Saturday, June 23, 2012

First Trip of the Rest of Our Lives

Mary retired June 12 of this year. I retired two years ago. Now we have the chance to really live up to the “Retired, RVing, and Rambling” name of this blog! To that end, yesterday (Friday, June 22) we started out on the first trip of the rest of our lives. This one is a shortie, nothing too ambitious, that'll come later. Right now WI; (2) attending the 2012 Fleetwood Motorhome Association rally in Goshen, IN; and (3) taking a days to just hang out, relax, and kayak at Lake Shelbyville, IL.

View from Blackhawk Campground across the Mississippi River
We're camped between LaCrosse and Prairie du Chien, WI, right along the Mississippi River at the Blackhawk Corps of Engineers campground right along Pool 9 on the Mississippi River. We'll camp here Friday through Monday and then move on toward Indiana for the rally.

The truly exciting part of this trip may well have occurred on the very first day. I used Google Maps to chart our route from Beloit to Blackhawk Park. Google, ARE YOU CRAZY? The first part of the route was easy and made sense going from Beloit to Madison to Dodgeville. From there we took US Hwy 18 west to Fennimore. We should have stayed on 18! But Google said go north through Boscobel up Hwy 61 and then stay on 61 to 171. WI 171 is a highway that goes ACROSS the Kickapoo Valley, that is, it goes UP and then DOWN and then UP and finally DOWN into the Mississippi River Valley. Okay, this is Wisconsin. What's the big deal? Well, the road down to Gays Mill on the Kickapoo River has a LONG 10% grade on a winding two-lane road and a LONG upgrade out of the valley and then a descent into the Mississippi Valley complete with more 10% grades. Get the idea? In a thirty-four foot long, 22,000 pound motorhome, this is not high speed driving, just enjoy the scenery, kind of road. We took it easy (some would say slow) and made it safely. I'm still getting the feel of the RV on steep and winding grades, either up or down. It really would have been easier to follow 18 over to Prairie du Chien and then up WI 35, “The Great River Road.” Google, WHY?

Like most (all?) Corps of Engineers campgrounds, the Senior Pass sold by the US government gets us ½ off of the very reasonable rate. If you don't have one and you are 62 or older, the $10.00 fee for the lifetime pass is well worth the effort to get one. They are sold at all sorts of federal recreational facilities, COE Parks, National Parks, US Forest Service, and others. I think you can now get them online too, but for $20.00 (still lifetime) with the other $10.00 covering processing fees.

Flooded Campsites
Blackhawk is not the best COE campground I've ever used, but it's a good decent campground on the backwaters of the Mississippi. Right now, it is a slightly flooded campground since the river's up (more on that below). We've got 30-amp electric (but no water hookup) and a decent gravel back-in site. The sites here are a little close together, but our neighbors seem pretty quiet so we'll be fine.

The Mississippi River is definitely FULL!

Forrest's Yellow and Mary's Blue Kayak
Today we went out kayaking, another first of the season. Since I had rotator cuff surgery on my left arm on February 1, this is the first kayaking trip we've taken this year. I wasn't sure how my arm (which is doing remarkably well) would do, but we paddled about an hour and a half and BOTH shoulders are sore so it's not just the left shoulder and arm that need to be strengthened and worked out. Time and effort will take care of that. We did NOT go out into the flow of the Mississippi River. The advice here at the campground from the fee collectors was that the river was flowing fast and hard due to the floods in Minnesota. We elected to stay in the “lakes” that make up the backwaters here near the camp. And it was a pleasant and easy paddle.

Tomorrow, we'll get to visit our friend, Scott. It'll be good to see him. It's been a few years. And then Monday, it will be back on the road when we drive all the way to Rockford, IL! (Rockford is about 20 miles south of Beloit so it's almost like going home.) We will camp there overnight and then head for Goshen, IN, and the FMA rally.