Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Adapting to our Schedule and Surroundings....

Dakotah Meadows RV Park at night

     It's been a busy week!  George met with the doctor that will be performing his cataract surgeries next week and the following week, Dr. Thomas Samuelson, with Minnesota Eye Consultants.  There were numerous patient forms to complete.  He picked up five different eye drops from the pharmacy, and has been following a strict schedule of use in preparation.

The Mdewakanton Dakota Shield -- the buffalo skull is a symbol of the Sundance altar, the arrowhead and ax represent tools to safeguard and provide for their people as they hunt food, the tipi symbolizes the meeting of the Dakota tribes, the pipe is for communication between man and a higher power, and the feathers represent the seven council fires.

      We are still facing several issues with the motor home, and received a recommendation from the campground here at Dakotah Meadows for Steve Voldt of Northern RV, to check out our damaged slide topper and our ongoing electrical and slide out issue.  We are still looking for a craftsman to re-configure a cabinet below our kitchen sink as well as some cabinetry in the area of our TV sets.

      Valerie is still working on raising her good cholesterol, so she signed up for a special month's membership at the Dakotah Sport and Fitness Center, which is within walking or biking distance, and  also owned and operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community,

Drying out the carpet in the corner of the leaking slide, or maybe just cooling off the dogs

      We took advantage of the excellent lunch buffet at the casino on Tuesday last week.  The food was great, and Valerie picked up informational sheets and is determined to figure out the Bingo games and schedule, which appear to be fairly complicated.

Clouds approaching over the golf course

     The weather has been hot and humid with more and more rain!  Late on Friday, George had already gone to bed and Valerie decided to check the weather, since we had secured our drop on the big awning after they mowed the grass earlier in the week.  The forecast looked entirely clear, but she happened to look out the window just as lightening divulged a wicked black cloud looming across the prairie.  We managed to fight against the wind and get the awning mostly in as it began to rain, and rain hard for a long time.

An interesting bus parked at Walmart in Shakopee

      We learned that many folks took shelter and tornado sirens sounded just a little further north of us, and one of our neighbors was not as lucky with their awning.  The Shelties seem to believe the fans were in place for their comfort.  We understand that it will be at least a two week wait on the replacement fabric for the slide toppers.  It's been a stormy summer!

Our neighbor's storm-damaged awning
      George tried out our new compact, Element grill, which fits easily into the bays, and he was very impressed.  Valerie was missing her smoothies and found a single serving MyBlend blender by Oster, to replace the larger blender she gave up in the move last year.  Valerie fights the ice maker in the refrigerator on a semi-regular basis. This last time, it decided to take a bite out of the dish cloth which had remedied the same issue a couple of weeks ago.  Together, with the help of a small pair of scissors, we got it to let go, and our fingers are crossed that we will again get ice.

Family! -- Kathy, Alicia, and Bob -- (Photobombed by Max and another photographer's hand)

      George's daughter, Kathy, and her husband, Bob, hosted a fun family get-together on Sunday afternoon.   We all ate well, shared memories, and the dogs and grand-dogs all got along.

Sydney has worked very hard to be held all afternoon, so nap time is now!

      Monday we enjoyed a great meeting with RV Driving School instructor, Jon Bjonfald, and his friend, Laurie.  We learned that the Steak House at the casino is closed on Monday and Tuesday, so we made do with the buffet.

George's new Element propane grill
Valerie's new blender

      We got the go-ahead for George's surgeries following his physical yesterday morning, so positive thoughts and prayers are appreciated.  We're looking forward to a relaxing weekend with the Rib Fest and lots more family time.

Jon Bjonfald and Laurie at the Mystic Lake Casino Buffet

Monday, July 13, 2015

Dog Days of Summer...

