Category Archives for travel

Catching Up and Future Plans

Time

Before I retired, I thought retirement would mean I had more time to pursue my own projects. In some ways that is true. I can now spend my time doing what I want to not what a "boss" tells me to. Still, I never have enough time to do everything I want to do.

This blog is a good example. I have had the best intentions about keeping it up and making regular entries. Obviously, that hasn't worked out for me. A big part of the reason is that I have five web sites to maintain. What that means for me is that none of them get the attention they deserve.

​Because I think Winging It is the most important of my web sites, I am going to concentrate on this one and eliminate the rest of them.

As the other sites expire, I will not be renewing the domain registration on them. For my genealogy and 3d printing sites, I will post my activities in those hobbies on this blog. I will also keep my Facebook pages devoted to those hobbies.

My marketing web sites will just go away. I am retired after all and I don't choose to keep promoting those sites.

So, here is a brief report on what I have been up to lately. Sort of a "how I spent my summer" report.

​Summer ​Catch Up

Max at Carnival

Our Grandson Max still stays with us two days a week and we love having him visit. We had several outings to carnivals and events with him this summer. He is four years old now and really keeps us going when he is here!

SS Badger

​In late June and early July, we took a road trip to Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. We were celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary with this get-away.

We started out by driving north to Door County Wisconsin where we spent three days sight-seeing, shopping and eating out. We had to go to a fish boil and visit Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant.

From Door County, we drove to Manitowoc, Wisconsin to catch the SS Badger car ferry across Lake Michigan. ​In the ​more than twenty five years we have been going to Michigan, we had never gone by ferry so we wanted this experience. It is a four hour trip but a relaxing way to travel. We arrived in Ludington, Michigan in the evening and spent one night there.

​The next morning we drove north to Arcadia and checked into the Pleasant Valley Resort Motel. This place is a family tradition. Georgia stayed there several times as a child and her and I stay there every time we go to the area. It was our base for the next few days.

From Arcadia, we made day trips to ​Glen Lake, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Maple City (where Georgia's family is from), and generally exploring the area​. On one rainy day we even visited a casino.

On the 4th of July, we made our longest drive of the trip from Arcadia to Shipshewana​ in Indiana's Amish country. We stayed at the Farmstead Inn across from the huge Shipshewana Flea Market grounds.

The next day we went to the flea market for a day of shopping and lunch. That night we had dinner at the Blue Gate Restaurant.

​The next day was spent shopping in downtown Shipshewana and visiting some of the countryside. We had dinner at a local spot a friend recommended.

That night, we both got ill with what we assumed was food poisoning. In the morning, Georgia was feeling better but I was still pretty sick. We just stayed in the hotel all day while Georgia did some laundry from the trip. That night, Georgia was feeling sick again too.

​Out last destination of the trip was going to be Fort Wayne to do some genealogy research at the Allen County Library. Since we were both still sick, we debated about going there or going back home. In the end, we decided to go to Fort Wayne since it was a short drive. If we felt better we would go on with the research. If we didn't feel good, we could rest in the hotel. We were both sure we would be better soon.

We made a stop at the library but Georgia was getting pretty sick again and I was still feeling bad myself. We called the hotel and asked if we could check in early. They said it was OK so we did that.

The next morning, I was still feeling a little bad but I was OK to drive home. Georgia was still pretty sick. That drive back to Wauconda seemed like it would never end!

The day after we returned, I was doing a lot better but Georgia wasn't. Her doctor told her she should go to the emergency room so we went. She ended up being admitted to the hospital and was there for almost two weeks.

To top it all off, we learned that our credit card number had been stolen and several thousand dollars charged to it. MasterCard caught the fraud and, in the end, we didn't have to pay any of the charges. Still, it took ​almost two months to the investigation completed and a new card issued.

So, what started out as a great trip ended up a with a horrible last couple of days.

Oldest family members

​​My Grandmother's maiden name was Dearhamer and this summer, the Dearhamer family held a reunion ​in Bruce, Wisconsin. Georgia and I just had to go up there for it.

