Saturday, May 31, 2014

My UPS Rant

from TT Horseshoe Lakes near Clinton, IN

          Excuse me for a moment while I climb up on my soapbox.

Today's rant involves the way UPS (United Parcel Service) handles the routing of packages after requests have been made for an address routing change.

Let me first give you the background for today's gripe.  We are currently staying in a TT campground located near Clinton, IN.  This is approximately 2 1/2 hours west of Indianapolis, IN.  This is important because I am attempting to show the close proximity of these two points.  On 5/22/14 I ordered an item from a business in Indianapolis to have shipped to our current location.  In the email to the supplier, I highlighted in large bold red letters my address to have the package sent.  The shipper emailed back and indicated that the package would be sent out shortly and I should have it by Saturday 5/24/14 or Tuesday 5/27/14 (because of the Memorial Day holiday on Monday) at the latest.  Great, I thought!

Here's where the saga begins.  I received a UPS tracking number from the shipper and checked it online the following day.  Uh oh!  The destination was Box Elder, SD and it should arrive in 3 working days.  (Box Elder is the home of our mail forwarding company.)  I immediately contacted the shipper and indicated that we were close by in IN (see the bolded letters above).  The shipper indicated that he would contact UPS immediately and have the package re-routed.

I'm going to include the UPS tracking so that it's easier to follow along with the insane route this package is still taking to date.

As you can see, the shipper requested a change in delivery address on 5/23/12 at 8:09 AM when the package was in Hodgkins, IL (near Chicago).  I thought, fine, it should be easy to turn it around and I'll probably get it the following day.

Wrong again!  The packages continues west to the original addressed destination of Rapid City, SD and finally makes it there on 5/28/14.  This was after I had re-contacted the shipper and he assured me that a "supervisor" at UPS indicated that the package would be re-routed and should get to me by 5/28/14.

So now the last indicated stop is in Terre Haute, IN on 5/30/14 at 10:41 PM.  This is approximately 45 minutes south of our current location, but since it was Friday evening the package won't get to me until Monday 6/2/14 (hopefully).

Not bad.  It will only take 11 days to make an original trip of 2 1/2 hours from the point of origin.  There has to be a better way to intercept a package and re-route it.  Gosh, I would have probably gotten better service from the USPS.

                   Ok, I'm stepping down off the soapbox now.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Finally Played Pickleball Again

Clinton, IN                  (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

Okay, it's now been 2 1/2 months since Karen and I played our last bit of pickleball at Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort in Casa Grande, AZ.  We knew that pickleball wasn't as popular on the east coast (with the exception of The Villages in Florida), but we thought we would run across a court to play on, or some friends to join us in a game or two, somewhere in our travels over on the right side of the country.

Well, it has just not panned out so far.  We had high hopes when we stayed at the Thousand Trails in Chesapeake, VA in April, but their courts were undergoing a renovation.  No pickleball!

We moved on to Elkhart, IN where we were told that there was a single pickleball court at the Elkhart Campground.  This turned out to be an old (really old) tennis court with huge cracks in the pavement, grass growing up out of the cracks, and no net equipment whatsoever.  (It was so bad I didn't even take a picture.) No pickleball!

Well, we are now at our current location at the Thousand Trails Horseshoe Lakes near Clinton, IN and had high hopes again of finding a court.  We did see that two courts had been painted on two old tennis courts and a single court on a multi-purpose court which doubles as a basketball court.   Still, no pickleball!

Ok, enough is enough.  We had to find some way to rectify the situation where the hard surfaces are intact, but pickleball is still not possible due to the lack of a net.  Solution:  Purchase our own portable net system and take it with us as we travel.  That's exactly what we did.  In a short two days after using Amazon Prime Shipping we had it in our hands.

The whole system can be broken down and carried in a 6"x6"x36" storage bag and weighs about 21 pounds.  Now if we happen upon a campground which has an already striped court we're ready to play within about 10 minutes.  Even without striping, a bit of tape and laying out a court, and we're ready to go again.

Ah, life it good again!

Although this post is intended to be a bit "tough in cheek", if you'd like to learn more about this rapidly growing sport (particularly among the 50+ crowd) take a look at the United States Pickeball Association's USAPA website.  They are the governing body for pickleball in the United States.

Thanks for dropping by to take a look!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Suggestions for Michigan

Clinton, MI

Well, we've decided to change our minds again and head toward Michigan and the Upper Peninsula after our current stay.

