Posted in RV Living, Travels, Uncategorized

Let’s Look Around Here

Although we live in an RV, we are not on a never-ending vacation…….sorry……  But I still try to find new things to see everywhere we go, this blog is my way of sharing those things with you!  So, let’s look around southwestern Iowa and northwestern Missouri.  The first stop on this tour will be the lovely drive from Iowa south…….yes, there are lots of corn and soybean fields, but there are also farms with big barns, huge grain silos at co-ops, and wind farms.

Wind Farm in Southern Iowa
These windmills are HUGE!!!!
I Love Old Barns!

Weston, Missouri is a little river town with a wonderful history, quaint shops, distillery, winery, brewhaus, and historic old homes and cemetery.  At one time, it was the largest city west of St. Louis with a thriving river business; however as the Missouri River flooded over time, the channel moved 2 miles west and Weston was left “high and dry”.  The residents have embraced their history though and the town remains charming and a flurry of tourists visit on the weekends.  Warning:  most of the shops are closed on Monday-Wednesday!

I love a good hardware store, but the mess and dust in this place were just too much!!!
Beautiful tiles at the entrance to a shop in Weston, MO
Barry found a cool spot to relax at the McCormick Distillery Tasting Room!

Across the river from the Lewis & Clark State Park is Atchison, Kansas.  The Missouri River left Weston and Atchison was founded on the western banks.  It is a sleepy town with high river bluffs whose claim to fame is the birthplace of Amelia Earhart.  We just missed a big birthday festival in her honor.  There is a beautiful Benedictine College campus up on the river bluffs and, of course (!), a Lewis and Clark marker on the river.  We found a wonderful small grocery/meat market with wonderful food as well as a great breakfast spot, Paolucci’s, with some of the best freshly baked Italian bread French Toast I have ever eaten!

Lewis & Clark plaza
Veteran’s Memorial at Lewis & Clark plaza

 

 

 

 

 

 

The McCormick Distillery property is just outside Weston.  Holladay bought them and produces all the spirits here under the Holladay/McCormick label.  We enjoyed a private tour (Monday!!) and were able to see the process.  We have visited many distilleries and this one is nice and historic, but small;  the whiskey is not our favorite…..sorry.

Old storage cave at McCormick Distillery
Spring water runoff — but rather dry now.

 

Great view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Campgrounds, Parks, RV Living, Travels

Lewis & Clark SP

Although we had originally only intended to stay at Lewis & Clark State Park for 5 days, things changed and we opted to stay for 2 whole weeks.  Here is why:  Barry had to drive up to Wisconsin during our stay and it made more sense for me to stay at this park then to move further south…..

Lovely Lewis & Clark SP

This stay was a test of my ability to be home alone without a car for multiple days.  I loaded up on groceries and settled in for the stay without a car.  Without sewer and water hookups, I couldn’t do laundry or clean too much, so I relaxed!!  I am a person who likes to “get things done” and this was a learning time for me.  I did some work on scanning photos and updating some genealogy, but walking the dogs was my main occupation.  I rode my bike and took lots of new photos.  I really relaxed.  For the first time in a long, long time, I don’t have that feeling of tension in my shoulders!

Great Blue Heron at sunset

Now about the park:  Pros:  Level sites with many trees and ample shade.  50 amp electric service only.  Quiet and dark at night, wide sites with lots of quiet during the day.  Lots of wildlife, bird-watching and great flora everywhere.  Historic and fun Weston just to the south. The home of the Pony Express, St. Joseph, just to the north with more history, a great Cajun restaurant, and Jesse James history also.  Atchison, Kansas just to the west with beautiful architecture and the birthplace of Amelia Earhart.  Some of the best campground hosts we have met during our travels!

Cons:  No water or sewer hookups.  Our original site flooded during a heavy, all day rain the first week.  Verizon – 2 bars, AT&T – 2 bars, weBoosted both to 4 bars.  Nothing more negative than that!!!

All the member’s name are inscribed around the marker.
Center of the compass

 

A big plus for me is the many Lewis & Clark Expedition historical markers.  We are both history fans and following the Lewis & Clark Trail was one of my reasons for getting an RV to travel.  The Mississippi River has changed course over the last couple of hundred years and, as a result, left several oxbow lakes in this areas.  These are shaped like an oxbow, curved like a big arch, but without the river supporting them until it floods.  The park is on one of those lakes and they have built a wonderful marker on the banks.  Supposedly, it is a spiritual vortex and if you stand in the middle of it and relax for several minutes, you can feel as if you are out of your body…….didn’t work for me!

