Choo Choo Trains . . .

First up, Brandi sent over this latest Landon-ism.

I was driving Landon to school this morning and up in the sky was a Hot Air Balloon. With all the enthusiasm I could muster at 7am on a Wednesday, I exclaimed, “Landon, look at the COOL hot air balloon up ahead!!!”

Landon, in his most non-enthusiastic, deadpan voice admonished, “Hot Air Balloons aren’t COOL mommy,   Choo Choo Trains are COOL!!”

Ugh. My kid already thinks I’m a dork… LOL

Gotta love that kid!

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Several people had asked where they can get one of the Pharmacy Prescription Discount Cards that I mentioned yesterday. You can get one free from here.

http://www.rxreliefcard.com/

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I also had some inquiries about gate guarding and how to get started, so here’s some more info:

The first 4 Gate Guard companies are the main ones, with GGS the biggest.

Gate Guard Services, L.P.- 361-949-6992

LOMA Rentals, LLC – 817-964-1828

Time Keepers – 830-816-5059 Toll Free – 877-851-7676

Site Watch Gate Guards – 800-561-7202

KC Services – 956-236-5255

Pro Gate Security – 830-776-8666

Oil Field Support Services – 361-815-7050

Trinity – 956-241-1675

Primo Gate Guards – 361-563-9272

When we started last year, we just showed up at the GGS yard in Whitsett, TX and told them we wanted to gate guard. We did not call ahead.

We had heard to do it that way because they get so many calls and requests for info that they really don’t pay any attention until you get there in person.

We got there on Thursday, April 5th about 5:30, but every one had already gone home at the office. But the guy working the yard showed us where to park. They have 5 FHU sites and a number of places with power and water. There is no charge for parking there while you’re waiting for a gate or coming off a gate.

The next morning. I went to the office and got our info packets and fingerprint cards. We then drove over to Floresville about 20 miles away and got our fingerprints done at the Sheriff’s Office.

Then we had to drive down to Corpus Christi on Tuesday, April 10th to process our applications and take our security guard tests. We had to wait until Tuesday because they only process apps on Tuesday and Thursday.

Then 5 days later, on Sunday, April 15th, we were on our first gate.

Doing it this way will work in the Spring and Summer, but probably not as well in the Fall and Winter when the all the snowbirds are down in south Texas.

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After a lazy, overcast day, Jan and I headed over to the King Wha  hinese (The C fell off the sign) Restaurant to meet Al Hesselbart for dinner. After being greeted by the owner, Helen, who remember both us and Nick from last time, we enjoyed a great meal. And along with the meal, we really enjoyed Al regaling us with stories of his two trips to China to consult with them about developing the RV industry there. In fact, we had so much fun it was two hours before we said goodnight.

Working our way back to the rig, we stopped off at Kroger’s for some things, got some gas for the truck, and some Powerball tickets for tonight’s 235 million drawing. Busy, busy, busy.

Tomorrow, with better weather on tap, we’re planning driving down to the Shipshewana area, and maybe Goshen too. We’ll see.

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“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.” ― Elizabeth Taylor

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Guards and Buffalos . . .

More on the Gate Guard front:

This morning, before I got up, Jan got a call from someone looking for Gate Guard Services. I wasn’t sure why they had called us, but after thinking about it for a while, I figured he had got our number from one of our rig’s Company Men as a Gate Guard Services contact.

All the Company Men we worked with had both Jan and mine’s phone numbers and email addresses in case they needed to call us on the gate. Curious, I gave the guy a call back and that’s what had happened. Another Company Man, apparently one that we had worked with last year, had given him our number.

In addition, earlier this morning, I got an email from Jerry and Rita Scarbrough, who also work for Gate Guard Services, telling me that GGS has finally switched over to Direct Deposit for our paychecks. This will make it a lot easier for us since when I used Chase’s Online Deposit last year, I kept running into a problem because Chase has a limit on how much money you can deposit online in any one month. Who ever heard of a bank that doesn’t want your money?

About 1pm Jan and I headed out for the afternoon. Our first stop was at the RV/MH Hall of Fame to drop off a bundle of Gypsy Journals, and also check in with Al Hesselbart, the director there, and a long-time friend. After talking for a while we made a date to meet for dinner tomorrow night at King Wha, a great local Chinese restaurant.

