Author Archives: Traci

Naples and Mom Time! – 12/6/14 – 12/21/14

Happy Cruisers in St. Maarten

Happy Cruisers in St. Maarten

Naples was a place we had not stayed on the last time through, only a drive by on our way south, so we were looking forward to our visit. Our home for the week was the Naples Motorcoach Resort, one of the top 5 places we have stayed as far as RV parks go. It had all the amenities including very large paver sites, 3 pools, a nice clubhouse with theater room and workout room and many organized events including daily morning coffee and ‘Margarita Monday.’ The park wasn’t very full while we were there as I think they are just about to come into their busy season. But, we loved it for all the nice amenities and perfect location.

Our spot at the Naples Motorcoach Resort

Our spot at the Naples Motorcoach Resort

Pool at Naples Motorcoach Resort

Pool at Naples Motorcoach Resort

Our time here was spent relaxing and exploring the town and surrounding areas of Marco Island and the Isle of Capri.   Naples is a pretty ritzy area that is known for great shopping (which we didn’t participate in) and otherwise a pretty laid back, vacation type atmosphere. One day we attended the Franklin Templeton Shootout golf tournament, which was a lot of fun as it was a different format than a typical golf tourney. The day we were there, it was a 2-man best ball and the players seemed less formal than other tourney’s we have been to (p.s. I saw Mike Weir at the Mercato the night before – love those celebrity sightings!). We also visited the beach and walked town, had a few great meals out and Mike did lots of fishing. Before we knew it, it was time to get packed up and ready for our Princess cruise!

Franklin Templeton Shootout in Naples

Franklin Templeton Shootout in Naples

We drove 40 minutes south to Everglades City and Everglades Isle, a place we stayed last year and loved. They were kind enough to let us park the MoHo there while we were on the cruise, all plugged in, waiting for our return. We then drove the 90 miles across to Ft. Lauderdale and picked up my mom at the airport for our cruise on Regal Princess. We stayed in a hotel on Sat. night, then boarded the ship on Sunday for a 7-day Caribbean Cruise. This was our Holiday celebration with her since Mike & I would be away from home again this year.

Bon Voyage!

Bon Voyage!

Regal Princess is a brand new ship.  Notice the over-water seawall at the top of the ship

Regal Princess is a brand new ship. Notice the over-water seawalk at the top of the ship

Showing our 12th man spirit!

Showing our 12th man spirit!

We loved our time together and the itinerary was a perfect mix of time at sea and a few ports of call. Highlights were nightly dinners, wine at Vine’s, talking up the Seahawks, bingo (Mom won $200), exploring St. Thomas and St. Maarten, meeting new friends, lounging on deck and our spa day!

Mike & I on tender with Princess Cays behind us

Mike & I on the tender with Princess Cays behind us

Relaxing on deck

Relaxing on deck

Mom & I on water taxi in St. Maarten

Mom & I on water taxi in St. Maarten

Colorful trio in St. Maarten, Regal Princess behind us

Colorful trio in St. Maarten, Regal Princess behind us

Mike & I on our balcony

Mike & I on our balcony

Amazing nightly sunsets!

Amazing nightly sunsets!

Pre-dinner wine at Vine's

Pre-dinner wine at Vine’s

Last night of the cruise

Last night of the cruise

The time went by very quickly and before we knew it, we were back in Ft. Lauderdale. We dropped mom off at the airport after a nice lunch on the beach, then Mike and I headed back across to the west coast of FL and our 2-week stay at Everglades Isle. Happy Holidays All! This is a hard time to be away from friends and family, but we are still enjoying our time on the road. Thanks to everyone for supporting us on this amazing adventure we are on.

Lunch in Ft. Lauderdale before Mom's flight

Lunch in Ft. Lauderdale before Mom’s flight

Back to the Beach – 11/5/14 – 11/9/14

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf Shores, Alabama was our destination for the next five days, located right on the AL/FL border on the Gulf of Mexico. As we got set up at the Luxury RV Park (not really that luxurious, but great location), I instantly felt the humidity. We took a walk down to the beach, only about 4 blocks away, and it felt great to be back on the water. There was a cool bar/restaurant, The Hangout, right there that was having its annual Oyster/Craft Beer Fest for the weekend. More on that later!

The first day, we enjoyed a morning close to the MoHo getting some chores done. We then drove down the beach toward Florida through Orange Beach and Perdido Bay. Our destination was the renowned FloraBama Bar, which sits right on the border of the two states. The Shulls, who have vacationed down here often, told us all about it. Great location, yes! But, we were there on a Thursday mid-day and the only thing going on was free Bingo. I’m sure in high season, warmer weather, with live music playing and in the evening hours, this place is hopping! But, pretty dead for us. We had a beer and walked around checking out this eclectic place and enjoyed the amazing ocean view, but then got on our way. We stopped at an outdoor restaurant on the intercoastal bay and enjoyed a nice early dinner. Looking out at the water and boats just never seems to get old.

Tacky Jacks Bar, intercoastal bay

Tacky Jacks Bar, Intercoastal Bay

The next day, we made the hour drive over to Mobile. We were going to take a small ferry across the bay, but it wasn’t running due to high winds. On the drive, we passed by the first park (Meaher State Park in Spanish Fort, AL) that we ever stayed at. When we did our trial run in Fall of 2012 and rented an RV for our cross-country trip from Baton Rouge to Las Vegas, this was the first stop on our trip. Very cool to see it over two years later and realize how much has happened since then! Our plan for the day was to tour Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile Bay where the USS Alabama resides as well as the USS Drum submarine and an aircraft pavilion filled with many different types of aircraft. We spent over 3 hours there and would highly recommend this stop. Afterwards, we drove into downtown Mobile for lunch then back to the MoHo to gear up for the Craft Beer Fest, which started at 6. We walked down to the beach and paid our $25 entrance fee, got our souvenir tasting cups and wristbands and entered this awesome event. There were over 20 booths there each serving at least two types of beer with fun giveaways, live music and a lot of people. The Hangout is huge with a large outdoor area, right on the beach, so all of the booths were set up outside. A really fun evening and we got to sample many beers we had never heard of.

USS Alabama, Mobile

USS Alabama, Mobile

View from one of the upper deck over Mobile Bay

View from one of the upper decks toward Mobile Bay

16 inch guns

Three 16-inch aft guns

Craft Beer Fest

Craft Beer Fest 

The Hangout

The Hangout

Saturday, they were having the main event, the Oyster Fest with 40 to 50 booths offering oyster samples, shucking competitions, Bloody Mary contests and much more. We strolled over around noon to check it out, but neither one of us care for oysters. The beer booths were still set up, bands were playing and college football games o’plenty on the many TV’s. We decided to just go into the restaurant for lunch on the deck and people watch. It was a beautiful day and it was much more crowded than the night before as it was free admission, then tickets were available for samples. Again, a very fun atmosphere and lots of Alabama and Auburn fans decked out in their gear. We ended up back at the MoHo to watch our teams play, then an early night. Yay, Cougs beat OSU!

Oyster Fest at The Hangout

Oyster Fest at The Hangout

On our last day, we drove over to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola for an Air Show featuring the incomparable Blue Angels! It was a great day for it and tons of people there to take it all in. There was a huge free admission area where we could set up our chairs with a great view over the runway. The event was all weekend and was a “Homecoming” for the Blue Angels welcoming them back to their home base after their season. The whole show was great with a variety of demonstrations. The Blues capped it off and provided the same thrill and excitement we always get watching them at home in Seattle. The one difference here was that we got to see them take off and land and appreciate the same precision and discipline they show in the air, on the ground. Loved it! Drove back to the MoHo for the Hawks game and a victory against Dallas!

Next up is Destin, FL and the start of our 3-½ month “residency” in Florida.

Teresa Stokes Wing Walker, best in the world!

Teresa Stokes Wing Walker, best in the world!

Jet Truck, 200mph!

Jet Truck, 200mph!

Loved these guys - Team AeroDynamix

Loved these guys – Team AeroDynamix

Fat Albert!

Fat Albert!

Blue Angels, ready for take-off

Blue Angels, ready for take-off

Blue Angels, less than 3 feet separates them

At times only 18 inches between them – wow!

