Warren G. Harding Home and Memorial

Since everything was closed Saturday morning and we couldn’t do anything about the truck, Lee and I decided to keep our plans and visit the Warren G. Harding Home and Memorial This location was only a little over an hour away and I was ashamed to say I have never even heard of it let alone been there. Marion, Ohio is a nice sized town north of Columbus and I have driven past it more times than I count. The presidential library is right in town and only 5 miles or so from the freeway.

The library is a beautiful white structure that has a small museum inside. Behind the museum the house he lived in is available to tour and this was particularly interesting because he conducted a large portion of his campaign from its front porch. He ran for office right towards the end of World War I and his entire campaign was around returning to simplicity. Since he owned the Marion Star newspaper he was able to reach a wide audience from his front steps. This tactic also allowed his wife Florence to campaign with him because she had a kidney ailment that made it difficult for her to travel.

The view of the back of the house from the museum

The house tours ran on the hour, so after we arrived we took a look at the museum first. It was very small with minimal artifacts, which is surprising since we later learned they have a warehouse full of treasures they rotate through the museum. I did like the way it was laid out though and particularly enjoyed how much they talked about Florence. As I mentioned before learning about the first ladies is one of the most enjoyable parts of these visits for me and Florence was absolutely a modern woman.

One of the most famous things about Harding was his dog Laddie. He adored that dog and it was very famous across the country. We actually learned that several years ago the house was broken into and the only thing that was stolen was Laddie Boy’s collar. He was a complicated guy but I give him credit for loving his dogs and he was also a very hard worker. He usually worked from 8am to midnight and by all accounts he personally completed large quantities of work.

The fact that he owned a newspaper was a huge advantage when he was running for office although the lack of a lawyer’s degree and much higher education did not make him a likely candidate for president. Like many others he originally wasn’t a front runner, but he was chosen because he was an “average man” from a middle state. He was also very healthy and had a big personality in stark contrast to Wilson who had a stroke while in office and was frail. It’s actually ironic that Harding died before Wilson. After visiting Alaska, Harding had an acute gastrointestinal attack and ended up dying suddenly.

His death shocked the country and there were huge lines of people at both his burial train procession and in DC and Ohio.

Despite a relatively short time in office both the president and first lady accomplished quite a bit. Florence was a women’s advocate and met with several famous women of the time. She provided a forum for women scientists, athletes, and musicians and was a patron of Girl Scouts of America and fought for women’s equality.

Despite its size the museum was interesting, but once again the house was the star of the show. Harding built the house for his wife when he was only 25 so it was not situated on a large estate but on a regular street. Over time the two houses on either side were bought by the parks system and torn down, but originally it was a fairly modest home. He did add a press house during his campaign and the front porch was added later as well. The porch is where he made his famous campaign speeches and he had two a day every Tuesday and Friday. People would travel by train to Marion to see him speak and would walk the 1/4 mile to the house. Often 5,000 people would crowd the streets to see him talk and even more interesting was the fact that he wrote all of his own speeches himself.

The tour of the house itself was fascinating and the tour guide himself was very good. Several questions were asked about the Harding’s personal life and the guide did not shy away from those topics. We learned that Florence was married prior to her marriage to Warren and had a son who was raised by her father. Warren had several affairs over the years and the woman right before the presidential campaign was actually paid off with a years tour in Europe with her husband during the campaign. Although Florence and Warren had no children together, he did have an illegitimate child with another mistress and DNA testing has proven that her line came from him. We learned all this standing in a very simple foyer and it definitely added to the tour. These were real people with real challenges and those facts were woven in as we explored. The house doesn’t have the grandeur of many others we have visited but I liked that it was a true slice of how people really lived in the 1920’s.

Thousands of people came to this simple house and ultimately that was why his campaign was a success. Florence would let the children come into the house and play with Warren’s elephant collection and there was a horseshoe pit in the backyard. At night they would roll their record player out on the porch and folks would dance and sing. Despite Warren being for Prohibition, drinks could be had and the men smoked big cigars outside. The house really came alive with those stories and for that reason if nothing else I am glad we visited.

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We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

First Time Getting Hit by a Drunk Driver

There is an expression in the full-timing world that our plans are made in sand. That is because unexpected things happen pretty frequently that can really blow up your schedule. As we have traveled we have changed plans for family emergencies, RV repairs, and work changes, and last year we had to change our plans last year on my birthday when we got hit by a driver in a McDonalds parking lot. That was a real pain in the butt, and an anomaly I thought, but nothing close to what happened to us on the Friday of Labor Day weekend.