We've only been to Michigan (the Manistee area) a few years ago and enjoyed the area.  We'd like to ask for suggestions from our blog readers on places to see and campgrounds to stay while in Michigan and the UP area.

Please help us out by given your suggestions in the "Comments" section at the end of this blog.

ALL of your suggestions will be considered and explored.

Thanks for taking a look!.......and helping us with our planning!

Friday, May 23, 2014

TT Horseshoe Lake, Clinton, IN

Clinton, IN                       (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

After leaving the Escapees Escapade at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds on Sunday morning, we headed back north for a short stay again at Elkhart Campground.  On Monday we attended an inaugural seminar put on by Nick Russell (Gypsy Journal Newspaper) entitled "Publishing For Profit". This included subject areas such as blogs, books, website publishing, apps, niche guides, specialty tabloids, even weeklies and shoppers.  For a first time seminar, we thought he did a great job and we learned a lot.

On Tuesday morning I gathered with a few others for an informal discussion of blogging using Blogger and Wordpress. The session was led by Chris Guld of the Geeks on Tour. I always learn things at their seminars and classes, and today was no exception.

Photo taken from
Tuesday evening we got a chance to go to dinner with Bill and Kris Osborne (writer of SeeingtheUSA blog).  Hopefully, we'll see Bill and Kris again at the Thousand Trails CG where we're currently staying.  Since I didn't have my camera with me, I'm stealing this picture from Bill's recent blog.

Wednesday morning we left Elkhart CG and headed south for a 4 1/2 hour drive to the Thousand Trails Horseshoe Lakes preserve near Clinton, IN.  I'm not sure what Indiana is doing with the money they collect for road maintenance, but they sure aren't using it to repair the roads.  Several very rough stretches encountered along the way.

This is our first visit to this preserve. It is very large and could really be a nice preserve with some maintenance. As we've seen at several TTs recently, the main gate is seldom manned.

The large draw of this cg is the layout of the preserve around several lakes.  All very pretty.  This is the view from our site immediately across the road.

We came in mid-week, a few days before the Memorial Day weekend, because we expected it to be busy.  The great disappointment here (and at many other TTs) is the great number of annual lease holders occupying the prime sites, and at this preserve, the majority of the sites in general.  We were lucky, however, and got a nice site with 50 amp service.

The preserve looks as though it's short on employee help.  This is the official beginning of the "camping season" and there's still a lot of work to be done here.  Notice the pavillion chairs and tables.

The pool looked clean, but again, no loungers around the deck. Hey folks, the holiday weekend begins today!

Of course we had to look for a place to play pickleball.  The basketball court looks as though someone has marked off two pickleball courts, but that was about it.

The preserve is good for bike riding and it looks as though this site is ready for quite a few camp fires this season.

Many of the sites are positioned along one of several lakes which wind throughout the preserve. Boating and fishing are allowed, but no swimming.

The roads inside the preserve are in pretty good condition, although the "A" section does include some hills and curves which might be difficult for larger rigs.  We are parked in the "B" section and it was easy to enter the site.  All are back-ins.

Our next blog will include a small project on the rig. Stay tuned.

Thanks again for stopping by to take a look!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Week at the 2014 Escapade in Goshen, IN

Goshen, IN                         (Click on pics to enlarge)

On Saturday May 10th we moved a short drive from Elkart Campground to the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, IN for the 54th Escapade of the Escapees RV Club.

We were efficiently parked by the parking crew in the infield of the horse track.  Pretty nice as we have full hookups with 50-amp electric.  A lot of folks came in early as the actual rally didn't begin until Monday.

Unfortunately, the first couple of days were our best "weather wise" as it was pretty darned cold and rained throughout most of the week.  This was a common view out the front of our windshield.  The grounds where we were parked got so wet and muddy that the fairground management allowed us to stay an additional day without charge to facilitate drying out of the grass and dirt area.

We attend Escapades for several reasons.  Probably the foremost is the chance to meet up with old friends and make new ones.  Kris and Bill Osborne (who pen the blog SeeingTheUSA) are fellow fulltimers from Virginia.  We had corresponded via emails and our blogs, but never met face-to-face until this rally.  We attended several seminars together while at the rally. Guys it was really nice to meet you in person!

Here was our first contact with the rally on Sunday at the registration tables.  Here you are able to pick up your name badges, programs, and get a chance to sign up for any volunteer jobs you might like to do during the rally.

