Monthly Archives: June 2019

Indiana Dunes National Park

006Earlier this week, we day-tripped to the nation’s newest (and Indiana’s only) National Park – Indiana Dunes. It has long been designated as a “National Lakeshore”, but was upgraded to the 61st National Park just 4 months ago in February 2019. It was so new, that the Visitor’s Center National Park sign had just arrived a few days before!

I grew up in Indiana, but can’t remember ever going to this 15,000 acre Park. We were a bit confused when we arrived, because the Park is not one contiguous block, rather it is several discontinuous sections arranged along a 15 mile stretch of the Lake Michigan shore, with the Indiana Dunes State Park sandwiched somewhere in the middle. Seeing us huddled over our cell phones next to our motorcycle along a back road, a helpful Park employee stopped, gave us a Park map, and pointed us in the direction of the Visitor’s center. Thanks!

After watching the usual movie and getting our bearings, we headed off to the Bailly Homestead and Chellburg Farm. An easy trail connected these historic homesteads, and included signage explaining the history of the area. The Farm included farm animals – pigs, goats, cows, chickens and turkeys! The Chellburg farm house is fully restored to the 1900’s era, but it was not open during our week-day visit. We could peek in the windows, though.

We hopped back onto the bike, headed for the lakeshore and happened across the Century of Progress homes. Constructed for the 1933 Chicago World’s fair, five of these architectural concept homes were moved to their current lakeshore location. Each sported innovative construction and features for the time. Currently, they are leased to private owners who are rehabilitating them, so they were not open for tours (darn).

While meandering around the beach area, we happened to meet another prospective full-time RV couple – a bubbly former teacher and her almost-retired husband. They plan to live almost exclusively off the grid in their small Class B unit. It’s always fascinating to meet the folks that are attracted to this life and their individual lifestyles.  We exchanged contact information and, who knows, we may meet up down the road!

Moving on, we headed to Mount Baldy beach. Rising 126 feet above Lake Michigan, Mount Baldy is moving at the rate of 4 FEET per year! Beach sand moves when the northwest wind exceeds 7 mph, which I imagine happens a lot. We weren’t allowed to climb to the summit due to the sand instability, but a short trail takes you around, up and over, to the beach. It was surprisingly cool along the lakeshore, kept that way by the chilly lake breeze. Just a few miles inland the air was as much as 10-15 degrees hotter.

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After the beach, it was time for a late lunch at the Shoreline Brewery in nearby Michigan City. Their microbrewed beers and food were excellent! The brewery is located next to the Michigan City power plant which has a tower that LOOKS like a nuclear plant, but isn’t (just coal and gas fired). So they sell T-shirts that say “Don’t drink the water, drink beer”!

That works for me.

 

Factory Service at Entegra

026Entegra coaches are unusual in that they provide a two year bumper-to-bumper warranty on our coach, instead of the more customary one year. We’ve had some warranty issues fixed along the way, but we arranged our routing to allow for our final warranty work to be done at the factory, in Middlebury, Indiana as we are coming up on 2 years since our purchase.

002Entegra’s service facility is bright and clean, with 8 service bays and approximately 20 coach parking spots with electrical hookup (water and sewer dump is available nearby). We arrived the afternoon before our appointment and hooked up for the night. Bright and early the next morning (6:30 am!), a service tech arrived to drive our coach back to one of the bays. A short while later, our service coordinator escorted us to our coach where we reviewed all of our requested items in detail. In addition to our list, the tech also goes through their own annual inspection checklist and evaluates all of the systems. While they set to work, we settled into the customer lounge.

027The customer lounge is large and lovely, equipped with comfy sofas, TVs, work tables, free wifi, refrigerator, microwave, and free Keurig coffee. There are men’s and ladies restrooms each with a clean and beautiful shower facility. The lounge is accessible 24/7 with an entry code for off hours. It is a very comfortable way to spend the day.

