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Thursday, September 30, 2021

CAMPGROUND REVIEW- Goose Island, La Crosse, WI


It is fall.  It is my absolute most favorite time of the year to go camping!!!

Now that our projects are done on the house, the new bedroom window is installed, the siding is closed up, and the bedroom ceiling and walls are completed. It's time to throw a few things into the motorhome and hit the road. It doesn't take us long. The weather reports were looking good for a couple weeks worth of camping, so we thought that it's good to hit the road.

Our goal is to try out some more of the Army Corp of Engineer Campgrounds that are located by the far western border between Wisconsin and Minnesota, along the Mississippi River.   

A few years ago we had stayed at the Eau Galle dam near near Eau Claire in the Spring Valley Recreation Area. We liked staying there, so we wanted to check out some more of what the Army Corps of Engineers has to offer.

It was good to get the motor home out and try putting some miles on it across the state. This year's maintenance projects involved a few things: 

  • new brake calipers and brakes on the front tires
  •  a complete flushing and refill and cleaning of the radiator
  •  Steve also added an auxiliary heater core from a used school bus to help increase the flow of circulation.

We hit the road at 9am with a full diesel tank and full propane and sunshine in the sky.  There was very little wind and when there was, it was to our backside. That really helps the fuel mileage.  We headed west on Highway 22 and meandered our way along a combination of state highways and county roads.

We really do not like the interstates much at all. Who wants to see the same strip malls and shopping centers and same franchises over and over and over?  There's never anything interesting to see when we drive on an interstate.

Instead, we will meander along on the back roads and watch the scenery as it rolls on by with each passing mile.

I really enjoy using my outdated defunct version of Microsoft Streets & Trips. I think mine is 2007 or maybe 2012? I enjoy using the applied POI (points of interest) files I have accumulated over the years. It has notations of campgrounds, boondocking sites, Walmart stops, and other places of interest that we have seen or been to over the years. I have notations of what campsites are good and what campgrounds we have stayed at, or prices we have paid. What I really like is it is spread across the entire big screen of my laptop and not just a little screen GPS on my phone or a dash unit. I can adapt our trip as we go, zoom in or zoom out, estimate distance, or look for other interesting things as we travel. With my cell phone set as a hotspot, I can look things up on the internet while we are driving and adjust our plan as we go. It has a GPS dongle from a USB cord that sets on the dash.  There is a built in roll out desk tray for the laptop right at my passenger seat.  I am The Navigator!

A couple years ago, my old Acer Windows laptop died, and I had upgraded to a new Chromebook. But it didn't have a CD drive. I could not load my Streets & Trips program into the Chromebook. Nor would Chrome run my Windows application even from an external CD drive with an adapting app. I tried many different ways to get it to run and just gave up. I really missed it. 

I tried using Google Maps but it just wasn't the same. A month or so ago my oldest daughter Erin gave me an extra laptop that had belonged to one of the kids. Oh joy! It had a CD drawer! Now I could run my Streets & Trips again. Although this laptop is covered with sea turtle stickers from granddaughter Chelsea, it will now function as my traveling laptop in the motorhome, sea turtles and all. 

See how nice and big the screen is and it shows all of our stops...  where we want to go where, we have been, and I can put little push pins all along the way of things that we have seen or want to go back to see if we missed it this time. I keep all different map files from different vacations and trips, as well as a big Master map of all of my POI points of interest files. I especially like that it leaves a blue "mouse trail" of everywhere we've been! It's really neat to zoom out and view the state, or across the entire USA with all of the little blue trails marked of where we have been.  Kind of like a traveling scrapbook.

It was a beautiful sunshiny day but the temperatures were climbing up into the mid 80s. We were very pleased to see that our engine operating temperature stayed in the 180 to 185 range,  which is just perfect! That is what we were hoping for. So it looks like all of Steve's efforts to flush and clean the radiator, as well as install the extra heater core, did it's job. 

We did encounter some road construction right before reaching La Crosse. A lot of orange barrels seemed to be placed way too close to our lane, and it was a little bit of white knuckling for a ways. Once we reached La Crosse, we turned south on Highway 35.


