Sunday, June 24, 2007

2007 Illinois State Coachmen Rally

With plenty of rest and slow-going during the week, Ken was recuperated and ready for a weekend on the road.

I had to be in to work by 6am Friday for a German payroll demonstration, so I started my ½ day vacation at 11:00 am. Ken picked me up in the Gardner Denver parking lot all ready to head out to New Berlin, IL for the Illinois Coachmen RV Rally. Ken drove while I changed clothes and made sandwiches for lunch. I drove for about 20 miles, trying to get use to it a little bit at a time. This is the first time I drove with the jeep behind.

Ken’s brother Michael and his wife Jean were also on the road to the rally about 5 miles ahead of us.

The last half of the trip, I fired up the laptop, checked in with some folks at work and then dropped by the Rv-dreams chatroom (I was amazed to find about eight people online mid-day.

I was able to talk to another motorhome owner in the chatroom who is using an aircard for internet access and got some really good information.

Having internet access is important to me, particularly as long as I’m working. It used to be that there was a dead spot with my Sprint broadband wireless aircard between Barry and Pittsfield but now there does not appear to be any dead spots between Quincy and Springfield. There are still deadspots on the way to St. Louis and Mark Twain Lake. Siloam Springs State Park is a total dead zone. After what I heard from the fellow RVer and the reading I’ve done, we are considering investing in a Smoothtalker antennae system to boost cellular signal. It purportedly increases your ability to reach cellular towers by 50 miles and improves quality of signal closer in. I’d need one of the newer air cards with the place for antennae input but I think the new one’s GD is getting now have that. The Smoothtalker equipment for the RV would set me back about $350 but over the long run it would be good to know we were accessible in all but the very most remote areas. It is also a great deal cheaper than satellite systems like Datastream which appears to be the next option up to insure more consistent access. Satellite systems run into several thousands of dollars for set up. I also prefer the air card over the satellite options or dependence on Wifi since I like to be able to use my laptop while we are on the move.

Then, if we connect the booster to a wireless router, like the Linksys router we already have at home, I can be running a WIFI connection off of my aircard and sit anywhere within 200 ft of the motorhome and use my laptop without need to being direct attached to the booster.

Although we didn’t use it for this trip, Ken has installed our latest toy or should I say toy hauler for our adventures, a bike rack.. It is made for any vehicle with a spare tire but really perfect for use on the jeep spare tire.

Ken ‘modified’ the instructions for attachment so that it hooks in to the inside of the back door vent versus on to the bumper. This allows us to leave the rack on permanently without losing the ease of getting things in and out of the side-open back gate on the jeep.

…But enough about gadgets, and toys, back to this week’s adventure….

It was an easy set up at the Sangamon County Campgrounds.

Ken took the extra time to set up his flamingos. Lo and behold, they seem to be multiplying! And now, they also seem to have found their own sunflower birdbath. Amazing how these things just keep popping out of our basement compartments when I least expect it.

Michael and Jean were set up right across the road from us.

We were soon on the way with drinks and chairs to join the group for socializing.

I quickly found the Missouri group we’d met a few weeks back at their state rally. Some of these folks are just traveling from Midwest rally to rally. This is a real fun-loving crew. Frank, to the far right here had the best T-shirt we saw this weekend, it said 'I have gas and I know how to use it!' Ruthie, whom I'm talking to here, loves to heckle Ken when he's playing the games.

They had some games scheduled but everyone preferred not to ruin a good thing and sat around the circle well into the evening sharing stories and enjoying each other’s company. Some of these folks have been in the club together for 30 or more years. Jean and Michael Frericks haven’t missed an Illinois rally in 34 years!

At least one of the ladies had set out so long in the circle that by nightfall, she had some pretty fiery-looking skin. Frank (new buddy from Missouri chapter), offered to rub her down with lotion but another lady said she had some vinegar she’d get from the rig that would do the trick. We gave Frank quite the hard time being second choice to a bottle of vinegar!

On Saturday, we had some games. Ken got third place in the bean bag toss.

The newly elected Illinois president, Loren, is checking Ken’s brother, Michael’s scores here. He knows who to keep an eye on!

Saturday evening we had a great catered dinner…

…followed by entertainment by the ‘Jolly Cowboys’ who not only played but did some really hilarious ‘cowboy poetry’.

We played euchre fellow rally first-timers, Tony and Bernie Smith from Arlington Heights,IL. He is Ken’s age and was in the seminary in Quincy in the early 70’s, graduating from Quincy College, so it was interesting to find how many common acquaintances we shared. Tony is retired from Chicago Transit Authority but takes on jobs frequently delivering RV’s across the country. It was good to hear him say he would want a diesel pusher for fulltiming since he has driven a huge number of miles in a wide variety of RV’s.

We ended up sitting around with Bob Byrnes, Tony and Bernie sharing stories of great sites across the US to visit, everyone agreeing that its most fun to hit the back roads and all the surprises they can unfold. This is what we love so much about these rallies, not just the new friendships, but learning from the experienced RVers, where to go, what to see, how to get there.

Sunday morning was misty and quiet in the campground. I took the dogs for a long walk.

At 8am ,we met the group for continental breakfast and then took our time packing up and doing more visiting. We decided to take advantage of our proximity to Springfield and hitched a ride with Michael and Jean to Olive Garden for lunch. (We ended up not unhooking the jeep all weekend!) Once back at the fairgrounds, Michael and Jean, being the free retirees that they are, decided that they were going to stay in the area for a few more days, heading over to New Salem for a few more nights camping. Ok, that’s why I’m counting the months until I can retire—how cool to decide at a whim just not to come home!!

We did a new record for us, 5 minute stop at the dump station, and headed out. Of course, Ken loved the opportunity to honk good-byes to big brother with his big air horn as we go out separate ways on the interstate.

Now that Ken has figured out the Freightliner computer system and economy mode, he was able to monitor more exactly the mpg on the drive home.

We are now getting 10.6 mpg pulling the jeep as the computer readout above showed us.

Ken listened to the Cubs vs. Sox on the radio while I worked on this blog and did a little more ‘chatting’ on RV-dreams It’s amazing how the time flies when traveling and blogging/chatting at the same time! We were home by 4pm and ready to get back to stick-house life for another week.

Hugs, C

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