Friday, October 11, 2013

A surprise visit to a special cabin on the pond

October 6-11, 2013
Newton, Illinois
The Schafer Country Abode

In a great stroke of luck two years ago, we parked next to another Phaeton at St. Sault Marie Locks RV Park and had the good fortune to meet Mike and BJ, the owners of the Phaeton, and their good friends, Steve and Diane who were traveling with them in their Monaco Windsor. The park had picnic tables and fire pits in an area behind the motorhomes and, since they already had a fire going, we ended up joining them in what turned out to a fateful evening of enjoying wine and cheese together. The rest is history as they say.  Both couples winter in Florida and since we were planning to do so for the first time that year, we thought we would try out the park in North Fort Myers, Seminole RV park  where they were staying.  Since then we have spent two winters at that same park in Florida and have visited them here at their home in Illinois two other times.

We hadn’t actually planned on stopping here this year as our intention was to head directly east from Chicago en route to Niagara Falls. Dipping down into Newton from Chicago was about a five hour detour, but the weather seemed to be holding with gorgeous Indian Summer days throughout the Midwest and east coast. The big lure, aside from always enjoying our time with these special friends, was the chance to ooh and aah over the charming cabin Mike finished building on their pond since we were here last. He kept sending photos of the progress taking place this summer and each one looked more inviting than the last.  By the time we were approaching the Chicago area, he sent a photo of the completed cabin with a roaring fire by the pond and we knew we couldn’t miss this opportunity to acknowledge Mike’s accomplishment and experience the inviting atmosphere of their cabin by the pond.

fire blazing by pond

Since we had seen most of the Newton area “attractions” before, we spent most of our time here  starting and ending each day in front of the centerpiece of the cabin, the stone fireplace.

With Mike and BJ planning to leave for Florida in a few weeks, Vic offered to help with Mike’s “getting ready to leave town list” which included mowing the fields, painting the siding on his house, and washing their motorhome.

While the guys worked, BJ and I did a little cooking, played cards, and fished on the pond!  She also endured our dogs’ crazy antics as their were carried away by the joy of running free on several acres.  Fortunately, this freedom wore them out pretty quickly helping to mellow their exuberance.  They also both remember her giving them bones last time we were here, so they tried to follow here everywhere in hopes of another bone bonanza which wasn’t to be this time—probably a good thing to prevent future begging sessions.

We also had two good visits with Steve and Diane too. They had just returned from the Albuquerque Balloon Festival—something we would like to see someday—and still had the energy to make the 45-minute drive from their home in Robinson to join us for dinner at the cabin one night, along with some other motor homing friends of Mike and BJ. 

The best part was ending the evening by sitting around a campfire by the pond.  You probably get the idea that I love a good campfire.  It’s near the top of my list for one of the things I love about this lifestyle.  Surprisingly, we have them all the time in Florida as the evenings get just chilly enough to (below 70!) to justify having a fire.

Other highlights of our time here were driving out to Robinson to see Steve and Diane’s gracious home where we shared a bottle of wine while lounging on their turn of the century’s home wrap around porch. Diane had napkins that said, “Fireflies and Front Porches, does it get any better?”  Only with the addition of friends. . .  (and maybe some vino fino).

Diane is well-known for her amazing flower gardens.  I was lucky enough to even catch a butterfly posing on one of the butterfly bushes.

Vic also had a first while we here—riding along in the cab of a combine while it was harvesting soybeans. Mike heard the combine working down the road and came up with the idea of taking Vic to see a farmer in action.  PB Finley, the farmer, was generous in offering Vic a chance to join him in the combine. Vic said it was pretty incredible to see the advanced technology of this equipment. The combine cuts the soybeans and pulls them via a wheel onto a conveyor belt, then into a chute where they are sucked into a hopper and separated from the plant and thrown into a holding tank—all via a computerized panel in the air-conditioned cab. Quite the experience.

