Thursday, October 28, 2010

Charleston—>Springfield: Studying and Storms

On Sunday evening, Oct. 24th, our last evening in Charleston,IL. Trevor’s girlfriend, Leah invited us over for a meal.  She and her roommates cooked a wonderful Italian dinner complete with Chicken Alfredo, Bruschetta, Insalata  Caprese and Garlic bread.  The proof it was awesome was Ken have two heaping plates of everything!  Great job, ladies!!


On morning, Trev and Leah came out for breakfast and then said their good-byes since Trev needed to head to Springfield, IL with us for his last CPA exam.  I drove his car so he could study in the RV during the 2 hour trip.

Since the weather forecast was predicting nasty weather for Monday night and Tuesday, Ken was particularly picking about the site we chose at the Illinois State Fairgrounds campground.  We decided to go with a parking lot site with full hookups that had an embankment sheltering us from some of the winds.


There were also few trees overhead so less likelihood of damage from falling branches.  While a parking lot definitely does not have the “it” factor, we were here for Trev’s CPA exam so the setting really wasn’t an issue.  And $20 for full hookups and wifi close to his test site was just the ticket for this trip.

After set up we did a late lunch at D’Arcy’s Pint, great pub food and good service at mid-range prices.

Late afternoon and evening, Ken did some basic maintenance on the RV and then we relaxed, read and watched TV while Trev considered his last minute studies.


As Trev was ready for breaks we made supper and then later played “Hand n Foot”….ok, this was his night to win.

Unfortunately the overnight hours were not much fun.  About 4am the weather radio started going off and it went off about every 15 minutes after that until about 5:30 am.  The weather radio was Ken’s compromise to help ease my fears of sleeping in an RV during threatening weather. He hates them  but I do better feeling I know what’s developing around us.  I figure it would take a lot to cause harm in a 30,000 lb motorhome built for highway speed winds so I don’t get too concerned about watches or thunderstorm warnings with winds under 60mph. If the storm is expected to have dangerous lightening Ken might go out and unhook from the pedestal before it hits just as an extra precaution.  This weather had tornado warnings to the county above us and the county below us, then a thunderstorm warning for us with winds that could exceed 70mph.  That had me a  bit jittery and I considered a move to the concrete block shower houses nearby but Ken was already really growly about the number of times the radio had gone off so I decided since no other RVers seemed to be vacating I could stick it out too, especially since we were sheltered from the direction of the winds.

I can’t say I’ve felt much movement from the wind when we are sitting in this rig but definitely felt it Monday night.  It was raining hard for awhile and seemed to be going horizontal instead of falling.  Luckily the storm line moved through in about 1/2 hour.  I saw on TV that we had wind gusts in the 60 mph range during the worst of it but after the system passed the winds slowed to gusts of 40-45.  At that point we were all able to get back to sleep for a few hours.

Lesson learned: I think we will look in to upgrading the weather radio to a version that can be more precisely programmed to the specific county we are in and to only go off for tornado warnings and severe thunderstorm warnings in that county. That would have meant the radio would have only woke us once instead of six times.  There would have been a lot less grumpiness the next day!!

Trevor took a break from studying in the morning and fixed us breakfast on Tuesday.  Early afternoon he took another break and we drove in to the historic downtown area where his office is located. 

The McGladrey and Pullen offices are easy to find since they are right next to the old State Capitol Building.


We decided to try Willy P’s Tap and Grill which is right across from the office and a place he will likely frequent once on the job.  They have daily specials for $7 including drink.  Ken and I did the mostacolli with garlic bread.  Not bad but not worth a special trip.  Trev really liked the sandwich and homemade chips he’d ordered.

Since the wind was continuing to batter us, and we had a bad night for sleep we decided to put off our Lincoln Museum visit for another time when we could spend more time and  be more awake.  Instead we went back to the rig for a nap, dog walks and more studying for Trevor.

He took a break again a supper time and we drove out to the apartment complex where he would soon be living.  Luckily we found a recently completed road that will cut some time off his daily drive.  We also found a really good restaurant next door called the Lake Pointe Grille.  While their specialty is brick-oven pizza, they do an excellent job on pasta.  We decided to each try something different and share.  You are going to spend $15-$18 a piece at this restaurant and the ambience doesn’t seem to be up to the price tag but the food is worth it.  I love to do these kinds of restaurants with Trev and Ken because they both love to cook and we had a good time sampling each others entrees and talking about how we might try to reproduce at home.  It’s also always fun to check out new ingredients we don’t normally have line crimmini mushrooms,  and a walnut/squash combination in a pasta.

