Summer Travel Map

Saturday, August 20, 2011


August 20, 2011
Green Bay, Wisconsin

Whew, the past week has been a blur, and we won't come up for air much until the end of the month, so Blog updates will be sporadic at best. We started our Monacos in Motion caravan last Sunday. Two days in, the couple doing the trip Blog had to drop out due to a family emergency and I was asked to take over. I'm still catching up, and hope to have that Blog complete by tomorrow or Monday. It's difficult, though, when the days are full of activities.

In the meantime, I'll post links to the Caravan Blog as substitutes for our own, plus update Facebook as we go...

So, on Sunday, we drove from Madison to Baraboo, Wisconsin. With a stop for fuel, it still only took 90 minutes. We were soon parked at Fox Hill Campground and ready for adventure...

Caravan Day 1

Monday was all about the circus.

Caravan Day 2

Tuesday, we visited the International Crane Foundation, then took in a magic/comedy show in the evening.

Caravan Day 3

I'm still working on the rest of the week, and will post additional links as they're done.  Wednesday, we did the Wisconsin Dells by water, with the "Duck Boats" in the morning and the "Jet Boats" in the afternoon (yes, we got wet).  Thursday was a travel day, with all the coaches moving to Green Bay, followed by a wine tasting and dinner out.  Yesterday, we did museums: the National Railroad Museum in the morning, lunch at Titletown Brewing Company, then the Neville Museum (local history exhibits) in the afternoon.  This morning we headed to Lambeau Field for a behind-the-scenes tour of a NFL stadium, followed by another great lunch.  Tonight it's a dinner theater excursion and tomorrow we're back on the road (it is a caravan, after all).  Whew!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

FMCA "Family Reunion" is wrapping up

August 13, 2011
Alliant Energy Center, Madison, WI

Well, it was another great week. We picked up quite a few items from the vendors at the FMCA "Family Reunion", and enjoyed our time here in Madison, Wisconsin's capitol.

It was an easy drive on Sunday, heading from Manitowoc to Madison, and Jim and Peggy followed us as we headed South on I-43 to Sheboygan, then west on WI-23 to Fond du Lac, US-151 to I-39 South into the Madison area. They headed for the vendor parking area and we parked overnight in the "holding area" about 5 miles away, then decided to fuel up the Rover. That's when Geri suggested Mexican for dinner and technology (we're in a Verizon 4G area here!) kicked in. She was able to use her phone to find a place right near the Capitol in downtown Madison, then just hit "directions" and "navigate" and, voila, we were eating burritos and enjoying a pitcher of Margaritas. Life is good...

Wisconsin Capitol - no protests or recall elections today, but plenty of homeless people hanging out...

Moonrise over Lake Monoma, near the FMCA Holding Area.

Monday morning we were up early and headed for the Alliant Energy Center before coffee. We were soon parked, getting a prime spot in the first row to the rear of the exhibition building, about 200' away. Most of the seminars and vendor displays are in this building, so it's very convenient.

Tuesday was an off-day, with events not starting until Wednesday, so we did some shopping and generally relaxed. Wednesday, seminars started and the new motorhomes on display opened in the evening. While the newer floorplans are very desirable (most larger coaches have a bath-and-a-half layout with an en suite full bath in the rear), nothing we saw has the interior quality of what we already have. Just as well, since neither of us remembered to buy the PowerBall tickets.

Thursday, the vendor area opened, and by Friday we'd made the obligatory loops through the exhibition center. There are a lot more vendors at FMCA since there are almost 2,000 coaches here (over 2,000 when you count vendors and exhibit coaches). I looked at several things like step covers (very cool in stainless steel) and a replacement sliding tray for one of the bays (great for tool storage) but decided against the big-ticket items. I did pick up an upgraded over-the-air TV antenna and signal finder, and a replacement "stinger" plus a couple of accessories for our tow bar. Geri got into the act as well, getting a stove-top grill thingie, some towel racks, a set of hanging pockets for the side of her seat, and a set of mops (you can't go to a major rally without getting caught by someone selling things with which to clean).

Overall, we got pretty much everything we "needed", which was probably a little more than we expected. One thing I didn't get at either rally was LED light bulbs. They are much more energy-efficient and that helps when we're boondocking, which we do from time to time. Unfortunately, the days of "rally pricing" meaning a good deal are over, I guess. Things the used to be cheaper at rallies now seem priced higher, as if a captive audience is expected to pay more. Things that used to be done gratis, like tow bar maintenance, are now priced at retail for parts. Sign of the times, I guess. Anyway, I'm not paying 2-3 times higher for LED lights that I can buy online and change out over the winter, especially since our two weeks of boondocking at the rallies is coming to an end. End of rant...