Next up was a stop at the Sam’s Club over in Mishawaka, about 15 miles away to pick up Jan’s prescriptions and get some other Sam’s-type stuff. Since we wanted some other pharmacy items we went there first. When I went to pay for the prescriptions, I thought they were kind of high at $136.

So I pulled out my Pharmacy Discount Card. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I picked one of these up from the payment counter at my doctor’s office last February. Figured it wouldn’t do much, but what the heck, it’s free.

Pharmacy Card

When I first used it at the Sam’s Club in Friendswood, I was surprised to find that it saved me about $50. Yeah! I was also told that I only had to enter the card into the system once and it would apply to all prescriptions from then on.

Kind of.

I showed the Pharmacy Tech my card and asked her to be sure it was still in the system and if it would save me anything today. She said these cards never made much difference but she would check. She went away for about 15 minutes and then came back with a big smile on her face.

I asked her if it make any difference and she said “You could say so”. So I asked “How much?”. She just hit a few keys on the cash register and a new total came up.

My $136 total was now $50.  WOW! 

The other thing I found out is that the card has to be re-entered each time we move our prescriptions to a new Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart. Which for us is pretty much every month. Note to self.

Leaving Sam’s, we went right next door to the Wal-Mart to get me some new socks since Sam’s didn’t have what I wanted.

Then, after a quick stop at a P.O. to mail a letter, we headed over to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. Usually we get the regular wings, but this time since the Boneless Wings were on sale, we got those instead. We both got the Mango Habanero sauce on them, which is their third hottest sauce, behind ‘Wild’ and ‘Blazin’, which is the hottest But I always get a small cup of the ‘Blazin’ sauce as an added hit.

I do this because I like the heat of the ‘Blazin’, but overall I also like the sweetness of the Mango Habanero, so I get the best of both worlds.

On the way back to the RV park, we first stopped off for a car wash, and then a quick stop at a Chase bank to get a roll of quarters. Jan wants to use the big washers here at the park laundromat to do some of our rugs while we’re here.

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Good things come to those who go get them.

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Gluttons for Punishment . . .

It was really nice to sleep late this morning with nothing to see, or nowhere to go. Just do nothing.

Looks like we’re in for a nice spate of weather for the rest of our time here. It’s supposed to make it to 80 only one day with the rest in the mid 70’s, with pretty low chances of rain. Hope the forecast holds up. We’ve been lied to before.

About noon I went up to the park office to drop off a bundle of Gypsy Journal’s for Gita to hand out. She said people had been asking why she didn’t have any. Also got the WiFi password for the park.

In past years the Verizon 3G was good, but this year it’s pretty crappy. On the other hand the 4G on my phone is really good. This kind of supports something I heard that all the carriers are trying get everyone off 3G and their unlimited data plans, like my aircard, and onto their 4G metered plans.

They want to do away with the whole 3G system anyway, since it runs on a completely separate hardware system from 4G and it’s just an added expense.

About 3 Jan and I headed out for errands and dinner, with our first stop at the Great Clips for a hair trim for Jan. Then it was next door to Wal-Mart for a few things. Our last stop was the Ryan’s across the street for dinner. This is a great Ryan’s here and we always get a good meal.

Getting back to the rig after a big meal, Jan and I both ended up dozing off for a little while. Mister took this opportunity to knock the screen door open and go for a walkabout around the park. When I realized he was on the lam, I went outside and called him. I then checked on both sides of the rig looking for him. When I came back around the front, there he was, walking down the middle of the roadway, tail waving in the air, looking like he owned the place.

As I was herding him back to the rig, Glen and Gayla Hickey pedaled by and said “Hi”. They’re blog readers / Gypsy Rally attendees and were up in the Soo a few days behind us. It’s always good to run into friends on the road, one of the really great things about RVing.

As far as being “Gluttons for Punishment”, Jan and I have decided to do the gate guarding thing again this year, but on a slightly different schedule. Last year we did it from the middle of April to the middle of August, getting the hottest part of the year. This time it will be from the middle of August until the Sunday before Thanksgiving, so things will start cooling off fairly quickly.

I did put in a call to Jamie, our supervisor last year, who still had our number on his phone and recognized my call. He said he wouldn’t have a problem finding us a gate, so I guess we’re good to go.

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Thought for the Day:

“You can’t sustain a nation when a large swath of the population has no stake in the principles upon which the nation was founded.”

