* RV Travelogue 2003 *

OUR FIRST YEAR !!!



2 JUL 03, LEWISVILLE TX -- After looking at RVs of all types for over 30 years, we were beginning to get serious about buying. We had settled on type and manufacturer and made one test drive when the co-pilot went to visit a friend in Dallas TX. UA 40EWhile out and about one day, they stopped by the Winnebago dealership in Lake Dallas so the friend could see what models we were looking at. To make a long story short, I got a telephone call in VA to tell me about two great deals the the dealership had on coaches in the line above what we figured we could afford. After talking with the co-pilot, the salesman, doing some quick internet research, and more telephone talks with co-pilot and salesman, I took leave from the Air Force and flew to Dallas. The coach was actually at their Oklahoma City dealership and had to be brought to Dallas. It had been their "show" coach for the previous 9 months, going to RV shows in Texas and Oklahoma. A salesman at the Oklahoma City dealership was talking with someone about buying the coach but did not have any money down as yet. Since we had looked at similar coaches before we were pretty sure this was the one, so we gave the dealership a down-payment so they could win the tug-a-war with the Oklahoma branch. After it arrived in Dallas, we did a thorough inspection of the coach while they had it on the service pit changing oil, etc. After a couple days inspection, talking with the dealership, and a test drive, we provided the salesman with a list of items we thought needed to be corrected. We returned on July 2nd, went through more inspection and familiarization with the many systems we needed to know how to operate, and by late afternoon all the purchase paperwork was completed, minor fixes from our PDI were taken care of, we had spent our $100 voucher from the dealer in the company store for sewer hose, electric adapters, and other necessities, and we were ready to drive away in our new motorhome, a 2003 Winnebago Ultimate Advantage 40e (40 ft long, "e" indicating the floor plan). Our first "trip" wasn't long. We drove apx 10 miles south to Lewisville. That night, we "boondocked" in the driveway of a fellow Winnebago owner while he installed a 3M front shield on our motorhome. We were referred to him by the dealer as the sub-contractor who does their 3M installations. He pulled us in very close to his garage where his tools were, and when we hit the button to activate the leveling jacks we learned that when the air suspension drops, the coach moves forward apx 4-6" ... any closer and our mirrors would have done more than just touch the rain gutter!! While he was installing the 3M shield, we went out to eat with the co-pilot's sister & husband and a friend, and bought a few supplies for breakfast and lunch on the road. For some reason we have always had affectionate names for our vehicles ... very quickly the motorhome (wearing an exterior paint scheme Winnebago calls Rosewood) came to be called "Rosie."

3 JUL 03, VICKSBURG MS -- After breakfast while our 3M installer worked the edges of the film to insure all was in good shape to travel, we backed out of the driveway and headed South down I-35 to get to I-20 East. First time on the road, and in city multi-lane freeway traffic! (We did delay long enough to let the rush hour traffic thin out a bit). In East Texas we stopped to refuel, then late afternoon we stopped at a Wal-Mart in Louisiana for a few more supplies. Back on the road, the sun began to get low in the west as we were approaching Vicksburg, MS. We saw a sign indicating there was a campground at exit 1B, and then traffic came to a standstill due to highway construction. It took us around 45 minutes to make the next few miles. By the time we found exit 1B and made our way apx 1 mile South to Magnolia Campground at 211 Miller St, it was almost totally dark. They had vacancies, and they had pull-through sites!!! Good ... no hard tests backing into a strange location in the dark the first day out! ...and no need to hook up anything but electric power. We found Magnolia Campground to be quite nice, easily accessible, and the hosts very friendly. Cost was $20.

4 JUL 03, MONTGOMERY AL -- We arrived in Montgomery in mid afternoon, and wound our way into the residential neighborhood where our older son lives. After tours through the motorhome inside and out, we loaded a couple of extra passengers on board while others followed behind and headed a few miles north to I-85 exit 179 at Prattville where our son had checked out K&K Campground, located behind a Winnebago dealership we had visited once in our search for the perfect motorhome. This time I remembered to ask about AAA or other discounts. Again we got a pull-through site, but found the sites a bit muddy from recent rains. We carefully positioned the motorhome where we wouldn't be wading in water puddles. Our grandson had by that time discovered that the EasyRest leather sofa folds out into a bed, had concluded that it would work well for someone of his size, and informed his mother that he was sleeping "at Papa & Nana's RV" that night. By morning, "Rosie" had passed the grandkid test! Campground cost was $19.

