Betsy gets a facelift before attending GNR 2015 – Forest City, IA

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Forest City

This part of our adventure had been anticipated for several months, as we decided way back in January that we’d attend our first Winnebago Grand National Rally (GNR).  Our planning indicated we would be in the area at about the right time, and we also wanted to get some paint work done on Betsy at CDI Paint in Forest City.  CDI applies the full-body paint to all new Winnebago and Itasca RV’s as they come off the assembly line just across the street.

Mason City, Iowa

Betsy hustles through foggy cornfields on her way to an early-morning paint shop appointment

The paint work was completed on the Friday previous to the show, and CDI did a beautiful job for a price so low that Steve still can’t believe it.  With Betsy looking pretty spiffy, we pulled into the fairgrounds on Monday evening, the day before the GNR officially opened.

WIT GNR Forest City

Showing off my “first timer” badge at the GNR entrance

Parking at GNR Forest City

Betsy looked pretty ordinary with hundreds of other large and beautiful coaches parked all around her.

Our good friends Joe and Judy, who we had met in Alaska in 2012 and connected with several times since, pleasantly surprised us a few days before the show by letting us know they would meet us there.  Hanging out with friends who had been here before made the experience all the better.  Oh, and Judy’s awesome Gin and Tonics put smiles on our faces!

Socials at GNR Forest City

Dinner with Joe and Judy at the Lowe residence

GNR is amazing.  It’s a gathering of 1,000+ Winnebago and Itasca RV’s in one location, namely at a site adjacent to the Winnebago factory in Forest City, Iowa.  We were blown away by the party atmosphere and all of the activities offered during the five days of the show.  Like Quartzsite in Arizona, the GNR is about the experience of hanging out and having fun with thousands of other RV’ers who are enjoying the same lifestyle.

Forest City, GNR Rally Grounds

The show was comprised of several components that make it a “must-do” for any Winnebago owner who can attend.  First, there were excellent educational seminars offered every hour during the day, and they were presented by the manufacturers of the components installed in the coaches.

GNR Rally Grounds

Several of the tents where manufacturer seminars were held

Second, there were several up-close tours given at the factory that showed owners exactly how their coaches were built – including upholstery, chassis prep, the extrusion of aluminum parts for various components and the actual assembly line, which was a complex and amazing operation.  We really enjoyed touring Betsy’s birthplace!

GNR Rally Grounds

Although we thought we’d miss our exercise here, it turned out that we walked several miles each day while traversing between Betsy, seminars, lunches and other activities

Third, the show sponsored quality entertainment every night.  We enjoyed a great group of singers one evening, and there was also a Beatles cover band that put on a good show.

GNR Rally Forest City

Entertainment at GNR Rally

The singing group Tonic Sol-fa put on a good show one evening, a talented group

Finally, the highlight of the show is the “row party”, where several states and their Winnebago clubs serve foods from their state and/or strong drinks for all attendees to enjoy.  We had a blast (and got a bit tipsy) sampling all of the goodies with our friends!

GNR row party

Just a few folks showed up for the row party!

Row party structure

The structures erected by some of the states were quite extravagant

Of course, this was a great place to buy needed and unneeded items for the RV.  We requested service on our tow bar to have it checked out, only to learn that it had excessive wear and should be replaced.  So we bought a new heavy duty tow bar, and while we were at it we ordered MCD shades for the rest of Betsy’s windows.  It ended up being an expensive but productive week as we got Betsy ready for the many miles ahead.

Blue OX tow bar

Our shiny new Blue Ox tow bar gets delivered

Without going into lots more detail, let’s just say this was an experience that we’ll never forget and hope to repeat.  The seminars, vendors, factory tours, entertainment and fun with friends made this week an memorable experience for us.

RV's lined up at the 10-port dump station as they leave town

RV’s line up at the nearby 10-port dump station to lighten the load as they leave town

2015 GNR Rally

The GNR grounds are owned by Winnebago, that’s the massive factory in the background

Rock on, GNR!


