I went down to Ohio…

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Finnegan
Uh Oh. We got a dog. A puppy, actually, and he is cute as a button. Carol has been “shopping” ever since we saw Michelle in San Francisco, and finally, in Cleveland (south of, really), she caught up with a breeder that she liked with a reasonably-priced Malti-Poo.  Now we spend our waking hours doing everything we can to potty-train the dog – it’s not working yet!  Well, we spend our time doing that, and arguing over the puppy’s new name – I want to name him Cleveland (it just sounds like a good dog’s name, to me) and Carol wants to name him Finnegan (which to me sounds like a snooty Irishman!), which he really isn’t.  It’s an ongoing battle, but since Carol is the principal care-giver, I have pretty much given up on my favorite name and will probably bow to her preference in order to keep the peace.  (I can still try to see if she’ll change her preference, though – that would be win-win.)

Cutest puppy in the world...

Cutest puppy in the world…

Brady
Now, the reason we went to Cleveland was to catch up with Doug Brady, a friend that had worked for a while in Fort Mill and played golf at the Regent Park Golf Club with our group. We got to like him pretty well, and he promised us a good time is we ever came to Cleveland, so we decided to take him up on it. Show us a good time, he did! We visited his and his wife Nancy’s new house and watched (what else) the Cleveland Browns get beat by the Ravens. Another heartbreaker (but not a shocker!).

Doug and I played a great course, Boulder Creek, with a couple of nice guys, one of which could never find his ball. It became the joke of the day, “Where’s Ron’s ball?” You had to be there, I guess, but I can tell ya Doug was about ready to go nuts on this guy. Y’all can imagine. After golf, I got Doug (didn’t have to twist his arm, really) to take me to a few of his local haunts. We started at the high end (Blue Canyon, ate a fantastic Reuben sandwich at Murphy’s Pub? (you shoulda seen Doug’s Corned Beef – see pic), and finally got to the seediest place (which will remain nameless to protect the innocent). It was here that Doug and Steven (with a V) got into some very interesting conversation, but we left before Steven with a v had a chance to ask Doug on a date (or something). Needless to say, interesting place.

The next day Doug had to “go to work” (he’s looking for a job), and we spent the afternoon at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame down on the waterfront, and just had a great time.  We ended up having to leave before actually completing the entire tour because (you guessed it) we had a puppy appointment at Petsmart for a well-puppy checkup.  Yup, that’s what we do.  So we cut our visit a little short, only to be called while we were heading back to the RV to pick up the pooch that Petsmart had “over-scheduled” and they had to cancel our appointment.  Pissed!

Doug gave us a call that evening, and we ended up going out to dinner with him.  We went to a great Italian place called Nino’s, and Carol and I each had a plate of food that we ate leftovers on for two days. I’m done with Italian for a while.

All in all, a great visit, and we need to go back.  Doug Brady, thanks for the Cleveland hospitality!

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Decatur Service Center

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The disappointment over the unexpected engine issue experienced going into Iowa, was driven by the fact that we had already committed our next stop on our journey (after seeing my Aunt and Uncle) to be Decatur, Indiana for some long overdue RV repairs. Along the way, we’ve “been making a list and checking it twice” trying to make sure we have everything ready to share with the service technicians to get all our “functions” functioning properly again.

Traffic in Decatur, IN

Traffic in Decatur, IN

Decatur is home to the Fleetwood manufacturing center and the (apparently much needed) service center which was clearly evident as we pulled into the empty dirt lot located next to the service center that housed 63 humble RV (electric only) parking spots and many other souls waiting for those (highly coveted and booked many months ago) scheduled appointments; or for one of those much more desperate “drop-in” appointment chances to get inside the service building for some  much needed attention to RVs of every model and year!

We “kept the faith” as Dan boldly marched out of the coach at 5:40 am on Monday to “queue up” to receive a number that would determine our spot in the second group of drop-in service line “beggars”.  This option became clear to us, back in July when we learned that a “scheduled appointment” was not available until sometime in late November.  Dan’s initial exaltation of getting the “golden ticket” #2, was quickly dampened, when through some scheduling format rule the service department uses, he ended up being moved back to “runner up ribbon” place #4.    We fortified ourselves with positive thoughts and “dug in” while we waited our chance to get somebody, (anybody) to go over our work list and vowed we would not leave RV mecca until we had seen the inside of a service bay!   Late on Tuesday afternoon, we received a call to “sort out” our repair request and while we were reassured that while every effort is made to service all drop in customers in the same week that they arrived; we were told that it may well be Friday before anyone could attend to our now reduced (limited to three-items) repair list.

