Crater Lake, Oregon

Well, once again, I am way behind on posting about our adventures, so I’m going to take the next week or so to try and catch up.

July 19-23, 2017
CRATER LAKE, OREGON

Oregon is an amazing place to visit with its diversity of geography, climate, and natural beauty.  From Bend it was on to Crater Lake for about a week where our daughter Erin would be visiting us for a while.

This time of the year, sites in RV parks are a bit difficult to find.  It seems the winters up here are pretty cold and with the onset of warmer weather, everyone wants to get out.  Add to that all the folks from other parts of the country that want to see this beautiful area and you have a recipe for full RV parks.  Fortunately, I realize that about a month ago and started making reservations along our planned route. 

The RV park is on the “main” road to the south entrance of Crater Lake National Park, Oregon Highway 62, but there is not much traffic during the day and almost none at night.  The park is basically one outer loop with the sites on the outside and an “island” of grass in the middle with the bath house and laundry.  Our “home” for the week was a back-in site under some beautiful mature trees that gave us plenty of shade.  So, I pulled up, lined the rig up with the site and started to back in.  Just as I was coming to a stop to reassess the angle, I heart a big scraping sound and knew that was not good.  I got out to take a look, only to realize I had “found” a huge bolder that was lining a pathway to the bath house.  Fiberglass and boulders are not friends.  Fortunately, there was only minor damage with a little bent aluminum bay door and some fairly minor fiberglass that will need a little body work.  We will just have to get it fixed when we visit the Tiffin Service Center in November.

Chiliquin is the nearest town, only about 10 miles away and has seen better days.  As with many small towns, when the two factories there closed, the town pretty well dried up.  There is still a small grocery store, some churches, and a liquor store there, but not much else. 

The weather, even at the end of June was still only in the low 60’s during the day and low 50’s at night.  We went over to Crater Lake one day, which was also only about 10 miles away, and found that the south entrance, the one we were closest to, was the only of the four entrances that was open.  The rest were still closed because of the snowfall.  Lynette has a Senior Park Pass which that only cost $10 for a lifetime and gets us into National Parks, Corps of Engineer’s locations, and other properties owned by the Federal Government, for free. The price is going up this fall to $80 for a lifetime this fall and anyone age 62 or older is eligible.

Only about 7 miles of the 33-mile loop around the park was open when we visited because the snow had not been cleared from the other entrances.  The park gets about 45 FEET of snow each season, so it takes a while for it to melt since the road is between 6500 and 7900 feet in altitude and winter lasts for eight months.  Also, some of the snow drifts up to 60 feet in some areas. There are sensors built into the road itself to help snow removal crews locate the center of the road under all that snow.  Interestingly, there are no rivers or streams that flow into or out of the lake.  The water level is maintained by snowmelt and evaporation and is the deepest lake in the US at 1,949 feet.  It is a majestic place to visit and there were plenty of foreign visitors that also wanted to take a look. 

Wizard Island in Crater Lake

Wizard Island in Crater Lake. Named so because the island looks like a wizard’s hat.

The dull part of the water is where the ice has not yet melted and the shiny part is where the ice has melted.

On Wednesday, we drove about an hour and a half up to Medford, Oregon, to pick us Erin at the airport.  Since she had been up since 4:00 AM that morning in order to make her flight, we decided to wait till the next day to do any sightseeing. 

On Thursday, she and Lynette went to the park since I was not feeling well.  Wouldn’t you know it, they had removed the snow and had opened almost all of the rest of the park, so the girls got most of the full experience. Crater Lake would be a great “bucket list” item for anyone who enjoys seeing unique places and natural beauty.

Strange things about Oregon

  1. You are not allowed to pump your own gas. There are attendants at each station, though they don’t clean your windshield and check your oil like back in the “good ole days”.
  2. Diesel fuel is 30 cents less for truckers than for other diesel users and you are allowed to pump your own diesel. It is not a flammable as gasoline. I am told the state makes up for the discount with road use taxes they charge truckers
  3. There is no sales tax. An item costing $2.99 is $2.99.
  4. Signs along the coast constantly warn, “Tsunami Hazard Zone”. I never thought much about tsunamis until we traveled out here.
  5. When going up a steep hill on a two-lane highway, there is often an additional lane on the uphill side for slower traffic to use so others can pass. However, downhill traffic is allowed to use the inside uphill lane to pass if no uphill traffic is coming.
  6. Along the coast, the wind blows almost constantly and the summer temperatures rarely get above 65 degrees with lows in the low 50’s.
  7. There is almost no one in the ocean itself or along the beaches. The water is just too cold. Often, fog rolls over the beach sand because of the really cold water and the much warmer air.
  8. Most of the RV parks along the coast also have a “Fish Cleaning Station”.
  9. There are state parks along the coast about every 20 miles or so.
  10. There are almost no “beach houses” along the shore line. It is just wide open sand and you can see for miles with nothing built along the way.  It is really pristine and beautiful.

Growing up on the east coast, we never thing about earthquakes and tsunamis.

The fog sometimes is so thick on the beach that you can cannot see more that about a hundred yards.

 

We are really enjoying ourselves and loving the diverse beauty of the country as we are RVingthecountry.

 

 

 

 

Everything We Had Hoped For And More

BEND, OREGON
While we were at the Tiffin Service Center in Alabama last fall, we made some new friends, Bob and Sandy Thorn who were from California and highly recommended we visit Bend. They stay here quite often and told us it was a “must see” destination, so we have been looking forward to it for a long time.  

We arrived on Sunday to a pretty gloomy day, but that has to be somewhat expected up here in the Pacific Northwest.  However, Monday was also overcast, gloomy with a low temperature of 36 and a high of 44 and a stiff wind blowing.  This is definitely not what I was expecting for the middle of June.  It was too cloudy to do much sightseeing, so we opted to do some grocery shopping and chores around the RV.  The nearest grocery store is 40 miles away, so shopping takes quite a bit of time. Just for fun, about 15 miles of the trip is on a fairly narrow Forest Service Road.  

I called the Tiffin service center about my GPS not working and they walked me through what I needed to check and were very helpful.  Unfortunately, some of the work was outside, so I opted to wait till Tuesday when the weather was supposed to be much warmer. 

Tuesday was a much better day with expected highs around 60.  I spent about an hour working on the GPS problem and then we headed out for some sightseeing.  There are lots of lakes here even though it is considered the high desert with elevations from around 3,600 feet to 4,400 feet.  They are all fed by the melting snowpack on the mountains, upwards of 10,000 feet, and the winter snowfall in the surrounding area.

The Deschutes River

The Deschutes River

The Deschutes River

The Deschutes River

 

The Deschutes River

The Deschutes River

We followed the Cascade Lakes Highway from our campground to many of the area lakes, Wickiup Reservoir, Cultus Lake, Twin Lakes, Hosmer Lake, Elk Lake, Sparks Lake, and Lava Lake.  All of them are above 4,000 feet in elevation and crystal clear except where there are high mineral concentrations that turn the water a bright green.

One of the things that is so impressive is the denseness of the forest and the variety and size of the trees here.  We learned from a ranger we chatted with that the huge pine trees we have been seeing, many over 200 feet tall and five to six feet in diameter are Ponderosa Pines.  Their bark is reddish in color and he described it as dragon’s skin.  Perhaps the prettiest trees we saw were the Grand Fir trees.  They also can be over 200 feet tall, but their branches extend out with new growth on the ends being a very bright lacy green.  Now that is some Christmas tree.  There were lots of other types of trees that only grow in this part of the country and are huge.

The trees grow so thick and the underbrush so dense that you literally cannot see 10 feet into the forest.  I can image how easy it would be to become disoriented and get lost.  We passed several places that had been destroyed by fire.  It was a sickening feeling to see what used to be so beautiful, blackened and charred.  I can only hope it was caused by lightning and not someone’s carelessness.

As the day grew on, a lot of the cloud cover lifted and we could see the majesty of the surrounding mountains. They are part of the Cascade Mountain Range and either were or are active volcanos.  That was such a treat. 

As we made our way along the Cascade Lake Highway, we were treated to the views of The Three Sisters and Broken Top Mountains, all over 10,000 feet and Mt. Bachelor, a popular local ski resort.  There was still quite a bit of snow on the ground even though the temperature was in the mid 40’s.

Lynette got a bit spunky with the snowballs

Lynette got a bit spunky with the snowballs

Wait a minute, this is the middle of June, there is not supposed to be snow.  We make it a point to only visit places where the temperature are between 60-90 degrees.  I think I got a little ahead of myself with this plan.  Oh well, the temps are supposed to be in the low 80s over the weekend.  Wouldn’t you know it, we leave here on Sunday.

The total trip today was about 250 miles with trips into Sisters and Bend.  It is hard to get used to everything being so spread out here in the west.  Traveling 40 miles is nothing for these folks. We have to keep a careful eye on the gas gauge since the distance between gas stations out here can be substantial.  In fact, one sign we saw while traveling from Burns, said, “Next Gas 99 Miles”. You get the idea.

To top off the day, we were treated to a couple of deer that were eating the fresh grass within 5 feet our RV.  They are always such a treat to see.   

Well, it has been a busy day and we had a blast.  Tomorrow is round three of the GPS troubleshooting project and hopefully the fix. No matter, that is just part of the lifestyle, things shake loose or break and we try to figure out how to do the repairs.  Oh, the joys of RVingTheCountry.

 

 

The Time Is Flying By

We have been having so much fun, I have not been posting in the last month.  We made our way through Utah, Idaho, and are now in Oregon.

There is so much to see  in Utah.  It is such rugged country and a beautiful all its own.  If you like red rock canyons, this is definitely the place for you.

Lake Powell
We made our way from Monument Valley to Lake Powell in Page, Arizona.  It was created by the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River and straddles the Arizona and Utah borders.  By comparison, Lake Lanier in Georgia covers 58 square miles, has a maximum depth of 156 feet and sits at an elevation of 1,071 feet.  Lake Powell covers 254 square miles, has a maximum depth of 583 feet and sits at 3,452 feet. 

Lake Powell is the second largest man-made reservoir in the US behind Lake Mead, but now actually has more water than Lake Mead because of drought and the water drawn from it for human and agricultural use. 

The Glen Canyon Dam is an amazing sight to see, 710 feet tall, 300 feet thick at its base and 25 feet thick at the top.  It is amazing to me that something this immense was built in the mid-1950s.  An interesting fact is that the first dynamite used to build the dam was ignited by President Roosevelt via a telegraph line from the White House. 

We took at guided boat tour into the canyons and the scenery was spectacular. When we stepped off the dock onto the boat, the tour guide told us the water below us at that point was 400 feet deep.  Near the shoreline, it was crystal clear, but because of its depth, it is almost black. 

Because the lake is so large, there are two and three story, multi-million dollar houseboats moored there and they are spectacular.  They also have 50-foot and 80-foot single story houseboats for rent that sleep from eight to twelve people for a mere $700 to $900 a day.  There is no special license required, just a credit card.

Our little tour boat only held 17 people and most of them were from other countries.  The people next to us were from Belgium, Germany, and France and there were several other languages I did not recognize.  Back at the campground, the campers were about the same.  It was pretty easy to spot them.  Just wave and say “Hello” and most of them would just smile back and wave or give a “Hello” back with a very perceptible accent.  I am surprised at how many people rent RVs out here.  There are lots of RV rental companies here, and it seems most of them are rented by international travelers.

