1-3 JAN, MONTGOMERY AL, MAXWELL AFB -- We begin a new year of RVing by wrapping up almost two months in Montgomery visiting kids and grandkids. It's been a great visit, and we even had some unseasonably warm weather off and on. 70+ on New Year's Day is unusual even for Alabama!
4-6 JAN, VICKSBURG MS -- We took our time getting underway this morning, going by Maxwell AFB Recreation Supply to top off the LP tank, then to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription renewal, and hitting US 80 West toward Selma just after 10am. In early afternoon on I-20 going across Mississippi, I glanced at the outside temperature gauge on the dash of the motor home and noticed it was 80 degrees outside! ...no wonder we were feeling warm! ...time to turn on the air conditioner! We arrived in Vicksburg about 3:30, taking exit 4b to the access road to find the Vicksburg Battlefield Campground. The campground is just past the Battlefield Museum, and apx 1/2 mile from Battlefield National Park. Actually, we are enroute to East Texas to get our vehicle inspections up to date, and to trade in our Virginia Driver Licenses for Texas Licenses. But we have passed through Vicksburg many times over the years, never stopping for much more than gas, fast food or a rest stop. This time we will take a couple of days to see Vicksburg Battlefield National Park. The campground maps says, "The Civil War soldier had a miserable time here ...but you won't!" We hope that is true! The campground is on hilly terrain, but the sites are pretty level. It is an older campground, and we are assigned to a "pull-through" site in the area on top of a hill. Calling these sites "pull-through" is a bit optimistic. The sites are a little narrow, but would be okay if they were set up on an angle from the road as normal ...but these sites are at a full-right angle to the very narrow paved road. On each side of the pavement are concrete drainage channels running down the hill. We ignore the pavement, jockey the 40' motorhome around forward, backward, and forward again into the back-in sites across the narrow road from our site, tossing and turning through the drainage channels to get into position on the site. This site will be a "back-out" for us rather than a pull-through due to the steep angle and drainage ditches to the front. Our full-hookup 50 amp site comes complete with CATV for just $20 per night. Our total for the three nights was $64.20. Vicksburg National Military Park is quite large, covering rolling hills on the west side of the city. The Siege of Vicksburg by Grant's army went on for over 60 days, ending in the surrender of the city by Confederate General Pemberton to avoid further bloodshed. Thousands died during the siege, and many of the civilian population resorted to living in nicely furnished caves in order to survive the constant shelling of the city. In addition to the park, we found the Confederate Military Cemetery in the midst of the city cemetery, and a neat Antique Doll & Toy Museum in the old downtown area. They have a very large collection of dolls, some of which are very old. Among the dolls are boys' toy cars, trains, and quite a few pedal cars. We found a few familiar dolls and toys, and a slightly different version of the Buddy Lee doll that my parents bought for me in a men's clothing when I was about 4 hears old. We decided after close examination that my Buddy Lee's outfit is probably more authentic/original (theirs appears to be mix & match from two or more versions of the Buddy Lee), although mine is missing the original bandana. The doll and toy museum is an interesting place to spend an hour or so. Admission was $3 each. We didn't get to the National Cemetery where the Union dead were buried or to the museum where the recovered iron-clad, the USS Cairo, is exhibited ...we'll save those for another visit during warmer weather.
7-8 JAN, TYLER TX -- After a very cool night in Vicksburg (it got down to 22 degrees!), we departed for Tyler TX about 10 am after backing out of our "pull-through" site since there was no feasible way for us to pull forward out of the site and make the turn onto the narrow road down the hill. We hooked up the tow bar on the lower level by the pool, and headed for I-20. It was an uneventful drive with a little head-wind. Since retirement, I've learned to put the transmission in "economy" mode, the cruise control on 65 mph, and sit back to watch the world speed by. That has gained us a 34% increase in fuel economy compared to cruising at 72 mph (as the motorhome loves to do ). We stopped for fuel at a Flying J Conoco just before crossing from Louisiana into Texas, and paid $2.32 a gallon for 68.5 gallon of diesel fuel. As members of the Flying J RV Club (no cost), when we insert the RV Club card at the pump before inserting a credit card, we get a penny off per gallon from the cash price, even when using a credit card. We can travel around 700 miles on a tank of fuel, so only have to fill up about every other day ...but it sure is expensive when we DO fill up! We normally fill up about 500 or so miles. After a quick sandwich, we got back underway and arrived in Tyler about 3:30 pm, following the GPS directions to the home of friends. They have a cul-de-sac on the side of their house where we can park kind of out-of-the-way for a couple of nights. This time of year, we won't have big power requirements for our ac/heat pumps so plugging into a normal 15 amp plug will provide sufficient power for the refrigerator and lights, and will allow the LP furnace to kick on if needed. Overnight temperatures are forecast for a mild 51 degrees, so we shouldn't need the furnaces like we did in Vicksburg!!
9-23 JAN, LIVINGSTON TX -- We had a good visit in Tyler, and pulled out just before 10am, headed south toward Livingston and Rainbow's End RV Park at the headquarters of the Escapees RV Club. This is the location of our residence address. Our motorhome and tow car are already registered in Texas, but we need to get Texas vehicle inspections on both vehicles, and also trade in our Virginia Driver Licenses for Texas in order to complete our retirement transition to complete and genuine Texas residents. While here, we can pick up our mail in person rather than paying to have it forwarded to us somewhere else! Rainbow's End is the "mother" park of the Escapees RV park system. It includes purchased sites where many owners build homes along with their RV site, leased sites where lessees can put up a storage building, transient sites, clubhouse, recreation center, mail handling facility, and the Care Center assisted living facility for RVers who can no longer travel, either temporarily or permanently. There is both a live-in facility, and RV sites surrounding the Care Center where RVers can live in their RVs while receiving some assistance. There are many different activities everyday for those who wish to participate. Escapees has a membership of apx 65,000 families. The mail handling facility handles mail for 10,000 families!! Most of those families have their mail forwarded to other locations, just as we do. Yes, we pay the forwarding costs, normally $4-$6 per week, so we have tried to eliminate all the junk mail we can. Mail arrives at the mail handling facility in a semi trailer that makes two trips to and from Houston every day! There are 100 employees in the headquarters operation, most no doubt working in the mail handling facility. Feeling adventurous, we went in on Friday the 13th to get our Texas Drivers Licenses. The co-pilot took the vision test and got her license swapped out in a matter of minutes. But since our motorhome is over 26,000 GVW I had to take both a written and road test to get a Class B non-CDL license. I passed the written test (btw …do you know what size fire extinguisher is required in a taxi cab??), and was given a time to return the following week for the road test. After about twenty minutes driving around town, the examiner seemed reasonably assured this old Coot will not unnecessarily endanger his fellow citizens on the roadways, and agreed to issue the license. During our stay, we also took advantage of a Mobile RV Lube service out of Houston to get our annual oil change & chassis service accomplished at prices better than truck service places in the past...and MUCH more convenient!! Our final cost at Rainbow's End, with membership discount, was $12.50/night + $2.30 electric per day. Most of the electric was consumed in running the heat pumps during the cool 30 & 40 degree nights. Total cost including $29.50 for WIFI internet ($15/week, $29.50/mo), minus $ saved by picking up our mail rather than having it forwarded at apx $6.50 per week = apx $15.50/night.
24-30 JAN, BELTON TX, FT HOOD BLORA (Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area) -- We arrived at Ft Hood about 3pm. There is a choice of RV parks at Ft Hood. The regular "travel camp" is on West Ft Hood just west of Killeen TX. On the East side of Ft Hood about 10 miles from the main post area near Belton TX is the Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area (BLORA). BLORA has many recreation facilities (most closed in winter), including three RV campgrounds. RV entry is through the city of Belton, then over a cattle guard onto the range area of the fort. Just inside the main gate is Cottage Campground, taking its name from the fact that there are several rental cottages there along with the 11 RV sites. We chose Cottage Campground as it is the only one with full hookups ...electric, water & sewer. We could manage a week without needing to dump our gray and black tanks, but would have to skip some shower or use the bathhouse, and would also have to skip washing clothes. When we have a choice, we prefer full-hookups when we are in place longer than 4 days or so. The sites are nice sized with very nice built in grills, but the slabs are a little on the short side, and several have severely sloped entryways. The woman who checked us in had us go to the sites first to decide if we thought we would fit (she thought we were about as big as an RV can get!). After the security man who drove over with us told us we could circle around on the grass and enter the site from the rear to avoid dragging on the slope at the site entry, we decided there would be no problem, and found on set-up that we were a good fit, but no room to spare on the slab itself. There is still plenty of room to park the Honda on the sloped drive in front of the slab. While setting up, I did my best job yet of knocking my head on the bedroom slide room. When in the extended position, it is right at head level. I was walking around the motorhome with some tools to set up the satellite dish, looking at the tools in my hands, and ran straight into the slide. After unscrambling my marbles enough to pick myself up from the ground, I found that I was surprisingly undamaged except for a knot on my head and a sore jaw ...where that came from I don't know! Maybe next time I'll watch where I'm going!!! After getting everything set up, we ventured off across the wilds of Ft Hood to find the main part of the post so we could exit the post into Killeen to meet friends for dinner. While here we plan to get some visiting in, do some re-stocking at the commissary and exchange. During our stay, we enjoyed a couple of visits with an AF Chaplain and his wife, and with a cousin up near Waco we had not seen for many years. I even got a bicycle ride in one afternoon, but ended up pushing the bike up a couple of the very steep hills in the rec area. Weather was very pleasant for the week, and there was even about 12 hours of badly needed rain. The other RV areas in BLORA are Deer where they are putting in concrete slabs, and Cedar where most sites have nice slabs. Cedar is right across the road from the swimming area. It had only one RV there when we drove through, and there were several deer grazing in the area. We also checked out the RV "Travel Park" on West Ft Hood, and found it to be pretty grim. It is all asphalt, sites are very close together, and the area appeared rather cluttered. Although it would be closer to shopping & city things, we much prefer our location at BLORA. Our cost at BLORA Cottage Camp Ground for our full-hookup 30amp site is $15 per night plus one time $4 entry fee. (normal entry fee is $4 per vehicle day)
31 JAN-4 FEB, SAGINAW TX -- We drove apx 165 miles from Ft Hood to Eagle Resorts RV Park just west of Saginaw TX (NW of Ft Worth) today. We plan to be here four weeks visiting family, and taking "Rosie" (the motorhome) to visit the RV Dealer where we bought her for some factory directed service. We stayed in this same RV Park overnight in January 2004 ...it was called Eagle Mountain RV Ranch then, but it's the same place, and Little John the Jackass still roams the little pasture behind the back-in sites where we were last time. This time we called ahead and reserved a "monthly" site. On arrival, we were assigned to site 108, a newly re-done pull-through site with full-hookups and 50 amp power. The manager told me he just finished the new electric box this morning! ...before plugging in, I checked it with my multi-meter, and it appears he got it right! ...good sign! The newly leveled pad is a mix of dirt/cinder. In rainy season, it could be messy. But with the currently lack of rain in Texas we shouldn't have any problem in that area! Robertson Rd is much busier now than on our last visit 2 years ago. It has become a thoroughfare between town and new developments on Eagle Mountain Lake. Although this RV park has the word "Resorts" in its name, that seems to be just an attempt to draw customers. There are some genuine resorts on the lake, including RV resort areas. We normally avoid anyplace with "resort" in its name as they are normally "destination" parks with multiple entertainment amenities and considerably higher prices ...we're not interested in their amenities or high prices! This park is just the basic RV park with parking spaces & utilities, and at least half of the residents appear to be quite permanent. Some even have wood patios built onto their trailers! Several others are fairly long term oil field workers, working the recent oil boom in the area. Several improvements in appearance have been made since our last visit, but it is far from being a "resort" location as yet. The first weekend there, I drove to Abilene and back on Saturday for the meeting of a special committee I am on at McMurry College, where I graduated many years ago! This was only the second time I had been back since graduating in 1973, and the other time was just a quick drive-through. There are many things to do in the local area. While in the Ft Worth area, we checked out the Ft Worth Stock Show vendors one afternoon (note the interesting sign we saw there...), and a couple of days later browsed through the huge selection of boots and western clothing at the Justin factory outlet store in Justin TX, north of Ft Worth. I returned about a week later on the way back from the RV dealer and bought a pair of crepe sole Justin boots ...they are very comfortable! Our cost for the month is $290, electric included ...just $10.36 per night!! Great price!!
