Retirement Trip Journal
I will do my best to update this every day…and when the trip is done I’ll download it all to word and remove it from this website…since I intend to start blogging again after the first of the year. Going in chronological order, bottom to top (so newest entries at the top).
Dec. 9, 2023: Key West, FL to Fort Pierce, FL
Today was a short travel day, so not much to write about. And NO PICTURES… :-O
Left Key West about 8:30. We were supposed to stop and have breakfast with Bob on the way out, but earlier when we checked how long we needed to drive we thought 3 1/2 hours, and turns out it was actually 5 1/2 hours. Not sure how THAT happened. We also wanted to get going between 7:30-8:00, but left at 8:30 – so the combination of leaving an hour late and having a 2 hour longer drive meant we needed to skip breakfast. A bummer, but you do (or don’t do) what you have to.
The drive was relatively uneventful. Stopped once for fuel where we also switched drivers. We also stopped briefly once at a service plaza because we heard some rattling under the coach. Turns out it is the exhaust for the generator that hits the bottom of the coach when there is a bump. Nothing dramatic, and I’ll have to attach some sort of cushion eventually. I’m grateful Karen can also drive The Beast. This trip would have been miserable if I was the only driver. Pulled into our Harvest Host site between 2:30 and 3:00 – and good thing because they close the gates at 4:00 and we would have been stuck.
One hitch was that the musician playing an event here parked in a way that took up half the driveway. We had wanted to leave the truck attached to the RV for leaving in the morning, but had to disconnect to get around the parked car. A little inconvenient, but not a tragedy. Got in and set up with water and electric and then headed up to the office for a wine tasting. There were a couple decent wines, so we bought some as gifts along with a fridge magnet and a couple other items from their gift shop. Also grabbed dinner from a food truck that was breaking down for the night…BBQ…it was meh.
We are staying he night at a Harvest Host to break up the 10 hour trip from Key West to Jacksonville. If you have an RV I recommend a Harvest Host membership. This place is Summer Crush Vineyard & Winery and it is a very well done venue. They have a lot of spaces for RV’s, and several sites have electricity & Water plus they offer a dumping station as well. Nice place and they have music events on the weekends. Worth a stop if you are near Fort Pierce, FL.
Another travel day tomorrow to get to our destination in Jacksonville, where we will visit my son and his wife as well as one of Karen’s old friends. Should be good, and ony a 4-ish hour drive tomorrow so we don’t need to pack up and get out too early.
Dec. 8, 2023: Key West, FL
Up early, showered and out the door by 8AM. Booked a 1/2 day fishing trip (9AM-2PM)!
When we booked this trip (on Tuesday Dec. 6) there were only three other people booked, but when we arrived the crew had swelled to 20! A little disappointing…but OK.
It was supposed to be a warm day today – about 80 degrees – with winds from the SE 15-20MPH. We departed the slip at 9AM and it was a bit cool, and not TOO windy, but as soon as we got past the break wall the wind picked up. Seas were moderate, with 2-3 foot swells, so a little rough. We rode out for about 40 minutes before setting anchor and dropping a line. The boat was definitely moving a lot in the swells.
Almost immediately, Karen caught a small shark (Bonnethead) which was none too pleased with being on the hook. It was pretty spirited and quickly wrapped up our lines. The crew got it off hook and sorted out the tangled lines quickly. Sadly, it was not a keeper, so back in it went. Not much later I caught (what I believe was) a Red Hind Grouper. That one went into the cooler!
The fish were not biting great, so we ended up moving 4-5 times. Another woman caught a reef shark, and a bunch of us caught some small Pin Fish (Bait fish, so they all went back). I feel certain other people caught some keeper fish, but there were so many people onboard it was impossible to know for sure. While it was fun (for me) to be out on the water it was kind of a bust for a fishing day. Oh well, it happens; they call it fishing not catching for a reason.
Karen didn’t has as good of a time, because she is prone to motion sickness and it was pretty rough. She wound up not feeling well and was pretty happy to be back on dry land afterward.
We decided our one measly fish wasn’t enough for dinner, so just donated it to someone who might want it.
Leaving the marina, we headed off in search of some really good Key Lime pie. We went to the Key Lime Pie Factory (reportedly the best there is) and picked up a whole pie. Since we still had some things to do downtown, and we would be eating it over several days, Karen asked the lady how long it would be good for. She said: “About an hour”. HUH??? Turns out it was frozen, and she meant it would defrost in about an hour. Yeesh. Googled it…good in the freezer for a long time, and in the fridge for about a week. Should be sufficient!
Stopped off for some delicious Gelato and then headed to “The best Key West Gift Shop”, which turned out to be a VERY small store attached to the Southernmost Hotel. We were able to find a refrigerator magnet (we have been collecting them on this trip) and some sea salt skin scrub that Karen wanted…plus we got me some Cuban coffee.
Since we were already in Southernmost, we walked a block to the Southern tip of the US and got the obligatory picture there. Believe it or not we had to wait in line for 15 minutes! I can’t imagine living in the house the line forms in front of and constantly having tourists line up in front of it.
Headed back home and got back right at 4PM. Hung out while Karen laid down for a bit. Honestly, we were both pretty wrung out from trying to stay upright for 5 hours on the boat, so not much energy. For dinner we walked two sites away to DeLuna’s Cafe, which is a food truck permanently parked here at the campground. They recently extended their hours to 7PM, so don’t believe the website that they close at 2PM. We had a couple Lobster Rolls (YUMMY) and shared 6 of their special (good but nothing to write home about in spite of the fact that I am writing about them now) wings.
We were either too tired or too full to remember we had Key Lime Pie to eat…so we just hung out and tried to recover from our fishing trip before heading off to bed. Tomorrow is a travel day as we start heading to Jacksonville, with a stop for one night near West Palm Beach. Only about 5 1/2 hours tomorrow, so not so bad. We won’t have to get up and get out of here at the crack of the end of quiet hours at least.
Dec. 7, 2023: Key West, FL
Started the morning straightening out the drain hose for the sewage – Ewwww) and draining 2/3 of the fresh water tank that we accidentally filled to overflowing upon arrival. Thankfully we are on gravel, so the excess water just got absorbed into the ground and didn’t leave a huge, noticeable, puddle under the rig. It’s going to be fun to drain the holding tanks when we leave, because the RV outlet and the sewage connection are at roughly the same elevation, so the hose acts like a trap and stays filled with water. Manageable, but will have to be careful not to dump sewage on the ground when disconnecting. Each place is different, and that makes each setup unique.
Managed to fly the drone for a bit.I was worried I wouldn’t be able to since we are in the flight path of the Key Was Naval Air Station, but I just needed to file a flight notification and stay under 200 feet. Easy-Peasy. I’ve managed to get drone footage of every place we have stayed except one (that expressly forbid drone flying). Looking forward to getting home and editing them all together with maybe a music bed, or perhaps also some narration.
Anyway, afterward I got set up for an audition I received for a series that will film in Philadelphia in early 2024. I played a grizzly old FBI Agent. Fun stuff, and always interesting to do an audition in the RV without my full setup. We use the bird’s night time sheet as a backdrop, his cage as a tripod and record on my phone. Of course I don’t have the proper wardrobe for an FBI agent with us (I mean, who carried a dress shirt and suit jacket in an RV?). It’s impossible to correctly light the scene, and no possibility of isolating sound, so it is a challenge, and the quality always suffers. Last time I had to audition from the road, I actually booked the job though! No telling with this one, of course, but my attitude is “I’m not getting the f*&^ing job” anyway so no stress one way or the other.
Got it all edited and uploaded, then immediately left for the drive to Marathon to meet my friend Bob for lunch. Had a nice visit, delicious lunch (I had fish tacos – yum) and then stopped off to see the remodel job Bob has done to his place so he can make it a vacation rental. Man, he really did a superb job fixing the place up…I’m impressed! It was a great (albeit short) visit…wish we had a chance to get together more often.
We intended to stop at the aquarium in Marathon, but as we were leaving we decided to just head back here instead (Its about an hour drive). Along the way we got a picture of Fred the Tree (Thanks to Glenn for mentioning it). Fred is a tree that is growing in the middle of the old 7 mile bridge. It’s an Australian pine (not native to the Keys) and no one really knows how it got there, but it is believed that a seed was in bird droppings. Fred is believed to be about 35 years old. The amazing thing about Fred is he is growing out of a bridge…and there is no soil! Fred has survived in what for Fred is some pretty harsh conditions, including making it through some pretty bad storms, including hurricanes. Fred is a bit of a fixture here, and if you look closely at the picture, you’ll see he has been decorated for Christmas.
Decorating him is a feet all by itself, as the section of bridge where he lives is accessible only by boat (and a pretty steep climb) or helicopter. Anyway, that’s Fred the tree. You go Fred!
Stopped off at CVS for a prescription and some creamer for coffee, then relaxed at home for a couple hours until dinner time. We went to Hogfish Bar & Grill, as suggested by Bob. Great food, great atmosphere and even live music. Had a chance to chat with a couple local guys during/after eating and had a really enjoyable evening. And, the place is only .3 miles from home!
Made it to ALMOST 10PM before starting to nod off on the couch. Relatively early day tomorrow as we are headed out for a half day fishing charter!
Dec. 6, 2023: Orlando, FL to Key West, FL
Today was a pretty uneventful day. Departed Orlando at 7:45AM headed south on the Florida Turnpike for Key West. Total elapsed time was just at 8 hours and we stopped once for fuel and twice to switch drivers. The only real issue today was the wind, which likes to cause the RV to make lane changes randomly. Well, not really, but it does push you around the road. I expected the wind to be the worst over the bridges in the keys, but it was actually not bad.
Got to Boyd’s Key West Campground and got checked in and settled. Leveled right away, but when I tried to get hooked up to their WiFi i kept getting an error that the IP Address had some conflict, so never was able to get that set up. Screwed around with that for an hour or so, then gave up. We used all of our high speed data for our Verizon plan (Spent an hour in the chat with them too – turns out you can’t just buy more data either) and it won’t reset till the 16th, so we have to get creative to have any decent internet speed…and I also received an audition on the way down, so i need to be able to upload it tomorrow.
Spoke with my buddy Bob and set up a time to meet for lunch tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing him, it’s been a few years. Otherwise nothing on the agenda for tomorrow, so other than the audition and lunch with Bob it’ll be a relaxed day. Friday we have a fishing trip planned, so that’ll be fun.
For dinner we reheated the chicken I cooked on the fire the other day and added a box of Kraft Mac-n-Cheese…low key, but delicious.
As we were headed to bed I went to turn off lights and noticed on the control panel that our fresh water tank was 100% full. That’s odd as we put about 1/3 of a tank in there so w had some water available while driving. So, of course I got re-dressed and went out to check and sure enough there was water coming out of the overflow! Looks like we had the water valve (where you decide if you are on city water, tank water or refilling the tank) was just slightly misaligned and was continually filling the tank. So I adjusted it, let a little water out of the tank and decided to mess with it tomorrow. I’ll just have to let 2/3 or so drain because I really don’t need an extra 800 pounds of weight in the coach to drag it around. Seems there is ALWAYS something!
I may try to fly the drone tomorrow too!
Dec. 5, 2023: Orlando, FL
Big day today: Disney World! Woke up Karen AND Cobie this morning; 6:30 for Karen, 7:00 for Cobie. Out the door by 7:30 and arrived at Disney Hollywood Studios by 7:45 to stand in line for the 8:30 opening. Karen got an electric cart to save her feet from hurting like they did at Universal Studios.
Thankfully, since we were early (smart move) we were near the front of the absolute CRUSH of people waiting to get in at 8:30. I purchased the Genie+ feature in the Disney app that allowed us to schedule ride entry at their Lightning Lanes ahead of time. The way it works is you schedule your lightning lane and it gives you a one hour window to ride the ride without waiting in the soul crushing lines (sometimes as much as 3 hours long). Genie+ was $50 for 2 people today (WELL worth it, if you are coming here, spend the extra for this feature), but the cost is based on the number of people coming to the park each day. Oh, yeah…for 2023 you have to have a park reservation as well as a ticket to enter. That goes away in 2024. Anyway, first ride we scheduled was Tower of Terror since Karen had never been to that ride.
I won’t go over all the rides, you can google that, but thanks to Genie+ we were able to ride every ride in Hollywood Studios EXCEPT Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (sine it was closed most of the day – certainly till after 2PM when we changed parks). A shame, it was the one ride I was really looking forward to, since it is a 20 minute long ride about Star Wars. Oh well, if that’s the worst thing to happen to me I’m a lucky guy.
Anyway, The two rides you could not schedule with Genie+ were Rise of the Resistance and Tron: Lightcycle. To use Lightning Lane on those, you need to pay for an “Individual Lightning Lane”. For Tron, that meant an additional $40 ($20 each) but no idea how much Rise of the Resistance would have been if it was open.
The whole Genie+ was a little confusing to figure out at first. You can only buy it the day of your visit, and then you can schedule your first ride either at 7:00AM (if you are staying at a Disney Resort – we were not), or at park opening, in our case 8:30AM. Then you can only schedule the NEXT one 2 hours later, or after you use the last one you scheduled whichever is first. Again, it is a bit confusing, so read all the rules way before you go so you understand it. A visit to the park these days is as much about managing the app and Genie+ as it is the experience If you just wander around from ride to ride (like we used to do when I was younger) you’ll only get to ride one or two rides.
We were able to buy lunch in the app, then head over to pick it up which keeps you from wasting a bunch of time standing in line waiting for food. This was a great feature of the app both at Universal AND Disney. I was really wanting to get a bowl of French Onion Soup from the Brown Derby but there were both no reservations available AND they no longer serve French Onion Soup. A little disappointing, but we managed. Hamburger and fries for lunch again – But they were good.
