Now in Crawfordsville, Indiana

Now in Crawfordsville, Indiana

We are now in Del Rio Texas

We are now in Del Rio Texas

Alice's Restaurant, Biking, and the New Tires/Wheels are here!

August 28 - 29 2013   

Wednesday the 28th we mostly just chilled after getting everything set up for repair of the RV.  I decided to also file a damage claim with Goodyear; we will see where that goes! 

To file the claim I needed to let Goodyear know where the tire is so they can ship it to Akron Ohio for analysis.  I left the shredded tire at the repair shop here in Iron City with no instruction to hang on to it.  So this morning I went the shop to identify the tire and have them hold on to it until Goodyear calls for it.

We were interested in trying Alice’s Restaurant here in town so I asked the guys about it at the tire shop.  The guys in the tire shop couldn't stop talking about how good the food was there.  It’s sort of funny, in small rural towns when you strike up a conversation everybody gets involved and most all work stops.  

When I asked the guy behind the counter about Alice’s I found out that the place was owned by his ex-wife’s mother.  His Ex’s grandmother was also the first cook who produced most of the recipes they still have today.  This conversation went on to include what seemed a review of every menu item including everybody’s favorites.  We had involved several other customers and now we had mechanics from the shop in the conversation.  After a good 15 minutes of this we all said our goodbyes and I left.  I came there to pick up my tire and pay them for their work, neither of which happened. I returned just after I got out side and we started over, this time, me leaving with the tire. 

This sort of thing has been happening with me ever since we arrived in Michigan.

So, after getting the rave reviews from the crowd at the tire shop, we decided to try out Alice’s Restaurant for dinner. Alice’s is mainly an Italian restaurant that has steaks and some seafood.  We learned that they make all of their salad dressings and pasta.  That includes the cheese and meat raviolis.  

We decided on a tenderloin steak (Filet Mignon for the city folks).  It comes with bread and bread sticks, salad or soup, and a potato all for $17.95!  We also had a bottle of very good wine for an extra cost of $21.  We do not say this very often, but the steak was to die for!  I can’t remember having a steak that tender and tasty.  This includes steaks I have cooked from butcher shops, the steaks were that good.  The whole meal tab was $68 with the tip!  Oh, and Alice’s is only a 10 minute walk from our site!

Thursday the 29th we rode our bikes the entire length of the Apple Blossom Trail.  Our RV Park is located near the end of the trail with about 1.5 miles of the trail to the north and 3 miles to the south.  We walked a round trip of 4 miles (2 miles there and back) of the south part on Tuesday.  This time we went to the north end and then came back and went to the south end and then back to the RV Park.

This part of Michigan was originally an iron ore mining area.  I guess that is where the town names of Iron River and Iron Mountain came from.  As you can guess the mud here is a rust color form the Iron in the soil.  The Apple Blossom Trail runs over the old Chicago and Northwestern Railroad line. Along part of the trail is an abandoned iron ore mill that I need to get back to while we are here.  It appeared from the trail that the mill can be entered from the road side.  Anyway that will be for another Blog post.

The old ore car just stopped on the track suspended in the air.

Around 2 pm I got a knock on the door from the camp host. He said that FedEx Freight delivered my tires and wheels to the office.  I guess the person didn't add the "Site #7" to the address.  So I went to the office with our truck and armed with a razor knife to get the tires.  It was really not as difficult as I thought it was going to be.  The wheels with tires and lug nuts were neatly stacked and shrink wrapped on to a pallet.  All I had to do was carefully remove the shrink wrap from the wheels and then load each one on the truck.  I was done in 20 minutes.  By the way, the wheels look fantastic! The tires look like they really mean business.  They look like trailer tires for a semi rig.  I think we are going to be very happy with these.

Our new tires and lug nuts sitting at the office for me.

The tread on the new tires is very deep.

Tread on the original tires is not as deep.

Wheels are great looking!

The RV repair is now in the hands of our insurance company. The estimate was e-mailed to them on Wednesday afternoon. National General (GMAC) replied that they are now working on the claim.  However they didn't give us any time frame for their decision.  The repair estimate came out to be $1.7k. Once the claim is approved it should be about 4 days after that before the work is completed and we then will move on. 

