Thursday, September 19, 2019

Homeward Bound

The States We Visited During Summer of 2019

Roger here...  The map above shows our summer homes.  Our target area was Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire; however, we saw so much more, and we visited with so many friends and family.

I will be honest.  I was dreading the long drive home from Duluth, Minnesota to Mission, Texas.  (The very top of the US to the very bottom -- D.)
I knew that there would be a lot of hours on the road as well as many overnight stops.  We were both pleasantly surprised by the stops along the way:  

Ellenburg, Minnesota....

The Crystal Springs RV Resort right next to the interstate was truly a surprise.  It is a developing RV community with great potential.

The formal landscaping
walkways near our site were especially well done.

After a long day of driving, it was a special treat to walk a few steps from our site to go on a relaxing one-mile hike around the resort's lake.  

We did not see bigfoot (or a moose) but we did walk through clouds of fresh monarch butterflies --- literally thousands.   (Dianne here -- they were obviously freshly hatched and feeding en masse on a large field of goldenrod, presumably to prepare for their long migration south.   I wonder if we'll see any of these same butterflies in Mission?)

America the Beautiful

Des Moines (Saylorville Lake)...

We stopped at a Corps of Engineers Campground just north of Des Moines, Iowa so that Dianne could do genealogy research at the Des Moines Library.  She did find some useful information, but not as much as she had hoped.

Iowa State Capital in Des Moines

Wallace State Park (Cameron, Missouri)...

Jim and Sue recommended that we stop at Wallace State Park (near I-35) in Missouri.  It was a great recommendation.  

We enjoyed a 3-mile hiking trail through the deep woods.  The trail head was directly across from our campsite.  We could easily have spent more time here.

Benbrook Lake (Corps of Engineers Park near Ft. Worth, Texas)....

After a nondescript overnight stop just south of 
Wichita, Kansas, we drove to the Fort Worth area.  

Along the way we made a short stop at Buc-ee's.  I stayed with the dogs in the parking lot while 
Dianne explored this gigantic convenience store.

She came out smiling.  

Our drive through the Dallas/Ft. Worth area was not fun, but that was to be expected.  We eventually arrived at the Bear Creek Corps of Engineers Campground on Benbrook Reservoir.

View of Benbrook Lake from our Site

The campground was not very well maintained.  The sites and the facilities were in desperate need of upgrades.  That being said, this was a beautiful and restful reprieve from the city traffic.

We stayed here nine years ago.  At that time the water level was so low that we could walk on the cracked, dry lake bottom.  The smell of decay was pervasive.  The water level is still low, but as you can see in the photo below, the former lake bottom is now covered by colorful rushes and shore plants.  Nature always finds a way.  Oh, and the odor was a thing of the past.

We were pretty much alone in our area of the park.  The quiet of the setting helped us to enjoy our site. 

The sunset during our one-night stay was spectacular. We love the big sky and the Texas sunsets.

Austin, Texas....

We spent the next night at the Lonestar RV 
Resort outside of Austin.  It was a nice park well away from the craziness of the city.  It was also only 12 miles from the Airstream dealership where we had scheduled an annual inspection.

A year ago, when we were in Austin, it was extremely wet with continual flash flood warnings.  As you can see from the photo, water was not a problem this time.

We managed to park our extremely small 
Airstream next to a mammoth Airstream.  Kind of funny.

A vehicle inspection is always a little stressful.  Our day began by spending a half an hour negotiating closed city roads next to the dealership.  We eventually stumbled onto an open back gate and weaved our way to the service area with a few minutes to spare.  

The inspection was supposed to be finished in three hours.  We had the dogs with us.  We survived by sitting under a tree in a nearby Cabela's parking lot.  Dianne and I took turns going into the store.  The time passed quickly for whichever person was in the store :-).  We then visited an HEB to get a few groceries and headed back to pick up the Airstream.  

It was almost ready, but the service department recommended that the bearings be repacked, another hour, but glad to have it done.  
It was also a relief that they found no other problems.

Time to fight the Austin streets and traffic again as we slowly progressed to Fredericksburg.  Ah!  

Fredericksburg, Texas.....

 Our last stop before we arrived home in Mission, Texas was one of our very favorite places.  The hill country of Texas (just west of Austin and San Antonio) is so scenic and there are so many things to do.  The KOA east of town is quite close to the things we enjoy, and we are always able to find a shady quiet spot at the back of the campground.  We stayed three nights.  We loved seeing the donkeys in the photo below from the sitting area of our campsite.

They are actually grooming each other.

When reading about our stay in the Fredericksburg area, please keep in mind that our activities were spread over two days.  Too much fun in a single day no longer fits in our lifestyle :-)

We recently discovered the Fat Ass Ranch and Winery.  Some wineries are sophisticated and serene.  Some wineries are outrageous.  It is not difficult to guess which this one was.

