Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lessons Learned

I made it back home. Timing was perfect, I had just finished my last glass of wine the evening before. I was so very sad to leave the road and come home. I was also so very happy to be home and see Tony and my house and my cat Jogger. Reentry into real life, it was almost overwhelming. It is still going to be another two weeks before my car is fixed, not to mention the huge pile of mail that accumulated.

Back when I was in the corporate world, at the end of every project, there was an exercise called Lessons Learned where you reviewed the project, both good and bad and made notes supposedly to improve the next project. These are my lessons.

I had a blast on this trip. It was not the ideal way I would like to travel. I need more time and less ground covered. I also would really like to add more culture into the trip. Because I only had three weeks, I just focused on one of my goals which was to see every single national park, monument, historic site along the way. But, there is so much more out there.

While I got by without a car, I think having a car where I could run into town or maybe see some of those cultural attractions. Art museums generally do not have RV parking.

I don't like to drive more than three hours a day. So schedule accordingly.

Wind is bad. If there is a strong crosswind, then perhaps you should stay put.

RV parks should only be used when there is no place else to stay. Otherwise stay in state/county/city parks. I know some people like all the amenities in RV parks, but I don't like the closeness of the neighbors.

Make sure all the cabinets and drawers are closed before leaving the campsite. Nothing worse than driving along and hearing banging and crashing as you roll down the road.

Use the GasBuddy app more often. It will tell you where the cheaper gas is in the area that you are driving in.

If it is raining, make sure that the overhead vents are closed or it is going to get wet inside the RV.

Don't ask friends to remove staples out of your head. It is a job for trained professionals. Special kudos to Val for trying to come to my aid. That took guts for her to do what she did and I appreciate her even agreeing to try, let alone actually trying.

Till next time.....

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Last Night Out

I had heard that there were going to be some strong winds so I wanted to get an early start before they started kicking in. I guess 9:00 is an early start for me nowadays.

Have I mentioned how much I do not like my gps system. She just doesn't understand that a 32 foot RV is perhaps not the best vehicle to go down some of those country roads I was on. I will say though that at least Iowa has shoulders on most of their roads, unlike Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

I was heading for Effigy National Monument which is in northeast Iowa, on the river. Beautiful country, but it sure is hilly. Perhaps hilly is an understatement. I was going to say the nice thing about Iowa is that at the top of hills, they announce the grade percentage as in “8% grade – Trucks use low gear”. I found that it ended up scaring me. I was glad for the signs, but 8% grade is a steep downhill.

Effigy is a bunch of mounds build by ancient Native Americans. I thought that going to Effigy would be good since the week before I was in Georgia looking at their mounds. Georgia's mound builders were called Mississippians and they came from this area in Iowa. We climbed the bluff and walked around looking at the mounds. There was a great view of the Mississippi.
Drove on to a campground in Decorah. It was white knuckle driving. There was a strong cross wind and it felt like it was doing it's best to blow me off of the road. This was even worse than driving those Iowa mountains. Seriously, seriously scary. Now I don't know if it was the wind or a couple of branches that brushed my roof at Effigy, but when I look at my TV antenna, one side , the side that was facing toward the front of the bus is all bent backwards and sticking straight up. Thank goodness I have an appointment next week to fix some of the new rig shakedown problems. The antenna still seems to work but it needs to get fixed.

Pulpit Rock Campground is a county park. Hardly anybody here – I have a place right on the trout stream. I was supposed to have Wi-Fi and actually had it for five minutes before it disappeared.
It is my last night on the road so I had a pizza delivered. This camping stuff ain't too shabby.

 Climbing the bluff you can see the RV down below:

At the top of the bluff, that is a train down there

Miko is color coordinated for this landscape

Pulpit Creek Campground Decorah Iowa

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spooky Times

April 8

My son's birthday today.  Happy Birthday Aaron!!!!

Changing states, moving on north. Beautiful day for driving but windy. Really hate the wind when I'm driving something as tall as this vehicle. Drove through flat, flat Illinois into flat, flat Iowa.  I found a park called Maquoketa Cave State Park. Evidently the big draw here are the bat caves. Before you tour the bat caves you have to attend a lecture on white nose syndrome - a communicable disease that bats get. It is deadly for bats. Not to worry, the bat caves were closed because evidently the bats are still hibernating. I would have liked to see the bats, the caves notsomuch.

I drove into this campground and there was not a single soul around. No campers, no rangers, nobody. It was sort of spooky being all alone. The park itself is lovely, lots of pine trees, it smelled great. The ground was soft and springy from all the pine needles. I found a suitable place and parked.  I then noticed I was in Site #13. Eerier and eerier. Miko and I went hiking - this is a nice time of year, nothing is blooming so you can see quite a ways through the woods. I finally found one guy working in the park, gathering up leaves in the park with a big front loader. I flagged him down and asked him where I could find a ranger. Lo and behold, this was Mr. Ranger.  I told him I was camping because I thought it would be good if at least one person knew I was down in the campground.

