1-28 JAN, WETUMPKA AL -- We stayed in Alabama a bit longer after Christmas this year. A good start to the new year was a visit with retired AF friends joining us in their travel trailer for a few days on our new RV property. That was a good test of hooking up two rigs on our new site, and it worked very well!. We had a good visit after not having seen one another in several years. Just after they left we had several nights below freezing. They showed good timing in their departure back to the Florida panhandle! And then came the primary reason for our long delay in Alabama after Christmas -- a trip to the Hard Rock Hotel Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic with our adult children in celebration of our daughter's 40th birthday. She wanted a Caribbean vacation, and selected Punta Cana because it is the location of a Hard Rock Resort ...catering to her big brother's desire to visit as many Hard Rock locations as he can. The plans were excently timed as we departed Atlanta in pouring rain with the threat of snow for that afternoon. The weather was beautiful at Punta Cana. Other than rain one evening and overnight, we had lots of sunshine. The beaches were beautiful, with very fine sand. And the resort was awesome, including 9 swimming pool and at least that many restaurants. A Hard Rock vacation is "all inclusive," meaning after your arrival you don't need $$ or a credit card until time to check out. All meals and drinks are included in the base price, AND you have a substantial number of room "credits" that can be spent for a variety of excursions, spa time, massages, or souvenirs. Any credit card expenditures in resort stores can be charged to your room for payment at check-out time. Located in the same facility is the largest Casino in the DR and a very fancy restaurant (yep, for those two you need YOUR money). There are a variety of rooms & suites available in the 1,800 room resort. Our rooms all had a very large jacuzzi tub right in the center of the room ...very relaxing. After four nights in paradise we flew back into rainy Atlanta, then returned to the motorhome in Alabama for a couple of days before heading back to our "stick house" home in Texas.
29 JAN, WEST MONROE LA -- We were on the road toward Texas at 9:30am, stopping at Toomsuba MS for lunch. This exit off I-20 just inside the Mississippi line has a truck stop with an Arby's and a smaller station with a Subway. We have stopped at the Subway several times in the past, and decided this time to try Arby's. The parking lot was a bit crowded but we managed, and the Arby's sandwich was ok ...think I prefer Subway. Back on the road we stopped about 2:30pm at the Flying J in Pearl MS and took on 41 gallon of diesel at $1.92 a gallon. We stopped for the night in West Monroe LA at Pavilion RV Park. This a decent part with pull-through sites, dirt/gravel streets & sites, and some grass. It is pretty level and relatively easy in/out. They have left the Passport America group so were a bit more costly this time. Our cost for one night with a 15% military discount was $34. We awoke early the next morning and were on the road by 8:30 for the final 200 miles back to our East Texas home. On the South side of Tyler the pilot pumped 47 gallon of diesel at $1.89 a gallon while the co-pilot went next door to get us a Whataburger lunch. We arrived at our home base just after noon and began the most unpleasant part of RVing ...unloading the coach.
4-5 FEB, HALLSVILLE TX -- After being home for a few days, we loaded a few clothes and a little food in the RV and set off about 50 miles East to Cowboy Camp RV Park south of Hallsville TX for a gathering of the Ramblin' Rose Chapter of WIT. This is our local Winnebago owners group. We normally have 6-8 rigs, and get together about 6 times a year. This RV park was a new one for us. It is a small park, and they had just the right number of open pull through sites to accommodate our 5 rigs. They have a brand new meeting building, and we really appreciated the very efficient wood burning stove! We had a good time with the group, going into Hallsville for dinner one evening at Marisol's Mexican Restaurant where I had possibly the best chili relleno I have had in Texas. It definately had a bite to it!!, but was very good. It got pretty cool both nights we were there, and we had light rain early in the morning on the last night/departure day. On Saturday morning we headed back home, arriving before noon, and spent most of the rest of the day unloading many items that normally stay stored in the RV. Next week we have an appointment at Xtreme Paint & Graphics in Nacogdoches TX. They will have the motorhome about 3 weeks to do a headlight upgrade conversion, replacing the badly crazed original headlights with modern lights and doing some paint and fiberglass work on the front. We hope to have the coach back just in time for the next outing with the Ramblin' Rose Travelers in early March.