024The only one who did NOT like the lounge was Pumpkin! It was unsafe to leave him in the coach while the repairs were done, so we had no option other than to use the Entegra-provided pet pen in the lounge. He was NOT a happy camper!! I draped the pen with a blanket to provide him some privacy, but he still voiced his displeasure every time he saw me. As the service days went on, we had to be very intentional about blocking off his coach hidey-holes, because he knew what was coming and would attempt to avoid being stuffed in his carrier! He survived the experience – barely.

Our service experience was stellar. The technicians were knowledgeable and corrected our issues properly, the first time. They even fixed a few things that we hadn’t identified. Joyce, the service manager, walked out to the lounge a couple of times per day to make sure everyone was being taken care of properly and supply free Entegra T shirts. We met all of the key customer service players and went on a factory tour. We had the opportunity to meet other Entegra owners and compare notes. We felt welcomed and quite at home. The only downside was the early 6:30 am daily coach pickup! What was estimated to take 6 service days, actually only took 4 — and it didn’t cost us a penny.

005While at Entegra, we obtained a quote to repair some scratches and dings on our exterior from Entegra’s preferred paint facility, S&S Automotive in nearby Wakarusa. After finishing up at Entegra, we headed there. S&S’s small lounge isn’t as nice as Entegra’s, but it does offer comfy lounge chairs, a TV, free wifi, and free Keurig coffee/tea. Restrooms are nearby in the shop. The lounge and restrooms were not open off hours, but the facility has several parking spots with electrical and water hookup and a dump station is on property. The half-dozen Entegra coaches parked on the lot proved that they worked on our type of rig all of the time!

The S&S technicians were artists. It took several days to prep the surface, paint, and reinstall a section of the front diamond shield coating, but at the end it looked simply perfect. They brought the coach back to us each night, so we didn’t have to stay in a hotel at any time. We also did not have to haul Pumpkin out every day since they were only working on the exterior (which he appreciated!). The work was not free, but they stuck to their estimate, and we thought the cost was fair. Everyone there was super-nice and accommodating, and did a great job.

With a couple of days to spare before our appointment with Spartan in Michigan, we simply headed back to Entegra to park for a couple of nights (with permission). We could have found a campground, but this was convenient and free!

So what did we do for two weeks while our rig was being all fixed up? We biked the Pumpkinvine trail. We browsed shops in Shipshewana and caught dinner and a show at the Blue Gate restaurant and theater. We saw the play “Simple Sanctuary” which was surprisingly professional and engaging. We ate at the famed Essenhaus restaurant in Middlebury.  We went on a half-day Newmar coach factory tour (a close competitor to Entegra, but we still like ours better). We took a day trip over to Indiana Dunes National Park – I’ll do a separate post on that. I drove to Chicago for a two day business trip. We stopped in at Amish Acres in Nappanee, but I wasn’t overly impressed (too tourist-y). We took motorcycle rides through the Amish countryside and sampled the delicious local Amish cuisine and the baked goods. It’s a good thing we aren’t staying longer because the goodies are fabulously addictive!  Maple frosted cinnamon rolls ….. pies ….. cookies …. doughnuts ….. YUM.

We even had a mini family reunion with Aunts/Uncles/cousins who live in this area. My dad is from around these parts, and still has a lot of family here. My sister drove my mom and dad up for the day and we had a lovely time catching up. Some of my cousins I hadn’t seen for over 20 years! It was a blessing to be able to reconnect.

Overall, our experience here was most pleasant and productive. All systems are working, the exterior looks pristine, and we’ve picked up a lot of new useful information about our rig. Another owner turned us on to the web page “Cummins Quick Serve” which includes all operation and service manuals, bulletins, and the latest service intervals – invaluable! We’re even looking at our route to see how we can come back through here in a year or two to have our general service work done here. It won’t be done under warranty, but if we have to pay someone, we’d prefer it be someone who knows what they’re doing!!

