Ever RV Tries to be Unique

July 30, 2010

It’s no secret the Sole4Souls RV isn’t your normal beige or white RV. No, we’re going for the NASCAR logo look. Here are two other RV’s that have their own distinctive style.

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Largest Boot In The World!

July 29, 2010

The brown background is a giant piece of leather!

I remember my brothers going to a tiny shoe store and getting Red Wing boots each September for back-to-school. Little did I think I’d ever be at the Red Wing corporate headquarters in none other than, Red Wing Minnesota.
We met with WesTheis, who is responsible for donating thousands and thousands of Red Wing shoes to Soles4Souls. We’ve personally experienced the joy on the faces of people who put on a pair of Red Wing boots and say “I never knew shoes could be this comfortable.” After thanking Wes for his contribution to Soles4Souls we crossed the street to the Red Wing Museum, chronicling their 150 years of business. Check out their “World’s Largest Boot”!
To make the boot:
• It took 13 months to complete. Actual fabrication of the boot required 5 months.
• The leather was joined together using the same thread and sewing machines
used in the regular production of boots.
• The final stitching required lowering a person into the boot via a pulley system.
• The gusset label was sewn on tapestry loom in Italy.
• An actual lock stitch was used to join all the components.
Red Wing has given us many shoes in large sizes, but none as large as this boot!

Following in the Footsteps of our Mentors

July 29, 2010

Last year, while working for Soles4Souls at the Ottawa Tulip Festival, Allan and I quickly made friends with an Italian couple who inspired us with their close relationship and zest for life. Our friendship bonded as we shared money-saving, bargain-hunting tips. Yes, the four of us are cheap!
In honor of Joe and Giordana, Allan and I made plans to visit an Italian Festival, complete with traditional foods and music. Imagine our surprise to discover admission was $12.00 per person. (And that didn’t even include a free cannoli!) We thought, “What would Joe and Giordana do? They’d never pay full price for admission to an event.”
Boy did we make our friends proud! We discovered you got free admission to the festival if you came an hour early and attended mass. Allan was raised Catholic and I went to a Catholic boarding school for two weeks, so we felt right at home with 3,000 other people worshipping together. (Statistics aren’t available on how many people were there only for the free admission!)

Big Mailorder Company in A Great Small Town

July 28, 2010

Ever order shoes from a catalog? Then you probably ordered from B.A. Mason. They are the largest mail order footwear cataloger in the world.The company is named after one of the founders of Mason Shoe, Bert A. Mason.

Bert and his father August Mason, started the company back in 1904 in a small logging town in northern Wisconsin called Chippewa Falls. Over a hundred years later, the company is still located in Chippewa Falls and is still owned and run by the Mason family. At one time Chippewa Falls had the largest lumber mill in the world.

In northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, lumber was king and in a small factory, Bert established his reputation by making sturdy leather boots for the lumberjacks and rivermen who harvested the huge stands of white pines. Those men demanded a lot from their footwear, and Bert made sure those demands were met.
Today B.A. Mason employs over 450 people in the Chippewa Falls area. Allan and I had a delightful visit with Scott Hunt and his co-workers Katie and Dwayne. They even took us out to lunch! It always surprises me how quickly you can sense a corporate culture. Within minutes, we knew how all three of them loved their jobs and living in Chippewa Falls with their families. So often, we hear about disgruntled employees, stressed by their jobs, the economy and their life in general. It was so refreshing to spend time with Scott, Katie and Dwayne and see how they had found the perfect personal and work balance.
So once again, we met great people who support the shoe charity, Soles4Souls with the donation of thousands of shoes!

Fantasies In A Deserted State Fairgrounds

July 26, 2010

Deserted State Fair Buildings

Almost everyone has been to a local state fair, complete with hoards of people viewing 4-H animals and giant zucchini squash while devouring deep fried Twinkies. Now picture that state fair totally devoid of people, animals and hot oil. That’s where we are camping in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin for the next two nights. We’re enjoying the solitude of being the only people on the entire Northeast Wisconsin State Fairgrounds. Believe me, if I lived here when I was younger, my “posse” and I would have taken over this fairground as our giant playground. Everything is wide open from the dairy barns to the Kiwanis snack bar. Allan and I walked around, overseeing our “domain” and marveling that a community is safe enough to leave buildings unattended and open to the public. Can’t even imagine the trouble I would have gotten into as a child by having all these buildings open to mischief. Why, that pig barn over yonder would have been a perfect place to take the head off a cheap plastic doll, fill her body with illegal fire crackers and watch her melt into a shriveled heap of plastic. (One of my favorite activities.)

