1-2 APRIL, WILLIAMSBURG VA -- I got away a little early from work on Friday afternoon, de-winterized the waterlines, put a good dose of Sodium Dichlor in the fresh water tank to sanitize the system, and we set out for the first SMART CATS muster of the season at KOA Williamsburg at 5210 Newman Rd just off I-64 exit 234. We’ll drain the heavily chlorinated water after it sits in the tank overnight, then refill with “normal” tap water. According to the KOA directory there are two KOAs on Newnan Rd, but we find they are actually side by side with registration in the same office. They hand us a map and point us to our site, specially selected to accommodate our 40' coach ... good thing we got away early enough to arrive before dark as off their main asphalt entry road, the campground roads are narrow, tight, and difficult to follow. After our first swing in the way we were directed we find we cannot get into the site from that road. We unhook the Honda and I circle back around (due to the tight turn, I have to back up a time or two to get the coach back on the main road) to enter by the next road over. With some jockeying we get the motorhome positioned in the gravel/dirt site. Many of their sites are not long enough for our coach, and some would be impossible even to drive through due to very close trees of both sides. On our site, we have room to open the slides on both sides, but there is not room to put out the main awning. There is a camp store and "heated" pool available, but little chance to use it with heavy rain on Saturday. We had a great time with the SMART CATS in spite of heavy rain and wind during both nights, and during the day on Saturday. One trailer … not from our group … lost their main awning when a gust of wind folded it up over the top of the rig on Saturday afternoon. After a quick adjustment to the time change on Sunday morning, we set out in time to make our regular worship services at Langley AFB Bethel housing area. Although the KOA advertises 50 amp, catv, and modem hookup at sites, we have 30 amp power with water and sewer, no catv, no modem hookup, and a gravel/dirt/mud site. Even with the 25% group discount, our cost for two nights is a ridiculous $70.86. Their "normal" rate is $42.95 per night!!! There are plenty of nicer campgrounds with much more reasonable rates in the Williamsburg area … we see no need to return to this one!
13-14 MAY, WILLIAMSBURG VA -- The base air show begins on Friday evening, so we were released early to get outbound traffic cleared up before traffic from the local community started inbound for the evening show. I got away about 1:30 pm and we set out for the SMART CATS muster at American Heritage RV Park in Williamsburg. Actually this is a "non-muster" because the national muster is being held this week in Lodi CA, but due to distance most of the CATS cannot go so we are having an informal gathering without business meeting. The weather is decent, though a little humid on Saturday, but it is nice to finally have some weather that feels a bit like spring! Even though we arrive well before dark, we are still the "last CAT" to arrive ... that's normal for us as the others are pretty much all retired. The CATS go to American Heritage often, but we learned something interesting about the history of the park this weekend. The RV park was originally a private club, women only, with members owning their own site. That explains the seemingly random placement of concrete pads scattered throughout the park. Most sites are grass, but here and there you will find concrete pads of varying designs, and a few "park model" trailers permanently installed. We spend a relaxing, low-key weekend, (went to the Candle Factory Tour but found it not in operation so just browsed through the store) then get up early on Sunday so we can get back to Bethel Chapel in time for her to teach Sunday School and me to sing in the choir. Then I have plenty of time in the afternoon to tinker with various projects on the coach and to wash it down while waiting for the base air show to be over so I can get the motorhome back on base to the storage area. Due to low clouds and severe weather forecasts, the air show ends early and I went on base just after 6 pm and saw no traffic at all. Just as I got the motorhome parked in the storage space it starts raining ... I'll wait for dry weather to put the tire covers on. Another SMART muster is over ... and when the next one comes around we will be in the process of beginning to move out of our townhouse, and a couple of weeks away from full-time RV living!!
3-4 JUN, WILLIAMSBURG VA -- At the Friday afternoon departure from work, I head for the RV storage lot in a pouring rain. We're heading for the monthly gathering of the SMART CATS at the Pottery Campground at Williamsburg. I'm glad I went out over my lunch hour and pulled the tire covers and jack pads in preparation for departure. It was raining then too, but not as hard, and my GI poncho pretty well protected me from the rain. I head for home to load up the food and clothes. When I get to the house the rain has nearly quit ... great, we won't have to load up in the rain! In addition to the regular things for the weekend, I also load the large rubber storage container dubbed "the appliance bin." It contains appliances we will want with us while full-timing, but don't have room for upstairs all at once. It will live in the basement compartment with the roll-out tray. By the time we made the 25 mile drive up I-64 to the Pottery Campground and get the motorhome hooked up, our daughter, daughter-in-law, two grandkids, and an extra have arrived for the weekend. In spite of being tired from preparing for and enduring our household storage pick-up and ship this past week, we enjoyed the weekend with our family visitors, and survived spending Saturday at Busch Gardens. Both grandkids spent the night with us on Friday night with the 3 older visitors going to our home in Yorktown. At the end of the day on Saturday, they returned to our home and took the granddaughter with them to depart for home early on Sunday. Our grandson will spend the week with us, and we will take him home as we follow our furniture south at the end of the week ... moving week! By the end of next week, the house will be empty except for garage sale items and trash, and by the time I make another entry on this page we will be fill-time RVers!! The Pottery Campground is a decent campground with a small store, LP sales, playgrounds, and full-hookups available. They have several shelters available for groups. The shelters are clustered around the bathroom and laundry facilities, and have cooking and heating facilities if needed. We got a 50 amp full-hookup site and all connections worked well. All sites are dirt/grass with picnic tables. The sites are pretty narrow, barely leaving room between coaches to put out awnings, but there were also many empty sites, allowing you to spread out and have space if desired. Our cost for two nights with the group discount was $53.96.
