Wednesday, August 31, 2016

8/31 Still Alive!

Sorry for not posting for a while, but I am still alive and kicking.  Just been busy visiting relatives and friends for a few weeks.  Also, had and still have a ton of end-of-semester things to get done for the online classes I teach.  Here is what I did after leaving the Mississippi River:
  • Survived the drive past Chicago on I-80.  I was lucky traffic was not too bad. That stretch of road is often bypassed by RVers, for obvious reasons. 
  • Spent one night at Indiana Dunes State Park, but was so tired that I did not even look at the dunes.  I arrived in late afternoon and was back on the road early the next morning.  I did take a peak through the trees at Lake Michigan, however.
  • Spent three nights in Maumee Bay State Park, just east of Toledo, Ohio.  This campground was designed by a genius because there are never any campsites behind you and you cannot see very far down slowly curving roads.  It is also almost always nearly empty and very quiet, so a good place to rest and, for me, to get work done.
  • Spent 10 days at West Branch State Park.  My son and his family live in that area, so I spent most of time non-working time visiting with them.  Each child also got to spend a night with me in the motorhome!
  • Spent three afternoons cleaning out junk from the storage place where I stored it all when I sold my condo over four years ago.  I had tossed a lot of stuff before moving, but kept a lot of furniture in case I did not like living in a motorhome.  Wish I had tossed out more, but I am working hard to get rid of stuff and keep all the family mementos. 
  • Drove to the Detroit area where I have spent the last few days catching up on doctor visits and various tests.  I have kept my old doctors all of these past four years because it is just so hard to find new ones.  I come up here only once a year, so I had a lot of things that needed to be done. 
  • Spent some time here in the Detroit area buying things like Vernors and Faygo Red Pop, plus got some fresh kielbasa--all things I cannot get anywhere else!  Still need to get a couple of Awrey Long John Coffee Cakes and have some Thai takeout.
I will be heading south to Florida in another three or four weeks, so will be back to posting then. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

8/12 National Mississippi River Museum & the American Queen Riverboat

It rained a LOT yesterday and the mosquitos are out in full force.  Because I react so badly to bites, I have been mostly staying inside my motorhome, so since the rain had stopped, I decided to get out and drive to nearby Dubuque, IA, to visit the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.  It's only about 20 miles away, so an easy drive. 

It was dark inside so some of my photos are a little fuzzy.  But I really liked the riverboat exhibits.

These two chairs came from riverboats.  I can imagine them in a salon on a fancy boat and Mark Twain sitting in one of them.

I went up to the observation area on top of the museum to take this photo of the visiting American Queen Riverboat.  It is just here for a few hours and is a modern reproduction of an old riverboat, as opposed to the Mississippi Queen, which is the real thing.

This riverboat outside of the museum IS the real thing and used to haul gravel.

Obviously, this is NOT a riverboat.  It was made by someone named Pabst, but it certainly looked a lot like my dad's old Chris Craft!  Other than the outboard motor, of course.

This was part of the aquarium exhibit. 

And this is the great view of this lazy female alligator!  Just taking it easy.

An outside view of one of the museum buildings with a big paddlewheel.

And this old ship across the river certainly looked authentic.  Here is a site I found that describes it:

Here is the docked American Queen.  

These tour buses follow the riverboat as it goes up and down the river.  They offer free tours of whatever city the riverboat docks at for passengers.

This is a local tour boat. 

I was amazed to have lots of good parking next to the museum.  Even more amazing is that no one blocked me in.  Note that I have parked so that the front of my vehicle is angled out, just in case.  Poor old bike just gets dragged around everywhere I go.

I had chatted with several of the riverboat passengers and knew they were heading upstream to near Minneapolis, which meant they would go past my campground late that afternoon, so I raced home and took a photo of this "tow."  Along the Mississippi, they call it a tow even though a tug or "towboat" is actually pushing a bunch of barges.  Unfortunately, the river channel is closer to the other side than to our campground, so I had to use my long telephoto lens.

The sign on the towboat says it is the Deanna Ann.

And here comes the American Queen, heading toward us before she made a left turn! 

Anyway, it was a good day, both at the museum and seeing the riverboat head upriver. The passengers I talked to in Dubuque said the staterooms were very nice and they enjoyed the slow speed of only 8 MPH--very relaxing!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

8/10 Grant River COE Campground, Mississippi RIver, Wisconsin

Here I go again!  Prepare for a rant.

