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volume 4                         August 1993                         number 5

Color  Cover,  More Pages  &  More Photographs

Ron and Barb are very excited about  the revised edition of An Alternative Lifestyle---Living and Traveling Full-time in a Recreational Vehicle. The first thing you will notice is the beautiful full color cover which was created by Dale Wilkins of Austin, Texas. It depicts a little of what the book is about and is so complete that the bikes on top of the car are the correct colors. 

You will notice that the revised edition is much thicker---292 pages now. It has a more polished look; the typesetting and editing make a big difference. 

Ron said, "We went into a little more detail in many of the chapters. For example in the chapter on choosing an RV, we included some basic floor plans to give the novice an idea of the difference between the three major types of RVs. We also included our  experience in buying the Bounder in that chapter and added a few hints that we had collected along the way." 

Barb likes the whole look and feels that they learned a lot from the first edition. "Besides correcting the typos and fixing a few mistakes, we had to include the Bounder and the change it has made in our full-timing life," she said. "We were running out of books from the original run and had to reprint, but it didn't seem right to reprint without revising." 

Several new topics are covered. Ron & Barb discuss the single full-timer, pets and security. They also added more newsletter articles and photos to help tell the full-timing story.

While in Austin, Texas, the Hofmeisters discovered a service that was just up their alley. Publication Services specializes in book sales. They will handle everything from warehousing to shipping of the  orders and have an 800 number for the customer's convenience. Orders may be placed by credit
card or by check. You'll notice that the book, although bigger, is still only $12.95. The shipping and handling charge has increased to $4.00, but that is so all books can be shipped via priority mail. If you were to call that 800 number today, you'd have your book in several days. 

Barb and Ron are real proud of their book and how well it has been received and expect this new edition to be even more popular. Lazydays RV Center in Tampa, Florida, ordered 100 copies right off the top and Barb thinks that is just the beginning of a great business relationship.  Remember that you will want to keep your very own copy of the book so don't loan it out. Instead, copy the order form and hand it out to anyone who is interested in learning more about this wonderful lifestyle. 

by Ron 
(Remember that this report was written many years ago and the campgrounds may or may not be in business or as they were.)
This report will cover several state parks along with one commercial campground and one Coast to Coast park.

Knob Noster State Park, Warrensburg, Missouri. This beautiful state park which is handy to Kansas City, was very convenient for us, being just 7 miles from son Jim and his family in Warrensburg. The 73 site park has electirc sites available with excellent shower facilities and wide campsites. Mature trees add to the beauty. There are many hiking trails and excellent interior paved roads for biking. Price is in the range of $7 to $9 per night, with no entrance fees.

Smoke Rise Vacation Resort, Davison, Michigan, page 222 (CCC). I will try to be objective on this one, since it is our home CCC park. Without a doubt, the amenities are among the finest in the CCC system with a beautiful domed indoor swimming pool, store, recreation room, restaurant, spa and
the works. In addition, boats are free to those who want to fish in the private lake. A sandy beach and raft will attract the younger set. The campsites, however, are not up to 5 star standards. The hook-ups are cumbersome with high sewer outlets and water hook-ups on the wrong side of the RV. Also, the sites are narrow and quite a way from the entrance. Although management tries very hard to maintain the interior gravel roads, they can be rough after a rain. The resort is well staffed with excellent security and is well maintained. Best of all, Smoke Rise is only 15 miles from Frankenmuth, Michigan.

Sleepy Hollow State Park, Laingsburg, Michigan. This park, near the capital of Michigan (15 miles) is really a sleeper. The 200 site park is fairly new and not well known. Generally it's only 20% occupied and the spacious sites provide all the privacy you want. Bathing beach and fishing are within walking distance of the beautiful campground. Modern private shower  rooms are almost always empty. Cost is $10 per night (Visa, M/C) plus a $3 daily entrance fee or $18 ?annual sticker.  Note:  The camp host spot was empty all the while we were there. It would be good duty and we might just do that some time. 

Lakeside Camp Park, Cedar Springs, Michigan.  This Good Sam Park has 155 grass sites with 30 foot average site widths, all of which have water and electric.  Sewer is available as well as lake side sites.  The park is on a small lake that is stocked with trout and no license is required.  The hook-ups are good and the sites are level and easy to get in to.  It is very convenient to Grand Rapids and is right off of US 131.  Freeway noise is the one negative in the campground. Rate for full hook-up is $12 with Good Sam

              by Ron
Sure enjoyed filling up this morning for 96 cents a gallon. Michigan is still giving the tourists a break with their low gas tax. In spite of that, the gas stations love to see me coming with my 75 gallon gas tank. A quick way to spend $60 or $70 dollars.

