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!
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…….
After Las Vegas our next stop would be the Newmar 2017 International Rally …… but first, we had to leave Las Vegas and head East, quickly!! As Pack Expo ended on Wednesday, I packed up the coach, met Barry on Interstate 15, hooked up the car and headed north-east toward Interstate 70 at the Utah border. We drove until sunset, stopping along the road to boondock somewhere along the way in Utah for the night.
Next morning, we rose early, grabbed breakfast and determined to drive as far as possible.
We passed so many places to stop and explore but had to ignore each place with our goal in mind.
Crossing Colorado and the Rocky Mountains would be brutal, but we kept driving.
Side Note: Int. 70 across Colorado is Horrible, rough and broken in so very many places, Aunt Betty, Barry, the dogs, and I were just beat up driving it.
We drove over 1,400 miles, but finally made it to Sedalia in 3 days; memo to self: don’t do that again! Side note: We actually lost one of the big Newmar hub caps somewhere in Colorado and had to buy a new one when we got to the Rally!
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!!