Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thanksgiving, Giant City State Park, and Football Playoff Game

Kyle got home Wednesday afternoon, and after doing some laundry he helped me load the RV for our trip to southern Illinois. Since Trevor is busy with football and won't be home for Thanksgiving, we decided to leave early on Thanksgiving day so we would have time to explore the area before the football game.

The football team will practice this week to prepare for their game against the Southern Illinois Salukis. They will celebrate Thanksgiving as a group with a meal on Thursday, then on Friday they will have breakfast before leaving for Carbondale. This marks the third straight season that Eastern Illinois has made the playoffs and sixth time in the last eight seasons. EIU completed the season with a series of wins to compile a record of 8 and 3. SIU completed their regular season with a record of 10 and 1, losing only to the number one rated team in the D1 championship division.





We hit the road around 9AM driving past snow dusted fields on our way towards St Louis. Our plan was to get through St. Louis before stopping at a Cracker Barrel for their Thanksgiving turkey feast.


This plan worked to perfection. Even though there was more traffic on the road than we expected we made good time and enjoyed a great meal. After driving another two hours we arrived at Giant City State Park with enough time to get set up before dark.

It was a long day for me so after fixing dinner of salmon croquettes and shells and cheese, I went to bed early while Kyle and Cindy watched a movie.

The dogs and Cindy were early to rise and open the shades to let in some sunshine to evaporate the morning dew.



Cindy had time to enjoy coffee and some reading in her book on the Tao Te Ching while Sox settled back in on her lap and Ditka kept guard.


Soon, the dogs were anxious to be outside.


They enjoyed a short walk with Mom and then stayed outside for awhile where they rooted through the scattered sprinklings of snow frosting the leaf covered campsite.



Sox was in a frisky mood and in no time had succeed in getting herself stuck inside the firepit.

Giant City State Park is located in the middle of the Shawnee National Forrest in the southern most part of Illinois.





They have several short trails to the unique rock formations that give the park its name.


Also within the park is a 'mystery' stone wall that is determined to be from approximately 400-600AD.

After walking some trails and visiting the park's visitors center we went back to the RV for lunch and a little rest.

Around 3PM we began the Illinois Wine Trail. The wineries in the area are linked together forming a trail that wine tasters can follow to visit eight different wineries.

We like wine and I know what your thinking, "Eight wineries tasting several wines at the first one, then driving to the next tasting more wine, etc." well ... yes that is the idea!!

We did enjoy ourselves and bought three bottles of wine, two good ones and one that was just different. Maybe we had too much wine when we bought that last one! We only made three of the wineries on the trail and found one that was not listed as part of the trail before they started to close.


While we did not see any pink elephants, we did see buffalo roaming in a field near one of the wineries.

Saturday: Game Day!

I like to get to the games early so that we have plenty of time to park, see the sights, get tickets and soak in the atmosphere. At todays game we joined the other EIU fans at the EIU Alumni Tailgate. We had pulled pork sandwiches with chicken and several sides. Excellent food!! Beer was included but we passed on it perferring Jim Larsons Captain and coke. I don't know what his mix ratio is but he makes the best pregame captian and coke I have ever tasted. Some day I will have two.


To the game. We had nice seats surrounded by good people, most of them EIU parents. During the game Kyle and Cindy stayed put while I moved around talking to many of the other parents. It was a shame that with such a good start to the day that the boys didn't do better on the field. SIU had the better team and won 30 to 11. We played OK but could have done better. We fumbled on our first possesion and never quite got it going. We seemed relunctant to run up the middle which is what we did very well all year and we continued to throw the ball three yards when we needed seven. It was really hard for the seniors after the game but they need to remember that only the top 16 teams out of 145 make the play offs.

After meeting with Trevor and some of the other players after the game we headed back to the RV to take Sox and Ditka on a short walk before we went to dinner at the Giant City Lodge.

The Lodge is known for its good food and people from all around the area drive there for dinner. Besides the good food it has a unique atmosphere as it was built of logs during the depression by CCP. We made sure to try more local wines and the locally grown buffalo!

Since Kyle had to be back to Quincy to catch his ride by early afternoon, we were at the dump station at 6am as soon as official quiet time was over in the park. Cindy fixed sandwiches and snacks along the routes so our stops were only for gas and a short 'bio break' for me. We were back to Quincy shortly after noon, and Kyle as headed back to Dekalb shortly after that.