Our first goal was to reach Goose Island which is located on Army Corps of Engineers land along the Mississippi River.  What we didn't know is that it is operated by the county. Although it's a beautiful wonderful park, there are over three hundred and fifty campsites!!!  It is a bit large for our taste. The other disappointing thing was because it is run by the county, they do not accept our America the Beautiful Senior Pass for half price camping. At $31.00 a night, that is a bit high on our budget. We decided to stay anyhow, but our campsite could only be occupied for two days, and we would have to vacate by the weekend. We are sure by the weekend that place is going to be jam-packed.

We went to the nice site that the gal picked out for us, which was waterfront. It was a very beautiful campsite with tall trees in the background lining the waters of the Mississippi River. Some people had their boats and kayaks parked nearby. The sites were roomy and spacious and there was a lot of grass. But the whole left side of our motor home was exposed to the hot sun. That can be difficult when the temperatures are high, that is the side our refrigerator is on. We do have two additional muffin fans we added to the top vent to help with cool air distribution over the coils. But it's just better to not make it work so hard, if we can find a shady spot for the that side of the motorhome. 

We got settled into our campsite and walked around a little bit. Binney gave it her sniff of approval. We cranked up the air conditioning because the temps were crawling up the thermometer.

We didn't even feel like cooking outside, so Steve made a delicious pot of his famous Texas hash. Right before we left the house, we picked an abundance of tomatoes to get them off the vines in case of frost. The leftover green ones are ripening in the house, and all of the red ones were taken along in Ziploc gallon bags. So the next few days, we have to keep thinking of dishes to use up our tomatoes! 

We drove around the campground after dinner, and snapped some photos. 

To the north part of the park, which reached into the next county, there are six different picnic shelters in large areas set aside for groups to rent for day-use. There's a very nice boat landing as well as several other kayak and canoe launching areas. The swimming beach appears to be well-kept. All of the campground sites are level and easily big rig friendly for the electric sites. Some of the tenting sites are a little more sloped. 

All of the facilities, shower buildings, dump stations excetera seemed to be in tip-top shape. There were two camp sites of camp hosts alternating being on duty, and a cute little mini golf course nearby. It appears that there are hay rides on the weekends for the children. I am sure the place is a lot of fun and not too far from town for additional entertainment with families.

Cell phone signal is adequate, and although there is park Wi-Fi available, it was sporadic and difficult to connect to.  We were parked very near one of the Wi-Fi towers, but it's still didn't operate well enough to keep a connection very long. It may work differently on other days, depending on how many people are around the tower and using it.

The park is in impeccable shape and we chatted with one of the workers. He has been there over five years, and that's a testament to a well-run park ... to keep employees that long.

I would say the only downfall or negative thing about the park is listening to the trains nearby. But that is to be expected because the trains run frequently up and down the shores of the Mississippi. All of the campgrounds throughout the entire area along the Mississippi have that,  so it's just something you have to get used to --- or go camp somewhere else. Lol!


The next morning, as we sat with our coffee, we perused the map and looked on down to the next Corps of Engineers campground area. The next one is called Blackhawk. So we decided to hop in the Saturn and drive down there. It was only 15 miles away from Goose Island. We checked out the campground and luckily there were eight sites available throughout the weekend! The gal wrote the numbers down on a piece of paper for us so we could drive throughout the park and select which one we wanted. 

The best part? The fees are only $19.50 a night. Now if you apply our America the Beautiful senior pass, we get it for half price! That brings it down to $9.75 a night. That means we could stay three nights at this campground for the single one night rate at the one we stayed at the night before.

My next blog post will be a campground review of Blackhawk COE campground near Genoa, Wisconsin.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Mmmmm Apple Pie Day

Littlest grandchild Claire is still here for another day or two. She came up with the idea that we needed to bake apple pies! That of course meant we had to take a special trip to the store just to get some Granny Smith apples. Did you know that they make the best pies? Just ask Claire, she will tell you.

Her first task is to peel off all of the little stickers that are on the apples. That is a very important job and she takes it very seriously.

Once the stickers are off, we wash all of the apples. Now it's time to set up the handy-dandy little apple peeler corer slicer device. It's such a cool little tool. They make some that clamp onto a table or the edge of a counter, but I like the one with the big suction cup base. It seems to hold better and you can clamp it anywhere that you have a smooth countertop.

All of the grandkids are really good at cranking out apples on this tool. Of course, the reward is that they get to eat the peelings that come off in long long long strings. Claire especially likes the ends of the apple where the peeler starts and stops. That's her extra special little piece to ask for.

