Friday, August 28, 2009

Glimpses of the Past

It's kinda rainy, kinda dreary and kinda cold today so I pulled out the DVDs I had transferred off videotapes by Wally World. One word of warning; don't use Wally World for this purpose, whoever they send it off to for the transfer did a crappy job.

However, it was fun to watch the grandkids, sons, nieces, nephews, various family members and friends at Christmas time over the past twelve years, and see some vignettes of our travels. I think I'll try to find a better service for transferring our tapes to DVDs (we've given our camcorders to the kids so don't have a way of doing it ourselves), and try again so I can eventually consolidate the Christmas videos onto one DVD for the kids. Right now, with the ones Wally World did, the sound is about five minutes behind the actual scene being played and that just doesn't get it.

Soon I may get bored, but it's been so nice just to watch the world go by these last two weeks instead of being "Joe Responsible" and having to handle all the details for my mother's estate. Footloose and fancy free is truly the lifestyle for me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stuck Inside

It's raining so I'm stuck inside. I should be doing housework, but after working on getting my mother's antique Christmas ornaments priced (finally) my eye was caught by a brochure I picked up in Elkhart, Indiana. After Bill, Diane, Denny and I explored the RV/MH Museum we had driven to Das Dutchman Essenhaus for lunch where we had a great meal. Their brochure had these "fun facts": The restaurant seats 1,100 customers at once and on a busy day will serve over 7,000 people. In a week, the restaurant may use up to: 2,100 dozen eggs, 2,700 pounds of white sugar, 60 gallons of apple butter, 3.5 TONS of potatoes, 3,600 chickens and more. And they manage to make it all without tasting like the food is massed produced.

Okay, now I'm hungry.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Lazy Days of Summer

We're in New York, visiting our oldest son and his family. We arrived Sunday, were gifted with a great meal of ribs cooked on the grill so we didn't have to cook after a long drive and had a nice visit with the grandkids. The last two days have been spent lazing around the campground, with a couple of trips into town for variety. The weather has been cooperative with low humidity, light breezes and sunshine, although the mosquitoes are a bit of a pain in the rear.

We really enjoy this campground, which would be an ideal place if only they had sewer hook ups. I'm okay doing Navy-style showers and conserving water so that we can do a once a week honey wagon flush, but I truly dislike sitting in laundromats. Minor irritants for such a lovely setting. The campground has added a second swimming pool so I don't have to walk as far if I get motivated enough to do some water aerobics while we're here.

I have some great video of the grandkids playing on the beach of the smaller pond here at the campground when they were much younger. I'll get some better pictures this week of the girls--they've grown so much since the last time we saw them.

Even Patches is enjoying the lazy days of summer--as long as no kids or dogs run by. Ever the 'fraidy cat.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Third Hop

Since leaving Ohio last Friday we've visited the city of Elkhart, Indiana to look at new fifth wheels, spent three days in Delaware, Ohio to spend time with the Darb (and suffer electrical problems and get rained on, a LOT), and then drove to Brunswick, Ohio to meet up with Denny's daughter Vicki and her husband Paul for an evening out. We ended up at Cozumel's Mexican Restaurant; great food, but mediocre margaritas. It was a most pleasant way to spend the night and this morning we awoke to much cooler temperatures.

A trip into town was necessary today to fill up Black Beauty. We also were checking out the two local grocery stores for small cans of Limeaide (near impossible to find anymore) which is where we found the wine in the previous post. Great grocery store (Little Giant) poor choice of wines. Just kidding, they had a great selection of wines including some that wouldn't be my personal taste. While driving home we discovered an Italian bakery (the owner had a picture of herself with Giada from the Food Network channel) with tons of goodies and came home with some decadent looking tiramisu. The icing on the cake today was the driver of a passing Ford 150 who called out "nice truck" and the guy at the gas station who insisted on seeing the inside of the engine compartment as well as walking all around admiring our big black truck. Black Beauty has garnered a lot of attention for us and we have a lot of fun with it.

