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2017-10-16 Westbound; Home!

We left the Visalia WalMart at about 8:15 this morning.  We pulled the Villa over the Grapevine, and arrived in Irvine:

 

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Our intrepid crew was waiting to greet us:

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Happy Hours and a home cooked meal ensued; an enjoyable time was had by all…

June 10-October 16

128 Nights

Over 15,000 miles, including about 1,000 miles as part of the WBCCI Nor’ by Nor’east Caravan

28 States, 5 Canadian Provinces, all 5 Great Lakes, 10 border crossings between US and Canada

Public transportation:  7 Train trips, 4 bus trips, and 3 Uber rides (not counting excursions as part of the Nor’ by Nor’east Caravan)

8 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings

5 Laura Ingalls Wilder sites and museums

Visited by our grandchildren:  2

12 Visits to friends and/or family

3 Visits for service on the Chevrolet Silverado truck

5 visits for service on the Airstream

143 Airstreams seen along the road or in RV parks ( plus 24 on the Nor’ by Nor’east Caravan, 31 at the Carson City Rally, 98 at the Jackson Rally, and many, many more at the various Airstream dealers we visited along the way…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017-09-14 Westbound; New Refrigerator and Minnesota…

We were up at 5:00 am to get the Villa ready to be moved into the service bay here at Shorewood RV, just outside Minneapolis.  All went well, and by 6:15 the Villa was in the Service Bay and we were on the road to the town of Elk River, about 6 miles down the road…

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Elk River is a delightful town along the banks of the Mississippi River.  The town has been around a long time, but recent developments have nicely enhanced the town and the feel of the downtown business district.  As you see in the photo above, the historic buildings are on the left and a new apartment building is on the right.  The new building fits the scale of the street, contains retail spaces at the street level, and provide a very human scaled space.  The same thing is going on around the corner:

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We walked about the town, then had breakfast at the Olde Main Eatery.  It is what a small town diner should be:  friendly people, regulars sitting at their regular tables, with olde time photographs on the wall.  We enjoyed a nice breakfast and looked at maps to better understand the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore.  We hope to be there the day after tomorrow (Saturday).

After breakfast we walked down to the Mississippi River; it was very quiet in the early morning light:

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The town has developed a nice waterfront park with an informal amphitheater for community events.  All in all, it is a very nice town!

We returned to Shorewood RV to find out thet there was a small snag in the parts that had been delivered, so it was going to take a little longer to complete the new refrigerator installation.. We spent the morning in their lounge, planning our stays for the next few days…

By 11:30 the refer was done and we were hitching up.  We were underway just before noon.  We are heading west, across most of Minnesota, but first we had to get out of Minneapolis.   We even encountered our first detour of our trip; we were led off the southbound freeway and re-routed back north again for five miles, then west and south again.  Hopefully, we won’t see this type of thing again any time soon.

Once we were out of the city we traveled easily along two lane roads through endless farmland.  While it was quite beautiful, it was not as lush as Wisconsin.  On the other hand, it is one week later and fall is clearly on its way.

These photos show what we saw all day:

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We did see a little Minnesota humor adjacent to one gas station:

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And then, out of the blue, the road was closed.  We had to head back east about 15 miles before we could go south and then west again.. These detours are maddening!  Why can’t they put up better signs and prior warnings?

There are also some small towns that we passed through.  Some are really tiny; this is Gibbon.  It is a little more substantial than many:

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And churches.  Lots of churches:

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Our mid-day break was to stop and see the town of Walnut Grove and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum:

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The Ingalls family lived in Walnut Grove in two increments of two years each.  In between, they moved to Iowa and managed a hotel for two years.  In contrast to the Little House on the Prairie TV Show, they had a miserable time here.  They lived in a dug-out, and their wheat crops were wiped out two years in a row by grasshoppers; they pretty much lost everything and moved to Iowa. Also, Mary had a stroke (not scarlet fever) that left her blind, and a newborn baby boy died.  After their years in Iowa they returned to Walnut Grove, and “Pa” opened a butcher shoppe, while Laura worked as a housekeeper in the local hotel.  But I digress…

The museum has very little memorabilia that is actually from the Ingalls family.  There are lots of historical references, photos, book excerpts, and antiques gathered from many sources that attempt to show what life was like on the prairie.  It was interesting in a modest way.  But, in general, a giant waste of time…