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Home at our Second Home . . .

The AM Clouds / PM Sun that was forecast for today must have been for somewhere else, because we had moderate to heavy rain for all but the last 50 miles of our trip down to Elkhart, IN.

After we were ready to travel this morning, all except for disconnecting shore power, we called the shuttle for a ride to the casino for the breakfast buffet. And of course afterwards, Jan had to check out the gift shop, and lo and behold, she found a shirt she just had to have. Who would have thunk it?

Getting back to the rig, we cranked up, brought the levelers up, unhooked shore power, pulled in the slide, and pulled out about 10am. And just as we got back on US-31, the light misting we had been getting turned into a heavy rain.

Traveling on US-31 the last couple of days means a lot to me, since further south it runs right through my family’s farm in North Alabama, and then all the way down to Mobile. Before I-65 was built, we traveled US-31 back and forth many times to visit relatives. So now, along with US-1, we can say we’ve been to both ends, the start just south of the Mackinac Bridge, and the end, of course, just outside Mobile, AL.

As far as US-1, we visited both ends in 2009 while traveling up the East Coast. The southern end is located in Key West, FL,

us1 mile marker 0

and the northern end, 2369 miles away in Fort Kent, MA. Fort Kent is where we crossed back into Canada as we traveled west across the southern border through Quebec, Montreal, and Ottawa, before coming back into US and visiting Buffalo NY and Niagara Falls.

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Toward the end of our trip today, we passed through Benton Harbor. 30 or 40 years I would have tried to spend a week here. Benton Harbor was, at that time, the home of Heathkit.

Heathkit actually started in 1912 selling kit AIRPLANES. After several iterations, the new owner started selling electronic kits using WWII surplus radio parts. The company grew rapidly, selling amateur radio equipment, test gear, audio amps, and even color TV kits. During the 1970’s I actually built two of their 25” color TV’s, and they worked great.

Heathkit Color TV 1

Back in those days, when electronics equipment was being mostly assembled by hand, you could save a lot of money by building it yourself. But as the 80’s and 90’s progressed, and more and more electronics was built by automated equipment, the price savings disappeared and Heathkit gradually ground to a halt.

From the 60’s to the 80’s I probably built close to a hundred of their kits, from simple test meters and ham radio gear, to audio amps and the above-mentioned color TV’s. Steve Jobs cut his teeth on Heathkits, and is quoted as saying "It gave a tremendous level of self-confidence, that through exploration and learning one could understand seemingly very complex things in one’s environment”.

They will be missed.

We got into what Jan considers our second home, Elkhart Campground, about 3pm and was warmly greeted by Gita. We were surprised to see how full they were, busier than we’ve ever seen them before. We got parked and set up in a nice, long pull-thru site. Later we headed over to one of our favorite places here in Elkhart, El Maguey Mexican Restaurant.

Tomorrow, pretty much nothing, I hope.

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“There are many armchair quarterbacks, but few who play football.”

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Bridges and Parades . . .

Lucky for us the predicted all-night rain didn’t show up, so the grass under our rig had a chance to dry. And when it came time to back out of our site a little after 9am, we got out OK.

Before we left the Soo, we wanted to get some diesel, but taking the most direct way to the Interstate and our station took us up a steep hill with a traffic light at the bottom. If I could be sure that I could take the hill without stopping at the light, it wouldn’t be a problem. But if I got a red light it would be slow going up the hill, doable, but slow. Maybe that’s why the signs say ‘No Vehicles Over 5 Tons’. Could be.

So I had mapped out a new route that looked like it would work, and it did. The hill along that way was much shallower, and had no light at the bottom. The day was off to a good start.

And at the station it just got better. Diesel had dropped 2 cents a gallon since yesterday. The pumps were no-limit pump and pay, and had the big nozzles for a fast fill. It just kept getting better.

After topping off our tank, we got hitched up and got on I-75S heading for Manistee, MI, and the Little River Casino about 220 miles away. But then things started to go a little awry.

The heavily overcast skies started leaking all over our windshield, and pretty much kept it up all the rest of the trip. It never came down hard, but it did keep the wipers busy.

50 miles down the road and $14 from my wallet, we crossed the Mackinac Bridge, a first time for us. And it took us a while because we did it at 20mph.