9 FEB-2 MAR, HEADLIGHT UPGRADE -- Class A motorhome headlights are typically a standard car headlight. Motorhome builders use lights from various auto builders. Shorly after we bought our motorhome in 2003, after driving one evening in a light rain, I began researching how to increase the low beam lighting. High beam was good, but low beam was poor, sometimes making we question whether or not the headlights were even on. First I had the lights properly aimed. They were badly mis-aimed, so proper aiming did help some but I still wanted to improve them if I could. The plastic headlight "buckets" on our 2003 Winnebago Ultimate were from a 95-97 Mercury Mystique. They used common 9006 and 9005 bulbs. There are other bulbs that will fit the sockets, but if you put in a bulb that burns hotter than the original bulbs you can damage/melt the plastic headlight "bucket". As a lot of research I found that HIR bulbs (commonly used in John Deere tractors and the Dodge Viper at that time) would fit the low beam socket after minor trimming to a tab on the bulb base. HIR bulbs would not be hotter, but would put out significantly more lumens. (One excellent source of lighting info on the internet is Daniel Stern lighting.) So I bought HIR 9011 bulbs to replace the 9006 low beams, carefully trimmed the oversized tabs, and put them in. The result was ok, but still not great. Since we don't drive much a night, it wasn't a big deal. Fast forward a few years, the headlights yellowed and crazed some with age, and eventually even the high beams were not lighting up the road very well either. The shape of the headlights made polishing/refurbishing them difficult to impossible. Finally I one day happened across the website for Xtreme Paint & Graphics in Nacogdoches TX. They specialize in headlight conversoins along with expert fiberglass work and full body paint. When we were nearby for a rally in 2014 I stopped in to talk, showing them pictures of my 2003 headlights and also of the newer style headlights on a 2004 Ultimate. It first looked like a fairly simple task to make my 2003 look like a 2004 as the fiberglasss appeared to be the same with the addition of a stainless steel insert, but conversations with Winnebago soon revealed that it would not be that simple so that idea was scrapped and we discussed other possibilities. Several months later I made an appointment to have them do a headlight conversion in whatever way they figured would work well. Three weeks later I got the coach back. They did a great job! The new Hella headlights use the H9 bulb that puts out about twice the lumens of the 9006 bulb, and with glass lenses will not yellow with age. The front running light/turn signals along with the small flush-mount side markers are LED. Since we already had Hella fogs and taillights, the headlights are a great match. Now we need to go for a night drive to see how much better we can see!! ...and I kept the expensive HIR bulbs (apx $38 each in 2004), putting them in our Honda Odyssey. With the standard 9006 bulb in one side low beam, and the 9011 HIR in the other side low beam, it is very easy to see the difference in brightness.
3-4 MAR, BULLARD TX -- On Thursday morning we put a few things in the refrigerator and headed 12 miles away to K.E. Bushman's Camp RV Park near Bullard TX for a chapter meeting of the Ramblin' Rose Travelers. The group enjoys this very nice rv park. This time we got the pull through sites, with several of us arriving in time to go to lunch together at the nearby El Conquistador Mexican Resaurant. The rest of the day was spent in business meeting, potluck dinner, and board games. On Friday morning we car pooled South toward Jacksonville, stopping at Love's Lookout along the way. Love's Lookout is a very interesting place to visit, with a very surprising view. The altitude is only 713 feet, but you can see 30-35 miles to the East from the visitor center alongside US 69. It is very easy to miss this neat place, and most travelers passing by never knowing that such a view is possible so close by. At various times in the past the area around the lookout included an indian trail, a wagon trail, the long-gone city of Clarissa, a college, and a peach orchard! After our visit, we went on into Jacksonville for lunch, then returned to the RV park for more fellowship. It was a beautiful few days, with lovely weather and colorful budding trees all around. Our cost at KE Bushman was $21 per night.
19-24 APR, RED SPRINGS TX -- After several months of plannning and coordinating, it was time to head for Jellystone at Whispering Pines RV Park for the SMART South Mid-West Reigonal Muster. Our chapter was the host, so we got there a couple of days before start day on the 21st. Verizon cell service is very poor at the RV park, but I still managed to get several calls, with four people canceling out the day before the muster started due to illness, accidents, or breakdowns. We ended up with 20 rigs, one being a vendor. We had a great time of fellowhip, meals, and games together. A hightlight of the muster was a group visit to Tiger Creek, a 150 acre wildlife preserve dedicated to rescuing big cats. It is a very interesting place. On the last night of the muster, we had a catered meal at Lindale Landing Restaurant West of Lindale. It was a great meal, with entertainment by Four or More, a local mens;s ensemble. On the 27 mile drive up on the 19th, we stopped for a Whataburger lunch and filled the fuel tank with 46 gallon of $1.90/gal diesel. On the return trip, we bought lunch at Subway about a mile from home base. Our cost for 6 nights at Jellystone was $30 per night.
SERVICE AND REPAIRS -- The day after returning from Red Springs, we took the motorhome in for the annual chassis service, dropping it off one day, and picking it up the next. It was a relativcely inexpensive service this year, with just engine oil and fuel filter changes along with the chassis lube. A few days later we replaced the ATS (automatic transfer switch) that had been acting up lately, apparently hanging up on one power leg causing problems when switching from 50a shore power to generator power, and back. It was a fairly straight-forward job, complicated by the fact that the ATS is lotcated in some cramped electrical bay in the coach "basement." It was pretty much an all afternoon job, including creating a new mounting board as the replacement model was a few inches longer than the 2008 version we removed.