5 JUL 03, HAW RIVER NC -- Bright and early, our son and daughter arrived to retrieve the grandson, and we headed north toward Virginia. After passing through Charlotte NC we started to look for campground signs along the highway. Finally we saw a sign, and left the highway to find the campground. Many miles and gradually narrowing and curvy road later, we made a right turn at a "campground" sign and came face-to-face with a black hole in the trees heading down a steep hill. As the pilot was contemplating the thought of pointing a 40' motorhome down that black hole to whatever lay at the bottom, we saw the sign "campground full." So, the co-pilot got out and directed the backing up operation to get turned around ... the local residents sitting on the porch across the highway probably talked about that sight for quite some time! After getting back to I-85 we stopped at a Golden Corral to pick up supper, and resumed our trek north looking for a campground sign. Many miles further north, we gave up on finding a campground and pulled into a Cracker Barrel somewhere north of Greensboro about 9:30 pm. We had heard Cracker Barrel restaurants are RV friendly, and sure enough, the manager graciously allowed us to park over-night in one of their designated RV slots in the rear of the building (note: the sites are not long enough for 40' RV and towed vehicle...but we weren't towing as yet). The next morning when we went inside for a Cracker Barrel breakfast, we had a couple of RV neighbors alongside us.

6 JUL 03, HAMPTON VA -- About mid-afternoon, we arrived home in Yorktown VA. We went by our home to pick up a car, then drove a short distance south to the Langley AFB Bethel FamCamp in Hampton where we had reservations. Here we quickly discovered that all campgrounds are not created equal! After backing up their tight lane into our designated site, we found that the electric and water connections were on the wrong side of the motorhome, and at the wrong end of the site! ...we had to pull back out to the main campground road, turn around, and pull in nose-first ... the "wrong" way. Now the electric cables would reach, but we had to buy 10' additional water hose to reach the water connection. We had no other place to park the huge beast at that point as we were on the waiting list for parking in the base RV storage lot, so we planned to remain in the FamCamp for the next two weeks while getting state inspection and registration taken care of along with our military decal. Then we were leaving for a week's leave back to Alabama followed by a week TDY in South Carolina, hoping to have a storage lot site by the time we got back home in August. We spent 6-10 July in one site, then after being parked in the end of the parking area for two nights because the campground was full with earlier reservation (we spent those nights at our townhouse about 2 miles away), we spent the 13th-16th in a second site ... pulled in nose first again. While in the FamCamp we discovered a low tire on an inside dual. After pumping the tire up using the on-board air tap, the tire service center found a cracked valve stem. Two days later we did the same routine over again and found the new valve stem cracked also! The second new one was good. We also had an open house party for the office staff so they could see the rolling retirement-home-to-be. Despite the limitations in their hook-ups, and the fact that there are no sewer hook-ups ... just the dump station on the way into the FamCamp ... the price was right at $10 a night!

17 JUL 03, GREENSBORO NC -- Enroute to Alabama for a visit with children and grandkids, in late afternoon we arrived at Fields RV Campground at 2317 Campground Rd just off I-85 Exit 121 in Greensboro NC. We had made reservations by personal check sent via US Mail (they did not accept credit card reservations by phone!). The campground was decent, hilly, and mostly populated with what appeared to be long-term residents. We were assigned a dirt pull-through site that was low in the middle/high on each end, so we had to choose our parking position carefully in order to level properly without raising the wheels on one end or the other off the ground. Connections were water and 30a electric. There was a dump station on the way in near the combination office/small store. LP was also available on site. We had a quiet night except for the heavy rain during the night. Cost was $17.

