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Main Entry: ca·ma·ra·de·rie
Etymology: French, from camarade comrade
A spirit of friendly good-fellowship; Goodwill and lighthearted rapport between or among friends; comradeship
In the last travelogue, A Seven Week Tour of Michigan, I made an observation that there wasn't much camaraderie among weekend campers other than the family and friends with whom they are camping. We were once weekend campers and understood that the weekends come and go very quickly for working folks. So it was with much anticipation that we left Michigan and started making our way south to eventually hook up with our RV buddies and other full-timers. We weren't disappointed as we got back into the world of full-timers. But first, here's a small world story about some people not seeming to be very friendly, but turning out to be friendlier than what one perceives.
We were in a campground in Holland before we drove to the Spartan factory in Charlotte. There was some kind of RV club there, Spectrum 2000 RV Club. It looked like a small rally of maybe around 15 rigs. We ended up parked sort of in the middle of them. There were two American Dreams, two American Eagles, three Dutch Stars, a couple of Monaco Diplomats, and a few older rigs. We had been in the same area as some of these folks and they didn't even make eye contact much less say hello or stop over when we were sitting outside. I don't know what it was, but they sure all came across as snobby and cliquish. We weren't looking to get invited to their tours of the area or going out to eat, but it would have been nice for some of them to acknowledge our presence. I'm really surprised at the Dutch Star folks. I figured the commonality of the rigs would be enough to engender some camaraderie. We've witnessed that before. I was now very much looking forward to seeing our RV buddies at the Escapade we would attend in a couple of weeks. Last year was the best year on the road for us as there was lots of camaraderie because we got together a few times, and we did a lot of traveling with John and Libby, and the Paynes and Hammonds traveled together a lot, and then we all got together a couple of times along the way. Don't misunderstand, we love the lifestyle and aren't anywhere near ready to give it up. And we aren't lonely on the road. However, there are times we wished there was a bit more camaraderie.
That's Part 1 of the story. Now here is the rest of the story.
So guess who come into the Spartan factory RV parking area the second evening we were there. It was one of the American Dreams that was in Holland that was with that RV club. I didn't know that when the rig came in. The lady stayed in the car, so I went out to help him back into the site next to ours and then we started chatting. He said he came in from Holland so I mentioned that we did, too, and stayed at Dutch Treat. When he said that's where they were, I knew it was one of the Dreams we saw there. Now you take someone out of the "club" mentality and they become the chattiest, friendliest people. They were from near Charleston, SC, and after we started chatting, it was obvious he was a true Southerner. They lived on Johns Island on the Intracoastal Waterway and had a summer home in the NC mountains. He told me the whole story behind the Spectrum (a Winnebago failure of many years ago that was yanked from the marketplace) and how Lazy Days bought the entire inventory that was rotting in some Oregon field and then some original owners bought many of them. However, they were so bad, and so unsafe, that Winnebago wanted them off the road and made the folks great offers to get current Winnebagos. Now there are only a few Spectrums left, but the club has survived since 1991 as a "love and friendship" (his words) club (outsiders excluded when they are together). ;-) His wife said how they seemed so consumed with the rally stuff that they seemed to ignore everyone else in the campground, even folks right next to them. What was interesting was that she brought that up without any prompting about how we didn't get to meet any of them in Holland. So, again, there was proof to not judge a book by its cover.
Our first stop was still in Michigan as we had scheduled our annual service for the motorhome at the Spartan factory in Charlotte. We were pleased that the service cost us less than it did when we were there in 2001. Not that rates went down, but we didn't need the same work performed on the rig as we had done in 2001. We like going to the Spartan factory. They have a few sites with 50-amp electric service. It's also not too far from Lansing, which gave us a chance to catch up on some movies. We scheduled our appointment for Monday morning so we could arrive on Friday and spend the weekend there, which helps with the campground budget.
After our service was completed, we stayed at the factory until Tuesday morning and then headed to Nappanee, Indiana to the Newmar factory. We scheduled a warranty visit for Wednesday and Thursday to take care of some items that needed fixing. We also like visiting the Newmar factory. They have 24 full hookup sites. Of course, if you are a Newmar owner you know that the service techs come out for the rigs at 6 a.m., which makes for a long day. But they do great work there and are very accommodating.