5 FEB, LAKE DALLAS TX -- We left Eagle Resorts RV Park apx 5pm on Sunday to drive across the north side of Ft Worth to McClain's RV Superstore, the dealership where we bought the motorhome in 2003. Winnebago has referred us there, hopefully to resolve the rain leak in the side seals of the galley/lounge slide. Other dealers have tried and failed several times. If McClain's cannot resolve the problem, the next step will be the factory next summer when we go to the Winnebago Grand National Rally in northern Iowa. McClain's has 4 water & electric hookup sites behind their Lake Dallas dealership. There were two rigs in place when we arrived at 6pm, and a fourth rig arrived about 7pm. The hookups have nice concrete pads with grass between, and are offered at no cost to customers.
7-19 FEB, SAGINAW TX -- They worked on the rig about a day and a half, accomplishing a couple of requested items, diagnosing others, and ordering parts. We spent one night with family members in Saginaw to avoid sitting around the dealer for two full days where we could have stayed in the rig overnight. On the afternoon of the 7th I picked up the coach at their 6pm closing time, and headed back to Eagle Resorts RV Park. They will call when the parts arrive, and we will return to them for what will no doubt be two or three more days of work. The slide leak repairs and a couple of other issues will be covered by the factory even though the original warranty is long expired. Winnebago is pretty good about taking responsibility for manufacturing issues. More to follow on this!! During this time we visited "The Shops at the Stockyards" There are lots of neat stores in the old stockyards and in the surrounding area. Twice a day they have a cattle drive through the streets, and there is an old train you can ride a couple of miles and back. We also visited the Ft Worth Zoo. It is a very nice zoo, but we discovered while enjoying our Blue Bonnet ice cream that they close at 4pm this time of year ...security ran us and some other stragglers out! We had seen pretty much all of it by that time, and our feet were tired anyway, so we were easy to run off. It was 83 degrees that day. The next day it was about 43 and windy. And the following two days were 28 degrees or lower, with freezing drizzle. This is the kind of weather we were going to avoid!!! Oh well, the sacrifices we make to visit family and friends. After two days and nights of bitter cold, it returned to more reasonable temperatures in the high 40's and 50's for daytime, and high 30's or 40's at night.
21 FEB, LAKE DALLAS TX -- We left Eagle Resorts RV Park apx 3pm on once again heading for McClain's RV Superstore in Lake Dallas. When we arrived we found three of the four customer "campground" spots blocked by brand new Fifth-wheel trailers, and the fourth reserved by orange cones for a rig in service and returning to the campground for overnight. We parked in the street while I went inside to talk to the service dept. They told us they were moving some trailers around getting ready to go to a show, and that they would get someone to move a trailer so we could get into the campground. After waiting an hour, I returned to the service dept to remind them I was still waiting. This time a quick radio conversation got the trailer moved in less than 5 minutes. We parked and hooked up to power, then went to supper at The Outback to use some Christmas gift cards we have been holding onto until just the right time. We saw an Outback about a mile up the street, so this is the right time! In the morning, we will give the motorhome back to the service dept and head back to Saginaw for a night or two while they finish the needed service items. Also, we'll have them fill the LP tank before we take the rig back to Saginaw since those really cold days and nights required use of the gas furnaces rather than our normal heat pumps which run on electricity, and took the LP tank level down to apx 1/3.
23 FEB, LAKE DALLAS TX -- We spent two more nights with family members, and after telephone coordination, we arrived back at the dealership just after 5pm expecting the rig to be completed and ready for departure before closing at 6pm. They did get everything wrapped up about 6:05, but we decided to spend the night in the dealership campground so they could detail the coach inside and out the next morning while the service ticket is written up. They filled the LP tank before I moved it back to the campground behind the dealership. This time the campground is empty except or one other rig that was also here when we stayed overnight on the 21st. I suspect they are waiting on parts to arrive. The next morning, I took the coach back in the service entrance when they opened at 9am. Before they took it to the wash rack, I pointed out a gap in the front slide seal where I could see daylight when the slide is closed, then went to the customer lounge to wait. About 11:15, the service writer came in to go over the service ticket with me, and told me the coach would be finished in apx 30 min. When they released the coach to me, I reminded them of the gap in the seal, and they told me to pull it up to the outside of the service bay. While the tech was adjusting the seal, I glanced up at the new overlapping seal at the top. It appeared to be loose on one end, and when I asked tech how it was attached, he glanced up and agreed it was coming loose. After he got the bottom seal right, he re-addressed both top corners. About 1/2 hr later we were ready to head back to Saginaw. The wash, carpet shampoo, and LP fill were provided at no charge "to make up for taking longer than the estimate." ...nice touch. Unfortunately, on the way back to Saginaw, we encountered light rain, so there went the exterior wash job. But at least the carpets are freshly cleaned! I think they have the slide water leak and storage compartment water leaks resolved this time ...at least, it looks very hopeful. We have one weekend left in Saginaw, then we move about 20 miles east to Arlington. But a new problem I discovered between the service appointments required another part to be ordered, so we will have one more service appointment while we are in the area. This time the time estimate is 3 hr, so I should be able to get in all completed on the same day! ...we'll see. The good thing is that they appear to be the best service department we have ever been to. They appear to have both the knowledge and the ability to do good work.
24-27 FEB, SAGINAW TX -- Back at Eagle Resorts, it began to rain heavily during the evening and continued all night. We didn't test the water leak solutions as the last minute fix on the seals involved some adhesive, and the service tech advised me to leave the slide closed "as long as possible" to allow the adhesive to set. My brother-in-law had a tee time for us for Saturday noon, but at 10:30 we looked out at the numerous water puddles, heavy clouds, and mist in the air, and decided to pass on golf. Instead, we drove to their lake cabin to scope out a parking spot for the motorhome when we pass back through the area over Memorial Day weekend. On the way to the lake, we ran into rain, and the rain continued all the way back and into the evening hours ...smart decision to pass on the golf! The area has been very dry. The lake was about 15-20 feet below normal today, so the rain is very, very welcome.
28 FEB-12 MAR, ARLINGTON TX -- We departed Eagle Resorts RV Park about 10:30 am. The co-pilot had a hair appointment in Saginaw (actually, she left first with apx 30 min head start), and the motorhome needed some fuel, so we planned to meet in Saginaw after both tasks were completed. There was a new shopping area with a large almost vacant parking lot next door to the service station, so we met there to attach the tow bar to the Honda, then headed SE. After about 3 mi of bumper to bumper traffic at and past the 820 Loop/I-35W South junction (4-5 lanes squeezing into one due to an accident), it was smooth sailing across Ft Worth to Arlington. All Seasons RV Park is a gated park, and also well concealed! If you are not looking for it, you probably won't see it. It is a pretty nice park with apx 150 sites offering full-hookups, 50 amp power, free CATV, free WIFI internet (all right!!!), local telephone connection (at charge), pool, and a small store. The sites are gravel with grass between, streets are asphalt. We called in mid-January to reserve a monthly site at $350 +metered electric. They require a $100 deposit for the electric, which should easily cover our electric cost this time of year. We had a great time getting together with a few former members of the McMurry College band I was a part of around 35 years ago ...amazing how much some of those "kids" have changed when I still look the same! Another great evening was spent at the Medieval Times castle in Dallas. The meal was great, and you can see from the picture that the jousting is quite realistic!
13-14 MAR, LAKE DALLAS TX -- We left All Seasons RV Park about 1pm to drive 45 miles across Dallas to McClain's RV for installation of the hydraulic fitting they had to order during our previous visit. We figured traffic would be better at mid-day than in the evening. Our appointment is at 9am on the 14th, so we'll spend the night in one of McClain's hookup sites for the night rather than getting up really early and fighting traffic driving across town ...the blessings of retirement!! We had a birthday celebration scheduled with the co-pilot's mother on the 14th, so departed the dealership in early afternoon before they completed the work and had them put the motorhome back in their campground. We returned that night after the birthday celebration, picked up our keys and settled up with the cashier the next morning, and headed back to the RV park in Arlington in late morning after the rush hour traffic had died down. We still nearly got a new hood ornament when some fool directly in front of us suddenly decided to stop his little car in 60 mph traffic so he could wait for an opening in the clogged double exit lanes to the right. Somehow we missed him, but moved most loose items in the motorhome forward several feet in the process. Those big air brakes and the supplemental braking system on the "toad" sure work great ...and so do the dual air horns!!! ...city traffic sure is fun!!
15-27 MAR, ARLINGTON TX -- Back at All Seasons RV Park, we got settled back in our site and started mental preparations and grocery lists for the arrival of our daughter on Friday at DFW airport, and daughter-in-law and two grandkids on Saturday by car. We had a birthday party waiting for our 4 yr old granddaughter when they arrived after an 11 1/2 hr drive ...the pink cowgirl boots her mother had asked us to find were a hit! We are permitted to sleep a total of 4 "residents" in the motorhome based on the site rent we paid (that's all we can sleep comfortably anyway), so some of the four visitors bunked at a friend's home nearby in Dallas. During the week we visited Park Mall in Arlington (during an unbelievable rainstorm), the Dallas Aquarium, the Ft Worth Zoo, the Stockyard shops where we saw the twice daily Longhorn cattle drive down the street, and took the grandkids to visit their great-grandmother!! After church and lunch on Sunday, we decided to spend some time in Park Mall rather than returning to the motorhome ...it helped that the mall had a covered parking garage where we could unload sheltered from the pouring rain!, While we were at the mall strolling through shops, riding the carousel, and using the nice playground there, the cities of Arlington and Dallas were experiencing flooding in many areas. When we returned to the RV park a few hours later we could tell that the low end of the park ...including part of the entrance road!! ...had been under at least 18-24" of water. In that area, one medium sized drainage ditch merges into a larger drainage ditch ...obviously they had been overwhelmed with the heavy downpour which lasted most of the day. Our site is on the high end of the park, so just experienced lots of water running through the site. The day after all our visitors left, we invited some long-time friends from college days over, and we had fun checking out a few other local RV parks for possible future use. We found a few to cross off our list, and a couple to keep in mind for future visits, and had lunch at a neat restaurant at a little marina on Joe Pool Lake south of Arlington. After a quiet Sunday and Monday, it was time for us to depart the DFW area to head back east. We have a SMART (military RV group) National Muster in central Florida the third week of April. On the way to Florida we'll spend a 2-3 weeks in Montgomery AL with sons and grandkids, and make a few doctor and dentist appointments too. As we were hooking up the car to depart, there were several folks from KOA walking through the park talking and taking notes in preparation for their take-over of the park in May. One of the parks we checked out on Saturday told us they had already gained several folks moving out of All Seasons ahead of the KOA transition! When we checked out, the clerk asked if we would come back someday. I had to honestly tell her "probably not," as we avoid KOA campgrounds if at all possible. We have found KOA campgrounds to be poorly maintained, have very narrow roads, unreasonably tight sites, trees that need trimming to avoid damage to the RVs, and unreasonably high prices due to "add-on's" to the basic price! Next time we are in the DFW area, we'll use one of the other campgrounds we checked out!
