Monday, April 30, 2012

On the way home

We left Indiana on Sunday morning heading home via central Kansas.  The quick detour through central Kansas was to visit Dean’s home town.  We are really looking forward to the Arizona sun shine after driving for two solid days across 5 states and never seeing the sun or really getting out of the bad weather.  We got into some really heavy weather just west of St. Louis and it continued all the way past Kansas City.  We finally found sun in Dalhart Tx.  The countryside was really pretty along the way with lots of green.  Between Offerle and Spearville KS we came across the largest wind farm that we think we have ever seen.  The wind generators stretched as far as the eye could see.  In addition, there were many under construction along the way.  We were really encouraged with the condition of the wheat crop across most of Kansas as it looks almost perfect.  Hopefully the weather will corporate over the next couple months.  

We are staying at the Corral RV park in Dalhart Tx.  The park is ok for a stop over with nice level gravel parking area.  It is located right in town so there is a little train noise but it is not too bad.  The rate was $25 for full hookups.

Hundreds of wind generators…


Wheat field..


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Southern Indiana

We have moved on south to the Daviess County area of Indiana.  This is the area of Indiana where Dean’s great-great grandparents lived back in the mid-1800’s.  We are currently staying at the West Boggs Lake campground just north of Loogootee.  The park is really nice and we understand why some of the reviews call this the best park in Indiana.  The sites are fairly isolated and are tucked amongst the trees.  In the afternoon we spend some time exploring some of the smaller roads in the area which was really interesting.  This area has a number of Amish settlements and it was really interesting to see all the buggies on the road.  We were fortunate to see a farmer plowing his field with a team of horses.  The countryside is so gorgeous with all the green trees and fields.

A team of 5 or 6 horses pulling the plow


Buggy at the local feed store


A beautiful setting on one of the farms


Dean at his great-great grandfather’s grave


Friday, April 27, 2012

Geese and Covered Bridges

We are continuing our family history search in the Seymour IN area which is about half way between Indianapolis IN and Louisville KY.  RV parks are few and far between in this area but we were luck to find a really nice place at the Starve Hollow Rec Park.  The park is really nice with most of the sites in the woods around a small lake.  The lake is home to a few pairs of Canadian Geese who have small babies.  They are so cute as they float around. 

The happy family…



This afternoon we visited a couple covered bridges in the area.  They are quite amazing with one being over 460’ long.  Neither bridge is in use anymore but they have been restored as historical sites.  Based on some info we picked up at a visitor center there are about 20 covered bridges in the area.

The Medora Covered Bridge near Medora IN.



Tomorrow we are heading to the Odon IN area with  is about 50 miles south west of here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Researching our Roots in Indiana

Monday we drove from Ann Arbor to Franklin Indiana which is just south of Indianapolis.  For the last three days we have been digging through old marriage and death records at the library and historical society.  Our camping location is south of Franklin at the Johnson County Park which is on what once was Camp Atterbury.  This camp was a huge army base build shortly before the start of WWII and used in various degrees since.  About a third had been turned over by the army for other uses and the county built a fairly nice RV park there.  The park is quiet and at $16 a night for water/electric it’s a good value.  It is really interesting to bike around the area and see where all the old army buildings were located.  At its peek the base had something like 1500 buildings.  There was also a POW camp located nearby for German and Italian prisoners.  Many of the Italians were skilled craftsmen who worked on the base.  In 1942 they received permission to build a small chapel in their camp.  The chapel was restored in 1988.

Tomorrow we will go about 40 miles south to Seymour.

POW Chapel



Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ford Factory Tour

Yesterday we had the opportunity to tour the Ford Rouge Factory where the F150 trucks are made.  The Rouge Factory was built in 1917 and first produced the Model A.  The factory was unique at the time in that basic raw materials such as iron ore came into the factory at one end and finished cars came out the other end.  Over the years the factory declined and it was nearly closed at one point.  However, a few years ago Ford decided to rebuild it as an ultra-modern factory and to serve as a model for future factories.  They not only rebuilt the factory but also built it to LEED standards for energy efficiency and used green sustainable techniques.  For example, the roof of the factory is a living roof where it is covered by living plants.  This not only protects the roof enabling it to last over 50 years but it provides significant insulation which reduces operating costs.  Likewise, the walls are covered by vines for insulation.  This factory shows that building green can make business sense.

