Doing Laundry in Style!

“We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry.”


E.B. White

‘Joy’ and ‘laundry’ don’t usually get mentioned in the same sentence. Well, take a look at this smile!

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Since we started full-time RVing, we have struggled to find a decent laundromat. While perusing the Sunday edition of the Grand Rapids Press, Diana read a feature on Sheldon Cleaners’ new state of the art Laundry Room and Louis Cafe in Kentwood, Michigan.

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Sheldon Cleaners has added this facility to their headquarters. For us, it is a dream come true. Everything is brand new and very clean!

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They have flat screen TV’s throughout the building. We really didn’t find time to watch them, as the machines were so fast.

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There are plenty of south-facing windows to let in the warm February sunshine.

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They also have very comfortable furniture!

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There are several sizes of washers and dryers, the largest being MY size!

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The folding tables are the classiest we have ever seen.

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The coolest part of the facility is Cafe Louis. They serve fresh crepes and coffee!

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There is even a cool little seating area, complete with fireplace. These ladies weren’t there doing laundry; they were out for coffee.

A topic frequently discussed on the full-time RV forums is whether or not to have an on-board washer and dryer in our RV’s. Our current rig doesn’t have room for either, although we have always entertained having them in a future RV. If we find more places like this in our travels, we may not need them! Truth be told, we probably won’t find many this nice….so we are appreciating what we have while we have it. So, if you happen to find yourself in the Grand Rapids area with a load of dirty laundry, Google Cafe Louis. It will definitely bring you joy!

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Grand Haven – A Winter Delight

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”
Victor Hugo

Nothing delivers the promise of spring like a sunny winter day.

On Saturday, the sun came out and the temperatures rose into the upper 30’s. We had completed our second LaughFest volunteer training by 1 PM, so we decided to go for a drive to Grand Haven to see the Lake Michigan shore. Along the way, we stopped at Engelsma’s Orchard’s farm stand and purchased apples, cider and honey. We then took the scenic Leonard Road, which winds along the Grand River for 25 miles through the quaint towns of LaMont and Eastmanville. We stopped at Greenvale Farm and sampled cheese, which resulted in another purchase. We spoke with several of the dairy workers, who were a delight to converse with. In Spring Lake, we stopped at Vander Mill Cidery. They have a wide variety of very tasty hard ciders, and they now have a nice little restaurant at the front of their establishment. They have quite a few gluten free offerings. Of all the local ciders, Vander Mill is tops on my list.

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When we arrived at Grand Haven State Park, we were pleasantly surprised to see a multitude of people out on the ice piles having fun!

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Old and young, on foot and on bicycles…everyone was out having a good time.

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The largest of the piles extended out a few hundred yards from the actual lakeshore, and there were plenty of brave souls who ventured out to the highest peaks.

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This gentleman drove two hours from the east side of Michigan to capture some images for himself.

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The pier was packed with people from end to end, despite being coated in ice.

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We decided to venture out a little ways. It started getting a little too slick for our tastes, so we stopped partway and enjoyed the view. We met a couple visiting from Shanghai, China who were taking it all in.

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The channel side of the pier was open water. This is where the Grand River meets Lake Michigan.

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Railings and light posts were coated with ice from previous storms, turning them into wintery sculptures.

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It is probably safe to assume that no flag on the pole means it is too cold to swim!

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It was interesting to see the snow and sand mixed together. We had to be careful, as we would step on what we thought was a solid sand pile, only to sink ankle deep into a sand covered snow drift.

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The ice piles also had plenty of cracks and fissures. It was quite evident that, even though they seemed solid, the mountains of ice were actually moving. We definitely were watching where we were walking!

All the way back to Grand Rapids, we kept repeating how much fun we had. This sunny winter day had delivered a promise to us, and spring will surely be on its’ way soon!

Kalamazoo Air Zoo

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive to where we started
And know the place for the first time

T.S. Eliot

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to get my feet off the ground and fly. As a young boy, long before E.T., I envisioned putting wings on my bike and zipping down my suburban Detroit sidewalk, lifting above the rows of houses and off into the countryside. Part of it was the mechanical tinkerer within me, given my upbringing in the shadow of Henry Ford’s Rouge complex. But part of it was much deeper…..

