Sunday, July 29, 2012

Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes and 10,000,000,000 Mosquitoes :)

I don’t have much to blog about this week. Welcome to Minnesota!We’ve spent the last week in Minnesota enjoying the beautiful scenery and even experiencing some comfortable temperatures :) Yes, it’s true. We haven’t had any 100 º days here. Amazing to us :) There have been some 90’s but after the heat of Nebraska and the Dakota’s, 90 wasn’t bad. Most of our time here, though, has been in the 80’s and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Unfortunately, for us, it rained a good deal this week also so we spent much of our time catching up on things inside.

We stayed at Gull Lake Recreation Area, a beautiful COE park near Brainerd MN. This was an absolutely gorgeous park and I wish we had been able to stay longer. Unfortunately, this park stays reserved almost constantly during the season and the walk-in sites stay full.

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The campground is adjacent to Gull Lake and has a large Day Use area with a swimming beach and picnic area. We had hoped to launch the Sea Eagle while we were here, but things just didn’t work out this time. I hope we’ll be able to come back another time and stay a little longer.

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There were hiking trails throughout the area, some through the woods and others on paved paths. After our first wooded hike, we stuck to the paved areas. Less mosquitoes!

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It seems that there are lakes every which way you turn in Minnesota and along with them come the mosquitoes.  We saw several signs where areas had been sprayed for mosquito control. It doesn’t take away from the beauty but it makes it harder to enjoy it :)

I took a side trip on Wednesday to travel to St. Paul to attend the Memorial Service for my Aunt Donna Smith who passed away last Sunday evening at the age of 89. I was able to visit with my cousins whom I hadn’t seen in many years and although we all wished we were there for a different reason, we totally enjoyed our time together.

We are now on our way to the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior off the northern border of Wisconsin. I’ve heard it is beautiful up there. I have no doubt that it is. As many of you know, I was born and raised in Wisconsin but there are many places in the state I have never been. This is one of them and I’m looking forward to it.

Thanks for stopping by. Turtle

Saturday, July 21, 2012

North Dakota: Arrive a Guest, Leave a Legend

North Dakota:  Arrive a Guest, Leave a Legend is the current ND tourism advertising campaign. I’m not too sure I “get it” but that is what it is :) Their state slogan is: Legendary

You never hear too many people talk about traveling to North Dakota.  In fact, I don’t know hardly anyone that’s ever been there. North Dakota conjures up record low temperatures in my mind from places like Bismarck, Minot and Fargo. With that in mind, and because the current temperature in Pierre, our current location was 109º on Sunday, we took off and headed north.

It was a pretty uneventful and boring drive up US Hwy 83 passing wheat, corn and soybean fields until, all of a sudden, the asphalt just stopped and we were driving on dirt. Usually they’ll close one side and divert traffic. Not here. They just chewed it all up at once. Luckily, it only lasted a couple miles but it was slow and rough.

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About the most exciting thing we saw was the town of Strasburg, the birthplace of Lawrence Welk :) We eventually arrived at our destination, Hazelton Recreation Area, after turning left onto another dirt road, this time intentionally. It was pretty obvious 40’ motorhomes generally did not come that way. Even the cows looked at us like we were foreigners! Anyhow, 13 miles later we arrived :)

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We really liked this place and aside from one other RV, had it all to ourselves. The sites were all nice and level gravel, plenty long and nice and wide. Each was separated by small trees. This is a COE park that is unmanned so you do a self registration, put your money in an envelope and put it in the slot. It was nice and quiet and adjoined the boat ramp for Lake Oahe, the very same lake we loved in SD! It’s over 250 miles long and we basically followed it all the way here.

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This park is small, has 50 amp electric but no water, no dump station. We brought water with us and were good to go in self contained Lucy :) It’s kind of like Boondocking with power :) Which, by the way, is a good thing because those visions of coolness were short-lived. When we arrived it was 98º and it reached 100º before the day was out. We gave that 50 amp a good workout!

During our time there, we only left once and that was to drive 30 miles north to Bismarck. We needed a few groceries and stopped at Lowes to pickup a replacement window shade for one of our day/night shades that fell apart the other day. But that’s a whole different story for another day. While in Bismarck we did the 25¢ tour just driving around. This is the capitol city and at 62,000 people, a very nice sized city with plenty of shopping and nice neighborhoods.

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Later in the week, we also spent a night in Jamestown, which is about 100 miles west of Fargo. It seemed like a nice little town but we didn’t see much of it. We checked in to Frontier Fort RV Park with their full hook-ups and caught up on the  laundry. They had their own bar and grill so we also grabbed a bite for dinner. Cooking and doing laundry is multi-tasking and I no longer do that :)

We are now at Eggert’s Landing, another COE park on Lake Ashtabula. Lake Ashtabula is 12 miles northwest of Valley City, which is about 60 miles west of Fargo. It’s in one of the most scenic areas we’ve seen in ND. This park is beautiful! It is heavily wooded, has 30 amp electric and there is water available around the park to take on prior to parking. Each site is very private and most will accommodate a large rig.

