Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Rest of Escapade

We definitely got in to the relaxed mode Wednesday - Friday of Escapade. It's now Saturday morning back home and I'm back on the blog for the first time.

The rain continued and after 4 days and 4 inches we were definitely bogged in. Not to worry though, we'd figure out how to get out when the time came for that.

A nice surprise on Wednesday was that we had won the prior day's CARE drawing for a quilt! I'll have to post a picture later. If you don't recall why I'm so in to CARE as a great non-profit organization follow this link --- Anyway, I started talking to one of the CARE ambassadors and before you know it he's suggesting that Ken and I might be great replacements for the CARE administrators who will be leaving their jobs in May. The wife is the office manager and the husband oversees the facilities/maintenance side of the operation. There aren't many paying jobs with CARE so this is a rare opportunity. Very tempting but I've promised Ken I'd 'stay retired' at least a year before we considered anything that tied us down again.

Sitting here on my patio this morning, enjoying my coffee and the birds and the beautiful sunrise over the golf course, I'm not sure I'm quite ready to give up my 'sticks n bricks' house yet anyway. No rush...!

Ok, so back to the Escapade.

Ken and I decided to do more seminars together. We attended the seminar on travelling to Mexico and came away agreeing that this is a trip that we'd probably want to do with a group. It's very common for Escapees to get together in the Tuscon area and then RV together down the short distance to Kino Bay. I think this would be a great practice run in to Mexico before getting more adventurous and trying longer endeavors. But again, we want to stick with the US at first.

Along those lines, we decided to take in Mike and Terri Church's presentation on travelling the Southwest. I think this was one of the best sessions we attended. Mike and Terri have several popular travel books published. You can see them on Amazon or at --> This link also provides a great blog and pictures. In the seminar they covered 3 different itineraries in the Southwest, covering primarily New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. These will go high on our list of travel destinations. Most travel guides focus on 'attractions', hotels and restaurants. Mike and Terri focus on scenic drives, information on parks and sizes of rigs they support, and details on the natural surroundings and local culture to be explored. They definitely get off-the-beaten path which, to Ken and I, is part of the reason we have the jeep. They do a great deal of research and update their books regularly. In fact, when asked when they would start doing books on other parts of North America they indicated that it is a fulltime job for them just to keep the book they already have out up-to-date.

We also attended a seminar given by Mark Nemeth. Mark is the Escapees technical advisor and Boot Camp program director (yes, we still want to do bootcamp, maybe next year at Goshen, IN). Mark is a regulator contributor to popular RV magazines such as Motorhome and Ken has found him to be a reliable source for technical RV information. He's considered one of the leading technical advisors in the RV industry so even though his topic, Choosing Your Perfect RV, was not something we needed we mostly wanted to be sure to get in one of his sessions. We still learned a great deal and, of course, all the RV guys gathered after for many more questions for Mark.

Thursday afternoon was the closing ceremonies and the Escapee hugs to say good-bye were all around. The grand prize drawing was held. They gave away a 23-day escorted RV trip up the Northeast Coast and in to the Canadian Maritimes -- about a $3400 value...definitely one awesome prize for fulltime RVers!

On Thursday afternoon our new friends, Jeff and Barb decided to get out of the mud with their Allegro Bus and made it about a foot before they were mired down, so they got to try out their Coach-net towing service before we did. They then went across the street to the fairground parking lot to hook up and boondock for the night. Later that night they came over to our place, had a few beers and said adios for now. Hoping we'll get to see more of these two on the road!

Friday it was our turn. We'd hoped the fact that it hadn't rained for 24 hours would help. As seems common with this group, the men from neighboring RV's came over to offer help and advice. Ken raised the jacks that were bury deep in the mud and places blocks beneath them. He then lowered the jacks so that wood could be placed below and infront of the tires.

The results was that he was able to move about a foot forward before he was deep in the mud again!

Ok, time to call Coach-Net. Of course, with 750 rigs trying to leave we had to wait our turn.

Part of the time was spent with the spade, digging out all our blocks where they have been buried by 26,000 lbs of RV! With the sun now shining we cleaned them and had plenty of time for them to dry.

