Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 31, 2014
Mechanicsville, VA

Yes, we are back at our "brick and mortar home".  Several friends have noted that I neglected to close out this trip and finish the story on what happened to our camper at the factory.

Cedar Creek went through the entire camper repairing or replacing anything and everything that they considered to be a problem or a potential problem.  I believe I can honestly say our 5 year old camper is better than new.

They did decide to rebuild the area around the pin box (where the 5th wheel connects to the hitch on the truck).  This required removing the front fiberglass cap and fiberglass panels underneath.  They welded in 10 new gussets along with two steel tie plates and a torsion beam.  It is now many times stronger than new and has absolutely no flex or movement.

After examining the trailer they decided to replace both axles and suspension components because one of them looked like it had incorrect camber.  We received a new set of entry steps, new aluminum skirting on the right side (they saw a dent), new gaskets and weather seals on the other two slide-out rooms, a new slide out topper on the street side rear slide-out, re-caulked the roof seams and replaced the large fading graphic on the left side wall.  The sewer tank valves were replaced as well as the problematic left front landing jack.  New awning arms were installed since my original arms did not have a rain dump adjustment.

Now, if all of this terminology means nothing to you let me put it this way.  Cedar Creek spent 40 man hours working on our trailer.  The parts and materials they provided had a retail cost of $4,500.00.  This puts the total service provided at something like $8,500.00.  Our trailer is long out of warranty.  We did not ask for all they did - it was done because they felt it was needed for safety, appearance and comfort.  Our bill for out-of-pocket cost for all of this was NOTHING!!  Nada, zilch, zero.  We live In an era where the RV industry often refuses to assist camper owners once the unit is out of warranty.  This was not the case with Cedar Creek.  One thing for sure - if and when we may decide to buy a newer camper it will be a Cedar Creek!

We got our completed camper back late Friday afternoon.  Rather than immediately heading out, we decided to stay the night at Shipshewana South RV park.  Two of our friends and club members were also staying there so we had some great evening company.

We pulled out around 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning and followed I-80 across the top of Indiana into Ohio then Pennsylvania.  We stopped just south of Pittsburgh for the night and once again hit the road the next morning at about the same time as Saturday.  All of this route was on toll roads that were in poor condition and had many lane closures.  Our tolls were almost as much as the cost of the diesel fuel we used.  We crossed into Maryland for a few miles, skirted West Virginia and came out in Virginia on 522 heading to I-81.  We got back to the Richmond/Mechanicsville area around 3:30 p.m.

Our total mileage was 5,787 miles.  We visited a lot of places we have never been before.  There are a lot of beautiful places in the USA and we know that there are many, many more we want to see.  Having good health and owning a comfortable/dependable RV makes this possible.  Having spent four nights in a nice hotel, we can honestly say it felt great to get back into our own bed in our "second home".  We are many times more comfortable in the RV.

Living room area in the RV.  Note the fireplace and comfortable Lazy Boy recliner chairs.

Our own bed with a comfortable mattress.

Our next RV trip will be considerably shorter - a couple of weeks at the beach in North Carolina in October and November.  Then, right after Christmas we will head for Gulf Shores Alabama to meet a group of our friends and club members.  From there we will venture onto Florida in hopes of escaping another nasty winter.  We are now part of the boomer generation known as "Snowbirds".

Repair/modification in progress at the Cedar Creek factory plant in Topeka, IN.  The blue arrow above points to the "torsion beam" added to counteract flexing of the front cross-member over the pin box.

Our next destination

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014
Topeka, Indiana
Cedar Creek RV Factory

The F.R.O.G. rally was a lot of fun.  Forest River did a superb job of planning and facilitating the largest ever F.R.O.G. Rally to date. I don't have an exact number but we were told that over 500 RV's attended the rally at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.

