Saturday, May 30, 2009

History and Bicycling in Sedalia

We had a play day yesterday. Jim got the bicycles off the car and put air in the tires, and we pedaled off to the Katy trail. It was a sunny, gorgeous day and we had a great time getting a little bit of exercise and learning some history. So, why is it called the Katy? This is the old MKT railroad. The Missouri, Kansas, Texas railroad. 'Miss Katy' became the spokesperson, promoting rail travel in the late 1800s. The dining cars and sleeping cars made it quite a luxurious way to travel. The intersection of the MKT and the Missouri-Pacific railroad is what put Sedalia on the map ... literally. An enterprising man named George Smith bought the land in 1860 when he learned that the railroads would go right thru it. He set about to found the town and named it after his daughter 'Sarah', nicknamed Sed. What started out as Sedville, became known as Sedalia and was a booming railroad town from about 1870 - 1930. The train depot in downtown Sedalia is now a museum. Sedalia was also home to Scott Joplin and the Ragtime music he created. Scott Joplin was a black man who moved from Texas to Sedalia, Missouri to attend college here. A pretty amazing story for the 1860s. The Scott Joplin festival is visited by people the world over. It starts next week, just a little too late for us to stick around. Here is a video of the Maple Leaf Rag - probably most famous of Joplin's creations. But, enough of history from the 1800s - Sedalia is also famous for a rock concert that rivaled Woodstock! Called the Ozark Music Festival, attendance estimates go as high as 350,000! With performances by Jefferson Starship, Eagles, and Marshall Tucker Band among many others, the main attraction was the hippie culture that took over the Missouri State Fairgrounds for four days in July of 1974. Picture from the aftermath of the Music Festival (from the website linked above): Yes! That's the same Missouri State Fairgrounds where we have been parked this week along with 700 other RVs! These RVers were a much more subdued crowd I'm sure - but many of us are still rock 'n rollers at heart! Picture of the aftermath of the Escapade Rally at the same fairgrounds.
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Friday, May 29, 2009

*Now* the sun comes out!

One of the most enjoyable parts of going to a rally is just to walk around, look at all the RVs, meet people and socialize. Well ... it rained all week here at the Escapade in Sedalia, Missouri. The only socializing going on would be indoors, and for me at least, the rain even put a damper on that. The biggest attraction was to watch the RVs get pulled out of the mud :-( The rally was over yesterday, and today it is sunny and gorgeous! Oh well ... we all know how much good it does to complain about the weather?! We did have a good time at our seminars. A little over 100 people came to our Internet on the Road Seminar and a little under 200 attended Managing Digital Photos with Picasa. When we present seminars - we both are a part of the presentation. Some topics are Jim's - like the Internet one; and some are mine - like Picasa. Jim says I'm much too serious when I'm the main presenter. hmmmm ... he's right. I am so intent on covering a lot of material, it's hard to lighten up as much as he does. Here's a minute of video on the Internet seminar to show you what I mean - we do have fun. I also had the video camera on during my Picasa presentation - but unfortunately (or fortunately?) it didn't come out! Actually, we're a good team, he keeps it lighthearted, I keep it on track so we cover lots of valuable material. When we weren't giving a seminar, we were in our booth. Although we did relieve each other once or twice during the week so we could visit someone else's seminar! I went to see Mike and Terri Church present one of their Travel seminars. What a wealth of information they have. If you want to RV to Alaska, Mexico, the American Southwest or Pacific Northwest - be sure to get one of their books first. That way, you won't miss anything. Between our friends, the Gundys, and now the Church's - we're starting to formulate a possible plan of RVing to Alaska next summer.
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Internet on the Road seminar

We've been giving this seminar since 2004. We don't know how many times, but its well over 100. I swear it's always different though. This stuff changes so fast. In 2004 we still had to cover dial up a bit. The main option was Wi-Fi, Cellular data cards didn't exist, and satellite was pretty new. Now - dial up is akin to chipping on clay tablets, Cellular data cards are mainstream, and satellite is old hat. Besides the changes in technology, new people are just taking to the road all the time. One of their very first questions is, "How am I going to get online when I'm on the road?" We just love answering that question because we've 'been there, done that.' We've used all three methods, and helped litterally hundreds of people with their systems - so we've seen a lot. We love it that our audiences have newbies - one woman said she retired 10 days ago and has been on the road just long enough to make it to the rally. And we enjoy the challenge of the old-timers who have technical questions on the right kind of antenna, amplifier, or router. Here's our audience at the Escapade. Here's Jim teaching the seminar in his Captain Wi-Fi shirt. It's actually a battery powered wireless signal detector - this picture shows that he's only getting one bar of signal. And, here's where we explain exactly how Wi-Fi in an RV park works. We find it really helps people to understand exactly what is going on. For example, why is it that you can see the message 'connected' and have 5 bars, yet still not be able to browse the Internet? Well - that's because the 'connection' is just between your computer and the hotspot's access point. That's just the first leg of the trip to the Internet. The hotspot's access point must be successfully connected to the Internet . We explain that with graphics and with stories from our experience, as well as a demonstration using our own router as a fake hotspot. Next time this happens to one of our students, they'll know what to do - report it to the hotspot's owner. Even if it doesn't get them online - their frustration level will be much lower because they know what's going on.
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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Welcome to the Escapade

