190917–Tampa & St Pete, FL

Well, we did just that! We B-Lined to Tampa area, via Calera, AL and Tallahassee, FL. With 103 degree days in AL, we’re glad to be back to good ole FL 90’s, even if a bit sticky and rainy.

We’re here in western Tampa area, the RV mecca in these parts. As mentioned earlier, we’re looking to trade/sell Buster for something smaller, more nimble and towable. Our 4 & 5-month long cross-country trips are over. Also, we’ll drop our bikes off at AJ’s Bikes in Brandon. A general tune up will be required after 7000+ miles hanging on the back of the Jeep.

So what are our favorites this season? Here’s our final thoughts…..

1. Our extended visits with our Chil’ns, Grandchil’ns, extended family and friends always tops our list of favorites. We’re not just saying that either. We love our family and love being with them. They keep us young!

2. Custer State Park in North Dakota and Brown County State Park in Indiana tops our campground stops.

3. As in previous years, we think the speeds on the highways (and in cities, especially) are out of control. Drivers seem more reckless too; speeding in and out of lanes, tailgating, and more. Everyone’s in a hurry. It’s a war zone out there folks!

4. In our judgment, Ohio and Florida have the best Interstate highways–new pavement, well marked surfaces, no pot holes and smooth bridge abutments.

5. Buster remained a safe, reliable, comfortable motor coach. Selling her will be hard.

6. The Hanford B Plutonium Reactor, the MinuteMan Nuclear Missile facility, the Smokejumpers School, the National Underground Freedom Center and the Buffalo herd tops our list of attractions.

7. We think Indiana, believe it or not, has some of the best off-trail biking choices.

8. Our friend from North Carolina, Lynnie Tierney, remains our most frequent visitor. Nice to have you along, Lynnie.

9. Norm’s motorcycling friend, Tim Gressett is our most vocal and inquisitive follower. Nice to have you with us, Tim.

We completed our last leg from Tampa to St Pete today. Buster is safety tucked away in her covered storage space. We’ll be unloading and cleaning for a couple weeks.

This is also the last update to our Buster Road Trip Blog. Thanks to all of you, our loyal blog followers, for…… well…….”staying tuned”! We hope you enjoyed reading about our journey as much as we enjoyed sharing it. Hope to see you all soon. Bye!

190910–Nashville, TN (The Grand Ole Opry)

Again, our drive down I65 to Nashville was problem-free. The reinstalled Invisibrake was working correctly. Hallelujah!

The weather is brutal, for us. Ninety-eight according to our onboard thermometer. And, late afternoon thunderstorms.

We’re heading over to the Grand Ole Opry today, first for a tour at 3pm, then for a show at 7pm.

The tour was about an hour long and included a walk-through of the artists private entrance, their dressing rooms,

the member tributes

and the stage.

This next pic is the circle of country music. It’s part of the old Ryman Theater Stage which was the home to the Grand Ole Opry for many years. It was built into the new stage and is a famous artists landmark…

Oh! We’re in luck. There on the Circle, where hundreds of famous Country and Bluegrass stars once stood it’s the up and coming Naughton duo (not wearing their usual coveralls) rehearsing their #1 country song “If I Can’t Be Number One, Number Two On You”.*

*That hit is a remake of one with the same name written and recorded by Pork and the Havana Ducks–an annual “regular” at the Wisconsin State Fair in the 1990’s. Whooha!

After a couple hours break we were back for tonight’s performance. We didn’t know any of the artists but the show was real good. It was actually a radio broadcast; and has been for 93 years. “ON AIR” signs and all.

Well, that does it for this night’s fun and our stay in Nashville, TN. AND, Norm didn’t line dance or do the two step!

Tomorrow we pull up stakes for a 3-day b-line run to Tampa. We’ll spend another 3-days at Lazy Days RV, Camping World and Airstream RV dealers.

Stay tuned for more on that in our next and last update….along with this year’s trip summary.

P. s. Before we go, outside temperature on 9/12 at our campground in Alabama…

190903–Trouble in River City. Cincinnati, OH. Nashville, IN

We could’ve died. Strap yourself in for this update!