One of the most striking sites here is Horseshoe Bend.  It is about a half of a mile of moderately strenuous hiking from the parking lot to it, but well worth the effort.  It is a 100 foot drop from it down to the canyon floor and water.  

Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, AZ

Horseshoe Bend takes a bit of a hike if you want to see down into it.

Zion National Park
From Lake Powell, it was on to Hurricane, Utah and Zion National Park.  The locals pronounce it, “her’ a cun” with the emphasis on the first syllable.  Reminds me of “how’ stun” (Houston) county in Georgia. After being in RV parks with gravel roads and camping sites with few if any trees for the past month or so, WillowWind RV Park was a wonderful change. The roads and all the sites were paved and large mulberry trees creating a canopy over each site.  We had only planned to stay there for a week, but we liked it so much, we stayed for two weeks. 

One of the things I noticed while we were there is that all the houses had their air conditioning units mounted on their roofs.  I wondered if it was because of high amounts of snow in the winter, perhaps to prevent theft, or maybe to keep snakes and other critters from getting in them on the ground.  So, I finally asked one of the maintenance men at the campground.  It is because the cottonwood trees produce so much, “snow” that it clogs them up if they are on the ground.  Being up in the air allows the wind to blow all around them and keeps the cooling fins from getting clogged.  I immediately understood, since we have seen, “blizzards” from the cottonwoods.  It is not like a light sprinkling of “snow” but a full blown snow storm. 

Zion National Park is spectacular with Zion Canyon being 15 miles wide and up to a half of a mile deep.  The rock formations along the main drive through the park are overwhelming, making me feel very small and insignificant.  There is very little parking inside the park, so visitors are encouraged to use the free shuttle service that operates within the park.  They have two million visitors each year and there are only 375 parking spaces inside the park itself. 

I am always amazed by the engineering feats accomplished in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  One of the most impressive things to me at Zion has a 1.1 mile tunnel that was built through the mountain to allow for a road to be built creating a “Grand Loop” to other places that would later become national parks.   To allow for ventilation, light, and spectacular views, they also built windows or galleries out from the tunnels to the side of the mountains.  This also allowed them to remove the rocks they were cutting inside the tunnel itself without having to take them all the way to either end. 

We have a GPS in our RV that has setting made for big rigs.  There is a setting for the height, width, length and weight designed to keep us off roads that are too narrow, have low bridges, hairpin curves, and bridges with weight restrictions.  The last thing I want to do is catch any of the three air conditioning units on our roof on a bridge.  There are plenty of those videos on YourTube already. To that end, I set the height measurement about a foot higher that it actually is, just to be safe.  That sounds like a good idea, right?  Well not so much.  When I set the GPS for our next destination to Bryce Canyon, it took me down a narrow two-lane county road that then emptied onto an unmaintained dirt road.  We stopped at the entrance to the dirt road and decided we needed a different plan.  So, we turned around, (thankfully, there was enough room), backtracked about 20 miles to the nearest town and just followed the main road to the Bryce area. 

My GPS was constantly telling me to turn around because there was an overpass somewhere ahead that I could not make it under.  Stress, stress, stress.  I decided to take my chances, thinking there must a way into the park for large RVs.  Finally, I saw my nemesis, a stoned archway over the highway. So, I moved to the center of the road, held my breath, and prayed for the best. 

Drum roll. Drum roll. Drum roll.

I hope we can make it through with the air conditioners still attached.

Actually, there was a tractor trailer that went through before me, so I figured I was ok.

So, our two-hour trip turned into four and a half hours but I learned a lesson and saw places I will never see again.  We stayed in the little town of Cannonville, UT where there is no cell service, AT&T or Verizon, no cable TV and no over the air TV stations.  The town of Tropic is only four miles away and they have all of that.  If there were trees here, we would really be “in the woods”.  As it is, we are just, “in the middle of nowhere.”  That’s ok, the scenery is wonderful.

It was raining on Wednesday when we went to Bryce Canyon the first time, and the first rainy day we have had in nearly two months. Because of the altitude of the park, around 8,000 feet, we were soon in the clouds, with visibility only about 100 feet.  Since we know what clouds look like, we decided to head back down to the campground and try it the next day. 

Thursday was a perfect day, bright sunshine, a few puffy clouds, and temperatures in the low 70s.  We spent the morning in the main part of the park know at the Amphitheater and taking some short hikes, and the afternoon taking the 17-mile drive through the remainder of the park.  The pictures do not begin to do this place justice.  I could spend weeks here, hiking the trails and still see only a small part of the park. There are a number of backcountry camping areas, but one of them is closed at this time due to high bear activity.  That is not something we see much in the east.   I would love to come back here again.

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

Capitol Reef National Park
On Saturday, we moved down the road about 100 miles to Capitol Reef National Park.  This time, I did not turn a two-hour trip into four hours. Again, the beauty was spectacular and we had a wonderful time seeing the difference of the geology of this park compared to the others.  This place gave us an extra little gift the day we were leaving, May 17, it snowed.  Fortunately we were on the very edge of a late season snow storm and did not really affect our travels. We were soon back to sunny skies.

Then, it was on to our last two parks of, “The Big 5”, Arches and Canyonlands.  Arches is perhaps the most popular of the parks with 2 million visitors each year, obviously, Lynette and I were two of them.  

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef and it was windy

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef

I had always wanted to see these five parks as each of them is magnificent in their own right.  One could easily spend a month at each park and still not see everything they have to offer.  However, I would not go from one to the next again.  After a while, I found the awe and majesty became somewhat commonplace and it was harder to appreciate the uniqueness of each park.  Or maybe it was just too overwhelming. I am not sure. I think it is kind of like living by the ocean or a tall mountain.  The first time you see it, it is awe inspiring.  After being there for a month, some of the glitter wears off.  But after, a time away, most of the magic comes back.  

Provo, Utah
After leaving the canyons and the aridness of desert, we made our way up to Provo, Utah and some greenery.  We camped at Lakeside RV Campground and were treated to a park with lots of grass and plenty of tall shade trees. I always like to watch the local Tv stations and get a feel for the local flavor of the area we are visiting.  Provo is the home of Brigham Young University with over 30,000 students, most, if not all, are Mormons.  One of the more interesting TV ads was for a men’s clothing store advertising their, “Missionary Starter Set”.  It consisted of a suit, two shirts, belt, socks, shoes, and two washable ties.  I am thinking this is definitely for the local market only.  

After a few days there and get reacclimated to things that were green, we headed up through Salt Lake City, (yes it is a huge salt lake), and on into Idaho.

Eden, Idaho
It was about about a four hour drive to Eden, Idaho, just outside Twin Falls.  Twin Falls is a beautiful city with about 40,000 residents and plenty to do.  As you might guess, it is named for two waterfalls that are side by side near the edge of town.  One a Sunday afternoon, Lynette and I went to the visitors center that is on a cliff high above the Snake River.  The Perrine Bridge over the Snake is 483 feet above the water and the only bridge in the US is legal to use for BASE jumping.  We were treated to numerous base jumpers who jumped from the middle of the bridge with a small parachute, and they all made it out safely.  

Twin Falls

Twin Falls

A BASE jumper over the Snake River

A BASE jumper over the Snake River

A BASE jumper over the Snake River

A BASE jumper over the Snake River

The Snake River is an awesome sight to see, deep in steep canyon walls and winding back and forth. The river is actually over 1,000 miles long and feed into the Columbia River which empties into the Pacific Ocean.  

The Snake River

The Snake River

The Snake River

The Snake River with tall waterfall in the back.

The Snake River

The Snake River

This area is huge in agriculture.  One of the things that stuck our in my mind was the amount of irrigation.  There are the irrigation systems I am used to seeing back east, with pipes above ground, moved by big wheels on the ground that rotate around a central water source.  They have that here too, but much of the irrigation has underground pipes with sprinklers heads mounted in permanent positions.  There is so much water out here, with fast moving rivers and streams and lots of irrigation canals.  Much of the water come from the melting snowpack on the high mountains to the north. Southern Idaho is definitely farming country and the fields are huge.  They remind me of the field in Kansas and Nebraska, that seem to go on forever, disappearing over the horizons.  The big difference here is there are huge mountains at the horizon.  

Caldwell, Idaho
About three hours down the road, just past Boise, the state capital, was our next stop.  On the trip we were treated to lots more green farmland. Boise is a large city with about 220,000 people and has anything you can image.  We did not spend much time there, opting for the smaller city of Nampa, with about 81,000 people.  

One of the things I have found on our travels is that cities of about 40,000 people seem to be about the ideal size town.  They are big enough to have most anything you need, but without the choking congestion of big cities.  They are big enough to be interesting, but small enough to be manageable. 

While at the Country Corners RV Park, we met the nicest couple who also run the place.  They used to live in North Pole, Alaska while he was in the Air Force but moved a bit further south for a warmer climate, even though they still get plenty of snow.  He is quite the outdoorsman and was taking his 9 year old daughter bear hunting for her first time the week we were there.  

Burns, Oregon
From Caldwell, it was about a three hour drive over to the Crystal Crane Hot Springs RV Park in Burns, Oregon.  On the way, the GPS and stereo system in the RV decided to go on the fritz.  That created a bit of a problem, because the GPS unit is optimized for big rigs and avoids low bridges and narrow roads. So, we reverted to Apple Maps and made it fine.

This park was about 20 miles from the nearest town and literally, out in the middle of nowhere. Eastern Oregon is pretty desolate and reminded me a lot of the plains of Texas. There was open range and lots of scrub brush where the cows just roamed to their heart’s desire.  

Next to our RV park was a huge pasture with about 50 head of cattle.  Upon returning from our sightseeing tour of Burns, we discovered that one of the calves was on the outside of the fence while all the other we inside.  Interestingly, they started to head to a different park of the pasture and he became frantic at not being able to go with them. When they were about fifty yards away, they all stopped until the RV Park owner and his wife rounded up the calf and headed him into an gate they had opened for him to rejoin the herd.  After he was safely in, the rest of the herd then continued their movement.  

Bend, Oregon
When we got up this morning, the temperature was a cool 42 degrees after an overnight low in the mid-30’s.  Apparently, this part of Oregon has not gotten the word that it is spring time.  We got an early start for our four hour drive over to Bend, Oregon. We have heard a lot about how beautiful it is around Bend and have been especially looking forward to this part of Oregon. I tried to make reservation at an RV Park in Bend out six weeks ago, because I knew kids would be out of school and more people would be camping. However, everything was already booked up, so I booked a week at the at Crane Prairie RV Resort 38 miles outside of Bend in the Deschutes National Forest and on the Crane Prairie Reservoir.  