In preparation for the event, I put together two genealogy books for my great grandparents Charles Dearhamer and Chloe Weller​ who were married in 1904.

The reunion was held at Trails End Youth Camp in Bruce and was very well attended. It was great to see so many aunts, uncles and cousins gathered together.

We were only able to stay in Bruce for a couple days but it was a very nice visit.

​Besides these special events, we have made a couple short trips to Wisconsin Dells over the summer and one other trip to Michigan.

Georgia is on a planning committee for her 50th high school reunion which is coming up next year. We made the trip to Michigan so she could attend a committee meeting in person. For most of them, she is on a net meeting.

We took a couple extra days while we were there so we could visit family and friends in the area.

Now that summer is over, we are starting to make our fall and winter plans. I am going to try to stay up to date with this blog. Eliminating my other sites will be a big help I am sure.

Christmas Greetings 2016

Merry ChristmasI know it has been a long time since I posted here. We have been busy enjoying my retirement and time just gets away from me.

Still, I didn’t want to let Christmas go by without a new post.

Georgia and I will be in Arizona for Christmas this year so, I am sharing two videos this time.

First, as I have done every year, is a version of Silent Night. This time I am going back to a Gaelic version by Enja since I haven’t used that for a few years.

The second video is  to commemorate our holiday trip to the southwest. It is called Arizona Christmas by Dave Vitagliano. I hope you enjoy this one too.

A very Merry Christmas to all our friends and family,

Tom and Georgia

Two Road Trips – 1 Planned and 1 Not

slots-932268_640On Wednesday of last week, Georgia and I took a “cabin fever” break by making a short two night trip to Wisconsin Dells.

We stayed at our favorite hotel in Baraboo and spent much of our time at Ho-Chunk casino. They had a promotion going on that awarded rewards play for certain tasks. 10 points for dining at one of the casino venues, 10 for signing up for the newsletter and others. We each ended up with $50 dollars of free slot play.

It was nice to get away during the winter and we ended up doing just a little better than break even so we were happy.

When we got up Friday morning, Georgia had a message on her phone telling her that Virgina,her mother-in-law from her first marriage, had died during the night. It wasn’t totally unexpected since she was 90 years old and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years.  This was Angeli’s grandmother and Max’s great grandmother. So, we started planning a trip to Michigan for the funeral.

We got home Friday night with the intention of staying there a couple nights then leaving for Grand Rapids. Saturday we learned that the viewing and funeral would both be held on  Wednesday so we decided to wait until Tuesday to go.

We went through our usual routine with Max staying at our house Sunday afternoon to Tuesday. He didn’t really understand what going on a trip was all about, since this was going to be his first, but he was excited that something was going on. He must have heard someone talk about a family trip because when we talked to him about it he would always say; “A trip with my family.”

Tuesday we loaded the car and got going about noon. The forecast was for show showers in Grand Rapids but nothing serious. That would turn out to be wrong!

We dropped Max off earlier than usual because he would be going with his parents. From their home in Chicago we continued our trip east. The roads we good for the first part of the drive.

We had decided to stay inland away from Lake Michigan to try and avoid lake effect snow but still, when we were still about 100 miles from Grand Rapids, we hit the first light snow. It was melting on contact so it was just making the road wet.

icy roadThe closer we got, the harder it was snowing. As the sun went down, the wet road turned to slush and then to snow covered ice. Our last 30 miles we were only going 30 to 40 miles an hour and the last 10 was more like 25 MPH.

We were relieved when we got to the hotel but we knew that Angeli, Edwin and Max were still behind us since they left later than we did. We could only hope the plows and salt trucks were out doing their job.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. They had even worse conditions than we did and for a longer distance. What should have been a 3 hour trip ended up taking them 4 1/2 hours and was white knuckles for the last 1/3 of the way. Everyone of us was very glad when the arrived about 11:30 PM.

