Elkhart Indiana bound with Chicago mini-vacation! March 24th to April 6th

Elkhart you say!  What is there to do in Elkhart!  Why would you want to go to Elkhart????

Well, first off the reason we were going to Elkhart in March was to have our motorhome repaired.  This sucks at the best of time but when it is your home it makes it even more of an annoyance.  However, a silver lining is that it is warranty work so at least we did not have to pay for the fix.  This part of our route was actually set back in Ottawa in October when we were told that the main slide would have to be removed and rebuilt to fix the scraping problem we were having.  Not a quick and easy fix.  November in Ottawa was not in the cards for many subzero reasons so we made plans to fix it on our way back north in the spring.  Well spring is here and away we go to Elkhart.

Since we are retired and flexible and it needed to be fixed we figured we will make the best of it.  This was also easy to do since we have an Aunt and Uncle and another Aunt that live in Elkhart/Goshen area so it was actually a very good way to handle the annoyance.  I know, for some of you it is not hard to imagine that Larry has relatives there!!

…view from our window of the setting sun in Ohio.

As we pulled out of the Sunshine State and headed north, the first day’s drive took us through Georgia and South Carolina and into North Carolina where we stopped at a KOA right along the Interstate.  It definitely is not a campground that we are headed back too.  It however did serve the purpose that we needed, directly on our path and a place we could set up and relax for the night in quiet.  The next morning we hit the road again and drove through West Virginia and Virginia before entering Ohio.  It was starting to feel like home when we saw a Grant Transport truck and Tim Hortons!!  We had a one night reservation in Alton, Ohio.  This is basically a suburb of Columbus.  The campground here was full hook ups but basically a field that was

…a little piece of Canada in Trumpland.

turned into a gravel parking lot.  The evening was highlighted with a drive through feed store ( which we walked through and had a nice chat with the worker), a house fire and a beautiful sunset.  Since there was a Tim Hortons just a couple kilometers from our campground and on our route we pulled in.  No, we did not take the RV through the drive thru but there was a big enough parking lot to get our unit parked and went in.  With Timmies in hand we started to drive to Elkhart.

We arrived at Clare and Katie Ann’s mid afternoon with a bit of a strange feeling.  We had never been there before and since they are fellow RVers they were still down in Florida and not home.  So, we had this beautiful house “in the country” all to ourselves.  Armed with the key code for their garage door in we went.  Along with us we emptied most of our

…our home base for three weeks.

belongings from the RV into their basement as well.  This was due to the fact that the slide had to be removed and we wanted to have everything out of the way.  With most of the work done we decided to go for a walk in the neighbourhood and then settled in for the night.

 

The next morning was also a busy  morning, the final cleaning and rental car pick up and dropping the RV off at Forest River to get fixed.  The morning went by without a hitch and we arrived at Forest River on time.  After meeting our Service and Repairs Managers we walked through the list of problems that needed to be fixed.  We

…with Aunt Laura.

were pleasantly surprised that the main problem was not as big of problem as the Ottawa technicians thought and they said to go and enjoy our “holidays”.  We said our goodbyes and headed downtown Goshen.  Now, I had been there before but not for a long time and after calling Laura (aunt) a few times finally left a message.  She replied very promptly from the message and said she did not recognize the number so did not answer, lesson learned!  We made arrangements to meet her that evening for dinner but before that we needed to find a gym to get active again

…inside a pre 1920s motorhome!

after a few days of not being able to work out.  This was achieved with an Anytime Fitness that was very accommodating with there free 7 day trial.  Perfect.  We went and picked up Laura and got to see where she lived and then headed downtown to Maple Indian Cuisine where we had a wonderful dinner and conversation.   Since Elkhart Indiana is the RV Capitol of the World they have a Hall of Fame and Museum for the RV Industry.  We figured this could be fun so headed to it.  It was full of some of the first RVs and trailers, there were some prototypes and some celebrity owned units.   It was a good way to kill a couple of hours.  Since we had to get our hair taken

…hanging out in a trendy college coffee shop.

care of we headed off to two separate salons.   I guess it was time for some alone time.  Since mine took 15 minutes and June’s took almost 5 hours it gave me time to hangout with the college kids at the Electric Brew. Very cool trendy coffee shop, where all the college kids hang out.  We realized afterward that it was the longest we had been apart in about 15 months!!!   We made plans again with

…classy old theatre.