While we re nearing the end of our time at Hollywood studios we started booking our rides at Magic Kingdom, and managed to also get a lightning Lane entry time for Tron. By the time we GOT to Magic Kingdom we had three rides booked back-to-back so we maximized our time there, especially important because that park was closing at 6PM for a special event (and you can’t park-hop till 2PM).
Getting into Hollywood was straight forward. We parked in Handicap, about 100 yards from the entrance to the park. At Magic Kingdom, we had to park (near handicap, none were available at 2:30PM) then walk to the security, and then you either have to take a bus, ferry, or monorail to the actual entrance to the park. A bit of a pain, even more so at the end of the day hen you are exhausted and have to repeat the process in reverse to get back to the car.
By the way – do NOT miss Tron if you can help it. The cars are like crotch rocket motorcycles where you are leaning forward on a padded area, with a device that comes down on your back and behind your knees that lock you in. It is FAST and really thrilling. It was the one ride I would have liked to repeat today (but no WAY to do it…three hour long standby line and you can only buy a lightning lane ONE for it). It was the highlight ride of the day.
Once back at the car we debated going over to Animal Kingdom for the one big roller coaster there, but the next available Lightning Lane entry wasn’t for two hours and we were beat, so we threw it in a decided to call it a day. Stopped to return Karen’s shoes and pick up dinner on the way home, and got back between 7:30-8:00 PM so a long day. Shared dinner with Cobie (he had been cooped up in his cage all day – even though we realized we had left one of his food doors open and he COULD have gotten out and destroyed things!). And headed to bed b 9:00PM.
Tomorrow is a travel day (heading to Key West), and a LONG one at that. Should be 7-8 hours of driving. Thankfully we filled up before getting here, so we should only have to stop for fuel once where we can switch drivers.
Had a great time here in Orlando, but also looking forward to the next leg. Hard to believe we are now on the back end of the trip and home in under 2 weeks! OH…and I also got an audition I have to get done before Friday, so we now have something to do on Thursday in Key West!
Dec. 4, 2023: Orlando, FL
After a fun filled day yesterday, we took a break today and stayed home to take care of some stuff in the RV. Karen did all the laundry and I flew the drone, straightened out the back of the truck, and cooked the chicken thighs we have been meaning to eat for a few days over a fire. When I went to get out the splitter to prepare the wood for the fire, I noticed that the RV’s tool compartment had about 1/2 inch of water in it, presumably from driving through the torrential downpour on Saturday…so I pulled everything out, dried it off and re-stowed it all. Another thing to have looked at when we take the rig to Thor in the spring.
Since we had time Karen also made a nice hot breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. I got to use some of my new Yummi (nutella like spread) too…YUMMY! 🙂
Once everything was done, we relaxed a bit, then took off for the shoe store to return Karen’s new shoes. Once there, the salesman convinced her the problem was her socks were too thick, causing the blister…not sure how true that is, but we’ll figure it out tomorrow when we go to Disney.
We also spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to manage/plan our day for tomorrow. We don’t like waiting in lines, and we can afford it, so we always buy whatever a park offers for skipping the line, but Disney (of course) does things very differently. If you are going to go to Disney, it will do you well to study those things ahead of time to reduce stress and frustration as you plan your day. IF you are the type to actually plan your days at a theme park like we are. Our goal is to maximize thrill rides so we get to ride them all at least once. Anyway, it is both complex and expensive (and frustrating), so check it out ahead of time…not something I want to write out here, but if you are planning a trip let me know and I’ll help as much as I can.
Anyway, after NOT returning the shoes (I hope it works so we don’t have to stress about returning them AFTER Disney tomorrow!) we headed out to Lakeland, FL to meet an old friend/co-worker for dinner. Lakeland is the halfway point between Orlando and Tampa where they live. It was REALLY good to see them, and dinner was wonderful. We went to an Italian place called Scarpas, and if you know me you know I am a bit of an Italian food snob (having lived in Italy for 5 years) so when I say the food there was good it must be REALLY good. Anyway, it was our friends 39th anniversary and they chose to spend it with us! Our intention was to buy them dinner, but they beat us to it and bought US dinner to celebrate Karen’s retirement.
REALLY had a great time visiting, we will definitely make it back down to visit them again in the future (and this time buy THEM dinner!).
Back home and relaxed/let Cobie fly about a bit before retiring to bed early in preparation for having to get up early to start managing our Disney day. More pics tomorrow I am sure since we will be at another amusement park!
Dec. 3, 2023: Orlando, FL
I say Orlando, but we are really staying in Kissimmee. I’ll keep calling it Orlando though.
Today we visited Universal Studios Resort. What a hoot! Didn’t realize it (it has been over a decade since the last time I visited here) but the park is divided into two areas (well, three if you count the water park): Universal Studios and Island of Adventure. We started in Universal Studios.
If you’ve never been here before, everything is movie/TV themed (Universal studios after all!). In the Universal side, the rides are few and far between, and only one REAL roller coaster, There are a lot of 3D/4D rides though. We decided we were just going to get our money’s worth and ride everything. The 3D/4D rides are fun too…just not as thrilling.
We had lunch at Richter’s Burgers…which were good for an amusement park meal (expensive, as expected)…and you order from the Universal App and give your table number so they can bring it out to you. Very convenient.
We both bought new comfortable shoes for spending the day on our feet (we both got Oofos). Mine were great, little foot pain and very little back pain. Karen’s…not so much. Not only did her feet hurt, she wound up with a blister that caused us to have to stop at the first aid station for a bandaid. Hopefully she recovers before Tuesday when we go to Disney.
Anyway, after Universal, we jumped on the train at King’s Cross station (in the Harry Potter area) and rode it to the Island of Adventure part of the park where there are a number of coasters. Riding the train is the way to go (it is a long walk, after all) and it is an experience as well, not just a ride.
Speaking of Harry Potter; who knew there were so many people into Harry Potter!? Not just kids either…I saw adults with costumes, and wands too…including some older ladies dressed as school girls as if they were going to wizarding school…It was bizarre…AND the most crowded area of the park – BY FAR. SO much so, that each end of the train is in a Harry Potter “village”.
Anyway, we managed to ride every coaster but one in Island of Adventure before calling it a day about 6PM and heading out,
We bought an “Express Pass” to be able to skip the lines (sort of, we still had to wait in the Express line, which was sometimes kind of long) enabling us to be able to ride everything except the one ride that didn’t have an express line (Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure) and the wait was over an hour – No thank you.
Headed home, exhausted, and just had leftovers for dinner. Then quickly ran out to fill up with gas and pick up a few things we needed from Target (I went, Karen stayed with Cobie). Managed to stick it out till after 9PM before collapsing into bed (OK, I was falling asleep on the couch first). Slow day tomorrow…may hang out by the pool a bit, or explore the campground…maybe do a bit of laundry, then meeting with an old friend for dinner around 5.
Dec. 2, 2023: DeFuniak Springs, FL to Orlando, FL
Both of us were up early and got moving right away. Both managed to get a nice hot shower in the RV this morning, which lately is a bit unusual. So it started well.
Also, it was raining quite hard when we got up, but mostly stopped altogether as we were disconnecting and stowing things outside. I thought it was a good omen. Well, not so much, Before we got a chance to hook up the truck to start towing, the sky opened up and it began to POUR down rain. We decided to see if we couldn’t drive out of it for an hour or so before hooking up the truck, so I drove the RV and Karen drove the truck. About 3 1/2 hours later we were FINALLY out of the rain and able to start towing.
Before that though, there was a torrential downpour. Torrentially torrential even. I cannot remember the last time I drove for any length of time, let alone 3 1/2 hours in an RV, in rain like that. A virtual white out ahead, unable to see anything in my mirrors or reverse camera. It was a nightmare. At some points I needed to slow below 40 MPH in order to keep the rig on the road, and Karen (who was behind me communicating via walkie talkie) told me I was throwing up a HUGE rooster tail behind the rig. She had to back off 3-4 car lengths so that her wipers could keep up.
At one point (while I was traveling over 60MPH) everyone ahead of me SLAMMED on brakes. I, of course, had to as well. I was worried I was going to start sliding…and Karen DID begin to hydroplane behind me. There was a horrible accident on the side of the road that caused everyone to slow dramatically, and we were almost a second accident right there at the site of the first.
The drive was difficult, at times a little (OK, a lot) scary, and exhausting. Since Karen had also been driving in it, when we finally hooked up the truck and began towing I continued to drive, so wound up driving the entire 7 hours. WHEW. I was surely beat when we got here.
We are in Orlando for 4 nights instead of the usual 3, as we will be visiting Universal Studios tomorrow and Disney on Tuesday. Looking forward to a couple fun days at amusement parks! Because we were going to be on our feet all day, Karen needed some shoes that wouldn’t make her feet hurt…so after we got setup we headed out to buy her some shoes, grab a bite to eat and pick up more coffee (the elixir of life for me).
Had dinner at an “Original Nathan’s”…which of course isn’t really original since it is a bit far from Coney Island…but the food was simple, fast and delicious. I had a hamburger that had, as one of it’s toppings, a hot dog. THAT was a new one for me!
On the way back, we pulled into the parking lot for Aldi where I thought I could get coffee, and as a bonus for having to send so much time white knuckling the RV in the rain, there was a Juan Valdez coffee shop right next door and they ground me up some fresh Columbian coffee. Looking forward to that!
Our next stop after Orlando will be Key West, so we also took some time to book a fishing charter for while we are there…something ELSE to look forward to! I’m sure we’ll have more pics tomorrow since we’ll be at Universal.
Dec. 1, 2023: Gulf Shores, AL and a surprise trip to DeFuniak Springs, FL
Forecast predicted heavy rain all day, so we decided to stay home and take care of a few things instead of being tourists.
Started the morning by running to West Marine to buy a vacuum powered oil transfer pump to try and remove about a quart of transmission fluid from the RV. We previously made the mistake of overfilling it by about a quart/quart and a half. We had been trying to find a mobile RV repair place that could come out to do it, but just couldn’t get anyone. Good news is: I was able to find and buy a pump along with 10 feet of hose. Bad news is: it wasn’t strong enough to pull the fluid 8 or 9 feet up from the transmission. So – I tried calling some mobile RV places again and luckily one of them said they had both a pump AND a clear schedule (thanks to the rain forecast)!
Oh, and it only rained for about an hour, then got warm and sunny.
So, for just $100 (which is about what I paid for the pump and hose) RV 823 Mobile RV repair came out and took care of us! WHEW! If you need help in or near Gulf Shores, AL give them a call!
So, we had some time to do a few things around here. Karen did laundry and ran the dishwasher, I putzed around outside, discovered the coolant in the Aqua Hot was a bit low and filled it…just some general maintenance stuff.
Ordered lunch from Lartigue’s Original Fresh Seafood. This place is not exactly a restaurant, but a fresh seafood store that will also steam shrimp or crabs for you. They have a bunch of heat & eat foods as well. So we got a quart of chicken and andoulle gumbo (that was frozen and took a while to thaw and heat, but well worth it), some corn and potatoes (which they also cooked), coleslaw and a pound and a half of steamed shrimp. Everything was delicious and there was a LOT of it, so a very satisfying lunch.
After cleaning up from lunch, we were just sitting around waiting for it to be tomorrow so we could head to Orlando. It was about an 8 hour drive (which makes for a long day and a late setup – possibly after dark), so I said “Nothing keeping us from leaving this evening and driving part way tonight.” Karen agreed so I jumped on Harvest Hosts to see if there was anyplace along the route who could accommodate us last minute.
Thankfully we found a place about two hours down our route who had availability and accepted a same day reservation. It is a quasi-winery called Amour Coastal (I’ll explain in a moment) in DeFuniak Springs Florida. And, unlike most Harvest Host stops, they offered a spot with FULL HOOKUPS! I called before requesting the stay on the website and spoke to the owner John who said “Come on down, we have plenty of room. Would you like to do a wine tasting at 7:30?” So of course, we said YES!
We arrived about 6:15 PM (after dark, not optimal) and got partially set up. Didn’t put out the dinette slide since we want to get out as early as possible tomorrow. John and his wife Gwen returned home about 7:15 and we walked to the house for a wine tasting. We had a great time tasting their wines and chatting with them for a couple hours.
John is a vintner who is moving his winery from Oregon to Florida, hence “quasi-winery”. They do not yet have their winery set up here (only been here about a year and working to get it set up while still managing the Oregon place). Anyway, they have plenty of their wines available for tasting and purchase and provide a really nice charcuterie board to go along with the tasting. There was no charge for the tasting, but we did buy several items.
Not only do they have wine, but they grow several varieties of Lavender and make a bunch of products with that, including lavender infused honey…yum! They also make a sort of “nutella” called Yummi which is SO much better than nutella (which is pretty good anyway). Needless to say I bought several jars of that along with a couple bottles of wine, and some dessert wines for us and friends. I sent about $400…so it wasn’t REALLY a free wine tasting…LOL
So, a little spontaneous travel, with a surprising ending and a comfortable place to spend a night a LITTLE closer to Orlando. A couple takeaways from today: It’s OK to leave a place early, and if you have an RV you definitely should invest in a Harvest Hosts membership. Sometimes the things you DIDN’T plan turn out to be as much (if not more) fun than the ones you DID. Oh, and I’d rather drive this thing in the daylight.
Supposed to rain a bunch here tomorrow, so we’ll try to get up and out early…hopefully without getting TOO soaked disconnecting.