We had a nice ride over to Cincinnati……until 5 miles from our destination. We experienced a complete failure of our towing braking system on I71. The monitor in our bus was screaming and lights were flashing. That’s the alert that our tow (Jeep) is no longer being towed; that we are experiencing a breakaway condition!

We pulled over to the shoulder while glancing at the backup camera and side mirrors to see if the Jeep was still there. It was! It took a little more time to stop as the Jeep’s brakes were not assisting. So what happened?

This requires some technical information first. If you don’t want to read the technical stuff and how we almost died, just skip down to the entry about the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. If you do want to read about it, continue below.

Our Jeep is towed (called a TOAD in RV parlance) behind Buster using a tow bar. You’ve seen many such arrangements on the highways, we’re sure. When Buster brakes, the braking actuator (controller) in the towed vehicle (TOAD) receives a signal. This actuator sits under the drivers seat. Then, via a cable attached to the toad’s brake it smoothly tugs the pedal down and applies supplemental braking action. This is required for many reasons that we won’t go into here. Just know that there are many forces at work when slowing/stopping a toad at high speed.

There is also a “breakaway” switch. This is a pull switch on the toad that is connected to the bus by a wire. If for some reason the tow bar fails and the toad is a “breakaway”, the wire pulls on the switch telling the controller in the toad to brake hard.

There is also a Bluetooth monitor that signals us in the bus that the brakes are being applied properly in the toad. Under normal driving conditions an amber light will flash when the monitor detects that the brakes are being applied. In this case though, the red light was flashing along with the SCREAMING alert– a breakaway. That’s what happened. We received the signal and alarm in the bus that the toad is no longer attached and is a breakaway!

Now, we could see on the bus’ back up camera that the toad was still attached and the brakes weren’t smoking; but it wasn’t braking any longer. We pulled over as soon as we could.

Norm discovered that the air cylinder that’s responsible for tugging the toad’s brake pedal was not attached to the controller. Here’s a pic of the cylinder (silver) lying on the floor. The controller is the dark metal box also on the floor in the background.

Without being affixed to the controller, it would not be able to transfer the tugging force to the brake. Clear as mud??

We unhooked the Jeep and drove separately to our destination. We checked for local dealers/distributors/service. As it turned out there was a dealer/installer 10 minutes from our campground who by the stroke of luck also had his motor coach in our same campground. How about that!!

He came over from his shop mid day to inspect. He found the problem, which by the way, was more serious than what Norm discovered.

He agreed to return that evening to REINSTALL the braking system as it should’ve been. An answer to prayers??? You betcha! We’re now in negotiations with Roadmaster for a reimbursement.

This was a serious problem that we were able to control. Fortunately. So, we didn’t almost die. That was added for “color” as they say.

Seriously though, Breakaways are very dangerous situations that can end up causing extensive damage, injury and/or death (per the manufacturer’s installation manual). While we didn’t have an actual breakaway, we didn’t have control of our Jeep’s braking. That could have led to one!

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We stayed at the FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association) Campground. Members get 2 free nights there. Our purpose for being here was to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Museum). We did that.

From the museum’s brochure…

In the mid 19th century, when the US was divided between free and slave states, ‘conductors’ on the Underground Railroad aided freedom seekers on their journey north, offering direction, relative safety and needed rest. The Freedom Center reveals the stories of heroes from the era….through contemporary times.

It was an awesome destination that we thoroughly enjoyed. There were 3 floors of exhibits. We were mostly moved by the “ESCAPE GALLERY”. We were able to explore and read the stories of brave men and women who resisted slavery and escaped on or were involved with the Underground Railroad. There was a model of a conductor’s home which showed the clever hiding spots in the structure. We learned some of the code words too.

We were there 3 hours. It was very moving and highly recommended!

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On Thursday, 9/5, we drove over to Indiana’s Brown County Park….home to world class mountain biking.

(BTW, The toad’s brakes worked well and we’ve reestablished confidence in the system.)

Of course we are not world class and we confined ourselves to the Green Trails (the easiest-more like trail riding). Norm had to drown his pain in Motrin though. Here he is at a rest stop. He hides it….