Ken had really been fighting a futile battle here since based on where we had been parked we had to make an immediate turn to miss the tree in front of us and then had about 40 feet of mud to cross.

At about 11:30 it was time for 'Baby's' first tow. Ken was rolling in the mud with the tow guys insuring we weren't going to be hooking up wrong and causing damage.

But, not-to-worry, Baby was in very good hands and these guys did a great job of being careful to insure no damage. As you see, one stood on the winch line to be sure that it did not rub against the rig. Over all we were very pleased with the CoachNet service.

I believe Escapade could have added a Friday seminar to this year's activities since the highlight of the day seemed to be "How to pull 30,000 lb vehicles out of the mud"....the audience seemed to move from location to location with the tow trucks. So, just how many Escapees does it take to supervise the towing of a motorhome??? ;-)

Well, as the say 'let's make tracks'!! And, I'll have you know I got that jeep out of there with no problem!!

And so, we made our way over to the fairgrounds parking lot that was the area for everyone to do final hookups and

...pick up their toys to go home!

Hugs, C

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tuesday at Escapade

Well, it's Tuesday and I'm starting to get in to this 'escaped' mode. Instead of trying to figure out how much we can get in today, Ken and I took our time getting ready. In fact this was his day for heading out before me. I had taken my time, showering, doing dishes and then had a message from him to meet at 'Hospitality' at 10:45.

They have one building set up where you can get a cup of coffee anytime. It's also where a lot of the booths are for signing up for various volunteer opportunities. We always end up in there longer than intended because it seems there is always some interesting new Escapee friend to chat with.

Ken was delayed in getting to the room since he had detoured in to a discussion with a couple trying to decide on tow vehicle. They had stopped him when they'd heard him mention in a morning seminar that he towed a jeep as this was a prime candidate in their search.

Ken wanted me to go into the Vendor market with him to further price the power protection system he is thinking now may be a worthwhile 'insurance policy'. As it turns out we never got that far!!

We stopped by for a visit with Joe and Kay Peterson, the club founders. These two treat everyone as their extended family and the energy, enthusiasm and joie de vivre that you feel just being around Miss Kay is contagious.
We also talked to Dave Loring, the investment/retirement advisor and he said he wanted to talk to us in the afternoon if possible. With that we decided to drop back over to the Hospitality room and grab a barbeque sandwich for lunch. Again we got caught up in a conversation with a lady who is a Solo RVer. It's surprising the number of women here that are fulltiming on their own.
When we got back to talk with Dave, he was chatting with the retired optometrist we'd met yesterday and his wife. We talked with Jeff and Barb for awhile and decided to meet them for dinner.
We spent far more time with the investment planner, Dave, than we'd expected. It was a very valuable conversation where Ken and I learned a great deal about our options based on our particular situation. Dave had some very good ideas on 401K rollovers, what money to put where and why. He had some contacts for us on health insurance alternatives. We even spent some time talking about the pros and cons of moving up to a different motorhome. Overall he was very encouraging, confirming that we should be in good shape but emphasizing that for the first year of my retirement we need to track every dime of our spending so that we can be sure reality of expenses is matching our investment strategies. We came away with lots of reading materials that we'll have to dig through once we get back to Quincy.
It was late afternoon by the time we finally sloshed our way back to the RV.