More Blue Angels

More Blue Angels

Selfie - Blues in the distance behind us

Selfie – Blues in the distance behind us

Final State! 10/20/14 – 10/28/14

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Memphis, TN was our next destination and the long drive down from St. Louis went smoothly, we arrived at Tom Sawyer’s RV Park by mid afternoon. The park was actually across the Mississippi River from Memphis in West Memphis, Arkansas so officially we were in our final state! (Alaska & Hawaii don’t count). We have successfully driven and stayed in every state in the lower 48! Something we weren’t sure that we would actually accomplish, but pretty excited that we have done it! This park was pretty unique in that it was located across a levee right on the banks of the river with nonstop barge traffic going up and down the river in front of us. These barges were huge some of them 4 across and 7 long and that river was flowing! We really enjoyed the park and they were so friendly and laid back. I guess they have to be because the campground actually floods every year, but in the springtime, so we had nothing to worry about. We ended up staying for a full week with a nice mix of relaxation, sightseeing and getting chores done.

Tom Sawyer's RV Park on the Mississippi River

Tom Sawyer’s RV Park on the Mississippi River

First on the agenda was taking care of some MoHo maintenance. On the morning we left St. Louis, we noticed one of the “basement” compartments was wet. So upon arrival in Memphis, we took everything out from underneath and Mike was able to diagnose that our water pump was broken. Luckily, there was a nearby Camping World and we were able to get an appointment for Wed. morning. This gave us a chance to clean and reorganize the storage area, which I loved. The bad part was that we had to pack up/unhook the house in the middle of our stay and drive to the appointment about an hour away in northern Mississippi. Everything went smoothly and we were back to the campground and re-setup by mid afternoon. Just one of the hurdles of being on the road and honestly we have been pretty fortunate with these types of issues, nothing major (knock on wood!).

Graceland, Memphis

Graceland, Memphis

Now, onto sightseeing. We are not huge Elvis fans, but we just had to go to Graceland. There were multiple packages to choose from, but we opted for a basic one and it was still $34 each, a bit pricey in my opinion. We were given ipads to use, loaded with a narrated tour and additional photos and factoids and of course Elvis music. The mansion was actually much smaller than I would have thought, but back in the day I’m sure it was pretty extravagant. It was a bit crowded but we were able to see everything we needed. The rest of the tour (archives, shops, costumes, cars) were nothing special and we could have done without, but I guess if you are a huge Elvis fan, you would really want to do everything you could. As it was, we were there about 2 ½ hrs. I enjoyed touring the house and listening and learning about Elvis and his life and glad we did go. I may have to download some Elvis tunes!

The Mansion

The Mansion

Living Room

Formal Living Room

Game Room

Game Room

Some of his costumes

Some of his costumes

All of his Gold Records

All of his Gold Records

He is buried there along with family members

He is buried there along with family members

Another stop we made was at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I have nothing but respect for St. Jude and what they stand for. I was here years ago to support good friends who were here under difficult circumstances and I wanted Mike to see it. We didn’t go inside the hospital, but did some shopping at the gift store and I really wanted to show Mike the Danny Thomas Pavilion, which commemorates the history and mission of St. Jude. Sadly, it was closed for a private event though.

Courtyard at St. Jude

Courtyard at St. Jude

Another day, we hit one of the many famous BBQ joints for lunch.   Mike had done some research and landed on Leonard’s Pit BBQ, open since 1922. He had ribs and I had a pulled pork sandwich.   This place was different than other BBQ places we have been to, as it was a sit-down vs. order at the counter. Mike said his was a solid 8. He is still looking for a place that lives up to Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City. Afterwards, we ended up in Midtown, a hip area with fun shops, restaurants and bars. We bellied up at Bosco’s for a local craft beer. On the way back to the campground, we stopped at Wiseacre Brewing, the only brewery we could find in town. It was a sunny, Friday afternoon and it was pretty crowded with people hanging out on the patio and getting a start on their weekend. This has become pretty standard for us, looking for local breweries to try out.

On our last Saturday morning, we hit the local Farmer’s Market. It was a perfect sunny morning with a lot of people out and about. Then, we headed into town and the iconic Peabody Hotel. We got our spot on the Mezzanine level to watch the famous “Duck March,” a tradition since 1933. Read more about it here. The ducks are housed in a “palace” on the roof and at 11am every morning they are brought down and led along the red carpet into the fountain in the middle of the lobby. They are trained to stay there all day, then the ceremony is reversed at 5pm. The place was absolutely packed which just blew me away. It was a bit cheesy, but also a pretty ingenious marketing ploy, bringing people in from all over to drink and eat. It worked on us!   After the ceremony we took the elevator up to the rooftop to see the duck palace and take in some great views, then to the bar for a Bloody Mary and beer. Afterwards, we walked around town and Beale Street, which is kind of like a mini Bourbon Street. It is a 3 to 4 block pedestrian-only area lined with bars featuring live music that spills out into the street. We were only there during the day a few times, so never really experienced the full nighttime vibe, but it seemed like a really fun area.
Sidebar: I had my Coug shirt on and a man who was working the door at one of the bars stopped me and jokingly said, “What do you know about the Cougs?” I told him I was from Seattle and went to school there and he said that Michael Bumpus was his nephew and that he was in Pullman for an Apple Cup long ago. Gotta love Coug fans!

The Duck March at the Peabody. The guy in red is the "Duck Master"

The Duck March at the Peabody. The guy in red is the “Duck Master”

Rooftop at the Peabody

Rooftop at the Peabody where the Ducks are kept in a “palace”

Much of our time in Memphis (or West Memphis) was spent at the RV Park, just relaxing and enjoying the beautiful sunny weather. We rode our bikes along the paths, BBQ’d a lot and had campfires.   Mike really enjoyed all of the barge traffic and just being right on the river. It was a great setting and one of our top five parks so far. And, they had free laundry – bonus!

Campfire at the park with view of the Mississippi

Campfire at the park with view of the Mississippi River

Some of the barge traffic going up and down the river

Some of the barge traffic on the river (huge one going down; smaller one going up in foreground)

Riding Bikes at the Park

Riding Bikes at the Park

We left the park on a Monday morning (after the Seahawks squeaked by a win the day before!) and drove due west to Little Rock, AR. We decided to stay at a true campground (rather than commercialized RV Park) where it was first come, first serve on spots. Since it was a Monday and off-season, we didn’t think there would be an issue.   We pulled into Willow Beach Park and had our pick of spots. This was a very nice campground right on the Arkansas River with spacious sites and plenty of trees. For us, this translates as “no satellite” which we typically shy away from. But, for just two nights, we figured we could survive! It was a beautiful day, but a big storm was due to roll in the next morning, so we decided we better get out and explore. A drive through Little Rock didn’t peak much interest for us, but we did stop at the capitol building for a few pics. Although it is the largest city in the state, it seemed quite small and pretty quiet, maybe chalk it up to a Monday afternoon. We opted to hit the grocery store and come back to the pretty setting of the campground and cook dinner and enjoy the evening at home. By 5am the next morning, the predicted rain had arrived and it was a nice day to watch movies and catch up on some computer stuff. Next stop is Jackson, Mississippi.

Capitol Building in Little Rock, AR

Capitol Building in Little Rock, AR

Willow Beach Campground

Willow Beach Campground, Arkansas River in the background. Fall has arrived!

This is the point in our journey that we were planning to turn right and start making our way back home to the Pacific Northwest. But, after much discussion and some friends asking us why we would want to come home to the wet and gray winter, we decided to turn left. We’ll be making our way to Florida and plan to spend the last half of November through the end of February in the sunshine to cap off this amazing experience. At that point we’ll start to make our way back home, hoping to be there in April/May. It will be 2 years on the road at that point and time to figure out our next chapter.

Weather Woes in Kansas and Oklahoma – 10 7/14 – 10/14/14

Site of the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing.

Site of the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing.  The reflection pool is where the road was and to the left (where the chairs are) is where the building stood.  The 5th tree in is where the truck with the bomb was parked.

The past week has been a bit uneventful and definitely hindered by the horrible weather. We didn’t have a lot of must-see’s planned and we had a hard time finding decent RV campgrounds in the area. I am looking at this time as a transition period, trying to hit the last of our states and watching a lot of football and baseball! Our first stop was Wichita, Kansas. The Air Capital RV Park was mostly full of long-term residents but it was a newer park and in a good location. We only booked 2 nights here and that was all that we needed. We drove by the Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems area and wow, there were some huge buildings and complexes that just seemed to go on and on — a huge aviation presence here. In town, we stopped along the river walk where the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers merge into one. The Keeper of the Plains statue watches over this area in tribute to the Native American tribes who consider this a sacred site. A pretty neat spot to walk around. We also visited Old Town and stopped at a brewery for lunch. This seemed like a fun part of town, but fairly deserted on a Wed. afternoon.