Later today, we’ll be heading up to Michigan, to the factory that built our chassis – Spartan Motors. I’ve heard wonderful things about their service, so we’re looking forward to it.

I’ll keep you posted!

Cycling Through The Past

We’re currently at the Entegra factory in Middlebury, Indiana for our annual motorhome inspection and some warranty work (there will be a post on that later). While waiting, we’re taking time to explore the surrounding area.

031Middlebury is smack in the middle of a lovely bicycle trail – the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail — which connects Goshen and Shipshewana. There are a couple of short sections on the road way, but most of it is a segregated pathway for non-motorized traffic. We checked out the Middlebury to Shipshewana section on a breezy Saturday.

We saddled up and hit the trail where it intersects Highway 13 in Middlebury, just south of the City Hall parking area, and next to a (convenient) Dairy Queen. The broad, smooth asphalt path took us through the Amish countryside as we headed eastward. We could see clothing flapping on clotheslines and cows grazing. Amish ladies trotted their buggy horses briskly down the country roads as they ran errands. (The local stores have designated buggy parking!) We passed an Amish school house standing idle during the summer break. We stopped to watch a 6-horse team plowing a field as the driver expertly steered around the end of the row and back. A passing bicyclist tossed out the comment, “It’s like going back in time.” Indeed.

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Reaching the small town of Shipshewana, we located a local eatery – the Bread Box bakery and café. My lunch of a half chicken waldorf sandwich, a cup of ham and bacon soup, chips, and a pickle was delicious, filling, and a bargain at $6.95. We couldn’t resist the scratch-made baked goods and snagged a maple frosted cinnamon roll and a pumpkin whoopee pie for later. It’s a good thing we had limited space on our bicycles or we would have left with far more goodies! (The apple cinnamon bread and huge peanut butter cookies looked amazing!)

034We had spent a prior day browsing the shops, so after a break, we hopped on our bicycles and headed back west. We stopped at a small trailside lemonade stand, manned by several enterprising young Amish boys. (I carefully did not take a photo of the boys, which is forbidden by the Amish.) The lemonade was delicious, by the way, but we did not try the cookies! This particular farm belonged, I believe, to one of the more conservative Amish sects as they had an actively-used out house nearby!

One of the misconceptions people have about the Amish is that they are all alike, which is definitely not the case. There are a number of Amish subgroups which range from very conservative to (relatively) progressive. While all of the Amish generally do not use electricity “off the grid”, dress in Plain garb, and use horse/buggy transportation instead of cars, there is a great deal of variation in other areas. Dress color, cap style, the use (or not) of indoor plumbing, buggy style, and stance on the use of farm machinery and modern technology all vary according to local district interpretation and member consensus.

img511Being raised in a Plain denomination (Old German Baptist Brethren) I feel a strong kinship with the Amish. Although I wouldn’t want to become Amish (I like my modern conveniences too much), I have deep respect for the way they live out their faith. The values instilled from my Plain roots —  family, hard work, treating everyone with compassion and respect, service to others, and a unwavering belief in our Creator — have informed all of my life choices. While I chafed under my denomination’s imposed restrictions (and ultimately left it), those core values stay with me, always. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

We finished our leisurely ride through the beautiful countryside and capped it off with a Dairy Queen treat. It was a lovely way to spend a breezy Saturday.

 

Still Rockin’

I mentioned a while back that I started painting rocks as a hobby. It’s something I enjoy doing on a bad weather day, or just when I have some free time. After I’ve painted up a batch, I find places to leave them for others to find — at a WalMart, a rest stop, restaurant, or anywhere. It’s been a lot of fun!

One of my challenges is finding places to acquire suitable rocks, inexpensively. You’d think I could just pick them up along the road, but it’s not that simple. I’m looking for rocks with a rounded, smooth surface that will be suitable for painting. Unless you live along a river or lake, that’s not so easy to find.

