Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Change Of Plans

As you recall, we finished up our test run to Florida and Georgia, then on the way home dropped the RV off for a week at our dealer in Huntsville for a few minor adjustments.  During that week, Scott and Rachel had the gender reveal party and surprised everyone with the news of twin boys!  That is pretty exciting stuff.  They had shared that detail with both sets of grandparents in advance and we were sworn to secrecy before the gender reveal shindig.  It was tough keeping that quiet!

We picked up the RV after the gender reveal and headed off to points west with plans to be back in late July for the arrival of Jackson Wayne and Shaun Anthony.  There were major storms headed our way in Tornado Alley, so we opted to head south along the Gulf Coast.  If you also recall, we took a direct hit from an EF3 tornado in the spring of 2014, a day (and year of recovery) we will never forget, and just do not have any interest in repeating it if at all possible.

Our first stop was Poplarville, MS at the Haas-Cienda RV Park (yes, their spelling).  We continue to use the Passport America sites as our first choice - 50% off regular prices and usually for short-term stays, one or two nights.  We have not had a bad experience yet and we prefer the country settings with large pull-thru grass sites, barnyard animals, ponds/lakes, no highway traffic, etc.

This campground also had a tent camping area with a group of bikers passing through (as in with pedals, not motors on them).

Each campground has little gimmicky things that are clever.  This one's "Grand Central Station" was the four bathrooms.

I apologize for our camera, it definitely has developed some problems.  Scott and Rachel bought it for us in Miami in 2013 when we met them during our Loop trip.  It has been very reliable and took great pictures but we have just worn it out. We took pictures of barnyard animals here also but the pictures were just not presentable. Rhonda actually touched a friendly cow, but no pictures. We plan to shop for a replacement camera soon.

Our next stop was Port Arthur, TX.  Arriving in Port Arthur, we were glad to see this detour via the new bridge - the old one looked very steep and iffy at best.

We passed through here on the Loop also but did not stop to sightsee any.  The RV park's "clever" idea was their pool - shaped like the state of Texas.

We were a little tired and decided not to sightsee any this time either.  We took the recommendation of some locals and decided to dine at a local seafood place - one of those that you look at it and wonder if it is safe to eat there??  Their unique specialty was salt and pepper shrimp which was excellent.

And in case any of you are wondering how Wilson is doing, he has made the transition from boat to RV and is enjoying the trip, got the Harley hat on, and is riding in the garage.

In Austin we chose a brand new RV park - Longhorn RV (there are lots of things named Longhorn in Texas)!  This is a first-class development and their development is still a work in progress.  The camp store boasts one of their former residents - check this out!

We got situated in one of their 70-foot pull-thru sites and headed off to see the three grandkids.

We were a few days early for Bryce's birthday (9 this time around) but decided to go ahead and open his present and then took all three of them bowling.  Do you know that bowling now costs $3.75 per game and shoes are $3.50 per person.  Well, "anything for the grandkids" is the rule, so what difference does the cost make?  They were excited to spend the night on the RV with us, as were we. Before bed, it was Star Wars movie time - ho-hum yawn for me but again, anything for the grandkids.

Alexis slept up front with Rhonda.  By the way, those are not sunglasses on her head, they are cat ears.  Alexis thinks she is a cat but we still love her.

Connor, as the eldest, headed up top for the loft.

And we lowered the bench seats down for Bryce and me in the garage.  Technically, I guess we raised them, but since they were already up to the ceiling for the motorcycle, we lowered them.  Details, details, type A, you understand.  

And no, I cannot explain why he is wearing a Santa Hat in April.  Alexis thinks she is a cat, maybe he thinks he is Santa.  Be honest, don't your grandkids do weird things too???  

Unfortunately, the tornado people heard we were in Austin, TX at the Longhorn RV Resort trying to avoid bad weather and they tried to scare us with a serious thunderstorm in the middle of the night - they did a darn good job of it too!  It was no EF3 or even an EF1, but in an RV, it felt like an EF10. And did I mention hail?  Do you know what hail sounds like when you are inside an RV?  The wind was so strong that one of the slides was moving in and out about 3 inches!  We have ridden out many storms in boats and I will take a boat storm anyday.  I expect we will reminesce this night with the grandkids for years to come!  Yeah, making memories with the grandkids - they may be reconsidering this set of grandparents after this!