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The only issue with Eggert’s Landing is that it is so nicely wooded we can only pull in one TV channel and internet required us to set up our amp and antenna. Even so, internet is very, very marginal and we had to drive to town to post this blog. I hate to admit that I’m addicted but I am. I have a difficult time when I’m not connected and I really hate it when my favorite type of camp sites are marginal, to say the least :) I know, I’m spoiled. I want beautiful COE parks and TV and internet! Yes, we could spring for satellite but it’s so wooded here I doubt that would work either :)

We’ll be here through the weekend, internet and TV or not. Then we move onto Minnesota, another new state for us.

Thanks for stopping by. Turtle

Saturday, July 14, 2012

SOVTH DAKOTA?

We arrived in Pierre, South Dakota Wednesday afternoon. Pierre is the capitol of our chosen domicile, South Dakota and a relatively small town with a population right around 14,000. Along with Pierre is the community of Fort Pierre, population 2,000. These communities are divided by the  Missouri River which also serves as the dividing line between time zones. Pierre is in the Central time zone, Fort Pierre is in the Mountain time zone. I’m pretty sure that, if I lived here, I’d either be early or late pretty much all the time!

When I was in school, we pronounced Pierre, P-Air. I ended up marrying a French Canadian who says Pierre is pronounced P-Eye. Well, no one told the residents of South Dakota! They pronounce it Peer. So Peer it is :)

Pierre has an interesting history that dates back to 1743 when 2 French explorers buried a lead plate claiming the area for France. The site of that lead plate is commemorated on a hilltop high above Fort Pierre and dedicated to these explorers,  Francois and Louis-Joseph Verendrye.  Sixty years later, the Louisiana Purchase made this area part of the United States. In the meantime, the lead plate disappeared only to be discovered on this hill by a group of teenagers in 1913. It is now on display at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre.

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We drove up the hill to the Verendrye Site and marveled at the view! The surrounding town and countryside, the Missouri River, the state capitol across the river.

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From there, we drove across the Missouri to the capitol building and the surrounding area. I’m very impressed with our chosen state’s Capitol and grounds. Beautifully appointed and landscaped.

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Inscribed above the 4 columns in the front of the Capitol are the words “Sovth Dakota”.

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Sovth Dakota? HUH? Did they make a mistake when they were carving? Actually no. South Dakota is spelled with a “V” on the State Capitol Building to represent the Neoclassical Revival architecture of the building. Pretty interesting.  I bet they get that question a lot and good for them for not changing it to the “acceptable” version :)

We also took a drive out of town about 5 miles and fell in love with the Oahe Recreation Area. It’s a COE site managed by the SD State Park system. This would definitely be on our list of preferred places to stay the next time we are in this area! Particularly Campground #2. Loved the huge shade trees and the long back-in sites. Made me want to sit back and stay for awhile :)

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Because we are just passing through this time we chose the easy-to-get-to Fishers Lilly Park in Fort Pierre that offered water and electric sites for $10 night. That’s a deal we found hard to pass up :) Hopefully this park will flourish again. It’s a very small city park (12 spaces) that, according to RV Park Reviews, was a wonderful, shaded park with basic sites right on the Bad River. In 2011, the river flooded and the entire campground was basically washed away. No more shade trees. No more grass. Sad. They are trying to re-establish it. I hope they are successful because there are not many campgrounds in this part of the state and it’s a great overnight destination.

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The campground is adjacent to the park, which also suffered some damage but is doing quite well now. There’s playground equipment for the kids, a sheltered picnic area and a walking bridge across the Bad River. It’s a very pretty little park and it was here, in 1804, that Lewis and Clark first made contact with the Teton Sioux. The first US flag to fly over present day South Dakota was also flown at this site. It was  a pleasant surprise that this area turned out to be more historical than we had anticipated.

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We enjoyed our stop in Pierre but it is time to move on. Tomorrow we will travel to  Hazelton Recreation COE Park in North Dakota. We are still moving north, still searching for cooler weather :)

Thanks for stopping by. Turtle

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wall Drug

It's no secret that I am 5 years older than Rick. For those of you who didn't know that, well, now you do :) The age difference has never been a problem for us. We're still from the same generation, still remember the same things.

Until I said I wanted to go visit Wall Drug in Wall, SD. He had no idea what I was talking about! Why would I want to go to a drug store in a little town when I could just go to Walgreen's anywhere?

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He claimed (and still does) that he has never heard of Wall Drug! I find that surprising! So, if you're like him, here's a little background information taken from Wikipedia.