Muskrat eating the water plants in the lake

If I sat quietly at the lake, the muskrats would continue their eating……they seem to eat constantly……and they make a loud sucking noise as they eat cattails, water lilies and sedges underwater.  Only a few of them were visible on the surface, the majority were underwater; I could tell by the movements of the plants.

I was excited to see this cicada in molting stage and hoped to get multiple photos of the process; but when I went out the next morning, he and the shell were both gone.
There were lots of large sycamore trees here and I found this wonderful Sycamore Tussock moth outside one morning!  He was very small on my fingertip!
Not sure, but this might be a tomatillo Plant?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The weather was beautiful during our stay, cooler than normal with lower humidity.  Beautiful sunsets every evening with so very many stars in the night sky.     We will gladly return to stay here again!

State Park walkway bordered with native grasses

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Posted in LIfestyle, RV Living, Travels

No Reservations!

We purchased our first coach, as you know, in September, 2016 and set out to conquer the USA by road!  We have learned, and relearned so much about this new lifestyle along the way……. today let’s talk about travel planning.  The first thing you need to know about me is that I am a PLANNER.  I love a good ride down an unknown road to an unknown destination, but, in general, I like to know where this big RV is headed for the night.

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The first thing I have learned is that I need to be aware of Big Days on calendars.  A Big Day can be a holiday or a special festival in a certain area or a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence…..let’s say a Solar Eclipse.  I waited too late last year and had to make a less than desirable reservation in a campground in Ft. Lauderdale for Christmas….I have already made a very desirable reservation for this year!  Father’s Day requires advance planning (apparently Dads like to camp!).  The Three Big Summer Days require thoughtful planning (Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day).  And this year add in the Solar Eclipse.

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So, I have had my work cut out for me with snagging campground reservations this year.    I do have reservations for all the Three Big Summer Days and the Solar Eclipse.  But there are also lots of days in-between all the Big Days, just regular days that we need to stay somewhere overnight.  That is where the hard part of planning begins; now I have to figure in Barry’s work schedule.   Because he is still working, we need to be in his territory for sales calls, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, southern Illinois and other places here and there.  We need to be able to reach his manufacturers also for sales meetings and to do factory testing on machines, those are in Vancouver, Toronto, Tampa, and Athens, GA.  The timing of these visits are not usually something we can plan more than a couple weeks out.

This happened in the last two weeks:  PLAN:  Travel to Des Moines, IA for sales calls, Travel to St. Joseph, MO — sales calls, Travel to McPherson, KS — sales calls, Travel to El Dorado, KS – make sales calls in Wichita, Travel to Lee’s Summit, MO – sales calls in KC area and a flight to Toronto for annual sales meeting, Travel to Lincoln, NE – sales calls.  Reservations were made at all those locations……but, there was this little thing hanging over our heads.  A new X-Ray machine was being delivered to a new customer and there will be a FAT (Field Acceptance Trial) at that location after delivery and setup.  The machine was being shipped from the factory in Europe, there were shipping delays, Customs delays, QC in Tampa before the final shipment to the customer In Minong, Wisconsin.  REALITY:  All the reservations needed to be altered and a trip scheduled for him to “no where near us now”.

fullsizeoutput_4fa2Reservations were changed, cancelled, extended.  I lost a reservation fee and overnight charge in Wichita, but stayed at a more reasonable priced park near St. Joseph.  Sales calls won’t be made in central Kansas right now.  I’m in Missouri and he is in Wisconsin.  This all takes a crazy amount of time……and some days my brain gets frazzled with it all.

But it is still better living here than anywhere else with, or without, reservations!!

Posted in Campgrounds, Parks, RV Living, Travels

Bay Bayou Relaxation

We love Bay Bayou RV Resort in Tampa!  It was one of the first RV places we stayed after we bought our RV last year and it made us love RV life.  It is an easy place to stay with large trees, concrete pads, full hookups, good WiFi, nice dog parks (one for small dogs and one for large ones), nice clubhouse with mail service, and a great pool.


