Saturday, September 28, 2013

Toto... I don't think we're in Kansas anymore

Roger here....  The alternate title of this post is,  The Bad, the Ugly, the Good, and the Amish. 

The Bad:  After leaving our pristine spot on Wilson Lake in Kansas, we needed to drive a little further the next day to make up for the extra night on the lake.  I had scoped out several campgrounds along I-70 in Missouri, but could only find one near the highway that matched the distance that we wanted to travel.  So, we spent the night at the RV Express behind a convenience store.  Lovely, isn't it?   I hooked up the motor home, then made a quick retreat into the motor home and locked the doors.  Dianne actually walked to the convenience store for some milk.  Bandido refused to leave his perch at the front window until she returned.  

It was quiet and we actually slept pretty well.  However, the next morning we discovered that our router had been hacked, using up all our available bandwidth.  We were kicked off the internet for 24 hours.  Irritating.

The Ugly:

We drove for a second long day after leaving the bizarro campground in Missouri and spent the night in a quirky, but safe campground near Cloverdale, Indiana.  By that time, it was evident that if I did not spend some quality time getting the accumulation of squished prairie bugs off the windshield, that it would not be safe to travel.  Two hours later (with two brushes on long handles, a squeegee, a bucket of water, Awesome Orange, Windex, a foldable ladder, a couple of microfiber towels, and a lot of sweat) images through the front windshield were visible again.

The Good:

The rest is all good.

Back home again in Indiana.  Ahh.  Home!  We stopped near my hometown of Pendleton for four days to see our friends Jay and Nancy, and to store items from the motor home in their garage that would be in the way during our repairs and remodeling in the northern part of the state.  Since we started full-time RVing five years ago, the Glo Wood Campground near I-69 has been our home base when we are in the area.  It is not fancy, and the pot holes are worse than bad, but it is a really comfortable, serene place.  Good utility connections.  Quiet.  Extremely low key.  And, the friendliest owner we have ever encountered.  Camping near friends in the middle of a cornfield.  Not bad!

The campground was once a dairy farm.  The owners live in the old milk barn that has been converted into a home.

 The view from the front sure is a lot better than the campground in Missouri.  The view of the Indiana corn, ready for harvesting in the back, makes me feel right at home.

Dianne took the sunrise picture below.

My time was spent loading "stuff" in our car and transporting it to our friends' garage for a month-long visit (almost like having us there).  Dianne spent much of her time cleaning.  The folks who will be tearing our motor home apart are NOT allowed to find any dirt.

The time passed quickly.  The trip to northern Indiana took most of a day.  We had forgotten about the narrow roads (with no shoulders) in the more rural parts of the state.  We spent one night in Shipshewana (Amish country), a town known for its flea markets.  The campground was nice, but kind of pricey.  The next morning we took the motor home to Bradd and Hall, Inc. where our remodeling will be done.  We needed to pick out flooring, show them the changes we want with our entertainment center, and discuss the custom woodworking that they will be installing.

Dianne's turn:

In December, 2008 when we left our home to begin full-timing, our very first stop was in Elkhart, Indiana at Bradd and Hall to have our TV's switched to flat screens and the cabinetry altered.  They did such a good job that when we decided to change out our flooring and furniture, that's where we wanted to go.  We dropped off the chairs and valences to be re-covered, picked out the carpet... 

The Armstrong "Alterna" flooring...

The colors actually match perfectly (can't tell from the photo) and also match our new Lambright Amish-made recliners.  Our recliners had arrived, so I was able to partially uncover one of them for a photo... 

We sat down to check them out and WOW!   Can't wait until they're installed.   One of the things we did while parked at Glo-Wood near Pendleton was to take our old Lazy-Boy out and drop it off at the Goodwill store.  Here's what we're using in the meantime --

At Bradd and Hall's showroom we saw a corner desk like the one we ordered.  Ours isn't there yet; it will be maple to match our cabinetry...