** FULLTIME RVing **
23 JUN, HAMPTON VA, LANGLEY AFB BETHEL REC AREA -- Today's the day we become full-time RVers!! It seems like we've been moving for weeks as we have parceled furniture out to our three children and sent a shipment into storage. The military will store the rest of our "stuff" for 12 months after retirement ... after that we'll have to decide where we want to store it! We have downsized and downsized over the past many months, and it appears we still need more downsizing! We still have a good many sacks of "stuff" sitting in the floor of the motorhome waiting to be put away. But at least we did finally get everything out of the house except for some trash in the garage. We have provided donations of clothes and household items to AMVETS, Goodwill, the base Airman's Attic, and have put some items on consignment at the base Thrift Shop. The photo here shows the clutter of moving day in the motorhome before getting everything put away. After the carpet cleaners do their thing in the townhouse, we'll get the trash out of the garage and close out the lease. Then we will truly be full-timers, with no "brick & stick home" to return to. The first thing we had to do with the motorhome after moving in was to replace the chassis batteries. They have been getting weak, but on moving day they gave up. After arriving in the campsite, I had to hold the "battery boost" switch to join the chassis and house batteries together in order to have enough power to lower the leveling jacks and extend the slides. When I checked the batteries, one was hot to the touch and had a bulging case ... a bad sign! We were tired, it was late, so I turned off the charger and we went to bed. The next morning I found two new batteries through our local Winnebago dealer. As soon as I installed them, it was obvious we had needed new batteries for sometime as the patio awning goes out quicker and easier than it ever has since the day we bought the coach 2 years ago! For the first two weeks of full-timing, we will be in the Langley AFB Bethel FamCamp in Hampton. There are 20 RV sites with water and 30 amp electric. The roads were redone about 2 months ago, making access into the campground much better than a year ago. They are presently in process of adding sewer connections and 50 amp power to each site, and moving the water connections to the rear of the sites from the current positions close to the road. When all the work is completed in a few weeks, this will be a major improvement to the campground. One permanent downside to the campground location is the noisy paintball range immediately adjacent to the campground. It is also operated by Langley AFB, and they recently installed lights so the noise can continue into the night ... so much for peaceful camping in the woods ... RV site cost is currently $15/night with no special deals for weekly or monthly stays (although they are doing a short-time "good deal" at $12 a night due to the construction noise & dust, and having to move to another site sometimes due to trenching that must be done.) The campground is well shaded, which can be nice in warm weather, but was a pain today when we tried to get satellite TV set up for the motorhome. The tech was unable to get a strong enough satellite signal to do the setup due to the heavy trees. We'll do the satellite setup on Friday when I can get the motorhome to their business location where there are few trees. Then we'll return to the FamCamp and hope we can hit the satellite using a portable dish out near the road a little further from the trees ... if not, we'll be watching TV off the regular antenna until we move to a campground with fewer trees later on!! Here's the motorhome tucked into the trees at the Langley AFB FamCamp. ... psst ... that '95 T-Bird is for sale, call us quick for a good deal!!
8-9 JUL, WILLIAMSBURG VA -- Time for the July SMART CATS muster, once again back at American Heritage RV Park in Williamsburg. I got away from work at noon. We left one of our three vehicles at the office, and we pulled out of the Langley AFB Bethel FamCamp shortly after 1pm, leaving another vehicle at the Bethel Manor school as we went by on the way out of town ... we'll pick it up on Sunday after chapel services (it's that '95 T-Bird ... if you want to buy it, drop by Bethel Manor school about 1145 on Sunday!!). I talked to the FamCamp manager the night before and cleared our late departure. Due to heavy rain overnight and in the early morning on the recently covered construction trenches, mud was plentiful, so after getting everything ready to go I had to stick my feet under a water hydrant to rinse off the mud before getting aboard and setting out for Williamsburg. We have a reputation with the CATS for being the last to arrive ... we blew it today by getting there long before dark! We had requested a 50 amp site when we made our reservation, and we were parked in site #9 at the far end of row one ... gravel pad w/full-hookup & 50 amp power. After getting parked I got out the portable satellite TV antenna to see if I could get it working. (We have a dish on top of the motorhome, but when the tech installed the system last week he said he needed to get another part before we could use our roof dish ... we're still waiting on that). After muddling around for about an hour and talking with Dish Network customer service and then the local technical assistance folks, suddenly the system started working. Woo-hoo ... satellite TV in the motorhome! There was a large group of CATS present for the monthly muster, and three couples visiting. Weather was very nice for the weekend. Our total cost was $56.68 for the two nights. Our weekend ended with an early departure to make Sunday services at Langley AFB's Bethel Chapel 30 miles to the south.
10-22 JUL, HAMPTON VA, FT MONROE -- After services at Bethel Chapel, we continue on south about 10 mi to Ft Monroe and "The Colonies" campground. This is a very old Army post, dating from the 1700's. There are still numerous very old shore batteries in place, and the original fort ... now known as "the inner fort" ... in inside stone walls surrounded by a moat! Entry to Ft Monroe is from the old community of Phoebus just East of downtown Hampton. There is only one traffic gate (actually two gates, but they are side-by-side), entered after a short drive across a bridge on one of two streets that join together just before the gate. The RV campground is on a narrow finger of land to the north of the main part of the post. Immediately behind the campground is an earthen berm ... a seawall beyond which is "Davis Creek." Across the road about 200-300 yards to the East is another seawall, and on the other side are the lower waters of Chesapeake Bay. It is a beautiful location right now, but definitely not the place to be during a hurricane!! ...and I even got the portable satellite dish working after about 20 minutes of fiddling with it. There is a lot of history at Ft Monroe. As early as 1608, Captain John Smith recognized the importance of building a fort at Point Comfort, as the English colonists called this land. In 1609 they built Fort Algernourne here, with the mission of protecting the approaches to the colony at Jamestown. Throughout the colonial period, there were other fortifications at this site, but none lasted very long. When the United States entered the War of 1812 against Great Britain, the nation soon found that its old systems of defense were inadequate to protect its coasts and port cities. The capture and burning of Washington, DC in 1814 was a hard lesson. But from that experience grew a new system of coastal defenses, of which the first and largest was Fort Monroe, built between 1819 and 1834. Fort Monroe's original mission was to protect the entrance to Hampton Roads and the several port cities that had access to its waters. The fort accomplished this mission by mounting an impressive complement of the most powerful artillery of the time, 32-pounder guns with a range of over one mile. This was just enough range to cover the main shipping channel into the area. In 1824, the fort received another important mission when it was chosen as the site for the Army's new Artillery School of Practice. During the Civil War, Fort Monroe was quickly reinforced so that it would not fall to Confederate forces. In cooperation with the Navy, troops from Fort Monroe extended Union control along the coasts of the Carolinas. Several land operations against Confederate forces also were mounted from the fort, notably the battle of Big Bethel in June 1861, Major General George McClellan's Peninsula Campaign of 1862 and the siege of Suffolk in 1863. In 1864 the Army of the James was formed at Fort Monroe. Fort Monroe is also the place at which Major General Benjamin Butler made his famous "contraband" decision, by which escaping slaves reaching Union lines would not be returned to bondage. Our reservation expired on 23 July so we took down the satellite dish and drove across town to return to Langley AFB Bethel FamCamp.
