Brown County, Virginia, and a run south

After our unexpected extended stay in Elkhart, we began a complex set of maneuvers designed to meet up with family while continuing our move south.  In retrospect, we made this harder than necessary and transitioned into the southern climate way earlier than ideal given the blazing September and October temps in Georgia and Florida, but we will chalk that up to a lesson learned and plan better next year.

We started the scheme with a run down to Nashville, Indiana (not the other one) to meet up with Dad and Marcia again.  They had social and business obligations there, it was on our route, and we generally like the Brown County area.  We secured reservations at the very large Brown County State Park, but since we did not get out of Elkhart until mid-afternoon we didn’t arrive until after dark.  We enjoyed a cocktail or two with Dad and Marcia to unwind, but had to make it a relatively early evening since I had to get Rose to the airport an hour away in Indianapolis the next morning.

Having failed to take any pictures while in Brown County, I am forced to punctuate these paragraphs with unrelated photos.  Enjoy these peppers and other vegetables.

While Rose visited family in Virginia, I stayed a couple more days in Indiana exploring Nashville with Dad and Marcia.   In addition to a couple of short outings to geocache, we hit several nice places for drinks and food.  The martini at Big Woods Distillery made me reassess my preference for the vodka over the classic gin version, and the meals at The Story Inn and The Hob Nob were both excellent.  I am not sure how the waitstaff kept track of the orders and checks for our big group of 16 diners at the latter restaurant.

This is Serenity in the shop, and yet I have not mentioned a reason for Serenity to be in the shop thus far this post.  This is called foreshadowing.  

After a couple days it was time for the long drive down to Atlanta, which I broke up with a three days stop at the Arnold Air Force Base Family Camp in Tennessee.   My five hour drive turned into a seven hour ordeal when that tire I purchased in Iowa blew out on the interstate.  My roadside assistance through Progressive found me a place truck tire place only nine miles back up the road, and since the blown tire was on one of the rear doolies, I was able to nurse the rig there, and they had me back on the road only $350 poorer.

I made it to the AFB in time to set up and even work in a quick swim before dark.  This is one of those great value military parks in a very tranquil setting with many spots, lke mine, right on the lake.  It offers power and water for $18 a night, and word must be out this place because I was only able to get a late reservation for the weekend due to someone else having just cancelled.   I seem to recall working wifi last visit, but this time I could not get it to function at all.  I managed to get a full day of geocaching in during this stay, setting a new “finds in one day” personal record of 25 caches.  Plans to continue the fun the next day fell victim to heavy rains.

While I was living it up in Indiana and Tennessee, Rose was Linda, Jayson, and the ever growing families of their three sons in Chesapeake, VA.  She was there to help celebrate Jayson’s birthday, and participate in the general chaos associate with nine grand children under ten years.  They took Linda on an outing to perennial favorite Dollar Tree, where Chris, who had never been in one before went a bit nuts because OMG EVERTHING IN HERE IS ONLY A DOLLAR!  Noob.

Linda and Linda Rose

From Tennessee it was on to Atlanta to visit more family and pick up Rose, but we will hit that next post.

Two days turns into eight in Elkhart, IN

Sometime during our run south from Michigan the right upper corner of our windshield gasket separated from the frame of the motorhome leaving an air gap big enough to slide fingers through.  Fortunately, that side of the windshield had been replaced less than a year ago, and Duncan Systems, the RV glass company contracted by Progressive Insurance to arrange the job, agreed that this repair should be under warranty.  We had thought it a simple process, but the first tech to look at it in Ames, Iowa said it was a half day affair, and they couldn’t fit us in until Monday at the earliest.  Wanting to get back on the road, we arranged to have the work done by Master Tech RV in Elkhart, our next destination, first thing Tuesday morning.

Elkhart being longer than our preferred drive, we made a one day stop at Condit’s Ranch in Putnam, IL. Though it was a bit further off the interstate than ideal, the property was very attractive, the management made us feel very much at home, and as a Passport America participant it was very affordable: $20 for full hook ups, though the positioning of the sewage connection meant I simply used it as a dump station on our way out. 

Duncan Systems made arrangements for an assessment at Master Tech first thing Tuesday morning, so we arrived Monday afternoon and stayed in the parking lot overnight, but not before we swung into Factory RV Surplus to check on possible discounted captains chairs to replace our wretched originals.  They had a couple of options for us, and we selected some beautiful modern chairs in a dark brown/charcoal color that really look nice in our rig.  The installation was pretty easy, just four bolts per chair.  We are really happy to actually start some of the significant improvements to our interior we have discussed for some time.

