Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

This is Camping?

Which one is the Defiant? Hard to tell...NOT!

Which one is the Defiant? Hard to tell…NOT!

I made it to Illinois, checking out a new-to-me RV park in Rockford before heading for Plans B or C. Blackhawk Valley Campground is technically the least expensive campsite in the general Chicagoland area, and the most presentable I have yet seen. Nicely kept grounds, full hookups in monthly sites, decent water, if commendably mineralized. And quiet, for the most part. There are occasional dogs barking, but it’s limited since allowing it to persist or having/allowing yer mutt get loose stands a very good chance of getting tossed out and blacklisted. Usage of generators ist verboten, since electricity is readily available. Washrooms and showers are immaculate, and if I don’t feel like paying the cost to electrically heat water in the trailer, a rather luxurious hot shower is available as short walk away.

It's humid here, but the shade trees trim the "extra" heat that direct sun normally adds to the Defiant's interior.

It’s humid here, but the shade trees trim the “extra” heat that direct sun normally adds to the Defiant’s interior.

As a result, this attractive campground is pretty much booked solid. All the seasonal spots are taken up. Upon arrival, I had to wait a couple of days to see if a monthly spot would be available – they had promised two onroute campers a look at the last two available monthly spots. I only got in because of shuffling me into another spot that was temporarily open, and the guy who was booked for it would be placed in another site that would be vacated by the time he/she/they arrived. The only open slots are daily ones, which seem to pack up solid every weekend. I’d guess that the vast majority of these campers are locals. One couple lives in Yuma, Arizona and comes up here to stay in the muggy summer sweat to avoid the dry but suicidal blast in their own hometown. The couple next to me are insurance adjusters who move where the calls dictate. Most seasonals only show up on weekends. Daily slots are mostly empty except on weekends. Only the monthly patrons are iffy as far as home base goes.

Beyond the forward end of the trailer is a grassy meadow and this 120VAC-wired pavilion, which also houses a WIfI signal.

Beyond the forward end of the trailer is a grassy meadow and this 120VAC-wired pavilion, which also houses a WIfI signal.

As with any RV park, there are tradeoffs. The campground is located in a deep valley beside the Kishwaukee River. For now that means very limited cellular voice, and not a prayer of cellular data without an amplifier. My amp brings the signal up to a workable level for phone calls and data, if needed. The local WiFi signal is too meager to be used much at all, but my Hawking directional antenna manages to pull it strongly enough to run Netflix movies with a tolerable number of interruptions. Naturally, the glut of weekenders tends to chop that down to email and stalling research only.

With a long run of recent rains, the Kishwaukee River is a'risin' like the mighty Mississip'. It would need to go up another four feet to breach the berm alongside it, though.

With a long run of recent rains, the Kishwaukee River is a’risin’ like the mighty Mississip’. It would need to go up another four feet to breach the berm alongside it, though.

The sole driveway winding down into camp is an aggressive slope. It’s no problem for the Evelo ebike, but riding up or down it is prohibited, and the story is they’ll run out of the camp office to stop you. My guess is that too many people embedded themselves into the heavy tree cover on the way down, and in the old days, rim caliper brakes only worked in a forward direction. The brake pads popped out onto the ground if applied, jeopardizing even an uphill climb. Insurance companies must have had a field day. The distance to sources of supply are too long and squeezed alongside hazardous traffic to make them practicable by bike. However, the Mighty Furd is already making 60-140 mile trips to get to and from appointments and family, so the service trips become a relatively minor addition. In the future, I’ll expect a rising mosquito population, thanks to the river.

Oh, just Projecting Power.

Oh, just Projecting Power.