We ordered a replacement fan motor Tuesday and learned that we could pick up the replacement part in Elkhart, a short 2 hours north of Decatur, so we quickly put the part on will call and decided we would use the “dead day” of Wednesday to make the drive upstate.  Just before we left on the trip  Wednesday, we received the surprise “magic ticket” call, so we delayed our trip to Elkhart while we went over the checklist with our two technicians.  After the coach was safely tucked into one of the service bays, we headed northward for our fan motor and drive about.

Dan here – it’s obvious that Carol would have left out the best part of the Elkhart run / drive-about.  On the way to Elkhart is a sleepy little town called Auburn.  It was here that the Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg automobiles were designed back in the day, and there is an amazing museum of cars costing all the way to over a million dollars.  We visited all three floors, took about 50 pictures each, and were thoroughly saturated with more information than you’ll ever need to know about these fine old cars.  My favorite was the 1930 Duesenberg coupe – about 1/2 mile long, chrome out the ying-yang, and 24″ rims and tires (before these were so popular in the current big-wheel society).

Upon our return that night, we found our coach back in our designated dirt spot, and it was clear that two of the three repairs had been completed, but there wasn’t anything to address the third item from the technician, so we weren’t sure what the status was on that item.  As is the way with the highly talented (and very early rising) Fleetwood Service crew, morning comes early —- if you have an appointment (or are us) the technicians come to call for your coach between 5:50 am and 6 am (EST) at which time, you must surrender your coach and belongings within mere minutes of their arrival knock at the coach door.  Since we weren’t sure if the work was completed on Wednesday, we were showered, dressed and fully ready to abandon our home by 5:45 am.

Our early Thursday morning meeting with the service guys brought us the good news that all three of our issues had in fact been resolved the day before and we would be free to take our show back on the road as soon as the invoice was prepared.  We checked in at the office at the much more reasonable hour of 8:30 and found that our invoice was not yet ready, so we deicide to pop into the Fleetwood factory for a tour of the manufacturing plant for American Coach, Fleetwood, Holiday Rambler, and  Monaco.  We huddled around a conference table where we learned that while Fleetwood is no more and the company is now the Allied Recreational Group – Fleetwood was purchased out of bankruptcy and combined with Holiday Rambler and Monaco to form the new organization.  The tour was very informative, and with Tom the Tour Guide who has 35 years with the company leading the way, we made our way through the plant from building the chassis rails to the final paint approval.  We (of course) also got to tour some very nice coaches, in various stages of completion, whetting our appetite for a heftier coach payment.  By the end of our tour, we were both ready for the upgrade, but for the time being, we realize we are relegated to living out at least this trip in the existing coach.  Those new ones are really nice, though.

We decided to spend one additional night in the service lot before continuing our journey to Cleveland to catch up with our friend, Doug Brady.

Sturgis – Where is everybody?

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OK, so I admit we’re here two weeks after the rally has closed down, but c’mon!  Where’s the loyalty?  The camaraderie?  The other guys?  I guess they all went home after the music stopped.  Anyway, we’re here.

If it’s not the week of the Sturgis Rally, there’s really not much going on here.  As a bonus from the RV Park, when we arrived there was a car show going on, with some really nice cars, and later Saturday evening they brought in a band – a pretty decent band – to serenade the car enthusiasts and campers.  Carol and I sat down and watched a set and had a couple of beers, but other than the fact it was a live band, not much else was that exciting.  And, it started to get cold, so we closed out our big Saturday night in Sturgis.

Of course, we had to do Mt Rushmore, and it’s always the coolest thing to do in the area of the Black Hills.  We made the big loop through the Black Hills, drove through the Eye of the Needle area, through all the iconic tunnels with a view of Mt Rushmore.  It was really a little weird driving through the area without seeing a ton of motorcycles.  Of course, there were still quite a few, but nothing like the rally.  We went into Sturgis for dinner one night (deserted), made a day of it driving through the Black Hills, spent one day in rain in the coach.  Then we read the weather forecast – SNOW!! – coming the day after tomorrow.  I thought we were still in August!  So, pack it up, we’re outta here – next stop Des Moines!

On the way to Des Moines, we developed some engine problems.  Whenever we tried to accelerate, or hold our speed on a hill, the coach lost power, and started kind of “bucking”.  If I let off the gas, it kept running smoothly, although losing speed on inclines.  To me, it felt like a clogged fuel filter.  We called around desperately and found a Cummins Power Center in Omaha and another in Des Moines.  Omaha was closer, but they couldn’t get to it until after the weekend (this was Thursday), so we opted for Des Moines, who said they could look at it on Friday.  We limped and bucked our way into Des Moines, picking up speed on the downhills, and dropping every mph we had picked up and then some on the uphills, finally making it into the Cummins service center around 6 pm.  We dropped it off, spent the night in a motel, and drove around Des Moines all day Friday revisiting everywhere Carol thought she remembered as a little girl.  It turns out there is a Costco, so we spent as much time (and dwindling money) as we could there, waiting on “the phone call” from Cummins, telling us the coach was either dead, or ready to go.  At this point, I’m ok either way.  Around 3pm that afternoon, we got the call – the fuel pump was not putting out the correct pressure – so it was either algae in the fuel which had caused the fuel pump to clog, or the fuel pump had just given out – in either case, it was going to be around $1400 to fix it.  I gulped hard, looked at my life flash before my eyes, and gave the “go ahead and fix it” they were waiting for.  The good news was, he said “If I was you, I wouldn’t rent a hotel tonight – we’ll have it finished for you today”.

