Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cat and the Bunny Rabbit – AKA Bunny’s Big Adventure

July 30, 2008

There’s never a dull moment – whether on the road or at home.

Let me set the scene:

It’s a lovely day outside, both front and back patio doors are open so Cat can wander at will. I’m in the kitchen fixing lunch – when suddenly I hear the unmistakable sound of Cat running. I look toward the motion and see that Cat is chasing something small and brown; and by the time I get close, I see she has a very young – and unhappy – bunny rabbit in her mouth.

I’m closing in on Cat, saying NO! PUT THAT DOWN!

Remarkably, Cat drops the bunny that then scurries under the recliner chair. And I’m sure I heard Cat say, “Darn it, you’ve spoiled my fun. I just wanted to play.” as she tries to get under the chair. I swooped Cat up and closed her in a room.

With a broom and the nearby patio door wide open, I tried to get bunny to come out. Instead she went in another direction – into my bedroom. That little thing – just old enough not to be with momma rabbit any longer – is quick, and has an uncanny way of squeezing into small places. I opened the bedroom patio door and wielded the broom again. Did she run out? I think so.

Cat is out of her prison, life goes on as usual. I finish fixing lunch, and carry it to the table. What did I see? Cat and Bunny having a stare-down. Cat is put back in prison and the broom and I get to work. After about 20 minutes and numerous hiding places, Bunny dashes out the door. And I retrieve my disappointed Cat.

She really just wants to play - in the past she's brought home a toad, mouse, dragonfly, and a couple of birds. She also tries to catch flies and moths. She's never killed any of them - just enjoys the chase.

And I finally sit down to lunch – disappointed that I didn’t think to take photos.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Homeward Bound

Wednesday, July 23 to July 26, 2008

Wow! The Grand National Rally (Winnebago Industries) was super. Many of my questions were answered – such as, Why does my generator pulse instead of running smoothly? What all is involved with ‘replacing the side walls’? I attended several seminars, met lots of folks and compared travel notes, motor home maintenance, and discovered clever ways to stow goods. And had a new, better, ceiling exhaust fan installed in the bathroom.

It was the answer to “what is involved with wall replacement” that motivated me to head home today instead of tomorrow. I learned that I would need to take EVERYTHING out of Jeremiah II before taking it to the dealer for the work!

As soon as the fan was installed, I unplugged, pried my now-wet leveling boards up. I’d be traveling my least favorite way – drive/park, drive/park, etc. until arriving in Rio Rancho. I much prefer to drive part of a day and then park for two or more days before driving again.

After consulting the closed-road maps, weather maps and forecasts, I knew I would have to just plan my driving one day at a time. My first overnight was Avoca, in western Iowa, just south of I-80. I did get some rain along the way, and much more rain that night.

More map time once I found out that many roads in far south/western Iowa were closed or travel delays. I retraced my travel for about 5 miles and got on I-80 West, planning to cross the Missouri just north of Omaha. Oops, I missed the exit and ended up just south of Omaha to Highway 81 and then into Kansas. Thursday’s travel day ended at Assisa, Kansas.

My plan was to spend the night in Liberal, Kansas. But when I got there, I didn’t like the looks of the RV park. And since it was early afternoon, decided to drive on. Surely there will be a decent RV park in Guyman, Oklahoma, or in Dalhart, Texas. Wrong! And by the time I drove through Dalhart and realized I was just 100 miles from Ute Lake State Park near the eastern boundary of New Mexico, I just kept on driving.

I do enjoy the driving – especially on highways and other non-Interstate roads. Driving through picturesque small towns was my reward. On the outskirts of Pocahontas, Iowa, I was ‘greeted’ by this very large statue.

At a stretch of road west of McPherson, Kansas, I saw a sign “Sod, Worms and Worm Tea”! Just what is ‘worm tea’? I also passed oil fields and a huge liquid petroleum plant. As I drove through Rice County, I had a chance to pull over and take a photo of their charming county courthouse. Things like this are my reward for shunning the Interstate.

When I got up Saturday morning, I realized that Sue and Dave were in Rio Rancho (scheduled to fly out sometime on Saturday) – and maybe would still be there. That motivated me to get unhooked and on the way. As soon as I had cell phone service, I called Sue. Their flight wasn’t until 4 p.m. Oh, goody! So I got to spend some time with Sue! And Cat was delighted to be at the “big home” where she could run and be outside.

In all, I drove nearly 3,800 miles - and what an adventure! My next motor home trip will be early September.

That afternoon, I started the chore of taking everything out of Jeremiah. Being a couple of days early made this a more relaxing project. But just where did ALL this stuff come from? And why was I toting some of it all over the country?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Medford, St. Paul and now Forest City, Iowa

Friday, July 18, 2008

While the NOAA weather guy reports on Severe Storm Warning #703 on its way to northern Iowa, I’ll start this blog with a quote by Benjamin Franklin (Walter Isaacson’s book, Benjamin Franklin, An American Life). In the late 1780s, Franklin was telling about his various ailments (gout and kidney stones):

“People who live long, who will drink the cup of life to the very bottom,
expect to meet with some of the usual dregs.”