We’ll be here for a few days. The weather is fantastic, mid 70’s in the afternoon and low 50’s at night.

Our beautiful campsite…… The forest is so dense that we wouldn’t see the sun till noon.

On Sunday 9/8, we drove to Bloomington, IN for a prearranged dinner date with Kurt and Beth Petry the current (actually 2-years now) owner of Tide Hiker our old boat. They have a farm nearby. We had a great time swapping stories and getting to know each other. We met in St Pete last year but that was a very brief visit. It’s obvious to us that they love Tide Hiker (now named “Petry’s Pet”) as much as we did. She’s in good hands. Here’s a couple pics from their visit to St Pete with “our Tide Hiker” in the background….

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We might have bragged about the weather too much; so we’re going to get our comeuppance. It’s going to be 97 in Nashville, TN when we arrive there on Tuesday. That hot, sticky weather is forecast to hang in the area for several days. For that reason, and just that we’re tired, we decided to b-line it home after a two-day visit there. We’re now planning to be back in St Pete around the 17th.

We’ll be meeting up with our great nephew, Orin, while in “Country Music Town”. I don’t know…should we visit a honky tonk? Will Vicki make Norm line dance or do the two-step?

Stay tuned…

190828–Columbus, OH

Happy Birthday “Kate the Mate”. We love you! See you in October in St Pete.

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We arrived Alum Creek State Park near Columbus, OH on Wednesday, 8/28 at…..yes, 2 PM.

Later, we picked up granddaughter Ella at Day Care. It was a surprise! We all had a good laugh. We then took Ella home where her mom, who set up this ruse, was waiting for us. Ella wanted to show us some of her gymnastics moves….

Brian got home about an hour later. He and Colleen treated us to dinner at their Country Club. Beautiful setting and Mmmmm, great food.

Friday night is Ella’s sleepover with us. But first, we’ll grill up some burgers. Then, maybe take in tonight’s movie over at the amphitheater. We can’t wait…it’s “The Lego Movie” with popcorn and slushees.

The next morning, Sunday, Ella and PapPap went over to the donation pancake breakfast. Here’s Ella having a pancake with her butter…

Later, she played Buster driver…

In the meantime, Colleen and Brian used their “freedom” from parenting to get in a couple games of tennis…

Ella’s last official act was to update our travel map. She did a great job putting the state stickers in the right spot and within the lines. Awesome job, Ella.

As of today, there are only 4-5 states we missed since purchasing Buster. (That includes driving to or home from Buster storage last winter).

Brian and Colleen treated Norm to golf at their country club on Saturday afternoon. Ella drove one of the carts. (Don’t tell!). Brian can sure hit the ball. He successfully extricated himself from these trees and went on to par this hole…

Later, we headed to their favorite pizza house-Deweys. Which just happens to be directly across the street from…yes…a Graeter’s Ice Cream store. Are we still on earth or what?

On Sunday, we skipped breakfast. Later, we hosted a cookout at Buster for the Rupps and the Slanes (Brian’s sister and family whom we know and who also live in the area). Brian’s mom and dad were invited but they’re on vacation in Croatia. Here’s Chaze and Shelia (Brian’s sister) roasting marshmallows for s’mores…

Colleen, Brian and Ella pulled a big birthday surprise on Norm and Vicki. First, they gave Norm a set of disc golf frisbees. (They’re hard to find). And, she baked a “non-imploding” chocolate cake.

Some history here. When Colleen was a teenager, she made a chocolate cake for her dad. Unfortunately, it imploded. It tasted great, but looked….well…..sunk in the middle. This was the same recipe but done right. It was delicious. Ella wrapped his gift…

Vicki got a beautiful set of earrings and some chocolate truffles that she ” didn’t have to share with Norm”.

Are we still on earth, or what?

Thunderstorms put an end to the evening but everyone was ready to call it a day anyway. The rain also doused the campfire so we didn’t have to worry about it.

On Monday, Labor Day, we joined Colleen, Brian and Ella at the club’s Holiday pool party, which usually signifies the end of the swimming season at the club. (That’s because they live up Nort!)