18-26 JUL 03, MONTGOMERY AL -- We arrived in Montgomery AL in late afternoon, and headed straight to Leisure Isle RV UA 40E Park on Wetumpka Hwy North of town as this was the closest campground to our grandchildren! We found gravel sites, full-hookups w/30 amp power, and cable TV. About half the sites were occupied by long-term residents, and many sites included metal covers apx 12' wide by 25-30' long. When traversing the sharp left turn from the lower lever to the very narrow road to the upper level we managed to find some short metal posts hidden in the weeds and were "rewarded" with scratches on the lower left side compartment doors. After the scratches, we enjoyed our stay very much, especially entertaining the grandkids almost every day while their parents were at work. If Papa had added the leaf to the table, both could have easily enjoyed the morning snacks while keeping an eye on the cartoons on the television up front! Campground cost was $15 per night, with one night discount for pre-paid week. One thing we did on this trip was to take those three family tents from our Guam years to our sons ... no more tent camping for us with the motorhome begging to be used!

27 JUL 03, LAKE THURMOND GA, FGRA (FT GORDON REC AREA) -- After early church and lunch at a UA 40Enearby shopping center, we left the grandkids (along with our three adult children) and Montgomery behind, heading for a week of TDY at an Air Force Chaplain Service "Marriage and Family Ministry" workshop in Charleston SC. About 5 hr later we were approaching Augusta GA and our destination for the night, the Ft Gordon Recreation Area at Lake Thurmond (aka FGRA). We missed exit 183 off I-20, so took the next exit and worked our way back on county roads. The GPS sure come in handy in such situations, but if you follow the GPS directions blindly you will sooner or later end up in trouble ... you still have to look and think ahead when driving a 40' vehicle! When we got to the campground, the office was closed. We proceeded to the first camping area and stopped at a trailer marked "camp host." We were told what area to go to, to pick any unoccupied spot, and to check with the area host there for payment. It was a nice recreation area, with several separate RV areas and tent areas. We found a kind of grassy pull-through with water and 50 amp electric. The host at our site warned us of ants, then spread home remedy repellant around our tires and electric hoses. After getting set up, we went for a long walk along the road and to the end of the little peninsula, getting back to the motorhome just before dark. Below is a picture of "Rosie" in at FGRA. Our overnight cost was $14. BTW ... despite the ant "repellant," we had ants raiding us for over a month after this stay ... HINT: when in ant country, don't leave dry food in the dog's bowl between meals !!

28-31 JUL 03, CHARLESTON SC, CHARLESTON AFB -- After a leisurely wake-up at Lake Thurmond, we hit the road for Charleston AFB SC where we had a reservation for the week. Part of the trip was via 2-lane roads as we cut across country to save miles staying on interstate highways would require. About 4 hours later we pulled into Charleston and headed for the car rental place where we had a reservation. (Next time I'll ask if they can deliver to us!). We found the rental agency, and of course there was no place to park a 40' motorhome. About a block away I pulled into a bank parking lot and pulled to a vacant side. The co-pilot and Xena the Maltese dog went for a little walk while I went to the car rental agency. After waiting in a long line of customers, I finally got a car and returned to the bank parking lot. Before pulling around the bank building I walked up and peeked around the corner ... ooops ... the only way out that way is through the drive-through teller windows ... no way!! So I backed up a little, then went through the front parking lot to the street we need to make a right turn onto anyway. If you ever drive a 40' diesel motorhome with air suspension across those nasty traffic bumps at an angle, go really slow ... you'll get quite a ride if you don't!! A short time later we make our way into Charleston AFB and find the FamCamp. Their sites are water & 30 amp electric with a dump station by the bathhouse ... and it looks difficult to get into ... we don't need to dump now so we'll worry about that later. The FamCamp is a bit swampy, but the old asphalt is solid and the pad are concrete ... everything else is pretty damp, and it rained off and on all week. When we returned to the site on Thursday half the campground was under water. Water was gushing into the air from a broken off hydrant in a nearby site. I called the office and they said, "Yes, we know. It's been going all day and CE (the base civil engineers) can't find the shut-off valve..." Several hours later they finally found it, and most of the campground was under several inches of water... When we left the next morning, the water was still turned off, and yes, the dump station was "fun" getting into with a 40' motorhome, but I finally got close enough by backing in. Our cost was $10 a night. Then we hit the road for home where we finally had a spot in the Langley AFB storage lot to park "Rosie."