5-6 MAY, GARRISON TX -- We got the annual chassis service done after returning from Red Springs, and on May 5th departed about mid-morning for a meeting of the Rambling Rose Travelers Chapter of WIT, our Winnebago owners group. This meeting was at Camp Tonkawa Springs near Garrison TX. Camp Tonkawa Springs is the site of a natural springs-fed pool. It has an interesting history, having been in the 1800s part of a land grant to a Native American. Since that time it has been a the site of a Grist Mill, a Boy Scout camp for 30 years during which the Boy Scouts of America was the largest employer in the area, the leased playground of the Texas State Fox and Wolf Hunters, a leased site of Ozarka Water Company, and now a privately owned RV Park and game preserve. Yes, the ice cold clear water swimming home is still there and in use. Inside the fenced area, deer and Guinea Fowl roam freely, coming out of the woods and feeding around the RV sites daily. Our group enjoys visiting here. After arriving, we went into Mt Pleasant for lunch. In the afternoon I managed to get the manual satellite dish aimed and working. Dish Network "upgraded" us last week, swapping out our obsolete receiver for a new HD receiver. The new receiver won't work with our old automatic roof-top dish (which is an obsolete orphan living on borrowed time anyway), so they set us up with a manual dish on the little tripod we used before buying the rooftop dish 10 years ago. We had a potluck in the evening, played table games, and worked on jigsaw puzzles. On Friday the entire group went into Nacogdoches for lunch. Our cost for two nights at Camp Tonkawa Springs for two nights was $25 per night.
MORE SERVICE -- Before leaving town again the coach spent a few hours one morning at Goolsbee Tire Service in Tyler TX for a front wheel alignment. We have been experiencing irregular tire wear and noise from the right front wheel for several months. Our regular service place recommended Rush Truck Center in Tyler for alighment. We have taken the coach to Rush for other repairs, so returned there for an alignment. After 2-3 hours, we were told they did not have the specs for our chassis, but thought everything was ok, and charged us $90 labor. Later while reading the service sheet I found a statement that the camber was off but they could not get the bolt loose to adjust it!! After asking around, I was referred to Hall Trucks, the local GMC service facility, who is said to have some impressive new alignment equipment. I called for an appointment, telling them the chassis mfg and type. They told me they could not do the job!. So, since the big guys refused to do the job, I called family owned Goolsbee Tire Service who I had also been told did truck alignments. They said they could do it, and told me when to come in. After finishing another alignment, they worked on my coach apx 2 1/2 hours. They said the camber was way off, and that the job was not easy on an IFS (independent front suspension) axle, but they got it done. And their charge was quite reasonable! I will definitely use Goolsbee again!
12 MAY, MERIDIAN MS -- On May 12 shortly after 9:15am we set out for Alabama to join other family members for our grandson's graduation from high school. It was a pleasant day, though traffic seemed a bit heavier than normal. After having discovered during our trip preparations that the 2nd commpressor of our dual compressor ac is apparently locked up, we checked the projected weather and decided to go ahead with just one compressor and the portable ac unit we bought a few years ago. We will tend to repairing or replacing the ac/heat pump after our return to Texas. After a stop in Ruston LA for lunch at the Walmart Subway, and a second stop in Pearl MS for 49 gallon of diesel at $2.26 a gallon, we arrived at Bonita Lakes RV Park in Meridian MS about 5:30pm. We have stayed here before. Their long concrete pull throughs are easy access and a good stop. Our cost for one night at the Good Sam 10% discount was $27.
13-24 MAY, WETUMPKA AL -- On May 13 we got underway about 10am for the remaining 3 hours or so to Wetumpka. We stopped for lunch at the Subway on the East side of Selma, and 37 gallon of diesel at $1.99 a gallon at the Entec just North of Montgomery. We were in place on our property near Wetumpka by 2pm. There is a lot more greenery evident than we are used to seeing during our normal Winter visits. The Crape Myrtle trees we planted last Fall are doing well, but the little christmas tree we planted after Christmas met a lawn mower after it was hidden by tall grass a few months ago. Maybe we'll see it again, maybe not. Our efforts to aim the new satellite TV dish failed, and was resolved with a service call from a local Dish tech. We need a bit more experience in manually aimong the dish at the new-to-us Eastern arc satellites. Without the satellite dish, we did receive apx 40 local OTA channels. With daytime temps in the low to mid-80's and night time temps often in the high 50's, the portable ac unit did a great job of supplementing the remaining compressor in the on board ac. We are only 2k btu short of normal cooling power, but the portable unit does not flow through the ceiling ducts like the on board unit does. ...more to come ...
6 JUN, SEARCY AR -- Monday June 6 saw me headed toward Searcy AR for a visit to The RV Fog Doctor to get the large driver side window repaired. The dual pane glass lost the seal several years ago, and has gradually got worse. Condensation gathers on the inside of the glass, and over time the glass has become etched. The end result is that there are times when driver visibility through this glass is compromised ...not a good situation. We ordered a new ac/heat pump unit from dyersonline.com ...it has arrived but we didn't have time to get it installed before this trip, so are still using the portable unit. Between it and the dash ac, the driver area was tolerable but the rest of the coach was quite warm by the time we arrived in Searcy about 5pm. Since the co-pilot and our two little dogs stayed at the stick house in Texas, they were not affected. On arrival at the RV Fog Doctor, we disconnected the toad and backed up to the building where electric and water connections were available. Shortly after 8am on Tuesday a supervisor came by and wrote up a work order. Within 15 minutes a crew was there removing the window. They cleaned up the window, put it back together, and had it re-installed in the coach by 11am. With the glass etched, visibility is not perfect but is better than it was. We will plan to return when passing through the area in the Fall, and will give them a few weeks notice so they can get replacement glass cut to the correct size and tempered. Cost today was $328.50. When we return, the only cost will be for the new glass ...no labor charge. By the end of the day we were back at home base in East Texas.
