A look back at our RV Adventures in 2017!

Every year, I like to take stock of the year before, looking at both the good and the bad.  As full time travelers, we get lots of questions about our life on the road.  This post might answer a few of those questions as we look back on the happenings of 2017.

We get asked a lot if we will ever settle down again in a regular home.  At this point in time, we have no plans for that.  We have absolutely no regrets.  We love our new roaming lifestyle and the fact that as we work-camp across the country, we get to actually experience each area as the locals do.

We have been on the road since the spring of 2015.  If you would like to see reviews of our previous years:

2016

The year 2016 brought us our first look at the state of Arizona.  We arrived there at the beginning of the summer, with the idea of checking out the Grand Canyon, and then moving on.

wupatki national monument and sunset craterA Review of 2016 on the Road (Arizona Bound)

Arizona surprised us.  What a beautiful place to live!  It wasn’t just desert and cactus.  It was amazing vistas as far as the eye could see.

2015

Our journey began with our first work camping job in Bar Harbor, Maine.  It was a time to begin decompressing from our city lifestyle and begin really enjoying life.

top of cadillac mountain bar harbor maine

A Video of our Summer in Bar Harbor 2015

Many ask about our financials, so I will go into that a bit, along with a few things we have learned and experienced as we traveled in 2017!

Total Mileage this year

We began 2017 working at the KOA in Tucson, AZ. Our job ended there in mid February.  At the time, we didn’t have anything lined up for late summer, but planned on spending time in Atlanta, GA for the birth of our first granddaughter.

So, we took a scenic trip from Tucson to Atlanta.

Our route took us to the White Sands National Monument, and Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.  Both of them are must-sees!  We then made our way through Texas with a nice stop in Galveston.  Our final destination was my daughter’s home in Douglasville, GA.  A total of around 2800 miles.

After the birth of our granddaughter, we managed to line up positions at the Boston Cape Cod KOA starting in July.

Here is where things went wrong.

Due to mechanical issues (that I will talk about later in this post), we ended up in Forest City, Iowa.  Above you can see our convoluted route, adding a total of 1600 miles onto our commute.

Once the coach was repaired, we made our way finally to Cape Cod to work out the rest of the summer.  We took a week or so on this route and actually enjoyed the scenery.  We did a fun stop at the Iowa 80 Truck Stop too. Total mileage on this leg- 1,421 miles.

Our final two legs of the year took us from Boston/Cape Cod to Atlanta- 1200 miles, and then from Atlanta to Apache Junction, AZ- 1765 miles.

That’s a ton of driving in one year!  A grand total of 8786 miles!  Craziness!

Our favorite campgrounds for 2017

With all the traveling that we did, we stayed at over 30 different campgrounds this past year.  Too many to list here.  But we want to talk about 4 campgrounds that stood out this year.  Our top four…

#1- All About Relaxing RV Park- Mobile, Alabama

Our absolute favorite campground of 2017 is a tiny little RV Park in Mobile, Alabama called All About Relaxing RV Park.  We only got to stay there one night, but they left such a big impression that both of us named them right off when I started putting together this list.

Check out the welcome chalkboard in front of our site!  What a great way to start off!  The campground is small with roughly 40 sites, but well laid out, big rig friendly, a nice pool and amazingly nice laundry and bath house.

#2 Wind Creek State Park, Alexander City, AL

Perched along Lake Martin in north central Alabama, Wind Creek State Park was another of our favorite places this year!  We stayed in a brand new premium section of the park, right on the water.  Each site was large, with amazing views!  Definitely worth a return trip!

#3 Walnut Hills KOA, Staunton, VA

staunton virginia koa camping

Located along near the beautiful Shenandoah Mountains in northern Virginia, Staunton Walnut Hills KOA has become a regular stop for us. We love the rolling green hills, the country feel and the huge lake!  This year marks third stay at this campground!

#4 Waterloo KOA, Waterloo, Iowa

Finally, we have to mention Waterloo KOA in Iowa.  A big beautiful lake, surrounded by fields and fields of corn.  We loved the walking trail around the lake and the beautiful setting.  This is a definite stop if we end up in Iowa again.

Finances for 2017

The majority of our bills which include RV payment, health insurance, vehicle insurance, phone/internet bill, and all website overhead and taxes are covered by my websites, Suzy’s Sitcom and Daily Holiday Blog.