During the rally, Cedar Creek sent out a drove of factory technicians to fix any problems owners were having with their Cedar Creek RV.  On our unit they replaced the gaskets on one of the slide out rooms, installed the missing "L" guards on the bottom of the slides and fixed the broken screen door latch.  While inspecting the unit they found a "possible" structural defect in the pin box that would require further inspection and possibly repair at the factory - which brings us here on this rainy Monday morning.  As a result, we have extended our stay in the area and, depending on the complexity of the possible repair, could put us into a hotel for a few days and move our departure to Friday the 15th.  We are hoping for the best and getting out of here tonight.

But, back to the rally and the week that is now behind us.

Monday was our first full day.  We spent the better part of Monday looking at the different RVs on display, walking through the vendor area and visiting with old friends while making new ones.  All 1,000+ of us were served a nice dinner in a huge multi-purpose building.

Tuesday morning we boarded a chartered bus for the short 18 mile trip to the Cedar Creek Factory.  Once there we were give a tour of the plant.  It was extremely interesting but we were not allowed to make any pictures.  We had a real nice pot-luck dinner with our Cedar Creek RV Owners Club family and invited guest from the Cedar Creek plant.

On Wednesday I went with two friends on a surplus hunt to several outlets.  This being the heart of the RV industry where 80% of all towables are made also makes it the center for surplus, blemished and discontinued RV parts and accessories.  I latched onto several needed items at a considerable savings that will either be used as replacement parts or add-ons.

Thursday Nancy and I boarded a charter bus for a tour that included the RV Hall of Fame, a fantastic Amish style family dinner at Das Dutchman Essenhaus and then time to casually move about a show of beautiful old, restored or modified cars at a local drive-in event.  There were well over 300 cars on display.  Some brought back memories long forgotten - both pleasant and others bitter sweet, like an old VW Beetle.  There was a (Studebaker) Avanti II there with a for sale sign on the window.  I remember a time when I would have given most anything I owned for an Avanti.  But, time and desires always change and the Avanti is no longer at the top of the list.

Friday was a wind-it-down day for the rally as most folks were getting ready to leave on Saturday morning and the vendors were packing up their areas.  Nancy went into Shipshewana with one of our friends for some shopping while I did some odd jobs on the RV and tried to get a little rest.

There were several of us that stayed over the weekend so that we could get our units into the factory this morning.  I just walked by ours on the way out to the truck to get some crackers and noticed they have it inside and have begun working on making measurements of the pin box movement and replacing the dented aluminum right hand skirt and broken step box.

UPDATE:  Cedar Creek found some structural damage around the pin box.  This is a major repair job that could cost thousands if we were not at the factory.  Because we are, there will be no direct cost to us.  But, it will require us staying in Elkhart until Friday.  We have a hotel room and are comfy (for the moment).

  We were all parked on the inside of the horse racing track.  It was a nice location for us.

We got to watch some of the horses on the track for training.  These are magnificent animals to watch trotting on the track.

Members of our RV club gathered most evenings for some socializing.

This is the tour bus that took us to the RV Hall of Fame museum

The RV's in the museum are a far cry from what we are using today.  Still, they were innovative for their time - ranging from the 1920's to the 1960's.  Four classic RV's are pictured below.

The classic Avanti that caught my eye.

This vintage Isetta would look cute sitting on the back deck of our Volvo truck.

Friday, August 1, 2014

AUGUST 1, 2014

We crossed into Indiana from Michigan and drove the remaining few miles to Shipshewana.  The trip down was uneventful.  No fantastic new scenery or historic sites were discovered along the way.

But, as soon as we crossed into Indiana we began to see the caution signs for the horse drawn buggies, the wide marked shoulders and the piles of horse poo on the side of the road.

Then, Nancy grabbed the camera as an Amish buggy appeared.  They were all over the place!  Some were buggies, some were wagons.  We even encountered some ladies on bicycles pulling small wagons behind.

We are heading for the Elkhart County Fairgrounds tomorrow for the F.R.O.G. Rally. (Forest River Owner's Group).  A lot of our friends will be there and we should have a really fun week.  We'll let you know what we are enjoying and seeing.