Confluence of the Little and Big Arkansas Rivers

Confluence of the Little and Big Arkansas Rivers, Keeper of the Plains statue in the background

Keeper of the Plains statue, Wichita

Keeper of the Plains statue, Wichita

Next up was Stillwater, Oklahoma, a very short drive south. Stillwater is home to the OSU Cowboys and we thought it would be fun to stay in a college town. The problem was that there weren’t a lot of RV Parks to choose from and we ended up at Cedar Crest RV Park, which was a bit sketchy. When we called, they only had one spot open, as the rest were full time residents who work in the oil production industry or fans who leave their rigs parked full time for football games (no home game while we were there). The park was probably the worst we have stayed at in my opinion.   We got set up in 90-degree hot/humid weather then headed into town. It reminded me a bit of Pullman, a true college town (population 45,000; enrollment 22,000) and it just popped up out of nowhere. Everything in town was orange/black with an OSU tie-in, which was fun to see. We went to Eskimo Joes for lunch. Back in the day when I worked at Holland America, I got a care package from someone in OK who I helped with a cruise and it was full of Eskimo Joe’s stuff, which I thought was so random at the time. Now I get it, because this place is such an iconic spot. That night the heat and humidity turned into one of the worst storms we have been in. The lightning flashed and lit up the inside of the MoHo every 10 seconds complemented by crashing thunder and rain as hard as we have ever felt.  This went on most of the night, which made for a pretty sleepless night as we can feel everything in the MoHo!

Cedar Crest RV Park

Cedar Crest RV Park, hookups underwater

The next morning, the rain stopped but the park was flooded and muddy and our hookups were fully submerged underwater. We drove an hour south to Oklahoma City for the day. First stop was at the ASA Softball Hall of Fame/Stadium where they hold the World Series of Softball every year. It was under a bit of construction so we weren’t really supposed to be there, but a very nice worker took us up to the stadium and let us take some pics. Next, we drove about 15 minutes south of downtown to Norman where the Univ. of Oklahoma is. I am still bitter at that darn Sooner Buggy from the 2003 Rose Bowl. But, I must say the campus was very cool and looked to be a great place to go to college. Next, we headed to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, site of the bombing at the Murrah Federal Building in 1995. We thought it was very well done and I found the empty chairs for all of the 168 victims to be very impactful. They were placed in 9 rows, signifying which floor the victim was on when they were killed. Large chairs for adults; small chairs for children. As we walked back to the car, the skies opened up and the rain just unloaded. We just don’t get rain like this in Seattle.   We headed down to the Bricktown area, which seemed like the fun entertainment district with stadiums and bars/restaurants. We ended up at Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar and bellied up for a delicious Linner as the rain continued outside. We headed back to the MoHo and watched the Cougs lose to Stanford. Saturday morning, it was college game day, so we thought it would be fun to head back into Stillwater and find a place to watch a few games. We ended up at Buffalo Wild Wings and were shocked to find that they allowed smoking in the bar.  We opted for a seat in the restaurant and enjoyed the action on a gazillion big screens and joined the hometown crowd rooting for OSU.

Site of the Softball World Series

Site of the World Series of Softball

Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma City, OK

Memorial

Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial Site

Looking back at the site of the Murrah Building. The chairs represent the 168 victims.

Looking back at the site of the Murrah Building. The chairs represent the 168 victims.

Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman

Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman

The next morning we were ready to get on the road and move on to a better spot. Our drive to Tulsa was only about 75 miles, which is always nice. We opted to stay at the Tulsa Fairgrounds/Expo Park. We have done this in other cities and the tradeoff is that you are basically in an asphalt parking lot, but the location always seems to be perfect. Our stay was only 2 nights, so not a problem. As we got set up, we had a few issues come up. The jacks were acting up again, one of the rear slides was having trouble and our water hose broke; the joys of a traveling home. We hit the grocery store and decided to stay in to watch the Hawks. The bad weather was following us, so an afternoon in sounded good. Unfortunately, the Hawks didn’t play well and lost to Dallas. We watched a few movies and listened to the wind and rain all night.

The Golden Driller statue, Tulsa, OK

The Golden Driller statue, Tulsa, OK

We had a full day to explore Tulsa, but the weather just wasn’t cooperating. And, the MDX battery was dead. We knew this was coming because lately when starting the car, it just didn’t sound very good. We had a neighbor jump us, then Mike was off to Sears to replace it. We got a late start, but with the monsooning rain, there wasn’t really much to see. I learned that one of my favorite movies, The Outsiders, was filmed in Tulsa, so we drove out to the Admiral Twin Drive-In where some of the scenes were shot. Then, we drove through the downtown area, which looked like it could be interesting with all of the different districts, but with the rain, just didn’t seem inviting to be out walking around. We decided to just take care of some errands and head back to the campground. The wind was rocking the MoHo most of the evening. Good news is that it looks like the weather is past us, and the sun will hopefully be shining in the morning for our trip to Branson, Missouri!

Admiral Twin Drive-In, scenes from the Outsiders filmed here (stay gold Johnny!)

Admiral Twin Drive-In, scenes from the Outsiders filmed here (stay gold Ponyboy!)

p.s. As I reread this post, I realized I sounded a bit like a negative Nelly. I guess this just shows that this adventure isn’t always perfect. There are good stops and bad stops and we try to make the most of each one, but not always ideal, especially when the weather is as bad as it has been.

Back in a Big City – 9/30/14 – 10/6/14

Kansas City Skyline from the WW1 Monument

Kansas City Skyline from the top of the hill at the WW1 Monument

I had been craving a visit to a bigger city and Kansas City provided just that! We checked in at the Worlds of Fun RV Village, which is actually part of an amusement park/water park. When we learned how much was going on in the area for the upcoming weekend, we decided to book a full week here. The park was in a great location with nice, long concrete pads and modern amenities. The water park was closed for the year and the amusement park was only open on weekends, so it wasn’t too crazy while we were there. Kind of a fun setting. As we set up, we met both of our neighbors, one had a MoHo just like ours and was here for the NASCAR race (more on that later) and the others were here filming the American Royal BBQ contest (more on that too). We stayed busy here and got to experience a lot of the city. Here are some highlights:

World of Fun RV Village, roller coaster in the background

Our spot at the Worlds of Fun RV Village, roller coaster in the background

Downtown
Kansas City has a great skyline and sits on the western side of Missouri, bordering Kansas. There is also a Kansas City in Kansas, but the one in MO is where we spent most of our time. The mighty Missouri River runs along the border of the two states, making for a great setting. We explored the downtown area on a few occasions with highlights being the historic Union Station (celebrating its 100 year anniversary), the Power & Light Building (featured in a Batman movie as a Gotham City skyscraper) and the four Sky Station sculptures atop the convention center. Downtown is separated by neighborhoods and we found the Power & Light District to be the most fun with tons of restaurants and KC Live, an outdoor entertainment venue. We also visited the City Market, a huge outdoor market (kind of like Pike Place) and loaded up on fresh fruits & veggies!

Power & Light Building and President Hotel

Power & Light Building and President Hotel

Sculptures above the Convention Center at sunset

Sculptures, Convention Center at sunset

Union Station

Union Station

KC Live in downtown, event venue

KC Live in downtown, event venue

BBQ
Who knew that KC was the BBQ Capital of the World? I didn’t and honestly thought it was probably Texas. I am not a huge BBQ lover, but it ranks up there with wings for Mike. We tried a few different places; Oklahoma Joe’s being the best by far. It was located inside of a gas station, random. Mike’s quote after finishing his beef brisket/pork rib combo plate: “If I were on death row, this would be my final meal.” He said it was that good! Arthur Bryant’s was also a good one and located in the Jazz district. As I mentioned above, our neighbors in the RV park film BBQ competitions around the country and apparently the one in KC, American Royal, is one of the biggies. Turns out they were short on judges (they needed over 500), so he asked Mike if he would be interested. The timing was horrible, as we had already bought our NASCAR tickets (see below), so he wasn’t able to partake. It would have been a pretty cool experience.

Happy with his Oklahoma Joe BBQ!

Happy with his Oklahoma Joes BBQ!

Grinders, a DDD joint

Grinders, a DDD joint (not BBQ, but really good food!)

Sports
We loved that this was such a huge sports city. We really miss that part of being at home. Although we get behind our teams from the road and fly our flags proudly, it just isn’t the same. We visited all stadiums, but unfortunately not for any games. Arrowhead, home of the Chiefs shares a parking lot with Kauffman Field for the Royals, kind of like Safeco Field and Century Link in Seattle. It was fun to be in town for all of the excitement of the Royals making the playoffs and sweeping the Angels. Sporting Kansas City, the soccer club, has a dedicated venue just for them, which we haven’t seen before. It definitely makes for a more intimate setting, but not as many seats available. Our timing just didn’t work for any live events other than the Royals, but the tickets were just too expensive.