Beautiful flowers on the casino property

       Some days things just don't go as planned.  The local church schedule was not convenient as we generally like to eat breakfast our prior to attending a late morning mass on Sunday.  The casino has restaurants, but we opted for the only other place we could find nearby, a Perkins Restaurant, in Shakopee.
       The parking lot at Perkins was full and they told us it would be a ten minute wait.  Valerie headed for the ladies room and came back surprised to find that George had already been seated.  There was a large party seated nearby and the server seemed anxious to get our order in, but we needed a few minutes to look over the menu.
Fitness Center is fabulous with an indoor pool 

      We waited and waited, and when our server began to deliver meals to the large table beside us, we let her know we needed to order.  She quickly took it and disappeared.  We noticed a couple of parties that had been seated after we were and had received their food and finished.  George got up to look for our server who advised him everybody's food was late because the kitchen was backed up.  We waited some more and discussed walking out.  We opted for talking with the manager since we hoped our food would be out any moment.  All in all, we were seated for over an hour and our entire meal was comped, but it certainly put a crimp in our plans.

      George had taken apart the air conditioner vents to clean the filters and realized he needed a bucket and Valerie wanted to hit the pet store to get a a change of food for the dogs, since their appetites have greatly diminished lately.  

Princess Zara forgives Valerie and apparently approves of her new food

      The intense heat and humidity seems to have followed us north.  Valerie wanted to check out the fitness center  across the street that is part of the casino complex, so we stopped and took the tour.  Upon our return it was just too hot to work outdoors or do much other than work at our computers or nap, so we opted for both.

      Valerie brushed out the dogs, cleaned their teeth, and filed down their nails early in the evening after it began to cool down.  They are not fans of grooming, but are happy to receive their treats as rewards.  They both approved of the taste of new food mixed with the old boring stuff, so they had a fairly good day, as dog days go.

The late-night knock on the door...

      Valerie took a power walk and George walked the dogs, and it was suddenly late.  George had gone to bed, Valerie was finishing up some work when she heard thunder above.  She looked out to see flashing yellow lights and security knocking on the door of the rig next to us.  Our door was next, and we were being warned that a severe thunderstorm with high winds was expected and that the shelter was open if we wanted to make use of it.  
       It was already 11:45 p.m., and the excitement was about to begin.  The winds howled against the big slide out which suffered a torn cover, rocking the coach, while torrential rains pelted the fiberglass.  The storm awakened George, along with a stomach ache, just in time to discover the slide out was leaking.  Between the two of us we found enough towels and a couple of bins in which to catch the rain droplets.  

Water leaking in through the slide out
      The heaviest rain and wind has subsided.  We have fans on the wet spots, and hope that this is the end of the heat, high winds, and rain for awhile.  We have had enough weather excitement this summer!  It's now 1:30 in the morning, and the dogs wish we would go to bed so they can get some sleep.  That seems like a very good idea.  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Setting Up and Settling In...

Dakotah Meadows RV Park in Prior Lake, Minnesota

      Today we attempted to catch up on business and get things organized after battling the heat and rain while in Missouri for the past several weeks.  The sun rises early in Minnesota, and so did our Shelties.

Our site, B-5, for the next several weeks at Dakotah Meadows RV Park

      It was cooler and we had a good night's sleep so we began to put the sun shades on the Camelot.  It's a bit of a project and goes more smoothly if we attack it together.  George had directed Valerie into our site yesterday and she didn't realize he had backed us in as far as possible and the hitch was just above the grass at the rear of the coach.  The concern was that the mowers may get too close with their equipment and cause damage, so we left everything in tact and crept forward several feet just to be sure.

Sam's Club free health care screening area near the pharmacy in Shakopee, MN

      One concern for full time RVers is medical care, and we have found lately that Sam's Club offers monthly health screenings at most locations -- usually on the second Saturday of the month.  They say that membership is not required to take advantage of these.  The registration process is a bit tedious, requiring us to fill in the bubbles below every letter and number we write in, but most of the screeners we have encountered have been quite professional and have offered excellent counseling on cholesterol, HDL, blood pressure, and body fat, and glucose, among others items of concern.  So we took off for the Sam's in nearby Shakopee mid-morning and participated so we can monitor our progress from month to month.