I bought my first batch of rocks from Michael’s craft shop. Large round river rocks run about 5 for $7! That’s not sustainable. My next batch of rocks came from my sister’s lakefront property on Flathead Lake in Montana. They were perfect – smooth, rounded, flat-ish and free! I picked up a sizeable stash and they lasted for months. Score!

However, since I’m not going back to Montana very soon, I began to cast around for another (inexpensive) source. While in Anderson, I located an outfit (Green Stone in Noblesville, IN) that sells landscaping rocks of all shapes and sizes. I called to verify that they sold any quantity by the pound, and Jeff and I headed over. The tumbled Mexican stone was smooth and about the right size, so bin in hand, we dug  in. After about 10 minutes of digging and sorting, we had extracted 40 pounds of rocks. The cost?  A whopping $20! That is enough rock to last me awhile!

IMG_5228They were fairly clean, but I took the time to give them a quick wash and rinse. That way I can be sure they are clean and ready to go when I want them. With so many rocks and ample supplies, my sister and I had a rock painting session together! It really is fun and kind of zen to play around with color, shapes, and inspirational words. Now I have a whole new batch to leave in likely spots.

Rock On!IMG_5230

Campground Review: Anderson/Muncie KOA, Anderson, IN

IMG_5248Summary

  • Name: Anderson/Muncie KOA
  • Dates of stay: May 13 – June 5, 2019
  • Location: 3230 E 75 N, Anderson, IN 46017
  • Type of campground: Private / KOA
  • Cost: $33/night (monthly rate)
  • Additional fees: $10 to wash bus
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: did not ask
  • Cell reception: ATT adequate
  • Website: koa.com/campgrounds/muncie
  • Pros: Inexpensive, close to family
  • Cons: aging bath house, militantly enforces 5 mph speed limit

Full Review

Anderson Indiana isn’t exactly known as a tourist mecca, so campgrounds are few in the vicinity. There is a nice State Park in town (Mounds Park) which surprisingly can accommodate our size, but only offers electricity hookup. That works for a week or so, but not for an extended stay. Fortunately, we found this KOA park on the north east side of town that fit the bill.

I was pleasantly surprised by the big rig friendliness of this older park. Our site was a back-in concrete site with concrete patio, picnic table and fire ring. The electrical box and water spigot was at the rear of the site, far enough away to require virtually all of our electrical cord to reach! The water pressure was high (up to 100 psi at times), making a water pressure gauge essential. Our Direct TV satellite was unable to lock onto a signal due to an ill-placed tree, but we were able to pick up a fair number of over the air TV channels. We didn’t try the campground wifi, as our ATT hotspot worked adequately.

The campground was pretty, quiet and tidy with expanses of mowed lawn, mature trees and a large pond that served for both fishing and swimming. There was also a club house, small camp store, and playgrounds. Memorial Day weekend found the place quite busy with families enjoying the amenities. The weekdays had much less occupancy. Probably due to all of the kids, the campground workers are quite militant about enforcing the 5 mph speed limit. Everyone I knew who drove in were “talked to” about driving too fast – and I’m a slowpoke!

The lady in the office was kind enough to offer a monthly rate of $800, rather than the much higher daily/weekly KOA standard rates. Even though we stayed only 24 nights and not 30, it was still the cost effective way to go. There was an additional $10 fee for bus washing. The rules called for a $5 guest fee, but we had family members popping in and out briefly and were never charged.

There were are couple of idiosyncrasies though. The shower in the bath house was the old “push button” style which stayed on for what seemed only seconds at a time. I just used my own shower. Also, as a “monthly” renter, we were required to mow our own site’s lawn, which was a first for us. I guess that way they can’t possibly cause any damage to our rig? At least they provided the lawn mower.

Overall, it was a quiet and pleasant stay. It wasn’t fancy, but it provided good value. We will likely go back because of the proximity to our families.

Bottom Line: Inexpensive site near our families.

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