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They have a re-creation of a typical dugout, but it is made from reinforced concrete…

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They have a recreation of a typical school house from the 1880s; Laura taught school for two years, starting when she was 15 years old, but it was not here:

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To prove to you readers just how old I am, I actually did attend a two-room school, and we had desks exactly like this… (We never could figure out what those holes in the desk-tops were for…)

So we moved on; tomorrow we visit De Smet, the actual “Little Town on the Prairie”…

We drove to our RV park for the night, in Pinestone, MN.  We have full hook-ups (water, sewer, power), plus good internet access and satellite TV.  We had a quiet night, with Happy Hours and burritos for dinner.  Tomorrow we can shop to re-stock the refrigerator.

An an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017-09-13 Westbound; Leaving Thunder Bay!

Today is the day!  We are finally leaving Thunder Bay, a full two weeks after we arrived…

2017-09-13 Thunder Bay Leaving

Our destination today is Shorewood RV, just outside Minneapolis; we are scheduled to get out refrigerator replaced.  (You recall our refer failed in PEI about one month ago…)

It was an uneventful trip, traveling southwest from Thunder Bay, continuing southwest to Minneapolis, then west to Anoka and Shorewood RV.

We stopped about every 1 1/2 hours or so to break up the trip.  We try to walk a bit and keep out Apple watches happy.  This rest stop was about one hour south of Duluth:

2017-09-13 Minnesota Rest Stop

The truck once again performed flawlessly, and we easily rolled along.  We arrived at Shorewood RV at about 3:30, and checked in to the Service department to make sure everything was on schedule.  They told us where to park, so we pulled in and set up for the night:

2017-09-13 Shorewood RV

A few minutes later they called to tell us the refer was here and they would be picking up the Villa at 6:00 am tomorrow morning…

We have good power, good internet access, good satellite TV, and air conditioning – it is 88 degrees and very humid!  We did add a sticker to our map:

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Happy Hours ensued and an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017-08-23 Westbound; Back at CanAm RV for service…

We left Burning Kiln Winery at about 5:00 am; we had a lovely drive in the dark; we stopped for coffee about 6:30, and we rolled into CanAm RV about 7:30.  We pulled into “our” parking spot, and hooked up to power.

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We had a few issues for CanAm today: They will install the new stainless steel rock guards we ordered last time we were here (see above…)  Also, they will check out, and hopefully fix, the refrigerator, they will replace the cracked and mostly missing skylight, they will look into why the electric water heater blows the circuit breaker, and they will look at the rear storage hatch frame, plus a few odds and ends. After 9,000 miles on the road, it’s time for a little fix-up.

About 8:15 Dan came by. He checked out our hitch, and everything seemed fine. He did tell me that I needed to buy grease to lubricate the hitch, one of the most awful things about the EazLift hitch…  They pulled the Villa into their service bay and we left for town.

We stopped into the local Chevy dealer and asked for an oil change and regular service; while they worked, we walked to the neighboring Costco to see if they carried my beloved Vita Rain Water.  Nope – we struck out again.  We did stop into a grocery store and bought a few minor things, and by the time we were back at the Chevy dealer the truck was not only finished, but they had washed it as well!

We drove back to CanAm and we were informed that the refrigerator is dead, with a fluid leak. A new one takes at least one week to arrive at CanAm; so my job now was to find a refrigerator and an Airstream service place along our route.  After many phone calls and internet searches, we have an appointment at the Airstream dealer in Minneapolis on September 8.  This means two more weeks of buying ice…

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The rest of the day was uneventful. We walked around the new trailers, and re-planned our trip so that we could spend the day in Minneapolis.  At 5:30 they were done for the night, so we embarked upon Happy Hours and retired for the evening, safe inside CanAm’s gates…

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Tomorrow we head to Boblo!

2017-08-17 Westbound; Quebec Old City

The KOA outside Quebec offers a shuttle service to take us into Quebec; as we waited, I noticed this truck parked across the street:

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They grow them big here in Canada…

The bus arrived promptly on time, and by 9:00 am we were in vieux cite Quebec.  First, of course, is the fortress!

