Unveiling, and a Midwestern Spiral

Our usual approach on these posts has been to document in chronological order all the sh*t you cannot make up about our journey. Inasmuch as we have been teasing about the name(s) for our new bus, We thought to go out of order so as to not bury the lead! So here it is! The moment you have ALL BEEN WAITING FOR:  

The Front!



The Rear





With the help of fellow Bluebirdbrain Jerri Bergen (www.victorygirl.com) , we got these done in special, reflective vinyl…you will be able to see us coming for a mile away if at night. That is, If we weren’t too old to actually drive at night! And, with the help of David Holmgren, we got them installed without mishap (unless you count the fact that our exhaust killed the grass on the Boulevard outside his house).

Night TIme Reflective!

As you may recall from the last post, we were heading to Georgia to have our Black Tank repaired after it was broken by the Tire company. Well…that turned into 2 visits for a total of 3 weeks. We DID take a couple days off to visit friends Karen and Jim Gulrich in Milledgeville, Ga., but for the most part, we were ensconced in Coachcraft’s parking lot, using their facilities, since ours were leaking!

The tank turned out to have some hidden damage, and needed to have a support beam cut away to reach and repair it. Then said beam had to be welded back in place. Even then, the tank still leaked a tiny seep at a fitting! This was addressed with a bit of Butyl Roofing tape firmly affixed to the area….and for the past 2 months we have not noticed any leakage.

The good news in all of this: the Tire Company (McGriff in Mobile, Alabama) paid the full amount (over $3k) without question. So we are happy to put that chapter behind us!!!

Now Heading North, ultimately to Chicago for Doc appts with a stop in Minneapolis to visit Dad. There, we made a Baseball Bet, which required a reprise visit. Altogether, these had us spiraling around the midwest for a month or so.

Which had us wondering….Do our friends mind being convenient Waypoints? Because our path to the Twin Cities found us passing by lots of folks – including Nieces Claire and Alexandra with a momentary Chet sighting as well. The Grays in Vian, the Dietzes near Bentonville and the Florers near Des Moines. All ostensibly welcomed us, and we were careful to adhere to the Franklin Principle: Guests and Fish smell after 3 days!

Our nieces were moving to an apartment in OKC, so I know FOR SURE they did not mind an Uncle and Aunt to help! For one thing, when they realized that the Box Springs and Mattresses could NOT be shoe-horned into any of their large-but-not-large-enough vehicles, Dan was the only one in the group old enough to rent a truck!! At one point, I received an extreme compliment from one of Chet’s friends as we moved the mattresses and Box Springs off the rented truck:

Sam: “You are much better at this than Chet”
      (Dan, flattered at being ranked higher than a World Class Athlete…at anything!)
Sam: “Yeah, Chet is too tall…kept scraping the ceiling and doors…”
    (Dan, now humble…and apparently short)

Donated Chairs

Claire and Alex were ultimately the recipients of some extra-special Harris largesse – Their apartment was virtually devoid of furniture, until Claire had time to do some serious thrifting, so Liz and I left them some beat-up old Lawn Chairs.

World’s BEST Cookies

In exchange for which we were treated to a variety of dinners and lunches AND a dozen or so of Claire’s “WORLDS BEST COOKIES.” I think we were substantially overpaid!!


After leaving Coachcraft, heading West and North, we happened upon a FABULOUS Walmart for an overnight. We shall forever more call it the “Luxe Walmart.” The Walmart itself was nothing special, but across the lot from us was an old Schoolie set up as a vendor – selling Houseplants it appeared. And playing R&B Standards at high volume to attract attention (and entertain us, it seems!).


Vian Pasture Parking

Next was a BRIEF visit with the Grays, between OKC and Bentonville! So brief, we demanded to be allowed to stay in our coach for an easy getaway (vs. the usual Ranch hospitality featuring an awesome guest house). We first verified the firmness of the pasture where we would normally park…our new ride is 15,000 lbs heavier than the old.