It's hard to imagine that just over a month ago, we drove over the area that's now flooded in Missouri and Illinois. It was raining then and the rivers were already swollen.

Our home CCC park, Smoke Rise, puts on a Fourth of July fireworks display that will rival that of any large city.

While traveling through Nappanee Indiana, we decided to pull into an abandoned parking lot for a coffee break. It was with sadness that we discovered that the weed covered and run-down facility (now for sale) was once the corporate headquarters of the bankrupt Mallard Company. We
remember with fondness our Mallard Sprinter that we traded in for our Bounder. It was a good motorhome and served us well. I wonder what went wrong. They deserved a better fate. 

Did you catch the piece that Peter Jennings did on ABC news about the  visitor center fiasco at Johnson City and Jake Pickle's (Texas politician) involvement in it?  Remember, you heard the story here first.

I have officially retired from soft ball games at family reunion picnics. Yep, even sold my glove at our moving sale.

Speaking of picnics, I sure enjoyed attending the Michigan Transportation Department's annual picnic with my grandchildren.  The organizers did a super job in spite of pouring rain and it was great to visit with friends from MDOT.  The grandchildren enjoyed the games and the magic show (thankfully held indoors). 

Most do not think of a motorhome as being large, but ours sure felt big to me when left by myself for a week.  I did seem a little lost when my room-mate flew to Florida to meet her newborn grandson. 

Amish Country
                     Shipshewana, Indiana
The area where northern Indiana and southern Michigan meet is called Michiana. It is a very pleasant part of the country. You won't find the majesty of the Rockies here nor the mystery of the desert, but a different kind of natural beauty. It is gentle, serene and inviting. There are hundreds of lakes and streams, and unspoiled marshes, wetlands, and bogs harbor beautiful wildlife and foliage which changes with the seasons. 

If you are new to the area, you will, of course, notice the large Amish/ Mennonite settlements concentrated in the La Grange-Elkart area. They are easy to spot. Neat farms with Holstein cows grazing quietly alongside brilliant, multi-colored Amish flower gardens at the roadside are a treat for the eye. It is easy to pick out the Amish farms. These neat farms consist of several buildings which are always clean and white. Plain clothing will be hanging on a clothes line in the yard. You will not see any electric or telephone lines going to the house or farm buildings and often a hard  working farmer can be seen in the field guiding a plow pulled by a pair of oxen. It seemed strange to be riding along the highway in the comfort of our Bounder motorhome while time seemed to stand still in the field. 

Shipshewana which is on route 5 just a little south of the Indiana Toll Road is probably most famous for its giant Flea Market.  What began in 1922 as a livestock auction is now a combination flea market and auction. During the summer months, the week starts on Tuesday with a two day flea market. There are over 900 booths and 10 plus acres for parking. On Wednesday  you will find livestock being sold as it was over 70 years ago and you can attend the "Miscellaneous Sale" with 12 auctioneers in action at the same time. The widely known horse sale is held on Fridays. Would you believe that we were there on a Thursday and nothing was happening. Flea Market hours during the summer are: Tuesday 7 a.m.---6 p.m. and Wednesday 7 a.m.---4p.m. Auction hours: Miscellaneous & Antique---Wednesday 8 a.m., Livestock---Wednesday 11 a.m., Horse---Friday 9:30 a.m.

This area holds a great variety of other interesting attractions. Throughout the area, you'll discover museums, galleries, antique shops, beautifully restored old homes and retail centers, dozens of quilt and other craft supply shops and lodgings of all kinds. Did I mention good food?  You can't ignore all the wonderful Amish cooking and most meals are served family style so you won't go away hungry.

We were in the Shipshewana area to visit the Flexsteel plant nearby (more warranty work on the motorhome). By the way, for some reason, northern  Indiana is home to many of the RV manufactures and their suppliers. Anyway, we arrived a day ahead of time, enjoyed a day of touring before getting our work done and while they were working on our unit, we toured some more.

