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Old 09-22-2008, 05:14 PM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Zephyrhills, FL
Posts: 935
Bette has decided to keep a journal of our travels down the Mississippi this Fall. There will be periodic updates.

2008 GREAT RIVER ROAD WIT CARAVAN

Here we go--another year, another Winnebago-Itasca Travelers caravan. This time we will be following the Mississippi River from its headwaters in Bemidji, Minnesota, all the way to Louisiana, then we'll be flown out over the delta on a float plane. As I write this, we are already in Iron Lake, Wisconsin, near the western end of Lake Superior. But let me start at the beginning.

On September 14th we left Neffs, PA, and traveled to Zanesville, OH, where we spent the first night in the dark--(or would have except for our generator). You probably remember our recent "friend" Ike, the hurricane that devastated Galveston, Texas. Well, we know him well. He came blowing through our campground knocking over trees, (mostly ornamental pears), and swirling anything around that wasn't tied down, including an awning from the fifth-wheel camper just behind us. Our motor home started rocking, so we pulled in the slides and spent the night in our "cocoon."

Day 2 -- Uneventful drive to Mahomet, IL, where we stayed at a small, quiet RV park called "Tin Cup" (because it was on Tin Cup Road). I never found out why the road was named Tin Cup Road.

Day 3 -- We stopped at the visitor center just inside the Wisconsin border to ask a few questions about which road they thought we would be better off taking on day 4. When we had looked at the map with the lady behind the counter and were ready to leave, a voice to our left said, "You wouldn't be heading to Bemidji, MN, would you?" It was a fellow traveler from our 2007 "Western Canada" caravan who is also going on the River Road by the name of Don M. He got the information that he had come for and we walked together outside and over to our rigs talking the whole time. We stayed at Black River Falls, WI, that night. I purchased, from the cheese shop just up the road, some of those scrumptious cheese curds that Skigramp had served at one of our happy hours on the "Canadian Maritime" caravan in 2006. Yummm!

Day 4 -- Another pleasant day's drive to Iron Lake, WI. We are at Top O' the Morn RV Park in Iron River, WI, as I write this, a very quiet place with lots of birds flitting through the trees and chirping. There's a lake just down a slope behind the office called Iron Lake, which we're told empties into Lake Superior. Carolyn & Ken L. (friends from all of the caravans we've been on who reside in Michigan) arrived here the same day. In fact, Carolyn had told us they would be stopping here to do a boat cruise on Lake Superior around the Apostle Islands, so we decided that sounded like a nice jaunt. We cooked and ate dinner together and caught up on what has been happening in our lives since we last saw them (at the GNR in July). For those of you who are not Winnebago people, that is the Grand National Rally that is held at Forest City, Iowa, each July at the factory where the Winnebagos are manufactured.

Day 5 -- Another beautiful day in paradise, as they say! The boat cruise was very nice, and we had very smooth water. It was just a delightful day with sunshine and moderate temperatures, mid-60's to mid-70's. We stopped at an apple orchard afterwards and got some apple-raspberry cider that is to die for, some apple butter made on the premises, and 2 kinds of apples. As we were returning to our campsite, driving along the lakeshore, Ken suddenly slowed down, and out to the front on the road was a young black bear. It turned and ran off to the right side of the road, toward the lake. Again we cooked and ate our dinner together. Now we are preparing for the last pre-caravan leg of the trip, to Bemidji, MN, where we will meet up with all the others who are going on this trip. The caravan begins on Sunday, the 21st.

Day 6 -- While traveling today to Bemidji, MN, somewhere along US 2 west of Duluth, we spotted a bald eagle sitting in the grassy area alongside the highway! What a surprise! About half way to Bemidji at Grand Rapids, MN we stopped to see the Forest History Center where they have a traditional logging camp set up. It was an extremely well done and educational center. The people who dressed in early 20th century costumes were very well versed in the workings of a logging camp. There were six or seven buildings that were all staffed with interpreter of the era. We spent about 4 hours there and did not have time to see everything.

We arrived at Royal Oaks RV Park and met many of our fellow travelers. There are only a few left to come into the park. Tomorrow we have a free day to see whatever we want around here before the caravan actually begins, which will be around noon on Sunday. We have happy hour coming up at 5 PM (soon) and the campground is putting on a campfire at 7 PM, so we must hurry and get our dinner in between.

Day 7 -- Many of us chose to take life easy today and catch up on writing notes, laundry, grocery shopping (kind of useless when you don't cook, but we still need to eat breakfast and snacks), and do just a little sightseeing right here in Bemidji. We particularly, we wanted to see & photograph the very large statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe which are downtown. It was another beautiful, sunshiny day with mid-70's temps again.
Our hosts & tail enders served us a light dinner of Sloppy Joes and trimmings in the evening. Then we played a "Caravan Bingo" game where there are squares on a large sheet of paper and you must go around talking with all the others in the group and have them sign for you what square holds something that fits them, e g I signed off that I like to sew or that I collect coupons, others chose like to fish, or brought a gas grill along, etc. It was really fun, as it gets everybody talking to each other and learning a little bit about their companions on the journey.

Day 8/Day 1 of the actual caravan -- They bribed us to be on time for the 12:30 orientation by telling us they were going to serve root beer floats at noon. Not one person was late! Following orientation and a travel meeting (where they explain the route we are to follow next day and what there is to see along the way), we boarded a bus which took us to Lake Itasca State Park which contains the headwaters of the Mississippi River. There we donned water shoes, rolled up our pants -- the water was almost to our knees due to the recent rains -- and waded the 40-or-so feet across the river and back. Of course, there were many pictures snapped and some wet pants legs incurred. We got to spend some time in the gift shop and visitor center before again boarding the bus.
Our next stop was The Peppercorn Restaurant in Bemidji, where we enjoyed a very nice dinner and were entertained afterward by Dan Bera, a fellow who impersonated a "voyageur" who worked for the French Fur Company and traded with the Ojibwa Indians to acquire furs. He would get 6 or 8 people up at a time and have them assist with paddling the canoe, steering it, keeping the cadence, etc. He used a funny accent and spoke in French, especially in the beginning. We have one woman in the group from Montreal who could understand him, leaving the rest of us to imagine what the exchange was all about. He did let us in on it after a short time. But he had us just about rolling on the floor.
After the show he explained that he was flunking history in grade school and high school, and a professor took him aside one day during his college years and asked if he could wear a certain type of costume and keep his mouth shut. He did it, and that began his journey into living history. It certainly makes it more memorable when told as a sort of story and make laughable.
We then returned to our rigs to prepare ourselves for tomorrow's move. It will be a short drive -- only 104 miles. There are places along the way where we may stop and sightsee or get lunch or just enjoy a walk. I'll let you know next time which we chose.

Day 2 of the caravan -- September 22, 2008
Our first move takes place today beginning, would you believe, at 10:30 AM. Never on a previous caravan have we had the opportunity to sleep that late on a travel day. (But I'm not complaining!) This is a very short driving day, also -- only 104 miles. There are many colorful trees and shrubs in evidence almost everywhere. After all, Fall begins today. We decided to make only one stop -- to pick up a few things at Wal-Mart, and have our lunch in our rigs on their parking lot.
Except for a steady 20 mph wind from the south, the drive to Crow Wing Lake Campground turns out to be uneventful -- thank you, Lord. The people who run the campground are preparing dinner for us this evening -- turkey roasted on a large, mobile, wood-burning grill, baked beans, potato salad, delicious marinated fresh vegetables, and a cake designed with motorhomes on the frosting. We all leave satiated. The RV park is just loaded with oak trees, as have been the last two campgrounds we've been at in the past week. We fall asleep to the cacophony of acorns hitting the roof of the motorhome; and sometimes we are jolted out of sleep at 3 AM by the same sound! But it's kind of like being next to a railroad -- after the first night or two, you don't notice the sound so much, if at all.