After a little more studying it was time for a ‘Hand n Foot’ rematch—a yes, finally, I creamed ‘em this time. 

I’m headed off to bed with my Kindle, enjoying yet another highly reviewed ‘freebie’ novel from Amazon called the ‘Sari Shop
Widow’—a nice ‘no brain’ romance break compared to the twelve volume science fantasy ‘Sword of Truth’ series I just finished. 

On Wednesday morning, Trev was up early to be to the test site by 7:30 pm.  Ken and I took our time with showers, dog walks, breakfast and breaking camp after that.  Ken was apprehensive about the drive with the 40-45 mph wind gusts predicted to continue through the day.  We got on the road about 10am, as usual.  Trev has called and said that he’s completed his test and is also on the way home.

As I write these last paragraphs we are about 20 minutes from Quincy where we will be switching gears to get Trev packed up for him move to Springfield. 

Unfortunately, he will now have to change those weekend plans since Leah’s grandmother passed away and he will be boarding a train tomorrow to head up to Chicago for services on Friday.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Leah, her mother, and family on their loss.

Depending on the temperatures, we may or may not take the rig back to Springfield when moving Trevor in 2 weeks. The fairgrounds campground shuts off their water/sewer hookups but does continue to make one nice shower house available upon request and does have some electric sites that are still available.  The only charge $10 a night once water is no longer available so we figure unless its forecast to be really cold or bad driving it will work well as a place for us to stay while helping Trev get set up.

I’ll leave you with some final autumn pictures of the glorious old oak trees in the Illinois State Fairgrounds campground.

IMG_1420 IMG_1418

Hugs, C

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Homecoming Weekend at EIU

We left Tennessee on Wednesday, October 20th, and made the 335 mile drive to Charleston, IL. 6.5 hours is a long travel day for us.
We we happy to get in to Fox Ridge State Park, our home park here at Eastern Illinois University.

Leah is a senior here at school. Trev drove over Thursday afternoon from Quincy. As you can see below, Sox was thrilled to have some more of her people home to spoil her.

I did my 45 minute Nordic Track workout, a Walmart run and dropped by McDonald’s to post the blog.


We did grilled chicken, potatoes and fresh green beans for dinner and then played ‘Hand n Foot’. The guys just barely beat the girls but Leah and I are ready to take them on again anytime.

Friday, Trevor and Leah came out for breakfast and Leah took a run in the park and then headed back to classes. Trev spent the day studying for his final CPA exam. I did my Nordic Track workout, another Walmart run and dropped by McDonald’s again to do some more internet work to figure out where we’d stay in Springfield next week, send some photos for processing and do some online ‘finance’ work.

Ken put together a double batch of his Italian sausage soup for tailgating (under close supervision by Ditka!)


Late afternoon while walking the dogs, we got a rare opportunity for some pictures of one of the parks owls. One of our favorite things about Fox Ridge State Park are the number of owls that sing you to sleep at night. It’s not often they come out and pose for us during the day!




Trevor had to leave mid-afternoon to coach QND’s tromping of Waterloo Friday evening at Waterloo. Chris Vacarro got in late Friday afternoon so we took, Chris, his girlfriend Courtney and Leah to Greenup, IL for dinner. Our intent was to take them to Saathoff’s. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Greenup, Saathoff’s was closed so instead we ventured in to another restaurant in this small town called Stagecoach Stop. It turned out to be a great choice with great AYCE fish and sweet potato fries and fried okra that everyone really liked.

Saturday was EIU’s Homecoming and the first time we’d tailgated this season. Despite the dismal football season and windy start to the day, there was a good turnout.


We got on to the tailgating parking lot about 10 am with Trevor and Leah’s roommates showing up pretty soon after with Mimosa’s and last years’ OVC championship banner to hang up.


The guys who won that championship and graduated were now able to party outside instead of suit up for the game. They did, however, make a point to go in to the locker room and try to ‘motivate’ the team a bit. Apparently it only helped through the first half since they lost the game, yet again, in the second half.

From left, Chris Vaccaro, Ademola Adiniji, Andre Lima, Luis Cairo, Trev and Jeff Sobul.


About 11am Kyle and Jenni, along with Staley, arrived from Carlinville. It was their two-week anniversary. We are glad they were able to come over and share the day with us since, with the wedding the fall, this was our only chance to have all of us together for tailgating.