23 JUL-4 AUG, HAMPTON VA, LANGLEY AFB BETHEL REC AREA -- We arrived at Langley AFB's Bethel FamCamp around 10:30 am, about 13 miles from Ft Monroe. There was a note at the office indicating it was closed today. I checked the slot for incoming reservation envelopes and found two, but none for us. But I had talked to the manager yesterday and knew we were scheduled for site 20, so we went on to the site located on the third loop. The construction installing sewer and moving the utilities is ongoing, covering the asphalt with dirt. It has been very hot and dry so the dirt has become dust, billowing out behind us as the a/c fans blow on the ground at the rear of the motorhome. We get to site 20 and find it occupied, then notice site 18 just before it is labeled 20! ...the occupant of the real site 20 is preparing for departure and comes over to confirm that we are coming into 20. He tells us that when they moved the electrical connections, they apparently swapped the boxes for 18 and 20, so they are now mis-labeled. But the good news is that the new sewers are now operational!! No more having to carefully watch the water tanks for fear they will become prematurely full and require unhooking to do dump ... and we can use our washer/dryer instead of having to use the coin-operated washers and dryers in the bathhouse! ...and the bad news is we cannot lock onto the satellite for TV. We hit it briefly through the trees, but cannot maintain contact, so back to limited selections on antenna for the next two weeks. The re-located electrical and water connections are great, in just the right places. Later ... since we arrived on the 23rd, the contractor has put the site water hydrants into a box in the ground with a lift-off cast iron lid. The lid has a hole in it for the water hose ... my hose from the power reel won't go through the hole as it has a rubber bumper around it on the end to protect the end from damage as it is reeled in. I'll have to use my short extension hose, or just leave the lid slightly off the hole. The upgrade to 50 amp power is in contract negotiation/dispute ... seems the contractor used "an unapproved connection" when he started the job back in April or May and the dispute is not yet resolved. The shade at Bethel is nice, but the noise from the paintball course and the speeding paint-ballers through the campground raising lots of dust make it overall not so pleasant right now. Surely there is a way they can meet the paint-ballers' needs without making things unpleasant for the FamCamp occupants. Good news!!! ...we sold the T-Bird so are down to "just" two cars in addition to the motorhome. The '67 F-100 will rest in Alabama in our older son's when we hit the road in October.
5-6 AUG, GLOUCESTER VA -- We pulled the coach out of site 20 at Bethel just after 7 am and parked it in the "dry camp" area at the end of the asphalt. I returned to the campground after work and we set out for the SMART CATS August muster at Thousand Trails Chesapeake Bay Preserve. Their address is Gloucester, but they are located just SE of Saluda several miles north of Gloucester. It was about a 46 mile drive, and we arrived about 4pm. The ranger at the gate directed us to our hosts ... "look for the Winnebago Rialta straight down this road." We found the Rialta, and our host told us which row to go down to pick a 50 amp site. As Thousand Trails is a membership campground, we were guests of a member who had reserved several sites for our group. We don't pay the campground ... we give our payment to our host and they pay the campground for all their guests all at once! The dirt roads in the sites area were very dusty, laying a coat of dust on the rear of the coach and on the toad by the time we located the sites we were referred to. (...it did rain for 30 min or so on Saturday am, so some of the dust got rinsed off and the drive out of the campground wasn't as dusty.) The sites are gravel, and somewhat overgrown with grass. Our site has a couple of fairly significant depressions the size of dual wheels in the gravel, but they are well in front of where our rear wheels will be so we back in and get set up. The high heat and humidity ensure we are soaked with sweat by the time the process is completed. We were told the ranger would come around to unlock our 50 amp access, but after waiting an hour and seeing no one, we called the office. They told me I had to go back to the ranger station at the gate, pay them $2 per night, and request they come to unlock 50 amp access. That worked! After the pot-luck supper, Jean went to the regular evening games session while I took on seeing if the rooftop satellite dish would work with the alterations our Dish Network installer gave me yesterday. The test entailed getting up on the roof ... still pretty warm up there ... and changing the LNB on the dish, then running the satellite seeking tests from inside in the a/c. It found the satellite, downloaded programming information, then gave me an error message. When I ran the additional test it recommended, I got another error message I can't translate. Oh well, back to the portable dish, and next week I'll talk to the installer again! The SMART CATS muster went well, and we broke camp early on Sunday to drive the 46 miles back to the Bethel housing area in time for the 10:30 worship service at Bethel Chapel.