Carol’s Aunt Sharon and Uncle Jerry (the reason we had driven to Des Moines) had turned around our invitation for us to take them to dinner, and instead invited us over to their house for dinner Friday night.  A little home-cookin’ sounded much better than another night at Applebee’s, so over to Jerry and Sharon’s we went.  We enjoyed a wonderful evening there, visiting and “catching up” on all the latest news and happenings..  Carol’s cousin Janice came over for dinner, which was devoured like we hadn’t eaten a home-cooked meal in weeks (actually, that WAS the case), and after dinner Whitney, her fiancé Josh, and children Haley and Kendall all came by to visit.  It was great catching up with everyone.  Around 8 pm we got the phone call that the coach was ready to be picked up (Cummins’ hours are 7am to 11pm M-F, Thank God) .  Reluctantly, we said good bye to family, and headed off to pick up our hopefully “runnin’ without buckin'” coach.

We went over to Cummins, was told our bill was actually cheaper than what they’d estimated (small sigh of relief), that it wasn’t algae but just a failed fuel pump (another sigh of relief), and then the presentation of the bill.  After putting another $1253 (not exactly a lot less, but less) on the old Credit Card, we were outta hock (kinda).  We stayed the night at the Cummins parking lot, and next morning headed off down the road to Decatur, IN.  Guess why we are going to Decatur…don’t know?  MORE REPAIRS!!!  That’s where the American Coach factory, parts, and service locations are, and we have another list of items to be repaired/replaced, etc.  Look out Credit Card, here comes another blow!

 

Old Faithful…and Other Anomalies

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No, Old Faithful is not referring to Dan, but instead to the ever-consistent explosion of gases and boiling water from the earth’s crust in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

There are so many Amazing, Beautiful, Colorful, Distinct, Engaging, Fantastic, Grand, Humongous, I-catching, Jubilant, Knockout, Lovely, Magnificent, Nice, Opulent, Paradoxical, Quaint, Radiant, Stupendous, Timely, Unbelievable, Virtuous, Worthwhile,  X-cellent (OK, I cheated on that one), Yellow and Zany aspects of the Yellowstone National Park.

While we didn’t see any Grizzlies or Moose (is the plural of that Meese?)  in this park, we did see ample buffalo, deer, antelope, ducks, swans, elk,  sheep, birds,  and many wild people…I mean, animals….  We took a tour by bus of the big loop “Circle of Fire” tour on Monday and we saw, experienced and learned a lot about the park and the area. We stayed in the caldera basin, saw the forests, meadows, geysers, hot springs, steam vents, mud pots, creeks, lakes, canyons, mountains.  Our tour dropped us at the Lodge at Old Faithful for lunch and an almost “on-time” eruption of the world’s most famous geyser.

The time we spent here wasn’t long enough, and we’d love to come back and see it all again!  Hope you enjoy the photos.

 

Mystery pine cones - only come to life after a forest fire

Mystery pine cones – only come to life after a forest fire

Yellowstone really holds many secrets still, underneath it’s boiling, spouting, grassy, and wildly beautiful surface.  Scientists have explained many of them so far, but continue to study the many aspects of physical nature afforded by this stunning Grand-daddy of the National Parks, Yellowstone.  We loved it.

 

Can’t get no Satisfaction in Bozeman

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Well, as previously mentioned, the Gibson Acoustic Guitar Factory is located in Bozeman, MT and after our great experience of touring the Gibson Les Paul Electric Guitar Factory in Memphis, TN – we were already in for the next tour!  To our dismay, once we arrived in Bozeman, we learned that while indeed the factory is there, that they no longer host tours of the facility.

As a footnote, Dan couldn’t take it any longer somewhere in southern Oregon, and he purchased a Martin guitar  (no relation to Gibson – you go figure) on-line and it was delivered to him in Everette, WA.  (how in the world did I ever forget to mention that until now?)  For three days, I listened to him “pine” for how long it takes to get a guitar delivered to almost the middle of no-where and after he received it, I was serenaded with the unending choruses of every song he knows (almost all of the words to) as he “broke in” the new (and additional “other woman”).  You do all realize that the “original other woman” (his Harley) is safely tucked away in some guy’s garage in South Cakalakie, right?

