Friday, August 30, 2013

Catching up with family

With our service work complete, we had another short drive – just 25 miles east to Shipshewana Campground South.

Shipshewana South Campground

After almost a week of camping in a parking lot, it was nice to be back in a campground again!  The south campground is close to town, but surrounded by farmland, so it’s really peaceful.

Our neighbors in Shipshewana











In the evenings, we liked to walk around the campground and watch the horses.












Another reason for staying in Shipshewana was that it put us within visiting range of my family.  Two of my sisters have seasonal sites at a campground about 30 miles from Shipshewana, so we were out bright and early on Saturday morning to head over there for a visit.

We had quite the family gathering --

Diane, Katy & Deb

my sisters Diane and Debbie, and my niece Katy, my other niece, Kelly and her husband, Josh . . . my brother, Donnie,

Donnie & Tom

my brothers-in-law, Danny and Charlie, and my Mom.

My niece has a little guy, Jaxon, who is turning 2, and he was the center of attention, as usual!  [Today is his birthday – Happy Birthday, Jaxon!!!]

Having fun in the pool!

It was a beautiful day, so Tom rode his motorcycle while the boys and I drove the car.  Tom had to put Jaxon on the bike!

Tom had to show Jaxon his motorcycle

Danny took the boys out for a fast drive on the boat, and a swim, while Jaxon entertained all of us in the little pool,

Ooh, that water is COLD!

and then he took Katy, Jaxon and I out for a nice, slow leisurely ride around the lake.

Jaxon and Mommy 

Jaxon even helped Danny drive!

Helping Danny drive the boat!

The slow, rhythmic, motion of the boat and the warm sunshine made all of us sleepy, but especially Jaxon . . . he was almost asleep by the time we got back to the dock! 

Since we were going to miss his birthday party, we brought our present with us . . . Bryce had fun picking out some silly gifts for him, but they weren’t very durable!


The silly glasses were already missing one lens,

Danny busted another whoopie cushion!

and the whoopie cushion didn’t survive Danny sitting on it!

We got some mileage out of the glasses, though!

Jaxon gets a ride from Bryce


Nice look, Dan!



As usual, we had a great dinner – Charlie BBQ’d ribs and chicken, and we had fresh corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon . . . along with Amish noodles and cake.

After all that food, we needed a nice long walk . . . so we gathered up the garbage and went for a walk!  Going for a walk







Garbage Duty

On the way back, Jaxon and Casey took turns riding in the wagon!



Casey's turn to ride

A Saturday night tradition at Manapogo Park are the wagon rides . . . these used to be the highlight of Nicolas and Bryce’s weekend when they were little, so when the announcement was made that it was time for the wagon ride, they took Jaxon to introduce him to the fun!

Walking with the big cousins!

Going for a wagon ride!

There they go!

Saturday night tradition

The wagon has steps to make it easy to get in now . . . when Nicolas & Bryce were little, we had to climb up over the side!  Some of the campers even throw candy to the kids . . . and the big boys made sure Jaxon got some!


After the wagon ride, Tom, Katy and I took Jaxon back to the camper while Nicolas and Bryce stayed at the pavilion with Danny to play some BINGO . . . they didn’t win anything, though!

We sat by the campfire for awhile, enjoying the beautiful evening, until it was time to make the drive back to Shipshewana. 

We all enjoyed spending the day with family, and it certainly feels good to be home again for a little while . . . well, almost home, but Manapogo Park was my home-away-from-home for many years, and even the boys spent a lot of time there when my parents still had a seasonal site.  In fact, when the ladies in the office saw Nicolas driving the car in, they commented on how they remembered when the boys used to come up with my parents in the summer during the week.  On Friday evenings, they would sit down by the office, waiting for Tom and I to show up!

We’ll be seeing a lot more of the family when we get settled in Monroe, but for the next couple of days we explored Shipshewana and stocked up on all our Amish favorites!

We had pretzels at Jo-Jo’s,  Day 238_Jo Jo Pretzels








stocked up on bulk foods and meat at E&S and Yoder’s, popcorn at Yoder Popcorn, and cheese at Guggisberg,


had Hawaiian shaved ice one evening, and even checked out a few RVs.

DSC_0449 The boys still like the front living rooms!

At the Coachmen Factory, we were amazed by the sea of E-450 chassis’s that we saw – they must have bought up all they could before Ford stopped making them!