9-15 JUN, RHOME TX -- With the grandkids visiting us, we loaded up the motorhome and took them to visit family near Rhome TX. They had made plans to take the kids to a Rangers game, among other things. We parked next to the garage with the 50a RV connection, and had a good week. We did get the new ac/heat pump installed a week or so earlier, so this was a good test. It was very warm and humid, and the new unit did a good job keeping us comfortable. In addition to the Ranger's game, there were outings to Justin Boots, the U.S. Mint at Ft Worth, and the Ft Worth Stockyard District. And we got introduced to a Texas plant we had not encountered before ...where has this thing been hiding all our lives?? When setting up the satellite dish, we unknowingly touched some small plants that blend in with the grass. You see some here next to the toe of my boot. From the Tragias family, it is commonly known as Noseburn. And burn it does. In the wild, Noseburn grows several inches tall with tiny whiteish blossums. On a lawn that is mowed, it is much harder to see. The tiny leaves are covered with microscopic hairs, and those hairs serve as vessels to puncture the skin and transfer a very irritating fluid to anything that touches them. There is a brief delay after you touch the plant before the stinging begins, and when it does you will think you have been attacked by fire ants!! It is an intense stinging sensation. Nothing we tried seemed to have much effect on the stinging, but fortunately the stinging subsides after a few minutes. In addition to the Noseburn plant, we endured a couple of short but very intense after noon rainstorms, much like a 10 minute typhoon. We didn't get any damage, but one of the storms tipped over our portable satellite dish. We had a good visit all week, and returned to home base on Saturday.
SERVICE AND REPAIRS -- We experienced a slight water leak above the entry door during the intense rain at Rhome, so checked the roof caulk in that area after our return home. There was some cracking evident, so we removed the caulk from the cove area on both sides of the front, and all the way across the top where the front cap meets the roof. The cove caulk was replaced with new thermoplastic caulk, and the cap to roof seam was covered with new Dicor self-leveling caulk, along with a couple of other areas on the roof that needed attention.
4-5 AUG, GLADEWATER TX -- It was very hot in East Texas in early August ...hovering around 100 with heat index close to 110 on most days. But our Rambling Rose WIT friends are a hardy bunch. On Thursday morning we were packed up and headed for Antique Captical RV Park in Gladewater TX. Gladewater is a great place to spend hours browsing the many antique shops, but this time we left the RV park only to go to a nearby Mexican restaurant for a group lunch. The rest of the time was spent in our rigs or in the cool meeting room eating, playing games, or working on the normal jigsaw puzzles. The RV air conditioners struggled to keep up with the intense heat, but we all did fine and had a good time together. Cost for the RV park was $25 per night.
SERVICE AND REPAIRS -- Our two WINDOW AWNINGS. do a great job of shielding windows on the driver side from sun while parked. This helps with interior cooling. The fabric on our awnings is still in great shape, but the stiching was rotting out and pulling loose. One of the awnings was just about to come apart across the top, so it was time to get them repaired. On a very warm day I figured out how to remove them from the motorhome, and then how to get the fabric off the roolers and the alumaguard shielf. I took the two pieces of fabric to a local "canvas and awning" shop and requested re-stitching in a white uv-resistant thread. They were ready only 24 hours later at a cost of $20. Other than requiring brief assistance from a helper on a second ladder, this was a pretty easy repair. The following day I removed the newly installed ac/heat pump unit to make repairs to the AIR DUCT connnection. At the output port, an elbow attaches to the unit with a dozen or so screws and turns the airflow upward behind the rear cap to travel to the ceiling ducts. The elbow connection to the upward duct is a weak point. I noted when I installed the unit a month earlier that the duct appeared a bit loose, but did not want to deal with it then, knowing I needed to soon. I found that not only was the tape peeling from the joint, but the screws on each end of the joint had pulled out of the upward duct. The result was a significant leak of treated air. I totally removed the elbow and cleaned it well. The elbow is heavy molded milk-white plastic (the same stuff the holding tanks are made of) with outside insulation attached. At the upper joint, the elbow has an aluminum attachment that slips into the light weight upward duct. Ideally, the connecton the the unit supports the weight of the elbow. But when the unit is removed for service, the elbow hangs. This can compromise the joint, especially after the unit had been pulled for service several times. I found evidence of some type of caulk on the aluminum inside the joint. A query to Winnebago indicated that few have any sealant here, and that I could use a clear sealant if desired. I got some duct sealant at Lowes, applied it liberally to the alumimum, then slipped the elbow into place and supported it with a floor jack. I had thought of using the duct sealant along with fiberglass netting embedded along the seam, but the tight quarters made that an unattractive option so I resorted to metal tape. The elbow isn't all that heavy, but the jack was a handy to way to keep it in place while inserting the two screws and applying metal tape to the joint. After sealing the joint I ran the unit to check for leaks. I found no output air leaks, but did find an area near the intake that was not well sealed. I sealed that with some foam strips from an earlier window heat pump install in my shop, and everything was good to go. The new unit and freshly sealed duct should serve us well for several years.
