1-7 JAN, MONTGOMERY AL -- We started the year once again in Montgomery, visiting kids and grandkids while getting our motorhome Christmas decorations back in storage. We had a few nights with temperatures in the teens, and then some days in the 70's. Such is Alabama!!
8-9 JAN, MOBILE AL -- We left Montgomery about 8am, driving 180 miles to the Greater Gulf State Fairgrounds in Mobile for a planning meeting in preparation for the SMART National Muster scheduled to occur in Mobile in mid-March. We left Montogmery under warm and cloudy skies, drove through some thick fog as we went south on I-65, and arrived in Mobile about 11am under warm sunny skies. The fairgrounds has 214 full hookup RV sites, and many partial hookups. Most are back-in sites on grass, and most have only 30a power. Utility connections are poorly placed at the extreme rear of each site, requiring an extension hose for the sewer connection. Our cost was $25 per night ...pretty pricey for such poor setups. We were there to find out what facilities would be available to us for worship services during the National Muster, which will occur during Holy Week. We are planning a Palm Sunday service for the many who arrive early, and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday services for the main crowd. Departure will take place on Saturday, so everyone will be on their own for Easter Sunday services.
10-16 JAN, PERDIDO BAY FL -- We left the fairgrounds about 10am for an easy 80 mile drive east to Perdido Bay FL, just west of Pensacola. Attempting to drive US98 through Mobile earned us a little unplanned tour of some local streets as warning signs at the last minute convinced us we could not go through the US90 tunnel, so we had to find a way to get on I-10 with a GPS that was having trouble maintaining satellite contact due to heavy trees. A police officer directing traffic into the cruise ship area put us on the right path, and we got out of Mobile! We had planned to stop at the Tangier Factory Outlet Mall in Foley AL to get a lid for one of our Corning dishes, but were unable to find any parking at all for oversized vehicles! Most factory outlets have bus and RV parking areas, but not this one! We cruised the loop around the outlet, got back onto Hwy 59, and went on east to Florida. We arrived at the home of friends there just after 2pm and got settled into the full RV hookup they have on their spacious property. Along with the visiting and a round of golf, we made an overnight trip back to Montgomery for a dental appointment at the VA medical center in Montgomery. We always enjoy our visit to our friends in Perdido Bay, and the great fellowship.
17 JAN-9 FEB, ALBUQUERQUE NM W/O MOTORHOME -- Rather than the planned loop across North Florida, up the coast of GA and over to Atlanta, we left the motorhome in our friends' yard in Florida and drove the "toad" (Honda van) to Albuquerque for a family visit, and to join in a celebration of the 62nd wedding anniversary of Paul's parents. We learned, to our surprise, that Dallas is exactly half way between Pensacola FL and Albuquerque NM!! That allowed us a good overnight stopping place in Dallas with an old friend! We had a great family visit in Albuquerque, endured some snow, ice and cold weather, and greatly appreciated the very nice temps we found on our return to FL! Although there were some pleasant days in Albuquerque, several nights of temps in the teens and days in the 20's are one reason we like to live in a "portable" home ...so we can avoid such weather!! The picture here is of the iced-over backyard pond/fountain at Paul's brother & sister-in-law's home on the NE side of Albuquerque. The water was still running, but sure looked cold with all that ice on the waterfall and in the pond!!
12 FEB-11 MAR, MONTGOMERY AL -- After laying over a day in Dallas, and another day in Perdido Bay on our way back from Albuquerque, we arrived back in Montgomery about mid-afternoon after a call ahead to Capital City RV park to wrangle a site for the next month. Just South of Montgomery, we made the necessary visit to the local Flying J truck stop for 79 gallon of diesel fuel, paying $3.17 a gallon with our "1 cent off the cash price" RV club discount. Adding that fill-up to the monthly fee for the RV park sure put a big dent in the bank account in one afternoon!! Once again, though the park was nearly filled to capacity, we got site #57 in the "old" portion of Capital City RV Park for a rate of $380 (including electricity) for the month, for a nightly cost of $13.10. After getting settled overnight in Montgomery, we drove the "toad" to Smyrna GA to spend several days visiting our daughter. While in the Atlanta area, we visited the fantastic Georgia Aquarium (picture on the right), checked out the World of Coca Cola next door to the aquarium, and explored Stone Mountain Park. Each one of these is well worth your while if visiting in Atlanta. Reasonably priced RV parks are virtually impossible to find in the Atlanta area, particularly anywhere close to our daughter's home, so we left the motorhome in Montgomery this trip. (There is an RV park at Stone Mountain. Though a little pricey, it's rates aren't too bad for a few day's visit to the attractions there, and the park looks very nice ...but it is at least an hour's drive from our daughter's home!!). After the visit with our daughter, we returned to Montgomery for another VA dental appointment and more "grandkid time". We were located slightly closer to the office at Capital City this time than last, and found the WIFI worked ok in this location, though the tested speeds were sometimes pretty poor.
12-21 MAR, MOBILE AL -- We had an easy drive from Montgomery to Mobile for the SMART 2008 National Muster. We arrived several days early to participate in the pre-muster meeting of the Fulltimers Chapter, and meetings of the SMART BOD. We had a great time with both the Fulltimers Chapter, and the larger group. We especially enjoyed fellowship with several friends from Virginia whom we had not seen for one to three years. One highlight of the muster was a bus tour of Old Mobile, including the Carnival Museum. Did you know that Mobile was the birthplace of Mardi Gras, years before New Orleans began to celebrate it? ...and that Mobile still has a big Mardi Gras celebration each year? The Carnival Museum has many Mardi Gras related items on display, including several incredible costumes of past kings and queens of the Mobile event. Our tour guide did take pains to point out that Mobile Mardi Gras is much more of a family oriented event than the one in New Orleans. We also visited a part of reconstructed French Fort Condi, the DAR operated Richards House, and the very impressive downtown Roman Catholic Cathedral pictured here. The cathedral was built over a 20 year period in the mid-1800's, and recently received a multi-million dollar renovation. As the muster was held during Holy Week, Paul's duty as National Chaplain was to provide for worship services for those attending. Our Palm Sunday worship on arrival day turned out 150! On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we had 40-75 at each service. The muster was held at the Greater Gulf States Fairgrounds on the west side of Mobile. They have 214 full connections for RVs (electric, water & sewer), and set up many more temporary electric and water connections for the event. We were fortunate to have one of the small number of 50a full-hookup sites. Our group received a "special" rate of $22 per night, still a bit pricey for the marginal setup on most sites.
22-23 MAR, VICKSBURG MS -- On Saturday of Holy Week, we left Mobile and made an apx 4 hour drive to Vicksburg MS where we stayed at the Ameristar Casino RV Park, formerly known as Isle of Capri Casino RV Park. After checking in and getting settled, we got a local newspaper so we could find an Easter Sunrise Worship Service to attend. We found a community service sponsored by the local YMCA being held on the grounds of Vicksburg National Battlefield Park, and managed to find it early the next morning. Following the worship service, we used the free tickets the RV park gave us for the buffet breakfast in the casino. The RV park was showing its age, with very narrow concrete pads, and ours was riddled with severe cracks throughout. We saw other pads severely unlevel from side to side. Our cost was $27 per night, but with the free buffet breakfast we calculated our nightly cost at $20!