Day 3 -- Sept. 23, 2008
Now this feels more like the groove we usually fall into on these trips -- up at 6 AM to have time for showers, breakfast, gathering our important possessions to take along on a bus outing, (you know, water & snacks), and being ready to board the bus by 8 AM. We have a full day of touring today, starting with the Charles Lindberg Historic Site, boyhood home of Lindberg & a museum dedicated to him. Then not very far down the road is Linden Hill Historical Center, featuring two homes -- that of Charles A. Weyerhaeuser & of Richard "Drew" Musser, lumber barons of the late 1800's & early 1900's. You could easily get lost going through either of these houses -- we proved it! There are so many rooms in each we couldn't begin to name them all.
All of this made us very hungry, so we headed to our next stop -- The Cabin Fever Saloon and Grill -- where we were again served a very nice meal. (I'm never gonna eat again!!) The folks at Mille Lacs Indian Museum & Trading Post were awaiting our arrival at 1:30. We had a self-guided tour of the very well designed viewing areas. We also had a session with one of the Indian guides of how the people spent each of the four seasons of the year, with beautiful exhibits of wigwams (synonymous with ti-pi); yes, that's the spelling they use. Lastly, we were ushered over to the Trading Post where we had a chance to purchase Native American crafts. At 4:30 PM we were on the bus heading back to our "homes" for yet another meal. We settled for soup & 1/2 sandwich, which was plenty after the big lunch we'd had. And now I'm ready to leave you and get some sleep. Gotta be up by 6 AM tomorrow for 8 AM call-out for our move to Prior Lake, MN -- just south of the Twin Cities.

Bette,
__________________

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Old 09-22-2008, 05:14 PM   #2
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Winnebago Owners Club
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Zephyrhills, FL
Posts: 935
Bette has decided to keep a journal of our travels down the Mississippi this Fall. There will be periodic updates.

2008 GREAT RIVER ROAD WIT CARAVAN

Here we go--another year, another Winnebago-Itasca Travelers caravan. This time we will be following the Mississippi River from its headwaters in Bemidji, Minnesota, all the way to Louisiana, then we'll be flown out over the delta on a float plane. As I write this, we are already in Iron Lake, Wisconsin, near the western end of Lake Superior. But let me start at the beginning.

On September 14th we left Neffs, PA, and traveled to Zanesville, OH, where we spent the first night in the dark--(or would have except for our generator). You probably remember our recent "friend" Ike, the hurricane that devastated Galveston, Texas. Well, we know him well. He came blowing through our campground knocking over trees, (mostly ornamental pears), and swirling anything around that wasn't tied down, including an awning from the fifth-wheel camper just behind us. Our motor home started rocking, so we pulled in the slides and spent the night in our "cocoon."

Day 2 -- Uneventful drive to Mahomet, IL, where we stayed at a small, quiet RV park called "Tin Cup" (because it was on Tin Cup Road). I never found out why the road was named Tin Cup Road.

Day 3 -- We stopped at the visitor center just inside the Wisconsin border to ask a few questions about which road they thought we would be better off taking on day 4. When we had looked at the map with the lady behind the counter and were ready to leave, a voice to our left said, "You wouldn't be heading to Bemidji, MN, would you?" It was a fellow traveler from our 2007 "Western Canada" caravan who is also going on the River Road by the name of Don M. He got the information that he had come for and we walked together outside and over to our rigs talking the whole time. We stayed at Black River Falls, WI, that night. I purchased, from the cheese shop just up the road, some of those scrumptious cheese curds that Skigramp had served at one of our happy hours on the "Canadian Maritime" caravan in 2006. Yummm!

Day 4 -- Another pleasant day's drive to Iron Lake, WI. We are at Top O' the Morn RV Park in Iron River, WI, as I write this, a very quiet place with lots of birds flitting through the trees and chirping. There's a lake just down a slope behind the office called Iron Lake, which we're told empties into Lake Superior. Carolyn & Ken L. (friends from all of the caravans we've been on who reside in Michigan) arrived here the same day. In fact, Carolyn had told us they would be stopping here to do a boat cruise on Lake Superior around the Apostle Islands, so we decided that sounded like a nice jaunt. We cooked and ate dinner together and caught up on what has been happening in our lives since we last saw them (at the GNR in July). For those of you who are not Winnebago people, that is the Grand National Rally that is held at Forest City, Iowa, each July at the factory where the Winnebagos are manufactured.

Day 5 -- Another beautiful day in paradise, as they say! The boat cruise was very nice, and we had very smooth water. It was just a delightful day with sunshine and moderate temperatures, mid-60's to mid-70's. We stopped at an apple orchard afterwards and got some apple-raspberry cider that is to die for, some apple butter made on the premises, and 2 kinds of apples. As we were returning to our campsite, driving along the lakeshore, Ken suddenly slowed down, and out to the front on the road was a young black bear. It turned and ran off to the right side of the road, toward the lake. Again we cooked and ate our dinner together. Now we are preparing for the last pre-caravan leg of the trip, to Bemidji, MN, where we will meet up with all the others who are going on this trip. The caravan begins on Sunday, the 21st.

Day 6 -- While traveling today to Bemidji, MN, somewhere along US 2 west of Duluth, we spotted a bald eagle sitting in the grassy area alongside the highway! What a surprise! About half way to Bemidji at Grand Rapids, MN we stopped to see the Forest History Center where they have a traditional logging camp set up. It was an extremely well done and educational center. The people who dressed in early 20th century costumes were very well versed in the workings of a logging camp. There were six or seven buildings that were all staffed with interpreter of the era. We spent about 4 hours there and did not have time to see everything.

We arrived at Royal Oaks RV Park and met many of our fellow travelers. There are only a few left to come into the park. Tomorrow we have a free day to see whatever we want around here before the caravan actually begins, which will be around noon on Sunday. We have happy hour coming up at 5 PM (soon) and the campground is putting on a campfire at 7 PM, so we must hurry and get our dinner in between.

Day 7 -- Many of us chose to take life easy today and catch up on writing notes, laundry, grocery shopping (kind of useless when you don't cook, but we still need to eat breakfast and snacks), and do just a little sightseeing right here in Bemidji. We particularly, we wanted to see & photograph the very large statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe which are downtown. It was another beautiful, sunshiny day with mid-70's temps again.
Our hosts & tail enders served us a light dinner of Sloppy Joes and trimmings in the evening. Then we played a "Caravan Bingo" game where there are squares on a large sheet of paper and you must go around talking with all the others in the group and have them sign for you what square holds something that fits them, e g I signed off that I like to sew or that I collect coupons, others chose like to fish, or brought a gas grill along, etc. It was really fun, as it gets everybody talking to each other and learning a little bit about their companions on the journey.

Day 8/Day 1 of the actual caravan -- They bribed us to be on time for the 12:30 orientation by telling us they were going to serve root beer floats at noon. Not one person was late! Following orientation and a travel meeting (where they explain the route we are to follow next day and what there is to see along the way), we boarded a bus which took us to Lake Itasca State Park which contains the headwaters of the Mississippi River. There we donned water shoes, rolled up our pants -- the water was almost to our knees due to the recent rains -- and waded the 40-or-so feet across the river and back. Of course, there were many pictures snapped and some wet pants legs incurred. We got to spend some time in the gift shop and visitor center before again boarding the bus.
Our next stop was The Peppercorn Restaurant in Bemidji, where we enjoyed a very nice dinner and were entertained afterward by Dan Bera, a fellow who impersonated a "voyageur" who worked for the French Fur Company and traded with the Ojibwa Indians to acquire furs. He would get 6 or 8 people up at a time and have them assist with paddling the canoe, steering it, keeping the cadence, etc. He used a funny accent and spoke in French, especially in the beginning. We have one woman in the group from Montreal who could understand him, leaving the rest of us to imagine what the exchange was all about. He did let us in on it after a short time. But he had us just about rolling on the floor.
After the show he explained that he was flunking history in grade school and high school, and a professor took him aside one day during his college years and asked if he could wear a certain type of costume and keep his mouth shut. He did it, and that began his journey into living history. It certainly makes it more memorable when told as a sort of story and make laughable.
We then returned to our rigs to prepare ourselves for tomorrow's move. It will be a short drive -- only 104 miles. There are places along the way where we may stop and sightsee or get lunch or just enjoy a walk. I'll let you know next time which we chose.

