Monthly Archives: September 2016

photo of the car and trailer with semi-trailer trucks

On to Union Grove and Red Power Roundup

Teardrop Trail Log: June 16, 2016

We were back on the Teardrop Trail, headed toward Red Power Round Up in Union Grove, Wisconsin. Just a quick stop at Wisconsin Welcome Center to pick up post cards, we parked the Ambassador with the big rigs. He was finally running with the big dogs. After locating the Racine County Fairgrounds, we pulled around to our camp site. This would be our third Red Power Round Up where collectors, vendors and members of the public gathered to celebrate the history of International Harvester and explore agriculture-related memorabilia. There was an impressive selection of tractors, engines, trucks and equipment. The exhibitions included household appliances, farming equipment and toy collections.

photo of Red Power Roundup camp

Red Power Roundup camp

I had reserved our campsite at last year’s event and we were conveniently located just outside the exhibition building where my publisher, Octane Press had a booth and where I would be signing copies of Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding. We backed the Ambassador into the space, and set up Camp Red Power complete with the canopy over the galley. This would be home for the next few days.

Jim has always enjoyed coming to Red Power for the tractors, like the IH tractor his grandfather had on the farm. His cameras come out and he is in tractor heaven. Every year he buys a raffle ticket for an IH tractor. So far no tractors have followed us home.

photo of Jim photographing red tractors

There’s a few tractors over there

photo of The world's best french fries

On the Tasty Trail – Cherry Valley Café, The Best Fries Ever!

Teardrop Trail Log: June 16, 2016

photo of Cherry Valley Cafe

Worth climbing over the construction

Thursday, we were heading north on I 39, when we embarked on the Tasty Trail in Cherry Valley, a quaint, mid-nineteenth century Illinois town with a cobblestone main street, lined by red brick buildings from a by-gone era. We spotted the Cherry Valley Café, located in an old bank built in 1909. A family restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner – seven days a week. Just our kind of place. We dodged the barricades for the road construction on State Street and opened the door to be transported back in time. The vibe was very friendly, small town. The customers greeted each other and the staff had been described by one review as “Flo-esque,” very friendly and attentive. Happy Days?

photo of a Chicken Sandwich

Chicken Sandwich

Jim ordered the BLT and I chose the Chicken Sandwich. The best way to describe the plates was artful home cooking. On my sandwich, the chicken peaked out from under the bun ever so slightly and the garnish was a small symphony in red and green – lettuce, tomato, topped with perfectly placed pickles. Jim’s BLT was amazing. Carefully cut triangles of perfectly toasted white bread with layers of lettuce and ripe red tomato slices. The real center piece of the plate was the mound of crispy, mouth-watering fries, piled artistically around the sandwich. He selected one of these tasty morsels and plopped it in his mouth. His eyes lit up as he exclaimed,”Yum.” He is always kind enough to share a few fries. I really appreciated his generosity. They were amazing. As we left the Cherry Valley Café, we speculated on the secret process that created this amazing culinary experience. One reviewer had written that they have extra breading or something that increased their flavor and texture over normal fries. Jim observed that perhaps they were dipped in tempura batter. He is completely convinced that these are the best fries ever!

photo of Cherry Valley Cafe sign

Cherry Valley Café

Can you call Tech Support?

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2016

photo of Motel 6 sign

Motel 6 – WiFi Fail

The heat, raccoons and trailer problems had taken their toll, and by late in the day, we were looking forward to a rest in a clean, comfortable room. Marilyn had arranged a reservation at the Motel 6 in Peoria, and it looked good as we rolled in. Check in was routine, and the clerk accommodated our request for a room overlooking the Lady and Ambassador’s parking place. A quick shower and we would be on our way to dinner, checking into the ‘net,  and a night of rest.

Except — we couldn’t seem to connect with the Motel 6 Wi-Fi. Hmmm. Back to the front desk. The clerk was sympathetic, but couldn’t help. She suggested I call Tech Support and provided a telephone number. Once an IT guy, always an IT guy. You can’t escape it. Back in the room, I called the number. Telephone-based tech support is the same the world over, and after getting through the call attendant system, I reached a human. It was clear he wasn’t located in Peoria and was probably part of a larger contract support service, but he did acknowledge there was a problem. Could we try connecting again in an hour or so?

Dinner didn’t sound bad, and there was a Grand Village Chinese buffet nearby (the high-octane fuel of tech workers everywhere) and we decided to try it out. Inside, the place was huge, and clearly designed to deliver a variety of tasty calories in the most efficient manner possible. The food was good, and the restaurant well attended. A popular place is always a good sign. Soup, appetizers, and several main courses later, we rolled out and headed back to the motel. A good meal always helps the mood.

Back at the room, we checked the wi-fi. Connection was iffy, and there didn’t seem to be any throughput. We would have to be happy with our cell-based data again. They might leave the light on for you, but they forgot to pay the Internet bill.

Bad News from Back Home

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2016

photo of damaged tomatoes

Raccoons like tomatoes

Whenever we set out on the Teardrop Trail, a very good friend will watch the house, feed the pets and water the garden. It is nice to know that someone is stopping by everyday, especially someone who knows the place. June is one of the high points for gardening in Texas – ripe tomatoes, plentiful green beans and much more. It has been a pleasure to share the bounty with Jason and Courtney while we traveled. As we were driving, Jim received a text from Jason accompanied by photos of ravaged tomatoes from the garden.