Our fourth and final (for several days' break) hop will be to Cambria Center, NY. It will be nice to set up camp and not have to pack up again two to three days later to move on. We're hoping for a lot of quality time with our grandkids before we move on to New Jersey, a state we've yet to explore. Which means we'll be able to put another state on our "states we've visited map" at the bottom of the blog. It's been way too long since we've done that. We had a discussion the other night with fellow RVers Bill and Diane about what standards various RVers use to be able to check off the states on their maps. Some think just driving across/through the state suffices, some believe a one-night stay works, some think you have to have had sex there. ;) Denny and I feel we have to stay at least a week, play golf there and oh, yeah--that other thing too, before we color in another state on the map. Works for us!

Wrong, wrong, wrong

Need I say more?

Friday, August 21, 2009

And the Rains Came

Yesterday's plans of a turkey dinner for Darb and his wife Net almost had to be canceled due to severe thunderstorms and the need for a boat to navigate the roadways. Add to that the fact that we suddenly had no DC power for our interior lights and refrigerator and we had the potential for a mess. Fortunately, a telephone call to a local repairman gave us a quick fix (plug our batteries to a battery charger and then get ourselves to a repairman), while Darb brought over a gallon of distilled water to top of the battery cells (ours had gotten knocked over in our travels and there wasn't enough to do the job).

End result, we had DC power once again and were able to enjoy the meal. The sun actually came out for a while and the threat of tornadoes passed. Denny and I will still have to find the root cause of the DC power problems (probably a converter that is dying--it has happened to us before) but we'll have more time for that when we're in New York next week.

Today we're moving on towards Cleveland to visit Denny's daughter, Vicki. Patches will surely hide behind the couch as she doesn't like this moving on every two-three days (neither do we). Once in the truck she's fine, it's just a matter of getting her out from her hiding spot--she knows it's hard to grab her there. Dumb animals, indeed.

We're finding more and more small irritants with this trailer, so we're either going to have to invest some money into fixing it up, or seriously do some number crunching for the possibility of ordering a new rig. RVs really aren't built to be lived in 24/7; they are manufactured to be weekend and vacation vehicles so the stress of being driven thousands of miles every year and being used on a daily basis creates a lot of wear and tear.

For now though, we are just enjoying our time with friends and family. It's great being back on the road.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

RV Dreamin' or What?

It was our intent to drive to Elkhart, Indiana to look at the new Heartland Landmark Grand Canyon fifth wheel and perhaps drive away having ordered a new 2010 model before we left. Alas, it was not to be, as the Grand Canyon is a beautiful and high end rig and we just don't want the big payment on top of our big truck payment. However, a very convenient lottery win might help us out here (hint, hint, lottery gods!)

Anywho, here's a couple of pictures comparing the Landmark Augusta model to the Landmark Grand Canyon model. A new rig may still be in our future, just not right now.

The exterior of the Landmark Augusta, which differs from the Grand Canyon in that the Augusta had four slide out rooms. The Grand Canyon has three slideouts, one of which is close to being a "full wall" slideout. Very nice. Notice the puddles from the one inch of rain that fell that day.

The desk area of the Augusta.

The desk area of the Grand Canyon. An option in both units is an electric fireplace in place of the cabinet next to the desk. While the ambiance is undeniable, I need the cabinet for manuals, CDs, and "stuff".

The kitchens of the Augusta and the Grand Canyon are almost identical in the island area, but the Grand Canyon opens up more at the entrance to the rig for a more airy feel. Less counter top and cabinet space, but more room to move around.

In all honesty, the new Grand Canyon really has nothing our Palisades doesn't already have, except it's a little longer, a little lighter in weight and a little classier in appearance inside. But as Denny's friend J.D. would say, "it's awful pur-dy". RV dreamin' indeed.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

RV There Yet?