The work on our rig was completed on Friday and we planned to drive to Van Wert, Ohio for the Escapees Fall Escapade. Severe storms were passing through Indiana and into Ohio, so we decided to just sit at the factory another day and travel on Saturday. John called to tell us that there were tornado watches in Ohio and that confirmed our decision to stay in Nappanee.
Saturday was a beautiful day and made for a very nice drive to Van Wert. There would be six rigs hooking up at the Huggy Bear Campground so that we could drive into the Escapade together on Sunday and get parked together. Everyone was coming in from a different direction. The Holders, the Veaches, the Striblings, the Doughtys, and the Paynes were already there when we arrived. There were lots of hugs for everyone and travels to catch up on and then it was time for everyone to head out for dinner. A favorite seems to be Mexican food, so that's where we all convened for another couple of hours.
Sunday was also a beautiful day as everyone got hooked up and agreed to meet at the high school parking lot on the way to the fairgrounds to make sure we would all be together going into the Escapade. Norm made up the signs for our windshields to tell the parking folks how many of us would be together. He got clever and made the signs to say:
"ex-millionaire club 1 of 6"
"ex-millionaire club 2 of 6"
etc. Not that we all were ever millionaires, but we all did get clobbered by the stock market over the past couple of years. Sort of gallows humor, I guess. ;-) The signs brought a few chuckles from people who walked by and saw them.
We had no problems getting parked near each other at the fairgrounds. The Escapade ran from Sunday to Friday. We saw each other a lot during the week, especially for dinner at different restaurants around Van Wert. Also attending the Escapade was our buddy Dirk Harrington who finally retired and was on his way to planning his entry into the RV full-timer lifestyle. He was staying at a hotel in town and planned his trip to spend some time at the Escapade and then headed to Indiana to tour some of the RV factories. As of now, he was still interested in a Dutch Star. Of course, we all prodded him to accelerate his plan and get out here on the road with us.
We had a great time at the Escapade. Diane, Linda, and Cecile won prizes at the evening meetings. John and Libby, Pappy and Cecile, and Diane and I volunteered to drive the tram for a few hours one day. I drove a small tractor at the Escapade we attended in 2000, but the tractor this time was a biggie. At least for me it was a biggie. But it was fun.
It rained Thursday night, which sometimes causes problems for RVs to get out due to the soft ground. Sure enough, we woke up to the rain and saw some folks who needed to be towed out to the road. Some folks moved their rigs the night before, but we stayed where we were, as did the Paynes. Neither of us had any problems getting our rigs out to the road. However, a big Safari motorhome rutted down into the mud and had to be towed. I still don't know how he did that unless he gunned it and spun the rear wheels down into the mud. We drove over to where the RVs were being weighed and got our motorhome weighed. I like to do that whenever the opportunity arises to see if our weight changed dramatically since the last weighing. It turns out we are a bit heavier on the right front than the left front, which made no sense since we haven't added very much to the bays. It could just be that the ride height needs to be adjusted and we will tend to that when we next get to a Spartan shop.
We did have a little problem getting the motorhome started as it seemed to struggle to start. The two engine batteries that start the diesel were only 28 months old, so I didn't think it was the batteries. It seemed like something was drawing down those batteries, which also didn't make any sense. Those two batteries are just to start the engine. There are four other batteries to provide 12-volt power to the "house". We have a "battery assist" switch on the dash that will draw momentary power from the house batteries to help start the engine and we were able to get it started. We had plans to drive to Columbus to visit a former colleague of mine from my days in Poughkeepsie, NY back in the late 60s. So I called a Cummins/Spartan shop there and explained the problem to them. They said to bring it in and they would check it out. So we drove to Columbus and directly to the shop. They did some checking and were pretty sure it wasn't a problem with the chassis. However, I'm not sure why they couldn't figure out it was a battery problem which, as you will see, is what it was. We spent the night in the parking lot of the shop and then moved to a campground the next day.