Day 2 of the caravan -- September 22, 2008
Our first move takes place today beginning, would you believe, at 10:30 AM. Never on a previous caravan have we had the opportunity to sleep that late on a travel day. (But I'm not complaining!) This is a very short driving day, also -- only 104 miles. There are many colorful trees and shrubs in evidence almost everywhere. After all, Fall begins today. We decided to make only one stop -- to pick up a few things at Wal-Mart, and have our lunch in our rigs on their parking lot.
Except for a steady 20 mph wind from the south, the drive to Crow Wing Lake Campground turns out to be uneventful -- thank you, Lord. The people who run the campground are preparing dinner for us this evening -- turkey roasted on a large, mobile, wood-burning grill, baked beans, potato salad, delicious marinated fresh vegetables, and a cake designed with motorhomes on the frosting. We all leave satiated. The RV park is just loaded with oak trees, as have been the last two campgrounds we've been at in the past week. We fall asleep to the cacophony of acorns hitting the roof of the motorhome; and sometimes we are jolted out of sleep at 3 AM by the same sound! But it's kind of like being next to a railroad -- after the first night or two, you don't notice the sound so much, if at all.

Day 3 -- Sept. 23, 2008
Now this feels more like the groove we usually fall into on these trips -- up at 6 AM to have time for showers, breakfast, gathering our important possessions to take along on a bus outing, (you know, water & snacks), and being ready to board the bus by 8 AM. We have a full day of touring today, starting with the Charles Lindberg Historic Site, boyhood home of Lindberg & a museum dedicated to him. Then not very far down the road is Linden Hill Historical Center, featuring two homes -- that of Charles A. Weyerhaeuser & of Richard "Drew" Musser, lumber barons of the late 1800's & early 1900's. You could easily get lost going through either of these houses -- we proved it! There are so many rooms in each we couldn't begin to name them all.
All of this made us very hungry, so we headed to our next stop -- The Cabin Fever Saloon and Grill -- where we were again served a very nice meal. (I'm never gonna eat again!!) The folks at Mille Lacs Indian Museum & Trading Post were awaiting our arrival at 1:30. We had a self-guided tour of the very well designed viewing areas. We also had a session with one of the Indian guides of how the people spent each of the four seasons of the year, with beautiful exhibits of wigwams (synonymous with ti-pi); yes, that's the spelling they use. Lastly, we were ushered over to the Trading Post where we had a chance to purchase Native American crafts. At 4:30 PM we were on the bus heading back to our "homes" for yet another meal. We settled for soup & 1/2 sandwich, which was plenty after the big lunch we'd had. And now I'm ready to leave you and get some sleep. Gotta be up by 6 AM tomorrow for 8 AM call-out for our move to Prior Lake, MN -- just south of the Twin Cities.

Bette,
__________________

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BlueOx Towing Pkg, SMI Stay-n-Play
49 States & 7 Provinces visited in MH | WIT W112365
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Old 09-25-2008, 07:17 PM   #3
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Day 4, September 24, 2008

We left Crow Wing RV Park in Brainerd, MN, this morning about 8:30. Acting as the turn signals for Carolyn & Ken, whose signals were not working, we followed behind them -- until.....Ken made a wrong turn onto a country road that quickly turned to dust. The directions in the travel book were slightly confusing. We continued on down the road to the next turn and waited for them to catch up. After another wrong turn that took them back up the road to where we started, they got back on the right road and met up with us again. Doug & Pat, another couple we just met on this trip, were waiting with us, also. Soon we were all on the way again. Doug & Pat got somewhat ahead of us. After a while we decided to pull into a rest area to kill a little time and see some of the beautiful fall colors. As we reached the parking area, who should we meet up with again but Doug and Pat. Doug opened the window and told us that Ken & Carolyn weren't the only ones who drove on dirt roads -- they also had taken a side trip on one.

Soon after we arrived there Doug & Pat came outside and announced that they had finally figured out how to get out of their rig. They had been locked in, they said. The upper lock was stuck, so they opened the window next to the door and put the key in the lock to open it. Lorraine, this was a Journey, so keep this maneuver in mind. Then our tailenders, Marcia & Dick, pulled in and were surprised to find all of us there.

The guys all wound up working on Ken's rig to see if they could get his turn signals working again. After much experimentation, they got them working -- they had to change not 1, not 2, but 3 fuses! Meanwhile, we women were off in the sunshine gabbing and just enjoying the gorgeous scenery. Marcia asked if we were going to stop at Unclaimed Freight, which was on our travel route. We all wound up going there to look around and pick up a few odds & ends. That's where we ate our lunch, too -- parked at Unclaimed Freight.

The rest of the drive was uneventful. The campground, Dakotah Meadows RV Park in Prior, MN, is very nice. Every site is a LEVEL concrete slab, and they are all pull-throughs that are long enough to leave the cars hooked up. We had a social hour under a pavilion, and our hosts & tailenders fed us a light dinner, followed by a campfire and S'mores for dessert.

Day 5 -- September 25, 2008

At 8:00 AM our bus was due to arrive, and our tour of the Twin Cities was to begin at 8:15. I got on the bus at 8:05 and was greeted by everyone. Our guide, Tom, boarded and asked if Bette was here. I acknowledged that I was. He wasn't aware of the customary WIT greeting that is afforded the last person to board. (Usually, this is only when the person is late, but I graciously accepted it, anyway.)

We set off for the Sculpture Garden at Walker Art Museum. For those of you familiar with the sculptures around Allentown donated by Phil Berman, that's kind of what these looked like, but in a very nice park-like setting. almost like a formal garden. After spending a little time there, we re-boarded the bus and drove through the Mount Curve section of the Kenwood neighborhood. This area had some of the beautiful homes that you find in most cities. When a "rambler," as they call the more contemporary ranch homes, go on the market, they usually are bought by developers and razed to make room for more elegant homes that fit into the neighborhood better. This area is on a hill overlooking downtown Minneapolis.

As we proceeded through town, Tom pointed out the skyway system -- walkways across streets and between buildings -- to allow people to get around in Winter without going outside. Our next stop was the Guthrie Building, where we went out of an observation deck and were able to view the new I-35 bridge that just opened a few weeks ago, about 3 months ahead of schedule. From the deck we also could see St. Anthony Falls, the only natural waterfall on the Mississippi River. There are 2 theaters in this building, also. We were told that Minneapolis is second only to NYC in theater seats per capita. They have a production of "Little House on the Prairie" playing now that will be moving on to Broadway shortly. I'd love to get to see it, but I'm not sure if we'll get time for that.

Onward to St. Paul, where we drove through Summit Street, the longest stretch of restored Victorian homes in the country, where lots of "personalities" live -- including Garrison Keillor, of "Prairie Home Companion" & "Lake Wobegon Days" fame. The governor's mansion is also on this street, as well as the homes & haunts of F. Scott Fitzgerald and many wealthy lumber and railroad barons. We made a stop to tour the Cathedral of St. Paul, which is absolutely beautiful. We passed through the Kenwood residential area and saw the television home of Mary Tyler Moore.

We enjoyed an extremely nice lunch in a lovely setting at the M-Street Cafe located in the St. Paul Hotel. I even got the recipe for the squash & cheese that they served -- ummm! (The chardonnay is what makes it, I think). Across the street is Rice Park, which contains child-friendly sculptures of Charlie Brown and his friends, as this was the home of Charles Schulz. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Science Museum of Minnesota, which is an interactive museum, similar to the Franklin Institute. We then returned to the campground. We made plans with several other couples to see some other sights on our free day tomorrow.

Goodnight, now! Bette
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Old 10-02-2008, 06:56 PM   #4
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Hi, All!

It is now Thursday morning, October 2; we'll be traveling from Galena, IL, to Geode State Park in Danville, Iowa. But let me digress a little first. The day we were at the Renaissance Festival we saw several funny shows. The one was a man & woman dressed as a chicken & rooster. They walked like chickens and said, "Buk, buk, buk" as they walked. We were sitting with Carolyn & Ken, and Ken was gnawing on a turkey leg, as it was past lunchtime. The rooster suddenly pointed at Ken and started making his way across the benches toward him loudly crying, "BUK, BUK,BUK", like someone in pain. When he got right in front of Ken, he really laid it on and said, "Papa"! Ken looked up at him and said, "No, it's turkey", to which the rooster replied, "Same to you, Bud"!