Rising out of a dusty field just south of Elkhart, Indiana's Turnpike, a two story glass behemoth sits waiting for those who have a love for the road. The RV/MH Hall of Fame (Recreational Vehicle/Motorhome) opened two years ago at this location to honor the people who worked so hard to create the RV industry and those whose love keeps it alive.

Denny and I toured the Hall of Fame with RVing friends Bill and Diane, wandering among several decades worth of tent campers, travel trailers, fifth wheels and motorhomes. Each unit displayed had a brief history (sometimes too brief) of that vehicle and some RVs you could walk through. I would have liked to have seen on the walls personal photographs of actual vintage RVs and their owners like those I've seen in RV publications, especially of those RVS "homemade" by inventive folks. Perhaps it's something the operators of the museum will consider in the future. There's a lot of inventiveness on display here, but it also shows there's not a whole lot one can do in a RV as many of the features from seventy years ago are still seen today.

An early travel trailer hitched to a Model T Ford. What we found more interesting than the travel trailer was the fact that the Model T was dark blue; I was under the impression that all Model Ts came in black only.

A early 20th century tent camper. This one originally had wagon wheels, later ones used tires. Still, it was little more than a canvas tent on a raised platform.

This "covered wagon" has an exterior covered in "leatherette" and the roof was covered in canvas. Inside was lovely dark wood with a surprising number of cabinets. This manufacturer was the largest producers of trailers in 1935, sometime building 40 to 50 units a day.

Another "Covered Wagon" model travel trailer. Like the RV industry today, you had to appeal to the populace.

A 1928 Pierce Arrow Housecar, which was one of only three built before the crash of 1929. My thought was, this vehicle didn't know if it was a motorhome...

...or a caboose! Very snazzy rear end which reminded me of the rear of train cars. I felt there should be a politician standing there stumping for votes.

I loved the sleek art deco look of this 1937 "Star" model Hunt housecar. Built by Hollywood cinematographer and producer Roy Hunt, it was called the Star because of its hood ornament. There is another Hunt Housecar that has a turtle hood ornament that is otherwise identical to this one.

Bathrooms are a necessary evil and the one in the Star Housecar was rather unique; it swung out as a kind of porta-potty. Not fun to empty, though.

Jumping to modern day RVs in a separate hall, an eye-catching entry was the "Eco-friendly" travel trailer. Made of composite materials (read plastic) rather than wood and wood by-products, there is virtually no formaldehyde and strange fumes in this unit. The Evergreen Recreational Company claims this means a more long-lasting and durable rig as it is resistant to mold, rot and mildew. Good for them!

Itaska has come out with a small motorhome that has bunk beds in a sleeping car style configuration as well as a regular bed in the bedroom. There are a few tricks still left up the sleeves of RV designers! (Skippy Mom are you seeing this????)

While the museum was not as elaborate or as detailed as I would like, it was still an interesting journey back to the beginnings of the RV industry and lifestyle. It's definitely worth a stop!

Friday, August 14, 2009


Leaving Ohio was tough. I called my aunt (Mom's sister) to tell her the house was on the market and that we were leaving the state. Whew. It really is happening. We're on the road.

We've arrived safely in Elkhart, IN, home to Amish folk and RV heaven at one time, now sadly a victim of the current economy. We're set up, online and have two drinks under our belts on an empty stomach--not a good thing if you are trying to blog. Therefore this will be short and sweet.

To leave was incredibly freeing and incredibly sad. I've lost my mother, but gained an improved relationship with my brother and sister. I'm selling my childhood home, but taking back my life with my husband.

Bittersweet indeed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


The house echoes now.

Built in the late 50s as the model home for a new plat in a newly created city, my family was one of the first to move into the neighborhood. A husband, a wife, two daughters and soon to be a son, the house changed as we changed; carpet over hardwood floors, a bedroom built in the basement, a second garage added, then a second bath. There was music; not that any of us played an instrument, but my mother would jitterbug to 45s on the record player and later came Regina music boxes, player pianos, Nickelodeons, a mechanical violin, a band organ from the carousel of the local amusement park. There was noise; we kids running into the metal support posts in the basement with our skates that clamped onto our Keds, kids singing to the tunes on the player pianos, the clink, clink, clink of coins falling into the basins of antique slot machines, Dad pounding out dents in one of his vintage cars, fights between siblings, doors slammed in teen angst.

