Monday, August 31, 2020

Leavin' the Mighty Mississippi

 We've been here three nights in E. Moline, IL...technically, Hampton, IL. at a US Army Corps of Engineer park called Fisherman's Corner (north). We've enjoyed our stay but we are ready to move on. The bike trail portion of the Great River Trail was a little disappointing after such an amazing trail we left behind in Shipshewanna, IN. The roads on this section of the Great River Trail as it's known, wind back and forth between being right along the roadway on a wide sidewalk, to some rural streets along the Mississippi River, thru a city park, and then through an industrial area while you are biking on a levee. The total distance of this trail is about 63 miles, so this is just a small portion around the Hampton area. Sparky has ridden about ten miles of it several times now. There has been a lot of wind damage from a previous storm before we came here, so it probably was a lot prettier in this area before the storm  came. BUT--the trail streets are rough in spots, and they need to work on some maintenance of the trail roads. Sparky really had to watch the rough roads and ingrained worn tire tracks to avoid sidelining her bike.

Illiniwek Forest Preserve-Prairie Preserve

Sparky discovered that there is the Illiniwek Forest Preserve on a portion of the side of the trail in Hampton, and a TON of prairie grasses and wildflowers growing with short little nature paths to walk thru in that preserve. The state is trying to preserve the natural beauty of the grasses during the time of the European settlements back in the 1800's. If you were a birder, (Sparky is, sort of,) you could spend some time observing and see lots of different species of birds. In this eve
ning's short walk (the paths are but yards in distance), Sparky saw at least a half dozen goldfinches. Her wonderful Nikon Coolpix 900 with the awesome 85X zoom no longer is focusing, so the goldfinch is with an iPhone X.

What else is there to see at this U.S. Army Corps of Engineer park? You can see tugs and barges navigating the locks in the distance. There are points of historical interest in the area and information can be gotten at the ticket office to the campground. (You can tell that historical things are not really Sparky's main interest when we go places, explains Eldo. At least, not the minor ones.) As anybody knows who has followed our blog the LAST time we full timed, Sparky's main interests are: 1. Where's the nearest Michaels/JoAnn's/Hobby Lobby? 2. What good restaurants do the locals frequent? 3. Can she hike or bike a trail while we are here? 

The campground office has weird hours, by the way. If you come in during the afternoon during the week, the office doesn't open till 5 PM-8PM. Fridays and Saturdays they open for a few hours in the morning, then shut down again until later in the afternoon. Be prepared with knowing your campground site if you have reserved. If not, claim a site that doesn't have any tags on the post, then report to the office later.

An outbuilding on the Artsy Fartsy homestead

Sparky revisited the "Artsy Fartsy" signpost/house while on the trail again. It's a doozy. More yard art than you can shake a stick at. They live in a huge brick two story house that appears to be falling in major disrepair at the back, like a DIY remodeling project gone majorly wrong. But the yard art is really cool. Lots of bottle trees, garden ephemera, statutes, rusty antique garden equipment, a little whimsical garden get the idea.....Sparky would love to meet these people, they march to the tune of their own drummer, and the neighbors be damned...well, maybe....

Anything else, Sparky? Hmmmm....Yes! The marsh right behind the Fisherman's Corner North campground on the Mississippi River,

is loaded with lotus flowers. Prime viewing time was probably last month, (July) as the flowers are turning to pods right now. Sparky really likes this shot, taken with her iPhone X and the Camera +2 app.

Tomorrow, we leave for a one night stand in Iowa (all you jokers out there, you can just be quiet! You know who you are!)....Next stop after that is the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. See you in a few days.....

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Sparky and Eldo are Headed West

 After leaving the Twin Mills campground with the help of our friendly campground neighbors Larry and Connie (yep, that's the same Larry that guided us in when we first got there), we headed west thru Illinois and towards East Moline, IL to our next campground stop, Fisherman's Corner North, a Corps of Engineer park. For new readers, Corps of Engineer parks are US government projects that are built near waterways, dams, or rivers. After the project is completed, some times a campground is constructed. They are almost always clean, spacious sites with water, electric, and sometimes sewer. If you use your old fogey pass, er, the senior citizen interagency pass, the sites are usually about $10-20 a night. You get a 50% discount on fees. The passes are obtainable if you are 62 and over, and they USED to be 10.00. Now they are 80.00 for a permanent lifetime pass, but well worth it. You can also buy just an annual pass for 20.00.You can buy them online, or at any federally owned and operated park, national forest or federally owned grasslands. They have a couple of other optional passes as well.