7 AUG-8 SEP, HAMPTON VA, FT MONROE -- After chapel services we headed on south to Ft Monroe. This time we will be in "The Colonies" campground for almost a month. After the past few weeks at Bethel buried in the trees where we couldn't get satellite, and dealing with the dust and mud from the trenching for the new sewers and electric, we are looking forward to the green grass and good satellite reception at Ft Monroe. The campground office is not open on weekends, there is no sign providing check-in directions on the office door, and calling the telephone number on the campground sign results in hearing "this number is no longer is service." But we knew we were designated to Connecticut site so went ahead and set up. Last time we were here we saw a guy assisting someone else in parking and found out he was a weekend campground host. We couldn't find him when we pulled in, but after we left for supper and returned a couple of hours later I noticed he had put our reservation tag on the site marker post so we're good to go ... just need to stop in the office during the day to sign in and pay up! ... 20 Aug ... While here this time we witnessed the Hampton Cup Regatta, referred to by organizers as "the nation's longest running power boat race." They run a circular course on the body of water between Ft Monroe & Phoebus. For 4 days they block off streets and set up spectator bleachers & vendors on the Mercury St bridge outside the gate ... it hampers post access for those who live and work on the Fort, but it is a neat event. We saw some sharp power boats, and they are noisy! The following weekend my brother and his wife came down from DC for a short visit. We did some sight-seeing on the Fort, looked over some of the old shore batteries, the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse nestled between Army officer housing on the shoreline, and checked out the Casemate Museum. We learned a lot about the history of this piece of ground where there have been a series of forts dating back to the time of Jamestowne Colony a few miles up the James River. We even saw the "cell" inside the fort wall (the casemate) where Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis was held prisoner from 1865-1867. It is interesting to note that atop the fort wall near the Chapel of the Centurion there is a large arched iron sign marking the "Jefferson Davis Memorial Park." On Sunday we attended worship at the Chapel of the Centurion in the inner fort, labeled as "the oldest wood frame chapel in continual use in the US Army." It is a beautiful old sanctuary, and has many very old and interesting stained glass windows. If you get a chance, don't miss checking out Ft Monroe.
9-10 SEP, LOUISA VA -- I got away from the office about 12:30 on Friday, and since I had done some pre-departure prep the evening before, we were on the road for Small Country Campground SW of Louisa VA by 1:30. Louisa is apx 55 mi West of Richmond and 25 mi East of Charlottsville. The drive across on I-64 was surprisingly pleasant with light traffic, and we arrived at the campground for the September meeting of the SMART CATS at apx 4 pm ... just in time for Happy Hour! The campground is located in the woods apx 7 mi off I-64 exit 149. The narrow paved roads to the campground are exciting when meeting school busses etc, but we made it without a problem. The only "messy" part of the drive was the last 200 yards on the dirt access road into the campground. In that short distance our towed became totally covered with dust! We were assigned to one of the few pull-through sites, but it's location makes it very difficult to actually pull through the site! The campground roads are wide enough, but the turns are impossible. After disconnecting the "towed," we finally got into the site. Most of the campground has heavy tree cover, so once again we'll be "roughing it" with no satellite TV for the weekend. Sites are gravel/dirt. The only grass we saw was in the clearing where a few big rigs were parked so they could use their satellites. We had a nice weekend with very pleasant weather, and I led a 30 minute devotional service on Sunday morning for the group. Although they claimed they didn't know the praise songs I pulled out, they did a great job of singing along! We pulled out about 10:30 Sunday morning headed back to Ft Monroe. Our cost for two nights in a 50 amp full-hookup site (including $2 extra per night if we want to use a/c !!) minus the group discount of 15% was just over $66.
11-13 SEP, HAMPTON VA, FT MONROE -- On our return to Ft Monroe we find a pretty stiff wind blowing with the effects of Hurricane Ophelia, currently located off the coast of North Carolina. Getting the satellite dish tripod set up and securely anchored is a bit more challenging in the stiff breeze, but before long we were settled in. And then we got a real treat! ...rather than cooking out as I normally do on Sunday afternoon, we went to Ruby Tuesday's up Mercury Blvd to choose from their menu of 39 burgers. They have some really good ones, and offer a variety of beef, turkey, crab and fish in the bun ... you really need to check these out!! After stuffing ourselves, we went back to the campground for our final stay at Ft Monroe. We'll be at Ft Monroe for the next two weeks until we move to Langley AFB Bethel FamCamp where we will be for my retirement from the Air Force on 30 September.
14 SEP, YORKTOWN VA, HURRICANE EVAC -- Well, our stay at Ft Monroe was shorter than planned, but we will return there in a few days. We got a call this morning that we had to evacuate the campground by afternoon in anticipation of heavy rain and high winds of Hurricane Ophelia. They told us we could park in the bowling alley parking lot about 1 mi away as "it is the highest parking lot on the post." Since we have an appointment at Virginia RV, the Winnebago dealer in Yorktown, first thing on the 15th we decided not to stay on the fort. If there is going to be high water, we want to be on the other side of the two bridges outside the gate! We moved to the billeting parking lot at Langley AFB for the afternoon while I went back to the office, then after supper we headed for the new Super Wal-Mart on US 17 about 8 mi North of Langley and apx 5 mi South of Virginia RV. We did consider going straight to Virginia RV and waiting there overnight, but if we do have high winds during the night their parking area has more possible hazards to be blowing around than the much larger Wal-Mart parking lot does. Arriving at Wal-Mart about 7:30 pm, we found two other motorhomes and a semi-tractor already in the Wal-Mart parking lot. After getting approval from the manager on duty and doing some light shopping (thus our "free" night at Wal-Mart came at a cost of $15...), we settled in for the night on the south edge of the parking lot in front of the idling semi-tractor, fully expecting rain and wind during the night. This is our second night in a Wal_Mart parking lot in the three years we have been RVing, both times due to a hurricane. We pulled out for Virginia RV about 8 am under cloudy skies and calm conditions. Seems Ophelia has made a slight turn to the North and the local area is now expected to get just rain and a slight storm surge. We will be "homeless" for one night while Virginia RV replaces a seal and repairs a seam on the lounge/galley slide. The seam has to cure for 24 hrs before the slide can be retracted back into travel position, so "Rosie" has to remain parked in their shop overnight, and we get to "enjoy" the hospitality of the local Motel 6 for the night of the 15th.