One attraction we missed the last times we were here was visiting the grave of one of Newton’s most illustrious residents, Burl Ives at the Mound Cemetery. We took the opportunity to stop by here with Mike and BJ on the way to Robinson. I like visiting old graveyards and this one was no exception. There aren’t many hills around here but they managed to find one for this small chapel and cemetery overlooking the corn and soybean fields. Old Burl had one of the most prominent headstones, fitting for a man of his size and stature. The most touching part of his grave was the frosty the snowman statues that someone left at the base of his headstone.  I also did not know he served in WWII.

We also took a ride one night into the town of Effingham, one of the bustling metropolises about twenty miles away. This little adventure included a visit to an RV park to see another couple, Roger and Tammy, who are full-timers from this area. Roger and Mike used to teach together in the 70s.  (The irony is that all of these couples have teaching backgrounds like us.)  After a few hours of enjoying their great hospitality, we hatched a plan to rendezvous together to Cincinnati. Roger had seen a show on the Travel Channel which featured an outlandish grocery store called Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati. He convinced us we should check it out together and the idea took hold as we are all en-route to Jungle Jim’s today: three Phaetons traveling north to Indianapolis on I-70 then east (and a little south) to Cincinnati. Our original plan was to travel to Columbus, Ohio today, but it will still be there in a few days.  Here we are following Mike and BJ’s Phaeton on our way to Jungle Jim’s!  We have no idea what lies ahead on this spontaneous adventure, but I’ll let you know in a couple days. 

Or—we might just follow these guys.  Ha.

Before I end this post, I sure want to thank Mike and BJ for making our “detour” to Newton such a memorable time. Thanks you two!


  1. Oh what a lovely cabin and flower garden. Not sure I could leave there quiet yet. The flowers are just too gorgeous.

    What fun...a spontaneous adventure.You four are in for a treat. We have been to Jungle Jim's. What a hoot. Don't get lost.

  2. Wow the soy beans were still green when we were there... glad to see you made the detour, I secretly knew you would...

  3. Being flexible in this lifestyle is one of the things that make it so much fun. We rarely plan ahead and change plans constantly as we find new and different adventures. You certainly had a terrific side adventure. How nice to connect at that adorable cabin:) I love that Vic got to ride in the Combine...very cool!

    I am amazed how many educators are enjoying this wonderful lifestyle. Must be our curiosity for learning and seeing new places.

    Can't wait to see what Jungle Jim's was like.

    1. I need to take the class on how to have great campsites without planning ahead. Maybe the two Pams could team teach so I can get a very large dose of this spontenaity into my full timing.

    2. That's a great topic for a blog post. It probably helps that I am not a big planner in general. I would like to learn how you plan so well in advance! The real trick seems to be able to find the right balance between times to wander and times of relative certainty.

  4. Amen to Pam's comment! We educators are also fortunate to have a retirement income that helps out too!
    I sure enjoyed your visit with friends. Cabins, ponds, beautiful flowers and doesn't get much better! And how gracious Vic was to help out with the to do list! We have passed so many fields in our travels...the equipment used these days is amazing. How neat to have an up close view of one working!

    Can't wait to hear about Jungle Jim's!

  5. If anywhere close one COULD NOT resist visiting that wonderful cabin and those special people. Cannot wait to hear what's in store at Jungle Jim's. How fun!

  6. I, too, definitely love a good campfire!

  7. What a great time. I am sure the wine did not hurt:)

  8. We were so glad you made the detour and would have been so disappointed if you hadn't made it. We so enjoy spending time with you both ( and also with the dogs).

  9. What a gorgeous header picture! And Wow what a fabulous spontaneous adventure you are having. I need much more spontenaity in my travels that's for sure. The cabin is darling. What good friends you have made on the road. I think next time we stop back at the farm to take care of chores we need to make sure you two are invited over. Even chores look like fun when you are around.


Don't be shy. We would love to hear your comments!