    Notice the yellow sign on the right and the wide, marked
    shoulder lane.

   This enterprizing wagon owner has a set of upholstered
   bucket seats from a car or truck.

   Travel can be a family affair.  A single horse pulls this open
   wagon with four children while number five rides behind on
   his bicycle.

    This is the style of buggy that was predominant.  Black,
    semi enclosed with a single horse.

   They even have what appears to be a license plate on the

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

JULY 30, 2014

Some spell it Mackinaw, others Mackinac.  Either way, it comes from Michilimackinac.  Anyway, tourist, such as us, can quickly become confused with the history of this area.  But, I believe, after some effort, that I finally understand what is here. 

For starters, the area was originally inhabited by Native American's.  They believed the island, Mackinac, was where all life began on this earth - it was their "Garden of Eden".  They said the island was once "A Great Turtle" that swam into Lake.

The French were the first white men that came to the area in the 1700's.  They built what is now know as Colonial Michilimackinac in 1715.  The community was fortified on the shores of what is now called Lake Michigan.  It was a busy, key fur trading center for the northwest.  In 1761 the British took control of the fort following their conquest of French Canada.  Then, in 1780, fearing an attack by American rebels, they literally disassembled the fort and moved it across the frozen lake (now lake Huron) to Mackinaw Island.  What was left of the original fort on the mainland was burned.

In 1959 archaeologist began excavating the remains of the original fort and then started reconstructing the fort to what they believe it looked like in 1770.

Today, we toured the reconstructed fort on the mainland.  What grabbed me today that I had not even thought about previously is that as you look north at the Mackinac Bridge lake Michigan lies to the left and Lake Huron to the right.  The bridge has become the boundary line dividing the two lakes.

While Lake Superior is larger than lake Michigan, Huron and Erie all put together, Lake Michigan is big - it makes the lakes we frequent in Virginia look like small puddles.  When we visited Colonial Michilimackinac the wind was blowing in from the north.  There were white-capped waves at the shore just like the ocean.

Besides visiting Colonial Michilimackinac, we went to Historic Mill Creek.  There we learned that Robert Campbell constructed a sawmill to provide lumber for the fast growing settlement on Mackinac Island in 1790.  No trees were cut on the island for lumber so everything came from the mainland.  Mackinac Mill was the first and only sawmill in Michigan at that time.  Campbell quickly became a very wealthy man from the sale of lumber.  An operating reconstructed mill now sits on the original location as part of the 600 acre Mill Creek State Park.

If history bores you I apologize.  But, visiting all of the places we have been recently has made much of our history really meaningful to both Nancy and me.  Reading about it is one thing.  Seeing and retracing the paths of our ancestors is something else.  Life was really hard and great suffering was expended creating what we now enjoy.

Tomorrow morning we leave Mackinac for Shipshewana, Indiana.  Another long drive of about 350 miles.  We will go through Lansing, Michigan, on the way.  Shipshewana is right in the heart of the Amish community.  As time allows I will write about our experiences there and share photographs.  Check back here frequently to see what we may have added.

Randy, Nancy and Oscar

 Lake Huron is on the right side of the bridge.......

 .......and Lake Michigan is on the Left side of the bridge.

 White capped waves beginning to form on the shore of Lake Michigan.  It is all fresh, inland water, but it looks like the Atlantic Ocean.
Walking up to the stockade style fort surrounding Colonial Michilimackinac.

 One of the reconstructed buildings (lodgings) inside the fort of Colonial Michilimackinac.

 The residents of Colonial Michilimackinac.were mostly Catholic.  This is the sanctuary of the Church.  I doubt that anyone fell asleep on the pew benches.

Student volunteers still carefully sift the soil inside
Colonial Michilimackinac.looking for artifacts and remains of original structures.

Inside the working, reconstructed sawmill at Mill Creek.  This mill used a straight reciprocating blade moved by a water wheel with a Pittman arm. This was the style of the period pit saws run by two men - one on top pulling the blade up, the other in a pit dug in the ground pulling down.  The mill could cut 10 boards in the same amount of time two men could cut just one.  More efficient circular blades had yet to become common when this one was built.