Nov. 30, 2023: Gulf Shores, AL
Ran the small space heater all night with decent results. It was about 65 degrees in here when we got up. Karen actually got up in the middle of the night to also turn on the electric fireplace. Apparently, the heat pumps can’t keep up when it gets too cold, and the system actually turns on the AquaHot for heat automatically when that happens. Sadly, since the AquaHot is being finicky, that didn’t help. Anyway, the combo of the space heater and fireplace takes the edge off, so we can manage. DID manage to get a nice hot shower in the RV instead of having to trudge to the bath house, so that’s a plus!
Headed out about 9:30AM. The plan was to drive to Mobile, AL to tour the USS Alabama (BB-60) museum, then visit the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo on the way back, with perhaps a stop at a Firehouse museum (Phoenix Firehouse Museum) and Perhaps the Alabama History Museum if there was time.
It was an hour drive back to Mobile, but man was it worth it! The ship is located in the USS ALABAMA Memorial park and includes not only the ship, but a WWII Submarine (there seems to be a theme on this trip) USS Drum, and several military aircraft and ground vehicles as well. We began in the hangar where we checked out several military aircraft from WWII through Vietnam and then out to board the Drum. Very well preserved vessel, but pretty much like the other two subs we visited on this trip.
Then we headed over to Alabama, thinking we’d spend an hour or so onboard. Let me tell you: if you decide to tour the Alabama, make sure to plan for at least a half day for it. First of all, the ship is HUGE (not surprising, it IS a battleship). Onboard, they have set up three self guided tour routes. One route takes you through the main deck and superstructure, one takes you through crew, office and weapons spaces and the third through engineering.
This ship has the most open spaces to tour of any museum ship I’ve ever visited. Including unprecedented access to a main engine room AND the lower levels of a 16″ gun turret. It took us more than three hours to tour the entire ship, and there were parts of the tour that were closed off for maintenance. It was AMAZING and I highly recommend visiting if you are in the area. VERY well preserved, clean and a lot of displays set up with mannequins to give you a sense of what it was like to be stationed aboard the ship. Karen was impressed…and for me, having served on several navy ships in my career, it really gave me a sense of what life was like aboard her. Well worth the 3+ hours it will take you to visit.
After leaving, we decided we didn’t have time (or energy – it is a huge ship with lots of walking and LOTS of ladders ) for the zoo, even though it is billed as a pretty small zoo. Instead we decided to stop at the Alabama History Museum. We started to tour that, but it was going to be another hour plus on our feet so changed our minds and went to the Phoenix Firehouse Museum instead.
The firehouse was pretty cool, free, and very small. We were there for about half an hour. The museum consists of two rooms: The main floor with several vintage firetrucks (man powered, horse powered and gasoline powered) as well as an upper room with the history of firefighters in Mobile. Glad we stopped – it was quick, free and very cool stuff.
Back home by about 4PM, we relaxed for a bit and then I fixed dinner. Pork chops in mushroom gravy, rice and peas. Delicious!
Since we managed to overfill our transmission earlier in the trip, I tried calling a mobile repair place to come out and pump out a quart of fluid, but no one is available for days (or in one case MONTHS)…so first thing tomorrow I need to head to West Marine for a manual oil pump to do it myself.
It was a pretty long, strenuous day, so we actually headed to bed around 8:45! LOL. It’s supposed to be warmer out tonight so not too worried about the temp in the RV. Not sure what we’ll do tomorrow, but whatever it is it will be inside since it is supposed to rain the entire day starting in late morning. Pumping transmission fluid in the rain ought to be fun!
Nov. 29, 2023: Waveland, MS to Gulf Shores, AL
Another interesting morning. Woke up to the front of the coach at 60 degrees with the heat pump running full time AND pumping out cold air. Something else that needs to be fixed. In order to warm up the front of the coach, I had to turn on the fireplace, which we had JUST commented that we had never used. Good news is, it has a remote…bad news is the battery in the remote was dead and we didn’t have the correct replacement battery. So there I was at 4:30AM crawling around in the dark trying to figure out how to turn on and adjust the fireplace.
I finally figured it out and got some heat back into the RV…but now we’ll have to go to Wal-Mart to get a battery for the remote along with a small electric space heater to make sure we don’t freeze the bird. Grrrrr….I’m really glad we are headed farther South, but worry a bit about our return trip later in December.
Decided not to chance the shower in The Beast so just headed to the shower house (which was not well heated either) and got a nice long hot shower.
About 8:15 the tire guy called. He had my tire and they were swapping it as we spoke! Woo-Hoo! Jumped int he truck and ran over there, they very quickly changed the spare for the new tire and replaced the spare in the truck for next time. Very Happy with Kirk’s wheels and Tire Pros in Waveland, and especially Jorge who took good care of us!
Got on the road about 10:30 but ran into the coupe from the fishing pier yesterday as we were turning the corner to exit our campsite area, so stopped right away to chat about the Red Fish he caught after we left. Finally disengaged and were on our way about 10:45 but then realized, as soon as we got out on the actual road, that we forgot to put the boards under the front of the birdcage to keep it from tipping (long story – not important)…anyway, had to pull over AGAIN to do that and to get Karen a lighter shirt to wear.
FINALLY actually got moving at around 11. Three hour drive to the next location. Stopped for gas pretty quick (because it was the cheapest place) and while I went in to use the bathroom Karen pumped gas and washed the windshield. Unfortunately, she set up the pump and then walked away to do the windows and when the pump clicked off she assumed it was full. As we were getting up to speed I glanced down and noticed we still only had a half tank. Because we are using truck fueling pumps, and they are set to pump fuel at a higher rate to compensate for how large tractor-trailer fuel tanks are, our little hundred gallon tank with a long fuel nozzle easily trips the pump handle so you kind of have to hold it in just the right position. Anyway – we drove for about another hour, then stopped again and filled her up! No harm, just a little more expensive.
Pulled into the Gulf State Park campground about 2:15, so we still made really good time. Karen was looking at the park map for our site location; she wasn’t too pleased with how small and crowded it looked, so they let us disconnect the truck and drive around to see if there was a location we liked better. WOW – this place is HUGE! Drove around for what felt like 1/2 and hour (probably really 10 minutes) and decided the original spot was just fine. WHEW.
Got set up, by now it is between 3:30 and 4:00PM and we hadn’t eaten all day so decided to head out and eat on our way to Wal-Mart. Karen found a seafood place called Pier House Seafood restaurant…Karen had (ironically) their Red Fish special and I had a chicken & Shrimp Po’ boy. Of course we had to have bread pudding for dessert. Apparently I am making up for lost time with the bread pudding. Everything was delicious, and the chef came out to the table to chat…and chat…and chat….and chat. He was a really nice guy, but we wanted to get going so thankfully Lolly called me and we were able to extract ourselves from the conversation.
Made it to Wal-Mart and got everything we needed…YAY! Back home and decided we would visit the Gulf Shores Zoo and USS Alabama museum tomorrow. Hopefully, with the space heater set up and running, it won’t be quite so cold in the morning!
Nov. 28, 2023: Waveland, MS
Interesting morning. We’ve been having trouble with the slow-roll blinds; they either won’t roll all the way up or roll way too fast. Also, in chasing a mosquito in the bedroom last night, we discovered that the frame around the window was coming off (this is the second one, last one was in the dining room). So, I had to make a run to the hardware store for bigger/better screws to hold it in place. Managed to repair it, but on the way back from the store I got a low air pressure warning on one of the truck tires. When I got back, I discovered there was a huge gash in the sidewall of the rear passenger side tire. Panic ensues, since we are leaving tomorrow and we don’t need a blowout on the highway.
Called several tire places and found one who could get the tire and have it changed today. Unfortunately, the tire wouldn’t arrive till 1:30 and we had a scheduled swamp tour for 2. More on the swamp tour later. Anyway, I had to run the truck over and have them change out the tire for the spare. Then they would replace the tire and later we would come back and swap tires again. Easy, right? No need for panic!
So, dropped off the tire and returned to The Beast where Karen had gotten the laundry almost done. Good deal…multi-tasking! Yea!
Had some lunch and then headed out for the swamp tour. The tour was actually back in Louisiana, but only about a 40 minute drive so not a big deal. Arrived at Honey Island Swamp Tours at just before 1:30 and sat chatting with some of the guides until it was ready to load the boat. Once on the boat, we headed downriver about 2 or so miles. The boat driver/guide (Captain Hunter) was really knowledgeable about the river and all the wildlife there. We saw LOTS of birds along the way and passed through a little swamp village along the way that is only accessible by boat. The camps mostly looked like what you would see in a movie about swamp people.People were pretty friendly, waving and speaking with our guide (who obviously knew some of them).
After a bit we turned off the river and followed a narrow estuary into the swamp proper. Lots and lots of different bird species, and at one point we had several raccoons on either side of the boat. Pretty narrow, so they were nearly close enough to touch. The guide threw them some marshmallows to keep them interested and as we continued on a couple of them followed us along the bank. Captain Hunter talked a bit more about both the wildlife and some of the plants along the way, and warned us that sometimes snakes resting in trees may drop into the boat as we passed. Seems reasonable, but he may have been pulling our legs to scare the ladies…that ALSO seems reasonable,
We pulled into a little “bay” along the way and suddenly we were SURROUNDED by raccoons! There must have been close to 20 of them, and with captain Hunter throwing them marshmallows they hung around for a good long time. After a it a feral pig showed up to get her share of treats too! We sat there for a wile, talked about how the feral hogs got out there and that they were actually nuisance animals that could be hunted freely, then headed back out to the river where we found numerous alligators sunning themselves on logs along the way.
We didn’t see any monster alligators, but it was a really great trip. Thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! the trip took about 2 hours and we got a lot of pictures…even one with Captain Hunter.
Leaving the swamp tour, headed back toward The Beast, with a plan to stop at the tire place and have the new tire installed in place of the spare. Got to the tire place only to find out the tire had not been delivered! He assured us it would be there first thing in the morning…so I’ll have to go there tomorrow before we leave for Alabama. Thankfully it’s only about a 3 hour drive, so we have time in the morning. Fingers crossed it get done.
On the way back after the tire debacle, we stopped at the long fishing pier to get a great pic of sunset. We met a couple on the pier (can’t remember her name, but his was Roger). They were fishing/crabbing on opposite ends of the pier – she near the road and he all the way out at the end (the pier is about 100 yards long). We chatted with her a bit and she told us her husband Roger was out at the end and to say HI to him when we got out there.
I walked up and yelled: “ROGER! Man, how are you it’s been a long time!”. Of course he looked at me dumbfounded while I shook his hand asking “How long has it been?”. He was at a loss, so I rescued him right away and told him his wife gave us his name and I decided to have some fun with him. He looked really relieved and we had a good laugh. Glad he was good natured! Karen got some awesome sunset photos while we chatted a bit with Roger. He wasn’t catching anything, but was enjoying the fact that his wife was having fun catching crabs. He told us she liked to catch them, but not eat them and he liked to eat them and not catch them…it was a real Jack Sprat moment.
Roger is a glass blower and his wife makes stained glass, so on the way off the pier she shared some of their stuff with us. Really well done ornaments and window hangers, but we didn’t need any of it so didn’t buy anything. Anyway, they are also staying here at Buccaneer State Park in their RV, so we may bump into them again.
As we arrived at the campground, there was a couple towing their trailer who were stopped in the road, so we stopped to see if they needed anything. They were just arriving after hours, and the park did not do a great job with signage, so we ran back to the rig and got our park map so they could find their site to set up for the night. Nice couple from New York State.
Made dinner in (Creamy Tuscan Chicken with noodles and peas) then relaxed for a bit until bedtime (made it to 9:30!). Tomorrow is a travel day, so won’t be too much to report.
Nov. 27, 2023: Waveland, MS
Was able to fly the drone this morning, got some pretty good footage of the sparsely populated RV park at Buccaneer State park. It’s a pretty big park right on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. I was able to fly out toward the gulf when filming, even though it was pretty windy (and cold!). I’ve actually been surprised at how low temperatures have been on this trip…I really expected it to be warmer. Maybe when we get into Florida.
Got on the road about 10AM and our first stop was to see The Worlds Largest Rocking Chair. And it was pretty large, for sure. It stands in front of a furniture store, and there is really nothing else nearby. Great photo op though!
Leaving there, we headed to Ocean Adventures Marine Park. This is a VERY small marine park that includes a Discovery Center, an aviary, a stingray pool and a larger pool with dolphins and seals. Since it was a Monday, and pretty chilly, there were only the two of us, a woman and her daughter and a family of four there. it was not a bad place, but the “shows” lasted only 3-5 minutes, except for the dolphin and seal show. It was worth a stop, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit. There is also The Mississippi Aquarium, which was not rated as highly, but I can’t speak to it as we did not go there.
Following the Marine Park we headed to Biloxi where we got lunch at Parrain’s Jambalaya Kitchen. This is a very small restaurant tucked away in Biloxi, but MAN was the food good! They have a very small, simple menu. We had Gumbo (YUM!), Jambalaya (also YUM), boudin, potato salad and bread pudding for dessert. I can’t get over how good the bread pudding is around here. Karen initially got a cup of gumbo, but then turned around and ordered an additional entree size portion…it was that good. Oh, and their bread pudding comes with several fresh beignets on top!
After lunch, we drove toward the coast and headed back toward home on Beach Hwy – which is the same road our park is on. We stopped to take pictures of some fishing boats, a lighthouse (that actually sits on the median of the highway!) and just a nice relaxing drive along the coast. It took us a little over an hour to get home and there was a stop at a gift shop (for a fridge magnet – we are getting quite a collection going) as well as another lighthouse much nearer to home.