28 MAR, PEARL MS -- We got away from Arlington about 9:30 am. I had picked out a Flying J Truck Stop off I-20 in Pearl MS as our late afternoon refueling stop and possible overnight stay location. We arrived there about 5pm. While refueling we noted there didn't seem to be any of the usual RV parking spots along the far side of the parking lot ...in fact, there WAS no "far side" of the parking lot. The truck parking area appeared about normal, but the car parking area is much smaller than the normal Flying J. There were a few RVs parked in some car spots, taking up two end-to-end spots plus a little. After completing fueling, we attempted to circle the parking lot and promptly encountered an impossible turn for an RV. A pickup and trailer were already trying to get out of the tight spot. Since we could not make the turn, and cannot back up with the car and tow bar, we got out and unhooked the car. Then we got the motorhome between two other RVs, occupying most of 4 marked car-sized parking spaces. After making note to never stop at this Flying J for an overnight again, we settled in for the night. The left-over steak from last night's visit to Outback Steakhouse was great warmed over in the microwave!! ...too bad the sleep was nowhere near that good due to our close proximity to the auto pump island, which was busy all night.
29 MAR-16 APR, MONTGOMERY AL, MAXWELL AFB -- We awoke early from our poor sleep, fired up the generator to make a quick cup of hot tea, jockeyed the motorhome out of the parking area, got the Honda back on the tow bar, and headed east to Montgomery. We were tired, but it was a pleasant drive. We arrived at Maxwell AFB just after noon, found about 3 spaces in the FamCamp to choose from, and settled in. When signing in at the office we found that they now take reservations ...up to 6 mo ahead for active duty, and up to 4 mo ahead for other eligible members. We'll certainly remember that for the future!! While in Montgomery this time, we decided to do a few tourist things that were not here when we lived in the area. The Lightning Route Trolley is a great way to get a street view of several downtown historical sites, and to hear some history along the way. The Lightning Route was the name of the original Montgomery trolley line in the late 1800', the first electric trolley line in the Western Hemisphere!! It was called "Lightning Route" for its incredible speed of 6 mph!!! (as you can see from the marker about the village of Encachata, there truly is a lot of history in Montgomery! For $1, you can buy an all day pass for both trolley routes. The trolley leaves from historic Union Station apx every 20 minutes. There are several free "Tourist Parking" slots behind Union Station under the massive train shed which is on the National Historic Register. You buy your ticket inside, and board the trolley out front. You can get off and on at will as you explore the various historical locations. They include Old Alabama Town, several Rosa Parks sites, Court Square Fountain, Dexter Ave King Memorial Baptist Church, First White House of the Confederacy, Civil Rights Memorial, Hank Williams Museum and more. We chose to simply ride both routes, then to walk to the Hank Williams Museum apx two blocks from Union Station. Montgomery is called at different times "The Birthplace of the Confederacy," and "The Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement." It was a very interesting ride, about 40 minutes to cover both routes, and we saw and heard things about Montgomery that we had never seen or heard in the years we lived here!! The Hank Williams Museum opened in downtown Montgomery in 1999. Hank Williams grew up in the area, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery near the downtown area. Several items were secured for the museum from a closing museum in Nashville, including the restored baby blue 1952 Cadillac Hank was riding in when he died. Just North of Montgomery is Ft Toulouse/Ft Jackson, site of one of the earliest forts on the North American continent, and of several since. There is a lot to see in the Montgomery area, from ancient history downtown to the quite modern and well-renowned Shakespeare Festival on the east side of town ...check it all out sometime!! While in Montgomery, I got my second retirement haircut (getting a haircut once every three-four months rather than every three-four weeks can save as much as $100 per year!!!). We also visited our civilian Doctor to get prescriptions up to date, and I had a dental appointment at the VA Medical Center. The dentist did three temporary caps on some damaged teeth, and scheduled an appointment in May to install the permanent caps. Sometime in the next 18 months, I'll have to work in more appointments during visits to Montgomery for more dental work. What a way to put a damper on visits with grandkids!! On Easter Sunday, we walked from the FamCamp about 100 yards to the Base Chapel Protestant Sunrise Service on the grass near Hopper Lodge, then enjoyed the buffet breakfast following the service. The chaplain who preached the service was on the staff at Andrews AFB when we were stationed there ...we enjoyed the service and a good visit after, then made the "early" service at St Mark UMC on the East side of Montgomery before heading out to enjoy Easter Sunday, Easter Egg hunts, and the works with our two grandkids ...and of course, their parents too :)
19 APR, LAKE PARK GA, GRASSY POND RECREATION AREA(MOODY AFB) -- We got a fairly early start for us at 8:30 am so we could go by our son's store on the way out of town. One of his employees has been asking us to "drop by" so she could see "Rosie," our home of wheels. After providing a tour for a couple of employees, we headed south. We are enroute to the SMART National Muster (www.smartrving.org), the annual national gathering of the military RV group, SMART (aka Special Military Active Retired Travel Club). This year the gathering is at Clerbrook Golf & RV Resort near Clermont FL, apx 80 miles west of Orlando. We'll be arriving before the main group for a meeting of the SMART Fulltimers Chapter, and to sit in on meetings of the SMART Board of Directors. The meeting of the BOD scheduled in Biloxi MS last January was cancelled due to the damage Hurricane Katrina did in the area, so this meeting may be a long one!! Rather than driving all the way to Clermont in one day, we decided to do it in two easy days. Today we drove from Montgomery to Adel GA where we met some old friends for a late lunch. After an enjoyable visit, we continued on south of Adel through Valdosta to Lake Park GA, then off into the country to Grassy Pond Recreation Area Famcamp, operated by Moody AFB. Grassy Pond is a very nice area with RV sites, cabins, boat rentals, fishing, and more. Too bad we'll be here only one night ...this looks like a place where we would like to spend more time sometime in the future!! Our cost for one night in a 30amp site was $12.50.
20-28 APR, CLERMONT FL -- We departed Grassy Pond about 8:30 am and headed for the Flying J Truck Stop 3 exits south on I-75. We paid $2.769 a gallon our diesel fill-up, and got back on I-75 for an uneventful drive to Clermont. After some construction and narrow lanes in Georgia, the rest of the drive was very nice 3-lane highway. We got off at the last exit before the Florida Turnpike to go into Leesburg to hit US 27 South, thus avoiding the turnpike altogether. We arrived at Clerbrook Golf and RV Resort in early afternoon on a VERY warm ...about 93 degrees!! ... day. Our site is in the "new" Veranda area, and we got one of the few sites with a tree that shades our front door and part of the motorhome from the afternoon sun!! The downside is that there is soft sand on the site where the last resident got stuck ...we straddled the soft spots as we backed in, hoping to get out easily in similar fashion. There was a full week of activities scheduled beginning with opening ceremonies of the SMART National Muster on Monday afternoon, and ending on Friday evening. We enjoyed all you can eat Catfish at the little "restaurant" in The B's RV Park a mile down the road, had a Mexican lunch with friends in a restaurant in the base of "The Citrus Tower" (we didn't take the ride up into the tower, but did look at pictures of acres and acres of citrus groves on the walls below. We saw many new housing developments so suspect many of the groves we saw the displayed pictures no longer exist), we saw a lot of Florida wildlife on the "Dora Canal Cruise" near the town of Mt Dora, and we let the GPS lead us and the same friends to the quaint and very informal Lake Susan Marina & Restaurant for some more fried catfish our last evening in the area. There were several interesting evening programs, including a totally outstanding patriotic program presented by the Winter Springs HS JROTC. It was an awesome commemoration of our nation's military forces, recognizing conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the present liberation and rebuilding of Iraq. One of the vendors present at the muster had satellite dishes ...he has one less now as we had him replace our original equipment rooftop dish with a new Motosat MD500 dual LNB auto seeking self-skew roof top satellite dish & Nomad 2 control box. What it can do that the original can't is the "skew" action enabling us to receive both Dish Network satellites simultaneously. We shouldn't need the portable dish and tripod much after this!! On our departure, we had the motorhome weighed by RVSEF (Recreational Vehicle Safety Education Foundation). They travel to RV rallies with four portable scales to provide weighing services to RV's. Without knowing your accurate weight, you don't know the correct inflation pressure for your tires. That can result in your tires being dangerously under inflated leading to overheating tires/blowouts, or over inflation leading to handling problems and irregular tire wear. We had the motorhome weighed about two years ago, but wanted to repeat the process to find out how much "stuff" we added when we began fulltiming. We found we have added more than we thought (weight is like that, eh?), and needed to raise the tire pressure apx 5 psi each from my earlier guess-timate ...taking the tire pressures to 105psi on the front, and 100psi on the rear duals. We are still within the GVWR on each axle, but need to watch hauling "extra stuff" around that we don't use! Our nightly cost at Clerbrook with the group rate was $22 for full-hookups w/50 amps. Their sites are grassy hard-packed sand ...some are quite unlevel, but there are so many sites in three different areas of the campground that you should be able to find one that works for you!
29 APR, TALLAHASSEE FL -- After our motorhome weigh-in session we adjusted the tire pressures a bit using the on-board air compressor, then headed North toward Tallahassee. We stayed overnight at Big Oak RV Park (free CATV and free WIFI!! ...too bad it's just for one night as I loved that fast WIFI!) in order to visit some retired Air Force friends. We had an quick tour of Tallahassee, drove around the perimeter of FSU, then enjoyed a seafood dinner in a local restaurant. Our "site" at Big Oak RV Park on US 27 a couple of miles North of I-10 was literally in the drive-way beside the office! ...a level gravel pull-through site with full-hookups. The drive is very wide there, and our parking guide set out large cones around the driveway side of the motorhome to protect us. The new satellite dish found both Dish Network satellites on its own, in spite of numerous trees ...all right!! The park brags about their nice trees & shade ...a good reason to provide free CATV ...but we don't have to string cable to the hookup, or even get out the portable dish! The park gave us a 10% discount for having a military ID card ...our Good Sam and FMCA cards would get the same rate. Cost for one night full-hookup w/50 amp power minus the 10% discount was $30.
30 APR-5 MAY, PERDIDO BAY FL -- After attending early contemporary worship at Kilearn Lake UMC with our friends, we pulled out of the RV Park about 10:30 am and headed west on I-10 for an easy drive of apx 200 miles to Perdido Bay, just west of Pensacola. We refueled at a Flying J truck stop just West of Tallahassee, paying $2.849 a gallon with our 1 cent "Flying J RV Club" discount, went up the road a couple of miles to drop some money at the Camping World store, and then got back on the road to Perdido Bay. Most of the way, we drove in a pretty strong and gusty crosswind. It didn't blow us around much due to our weight, but it was particularly noticeable when driving across a couple of long bridges just before we reached Pensacola. After getting set up at the RV hookup in our friends' yard we noticed the cover missing from the porch light ...gone with the wind!! Fortunately I have an extra lens ...the original clear one that I had replaced last year with the yellow one that blew away. While in the area, we checked out the National Seashore on Perdido Key and found the road is open only for the first few hundred feet into the park to the bathhouse/swimming area. Beyond that, road work is still in process removing sand from the road and repaving from the damage of Hurricane Ivan around two years ago. One evening I cycled with a friend and went 3 mi to the end of the road. There is new pavement in some places, and missing pavement in others, and stretches where the dunes are at least 3-4 feet high on both sides of the pavement. One afternoon we drove through the Blue Angel Recreation Area on Bronson Field near where we are parked at our friends' home. There are to RV areas at Blue Angel, the Anchor Cove area on the north end was pretty much untouched by Ivan, and remains a wooded area with some roads and sites rather tight for larger RVs. The Battleship Row area on the south end was heavily damaged by Ivan, and has been totally rebuilt with very nice double-wide slabs and full-hookups sites with 50 amp power. There are still plenty of trees, making it a nice park. Both areas are close to the water. Another afternoon, we went to a local theater to see the new movie "RV," starring Robin Williams. It is a funny movie about a family's first experience with an RV ...probably even more entertaining to those who have RV experience as many of the situations are based somewhat in reality!