24-26 MAR, MARSHALL TX -- We left Vicksburg about 10am on Monday, headed for Texas. After stopping at Wal-Mart in Ruston LA for a few groceries and a sandwich lunch in the motorhome, we arrived at Mom & Pop's RV park north of Marshall about 3pm. After setting up in our assigned site, we found we were unable to get satellite TV due to some very large pine trees to the south. We requested a move to another site, and tried again. On that site, we received satellite signals fine. However, when hooking up we found the normal hookup for dumping our waste tanks would require liquid (& other "stuff") to run uphill, due to the sewer hookup being 6-8" above the ground. We figured out how we could circumvent the problem, but it did require hooking up the 3" dump hose each time we had to dump the tanks, and storing it between dump sessions. Fortunately, that is normally not more than once every 4-5 days. A few hours later we discovered this site had electrical problems, as our SurgeGuard would occasionally cut off the electrical power, then re-set. A little testing with a multi-meter indicated a problem with the 50a connection (low voltage on one leg, and high voltage on the other), so we connected to the 30a outlet. It worked for awhile, then it also caused the SurgeGuard to cut off and reset several times due to low voltage when the circuit was under load. Even the street light beside our site dimmed from time to time!! The camp host allowed us to move to the site immediately behind us the next morning. When he reported the electrical problem to the manager later, he returned and told me the manager "wasn't interested in hearing about any electrical problem because he just had those outlets checked out 6 months ago!" Highway and railroad noise was significant, and the area of the park we were in amounted to little more than a gravel parking lot with RV connections added. Jefferson, apx 7 mi North of the RV park, is a neat little town with lots of history. In the 1800's, Jefferson was an inland port with regular steamboat traffic from New Orleans. There appears to be lots of New Orleans influence, and yes, they have their own Mardi Gras celebration each year! After being there two days, we were notified of the death of Paul's father so had to depart ahead of schedule. We had paid for a week at the weekly rate, and the host graciously refunded part of our $95. Our final cost was $18 per night.
27-31 MAR, WOODWARD OK -- As we passed through Jefferson on our way to Oklahoma, we got the annual state inspection accomplished on the motorhome and toad. This needed to be done in a non-emissions area, so could not wait. We left Jefferson apx 9am, headed for NW Oklahoma. After reaching Oklahoma City by mid-afternoon, we decided to press on to our final destination near Woodward. We arrived at Cottonwood RV Park south of Woodward at 6:30pm. As we had called ahead, they had the only available site reserved for us. It was a back-in with full hookups. Again we found difficulties in hooking up our sewer hose as the connections were several inches above the ground and near the front of the site rather that toward the rear as they should be. Also, the raw sewer pipe sticking out of the ground appeared to be slightly smaller than standard. We spent most of our time there in Woodward and Gage with other family members who had gathered for the funeral of Paul's father. He had a long and productive life, dying just six weeks before his 90th birthday. His life had a profound impact on family, on friends, and on students in three states where he taught over the years. For those not familiar with NW Oklahoma, this is tornado country. Check out this picture of the storm shelter we spotted next to the travel trailer in the site across from us! The shelter might hold 4-6 very crowded people. Although the trailer installation doesn't look all that permanent, you don't go to this expense and trouble for a short stay!! We paid a weekly rate of $90 plus $14.40 for metered electricity, making nightly cost for the five nights $20.88.
1-31 APR, SAGINAW TX -- We left Cottonwood at 9:45 am. After stopping for lunch at a Wal-Mart in Duncan OK, we arrived in Saginaw TX about 4pm. After refueling, we checked in at Eagle Resorts RV Park. We have stayed here several times before, but this time the site they had reserved for us was too small/short for us to fit. We didn't want it anyway as it was right by the busy county highway. We took a water & electric site in the back for four nights, after which we were moved to a full-hookup site vacated that morning. The park is pretty much the same as before, with roaming dogs (most of which belong to the park owner), and plenty of stickers for the dogs to bring inside. Maybe we'll try another option next time we're in the area. While in Saginaw, we sat out several small hail storms, and narrowly missed much larger hail storms and tornadoes in the area. We've decided in the future to avoid this area during March - May when they receive over 75% of their yearly tornadoes & hail storms. After all, that's why our home has wheels, so we can avoid this kind of thing! We enjoyed visits with Jean's sister and mother, spent a day browsing the shops in the historic Ft Worth Stockyards area, and made a long-weekend visit via car to Albuquerque. The monthly rate of $360 includes electric up to a max of $100. This time of year, we had no problem staying under that level, so our nightly cost was $12.00.
1-27 MAY, DALLAS TX -- We had an easy 50 mile drive from Saginaw to Wycliffe Associates on the south side of Dallas. They are located on the International Linguistics Center campus consisting of a number of organizations including SIL Intl, Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (GIAL), Wycliffe Bible Translators, Pioneer Bible Translators, and the International Museum of Cultures. We had a concrete full-hookup site in their very nice RV park while Paul volunteered 20 hrs a week with Wycliffe Associates on their computer help desk in exchange for discount RV site rates. To the left is a furry friend who came visiting one evening, a Texas Brown Tarantula. On Mother's Day, we drove back across Ft Worth to be with Jean's mother on Mother's Day. Later that week, we made another unplanned trip to Oklahoma, this time for the funeral of Paul's mother. She failed rapidly after the death of Paul's father in March, and died late on Mother's Day. He was born on Mother's Day, and she died on Mother's Day ...Alpha and Omega ...beginning and end ...what a precious day for our family! We left the motorhome in Dallas this time. During our "spare" time in Dallas, we visited friends in the area. The last weekend in town, our two grandkids came to join us for the next three weeks! Look out Oklahoma!! With $2 per head "extra person" fees for the two grandkids for each of the last three nights, our nightly cost at Wycliffe Dallas calculates out to $5.79. HOWEVER, if you figure into that the fact that Paul worked 20 hrs a week, figuring his work on the computer help desk was worth at least minimum wage of $6.55/hr, our nightly cost was $22/night. That is more than we normally pay per night on a monthly rate regardless of where we stay! Add to that the fact that some volunteer/work camp sites report the value of your “free” RV parking to the IRS, triggering a bill for federal taxes on the proclaimed value. Hopefully that will not be the case here as we did not receive “free” RV hookups. Note too that I would be very careful about volunteering or work camping in locations that have a state income tax as some states (particularly CA) will conclude that anyone “working” in the state is a resident and therefore ALL their income no matter where it was earned is subject to CA taxes!! We have heard of volunteers receiving a tax bill far in excess of any value received in "free" RV hookups at a work camp site. Volunteering in exchange for a “free” RV site could be very expensive indeed!!
28 MAY-4 JUN, TINKER AFB, OKLAHOMA CITY OK -- We headed north out of Dallas at 10am. After a lunch stop at the state line Rest Area, we arrived at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City just after 2pm. Entrance to the base was easy via the truck/RV gate on the south side of the base, and we found the FamCamp just a short distance inside the gate. This is a relatively small FamCamp with just 29 sites, all back-in. All sites are concrete, with paved streets, and nice grass along with a small pond. There is no WIFI, nor will my Verizon Broadband work in this area -- no internet?? -- bummer!! I was able to survive by making daily trips to the food court on base where there was free WIFI available. Though we were gone to New Mexico for a few days for a Memorial Service for Paul's mother, we did have time for a visit to the Bass Pro Shop, and for a great dinner with family members at Crab Town. They cover your table with butcher paper, dump a bucket of boiled crab legs, shrimp, potatoes & corn on the cob on the table, and you go at it! Yum!! After the seafood feast, the grandkids enjoyed a walk along the riverwalk area, especially the area where water jets shoot water up for them to run between and across!! For our eight night stay at Tinker AFB, our nightly cost was $13.50.