Now, back to Roger....

From Bradd and Hall, we drove 15 miles to the idyllic town of Nappanee where Newmar Motor Homes are manufactured and where several minor concerns in our motor home will receive some care.  (More on that later).  The regular parking area for service was full, so we spent the first night in the water/electric overflow lot.  It was not fancy, but it filled the bill.  We have since moved to the nicer parking area with full hook-ups and a customer lounge.

Have you ever seen  the movie, The Birds?  At sunset hundreds landed on the power lines across the street.

Amish Country:

We were both born in central Indiana and spent the majority of our lives there.  It is ironic that neither of us has really spent time in Indiana's Amish Country.  We are discovering that absence was a mistake.  Clip clop, clip clop.  The sound of horses pulling buggies is ubiquitous here.  This is a really interesting place, and we especially like the town of Nappanee.  Both of us agree that we could easily live in a place like this (except for the snow).   By the way, it is considered bad form to photograph the Amish people.  The picture above only shows an empty horse and buggy parked and waiting.

This weekend the local residents are carpeting an entire city street with mums in quilt patterns.  We hope to visit again when the entire project is complete.  In the meantime, a really nice lady offered to take our picture in front of the developing project.

Last night we decided to eat dinner at Amish Acres, located adjacent to our temporary home at Newmar.  

The pathway to the restaurant was decorated with a plethora of pumpkin-ladened displays.  Here are just a few.

Our delicious family-style chicken dinner brought back memories of the meals that our grandmothers used to prepare - especially Dianne's grandmother, Clara.  

I did not used to like bean soup.  Now, I crave it.
(Dianne here:  The ham and bean soup, sweet/sour slaw, pickles, homemade bread with apple butter was just the appetizer!)

The dishes full of fried (broasted) chicken, beef and noodles, mashed potatoes, sage dressing, gravy, and green beans made it very difficult not to overeat.

The pet pictures of the day show Tequila in her quest of her latest favorite prey--  GRASSHOPPERS.




Sunday, September 22, 2013

Minooka Park

Roger here....  OK.  Five opening photos taken from our campsite.  We must be someplace special.  Where do you think we are?  Florida beach?  Pacific coast?  Lake Tahoe?  Na Pali coast of Kaui (probably not in the motor home).  Nowhere close.  We are in KANSAS!  

I intended to make fun of the flat landscape along I-70,  I intended to use a silly connection to the Turtles' song, Windy.  You know the one, "Who's bendin' down to give me a rainbow, everyone knows it's Windy."  Well, we did see a spectacular double rainbow on our last night in Colorado.

And, it was a windy drive as you can see by the slanted grass in the photo.  It was also a little scary.  

But, after looking at the pictures that we took at our campsite at the Corps of Engineers' Campground (Minooka Park) on Wilson Lake in the center of Kansas, the theme of this particular blog is dedicated to the absolute beauty of this place.

Traveling in the shoulder season when the kids are in school allows us to enjoy these amazing spots in near seclusion.  There was only one other RV in the entire park.  We had a prime spot next to the lake.

What a perfect place.

We lingered here for an extra night during our determined trek to Indiana (for motor home repairs and remodeling), because of the beauty and peacefulness.  Like the days, the evenings were also magical.   

Whether looking at the sky.....

Or looking at the lake....  

We found the perfect spot (and weather) for a relaxing campfire.

I cannot finish this post without another sunrise shot of the great blue heron that landed in our little cove.

Dianne and I have found that there is much more to Kansas than we had ever noticed before.  Much more.  

The pet picture of the day....  People often ask us how our dogs and cat get along in such a confined space.  We have all heard the expression, a picture is worth a thousand words...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

He Begged Me Not To Do It!

Hi all, Dianne here.  When we decided to make the side trip to Indiana to get minor irritating things* in our motor home repaired at the Newmar factory, we started thinking about the inside remodeling we'd wanted to do for some time.  We had planned to make the trek north next summer for the interior re-do at Bradd and Hall in Elkhart.  Since we were headed to Newmar in Nappanee (just outside Elkhart), it made sense to go ahead with the interior re-do while there and save the expense of the trip next year.  The money would have to come out of savings anyway, so why not?