The "K" Kauffman Field, home of the Royals

The “K” (Kauffman Field), home of the Royals

Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Chiefs

Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Chiefs

Breweries
There were some great breweries here, the largest being Boulevard Brewing. It is a staple in every bar/restaurant in town. We also found some smaller ones that were fantastic, Big Rip and Cinder Block. This has been a really fun thing for us, sampling local beer along the way. Mike is an IPA lover and I usually opt for the wheats or lagers.

Sampling at Boulevard Brewing

Sampling at Boulevard Brewing

Riverboat Casinos
The Missouri and Kansas rivers run throughout the area and with that bring a variety of riverboat casinos, which of course we could not pass up. A funny moment one night was when I was at a 3-card table with 5 other people (Mike was gambling at another table). All of our phones went off at the same time with an emergency alert of possible flash flooding in the area. Crazy weather around here! The dealer proceeded to tell us, “not to worry, we are on a boat.” Classic.

Concert
We happened to be in town when Phillip Phillips was playing at the historic Midland Theatre. This was a smaller venue (3,000ish) and an iconic site, reminded me a bit of the Paramount in Seattle.   It was a fun night out for us and we actually dug into the closet for something other than shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops. We started out at Johnny’s Tavern in the Power & Light District for dinner, then a drink at the Indie, then into the show. It wasn’t sold out, so we were able to sit in some decent seats and take in the concert. There was an opening act, singer, songwriter from Portland, OR who played for about 45 mins. Then Phillip took the stage for about 90 mins. He reminds us so much of Dave Matthews, who we love, so it was a great show. For the encore he came out in a KC Royals cap and the crowd went crazy!

Bucket of Wings at Johnny's Tavern pre-concert

Bucket of Wings at Johnny’s Tavern pre-concert

Our seats at the concert

Our seats at the concert

NASCAR
This has been on our bucket list for awhile and we had planned on Daytona last year, but it just didn’t work out. When we heard that there was a big race at the Kansas Speedway while we were here, we were all over it. Neither one of us is really into car racing, but we just had to experience firsthand the nation’s most popular sport. It was Sunday and the weather was perfect and here we were with 80,000+ racing fans. These people are serious about who they support and decked out in all the gear. We did our best and donned beer shirts and hats. This is the only sporting event we have ever been to where we could bring in our own cooler of beer. We literally walked through the gates with icy cold ones in hand. Crazy! We also learned why this is the most fan-friendly sport. We were allowed down onto the track and infield prior to the race, there was a concert playing and we could see the pit crews and parade of drivers up close. After the festivities, the fans orderly made their way back to the seats and it was time to “start your engines.” All of the big drivers were in the hunt and I actually recognized quite a few names. We had great seats for all of the action and it wasn’t as boring as I thought. It was LOUD so we did buy earplugs, but there was a lot of action to watch. Also, the cars go by much faster in real life than they do on TV. Literally, they were a blur going by. After some of the bigger names were out due to crashes, #22 Joey Logano brought home the victory and before we knew it 267 laps and 3 hours had gone by. Not sure that we will go again, but really glad we had the experience.

Outside of Kansas Speedway

Outside of Kansas Speedway

On the infield before the race

On the infield before the race

Approaching the start line

Approaching the start line

The big winner doing burnouts on the infield

The big winner doing burnouts on the infield

Weather
I am adding this highlight in for Mike. It continues to amaze us how volatile the weather is, something we just don’t get at home. While we were there, we had temps ranging from mid 80’s to low 50’s. We had beautiful sunny days, then out of nowhere rain showers like we have never seen. And most evenings, a spectacular thunder and lightning display showed up. Weather boy is infatuated by all of this crazy weather and I have to admit, it is magnificent to see Mother Nature giving us her show!

On our last night, we had our flag flying for Monday Night Football. It wasn’t pretty, but we were relieved for a Seahawks victory! We are now looking at detouring up to St. Louis for the game on the 19th. Any takers to join us?

Surprised by South Dakota – 9/13/14 – 9/23/14

Mount Rushmore, Keystone, SD

Mount Rushmore, Keystone, SD

Really Surprised! I was looking forward to this stop because Mt. Rushmore was the last big landmark on my list to see, but I had no idea how much more this area had to offer. It all started with the perfect place to stay to explore the Black Hills and surrounding area, Hart Ranch in Rapid City (thanks Bob for the great recommendation!). There are dozens of RV parks in this area making it hard to know what is best, so we really lucked out having this great spot. This place was a member park, but since it was the offseason, they had space for us and at a great rate of $32/night. Sites were roomy, onsite restaurant, cheap laundry, very clean, secure, friendly staff and above all centrally located to everything we wanted to see.   We originally booked 5 nights here and wondered if there would be enough to fill our time, but we extended not once, but twice, for a total of 11 nights. The weather couldn’t have been better, sunny and in the 70’s/80’s most of the time; it had snowed here just a week prior.   I think this area was our biggest surprise of the whole trip, a combination of Utah for unique landscape, Grand Canyon for the awe factor and Yellowstone for wildlife. And, I must hand it to their Visitor’s Association! The guides and marketing materials were very well laid out and easy to use. They had several scenic drives outlined that connected all of the sites and made planning our days more manageable. We saw quite a bit here, but also had some very relaxing days. I loved being in one spot for this long, so we could just settle in and have our ‘home’ setup. The nature of this trip is such that we are on the move a lot and when we have the chance to put down some roots, it really does make a difference.

Beautiful scenery everywhere!

Beautiful scenery everywhere!

Here are the highlights of our time here:

Deadwood
This was a cool town that the HBO show was based on, reminiscent of the gold rush of 1876 and Wild Bill Hickok. It was basically a one-street town set in a valley with steep hills on either side, full of saloons and gambling halls. It was Sunday when we were there, so we both had our Seahawks gear on. We watched the Hawks lose to San Diego over appies and a few beers, then decided to try our luck at the tables. Most of the casinos were strictly slots, but we did find a few with tables. 3-card was very popular here, so we sat down at a $2 table with a crew of locals. It’s amazing how much longer you can play when the minimums aren’t $10. Mike actually hit a few good hands to balance out my losing ones and we walked out even for the night. Always a victory when gambling. This town was really fun, a bit touristy, but made for a great day. We missed their annual brew fest by one day, darn.

Downtown Deadwood

Downtown Deadwood

Sturgis
The annual Sturgis Rally had taken place about a month ago, and apparently the weather was pretty bad for them. Next year they are expecting close to a million bikers for the 75th Anniversary. While we were there, it was just another town, actually quite small, but obvious that they cater to bikers. We didn’t go to the Motorcycle Museum/Hall of Fame, as that really isn’t our thing. Instead we just walked around, there was an outdoor moto-cross event going on through the streets, which was kind of interesting. We stopped in at Knuckle Brewing Company for a local beer, then got on our way. I can only imagine how crazy this place would be for the rally.

One of the MANY biker bars in Sturgis

One of the MANY biker bars in Sturgis

Custer State Park
This was one of our favorites and we visited multiple times. The entrance fee was good for a week, which was nice and the location of the park was such that we drove through it many times on our way to other places. There were three spectacular scenic roads throughout the park that were equally amazing, but all unique. The diversity of this park was what made it special, from rolling prairie lands to dense forest to steep granite “needles” towering toward the sky. Iron Mountain Road had many pigtail bridges and narrow one-way tunnels framing Mount Rushmore. The roads were switchbacks at times and showcased lush scenery all around with the fall colors starting to turn. On the Wildlife Loop Road, the animals were the highlight, hello Buffalo! There are over 1,200 buffalo that roam freely in the park, one of the largest herds anywhere. We saw many throughout the park in one’s or two’s, but on this road, there were hundreds of them. We also saw Burros; they had no shame and came right up to the car window. I think people feed them, so they were looking for some treats. We didn’t think the drive could get any better, until we hit the narrow and curvy section call the Needles Highway. We went from lowland prairie to steep twisty roads that took us to the top of the tree line. We weren’t sure what the ‘needles’ referred to until we came around a corner and there were these tall rock sphere/pinnacles just popping up out of nowhere.  We were amazed at how much the landscape and elevation changed in this park

One of the many bridges along Iron Mountain Road

One of the one-way narrow bridges along Iron Mountain Road, nice view huh?