Less than a week after I arrived, fighter jets streaked overhead on a regular basis. The reason was an upcoming air show at Rockford Airport. The oncoming scream of a jet even at subsonic speeds is half hissing air as it is cleaved violently aside, and half engine intake. Each type of fighter makes a different sound, the most unsettling being the F-4 Phantom, a quick Vietnam-era fighter that looks bad and yet set rate of climb records in its day, as I recall. My nickname for it is “Droopy”, from the appearance of its tail, which looks like it’s about to fall off. These practice runs were much closer overhead and more frequent than they were on the days of the show itself. I had considered going over to the airport to attend, until I saw the $30 per vehicle entry fee, $20 for a motorcycle. Considering my proximity in camp, it seemed sufficient. Unfortunately, on the two show days, the flyovers were much more distant than in practice, but I still had the prior days’ impressive aural reminders to console myself with. Still do.

The newest fighter this nation has to offer.

The newest fighter this nation has to offer.

The solar panels are out in order to make passage into the office easier. The wiring isn’t hooked up to them, since there’s little point. The shade is one factor, and the recurring rains and heavy overcast the other. This is unusual weather even for here. On this trip, if I had to rely solely on solar power, I’d be running mighty thin on it. Doesn’t matter all that much, given the hookups. The Defiant may be modified toward long-term bookdocking, but at heart, this RV park is what it was built for. I recently resealed the rear vent and other roof features at the back of the roof. Unfortunately, the sustained rain has pointed out that the job still remains uncompleted, and the ability of water to travel above the flat interior ceiling makes the origin of the leak unclear. Yet it must be addressed since, unlike in the Southwest, mold and accelerated rot of the wood structure will result. The rare clear day here means breaking out the ladder again and moving forward with more sealant, and more hope. With a to-do list already as long as my arm for a 3-month stay, it’s gonna by a busy time, oh yes!

An old Vietnam-era F-4 Phantom made an alarming scream overhead and then made a turn back toward the airfield.

An old Vietnam-era F-4 Phantom made an alarming scream overhead and then made a turn back toward the airfield.

Six Blue Angel F-18 Hornets in tight formation.

Six Blue Angel F-18 Hornets in tight formation.

They fly about together.

They fly about together.

Here they are halfway through a loop, upside down.

Here they are halfway through a loop, upside down.

Then, aimed toward the ground, they turn on the smoke trails. What seems like a wobble is actually a shift in positioning.

Then, aimed toward the ground, they turn on the smoke trails. What seems like a wobble is actually a shift in positioning.

Now set, they begin to pull out like spokes in a wheel.

Now set, they begin to pull out like spokes in a wheel.

Easing back on the stick.

Easing back on the stick.

From a distance and in person, the effect is impressive.

From a distance and in person, the effect is impressive.

They spread and each take their own paths.

They spread and each take their own paths.

One of them passes right over camp, and it got everyone's attention!

One of them passes right over camp, and it got everyone’s attention!

Past she goes, and...

Past she goes, and…

...suddenly yanks up. I pumped the colors in this shot just because I liked it. Nature photogs do this routinely to make the shots look better than what's really there.

…suddenly yanks up. I pumped the colors in this shot just because I liked it. Nature photogs do this routinely to make the shots look better than what’s really there.

Going up and over, it turns upright before flattening back out.

Going up and over, it turns upright before flattening back out.

Pulling up causes turbulence at the wingtips.

Pulling up causes turbulence at the wingtips.

And back toward the airfield. Seeing combat aircraft this low here is a real rarity. In parts of Arizona and Utah, the military airbases make it daily...occasionally.

And back toward the airfield. Seeing combat aircraft this low here is a real rarity. In parts of Arizona and Utah, the military airbases make it daily…occasionally.

 

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15 thoughts on “This is Camping?

  1. Linda Sand on said:

    We camped there once. We were on our way from Minneapolis, MN, to Decatur, IL. I remember that entrance road and parking backed up to the river. I’m pretty sure we only stayed one night as we were headed to my Dad’s house south of Decatur where we driveway camped.

    • Wow, I didn’t discover this place until I was already on-route from AZ! I’m lucky to be here, though the humidity is a little higher than it is away from the river. Wind is rarely much of an issue in this depression, though.

