Our time in Indiana

the grand design owners rally 2017

Our next stop on this adventure was Elkhart, Indiana at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds for the Grand Design Owners Rally. We gathered with over 200 Grand Design rigs and 450 people for this 4 day event!
As you can see, there are rows of them! Amazing to see so many in one place!
Here’s an arial shot from a drone one of the attendees showing just one section of all the rigs in attendance!
We arrived on Sunday and the rally was to begin Tuesday. At 8:30 Monday morning we awoke to a knock on our door and when we answered there was a GD employee there to install our new 4 step stairs (MUCH easier on the knees!). A full day before the rally started! This truly is an amazing company!
There were 4 days of meetings, seminars, speeches by everyone from Don, one of the owners, to the employees who worked the assembly line. We toured the assembly plant and were wined and dined; breakfast, lunch and dinner!
As you can see, it was a full house!
One night we had a wine , cheese and desert night hosted by Grand Design.

On the last day they assembled everyone in attendance for a “Family” photo shoot in front of the new models they had brought for our viewing.
They even had someone with a drone camera to take arial shots! (This is not the drone that shot the earlier picture in this blog)

amish acres tour, dinner and play

One of the fun things we signed up for was this Amish Acres Tour, dinner and play. There were two busloads of GD folks in attendance!
We were taken on this interesting tour of the farm in this tractor pulled wagon.
Some of the original buildings are still here. They have no electric or indoor plumbing except for a hand pump for water in the kitchen. There are many Amish working farms to this day living this way. Amazing!

Their vegetable garden
A wood fired dehydrator for fruits and vegetables.
A wood fired brick oven for baking.
And a wood fired smokehouse for meats.
I wonder how often they have to replace these wooden shingles on it?`
This newspaper is supposed to keep the flies out of the house when you open the door; we’re told it doesn’t really work all that well!
The kitchen pump
An apple corer they still use today.
I believe this is an apple peeler they’re still using today.
Wood fired stove and oven.
Their clothing is all hung on the walls; there are no closets, that would be a waste of space!
Very simple bedrooms as well.
Their medicine cabinet is in the kitchen.

And of course, the outhouse.

The school bus; everyone only goes to school until 8th grade then they work on the farm.
The one room school house.
And it’s facilities.
This was the dinner house where they served us a family style Amish dinner. They kept bringing us food until we said stop; all delicious too!

The meat market where we purchased meats, cheeses , jams and other homemade items.
The playhouse where we saw Plain & Fancy; a great show the typical Amish life when it meets modern civilization.

tour around elkhart area following the heritage trail, seeing the quilt gardens, murals and statues

The first one we encountered was right outside the Elkhart County fairgrounds

Goshen Chamber of Commerce Mural
Elkhart County Courthouse.

Even Mariachis!
They even had statues of American Gothic, the most famous midwestern farmer painting in the world!
Amazing detail too!
That’s a statue, not a real school girl studying!
This one was in front of an Ace Hardware!

Gardener statue trimming the trees!
In a park in downtown Elkhart we saw this HUGE rendition of the American Gothic; amazing! Notice Jan next to their suitcase which was taller than her!

They diverted part of this river in 1890 to supply local businesses with cooling water for their plants

There was this tribute to their first responders as well, very nice!

I included this just because I liked the shadows!
Lynton Garden is a local “different” Nursery!

They even had ALIENS!
We came across this cool bridge built in 1890.


Chicago, Illinois and area

I didn’t take any pictures of the base for obvious reasons, but here is the view we had of Lake Michigan from our campsite. The campsite was minimal, electric only, but worked fine since we were out exploring every day anyway.
While in the Chicago area we stayed at the FamCamp at Great Lakes Naval Base where I went to Boot Cap some 50 years ago. The base has changed a bit and for some reason the weather was much nicer in August than it was in November through January! We took the train into Chicago from this station in Great Lakes just across the street from the entrance to the base.
We were fortunate to get tickets to see Cirque du Soleil performance Luzia. No cameras were allowed inside, but here’s the outside taken with my phone; it was a fantastic performance!
We also visited my nephew Sean and his wife, Julia, in Lake Forest, just down the road a bit from Great Lakes. We had a wonderful evening of dinner and hot tubbing.
Another day trip was down to Winnetka where Jan’s mom lived as a child. We got pictures of her mom’s house. It looks in great shape, especially since it was built in the early 1900’s.

