Pumpkin Cheese Bread…err…Cake

Today was our last full day here in Elkhart, IN.  We’ve been here almost a month and we’re starting to get a bad case of ‘Hitch-Itch’.  It’s time to hit the road.

And since we’re hitting the road tomorrow,  today was cleaning day…along with trying to find a place for everything.  When we stay in one place for a while, it can be a challenge to get back in the groove of packing up to travel again.

Around 2 pm Michele Henry of Phoenix Commercial Paint came by to look over our rig.  She had been at the park visiting Nick and Terry and I wanted her to check out our rig because I want her to do some repair work / painting for us when we’re here next year. I’ve seen a number of rigs Michele has painted and she really does quality work.

Then about 3:30 we headed out to Bob Evans with Nick and Terry for our 3rd going-away get-together.  Nick and Terry have been trying to leave here and head south for Key West since Thursday, but the weather been so bad, rainy and windy, that he kept putting it off.

So every night we’d have a final get-together in case they left the next day.

As usual we sat around talking at the restaurant longer than we spent eating to start with.

Later, after we got back home, Nick called with an electrical problem.  While Terry was mixing a cake, his power glitched, and despite still being plugged into shore power, his coach was running on his internal batteries. After a lot of head scratching we found that his inverter had popped the Input circuit breaker.  Resetting the breaker fixed the problem, but it doesn’t make sense why an inverter problem killed shore power.  They should be two separate systems. But, at least the problem was fixed.

A little later, Nick called me to come over and get some of the cake Terry had baked.  It was a Pumpkin Cheese Bread, or Cake.

It is fantastic!  And here’s the recipe.


It’s called a bread, but it’s really a cake. The cheese filling is cream cheese.

It’s a Duesy!

Today was an early day…a VERY early day.

We got up at 5:30 AM and left the rig in our toad about 6 am on a 130 mile trip south to Decatur, IN.  We wanted to be there by 9 am to take the American Coach factory tour at their plant.  We left early because the weather was pretty bad, with a lot of rain and wind. With all the wind, I was glad we weren’t in the rig.

But before we hit the Interstate, we stopped off at McDonalds for a quick breakfast sandwich.

We got to the American Coach plant in Decatur about 8:45 am, right on time.

We were really surprised to see how full the parking lot was, considering the condition of the RV industry.

American Coach Factory

After filling out a form, a gentleman named Tom came by to be our tour guide.  Unfortunately we were not able to take pictures inside the facility, but it’s really amazing how the RV’s are put together.

In this case American Coach starts out with a pre-built chassis/engine combination from Spartan Chassis that looks like this.

Spartan Chassis

These are complete ready to run units just waiting for an RV to be built on top of them.

The floor and the walls are built up from welded aluminum tubing that form a single unit. Then the carpet / tile / wood flooring is added and the cabinets / furniture are installed. Finally, the roof is put on and the rig is moved into the paint area to be painted and striped.

It takes about a week from start to finish to build a rig and roll it out the door.  They are presently building about 30 rigs a week, around 1500 a year, and at this point business is increasing by about 5 more rigs a month.  Good news for the RV industry.

Our tour took a little over an hour, and after it was over, we drove over to American Coach Service to buy some parts for my coach.

Leaving there, we headed about 30 mile south back to Celina, OH where we were a month ago for the Gypsy Journal Rally.  We wanted to eat lunch at  La Carreta, a Mexican restaurant that we really enjoyed while we were there.

After lunch we started back toward Elkhart, stopping in Auburn, IN to visit the Auburn – Cord – Duesenberg Museum.

Founded in 1874, the Eckhart Carriage Company was a successful manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages. Frank Eckhart had not only the foresight but also the engineering ability to steer the buggy company into the “Age of the Automobile.” His Auburn Automobile Company prospered, particularly after E.L. Cord was brought in to run the business. Cord was both inventive and astute, and in 1929 created his own company, which, among other things, bought out the Duesenberg Automobile Co.

Despite the enthusiastic public response, sales were disappointing. The estimated production figure of 500 cars per year was never matched and eventually only 481 Model Js were constructed. Being extremely expensive, the Model J was popular with the rich and famous. Among the owners were many greats from the showbizz industry like Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, James Cagney and Greta Garbo. Various kings and queens were Model J owners as well. Part of the Duesenberg legend is based on the many famous owners.