Oh, and did I mention they have those ugly Muscovy ducks……who are also very cute little ducklings?  If you want to google Muscovy ducks to see the ugly adults, go ahead….I’ll wait for you to return……

Now that we have discussed that, let’s talk about lovely Tampa Bay.  Less than 1 mile from Bay Bayou RV Resort is the Upper Tampa Bay Regional County Park.  I rode my bike there one day, it was that close.  There are several picnic shelters and lots of space to spread out.  There are several trails that connect to boardwalks, raised trails to protect the fragile environment and keep you dry and out of the mangroves and coastal bay water.  


The boardwalks even have a couple of places with steps that lead down to the water.  I do not know why the steps are there though……I don’t think you would want to swim in this water due to the probable presence of alligators.  The trails also lead to inland pools with nice places to watch birds.


There is a very nice Nature Center in the park; they have tons of exhibits regarding the history of the area, both recent and geological, live exhibits of local fish, and some teaching centers for school trips. I spotted a giant tortoise on one of the side walking trails, but he vanished into the underbrush before I could get close enough to take a photo.  The best part of the park trails was all the little fiddler crabs all along the trails.  

Another great thing about the Tampa area near Bay Bayou RV Resort is Lobster Haven restaurant.  This little place is a market that sells fresh lobster…….great big lobsters……all waiting in big water-filled tanks to go home with someone.  There is a front seating area that looks just like a second thought for the market; just added to fill the space.  On the other side of the market is a regular little eating spot.  Decorated in New Orleans French Quarter style, there is a decent bar and several tables;most diners eat in here.  They have The Best Lobster Rolls in Florida. Period.  Don’t even ask me twice……it’s just that good.  I meant to take some photos here each time we visited (twice in 5 days), but every time the food arrived, we just started eating it all!  So sorry, you are just going to have to imagine how delicious those lobster rolls were!

Posted in Campgrounds, RV Living, Travels

Outside Marianna, Florida

I  normally select and reserve all the campgrounds while we travel.   While we had been making plans during late March / early April, Barry found one online and thought it looked like a great choice….our criteria:  full hook-ups, concrete parking site, quiet, dark at night, good WiFi, clear view of the SW sky for the Dish…..

He found Alliance Hill RV Park just south of  I-10 but near Marianna, Florida.  He needed to travel north about an hour to Dothan, Alabama for a sales call; this seemed like a great site.  The beach is a little over an hour south of here.  The website looked good enough, there were good reviews; but you know that feeling that something is just a little bit off?  When I called to make our reservation, a friendly older gentleman answered and said he would be please to confirm our dates.  Yes, he said, just call me the day before, and what is your name?  There was no exchange of RV Club info, no address, no email, no deposit…..just see you soon.  Hmmmm…..

I called the next day, same man answered, “Yes, ma’am.  See you tomorrow.”  Who runs a business like that?  We pulled in a bit late in the afternoon on Wednesday, May 17.  We had driven 7 miles south of I-10 and turned on Alliance Road….the campground was about 2 miles east on opened to a security gate.  I called and Glenn said, “I’ll be right there.”  We saw him come out of the office inside the park and drive up to the gate, turn his car around, then come back to talk to us.  “How long did you say this RV is?” and turned to look around at the mostly empty sites.  “Hmm, maybe I’ll put you…..”  and he looked over at first one site, then another, and then a third before deciding on one.  He opened the gate and we drove through and followed him around a gravel loop road, across the grass (“It’s really hard.”), across one parking site and finally into our site.  Glenn advertises this park as a Luxury Campground, no tents, no old RV’s, full hookups, pool, clubhouse, dog park, WiFi.

 

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Not our RV here, but you get the idea…..

As mentioned above, this site had all the criteria to make this a great RV campground for us.  Except, there was zero shade and it was unusually hot for this time of year.  Humid and in the 90ºs everyday with a hot breeze lightly blowing.  And there were gnats during the day and mosquitoes at night…..lots of them.  Every time we went outside, whether to walk the dogs, enjoy the sunset, clean the bugs off the windshield, etc., those gnats were on us.  They landed in our eyes and nose and ears, on my fresh wounds from a stupid fall in Mobile, on the dogs, every where.   They came in the coach with us and we had to swat at them constantly.  And the dog park was at the bottom of the hill, un-mown, and a walk through tall grass while swatting at those pesky gnats……

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But there was a bit of heaven here…….due south was Panama City Beach.  On Friday afternoon, we drove south to find the Gulf.  We picked out one of the only true on-the-beach bars and sat there for several hours.  We had snacks and drinks, then dinner and lots of sweet tea and a piece of Key Lime pie while we watched the waves and surf and sun-bathers.  We talked and relaxed, we listened to everyone around us talk and tell their stories to each other.