Laura, this time we attended  a harpist concert in Elkhart at the Learner Theatre.  The Learner is a concert hall that was built in 1929 and restored in 2011.  It is an absolutely beautiful venue and the concert did not disappoint.  Twenty three year old Amy Hagen who has been playing and studying the harp since she was 8 years old showed us that the

…an eye opening harp concert!

harp is not just an instrument for hymns and weddings but can also play jazz, blues, folk and rock.  The two hours flew by in minutes.  We then walked to an upscale Irish Pub for lunch and then on the way home Laura gave us a tour of Elkhart and where her, Dale, Kris and Dwight lived once they returned from India in the early 70s.

 

 

Now it was time for our mini holiday to Chicago.  We drove to Chicago and to our friends Pam and her daughter, Amanda.  They live in a beautiful 100+ year old house , just a couple blocks from the suburb Oak Park.  To get there you take the interstate which takes you almost downtown Chicago before turning west.  This is usually a nice visual drive as the Chicago skyline is a  nice one.  However today that was not to be because it was a very grey rainy day.  So, we arrived without seeing Chicago but arrived non the less and were

…beautiful old Chicago home.

happy to get a key to their house from a neighbor and let ourselves in.  The theme for this part of our adventure is staying in houses without the owners in them! Pam and Amanda were leaving for most of the weekend too!  We will not take it personally.  However, the house smelled amazing as we walked in because Pam had a crock pot cooking in the kitchen for dinner.  Soon after 5 pm Pam arrived home from work, her daughter Caroline stopped by to have dinner with us on her way to work and her daughter Amanda arrived home shortly there after.  We had a wonderful evening of conversation but then it was time for bed.  The next day Pam and Amanda had to work and then both of them headed to the airport to fly out for the weekend.

 

…deep dish and Vicky makes for a great day!

We were so very excited to spend the next day with a very dear friend, Vicky, who was in Chicago from Flagstaff to help her Mom who had surgery.  She swung by and picked us up and then we went for lunch at a Chicago institution, Giordano’s Pizzeria,

…Frank Lloyd Wright home.

home of the Chicago Deep Dish Stuffed Pizza!!  Afterwards we went to the first home that Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built for himself in the Oak Park area in the early 1900s.  It was filled with lots of fun features which he incorporated into a lot of his future designs.  The afternoon was topped off with some ice cream from Peterson’s Ice Cream and a quick stop at

…basic shapes and stain glass found all over the home.

the home where Ernest Hemmingway grew up in.  After saying our goodbyes to our good friend we settled in for a quiet night in our big house.  Well, we were sitting in the living room reading, mostly in the dark with only two little lights on and  we heard a siren and saw the flashing lights of a police car right outside

…Hemmingway home.

our window.  With curiosity getting the best of us we peaked out the window and saw two officers on either side of the car they pulled over, right beside our car.  As we are staring out the window watching a loud knock on our door made us jump!  After a quick debate about whether we should open the door, we did,  and it was only a neighbor dropping off some food for Pam and nothing to do with the scene out our window.  It took many minutes for June’s heart to stop pumping so rapidly!

 

…us inside the Bean.
Chicago and the Bean!

The next day we woke up to sunshine, only a high of 10 C but a nice clear day.  So, we got dressed and headed over to the metro and headed downtown.  We got off near the Art Institute and headed down Michigan Avenue.  After a discussion with a mother and daughter on

…us and the skyline!

the street and answering some of their questions, ( I guess we looked like locals)  we headed over to Millennium Park and the “bean”.  A huge mirrored bean looking monument that gives a very fun view of the city skyline and people.  We then walked along the lake to Navy Pier.  Here we took some time to enter the “Hamilton lottery” for cheap same day tickets for

…downtown Chicago.