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My real desire to soar came from my father. Dad was a pilot in WWII, and he trained in Stearman biplanes. To watch his face when he spoke of his time in the cockpit was a treat; his eyes actually sparkled. Even into his eighties, he would say “Jimmer, it is like riding a bike. I could climb in there and fly one today”. His explanation of aircraft systems…ailerons, rudder, throttle, elevator…left me without a doubt that I could step in for an incapacitated pilot and land a plane in one piece.

With that being said, aviation museums have always caught my interest. In southwest Michigan, we are fortunate to have a very good living history aviation collection in Kalamazoo named the Air Zoo. Diana and I made the pilgrimage their this last weekend. This was a favorite place for her to bring school groups in her days as an educator.

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This unique place was founded by Pete and Sue Parish in 1977. Sue was a WWII WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilot). She also was a spitfire of a character, and was well known in Kalamazoo.

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Her pink P-40 Warhawk hangs in the lobby of the Air Zoo. As a student at Western Michigan University (just up the road), I was privileged to see her zip overhead in the early 1980’s. The sound of that Allison V-12 engine alone was enough for me to stop dead in my tracks and peer skyward. At the time, I did not know her history as a WASP. What an honor to now know that I saw a legend in action.

The assortment of planes in the main room of the Air Zoo is impressive.

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There is a replica of the Wright flyer, complete with Wilbur at the controls.

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For all the Top Gun fans, there is an F-14 Tomcat.

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This seaplane brings visions of Fantasy Island.

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All sorts of aviation are represented; here is a German Buzz Bomb, so famous for raining terror on London.

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The Air Zoo has the only remaining SR-71B in existence. This plane was one of two trainers used to train pilots to fly the other thirty SR-71A’s. These planes were the fastest air-breathing planes ever to fly.

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One of my favorites is this beautiful B-25J Mitchell bomber. Dad ended up as a tail gunner in these fine aircraft in the Philippines. When I was at Western, I talked a pilot into letting me climb into the cockpit of the Yankee Air Force’s Yankee Warrior. Everything Dad talked about was right there for me to see. Recently, through the magic of YouTube, I was able to sit in a B-25 tail gunner position in flight. That experience really brought home what those guys went through back then. A link to the video appears at the end of the post.

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©2015 Flickr

The design of the plane was such that the gunner could see over the entire fuselage of the plane, even though only being able to shoot rearward.

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©2015 electraforge.com

As you can see, it is not an easy place to get to. The thought of allowing one’s self to assume a position in the tail and have enemy aircraft shooting at you commands the utmost respect in my book.

At any given time throughout the museum, various veterans can be found. These gentlemen are willing to share their stories of their time in service to our country. There is also a small library with stories written by veterans, in regards to their experiences.

Another feature of the Air Zoo are flight simulators. These are always popular with school groups. There are also aviation-themed amusement rides for younger children.

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To the rear of the main room of the Air Zoo, there are two smaller hangers. One has a collection of Navy planes, along with other assorted aircraft. This is an early trainer used by the Blue Angels.

One of the more interesting planes in the Navy collection is a Douglas SBD-3 Dautless. The Air Zoo’s plane flew many combat missions, and eventually found it’s way to a training carrier deck moored off of Chicago. During one landing, the pilot missed the trip wire and ended up in the lake.

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After 50 years in the murky depths, the plane was recovered and brought to the Air Zoo in 1993. After a decade of painstaking restoration….

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…this is the result. To say the staff members at the museum are good at their craft is a total understatement. The Dauntless is not the only aircraft pulled from Lake Michigan’s waters by the Air Zoo, and the results of their efforts are just as amazing.

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The other hanger houses space exploration artifacts. Here I am in a mockup of a Mercury capsule. While the space exhibits are mostly mockups and recreations, there are a few interesting pieces.

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Kalamazoo has it’s very own moon rock. This is a nice little cross section, and you are able to see the porosity of the rock.