Poo — not ours!

After affirming that the ground would support us, we pulled in the gate. Still not absolutely certain that the Black Water Tank was fully fixed, this was the one place where we were not concerned about leaving poo-drops. After all, there were Cow-pies all around us!


Now, I KNOW we have a sweet ride, but what’s up with that???




Perhaps in the interest of keeping our visit short, Dave warned us of the most unique hazard to our very existence , possibly to be encountered in that pasture, that we have faced in all our travels…:

“Don’t be surprised if you wake up in the morning with Cattle licking your bus…”

Now, I KNOW we have a sweet ride, but what’s up with that??? And what do we do if this occurs? Living in Chicago for 30 years most certainly did not prepare us for this level of threat or weirdness.

Nothing to worry about or be done, Dave assured us – but we may need to wash the bus…

Next stop was a quick hit-and-run visit in Bentonville, ar. There, we managed to FINALLY visit the Crystal Bridges Museum. We have been through several times, and our hosts and guides to all things NW Arkansas – Rhonda and Randy Dietz – have always urged us to see this museum. As fate would have it, though, all of our previous passes thru the area were on a Tuesday…the one day that museum is closed. Well, this time, it was THURSDAY, and we were able to visit!

Avante Garde Bentonville Museum

The short version of our reaction: AWESOME. This museum reflects Alice Walton’s interest in American Art. It also reflects her budgetary restrictions, which is to say none. Even the museum admittance is totally free. What a spectacular way to spend a not-Tuesday! As with many museums, you can only see so much, so we will have to visit again, on another not-Tuesday. There is a whole outdoor component, with a lot of sculpture…and the weather was quite threatening on this visit. So, an excuse to come again!

Rhonda and Randy also met us for dinner after visiting another museum with a bit more of an avante garde (i.e. weird) bent. Lot of fun, and good company and food.

Shipshewana Birds

As we wandered the midwest, and between and around Doctors appointments and visits with Dad, we managed to attend 2 separate, yet connected Blue Bird Rallies. The first was in Shipshewana, Indiana, and the second was a Rolling Rally, leaving Shipshewana and stopping at several points west.

Rowland’s World

The Shipshewana Rally is billed as one with absolutely NOTHING planned. Yet somehow Rowland Rose managed to get us all over to his fantasmagorical barn in nearby Elkhart. Rowland has been collecting things for a long time. These “things” include “The Thing” and several other Volkswagens and a barn chock full of arcade machines (no quarters required). Been there once before, as this is the second time we went to this rally. Still spectacular. TOO MUCH FUN, as all of us old farts turned into teenagers again.

Springfield Birds

The Rolling addition to this rally spent 4 nights at the Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois. Now, I have been sending money (lots of it!) every year to Springfield, but have never spent any time there. So, it was GREAT being the guests of Dave and Dawn Hollis (the former was a fireman in Springfield for many years); Actual, in addition to spiritual guides.

Lincoln’s Tomb

We thoroughly enjoyed the various Lincoln-related exhibits, including Lincoln’s home and Presidential Library and Museum.

Dave and Dawn also arranged tours of some lesser-known but as-spectacular venues. One was a “rich Guy” museum containing Cars – lots of cars. The other was a Rich Guy museum featuring Warbirds. Both absolutely spectacular. There was also a HUGE Horse Show at the Fairgrounds. Lots of fancy horses affecting fancy gaits. Fortunately, one of the Rally folks knew a little about what was going on, so she ‘splained us.

With a couple more Doc appointments on the agenda, and the opportunity to visit Dad on the way, we headed back Northwards. We stopped (mainly for Laundry) for a couple nights at the MARK TWAIN CAVE and CAMPGROUND.


This is in Hannibal, MO., an interesting and historic town…the birthplace of Mr. Clemens AKA Twain. We did take the Cave Tour, which was discounted by virtue of us staying in the associated Campground to an amount still WAY IN EXCESS of its value.

