1-11 JAN, WETUMPKA AL -- We started the new year with lunch visits with friends, and time with family. We finally got around to the annual making of the hard hot cinnamon candy that normally gets done the week before Christmas. That didn't happen at the normal time due to a family funeral in Oklahoma, and finding that we did not have any cinnamon oil. Oh well, no matter when we make it, it is good!! On the 12th we pulled out, headed back to our East Texas home base. After several bitter cold days in the low 20's, the daytime temps were now reaching the mid-70's and it was a beautiful day. We were on the road by 9:15am, and for the first time drove all the way in one day ... 604 miles. A mid-day fuel stop was $102 for 41 gallon of diesel, and a second stop at 7:30pm was $107 for 48 gallon. We also made a lunch stop, and got supper at the Whataburger next to the 7:30pm filling station. We had a great visit in Alabama, and it was great to get back to our home base.
19-22 JAN, CANTON TX -- After being at home just over a week, we headed 60 miles West to Canton TX for a gathering of the Texas W Club (the state Winnebago group). Texas W meets 4 times a year, and our chapter meets 8 times a year. We met at the Canton Civic Center in the Trade Days RV Park, the location of the famous First Monday Trade Days, aka "the largest continually operating flea market in the US". The grounds were very empty and quiet compared to what is there the first week of each month. The monthly event runs Thursday through Sunday immediately prior to the first Monday of each month, and host apx 6,000 vendors and 100,000 shoppers over "hundreds" of acres. It is indeed quite the monthly event, especially for a relatively small town. With just 35 Winnebago RVs present, we didn't have those kinds of crowds to deal with. We had an enjoyable weekend, ate lunch at the "World Famous" Dairy Palace, visited several shops in historic Edom TX, and even met new friends who live only a mile or so from us! Late on Saturday night we had some high winds and light rain, but the really severe weather from the passing cold front was about 100 miles East of us. There was a bit of excitement on departure day as the contents of a large dumpster began smoking and then burst into flames. After suppressing it twice with my water hose I called 911 and let the local fire department do the job. They got a lot more water on it faster than I could, and had the tools to sift through the contents to find the hot spots. The park allows contained camp fires, and at least two rigs had fires over the weekend. No doubt one of them emptied their fire pit into the dumpster without ensuring all the sparks were out! Our rally costs were $24 per night for the campground plus our rally fees.
2-3 FEB, HALLSVILLE TX -- Another meeting of our local Winnebago International Travelers (WIT) group, the Rambling Rose Travelers, took us to Hallsville TX and the Cowboy Camp RV Park. The park is nothing fancy and can be muddy sometimes, but the meeting building is awesome with a great kitchen area and a nice wood-burning stove. The owner mills his own wood, and has finished the building interior very nicely. Due to many residents letting their large dogs run freely thoughout the park, walking our small dogs was difficult. After arriving, we all went out for lunch at the What-A-Burger in Hallsville. This chain offers what we think are among the best burgers in Texas, and many in East Texas have a theme. The bar stools in this one were pure Texas!! We had a good visit with our group, and warmed ourselves with the wonderful wood stove with firewood provided by the campground. Our cost for full hookups and use of the building was $23 per night.
SEP 2016 DRIVE SHAFT REPAIRS REVISITED -- While driving to and from Hallsville, apx 120mi round trip, I felt what I believed to be some subtle drive line vibration again. After returning to home base I took the RV to Accelerated Diesel for the annual chassis service and asked them to check the driveline for any problems. To put it mildly, they found a disaster. The quality of the repair done by the Interstate Truck mobile repair guy in September bordered on criminal negligance. The last thing I asked him was if I needed to re-torque any bolts at some point, and his reply was "Nope, everything is good." It was nowhere near good. He had rounded two u-joint bolts off and cut the strap to get the old u-joint out, then slipped the new one back in without removing and replacing the bolts and cut strap. On the other end, there was a chunk of metal out of the transmission yoke beside a strap bolt that was cut off flush with the yoke. And he re-installed that strip with a bolt on only one end. The rebuilt driveshaft was ok, but both the front and rear yokes had to be replaced along with a u-joint and other parts. It was a minor miracle that we made it the 4,000 miles to Iowa and back, and then to Alabama and back in December-January. When I called to talk with Interstate Truck about it I found they are located in Kansas City MO about 350 miles from where I broke down, and the mobile repair guy was an independent contractor working on their behalf. He no longer works for them as "he was unreliable." No kidding! After sending them pictures of the butchered repairs I was told the boss said "Our warranty on repairs is only 90 days, so we can't do anything." I understand a warranty limit on normal professionally accomplished repairs, but this butcher job was a ticking time bomb that should be an embarassment to any legitimate business. I am submitting the case to my road service company to see what they say. Had I known they were dispatching a lone wolf mobile service guy with no local shop support I would have declined their service and found a local shop to do the work. Next time ...
