load ours up give it a try.We drove from our KOA site to the Arnold Ferry dock in downtown St. Ignace. The roundtrip cost of the ferry ticket and admission to the island($30 each) was a bit pricey but it was definitely worth it.

The ride across the Straits took about 15 minutes and it was a beautiful, breezy day.Once we got there, it was crowded with people and bikes and horse carriages. I have never seen so many bikes in one place. A few like us took their own, but hundreds rented bikes on the island.
Our plan worked well: we packed a lunch, stopped for a picnic and took the 8 mile bike trail around the island, saw the fort and called it a day.

One of the highlights was a stop at the Arches. We had to walk about 200 yards up a series of steps to get to the overlook, but it was a very beautiful and scenic spot.Another one was a stop on the north side beach. We took off our shoes for a refreshing little wade into the crystal clear waters of Lake Huron.
It took us about two hours to get around the island. We ended where we began, back in town. ext, we went up the top of the hill near town to see the fort overlooking the city.
Fort Mackinac (now on Mackinac Island) was established by the French and later occupied by the British and Americans, exchanging control until after the War of 1812. It remained occupied until 1895. Mackinac Island was a strategic center for fur trading during the latter part of the 1800's and now is a major tourist attraction.

It was a great day on the island and time well spent. That wraps up another entry of the Roadrunner Chronicles. See you next time.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Roadrunner Financials - July 2009

Here is a look at how things went for the month of July, our second full month as full-timers. We have a ways to go to manage our money better, but we are getting better at tracking it.

Once again, we are under budget (barely - by $63). Give us a couple more months and we'll see if we can hit our 'best case' goal of $2500 instead of our budget of $352o.

We were significantly under budget on diesel fuel because we spent three weeks parked in Pontiac IL volunteering with NOMADS.

Likewise, we spent very little on campground fees because those three weeks were paid for by the sponsoring agency - Evenglow Lodge.

On the other hand, we spent $216 on a Blue Boy portable tank and another $258 getting our a/c, windshield, and toilet fixed at American RV in Burton MI, so our RV maintenance budget for the month went sky high.

The areas we need to work on are food (groceries and eating out). We went way over budget in those categories as well as Misc Items.

NOTE: I have not included our giving/charitable contributions nor have listed our income. That might come at a later date but hopefully the information above will be interesting and/or useful.

So ends another financial entry of the Roadrunner Chronicles. Stay tuned for pictures of our time at Mackinaw Island. Until next time, thanks for stopping by.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Near Mackinac Island

We had another great time at Talon Lake with Jeff & Tiffany. They are such gracious hosts and good friends. We enjoyed seeing them and their family again. We also enjoyed Ann, John & Amy and Jeff & Cheryl who also have a cabin on the lake.

The last couple of days before we left they put us to work replacing a water heater in the cabin and then on Wed we put water sealer on the cabins and buildings nearby. We had a good time with it. It was a big work party followed by some great food and photos on Jeff & Cheryl's deck. It was another beautiful evening on lake.
We were up early and on the road by 7:30 but not before we had freshly baked scones delivered. Tiffany outdid herself on this one! What a great send off! She traveled across the lake and surprised us while we were running through the departure checklist lowering the hydraulic jacks.

We left Rutherglen/Lake Talon on highway 17 and headed west. We crossed the Canadian/US border at Saulte Ste Marie. We made it to the KOA at St Ignace, MI about 3:30 yesterday afternoon. We'll be here to see Mackinac Island and the surrounding area.

I am impressed with the campground. It has a variety of spaces for tents, trailers, 5th Wheels, Motorhomes etc. It also has a lot of sites so we had a pretty good selection to chose from. We found a level spot and set up and enjoyed of the rest of the nice day.

Glad to be back online and will be looking forward to posting more updates of the Roadrunner Chronicles.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

We made it to Talon Lake

We arrived at Talon Lake, 20 miles east of North Bay, on Thursday afternoon. Gladly, Adam and Meghan joined us. They will be here until Monday morning. The drive was beautiful. I love the seeing the small communities (10,000 - 12,200 population) that lie along the way. North Bay was the exception with 54,000 people.

We are in the midst of the highway construction months, so the going was slow. We went about 230 miles in 6 hours. But we arrived at Talon Lake Campground and Marina just fine about 3:30 in the afternoon.