We use our work camping income to cover our food, gas and spending money.

This year, I was fortunate to take on a job for a group of campgrounds in Arizona who were needing a Social Media Director.  I am handling their websites, Facebook pages and newsletters and can do it from my coach wherever we might be.  They do require us to be in Arizona during the winter (their busy season).  So, it not only gave us another source of income, but a place to park our home in the winter!

This year we worked at:
Tucson Lazy Days KOA, Tucson, AZ– Nov 2016 to Feb 2017

Boston/Cape Cod KOA, Middleboro, MA– July 2017- Oct 2017

Meridian RV Resorts, Apache Junction, AZ– July 2017 to present

Major expenses this year included:

Aside from traveling expenses this year, our only other major expense was a new iPad and iPhone for Dave.  Seems that after a few years, they seem to have a self destruct button in them.  We finished paying off my phone a few months ago, so we are waiting for my button to go off.

I’d say LOL, but not really…

Mechanical and Coach Issues in 2017

Yep, it seems like every single year brings some mechanical issues for the coach, and 2017 was not different.  We started out the year with a scheduled maintenance in Atlanta to the tune of $1800.  Dave believes in maintenance in order to help avoid major issues.

Failed Full Wall Slide

But major issues can happen anyway.  On our trip up to Cape Cod, our full wall slide failed for the second year in a row.  After some research, we decided to take the coach to the Winnebago Factory in Forest City, Iowa for the repair.  We wanted it done right and we had heard that they had come up with a new fix for this apparently common issue.

We spent about two weeks living in the Winnebago Factory parking lot.  We have to say that they were extremely nice, gave us a place to plug in, and were able to fix the slide under extended warranty. The repair included a whole new slide mechanism which we hope is our final solution.

And on the bright side, we got to check out Iowa for the first time.

Dave busied himself with repairs that he could do on his own while we were there.  Someone’s big butt broke the bed.  That person shall remain nameless.

With the parts department right across the parking lot, things were quite convenient.

Water leak/Slide Cover Damage

While in Boston/Cape Cod, we experienced our first hurricane while in the coach.  It was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it got to us, but hurricane Jose managed to stay around for a couple weeks over the Boston area, giving us lots of rain and wind.

And one morning I woke up to find all the carpet in the coach soaked and wet.  We had a leak.  As it turned out, a large limb had fallen down and tore the awning over our slide out, revealing the hole for the locking mechanism.  And a river of water was coming through that hole onto my carpet.

It took weeks for me to dry out the carpet and several months for Dave to get all the parts he needed to make the repair to the awning.  In the meantime, we had to pull the slide in everytime it rained.  About $500 later, we now have a new slide awning.

Wiring Problem in the Steps

Driving down from Cape Cod to Atlanta, we stopped at a rest stop to walk the dogs and realized that the steps were out.  We were lucky that Dave hadn’t ran them into anything.  We could not get them to go in, so Dave had to crawl under the coach and disable them.  I handed him my duct tape and we taped the crap out of them.

Climbing in and out of the coach was rather hazardous for a while until we managed a few days later to fix the wiring.

Oh, and now the rear view camera seems to have its good days and its bad days.

There is always something….

New Gadgets for 2017

Affiliate links to Amazon below:

Dave is a fan of gadgets and things that make our life on the road easier.  Here are a few that he found and bought this year:

Dual Action Polisher and Detail Kit– because the coach needs to look nice and Dave loves to make it so.

Adjustable Water Pressure Regulator The water pressure in Cape Cod was ridiculously high and they warned us about it when we got there.  High water pressure can burst your pipes if you aren’t careful, and we certainly didn’t want any new issues!

Electrical Adapter 15 AMP to 50 AMP which allowed us to maintain charge on batteries and keep the refrigerator running while the coach was parked in our daughter’s driveway.

Favorite sights we have seen this year

We have seen many sights this year and had lots of great adventures.  It’s pretty darn hard to narrow it down.  Here are a few of the many that stand out this year:

Mount Lemmon, Tucson, AZ
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
Our daughter and new granddaughter in Atlanta
Boston North End- and canollis!
new england massachusettes
Cape Cod, MA
Our friends Rick and Judy in Cape Cod, MA
Another shot of baby Esme!
Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix, AZ
Apache Trail, Apache Junction, AZ

It has been a good year all in all, with lots of great memories!

