2013 Travels travel blog

Carpe "back home" at the Winnebago Visitor's Center

Early Saturday morning on I 35 north of Ames

Spring is still arriving in northern Iowa

North of Clear Lake we got on local (farm) roads

The town of Fertile is east of Forest City
A newspaper headline once...

Heavy spring rains cause Winnebago River to flood

Winnebago River floods Pammel Park in Forest City

A very rainy Sunday morning in Forest City

Allan's visitation in Lake Mill

Carpe's new drip rail may stem entry door leak

Closeup of drip rail

Forest City's coin laundry

Winnebago's Visitor's Center in Forest City

The earliest Winnebago product

An early Winnebago

Sat, 18 May: We had a good nite's sleep in the Ankeny, IA Wal*Mart parking lot. The lot was pretty crowded with quite a few 18-wheelers and Carpe. Despite that it got quiet for a Friday nite, especially given our location in a busy shopping and restaurant district.

When we awoke we noted that the employees were filling in the parking stalls immediately in front of our coach. Rather than get boxed in we hustled thru our check lists and rolled wheels before seven. We maneuvered out of the parking lot and onto I 35 north. We drove about ½ hour and stopped at a rest stop for breakfast.

Back on the "super-slab" some 100 miles to just north of Clear Lake (site of Buddy Holly's tragic plane crash) where we exited to local (farm) roads for the last twenty miles to Forest City. We arrived at the municipal dump station a few minutes after ten. Most of the area around the dump station was flooded by the Winnebago River, which had swollen beyond its banks due to heavy spring rains. Fortunately, the dump site was dry and we were able to dump and top off our fresh water after eight days on the road.

We then drove the short distance to the Winnebago Industries Visitor Center across the road from the factory. The courtesy campsites were deserted so we took the one closest to the building to get good wireless reception. They've upgraded the sites since our last visit in July 2011. They're now all 50 ampere service, a nice luxury after four days living on our batteries. Today was a very short day, a mere 128 miles with an average fuel economy of 9.4 mpg.

About five in the evening we drove to Mason City to meet with Caroline, Allan's wife and daughters Stacy and Krisy. Allan's grandchildren Chandler, Travis, and Luke were also there. Following a tearful and joyous visit we had dinner at a Ruby Tuesday's and then split. Everyone was either jet lagged, running on nerves alone, or both.

Sun, 20 May: A very tiring day, both emotionally and physically. Today was a "sleep in" day and we did stay in bed until we wanted to arise. No alarm clock.

It was sunny and very windy Sunday. Thunderstorm and tornado watches were in effect and, sure enough, midday the first storms hit with very high winds. We retracted both of our slides as the canvas slide toppers were flapping away. We stayed in our cozy, albeit somewhat cramped, coach until a bit after two when we got in Dinkum and drove the eighteen miles to Lake Mills.

Sunday's visitation was at the funeral home and it was very tastefully done. Allan lived here for about fifteen years, first with Sharon and then, following Sharon's death, Caroline. Both ladies are "locals" and have a wide circle of family, friends, and acquaintances. The funeral home was busy all afternoon and evening despite the weather.

We left about 1930 and headed back to Forest City and home. We mostly missed the storm, but the next wave of rains hit minutes before we reached the coach. We got drenched in the few minutes it took to get from the car to the coach, even though they were parked within a few feet of one another.

It stormed most of the nite with torrential rains and considerable lightening. Fortunately, the winds were not too bad so we almost got a nite's sleep.

Mon, 21 May: No sleeping in today! We set the alarm for 0600 and got up and at 'em. Ugh, we remember these kind of Mondays from when we did that "W" thingie, and we didn't care much for it then. We certainly don't like it now...

At 0800 we checked in at the Winnebago Visitor's Center and received a parking pass for three days parking in a guest site. The fellow who checked us in, a volunteer retired Winnebago employee, knew Allan well as he was his cardiologist. Small towns are wonderful.

Following our check in we drove to the Factory Service Facility and got on the wait list for service. Rebecca, the very friendly and competent service writer, greeted us like we were old friends. You know you've had way too many service appointments when that happens!

Back to the coach we got in our good clothes (suit for Bob and dress for Sandi) and drove to the church in Forest City. We arrived a few minutes before ten and waited for the rest of the family and friends to arrive.

The service started at eleven and was very well done. Allan was eulogized by two old friends who had us alternately crying and laughing. Following the service lunch was served and more visiting and socializing.

We finally left about 1330 after saying goodbye to Caroline, Stacy, Krissy, and the rest of the family (getting smaller every year). They were heading back to Des Moines for a (hopefully) restful day before the kids fly back home (Utah and California) on Wednesday.