     While out and about we decided we had the energy to wash the Subaru, so we cruised into the car wash at the nearby Holiday service station, even though rain threatened.  (Just be forewarned that Valerie has a strange propensity to become bored and take photos while inside car washes).

Inside the Subaru inside Holiday car wash in Shakopee, MN

      When we returned, it was time to begin arranging and re-arranging.  George worked inside the bays on the coach and Valerie sorted out duplicate state maps and the few books we keep on board in case we find ourselves in a dead internet zone and need direction or help deciding upon a campground during our travels.

Tossing the duplicate or outdated maps and travel guides 

      Valerie did quite a bit of walking around the campground and photographing some wildlife and wildflowers and made progress on catching up with laundry after a few days on the road.

      Tonight we will be tearing apart the bed before we crawl in as we seem to have picked up biting critter of some sort in Kansas City.  We both have marks to prove it, and George volunteered to model one of his.  Seems like we get a new one or two every day!

One example of our extremely itchy insect bites

      So, what better way to close this evening than with that familiar childhood expression -- "Good night.  Sleep tight.  And don't let the bedbugs bite!"

Friday, July 10, 2015

On the Road to the Twin Cities

      We took off this morning after two nights at the Lakeside Casino RV Park in Osceola, Iowa.  Our day started with the usual walk of the dogs and then we headed over to the Casino for a hearty breakfast.

      It didn't take long to prepare the Camelot for the road and we stopped up the hill at the Pilot, which had nice RV lanes, where we could fuel for the remainder of our trip up I-35 to the Twin Cities.

      George had some emails and calls to return, so we stopped at a rest area where we walked the dogs and Valerie took the wheel.  The scenery consisted of corn and more corn fields -- all at least knee-high by the Fourth of July.  We passed through several areas of construction, but otherwise it was a smooth drive.

      Our Shelties Captain Charlie and Princess Zara found a cozy spot next to the couch below the air conditioner vent.

      George finished his work and a nap and returned to the driver's seat, and it wasn't long until we crossed into Minnesota and then arrived at Dakotah Meadows RV Park at the Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake.  We took advantage of the RV Wash and cleaned the worst of the dirt from the rig, parked and decided we needed to make a run for supplies.

      After a quick trip through Sams Club and Walmart, we stopped for a quick dinner at Chipotle Mexican Grill in nearby Shakopee.  It's been a long day, the weather is pleasant, and we're off to bed.  Looking forward to several weeks here and catching up with friends, family and business associates!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

The sky on our way to take shelter during the second tornado warning at Blue Springs Elks Lodge

      It's been a busy year and the blog has suffered the consequences and again fallen behind.  At this point, rather than attempt to catch up with six months of events, we will just start with now.  Valerie will attempt to add photos we have taken, along with a few comments, on our Facebook pages for those of you who follow them.

Enjoyed dinner with friends Jim and Pam MacArthur in Missouri

      We left Kansas City yesterday after several weeks visiting Valerie's family.  We stayed at the Elks Lodge in Blue Springs before and after a two weeks' stay at Lake Jacomo Campground in Lee's Summit.  The weather was hot and humid and it stormed much of the time.  Twice we were awakened in the night by high winds and rain, and twice we took shelter when the tornado sirens went off.  The kids got moved, despite both of their kids being sick on moving day, and we took in lots of T-ball and barbecue.
Storms, storms, and more storms in Kansas City

George at Summit Custom Cabinetry installed a new drawer

      Our plan was to take off fairly early on Wednesday morning, when we received a phone call from a contractor whom George had provide an estimate on making a new drawer for a void space in the Monaco, about which we had all but forgotten.

      The fact that it was pouring down rain necessitated us taking the rig to his shop to install the drawer which he had mostly prepared.  This was supposed to take about an hour and it was a bit of a difficult back-in, but we managed.

