Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Back to our home state and getting Bryce settled for the school year

Welcome Home

With all of the work complete on the motorhome, we made a quick call to our next campground to confirm that we could arrive a couple days early, which we could, and then we hit the road.

We only had about a 2 hour drive, which was nice since we didn’t leave until about noon, which is late for us.  The drive was pretty easy, and we arrived at Alice Springs Campground in Ionia, MI, without incident.


Alice Springs Campground

Our friends, Bill & Linda, spend the summer at this park, and we were able to get the site right next to them for the 5 days.  We got set up and gave Bryce a call to let him know we had arrived.

Our campsite

Bryce had the weekend off so that we could take him shopping for “apartment essentials”, but he also ended up with Wednesday off because he had a final exam for his summer class that morning.  Once we were settled, we headed into East Lansing to meet him at his apartment.

Bryce's apartment complex

It’s a nice apartment complex – basically looks like a dorm – but newer than the dorms, and with some nice amenities in the main building.  They have a rec room, a fitness center, and a nice covered patio area with a gas grill and several picnic tables and couches.  Looks like a good place for dinner on Saturday after shopping.

Bryce’s apartment is nice – they have a good sized living room and kitchen with an eating island,

Our Spartan in his new home(Would you believe this is the only picture I took of Bryce all weekend!?!)

Tom making himself at home

along with a laundry room and 4 individual bedrooms and bathrooms.

Bryce's bedroom


We did a quick survey, and came up with a shopping list for Saturday, and then it was time to meet Hannah and her Mom for dinner.  Hannah had her final exam that day too, so they were in town.  The five of us had a nice dinner and a great time catching up.  We dropped Bryce off at home after dinner, and made plans to pick him up early on Saturday.

He had to work on Thursday and Friday, so we were on our own.  We spent those days visiting with Bill & Linda and checking out the campground.  There are some walking trails in the back, so we took Casey on a nice long walk.

Walking trails behind the campground

It was a nice day for walking – overcast and not too hot or muggy.


Even Casey enjoyed the new landscape!

Come on up, Mommy!

On Saturday, we met Bryce at the apartment and headed out to search for the items on our list.  The only big items we needed were a vacuum cleaner and a small refrigerator for his room – other than that it was mostly pots & pans, dishes and silverware, cleaning supplies, towels, and miscellaneous stuff.  The list didn’t seem that long, but we were at it all day!

It was a successful shopping day, though, and we got everything he needed.  I had brought steaks and corn to cook on their grill, and we invited one of Bryce’s friends to join us, but then Bryce couldn’t get the key to the grill because the office was already closed!  This happens every time Bryce tries to grill!  I think they need a better system!

We went out to eat instead, and took the steaks and corn back home for dinner on Sunday.  Since we had gotten all the shopping done, Bryce was just going to come out to the campground for the afternoon on Sunday.

He did, and we had a nice dinner . . . after he went back home, we joined Bill and Linda over at the pool for a nice relaxing evening.

Bryce is all settled in his home now, the rest of the guys have moved in, and they are ready for the new school year.  I’m sure it’s going to be a good one!


On Monday, we drove the last 80 miles to our old stomping grounds.  We’re trying out a new campground this year – Totem Pole Park.

Our site at Totem Pole Park

A nice, big end site

It’s a very nice park in a quiet little community about 20 minutes south of Ann Arbor.  It’s actually a little closer to my Mom than the other campground we’ve stayed at in the past, the same or slightly closer to Tom’s family, and a little further from work for me, but an easier drive, so that’s OK!

Our first week at “home” was busy – dinner with my Mom, dinner with Tom’s Dad, financial, dental and hair appointments, and one day in the office for me.  Talking to my Mom on Friday morning, she told me that she had a little incident with her car, ripping her driver side mirror off.  She needed to go grocery shopping, and so did I, so we went down and picked her up to go to Kroger and out to lunch.

Tom and I assessed the car, and determined that the mirror needed to be replaced.  We went to a local salvage yard on Saturday to see if we could find one.  Her car is a Mercury Grand Marquis, which are pretty common, so we were hopeful that we’d find one.


Walking into the salvage yard office, the walls were lined with these painted hoods.

Painted hoods

We made our way into the yard,

Rows of cars

and got started on our hunt.

Picking parts!

