Monday, May 18, 2009

The Goshen Rally---Day 17---Home

We arrived home around 3:00pm this afternoon. We finally got away from Elkhart about 2:00pm on Saturday after the windshield had "set". It had rained most of the night but had cleared off and we saw no more rain during the drive home. We made our way out of Indiana and into Illinois. Leaving so late in the day we were not sure how far we would get. Finally, around 5:30 we decided to stop for the night. (Actually, our body time was 6:30 since we had gained an hour on our way west.) We stopped in the parking lot of a former Wal-Mart store in Champlain, Illinois. We were parked directly behind a Buffalo Wild Wings Restaurant that had an open WiFi connection so I was able to check e-mails. Also, next door was a Ryan's Steakhouse so we walked over there for dinner.

We left out around 9:00am on Sunday heading down I-57 toward I-70. Traveling I-70 on a Sunday was nice in that there was little traffic. This was especially good for traveling through St Louis. We stopped Sunday night at The Big Red Barn RV Park in Carthage, Missouri. We have been to this campground several times over the years. We settled in an relaxed for the evening with cable TV and free WiFi. At this point we were only about five hours from home.

On Monday we drove down the Oklahoma turnpikes to OKC, stopping at the Flying J to fill the fuel tank and have lunch. Arriving home we discovered the place was in good shape except for the yard needing mowing and my flag pole was missing. The bottom two feet of the flag pole was still in place but the rest, including my America flag, was standing in a corner on the front porch. It looks like someone had taken a saw to the pole but one of the neighbors indicated that it apparently came down during a major windstorm while we were gone. Didn't see that we had any other damage.

We did come home to find we have been invaded. The winter cover is still on the pool and has about three or four inches of water on top of it with decaying leaves under the water. We then counted about a dozen frogs living in/on the pool cover. Also, there appear to be several hundred tadpoles swimming in the water. The current plan is to scoop the frogs off the cover and set them free. Afraid the tadpoles will not survive. I plan to open the pool this week and will be pumping the water off the cover. This will leave the tadpoles no place to swim. After I drag the cover to the front yard for cleaning they will be washed down the gutter. Oh well, not sure we could survive the onslaught if all of them survived and turned into frogs.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Goshen Rally---Day 14

Rolled out of bed early this morning to get the coach unhooked and get on the road to Elkhart to the service center. On our way to Indiana we were experiencing major wind noise coming in through the top corner of the windshield on the driver's side. We had our windshield replaced in late 2007. At that time we had some wind noise from this same place. Last year we took it back to the folks who put the windshield in to have them reseal it on that corner. That seemed to solve the problem until we started out on this trip. The noise first started over in Arkansas and progressively got worse. By the time we arrived in Goshen the noise was so loud it was giving me a headache.

During the rally we had talked to the Techs who were there and they wanted us to bring it to their shop so they could work on it on a level surface. After inspection they found the entire seal across the top had never been set right and the entire top of the windshield had popped out. It is amazing, with all the rain we've been through, that it has not leaked water. Anyway they reset the windshield but now the coach cannot be moved for 24 hours while the sealant "cures". So we will be sitting here until around 2:30 pm tomorrow. That will give us a late start for home but we had planned to spend two nights on the road anyway. As long as we get home by Monday we'll be okay since Jo has to take her mom to doctor's appointments on Tuesday.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Goshen Rally---Day 13

Today was the final day of the rally. Most of the coaches will start pulling out tomorrow morning. This has been a good rally even though it did rain some while we were here. Of course it would not be a Monaco America Rally without some rain. In addition to the many seminars, the great vendors that sell all the neat stuff to add to our coaches, and the visiting with old and new friends we got to eat, a lot. A very popular restaurant in the area, Das Dutchman Essenhaus, was the caterer for this event and they did an outstanding job. Essenhaus served breakfast all three mornings and dinner on Tuesday and Thursday.

On Wednesday we divided up into two groups and drove out to a couple of the local Amish peoples houses for dinner. Most of the Amish in this area have some type of cottage industry to augment their income. Many of the Amish worked in the many travel trailer plants scattered around the area. (Elkhart, Indiana, is/was considered the RV capital of the nation. With the downturn in the RV industry most of these folks have lost their jobs. Elkhart County now has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.) We went to Steve and Elaine Jones house in Topeka, Indiana. Joanne and I were there when we had our rally in Goshen three years ago and felt it was one of the best meals we had ever had. Last night was just as good as we remembered.