1-2 SEP, TEXARKANA TX -- Another gathering of the Rambling Rose WIT group took us to Texarkana TX to Shady Pines RV Park. The first day was hot, then a "cold" front came through and brought the temps down to a tolerable level. We had a good visit with the group, playing games and going out to eat. Our cost at Shady Pines was $27 per night.
3-9 SEP, OK EXPO CENTER, SHAWNEE OK -- Northbound from Texarkana toward our next stop in Guthrie OK, we were feeling a vibration. After a bit we realized that it was only on acceleration, and the vibration quit entirely when coasting. That ruled out a tire and caused us to suspect a driveline problem. When it seemed to be getting worse we pulled over in Shawnee OK to take a look. It took only a glance at the drive shaft to see that the rear u-joint was coming apart. A call to our Coach-Net road service brought a mobile mechanic from Interstate Truck Center to take a look. As he was removing the u-joint he noticed there was a chunk of metal missing from the yoke on the drive shaft. Note the chunk gone from the left side of the yoke in the picture. That meant we needed a drive shaft repair. Problem was it was 5:30pm on Saturday evening going into Labor Day weekend. I requested the mechanic put the drive shaft back together so we could drive across the highway to the Heart of OK Expo Center RV Park where we could have a full hookup site for the long wait. While visiting family over the weekend we learned of Perfection Equipment in OK City. They do drive shaft work for cars and truck, and are the shop of choice for the local collector car community. I talked with the tech by phone, and on Tuesday he came and removed the drive shaft. It was very dry, and some bolts had to be cut off. He dropped the drive shaft off at Perfection to be rebuilt with expected turn-around of 1-2 days. After hearing nothing, on Thursday afternoon I called Perfection and talked to the driveline shop. They told me the driveshaft had been ready "for a couple of days" but no one had come to pick it up. I let the tech know, and he picked it up (he told me later that it was not entered into the shop computer so the person he was calling in the front office did not know it was done). He called back at 8:45pm to say he would be headed out shortly after he finished another job. He sounded very tired and I didn't want a very tired guy working in the dark, so suggested he come after daylight tomorrow. He said he would head my way at 7am. At 9:30am I called him, apparently waking him up. He had been out all night on other jobs. He arrived at 10:45, and had the rebuilt driveshaft installed by 1pm. Then it took 45 minutes and multiple phone calls back and forth to get my credit card authorized. This whole experience likely could have been avoided had the drive shaft been properly lubed during the annual chassis service. In order to last the 14 years and 105k miles it did, it was likely lubed early on. But somewhere along the line, with changes in service shops, it got ignored. We have used a number of different shops over our years of traveling, but have used the same place for the past 2-3 years. We will be having a face to face talk with the service manager at the next service time. We like to think our service shop is doing a thorough job, and you can't check up on everything they do, but you can bet I will be checking up on their attention to the drive shaft in the future! (See Feb 2017 notes for more on the drive shaft). When we arrived at the Expo Center there were very few other rigs on the grounds. When we left it was getting crowded as an FMCA Central Area Rally was beginning. Our cost at the Expo Center was $25 per night.
10 SEP, ENID OK -- It was a relatively quick drive from Shawnee to Enid OK where we had planned to spend 3 nights visiting family. We had to cut the visit to just one night, but had a great time renewing relationships and swapping family stories. Late in the evening where was a pretty intense rain storm as a cold front came through. The day we arrived was in the hight 90's and humid, the next morning it was 65 degrees and much dryer. We stayed at Highpoint RV park where we have been before, at a cost of $30 for the one night.
11 SEP, EAGLEVILLE MO -- Headed northward to a date at the Winnebago factory the following week, on Saturday afternoon about 5pm we pulled into Eagle Ridge RV Park just South of Eagleville MO, just over 400 miles from Enid. The park was quite busy as they had a vintage trailer group holding a rally there. The classic trailers were parked all over the grass, with many not using the regular hookups. There was a wide variety of makes and models, with most having been lovingly restored to nearly new condition. We were parked beside gleaming Spartan Manor trailer, polished to a mirror finish. Spartan trailers luxury travel trailers built by Spartan Aircraft Company in Tulsa OK after J. Paul Getty purchased the company from founder William Skelly of Skelly Oil Company. Spartans were superb trailers constructed of rivited aluminum panels much like the Airstream trailers people are more familiar with today. We had a pleasant night at Eagle Ridge RV Park, at a cost of $30.
