Journals, Photos and Videos

Monument, CO to Goodland, KS

We left Colorado Heights and the rain there around 10 am and started our journey to travel to the last 4 states to complete our US map which indicates the states we have visited in an RV. This is a campers “must do” and then it should be displayed where all other campers can see how well traveled you are. We have been lucky enough to have traveled to Hawaii as well but not by RV…..too tough on the truck in all that water.
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Our goal is North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Our plan then is to determine the best location to observe the Eclipse and make that our net destination.
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Sol is only 10.1 months old and still relatively new to us. It sports a 6 point leveling system which is “automatic” (we to do all the work manually on our Heartland) and we are still getting use to it when unhooking and hooking up. We have a new sliding hitch as the cab of this RV is longer than the other and there was a good chance we could hit the cab of the truck on a tight turn. Just so that was not too easy on us with the new leveling system, we get to learn a new “hook up” routine. By the end of the trip we should be experts on both!

Congratulations to NE Colorado. Your hillsides are peppered with windmills offering alternative energy.
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Today we are headed to Goodland, KS for our first nites stop. Our trip was approximately 183 miles which was perfect and we got to try our hand again at leveling and unhooking.

After a fairly quick setup, we relaxed a bit and decided to go out for a bit to eat. Since it was Sunday in a small plains town, our expectations weren't high. Luckily. The Steak and Shake didn't meet our very low expectations. They were obviously understaffed and unprepared for a somewhat large crowd showing up.
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Goodland, KS to Elm Creek, NE


Day 2 - Monday

10:06a and we are hooked up and ready to roll down the highway. We think the hitch was twisted a bit as it was a bit of a challenge, taking several tries to feel it was secure and locked in properly…..just hate the thought of loosing a 16,000 pound RV along the highway.

Today is scheduled to be approximately 193 miles with 160 of the miles on country roads. The roads were actually quite good and not heavily traveled…..which is fine with us.

Although not many exciting sights, we get to see middle America and miles and miles of corn fields and soybean fields. It may sound boring but we fell in love with the beautiful patterns created by the rows and rows of corn in the fields and the hillsides. We have discovered and try to find the special beauty in every section of the country. Along with the fascination of the pattern of corn, we were amazed with the irrigation. Some are constructed in a long row to travel over the entire field, end to end and others in a circular format creating the same pattern for the rows of corn…..creating crop circles!
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We arrived in Elm Creek, NE to the most interesting campground. It was a “bare bones” campground with many little trailers that are quite old and look like the type that are generally rented to temporary construction employees. You find a spot, set up and then go to the little shack that has envelopes where you put your CASH for your spot. Since we are members of Passport America it cost us $20 —- $15 + $5 for tax! Otherwise it would have been $30!
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After getting set up and relaxing for a few minutes, we drove into town to see what we might check out. We stumbled on a great little grocery store with 2 hour old sweet corn. Couldn't pass that up. So for supper, I prepared a fresh salad with a couple of spectacular ears of sweet corn.

A very pleasant surprise was that Sunny Meadows Campground had a very satisfactory WiFi. This was important since our cell service was almost non-existent.
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Elm Creek, NE to Adel, IA

Day 3 Tuesday

Onward and upward….literally as we are now headed to Adel, Iowa (north). Just outside Des Moines, we stopped at a lovely KOA where we are booked in for 2 nights. Lovely, large, pullthru RV spots with lots of amenities. We have learned KOA has several classifications of campgrounds. Our first night was spent in a “Journey” which is mostly populated with people who just need a one night stay on their trips.

This one is called “KOA Holiday”….KOA is evolving many of their locations into KOA Journeys, KOA Holidays, and KOA Resorts. Each of these KOAs have sites, facilities and amenities designed to meet the needs of every type of camping experience. Almost sounds like I took that off their site, doesn’t it? Now we just need to check out the “Resort” style. The KOA in Tucson (on our way back to Colorado) was awesome. We had a spot that had an overhead protection from the sun that was actually a support for solar panels.