As the show progressed they started picking volunteers out of the crowd to assist with ringing some of the cow bells they had lined up on a table. The first chosen was a little girl, who was probably about 5 or 6 years old. She was handed the largest bell. They proceeded to ring some tunes, and the kid rang when pointed to, doing a great job. Next the hen picked Frank and gave him the tiny bell. They went through the same procedure. Then a young woman was chosen, who remained by the seats, (Frank and the little girl were up on stage). That's when it started getting funky. One or the other would forget to ring when pointed to. And the little kid continued to struggle with the large bell. It was funnier than it sounds here. Frank kissed the hen's "hand" as he left the stage. This annoyed the rooster, who came and took me up in front of the stage and was making nice to make his hen and Frank angry. I began caressing his comb, etc., and the hen came over & glared at me. We got a lot of laughs out of the whole thing.

Then the main show came on that same stage, a man named Zilch the Tory Steller doing "Jomeo & Ruliet" in Spoonerisms. At times he would talk vey slowly, so we could catch what he was saying. Other times he would go racing through it, to show how well he could say the words. Some of the tings came out sounding extremely funny.

OK, back to Sunday, September 28th. This was a travel day from Minneapolis to Prairie du Chien, WI. There was a nice rest area where several of us stopped and spent some time watching the gulls on the Mississippi River. We drove to our next campground and got set up. Then we backtracked in cars to Pikes Peak, (yes, ole Zebulon was here, too), where it is said that you get one of the most spectacular views of the river. It was overlooking the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. We got caught by a train while returning to the campground and almost missed the travel meeting (right up there next to a mortal sin when on a caravan). This is when they explain the route for the next travel day, and you pick your group number that you will be going out with from a "hat". There is a train track RIGHT behind the park, which is not too unusual out West. The whistle doesn't blow as it passes our park, as there is no crossing. So sleeping isn't too difficult.

Monday, September, 29th

The tailenders and hosts served us breakfast in the pavilion at the campground -- sausage gravy over biscuits -- one of my favorite breakfast dishes. Oh, to be a GOOD weight watcher, but at least I'm still maintaining the 30-lb loss of last winter.

We traveled to Galena, IL, today. There was a Grotto along the way, but not much parking for these big rigs. We didn't get to stop there, much to my chagrin.

Tuesday, September 30th

Up & at 'em -- on a bus into town, which takes about 5 minutes. We transferred to "trolleys" for a guided tour of the historic old town. The fellow who was our guide was born & raised here and is very proud of the town. We had 3 1/2 hours to browse the shops and have lunch after the tour.

We reboarded the bus and left for the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque, IO, which is just across the river. . We spent the rest of the afternoon there, until it closed at 5 PM. Then we boarded a riverboat which actually runs by paddle power, "The Spirit of Dubuque", for a dinner cruise. It was a very nice ride, and the meal was decent.
We got back to the campground fairly late and went to bed shortly afterwards.

Tuesday, October 1st

Free day. Suzanne, one of the other women, and I walked to Wal-Mart, which was just a short jaunt, to buy some "equipment" to decorate the little pumpkins that our hosts handed out to each coach several days ago. They said there will be judging at one of the RV parks farther down the river. As we carried our pumpkins "home" that day Suzanne had said to me, "I'm not going to do that." And I said, "Yes, you are!" We'll spend a free day decorating them. Well, we laughed so hard as we went through the craft department picking out things that would work for one scenario, then changing our minds and getting other things instead. We finally settled on Indians. We knew there were several others who didn't know what they wanted to do with their pumpkins, so we got enough things to make a village -- material to make 5 vests with fringes, enough fancy tape for headbands, a canoe, and chains to fashion earrings for the "women" and a chain of "teeth" to use for the "men." We came back to our place and spent the whole afternoon making the outfits. Pat, another caravan friend, also got involved with us on the project. She went out and gathered some sticks that we can use to make arms to hold the vests in place and to make spears for the warriors. I was charged with the job of eating my Weight Watcher popsicles so we would have the sticks to fashion into oars for the canoe. (Boy, that's a hard assignment for me!)

Soon we had to ready ourselves for a trip to a show, "Mark Twain and the Laughing River," which was a one-man show by Jim Post. He was dressed to look like Mark Twain and told stories in the first person. He also played the guitar and sang. It was very entertaining, but it lasted until 10 PM, so I, along with others, had difficulty keeping our eyes open. The bed really felt good after that.

Thursday, October 2nd

Today was a travel day to Geode State Park in Danville, IL. We have only electric hook-ups, but we're only here for one night so it isn't critical to have water and sewer. We had Stone Soup, prepared by our hosts, Barbara & Tony Booth, cornbread, made by several of the travelers, and peach cobbler made by Tony. We had a nice campfire, and it felt good. This AM when we got up our thermometer said 42*-- (I know, Helen & Steve, that's like summer weather to you.) It's been on the chilly side most mornings lately, but we're happy to not be sweating to death. On the way here we stopped at the Buffalo Bill museum in Le Claire, Iowa. He lived there as a youngster. They had all sorts of things from that time period. I was particularly interested in the handcrafts -- quilts, etc. It is extremely quiet here, so sleeping should be wonderful. We'll be up early again tomorrow to prepare to leave for Hannibal, MO, in the AM. We are in group #1, so we'll be on the road around 8:30. More to come -- stay tuned.

Bette,
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Old 10-06-2008, 04:50 PM   #5
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Friday, October 3rd

Travel from Geode State Park to the Mark Twain Campground in Hannibal, MO, was very pleasant. We have had nothing but great weather for most of this caravan, including this day's travel. We stopped at Nauvoo, IL, where there is a restored village of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, the Mormons. We arrived just in time for the first horse-drawn wagon ride of the day. It was a little chilly, but not to worry -- they supplied enough quilts and fleece blankets to keep everybody warm. They had told us when we got down along the river (Mississippi, of course) it would be quite chilly, as it was still early in the morning. We were shown all the buildings of any importance in the town, such as Joseph Smith's house, community buildings, and other homes of important people.
We watched both films that were offered. There was a 22-minute one on the settling and building up of the village, which was a gargantuan task, considering that the area was swampland before they had bought it. They had to fill in the wetlands, clear the land, survey the area for the street layout, which was done with streets traveling true north & south by east & west, (as are all the Mormon towns we have visited), cut the logs for their homes and build the homes and community buildings, as well as a beautiful temple. After 6 years (or 8, can't remember -- that was 4 days ago now) they were forced to leave everything behind and move west. Now most of the buildings have been restored.
We also watched the 68 minute film about the life of Joseph Smith. Many people didn't watch the film, as we had enough time for either that or checking out the buildings of the village. We wanted to know the history of Joseph Smith, and it seemed to be very complete. Both films were very well made. They had lots of missionaries available to tour us through the exhibits, but not much time to spend with them. They all seem to be very well versed in church history.
Our hosts and tail-enders had a bratwurst feed in the evening. We skipped the baked beans, as we had just had beans in the stone soup the night before. We had cake for dessert -- in celebration of "50 years on the road" for Winnebago Industries.

Saturday, October 4th

The Twainland Express Sightseeing Train picked us up at the campground at 9 AM and took us to see many of the local sites of interest in Hannibal. We had time to visit the Mark Twain boyhood home, a museum containing the original illustrations for Tom Sawyer, done by Norman Rockwell, Becky Thatcher's house, Mark Twain's father's law office, Grant's Drug Store, and many other places. (Noreen, you would have loved the quilts in the museum.) On the return trip to the campground we got off at the Mark Twain Cave and had a guided tour of it.
Following our return to the campground we had a travel meeting scheduled. We switched groups for leaving in the morning so we could make 8 o'clock Mass before leaving. That put us leaving in the last group on Sunday, October 5th for Casino Queen RV Park in East St. Louis, IL There was a stop along the way where the parking area was large enough to fit in a bunch of RV's and there was a lock a dam there. There's an overlook where you can watch the workings of the lock, if any craft happens along. Unfortunately, during the time we were there, there was no traffic up or down the river. But it was a very serene setting.
After arriving at the Casino Queen RV Park and relaxing for a while, a group of us took the metro into the downtown. We visited the Old Basilica and the Union Station, with its beautifully decorated walls and ceiling in the Grand Hall, which is now part of the Hyatt Hotel. We, (12 of us), had dinner at Houlihan's, right at the Union Station. None of us had ever eaten at one of their restaurants before, but I highly recommend it. On the way back we stopped and got a Sunday newspaper, and I spent most of the evening perusing it.