11-14 SEP, FOREST CITY IA -- 234 miles North of Eagleville we arrived at the Winnnebago factory and service center in Forest City in early afternoon. After scouting out the 20 or so partial hookup sites, we picked one from the 3 we found open. While getting ready to park we found a problem with a check valve had allowed all the fresh water to be lost along the road. The service sites are electric only, so we unhooked the car and Jean parked in the site while Paul & the dogs went to city-ownerd Pammel Park to indulge in the generosity of the city in using the free water & sewer dump to re-fill the fresh water tank. The next morning at 7am we joined the line outside the service center to get processed in. The line moved very quickly, and by 7:20 our assigned tech had checked out our service requests and drove the motorhome out of the rv park. We spent the day sitting and reading and wandering around Forest City, including a visit to the local dealership Lichtsinnn Motors where we found a few things we could not live without. At 4pm we met the tech in front of the service center to review the progress. All was completed except for the new satellite TV dish we had requested. The next morning at 7am the tech came to the RV park and took the motorhome again while we settled in for another day of reading, etc. About 1:30pm the tech called to tell us all work was completed. We met him in front of the service center to review the work, and after paying our bill drove back to the RV park. We had another day to kill, so the next morning we moved across the street to the WIT Club Visitor Center where we claimed a back-in site for the night. Sites here were much smaller side to side, basically just a parking space with electric hookup. Sites are free, with a limit of 3 nights. The new satellite dish on the roof works great! It turned cooler while we were in Forest City, hitting 48 degrees one night! AC season was over, at least for a few days.
15 SEP, MARION IA -- We got on the road about 10am, headed across Iowa to the Cedar Rapids area. Online we had found the county-owned Squaw Creek Park in nearby Marion with 30-40 RV sites. We planned to stay overnight, and to stock up at the local WalMart before heading on to Amana for the SMART 2016 National Muster. It was an easy 184 mile drive. After selecting a site, getting parked, and dropping out payment into the drop box at Squaw Creek we headed out to the local bicycle shop to get two new tires for the recumbent trike. After unplannned stops at a couple of other stores that caught our interest we ended up at Walmart. Some credit card problems followed by some telephone calls to our bank revealed that one of our cards had been compromised, most likely in the Oklahoma City area while we were getting the drive shaft repaired. It is tough to get new cards while traveling so we hope our other card remains good until we return home. We spent a pleasant night at Squaw Creek. Cost for the one night in a full hookup pull-through site was $25.
16-24 SEP, AMANA IA -- It was a short 34mi drive across the South side of Cedar Rapids to the Amana Colonies RV Park. Along the way we stopped at Guppys BP station for 46 gallon of diesel at $2.36 a gallon. At Amana we joined other early arrivals for the pre-rally BOD meetings and annual NOMADS chapter pre-muuster social activities and meeting. The RV park is a large rally grounds with somewhere around 300 RV hookups and many dry camping and tent sites along with several buildings for meetings. The 2016 SMART National Muster officially started on the 21st, running through the night of the 25th. The final rig count was 266. We enjoyed the muster activities and visiting the local area of the 7 Amana Colonies. We had heavy rains on one night, causing high waters on the nearby river and forcing some rigs on the lower end to move to higher ground. This is a great rally grounds. Our nightly cost was apx $30 per night.
25-28 SEP, BISHOP HILL IL -- On the way out of the SMART Muster we took advantage of the Iowa State Troopers Dept of Enforcement scales to get a rig weight. It had been several years since we had the rig weighed and we were pretty much what we expected, and got a weight on the Honda toad too coming in just 100 lb over our estimate. Then we headed East 127mi miles to rural Illinois to spend a few days with friends from many years ago. We had a great visit parked in their yard. The weather was quite cool at night, and we managed very well on a 20a electric connnection. When we visited them 9 years ago they were just beginning re-construction on an old farmhouse they had recently purchased. A year or so later they retired, moved into the house and continued their re-construction work along with heavy gardening and a great deal of volunteer work in local communities. The home is now finished save a few minor trim items. While there we visited surrounding towns of Kewanee, Bishop Hill, and Galesburg and helped to repair a John Deere lawn mower, and got to play with the Swisher 60" pull-behind mower he got used for a bargain price. With the added 60" of the Swisher he makes short work of the 3 or so acres of mowing!
29 SEP-1 OCT, HANNIBAL MO -- After our great visit, we headed West nearly to the state line, and then Southward along the Mississippi River. The route along the Illinois side through Nauvoo is quite scenic. Then we crossed over into Iowa and Southward to Hannibal Missouri. It was a pleasant 187 mi drive to Mark Twain Caves & RV Park just South of Hannibal. We spent 3 nights in Hannibal, exploring the local area and shops in addition to taking a riverboat sight-seeing cruise one afternoon. Hannibal is an ennjoyable place to visit, and the RV park was seeing lots of action with weekend campers along with the SMART "Road to Amana River" Caravan arriving the day after we did. Our cost at Mark Twain for a full hookup back-in site was $35 per night.