5-11 JUN, ENID OK -- With 40-50 mph winds out of the South, we headed north out of OK City around 10am. We topped off the fuel tank at the Flying J on the West side of town, paying $4.339 per gallon. A short distance west of the Flying J, we turned North, thankful that we would be driving with the wind from the rear rather than with cross winds or head winds. As we drove North at 60-65 mph we noted the cloud shadows on the highway were keeping pace with us, and sometimes pulling away from us! After a lunch stop at a small roadside park on the North side of Hennessey, we arrived at the Highpoint Mobile Home & RV Park on the North side of Enid at about 12:45. The park was nearly filled with custom wheat harvesters, but they had space for us too. We were directed to a back-in spot tucked into the trees. The full-hookup 50a gravel site had a brand new CATV connection. We had to park a bit further to the right than desirable due to trees that needed trimming, but were able to reach all connections with one sewer hose extension. The free WIFI internet worked great. Although it looked like the satellite dish should be able to see through the hole in the trees, it didn't, so we were glad to have the CATV as bad weather was projected for the evening. Although the bulk of the bad weather bypassed us, we did get a bit wet from heavy rain returning from supper with family members who live in Enid. We had a good visit in Enid with family, and the grandkids enjoyed seeing "Kung Fu Panda" at the theater. They also explored the local Kiwanis park. There are several playgrounds there, and a train & miniature golf area (unfortunately, both were closed when we were there). They also enjoyed several hours at Leonardo's Discovery Warehouse & Adventure Quest! Inside the warehouse is a wide variety of learning activities including carpenter shop, art studio and several themed play areas. The picture on the right is in the front courtyard of Adventure Quest, a very large 3-story outdoor play area that includes climbing areas, water play area, swings and other playground equipment, and small park and garden area. Our cost with weekly rate at Highpoint RV Park came to $17.86 per night.
12-18 JUN, WOODWARD OK -- We left Enid just after 10am, arriving at Cottonwood RV Park south of Woodward just before Noon. Like the last time we stayed here, we had called ahead and they had one of two vacant sites reserved for us -- this time a pull-through long enough to park the car in front, and the utilities were ideally placed. The only hitch was the den of red ants near our entry door. The owner told us nothing they had tried would kill the ants, and when they did kill some, the surviving ants came out of the hole to retrieve the bodies of their dead!! But we went ahead and put ant poison on the den -- some Ortho RealKill we had left over from a similar experience last year in Albuquerque -- hoping that would encourage them to move elsewhere, and it did the job! Too bad we couldn't do the same with the "stray" pets (encourage them to move elsewhere, that is…) that other RVers never put on a leash in violation of park rules -- they routinely used our yard as their bathroom, and harassed us a few times when we were walking our two dogs on their leashes. We also had a few episodes of brief power problems with our line meter "alarming" for brief periods with a transient ground fault. After the brief "alarm," the fault would go away for several hours or as much as a full day. During the week, we had a great time visiting relatives in the Woodward area, and the two grandkids headed back to Alabama with their parents as their three-week visit with us ended. Amazing how much larger the motorhome feels with two fewer people and the suitcase large enough for both of them to hide in it!! With weekly rate of $90 plus $35 for metered electricity, our per night cost for the week was $17.86.
19-22 JUN, WALSH CO -- We were delayed leaving Woodward when I found a low tire on the car when I was preparing to hook it up on the tow bar. I put the spare on the car, and we drove both vehicles into Woodward to the Wal-Mart. About two hours later, the tire was repaired and back on the car, and we were headed North toward dark rain clouds. It started raining lightly by the time we reached Ft Supply, and continued off and on for the next 125 miles or so. After we ran out from under the cloud, we had sunny weather until about 50 miles from our destination when we encountered more dark clouds. This time we turned west before we got to the rain, and left the clouds behind by the time we arrived in Walsh CO where we had arranged to plug into a 50a power box on a friend's property in town. On checking the box we found the 50a breaker was bad. Then it started to rain lightly. Friends called a son-in-law with electrical experience, and he came and removed the breaker (after the rain stopped!) and soon returned with a new one. In the meantime, we had found a 50a breaker in an abandoned utility box on the next lot to the South. The used one appeared to be good, but since we now had a new one we returned the used one to it's box. Shortly after the new breaker was in and working, more clouds approached from the West and the skies opened with very heavy rain for about 30 minutes. Friends came and picked us up to go out to eat in the midst of the flood. After we all got very wet getting to the car, and then into the restaurant, the rain quit! We lived in Walsh in the late 1970's, and had been back just once for a brief visit in 2004. Much remains as we remember it, though as with most small towns, there are fewer businesses now than 30 years ago.
23 JUN, KIT CARSON CO -- Leaving Walsh about 9am, we headed North. Our plan was to find an RV park in Eads or Kit Carson CO to use as a base while visiting friends on a ranch between the two towns. After stopping at Wal-Mart in Lamar for lunch and grocery shopping, we arrived at the "motel & RV Park" in Eads. They had empty sites, but had only 15a power, so we headed on to Kit Carson. The first RV park in Kit Carson had no open sites. The second had one that was pretty tight, but we could find no one in charge as the designated site of the office was in a filling station that was out of business! The third "campground" had three empty sites, all with only 15a power. So, we headed for the ranch to dry camp. After evening thunder storms, it was a cool evening so we did not need to run the generator overnight for ac. Opening the roof vents allowed for comfortable sleeping temperatures. We spent a pleasant evening visiting friends, and after more visiting in the morning, we headed on north about 10am. As the ranch is apx 4 miles off paved roads, we unhooked the car when we left the pavement on the way in, and waiting until reaching the pavement to re-connect the car to the tow bar on the way out!
24 JUN, WOOD RIVER NE -- After a 10am departure from the ranch south of Kit Carson, we drove state highways across Eastern Colorado into Western Kansas, then angled NE toward Nebraska. We had a very scenic drive across the plains into rolling hill country, and we noted a marked difference in how green Western Kansas was compared to Eastern Colorado. That area of Colorado has endured several years of near drought conditions, and it appears things have not changed! A short time after getting onto I-80 Eastbound, we pulled off for the night at the Wood River Motel & RV Park just south of Wood River, Nebraska. It appears they have only 30a sites, and ours had a cracking slab apparently not adequate for the weight of most RVs, a sewer connection with the pipe totally broken off below ground level, and water pressure that gave us barely a trickle of water. Voltage was on the low side, but we survived for the night, even managing to dump our nearly full waste tanks via the broken sewer pipe. No WIFI. No CATV. Cost for the night, poor condition and all, was $22.