Wildlife Loop Road, my Tatanka impression.  Dances with Wolves was filmed here

Wildlife Loop Road, my Tatanka impression. Dances with Wolves was filmed here.

The Needles!

The Needles!

The drive through the Needles was gorgeous

The drive through the Needles was gorgeous

We loved this one of the rock balances between two needles

We loved this one of the rock balancing

Our di

The Fall Colors were starting to come out

Crazy Horse Memorial
This attraction is known as the world’s largest mountain carving in progress and is a memorial to honor the culture of the North American Indian people. The sculptor started in 1948 and I bet it is only about 5% complete. I’m not sure they will ever finish, but it was very impressive and I think the allure is that it is an ongoing project that is constantly changing. Family members and supporters are continuing the project to ultimately create a statue that will be 641 ft long and 563 ft high. The face of Crazy Horse was completed in 1998 at 88 ft tall and they are now focusing on the 219 ft horse’s head. They operate solely on private donations and visitor entrance fees (no public funding), so I’m sure that it why it is a slow go. The surrounding visitor center was impressive and full of native art and history.

Crazy Horse Monument

Crazy Horse Memorial, the head is finished and you can see the outline of the horse that they will start on soon

This is a scale of what the finished product will look like

This is a model of what the finished product will look like.  Cool to compare it to the actual sculpture in the background (they have a long ways to go!)

Badlands National Park
We had to drive about 90 minutes east to get to the park, but worth it! We entered through the NE entrance and were able to use our annual pass to save us the entrance cost. Immediately there was a pullout that showcased this amazing scenery. It just dropped down into a hole, kind of like the Grand Canyon, with sheer cliffs all around. The colors of the walls were striped due to the minerals in the stone, making for jaw dropping views. A perfect description from the park brochure was “a striking landscape featuring a maze of buttes, canyons, pinnacles and spires.” We continued to another spot and did a hike out along what looked liked sharp pinnacles rising up from the canyon floor. From afar it looked like people were standing on narrow ledges, but once you got out there, the landscape had shallower little valleys to get around on. It felt a bit like walking on the moon. The heat really started to intensify and we were both cooking. After the hike, we continued by car along the scenic drive through the park and pulled out at many scenic points, my favorite being the Yellow Mounds. The colors were awesome. As we headed out of the park, we took another side road and bam, we saw Bighorn Sheep and Buffalo. We stopped at Wall Drug on the way out and it was kind of a dud. Basically a lot of trinkets and trash, but had to stop at this iconic place that I had always heard about.  We really liked this National Park, it seems a bit underrated for the spectacular scenery that it has!

Our first glimpse reminded us of the Grand Canyon

Badlands National Park. Our first glimpse reminded us of the Grand Canyon

Mike on top of the world!

Mike on top of the world!

The contrast of a deep canyon and grasslands was

The contrast of deep canyons and grasslands was very unique

Hiking on top of the canyon pinnacles

Hiking on top of the canyon pinnacles

My favorite was the "Yellow Mounds"

My favorite was the “Yellow Mounds”

Mount Rushmore
We saw this iconic attraction multiple times on our stay here, but the best was my first glimpse. We were driving up the hill out of Keystone and there it was off in the distance as we rounded a corner. I think I said to Mike, “that is so cool!” Something I had seen so many times in print or on screen and now to see in person was pretty spectacular.   We saw it many more times from different viewpoints while in the car, but the day we actually went into the monument was pretty awesome.   We got there around 8am and so glad we made the effort to get there early before the masses/tour buses, plus the light was better so that the faces weren’t shadowed. We had the viewing area pretty much to ourselves. We did the walk around the Presidential Trail for the most up-close view available and Mike was a photo-taking fool. He got some great shots! What struck me the most I think is how realistic the carvings were, pretty impressive considering the tools and resources the artists had back in the 1920/30’s to sculpt at such a massive scale in granite. I am baffled how they kept their perspective while carving so up close for something so huge.

Avenue of the Flags at Mount Rushmore

Avenue of the Flags at Mount Rushmore

Photobombed by George, Tom, Teddy and Abe!

Photobombed by George, Tom, Teddy and Abe!

Close up of Honest Abe

Close up of Honest Abe

A cool side view of George from the backside of the monument

A cool side view of George from the backside of the monument

Wind Cave National Park
The day we drove to this park, we weren’t sure what to expect. We got to the park and the only way to see the caves was to pay for the $12 tour. We typically prefer to explore on our own, but we figured since we drove all the way to see it, we should go for it. And, so glad we did. It was like nothing I have ever seen before or experienced. It is one of the nation’s oldest parks (7th), becoming part of the park system in 1903. The cave system is approximately one square mile with over 140 miles of explored passages and growing as they continue to explore and map. The Park Ranger told us to imagine it as a cube with multiple levels of passages within it. The tour was about 75 minutes and well worth it. There was a concrete path with handrails and lit areas showcasing the walls. Our tour took us through narrow, low walkways, then into larger “rooms.” The walls and ceilings were full of boxwork and popcorn formations which are very rare and only found here and in some cave system in Europe. We were both so impressed with the tour and blown away by this unique park.

This only natural opening to the caves. This is where the original explorers entered.

The only natural opening to the caves. This is where the original explorers entered (very small!)

Inside the Cave!

Inside the Cave!

Mike and I inside one of the larger "rooms"

Mike and I inside one of the larger “rooms”

The rare and fragile boxwork that covered the ceilings

The rare and fragile boxwork that covered the ceilings

Hiking
One day, we ventured back to Custer State Park for a hike we had seen on our earlier drive. We did about a 3-mile hike up toward Little Devil Tower with spectacular views of Harney Peak. This is the state’s highest elevation point at 7,242 feet. There was a route to the top, but it was considered strenuous and we weren’t up for it on this hot day. The one we did was a gradual uphill climb, moderate, but felt about right for our current condition level. Since it was the off-season, we saw few other people, which is a refreshing change from other hikes we have done that are packed.

Happy Hikers!

Happy Hikers!

Great scenery on our hike in Custer State Park

Great scenery on our hike in Custer State Park

Sylvan Lake
This was a hidden gem that we found on our exploration of Custer State Park. It is a man-made lake with a nice loop trail around that we walked and really enjoyed the peaceful setting. There was even a wedding taking place on the shore while we were there. A pretty sweet spot!

Picturesque Lake Sylvan

Picturesque Sylvan Lake

Taking it all in!

Taking it all in!

Golf
There was a golf course affiliated with our campground, just about a mile down the road. We drove by it often and it never seemed too busy. We hadn’t golfed for months, so it was a nice break for us from the sightseeing. We were able to go out just the two of us, which I loved and we weren’t rushed at all. Neither one of us golfed that well and by the time we got off the course it was toasty and we were a bit overheated. But, worth it and the setting of the course was beautiful.

Mike matched the Fall Colors!

Mike matched the Fall Colors!

Wildlife
By far, we saw the most wildlife here than we have seen at any other place we have been. We saw mule and white tailed deer daily, more Buffalo (Tatanka) than you can imagine, Pronghorn, Burro, Bighorn Sheep, Coyote, and my personal favorite, the very cute Prairie Dog.

This Bighorn Sheep was not intimidated by us at all

This Bighorn Sheep was not intimidated by us at all

Prairie Dogs on high alert with a coyote on the prowl

Prairie Dogs on high alert with a coyote on the prowl

This Tatanka was just hanging out in a nearby RV Park

This Tatanka was just hanging out in a nearby RV Park

The Burro came right up to the car

The Burro came right up to the car

We saw countless deer

We saw countless deer

We had a great Seahwaks Sunday, watching them beat Denver in OT. The game was a bit stressful, but beings that we are in Bronco territory, it was a sweet victory! We were also able to get a much-needed MoHo wash from a great local company, Pro Wash and found a guy to create a personalized sign for the MoHo! One other random tidbit…of all the places we have been so far, we have seen more RV’s here than anywhere else we have been. It is cheap and easy to license here (you only have to stay one night in the state before you can claim residency), so we know that many fellow MoHo’ers take advantage of this and register in SD where there is also no sales tax. This was a great stop for us, and the furthest west we have been in a long time. It definitely felt like we were closer to home, even had a Safeway! Next up is Nebraska and starting to head eastbound and Central Time.

Our tailgating setup for the big game - notice our new flag!

Our tailgating setup for the big game – notice our new flag!

Here's our new sign!

Here’s our new sign!