The tour is self paced as you walk around a cat walk above the production floor and you can watch the production as long as you like.  Above the cat walk were conveyors that deliver the larger parts to the work stations.  One thing that was amazing is that the assembly line was full of many different F150 models and colors but yet the correct parts were installed on each vehicle.  Flexibility is one of the main features of the factory so it can adapt to production needs.  They also proved a multi-sensory movie that shows the complete build process.  The movie was very good.  When the video on the screen was showing a stamping press making body panels the floor would shake in time with the press.  When they were welding you could smell the welding smoke.  Likewise, when they were showing rain testing of the trucks you could feel the cold mist blowing in your face.  Unfortunately photos were not allowed in the production area.

Tour entrance


View of the factory from the observation deck


View of the roof.  The green and red surfaces in the photo are living plants.


Car gallery in the plant lobby


After the factory tour we went to the Henry Ford Museum.  They have a huge collection of life in America.  You could easily spend a full day or two in the museum.  Some of their collections are trains, cars, presidential limousines, Rosa Parks Bus, and much more.

Entrance to the Museum


The Reagan Limo.  They also have the Roosevelt and Kennedy Limos


No visit to Ann Arbor would be complete without a photo of the beautiful flowers.


Tomorrow we are off to Franklin Indiana.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Made it to Ann Arbor

We had a nice drive from Champaign IL to Ann Arbor MI yesterday.  The only thing that was a little nerve racking was once we were in Michigan the interstate has a speed limit of 60 for trucks and 70 for cars which really creates a dangerous situation with all the passing and lane changes.  We were able to bypass the Chicago area by taking some smaller roads around the city and rejoining the main interstate near Gary IL.  We are now at the Hell Creek Campground north west of Ann Arbor.  It is a really nice park and we are only the second visitor this season.  We are the only ones here so it is really quiet.  The weather is really nice with the temps in the upper 60’s so not sure why people are not out camping.  Suspect this park would be really busy in the summer.  Seems like we are finding parks with strange fee structures this trip.  The park changes $25 for a site with electric but if you want to hook up to water at the site it is an extra $5!  On the way to the park we drove through Dexter MI which is the town that was hit by a tornado last month.  There are still in the mist of clean up and rebuilding.

Our daughter came out to meet us and later she took us in to see her work location.  She works for a high tech company which was a small startup that was acquired by a a larger company a few years ago.  They have a very interesting work environment…. very much like the Google environment.  A much more relaxed and productive environment then the old school defense industry we are familiar with. 

Today we took a tour of Ann Arbor and spent most of the day visiting with our daughter.  Tomorrow we plan to visit the Henry Ford Museum and take a tour of the plant that makes the Ford F150 truck which should be really interesting.  We have had a little rain today and it has cooled off but still not bad for this time of the year.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Lincoln Museum

Today we visited the Lincoln Museum and Tomb.  We found the museum to be simply outstanding and very well presented.  They have two major exhibits areas.  One deals with Lincoln’s life from a child until he was a candidate for President and the second exhibit area was about his life as President.  All through out the museum were life like figures of various people and the quality was unbelievable.  The skin tones and eyes looked life like and at times it almost seemed like they were alive.  According to one of the guides the figures are made out of silicon using a new process.  We found the slave exhibit and the civil war exhibit to be the most memorable.  Unfortunately they did not allow photos in the exhibit area so no photos.  The attention to detail in the exhibits was unbelievable.  For example, they had an exhibit of the white house kitchen and you could feel heat coming from the stove!  Another thing we found interesting is the political environment of Lincoln’s presidency which is really no different from today.  The names and issues are different but the level of fighting between the two parties is really no different.


Abe as a boy


The Lincoln family


Gen Grant


At the Lincoln tomb


Lincoln’s tomb




After leaving the museum and tomb we decided to head on down the road and ended up D & W RV Park north of Champaign IL.  The park is relatively small and very nice.  It is located on the banks of a small fishing lake and we would recommend it if you are in the area. 


Tomorrow it is on to Ann Arbor.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Travel Day

Today we were on the road early heading from Eastern Kansas to Springfield IL to visit the Lincoln Museum.  The roads were great and the weather was perfect which made for a fine travel day even if it was a long day.  This evening we are at the Riverside Park campground in Springfield.  This is a city campground on the northwest part of the city.  The only real thing this park has going for it is the location.  It is relatively close to the Lincoln Museum.  Beyond that it is nothing special.  The park is fairly old and is located near a major road so there is a lot of road noise.  The park has the most unusual layout that we have ever encountered.  At most of the sites the water hook up is at one end of the site and the electrical is at the other.  There is not physical way to connect to both without an extra cord or hose.  Obviously whoever designed the layout wasn’t an RV’er.  The rate is $25 per night regardless if you have no hookup or full hookups!  We haven’t decided if we will stay here tomorrow night or head on up the road and it will all depend on how long we are at the Museum.

