Friday, August 28, 2015

Niagara Falls—Pictures Will Never do it Justice

I have never had a “Bucket List”… I want to see everything I can.   But there are things I have always dreamed of seeing.  Niagara Falls is one of the things I have always wanted to see.  So I have looked forward to our visit of the falls for months.

Originally we had planned to go to the Canadian side to see the falls.  When we got to the area multiple people talked to us about the difference between the American side and the Canadian side.  People compared the two:  the Canadian side is like comparing Las Vegas to a state park.  So, we all decided we would stay on the American side and enjoy the falls, taking the trolley through the State Park; we would go on the Maid of Mist boat ride and see the view from the overlook.  It was a good decision.  It was nothing short of breathtaking. 

The untamed beauty of Niagara Falls lures the over 13 million visitors a year. 
As we approached the visitor center we could literally feel the power of the falls.  
We purchased our tickets to the Maid of the Mist boat ride.  This iconic ride promised to take us as close to the falls as we can get without going over in a barrel. J

We were given a blue plastic poncho to presumably keep us dry.

When we approached the first falls, I found the mist refreshing.  I remember thinking… “this isn’t bad at all”.  Then the boat turned and headed toward the Horseshoe Falls.  It felt like the weather pattern changed instantly.  I am sure the people “driving” the boat were in total control.  However, it felt like the power of the falls would suck us in.  I wanted to share my thoughts with George and realized there wasn’t a prayer he could hear me over the roar of the falls.  It was at this point I began thinking they needed to rename this tour from the “Maid of the Mist” to the “Maid of the Drench”.

A few interesting facts:
  • Niagara Falls State Park was established in 1885—it is America’s Oldest State Park. 
  • Niagara Falls has the highest flow rate of ANY waterfall in the world! 
  • The falls have a vertical drop of more than 175 feet—crazy!
  • The 3 falls, the American Falls, Horseshoe Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls all form the Niagara Fall.
  • The average American would take approximately 7 ½ years to use the amount of water that goes over Niagara Falls in ONE second… over 750,000 gallons of water flow over Niagara Falls in just one second.

The water is a gorgeous blue/green, Aqua color. 
The magnitude of Niagara Falls is almost impossible to describe. 

The view from the overlook is breathtaking. 

I was overwhelmed by the power of God and the evidence of His Love for us.  God cares enough about us to provide this beautiful sight for us to enjoy.  I wanted to soak up every drop of sunshine and every drop of water plunging over those magnificent falls.

We visited Niagara Falls with our friends, Tom and Sandy Burke.

Visiting Niagara Falls State Park is a memory that will last a lifetime.   It is one of the places that we have visited that I would say everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Forget Lions and Tigers and Bears... Now it is Axles and Springs and Shackles...Oh, My!

We had our 5thwheel weighed when we pulled into the campground in Shipshewana.  Based on the SmartWeigh scales we are about 500 pounds under the allowable weight. 
We had made prior arrangements to take our 5th wheel to the Redwood service center in Topeka before the rally started for a few minor fixes.  We had seen several nail/staples starting to come up on the roof—they found and corrected 5.  Our small awning didn’t retract consistently without assistance—they lubricated the awning supports and it works great.  We had seen seals coming apart around the slides—they replaced 50 feet of seals.  All of this was at no cost.

While we were at the service center they also noticed one set of leaf springs were flattening.  Before they could do this repair they “weighed” the 5th wheel.  We are not sure how they weighed it, but they said we were 1,500 pounds overweight.   After having just been weighed the day before we are not sure what the difference is.  We regularly go through CAT scales and ensure our weights are good.
To make a LONG, very painful story short.  Redwood deferred this to the manufacturer, Lippert.  Lippert historically will do anything to not pay on a warranty.  Redwood was willing to have us come back after the rally to reweigh and see if the repair work could be done under warranty.  After long discussions with other Redwood owners, we decided to not go back for a reweigh.  We believe they would have found their previous weights were incorrect—however, they would have repaired the springs with identical replacements.  We are planning to either replace our axles and springs with 8K axles/springs or go to MorRyde system.

We have heard the bushings on the stock Shackles are plastic.  Really!  $130K 5thwheel and they use plastic. L  When we got to Indianapolis, George replaced the Shackles with MorRyde Brass shackles with titanium bolts.  This alone will be a great improvement.

We will continue to faithfully weigh our rig while we are on the road.  We will monitor the tires, springs and shackles and look at possibly moving to a MorRyde when we come back to the Rally next August.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

We Couldn’t see the Forest Through the Redwood 5th Wheels


We have seen the Great Lakes, multiple Mountain Ranges, both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and now we have seen a “forest” of Redwoods—and we loved it. J
We purchased our Redwood 38RL in December 2013.  We still love our new home.  We love any chance to show off our home and talk about our full time lifestyle—which is made more enjoyable in our Redwood.