** THE STORAGE LOT EXPERIENCE: They rented us a space in the on-base fenced storage lot, but when I went to park UA 40Ein it I found the slot was 9 1/2 to 10 ft wide at the most, and there were trailers on both sides, both seriously crowding the lines toward our empty spot ... no matter, there was not sufficient room in front of the space to get the 40' long, 8.5 feet wide beast pointed toward it anyway! I went back to the other side of the base and talked to the lot manager, we looked at the layout, and she said we could have a spot next to one corner of the lot, and could park at an angle since they couldn't use the very corner spot anyway. That worked, but I noticed there was an empty spot about 20 feet off our nose. Later when I asked, sure enough, there was a 35' motorhome registered for that spot. A month or so later when returning from a trip, when I went to park Rosie in "our" spot, the 35' rig was there, and as I figured, there was no way to get into our spot ... fortunately I was out wanting in rather than being blocked in and wanting out!! After looking around a bit I found an unmarked spot beside a small metal building. I parked there, and went to visit the lot manager again. After some discussion, she agreed that the space beside the building would work great, and that became our spot. As I have become more familiar with the storage lot, it is obvious that there are very few spots that will work for a 40' wide-body motorhome ... and our's is the only 40'er in the facility! Here you see Rosie peacefully parked in her eventually negotiated storage position. You can see the tongue of the short-lived tow dolly in the left side of the picture. (more on that later...)

28 AUG 03, WILLIAMSBURG VA -- We have an office off-site planning meeting scheduled just before a 4 day weekend, and we want to take the motorhome to the Washington DC area to visit family and friends. The off-site location is Williamsburg Christian Retreat Center (WCRC) just north of Williamsburg VA ... and they have an RV park! Great! Off we go to on the short drive to Williamsburg ... and we have a new addition, a tow dolly purchased to tow our fwd Nissan. It works well as a temporary towing solution since we already have a front wheel drive car. Our long-term goal is to get a mini-van to flat-tow, and carry my bicycle(s) inside. I hand park the dolly at the campground, and we chain it to a tree. The campground is very nice, wooded, quiet, and has few sites occupied. We pick one site, but it is too sloped to get level. We pick another. It works, but when I tell the office we have moved they tell us that site is reserved for an early next morning arrival. So we break down and move to a third site. Our cost was $22 for the night for water & 30 amp electric.

29-30 AUG 03, WASHINGTON DC -- About 3 hours after leaving Williamsburg, we arrive at Andrews AFB MD just outside the DC Beltway where we have reservations for the weekend. Having been stationed at Andrews before, I know we have to enter at the "truck gate," and open things up for a thorough inspection inside and out ... all doors, hood, truck, etc open on both motorhome and towed, then step back and watch. The military working dog goes through every nook and cranny outside, then two Security Forces airmen walk through the inside. We are allowed to enter ... on to the FamCamp. The very narrow entry road between some large trees is a bit intimidating, but after that it is easy going. Most of the campground is covered with large gravel, we have full hookups with 30 amp electric ... there are a total of 29 full-hookups in the FamCamp. We enjoyed our visit to Andrews, went up in the Washington Monument (it was closed for the entire 3 years we lived in the area), and had my brother and his wife over for dinner in "Rosie." Cost was $16 a night. After breaking camp, we park Rosie & the towed car-on-dolly in a parking lot about a block from Chapel 2 while attending Sunday services, then head off-base to Rt 4 and Solomons MD where we are going to visit friends who stay there in their travel trailer every summer. We learn we cannot exit at the truck gate (it is possible to back a swivel-bed dolly a short distance ... fortunately about 10 feet was sufficient). Out the main gate, and on our way!