25 JUN-10 JUL, OMAHA NE, OFFUTT AFB -- It was a relatively short drive from Wood River to Offutt AFB just south of Omaha. Along the way we stopped at Flying J and paid $4.51 a gallon for diesel. On arrival at the Offutt AFB Famcamp, we were directed to site 19 at the end of the row, giving us a great view across a neighboring corn field. We were told we will have to vacate our site July 3 & 4 as they have advance reservations filling all sites. They put us on the waiting list as #2 waiting. After checking out other local options, and finding most full, we identified a spot near the Famcamp where we could park and dry camp over the 3rd and 4th. Then, on June 30, we were advised they had a cancellation and we could stay in our site for the full time! The Famcamp is located on the base lake recreation area outside the base fence and apx 1/2 mile from the Missouri River. Across the cornfield to the East, we could see bicyclists & walkers using a trail near the river. Online I found the trail is the Bellevue Loop Trail, and part of a quite extensive trail system in the area. Check it out at Omaha Trails -- over 80 miles of paved connected trails! I didn't have the time and/or energy to cover it all, but the part I did ride was great with no street crossings and not all that much traffic. On the left is the "Bicycle Windmill" at the trail entry at Haworth Park -- I guess you have to do something with all those abandoned/unclaimed bicycles cities collect! On the right is a view of the Bellevue Loop trail from the seat of my Gecko recumbent. While in the area we enjoyed a couple of visits with a friend now stationed at Offutt, and were privileged to worship in the SAC Memorial Chapel on the historic Offutt AFB parade ground, former site of Ft Crook. And on July 4th, we were in the midst of the base July 4th celebration, with ringside seats to a fantastic fireworks display over the base lake! During our last few days at Offutt I finally got motivated to wash the roof. As the photo shows, it was way overdue as the last time it was done was when I paid a guy in Myrtle Beach SC to powerwash the roof and motorhome and apply hot wax in October 2005. I paid him $120 for the job ($3 per ft). So, I guess I made $120 today, but I sure worked for it up there in the heat and humidity scrubbing the roof by hand!! (and it took over four months for my left shoulder to recover from the heavy scrubbing…) And after doing the roof, I had to wash the rest of the motorhome to get all the dirt streaks off the sides that ran off the roof. With the use of a couple of AF Frequent Camper coupons, our nightly cost at the Famcamp for our two week stay was $14.
11-24 JUL, FOREST CITY IA -- We left Offutt AFB just after 9am, and headed for Forest City IA and the Winnebago GNR (Grand National Rally) & 50th Anniversary celebration. Along the way, we stopped at a bicycle shop in Des Moines to look an a recumbent trike I have been looking at online -- I figure at my age, the way I ride a bicycle, having three wheels under me might be safer! The Catrike Expedition is quite a trike -- not at all like the one of my youth!! We found out it will fit in the back of our Honda Odyssey, so maybe I'll adopt one in the near future. After Des Moines we stopped at a Flying J near Williams IA to top off the fuel tank with 30 gallon of diesel at $4.69 a gallon before arriving at the rally grounds next to Winnebago Factory HQ on the south side of Forest City. We are part of the military club (MilWIT), and arrived apx one week early for pre-rally festivities with our chapter members. Winnebago has one of the best rally grounds of any RV manufacturer, and can accommodate apx 1,500 RVs with electric hookups. Most have 30a power, and some have 50a. We lucked out and got a location on the main rally grounds with a 50a connection! Refilling fresh water tanks is a cooperative effort of stringing many hoses together from the hydrant at the end of each row. There was a lot of socializing, a fun day at the annual Forest City Puckerbrush Parade celebration (complete with a very antique steam driven tractor and a couple of vintage Winnebagos -- check out that sharp late 50's-early 60's trailer & tow vehicle!), lots of browsing vendor booths, one day spent in getting factory service on a few items needing repair, door prizes, more socializing, a trip to the factory surplus store, browsing new motorhomes, fireworks, entertainment, more socializing, more browsing vendor booths (and some spending of $$ at such places!!), and certainly more than enough eating! There also was more than enough rain, making some days a bit soggy and the ground a bit soft in most places and much too soft in a few places! One rig took a direct lightning strike through a Firestick brand fiberglass CB antenna -- it shredded the antenna and set the radio on fire in addition to other less dramatic damage. At least one lost a large patio awning when it filled with water (due to not being setup to drain properly) and collapsed from the weight. We saw lots of new motorhomes on display, but none we like as well as what we have!! In addition to rally fees, there is a $10 per night RV site charge for 9 nights. But they allow flexible arrival and departure dates, and with our schedule we will be in place for 14 nights, which makes our nightly charge for the site alone $6.43, and including one $15 "honey wagon" service to empty our waste tanks our nightly cost was $7.50.
25 JUL, MITCHELL SD -- We left GNR immediately after the 9am closing ceremonies, used on of the many dump stations on the grounds, and were headed north out of town by 10am. After an uneventful drive, we arrived at the R&R Campground in Mitchell SD about 3pm. After getting settled into our assigned site -- a nice long pull-through -- we unhooked the car and went to the Cabella's and Wal-Mart Supercenter just across I-90 to the south. On the way back to the RV park, we stopped at Taco Bell and picked up a couple of taco salads for supper. We had a pleasant evening at R&R Campground with good WIFI connections (from the Super 8 Motel next door -- although the campground WIFI had a strong signal it would give a local connection only with no internet connection). R&R is a Passport America campground, and our rate for one night with 50a service was $18.43.
26 JUL - 2 AUG, BOX ELDER SD, ELLSWORTH AFB -- We were back on I-90 about 8:45 headed west. We had another pleasant driver, complete with a couple of rest stops and scenic overlooks, one at Chamberlain SD where Lewis & Clark camped on that voyage up the Missouri River. We arrived at Box Elder about 1:30 Mountain Time (crossed the time zone line several miles back), but went on past Box Elder to a Flying J at the next exit. The low fuel warning light was on, but we managed to squeeze only 80 gallon in our 100 gallon tank, so weren't quite empty yet!! We paid $4.69 a gallon cash price (credit price was 9 cents higher/gallon!!), but the poor guy who used the pump before we did rang up 200 gallon at total cost over $980!!! That makes us wonder how truckers can stay in business. After refueling, we returned East on I-90 one exit, then followed the signs to the commercial gate. Many bases now have all kinds of obstacles at most base gates, making the commercial truck gate the only practical entry for a large RV. At the gate, we had to use the provided phone to call Security Forces and request they come and let us in. Within 5 minutes, a SF Team arrived, checked my ID, and opened the gate for us to enter. But our adventure wasn't over yet!! ...following the online directions to the Famcamp brought us to an intersection where a right turn would take us through winding barricades out another gate (which fortunately was closed), and the left turn we were supposed to make was impossible because the street was closed for construction!! We could see the Famcamp directly ahead, but could not get there from here!! Since the gate was closed, there was no traffic to object as we parked in the street to unhook the car, and then got the motorhome turned around to go back to the last cross street, go one block North, and then back East to the Famcamp. We were not surprised to find the Famcamp was full as the Sturgis motorcycle rally is just a week away (and we were passed by many motorcycles in our 270 mile drive today), but we were given a choice of two "dry camp" spots on the grass between normal sites where we could plug into power and use a "y" to share water. As most campground power boxes have 20a, 30a, and 50a outlets, this works out well if there is room to park between sites. We picked the one that would give us a 50a connection, and were moved to a full hookup site two days later. During the week, we spent one day exploring Wall Drug and Badlands National Park; another day at Mt Rushmore National Park and then the Crazy Horse Memorial site about 15 miles away; and a day exploring the town of Deadwood. This area of South Dakota is beautiful, with quite varied terrain just a few miles apart -- flat prairie grasslands, rolling hills, the Badlands, and the Black Hills. Too bad we had just a week to explore the area! This would be a great place to return to in the future!! With total stay of 8 nights, and use of one AF Frequent Camper Coupon for one free night, our final nightly cost was $13.75.