This place is rather remote, but absolutely beautiful. After getting set up, Lynette and I drove back to the office to pick up a few supplies.  As we were parking, Lynette spotted a bald eagle flying about thirty yards over our heads.  She was so excited, she could not get the words out, so just pointed up.  Immediately, I saw the magnificent site of it gliding above it.  What a treat.  We had a good laugh at her not being able to articulate what she was seeing.  More to come as we are RVingTheCountry.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Catching Up

Back in Albuquerque
It was an all-day drive from Clovis over to Albuquerque but well worth it.  We were in Albuquerque last year, so there were lots of familiar sights. One thing we made sure we did was to visit the Laguna Burger restaurant along old Route 66.  The burgers there are huge and take about 20 minutes to cook, but are worth the wait.  What makes them unique is the green chili pepper topping they add that gives a pretty good kick but also a great taste.  We did take a ride one evening along the downtown section of Route 66 and got a “kick” out of seeing some of the old signs from the ’40 and ‘50’s. One of them was a hot dog joint with a large neon dachshund whose tail blinked up and down.  Now, how American is that?

Santa Fe, New Mexico
One of the places that we wanted to visit was Santa Fe because it is a beautiful town known for its artist community.  It is about an hour from Albuquerque and a pretty drive. The downtown square reminded me a bit of San Francisco for some reason.  There were quaint little shops around a central plaza, with food vendors selling the local cr.  We tried the chicken fajitas and they were great.  Along one edge of the plaza was an outdoor bizarre with native people artists offering everything including blankets, hand crafted jewelry, pottery, paintings, knives made from buffalo ribs, paintings with the inks made from natural plants and berries, and most anything you could imagine.  Most of these folks appeared to be over 70 years old and still working to make a living.

There was also a beautiful cathedral that was on one side of the square and had a sculpture of the first native person granted sainthood for her work with the local people. Santa Fe is a beautiful town with so many shops, old churches and museums, that it would be easy to spend a week there. After returning to Albuquerque, we discovered there is a train called the Rail Runner, obviously, a take-off on the Road Runner, that runs between the two cities and only costs about $11 per person, each way. Oh well, maybe next time.

The First Native Peoples’ Saint

There were 120 of these on the front doors.

Gallup, New Mexico
Leaving Albuquerque, we made our way over to Gallup and the USA RV Park. It is a 17-acre RV Park along old Route 66 offers free camping to active duty military personnel.  This place was more of an area to rest up and catch up on laundry and everyday chores than a destination but was still a lot of fun.  While there, we went it one of the native people trading posts and got some souvenirs for our granddaughters and some hand crafted earrings for Lynette. They are sterling silver with turquoise, black jet, red coral, pink coral, and abalone shell.

Shiprock, New Mexico
From Gallup, we were on our way to Monument Valley, and stopped in Shiprock, NM for some diesel fuel. The west is so spread out, I do not like to get below half a tank so I never have to worry about running out, even though a half a tank is about 50 gallons and will get up about 400 miles.  When we arrived, Lynette took the dog out for a walk and I went back to the bathroom.  As she was walking the dog, one of the local native people approached her asking where she was going, and several others were making their way toward her to the point where she was getting a bit uncomfortable.  About that time, the manager of the gas station came out, said something to them in Navajo, and they quickly went their way.  I came out about the and he explained that RVs are magnets for many of the locals who are looking for a hand-out or wanting to catch a ride. He introduced himself as Charlie Jones, asked us about our travel plans and gave us a few suggestions of places to see.

He said the locals could make $400 a month working as sheep herders, which was plenty for them to live on, but most would work a month and then spend it on alcohol.  It is a big problem among the native peoples. Charlie explained that his parents were visiting his grandparents and he was born in their hogan. 
http://www.kstrom.net/isk/maps/houses/images/hoganmonvalley.jpg

The day after he was born, his parents took him to the nearest hospital so he could get a birth certificate and then brought him back home.  Charlie was one of 13 children born to Navajo parents. When he was seven, he went to live with a Mormon family who raised him until he graduated from high school.  That family had 11 children of their own.  They offered to let him stay with them for a while until he could support himself, send him on a mission trip, or send him back to his parents.  His stroked his arm and said he knew his heritage and chose to return to his people.

Charlie was really interesting to talk with and commented that he had 23 brothers and sisters, and great childhood memories. Apparently, this was a common practice among the native peoples and the Mormons. To make a living, he had worked in the local open-pit coal mines and in the uranium mines nearby.  He was planning to move to North Carolina to live with his daughter’s family for a while and help take care of his grandson.  He also told us that the route we were planning to take was only out five miles from the “Four Corners” where Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico meet, so we decided to take that as a side trip.

Four Corners
The Four Corners is actually on Navajo land who charge a $5.00 entrance fee for visitors.  It is very modern and has a large plaque at the exact spot where the four states meet with their names engraved in each quadrant.  It is built as a large plaza area and covered booths with items for sale that are made by local Navajo artists.  Their creations are very high quality and the detail is amazing. It was fun taking time to talk to the various vendors and hearing their stories.  One of the dilemmas I found myself in was whether to buy from a native woman who was probably in her 70’s and trying to make a living, or a younger Navaho woman who was selling the exact same thing, trying to make a living and carry on the culture of her ancestors.  Life is never simple.

Just off of the plaza area was a small trailer that sold some of the native foods, so we decided to try a Navajo Taco. It was a piece of Indian Fry Bread, with chili beans, onion, lettuce, tomato and some salsa on top.  Lynette and I split one since it was really more of a snack that a meal for us, and it was delicious.  The bread was kind of like pita bread but much lighter and puffier, and absolutely delicious.

A small Navajo Taco at the Four Corners

After we left and just after passing the Arizona, Utah border, we began to see “Open Range” signs and wild horses along the side of the road.  It seemed so strange seeing these magnificent animals grazing along the sides of the road with no fences to keep them contained.  They seemed content to graze and were oblivious to the vehicles passing by. I could not help but think about the movie, “Open Range”, with Bluebonnet Spearman and Charlie Postelwaite.

Wild horses along the side of the road in Utah.

Monument Valley, Utah
The drive to Monument Valley was everything I expected and more. It is hard to describe the enormity of this land.  It is easy to see things 100 miles away as we could see many of the still snow-covered mountains in Colorado in the distance.  In places, we could see cars 10 miles away, the same spot we would be in about 10 minutes.  Sometimes, we saw mountain ranges that looked so small in the distance, only to be enormous when we finally got to them an hour or so later.  There is such an openness here that it makes one feel so small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

We are staying at Goulding’s Campground in Monument Valley and it is beautiful.  It is a complex with hotel rooms, a restaurant, convenience store, grocery store, airstrip, museum, gift shop and was built back in the 1920’s. This area, along with Goulding’s has been the scene for many Hollywood cowboy films.  John Wayne’s cabin from the 1949 film, “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon” is here and open to the public.  It was actually a root cellar for the Goulding’s restaurant until it was turned into a “cabin” and is only about 8 feet by 8 feet in size. At the little theater, John Wayne movies are shown nightly.

Coming in to Monument Valley.

Goosenecks State Park, Utah
One of our day trips included a trip to Gooseneck State Park with is only about 30 miles from us. I had seen pictures of this place but did not realize we were so close to until we got to Monument Valley.  I learned it is a 1000 foot drop from the cliffs above to the San Juan River in the valley floor. 

Moki Dugway and Muley Point, Utah
About another 20 miles down the road is Moki Dugway.  A “dugway” comes from a technique to dig a trench alongside a hillside to keep a wagon from tipping.  Thanks to Lynette for looking it up for us.  The road is actually an old gravel mining road that was built with lots of switchbacks up a huge mountain side with rock walls on one side and sheer cliffs on the other.  By the way, there are no guard rails, but it is two lanes wide in most places. Lynette drove up it and I drove back down.  Muley Point is at the end of the road and the views are spectacular.

I met a two couple up there that were having a picnic.  One of the men was an assistant principal at one of the schools on the reservation and said they do not have “snow days” where kids are out of school in this area but instead have “mud days”.  Many of the roads where people live are so muddy when it rains here, they are impassible because of the slick mud. The dirt here is very fine and bright red.  They even have days built into the school calendars for them.  http://bluffutah.org/mokey-dugway-muley-point/  Download the .pdf and take a look.

We are about 80% up the Dugway. Notice the truck on the side of the hill. There are no guardrails,

The Forrest Gump Highway
The main road to and from Medicine Hat, Utah and the places above is Utah 163.  The section at mile marker 13 is known locally as the “Forrest Gump” highway because that is the location where Forrest was running and then famously said, “I’m pretty tired, I think I’ll go home now.”  My son Chris does a terrific “Forrest Gump”.  It is a beautiful stretch of perfectly straight road and about as desolate as they come.

The Forest Gump Highway, Utah 163.

Happy Anniversary
April 15 was Lynette and my 39th wedding anniversary, so we had a wonderful time visiting the areas around Monument Valley.  There is not much around here in the way of places to eat, so we had dinner at Goulding’s Restaurant.  It is build up on a bluff and has a wonderful view of the valley below.  Since we enjoyed the Navajo Taco a few days before, we decided to have them again.  Little did we know, these were the size of 10 inch pizzas with about an inch of chili beans and loads of cheese, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes on a wonderful Indian fry bread.  We ate as much as we could and took the rest back to the RV for another meal the next day.

A big, “Thank You” to everyone who wished us a Happy Anniversary on Facebook.

Reflecting Back
Today was a day to relax and I spent time reflecting back on our travels.  The sites and people are wonderful but we both miss our children and grandchildren terribly.  To our surprise, two of our granddaughters, Hannah and Lily, FaceTimed us this morning to wish us a Happy Easter.  At least it was morning here but afternoon back east.  I think both Lynette and I needed that.

Life is good and we are still learning new things.  One thing that I think we have learned twice and hopefully no more, is that when you increase in altitude, do not open a plastic mustard bottle with a flip top cap without covering it with something first. Otherwise, the increased pressure inside the bottle will create a mustard volcano and your shirt will immediately need to go to the washing machine. 

Tomorrow we are going to visit “Valley of the Gods” and take the 17-mile drive through the park here, and on Tuesday go to Lake Powell, Arizona for a week and more adventures RVingTheCountry.

Dallas, What A Hot Mess!

BRIDGEPORT, TEXAS
It’s about 300 miles from Doyline, LA to Bridgeport, TX, our next stop in this trip. Bridgeport is a about an hour west of Dallas and has a Thousand Trails campground which only costs us $3.00 a night and is right on Bridgeport Lake.  It’s also about an hour from Ft. Worth, so we spent an afternoon over in the historic district, visited the historic stockyards and had lunch at Riscky’s BBQ.  The restaurant is in the building where they used to auction cattle back in the early 1900’s.  Who can go to Texas and not have some beef brisket?

The area is full of little shops and lots of opportunities to become a “Real Texan”, cowboy boots, hats, belt buckles, and lots of western cut shirts.  We just spent lots of time looking, but didn’t see anything we could not live without. There was a street vendor who had a huge longhorn steer with a saddle on it, and for a price, you could have your picture taken on him.  Fortunately, there were steps up to the saddle, so it was not much work to get up there. We decided to skip that experience, a cost savings for us and probably a mercy for the beast as well.  

Twice a day, they have a cattle drive down main street.  The cattle are kept in a pin nearby and I expect they could make the trip around town even without the cowboys.  Leave the pin, make three right turn at the first streets they come to and then back in the pin for a hay reward.  It was a fun visit with a great history lesson along the way.

Now that is a Longhorn. He looks a little bored.