31 AUG 03, SOLOMONS MD -- After a leisurely drive we find the Navy Rec area at Solomons MD. The registration office is outside the front gate ... they tell us we can make it through the zig-zag concrete barricades ... we're not so sure, so we take the car off the dolly before proceeding, and we make it fine. This is a very nice recreation area with many sites in several areas. There are many different recreation activities ... none of which we need for a one night stay, but we have no choice ... 4 passes come with the rather expensive $33 nightly cost. TV reception is poor, but we didn't come to watch TV. We find our friends and have a wonderful time as they have been crabbing that day and have two large pots of blue crab. They had a crowd for dinner, and we learned how to shuck crab ... they were delicious! The next day when we head for home, just as we reach 40 mph and start across the 3/4 mile bridge over the Pataxuent River, we discover the value of a breaking-camp checklist ... our entry door awning is still extended. AND we also learn that the awning will not go out OR EVEN IN when the ignition key is turned on. Great safety feature to prevent extending the awning while underway, but no help when it is already extended and you want to bring it in while underway!! We get across the bridge, find a place to pull over, turn off the engine, and bring in the awning. Then back on the road we go for home.

16 SEP 03, EMPORIA VA -- Hurricane Isabel is headed our way. "Rosie" is at the dealer getting a few little warranty items taken care of (and the scratches we got in Alabama repaired). We call and tell them we would like to pick her up and leave town ... they say "great idea!" We know the military will tell personnel to evacuate the next morning. With few routes off the Peninsula, and knowing that I-64 will become all-lanes-one-way, we decide to get a head start before traffic gets crazy. And rather than going NW up the peninsula ... which is our designated evacuation route, but is ALSO the projected path of the hurricane ... we go SW toward North Carolina. Just before dark we stop for supper in Emporia VA. We debate staying overnight in the Food Lion parking lot where a couple of tractor-trailers are parked. Then we look up the hill and see a huge flock of RVs and tractor-trailers in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Knowing that Wal-Marts are normally "RV-friendly," we head up the hill. After doing some shopping, we ask the night manager if it is ok for us to park overnight. After he got over the shock of our asking ... he obviously knew there were already 20+ RVs in his parking lot ... he said, "no problem." We cranked up the generator and the a/c, tuned in the TV to check the weather forecasts, and spent a restful night at Wal-Mart.

17-20 SEP 03, HIGH POINT NC -- After a walk around the Wal-Mart parking lot talking with other RVers fleeing the approaching hurricane and checking the weather forecast, we called the campground in Raleigh where we had a reservation and canceled due to the projected high winds there, and we headed further west. We now had our eye on our back-up location another RVer had recommended to us. We went to Oak Hollow Family Campground at 3415 N Centennial St in High Point NC. Oak Hollow is a city run campground and was very nice. There are three different areas, each with slightly different amenities, and it is self check-in with follow-up by a park ranger later. We stayed in the first of three areas. The asphalt sites were around the top of a hill. We had to be very careful picking a site due to some having a steep slope that would make leveling the motorhome impossible. Some would be dangerous in that the automatic levelers would want to lift the rear wheels off the ground. We finally selected a site in the center near the crest of the hill and were able to level with one front wheel slightly off the ground. We had a full hookup with 30 amp electric and cable tv. When the ranger stopped by the next day, we paid him for three nights at $18 per night. We later paid him for a fourth night while awaiting recall to Langley AFB which had taken several feet of water and heavy wind damage during the storm. At our location, the height of the storm brought 40-50 mph winds and 24 or so hours of rain. We headed back home on the 20th to find virtually no damage in our almost treeless neighborhood, but quite extensive damage in the surrounding area. Rosie went back to the dealer so they could finish the interrupted warranty work.

10-11 OCT 03, COLONIAL BEACH VA -- After communicating via email with some members of the SMART (Special Military Active and Retired Travelers) RV group, we decided to join the local chapter for their monthly muster. The local chapter is called SMART CATS (Cental Atlantic Travelers). They have members from the Virginia and northern North Carolina area. They were meeting UA 40Eat the Outdoor World Harbor View Campground near Colonial Beach VA for the weekend. I got of from work at 3pm, and we headed north on what was supposed to be a 2 hr drive. About 4 hrs later ... after following the GPS directions (I will learn someday!) down some narrow and winding country roads ... we arrived after dark, and after the pot luck supper was nearly over! We had lot's of help getting parked in a VERY tight sites surrounded by several hazards. During the process we discovered how great the full-duplex 2-way headsets are for backing into a site and getting situated. We decided to buy ourselves a set soon! During the weekend we visited the nearby Ingleside Winery and George Washington's birthplace. We were a little disappointed when we asked if we could stay a day longer to enjoy the three-day weekend, and were told that the campground was closing for the season 2 days into the 3 day weekend! Our cost was $16 per night. Here you see us ready to head back south with the dolly and "towed" behind ... almost 65' overall length!