Monday, October 6th

On the bus at 8:45 AM for a city tour of St. Louis. Our bus driver/tour guide, Albert, grew up in St. Louis, so he could drive us around the neighborhoods and just spout information. He mentioned things too numerous to tell you about. Then we toured the Anheuser-Busch brewery, starting with the Clydesdale horses and their "home." You probably could eat off the floor in their stalls. The rest of the tour was followed by pretzels and beer in the hospitality room.
Lunch at Hannegan's Restaurant where the setting was lovely and the meal something I probably would have whipped up in my kitchen in 30 minutes -- NOT! A tour of the Gateway Arch -- movie "Monument to a Dream" about the building of the arch, a ride up to the top, and the Museum of Westward Expansion, which covers the Lewis & Clark info.
Tomorrow we have a free day, so we're probably going to buy a full-day metro ticket for each of us, $3.50 each, and spend the day riding around town and getting on & off the trains & buses wherever it strikes our fancy. We definitely want to see the new Basilica of St. Louis, as it has been described as having the most impressive mosaic anywhere in the world. We're told there's an 80% chance of rain, so that will dictate, at least partially, what else we'll do. We want to get into the Old Courthouse, where the first Dred Scott decision was rendered. We'd like to see the botanical gardens, if weather permits. As long as it isn't pouring, we'll probably proceed as if there was no rain at all.

Bette
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Old 10-09-2008, 05:09 PM   #6
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Tuesday, October 7

Yes, we have rain today! It began at 12:40 AM -- another one of my sleepless nights, so I heard it start. Jan & Bill, Carolyn & Ken, and Frank & I took the metro from the stop ajacent to the RV park to the stop nearest the new Basilica of St. Louis and walked the nearly one mile to arrive there just before noon. Of course, there would be no tours until 1:00 PM, as there was a noon Mass. So we walked a few blocks to a small Chinese restaurant for a quick lunch. (Remember, if this is a WIT group, we must be eating!) The tour, when we returned, was awe inspiring. The mosaics are magnificent, and they cover nearly every square inch of surface available - 83,000 square feet in all!. As you face the altar near the front, the side to your right is all Old Testament works, and to the left is New Testament. The back is done in people who have influenced the faith of the community, such as the different orders of nuns, priests and lay people. The tour lasted about 90 minutes and was an afternoon well spent. We had planned to see this even if the weather was good, but the rain made it a doubly good way to spend the time.

Following this, we climbed aboard a metro train, (after walking the distance back to the station), and rode all the way to the end of the line on the east (Illinois) side line and back to the Riverside East station at the Casino Queen RV Park. The entire ride took about 2 hours. As we headed east, there were some really poor, run-down neighborhoods. The farther we went, the better the housing looked. There were some stops where people got on who were traveling home from their day's work. It was interesting to hear them chit-chat. It was plain to see that they have traveled this route together many times. It kind of reminded me of the days when I worked at Woolworth's 5- & 10-cent store during high school. I would cross Hamilton Street and wait for the bus, and we'd all sit there and talk as the bus snaked along the streets to our stops -- a pleasant memory. That was probably one of my first experiences of feeling that I had achieved adulthood, as I was now working and commuting as many of the adults did in those days. Young people don't seem to have that opportunity these days. In fact, sadly, one would almost be afraid for a young person commuting in this fashion.

Upon arriving at the Casino Queen's "East Riverfront" stop we disembarked and went to the casino for their buffet. (Burp, excuse me!) We've got to stop eating at those places! By this time the rain had ceased, but we were pretty much water logged, especially my toes on my left foot, where my sneaker had sprung a leak. Now I know where I need to go tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 8

Today we traveled to Cape Girardeau, MO, boyhood home of Rush Limbaugh. The roads were much smoother than most of them have been on our travel days. The scenery was very nice -- we traveled along the Illinois side of the river, which had a nice, straight road with rolling hills. The trees here are just beginning to change color; the sumac is vibrant red, as are the sugar maples. There are occasional other colors, but it's mostly those two that have turned thus far.

We went with 10 other people to Fazoli's Italian Restaurant for lunch. (Did I mention that WIT people like to eat?) Then we scattered to the four winds to do some shopping. I picked up a new pair of Reeboks, then we went to Wal-Mart for some groceries -- who the heck eats all this food that we keep having to buy, I'm still wondering? We always seem to be eating out, yet we always need more food! How does that work?!

We had planned on driving to the Trail of Tears State Park, but Carolyn & Ken had not eaten with us, and they called while we were still at the restaurant and said the Visitor Center was closed, so all you get is a view of the river. They didn't think it was worth the 30-some miles that they traveled. So we returned to the campground, and I hung out the wash I had run right after we arrived here. We took a ride into the downtown area to see the murals that are scattered around town, and followed the map to sites from Rush's past.

When we returned home, I watched a few shows on TV while working on our pumpkin display, which is going to be judged on Oct. 12th. I made the hair for the Indians, the earrings for the women, and painted my pumpkin's face. Last night I got Frank's pocket knife and carved two oars for the canoe. I also made two ti-pis, complete with sticks coming out the top, out of old paper towel rolls. We're now saving cellophane wrappings to use for the river, with shades of blue marker underneath. This has become quite a project, but I'm having a ball with it.

Thursday, October 9

Today we travel to Memphis, TN, to visit the home of "The King." We have passed many cotton fields along the way -- I'm writing this as we travel, since I don't seem to find time in the evenings lately. It's a beautiful, sunny day. Temp this AM was 50?
& now -- 12:30 PM -- it's up to 76?. We stopped at a Flying J for gas along the way and paid only $2.93 9/10th per gallon. Isn't sad to say, "paid only"?

We arrived at Graceland RV Park on Elvis Presley Blvd. in Memphis, TN at about 1:30. The entrance is between two big signs that are very visible from the road -- China Buffet and Heartbreak Hotel. We are parked on Shook Up Road. (Can you believe this?)

By 2:30 most of us were on our way over to Graceland, which is a short stroll from our camping spaces. We went through the airplanes first; next, the car museum. It seems he had one or two of almost any very expensive type of car, including a Rolls Royce. Those were the two places that we were told would close earliest; they also are on the same side of the road as the campground. Then we went through the mansion. It's not nearly so big as those of Weyerhauser and Musser are. (Remember them from a week or so ago?) It displays the 50's to 70's style of dΓ©cor, for sure. The old TV's, for instance, with the knobs that you have to get up and turn, (no remotes) and the small screens. Shag carpet is found in several rooms. As you walk through the rooms there are Elvis tunes playing almost constantly. You receive a headset with a gadget that resembles a cell phone before you get on the shuttle that takes you across the highway to the mansion. As you proceed through the rooms it instructs you to press certain buttons to hear the proper recording for that area. If you get to the wrong place on the recording, you simply type in the code shown on the next room and you're back on track. We were so impressed with all the gold and platinum records he had received. There are several rooms that contain them. There are TV's set up in the one room where you can listen to and watch entire concerts. Nobody is allowed on the second floor. They said he always entertained all of his company on the first floor and the basement; never took people upstairs. There were several cooks in his employ, allowing for someone to be on call at all times, as there were visitors at all hours of the day & night.

The gravesite contains not only Elvis's grave, but his parents', his grandmother's, and a memorial stone for his twin brother who died at birth. We never even knew he had had a twin brother. We now know more about Elvis than we ever thought we would, or even cared to know. Not that we didn't like him; we just were not ga-ga over him.

The last place we visited on the grounds was called Private Presley. This is all things involved with his time in the U. S. Army. There is a video in that area of an interview that was conducted with him just after his arrival back in Memphis after being released from the Army.

We returned to our rigs and got some snacks & drinks and sat out by Carolyn & Ken's rig for happy hour (with alcohol-free spumante -- are we boring or what?). We started with 6 of us sitting out and soon had a dozen or more. We were given bad news at that time; Pat & Doug, who we've become pretty close with left earlier today due to a family emergency. We don't know if they'll be back before the caravan ends or not. They live in Mississippi, so it's not that terribly far to travel back and forth.