Wednesday the weather was clear and the main roads were good. Georgia and I got to the funeral home about 10 AM for gathering of Virgina’s immediate family. Then at 11 the visitation for the public began. Angeli and Edwin slept in a little after their harrowing drive of the night before but they got there with Max before the funeral at 1 PM.

Max was a big hit with all the relatives he hadn’t met before. There is nothing shy about him. He was happy to talk to everybody. The only problem was that he couldn’t stop talking when the service was about to start so Edwin took him to a room reserved just for such occasions. Speakers on the wall  let them hear what was going on so they weren’t completely left out.

After the funeral service, we went to the church for a late lunch. Max got to run around and burn off some energy there at least.

That night we met up with friends for dinner before turning in to rest up before the drive home.

When we got up Thursday morning it was snowing again. Luckily though the roads were just wet so we went ahead and made the drive back home. The last 2/3 of the trip was on dry roads.

Any time we have to travel in the winter around the Great Lakes it can be a challenge. Lake effect snow can pop up on one or the other side of Lake Michigan anytime the wind blows. Sometimes though, we just have to go anyway.

AirVenture 2015 – Part 3

Friday – Seaplane Base

Seaplane BaseI hopped a shuttle bus out to the seaplane base Friday morning. It is always much more peaceful out there, away from the crowd at the main show grounds. Still, there were more people there than I have seen on any previous visit. Maybe the word is getting out.

 

Seaplane Operations

There were also more takeoffs and landings than I usually see so that was good. I’m not sure why, but I love watching seaplanes operate. I would like to give it a try someday.

I stayed out there for most of the morning then caught the shuttle back. It was a whole lot hotter out in the open at Whittman Regional. That’s the trouble with airports – no trees big enough to give any shade.

I joined Georgia for lunch at the trailer then went back over. This time I looked through all four of the main exhibit hangers and the Fly Market. That took up a full afternoon and I was ready to get back and relax. I used the Sleepy Hollow golf cart shuttle service to return.

Saturday – Night Airshow

Dronws CageOn Saturday it felt like the show was starting to run down – and so was I. I got a late start on the day and didn’t go over to the grounds until around 10 AM I hung around the drone cage until it was time for a forum on called Getting Started in Quadcoptors presented by Randy Braun. This was a very thorough introduction and well worth my time.

I got lunch on the grounds then shopped around for a while before getting a golf cart back to the trailer. I hung out in the cool for a couple of hours, had dinner then walked back over to flight line for the night airshow.

BlimpI love these after dark shows and this was a good one. The Goodyear blimp put in an appearance at dusk and bowed to the crowd.

Night Show

 

 

 

After dark is when it really gets good. The airplanes light up the sky with pyro and LED lighting.

 

 

 

Even the sailplane of Luca Bertossio was lit up for the night. His graceful sky dance is beautiful during the day but even more so at night.

 

Sunday – Wrap up

Air ShowThe final day of AirVenture 2015 was another warm one. Georgia and I went over to the main gate together to do a little last minute shopping. I was still debating about taking the Yuneec Q500 drone home with me but, in the end, decided not to. It is available on Amazon when I do decide to buy it. For now, I want to do more research – especially about restrictions in my area. It seems more of them are popping up every week. Chicago and most of the suburbs have ordinances on the table.

We got lunch at Buca di Beppo which is a favorite of ours here at home. The tent set-up at the show didn’t to the restaurant justice. I might have been because it was the last day but the choices were very limited and not the best. Still, we were at AirVenture and watching the afternoon air show while we ate!

After lunch we slowly made our way back over to Sleepy Hollow Farm and got started on packing up for the trip home the next day.

Monday – Home

Monday morning we were up early to eat breakfast and finish preparations for the drive home. I emptied the holding tanks one last time then shut off the water. When Georgia was ready inside, I pulled the electrical cord, lifted the stabilizers the backed in to hitch up.

Now we were all hitched a ready to roll but, before I could pull of, a motorhome stopped right in the middle of the road I had to take out of the park. The couple in it was loading a Jeep, golf cart and motorcycle onto a trailer behind it. I don’t know how many times they have done that but it seemed to be taking them forever.