3-4 AUG, SHERIDAN WY -- We left the Ellsworth Famcamp at about 9:45am, but had problems getting out the Commercial Gate. Since it was Sunday, the gate was closed. And unlike on the outside, there is no telephone or posted telephone number to call on the inside! We called the Famcamp manager and she said she would call Security and tell them we needed the gate opened to depart. We were just about ready to call back and repeat the request when the SF team arrived 30 minutes later. Soon we were back on I-90 headed west with many motorcycles headed too and from Sturgis. We decided from the number we saw that there must not be room for them all in Sturgis at the same time, so 1/2 or more of them must be running up and down the highways for up to 200 miles around at any give time!! The drive west on I-90 is beautiful. In mid-afternoon we approached the Big Horn Mountains and curved North to run along beside them. We had projected stopping in Buffalo WY for two nights, but when we called the RV park we got an answering machine requesting we leave a message. That wasn't what we wanted, so we called the alternate we had projected 40 miles further North in Sheridan. Peter D's RV Park had vacancies, so we proceeded to Sheridan, arriving about 3:30pm. Peter himself signed us in, and was extremely helpful with tourist suggestions, restaurant recommendations, and doggie treats for Maggie & Xena!! In addition to pull-through sites, they had free WIFI (a bit weak), and free CATV. After we were in our site, I noticed a slightly low tire on the car as I began to unhook the tow bar. By the time I got the bar unhooked and stowed about 5 minutes later, the tire was completely flat!! ...we must have hit something very close to the RV park since it went flat so fast. I found a slightly torn hole, and after considering all the flats we have had with this set of tires, and the fact that they have over 63,000 miles on them (42k driven and 21k towed), the next morning I bought new tires about three months before I had planned to. We did a little bit of self-guided touring in Sheridan, "the #1 Western Town in America" according to them. One of the more interesting businesses on Main St is King's Saddlery & Ropes, also the site of Don King's Western Museum. Don is world famous for his custom made saddles. There are many western historical item in the museum next to the rope shop behind the main store and saddle shop. The rope shop sells 35,000-40,000 cowboy ropes a year -- do the math -- that's over 3,000 a month!! The picture to the left shows just a few of the ropes they have in stock. Our second evening in town, we sampled the award winning ribs at the Wyoming Ribs & Chop House. Our cost per night at Peter D's was $33 -- a bit on the high side, but RV parks in this part of the country have to make their money while they can due to the long winters when they are closed for at least half the year!!
5-6 AUG, HARDIN MT -- It was a leisurely apx 86 mile drive from Sheridan to Hardin, Montana. We almost arrived too early!! Most RV parks have an 11am check out time, and arriving before that time could result in an additional fee. We didn't even see a single rest areas on I-90 between Sheridan and Hardin where we could stop and dawdle for awhile! We arrived at Grandview Camp & RV Park in Hardin about 11:10am. We were soon settled into a pull through site with full hookups, free WIFI, and free CATV. On Wednesday afternoon we enjoyed a visit to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Park. The Little Bighorn River valley and the overlooking hills where Custer and his 7th Cavalry were virtually wiped out is a beautiful area. It is hard to imagine all the violence and death that occurred there. Our visit to the area was much more pleasant than theirs was! With SMART discount, our cost for two nights at Grandview Camp & RV Park was $32.91, which included an "additional charge" of $1.50 each day for use of our air conditioner!
7-8 AUG, ANACONDA MT -- We left Hardin about 9:30am and arrived at Fairmont RV Park west of Butte about 2:50pm. Those 5 hours included a rest area stop for lunch, and a refueling stop at Flying J in Belgrade, MT where we paid $4.53 a gallon for 63 gallons of diesel -- the price having dropped 16 cents a gallon since our last fillup about 10 days ago. We did some mountain climbing along the way, running 40 mph in 3rd gear (out of 6 gears available) up the long climb over the Continental Divide just East of Butte. It was another beautiful drive through lots of sparsely settled country. The scene on the right was snapped from the front seat of the motorhome alongside I-90 somewhere in Western Montana. Fairmont RV park is a little over half way between Butte and Anaconda, located next to the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. The RV park has 100 sites, but most sites are limited to old 30amp electrical connections. Even though they told us all 50a sites were taken, we noted after we were parked that there was one directly across from us that was empty. Although this is a Passport America park, our savings were limited as they do not allow Passport America discounts on Friday or Saturday nights, AND, after being charged the relatively high rate of $30 for a 30a full hookup site, they tacked on an additional charge of $2.00 "for electric!!" Add to that the fact that the free WIFI did not work very often, and the narrow roads made it nearly impossible to pull out of our pull-through site with the car attached, and we weren't overly impressed! Due to the rather pleasant temperatures, air conditioning wasn't needed all that much, so the 30a site (with low voltage at that) was not as limiting as it could have been. Even with our Passport America $15 discount for one night, our nightly average cost was $25.15.
9-10 AUG, OSBURN ID -- The drive from Anaconda MT to Osburn ID was a pretty drive with lots of mountain scenery, and one pretty steep grade up and back down as we crossed the state line just a few miles from our destination. We left Fairmont RV Park just before 9am, and arrived at Blue Anchor RV Park shortly after 1pm after two stops in rest areas along the way. In addition to full-hookups and 50a electric, Blue Anchor provides free CATV and free WIFI that actually worked!! :) On Sunday, we enjoyed worshipping at the little historic United Methodist Church in nearby Wallace. This would be a great location to stay for awhile to enjoy the paved Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes bicycle path that runs past the RV park right across the street. The trail is apx 70 miles long. I did get in one ride from Osburn up the hill to Mullins, climbing apx 800 feet in the 12.5 miles. It is a super trail, even if my legs will be sore for a day or two!! Our nightly cost at Blue Anchor RV Park was $28.
11-18 AUG, SPOKANE WA, FAIRCHILD AFB -- After temps in the mid-40's overnight, we had a cool morning for the nice 91 mile drive from Osburn to Fairchild AFB just west of Spokane. With only one strong uphill climb, and one rest stop to walk the dogs, we arrived at the Fairchild Famcamp on the main base just after 11:30. We were offered a choice of two pull-through full-hookup 50a sites, and quickly settled in. The older half of the famcamp has better grass and locust trees, while the newer half has few trees, less grass, but better graveled pads. Most sites are fairly tight without much space between rigs -- just room for the picnic table and your awning (and your neighbor's water, electric & sewer connections are right there!). They also provide free WIFI that was weak, but worked just fine 95% of the time. While in Spokane I checked out a little piece of the 37 mile paved Centennial Trail in Riverside Park, but the portion I tried was way too hilly for my taste, with very severe climbs. I understand the center portion East of Spokane is more level. The rides I did on base at Fairchild were much more enjoyable for me! We also made a car trip to Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane, a river-walk area created several years ago for the Worlds Fair. It was very nice, and we thought the giant Radio Flyer red wagon with a slide down the tongue was really neat! Our per night cost at the Famcamp for eight nights, using one AF Frequent Camper free-night coupon, was $12.50.
19-25 AUG, SEATTLE WA -- After a couple of really hot days, it cooled off overnight for our departure about 9am under cloudy skies. After a stop for fuel along the way (75 gal at $4.65/gal), we arrived at Lake Pleasant RV Park in Bothell WA on the north side of Seattle just after 3pm -- on our 36th wedding anniversary! The RV park is on a small lake, and is a dedicated wildlife habitat -- a nice refuge in the midst of a metropolitan area. We noted most of the paved sites are considerable unlevel end to end, some being low to the rear and some low to the front. After check-in, when we inquired about the advertised WIFI we were told it was usable only at the main building as it was being "changed over" and would not be available throughout the park for several weeks -- so much for truth in advertising. I fell back on my $2.00 per day Verizon Broadband via my cell phone. We had a great time at our niece's wedding and really enjoyed all the family festivities with others who traveled long distances to be there!! In spite of rain on several days during our stay, we managed to get in a tour of Seattle's underground resulting from their raising the streets above sea level after a fire in the late 1800's, and also made a trip up the Space Needle for a bird's eye view of the area. Like most things in the Northwest, the RV park was somewhat pricey -- but this one IS quite nice for being surrounded by city. For our weekly rental, our cost was $36 per night!! Nearly three times what we paid at the military campground in Spokane!! Yeowww!!!