Because I do not tow a vehicle, someone a while back asked how long it took me to pack up to go out for the day or to the store. I said maybe 5 minutes was all it took me to toss stuff from counter into the sink, turn the engine on and hit the buttons for the slides, and unhook water and electric. A few minutes more if I was hooked up to sewer, but that would be rare. I seldom leave more than a chair outside and tend to leave it on the site if I am just gone for the day. I consider myself a minimalist.

I have been watching a couple of couples the last two days. The one that moved into the site next to me this morning has the following: a small refrigerator and a short table to put it on, one of those wheeled rolling carts to move the refrigerator, two large coolers, four unfolded chairs and two folded chairs, a fan on a stand, a large case of beer, an outdoor rug over the cement camping pad, and a kitchen-sized trash can. I am guessing they are expecting guests?? They have an older motorhome and a separate pickup truck, so they must not live very far away.

Another couple had a similar pile of stuff including the large cooler, plus two cast iron frying pans, a cast iron dutch oven, a barbecue grill and a tabletop two-burner electric cooktop, small TV, and a fan. This was for two people who did NOT have guests.

Reminded me of the two men I saw unloaded one of those 3' x 3' x 4' high chest freezers once from their pickup truck. They said they bought it at a garage sale, and it came in handy for camping!
I think one thing traveling alone and being a full-timer has taught me was that you do not have to bring it all with you. I made do without a bunch of appliances and make everything do double-duty--like using my hand blender as a mixer.  I need to take some pictures (stealthily) of some of the campsites where they brought everything plus the kitchen sink!

Anyway, part of the fun of camping is watching everyone else.  Actually, this is a very pleasant place along the Mississippi River, at the very southwest corner of Wisconsin. I crossed the Mississippi at Prairie do Chien, WI.

Having left Washington State just a few weeks ago, it is amazing to see everything so green!

I took the scenic route to get to the campground.  Lots and lots of corn growing in Wisconsin.

As is typical, this Corps of Engineering campground has paved roads and cement camping pads and is very well taken care of.  Also, it is 50% off for us seniors, so I am planning on spending a total of six nights here.

You can see the Mississippi in the distance.  Not much boat traffic here, however.  Have not seen anything go up or downstream.

It is going to be 90 here for the next couple of days, so I am waiting until Friday or possibly Saturday to go to nearby Dubuque, Iowa, to visit a museum.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

8/2 Beaver Creek Recreation Area, ND

This is a place I will come back to.  After my recent kidney stone problems I really needed a quiet, scenic place where I could rest and recuperate, and get some work done.  I had picked this place because it was on the way to Minneapolis, but also because it was a Corps of Engineers facility.  In case you are not aware, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers builds and maintains dams and locks throughout the country.  And in nearly all places where they build dams and locks, they also include campgrounds. 

Because they are on lakes or rivers, there is nearly always a great view and good places to walk and hike, as well as fish and boat.  In addition, the Corps nearly always does an excellent job of building and maintaining campgrounds--paved roads and campsites, at least electric service and often water and even sewer hookups, plus restrooms and showers with hot water.  They also do a very good job with landscaping and providing natural areas. 

But the best part is that because these all are federal facilities, those of us who are over 62 and have the Federal senior pass get our campsites for half-price.  So this site with a 180 degree view of the Missouri River cost me only $9 per night--a big difference from the approximately $30 I pay for a state park.  And, because there is hardly anyone else here, I have the whole place mostly to myself!

Driving here from Bismarck, it was mostly country roads, but then I fund a boat launch and the river came into view.  No one there, either, because it was a weekday.  (I am SO glad everybody else has to work!)

I always love these long views of country roads, especially ones like this where it looks like the surveyor could not make up his mind!

And I am pretty sure this was a beaver.  He was a lot bigger than a muskrat would have been.  He was swimming very fast, about 30' from shore, from the main Missouri River up the wide entrance to Beaver Creek.  It gets a lot narrower up past the park boundaries, so I am assuming he was looking for a new home???  He even had a pretty good bow wave and wake behind him.

Pretty views in this park no matter where you stand. This is looking south, down the Missouri.  It is a very wide river here because of dams.  I don't think it is navigable at this point because we are very far north.

Nothing like an empty campground for peace and quiet.  Actually, there were three other RVs and one tent camper in a loop with about 30 sites.

View of my motorhome.  Best site in the entire park because I have a 180 degree view.  I have the wheels chocked because my site is so close to the edge.  My rig is dirty, but that is not the way I want to bathe it!