Got home about 4PM, so relatively short tourist day. Relaxing evening with Cobie, and then in bed by about 9:30. Tomorrow we are considering a “Swamp Tour” as well as a few other possibilities.
Nov. 26, 2023: New Orleans, LA to Waveland, MS
Anyone ever heard of Waveland, MS? No? Me neither. But we are here!
Had a bit of a scheduling issue today: Check-out of New Orleans RV Park & Marina is at 11AM, check IN at Buccaneer State Park in Waveland is not till 4PM. The drive is one hour. Hmmmmmm…
Worked out great between the New Orleans park allowing us to delay departure pretty much indefinitely without charge, and Buccaneer allowing us to check in early (after confirming our site was empty by 12PM). Anyway, we left New Orleans about 1PM, and arrived at Buccaneer State Park a few minutes past 2PM after a leisurely one hour drive. No issues with the RV during the drive.
BEFORE all that, however, I was sitting here writing the journal entry for November 25th, and it was raining outside. I sit in relative darkness so as not to wake up Karen OR the bird and I kept hearing water droplets hitting what I thought was the top of the RV. Turns out, our dinette slide was leaking again, albeit very slowly. I was easily able to catch the slow drip in a bowl, and it hadn’t made TOO much of a mess yet. Something we will have to have taken care of when we get home. I’m going to call Thor and take the RV to them to get all the big stuff fixed (leaky slide, wall that moves because it is not attached to the floor, water heater that is intermittent etc.). That will mean a trip to Indiana in the spring once it warms up.
Anyway, we arrived at Buccaneer State Park and got set up. The site is not very level front to back, so it took us a while to get set and level, and had to break out my nifty home made wooden ramps for this one. It worked out in the end, and am grateful we brought the ramps along or we would have to be un-level to keep from having the front tires off the ground.
I mentioned we had to wait till 12PM to call the park and make sure we could arrive early, so we did of course, but when we arrived I noticed something interesting: Of 250 campsites, there are maybe 30 RV’s. Right, the campground is virtually empty. I find it just a little unusual that they couldn’t have allowed us to arrive earlier and if need be put us in a different site. It’s not like they are crowded? Oh well, I guess bureaucrats are the same everywhere…right!?
So we got all set up and hooked up to services, and then realized we hadn’t pulled anything out of the freezer for dinner. So we searched around for restaurants, most of which are closed on Sundays. We settled on the Jubilee Buffet at the Silver Slipper Casino. So off we went. The casino is just 2 miles from our campsite so it was a quick trip. A beautiful drive over there along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The road is just 20 or so feet from the water’s edge. It was late evening, so we got to see the end of a wonderful sunset along the water.
The casino looks like it ha been here for quite a while, a little dingy and dirty, but the restaurant was nice and the buffet was enormous. They featured a lot of shrimp and crab legs, which we partook of generously. They also had a large salad bar (who fills up on salad at a buffet?) and a smoked meat area, a Mexican area, and Italian area and an oriental food area. We stuck pretty much to shrimp and crab legs. Oh, and there was also a pretty well stocked dessert area. Turns out I DO like bread pudding…go figure.
Returning to The Beast we had a chance to just relax and read for a bit before bed. Tomorrow we may go see the World’s Largest Rocking Chair, and maybe the Hurricane Ground Zero museum. Also have to see about a fishing license since there is not a lot of touristy stuff and we are just a couple hundred yards from the Gulf.
Nov. 25, 2023: New Orleans, LA
It occurred to me today that we are just about at the halfway point of the trip. I’m sure I could calculate the exact day, but I don’t care enough…LOL. The good news is we don’t seem to be having a issues living in the RV…which is good! As a matter of fact I remarked lat night that it was going to feel weird to get home and be in the house again.
Got on the road to the French Quarter by about 9AM and were able to find parking near the river today like Antonio suggested yesterday. News Flash: It wasn’t $8 either. Spent closer to $50 on parking. We could have saved some cash by taking the shuttle from the RV park ($20) but way less convenient than just taking the truck.
We were able to visit the Presbytery and Cabildo house today, even though the Cathedral is closed Sat/Sun – good thing we managed to see it yesterday. Very interesting exhibits regarding Hurricane Katrina and Mardi Gras at the Presbytery. Katrina was a horrible storm that devastated New Orleans. The devastation was, in large part, a failure of government both before, during and after the storm. Safety features to prevent flooding were held up and not finished due to government inefficiencies, and then during/after the storm the government failed to be able to get people who didn’t have the means to evacuate out of the city and were very slow to react after the storm.
The physical damage to to flooding of 80% of the area was tremendous, leading to so much suffering for those who were left here. Amazing, and hopefully some major lessons were learned and corrected for the next time…and it is likely given the location that there will be a next time. The whole thing was complicated by hurricane Rita, which made landfall not far from here just one month later. Amazing destruction and suffering. There is also a case to be made for not living in an area that lies at or below sea level, but it would also be a shame to lose such a vibrant and history rich city.
Mardi Gras was fun to learn about and has a long history dating back to the 18th century. Things have certainly changed over time and it was not always the drunken debauchery it is known for today. WAY too much for me to write about here, you should google the history of Mardi Gras if you are interested, but the costumes and pageantry are a conglomeration of festivals held by the different people groups who made (make) up the population of the area. The masks are reminiscent of Carnivale in Venice even. Very interesting history.
After those two museums, we toured a home from the 1850’s, which was funny because as we were approaching the museums we wondered out loud to ourselves what the inside of the apartments above the store fronts were like. Lo and behold we toured one! Very interesting long, narrow and tall apartments above street level.
After our tour of “the 1850 House” we headed to Muriel’s on Jackson Square. I mentioned I was starving, and wanting to try a Muffaletta…Karen googled a restaurant and I thought she was looking for a muffaletta place, but she was just looking for something with good reviews close by. Anyway, we went in, sat down and discovered they did not serve muffalettas and almost left. Turns out THAT would have been a mistake! So glad we stayed!
I started with a seafood gumbo – I am definitely going to make NO style gumbo when we get home. That stuff is like crack. I just hope I can get it right. Also a REALLY delicious bloody Mary with just the right amount of kick. Then Karen had probably the best mushroom omelette ever and I had the New Orleans version of Eggs Benedict called Eggs Verney. This is made with a buttermilk biscuit, boudin sausage (house made), a poached egg and Hollandaise Sauce. I’m also going to have to try my hand at making boudin.
Everything was unbelievably good. My key takeaway from New Orleans is the food is PHENOMENAL!
We were going to then go visit the Mardi Gras museum where we could see some old parade floats as well as floats being constructed for next Mardi Gras, but we were both pretty exhausted and opted to just return to The Beast for the evening to relax. Good thing, too, because it started raining not long after we got home, so it was a good call.
Tomorrow we depart Louisiana for Mississippi. Staying at a State Park with not a LOT to do nearby, but I think Karen has found some stuff…should be fun and hopefully a little more relaxed than here where there are TONS of things to do.
Nov. 24, 2023: New Orleans, LA
Had a bit of a rough time deciding what we wanted to do today, so didn’t get started till after 9AM. The good news is it gave me a chance to fly the drone a bit. A little cold and windy, and very near a small regional airport, so didn’t spend much time at it or venture to far with the drone.
On the way out of the park, we stopped at the office to see if they had any tourist brochures, particularly something with a map of the French Quarter. Chatted a bit with the general manager of the park (Antonio) who pointed us to the right brochure and talked a bit about where to park and what to do while we were downtown.
He mentioned there was some big college football thing going on this weekend, so expect big crowds (he wasn’t wrong!). He thought parking would be about $8 – it was $43 – but the place he suggested we park down by the river (The Mighty Mississip’) was full, so he may have been right if we could have parked there. He also asked for a full report on how much fun we had at the end f the day – double spaced with 1 inch margins. LOL
We had landed on visiting Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, the Presbytere and Cabildo, then a visit to the French Market. First of course, we wanted (well I WANTED – Karen not so much) to stop at Cafe Du Monde for a beignet and coffee. The line was ENORMOUS…but we still waited and it moved pretty fast. Crowded (of course) we managed to sit and order then eat three beignets each – I had coffee. They were good, reminded me of elephant ears at the fair, but I wouldn’t wait in line for them again. We were also serenaded by a ragtag jazz band on the street while we waited.
Leaving there we wandered a bit to get our bearings, finally making it to Jackson Square. There is a huge statue of Andrew Jackson, the hero of the battle of New Orleans, and the St. Louis cathedral, presbytere and Cabildo house flank the square. Bonus! Got a picture of the statue and of us in front of the cathedral from the square. Entered the cathedral which is large, beautiful and still a functioning catholic church. Unfortunately, the Presbytere and Cabildo were closed for the Holiday weekend so we missed out on those museums.
We wandered a bit trying to decide what to do next, and happened upon the visitor’s center and stopped in. We contemplated either booking a bus or walking tour, but decided against either. We walked around looking for other interesting museums, but almost all of them were closed for the day. The New Orleans Historic Collection was open, which was interesting but small. It gave us a flavor of the history of New Orleans, which just made us want more. Will have to wait till tomorrow for that. We discussed visiting the WWII museum tomorrow, but it is huge and could take as much as 2 days to see, so decided against it.
We wandered the French Quarter some more. Bourbon Street was a madhouse, and as Antonio said it is really a place for “tomfoolery” – which is not us – but there was a musician set up in the back of a pick-up truck with loud speakers entertaining a crowd, which was pretty cool. Really we just kind of took it all in.
For lunch we stopped at “The Gumbo House”. Great choice. Instead of a meal, we ordered 6 appetizer/side dish size plates to try out a variety of their fare. We had: boudin, chicken & andoulle gumbo, (2 of these, one for each) jambalaya, crawfish etouffe and blackened catfish. Everything was delicious, except the crawfish which had some weird seasoning. They noticed we didn’t care for it, so took it off our bill without us having to ask! Win!
For sure the gumbo was the main attraction and for me (not so much Karen) the boudin was a close second. Boudin is a sauasge the contains pork, liver, rice, onions, peppers, celery and cajun seasonings. Gonna have to make some of that when we get home! Finished off lunch with some bread pudding in a whiskey sauce (for Karen) which was unbelievably good and a brownie pie with ice cream (for me) also quite good, but not as good as the bread pudding.
The French Quarter is an interesting place, although not exactly what I imagined. The narrow, one way, streets are a little dingy (and packed with people) and getting run down. Of course most of the buildings are 200+ years old, so I suppose that is to be expected. It is tucked into downtown in stark contrast to the modern New Orleans just a couple blocks away. Anyway…
Back to The Beast for what we thought would be a quiet evening – only to discover I had somehow bled all over the sheets. So, strip the bed to wash them (we kind of needed to do laundry anyway) and discovered I had bled all the way though to the mattress! Sadly our washing machine is too small for the mattress cover, so I took the sheets and cover to the park’s laundry room to wash/dry them. $2.50 a load for each washer and dryer. In an effort to save some coin, I used a single dryer for both, and after an hour neither the cover nor the sheets were dry, so dropped another $5 on 2 machines (and another hour sitting in the laundry room) to get them dry. All-in-all it was 2 1/2 hours sitting in the laundry room.
But, got them done and all the blood came out. By the time I got back, Karen had pretty much finished all our other laundry, so we finally got to relax a bit and talk about what we’ll do tomorrow. We are thinking we’ll go back to the museums we missed today and hope they are open.
Nov. 23, 2023: Galveston, TX to New Orleans, LA
In retrospect, we should have been more mindful of this Holiday before scheduling the trip. Also, we thought Galveston and New Orleans were a lot closer together. Our initial thoughts were we had about a 3 1/2 hour drive, but it wound up taking 7 hours. The good news is that it seems MOST people did their driving on Wednesday, so the traffic was not bad at all.
Managed to get out of the campsite in Galveston by 7:45AM. The drive was uneventful…no mechanical issues and only one stop for fuel and one brief stop to change drivers. Arrived in New Orleans at 2:30.
Apparently we were not the only people who made this travel day mistake, as there were two other RV’s ahead of us at check-in, so had to wait a bit to get escorted to our site. We were provided an “upgrade” to a premium waterfront site, which was at first exciting, but the site is small (and narrow) and the hook-ups are near the road. Consequently we barely fit with the slides open, our rig is sticking about a foot into the road on the passenger side corner and there is nowhere to park the truck we tow. Thankfully the site next to us is unoccupied so we are parking the truck there.
Also, the RV park is in a weird sort of industrial area, and not too far from a regional airport. Fingers crossed the planes are not a hassle This also means flying the drone will require requesting flight permission, but with the B4-U-Fly app that is pretty simple and quick so I should be able to get some drone footage.
Got set-up in record time: abut 35 minutes. We are really getting good at setting up and tearing down the rig.
Being Thanksgiving, we made reservations at Lula Restaurant & Distillery in the Garden District. Reservations were for an early dinner at 4PM, so we had to kind of hurry to get changed and ready for dinner. Luckily, the restaurant was only 15 minutes from the campground. Also, looks like the French Quarter is about the same distance. Good deal!
Driving to dinner I was surprised that New Orleans downtown was such a big city, with tall buildings and a skyline. I guess my impression is from TV and movies that only show the French Quarter. The city is pretty dirty and run down, which is a bit of a disappointment if I am being honest.
Also, I was shocked to find that the LA drivers are even MORE aggressive than TX drivers. I didn’t think that was at all possible. Coupled with the strange way the roads are laid out made for an interesting trip to dinner. Parking was free for Thanksgiving, and there was a spot right in front of the restaurant, so that was a bonus!