Mackinac Bridge 1

Mackinac Bridge 2

The speed limit on the bridge is 45 mph, but it’s also 20 mph for Loaded Trucks. And then there’s the sign that says “Truck/Buses No Passing”. I always wonder about signs like this. I’m definitely not a truck, and I’m not a bus. But I am bus-like, or maybe bus-lite?, so where do I stand?

Anyway, I ended up behind a “Loaded Truck”, and there was so much traffic passing us at 45 (or faster) that I would have had a real problem getting out and around him. So there I stayed.

One thing I thought was funny is that apparently some people don’t like to drive on the open grating on the bridge deck. The way it’s built, the inside lane is grating, but the outside is concrete. A number of cars stayed with us behind the 20mph truck all the way across, but as soon as both lanes were concrete, they zipped out and around, and were gone.

A couple of miles off the bridge we turned west on US-31 to take the the scenic way down the lake. And it was really good that it was scenic because, between the rain, the numerous construction zones, the multiple small towns with 25mph speed limits, the parade, and the street fair, we had plenty of time to see it all.

We arrived at the Little River Casino about 4pm, and for a change, had no problem finding the RV park there. Believe it or not, they actually had signs leading us to it.

Since we’d been parked for a week with no sewer connection, before we parked at our site, we stopped off at the dump station. Our site is 50 amp and water, again with no sewer, but we’ll have it tomorrow in Elkhart.

We had leftovers for supper, but we’re going to head over to the casino tomorrow morning for the breakfast buffet before we leave. YUM.

Tomorrow we’ve got a 220 mile trip to Elkhart where we’ll be for a week, checking out all our favorite restaurants and places. We’re really looking forward to being back in Elkhart again.

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Thought for the Day:

“Make crime pay. Become a lawyer.” – Will Rogers

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Last Day in The Soo . . .

First up, some follow-up info on yesterday’s visit to Mackinac Island.

Since there are no private motor vehicles allowed on the island, horses (and bikes) are everywhere, and their by-products, of course.

According to our carriage tour guide, there are about 550 horses on the island at any one time. Contrast this with there being only about 500 full-time residents. Another interesting fact is that for those 500 residents, there is only one doctor. But the 550 horses had THREE veterinarians. Shows you who’s the most important there.

Plus the fact that the horses don’t even have to spend the winter on the island. At the end of the season they all get a ferry ride to the mainland and then spend the winter on a 2000 acre horse farm up near Pickford, MI, which is about half way between St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie. Must be nice.

Due to the Lake Snow Effect, supposedly Mackinac Island gets about 40 feet of snow a season. Seems like a lot. I guess I wouldn’t want to spend the winter there either.

They have three main breeds of horses: Percherons, Belgians, and a Percheron/Belgain cross, called a Bay. In the photo below, the two black horses are Percherons, and the brown one is a Bay.

Mackinac Island Horse 2

Someone asked our tour guide why they don’t use Clydesdale’s. Our guide said that Clydesdales are really show horses, and their ankles are really too weak to work as real draft horses, and said it would take 4 or more Clydesdales to pull the same weight as two Percherons.

She then said “That’s why they use them to haul “light’ beer.

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We woke up this morning to heavily-overcast skies and the promise of later rain.

Oh Boy!

Sure glad we didn’t wait until today to visit Mackinaw Island.

About 3pm Jan and I headed out for Wal-Mart and dinner at China Cate, the Chinese restaurant we ate at last Saturday, right after we got here.

It started a light rain as we left the rig, but while we were in Wal-Mart the bottom fell out. We could hear the rain coming down heavy on the roof. And then my pocket started going “BEEEEEP BEEEEEP BEEEEEP BEEEEEP!”

And then I could hear other alarms faintly all around me.

Turns out it was a weather alert coming in on everyone’s phone. A tornado had been spotted somewhere west of us, over around Newberry, and was supposedly headed our way. All during this the rain just came down harder. It had slacked off somewhat by the time we had finished at Wal-Mart, but we still had to make a run to the truck.

We were sure glad to get some of that Hot & Sour Soup into us. And as before our meal was really good, approaching that of our fabled King Food back home.

By the time we got home the rain had pretty much slacked off, hopefully for the rest of the night. Otherwise we may have trouble getting out of here tomorrow.

We’re parked on grass and headed downhill so we’ll have to back out of here. We’ll see how it goes.