A series of odd coincidences led to us being in that area at all, and since I don’t believe in coincidence to this magnitude I have to believe we were in that place and time for a reason. It started with us traveling slightly out of town to visit a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in twenty years. Originally we were going to see her on Saturday but plans changed and we went down for dinner on Friday evening. On the way back we took a longer route so we could check out a campground on her end of town. It’s a struggle finding decent places to stay in Columbus, but unfortunately I really didn’t like the campground at all. It was still light out, but getting a little later when we headed up a major road towards our campground.

There was a motorcycle in front of Lee and we were in a little speed trap of a town called New Rome, so Lee was going 25mph. The motorcycle stopped suddenly and Lee stopped behind it because there was a car traveling in our lane but the wrong direction. The car hit the motorcycle head on and pushed the motorcycle into us. Let me say it was terrifying because I was sure the motorcyclist was going to die. Lee saw the motorcyclist fly up in the air and land in front of the truck, but I squeezed my eyes shut and just heard the crunch of the bike.

Showing a tremendous amount of courage Lee ran out of the truck to the motorist and yelled at me to call 911. I was looking down and fumbling through that, when the driver and passenger of the car who hit us switched seats. Neither of us saw it but thankfully a passerby did and I turned the truck off and jumped out and ran around. I truly expected to see the guys brains splattered on the ground (he wasn’t wearing a helmet), but he was laying on the ground and actually conscious. He had a nasty cut on his head, and another on his arm but he knew his name. Lee talked to him and his name was Sergei from Belarus and he told Lee he was a music teacher. Lee got him to stay down and then helped the woman out of the car that hit us. By this time we had drawn a crowd (including a nurse) and the sheriff’s and ambulance started to arrive.

The biggest concern then was the liquid pouring onto the ground which I originally thought was diesel. It turned out it coolant because our radiator was punctured. The EMT’s got the motorcyclist onto a gurney and into an ambulance, but because he was sitting up and talking everyone thought he would be OK. At that point I called our insurance company and started taking pictures of the scene. I learned from our last accident that documentation is critical so I took as many pictures as I could.

You can see from this picture that Lee didn’t leave our lane. Important to show the other car went left of center and hit hard enough to spin around to our passenger side. .
The front shot shows where the bike was, you can also see where Lee tried to get the truck into the turn lane to avoid a collision but didn’t have time before the motorcycle stopped. .

After giving statements and talking to the police here is what we have pieced together. The blue car actually hit our truck on the drivers side which punctured our radiator. Our truck, which is amazing, didn’t even move so the blue car spun around (largely missing the motorcycle) and hit us again on the drivers side. By some miracle (and I believe it was) the motorcyclist himself was largely safe in the pocket between the two hits. The guy was definitely an idiot for not wearing his helmet, but he definitely wouldn’t deserve to die because of that and hopefully he learned something important.

The drivers side, it doesn’t seem like enough damage to puncture the radiator but that’s where the fluid poured out.
The left side.

The driver of the other car was physically fine and if there hadn’t been a motorcyclist it wouldn’t have been nearly as difficult. Well maybe it would have because it turned out that both people in the car that hit us were altered. They had open containers in their vehicle and both of them had outstanding warrants. I am not sure what the point of switching drivers was, but the woman driver also had 7 DUI priors and no license. Thankfully the car was owned by the guy so his insurance should kick in.

Initially I was just relieved no one was hurt, but the longer we stayed the more angry I became. We were minding our own business and not doing anything wrong and someone came out of nowhere and blew up our plans. They kept calling it an accident, but that just made me angrier. An accident is when someone hits some ice or makes a mistake but getting behind the wheel of a car that drunk isn’t an accident its intentional. I felt assaulted, which is a better word for it, no different than if this stranger walked up to me and smacked me in the face. The fact that both of them were so far gone only made it worse. Initially I thought we needed to get a tow, but since we were blocking a major street the Sherriff’s had to have it towed. They were all incredibly nice, but their mandate is public safety and that was their priority. I will say the tow truck came VERY quickly and our truck was loaded onto a flatbed with the motorcycle. The smaller car was initially pushed into a nearby parking lot and I got some small satisfaction when we saw them scoop the sand and antifreeze into their front seat. Hey, it had to go somewhere.

Since we were on the completely wrong side of town we ordered an Uber and on the way home all of the ramifications set in. We were supposed to leave on Monday to head to PA and see Kelly and Bill so those plans had to be cancelled. After that we were meeting Cori and Greg, and again that had to be cancelled. I was also super bummed that our plans to see Falling Waters house had to be cancelled as well, because those tickets are hard to get and we booked it months in advance. Thankfully they gave us a refund, but that’s twice we have missed seeing one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous houses. And finally, and most importantly, we had to move our RV.