And her high school which was walking distance from her house was getting a facelift.

We took the Architectural Boat Tour of Chicago. While waiting to board I saw this really imaginative name of a boat!
One of the life boats on our boat tour; capacity 22, seriously?!?

The Willis tower, aka Sears Tower.
While on this tour we went under several of these old bridges. I think the only thing holding them together is the rust!
Some really beautiful and imaginative architecture styles here!

Many new modern buildings of course but mixed in with the older styles too, very cool!

This was condos with the first few floors being open sided parking garages.

I can’t remember a lot of what our guide told us, but this one he said a young kid told him it looked like a very tall spinning figit!
Navy Pier which is now an amusement park with restaurants and shopping.
One of the small yachts we saw along the river.
Views of the Chicago skyline along our tour.

With all the glass buildings there were some pretty cool reflections!
We especially liked this building; it doesn’t look like that narrow base could support such a huge structure!

One of the old cantilever rail bridges no longer being used.
With this huge cement block for counterweight.
Some cool decorative touches to the older buildings!
This one had a map of the rivers; note the red rectangle representing the location of this building along the river!

Interesting downspout, they must have had some extra angled joints to use up!
Another old bridge out of service. This one instead of cantilevering went straight up on the two towers at each end.
And finally, a cool mural!

views from the top of willis tower

We went up to the Skydeck of Willis Tower, 1353 feet up on the 103rd floor, its 110 stories total! The elevator trip takes 60 seconds; 90 when it’s windy! You had the option of walking out on a tilting glass ledge for a better view; we declined!!
Looking up the river and the myriad of train tracks!
Those tiny white dots are boats and yachts!

A roof park!
This building looks like a football from above!
Chicago traffic from a more pleasant view point!

And then there’s this little guy; 1353 feet up on the OUTSIDE of the building!

Davenport, Iowa and Moline, Illinois

our visit to the john deere pavillion and harvester works factory

Our campground was in Davenport, Iowa right across the Mississippi River from Moline, Illinois but most of our outings were across the river in Moline. Our first outing was to the John Deere Pavillion Museum in downtown Moline.

As you can see, some of their farm equipment is quite massive!
A pretty cool mural outside of the original factory in Moline.
John Deere first invention was a plow to be pulled by a horse way back in the early 1800’s
One of his first tractors. I’ll bet it road real smooth with no suspension and those steel wheels! Of course, most of the roads you would encounter back then would be dirt anyway.
A more modern version; pneumatic tires even!
In the early 1900’s (1910 or so) he invented the first harvester. This timeline shows the progression from then to present day.
They also build forestry equipment; here is a machine that cuts the tree, strips it and puts the log on a pile or a truck!

Pretty cushy cab, AC and all!
One of their experimental machines; a walking forestry harvester machine. They told us it was never produced because it proved to be too costly to build.


John Deere has made lawn care equipment for years from push behind mowers to all sizes of lawn and small tractors. One of their cooler products; an autonomous lawn mower! It’s like Roomba for your lawn! it just mows on it’s own with no human intervention needed! Unfortunately for now; only available in their European market.

On advice from one of the very helpful docents at the Pavilion, we signed up and took the Harvester Plant tour; really fascinating how they make these giant machines! We saw everything from sheet metal being punched and formed to the finished tractor driving on it’s own power at the end of the line; VERY impressive! Unfortunately but understandable, no cameras were allowed on the tour so I only got outside pictures and in their lobby. The plant has a total of 71 acres under roof!


Due to the size of this cache I need to take a few pictures to show it all to you; massive!
A shot of the guts of this beast. I believe they told us it has a 16l diesel motor!

They allowed you to sit in the drivers seat; very high tech! It’s computer controlled with satellite and sensors to keep it perfectly aligned with the crop rows! The driver is pretty much just there to monitor what it’s doing and intervene if there’s a problem!

our mississippi river tour on the channel cat tour boat

This was the Channel Cat tour we took. We left from the John Deere Commons Landing and stayed on until we returned there. You could get off at any of the landings if you wanted.
It went under a couple of impressive bridges along the rout; it’s amazing how wide the Mississippi River is!

Some of flora along the banks of the river.
A Mississippi River boat.
Some of the local residents!
One of the casino/hoels
I liked this boat’s name!
One of the many stately homes along the river.
Some more of the locals!