This day amused us as we kept thinking of the pioneers. Here we are in a big dually pickup truck hauling a 41 ft “home” and while we are heading down the road, we have the “hotspot” on the phone to provide us with Internet capability for the iPad or the computer. Our “roughing it” was just a bit different! We often look out and see a road going on ad infanatum and think of what the pioneers must have thought when they looked out at the same sight….and of course, no paved road, not knowing what they will experience down the road, no restaurants, exposed to the weather…..oh, and so much more!
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We are seeing the results of traveling with 18 wheelers. There are bits and pieces of tires all along the highway. This, of course, means we travel with LOTS of 18 wheelers as the route is a major east - west road. But it also means how much truck stops and rest stops can mean. Not all stations have Diesel fuel so it is good to see he truck stops where we can fill our tank and our overflow tank. Rest stops vary from bare bones with outhouses to beautiful buildings with literature, indoor restrooms, attendant to give assistance, outdoor covered picnic areas AND WiFi.
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Ah, we did go by Harold Warp’s Pioneer World that we stopped at in the ’60’s while on one of our drives from Colorado to New England. Each time Gram and Grampa George came west to visit us (from MA) they stopped here and managed to pick up a few tchotches! We managed to drive on by and remain unscathed!
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It was one of the longer days for traveling but we were entertained by trucks transporting the parts of a windmill and quite amazed at the size of the blades and tower parts.
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Day 1 in Adel

Since we have the whole day to occupy ourselves while Lisa and Roger work, George made it his goal to download some shows for our evening entertainment. We found a nice place for a lunch of chicken and pizza and, unbeknown to me, George had logged on to the restaurant's WiFi and downloaded 8 shows! One that we are currently enjoying is Heartland on Netflix. Meanwhile the pioneers are probably staving off intruders and wild animals!

We left around 4pm to head to Polk City where Roger and Lisa work. It is a Corp of Engineers campground. Polk City is about 45 min away so we took a beautiful back way enjoying the country roads not having to worry about 16,000 pounds behind us.

The campground is just beautiful! Large lovely lots with plenty of shade trees. Prairie Flower campground gets a 4.5 stars on a scale of 5…..pretty darn good! As you may guess, the first thing we check is the Internet…..which automatically will give a park 5 stars if it is reliable. However, we have yet to have experienced a decent WiFi. Frequently we are able to use the hotspot on our phones.

Roger had just gotten home from work when we arrived and was showering so we sat with Lisa in their lovely yard and did some catching up. After Roger joined us and we finished with the catch up, end went to the Pizza Ranch for ….yes, pizza, chicken and great salad bar. When we had our fill they took us on a tour of the area.

We learned that FaceBook and Google have massive servers located in Des Moines that we saw on our way out of town. As a matter of face, Des Moines has a surprising number of tech companies.

It was a nice ride back home and we settled in to watch 3 of those 8 shows!
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Day 2 in Adel

We had every intension of this this morning, but an overnight cloudburst "dampened" our enthusiasm. We got a 1 day extension on our site opted to chill for the day.

The only items worth mentioning are:

  • Found a very pleasantly surprising seafood restaurant in West Des Moines
  • T-Mobile access was so good that George was able to download 10 more shows

Technology blurb:
Went moved from ATT to T-Mobile in April and love it. They have unlimited streaming for about any network you can imagine including Netflix, Amazon, PBS, NBC and a zillion others. That means that we can stream whenever we have reasonable T-Mobile connection, which has been the majority of time.

When the campground hasn't got reception (WiFi and T-Mobile), Amazon and Netflix allow downloading much of their content, so we're covered.
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Adel, IA to Milton, WI

After delaying our Adel departure for a day. we took off for a 360 miles leg to Milton, WI. Milton is just north of Janesville, WI and used to be a stop for George when he was with IBM in Rockford, IL.

We settled into a challenging back-in, uphill, on-a-corner site. It was the first backing experience the we've had with the Solitude. Also we got to appreciate the Pull-rite slide hitch. George had to put the Ram into 4-wheel to deal with backing up a fairly steep incline to the site, but the truck handled the challenge with no real problem. And so did we.

We went to a restaurant on a lake and had a relaxing meal (George had an excellent Chicago style hot dog and I had an ahi filet.)

We only stayed in Milton for one night before we headed for Wisconsin Dells.
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Milton, WI to Wisconsin Dells

A nice short (82 mi) drive from Milton to Wisconsin Dells. We got an 11 AM start which should put us in our site in Christmas Mountain RV Resort - a Coast to Coast Resort.

The trip was anything but pleasant. Besides a rough road with both accident and construction slowdowns, we were hit with stop and go situations that are a challenge for a pleasant Saturday afternoon.

We finally arrived at Christmas Mountain at 1:30 but struggled to find the registration building. it too 2 drives around a challenging access road and a phone call before finally
getting registered with a RV site.

Then we had to make one more traverse around the winding access road in order to get to the campground. Of course once again we had a somewhat challenging back-in. After getting parked in our site and unhooked, we pressed "Auto Level" and stood back and watched the right wheels get lifted off the ground to reach happiness. WOW.

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Day 2 in Wisconsin Dells

After a breakfast of Chef John’s Dutch Babies, George set off to do laundry while I cleaned up and worked on catching up on blog.

