Travel Log for July, 99

Updated on August 6, 1999.


Log Date: +454: 990701: 1230CDT: 45N8'40.24: 93W31'8.75: Minneapolis NW KOA, Maple Hills, MN

Wolf in the flowersWolf had his run in the clover, and then we headed out of the Jackson KOA at 9am in the morning. The sky was clouded and it remained relatively cool all day, never going over 68 degrees. I bought diesel as we were leaving and found our previous leg had mileage of 12.9 miles per gallon.

At first we headed east on I-90 to the intersection with MN15 near Fairmont. The freeway rocked and rolled, and they were doing work on it much of the way. It was pleasant when we finally turned off onto MN15, for the road was smooth. Driving along a byway is often nicer than traveling along an Interstate. At Madelia we turned northeast on MN60 and a short time later merged with US169. Shortly after we crossed the Blue Earth River we were driving alongside the Minnesota River to the north. We were in the valley of that river much of the time, and the land was often wooded. It was very green.

We stopped at a rest stop to stretch and then continued towards Minneapolis. Half a mile from I-494 just south of Minneapolis the traffic came to a stop. We had reached the Interstate construction zone again. It took almost thirty minutes to make it to the freeway, and then we were able to head on further north. The traffic was reminiscent of California, and some of the drivers seemed to have learned there. Not quite the same as the drive up from the south.

Rig in MinneapolisWe found our exit onto Local 30 and turned west. L30 abruptly turned to the right and I was in the wrong lane, so I had to go further and make a U-turn. That was how we found the Rainbow Grocery store. Finally, we located the KOA and checked in. We were under the trees, but with some careful pruning, I found a path through the branches for the DSS satellite antenna. We had TV.

I took a nap, and while asleep, it rained a bit. Not too bad, but the TV reception went to zero. It must have been looking through some leaves that got wet.

That evening we went to the grocery store and stocked up again. We then had too much in the frig and have to figure out what to eat according to what would spoil next.

Friday we drove to Osseo to pick up our mail and then went to Bloomington to see the Mall of America. We walked the mall for five hours. I figure we saw less than half of it. It is huge; well worth the time to stop, buy, and do some walking yourself.

Of course, we bought some things, things we didn't have to have but if you are walking the mall you have to buy something or else you feel useless.

When we were ready to leave, it was still commute time, so I asked Co-Pilot to plot a course for us to the vicintity of the state capital and then back to the KOA. It kept putting us on the freeway, and I kept adding intermediate points to force it off the Interstate. Finally, I had a pretty good idea of where to go and simply took off in the right direction.

When we reached the capital area, we found many of the streets were blocked off for the Taste of Minnesota festival, so it was a real challenge to find our way through and back to the road to return to the rig. But finally we got back on I-35 and eventually found the way. They don't usually block off the Interstates, they just repair them.

When July 4th arrived the weather was increasingly muggy and hot. We decided to spend the time in the rig and watch the fireworks on PBS. We were really glad we did; it was one of the best shows of the year, and we had a nice cool seat with the air conditioning running.

We called around and found that the only WalMart in the area with automotive service was in Chamberlain, about 60 miles north of Minneapolis. So we drove up there to have the truck serviced. On the way back we found a Camping World and spent a lot of money buying the things we had not had a chance to buy for a couple of months.

Our neighbors at the KOA were a nice couple, Wiley and Chris Jones from Salina, KS. They were having a trip from hell. Their new used Flair motorhome had adopted the habit of just dying on the road and at time not wanting to start. They were amazingly cheerful during the whole experience. They were trying everything, and finally they had it towed to a repair shop. I got an email later: $1,200 to fix the fuel pump and a bum sensor, but at least they were back in Salina.

Finally, our time in Minneapolis was up, and it was time to leave.

Log Date: +460: 990707: 1230DT: 44N48'31.79: 88W52'25.72: Brady's Pine Grove Campground, Shawano, WI

We headed east out of Minneapolis by taking I-694 across the north side and then hooking up with I-94. Later, when I-94 headed south, we took highway 29 to go directly across Wisconsin. About halfway across we came to our campsite, Brady's Pine Grove Campground. The drive was easy, and the sights were beginning to become monotonous.

Apart from its location, there was little to say about our campground. We did have adequate power, but there were no other amenities. There were lots of mosquitos. I do not recommend this place.

Log Date: +461: 990708: 1230DT: 45N45'35.82: 87W5'8.58: UP State Fairgrounds, Escanaba, MI

Rig at Fun DaysWe continued east on 29 until we finally reached the shores of Lake Michigan, and then headed north. There was a bit of a detour along the way, but we made it. We headed up the shores of the lake along highway 25 until we found the fairgrounds in Escanaba that was to be our home for the next week.

We lucked out and had a 50 amp electic service where we were parked. Several others had little or no electricty.

