Plans, What Plans (Part 2 of 3)

So we’re on the road heading to West Branch State Park in Ohio. We have driven through Ohio but never camped there. This stay will cross that state off the list and leave us with only 2 states in the lower 48 we have not stayed in (West Virginia and Connecticut). West Branch SP is a great park for exploring northeast Ohio and we’d come back here any time. We arrived in good weather but saw that would change so we headed to Cuyahoga National Park. This is one of the most urban of our National Parks. Maybe it’s because we were raised in very similar areas but we really didn’t see a whole lot that seemed special. The area does provide a green belt in an otherwise built up area and is heavily used by walkers and bikers so if for nothing else it is valuable. There is some important history about canal building as well. We used our visit to photograph some wildlife and enjoy a beautiful Spring day.

Blue Heron In The Rookery

Mallard Pair At Cuyahoga NP










Cuyahoga Waterfall

Some of the places we wanted to see (James Garfield NHS and Perry Victory and International Peace Monument)  either were not open or didn’t have their boat trips running for the season. We headed to Canton, OH to see the First Ladies NHS. A small Visitor Center has a few exhibits but the main reason for the site is a tour of President and Mrs. McKinley’s home. It was her family home as well. You access it only by guided tour.

McKinley Home At First Ladies NHS

McKinley Desk










Beautiful Staircase

On the way out, being the brochure collector that I am, I picked up a flyer for the Blue Water Majesty miniature ship museum. Steve had put up well with a morning of looking at women’s things so we decided to check this out. Even with the address and our GPS, when we got to the museum we weren’t sure it was the right place. No sign, no other cars and only a small handwritten sign on the door saying open. We went in and were greeted by the owner/model maker, Larry Pulka. We paid our $5 entry fee. That was $5 well spent! This turned out to be one of those hidden gems that we love to find!  He started building ships from kits over 40 years ago when his wife said “get a hobby!” Now he is an artist of the first magnitude crafting sailing ships from exotic woods and even bone. He uses no paint but scours the world looking for exotic colored wood. We never knew there was an exotic wood collectors society. He handcrafts every detail of the ships from original plans. Even the cannons have 51 separate parts!  The attention to detail is amazing. Each link of his chains are handcrafted. We can’t begin to tell you what a fantastic find this place is. Before you think maybe you’d like to take one home, they starting cost is $25,000 and up with a 2-3 year wait. We settled for a wonderful private tour and lots of photos. Rather than paraphrase information about the models we are posting the info cards on each ship shown. Click on the pictures for enlarged viewing and easier reading. This is but a small sampling of his work.

Tiny Cannons In My Hand

The Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark Info

Frigate Model












Frigate Info








Info On The Unicorn










The Unicorn








A Shipyard Diorama



Shipyard Info








Attention To Detail

Then the rain started.  Our newly repaired roof leaked worse than ever before! To say we were upset, distressed and just plain mad is an understatement. We checked to see how far away we were from the Prime Time factory in Elkhart, Indiana. Only 5 hours away. We called and told them we’d done everything we could to get this repaired without success. We wanted to come to the factory for repair. With our manufacturer’s warranty due to run out in 4 weeks we expected a run around. Much to our surprise they were very accommodating. The factory repair facility was booked but we were referred to John Klinge RV Repair who did their overflow work. He could take us the next week. So we lived with a bucket and towels and a leaky roof as best we could. Plans for visiting sights in southern Ohio were cancelled and we made plans to go to Indiana. Yes, we contacted the dealer in Pennsylvania and after working our way up the chain to the Service Manager, we eventually got reimbursement for everything spent on the roof “repair”.

By now we were in need of some fun and laughter. The Maier family never misses a Christmas without watching “A Christmas Story”. In Cleveland is the house used for part of the film. It has been turned into a very profitable tourist attraction. Even though it is very commercial, very kitchy and quite pricey, for real fans it is lots of fun. Everyone who goes immediately finds themselves acting out scenes such as sticking their tongue out at the flagpole, posing with the Red Rider BB Gun etc. We learned lots of little known info about the movie and had that well needed laugh.

A Christmas Story House

Triple Double Dare You!

You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!











The Cast

On to Elkhart, Indiana, RV Capitol of the USA. We dropped the trailer off. John Klinge turned out to be our newest Guardian Angel when he immediately diagnosed the problem as an improperly installed air conditioner. Water damage was extensive and would require removing the roof, removal of sheathing and roof framing, removal of insulation etc. Repairs would take about a week. We hung out in Elkhart for a few days to make sure all was going smoothly.

While in town we visited the RV/MH Hall of Fame. If like us you think MH stands for motor home… wrong! It stands for manufactured housing. This place is huge. We spent all of one afternoon looking at campers and RVs from early 1900s to the 70s. They have so many more RVs to display that an addition is planned. Among our favorites were the oldest known camper, the one owned by Lindberg where he hosted Thomas Edison and Henry Ford and Mae West’s chauffeur driven model.

