2011 Travels travel blog

Carpe Diem at Winnebago-Itasca Rally Grounds
We got a nice level site amid...

Entering the Winnebago-Itasca Rally Grounds
The parkers did a remarkable job and we...

Spam Museum—Austin, MN
We revisited on the way back from Mayo Clinic

The Rally Grounds Fill Up
Carpe has many neighbors now

Aerial view of Grand National Rally
Carpe is located lower right of center...

Carpe's new license frame
Dinkum also sports one...

Winnebago-Itasca Rally Opening Ceremonies
The military group does a greaj job

WIT Rally
The proliferation of noisy, stinky golf carts is Sandi's bane

The 365 "gang" awaits Branding Iron opening
A gem located in rural Thompson,...

A "Real Scorcher"
This was taken at 7 P.M.

Carpe at WIT Visitor's Center
We moved to higher ground due to forecast...

Sun, 10 Jun: We departed the Cutty Campgrounds a few minutes after nine and headed north in I 35 to Williams, Iowa. There is a Flying J at Williams where we topped off the diesel tank. We had plenty of fuel, but decided to top if off as we were unsure about future fuel costs and availability.

Carpe took on slightly more than 25 gallons at $4.019/gallon. Once again we were very pleased with our fuel usage, coming in at 8.8 miles/gallon for this tank. After topping up we headed west on Iowa D25 and then took US 69 north to Forest City. It was a lovely drive, despite dodging rain cells most of the way. Total distance today; 127 miles.

We arrived at the Winnebago-Itasca (WIT) Rally entrance a few minutes after noon and pulled up to the end of a queue of motorhomes also waiting to get checked in. Parking started at 1300, so we immediately got about the important business of lunch. Do we ever have our priorities right or what?

Right at 1300 the line started to move and the volunteer parkers did an exceptional job of getting all of us checked in and safely parked. We were assigned a nice level spot right in the middle of the 356 group area just a few steps from the main hall where all the action will happen. We were "at home" by 1400...

At 1600 the 365 Happy Hour began, and it was great to see old friends and catch up on their travels during the past year. New members also joined the group during the year and it was good to get to know them. We've long said that the fellowship is the very best part of RVing.

Mon, 11 Jun: A few pretty strong thunderstorms passed through the area during the night. Strong winds rocked us in our bed and the sound of rain on the roof kept us up off and on throughout the morning. At some point we lost 110v electricity, but we did just fine on our batteries.

The alarm (darnest thing for retirees to have) woke us at 0545 and we got ready for the day and headed to Rochester, Minnesota. Sandi had a follow-up eye examination at the Mayo Clinic. The drive took a around two hours and, despite the rain, we were in the parking garage a few minutes after eight. Breakfast at the clinic cafeteria and by 0915 Sandi was called into the examination room.

They did a thorough check of her vision (little change), eye pressures (still nice and low), and the "back of the eye" (unchanged). She saw Dr. Leo Maguire, the doc who did her first corneal transplant in '94. He is still as good as ever and very thorough. The prognosis? Stay the course and see the eye doc in Arizona in six months.

After leaving the eye clinic we went upstairs to the GI dept where Sandi left a message for the surgeon who did her liver resection exactly twenty years ago today. He wasn't in, but Sandi left her card and info with his nurse who promised she'd give it to him.

On the way home we stopped in Austin, MN at the Spam Museum. We didn't take the museum visit this time, but headed right to the shop where we picked up several cans of the Spam varieties not available in the U.S. (Pepper Spam and Garlic Spam). A quick stop at a fast food joint in Albert Lea and then back to Forest City where we picked up our mail at the Post Office.

Next stop Winnebago Service Center where we got our name on the list for factory service. We don't have any big service items this year, but a number of small matters to check and adjust. Hopefully, they'll get to us this week.

Then back to the coach for a while, another happy hour, and more visiting. By 2100 we were both feeling the effects of our early wake up and it was lights out by 2200.

Tue, 12 Jul: Gentle rains started early morning and continued most of the morning (and are predicted to stick around most of the day). We joined the 365 group for an "egg in a bag" breakfast. We augmented their meager offerings with some of our own, and also brought along our hot sauce.)