Tomorrow we’re heading south about 220 miles to spend one night at the Little Rivers Casino near Manistee, MI, before heading on to Elkhart, IN on Sunday.

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Thought for the Day:

Gun Registration is just gun confiscation in slow motion.

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Three Things to Do When Visiting Mackinac Island . . .

1, Watch Where You Walk.

2. Don’t Step In Yellow Puddles.

3. Bring Plenty of Money.

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After one of the muffins we got at Tim Horton’s yesterday, Jan and I headed about 50 miles south to St. Ignace, MI to catch the ferry over to Mackinac Island. To allow plenty of time to catch the 10:00 run, we left about 8:15. But making good time we got there about 9:15, just in time to catch the 9:30 trip.

Heading across the lake we found a lot of people already out there ahead of us.

Mackinac Island Parasail

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One of the reasons we wanted to make the 9:30 or 10am ferry, is that these two make a quick detour over by, and under the Mackinac Bridge.

Mackinac Island Bridge 1

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The two towers are 550 feet tall, and the suspended roadway between them is over 8600 feet long, making it the longest suspension bridge in the US, and the third longest in the world.

Mackinac Island Bridge 2

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The supporting cables are 24-1/2 inches in diameter and made up of over 12,000 smaller cables woven together. And even though the roadway is open grillwork to let the wind blow through, the bridge can still sway up to 15 feet during high winds. Hopefully not this Saturday.

Mackinac Island Bridge 3

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Finally approaching the island, the first thing you can really see is the world-famous Grand Hotel, site of two movies, including 1979’s “Somewhere In Time” with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

Mackinac Island Grand Hotel

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Pretty much everywhere you look is a postcard view.

Mackinac Island Harbor 1

Mackinac Island Harbor 2

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Getting our feet back on dry land, we spent some time walking the streets and checking out the scenery.

Mackinac Island Street View

Mackinac Island Yellow House

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There are flowers everywhere you look.

Mackinac Island Flowers

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Except for two police vans and three fire trucks, no motorized vehicles are allowed on the island. So this wagon is the UPS delivery van. There is a driver for the wagon, but a real UPS guy in his brown shorts actually delivers the packages.

Mackinac Island UPS Truck

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And this is why you need to watch where you walk when you’re on the island. I also think it’s why the flowers are so bright and the grass is so green. They’ve got to do something with all that ‘fertilizer’.

Mackinac Island Horse Poop

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Taking the Carriage Tour, we drove past the Grand Hotel, the only hotel I’ve ever seen that charges you $10 just to walk into the place. Needless to say, we didn’t visit.

Mackinac Island Grand Hotel 2

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Our next stop along the tour was Arch Rock that looks down on the beach way below.

Mackinac Island Arch Rock

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Finally leaving the carriage tour at Fort Mackinac, we decided to have lunch at the Tea Room there that overlooks the harbor.

Mackinac Island Fort 1

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One of the other ferry companies uses jet boat ferries, giving them this distinctive “rooster tail”.

Mackinac Island Fort 2

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There’s even this beautiful two-masted schooner tooling around the harbor

Mackinac Island Fort 3

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Sometimes there are so many ferries coming into the harbor it’s almost a traffic jam.

Mackinac Island Fort 4

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Looking down from our restaurant perch, seeing all the neat, colorful houses, manicured lawns, and brilliant flower gardens, I almost expected to see a large white ball named Rover go bouncing by.

Mackinac Island Fort 5

Mackinac Island Fort 6

Walking back down the hill from the Fort, we once again walked along the quaint streets, checking out the many shops, even stopping to buy some of the famous Mackinac fudge from Murdicks.

Later we spent an hour or so sitting in the rockers on the big front porch of the Lakeview Hotel, just people watching. Very nice.

A little later we caught the 4pm ferry back to St. Ignace on the mainland, giving us this great view of the Mackinac Bridge, a bridge that we’ll be crossing in our rig this coming Saturday as we head for Elkhart.

Mackinac Island Bridge 4

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Before getting back on I-75N we stopped for gas, giving Jan a thrill and ending her day on a very moose note.

Mackinac Island Star Spangled Moose

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Taking our exit off I-75 into Sault Ste. Marie, we drove through a nearby Holiday gas station to check out rig access to tank up with diesel when we leave here on Saturday.

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Thought for the Day:

We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.~Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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