The Country Table in Nappanee is where we enjoyed two meals---a dinner and a breakfast. The owner and her help were easily identified as being Amish or Mennonites because of the manner of dress. The cute little bonnets were a dead give-away. For dinner Ron ordered Baby Back Ribs. I ordered the special which was Stroganoff. Both were excellent. I was impressed with the noodles which were home made. The meal started with a nice crisp salad topped with their own sweet & sour salad dressing which was superb. A small dish of ham salad and crackers is traditional at any Amish meal and that too was delicious. The entre' included potatoes and a vegetable and both were excellent. The price was great considering that it was an evening meal. For example, the Stroganoff dinner was only $5.95 and I took home enough to make lunch the next day. It would be a shame to go to Amish country and not have a piece of pie for dessert, so even though we were full, we did just that. We are getting smarter though. We split a piece of rhubarb cream which was yummy. Breakfast the next  morning was just as delicious and very inexpensive. Lots of good food served cheerfully at low prices makes eating out extra enjoyable.

If you like hand made furniture, crafts, quilts or the like, you will love  shopping the stores in Amish country. The Amish are true craftsmen and take pride in their work. Again the prices are very reasonable. For example, we  could not get over the prices of beautiful oak bedroom outfits. 

Travel to this area is easy and there are campgrounds nearby. Stop in at one of the friendly visitor centers to gather maps and brochures first, then just  have lots of fun.

Frankenmuth, Michigan
Famous For Chicken Dinners & Bronner's Christmas Store 

The Bavarian Inn, Frankenmuth
Those of us who have lived in southern Michigan most of our lives have visited Frankenmuth many times. In our family, it was the place to go for  special occasions like a landmark birthday. Located about 20 miles north of Flint on state route 83 (just a few miles east of I 75), it is easy to get to from most of southeastern Michigan. From the Detroit suburbs, the 60-80 mile drive makes for a pleasant Sunday outing and the real reward comes when you settle down for a world famous chicken dinner at either the Bavarian Inn or Zehnder's.

Michigan's "Little Bavaria" attracts nearly three million visitors annually, but these visitors don't just come for dinner; they come to visit the cheese shop, the woodworking shop, the sausage haus, the old country store, the old time saloon with its tiffany lamps and player piano, churches, museums, and the world famous Bronner's Christmas Store. 

There's a lot of history to Frankenmuth. What started as a small mission (15 souls) from Neuendettelsau, Germany in 1845 is now home to over 4,400 residents and visitors from all over the world.

The chicken dinners started in 1856 in the Exchange Hotel by owner Henry Reichle to care for the needs of the occasional traveler. After the Civil War, lumberjacks invaded the area, and 15 years later the dense forests were gone. Travel between cities became easier and visitors and businessmen moved in and out of the small Bavarian center more often. Three additional hotels vied for the traveler's appetite and the competition that made the "chicken dinner" synonymous with "Frankenmuth" was an established fact before the century ended. Now two brothers are in friendly competition across the street from each other. The Bavarian Inn, is owned by "Tiny" and Dorothy Zehnder, and Zehnder's is owned by Edwin and Marian Zehnder. Between the two, more than 900 people are employed in preparing and serving over 1.8 million meals annually. 

Ron and I had always eaten at the Bavarian Inn and enjoyed the German atmosphere, but decided we needed to try Zehnder's to be good reporters. Both meals were excellent. Chicken and all the fixin's is served family style. The only difference that we noted was the costumes of the waitresses. At Zehnder's, they were dressed in early American costumes. 

Ron with Santa at Bronners
The other thing that has made Frankenmuth world famous is Bronner's---the world's largest CHRISTmas store. Wally Bronner started this now flourishing business in his home in the 50s. Now five acres of Christmas decorations  under one roof is a fantasy land visited by over 2 million
each year.

The CHRISTmas story doesn't stop inside. The grounds look like a fairy land too, especially at dusk when the ½ mile Christmas Lane comes to life. There are thousands of twinkling lights, 40 beautifully trimmed lampposts and ingenious outdoor displays. 

A new addition to Bronner's is the Silent Night Memorial Chapel. It is the replica of the little chapel in Obernorf, Germany where Franz Gruber first played the new hymn, Silent Night on Christmas Eve in 1818. As one approaches the chapel, the hymn can be heard delicately reminding one of the reason for the Christmas Season. This philosophy is something that Wally and his family have tried to keep alive in all of their Christmas business. Inside the chapel, one can read the history of the chapel, the hymn and the building of this new attraction at Bronner's.

There's much more to do in Frankenmuth. We took the 45 minute Guided City Tour and thoroughly enjoyed it. After the tour, we listened to live German music while sipping a beer in the Fisher Platz behind the Bavarian Inn---it's like an outdoor cafe.

There are two miles of shops to keep you busy. Yes, it's a tourist town, but not a tourist trap. There is a difference.