Now to the change in plans.  About the time we arrived at Longhorn, Scott called to give us the latest doctor visit report.  Rachel was showing some early signs that are not scheduled to be here just yet, but not really uncommon either with twins.  So, strict bed rest it is for the next 12 weeks or longer if the twins will just be patient.  Scott assured us we did not need to head back home, but there was no way we were continuing on farther west with this new development.  In addition to us just wanting to be there, Scott's schedule as a corporate pilot is about as predictable as a flash flood and our schedule is flexible to accomodate short notice needs to be there and help keep Rachel off of her feet. 

So, we headed back to Alabama, first stop, Eustace, TX at another Mom-and-Pop Passport America grassy pull-through site.  We love these places - "We may not be there, just pick a site and slide the money through a crack in the door.  We trust everybody, have fun!"  Only $14 dollars and we did, with a nice shade tree to boot.

Next stop, North Little Rock RV Park, another town we had been through by boat when we traveled the Arkansas River in 2008 to manage Three Forks Harbor in Muskogee, OK and then again on the departure trip to Galveston, TX in 2010.  The campground sits right on the bank of the river.  

The picture above is from the pedestrian bridge that takes you over to the William Jefferson Clinton trailer park on the other side of the river, also known as the Presidential Library.  It really does look like a trailer!  That's it on the left in the distance.  

Even though we are not fans of Bill (and for darn sure not Hillary), I thought it would be fun to check out the trailer since we have never been to a presidential library before.  But I was voted down. Rhonda wants to wait for Trump's to be our first.  (That's an inside joke that Rhonda does not think is very funny!)  By the way Donald, I would like to add a second descriptor to "Crooked Hillary." How about "Screamin' Crooked Hillary?"  Am I the only one that thinks she needs to tone that down just a little?  OK, I know I am losing our lib readers with the Clinton stuff, but let's be fair - you think I am just as crazy as I think you are!  You have to give me credit though, I do a pretty good job of keeping politics out of the blog.  Well, there is that global warming thing I've mentioned a couple of times......

Anyhow, we are back home now and available to help with the bed rest requirement, meals, house cleaning, whatever is necessary.  We would appreciate your prayers for Rachel, Scott, and the twins.  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Our Maiden RV Voyage Was A Success

We finished up our test run a few days ago after 3 weeks to Florida, Georgia, and back home. We returned the RV to the dealer to make a few necessary adjustments that we found on the trip, very minor stuff.   We just parked in Madison RV's parking lot Sunday night and spent the last night there. They have already addressed those issues, and we have nothing but compliments for Madison RV. They have been great and are allowing us to leave her there until we head out again next week, this time westward-bound to new territories.  We are very pleased with the RV also - it appears that Grand Design's Momentum toyhauler line is a quality product.  Here she sits in the parking lot of Madison RV for our only night of "dry camping."  We are learning so many new terms!

Back to the last leg of the trip.  After we left our friends' home in Metter, GA, we headed to Dahlonega, GA as previously noted in the last post.  Besides the motorcycle riding, we had lots of fun with 3 primary activities - gold mining, Amicalola Falls, and the annual "Bear In The Square" festival.

It turns out that Dahlonega has quite a gold mining history. The first major gold strike was in Dahlonega in 1823, the phrase "thar's gold in them thar hills" was coined there, and Dahlonega was the heart of that activity before the California gold rush took the lead (and the miners).  If I understood our tour guide correctly (and he by the way holds several Guinness world records in the gold mining specialty area), gold is generally not found as a stand-alone mineral/gem/or whatever it's called. (After consulting Wikipedia, I am reminded that gold is a transition metal and a group 11 chemical element, with an atomic number of 79, identified as Au, and that is about all I need to be reminded of).  Anyhow, it mostly attaches itself to other minerals/elements/whatever, with quartz being a common one.  A normal vein of quartz would be a few inches wide but there was one in them thar hills of Dahlonega that was about 24 feet wide - that is the gold mine we toured.  I will spare you a lot of cave/mine pictures since they generally are all about the same, but here is where the main quartz vein was before being mined to make lots of money for the miners!

I believe the tour guide (who holds several Guinness world records in that specialty area) said there are 5 stories/levels of this mine, several miles total in length.  Pretty cool stuff, but not near as cool as panning for gold ourselves!  We netted 3 very small "nuggets" valued at about $1.50. 

Dahlonega is also a college town with the University of North Georgia and The Military College of Georgia.  It is a very large and beautiful campus.

College towns are always cool even though I still have occasional nightmares of final exams at Wake Forest.  I always hated having to cram and read CliffsNotes the night before those exams (you know, the ones designed to ruin a perfectly good 3.0 GPA), just never felt really prepared I guess. There is so much to learn in just one night before a final. 