6-18 MAY, MONTGOMERY AL, MAXWELL AFB -- It was an easy drive north to Montgomery. We stopped to refuel at a Flying J truck stop about 10 miles south of Montgomery (one we didn't know existed!!). While refueling our diesel, a Class A gas coach was parked outside the fuel island adjusting the air in his tires. He was putting air into the rear duals when there was a very loud BANG! I looked over and the guy was sitting back with a shocked look on his face ...the inside tire had blown out while he was adding air ...a great time, compared to other choices, to have a blowout (while parked, and while at a place that can fix it). We arrived at Maxwell AFB in early afternoon. We had reservations at the FamCamp, and had received a call the day before that site 14 would be the only vacant site and would be reserved for us with orange cones. We found that 14 is a very short site sloping off to the rear, barely long enough for our motorhome. But we had seen another site on the way in that appeared to be vacant. It is in the newer row to the south of the main area. Primary differences are that the sites are concrete, do not have grills, are all long sites, and have no trees except to the rear of the sites. All the newer sites have a clear shot for satellite TV, while many of the older sites do not. We went on to the open site in the newer area and got everything set up, then went grocery shopping. We agreed in a telephone call earlier in the morning that we would have our two grandkids overnight, so needed to stock up! We will be in Montgomery until late May. We will be joining our grandson for another Cub Scout "campout" this month, and the primary focus before the 19th is working on the "new" pop-up trailer they recently bought. It is a 1995 Starcraft Meteor that apparently was a rental unit somewhere at one time. They bought it from friends who had bought it to fix up, but never got around to it. The pop-up will be a great step up from the tents the family has been using in the "campouts." Some items were missing, some screens have small tears in them, and much of the rest was in poor condition. After two weeks of work, ("before" pic on left ..."after" pic in next paragraph) the cushions were recovered in a black & white cow print, new countertops were built and installed, running lights were restored to working order, new caulking was applied from one end to the other, and we determined that the power converter was not working. That means there was 110v power to the four outlets inside, but the converter was not turning 110v current into 12v current for the two ceiling lights and outside "porch" light. We determined the 12v circuits are operable through using a battery charger to provide 12v power. The plan for now is to forget the 12v lights and simply hang a fluorescent light from the ceiling, plugged into one of the outlets. The trailer came with an "icebox," which we had to explain to the below 40 crowd. Our explanation resulted in interest in a refrigerator. We found one at Wal-Mart that will be a good fit to replace the icebox, and it will no doubt be a future addition. A more immediate need is to replace the original 11 yr old tires! It was a good project, and well worth the $350 they paid for it!!! The final touch for the rehab project was to add the letters "Johnny" to front and rear immediately in front of the stenciled numeral "5" left over from the trailer's rental days ...so the pop-up is named "Johnny 5," inspired from the movie "Short Circuit." Our campground cost for 6-24 May was $235 for nightly cost of $12.37 (total was $250 minus discount of $15 for one "AF Frequent Camper Program" coupon).
19-20 MAY, MONTGOMERY COUNTY AL -- This weekend we joined Cub Scout Pack 50 from Wetumpka AL for a family "campout" at Gunter Hill COE (Corp of Engineers) Campground about 10 mi East of Maxwell AFB. The families "camp out" in a variety of ways, from tents to trailers to motorhomes. Our grandson is a Cub Scout, and he and his Wolf Den passed over to become a Bear Den for the next year. From organized activities to free time to late night campfire, both boys and families had fun in spite of plenty of mosquitoes and red bugs with healthy appetites. Gunter Hill COE is a nice campground with water & 50 amp electric hookups. There are two RV areas (one was totally closed off during the time we were there) and a primitive camping area for tents only. The area is heavily wooded (so no satellite TV for the weekend). Most sites are fairly level and reasonably accessible for large RVs. The campground was quite busy during the weekend with the Cub Scouts & families, a group of retired police officers doing their annual cookout/campout, and many individual families enjoying the outdoors. And the rehabbed pop-up, Johnny 5, passed it's initiation into Cub Scout campouts, being towed behind "Ol Blue," the 1967 Ford F-100 that originally belonged to my grandfather. Grandad would be mighty proud to know his pickup participated in a Cub Scout campout with his great-great grandson!!! Our cost at Gunter Hill COE Campground was $32 for the two nights.
19-24 MAY, MONTGOMERY AL, MAXWELL AFB -- After a morning flag ceremony, chapel and breakfast with the Cub Scouts, we returned to our site at Maxwell AFB FamCamp in late morning, reclaiming our site that had been reserved with an orange cone. We will be in place until Thursday, when we plan to depart for Texas and on to New Mexico with our grandson on board. He will be with us for about five weeks until we meet his parents and little sister back in Oklahoma in late June.
25 MAY, SHREVEPORT LA, BARKSDALE AFB -- Our planned departure was nearly sabotaged by problems with some dental work at the VA Medical Center in Montgomery. I had some crown work being done and after wearing temporary crowns for nearly two months, when I went in to have the permanent crowns installed they did not fit! That was two weeks ago, and the lab would supposedly have the remakes back in 6 days ...but it took 14 days!! They arrived the morning of our planned departure and I was in the dental clinic waiting to be worked in. They pulled off a miracle by getting me worked into the schedule, the remade crowns were a great fit, and we left town about 3 hrs behind our original plan! Our grandson had spent the night with us so we would be ready to leave as soon as the dental work was completed. We weren't sure how far we would go today, but when we checked our location in mid-afternoon, we decided to press on to our original planned destination ...the Barksdale AFB Famcamp on the east side of Shreveport. We called ahead about 4pm to ensure they were not full and were told there were plenty of open sites. They don't take reservations, but when we arrived at 7pm the office was closed (as expected) but the camp host was outside his rig and told us he had been advised that we were coming in and had "reserved" a pull-through site for us with orange cones!! Fantastic! We filled out the self-registration envelope, sealed in our check for the $14 overnight fee, and dropped it in the mail slot in the door. The famcamp is on the back side of the base, but the only challenge was getting through the construction barricades at the North Gate. The pull-through site was a very long gravel site with full-hookups. The only limitation was 30 amp power rather than 50 amp ...no problem for a short stay. After fixing supper, we checked our mileage for the next day, found we had only 300 miles to go, so knew we could sleep in the next morning since the family members we are meeting at their lake cabin won't be there until apx 5:30 pm! It was a restful night, shattered at 8:30 am by lawn mowers buzzing around the motorhome. Since our hosts for the next three nights don't have water and sewer available at their lake cabin, we made sure we had a least 1/2 tank of fresh water on board, and also dumped our waste tanks before departure. Our cost for one night was $14.00.
26-28 MAY, LAKE BRIDGEPORT TX -- We left Barksdale about 10:45 am, making extended stops enroute at a Flying J to take on 80 gallons of diesel fuel and at a Wal-Mart for a few groceries. (we also stopped at two or three rest areas...) We by-passed the Dallas-Ft Worth area by cutting north on US 69 to US 380 through McKinney & Denton over the Bridgeport, then up to Chico and west a few miles to our turn-off to the lake. While making the slow descent down the winding road to the lake, I noticed a familiar vehicle in the rear view mirrors. Our hosts were right behind us! We arrived at the lake "cabin" at 5:25 pm. I had checked the location out in February, and knew there was space to park the motorhome off the street right across from the cabin. After trimming some trees with the nifty tree trimmer we carry with us, we managed to get the motorhome off the pavement on the same side of the street as the cabin and very near the power pole where they had told me there is a 30 amp circuit. We even had room to get both slides out!! (The wood you see on the passenger side in the photo is being used for a step.) After getting creative with some 2x12 lumber under the front jacks and driver side front tire to get the motorhome leveled, we checked out the power pole. Yep, they had a 30 amp dedicated circuit, but it had a standard 15/20 amp plug on it! The cabin and all utilities had been put in by the previous generation, and one of the family members said he recalled something about the 30 amp plug going bad at one time. Using our step-down adapters from 50 to 30, and then from 30 to 15/20 amps, we plugged into the outlet. Sure enough, our power center said there was 30 amp power there, but we didn't dare try running the air conditioners for fear of melting the 20 amp rated step-down connection. It was very warm sleeping overnight with the vents and windows open, and the next day we drove back to Bridgeport to a little electrical place and bought a 30 amp RV plug. I removed the standard household plug and installed the 30 amp RV plug. My testers told me all was correct, so we plugged in the 30amp RV cord. Within 2 minutes, our SurgeGard system had checked out the power, approved what it saw, and made the connection. Being able to run the air conditioning was a very welcome improvement with the mid to high 90 temps!! We had a very enjoyable weekend, our grandson caught several fish to add to many others being caught, and we had a great fish fry on Sunday!
29-30 MAY, LUBBOCK TX -- We got away from the lake about 11:15 headed toward Lubbock, apx 255 miles west. Traffic was pretty light for Memorial Day, and it was a quite pleasant drive in spite of a fairly brisk crosswind. Our grandson had a great time riding in the copilot seat and viewing some wide open West Texas countryside. At the Loop 289 West exit to 34th street, we stopped at a Fina station for diesel at $2.79 a gallon ...a full 6 cents cheaper than anything we saw less than 10 miles on the other side of town! Then we drove a couple of hundred yards south to the Loop 289 RV Park, arriving about 4:20 pm. After check-in, we were directed to a nice concrete pull-through site with full hookups and 50 amp power. As soon as we got everything hooked up we started the washing machine. After three days at the lake we have lots of dirty clothes! We enjoyed an evening dinner, a visit to the Silent Wings Museum remembering the military glider pilots of WWII, a showing of "Over the Hedge" in a local theater, and departure breakfast with friends we had not seen for many years, and also an evening visit and dinner the next evening copilot's "little" brother and his wife. The weather looked pretty bad on Tuesday night but most of the storm passed to the north. On Wednesday we are headed on west to Clovis NM, then on to Albuquerque for about three weeks. Cost for the RV park was $18 per night including the 10% discount for cash, plus $2 per night charge for 50 amp electric. Our total cost for the two nights was $40. WIFI internet was available via Wirelessinternet for $2.95 for 24 hours. It worked fairly well, with brief dropped signals I attributed to the high winds likely blowing their antenna around.
31 MAY, CLOVIS NM -- Wow! ...did it ever rain in Lubbock overnight!!! Fortunately for us, the hail was several miles away. We left Lubbock about mid-morning and made the easy 109 mile drive to Clovis NM without incident, running into light rain just before getting to Clovis. We stopped at Traveler's World Campground on the west side of town, used our big umbrella to get checked in and parked, then waited about 10 minutes for the rain to die out before hooking up the electric power. Traveler's World is a small campground with gravel pull-through sites. Our grandson had fun watching a very small Cotton Tail bunny hopping around near our site, but soon found out that bunny was a fast runner if someone approached too closely!! We got some rest in the afternoon, then enjoyed dinner out with a friend who is currently stationed at Cannon AFB base. WIFI internet was available via TengoNet at $4.00 for 24 hrs use ...we've used them twice before and had problems with them in each location. Unfortunately, we found their connection was problematic here also! After I finally got connected about 9 hours AFTER they took my payment info via internet connection, the first thing I did was send in a complaint. The next morning, I got a telephone call. The tech acknowledged it was a relatively new installation and they had been having several problems with the equipment. He said he would send a complimentary certificate for 24 hr of free use whenever I am in a park served by Tengonet in the future. We'll see how it works next time on their dime!! Cost at Traveler's World for full-hookup, 50 amp electric, and free CATV (which we didn't use since we have the satellite dish!) was $20.46. That was with a 10% discount for Good Sam membership.