I hadn't seen Mick Say since at least 1976, more than 25 years ago. We stayed in touch with Mick and Robin via phone while we were trying to figure out what was going on with the problem in the motorhome. The shop stayed open late, so we told them we were going to visit friends across town and would be back around 10:30 p.m. We drove over to Mick and Robin's place and had a great dinner and visit. It is always great to hook up with old friends and renew acquaintances. We had a lot of catching up to do. Part of this lifestyle that I love is that we've been renewing old acquaintances along the way as we make our journey. Friends from high school, college, work. Pretty cool. The next day we met Mick and Robin at a mall and took in a movie and then dinner at O'Charly's. Then we said our goodbyes and promised to stay in touch so another 25 years doesn't pass us by.
We still had to deal with the problem in the motorhome. The folks at the local Spartan shop couldn't find anything wrong and insisted it was a problem with something in the house draining the batteries. I called Newmar and chatted with Ron Weaver. He asked if we could bring the rig to the factory. I told him that it wasn't exactly on our way to Lexington, KY, but we could backtrack to the factory to have the problem corrected. We drove the five hours back to the factory and spent another few days there. We were very happy that they squeezed us into their very busy schedule. Well, it turned out to be the batteries. Newmar replaced the two batteries and did that at no charge, although the batteries are not an item warranted by the factory. So it turned out to save us some money given that we paid the Spartan shop $105 to tell us they couldn't find anything wrong, and new batteries would surely have cost us $200. We left Newmar as happy campers once again. We did wait until Sunday to leave to wait out the rains that were passing through as a result of Hurricane Lili that came up from the Gulf.
Now we were finally able to start making our move to the South. Our plan was to spend a week in Lexington, KY to visit the Kentucky Horse Park. We had been there last year, but only for an overnighter to visit with Ron and Barb Hofmeister and Judy and Cec. It's a nice enough park given that it is only water and electric. I was finally able to wash the motorhome. I like the layout with the two big outer loops and the two smaller inner loops. It took me almost 30 minutes to walk the loops, so it was somewhere around two miles. The big problem with this park is that they didn't really do anything to create the sites other than bring in an asphalt paver and paved 12x50 foot pads. One has to be careful about picking a site because some sites are uphill and some are downhill. The first site we were in was uphill and I had blocks under the front jacks and the front wheels about 3" off the ground. There was a big Wanderlodge down the road from us in exactly that position. Even with boards under the wheels I could still see space between the tire and the top board. It's too bad they didn't grade the sites and make them level. Lots of rigs had their wheels off the ground. We stayed one night on a site and then moved across the street to where another Dutch Star was parked and had vacated. That site was perfect.
The park was pretty quiet during the week even though a Barth "Go Rangers" rally was being held on the sites adjoining the site we were on. A total of 31 Barth motorhomes rolled in here on Tuesday and stayed until Sunday. I got to talk to a couple of folks, including one from Ocala who lives not far from where my mom lives.
On Saturday, the park was mobbed due to a Catholic High School Invitational Cross Country Meet on the grounds. The start and finish lines were in the big field to the right as you enter the park. Lots of folks were parking in a field out the back gate and walking through the park to the staging area for the races. So there were lots of boys and girls in their track uniforms and lots of parents and friends rooting them on. On Friday, the weekenders came in en masse, even with the rain. So there were lots of kids on bikes, skates, and foot moving around the park. The rain kept the fires down, but there were some burning in the morning. Some folks were burning a nice, sweet smelling wood. Love that smell. Given the size of the KHP, there wasn't a feeling of being crowded considering all the activity that was going on.
We pretty much lounged around for the week. We went out to eat a few times and spent a day visiting the Kentucky Horse Park (http://www.imh.org/). What a beautiful piece of property. It's what I always thought of about Kentucky horse country; white fences and huge pastures. The park is a working horse farm on 1200 acres surrounded by 30 miles of white plank fencing. We visited the different barns and the museum, as well as the Hall of Champions and the Parade of Breeds. In the Hall of Champions, retired former champions were brought out for folks to look at. The only horse that I knew by name was "Cigar". The following is a description of the Parade of Breeds from the KHP website:
"An outstanding display of 24 of the park's nearly 50 breeds of horses is located in the Breeds Barn. From March 15 through October 31, the color, sound and excitement of the show ring is captured twice daily in the Parade of Breeds. The half-hour presentation highlights the unique characteristics of selected breeds, while authentically costumed riders put the horses through their paces. After the show visitors have the opportunity to meet and pet their favorite horses, and talk with riders."