This is our 4th Escapade, but we had never been a volunteer before.  We thought we've give it a go and get a chance to join with the fun and meet new folks.  Here was our first "gig".  Cooking up and serving free popcorn.  Believe me, when the words "free" and "food" are together, it makes for a busy, but very fun time.  We worked with new friends Happy and Ron Treml. I believe they are thinking about the fulltime lifestyle at this point.

The opening ceremony took place on Monday.  A pretty good turn out, as always, on the first day of the rally.  At the end of the rally the final rig count given was approximately 543.  A bit less than some years, but still a bunch of folks.

After the opening ceremony, an ice cream social was sponsored by one of the major vendors.  Here's Karen getting ready for the onslaught of hungry RVers.

Door prize drawings were held nightly, usually before the evening entertainment.  As expected, this part of the rally is well attended.

(L to R) Mary and Roger Baird, Laura and Paul Hutchison,
and Riley in the center
Getting back to my previous comments about meeting up with "old" friends, we were very fortunate to have Paul and Laura Hutchison (and their dog Riley), and Roger and Mary Baird parked on either side of us. (Roger writes the blog The Wandering Bairds).  We have known them since our days of owning Arctic Fox rigs together.  We first met the Hutchinsons this past September when both of us were camping at the same campground in Klamath, CA.  We got to know them  (and their dog Riley) much better when we both wintered over at Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort in Casa Grande, AZ.  Paul and Laura have an annual RV site there.  The good news is that we twisted Roger and Mary's arms and all three of us will be wintering over this coming season at Palm Creek.  Can't wait!

The Escapade always has a wealth of educational seminars.  Every topic from water filters and tire monitors to fulltime topics and how to make the best use of technology can be found at an Escapade. You can choose to do as many, or as few, as you'd like.  We especially like to keep abreast of the latest technology, so we attended several classes presented by Jim and Chris Guld (Geeks on Tour). We very much enjoy their style of teaching and ALWAYS come away with new ideas and information.

We had a great time at this year's Escapade and hopefully we'll be able to get out of the mud tomorrow.  We're heading back to Elkhart Campground for a few days prior to beginning our "serious" summer touring for this year.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Studebaker National Museum

Goshen, IN                  (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

Last week we decided to visit the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, IN.  I'll be the first to admit that I'm not really a "car guy" and I thought that Karen would be even less of one, but we both really enjoyed this very well constructed museum which displays not only Studebaker's history of its' motor vehicles, but its' buggies and wagons as well.  They also do a nice job of relating the importance of the Studebaker Company to South Bend's economy.

The museum is located 895 Thomas Street, South Bend, IN in the more industrial section of the city.

The Studebaker Company began, as did many other motor vehicle producing companies of the day, as a wagon and buggy company.  The oldest Studebaker vehicle was this 1857 Phaeton.

This 1919 "Izzy" Buggy was the last buggy manufactured by Studebaker.  It was immediately placed into the Studebaker Historical Collection upon completion.

Studebaker produced electric vehicles for two years, but began producing gasoline powered vehicles in 1904. This Model C is the oldest surviving gasoline powered Studebaker. It was priced at $1600 in 1904.  A canopy was an optional $150.

This is a somewhat unusual vehicle. It is a 1922 Studebaker Big Six Child's Hearse. It is also the only one known to exist.

I just really liked the looks of this car.  It is a 1931 Studebaker Six Roadster.  It was considered an entry level vehicle in the Studebaker lineup.  It contained "Pilot-Ray" driving lights which turned with the direction of the front wheels.  Cost in 1931 was $795.

Here's a 1932 President Convertible Coupe. It is one of only ten known in existence.  Price in 1932 was $1940.

Did you know that Studebaker built a "Woody"? Well, technically they never did.  This is a 1947 Champion Deluxe Station Wagon. It was dropped from the 1947 line before production ever began.  The body of the vehicle was kept by the Engineering Department until 1955 when it was discarded in the infield of the company's proving grounds.  Discovered again in 1980, restoration began in 1994, and was completed in 2012.

Sadly, the company fell on tough times as the '60s rolled in.  The company, which had occupied a very large presence in South Bend for many years, ended regular production of its' cars in 1964.  This 1964 Daytona was the very last car to roll off the line.  It was originally slated to go to Pennsylvania, but another vehicle was substituted and this car was immediately placed into the Studebaker Historial Collection.  The odometer has less than 50 original miles.