The next few days were hectic as we helped prepare and then handle the Jr. Escapees program for Fun Days. Being a volunteer for an Escapees event is quite an experience, especially one like finding things for 35 youngsters to do.

The BunnsWe were co-chairs for the Jr. Escapees. Jack and Pat Bunn were the chairs. We had another 14 volunteers help us during the three days of major activity. We had games, competitions, a parade, door prizes, and a skit at the Fun Days follies.

Alice and I also had the opportunity to eat out a couple of times. The food was pretty good, but the best was Cherry Lane, one of the great ice cream shops par excellance!! Of course, it was far too fattening, but then we left the area, so we couldn't get hooked.

When I get time, I will do a special page on the Fun Days. Unfortunately, we were so busy I did not take the time to do many photos. We did sign up to help at the Fun Days next year in Kamloops, BC.

Log Date: +468: 990715: 1230EDT: 45N28'23.43: 84W36'20.79: Indian River Campground, Topinabee, MI

The drive along Lake MichiganWe dumped our tanks and left Escanaba Thursday morning and headed east along the north shore of Lake Michigan. I had expected it to be winding and twisting, but the roads were nice and wide with only shallow curves. Along the way we stopped and took a few pictures to prove we had been there.

Alice and Wolf Lake MichiganAlice and Wolf checked out the waters of the lake. Neither would venture into the water at all. It was not that cold, but I guess they just didn't want to get wet.

We reached I-75 and turned south to go across the Mackinaw Bridge. They are serious about crossing the bridge, and trucks and trailers are limited to 20 miles per hour. For someone who has driven the Golden Gate Bridge at 70, it seemed quite tame. At least it was a good excuse to see the sights. The lake waters were deep blue, so it must have been deep.

We continued down I-75 for another 50 miles and ended up at the Indian River Campground. They only had 20amp service, and I had to borrow an extension cord. My surge protector objected when we plugged in, and I found the extension cord was missing the common. It exchanged it for another that worked.

The campground was closer to Topinabee than to Indian River. We never did find out how to say the name of that town.

We stayed a couple of days to unwind from Fun Days. The weather was beginning to get too warm. We ate out at a local family restaurant and had too much food again. I did some work on the website, but not enough to upload. I did download my email.

Log Date: +470: 990717: 1400EDT: 42N52'10.70: 82W33'11.11: St. Clair TTN Park, St. Clair, MI

We decided to head directly for St. Clair (280 miles) rather than stopping at another park along the way. The one we had chosen turned out to be a private membership campground and we were not welcome.

From Indian River Campground we continued south on I-75 for about 200 miles, then turned to the east at Saginaw on I-475 and I-69 towards Port Huron. Then it was south for another 10 miles on I-95 to the exit at Wadhams Road and into the TTN Park. The weather was reasonable all the way and the traffic was light. It was typical Michigan scenery all the way: flat, green, and mostly wooded.

We checked in at the TTN Park and extended our stay to eight days. There was no good sewer spot available, so we first parked on a spot without sewer, and moved the next morning when a nice spot with full hookups became available. Our next door neighbors were Jack and Sandy Hubbert. They were at the preserve on an extended stay. They had been full-timing for four years, but their home had been in Michigan and they were meeting their sons in the UP three weeks hence at the family cabin.

Their dog Buffy (a three-year old miniature poodle) immediately made friends with Wolf, and the two were soon romping around all over the place. For the next week, Buffy would come to the door in the morning and bark, asking for Wolf to come out and play.

We enjoyed our stay at St. Clair TTN, but the weather was much too hot and muggy. All the natives said it was the hottest they had seen it. We drove into St. Clair, found the Murphy Inn for lunch, and we had a delightful seafood gumbo and spinach salad lunch. We also collected our snail mail and bought groceries. We went back to the Murphy Inn near the end of the week again, and the food was still good.

Another day we drove into Port Huron, and Alice played the navigator to find a restaurant she had heard about. She did not know the address and she was not sure of the name, but it was somewhere near the end of I-94. Big help! We finally found the Quay Brewing Company next to the yacht club on the river and had one of our best lunches in weeks: fish and chips, both done in a light beer batter. I had merlot and Alice had the brew sampler: six 5oz glasses of the different brews. We spent three hours over lunch that day.

We had thought of going across the bridge at Port Huron into Canada, but the toll was both ways and it appeared the only thing on the other side was factories. So we just looked at Canada across the river from the Quay.

Mostly, it was a time for rest and relaxation. We walked the dog a number of times, and he came to know most of the trees along the roads. One old grouch across the road from us got upset when Wolf peed on a post near (40 ft away) his rig, but we just ignored him. We find that there a few of his kind on the road, and they will always find something to bitch about. It is sad, but that kind of person just wants to be negative about something. Most of the people we meet are positive and happy and fun to be around.