Looking at 2018

We will be living and working in Apache Junction, AZ until April 1.  We are then going to take a trip across the country again to Atlanta to visit with the grand baby for a few weeks.  Because we have to have some grand baby time, of course!

We will be working the summer in Polson, MT, right on Flathead lake near the top of the state.  So another cross country trip will happen in early May from Atlanta to Montana.  We are scheduled to work in Montana until mid September.

After that, things are up in the air and plans are being made.

You never know what is around the next corner…

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Working and Playing in the Desert

We love Arizona and so far the winter has been typical for the state.   Very warm during the day and chilly at night.  We have not seen a drop of rain since we got here and word has it that they have actually gone over 90 days without rain.  We really can’t complain about the weather, but I’m sure the farmers aren’t too happy about it.

We took a trip this week down to Casa Grande to the Wuertz Gourd Farm last week and stocked back up on gourds.  Since we’ve been here, I’ve had some time to stock my Etsy shop and chicken gourds are my biggest seller.  Keeping them in my shop especially this time of year can be daunting.  Luckily my gourd source is right here.

A local gourd farm! Perfect for craft supplies!

Hundreds and hundreds of gourds to choose from.  It is fun to go from basket to basket and imagine what that gourd could become.  I actually tried to branch into other animals at one point, but the chicken gourds are what everyone wants.  So there is that.

Back at the RV Resort, I’ve been following folks around taking photos of events, and making a nuisance of myself.  Folks are slowly warming up to me.  I have to say that the first few weeks were a little tough.  People get suspicious when you are constantly taking photos of them.

Ralph, on the other hand, has no problem with it.

Last week, I covered the Golf Scramble, Bowling, went on another fun motorcycle trip, went to several dinners, and some great entertainment.  Here is a short clip of the entertainment from last Friday night.

This week we are going on another mystery tour and I will be documenting a ladies shopping trip out.  Lots of Christmas things going on too.

Which means that we cannot help but get in the Christmas spirit.  We decorated up the inside of the coach.  And I have Christmas music playing in spite of Dave’s raised eyebrows.  (Normally our radio is set on all Ozzy all the time).  It’s Christmas, so I win.

Another project that is getting finished finally is my Words to Live By Block of the Month quilt.  I started releasing the free patterns on my website, Suzy’s Sitcom, in January.  And I am finally finishing it!  It is always nice to complete a project.

If you are into quilting, the pattern is available free of charge on my website until end of January 2018.

Yep.  Busyness.  That is my theme right now.

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Beautiful Arizona- our winter destination

We finally made it back to Arizona!  I have to say that since we have been on the road, Arizona is one of our favorite places.  And it never fails to impress.

Since becoming full time rv’ers, we have found that many full timers establish a winter destination and return there every year.  About half the RV parks in the US close down for the winter, leaving only those in the western and southern states available.  We got into this whole thing to travel and really don’t want to be tied down to one place and so far have spent our winters in Florida and Arizona.

But it seems that the state of Arizona has us back again for the second year in a row.  Back in early summer, I applied for a position as a Social Media Director for a group of resorts in Arizona.  I didn’t really think that they’d consider me, but I like to always keep options open for additional income.

And what do you know?  I was hired!  This is a year-round position that I can do from my coach anywhere in the country as long as I have internet connection.  They do require, though, that we spend our winter season in Apache Junction, AZ at the largest of the resorts.

We arrived at the resort the first week of November, after spending a little time with family in Atlanta.  My job is to document all the activities, update Facebook and their websites, and create a weekly email newsletter.

Dave’s job?  Well he is so far taking the winter off.  That may change if he gets bored, but it is nice to know that between my websites and the two companies that I do social networking for, we can pay the bills and enjoy traveling.

Shortly after arriving, we noticed that about 2 dozen or so people in the park have motorcycles.  They were happy to have us join them and so far, we have been on three long motorcycle adventures.  Finally, the motorcycle is getting some use.

One of the first activities that I documented this season was called the “Mystery Tour”.  Basically, everyone who wanted to go met at the entranceway where we were handed maps.  We carpooled to the mystery location and then enjoyed a fun tour.  Here is the movie that I put together afterward:

The Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix were amazing.

If you ever get a chance to be in the area, we highly recommend a trip out to see them.  Meridian RV Resort does a mystery tour once a month and we can’t wait to see where we will be going next!