Tuesday was Flea Market Day, so Tom and Nicolas walked through it while I worked and Bryce kept me company . . . they didn’t see much, though . . . it really is turning into just rows and rows of the same old China junk you can get anywhere else!  That night we had the buffet dinner at the 5 & 20 Restaurant, and it was delicious . . . and much more reasonable than some of the other bigger restaurants in town!

Another enjoyable visit to Indiana Amish Country!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back in Indiana for RV Maintenance

Back in Boerne, TX in April, we noticed that we had a small crack in the narrow strip of fiberglass under the bedroom slide.


We had a mobile RV Tech take a look at it, and he didn’t think it was necessary to fix it as long as it didn’t get any worse.  As we continued to travel, we kept track of it and although it closed up every time we unhitched from the truck and opened up every time we were hitched up, it never got any bigger.

We eventually called Newmar to get their opinion, and they recommended filling it with some silicone to keep water out, and then made an appointment for us to get it fixed when we were back in Indiana.

Then, while we were boondocking in the Bighorn Canyon, we noticed that our shower grey tank was once again leaking, creating a puddle under the RV.  We quickly called Newmar to add this to our repair list!

Our appointment was last Monday, and we got set up at “Camp Newmar“ on Saturday so we had time to move some things out of the way and pack our bags, since we were going to have to spend a few nights out of the RV.

On the way back to Nappanee, though, we had to stop at the gummy bear factory for Nicolas to get his gummy bear fix!





Our technician showed up at 6am on Monday morning, and we quickly moved our overnight bags and the dog to the car, and got the RV closed up while Tom reviewed our repair list with them.

They towed the RV to its “regular” repair spot in Building 11, and quickly got to work!

The front cap needed to be opened up, which was the reason we needed to stay elsewhere,


an the side wall peeled back so that additional bracing could be added to the wall and under the slide.



By later that afternoon, they knew we were going to need to stay out of the RV for at least 2 nights, so we went over and checked in at the Inn at Amish Acres, right next door to Newmar.

The Inn at Amish Acres

It was an OK hotel, and we had complimentary continental breakfast (although Nick was bummed that they didn’t have a waffle maker!), and even a pool for cooling off in the afternoon.

I had a quiet place to work, and Nicolas got some ACT prep done while Tom and Bryce went on the Newmar Plant Tour.  Production is running again at Newmar, and they are producing 6 motorhomes per day . . . all to fulfill existing orders! 

There was a big line of new motorhomes waiting to be transported to their new owners!

New motorhomes ready for delivery

By Wednesday, the front of the camper had been put back together and the crack covered up with a new piece of molding,


and they had moved the RV outside to start working on the grey tank. 


They took the old tank out and located the crack,


but didn’t have quite enough time to get the new tank installed.  They wanted us to stay in the hotel one more night, but we just weren’t getting good sleep there, so we asked if we could stay in the RV in front of the shop.  Attached to Building 11 is the “pet-friendly” Customer Lounge, so we had access to a bathroom, and a TV with cable . . . along with our own beds, that was all we needed!

Camp Newmar

I think they were surprised that we didn’t want to stay another night in the “comfort” of the hotel, but were fine with us staying in our little “Camp Newmar” annex!

Since we were in the area, Tom had made arrangements with Mor-Ryde to get our suspension inspected on Friday, so we were hoping that we’d be wrapped up at Newmar by Thursday afternoon so we could move up to Elkhart for an overnight stay at “Camp Mor-Ryde”.  We knew Howard and Linda were there, and we were looking forward to catching up with them.

Sure enough, by 2:30 pm our RV was all back together and we were free to go . . . we didn’t even have any paperwork to take care of, since everything we had done was being covered by warranty! 

We closed up the RV, hitched up, and made the 20 mile drive to Mor-Ryde.  Once we were settled into an RV site, we walked over and said “Hi” to Linda, and also Linda & Bill N, who we had met at the Sevierville Rally in 2011.  We caught up with them for a bit, and then broke up for dinner, knowing that we would see everyone bright and early in the morning!

Our appointment was just for an inspection, and possibly getting the wheel bearings checked and repacked, if they had time.  Tom was talking with one of the other RVers who was getting ready to leave, and he told us that everybody that came in just for an inspection ended up getting a bunch of work done – they found cracks on his chassis that had to be rewelded!  Tom was sure the wouldn’t find anything wrong on ours . . . it was running just fine!

