Posted in Campgrounds, Parks, RV Living

Lazy Days on the River

Although it was still a holiday week, we moved to Hidden Valley Outfitters Campground (HVO) near Bennett Springs, MO.  I have never been to this part of the state and looked forward to visiting the springs.  However, due to the holiday, Barry was not able to book any appointments in Springfield or Joplin.  Instead, we found time to visit with family and relax!!!

Saturday on the River

First though, the campground:  a Good Sam campground and a discount!  It has a funny little entrance to the area — they are currently in a little metal building and nearly finished with a new big building across the way.  It looks like an old-style Old West building with a long front porch, but will include a water feature out front……worth returning to see the finished project.  After you check in, you drive between  the Niagua River and a big field before the campground comes into view.  There are about 4 rows of campsites in this area with 50 amp, FHU’s, a campground, picnic shelter, river access and a nice shower house.  Continuing along the road and over a low-water bridge into another campground for tents and smaller campers with 30 amp electric.  In this area is also a little chapel and another nice playground and shower house.  Up the hill is a third camp area for “extended stay” units — this is a huge property.  We stayed here for 7 nights; but had to move from site #38 after 5 nights to site #37.  Site #38 is the first site as you come into the campground and faces the river.  It was a wonderful place to relax with the first shade every afternoon and the view of rafters floating down the river.  And the fishermen…….everyone comes here to fish for the trout released just upstream at Bennett Springs State Park.

Trout fishing at Bennett Springs State Park

There is so much to see and do at the state park; fishing, shopping and eating in the lodge, trails, lots of wildflowers, multiple campgrounds (those reservations are as hard to get during Trout season as the ones in the Florida Keys!), pool, playground, even the Bennett Springs Church of God.  We ate breakfast at the lodge one morning and it was delicious; the lodge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1930 from stones and timber frames.  The state introduced 40,000 mountain spring trout in 1900 and purchased the spring and surrounding property in 1924-25.  

Beautiful Bennett Springs State Park

I was not always an outdoor person, we never camped as we grew up and I did not take my family camping……so these moments are all new to me.  I have never been on a river float trip — until now!  HVO offered float trips and we booked a Saturday morning time!  Barry and I met other floaters at the picnic shelter and were picked up by their van driver.  People brought coolers and float tubes and more coolers and sunscreen and music players and more coolers!  It seems that loud music and drinking are major parts of floating on the river!  We drove back up north of the state park for about 7 miles until we reached the drop off site.  A couple of men were there with rows of rafts, canoes, and kayaks lined up along a gravel bar for us; one pointed to two kayaks, made sure we had paddles and life jackets and walked away while we loaded up our water bottles and sunscreen and pushed off.  Poor Barry was a bit unsteady and fell right into the water as he tried to get into his kayak (!!).  I was already paddling into the current and paused to just float until he caught up to me.  Our trip was wonderful!!!!  The water was comfortably warm and kept us from getting too hot.  We saw wildflowers, huge trees, fish, turtles, snakes, lots of birds and many other floaters.  We floated by tall old trees, towering cliffs, dead tree snags, with bird songs accompanying us.  We stopped a couple of times to get out and swim in the warm water.  We finally came up to the spot where Bennett Spring met the river……the water dropped from warm to so very cold!  Then we came back to the HVO gravel bar and landed our kayaks there with the waiting boat team.  We walked back to our coach, tired and hot and happy.

Floating under the Highway 64 Niangua River Bridge
  

After a lovely week, we packed up and drove back to St. Louis for some family time.

Posted in Campgrounds, Parks, RV Living

Back at The Lake

For many years, we enjoyed sharing a “lake house” with my in-laws.  Nothing fancy, just all full of used furniture, discounted carpeting, and comfortable love.  But as our sons became men they moved away from Missouri and the house became our burden……upkeep and yard work and lack of time.  And things change and we sold the house.  We have not been back to the Lake of the Ozarks for at least 5 years and, with our RV, we really did not intend to go back.  But the Fourth of July was coming, we needed to move, and I found a campsite at the Lake of the Ozarks State Park.

