Welcome To My Blog

Weekends are for wandering Wisconsin. That's what Rick, my guy, and I do. Occasionally we wander during the week, too. Sometimes we just drop in on other people's lives.

This blog is my way of sharing where we've been, neat places and things to do that we've found.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Birds & Bovines III - Vintage Camping Trailer Rally

It was our third year and once again we had great weather. Well, there was that bit of rain early on Sunday morning but that didn't dampen spirits of 50+ campers. For the third year we gathered at Ledge Park overlooking the beautiful Horicon Marsh. We had a total of 26 rigs this year - some a little more vintage than others. 

I didn't get a picture of every trailer at the rally. Apologies to those of you that I missed. There's always next year! In the meantime, here's a few to enjoy . . .
A "new" Yellowstone for Dave and Monica. 
Very cool in the inside, too.

Don and Linda's Airstream is a 2000 - one they found close to home.
Last year I missed a picture of Dave and Joan's Avion.
The cow on the front was a nice homage to the trailer rally name.

BJ has the best lights decorating her Trotwood.
Larry and Marsha have recently discovered vintage trailers. Love the decor of
Little Chum.
Cindy and Ken shared their site with. . .
Tim and Molly. (Apologies if I messed up
who's who!)
Steve and Tammy came from Iowa with their little Serro Scotty.
This Trotwood has been in Clyde's family since 1958 - only one owner all these years!
Don has a pretty pair with his Shasta and Ford station wagon.
Probably turns a lot of heads going down the road.
How many of us women can relate to the sign on Zoe's trailer?
Vito is the latest in Norm and Julia's gnome "family." A pretty good guard for Ginger.
The newest of the trailers - Lynn and Derek's. He's done a nice job building
cabinets on the inside. And he's still customizing their "haven" to fit the
needs of the family.
Speaking of customizing - Jerome has made
this Spartan his own.
He built this Studebaker to pull the

The newest addition to George and JoEllen's trailer decorations.
Patron bird of vintage campers - Kaye's find.
Rick sold his Argosy Minuet (the trailer we had last year for the rally) to Kaye and Jim. We say "good-bye" but will see this little guy at future rallies.

Next it will be Birds & Bovines IV, June 9-12, 2016. Still a few spots open for folks who enjoy this era of trailers and LOTS of good food!

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Vintage Camping Trailer Open House - You're Invited

The third vintage camping trailer rally that Rick and I are hosting is happening this weekend. This year we have 27 rigs - mostly vintage - that are coming from Wisconsin and northern Illinois. We are excited that the number has nearly doubled from last year. Because many of you who read my blog may be interested in vintage trailers, we'd like to extend the following invitation to you: 

All of us would love to show  you what we've done with our vintage trailers. Spread the word. Invite your friends and anyone who is interested in this little slice of the past!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Finished with Florida

No, this doesn't mean that we're not going back to Florida. It means that I realized I hadn't posted my final thoughts about our time in Florida. So here goes . . .

The Villages, where we stayed,  is located in a part of Florida that wasn't developed until the last part of the nineteenth century. And then it was agriculture, especially cattle-raising. One can still see a number of farms with cattle grazing peacefully in the fields close to The Villages. 

These life-sized sculptures are at the entrance to the Brownwood Paddock Town Square,
one of three town squares in The Villages. An homage to the real history of this area.
The Villages, a "census-designated area" was begun in the 1970s. Harold Schwartz, who was from Michigan, was the developer. He had been selling land tracts in the area via mail order but was put out of business by a federal law that prohibited such commerce. So what was he to do with all that land? Build a mobile home park, of course. In a few years, Schwartz brought in his son, Gary Morse, to help develop the park. Sales improved when amenities and nearby commercial development were offered to the residents. In the 1980s Schwartz began to buy large tracts of land nearby for future expansion. The name of the overall development was changed to The Villages in 1992. 

However, to read plaques at various locations in The Villages you'd think this community would have been here for several hundred years. NOT! 

I guess Schwartz and Morse had a sense of humor as there were lots of smiles to be seen on the faces of people reading these plaques. The history may be fake, but, for the most part, the people are real. We made a number of friends during our 2+ months in The Villages and are looking forward to returning next year to renew those friendships.

During our last two weeks in The Villages, Rick was determined to swim in as many of the nearly 100 pools as he could. He may have dipped his toes in at least one new pool a day during that time and on one occasion, he enjoyed at least two of them in one afternoon.
Each of the villages within The Villages has its own swimming pool and all look pretty much the same.
Some are designated as "family" pools which means children can swim there.  Others 
are adult pools (users have to be over the age of 19). A few are "sport" pools where various 
water-based exercise classes are held. Any resident of The Villages can use any of the pools.
As The Villages expands, the amenities (pools, bocci ball and tennis courts, golf courses, etc.) are installed before the homes are built so that new residents have immediate access to recreational activities when they move in. We've been told that build out will end in about two years because there is no more land available for the developer to buy. We'll wait and see how that claim turns out!