We are in Sedalia, Missouri. We're here to attend our first Escapade. That is the annual rally of the Escapees club. Isn't that a great name though? Thousands of others, like us, have 'Escaped' the normal lifestyle of a stationary home and traded it in for a home on wheels. The tagline is 'Home is Where we Park it.'

Missouri has some very nice roads and green rolling hill scenery. And we are having gorgeous weather right now. Here is the road coming into Sedalia:

And, here's a little video about our welcome to the Escapade.

In the video you'll see a clip of a local newspaper story about the hundreds of RVs that are descending upon this small town. It's a nice story, but I wonder whose idea it was to sandwich it between a headline article about poor driving skills, and an ad for relocation services?!

I can't decide if it was a complete oversight, or someone with a highly developed sense of humor! :-)

In any case, we hope to have a very fun .. and profitable .. week here. Our booth is all set up and ready to go.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Higginsville ... Pleasantville

Green grass, birds singing, warm weather, no wind, people jogging in the park, kids playing baseball ... I know we're in Higginsville, Missouri but it sure feels like Pleasantville.

I went into town and got a haircut - always an experience. I've learned to take a photo with me of past good hairdays since I'm always at someplace new ... it doesn't seem to do much good though. At least it's out of my eyes now! On the way home I went grocery shopping at Piggly Wiggly ... where did they get that name?! Jim washed the rig - it looks a lot better without the blanket of bugs and grime, but now I can see the corrosion spots even worse. I asked Nick and Terry to look at it and see if they had any ideas of how to fix it. "Yes!" They said ... they did have an idea.

"Get a new motorhome."

bummer ... I love this motorhome. My way of fixing it is just to think about something else

ahhh dinner time.

Jim put some chicken on the grill and Terry made potato salad and some delicious banana nut bread. I'm not kidding - this is Pleasantville.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Higginsville Fairground RV sites

We're on our way to the Escapades in Sedalia, Missouri. Our friends, Nick and Terry Russell of the Gypsy Journal are also going to be there and like to be a couple days early, as do we. They planned to stay at the fairgrounds in Higginsville, Missouri. So that's where we came too. What a great place! There are just a handful of RV hookups - electric and water. We're parked right beside a park with a delightful 1/2 mile paved path for walking. That's Nick and Terry's bus back and to the right. You can read his blog post about Higginsville too. The cost is just $10/night and there are plenty of amenities - groceries, restaurants, etc. nearby. We've known about fairgrounds having RV hookups since some of the rallies we attend are at fairgrounds. But, we've never stayed at one outside of a rally. Nick and Terry know all about these because they're in the business of providing this kind of information to RVers. We even have their CD which includes a state by state listing of Fairgrounds, but we rarely remember to check it out. Sure enough, Higginsville, Missouri Fairgrounds is listed. Nick and Terry have been exploring every nook and cranny of this country by RV for about 10 years now and they are a wealth of information. To see what they have to offer, check out the Gypsy Journal bookstore.
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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dinner and a Movie

I love watching movies, and it just makes sense to combine a group dinner with a movie night. I've been thinking about Cioppino for several days. Ever since the group of us were talking about great places to eat in this country of ours and I voted for Mo's in Newport Oregon. If you ever want to get your appetite in high gear, get a group of RVers talking about great places to eat. Because our 'neighborhood' restaurants are anywhere on the entire continent! Anyway, I made a big pot of seafood Cioppino - not as good as Mo's, it's tough to get fresh seafood in Gravity, Iowa! But - I've found if you put enough Sherry in it, nobody notices! Jim set up for movie night. Notice that we're using our evaluation projector - the tiny BenQ Joybee - still putting it through it's paces. That little tripod you see it on is ours - it makes a great little stand for the Joybee. Just hook the Joybee up to a laptop computer and play a movie DVD in the computer. If you have a nice white wall, you don't even need a screen. Speakers are built in to the projector. What movie did this gathering at the church watch? Why, Alices' Restaurant ... the movie by Arlo Guthrie about Ray and Alice, who bought an old church in Housatonic, Massachusetts and invited all their friends to Thanksgiving Dinner at the church. What a kick!
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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Small Town, USA

In 1980, I lived in Morro Bay, CA. With 9,000 people, I thought that was small. According to the 2000 census as reported by Wikipedia, Gravity's population is 218. So, our presence here increases the number of people by almost a percentage point!