Now that is a Longhorn. He looks a little bored.

It took a while to convince this longhorn to move over in front of the site for a picture.

It took a while to convince this longhorn to move over in front of the site for a picture.

DALLAS, TEXAS
We then moved about an hour back toward Dallas to stay at the Hickory Creek Corp of Engineers Park on Lewisville Lake so we could visit our friends Randy Cook and his wife Lori.  It is so much fun seeing friends that you haven’t see in years.  We met for dinner and reminisced about old times and told stories about the pranks we used to pull at work.  I remember one Halloween when my friend Barry Rutherford came to work dressed in his biker gear.  He had a little hat with fake hair coming out the back that was half bleach blonde and half brown and some fake buck teeth.  I was hiring a lot of engineers at the time so went into Randy’s office and told him I had someone I was recruiting and asked him to take a minute just to say “Hi” to him.  I told him the guy looked a little different but was really smart.  Barry walked in and Randy was totally speechless for about 5 seconds. Then he just busted out laughing when he realized who is was.  He admitted that for a few seconds, he thought, “What the h*** is Kerry thinking?”

We spent an afternoon at “The Sixth Floor Museum”.  It is at the Dallas School Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy.  The actual location where Oswald was positioned on the sixth floor is preserved behind plexiglass but you can see the street below where the Presidential motorcade traveled.  It is a very sobering place, when you realize that what happened here changed the course of human history.

I was only seven years old when all of this happened and didn’t really realize everything that was going on at the time, so this was a fascinating history lesson for me. The Presidential elections were to be held the next year and Kennedy’s approval ratings were in the 50% range, so this was really a campaign trip since Texas was such a crucial state in his re-election bid and Texas was not a friendly state for Democrats.  One of the things I found fascinating was that Oswald obtained his rifle through a mail order ad for $12.95 and the scope brought the total price up to $19.95. plus shipping and handling.

The actual scale model of Dealey Plaza that the FBI used to investigate the assassination was also on display and there were news clips of everything that was going on at the time. This museum is a “must see” place for anyone visiting Dallas, regardless of your political inclinations.  There was so much uproar in the nation at the time, I could not help but make the parallels to the political climate today, civil rights, war, Russia tensions.  In many ways, it almost seems as though not much has changed.

HICKORY CREEK CAMPGROUND
Hickory Creek is the most beautiful COE park I have ever been to.  Most of the campsites are along the huge lake and are quite large. It has good paved roads, campsites are level, and there were just the right amount of kids playing. They don’t have sewer connections, but only staying there a few days, our holding talks took care of that, so all we had to do was stop at the dump station on our way out of the park.  

While at the dump station, I met a couple from England.  He had lived for many years in the US and she had lived in Germany.  They were full-timers as well and were on their way to store their RV for a few months, and then travel to South Africa, New Zealand, and then visit family and friends in Europe.  I love meeting new people.

ABILENE, TEXAS
We were planning to go to Amarillo next, but since the weather there was supposed be near freezing at night and only in the low 40’s during the day, we decided to head further south to Abilene and warmer temperatures.  

Dallas has so much highway construction that it took us three hours to get out of metropolitan Dallas when it should have only taken about an hour.  I thought the highway construction in Atlanta was bad, but his place is over the top.  Randy had told me there were interchanges in Dallas that made “Spaghetti Junction” in Atlanta look like a 4-way stop and he was right.  We passed at least a dozen “Spaghetti Junctions” and took about as many wrong turns.  If you miss a turn here, it is not like just going to the next exit and turning around since the next exit may just drop you onto a two lane city street or be miles away.  Also, the GPS’s are pretty worthless since the exits on the GPS may be a half mile past the actual exit on the highway and most of time it thinks you are on an access road instead of the interstate anyway.  Just for fun, the signage along the highway is pretty poor.

We finally made it to Buck Creek RV Park in Abilene, TX for a few days and visited Abilene Christian College where there is a great sculpture called, “Jacob Dream”.  It depicts Jacob dream of a ladder to heaven with angels ascending and descending it. Instead of just a single structure, there are stones stacked about with parts of various Bible verses containing many of the promises of the Bible’s and the attributes of God.  

The angels ascending and descending the ladder to heaven.

The angels ascending and descending the ladder to heaven.

This and the picture below depict the gateway to heaven. “Straight is the way and narrow is the gate that leads to heaven.”

Some of the stones with Bible reference carved into them.

Some of the stones with Bible reference carved into them.

Abilene is also home to Dyess Air Force Base which hosts the 7th Bomb Wing (7 BW) assigned to the Global Strike Command Eighth Air Force. The 7 BW is one of only two B-1B Lancer strategic bomber wings in the United States Air Force.  I could not get on base, but I did get to see one at the entrance gate.  I thought twice about taking a picture since it is right at the gate and there were armed airmen. They may have thought I was checking out their security. There is a museum nearby, but it is just a small building and doesn’t have any planes displayed and there was really not much to see there.  

I am not sure if it is the time of year or if this is year round, but the wind is always blowing, so you just have to get used to it.  There are not many trees, so nothing to block the breezes.  It rocks the RV and is loud, so after a few hours, it starts to get on our nerves. There’s nothing we can do about it, so we are just having to learn to live with it.  No matter, that is just part of the experience.  

CLOVIS, NEW MEXICO
After a few days there, it was about another 300 miles to Clovis, NM.  It is not really a destination location but more of just a way to break up the mileage.  Coming out of Texas into New Mexico, we could tell we were entering the high desert with the increase in altitude and drop in humidity.  Clovis is at an altitude of 4,268 feet and the humidity is about 12%.  That combination plays havoc on our sinuses, but we are hoping to get used to it.  To put that in perspective, Atlanta is at 1,050 feet and we all know about the humidity.  There is not much to do in Clovis, but we did find the Cotton Patch restaurant that had country fried steak that was so big, Lynette and I split a meal and each of us had a piece of steak the size of our hand, with the fingers.  

Our campground, Traveler’s World was voted the best campground in Clovis for the past two years, though there is not much to pick from. About 50 yards in front of us was US 84 and a few hundred yards behind us was a huge rail yard.  Amazingly, it was actually pretty quiet at night.  We could sometimes hear the roar of the big diesel locomotives behind us, but since we run a floor fan at night, it drowned out most of the noise.  

Our next stop is Albuquerque, NM.  We stayed there last year with our granddaughter, Emily, and had a great time.  Albuquerque sits at 5,320 feet in altitude and we have to pass aver 7,000 feet to get there.  We forgot to lower the pressure in our Sleep Number Bed before going to Clovis and when we got there, the pressure had risen from around 55 percent was up to 100 percent. We had forgotten to let out some of the air before leaving Texas and were just glad it did not explode.  That would have been a rather costly mistake and certainly something you do not have to think about when living in a regular home instead of a mobile one like us.  

Our push right now is to get to Utah and spend about a month there before the temperature gets too hot to enjoy it.  From there, it’s on to the Pacific northwest for the summer.  Fortunately, we met Bob and Sandy Thorn from California while we were at the Tiffin service center in Alabama and they have spent a lot of time in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. They are giving us tips on where to stay and what to see, so it’s like having our own personal travel advisors.  We hope to be able to meet up with them over the summer as well.

We are still enjoying ourselves and plan to slow down the pace in a couple of weeks, but realize we have to plan a little more around the weather and the crowed vacation season. That is just part of the lifestyle as we continue RVingTheCountry.  

Lake Bistineau State Park

We made our way over to Lake Bistineau State Park in Doyline, Louisiana near Shreveport. on our trip west. We like to stay at state and federal campsites when we can, since they tend to be less crowded and the sites are typically much wider. They also normally have a lake or good hiking in the area and get us away from the noise of commercial campgrounds.  Since camping is a great family activity, most times there are kids running around or riding bicycles and it is fun to see them having a good time and hearing them laughing.  Sometimes you get some bratty kids but most of them time they are just a joy, especially the younger ones.  

This place was no exception as there is a huge lake there but not too much boating because of the vegetation blooms on the lake.  Except for a small area around the boat launch, the entire lake is covered with aquatic growth.  However, our first evening there, all we could hear were airboats revving their engines and making lots of noise until dark.  We were thinking this was going to be a really noisy few days, since they started back up around 8:00 the next morning and we were only about 75 yards from the lake.  Later that day, we discovered the state was spraying a chemical on the plants using the airboats big fans as the delivery vehicle.  We were assured this magic mixture would only kill the plants and not take us with them.  Around 10:00 that morning, the airboats moved on to another part of the lake and we were left with lots of peace and quiet, with the exception of some kids running around and playing.  Once again, life was good.

Vegetation covers the water on Lake Bistineau

Vegetation covers the water on Lake Bistineau. No water is visible.

Giant Salvinia covers the almost all of Lake Bistineau, almost 1.2 square mile.

The road and campsites here are fully paved, so all I had to do was back in, put down the jacks to level the RV, and then just kick back and relax for a while.  Our site was pretty uneven, so I had to raise the front jacks to where the hydraulic levelers almost raised the front tires off the ground.  Since the last step from the RV to the ground was about 14 inches and made it a bit of a falling hazard, I just pulled out our portable step to make it a bit easier getting in and out.  

Later that evening, when I took the dog out for her last “business” of the day, I was surprised at how close the last step of the RV was to the ground.  I discovered that the jack pad had punched through the asphalt and compressed the soft ground below down about 8 inches.  Not only were my jacks now stuck below ground, it also meant the slide-outs would not retract because the coach was too uneven. The problem with just retracting the jacks was that it doesn’t take much to pull the jack pads off the hydraulic cylinders because they are not designed to meet any resistance when being retracted.  It was too dark to do anything right then, so I had to wait till the next morning and have a fitful night of sleep.

The leveling jacks punched through the pavement and sank down into the soil below.

It is funny how everything looks better in the daytime and with some sleep, my thought process was a little clearer as well.  I had Lynette retract the jacks slowly while I bent down outside to watch them.  Slowly, they came up until the pads were up to the asphalt.  I used a hammer and chisel to loosen the pavement around the pad and they came out without breaking anything.  Hallelujah! The next step was to drive the rig forward, with the slide-outs extended, and re-level everything.  This time I put a couple of 2X6’s under each jack pad and everything worked perfectly.  What a relief. We did not want to leave the holes in the pavement behind, so we went to Home Depot, (the cure for almost everything), got a bag of gravel, and filled in the holes when we left.  

I believe that Louisiana is unique in the US as they have such a variety of bugs that no where else possesses.  I can prove this by the variety on my windshield.  As demonstrated by my leveling jack experience, the ground, especially around water, is very soft and can offer you some surprises.  There are also lots of animals and flowers that makes visiting here a pleasure.  However, many of the roads, including interstates, are so bad that anything more than about 35 mph would shake the fillings out of your teeth.  I guess thats the price you pay for a “Sportsman’s Paradise”. Not to anger my Louisiana friends, the local food is wonderful, the sunsets are spectacular and  I also love that ‘nawlins accent.  

From here, it’s on to Texas and the west as we are RVingTheCountry.  