26-29 AUG, LANE COUNTY OR -- After a very early car trip to SEATAC Airport to drop our daughter off for her flight back to Atlanta, we departed the RV park at 9am. Traffic was somewhat heavy until after Portland, and we arrived at Richardson Park west of Eugene OR at about 2:45pm. We had an appointment at Davis Cabinets in Junction City to install new privacy shades around the cockpit area, and also to pick up privacy shades for us to install ourselves on all the other windows. The original day/night shades were a bit stiff to operate, and were prone to broken strings requiring complicated repairs. With one shade broken, and two others on the verge, we ordered Shade Man Duo privacy shades from MCD RV Innovations at the Winnebago GNR last month in Iowa, and had them shipped from the McKinney TX plant to meet us at Davis Cabinets. They are a great improvement over the original cockpit curtains and day/night shades, and are quickly becoming the standard in new RVs. I removed the OEM drapes and drapery rods the night before. We thought having Davis install the four shades in the cockpit area would take just a few hours, but on the day of the appointment, due to other coaches also having various kinds of work done, all that was accomplished was about two hours of work to physically mount the four shades. They still needed to connect three powered shades to the existing wiring and switches from the OEM sun visors, and do final adjustments on the shades. In the meantime, I removed the OEM day/night shades and installed the new Shade Man Duo shades on four windows, and discovered a piece broken in shipment on the fifth. Installing the shades required removing and then re-installing the padded lambrequins on each window, no mean feat!! After waiting all afternoon for someone to return to complete the installation, I took down the OEM power sun visors and completed the wiring for the new cockpit privacy shades, in the process reinstalling one shade that had been installed backwards. After a trip to Dairy Queen for supper, we ran our generator to recharge the coach batteries, and settled in to boondock for the night with about six other coaches also being worked on around us (parked right beside a rare twin to ourselves!!). The next morning about 7:45 there was a knock at the door to finish the installation. Final adjustments took apx 1 hour, they gave me a replacement end cap for the one that was broken in shipping, and on my request they provided a finished piece of oak for me to use in extending the driver window box/valence -- they took a cabinet door into the shop to match the finish, and when it came back an hour later, the match was perfect! All the old day/night shades went into the trash pile. Their total charge was $125.00 ($100 labor and $25 for the finished oak board), very reasonable. We left the coach in their parking area while picking up our weekly mail packet at the local Post Office and doing a bit of shopping in a few other places. Shortly after noon, we were on the road back to Richardson Park where I cut down the passenger side drapery rod to retain the drape over the entry door, installed the last shade now complete with the new end cap, and threw the rest of the drapes and drapery rods in the dumpster. Good riddance, and project complete!! On the drive to an from Davis Cabinets in Junction City, we enjoyed seeing numerous Christmas Tree Farms, grape vine fields, and fruit orchards. Richardson Park is part of the Lane County Park system, and has several water & electric RV hookups, both 30a and "50a," although we noted the "50a" power at our site wasn't really a 50a 240v connection, but in reality was a 30a 240v connection, evidenced by the dual-ganged 30a breakers. It is a very nice park, with a large reservoir, marina and swimming within walking distance. They do not have full-hookup sites, but do provide a dump station. With a $10 reservation fee on top of site costs, our cost for four nights at Richardson Park was $22.50 per night.
30-31 AUG, HERMISTON OR -- We pulled out of Richardson Park about 8:45am. We refueled at Flying J just East of Portland where we paid $4.18 a gallon for 78 gallon of diesel -- the lowest we have paid since last April. AND, we used our new Visa Rewards card that is supposed to pay 5% cash back for fuel purchased at the pump. At this price, that would be 20.9 cents per gallon!! -- we'll see how that advertising teaser bears out!! After a beautiful drive most of the day along I-84 through the Columbia River Gorge, and another stop for lunch near The Dalles, we arrived at Pioneer RV Park in Hermiston OR about 2:45pm. We chose this stop based on it's being apx 1/2 the distance between Eugene & Mountain Home AFB, and the fact it is a Passport America park. It turned out to be a great choice!! They are about 3 mi from I-84 in the town of Hermiston, have full hookup 50a sites, pull-throughs (though a bit short, nicely paved streets & sites, very nice grass between sites, and great free WIFI and CATV!! AND, on Sunday night they had a free Hamburger cookout -- just what we were planning to do on our own!!. While in Hermiston, we enjoyed worshipping at the local United Methodist Church. Our cost for two nights at Pioneer RV Park at Passport America 1/2 price rate was $18/night.
1-4 SEP, GRANDVIEW ID, MTN HOME AFB -- We headed SE out of Hermiston onto I-84 at 9am. Most of the day was somewhat mountainous driving, though none too severe. Along the way we did a rest stop to walk the dogs, and a stop at Flying J in Caldwell ID for fuel and lunch. Fuel was 49.9 gallon at $4.21 a gallon. Just south of Boise we encountered stop and go traffic due to a crash that had totally blocked the other side of I-84. We saw one semi on the side, another nearly broadside across the lanes with the tractor in the median, and blackened debris scattered over several hundred feet. According to later reports, a woman entered the exit ramp going the wrong direction and immediately hit the two side-by-side semis head on. The only recognizable part left of her small car was the rear bumper and wheel. We arrived at Mountain Home AFB just south of Grandview UT, apx 16 miles west of I-84 and Mountain Home ID, about 3:30pm. The main gate was closed for construction, and when we entered by the Grandview gate none of our directions to the Famcamp worked! But after some muddling around, we found the Famcamp and settled into a site. Eastern Oregon and this part of Idaho remind us of Eastern New Mexico -- somewhat semi-arid terrain, apx 3,000 ft altitude with cool evenings, some volcanic rock here and there, and mountains in the distance. With the use of our last AF Frequent Camper Coupon for one free night, our cost for four nights at Mountain Home AFB was $10.50/night.
5-8 SEP, OGDEN UT, HILL AFB -- After four peaceful days at Mountain Home, we hit the road at 9:15am headed SE. After a rest stop and a lunch stop, we arrived at Hill AFB in Ogden UT just after 3pm. We had called ahead a week or so ago for reservations and were met at the check-in station by the nighttime host, and were immediately led to our site where we had a great view of the soccer field and AF members doing PT. Oh, the good ol' days!!! Watching was quite enjoyable! :) Our site was in the newer section of the Famcamp with long and wide concrete pull-through sites with connections shared between sites. I got in one bicycle ride during our stay. With no more Frequent Camper coupons for now, our cost at Hill AFB was $14/night.
9-15 SEP, LAS VEGAS NV, NELLIS AFB -- We got an early start from Hill, hitting the road at 8:35am headed South on I-15. Traffic wasn't bad through the Salt Lake City & Provo areas. We stopped at Flying J in Nephi for 63 gallon of diesel at $3.94 a gallon -- great price compared to recent months. After a couple of rest stops, we descended through the Virgin River Gorge from in the NW corner of Arizona, loosing apx 2,500 feet in altitude and going from apx 85 degrees to apx 103! We arrived at Desert Eagle RV Park at Nellis AFB at apx 3:30 local time, having crossed back into the Pacific Time Zone. The Nellis Famcamp is quite nice, with 116 full-hookups, 32 water and electric hookups, two tent areas, and an overflow area. After cool weather in the Pacific Northwest, we enjoyed what the local weather folks called the "Fall temperatures" of 70's at night and high 90's/low 100's during the daytime. During our week in Vegas, we enjoyed several shows, enjoyed the view from the Stratosphere Tower, won some but lost more on the slots, and ate very well. With advance reservations, our cost for one week at Desert Eagle was $19/night.
