Saturday, June 30, 2012

DeSoto State Park in Alabama is for the Birds!

Hi: 103  Low: 67

When we say DeSoto Park is for the birds, we mean in a good way. There are lots of beautiful birds flying around. We've seen summer tanagers and bluebirds and lots more we don't know the names of.

What a nice park! We moved over here early this morning, just to get out of the sun, into some shade, and to check this place out. It's great! DeSoto State Park, a 3500 acre park, is on Lookout Mountain in the northeast corner of the state of Alabama. It was only about a 10 mile drive from Wills Creek RV Park and it was well worth it to move over to the state park. Wills Creek doesn't honor the Passport America rate on the weekend, so the cost is close to the same. You get a whole lot more park for the money at the state park. We're hoping it will be cooler with all the trees around the sites, providing shade. We found out that the state park charges 3.00 more on the weekend, starting on Friday, so it ended up being about 31.00 after taxes for tonight's stay. And it IS a little bit cooler, about 7 degrees compared to being back in town at Fort Payne. We've got plenty of shade at our site which is great--the AC doesn't have to work nearly as hard to keep us comfortable.
DeSoto Park
This is a Civilian Conservation Corps park that was developed in the 1930's, so lots of native stone and logs are in the park's design. All original furniture in the rustic cabins and the country store/nature center on the premises were made by the young men of the CCC back in the '30's. There is a motel in the park, there are rustic cabins, log cabins, and chalets as well.

The campground was updated and fully improved in 2008. FULL hookup sites, terrific, asphalted, spacious, pull thru sites--all have cable TV service as well! All that for 28.50 a night during the week! There are comfort stations with restrooms and showers, there's a laundry as well. It has a volleyball court and tennis courts-but no nets(!). The Lodge and Mountain Inn Restaurant serves meals three times a day and a buffet every Sunday. There is primitive camping available, tent camping, there are backcountry campsites, a handicapped accessible boardwalk trail, an Olympic sized swimming pool (fees charged for that), and a country store and information center...
country store sitting area
There are over 20 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, and the usual picnic and playground areas. The park is not far from the DeSoto Falls, 7 miles northeast of the park, which has about dried up for the summer, and the Little River Canyon National Preserve, which begins 10 miles south of the lodge. And, did I mention there are LOTS of beautiful bluebirds here? (Yes, you did, says E., patiently) They've got birdhouses for them all over the place. This place is for the birds! Maybe Sparky will get more into bird watching. (That's a great idea, it's FREE! champions E.)

And...did you know that Fort Payne is the hometown of the country western band, "Alabama"? Yessiree....they have a BIG fan museum in town, and a cool park with bigger than life size bronze statues honoring their native sons. Very cool!

Sparky and Eldo wish we could stay longer to explore the park, but we have to be in Sevierville, TN on Saturday, to meet up with Eldy's grandkids and head out on our "vacation" with the grands to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But we will definitely come back to DeSoto Park on our way to or from Florida this winter! It looks like a really wonderful place to stay for awhile, to hike and bike and explore.....There is LOTS to do in the northern half of Alabama but Eldo is on the MOVE!.....See you in Sevierville, TN tomorrow.......

Friday, June 29, 2012

Travelin' to Tennessee Day 3

Hi: 103  Low: 66 Fort Payne, AL

We spent the night in Meridian, Mississippi, last night, at the Benchmark Coach and RV Park. It's a good thing they didn't call it a "resort", because it's just an overnight destination. No pool, no frills, free wi-fi, but it didn't work, free cable TV--that did work. :-)

We're twins! Neighbor is a Phaeton at Benchmark
The park is small, 27 pull thru sites, 6 back in sites....It's a nice clean, quiet RV park with VERY level cement pads, and gravel in the front and back of the cement pads for easy in and easy out. The nice field at the back of the park is for pets. This park honors Passport America, but it's not one of the cheaper rates. It was 18.00 plus tax. You HAVE to call ahead of time to make a reservation, and you HAVE to specify on the phone that it is the Passport rate you are requesting. Cash only, no checks or debit cards. Water pressure is VERY high in this park--90 P.S.I, so they state in their guidelines that you need to use a water regulator on your water line in addition to your filter, which you should be doing anyway!