Here we sit now at the picnic table, each with an Apple…..but not for eating. True campers are probably disgusted that we are computing while in this beautiful park.

When we lived in WI we never did go to the Dells and we are sure it was not as built up as it is now. It is the Water Park capital of the US. Every where you look there is a water park and the next one is bigger than the one before. This is a great place to bring a family. Even the big girls would love this as there are all sorts of water slides and activities.
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Day 3 in Wisconsin Dells

There are a few things that piqued our curiosity here in WI. The first are the railroad tie roads. Have tried to look up on the ‘net but unsuccessful. If anyone knows…..do tell! Here is a drive by shooting of a sample…..and there are lots of areas with this “road”. It stops if there is a gully etc and does not cross it…..mmm strange.

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The other strange phenomenon is the leaves. What the heck? We have seen this many times and it is So. WI and the beginning of August!

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We also kept seeing signs for the “400 trail”……that mystery is solved:

http://www.400statetrail.org

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Day 4 in Wisconsin Dells

As mentioned Wisconsin Dells is the water park capital of the US with ever so many parks and the next more grand than the previous. The campground is amazing with the activities it provides for the campers and their families. Since they are geared for a younger crowd we chose to go on a ride. It might be a good thought to consider this area if you are at a loss for vacation ideas and want to entertain the kiddies. The only thing that the Dells has that outnumbers the water parks is the Pizza places. We decided that since it is a “younger” crowd oriented area and kids NEVER refuse pizza….ergo the incredible number of places.
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We created a large circle traveling on the country roads that lasted about 3 1/2 hours and got home and settled in for a few of our shows…..oh, at different locations he downloaded 39 shows in the series mentioned earlier!
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It still is amazing us the acres and acres of corn and soybeans covering the landscape. We have had the pleasure of stopping at some local farms who advertise farm fresh vegetables and have procured some of that wonderful corn and great veggies for salads. We had forgotten the significant difference between fresh corn and what you get at the grocery store.

When living in WI and IL we used to go to the DelMonte farm in Rochelle, IL and purchase dozens of corn. At that time it was $1 for 5 dozen! Needless to say we froze it and had that awesome corn all winter. People used to go the the DelMonte fields and steal the corn so they decided to set up an opportunity for people to purchase at a steal of a deal!
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Today I got spoiled! Nancy Zieman is a sewing personality who has the longest running sewing TV show stretching over a 30+ year span. Her location is in Beaver Dam, WI and that became one of our destinations today. Unlike Facebook (I will go back and see if pic of FB is posted and post if not), which looks faceless, Nancy’s store and distribution center announces itself and it is “uge”.
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Managed to wander the WHOLE store leisurely as Papa sat in car under that shade tree and worked on the next leg of the trip. Thankfully the weather was perfect with no chance of overheating and he never notice I must have spent an hour in the store. She had lots of wonderful, unique fabrics but living in an RV makes you behave……got 2 pieces and one is ……what else…..corn on the cob!!!

We headed “south” toward Camping World near Madison to get our RV fix. The ride back to Christmas Mountain RV park was as delightful as it was during the rest of the day. 168 miles later we were tucked back in Sol.
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Wisconsin Dells to Albert Lea

We got back on the road to Albert Lea, MN with a 2 day stop at a KOA. The destination marks state 2 of 4 on our list. We were assigned a new site that turned out to be a bit of a challenge The ground was very soft and wet and the top layer was a 2 inch layer of large, sharp stones.

Albert Lea turned out to be a relaxing location - a perfect mid-western town with all of the amenities that we needed after the sensory overload in Wisconsin Dells. Since we were enjoying the relaxation, we opted to stay until the 14th. We found Calico Hutch Quilts in a tiny town about 4 miles from our site that was amazing and the HyVee Grocery Store was superb.

On one of our forays took us by this pasture of several horses with foals. We stopped and Maureen wandered down to the fence and immediately the small herd wandered over to visit. It was an idyllic scene with the Maureen with the horses vying for attention. The owner actually drove to the pasture and spent 15 minutes talking proudly about his brood.
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Wildlife refuge with a large flock and water fowl (egrets maybe) that was stunning.
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Albert Lea, MN to Summit, SD

Next stop, Summit, SD - state number 3. This was 307 miles, a bit aggressive for us but was a pleasant drive. The campground (County Line Campground) was a one of our favorite stops. The camp hosts/owners were great and the site had all we could hope for. The town was tiny with not reasonable restaurant options but not an issue. Our schedule for getting to the eclipse was getting a bit tight so we departed the next morning.
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Wildlife refuge with a large flock and water fowl (egrets maybe) that was stunning.
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