So, today the FMCA activities wrapped up. For once, I decided to attend the closing business meeting of the organization (reading of minutes and reports, introduction of newly-elected officers) and, quite to my surprise, we were one of 10 attendees to win the $250 drawing at the end (clearly designed to enhance attendance). Woo-Hoo! Great way to wrap up "rally season"!

We'll finish up our week with a nice dinner of leftover pasta, and finish our travel preparations in the morning. We have an easy drive and a 1:00 PM check-in at our next destination, so we'll have plenty of time to get ready...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Monaco International Pre-Rally Wrap-up

August 6, 2011
Manitowoc, WI

We spent the week at a rally of just under 200 Monaco-branded coaches, packed into the grounds of the Manitowoc Expo and Ice Center. It was a great week and we had a chance to catch up with quite a few people we've met before (in the real world, or online).

Monaco International is one of hundreds of chapters of the Family Motor Coach Association (aka FMCA), and rallies are held generally the week before FMCA's big confabs (now known as "Family Reunions"). This allows people to catch up and have what's called a pre-rally, and then travel together to FMCA's events. These pre-rallies are often sponsored by a manufacturer (like ours, Monaco RV LLC) and they bring parts and technicians to provide service and support (at least on those things that can be done in a big field being used for a parking lot).

Sunday, we made the easy drive from Sault Ste. Marie to the little burg of Two Rivers, WI, right on Lake Michigan. We stayed at a local RV Park because "early arrival" parking for the Pre-Rally opened at 8:00 AM on Monday. It was pretty warm (OK, hot), so we set up quickly. After figuring out the capacity of the electrical system in the park (2 of three air conditioners OK; three, not so much), we relaxed and might have even had a nap! After we got set up, we noticed that the next coach behind us was pulling in next door, and that it was our friends Jim and Peggy; we met them several years ago at Quartzsite. Nobody was interested in cooking, so we all headed to Luigi's Italian for some nice pasta dishes for dinner (very good, but not "Geri's Famous Pasta").

Monday, we headed for the Pre-Rally and were soon parked in post position number one, right near the entrance (helps to sign up for handicapped parking). Well, let's say we were parked after the grounds crew showed up to trim several limbs that attacked the coach. In spite of the trimming, it was nice to have at least a little shade, as it was warm (OK, hot) for much of the week.

We did well with repairs and upgrades. Monaco fixed a roof vent that was knocked loose in the struggle with the tree upon parking, and also the wind sensor for the patio awning that had lost part of the anemometer sometime last year. We also said goodbye to our 7-year-old Satellite Internet Dish and hello to a new DirecTV HD Antenna. The Internet dish served us well over the years but the technology has passed it by (barely able to get better than dial-up speeds) and parts were failing so connections were lost. I'll sell the modem and positioned on eBay in the fall; maybe someone will need spare parts. On the other hand, the new system works great with the new TVs that Al and I put in earlier in the summer, so that's a big plus.

Wayne and Eva joined us on Tuesday and we saw them throughout the Rally. Breakfast and dinner (plus evening entertainment) are included, and we ate and drank, courtesy of the open-bar cocktail hour before dinner plus a wine/cheese tasting and a couple of "keggers", well. We met a few new people (including one who looked like Dana Carvey - at least to me) and were able to "put a face to a name" with a lot of folks we know from Facebook or the online Monaco forums. One of the best parts of these rallies is the people you meet along the way. In addition, two of the three evening entertainment acts were pretty good (Rivoli Review and New Odyssey), so that was a definite plus.

OK, retirees and wine tastings means that someone needs to provide entertainment...

One afternoon, there was a "Pet Parade", with about 25 families participating. Everyone got a "1st Place" ribbon and a year's supply of doggie treats. Geri and Wayne "did the honors" with Merlin/Maya and Abby, and everyone had a good time. It was definitely "Yorkie territory, as there were at least 8 more in addition to Merlin and Abby. "Dakota", the Huskie that took "best in show" was fantastic and almost looked like there was some wolf involved.


"Best in Show"...

The weather's turned more reasonable and things look good for next week as well. Tonight, we'll do most of our travel preparation so we have an easy morning as we hit the dump station, get the coach weighed (to make sure we have the right tire pressure) and let the caravan to FMCA get on down the road before we head out.