Next up:  Into the land of 10,000 lakes –


Of Friends and Palm Trees

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Fiji Fan Palm Tree

On our way out of the Florida Keys, a funny thing happened as we were leaving the RV park.  It’s not often that we see another Winnebago Tour motorhome in an RV park – they are not nearly as common as the Tiffin Phaeton model.  But on this day as we were about to hook up our car, Steve pulled up next to another Winnebago Tour towing a Honda CR-V like ours.  And the other folks were also registered in South Dakota, using the same mail service we do!  We enjoyed talking with them for a few minutes before they pulled out just ahead of us, heading to Fort Lauderdale – just as we were!


In addition to birds and beaches, palm trees dominate the scene in Florida, especially in the southern part of the state.  Here, palm trees adorn highways, line side streets and are used in landscaping for houses or just as centerpieces.  I didn’t pay much attention to these trees until my one time header, taken of a palm in Puerto Rico, got LuAnn’s (Paint Your Landscape) curiosity as to its name.

Her query  got me into “research mode”, and I began to focus my camera on palm trees so I could google them to learn more (as if learning about birds isn’t enough for me).  I couldn’t find that particular palm from Puerto Rico here in Florida, and as a last resort I contacted the hotel in San Juan to ask about it.  Incredibly, they got back to me with complete details about the Fiji Fan Palm Tree.  Isn’t it a beautiful one?

Fiji Fan Palm Tree

Fiji Fan Palm Tree

You may wonder why I went to such trouble?  Well, I was about to finally meet LuAnn. We had been hoping to meet since last year when we were both in Arizona, and again while we were in Ohio.  But our paths and schedules just never came together.  Fast forward to this winter in Florida, and our stars finally aligned.  She and Terry were parked just a few miles from us when we were in Davie, near Fort Lauderdale.

Happy hour at the Lowe's

Over wine, good food and LuAnn’s smooth and yummy chocolate pudding dessert, we had a great time talking with her and Terry.  This was our first time getting together, yet we felt like we had known each other for a long time and were just catching up.  We clicked right away, and there was such a positive vibe between us.  LuAnn is reserved, as I’d imagined her to be when reading her introspective posts.  She has one of the most well-written blogs encompassing not just their RV travels, but also musings about life, her beautiful poetry, great photography and yummy recipes.  Terry is ever the gentleman, outgoing and funny.  We all got along so well that we lost track of time!  We had a wonderful visit and vowed to meet up again, maybe even to travel together somewhere in the future.  They are a delight and we are so glad our paths finally crossed.

Paint your Landscape

Blogger gals rendezvous

It’s funny that we forgot to talk about the Fiji Fan Palm tree, as there were so many other interesting tales to share.  But here are some notable palm trees that I have encountered here in southern Florida.  These trees enjoy the warm, humid climate and sandy soils that Florida has to offer. There are thousands of palm tree types but these are the ones I thought worth showing.

Royal Palms

Royal Palms at Homestead

Fox Tail Palm Tree

Fox Tail Palms at Punta Gorda

Indian Date Palms at Ft. Myers

Bizmark Palm Trees

Bizmarck Palms along our route to Miami

Coconut Trees

Coconut Palms obscure a mansion in Miami

Indian Palm Tree

Dr. P. Frost’s (inventor of Viagra) mansion lined with exotic  Palm Trees in Miami

Palm Trees seen in Venice, FL

Palm Trees in Venice

Steve and I love all of these palm trees, they just put us in such a fun tropical mood. We’ll miss them and the ocean shoreline that we’ve enjoyed for the past several months, when we begin making our way inland in a few weeks.

Finally, a last look at the Miami skyline with windblown palm trees in the foreground.

Miami Skyline

I’m glad LuAnn sparked my interest and that I paid more attention to these beautiful trees.

Next up:  Punta Gorda, FL