September 2004


The Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, IN, was our home for almost three weeks.  We arrived there a week before we had to report for duty as Coffee Assistants for the Escapees Fall Escapade being held there.

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Setup at the Goshen County Fairgrounds.  Shelley is guarding the RV and the flamingos are guarding the satellite dish.

Friends Bob and Helen, whom we met in Alpena, surprised us by pulling in earlier than expected and parking alongside of us.  They knew it had to be us because our flock of flamingoes was guarding our satellite dish.  And yes, we finally got our satellite internet system working.  After finally traveling our way out from under trees and forests, we learned that the modem wasn’t working.  Starband immediately shipped us a replacement and within hours of receiving it, Larry had the dish up and running. 

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Mid-America Windmill Museum in Kendallville, Indiana.

One afternoon, we visited the Mid-America Windmill Museum, located in Kendallville, IN.  Dutch windmills come to mind when you think of windmills but the majority of the windmills on display are those made in the US, modified for use in farming and similar applications, including a state of the art windmill used to generate electricity.  They had several windmills with vanes that opened and closed based on wind velocity.  There wasn’t enough wind the afternoon we were there to see those in operation, but there was a hands on model in one of the buildings that simulated that action. 

On Labor Day, we shopped at the Shipshewana Flea Market, the Midwest’s largest flea market.  Based on the amount of vendors and customers there, we can see why it is the largest.  It’s always interesting to walk through and buy stuff you didn’t know you needed, like our third flamingo, now giving us a flock of three!

A quick bit of info on the Escapees RV Club—Based in Livingston, TX and founded over 25 years ago by Joe & Kay Peterson, the club is open to full time RVers as well as part-timers and wannabes.  The Escapees RV Club provides a variety of support to the RVer – education, club- and member-owned campgrounds, mail forwarding, discounted health insurance – support in almost any area of interest to those that enjoy the RVing lifestyle.  Twice a year, they hold Escapades, one on the West coast in the spring, one on the East coast in the fall – six days packed with educational seminars (such as--communications, banking, personal safety, fire safety, identity theft, and more – issues pertinent to all but especially to those who travel), craft workshops, and fellowship.  Except for the directors, the staff are all volunteers, in some cases, working well over a year in advance of the event.  We were lucky in finding a position (as Coffee Assistants) that allowed us to be free in the afternoons to attend seminars or check out the markets on the premises catering to the RVers. 

As staff volunteers, we had to report for ‘duty’ the Thursday before the Escapade started on the following Sunday.  During that time, we were assigned a campsite, received our job description and nametags, helped organize our station, and met the rest of our Coffee/Donut team members.  On Friday, we joined any other available volunteers to help stuff the goody bags that all attendees receive upon registration – filled with maps, flyers, brochures, free samples and the program booklet.  The Coffee Team had to provide coffee for a cake and coffee thank you reception on Friday afternoon, and coffee and donuts Saturday morning for the vendors, seminar speakers and craft workshop teachers arriving that day to park and register.  Sunday was arrival and registration for all general attendees (all 905 RVs and 1800 people) – the guys were kept hopping keeping the Bunn coffeemaker busy and the gals selling donuts.  Weekdays, our station was the most popular in the mornings.  No matter how early someone got that pot started, someone was already waiting for that first cup of the day.  Coffee and tea were free and over the course of the week, we sold 125 dozen donuts and muffins.  We breathed coffee and donut fumes that whole week – even Shelley started to smell like a donut at the end of our day!

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905 RVs gathered at the Goshen County Fairgrounds for the Fall Escapade.

One of the perks (pardon the pun) of working Coffee & Donuts was that just about everyone would pass through our line, so it was fun visiting with friends we’ve met in the past.  The downside was having to get up before the crack of dawn.  By the end of the day, we’d pass on evening entertainment – no energy left!  We attended several seminars during our free time and one afternoon participated in a panel discussion on Habitat for Humanity.  Larry spent two hours one afternoon as a tram driver, shuttling attendees from their campsites to the fairground buildings.  He jumped at the chance to drive a John Deere tractor but he said that after the first two circuits, the route got pretty boring.