After I returned from Phoenix, Dan had found Marcus Engstrom, an authorized Martin service center technician, who was oh, so convennnnnniently also located in Bozeman, so we had to run the “new girl” by, just to be sure she was “okay”!  Oh, lucky me!!!!  Driving over was like taking your five-year old to see Santa for the first time!  I don’t even know how he was able to drive us over there based on his excitement, but one thing I know is that no one other than Dan was going to be in charge of getting us there!  Just call him “Rudolph” of the Martin world!

Editor’s note:  Dan here.  Now for the REAL story!  

OK.  I admit it.  I had to buy a Martin before I really knew what was happening in Bozeman.  I had already kind of made up my mind that an acoustic-electric Gibson was going to be too expensive, and when I saw the Martin model I had been looking at since Reno come up on eBay with a Buy It Now that was almost affordable, I just had to do it!  Wouldn’t you have?  Of course you would have.  So it came UPS to Everett, WA, and all the while we were touring Boeing I was wanting to be back at the RV “getting better acquainted” with the new mistress.  

Unpacking the new guitar.

Unpacking the new guitar.

As the eBay seller had noted, the guitar was perfect…except for one thing – it sounded to me when I played an open high E that it had a “buzz” or “twang” that sounded to me like it might be set up too close to the 1st fret and buzzing on open notes.  More on this follows.

So when we were in Bozeman and I called the Gibson factory and questioned them about the tour, they politely guided me to a guitar store in Bozeman on Main St called Music Villa.  I visited the store, thinking it was going to be mostly Gibson, but instead it looked kind of like a low-end Guitar Center on the inside – drums, electric pianos, mixers, all brands of electric and acoustic guitars, etc.  You know what I’m talking about.  Anyway, I was just looking around, and this guy asks if he can help me.  I initially said (as I always do) “No, Thanks”, but then I remembered the buzz on my new Martin.  He said they could take a look at it if I brought it in, so I made the 6 mile round trip to pick up the guitar and show the guitar repair guy and maybe get some new strings at the same time.  So when I get back to Music Villa with guitar in tote, I’m told that Jerry the repair guy has left for the day.  WTF?  But then the guy at the counter pulled it out of the case and played it a bit, and said that it just may be the way it sounds.  Harumph!  I don’t think so!  So the guy tells me that there’s an Authorized Martin Service Technician on the outskirts of town, and, since we were already going that way when we were going to Yellowstone, I could probably just give him a call and set up a visit so he could look at the guitar.  

Well, to make a long story short, we ended up visiting Marcus Engstrom on Saturday afternoon after giving him a call, and I have to tell you, I was totally impressed!  Marcus is a young man with a young family, but his experience with guitars was evident the minute he took mine out of the case!  He made the same remark as the guy at Music Villa, that it was just the way the guitar sounded.  So, since I was still convinced it was “buzzing”, I asked him if he could re-string it and set it up correctly and then if it still sounded the same, I could accept it.  He graciously said he could certainly do that and set off to the task at hand.  I was looking around his workshop (part of his house, next to the garage) where he housed all types of jigs, band saws, wood materials, and other tools.  I could see that he had a number of other guitars in various states of repair.  Indeed, I’m sure he had put down some other repair to accompany me, and I was very appreciative of it, to be sure.  He spent about 15-20 minutes on my guitar, honing out the Bridgepin holes, taking a Dremel tool to the edges of the holes, sanding here and there on the Nut, and once the strings were on and in tune, adjusting the Neck using his adjustment tool from inside the sound hole.  All in all, it was really, really, cool thing to watch – a master Luthier setting up a guitar in the manner that today’s manufacturing techniques just don’t allow – totally awesome!

Once he had tuned the strings and made all the adjustments he was going to make, he said “Let’s plug it in now so we can make sure I didn’t mess up any of the electronics”, and he pulls out a patch cord from under his work desk, plugs it in, and proceeds to give me an electric guitar lesson!  Not really, but man, was he good!  Turns out he plays in a band himself, and has a number of guitars he uses.  It was the first time I’d heard my guitar hooked up to an amp, and I have to say, that’s my next purchase!  For sure!  Thanks, Marcus, for helping me out and inspiring me to move forward with yet another purchase on eBay!  www.engstromguitars.com

And guess what?  I guess that’s just the way the guitar sounds….

 

 

 

Funny Canadian Saying

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So – I forgot to mention that while in West Glacier, we met a lovely family from Alberta. Hunter, his wife Carol and their three kids were on a month-long vacation in the park. They come every year! Well while we were sharing our initial travel plans to have traveled back East via the single Canadian Highway that runs in that direction, Hunter told us that our current plan was better since the middle part of Canada is so flat (how flat is it, you ask?)

It’s so flat that “you can watch your dog run away for week” there!

Now that’s funny!!!!!
Thanks for insight, Hunter! It was great meeting you all!