Although production moved to Canada, things failed to improve.  On March 17, 1966 the last Studebaker rolled off the line in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

This is certainly another recommended attraction to visit for anyone traveling through the South Bend, IN area.  I believe we spent 2-3 hours inside.

Thanks for dropping by to take a look!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Visit to the University of Notre Dame

Elkhart, IN      (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

I'll be playing catch up with our recent activities in the next few blogs.

With our trouble described in the last blog behind us, we made it without further incident to Play-Mor Campground just east of Bremen, IN on April 30th.  We stayed here until May 7th and visited a few local attractions from here. Play-Mor was easy to maneuver and made for a very restful stop for the week.  At this time of the year, transient rigs were still few and far between.

This past Friday (May 2nd) we took a tour of the Newmar motorhome factory in Nappanee, IN.  It's just 5 miles east of the campground. Newmar is currently producing 7 rigs (of all models) per day. It was a very different experience from the Tiffin factory (which we have toured several times) as the inside of the factory was pretty quiet and there seemed to be few workers around for such a large building.  We found out that Newmar works on a "numbers" system.  When a designated number of units have been completed for the day, the workers go home. We did, indeed, see paychecks being handed out to many guys at 2:15 in the afternoon.  Not sure whether this is a good system or not, but I guess it works for them.  NOTE:  No pictures of anything to do with the inside of the Newmar factory because photos are not allowed.

On Monday (May 5th) we attended another minor league baseball game.  This one pitted the local South Bend Silverhawks against the Bowling Green Hot Rods.  The teams play Class A ball in the Midwest League.  The Silverhawks are the Class A team for the Arizona Diamondbacks of MLB.

The game was pretty close until Bowling Green pulled away in the 8th inning.  The final score was Bowling Green defeating South Bend 9-4.

One of the highlights of the area attractions so far involved our visit to the University of Notre Dame on Tuesday (May 6th).  Using the internet, we found out that public tours were conducted twice a day via students acting as guides.  Because the campus is large I used a few internet tools to determine the location of Eck Centre, the starting point for the tours.  Eck Centre houses not only the visitor's center, but also acts as the Alumni Center.

The adventure began in a not-so-smooth fashion as I first encountered the manned gate nearest the Eck Centre. I had already determined that parking for the Eck Centre was available at the Bookstore.  I also knew that the tours generally lasted between 75-90 minutes.  Unfortunately, the security person at the gate advised that parking in the Bookstore lot was limited to 1 hour.  I asked how strictly this was enforced.  He advised that they "mark" tires and make a lot of money from parking tickets.  Uh Oh!!  In the end, he gave us a one day student parking pass which allowed us to park near the stadium.  All was good.

Speaking of the stadium,  you can't think about Notre Dame without thinking about football.  We were taken to the outside of the stadium's main entrance, but the stadium itself is a separate tour.

You can't think about Notre Dame football without thinking about Knute Rockne.  Unfortunately, Coach Rockne only coached in the stadium for 1 season after being so instrumental in its' building.  Coach Rockne died in a plane crash in 1931.

Another icon at the University is the "Golden Dome". This building today houses administration offices and some class rooms, but in earlier days served as a true campus crossroads for the University.  The dome is gilded with real gold, but only about a "fistful" to cover the entire dome.

One of the prettiest buildings has to be the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.  It took over 20 years to complete and houses the largest collection of French stained glass in the world. The louvered arches house 24 bells, 23 of which comprise the oldest carillon in the United States.

The interior was beautiful.  I would have loved to have heard the massive pipe organ play.  The amount of gold gilding, combined with the sunlight entering through the beautiful stained glass windows was breathtaking.

Just behind the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. This is a 1/7 sized replica of the famous cave near Lourdes, France.

One of the more modern looking buildings is the Hesburgh Library.  When it opened in 1963, it was the largest college library in the world.  The guide indicated that it has since been surpassed by several other colleges, but it's still impressive nonetheless.  The tiled mural on the front of the building is entitled "Word of Life" and towers 132 feet tall and 65 feet wide.  Again, because a lot of Notre Dame life is tied to football, the students call the mural "Touchdown Jesus" as the mural can be seen from the north goal post of the football stadium.

It was a beautiful spring day when we took the tour.  The students are in the middle of taking final exams as  commencement at the University of Notre Dame is May 16-18.  If you ever get a chance to tour the University while in the South Bend, IN area, it is a very worthwhile experience.

Hopefully, the next blog will bring me up to date and tell a bit more about why we're in this part of the country at this time.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!