Back at the ranch Colleen and Vicki are preparing the final supper for this visit.

Brian shared his “birthday bourbon”, Jefferson Ocean in his special glass etched with his mom’s Irish family crest and an actual emerald…..

A beautiful glass for sipping a wonderfully smooth cask-strength bourbon. Thanks for sharing, Brian.

This ended an awesome visit. Thanks Colleen, Brian and Ella. We’re already looking forward to October when Colleen and her sisters Katie and Chris descend on our home town for a girls getaway. St Pete will never be the same.

Tomorrow we depart Columbus for Cincinnati and the National Museum of the Underground Railroad.

Stay tuned……

190824–Youngstown, OH. Pittsburgh, PA.

First things first! We mentioned in the last update that we couldn’t upload pics and videos any longer. WordPress found the problem……. and it was us. Seems we hit the media limit of our previous “basic” plan and had to upgrade to “Premium”. Oooooo! Fancy! Premium!! UGH

So, we added in the rest of our pics of Notre Dame and more in the previous update. If they are of interest to you, just go back to post “190816…….” and get caught up.

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It was a two-day trip from Lakeville, IN to Youngstown, OH. Granted, our driving days are short, mostly. But, it seems that no matter how early we leave, we never arrive before 2pm. Weird.

We arrived safely in Hubbard, OH on Saturday, 8/24 at …….you know…..2pm.

Norm’s brother, Mike, and SIL, Pat came over for a cookout. We had a great time getting caught up and planning the rest of our visit.

Sunday 8/25. Mike and Pat hosted a lunch/dinner at their home. Nephews Keith and Jim were there; and Keith’s wife, Donna and son Erik. We were excited to see them all. Again, we were so busy chatting and laughing we forgot to take pics. Sorry!

Then on Monday Norm joined Mike and his golfing buddies for a round of 18 holes. Some of us spent time in sand traps or getting out of them. (psst, that’s not Norm)….

In spite of that trap, I think Mike par’d that hole, as usual. He’s really good!

We all went over to niece Maureen and husband Joe’s for a cocktail before heading out to dinner. Here’s Maureen with her dad and Vicki…..

Maureen’s husband Joe is a brewer and vintner. That is, when he’s not running his successful dental practice. We sampled his Oatmeal Stout, Scotch Ale and Red Ales. We also drank a bottle of his Chardonnay. They were excellent brews. Norm especially liked the Scotch Ale; Vicki, the Stout. The Chardonnay was exceptional.

Mike’s grandson (our great nephew?) Joey joined us at the restaurant…..

Norm, Pat, Mike, Joey, Joe, Maureen.

We had a fantastic time at dinner getting caught up on Joe’s and Maureen’s family and their dental practice and Joey’s freshman year in college. Then, Joe and Maureen presented us with a six-pack of Joe’s “estate bottled” home-vintage wines. Can’t wait to sip those babies. Thanks Joe and Maureen!

On Tuesday, 8/27, we drove into Pittsburgh (Norm’s home town) to see ole friends. One is Norm’s oldest friend, Charlie. Norm and Charlie met in kindergarten. They attended the same elementary school, high school, and college. A surprise–Tom Sinacrope drove up from West Virginia for our lunch. Tom is a close elementary and high school buddy. It was awesome to see Tom, Charlie and Patty.

Chuck, Patty, Vicki, Norm and Tom.

On our way back to Buster, we stopped to say final goodbyes to Mike and Pat….

On Wednesday, 8/28, we take off for Columbus, OH to visit daughter Colleen, SIL Brian and granddaughter Ella. Yippie!

Stay tuned…

190816–Rockford, IL; Lakeville (South Bend), IN.

What a great time in Milwaukee (Waukesha, Oconomowoc, Hartland). Hard to continue our journey. But, the good news is that the Chil’ns and a few of their friends will be in St Pete in early October to celebrate Christine’s birthday.

Norm, Jake and Evan did get to the golf driving range, albeit 2-hours late. First time for Jake and Evan had been there only once before. They both did a great job. Jake slammed the ball a good distance. And Evan did too. They’re both naturals, we think.