16-23 SEP, HAMPTON VA, FT MONROE -- We picked up Rosie (the motorhome) at VA RV in Yorktown about 4pm. They kept her plugged into shore power while in the shop to keep the refrigerator cold. When we retrieved her from the parking area behind the shop the refrigerator was cool as a cucumber running on LP, and the inside temp of the motorhome was 99 degrees!! The one-time leak in the slideout that triggered the service visit was determined to be caused by a screw hole in the top of the slide near the microwave ... obviously occurred during the manufacturing process and the slide cover protected the hole from rain water until we have a blowing rain with wind from just the right direction. We got back to Ft Monroe "The Colonies" campground and settled in by about 6:30 pm. We'll be here until the morning of 24 Sep when we will move across town to Langley AFB's Bethel Campground in preparation for the retirement festivities the following week.
24 SEP-5 OCT, HAMPTON VA, LANGLEY AFB BETHEL REC AREA -- We got to sleep in!! ...got up about 9am and prepared to depart Ft Monroe for Langley AFB's FamCamp at the Big Bethel Recreation Area ... about 13 mi NW. We wanted to time our departure from Ft Monroe so we arrive at Bethel after 1100 in case our site there is occupied. Checkout time at Bethel is 11am. The manager at Bethel FamCamp called last weekend to ask about site preferences as we had discussed earlier our having lots of extra people Friday evening for a wiener roast after the retirement reception. We agreed site 5 would work great, as the campground firepit with benches around it is right next to the site. And there is a playground right there too for the grandkids, and the bathhouse/restrooms is right across the street so everyone won't be competing for one small bathroom!! The photo to the left shows the firepit & benches with the small playground in the background. That will be a great gathering place Friday evening. There's not a lot of parking, but we'll work that out. When we got into the site, we had to re-position slightly to the right in order to have room to open the lounge/galley slide-out without hitting a tree stump. There are trees pretty close on the right side too, so we will be unable to open the patio awning and put our "night lights" up. But there is plenty of shade, and a very big plus for this site is we can get satellite TV reception with the portable dish antenna off the rear of the motorhome!! And, we discovered when we went to hook up the electric power that the long-awaited 50amp power has been installed ... no more having to turn off the a/c in order to run the microwave!! Along with the new sewer connections at every site, the upgraded power really brings Bethel up to par with other military FamCamps.
6-8 OCT, WILLIAMSBURG VA -- After a busy week with family and friends around the retirement ceremony last Friday, we were once again "on our own" about mid-day Tuesday. That gave us Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday to get things straightened up and put away to be ready to hit the road. On Thursday morning we made a leisurely departure from Bethel FamCamp about 10:45 am, bound for American Heritage RV Park apx 30 miles away in Williamsburg for the monthly gathering of the SMART CATS. We're used to arriving at the musters on Friday afternoon, but there is always a group of early birds who arrive on Thursday. When we checked in they told us we were the first to arrive ...quite a change from our normal "last to arrive!" After we got parked in site 13, I got a little damp from a rain shower while setting up the satellite dish. It was a bit of a challenge getting the dish aimed just right between RVs and trees, but I did finally get a signal. Then after we went out for supper with the group we returned to find a "boot error" message on the TV screen. Last time we saw that error Dish Network had to send us a new receiver and we had to ship our original back to them ...hundreds of their receivers all over the country locked up after they sent a download through the system. So I called tech support, expecting the worst. After a long wait on hold, I got a tech who ran me through every trick he knew (and I had already tried them all on my own!), then told me to hold on while he got "a dual receiver tech" on the line. ...and after a minute or two waiting the line went dead. The next day I tried again and sure enough, receiver swap time again. And they need a street address to ship to so we'll have it shipped our son's home where we will be 10 days from now. We've had the satellite TV system for only 3 months, and now it's strike two for Dish Network... Tropical Storm Tammy gave us rain nearly constant from Friday morning through Saturday night. The campground got pretty damp, and so did our big storage compartment under the lounge/galley slide-out. We've had some minor leak problems there off and on with two dealers dabbing a little caulk on it and replacing door seals. This time we had more than a minor leak. I had only one box of water damageable items stored there. I got them out before they were damaged, but the box was soaked along with the boxes for my little portable battery charger and jumper cables. I also spotted a couple of places where water was dripping in so will be able to put some caulk in the right places when everything dries out. We'll do that when we see some sunshine! We had a good muster with the SMART CATS, and will be caravanning South on Sunday with at least one other rig to the SE Regional Muster in Myrtle Beach.
9-15 OCT, MYRTLE BEACH SC -- We departed Williamsburg at 8 am, following the CATS president enroute to Myrtle Beach. A third rig will follow on Monday morning. After working our way through a short-cut from I-64 across country to I-295 near Ft Lee VA, we had a surprisingly pleasant drive down I-95 to South Carolina. On the South side of Myrtle Beach there are three very large RV parks side-by-side right on the beach. The SMART SE Regional Muster will be held at Lakewood RV Resort, located between the other two campgrounds. We arrived at Lakewood just before 4 pm, after a stop at Flying J where we left I-95 near Latta SC. The price of diesel has gone up quite a bit in the South due to Hurricane Katrina. With our Flying J RV Club card, we paid $3.179 a gallon ...$100 for 30 gallon ...wow!! Oh well, you have to deal with rising utilities cost in your slab home too... Lakewood has somewhere around 1,200 RV sites, a very large mobile home lease park, and probably a couple hundred villas for rent. They provide full hook-ups with picnic table, free cable TV, and telephone jack at each site. Their map even shows a "chaplain residence" on the grounds!! Now there's a great job for a retired military chaplain ...I may have to check that one out! The RV sites are grass/dirt with plenty of room side to side to put out awnings, etc. Sites are back to back in rows between asphalt streets. We got a great location with just two other rigs between us and the foot bridge walk-over to the beach! The SE Regional Muster was very enjoyable. They had a few seminars each day, plenty of free time to socialize or to nap, and about 8 vendors selling their products. There were some show options a couple of evenings ...we went to Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede. It is a "horse back" show complete with dinner. It was very good. Then on the last night after the closing ceremony, we enjoyed the "High Stepping Country" show in the ocean side theater at the campground. The first few days of the week were cloudy with several rain showers, but the sun came out on Wednesday afternoon and it was very nice for the remainder of the week. In addition to the SMART muster, we got in a visit to a large flea market, found a pretty decent Mexican Restaurant, and met a retired AF gal from Charleston who bought the V2 recumbent bicycle. Now we have a lot more room in the back of the Honda, and can have seats in place for two passengers in addition to us!!!