RV?MH Hall of Fame

Vintage RVs On Display

Chari Poses With Mae West’s RV










Since we were here where Prime Time Manufacturing (makers of our Sanibel) is located, we scheduled a visit to the factory. Seeing the construction and quality control was enlightening. We talked at length with the sales rep and he made notes about our issues and suggestions. We viewed a 2019 Sanibel and they have made some good changes. However the separate wine fridge is a bit over the top for us. We followed this with a visit to Goshen, IN and dinner at a Triple D restaurant, South Side Soda Shop. The dinner was just OK but the pie was worth the visit.

South Side Diner

How Many Steve’s Do You See?

We also let our sweet tooth loose at the Wakarusa Dime Store known for their candy display. We had lots of fun doing interior photos of the “old time” candy. Ya, I know it’s what we ate as kids. The extra large jelly beans kept calling our names. So much for dieting!

A Selfie

Old Time Advertising

The Waukarusa Dime Store









Who Else Remembers These?

Thank Goodness for family when you truly find yourself “homeless”. Steve’s brother lives near Yipsalanti, MI so we spent the remaining time there. During our stay we visited River Raisin NHS and toured the old Hutchinson mansion. Anyone else remember sticking S&H green stamps into books as kids? Well Hutchinson was the H of S&H. The home is now the head office of an educational research group. Since our sister-in-law works there we had a tour. Normally this is not open to the public.

Hutchinson Mansion

Did Your Mother Save These?














We returned to Elkhart and picked up our 5er. John had identified some other issues that would be covered under warranty. Since we had a schedule to meet we arranged to return in the Fall. Lesson learned: unless you can’t move or the problem is a minor one, head to the factory for major repairs.

See you soon for the third and final segment.

An Interesting Mix In Year Six

Wow! Can we really be coming to the end of our sixth year on the road? We don’t feel we’ve even scratched the surface of things to do and see!

From May 2017-May 2018 we covered many miles as you can see in our route map below. We almost made a spoon shape route. We went from the Rockies to the Atlantic coast to the Great Lakes while juggling health and RV repair issues. Challenges… yes. Adventure galore! Drop dead gorgeous scenery… you bet! Good eats … mmmmm.

We are starting a new composite map for years 6-10 as continuing to layer our routes would make it unreadable. However just for fun we’ll post a composite so you can see what 180,000 miles looks like.

Join us for Year Seven as we explore summer in northern Minnesota, head back to Indiana for (we hope) our last major repairs and on to a glorious winter in Arizona. See you on the road!


Our 6th Year On The Road


Composite Of Our First Six Years

Where Next? #12

When we arrived at Cape Lookout National Seashore in early November 2017 we thought that staying in one place for almost 5 months sounded awfully long. It would be our longest stay to date. Yet here we are with only two weeks left. Time has flown and we’ll be on the road soon. Our feet are beginning to itch with the travel bug.

Our plans have changed several times but (We hope) this is our route from the seashore of eastern North Carolina to the shores of Lake Superior and our summer volunteer job at Grand Portage National Monument. We’ll travel for about 5.5 weeks seeing family and friends, adding 2 new states and seeing several National Park sites. Our arrival in Minnesota will be the second week in May.

Here’s the Google Map of our route.


More Than Turkey Over Thanksgiving

We are fortunate to have friends and family scattered across the country.  We would arrive at J.P. Coleman State Park near Iuka, Mississippi two days before Thanksgiving. We have family in Corinth, MS about 45 minutes away. Another sister-in-law from Memphis would also join us. The park is located on Pickwick Lake, another TVA lake on the Tennessee River. When we have visited  before we have seen Shiloh National Battlefield in Tennessee, The Civil War Interpretive Center in Corinth and the Contraband Camp also in Corinth. Please refer to our old blog for entries June 2010 Tennessee and Mississippi and November 2010 for the Grand Illumination.

Traditional Thanksgiving fare provided a table full to overflowing and many lunches and suppers thereafter. Our family enjoys playing card and board games after the meal. This year we learned a new domino game called Chickenfoot and played BeezerWeezer for the first time. Not that there is a competitive bone in any of us but Chari won Chickenfoot and Steve and Chari were the winning team for BeezerWeezer.

Time to do some exploring. We drove over to Tuscambia, Alabama which is about an hour away to see Ivy Green, birthplace of Helen Keller. We had recently seen, for the third or fourth time, the movie The Miracle Worker on TV and checked to see where Tuscambia was located hoping to make a visit. The actual home was not used for the movie. When the film was made movie cameras, lights etc. were still very bulky and the site could not accommodate all the gear. They did do a very good job of recreating the home. The story follows actual events. We saw the well pump where Helen connected the feeling of water running over her hand with what was being spelled into her hand. We also saw the cottage where she and Annie Sullivan lived and worked. The thing I thought was most impressive was her writing. She used a letter template much like that draftsmen used before CAD. A statue of Helen at the pump is on display and another one is in the US Capitol. Helen, Annie and her companion later on, Polly, are all buried at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. In June through mid-July the play “The Miracle Worker” is performed at an outdoor theatre on the grounds. After visiting Ivy Green we were all hungry and asked a docent to recommend a restaurant in Tuscambia. She suggested Oh! Bryan’s and a good choice it was.