12 OCT 03, URBANNA VA -- We took our time getting around and checking out of the campground. Cruising south toward home we weren't ready to go home yet ... the last thing we wanted to do 2 days into a 3-day weekend was to go home! We had driven the route many times and had often wondered about a couple of campgrounds we saw advertised along the way so decided to stop at whichever we came to first. So, when we saw the signs for Bethpage Camp Resort on the Rappahannock River, we followed the signs to the campground. After leaving the highway, we met several RVs on their way out along the mile or two of 2-lane road so figured there had to be a vacancy. Not to worry, they had plenty of room. Bethpage is a very large campground. A couple of areas are permanently installed trailers, but there is also plenty of transient sites. After check-in, a golf cart led us to a large, very long grass pull-thrus with full-hookup and 50 amp electric. We had a pleasant stay, enjoyed looking around the campground by car, and concluded we would want bicycles if we were staying long. Overnight cost was $31.31, a bit steep for a simple overnight, but perhaps alright if staying longer and taking advantage of all the activities they offer. About mid-morning on the 13th we headed for home, washed down Rosie, and put her back in the storage area.

16-18 OCT 03, WILLIAMSBURG VA -- The co-pilot's sister came to visit, so we took the weekend to take her RVing. We went about 20 miles from home to the Navy campground at Cheatham Annex, just off the Colonial Parkway between Williamsburg and Yorktown. We got a back-in site near the York River with full-hookups, 50 amp electric and cable TV. During the days we visited Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens, and on Friday evening we had some Georgia friends over for dinner. They were visiting Williamsburg for the week. The campground is decent, with concrete pads that are barely long enough for a 40 footer. We also discovered we need to buy a longer cable for our CATV hookup ... our several pieces were too short, even when linked together! The only unpleasantry was the ship reunion group (that's what the campground management told me later when I inquired) in the other part of the campground. They were doing kareoke and other music a very high volume until 2 or 3 am. If I had had a telephone number for the Shore Patrol I would have called to complain, but about the time I was ready to go find them, the noise stopped. I could not imagine the campground tolerating such rude behavior, especially with senior officer housing not that far away. Actually it wasn't that noticeable in the rear bedroom of the motorhome as we normally run the heat pump system fans all the time at night for white noise. That along with our double pane windows pretty much muffled the noise. But the co-pilot's sister in the front on the EasyRest fold out bed was hearing much more of the noise, due probably to more and larger windows in that area. Cost was $18/night.

7-8 NOV 03, WILLIAMSBURG VA -- I got off work at 3pm on Friday, and we set out on the 25 mile drive to the American Heritage RV Park in Williamsburg for another SMART CATS muster. They have mostly all pull-through sites, grass, full-hookups, and a few sites have 50 amp electric. Some sites are a little low on one end or the other, but not too bad. They also have a pool that is only open during summer months, and they have a storage area for RVs. We enjoyed the weekend with the CATS members, getting a little shopping in at the Pottery Factory and eating lunch at a Mexican restaurant. We attended worship services at Wellspring United Methodist Church before breaking camp and heading for home on Sunday. Cost was $47.74 for our 30 amp site for the two nights.

5-6 DEC 03, PETERSBURG VA -- I got off work just after noon on Friday and we set out for the South 40 KOA at Petersburg VA for the December SMART CATS muster. We arrive before dark this time! The KOA has dirt pull-through sites, water & 30 amp electric. They have a dump station on site along with a small store. I had winterized the water system after the November muster, so we carried bottled water to drink along with jugs of water to use for commode flushing. We will dump the tank at the dump station on departure, and not have to re-winterize the water system. During the weekend we had a hard frost! The CATS had their annual catered Christmas dinner, played table games late each night, and had a book exchange. We took along some icicle lights to hang along the edge of the awning, and put them on a timer. They looked great both nights! On Saturday we drove to nearby Ft Lee to check out the Exchange. On Sunday morning, we checked out and drove to Ft Lee to attend chapel services, then went to the exchange for lunch and a little more shopping. We went by the KOA on the way home to check for the hose adapter I had left at the dump station earlier, but it was not there. Then we headed back home ... we have decided the worst part of RVing is going back home at the end of a weekend. We would rather just stay gone!! UA 40ECost for the two nights at the North 40 KOA was $56.