1-26 JUN, ALBUQUERQUE NM, KIRTLAND AFB -- We got away from Clovis about 9 am ...about an hour earlier than normal because I haven't been sleeping well due to a sinus infection/allergy attack/something ...that and our dog Xena woke me at about 6:45 am wanting to go outside "now." It was an easy drive to Albuquerque, with a brief stop in Santa Rosa to take on about 30 gallon of diesel so we would be nearly full on our planned departure from Albuquerque later in the month. When we arrived at Kirtland AFB, I asked the gate guard how to get to the Famcamp. He gave me directions that didn't seem to be taking us to where I thought the campground was, but we went along. Sure enough, what we found was the RV storage lot. Then we went to where I thought it was about 1 mile east of the storage lot and found the campground. We were assigned to a gravel site that looked like a pull-through, but turned out not to be as there is a sharp curb drop-off on one end of the site. We had trouble finding the site too as the numbers for the sites on our row were facing the street on the other side of the sites rather than facing the street we had to enter from! What's up with that? Then we found that the power pedestals are shared between sites, so on every other one they are on the wrong side and quite a distance from the parking site. And yes, our site was one of the "every other" ones with the electric connection on the wrong side. The sewer connection was well off the rear on the correct side, and the water hydrant was pretty much where it should be. After some jockeying and trial runs, we determined we could position the coach just right to connect to the power pedestal using every inch of power cord, and also manage to connect to the sewer on the other side of the coach by using our sewer extension hose to double the length. We concluded this is another one of many military campgrounds that were designed and/or built by people who knew very little about RVs. The famcamp has a maximum stay allowed of 14 days. We needed to stay 26 nights, so paid for 14 and then had to check back on the 14th. There were a couple of empty sites, so no waiting list, so we were able to pay for another 12 days and remain in the same site. If there had been a waiting list, we would have been required to rotate out into the "electric only" area for at least two days, after which we could return to a full hookup site if we were #1 on the waiting list. The campground is quite thoroughly populated with Cottontail rabbits ...our grandson sure would like to pet one, but has found that even the little ones are much too fast for him! In addition to visiting with family and friends, while in Albuquerque we got the motorhome serviced at the local Cummins CoachCare facility, went swimming a couple of times, visited the local zoo, took a ride on the Tram to Sandia Peak (on the second attempt after we found it grounded due to lightening in the area the first time we went ...that's Albuquerque apx 5,000 feet below in the picture), and enjoyed two movies ("Cars" and "Tale of Two Kitties") with our grandson (actually Nana didn't see "Cars" ...she went into another theater in the same building to see "X-Men"). We got in some family visiting, and drove out to Grants NM to meet a friend who lives in Gallup for lunch. We had a good reunion with her. Our total cost for 27 nights at the Kirtland Famcamp was $375 for night cost of $14.42. That included one AF Frequent Camper Coupon worth one night free.
27 JUN, AMARILLO TX -- We left Albuquerque about 9:30 am enroute to a family reunion in the Oklahoma City area. My parents were riding along with us. We had a relatively easy drive, stopping at Overnite RV park on the east side of Amarillo for the night. Since our grandson had an earlier claim on the sofa bed, my parents stayed in a nearby motel. There are three within a block of the RV park ...one right next door! They'll be more comfy with their own private bathroom anyway. The RV park is very decent, cinder gravel pull-through sites with full-hookups, free WIFI internet (worked kind of ok, but not great), catv, and a pool. Sites are cinder gravel. Our cost for one night w/Good Sam discount was $25.20.
28 JUN-5 JUL, EDMOND OK -- We left Amarillo about 9:30 am, fueled up at the Flying J truck stop at the next exit, and arrived in Oklahoma City in mid-afternoon after stopping for lunch at the Country Market Buffet at the Flying J in Sayre OK. We had earlier made reservations at Abe's RV Park off I-35 N at the same exit as another Flying J. After topping off the fuel tank, we went about 1/2 mi S on the access road to the campground. The first site they sent us to was a concrete back-in. There was a nice tree beside us, but the slab was too short and we could not find a functioning sewer connection ...the only once we found was crushed and plugged with leaves & grass. We talked to the office, and they re-directed us to a "pull-through" site near the entrance. The site works fine, but is too tight on the pull-in side to be a good pull-through. We had to move the rock sealing the sewer hookup and run over the open hookup with the rear dual wheels pulling into the site ...but no problem as it was several inches below the surface and in poor condition anyway. We had already disconnected the car, so it was no problem to jockey around and get situated. At least we will be able to hookup the car before leaving the site on our departure. There is no WIFI available, and no modem hookup. In addition, Oklahoma City is a non-native Verizon area so the cell phone was on extended network, meaning Verizon calls were using a competitor's towers. ...and that competitor did not allow data calls. My computer could "see" the wifi from the nearby Flying J, but it was not strong enough to connect. I finally was able to connect to a weak signal open wifi from a nearby motel. Once or twice I also connected to an open wifi that appeared to be coming from inside the RV park. Many RVer's who have satellite internet configure it so fellow RVers can also connect. A possible negative for this RV park is that it is located immediately adjacent to Frontier City amusement park, and thus when they have guest bands and special programs the RVers "enjoy" loud music in the evening hours. One night we even saw 15 minutes of fireworks just before 10 pm. The family reunion went great. In addition to Oklahoma, we saw family members from Washington state and New York and a few places between! We had some great visits, ate way too much both in the back yard (four freezers=20 qt=5 gallons of homemade ice cream!) and at "Taste of Edmond," we cheered on one of our families that entered the "Chalk It Up" contest, and a few of us were left in town to see fireworks on the evening of the 4th on the campus of Oklahoma Christian University. In addition to the family reunion, we had some good visits on the side with long-time friends. Our cost for eight nights, with Good Sam discount, was $130.25 for nightly cost of $16.28.
6-7 JUL, WICHITA KS -- We left Oklahoma City about 10:30 am and had an easy drive 163 miles north to Wichita, arriving at All Seasons RV Campground in Goddard KS about 1:30pm. I-35 was very smooth, especially after it turned into the Kansas Turnpike at the state line. Our cost for 4 axles from the state line to Wichita was $3. All Seasons is located about a mile north of US 54 just west of the airport. It is a decent RV park with dirt sites, grass, some shade trees, and "shared yards" (utilities between sites, and rigs next to one another pull in from opposite directions so picnic tables adjoin picnic tables rather than picnic tables adjoining the neighbor's utility connections). The campground office was closed when we arrived (from 12-3:00 according to the sign on the door), so we scouted things out and picked a 50 amp site where we would have no problem with satellite reception. I went back after 3pm to register and pay. Our cost for two nights was $47. The only discount offered is AAA, pretty useless for RVers ...even the woman running the registration admitted she is not an AAA member!! We stayed in Wichita for two nights while visiting friends we hadn't seen in many years. Our cost for two nights was $47, or $23.50 per night.
8 JUL, STORY CITY IA -- I woke up early (that's 7am in retired talk...), so went ahead and got up and prepared to depart Wichita. We got on the road about 8:20 am, and arrived in Story City IA about 4:30 pm. The drive up I-35 was relatively easy, the first portion being on the Kansas Turnpike at a cost of $7.50. As it was Saturday, we had no traffic problems transiting Kansas City and Des Moines. As we know there are many other Winnebago RVs on the road heading for Forest City, we had called ahead a few days earlier to reserve a space at Whispering Oaks RV Campground just off I-35 in Story City for tonight. It is a nice campground, and our site on the front row has a close-up view right of a huge cornfield right across the road. We had 2 or 3 very large trees immediately South of us, so the satellite dish failed to find the satellites. We were able to watch "regular" TV off the antenna, and found 6 stations, all with extremely clear reception. The campground was only a mile from the local United Methodist Church, and with a 10am service and a 2pm campground checkout time, it was easy to attend worship service services before setting on our relatively brief drive to Forest City. Most of the sites in the campground ...and apparently ALL the "transient" sites ...are water & electric only. We were about 50 ft from the dumpsite, so it was easy to dump our holding tanks on our way out the next morning to ensure we arrived at the rally grounds in Forest City with empty holding tanks. Our cost for one night water & 50 amp electric, with Good Sam discount, was $24.61.
9-21 JUL, FOREST CITY IA -- We had an easy 80 mi drive to Forest City IA, leaving I-35 at Clear Lake, site of the Surf Ballroom where The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Richie Valens did their final concert before their deaths in a plane crash just north of Clear Lake on Feb 2, 1959. The ballroom still has music shows by internationally know performers, and also offers a free self-guided tour on Mon, Tues, Thurs & Fri. Heading west from Clear Lake, and then north at Garner, we arrived in Forest City just after 2pm for the annual Grand National Rally (GNR) on the Winnebago factory grounds. Entering the rally grounds, we were pulled over in line behind other motorhomes, told to unhook our "toad," and wait for directions. Next we were directed about 1/4 mile further in to a tent when volunteers were taking information, passing out parking passes for both RV and toad, and then we were directed on down the street to another line to wait for the "follow me" guide in golf card. In our original registration, we requested to be parked with the MilWIT group ...the active or retired military group within WIT (Winnebago Itasca Travelers). MilWIT has their annual rally the week prior to the GNR. We were led to the MilWIT area on fairly level ground near the bathhouse ...a great location! (middle left side of center section in the picture). We were guided into our site in close quarters to another rig on our left (just enough room to put the slides out). About an hour after we were parked, another rig was parked behind us within inches of our rear end! The motorhomes are parked awning to awning to share yards between every other row. Most sites have 30 amp electric power, but no water or sewer. There are a few water hydrants that people are able to use to refill the fresh water tank by stringing hoses together. When the waste tanks get full, you either have to pull your rig out of the very tight sites to go to a dump station, or you pay $15 for the "honey wagon" to come by and empty your waste tanks. The morning after we arrived, we pulled out of our site and went across the highway to Winnebago Customer Service to sign up for a service appointment. Factory techs will complete up to 7 "minor" repair items on your coach at a time. If you want more than 7 items addressed, after your first appointment is completed you can get another appointment for up to 7 more items. Our appointment number came up for Wednesday morning of pre-rally week, so after dropping the coach off at our appointed time of 9:30am, we were homeless vagrants for the day while we lived out of our car in the midst of hundreds of motorhomes! We had one item to be finished, so after getting the motorhome home parked back in our tight site (which was tighter due to more arrivals around us), we had to pull out again the next morning to return to the Customer Service for a little bit more work. Iowa weather has been great ...we had rain during the night on Monday, and then during our homeless hours while the motorhome was in for service the weather was cloudy and quite decent to sit in our "yard" w/o the motorhome present! Late in the week, and for most of the following week of GNR, it got VERY warm. The nice part was that it cooled off into the 70's or even 60's at night. We had a great time during GNR, attending various seminars presented by vendors who provide components to Winnebago motorhomes (leveling jacks, furnace, water heater, refrigerator, etc), well known entertainers (Platters, Drifters, Coasters, etc), and browsing the vendor and craft sales areas. We got a tour of the motorhome plant (Winnebago is the only RV mfg to use an automotive type assembly line) and the test lab and test track. The tours were very impressive, and convinced us more than ever that Winnebago does it right!! During the rally, we got our tow bar serviced at no charge by Blue Ox factory techs, began negotiations to get our Blue Ox KarGuard repaired/replaced due to mfg defects (successful in getting the cracked panel replaced after two telephone calls and an email!), and got helpful assistance from other vendors. On Wednesday of GNR week, we walked next door to the Iowa Heritage Center to view some of the 500 Model T Ford cars, pickups, trucks, roadsters & speedsters that were passing through as part of the annual Model T Rally. It was amazing to see all those cars ...many close to 100 years old ...motoring off down the road!! The picture with the Model T "Speedster" in the foreground was taken with my cell phone as our digital camera has gone on strike. We didn't go to the GNR entertainment every night, but did the last night of the rally when the entertainment was The Coasters, The Platters & The Drifters, with each group performing for 30 minutes. Of course, these were not the original members of the groups, but they were still very good and it was great to hear a lot of good 50's & 60's Rock n' Roll. Many attendees departed on Friday morning after the closing ceremony, but we stayed over until Saturday. Friday was very nice with clouds keeping the sun at bay, and a great day to discover the bicycle trail from the rally grounds to Pilot Knob State Park 8 mi East of Forest City. In addition to seeing some nice countryside, I learned that Pilot Knob is the second highest point in Iowa and at 1,405 feet it is 200 feet higher than the rally grounds ...and since the terrain is up and down I got to pedal up that 200 ft more than once!! By the time we pulled out about noon Saturday, around 50% of the 1,454 rigs had already departed. We had no difficulty getting of our site and no congestion at the dump area, and were soon on our way north to Minnesota. Our cost for the two weeks including rally registration and one "Honey Wagon" visit was $186 for nightly cost of $14.31.