Man o'War, one of the greatest racehorses that ever lived is buried under a memorial in the KHP. There is also a memorial for Secretariat, another great racehorse.
Another reason for wanting to stop in Lexington was to visit with Susie and Norm Galloway, who were also former colleagues of mine from the late 60s. We met them for lunch one day and had a great time chatting about the early days of our careers. They ended up moving to Lexington and Norm finished his career with Lexmark and was retired. What a pleasant surprise it was to find out that he played golf. It was a given that we set up a golf date during the week. We agreed to stay in touch.
We were out most of one day and shortly after we got home a rig pulled in and parked two sites down from us. It was Bill and Kathie Champ. We met them in St. Augustine last winter after months of email contact. We had our sign out on the rig and she spotted it. We went out to eat dinner with them to catch up on our travels. They were out west this year and loved it. They will be going to Naples, Florida for the winter. They were heading back to their site in Blairsville, GA, and we told them that we would be in Blairsville for a few days after visiting Asheville. We made plans to get together at that time. What a small world.
I met a guy in the office using the phone jack. They were from the Albany, NY area and had their first RV, a 23' trailer. He told me they will be going to Florida from January to March and will be staying at the Port St Lucie RV Resort, which is where we will be in February and March. He told me he was also a golfer so I gave him our card and told him to be sure to look us up, and vice versa. Love these small world stories.
Several people told us that the tour of the Toyota manufacturing plant was worth the ride. They were correct. It was a great tour, and very impressive. I'd certainly consider a Toyota if I were in the market for a new car. Here are some facts we learned on the tour:
* they build 2,040 cars PER DAY and a car rolls out of the plant every 55 seconds
* they build to order, not to plan
* it takes 20 1/2 hours to build a car and 10 1/2 hours of that is in the paint shop
* 700-1000 trucks unload parts and supplies at the plant every day
* there are 7800 "team members" at the plant with an average salary of $60,000
* each team member has 55 seconds to perform their job function
* 99% of the folks are American; 97% are Kentuckians (Why is it they can build quality cars with great reliability and Detroit can't seem to do that? Why is it that we've never had a problem with any of our foreign cars, but have had a major problem with every American car we've ever owned (for cars owned for longer than five years)?
* Toyota rewards attendance and 60% of the team members have perfect attendance every year.
* a big dinner with entertainment (Bill Cosby and Alabama last year) is provided to those folks, along with prizes, including 15 cars they give away at the recognition dinner
* Toyota provides a 24-hour child care facility and fitness center
One of the most interesting things I found out is that the Kentucky plant has never laid off a worker, and Toyota hasn't laid anyone off since 1952. I could feel the pride that the workers seemed to have in their company. We were glad we did the tour. It was enlightening and very interesting.
We drove from Lexington to the Escapees RV Park at Raccoon Valley. Surprisingly, it was still almost full. I thought it would have emptied out on Sunday. We got one of the last couple of sites and my first impression was "been there, done that". We weren't able to use the dish because we were right next to a tree blocking our view. Then I fussed with the portable dish that we carry for almost an hour and finally gave up. The cable was horrible; TV reception was horrible. But then the cable came back and was OK. The park was nice, but one has to be careful about site selection, especially if one wants to use the ir dish which, in prime TV season, we do.
We went to the ice cream social at 6 p.m., which was followed by entertainment. We saw a couple we recognized and approached them. They knew us, but we all couldn't figure out where our paths crossed. They were Reed and Margaret Moser. They had a Newmar product, so maybe that's how we knew them. Then a couple sitting next to them recognized Diane from the Hofmeister's campout at the Lost Dutchman in Spring 2001. They were Karen and Bob Filmore. It's great running into friendly folks again after a summer of not seeing anyone we knew. Camaraderie!!!
The entertainment was all amateur stuff, but loads of fun. It ended up with four guitars, a mandolin, and a banjo (picker, not strummer). I can watch and listen for hours to someone pick the banjo. I love it. There was also a gal who sang and the musicians also took turns singing. There were some cloggers in the crowd and they got up and did their thing a few times during some instrumental songs. It was a fun evening.