The Lake of the Ozarks is an engineered, hydro-electric dammed body of water fed by many area rivers and streams.  It is set in the middle of Missouri in the Ozark Mountains (the only “mountains” between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains).  The area is hilly and rocky and hilly and dry and hilly; well, you get the idea…….I looked online at every site in the park and checked the slope on each one to find the most “level” site before settling on a 1.8″/10′ slope and hoped for the best.   This state park is cut into several sections, some separated by long lake fingers of water and the campground is away from the main body of the lake on the GrandGlaize arm.   It begins at the highest point along a ridge and falls down rapidly to lake level with 5 separated campgrounds along the way.  The first campground has the only 50amp sites long enough for big rigs, but there were no water/sewer hookups.  The park is very nice with history and hiking/biking trails, horse-back riding, an airport, playgrounds, camp store, boat launch and 2 sand beaches (man-made).  The shower house near Campground #1 was just nasty…..funny story though…….as I was entering the ladies side to shower one morning the door was latched  from the inside.  An older gentleman and his wife came to the door, unlatched it and left together —- whaaaattttt?

We did have fun during the weekend meeting up with friends we haven’t seen in a year or so, checking out some of our previous hang-outs and just relaxing.  No more coughing, feeling better every day.

Mission Accomplished.

Posted in Campgrounds, Down-Sizing, RV Living

Missouri (pronounced: misery)

We spent about 5 days outside St. Louis at Babler State Park; we were there for doctor’s appointment and business calls.  Luckily (or really unluckily) I had gotten bronchitis the week before and really needed to see my doctor for my annual physical which turned out to be a sick visit.  Cough medicine & antibiotics in hand, I spent most of the week in the RV resting/coughing.  Barry also started coughing and his doctor gave him the same regime.  We did not get to see our family or friends this week, we were just too sick………so, we got ready to leave the area

But, not before we spent a day at our Favorite RV repair shop!  Chris at The Motorhome RV Store in Eureka has proven to be worth his weight in gold for us!  Remember that wiper motor that we tried to get North Trail to replace?  Done!  Wipers facing up and down?  Fixed!  All in one day!  I have learned my lesson and will only use Chris to work on my coach from now on!

While in St. Louis, we also sold 2 of the remaining Big Three Things to Sell:  2014 Subaru and 65″ Samsung 5K TV!  For the last 7 months, I have advertised the Subbie and had only limited offers; sadly, Barry turned down the early offers in the hope we could get more money, we just cleared enough to pay off our loan.  Finally, a guy contacted us from my cars.com ad and I was able to sell him my 2nd favorite car (I loved my 2000 VW the most!).

2014 Subaru Forester AWD – TURBO!!

He had also vacillated about selling the giant TV.  I bought it before he had knee replacement surgery 2 years ago to help him recuperate better.  He had high hopes he could, somehow, configure the RV to get that beast in it.  I knew otherwise…….it would be like have a drive-in movie screen outside garage…..just too big!  A friend of our son, Drew, contacted me from a FB Marketplace add and bought that giant beast the next day!  Add to that the $$ we got from our friend who sells our stuff on Craigslis and we are getting closer to our goal of full-time RV living!

That’s a Big TV!! 65″ Samsung 5K Curved Screen HDTV!

The last thing of the Big Three Things to Sell is our home.  We have discusssed our house with so very many people and, after interviewing a third realtor, decided to get more realistic about that sale.  Here are the issues:

  1. 3.35 Acres — Young families want a subdivision for their kids
  2. No Basement — Many St. Louis area natives feel they Need a Basement.  The fact that we have so much storage space everywhere and it is dry does not count for much.
  3. Baby Boomers — We are at the end of the Boomer Generation and no one our age wants a big house, they are all down-sizing also.
  4. Millinials — This is our target audience….someone who wants the seclusion of acreage, the room for teenagers to spread out, and the convenience of being close to St. Louis amenities.
  5. Price — We started at $400,000 at the advice of two different realtors….and have gradually moved it down to $375K.  The third realtor, who specializes in homes on acreage, added up the above factors and feels we are still too high. 🙁
Yes, we are leaving this piece of paradise for Full-Time RV Living!

 

We have dropped the price to $367,000 and driven away…….hopefully Someone, Somebody Special, will come to love our house as much as we have done.