The next morning Mastertech took a look and confirmed it would be at least a half day job, and to do it right they would need to remove both halves of the windshield and replace the gasket.  Fortunately, the gasket was in the next town over.  Unfortunately it still took two days to arrive, so suddenly we were at a minimum four day stay. 

Yes, we sulked a bit, but at least Mastertech moved us inside and we had a 30 amp connection for the remainder of our stay, free guest wifi, and a visitors lounge with robust cable and on demand shows.  We spent a lot of time there.  Aside from a bit of geocaching, watching TV is about all we did in Elkhart, the ongoing delays putting us in a bit of a funk.

Making ourselves at home at Master Tech RV

So Friday they completed the installation of the gasket and window, only to have the left side crack almost immediately after it was sealed in place.  Which, of course, meant a new window needed to be ordered.  I spent a good amount of time on the phone with Duncan Systems expressing my displeasure at how long it had taken to drop off a simple gasket from 12 miles away, and trying to increase their sense of urgency such that we could receive the windshield for delivery first thing Monday morning.  Which we did not, resulting in increasingly hostile discussions with them until it was finally delivered Tuesday mid-morning. 

The view out of non-existant windshield while inside Master Tech’s large facility.  

Mastertech got the new glass in before lunch, and after a few hours to let the seal cure, we were finally on our way south to Brown County, Indiana to meet up with Dad and Marcia again. 

PKM is sometimes a bit quicker on the draw than we are, and manages to go for a bit of a run before we can get the lead secured to her harness.  We would like to break her of this, but at least she never runs far before letting us catch her. 

Ames, Iowa, en route to Indiana

Alright so: here at Shell On Wheels we operate with limited advance planning.  That means few reservations more than a week in advance, leaving us the flexibility to adjust our itinerary on the go.  But after careful coordination with Dad and Stepmom Marcia, we had agreed to meet up in Brown County, Indiana, one of the most interesting destinations in that state, during mid September.  But, reasonable route planning meant that we should first visit daughter Andrea, currently enrolled in a nursing program in Ames, Iowa.  As it happened, Dad and Marcia, full time Rvers as well, were coming from the west, and it worked out quite well for all of us to gather in Ames before some of us met up in Indiana.

And so that is what The Great Shell On Wheels Casino Run of ’18 set in motion:  a pre-visit with family in Iowa before an eventual gathering in Indiana.  But where, oh where shall we stay?  Our two previous stops in Ames entailed a stay at Little Wall Lake County Park (a bit further away from Andrea than ideal) and a year later a stop at Ledges State Park (an ideal location, but closed for major repair and renovation work this season.) N

Fortunately Dad and Marcia got to Ames a couple of days before us, settled for a night in a “resort” park, and spent the next day scouting all of the local options; county, state, and private.  Their clear favorite was Hickory Grove County Park, just a few miles east of downtown Ames.  And so that is where we gathered; a two day overlap in our mutual schedules as part of our five day stay in Ames.

This was a great park; for our purposes clearly better than Little Wall because of the location, and surprisingly superior to Ledges, mainly because so many of the sites were situated directly on a nice forest lake.  Sure, it was electric hook up only, but with a fill and dump station, the $17 a night fee was a great deal.

Our excellent site backed right up on the lake.

Is Ames a destination city?  No, it is not.  But does it have some very appealing things for the intrepid RVer to enjoy? Yes, it does.  Daughter Andrea has never steered us wrong here, and this time we all enjoyed a fantastic meal at Provisions Lot.   The  Shrimp Bucatini was to die for, and the Fennel Meatball Pizza was awesome.  Even as leftovers, we loved their food.

While Andrea was working, the rest of us spent some time exploring the small but interesting nearby town of Nevada, and once we had seen both of the antique and thrift shops, we nabbed a couple of local geocaches.  Which, by the way, I feel obligated to again point out that we introduced Dad and Marcia to the hobby, and yet they are, after only two years, well ahead of us in finds!  They have only motivated us to get back into it all.

The observant reader will note that there is not a single picture of any of the so called family members we supposedly met up with this visit.  We failed to take a single one.  In lieu of that, enjoy this butterfly.

And so once they left for Indiana, Rosemarie and I spent an afternoon hitting a few more local caches, and I met Andrea, Nate, and one of their friends for lunch at the always tasty Pammel’s Grocery and Grill, specializing in Middle Eastern/Mediterranean casual meals.  We spent our last day getting Serenity ready for the road, starting with a tire change of a particularly worn balding on on the rear axle.  The next day it was time to head to Elkhart Indiana to get our windshield repaired (again!) and look for some discount interior furniture.