Caterpillar Visitor Center, John Deere Gator and Another Amazon Tour

October 1-7, 2019 — How did it get to be October already? It seems like every month goes by faster than the last one. 

We started the month of October by traveling from Minnesota into southern Wisconsin where we stopped for a few days to catch up with family members and to visit a few new sights. Even though we’ve lived in Wisconsin for most of our lives there still are numerous interesting places we have yet to see. 

From there we moved south into north central Illinois where we witnessed evidence of recent flooding as well as current flooding. We followed the Rock River from Rockford to Dixon, Illinois and saw widespread devastation. Segments of the river have been flooded all year from both record rainfall and snowfall. Much of the cropland in the area is either underwater or too wet for equipment to harvest the fields and some of the fields were not even planted during the year due to continuous wet weather. 

From Dixon we moved south to the Peoria, Illinois area where we spent the remainder of the week exploring both by car and by bicycle. Peoria, which sits along the Illinois River, has also experienced major flooding this year. Despite the flooding, the area is open for business with many great sights to visit. 

All nights this week were free stays with three nights at a Boondockers Welcome host site and four nights at a casino. Follow along below for a look into our week. 


Mile Driven - RV
Miles Driven - Car

After a few last goodbyes we set out from Minnesota enroute to Arizona for the winter. It’s always hard leaving family but thanks to technology it’s easier than ever to stay in touch.  We will be seeing them again in just a few short weeks when we fly back in December to celebrate the holidays. Until then, we’ll remain connected via phone calls, texting and FaceTime/Duo. 

Our trip from Minnesota to Madison, Wisconsin was cold, wet and dreary. A blanket, pot of soup and Netflix were welcomed upon reaching our destination. 

Everyday is an adventure in the life and times of being a full-time RVer. There’s always excitement around every turn and on this day, ours was waking up to an almost deceased battery in the Kia Soul. We do have roadside assistance but felt it was easier and likely quicker to just tow the car a few miles down the road to Auto Zone for a replacement. 

The Ho-Chunk Casino in Madison, Wisconsin offers free overnight parking to RVers. Security patrols the lots frequently and a shuttle takes visitors to the casino. It wasn’t the quietest or the most picturesque casino we have stayed at but the location was perfect for exploring the city. 

We were back at Amazon for tour number two, this time at MKE1 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Last week we toured the MSP1 Fulfillment Center in Shakopee, Minnesota. Both facilities are very similar in that they only handle small items less than 18″ long but the distribution technology and processes were slightly different making for an interesting contrast. We’d really like to tour a location that handles larger products to see how they manage those items. There are 23 total fulfillment centers in North America that offer tours so hopefully we’ll find one along the way. 

While driving through Delavan, Wisconsin we came across a 14 foot tall giraffe statue that honors the town’s circus heritage. From 1847 to 1895 the town was home to 26 circus companies including the P. T. Barnum Circus which later became the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus dubbed “The Greatest Show On Earth”. The circus closed down in 2017 but the legacy lives on at the Circus World Museum in nearby Baraboo. Wisconsin. The museum holds one of the largest collections of circus materials in the world including circus wagons, posters, photography and artifacts along with collections from carnivals and Wild West Shows. 

Our final stop in Wisconsin was at John Deere Gator Works in Horicon for a factory tour. This is the only facility that manufacturers the Gator utility vehicles and many of the 165 units produced daily are shipped to other countries. Unlike other John Deere tours we have been on where we rode on a tram, this one was a walking tour. Our guide was excellent as he had worked in the factory for 31 years and was extremely knowledgeable. Safety is #1 at John Deere evidenced by the personal protective equipment they dressed us up in: hard hats, safety glasses, ear plugs, coveralls, steel toed toed overshoes, metal top of foot shields, and coated gloves. Wow! Wish we would have gotten a photo of our outfits but we left our phones behind as they’re not allowed on the tour. We felt like the Michelin Man walking in all that gear. The tour was great and well worth our time. We even got to keep the gloves and the John Deere hats. Nice!

The Midwest certainly has had its share of flooding this year. Spring flooding is common but heavy rains all year have caused continuous issues. The Rock River in Illinois was flooded and the Rock River East Park that sits along the river near Byron, Illinois was completely under water during our visit there. How sad….

President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Grandview Drive in Peoria Heights, Illinois to be “the world’s most beautiful drive”. The 2.5 mile long drive is lined with historic homes and offers panoramic views of the Illinois River valley. There are several parking areas along the drive where you can stop to hike, bike or just sit back and take in the beautiful scenery. It’s definitely worth a visit when in the area. 

It was interesting to stumble upon this 25 foot tall sculpture based Grant Wood’s painting “American Gothic”. The statue moves from place to place every few months and is currently in Peoria, Illinois. We first saw the sculpture in Elkhart, Indiana in May of 2018. 

What has 14 foot tall tires, hauls 400 tons and costs $5 million? This 797F mining truck manufactured by Caterpillar on display at their Visitor Center in Peoria, IL. It’s huge!! What a fun and innovative place to visit! There are multiple pieces of excavating equipment that guests can climb on and simulators to test your skills on operating the heavy equipment. The 2.5 story mining truck also doubles as a theater where you can take a virtual ride while learning about the company. It’s a great stop for adults and children of all ages. 

Illinois is the third state we’ve biked in with our Lectric XP e-bikes and like Minnesota and Wisconsin, great trails are in abundance. The Rock Island State Trail is an asphalt/crushed stone path that covers 38.2 miles from Peoria to Toulon through small towns, farmland and woodlands. Multiple access points with ample parking is available along the trail. 

Another busy week of traveling and exploring has come and gone. Follow along next week as we continue to make our journey south enroute to Arizona for the winter. See you then!

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