Bob had a conference call with the American Philatelic Society Committee to which he was "assigned" as a result of last month's visit. Sounds very much like "w--k" to us...

Sun, 17 Jul: Wow, where did the week go? We've been very busy doing who-knows-what, but then again, isn't that what retirement is all about? Don't know where we ever found time to do that w**k stuff.

Anyway, since our last post we took Carpe into Winnebago for factory service on a few minor items. All got taken care of, including (fingers crossed) the windshield leak. Seems they found the rightmost front clearance light cracked and full of water. The technician surmises that we took a road rock up there (it is almost twelve feet above the road surface) that cracked the lens. Regardless, we've had some torrential rain since and (knock wood again) no leaks noted.

Thursday was a very rainy day, so much rain that they closed the rally grounds to all motorhome movement. The folks that took their coach for work on Thursday had to spend the nite elsewhere. Sure glad we got our work done on Wednesday.

Friday Bob took the car to Minneapolis to attend a stamp show. Sandi took the opportunity to clean our nest. More rain in the afternoon.

It is now Sunday, and the rally officially opens this evening. The HOT has arrived, with temps in the low nineties and humidity pushing the heat index into triple digits. It is really pretty yukky outside, and we're really happy to stay in our air conditioned coach and hibernate.

Tomorrow morning we'll hand out donuts and such at the morning coffee. It means setting the *&%#@ alarm clock, but we do what we must do. It'll be rough handing out all those carb-laden goodies without tasting them. But, we've been pretty good about our diet and feel good about how we're doing.

Mon, 18 Jul: The rally officially opened last evening with a parade of all the states, interest groups, and other notables. Most impressive was the flag raising ceremony conducted by the retired military group. They raised the U.S. and Canadian flags accompanied by the respective anthems. Then they did a melody of service marches and asked the vets from each branch to stand. Sandi proudly stood when they played the Army anthem.

Today we started by handing out muffins, which is always fun. There were a number of seminars as well as the opening of the vendor booths in the exhibition hall. It was brutally hot, almost 100° F. plus humidity. The tents were sweltering.

That evening the 365 gang headed to nearby Thompson to dine at The Branding Iron. This is one of our favorite spots located in a very small farming community on IA 9 about fifteen miles from Forest City. The Monday special, prime rib, is really special. Sandi is not a big prime rib fan, but that's what she orders.

Fri, 22 Jul: Wow, where has the week gone? It has been a very busy rally and we managed to keep ourselves out of trouble (mostly!) The heat earlier in the week was pretty oppressive, with heat index readings in the triple digits (110° F. range Tuesday). Our air conditioners were kept busy, but did keep us very comfy. Amazingly enough, the rally grounds electric system stayed up despite about 1,000 motorhomes running their air conditioners.

We took two Winnebago factory tours. The first was to the cabinet shop where we watched them build all the woodwork that goes into the motorhomes. The tour also included the fiberglass build area where they were fabricating front and rear caps for large coaches. Yesterday we took the final assembly tour, which was absolutely fascinating!!! We were allowed to walk along the line and watched them build the fiberglass sidewalls and roof units and then assemble them onto the chassis. It is an amazing thing to see, and we really enjoyed the experience.

Today, Friday, is the official end of the rally. The rally grounds will remain open through the weekend and we can stay at no additional charge. We're planning to leave tomorrow (Saturday) morning and drive to Lake Delton, WI where we'll attend the FMCA full-timers pre-rally. That'll keep us occupied next week, and then we have some time to kill (about ten days) before the FMCA main rally in Madison, WI starting 08 Aug. Not yet sure where/what we'll do, but it'll probably entail the Lake Superior and/or Lake Huron shore (with, hopefully, cooler weather).

In the afternoon we relocated Carpe from the rallygrounds (grass) to the nearby Visitor's Center (level gravel). The forecast was for heavy rain overnite and, given that we got stuck at the rallygrounds last year, we elected to play it safe. Needless to say, the rain never materialized. No worry, we were in a better and easier position to get a start on our Saturday drive.

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