Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Eastward Bound - Minneapolis, MN to Massachusetts

Days 6-8 Minneapolis, MN to Lebanon, OH (8/23-8/24)

True to our commitment to slow down, we took three days to motor 786 miles from Minneapolis to Cincinnati, where we paused for two nights in Lebanon, OH to enjoy some Cincinnati Chile and Grater’s ice cream.

With our charging system repaired and the weather cooling down (somewhat), we boondocked both nights along the way, the first night at the Flying J in South Beloit, IL, and the second at Camp Wal-Mart in Danville, IL, on I-74 near the Indiana border.

We like the J’s because they have all the services we need (fuel, propane, water, dump station), camper parking out front away from the trucks, and decent food. It’s not that we object to parking with trucks, but sometimes they aren’t real friendly to us RV folks, so we prefer not to bother them.

Camp Wal-Mart is a more Spartan venue, but perfectly adequate for one night stops. Many stores are located near an interstate interchange, which obviates the necessity to drive miles off the track to find a campground.

We took fewer pictures as we approached more familiar territory, not for any conscious reason, but more because we were gradually slipping out of the “touring” mindset as we got closer to our home base. We include below a few representative photos from the Minneapolis to Cincinnati segment:

Wisconsin Cornfield

Our first Tollbooth This Summer

Flat, Flat, Flat Illinois Farmland

A Different Kind of Farm

The United States National Flower

A Bucolic Illinois Farm Scene

Rolling Into the Southern Indiana Hills

Another Milestone

Suburban Sprawl Near Cincinnati

Days 8-9 Lebanon, Ohio (8/25, 26)

Two years ago we visited the Cincinnati area to enjoy the Tall Stacks Festival with the Winnebago Club. At that time we stayed at Cedarbrook, a lovely campground in Lebanon, Ohio. We liked the area so much that we decided to stop there for a couple of days on our way home.

There are a number of really good restaurants around Cincinnati, which Keith discovered on his many business trips to the area. Included are the Montgomery Inn in Montgomery (great ribs), The Golden Lamb in Lebanon, the Grand Finale in Glendale (known for their desserts, hence the name), and many others whose names have succumbed to CRS.

Cincinnati also is known for their unique chili. Of a very thin consistency and served over spaghetti with choice of shredded cheese, onions, beans and hot sauce, it has a distinct, somewhat smoky flavor. Recipes are closely guarded, but are rumored to contain cinnamon and chocolate, as well as the usual chili suspects such as tomato, onion, garlic, and, of all things, chili powder.

There are two Chili chains in the area, Skyline and Gold Star. Both are good, although we tend to prefer tend to prefer Skyline. If you are transiting through the Cincinnati airport, there is a Gold Star outlet at the food court in terminal B. Keith’s preference is the 4-way, with shredded cheese and onions, plus hot sauce to taste.

Immediately upon arriving we unhooked and drove to the Skyline in Lebanon for a fix. That evening we dined on Cincinnati’s other signature dish, Graeter’s Ice Cream. The adult size hot fudge sundae with whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry is sufficient to make an evening meal. Graeter’s is the best ice cream we have ever eaten, bar none. Check them out at www.graeters.com - they ship.

The next day Kathy did laundry, and we enjoyed a campfire. We had intended to lunch at the Golden Lamb, but we found that our hunger for chili was not fully saited, so it was back to Skyline for a second day in a row. Not wishing to screw up a perfect record, we again had supper at Greater’s.

The next morning it was up anchor for the next segment to Annapolis.

A Happy Camper in Lebanon

Serving the Best Ice Cream in the World

Another Satisfied Customer

Home an Excellent and Unusual Chili

Days 10-11 (8/27-28) Lebanon, OH to Annapolis, MD

We traveled the 500 miles from Lebanon to Annapolis in two days, again boondocking at Wally World in Morgantown, WV. Used to be we would always drop into the store to request permission before staying the night, but have recently started calling the store in advance to ask permission, which avoids the potential for umpleasant surprises. It used to be difficult to obtain the store telephone numbers, which are not listed in the Wal-Mart location atlas. However, our acquisition of an air card a couple of years ago makes it convenient to go online and obtain the number after we pick the store from the atlas. We especially like the fact that the atlas specifically identifies those stores which are located near an interstate interchange.

Being on a mission to see Keith’s granddaughters, and to get hunkered down before the Labor Day traffic commenced, we just drove and did not take the time to take pictures on this leg, so there ain’t none.

Days 12-21 (8/28-9/7) Visiting Keith’s Grandkids

Shortly after our daughter bought her house outside Annapolis, Keith paid a contractor to re-grade the front lawn and pour a 6” double wide concrete driveway, complete with 50 amp electrical service. With the nearby availability of a sewer cleanout for dumping, this makes a perfect place to park for a couple of weeks and visit. We are close by, but not underfoot, and have our own private space when it’s time for the afternoon nap (and often early retirement). Fortunately the neighbors seem to tolerate a motorhome in the front yard for the odd week or two, so that’s not a problem.

Fortunately Keith was able to find a couple of small projects that kept his hands and mind occupied, but did not overtax his aching back. Following up on something he saw at the day care center, he installed half-height hand rails in the stairwells, at a height convenient for two and four year old hands. He also fabricated a gate to match the fencing around a patio which is accessed from a sliding glass door in the family room, so the kids can be left out without supervision for short periods. The gate was a challenge because the fence posts were frost-heaved and out of plumb in both directions, requiring some resetting and some shimming to make a square, plumb opening. It’s problematic whether it will stay square through the winter.

A cute story – Keith used a post hole digger to excavate the dirt from one side of a post, then drove a wedge down the other side to straighten it. He left the hole open until after the gate was mounted, to allow for final tweaking. The next morning, after erecting and plumbing the gate, he started to fill the hole, whereupon there was a sudden flurry of activity down below. Turns out a juvenile runny babbit had fallen in the hole, and couldn’t get out. It appeared quite incensed to have dirt tossed on it’s head so early in the day. Keith assisted it out of the hole, whereupon it ran frantically away.

Site of the Runny Babbit Incident

Days 22-23 (9/8-9) – End of the Idyll

Monday, Sept 8 we raised anchor and motored north to Pennsylvania for a visit with Keith’s sister. Her kids stopped by to visit, and she fed us an excellent dinner, after which we spent the night parked by the curb in front of her house, again confident that our house batteries would recharge while driving the next day. We arose early Tuesday to arrive in Massachusetts in time to have lunch with Kathy’s middle daughter on her day off from retail. We arrived in time for lunch, but she unfortunately had a migraine and couldn’t join us.

Our home base in Massachusetts is a condominium. The association rules unfortunately prohibit us from bringing the motorhome on the property, even to load and unload. We have a snoopy old lady three units down who calls every time we drive in, and we have received letters threatening with fines a couple of times, for stopping to unload the refrigerator. So, with the refrigerator nearly empty we by-passed the condo and drove another 20 miles to the storage yard. We emptied the rig and drove sadly back to the condo to take up our other life for a couple of months. We plan to camp on the Cape Cod Canal for two or three weeks later in September (when the rates go down), then we will punctuate our land bound sojourn by getting married on 22 November. After Christmas with the grandchildren, we will head south for the winter.

Stay tuned