It was obvious as we approached that our flamingoes were up to some shenanigans. They were now all facing over toward the AirStream pod. Two new flamingoes had arrived and appeared to be luring our group, with one of our flamingos starting to make the move in their direction.
Some friendly banter followed with the Airstream group and they invited us to join them. We had to ask for a rain check since we were meeting Jeff and Barb at 5:30.
Jeff and Barb came over to our rig and we all road in the jeep to McGrath's here in Sedalia for dinner. McGrath's had been the restaurant of choice when I was here with work but I must say that while the meal was ok, it was just ok. However, spending the time with these two new full-timers more than compensated to make it a wonderful evening. We lingered at the restaurant over several rounds of drinks. It's amazing how much we have in common. Besides all being 50-somethings, they've raised three athletic boys recently out on their own. They had even owned a Sportscoach as their first motorhome until recently upgrading the the Allegro Bus. Ken and Jeff were really in sync on all their ideas on various motorhome systems and spent lots of time talking jeeps. Both had been soccer coaches and spent lots of time on that topic as well. They invited us to join them at their motorhome when we got back.
Ken was really interested in Jeff's setup to pull both a Harley RoadKing and a vehicle. This is a pretty slick system with lifts and a lot of flexibility.
Going to visit them only re-ignited my love of the Tiffin motorhomes. I can't think of one option they don't have included. We spent several hours inside talking and with the layout, huge quad slides, upgraded flooring, cabinets and furniture, we really felt we were sitting in a very well-appointed family home. Really made us feel like we were slumming it when we came back to our motorhome!!

We're hoping that this end-of-day rainbow on Tuesday is a sign that Mother Nature will bring us some dry weather and sunshine now. If it doesn't start drying out soon, getting all these RV's out of here on Friday could be a real mess!!
Hugs, C

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend at Escapade

I'm finding my notes will be brief here because, honestly we are just finding so much to do that I don't have much time to get on this computer!

It's really good that they plan these Escapades with most activities in side because it has been nearly non-stop rain here! The picture above is the main venue for any activities where the full group gathers.

They have the daily door prize drawings here which is very entertaining in itself. The couple doing the drawings are their own standup comedy routine in seems!!

Sunday evening we had awesome entertainment by a group called 'New Odyssey". They play 30 different instruments, sometimes more than a dozen at a time.

The drummer also does a really mean Tina Turner!!

His Louis Armstrong was amazing as well. I included the link above to their website. If you are in the area where they are performing its well worth a slight detour to take them in!

We are attempting to get in a smattering of all the activities so I attended the line dancing class. I am finding I absolutely love line dancing even though this is only the second time I've ever done it. Anyone in the class that wants to can also be part of the Thursday night talent show. If I didn't have so many other things I want to take on that would have been great...just can't get it all in! Ah so much little time!!

A blog on Escapade would not be complete without including this little lady. Kay Peterson and her husband Joe started Escapees back in the 70's and have a truly amazing story to tell. Considering they are Escapee #1, and they are now in the 104,000 member range, (and it counts rigs, not people, Ken and I are one number), its nothing short of incredible what she has done to organize a like minded group of people who are looking for the most out of life. Kay has an great sense of humor and its so fun to listen to her tell their story. For example, she and Joe met at Parents-Without-Partners back in the early 60's. She says they didn't actually marry until several years after that, since there are 7 women to every one man in the organization, and it took Joe that long to make the rounds and get back to her!! She said he didn't really take her serious about wanting to full-time until he came home from work one day and she had sold all their furniture! She's one really feisty and inspirational woman.

Meanwhile, back at the rig, the flamingos put out their flags in honor of the Memorial Day holiday. We are parked next to a pod of Airstreams. One of the owners felt obliged to let us know that flamingos are very partial to Airstreams and that they wouldn't be surprised if our gang here decided to migrate next door!

Note to self: Rainy weather and humidity, along with wearing Tilly hat leads to unsightly hair explosion--need new hair strategy for RV Lifestyle!!) We had this picture clicked with our new friends, Doug and Dee. Sunday evening we decided to go to Perkins versus eat back at the rig. As we were heading in from the parking lot we started up a conversation with Doug and Dee and they invited us to sit at their table. (Escapees wear their lanyards in to the community so that the local merchants are more aware of how much business we are actually giving them in return for the various donations they give to the group. Perkins had given lots of door prizes). Doug and Dee have a great story, having got together after the death of Dee's first husband. They are Texas residents now and very involved in the amateur radio group here in Escapees. It seems after a few years everyone finds their nitch 'community' within this bigger Escapees community. We plan to try to 'lurk' for a year and see where we seem to fit best. We think we are particularly interested in the Habitat for Humanity group, and the DOVE group(American Red Cross emergency services) as well as the group that does volunteer services for Escapee's CARE which is the 'retirement home on wheels' for full-time RVers who temporarily or permanently must get off the road due to health.