The wine here is different than the wine that we usually drink.  That being said, it is actually pretty good.  We did a tasting here and bought a couple of bottles in the honky tonk tasting room.

On weekends trailer food is available outside next to the horse shoe courts.

Obviously, Dianne's arms are not long enough to take this selfie. ;-).

(Not one of my talents -- D.)

Our "go-to" winery for many years has been 
the Grape Creek Winery.  We are members of the wine club and needed to pick up the 3-bottle shipment that would have been delivered in the hot June weather (when we were not there).

As wine club members we get a free glass of wine with every visit in the "members only" section of the beautiful patio.

We had a tasty meal in the trattoria during our visit.

We have visited many wineries in the Fredericksburg area over the years.  There are countless wineries here. Since our last visit several more have popped up.  I wanted to try something new.  After doing some research, the Signor Winery seemed to fit the bill.  It did.

What a setting Signor Winery provided for enjoying a glass of wine.  The landscaping
was amazing.

Rather than do a tasting, we decided to have a glass of Sangiovese (Dianne's favorite wine).  It was outstanding.  We bought a couple of bottles.

We also enjoyed a delicious tray of cheeses, meats, jalapeƱo jelly, and olives.  

We have officially added this to our list of "must visit" wineries.

Our next stop was to buy fresh peaches from one of the orchards.  We always seemed to miss the peach season, but we lucked out this time.

The imposing Altstadt Brewery was another stop for us.  I had a glass of Alt beer.  Dianne had a glass of Chianti.  We both had delicious soft pretzels with cheese and mustard.  

We could not return to the RV park without ice cream.  We drove into Fredericksburg for a required stop at Clear River.  Yum!

Dianne's choice:  One scoop amaretto peach pecan, and one scoop pecan pie.

I could not end this post without a photo of the longhorns back at the Fredericksburg RV park.  Hey Y'all, we are back home in Texas!

We arrived home to a tropical jungle in the back yard.  It took us three days to clean up all the excess foliage.  Being away during the summer months in a subtropical climate results in quite a bit of sweat when we get back.  

Back home in Indiana we called this a brush pile.

This will be our last post until we travel again.  We are already planning next summer's adventures.

Dianne's Teensy-Weensy Trailer Tip:

One item that was indispensable this trip was the carrying/storage case I bought for my small 3-quart Instant Pot.  

Not only did it protect the Instant Pot from scratches and bumps, it also had enough storage in the top compartment for all the accessories...

And pockets to hold other items, including the electrical cord.   Handles made it easy to tote around.  

This brings an end to the trailer tips.   I originally thought I'd just do one blog with all the tips, but decided it might be better to string them out all summer, so I did.   Hope you enjoyed them!  -- D.

Pet Picture of the Day...

During our time in Fredericksburg, we stopped at Dogologie on Main Street.  Dianne insisted on buying clothes for our dogs.  After all, there are two weeks of chilliness in extreme south Texas.

Not needed for winter, but stylin' nonetheless

Ready for "Winter" Texas Style

Monday, September 9, 2019

Dog Days in Duluth

View of Lake Superior and Wisconsin from Enger Park

Roger here....  After a two-day drive from Door County, Wisconsin, we arrived for a long stay with our friends Jim and Sue (and their dogs) in Duluth, Minnesota.

This was our 30 amp campsite in their side yard.  However, we spent every night except one in a private suite on the second floor of their home.  Sweet!  (Jim and Sue know we're slugs in the morning, so the kitchenette was perfect to make our own coffee and breakfast while they did their usual early-morning stuff.  It was like staying in a four-star hotel -- everywhere I looked, Sue had put out thoughtful touches for us. -- D)

There was plenty of room at the back of their property for walking the dogs.  However, we counted on Jim and Sue to take us on daily morning and evening walks --- just like old times in Texas when they lived in our neighborhood.  

Front row:  Bandido, Poquita
Back row: Gabe, Klick
Our dogs were, of course, the focus of our walks.  Here we are getting ready for a walk in the rain.

It seems as if Proctor has copied the Boilermaker Special as its team mascot.
During one of our walks we explored the county fairgrounds in the nearby town of Proctor.

Gooseberry Falls State Park...

View of Lake Superior from Gooseberry Falls State Park
One morning we all piled into Jim and Sue's vehicle and toured Gooseberry Falls State Park.  Scenic does not begin to describe this place.

Three waterfalls cascade through the rocky face of the park. We hiked up and down and around both sides of the rushing water.

Dianne loves cairns.  At one point we strayed from the path down to the running water where a city of cairn skyscrapers drew our attention away from the falls.

Below is one last photo of the falls from the bottom of the lower falls all the way up to the highway above.

According to Sue, no trip to Gooseberry
Falls is complete without a stop at Betty's Pies.  We bought four pieces of pie for our evening happy hour.  Yum.

Duluth Trading Company...