We have also experienced good entertainment since we've been here. On Tuesday night we had a DJ playing music from the 50's and 60'. (You know, our music.) On Wednesday, after returning from the Amish homes we played old episodes of The Tonight Show starring Johnnie Carson. Tonight we were entertained by The Jazz Assemblage, a group of 19 that played the big band sounds of the 1940's. Here's Jo and Vicki listening to the music.
Tomorrow I have to take the coach over to Elkhart to a shop to get some work done on our windshield. They said it should take one to four hours. After that I'll return here to Goshen for the night and then we'll pull out Saturday morning heading back to Oklahoma.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Goshen Rally---Day 10

Sunday saw many more of the coaches arriving. By the end of the day all but 12 had arrived. We opened the Information Center at noon so the attendees could pick up their rally packages, sign up for volunteer positions, sign up for next Wednesday evenings trip out to the Amish homes for dinner, etc. We also have some merchandise for sale: T-shirts with our Monaco America logo on them, cookbooks the ladies put together a couple of years ago, flags and coach plaques with our log. This is all handled in the Information Center. This is also where I've set up office to collect unpaid rally fees and fees from the various vendors that are here. This way I can also oversee the sales and keep track of the incoming funds. I have pretty much spent the last two days there.

The official start of the rally is not until Tuesday morning. Since we have so many folks coming in early at our rallies we have a pot luck dinner on the Sunday evening before the rally. Last night was no different. We had a fantastic meal last night. I am always amazed at pot luck dinners. No one really coordinates what anyone brings but there is always a good variety and plenty of food for everyone. Joanne made a delicious Waldorf Salad and her Upside Down Apple Pie. When all was done there was none of her pie left and very little of the salad.

Today the Information Center was open all day and we saw a lot of action. Most of the people made it in to pick up their rally package, which gives them all the info they will need this week, and to sign up to volunteer. Additionally, most of the vendors made it in to pay any fees they owe. Most sent in their rally vendor fees previously but we are also collecting the parking (camping) fees for the four nights of the rally from those that are staying here in their RV's. Any nights we were here early (prior to today) or that we stay after (after Thursday) are paid directly to the Fairgrounds Office. The parking fees for the four nights of the rally are included in the overall rally fees the attendees have paid. Since we get a good discount for the actual rally we let the vendors pay through us so they can get the same discount. At the end of the rally I'll then write one check to the Fairgrounds to cover every ones parking fees. We did get almost all the rest of the coaches parked today. At the close of the Information Center at 5:00 pm we only had two coaches who have not shown up yet.

Although the rally does not officially start until in the morning tonight we had our welcoming get together. This is a time that we all gather for light snacks and open bar. Everyone has a time to greet old friends, renew acquaintances and meet new people. Although this event was scheduled for an hour and a half it actually was longer. We left after about two hours and there were still people sitting around visiting with each other. So far everyone seems to be having a good time here in Goshen and it is shaping up to be a good rally.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Goshen Rally---Day 9

Saturday was a busy day at the rally site. Not only did we get everything set up to get the rally started the fairgrounds held their semi-annual consignment sale. This is a major event in the area with people bringing in all their "stuff" they no longer want or need to have it auctioned off to their neighbors who feel they need it. Many of the folks buying and selling come from the local Amish.

There is a large Amish community in the Goshen area. These folks work the fields but many of them work in the various RV manufacturing plants scattered throughout northern Indiana. Due to the downturn in the RV industry many of these plants have closed. Elkhart County now has one of the largest unemployment rates in the nation. Many of the Amish folks make a living from their cottage industries. For instance, next Wednesday evening instead of having our normal catered dinner here at the Fairgrounds we will divide up into two groups and travel out to the homes of two Amish families. They have set up buildings where they can feed large groups, family style, for a fee. Usually this will involve the wife in the family doing all the cooking and they husband and children doing all the serving. This is a big task when you consider they can usually serve 60 to 80 people at each place.