When Miko and I did our sunset walk, the owls were hooting away and adding more to the spooky atmosphere. It was an extremely quiet night - good sleeping weather.

Miko basking in the sun:

The deserted campground:

Iowa woods - nothing green here:

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rain, Rain Go Away

April 7
Lots and lots of rain driving north all the way up to Indianapolis. It was a hard driving day. The nice thing about being up so high in this bus is that all the road spray that you normally get from all the trucks is beneath you. I am the sprayer, not the sprayer. Love that.

Ended up in Illinois at the Clinton Lake State Park Reserve. It is near De Witt Illinois. The campground is nicely laid out in a series of spokes with perhaps six camping spaces per spoke. Another nice camping park. There were three camp hosts and three camping units such as mine. A camp host is somebody who the park hires to help out other campers. In this particular park, they get paid $1 a day but they get a free camping site with free utilities.  My personal camp host does this for a living spending her summers in Illinois and the winters someplace further south.

I set up camp in about five minutes in the pouring rain. I'm getting pretty good at setting up and breaking down camp. Breaking down is a little more stressful, trying to remember all the little details such as putting down the antenna or making sure the levelers are pulled up. The one task I seem to struggle with is making sure every single drawer and cabinet is shut tight. If they aren't, then as I drive down the road, I hear all this banging as the cabinet door slams open and then slams shut.

The rain finally stopped and we went out walking. Tons of deer, bunnies, pheasants, robins and cardinals.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tennessee-Kentucky-Indiana/We Be Movin' Feet

Hit the road around 9:30 or should I say I left Kathy and Bill's place then. It was sad to leave there. I always have such a good time. Since I'm heading back up north, I thought I should make sure my propane tanks were full since I need propane to run my furnace. I have a small electric heater that I use when it's not too cold so I don't use up my propane but it doesn't quite heat up the place when it gets really cold. Anyway, propane place didnt open until 10 and the proprietors were definitely on Tennessee time so I didn't actually get on the road until 10:30.

Gorgeous day to drive. Coming out of Knoxville, going north you are driving into the Cumberland Mountains.  The mountains are lovely, soft and rounded unlike the craggy Rockies. There is something about this area of the country that speaks to me.  I am in a constant state of awe. That 5-6% grade that I was so worried about?  Piece of cake.

As I went into Kentucky, the hills became softer and more rolling. It always amazes me when I get around the Lexington area, the huge horse spreads and how green the grass is - what a nice life all these horses seem to have.

Ended up at the Charlestown State Park, Indiana. It is about 20 miles north of Louisville.  Found myself  a nice secluded spot and did some maintenance. Today's learning point was how to flush out the black tank. I won't go into detail.

I'm typing on my phone and I haven't figured out how to add pictures yet but I have some nice ones so check this post in a few days

This park borders the Ohio River and Fourteen Mike Creek. Found a lovely trail along a bluff that overlooks the creek where we did our sunset walk. I have to say that I am surprised at how hilly this part of Indiana is. I've really only been along the freeways in Indiana and I guess I always thought Indiana was flat and nondescript. Surprise.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Last Day in Knoxville - Knoxville Girl

I'm getting ready to hit the road tomorrow and start the journey north. According to the Mountain Driving book that I have, I have to drive a downhill 5/6% grade. I'm not sure how big of a grade that is, but it sounds scary. We shall see.

What a wonderful day today. Had to go to the dump – Kathy doesn't have garbage pickup and we had to haul garbage to the dump. Then to Walmart for a few supplies.

Then the day started to get great. Knoxville is really promoting itself as a dog friendly city. They have been developing all these dog parks and we decided to check one of them out. We took Jaspar, the whippet and Miko.   Miko likes dog parks although she sometimes gets a little carried away. She finds a dog she wants to play with and then is obsessive with that dog, barking if the other dog doesn't want to play with her. Jasper, on the other hand, has never been to a dog park and was a little overwhelmed. He stuck pretty close to us and just did little ventures out into the park. He got a little nervous anytime another dog came up to say hi to him, but by the end of our visit actually ran a little bit. He just needs more time to get used to the idea of doggie mayhem.

Came back home and Kathy and Bill rode their horses. I then got to ride Logi, one of my favorite horses of all time. He wasn't too happy with me because I was making him work and actually walk like the majestic Icelandic horse that he is. Got some tolt and trot out of him and just enjoyed myself immensely. I don't think Logi enjoyed it quite as much as I did. Kathy then rode Logi and I got to boss them around a little bit as I pretended to give them a riding lesson. I had great fun.

Met up with a few people(Ann and Donna) that I have met over the years since I started to visit Kathy in Knoxville. These are southern women – it is so much fun not only to see them, but to listen to them talk with all their I reckon and y'alls . By the time they left, I was almost talkin' all mush mouth myself. I say that with a great deal of respect – it is a very pretty way to speak. Tennesseans have a nice soft southern accent.