I have to say that I am usually not a huge fan of state parks when we are working and traveling. Cell signal is often weak, they have very strict dog leash rules, and hardly any have full hookups. They also almost universally have two week limits and we were coming up to the end of ours. In places where RVing is popular finding someone to move our RV would be relatively easy, but Columbus isn’t a big RV town (they don’t even have a Camping World) and we needed a dually with a fifth wheel hitch to complete the move.

The first step though was to see if we could even stay, but thankfully the camp hosts were very accommodating. As soon as they heard we were full timers they were very helpful and let us pick from one of their four “safety” sites. These are sites campgrounds don’t keep in the reservation systems and they are used when there is a problem with a site, emergency situation, or a double booking. I actually liked the site we picked out better than our current one but we still had to find a way to move the RV. Thankfully the campground manager recommended an RV repair shop close by and for $100 cash one of the salespeople came and moved our RV.

Our next problem was getting the blue boy and water tank out of our truck and thankfully Lee’s parents had loaned us their pickup truck so we could get it. Unfortunately it was a holiday weekend and the tow place was closed for the entire weekend. What??!?!? We knew that we would need to make sure they were paid before we got anything from the truck but had no idea it would be closed for three days. Lee ultimately went and bought some extra hose to stretch to the nearest water spigot and we squeaked by with the existing tanks.

First thing Tuesday morning though we went to the towing lot and it’s a good thing Lee called first because my name is on the title and I had to sign some paperwork before they would allow the repair shop to pick it up. We lost another half a day to getting down there (around my work schedule), but finally we got our blue boy and tank and around 2pm the repair shop picked it up. We were also able to pick up a rental car and again the holiday hurt us. There were no cars available until Tuesday morning but thankfully we had Lee’s parents truck to drive. We would have been really screwed without a vehicle for three days if that wasn’t an option and we were both shocked that all the rental companies were closed (or had no cars) over the weekend.

The new spot, the rental car, and the borrowed truck.

The repair shop was another issue because the first place the claims agent called had a three week wait. Thankfully the office manager is an avid RVer and when the agent explained our situation they put us to the front of the list. It still took three days to get an estimate though and when it came back it was a doozy. They are replacing the radiator, grill, two front headlights, hood, tow rings, and coolant deflector, basically everything in the front. It didn’t seem like the damage was that bad but getting hit twice screwed up stuff on both sides. The estimate for completion is September 21st which considering everything really isn’t that bad. We will miss Cori and Greg, but can still see Kelly and Bill and will probably have to give Cape Cod a pass. I’m just glad this won’t cut into time with our youngest daughter Kay who we have only seen once in two years because of COVID.

And to end on a high note the delay allowed us to attend my dad’s 75th birthday party. I am a big believer that things happen for a reason…even the bad things and I am grateful things turned out OK. It certainly could have been much worse!

From left: Dad, my brother Eddie, nephew Lex, Aunt Susie, Cousin Jimilea, Uncle Don, Lee, Aunt Wendy, and Aunt Cathy

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August 2021 Budget

We did pretty well in August, working hard to get our expenses under control. Our expenses were $5849 and $1500 of that was for the home repairs we did. More detail is below.

Entertainment – We went over by $88 but we did lots of fun stuff

Dining Out – We went over by $500. We have been eating out more now that we are only eating one meal a day but trying to get back on track with cooking meals. When we’re in fun mode we go out to eat a lot more than regular life mode.

Groceries – On the plus side we were under by $412 in groceries in the first time in forever. Part of that was Lee was working out of town for a week, but I’ll take it. We’re still working to get back to our previous frugality to sock away as much as cash as possible, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Home repair – We spent money on getting repairs in Shipshewana and we also had to replace our ice machine TWICE. We bought a brand new one and it died almost immediately. We did get the replacement plan, but at the moment we’re not near a Camping World, and we go through TONS of ice every day, so we just bought another one and will exchange the broken one for a replacement when we pass another Camping World. Then we will have a spare so we never have to panic. They’re expensive, but worth it to us, but they’re not always in stock, and we’re not always near a CW who is really the only store that stocks them reliably. We also replaced a Fantastic Fan vent and rain cover which allowed us to move the existing one to the living room, so now we have three which helps with airflow.

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
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First Time at Spiegel Grove

Ohio is a great place to visit presidential sites, since 8 presidents have come from here. Still none are from Columbus and I didn’t really know where those locations were until I saw a statue for Rutherford B. Hayes in Delaware, Ohio. That made me curious and I learned his home and monument were in Fremont, Ohio about 1-1/2 hours north of where we were staying. Lee decided to check it out and I am so glad we did. Even though he was president for only one term (by choice) a lot happened in that time period. But let me get us to Spiegel Grove first.