We have decided that we are not going to plan our future travel until we have a more firm schedule for the repair.  We only have 2 firm dates that we need to adhere to.  We are reserved and have paid for a site at the Albuquerque NM Balloon Festival the first weekend in October.  The other date is for our flight back north for the holidays just before Thanksgiving in November.  Other than that, we can do as we want or need to do.
Around 5 pm it started to rain and it looks like it is going to rain until at least mid-day tomorrow.  After the rain it is forecasted to get cold here.  By Monday, Labor Day the high temperature is to be just 60 with a low of 41.  Then it never gets out of the low 60s the rest of the week.  I think we are just a little too far north right now!

We had a great dinner with grilled pork chops and red beans and rice.  We finished the night with a newer Clint Eastwood movie about baseball scouting.  The movie was good but way too easy to know what was going to happen.  This was one of those formula movies but done well so it kept your attention even though you knew the ending.

Not sure what we are doing tomorrow as the weather is not looking so good.  We are sort of thinking we will get a fish fry somewhere that has lake fish.  Other than that, we may have a lazy read and watch TV day for once!

Stay Tuned!

Travel to Iron River MI/Tire Problems/TravelPlans Change

August 25 - 27 2013   

Ok, Sunday August 25 will be a good story to tell in the future.  Today we leave St Ignace for a 230 mile trip to Iron Mountain MI in the UP (Upper Peninsula).  Patty is taking the wheel again so she can get practice with the rig.  We get packed up to leave around 10 am which should get us to Iron River around 2pm CTS; we gain an hour as we enter Central Standard Time.  

We are driving along the Lake Michigan shore line on US 2. Then at 60 miles Southwest of St Ignace the TPS (Tire Pressure System) started alarming.  When the TPS alarms it flashes the location on the graphic panel and also flashes the tire pressure in real time.  Quickly I determined it was the front driver side RV tire that was losing air somewhat slowly. 

This was a failure just like we had 3 weeks ago in Pennsylvania on I 81 but the tire on the opposite side of the RV.  We had plenty of room to pull over and Patty did a great job of getting into a flat section of grass that was someone’s side yard. 

We were stopped before the tire pressure got below 60psi or about 20psi below what the tire is running at when hot during travel.  Cold inflation pressure is 80psi.  I got out of the truck and went back to the tire and could hear the air coming out and could also feel the air.  The hole was in the side wall at the tread start point.  This was not road debris and was just like the last bad tire and in the same location but on the opposite side of the tire.

We called our road side service provider Coach-Net to come out and replace the tire with our spare.  Within an hour and half we were back on the road.  

West Coast of Lake Michigan.  Very windy today.

Here we are in someone's yard waiting on the tire service people from Coach-Net.

Because we lost the 1-1/2 hours, we thought we may cut our distance for the day and just stay closer and not go to Iron River.  We decided to keep going because we would still be there by 4pm.  4PM is sort of the latest we like to get to a campsite.  Also, we were somewhat uneasy and this site has no one answering the phone on Sundays. We usually give our next campsite a call when we are on our way just to make sure we can get in.  This gives us some time to make other plans if there are any issues with our first choice campsite.  

US 2 is a very nice route to take in the UP.  There is very light traffic and we are passing houses and farms which is much nicer than an Interstate ride any day.  

I am still a little upset about the tire failure that is just like the one 3 weeks ago.  These tires only have 8K miles on them, the pressures are correct and we are only moving at 55 mph on this route.  So I was surfing the internet off and on as we are traveling along looking at tread separation to see if this is what we have.  No, tread separation is not what we have and, by the way, I really do not want to be involved in a tread separation.  If only I knew what was coming up!

After my internet research, I had a conversation with Patty while she was driving telling her about the tire issues I was finding.  At this time, with 2 tires going flat slowly, I didn't like it, but I wasn't too worried about driving with them.  We always seemed to have lots of time to get off the road.  We decided that we would look into changing out the current tires and wheels with a much higher load range of H from our current range of E.  The load range H is rated for 4800 pounds where the E load range is rated for 3500 pounds.  Besides, a lot of our RV-Dreams friends changed out their tires and wheels to this configuration because of the blowout problems.  We didn't want to do this change now, we would wait till we were in our winter site in Texas in January.  Again, if I only knew what was about to happen!