The local food in and near The Villages was great: Oakwood Smokehouse Grill, Gator Joe's (I even had alligator bites for an appetizer), Eaton's Beach Sandbar & Grill (owner is a friend of Aaron Rodgers), Koyame Asian Express, and Fiesta Grande Mexican GrillWe won't be going back to a few of the restaurants (mostly the chains) that we sampled. And there are still many, many more eateries to check out upon our return.

It seems like there is some sort of "festival" or big public gathering on the town squares just about every weekend - Mardi Gras, car shows, craft shows, and one we really enjoyed. It was the Buffalo Pride BBQ Bash. For $5 we sampled delicious pork, beef, and chicken barbecue. The event is one of the most popular during the year and benefits The Villages Charter Schools. Yes, even though it's a retirement community, The Villages has a school - for the children of anyone who works for The Villages or for any of the commercial establishments that are in The Villages. Apparently the school is one of the best in the state. 

Rick commented during our time in Florida that we hadn't seen and heard as much live music in ten years as we experienced during two months. Every town square in The Villages (there are three of them) features live music and dancing every night of the year - holidays included. The only time the squares close down is if the temperature drops below 47 degrees. Only one night was that the case. Yes, it was cool, even in Florida!
Rocky & the Rollers is a very popular band playing lots of classic 1960s and 1970s
songs. The town square was packed with people dancing to the music.
Some of the bands, like Rocky's, have a number of instrumentalists and singers. Others are what I'd call "kicked-up karaoke" where the accompaniment to the vocalists is on an iPad. 

Other music that I particularly enjoyed was a Bruce Springsteen tribute band that played in a 1000-seat sanctuary Methodist Church. Lots of liturgical dance going on that night! We also heard the Singing Servers of the Central Florida Lyric Opera at one of the 12 country clubs in The Villages. In between taking our order and bringing out our food, the waiters performed numbers from well-known operas and musicals. The singers were great, the food was not so great. 

One singer that Rick has become a fan of - someone he discovered through a vintage trailer podcast - is Antsy McClain. Antsy grew up in a trailer park and his band is the Trailer Park Troubadours. His music is a bit of rockabilly, folk, rock, and just plain fun! I thought at first he would be a great act for The Villages, but then realized that he's too original to be on the docket. Village people like to hear the same familiar songs at the town squares. Songs like "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll" and "YMCA." Cover songs. That's not Antsy's style as you can hear in this video. He was warming up before his performance at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa back in March.

Well, that's it from Florida for 2015. Check back early next year for more of our adventures in the Sunshine State.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Manatees and More

This week we traveled about an hour from The Villages "compound" to Crystal River (on the Gulf side of Florida) and the Three Sisters Spring to see manatees - marine mammals. The springs were discovered in 1945 by a developer who later made them into a lake. In 2010 the property became part of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is one of 29 in Florida. (We have 11 such areas in Wisconsin.) 

The springs are owned by the city of Crystal River and managed by the federal Fish & Wildlife Service. In a couple of months there will only be several manatees to see here since most of them swim out to the Gulf of Mexico once the water warms up a little more.
The manatees are on the bottom; the rocks are along the edge of the water.
When manatees are resting they'll come up for air every 15 minutes or so.
Their closest animal relative is the elephant. Manatees are also known as sea cows.
We didn't swim with these marine mammals like some folks did. Rather, we walked along a boardwalk to view about a hundred of them getting ready to start their day. Several volunteers were positioned along the way to share information about the manatees and their habits.

A wetland restoration project was in progress near the manatees. It should be interesting to come back in a few years and see what the area looks like then.

A number of other natural areas and state parks were nearby so we stopped in to take a walk through the Florida flora. One stop was the Crystal River Archaeological State Park

This high mound, built around 600 A.D., supported a temple for the
Native Americans who inhabited Florida at that time.
These smaller mounds reminded me of the Indian burial mounds
we see in Wisconsin.

Manatees make good mascots throughout Florida.
This guy was at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
One more park and a couple more trees.
Looks like a fire went through the park a few years ago.
Spring is coming, but the leaves are the color of fall.
Green is such a great sight in the middle of winter!
This beautiful Florida sunset was one we saw from within The Villages.

Our time in Florida is coming to an end much too soon. We are keeping our fingers crossed that when we return to Wisconsin spring will be just around the corner!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Wisconsin Connections

It was the hat!

Rick found this hat with its LED flashing Green Bay Packer logo during one of the first Market Nights we spent at Spanish Springs Village Square here in The Villages. Market Night is every Monday and Wednesday when a variety of vendors set up their wares during the same hours of the nightly entertainment. 

Given that the Green Bay Packers were still contenders in the post-season playoffs, the hat attracted quite a bit of attention. In fact, one of the first persons who asked if we were from Wisconsin turned out to be a friend of friends of ours from Menomonie. His wife also knew some of the same people I knew because of my last job. Yes, it's a small world!