Finally, when it looked like they were almost ready, they both disappeared. Fearing that they had gone inside for lunch, I gave up and pulled out of our space going away from the exit. We drove done a narrow road to another section of the campground where we found room to turn around. The we went back the way we came and were able to go around the still working motorhome couple and get out onto the road. The rest of the trip home was uneventful.

AirVenture 2015This was a very different AirVenture for me. Most years I have my itinerary planned before we even leave home. I watch every airshow and do a few forums every day. This year I only saw a couple airshows, spent more time at the Ultralight Field and a whole lot of time at the drone cage. I enjoyed myself a lot. I took it easy and still saw what I wanted to.

My lesson from this is to play it by ear more and not try to plan too much ahead of time. I think it makes it even more fun!

AirVenture 2015 – Part 2

Tuesday-  Shopping Day

AirVenture MapI attended two forums on Tuesday.

The first was FAA Section 333 Exemptions presented by Drone Media Group. This FAA exemption deals with using drones commercially in the United States. During the talk I learned that every commercial drone flight requires the UAV to be operated by a licensed pilot. That means even a private pilot like me can be paid for operating a drone. Something to think about.

 

 

Rod Machado

The second forum was one I never miss when I’m at Oshkosh – Hanger Flying with Rod Machado. Rod is a funny guy and a wonderful educator. His talks also point out valuable safety messages. If you get a chance to hear Rod talk, don’t miss it. He is great!

Lunch was back at the trailer where I also rested up for a couple of hours. Then I caught a golf cart (rides kindly provided by Sleepy Hollow Farms) back to the main gate.

 

Drone in the CageI took a walk through a couple of the exhibit hangers but eventually found myself back at the drone cage and the Innovation Center. This would get to be a habit over the rest of the week. I skipped the afternoon airshow to watch the drones. They are just so fascinating.

I shopped around at the booths the various drone vendors had in the center and checked some prices before headed back to the coolness of the Kodiak.

Wednesday – UltralightsUltralight

Wednesday morning I got a golf cart ride over to the bus park then jumped on a tram to take me into the grounds. After a couple tram changes I was at the ultralight field.

When I got there the announcer was telling the crowd that the field, and the whole airport, was closed. I didn’t know why until later when I heard that five people had been injured in a plane crash while landing.

Balloon InflationThe delay ended up being about 2 hours. I used the time to look at the ultralights on display, watch a balloon inflation and just wander around.

I made it to the Ultralite Barn which I hadn’t visited before. It’s mostly just little stuff for sale but it killed some time.

From there I walked back over to the landing strip and got there just about the time the field reopened.

 

 

What I was there for was the short takeoff and landing contest featuring aircraft that compete in a much larger competition in Valdez, Alaska every spring. They do make it short! The winner this year was 44 feet.

After the completion, I took the trams back to the forum area and attended a Seaplane 101 presentation given by Steve Robinson. Another aviation activity I would like to try some day.

I got lunch on the grounds because I wanted to catch a 1 PM forum called Avoiding Unwanted Adventure presented by John and Martha King. Everyone in aviation knows who the Kings are and there talks always draw a standing room only crowd. They didn’t disappoint.

After the forum I found myself back at – you guessed it – the drone cage. This time I saw a demo of the drone that really made up my mind about which one I would like.

Yuneec Q500The Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K is now my choice. It looks great and performs as well or better than any other in it’s price class. I want one.

Thursday – Georgia’s Day

I had promised Georgia that Thursday was her day. Each year there is a quilt show in Oshkosh that is held during AirVenture. Thursday was the day this year.

I dropped her off at the show then went down the street to get some breakfast. After I ate I was going to get a haircut but, while I was waiting, Georgia called and said she was ready to go.

I picked her up and drove her back to the quilt store she visited before. This time I waited outside for her then we had lunch and made another stop at Walmart to restock some groceries. We got back to the trailer fairly early but I decided to pass on going back to the show grounds. It had been hot and dry since we arrived and I welcomed a break in the cool air.