      Valerie went out for sandwiches for lunch, and once the job was finished and George began to move the coach out to hitch the car, Valerie noticed that the entry step had not retracted as it was supposed to do.  After attempting to get the step to retract so that we could head on towards Minnesota, George decided to go out in the rain and disconnect the power and force the step up with nylon ties in the contractor's parking lot.

George disconnected the entry step to retract it

      We finally got on the road around 4 p.m. and headed up I-35.  George started the drive and Valerie took over about half way to Osceola, Iowa, were we stopped at Lakeside Casino RV Park.  The turns are a little tight and the pavement of many sites is broken, but for $20/night it's good to have full hook ups for a night or two.  We've stayed here before and have really never understood how the shuttle works, so we walked over after parking the rig.

      The registration desk clerk at the casino walked us over to the gift shop so that we could pay by credit card.  The gift shop clerk was full of information and led us to believe we could get player cards downstairs and $5 free play and, since we have the RV Plus Pilot card, that we could get half price off the buffet.  We walked further down into the casino and got all registered, spent our $5 in the slots, and headed back up for dinner.

      Dinner was delightful and they ask you to pay on your way out, but with our half price discount,  we were not expecting the cashier to ring up $36.36.  We questioned and were told that we needed to take the Pilot card back downstairs and get a coupon for half price.  Valerie walked the distance back to the coach to get her card so we could both receive half off.

Geese at Lakeside Casino RV Park in Osceola, Iowa

      We were then disappointed to learn that we needed to have CDL licenses to take advantage of the half price buffet.  Anyway, we paid more than expected and ate more than we should, but we enjoyed a comfortable night's sleep and awoke to sunshine!

      Our reservation at Dakotah Meadows in Prior Lake Minnesota actually begins on Friday, and so we called to see if our site might be available if we came in today.  But it seems that it will be occupied until then, so we decided to stay here and catch up on some work and give everyone a chance to rest up for the remainder of the drive.

The sun is shining at the Lakeside Casino RV Park in Osceola, Iowa
      Valerie walked over to pay for another night, carefully watching her step as there is goose poop everywhere!  Plan for tomorrow is to eat breakfast at the casino, fuel up at the Pilot up the hill and head towards Minneapolis, where George is preparing for cataract surgery on his eyes, and we look forward to time with his family and friends, and to meet with the RV Driving School's instructor in Savage.

      Hoping for moderate weather in Minneapolis!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Hug-filled Escape to Quartzsite

Escapees estimates approximately 400 attendees at their first Quartzsite happy hour!

      We joined the Escapees RV Club the first year we became full-timers, and we are so glad we did! We have learned so much and met so many kindred spirits who always greet us with a hug.  Today we  took a gorgeous drive about 75 miles north on Arizona Highway 95 past the vegetable fields and the Yuma Proving Grounds to attend one of two Escapee Happy Hours in Quartzsite.  

Yuma County grows 90% of the winter vegetables consumed by the U.S. and Canada

Yuma Proving Grounds is a large Army installation about 30 miles north of Yuma.

      Apparently, we didn't look suspicious and quickly passed through the Border Security check point in the northbound lane.

Thankfully, there was not a long line at the Border Security check point.

Quartzsite, located on I-10 in the Sonoran Desert, is the RV Boondocking Capital of the World. 

      Hugs were abundant, and there was music, great food, great conversation and numerous reunions with friends we have made over the years.  There will be a second get-together tomorrow, but Valerie has a dental appointment in Algodones, Mexico, so we won't be able to attend.

Former RV School owners, Dennis and Carol Hill, pose for the camera.  Check out their travel blog

      We anticipate that we'll have more time to socialize with Escapee friends next week during the RV School's annual Quartzsite gathering.  Preparations are well under way, and we are looking very forward to lots of hugs and campfire stories out under the stars in the Arizona desert.

Village People impersonators -- or wannabees, are having a GREAT time!