Did a few chores around the motor home – heading out tomorrow – next stop Indiana. I would have liked to spend the night in Kentucky someplace so I could knock that off my list of states I've slept in, but the mileage and timing won't work out very well. I probably will not have WiFi for a while, I will update the blog, but probably no pictures so check back for the pictures.
Pictures of Spring:


Friday, April 4, 2014

Another low-key day

It rained today. Not just any rain, but a flood your basement rain, a run for the ark type rain. Crashing lightning simultaneously with thunder. Quite exciting. I'm pleased to say that the RV did not leak Well, except for the roof vent I left open, oh and maybe that back window that was open also – luckily I got them both closed within a couple of minutes of the storms start. I'm also pleased to say that the RV did not move at all when the high winds came through. By ten o'clock, the storm had passed. Putzed around until late afternoon when Kathy, Bill and I trekked back into Knoxville for a doctor's appointment that Bill had.
Each day I figure out something new in the RV.  One day, how the ice maker works, today it was how the passenger seat moves forward, backwards and up and down.  Such simple things that give such great joy.   

Picked up some supplies from Traders Joe's and ate dinner at Don Gallo – a Mexican restaurant. I had fish and shrimp tacos. I think fish tacos are such a welcome addition to the mexican cuisine. I don't remember fish tacos as an option when I was growing up. Mediocre wine and lovely tacos.

Watched the movie Despicable Me 2. I have such a soft spot for Gru, the lead (villain/hero) in the movie.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Did a lot of chore running around with Kathy. Everything in Knoxville is at least a half hour drive from Kathy's house so a lot of time was spent in the car.

It has been cold all over the country even down south here in Tennessee. The difference between Minnesota and Tennessee is that we insulate our houses much better than in Tn. During one of the cold snaps, some water pipes in Kathy's ceiling broke and flooded out most of her house. This happened to a lot of people down here. It has taken Kathy three months to get her house back into shape. She had no kitchen during that time, doing dishes in her bathtub. The house is finally put back together with one last detail. Getting the wireless hooked up. As we all know who live with Comcast, that one little task took several hours.

I'm finding that driving long distances in the RV, my lower back gets a little sore. So the search is on for a lumbar support thingamabob. I have one already but I need a more extreme one. I'm still looking.

As I use the RV, I am figuring out little things that I want to adjust in the RV. One of the things is that the driver's seat swivels around and sort of a lounger. When you are lounging, there is no place to put a glass down next to you. So I am looking for a small side table. Kathy just happened to have a perfect table that worked so now I am extremely close to all the creature comforts of home.

Went to lunch at P.F.Changs which was good eating even though it went against my “never go to a chain restaurant when traveling” mantra.

Ended the day by shoveling horse manure. All in all, a good day.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Back to Knoxville

Got up and took one last walk around my lovely campground. I really liked it here – next time I will spend more time here. Drove down that long mountain road back to some flatland. Did I mention that the road seemed to have gotten skinnier and this time, on the way down, I was on the outside of the road, the side where it drops off many miles down to the valley.

Got to the Chickamunga and Chattanooga National Battlefield and watched the movies and looked at the displays. The Confederacy won the Chickamunga battle, the Union won Chattanooga. As one person of the times said – the Chattanooga loss was “the death knell of the Confederacy”. The battlefield is huge so we didn't spend any time walking around. There are tons of monuments scattered throughout the grounds.

It was a short two hour drive up to Kathy's place in Andersonville which is a little bit north of Knoxville I pulled up next to her garage, hooked up my water and electric, put out my awning and waited for her to get home from work. Miko has two dogs to play with – Taj, a Borzoi and Jasper a whippet. It was like old home week for the dogs. Much rejoicing all around. It was so nice to see Bill and Kathy again. I love hanging with them.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Still in the Clouds - Georgia

Weather is beautiful. Mid seventies, sunny. Everything is blooming which means my nose is running. Out come the cold drugs.

Slept in and then moseyed around until it was trail time. This park is on the rim of a gorge. You can camp on either the west rim or the east rim. I am on the west rim. In the morning we hiked down, down, down ito the gorge. There are two waterfalls at the bottom. We got to the bottom along the river but could only see one waterfall because there were stairs with metal grates on them and it was hard for Miko to walk on them. That is ok, I was getting tired. As I started climbing all the way back up, I realized several things. One – I'm on the west side of the gorge – the sunny side, the hot side and although I am a much leaner person now, I don't have much muscle going for me. Guess it is something to work on, this getting back in shape thing. Ugh. 

Made another attempt to wash my windshield. I wet the thing down with the long handled sponge and scrubbed off the bugs. Then to dry the windshield so there were not water spots, I just turned on the windshield wipers. Clever I am. I also did laundry with my new-fangled pioneer washing machine.

We went for an evening stroll but this time instead of going down into the gorge, we walked around on top of the rim. Lots of giant rocks and deep, deep crevices. Miko seemed to have no trouble hanging out by the edges – myself, not so much. Nothing strikes fear in my heart like long drop-offs.

I took some pictures with my phone, but I can't seem to get the hang of a “good” picture. I'll have to study up on that, I guess.