The Memorial Day entertainment was the Brett Family. This is your typical Branson show entertainment, not exactly something Ken and I would pay to go see, but still an enjoyable evening. Talk about a woman who's a tribute to 50-year old women--Andrea (well she's 49 so that's close) looks so young that I was not sure until the introductions which was mother and which was daughter!
Besides being entertained we have actually been learning a lot. For example, I sat through an lectrical workshop that did a great job of helping me understand the actual differences between 30 amp, 50 amp, watts and voltage. I even understand now why Ken was so concerned that we were experiencing low voltage at a Tennessee park last year. The 'quality' of your electricity is not something you think about when you are sitting in a 'stick n bricks' house every day but when you are plugging in at different places all over the continent, preserving your investment in your rig's electical systems and guarding against 'dirty electricity' is something you have to watch for.
Ken also attended a more detailed presentation on filtration systems. Again, when you are hooking up to different water across the continent you want to preserve your investment in your health by guarding against contaminants. We already have multiple filtration systems in our unit but with Ken's lately-found success attending to more natural health solutions he is now more committed than ever to insure that there is nothing unhealthy in our water systems.
I was also pleased to find an investment advisor who specializes in working with the unique needs of retired full and extended time RVers. The gentleman and his wife actually live in the Escapees Rainbow Park in Livingston so they definitely 'walk the walk'. Ken and I were lucky enough to sell my company stock at the right time and to move our money out of the market in to fixed funds at about the right time, but now its time to start moving back in to the market and we are not willing to continue to count on luck, but instead want to find some good experienced advice, that isn't from someone whose prime motivation is selling us on the funds where they make the most profit. This was a big item on my 'shopping list' here at Escapade so I hope to spend more time vetting this investment advisor while here.
We had another interesting conversation with an optometrist, Ken's age, who has just retired with his wife to see the country in their new 2009 Allegro Bus (yes, sexier brother to our dream RV, the Phaeton). He mentioned that while they still own his business/apartment in Arizona, they now have their official residence in Texas. One reason for that was that in Texas, if you currently have medical insurance, then Texas medical insurance providers cannot exclude you or apply waivers for pre-existing conditions --- all right! Medical insurance has always been a big concern to me so I'm really anxious to check this out further.
I don't have my pedometer with me but I'm sure I'm getting in my 10K (10,000 steps) a day, walking here. We've been pretty good about letting the jeep sit and hoofing it. I love that - but it would be better if it wasn't through the rain and slosh!
We have lots more to see and do so I'm going to head out now.

Hugs, C

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Escape to Sedalia!! - 2009 Escapee’s RV Rally

***You may want to look at older posts as well. We've done several posts in last few days!***

Finally! Our first official national rally with literally thousands of other 'escapees'. For those of you unfamiliar with the RV lifestyle, let me explain. There is an organization called Escapees,, it is made up of mostly full-time RVers or extended time RVers.

Ken and I have belonged to the club for a couple of years now but never had the opportunity to participate face-to-face. That's not to say it hasn't been a valuable association since they have a great magazine and website, full of valuable RV lifestyle articles and lots of people contributing to online forums. It's amazing to me the way technology is embraced in this community. When you are 'affluent street people', a label I found particularly endearing, and don't have a home base, then your laptop, your cellphone, and your wireless and satellite connections are your communications portal with the rest of the world.

As Ken and I find ourselves much closer to retirement right now than most people know, the timing of this rally seems very synchronistic. The stars keep continuing to align for us. The timing of this trip gives us the opportunity to commune daily for an entire week among the largest annual gathering of people living the fulltime lifestyle dream. The appreciation for this group is SKP and the are famous for the SKP hug. Since Ken and I are tagged with yellow ribbons as 'newbies', people go out of their way to come give us welcoming hugs.

Another first for us was to spend the night along the road rather than in an official RV or state park.

After work on Friday, Ken had everything ready to go, so we hit the road about 5:30pm.