Here is a photo of Xena in her favorite place ... the co-pilot's lap. While parked, she likes to stand on the dash of the motorhome and enjoy the great view out the large front window!

23 DEC 03, BLACKSBURG SC -- We took leave over the Christmas & New Year holidays for a grand adventure. We were going to Alabama to visit children and greandkids for Christmas, and after a few months of discussion had hammered out a deal to take the two grandkids ... with their mom & aunt (our daughter) as escorts, to meet their great-grandparents in New Mexico. Very daring, driving across country and back over Christmas and New Year's, but we have the chance and we are brave! Enroute to Alabama we decided to overnight at a Flying J at Blacksburg SC. Flying J's are normally "RV Friendly," so we pulled in, refueled, and then asked where we could park overnight. Rather than having RV slots out on the edge of the parking lot, we were pointed to 4 RV slots near the pump island. There was a trailer in one slot, and a truck in another. We found the slots too short for our combined length of apx 61 feet, but after pulling around for another approach, managed to get parked pretty decently. We went to sleep for an early start the next morning. About 2 am we awoke to a tremendous racket ... a racing engine with apparently no mufflers right beside us! It was a U-Haul truck. It had no mufflers, and the operator had the hood up and was working on it. It kept trying to die, and he kept gunning the engine to keep it going. After about 20 minutes, just before I had had enough and was getting ready to go outside to request he move, he slammed the hood and left. The rest of the night was quiet compared to that! We awoke early, and continued south to Alabama.

24-45 DEC 03, MONTGOMERY AL, MAXWELL AFB -- We wanted to refuel in Georgia before reaching higher fuel prices in Alabama. Seeing a freeway sign for a Chevron with diesel, we took the exit. After pulling into the station I realized there was not enough room between the pumps and the building to go between them to exit, nor was there room to go around the building. There oughta be a law!!! After fueling, we unloaded the car from the dolly, then I backed the empty dolly to where I could exit the way I entered. We then pulled onto the shoulder to re-load the car onto the dolly before getting back on I-85 toward Alabama. Note to self ... be careful of Chevron stations that have pump islands perpendicular to the building. They may have to be by-passed. Arriving in Montgomery by mid-afternoon, we checked into the Maxwell AFB FamCamp. We got a nice back-in site with covered patio (a little narrow, but it worked even with slideouts!. We had full-hookups with 50 amp electric. It was pretty cold, so we didn't leave our hoses out except when we needed to use them. They also have several pull-through sites. Cost was $12 per night. While there we bought our AF Frequent Camper package ... it's a good deal including the current military campground book and coupons for free camping in AF FamCamps when you stay at least 3 nights.

26 DEC 03, TYLER TX -- Christmas was great, even with the deep-fried turkey we weren't all that crazy about! With grandkids, daughter-in-law, and daughter all loaded up, we headed west toward New Mexico. Our planned overnight stop would be at friends in Tyler TX. In spite of a relatively early start, it was dark shortly before we reached Tyler, a 570 mile drive. We got the motorhome positioned in the cul-de-sac beside their house, ran a heavy duty cord to have power for lights and battery charger, and promptly tripped a breaker. After some checking, we realized the heat pumps had not been turned off before shutting down the generator ... dumb. With the heat pumps shut down, the 15 amp power connection worked well. It was now cold enough that we needed to use the furnace rather than the heat pumps anyway. We had a good visit and a good rest, the only little glitch being that we found the circle drive was too tight for our turning radius so we had to take the car off the dolly to get turned around the next morning and headed back out.