She has even gotten so good at cranking the apples that she can stuff peelings in her mouth with one hand and crank with the other hand. My oh my, what a talent.

Once the apples are all ready...they are peeled, and the machine slices them too, we chop them up into sections and toss them in a bowl with:

  •  white sugar,
  •  brown sugar, 
  • a little flour and cornstarch to thicken, 
  • some cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice, 
  • and a couple tablespoons of vanilla..
While that mixture soaks into the apples, we take care of getting the crusts ready. We had two store-bought crust in pans in the freezer, but we rolled out our own pie crust dough for the tops of each of those pans.

We rolled the top crust over the pies, crimped them down, and cut little vent slits in them. It's Claire's job to stick her finger into each of the slits and open it up a little wider.

Claire was making a special little apple pie all for herself. Steve saved a mini pie tin from a pot pie, so she could use up the scraps of dough and make her own little apple pie!

Claire sprinkled a cinnamon and sugar mixture over the top of the crusts on each pie, It bakes right on and is really tasty. At the end of this task, she gets to finally lick her fingers. 

Patience is a virtue, or so they say. She had to be very patient to wait while the pies were in the oven. Apple pies take a long time, about 45 minutes.  Every five minutes she would dash back to check and ask if they were done yet. 

Tahhh Dahhhhhh!!

Just look at that!

The house is filled with the beautiful aroma of apple pies. What a wonderful Autumn treat. Tonight is a Packer game night at 7:15. They're playing out in San Francisco, so we will be content to curl up in our chairs and watch the game. This little blond Packer fan will be bouncing up and down until about 8:30 and then it will be time to pop her into bed. I don't think she'll make it all the way to half-time. Then we can relax and watch the rest of the game ourselves. 

ON EDIT: 8:10 and she is still going strong and enjoying her pie! 


We are thinking about taking off later this week and doing some camping now that we've got the new bedroom window installed and the siding finished. Stay tuned, because we might make a loop around Corps of Engineer Parks along the west side of the state of Wisconsin. 

Steve has a dentist appointment on Wednesday, but then we have nothing else on our calendar for a couple weeks. We can clear it off and head out and enjoy some Autumn camping before the snow flies.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Siding Is Done - Back To The Bedroom!!

Remember in my last blog, I mentioned how sad Steve was waiting for the new trigger valve for his air siding nailing gun? Well, just look at that face!

That happy grin tells it all, doesn't it? The new piece came and he was able to install it into the gun correctly. And now it works again! Sure beats having to buy another gun. In the meantime, we had also called all over to see about renting one, and nobody rents them. So the self repair job was well worth the wait.

Bright and early, we hopped to it. I would hold one side and Steve would hold the other. We have a little spacer piece that helps to line them up. I double check it with the 4 ft level while he nails one end. Then as he moves down the slab of siding, we make sure that it's even as he goes along. The bottom board is the most critical.

We worked together up the side, one slab of siding at a time. It's slow going, but we know it's done right. So much better than vinyl siding! This is LP Smart Siding, and it should last a long long time. It looks like real wood. I think the warranty is like 50 years or something.

Steve worked along the narrow part between the window and the corner, and then finally up across the top part the last few boards. It sure felt good to finish this up and have it sealed in for the winter. I have the shutters painted that need to go up on each side of the bedroom window. I still have to locate some 74 inch tall ones for the bathroom window next to it. I'll be darned if I'm going to spend $50 for two pieces of plastic! From time to time they are in stock at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $5 each. I will keep checking back until I find some the right length and paint them to match.

Even though this is the back side of the house that nobody else sees, we know when we are in the yard we like to look back and have everything harmonious and matching. Even his goofy bulkhead he wanted that we installed over the entrance to the basement. It needs a fresh coat of red paint, and I will do that the same time that I do the last set of shutters, when I find them!

Now onto the inside!

Our plaster guy did a wonderful job, and we let things dry and cure. Now it was time to start painting. I bought ceiling paint with primer added, so all I needed to do was two coats of white on the ceiling. That went really fast. It sure looks nice to have a smooth wonderful ceiling without the old structure supports from the old closets or the old light fixtures or the old attic scuttle hole. Now we have a completely smooth ceiling!

