Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Delivery to Calera, Alabama Journal

Pick-up & Delivery:

Winnebago has increased production of motor homes to meet new sales. Bennett Drive Away has been under pressure to get them moved. We drivers have been watching the severe winter weather in all directions, BUT we did find one we could deliver without driving through sleet/freezing rain & snow!

Calera, AL is south of Birmingham on Hwy 65. South & warmth?? The forecast did indicate that we might be doing some “dodge the weather” driving on the way home.

The winter weather drive to Forest City to pick up our unit included snow covered, partially snow covered, slush, ice, an accident causing us to turn around and take another route (was good because we found an alternative better road to use after pick-up), and some vehicles in the median!

This unit is a “tiny, 24 ft,Itasca, Navion with a $116,000 sticker price. Very compact reminding one of a doll-house for adults. It does have a bed with a memory foam mattress. It is in the back of the unit. The extension slides out the back instead of the side! Because drivers are not allowed to run the generator it will be like sleeping in a cupboard tonite—very cozy here on the Walmart lot in Bloomington,IL.

15 mpg gas mileage, easy to keep warm, and easy in and out of stations makes up for the lack of room.

We started with cloudy, hazy sky, a temp of 9 degrees & a 15 mph tail wind driving through deep snow covered landscape (even the trees had a layer of snow clinging to their branches). Crossing into Illinois with sun shining, blue sky ,32 degrees hardly any snow cover and still our tail wind!

“Recalculate”
Our map-quest search before we left gave us a route, but the Drive-Away route was different. Because we’ve been this way we chose a simpler different route that will be acceptable with safe places to park for the night!

Dining:
The Fiesta Ranchera restaurant across the street from Walmart served a tasty economical meal. I had the Polla Ranchero, a chicken breast covered with cheese served with rice, beans & lettuce salad in a small taco shell. Papa Jim had a sampler plate with 5 small enchiladas covered with lettuce & sour cream. Freshly made crisp chips were served with a spicy salsa.

Day 2:
A long day of driving through various landscapes starting with the length of Illinois ranging from acres of flat farm ground, grain elevators dotting the countryside, fertilizer trucks spreading product, areas of businesses and manufacturing, oil wells. The haze gave way to blue skies and sunshine!

Into the rolling hills of Kentucky with snow dusting the ground in the forests making a contrast to the stark gray/black tree trunks and barren branches. Water seeping through the rock cliffs along the highway became frozen waterfalls. Across the flooded Ohio river with a tug and several barges working their way upstream. Past an open pit coal mine. First green fields of winter wheat sighted in southern Kentucky.
Into Tennessee—green grass in the ditches and the large green southern pines are a welcome sight for these 2 winter-weary travelers!

Gertrude, our Garmin voice did a fantastic job of directing us through Nashville, TN. We have had some “not fun” times navigating that city in the past! She proved herself and will definitely be a part of our travels in the future. (Thanks, Laura, for showing me how to use her)

It is Flying J for out night’s stop. They were all out of their ground chicken with apple sausage, but the charcoal grilled country ham was delicious. The southern spicy biscuits & gravy were excellent. A breakfast for our supper was comfort food for us tonight.

Listening to Focus on the Family's Radio Theater of C.S. Lewis's "The Screwtape Letters" helped to make the interstate miles pass by quickly. Lewis uses the negative to teach the positive.

Also listened to the music on the Reader's Digest Music Album "Timeless Inspiration." It includes information on each of the songs in a small booklet with the CD's. Interesting to note that many of our hymns were written in the 1800's! "God Be With You Until We Meet Again" was written by a pastor studying the origin of the word "good-by." The dictionary indicated that the word was short for "God be with you." He wrote the song to be a musical benediction!

Meredith Wilson's mom taught Sunday School in Iowa when he was a boy. Her weekly benediction to the class was "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You." In the 50's Wilson was the director of the radio program, "The Big Show" broadcast on Sundays. He was asked to provide a closing theme song. Remembering his Mom's good-by phrase he used it to write this song.

It was raining when we arrived at the dealer. Good to have the salt washed off the vehicles, but not pleasant to unload and unhook. A fast, efficient delivery set-up!

Mercedes-Benz Museum & Plant Tour

We headed west. While looking through our Alabama Official Vacation Guide we discovered that Mercedes-Benz factory and museum was in Tuscaloosa. (travel hint: pick one up or order on line for the state you are visiting. It is full of places to see, as well as restaurants and motels in the area.)

All we had was the address. Gertrude Garmin to the rescue! She got us there in time for the factory tour plus looking through the museum. Some of the motor homes we deliver have a Mercedes Diesel engine.

Interesting facts from the Plant tour:

We put on our earphones and safety glasses, boarded a bus at the museum and entered through tight security into the modern and clean factory.
  • Since it is several miles from a town/city they have a bank, restaurant, day care, exercise room,and travel agency located on site for the "team members"(employees). (no pictures of plant allowed!)
  • This is the only Mercedes-Benz plant in the US.
  • They ship the finished cars all over the world.
  • Robots,that resemble our grandson's lego creations, do welding on the bodies and painting. The rest of the assembly is done by people (team members).
  • Ultra-sound is used to test the welds.
  • Each car has 3 coats of paint but only uses 1 gal paint per car.
  • All the motors are made in Germany and imported for use in the factory.
  • We saw cars being manufactured with right-hand steering wheels for overseas.
  • Areas for a complete quality control included testing even for inside noise & vibrations from various types of roads.
  • It was a 2 mile walking tour. The "team members" have 3-wheeled bicycles with a platform on the back to use to go from one area to another because of the large plant. This saves time for them. We did not get to use the tricycles!!!
  • No free samples!!!

Interesting facts from the Museum:


  • Gottlieb Damiler invented this motorcycle in 1885. A most uncomfortable ride with the motor mounted between your legs!

  • In 1886 Carl Benz and Gottlieb Damiler lived 60 miles apart in Germany. They never met nor exchanged ideas, yet both reached the same goal in the same year by introducing to the world the first gasoline powered car.


  • Carl Benze made his car from a 3-wheeler. His wife, Bertha, was the first woman to drive a car when she took her 2 sons on a 100 mile trip to visit relatives!


  • Gottlieb Damiler mounted a gasoline motor on a 4 wheeled carriage. He invented a boat with motor and a gondola for powering an airship.


  • Following Damiler's death in 1900, an Austrian, Emil Jellinek took over the company. He insisted that the company be named for his daughter, Mercedes. In 1926 the two companies merged forming the Mercedes-Benz Company.
  • In 1902 a chassis cost $8,400 to $14,500 depending on whether you got a model that would run 35 or 70 mph. Plus a touring body that cost from $1500 to $2075 depending on the style.
  • William Steinway, the piano magnate, became interested in manufacturing the cars in the US because there was a 45% import tax.
  • In the mid 90's, the German automaker joined with a Swiss manufacturer of watches and developed the micro-compact "Smart" car.
  • Of course, you put men and cars together and you will have a race. Mercedes-Benz has been winning races since the 1800's.
Back to the Prairie:

The next miles were driven in fog/ rain/snow combination. We met the expected storm system! Gertrude led us through Memphis traffic and "hard-to-see" weather. As we went north the rain continued. Rivers were bankful, fields were shiny with mud and water puddles.

Pizza Hut delivery allowed us to stay put in our motel room in Hannibal, Missouri.

We finished our last miles with blue skies and sunshine the next day.

Thanking the Lord for another safe traveling adventure!

Prairie Schooners

















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