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Rockford, IL. We departed Wisconsin around noon. It was only a 60-mile trip to Rockford, IL. However, the trip went on for another unexpected 40 miles.

The site assigned to us at Rock Cut State Park had at least a 10% grade. There was no way we could level the bus. And, the bus must be level for the fridge to work, not to mention comfort.

We asked to be reassigned. Unfortunately that new site was just as bad. We made an emergency call to the closest KOA (UGH) and they did have room. So we drove the additional 40 miles to the KOA and a level site.

It rained off and on the rest of the day. We couldn’t grill out so we went out…to a joint that had pretty good thin crust pizza.

On Saturday, 8/17, Vicki’s niece, Rachel drove over to spend the day. We all got caught up and in between the rain storms we were able to grill up a nice meal.

Thanks for driving the extra distance Rachel. It was awesome spending time with you. Hopefully we’ll see you in St Pete again during Spring Break 2020.

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Sunday 8/18, Lakeville, IN. Our departure day, didn’t start out so great. First, thunderstorms rolled through till 11AM. Then, with only a small widow of good weather to make South Bend IN, Buster’s levelers wouldn’t retrieve. Norm scratched his head for a while, checked all the fuses and no luck. Then he remembered that Buster’s new leveling system was installed by the previous owner, so, Buster’s manufacturer’s schematic wouldn’t be accurate. He eventually found the control unit with it’s separate in-line fuse. Blown! He replaced the blown fuse and we were back in business. He raised the levelers, completed the remaining tasks for getting underway and we were off.

We’ve mentioned this before but we’ll say it again: why are roads worse is states that charge tolls? We bounced, bumped, and were battered around all day. And paid a lot of money for that. (The toll for Buster is much higher than for a car.) If our fillings didn’t shake loose, something in Buster’s suspension could have easily failed. But, neither happened and we arrived shaken not stirred in Lakeville, Indiana. Tomorrow we try to find some bike trails that Norm can handle. He’s still having a lot of pain in his L leg and neck. And, Vicki tells him he’s still forgetting recent events. What events?

On Monday, 8/19, we drove up to South Bend to the historic University of Notre Dame du lac for their 3pm tour. It was a very nice tour led by a recent graduate from a local high school and aspiring ND student. His father attended and works there. His sister attended and graduated last year. Unfortunately he was not selected because he was not among the 18% of applicants that are and are prepared to spend up to $70, 000 per year on Tuition, Books, Room and Board. His older brother just started University of Dayton, 🍾💥🎉, Norm’s Alma Mater. Both Catholic universities. But Norm’s tuition, books, room and board was $6,000 per year. Now, that was over 50 years ago. Inflation?

Here’s some pics of our tour that could tell a lot…

Oops, that was grandson Levi unblocking his toilet. Here’s the real ND pics….

First, at the “house Knute built”, the ND stadium….

Inside the main chapel….

What a great campus. Eighty-five hundred full-time students and another 3500 graduate students. The architecture is awesome and grounds are immaculate.

On Tuesday 8/20, we tried some mountain biking. Believe it or not Northern and central Indiana has some of the best trails in the US as rated by the National Mountain Biking Association (NMBA). That’s why we scheduled a stop here back in November.

Vicki has really improved her speed, endurance and agility. Norm’s skills on the other hand have diminished. His leg, neck and lower back continue to hamper his progress at getting back to his previous skill level. Especially his leg which hurts almost all the time.

Fortunately we were on the green (easiest) trails. We got a few, slow miles in; then quit. We might try again tomorrow if the weather stays dry.

In the meantime, Norm had noticed that our Aqua Hot (heat and hot water system) was “absorbing” the boiler antifreeze. So, he called some local service centers for an appointment. Now, we’re near Elkhart, IN. One can find anything RV related here. A good portion of all American-made RV’s are manufactured here. So support businesses are here too. But, the RV industry is hot now and getting a repair appointment is difficult. That’s what we experienced! “Soonest we can get you in is mid-September”. UGH!!

We were lucky, though. A mobile RV specialist returned his call. Although he couldn’t come by this week, he did talk Norm through a potential fix based on the diagnosis Norm gave him. Da Da!!!! Norm repaired the leak and we were back in business.