The second connection we made because of the hat was with a couple from Chippewa Falls. Lisa and Zach had been here since September. She came down to help out her mother. We learned from them that the best place to see the Green Bay-Dallas game was with more Wisconsin fans at Cody's Roadhouse near another one of the village squares.

So we showed up early enough to get a seat at the bar. Lisa had alerted us to the fact that there was a special bar menu that offered $2.50 sliders - a great bargain. Also, it was 2 for 1 Happy Hour from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. We cheered the Packers to victory on January 11 with about 50-60 other fans, many of whom were from Wisconsin. We came back to Cody's the following week with many of the same people from the previous week. Unfortunately, it was a loss for the Packers that day.
Many of these old bottles on display at Cody's are from Wisconsin. But that
would make sense since Wisconsin's German immigrants started many breweries
in the 1800s. In fact, one of the first large-scale breweries was Best Brewing from
Milwaukee. Frederick Pabst bought into the company following his marriage
to Best's daughter and eventually took over control of the company and
changed the name to Pabst Brewing.
During halftime we learned about another gathering of Wisconsinites - one of the Wisconsin Clubs at The Villages. 

About 160 people gathered last week to socialize. This Wisconsin Club is one
of three here in The Villages. We chose this particular one because of meeting
several of its members at the Green Bay Packer games.
It was just by chance that we happened to sit at a table and met a couple whose Wisconsin home is about a mile from Rick's. Again, a small world! The entertainment that evening was a Wisconsin trivia game - a great deal of fun. Even more fun was helping our table win the game. Some of the questions: What is the UFO capital of the world? Where is the biggest brat fest held? What year did brewing begin in Wisconsin? And where was Allen Ludden born? 

Last weekend we attended our first car show of the new year. About 250 cars were positioned around the square and on the adjoining streets. Rick said it was the best shows he's been to and I couldn't agree more. I don't like cars with "flames" and none were to be found on these cars. 

Corvettes from the 1950s are a favorite of mine, especially a convertible.  

Another Wisconsin connection - Gremlins were manufactured in Kenosha.
But the most amazing Wisconsin connection we made that evening was with George, the owner of "Whitey," this cute Volkswagen.

After a few minutes of conversation, Rick realized that he had actually met George, a retired school administrator from Kewaskum, about 20 years ago. Rick was working with the Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Council to develop youth prevention programs in Washington County. George was in charge of student services for his district in the county. The world can't get any smaller than this!

We met Lisa's mother last Friday night and took Lisa out to dinner at one of the twelve country clubs here in The Villages. Any resident (or renter like us) can dine at any of these establishments. These aren't exclusive clubs.

When we first arrived in The Villages it seemed like the people we were meeting were mostly from the Northeast. However, we've discovered that many Wisconsinites are here, too, and we'll probably meet a few more before we leave. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

History in the Making at the RV Show

One of the country's largest RV shows is happening right now in Tampa. We were there on Opening Day, January 14. It was also Senior Day so we were surrounded by our own demographic.
The Expo Hall was packed with vendors selling everything
from RV furniture to the latest cleaning agent for the RV's
outside to a fancy radiant heating system that could be retrofitted
on an RV. The jewelry booths seemed to be out of place as
far as I was concerned, but then one of the attendees reminded
me that I was wearing earrings! 
We saw a number of little dogs on the grounds. Since people in RVs could stay overnight at the Florida State Fairgrounds where the show was being held, we figured the owners didn't want to leave their pets alone for an entire day. I'd never seen a dog in a stroller until last year in Florida. I saw a few of them being wheeled around at the show.
This doggie in a baby carrier was something else. This woman
was one of the vendors in the Expo Hall.
Rick was particularly interested in a Class B camper - essentially a van camper. He had read about a brand, Hymer (rhymes with roomer), from Germany and was eager to see one of the models in person.

We found the Hymer exhibit and met a couple of executives from Hymer and Spartan Motors, the company in Michigan that is assembling the campers.

Dominick on the left is from Hymer and Markus on the right
is with Spartan. 
Now for the historic moment at the RV show - the two Hymers that were exhibited were the first two built in the U.S. and this was the very first day they were being shown in this country. We can say we were there!
It's amazing what can be put in a van camper - two burner stove, sink, refrigerator,
bathroom with a toilet and shower, dinette, double bed in the back, and lots of storage.
As we wandered around the grounds, we also met the VP of Sales and Product Development from Winnebago in Forest City, Iowa. He had been brought in to the company to change the Winnebago image. 
With bright colors, like red, and no more big white boxes, this ain't your Grandfather's
Winnebago anymore. This particular van camper was a lot like the Hymer.
The VP is doing his job well because Winnebago sales continue to increase year after year.

We still prefer a vintage trailer over most of what we saw at the RV show, but a Class B camper might be a possibility in the future.