I had been to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC a few years ago with my brother when we were off on a golfing trip, but Diane had never been there. This was a great opportunity to stop there on the way to Blairsville, GA. We only stayed a few days, just long enough to visit the Biltmore. Surprisingly, the place was packed with visitors. Even the tour guides said it was highly unusual to have so many visitors during the week at that time of year. When I was there the last time, I remember my brother and I got through the estate without having to wait on a line to get into each room. This time there was a line from beginning to end. Visitors are not allowed to photograph inside the estate. However, I put up three photos that I borrowed from a site that posted images from postcards. If you wish to see more photos, you can see them at http://www.ratisher.com/biltmore.htm.
George Washington Vanderbilt was the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, known as "The Commodore", and the youngest son of William Henry Vanderbilt, who built his family fortune in shipping and railroads. George had a dream to build a French chateau in the North Carolina mountains. He accomplished that dream in 1895. The mansion, of course, is immense, as is the surrounding estate property. There is now a hotel on the estate, the Inn On Biltmore Estate, as well as a winery, a conservatory, an equestrian center, and restaurants. It's quite a place.
From Asheville, we drove to the Lake Nottely RV park in Blairsville on Sunday. Dave and Sally Stribling arrived the day before, and John and Libby were staying there for the month to take care of doctor and dentist appointments. Bill and Kathie Champ were not too far away at the Choestoe RV Resort. Pappy and Cecile live in Blairsville. So it was one grand dinner party we had at an Italian restaurant in the area, Enrico's. After dinner, we drove to a restaurant in Hayesville, NC for dessert, but the place was mobbed. So we did the next best thing: we bought one of their great apple pies and stopped to pick up some vanilla ice cream. Then we went to John and Libby's motorhome for warm apple pie a la mode. What better way to end a great evening. Then one evening Pappy and Cecile had us over for dinner. During the week we were there, we went to lunch every day to a different restaurant with different folks who were friends of John and Libby. Ah, camaraderie!! One of the highlights of the stay in Blairsville was the party Cecile gave for Pappy's 70th birthday.
Diane and I drove over to visit with Kathy one day. Bill was out of town that day. Kathy showed us around the resort, which was quite nice. They sell lots there for folks who spend the summers in the area. We met some of Kathy's friends, Elliot and Janet. It turned out that Elliot was a golfer, so I asked him if he'd like to join John and I for a round the next day. He said sure, and we had a nice time out on the course on Wednesday.
Dave and Sally had never been to the area, so one day John, Libby, Dave, Sally, Diane and I all went to visit the popular Babyland General Hospital, home of the Cabbage Patch Kids, in Cleveland, GA. The Veaches and Diane and I had been there several times when we lived in Georgia, mostly to take visitors to experience it. What hoot. One doesn't buy the dolls, oops, I mean babies. You "adopt" them. Periodically, an announcement is made that a baby is about to be born in the cabbage patch and everyone heads to see the birth. People will tell you the biggest mistake you can make is to name the baby when the nurse asks what the new one should be called. That's because a magic spell is cast over you and you fall in love with the baby and want to adopt it. Well, Sally named the baby Tammalyn Elizabeth after one of her grandchildren. As you might have guessed, Dave and Sally fell in love with Tammalyn and adopted her. The latest report from Sally indicated that Tammalyn was sleeping through the night. :-)
Helen, GA is a small town in the north Georgia mountains that is patterned after a Swiss or Bavarian village. It was another place that we always took visitors. Since it was fairly close to Cleveland, we decided to head to Helen so Dave and Sally could see it. We ended up having a late lunch, or maybe it was an early dinner, at one of the restaurants, and then we walked around the town for a while. Diane and I have always liked going to Helen, so we were glad we had the opportunity again as it had been many years since we'd been there.
Dave and Sally left Blairsville on Thursday and headed north and west to the Winnebago factory in Iowa. The rest of us made plans to meet Kathy (Bill was out of town again) for dinner at Tic Tac Doh, an all-you-can-eat pizza place. It was like $3.99, which included a soft drink. Can't beat the price.
Diane, Libby, and Cecile drove to Blue Ridge to a tea room for afternoon tea. They had a great time selecting a hat from the room's hat selection. Then they went to Mercer's for some apple goodies. Diane brought home two loaves of apple raisin bread that got devoured within a couple of days (by guess who). I guess she should have bought more of it because it was delicious.