Tomorrow morning we are free to do as we please - touring Memphis, Mud Island and Beale Street is scheduled later in the day. We will be catching up on laundry, cleaning our rig, and working on completing our pumpkin display. Pat was supposed to be in on that, so we'll really miss her. We'll take some pictures of it when it's finished and send them along with one of the e-mails.

Bette
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Old 10-11-2008, 08:42 AM   #7
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Friday, October 10th

Before I forget, I didn't mention yesterday that on the airplanes (2) at Elvis's museum there is a logo that has a T with a B next to it -- there's a space in between. In that space and slightly above is a B, and under the B is a lightning bolt. We kept seeing this and wondering what it stood for. Finally, over at the mansion someone told us it stands for "Taking Care of Business in a flash." That had been one of Elvis' favorite sayings. Whew, I'm glad I know THAT now!

We started out the day getting this place cleaned up. Then we had some downtime until it was time to prepare for our travel meeting and tour of Beale Street. We first went to Mud Island, where there is a scale model of the Mississippi River cut into the concrete with depths approximating the real thing. There is water flowing in it, and people are encouraged to take off their shoes & socks and walk in the river. When they said in the info that we were given that we were going to the River Walk, I pictured the San Antonio or New Orleans-type river walk. There are benches and tables with chairs spread around the length of the river, which covers ½ mile -- one stride=1 mile. This is only the lower ½ of the river.

There is a River Museum on the same property with all the video/audio things to give you background on the river and how it's been used over the years. I think I already know more about the Mississippi River than I ever thought possible -- or necessary.

After the museum we hopped back on the bus for a ride to the Peabody Hotel to see, of all things, the Parade of the Ducks! Many years ago someone put some ducks in the hotel's lobby fountain. They became a fixture throughout the years and now, twice a day - at 11 AM and 5 PM the hotel features the ducks in a parade. Normally the ducks stay in a pen on the top floor (penthouse?). At eleven o'clock the elevator doors open and they parade across a red carpet, up red-carpeted steps and into the fountain. In the late afternoon the process is reversed. You should see the crowds that gather to see this! As we were reboarding the bus some lady was heard to say, "Wow, they even come by the bus-load to see this!" Hey - WIT Tours is sure to take us to the top attractions!

Next, we were taken to Beale Street for dinner and browsing. Lots of beer stands, restaurants and music in those two blocks of Beal Street. Did I mention they sell beer from window-front counters? They call it a Big-A** cup of beer! Two of the couples treated us to dinner, as it was our anniversary. We ate at B. B. King's Blues Club. They had a small combo playing and a gal & guy singing, who would have been very enjoyable if it were not so loud. The guy had a voice similar to Tiny Tim's, (remember him?), and the gal was a BIG black girl with a wonderful range to her voice. By the time we finished and walked down the street to where the bus was supposed to meet us, it was arriving and we were brought back home -- about 8:30 PM.

Saturday, October 11th

I was awakened around 3 AM by the FedEx planes taking off -- this is their hub and the outbound flight path is about one mile away, so once the mail is sorted and loaded, the planes take off one after another. I had heard some the night before, but I just turned over and went back to sleep. This time I turned over about 20 times, then I decided to get up and do something constructive. So here I am!

Today is a free day -- all day! We must finish our pumpkin thing because tomorrow is the judging. I also need to make my casserole for our pot luck dinner tomorrow, as we have a drive of 250+ miles before we get there. That won't leave much time for cooking, other than re-heating in the microwave. It's almost 6 AM now, so I think I'll take a catnap before the mad rush begins. "See" ya later!

Bette,

P.S.
The following is from the Memphis Peabody Hotel's website:

Legend of The Peabody Ducks
How did the tradition of the ducks in The Peabody fountain begin?

Back in 1933 Frank Schutt, General Manager of The Peabody, and a friend, Chip Barwick, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. The men had a little too much Jack Daniel's Tennessee sippin' whiskey, and thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys (it was legal then for hunters to use live decoys) in the beautiful Peabody fountain.

Three small English call ducks were selected as "guinea pigs," and the reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. Soon, five North American Mallard ducks would replace the original ducks.

In 1940, Bellman Edward Pembroke, a former circus animal trainer, offered to help with delivering the ducks to the fountain each day and taught them the now-famous Peabody Duck March. Mr. Pembroke became the Peabody Duckmaster, serving in that capacity for 50 years until his retirement in 1991. Today, The Peabody Ducks are led by Duckmaster Jason Sensat.

The original ducks have long since gone, but after 75 years, the marble fountain in the hotel lobby is still graced with ducks. The Peabody ducks march at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.
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Old 10-14-2008, 03:28 AM   #8
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Saturday, October 11 -- continued

Time to catch up on laundry -- AGAIN!! Suzanne, Carol, and Sue came over and we finished up the "trimmings" for our pumpkin Indian village. The judging is tomorrow. We spent most of the day working on it -- 10 AM to 4:30 PM. Then Frank & I got ready for 5:30 PM Mass. We wound up at this really neat little church that was mostly black people. They must also have a fair number of Hispanics, as the board out front with the Mass times listed one in Spanish. There were only about 30 people at Sat. evening vigil Mass. One man came over and asked our names and introduced himself before Mass began, as we were saying the Rosary. We also had met the priest outside before going in. As we saw only one car in the parking lot, we asked if there would be a 5:30 Mass, and he said there would but that this is a "late" crowd. We figured out what he meant when the Rosary ran over until about 5:40. Just before the consecration the priest invited everyone to come up around the altar. It was a very impressive time for us, and we told him so afterward. Before the final blessing, he asked us to stand and tell everyone our names and where we are from. They were VERY warm in their welcome.

Sunday, October 12

We began leaving the campground at Memphis to travel to Askew's Landing Campground in Edwards, MS, at 9 AM. Edwards is near Vicksburg. There were many, many cotton fields along the route that we took. Every so often we would see a huge rectangular bundle of cotton, about the size of a tractor-trailer. There were also many soybean and corn fields, very much like at home; but the land became very flat. Frank doesn't usually complain about any road being boring to drive along, because we usually see things that we think are beautiful, but today he did. I guess a better term would be monotonous. We arrived at 3 PM, and those of us involved with the Indian Village project for our pumpkins got all our things together and took them to the pavilion where we would have our potluck dinner to assemble them. As I had predicted, we won first prize. The second prize was taken by Carolyn for her "Mark Twain" pumpkin; third was Susan for her "Riverboat Gambler." We each got a packet of dip- or cheese ball- mix. We'll all mix them up to take to one of our social hours.

Monday, October 13

Guess what we did today -- that's right; we took a bus tour of the Vicksburg Battlefield and the town of Vicksburg. Then we had lunch served family style at the Walnut Hills Restaurant -- all southern-style foods. Frank copied the menu -- fried chicken, mustard greens, rice, shrimp creole, okra & tomatoes, green beans, creamed corn (listed on the menu as "fried corn," purple-hull peas (looked like black-eyed peas), muffins & biscuits, and for dessert, bread pudding or apple pie. Oh, there was also gravy and iced tea. We didn't eat until 1:00 PM, so we were all very hungry. But we left there sated, for sure!

In the afternoon we toured the Old Courthouse Museum, which included Civil War memorabilia and all sorts of other period objects from clothing to dishes to dolls & toys. Also included was lots of furniture and musical instruments -- many styles of pianos, piccolos & fifes, violins, etc.

We also toured Cedar Grove Mansion, which is now a bed & breakfast. It has several very visible war scars, including one cannonball that is embedded in a wall right next to the frame of the doorway leading from the front parlor to the back one, an a hole in the floor of the front parlor, which is covered with plexiglass now, but which was left in place to prove that the people living there were not spies or sympathizers of the Northern cause. This was because Gen. Sherman was a cousin of the lady of the house, and he got her safe passage out of town to a safe area due to her delicate condition, (she was pregnant).

We returned to the campground for a travel/social meeting at 5:30 PM. Tomorrow we'll travel to Vidalia, LA, where we will be staying at the River View RV Park & Resort. Sorry this won't go out tonight, but we have very weak phone signals here, and a poor connection to the internet unless we walk over to the pavilion. It is now nearly 10:30 PM, and I'm nearly ready to climb into bed.