For many more amazing pics of this area, click HERE

Twin Cities and Duluth – 8/31/14 – 9/8/14

Mississippi River, Minneapolis

Mississippi River, Minneapolis

First I must say, who can believe it is September already? I am starting to feel Fall in the air and of course it is football season!!

Minnesota was a new state for both of us and we were excited for it as we got some great recommendations from Steve as he grew up in the Twin Cities. Our first stop was in Apple Valley, which is just south of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Lebanon Hills Campground was our home for five nights and it was our favorite campground in quite some time. It was the perfect mix of feeling like we were camping and all of the amenities we have come to like at nicer RV Parks. Our first couple of days here were full of rain, thunder & lightning so we hunkered down and didn’t do a whole lot. Plus, I had developed a sore throat so it was nice to lay low. Interestingly, neither one of us have been sick for the past 16 mo’s, compared to at home where we would pick up something easily from work. It didn’t last long thankfully.

Our spot at Lebanon Hills Campground once the weather cleared

Our spot at Lebanon Hills Campground

Finally the weather cleared and we were ready to head out to explore. Our first stop was at Matt’s Bar for lunch, home of the original Jucy Lucy (yes, spelled correctly). It is a burger with the cheese on the inside of the patty. Actually I think it is two patties formed together with a slice of cheese in the middle. When they come out the cheese is “like molten lava” so it is important to let it cool. Mike & I split one and I must say it rivaled the burger we had in New Haven, CT at Louis Lunch. We headed into downtown Minneapolis and the riverfront (I didn’t realize the mighty Mississippi originates in MN) and walked out along the many paths and locks system. We had some time to kill before the ballgame, so checked out the Sculpture Garden, then got a bite to eat along the riverfront. We headed over to Target Field and decided to just go in early to check out the stadium, as we weren’t able to find a fun fan area to check out. Disappointing, as this is part of the whole ball field experience for us typically; maybe we just missed it. The Twins were playing the White Sox and it was a pretty boring game and very empty. It was a nice modern stadium though right in the heart of downtown with great cityscape views.  We got back to the MoHo in time to watch a more exciting team, the Mariners – it is fun to actually have them be in playoff contention!

Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis

Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis

Target Field home of the Twins

Target Field, home of the Twins

A great sunset at Target Field

A great sunset at Target Field

The next day brought more rain, so we relaxed in the morning then checked out a Triple D restaurant for lunch, Pizzeria Lola. They make thin crust wood-fired pizza’s with cute names; Mike had the “My Sha-Roni” and I had the “Hawaii Pie-O” complemented by craft beers. A great place, a bit pricey, but we loved it. It was funny, our waitress was from Shoreline. We get a lot of inquiries of where we are from when we hand over our Alaska Airlines credit card to pay. The weather wasn’t great, so we decided to hit the Mall of America. This place was huge, five stories and the middle section was basically an amusement park. We actually walked around for a few hours but didn’t purchase anything; glad we came and saw. It still amazes us how volatile the weather is: rain, lightning, sun, rain, lightning, sun.

Mall of America

Mall of America

We headed into St. Paul for the day, the other half of the Twin Cities, kind of like Seattle to Bellevue. We first drove to the Cathedral of Saint Paul. This thing was massive and beautiful, hard to get a photo to capture the size. The interior was absolutely gorgeous with stained glass everywhere and a very tall dome in the middle. It reminded us of what you would see in Italy.  We drove through the capital area and snapped a few pics, then it was time for lunch. We headed to one of Steve’s recommendations, Cossetta’s. It is basically a huge complex featuring a cafeteria-style food line (all freshly prepared), dessert shop, sit down restaurant and an Italian grocery with all kinds of authentic Italian items. After a delicious lunch, we headed into the dessert area to get pistachio gelato for me and then into the store to shop for a few items. We loved this place and would frequent it often if we lived here. Great suggestion Steve! We drove around town a bit more, up Grand and Summit Ave’s to see the huge mansions, then decided to head back to the MoHo. The Seahawks started at 7:30 and we had a party for two watching them pull out the victory vs. Green Bay. I do miss being at home with all of the hype and excitement that I’m sure must be happening in Seattle.
Side note: Shocked and sad to hear the news of Joan Rivers passing. I really enjoyed her wicked sense of humor. One of the best quotes I heard was that “Heaven just got a lot funnier with Joan and Robin Williams.”

Cathedral of Saint Paul, St. Paul

Cathedral of Saint Paul, St. Paul

Inside of Cathedral

Inside of the Cathedral

The dome was amazing

The dome was amazing

The capital building in St. Paul (Go Hawks!)

The Capitol Building in St. Paul (Go Hawks!)

Our next destination was Duluth, MN. This was not even on our radar, but Steve suggested it to us, so we decided to check it out. Our campground was in a marina on Park Point, Lakehead Boat Basin and Campground, located across the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge from downtown Duluth. The park was nothing special, basically a blacktop parking lot, but it had full hook-ups and the location was the best part. Kind of like our park in Jersey City, not that I’m comparing Duluth to NYC : ) The weather was absolutely perfect and no humidity! We didn’t expect that we would be back on Lake Superior anytime soon after the U.P. of Michigan, but here we were! We got set-up and when we checked the TV/Satellite, we noticed we didn’t have any sound out of the main TV. This happened one time before and we just had to jiggle a few connections, but this time that didn’t work. The time had come to replace the HDMI cable, we knew this day was coming and we were dreading it. We headed out to explore and picked up a new cable and decided to just tackle our project. After over three hours of battling with working in an extremely small space and limited tools to hook-up this new cable, it still wouldn’t work. The final straw was to call DirecTV and try to schedule a tech to come out. After awhile on the phone (and basically being told that the only place a tech would come would be to Bellevue, WA – they don’t or won’t understand that we are on the road), finally he had us unplug the TV and reset the Genie and voila, it worked! We poured stiff cocktails and sat down at 9:30 to watch the Cougs blow it against Reno (0-2, really Cougs?). Not a great first day in Duluth, but we were optimistic about the days ahead as it seemed like a great town and the weather was looking to be perfect.

Aerial Lift Bridge (up)

Aerial Lift Bridge (up) – ship going under

Aerial Lift Bridge (on the way down)

Aerial Lift Bridge (on the way down)

Aerial Lift Bridge (all the way down) - ready for car traffic again

Aerial Lift Bridge (all the way down) – ready for car traffic 

We woke up excited to head out and explore on our bikes. We made the short 3 block ride to the bridge and it was up to allow for boat traffic, so we rode out to the end of the breakwater to take it all in. I was surprised at how many people were out to watch, but it was a gorgeous Saturday morning, and there was a huge freighter coming through. The Aerial Lift Bridge is Duluth’s most famous landmark and raises dozens of times a day to let boat traffic through. Over the course of the next few days, we saw this multiple times and it never seemed to get old. We headed down the path along Lake Superior along with many other joggers, walkers and bikers, a great trail system. Next, we rode over to Bayfront Park where there was a local festival going on. The night before there was actually an outdoor concert that we could hear at the MoHo Park. We made our way to the Farmer’s Market area and loaded up on local goodies including some Amish-made baked goods, which were out of this world! Since the MoHo was so close, we rode back and dropped off our haul, then cruised back to Canal Park Brewery for lunch and some local beer. This placed was packed and full of energy with a great outdoor patio looking out on Lake Superior. Loved it. It was time to head back to the MoHo and set up our chairs outside to enjoy the sunshine and watch some college football. Unfortunately the Huskies won, otherwise it was a glorious day. We BBQ’d steaks and had local sweet corn for dinner.

Mike biking around town

Mike biking around town

The next day we got on the road up the scenic Hwy 61/North Shore to the Split Rock Lighthouse, about an hour drive. Much of the drive was along the rocky shores of Lake Superior with stunning views. It was Sunday, and the road was busy with MoHoers/Trailers heading back up to Ontario, Canada only about 150 miles away. We got some really great photos and explored the lighthouse area, then drove a bit further up the road before turning around and heading back. We stopped for groceries on the way back to the MoHo for a relaxing Sunday watching football and BBQ’ing.
Lake Superior Factoid
With the entire surface frozen (which has only happened twice), there would be enough space for every person on earth to spread out a 12’ x 12’ picnic blanket. Wow, hard to fathom how huge this lake is. We learned that this last winter with the Polar Vortex, over 90% of the lake froze; a typical year is 30%.