I was totally fascinated by the innovation, construction and operation of the mill.  The number of man-hours expended to build such a mill in 1790 with no power tools or equipment is mind boggling.

The small pond at Mill Creek that provided water to power the mill.  The dam was actually made of wood cribbing and boards.

The water from the pond to the mill was routed along a wooden sluice.  A door opened by a wooden wheel would dump the water on the paddle wheel for the saw blade.

Monday, July 28, 2014

JULY 28, 2014


The trip from Muninsing to Mackinac was only 160 miles.  The route brought us across the Upper Peninsula from the southern shore of Lake Superior to the Northeastern shore of Lake Michigan.  The entire route, with the exception of the last few miles to the Mackinac Bridge, was all on 2-lane roads.

The bridge spans the narrow gap between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in a place appropriately called The Straits of Mackinac.  The tall support towers and thick cable arcs of this five mile long  engineering wonder are truly majestic.  While I have never crossed the Golden Gate Bridge I am sure it is no more majestic than the Mackinac Bridge.  Before the bridge was completed waiting for a ferry to take you across the strait often required a waiting time of 36 hours or longer.

On the southern side of the bridge lies the town of Mackinac City (Yes, a town named a city).  The RV park where we are staying is about 2 miles from the town.

This morning we boarded a Hydro-Jet powered ferry bound in jackets and sweatshirts to warm us from the chilly 49 degree temperature. The ferry would take us out onto Lake Michigan and Mackinac Island.  This is perhaps the fastest boat of its size that I have ever been on.  The big Detroit diesel engines and turbines use the same principle as a jet ski for propulsion.

The best description I can give to anyone back in Virginia as to what Mackinac Island is like would be sort of a cross between Tangier Island and Colonial Williamsburg.  The 1,800 acre island is now a state park which includes the historic town, Fort Mackinac and a significant portion of woodlands.  All transportation on the island is provided by either horse drawn carriages, horseback or bicycle. Even UPS makes package deliveries by horse drawn wagon.  The only motorized vehicles on the island are the fire trucks and an ambulance.

There are about 80 privately owned residences on the island that range from small bungalows to mansions.  Real estate prices of homes currently on the market range from $400,000 to five million dollars.  While winter on the island can be severe, some of the residences are occupied year round.

After landing in historic Haldimand Bay we bought our tickets for a carriage ride tour around the island.  One of many beautiful structures on the Island is the Grand Hotel.  You may remember the 1979 movie staring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour entitled "Somewhere in Time"'  The Grand Hotel was the setting for much of the movie.  There are other hotels and bed-and-breakfast on the island but none is as majestic (or expensive) as the Grand Hotel.

We toured Fort Mackinac which sits on a hill 150 above the harbor and island's buildings.  The fort is huge containing many expertly reconstructed or restored buildings including the fine lodging homes for officers and their families.  First founded in 1751 by the French, the fort changed from French to British and finally to U.S. occupation in 1815.  It was abandoned as a fort during the Civil War and later became part of a National Park then transferred to the State of Michigan as a State Park in 1895.

We enjoyed a late lunch in one of the Island Pubs, visited many of the town shops and then caught the 5:30 ferry back to the mainland.  What had started out as an extremely chilly morning turned out to be quite pleasant when the afternoon sun finally came out from behind the clouds and bumped the temperature up into the mid 60's.

The entire area is rich in history including the fur trade, fishing and shipping industries.  Much additional information can be found by doing an Internet search on virtually any key word above.

 Mackinac Bridge

Note the "rooster tail" on the back of the hydro-jet drive boat

Fast, high-powered "people ferries" quickly skirt you across to the island

 The back side of the wooden stockade fencing along the wall surrounding Fort Mackinac


All island transportation excludes automobiles.  Horse drawn wagons and carriages like this one and the three following photos provide for the movement of people and supplies.

 An arch formed in the island's limestone base by wind, ice and water erosion..