Bats That Go Bump In The Night

July 25, 2010

AHHHH, the joys of a good night’s sleep. That is, until you feel a whoosh across your face at midnight. Not a small whoosh like an annoying mosquito. Oh no, this was a bat flying over my face. After the second whoosh, I did what anyone would do. I screamed “Allan, there’s a bat in here!” With perfect timing, the bat made a swan dive over Allan’s face. Twenty minutes later we still couldn’t find the bat, so we made a tent with sheets attached to our headboard, hopefully to keep the bat away from us. It seemed to work, since we didn’t see it again for two days. Last night, Allan stood in the bedroom and suddenly had the bat flying around his head. No matter what zookeepers tell you while displaying animals on the Tonight Show, bats are ugly and scary. Once again, amidst lots of screaming (my part) and opening doors and windows, we still don’t know where the bat is. Sitting in the dark RV, hoping to hear him fly around, resulted in us sitting in a dark RV with nothing to do. Last night however, mosquitoes buzzed constantly over our heads. So we have a choice: keep the bat that eats the mosquitoes or get rid of the bat and enjoy mosquito bites.

How Can You Lose An RV?

July 22, 2010

Usually, when we arrive at a campground, the Soles4Souls RV is the center of attention. How could you not notice a 34 foot RV that is plastered with corporate logos? This evening, we went for a walk through the state park where we had parked in site number 97. Heading back, we got disoriented, (must have been all the excitment over having the Amish inside the RV) and couldn’t find the RV. Usually the blue color stands out so the RV is easily found. Not tonight. We walked, looked, backtracked and looked some more for a hint of blue between the trees. How can you lose an RV? Finally, we saw our beloved home. From now on we’ll leave a trail of bread crumbs behind us to find our RV.

Amish Family come to our Open House

July 21, 2010

Can't photograph the Amish, so this is what you get

Today, while the Soles4Souls staff hosted an open house at the new Soles4Souls world headquarters in Nashville, Allan and I held our own open house in Wisconsin. We may not have had as big a crowd, but our RV open house attracted a most unusual crowd…an entire Amish family with seven kids. We stopped at an Amish farm to get some corn and a watermelon and began talking with the young girls in charge of the produce stand. Naturally they had questions about the RV, so we invited them all inside. Oh, how I wish I had a picture of their faces as they watched the RV expand when we slide the slideouts out! Even their dad was astounded as he saw the sink and furniture inside. The family left with Soles4Souls keychains and something new to talk about. Now that’s an open house!

True Love Means Sharing Your Candy

July 21, 2010

Next month Allan and I will have been married 33 years. And yes, the love is still there. Yesterday he wrote me a love note that conveys our relationship:
I love you near,
I love you afar,
If you decide not to eat it,
Can I have your 3 Muskateers bar?

Free Foot X-Rays!

July 18, 2010

Thanks Pat, for all the shoes!

My how times have changed! We brought the Soles4Souls RV to Stan’s Fit For Your Feet in Brookfield, Wisconsin. To help celebrate their 50th anniversary, president Jim Sajdak had an X-Ray machine on display. When the store first opened back in the 50’s, children would put their feet in a large wooden box. While parents watched on a viewer, the staff person took an actual X-Ray of the child’s foot to see how the shoe fit the child’s foot. Don’t worry, Stan’s doesn’t use that technique any more! You can buy a variety of adult and children’s shoes without worrying about the effects of X-Rays.
Stan’s Fit For Your Fit is one of the largest contributor of gently used shoes to Soles4Souls. Last February alone, they collected 33,000 pairs of shoes! We spent the afternoon talking to customers and encouraging them to bring their gently used shoes to Stan’s. Then Soles4Souls will get those shoes to people in need around the world.

We also got to meet Jim’s daughter, who was heading off to play Cosette in the musical, Le Miserables.
Break a leg Megan!