We hope this note finds you surrounded by those you love and are so very thankful to be sending these wishes to you!
See you down the road!!
P.S. Maybe 2018 will be the year I figure out how to change the font in my blogs!!
P.S. Maybe 2018 will be the year I figure out how to change the font in my blogs!!
Our next stop was a new (to us) RV park on the northeast side of Nashville in Goodlettsville, Grand Ole RV Resort and Market. While we would normally stay at the Corps of Engineers campground in this area, they were all closed for the winter and this park had good reviews. It is a small, privately owned “resort” with tight spaces on gravel that include full hookups and WiFi and a store/cafe all just off Dickerson Pike. The staff were incredibly friendly and made us so very welcome. There is no dog park, but plenty of room for the kids to run nearby in a large field. It is about a 20 minute drive into Nashville from here, but is so very quiet that it is worth the “isolation”. Coaches, 5th wheels and campers made up the population and all were friendly. We would probably stay here again during the winters.
The first order of business for me was to find the American Red Cross for my regular donation. The TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville was professional and so clean; I am a quick donor and left knowing that someone, somewhere, would benefit from my holiday donation!
We were here to celebrate Thanksgiving with Tyler & Susan and waited for Ryan, Katie & Ansel and Mike & Cindy to fly in to join us! Katie had rented a cute house in the Hillsboro West End part of town that gave us all room to relax and visit. (Good job with VRBO.com Katie!) The house came with a small playset and trampoline in the back yard; the cold did not bother Ansel as he wanted to “go outside” all day long!
A nearby park gave us a great spot to play, translate chase Ansel, and meet a photographer for family photos. At 2 1/2, Ansel is a handful of mischief, the photos were amazingly good though!
We also took the time to wander around downtown Nashville on Broadway, but with a toddler in the morning, the music fun had not yet begun and it was too cold to hang out too long. Another day found us driving around town like tour guides (bad call) looking at houses and churches and parks, finishing up at Belle Meade; just wish we knew more history to share!
No visit to Nashville would be complete without a drive south to Lynchburg and the Jack Daniels Distillery! We took the standard tour — Barry & I loved the chance to follow Ansel around the beautiful setting, trying to answer all his questions! “What that smell is?” “A bus! A bus!” “Where the firetruck is?”
A highlight was an evening trip to Cheekwood Estate and Gardens for the Christmas lights display. The beautiful gardens were lit with millions of lights, arches of lights, flower-shaped lights in trees, lights reflecting off water features; the gardens just glowed! The mansion was open for tours with poinsettias and carolers on the main floor; further along the garden trail was a big train display that Ansel just loved! It was fun for all of us to hang out together and especially see Tyler snuggle up with Ansel!
We had reservations at Maggiano’s Little Italy for our Thanksgiving feast — so much delicious food served family style! Another great idea Katie! We also took some time to explore the Belmont area — Draper James, women’s clothing (Reese Witherspoon is the founder!) and Frothy Monkey, coffee shop, were fun places here. Lunch took us to Urban Grub for delicious and different choices – huge seafood and charcuterie bar!
Later that day, the travelers headed to the airport to return to sunny Ft. Lauderdale. Thanksgiving was a wonderful relaxed family time, just missing Drew & JoAnn and Crit & John.
On Sunday, Barry & I waved goodbye to Tyler & Susan and headed the RV south & east toward Tampa for a business appointment…..followed by Christmas in Ft. Lauderdale!!
We left Gun Creek Campground and Illinois, crossed through Kentucky (with a pit stop at a customer’s plant), and spent 2 nights in Clarksville at Clarksville Campground. This gave us a weekend to relax and sight-see nearby at Fort Donelson National Battlefield.
This battlefield sits on a hilly overlook on the Cumberland River in Tennessee, just east of Clarksville.
The site has been well preserved, is very quiet and informative. There are beautiful river outlooks, a national cemetery, and the preserved Dover Hotel which was the site of the battle’s surrender.
On Sunday, we picked up and headed for Nashville and Grand Ole RV Park and Thanksgiving with the family!
We stopped at Gun Creek Campground on Rend Lake in central Illinois for a week. Our plans originally were for Barry to make calls in southern Illinois and south-eastern Missouri, however, other calls came up and he spent the week between here, St. Louis, Springfield, MO and Mattoon, IL…..lots of miles on the car! This gave me a great opportunity to work on some spreadsheets for the company, it’s called StL Packaging Systems, by the way!
Each day though, the Corgis and I managed to make time for long walks along the lake, in the woods or along the trails. The lake is a Corps of Engineers lake and is banked most of the way around by great big white chunky rocks that are hard to clamber on with 2 little dogs on leashes. There is a little sandy beach they have built near our campground but it has mostly washed down into the water leaving just a muddy-sandy beach in between those big rocks and plantings of some type of bamboo. The trails are paved but wander along until they just stop without warning. There is a large power line cut behind this campground and the Corgis and I hike along that and into the woods where possible. Briars grow wild here and most of our treks ended in thickets too dense to part.