Dinner, however, was delicious. Lula had a fixed menu for Thanksgiving. Since it is also a distillery, one free drink was included in the price. We started with a cup of rabbit and sausage gumbo (YUM!), then a small salad and the main was both turkey and beef loin with family style sides of corn, crispy Brussels sprouts, mac & cheese and cranberry sauce. After dinner, they had a dessert buffet. Everything was delicious, and we left quite full, which is great because it was the only meal we had today!
After dinner we returned home and because of our time in Galveston decided to watch the movie Deepwater Horizon. Really good movie, and it is a miracle only 11 (of 126) people died in that tragedy. Managed to stay up till 9:30PM which is pretty good for us on the trip. We have been doing a LOT of touristy sightseeing stuff so we keep wearing ourselves out.
Tomorrow we’ll do some more touristy stuff, probably visit the French Quarter and have some Beignets from Cafe Dumont and maybe a muffaletta for lunch…although if I happen to see rabbit and sausage gumbo on the menu I’m going for that (Gumbo is the state food of Louisiana).
Nov. 22, 2023: Galveston, TX
This morning we headed out about 10AM and visited Moody Gardens. As I mentioned yesterday, the Moody family has been here in Galveston almost since it was established in the early 1800’s. They are a wealthy family, who is still here. The gardens were established in the late 20th century, owned by the city of Galveston and funded by the Moody Foundation. The gardens include a hotel, water park, aquarium, rain forest exhibit (with free range live animals) as well as some interactive exhibits geared toward children and learning.
Obviously, we weren’t interested in any of the children themed stuff, but we did want to visit the rain forest and aquarium. Both of these attractions are built in pyramid shaped buildings, the rain forest made of glass. We first toured the rain forest which was lush, beautiful and well maintained. LOTS of birds roaming freely as well as fish and a couple white faced monkeys. We got to watch one of the trainers working with the male monkey. He was very cute.
After the rain forest we walked to the aquarium pyramid. Really great aquarium with some really huge tanks containing fish from all around the world. They also had a pretty extensive penguin exhibit, a sea lion/seal exhibit and a stingray petting area. And since it is Galveston, there was also a lot of talk of oil rigs and how they impact the ecosystem as well as how they are turned into artificial reefs once they are finished doing their oil thing.
All-in all, a fun and interesting visit to Moody Gardens. Afterward we drove past the Bishop’s Palace for a picture, and then down to the other end of the strand for a picture of the Moody Mansion. You can tour these houses, but not something we wanted to spend time on so we just got a picture. Between the two is the “Texas Heroes monument” which is in the middle of the street at the intersection of Broadway and 25th street. Huge statue (72 feet tall). The monument commemorates the people who fought during the Texas revolution.
Once we got the photos we were after, we headed to Blvd. Seafood for lunch. We were told this would be the best seafood restaurant on the island, and that it had been around for a very long time. It is where locals go to eat seafood. It was good, but nothing to get too excited about, and like other places in the area, pretty pricey. Still, we needed lunch and the food was pretty good. I tried “Quail Kisses” which are quail meat stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon and fried. THOSE were pretty yummy!
After lunch it was off to find a refrigerator magnet – we are collecting them from all of our stops on the trip -then a butcher shop for bacon (and a couple nice ribeye steaks) and finally Wal-Mart for a couple things. I should point out that a visit to Wal-Mart on the day before Thanksgiving was probably not a great idea. The place was mobbed (in the grocery section anyway) with people frantically trying to get their last minute Thanksgiving dinner items. I also note that Texans are as aggressive in the grocery store as they are on the highway! We managed to find a cream of mushroom soup buried in a box of cream of chicken, but I think it was the last can in the store! Anyway, we survived.
Got back to The Beast and grabbed a bag of carrots from the fridge, then walked back over to the field with the horses. Sadly, they were in their stalls when we arrived, but the owner happened to be there and let them out for us. Like dogs they saw us and ran over to the fence where we were able to give them a bunch of carrots as treats. Of course, once the carrots were gone they were done with us and we watched them run around and play in the field for a few minutes before heading back in. They were VERY friendly, and cute to watch them running around playing.
Lots of people arriving at the campground this afternoon/evening. The campground is hosting a potluck Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, but of course we will be heading to New Orleans so will miss it.
Today was pretty chilly (in the 50’s) but not NEARLY as windy as yesterday, thank goodness. Spent the rest of the evening relaxing and reading. Tomorrow we head to New Orleans and we have dinner reservations at 4PM so we want to get up and get out early to make it there and get set up in time to make our reservation.
Nov. 21, 2023: Galveston, TX
Up early again today. As a matter of fact, now that we are retired , it seems, we both get up early EVERY day…so I’ll stop mentioning it. Just assume we were up early unless I mention we slept in.
Started out the day fixing the frame around the window I mentioned yesterday. The screws and long handled screwdriver we got at the hardware store yesterday did the trick. It is now securely attached to the wall with the APPROPRIATE number and type of screws. Let’s hope it lasts. As an aside, if you are not at least a little handy (in the Mr. fix-it sort of way) I don’t recommend buying an RV. Driving your house down the highway tends to make things vibrate and fail/fall apart.
Anyway, headed out around 8:30 and stopped at the Galveston Visitor’s Center to see what things they recommended for a two day visit. Small but nice place, very informative and provided a map of the “touristy” stuff in Galveston. Apparently Galveston island is a vacation/tourist destination, because there is a lot of touristy stuff to do.
We started out visiting the tall ship Elyssa in Galveston harbor. The ship is an iron hulled sailing ship, built in 1877 that is well preserved and still used as a working ship. Every year a group of volunteers and students man the ship for maintenance, upkeep and training in how to sail a tall ship, then they take her to sea to test their skills! It is one of only three such vessels still in operation in the US. Sometime in the early 20th century the ship was retrofitted with engines for propulsion which made it more efficient and provided faster voyages (by allowing it to keep sailing even with no wind). Elyssa not only carried cargo, but passengers emigrating to the US in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Following our self-guided visit to the ship, we enjoyed the “Ship to Shore” museum where we learned a bit about early Galveston and immigration as well as what life was like for steerage passengers making the journey here from Europe. Pretty miserable living conditions, lots of sickness and sometimes death. On top of that, a real possibility you would be either turned away (and sent back to whence you came) or quarantined to prevent the spread of illnesses once you arrived here in the US.
After the Elyssa, we walked down the pier to the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and museum. Not quite as interesting as I had anticipated, but still pretty cool. This rig is what is called a “jack-up” rig, which means it is towed out to a well’s believed location, and tall metal leg structures are lowered to the sea floor, anchored, and the rig is “jacked up” on the legs so it comes out of the water. The rig was designed for water up to about 200 feet deep, so as far as “Deep Sea Oil Rigs” go it is a shallow one. Anyway, the rig was pretty cool, and learned a lot (a lot more than I wanted to honestly) about the business of offshore oil drilling.
Who knew there were half a dozen different types of oil rigs, or that some of the deeper ones build a network of machinery and piping around the site of a well to more efficiently (and with minimum environmental impact) bring the oil to the surface? I for one did not!
In some ways, the entire museum is a plug for the oil/gas industry, but still – how often do you get to step aboard a real, once functioning, oil rig? Not often. It was fun and we learned a bunch. It only takes about an hour, so if you have a bit of time, you should definitely visit.
Next we stopped for a seafood lunch at Willy G’s right there on the same pier. It’s a bit of an upscale place, so a little pricey, but the food was good and just what we needed. Also, they validate your parking, so we ended up saving $20, which offsets the pricey food.
After lunch we jumped in the truck and drove out to Pelican Island where there is the Galveston Naval Museum. Really interesting place where they have two museum vessels: The ex-USS Stewert (WWII era Destroyer Escort) and the ex-USS Cavalla (WWII era submarine). Both provide self guided (or guided, if you want to spend extra) tours. The Stewert was an interesting study in contrast to the ships I served on during my service. A lot more cramped and the accommodations are not nearly as good. Still, well preserved and an interesting tour of an older surface ship.
Cavalla, which like The Razorback we toured in Little Rock is a WWII era sub, was much roomier (if you can call anything submarine related “roomy”) and possibly better preserved. It’s really kind of cool to see how sailors from that era lived. We really did have it much better than they did.
Interestingly, neither the Stewert nor Cavalla are floated. Both are somehow sitting on dry land! I’ve yet to figure out if they are sitting in a hull size/shape hole, or if their hulls had been modified to be flat. I’m guessing the former, but no amount of google searching is giving me the answer. Yeah, I know I should have asked while we were there, but there was a big crowd. If any of you know, please help me out as I am curious.
Just up the road a bit on Pelican Island is the Gulf Copper shipyard, where the former USS Texas (BB-35) is in dry dock having it’s hull and superstructure repaired to the tune of about $35M. Texas was both a WWI and WWI battleship, that was purchased by the state of Texas in 1948. The ship has been a museum moored in LaPorte Texas for many years, but had suffered from a combination of the elements and lack of funds. Once she is done being repaired, it’s not clear where she’ll find a home, although Galveston is one of the contenders. You can tour the Texas in dry-dock, but only on Sunday, and sadly we will not be here by then. She is expected to complete her overhaul in late 2024 or early 2025.
Not set on what we’ll do tomorrow for sure yet. We’ve discussed visiting Moody Gardens, or possibly driving up to Houston for a NASA tour (unlikely). Will let you know what we decide!
Nov. 20, 2023: Burleson, TX to Galveston, TX
Up early (again, some vacation, eh?) packed up, secured and on the road by 8:15. Would have been on the road sooner, but one of the frames around a window in the dinette decided to come loose. A screw fell out of the bracket holding the frame to the wall and it took us 30-45 minutes to get it secured again. Really indicative of the poor quality workmanship on these things…something we just have to deal with as things arise. Got it secured well enough to hit the road, and so we did.
Believe it or not, this leg of the trip we had ZERO issues (once we got going) and made the 5 1/4 hour trip in 5 3/4 hours, only stopping once for gas and once to switch drivers. Of course, nothing could be that perfect, so instead of mechanical issues we had some pretty significant rain instead. Lucky for me it started just after Karen took over driving, and by the time we stopped to switch back it had stopped and gotten sunny out for me!
Made it to Stella Mare RV resort on Galveston Island right at 2PM. Nice level concrete pad site, set up and leveled within about 30 minutes (we are really getting good at setting up/tearing down).
Since neither of us had eaten, we decided to make an early dinner: Adobo Chicken in the instant pot. This is one of our favorite instant pot meals. So had dinner at a surprisingly retiree like time of 4PM.
After dinner we headed out to the hardware store to get some additional screws and a long handled screwdriver to complete the repairs on the window frame. That’s a job for tomorrow. Then we stopped off at a local car wash to clean up the truck, which was getting pretty filthy being dragged around behind The Beast. We could barely see out of the side and back windows. Much better now!
As we were arriving back at the site, it was nearly sunset, so took a walk to the edge of the park to watch the sun go down and get some pics. Nice sunset, pics are OK. We’ll find a better spot for pics tomorrow weather permitting. It is supposed to be cooler and windy tomorrow.
While gazing at the sunset we noticed four horses in their pasture near the fence where we were standing, so we walked down to them and all four came over to the fence to get pets (and look for treats). They were all like enormous dogs in their behavior. Tomorrow we;ll bring them carrots.
Came back to the RV and broke out the drone for a quick flight. Only flew for a few minutes because it was getting dark, so I will try and fly some more tomorrow or Wednesday.
Then just a relaxing evening reading/surfing Facebook and talking about what we might do tomorrow. One thing is we’ll visit an oil rig – that should be cool – and perhaps ride a paddle wheel boat or maybe stop at Moody Gardens. More tomorrow with what we decide, there is a lot to choose from here.
Nov. 19, 2023: Burleson, TX
Kind of gloomy rainy day today. Up early again (even Cobie!) and made breakfast this morning. Breakfast is unusual, usually we just have a protein drink and call it good.
Karen saw the horses yesterday at the Stockyards and decided she would like to go horseback riding, so first thing (well, after 9AM anyway) she made some calls and found riding stables that had an opening. Our trail ride was scheduled for 1:00PM.
Took off about 11:45AM and stopped to get some cash (stables only accepted cash) then headed to the stables. It was overcast all morning but started to rain as soon as we pulled into the parking lot. We were a few minutes early, so sat in the car for a bit waiting for the rain to stop. It didn’t. Seemed this was going to be a wet ride.
After going in to check in, fill out the paperwork exonerating the stables should one of us get injured or killed by a horse, we perused the gift shop for a bit then headed out to meet the horses. Got to pet a number of horses while waiting for our trail guide, who was bringing in the (wet) group ahead of our scheduled time.
Now would be a good time to tell you that as a young boy I had a bad experience with a horse on my dad’s farm. He had bought a horse, Frosty, and us kids were responsible for taking care of him. If you know me, you know I grew up in the city (Cleveland, OH) and there were no horses there, so I lacked experience. Living with my dad on the farm for a couple months was, to say the least, and experience. Frosty was…challenging. And I was terrified of him. i suspect he knew that and took advantage of it. He liked to kick and bite, and one time he drug me across a field by the chain we used to tie him up with in the pasture (since the pasture was not fenced). If you could get the saddle on him and cinched down, once you were in the saddle he’d lay down and roll over. He was just mean, really.
Anyway, that will explain why I have some trepidation around horses. Karen on the other hand has owned several horses and grew up around them outside Salt Lake City in Utah. So clearly I went along because she wanted to. I was a bit nervous.