27 DEC 03, VEGA TX -- Another relatively early start ... after getting turned around in a too-tight cul-de-sac and re-loading the car onto the dolly, we headed west again. On recommendations of our friends in Tyler, we stayed on I-20 around the South side of Dallas, then turned onto US 287 N toward Wichita Falls. That worked pretty well, and kept us away from some construction UA 40Eareas in Dallas. We stopped in Vernon TX to refuel and remember ... our daughter was born there when we lived there for a year in the mid-1970's. We cruised Main St in our 61 foot monster, then headed on west. Our goal for the day was at least Amarillo, and hopefully as far as Vega TX where we knew there was an RV park. We made it to Vega just about dark after driving 512 miles. We didn't even see the first RV park that was supposed to be just off the interstate, so we headed to the second one on the business route. We found it easily. Walnut RV Park is on the west side of Vega. They have 40 pull-through gravel sites with full-hookups. It was 17 degrees with about a 35-40 mph wind out of the West ... chilly! We hooked up the electric, but left the water and sewer hoses inside. We saw one or two trailers off to one side of the park, so pretty much had the place to ourselves. We needed a few supplies, so unloaded the car from the dolly and went to find a grocery store. We found a small one, got what we needed, then found a Dairy Queen for supper as the ladies didn't want to cook. Cost for one night was $24, including extra charges for more than 2 people -- a real rip-off for an overnighrt stay as we used no water or sewer at all since we are self-contained and didn't hook up the water or sewer hoses! To the left is a snapshot during a lunch stop along the way ... slideouts in and cozy!

28-31 DEC 03, GRANTS NM -- Off we go on a cold morning! ...the wind is still blowing, but not quite as hard as yesterday. The fuel mileage won't be very impressive today. We have about 325 miles left to our destination. Enroute we stop at Santa Rosa for fuel and to visit with the pilot's sister and family who are headed East. While refueling, the granddaughter (who fancies herself an RV driver whenever her "Papa" stops and moves out of the driver's seat) leans on the bottom of the steering wheel and finds the air horns! She startled herself almost as much as she startled the RVer pumping fuel beside us! After an early lunch, two hours later we reach our next brief stop on the West side of Albuquerque where we enjoy a short visit with the pilot's other sister and family. On the way out of town, we stop at the American RV Park on top of Nine Mile Hill to fill up with LP ... the first re-fill since buying the motorhome last July! American RV Park is a very nice facility ... might be a good place to stay sometime in the future. We know we will be needing the furnace a good bit over the next week at our destination at 6,800 feet, so want to get the LP filled while we can! Of course, everyone has to get out during the LP fueling operation ... lots of cold people when the operation is finished! Heading West again, we arrive in Grants in mid-afternoon and head North through town to the Valencia Village Mobile Home and RV Park. We found them earlier in an internet search, and had called for a reservation. They are a mobile home park that keeps a certain number of sites open for RVs, and are fairly close to the family members we will be visiting. We get a nice fenced site with plenty of room ... no close side-to-side parking here! The site is a back-in over a short curb. The 50 amp electric hookup is over the back fence, but not difficult to reach. Due to the temps the water hookup is heavily wrapped, but we don't want to hookup in this cold anyway! The first night, the temperature reached 15 below zero! Our remote thermometer recorded a low of 42 in the water service bay, and 3 in the water pump compartment ... impressive! It got steadily warmer during the four nights we were there, but remained below freezing the entire time. We did unwrap the water hookup on our last day, and found it frozen. After talking with the park manager, we checked out the hookup in the vacant site next to us. It worked, and we refilled the fresh water tank, dump the black and gray tanks during the "heat" of the day in temps close to 30 degrees, then drained and re-stowed all the hoses and re-wrapped the water hookup. Cost was $30, just $10 per night, a great reason to come to Valencia Village when staying in the local area rather than using one of the campgrounds out on the interstate!



RV TRAVELS SUMMARY

States overnighted in - AL, GA, MD, MS, NC, NM, OK, SC, TX, VA = 10
States traveled in - AL, GA, LA, MD, MS, NC, NM, OK, SC, TX, VA = 11
Nights lived in the motorhome = 55

... not bad for 6 months of part-timing!!

...On to next year's travels...

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