The Ghosts Of Vicksburg

Gettysburg Military Battlefield

As I drove through the archway that leads to the grounds where the Battle of Vicksburg was fought, it was a sunny, mid-morning, early spring day and almost no one else was there.  It seemed abnormally quite with only the sounds of southern songbirds singing their contented tunes.  All of a sudden, I could almost hear the sounds of cannons firing and orders being given in a loud but disciplined manner.  There was no sound of the screams of those who lay wounded over the thunder of the artillery pieces.  I was at the actual location where the battle of Vicksburg was fought.  Almost as quickly as I heard the sounds around me, they faded away.  Only the songs of the birds remained.

Vicksburg - Overview

Vicksburg – Overview

I spent most of this sunny spring day stopping at various sites along the battlefield.  Unlike most Civil War battles, Vicksburg was a primarily a siege, lasting from May 18 to July 4, 1863.  Ulysses Grant tried two actual assaults but was repelled by the Confederates both times and suffered heavy losses.  

This battlefield is unlike any other I have ever visited.  Not only do the blue markers show the Union battle lines and red markers show those of the Confederacy, but the actual locations of the various artillery and infantry units, with their commanding officer are shown. Many of these have statues or bronze busts built showing the commanders, some funded by the states they represented and some by the families of those honored there.  

Fighting at Vicksburg

Fighting at Vicksburg

 Click on the image below and then, “Show Slideshow”.  

This is a most sobering place for many reasons. There were almost 20,000 casualties here, Unlike most other battles, this was a siege that affected not only the soldiers, but the entire civilian population of Vicksburg. This was also the battle that split the Confederacy between east and west, and gave the Union army control of the Mississippi River and the supply routes it afforded.  The Union could move their supplies to their troops and the Confederacy no longer could.  

The encouraging part to me was that many of the memorials described the unification of the country and not the divisions that had split it.  

Vicksburg, Mississippi
We had a wonderful time visiting Vicksburg and it is always a treat seeing the majestic Mississippi River.  

The Mississippi River looking south.

The Mississippi River looking south.

The Mississippi River looking north

The Mississippi River looking north

Spanning the Mississippi River

Spanning the Mississippi River

And then there are now the casinos built along the River.  I guess we have progressed from Riverboat gambling to just plain gambling.  

Guess the name of this casino.

Guess the name of this casino.

When the slope from the River to the surrounding area rises about 300 feet, you have to build some retaining walls. What a wall. There must have been hundreds of birds’ nests here because it was loud with chirping.

We had a great time in Mississippi but it was time to move on. On to Louisiana as we are RVingTheCountry.

 

 

Our Episode Number 100

I can hardly believe it but I am now publishing my 100th post since Lynette and I started our lives as full-time RVers.  I hope this website has in someway been meaningful to you, perhaps brightening your day, made you smile, given you a sense of travel, or maybe even encouraged you that you could live out your dream, too.

Lynette and I have  been having a great time, most of the time, and look forward to many more years of RVing The Country.  Sometimes folks ask how long we plan to do this. My answer is always the same, “We don’t know”.  As long as we are enjoying ourselves and are physically able to travel, that is the plan.  

We have learned so much since we undertook this adventure.  I have figured out a lot about how to drive and maintain this beast, 64 feet from the back of the “toad”, or “towed” if you prefer, to the front of the motorhome.

Roads in the United States are 9 to 15 feet wide, with interstates being a minimum of 12 feet wide with a paved 10-foot wide shoulder on the outside shoulder and 4 feet on the inside.  Most large RV’s, including ours’ is 101 inches wide plus 14 inches for each of the side mirrors for a total of 128 inches.  That means that on a typical 12 foot (144 inches) wide road, I have have about 8 inches on each side of the bus to play with.  Fortunately, most US highways and interstates are a little wider than the minimum.  As you might guess, I am a much more attentive driver than I used to be.

There are certainly things we miss, mainly family and friends, but we try to make up for being gone with phone calls, Facebook, and visiting them when we are in the area.  We certainly don’t miss the responsibility of a house and all the maintenance and expense that requires, but we do miss planting flowers and watching them grow.  

There are a lot of things we we have learned while traveling. We don’t need a big house with all of its furnishing and trappings to be happy.  Since we started selling and giving away most of our home furnishing when we sold our house, we have leaned the old adage “You don’t have your things, your things have you,” is so true.  Freedom comes with having fewer things and not more.  

Concerning purchasing an RV, we have leaned that the quality of most RVs are rather poor. The manufacturers just want to get them through the production process and let the dealers fix what they miss, then have the buyer come back for repairs and be their quality control.  The industry fights any legislation hinting at “Lemon Laws” because they knew they would have to do a better job in the process of building them.  There are also no quality rating systems like J.D. Powers or Consumer Reports that rates customer satisfaction even though the RV industry is a multi-billion dollar business.  Maybe someday.  

We are doing better with choosing campsites now than we used to be.  There are so many resources available to help pick the right spot, the trick is to find out which ones work the best for you.  We are members of “Passport America”, $49.95 per year, which offers 50% off the regular campground rates, (with lots of restrictions),  “Thousand Trails” $650 per year, which offers $3.00 per night rates at 41 campgrounds from Virginia south and west to California for up to two weeks at a time, “Escapees”, $49.95 per year, which offers big discounts on staying at 19 RV parks from Washington State to Florida, and Good Sam Club, $27.00 per year, and gives a 10% discount in most private parks nationwide.  We also use an the app, “Allstays” that lets you select Federal, State, City, County, or private campgrounds based on everything from price to amenities to locations. Rvparkreviews.com is a great resource for seeing how other campers rate the parks and Google Earth shows you a bird’s eye view of the actual location and the roads leading to it.  As you can see, choosing the right place to “live” for a couple of weeks takes some time.

One of the things we love most about traveling is seeing the difference in geography in the US. In the east, there are lots of trees and hills, but you can get a sense of being closed in since you can rarely see more than a few hundred yards without seeing trees, hills, or buildings.  In the west, there are few trees, but you can sometimes see forever.  At one place in Wyoming, I stopped at one of those roadside highway markers that had a map of the area.  It said that if you could see a particular mountain range in the distance, you were seeing a location 160 miles away.  Now that was a view.

Since retiring and traveling, I have been reading a lot more for pleasure. During my working days, most of my reading was for information and when I had leisure time, the reading was still almost always non-fiction.  Now I been reading some novels and especially enjoy reading Pat Conroy, who wrote “The Great Santini”, and “The Prince of Tides”, among many others.  My good friend Alan Davenport put me on to him and suggested his book, “My Reading Life”.  It is pretty much an autobiography and tells how he became an author and the books he read while developing his skills.  Because of that, I have bee reading the works of some Russian authors, mainly  Fiodor Dostoyevsky, “Crime and Punishment” and “Notes From The Underground”, and Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”.  I make it a point to keep my blog free from any political views, but couldn’t help but notice in Dostoyevsky’s works how the liberal views of 1860’s Russia is are so much like the ones today in the US. Their premise was they have been gifted with “enlightened” thinking and the old ways are no good anymore.  It was a bit uncanny.

I am learning more about how to use WordPress and more of its capabilities for blogging and have a few upgrades in mind that I would like to learn.  It may also involve learning a little coding, but hopefully very little.  I don’t think I have the patience for that kind of an undertaking.  I will leave that to my son.

One other thing I have noticed is that I now have time to look back and reflect on my life, remembering the people who have made an impact on me and being thankful for them being in my life. I love to remember the fun times as a kid, when looking forward to play time was as far I could imagine. I had no concept of life beyond my home or school.  Now that I have grown older and experienced more, I now wonder, “What if the most successful part of life is still ahead?”  It may be, I just need to search it out.

I just renewed my web hosting service, security software, domain privacy protection, domain name registration, spam protection, site backup, and all the other stuff that comes from running a website, so if you are enjoying my posts, please drop a comment in the “Comments” section.  Nothing is as encouraging to a blogger as comments.  Also, I appreciate everyone who “Likes” me on Facebook as well.  

That’s it for for my 100th post, as Lynette and I continue, RVingTheCountry.  

 

 

 

 

A Look Back To The Beginning Of Our Traveling Days

Where Are Our Favorite Places?

It has been two years at the end of this month since I said goodbye to a 37 year at Southern Bell/BellSouth/AT&T. I started there 9 days out of college and spent my entire working life in various aspects of the company.  Since then, Lynette and I have been to some amazing (to use the Millennial’s favorite word) places and met some amazing people (oops, there it is again).  A couple of weeks ago while having dinner in Birmingham with my cousin Anne and her husband James, she asked us where was our favorite place. It’s really hard to pick a favorite because the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings are so difference. Yes, I think you have to experience a place with all of your senses.  

I immediately thought of Winter Harbor, Maine, on the coast across from Bar Harbor.  
(I am learning more about how to use WordPress, but still have a long way to go.  Click on the pictures to bring up a full size version, but then use the “Back” button to go back to the main post.  I haven’t figured out the “Slide Show” function yet.)

For Lynette, it was California.  San Diego has been on her bucket list for as long as I can remember.  Her Uncle Earl served in in the Navy back in the ’40’s, 50’s and 60’s and is buried there.  It is such a solemn place but also so beautiful, overlooking the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

 

We made our way up the California Coastline to San Francisco.  Ah, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

But then, I also loved the desert Southwest, Tombstone, Tucson, and Albuquerque, and all of Texas.

But then, I also loved the desert Southwest, Tombstone, Tucson, and Albuquerque, and all of Texas.

There has been so much we have gotten to see and experience, it is sometimes hard to take it all in, much less decide on a favorite.  

Toe Jackson And The Squared Wheel Trailer

We spent about 10 days in the Mobile, Alabama Area with the first part of the visit having beautiful weather.  The azaleas were in full bloom, which meant the pollen was most plentiful. It was nothing like the Atlanta pollen, where your eyes burn and you can see it wash like dust across the road, but annoying nonetheless.  

Azaleas in Bloom in Summerville, AL

Azaleas in Bloom in Summerville, AL

Just outside the RV Park are about a hundred homes that were built by RV’ers and have covers or garages for their rigs. Some are basic prefab homes with larges garages out back, while others have incorporated a place for their RV in the main structure itself.  Here are a few examples.

An RV port incorporated with the main house

An RV port incorporated with the main house

A place for your RV or great for entertaining

A place for your RV or great for entertaining

A full-size house with an RV and a car garage

A full-size house with an RV and a car garage

You can make your driveway as fancy as your RV

You can make your driveway as fancy as your RV

The longer we stayed, the cooler the weather got, so we decided to head a little west after checking out the forecast for Vicksburg, Mississippi.  I had always wanted to visit Vicksburg, mainly because of the Civil War history there and the opportunity to see the Mighty Mississippi once again.  After doing a little more research on the area, I think we are going to have a busy week taking in the sights and culture.

We took US 98 out of Mobile and then caught US 49 near Hattiesburg.  We prefer to take US highways instead of Interstates when we can because they are so much more scenic.  I forgot who it was that said, “With the interstate highways system, it is now possible to go from coast to coast and see absolutely nothing.”  That is pretty much true.  

We made a stop for fuel a few miles later at a gas station that also has a few islands just for big rigs with diesel fuel. I use these kinds of places when I can find them because they always seem to be much less expensive that the big name brand truck stops like “Flying J”, “Loves” and “Pilot”. I think this is because they have contracts with the trucking companies to give them a rebate based on how much fuel they purchase.  So they just mark up the prices to cover the rebates, so I try to avoid them if possible, because I don’t get any rebates.