Split Rock Lighthouse, North Shore of Lake Superior

Split Rock Lighthouse, North Shore of Lake Superior

The Rocks Shores of Lake Superior

The Rocky Cliff Shores of Lake Superior

Another gorgeous shot of Lake Superior

Another gorgeous shot of Lake Superior

On our last day, we decided to head across the river to Superior, Wisconsin. Actually, it was a waste of time, not much to see, so we headed back to Duluth for lunch at Fitgers, another brewery. We drove back to the MoHo to park the car and set back out on our bikes for one last cruise around town. Since it was a Monday, it was much quieter and the wind was starting to kick up, with bad weather anticipated for the next day. We headed back to Canal Park Brewery for Mike to get a growler of their Stoned Surf IPA, then a last beer on Grandma’s Deck with great views of the Lake and Bridge. We headed back to the MoHo to pack up the bikes and outdoor stuff in preparation for our departure in the morning. We really enjoyed this stop. It was great to ride our bikes around town and not worry about parking. I know the weather made a huge difference too, but also the fact that we had no expectations and we were pleasantly surprised. Love it when that happens! We are both feeling pretty relaxed. Thank you Duluth!

Next stop is Fargo, ND.

Our final day in Duluth with the Aerial Lift Bridge in the background

Our final day in Duluth with the Aerial Lift Bridge in the background

Chicago Friends and Miller Time – 8/20/14 – 8/26/14

Miller-Coors Brewery in Milwaukee, WI

MillerCoors Brewery in Milwaukee, WI

We officially arrived in the Midwest and Central Time Zone and experienced the crazy summer storms. A lot of rain, thunder, lightning and humidity! We had a hard time finding an RV Park in the Chicago area, so opted to stay a bit north near the Wisconsin/Illinois border in Zion at Illinois Beach State Park right on Lake Michigan.   The park was about an hour from downtown Chicago, but since we have both been there a few times, we were ok with this. It was nice to just relax and enjoy the park. The weather wasn’t great, but Mike did get some fishing in and there were some bike trails that we took advantage of.

The highlight of the stay was our trip into the big city to see Mike’s golfing buddy, Ron Hansen. He used to live in the Seattle area, but has been in Chicago for about 4 years, and flies back for the guys golf trips. We drove into town on Saturday afternoon to his condo in the River North neighborhood. Wow, both Mike & I just loved his place. It was a very unique, 2-story loft style condo in a 1907 building, renovated in 1997. Exposed beams and ductwork, yet very modern looking with a killer outdoor patio featuring great views. It was in a quiet neighborhood, but within walking distance of bars & restaurants, true city living! His girlfriend, Carolyn, joined us and after a few cocktails on the patio, we headed to Mastro’s Steakhouse for a delicious dinner! Our evening continued at Declan’s and Chicago Blues, before walking back to his place for a nightcap on the patio. Thanks Ron & Carolyn for a great evening showing us “your Chicago” and letting us crash in the guestroom! The next day, Mike & Ron played golf and I had a low-key day. The course was close to where our park was, so Ron came over afterwards to visit and see the MoHo. We had a mellow night getting ready for “moving day” the next morning.

Ron & Mike on the patio at Ron's Condo.  View

Ron & Mike on the patio at Ron’s Condo. View of the Willis Tower (Sears Tower) in the background

Enjoying the Chicago nightlife

Enjoying Chicago with Ron 

We got on the road just in time before a huge storm hit, on our way north to Milwaukee, WI. The trip was just over an hour, so we arrived at the Wisconsin State Fair RV Park in the rain.   The park was basically a glorified parking lot, but had all of the amenities we needed including the best wi-fi we have had in a long time, plus the location just couldn’t be beat. We decided to head to “Miller Valley” and the MillerCoors Brewery. We took the hour-long free tour then to the sampling room for Miller Lite, Miller High Life (the champagne of beers) and one of their craft beers, Summer Shandy by Leinenkugel, which I have seen a lot of lately and is very tasty.   We hit the gift shop for a few “It’s Miller Time” items, couldn’t resist. We were hungry for dinner, so headed into town for a Guy Fieri Triple D spot, the Comet Café. It was in an eclectic looking little neighborhood and the food was delicious!

Brewery Tour...where's Laverne?

MillerCoors Brewery Tour…where’s Laverne?

We were bummed that the Brewers didn’t have a home game while we were there, as Miller Field is one that we would have liked to visit. The rain seemed to have stopped and the sun was starting to peak out, so on our last day we headed into town to explore. We parked near the Public Market in the Historic Third Ward area and headed toward the River Walk. What a cool area with lots of condos, restaurants, shops and outdoor art to look at. The city had a great vibe and seemed to be full of young people, more hipster than I would have thought.   We made our way to the Fonz statue for some pics, then headed back to the Public Market. This was a neat spot full of local food, wines, cheeses, meats, deserts, produce, seafood, olive oils, breads, etc all housed in a funky warehouse. We walked through and landed at the Wine Thief for a cold one and to take a load off from the humidity.   We headed back to the MoHo and sat outside for a bit to enjoy the sunshine we had been missing. We really enjoyed Milwaukee, a place we would gladly come back to.

Next up is Iowa City, Iowa.

River Walk in Milwaukee

River Walk in Milwaukee

Mike & the Fonz

Mike & the Fonz

Ayyyyyyyyy

Ayyyyyyyyy!!

Enjoying a beer in the Public Market, Milwaukee

Enjoying a beer in the Public Market, Milwaukee

Ball Parks and Big Cities – 8/5/14 – 8/8/14

Home of the Detroit Tigers

Home of the Detroit Tigers

(This post was written by Mike)

We left Syracuse and headed west, next destination was Cleveland. We arrived at the American Wilderness Campground about 40 miles SW of town, and got set up in a nice long open site, just the kind we like. We unloaded the bikes, had them in the car still from last stop, and did a quick tour around the park, and it was huge. There were a couple of lakes; one for fishing, one for swimming, and lots of variety in sites and sizes. We returned to the MoHo, cleaned up and headed to downtown as an Indians baseball game was on tap for the night. We drove around town a bit, and it was nicer than we had expected. We found a fun area, 4th Street, and had a nice linner (Late lunch, early dinner) at a Mexican joint. After we were done, off to the ballgame, again a huge thanks to our friend Matt W. for getting us tickets! We strolled around the outside as usual looking to get the vibe, and there wasn’t one to be found, very quiet. We got in and wandered the entire area, a newer park, with good views from all angles. Our seats were great, right behind home plate, fun to see the action from that angle. The visiting Red’s won, as I was rooting for them because the Mariners are chasing the last wildcard spot and Cleveland is in the hunt as well. We made our way back to the MoHo and hit the hay, long day, but a very fun one.

Progressive Field, Cleveland

Progressive Field, Cleveland

View from our seats - thanks Matt!

View from our seats – thanks Matt!

The next day we ran some errands, not a lot to report. I did find a Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner, and enjoyed them thoroughly. When we got home, I did get out and do some fishing on the little lake, and was mildly successful; so fun to fish on these private lakes! We chilled at the MoHo, just a real relaxing day.

Strawberry Marg in Cleveland

Strawberry Marg in Cleveland

Thursday, we were off towards Detroit. But our first stop was the local mechanic, Jeff’s Automotive and Towing. I had made an appointment the day before for a much needed oil change. Showed up at 10:00AM and was out by 11:00AM, great service, so wish I could give him more recognition! We made our way to Detroit and the Greenfield RV Park, about 30 miles west of downtown. We got set up and headed to Ann Arbor, home of the dreaded Michigan Wolverine football team. I was expecting something a bit different once we arrived. I had seen and heard so many things about the place, but because the Big House is dug down into the ground, it seemed less imposing from the exterior; I am sure it is much different from the inside. We headed into town and found a couple breweries, stopping at one and bellied up for another linner. This place had a great IPA, but unfortunately they do not bottle it so I could not take any home, just had to get my fill at the bar. We returned to the MoHo Park and wandered around, before having a fire. During our walk, the Air Force Thunderbirds were practicing right over us, there is an air show this weekend in Detroit, just about 3 miles way!

The "Big House"

The “Big House”

On our last day we drove into Detroit. Again we had preconceived notions of the town, and initially it was confirmed, a very run down area in need of a lot of work. We somehow made it to the Detroit River waterfront area, and this place has gone through a very nice renovation. The day was perfect, and we ended up walking about 3 miles up and down the riverfront. Next we headed over to see the ballparks, Ford Field for the Lions, and Comerica Park for the Tigers. Neither team was playing, but the exterior of both places was great especially the Tigers stadium. Hungry and thirsty, we found another local brewery for an outdoor beverage and meal before returning to the neighborhood of the RV Park for some cleaning and shopping as we have visitors arriving tomorrow. Marc and Shelly Pflugrath are coming to stay with us for the next 9 nights for our journey through upper Michigan, going to be a blast sharing that time with them!