For those people thinking about going full timing or getting underway soon, a water regulator helps maintain a feasible water pressure in parks where it may be too high. We've encountered that several times in our travels. You can seriously damage your plumbing as in EXPLODE YOUR PIPES or BLOW OUT fittings when the park pressure is too high if you don't use a water regulator. The cost of a regulator runs anywhere from 10.00-60.00+, depending on how sophisticated you want your water regulator to be. They sell them at Camping World or online. MOST of the time, campgrounds are on the LOW side of water pressure, but it's better to be safe than sorry! In the two years we have been full timing, the water pressure has been HIGH three times. You can burst your pipes if you have high pressure and your rig is not equipped to handle it. In our case, Tiffin tests their  plumbing systems to be able to handle around 60-65 p.s.i's safely. Sometimes the park will tell you what their water pressure is, a lot of times they don't know what it is. If your shower HURTS when you take one, Sparky says you probably have high water pressure and you should have a water regulator hooked up to your water line!

Benchmark Coach and RV Park is on the outskirts of Meridian, a town of about 39,000. This would probably be an OK stop for checking out the area...But we're moving on....Somewhere in Alabama....Um-m-m, how about Fort Payne, Alabama? A distance of about 240 miles from Meridian.  Sounds good, Eldo! We drove highway 45, then highway I- 20/59, then the 459 bypass around Birmingham, AL, then 59 north to Fort Payne. We got GREAT fuel mileage today, at one point it was so great we had to take a photo, 'cuz that figure didn't stay up long....(See photo at right) Eldy was one happy camper! And the price of diesel fuel was 3.44 a gallon at the Pilot Truck Stop where we fueled up on our way here today, another good trend we like to see, fuel prices heading down.

Wills Creek
We are in the upper northeast corner of the state of Alabama at a Passport America park called Wills Creek RV Park near Fort Payne. For 17.00 a night, (including an extra 2.00 charge for 50 amp) we've got full hookup, cable and free wi-fi if you are within a few sites of the office. It's another small, no frills park as far as no pool, no clubhouse, just come on in and park...just a nice spot for an overnight stop. All gravel sites, fairly level. Office lady was very friendly, with that great southern hospitality Alabama accent. It looks like they are working on developing this into something more. Lots of new trees planted. They have future plans for a pool and more sites. This park DID accept a check for payment for Passport America. Full bars AT & T, mi-fi Verizon card full bars, but we are by the office....Think that about covers this park!

Nearby is a GREAT state park called DeSoto State Park, one of Alabama's top state parks as far as facilities go. The park is located near a canyon called Little River Canyon. We are going to this state park for one night tomorrow night to check out the facilities...FULL hookups at a state park for 28.50 a night! We'll see you there!

P.S. Eldy just happened to click on the "RV Resources" link on our blog (he NEVER does that) and darned if we aren't mentioned as "RVers of the Month" on that website! They quoted our very first blog..boy, have we come a LONG way, baby! On our second rig, past our second year of RVing, fun to go back and take a look at that!  Just for fun, if my family is interested, here's another quick way to the link...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Travelin' to Tennessee, Day 2

Had a nice stay at the Coushatta Casino's Red Shoes RV Park last night. We got an early start this morning around 8:30 AM. We took I-10 east, passing through the Atchafalaya Basin which was looking absolutely beautiful today. The picture on a hazy day just doesn't do it justice! But it's a very beautiful area.