16 SEP, SUN VALLEY AZ -- We left Nellis AFB and Las Vegas about 8:30am, and after a full day of nearly 400 miles, arrived at Root 66 RV Park in Sun Valley AZ at 4:35pm. We made a Wal-Mart stop for lunch and groceries, and a refueling stop at Flying J in Kingman AZ ($3.89 for 68 gallon), and a couple of rest area stops along the way. It was a day of extremes, from altitudes of apx 1,000 ft to over 7,000 feet, desert to forest, and temperatures from 105 in the Nevada desert to 57 in high altitude rain west of Flagstaff!! Root 66 RV Park is a Passport America park located right alongside I-40 with pretty much nothing nearby -- nothing fancy at all, marginal voltage 30a power (50a for an additional $3), but a decent overnight stop. Our 1/2 price cost for one night in a 30a full-hookup pull-through was $14.50.
17 SEP-14 OCT, ALBUQUERQUE NM, KIRTLAND AFB -- We left Sun Valley at 7:45am local time (AZ does not do Daylight Savings time), but it was 8:45 according to our clocks that I had set the evening before to New Mexico time. After a lunch stop between Grants and Albuquerque, and then a refueling stop of Flying J on the West side of Albuquerque where we paid $3.90 a gallon for 61 gallon of diesel, we arrived at Kirtland AFB Famcamp at about 1:30pm. They had only electric hookups open, but that worked fine for us as we had a dealer appointment the next morning to have some peeling clearcoat checked out. The estimate will be submitted to Winnebago to see if they will "participate" in the repair cost. After getting settled in the Famcamp, I stored the Gecko recumbent bicycle at my brother's house and went to the Two Wheel Drive bicycle shop on Central Ave to pick up my new Catrike Expedition, a tadpole (two wheels in the front) recumbent trike. I ordered the Catrike via phone about a 6 weeks earlier after checking them out for sometime online and at a dealer in Des Moines as we passed through Iowa. Maybe this old man will find it harder to fall off of a three-wheeler!! Our nightly cost for an electric only site at the Kirtland AFB Famcamp was $11.00. After 10 days at Kirtland, we got a call from the dealer that Winnebago had agreed to the estimate for the clearcoat repair, so we cleared out the refrigerator and freezers, dropped the coach off at the dealer, and moved into my brother's home. They were on an extended out of town visit so the refrigerator and freezer were conveniently nearly empty!! I got in a lot of good trail rides on the new trike, took it back to the shop for the 30 day tune up, and took some more rides. Living in a stick house for a bit brought a new appreciation for things like dishwashers, and refrigerators that dispense ice and water through the door, but not enough to cause us to want to give up RV living! Besides, we could have both of those in an RV if we were willing to spend the money!! One morning I rode with a friend on the North Diversion bike trail to watch the 7am "mass ascension" at the annual International Balloon Fiesta. It was a beautiful sight watching hundreds of balloons launch, and then riding back along the bike trail where many of them happened to land that morning. On the right is a pic of me on my new Catrike with the Darth Vader balloon in the background just after it touched down. On the left is a pic of a few of the balloons in the "Special Shapes" ascension early Thursday morning. There is about any shape you can imagine, from Darth Vader, to Noah's Ark, to the Energizer Bunny, to the Wells Fargo stage coach! The famous "Albuquerque box" winds were working that day, allowing the balloons to go southward at low altitude, then rise to a higher altitude and return back north where they could descend and repeat the process for an extended period and/or until they ran low on fuel. After getting the motorhome back from the paint repair, we were able to get a 30a full-hookup site at the Kirtland Famcamp for our last week in town. The site was one of their older ones (used to be the carport slab of a house) with a somewhat hazardous narrow concrete slab with sharp drop-offs on each side, but it was workable for the week. The good news at Kirtland is that construction has begun on 40 new full-hookup sites ...they have only 29 sites now, so that will be a huge expansion. Maybe next year we will have a nice new site here!!! Our nightly cost for the week of 30a full-hookups was $15 per night.
15-21 OCT, LUBBOCK TX -- We left Kirtland AFB just after 9am Mountain Time, and had an uneventful drive to Lubbock RV Park just north of Lubbock TX, arriving just after 4pm Central Time. We had emailed Lubbock RV Park in advance, and they had a long pull-through site with excellent Southern sky exposure for satellite TV access set aside for us. Lubbock RV Park is just across I-27 from the local airport. We were on the far back edge of the RV park, and heard more noise from the interstate than from the airport. The site hookups on site 79 were a bit strange, with the sewer hookup located close behind both the electric and fresh water, but it was workable with a sewer hose extension. We were in the last row on the rear of the RV park, and just across the road was a sizeable prairie dog town. Every time we walked the dogs, there were audible alarm signals being passed among the ever alert prairie dogs! We enjoyed our visit in Lubbock, especially the chance to visit with some family members, and we finally found the western suit I had been looking for! Our nightly cost for one week 50a full-hookups site at the weekly rate was $17.71, basically 7 nights for the price of 5.
22-30 OCT, SHAWNEE OK -- The weather turned cooler the morning we left Lubbock at 8:30am. Though it was somewhat windy, our 400 mile drive to Shawnee was rather uneventful. The uneventfulness was assisted by the fact that we tied up the two spring-loaded window awnings before leaving the RV park in Lubbock. Twice we have had to stop while driving across Oklahoma to secure these two awnings on the side of the road when strong winds kept pulling them out while driving. It is a bit easier to stand on the ladder and secure the awnings on the driver's side of the motorhome in an RV park than alongside a busy, windy highway ...we're learning! :) With a couple of rest stops, and a stop for fuel and lunch at Flying J in Wichita Falls (84 1/2 gallon of diesel at $3.39 a gallon ...lower than for many months!!), we arrived at the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center in Shawnee just after 4pm. The Exposition Centernhas a few hundred RV sites, most with 30a power and full hookups. This is the location of the SMART National BOD Meeting (where as National Chaplain, Paul is a non-voting member and serves on a committee), followed by the 2008 South Mid-West Regional Muster. The muster schedule had plenty of free time, so Paul was able to ride his new Catrike some on an asphalt trail that had an access point at the edge of Exposition grounds and went part way around the airport. Riding to the end in both directions ran up a total of about 8 1/2 miles. We also watched some horse barrel racing competition, and got a chance to visit family members nearby in the Oklahoma City area. Our nightly cost for the RV site at the Exposition grounds was $17.
31 OCT-2 NOV, FT SMITH AR, FT CHAFFEE TRAVEL CAMP -- We took a leisurely departure from Shawnee at about 10am, and arrived at Ft Chaffee at Barling AR on the East side of Ft Smith about 1:30pm. The RV park is located on "old Ft Chaffee," and is "quaint" to put it gently. The pic at the right shows you some of the abandoned buildings ...the chimneys in the distance are the remnants of a fire a few years ago that destroyed more of the old Ft Chaffee buildings than it left. Parking areas at the RV Park are grass with narrow gravel streets between. Utilities are in excellent condition, but no effort at all has been taken to make the sites level, or even to clearly show where they are. RVs are parked at any angle you might imagine in an effort to deal with the non-level sites. We were advised to park at an 45 degree angle in our "site," but that didn't work. After several attempts, and re-parking efforts, we finally got leveled with the right front wheel well off the ground and that leveling jack on several pieces of lumber. Stacking lumber to get a motorhome level should not be necessary in an RV park!! The good part was the price, just $7.50 per night!! While at Ft Chaffee we had some great visits with a family member we had not seen for many years.