So with that we end our football season, and our first full RVing season. I take Baby to down to Howard's RV for some of the minor list items and for winterizing so that we'll be tucking her in after that for a long winter's sleep.

Thanks for sharing with us our inaugural Frerx Adventures season!!

KP

Sunday, November 18, 2007

2007 11 17 Trevor Scores!!

This was a really fun weekend!

It started out as is becoming practice for our Charleston weekends. Ken picks me up in Baby at GD employee parking lot at lunchtime and we head straight out from there to Trevor's house.

It was really windy, which also seems to be the norm for the days we travel, but with the new steering controls Ken could still comfortably drive 60mph.

The other Friday tradition, feeding some of Trev's fellow teammates had a slight twist this week.



Since the wind was making it a bit nippy outside, we improvised and set up in the shed behind the house, next to where we park the RV. It worked out really well and we certainly didn't have to worry about the ice cream atop the pie melting too quickly!

It was also really nice that Kyle was able to make the drive down from Dekalb and arrive in time to join us all for dinner.

As usual, the guys entertained us with various renditions of their adventures since last time we were together. Including the excitement of the flight home from Alabama when their charter plane that required 6500 foot for landing touched down on the 6000 foot Cole County airport runway. Sometimes I think Mom is better not knowing these things!


The guys surprised Ken and I with a EIU MVP T-shirt they had autographed, thanking us for the Friday evening suppers and making all their games. That really meant a lot to us!!
The guys shot some pool up at the house and called it an early evening as is usual the night before a game.


Kyle, Ken and I moved the RV over to the EIU Panther Club parking lot at 10:00 am. It was a quieter than normal tailgate since the students were off were Thanksgiving break. But, the weather was gorgeous, and the food outstanding, especially the turkey that Luke Larson, Pug's brother, made in the deep fryer.


It was Senior Day so all the 4th year players were escorted on to the field by the parents where Coach Spoo met and congratulated them. Here's Trevor's good bud, Don-Don being escorted on to the field.
Unfortunately Coach Spoo suddenly took ill during the game and we found out he was taken to the hospital. The guys are all concerned since Coach has had some serious health problems these last few years. Of course, Coach Roc, is really good and can step in quickly to take the lead.


It wasn't long before we were releasing the blue balloons signalling the first EIU score. 'Mola' broke free in our first offensive series for the first touchdown of the day.
Trevor had a really great game.

Here he is being congratulated by Tim Kelly #90, and Rashad Hayne, #26. Trevor had just blocked a field goal that Rashad then ran in for an EIU touchdown.

(Note: 2 photos above from www.eiupanthers.com)
Then at the end of the 3rd quarter, after an Eastern punt, Samford was pinned close to the end zone. On their first offensive play, Trevor was tackling the ball carrier in end zone when he attempted to throw the ball away. Trevor pounced on the ball thinking it was a fumble and everyone thought it was a touchdown. However, the referee through a flag. The ruling was that the offensive player had made an illegal forward pass. Therefore, it was ruled a safety. Nonetheless, it was the first time Trevor ever scored.
All in all, it was a convincing win EIU 33 Samford 10.
Trevor and Kyle both had smiles on their face knowing we were now going to spend Thanksgiving weekend at a playoff game as with this win EIU would be one of the top 16 ranked teams in the nation.


The housemates all posed for us since this is there last home and regular season game together.
As usual, I'm finishing this blog on the drive home. We've stopped at Siloam Springs State Park dump station. Trevor has sent us a text message to say that that the NCAA just announced the playoff brackets and as #13 nationally, they will be playing Southern Illinois at Carbondale next Saturday.
That's awesome since we will have Thanksgiving Friday and Sunday then for travel! We'll have at least one more week of football travel with Baby!
Stay tuned, we'll be back with a long Thanksgiving weekend of football and RV adventures!
Hugs, C









Friday, November 16, 2007

2007 11 12 Ferne Clyffe State Park, Illinois

We were on the road Monday morning at about 7:30 a.m.
We stopped for lunch at the visitor's center/rest area at the Tennessee/Kentucky border.