Fall 2010 Redwood opened its doors and started production of luxury of 5th wheels designed specifically for full time living.  Like 80% of all the RVs on the road today, Redwoods are manufactured in Elkhart county Indiana—specifically Topeka, Indiana.  To date over 4,600 Redwoods have been sold.   We love our Redwood.  For more specific information see

There is a Redwood rally annually in Shipshewana, Indiana.  The rally is hosted by the Redwood Owners Group (ROG) and the Redwood Corp.—the company so believes in the product that it wants to get as many of the existing customers together as possible.  We planned our travels this year with the rally in mind.
We came in on Monday expecting to have extra time to rest before the rally started.  We were excited to see there were already other Redwoods in the campground.  

ROG had made arrangements for SmartWeigh (Escapees) available to weigh rigs as they come into the campground.  For $55 SmartWeigh does a complete weight and analysis of the tow vehicle and 5th wheel.  Each wheel is weighed separately.  The pin weight is calculated and then Jim talked to us about redistributing weight through the 5th wheel.    We were happy to find out, based on their scales we are about 500 pounds under the allowable weight.  

We have never been anywhere with more than 2 other Redwoods.  It was so fun to see Redwoods wherever we look.  There were 63 Redwoods at the rally.  So FUN!!!

Throughout the weekend there were seminars on a variety of RV related topics.  There were times of food and fellowship with other Redwood owners.  Additionally, we took every opportunity to visit and connect individually with others.  We made some great friends that we believe will be forever friends.

The Redwood Owners Group (ROG) continues to evolve.  The goal is to bring Redwood together with owners.  They work to represent the owners to the Redwood company.  They are also trying to create opportunities for owners to meet and socialize together.  It was so great being together with other “Redwooders”—we can’t wait until the next time.

See you on the road!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Amish in Shipshewana

RV's and buggies--that sums up much of Elkhart County.

We have been in the Shipshewana, Indiana area before.  We love Amish communities.  The people are SO friendly—everyone offers a smile and warm greeting.  

The farmland is beautiful; there were wheat fields in various stages of harvest, corn fields with corn up to 8’ tall (because of all the rain) and pastures of grazing horses. 

The Amish population has doubled over the last 20 years—primarily due to having large families and very few people leaving the church.  In 2012 there were about 270,000 Amish living in North America—over half are under 18 years old.  There are settlements in 28 states and in Canada (there are no communities outside North America). 

Each group will have its own set of unwritten guidelines, “Ordnung” about lifestyle—color and style of dress, hats, modes of transportation, furniture and more.  Some rules are consistent with every Amish community:  All married men wear beards, members are required to dress plainly (although can be very colorful), all groups use horse and buggy for their primary form of transportation.  Church is conduct in homes and they ordain lay leaders—no need for seminary.  Most Amish children stop formal education at eighth grade.  Amish people do not hold political office and are conscientious objectors to war.

Primarily Amish communities are in rural areas.  Rural areas are certainly more conducive to horses and buggies.  Most have farms and/or large gardens.  Rural areas also promote community interaction.

Amish people/families selectively use modern technologies.  Most Amish properties have a phone booth/building—never inside the house.   

We were out in the community we saw Amish people using technology in their jobs—electric cash registers and calculators, golf carts and power tools.   No Amish community accepts the use of television, computers in the home or allows for a person to own a car.  All communities are permitted to use 12-volt electricity (from batteries).  Gas power is acceptable in some cases—we saw a gas powered generator powering an electric fence.   Some (very few) communities allow solar power, tractors and even a few cell phones. 
An Amish home often has a clothesline of full of colorful clothes that I can only imagine were hand stitched, washed with care and put up to dry so they would be ready for another day.

It is easy to tell an Amish home from an “English” home.  Most of the houses are perfectly white, as if they were newly painted.  Generally there are multiple houses together on a farm, as generations live on a farm together.  There are beautiful flower gardens and large vegetable gardens.  Many houses have chickens in the yard.  And, of course, there are the proverbial buggies and bicycles.

We did some shopping while we were in Elkhart County (Shipshewana).  E&S Sales is a bulk purchase grocery store; it was amazing the things that could be purchased in bulk—everything from noodles to hot chocolate mix. 

Davis Mercantile  had a carousel on the 3rd floor.

The Amish are Christian; they follow a Biblical belief system with an emphasis on adult baptism, simplicity, community and, of course, a separation from modern culture.   An Amish man we were visiting with told us they choose this lifestyle because of their faith and their Love of God.  

Amish people do not believe in having their picture taken.  They will not pose for a “face-on” photo for a couple of reason.  The 2nd of the Ten Commandments:  “Thou shalt not make… any graven image, or any likeness of thing…”  Exodus 20:14.  Also, the Amish as a culture believe in humility—posing for a photo is a sign pride; it calls attention to an individual. 

We are familiar with the Amish “Church Wagon”.  Church Wagons are parked at the home that will host the Sunday church service for the next week.  The wagon contains pews or chairs, tables for the dinner after church, sometimes a tent and anything else needed to conduct church. Throughout the week we had seen several church wagons, so we were excited to for our “Sunday afternoon drive”. 

As we left the campground, we quickly realized there were NO buggies out.  We set out to revisit the places we had earlier seen the church wagons.

An Amish church "Parking Lot".
One congregation met in a barn/out-building; while another met in a tent on the front lawn.   We were very careful to take pictures without invading their space.  It is critical to us that we are respectful of the Amish community in whatever we do.

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