On to I-12 east, and then heading to I-59 north. Unfortnately, we had a little confusion about the exit for I-59 north...(WE? Don't you mean YOU?! exclaims E.) That's why he didn't get too mad when we missed it. Well, Sparky is not the best navigator, you know, and Eldo knows that, too. Why, Sparky spent more than an hour trying to find a Taco Cabana on her last trip out and about Spring, TX on her last day in the area, and never did figure out how to get to it, even with the phone's G.P.S.! You should have seen MapQuest draw and redraw those little blue lines and put red and green and blue pin dots in different spots as Sparky continued to get lost, turned around, and headed back down some of the same roads she had previously already traveled trying to get to a Taco Cabana to have some street tacos. Phooey! The map grid looked like a maze and finally, like somebody just scribbled some blue lines on the map grid. She should have taken a photo of the map grid! Sparky gave up after an hour and fifteen minutes of driving around in circles and up and down the I-45 Frontage roads. To her defense, you can't just get off the highway and turn around all that easily with I-45 and the feeders running along both sides. Sometimes you gotta shoot past your destination, do a U-EE and come back at it from the other side of the highway.

Where was I? Oh, yeah---we missed our I-59 turnoff. No problem. We'll just whip into the Mississippi Welcome Center,  off I-10, which was absolutely beautiful and HUGE by the way.......It was like walking into an antebellum home.

While there, Sparky will just whip out the traditional map and get us an alternate route north tying back into I-59. (No problem???? Her map reading skills are a TINY bit better than her physical orientation in space skills, but not much! laughs E.) This is so true, Sparky is laughing, too. It's a family joke about how lost she gets, heck, her whole family is wired like that, it's called the family curse! Now, doesn't highway 607 North look like a viable route to you guys?

Sparky thought so, too. Eldo thinks to say, "Did you check the trucker's atlas (a.k.a. Motor Carriers' Road Atlas) to see if that's a good route?" Uh, no....but I will....Hm-m-m-m, that's odd..."Uh, honey, I can't find it on the map." The darn thing is so hard to read with all the orange thick lines running through it, Sparky doesn't like to use it. You can see why, right? The red dots on the truckers' atlas are restrictions on height, length or something else as explained in the atlas.

Highway 607 looks like a skinny orange line, but there's a problem. It leads straight into the Stennis Space Center, and for a rig with a tow, that didn't look like a good way to go. (Ask Sparky how she knows)....It's apparently NOT a trucker route!?  Or hey, maybe it's a truck delivery route for the space center. AHA! That's it! Whatever! So, we did a giant U-EE in front of the entrance gates to the Stennis Space Center.
            Hi, guys!
            Bye, guys!
Eldo is very good at those turn arounds...We did a giant U-EE one time in front of the Boston toll road gates with a cop near by. THAT was interesting! The cop just shook his head.....whew!
Eldo's a travelin' man-400+ miles today!
We got back on the road after a quick sandwich lunch and started looking for a Passport America Park or a cheap stay on the way to Meridian MS, our stop for today. Eldy wasn't quite sure whether this would be a marathon driving day, around 400 miles, or something shorter. It ended up being a long day's drive, over 400 miles. We found a park in Meridian called Benchmark Coach and RV Park. We'll report on that park tomorrow......Time to get off the road and relax! Sparky is whupped--er, uh, ELDO is whupped!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Travelin' to Tennessee

Our travel day didn't go quite as smoothly as it usually does. But first, we settled up on our electric bill, which was for 26 days. It was 144.87 (at about 14 cents + a kilowatt hour). We didn't think that was too bad for as hot as it's been, and the fact that the dual air conditioners were running almost non-stop night and day during the high 90's temperatures. Problems? We've got a rear jack that didn't come up all the way. It came up enough for the warning light to go off, so we managed to get going. It might just need some lubrication, or it might have something to do with the spring, we're not sure. It was very aggravating for Eldy, out in the heat, crawling under the rig, trying to fix it.

We're not going to miss the Houston traffic, that's for sure! Or the crazy drivers that zipped in and out front of us causing more than one instance of cardiac arrest! We consider ourselves lucky that we didn't get hit this month in Houston, with the number of times we slammed on the brakes as someone cut in front of us while we were traveling in the car back and forth on the frontage/"feeder" roads alongside I-45 or on the highways in and around Houston. Oh, well. Once you stay in the area for awhile, you start getting used to the traffic patterns and heaven forbid, even start driving like a local maniac!