22-28 JUL, FAIRMONT MN -- We had an easy 68 mile drive from Forest City to the Flying Goose Campground near Fairmont MN (home of Fairmont Foods), and 15 mi West of Blue Earth (home of the Jolly Green Giant). Fairmont is bordered on the West by three of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes, and Flying Goose is located on the North side of Lake Imogene 4 miles to the east of town. It is a very nice campground with nice grass and trees, some lakeside sites and some full hookup sites. There are many fairly permanent trailer installations, but all are in excellent contdition, and very neat. We were escorted directly to the nice long gravel pull-through 50 amp "big rig" sites where the satellite TV antenna had no problem locking on. Internet service isn't quite as easy as there is no campground-wide WIFI and no Verizon data calls in the area, but they do have fast WIFI in the campground office and they invited me to sit at a booth in the office lobby or on the porch swing just across the drive. Both worked great. The family who runs the campground just bought it a few months ago ...the WIFI connection is new, and they have plans to add a router and antenna so wireless internet will be available throughout the campground. When I inquired about a nearby United Methodist Church for service times, I was told they have a campground chapel where United Methodists provide a weekly worship service. There were around 30 in attendance in the very nice chapel for the 30 minute Sunday morning service led by a retired UM pastor. We remained at Flying Goose for one week while visiting friends from seminary day in Denver and later the Air Force Chaplain Service who live apx 15 mi West of the campground. She manages a local theater where we got a tour of the projector room and the neat huge film spool machines after viewing "Pirates of the Carribean II." Later in the week we enjoyed some extremely good burgers at "The Channel Inn," located on one of the lakes on the west side of Fairmont. After eating, we took a boat tour of the three lakes (connected by narrow channels ...hence the name "Channel Inn). And we learned that the boat stays lighter in the water if you don't forget to put the plug in the bottom of the boat before launching!! ...who says you can't teach old dogs new tricks! :) ...cost for one week "big rig" site with Good Sam discount was $152.40 for nightly cost of $21.77.
29 JUL-17 AUG, GALVA IL -- We left Flying Goose at 8am, and drove a very "warm" day in the midst of "severe heat" warnings to Galva IL to visit more frieds from seminary days. We visited a Wal-Mart, a Sam's Club, and a Flying J on the way, arriving about 5pm. We slipped "Rosie" into the driveway of the UMC parsonage, borrowed power from the clothes dryer 240v 50 amp hookup, wired in an RV 120v 50 amp receptical, and soon had the electric current we desperately needed to keep cool! If we grow tired of small town living, we can move to the farm our friends bought & are remodeling near the old "Bishop Hill Colony" between Galva & Cambridge. Our time is spent in visiting, almost daily trips to the farm to water new trees (which nearly always leads to something else that needs to be done there, like bracing up the apple tree that was experiencing breaking branches due to the weight of fresh fruit), chipping away at the "need to do" list around the motorhome, and a visit to the childhood home of Buffalo Bill Cody near LeClaire IA. After one 30 mi round trip drive to the nearest campground to dump the waste water tanks, we worked out a way to tap into the sewer lines in the parsonage basement ...it takes about 40' of sewer hose, but it works! After a strong wind storm broke some branches on the larger of two apple trees at the farm, we spent a couple of days picking apples and pruning the damaged tree. We ended up with a huge quantity of apples!! Many were given away, some saved for making apple pie, and we tried our hand at squeezing apple juice in a home-made cider press. The cider press was a work of genius for a first effort, but we have a long way to go in that area before our product could be called "good." Thanks to a new digital camera bought to replace the 30 month old Toshiba that quit us a couple of weeks ago, we can once again take good pictures of our travels. One of the longest term items on the "to do" list was the very nice Moen faucet on the kitchen sink. Early on we had problems with it dripping. I dismantled it down to the valve and removed a couple of teaspoons of blue rubber particles. I cured the drip, but the hot water flow became more and more restricted. In May I got the special tool required to remove the faucet from the sink, and while in Galva I finally got around to doing it in hopes I could blow the obstruction loose with high pressure air or water. To make a long story shorter, the blue particles apparently are from a piece of rubber that was part of the faucet design, but the piece came loose and should not be where it now is. Moen customer support agreed it was not likely I would be able to remove the obstruction and promptly shipped us a new faucet. Our cost was just the $12 required for overnight delivery to ensure the new faucet would arrive before we departed Galva. Now we have normal water pressure on the hot water side of the kitchen faucet ...thanks Moen! I also accomplished another long-standing "do list" item when I found cabinet sliding wire baskets in just the elusive right size for the bedroom cabinet. At the same time, I replaced the sagging closet wire shelf/clothes hangar rack and installed the required braces that Winnebago failed to include in the original installation. Several good fixes accomplished! I preached for two worship services our last Sunday in Galva. We attended a wide variety of community events, toured the Bishop Hill Colony, and enjoyed seeing all the very large old homes in the area.
18-20 AUG, CASEY IL -- We pulled out of Galva about mid-morning and arrived at the KOA Campground at Casey IL apx 4:45pm after taking a slightly longer route through Springfield so we could view the Lincoln Museum. If you have not seen it, you need if you have the opportunity. It is excellent! BUT, if you are in a motorhome be aware that they do have ample RV parking, but it is all nose-in (and only about 40' long!) ...in spite of the fact that they assured me that they have pass-through RV parking, they do not!! It was a slow day, so we occupied 5-6 parking spaces during our visit :) ...not to worry, they still had room for several other RVs too! We are in Casey to attend the Rider/Shuey Family Reunion 10 miles north in Westfield. We met one of their branch of the clan when we lived on the island of Guam in the late 1980's, and he introduced us to the rest of the clan as "coming from one of the missing branches" ...seems there was an Aaron Rider who had 9 children (sons?). They come from one of the sons, and simply state that we come from another of the off-spring, all of whom apparently scattered as they moved West in search of their future. Hey, they're all good looking folks (just like our branch!), so we must be related, right? We normally avoid KOA Campgrounds as we have found them to be overpriced and under maintained. We had to admit this one was better maintained than any KOA we have seen, but both the motorhome and car got dirty very fast on the muddy caliche entrance road, and narrow roads in the campground. Due to large trees, there were few if any sites where a satellite dish would be usable. Local TV stations offered little but sports and/or full-length product advertising programs. But they did have free WIFI!! Our cost was $29 a night. The only discounts they offer is with their own $14 per year card ...not a bad price, but we don't stay at a KOA enough to even break even on that deal!
21 AUG-12 SEP, FAIRBORN OH, WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB -- We left Casey just before 9 am Central Time and arrived at Wright-Patterson AFB OH just before 3pm Eastern Time after visiting a couple of rest areas and a Flying J along the way. We paid $2.88 a gallon for diesel in Indianapolis ...several cents cheaper than what we were seeing in IL!! We will be a W-P AFB most of Sept with the exception of a week to ten days helping our daughter move from NY State to Atlanta GA, and a week at the Fall Escapade (Escapees RV Rally) at Van Wert OH. Our plan for our time in Ohio is to visit friends and to ride lots of miles on the best bicycle rail-trails in the country!! We found out right away that it is no longer possible to make a loop around the base on the perimiter road as the location of the old famcamp is now National Park Service property, park of the "Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center." Huffman Prairie was where the Wright Brothers perfected their first workable airplane, and later ran the first "flying school." The visitors center is on the other side of highway 844 when the city of Dayton built a memorial to the Wright Brothers in the 1930's. It is on a high bluff with an great view overlooking Huffman Prairie and the Wright-Patterson AFB runways. The good part of that is that I got my Golden Access Passport there ...it is free, and for any citizen with a permanent disability (retired military w/VA disability rating for me). The Golden Access (like the Golden Age for $10 at age 62 or over), grants free admission to NPS/BLM/COE/FWS/FS/TVA sites around the country, and 50% discount at their campgrounds! And many Army campgrounds honor it for 1/2 price camping also!! I got lots of bicycle rides in on the great Ohio Rail Trail system, and we got to visit lots of friends in the area. ...and Xena got to visit an old friend at the Mel-O-Dee kennels for a bath and grooming! We left the rig alone in the famcamp for eight days while we drove to New York state to move our daughter to Georgia. After skirting the rainy fringes of Hurricane Ernesto on our way south, we enjoyed a quick visit with grandkids before unloading the rental truck and driving back to Ohio. The new Famcamp at Wright-Patterson (right next to the munitions storage area ) is very nice, with wide asphalt roads and 40 full hookup sites w/50a electric. Normal nightly cost is $18. Our cost per night when paying by the week was $12.87.
12-16 SEP, CELINA OH -- In preparation for the 2006 Fall Escapade (an RV Rally by the Escapees RV Club) at the Van Wert County Fairgrounds, we left Wright-Patterson AFB about 9:30am in a light rain on a short drive of apx 80 miles to gather with other SKPs from the "Class of 2005" BOF (Birds of a Feather) at the Mercer County Fairgrounds in Celina OH for some pre-rally fellowship. Pre-rally gatherings are common near larger rallies to allow for an easy drive when rally registration opens on Sunday. The "Class of 2005" BOF formed spontaneously on the Escapees internet forum, and is made up of RVers who began full-timing during 2005. We caravaned from Wright-Patterson AFB to Celina with another couple from the group who we had met previously in Summerdale, Alabama in October 2005, and later again in Montgomery, AL. Celina (pronounced "Salina" for you Kansas folks), like many small towns in this part of the country, have some very large old homes. To the right is one of the more unique examples we have seen. It would be interesting to know the story behinds it's building! The Mercer Country Fairgrounds has 250 RV hookups on pretty level grass, some 20a, some 30a, some 50a, all with water and even some full-hookups w/sewer! The are open for RV camping from April - October, except during fair week. Their price, regardless of which hookup you have, is $20. AND, they are a Passport America & Happy Camper park, either of which gives you 1/2 price! We found a 50a site with water connection adjacent to the rest of our group. Our cost per night for four nights with club discount was $10.
17-21 SEP, VAN WERT OH -- Our little group formed a caravan of 8 to travel the 30 miles from the Mercer County Fairgrounds in Celina to the Van Wert County Fairgrounds in Van Wert OH for the 2006 Fall Escapade. This fairground also operates RV sites, but unlike Mercer County, this one is open year-round (except for special events)! They do not have RV hookups for a group our size (few places do), so most Escapade attendees will be without water or electric hookups. There were 705 RVs of various types (including a classic 1947 trailer!) registered for the rally. If groups want to be parked together, they must arrive together. Some of the group that gathered in Celina were coming as vendors, so they left Celina a few days earlier. One of the group was planning to come up a day later. So there were 8 left to caravan up and park together. The caravan group were all registered to park in the generator area where the rule allow generator use only between the hours of 7am and 10:30pm. That allows time to charge batteries, power for cooking meals, etc. This time of year it normally is plenty cool at night so you don't need a/c overnight. In fact, after Monday, we wanted heat by early morning! It got down to the high 30's on Thursday night!! Most vendors were parked with full electric hookups, and some attendees opted to pay extra fees for electric hookups that consist of 20 amp ...pretty much normal household current. That would be enough to run lights and keep batteries charged, but not enough to run a/c. There were some excellent seminars, great evening entertainment, and vendors with "stuff" we just had to have. If we couldn't afford it, it went on a "want list" for possible future purchase. We had a busy and enjoyable week. On the left is a snapshot of us while riding the "people mover." Our rally cost for the week ...including parking, registration and rally materials, seminars, and Friday breakfast was $130.