AirVenture 2015 – Part 1

Pre-show Weekend

AirVenture 2015Georgia and I returned to AirVenture this year after missing last year. We left home the Friday afternoon before opening day and drove the three hours to Sleepy Hollow Farm where we had a water, electric and sewer site reserved. That electricity was welcome when the temperatures reached near 90. Ahhh..air conditioning.

Once the Kodiak was tucked into it’s site and hooked up, we had dinner and started to get everything arranged for our ten day stay.

After a leisurely start, we spent most of Saturday shopping in Oshkosh. We went to Walmart to pick up a few things we needed and for Georgia to shop their fabric section. Walmart stores near us don’t carry fabrics but Wisconsin stores do.

Then we visited a quilting store that Georgia had heard good things about and got some dinner out. On the way back to the trailer we made another stop at Walmart to get some groceries for the week. It was too hot out to leave them in the truck so we couldn’t buy them earlier.

We finished getting the trailer organized in the evening and turned in early.Kodiak Travel Trailer

The Sunday before the big show is a good day to go to the grounds.

We had breakfast in the trailer and didn’t go over to the grounds until about 10 AM. The parking lot is always pretty empty on Sunday so we got up close. This is the only day we would take the truck. Once the show opens the road past Sleepy Hollow to parking becomes one way. We can get to the lot easily but to get back we have to drive way around. It isn’t worth the hassle (or the $10 a day) since we are so close anyway.

We traded our online tickets in for weekly wrist bands and entered the gate. The EAA merchandise tent is right inside so Georgia bought her traditional AirVenture  tee-shirt and pin to commemorate the 2015 event.

We made our way slowly down Celebration Way, which is the main roadway, and stopped near the end for lunch at one of the many food vendors. Then we continued on to the Boeing Plaza.

B52This year, for the first time, a B-52 was on display.  To get it into Whittman Regional the lights had to be removed from the sides of runway 36/18. I wish we had been there to see the landing but it happened before we arrived. Now the giant aircraft was sitting on the plaza. It really is huge!

We explored the grounds a little more to get our bearings then went back to Sleepy Hollow for the evening.

Monday – Opening Day

AirVenture 2015 opened for real on Monday. I was on the grounds by 8 AM with the intention to go to an 8:30 forum on drones and Aviation Gateway Parkaircraft sharing airspace. It was going to be held at the brand new Aviation Gateway Park. This is a new area that will focus on aviation innovation and education.

 

 

 

Aviation Gateway Park dedication

When I got to the location, I found people gathering for a dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting. I decide to hang around and see that before the forum. The ribbon was cut by EAA Chairman Jack Pelton and Piper Aircraft CEO Simon Caldecott.

After the ceremony I went into the forum tent but, the drone forum didn’t happen. No one showed up. After 10 minutes or so everyone left.

I walked next door to the innovation pavilion and immediately found a home for the week. ATV Powered ParachuteI would get back here at least once every day. I was fascinated by the displays in there and especially by the drones.The first thing I saw when I walked in though was a very large ATV/Powered Parachute called the SkyRunner that I immediately wanted – until I saw the $120,000 price tag that is. If someone wants to give it to me I would still take it.

One end of the pavilion had bleacher seats that faced out into a drone cage. This was a giant net structure where the drone demos could be flown safely. Right from the first demo flight that morning I was hooked.

DJI InspireI saw three drones fly that first morning and wanted them all. They were the:

  • DJI Inspire – great specs and impressive performance in the demos but the price is a steep for a hobby machine
  • DJI Phantom 3 – a very strong contender
  • Chroma Camera Drone – has some attractive capabilities like Follow Me and SAFE mode that I like

Is there a drone in my future. I was very tempted to take one home with me.

I, reluctantly, left the drone cage to go back to the trailer for lunch. After that,  Georgia went to the grounds with me for the first afternoon airshow.

AirshowHighlights of this first show included the Airbus A350, a Marine Harrier, warbird mass arrivals, glider pilot Luca Bertossio‘s silent and graceful display of aerobatics without power and many more of the world’s top airshow performers.