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There is also a J-2 rocket engine. The J-2 is the engine NASA used on the second and third stages of the Saturn V moon rockets. This particular engine was used for testing, and actually ran at full power for a total of just under an hour. It was one of these engines on each Apollo mission that was responsible for kicking the spacecraft out of Earth orbit and on towards the moon. That ability makes this particular engine a significant piece of history.

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In a smaller room off of the main room of the Air Zoo, there is a tribute to the WASPs. These women flew supply and training missions for the Army, thereby freeing up male pilots for combat. They had to pay their own way to Texas for training, and also their way home after the program was disbanded. The 38 pilots who died in service were also dependent on their families to get their remains home, and their caskets were not afforded the honor of having an American flag draped over them. Almost every type of aircraft that was produced during WWII was flown by WASPs at some point. The only thing they did not fly were combat missions. That’s not to say they weren’t shot at, as they towed anti-aircraft gunnery targets. These women didn’t do it for the glory. They did it because they loved to fly. Over 25,000 women applied to become WASPs, and just over 1000 were accepted for the program. Eventually, they were recognized as veterans. It wasn’t until 2009 that the women of this organization were finally honored with the Congressional Gold Medal for their service.

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Here I am in front of a Stearman trainer, just like Dad flew. As stated earlier, my dad went from being a pilot to becoming a tail gunner. In discussions with him about that, he stated to me that his instructor and him did not see eye to eye. My father, being an only child, was quite independent. I’m sure there is a lot I did not grasp, but my understanding is that the final straw came when he was flying solo towards the field and his engine quit.

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Protruding from the upper wing is a clear tube. That is a fuel gauge. Dad said he saw dirt swirling in the gauge, and that bad fuel is what was later found to have clogged the fuel line. Well, the field was right in front of him, so he feathered the prop and dead-sticked the plane in for a landing. The instructor on the ground reprimanded him for not bailing out. Dad retorted “Why would I jump out of a perfectly good airplane?” While that was ‘perfectly good’ common sense, it was not what the instructor wanted to hear. They sent Dad to gunnery school soon after. While he did copilot a B-25 overseas on one occasion, after the copilot of the plane he was on was injured, he never really piloted a plane again. But the desire to do so never left him. And even though I have never taken the controls of a plane myself, the spirit and knowledge he instilled in me has always left me feeling as if I could jump in and take off, if need be.

After all, it is just like riding a bike.

B-25 tail gunner video

LaughFest

“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

Gilda Radner

Very few of us over the age of 40 are unaware of Gilda Radner, that hilarious spark plug of a woman who tore up the airwaves each week on Saturday Night Live.

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©2015 NBC

With her characters such as Roseanne Roseannadanna, Emily Litella, and Baba Wawa, she found a way to our collective funny bone on SNL with every performance. Little did we know at the time, she was to only to be with us for a short time. Ovarian cancer took her from us at an early age, as that awful disease so often does in the families it touches.

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©2015 Gilda’s Club

Gilda was married to Gene Wilder at the time of her death. Upon her passing, Gene wanted to leave a lasting legacy to her. One of the things Gilda was quoted as saying was ” Having cancer gave me membership in an elite club I’d rather not belong to”. So with that in mind, Wilder teamed with Joanna Bull and Joel Siegel to form Gilda’s Club in New York. The purpose of the ‘club’ was to provide a place where people touched by cancer could go for information, guidance, to talk, cry or (most importantly) laugh. Before long, Gilda’s Clubs opened all over the country.

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©2015 Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids

GIlda’s Club opened a chapter in Grand Rapids in 2001.

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©2015 Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids

It is located in a restored farmhouse in a peaceful setting at the outskirts of downtown Grand Rapids. Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids offers cancer, grief and emotional health support for children, adults, family and friends. People with cancer and their families can come and go as they please, to seek out comfort and compassion as they work their way through their journey with the disease. They also offer community outreach and in-school programs. People are encouraged to give themselves permission to smile again…something Gilda referred to as ‘finding her funny again’. We were invited to GCGR by Sister Sue Tracy to hear her speak. Being surrounded by other cancer survivors let us know that we were not alone.