At a few minutes before 4pm just 7.5 miles from our campsite in Iron River, KABOOM!!  The explosion was loud enough you can hear it in our truck cab from 50 feet away and with the radio on! The TPS started to alarm and I knew immediately we just had a blowout from tread separation! Patty and I both looked out the mirrors and saw tire and RV debris flying off the RV on the passenger side.  Because we had the TPS and we have had experience with tire failures before, Patty had us completely off the road in about a tenth of a mile.  Again, it was great that we had space to pull off the road.

After we stopped I quickly got out of the truck and immediately knew this was bad from the metal sticking out of the RV.   I raced back and found the tire shredded and the lower sheet metal facade all beat up and ripped.  There seemed to be no damage to the fiberglass or to any structure. There was however hydraulic fluid dripping of from the rear leveler hose so it was probably damaged.  It looks bad but it may not be as bad as it looks.  Right now I just didn’t know for sure. 

Our first look at the damage.

Note the long tread flap which at speed just beats against everything.

A view out the back of our RV showing the path off the road.  Note the pieces of tire and the white object at the top of the pic which is the fender trim.

We again called Coach-Net, but this time we were going to need a tire as well.  We are a long way from any civilization and it is Sunday evening.  The chances of getting an RV tire here in a reasonable time were probably poor and I was right. After about an hour on the phone with Coach-Net, they got a guy 2 hours away in Wisconsin to come out with a tire.  Due to construction from where he was coming from he didn't arrive until 8:45pm in the dark.  Patty and I have now been there for almost 5 hours.

During the 5 hour wait we fired up the generator in the RV and turned on the AC.  The temperatures were in the low 90s outside and the mosquitos were everywhere.  

Right after we knew we had somebody coming we unhitched the RV and I went to the campground to find a camp host and make sure we had a place to go.  I also wanted to see the site in the daytime just in case it was dark when we arrived. We were in luck, the campground host had a nice back-in site we could have for the foreseeable future and it would be easy to get into even after dark.  So off I went back to the RV and hitched back up.

The service guy had to get the wheel off of the RV and then break it down to get the shredded tire off.  Then he had to put the new tire on the wheel and then remount it on to the RV.  All of this took about an hour and then we were back on the road headed to our campsite.  We got parked in our site and were hooked up by about 11 pm. 

Working in the dark. 

What a long day and we had lots to think about! We had a couple glasses of wine with PB&J sandwiches and called it a night.  Whew!

On Monday the 26th I setup my command center at the dining room table and started calling people.  We needed to call the extended tire warranty people to make a claim, our RV insurance company to make a claim (Patty handled the RV Insurance), and also decide about getting the upgraded tires and wheels.  I also needed to get a RV repair service to fix the RV.  All of this took us until 2 pm in the afternoon.  We were just waiting on return phone calls now.  We had not even been outside to see where we were in the daytime yet.

We made dinner and called it a night around 10 pm.

Tuesday the 27th we got the 2 tire extended service claims confirmed and we had an appointment with an RV repair mobile service.  Our RV insurance doesn't have a facility or an adjuster for over 200 miles from here, so they are going to work with whoever we pick.  

My suspicion was correct in that the damage to the RV was mostly cosmetic.  The only functional damage is the hydraulic hose that is damaged at the connection to the leveler cylinder.  

So, the bottom line now is that the cosmetic parts can be here and installed within 2-3 days after the insurance company gives the go-ahead.  That should happen tomorrow we think.  The hydraulic hose leak fix is still not determined. The RV repair service is trying to find out how and if this can be fixed on the RV.  If not, we may need to replace the hose. This hose runs all the way from the rear of the RV to the front or about 30 feet in the under belly of the RV.  We should know about that tomorrow.

As for the wheels and tires upgrade, we decided to bite the bullet and upgrade.  We just DO NOT feel safe with the existing tires and especially with the one original tire remaining on the RV.  This blowout was a wake-up call for us.  The tires are Goodyear Marathon 215/80/R16 Load Range E tires made in China.  There have been many, many reported problems with these tires.