Bette,
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Old 10-16-2008, 03:27 AM   #9
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Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008

I woke up early, so I took my shower, etc., and had extra time left over, so I baked a batch of bran muffins. We began call-out of units onto the road around 9:00 AM. We, being in the third group to go out, left our site about 9:20 and stopped to dump the tanks, (no sewer hook-ups here). So we got on the road about 9:40 AM. We headed over toward Jackson, MS, got on the Natchez Trace, and followed that almost to the campground. We made several stops along the way -- at Lower Choctaw Boundary, Rocky Springs & an Indian Burial Mound, Cole's Creek, & Mount Locust Inn, a building from the late 1700's or early 1800's. (I'm actually writing this on Wednesday evening, and neither one of us can remember the date). We certainly have no excuse for forgetting; we've only heard about 50 dates of buildings so far on this trip. The weather was, again, beautiful -- sunny and in the high 70's - low 80's. It IS humid, though, so we don't move as fast as when it's cooler and less muggy. I can understand why the people down south are slower -- (even in their speech).

We arrived at River View RV Park & Resort, which is right on the Mississippi River, around 2:30 PM. This gave us some time to relax before our 5 PM social hour. This campground is one of the most beautiful we've been in so far on this trip. We can watch the barges being pushed up the river right from our sites. Or it's just a very, very short walk onto the levee path -- a concrete walking path along the river. It was so pretty to see the full moon rising over the bridge that we had crossed from Mississippi to Louisiana this afternoon.

Wednesday, October 15

This morning our bus arrived to pick us up at 8:30 AM. We toured three antebellum homes in the morning -- Auburn, built in about 1812, which is famous for having a beautiful free-standing, unsupported spiral stairway to the second floor. This house along with its grounds was left to the city of Vidalia when the man who owned it died. The city didn't really want it at the time (about 70 years ago), but it was in the will that they were to receive possession of it and turn the land into a playground for children. The house and land were to be kept together. The city tried several times to sell the house and keep the land, but the courts ruled that wouldn't be allowed. So they left the house unlocked and allowed anybody to go inside and play in it for many years.

Along came a group of women who decided they wanted to rent it from the city and fix it up. The city had sold off all the furniture, including the chandeliers. They figured the will didn't prohibit that, so it made them a little money. When the women took it over, they started buying up furniture, carpets, chandeliers, dishes, etc., from that period and placing them in the house. There had really been very little damage to the house. Only one fireplace mantel had a piece broken out of it.. The woman who gave us the tour said the children used to slide down the banister on the spiral staircase, and they knew just where they had to start and how fast they had to be moving in order to make it out the door before hitting the ground.

The next home we visited was Longwood, built starting in about 1860, by an architect from Philadelphia. Its claim to fame is that it's the grandest octagonal house in America. It's a superb example of mid-19th century Oriental style. It still retains the original furnishings. The big problem with this house is that it took a few years to get the plans worked up and the manpower brought down from Philadelphia to do the work. The bricks were all made on the property, about 2 million of them. Before they could finish the building the war began, and the house was never finished. The workers, fearing for their lives, walked off the job, leaving their tools, and returned to Philly. The family lived on the ground floor, and the upper floors remain as they were at that time -- all five of them. The people who own it now had a stipulation that it may never be finished when they bought it. All the brickwork would have been covered with stucco, and we wouldn't have been able to see the bricks at all.

Stanton Hall, circa 1857, is touted as one of the most magnificent and palatial residences of antebellum America. It's furnished with Natchez antiques and many original furnishings of the Stanton family. It is a National Historic Landmark home. We were given a rundown of important people who stayed in the house, e.g. Douglas MacArthur & his wife and teenage son. Again, the place is gorgeous and there has been a lot of time and work put into the place.

Our next stop was for lunch at the Eola Hotel -- a buffet lunch of southern foods. Then on to Frogmore Plantation, a cotton plantation which has a gin that currently gins the cotton for many other plantations. They also have the historic gin, from the 1800's. We actually got to pick some cotton. You wouldn't believe how difficult it is to remove the seeds by hand, which is how it formerly was done. They used to be able to remove the seeds from about one pound of cotton/day/person. We spent about two hours there, then returned to our base for a travel meeting and an ice cream social.

Several of us went to the pool to do water aerobics and relax in the hot tub. We returned after dark, and vowed to get an earlier start tomorrow. It will be a free day, so we can go see some of the other sights around here and take time to relax. We may get some rain, so that will dictate how much we get to see.

Bette,
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Old 10-18-2008, 03:26 AM   #10
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

We got a little rain during the night, but it stopped around the time we were getting up.
After breakfast we crossed the river and checked out the Natchez visitor center on the Mississippi side. Our first stop was to the post office to send some things to Carol & the girls. We decided that we definitely wanted to get to see the Emerald Indian Mound, second largest in the U.S., next only to Cahokia, IL. All the work of building up this mound was done by hauling the soil in wicker baskets and bags. The main mound is probably longer than a football field -- (I always ask Frank about sizes of things, as I am NOT an expert in this area). The smaller mound on the top is rounded and was the area where the temple is thought to have been. We were awed by the sheer size of this place, considering that the work was done so painstakingly. We drove miles to a visitor center where we could get stamps for the Natchez Trace -- those Passport Book stamps.

Next stop was the St. Mary Basilica, touted as the only church in MS to be built as a cathedral, with the cornerstone being laid on Feb 24, 1842, and dedicated on December 25, 1843, with the first Mass being celebrated that day. It is not nearly so ornate as the St. Louis Basilica, with its mosaics, but this one has many beautiful stained-glass windows, and equally impressive sculptures of many saints.

We made a quick run to Wal-Mart for a few things that were running low. We returned to the campground and took in the wash that I had done earlier in the day, went to the social hour, then out to dinner with two other couples to a pork B-B-Q place. We fell into bed and were out for the count. Wanted to get an early start, because there is a hot-air balloon festival starting Friday morning which we wanted to be up to see the first flight.

Friday, October 17, 2008

We awoke to the sound of rain on the roof -- no balloon flights today. I turned on the radio to be sure, and we were right. No balloon flights! Today we leave Vidalia, LA, and head to Poche's Fish-N-Camp in Breaux Bridge, LA, the hometown of Jeannie and Andy, WIT Tailenders who cook & serve a fantastic Cajun dinner. They are cooking for us this evening. We first met them last year on our "Heart of the Rockies" caravan, at which time they were in training to become tailenders. They cooked us a similar meal that time, so we're looking forward to 6:00 PM. Today's drive was not terribly exciting -- no great places to stop and see along the way. We had a rest area stop, where we stopped to eat lunch, and a Wal-Mart, where we stopped for one item I forgot yesterday.

After getting in and setting up we picked up our two boxes of mail that Carol had sent us and went through it. We immediately filled out our absentee ballots and put them in the mail to be returned. Then I mixed up a pumpkin-cream cheese dip to take along to the social hour. This was our first prize for the pumpkin contest. It is delicious!!

We thoroughly enjoyed the Cajun meal prepared by Jeannie & Andy. We also enjoyed sitting around & picking their brains about what we should go see on our free day coming up in a few days, and catching up on each other's lives.

Bette,
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Old 10-18-2008, 05:57 PM   #11
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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Our bus arrived at the campground at 8:00 AM, and we were on our way to St. John Cathedral in Lafayette and the beautiful Cathedral Oak Tree that is between 450 & 500 years old. The Dutch Romanesque architecture highlights this 1918 cathedral is beautiful to behold. The brickwork is just gorgeous. The stained-glass windows are the old-fashioned works of art that are usually found in these early 1900's churches. We also strolled through a portion of the cemetery checking out the dates on some of the stones. The burials were all in crypts above the ground, due to the water content of the soil in this area. (But we still have older headstones in the Neffs cemetery).

We were driven through several of the high-priced neighborhoods, where the homes sell for a half million and up. The newest neighborhood was not so impressive as the older one, possibly because the older one has established landscaping. But the houses have more "class," too.

Our next stop was at Martin's Accordion Factory, a family-owned and run business. They make melodeon-type accordions, rather than piano style, manufacturing every part of the instrument in their little factory except for the bellows and reeds, which come from Italy. The family members -- five of them -- played Cajun music for us for about 45 minutes. Jonathan played the scrub board & is about 10 years old. Pennye played the bass guitar and is a high-school principal. Clarence "Jr." Martin played the steel guitar. Joel played the accordion and sang. And Brian, Joel's dad, sang. They would have continued, but we had a schedule to keep, so our guide, Callie, told them we had to leave.