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©2015 Mlive

We were first introduced to Sr. Sue when she, in the role of chaplain at Spectrum Health, sang Christmas carols with my extremely ill mother. She will go to any length to get patients to laugh, and is a joy to be around. She is in her 5th battle with cancer…yes, I said FIFTH. I have had the pleasure of walking laps with her at the downtown YMCA on occasion. She once told me that she was invited to speak on Mackinac Island and was given a beautiful room with a king sized bed. But the real bonus was that there was two mints on the pillow and she got to eat them both. She then told me “Jim, there ARE benefits to being celibate!” What a great lady. If anyone deserves sainthood, it is undoubtedly Sr. Sue.

With Gilda’s Club being free of charge for the people it serves, they rely on donations to keep them going. In 2011, they launched LaughFest, a 10-day comedy festival in March. Quite honestly, Grand Rapids usually needs a reason to laugh by March! This is but one way they seek to fund their programs.

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©2015 Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids

That first year saw 642 artists on 49 stages around town, and included names like Betty White, Bill Cosby, Margaret Cho, Kevin Hart and Gabriel Iglesias. It was a huge success. Each year has brought more talent to town, and the festival has spread throughout the entire metro region. This year, the headliners are Wanda Sykes, George Lopez, Billy Gardell and Colin & Brad from ‘Who’s Line Is It Anyway?”. LaughFest will have somewhere in the vicinity of 900 artists. Obviously, a festival of this size requires an army of volunteers.

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Count us in! With us being retired, we decided to give back to the community for all the support we received though our journey with my cancer.

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We attended a meeting last night for new volunteers. By the time the meeting started, this room was packed. Next week, we will meet with the specific group we will be working with, namely ‘Front of House’. We will sign up to work events over the course of the 10 days of LaughFest, and will do things like taking tickets, ushering, greeting patrons and so on.

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It promises to be a very fun experience, that is for sure. We will keep you posted on the festivities, as they occur. There will be a lot going on in a short time frame. Or, as Gilda would say… “It’s always something!”

Dunedin to St. Pete – Throwback Thursday

“Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.”
Anonymous

Back in our working days, we would grab a week (or two or three) and head to some very fun places. We are going to feature those in a Throwback Thursday post every now and then. Today, we head to Florida for spring break!

One of our favorite spots to head was Dunedin, which is located south of Tarpon Springs and north of Clearwater. We had discovered the Dunedin RV Resort, and stayed there a few times with our Sunline travel trailer.

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They had a great pool (no hot tub) that they shared with the Blue Moon Inn that was out by the road. Both facilities were owned by the same family, and have since been purchased by Carefree Resorts.

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After using the inn one year for Diana’s family, we decided trying to haul the trailer from Michigan to Florida for 10 days was too much. The ice and snow we ran into on our way back the last trip confirmed that decision. We started flying to Tampa after that and staying at the inn.

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The deluxe rooms were a treat, as they had these jetted tubs…

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…and walk in showers. They also had a nice breakfast every morning, especially when the family owned it.

The resort was very close to the Fred Marquis Pinellas Bike Trail, and also Honeymoon Island State Park. The causeway to the island was a great place for a stroll, and the island itself offered decent access to the Gulf.

A favorite restaurant of ours in Dunedin was Kelly’s For Just About Anything.

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Copyright 2015 Kelly’s

The atmosphere can best be described as ‘eclectic’, and the food is outstanding. We have eaten there more times than we can count, and we have yet to be disappointed. We recommend eating on the back patio. It is a great experience. They are open from breakfast through dinner (and beyond). They have a full bar.

Another spot that was recommended to us was La Trattoria da Gaetano.

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Copyright 2015 Examiner.com

This place is in a non-descript strip mall in Dunedin. When we ate there, we were the only ones for the entire evening. When we came in, the owner greeted Diana by saying “Señora, where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you!” He then brought out a cart of raw meat…

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Copyright 2015 Yelp.com

…and proceeded to tell us what he could make for us. No menu, so we were unsure what it would cost. It was outstanding. I had Veal Marsala, and I could hear him in the kitchen, pounding away at the veal to tenderize it. If you go, look for the peephole in the painting on the wall. It goes through to the kitchen, so he can see who is coming in the door, or when you are ready for your next course. We got out of there, with wine and a healthy tip, for around $100. That was a good 10 years ago.