No  More  Storage  Locker
When we were getting ready to full-time, we were not sure how long we'd last. We felt that we needed the security of having "things" in storage, so we could easily set up housekeeping when we were again ready to settle down.

So all of our good things were carefully packed and stored in a 10 X 20 storage locker. Payment for this security started out at a reasonable $53 per month but kept jumping up drastically. At the end, we were paying $87 a month. And the longer we were on the road, the more we knew this was the life for us. We kept asking ourselves why we were paying to store "things" we couldn't even remember having and would probably never need again.

The purchase of the Bounder cinched it. We were hooked on full-timing so agreed to come back to Michigan and deal with the storage locker.

We had no real idea of what we were getting into. Oh, we knew we would have to have a garage sale and knew what that was like, but how does one have a garage sale when one doesn't own a garage?  Good thing our dear friends Jim & Norma Neve had a garage they were more than willing to lend us. It also helped that Norma is a garage sale nut. We set the sale dates for July 8, 9 and 10, and began to dread the whole thing. Not that we are against manual labor but...

The first thing that I was concerned about was wording on the ad. I didn't want people to think our "stuff" was typical garage sale items. We paid a little more for enough lines in the ad to say that this was "all of our good things that had been in storage for 4 ½ years since our move to a motorhome."

On Monday, July 5, while Jim & Norma were up north, Ron & I drove from our campground in Davison to Lansing, rented a 15 foot Ryder truck and drove to the storage locker. At first we just stood in awe of all of the boxes and wondered where to begin. Then we got to work. Our storage unit was down a rather long hall so we got our walking exercise that day.

It took us about four hours to load the truck and drive the short distance to the Neve's. When we opened the garage door, we realized that the garage was smaller than the storage locker. How would we unpack and mark everything?  We would think about that later. We unloaded everything. The
garage was so full, we barely got the door closed. 

You might think that we had a lot of furniture. We didn't. We saved a chest of drawers, a dresser, a cedar chest, small trunk and a desk mainly to use these items as storage containers. The rest of our things were boxed.

Tuesday morning we drove to Lansing again and started looking at what we had. We had to move things out of the garage so we could open boxes, unwrap things, mark them and try to put them back in the box efficiently so the garage could be closed at night. We had allotted two full days to get
things ready but one look at the mountain of boxes made us nervous. Would we ever be ready?

I just can't get over finding so many things that I hadn't remembered having. Yes, a few things generated a sigh and tug at the heart strings, but there was work to be done---no time for sentimentality.

The days before the sale were long and dirty. We got up at 5 a.m. and didn't get home until 10 p.m. or later. Then at home, we had to make the signs, and we did a lot of praying to keep the rain away. We simply could not have the sale if it rained---no one could get into the garage.

It was even earlier on Thursday morning when we left for Lansing. Good friend Dianne Lange came over to help us get all the stuff out in the driveway and displayed nicely. I was still trying to finish marking things, but figured that we could come up with an impromptu price if asked to.

As usual the sale started off with a bang---the pros were there. I heard more than one comment that this was a "really good sale" and many even returned later with more friends. The first two days were steady and each evening, it was easier to close the garage door. But just to make sure nothing was left, we added some new signs for Saturday---"Last Day---Everything 1/2 Price". That did it. By closing time, we were down to a couple of small boxes of goodies which were later picked up by a charitable agency. I was surprised that more of the winter clothing didn't go---a cashmere scarf,
a fox vest, good gloves and so on. But then it was in the mid 90's with high humidity all three days.

We had priced everything low enough to sell and it did. We collected over $2,500, but Ron was quick to remind everyone that we spent $3,000 to keep it all this while. At least we won't have to pay anymore. If I had to do it all over again, I would have sold it all with the first moving sale, but I'm not sorry. We're just glad it is over, and now we can say that everything we own is in our motorhome. It really is a good feeling. And we really owe lots of thanks to Jim & Norma for all their help---couldn't have done it without them and the garage.

This 'N That
by Barb

Does it seem like the only towns we report on are German towns?  I got to thinking about that as I wrote about both Frankenmuth and the Amish (German). Honest we aren't partial. It just happened that way.

Something I didn't mention about Frankenmuth is that the drop out rate in school there is less than ½ of 1% and 90% go on to higher education. Wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that the major school in town is the Lutheran parochial school. This town is so German Lutheran that it wasn't that long ago that there were only Lutheran churches in town.