Compared to some of the other staff positions, we got off easy.  Those who worked in Food Service, preparing the breakfasts and lunches sold daily, were kept busy sometimes up to 12 hours a day.  Just the logistics of planning to feed that many people makes your head spin.

Sunday, after opening ceremonies, we were all treated to a performance by Pantasia, a high school steel drum band from Findlay, OH.  They were fabulous and had as much fun playing as we did listening.  They have played at the Lincoln Center, at Disney World, and other large venues.  If ever you have an opportunity to catch their performance, you’ll thoroughly enjoy it.

All in all, we had a blast and have signed up to be part of the staff next year – maybe working coffee again, maybe trying something different. 

We moved on to Batesville, IN, in the southeast corner of IN, close to the OH & KY borders.  After a week’s stay here, we’ll be going on to the Escapee park near Knoxville, TN, where we’ll spend a couple of days before heading to Charleston, SC.  From Charleston, it’s on to Guyton, GA, for our 2nd Habitat build. 

From Goshen, we spent a week at a campground in Batesville, IN and enjoyed the peace and quiet and lack of trains.  We found out that there are about 153 trains per day that pass the fairground we stayed at in Goshen-lots of rumbling and horns blowing all day and night. 

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Oldenburg, Village of Spires.

A few miles from Batesville is Oldenburg, an old German town, population 725, known as the Village of Spires and home to a Franciscan monastery and convent – three beautiful ornate church steeples greet you as you first spot Oldenburg.  Someone with a sense of humor decorated a few of the town fire hydrants--one was a monk, one a nun, and one a mother with small children.

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Metamora Whitewater Canal Historic Site.

From Oldenburg, we continued north to Metamora, a quaint 1830s canal town.  We visited the gristmill and took an interpretive canal boat ride--part of the Whitewater Canal Historic Site.  The original canal was about 101 miles long but operated only 14 years before going bankrupt.  The state has restored about 14 miles and Metamora is in the middle of this stretch.  The canal boat ride covered about a mile round trip, pulled by a Belgian horse named Jerry who was overweight and was deemed fit enough by his vet to pull the boat by himself till he dropped some of his excess weight.  (Would that be the Canal Boat Pull Diet?)  What is unique about the ride is that we rode through the only covered aqueduct in North America, a body of water flowing thru a covered bridge going over a body of water. 

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The birthplace of William H. Taft, 27th president and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Batesville was just a short drive from Cincinnati, OH, the birthplace of our 27th president. William Howard Taft served from 1909-1913 and was the only president to hold both that office and that of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  He started the tradition of the president throwing out the first baseball at the start of baseball season.   First Lady Nellie arranged to have the cherry trees planted around the Tidal Basin.  His great-grandson, Bob, is now governor of Ohio.

Heiskell, TN, just outside of Knoxville, was our next stop.  Raccoon Valley RV Park is one of the Escapees RV parks and true to the Escapees’ tradition – folks there are very friendly – it feels like you’re visiting family.  While there, we visited Oak Ridge, TN, where the development and manufacture of the atom bomb started.  The American Museum of Science and Energy is the place to go if you’re on a short time schedule.  The museum is a hands-on, interactive collection of all things related to science and energy.  But it also has great displays telling the story of the Secret City, as Oak Ridge was referred to back in the early 1940s.  An entire city was built around the manufacturing facilities – complete with housing, schools, churches, and other support buildings, all within a gated and highly top-secret facility.  Members of the local Girl Scout troop were known only by their first names when they ventured outside the city to protect the secrecy within.  Oak Ridge is no longer closed to the public and is in fact, a thriving high-tech town, with a large industrial park located where once stood one of the manufacturing complexes. 

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