Styling and engineering failed to overcome the fact that Cord’s vehicles were too expensive for the Depression-era market and that Cord’s stock manipulations would force him to give up control of his car companies. Under injunction from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to refrain from further violations, Cord sold his shares in his automobile holding company. In 1937, production of Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs ended.

The building that now houses the Museum was the original Art Deco headquarters / showroom of the Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg automobiles, and it’s beautiful in its own right.

ACD Building

And the inside is even more outstanding.

 ACD Building 2 ACD Building 3 ACD Building 4 ACD Building 5 ACD Building 6 ACD Building 7

I won’t bore you with all the details. I’ll just show you pictures of these beautiful automobiles.


ACD 19 ACD 10 ACD 11 ACD 12 ACD 13 ACD 14 ACD 15 ACD 16 ACD 17 ACD 18

Leaving the museum we drove back to Elkhart through more heavy wind and rain.

And arriving back about 5 pm, we immediately headed out to dinner at Ryan’s with Nick and Terry.

Tomorrow we start getting ready to leave here on Sunday afternoon.

Turkey & Dressing and Key West…maybe

Today started with Turkey & Dressing at the nearby Cracker Barrel.  Jan loves their Turkey & Dressing. She says the dressing is almost as good as hers.  Almost!  So Thursday is very often Cracker Barrel.

After lunch we drove back over to the Verizon store to get the correct belt holster for my new Storm 2.  The one they gave me was for the Storm, and the Storm 2 is slightly smaller so it wouldn’t stay in the holster. A quick swap-out cured the problem.

I also found out they had the problem fixed with transferring my contact list from my old phone to my new one. But since I didn’t bring my old phone with me, I’ll have to come back later.

Getting back to the rig, I pulled out my air hose and gauge to air up one of the coach tires.  When I had the new shocks put on a couple of days ago, I also had them bring my tires up to the correct level. But they did not screw the air pressure sensor back on the valve stem all the way so the tire starting leaking down on the way back to the park.

Our coach has a built-in air compressor that operate the air brakes and the air bag suspension system.  There is also a connector that lets me tap into the system and, by starting the engine, I can air up my tires.

Coming back in, I found Jan napping so I decided to head back down to Verizon to get my contact list transferred to my new phone.  Then coming home I stopped off and got gas in the toad.

About 5 pm Nick came over to tell us he was waiting to hear from Al Hesselbart about getting together for dinner.  Al is an RV author / historian we had met at the Gypsy Rally in Celina, OH a month ago.  He lives here in Elkhart, and is a good friend of Nick and Terry’s.

We ended up meeting him at North Garden Chinese Buffet at 5:30 and had a great time listening to Al tell some great stories about the RV industry.

Tomorrow we take a road trip about 130 miles south to Decatur, IN to see where our coach ‘Beauty’ was born.  The American Coach factory is there and they give tours. Then coming home we’ll stop off in Auburn, IN to visit the Auburn – Cord – Dusenberg museum.

When we get back tomorrow night, we don’t know if Nick and Terry will still be here.  Nick is thinking about heading south tomorrow if the weather holds. He wants to be in Key West within the next two weeks.

We’ll see…

Culver’s and Storm 2…

This morning I went over to Nick’s to help him get his new Acer Netbook set up for his VMSpc computer/engine interface.

After a few minutes, Nick’s new toy was humming along and working great.

About 12:30 we all headed out for lunch at Culver’s, a chain restaurant we hadn’t tried before. It’s kind of a cross between a Dairy Queen, a McDonald’s, and a Denny’s.  It’s counter service, but besides ice cream and hamburgers, they also dinners like fried chicken, pot roast, and sandwiches.  It was good and we’ll go back.

Coming home we found a new neighbor a few sites over from us who are also full-timing.  They’re from up in Michigan, but are heading down to Florida, then down to the Texas Rio Grande Valley, and then on to Yuma, AZ for the rest of the winter.  We hope to see them at the Gypsy Rally in Yuma in March.

Later, Jan and I headed out to a local Verizon store so I could upgrade my Palm Treo to a new Blackberry Storm 2.  I’ve been waiting for the new Storm 2 to come out since my Palm was on its last legs.