First bit of good news is, as we were mounting the horses it quit raining. YAY! So, up on my horse I go (my horse was named Shooter – a bad omen?). Newsflash: I am not as flexible as I once was, so I’m sure I didn’t look very graceful. And I felt like I was bigger than my horse (Not so – but still). Anyway, we all mount up and head off on the trail. First thing I notice is Shooter kind of has a mind of his own, and he is not happy with me trying to “direct” him in any way. Second thing is Shooter apparently likes to be the lead horse, as he kept trying to pass the other horses in line.
The other thing Shooter likes to do is walk through trees and bushes, I assume to try and dislodge me from his back. I managed to live through the ordeal.
Truth is, it was fun, and Shooter and I wound up having an understanding before it was all over. I wouldn’t try to tell him what to do very often if he would just stay out of the trees and bushes. It was an hour long ride, and it was over way to quickly. 10/10 would do it again.
Karen, of course, had a BLAST…
After our ride we bought a few things in the gift shop and then headed into Old Town Burleson for lunch at Fresco’s, a local Tex-Mex restaurant that was suggested by the ladies at the campground. MAN…what a great suggestion! Food was wonderful and we probably overate a bit. We shared chips and queso (with chile’s and ground beef) and then I had a massive burrito and Karen had fajitas. Everything was delicious, and we each brought half our lunch back to eat later. We ate so much at our late lunch that we completely skipped dinner.
Back home by about 4PM, even though it felt much later, just before it rained some more. Had a relaxing evening reading and playing with Cobie, then headed off to bed…at 8PM! Also noted that our legs were pretty sore from straddling the horse…should be fun tomorrow!
Tomorrow is another travel day and we’ll try to get out fairly early to head to Galveston. Lots to do in Galveston so we are looking forward to that!
Nov. 18, 2023: Burleson, TX
Up early and able to use our own shower this morning, although the water heater is still acting up (it has to be reset frequently to keep hot water flowing – we’ll need to get that looked at when we return but can manage with it for now). Also got to run the dishwasher and do 2 loads of laundry before heading out for the day. Definitely like having full hook-ups (including sewer) as opposed to not.
Beautiful day in Burleson today. Temps in the low 70’s and no humidity. We picked a good time of year to visit TX.
We had Alex send us a box last weekend, which was scheduled to arrive here at this campground on our day of arrival. I remembered it this morning, and went to the UPS website to see tracking information and it turns out delivery was attempted on Friday (our arrival day) but refused. The package was now being returned home as undeliverable. This is terribly frustrating since we actually called the campground to make sure we could receive a package here, and were assured we could – even told how to properly address it to do so. Not that it will do any good, but definitely going to have a word with management abut this.
Anyway, I assumed the package couldn’t be far away, so called UPS to see if they could hold it somewhere nearby for pick-up.
Well, first I got on the UPS website and tried to redirect delivery. Folks, don’t try this at home – it is cumbersome and didn’t work.
Anyway, after making it through the computerized prompting (while shouting “Human Being” repeatedly) I finally got through to an actual person, explained what happened and was told they put in the (urgent) request and said I would hear back from their service center within the hour. Ninety minutes later I called back (yeah, annoying computerized menu again before a human) to ask status and was apologetically told it would be another hour before I would receive a call about the package.
Abut 9:30 or so we took off and headed to the Fort Worth Zoo. Fort worth has a relatively small Zoo, online it says you can see everything in about 2 hours. It took us about 2 1/2 hours, so I’d say that was pretty accurate. The zoo itself is VERY well done. I was impressed with the “vibe” of the place and noticed the animals all looked healthy and well cared for and for the most part had large, well maintained enclosures. All of the usual suspect animals included. I especially like the elephants, giraffes (they sell lettuce to feed the giraffes which is fun), big cats and great apes. We took tons of pictures. This place is well worth the entrance fee of $18.
Also, while parking at the zoo is $5, if you have a handicap tag it is free AND you get to park close to the entrance. We, of course, were there on a Saturday so the place was pretty crowded. If you are nearby and can visit during the week I recommend that.
Leaving the zoo, we headed to the Fort Worth Stockyards Historical district. This is an area where the stockyards used to reside, and a portion of it has been preserved for historical purposes. It’s a bit of an upscale area (and also quite crowded) where I looked at a pair of cowboy boots that went for $700 and a western shirt that sold for $295. We weren’t going to be buying a lot of souvenirs here!
Had lunch at the drover hotel, which was absolutely delicious (although a bit pricey as well). Walked around window shopping and taking in the sights, then stopped off at the booth for a “stockyard tour” but the last tour had already finished. The guide (Baron) happened to be standing there and offered a sort of rushed personal tour if we just paid him directly. So we did!
There is a lot of history there. At one time Fort Worth stockyard was the second largest stockyard in the country, behind Chicago. We saw aerial photos of what the place looked like in the early 1900’s and it was MASSIVE. Acres and acres of pens with rail tracks on one side, and on the other both Armour and Swift processing plants. Processing, AKA slaughter house and butchering. Our guide told us at it’s heyday more than a million animals went through the yards every year. Additionally this was the biggest exchange for horses and mules in the country.
If you raised beef cattle, hogs, sheep or were looking to buy or sell horses or mules – this was the place to go. Parts of the show 1883 were filmed there, although they needed to use CGI to fill in the look of the full size stockyard from back in the day (it is a fraction of it’s former self now).
The last fun bit of the day is a twice daily “cattle drive” down main street. Of course, their herd consists of the iconic Longhorn Steer. Back in the day a typical herd that was being brought to market would be anywhere from 1500-3500 head of cattle, but today’s cattle drive only consists of 15-17 steers. They are walked right down the middle of the street and the sidewalks are PACKED with people to see it. Because our guide was also the announcer for the drive, we got a front row seat without fighting the crowds. They even had one steer on the sidewalk with a saddle and for $10 you get sit on it and have your picture taken (we didn’t)!
The Longhorn was, at one time the main source of beef in the country. Sometime after WWI the beef industry began importing heifers from Europe and pretty quickly the Longhorn fell out of favor. Turns out the newer bread of cattle had more fat and more flavor than the longhorn. Because of this they nearly became extinct (much like Bison) but due to conservation efforts are now no longer on the endangered species list (much like Bison). I asked why we didn’t eat them anymore, and our guide told us “Because they don’t taste as good.” Although he also said as long as you don’t cook them beyond medium rare they were OK.
Right after the cattle drive we headed out and needed to make a Wal-Mart stop, but Karen was tired so I dropped her at the RV first. She entered the RV and it was over 90 degrees inside! Instead of leaving the AC on, we left the heat on (I mean, heat selected, obviously it didn’t come on because it was already too hot). A little concerned about Cobie, but he was fine and Karen got it cooled down by the time I got back from Wal-Mart.
On the way to Wal-Mart I called UPS again. This time I had a 25 minute wait time to talk to a human after once again having to navigate their computerized menu. By the time I got to the store, they finally put me through and the agent said “Didn’t they call you at 11AM? They were supposed to call you at 11AM.” Nope, no call. Her only recourse was to submit the request to their service center again and assured me they would be calling me back. Ladies and gentlemen – they didn’t call me back. Since we leave Monday, I suspect we are not going to be getting our package till we get home. Not tragic, but frustrating.
All-in-all, despite UPS frustrations (and not a little frustration with the campground) it was a very good day and we had a blast. For tomorrow Karen is looking into maybe doing a one hour trail ride on horseback. Fitting for being in Texas, right?
Nov. 17, Colcord, OK to Burleson (bur-liss-son), TX
Today was a travel day, so we weren’t supposed to have any excitement. Almost made it! Up early and got out of the campsite about 8:30AM headed for Burleson. Of course, we had no sewer hook up at the site, and had to stop to dump tanks on the way out, so I suppose we REALLY got going at about 9AM. GPS tells us it is a 5 hour drive, so we should arrive around 2PM…best laid plans.
I mentioned a few days ago about some transmission fluid issues, so we have been checking the level every time we get ready to move. Checked this morning and the dashboard prognostics tell us we are 2.1 quarts OVER filled. In case you don’t recall, the last time we moved it told us we were 2 quarts LOW, so we added the two remaining quarts from the first time we had to add fluid. We googled what could go wrong if overfilled, and it turns out it is just as bad, if not worse, than an under-filled transmission. The only way to rectify this would be to pump some fluid out of the transmission through the fill tube.
In case you don’t know, the fill tube for the transmission on an RV like ours is about 1/4 of a mile long (not really, but it is about 6-7 feet long). Obviously we don’t have a pump on board to do this ourselves on the side of the road.
Not good. So we started trying to locate a diesel repair shop along the route. Managed to find one that was not only open, but could take a look right away. Managed to find one (D’s wrecker and emergency repair shop in Muskogee, OK). So we pulled in and asked for Jarret (the mechanic) who brought out his computer to read what fault codes we had. Apparently, we have some sort of electronic issue because codes kept popping up then disappearing. We’ll have to have that looked at when we get home.
Turns out, after manually checking the fluid level with the 7 foot long dipstick, we are not over filled (but we are filled to the brim!) and our onboard computer is giving us a false reading and can’t be trusted. That is both good and bad news: We can keep driving, but now need to manually check the fluid each time we move after driving for 20-ish miles. Doable, but kind of a pain, and we’ll have to figure in an extra 15-20 minutes for each leg of the trip.
We lost about an hour at the repair place, but once we got back on the road things went fairly smoothly until we got on US-69 and discovered it was a toll road. Nothing wrong with a toll road, really, except I was in the wrong lane to go through the cash lane and wound up driving through the electronic (Pike Pass) toll lane. Of course, our Easy Pass from VA is not useful. No biggie, right? They’ll mail us a bill based on our registration from the pic of the license plate. Googled it and discovered the toll has to be paid within three days – we won’t be home for 5 weeks!
So, Karen called and asked about how we can take care of this (heavy fines for failure to pay). Turns out the only way to avoid the fines is to apply for a Pike Pass and the toll we “skipped” will be added without the fines! Yay! Except, we won’t be home for 5 weeks to collect the transponder. The only solution was to apply online, then stop in Wagoner, OK, at a car dealership no less, where they can look up our pending account application, and issue a transponder. Whew. Crisis averted. And we lost another 1/2 hour. Good news is Pike Pass works in both OK and TX, so we should be good on tolls for the rest of the trip, and our missed toll is automatically added to our account.
Back on the road and everything was fine (except the road was TERRIBLE) until we got to Fort Worth Texas at a little after 3PM. Traffic. LOTS of traffic. Turns out there were two (not one, but two) accidents on I35W that had cars backed up for miles. At least the accidents were within 3 tenths of a mile from each other so it was just one traffic jam instead of two.
Finally pulled into North Texas Jellystone Park a little after 4PM…so 8 hour day instead of 5. At the end of the day I am just going to be grateful that we arrived before dark and got set up very quickly. We upgraded to a “Red Carpet” site and for some reason our charges went down by $10 so there is a blessing there. This is by far the nicest site we’ve been in to date. AND we have sewer hook up so no managing holding tanks! WOOT! BTW – We did not encounter any more tolls along the way, so maybe Pike Pass was a waste of time?
The only complaint about this RV Park is they have a very clear rule forbidding flying of drones or any remote controlled vehicle/toy. I’m going to have to find somewhere outside the park (but close) to launch and see if I can get some aerial views of the park.
Tomorrow we are going to go to the Zoo in Fort Worth and then visit the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District. The Stockyard District has a twice daily cattle drive right down main street. I should have a lot of pics to share tomorrow. Should be fun!
Nov. 16, 2023: Colcord, OK
Another very slow day today. This morning, after showering at the shower house again, came back to the rig and spent some time on the computer researching which guitar case was right for my new guitar (that gets delivered when we get home) and arranging for a friend who is a luthier to take a look at the guitar and make sure it is properly set up. Bought the new case online.
Also finally broke out the walkie-talkies I got for communicating when checking lights on the truck and backing into a spot. Got them set up and charged – they work great.
Since we have had to replace transmission fluid a couple times already on this trip I wanted to make sure we had some on hand as well as some motor oil (just in case) so I headed out to NAPA auto parts. This is a very rural area, and the part store was 30 minutes away. On the way back I got a warning about my brakes in the truck, so had to stop and add brake fluid! It’s been a vehicle fluid trip.
Didn’t fly the drone today as it was pretty bleak and overcast all day, but we did take about a 2 mile hike through the woods again. Only wildlife we’ve see here has been a TON of squirrels, but have seen signs of other, larger, animals.
Nothing else to report for today. Used our microwave/convection oven combo to roast a pork loin and some radishes for dinner. If you’ve never had roasted radishes, I recommend them as a substitute (low carb) for potatoes believe it or not!
Spent a couple hours in the evening watching “The Bear” on Hulu – I love that we have the ability to stream shows in The Beast even though we don’t routinely watch TV in the evening like we do at home.
Trying to get an early start tomorrow as we have a 6-7 hour drive to Burleson, TX and want to arrive before it starts getting dark to get set up.
Nov. 15, 2023: Colcord, OK
Very slow and relaxing day today. Up and showered by 8 – no sewer hook-up at this site so made the trek to the shower house. Showers not bad for a campground, but not luxurious like they were in Little Rock.
As I mentioned yesterday, there are not a lot of activities nearby. I did get out and fly the drone for a birds-eye view of the campground. I’m getting better at flying the drone – I should be a pro by the time we get home.
About 11 we took off for a hike to the falls. Pretty short hike, but the falls are pretty cool and I was able to fly the drone there a bit as well. After the falls we continued our hike down to a dam on the river (more like a stream really). Very nice hike through the woods.
We hiked past their Yurt settlement, which looked pretty cool, and then down the hill to the dam and their fishing area. They have an area where you can fish which is catch and release, but the river was covered with algae so I decided no to drop a line. Plus, it would be a long way to schlep the fishing gear down and back. Not worth it.