16 OCT, LAGRANGE GA -- We departed Myrtle Beach at 9:30 am, headed for Alabama. We figured we could stop somewhere between Augusta GA and Atlanta, but when we got to that area we decided to keep moving to get Atlanta behind us on Sunday afternoon rather than facing it on Monday morning!! South of Atlanta we stopped for fuel at a Pilot Truck Stop and paid $3.34 a gallon. Note to self ...buy fuel somewhere other than Georgia! We got permission from management to stay overnight at the Pilot, but all their big parking spots were either back-in against a curb, or nose in to a "docking station" setup where trucks can get a/c piped in along with satellite internet. Pretty neat, but we can't back up with a car on a tow bar, so we got back onto I-85 to find a better place to park for the night. About 15 miles down the road we found a Cracker Barrel. They always have RV parking spots, but we found they are just long enough for a 40', not for both RV and towed car. Oh well, the tow bar is easy to manage so we pulled into a slot and then unhooked and parked the Honda nearby before going inside for a great supper. We got permission to stay the night ...the waitress told us ZZ Top stayed overnight in an RV spot last night!!! (as the waitress said, if you don't recognize that name, you're too young) ...so will relax and plan on having some good biscuits and gravy before heading on to Alabama in the morning.
17-27 OCT, MONTGOMERY AL, MAXWELL AFB -- We had a late breakfast at Cracker Barrel (I had to forego my sandals in favor of socks and shoes as the overnight temp got down to 51 degrees!!), then hooked the Odyssey back to the tow bar and set out about 10:30 am Georgia time to cover the last 100 miles to Montgomery. Our aim was to arrive at Maxwell AFB after the normal 11:00 am check-out time, and since Alabama is in the Central Time Zone we were in no rush. We arrived at Maxwell AFB about 11:15 am Central time and after checking in, we settled into site #17. The Maxwell AFB FamCamp is very nice, with full-hookups and 50 amp power at each site. A few sites are gravel, some asphalt, and some concrete, all connected by asphalt roads. Each site has a patio covered with a metal cover, and includes a grill. A few newer sites that don't have grills are in the process of receiving them. The grass between sites is very nice. We plan to be here about 10 days, then spend about 10 days to 2 weeks in Florida visiting a local SMART muster and a retired Army chaplain friend and his family in Florida before returning to Maxwell for more grandkid time! On arrival in Montgomery, we collected two weeks of forwarded mail from our son's address along with our replacement Dish Network receiver. After about 30 minutes tinkering and some time on the phone with Dish technical support, we are back online with satellite TV. We had a great 11 days there visiting sons and grandchildren, and even made a field trip hauling 3 yr olds to "The Pumpkin Patch" ...the worst part of the trip was having to defrost the ice of the car windshield at 6:15 am!!! Days in Montgomery were in the 60's to low 70's, but there were a few nights last week in the mid-low 30's ...oh, the sacrifices we make for grandkids!!!
28 OCT-3 NOV, SUMMERDALE AL -- After a quick trip to the base finance office to get an intepretation on my last active duty LES (leave and earning statement ...and the trip was a bust as the wing was having a "down day" and the office was closed), we headed south toward Summerdale AL and the Escapees membership park known as Rainbow Plantation. We've been Escapees for at least two years now, and figured it is time we actually see an Escapees Park!! The Plantation is located about 4.5 mi west of Highway 59 on County Road 28. There are 87 full-hookup sites for transients, a number of home-base lease sites (5-year renewable lease), and many deeded sites where many owners have built homes in a varitey of styles, most with RV sites/ports/garages attached something the one pictured here. Overnight cost for Escapees members is quite comparable to military campgrounds (cheaper than many!) with the exception that electricity is metered and charged at 8 cents per KWH over the basic rental cost. Non-members are allowed to stay in Escapees parks as a higher cost than members. We got a nice large grassy site in the transient area right next to a rare decent-sized shade tree, and beside Janice & Dean who I have communicated with on the Escapees "Class of 2005" internet mail list. Though full-timers now, they were originally from the area and are members of a nearby UMC, so we didn't even have to search for a church for Sunday morning worship! There are currently several hurricane cleanup workers staying in the park, with their debris-hauler equipped trucks parked in the dry camp area each night. One couple in their RV nearby are sorting/drying out/salvaging the few personal items they have managed to salvage from their destroyed home in Pass Christian MS. WIFI computer connection is available in the park for a small fee via Tengo ...they replaced the hurricane-damaged antenna while we were here but even after that the connection sometimes worked flawlessly, but was too often impossible to establish. Complaints to Tengo customer service brought a reply that the hurricanes had caused problems with the local ISP who provides the connection, and that they are working to resolve the problem. It would be nice if they would hold off on selling service that doesn't work until they get it working again! ...maybe I'll just stick with my cell phone connection in the future. We spent a peaceful week at Rainbow Plantation, enjoying the beautiful weather while getting in a visit to the Tangier Factory Outlet complex in nearby Foley AL and an afternoon movie matinee where we saw "Dreamer," a very good movie. On Sunday evening we joined the Rainbow Plantation residents for an ice cream social in the community center. This would be a great place to return to for a longer stay sometime in the future. Our cost for a pre-paid week was $72.80 ($10/night+tax) plus electricity charge of $13.82 ($13.04+tax) for the week.