Our planned stop over point was Kingdom City, MO. where we knew we could park for the night at the Petro truck stop. This turned out to be an excellent plan. While we only did a couple of hours, it meant that Ken and I could have dinner in their very good truck stop restaurant and hit the sack early.

It was actually much quieter and more comfortable sleeping that we had expected.

This way rather than piddling the morning away in a campground or at home before getting on the road, we did a quick breakfast in the restaurant at 6:30 and were back on the road by 7 a.m.

The actual 'Escapade' does not officially begin until late Sunday afternoon. However, we chose to do the early-arrival option for Saturday since we were rookies and wanted to get our bearings.

Parking a thousand rigs is quite the organizational feat. They have an extensive volunteer parking staff who only work between 8am and 2pm. If you arrive after 2pm you are turned away and they are serious because we saw it happen. This is another reason we wanted to be sure that we didn't get held up be leaving Saturday morning.

We were actually to the parking area by a little after and while there was a line it was not long. Since we had all our paperwork in order we processed through very efficiently.

As the day progressed there we a lot of rigs that appeared to be taking about an hour to get through the process so we are very happy with our timing.

I would have never thought the Sedalia State Fairgrounds had over 1000 full hook up sites! We are in the part of the West Campground where the rigs are organized in pods of 4 around the central hook up location. The 4 RV's are situated in a sort of windmill formation which allows for privacy. But, since everyone in the pod is parked within minutes of each other, you quickly get acquainted with your pod mates at the central hookup sites where everyone is attaching at the same time.
Once we completed our set up we proceeded to one of the registration booths. and picked up our program guide and goodie bag.

We did a light lunch in the RV, a review of the program guide and a short nap before walking over to the hospitality room and the vendor barn that opened at 3pm.

'Too Crazy Ladies', well known vendors among the RV community, had a line of people ordering Escapees name badges. Understanding this line would only get longer, we decided to get our badges ordered and then browsed the vendor fair.

Ken is interested in the special shades that are available to see out of the front windows while blocking the view in. After checking them out and doing some measuring it appears this would be about a $150 investment that should be at least partially returned by reducing costs of keeping the rig cool. We also picked up a 'sewer donut'. It goes on the end of the sewer hose when the hookup has a larger opening than our sewer hose. We'd never needed one before, but as usual the fellow RV hooking up besides us came to the rescue, having an extra 'donut'. Ken gave him the new on we'd purchased later in the day.

One of the lessons learned is that these reallies are a perfect place to bring bicycles. With so many RV's, it's about an 8 block walk from our site to the main activity buildings. Sunday the will begin running trams. To Ken's relief, considering he consider 'walk' a bad word, a staffer came by on a golf cart and offered us a ride back to our site.

We enjoyed a leisurely evening back at the rig, taking our time with a bottle of wine enjoyed under the awning before doing ham steak on the grill for dinner.

About the time we were finishing our meal, a couple dropped by asking about the dogs. As usual, Sox and Ditka are great conversation starters. The couple, from Champaign, IL, sat with us for awhile, filling us in on their soon-to-be move to fulltiming. He is an assistant DA and she is a legal secretary with both having retirement dates set in the next 2 months. They've already moved in to their 5th wheel and by the end of summer will be on the road. Between them, they have seven adult children and 17 grandchildren spread across the country from the east cost to Colorado so their are some general stopping points for them.

After they departed, Ken and I took a late night dog walk. Some observations from the walk: these types of RVers are quiet after 10pm compared to weekends at state parks. They are also not in to the extensive decorative outdoor lighting that seems to be a big thing with weekend RVers. The other noticeable difference was that they really limited the number of indoor lights on--even with full hookups. I guess years of conservation and learning how to keep bugs away with limited lighting become a habit.

Well, we obviously aren't going to get the kind of sunsets we enjoy sitting in the Missouri State Fairgrounds but we did notice this interesting cloud formation as the sun began to go down. Yes, one of Sedalia's claims to fame is being considered 'tornado alley'. It is good to know that there is a storm shelter just across the street and a weather radio on the wall next to the bed so not-to-worry in that regard.