While returning we bumped into another couple who were out hiking and stood around chatting for 20 or so minutes. Nice couple, from near Tulsa, who mentioned some other parks to visit and hike at. Maybe on another visit.
Back at The Beast (the name of our RV) we relaxed and I did some advance reading about learning guitar. In retrospect, I should have brought the guitar along instead of having it shipped…oh well, live and learn. But excited to get it and start learning.
Home made brats and hot dogs on the grill for dinner. Yummy stuff.
Discovered that the wall between the half bath (yeah, the RV has a bath and a half!) and master bedroom is detached from the floor and moving, albeit slowly. That will be an interesting one to have fixed. After mentioning this n a Thor RV group on Facebook I learned I am not the only one to have this happen, but that taking it to the factory in Indiana will get it fixed (hopefully for free!)…so an Indiana trip is in the future after winter ends.
Tomorrow I need to take a trip into town to get some transmission fluid and oil for The Beast. Definitely need to have it looked at for a transmission leak when we get home.
Nov. 14, 2023: Little Rock, AR to Colcord, OK
We got an early start today. Both of us up by 7AM (I was up at 4:30 like usual) and after showering we immediately got started packing up to head out. Departed the RV park by 8:15 (we are getting pretty efficient at closing up and getting ready to move) and hit the road headed to Colcord, Oklahoma. Completely uneventful drive through some really beautiful country, and arrived at Natural Falls State Park by 12:30.
We had a slight SNAFU at check-in as we were reserved in a 30AMP space but need 50AMP. Unfortunately there are no 50AMP spots left with sewer hook-up, so going to have to manage holding tanks for a couple days. Not too terrible, as they have decent bath houses here (not NEARLY as nice as the lat place, though). Showers tend to fill the holding tank the fastest, so I’ll just walk to the shower house so there should be no problem. They have a dumping station, but it is a pain to break camp just to dump…so we will do our best not to need to do that. Might have to consider springing for a mule (portable dump container) but not a fan of having something like that hanging off the back f the rig. We shall see.
Karen cleaned the whole RV just after arrival, and then we just relaxed for the rest of the day. Leftovers for dinner tonight.
One thing to note is that Cobie seems to finally be settled in to RV living and decided to get the zoomies last night, flying from one end of the RV to the other and back multiple times. He’s also been eating a lot better, so not losing weight anymore. Now if I can figure out how to START losing weight I’ll be happy!
Not a ton of activities in the area. There is a town about 5 miles East of the park, West Siloam Springs, where there may be a couple museums. We will check tomorrow. There are a number of hiking trails in the park, and of course the “natural falls” so we will likely hike back to check that out. Otherwise it seems this will just be a relaxing stop on our journey.
Nov. 13, 2023: Little Rock, AR
Relaxed morning today. Got up, lounged around then I (Gary) availed myself of some of the finest shower/bath house facilities I’ve ever seen in an RV park. The rest of the park has few amenities, but the showers are really nice! I know we have facilities here in the RV, but sometimes it’s nice to have a nice spacious, clean, well appointed shower for a change.
Headed out about 10Am to go across the river and tour the old State House. Turns out they are closed on Mondays, which was a disappointment and of course we didn’t realize it until after we paid for parking. There’s $3.00 we won’t get back. Upon chatting with a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) who were set up on the sidewalk, they suggested a science museum just down the street. Yep, you guessed it…closed on Mondays. BTW: I’ve noticed the JW setting up in several locations here…maybe this is their headquarters?
Anyway, we jumped back in the truck and headed over to the Riverwalk Park. The park has 7 miles of walking trails and includes lots of sculptures and playgrounds, plus periodic places to just sit and take in the scenery. All in all a very nice park AND it includes the actual “Little Rock” the city is named after. Turns out when people were first arriving here, this small rock outcropping in the river provided a somewhat sheltered place to moor a ship to come ashore. It also turns out, just across the river from the little rock, was also a big rock and later there would be a ferry to cross the Arkansas river between the two. I guess this place could just as easily have been named Big Rock Arkansas.
At the Little Rock, there is also an old railroad trestle bridge that has been converted to a walking bridge. We took a walk out to the middle to get some pictures and of course the elevator was out so had to walk up 4 flights of stairs – which was not awesome after yesterday’s mountain climbing experience, but we made it. Nice views and Karen got a panoramic view.
After spending some time strolling along the river, we headed to the River Market to grab a bite to eat. The market has 2 large covered outdoor areas where it seems vendors set up on the weekends – of course it was Monday so no one was there – and an inside area that is like a food court. I had a burrito and Karen had a Gyro. The food was good!
After lunch we headed downriver to another part of the riverwalk park where there was a nice wooden walkway across a wetland area. Sadly, but maybe not surprisingly anymore, the wooden walkway was closed (at least not because it was Monday – looked like maintenance). Not to mention it had to be reached by MORE STAIRS…my knees were not happy. We then took advantage of another walking bridge built on an old tain trestle to get another pic. While walking back toward the car an enormous bolt fell from the top of the bridge and landed just inches from Karen. THAT was scary and could have meant t rip to the ER for stitches. WHEW!
As we were returning to the parking lot to retrieve the truck, Karen quipped: “Little Rock is FULL of disappointments today!”. Which she ironically uttered standing in front of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Take from THAT what you will. And no, neither of us had interest in visiting his library – which may also have been closed on Monday anyway..we didn’t notice any crowds.
Back home where Karen prepared a delicious dinner and we relaxed for a few hours with Cobie. Pretty relaxing day considering most everything was closed, and we’ll need to get everything buttoned up in the morning to head to Oklahoma! More stickers for our travel map!
Nov. 12, 2023: Little Rock, AR
Today was a fun day! Turns out there is not a LOT of things to do in Little Rock. But we did find some cool things to do.
Karen found a hike in Pinnacle Mountain State Park. So around 10:30 we set out for the park, stopped in the visitors center there and figured out which trail would take us to the top (the Pinnacle!) of Pinnacle Mountain. Not sure why they named the mountain “Pinnacle” since every mountain ever actually HAS a pinnacle. Well, anyway, we then headed to the trail head to start the trek. I’ll say the lady in the visitors center DID tell us it was a “strenuous” hike. It was!
First, I’m not sure I would really call what was ahead of us a “trail”. About halfway up, it is a very rocky, uphill, trail consisting of a lot of large rocks laid out in a series of steps…kind of like waling up stairs. The second half, however, was a series of boulders, I mean large boulders, with swatches of yellow paint to indicate the best direction to climb. Strenuous was an understatement! It took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to reach the summit, which was just 3/4 of a mile and 1000 feet of elevation from the trailhead near the parking lot. The view was spectacular and the consensus is it was worth the climb.
Returning to the bottom was NEARLY as difficult as heading to the top. Another hour and fifteen minutes even WITH gravity helping. Truth s it is almost as rough climbing down the boulders as up…in some ways it seemed even more difficult. One wrong step and we could have easily been faced with broken bones. I can’t begin to imagine having to be carried down the field of boulders.
On the way out we stopped at a Latin American chicken place for a really delicious lunch.
After lunch, we took a ride over to “The Big Dam Bridge”. Not sure it is intended as a pun or not, but there is a pretty big Dam on the Arkansas river with a walking bridge on it so you can walk across the river. Since it is a bridge, built on top of a big dam, it is “The Big Dam Bridge”! Anyway, it was cool to see. We didn’t cross the bridge because it was SO long! Almost 1/4 mile walk up a ramp just to get the place where it crosses the river. Nah. No more climbing today.
Next we headed over to the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum where we had a tour of the USS Razorback (SS-394). This is a WWII era diesel submarine docked along the Arkansas river not far from our RV park. Within walking distance actually, I’m surprised we can’t see it from our RV site. We managed to get there not long before they closed, so were on the last tour as the only two attendees…a private tour! We got to spend almost an hour touring the submarine. Pretty cool…definitely not how I would have served, even though I understand modern submarines are spacious by comparison. The museum also has a self-guided tour of a Yard Tug from WWII.
The Razorback had quite a record during and after WWII, it was one of only 12 submarines in Tokyo Harbor for the official Japanese surrender of WWII. It continued to serve into the 1960’s until being decommissioned and sold to the Turkish Navy where it continued to serve for a couple more decades before being brought back to become a museum here in North Little Rock. Our guide tells us the sub is still 90% operational.
If you should happen to be nearby, I recommend a visit. Very informative, and the sub is very well preserved. Of course I may also have taught our tour guide a thing or two about how things worked as well. 🙂
Finally back home to relax a bit and let our knees heal from our pretty adventurous climb up Pinnacle Mountain. I’m glad we did it, but I fear I will suffer for it for a couple days as well. I wouldn’t want to be young again, and have to live through my 20’s and beyond again, but I wouldn’t mind having my knees and back be 20 again!
Karen has a couple things on the list for tomorrow that may include a tour of the old State House, and visiting the “Little Rock”. Who knew Little Rock was actually named for a geological artifact like Plymouth is in Massachusetts? Just as long as we aren’t scaling any mountains it should be a good day.
As an aside, our AquaHot water heater (that we recently paid to get fixed) decided it was going to stop working again and, being Sunday, we were not able to get a mobile tech out to look at it. Hoping for someone to get here early today and figure it out…otherwise we may have to wait till our next stop in Oklahoma.
Nov. 11, 2023: Nashville, TN to Little Rock Arkansas
SATURDAY, NOV 11, 2023 • DOWNTOWN RIVERSIDE RV PARK, NORTH LITTLE ROCK
HAPPY VETERAN’S DAY!
Today was a travel day, so I didn’t get to take advantage of any free food or sales.
Smooth sailing today! Departed Nashville around 9:30AM arriving at North Little Rock, Arkansas Downtown Riverside RV Park at around 3:30PM. Got set up in record time (we are getting pretty good at set up and tear down) and then decided to go to the North Little Rock Welcome center.
Here’s the thing we didn’t know: Little Rock and North Little Rock are two different (sister) cities. They both have a Main Street, and both have an address of 600 Main Street. Guess which one we went to? Yep, the wrong one. Didn’t really matter since it was closed till Monday morning anyway.
So, instead, we headed t the grocery store (Kroger) to stock up and then back home to make dinner. Sadly the pork loin we had must not have been vacuum packed well because when we opened it, it had spoiled (EWWWW…really nasty smell) and had to be thrown out, Everything else was frozen, so perused the internet for an interesting place to get take out nearby. BTW- The parks internet is SMOKING fast here…kind of unusual. Anyway, we decided on a place called Brood & Barley and placed an order and MAN what a good choice! If you happen to be in NORTH Little Rock, I highly recommend this place! I knew it would be good the minute I walked in because not only was it packed, but there was also a line waiting to be seated
This is a very interesting RV Park. It is situated in the middl of the city, and is a combination of concrete (pads) and narrow gravel “yard”. We are packed in pretty good here, and no tents/screen houses or fires allowed. It is situated right on the bank of the Arkansas river, and even though it is quite “urban” it is still kind of pretty. Loys of bridges and they light them (or at last some of them) up pretty at night.
Tomorrow I plan to fly the drone – so will post a couple videos.
Nov. 10, 2023: Nashville, TN
We got another fairly early start today…up by 7 and out by 9:30. First stop today was a backstage tour of The Gran Ole Opry. I’m not really a country music fan, I don’t hate it or anything, just more of a Rock/ R&B guy, but I try enjoyed the tour of the Opry. Lots of history there. Not only did we get to stand on the stage in Studio A (Where Her Haw was filmed) but we also had our picture taken standing “in the circle” o the stage,
The history of the Gran Ole Opry began way back in the 1920’s when a local AM radio show broadcast a live concert from Ryman Auditorium..a lot of history THERE as well (more on that later)…but when the building started to become run-down, a new Opry house was built Because of the history of the Opry at Ryman, a circular section of the stage was removed and moved to the new location. Now, artists performing at the Opry stand “in the circle”…that old section of stage. Interestingly, the Opry is STILL a live radio show, although while it is still broadcast on AM radio, it is also available on several streaming services such as iHeart and SiriusXM. If you are in Nashville, it is worth a visit.
After we left the Opry, we headed over to Ryman Auditorium to see where it all began. The auditorium began as a Tabernacle in the late 1800’s, but because of its size it started being used as an auditorium where there were performances, plays, and some musical shows performed when not being used to preach. When the head preacher retired, it became a dedicated venue for performances. In 1925 the auditorium was used by a local radio station (WSM) for a weekly live music broadest, and the Grand Ole Opry was born! Fun fact: It’s called that because the radio show followed an Opera show and the DJ mispronounced it as “Opry” early on and it stuck.
The auditorium was going to be torn down in the 1970’s, but was saved by a group of artist and community members, restored and is still used as a venue, even though the Opry moved to its new location. It is now partnered with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Just outside the Auditorium sits Johnny Cash’s tour bus. It was built in Ohio in 1979 (the year I graduated high school) and was something to behold back then. Really well appointed by 70’s standards, but by comparison with out coach (The Beast) it ia small and crowded. Also wort a look while you are in Nashville.
Leaving Ryman, we headed to the Assembly Food Hall, a food court like place, for lunch. We had been seeing/hearing abut “Hot Chicken” since we arrived so had to give it a try. Downstairs, Hattie B’s had an enormous line but we got the inside scoop and headed upstairs to Prince’s where the line was shorter and according t a local we spoke to the chicken was better.
The story of Hot Chicken is that Mrs. Prince was angry at her husband (I think because he would hangout at the bar and come home drunk) and to punish him she made his favorite fried chicken, but added a LOT of cayenne pepper so it would burn his mouth. Turns out he actually LOVED it, and Hot Chicken was born! Prince’s is the original Hot Chicken place, but Hattie B’s advertises in tourist flyers so they get all the attention.
