Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Holiday Rambler–Monaco Maintenance Rally in Goshen, IN

Leaving Tennessee, our ultimate destination was Goshen, IN, for the Chapter 419 Holiday Rambler RV Club Maintenance Rally. With 5 days to get there, we spent 2 stormy days outside Cincinnati on the Ohio/Indiana state line, and then a couple of days at the REV (Monaco/Fleetwood/HR) Service Center in Decatur, IN.

Our stop at REV was only supposed to be a stopover for us to go on the factory tour, but when we arrived we were surprised to find that our living room driver’s side slide wouldn’t go out!  We spent some time checking fuses and the Intellitec system, but ultimately resigned ourselves to living with the slide in – fortunately, we could still get to everything.  We spent the days visiting with Bill & Linda (who we had met in Bradenton, and who are also headed to the 419 Rally), and enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Back Forty REstaurant.  On Monday morning, we got added to the “drop-in” list at the service center, but our chances of having somebody look at it were not good.

Tom did get to go on the factory tour, but we didn’t get our slide worked on, and on Tuesday we were able to move up to Goshen and get on our site a day early for the Rally.

Our site at the fairgrounds

It was pretty quiet at the fairground, with only the Rally organizers and parking team on site so far.  Early arrival has its benefits – we got a good site on gravel, and were able to move up our oil change appointment so that we weren’t getting it done in the rain on Thursday!

Unobstructed site - the benefit of early arrival

Parking areas are assigned in the order that registrations are received, so as late registrants we were parked in the center of the horse track, at the far eastern edge of the fairgrounds.  It was the furthest location from all of the rally action, but other than the muddy drive across the track (especially on the rainy arrival day for most attendees), it was actually a nice location – very quiet, no traffic, and we got to watch horses practicing all day long!


We were surrounded by lots of friends, too . . . both old and new!

By the time the rally officially started, we had a full house at the horse track!

More people arriving!











Full house

The Maintenance Rally is all about caring for your coach – learning about how to care for it in many educational seminars, as well as obtaining maintenance or repairs from a variety of service providers who come to the rally specifically to provide services.

We had oil changes (engine and generator) completed by Cummins, during which they also changed our air filter, fuel filter and hydraulic filter.  They also uncovered an exhaust leak (we actually suspected that there might be one) and discovered algae in our diesel fuel.  Wow – that was all on Tuesday – two days before the rally even started!

We had our Aqua-Hot system serviced, eliminating the black soot that we had been getting from the exhaust pipe, had our Roadmaster Tow-Bar inspected and cleaned, and bought a new LED porch light for outside our door.

Our new porch light

It’s really bright!  We can actually see outside now!

A REV technician arrived on Thursday morning to look at the slide, but didn’t think they could work on it at the rally (I guess it didn’t help that it was raining!).  We got a Duncan RV Repair technician to come over then, and he wasn’t deterred by a little rain.






He spent some time diagnosing the problem, more time researching it on the internet and calling HWH for advice, and on Friday finally determined that we had a bad relay on the slide control panel (which is located in the generator compartment).  They did not have any in stock, and none of the parts suppliers around town had them either.  He was able to add a jumper from another relay to get the slide out for the weekend, while we continued to search for the part. We finally located one (just one!) at Napa, and picked it up for him to install the next day.  Whew – we were glad to have that puzzle solved!

With all of our maintenance and repairs complete (except for the exhaust leak, which was going to be tackled on Monday), we attended seminars over the weekend, and had fun with our new friends.

Darren & Tyler live in Florida, and have never been to Shipshewana before, so we took them to Das Dutchman Essenhaus for some delicious Amish food. 

Tom managed to lock himself in the camper!


But first we had to rescue Tom from the motorhome!  After “adjusting” the door, he managed to get himself locked inside.  After quite a bit of struggling, and several threats to leave him behind while we went to dinner, Dave & Lynn managed to find a REV technician who saved the day with a little plastic tool!




Finally, we were on our way through the Amish countryside!

Amish countryside

We did a little shopping first at the Dutch Country Market, and then walked through the Village Shops at Essenhaus before dinner.

Middlebury, Indiana

Tom had to try milking the concrete cow,

Farmer Tom











but had a little more luck making friends with the Amish horse.

Amish Buggy

Essenhaus Village Shops


Tom & I, and Darren& Tyler, climbed to the top of the silo, where we had a 360-degree view of the countryside surrounding Middlebury.