The renovations are finished, the house is quiet. A clean slate, waiting for the next generation of children to mark the walls, slam doors, and fill the house with sound and love.

Our job is done.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Next on the List

Denny and I spent a little time this weekend contemplating our navels, but only a little time. Denny worked on some maintenance; replacing the wall border in the bathroom, putting latches on the new TV cabinet for travel, exploring the insides of his eyelids. Heh.

My day off was typical, some housework, some playing on the computer for mindless entertainment, some research for the estate and a little staring at the insides of my eyelids myself.

Today the carpet installers arrive at my mother's house, so the two of us will be starting to cart things out of the basement. My brother will have a lot of trips to make to his house since he's going to store Mom's Christmas ornament collection. I just didn't get that priced, although I'm going to try to work on that the next couple of evenings. The only other thing left (the new elephant in the room) is the baby grand player piano that's being restored half-way across the state. We'll figure something out.

So what do we have left? Empty the basement, cut up/tape/haul out old carpet from the basement, clean up down there, put up shower rod/curtain, curtain rod/curtain for the bath, re-install closet doors in three bedrooms now that the hardwood floors have dried, re-install drapery rods in the living room, clean all the floors, install new switch plates on all the outlets of all the newly painted rooms, take old paint/thinners/stains/gasoline to haz-mat, take old bed rails/work benches/scrap to scrap metal recycler, take lawn debris to city mulch recycling, clean out the shed, take leftover "stuff" to charity, haul a mattress and a lot of carpet to the curb for bulk pick, clean out all the stuff in the two garages that we've tossed there to get it off the floors that are being carpeted, run a few last minute pick up/delivery errands and hope to have all that done by this Wednesday when the realtor comes by at noon to check out the house and get the paperwork ready to put it on the market. Whew. I'm exhausted and I'm not even over there yet!

Launch date for the RV Vagabonds is scheduled for Friday, August 14.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A Visit

Denny and I took a day to breathe yesterday, enjoying a visit from The Darb, our youngest.

The picture you see is of him trying out the new/old Fender electric guitar I purchased for him from my brother. Darb has been learning to play the acoustical guitar, but I figured that having an instrument that allows you to make extremely loud, happy music couldn't be a bad thing. After some initial tuning and twanging, the guitar was put away and the frozen margaritas started to flow.

It was a good day.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Standing in line at the post office the other day I overheard a woman who was obviously a local school teacher talking to the postal employee about the incoming kindergarten class. She was appalled because they are getting children who do not understand what the word "book" means and when shown a book, they do not recognize it as such.

Understand; this is the city where I grew up that long had the reputation of having the best schools in the area, a place where people with young children aspired to live.

This scares the h*ll out of me.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Kissin' Cousins

A welcome break in our routine was a trip to a little town just north of Oxford, Ohio, home of Miami University (and what changes they've made there over the ten years since Darby graduated). One of Denny's aunts was holding a "mini" family reunion; just the remaining aunts from a family of 15 children and their children, which totals I believe about 64 cousins. Naturally, many live out of state and many couldn't make it, but it was a nice gathering of the Braun clan. Denny's aunt put on the entire spread (we ALWAYS eat well at Braun family reunions) including the homemade peach and strawberry ice creams. Yum. There was much eating, talking and laughter. A good day.

The Braun cousins. Only 26 of the 64 this time around. Catching them with their mouths closed is a feat in itself. Seated in order of age, starting with Wanda to Denny's left (in the bright pink).

The aunts; in their 80s and 90s and still going strong.

The "outlaws"; those of us who married into the family. And yes, stress obviously has packed on some pounds in my case so it's back to Atkins for me when this is all over. Sigh.
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