Lunch at Landry's was next on the agenda. Some of our group didn't eat the food, as it was a little spicy. Frank & I thought it was very good. The Tabasco Factory, McIlhenny's, located on Avery Island, LA, came next. As if those people didn't have enough spicy stuff on their tongues already, we got to taste different flavors of the sauces, and even Tabasco-flavored ice cream and soda, after having been given the tour and having it explained how it is made. The base for this sauce is capsicum peppers. The whole process takes over three years. After the mash is strained and prepared for bottling, the leftovers are used to make such things as red-hot's candy, Ben-Gay, and cinnamon-flavored chewing gum, to name a few.

Our last tour of the day was at Konriko Rice Mill and Company Store in New Iberia, LA. Dynell, a very vivacious woman, took us through the mill -- the oldest working mill in the USA, and on the National Register of Historic Places -- and explained the whole process. She was very animated and cheerful. She had us all laughing. We saw a slide show explaining about the culture of the area, and then we had a chance to shop for rice and rice-related products.

We returned to our homes du jour and were met by Linda & Larry, who knew many of us from the Western Canada & Atlantic Canada caravans. Since they live only about 4 hours away, and they have a son & daughter-in-law, as well as grandchildren in Lafayette, they came to visit all of us. They will also be at the Louisiana State WIT Rally next weekend.

When we got up this morning the temperature was 51? and got up to the 70's during the day. It was sunny and nice all day. Tomorrow is supposed to be pretty much the same.

Bette,
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:05 AM   #12
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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Our morning was free, giving us time to get to Mass. We had a travel meeting at noon, after which we boarded a bus for a tour of St. Martinville -- The Pepper Festival was our first stop (good food), followed by a tour of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, and La Petit Paris Museum, next to the church, featuring a collection of Mardi Gras costumes. A boat trip of the Atchafalaya Swamp was pleasant. The Cajun dinner & dancing at "Prejean's" was great fun, and the food was good. (burp! Excuse me). We had a man & woman who went around the table picking partners from our tables to dance with them. Most of us danced and had a good time.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Our hosts and tailenders served us a pancake breakfast at 8:00 AM. We were told yesterday at the travel meeting that we may leave for the next campground anytime between 10:00 & 11:30 AM. We left about 10:30 AM, We made two stops -- one at a roadside rest area to eat our lunch, and one at Wal-Mart (where else?). Had to pick up a few items and "feed" the gas tank. We passed through Baton Rouge over the lunch hour, which left us with lots of traffic to navigate. Not to worry; Frank does a great job of that. We arrived at Lakeside RV Park in Livingston, LA, unscathed. A group of us got together after our 5 PM social hour and went out to Chili's for hamburgers. Some of them really do NOT take well to the Cajun food we've been having. I love it! Spent a little time at the campfire upon our return to the campground.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Our tour bus arrived at 6:45 AM to take us to New Orleans and The National World War II Museum. Last evening at the campfire we were discussing, "Why are they taking us to a WWII museum?" Well, it is a phenomenal museum. Anyone who saw "Saving Private Ryan" would have a clue what the landings on D-Day were truly like. They showed footage that looked just about like the first part of that movie in their movie, "Price for Peace." They had many of the men talking about their feelings at that time. One fellow in particular had tears in his eyes and a catch in his voice. Many of us had to wipe our eyes. When you hear 80-year-old men still having those kinds of feelings, it's a normal reaction. Most of us came out of there saying that we were surprised how well done the museum is; considering that Stephen Ambrose and Steven Spielberg were responsible for the making of the film, why would we expect less?! The exhibits were also very well done. There were lots of high school kids there studying the war. They seemed to be really involved in what they were seeing and hearing. (What a way to learn history, eh?)

Our next stop was at the "Court of the Two Sisters," a lovely restaurant just off Bourbon St. in the French Quarter, where we enjoyed a buffet lunch outside in the courtyard while a three-piece jazz band played softly enough for us to hold a conversation. We were sitting with Jackie & Jim, Marcie & Danny, and Margie & Tom. Anytime you put Jim and Danny in close proximity laughter breaks out. We spent almost as much time laughing as we did eating. After finishing our delicious lunch we walked around the French Quarter checking out the music in the bars along Bourbon Street, putting our hands in the Mississippi River near its terminus (to complete our river road journey), and stopping at du Monde's for a beignet and a cup of au lait -- coffee & steamed milk, ½ & ½. The beignets are very similar to fastnachts -- for you young ones, those are the PA Dutch doughnuts that people eat on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. We were told that we HAD to try beignets, as they are a special treat in New Orleans.

We were again "loaded" onto the bus and taken to a small airport for a seaplane flight over the river terminus and the city of New Orleans. The weather was gorgeous and the flight smooth. They took us in groups of 4 or 5 on small planes. Then, as if we were hungry, they took us to another restaurant near our campground -- this gave us an extra 1½ hours to work up an appetite. The dinner was lighter than most, thank God. Feeling as if we never wanted to eat again, we headed back to our RV's.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Free day. Frank & I, along with Jackie & Jim, Carolyn & Ken, Margie & Tom, and Marcie & Danny went into Baton Rouge. We toured the Old Courthouse, ate a fast lunch at Subway, and toured the USS Kidd, a WW II Fletcher class destroyer. That pretty well shot the afternoon. Back to the RV park for social hour and our "farewell dinner." Everyone got up and took a turn saying a few things they enjoyed about the trip. Once again there were some tears shed -- tears of thankfulness for each other's acts of kindness. Tomorrow morning we have a farewell continental breakfast, after which we will all go our separate ways -- almost all, that is. Jackie & Jim, and Carolyn & Ken, and we will be heading to Rayne, LA, for the LA State WIT Rally, then on to Texas, where we will check out the Escapees place in Livingston and probably finally join that group. Following that, we'll go on to Branson for the WIT "Christmas in Branson" Rally, which will begin November 12th. Florida will be beckoning by then -- we'll find ourselves back in our wintering range by late November.

Bette,
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:52 AM   #13
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Well, what more can I say about the WIT Tours Great River Road Caravan? Six years ago when we got our first Winnebago motor home and joined the Winnebago-Itasca Travelers and our local chapter, the Keystone Winnies, we found folks chatted about the tours and rallies they had done with WIT. A caravan that was always highly praised was the Great River Road. Now we too will join that chorus of satisfied travelers who have journeyed down the mighty Mississippi. The caravan is everything people rave about.

What were the highlights for us? It is difficult to pick only one or two, so allow me to name a few:

<LI>Wading thirty feet across the headwaters of the Mississippi as it exits Lake Itasca.
<LI>Dan Bera's excellent portrayal of a French Voyager on the first night certainly put us all in the right mind-set to understand the early settlers and explorers.
<LI>The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
<LI>Galena, IL where Ulysses Grant lived and worked.
<LI>Jim Post's portrayal of Mark Twain in a two-hour one-man show at Galena
<LI>The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, IA.
<LI>A tour of Hannibal, MO and learning how Samuel Clemmens (Mark Twain) incorporated his neighbors into characters in his novels; Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer's cave.
<LI>The Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
<LI>Memphis' Graceland and Beale Street.
<LI>Vicksburg, MS National Military Park.
]*]Beautiful antebellum homes in Natchez, MS
<LI>Untold acres of cotton fields.
<LI>Everything Acadiana in Louisiana.
<LI>Cajun and Creole food.
<LI>The French Quarter in New Orleans.

But sightseeing alone is not the reason most folks enjoy the WIT Tour events. At our Farewell Dinner last night each person was asked to briefly state what they enjoyed most. By an overwhelming margin people said what they will remember is the camaraderie with their fellow travelers and the new friendships formed as we made our journey. Truly, this bonding among Rvers is what makes the lifestyle so great.

As someone has said, "There are no strangers out there, only friends you have not yet met."

Bette and I look forward to meeting new friends an our future WIT Tours events.
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Old 10-24-2008, 05:41 PM   #14
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Thank you for keeping the journal of The Great River Road and sharing it with us. We have signed up for this Caravan next fall. After reading your posts we are glad we have decided to do this WIT Tour.
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