3-4 MAR, BULLARD TX -- Our Rambling Rose Travelers WIT chapter met at Bushman's Camp in Bullard TX for their March meeting. We had all 5 member rigs present plus one guest. Seems we spent most of the time eating, between Legends Burger and Taco El Conquistador nearby, and a potluck that lasted for 2 meals. We had a goodtime together, and Paul was installed as chapter president. Cost for 2 nights at Bushman's Camp at the rally rate was $42.
6-8 MAR, DURANT OK -- After only two nights at home base, we were on the road again, this time headed for Choctaw Casino RV Park just South of Durant OK for a muster with the SMART Texans. This muster was hosted by the chapter VP & spouse, with a great potluck meal, games, and an awesome 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle featuring a map of Texas highlighting many of the interesting historic sites and attractions arouund the state. Several members of the SMART OKs joined with us for a total of 10 rigs, with an additional couple joining us by car. The group gathered for"Happy Hour" socializing each afternoon, games and jig saw puzzle work in the evenings, and also spent a good bit of time at the casino enjoying the several restaurants and casino games. A free shuttle bus is on call to transport folks to the casino and back, freeing you of driving and parking concerns. This is a very nice KOA operated RV park with nice long concrete pull throughs and very nice grass. The wind tends to blow a good bit, but this is Oklahoma so getting used to it is your best option! Our cost for 3 nights was $30 per night, with indications the rate is going up to $35 in the immediate future.
4-7 MAY, KERRVILLE TX -- After a few months with very little RV travel, we hit the road toward Kerrville TX and the SMART SMW Reigonal Muster. We had an uneventful 350 or so mile drive, stopping for a dog walk, for lunch at a Subway on the North side of Waco, and for fuel in Fredricksburg. In mid-afternoon we joined about 40 other rigs at Buckhorn Lake Resort just off I-10 West of Kerrville. The SMW Region includes chapters from Texas and Oklahoma. We had a great time, ate too much (but part of that was the best chile relleno I've ever had at a local restaurant!), and enjoyed visiting old friends and making a few new ones. Buckhorn is a nice RV Park, with transient sites, rally facilities, long-term residents, and "winter Texans." There are nice concrete sites surrounded by grass, and there was even a very nice putting green in the area between our site and the row to the rear! The separated area across a rock bridge has a number & variety of RV "docks" which include a "house" along with the RV pad & hookups. Some of the "house" buildings are quite simple, and a few are larger than most homes anywhere! We did get a reminder that we have failed to change the air filter on our heat pump/ac for awhile when the unit froze up and quite putting out any air at all. Replacing the clogged filter made a HUGE difference!! Check those filters! Our cost for 4 nights at the rally rate was apx $35 per night.