The upgrade consists of replacing the wheels and the tires. The wheels will go from the current 16 inch to 17.5 inch and the tires to a load range H from the current load range E. This will give us a large safety margin with a completely different tire construction.  

We are using a company that has been recommended by many of our RV-Dreams friends called who are located in Ohio.  After a short talk on both Monday and Tuesday I ordered the wheels and tires complete including balancing and shipping and they will be here at the campground this Thursday.  The mobile RV service company will install them on site for $75 dollars.

After we got the RV stuff under control we went into town and did laundry.  Ho hum.  Then back to the RV for a delicious dinner of BLTs.

We are staying here in Iron River until we get this fix done. We originally planned to leave today to head further west. Since we are full-time we can be very flexible about our travel plans.  So, we are now planning on not going to Yellowstone this year.  We are still planning on getting to the Bad Lands of SD and to Rapid City SD before heading south to Bryce and the Grand Canyons.  If the stay is longer here in Iron River than the middle of next week, we will cut out the Bad Lands and Rapid City for this year too.

There is a bike trail that runs through our campground and a couple of cheap golf courses close by that we will visit in the time we are here.  There is also the Ottawa National Forest next to us with hiking trails.  We will have enough to do I'm sure.  We also have Alice’s Restaurant a few blocks from us to visit :) I wonder if we can get anything we want...

Entrance to our campground in Iron River.  The campground is also home of the towns Chamber of Commerce.

Our site for the next week or so in Iron River Michigan.

On a break, we walked 4 miles on the apple blossom trail behind our campground.

Funny sign on the trail.

NOTE:  I NEED TO SELL THE ORIGINAL 4 ALUMINUM WHEELS AND MOSTLY NEW TIRES.  ANY HELP PLEASE!!  These are fine for a lighter RV or trailer.  They are just too close to my weight limit for my comfort.

Stay tuned!

Indian Powwow, Campfire, TV Fix #2, and Fireworks. End of Mackinac Adventure

August 23 - 24, 2013   

Friday August 23rd we were up at our usual time of 7 AM ready for the day.  Most days start with coffee and reading the news on-line, then Facebook, RV-Dreams forum, and lastly, other peoples Blogs.  We usually take about 2 hours for this.  After all of that I usually write my Blog and sometimes take a Spanish Lesson with Rosetta Stone.

So, this morning I do fix #2 for the TV.  I now have a better and hotter soldering gun of 75W instead of the wimpy 15W iron I used on fix #1.  I also have the knowledge gained from fix #1 of how to take the TV apart.  This time, because my legs hurt on the floor, I decided to upgrade my work surface to the dining room table.  I was set for success!

I decided that I had to solder the coaxial cable directly to the circuit board this time.  Also, I needed to a much better mechanical support for the cable to keep stress from affecting the joint over time.  The 75W gun allowed me to actually melt the existing solder and add new without burning the surrounding circuit board waiting for the slow 15W iron.  
Finally I got very good solder connections with enough cable loop inside the TV frame to insulate the connection mechanically from the cable on the outside of the TV.  In other words, you can move and pull and abuse the cable on the outside and it won’t affect the connection on the inside.  

I put the TV back together, mounted it back to the wall and attached all of the connections.   Now for the proof that my fix #2 was successful, turn on the TV and see if it works.  Damn, it works!  Another RV job successfully completed!
The white cable is what I am adding.

After the successful TV fix that took till noon, we walked to downtown St Ignace to see the Indian demonstration.  This week is history week in St Ignace so there are some events related to the founding of the town.  The French explorer and priest Jacques Marquette founded the St. Ignace Mission on this site in 1671 and was buried there after his death.  It’s amazing to me that Marquette was only 39 years old when he died.  This guy came here from France when he was 30 and built this church within 5 years and then left to explore the Mississippi River in a 3000 mile trip and then on his way back died.  This was all in the mid 1600’s!  Some kids today don’t even leave home until they are late 20’s!