We had 3 potential parks as our destination for the day's end, all in Illinois. When we got to the turn for Fort Massac State Park, we felt we still were up for some more road time and so continued on. It was then either Ferne Clyffe State Park or Rend Lake Corp of Engineer's site. This late in the year, Ken had called earlier in the week to insure they were still open. None were taking reservations any more but all told us they had enough long, level sites that we shouldn't experience problems finding a place. Rend Lake, with a half dozen or more different campgrounds is mostly closed but leaves one, Gun Creek, open and it just happens to be only a couple miles off the interstate.
As we neared the Ferne Clyffe exit, the skies were beginning to look like rain and www.weather.com which is one of our most frequently accessed websites when on the road, was showing rain on our horizon, so we decided to pull in and call it a day with right at 400 miles under our belt, a new one day record for us.


There appeared to be lots of open level campsites. Since we were only there for the night and it was going to rain we picked the first one we could back in to comfortably and settled Baby and Jeep in. Our fellow campers were mostly deerhunters judging from their campsite set ups.

Hoping to get outdoors a bit before the rain set in we found the campground hosts to pay our fees ($10 electric hookup site during week with disability card). The hosts were going to be there through the rest of deer season but said the campground would be open all year. They suggested that if we had little time to explore we head down the waterfall trail. While the drought had eliminated the waterfall itself, they said the walk was well worth it anyway.

This was one of the best recommendations we've gotten in a long time. With it being Monday afternoon and weather threatening rain, the area was deserted.

It was one of those rare walks in the woods where everything is so peaceful, and apart from human touch, that you get this impression of sacredness.


The mists preceeding the rains made everything appear even more lush.


There is an old walking bridge and bench by the waterfall area...a perfect place to set and take in the feel of this place.


You are surronded on both sides with stone cliffs blanketed in ferns and moss.


The late afternoon sunlight filtering through the mists added a softness to the silence which was only slightly broken by the trickle of what was left of the waterfall dripping down and echoing off the cliffs.

We were content after this amazing walk to pick up a few grocery items at the local Goreville store and snuggle in for a quiet evening listening to the raindrops on the RV rooftop.

Not anxious to leave this lovely place or finish our trip, Ken and I took our time Tuesday morning preparing to leave. The rain and fog made it much too comfortable inside.


As we pulled out I was able to get this shot of the small lake at the park, draped in the morning fog.

We were back to Quincy by about 4pm and settled in at home by 6pm. We won't be here long since it's back to Charleston on Friday for the final Panthers home game.

Hugs, C

2007 11 11 Little River Canyon, Alabama

We were blessed on Sunday, Ken’s birthday, to experience some of the most beautiful autumn scenery either of us have ever encountered.


Around noon we loaded the dogs into the jeep and headed off to Little River Canyon, about eight miles from Desoto State Park.

Although the drought has dried up most of the waterfalls in the area, there was still enough water to make for some breathtaking sites at Little River Falls, the start of our scenic drive.



Sox obviously has no fear of heights!













It was starting to get dark by the time we got back to the RV.



We finally got to use the new lanterns on the awning that were a gift from DJ Elkins.
(It says ‘Ken’ on the other side!)



Ken started a campfire and we kicked back for the end to a perfect day!

Hugs, C

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

2007 11 10 - JSU GameDay and Time with the Ellsworth's

After a wonderful night’s sleep in site #69 at DeSoto State Park we had breakfast, took the dogs for a long walk and then hit the road to drive the 70 miles from the park to Jacksonville State University.




Jacksonville State is known for their music programs and has a 400+ member marching band. The university and stadium are nestled in a foothills valley that was awash with autumn colors.



The Gamecock’s mascot is named Cocky. Apparently his recent claim to fame is that PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is requesting that JSU drop this 60 year old mascot because “The Gamecocks are named after the birds used in cockfighting,a hideous 'blood sport' that, like spousal abuse, bank robbery, and driving while intoxicated, is illegal in Alabama."…and he looks like such a nice bird!

Fellow GD employee, Bonnie Walker and her husband Bob, have a daughter playing saxophone in the band so they are regulars at the games. Bonnie and I first met a decade ago when GD took over her company in Syracuse and I was involved in the transition to move the operation to a new plant in Peachtree City, GA. It was really nice to see them as its been a long time since I’ve been to Peachtree.

This was a really important game since if EIU lost, we would not make the DI-AA playoffs.

It was also a special game for us since, our good friends, the Ellsworth’s, Dave and Donna and their son Brian, were coming over from Ackworth, GA, to join us. Ken had even convinced them at the last minute to spend the night with us.