On a happier note: This past Friday, 17 May, we received word that our niece and her husband, Hannah and Dominic Sappio, are the proud parents of a baby boy. As the song goes: "Sunrise, Sunset". The circle of life continues.

Once back at the coach we quickly doffed our fancy duds and got back into comfy shorts and tops. Several phone calls later we pencilled in plans for the next few weeks. Once we're finished here at Winnebagy we'll head west to Box Elder where we'll settle in at the America's Mailbox campground in Box Elder. Americas Mailbox is our mailing service and they also have a campground for their customers. A nice, friendly, and convenient place to "veg" for a while.

While in South Dakota we'll attend the FMCA Full Timers rally in Sturgis, SD. That'll run from 03-07 June, then back to Box Elder until the FMCA rally in Gillette later in the month.

Late in the afternoon we received a call from Rebecca at Winnebago advising us that Carpe had an 0715 appointment for tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. Ugh, another alarm clock day.

We drove to nearby Thompson for dinner at The Branding Iron restaurant. The Branding Iron is a northern Iowa tradition and we always try to dine there at least once during every visit to the area. Monday is Prime Rib nite and we both ordered some. Sandi is not a big prime rib fan, but this is the best of the best.

Back to the coach around seven for a belated Happy Hour and some R&R. Around dusk a small thunderstorm blew through with minimal rain, etc. After that a quiet nite.

Tue, 21 May: Another alarm clock wakeup. We had a quick breakfast and got the coach ready to roll. We have an appointment for 0715 so time was of the essence. A few minutes after seven Bob rolled wheels for the nearby service facility. Mike was waiting for us and, after discussing what we'd like him to do, off he went with Carpe to probe, poke, and peer into her delicate innards.

As this is posted it is a few minutes after eight and we're sitting in the customer lounge using the free wireless. These are always long days without the house so we hope to keep ourselves busy until Carpe returns later in the day.

After several hours of waiting around we decided to leave for lunch. The minute we sat down the phone rang and the service manager wanted to talk with us. Following lunch we met with Kevin who, to be kind, gave us a line of Krap!

The door has been leaking since we took delivery of the coach and Winnebago has denied any responsibility for the defect. This has not changed and we got another round of BS. We finally agreed that they would adjust the door so it would close tighter, reset the door seals, and install a drip rail (rain gutter) above the door.

Alas, the rain gutter was not available and would have to be manufactured so we got set up to bring the coach back tomorrow. Back to our parking spot for some R&R and a quiet dinner at home.

Wed, 22 May: We left it that they would call us to bring Carpe down when the drip rail was ready. We waited until ten and still didn't hear. We called them and, guess what, the drip rail "just came in" and they were "just going to call us"! Right.

We took the coach down and they took it right in. To avoid the customer lounge full of yippy dogs and squacking birds we retreated to the car. It was a steady drizzle, cold, and not very pleasant. After a while we drove to Mason City for lunch and a Wally stop. Returning to Forest City a bit before two we found Carpe waiting for us. The drip rail looks pretty good and we hope it'll help. We'll see...

Back to our parking area and turned on the heat. It was a really raw day and we were very happy to be inside.

Thu, 23 May: It was nice not having to worry about getting up and getting Carpe ready to roll. When the Visitor's Center opened at eight we asked the volunteer if we could stay one more day and he gladly filled out a new windshield authorization. We also signed up to take the factory tour.

News flash! Checking our e-mail over an early morning cuppa tea we learned that we have become great aunt & uncle for the ninth time! Our niece Shira and hubby David became proud parents of a baby girl this morning. This is the second new arrival in less than a week (see previous), and the first girl for sis Nancy & hubby Shel. Congratulations to the proud parents and grand parents!

The public factory tours are two hours, the first ½ hour of which is a promotional video. We then spent the remainder of the time visiting Stitchcraft, where they manufacture all the soft goods; chassis preparation, where they take the chassis that arrive from Ford, Mercedes, or Freightliner and get them ready to become RVs; and then final assembly, where the "magic" happens.

The tours are always interesting and it is amazing to see the level of technology Winnebago uses. Compared with firms such as Foretravel (see Livingston, TX entry) which are almost handbuilt this is quite an operation.

When the tour was over we loaded two weeks worth of laundry into Dinkum and drove into Forest City to the Lost Sock Bubble Mat, the local coin laundry. We took six washers and four dryers but we were in and out in fewer than two hours. A big job done and life is sweet.

We've been enjoying sitting around this afternoon. It is sunny but cool and forecast to drop to the high thirties overnite. Brrrr, snuggle time!

Tomorrow we'll head out again. We're going to head west along US 18 to South Dakota and then SD 44 to Box Elder. We've never taken SD 44 so it'll be a new route.

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