As I was pumping in my 65 gallons of diesel, a young man, maybe in his early 20’s pulled up to the next pump in his RAM 3500 diesel.  You could tell how proud he was of it by the swagger in his step as we walked from it to go inside and pay.  I thought I would make him feel good, so I said, “Nice truck”.  His response was, “Yeah, but it rides like a square-wheeled trailer.” I had to think for a second before I replied, “Yea, but it looks good.”  I didn’t want to say the terrible ride was probably because of the big off-road mud grip tires and the big lift kit he had on it.  “A square-wheeled trailer”.  I’ve lived in the south a long time, but that was a new one on me.

Both of the US highways were pretty good until we got near Jackson.  It was like taking a red clay washboard road that reminded me of the chewed up roads in west Texas where the oil trucks eat up the asphalt on I-10 going through the swamplands in Louisiana.  You know the kind, every time you come to a seam in the highway, there is a LOUD thump, thump, thump, thump.  I felt like I was riding in a “square-wheeled trailer”.

As we saw the road signs indicating the distance to Jackson, I also saw some advertisements for companies that were sponsors of the local high school baseball team. Apparently, that is a big deal in this part of the country or at least in this county.  That made me think back to the time when Bo Jackson had to have a hip replacement during the off season one year.  During the next spring training in Florida, on his first at-bat of the grapefruit league season, the whole crown in the stands stood and gave him a standing ovation.  I don’t remember who the catcher was, but he asked Bo, “Do you know why they are all cheering for your?” “Why,” asked Bo.  “Because most of them have had hip replacements too,” was the reply.  I always thought that was hilarious.  About that time a saw a road sign that I swear said, “Toe Jackson.”  I’m thinking, wait a minute, I’ve heard of Bo Jackson, but who is “Toe Jackson”?  Then I realized it said, “To Jackson”.  To(e) should rhyme with Bo, but not so.

Sometimes, I get a little lazy using our GPS, and today was one of those times.  We only had about 20 minutes to go to our new home at the “River Town Campground”.  I just blindly followed the directions, until it said to make a u-turn and proceed 6 miles back in the direction I had just driven.  It was a four lane divided highway and there were plenty of places to cross over, but for some reason, the GPS decided I should go 6 miles out and 6 miles back, out of the way, instead of just telling me to make a left turn into the campground.  Some long trips are unnecessarily longer than they should be.  No matter, 358 miles and we were “home”

That is just life on the road as we are RVingTheCountry.

 

 

Glad To Be Moving Again

TIFFIN SERVICE AREA
We came to the Tiffin Service Center a week ago Thursday to get the remainder of our one-year warranty items repaired and made it out this Friday.  Though most of the things were completed on Monday, it took the rest of the week to finish up the last two small items.  The “campground” there is an old airport runway that has lots of potholes but does have good power, water, and sewer.  However, this part of Alabama gets lots of really bad weather and the wind blows down the long runway like some of the open plains of west Texas.  Just like Texas, it even has lots of dust to go along with it.

The way they schedule work there is really frustrating.  After we finished most of the repair items on Monday, we never knew when the next work would be done, so we had to wait around the rest of the week on this bleak camp site.  There is not much to do in Red Bay and the surrounding areas, but just getting away would have been nice. 

You know you are bored when you visit a dog cemetery and then share the experience with your neighbors.

 

Lynette finally went to the Fred’s, a sort of old time variety/grocery store, and Dollar General, just to pick up a few things and get some time away.  I am usually a pretty even keel guy, but I lost my cool with the TV/electronics guy.  He came in and started accusing me of not operating the TV system properly, and finally told me the system would not work the way I wanted it to.  I just decided to let it go and find someone else to do it later.  After he made some setting changes and left, I discovered I could no longer watch one show and record another.  I went to the dispatcher who called him back in and he said he had other rigs ahead of mine now and I would just have to wait my turn.  That’s when I lost my cool. His supervisor had someone else come out to restore the original settings and it only took him about 5 minutes.  As bad as the first guy was, this guy, Thomas, was the polar opposite.  He was patient and explained what to do if this ever happened again.  That’s how it seems to be with the technicians there, they are either very good or very bad. 

I wonder sometimes if my expectations are too high, but I don’t think it is asking to much for folks to do what they say then will do when they say they will do it.  Life in a small town is a lot slower pace and more laid back.  Life in the big city is more frantic and merchants know there are a lot more options if they don’t meet a customer’s expectations.  We have met some wonderful people in Red Bay, especially at the local First Baptist Church, but the repair folks, for the most part don’t seem to have a sense of urgency. 

We did have a good experience though having some off-site work done with Daniel Humphries at MS RV Solutions.  I have a device that boosts the voltage from the campground electrical connection to the RV if the voltage drops below 115 volts.  That is important because low voltage will eventually burn out anything with an electric motor because it causes the motor to run too hot.  That includes things like air conditioners, the refrigerator, the microwave, and any sensitive electronics, etc. It is similar to a brown out on a normal residential power grid.  Each time we connected to the shore power, I would have to take the autoformer out of the storage bay, secure it to the power pedestal with a cable lock (it costs around $600 and I don’t want it to walk away), and then connect one end to the rig and the other to the shore power.  I had Daniel permanently install it in the power bay, so it makes it a lot more convenient to use.  Now, all I have to do is pull the power cord out of its storage bay and connect it to the power pedestal.  Though the autoformer is designed to be used in either place, I always hated to leave such an expensive piece of gear out in the elements.  He did show up for our appointment a little late though.  He made sure he thanked me for my business and all in all, I was very pleased. 

OUR TOAD
We have been having some problems with the braking system on our towed vehicle, so I had a couple of the technicians that work there, and are very good, come out after hours, to take a look at it.  To make a long story short, they determined the electronic braking control module inside the CRV had gone bad and needed to be replaced.  I had it installed in our first motorhome in 2013, so it was well out of its one year warranty.  The cost for a replacement, $865 plus about $100 for installation.  The best auxiliary system on the market costs around $1250 plus around $400 for installation because none of the existing braking wiring can be reused.  It also has a five-year warranty.  I talked to my friend Randy who has one in his rig and he has been well pleased with it so I decided to bite the bullet and have it installed.

There are at least 25 RV shops in Red Bay that work on almost anything that goes in or on a motorhome.  Most of them are former Tiffin employees who are very familiar with Tiffin products but decided they could make more money being on their own.  However, none of them had the new braking system in stock and it would take several days to get it.  Since both Lynette and I were REALLY ready to leave Red Bay, I found a shop at our next stop in Pensacola, FL who had it in stock, had installed many of them and could put it in while we were there.  EUREKA

We gave on up getting the last warranty items fixed since the guy who was supposed to fix them finished two of the last three outstanding items, so we decided to leave Red Bay on Friday afternoon. 

MERIDIAN, MISSISSIPPI
Lynette found a great little campground for us to spend the night on our way down to Mobile in Meridian, MS.  Benchmark RV Park is right off our route on US 45 and has great pull-though sites with concrete pads and only $20 for an overnight stay.  It is family owned and the couple that run it are really friendly and have three adorable kids.  Lynette took Maggie for a walk and the kids had to come out and pet her.  The owner gave her a Scooby snack and Maggie stood on her hind legs and danced for them.  The kids decided they needed to dance too.  It was really cute.

They even have a large dog park here, but Maggie decided she would rather take care of her business right beside our campsite. 

  

MOBILE, ALABAMA
We are down here outside Mobile in Summerdale, AL at an Escapee’s RV Park.  Escapees is a co-op where members can lease a site long term and then sublet it when they aren’t using it to folks like us who only want to stay a week or so.  Our stay here is only $135 for the week including electricity.  It is a quiet and beautiful place with lots of trees and really wide camp sites. Our kind of place.

Our rig on Site 17 

Rainbow Plantation RV Park, Summerdale, Alabama

 We are looking forward to some of that World-Famous Gulf Shrimp and some other great seafood.  If anyone has any suggestions, please let us know.  We have been to the Mobile area before, but just on vacation, so we were pretty pressed for time.  This time we plan to take a couple of weeks and spend more time visiting Gulf State Park, Orange Beach, and other areas around Mobile more thoroughly and then head over in the Pensacola area for a day or two.

DIET PROGRESS
Lynette and I are making good progress on our new nutritional plan, her losing 8.6 pounds and I am down 16.8 in the first month.  We have a long way to go, but just taking it one day at a time.  It is amazing how much more aware I am of everything I consume since I started keeping a journal of it.  Yes, it is a sacrifice not eating a lot of the things I really like, sweets and pastries, but I just concentrate on the things I can have and substitute for the things I shouldn’t. 

Lynette does a great job of coming up with great meal combinations and finding recipes for things we can substitute for the foods we would love to have but aren’t good for us.  Kudos to my sweetheart.  

THE WEEK AHEAD
We have a full week ahead for us, taking care of the monthly maintenance items on the rig, getting a new braking city for our toad, getting the CRV tires rotated, installing the shades on the side windows, visiting Costco, and then lots of general sightseeing.  Oh yeah, my glasses broke for the third time this week, so I am going to give Costco a try for new ones.  My daughter got a pair there and was well pleased.  Though she is a Costco fanatic, and for good reason.

Retirement  life is busy, but great, as we are RVingTheCountry.

Leaving Florida

We moved out of sunny Florida to Tannehill State Ironworks Historical park in McCalla, Alabama.  It is on the National Register of historical places and was a major supplier for Confederate ordinance during the Civil War. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tannehill_Ironworks It also has a grist mill, a cotton gin house and the Iron and Steel Museum of Alabama.  If you bring your corn on Saturdays, they will grind it for you. It is a neat little state park and just before you enter the gates to the recreation and camping area is a sign designating, “The Geographical End Of The Appalachian Mountains.” I have hiked to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain, Georgia, but it seems the mountains themselves extend on for another 200 miles or so. We spent three nights there so we could visit some family and friends in the area.  There was a nice little creek that ran behind our campsite and the ground was covered with leaves that had fallen from the hickory and oak trees.  It was such a peaceful and quiet place and I wish we had more time there.

Our second evening there, we visited with my nephew Andrew, (it was Andy when he was a kid), and his beautiful family.  He and his wife Cathy have two rambunctious boys, Tucker who is 7 and Liam who is 4.  They just added a new little baby girl, Nora Cate, into the mix last week and she is absolutely beautiful.  There are a few situations in your life when you get to witness such an unconditional love that it just touches your heart.  That is what I got to see when Cathy was holding Nora Cate and looking into her eyes and at her beautiful little face.  It was such a privilege to witness.  Liam likes to sit and listen to Bluegrass music with dad.  He likes different kinds of music but says that Bluegrass, “makes my foot jump”.  Greensky Bluegrass is one of his favorite groups and he can sing the whole album.  We also got to visit with Cathy’s mom, who was there helping for a few days, and my brother-in-law Mike.