We traveled on I-10 East today for much of our first day traveling towards Tennessee. Traffic was heavy with construction near Lake Charles, LA.

construction at Lake Charles
Eldy drove 220 miles, an easy drive for him mileage wise, but not so easy with the heavy truck traffic and city congestion we encountered. Glad he was driving! Every time a truck goes by us, I always think they are going to knock off one of our side mirrors, they are so close! And every once in awhile, Eldy says, "Boy, THAT was close!" It's nerve wracking to me, so I try not to watch the traffic, much to his consternation, because sometimes he needs my help reading signs. (Like today, when I missed my turn! fusses E.) Uh, er, I was indisposed at the moment, honey.
Our first stop was Kinder, LA. There is the Coushatta Casino and Red Shoes RV Park there. They are one and the same, just two different parts. We stayed there on the way to Texas, and really enjoyed it. Eighteen dollars a night for full hookups, fast free wi-fi, cable TV, spacious pull through sites, you can't beat that! Our site, 129, is a huge corner lot and has a little tree on it. If the weather was not so hot, Sparky would be sitting out under the shade of the little tree, pretending this is her backyard. :-)

We went to plug in our Surge Guard protector and it kept shutting off. We called the casino RV park office and they had a guy out to look at the pedestal in less than 10 minutes.

He checked the wiring out, and everything seemed to be fine. We have no idea why the Surge Guard kept shutting off. After he checked it, we plugged our Guard back in, and everything worked just fine! Maybe the heat gremlins were at work today, causing havoc with our travel plans. At least, they were minor ones compared to the MAYHEM that could occur with high heat and driving! We don't have All State Insurance, but we do have good insurance, just in case. We were lucky it was all little stuff today.....

Red Shoes RV Park is a little off the beaten path, but that's ok. Exit 44 off I-10 E., then 19 miles north on highway 165 until you get to Kinder..No road or highway noise.  Nice pool, nice lodge for just the RVers in the park, we really like this place. To top it off, on Tuesdays, seniors can eat at the Seven Clans buffet for $5.50, all you can eat. So we did! Sparky wanted to play a couple of dollars in the penny slots, so she did! And she won a little bit, enough to pay for her buffet dinner with a little left over. Time to quit playing while she was ahead, so she did! (With a little encouragement from her better half, chides E.)

Time to kick back and relax and get out of the heat. The guy that drives the shuttle from the RV park to the casino said that it's 15-20 degrees hotter than normal for this area. There's no escaping it, and that's true for so many parts of the country, it's just going to be an oven just about anywhere you travel in the U.S. It's even 106 degrees today in Rapid City, South Dakota! Back to the rig we went......See you on the road tomorrow......

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Time to Leave Houston.....

Four weeks seems like a long time, but it sure went quickly, helping Kerry get ready for the baby, finally seeing the baby come, and helping Kerry get settled in as a new mom. I'm really glad I could be here for her. Eldy was a saint. Most of the time, he stayed home at the rig while I ran errands, dealt with new mom crises, and he just tried to be as supportive as he could by staying out of the way, which worked for Sparky, because she was so worried about everyone and everything else, that he knew it was best to support from afar.....When Sparky gets stressed, it's best to let her be a bit, and then she comes around for hugs and kisses, reassurance, and a dose of patience...  :-) Which Eldy has a lot of and Sparky needs to borrow some....

We managed to do and see some really neat things...We've already got a list of things we'd like to do for the next time out to Texas....when that will be, we don't know, but it WON'T BE JUNE, JULY, OR AUGUST, hopefully!

Things we wished we had had time for to explore but will have to wait till next time....