The small town drugstore made its first step towards fame when it was purchased by Ted Hustead in 1931.  He bought Wall Drug, located in a 231-person town in what he referred to as "the middle of nowhere", and strove to make a living. Business was very slow until his wife, Dorothy, got the idea to advertise free ice water to parched travellers heading to the newly-opened Mount Rushmore monument 60 miles (97 km) to the west. From that time on business was brisk.

To date, Wall Drug still offers free ice water, but as they have become more popular, they have started to offer free bumper stickers and signs to aid in promotion, and coffee for 5 cents. Some popular free bumper stickers read "Where the heck is Wall Drug?", "How many miles to Wall Drug?", and "Where in the world is Wall Drug?".

Now, here is today's Wall Drug! I'd say they were marketing geniuses!

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The place is huge! And, yes, that’s Rick in the LL corner sitting on the lap of a bunny :)  You can wander from one store to another without leaving the building…or when a building ends, they’ll make sure you can move into the next building without a hiccup. They make it very easy for you :) The town is still small and their main claim to fame is Wall Drugs. It appears that the entire population is employed there along with some of the neighboring folks. We wandered the entire property and patted ourselves on the back for not buying any of it :) We did support the local economy by buying lunch at the Cactus Café, though :)

That’s about it for this day. The temps were in the high 90’s so we headed back to Lucy and the A/C :) Thanks for stopping by. Turtle

Badlands National Park

First, I’d like to thank everyone who left a Happy Birthday comment to my brother Randy on my post: Happy Birthday Golden Child! I think he really liked it and I appreciate your contributions to his day :)

Now, on with the story! We left the Black Hills area of South Dakota Monday morning and drove East about 90 miles to Badlands National Park. We exited I-90 in Wall and followed 240 south to Badlands Loop Road which eventually took us to Cedar Pass Campground in the National Forest. This route took us through a good portion of the park and was it a pleasant surprise!

There is a stark contrast between the Black Hills and the Badlands. Both are incredibly beautiful, but very different. The drive to the campground was windy and beautiful.

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There were many pull offs for scenic viewing but, in Lucy and towing the Jeep, we opted to continue on and return the next day with Jeep only :) Of course that did not deter me from taking photos through the buggy windshield :)

*NOTE: I’ve recently been playing with the collage feature on Picasa, so am trying it out. Do you love it or hate it?  Does it work or should I go back to several single photos? Let me know what you think!

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We arrived at Cedar Pass and registered for a first come, first serve electric site. (Another collage style for your opinion) This is a rather “different” campground. There are no water hookups. You take on water at the dump station or bring it with you (which we did). They offer (50 amp) electric only or no hookups. The sites are basically parallel parking around the loops. It works but it’s sure not ideal. Each site has a picnic table with a sun/wind break. In this heat, that’s not much help.

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Our original plan was to stay 6 days but when we arrived and realized we had no cell signal, no internet and no TV, we changed our minds and paid for 3 days to start. We could always extend our stay. They have a 14 day limit. It is HOT here though and there is absolutely no shade. In the end, it was the heat that did us in :)

Tuesday we took off to explore the park and take in some of the trails and paths established by the scenic overlooks. The formations were stunning and ranged from looking like ancient ruins to fairytale princess castles. One of the trails lead right out into the Badlands. It was an adventure every kid there was loving. Even the big kids :) They climbed the giant sand castles, they hiked across, climbed town into crevices and caverns. One little guy was so happy to be there his father had to bribe him to leave! All this in 96º heat!

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We saw little wildlife but I imagine it was too hot for most of them. Except the Prairie Dogs. In the Badlands, there are more of them than people and heat did not seem to faze them one bit! We drove Sage Creek Rim Road, a wash board dirt road off the main loop that had stunning vistas and a Prairie Dog Town. There were thousands!

There is no shade to be found anywhere in this huge park and with the temperatures in the mid 90’s we eventually headed back to Lucy and her air conditioning.

Here is our proof we were here :)

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Thanks for stopping by. Turtle

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Happy 60th Birthday Golden Child!

*I interrupt my previously scheduled blog to dedicate this day to my baby brother Randy, who turns (heaven forbid!) 60 years old today. To my regular readers, if you do not wish to find out more about Randy than you ever wanted to know, you may stop reading now :) Before you go, however, I would really love it if you would leave a comment wishing him a Happy Birthday. I know he reads my blog regularly, so he will get your birthday wishes.*

A little birdie told me that Randy was not too happy to be turning 60. Can you imagine? I think he is feeling a little OLD. So, Randy, even though I can’t be there to wish you a Happy Birthday in person, I thought I’d remind you of what your 60 years have meant to all of us that know and love you :)

Randy was born on Friday, July 11, 1952 at 7:10 AM and the world has never been the same since :)  He was pretty cute as a youngster, though!