After getting my upgrade I dropped Jan off at Walmart to get her hair cut. while I ran an errand.

Coming back to the rig about 5:30 pm we decide to stay in for the evening.

More tomorrow…

Better than yesterday…

Bob Evans was so good last night we decided to have breakfast there this morning.  Of course sleeping in meant it was lunchtime by the time we got there, but we had breakfast anyway.

After breakfast, we stopped off at Menard’s to pick up some stuff and then headed back to the park.

And then it was back to work on Nick’s rig some more.  And after yesterday’s debacle I was hoping things would better.  And luckily for me, they did.  Otherwise I’m not sure Nick would let me near his coach again.

He had received the cable to hook up his VMSpc engine/computer interface and wanted to get it installed.

The problem was that the diagnostic socket under the dash wasn’t very accessible.  On my coach it’s just right under the dash.  But on Nick’s coach it’s under a foot rest and behind a large bundle of wires about 9 inches in diameter.  I had to cut all the tywraps off until I could spread the bundle apart to get the plug pushed through and plugged into the socket.  And doing all this while lying on my back under the steering wheel.  But I finally got it plugged in and everything back in place under the dash.

We then hooked it up to his desktop computer to try it out.  And, after loading the USB drivers, it worked perfectly.

A much better day than yesterday!

Later we went out for pizza at a great place Nick and Terry knew about called Mancino’s.  Really good pizza and bread!

Then after dinner we drove over to a nearby Staples so Nick could pick up an Acer Netbook that he plans to use for his VMSpc display on his dashboard.

Getting back to our rigs, we turned in for the night.

More tomorrow…

Tilting at windmills…

Today started with Jan and I taking our coach down to M & M Fabricators to have our new shocks installed.

We got unhooked and headed out about 8:45 to drop the rig off.  Jan followed in the toad.  Leaving the rig there,  we drove back to the park, stopping off at McDonald’s for a breakfast sandwich.

Back at the park, Jan headed out with Terri in their van to drop off the latest copies of the Gypsy Journal Newsletter at the Post Office, and then run some other errands.

I followed Nick in our toad as he drove his rig over to Phoenix Commercial Painting.  The owner, Michelle, was kind enough to let Nick and I use her large garage to work on his coach.

We were trying to swap out the inverter in his new coach with the one in his old coach which is a better one. But it was not to be.

I had thoroughly measured the opening in the new coach and all the measurements said the new inverter would fit, but because the inverter was an odd tapered shape, and the fresh water tank next to where it needed to be mounted was also oddly shaped, the darned thing just wouldn’t quite fit.  If we could have got it in though the access door, we could have mounted it. But no luck.

About 2 pm, M & M called and said our coach was ready so Jan and I drove over to pick it up. Driving it back to the park it was easy to tell the new shocks made a difference.

Getting to the garage we ended up spending over eight hours taking the inverters out of both coaches, finding out things wouldn’t fit, and then getting the inverters back into their respective coaches.

All for nothing. But I had fun doing it.

We got it finished up and then all went to Bob Evans Restaurant for a really great meal about 8:30 pm. Arriving back at the coach a early bedtime was in order.

It was a long day…

Happy Birthday…

First off I want to wish my beautiful bride a very very Happy Birthday!

We left the rig about 10 am to go to breakfast at Cracker Barrel.  Jan really likes their blueberry pancakes.

After breakfast we drove over to M & M Fabricators to check out the route.  We’re taking the rig over there tomorrow morning to have the new shocks put on and I wanted to be sure I knew where it was before taking the coach over there.

After that we stopped off at Walmart for a few things and then headed for another drive out in the country.  We were trying to get pictures of some swans we had seen the other day, but no luck.

But we did see a lot more great fall foliage.  I didn’t take this picture, but it’s a good example of what we’re seeing.

After we got home, I emailed Nick to see if they wanted to go to Outback with us tonight for Jan’s Birthday supper.  We headed out about 5 pm to the Outback in Mishawaka.  As usual we spent as much time talking as eating.  We also discussed what we’re going to do on Nick’s coach tomorrow after I take mine in for new shocks.