Detroit River, GM Headquarters in the background

Detroit River, GM Headquarters in the background

Comerica Park, Detroit

Comerica Park, Detroit

Lake Ontario, Niagara Falls and Lake Erie – 7/23/14 – 8/4/14

Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls from Canadian Side

Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls from Canadian Side (Maid of the Mist looks like a toy boat)

We had a long drive from Vermont to the Syracuse Camping World for a diagnostic appointment for our side camera that had been damaged. We hoped to get it submitted to our warranty company, then drop the MoHo back off for the work to be done later in the week.   It was a bit of a cluster and 2.5 hours later, we hooked back up and drove the 45 minutes to Cherry Grove Campground in Wolcott, NY. It was a smaller park with what seemed like a lot of seasonals who park their rig, then come back to it on the weekends or for vacation. It was Monday, so even though the park was fairly full, no one was there. The owner couldn’t have been nicer and already we had a much better vibe than the last place. One interesting thing that we have never encountered is that they charged $3/day for A/C usage. The park was so reasonably priced, this didn’t bother us, just interesting. It had been a long day, so we just “kenneled” in for the night.

We did a quick drive through Syracuse University

We did a quick drive through Syracuse University

Our pet turtle at the campground

Our pet turtle at the campground

The next day, we set out to explore and check out the Finger Lakes region, which is full of wineries! Who knew? This wasn’t even on our radar as we had mostly picked this stop to get the RV maintenance done.  We decided to focus on the west shore of Seneca Lake and just randomly picked our first stop, White Springs, which was a wine/brewery combo. The next stop was at Billsboro, and we had a fantastic young gal helping us who gave us some great recommendations for the rest of the day. We made it to 3 more plus a stop for a delicious lunch. Glenora had great views, Hermann J. Weimer was our favorite and we had a good chat with the very knowledgeable pourer and our last stop, Anthony Road, was just ok. This area is really known for its Rieslings, which is not our favorite, but we did enjoy the drier ones, especially since it was a hot day. We would love to return here when we have more time, as there are more lakes with many more wineries to explore. It kind of had a Lake Chelan feel, but on steroids!

Lake Seneca, Finger Lakes

Lake Seneca, Finger Lakes

Doing some damage at Hermann Weimer

Doing some damage at Hermann J. Weimer

On our last day, we decided to head to Fair Haven Beach State Park on Lake Ontario. The weather wasn’t great, but our goal is to at least dip our toe into all five of the Great Lakes, so this was our first. We walked around the park area, did our toe-dip, then had a picnic lunch looking out at this huge ocean of a lake. The wind really started to pick up, so we packed up and headed back to the MoHo. We were supposed to drop it off back at Camping World in the morning, but since we had yet to hear back from our warranty company and CW was not responsive, we canceled. We have come to the conclusion that our warranty company is a complete scam as we have never had any luck making contact with them let alone with them approving a claim. This is a long saga that we are both completely irritated with, so our next step is to cancel with them and find another company. We were set to drive to Philadelphia in the morning for our flight to Seattle (see previous blog), so now we had nowhere to leave the MoHo. Mike checked with our campground and they were willing to let us leave it there and plugged in for only $6/day. Awesome!

Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario

We had an outstanding trip home to Seattle and successfully surprised our friends at the annual Camp Cameron Pool Party. We left the campground in Wolcott on Wed. the 30th and made the drive to a KOA on Grand Island, NY just 7 miles from Niagara Falls.   A friend, Sandy and her husband Gene, who we had met in Everglades City, FL in January were working here for the summer, so we were excited to see them. We got settled and did a much needed grocery run, and prepared for the monsoon weather about to hit. Sandy came over that night and we split a few bottles of wine and had a great time catching up on the past 6 months.

American Falls (left); Horseshoe Falls (right)

American Falls (left); Horseshoe Falls (right)

Friday, we drove the 7 miles into Niagara Falls and we weren’t sure what to expect. The town itself was very touristy and many of the viewing paths were under construction, but we walked through it and finally got our first glimpse of the American Falls. Wow, impressive! Walked over to Goat Island to see Horseshoe Falls (Canadian Falls) and we felt this was the best view from the American side. We looked down on Cave of the Winds and everyone was getting completely soaked, so we opted out on that. We then walked back to the mainland area for a quick hotdog from one of the many vendors, then ventured over the Rainbow Bridge across the border to the Canadian side. MUCH better views and the area seemed cleaner and so much more inviting. We walked the whole boardwalk all the way down to Horseshoe Falls where we could look straight down on the water coming over, the most impressive view yet. Luckily, it wasn’t too hot or humid and the mist from the Falls felt great. We were going to head back and do the Maid of the Mist, but decided we didn’t want to fight the lines and we were tired after walking over 8 miles. We felt like we saw every possible angle of the Falls (except from the water). This iconic landmark is a must see for everyone and we would highly recommend the Canadian side for the best viewing experience! We were hungry, so headed into Buffalo and the Anchor Bar, birthplace of the chicken wing. This has been on Mike’s list for years! Bellied up to the bar and I got salad/pizza while he had a 20-piece wing order. They were meaty and the right spice, a solid 7.5 out of 10 on his “wing scale.”

American Falls

American Falls

Looking down on Cave of the Winds

Looking down on Cave of the Winds (people are in yellow ponchos)

On top of the American Falls

On top of the American Falls

A little misty at Horseshoe Falls

A little misty at Horseshoe Falls

Maid of the Mist

Maid of the Mist

Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe Falls (notice the rainbow)

View looking down Horseshoe Balls - feel the power!

View looking down Horseshoe Falls – feel the power!

Wing hat at the Anchor Bar

Chicken wing hat at the Anchor Bar

Since we had knocked out our must-sees of the area, we weren’t quite sure what to do the next day. Decided to head into the Niagara Falls Wine District. We hit 4 wineries and learned that this area is still developing and working on their niche. We did try some ice wine (I didn’t really care for it) and we were told that the neighbors to the north in Ontario are really the ones doing it right. It is quite an expensive and arduous process to produce and they are still working to master it. We got back to the MoHo and ended up at Sandy and Gene’s RV sitting outside chatting for the next 6+ hours. We ordered pizza and had a great evening and really hope to meet up with them again sometime this winter.

We said our goodbye’s the next morning and got on the road to Erie, PA. We found a great spot right on Lake Erie, Lampe Marina Campground and the price was right at $30/night. We originally were looking for a place closer to Pittsburgh, but we just couldn’t pass up this spot. The big city of Pitt will have to be another trip. This was the most relaxing stay we have had in a long time. We used the bikes everyday and really just enjoyed the setting of the park. In fact, we didn’t spend a penny other than the cost of the park for our 3-day stay, making all meals at the MoHo. There was a long pier out from the marina area where fishing was the main attraction and lots of boat traffic into the bay. We had a big thunder and lightning storm the first night, which was kind of cool, but the rest of the time was nice.

View from our campground (Pesque Isle State Park point in background)

View from our campground, Lake Erie (The tip of Presque Isle State Park in the background)

The campground sat right on the Lake

Our campground sat right on the Lake (Our MoHo is the 2nd from the right)

On our last day, we loaded our bikes in the car and drove 30 min’s to Presque Isle State Park. From the campground, we were only about a 50-yard water crossing, but to get there by land, we had to drive the long way around.   The park is a 3,200 acre sandy peninsula on Lake Erie with a 13-mile loop and many hiking trails, fishing spots and sandy beaches. We parked at Beach #8 and set out on the loop on our bikes. It was bit toasty out, but the trail had many shady spots and great viewpoints to check out. We made it out to the point where we could look back and see the MoHo just a short distance away. Back at the car, we loaded the bikes back in, changed into our suits, grabbed the cooler and chairs and walked out to the beach. The sand was dark and a bit gravely, not the white powder you would find at an ocean beach. But, other than that, it seemed like the ocean. It was pretty crowded, but we found a spot, had our lunch and took a dip (#2 down of the 5 Great Lakes!). We hung out for awhile and were both cooked, so packed it up and headed back to the car. Drove back to the MoHo and enjoyed our last night at this park complete with campfire and Mike cooking ribs. Off to the Cleveland area in the morning.

Bike ride in Pesque Isle State Park

Bike ride in Presque Isle State Park

Cooling off in Lake Erie

Cooling off in Lake Erie

Great Lakes factoid: The Great Lakes contain 21% of the world’s surface fresh water and 54% of the world’s liquid fresh water by volume. These lakes are HUGE!