Sorry for not photos tonight but we will have a lot hopefully tomorrow about our 16th President.

Miles driven:  464

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Beautiful Driving Day

Today we left Greensburg KS heading for Toronto Lake in the eastern part of Kansas.  Unlike the previous days the weather was simply beautiful with clear blue skies and no wind.  The drive was through gentle rolling hills that we stunningly green.  We had never stayed at the Toronto State Lake before but were pleasantly surprised.  The campsites are tucked back into the woods and are very quiet.  Tonight the place is nearly vacant with the nearest neighbors about 300 ft away.  Suspect it is that way except on holidays.  We would highly recommend this campground for those in the area.  The cost was $14 for a water and electric site.  A sewer connection is an additional $3.50.

This afternoon we drive over to a very small town called Virgil where Dean’s Dad and immediate family grew up.  We visited the cemetery and were lucky to connect with a local resident who knew the family from way back.  Tomorrow it is up early to head to Springfield MO.

Miles driven 235.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Greensburg … the town that didn’t die

Today we are staying in Greensburg KS which was hit by a nearly 2 mile wide EF5 tornado in May 2007.  This was the town that was featured in the Planet Green TV program titled “Greensburg”.  This town was basically wiped off the map by the tornado which damaged something like 95% of the town.  Greensburg was not the first town in the mid-west to experience this but the unique thing about Greensburg is that the community decided to rebuilt the town in a sustainable “green” fashion.  Almost all the public and several of the private buildings are certified as LEED platinum buildings which means they are built to the highest standards for energy efficiency. 

The town also installed 10 wind generators that generate enough power for 4000 homes which is more then enough to power the complete city plus sell power to the grid.   Several individuals and businesses have also installed wind generators.  This is a photo of the city wind farm.


This building has three small wind generators plus solar panels.  For those who watched the program this is the 547 Arts Center.


This is one of the tornado shelters installed in the temporary trailer city that FEMA built to house the city residence until the rebuilding was complete (Fema’ville on the TV program) .


There is still a lot of evidence of the damage around town even after 5 years.


This is a photo of some metal debris wrapped around a tree limb at the small lake just outside of town where we are camped at this evening.  We were walking in the fields around the lake and there was debris all over the ground.


All in all we were a little surprised at how must damage and debris still remains in the town even after 5 years and how much work still remains.  We were also surprised at the number of people that obviously decided not to rebuild as evidenced by the numerous empty lots many still containing the old foundations and driveways/walks from the old houses.

More information can be found at,_Kansas

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Winter Wonderland

Today we drove in rain, snow, and through a dust storm.  When we left home this morning it was lightly raining and as soon as came up out of the valley the rain turned into snow.  The snow continued fairly steady until we reached I40 in northern AZ.  Once we got into New Mexico the snow returned until almost Albuquerque at which point the dust started blowing.  The winds must have been in the 50-60 mph range.  It only takes a few minutes in blowing cold snow to remind us of why we love living in the AZ desert.  Yup it gets hot but we will take the heat any day over the cold!

This evening we are at Santa Rosa Lake State Park which is about 10 miles north of Santa Rosa NM.  The lake is very low but the campground is nice and you can’t complain about the $14 rate.  All total we drove 566 miles today.  Tomorrow the goal is Greensburg KS.  Hopefully the storms that they had there today (2” hail) will have calmed down a little.

The following photos were from south of Show Low AZ



Friday, April 13, 2012

Ready to Head Out–well maybe

Tomorrow morning we are ready to head out on a 3-4 week trip to the mid-west, that is assuming the weather cooperates.  They are forecasting snow for the AZ high country so time will tell if we will be able to go or what the route will be.  Our plan for this trip is to visit the following places…

Greensburg, KS – site of the devastating tornado a few years ago

Springfield, IL – visit the Lincoln museum

Ann Arbor, MI – to visit our daughter

Indiana – genealogy research

Central Kansas – Dean’s home town

If all things work out tomorrow we will be in Santa Rosa NM.