And now to tie the college town with the gold-mining story - this is one of the main campus buildings and the gold leaf finish on the steeple is only about 1 ounce of gold!  Now that is interesting. 

We spent part of another day at Amicalola Falls.  There were several options on just how adventurous we could choose to be getting to the top.  Most of the people choosing to hike to the top looked a lot younger than us and had water, food, and camping equipment on their backs, so we decided on what we thought was a better option - get in the truck and ride about 3/4 of the way up, then hike (walk) horizontally on a cushioned pathway to where these pictures were taken.  It really was cushioned, you know, like kids' playgrounds these days.  Waterfalls are a lot like caves - they all look about the same but here are a few nice shots.  

We also decided against the 435 steps from this point to the top and the truck took us to a point about 50 horizontal steps to this view from the very top.

Moving on, it turns out that about 20 years ago, a bear showed up in the city square one day, so the powers that be in Dahlonega decided to start an annual festival on that premise and called it "Bear On The Square Mountain Festival."  

It was a typical festival with vendors of all sorts, great food, storytellers, and music.  Now, we do like good music and have been known to hang out at festivals all day just for the music.  However, also in them thar hills is a lot of bluegrass and folk music.  Sorry, but after about 10 minutes it's just not entertaining for us.  That is not to be critical of those who like it, we just don't.  There was plenty of it and the problem was that there was nothing else. They had regularly scheduled performers throughout the day and individuals from wherever just brought their instruments and ended up in a group of usually 4 to 12 who just gathered on the street and played and played and played........

Here's the bear, still looking pretty good after 20 years.

Pottery was a popular item for sale, with potters and demos to show how it is made. 

So now our expectations for festivals are high - one in Darien for the shrimp fleet and one in them thar hills for bears in the square and bluegrass music.  But before I close this post I have to put in a plug for R-Ranch In The Mountains.  It is a first-class and beautiful 500-acre equestrian and RV setting, mostly equestrian with signs like these to substantiate it - WHOA Pardner!

The Clubhouse - inside are two different ballroom/event areas, TV and theatre rooms, pool tables, bar, etc..  Very nicely done.

The pool area shaped like the letter R behind the clubhouse  (still a bit cool for the water yet).

And the chapel on the hill.  We attended church there on Sunday morning.  Some of the local churches support this as a mission opportunity and they usually have about 25 folks, some regulars and others as campers for that particular time.  

Speaking of campers, Rhonda decided to get some shots of what you need to be REAL campers since we are still learning.  This family obviously needs a lot of propane.

Nice grills to fuel with those propane tanks.

Golf carts.

Bigger golf carts.


Fire pits.

Satellite dishes - just put them anywhere.

Trailers to haul all of your trailer stuff.

Assorted items you haul in your trailer of trailer stuff.

And last but certainly not least, a pen to keep your pets and small children in.

We are still rookies at this but learning more and more.  The next time we post we will be west of Athens, AL heading west to new territory. Hope you will join us.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

RVing in Georgia

We are working our way back home from Jacksonville for the grandbaby number four gender-reveal party on April 23, but taking our time to enjoy a few stops in Georgia.

First stop - Brunswick, GA.  We have been in the area before by boat at St. Mary's, Jekyll Island, and Darien but never actually spent any time in Brunswick.  We checked in at Golden Isles RV Park for 4 days, got me a new outdoor "garage" for the bike, and managed to get 3 good rides in, including a trip up to check out our old homestead in Richmond Hill (south of Savannah) and back.

Just don't forget to duck!

We are still, shall we say "curious" about the some of the signs at RV parks.  These were in the ladies restroom. Rhonda says it is bathroom humor since RVers deal more closely with "those gems" than boaters do.

We made a couple of trips out to St. Simons Island and East Beach, very nice, with about a quarter- mile of beach when the tide is out, with lots of tidal pools for wading.

Fascinating how nature forms the ripples in the sand.

No idea on this one, a tribute or memorial of some kind.

We toured Ft. Frederica which was a British settlement before the Revolutionary war.  Enough supplies were shipped with the settlers to last one year, then they were on their own. The settlement lasted about 5 years and then it appears that they all just left.  I'm thinking they didn't like the sand gnats.  Based on historic records, they have been able to map out the entire town with the exact locations of roads, homes, and assorted establishments like the bakery, tavern, carpenter shop, etc..  Foundation remnants are all that remain of those buildings, and a few artifacts from each of the locations are on display at each one.  The Christ Episcopal Church Mission was established on St. Simons in 1736 but was destroyed in the War Between The States and had to be rebuilt in 1884 (below).  John Wesley had a big influence there.