2-4 OCT, CARUTHERSVILLE MO -- After three nights in Hannibal, we set out on Highway 79 South. The road was very winding and hilly from Hannnibal to the very picturesque town of Louisiannna MO. Then, several miles South of Clarksville at the small town of Annnada we encountered a detour due to a bridge out. Having not seen as much of the river as we had expected, and finding the narrow road sometimes a challenge when meeting large grain trucks, we continued West past the Southward turn in the detour route to get to US 61 South when we enjoyed a great four lane highway South and around St Louis to Caruthersville, 325 miles South of Hannnibal. We chose Caruthersville as simply a convenient place to stop before turning Westward through Arkansas. Shortly before reaching our destination we stopped at a Flying J for 80 gallon of diesel at $2.29 a gallon. We have had some good tailwinds on this tank of fuel, in addition to not running the generator much due to cooler weather. The result was a very good 7.9 mpg average! There is not a lot in Caruthersville, but there is the small Lady Luck Casino and RV Park right on the river. With little to do in the local area, we enjoyed some days of rest along with the chance to catch up on chores we had put off for the past couple of weeks. The park is very nice, with 20-30 full-hookups on concrete slabs and nice grass. With the Mississippi River flodding further North, it was a bit startling to see we had to pass through the open flood gates to get into the RV park on the river side of the flood wall, but the water here was not particularly high so not a big concern for a few nights. The Casino is small and quite unimpressive, but the RV park is nice although a bit over-priced at $40 per night.
5 OCT, SEARCY AR -- On Wednesday morning we headed Westward away from the Mississippi River toward the RV Fog Doctor in Searcy AR to get the glass replaced in the window we had resealed & measured for new tempered glass this past June. We discovered far more cotton fields in Missouri than we figured were there, and the land in the NE corner of the state is extermely flat. Along the way in the 162 mile drive we finally encountered a bit a rolling terrain and began to see much less farmland and more trees. We arrived in Searcy a bit before 3pm and got settled in on one of their free 50a electric connections. After a run to the local Walmart, we settled in for the night and set an alarm for an early wake-up. We expect them to be knocking on the door at 8am, and we should be finished and ready to head on our way before noon.
6-9 OCT, VAN BUREN AR -- The Fog Doctor guys arrived at our coach at 8am and had the window out by 8:20. They returned with the repaired window just before 10am and we were on the road shortly after 10:30. We headed West across Arkansas on mostly state roads and a few US highways, finishing our 184 mile journey on I-40. We arrived at Park Ridge Campground north of Van Buren about 3:30pm. At first they weren't sure they had room for us, but after some reservation counting and site counting decided they had one site available. We have been here many times in the past and normally have not needed reservations, but this time we just happened to arrive on the weekend of the Van Buren Fall Festival. And our luck held with our parking site as in spite of the heavy tree cover our new rooftop satellite TV dish found a hole in the trees and locked onto all three satellites. We had occasional problems with a few channels, but that was pretty good with all the tree cover. The park does have free catv, but you have to add a cable box into your rv wiring (which can be a big hassle for most RVs), and that works only for one tv. Additional tv sets are left with ota antenna only. Later in the evening we lost electric for awhile, but the management got a tech out and got power restored fairly quickly. The same occured about mid-morning the next day, with the outage lasting apx 10 minutes. We had a good family visit, including a visit to the local Fall Festival. Our cost for four nights with 10% Good Sam discount was $35 per night.
WATER SYSTEM REPAIRS -- Somewhere along the way on our trip to Iowa and back I found that the hose reel (the normal shore water connection) would not pass water. Several years ago a check valve buried somewhere behind the water bay panels failed and I added another where it was easily accessible. I assumed perhaps the old check valve had come apart and the valve pieces were plugging the line. We have a normal shore water port, so I hooked our backup/extension hose to it and it worked fine for the duration of the trip. After returning to our home base I finally got around to looking for the problem. I had taken the lower part of the water bay apart before to repair dump valves, but never messed with the upper part due to all the barely accessible water connections behind it. Now it was time. The picture shows the bay with both panels removed. All those connections across the top are a lot of fun to deal with! I found the original check valve had blown it's innnards but was passing water just fine. I did find an unnecessary restriction there with a 90 degree 1/4" connector from the rubber hose to the check valve. I removed aobut 18" of unnecessary rubber hose and visited a local hardware store for the needed hose barb connnector and left the gutted check valve in place as a simple connection between the rubber hose and the pex tubing. I found the blockage problem in the two-way selector valve where I chose between filling the tank or operating the system on shore water. This valve gave me trouble a year or so ago, coming apart and blowing it's guts out. I was unable to find the correct replacement at the time and managed to take a cap from another new valve and reassemble the guts. Now it had come apart inside, blocking the tubing. After studying the obvious problem of removing the original valve that was put in with compression fittings, I again turned to the other new valve I had bought before. I carefully removed the guts of the new valve, gently and carefully inserted them into the original valve, put it all back together, and it worked! I did have a couple leaks in other connections, but with some dis-assembly and re-assembly, all was soon working as designed. Another success!