My new job has me going outside my comfort zone in a lot of areas.  I’m required to attend and document all functions and activities.

Things like the Shooters Club where we literally took our tiny KIA 4-wheeling through the desert to the local shooting range.  No cell phone signal, lots of loud guns, and possibly snakes.  Craziness.

We have been to lots of great dinners and have seen some great live entertainment!  Oh, and I will also be covering lots of fun events outside of the resort! Things like the Tumbleweed Christmas Tree in Chandler, State Fairs, The Renaissance Festival, and much more.

And the season has just begun.  Stay tuned for more of our adventures in Arizona.  We will be here until the beginning of April.

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Foodie Tour of Hyannis

I know it has been a while since posting and just wanted you all to know that we are still enjoying the RV lifestyle!  Our jobs in Cape Cod were pretty strenuous.  Working 40 hours per week at a very physical job, keeping my websites up and Etsy shop full, took a toll on me.  Something had to go to the wayside.

We have completed our job in Cape Cod and are now on the road headed to our winter destination in Apache Junction, AZ.  You can see where we are by clicking here.

So…I wanted to take time to create a few final posts of the Cape Cod area.  We actually were able to take a few days off here and there and enjoy the area.  And because we were both on diets, it seems that food was on our minds.

We took advantage of the Hungry in Hyannis Tour to not only see a bit of the town of Hyannis, but enjoy some of the great food they had to offer.

Hungry in Hyannis is a walking and eating excursion.  The walk is about 2 miles long and takes you to seven different eateries where you sample food along the way.  You get insight into the foods, history and culture of the port town of Hyannis.

We met our tour guide at the Brazilian Grill.  The Brazilian Grill offers an authentic Brazilian dining experience as they serve you Churrasco a Rodizio, which means “Rotisserie Barbeque.”  And the best part? It’s all you can eat!

Brazilian Grill

They offer a wide variety of different cuts of beef, pork, lamb and chicken that are slowly cooked over natural wood to preserve all their natural juices and flavors. Tender morsels are brought to you on skewers and carved at your table.

Our group of ten “foodies” were allowed to sample quite a bit of food before our tour guide moved us along.  Frankly, we could have spent the afternoon there.

Tumi Ceviche

Our next stop was a short walk down the street to a Peruvian-Italian Kitchen called Tumi Ceviche.  They are known for their Peruvian ceviche, housemade pastas and wood burned grill steaks.

Here we sampled the Peruvian Ceviche!  The basic ingredient is raw fish, cut into bite-size pieces and marinated in the juice of an acidic fruit (usually lime), salt, and seasonings (usually chili peppers).

The citric acid in the juice changes the texture of the fish, without changing its “raw” taste. Ceviche is an old tradition in South America, dating back to the earliest inhabitants.

I have to say that it is totally not something I would normally order.  But it was in fact, delicious!

Caffe Gelato Bertini

If we were not on a tour, I think we would have missed this little gem.  The Cafe Gelato Bertini sits back from the main road in a tiny little white frame house.

Inside is amazing-ness!

They specialize in gelato (the Italian version of ice cream) from scratch, one batch at a time, according to the old Florentine recipes of the Bertini family.

They feature unique flavors such as Stracciatella – a cream flavored gelato, drizzled with dark Italian chocolate and Zabaglione – a custard gelato flavored with oranges, pine nuts and Marsala.

Just wow.

Pizza Barbone

Here is another little restaurant that we would have missed if we had been off on our own.  At Pizza Barbone, they bake their pizza in a beautifully handcrafted oven, which was built from scratch out of rock and ash from Mt. Vesuvius and covered in hand painted glass tiles before being shipped from Naples, Italy.

The oven is so hot that this pizza took only a few minutes to bake.  And as pizza experts (after our Pizza and Beer Tour in Boston), we give their pizza an A+!  Just wait for it to cool before you take a big bite…

Ocean Street Cafe and Deli

Ocean Street Café & Deli offers a diverse array of Mediterranean and Eastern European food, from Russian crepes and borscht to a salad bar featuring tabouli, stuffed grape leaves, Greek olives, roasted red peppers and lukanta antipasto, a Bulgarian salami.

Here, we tried the Baba Ghanoush.  It is a dish consisting of cooked eggplant mixed with tahina (made from sesame seeds), olive oil and various seasonings.

It was quite good!  To this day, Dave does not know he ate eggplant.  (Let’s keep it to ourselves…)

Good Butter Bakery

The bakery is located in an old, historic warehouse in Hyannis, just 1/2 a block south of the east end of Main Street. Upon entering, it’s like inhaling a little piece of heaven!

Here we sampled “Kayak Cookies“.  Born as a hearty snack for kayaking trips, they took a classic cookie and give it some depth. Rolled oats add texture, while the raisins and salt combine beautifully to give a perfect blend of sweet and savory.

Our final stop in the Foodie tour took us along the docks in this pretty fishing town.

Black Cat Harbor Shack

The Black Cat Harbor Shack is located next to The Black Cat Tavern on beautiful Hyannis Harbor.  Here we finished off our tour with a sample of their clam chowder!

We loved the Hungry in Hyannis Tour!  It was a great one-on-one experience.  They limit the tours to 12 at the max which gives you the opportunity to ask questions, learn the history of the restaurants and the area around them.

It was a fun way to spend a day off!

For more info on Hungry in Hyannis, click here!

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Boston Pizza and Beer Tour!

Well, we’ve been in the Boston Cape Cod area for about a month now.  Life has been busy and with a full time job at the campground, we are still managing to get out once a week to see the area. The beaches are incredibly crowded this time of year and we will have to wait until September to truly check them out.

In the meantime, we decided to get a first hand look at the City of Boston with a fun Boston Pizza and Beer Tour.  Because I simply can’t think of too many things better than pizza and beer.  What a great way to check out Boston!

According to the locals, the best way to get around Boston is by subway.  The rail system through the city is quite extensive and is a great way to avoid traffic, honking cars and irate drivers.

It may be my imagination, but it seems like everyone here is a very aggressive driver.  Stop signs are just suggestions, cross walks mean take your life in your hands, and they just love to honk horns.

So with that in mind, we took the red line into Boston.  Our destination was North Boston, the oldest part of the city.  Parking at the subway station was just $7 for the day and two round tip tickets was about $11.

Our destination?  The North End!

The North End, Boston’s oldest neighborhood, was settled in 1630. It is also known as Little Italy, and Italian is still spoken in the streets.  Visitors flock to the North End largely to eat. Within the 1 square mile of The North End, there are around 100 restaurants and bakeries to choose from.

There was a huge Farmers Market which made me instantly wish I had brought the car rather than taken the subway.  Prices were amazing and the fruits and vegetables were beautiful.

We would definitely be back another time with the car.

We were told to check out Bova Bakery.  And of course had to buy a couple of Cannolis.  I mean, how can you walk by a bakery and not stop?

Bova Bakery is actually open 24 hours, so if you get a hankering for a Cannoli or baked good in the middle of the night, they have your back.

The North  End was beautiful.  Not only was there lots of historic buildings to see, but a new park with fountains and a carousel.

After looking around a bit, we met up with our guide for the Pizza and Beer Tour.

The Boston Pizza and Beer Tour is a walking tour that takes you through the North End, Charlestown Navy Yard and the Blackstone block.

On the tour, we would get to eat pizza at three different pizza places and stop at three different historic taverns.   A scenic ferry ride across the harbor is also included.  The walk would be about 4 miles long, and our guide, Nicole, would fill us in along the way on local history and fun facts.

Click here for more!

The SPAM Museum and summer fun!

Well, we’ve spent the last three weeks hanging out in Forest City, Iowa waiting for repairs to our coach.  Arriving just before the July 4th holiday meant that we would have to wait with about 30 other coach owners for our turn and hope that somehow we would get in before all the employees left on holiday.

We watched our name move up on the waiting list, but unfortunately it did not move up fast enough.  We were going to be living in the Winnebago parking lot for the holiday weekend.  And maybe quite a bit longer…

So what to do?

Dave busied himself with repairs that he could do on his own.  Someone’s big butt broke the bed.  That person shall remain nameless.

With the parts department right across the parking lot, things were quite convenient.

I did a bunch of Face Timing with my little granddaughter…

And a bunch of wash…

And we both drove down to Clear Lake to catch the Fourth of July parade.  It was a beautiful day for a parade and a perfect way to make the best of our current situation.

So I did a bit of research to see what else is in the area.  I mean, you can’t go to Iowa without checking out the sites, right?  And about an hour north, just past the Minnesota state line, was something that we definitely needed to see.

The SPAM Museum!

Yes, SPAM is the undisputed king of mystery meat. Made of pig parts and secret spices, cooked in its own cans right on the assembly line, SPAM is an American institution!  And SPAM has its own museum right in Austin, Minnesota.

As you walk into the museum, you are met by a towering wall of SPAM, rising to the ceiling in the lobby.   Very impressive for mystery meat.

SPAM is made by the Hormel company, whose headquarters is also in Austin.  Spam was introduced by Hormel in 1937. At the time it was introduced, it was the only canned meat product on the market that needed no refrigeration.  That made it quite popular during World War II as a staple for the soldiers.

In the museum, you can find displays of vintage cans.  Did you know that Dinty Moore stew was created simply as a way to fill 500,000 empty cans?

A small theater, its doors shaped like the face of a grinning pig, screens a 15 minute SPAM video.

Or you can do what we did and read all the displays.  Lots of great old photos and anything and everything you ever wanted to know about SPAM.

The SPAM museum also has another claim to fame: It’s apparently a great place to get married! On April 25th, 2017, Mark Benson (who legally changed his name to Mark “I Love SPAM” Benson) married Ann Mousley at the SPAM Museum. They traveled all the way from Liverpool, UK to live out their dream wedding.

And I thought I was a bit strange.

Of course, we had to stock up on many flavors of SPAM.  We found them in the gift shop along with most any kind of SPAM souvenir that you could think of.

If you get a chance to get to Austin, Minnesota, be sure to check out the SPAM museum.  Admission is totally free.  And the SPAM, well it is worth the visit.

And finally the coach is repaired!  We are a bunch of happy campers!  We hit the road a few days ago, and are now heading to our job in Boston/Cape Cod.

Stay tuned for lots more!  Who knows.  Maybe they have weird food museums in New England too.

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Winnebago Factory Tour- Forest City, Iowa

We arrived in Forest City, Iowa earlier this week.  Yep, it was a thousand mile detour.  But our coach is broken and we need it fixed, and we are smack in the middle of rv camping season.  So, we are rolling with the punches.

Having never been to Iowa before, we were pleasantly surprised by how beautiful it was.  Fields and fields of corn and soybeans as far as you can see, dotted by pretty lakes here and there.

And in north central Iowa sits the birthplace of our coach.  Forest City, Iowa is the home of Winnebago Industries.

We found customer service located on the perimeter of several football fields worth of buildings.  We were put on a waiting list and directed to park our coach in one of the many electric sites that they offered across the street at their visitors center.

So now we are parked and waiting patiently for our turn along with about 40 other individuals and their Winnebago coaches.

What to do?  Well, we will take the time to enjoy the area.  We will more than likely be here through the holiday and we will make the best of it.

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We will start with a tour of the factory!  Yep, Winnebago offers free tours of the factory twice a day.  A great chance to see how these things are actually put together.

You can also check out the Winnebago Museum which is located in the upper level of the Visitors’ Center.  The museum chronicles the Company’s 57-year history, as well as the design and construction of the Company’s motorhomes.

I loved this hand crocheted emblem on display there.  It is the size of a large tablecloth.

Winnebago’s History

The company was founded by Forest City businessman John K. Hanson in February 1958. At the time, the town, located in Winnebago County, Iowa, was not doing well.  Winnebago Industries soon became one of the biggest employers in Forest City.

Winnebago Factory Tour

The tour starts at the Winnebago Visitors’ Center with a 20-minute video that offers a preview of the manufacturing process.  The film was very interesting and gave us an idea of some of the things we would see first hand on the tour.

We were then given safety vests, safety glasses and ear plugs for the tour.  A small bus and tour guide would take us in.  As for photos, we were told that none were allowed within the plant.

So.. I contacted Connie at Midwest Wanderer.  Connie took the tour back in 2010 when photos were allowed.  She has given me permission to post the photos below from her site.

Our first stop was the Stitchcraft facility that builds quality chairs, window valances, sofas and other innovative furniture pieces made specifically for Winnebago products.

One thing we noted early on was that the vast majority of the parts to our coach were manufactured here right in these buildings.  Winnebago is definitely made in America.

In 1966 the first motor home rolled off the Winnebago Industries assembly lines.  The brand name has since become synonymous with “motor home” and is often used for any RV even if it isn’t an actual Winnebago.