Jack and Sandy are a mostly happy couple. They have a few gripes about TTN, but we talked most of those things through and found other agreeable things to talk about, like our dogs. One of the subjects were the autoformers that are starting to appear in many parks. I was surprised when I found that Thousand Trails is pushing them in their park.

People do not seem to understand you cannot get something for nothing. The autoformer will boost the voltage to "ensure" the rig has 118 volts, even with 100 volt shore power, but it does it by sucking more amps. If enough people do this, they drop the shore power voltage even more and eventually blow the breaker for the entire section. In one sense, a camper using an autoformer is stealing power from his neighbors. For the parks, it means that fewer people will suck more power and eventually parks will have to either upgrade their electrical systems, limit the number of sites available to campers, or charge for the use of an autoformer. I now plan to do an article about this subject; it is rapidly becoming an issue for people on the road.

By the way, there is a good article on autoformers by phred Tinseth in the latest Escapees magazine.

Friday night we had a couple of waves of thunderstoms go through with some of the grandest electrical storms I had seen since I was a kid in Oklahoma. Some of the people in the campground had left their awnings out, and the next morning they needed to be replaced. A rule we have learned: when a storm is coming up or you are leaving your rig for the day, always put your awning away. They can cost up to $1,000 to replace!

Saturday afternoon we had another storm go through mid-afternoon, and it cooled things off a bit. At least it was cool enough for me to barbeque some steaks on the outdoor grill.

Log Date: +478: 990725: 1300EDT: 41N36'51.58: 85W2'44.77: Happy Camper Park, Angola, IN

We left the St. Clair TTN Park Sunday morning about 9am after saying goodbye to Jack and Sandy and Buffy. I had planned to go back up to I-69 then west through Flint to Indiana, but Co-Pilot suggested going south and catching I-94 the other side of Ann Arbor. I decided to follow those directions.

The drive down I-75 was pleasant, but with the high humidity we started the air conditioner when the temperature outside was only up to 75 degrees. We ran it all the way to Indiana. There was some construction but it was not bad, it was Sunday morning. It would have been a lot worse if we were in the middle of the commute.

We turned west on I-696 and everything was fine until we go to I-96. Then the highway engineers had devised one of the most convoluted detours I had ever seen. Co-Pilot went crazy and I went balistic. Finally we made it onto the correct road and found M-14 heading west. From there on it was much calmer, and we joined I-94 just west of Ann Arbor.

Driving through that part of Michigan on the freeway is like driving down a green canyon. There are tall trees on each side, and you just cannot see much beyond them. Once in a while there would be a commercial building, or a housing development, or a farm. But most of it was simply the long green valley.

Sixty miles to the west we caught I-69 and headed south towards Indiana. There was little change in the lay of the land, though it did become a little more hilly. We shortly reached the vicintity of Angola and found our exit to the Happy Camper Park where we had reservations.

We parked under the trees on grass and quickly set up. It was only 1pm. The 202 miles had traveled fast.

We had 50 amp service and I agreed with Alice we should use the air-conditioner. We settled in to eat lunch and watch the afternoon races. I spent the afternoon and evening working on the website.

Log Date: +479: 990726: 13000EDT: 39N41'41.96: 87W30'33.84: Horseshoe Lakes TTN Park, Clinton, IN

The next morning we pulled in the slides and headed down the road. We had plotted a course to leave the Interstate just before we reached Ft. Wayne and head across country to Clinton, IN where we expected to find the Horseshoe Lakes TTN park. It would save us about 20 miles from the supposed "quickest" trip.

Just before reaching Ft. Wayne, we stopped for fuel at a truck stop. I was surprised to get 13.3 miles per gallon, but the next fillup showed I had not quite filled the tank. Then we took the exit to US24 from I-69. It was a nice four lane divided highway and curved lazily through the country-side of Indiana. We got a better view of the land around us on this route than we had seen in Michigan.

We followed US24 to Logansport. We stopped for lunch at a Dairy Queen, but after eating a sandwich neither of us had room for our Blizzards! Next time. Then we headed south on IN25until we reached the Lafayette area where we caught US52 to get over to US231. The roads were good all along the way, a little narrower but nice.

US231 took us through lots of farmland with fields of corn and soy beans. Everything was green and looked in good shape. At Crawfordsvill we took IN47 to the southwest over to US41, then south to the turnoff to Clinton. We crossed the Wabash River and drove through town, looking for possible shopping opportunities. We found they did have an IGA grocery store and a Walmarts. Then we continued west to IN71 and up the road to the entrance to the TTN Park.

Horseshoe Lakes TTN Park is built around nine small lakes left from the very early strip mining done in the area. The camping sites are all nice, many of them in the shade. Power is excellent. We found a good spot and stopped to hook up. There was a DSS antenna next door, so I knew I could get TV.