8 MAY, FT STOCKTON TX -- On Monday morning we said our goodbyes and hit the road, headed West to visit family & friends in New Mexico. We had originally planned to drive to Carlsbad, but realizing we had an extra day in our schedule we decided to make it a short day and stop in Ft Stockton for the night. When we hit I-10 Westbound after pulling out of Buckhorn Resort, we encounteered a long uphill grade. We experienced some bucking and lack of power on the incline so stopped at the picnic area 6 miles West to change the fuel filter. We have the filter changed annually with the normal chassis service, but we also carry an extra with us just in case we encounter some bad fuel and get a clogged filter. This was the third time over the years that we have had to change the fuel filter enroute. This time the new filter had little or no effect on the occational engine stumble on grades. The four hour drive was a straight shot on I-10, and was fairly quiet due to a strong tailwind. We stopped at a rest area along the way, in Ozona for lunch at Subway, then for fuel at Flying J in Ft Stockton before arriving at Hilltop RV Park on the West end of town. It was pretty breezy on top of the hill, and the winds increased in the evening with gust inn the 40 mph range, but the view to the West was quite impressive. Our cost for a pull-through full-hookup site for one night was $30.
9-10 MAY, CARLSBAD NM -- Our next stop was in Carlsbad NM for a visit with family, about 140 miles North of Ft Stockton. The park where we have stayed before said they were full for the night, apparently with a caravan arriving any minute. They offered a water only site for $30 ...no thanks. We ended up at White's City about 20 miles South of Carlsbad, at the beginning of the road heading West up to Carlsbad Caverns. White's City Resort is not a resort by any means. The RV park is very tight with gravel sites and rigs sharing a small covered table between them. While there we explored the White's City Resort stores, the gift shop at Carlsbad Caverns, and the nearby Apache Trading Post. And of course we found a few things we "needed" at each place! The view from the front doors of the Carlsbad Caverns gift shop building is ammazing. We have been through the caverns before and didn't really have time today, so we just visited the HQ building and gift shop. We had a good visit with family in Carlsbad. Our cost at White's City Resort RV Park was $36 per night.
11-17 MAY, ALBUQUERQUE NM -- On Thursday morning we headed further North and a bit west to Albuquerque. After Roswell 40 miles North of Carlsbad, there is very little "civilization" until you reach I-40 at Cline's Corners, but it is beautiful country and pronghorn antelope visible alongside the highway from time to time. Apx 4 hours later, with a gradual change in elevation of nearly 4,000 ft (from apx 3,000 to apx 7,000), we reached Clines Corners. The engine stumbling/bucking continues on strong pulls. After lunch at Subway at Clines Corners, we arrived in Albuquerque in mid-afternoon. A call to Cummins Rocky Mountain got us an appointment to take the RV into the shop for evaluation the next morning. After the usual stop at Flying J on the West side, we went to High Desert RV Park, one of three RV parks on top of "Nine-Mile Hill" just West of town. High Desert is a decent park, with spacious and nicely manicured gravel sites and paved streets. At this time of year, the weather normally is quite nice, though the wind can blow from time to time. After the first day or so, the winds died down to a very pleasant level. Our cost for one night at High Desert was $30. On Friday morning we dropped the RV off at Cummins and went to visit family. After some diagnosis, Cummins said they needed to do more tests. With the option for an electric only site in their parking lot for the weekend or returning to High Desert, we chose to go back to the RV park where the dog would be happier with walking and exercise space. On Monday we returned the RV to Cummmins, then spent more time with family. The next 3 nights we spent in the electric sites at Cummins. Finally they concluded that the RV had "crud" in the tank that was sloshihg around on inclines and plugging the fuel pickup. They estimated the cure (including tank cleaning, fuel line flushing/replacement, etc) plus replacement of the cracked exhaust manifold they discovered would take 2 days, but they could not get it on the required lift until May 30 due to others being scheduled before us. Having commitments elsewhere, we elected to leave the rig with them and return to our Texas home-base until the repair is completed. We emptied the refrigerator, storing the contents in my brother's garage refrigerator, and returned to Texas by car. Along the way we visited family members in Lubbock and Rhome TX as planned, and while in Rhome we adopted a new family member!! After loosing our 10+ year old Maltese in April, Molly the Morkie was acting anxious and lost, and we felt the need for a new Maltese pup in our lives. We love the gentle, loving Maltese disposition and their silky, non-shedding hair. After some searching over a couple of weeks, we found a little Maltese girl in the Plano area. She is a happy, playful pup, and took to Molly right away. It took Molly a few days, but she has taken on the elder teacher role and seems happy to have a playmate again. As you can see Queen Bebi (BB for short) is quite tiny (1.2 lb at 7 weeks) ...but not quite small enough to escape through the chain link fence!