The hardest part of most travel days is leaving the old campground spot without incident. We had a pretty bad fiberglass bang on the botton of the driver side (DS) when we arrived. I was making a right severe right hand turn and the nose dipped and hit a rock. Ugh! I hate that sound! I was surprised there wasn't more damage.

With that awful sound firmly in my mind, I was thinking about avoiding any more scrapes or bruises when leaving the campground. Pam did a masterful job of giving me hand signals as she walked backwards in front of me from our site through the campground gate. I had 1 left turn, 2 left turns, 1 more left turn and a final right turn --- all among big trees. Yikes, it is still a bit nerve wracking-- but we made it slowly through it all without incident.

We are at Talon Lake Campground and Marina. The accommodations are sparse: 110v and water. The area for large rigs is an open field with hrydo outlets and fire rings. We had a campfire on Friday night at the Roadrunner and last night at Royce's cabin on the lake.

They have had family at the cabin for a few days and it was great to see Jeff's mom, his brother and wife (John and Amy) again. We took their boat and Waverunner out to a sandy beach for the afternoon. Their four kids (and some of the big kids) got on the kneeboard and gave it a try. For some reason those things work best with the younger folks... Amy caught a 16" bass while we were out there too.

We returned to the cabin for a great dinner of ham, macaroni & cheese and beer and then enjoyed some time around the campfire. It was late when we got back to the Roadrunner but it was a fun day.

I was hoping to have Autonet Mobile service but it doesnt work. Jeff was kind enough to let me use his dial up so I could get a quick post out. Access to there cabin is by motorboat or pontoon boat only. Next time I'll have pictures.

Thanks for checking out the Roadrunner Chronicles.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Leaving Miller Lake and Tobermory

We have had a very good 7 days here at Miller Lake. Yesterday we were able to go into Tobermory again and get some last food supplies. We also got some coffee and walked along the pier again.

Summer House Park Campground has been good. We have been here a week now and heading out later this morning. The campground has a lot of interesting facilities on site. It has a restaurant, frog pond, horseshoe pits, beach and boathouse plus nice paths through the woods.
We were able to go out to the Bradley cottage again. It such a beautiful place. We loved the geese, butterflies and serene waters along the lakeshore outside the back door. Adam and Meghan took one of the canoes for an evening paddle.

Pam wanted me to be sure and note the Orchid Blossom and record with a photo.We may or may not have internet access from Lake Talon near Rutherglen. So we may be offline for as much as 7 days. (Hopefully not...)

It is about 408 KM to Lake Talon and is estimated to take about 5 hours. We probably will get underway about 0845 this morning.
We conclude this post of the Roadrunner Chronicles with a photo of the raccoons who bid us adieu as we depart Summer House Park campground. Thanks again for checking in!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Biking & Hiking on the Bruce Peninsula

Pam and I decided to go for a bike ride around the campground. The first issue was a front flat tire. Since we have a professional bike mechanic onboard (Adam) I consulted with him. He swapped out the front tire from his bike for Pam's. Problem solved.

After going through the Summerhouse Park Campground, we ventured out a couple of miles down the road past the Miller Family Campground. It was a nice day for biking.We returned to the Roadrunner, had lunch and decided to go for a hike on the Bruce Peninsula. We headed back to the Visitor Center in Tobermory, paid our $7.80 (Canadian) and hit the a side trail to the Bruce Trail. Near the start we climbed the observation tower overlooking the peninsula. Beautiful.

Then we went back to the trail in the Fathom Five National Marine Park and hiked through the cedar woods. The 3.5 km Burnt Point Loop Trail took us to three different observation points near Little Dunks Bay and Georgian Bay.

The water is crystal clear. One side of the bay is very calm, but the other was more windy and the water was a little choppy.
We saw no fish. As clear as the water was, we notice not a fish in sight. That was curious but we forgot to go back to the park rangers at the visitors center and ask how that happened. Other references cited the arrival of an eel into the area in the 1930's that wiped out the fishing business but you'd think that after a few decades, the fish would reappear?

Afterwards we went back to Tobermory and saw the town holiday traffic has thinned out a bit since the Civic Holiday, but it is still a quaint town to hang out in.

We returned to the Roadrunner, had BBQ chicken on the grill and went down to the lake beach to watch some kids still in the water (and it was chilly!). We brewed some coffee, retired to do some reading and called it a night.

From the editor's desk of the Roadrunner Chronicles, hope you are having a good week. Please check in again.