In past years, the rabbits had invaded when we hit the Teardrop Trail for Red Power Round Up. I had set about rabbit-proofing the garden fence after last year’s raids. 100 linear feet of bright green chicken wire were applied around the external fence. A careful final inspection revealed a secured perimeter. I kept checking for any invasions just to make sure things were secure for this trip.

Jason mentioned that the chicken wire was still in place and no identifiable animal tracks were visible along the fence. We asked about raccoons. Some had been spotted at different times. I had been suspicious about earlier invasions of my compost pile which was secured around a stout wire fence. I’d thought back. Upon closer inspection of the photos, the bite marks looked familiar… Raccoons can climb OVER fences…  Even miles and miles away, our food wasn’t safe… Raccoons take 3.

photo of 100 watt monocrystalline replacement panels

The Teardrop Gets a Solar Power Upgrade

Teardrop Trail Log: September 20, 2016

photo of MC4 solar branch connectors

MC4 solar branch connectors

After the unfortunate incident with the solar panel on our way to the Red Power Roundup, we were able to use shore power for the remainder of the trip. Disappointing, but not a show stopper. We had already determined that a single 100-watt panel was not enough for our needs, so I was planning an upgrade anyway. With a trip planned in late September, it was time to act. I ordered two new 100-watt panels, MC4 combiner connectors and additional MC4 crimp-on connectors. This would double our previous power capacity and allow for daytime use of a couple of small appliances including a crock-pot and solid-state cooler.

photo of Aluminum bar seals leading edge to teardrop

Aluminum bar seals leading edge to teardrop

Analysis of the incident and the remaining parts of the old panel made it clear that wind entering the leading edge had repeatedly flexed the panel causing it to fatigue and ultimately fail. It seemed to me that sealing the leading edge to the teardrop roof with a rigid mount would prevent this type of failure in the future. A trip to Home Depot secured an aluminum strip, and by drilling holes that matched the existing screw mounts, I could seal the leading panel to the teardrop skin. The leading panel then overlapped the other panel so it was also sealed to the wind.

photo of volt meter showing 13.2 volts

The new panels began working immediately

Once installed, the panels began producing power immediately. Although we currently only have about 80 Amp-hours of storage, the two panels can easily replace the day’s power use with 10 to 12 amp output in full sun. Also, by adding a 300-watt inverter, we are able to run a 1 1/2 quart crock pot during the day with power to spare. The next upgrade will be a larger battery.

The Ambassador was ready for a trip to Bob Sandlin State Park.

photo of solar panels on teardrop trailer

The panels overlap like shingles

photo of Solar panel gone

You Want the Good News or the Bad News?

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2016

After leaving Perry, Missouri, we settled into an afternoon of travel. After a couple of hot and humid nights in Missouri parks, populated with marauding raccoons, we decided a night in a “clean, comfortable room for the lowest price of any national chain” would be a welcome change. Marilyn had the room booked, and all was right with the world.

This was my first time on an Illinois road trip in about 30 years, and that had been on a January night in an ancient International Harvester school bus (but that’s another story), so I didn’t have a visual memory of the state. The day was sunny, and the farmland was lush. Small towns marked our progress, and we pulled into Peoria in the late afternoon. Being a larger city, I had hopes of a Mocha, and as usual, Marilyn was already on it. She turned on The Girl, and in no time, we were pulling into a Starbucks. Finally a day without incident.

photo of All that's left

All that’s left

Hot drinks in hand, I noticed something amiss on the Ambassador. Where was the solar panel? The two feed cables and wing nuts with the torn corners of the fiberglass panel were all that remained. What had happened? No idea. Disappointing, but I had already decided a single 100 watt panel wasn’t enough, so this was an opportunity for improvement. Stay tuned for the Solar Ambassador Revision 2!

Tomorrow was another day. Besides, Tom Bodett was leaving a light on for us.

photo of building that is All dolled up

Antiques in Perry

Map of the Mark Twain Lake area

Mark Twain Lake area

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2016

We’re rarely on the road early, and by the time we visited the Mark Twain Birthplace and navigated across Mark Twain Lake it was nearly noon. Just as the thought of lunch was occurring to me, we pulled into Perry, Missouri. Once a booming coal town, it is now a destination for lake fun and antique shopping. It is also one of the prettiest small towns in Missouri.

After lunch at the Hootenanny, I wanted to walk around and photograph some of the buildings. Within a block of Palmyra and Main, there are several ornate examples of late-nineteenth century commercial architecture including wood, brick and cast iron façades.

photo of Miss Daisy's Antiques

Miss Daisy’s Antiques

Many of the buildings now house antique stores. We took the time to explore one particularly promising one. I’m a woodworker and enjoy finding, restoring and using old hand tools. This store had a generous supply of old saws, planes, chisels and the like and I couldn’t resist exploring. There were lots of other things to look at, and we spent about an hour there. We were definitely going to have to visit again when we had more time. Sadly, we needed reach Peoria by late afternoon and play time in Missouri was over for now!