CABINET REPAIRS -- A couple of months ago we damaged to beside cabinet by the closet when something very solid got behind the slide corner when we were retracting the slide. The metal trim that the seal is mounted on was bent inward at the bottom corner, and the front of the one-drawer cabinet was broken loose at the bottom resulting the drawer being unable to latch shut. I managed to bent the trim part way back in place at the time, but had not got back to making a full repair. Today, after carefull examination of the partially loose cabinet front, I figured out how to remove it withough damaging it further. With the cabinet front out of the way, I was able to use a large shop hammer to further bend the metal slide surround to get the lower slide corner to properly seal again. I had to re-locate two screws near the bottom of the trim that had their mounting holes stripped in the original damage. Repairing the cabinet front and re-securing it was not a big deal, requiring just additional screw where staples had originally been used. One irritant with this cabinet from day one was that it had apparently been assembled with the drawer in place before being mounted in place, and after in place it was impossible to remove the drawer as the top of the back of the drawer would not clear the latch hardware. I had to leave the drawer out until I had all the fasteners completed, so then had to solve the problem of how to get the drawer in. After looking at the problem for a minute or two the solution was obvious ...all I needed to do was to cut a half-moon shape out of the top of the drawer rear panel. It works like a charm! ...and should have been a part of the original design.
16-18 NOV, BULLARD TX -- On a beautiful Wednesday, we had the coach loaded for the short drive to Bushman's Camp near Bullard Texas. Bushman's Camp is perhaps the nicest RV park in East Texas with long concrete sites and beautiful grass. They have a nice meeting room, and unlike many parks, they are very receptive to small groups. We were arriving the day before our SMART Texans chapter muster. We had a great group with seven rigs present. We had happy hour outside on Thursday afternoon, followed by a potluck dinner in the clubhouse. Then on Friday the weather went from the 80's to the 40's as a cold front came through. On Friday night we went to Legends Burger Co. in nearby Bullard and had some great food and fellowship. It was a good muster, with our nightly cost at the rally rate being $21 per night.
1 DEC, BULLARD TX -- On the 1st of December, we returned to Bushman's Camp and Bullard Texas for the December meeting of the Rambling Rose Travelers, our local Winnebago chapter. The December meeting is always at Bushman's Camp so the group can have lunch at Traditions Buffet in Tyler. We had only three rigs present due to health issues and other commitments, but three members who didn't bring their rigs did join us for the business meeting on Friday morning followed by lunch at Traditions. Rather than the normal two nights, all three rigs departed after one night. After parking our rig at our home base, we headed West to visit family near Ft Worth for two nights. Though it was brief, we had a good visit with our Rambling Rose friends. Night cost at the rally rate was $21 per night.
12 DEC, VICKSBURG MS -- After a few days of loading clothing and other "stuff," and a morning doctor appointment, we left our home base just after noon heading Eastward to visit our children and grand children for the Christmas and New Years. We normally break the drive into two easy days. Day one was a pleasant drive of about 288 miles for 4 1/2 hours with a food stop along the way, and just after dark we arrived at Magnolia RV Park just South of Vicksburg MS. We called ahead a coupe of hours out and reserved the one of the only two available sites. This was the very first RV park we stayed in after buying the coach in 2003, and we have been back a few times over the years. Nightly cost at the Good Sam 10%-off rate was $29 per night.
13-31 DEC, WETUMPKA AL -- Waking early the next morning, we were on the road about 8:30, stopping for fuel at the Flying J in Pearl MS about an hour later. After taking on 57 gallon of diesel at $2.20 per gallon, and a bit over 15 gallon of LP at $3.37 per gallon, we were back on the road. Since replacing the RV refrigerator with a residential model a couple of years ago, our only LP use is a little bit for the water heater, and most of it for the two furnaces when the weather is too cold for the heat pump to operate. This was the first fill since 5 Dec 2015, and equals about 1/2 tank. After few more stops for dog walks and meals, we fueled again just North of Montgomery AL, taking on 37 gallon of diesel at $2.21 a gallon. From there it was just a few miles to our property in rural Elmore County where we have an RV site set up. We were at the site a little before 3:30pm, and got all the utilities hooked up and settled in before driving the car the 2 miles to our son's home for dinner. We had a great visit with family members over Christmas. The weather was not quite as terribly wet as it was last year, and there were only a few days of below freezing temps. Just before Christmas we made a quick car trip to Northern Oklahoma for the funeral of an Aunt who died just short of her 92nd birthday. We had a great visit with family over Christmas, and managed to work in visits with a few friends in the area too.
RV TRAVELS SUMMARY TO DATE...
...Back to last year's travels... -OR-
...On to next year's travels...
AK, AL, AR, AZ, CO, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MN, MO, MS,
MT, NC, NB, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, WY = 38
PLUS Canadian Provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Yukon Territory
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...