4-5 NOV, CHUMUCKLA FL -- We left Rainbow Plantation about 10:30 am and headed East toward the Chumuckla Farmers' Opry Campground north of Pace FL. We'll be visiting the monthly muster of the SMART Tri-State Panhandlers. The drive took just over 1 hr, and when we arrived it was obvious that most of the Panhandlers were already in place. The campground has 22 full-hookups and several with water & electric only, and there was a sign at the entry indicating that all full-hookup sites were reserved for SMART members. I had contacted the muster hosts a month or so ago, so we were in! We were directed to a 50 amp site just behind the social building/bathhouse, backed in and got hooked up. After getting settled in, I even managed to get a mostly-good satellite TV signal on the portable dish aimed through the trees to the rear of the rig. The Panhandlers are a spirited group who really enjoy being together. They had a lively "white elephant" auction on Friday night, and many headed off to a nearby flea market on Saturday afternoon. The primary attraction/reason for being of this particular campground is the Chumuckla Farmer's Opry dinner and show each Friday and Saturday night. Cost for both is $19.50 each, and the entertainment ranges from local talent to big names in both Gospel and Country styles. The third Friday of each month is country gospel night. Our campground cost for the "more than 10 rigs group rate" was $39.42 for the two nights.
6-13 NOV, PERDIDO BAY FL -- After a retired Navy chaplain had a short devotional service at the Opry Campground (he retired the year we were married ...makes us feel rather young!!), we headed south 40 miles to Perdido Bay FL, just west of Pensacola. We plan to spend the week in the yard of a retired Army chaplain friend and his wife. They have a very large yard, and a full-hookup RV site behind the mother-in-law cottage where her mother lives, all just a few miles from the beach on Perdido Key. We arrived at their home about noon, got set up in the very warm humidity, and settled in for some great hospitality and wonderful fellowship for the week. Our hosts manage over 100 condos in three towers on the beach on Perdido Key ...they've been very busy there for the past 18 months dealing with $10 million damage from Hurricane Ivan. The beach and much of the area is still "under repair." Early morning bicycle rides along the Gulf Beach Highway (Hwy 292) were very enjoyable. One morning we cycled all the way to Alabama and back ...only 15 miles round trip. Pensacola NAS was having an air show over the weekend, and although we didn't go out and fight the crowds, we saw a variety of planes in both practice and performance flights over a period of several days. Playing golf on the NAS course was great with the Blue Angels performing overhead! During our visit to the area, we made the pilgrimage to the SMART (Special Military Active Retired Travel Club) HQ office in Pensacola. It is amazing to think they do all their member services and publish a nice magazine from those four little rooms! The weather was beautiful ...in the 70's most of the week. Even after a "cold front" blew in on Thursday night taking nighttime temperatures down about 20 degrees into the 40's, the daytime temperatures were still in the upper 60's to low 70's. And a really pleasant part of the week was watching fuel prices drop about 70 cents or more ...we need to fill that big diesel tank on the motorhome on the ride back to Montgomery next Monday!!
14 NOV-1 DEC, MONTGOMERY AL, MAXWELL AFB -- We left Perdido Bay about 10am and arrived at Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, AL in early afternoon. We filled up with diesel in the Perdido Bay area for $2.55, much better than the $3.34 we paid in Georgia a few weeks ago. Even at that "great" price I still was unable to persuade the guys in the Corvette beside us at the pumps to trade fuel tickets ...guess they heard me talking to another customer about the size of our fuel tank! :) Since we are staying at Maxwell for a long period, we can pay by the month and get the extended rate of $300 per month. We left the motorhome under our police officer son's supervison for eight days over Thanksgiving when we flew to Albuquerque to visit family. It was a great visit, even though it turned pretty cold with winds and nighttime temps in the teens a couple of nights! After 8 nights away from the motorhome, we were glad to get back to relatively warmer Alabama!
2-3 DEC, WHITE HALL AL -- About 2 pm on Friday, we left our spot at Maxwell AFB reserved by an orange cone (in accordance w/their policy), stopped by the base clinic to get our annual flu shots, and then headed east apx 34 miles on US 80 to find Prairie Creek COE campground where our grandson's Cub Scout Pack had a "campout" scheduled. Since the Cub Scouts are young, each must have a parent or guardian present. We were signed up to fill in for his parents about a month ago, and made our campground reservations via www.reserveusa.com. We are riding herd on both our 7 yr old grandson and his 3 yr old sister ...she loves the "campouts" too! Some families use tents, and some use RVs ...not a difficult decision which we would prefer to use for "camping" over the first weekend in December. :) Helping us find the campground was our new Garmin Street Pilot 2610 portable GPS. We actually got the Garmin for use in the Honda since the motorhome has a "built-in" Alpine GPS, but we've been playing with the Garmin the past few days learning how it works. We quickly learned the portable Garmin's capabilities are much more impressive than the Alpine's, at least off the beaten path onto the Alabama county roads. It led us right to the campground while the Alpine finally gave up, shut up, quit drawing alternate routes for us to double back on, and showed our location surround by a blank roadless wilderness. We heartily recommend the Garmin. We had never been to a COE (that's Corp of Engineers) campground before, so did not know what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised with the campground. After checking in at the gate where they verified our reservation, we went to Eagle's Roost area, site #1. This is one of 7 camping areas in the campground, with a total of at least 55 campsites. Eagle's Roost has 20 sites with wide paved roads, very nice large gravel sites w/picnic tables and water and electric hookpus with 50amp power, a bathhouse/restroom, and a nice play ground. Big rig access is easy, especially backing into the sites which have nice wide entry ways. It was a beautiful weekend, and both grandkids learned to cast their new fishing poles. Along the way, Papa learned how to improvise in order to fish a pole off the bottom of the Alabama River when it gets loose from little hands ...see, old guys can learn new tricks too! Our cost at Prairie Creek was $14 per night.
4-11 DEC, MONTGOMERY AL, MAXWELL AFB -- After breakfast with the Cub Scouts (you bring it, the leaders will combine it and cook it for all to eat) and a brief worship service, we headed back to our pre-rented site in the Famcamp at Maxwell AFB, Montgomery AL. After resting up from the weekend for one night, we got up early and Paul headed 100 mi north to a Winnebago dealer just east of Birmingham to have them look at an ongoing water leak problem in the basement storage area that two other dealers had tried to resolve without success. The last dealer "fix" made the problem much worse, and we requested factory assistance. Winnebago Owner Relations referred us to this dealer so they could review the history, examine the situation, and discuss possible solutions with the Winnebago factory. My GPS could find the road where the dealership was located, but not the street number. After taking the wrong exit, a call to the dealership got us headed to the right location two exits further along I-20. After several hours of looking and talking, the dealership decided they could do something to help. It would be a few days before they could get to it, so we made an appointment for the following week and returned the 100 miles back to Montgomery.