We were in no hurry, and it was fine.

 

Posted in Campgrounds, RV Living, Travels

All About Relaxing in Mobile, Alabama

This is a 5 star RV park!  1- Nice clean sites with concrete patios, heavy-duty picnic tables, and full hook-ups.  2-Consistent WiFi!  3-Amazingly clean, private shower rooms with private toilets spaces included.  4-Locked gates with a passcoade for security and privacy.  5-Well lit parking sites at the front of the coach, but still dark enough at the back for good sleeping.  Nice plantings along the side fences with camellias in bloom leaving a sweet fragrance in the air.  Trees along both sides with lots of birds, especially doves, cooing and singing.  Need more?  Friendly staff that gave us a jar of mixed berry jam and local things to do when we checked in; daily trash pickup behind the coach, and a welcome smile and hello everyday!  

The day after we checked in, a large storm moved through the area.  Barry, ever on the weather apps, announced that the worst of it had passed south of us, when suddenly, out of nowhere…….lightning struck and boomed simultaneously!  It had struck the WiFi antenna at the next site, blasting the WiFi adapter off the pole in pieces.  The funny was that the WiFi did not even go out!


I don’t know what Barry is doing in this photo, by the way!   They also have a claw-foot bath tub near the laundry/shower house for dog baths!  Today both boys got a much needed bath……hopefully they will smell less like dogs for a day!  All-in-all, this is just a very nice place to stay and we will try to visit as we pass this way again!

Posted in Travels, Uncategorized

JazzFest 2017

I cannot tell you how much I love JazzFest!  The crowds of people are all hot and sweaty and happy and full of good food and music!  There is dancing near almost all the stages (there are 12 stages by the way), and you can just stand up and dance by yourself or with a friend (new or old!).  There is food, and I do mean, there is food!  And crafts for sale.  And, did I forget the music?  Let’s start from the very beginning!

We all try to ride together to pay for just one place to park; and it is usually in someone’s front/side yard near the fairgrounds.  Yep, we pull into the grass, pay about $20 cash, and hope the guy that parked us really owns the property and is there when we return.  Rosa gets an employee ticket from her friend at Smoothie King, Joey, and we can then get in the back entrance near the stables.  Once we enter the gate, Mom takes off at a trot for her favorite place, Preservation Hall Economy Tent.  The whole stage and seating area is under one ginormous canvas tent with chairs for sitting and a dance floor off to one side.  She claims about 4 seats in the middle section on an aisle and sits there all day long!  We use this as our base when we need shade or a chair or just want to hear the performers there.  It is mostly Dixieland jazz, heavy with brass instruments.  Here she can Second Line as much as she wants and knows some of the crowd that return every year for the same fun.


After she and Aunt Sis get their seats, the rest of us leave to find other music and fun!  Alex and Barry were both first-timers and went out to get their bearings; Rosa & Pat to the Smoothie King stand, and me to the Sheraton Fais Do Do (pronounced: Fay doe doe – family dance) stage.  They specialize in Zydeco & Cajun music here and I threw my blanket down and settled in to hear BeauSoleil and later, Rockin’ Dopsie Jr..  Barry & Alex joined me from time-to-time, we ate together and just relaxed and enjoyed a beautiful sunny day!


I also saw a Marci Gras Indian Parade and enjoyed the Cajun Combo: crayfish sack, oyster patty, and crawfish beignets….and got to hang out with Duckie Three!

Definition of the Mardi Gras Indians:

“Coming out of slavery, being African American wasn’t socially acceptable. By masking like Native Americans, it created an identity of strength. Native Americans under all the pressure and duress, would not concede. These people were almost driven into extinction, and the same kind of feeling came out of slavery, “You’re not going to give us a place here in society, we’ll create our own.” In masking, they paid respect and homage to the Native American by using their identity and making a social statement that despite the odds, they’re not going to stop.”

Ronald Lewis, former Council Chief of the Choctaw Hunters, a Mardi Gras Indian tribe he helped to start.        

Today, the Mardi Gras Indians parade everyday at JazzFest, throughout the grounds. They stop festival-goers in their tracks to enjoy the music, but much more, the fantastic beaded costumes each member makes by hand and wears!


At the end of the day, we all found our way back to the car (and surprise!  The parking guy did own that house and was still there to help us get out!) and headed home to shower after a great day!  JazzFest 2018…..can’t wait to meet you!