Below: Jennifer FRERICKS, Jaimie Dansart, Jeff Sobul, Chris Vaccaro, Kourtney Higgins


The Daily Eastern News dropped by to do some interviews and the band came by to treat us to a song.


From left, Jeff Sobul, Jamie Dansart, Chris Vaccaro, Kourtney Higgins, Leah and Trevor.


Leah and Trevor enjoying the day.IMG_1385

As you may recall from prior blogs, one of Trevor’s past roommates and fellow EIU football alumni, Trent Steckel was killed in a motorcycle accident several months ago. We were thrilled to have Trent’s Mom, Heather, come down to join us for homecoming. Here are some of our favorite EIU friends, Doc and Annie Rudert (he volunteers and team doctor) along with Heather.

IMG_1386And, of course, no EIU tailgate would be complete without Scott Robinson introducing us to some new concoction from his liquor store. This time it was a liquor-based whipped cream. You could make some seriously dangerous hot chocolate with this stuff!


It’s important to Ken to have the motorhome parked back in its site by dark so we left the tailgate park at about 5:30 and were set back up at the state park by shortly after 6pm.

We went back to Lincoln Garden for dinner with Kyle and Jenni and then dropped them off at Leah’s house where there was a big homecoming party taking place. Ken went in and picked them up a couple of hours later since this ‘old married couple’ weren’t quite in to the all-night college partying scene they’d left many years ago.

Most motorhome owners, especially fulltimers, will tell you that their rig sleeps 2. Well Saturday night we had a bunking party with 4 adults and 3 dogs. Jenni and Kyle took the sofa bed. It really isn’t too bad except that, with Ditka still recuperating from surgery, we can’t leave him around other dogs unsupervised so there was a lot of juggling of which dogs went where for feeding, walking, sleeping, etc.,

Sunday morning, we set up outside to have a nice breakfast before the kids left to go back to Carlinville. They wanted to get on the road to be sure that Kyle did not miss his beloved Bears game.

It was about 11:30 when the prior night’s revelers started straggling in to our campsite. Trev had told his buds they were welcome to come by the RV to do a late breakfast but should bring some food since he had no idea how many would come or what we’d have available. As it turns out, if you count Jenni and Kyle, we ended up doing breakfast for 14. Of course, they all brought plenty of eggs, bacon, potatoes, donuts, milk and juice so our contribution was primarily the place, the set up and the cooking.


Leah and Kourtney decided to go play on the playground behind the rig.


Soon Trev and Jeff were joining them. Must be one strong swingset to handle these two!!


Most of this crew are from the Chicago area and so about 1:30 they started departing for their 3 hour drive home.

Trevor helped clean up and then he and Leah headed back to her house so Trev could study and she could get in a much needed nap.

Ken is watching the Bears get beat by the Redskins while I write this post. Leah wants to cook for us this evening so as soon as the game is over I’m going to do my workout while Ken does a dog walk and some napping under the awning. We’ll then head in to town for the evening.

It’s been a really nice Homecoming weekend getting to see all the friends we’ve missed here at EIU. We are all hoping this gets to be an annual get-together for this crew.

Hugs, C

Thursday, October 21, 2010

‘Camping with Lisa’

It’s been so long ago that I can’t even remember the first time Lisa Hembree, suggested, while in the RV-Dreams chatroom that we should all come visit her since, with her newly adopted little one, Rick, she and Tony’s dreams of hitting the road were postponed a bit.

Isn’t technology a wonderful thing.   Lisa was able to organize this whole wonderful event electronically.

Sending invitations via Facebook - $0.00. 

Spreading the word via blogs and forums - $0.00.

The schedule for this event coincided with Carthage, TN schools 2-week fall break since Lisa is a teacher.  That meant that we could expect the Defeated Creek COE to be packed and reservations for sites in the full hookup sections really hard to come by.  Lisa identified a section of the campground that was particularly attractive and encouraged those interested to get their sites reserved as soon as the online reservation window opened.

Site fee, full hookups,  for those with Golden Access - $9, $12.50 if on waterfront

Group organization – a white board with info on next organized activities - $0.00

JoAnn suggested this whiteboard, having seen this kind of informal group organization used with the SKP Boomers.  Something you want to do that day and invited others in the group – write it on the board and people can join in if they want.  Of course, being a teacher, Lisa was able to come up with the board!

This sign is from the night before most were leaving and the decision was made that the ‘meal for the evening’' would be all the things people needed to clean out of there frig before they hit the road!!


The days usually started like this.  