This land is actually a state park because the family gave up everything but the house to the state. Eventually (in the 1960’s) the house was donated as well and the entire area including the graveyard is open to the public. The grounds and library (made up of 12,000 books that President Hayes owned) are self tour (at least an hour), and the house itself requires a timeslot (our tour lasted 1 hour and 15 minutes. Because our slot was at 2pm we started with the library and grounds first and it was fascinating.

When we visit the gravesites of Presidents I like to take a moment and thank them for their service. Regardless of your politics, the job is extremely difficult and I think it’s fair to say most paid a high price for the privilege. In this case I knew next to nothing about President Hayes when I went to his site, but once we toured the museum I was incredibly impressed. According to what I learned he and his wife were committed to making the country a better place and most impressively he spent large chunks of his four years in office touring the country. This included trips to California, Oregon, and the Southwest which few presidents prior to him had visited. He felt (as George Washington did) it was important people got to see the president and he traveled extensively to try and make this possible.

I learned the president had to pay for his own carriage, driver, and horse in those days. He paid $2531 which was a huge sum of money.

I also learned that he initially did not win the electoral vote. Voter suppression in the south was common and the initial tallies were proven fraudulent. The congress had a panel to make the decision and it took a month of re-voting and legal maneuvering before he was named president. This election rivaled the more current day Bush v Gore election and was much more complicated because of the lack of phones. Telegraphs were invented but they were heavily controlled and part of the scandals were that a friend of Hayes stopped his opponents messages from reaching the Midwest. It was incredibly complicated my main sense as I read through it all was despite our thinking todays problems are new, most of the time I learn that the same or worse has happened in our history. That is why I think these presidential visits are important.

The museum also had a really good timeline showing when different groups of people got the right to vote. I had no idea Native Americans couldn’t vote until 1948.

My favorite section of the library though was about his travels. In those days presidents were allowed to keep their gifts and he received many as he traveled. He also was very strong in foreign policy working with Chinese government officials to continue allowing Chinese immigration and he is famous in Paraguay for brokering a deal that helped stop their country for being a war zone between Argentina and Brazil. He also appointed Frederick Douglass to a position making him the first African American to hold a senate confirmed position in government. I especially liked the notes from his journal around who he wanted for his cabinet. All new people, no one running for office, and no appointments for special interests. We could do well with this sort of decision making in todays world. All in all I found him super impressive.

The rotunda portion of the museum was very beautiful. It was all stone and marble and had a replica of the resolute desk on one side (which was presented to President Hayes) and some gorgeous dollhouses on the other. It was cool because you could sit at the desk and one of the dollhouses was the most beautiful I have ever seen.

The basement of the museum had some other exhibits. There was an extensive weapons collection amassed by their son, and since he spent a significant amount of time in the Philippines I found that collection pretty cool. There was also more information about Lucy and I was pleased to learn she was the first First Lady to have a college degree. She also was a nurse and would visit Rutherford in some of his Civil War locations and was even shot at on one occasion. I find that learning about the first ladies is even more interesting to me than the presidents themselves and so far all of them have been women of purpose and power.

The only thing that was really unusual was in a corner of the basement there was a paranormal museum. The donors were anonymous (hmmm ) and a funeral home (double hmm). It was full of large posters of reputed paranormal creatures in the Ohio area. I had never heard of any of these and thought the whole thing was super weird. If the money helps maintain the rest of the museum I guess its ok though. I grew up in Ohio and had no idea we had such unusual wildlife here!

The museum takes about an hour and then we went on our tour of the house. It was a beautifully restored (to original) home with almost all of the furniture being original. Since it stayed in family hands until it was released to the state. The home was actually built by Rutherford’s uncle who was one of the richest men in Ohio at the time. Over the years it was added on several times by the family and the huge front porch was replaced once. Our tour guide was fantastic (one of the best we have had on the road) and shared some interesting family stories as we walked through the first and second floors. Our group had a couple of younger kids and he did a great job of making sure the tour was interesting to both the kids and the adults.

The Master bedroom was particularly interesting because pictures of the two mother-in-laws were on each wall. It must have not dampened things though because they had six kids 🙂 There was also an advertisement with a baby on it which reminded Lucy of one of the children she lost. I loved that none of the family members threw that away after her death. She had a stroke in the chair next to it and died a few days later.

The doll was beautiful

The best room though was President Hayes’ favorite…his bathroom. It was on the ground floor, had running water, and the bathtub was designed with a pull up wooden desk so he could read in it. He would spend hours in that room to avoid the hub bub of large family groups and it was his special place. Absolutely loved it!!

He kept a saw in the bathroom. There was a door to the outside and he would grab the saw and go work on his trees.

One last thing I found really interesting was Lucy’s white house china. It was very unusual having nature scenes and North American animals. Her thought process was visiting dignitaries would be exposed to US nature. It was highly controversial at the time and most people either love it or hate it. The Carter’s used it frequently but most folks are not big fans. At first glance I didn’t car for it but once I found out why she chose it I warmed up.