22 SEP, CELINA OH -- Rather than returning to Wright-Patterson AFB on Friday, we decided to simply drive back to Celina and the Mercer Country Fairgrounds. We didn't want to fight the crowds of RVs waiting their turn at the two dump stations at the rally site, and knew we could do that in Celina. We were also hoping to find a place there to buy some cheap diesel before we return to the Dayton area. On Tuesday, we bought gas for our car for $2.03 in Van Wert. Two days later, the gas price had gone down 3 cents and the diesel price 20 cents! Also, our reservation at Wright-Patterson was to begin on Saturday ...we probably could have got a site if we arrived a day early, but with our new Passport America membership, Celina costs us only $10 a night and it is on the way to Dayton, so we went there for one night. We dumped our holding tanks at their dump station, then pulled into the same spot we had last week with 50a electric & water hookup.
23 SEP-1 OCT, FAIRBORN OH, WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB -- After a rainy night in Celina, we left about 10:30am under cloudy skies and arrived at the Wright-Patterson AFB Famcamp just before noon. We came around the north side of the base on Chambersburg Road on a long-shot gamble that the north gate might be open. It normally is open only 6am-6pm Mon-Fri. Sometimes it is open at odd hours on weekends when the Reserve unit next the famcamp has activities going on. We were in luck, and found the gate open so saved apx ten miles required to drive to the other end of the base to get in the only gate normally open on weekends. We got into our site shortly before it started to rain. After lunch I drove to Xenia to pick up two weeks worth of mail (two forwarded packets of mail and a couple of boxes of books sent from Texas to the resident book worm). This was a week to resolve problems ... FIRST PROBLEM: RESOLVED, enroute from Celina to Fairborn we found the cause of a strange noise we have been hearing occasionally while driving. It sounded like two wood balls knocking together, or a suction cup popping loose. On one stretch of road the noise was very frequent, and the co-pilot was able to track it down to the awning strap on the galley/lounge window awning popping against the window frame. Nothing to fix, but now we know! NEXT PROBLEM: RESOLVED, our satellite TV receiver has been giving error messages for some time now. Several calls to Dish tech support brought responses of "we'll send a signal to re-authorize the receiver." This time when we called, they agreed to send out a replacement receiver which arrived in two days. It works great! NEXT PROBLEM: RESOLVED, when putting the tire covers on after our arrival, I noticed some strange wear on an inside dual tire. I took some digital pictures and went to a local Michelin truck tire dealer. They agreed the wear was strange, and likely indicated a faulty tire. These are big tires, load range H, and Michelin has discontinued the tire model. Also, no one in the area had the appropriate Michelin substitute so I got two new Continental load range H tires to avoid having mis-matched tires on an axle. Michelin gave me $100 adjustment on the defective $450 tire, the tire store gave me $50 for the old case that they could re-cap, and the cost for the Continentals was $100 less each than for the Michelins they could not get. While we were at it, we got a front end alignment ...cost for two tires and alignment was over $800!! The Michelins have 30,000 miles on them and look very good, but are 4 1/2 years old so due for replacement within the next two years based on age. I even managed to get the good tire we replaced crammed into the basement storage area for use as a spare in case we need one down the road somewhere. I guess the "good news" is that when we replace tires, we'll only have to buy 4 rather than 6! NEXT PROBLEM: IN PROGRESS, one morning I noticed water dripping from where there should be no water dripping. I found the water pump was seeping water all around the case. A call to ShurFlo resulted in their shipping a smaller capacity pump as a temporary replacement. It arrived overnight!!! ...and I then shipped the leaking pump back to them for repair/replacement. It should catch up to us down the road somewhere. NEXT PROBLEM: IN PROGRESS, when I attempted to lower the patio awning while at Celina, it was binding, then something "popped," and a small pin fell out the bottom. One arm was hanging lower than the other when the awning was extended. Fortunately it retracted with no problems. I couldn't figure out how to get into the closed arm where the problem was, so got an appointment at a local RV place near Fairborn. They determined what part is broken, but then found they could not get the part while we are in the are because the mfg was closed down for inventory. So, now we know what needs to be replace, but will have to followup at another dealer somewhere down the road ...probably in Branson MO where we plan to be from mid-Oct to mid-Nov. Between chasing problems, (just like in a brick & stick house, huh!) we worked in a few more visits with friends in the area, had to get out socks, long pants and jackets because of the much cooler weather (into the high 40's overnight), and became quite mentally ready to head south!
2-8 OCT, SHEPHERDSVILLE KY -- We left W-P AFB on a beautiful day for a 180 mile drive to Grandma's RV Park at Shepherdsville KY about 15 mi south of Louisville. The RV park is a short distance off I-65 ...close enough for convenience and far enough for reduced traffic noise. We took a short drive over the mountain one afternoon to visit the Ft Knox Army Post. After checking out the nice campground for future reference, we went to find the commissary. After about an hour and a half of driving around, including stopping for directions, we finally happened on the Commissary and PX. We decided that if they also store our nation's gold supply there, it has to be very safe because with as much trouble as we had finding the PX, if you don't know exactly where that gold is, there isn't much chance you are going to happen upon it! On another day we drove into Louisville, made the required stop and purchases at the Camping World store (actually in Clarksville IN), had lunch with another retired UM chaplain and his wife, and then visited Zachary Taylor National Cemetery. It is small compared to most National Cemeteries. Our mission was to find the grave of a relative killed in a plane crash in the Pacific theater during WWII. We already had some info from the internet, so once we got to the cemetery, finding the grave was relatively easy. The flat stones you see in the photo mark mass graves where the entire crew and/or passengers of an aircraft were buried after the remains were recovered. Our relative was buried with 10 crew mates. The burial was just over five years after the crash, after the crash site was found and excavated. One mass grave had 22 names on the marker. With DNA records, such mass burials of military members are pretty much a thing of the past. Our last day in the area, we joined the local United Methodist Church in Sunday worship, then took in the very large Saturday and Sunday flea market on the grounds of the RV park. They claim it is "The Most Awesome Flea Market in the World!" I don't know about that, but it is pretty big, with both inside and outside areas. And they serve a pretty decent barbeque ribs plate too! In addition to the RV park and flea market, Grandma has a tax/accounting service, rents a party hall, runs a filling station/general store across the road, and has a few donkeys, ponies and Llamas in a pasture by the interstate! She's a pretty busy lady!!! The park is kept very neat, with several family members present daily keeping things in order. Most of the sites are a bit on the narrow side, but still quite adequate for large RVs with multiple slides. Each site is well manicured small sized gravel, and has a small concrete patio. ...a sign at the gate proclaims, "Grandma is napping. Find your own site & someone will be around later for payment." When I checked them out prior to arriving, I learned their normal charge is $24/night, with Senior discount of 10% over age 55. But only when I registered did I find out the weekly rates!! Nice park, no hassles, full-hookups with 50a power, good satellite reception and free WIFI all for just $100 a week! That is only $14.29 a night! Great deal! We'll remember Grandma's RV Park next time we pass through here ...that's I-65 exit 116 at Shepherdsville KY about 20 miles south of Louisville!
9-15 OCT, MILLINGTON TN, MID-SOUTH NSA -- We got away from Shepherdsville about 9:15 am and had a pleasant drive 341 miles to Millington TN, just north of Memphis. The parkways through Western Kentucky and down the west side of Tennessee were great roads, with no large cities and light traffic. As we drove through the gate to the Mid-South Naval Support Activity (NSA) about 2:30 pm, the civilian guard said, "Welcome Aboard!" Yep, that's the Navy all right! We found the new Midway RV Park (opened May 2006), and drove up to the mail box at the entrance labeled "Registration Info." But there was nothing in the box. Oh well, we have a reservation, so we looked around and picked out a site. We unhooked the car and I backed onto the concrete slab. I got out to check our position relative to the hookups ...looked good ...then walked around to the passenger side to discover the right rear dual wheels were slowing sinking through the dis-integrating concrete!!! The engine was still running, so I ran back to the cab and quickly pulled forward. The slab disintegrated under the wheels, and the right side sank 6-8 inches and the left side 1-2 inches by the time I got Rosie all the slab. Mud was beginning to ooze through the cracked concrete ...looks like they may have a water break under the slab. We picked out another slab nearby, backed onto it, and got out to watch the concrete for a couple of minutes ...no problem, so we went ahead and set up. While walking around the campground later, I found another site blocked off with the same problem, and a second one with several severe cracks around the edges ...looks like the slabs were constructed too thin, and without reinforcement, by the low bidder no doubt. The slabs in this part of the park are less than 30 days old. As we were getting things arranged, another RVer I had talked to briefly at the entrance came by to say we could register at the Rec Center. "Just go to commissary, go right a few blocks, then go left until you see the airplane they have up on a stick. The rec center is right there." Sure enough, when I found the fighter jet on a stick, there the Rec Center was. Turned out the second site we chose (the one that didn't cave in!) was the one they had us assigned to. The new RV park is very nice, with several large paved cul-de-sacs, each with eight or so back-in sites with full-hookups & 50a power. There are lots of trees (not too many for good satellite reception) and plenty of grass. Of course one activity in Memphis was a visit to Graceland. We enjoyed touring the house and grounds along with the museum, car collection and two airplanes across the street from the house. We were struck by the fairly "normal" appearance of the house both inside and out ...larger than many family homes perhaps, but not all that large or ostentacious. It was, however, grander than the homes either of US lived in during the 60s and 70s!! And the house has some very interesting furniture! Another day, we toured downtown Memphis on a "Memphis Duck." The tour started & ended on Beale St, passing by many interesting sites and taking a float up the waters (side waters of the Mississippi River) between Memphis & Mud Island along the way. One thing we want to come back to see in the future is the huge "Memphis pyramid," originally built as a coliseum. It has been leased to Base Pro Shops, and in 2007 will open as the largest Bass Pro Shop in the world, complete with an indoor cypress swamp! Also, while in the Memphis area, our warranty replacement water pump from ShurFlo caught up with us. After talking with Midway RV Park management and failing to get their assistance to have the parcel delivered to me in the campground (which normally is no problem at all!), I had arranged soon after our arrival in Kentucky to have the new pump shipped to a Memphis UPS outlet where I could pick it up for a $2 service charge. In addition to visiting the small Exchange and Commissary, on one of our slower days, we drove to the North side of the NSA property to check out the older Navy Lake Recreation Area RV Park. Suffice it to say, we were very happy to be in the newer Midway RV Park. On Sunday, we attended Protestant Worship at the beautiful NSA chapel. Our cost for one week at NSA Mid-South Midway RV Park was $105, or $15 a night.
16-19 OCT, JACKSONVILLE AR, LITTLE ROCK AFB FAMCAMP -- We left NSA Mid-South just before 11am under cloudy skies, and were in a light sprinkle by the time we got to the Flying J in West Memphis AR about 25 miles away. This fillup was our best fuel mileage to date at 8.3 mpg. This was without any generator use (up to 1/2 gallon per hour at full load), and running between 60-65 mph. After stopping at a rest area for lunch, we arrived at Little Rock AFB (actually in Jacksonville just north of Little Rock) at 2:15pm. We drove in light to heavy rain all the way. The Little Rock Famcamp has 10 full hookups sites w/50a power, and 14 water & electric sites. We got the only full hookup site available, marked "for short term use only." Guess four nights is short term! The concrete slab was too short for a 40' rig, but the asphalt approach is close enough to level with the slab that it caused no problems leveling. Water & electric hookups are shared between sites, and we had to run the power cord and hose under the motorhome to connect, but had no problem reaching the hookups. While here, the rain leak we had in the lounge slide ceiling 14 months ago returned. The first time it happened, wind blown rain went under the slide topper and found two screw holes that should not have been there. The dealer in Yorktown VA caulked those holes and we assumed the problem was fixed. I guess the rain at Little Rock AFB was again blown just right to go under the awning and find more holes. It wasn't as bad, so at least the repairs last time helped. I think I'll go after it myself this time when I have a clear day, free time, and perhaps a helper to assist in removing the slide top awning. I'm sure I'll do a more thorough job of caulking that a dealership would! And another problem popped up the last night we were in Arkansas ...the heat pump refused to kick on. It tries and tries, but can't get up and running. Fortunately we don't need a/c this time of year, and we can use the LP furnaces for need if needed until we can connect with a repair facility. The primary purpose for stopping in Little Rock was to get another Famcamp stamp in our AF Frequent Camper book and to use a free night voucher. This was our last voucher for tier one, and we need one more Famcamp stamp before we move on to tier two! Also, I got in a bicycle ride around the base in 80 degree weather before the cold front came in and dropped the temp to daytime 50s and 60s. Our cost for four nights, with use of one free night voucher, was $36, or $9 per night.