I always find the Amish people interesting. They shun modern conveniences, like electricity, motor vehicles and modern farm equipment. All their clothing is home made, by hand. Although you will never see electric lines running to an Amish house you will often see them going to the barn or to their food service building. This has to do with state laws. If they serve food they must have refrigeration so they'll have electricity for that purpose only. The lighting in the building will be from gas jets in the wall or ceiling. If they operate a dairy operation they cannot sell their milk on the market unless they use automatic milking machines so they will have electricity to the barn for this purpose only.

The most unique thing about Amish transportation is their closed carriages. They are very plain but utilitarian. Again, they can't get completely away from modern conveniences. State law requires them to have rear view and side mirrors, tail lights and turn signals if they are to be driven on public roadways. To accomplish this they are fitted with standard car batteries. The question has come up as to how they recharge these batteries if they have no electricity at their homes. Here are a couple of pictures I took at the fairgrounds of their transportation. To the left is of a carriage, with it's trailer, waiting for the owner to come back from the sale. The other is of a father and son loading up their purchases.

To end this busy day, Saturday evening 42 of us went over to Nappanee to Amish Acres for a dinner theater. The food, as is usual around here, was very good. The play was Nunsence II and was very funny and entertaining.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Goshen Rally---Day 8

Finally was able to move over to our permanent spot with full hookups yesterday. Now we have 50amp service and we were able to dump our holding tanks. A few more coaches came in yesterday. A group of us, along with some of the new arrivals, headed for the little Italian Restaurant that we had found last Wednesday night. Great food at very reasonable prices.

Today we got up to chilly weather and wind. I actually changed out of my shorts and t-shirts I normally live in this time of year and went to bluejeans and a jacket. Was able to get in to the area we will use for our information center and was able to get a work area set up. As club Treasurer I spend most of my time at these rallies keeping all the paperwork straight and getting the bills paid.

We should have a bunch of coaches show up today and the rest on Sunday.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Goshen Rally---Day 6 (Part II)

The day started out overcast but soon turned into sunshine. It would be very strange for us to have a rally without rain but we can hope. Worked on paperwork all morning, getting the parking grids for the coaches set up and the individual coach parking sites assigned.

After lunch the Leith's and us headed out to Elkhart to visit the RV/MH Hall of Fame and museum. This is a fascinating place for not only RVer's but for anyone who enjoys history. There is a great display of antique RV's throughout the building. They have everything there from antique travel trailers to some of the very first motor homes. The units have been completely restored before being put on display. One fascinating unit was a 1931 Chevy Housecar that was used by Mae West. The studio's had this unit built for her to get her to come off the Vaudeville circuit to make movies. They used it to transport her from her home or hotel to the movie site. It has a back porch on it where she would sit in a rocking chair between takes.

After our visit to the Hall of Fame we met up with several of the other couples that are already here at the Das Essenhaus Restaurant. These are the people who will be catering our rally next week. The food is served family style and is fantastic.

The Goshen Rally---Day 6

We have gone from six to nine, coaches that is. Tuesday night their was just us and the Leith's here. Yesterday we had five more show up and have had two more come in this morning. The people here so far are mostly club officer's or key volunteers. The bulk of our members will start showing up tomorrow and Saturday. Hopefully, by Sunday they will all be here and parked. We are still sitting in our temporary site and will not be able to move over to the regular rally sites until tomorrow.

We spent most of the day yesterday in Shipshewana. They have a very large flea market that is only open on Tuesday and Wednesday of each week. We didn't get around to all of it but was able to find a few things that we just could not live without. Since I keep an American flag flying in front of my house 24/7 I like to keep an extra one handy as a replacement. I usually pay $30.00 for them at Wal-Mart. Found them at the flea market for $12.00. What a deal. After most of the other coaches got settled in yesterday we got together and went out to dinner at a local Italian restaurant. The food was great but, as usual, we all ate too much.

Today's activities will depend on the rain. We have some logistical planning to do with the Chairman of the Parking Committee so he can get everything set up for tomorrow for his crew.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Goshen Rally---Day 4

We spent Sunday lazing around Don & Vicki's house in Arkansas. It rained off and on most of the day so was a good day to do nothing. Don and I did get the windshield wiper problem fixed, even if it is a temporary thing. We used cable tie wraps to secure the wiper blades to the arms. I'll look at doing something permanent when we get home.