Hamilton, we did this three times but did not get picked.  Chicago is known for deep dish pizza and the debate is who’s is best.  So, we had to do the research for ourselves and today’s lunch was deep dish again.  This time at Lou Malnati’s.   We are still undecided which one

…more of Frank Lloyd Wright designs.

we like better.  Now with our stomach full it was time to walk it off, so off we went down Michigan Ave and the Magnificent Mile of shops.  With a few stops along the way we circled around the Drake Hotel and headed back.  The architecture of Chicago is an easy way to pass a the time of a beautiful afternoon, so

…more of Frank Lloyd Wright.

that is what we did.  After walking almost 12 km it was time to stop and have a drink, we chose the House of Blues to have a beverage.  We were too early to have a live band but the Blues were playing in the back ground and it was a nice way to finish our Chicago walking tour so back to the train we went and out into the suburbs again.  Once again we had a nice quiet evening in our Chicago home.  Our last full day in the Chicago area we spent in Oak Park.  We had found 25 homes that were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright so we made our own walking tour using Google Maps.  The day was nice so we drove over to Oak Park and found some free parking and went for a walk.  We made a game out of it, we tried to guess the home by its

…the Oak Park Conservatory

architectural style before actually seeing the house number.  Then a quick stop at a Conservatory before we headed downtown Oak Park where we stopped at a nice olive oil shop where we struck up a conversation with the owner.  Turns out that her and her husband had lived in Ottawa for 5 years working for the US Government and still return there every year.  She also recommended a couple restaurants to have dinner at.  We took one of her recommendations and ended up at Mara del Sol, a traditional Mexican restaurant.  We had a great connection with our waiter and the dinner was amazing.  We would highly recommend this place to anyone visiting this area, especially in the summer as the patio looked very nice.  We arrived home to find Amanda home from her quick trip to see her boyfriend and had a nice time getting to know her.  Then Pam arrived and we chatted for a couple hours before going to bed.

…hanging and talking with Clare and Katie Ann

The next morning it was time to leave, time sure goes by quickly when you are having fun!  We decided to stop and get a Lou Malnati’s  pizza to share with Clare and Katie Ann that evening as they arrived home on Sunday.  We arrived back in Elkhart late afternoon and spent a wonderful evening of conversation, pizza and wine.  Before we knew it, it was 11 PM and bed time.  The next day was a full day, with more conversation with Clare and Katie in the morning then meeting Laura for lunch at South Side Soda Shop (one of Wanda’s hangouts from her college days in Goshen)  then to Goshen

…South Side Soda Shop!

College where Clare and Katie met up with Laura and us for a women’s choir from the college.  You really have to like these free concerts.  The concert was amazing but, a little short.   Since all three parties drove separately we made a plan to meet for Chinese for dinner and we went our separate ways for a few hours.  Now, when we were in Chicago we received an email from Forest River saying the main items were finished already and our RV would be ready to be picked up when we came Wednesday for our factory tour.  This was a great surprise, but we sent them back an email saying that is great but we do not want to pick it up until April 18th or 19th.  They said no problem they will park it in their lot.   Now it was  time for our factory tour of Forest River

…Goshen College Women’s Choir.

where our unit was built.  Clare, Katie and Laura were happy to join us so off we went.  It was really amazing to see them build these motorhomes with almost everything being made inside the walls of the factory.  The chassis comes from Ford but is basically an engine, frame and wheels, then the walls (inside and out), cabinets, floors are assembled in front of our eyes.  They complete around 10-12 per day with start to finish taking about 3-4 business days.  The tour was very impressive for its efficient workmanship but also simplistic

…the whole gang!

assembly line.  Each unit is driven onto four wheel carriages.  They now can be PUSHED manually along, even the almost completed coach.  Simple but efficient!  After the tour we headed back to Clare and Katie’s for a sandwich lunch which turned into just sitting in their kitchen talking for hours.  By mid afternoon it was decided that Laura had some curry in her freezer at home and that would make an amazing dinner.  This day turned into a fun filled day of talking and reminiscing and just getting to know one another at a new level.

 

Elkhart you say!  What is there to do in Elkhart!  Why would you want to go to Elkhart????

We did not have enough time in Elkhart!!  It was so great just getting to know and to spend one on one time with our relatives here in Elkhart that the time just flew by.  It was so nice that Clare and Katie felt that way too and so they extended it slightly by driving out to

…lunch together before we leave.

the Rise and Roll Bakery for lunch on our way to Washington.  I thought I had tasted the best donuts before  ( Mennonite Relief Sale and the Donut Hole in Fl. ) BUT..these donuts are amazing!   We each had a stuffed donut at lunch and then we

…amazing!!!!!

bought 2 of their “signature” donuts – Cinnamon Caramel, for a snack on the road.  So, at about 9pm we ate them in the car, and OMG, they were so good!! When we opened the car door at the hotel and the light went on our pants and the whole front seat was covered in cinnamon!!

 

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