The sun has been out some of the time, it rained heavily one day and knocked more leaves off the trees. They are still beautiful here with lots of bright oranges and yellows left on the maples and persimmons on several trees.
We really love stopping at this campground; full hookups, great views, quiet parking and dark at night! We stop here whenever we are working in southern Illinois, know the good places to eat, and use this campground to recharge our souls. (Notice I recharge in nature? That’s a good thing!). Our next stop will be in Nashville for a Thanksgiving celebration!
After leaving Bennett Springs, we returned to the St. Louis area and parked at Babler State Park. We were having trouble with the leveling system on the coach and made an appointment for an oil change and check-up and stayed at our house (still not sold) during that time. I turned off the water at several bathrooms to prevent any trouble while we had been gone so long; this was a chance to turn it back on and “flush” the systems. We have 1 master bath, 2 other bathrooms, and a half-bath (this was the only one I left on). After filling the tanks back up, the 3 toilets that had been turned off began to leak quickly from the tank bolts. All the toilets were original to our house (28 years old) and the gaskets on those bolts had dry-rotted. I bought 6 new bolt setups at the hardware store and returned to replace them.
The process looks like this:
The first toilet in the hall bathroom would not loosen after much effort and application of WD-40. We had to resort to the SawzAll to cut it off. Toilets are not usually in wide open spaces and we were working between the toilet and bathtub, hanging over the toilet to carefully saw it off. What a mess….but the opposite bolt finally loosened and came out without the use of the SawzAll. (Are you familiar with a SawzAll? It is actually a reciprocating saw with a ton of back & forth cutting action that is good for a small space.) We replaced these bolts in 6 hours (!) and headed to the master bathroom.
We were super tired now, but I decided to proceed with the project. I drained the tank and applied some WD-40 to the bolts and let it work on the bolt. Rather then reach over the toilet to try to loosen the bolts, I laid on the floor on my back and attempted to loosen them. I am going to attribute the next problem with being tired and working on my back. Trying to loosen the bolts, I turned them the wrong way (reference #6 above) and heard a little noise like ……. porcelain cracking …….. yep, the entire tank cracked in half from that bolt.
There was some cursing and I may have thrown a few things outside the back door in anger….. So now I had to replace the tank on that toilet, but you cannot buy a toilet tank at the hardware stores, you have to buy the entire toilet. So, back to the store to bring home a new toilet and remove the old one. Down to the floor. Everything. Yes, I may have hit the old tank with a hammer in the trash can smashing it to pieces. So now, install the new toilet. Luckily, it came with all the parts, even the flush valve already installed in the tank! We replaced it and turned the water back on — No Leaks!!!
I went to the upstairs toilet and had to repeat the process above to remove those bolts. But now I was very cautious and turned the bolts the correct way to avoid cracking this tank! I was wedged in between the lavatory and shower stall working on the toilet. A couple more hours of effort and the job was done. Three toilets, three ugly repairs, three times the trouble. Should I have left the water turned on? Probably it would have avoided this problem. Two weeks in Missouri, cleaning the house, packing up more stuff, cleaning up the yard, and repairing/replacing the toilets was just another reason we are convinced that we need to sell this house! If only someone would make us an offer!
We said goodbye to our new friends from the Newmar Rally and headed just south to return to Bennett Springs for 2 weeks. This would give Barry some time to catch up on visits in southern Missouri and both of us to acclimate to Missouri after all our travels west. Hidden Valley Outfitters is our favorite campground in Missouri with full hookups and a lovely Niangua River setting for relaxing and fishing. After we were parked, he hurried to buy a Missouri fishing license and Niangua River tag and spent the evening fishing off the banks.
Every year, my family has a girls’ weekend somewhere not too far from St. Louis; this year would be at Eureka Springs, Arkansas the weekend after we arrived in Bennett Springs. My twin cousins, Mickie & Missey, picked me up on Friday and we turned our sights south. Our first stop was to get sandwiches at Schlotsky’s – a deli the girls just love, but no longer in St. Louis – for lunch. From there we took our time driving, stopping for them to geocache along the way. They stop in the funniest places looking for the cache hidden in trees or fence posts or on the ground under something!!
We arrived at the house our cousin, Joyce, had rented through VRBO.com ; a wonderful, large, log home right on Beaver Lake. Joyce and her daughter, Pam, had made us chicken Alfredo for dinner, we got hugs from my Mom, and cousin, Jill, and sat down to eat and relax.
The next morning, we got up to enjoy crepes, again made my Joyce and Pam :-)) , and made plans to drive into Eureka Springs for the day. All the roads here are curvy and change elevation quickly, probably not a good choice for our RV! Our first stop was Thornhill Chapel just outside Eureka Springs. It is a beautiful place to worship, reflect, and feel the presence of God amidst the trees in an architectural wonder.