Lee and I both really loved the visit for a variety of reasons. The house was great, tour guide was awesome, and I learned so much about this president and his wife. Hopefully more that we visit in future will be of this caliber and so far this was one of my favorites.

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A Week With My Dad

It’s pretty unusual for Lee and I to be apart overnight in this lifestyle. As a matter of fact I would say this has only happened a handful of times in the last seven years and in almost all cases they were for work. This time Lee had a work trip to Florida and I decided to spend that time with my Dad. He has been living alone for the last few years and he has a yard large enough for me to put the RV in so Jack and I decided to hang out with him. He and Jack are buddies, so I knew that would be fun for them as well. In no time at all Jack was running the place and he desperately misses that leash free environment as we have moved on as of this writing. Still it felt slightly uncomfortable being in a sticks and bricks house for so long and I “visited” the RV at least twice a day. It truly is my home.

Both Dad and I are working so we stayed home quite a bit, but we did get out a few times. My brother and his family are still in the area as well so they came over one night and we went over for lunch another day. I even got to eat lunch with my brother on my birthday at my favorite Chinese place, Ding Ho’s. They have absolutely the best Won Ton soup in any place I have ever been and I have been to lots of places.

Hanging out with Lex was lots of fun and he is old enough now to remember me from last time. I went out and pushed him on the swing for awhile and we talked about first grade. He has this really cool Skycurve platform swing that I loved and definitely am going to get one for my grandsons when the timing is right.

Dad and I also went out together a few times. We went to Tony’s Coneys a really old ice cream and hot dog place. The hot dog and ice cream were fantastic! And we went to dinner with my Aunt, Uncle, and his cousin and her brother. My family (like many) are split on vaccines and mask wearing so my general rule of thumb was to not hug anyone who wasn’t vaccinated. Yes I know it is their choice, but they are also in their late 70’s and frankly I don’t want that on my conscience. Thankfully my 90 year old grandfather is vaccinated so I felt comfortable seeing him and giving him a hug.

I didn’t get pictures of everyone I visited but I did get pictures of my good friend Ted. He was the best man at our wedding and I was able to see him for lunch one day and what a wonderful visit that was. We went to El Vaquero, my second favorite Mexican restaurant, and I had my absolute favorite desert sopapillas. If you are seeing a trend of friends/family and food there was a lot of that and I did my best to at least maintain my weight this week. I tried to stick to lunches as much as possible and that helped.

Dad lives out on a farm and all week was a little bit like wild kingdom. The first morning I was there I saw a beautiful coyote and from that point on had to watch Jack closely. I also saw a deer and another morning a giant blue heron landed in his back yard. Dad says he has gotten them occasionally, but I have never seen one in Ohio before.

One of the best parts of the week was when Cori and Greg stopped by on the way to Pennsylvania. They stayed overnight in the front yard and finally got to meet my Dad. Trip and Jack hadn’t seen each other since Trip was really small but they got along great. It was constant running around and you could barely tell the two of them apart. It was a lovely visit made more so when Cori gave me a cake for my 55th birthday and they sang happy birthday to me. It was so sweet and so nice to be with RV friends on my birthday!! Love those guys! They were sad to miss Lee but we carved out a couple of days to see them in Pennsylvania so he wont miss out all together.

I had a terrific visit and Lee had a great work trip as well. Most live events have been cancelled due to COVID so it was great to see they were starting up again. He looks pretty serious in the picture below but he had a great time and the extra money is nice too!!

One last thing. Because I am 55 and smoked for 30 years I am now eligible for a CT Scan on the lungs covered by insurance. It was a super quick test (about 5 minutes) and as long as you don’t wear a wire bra you remain clothed for it. They found one small nodule in my right lung, but it has a low chance of malignancy so they will just watch it. If you are a former or current smoker I highly recommend checking with your insurance to see if this test is covered. The rules changed relatively recently and if you are eligible I highly recommend getting it. I am claustrophobic but because it is open on both ends it didn’t bother me at all.

Supporting our Blog

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  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
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First Time at Menno-Hof

Although we were very busy while we were in Shipshewana, Lee and I found the time to visit the Menno-Hoff Cultural Center. It tells the Menonite and Amish story from both a religious and historical perspective and regardless of your religious feelings the historical piece was fascinating. It was also very well done with numerous sections and pre-recorded historical information. The only part I didn’t like was the movie at the very beginning. It is severely outdated and a little preachy, but the rest of the tour was pretty cool

Every group had its own tour guide who guides you from area to area until the end. I always prefer self guided tours, but this building is a bit of a maze so I understood the need for a guide. The most interesting thing he added was telling us that the Shipshewana Amish are called the “Hollywood Amish” by the other communities. Between the RV industry and booming tourism they are much more affluent than many of their peers in other areas. This affluence brings its own issues though because a core tenet of their religion is being humble and as many say it is hard to do that with a ton of money in your pocket.

