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!
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!
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!
Before we left this beautiful area, I wanted to take the dogs out, alone, back into the mountains to breathe the mountain air and fill my soul. Drew recommended I drive out to the Blue Lakes off Highway 88 (Carson Pass Highway), along Hope Valley Road.
This road follows the West Fork of the Carson River through a wonderful valley and past a few mountain homes finally giving away to complete wilderness. It’s a 2 lane highway past running water, lots of trees, and along a cut between Markleeville Peak, The Nipple, and Jeff Davis Peak.
We reached the end of the road at the Blue Lakes and drove along Lower Blue Lake. The land here is made up gigantic smooth rocks with trees growing up through the cracks, it’s a great place for Corgis to run around!
The wind has twisted most of the trees out here over the years.
Back to those Corgis….. they loved running around on the large flat mountain rocks, chasing each other and barking as much as they wanted! In the photo just above, you can see a tree and a bunch of bushes growing at the water’s edge and Zeplyn running along the top of the rock. Well, the Corgis are not accustomed to big smooth rocks that drop of suddenly — sure enough, first Ratchet fell down into those bushes, then, while I was trying to figure out how to get him back up and out, Zeplyn slid down there too! Now I had 2 dogs scrambling around on the branches just above that water and about 4’ below me trying to figure out how to get back out. Zeplyn is still young enough (he’s only 8 years old) and was able to claw his way back up the rock and onto the top. Ratchet is 11 and a bit heavier; no way was he going to scramble up that rock! I finally figured out how to approach it from the tree side, coax Ratchet over to me by climbing over the branches, and carry him back to the upper side of the rocks! Whew!!!!
We returned to the car and headed back to Tahoe, snow was coming! We are leaving tomorrow and I’ve got some packing to do!