I don't want to get too personal; however, It was time to update (throw away) some of my underwear.  What better place to do this than Duluth!  Sue took us to the Duluth Trading Company and to the Duluth Pack Store.

Getting there was somewhat of an adventure.  It reminded me of the pervasive roadwork from our visit to Indiana.  

it is!!!

how to get to it?

Miscellaneous Dog Antics....

Let's see now.  How many dogs did we have with us?  Our dogs (Bandido and Poquita) --- that's two.  Jim and Sue's dogs (Klick and Gabe) --- that makes four.  However, the picture below shows five dogs.  Oh yeah, James (Jim and Sue's son) went on a camping trip with his wife and kids.  They dropped off their dog (Kohana) to join the fun.

L to R:  Kohana, Klick, Gabe, Bandido, Poquita

Kohana and I hit it off right away.  This loving dog shadowed and liked everybody.  I liked to think she liked me best :-).

Sue got a picture of her cleaning my ears.

Worn out from hiking at Gooseberry Falls State Park
Poquita's favorite spot is on Dianne's lap.  However, usually she is laying down when she falls asleep --- not standing.


After a rocky start, Bandido and Kohana (the granddog) became best friends.  They had great fun chasing the pigeons out of the back yard every afternoon.  Poquita joined them.  I wish we had a movie of the fun.  The picture below depicts the constant watch.   

Notice that Bandido's tail is in motion :-)  The first pigeon arrived in the upper right corner of the photo.

Iron Clyde's...

During our stay, Sue and Jim prepared a mid afternoon meal every day.  We did not eat an evening meal other than appetizers (including pie) and wine.

In an attempt to repay their hospitality in some small way, we tried to pay for the cost of meals away from their home.   We had a great meal at Iron Clyde's one afternoon in an authentic iron works.

View from the Second Floor Restaurant.  Check out the photo on the far wall.

Jim, Sue, Dianne

Jay Cooke State Park...

No one can dispute that the area around Duluth is amazingly scenic.  Jay Cooke State Park was no exception.  Hiking there was a great experience. The suspension bridge in the photo below led to a (sometimes confusing) series of trails along a river and into the forest.

Into the woods we went.

The views of the river were spectacular.

Sue was our trail blazer. Armed with knowledge and a trail map, she adeptly directed our travels.  However, at one point (maybe two),  Jim questioned her choices.

I climbed a rock face to get an elevated view of the terrain, and....

.... after observation, determined that (as always), Sue was correct --- well mostly correct  :-).

With a little coaxing, Dianne scrambled up the rock to join me.  

Enger Park...

Dianne and I gave Jim and Sue a break one morning, driving a short distance to Enger Park.  The park towers over Duluth, just as this five-story tower, towers over the park.  We, of course, climbed to the top.

The elevated views of Lake Superior, the Duluth Harbor, and the iconic Lift Bridge were especially nice in the morning light.

The Hills of Wisconsin in the Background

Downtown Duluth

The iconic lift bridge is on the left.  The harbor area to the right becomes an RV park after the boats are lifted from the lake.  We stayed there in June 2011.  Unique spot!

The photo below is one of our favorites.  We were fortunate to watch the bridge surface lift so that a boat could pass beneath it.  Quite a nice experience from one of the park benches!

(Dianne here:  In the dead of winter it is amazing to check the Duluth Harbor live webcam and realize just how frigid Duluth is in the winter...

Duluth Harbor Live Webcam

  Our friend Jim showed me this link years ago.   There is also a boat schedule on the web site so that you can watch the huge cargo ships enter and leave the harbor, winter or summer.  It blows my mind in the winter to view this webcam from tropical Mission, Texas under a palm tree -- it's like looking at Antarctica!  I couldn't look at this view without remembering the frigid scenes I'd seen over the years on the webcam.)

We meandered on pathways throughout the park.  The Japanese garden area was especially well done.  

The flowered views of the tower on the precipice of the hilltop added to the experience.  So did the ice cream that we purchased from a food truck in the parking lot --- our late breakfast :-)

Our time with our friends and their dogs was special.  Thanks, Jim and Sue, for your hospitality and your friendship.   (It was the perfect way to close out our great summer vacation -- D.)

We are currently on our way home.  The trip from Duluth, Minnesota in the far north to Mission, Texas in the far south will be lengthy.  Thoughts of our home in south Texas have been calling us.

Dianne's Teensy Weensy Trailer Tip...

Here's another tip I discovered mid-way through the trip:  By reversing the dinette cushions on the seat bench they form a protected "corral" to place items (like my Instant Pot) for travel down the bumpy highways, things I'd rather not place on the floor or that won't fit in my collapsible crates.  

The edge of the dinette table (on the right, out of camera range) holds the cushions in place, and the countertop closes up the "corral".

Pet Pictures of the Day...

We loved watching Sue dispense treats to the dogs each afternoon at "treat time":