1. The museum district, downtown Houston...LOTS of great museums--19 of them to be exact, with all kinds of culture within short distances of each other. We especially wanted to see the Houston Museum of Natural Science and Sparky wanted to see the Children's Museum of Houston, rated the #1 children's museum in the United States by Parents Magazine.
2. The Beer Can seen on Some guy has his house sided with over 50,000 (?) beer cans of which every one he drank over the years.
3. Waugh Drive Bridge--Sparky tried to get Eldy to go visit the bridge with her at sunset, to see 250,000 bats fly out, but he wasn't interested. (Now really, who wants to go see that? E. asks) There are even Waugh Bridge Bat Colony Pontoon boat tours!
4. Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park--FREE entertainment!
5. The downtown Aquarium looked pretty cool.....
6. Williams Water Wall--a 64 foot Water Wall designed by architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee.
7. Buffalo Bayou Kayak tour--paddle through the heart of Houston!
8. Fifth Ward Jam--a contemporary art sculpture in Houston's Fifth Ward neighborhood. A rundown bungalow has been transformed into an architectural marvel that is both a performance place and a neighborhood park.
9. The Orange Show...It's a folk art monument made of concrete, brick, steel and other stuff, celebrating the guy's vision who made it, the late Jeff McKissack, a former Houston postal worker who spent 20 years building it. It's a testament to the builder's favorite fruit, the orange, eating healthy, longevity, and hard work.

And that's the current list...There's tons more to be added, but that's enough for now!
Fifth Ward Jam
For other interesting things to do and see in the Houston area, you can check our blog out back in January 2011, when we spent some time at the Nasa Space Center, Kemah Boardwalk and Galveston Island, more great places to visit.

And last, but not least, one last little peek at the cutest little grandson a grandma could ever ask for.."Just gimme two more minutes of rest, Grandma, before you start kissing my cheekies again!"

And I might get in a little trouble, but had to show my favorite photos of him over the last two weeks!
And now, it's time to say goodbye to Houston, my grandson and his mommy and daddy...We'll get to see them in December, in Florida, so Grandma Sparky is going to be able to hang in there and not have too long before she sees them again. Bye for now.......

Monday, June 25, 2012

Party Hearty, Little Guy... Or NOT!

Kerry had one last special thing for Grandma Sparky to do before she left, and that was help her plan a little party called a "Sip and See" for the baby. It's a little party sometimes mothers do for friends and family to come AFTER the baby comes, when things have settled down a bit. You come and see the baby, and sip some refreshments.

Naturally, Grandma Sparky had to get a cupcake tower for the cupcakes we were having. Always the bargain hunter, Sparky got the 29.00 tower at Michael's with a 50% off coupon--SCORE! The tower held 24 cupcakes, which she got at the local Kroger Signature store. They did a terrific job with the cupcakes!

Kerry got everything else and we were set with punch and cupcakes and a couple of hours this afternoon for guests to stop by for a little bit to say hi to Barron and his mom and dad. A great excuse for Grandma to get out her camera to document the day, so she did! Grandma Sparky got there early and Barron was awake. Yay!
He's so bright eyed, he's gonna be a smart little boy, I just know it!

Grandma got to feed him before the party started and he promptly fell asleep and slept through the next 3 hours with lots of noise and commotion going on! Here he is with Bigyan's dad, just a snoozin' away.....
Still snoozin'.....With Bigyan's mom......

With Bigyan's sister-in-law....Still snoozin'.....He looks so tiny here!
There were a lot of family members that came today to celebrate little Barron and how well he is doing. Eldy and Sparky really enjoyed meeting the other side of the family, Bigyan's side...These little sisters had a great time playing in this tiny little space with their "My Little Ponies" while the grownups had a good time talking about everything babies....
Grandma Sparky got a little too photo happy with her this little gal shows....Enough, Grandma!

It was a wonderful way to end our visit with Kerry, Bigyan and our new little grandson....We leave tomorrow for Tennessee and a visit from two more grandchildren coming up! Sparky better get prepared with snacks and movies, right? :-)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Dreaded Dentist

If you've been following our blog, you know that Sparky has a life long fear of going to the dentist, which stems from her traumatic second grade ice skating experience in 1957. She lost BOTH her permanent front teeth in the ice at the local elementary school skating rink trying to skate backwards before knowing how to skate forwards and left them there forever in the not-so-forever ice. A series of traumatic repeated visits to a harsh dentist in the 50's left her permanently scarred forever when it comes to dental visits. Mind you, this is a gal who used to have nightmares for years of her teeth crumbling and spitting out little bitty pieces of teeth when trying to talk. The dreams were so real she used to wake up feeling her front teeth with her tongue to see if the crowns were still there.