Tomorrow will be the official opening on the Escapade so stay tuned, so long as the campground wireless holds up, we'll try to post updates daily.

Hugs, C

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Our First Visit to David’s Frankford Farm

***Note: you may want to go back a few posts...we've had to do some catching up so have done several postings in a few days***

On the weekend of May 16th we planned a Frericks Brother’s weekend at David’s farm in Frankford, MO. Brother Alan was not able to attend.

Ken was ready to go late Friday afternoon. The weather was not looking so great but he and brother Michael were on the phone assessing the situation. I called shortly after to say there was no way I wanted to drive through 50mph winds and thunderstorms to sit inside all night. By the time Ken called Michael back he and Jean had already decided to risk the weather and were on their way on the 45 mile journey.

We both made the right decision. They arrived at the farm about 10 minutes before the storm hit, just enough time to get setup outside before the worst of it hit. Brother David and his Cindy were driving up from St. Louis and were coming through Bowling Green about the same time they had tornado warnings in that area so Michael and Jean had set out the worst of the storm on their own. Since we would have left after Michael, we would have still been driving in to the storm so I’m really glad we waited to leave until Saturday morning.

There was room behind the farmhouse for Michael’s 5th Wheel and our motorhome.

We did a community lunch of burgers on the grill and then Frericks boys loaded up to take a tour of the property.

We in-laws stayed behind for the tough job of catching up on all the family adventures and gossip.

Saturday night all 6 of us piled in to Michael’s truck and drove some scenic but rugged back roads to the Catholic Church in Perry, MO. By the way, does anyone know who in Perry Missouri would have put in Michelle Duesterhaus’ name under the prayer intentions? Man, it’s a small world!!

After a 25 minute mass (they are nothing in Perry if not efficient!!), we went over to Mark Twain Dam to eat at Rustic Oak Cabin, as advertised the ‘best food by a dam site!’ and as usual it stayed true to its reputation. We had a great meal and then headed back to the farm.

The guys had gathered wood for a campfire and so we enjoyed a perfect night under a sky overflowing with stars.

Sunday Ken did some of David’s deer brats on the grill, then we all took our time packing up for the trip home.

A really great Frericks’ Brothers weekend….Alan and Nancy you were missed!!
Thanks David and Cindy for the hospitality!

Hugs, C

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day - St. Francis Hills

Time to catch up after many weeks of not having time for blogging.

Ken has been working on remodeling our master bedroom/bath and as usual I’m consumed at work.

So let’s go back to Mother’s Day and catch up.

As usual, we followed the Frericks family tradition of a Mother’s Day weekend at St. Francis Hills. We arrived late Saturday afternoon.

Because of various other family issues it was only niece Jackie and her family that camped overnight with us.

I believe this is Sox’s favorite outing of the year as all her little great-niece buddies make sure she gets plenty of love.

Ditka had his fair share of attention as well.

Ken was on grill duty with nephew John supervising. This is a slight change of roles for the week since Ken has had John working with him all week doing the master bedroom/bath – taking the 20-year ‘popcorn’ off the ceiling, taking out old flooring, tearing out old tile and wallpaper, and wood trim. These two guys have proven that together they can be quite destructive!

Ken’s brother’s and sisters – in the back, Lois, Ken, David, Ann, Kay, Michael; front row – Mary, Carlene, Mom and Mom’s sister Florence.

Since they were teenagers Kyle and Trev always tried little tricks to make themselves look bigger than the other in family pictures. Ok Kyle, you win this round!

Since Ditka’s incident with the worm under his skin, Ken has the dogs on some additional natural anti-parasite medicines that take a little ingenuity to administer. His great-nieces were more than happy to help him out.

Molly talked Kyle and Jenni in to a came of soccer. It was Molly and Jenni against Kyle.

Here you see little schemer Molly whispering the trick throw-in play to Jenni.

I think by the end of the day Molly and Jenni were new best buddies!

Well tomorrow we'll move on to our Frericks Brother's Weekend...

Hugs, C