The grounds at the church and the fort are beautiful.

Not much of the fort is still standing today, but it was strategically positioned at a bend in the Frederica River with cannons pointed in both directions which could fire a 12 pound cannon ball a distance of one mile.

I expect the settlers' interest in the local turtle population back then was as a food source.  Today, the access roads to and from the island have "passes" cut in the medians to allow the turtles a better chance at a safe crossing from one side of the road to the other.  Good luck dodging the 4 lanes of traffic though!

We had a great seafood dinner at Marshside Restaurant and caught a group of kayakers returning from a trip through the marshland with its many winding waterways and tributaries.

We just can't seem to get the boating thing out of our systems and made stops at the very popular Brunswick City Dock and the marina at Jekyll Island where we stopped for 3 days on our Loop trip in 2013.  We visited with an interesting couple from Sweden, now US citizens, and one gold looper from Vermont who finished the trip in 2010, just running the Atlantic Coast now.

Any trip to Jekyll requires a stop at Driftwood Beach - looked just like it did when we rode our bikes there in 2013, but the ride out there sure seemed much shorter in the truck!

Our evening venture was a return trip to Darien, GA.  Here's "Help Me Rhonda" docked there in 2013.  

Darien has a 3-day celebration every year of their shrimping industry including a "Blessing Of The Fleet" which we missed by just a few days previously.  This was the weekend for it though in 2016 so we made an evening of it there on Saturday - lots of food, vendors, and great music.  I am confident all but about 5 or 6 of the Darien residents were there and it was a big social affair for them.  This young man was very entertaining and played along with the bands.  Occasionally he would hang the guitar on the pocket of his shirt by one of the tuning pegs and really ham it up dancing with the music.

One of the shrimp boats ready for the "Blessing" on Sunday.

And when in Georgia, do as the Georgians do - instead of riding a bull, they ride bulldogs!

We attended Blythe Island Baptist Church on Sunday morning.  Wow - it was so good that it made you want to go find a realtor and buy a house just so you could live and attend church there!  And speaking of church, we visited some dear church friends of ours from Corinth Baptist Church from when we lived in Richmond Hill in the mid-1980s, about 70 miles north of Brunswick.  Doug and Bonnie Tyson, wonderful folks, have also moved from Richmond Hill and now have their own 32-acre spread in Metter, GA.  They RV also, have 2 of their own and full hookups for more, so we just pulled up in their back yard and spent the night there!  Their son, Ty, and our older son, Adam, played together as kids and Ty came by to say hello as well.  Doug had his own heavy equipment business and I will always remember when he just showed up one day with about a 6-yard dump truck full of Georgia sand and dumped it in our back yard for Adam to play on (Scott was a newborn at the time). Speaking of Scott though, Doug also influenced his first word - "dudoze."  Scott was fascinated with trucks and heavy equipment, but the best he could come up with on "bulldozers" was "dudoze." And to him, every truck, tractor, and lawnmower for that matter was a "dudoze."  Anyhow, we reminisced for hours and went out for a low country shrimp boil to finish the day.  If you are not familiar with a low country shrimp boil, it's a traditional meal for coastal Georgia, comprised of shrimp, potatoes, corn on the cob, and smoked sausage - delicious.  Thanks for a great time, Doug and Bonnie!

We left Metter for the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Dahlonega, GA and a beautiful mountain setting for RVs at "R-Ranch In The Mountains."  When you are traveling through the country, opportunities for lunch stops can be slim sometimes, and the conditions might not be quite as picturesque as RV promotional materials.  In our case today, we were lucky to find some parking space alongside an old abandoned factory of some sort, but it works and you do what you have to do!

Here's our setup at R-Ranch, gonna be here for a few days and I'll cover more of that later.  Oh yeh, there are no sand gnats here, a wonderful thing.

Just finished a 248-mile bike ride today which included 2 runs of the "Tail Of The Dragon" ride in the vicinity of Deals Gap in the Appalachian Mountains, known for its popularity with motorcyclists and sports car drivers.  There are 318 curves in the 11-mile stretch, part of which is in Tennessee and the other part in North Carolina. I guess I did OK - I didn't pass anyone and no one passed me. Another possibility is that it was senior citizens day and we were all tooling along at about the same pace! Lots of fun and even got a T-shirt.  The Dragon below.

The Tail Of The Dragon

Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort