Family, Baseball and Repairs (September 20 – October 4, 2016)

After saying goodbye to our campsite in Marengo, IL, we headed to Lagrange, IN for some warranty work on our rig. We had originally planned to have the work done at the DRV factory but, when Phil called in early June to schedule an appointment, they were booked all the way out until late October. Since our manufacturer warranty expired on October 11th, we needed to find another alternative. The warranty manager at DRV suggested we try Cross RV for the work. Phil had heard good things about Cross RV on various RV forums so he scheduled an appointment for Sept. 21st. We were very happy with the decision. Paul and Kay Cross took very good care of us and were able to address our list of issues. We spent two nights camped on the side of their facility, nothing fancy but it’s hard to argue with free. While our rig was being worked on, we killed the day by visiting Phil’s 96-year-old mother and exploring a number of Amish stores in Shipshewana, IN.

The following day, we headed about an hour northwest to Lake Spaulding Campground in Niles, MI. This family-run campground is small but well maintained. They have three small lakes and a stream on the property but, once again, we didn’t find time for any fishing. Our site was surrounded by mature trees which, unfortunately, kept us from using our satellite dish. Fortunately, we were only a few miles from South Bend, IN and were able to get quite a few TV channels over the air. A bigger annoyance was an invasion of stinkbugs. We spent the next couple of weeks capturing these bugs and releasing them outdoors. We had only planned to stay in Niles for three nights but ended up staying there for a week.

Niles is only about 25 miles from Elkhart, IN so we were able to visit Phil’s mother at the Hubbard Hill nursing home almost every day, as well as his sister and her family.  We spent some time feeding the ducks in the Angel Garden at Hubbard Hill.

We also found time to do some exploring in southern Michigan. We drove about an hour north to Holland, MI. Although the wrong season for tulips, Holland was still quite scenic. We walked along the Lake Michigan beach and tipped our toes in the water. Later we climbed the 237 steps to the top of Mount Pisgah and, after catching our breath, enjoyed the view of the beach and the Lake Macatawa harbor.

On the drive home, we stopped for lunch at The Butler, a historic restaurant in Saugatuck, MI. Saugatuck is a cute little harbor town that clearly caters to tourism. After lunch, we strolled the two blocks of shops. Jan had read that having fudge was a “must do” when visiting Saugatuck and we had to oblige.

Phil spent much of the week trying to line up campsite reservations for the coming weeks. Despite our desire to be free to travel at will, he soon discovered that the demand for campsites in the fall outweighs the supply. Despite numerous rejections, Phil was finally able to fill our calendar with campsites through early November.

On Sept. 29th we left Michigan and began our trip to the Cincinnati area. We overnighted at Hidden Paradise Campground in St. Paul, IN. Getting to the campground was our initial challenge. It required driving through a small residential neighborhood. Phil didn’t have time to read the sign for the campground before he turned down a smaller street than he should have. It made the journey a little more of a challenge but we managed to get to the campground without incident. Being mid-week, the campground had many available sites, although we were fortunate to get one of the few 50 amp pull-through sites. After getting set up, we explored the campground. They have a small petting zoo and we were able to get up close with some very tame deer. They have a lake that was once a quarry where scuba diving is allowed year-round.

The following day we drove on to the Cincinnati South Campground in Dry Ridge, KY, about 30 miles south of Cincinnati. We had purchased tickets to two of the last three Chicago Cubs regular season games but had then discovered that campgrounds in the Cincinnati area were fully booked for that weekend. Although the drive from Dry Ridge to the ballpark was longer than we’d hoped, the campground was quite adequate for our needs. The only complaint was that a very active railroad track was directly across from the campground. The trains didn’t keep us awake at night but, when we were awake, we were very aware of the trains that seemed to pass about every 10 minutes.

The Cincinnati Reds’ ballpark, Great American Ball Park, overlooks the Ohio River and is a quite impressive venue for a baseball game. The Cubs led most of the way in the Friday night game and won 7-3. We enjoyed fireworks after the game.

On Saturday, we did some sightseeing in Kentucky near our campground. We visited Rabbit Hash, KY and spent time exploring the general store. In reality, it was just a temporary setting as the historic general store (in operation since 1831) burned down in February and is being rebuilt.

On Sunday, we arrived early for the Cubs’ game and happened to be passing the Westin as some of the Cubs players were leaving the hotel and boarding their bus. Among others, we saw Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. We spent the next hour exploring the Banks, between Paul Brown Stadium and the Great American Ball Park. We posed in front of the Queen City sign and walked by the Roebling Suspension Bridge and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

queen-3

The Sunday Cubs’ game, the final game of the regular season, was very suspenseful. Kyle Hendricks, the likely NL Cy Young award winner, was the starting pitcher for the Cubs but did not have a good game, giving up four runs in the first inning. The Cubs were still losing 4-3 with two out and two strikes in the ninth inning before rallying to win 7-4. It was the Cubs’ 103rd win.

On Monday, October 3rd, we began our drive to Knoxville where Phil had scheduled some routine annual maintenance at RVs for Less, the dealer where we bought our rig. We had not made campground reservations since we hoped to be able to spend the night on the dealer’s lot as we had when we bought our rig. One hour from Knoxville Phil called the dealer to see if they had room on the lot and learned that they didn’t have any record of our service appointment. Although Phil had scheduled the appointment for October 4th about six weeks earlier, he had sent an email in late September that mistakenly referenced our service appointment as being on November 4th. It’s amazing how easy it is to lose track of time now that we’re retired! Anyway, the dealer was able to fit us in on October 4th but didn’t have room for us to camp out on their lot. Instead, we stayed at the Escapees’ Raccoon Valley RV Park for two nights. The pull-through site was relatively short and close to our neighbors but we were just happy to get a site on short notice.

On October 4th we dropped off our rig at the dealer and killed the day in Knoxville. We returned at 5 pm and learned that our service appointment had been very fortuitous. The Sales Manager told us that they had found that three of the brake calipers were not operating properly and that one of the brake lines was wearing badly. The defects were so serious that the dealer fixed the brakes and did all the other maintenance Phil had requested as warranty work, resulting in no charge to us instead of over $500 we had expected to pay.

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