There were a good selection of Grand Marquis and Crown Victoria's (basically the same vehicle), but the mirrors on the silver ones (my Mom’s color) were not useable.  We ended up finding a black one that was powered and heated (same as my Mom’s), so we took that one.  Along the way, we figured out that we could probably, if we were really careful, change the back of the mirror to the silver one from her mirror.

We bought the mirror, and back at the campground we took the parts off her mirror that we needed.  Success!  For $25 and several hours of our time, she had a new, working mirror! (I should have taken a picture!)

The rest of the weekend was taken up with family dinners – Saturday with Tom’s family at Olive Garden, and Sunday, on what would have been my Dad’s 90th birthday, at my Mom’s house with most of our family.

We even had my Dad’s favorite birthday cake!


Happy Birthday, Dad!


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Two weeks in Elkhart–motorhome maintenance and repairs

So, you may be wondering why we were in Elkhart for two weeks, and what we were getting done on the motorhome . . .

Well, remember a couple of months ago when we were faced with crossing this one lane bridge to get into a campground along the Laurel River in Virginia?

Crossing a narrow bridge!

We made it across the bridge ok going into the campground, but leaving was another story!

We had to make a 90 degree right-hand turn onto this bridge, with the mountain to our left, and it was very tight!

The offender

We didn’t swing quite wide enough, and ended up getting hung up on the guardrail.  We didn’t realize it at first, and kept creeping forward until we couldn’t move anymore, and once we realized what had happened, we had to disconnect the Jeep so we could back up and try again.

Ugh!  Four baggage doors were damaged, although fortunately they all still opened and closed.  The back two doors had the worst of the damage.

The worst of the damage

Two more doors damaged

Tom did a lot of calling around when we reached the next campground, but didn’t have much luck finding a place to get it fixed in Virginia.  Since the doors all functioned OK, we decided to wait on the repair until we were able to return to Elkhart, Indiana, where we knew there were shops that could handle the repair.

Fast forward to August . . . our appointment at Pro Custom was on August 6th, but we arrived a few days early to get our oil changed and chassis inspected at Marv & Tom’s Truck Service first.

Oil change and chassis maintenance

It’s a small shop, but they were really thorough, and Tom was thrilled that he could go into the pit with the mechanic and see what he was doing and how to check everything.  Tom had a long list of checks he wanted done on the engine and transmission, the chassis, and the air leveling system, and they took care of all of it!  At a very reasonable price!


Added bonus – we had a FHU place to park overnight!

Campsite #1

They finished up their last couple checks in the morning and we paid our bill.  Then, after confirming that we could arrive at Pro Custom a couple days early, we drove the 3 miles down the road and settled into a site in their gated lot.  It wasn’t a FHU site, but they had a dump station next to the building that we could use on our way into or out of the building.

Campsite #2

After our arrival, PJ went to work looking at the damage and putting together an estimate for the insurance company.  Unfortunately, he determined that it was worse than he had anticipated based on the photos we had sent him, so the job was going to take longer than the 3 days he had planned on, and the cost was going to be considerably higher than first thought.  Good thing we had decided to turn it in to the insurance!

He was saying that we would need to be there for 2-3 weeks, depending on how responsive the insurance company was, and how long it took to get the 2 doors that had to be replaced.  Yikes!  We needed to be in Lansing by the 17th to get Bryce settled in his apartment!

We all got right to work that afternoon – P.J. tracking down doors and us initiating the claim with our insurance company, Nationwide.

As it turned out, our doors are no longer available, so P.J. would have to take the 2 doors apart and have new skins made for them.  The one hinge was also slightly bent, and those were not readily available either, but he thought he could bend it back into position, and repaint it.  We heard from the insurance adjuster early the next morning, and he agreed to accept photos from P.J., rather than sending out a field rep to take pictures (that saved us a few days!).  P.J. took the photos and sent them along with the estimate to the adjuster.  He had us prepared for the worst – several days spent analyzing the quote, and back and forth negotiations before arriving at the price that the insurance company would agree to pay.  We were still discussing this when his phone rang about 20 minutes later.  It was our insurance adjuster, approving the repair for the full amount of the estimate!  To say we were all shocked would be an understatement!

When we recovered, P.J. said, “Close it up and bring it inside – we’ll get those doors removed right now!”

Removing the old doors

We brought it inside, and they got to work, removing the two doors and taking them apart.