When the airshow was over we made the trek back to Sleepy Hollow and, after baking in the sun for hours,  the coolness of our cozy trailer felt great.

 

 

Georgia Mountains – Part 2

Wednesday was going to be a long day of driving with stops for shopping and sightseeing – especially waterfall viewing.

Our first stop was in Highlands, North Carolina for shopping in the downtown area. On the way into town we saw just how dangerous the mountain roads can be. A fireman directed us over into the left lane as we came to one of the sharp switchbacks.

As we came around the curve, we saw a car on it’s top in the other lane. Judging by the damage, it had rolled over more than once before coming to rest. The road was dry and the weather good. The driver must have tried to take the curve too fast and flipped.

After a couple hours in the Highlands stores, we got back on the road toward Franklin, NC. On the way, we stopped for lunch at the Carolina Smokehouse in Cashiers. Carolina Barbecue is different than what we get in Chicago but it is still good.


Then we went off in search of waterfalls. The small
Bridal Veil Falls was our first stop. It is right
beside the highway and even has a turnoff that goes behind it. We didn’t drive back there but I was able walk behind it without even getting wet.

Our next stop was at Dry Falls. This one required a walk down a well maintained pathway to get to the bottom. Again, it is possible to walk behind the falls but you will get wet! Bonnie and I braved the damp to go back there. The water coming down is impressive up close.

The last waterfall we visited was Cullasaja Falls. It doesn’t
have a developed walkway so we just looked from above. It and the gorge it is in are beautiful.

From there we went on into Franklin for dinner then back to the cabin where we spend our last evening visiting on the porch and packing up for the trip home.

Thursday morning we woke up to our last sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains – for this trip. We had done most of our packing the night before so we set off on our separate ways early. Eddie and Bonnie were going home to South Carolina while Georgia and I still had a few more days of vacation. We would be spending the next two nights in Chattanooga.

On the way down the mountain, we made a stop at the Foxfire Museum. Both of us have been fans of Foxfire for a long time (I bought Book 1 while I was still in college) but we had no idea the museum was right where we would be staying until we got there. It was a must stop for us and we bought a few of their products during our visit.

We made a couple more stops around Clayton (including a fabric store) then got on the road to Chattanooga late in the morning.

After a leisurely lunch stop, and more construction zones, we got to our Chattanooga hotel about 4 PM. We got checked in, unloaded the car and got the room organized before going out to dinner at the Texas Roadhouse that was only a block away.

Friday morning started out bright and clear. We had talked a little about what we wanted to do but were leaving our options open. We had been to Chattanooga before and had visited most of the usual tourist attractions. We decided we would start with the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park since we hadn’t gone there before.

We drove to the park and visited the museum but decided not to take any of the offered tours. Instead we would go up Lookout Mountain and revisit Rock City. From there we wanted to go downtown to ride the ducks. We have been on ducks in other paces so we wanted to add this Chattanooga tour.

We got to Rock City just after the gates opened and followed the winding path through the rocky cliffs, through the Ogre’s Tunnel, over the suspension bridge,  past Troll Valley and up to Lovers Leap.

We had lunch at Cafe 7 and shopped at the gift shop. From this spot, you can see seven states on a clear day and the day we were there it looked like we could see all of them.

We skipped the second half of the walk through the rocks and took the shortcut to the parking lot. By the time we started back down the mountain, the sky was getting dark. We made a stop at the hotel before going to ride the ducks and, as we were getting ready to walk out again, the rain came down – hard. It was raining so much that we could barely see across the parking lot and it continued long enough that we gave up on the duck ride. Finally, when the rain let up a little, we went out to eat.

We left Chattanooga in a light rain on Saturday morning. We had a fairly long drive ahead since we wouldn’t make our stop for the night until we got to central Indiana but, we decided to make a stop at Mammoth Cave along the way. As I drove, Georgia got online to find a cave tour. Unfortunately, they all seemed to be booked for the day. We decided to stop anyway and see if anything had opened up.