Anyway, the Indian exhibit was very lame for adults.  Just a few people with no or little costumes dancing to a drum beat. There was also just one food vendor.  I really shouldn't be so critical of “free” events, just telling it like it is.  Seemed the kids liked it and maybe that is what counts anyway for this event.
View from the road leading from our campground to Main street in St Ignace.  Lake Huron is in the background.
This was on Main Street St Ignace on the way to the Indian exhibit.  We thought this was an insurance issue waiting to happen.  The place sells fireworks and the front of the place is piled high with hay and straw bales.  There is a no smoking sign that should make up for that....right!

Patty checking out the Indian barn.  One dropped cigarette and woof!

After the downtown Indian exhibit we went back to the RV for dinner.  Patty cooked her very delicious meatloaf.  Yum, Yum, with mashed potatoes!  Then it was to bed after some TV time.

On Saturday the 24th, our last day in St Ignace we were going to go the big Indian Powwow being held at the Jacques Marquette Memorial Park by the Mackinac Bridge.  Not a good day for Patty as she was not feeling good today.  So after waiting until 1 pm to see if Patty would feel better and she didn't, I went to the Powwow by myself.

The Powwow was more realistic than yesterday. That is because it was a real Powwow.  It was just $4 to get in and they had 20-30 vendors selling all stuff Indian including 3 food vendors.  I had a buffalo burger for $5 that was really very good.  I stayed about 2 hours watching the native dances and viewing the stuff for sale that I didn’t buy.  All in all it was a good time at this event but would have been better if Patty was with me.

Making brown sugar from maple syrup.

Drummers are in the grass hut in the center.  The dance happens around the drummers.

Waiting to dance.

On the way back I filled the truck with diesel fuel for our trip tomorrow to Iron River MI.  It should be an easy pull to Iron River as it is mostly just 2 lane highways and flat with very little traffic.

Patty was feeling much better when I arrived back at the RV. We decided to build a campfire and mostly cook outside. The weather was perfect with low humidity and temps around 70. We paid the campground $4 for a load of wood that looked like it was enough for 2 fires.  Ha!  It took all of the wood to just get a decent fire! We really haven’t built fires in a below ground fire ring before so we were not getting the fire to stay lit.  I have built many fires in many different situations and this was the hardest.  I tried 3 different wood assemblies and finally came up with one that worked.  The one that worked took all of the wood we had though.  Basically we built the wood up above the bottom of the fire ring and it took off.  We just couldn't get enough air into the deep ring to support a fire until we got above the ring.

Lots of smoke, but no lasting fire.

Fire, but it wouldn't let me relax.

We had crab legs, cauliflower, and roasted potatoes for dinner.  Then after dinner we took our backpack chairs and headed off to see the fireworks in the marina.  Our campground sits a couple hundred feet above the marina so the view was fabulous! It was a great night.  We sat down to watch the fireworks and a local family came and sat with us to watch.  It just sort of felt like we were neighbors sitting down to watch fireworks together on a summer evening.   The mother we were taking to works on Mackinac Island at one of the resort hotels.  She has been here for 18 years and she still is not a Yooper (Slang for a person from the Upper Peninsula, U.P., of Michigan).  Seems you need to be born here to get that distinction. We were all just trolls from under the bridge!

Patty's new $5 dollar shoes she bought on Mackinac Island.  They came with individual protective bags and smelled like grapes.
That wraps up the Mackinac Island area adventure. Tomorrow we head west to start our adventures driving through the UP and getting closer to Yellowstone.

Stay tuned!

Mackinac Island and Pasties for Dinner

August 22, 2013   

Thursday August 22nd we headed to Mackinac Island. There are no cars on the island only horse drawn buggies and wagons and bicycles.  We planned to ride our own bikes so we needed to take them on the ferry over to the island.  The bikes were still in the truck and I needed to check the air pressure before we left.  As I thought, both bikes needed air in the tires.  I carry a small air compressor for the bikes and for the RV and truck tires.  Really need a larger one but that's not on the agenda for now.

After getting the bike tires aired up we were ready to head to the ferry dock.  There are 3 ferry companies in town that take you the 5 or so miles to the island.  We picked Sheplers Ferry Service as we got a $3 dollar off coupon at the RV Park for them.  The ferry dock was only about half a mile away so we could have just ridden our bikes there. However, we were not sure if we would be back after dark so we drove the truck with the bikes to the dock.  The ferry had free parking with plenty of space so it was not any problem to park.