Skin removed

He took measurements for the new skins, and another shop got right to work on fabricating those, with plans to have them back by Tuesday or Wednesday.

That was it for Friday, and were got settled back out in our site for the weekend.

1st weekend -- waiting for new doors

Monday was a full day of repair work, sanding and priming.

Repairing fender damage


Working on the repairable doors

Repair in process


Hard at work


It was a time-consuming process, but they got quite a bit done that day.  Tuesday was a waiting day, and nothing happened on our coach, but we were back inside on Wednesday to continue the sanding and priming process.  The new door skins arrive that afternoon, so we were back inside on Thursday to get them installed and primed.

Repaired doors

New door skins

New doors

Installed and checking the paint match.

Ready for paint

Final sanding

Final touches before paint

Based on paint codes, two of the colors were a good match – the dark brown and the light tan.  The medium tan, though, took quite a bit of work to arrive at a custom recipe to match the existing color.

Friday was an additional day of final prep work, since we had made the decision to not start painting until Monday, so that we would not have to spend the weekend in a hotel.

In the paint booth

On Monday, the coach moved into the paint booth, and we moved into a hotel in the afternoon.

We had hoped we wouldn’t have to, but with 3 colors to paint, plus clearcoat, it was a 2-day job.

We didn’t want to rush them at this point, and we were doing well with our schedule, so we just made the best of it.

Taping off the stripes

Working on the stripes

When we returned on Tuesday, the paint was complete and we were able to stay in it again. 

Looking good!

Finished doors -- looks good!

Nice job!

On Wednesday, they made a few little last minute touch-ups, and P. J. entered the actual labor times into the computer.  In the end, it took slightly less time than he estimated, and he was able to cover most of our deductible.  That was a nice bonus!

We paid our bill, and then got ready to hit the road . . . 2 days ahead of schedule!

Done and ready to hit the road again!

We had a great experience in Elkhart – I think we found our regular shop for engine/chassis maintenance!  We were also really pleased with the work done at Pro Custom, but honestly hope we don’t need their service again!

Now we just need to stay away from one lane bridges and guardrails!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Taking time off for a day at the beach


We had exhausted most of Amish Country by the end of our 2nd week in Elkhart, so we decided to venture a little further out and take a trip over to Lake Michigan.

US-12, aka Michigan Avenue, aka the Chicago Road, was hosting “Michigan’s longest garage sale” that weekend, so we had quite a bit of company as we headed west.

Lots of traffic along Michigan Avenue

Not the most efficient garage sale – with stops every quarter mile or so, it would take you forever to cover much ground! We did go through one small town, where a small park was filled with booths, so we stopped to take a look around.



It was interesting . . . but we did better at the Farmers Market a little further down the road.

Farmers Market

Our original plan was to drive up towards South Haven, but we decided to cut the drive a little short and just go to the beach in St. Joe.  It was very busy at the beach, and the Farmers Market was just ending, so we drove around for a bit looking for a place to park.

We finally found a nice spot on a shady residential street, just a couple blocks from the beach.

Pretty flowers along the street



We arrived at the beach,

Silver Beach

got changed into our swimsuits, and looked for an open spot on the sand.

It was definitely busy!

Busy day at the beach

Oh my, look at that crowd!

It was a hot day, so we went for a swim first to cool off.  The water felt great, but it was a little stirred up from all the boats and people – not as clear as we’re used to further north on Lake Michigan.

After our swim, we took a walk along the beach towards the pier.

There are a few houses along the channel,

Cute houses on the channel

and we watched several boats coming and going,


St. Joe Lightkeeper House

including the Coast Guard in action – giving somebody a tow.

Coast Guard tot he rescue

Fishing Pier

There were fishermen along the pier, and a few groups of people diving off the side (even though there were signs posted prohibiting swimming off the pier!), and we had a great view of the lighthouse.


Another interesting sculpture

Walking back along the beach, we were stopped by a group of college-age guys on a photo scavenger hunt for their soccer team.

They needed a picture with a “man with a hairy back”!


Hilarious – Tom was happy to oblige!!

We got changed out of our suits and dropped our stuff off at the Jeep, and then walked a few blocks over to Silver Beach Pizza for some dinner.  We had to walk past the Splash Pad on our way to the restaurant – it looked like a lot of fun!

Busy splash pad, too

Dinner was great!


It was a great day – love going to the beach when you don’t have to worry about anything in the water biting you!!