18 months

September 18 marks 18 months on the road.

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What a year and a half it’s been. In our personal life, we welcomed 2 beautiful granddaughters to our family.

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Violet

We spent 30% of our time in or around Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Durham – visiting family.

Having a home on wheels has allowed us to be mobile and at the right place at the right time for some family events. Beside the birth of our granddaughters, we could help when our older daughter had surgery, sold her house and prepared to move to a new one. We were in Cincy for two big birthdays when Tom’s one aunt turned 80 and another turned 90! And we where able to make sure his dad attended both events.

The worst part about this lifestyle is being away from family and friends.

We’ve run the numbers . . .

We’ve put almost 19,000 miles on the motorhome staying in 19 states and spending roughly $6500 on diesel with an average 7.5 MPG.

If you add groceries and eating out together, that’s our largest expense at over $15,000. (That’s $14/day apiece) Campground fees came in at $13,000. (An average of $24/night)

We’ve put up our jacks and moved 106 times.

We spent about half the time in private campgrounds and 20% in state parks.

The most unusual place we had our motorhome was the underground cave storage near Lexington last winter.

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Our least favorite place we stayed was

  • Heartland Resort in Greenfield, Indiana. Dirty, old, unfriendly and cramped.

Our favorite places were

  • Jack Pine in the UP of Michigan which was rustic and had a bar and restaurant.

  • Ocean Breeze in Jensen Beach, Florida for its beachy feel and access to bars and restaurants, intercoastal waterway and ocean.

  • Cherry Hill Campground in College Park, Maryland for amenities and proximity to Washington, DC.

  • Americamps in Ashland, Virginia for free breakfast every morning and dinner once a week.

  • Cumberland Gap National Park $10/night and free firewood at your site.

We attended several Newmar Rallies 2 Internationals, 1 Fulltimers, 1 Super Show in Tampa and 1 Region 6 rally in Indianapolis. And our wonderful Grand Circle Newmar Caravan last fall.

We also attended our first FMCA International Rally in Indianapolis.

Yesterday, we visited Wilson Creek National Battlefield, our 50th National Park System site.

This is our 195th post to our blog.

What’s next? We move next week to Branson and the Newmar Fulltimer Rally and then Sedalia for the International Rally. We will travel with fellow Newmar owners to Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta and perhaps on to California. Then back east *way back east* through Cincinnati and Indianapolis and Thanksgiving in Durham followed by to wintering in Florida.

The Newmar Rallies are in South Dakota next year, so we will probably head that way in June 2018.

So yes, we’re already planning for 2018.

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Beer touring and tasting

Seems like the thing to do when in St Louis.

We visited the Anheuser Busch brewery last year, but there’s free beer involved so we decided it was worth another visit.

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The weather has been perfect while we are in the St Louis area and today was no different.

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The tour includes a stop at the elaborate Clydesdales stables.

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They also take you through the aging area and the historic brew house.

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Then we were lucky enough to see the Dalmatian and Chief out in the paddock. Our tour guide told us Chief is a TV star. He was the Clydesdale that jumped the fence in the Budweiser commercial starring the little Golden Retriever puppy.

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Chief

We had a very nice lunch at the Biergarten enjoying our free beer.

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And we quite possibly found our next RV

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Another Presidential Home – US Grant

Seems we’ve been drawn to the presidential sites lately. Today we concentrated on POTUS18.

We didn’t know beforehand that Ulysses S Grant lived for a while in St Louis. The National Park Service runs a visitors center and exhibits near downtown St Louis at the site of White Haven, Grant’s in-laws’ plantation. And, we happened to visit on Civil War Living History weekend. We LOVE when things work out like this.

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Civil War weekend aside, the focus here is not on Grant’s military career, but his time spent as a farmer and family man.

Grant visited White Haven in 1843 and fell in love with his future wife Julia Dent. Her father owned the property. The plantation made use of slave labor during the time Grant lived here.

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Hmm it’s call White Haven but the house was bright green.

Surprisingly, the man that commanded the Union forces fighting against slavery in the Civil War was himself entangled in the ownership of enslaved people. The Dents in the 1850’s had 18 slaves working at the farm.

Missouri was a slave state up until the time of the Civil War and the areas along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers were known as “Little Dixie” because of the large cotton plantations that made intensive use of slave labor. The interpretation of slavery at White Haven and how Grant was influenced by his experience here is an important part of the mission of this historic site.

In 1859, Grant freed William Jones, the only slave he is known to have owned. Certainly, slaves were on the property when Ulysses and Julia lived here in 1854-1859 and Ulysses managed the farm for his father-in-law.

During the Civil War, when caretakers were managing the property and Ulysses was off to war, some slaves at White Haven simply walked off, as they did on many plantations in both Union and Confederate states. A Missouri constitutional convention abolished slavery in the state in January 1865, freeing any slaves still living at White Haven.

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The day we visited, we were lucky enough to be treated to a reenactment of the Missouri 18th including musket shooting demonstration and encampment.

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The festivities also included a Civil War themed band that played period songs and dressed in uniform.

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There were also several story tellers we found very interesting. We were especially interested in the presentation by Dr. Tommy Smith, portraying a Union soldier and recounting the story of Grant at Chattanooga.

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Tom’s great great grandpa fought with the Ohio 9th Volunteer Infantry who were instrumental in the victory at Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga.

We were also able to tour the property including the restored house and outbuildings.

It was a picture perfect day and we very much enjoyed our visit here. Although we didn’t visit, next door is the Grant’s Farm attraction owned and operated by Anheuser Busch and free to the public.

The Arch

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Its impressive structure dominates the landscape of St Louis. Officially, it is called the Gateway Arch of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

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We were able to reserve 6 nights at the 370 Lakeside Campground in St Peters, NW of St Louis. We were here last year and really liked it, so we returned. We never made it to the Arch last visit due to bad weather and construction so it was on top of the list of things to do if and when we returned. There’s still a lot of construction going on around the Arch and to buy tickets in person you must visit the Old Courthouse. (We got ours on line, discounted with our America the Beautiful Pass)

Really, the Courthouse on its own is worth a visit. It is the sight of the Dred Scott decision which was integral to the Civil War.

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Then it’s about a 8 block walk to the entrance to the Arch. The Courthouse and Arch are part of the National Park System. We continue to be amazed at the diversity and quality of our National Parks.

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It takes quite a while to get through security and wait in line for your timed ascent. When it is your time, you are crammed in a rather small pod 5 to a capsule. You are in very close quarters with complete strangers for the 4 minute ride to the top.

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Tom in the pod-like tram car

There’s a lot of clicking and creaking and we are reminded that construction of this thing started when we were in the first grade. The door opens when you are 360 feet up and you extricate yourself to a narrow room where little slits of windows present a spectacular view.

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We picked a good day, as it is very clear and we can see a long way, perhaps 30 miles.

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View from the top looking West

 

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View looking East and the Mississippi River

Then you wait again for a trip back down. There’s a very dramatic filmstrip about the construction and a small gift shop. They are renovating the museum so it is closed now and due to reopen in 2018.

Claustrophobia and Acrophobia aside, we are happy we made the trip. We’ll be here a few more days and then will head south with a scheduled stop at the Mark Twain National Forest and on to Branson.