Once again, the teams gave us a really exciting game, with their never being more than a touchdown difference until the last three minutes when one of Trevor’s fellow D-Lineman intercepted the ball and ran it back 40 yards to give us a 14 point lead.



Twice in this game, after great touchdown plays, the Panthers were charged with penalties for ‘excessive celebration’, so to say the guys were pumped up for this game would be an understatement!


After the game, as is tradition with these guys, the team came over to the parent’s to sing us their victory song.


Before he came down to visit with us Trevor was pulled aside for a newspaper interview.


He was able to spend a little time with us, visiting with Donna, Brian and Dave Ellsworth.


Fellow D-Tackles Jeff Sobel and Andre Lima, Trev’s future roommates, came down to visit with us for awhile as well.


The Defensive unit is a really tight group of guys who had a particularly good day against JSU.

We split up in vehicles, girls and guys, on the drive back to the state park, so Donna and I got plenty of time to get caught up on girl-talk. We decided that since it was nearly dark by the time we arrived back at the rig, and was definitely cooling off, we’d try out the food at DeSoto State Park’s Lodge rather than grill out.

This particular night the lodge had both buffet dining or ordering off menu. We all went for the buffet and some great fried chicken, roast pork, and fixin’s along with peach cobbler for dessert.

Having been in the cool breeze all day at the game, we couldn’t interest anyone in a campfire but instead the guys ended up playing cards inside while Donna and I sort of watched a movie but mostly continued our chatter.


Sox was really glad to see Brian again, and left little question about who she planned to sack out with for this evening.

I knew that Dave and Brian weren’t looking forward to the cold night so I guess I went a little overboard in trying to insure everyone had enough bedding and blankets. It got to be a joke among the rest of the group. Dave and Donna took the sofa bed while we laid out the dinette into a bed for Brian. Later, while we were in our bed Ken grabbed his phone and I heard a phone ring in the next room. Ken asked Donna if she for sure had enough blankets…ok…enough already!!

Sunday was Ken’s 55th birthday. We’d planned to take him to the lodge for breakfast but since we went there the night before we let him cook us all breakfast!

It was another beautiful morning so we all took a long after-breakfast walk through the campgrounds and then


Enjoyed some time out under the awning. No one needed blankets… ;-)

Late morning, the Ellsworth’s left for the drive back to Atlanta.

Ken decided his favorite way to spend his birthday would be a nice drive through the canyon to enjoy the fall colors, so we laid out the maps and made our plan.

I’ll save all the great sights for my next installment of this ‘trip report’!

Hugs, C

2007 11 08 - Alabama Bound!

We begin our longest adventure yet – 1300 miles roundtrip to Jacksonville,Alabama, in 6 days!

We left from the GD parking lot, late Wednesday afternoon, and were to Kamper Kompanion, our Litchfield, IL overnight destination by about 7:30pm. Trish, the owner was there to greet us and put us into a site where we could comfortably pull-thru and keep the toad hooked up.
I’ve been very lucky to get good information on RV parks from fellow RVer’s on the website http://www.rvparkreviews.com/. For this reason, I’ve decided rather than set up my own campground review page on our website, I’m providing a link (look left!!) to our reviews on that website. I just started putting in reviews with this trip but hope to contribute my fair share so that others will find this site as helpful as I have.

It was expected to be a chilly evening and Trish suggested we not hook up any water lines unless/until we needed them. After our earliest outings in 20 degree weather, Ken had decided it would probably be a good idea to have some auxiliary heating options in the motorhome. After doing some investigation online, Ken decided on the Lakewood CR-30 1500 watt ceramic heater.




This ceramic heater is both efficient and safe and takes up very little room, sitting very inconspicuously on the bedroom vanity.

While the furnace in the motorhome seems to do a fine job in cold weather, the ceramic heater allows us to focus the energy use in the room where we need it while keeping the thermostat lower for the rest of the rig. Between this new heater and the two dogs lying at our feet, the bedroom stayed downright toasty. I also like having that extra little bit of heat when getting out of the shower in the morning.

Since my unexpected spike in cholesterol at my last doctor’s visit, I’ve made every effort to get back into my ½ hour daily Nordic Track regime. I also found it much easier to keep to that if I get up the same time every morning, 5am, and work it in, when there is nothing else that can interrupt or take precedence. Ok, yes, sleep could take precedence! ;-) Once back in the routine, my body seems to wake me up naturally at that time to get a move on!