You know, it's the little things that mean a lot. For two years now I have stared up at that crazy old ceiling and knew that sooner or later we would get it done. I guess it was later, but now it's done.

Now it was time to start on the walls! I happened to have a little helper here for the next couple days...  she put on her old paint clothes and got a new paint brush to be Grandma's Little Helper.

The first step was to mix up the paint. We had half a gallon of the white paint left over and we had half a gallon leftover of a creamy beige from what was originally on the walls and it was matching the rest of the rooms in house. By blending these two together, we would have enough to paint all of the walls. Plus it would be in the same color family but a lighter color tone than before. She helped to stir stir stir with the stick, just like making a cake.

Some people might think I'm nuts to let a four-year-old help me paint the bedroom. But hey, you got to start somewhere, right? It takes patience and it takes understanding and it takes a lot more time than it would if I was just painting the room myself. Sometimes it's the adventure that makes memories.

She did very well with the paintbrush and dabbed up the paint each time after dipping it into my tray. I had a roller to smooth things over as she completed each section.

Claire is a very clean and creative child, and very careful. You can just see it on her face as she is concentrating on what she is doing. Now if she were some messy crazy goofy kid, we wouldn't be attempting this. Plus with the floor completely covered and a bucket with wet rags nearby, we figured we were in pretty good shape.

After we completed that wall, we moved on to the next. I would like to say that she helped me paint the entire room, but really, she lost interest on the second wall. That was okay, Grandpa was ready on standby to take over and keep her occupied. That way I was able to finish the rest of the room myself.

She did pop back in after the second coat was done so she could pose for one more picture with Grandma. It was late, it was bedtime, and I needed a bath.

The next morning, after we toddled on in from sleeping in the motorhome, we went to work on painting the trim.  This time she got to use a little roller all by herself. She thought that was pretty amazing and she liked how it covered a lot more space with paint then using a brush.

We got most of the baseboard and trim touched up and taken care of. One more large piece of baseboard is still out in the garage. Steve has to remove the old massive original nails from it and patch up the nail holes. That will be installed on the last length of wall. He is also working on the window trim for around the new window.  Those things can take a little time. But for now the main part of the walls are all painted and we can remove the protection from the hardwood floors. It sure came out nice, if I do say so myself. The walls are a lighter sandy beige kinda gray than what they were before.

After supper, it was time to move furniture into our bedroom. Steve mounted my beautiful leaded glass light fixture onto the ceiling. I bought that fixture, believe it or not, at Goodwill many years ago. Actually, I bought two of them, one for each bedroom. I added the lamp shades which were from Menards sold as replacement shades. We took them down and replaced them with other fixtures in Chilton before listing the house, and packed them carefully in boxes to take here to Oconto. They match all of the other light fixtures and lamps in this house. So I was darned if I was going to leave them behind. 

Claire was spinning in circles in the free open space on the hardwood floors. She didn't want us to really move anything into the room, because she said it would make a great play space for grandkids. I suppose so. But we did need to have a place to sleep so she decided to help us move in the bed.

Little Miss helper girl has to be right in on everything. Here she is helping Grandpa carry the under bed drawer sections for our king size bed. They are pretty light, just awkward.

Next she had to help lay all the slats into each little slot. She had to count every board and make sure they were lined up and not criss cross she said.

She carried in the doggie bed and laid it down on my side of the bed on the floor. Binney sure was glad to have her bedroom turning back to normal. She does not like change. At all!

Soon this silly little girl was doing her best to be a monkey jumping on the bed. I had to kick her off before she fell off and bumped her head. We were tired and exhausted and the last thing we wanted to do was take her to the doctor.  Because you know what the doctor said? No more monkeys jumping on the bed!

As I laid down that night, to go to sleep, I gazed out my new window at the beautiful moonlit sky. I looked up at the beautiful ceiling that we worked so hard to hang the straps and sheetrock. Although we paid the guy to the plastering, we still put a lot of effort into the room. It's nice to have it finished. And we now have a normal ceiling.

I asked Steve to turn the light fixture on, just one last time, so I could take this picture from laying on the bed. Yes, our view has definitely improved.

It is crisp and cool again here in Wisconsin tonight. We lit the gas fireplace for the first time down in the she shed for the season. It sure felt good. 

We are going to get down in the mid-forties tonight and I am glad we are snug as bugs in the rugs in our newly redone bedroom.