 

Posted in Campgrounds, RV Living

Sweet TN Tea

We spent Father’s Day weekend in Nashville with our youngest son and his girlfriend.  After the last time here, I looked only at Corps of Engineers’ campgrounds around the  big lakes and found a very nice spot at Cedar Creek Campground on Old Hickory Lake.

Although the road in was NARROW, with no shoulder and a couple of 90º turns, the campground is lovely.  There are lots of trees and the sites are mostly in circles with water and electric hookups, good satellite visibility but no WiFi.  Our site (#38) had a little peek at the lake from the front window, with a large fire pit and chat-gravel picnic area.  If we would return here, I would try to get the lakeside sites first, much larger and they all look right out on the lake.  There are nice shower-houses, a sand volleyball court, public beach and boat ramp here also.  Apparently the Cedar Creek Marina has a kick-ass  breakfast which we will try next time here!

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See the Lake behind that TN Vols camper?

We agreed to tour Greenbrier Distillery for Father’s Day and booked our tour for 2:30 pm.  We have toured other distilleries in this area and this one has a great history of money made and lost and found (greenbrierdistillery.com); however, they are very proud of their product.  We did not want to spend $80/bottle for good whiskey and had to leave it there after our tasting.  P.S. The tasting starts with white whiskey which is basically liquid fire and then progresses to the good stuff.  I don’t know why though, my taste buds were burned off after that first sample!

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The distillery is in a little industrial-turned-retail area and is next to a huge old brick building that was formerly home of the Marathon Motor Car factory.  It has been reconfigured into offices and shops, a wine house, deli, etc..  Although it was raining outside (well that’s no surprise), the entire place is under roof and you can pop into each spot easily.  The Antique Archeaology shop here is a pickers store and fun to visit.

After we left the area, we met some of Tyler’s friends, Adam & Amanda, for dinner at Five Points Pizza.  Delicious pie, NY style with great toppings!!  They serve Garlic Knots as an appetizer; big pizza dough rolls tied in knots brushed with basil and garlic butter and served with a side of their very fresh tomato sauce.  Great stop even with a 45 minute wait!  They also serve my personal favorite: sweet southern tea!  I have been drinking that since I got off the bottle as a baby and can’t imagine having to do without it!  By the way, adding sugar at the table to a glass of unsweet tea is not the same!

We left Nashville on Monday morning and headed north to Illinois to work for a week there.  I will bet the sun will shine on us as we move and work!

Posted in Campgrounds, RV Living

Alatoona

After we left Ft. Myers, FL, we wanted to get to Nashville in 2 days and needed to put some miles on the coach.  We got as far as Tampa on Wednesday evening and “dry-camped” (no hookups) in a nice Cracker Barrel parking lot just off the highway.  The parking is free and meals are always easy at Cracker Barrel.  After breakfast, we got back on Interstate 75 and continued north toward Georgia.  It was our first time to drive north through Atlanta with the RV and neither of us were looking forward to the traffic in the coach with the toad (car we tow) behind us.  No matter how I try, I always seem to get into a big city at rush hour and this was no exception.  There are a couple of constants in Atlanta:  tons of traffic and road construction.  They have so very many roads and highways there and they are always, always crowded!  

Typical Atlanta Traffic

Tail lights, police rushing to accidents, drivers cutting across all the lanes, and, of course, drivers who pull out in front of the RV.  I always leave a couple of car lengths between me and the car in front; it’s just safer.  But there are always people who feel like that open spot belongs to them and in they fly.  With the toad behind me, I do not like to have to lay on the brakes that hard and wish people would give me the space!  Even though there are so very many highways around Atlanta, every one of them is always crowded and between 4:00 and 7:00 every night, it is much worse.  They are building a new baseball stadium just north of Atlanta and, of course, are building new highway lanes to accommodate that traffic……road construction is a constant here!

51 minutes to drive 24 miles!!!!!
 I found a campground just north of Atlanta on Alatoona Lake and we pulled in around 6:30.  I took a water/electric only site to save $$ and we parked looking towards the water.  The road in was a windy little thing with a railroad crossing, but once in the campground, it was lovely.  The site was a good size, it was shady and cool near the water.  Tall pine trees shaded everything and campfire smoke began to fill the air.  Ahhhhhhhhh…….easy to relax.