3-5 NOV, JACKSONVILLE AR, LITTLE ROCK AFB FAMCAMP -- We left Ft Chaffee a little before 10am and took state highways to intersect I-40 at Russellville AR where we stopped at the Flying J for fuel and lunch. We took on 57.5 gallon of diesel at $2.99 per gallon ... the lowest we have paid in the past 13 months. Just like our last visit to Little Rock AFB, we got the only vacant full-hookup site, #3, with water and electric connections on the "wrong" side -- right beside another Ultimate Advantage!! While at Little Rock, we took in a movie, and Paul got in two rides around the base on the Catrike. On Wednesday, two days before we had planned to visit the SMART HOGS Muster in Little Rock, we got a call late in the day telling us our police office son had been shot while responding to a home invasion robbery. After a few more calls to update us on his initial ER treatments and condition, and a little sleep overnight, we left Little Rock AFB a day early, calling back after the office opened later in the day to request a refund for Thursday night. They promised they would mail us a check, but never did, so our $12 cost per night came out to $16 per night.
6 NOV-20 NOV, MONTGOMERY AL -- We broke “camp” and hooked up the car in light rain, then drove nearly 500 miles on Thursday, arriving at Capital City RV Park in Montgomery just after 6pm. We made several rest stops and two fuel stops along the way, paying $2.92 per gallon for 31.8 gallon in Mississippi, and $3.19 per gallon for 42.4 gallon of diesel in Alabama. We got the motorhome parked and plugged into electric, then went to the hospital where our son was in CVICU. He was listed in stable condition, and was in good spirits. After two days in ICU, and another eight in a private room, he was released to convalescent leave at home, very fortunate that the bullet that got past his bullet-proof vest missed damage to vital areas. There have been a few improvements at Capital City RV park since our last visit ...a new playground, large fenced dog area, and attractive fencing around the park. The monthly cost has gone up from $380 to $410, making our nightly cost for the first month $13.67.
21-22 NOV, CHEAHA MOUNTAIN STATE PARK, DELTA AL -- Once again, we took the grandkids on the Winter Cub Scout "campout," this time to Cheaha Mountain State Park, the highest point in Alabama. We were at Cheaha in 2006 for the same reason ...but this time "we" is just Paul and the grandkids, as Jean elected to stay behind in Montgomery to greet a friend who is driving in from Texas on Saturday for Thanksgiving week. Cheaha is in the Talladega National Forest in North Alabama. It is a very nice state park, with full RV hookups sites and 50a electric. Paul checked the kids out of school at 1pm so they could make the 95 mile drive in time to make the final severe climb and switch-back road and arrive in the forest to get registered and be able to select a campsite before dark. Our timing was great. This time we got a pull-through site. Friday night was very cold, in the low 20's. Saturday was cool, but sunny and nice. While Sean did a "down the mountain and back up hike" round trip from the Mountain-top campground to the Lakeside Campground, Paul and Harley hiked to the nearby boardwalk out to Bald Rock where they enjoyed the awesome overlook to the north, apx 2,000 feet over the valley below. Saturday night we enjoyed potluck around the campfire, then were pleasantly surprised to note that the temperature stayed in the high 30s/low 40s overnight in spite of the forecast for low 20's. It was a very pleasant weekend. In 2006, we got a 15% discount with my National Parks Golden Access Passport, but this year they said, "Nope, we don't accept that here." Many state parks do give discounts for the National Park passes, but I guess Alabama no longer does!! Our nightly cost for the two night stay was $23.10.
23 NOV-31 DEC, MONTGOMERY AL -- We headed south from Cheaha State Park to Montgomery at 8am, arriving back in our site at Capital City RV park about 10:20 after a refueling stop at the nearby Entec station where we paid a great price of $2.89 per gallon for 89 gallon of diesel. Just before Christmas, we found a local tire dealer who was able to get four tires to replace the 7-yr old original tires on the rear of the motorhome. Though they look great, 7 yrs is about the maximum recommended use so we paid $399 each plus tax and mounting for four new ones. On Christmas Eve, we moved the motorhome to our older son's driveway North of Montgomery so we could be close to family and grandkids for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. After Christmas Eve worship at historic First UMC in Wetumpka, we settled in for the night, getting up just after 4:30am to start the charcoal to smoke the 22lb turkey for Christmas dinner. We had a great time over Christmas with kids and grandkids, and finished out the year with a New Year's Eve party at our older son's home. During 2008, in a year of record fuel prices, we drove the motorhome a record (for us) 9,514.4 miles and the car nearly 15,000 miles. We really enjoyed our travels, and look forward to more enjoyment in 2009!!
WHAT DOES IT COST TO OPERATE A MOTORHOME FULLTIME?? ...Some notes on 2008 costs ...
During 2008, we drove the motorhome a record (for us) 9,514.4 miles, and the car nearly 15,000 miles.
- CAMPGROUND COSTS totaled $4,788 (avg per night $13.12 ...this includes a few nights parking at no cost at friends' homes). We also are able to hold campground costs down by staying in military famcamps around the country. Unlike some RVers, we rarely stay at a WalMart or truck stop overnight.
- COST FOR DIESEL FUEL was $5,009 with avg cost per gallon of $3.966, and avg 7.5mpg (includes apx 100 hrs of generator use at up to .5 gallon/hr). Note that our per mile operating cost just for fuel is apx 52 cents per mile!! I have heard truckers say their cost per mile for fuel and maintenance is just under $1 per mile. Obviously, we don't drive the motorhome on "side trips" any more than absolutely necessary!!
- COST FOR LP GAS was $95 (two fillups of our apx 37 gallon tank) We use LP gas for stovetop cooking, occasional water heater or refrigerator power when electric is not available, and to power two LP furnaces when temps are below the point where the heat pumps will work (apx 35 degrees), or if it is cold and we do not have electric power available. The stove top, refrigerator, and water heater use very little LP, but the two furnaces are real LP hogs!!
- MAINTENANCE COSTS for the motorhome were a bit higher in 2008 due to replacement of 4 tires that were nearing 7 years of age. Although they looked great, their age made replacement a safety factor. The 4 tires came at a cost of just over $1,800.00. (2 were replaced in 2006). With the 4 tires, our total maintenance cost was just over $5,000.00. We budget about $300 per month for maintenance, which covers the cost of routine maintenance each year and tire replacement every 7 years.
- MOTORHOME INSURANCE for fulltimer coverage runs us a little over $1,000/year. That includes full replacement cost in case of accident or fire that "totals" our home. This figure varies widely for fulltimers depending on driving record, credit record, and state of residency.
- TOAD COSTS were primarily for fuel at $2,154 for 15,790 miles ...apx 13.6 cents per mile and avg cost $3.01/gallon. Due to the failing health and then the deaths of Paul's father and mother apx 6 weeks apart, we put more miles than normal on the Honda during 2008. Avg mpg was slightly over 22. We also had to replace the Uniroyal tires that were 3 yrs old with 45k miles driving and apx 20k miles towing at a cost of apx $460. We had more flat tires in the past three years than in our entire lifetime, so we finally said goodbye to the Uniroyals and replaced them with Michelins. The Honda Odyssey has 150k on the odometer plus a little over 30k towed miles.
RV TRAVELS SUMMARY TO DATE...
AL, AR, AZ, CO, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MN, MO, MS,
MT, NC, NB, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WY = 34
...Back to last year's travels... -OR-
...On to next year's travels...
back to Our RV Travels... ...... back to Our Retirement Home...
back to The Empty Nest HOME...