Helen Keller, Ivy Green, Alabama

Dining Room Where Annie
First Taught Helen To Eat At The Table

Helen Keller

Helen Keller’s Bedroom

Helen Keller, The Miracle Worker

Pump Where Helen First Said “Wa Wa” For Water

Helen Keller, Miracle Worker, Alabama

Outdoor Set For The Miracle Worker

On the way home we passed a sign for a Coon Dog Cemetery. Huh? You read correctly. So we decided this was just too unusual to pass up. We drove back the next day. A good thing they have signs along the way or we’d never have found it. It is 3-4 miles off the main highway way back in the woods. This is the National Coon Dog Cemetery and the only one in the country. I went with tongue in cheek thinking it would be humorous. At first look all of the plastic flower arrangements did give a redneck feel. However, I found that the sentiment was genuine. These dogs had been loved companions. Some markers were elaborately carved professional headstones while others were simple cement markers made by the owners. Still others were whimsical or funny. My sister-in-law says that when a burial is done they often have large tailgate parties. I guess that’s what the reason for the covered shelter. There’s a guest book to sign. People from all over have come here. The cemetery was started in 1937 and now has over 50 graves.

Coon dog, cemetery, Alabama

Coon Dog Cemetery in Alabama

coon dog, cemetery, Alabama

First View of The Cemetery

coon dog, cemetery, Alabama

Troop Was The First Dog Buried Here

coon dog, cemetery, Alabama

Coon Dog Marker

coon dog, cemetery, Alabama

Newest Coon Dog Marker

coon dog, cemetery, Alabama

Humorous Epitaph

After a wonderful holiday with family we were in the process of packing up when we were notified that our nephew in Colorado had been killed in a motorcycle accident. Life on the road isn’t any different than for house-based folk. You just learn to change plans on a  moments notice. So far we’ve found people to be very willing to help you out. We can’t say enough good things about the Mississippi State Parks. They allowed us to leave the trailer at J. P. Coleman (for an additional fee) in excess of the 14 day limit. The park at Natchez did give us a voucher for payment refund which we used to pay J. P. Coleman and later when we did get into Natchez. It’s times like this that you really appreciate their willingness to help.

We waited for five days until plans were finalized for the funeral. Then we drove to Michigan. It was a very sad week. We needed a diversion so on the way back we stopped in Wapakoneta, Ohio to see the Neil Armstrong Space Museum. We both belong to the generation who lived the Race to the Moon. (Chari)was in 7th grade when Alan Shepard blasted off aboard a Mercury capsule for his suborbital ride. In July 1969 I had recently graduated from college and gone into the Air Force. I was new to Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois. The Moon Landing party was the first one I’d been invited to attend.(Steve) I was also in the Air Force and stationed in Spain.  One of the highlights of my life is that I was one of the thousands of people who actively participated in the space program.  I was a telecommunications specialist stationed at San Pablo, which was a small annex connected with Moron Air Base.  We were about five miles outside of Seville.  We were involved with all the space flights, but particularly so during the Apollo program.  There were three stations set to relay direct communications with the astronauts from Houston.  One was in Hawaii.  One was in Australia. The third was in Spain.  No matter what the time of day was, as the earth rotated, at least one of these three was pointed toward the moon.  Any communication circuits between Houston and the astronauts, data circuits or actual voice communications, were relayed through San Pablo, if at the time, Spain was pointed in the right direction.  My job was to monitor and maintain the quality of these circuits.  I know I was only one of thousands of people throughout the world who had a job supporting Apollo, but I was thrilled to have participated. It seemed ironic at the time, that even though I was actively involved, I had to wait until the newsreels appeared at our base movie theater to see what the rest of the world watched in real time.  We had no television at San Pablo.  Another thing I’ll always remember, is the way we, as Americans, were treated after Apollo II.  This was during the Vietnam era, and there was a lot of anti-American feelings throughout the world, especially in Europe.  Even though the Spanish people were very friendly, there was always an undercurrent of hostility present toward Americans.  After the landing, I would be walking down the street in Seville, and total strangers would walk up to me, slap me on the back, and want to shake my hand because I was American.  It was a wonderful feeling. Walking through the museum we reminisced about Sputnik, marveled at the size of the Mercury rocket  (83′) compared to the Saturn V (363′) and tried our hand at operating a moon lander. By the way we both crashed! Once back in Mississippi it was time to pack up and head to Natchez.

space, rockets, moon landing

Relative Size of Rockets From Mercury Through Saturn V

space, Gemini, museum

Gemini Capsule

space, Neil Armstrong, Apollo

Apollo Command Module Control Panel


space, astronaut, museum

Steve Has The Right Stuff

lunar lander, Neil Armstrong, museum

Lunar Lander Simulator At The Neil Armstrong Space Museum