The Nordic Track actually stores quite nicely next to the bed in the motorhome Before bed, I move it into the ‘living room’ so I don’t wake Ken up in the morning. Since I don’t seem to need an alarm, I can get up and do my morning routine while he gets in a few more Z’s.

Since we had both snuggled in to our warm bed early Wednesday night, I was able to get in my exercise, shower, packing up while Ken took the dogs out and unhooked outside, with Baby back on the highway before 7:30 am.

This put us at our next stop, the Nashville KOA by mid-afternoon, Thursday. We’d selected this RV park since we’d won gift certificates at the Missouri Coachmen rally for two free night’s stay at KOA RV parks. We certainly would not have paid the $52 a night otherwise!

Here is Baby in the Nashville KOA. The site has nice concrete patio, and little portable fireplace.

The KOA was very nice and the location would be perfect for all kinds of Nashville sightseeing, being on the same exit as Opryland.

They had a unique amenity--a special fenced area called ‘Camp K-9’, designed especially as a playground for traveling furkids.

Since we can’t let Sox and Ditka off-leash outside the motorhome, this was a special treat for them.

It also turned out to be another lessoned learned for us as well.


You might notice if you look closely at the picture above that the spaces in the fencing on the left are tighter than the fencing on the right.


Here are Sox and Ditka checking out the ‘big dog’ play area. This picture was taken about 1 minute before Sox squeezed through the fence and bolted out on her own. Camp K-9 had an escapee!

My heart was in my throat, terrified that she would bolt toward the very busy 6- lane highway. Luckily, and very surprisingly, after a little romping about the RV sites and pool area, she did come back to me.

Another nice feature of this KOA was that there was shopping and restaurants in walking distance so that with our long pull-thru site there was, again, no need to unhook Jeep.


Despite having made several online purchases, Ken and I had never actually been inside a Camping World store and so we strolled over for some exploring. We were actually a bit disappointed as both of us had expected the store to be larger. I did see a jack-knife leather sofa there that we tried out. That is on my future wish list since I don’t like how much room is taken up by the full queen sofa bed when its made out and also I like the look of the leather so much more. Maybe a birthday present for me next year..hint…hint!!!


On the walk back we stopped at the Cock of the Walk restaurant to put their boast of the world’s best catfish to the test.



This restaurant’s d├ęcor puts you in the mind of the days of the keelboatmen, serving family style on tin plates and cups. The name comes from the 1800's when these riverboatmen would meet and each boat's 'champion' would fight to gain the honor of being named 'Cock of the Walk'.

Besides 4 catfish fillets per person, they also served a variety of Southern-style fixin's -- fried potatoes, cole slaw, jalapeno hush puppies, pickled onions and cornmeal skillet bread served by a waitress who could flip it from pan to ceiling before slicing and serving at your table.

Ken had several refills of good ol’ Southern Sweet Tea while I had a couple of glasses of wine. This meant that as soon as we got back to the RV, I fell asleep while Ken was bouncing off the walls from the sugar and caffeine high.

Thursday morning, I was up early again for Nordic Track and shower, then took the dogs back to the play area for a romp while Ken finished tearing down camp. Since Nashville early morning traffic snarls are notorious, we waited until after 9am to hit the road.

Ken got to make use of the jake break as we started into the Appalachian foothills. We were to Fort Payne, and DeSoto State Park by mid-afternoon.

For those of you not familiar with the area, Fort Payne is the hometown of the musical group, Alabama. It's easy to see in this beautiful area where the got the inspiration for their 'mountain home' lyrics since they grew up on the cotton farms on nearby Lookout Mountain. This was the first time I can recall seeing cotton fields and the first time Baby got to climb something called a mountain since we went up Lookout Mountain to get to the park.

We were exceptionally pleased to find out that they had a cancellation and we were going to be able to get a full hookup, pull-thru site.

As one of the earliest to arrive for the weekend we were able to get our pick of the pull-thru sites and settled in to the one at the end of the section where we have total privacy with nothing but wooded area beyond our fire ring.



We did chicken breasts on the grill for dinner and had a nice evening by the campfire.

Stay tuned…tomorrow we head to Jacksonville State to watch the Panthers take on the Gamecocks!

Hugs, C