*Here are a few of the irritating things that were starting to drive us nuts, and that we couldn't wait a year to fix:

1.  Retractable step had acquired a mind of its own and would or would not work on a whim...

2.  One side of the pocket door between the bedroom and bathroom was permanently off the track, and the hardware broken and unrepairable (by us)...  (Meaning no privacy if one of us was already in bed)

3.  Electrical circuit in our bedroom also acquired a mind of its own and usually did not work, (and, yes, we tried new fuses), meaning our closets and bedroom were in the dark 90% of the time.

There are a few other minor things, plus routine maintenance, that needed attention.  

We still love our motor home.  We are not ever tempted to replace it with a newer model -- it is just the right size, has everything we want, and besides that, it's paid for!   

We travel with two dogs and a cat.  This means lots of pet hair to contend with.  We also prefer state parks and natural settings (translation:  dust and dirt) to manicured RV resorts.  This makes for a lot of vacuuming and time-consuming cleaning.  

The worst part of the cleaning routine is the fabric sofa:  

It is prime real estate for window viewing, so there is no way to keep the dogs and cat off of it.  The back cushions were getting smooshed from Bandido wanting to lay on them, so we left them in Texas.  It is permanently covered with a slipcover and dog throws that can be laundered.  It is a pain to vacuum, and takes as long to keep clean as the entire rest of the inside.  It will soon be gone, replaced with a computer desk and ultraleather recliner.  The carpet will also soon be gone, replaced with easy-to-clean hard flooring.

When we purchased the motor home (used) in 2006, the original recliner was the only furniture that showed wear.  We removed it and ever since have used a variety of furniture in its place.  Currently it is our small Lazy-Boy recliner
which we had saved from our home in Indiana.  It is comfortable and matches the decor, but it doesn't swivel and is cumbersome, and it also is nubby, dust-catching fabric.  It will be replaced with an ultraleather recliner to match the other one.

The title of this blog is not about the remodel -- Roger wanted it as much as I did.  The title refers to the wheels that started turning in my brain as I envisioned our new space and what I could do to make it even better.  Roger has been through this many times before, in every home that we've lived in over the past 41 years.  He knows that it will mean living in chaos, a preoccupied (sometimes tired and cranky) wife, and a lack of regular meals.  He also knows it's fruitless to try to dissuade me.

All the hardware and light fixtures in our coach were shiny brass finish (not real brass), which did nothing to enhance the pretty, solid-maple cabinetry.

Some of the light fixtures had started to tarnish and were looking pretty bad.  I didn't mind the style of them, just the finish, so I thought...why not spray paint them oil-rubbed bronze??
Tarnished Brass

Then I started thinking...if I do the light fixtures, I'll need to do the cabinet handles to match.  And if I do the cabinet handles, I'll need to do the hinges to match.  And if I do the hinges, I'll need to do all the screw heads to match.  You get the idea.  

What came next was two days of grueling work to
remove all the cabinet doors.  Roger is not smiling in the above photo -- believe me, that's a grimace.  I did most of the work myself, but had to enlist his help with some of the stubborn ones.  After blisters and much exhaustion, we realized we had the wrong tools for the job and made a trip to Lowe's in the middle of it for a ratchet screwdriver.  Have you ever been so tired you feel despair just by turning down the wrong aisle in a large store, knowing you'd have to walk all the way back?  That's how I felt.  I was starting to feel like maybe I was too old to start a major project like this was turning out to be.

Here are the links I used to prepare for the job:

As hinges were removed each screw was deposited into either a "paint" or "no-paint" container, depending upon whether they would be visible.  Special screws for the hooks, towel holders, and doors were kept separate and labeled.