The tour was led by a 15 yr old recently liberated from High School for the summer, who regaled us from a script of bad dad-jokes. That was $48 (yes, that was the discounted price!) … we could have (and perhaps should have) spent more wisely in the slot machines at any casino.

Formerly Lusive

The tour was so awful that Liz proposed and I agreed to visit the associated Winery, whose promotional video claimed it to be “Exlusive.” We never did uncover what “Lusive” the Winery formerly showcased.

The Wine was on a par with the Mark Twain Cave Tour.

Mark and PT Co-offering

In addition to the awful Cave tour, this stop featured an offering Mark and his Friend, PT Barnum would surely have appreciated: In the Gift shop (of course there is a gift shop!), one could acquire a bag of sand. Actually, these were offered in several sizes, ranging from $7 to $50. The reason one would do so is in case there would be gold, jewels or other treasure found within, and clearly the much larger $50 bag would improve your odds significantly…

Turtle-tainment at the Army Corp

On the way to the Twin Cities, we also stopped at an Army Corp of Engineers Campground. These are usually associated with waterways…in this case the Mississippi. They are AWESOME, and with our Senior Pass, $10/nite. This park was INUNDATED with turtles who were leaving the water to lay eggs. Dozens visible at any one time.




For $100. In Bluebird world, that $$$$ amount is a MAJOR win.



While we were in Chicago, I noticed a component of our leveling jacks was broken. One of the two bolts that affix the jack had either broken or backed out of the Nut. As a result, the Jacks were unusable. I crawled under to investigate – the Bolt was still there, and seemed to have been slightly damaged as it worked loose .. I could not get it to re-engage in the threads, especially given the tight space. There were two options to repair: 1) Visit the Jack factory (HWH in Moscow, Ia), where they will rebuild whatever needs to be rebuilt, undoubtedly for several thousand $$$$. Or 2) attempt the repair.

I made an appointment for #1, but in the meantime, Liz’s B-in-Law Mark introduced me to a mechanic whose office/shop was nearby. They offered to help me. I asked the cost…$100. That $100 included 2 stout Wisconsin guys, all their tools, jacks as necessary and whatever time. With their help we removed the entire jack assembly, repaired the Bolt threads, reconnected the bolt and reinstalled the assembly. For $100. In Bluebird world, that $$$$ amount is a MAJOR win.

The ENTIRE purpose of our northward swing (other than annual Doc appts) was to check in on Dad, and to make and then settle up on our baseball bet. The wager involved a tilt between our respective teams – the Twins and the Cubs May 12, 13 and 14. Naturally, the Twins won, though as Dad so cheerfully pointed out – that is about all they have won before or since. No matter…that meant HE WON.

Dad and the “Bludgeon of Beef”

The bet was a Steak at Manny’s Steakhouse – perennially a top ten venue in the US for such Carne(age). I tee’d up a reservation so Dad could have his steak and I could eat the associated Crow. Actually, the steak was most of a cow – the name on the menu of the particular cut he ordered was “Bludgeon of Beef.”

Disposing of the Remains

This was a 64oz Bone-in Ribeye, and in the interest of full disclosure, dad shared the spoils of victory — all five of us ate this one steak.  

And my sister’s dog, Snoop/Dash/Prime Rib (they call him all of those things), cleaned up the remains.

Dad’s (And now Liz’s) Prize Possession!

While in Minneapolis, we had a few other meals/sessions with Dad. At one, he offered Liz one of his MOST PRIZED possessions. Although as I think about it, if it was “most prized, “ why was it unopened, and why was he giving it to Liz? Far from offended, Liz has already started assembling.

Mpls BBQ

We also had a BBQ at the bus, ensconced in the parking lot of College Buddy Keith’s condo association. Said parking was approved by the Condo Board unanimously…the investment in Margaritas provided to the board at our last visit paying off for sure!!!

Hmmm. Perhaps that is why our friends tolerate frequent Revisits?!!

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