SERVICE AT CUMMINS ROCKY MOUNTAIN, ALBUQUERQUE NM -- Having told us our two day repair would begin on the 30th, we got a call on the afternoon of the 31st indicating the tech had found more issues related to the bad fuel, and that the repair would take a total of 3 days. Included in the estimate were a couple of things I had expected to see in the first estimate, so in spite of the increased time and cost I am a bit more assured they are on the right track. The required high lift they described no doubt is the same as Cummins NW in Tacoma used in 2013 when they repaired our radiator. This picture is from that service. This is a very impressive lift system, consisting to 4 individual wheel lifts linked together by air hoses with a central control. After lifted, they insert 4 huge jackstands under the frame rails. In this picture, the bottom of the coach is apx eye level to a 6 foot man. Fast forward ... finally, on June 8 we got the call teiling us the coach repair was completed. The service writer told me it had passed the test I requested ...a flat-out run up 9-mile Hill West of Albuquerque. I told them we would be there in a week to pick up the coach, and asked him to take a look at the dash ac during that time. We arrived on the 15th and "bought" our coach back. They dropped & cleaned the fuel tank, replaced all fuel lines and the lift pump, added a second fuel filter before the lift pump, replaced a cracked exhaust manifold, and replaced an expansion valve, dryer, and evaporator fan on the ac. We plugged into power at Cummins, retrieved our refrigerator contents, and prepared to depart the next day.
16 JUNE, VEGA TX -- After catching up on some of our lost sleep, we departed Albuquerque headed for Oklahoma. Still tired from the long drive from East Texas to Albuquerque, and knowing we would lose an hour crossing time zones, we planned a relatively short day. By mid-afternoon, after a stop for lunch and a couple of doggie stops, we arrived at Walnut RV Park in Vega, TX. The freshly repaired dash AC quit blowing cold air during the day, but we were running the generator so had the house ac to keep us cool. It was 106 degrees when we arrived in Vega, very different from the first time we were there in late December 2003 with a temp of 15 degrees and 40 mph winds! Our cost for one night at Walnut RV Park was $28.00
BOILING SPRINGS STATE PARK, WOODWARD OK -- After a peaceful night in the small town of Vega, we continued Eastward on Saturday, stopping at Walmart in Amarillo for supplies, a few miles later at Flying J for fuel, and about 30 miles later for a Subway lunch. We arrived at Boiling Springs State Park North of Woodward OK in mid-afternoon, again with temps in the low 100's. We got the last pull-through 50a site in Whitetail Campground. We have stayed here many times in the past while visiting family in the area, and frequently see deer and other wildlife here. After getting settled in I took the two dogs for a short walk. They loved the walk in the green grass, but the puppy didn't particulary enjoy the next hour as I workd to get all the grass burrs out of her puppy fuzz. NO MORE PUPPY WALKS HERE!! On Sunday, we attended our ancestral church in nearby Gage, and had dinnner with family on Sunday evening. Our cost at Boiling Springs with the Senior Discount was $28/night.
19-22 JUN, ENID OK -- Finally caught up on our sleep, we left Boiling Springs SP on Monday morning, arriving in Enid OK just after noon. We broke our Subway lunch tradition by stopping in a small mini-mall for personal pan pizzas at Pizza Hut ...yum!! We arrived at Highpoint RV Park about 1pm. We have stayed here many times, most often in the open sites near the office. This time the clerk wanted to keep those sites open for the wheat harvesters he hoped to get in. But we had met several departing the area headed West ...no matter, he put us in the inner circle where that shade is a welcome respite from the hot sun, but satellite TV is hard to get. In spite of asking for a site that would work with our rooftop sat dish, we were unable to hit the satellites through the tree cover. We decided we could tough for the four nights we would be here. We did get a number of OTA channels with the regular antenna, but the signal was not good for most, and they had very little programming worth watching. We had a great visit with the family elder here, swapping family stories, and hearing new stories pulled from his memory. And quite by accident, we discovered that he is a member of the Son of the American Revolution (SAR)! That was news to us!! We have a family ancestor who was active in the Revolutionary War, and who served in the Virginia House of Delegates in the newly formed United States of America! Cool! Our cost over the four nights at Highpoint was $27.90 per night with military discount.