13 DEC, CROPWELL AL -- We headed for the dealership in Leeds for our follow-up appointment on the afternoon of the 12th. We had a campground located at I-20 exit 144 about 4 miles from the dealership, but when we arrived there we found it had been abandoned and weeds were waist deep throughout the campground! All our attempts to call ahead had been met with a ringing phone but no answer. We made some phone calls, then dropped the motorhome off at the dealership so they could get on it first thing in the morning, and we headed into Birmingham to spend a pleasant evening with friends. We spent the night in their guest room, then spent most of the day on Tuesday shopping around Birmingham. When we got back to the dealer about mid-afternoon to check on their progress, we were told they could not be through by closing, but that we could take the motorhome at 5pm, stay in it overnight, and return it at 8am. When I talked with the techs while they were working on the motorhome, I could see that they had concentrated only on removing the sealants that I, the two other dealers, and the factory had applied. This was where the symptoms exhibited, but was not the source of the problem. We had found another RV park about 20 miles away, so we made a telephone call to verify that they were indeed still in business. They were, but told us that they take only long-term renters, not overnighters. But they did provide us with the name and telephone number of another RV park next to them that does take overnighters. We called them, verified the location, and went off to find them in the dark. Lakeside Landing RV Park & Marina appeared to be a very nice location with a large store, pull-through sites, full hookups, marina, swimming beach, and other nice features ...it was too dark and too cold to be interested in "enjoying" anything but the electric power to run our lights and heat pumps! Overnight cost for our 50amp full-hookup site was $19.80 with Good Sam Club discount of 10%. I had to go back to the RV to find my Good Sam card to get checked in ...the first time we have used it for a campground discount as most of our SMART musters get a group discount so we could not take advantage of other discounts.
14-31 DEC, MONTGOMERY AL, MAXWELL AFB -- We had the motorhome back to the dealership service department at 7:45 am, and headed off to find a Cracker Barrel for a good country breakfast. While we were eating, the dealership called our cell phone to tell us that the tech who had worked on the motorhome the day before had called in sick, and a new tech needed to talk with me about the problem so he could figure out how to address it. After talking with him, we finished our breakfast and headed back to the dealership to talk more with the tech in person. After a lengthy discussion and looking at various areas around the leaking slide-out, he said he now understood. I went to the customer lounge to sit and read. About 45 minutes later the tech appeared and asked if it was my desire to take the motorhome with me today. I told him it was, and he again said, "Ok," and departed. About 20 minutes later the service manager appeared to tell me that the two techs working on the motorhome had decided that "they are in over their heads," and that stopping the leak was beyond their capabilities. They had reapplied all the sealant that was removed the day before, and recommended I take the motorhome back to the factory in Iowa. I thanked them for their honesty in admitting they did not feel they could fix the problem rather than throwing parts and sealant at it, and we headed back to Montgomery. There was no charge for their time. ..... and now, the rest of the story ... to make a long story short, I discovered when setting up in the Famcamp at Maxwell that they had opened a storage compartment door on the other side of the motorhome, a can of spray undercoating fell out, and apparently "went off." The can had fallen out several times on me before, but now was nowhere to be found. There were little black tar-like spots on several items inside the compartment, on the compartment ceiling, on the side of the motorhome, and on the front aluminum wheel. It was obvious they had tried to remove it with some kind of solvent, but had not done a good job of it. I easily cleaned all the spots off the paint and the wheel with a paper towel and WD-40. (Remember that when you notice road tar on your car ...with WD-40 it will literally wipe of without harm to the finish! It removes tar, crayon, gum, lipstick, petroleum stains, and on and on and on ...even keeps Pigeons off your balcony according to "The 2000 Uses for WD-40" website at www.twbc.org/wd40.htm -- the true universal solvent.) After removing the spots with WD-40, I waxed the affected areas with my "dry wash" FW1 wax. Then I called the service manager, told him the story, and asked him to tell his techs, "next time, just use WD-40 and 'fess up when something like that happens." (I can't help but wonder what their shop floor looked like...) Now to get back with Winnebago Owner Relations to plot the next step in resolving the leak. At least we can control the leak by retracting the slide when it rains! While in Montgomery, we established a relationship with a civilian doctor. We will use Tricare Standard (military health care plan) while traveling. It allows us to choose our own doctor ...a privilege we really look forward to after being changed from one doctor to another several times a year under active duty medical care Tricare Prime. Tricare Standard does not carry the enrollment cost that Tricare Prime does, but we have subscribed to a Tricare Supplement plan that will take care of most of the co-pays we will be charged under the Standard plan. Our medical prescriptions will be spread between military pharmacies, the mail-in military pharmacy, or CVS for those the military does not carry (once you are in the CVS system, you can get you prescription renewals at any CVS Pharmacy across the nation). As my AF dentist was on leave when I needed care just before retirement, I also got started with the VA to complete the dental service the AF was not able to complete. The VA dentist was great, did a more thorough check-up than I have had in years, and laid out a treatment plan over the next three years. Sounds like I will have a dental appointment almost every time I return to Montgomery! We had a great extended visit with kids and grandkids, renewed some old friendships, and plan to head West after New Year's.
RV TRAVELS SUMMARY TO DATE...
...Back to last year's travels... -OR-
...On to next year's travels...
States traveled in - AL, DE, FL, GA, LA, MD, MS, NC, NM, OK, SC, TX, VA = 13
back to Our RV Travels... ...... back to Our Retirement Home...
back to The Empty Nest HOME...
...Back to last year's travels... -OR-
...On to next year's travels...