We had an uneventful drive to E. Moline, that is, till we got to our site. Eldo says, "I thought you said this was a water/electric site." Sparky says to Eldo, "I thought this was a full hookup except for sewer." We didn't think to fill our onboard water tank before leaving Elkhart, IN. We have less than a quarter of a tank of water. Normally, you fill your tanks at least half full for travel, in case you want to boondock somewhere (spend the night with no hookups). Some people travel with a full tank of water. We prefer to keep the weight a little lighter while traveling down the road. 

Uh-oh. We have enough water to brush our teeth and wash hands, and flush toilets, and we're here for 3-4 days, but that's about it. No worries, mate. There are bathrooms and showers at the campground. There's also a water spigot 100 feet away from the coach we COULD use, IF we had two 50 foot sections of hose. We don't. We have a 50 footer and a 25 footer. 

We had some trouble backing in, but that's because this is only our second time, and Sparky hasn't figured out the best way to tell Eldo how to move the RV, and Eldo is still getting the hang of how the RV moves when the truck moves, which is the OPPOSITE of what the truck's wheels do. Being a special ed teacher for so many years, Sparky definitely doesn't think the same way Eldo does when it comes to giving directions. But Eldo is a saint! He didn't get mad, just a little frustrated. We are still learning, but hitching up and unhitching are getting a little easier. Whew! We are at site #26, on a corner with a shade tree.

This particular Corps of Engineer park is smaller than many of the ones we have seen, but there are bigger ones all around us we could have picked as far as more site choices. This park is a little tight for backing in if you have a rig bigger than 40 feet and ALL the sites are back in. 

Some of the parks take reservations, some do not. Here is a list of some of the parks along the Mississippi that do take reservations thru Grant River, Blanding Landing, Thomson Causeway, Fisherman's Corner, Clark's Ferry, and Shady Creek. Fees are 14.00 for non-electric, and 20.00 for electric before applying the pass. When you get on, you can see a photo of the site, and it tells you how long the site is as well.

We are the biggest rig in the park at the moment (42 feet plus), but we still fit. The park sits right up close to the Mississippi River. There are 56 sites, showers and restrooms, and a great bike trail right outside the park--
The Great River Trail, a 62.3 mile trail that winds along the Mississippi River.
 It's not the Pumpkinvine, (see previous post from Elkhart) but it's not too shabby. Some shade, some close to the street riding, and then somewinding in and out of parks, industrial areas, and neighborhoods, with the river at your side, at least that's the part Sparky has seen so far. 

Temperatures are great--in the seventies and eighties during the day, and low sixties at night, even down into the high 50's. Sparky is in 7th heaven! Eldo, not so much...he's a little chilly in the morning. We are getting ready to move again soon, in a couple of days...for South Dakota! Be sure to come along with us for the ride, you never know what's going to happen with Sparky and Eldo! (That's really Eldy, you know...he just has a nickname for the blog.) See you later!

Friday, August 28, 2020

Back to the Pumpkinvine--It's That Great!

We are settled for two nights at the Elkhart Campground...our old stomping grounds. We used to stay here when we were weekend warriors, and then when we first went full timing, we spent quite a bit of time at this campground.

For campground in the middle of a city, it's quite nice. Twenty-five acres, pull through level sites, full hookups, 50 amp, 30 amp, hot showers if you need them, laundry, pool, propane, pickle ball courts (Sparky LOVES pickle ball, but has a bad Achilles tendon that she has to nurture...) mini golf, cabins, etc. TONS of sites...250 pull thrus (the kind we like for our big rig), 130 sites with full hookups (that means water, sewer, and electric--most sites are 70-80 feet long. Current price for full hookup is 43.20 a night....

Elkhart is the RV capital of the world...well, maybe the U.S. Just about all the major manufacturers of RV's are here..You want parts, service, and dealers, they are here. We are here because of our awnings, (destroyed by a freaky huge tree limb falling on our awnings in Alabama) but it's going to be six weeks before they can even get the parts and install them, so we are moving around in the area till that happens. The supply chain difficulties you are seeing in the stores with weird outages and things missing on the shelves is affecting the RV industry as well. They can't ship units because they are missing refrigerators, windows, etc.