After a boring drive through more miles of construction, we got to the park and went into the visitors center.  The only open tour was not until 3:30 that afternoon and we just couldn’t stay that long. We ended up having lunch at the Crystal Lake Coffee Shop then got back on the road.

We got to Edinburgh, Indiana late in the afternoon and checked into the Best Western. Then we drove the few miles to Indiana Grand Casino for dinner and a little gambling. We were both tired so we didn’t stay very late but went back to the hotel for our last night on the road.

Sunday morning we took our time getting going since this would be a short driving day. We stopped in Chicago to pick up Max and took him home with us. We were tired but satisfied that it had been a good trip.

Georgia Mountain Trip – Part 1

On Saturday October 4th, Georgia and I left home for a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains. We were going to meet up with Georgia’s brother Eddie and his wife Bonnie. We have vacationed with them before and were looking forward to getting together again.

Our first day of driving took us through Indiana and into Kentucky where we spent the night at the Best Western in Shelbyville.

Sunday morning we woke up to find frost on the car. The temperature was 33 degrees. But, as we made our way south through the seemingly endless construction zones, the temperature continued to rise.

Instead of taking the major highways, we detoured to go through the Great Smokey Mountain National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina. At the visitors center in Gatlinburg, we stopped to buy a Senior Pass. That pass will give us free access to national parks, forests, monuments, etc. and also let us camp in the parks for discounts of up to 50%. We used it on this trip and saved more than the $10 it cost us.

We exited the park at Cherokee, North Carolina then headed toward Georgia. Eddie and Bonnie met us at the North Carolina/Georgia border and we followed them to Black Rock Mountain State Park in Mountain City. We checked in at the visitors center and got the keys to the cabin that would be home for the next four days.

That evening we went down the mountain to Clayton, Georgia where we had dinner and bought some breakfast foods for the next morning. Then we went back to the cabin to spend a quiet evening just visiting and catching up.

Monday morning Eddie and I collaborated on breakfast before we left for a day of sightseeing. Our goal for the day was a leisurely drive through the mountains with a stop at Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest point and then dinner at Unicoi Lodge in Helen, Georgia.

The morning was cool but pleasant on top of Black Rock Mountain but warmed up a lot as we went down. Once down, we turned toward Blairsville, Georgia and Brasstown Bald. As soon as we started the climb up the mountain, the temperature again started to drop. At the parking lot we needed to put on jackets. Our Senior Pass got us into this Forest Service facility for free. We did pay a couple dollars each to take the shuttle to the top. Private cars are not allowed past the first visitors center. There is also a very steep three quarter mile trail for those who want to walk up.

It was very windy at the top and pretty cold. We got our pictures from the observation platform then went into the theater to watch a short video about the mountain. We learned that the climate on Brasstown Bald is more like our home in the Midwest than like the rest of Georgia.

At the visitors center we saw these chairs rocking themselves in the high wind. Makes them look haunted.

The shuttle took us back down to the parking lot. From there we went down the mountain and on to Helen, Georgia. This recreation of an Alpine town was having Oktoberfest so we stopped to have a beer and a break from the driving.Unicoi lodge wouldn’t be open for dinner until 5 PM so we had a little time to look around the town.

A short drive from downtown Helen took us to the Unicoi Lodge. The lodge was undergoing some major remodeling but the dining room was still open. Everyone but me had the fresh trout while I had Carolina shrimp. Both choices were excellent.

After dinner we went back to the cabin for another pleasant evening.

Tuesday we set out to visit the Tallulah Gorge, one of the most spectacular canyons in the southeast. The Gorge is a pretty amazing place to see and we all enjoyed the visit.

After we walked the pathway to the overlooks, we returned to the visitors center and watched a video about the gorge.

Eddie asked one of the guides about Karl Wellenda’s walk over the gorge in 1970. He directed us to some photos displayed in the visitors center. He also told us that Karl’s great-grandson Nik will duplicate the walk in 2015. So now I have a connection to two places Nik plans to do high-wire walks since he will be doing one just down the street from the Merchandise Mart in Chicago in November.