Once Howard had their RV moved into a bay, Nicolas pulled ours out into the street for the inspection, and Linda and I headed over to the Customer Lounge for breakfast.  I commented that I was glad our inspection was being done in the street, since it had been over a year since Tom had to back into a garage door like that!  The next thing I knew, Nicolas was backing the RV into a bay!

It turned out that two of our shocks were not even attached, and several of the rubber shock components were cracked, and the bushings were completely worn.  So, we had some work to be done, in addition to our bearing maintenance!  We were going to be here a little while!

I settled into the lounge with Linda and Howard, and my computer and got some work done while we caught up on each others’ travels.  Mor-Ryde provides breakfast and lunch while you are in for service, so we spent an enjoyable day in their lounge . . . even if it was an unexpected stay! 

We’re glad we stopped, though, and got this very important maintenance work taken care of.  We’re in the Elkhart area so often, there really is no excuse for not stopping by to get the suspension inspected more frequently.

Both of our rigs were finished around 2pm, and Howard pulled theirs back into an RV site where they were going to spend one more night before heading back to Louisville, and we got ready for our move to Shipshewana . . . another 20 mile drive . . . we like those!

We said good-bye to Howard and Linda . . . confident that we would see them on the road sometime again . . . and we were back on the road . . . with all systems checked and in perfect working order!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

CAT Visitor Center

Caterpillar Visitor Center

Peoria is the Corporate Headquarters of Caterpillar, where our friend Todd works, and they recently built a new Visitor Center downtown on the river.  We had heard it was really nice, so one afternoon we all met down there to take the tour.

Dittmann's and Gimmarro's

The tour started with a movie shown in the bed of the F797 Off-Road Dump Truck.  Used in mines and quarries all over the world, these giant trucks can carry a payload up to 4 tons (Oops!  Todd pointed out that I made a mistake – it should be 400 tons!!).


This truck, empty, weighs over 500,000 lbs. and since they couldn’t make the building strong enough to hold it, they constructed a replica out of drywall.  It looked amazingly realistic!!

Even the tires are huge!

Big tires!

When the movie was over, we went downstairs to walk through the galleries and displays.  One side of the building was a collection of early Caterpillar tractors,  Earliest Caterpillar Tractor






displays on the history of the company,


Old Caterpillar Ads

and interactive displays that show how these hard-working machines are designed, tested and manufactured.

An engineering job at CAT must be every little boy’s dream – playing in dirt!

Engineers playing with dirt!

Watching a video on how the transmission is built


There were also time-lapsed videos of several manufacturing processes on the F797.  Being transmission engineers ourselves, we watched the video of the transmission build.  Incredibly, this complex machine – taller than a 6’ tall man when fully assembled – is built entirely by hand!  This 7-speed transmission is made up of many of the same components as an automotive transmission . . . just a lot bigger!



The boys spent a lot of time studying the diesel engine from the “normal” sized trucks,


and Todd helped them out by explaining how it works.

Studying the big diesel engine

Even the big trucks aren’t exempt from emissions requirements!

Todd explains the exhaust system

From there, we moved over to the other side of the display area – the highlight of the day for the boys!

There were interactive video games where you could try your hand at running a bulldozer or excavator – with real controls --

Bryce plays virtual worker


Nicolas in the driver's seat

Virtual Ditch Digger

it wasn’t quite as easy as it looked!!

The real highlight, though, was the vehicles,

How many yards is that??!!

He still loves tractors!


and Nicolas was the most excited of them all!

There was another family there the same time as us – a little boy about 3 years old with his parents and grandparents – and he was going from vehicle to vehicle, so excited to be able to get in the driver’s seat of each.  He reminded me so much of Nicolas . . . he was the same way at that age . . . and still is!




All the kids had fun trying out the big machines!

Ready to work!

How do you see where you are going?!!


Working hard!

Playing in the bucket

Kylie can handle this big machine










Even the big kids got into the act!



Moms, too!











Big boys like tractors, too!

They even had a Caterpillar-sponsored NASCAR car.


It was a great afternoon -- we enjoyed learning about the company our friend works for, and getting to climb in all the big trucks was lots of fun!


(I’d have a better group picture if Todd had sent one to me!! – hint! hint!)