Not to mention that just a matter of a few months ago, Sparky's left front porcelain crown fell off, exposing her REAL stub of a tooth which looks like a little vampire tooth and she had to visit a God forbid, STRANGE dentist in a unfamiliar city to get it fixed. That worked out ok, but it was weeks before Sparky could relax and not fear that the SECOND cap was going to loosen and fall out in a public place and the experience repeat itself.

Despite having an abnormal fear of going to the dentist for the aforementioned reasons, Sparky is determined to take good care of what teeth she has left. Unfortunately, she has inherited her dad's bad teeth with heavy plaque, and has to be vigilant about taking care of gums, flossing every single day and getting regular cleanings. That is a little problematic going out full timing on the road. Dental mishaps are going to happen, you are going to be in a strange city perhaps and what are you going to do? So far,  Sparky has had her teeth cleaned in places where she has a family member living, or gotten recommendations from local park workers who live in the area. We have not yet encountered an area with a dental school where you can get cheap cleanings, but Sparky is NOT going to let a newbie work on her teeth! And we are not ready to go to Mexico like some folks do. So we try to get back to Indiana at least once a year, so Sparky can heave a big sigh of relief and go to her dentist in her hometown that she trusts.

Lately, different dentists in at least two different locations have talked about the possible need for periodontal deep cleaning, which just strikes absolute fear in a gal who has no qualms about getting two feet in front of an awake alligator to take a photo. Go figure, but it is what is is. Sparky is a WUSS when it comes to going to the dentist. She needs, what do they call it--sedative dentistry? But, it's too expensive so for now, it's grit her teeth and bear it! Except not while they are being cleaned, haha. So Sparky is not only worried about going to a new dentist in general, but she's worried about the periodontal stuff, too.

Off to the dentist today...found NOT by local referrals, of which I checked out, and ended up with two different quotes of over 300 dollars each, but with a internet special of 49.00 for cleaning and X-rays....That will work on a strict retiree's budget! Off to the Woodlands Modern Dentistry in The Woodlands, near the Woodlands Mall. My appointment was at 10:00 AM. They showed me in promptly thanks to my pre-registering online. At 11:00 AM, I had been given x-rays which were included in the special price. They seemed to have the very latest in technological equipment and of course use digital x-rays with instant viewing on a computer monitor for you to see. They also took digital mouth photos of individual teeth and fillings. That took awhile, 'cuz Sparky has so many!  I said that was a first. The assistant said that the insurance companies tend to accept diagnoses much better with digital photos. This is Sparky's panoramic head X-ray, scary enough to make into a Halloween mask! Boy, do I have the fillings! Eldy, be sure to get the gold out of my mouth if I croak!

I was offered a discount dental plan that was an alternative to dental insurance, and then had periodontal charting done by the dentist, Dr. Arnold, (fastest anybody has ever done THAT) and was still waiting for the hygienist to come in. What was interesting about the periodontal charting was, I have NEVER had such low numbers (good for dental gum health) in any previous visit to any previous dentist in the last ten years. She went so fast, whipping out the numbers to an assistant, I don't know how she was reading the probe that was going in. I swear she was throwing out numbers about every other stick. After she went out, I waited for awhile again.....