It was now time for us to say goodbye to John and Libby and head to our daughter's house in Douglasville. We weren't sure when we would see them again as our schedules weren't in synch for Florida and then their plans were to head out west to do some work with satellite internet sales and installations. Our focus would now change from friends to family for the next nine weeks. In between, we would visit some old friends and neighbors from when we lived in Marietta.
We usually stop in Douglasville in the Fall for a couple of weeks, then head to Florida for a few weeks, and then return for the holiday season. However, this year we were awaiting the birth of grandkid #7 and Diane would be helping Theresa out for a few weeks before and after the baby was born. That would mean we would be parked in Jill's driveway for nine weeks. Except for a week where we would drive the car to Ocala to visit with my mom, we'd be there the entire time. We would soon have six grandkids living in the area, two where we parked the motorhome, three nearby in Douglasville, and one in Marietta about 30 miles away.
We arrived at Jill's place on Friday and the two older grandkids who live there, April (13) and Richard (11) were home from school and gave us a warm welcome when we pulled up in front of the house. We got the motorhome backed into the driveway and set up and then got caught up on what everyone had been doing since we last saw them in the Spring. Later we saw Amanda (6) and Ashley (2). If you've been following our journey, you may remember that Ashley was the one who was very ill at birth in 2000. She's quite fine now and starting to talk up a storm, although I don't understand most of what she says. She did learn quickly to call me "paw paw" since she wasn't able to say grandpa, and then she started calling Diane "me maw".
You probably also know by now that we are big movie fans and the grandkids love to go to the movies with us. We started out right away over the weekend with Tuck Everlasting and then lots more movies over the past several weeks. As for me, I always love my routine when I'm in Douglasville. I drive to the Arbor Place Mall on I-20 for a morning walk followed by a cappuccino at Starbucks while I read the morning paper. The folks at Starbucks gave me a nice welcome back after not seeing me since April. Every now and then, Diane will decide to comes along for a walk and a tea, but not as a routinely as I do it. It's a great way to spend the mornings.
William Chase DePoi, grandkid #7, was born on November 5 with no complications. As I finish off this travelogue, that was six weeks ago and he is getting bigger by the day. I have put up some photos from Halloween for family and friends to view on Page 3 of the photos.
Christmas will soon be here and then another year will end and a new one begins. This past year has gone by very quickly for us. One way I can tell is that I became a VERY big fan of the Lord of the Rings movie last year and have been waiting for the second movie, "The Two Towers" to arrive this year. I can still remember the five times I saw the first movie, "Fellowship of the Ring" last December and now we have seen the second movie which, of course, was great. I'm not sure if I'll end up seeing five times, but I know it will be at least four times. Some of our kdis read the books and loved the story. Jill even took a half day off from work to go with Diane and me to see the first showing of "The Two Towers". Now we'll take the older grandkids to see it, They loved the first movie. Then we'll see it again New Years Day with Diane's brother, Jerry and his wife when we get to Florida. We're hoping Jim and Patty Hammond can hop a plane (retired Delta folks) to Florida to see it with us and Norm and Linda sometime in January as a reunion for when we all saw the first movie together in Florida.
We got some great news from John and Libby as I was writing this travelogue. They have started a new business in Florida selling and installing satellite Internet solutions. That means they will be parking their rig in the Lake Okeechobee area for about the next year to develop the business. Diane and I have made plans to spend a week visiting with them in Okeechobee as we make our way to Port St Lucie for the months of February and March. As it turns out, it looks like Norm and Linda, and Pappy and Cecile may also be there the same week. What a great way to start the new year. Ah, yes, CAMARADERIE!!!!!
So we end our year with lots of excitement and surrounded by family in Georgia. Diane and I hope you have enjoyed following us on our journey in 2002 and have liked the photos we have put up on the website. We will be staying in Florida for the winter and I don't expect to write another travelogue until we start moving again in the Spring, but who knows, I may have enough to write about before then. However, I will write another "What a Year" summary and put that up on the website, probably in January.
Until then, Diane and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and Happy New Year, and safe travels.
Copyright © 2002, Roaming America with Rich & Diane Emond - All Rights Reserved
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