23 JUN, GUTHRIE OK -- After some great family time, we left Highpoint just before 11am, and arrived at Cedar Valley RV Park just west of Guthrie OK just after 12 noon. This in another park we have visited many times, again because of family in the area. Normally we have used our Passport America membership for a 1/2 price discount, but this time we were informed they do not accepted PA on weekends or holidays ...and Friday counts as part of the weekend. Many PA parks have a similar limitation. Our cost for one night at the regular rate was $36.00. We had a brief visit with family in the area. The puppy woke me at 6:51 am, as normal, so we were easily on the road by 9:30am. After a few puppy stops, lunch at Pizza Hut in Ardmore, and a fuel stop, we arrived back at home base about 4pm.
3-4 AUG, JEFFERSON TX -- After cancelling our May & June scheduled meetings due to most members being unable to attend, the Rambling Rose Travelers (WIT) met at Cypress Valley RV Park located about half way between Marshall & Jefferson TX. We were all looking forward to visiting Jefferson, and were disappointed when we had to cancel the June meeting scheduled there. Jefferson is a very interesting little town, once a riverboat town with river traffic running to and from places such as St Louis and New Orleans via the Mississippi and Red Rivers. In 1873, the Army Corp of Engineers used nitroglycerin to clear a log jam from the Red River. The native American population said the log jam had always been there ...they called it "the Red River Raft". Clearning "the raft" from the river removed a natural dam and lowered the level of Caddo Lake and Big Cypress to the extent that riverboat traffic to Jefferson was no longer commercially feasible. The river traffic ceased, and Jefferson rapidly shrunk from one of the larger cities in Texas to a small country town. Though the river in this area has not been passable to large boats since 1873, the historic influence is still visible. Since we didn't have a firm reservation anywhere for the August meeting, we decided to try for Jefferson again. We left home base about 9:10 am, and arrived at Cypress Valley about 10:40. All five member coaches managed to make it, with one showing up a day late due to having a breakdown in Oklahoma. We had a great time together, playing the normal table games and assembling the normal picture puzzle. We had lunch at the nearby Woodlawn Cafe after arrival on Thursday, and lunch Friday at Kitt's Cornbread Sandwich and Pie Bar in Jefferson. They serve a full menu of sandwiches only on their special recipe cornbread. After lunch most of the group went to the R.D. Moses Model Train Museum. This is a very impressive model train layout, 10x40 feet with 193 feet of track. It was created over apx 30 years by R.D. Moses & Jack Luck in Ft Worth, and moved to Jeffereson in 2012 after his death. The detail of the layout is incredible ...a visit well worth your time. The model train museum is located in a dedicated building behind the Jefferson Heritage Museum. After a great time together, the puppy woke me on Saturday at 7:10 (a nice change from the earlier norm of 6:51), and we left Cypress Valley about 9:20 and after a stop for fuel (and to unhook the towed car so the co-pilot could made a lunch date elsewhere in town) we arrived back at home base about 11:25. Our cost for two nights at Cypress Valley on the rally rate was $22 per night.