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It wasn’t long before he graduated from high school. Somewhere in the following years, he misplaced his hair and hasn’t been able to find it :) Truth be known, his evil sisters hid it on him and we’re not telling!

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He became the proud father of 3 sons, Mathew, Levi and Randy. In the picture below UL, you can see those 3 sons all grown up, posing with my mom, their grandma. Notice their hairlines. The evil sisters are not at fault :)

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He also became an uncle. My girls adored their Uncle Randy when they were babies and continued to adore him as they became adults.

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He was son and brother. He made me crazy when we were growing up and I wonder how my mother put up with the 2 of us. We were always fighting about something. Always!  Luckily, we both got over that!

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As the years went by, he took on another responsibility and became step-dad to Courtney, Tyler and Royce when he married their mother, Ree.

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Now proud grandfather to Dominic, Zachary, Kaci, Emma and Liam.

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In the search for photos for this post, sister Sheila sent me this one. Mr. Fashion Plate! I know this photo was taken many years ago but I don’t know in what universe those shorts would have been popular!

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Son, Husband, Father, Grandfather. You have much to be proud of brother. What a handsome family you have!

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Before you think I’m done, though, I have one more photo to share. This is why you should never stick your tongue out at your sister when she’s holding a camera!

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But, in your defense, I did find a picture of a famous person that shows a remarkable resemblance!

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So, dear brother, you may not be an Einstein but we think you’re a pretty sharp cookie! Love you and Happy Birthday!

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Thanks for stopping by. Turtle

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Motorhome Mod or Lucy's New Accessory

I had had it. I was fed up and disgusted. I had battled it for over 3 months in Texas over the winter and now that we were in South Dakota, it was worse than ever! What could be so bad? Hard water! Harder than hard. The kind of water that refuses to suds up. The kind that leaves your clothes looking dingy. The kind that leaves deposits on your faucets and a white nasty film on your dishes, pots, pans and utensils. I'm talking nasty!

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After Rockport last winter I actually cleaned my dishes, glasses and cookware with Lime Away to get the nasty deposits off of it. The water on our travels through New Mexico and Colorado didn't seem to be quite as bad so I pretty much forgot all about it.

That is until we got to Nebraska and South Dakota. Man. Water this hard should be illegal! After running a couple of loads of dishes in the dishwasher, my previously shiny black spatulas are now gross and disgusting along with our glasses, coffee cups and everything else that's been touched by this water. I realize that having a dishwasher in an RV is more the exception than the rule, but I love it and use it everyday.  It performs very well with decent quality water. I am also one of those that loves my Splendide washer/dryer. I think it does an excellent job when given the right tools (water) :)

Once I get going on something, there is no stopping me :) I immediately started researching portable water softeners. Camping World had 2 that we were interested in, both on sale for the exact same price. After reading the reviews and checking the specs we decided to place an order. We chose Flow-Pure RV-Pro 10,000 which was the larger of the 2 we looked at. Our thinking was that it would need regenerating less often if it had a larger capacity. Whether that will be the case or not remains to be seen and tested. It took a week to arrive but the shipping was free so I can't complain, especially since this bugger weighs in at 26 pounds, before salt and water are added.

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Included in the box was a bottle of water hardness testing strips. Looks like the water is a little hard here, doesn't it? Almost off the chart!

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I don't have a clue how a water softener actually works. I only know that it does. Most home softeners regenerate automatically, usually in the middle of the night, using rock salt. Our new softener requires a manual regeneration using plain old table salt. One container (26 ounces) of table salt each time.

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It's supposed to be a fairly quick and easy process which is also untested. The unit arrived completely regenerated so we won't have to do it until it's due, which is when the test strips show it going into the hard category again. The harder the water, the more frequently it will need to be done. While we're here, I think that will be often :)

Installing it required re-configuring our filter system. We are pretty anal about filtering our water. We have 2 outdoor filters, one for sediment and another for fine particulates, taste and odor.

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We also have a filter inside on the refrigerator for filtered water and ice, plus a Brita pitcher for any water used from the sink for cooking or coffee. Probably overkill. Maybe not.

Anyhow, the sediment filter needed to be placed on the input side to keep any sediment out of the softener. We chose to have the taste and odor filter on the output side, so things needed to be configured a bit differently and short hoses added. The new setup isn’t pretty but it works! I think we’ll figure out a way to “pretty it up” as we go along :)

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We think this will work well for us. We are a little concerned with the added sodium in the water but, we drink mostly bottled water so it's not a big issue. Voila! Lucy is now completely accessorized :)

How does it work? Well, pretty darn good, I'd say :) My soap has suds, my clothes look cleaner and most important, my dishes aren’t embarrassing anymore! I'm a happy camper again!

Thanks for stopping by. Turtle