We left Greer's Ferry on Monday morning and headed north. It was still overcast but we did not have any rain. Around Branson, Missouri, it started to clear off and soon after getting onto Interstate 44 we had sunshine. We drove in sunshine the rest of the day. Original plan was to stop in Sullivan, Missouri, to re-fuel and then spend the night in the Wal-Mart parking lot. It was only 4:00pm when we got to Sullivan so we decided to press on, even though we knew that would put us into St Louis during their evening rush hour. As it turned out the traffic was relatively light in our direction and we got through there rather quickly. We wound up stopping at Vandalia, Illinois, for the night. A large Wal-Mart parking area set aside for trucks and RV's. There were several RV's spending the night there along with a bunch of trucks.

We left out of Vandalia around 8:30 this morning and headed across Illinois. East on I-44 to Effingham and then north on I-57. About 50 miles south of Chicago we got off the Interstate and headed east on a two lane highway. No sooner than we got moving on that road we came up behind a long line of vehicles that were trapped behind a very slow moving truck with the base of one of the huge windmills that are sprouting up all over the country. This was such a wide load that no one could pass it. Finally, after about 20 miles we came to a section of four lane highway and we all got around. We went into Indiana and picked up I-65 north to I-80. Up until this point the weather had been beautiful but at I-80 it became overcast and we hit light pockets of rain.
We arrived at the Elkhart County 4H Fairgrounds in Goshen around 4:30pm (EST). There is another rally going on this week so we are not able to park in the regular rally area. We are out in the overflow section with only electric and water hookups. The other rally ends Thursday and they will be pulling out on Friday so we should be able to move over to the full hookup sites then. The other club officer's will start arriving tomorrow. We'll spend this week working with the other club officer's getting everything ready for the rally plus do some sightseeing in the area. (Once the rally gets under way I seldom have time to get off the fairgrounds.) They have had some rain here and the ground is pretty soft. When I put the jacks down to level the coach the right rear jack buried several inches in the ground and was stuck. We had to start up the coach and rock it a little to break the jack free so it would come back up. Fortunately, I carry some boards just for this purpose. Put the boards under the jacks and we are relatively level.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Off to Goshen---Day 1

We are actually back on the road. We are headed to Goshen, Indiana, for our Monaco America Spring Rally. We left home around 8:00am and headed east. First stop will be at Don & Vicki Leith's house in Greer's Ferry, Arkansas. Don & Vicki will be going to Goshen with us.

It was rainy out when we started out. Unfortunately, we did not get a mile from the house when the driver's side windshield wiper came loose from the arm and fell down. We have had problems with our wipers before and, actually, this is our third set of wipers. After stopping at a shopping center to put the wiper blade back on we were off again. Got almost to the interstate highway when the passenger side wiper did the same thing. Before we got out of Oklahoma we had stopped five times to fix the wipers. Due to the fear of the wipers coming off and loosing them I drove most of the way without using them. Made for fun driving considering that it rained on us almost the entire trip.

We arrived in Greer's Ferry around 4:00pm. We're glad to be back with the Leith's even though we had just spend three weeks with them in March on our trip out west for the Baker to Vegas race. Their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter are here for the weekend so they have a houseful. They do have two full hookup RV sites adjacent to the house so we will be staying in the coach.

This evening Vicki fixed a great dinner for all of us and then we all headed to the game room, what I refer to as the Leith Bar & Grill. This is a great room with the toys a person would find in the local pub. They have an old Wurlitzer juke box with real 45rpm records on it, a pinball machine, full sized pool table and a bar size shuffle board table. They also have the necessary wide screen TV over the bar. All the toys got used tonight and the guys watched the NBA playoff game on the big screen. In these pictures are the game room, Jo and Vicki playing pinball and Don sitting at the bar watching the big screen. (Don has had the shuffle board table since his college days and it actually came out of a bar in California. He claims the house was designed around his shuffle board table.)
Since this had been a long an tiring day we headed to our coach around 10:00pm to relax a little, check our e-mails and turn in. (The house is also wired for satellite TV and WiFi. The TV reception does not extend to our coach but the WiFi does.)