Our favorite beach spot in that area is Caddy’s On The Beach.

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This little gem is located in Treasure Island/Sunset Beach, immediately north of St Pete Beach. It is a 25 mile drive from Dunedin, but well worth it. Parking is $5, and you get a $5 coupon for food or drink. The chair attendants work for tips only. Quite often, we would get there at 10 AM and stay until 6 PM. You are allowed to bring buckets of beer from the bar to your chairs. As long as you kept your towels on your chairs, you could leave them unattended and not worry about losing them.

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We could walk quite a ways south…

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…or quite a ways north.

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The food was always decent for a beach bar, and there was usually a musician playing island tunes. Definitely a great place to lose yourself for an afternoon.

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And it was tough to beat the view!

It’s Showtime!

“There is no such thing as a free RV show”. 🙂
Diana Belisle, 2003

We found that out in 2003 when we went to a show that had free admission, only to come home with a 24 foot Sunline travel trailer. :). That didn’t happen this year at the Grand Rapids RV show, but a life-changing accelerated ‘realization’ did happen to us at last year’s event. Last January, we decided to check out the seminars; something we didn’t normally do. There were two separate presenters: Jim DuFresne (travel videos) and Howard and Linda Payne of RV-Dreams. Howard and Linda were giving seminars on fulltime RVing, something they had been doing for nearly 10 years, after dropping out of corporate America in their early forties.

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Copyright 2014, RV-Dreams.com

Up to that point, I had pretty much decided I was going to retire sometime in 2014, but Diana was not sure if she would teach another year beyond June. We had been researching fulltime RVing for years, prior to the show. After listening to the Payne’s seminars, we came away focused that we were going to make a move sooner than later. This lifestyle was not only doable, but was something we felt we needed to do, so as to not miss our chance of being able to roam America in good health. We had seen enough people fall prey to illness, and I myself had survived prostate cancer (5 years…yea!!!) so, by the end of March, I had retired. I immediately began the process of finishing our basement, in order to sell our house.

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Above is the basement bathroom in process.

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Here is the basement bathroom complete.

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Above is the main room of basement in process.

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Here is the main room of basement complete.

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This is the great room with a fresh coat of paint, staged and ready to put on the market.

As we pushed through the purging and renovating, Diana made the decision that she was ready to put an exclamation point on her teaching career. We made the trek to Lansing and filed the necessary paperwork.

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Woo-hoo! That girl is indeed one happy camper!

After Diana’s retirement in July, it was an all out push to have the house listed before Labor Day weekend. We knew the housing market was red hot in Grand Rapids, and we also knew it would slow to a crawl, once school started. We contacted a realtor who got the ball rolling, and the open house was set for the Sunday, August 24. We had three offers the first day, and the buyers accepted our counter offer 44 hours after the agent opened the front door to lookers.

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In mid September, we attended RV-Dreams’ Fall Rally in Goshen, Indiana. The weeklong event focused on educating attendees on everything involved in being a fulltime RVer.

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Copyright 2014, RV-Dreams.com

We met a lot of great people at that rally. In the coming years, we will feature them as we go. Here is a photo of us at sign-up. The woman in the blue shirt is fellow blogger Debbie from Down the Road with Steve and Debbie and the woman in the pink sweater is Jo from This Moment in Time. Jo and her husband Craig hail from Texas, while Steve and Debbie are from California. Check out both of their blogs to see their recent rendezvous along the Gulf coast.

During the rally, we received news from our agent that our closing date on the house was set. When we announced it to our fellow rally attendees, a collective round of applause went up. 🙂

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By early October, we were pulling out of the driveway. Our first adventure was a grueling 2-1/2 mile trip to our current campground. To paraphrase Neil Armstrong, it was a small step…but in reality, it was a giant leap for us. We are wintering in Michigan this year to be by Diana’s mom.

Over the fall and winter, we lost our dear Jenny to cancer. She loved going for rides, and luckily had plenty of adventures during her 10-1/2 years. Her death was very hard on the two of us. Man, do we miss her.