The hygienist apparently was not available so again, the dentist Dr. Arnold, came in and did the cleaning for me. She was done cleaning and polishing my teeth in less than 15 minutes. That's the fastest anybody has ever cleaned my teeth, and that was not a good thing. I knew that my teeth are always heavily coated with plaque and tartar despite my best daily efforts and a thorough job on my teeth takes at least a half hour to an hour in any place I have ever been, and that's been a LOT in my 62 years. I was very disappointed in that, despite being glad at getting out of the chair in record time. I really did not feel that I received quality care today as far as a cleaning goes and I'm going to have to go back to my dentist back in Indiana sooner rather than later to get a better job done. Maybe had the hygienist done the cleaning, it might have been a different story, as dentists don't normally do cleanings. BUT--I guess you could say that you get what you pay for, right? Phooey...I'm not sure I'd ever go back to this place. If they are sloppy about their cleaning, what does that say for more extensive dental work?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Meeting Up With Friends

It was another hot day in Houston and Elkhart, IN, and all over....So what else is new? I went for a bike ride before it got really really hot....You can ride outside the park a little bit and see a little bit of Texas that you don't normally see inside the city limits...Is this a Texas Longhorn? Sure looks like one to me! But what do I know, I'm a city girl!

Another part of the day was spent with the most adorable grandson ever, can't post any more photos publicly in the blog, darn it! -- to respect Kerry's need for privacy and the baby's too. I spent some time helping Kerry with some schoolwork questions, which is right up my alley and snuck a couple of photos in for a special digital scrapbook I am making about the baby. Where there's a will, there's a way, when it comes to Grandma taking photos.

Not having thought about instructional methods for awhile, it was fun to get back into the thought processes at least initially, and give Kerry some spin on educational jargonese in answering essay questions. The questions that she was having to deal with were frustrating to say the least! It reminded me of endless test questions when I was in college, where the questions were ambiguous, and the right answers even more so. What I remember doing to pass some of my classes, was stating the obvious then repeating it in a variety of different ways. I used to be pretty good at writing. I could write a couple of pages and not say a whole lot! (And that's a good thing? wonders E.) Well, it was at the time! I felt badly for her today at having to go through some pretty ridiculous assignments that seem to be missing the point. The questions were poorly stated and not clear at all as to what they were asking! I honestly think that's part of what's wrong with teacher training today, it's not focused and to the point and what young people really need to be successful in today's classroom. I did my best to throw out some educational terms graders love to hear, and hoped it helped.

"What do you think they are asking, Mom?" she'd ask. I gave her my best answer, and she'd decide,
"M-m-m-m-, I don't think that's it," and struggle on to the next one. It made me so glad that I am not having to go through all that rigamarole again and just starting out trying to find a teaching job! That will be the hard part. No school budget is exempt from cuts and more cuts, and it's getting more difficult to stay at one school for any length of time, it seems. I just hope that she will be able to find a job when the time comes, to help support her family.

Tonight we got to meet up with one of my old schoolmates from grade school, Dana Beebe. We used to sit together through the grades because our last names were alphabetically close together, Baughman and Beebe. He follows our blog and lives in the Houston area. He and his significant other, Stania, met us at our RV park and we went out for a delightful dinner although we unfortunately picked a noisy spot at the Woodlands to eat...Bar Louie's. We had eaten there before, and at a much earlier hour when it was quiet. The place gets transformed at night! The yuppie crowd (do they still use that word?) was there along with VERY loud, live entertainment so we had a hard time hearing each other. But it was great to see them again. Dana does a lot with the Boy Scouts every year, taking groups of boys on Boundary Waters canoe trips out of Ely, MN. Ely is where Sparky learned a whole lot of wonderful skills at Camp Northland, the year she was 13--how to sail a small boat, how to canoe, portage, do crafts, etc. and that experience along with Girl Scouts was one of Sparky's most favorite, positive memories of her childhood. Scouts was where Sparky learned to build a campfire, got to know nature and where she developed a lifelong love of the outdoors. It was also a wonderful antidote for a difficult childhood.

Sparky forgot to get a photo of us at dinner so the photo here is Dana's. Thanks for joining us, Dana and Stania! It was wonderful to see you again. Next time we will pick some place that is more quiet!

Tomorrow, it's the DREADED DENTIST for Sparky......