Glorious views across the lake out or windows as we awoke to perfect autumn days - $0.00



Morning line dancing classes with Ellie - $0.00

These classes even attracted other campers and their children to join in with us!


Impromptu happy hour ‘Seminars’ on the latest in RV equipment, trip planning, recipes and joke-telling - $0.00

In this example, the instruction was on how to set up these unique chairs that Nat had bought and everyone coveted.  Here she has enlisted the assistance of an audience member, Chuck, to demonstrate how easy the chairs were to operate.



Education on local wildlife – the habits of local fish - $0.00

I had heard the phrase, “the shad are running” but had no idea what it meant until this week.   Huge schools of thousands of these little fish congregated in the lake right below our rig.  They caught my attention when I suddenly saw so many large fish jumping up out of the water.


When I got down to the water with my camera, a local fisherman was by the bank and explained to me that this was ‘God’s way’ of insuring that before these small shad are killed off by winter, they bunch together to provide a massive banquet on which the large fish can gorge themselves before they go down into winter hibernation.


One extra special service we received was having Ditka’s surgery staples removed while at the campground.  Lisa put us in contact with a vet named Lindsey
Dixon.  When Lindsey missed our Friday morning appt. she drove out to the campground to remove Ditka’s staples there.  Pretty cool – house calls by the doctor for Ditka!!

There were 15 staples and Ditka made sure that everyone in the campground heard is howling displeasure at having them removed.


Entertainment provided regularly by Tony and Lisa’s little Rick - $0.00

Here he’s showing Papa Tony how he can use a nice long stick as a switch to herd a wayward parent.



3 year old (yes, he is really, really tall for his age!) Rick working the crowd at happy hour!


I also understand we missed some wonderful fireside entertainment with some of Lisa’s friends dropping by the week before to play and sing for the group.

Jeep tour to find more awesome scenery - $2.69 per gallon of gas!

   This is one of many beautiful views down on to Cordell Hull Lake where the campground  is located.



Games –  ‘Hand n Foot’ competitions were held almost every day - $0.00.

Ken and I had just learned this game but  I’m not sure Ken missed a single time they were playing.


Lawn chair Meditation   - $0.00

Gazing across the lake….



….Or just looking up!


Attending Local Events – Ken and I took in the EIU vs Tennessee Tech game - $10 each


We really enjoyed getting to see an EIU game and visit with all the travelling fans we knew even if our Panthers played really awful, extending their loss record to 0-5.  How strange that the OVC champions last year cannot seem to win a game this year.


Happy Hours – most every night the group met at 4:30.  Cost - $0.00 – ?  (depending on what you wanted to bring to eat or drink.)

Sometimes a couple or two woff on their own adventure or just stay in for a quiet night on their own but this seemed to be the time that most gathered during the day.  

Tony and Lisa, to the left, had this tent set up besides their awning so that was the place we usually did happy hour.  To the right are Sandy and Ellie.


This schedule meant that at about 4:15 everyday we were pulling out my ‘It’s 5:00 somewhere” wine glass!   I finally just left it sitting out!!



Luscious meals with friends - $0.00 – $10 each (We didn’t spend more than $10 each with tip the whole week, very reasonable restaurants, about $5 each on chip-ins at the campground when someone else provided )

With this group, even leftover nights were a feast.  Sometimes it would be bring your own meat for the grill and a dish.  Other nights someone would provide the main course and others would chip-in.  And, then, of course, some times one couple, two couples or the whole darn group would head out to a restaurant.

Here John, Ken, Mac, and Netters work their way through the ‘leftovers’ table.  Yes, Frericks family, that is a deviled egg Ken has found, his well-known picnic favorite.  He and Mac made short work of Sandy’s eggs!


Saturday night when Ken and I went to Cookeville for the football game, we stopped first at an Italian restaurant in that town that was recommended by Lisa and Tony.  Mamma Rosa’s had very good home-made Italian entrees with serving sizes big enough to give us a each a large lunch serving to take with us.  The only downside to this restaurant (and they even have a sign up about this when you come in), the food does take a while to get there.  They say this is because it is all homemade but I think this is one area they could work on.  If you’re not in a hurry it’s a perfect pick for Italian in Cookeville.


Our friends, JoAnn and Doug, had arrived before we did but also had to leave early so we decided to do our favorite activity with them, find a great local place to go out to eat!  In this case, it was the Pleasant Shade Grocery.   Here’s Ken and Doug on our way in.