Unfortunately, the weather was hot and muggy. With good power, we started the air conditioner and used it almost all the time we stayed in the park.

I took the opportunity to review where I was on my novel, and started doing some editing. That led to doing some writing, so now I am getting back into the groove. I hadn't really done anything on it since the first of April.

We drove around the country and back into Clinton one day. We shopped and I took some pictures of the older buildings in the town. According to the computations for my novel, Clinton is 275 miles away from the epicenter but will feel shaking at an intensity of VI, which will result is some damage, especially to older buildings and brick structures. The sixty foot brick chimney at the old middle school will probably fall.

Back at camp, we went to get email as a thunderstorm was coming up and almost got drenched. We went back later when the weather was calmer and answered emails and made reservations. I then started to work getting the webpage ready for uploading so it can be done here. Unfortunately, when we tried there was some kind of cockpit error, so I had to upload a week later.

Log Date: +484: 990731: 37N41'24.74: 87W17'8.10: Diamond Lake RV Resort, Birk City, KY

We headed out of Horseshoe Lakes at 9:30 in the morning to make the 168 mile drive to a campground we had picked out of the Trailer Life Campground CD. The weather was muggy again, but at least it was a little cooler than it had been the last few days.

One the way out, I stopped two of the staff and complained about a fellow camper that had been driving at least 25mph along the campground roads; the limit is 5mph. I think it is important that campers speak out to the campground management whenever there is someone in the park who is abusing the rules, especially when it endangers the other campers. I do not know if the message got across, but if enough people complain, something will happen.

It was a short jaunt over to IN63 where we turned south. We were on four lane road, and surprisingly, that continued to be the case all the way into Kentucky.

We were watching the lay of the land and the construction of buildings on the way down, trying to estimate the amount of damage that would occur if a major earthquake hit the area. One of the main topics of discussion was what would happen to the many silos and water towers along the way.

IN63 joined US41 in Terre Haute. The route took us through the middle of town. There were a number of the buildings we suspected would suffer, including the ornate city hall with its clock tower.

US41 continued south. The farmland became a bit more hilly and then as we entered the larger Ohio River valley area, it leveled out. When we came to Vincennes, there was a bypass that took around the city, and we continued at a good clip to the south until we reached the outskirts of Evansville.

We went right through the city, and it was lots of stop and go because of the stoplights. Finally we emerged on the south side and headed across the bridge over the Ohio into Henderson, KY. A short time later, we turned east on the Audobon Parkway, a four lane divided toll road.

It only cost us $1.20 at the toll booth, and a short time later we turned off onto TN56 and south a couple of miles to Hobbs Road. We found the entrance to the park and turned in to register.

The temperature had climbed to the mid 90s during the drive, and the air conditioning in their office had gone kaput, so we signed in and headed off with an escort to find out spot. We had a choice and I took the one with some shade. The trees were a bit tight, but it was a pretty good spot, with very sufficient power. We turned the A/C on immediately, even before we put the slides out.

Wolf's bathAfter we settled in, we decided it was time to give Wolf a bath. Expecting the worse, we found that he enjoyed it. And he really came out a lot cleaner than when he went in.

One of the reasons for journeying to this spot was to see the land and towns around the Ohio River in the Evansville area. This was research for my book. So that evening I plotted a course with Co-Pilot and the next morning we headed out on our trip.

flowering tobaccoWe went north and east through farmlands towards Lewisport. Along the way we first saw fields of tobacco, and Alice took several pictures of the crop. Some of the fields were flowering like this one was.

Carralton flood wallWe crossed the river at Hawesville, KY over to Carralton, IN. This was an old cotton mill city with many relics. It had been visited by a major flood in 1937, and a mark on the flood wall showed its height. That is about 50 feet above the current level of the water. It will not take much of a quake to destroy all that remains of that town.

One thing I found in this drive was that the county roads in Kentucky are very, very narrow!!! They do not believe in shoulders, nor do they believe in vehicles wider than about seven feet. It was tight, not something you would want to get a wide-body rig onto.

Abe Lincoln's boyhoodWe continued along the river to the west, stopping in Rockport for lunch. While we were there, people started telling us of places to see, so we went north on a side trip to the Lincoln Childhood Years National Park and saw where Abe grew up in the woods of Indiana. It was very interesting and brought back some of those history lessons we used to have all the time.

We returned to the river and continued our journey. By the time we were reaching Evansville, we were both rather tired, so we just headed back home. We stopped in Henderson to shop for groceries and to try to find a liquor store to replenish our supplies. When we finally did find one, it turned out we could not buy liquor in Kentucky on Sunday.

Alice decided she did not want to have a dull drive the rest of the way, so I plotted a course to avoid the Audobon Parkway. We headed south along a road that suddenly came to a closed bridge over the river. So it was retreat and find a different way back to the trailer. We really gave Co-Pilot a workout that day. It was not dull.


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