All the hinges, handles, miscellaneous fixtures and screws to be painted were next soaked overnight in a crock pot set on "warm," with Dawn dish detergent and vinegar added to the water.
The next morning it looked like this...
Next, each handle, hinge, fixture and screw had to be sanded, rinsed, and dried, then rubbed with tack cloth...

The hard part was over.  All that was left was to prime and paint.  

The screws were a special project all their own.  After sanding, rinsing and drying them, I poked holes in an old wine box and screwed each screw into the box, labeling the special screws and putting them in the middle away from the others...

This turned out to be time well spent, because it was effortless to spray paint the screw heads, handy to store and carry them for reinstallation, and the handle hole in the box made for a handy small wastebasket!  

Here are photos of the priming...

The hinges were extra work because I flipped them over and painted both sides to keep them from rusting.  Here's how they look now that they are all reinstalled:  

Now, I know the handles might chip eventually.  If they do, I'll just touch them up or shell out a few hundred dollars for new ones.  

Once the cabinets were put back together, I decided to start on the light fixtures.  Uh-oh....I forgot that these are specially wired to run off 12-Volt DC batteries and I had no idea how to work with that type connection to remove them.  What to do???   Well, here's my solution.  Not ideal, but it worked:

There were only a couple of little boo-boos, and my new best friend Mr. Goo-Gone cleaned it up.

I would not recommend doing it this way -- there was some residue on horizontal surfaces, but it cleaned right up.  Here's how they turned out:



I wanted all this to be finished before the new furniture and flooring, so it would look nice right away.  

Realizing that our window day/night shades had ten years' worth of wear, I wanted to clean them ahead of time, too.  Here's the link I used:

            How to Clean Day/Night Shades

Not having a bathtub, I had to improvise.  I bought one of those large flat drain covers at the hardware store in Creede and put a few inches of water in the shower along with half cup of Oxy-Clean.  

The smaller shades fit there and after soaking for a half hour, I rinsed them and hung them to dry (between rainstorms in Colorado).  

The larger ones wouldn't fit in the shower.  Again, Roger will tell you that my motto is "Where there's a will, there's a way."   A check of the clearance shelf at Target and I picked up a cheap blow-up wading pool.  When we stopped in Kansas on our way east (where we are today), we had the perfect spot and weather to do the larger shades:  

After they soaked in the Oxy-Clean and were rinsed, I laid them out to dry...

When almost dry, I sprayed them with spray starch and closed the pleats, then let them sit tightly closed to keep the pleats nice and crisp.  This afternoon I rehung them all...

They cleaned up beautifully and look great!

Don't try this if your shades are not fabric.  Mine are fabric, and seem to be very durable.  

In order to get the shades down, it was necessary to remove the valences.  They were also covered in nubby, dust-catching fabrics.  Instead of putting them back up, I contacted Bradd and Hall and asked if they would re-cover them to match the fabric they are going to re-cover our dining room folding chairs in.  We'll drop the wooden valence forms off with the dining room chairs on September 27th.  

Charlie was such a big help!
To save money, I removed all the fabric, padding, and staples from the valence forms to get them ready to drop off in Elkhart.
 I will tell you that I would not want to pay somebody an hourly wage to do this -- each valence took hours to do!  It literally took all day to do each larger one.  There were times that I had unpure thoughts about the fine Amish craftsmanship that had constructed them initially.

One minor change we made to our bedroom valences which we decided not to have recovered:
Unnecessary Dust-Catching Swag

Sleeker Look
These swags were draped over both bedroom valences.  The smaller one was just a matter of prying up staples to remove.  The larger one necessitated  a little glue job to close the seam after it was removed.  Now they let in more light and will be much easier to keep vacuumed.

Whew!  These projects began on September 5 and today (the 19th) I'm finally finished.  When we arrive in Indiana we'll begin boxing up everything that would be in the way of the workers doing the renovation.  The big "reveal" will occur sometime around October 18.  Stay tuned!