Wednesday, 8/21 we drove back to where Vicki’s mountain biking started, Bonneville Park in Bristol, IN. Vicki was a bit of a timid rider back then. In fact, she only wanted to bike the “sissy” perimeter trail. But Norm convinced her to try a green trail saying “Come on; you can bail out anytime you want”. Well, she didn’t bail and the rest is history.

Vicki calls it the “shrine” .

Important Note: We’re experiencing technical difficulty with uploading photos to WordPress. We’re working on it with the publisher. As soon as this problem is resolved, we’ll continue to update the blog. Stay tuned…..

190809–Milwaukee, WI, Part 2. (Baseball, Golf, Cookouts, Norm Gets “Torpedoed”…Again)

Vicki returned from her St Pete visit with her mom, Avie. And she had these great pictures on her phone that were not included in Part 1.

Vic and cousin Jann…

Cousin Jann and her mom, Vicki’s aunt Norma…

Vic and uncle Frank…

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We’re in our new campground about 20 miles south of Milwaukee. They have a large in-ground pool that the kids will like. There is also a petting zoo and a decent playground. And, as mentioned in our last update, they have all RV services.

On Saturday, Chris and Joel treated us to a ball game at Miller Park. All local Chil’ns and Grandchil’ns joined in.

From left, Joyce, Jake, Evan, Vicki, Chris and Levi, Norm, Katie and Joel.

The whole gang including close friends…

After a tailgate party, we headed to our seats…

Norm and youngest grandson Levi…

Norm, daughter Chris and SIL Joel….

We’re hosting a cookout tomorrow (Sunday 8/11) at Buster, so the grandsons returned with us for a sleepover. It was a long day and they were asleep very fast. But after breakfast of grilled eggs, bacon and cheese it was off to the pool for the Buster Aquatic Olympic Competition!

Ladies and gentleman. We interrupt this blog to bring you the latest news from the Buster Aquatic Competition in Mukwonago, WI. Here’s Jake, Evan and Levi demonstrating their “totem pole”…..

Fifteen-year-old Jake Watson from Delafield, WI is taking the competition by storm with his difficult side flips, in slow-mo….

Look at that height. Judges scored multiple 10’s, except the Russian judge. He scored a 9.9. Creep!

Next in the competition was the balance team….

Sadly for us but gleefully for little Joyce, it was time to be dropped off at summer camp. Her third year!

We took a self-guided tour of the facilities. Bye mom and dad….

Jake and Evan taking a rest after eating some of the “magic mushrooms” they found…

Joyce’s bunk….

Later, it was time for din din, and an early celebration of Katie’s upcoming birthday..

What up and coming business executive, home owner and single mom can’t use a tool box, Channel Locks and a hex wrench set? Huh? Perfect!

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There’s an old saying that things happen in threes. Well, if that’s true, you don’t want to ride in the car with Norm. On Wednesday, he and Vicki were on their way to pick up the boys for a golf driving range lesson. They were at a stop light on slick roads (it had rained earlier). A young woman didn’t calculate her stopping distance properly on the wet surface, skidded on locked-up brakes and rear-ended Norm and Vicki damaging their new Thule Bike Rack beyond repair. Fortunately, the bikes were not being carried at the time. And there was no visible damage to the new 2019 Grand Cherokee. Most important, there were no injuries.

And, Norm had applied this caution tape to warn folks….

The main steel brace was bent, weakening the spot welds. Also the safety pin was sheared off and the entire unit was forced into the hitch receiver. Both the local Thule dealer and Thule Corporate rendered the unit unsafe and damaged beyond reasonable repair after assessing the damage. We received approval from the young women’s insurance company to replace it. Fortunately, we found the exact model available and purchased it.

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We celebrated a final dinner with the Chil’ns and Grandchil’ns. Boo hoo!

We then got Buster ready for departure on Friday 8/16. We’re off to Rockford, IL to see Vicki’s niece, Rachel.

BTW, who wants to ride with Norm? Third time is a charm!

Stay tuned….