This day was Eddie and Bonnie’s anniversary and they chose the Dillard House for dinner that night.The food there was very good and we had a very nice evening.

Season Opener

The very cold winter has turned into a cold spring but, Georgia and I made our first RV trip of the year last Friday. It was opening weekend at Fox Hill RV Park in Baraboo, Wisconsin. We always enjoy the Wisconsin Dells area, and we have been to Fox Hill before, so we took advantage of a special offer from the park. By booking two consecutive weekends, we can leave our trailer there for the week in between for free. Plus, by using Passport America, we got the site for half price! How could we say no to that deal?

I had the day off and we had loaded the Kodiak during the week so we were pretty much ready to go on Friday morning. I did a final check of all the tires, battery and propane then we were ready to hitch up. We got the ball under the hitch on the first try and were soon on the road. We made a short lunch stop at a rest area then arrived at the park just after 1 PM. The last time we were at Fox Hill was Memorial Day of last year. That day the park was completely full. On this cold spring opening weekend, it was almost empty.

We had a pull through site so we were setup quickly. I even set out the Sewiepig I got for Christmas. I didn’t really need it for this hookup but put him out just for fun. When I went to get the satellite dish, I realized I had forgotten the DirecTV receiver at home –  so no satellite TV this weekend! This was an opportunity to try out the Winegard SensarPro that I had recently installed. I cranked up the antenna and used the SensarPro to help me rotate it to the best orientation. It worked to help me get the best reception possible. There weren’t a lot of channels available but we got enough to keep us entertained even when it was too chilly to be outside.

Georgia wanted to look for a particular yarn shop in Baraboo so we drove into town to look for it. From what she saw online, the shop had moved a block from it’s old location but we couldn’t find it anywhere around.  After a few trips up and down the street we gave up and continued on to the Log Cabin Restaurant for dinner. This is an interesting place decorated with wonderful wood carvings and scroll saw work. The food is very good too. After dinner we stopped at Ho-Chunk Casino. We didn’t stay long but we each came out $20 ahead on the slot machines.Then it was back to the trailer for a peaceful evening inside. It was cold enough that we needed the furnace to warm us up.

Saturday we drove to Wisconsin Dells to get coffee and breakfast.We thought about going to the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue but it was just a little too cool out for much outdoor activity so we decided to put it off for another time. Maybe next weekend. Instead, we went back to the casino where, this time, we lost a little – but only a very little. Georgia called the yarn shop she was interested in and found out they were located inside a coffee shop. We found the shop but, they are still closed while they set up the new store. Again, maybe next weekend.

We went back to Ho-Chunk for lunch and played some more slots – won again. Then back to the trailer where we grilled steaks and mushrooms for dinner. A light rain forced us back inside for the rest of the night.

Sunday morning we woke to a more steady rain so we packed up early and were on the road by 10 AM. Georgia found another yarn shop to visit on the way back.

It wasn’t the best weekend for outdoor activities but, we got out for the first time this year and we will be going back this next weekend. Maybe we can get outside more bu,t even if we can’t, it will be nice to be RVing after holing up all winter.

All I Want for Christmas is a …

Sewiepig???

My Christmas wishlist was mostly RV related and I got plenty of accessories I wanted. I will be posting details as I install them and when I do that will depend on the weather.

One gift needs no installation though. I got a Sewiepig!

This little pink porker weighs almost nothing and just rides along in the trailer’s storage compartment until he is needed. Then, fill him with water and he becomes a hefty hog who can hold down the sewer hose. No more looking around for bricks or rocks or trying to keep one foot on the top of the hose while stretching out to open the drain valve. Sewiepig pig does the job.

My only worry is getting this little piggy to stay home. I know that the vast majority of RVers are honest but, this little guy just might be too tempting a target for one of the rare would-be pig nappers out there. More likely, some child might innocently think he is a toy and walk off with him. I really hope he doesn’t disappear in the night! I will have to be careful to keep him locked up when he is not in use.

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