Nice view of the lake
The next morning we headed out to drive to Chattanooga and then west toward Nashville.  Another reason we have avoided the Atlanta route is the mountains around Chattanooga. We have not really had the coach in big mountains yet and didn’t know what to expect. In this time line, though, this was the shortest and fastest way to Nashville from Tampa.  We learned that the RV has an engine brake (not a Jake brake) and used that to manage the drive down the mountains around Chattanooga.  It held the engine in check, did not require Barry to used the brakes, and kept us a nice slow speed down the other side.  Nashville here we come!

Posted in Campgrounds, RV Living, Weather

The West Coast (of FL)

As you may recall, I was having a fit about not having working windshield wipers in the RV and made an appointment at a Newmar dealer for service in Ft. Myers.  So let’s talk about that.  Every time we drive south on Int. 75 on the “West Coast” of Florida, we pass many signs for North Trail RV in Ft. Myers, a Newmar dealer and service center, one of the few such places in Florida.  The wipers have been a problem for many months and it seemed to me a dealer repair was in order.  I made an appointment about 10 days in advance and explained the needed repairs to the scheduler.  As I planned our trip from Ft. Lauderdale north, we built time in for this appointment, two days in a campground in Ft. Myers and a day for service.  I explained this to the scheduler when I spoke to her two days before the appointment and stressed that we did not have any time to wait for parts to be ordered; she suggested we priories our repairs.  Our priorities for repairs were as follows: 1) Wipers, 2) Front A/C, 3) Fresh Water pump, and 4) Awning bracket.

So we drove north and west from Markham Park along FL Hwy. 27 through the heart of the Everglades and along the edge of Lake Okeechobee.  I hoped to avoid the Turnpike and the tolls and the traffic and maybe see some sights along the way.  Sure enough, we could see the “River of Grass” that is the Everglades.  Birds of every type waded in the water or flew overhead.  Several alligators lay in the water alongside the highway; but more “gators” lay along the roadway……those parts of tires that come off big trucks.  Florida highways have more pieces of tires than any where else we have been.

We parked at Orange Harbor Mobile Home and RV Park on FL Hwy. 80.  A nice park with full hookups and good WiFi, but mostly row after row of mobile homes for SnowBirds.  The RV park was near the back of the community and we were the only people in the area; most of the other places were closed up for the summer.  The campground hosts came and lead us back to our site; we had a pull-through site that was all gravel with a concrete patio right on the end of the parking row.  This should have been the easiest parking ever; but it was a fiasco.  The hosts (a husband and wife in their 70’s) and Barry tried to direct me into the site by maneuvering around a palm tree on the passenger side.  They had parked their golf cart and our car on the end of the street on the driver’s side.  It was just too tight to get the coach to make that right hand turn and squeeze into the spot so we decided that I should back out, go around the block and return a street over and pull through another site and directly into our site.  As I tried to maneuver the coach around the golf cart and car, a street sign on the passenger side went unnoticed and I clipped it.  It left a scratch on the side of the coach, then caught on the back awning arm and the bracket on the arm broke apart.  The three of them were all standing on the driver’s side and could not warn me that it was there.  Add that to the list of repairs at the dealer…….

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See the wall cloud in front and the Virga behind?

Barry left after I got parked and headed north to Tampa for a sales call the next day and I settled down to clean the coach.  I got out the ladder (in the basement!) and washed the huge windshield and front of the coach.  Florida has love bugs that stick to everything as you drive and will leave a mark on the paint if not cleaned off soon.  I applied a thick coat of RainX to the windshield (again) and polished the nose of the coach also.  I washed the entire lower panel all the way around the coach and then cleaned the wheels and tires and the Newmar mud flap until the chrome shone.  All the while, it became more cloudy and thunder rolled in the distance.  I just had time to ride my bike over to the pool and back before it started to rain……again and continued for the next 24 hours with lots of distant lightning and rolling thunder.  The sun peeked out under the clouds the next evening for a pretty sunset.