  2. lostAnnfound on said:

    Those Blue Angels were in a show in our little city just a few weeks ago. They flew right over our house for the two days prior to the show during their practice runs. They’re so close we could see the pilots’ faces! We don’t go to the air show because we can see quite a bit just from our backyard, but I know that for this one admittance is free here.

    • Free admittance to an air show is something I haven’t come across yet, Ann. I don’t mind ten bucks, but thirty is too steep for this cheapskate. Those BA’s are quite something to see, aren’t they?

  3. Mike on said:

    I hate to say it but your F4 Phantom is actually an AV8B Harrier. They have similar tails, but the F4 has a low wing and the outer wing panels angle back up.

    • Oh, say it! Say it! I am duly impressed, Mike! Sounding knowledgable usually works, but I get corrected regularly, and I see it as a big help to me and everyone else. I should correct the post, but also want people to see that reader participation is a good thing, and comments are worth reading through. Thank you!

  4. Well, I had made my mind up, quite firmly, that I wanted a trailer…and then I flip-flopped to a class b or c, 24′ max. I really do want a trailer, but am coming to think that the easy simplicity of a class b is best for me, most particularly as it relates to finding camping spots off the beaten path. There is also a safety issue in being able to depart without going outside if necessary.

    But I mourn the loss of the trailer-attributes I loved: space in the truck camper-shell for my stuff, no radiating engine heat in a trailer, likely more ventilation in a trailer, cheaper repairs and gas, etc.

    I have to start figuring out how much stuff I’m bringing and how much space it takes up. In this, I am referring to larger and/or non-essential stuff like a screen house, skis and boots, and silversmithing supplies/tools (currently non-essential due to problems with my hands). This category also contains a fair amount of things I want to carry but could technically live without (art supplies, camping gear, etc).

    I want solar so there may not be room for a roof-pod. Maybe there can be a storage box on the back bumper.

    My Navajo looms and wools are essential, of course.

    I may have already mentioned this, but I can’t thank you enough for suggesting I look at how I plan to spend my days. The moment I read that, I saw myself in a remote-ish site with no people around. So, that is a high value for me and must be given the weight it deserves in my decision-making. Still, those trailers are nice….(hahahaa).

    Best, Dawn

    • Thanks for the update, Dawn. Limited space is the brutal reality of those who are cursed with an active interest in many things, isn’t it? It sure complicates finding a livable compromise in rig choices and outfitting. The creative person has it tough, too. Sounds like you’re both. You’re very welcome for the prodding, but there’s often a huge gulf between having a rig that will support vital needs, and one which will support what your soul needs to engage and flourish. If you loved creative cooking, it would be tough to consign yourself to hot water, a bowl, a spoon, and a carton of oatmeal because someone insisted that that’s all you’ll need to love life on the road.

    • Linda Sand on said:

      Dawn,

      If you are not already familiar with RV Sue, I highly recommend you read her blog. I think her system might suit you. http://rvsueandcrew.net

  5. Definitely humid this summer (says I, after two decades living in the desert.) I’m in a free site just north of St. Joe, Missouri and it’s hot, humid, but lovely. Going to visit Hannibal next week on my way to the holiday with family in Indianapolis. Happier than I’ve been in many years.

    • At least from my distant memories, Missouri is even muggier than Northern Illinois in the summer. I am very glad that you are enjoying your travels! It is fairly awesome, in its own way.

      • Yes, heat index of 105. Amazingly, the battery-operated fan I picked up at Walmart is keepin my cat and I cool enough to sleep well at night. I will be glad to get up to Vermont, though. And I’m longing to go swimming.

  6. Great pics of the planes and I like what you did with the color on that one. It really shows up the plane well doesn’t it. They really do know how to fly it tight, don’t they! I have seen them several times and it’s always a thrill to watch them.

    It looks like you found a beautiful campsite even though you guys are a little close together. Is that what they call AT&T camping? Reach out and touch someone? 😉

    • The Blue Angels’ antics are captivating, I’ll say that for them. Good call on camping in a commercial park. Especially on the coming July 4th weekend, if you faint, you’ll be lucky to be able to hit the ground first! 🙂

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