Check out and their special membership deals!  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Day Tripping South of the Border

Some of the more interesting pinatas displayed outside a Mexican merchant

   The last time we crossed the border into Mexico was the winter of 2008 while visiting the Rio Grande Valley.  At the recommendation of Valerie's sister we visited a dental clinic and had our teeth cleaned and some dental work done at a fraction of the cost of dental care in the States.

Driving West from Yuma on I-8 en route to Los Algodones, Mexico

   Many of our friends in the Phoenix area and other full time RVers have given us the names of dentists from whom they have received good care in the small town of Los Algodones, Mexico, just south and west of Yuma.  And Valerie was eager to get an appointment due a recently broken crown.  

Dr. Eva Urena's office at 4th Street and B Avenue in Los Algodones, Mexico

   The frustration became selecting one of numerous dentists to which we had been referred.   Valerie spent time doing extensive research on the internet and decided upon Dr. Eva Urena based upon another full time RVer's research and personal experience and then wavered back to a friend's recommendation.  

One of several colorful courtyards in Los Algodones

   As fate would have it the phone number for the friend's recommendation was not working (actually it was later learned to be the incorrect number) and she had difficulty finding his listing among the hundreds of practicing dentists from which to choose.  Dr. Urena had a website and her qualifications were readily available with internet searches, so we made an appointment for Friday morning.

A good place to warm up inside Paraiso Restaurant 

   The next issue of confusion was the time zone.  We had 9 a.m. appointments, but was that Yuma's Mountain Time or Pacific Time, which we would enter as we crossed the border into California before dropping south to cross the border?  Dr. Urena's office had emailed us excellent directions in preparation for our visit, along with payment options and was quick to respond to our question that all appointments are based upon 'Arizona' time although they are physically located in Pacific.

Not sure why there was money attached to the ceiling

   It's approximately a 30 minute drive from where we are staying at The Palms in Yuma to the International Border Crossing at Andrade, California.  From Interstate 8 we dropped south at exit #166 on State Route 186 approximately 2 miles and parked the car in the Quechan Indian Tribe's large parking lot for $6 for the day.  We walked across the border into Los Algodones and four blocks to the dentist's offices, bombarded by requests to see different dental or optical clinics and to purchase merchandise from sidewalk vendors.

Valerie's scrambled eggs served with bacon, refried beans, salad and tortillas

   We arrived early, filled out brief paperwork, and were put right at ease.  Another couple in the waiting area had also read favorable reviews and driven over 140 miles from the California side.  We paid $35 each for cleanings, and Valerie made a return appointment for two crowns that need replacing.  We found the office clean, the staff professional, cordial and fluent in English, and we did not feel pressured into procedures or added expenses we did not need.  

The Purple Pharmacy operates on both sides of this intersection

   Our next stop was at the Purple Pharmacy and Liquor Store to check prices for medications, and George was looking for a good deal on Kahlua and vodka.  We were advised that regulations had recently changed and that we could not buy alcohol before 11 a.m.  It was a crisp, cold morning and although we had not intended to eat there, we asked for a restaurant recommendation to get in out of the cold until we could purchase all that we wanted.

Can't beat these prices!
   Valerie ordered breakfast and George ordered lunch at Paraiso.  The bill came to $13 which we paid and returned to the pharmacy.  We bought one of Valerie's prescriptions, for which she has been paying $275 for 60, which was $6 for 100.  George's Kahlua was $8.99 for the 980 ml bottle.  

   The line for customs to return to the US was not long, thankfully, as the wind was still quite chilly despite the abundant sunshine.  We split up the alcohol so that we each had under one liter exempt from taxes and had our passports in hand.  There were strict rules, i.e. no photography, no entering the building until told, and George was told to keep moving rather than wait for Valerie.
Los Algodones, Mexico - Home to over 350 practicing dentists

   Overall it was a good experience.  There were a couple of armed guards not real apparent on the Mexican side.  We will return next week to have Valerie's dental work completed with another visit to the pharmacy and liquor store.  Hopefully, the day will be a little warmer.