Wheres Ray/Wendy yr 2

Monday, August 26, 2013

Greetings from Mukwonago

Hello all,
 We have now come full circle back to where we started from.Currently we are mooch camping at Randy and Lynn's house. They have a great place with a nice view of Phantom Lake.
  It has been quite a trip. The numbers aren't real staggering and that is by plan. We want to take our time and not try to see everything right away. You learn real quick that staying in one place for a time saves money. Breaking it down by miles, we put on the truck 15,000 miles. Of that 4,500 was towing. We logged 30 different stops.
  As this is not a full year we will wait to compute our cost of full time living. So now that we are back we will be busy. We have a very full calendar with trying to see everyone and get to appointments. We have a couple nice family campouts planned and an Excel outing. We figure to be here til early October then head off to the unknown.)
  We looked back on our time in South Dakota and figured some savings of camp hosting. We spent 104 nights there @ $24. per night= $2496. We used our VIP comp passes given to area volunteers for $500. worth of admittances. We received our annual state park sticker for $30. Earned four free nights camping in SD parks worth $96. All told about $3100. for our 3-1/2 months there. Pretty good for volunteering in a beautiful area to boot.
  As for our future plans things had been pretty quiet. We had applications in a few places then wham! Three emails in one day. We had a good offer from Okefenokee swamp, a referral for a maintenance position in Texas and a camp host job in AZ. Wow- now what to do? We are leaning toward the Arizona job, as the only time we have spent in the southwest were some trips to Las Vegas. We'll keep ya posted.
  On Saturday we got together with some friends from high school. Yes, I know that's hard to believe.We have gotten together with this group almost every Christmas for a party. Then when we hit the big 40 we began a 40 whiners party during the summer. Of course it is now a 50 whiners, but it is always great to get back with them. It is fun to hear of their about grandkids and just how everyone is doing. We are lucky to have such great friends and surely do miss the X-mas gathering.
Tom, Susie, John, Judy, Dennis, JoAnn and us. Missing 3 other couples.
It's hard to believe we are back in WI. The time went sooo fast!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Hi again,
  Made it to Smith Center, Kansas on Saturday. We have a Monday morning appointment but they have electrical hookups and would leave the waiting lounge open for us. It is a nice lounge with two large rooms each with cable TV. So we can get caught up with our TV watching.) They also have showers and a washer/ dryer to use, very nice.
1000 pc. puzzle helped pass the time
  Smith Center is a small town of less than 1000 and no fast food or Walmart. We rode the bikes around town late Saturday and only the supermarket was open. It still is cool to see these old towns that still remain as they were many years ago. We were here in 2009 when the Excel (our RV) manufacturer was going strong and held a celebration for Excel owners. Several hundred owners would camp out on the school property. They would feed you breakfast and supper for five days. They held all sorts of activities and seminars, and all for about $100. They were holding them every three years but the downturn of the economy has sadly prohibited them from continuing.
  With not much to do in Smith Center on Sunday we took a ride to Lucas, KS. Now if you thought Smith Center was small Lucas was all of 400. We also thought it cool for our grandson with us, Lukas.
Worlds Largest Souvenir Plate
 Wendy had seen a flyer for two different attractions to see. Along the drive we saw something different- it was stone fencepost. And alot of them. Seems in the day with a lack of trees and limestone all about the area it was cheaper to use the limestone. It sure is a wonder as said they can be 100 lb. per foot, and up to eight feet long. They would drill holes by hand and split the slabs to about 12" square. Then the loading, transporting, and setting of the post. They also used the limestone for many structures still standing in the area.
 OK back to the attractions- The first one was The Garden of Eden. This was a home and garden built by Samuel Dinsmoor. He began in 1907 and used the limestone to form his 11 room log cabin. He then created his garden with cement sculptures surrounding the cabin. It has been estimated that he used 113 tons of cement in his cabin and garden. He worked on it for 22 years. He also built a 40 foot tall limestone log mausoleum for himself and his first wife. He is laid to rest in his handmade, glass-topped concrete coffin.
Some of the 150 sculptures
  The second attraction was the Bowl Plaza. With all the visitors, they needed public restrooms. So they built one in the shape of a toilet. The inside and outside had some very interesting mosaics.
women's room
men's room
Next we walked down the street to the Grassroots Art Center. This is a small art gallery with about a dozen artist displays. There was a lot of unusual art work.
179,200 pull-tabs
 One last stop on the way back was to see the Statue of Liberty. Yes, it was out in the middle of nowhere! We had a great day exploring a little part of Kansas.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Leaving Custer