We have reservations in South Dakota for Labor Day week/weekend, and think we still may be headed that way, but RV plans are made in "jello" have to be flexible, because things change at any moment.  Also, now that there is a HUGE movement to hit the road due to coronavirus restrictions, and people reluctant to travel in traditional ways, campgrounds are much more crowded and busier, so we have to plan ahead and be certain of places to stay on holiday weekends and weeks. So-o-o-o..("SPARKY! SPARKY! FOCUS!" says Eldo...."You said Pumpkinvine Trail!")

Oh, yes...where was I? Eldo bought a Trek bike! So he can ride the Pumpkinvine, too! And other trails..So back we went....

Sparky went out today (Thursday) for another 12 miles. Her favorite part is the Shipshewanna to Middlebury and back trip, because of the beautiful canopy of trees, and the many beautiful Amish farms. That's 12 miles round trip. So far, Sparky has seen wild turkeys on her ride, 

a red cardinal one foot away, many many Amish families biking with their children, and beautiful, beautiful wildflowers like these purple coneflowers....

And all kinds of black eyed Susans, (rudbeckias?)....and daisies...not sure what this one is....

Lots of horses and cows...Sparky could have been a farm girl easily, in another life. She actually likes farm smells...
The last thing we want to leave our readers in today's post is a list of things to do in Elkhart/Amish country while you are here.
1. Visit an RV company for a tour, but call first because of the pandemic. Grand Design, Newmar, Dutchman (?), Montana and more.
2. Buy your parts and get service for your's all here!
3. Visit Shipshewanna Flea Market on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, see the auction on Wednesdays.
4. Visit Jojo's Pretzels in Shipshewanna, or Ben's Pretzels...they are soft and amazing!
5. Visit Rise 'n' Roll bakery in Middlebury/Shipshewanna on US 20 for amazing donuts. (Gee, there are a lot of food ideas in this list. Elkhart isn't all about food, Sparky, says Eldo.) Oh, but for Sparky, it sure is!
6. Take an Amish buggy tour out of Shipshewanna.
7. Drive around Elkhart and try to find 38 statues of elks. 
They were sold over the past few years to raise funds to protect children from child abuse. They also have decorated their electric gray boxes with cool wraps. It's kind of fun to drive around and look for those. Hey, it doesn't take much to entertain a retiree!

Elkhart used to be the band capital of the world, and the home of many musical instrument companies. (Eldo used to work building brass musical instruments.)
8. Some great Elkhart restaurants to visit--Antonio's, Chubby Trout, 523 Tap and Grill, Mayberry Cafe for breakfast or lunch, Columbo's pizza (if you like thick style and tons of cheese), Heiney's Back Barn
9.Visit Yoder's Meat and Cheese company in Shipshewanna for great prices and antibiotic free meats and cheeses.
10. Visit the RV Hall of Fame Museum...a wonderful collection of antique RV's and interesting history.
11. If it's summer, see if they are doing the flower/quilt gardens. There are beautiful gardens with quilt designs incorporated into the flowers growing in the gardens.
12. Ruthmere Mansion tour

There are a lot more things to see and do in Elkhart and the surrounding countryside. Hope you get to visit some day!  Tomorrow, we head for a Corps of Engineer park in Illinois. See you later!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Biking the Pumpkinvine Trail

In case you hadn't heard, Sparky and Eldo are on the road again! In a honkin' big fifth wheel, in a big honkin' truck--Dodge Ram Longhorn 3500. It's a dually--you know, where the rear end fenders extend a bit over the rear wheels. Try to find a parking spot where you don't get too close to others is a challenge...trying to find a parking space where you don't stick out in the rear is a challenge...trying to find a parking space period where you will fit is a challenge! But you need a honkin' big truck to pull a heavy 42 foot fifth wheel RV. Is Sparky complaining? Nawwww.....

So, there's a bike trail here in the heart of Amish country in Howe, Middlebury, Shipshewanna and Elkhart, IN
. It's called the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. There's a terrific bike shop right at the junction of the Pumpkinvine trail in Middlebury, called the Pumpkinvine Cyclery. Sparky got her bike tuned up, (it's a Cannondale "Quick", a nice lightweight bike, more of a hybrid than road or trail bike) and she headed out two days in a row. The first day....6.9 miles. That was easy.