So, our return to this year’s show was somewhat of a homecoming. Howard and Linda were off working the Dayton, Ohio show this year, and Grand Rapids had Shari Galiardi and her husband David Hutchison from Tales from a Mid-Lifeventure. They are traveling in their 1957 Sportcraft ‘canned ham’ trailer. Theirs is a totally different lifestyle than ours is in our 31 foot 5th wheel, but they are painting their portrait as they see fit, and that is what it is all about. They were delightful.

As you can see, this past year was a life-changing experience for us. The adventure of 2015 has begun, and we are excited to explore the vistas of this next chapter. The wonderful thing is our ability to move and adapt, so we are hoping to roll with the punches, rejoice in the victories, and savor the sweetness that our adventure brings us.

The Mysterious RV Refrigerator

Caller: Is your refrigerator running?
Homeowner: Yes.
Caller: You better catch it!

That is probably THE lamest prank call ever conceived! :). Had that call come to us over the past couple of days, the joke would have been spoiled…just like our ice cream! Our trusty Norcold slowly got warmer, and it seemed to coincide with the outside temperatures getting much colder. Our readings in Grand Rapids dropped to near zero, and the wind chill was 10 to 20 below.

A quick surf of the web revealed the problem. RV refrigerators remove the warmth within them by actually heating the refrigerant in the lines. The actual process is lost on me, but I did understand when it said the coolant actually turns to gel in extremely cold temperatures. This occurs in the compartment that is vented to the outside of the rig. So Job #1 was to get some heat in there to liquefy the coolant. I followed a few suggestions on the web, as shown below.

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First thing I did was to make sure the vent on the roof wasn’t blocked with snow. While there was ice in the vicinity of it, the actual vent was clear.

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Next was to tape over the top two slots on the outside vent. This will need to be removed in the spring when we get above freezing, but it is OK for now. This allows some of the heat to be held in, yet still allows some ventilation.

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The last addition was a heat source; in this case, a clip on shop light. I used a 60 watt bulb in it, and was careful to not have the aluminum shroud rest against anything combustible. That was left on overnight to warm up the coolant, and will be used throughout the rest of this winter.

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Fortunately for us, we were able to put the items we could salvage into coolers on our deck. The outside temps were such that no ice was required!

The next portion is a heads up to anyone who might encounter this same issue. When the unit initially stopped working, there was an error code presented on the control panel. We had the green light blinking 5 times in rapid succession.

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This was definitely a case of “when all else fails, read the instructions”. Instead of getting the manual out, I turned off the fridge, then turned it back on. Still blinking. That simple act of turning it back on resulted in a LOT of extra work. If this happens to you, turn off the refrigerator and read the owners manual. Do NOT turn it back on. As the coolant had not yet liquefied, the problem still existed. Upon researching the issue, I found out that I not only needed to warm the refrigerant up, I now also needed to reset the circuit board, as two successive trouble codes result in a reset.

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The black box with the warnings plastered all over it holds the board. To access it, wires need to be unplugged…in a certain order. Once the cover is off, the sequence needs to be reversed.

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The instructions online then call for a jumper wire to be used between the “open pin to the right of the violet/white wire on the 16 pin plug and a ground, and hold for 15 seconds until you hear a clicking sound and the burner ignites.” Well, first off, there was a 10 pin plug and a 6 pin plug…not a 16 pin plug. The open pin was to the left of the violet/white wire…and that was not the only open pin. Is this starting to sound like an adventure movie? I took a chance and used the jumper from the open pin next to violet/white to a ground. “Click…whoosh!” Success! I then had to reverse the process of taking the cover off to put the cover back on. It was a lot easier to do, knowing that the fridge was working again!

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Today’s temperatures are right around 30 degrees, which made the project a little easier.

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We received a foot of snow since our last post, and the campground looks really pretty. So far, winter has been a lot easier than last year, even though we are 14″ above the snowfall average for this date.

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Above is a photo of our house last February. Grand Rapids had 111″ of snow for the season last year, and Holland (25 miles southwest of us) had 152″…and since we never had a mid-winter thaw, most of it stuck around for the duration. So far, we are at 50.7″, most of which melted during the December thaw. There is a lot of winter left, though!