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Here you see one of the assembly lines.  They are installing flooring.  the coaches are sitting on a conveyer belt which travels very slowly, giving the workers time to complete their particular jobs before the next coach arrives on the belt.

One fun thing to watch was how they filled the cushions and other “stuffed” items.  This machine sucks all the air out of the foam until it is just a tiny piece of it’s former self.  The cushion cover is then put over it, and the air is let back in.

We were able to do walk-in tours of three buildings: the Chassis Weld facility, where the raw chassis is prepared to become a home on wheels with the front cab and basement storage added; the Stitchcraft facility, and the main production building named Big Bertha.

Equivalent in size to eight football fields, Big Bertha features three production lines.  From our birds eye view above on the catwalk, we could observe the final construction of many different style coaches.

If you get a chance to get to northern Iowa, be sure to check out the Winnebago Factory Tour.  It is quite fascinating and left us very impressed with the basic quality of our product.

Oh, and you don’t have to own a motorhome to go on the tour!

We will be here in Iowa a bit until our slide is repaired.  In the meantime, we are going to check out the place.  There are lots to see and do here.  Stay tuned…I hear they have a SPAM museum.  I certainly can’t miss that.

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Taking a break in Georgia

It has been family time in Georgia for the past three months.  I cannot believe that time has passed so quickly.  When we showed up here at the end of March, there weren’t even leaves on the trees.

Now we are in mid summer.  The coach has been parked in my daughter’s driveway snug as a bug, waiting for us to take on our next adventure.  But I have to say that this adventure here has been exciting also!

I mean, just look at the nice backyard that we have gotten to enjoy this summer!

My daughter was concerned that we would have a bit of trouble getting used to living in a regular home for a few months.  So, they prepared a nice little apartment in the basement of their home for us.  We have been quite comfortable here.

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We have the coach right nearby if we need anything, and are able to plug the refrigerator into an outside outlet.  A perfect spot for a few months visit.

Of course, this post will be peppered with baby photos.  The main reason for our visit was our new granddaughter, Esme.  She was born on April 20.

Being grandparents has been a wonderful experience.  Esme is good-natured (with the exception of the occasional evening tantrum), and such a beautiful little girl.

We will miss her so much when we hit the road again.  Life changes sometimes make for even more life changes.  We will roll with it and be visiting Georgia much more often than we have in the past couple of years.

The great thing about our lifestyle is that we are (for the most part), free to decide where and when we will be living.

So what have we been doing these past three months besides loving on that baby?

Well, of course we needed to check out some of our local favorite places to eat.  I mean, you gotta eat, right?  There is nothing better on a hot Georgia day than a raspberry chocolate chip shake from Steak ‘N Shake.

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Bat Central: Carlsbad Caverns

We left Tucson in mid March and headed back to our hometown in Georgia for the birth of our granddaughter.  On the way, we tried to take the time to visit some great places.  Our last stop in New Mexico was Carlsbad Caverns.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in southeastern New Mexico. The primary attraction of the park is the show cave, Carlsbad Cavern, oh, and the bats.

Personally, I’m not a fan of caves.  I have claustrophobia and the thought of being hundreds of feet below ground makes my teeth hurt.

But Dave wanted to see this particular cavern because he had heard so much about it.  And we certainly couldn’t just drive right by without taking a look.

The entrance includes a large visitor center building that contains a cafeteria, interesting museum, gift shop, and two elevators that can take you down to the caverns below. 

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It is at this point that you have to make the big decision.  Do you want to hike down into the cavern on your own, or take the easy way out and grab the elevator?

We chose to hike down.  After all, how difficult could it be?  The ranger said that it would take several hours to hike the four mile path down into the caverns.  We would end up being 75 stories below ground.

At the entrance to the cave is a huge amphitheater, created for crowds to watch the evening show of up to 300,000 Mexican Free-tail bats as they emerge from the cave in a huge cloud of blackness.

Yes, seriously.  There were bats.

The path zig-zags down into the darkness below.  Ready for our new adventure, we started the hike.  Carlsbad Cavern is the fifth largest cavern in North America and the twenty-eighth largest in the world.  And as long as the bats minded their own businesses, we would be perfectly happy to take in the views!

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As we descended into the cave, it was amazing to look up at the pathway that we had already traveled.  The descent is steep, and honestly if you have bad knees, I wouldn’t recommend it.

It is a steady downward descent for 75 stories.  Craziness.

