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!!
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!
After seeing Drew in South Lake Tahoe, our other main purpose of this trip is to attend PackExpo in Las Vegas. Pack Expo is a huge trade show covering every aspect of packaging products before shipping to retail and wholesale buyers. Pack Expo International occurs every other year, in Chicago, at McCormick Place, and alternates with Pack Expo Las Vegas the opposite years. It is always held in big convention centers with lots of space to display all types of machinery. This is one of the big venues for us to get sales leads and reach potential customers; it’s worth the time and sore feet!
We made early reservations outside “The Strip” in Las Vegas at Clark County Shooting Complex. I have read many reviews and blogs about the safety (or lack of) of the hotel RV parks on The Strip. Many had reported burglaries while staying there, both in and outside RV’s; I was not willing to worry about that while parked in the heart of the lights and noise of Las Vegas. The Shooting Complex sits on the north side of Las Vegas, at the foot of the Las Vegas Mountain Range, and outside the hustle and bustle of town. Reviews had mentioned the noise at this campground when shooting occurred; our reservations were from Sunday to Wednesday and we lucked out! The range is closed to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays but open to the local military for practice; this week the range was preparing for a big public shooting event the next weekend and was closed to all! It was so nice and quiet, especially at night, to sit outside and look down on the lights of Las Vegas.
The campground has 80 paved, FHU spots all lined up in a single row, in between the trap and skeet area and the archery range, the outdoor rifle & pistol areas were further north of the campground. There is absolutely zero grass, trees or anything that even resembles green growth anywhere here….it is truly desert….the corgis had a hard time deciding where to go to the bathroom! Cactus grew everywhere around here, big fat round ones, Saguaros, prickly pear, more than I could count as well as Joshua Trees. We also saw so very many Road Runner birds and Jack Rabbits with their long ears! This time of year the weather was amazing, highs in the 80’s and low in the 50’s…..probably the best time of year to visit if you want to enjoy your trip! We would certainly stay here again.
Back to Pack Expo Las Vegas: Barry went the first 2 days alone to work at different booths, I dropped him off and stayed at the coach. I was able to do laundry and clean the coach; being in the West makes everything so dusty. By Tuesday, I was ready to go to the show and see friends and contacts and so very many machines! Every year they build new tasks for robots to complete and this year was an ice cream serving robot. All you had to do was place a cake cone in a holder and select your flavor (vanilla, chocolate, or swirl). The robot arm picked up the cone, rotated around to the ice cream maker and placed it under the correct flavor spout. Another robot arm pushed the button for the correct flavor and the ice cream filled the cone. As it completed filling, the first arm moved the cone in a small circular motion to make a swirl of ice cream on top! It then returned the cone to the original holder for you to pick it up and eat! Such fun!
Another highlight of this Expo was the FedEx Drone display. They are in the testing phase of using drones to deliver packages to a designated spot in your yard. A drone-enabled truck “picks” the correct box out of the truck cargo (of a small dimension) and places it in a loading arm. That arm raises to the roof of the truck and loads it onto the waiting drone. While the truck driver is making a nearby delivery, the drone takes the package directly to your yard and leaves it for you to retrieve. They hope this will help with more rural deliveries to prevent the truck from having to back in or out of tricky driveways, allowing the best use of the truck and driver. There were also tons of machines that form bags and boxes, fill bottles, and inspect all the above to guarantee the consumer only gets what they have purchased…..no metal shavings, etc..
After about 5 hours walking the show, I was beat and ready to head back to the coach. Barry was having dinner with some of our principals and I was on my own. As I left though, I realized that I could not leave without visiting the Strip a bit. I caught the Monorail and headed over to the Flamingo / Caesars stop, wandered through the Flamingo and out onto the Strip.
I crossed the street and waited to watch the water show at the Bellagio — always wonderful!
My next stop was the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace to enjoy the luxury shopping in a beautiful setting. I watched the “Fall of Atlantis” animatronic show with loud sound effects including water and fire. I love beautiful shoes and stopped at every one of them in the indoor mall before I came to Christian Louboutin and attempted to enter. The doors were closed a few people were milling around, maybe waiting for them to open? Someone said, “They have closed the doors to allow Nicholas Cage to shop in private!” Sure enough, Nicolas Cage was inside looking at shoes! As he completed his shopping, he allowed fans to take a photo with him; my youngest son later questioned why I did not take a photo with him? I replied, “He just looked too scruffy to me!” A previous shopping experience in the Forum Shops put me in a store with Michael Jackson! I Love Caesars Palace!!