We were at the dock at 11:15am for the 11:30am ferry.  The ferries leave every half hour from 9am to 9pm during the week.  With the $3 discount and the $8 for each bike the total round trip cost of the ferry was $62.  The ride over was about 25 minutes including the slow docking on the island side.  

At the dock ready to ride to the ferry.

View from the ferry.  That is one of the faster ferrys in the background.

Mackinac Bridge from the ferry.

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

Lighthouse on the mainland in St Ignace.

A modern lighthouse near the port entrance to Mackinac Island.

Mackinac Island

The water is so clear!

Mackinac Island.  Note all of the bicycles!

We found this funny.  The UPS truck is brought over by boat.

UPS is not allowed to drive the truck on the island.  The contents of the truck are unloaded on a horse drawn wagon.

The island is known as a tourist trap and has been known as that since the late 1800s.  It is what it is and it really is a beautiful place.  It is nice to be somewhere with a lot of people and nature and no motor vehicles.  The main street in town has the usual tourist stores selling T-shirts and gifts saying Mackinac Island on them.  There are also a lot of restaurants, bars, and hotels with nightly entertainment. 

Pictures of downtown on the island

Since the last ferry at night is at 9pm you really need to stay on the island over night to get the whole experience.   We opted to just see the sights, have a bottle of wine and people watch, and ride our bikes around the island and not in that order!

The bike ride was one of the best we have done ever.  There is a little uphill riding but not much as we are mostly riding along the coastline of Lake Huron.  The ride is 8 miles and we took about 2.5 hours to finish the ride.  It can be done in less than an hour but there is so much to see that speeding would be missing the point of the ride.  In fact there are many signs along the bike road that say to not speed.

Our bikes waiting for us after they were unloaded from the ferry.

People make these balanced rock formations everywhere.  I do not have the patience for that! 

You can take a horse drawn tour of the island. You can also rent your own horse and buggy to do your own tour.

After finishing the bike ride and parking our bikes, we strolled the main street of town.  We tasted some fudge and bought a peanut covered caramel apple and had a bottle of expensive wine.  As we were walking a very nice and good looking woman asked us if we would like to sit and have some wine.  
Well sure we do!  She told us about 2 wines one of which had a $21 price tag on it.  The other did not.  Guess which one we bought, the one without a price tag.   When we got the bill the wine was $43 and with a $6 tip it was $49!  We think she has done this sell routine before.  She really was good though as I didn't feel bad about it.  In fact, that sentiment I believe sums up the Island, you are being ripped off but it doesn’t feel bad.  It’s sort of like Disney World in that sense.

My expression after getting the bill for the wine.

We took the 4:30 pm ferry back to St Ignace.  After arriving back on the mainland we went to a hardware store and picked up a 75W soldering gun.  That should be enough heat to get the TV fixed this time.  We also stopped and picked up root beer.  We seem to be hooked on diet A&W root beer ever since we were in South Florida last winter. 

New 75W soldering gun to fix the TV.

We also stopped at Bessie’s cafĂ© to get some local homemade Pasties.  Pasties are similar to a pierogie in shape but made like a pot pie.  They have a pie crust that is filled with either chicken or beef and have carrots, potatoes, onions, and seasonings inside.  We were told that pasties were brought here from England by British miners.  Anyway, that is what we had for dinner.  We are not big fans of the Pastie.  It is a dry handheld pot pie.  So there you have it from us on the Pastie!

A pasty with slaw and gravy. 

A Yooper is a person born in the U.P..  We were told that people from south of the Mackinac Bridge are called trolls and that tourists on the Island are called fudgies.

After dinner we headed into town for the free Blues band entertainment at 7pm.  The band was really good but we were surprised that there wasn't more people out.  That was OK as it made more room for us.

Entrance to the St Ignace marina.

The blues band at the St Ignace marina.

And this concludes our adventure to the Island of Mackinac and our first full day in the U.P.

Tomorrow the plan is to fix the TV and to walk to down town where there are some Indian exhibits.

Stay tuned!