So, if your refrigerator is running, better catch it. If it isn’t…run south! 🙂

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Baby, it’s cold outside!

“There’s just something beautiful about walking on snow that nobody else has walked on. It makes you believe you’re special.”
Carol Rifka Brunt

Today was a special day in so many ways. Sure, it had it’s challenges (as so many days do), but it was one that will stand out and sustain us through the remainder of the winter.

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Take a look at that sky and that snow! That is the kind of powder that crunches under your feet. Outside temperature at noon was a balmy 7 degrees, and the wind chill was well below that. Of all days to have our satellite TV installed! So the first task at hand this morning was to shovel out the parking area and clean off Diana’s Escape, so she could get over to her mom’s place to take care of her needs. I also wanted to make sure there was room for the installer to pull in. I am a tad O/C when it comes to shoveling, as I like to make sure there aren’t any straggler piles left behind. My Fitbit Flex let me know that fact when it announced to me that I had achieved 10,000 steps without my normal 4 mile walk at the YMCA.

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With that sunshine, it was not too tough of a chore.

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I did make sure to shovel a path to the fence row, as I knew the installer was going to have to find a clear shot at the satellite. Most of the row is covered with trees, but he did manage to find one spot.

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By late afternoon, we were good to go! The pole is a temporary setup, as we will have to get a tripod to make our dish truly portable. It is good to have a nice, clear HD picture again. Thank you to Gilbert for a great installation experience.

With the temperatures getting into the single digits, we were finally putting our winter preparations to the test. Our first surprise came the other night when Diana turned on the faucet to find that we didn’t have any water. This was truly a surprise, as the campground had installed new heated faucets in the fall, and we had invested in a heated hose that was rated to 40 below.

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The culprit ended up being the cheap pressure regulator that we had been using. Once I removed it, we were back in business. Our campground’s water pressure is reasonable, so we feel comfortable running without the regulator for now.

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As you can see, the hose melts the snow around it and has performed as advertised. Richard’s investment in the heated faucets has also provided our row with trouble-free service. Again, our gratitude for his efforts and the service he provides in keeping Woodchip open in the winter.

Our temperature under the rig at noon was 41 degrees. We are running the electric heater under there, resulting in a slightly higher electric bill. We feel that expenditure to be cheap insurance against frozen waste tanks.

Our interior humidity issues have improved dramatically. In the fall, we had purchased an EvaDry Petite humidifier and a larger EvaDry dehumidifier. The bigger unit’s transformer became extremely warm, and we ended up not using it. Dissatisfied, we sent it back to Amazon and purchased a second Petite. Once that was in place, our humidity levels dropped immediately. We also have keep the bathroom window and vent cracked open, as was recommended to us by Glyn Carson at the RV-Dreams rally. We can’t explain why it works, as it seems to defy all logic…but it does.

So, with our TV up and running and our daily tasks behind us, we decided to celebrate! One of our favorite spots to go for a special night out has always been the Carrabba’s in Grandville, MIchigan. Granted, Carrabba’s is part of a chain, but they are consistantly good…no matter what town we find ourselves in. They also do a great job of taking my gluten allergy into account, and they have one of the better gluten free menus available.

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The Grandville Carrabba’s has something that no other one has: Bob; seen here with Diana. We always call ahead to see if he is working and request him to be our server. He is head and shoulders above any waiter we have ever had serve us, and we have been to a lot of restaurants during our working years. Bob is a recommendation we feel rock solid in making, short of the fact we feel we are letting our little secret out.

So, what could have been a mundane Wednesday, ended up being a pretty nice day. We were able to spend a great afternoon and evening together, and we managed to complete our entertainment system in our rig. It ended up being a little sweeter, given the fact it all took place on the coldest day of the winter so far!

Outdoor Discovery Center

Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” – Thomas Berry

The day after Christmas, we took a trip to the Outdoor Discovery Center. This local gem, located amongst the blueberry farms south of Holland, Michigan, was developed a number of years ago for the purpose of educating youth about nature. The center is open to everyone for free, although donations are gladly accepted. It is about 2 miles due south of my former workplace, and there were many of my lunch hours spent resetting my priorities on their trails. Diana introduced me to it a few years back after she had come here with one of her graduate classes.