Gosh it was good to play Grandma several times this summer. First our visit with Jim, Sue and the boys in Missouri was great. We got to help them pick out their new house and we entertained them in our house which was parked at a nearby state park. Sue, Kristopher and James are fresh from England and had not done any camping. They had their first taste of S'mores and roasted marshmallows at our house. We will see them again as we head towards Texas when the snow flies. 

My trip to Florida was fun and very restful. Baby Erikki (Eric) was as good as gold but whenever he wasn't, I did the only reasonable thing---handed him back to his mother. This Grandma business is great. I never knew how hot it could be in Florida in June, and I hibernated indoors with comfortable air conditioning. Granddaughter Liisa and I played computer games when Eric was sleeping. It was a nice trip with good visits with the whole family.

Did you read about the sale?  Boy, am I glad that is over. That was just plain hard, dirty work. Honest though, neither one of us minded getting rid of anything. Guess those things meant something once, but it was hard to have feelings for things so long out of sight and mind.

I did add one or two small things to the motorhome like Tupperware for the microwave, my little ironing board that I never had room for in the Mallard, and a teddy bear that Ron gave me early in our relationship. It sits on our bed and doesn't take up any room. 

The hardest thing for me to deal with was photographs and negatives. I come from a family of professional photographers and pictures are very important to me. My son Jim, said he'd care for the many family albums, son Mark wanted my award winning photographs and I divided the others up between Glenda and Robert. I threw negatives away. That was hard to do 'cause it is something we never did in the studio.

While here in Cedar Springs, we looked for a laundromat. Found one in town, but the prices were high, and temperatures low. Hot water in the washer meant luke warm and the driers took four quarters to do what two normally do. So ignore the Holiday laundromat at the far end of town. 

Next door to the laundromat is Tasty Delight's homemade ice cream. They have lots of flavors and it is made right there. I talked to owners Skip and Gail Ebel while waiting for my clothes to wash (and while enjoying a praline cone). They started the business three years ago and guess what they
want to do some day?  Live and travel in an RV. But how could they leave all that delicious ice cream?  Check them out at 422 N. Main St, Cedar Springs, Mi.

We are in Grand Rapids, Michigan now and we plan to visit the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum when we go into town to get the newsletter printed, but it will be too late for me to report on it. I am writing the newsletter a little early because once I head north, (God's country) there are no Kinko's (our favorite printing place) up there.

On the front page, I said the next newsletter will be in October, but I may just gather enough information to do it sooner. I love being able to be flexible and you don't mind---do you?

If some of you newcomers were looking for more on Michigan, I am sorry to disappoint you. We have covered Michigan in past newsletters. We still have back copies. If interested, just drop us a line and we will send you a list of what's available.

Well what do you think of the book cover? We are so excited with it and our new service. Hope you spread the word.

Just got word that Grant and Nancy Joy in Marshall, Minnesota have made arrangements to have us on a radio station there. They have also made plans to have us interviewed for a story in the local newspaper. 

We will be doing a book signing in Hudson, Wisconsin about the middle of August so if you are in the area, come on down to Valley Bookseller and say "Hello."

We're getting to be very relaxed with interviews now. While in Lansing the State Journal, the Flint Journal and the County Line Reminder all came out to interview us. The story in the Lansing paper came out two days before our sale so many that came to the sale recognized us and knew why we had the sale. Great timing. Haven't seen any of the other stories yet. 

If you have any ideas of radio shows we can get on or other publications, would you please write and let us know. Our book will not be in general book stores and we need help publicizing it. We are open to all of your ideas.

Hope that you have plenty of time to play in these last months of summer and that all of your dreams come true real soon.

Signs of the Times

A bumper sticker seen near 
Grand Rapids, Michigan
How do you spell relief?


These two new stores are doing good business in the college town of East Lansing, Michigan

                        Condom Notions

                           Condoms 101

Hint for cleaning the blackwater tank
Just before you hit the road, empty the tank, add about 1/4 tank of water then dump 4 or 5 bags of ice cubes in through the toilet.  As you travel the ice cubes gently scrape the sides of the tank walls before melting. We thank full-timer Gene McCall for this great idea.


1.  Zehnder's and the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth serve 1.8 million meals annually. What percent are chicken dinners? 

2.  Aproximately how many pounds of chicken are used annually in preparation of these dinners?

3.  The Lutheran Parish school in Frankenmuth is the largest Lutheran parochial school in Michigan and among the five largest in the nation.  What is it's name?

4.  How many decorated Christmas trees will you find at Bronner's?

5.  How many different styles of nativity scenes will you find there?

1. 80%
2. 1,163,810 
3. Saint Lorenz
4. 260
5. 500 

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