8/14-8/20: International Frog Rally

After a four hour ride from Cleveland by way of OH 80, we arrived to Goshen, Indiana. Elkhart County is the RV Manufacturing capital of the world. Our RV is made by a division of Forest River, and FROG stands for Forest River Owners Group. We had been eyeing this as our first trip for a long time as there are seminars, a vendor show, you can set up service, and we wanted to meet some people in this lifestyle that we could meet up with as our journey’s allow.

We accomplished all of that and more. Ed had taken vacation time so we were both able to have an immersive experience.

Monday was Ed’s birthday! It started with breakfast at the hall and some various seminars. One on RV Driving Safety, another on some different travel tours. We took off for the afternoon and went on another long bike ride. There was a beautiful trail that we could pick up about a quarter mile from camp. Paved and shady, it snaked through woods, cornfields and other farmland. We were able to observe Amish families going about their chores. About 6 miles in was an Amish Ice Cream Shop that made a great place for a birthday treat, a rest and to turn around.

Tuesday we perused at the vendor booths, Ed went to a few things that were out of my realm of interests. Electrical seminar, anyone? So, I took some quiet time to work on some little projects at camp. That evening we were invited to a gathering of other Riverstone owners. We have never encountered another Riverstone on the road or in any camping we have done. There were 16 at the Rally (out of probably 300 other RV’s onsite). We had a couple of events with those folks and after various discussions we decided to form an owners club so we could hold our own camping events. There is a trip being planned for next September to beautiful Door County, Wisconsin. We also left having made a few dinner dates with some folks from Milwaukee and San Antonio in our upcoming travels this year.

Wednesday was a big day – Drum Roll Please!!!! I drove the RV! We elected to take a private driving class from My RV School, by Mr. Jeff Gaston. Jeff has a long career in process improvement and he gave us some incredible driving techniques/tips and some focal points that makes backing into a camp space a simple and stress-free process. I will of course need to practice more, but I feel pretty comfortable now that if Ed has to travel or became ill that I could take the RV to the next location. I can also help on longer drives, and have more insight to Ed’s side of the checklist which will help me communicate more effectively.

Our checklists are all in Microsoft To Do. It allows us to both see what needs done and what’s been checked off. Like pilots, there are all sorts of safety checks and procedures for taking down camp, hitching, parking, unhitching, setting back up. We are getting pretty fast on that!

The driving lesson was very good and wasn’t overwhelming at all. Jeff took me first around the campgrounds and then out on the county roads, and then finally to the interstate. We actually had to make an emergency stop on the interstate because our TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) put out an alarm that one of our tires was 395 degrees! It was incorrect, thankfully. Had it actually been that temp it probably would have been on fire. Speaking of fires, Jeff also sells a spray foam fire extinguisher that never expires and doesn’t need regular agitation like typical fire extinguishers. We would highly recommend seeing him for a class or an extinguisher, his site is www.myrvschool.com. I would like to also mention he sings a mean rendition of “The Joker”. Hey, hey, Jeff!

Thursday we had booked one of the group tours. We did the Amish County Brown Bag Tour. I’ll be honest, I almost cancelled. We have had a lot of stimulation this week and lots of ups and downs and I couldn’t imagine making the time commitment. Ed seemed to want to go, so I decided to keep that to myself and push through. It turned out to be pretty interesting, but was definitely on the long side. We visited an Amish Market, a coffin maker, a woodshop, a leathershop, and an Amish farm where they served us an Amish Wedding Feast. The coffin maker had lots of jokes, which was unexpected. At the wedding feast our speaker Seth did a great job describing the weddings. I have to say I was surprised to find out that an average wedding in their area would have 1200-1400 in attendance and costs about $15,000. They typically do their ceremonies on Thursdays. The couple typically gets married at a neighbor’s hall, and then everyone walks back to their farm for the reception. There is no entertainment, no big dress, rings, etc., so the cost really is in renting a cooking trailer and big refrigeration units. They do have honeymoons, choosing usually something where they can connect with nature.

Learning from Seth and tasting all the delicious food was a high point. Probably my other favorite stop was to the Plainview schoolhouse. Elkhart County has the 3rd largest Amish/Mennonite community. (First and Second trade off between Holmes County, OH and Lancaster, PA). Their were two teachers, a man who had been there for 51 years and his daughter. They divide the one room schoolhouse with a curtain through the center of the room. Together, they teach grades 1-8, averaging about 4 students per grade. The school Itself was purchased back in the late 50’s from the Indiana school system. It was the first Parochial School in Indiana, which now is home to a total of 220. They attend from August through April, meeting all the guidelines set by the state. When asked about COVID, he said they have had some instances in the community and that their school closed last March just like all the other Indiana schools.

We were due to stay until Saturday, but when we woke up today we decided to get to the store, clean up and head out. I am learning that cleaning is best done either during set up or take down because all the surfaces are cleared. If you are only staying there a week or so, then that’s all the cleaning for the week and it takes about an hour to do everything. There are still clothes to wash and meals to prepare but for the most part my chore time is way down and I am not complaining.

We are happy to get a day ahead because I hadn’t left much room to visit Traverse City and possibly Sleeping Bear Dunes, and this will give us more time to explore. On Sunday, we will enter the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and will explore that area for the rest of the month.

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