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The next morning we got up early (6:45!!) and made our way to North Trail RV Service center.  Our appointment was a 9:00 am and we arrived by 8:30 but had to wait for our scheduler (Jonathan) to check us in after 9:00.  Hmmmm.  They had a nice waiting room with sofas and recliners and a big screen TV and free water and was dog-friendly.  We had a Cracker Barrel breakfast and returned to wait.         At 12:40 another customer approached the receptionist and inquired about his wait and she explained that all the service employees take an hour lunch at noon.  Hmmmmmm.        About 1:15 Jonathan came and went over the issues.  Wipers:  they do not carry the motor in stock and needed to order one, it could get there in 3 days.  WHAT???  We declined to wait — I had explained on all those previous phone calls that we needed that part to repair our wipers!!!  GRRRRR.    They could repair the water pump, it needed to be replaced, was in stock and could be completed this afternoon at a cost of $250….okay.  The dash A/C needed a tune-up and some parts and could also be completed this afternoon for about $900…..okay.  They had the broken awning bracket and could also repair it for about $100…..okay.  We settled back down to wait as a storm broke overhead and the rain began, again.        A little after 4:00, Jonathan came and was ready to check us out.  The total came to $1,566 and our first priority was not fixed…… GRRRRRR.  We paid and a porter brought the coach up to us.

As I got in, I noticed some bugs on the dash, lots of bugs on the dash, and also on the floor under the driver’s seat, lot of bugs, maybe ants?  I started whacking them with my hands as fast as I could.  The dogs got excited and started barking and barking at me.  After I killed about 50 ants, I wiped a handful into my hand and went back inside to the receptionist and asked for Jonathan.  He was already helping someone else and I would have to wait.  I handed the ants over to her and said, “He needs to come out to my coach IMMEDIATELY!!!”, and returned to the coach to kill more ants.  He did not come out soon and after 10 minutes I sent Barry in to bring him out which he did.  I had a dustpan full of ants and, of course, he could not imagine how that had happened.  I brushed all the ants into his hand as he offered to have a crew come vacuum the coach.  The slides were all in and vacuuming would have been wasted; I was not about to wait any longer and declined his apologetic offer.  I was fuming out my ears and wanted no more of this place.  My wipers were not fixed, I was out over $1,500, and now we had ants in the coach.     I drove off the lot and then noticed that the wipers were not in the down position but were stuck in the vertical position right in front of me on the windshield.  We continued to drive north and away, looking through the wipers like goalposts on the windshield.  Goodbye Florida!

Posted in Parks, RV Living

Ft. Lauderdale Fun

Our grandson is the primary reason we travel to Ft. Lauderdale; we love our son, daughter-in-love, and her parents, but He is the reason!  This trip centered around his 2nd birthday and all the fun for that time.  As a two year old, Ansel loves big machines, construction equipment, fire equipment, big trucks……..but specifically Trash Trucks!  For the last 6 months, he has loved everything to do with trash:  putting stuff in the can, emptying the can, taking the container to the street, and watching the trash man in his trash truck on the street.  His tears can often be abated with the words, “Will you put this ___ into the trash please?”  And so, it goes without saying that he would have a Trash Bash Birthday!  My daughter-in-love had trashy invitations, trash truck banners, trash can party favors, even a trash truck cake!

Trash Bash Party

The rain held off (for the most part, it is back to that 2 minute rain cycle again) and many of his pre-school and church friends came to the playground to celebrate with him.  As the saying goes, “You know it was a good day if you didn’t hit or bite anyone,” so this party was a success.

While we were in the area, I spent an hour (until it started raining, again) at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park.  This is a tropical oasis right in the middle of Ft. Lauderdale at the beach.  Seriously, once you drive in here, the high rise condos and traffic are gone, and you are swallowed by the jungle.  They have a walking tunnel to cross FL A1A that takes you right out to the beach!  They also have a nice loop drive through the park, through mangroves, Banyan & Live Oak trees, beside bayous and the Intercoastal Waterway.  Again, I did not see any alligators or big stuff, but I did see lots of birds and a rangy looking raccoon.  

If I were an alligator, I would hang out here…….
Nice benches to watch boats on the Inter-coastal Waterway
Big Banyan Tree
 

Too soon, our wet trip to Ft. Lauderdale is over.  We already miss our grandson and can’t wait to return, rain or no rain!