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The walls around the fortress provide wonderful views of the old city (vieux cite)…

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The city plaza is dominated by a huge, old, hotel: The Frontenac. (It is now a Fairmont…)

 

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As we love to do in cities we walked the streets. We love finding the quaint, beautiful, historic, and charming sites…

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We even found the American Consulate, in case we got into trouble…

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We also found that Quebecois like to have fun in the winter: on the town square is a sledding slide:

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And, of course, what we also like to do is find a charming sidewalk cafe to enjoy lunch:

 

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We ordered a bottle of wine…

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Finally the duck confit arrived

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After lunch we walked some more, but then we needed to stop for some espresso while we waited for the shuttle to take us back to the Villa.

Back in the RV park, we met two other Airstreamers: one was from Connecticut; they were enjoying their 3rd new Airstream in the past year (16′, 22′ and now 25′).  I’m sure their Airstream dealer is driving a new car, too… The other Airstream was being pulled by a nice Mercedes GL350, that looked vaguely familiar. Once we got to talking, we realized that we had seen them in Lunenburg, NS, and they had met some of our fellow caravanners whilst they were there…!

So Happy Hours ensued; an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017-08-14 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Final Day on PEI; Farewell Banquet

We took this day to ready the Villa for travel on our own. Today is the last day of the caravan!

We began with a quick trip to the local Chevy dealer in Charlottetown; the “Check Engine” (emissions) light had come on the dash. After a quick check through their computers they determined that it was the result of a loose gas tank cap – operator error… We were in and out in 15 minutes… Airstream dealers could learn something about how Chevy service centers operate…

We cleaned the Villa and reorganized the back of the truck. Busy day all around. In mid-afternoon we took a break and went for ice cream at Cows, a PEI favorite:

2017-08-14 COWS

This evening is our “Farewell Banquet”.  It was at the Delta Hotel in downtown Charlottetown – it is a Marriott… We arrived early (duh!) and enjoyed some informal socializing as things got set up.  The food was spectacular!  Hats off to the Marriott for the spread they put out!

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I have no idea what flamingos have to do with Airstreams, but many people think they are firmly linked…

We snapped a few pix of our group…

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Our MC for the evening was Linda Belcher.  She is a real live wire and very funny person.  She goes all out to make sure she, and everyone else, is having a good time…

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After the dinner we gave out some door prizes, but mostly we took part in our own home-grown “entertainment”.

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Most of the “entertainment” was silly and hokey – we just enjoyed hanging out and showing off our talents, whether musical, dramatic, poetic, or silly.  (My contribution was a recitation of the age-old mairy fail of Rindercella…)

Of course, we had to make fun our Trevor and Gale Lake, our caravan leaders:

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And pay they tribute, as well…

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So, again, we all had a good time. Many good-byes were said. We headed back to the Villa and reflected on the end of the caravan and the beginning of our new adventure, heading west towards home…

2017-06-26 London and Can-Am Airstream

Finally our day of Airstream service at CanAm RV in London, ON, is here.  We check in with the service department, hand over the keys, and we wait…

CanAm has a nice lounge, and a very large store full of RV necessities and luxuries. The time went by quickly. We chatted with other Airstreamers from Florida, Texas, and Toronto. We went for a walk through the many, many trailers on their site.

Finally, we met with Andy Thompson, the hitch expert. They had determined that we could better handle the weight of my Airstream with a different hitch. The good news is that as he sold me the new hitch he bought back my old one, so the cost was minimal. Unfortunately, the rock guards that they had ordered for us had not yet arrived, so we will be back in August… Other repairs we promptly handled, we took one last test drive with the new hitch in place, the fiberglass AC cover was reinstalled, and all was well with our rig.

We shared Happy Hours with a few other RVers who were spending the night, Andy Thompson came by to check in, and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2017-06-26 CanAm

Tomorrow: Niagara Falls!

 

 

 

 

2017-06-24 The Villa crosses the Border…

Not much action today.  We left the KOA south of Pittsburgh and headed for Canada!  We were cruising along the Pennsylvania Turnpike on our way to Erie and Buffalo… And we found that this section of the turnpike was closed!  We were routed towards downtown Pittsburgh, towards a tunnel with giant signs stating, “No flammable liquids or explosives”.  If I had known all this, I would have researched what this meant (isn’t gasoline a flammable liquid?), but, thinking they were banning my on-board propane tanks, we just played it safe.  We exited and headed up a “little red line on the map”.  We had an interesting but rather nerve-wracking journey through the near suburbs of Pittsburgh – beautiful, with their abandoned old red brick buildings and rusted industrial plants. The roads were narrow and rough, with many stop lights.  Oh well; we were not in a hurry.  Eventually we rejoined the interstate and then we were back on the turnpike. We had a long day, but finally we crossed over into New York, and then entered Canada at the Peace Bridge outside Buffalo.