We spent the next day taking care of errands, shopping and some maintenance items.  That evening we had dinner with my cousin Anne and her husband James at the Bright Star Restaurant in Bessemer Alabama. The restaurant has the typical dining room with tables and booths, but we were seated in a private dining room that was where Bear Bryant always sat when he ate there.  His picture was hanging on the wall. 

Opening in 1907, it moved to current location in 1915, and built its reputation serving Greek-style snapper and steaks, seafood gumbo and pies. http://www.thebrightstar.com/about/ Since Lynette and I were first time guests, we all received a sample of their gumbo.  It was absolutely out of this world.  They bring in whole fish from the Gulf of Mexico daily and they prepare the fish themselves.  I had the broiled snapper and Lynette ate most of the seafood platter. Since we are still on our diet, and losing a few more pounds, we skipped the wonderful looking bread and I only took a couple of really small bites of my baked sweet potato with cinnamon and sugar.   We can’t wait to go again and try their steaks.

It was so much fun catching up with Anne and James and remembering old times.  Anne reminded me of things I had not thought about in years.  Family is so wonderful that I think we all need to take more time to just visit.

The next morning, I met my friend Alan for breakfast at where else, the Waffle House.  His wife Cindy was going to join us but had a dentist appointment.  Lynette was going to join us as well, but said I needed some “guy time”.  She was right as usual.  We had such a great time catching up on what was going on with our families, our plans for the future, and lastly, what was happening at AT&T.  I am even more convince than ever, I left at a good time. 

After breakfast, Lynette and I started our trip to the Tiffin Service Center in Red Bay, Alabama.  There are a few more warranty items that I need fixed, so we figure we will be there for about a week.  About an hour into our trip, Lynette spotted a Whitman’s Chocolate truck broken down on the side of the road.  She looked out the window and yelled, “Hey buddy, do you need any help?”  How generous for her to offer her help to the driver of a chocolate truck.

We arrived on Thursday afternoon and turned in our list of needed repairs to the front office.  Shortly after 7:00 on Friday morning, Norris, the man who checks everyone in, came to our RV, reviewed our list and told us the wait time was about 2 weeks.  Norris is a bit of a celebrity among those of us who take our RVs here for service because he has quite a sense of humor.  He told us the story of going into an RV once to go over the list with a man and the man’s wife came out in just her panties and a cropped top too short to cover all of her assets.  After about 15 minutes, she went back to the bedroom and put on a pair of sweatpants.  Apparently, she was quite attractive.  I joked that that must have made his day.  He just responded, “Oh My.”

Whenever you visit here for service, Norris always says it will be two weeks before they can start. I just laughed, and we were called that afternoon and told to be in Bay 34 Monday morning at 7:00.

On Saturday, we drove over to 40 miles over to Muscle Shoals to shop at Aldi’s and stopped by the Coon Dog Cemetery on the way back.  http://www.coondogcemetery.com/ It’s just down the road from the Rattlesnake Saloon.  We saw the final resting place of Ole Blue, Red, and about a hundred and seventy other hunting buddies.  https://youtu.be/Fs0VUxVnWLg  Watch the video, it’s worth it. (Sorry for the ad)

We are definitely going to have to find a warmer place to spend some time after we leave here.  We have definitely gotten used to the 70-80 degree weather of central Florida during the winter and although it was pleasant here for the first day or so, it’s now down in the 30’s at night here.

Sometimes I have to remind myself just how blessed Lynette and I are.  We are getting to see more of this country that most people will ever get to experience.  As an added bonus, we meet some of the nicest people and are now running into people we have met before.  I got a note the other day from a man I met who used to be the Chief of Police for the City of Tyler Texas.  We met at the Freightliner Training Center in Gaffney, South Carolina and e-mail each other from time to time. He was in Red Bay but unfortunately was leaving one day before we were set to arrive.  He and his wife are headed to Arizona for a rally and we may run into them somewhere out west.  However, we did run in to Connie and Brown who we met here last November.  They own a body shop in Denver, Colorado that their daughter is now running for them.  They said that business is great, because, with all the legal marijuana shops, folks are crashing their cars like crazy.  That is probably counted in the economic impact numbers the proponents of legal pot tout as to why it is good for the economy and how it creates jobs.  Crazy.

We are looking forward to another week of life on the road as we are RVingTheCountry.

 

 

Planning Out 2017

The past week has been pretty busy.  We have been having a problem with the battery on our towed vehicle, also known as a toad, being dead when we tow it behind the RV and arrive at our destination.  Through a friend of mine, I found out about a battery charging device that can connect to your battery that will constantly charge it from the RV as we travel.  It works through the electrical connection from the RV to the toad.  It is pretty simple to install if everything is already wired properly.  That’s where the fun came in. 

I took the electrical connector off the toad to see if anything was connected to center pin. Nothing was not, and that was great because that is where the battery charger wiring is supposed to be connected.  Unfortunately, there was not a lot of slack between the Honda and the connector, so when I pulled it off, a few of the wires came loose.  I looked on the internet to see how they were supposed to be wired, but you may have guessed, there are several configurations.  Fortunately, I had the cell phone number of the guy who originally installed it and he gave me the information I needed, so I am back in business.  I haven’t bought the charger yet, but plan to in the next few weeks. 

I had to see exactly what day last year we bought the RV because our one year warranty period is coming to a close soon.  Fortunately, Tiffin Motorhomes will allow me to send them a list of things that need to be repaired under warranty since I won’t physically be there until about a week after the expiration period.  I put together the list, tracked down the person I needed to send it to, and got a quick response they would put it in my file and repair these items for free.  There is nothing major here, mainly just cosmetic items.

Much of the rest of the week was consumed by planning out our spring and summer travel plans.  Though we don’t usually do any real detail planning, such as actually booking places to stay, I found we do need to plan the general places when they are weather friendly.  Obviously going to the northeast in the winter is not my idea of fun, but last year we wound up in Las Vegas at the end of June and it was already 115 degrees during the day and down to a balmy 98 degrees in the evening. 

Our general plan for this year is to visit the BIG 5 National Parks in Utah and the Pacific Northwest.  The Utah parks are Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park and we plan to spend about a week at each of them.  That gives a few days to explore each one, see the surrounding area, and just relax.  It’s easy to get burnt out if you don’t take some down time.  
https://www.google.com/destination/map/topsights?q=visit+utah&espv=2&biw=1440&bih=674&site=search&output=search&dest_mid=/m/07srw&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjM0qGzxZfSAhXD6IMKHULwCHUQ69EBCDcoAzAA#trifp=skpm%3D/m/0lgt

In addition to the places to see and the times of year to visit, I also have to determine the driving time and route.  Google Maps is a good tool for that and Google Earth lets me see what the area actually looks like.  I also check for things to see and do on each leg between camping sites.  I hesitate to use the word “Camping”, because this isn’t really camping.  Tiffin has as a motto, “Roughing It Smoothly’.  Air Conditioning, a Sleep Number Bed, a full-size refrigerator, and four HDTV’s aren’t really, “Roughing It”.

Here is our plan for the spring and summer:

Clermont FL to Marianna, FL 4 hours 30 min 2/19-2/20
Marianna FL to McCalla AL 4 hours 15 min 2/20-2/23
McCalla AL to Red Bay AL 2 hours 15 min 2/23-3/01
Red Bay to Summerdale AL 5 hours 45 min 3/01-3/08
Summerdale AL to New Orleans 2 hours 45 min 3/08-3/11
New Orleans to Shreveport 5 hours 15 min 3/11-3/15
Shreveport to Dallas 2 hours 45 min 3/15-3/22
Dallas to Amarillo 5 hours 45 min 3/22-3/29
Amarillo to Albuquerque 4 hours 15 min 3/29-4/05
Albuquerque to Cortez, CO 4 hours 15 min 4/05-4/12
Cortez, CO to Arches National Park 2 hours 15 min 4/12-4/15
     
Arches National Park to Canyonlands National Park 30 min 4/15-4/30
Canyonlands National Park to Capitol Reef National Park 2 hours 40 min 4/15-4/30
Capitol Reef National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park 2 hours 15 min 4/30-5/07
Bryce Canyon National Park to Zion National Park 1 hour  30 min 5/07-5/14
Zion National Park to Salt Lake City 4 hours 30 min 5/14-5/21
Salt Lake City to Boise, ID 4 hours 45 min 5/21-5/28
Boise, ID to Bend, OR 5 hours 15 min 5/28-6/04
Bend, OR to Newport, OR 3 hours 45 min 6/04-6/11

We are planning to spend the summer in the northwest and then take the fall to make the 3,000-mile drive back to Marietta for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and my kid’s birthdays.  If I can catch Wisconsin on the back, I will have been to 49 of the 50 states, only Alaska to go. 

Another project this week was installing a Magnashade Sun Screen on our huge windshield. http://www.magneshade.com/  It is designed to block out a lot of the sun, heat, and UV rays that come in through the windshield.  Even though we have a solar shade on the interior, there is a tremendous amount of heat that builds up between the windshield and the solar shade.  It can be as much as 10 degrees hotter at the front of the coach than the middle or rear, when the sun is shining directly at the windshield.  They are custom made for each coach and have to be ordered 3-4 weeks in advance.  Ours arrived this week, after the UPS driver delivered it to the wrong address and I went and retrieved it, So Lynette and I watched the video and then jumped in.  It only took about an hour to install and it looks great.  I also ordered them for the driver’s and passenger’s windows and the front door, but haven’t installed them yet. You may notice, it doesn’t extend all the way to the top of the windows.  That is because super powerful magnets have to be placed on the windshield inside the coach and the screen is held in place by additional magnets that are actually sown into the screen on the outside. The top part of the windshield in inaccessible on the interior due to cabinets that are build in there.  

My next project was to research a product that makes deionized water.  What is that you say and why would I want it?  It is water that has had all the mineral content removed and it eliminates water spots when you use it to rinse your RV, car, motorcycle, house windows, etc. after washing them.  Washing an RV is pretty simple, it’s the drying part that is time consuming and really makes the difference in how it looks.  I learned from the RV dealer that the trick to making your coach look great is to use deionized water to rinse it.  These have been around for years, mainly for industrial use, but there is a company that makes them for residential users.  I think this will be next on my wish list.  https://crspotless.com/
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/simplechuck/simple-chuck-produces-the-purest-h2o-on-the-planet?ref=email

Lynette and I decided that if we want to see more of the places we visit, we both need to drop a few pounds, ok, maybe more than a few.  We started a couple of weeks ago and I am down about 11 pounds and Lynette is down about 7 pounds.  Yes, I did ask permission before I posted this. We are eating much healthier and feeling better.  I am doing pretty well with this plan and there are only a few things that I really miss, like honey buns, cookies, cake, croissants, fruit, diet sodas, milk, pies, and a couple of other things, but all in all, it’s going pretty well. 

On Sunday, we will be leaving our pretty park and headed to Alabama for a week or so and then start our trip westward. While there, we will get to visit with my nephew Andy and his family, my cousin Anne, and her family, and my good friends Alan and  Cindy.  If we weren’t traveling, we probably would not get to see any of them.

Clerbrook RV and Golf Resort.  The view from our rig overlooking the Spanish Moss and the 10th hole of the golf course. Did you catch the squirrel running across the street. There are hundreds of them here.

Life is fun and we are having a wonderful time RVingTheCountry.