Hi all,
  Sadly we are all done with our first volunteer adventure. We had asked to be done by Labor Day and the supervisor had a returning couple that would come in on Aug. 15 so it worked out well for all.
  To recap we had a great time. We completed about 300 hours of volunteering. Best part for Wendy- the beauty of the park, for Ray- fishing in the many lakes and trout ponds.
  We both enjoyed meeting a lot of nice people, both guests and coworkers. We used the VIP volunteer passes for a total of about $500.00 in attraction fees. We also recieved four free nights camping in SD state parks, good through 2014. Worst part- a lack of supervision for the paid attendants. These are nice college kids that quickly learn how to avoid some of the work. Overall we thought we couldn't have picked a better job or place. As to if we return??? We need to let the park know by Oct. 1st. I would say we are leaning toward a return.
  We left and made a nice drive through the Badlands. It was a very overcast day but we enjoyed a little climbing about with Lucas.
 We had to change our plans on our return as we have an appointment at the rv factory on Monday. We had an episode with the black tank that we feel best if the factory does the repair. The factory is in Smith Center (north central) Kansas. It should get us back to WI about Aug. 23rd. We are really looking forward to catching up with family and friends.
Beautiful sand hills of  Nebraska

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back to quiet

Hello all,
  Boy, what a change a few days make. The bikes have headed for home. It is hard to believe how fast of a change from bikes and their constant rumble to just a few passing by occasionally. All in all it was pretty neat to have seen and been a small part of the rally.
  The weather here has sure been far from normal. Most all the locals say it is never this green at this time of the year. And the rains keep coming. The good part is they are usually afternoon storms that pass through and not all day soakers.

 We continue to look for a volunteer gig for the winter. We have had a couple good contacts and hopefully we can get it figured out soon.
  We have been having a good time with Lukas. One bad part of bike week was there was not as many kids in the campground. Lukas would take off on his bike as soon as he saw kids at the playground. One time he returned rather quickly and sheepishly said the kids were speaking a different language and he couldn't understand them. Later though he was playing with them, I thought that was neat.

  We had a good discussion with our boss about the possibility of returning, we are still undecided. The naturalist gave us a nice departing gift that was sure unexpected. We have sure had a great adventure here and met some nice people.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Surviving Sturgis

Hi all,
 We are now into prime Sturgis week, bikes are everywhere and the sounds continue all day with no break.It quiets down in the later evening and even with many bikers in camp by 10 pm the campground is dead quiet.
 We watched the Sturgis mayor's ride come into the park. They were having lunch at the Game Lodge pavilion. The governor was also in attendance. Lukas counted 179 bikes and a few more came after that.
  On Tuesday we took a chance it wouldn't be to crazy out and went to Hill City to ride the 1880's steam train. It travels to Keystone and back. You can spend time in Keystone though we chose an immediate return. It was a nice ride and we saw deer, turkey and some marmots.
 After that we just strolled down main street admiring the bikes. Wendy said she felt like we needed to be wearing black tee shirts to be here. People watching is also a good past time while here, though I hear this is nothing compared to being in Sturgis. Well this is as close as we are getting.
 We talked to a ranger the other day and he said they were averaging four bike accidents an hour in the hills. There was also one fatality on Needles Hwy. Many people going to fast on these curvy roads.
 So we are down to the last week of work here. We will be sad to leave what has turned out to be a great adventure for us.
 We also had a change to our plans as a trip to the rv factory in Smith Center is now needed. Seems we have the black tank blues. In the process of dumping, a large pop occurred. Water and nasty was flowing from the tank and under. Near as I can tell the tank separated from the pipe. After checking around seems the best option is to just head to Kansas for the correct repair. The under belly needs to be removed for a sure evaluation and insulation replaced. Thus is the life of a full time rv'er. Taking the bad with the good.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Having fun

Hi all,
  Boy, after the family and friends left we felt wore out. A day spent just relaxing was in order. But not to much as we have our nine year old grandson staying with us for the next two weeks and ya know how much a nine year old can sit.
So on Tuesday we headed to tour Rushmore Cave. This was the forth cave we have taken in the Black Hills. We then took in Big Thunder Mine which was a gold mine that two guys worked on for over thirty years and produced about $20.00 total in gold. Lukas got to try his luck in panning.
  We again used our VIP passes for this. The passes are given to area workers and volunteers and we have so far used them for $430. worth. A nice side perk!
  Wednesday we finally loaded up the bikes and took a ride on the Mickelson Bike Trail. This is a rails to trails that covers over 100 miles.
  We drove to trail head seven in Mystic and rode to two tunnels in one direction and one tunnel in the other direction. Overall about 10-1/2 miles. We also crossed some neat trestle bridges and followed a beautiful stream. Definitely would like to ride some more of this.
   Thursday I took Lukas fishing to Stockade Lake. The fishing spot where I had been having success seems to have gone cold. We caught a couple then went to a pier where Lukas caught a nice bluegill and a good crappie. He was hooked, it began to rain and he just kept on fishing. We caught a few more and will have a nice fish dinner.
  We are now in the midst of bike week. The Sturgis rally brings in enough bikes to double the population of South Dakota. It brings in huge tourist dollars for the whole Black Hill area. It is surely a spectacle to see. Bikes, bikes, and more bikes. They have a few big rides scheduled and Wendy says they all pass by our campground. Being our first time witnessing it, it should be cool.

    The time here is winding down fast, less than two weeks and we are outta here.