My favorite part though was the history lesson in particular the importance Martin Luther played in their movement. As a Lutheran I am particularly interested in the role Martin Luther has played in religion, but didn’t pay that much attention to the other groups that sprung up around him. The tour did an excellent job of laying out the timeline of the break from the catholic church.

I didn’t really understand that the crux of the break was over infant baptism. According to the tour, the bible does not mention infant baptism and the Roman Church started it to help the Roman Government with their census. Get baptized and go in the records all at the same time. The Anabaptists were a large group that later splintered into multiple sects and they believe that baptism should only be done after the child was old enough to consent. These beliefs were important enough to these groups to break from the Catholic church which led to significant persecution.

In order to flee that persecution many fled to the Netherlands and eventually to the American colonies. William Penn, a famous Quaker, invited the Mennonites to settle on a piece of property he owned in Pennsylvania. That is why the most concentrated groups of Amish and Mennonites are in the Pennsylvania/Ohio area, although they are all over the world.

This is probably a good time to talk about the groups under the Anabaptist, but keep in mind I found this a little confusing so I may get some of it wrong. Initially there were two main groups, the Mennonites and the Hutterites. The Hutterites live a communal lifestyle and all property is jointly owned. These groups settled mainly in the Wisconsin and Canada areas. The Amish actually came later and broke from the Mennonites in 1693. The split came from religious innovations by the Mennonites and has existed to this day. There was a great display that showed the differences between these two groups. I have included a couple of the panels below.

The one display that helped me the most was showing modern day religions and their relationship to the original Anabaptists. They are more ties than I would have originally thought.

Despite these differences in lifestyle and religion the two groups often work together, with the Mennonites providing services that the Amish cannot provide for themselves (ie: transportation of goods). Speaking of goods, they had wonderful displays of craftsmanship and an example of an Amish eating area. The gift shop was also really great.

Overall we really enjoyed it and I certainly learned a lot. I highly recommend a stop if you are in the area so you can learn more about the Amish and Mennonite culture.

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

First Time Replacing Shower Doors

As nice as Shipshewana is, the main reason we are here is to get some RV work done. Finding good RV repair techs is a chore for almost everyone, but we really lucked out when Lee ran across Danny. Lee is very active in the Open Range repair forums and virtually met Danny (who originally worked at the factory) on them. Danny is a very helpful guy so when we needed our slide floor replaced we traveled to his home in Texas to get him to do the work. He did an excellent job so Lee kept in touch and when he moved back to Indiana, we planned a stop to get some additional work done.

Our primary need was the adjustment of our slide pulleys. We intentionally bought a rig with a slide pulley system (rather than hydraulic) because Lee wanted something he could work on himself. What we didn’t know is the pulley systems can be fussy and over the years Lee has replaced a few of the cables. The replacement is relatively easy once you know how, but adjusting them is more art than science and Danny is an expert. Lee wanted all of the pulleys adjusted by an expert and Danny was happy to help out. While they were working on it, we discovered a few trouble areas and Danny replaced one of them. We carry 3 spare sets in our RV now, just in case, because losing a slide at best is a pain to travel with and at worst can stop you in your tracks until a replacement can be found. These are not standard parts available at the hardware store.

You can see the darker spots that show wear from not being adjusted properly

As stingy as I am with money, I did want to mention that spare parts and good technician work are absolutely critical in this lifestyle. I would rather spend money up front than deal with an emergency which ALWAYS costs way more. Since Danny was only able to help in the evenings after his day job, Lee also took the opportunity to finish some home repair projects. Being in the mecca of RV building has it’s advantages, because you can find almost any part you might need. Lee’s first project was to upgrade the fan in the kitchen to one with a remote control (we were using a broom handle to turn it on and off) and then moving the one that was in the kitchen to the bathroom, which we can reach. Finally he took the bathroom fan and put it in the living room where we only had a vent, but no fan. Having three fans going sets up a nice breeze and will hopefully will allow us to leave the air off and open up more often.

Adding the third one in the front was a much bigger job because Lee had to add the wiring for power. It took him awhile to figure out the best place to get power from, but eventually it was all done. It really impresses me when Lee does stuff like this especially when I think about all the money and hassle it is saving us.