 

 

Tackling The Beast

Well, we have finished up another week, living our dream of a nomadic lifestyle. We have been here in Clermont, Florida at the Clerbrook Golf and RV Resort for a week now.  It is a beautiful place and we got to visit with some friends we made here last year, Bill and Ellie, from Pennsylvania.  We have a standing invitation to park on their property any time we are around Bethlehem, PA. 

It has been a year this week since we bought our new RV, so that means it is time for the annual maintenance.  I have a spreadsheet with all the things I need to do before each trip, monthly, quarterly, twice a year, and then once a year.  Obviously, this was the one that takes a long time. 

Here is my list.

 

Every Trip Monthly Maintenance Quarterly Maintenance
Check Oil Level Clean microwave oven filters with Green Works cleaner, then wash & dry Lubricate slide out rails
Check Transmission Fluid Clean sink with Bar Keepers Friend Treat slide out seals (Thetford Slide Out Rubber Seal Conditioner)
Check Coolant Level Exercise the Generator and load to 1/2 capacity Spray lube on jacks and wipe off
Check air pressure Check Generator Water and Oil Lube the hinges in the folding stairs
Put 12 oz of Pine Sol in all drains and toilet and add 10 Gal water to each tank Clean window weep holes with a cable tie or popsicle stick Lubricate the exterior door hinges and latches with silicone lubricant
  Check House Battery Levels Check battery terminals for corrosion
  Clean AC filters Test smoke alarm and CO2/ LP gas detectors
  Clean Fantastic Fan Filters Check shower for leaks and reseal
    Wash AC Return Air Filters 
    Check windows for smooth operation. Clean and lube as necessary
     

 

Semi Annual Maintenance Annual Maintenance  
Vacuum under the refrigerator and blow off  Wash & Clean the roof & appliance covers  
Empty water from air tanks behind the front wheels (see mtce DVD) Check roof seams and caulk as necessary  
Replace house water filter Check all caulking and replace as necessary  
Replace refrigerator water filter Change smoke alarm batteries  
Replace hose water filter Change CO2 detectors battery  
Check the Supplement Coolant Additive (SCA) with test strips (see mtce DVD) Check hydraulic fluid levels for the slides and jacks. Must be retracted. (see mtce DVD)  
Check battery terminals for corrosion Have AC and Heaters checked by a technician  
Check washer dryer hoses for deterioration Sanitize the fresh water system  
Check fire extinguisher Check and replace electric water heater anode rod as needed  

Lynette takes care of most of the inside things and I get to do the outside things, though she does help me. 

Much like the pipeline workers who were building a 115-mile section of 16” to 30” pipeline while we were staying in Cartersville, GA over Christmas, these folks are staying in Travel Trailers and 5th Wheels in various campgrounds around here.  The section in Florida is a 126-mile long part of a 685-mile pipeline running from Alabama.  Both of these pipelines will be used to fuel power plants with natural gas instead of coal.  Most of the workers here are from Texas and a few from Louisiana.  Many of them have young children and their families with them.  I am amazed at how many nomadic workers there are working around the country.  I suppose in some industries, you just follow the jobs.

Since retirement, I have become much more aware of how we spend money.  We don’t really do without anything we really want, except for maybe that new silver Corvette, but we do think about, “Do I really need this right now?”  Where will we store it?  Do I already have something that I could use instead?  Living in an RV, we try to buy things that can serve at least a couple of different purposes.  We were needing a little more storage space, so we bought an ottoman.  It is hinged along one edge and lined on the inside.  We use it to store the documents we need to keep such as owner’s manuals for all the onboard systems, as well as insurance documents, tax returns, etc. and it serves as a footstool.  Not too shabby.

One of the best parts of this lifestyle in not only visiting new places and staying in warm climates when it is cold, it’s meeting people who do things a little differently than I do them.  I met a couple this afternoon from Carolina Beach who are staying down here for a week.  They were using a cleaning product on the outside of their coach that I have looked at and researched, but never could quite pull the trigger on buying it.  It is a dry wash and wax product that originated in the aircraft industry. 

You just spray it on a cloth and clean a section, then wipe off that section with a clean cloth.  There is an extension pole that holds two pads in a triangle type design, where you wet one side to apply the cleaner/wax and then flip it over to wipe it off.  Their rig looked great after they finished.  It’s a bit pricey and since I just washed and waxed this beast, I think I will hold off for now.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B006AFAWYI/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=2OLC1IIGTLK55&coliid=I29REWU87I0FGD

I will have to plan our route up to Red Bay, Alabama this week to get a few warranty items finished up and then we will be on our way out to Arizona.  We are planning to stop by and see my nephew Andy and his beautiful family who will have a new addition to their family by then, a little girl.  It is great having the flexibility and opportunity to visit family. Life on the road is great, as we are RVingTheCountry.

Finished Out January In Florida

We had been at Wekiva Falls RV Park in Sorrento, Florida for a month today, so it was time to move about an hour down the road to our next stop, the Clerbrook Golf and &RV Resort in Clermont.  We were able to get back into the travel routine and living on the road in the RV at Wekiva Falls and it felt great.  We met more great people there.  Dave and Diane were from Winnebago County, Iowa, and she worked in quality control for Winnebago Industries.  Dave worked for the county and this time of year would have been running a snow plow.  He just recently retired and said he did not miss the snow a bit.

Brent and his wife, sorry, I can’t remember her name, are from Illinois and stay here from November through March.  He has a big Class A motorhome, and pulls a large trailer filled with his Harley and all of his “Man Cave” goodies.  There are a couple of small refrigerators, lots of tools, a washer and dryer, and of course, a TV. 

Dale was from Lakemont, GA, up near Dillard, and was down here for a couple of months visiting with his son and his son’s family.  He is retired and single.  Dale said he tried Match.com but found that virtually all the women he met, at his age, were either too set in their ways, or had too many issues.  The ones set in their ways typically had lots of money from either an inheritance or a divorce and really didn’t want someone in their lives, even though they said they did. I joked that I married the first time for love and the next time it will be for money.  He laughed and said there are lots of rich older women out there, but it wasn’t worth the effort or aggravation.  I am so glad I don’t have to go through that. 

Terry and Sarah are from McDonough, GA and have a beautiful new 45 foot Entegra coach.  They travel the country like we do.  Terry is a retired truck driver and a super nice guy.  At first, he is a bit imposing, about 6’3” with a long goatee and mustache, and a super deep bass voice.  I ordered a new sunshade for the windshield and he offered to help me install it, but it won’t arrive before he leaves. 

A couple of weeks ago, Lynette and I drove over to Osprey, near Sarasota, to visit with my brother for a few days.  We hadn’t seen each other for a few months since my step-mother and his mom died.  We had a great time, just reminiscing about old times and some of the really dumb things we did as kids.  Suffice it to say that if our parents had known of some of our shenanigans, we might not be here to tell about them today.  He used to jump our dads Silverado pick up over a dirt ramp and let it go airborne.  Of course, I was the perfect child and never did anything wrong, if you don’t count that run in with the police. 

Scott has a beautiful Corvette that will pin your belly button to the back of the seat.  I’ve been trying to figure out a way to tow one behind our RV, but that just won’t quite work.  He offered to let me drive it, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to fight the urge to have one, so I just rode in the passenger seat.  Besides, he can drive it a bit more aggressively than me since he is the owner. 

A week or so after our visit, he came over to our place for the day and took the grand tour of our rig.  It only takes about three minutes to see all 440 square feet since you can see the living room, dining room and kitchen just standing at the front door.  The bedroom, bathroom, and closet complete the tour.  Dinner at Fred’s Fresh Market Restaurant capped off the end to a perfect day. Fred’s is local family owned restaurant that started out about 40 years ago as a gas station.  Fred would work on cars and his wife would cook their meals there.  Soon, people would just seem to “show up” around meal time.  The food was so good, it became more popular and profitable than fixing cars and pumping gas.  It has gone through several iterations, but now is in a new building and the food is still wonderful.  After eating there with Scott, we took our good friends Randy and Karen there before we left.  It was just as good the second time.

I got really industrious and decided to wash and wax the RV.  It took several days because it is so large and one side faces south and gets constant sunlight all day long.  I kept thinking of Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid, “Wax on, wax off”.  I had to wait for an overcast day to wash and wax the sunny side of it, but got it done in one day. 

We have a cell phone booster for our phones that will boost the signal significantly, usually improving the strength from a single bar up to three or four bars.  The output power is about 3 watts as opposed to the 0.3 watts that most cell phones use. I had to register it with the FCC since it is essentially an additional antenna on AT&T’s cellular network, but that wasn’t a big deal.  I did a temporary installation when we first bought it about a year ago, running the outside antenna wiring through a rubber gasket on one of the slide outs.  I finally got around to doing the permanent installation, installing it on the roof and fishing the antenna wiring through the roof of the RV down to a cabinet at the front of the rig and permanently mounting the booster itself.  It is great to have that feeling of accomplishment, when you do something you have never done before and it turns our right. 

No matter how long we have been RVing, we always discover something new.  I read a blog and subscribe to a newsletter from Technomadia.com.  They are definitely the mobile internet experts and do a lot of testing on new equipment.  I found out from them that AT&T offers a wireless home phone service that includes 25 or 50 GB of cellular data for $60 or $100.  I had to buy the AT&T router which was $199, but the cellular service is a lot less than I would pay on a mobile phone plan.  I can take it with me anywhere and it’s a good complement to our cellular phone data plan.  The good news is that any overages add a gig of data for only $10 vs the $15 on a regular cellular plan, or, I can have them just throttle the speed and there are no overage charges. 

After we drove over to our new RV Park, we went to unhitch the car before we actually went to our camp site.  Bad news, we had a dead battery on the Honda.  I have a little battery booster, but I think it wasn’t fully charged or the battery was really dead or both.  I got someone to jump me off, found the campsite, got set up, and then headed out for a new battery.  We had been having a problem with it going dead for a while, and I had just been putting off the inevitable.  I like to use AutoZone to buy car batteries because they will test your old one and install a new one if you need it, all at no charge.  Also, they are nationwide and have access to my records no matter where I am.  I have had to use their warranty a couple of times for batteries that did not last as long as they should have, and they treated me fairly. 

While I was there, three other people came in with battery problems.  I got to talking with one lady and it turns out she and her friend would like to start RVing when they retire in a couple of years.  I shared some of the information I have learned over the years regarding finding places to camp that are reasonable priced, and some equipment that is useful if you are going to be on the road for an extended period of time.  They were very appreciative and said they felt like their battery went belly up, just so they could meet me.  It seems I encouraged them to follow that dream of travel.

We will be at this park for a couple of weeks since it only costs us $3.00 a night for power, water and sewer.  We are parked in a grove of old live oaks with Spanish moss hanging from them near a golf course. 

Pretty darn good for the price.  We are going back up to Red Bay, AL to the Tiffin factory to get a couple of warranty items fixed since our one year warranty is up at the end of this month.  Then I think we may visit New Orleans again for a few days and then head west.  We haven’t decided if we want to spend the rest of the winter in south Texas, or head on over to Arizona.  Maybe we will decide in the next week or so. 

Well, that was our first month of 2017 and we are excited about the next eleven of them as we are RVingTheCountry.