August 26, 2012 – Shakedown Cruise

Having largely given up on our quest for a vacation home in Florida, as chronicled in a previous post, we turned our attention toward the idea of a motorized vacation home.  We narrowed our choices down to a relatively small Class C motor home, just enough for us and the dogs.  I must have looked at a thousand of them online before I located one in nearby Burlington, Iowa.  Stacey and I drove up one night to look at it, then, after some discussion, drove up the next night to pick it up.  It’s a 2004 Winnebago, also known as a Minnie Winnie.  At 24 feet, it’s not insanely large.  I was surprised at how powerful and agile it seemed on the drive home.  The Ford E450 10-cylinder gives it plenty of oomph. 

We stocked it with all the dishes we had shipped back from California, kitchenware originally from my Mom and Dad’s 5th-wheel trailer.  I read the whole manual and went through the thing as well as I could.  We scheduled our shakedown cruise for a weekend in Wakonda State Park.  Our friends Henry and Teresa Gunsauls joined us two campsites down with their pop-up trailer. 

Two dogs, two people, and the Minnie Winnie.  From August 2012

I should mention that we were all later to arrive  than expected.  On Friday afternoon, I was called to a fire in Canton, while Henry was called to a fire in La Grange (where he is Chief).  After I cleaned up, I drove the Minnie Winnie and Stacey drove the pick-up truck with the kayaks to the nearby park.  Our campsite was a lovely spot next to the lake, with full hook-ups.  It was quite warm, as it has been most of the summer.  I took the kayak out late Saturday morning after Stacey had made a delicious breakfast of pancakes.  I only caught one fish, but it was a nice, 16-inch bass.  I saw a soft-shelled turtle slide down the shore into the lake, the usual great blue herons, and several wildflowers.  Gerardia was in bloom (pretty little purple flowers) along the shore, which was very exposed by the low water.  I looked for agates among the rocks, but didn’t see any.

In the afternoon the wind picked up.  We retracted the awning just before it began to rain.  We spent the time relaxing, reading and napping.  Stacey got a lot of sewing done, a hobby she seldom gets to enjoy at home, as there always seem to be more pressing matters afoot.  The dogs adapted to the camping lifestyle quite well.  They barked at dogs from neighboring camps, but that’s to be expected.  Big Guy slept on the couch or on the floor,  Gretchen slept in the overcab bed with us, but with some difficulty.  We had to keep her from jumping down, and she seemed to have trouble settling herself on the first night.  Henry and Teresa have a dog even larger than Big Guy  A beautiful Great Dane in the harlequin pattern, Maltese is about 140 lb.   We wanted to introduce them on neutral territory, but while I was walking our dogs around the campground, Maltese saw us, ran to the end of his cable, broke the plastic buckle on his collar, and, without breaking stride, came running right up.  They weren’t exactly fast friends, but their greetings were cordial enough in dog terms.   Later they had a slight disagreement.  Big Guy always barks at strange men, such as Henry.  Maltese felt obliged to defend his Daddy, and barked right back.  We all agreed that they just need to spend some time running free and playing with each other.  Gretchen was quick to bark at strangers, but we were usually able to calm her down quickly.  On Sunday morning when I came back in with the kayak, she didn’t know what to make of me and barked like mad.  They were so tired from the adventure that I think they slept for about 2 days. 

Gretchen loves the fan, even with the air conditioning on.  From August 2012

Saturday night we attempted to barbeque, but the rain made that difficult.  The chicken didn’t turn out quite right, and my attempt at peach cobbler in the dutch oven was a complete failure.  At least the company and conversation (and maybe drinks) were good!  Our friend Amanda came out to visit during dinner. 

Big Guy loves his food, either indoors or outdoors.  From August 2012

Sunday it was raining.  We didn’t have to leave until 2:00 p.m., but it didn’t make much sense to hang around.  We unhooked, packed up, dumped our black and grey waters, and went home.  I wrote Lowell a corollary to Murphy’s law which stated that, in any system sufficiently complex, something will always be broken.  Lowell wrote, “Murphy was an optimist!”  Lowell was right.  We made a list of things that need to be fixed in the RV.  It’s mostly little stuff, and about what you’d expect in a used unit of this age.  For one thing, our sewer hose was too short.  Most things will be easy, inexpensive fixes.  Overall, we were very pleased with our experience and look forward to our next outing. 

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