We finally got home about 7:45 pm.  Another great night with good friends.

Cold Rain and Good Friends…

Guess what?

It’s another cold, rainy day here in Elkhart, IN.  At noon it was still only 39 degrees.

Jan and I decided it was just too cold and miserable to go out, so we stayed in and had leftovers from Hooters and Famous Dave’s

About 4:30  Nick Russell called to see if we wanted to go out and have Chinese for dinner. So a little after 5 pm we all headed out to the North Garden Chinese Buffet about a mile away.

And, as usual, we sat around talking for almost an hour after we finished eating.  Nick and Terry are nice people and it’s amazing how much we have in common.

Bad Weather and Cold Water…

Today started out cold and rainy, and although it cleared up later in the day, tomorrow is supposed to be worse, with a high of only 44 degrees.

About 10 am Nick Russell and I got together to talk about working on his new coach. We decided to wait until Monday to take his rig to the warehouse so we can work in a dry environment.

We did drive over to the warehouse to check out the bus inverter system to be sure the connecting cable and control boxes would swap out OK.  It looks good to go.

Coming back Nick and I looked at another problem on his coach.  His water heater wasn’t…heating, that is.

Most motorcoach water heaters work on either LP gas or electricity. When Nick got his coach a few weeks ago, he knew the electric heater didn’t work, so he and Terry had just been using the LP gas part.  However, during the night, that quit too.

After looking it over Nick noticed a couple of wires had melted insulation on them.  A little further testing showed that the thermal cutoff diode had blown, thus disabling the heater. It looks like what happened is that during the night the high winds we experienced momentarily sucked the flame out of the heater that melted the insulation and triggered the thermal cutoff.

Replacing the cutoff got his heater working again.  We’ll look at the electric side of things later when we’re working on the coach inside. It should be pretty simple to fix.  There’s not a lot to go wrong on the electric side. Just the heating element, a manual reset switch, and a thermostat.

We’ll see.

Around 1 pm Jan and I headed out for lunch and errands.  Since we were going to the Sam’s Club in Mishawaka, we decided to eat at Hooters, one of our favorite wing places.

Leaving Hooters we stopped off at Sam’s Club.  We did notice a long line of people getting flu shots while we were there.

Coming back home, Nick and I shot the breeze for a while at his coach before I headed back to our rig.

About 6pm we all headed out for dinner at a place Nick and Terry knew about called Lakeshore Grill. This was a great place to eat and we all enjoyed it.

We’ll go back.

More tomorrow…

Amish Food and Amish Craftsmen…

About 12:30 pm we drove down to Middlebury to eat at Das Essenhaus, which in German is ‘The Eating House”, or ‘The Restaurant’

Very original name, huh?


They have great food, especially the fried chicken. The last time we ate there, we ate family style, where they just bring great food to your table until you explode.

This time we had the lunch buffet of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, muffins, salad, and dessert.  Once again, it was really good.

Leaving the restaurant we stopped off at a nearby Dollar General to stock up on more Awesome Cleaner.  This stuff is well known in the RV world for cleaning RV’s. It is fantastic for cleaning the bugs off the front of our coach.

Just spray it on, wait about 10 seconds, and then the bugs just wipe right off.

It’s Awesome!

I guess the Amish in the area also like the Dollar General, because there’s a hitching post right out front, complete with horse poo.


Leaving the DG we drove over to the American Countryside Farmer’s Market.

This place is amazing.

It’s a 3 story, 51,000 square foot building, entirely built by Amish craftsmen.

FarmersMarket 1

And it is beautiful inside.

 FarmersMarket 2 FarmersMarket 3 FarmersMarket 4 FarmersMarket 5

And even more amazing is the fact that there is not a single nail anywhere in this building!  It is all pegged together.

FarmersMarket 6 FarmersMarket 7

FarmersMarket 8

And here is one of the Amish carpenters working during the original construction. Only hand tools were used.

FarmersMarket 9

Coming home we stopped off at Martin’s Supermarket for more of the delicious Honey Crisp apples that are very plentiful right now. And while there we stopped in the Starbucks for a Pumpkin Latte and some pumpkin muffins.  MMMMMM Good !

Coming back to the park we saw another great foliage view.

More Foliage


Another really nice day…