We hear that, not so long ago, it was quite a bustling little town, with a school, several churches, theatre, shops and gas station. But, apparently more people have left the town than have arrived. Here's the main street now: The two old buildings are the Bank and the Post office and, of those two - only the Post Office is still in operation. It sure makes you feel warm and fuzzy when, after only one visit, the Postmaster recognizes us and knows our names! Nice to meet you Cindy!

And it's easy to understand why the mayor stopped by to welcome Lynne and John when they first arrived. They want more people like them who will see the opportunity in taking over something like this hundred year old church and restoring it.

Being RVers, we are accustomed to being self sufficient ... a good trait for around here since it's 6 miles to the closest gas station or convenience store, and 15 miles to the closest laundromat! The nearest major cities are all about 2 hours away - DesMoines, Omaha, or Kansas City. But, we might be seeing a rennaissance in Gravity. A new business just opened! A bar and grill! Nitro's. And, we could party as much as we wanted because it is only a 1/2 block walk home!

Actually doing the restoration is a lot of work, and will probably take a few years. But, they're going to have some fun with it too! This room will be Lynne's sewing room - here's her Mom, Frankie, making it bright and cheery.

We have one room that has been dubbed the 'Geek room' for whenever we're here. Right now we've made it the Wii room. Using this little projector to display the Wii games onto our 6 foot screen. It works great. You'll be hearing more about this projector as we try it for a variety of things. It's by BenQ, and they sent us this unit to evaluate. Isn't it cute?

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

How many blogs?

It’s a cold day here in Gravity, Iowa. I was hoping it would be nice enough to take our kayaks to the nearby Lake of Three Fires State park – but it looks doubtful. At 49 degrees outside, I think I’ll stay in where the furnace is keeping me warm. Actually I may just crawl back under the covers and read my book today.

I’m feeling good because it’s just 8:30 and I already wrote my weekly post for the blog - which is due on Sundays. I wrote ‘What is Twitter’ – go read it, ok?

Now I’m writing here, in our personal blog. I also try to write at least once a week in our Geeks on Tour Articles blog. I might just copy the Twitter article there if I don’t think of anything else to write about. I’ve also been writing a weekly Picasa Tip on our GOT Articles blog. The Picasa tips have been taking over the whole GOT Articles blog, so I decided to make a new one. I was able to get the domain and got it set up yesterday with WordPress. I’ll separate the Picasa tips from the other articles, and now … have you been counting? I will be writing in 4 blogs.

I wonder if there’s a 12 step program somewhere for Bloggers?

But, no, I don’t want to stop … I want to keep working on blogs until I get it right! By ‘getting it right’ I mean making money. Everything is free on all our blogs, and I only have advertising on one – GOT Articles. But, all the free information is supposed to give us credibility, and give our readers the desire to learn more with our tutorial videos requiring a paid membership at With the new blog at, I will be setting up a separate membership system so people can pay just for Picasa tutorial videos. I’m looking at two membership systems now – and If anyone reading this has experience with either of these, or another WordPress membership plugin – I’d love to hear from you. The Geeks on Tour membership system I wrote from scratch with Coldfusion … I don’t want to do that again.

Wish me luck, this is how we support ourselves on the road.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Spring has sprung

It's still chilly overnight, but we've had at least partly sunny days here in southern Iowa. The grass is green and the trees are in blossom! These look like cherries, just small.

And here's Lynne and John's church. They're renovating it as their home ... what a job! Being someone who only creates stuff on a computer screen, I am so in awe of people who can build / create stuff that's bigger than them. And, this is a *lot* bigger.

This is really an experience, being in a town of 200 people. I love the images of old and new: Where else can you live on Main Street and keep a horse in your back yard?
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Monday, May 04, 2009

Shopping at an Auction

It was a gorgeous day yesterday, and 5 of us women went to an auction. Lynne wanted to get a washer/dryer for the church and, well, you just never know what else you might find.

What fun! And, what a great way for people to buy and sell stuff. The guys had to come get us with a couple of trucks before we were done!

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Ring the Bell!

Kind of like breaking a champagne bottle across the hull of a new ship, Lynne and John rang the bell in their church.

We were also hoping that this would ring in the Spring as it’s been surprisingly cold and drizzly. And, sure enough, today is May 1 and the sun is shining!