Looking out through the top of the silo

Das Dutchman Essenhaus

At the Essenhaus, we all enjoyed a wonderful salad bar and buffet . . . and left there so stuffed, we could barely enjoy the ice cream social back at the rally!

Group selfie!

On Tuesday, the Cummins technician came to replace our leaky exhaust gaskets, and discovered that the manifolds were actually warped . . . so we were going to have to wait one more day for that fix!  On Wednesday, he got the manifolds installed (with a fair amount of struggle and swearing), but broke a cooler line in the process!  One more part to order – I guess we wouldn’t be getting an early start out of there on Thursday!

Darren and Tyler were attempting to sell some spare parts at the RV flea market, without much luck,

Where are all the shoppers!?!

so we decided to take another trip to Shipshewana to visit E&S Bulk Foods and the Yoder Meat & Cheese Store.  It was Flea Market day, and there was a good crowd in town, including Amish.












We all bought lots of goodies, and couldn’t leave town without getting pretzels at Jo-Jo’s!


Enjoying Jo-Jo'spretzels

Back at the rally, everyone gathered for the closing dinner.  Tom & I, Darren & Tyler, and Dave & Lynn, as all First-Timers at the rally, were assigned a “First-Timer Guide couple” to help us manage the many activities during the week of the rally.  Arthur and Rita were great guides, and quickly became friends . . . and now we have a place to stay when we visit New Orleans!!

Darren & Tyler with Art

Lynn & Dave with Rita











Dinner was delicious, and a great way to wrap up a fun rally!  I think the general consensus (at least among the horse track crowd) was that this was one of the friendliest and most informative rallies we’ve been to, and everybody is looking forward to attending again . . . and we’re all going to request parking at the horse track!

Between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, we said good-bye to everyone while Tom and I waited for Cummins to arrive.  It was 1pm when they did, and we were just about the last RV left in our area, but we were quickly fixed up and our engine was ready to go!

One of our slides. however, was not!  The bedroom passenger-side slide would not come in . . . seriously??!!  Tom and the Cummins technician did some quick diagnosis and determined that we had another bad relay!  They were able to move the new relay around to get all the slides in, and we would be ordering all new relays as soon as we got to Monroe!

We finally got on the road around 3:30 and made our way across Indiana and Ohio, and into Michigan.  We pulled into Camp Lord Willing around 7pm, and quickly got set up before we lost daylight.

Camp Lord Willing

It’ll be nice to sit still for a month . . . although we’ve got a lot to do while we’re here!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Some rest and relaxation in Tennessee

For the last couple of years, I’ve been hearing about the Anchor Down Resort in Dandridge, TN, in the Smokey Mountains.  I’ve always wanted to stay there, but it never seems to be a good stopping point for us.


At 360 miles from Charleston, it still wasn’t an ideal stopping point, but we were getting up early to say good-bye to Nicolas, so we could get on the road early and it was all freeway, so we decided to go for it.  There were plenty of sites available, so we opted not to make reservations . . . just in case we had some unforeseen delay.

Sites overlooking the lake

It was a beautiful travel day, and other than a small delay around Asheville, we made really good time, arriving at Anchor Down by 1:30 pm.  We selected a site in the main campground that would give us a view of the lake out our windshield.

Main campground

Site 117

If the campground were full our view would have been obstructed by other RVs, but since the park was half empty, we had a great view of the lake and mountains!

All the sites are good-sized concrete pads with full hook-ups, including cable.  Our standard site was plain concrete with a brick firepit, but the higher level sites were stamped concrete and many of them had large outdoor fireplaces, in addition to great views.


The resort was impeccably clean, with all new bath houses and laundry room, and a clubhouse under construction.  The main area of the resort was on the road level, where we were, and there was another group of site uphill from the main area,

Upper tier of sites

and another area of sites down at the lake level by the pool and marina.

Pool and small marina











There were 4 host sites . . . and they had great sites!

Really nice host sites!

This has got to be the most beautiful RV Resort we’ve been to – not only were the facilities top-notch, but the setting was amazing with the lake and the mountains!

Dog walker

We spent our time relaxing, walking, and visiting with other RVers . . . it was a great couple of days!


They even had a dog park for Casey . . . she had fun running around, chasing a ball, and jumping over obstacles.