If only we were rich, I would probably have several pair of incredible shoes in the RV, or maybe even pull a trailer with lots and lots of shoes? No, I would not, but it would be nice to just wear a pair of lovely shoes every now and then!! My feet were completely worn out by now and I returned to the coach, so tired and incredibly happy!
Today we said goodbye to the incomparable beauty of Yosemite NP and headed south and east toward Las Vegas. Snowy mountain tops along the Sierra Nevada said goodbye to summer and hello to fall (whaaat?) and we kept them in our view throughout most of today.
The drive routed us east along a pass between the White Mountains and the Inyo Mountains and through miles and miles of dry, desert lands. Beatty, Nevada, near the Sheep Mountain Range, was just far enough to give us a nice warmer overnight stop before heading further south to Las Vegas. As we drove along, the landscape changed from pine forests to sage brush, then, after we left California and got further into Nevada, the Joshua Tree (a type of Yucca) appeared. They only grow in the Mohave and Sonoran Deserts in this part of the world!!! That is awesome!
As we got closer to Beatty, we began to see burros along the highway. They have wild burros in Nevada and Arizona!!!
We arrived in Beatty, turned at the only stoplight in town(!), and pulled into Death Valley Inn & RV Park. It is about the only nice hotel here and looks decent from the front, with a pool and nice tree plantings. The RV park is next door, all gravel with very small lacy trees planted along each site — and a view of the discarded old mattresses and furniture behind the hotel. It is small, but has 50 amp FHU’s, decent shower house, and very clean laundry house; for only $35 a night, it was a nice stopover in the desert!
After freshly made lasagna and roll and cake (!) at the local diner, KC’s Outpost, we drove out to Death Valley NP. I visited here many years ago with my family for a spring desert bloom, but Barry had never been here. The eastern boundary was only 8 miles outside Beatty, past the ghost town of Rhyolite, along a long straight highway.
Tomorrow we drive a couple of hours to Las Vegas! Our first “big” city in 2 months!!
We hiked several days into the Sierra Nevada Mountains around Lake Tahoe. One day, Barry & I drove out to Kirkwood Ski Resort and had lunch and took a long different way back to the coach.
Another day, Drew & I left to hike out with my backpack loaded to get used to carrying it packed. We parked off Highway 88 at Carson Pass, loaded up and set off toward Winnemucca Lake.
In the background of the above photo is a mountain called, “Elephant’s Back”….it does look like the skin you might see on an elephant!
Today we hiked about 10 miles round trip, climbed about 2,000’ in elevation, and needed about 4.5 hours with all my stops to rest. Drew was so very patient with me especially on the return trip out when this happened:
We left Flaming Gorge and headed west and south to Wasatch Mountain State Park Campground.
This park is just south of Park City, the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics. The campground is in Midway, Utah and is not easy to find with online maps, we had to drive through a couple of neighborhoods to find it! The town has a large Swedish community and lots of cute painted buildings!
The campground is in a large state park that includes a golf course, and, nearby Wasatch Mountain. The campsites are paved with full hookups and 50 amps of power, each nestled into the trees with a little stream behind. They have very nice paved patios with fire rings set down into the ground and are easy to use. The sites are nice and clean; we would certainly stay here again!
We stayed here for just 2 nights to give Barry a chance to get some work done after the Labor Day weekend. That gave me an entire day to explore the area so I headed up into the mountains! The road in the park was newly paved and an easy upward drive; my first stop was a nice lake with hiking paths around it.
Did you know that one aspen tree is actually only a small part of a larger organism? A stand of aspen trees is considered a singular organism with the main life force underground in the extensive root system. Before a single aspen trunk appears above the surface, the root system may lie dormant for many years until the conditions are just right, including sufficient sunlight. In a single stand, each tree is a genetic replicate of the other, hence the name a “clone” of aspens used to describe a stand. Ref: https://www.nationalforests.org/blog/tree-profile-aspen-so-much-more-than-a-tree
I continued up, turning left and right around switchbacks, driving past the park boundary and into the Park City limit where the nice road became a very rough road (due to the loads of snow and plowing in the winter). At the very top was a nice parking lot with multiple trail heads for me to choose. I picked the shortest one that lead to the summit and headed upward following a heavily trafficked gravel trail.
We had such a nice relaxing time at Wasatch, catching up on work, exploring, hiking and relaxing. We would certainly return here for a longer stay! Next stop: Tahoe!