Another important point is I don’t expect Lee to be able to do any of these repairs. Early on we invested in RV tech school for him and in my mind that meant he would be able to do all of our repairs. This was a pretty unfair expectation for a variety of reasons, but unfortunately I was slow to let go of it. That caused a lot of tension and angst for both of us that was largely unnecessary. The deal is, Lee does what he feels comfortable with and other repairs we need to have done by an expert which is no different than the way it was when we lived in our house. Just because an RV was smaller doesn’t mean working on it is easier, in fact it is often quite the opposite. Tight spaces, unusual parts, and nonstandard engineering can make what looks like a simple repair pretty difficult. With this in mind I was very hesitant to ask Lee about replacing our shower doors, but since they were really bothering me I went ahead and asked.

I knew this was a huge job, but let me explain why it was so important. Our shower doors (like many RVs) did not open on both sides. This meant that the area between the shower and the vanity was almost impossible to get clean and worse the track at the end where the shower head is couldn’t be cleaned either. Despite my best efforts, there was lots of mold in that section of track and it was really gross. Was the shower functional? Yes. Did it really bug me? Double yes. So I asked Lee if he could look into it.

He did a ton of research and ultimately found an upgrade to our shower doors. This was no small feat as not all sizes are the same and since they don’t make our original doors anymore he had to be extra careful that the newer ones would fit. He not only found a set of glass ones that fit, they also open on both sides which I was crazy excited about. Plus he found a local wholesaler that had one in stock and for $150 cash Lee could pick it up. This is half what it would have costs us retail not to mention hefty shipping costs to have it delivered. Since we had access to Danny if things went wrong, Lee went ahead and picked it up.

I thought he would just put the doors in the existing track but it wasn’t that simple. Lee had to remove the existing track, and scrub down the entire area, and remove all the silicone. That was a hug job in itself. Then he put in the new track and we had to let it sit for 24 hours. This meant the shower was down for one day but it was a small price to pay.

The new track…nice and shiny
Lee used the bedroom as the staging area. YES, my guy reads instructions!

Once the track was in and set, Lee had to do the doors. This is definitely a two person job and because the bathroom is a small space very tricky. After much discussion, Danny set the doors in place while Lee held their entire weight while he did so. I think this would have been impossible for Lee and I to do together so I am really glad Danny was here to help.

Danny and Lee talking through the game plan before starting
Lee attaching the handles after the doors were in place. I didn’t take a picture while they were putting in the track because I didn’t want to distract them. Plus seriously this is a small space.
You can see from this pic the door opens now on the vanity side. Hooray!!!

I am absolutely thrilled with the finished product and really grateful to Lee for taking this on. It was challenging and definitely outside of his comfort zone, but he made it happen and saved us a lot of money in the process!! The room actually seems bigger with the clear doors (the other ones were frosted) and of course less challenging to clean! By the way if you are in the Shipshewana area and are looking for a good RV tech send us an email (camperchronicles @ gmail.com) and we can hook you up with Danny. He won’t take on a job he doesn’t think he can do and the work he does is solid and reasonably priced. To be clear we don’t get anything for the referral, just think he does an awesome job and know how hard it is to find good techs.

Ta Da!!! The finished product.

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Staying in Shipshewana

Anyone who is a serious RVer knows where Shipshewana and Elkhart are, and has probably passed through this area at least once. Elkhart, Goshen, and Shipshewana are a mecca of sorts for fulltime RVers because most of the RVs (and their components) are made or distributed in this rural area of Indiana. It’s also Amish country and because of those two things it is a fun place to visit and stay while you are getting work done on your RV.

This is only our second visit and this time we scored a campground site right in the heart of things at the Shipshewana Flea Market campground. It’s hard to stress how different this area of the country is, but the sight of huge RVs being pulled next to a stream of horse and buggies might be a clue. It’s an interesting mix of the new and old and I really enjoyed visiting the area and exploring the sites. The last time we came through we got our Mor Ryde system and had limited time to explore but this time we were able to get out and see more things.

And of course the food. It is no exaggeration that I gained 4 lbs in a week eating in Amish country. All the butter and sugar was yummy but the Amish can eat that way and stay slim because they physically work every day. Still it was totally worth it and we ate out several times including the buffet at the Gates Restaurant.

Make no mistake this is Amish country and the stores and restaurants cater equally to the Amish residents as they do to the tourists. This makes for a really interesting mix of stores and restaurants with lots of products that you wouldn’t necessarily see anywhere else. It’s amazing how many products now exist that can be run off a battery and Lee and I spent a ton of time in a local stores that sold many products targeting Amish customers. In particular I found the grocery store interesting because it was a mix of bulk foods, closeout items, and the most varied section of baking products I have ever seen anywhere. Also buggies are everywhere. This calls for careful driving but certainly added to the overall experience for me.