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The wait to drive through Customs was short, and the agent was smiling, conversational and all in all the stereotypical polite Canadian. She only asked one odd question: “Are you bringing anything in to Canada that will stay in Canada”?  What was I supposed to say?  Trash? Sewage?  Whiskey bottles (empty)?  Anyway, I said No, and off we went…

Our destination was London, ON, the home of CanAm RV.  We have an appointment for Monday, 6/26/17, to have them review my hitch set-up.  I’ve never been happy with the weight distribution of my current hitch, so either they can adjust it or modify it, or put a different hitch on for me.  Also, we hope they can fix the refrigerator, which runs only on propane, but not electricity as it should in RV parks.  Plus, if you recall, we lost one of our rock guards in Texas, and CanAm has ordered new ones for us.  Best of all, we can camp right there (free!) and not have to travel back and forth to an RV park.

So we found CanAm, parked where we were told, plugged into power, and we were set. The weather was beautiful: No heat, no rain, no humidity, no wind. We opened our windows and vents and settled into happy hour. We were just about to pull out our chairs and sit outside when WIND!  RAIN! THUNDER! LIGHTNING!  As we scrambled to close the roof vents, and close the windows, and close the door, we heard another sound that we couldn’t quite place…Sort of a crash, sort of a plastic banging sound… Oh well, we were safe inside, the Satellite TV was working, and Happy Hours continued.  The rain stopped after about an hour…

Tomorrow we head to Toronto!

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CanAm RV… Lots of Airstreams… (Some Other Brands, too…)

 

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Tucked in for the night…

 

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The calm before the storm…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017-06-20 Jackson Center, Ohio: The Airstream Mothership!

One of the main goals of our trip is to visit the Airstream Factory and take the factory tour to see Airstreams being made.

For a history of Airstream, click HERE.  Airstreams were originally made in different areas of Southern California, such as Van Nuys, Downtown LA, Sante Fe Springs, and, finally, Cerritos.  However, in the early 1950s, Wally Byam set out to find an eastern factory site, since so many Airstreams were being sold to owners who lived the Midwest and in the East.  In 1952, Wally Byam found an abandoned bazooka factory, left over from WWII, in a tiny hamlet in central Ohio called Jackson Center.  He bought it for $5,000, and in 1952 the first Ohio-made Airstream rolled out the factory doors.  In 1979 they closed the factory in Cerritos, and today Airstreams are only made here in Ohio.

Airstream provides a trailer park (they call it The Terraport) for use by visitors and people bringing their Airstreams in for service.  We parked the Villa, took a short walk through Jackson Center (a very short walk…), then waited for our 2:00 tour.  On the tour we learned that it takes about 4 days and 40 hours to build an Airstream. A brand new fully complete Airstream rolls out the doors at a rate of about 80 per week, about one every 30 minutes… Airstream has about 850 employees and will probably have 1,000 by year end.

The aluminum skins (exterior and interior) come in giant rolls from Alcoa.  They have a baked on finish similar to the paint on a car, except that it is clear to show the aluminum… These sheets are automatically cut and punched, but they are stretched over the ribs and riveted together by hand. The same is true about the cabinets and other furniture – The wood is cut precisely to fit, then it is assembled by hand. All the wiring and plumbing and ducting and insulation and doors and windows and everything else is connected, attached, and finished by hand. The finished shells are extensively tested for water-tightness before the interiors are installed. Everything inside an Airstream – cabinets, furniture, bathroom showers – fits through the door…

The building where Airstreams are made is over 100,000 square feet, and it is a hustling bustling place. We also saw the original bazooka factory across the street. We were not allowed into the R & D building, and we were not allowed to take pictures inside the plant.

It was a very interesting time to see this huge plant producing these iconic Airstreams…

This place is huge!

 

The original bazooka factory building:

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Wally Byam’s gold Airstream, used on the Capetown to Cairo Caravan in 1959-1960:

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Various shots of Airstreams; new and old…

 

Our spot in the Terraport:

 

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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