Friday, June 22, 2012


Four more days until we leave Houston for Tennesee...Sparky is feelin' The LOVE from her little grandson, visiting him almost every day, and smooching on his little cheeks, which are amazingly resilient from all grandma's smooching, and show no signs of a rash yet. :-) Kerry has asked me not to post photos publicly on the blog to respect her and the baby's privacy, but if anybody wants to see the latest photo of my sweetest little baby grandson, email me or friend me on Facebook! I can post generic photos on the blog though...So here's one attempting to be artsy....Ancient weathered hands with 14 day old tootsies. He is shedding! Pretty amazing how babies lose their outer layer of skin, I didn't remember that about my girls when they were born. No matter how much lotion you put on them, they still peel.

It's official! We finally decided what direction to head out and what destination to pick for a visit from Eldy's grandkids, Cate, 12, and Trevor, 8. You wouldn't believe the planning that Eldy has been doing the last four days! Out come the maps, the iphone, Mapquest....endless calculations, guessing how far cities are from one stop to the next, how much fuel costs will be, calling campgrounds to check availability for the July 4th week, which made planning a little harder with TWO weekends to deal with a holiday in the middle of the week, etc.

First, we were going to Rocky Mountain National Park...but after phone calls checking on the status of the air quality in the back country, and the progress of the forest fires being fought, we decided against a visit at this time. Rangers were reporting haze and smoke in some areas. Nix that idea. Out came the maps again, and next decision was to head to Custer and Mount Rushmore. We found out that Mount Rushmore is NOT doing fireworks this year for the July 4th celebration. We were having difficulties finding campgrounds with availability AND activities to help keep rambunctious grandkids entertained in the area. No fireworks at Rushmore? Phooey! Let's try something else...How about....and off we were on a R & D (research and development) trip plan again.

Back to the drawing board. This week we are trying out the RV Trip Wizard program. We saw this at the Tampa RV show and thought it looked interesting. It has some features that are really dandy, but the program appears to be in its growing stages. It's a program that was designed by RVers for RVers. Here's what it offers:

The "Wiz” lets you:
       Have access to over 17,500 campgrounds in the US and Canada
       New Parks are added as fast as we can find them!
       Include campgrounds of every affiliation (Passport America, Good Sam, 1000 Trails, etc)
       Plan using your own camping preferences, not what the “book” suggests
       Highlight your preferred campgrounds, or see them all
       See information for any campground at the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger
       See photos of selected campgrounds or the area around them
       Have the ability to add your own points of interest (POI's)
       Be able to see distances between campgrounds to plan miles to drive
       Choose the miles you want to drive, or hours - choose either one, or neither
       Automatically update daily & total trip cost estimates
       Automatically save and easily recall trips
       Simple "what if we…" trip planning
       Plan unlimited trips
       Find a pet hospital
       See bicycle trails from your campground
       Use while driving IF you have a wireless connection
       Have complete data security
       RV Trip Wizard is the ONLY system that allows owners to update their RV Park information
They have a new feature where you can enter specific data like how many miles you want to drive a day and how fast you drive. It puts a definitive mile radius on the map according to what you specified in the "trip preferences" so you can zero in on some specific places to stay within your daily travel plan. We are still trying to figure out how to use this feature, but it appears very useful. We just can't figure out some more things about it, like how to get the radius to shift as you travel each day. The developers have been very prompt with getting back to us when we have questions. The little green triangles are campgrounds, but the map expands more to show ALL the many campground memberships you belong to that you checked in the trip preferences section--many, many campground choices to pick from, from Passport America to COE parks to a ton of others. They welcome suggestions and are improving and adding stuff often. Check it out and see what you think!
Here's a link to the demo video:

Using this program along with Eldy's fantastic researching skills, we have mapped out our travels from Spring, TX all the way to Sevierville, TN-our final destination that works all the way around--not too far for Eldy's kids to drive to meet us to drop off the grandkids, not too far for us to drive to get to the destination, saving on fuel. We are going to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee! Yippee! Time to give our eyes a rest from all the computer work and paper work. Same place, same time tomorrow.....Until then.....