In honesty, it was good but I wouldn’t rush back to get more…I mean, it’s fried chicken with pepper…nothing terribly special. Oh, and “Medium” is pretty doggone spicy too!
After lunch we headed to Goo-Goos where were able to design and watch them make our own candy bar. It took a while, but it was fun and the Goo-Goo cluster was delicious! I wanted white chocolate but it was out on the selector so had to settle for milk chocolate, although as I watched them pt mine together I noticed that there WAS white chocolate available so I asked them to top mine with that instead…and they did! Apparently no one else had ever done this – three of the creators remarked at how unusual and creative that was. Maybe they’ll start making them like that now!
After Goo-Goos we took a walk on the pedestrian bridge to get some good photos of the city, walked past Fort Nashborough, the original fort on the river. Sadly it is occupied mostly by the homeless these days.
So, pretty full day but still got back to The Beast by 3:30 or so, where we had some time to hang out with Cobie, relax, watch a little TV (We streamed the movie “Elvis”), have dinner and then off to bed! Leaving tomorrow for Little Rock Arkansas.
Nov. 9, 2023: Nashville, TN
Still haven’t figured out how to share journal entries to FB, so continuing here. Also, out of room for storing media here, so posting them separately to FB…
Managed to wake up early-ish again today. Got going pretty much right away and headed out to Nashville to explore. Started out by meeting the hop on/hop off bus about 100 yards from where we parked and rode it all the way around the whole cite…took about 2 hours. Our driver/guide, Nelson, was great and very knowledgable about the city – which BTW is LOADED with History. aMuch of it is Music history, but you’s never know the Nashville’s TOP industry is Health Care! Yep, Health Care!
Nashville is also know as The Athens of the South because of its early focus on education and having some of the first US Universities…plus they have their own Parthenon!
We hopped off the bus at the Country Music Hall of Fame, which we had very little interest in, neither of us being big country music fans. We did do a tour of the Hatch Show Print sho, where we learned all about how they design and make show posters. They are still using the same tools they used 140 years ago! Fascinating.
Of course not a LOT of call for these hand designed/printed posters anymore, so now they will print a single poster and license it to a customer to use however they wish. Believe it or not, some iconic packaging designs were done and licensed by them. Now, instead of printing a ton of posters to advertise an event, they print a ton of them to sell at an event. We got to print one of our own while there (we didn’t design it, just got to print it – still cool).
After that tour, we stopped at Baja Taco for lunch and then boarded the bus for historic Studio B, an RCA Victor facility that was built in 1956 and the place where many famous artists, including Elvis Presley, recorded tons f #1 hits. We got to stand in the “sweet spot” where the acoustics are best for vocalists – so we literally got to stand in the exact spot Elvis stood to record hits like Hound Dog and Are you Lonely. Gave me goose bumps!
Once we finished this tour, we took a walk to Old Smoky Distillery where we could do some moonshine tasting. The place was packed and we didn’t care enough about tasting to stick around, so left and took a walk over to the “Gibson Garage”.
What an AWESOME place. Turns out Gibson makes their electric guitars right down the road from their store. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play guitar, even tried a couple times when I was a bit younger but didn’t really have the time to devote to it…so, now that I’m retired…
Yep, I bought a guitar! Not a Gibson (I mean who wants to spend thousands of dollars to try and learn?) but an Epiphone Studio (Epiphone is now owned by Gibson). They are shipping it to arrive around our return date so I don’t have to schlep it around in the RV when I am certain to not have time to devote to it daily anyway. Wish me luck!
Off to bed, big day tomorrow too…
Nov. 8, 2023: Denver, NC to Nashville, TN
Today was a travel day. We departed Cross Country Campground in Denver, NC about 9:30. We thought this would be a 5 hour trip, but sadly we were not thinking about Nashville being on CST so it turned into a 6 hour trip (7 with stops for gas and to stretch our legs). We also had to stop once because we got a high pressure alert on a couple tires. Apparently they were overfilled cold and the TPMS alerted us that we had an over pressure. Easy fix, just had to let a few pounds of air out of a couple tires, but definitely need to check the cold pressure in the morning after we
sit for a while.
Along the way Karen was able to book us a few tours in Nashville for Thursday and Friday, so will have a lot more to report about that, along with pictures, in the next few days, I’ll also fly the drone here to have a nice Birds Eye view of the campground: Elm Hill RV Resort. Really beautiful campground. It sits on a peninsula surrounded by water (The J. Percy Priest reservoir). We originally were booked into an “interior” site, but the check-in ladies hooked us up and put us into an upgraded waterfront site. Looking forward to sunrise tomorrow morning.
I did most of the driving today, but Karen drove for the last 90 minutes or so and brought us into the campground. She also drove the RV into the campground and backed it into the site: This was her first time doing this. It was a very tricky job as the road is very narrow and there is a wooden structure directly across from us. She got it into the site on the FIRST TRY! She rocks!
After getting hooked up and leveled we met our neighbor (well, we met her dog first, then her). A young single lady traveling alone in a class B RV (basically a conversion van on steroids). Chatted with her for a bit and she even remarked what a great job Karen did parking the RV,
Well, leftovers for dinner and then probably into bed reasonable early…we DID lose another hour today crossing into central time…with lots of stuff planned for tomorrow.
Nov. 7, 2023: Denver NC
Had a pretty good morning and although I woke up at 4:22 AM, Karen DID sleep till about 7. She’s been waking up a lot earlier since retiring and she was worried she’d start getting up at some ungodly hour like I do, so she was happy to “sleep in” till 7 this morning.
George & Kim arrived at the campground around 8:30 (as planned) to check out the RV and then go out to breakfast. Of course, they like the RV…I mean, what’s not to like?
After visiting for a few minutes, we headed off to the Butcher Boy Café for breakfast. Much like the General Store, we could have more easily walked there. It’s actually CLOSER than the general store. Good food, pretty typical small-town menu with all the usual menu items…except…something called “Livermush”. Of course, I had to ask…and try it. Despite it’s less than appetizing name, turns out it’s actually pretty good, and doesn’t taste at ALL like liver! It’s a lot like scrapple, for those of you who know what that is, except it is deep fried (I mean, it IS the South after all) instead of pan fried. Best with a little mustard, and I am not typically a fan of mustard either.
After breakfast, we bid farewell to George & Kim as they are headed off on their own adventure for a week or so, and headed back to the RV for a nice relaxing day hanging out with Cobie.
Of course, after seeing the “Active Retirement” community our friends live in, we spent the afternoon researching these types of communities near Summerville, SC. Surprisingly there are a BUNCH of them, so of course we scheduled visits to a couple of them for while we are in the area on our way home in December.
Staying in for dinner tonight, we’ll be making Swedish Meatballs in the Instant Pot along with rice and some vegetables. Then getting staged and ready to close everything up and head to Nashville tomorrow!
Nov. 6, 2023: Denver, NC
An auspicious beginning to the day. After being exhausted from the first part of the trip (watching Sully) we decided to hit the hay at 8:30PM. Consequently, we were “up before the dawn”. I got up at 4:16 (which is pretty normal for me anyway) and Karen was also awake, tried to go back to sleep but surrendered by about 5AM. So we just sat around in the dark trying not to wake up the Cobie bird.
Today we had an opportunity to visit with old friends who live near Denver, George & Kim Mack. First though, we did a quick grocery/hardware store run to “The General Store”. It’s a combination grocery store, hardware store and gas station that is just under ¼ mile from us here at the campground. Very cute little local place and they had nearly everything we needed.
Did a little maintenance on the RV – the half-bath door is misaligned (pretty dramatically – Thor quality assurance isn’t very assuring) and flies open while driving down the road as well as limits privacy since it pretty routinely opens when using it too. We had been using a folded-up paper towel in the doorjamb to give it tension to hold it closed, but that was ineffective. First, I tried to place a Velcro strip on the door and the jamb, but it was so misaligned the strips didn’t contact each other. Finally Karen suggested we place a couple washers behind the striker plate and VOILA! It now latches! Hoping it works once we start moving – fingers crossed.
Had a few minutes so flew the drone at the campground to video a nice aerial view 360 around the RV. I’ll do that at each location and it’ll be fun to edit them together and maybe add some music after we get home.
Then headed over to George & Kim’s place for a light lunch and flew the drone around their neighborhood. Kind of terrorized one of the neighbors – all in good fun. George tells me their HOA flies a drone around looking for HOA violations in the neighborhood. Gotta love an HOA.
They live in a great neighborhood for 55 and over people with a clubhouse and WAY too many activities to mention here. Honestly, it’s nice enough that I’d overlook having an HOA if we lived there.
After lunch we headed “Uptown” into Charlotte for a “Funny Bus Tour”. About 2 hours in a converted school bus hitting the highlights of Charlotte with a stand-up comic as the tour guide. She was a hoot and we had a great time. Interesting city, which started out life as a textile center, with several cotton mills surrounded by housing for the workers. Charlotte has now grown into a major financial center in NC. The city is divided into 4 wards, each of which had, at one time, its own cotton mill. These days each ward is known for something different, one is nightlife, one is restaurants etc.
Finished off the afternoon at Midwood Smoke House for an excellent dinner of smoked brisket, pulled pork, ribs and sausage. Midwood is reported to be the best BBQ place in Charlotte and it did NOT disappoint! Lucky us we couldn’t eat it all so brought leftovers for today. That’s one of the nice things about travelling in an RV: You have a refrigerator and microwave, so leftover restaurant food does not go to waste like it would staying in hotels!
After dinner we bid farewell to George & Kim and returned “home” to spend some time with Cobie and finally retire to bed about 9:30. Another really great day and looking forward to meeting George & Kim again for breakfast tomorrow!
Nov. 5, 2023 Scottsville, VA to Denver, NC
HAPPY BIRTHDAY KAREN!
But wait…there’s more! That’s right, he woke up and wanted to play at around 2AM (which, since it was the end of daylight savings time was actually 1AM. So, he was up playing and talking for about 90 minutes before finally drifting back to sleep…only to wake up again at about 7:15AM to start his day!
Pulled him into bed with us for about an hour of very fun, very happy cuddle time. I swear he is the happiest person I know!
Mom & dad came by to pick him up around 8:30AM. It was sad to see him leave, but also time to pack up and get on the road for the NC stop. As much as I hated to see Sully drive away with mom & dad, I was pretty exhausted so looking forward to a nice, quiet, relaxing night tonight. I’ll surely be missing his laugh though!
Got everything picked up and stowed, disconnected and attached the truck and were on our way by about 10:30. Other than being a little slow going on some of the crooked back roads, and having to stop for gas once, the trip was uneventful and we arrived at Cross Country Campground in Denver, NC just before 4PM. Nice level site, quiet campground and got settled in before dark. All in all a good day.
Nov. 4, 2023 Scottsville, VA
Brought Sully back to the RV for the night and he was JUST a little freaked out by the whole thing. Thankfully he settled in pretty quickly and had a great time turning the RV into the aftermath of a hurricane. I forgot how big of a mess such a small person can make. I sound like I’m complaining, but we THOROUGHLY enjoyed having Sully all to ourselves. He is such a joy, so happy and already has a great personality. Can’t wait to watch him as he grows.
Had to have him back at the venue to be the ring bearer by 3, then hung around for a couple hours so he could be in pictures and meet all the people. Then back to the RV where he did NOT freak out, but did continue going through like a hurricane. He did great, and even got into bed and to sleep at his usual time of about 7:30…
Nov. 3, 2023: Springfield, VA to Scottsville, VA
Today is the day! Karen retired yesterday and today we begin our 7 (ish) week journey. Along the way we will visit 12 states: Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas (2 places), Louisiana (New Orleans – Thanksgiving here), Mississippi, Alabama, Florida (4 places here), South Carolina, Georgia and one final night in North Carolina on the way home. We will return home December 20th.
Our intention was to leave the house about 11 to be on the road 11:30. We actually left the house at 10:30. Then we went BACK home because we forgot some stuff from the fridge…thankfully we only made it to CVS in Springfield Plaza before we needed to turn around. Turns out, we got on the road promptly at 11:30 anyway.
We were a little worried about the tow vehicle, because we had to have the transmission replaced after our last trip so we were paying close attention. The tow vehicle, it turns out was fine. The transmission in the RV…not so much. Just about the time we got on I95 south, the transmission began slamming into gear between 3rd and 4th. It was OK once it got beyond 4th gear, but just past Fredericksburg we decided to stop and see if we could figure it out. Didn’t want to have to stop for a couple weeks to have the RV transmission replaced after all.
Once stopped with the truck detached, we hit up Doctor Google and the owner’s manual to see if we could figure it out before calling roadside assistance. Also, a really nice older gentleman who knew about diesels stopped to help. All indications pointed to a lack of transmission fluid, so we checked and sure enough it was low. Older guy crawled under the rig and reported there was no indication of a leak, so it must have come that way from the factory.
Also turns out the dash has a “transmission prognostics” feature, which told us we were nearly 3 quarts low. Lucky for us there was a NAPA auto parts store in the shopping center, so we got the right fluid and added 2.5 quarts. Computer says all is well, and we decide to leave the truck off the tow bar till the next rest area. Thankfully, it started shifting right, and it looks like we did not damage anything. Fingers crossed. We now have a new item on the checklist: Look at prognostics every time before departing. Whew!
The whole fiasco added about an hour to the trip, but we managed to make it to the campground before dark and got set up JUST in time to jump in the truck to go pick up our Grandson Sullivan. This stop is for watching him while his parents attend a wedding.