Eureka Springs is a quaint little town built into hills and valleys with narrow streets and cramped parking. The streets do not follow a grid, but rather meander along with tight turns and steep climbs. After finally finding parking spots for our 2 cars, we began to explore. My mom wanted to sit at the town park/amphitheater to enjoy a Bluegrass Festival all day. We left her there and shopped along the way at cute shops with tea and coffee, eclectic souvenirs, children’s stuff, bath & body products, pet products, jewelry, and local wares. Close to lunch-time, I got in line to wait for a table for 9 at the Basin Park Hotel on the outdoor, 2nd floor balcony. By the time we were called, my Aunt Sis and her daughter, Kim, had arrived and we all began to catch up while we ate.
After lunch, some of us drove up to the Crescent Hotel to see the historic building, some went to geo-cache, and Mom & Aunt Sis sat down to hear more music. Weary and tired, we loaded back into our cars and headed back to the house for the night. I enjoyed a luxurious, wonderful bath in the claw-footed bathtub (not possible in an RV!). Girl talk, family history, and photos occupied us during the evening before we finally settled down for a good night’s sleep late in the night.
The next morning cousin Kim made us a delicious breakfast before we all headed back to home. A couple more geocaching stops and another visit to Schlotsky’s (those twins LOVE this place!) before they dropped me off back in Bennett Springs at the RV. We can’t wait to decide where to go next year on our trip!
We have had our coach, Aunt Betty, for 13 months now and registered for our very first RV rally with the Newmar company. A rally is a gathering of like-minded people for the purpose of learning, fun, fellowship and food! Newmar has been building RV’s and campers for 50 years, we love Aunt Betty, and this would be a great opportunity to learn more about taking good care of her. The Newmar Kountry Klub is made up of Newmar owners from all over the world.
In Sedalia, Friendly Newmar Kountry Klub volunteers guided us into our parking spot in the middle of a field at the Missouri State Fairgrounds. The sites here are very tight, we could all get our slides out, but not the awnings. Our rug bordered our neighbor’s rug, end-to-end, and covered the entire space between our coaches. Eight RV’s shared a single water pedestal, 4 shared a sewer site, but we had our own 50 amp power pedestal. The coach behind us was about 10’ back from us! We were going to make friends!!!!!
We checked into the Rally, got our name badges with our First-Timer ribbon and lots of information, and headed back for a quiet night in the coach, catching up on some needed sleep after that drive. Sunday was a Get Acquainted meeting with all the First-Timers and then time to meet new and old friends. A couple across the road from Aunt Betty had a coach similar in year to ours and we made our first true RV friends, Peter and Nannette, from West Virginia. As the week progressed, we made more friends, Allen & Sandy, from Florida, and Bob & Loretta, from California. Allen and Sandy had just purchased a brand new coach from Ft. Myers, FL; this was the first trip they had ever made! Bob & Loretta met on the ski slopes in California and travel to Jeep rallies with their coach.
Monday began with seminars and classes, craft classes and 2018 Newmar coaches to tour. An Opening Ceremony started everything, we were busy all day, a bluegrass band, Link Union, finished the day out with a wonderful concert. Tuesday, I spoke at a Full-Timer’s seminar on down-sizing after you buy that coach and then attended more seminars. We had scheduled Newmar service for Aunt Betty and got that going, ordered new front outdoor window screens to be custom made and attached, had the water and holding tanks flushed, learned about and bought LED replacement lights for several sockets, and wore out our brains with technical and maintenance information.
The rear bedroom slide motor had to be replaced, a missing hubcap was replaced (we lost it in Colorado on Int. 70), we also bought a new water filter for the house & air filter for the engine. It started raining on Tuesday and continued until Thursday, dropping several inches on us. Poor Barry had to drive to Kansas on Wednesday for a work appointment. The Full-Timers Dinner was Thursday night and the closing ceremony was Friday afternoon. They provided a couple of breakfasts and dinners, which were catered by a local company (and not good). Representatives from Newmar Corporate were there to discuss the health of the company (yearly strong!) and plans for the future. By Saturday, we were exhausted from all our new knowledge! During the week I was interviewed by Spartan for an ad campaign, #shervs .
We had the coach weighed (31,000 pounds!!), now we know what bridges we should not cross! All our new friends agreed to stay until Sunday and paid $20 for overnight parking in the same field. So we all watched a majority of RV’s attempt to pull out of tight spots on soggy ground, several got stuck and had to call big tow trucks to drag them out! By Saturday afternoon, the sun dried out the field and the remaining rally attendees knew there would be no problems leaving on Sunday.
We have already registered for the Tampa RV SuperShow in mid-January and encouraged our friends to join us there. We probably won’t attend lots of rallies in the future. Registration was expensive ($500+), food was terrible, the seminars were decent, but the overall attitude was definitely more male than female. The seminars tagged Women’s Interest included cleaning the interior of the coach and crafting…….hmmmm. The Tampa RV Super Show will help us make our minds up about future rallies.
As the Rally was coming to a close a local horse club was enjoying a show in the beautiful, old coliseum (built in 1906) with a costume theme.
There was also a Wild Horse and Burro Sale in one of the side buildings. Sadly, I recalled the wild animals we saw out west this summer and hoped these animals would find good homes soon. I am not going into politics but I don’t feel these wild animals need to be taken from the natural areas and sold to farms and ranches……..sad face…….