I last wrote when I was on my way to Medford, Minnesota, to visit some of my mother’s cousins. I spent super four days on the corn, bean and hog farm; parked beneath huge trees on Cousin Gloria’s driveway. Besides Gloria, her daughter and husband, and her grandson and his family have homes there. For the first few days, the weather was relatively cool.

Gloria’s son-in-law took me for a cart ride out to see the fields – this photo shows their ‘bean’ (soybeans) field.

The evening before I was to leave, we watched the weather news as a storm moved across the state – and the severe thunderstorms, hail, winds and tornado threat moved closer. We decided it would be prudent to move Jeremiah II from under the large trees.

Saturday, July 12, I left for the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) International Rally in St. Paul, Minnesota. The day had turned quite hot, I encountered two stretches of backed-up vehicles on Interstate 35-E, and I was eager to get parked so I could cool the motorhome down using my generator. Fanciful thinking! First I had to get to the “holding area” where groups of 10 motorhomes were escorted to the fairgrounds. Then it was a time of waiting to be escorted to a parking area. I no sooner got to the front of the line to be parked when someone said I had been sent to the wrong area, “back up, and park along that street and someone will come and get you.” More waiting but at least I was under some large shade trees.

Eventually I was taken down another street where I would be parking. A quick look at where I was told to stop – right in front of a sloping street drain – and I knew it would be nearly impossible to get level and I told the parking guy this. “Oh, well, see what I can do,” I told myself as I got out my leveling boards. Just as I got the board out, the parking guy came back and said he had a better place for me. So, load boards, make a U-turn and follow. The new spot was still on the road – and under large shade trees! Leveling was fairly easy and soon I could get the generator and air conditioner on. Whew!

As the day cooled off, and folks were sitting outside, I started meeting people. One reason I was there was to distribute surveys for Winnebago. I had 100 surveys and four days to get them done. I also attended a couple seminars, and finished writing and editing the next issue of Personal Chef Magazine.

The FMCA rally is huge – about 2,500 motorhomes (in past years the rally has had up to 7,000 motorhomes) spread throughout the fairgrounds and adjacent properties. I got a lot of walking done during my days there – usually ended the day with at least 4 miles total. The trees gave lots of shade and the weather was relatively cool for summer.

The couple parked ahead of me “adopted” me for a couple of days. They invited me to join them for an outing at Como Park and the huge Mall of the Americas. Both were enjoyable – and both places I would not have been able to visit. The park has rides for children, a Japanese garden and a most interesting butterfly garden. As you can see from the photo, these three butterflies are large!

By Tuesday evening all surveys had been distributed – good thing because I was leaving in the morning.

Wednesday, July 16

It was only a 100-plus drive to Forest City, Iowa, for the Winnebago Grand National Rally. And it was a hot, muggy day. Again I was impatient to get air conditioning on – and at this rally I’d have electricity. But not a level place. This former bean and/or corn field is not flat. It took a couple of tries to get level, and when I was, I discovered that my electric cord would not reach the utility box! Bummer! And it’s hot both inside and outside of the motorhome.

I tried again to no avail. Then I realized I was parked near the Winnebago “rally parts store” and simply bought a 30-amp extension cord. (I used to have one, but somewhere along the way it ‘disappeared’.)

Whew! Cat and I cooled off, and as the afternoon passed, it cooled off outside. Perfect timing for a walk around the rally grounds. I have taken many walks these past few days before the rally starts on Sunday afternoon. I’ve walked in to the town twice; once for Forest City’s annual Puckerbrush Days Celebration. Puckerbrush? Yep. That was the original name for this town.

Yesterday’s town parade was as much fun as ever. It was 1 ½ hours long. It seems like every fire truck from miles around were there to lead off the parade. Then there were queens, princes, and other dignitaries – including everyone running for a political office – in various vehicles. The only band was the Forest City high school marching band. The parade included two Shriner’s groups, numerous floats, and plenty of tractors.

This is my third year to attend the Grand National Rally. The main activities are the same each year and I’ve done practically at least once. This year I’ve been spending time organizing and reorganizing Jeremiah II.

It is Sunday afternoon as I finish this, and it will soon be time to head to the amphitheater for the parade of states and opening session. More thunderstorms are due this evening; we just hope the storm holds off until the end.

Tomorrow the seminars and vendor display area will be open. It will be a busy three days for me. I’ll leave here Thursday morning to head back to New Mexico. This will probably be my last post for awhile. As soon as I return home, I’ll have a day-and-a-half to unpack the motorhome and pack a suitcase for a flight to Tucson.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Welcome to the Midwest – now turn on your Weatherband radio station!

Yes, NOAA weather alerts are now my favorite pastime. Yesterday it was Weather Warning #661, which was in effect: severe thunderstorms, capable of heavy rain and nickel-sized hail that can damage vehicles, winds up to 60 mph, flooding, etc.