This passageway continues into narrower tunnels where the first extensive collections of stalagmites and stalactites are found, including named features such as Devils Spring, Queen’s Chamber, Kings Palace and the Boneyard.

Note that I am now carrying my jacket.  It is surprisingly humid in the caves.  I believe it was around 90%.  And warm.

The surroundings become steadily more scenic, with small side-caves filled with intricate rock forms.

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We stopped often to take photos and small breaks from the walk down. Unlike many caverns that I have visited, Carlsbad was not brightly lit with different colors.  They maintained the natural look with low lighting.

The lighting was just enough to enjoy the amazing scenery.  Once reaching the bottom of the shaft, you enter the huge Big Room.  It is here that you can further explore, visit an underground gift shop, and then make the next big decision.

Do you want to climb all the way back out or take the elevator up?

We chose the elevator.  You can feel free to call me a wimp.  LOL!  As for the caverns themselves, I highly recommend a visit!  Amazing rock formations, lots of history, and tons of bats!  You can’t go wrong there!

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A visit to White Sands National Monument

Well, lets backtrack a bit.  I want to tell you a bit about the sites that we were able to visit on our way from Tucson to Atlanta.  We took about three weeks to cross the country, which gave us time to do a few tourist things.  Our first major stop was the little town of Alamogordo, NM and White Sands National Monument.

Crossing into New Mexico from Arizona, we were not sure what to expect.  Arizona had been a big surprise.  Where we had expected nothing but desert, we found mountains, forests and amazing things to see and do.  New Mexico just might surprise us too!

White Sands National Monument is a unique experience.  There’s really no other place like it on the planet.  It’s the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, with miles and miles of stunning white landscape.

Surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides, the basin of white sand dunes is roughly 275 square miles.

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Driving into the park, you follow a road that increasing becomes packed sand.  With the constant movement of the dunes, this roadway needs to be plowed daily and driving along it, reminds me of a freshly plowed snow covered road.

Gypsum rarely occurs as sand because it is water-soluble. Normally, rain would dissolve the gypsum and carry it to the sea. Because this particular basin has no outlet to the sea, it traps dissolved gypsum from the surrounding mountains.  As the water sinks into the ground, it leaves crystals of gypsum.

It is hard in photos to give perspective of the size of this place.  In the photo above, Dave and I are standing on a dune looking down at our car below.

An interesting note:  White Sands National Monument is surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range, a military testing area for the U.S. Army.  Most of the dune field lies within that missile range. The world’s first atomic bomb was detonated at the Trinity test site in the missile range, just 65 miles north of White Sands National Monument in 1945.

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Because the park lies completely within the White Sands Missile Range, both the park and U.S. Route 70 between Las Cruces, New Mexico and Alamogordo are subject to closure for safety reasons when tests are conducted on the missile range.

Miles and miles of white sand.  But unlike actual quartz based sand crystals, gypsum does not get hot under the summer sun.  In fact, the dunes are great for downhill sledding along with hiking.  Just be sure that you follow the signs and bring plenty of water.

The desert can be a beautiful, yet deadly place.

High in the clouds: Cloudcroft, NM

Now lets take a look at where all that gypsum comes from!  Just a short drive in the other direction from Alamogordo, high up in the mountain range is the town of Cloudcroft.  Located at 8,600 feet above sea level, Cloudcroft is one the highest towns in the US.

Following the winding road to the top takes about 30 minutes, with lots of places to pull over and enjoy the vistas.  In the photo above, you can see White Sands National Monument in the distance.  The rock that Dave has his foot on is gypsum.  Here is where White Sands begins.

Back in the early 1900’s, Cloudcroft was a major tourist destination.  Due to the altitude, it was the perfect place to get away from the desert heat.  A rail line was created to bring those tourist up from Alamogordo.

Climbing from the valley into the mountains required numerous trestles, switchbacks and grades as steep as 6.4 percent.

With the arrival of US Route 82 to Cloudcroft around 1945, traffic on the railroad line diminished. Southern Pacific discontinued passenger service in 1938, and freight service in 1947; abandonment of the line came soon after in 1948.

The only evidence of the railroad line today is the remains of the trestle over Mexican Canyon, as seen above.

Our visit to New Mexico had just begun.  Our next stop along the way east would be Carlsbad Caverns.  We heard they had bats.  Can’t miss that!

Stay tuned!

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