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The first thing you encounter when you arrive at ODC are the elk. This bull was quite interested in Diana’s presence.

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The elk herd are visitor favorites, and are usually the first place that kids run to upon getting off their school busses.

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There is a good sized habitat set up for them at ODC.

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Adjacent to the elk habitat is a wind turbine. ODC uses this to provide power to their classrooms and visitor center.

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The center is an assortment of habitats, combining ponds, marshes, woodlands and prairies.

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The trail system is extremely well marked, with maps dispersed throughout the facility.

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Most of the trails are ADA compliant, with an extensive amount of boardwalks used through the marshes.

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Farther back on the trails is the Birds of Prey exhibit. This facility has been set aside to educate visitors about the raptors native to the area, using injured birds that are no longer able to remain in the wild. This was a favorite destination of mine, especially after a stressful morning.

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This Golden Eagle has always been my favorite. What a powerful and majestic bird!

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They have an assortment of hawks, owls, falcons and merlins.

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They also have a pair of Bald Eagles.

Many of these birds were brought here after run-ins with man-made objects. A special shout out to the owners of the chiropractic clinic I go to; Drs. Brian and Karla Parkhurst. They were instrumental in bringing this exhibit to ODC and are long time supporters.

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Another feature of the center is the Native American village. Students are taught how local tribes lived and constructed their shelters.

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A couple of years ago, ODC added this beautiful shelter and picnic area. This is a great meeting area for school groups.

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Just off the parking lot, a new visitor center and classroom facility is under construction. As a testament to West Michigan philanthropy, this building was made possible by several sizable donations from the community. We spoke with the gentleman who originally owned the land the center is located on, and he indicated that the donors went above and beyond what was asked. As a result, ODC is going to be able to construct a much needed parking area at the front of the facility.

It was nice to be able to get out on the trails again on what was a beautiful late December afternoon. ODC is located in a notorious lake-effect snow belt, and they were the recipient of over 150″ of snow last season. To have 50 degree temperatures and clear trails the day after Christmas was a real treat.

Stay healthy for the holidays!

I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake…shake it off, shake it off!
Taylor Swift – Shake It Off

Taylor, how I wish I could! It is flu season, and I speak from first-hand experience. On Saturday, I went to do my morning 4 mile walk on the track at the YMCA. For the record, I am over 6 feet tall, and a very swift walker. To my surprise that morning, people I normally pass were lapping me repeatedly. My joints ached, but that’s not out of the ordinary for my 56 year old body. By late afternoon, the flu hit me like an NFL tackle, even though I did get my flu shot earlier this fall. My first concern was to not get Diana sick, as she needs to be healthy for her mom. She remembered Tamiflu…the wonderful antiviral drug…and told me to call the on-call doctor. Long story short, I called, Diana picked it up (last available dose in the area), and it was in my system before 7 PM. I am here to tell you: this stuff works. While I am still laying low, Tamiflu took the edge off of the virus and I avoided most of the ugly side of the flu. I highly recommend it. Also, if you haven’t done so yet, get your flu shot. It supposedly lessens the effects of this mutant strain of the virus. Better yet, be sure to wash your hands often, and keep your fingers away from your face. That’s my Dr. Jim heath alert for this winter.

On a brighter note: When was the last time you saw a December 23rd like this in West Michigan?

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Yes, that is the sun!

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The temperature managed to work its way up to 50 degrees, which was a real treat! Granted, I wasn’t able to stay out long and enjoy it, but the few minutes I did were cherished. Those of you who have seen our fifth wheel know we have a lot of windows. We were fortunate to get a site this winter that points most of our windows to the south, thereby taking full advantage of the little bit of sun that West Michigan offers up this time of year. As Diana says: “Another no-shovel day!” We will take every one we can get this year. We do have our snowshoes handy, though…as winter will certainly bring us a nice layer of fluffy snow. We will be sure to post our experiences.

So, as we pause to enjoy the holiday season, remember to keep good health in mind. Diana and I wish our best to each and every one of you!

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