We enjoyed our time with Dough and JoAnn over some good home cooking.  They explained a bit to us about how the SKP Boomers group operates and winters in Arizona and suggested we consider joining them with that group for part of our first Southwest experience.  I’ve since made the contacts to get signed up because this sounds like a really good idea for us greenhorn boondockers.

On Sunday evening, we did a group outing to the Cracker Barrel, in Lebanon, TN.   Lebanon is where Cracker Barrel originated.

From left, Netters, Mac, Linda, John, Lisa, Rick, Tony, Tez, Kathy, me, and Leno.


From left, Kathy, Chuck, me, Donna, Netters, Mac, Sandy, John.



Rick keeps Kathy, Chuck and Uncle Tez entertained while waiting,.


All in all, its been wonderful to see how well it can work to just invite a group of like-minded folks to camp together and have everything turn out so beautifully.  We attended this little ‘mini rally’ with no rally cost and considerably less out-of-pocket expenses for site, food, entertainment shopping, and incidentals than we’ve spent at the last 3 rallies we attended.   There was a total feeling of flexibility – do what you want, when you want but have the availability of group activities along the way. At rallies because you’ve paid fees you feel obligated to take part even though I’m finding the main draw for us is becoming the socialization.

Thank you so much Lisa and Tony for inviting us to your gorgeous part of the country and for making our stay so enjoyable.

And so, To end our days during this adventure…

, the sunsets, like the fun, food, fall scenery and most of all

the new and growing friendships - PRICELESS!


Hugs, C

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

From the Wedding to Tennessee

On Tuesday morning, October 11th, we did the final wedding closeout activities.  This included getting Kyle and Jenni off to the county courthouse to register their marriage license and getting Grandpa’s Chevy back on the trailer and headed back to Springfield, MO with Alan and Nancy.



Ken and I were on the road about 10:30, leaving Trev at home to hold down the fort while he studied for his final CPA exam.

We pulled in to Duck Creek RV Park at about 4:30, once again making this 300 miles at our average 50 mph.  We’d stayed at Duck Creek before and found it to be easy off and on for an overnight stop. 


We decided to try out Show-Me’s just down the road for dinner.  This is a sport’s bar much like Hooters.   The food was good, and the service friendly—maybe too friendly since I was one of the few women in the place but the waitress sure went out of her way to make Ken feel welcome!

The other reason we really like Duck Creek is because they have a fenced dog run where Ditka and Sox can get off-leash for a bit and work off all that pent up energy from a travel day.

Sox had lots of fun exploring every square foot of free space.



However, since Ditka was still very limited in movement from his surgery, he did a bit of exploring and then parked himself back at the gate, making it clear he was ready to go back to the rig.



Because we were parked halfway between their wifi boosters our signal was really poor.  As a result, I got up early Wednesday and headed up in front of the office with my coffee to the patio area and got my internet fix.  They have a really comfy place to sit so it was a great start to the day.


Before we pulled out I got this shot of our neighbor.  Looks to me like a close relative to Myrddin, the 1992 Beaver, belong to our friends Jim and Linda.


We got back on the road at about 9:00 am.

After hearing of some problems Arlene and Kevin had in getting in to their reserved site at Defeated Creek, I maintained contact with the folks already in the campground via Facebook and was informed by about 11am that our campsite had been vacated and was ready for our arrival.

Unfortunately we hit a traffic jam where a semi had dumped a huge roll of steel in the middle of I-40 and so we sat in traffic for about an hour.   We arrived at Defeated Creek COE at about 2:30, setting up in the site we’d picked out the last time we were here, #38, with a beautiful view over the lake.



We were set up in time to make it over to 4:30 happy hour, of course!  Since it was our travelling day we were not expected to contribute to the evenings cooking and got to enjoy some really luscious barbeque ribs, chicken, potatoes and a variety of great covered dishes.

The folks attending included (click names to get to the blogs):

Lisa and Tony Hembree, our hosts, along with their darling sons Tez and

Doug and JoAnn Dubroullet

John and Sandy Byrnes

Arlene and Kevin Sullivan

Gregg(Mac) and Lynette(Netters) McHenry

Paul and Mary(Natasha) Witwer

Ellie and Jim Meacham

Donna and Nolan Stenger

Kathy and Chuck Donley

Don and Jenny Manuel (we just missed them as they left the day we arrived!)

The folks from left to right:  Mac ,  Kathy, Tony and Lisa (our hosts!), Sandy, Ellie and me.



From left, Doug, Jim, JoAnn, Mac, John and Chuck.



Tomorrow I’ll summarize the highlights of this great informal get-together at one of our very favorite parks.


Hugs, C