 The harbor where our ferry boat docked.

View from a fort garrison of the harbor and a portion of the village 150 feet below.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

JULY 25, 2015


We have experienced some really poor Internet service over the past few days – even when using my iPhone as a hotspot.  All of the campgrounds have free Wi-Fi but the speed has been very slow and getting text let alone pictures posted has been impossible.  I found that I could get marginal Internet this morning - so the latest post has gone live.

We left Superior, Wisconsin, Thursday morning for Munising, Michigan.  The distance was only 270 miles but it was completely over 2-lane 55 mph roads that dropped to a 25 mph speed limit through every little community spaced about 10 miles apart.  I was more than ready to stop when we pulled into the Munising City campground.

We are on the northern shore of Lake Superior and are fortunate enough to have a huge site.  The campground is full due to this being the prime tourist season up here.  Now, when I say “up here” that’s exactly what I mean.  This is about as far north as I would ever want to be.  Munising is part of what is called the "Upper Peninsula", or to the locals the "Yoouper Peninsula" 

Today’s high temperature did not even hit 70 and the need for A/C in the camper has been minimal. Looking at the weather forecast for Sunday it will not even get up to 60. The surface temperature of the lake water is reported to be about 56 degrees and quickly drops to 40 degrees about 5 feet under the surface.  While I have absolutely no desire to even wade in this cold water there are a whole bunch of folks with blue lips playing in the water.

One of the popular meals here is called a “Pastie”.  Where I grew up a pastie was something you would find in a strip club covering a part of the female anatomy.  The pastie here is what I would call a “Pot Pie”, but there is no pot.  It is a huge baked roll all sealed up with a mixture of meat and vegetables inside.  It is served with gravy and slaw.  The story behind this is that the miners in this area took them to work in a paper bag for lunch.  They were stuffed with any leftovers in their household.

We had our lunch at a local eatery called Muldoon’s.  Nancy and I ordered the chicken pasties.  Some of the others in our group ordered beef.  They were tasty but IMHO had too much bread.  I ended up not eating the bottom of my roll.

This afternoon we took a sightseeing boat tour on Lake Superior along the tall rock cliffs know as the Picture Rocks.  The boat was a 60 foot craft that carried maybe 50-60 people.  The crew member that narrated the tour did an excellent job of telling us about the area, Lake Superior, ship wrecks and winter weather.  Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes.  It is actually the third largest fresh water lake in the world!  In square miles it is bigger than North Carolina.  It is hard to imagine that it was cold enough this past winter for the entire lake surface to freeze.  That just boggles our minds.  Just like the ocean, you look across the lake and do not see the other side.  While the water was calm today, when the wind picks up the lake can have waves over 20 feet high and is the graveyard for many ships.  Yet right now, you will find folks in canoes and kayaks skimming along the shore line.

Tomorrow we will probably just check out the quaint little town of Munising if it is not raining – which is a good possibility.

Sunday we leave here for Mackinac City, Michigan.  Mackinac is also considered part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  This will take us across the Mackinac Bridge ($20 toll) and down the east side of Lake Michigan.  While this area does not have the awe we experienced in the Badlands and mountains back west, it is uniquely beautiful and different than the landscape we are familiar with back home.  But, no matter how beautiful it is, I would not want to live here in the winter.

 Shore line of Lake Superior at our campground

 Our campsite in Munising.


 Mr. Muldoon?

This is a Pastie.........

This is a "sister" boat to the one we were on for the Picture Rocks Tour

All of the Photos below were shot from the boat on the tour.  The colors in the rocks (limestone) are from minerals being pushed into the rock by water pressure and then dripping back down.  The caves and arch are all from erosion of softer rock.

 The water in shallow areas appeared green.  You could easily see the bottom in 20 feet of water as shown here.

 This is a waterfall (or infall) at a place called Mosquito Beach.  Keep in mind the water is COLD and outside temperature 69 degrees.  We watched these kids slide down the rocks under the waterfall.