20 OCT-4 NOV, HOLLISTER MO -- We left Little Rock AFB at 10 am, slipped out the back gate, and headed north. Most of the 140 mi drive was up US 65. It was an "interesting" drive ...mostly two-lane, with lots of steep ups and downs and winding curves. The 170 mi trip took us 181 mi due to lots of construction in the Branson area, and the new interchanges not matching the campground provided directions or the GPS maps! We arrived at Escapees Turkey Creek RV Village at 2pm. With no 50amp sites available, we took a 30amp site for the first two nights, then moved to a 50 amp site when a vacancy came up. Turkey Creek is in Hollister MO just across the river to the south of Branson. About three minutes from the campground we can be in bumper to bumper traffic on the Branson "strip," US 76. While at Turkey Creek, we enjoyed the Moe Bandy show, Hank Williams & Patsy Kline Revisited (re-enactors), #1 Hits of the 60's Show, Sunday "Cowboy Church" with Norma Jean (Porter Wagoner's first "girl singer"), visit to the Titanic Museum (1/2 size replica with many full-size rooms inside, 400 original artifacts, and over 1,000 photos), tour of the Stone Hill Winery (and tasting of 15 of their wines!), and Sunday worship at Branson UMC. In our slack time, we went to the movies and saw "The Guardian" and "Flags of Our Fathers." Both were great movies. Now we want to see "Letters from Iwo Jima" that Clint Eastwood made along with "Flags of Our Fathers." We also found a local service place for the heat pump unit in the motorhome. Enroute to the service place we filled up with diesel at $2.59 a gallon, and also with LP at $2.475 a gallon. The service place removed the heat pump unit and we went back to the campground for several days while they got a new outside blower motor and got it all repaired. While the heat pump was out, we used our LP furnaces to keep warm over two below breezing nights!! When we returned to have it reinstalled, they also repaired the patio awning that we were unable to get the part for in Ohio, and diagnosed a refrigerator problem and ordered a part, "hot-wiring" the refrigerator to "full on" everything wouldn't spoil while waiting on the control board. Branson is truly in the Ozarks, with plenty of hilly country. As you can see from the photo, the leaves were turning and very colorful during our visit. Cost at Turkey Creek is only $13 for 30a or $15 for 50a for Espapee members. Non-member cost would be $18.50 or $19.50 ...still a great price for the Branson area!
5-12 NOV, BRANSON MO -- For our last week in the Branson area, we moved about 6 mi from Hollister just south of Branson, to the Branson Shenanigans RV Park on the NW side of Branson in order to be close to the motel where the AF Retired Chaplain Service Reunion was held over during the annual Branson Veteran's Celebration. This is a big celebration annually in Branson, with a parade and other activities in honor of our nation's veterans. We passed on viewing the parade as a cold front blew through and chill factor was 30 degrees that morning ...we had already done two parades this year, so figured we didn't need another one. We had a good time at a few more shows, enjoyed the Dixie Stampede and Branson Belle Showboat with other members of the Retired AF Chaplain Serivce Renion, and had some great fellowship. On Thursday afternoon, the RV service guys appeared and installed the refrigerator control board so we can once again control the cooling level. After they took my payment, I told them they were nice guys, but I hoped I never saw them again!! We made our contribution to the local economy through several show tickets and RV repairs! Branson Shenanigans is built on the side of a hill with mostly level gravel sites. Sites are narrow and "mostly level," and park roads are tight ...all very typical of Branson area RV parks. The only "internet connection" offered is one phone line at the office with a charge of $1 per use. Our cost was $24.85 a night. That includes a 7 nights for price of 6 AND 15% vets discount.
13 NOV, VICKSBURG MS -- We left Branson at 9am enroute to FL, and arrived in Vicksburg MS about 4:30pm. We decided to overnight at Magnolia RV Resort (used to be RV Park rather than Resort) just south off I-20 exit 1b. This was the very first RV park we stayed in with our new motorome in July 2003. Rates have really gone up!! Our cost for 50a pull-through (not really long enough for 40' rig with car attached, but we made do...) with free WIFI was $24.07 with Good Sam discont.
14-17 NOV, BAGDAD FL -- We left Vicksburg about 9:15am, stopped for fuel in Pearl MS at $2.29 a gallon, then headed south, arriving at Pelican Palms RV Park off I-10 just south of Bagdad FL and east of Pensacola to attend the BOD meeting for SMART (Special Military Active Retired Travel Club). It took us about 45 minutes to drive the last ten miles as traffic is still single lane and very slow across the severely damaged east bound I-10 bridge ...a remnant of Hurricane Katrina over a year ago. The new bridge is under construction to the south, but still a ways from completion. We had a good week with the SMART BOD, though we did have severe weather and a lot of rain in the area on one day. After that it was considerably cooler! We also managed to get together one evening with friends from nearby Eglin AF Base. Cost for a full-hookup site (no WIFI, no internet connection) with taxes was $27.07 a night ...a bit on the high side of what we normally pay.
18-24 NOV, MONTGOMERY AL -- We had an easy 3 hour drive from Bagdad to Montgomery, Alabama where we plan to stay through the first of the year while visiting with our children and grandchildren, and while making appointments at the dental clinic at the VA Medical Center and with our doctor. Rather than staying at Maxwell AFB this time (which has changed management and is now rumored to be always full...), we elected to stay at Capital City RV Park between Montgomery and Wetumpka. It is 1/3 the distance from our grandkids that Maxwell is, and even though the monthly rate is $80 more, we figure we will more than make up that difference in gasoline savings driving back and forth five to six days a week over the next two months!!! One of the first things we had to do was to find a shop to fix our laptop computer. The power connection appears to be loose so it has problems recharging the battery, and it doesn't want to stay running for very long at a time. Fortunately we were able to make it to Montgomery before giving in to it's fits as we can do our email and other internet tasks on our son's home computer while ours is in for repair. Capital City RV park was built in 2004, has been expanded since, and appears to be preparing to expand even more. It is a very nice park with full hookups, level gravel sites, concrete patios with a table and small patch of grass, and includes free CATV and free WIFI internet (though a little weak, it does work to some degree, and the manager has promised to crank up the signal strength). While we do have our own satellite TV hookup, CATV is nice when we want the local channels/basic networks not provided through our satellite service when we are out of our "home" area of East Texas. Although the normal nightly rate is $20, with the monthly rate our cost was apx $12.26 per night.
25-26 NOV, CHEAHA MOUNTAIN STATE PARK AL -- Since their parents are busy with the store this time of year, we got to take our grandkids on the December Cub Scout "campout" to Cheaha Mountain State Park, the highest point in Alabama at apx 2,400 feet(that is over 2,000 ft higher than our RV park in Montgomery!!). Cheaha is located in the Talledega National Forest apx 25 miles from the Talledega Motor Speedway. Cheaha is a very nice state park with two RV parks (one on the mountain top and one nearly 1,000 feet lower on Cheaha Lake), both with full-hookups, big sites, and roads than can handle large RVs ...very unusual for a state park! After an "interesting" climb up the mountain in the last 15 miles of the 95 mile trip, dealing with very steep inclines and many switch-backs on the paved road, we found one of the last sites available in the mountian top campground, and ended up right next to the Cubmaster and main meeting area for the weekend. We had very nice weather all weekend, and very much enjoyed the time with the kids. The views from the mountain are incredible, especially the night view over Talledaga from the very nice boardwalk overlook. The park honored my newly acquired Golden Access Passport with a 15% discount, and our cost for two nights was $29.72, or $14.86 per night.
27 NOV-23 DEC, MONTGOMERY AL -- We started back down the mountain about noon, arriving back at Capital RV Park in Montgomery about 3pm after a stop at the Wal-Mart about 5 miles up the road for a few groceries and diesel fuel. Fuel cost was $2.42 a gallon, and we found that the Wal-Mart Murphy filling stations in Alabama DO NOT give 3 cents discounts on fuel when using a Wal-Mart gift card as they do in other areas we have recently been. A few days after getting back from Cheaha, we returned from a doctor appointment one afternoon to find no power to the motorhome. Since the clothes dryer and electric water heater were both on when we left, the batteries were drawn down pretty low. After some checking we discovered that our SurgeGuard (installed a couple of years ago after we had burned wiring in the heat pump unit caused by low voltage in a campground) had disconnected the power. It is designed to disconnect power if there is either critically low (< 109) or critically high (> 132) voltage. I started up our generator to recharge the batteries and to provide power for the clothes dryer to finish its cycle, then got out my multimeter to check the power connections. I found it was putting out up to 171 volts rather than the normal 120!! That level of power might work fine with lights, but is enough to severly damage sensitive electronics! I checked the power pole on a site next to us and found the same levels. When I called the park manager, he came out about 15 minutes later with his meter and checked the pole. His meter showed normal 120v. Now my meter was showing 140v. He said they have had previous complaints from RVers who have a SurgeGuard, but he "couldn't do anything about it since Alabama Power owns the transformers." I checked the voltage inside the RV coming from the generator, and my meter displayed a normal reading of 120v. About 15 minutes later, it showed the power pole was again providing the normal 120v. I plugged everything back in, and got the power working properly. Our time during December was well occupied with Christmas shopping, and with picking up our two grandkids from school several days a week while their parents were busy in their jewelry store. AND, we found time to locate and put a deposit on a new Maltese puppy to keep 9 1/2 year old Xena company. We will get to bring her home in January! We are still working on a suitable name for the little Southern Belle.
24-25 DEC, WETUMPKA AL -- We decided to violate the owner covenants in our son's rural neighborhood and park the motorhome in their driveway on Christmas Eve and Christmas night. I created an adapter cord that would allow us to plug pull 125v/30a power from their clothes dryer plug, but when we pulled into the drive on Christmas Eve afternoon we discovered we were six feet too far for the 50a power cord to reach. If we had backed in it would have reached, but that would put the rear wheel on the low end where they might raise off the ground when we level. That's not a good idea as that is where the parking brake works from, so we just ran a smaller cord and plugged into 20a. That is plenty of power to run the LP furnaces and all the lights we would be using. It started raining about dark. I was planning to start smoking the turkey on the grill at about 3am, so we put out our main awning which reached almost to the garage. Then we parked the new smoker grill I had assembled the day before under the awning. It rained all night, and the awning worked great to keep the grill and the chef dry as he added more charcoal to the smoker every two hours from 3am to 11am. The turkey was done about 1pm, and was great!
26-31 DEC, MONTGOMERY AL -- We moved back to the RV park about mid-afternoon on the 26th. The rest of the month was spent keeping our two grandkids during the day, both at the motorhome and at their home, while their parents worked. It was a good year, and we put just under 9,000 miles on the motorhome during 2006! ...more RV adventures will come in 2007!!
RV TRAVELS SUMMARY TO DATE...
...Back to last year's travels... -OR-
...On to next year's travels...
AL, AR, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MN, MO, MS, NC, NM, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA = 23
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...