Playing in the dog park

Enjoying a campfire with new friends

Our new friends, Jim and Erin, had a fireplace at their site and we were able to enjoy a fire with them one evening . . . Casey decided that Jim was her new best friend – we couldn’t even walk by their site without stopping to see Jim!

We woke up to thunderstorms on Thursday, and found Casey sleeping in the corner next to our bed . . . she needs to feel protected during a storm!  Silly doggy!

Hiding from the storms

We’ve been to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg enough that we didn’t feel the need to go there at all, but we did check out the little town of Dandridge one afternoon.  It’s a very historic town – named for Martha Dandridge – otherwise known as Martha Washington.  There are lots of historic buildings still standing, and I would have loved to walk around and take pictures of many of them, but it was pouring rain while we were there, so we just enjoyed the town from the Jeep.

Crossing Douglas Lake


Crossing over the lake from Dandridge, we drove several miles to the Bush’s Baked Beans Visitor Center and Museum.

Baked Beans

They were nearly closed when we arrived, and we missed the last showing of the video tour of the canning plant, but we did walk through the museum exhibits,

Viewing the baked bean assembly line

and learned about the history of the Bush family and the little canning company that grew into a household name in baked beans.



The Bush family started out canning vegetables and fruits

Tom weighing himself in beans


We couldn’t get near the secret family recipe, but Tom did find out his weight in beans,

The secret family recipe

and we got our picture taken with Duke! Smile


It was a great 3 days in Tennessee, and well worth the long travel day!


Sunset after the rain

Friday, April 28, 2017

A busy couple of weeks in Charleston, then time to move north

Strawberry Fields

Six pounds of berries

Between searching for a vehicle for Nicolas to use to move to Norfolk, getting his apartment packed up, emptied and cleaned, we managed to also get a few things done.  Tom and I picked strawberries one morning and I made another pie for Nicolas.

YUM - strawberry pie!

I even did a little bit of sewing on the weekend, too.  I’m doing a camper block of the month (BOM) with my “RV Quilters” facebook group, and we began with Block 1 in April.

Quilt square #1

I also made a little wool project for Nicolas’ neighbor to thank her for “adopting” Nicolas while he’s been in Charleston.

New wool project

I made it into a small runner, and also gave her a framed picture of Nicolas from his Prototype Graduation.

Made into a little runner

On the Saturday before we left, Nicolas took the 4 of us – his parents and his “Charleston parents” – out to dinner.  He’s such a good boy!

We had given up on finding a truck down there, but then one day while we were walking around the campground loop, a truck drove in with a “For Sale” sign in the window.  We couldn’t believe it – it was just what Nicolas was looking for, although a little newer and with a few more options than he really needed.

He mulled it over for a few days, and then decided to go for it, and agreed to pay what they were asking.  In the course of negotiating the deal, though – we needed to take action pretty quickly – the guy decided that he didn’t want to sell the truck!  We were stunned . . . and found ourselves back to searching for a temporary vehicle that would get all of his stuff to Norfolk, and that he could later trade in on a truck!

We finally found something on Friday, and although it’s not pretty, and definitely not cool (he would NOT let me take a picture of it!), it holds everything he needs to move, and it should get him where he’s going.

We loaded up all his worldly belongings, moved what he needed to his new temporary house, and cleaned out the apartment.  By Monday afternoon, we were done . . . and rewarded ourselves by going to the new Fast & Furious movie.  We were surprised to find that the theatre had been renovated with new reclining seats . . . nice way to watch a movie!

At the movies

On Tuesday morning we got up with Nicolas and said our good-byes as he left for work.  We hated leaving him – we had hoped to be able to help him with his move to Norfolk – but he still needed to finish up in Charleston, and we had a rally to get to.  We’ll see him in a few weeks!

We loaded up our new co-pilot,


and started our journey north.

It was a beautiful day to travel,

A beautiful day for a drive through the mountains

and we all did fine . . . including Casey!


Meanwhile back in Michigan, Bryce is finishing up his freshman year at Michigan State and was inducted into the Kinesiology Fraternity over the weekend.

Bryce's Kinesiology Fraternity

I’m glad to see he’s enjoying school . . . and getting good grades, too!

Always surrounded by girls!

Making lots of new friends, too!

OK, there are a few other guys in the group!











We’ll be seeing him again soon . . . and need to find him a car, too!  I think May is going to be a pretty busy month, too!