18-20 AUG Boosier City LA -- We decided to spend our wedding anniversary in Shreveport feasting on the highly advertised Saturday night seafood buffet at Sam's Town Casino, so set out mid-day Friday headed East. We called a weeke ago to make a reservation at the RV park. We loafed along, taking close to two hours to make the 110 mile drive to the Diamond Jack's Casino RV Park in Boosier City, the only casino-operated RV park in town. It is a nice park with concrete sites, grass, & shade. There is an elevated railroad track right up against the rv park, but the noise is minimal as the frequent freight trains passing by are going very, very slow. Aside from the occasional "bang" of a train starting or stopping, we barely noticed it. On Saturday we visited an antiques & industrial salvage shop, a hardware specializing in "cajun gifts," and a specialty meat store where we bought some boudin. Sam's Town didn't have their normal seafood buffet, and we found the regular buffet to be failrly average. We were similarly unimpressed with the slot floors. On Sunday we attended worship at Barksdale AFB chapel, and on Sunday evening decided to check out the buffet at the Eldorado Casino recommended by someone we met in the RV park. By the time we got to the casino we had decided we didn't need another big buffett so had a very good meal in one of their many restaurants. The big guy in the picture watched us while we ate. We liked the slot floors at the Eldorado better than Sam's Town, but they were not as good to us as Sam's Town had been. Oh well, we don't take it seriously anyway ...just entertainment. Our nightly cost at Dianond Jack's RV Park with 10% good Sam discount was $29.58/night. Maybe next time we will actually make it inside Diamond Jack's Casino!
21 AUG-5 SEP Wetumpka AL -- Planning to make it all the way to Alabama today, we were underway at 8:45am ...not particularly difficult now that we have a puppy who wakes us at 7:15 or earlier every day! It was a very warm & humid day, with a little relief from the heat in early afternoon as the highly touted ecclipse passed over as we crossed Western Mississippi. The reduction in the light from the son was barely notiecable ...like heavy smoke blocking the sun ...and the temperatur dropped at least 5 degrees on our dash readout. We made our normal fuel stop in Pearl MS, but went to Love's rather than Flying J ...they are at the same exit, and Love's includes a Subway, our favorite lunch stop. Love's sold us 47.5 gallon of diesel at $2.64 a gallon. After a brief doggie walk stop in Selma, and a fuel stop at Montgomery where we took on 41 gallon at $2.36/gal, we arrived at our property near Wetumpka at 5:45pm ...apx nine hours to cover the 495 miles.
6 SEP Boosier City LA -- Headed West again, we made the 495 miles back to Diamond Jack's RV Park in 9 hours again with a couple of stops for dog walks, lunch stop at the Subway near Toomsuba MS, and fuel stop at Flying J in Pearl MS. Other that large swarms of Love Bugs committing suicide on the front and windshield, and a construction backup just East of Shreveport, it was a smooth drive. With the media-incuded artificial gasoline shortage in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, it was interesting to see diesel fuel priced the same as ...or sometimes up to 20 cents cheaper!! ...than gasoline. We called ahead to Diamond Jack's RV park about mid-day and were fortunate that they had vacancies projected. They used our info from our previous stay, and left a "late arrival" sheet for us on the office door. We arrived about 6pm.
7-8 SEP Texarkana TX -- We took our time getting around this morning, and hit the road about 9:15am. After crossing Shreveport from South to North on LA 3, we hit the North loop, and then US-71 to I-49 N, headed for Texarkana. I-49 is a great highway with very little traffic ...an easy, relaxing drive. It took about 1 hr 20 min to reach Shady Pines RV Park just West of Texarkana where we were meeting with the Rambling Rose Travelers Chapter of WIT. Paul was elected President a few months ago, so had meeting planning to do. But the group is quite small, so not a big deal. Our biggest challenge of late is setting up the outside fence such that little BB cannot find or create a hole to escape through! We thought we had it done this time, but after Paul went to the clubhouse she figured out how to squeeze between the entry step and body of the motorhome, leave some hair on the top of the fence wires, and run for the clubhouse. Once again, she surrendered peacefully. More fence tricks to come... We had 3 rigs arrive early enough for a group lunch at the cafe in Redwater a couple of miles West of the RV park. Another rig joined us later in the day, plus a local couple w/o their rig. We had a great time playing games, completing a jigsaw puzzle, and eating ...always eating!! In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on the Texas coast, the weather was great with mid-80's in the days and 60's during the night. On Saturday morning, we were on the road back to home base by 9 am, arriving about 1:30pm after stops for fuel, lunch, and some Walmart grocery shopping in nearby Tyler.
RV TRAVELS SUMMARY TO DATE...
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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
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