I will say that I am extremely glad we are vaccinated. No one is wearing a mask here and although this is pretty common in rural areas, it is further complicated by the amount of Amish people. Despite the fact that there is no explicit restriction against getting vaccinated less than 10% of the Amish population has received the vaccine and the community at large is generally very resistant. That has led to a large group of people achieving some level of herd immunity as an estimated 90% of households have had COVID. A price has been paid though because death rates spiked to 125% of a four year average, but for this largely healthy group of people that seems to be acceptable.

The problem though is how it has impacted the non Amish who live and work in the area. To be clear I completely respect and appreciate the Amish way of life, but their choice to not wear masks has made things very uncomfortable for the non Amish who live and work with them. Vaccines took a long time to reach all age groups in the general population here in Indiana and the people 50 and below were at risk. We have met people who had severe cases here and in some cases a level of resentment has built up between the “English” and the Amish. It’s always been an uneasy alliance between these two groups, but COVID has exacerbated things.

I mention it because until we arrived it honestly never occurred to me and and this small area is a stark example of the differences in rural and urban populations. We have certainly seen these differences while traveling, but COVID has added an additional wrinkle into things. Even with the variant on the rise, we are still comfortable traveling, but if we were not vaccinated I would not be here. Furthermore I don’t think anyone who is high risk should come here until COVID is resolved. All that being said it is a lovely place and if you haven’t been it is definitely worth the stop.

One of the cool things you can do is stop and see the quilt gardens. They are made up of flowers in a quilt pattern and the couple I saw were really pretty. I also highly recommend going to some of the smaller stores. My absolute favorite was Dutch Country Market where you could watch the noodle making. I bought some of their product and it was deee-licious!!!

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

Saying Goodbye to Elliott

Now that we have two grandkids in two states, our grandparent life is more complicated. It doesn’t help that our three kids all live so far away from each other or that they both live in areas that either get super cold (Minneapolis) or super hot (Charleston, SC). Then again maybe that is good in a way, because it makes our choice on where to be and when somewhat easier. Still it is always hard to say goodbye, especially since Elliott is so young, but campground choices really forced the decision.

Our favorite campsite Dakota County Fairgrounds closed for their annual fair and the only place we could find to stay was at Mystic Lake Casino campground Sunday – Thursday. I generally don’t travel on work days but since that was our only option we moved on Sunday and that gave us a few additional days. The campground and casino were pretty nice but the $40 a night rate was steep. Still this allowed us a few more precious days with Elliot and a chance to see our daughter Kay who was with Kyrston, Jeremy and Oliver in Charleston, and then turned around and flew up to see Kat and Elliott.

Kyrston (my oldest) and Kay (my youngest)
Kay with Lee and Elliott
Kat’s neighbor across the street is a retired artist and she drew a picture of us

The time was more about the baby though and we visited a couple more times with Kat, Adrian and Elliott. My work schedule was pretty nuts so the visits were limited, but baby snuggles are the best.

Lee’s birthday present was baby snuggles
He makes the greatest faces
Such a cutie!!!!

Adrian and Kat are figuring it out and we did the best we could not to give too much advice. They are grownups and certainly capable of making their own decisions so unless asked we kept a firm hold on our tongues. I highly recommend this for visiting grandparents. It’s not cool to pop into someone’s life and then pop out imho.

Kat
Adrian

The last day was super hard though, but honestly what are my choices? Even if I wanted to live in Minneapolis, then I would hardly ever see Oliver or vice versa. One of the benefits of this lifestyle is we can stay for longer visits and even if it is only once a year we will spend more time than if we only saw them on vacations. I don’t know if saying goodbye will ever get easier and yes, there is face time (which I am grateful for) but nothing is the same as in person baby snuggles.

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

July Budget 2021

July was another steep month with costs around $9K. For those of you who are looking at these posts to decide whether or not you can afford this lifestyle here are my thoughts. Seven years ago we put together three annual budgets. $36K, $48K, and $60K. Since we have been on the road we have lived for awhile on the middle number but never been able to get to the $36K mark. Others have for sure, but for us that required changes we were never willing to make. The $60K budget (around $5K a month) is very comfortable for us, but it is worth mentioning that to net $60K you need to make around $80K give or take. Even with two people working that is a steep goal and we have only been able to manage it when I was working corporate jobs for all or part of the year.

What I have found is when I am making corporate money we are spending way more than $5K a month. Part of that is every time we want something we give ourselves permission to do it while the money is coming in and the other reason is we are “making up” for those years spent living very frugally. For us it is completely sustainable because I am making the money to cover it but we also aren’t putting much money in the bank which will make the next frugal period that much harder. This month the big X factor was an unexpected truck repair. We have been very lucky with our truck in general but it needed a power steering pump and a transmission gasket which was not cheap. Much better than a blown engine of course but quite a whack to the budget. Please see the below spreadsheet for the detailed charges.

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.