But, let’s back up a few days. I was so eager to get to Melody’s home in Indiana that I drove two longer days (300+ plus miles) instead of three shorter days. Somewhere along the way I passed this smiley water tower. Can anyone see it and not smile?

In Indiana I stayed at France Park. This park covers many acres and has lots of tall trees and a lake.
After traveling in Jeremiah II for five days – and asking for directions three times – I arrived in Converse, Indiana, to visit granddaughter Melody and her husband Derrick. They are temporarily living with Derrick’s dad, Roger Cottrell, while they find jobs and housing. Derrick is hoping to become an Indiana State Policeman. I parked in the long driveway alongside the house – wonderful accommodations!

Converse is a lovely very small town – dollar store, small grocery store, gas station, post office and not much else – where many residents have large backyard gardens. Melody has married into a large extended family; it seems they all live 30 minutes or less from Converse.

For my four days there Melody served as my personal trainer! Each morning I’d go to the house for a weight workout, and then most morning workouts would be followed by walks of between 3 and 6 miles! We walked all over town. We also went to the towns of Peru (they pronounce it Pee-ru), Kokomo (lunch at ??? – yum!), Amboy, and Marion. One day we went to visit Jane and PaPaw (granddad) and get veggies from their garden. I got to enjoy their animals – Ninja and Izzie, Sheeba breed of dogs common in Japan and Chu-Hi a Russian Blue cat.

I got to see Melody’s Mount Fuji hiking pole.
It was a wonderful visit that was all too short. And the weather was super. But soon it was time to head to Medford, Minnesota, via Illinois and Iowa.

I continued my drive, this time heading back toward the west. I choose to drive highways rather than Interstates for several reasons: my comfortable speed is 55 mph and I enjoy driving through the numerous small-to-medium-sized towns. Once I got to Illinois’ eastern border and could check road conditions, specifically Mississippi bridge crossings, I planned a route that took me west and then north to Rockford, Illinois. Here I spent the night at Blackhawk RV Park, and what a delightful place. It has a mix of “summer, weekend, and overnight visitors.” As usual, I walked around getting acquainted with other campers (a plus for traveling solo). I met a couple who have been spending summer weekends there for 27 years, a couple big on birding and have many and varied bird feeders (I got a crash course on birds that visit there in the summer and a couple that have set up an elaborate model trains setup.

I crossed the Mississippi at the upper west part of Illinois and entered Dubuque, Iowa. Being on the Big River, this pretty large city has quiet a history. And this city wins my “best marked city” award. I was traveling on highway 20, changing to highway 52/3. This took me through several downtown streets – an easy way to get misplaced. But not in Dubuque! The signs were well-placed and easy to see. Thanks to it being Sunday, traffic was light. Whew! I breathed a sigh of relief after successfully negotiating the route. Dubuque would definitely be a city to explore further.

Never a dull moment along these highways! Along the way I met up with huge farm equipment traveling from field to field and also this huge bale of hay!

Eventually I arrived in Charles City (also known as Chuck Town) mid afternoon and found “R Campground” that sits alongside the Cedar River. This is the same river that devastated several Iowa cities. I’m parked under some tall, leafy trees just 75 yards from the river.

After settling in – about 4:30 p.m. the sky darkened. It looked like it should be twilight instead of just late afternoon. And then the lightning and thunder brought a downpour. That’s when I turned on my Weatherband radio and heard the “severe weather warning” that included Floyd County (where Charles City is)! As it continued to rain, I became concerned for my nearness to the river. Would it overflow and flood the campground? Would the trees protect Jeremiah from any damaging hail? Would the winds and potential falling limbs damage Jeremiah? Oh, dear!

I called the RV park office. Would they come down and let me know if evacuation was necessary? I was assured that they would indeed let me know. Somewhat comforting. Before leaving home I had prepared a “ditch bag” with water, shoes, rain jacket, energy bars, cat food, portable radio, first aid kit, etc. Also during storm threats, I put the ditch bag, cat’s crate, my cell phone and computer near the door in case I have to make a hasty retreat on foot.

By 8 p.m. the storm ended and the severe weather warning for Floyd County was canceled. And the sun came out again. And I slept well.

This morning, Monday, July 7, I was hoping to get in either a long walk or a bike ride. And then I listened to the weather report. More storms were headed this way. Severe Weather Warning #662 included Floyd County. Oh, well, I really needed to stay in and get some writing work done. Rain, lightning and thunder arrived as I worked. Than it cleared up only to return about 4 p.m. This time it was Severe Weather Warning #663. It was a repeat of yesterday evening.

It is now 8:30 p.m. and the sun is making its last appearance. It’s been a productive day.

Tomorrow I’ll unhook and head north. I’ll stop in Mason City (cross your fingers for speedy Internet there) for shopping and then further north to Medford, Minnesota and my Minnesota cousins.

Quick addition – Tuesday morning. The Cedar River is running very high! And now I’m parked just 50 yards from the fast-flowing river. From my window I see that someone chose a poor place to park. Couldn’t resist taking a photo.