You can bike the entire trail from Shipshewanna to Elkhart, IN. for 25 miles. There are side trails as well that connect Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury and Shipshewanna. Sparky might do the entire leg next week. Today, Sparky rode eighteen miles. Eighteen miles today was a good start, says Sparky's calves and legs. 
Sparky saw lots of cool things on her long ride today...wild turkeys, some goldfinches, beautiful wildflowers all along the way, and this sign:
Hmmmmm...rare specimen...there was a little path leading up to a fence with cows munching right there...but nope, those are a dime a dozen in IN. Wait---could this be it????
Cactus in northern Indiana???? Yep!

The trail surface is asphalt except for 1.7 miles where there is a packed limestone surface and suitable for narrow tired bikes. The trails pass through urban areas, but mostly small towns and many agricultural Amish communities. There are quite a few benches and a few quick potty stops along the way as well. Depending upon which sections if the trail you do, you could be biking in shade for 80% of the time.The countryside along the Pumpkinvine Trail includes the third largest Amish community in the U.S. 

Besides the beautiful Amish farms, there are the Kryder Gardens in Middlebury that are right beside the bike trail. They were small and narrow, but a beautiful rest stop.

Hope you enjoyed today's Pumpkinvine Trail Tour! We will be here four more days, then we move to Elkhart Campground for a couple. Still waiting to hear about awnings from insurance company. That will curtail our travels to the midwest till they come in and we can get them  installed. But RV plans are "jello", we may still go to South Dakota still. Sparky wants to see bison and elk and cooler temperatures--maybe! Bye for now.....

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Amish Country and Amish Buggies

 Twin Mills Campground is in Howe, IN. We are about half an hour from Elkhart, IN.  It's 37 miles to Best Buy. Sparky has an Apple computer with a malfunctioning keyboard/spacer bar. Looks like we will head there today to see if Best Buy geeks can fix it. (The Apple store is closed.)

Back to Twin Mills...when we last left you, we had pulled into (BACKED in) a very challenging site with the help of our new RVing friend, Larry. He's a great guy, and a wonderful reminder of why we enjoyed being out on the road the last time...RVers are helpful, friendly, and you make almost instant new friends...There's no shortage of wonderful, helpful people out there when you get into a jam. Here's our beautiful site...Tight trees on the other side.

We made it in, and as we said, we ain't movin' for two whole weeks. 
The campground is gorgeous. The pines are HUGE!
Twin Mills has 551 sites...seasonals, full hookups, a nice pool, cabins, and a beach on a decent sized lake, 30-50amp, and all kinds of activities you can imagine. Not all of them are running because of Covid, but there is lots to do. There are some little hiking trails that wind in and around the park. We love all the shade provided by the trees, but it can be a challenge with big rigs getting into a site as we have mentioned. This is a park you want to drive thru to the site in a car first to see if you can get your rig around and in. Check out all the activities and amenities thru the link mentioned above. 

Twin Mills is in the heart of Amish country. You are 20 min. from the Shipshewanna Flea Market and auctions, about 20-30 min. from the Elkhart RV Hall of Fame and museum and some terrific Amish restaurants and donut shops. (Rise and Roll for one...) We have been shopping for Indiana sweet corn, tomatoes, and other fresh vegetables from Amish market stands. Indiana sweet corn rivals any sweet corn in the rest of the country, in Sparky's humble opinion. 

Sparky loves seeing all the Amish buggies and the little kids riding in the wagons, or even fishing boats being pulled by horse and buggy! They even have hitching posts at most of the grocery stores and hardware stores for the Amish.

Sparky got to thinking about Amish buggies... Did you know....???

Shops buy LED components and assemble the lights based on a turn signal system developed by Lancaster, PA Amish builders over 50 years ago. Bulbs stay on low beam during normal use, but turning on the turn signal activates a brake-light style system that turns on the high beams. To power the lights, there is a single 20 volt/6 amp battery, the kind that powers an electric drill. There may be a marine battery in the back under the seat to operate the signals.You gotta be careful driving around in Amish country. Share the road and go slow when encountering buggies and wagons. 

The main part of the body of the buggy is fiberglass. Aluminum parts are added to the buggy that get a lot of wear like door sills. Everything else is oak or ash wood framing that gets upholstered. If a buggy has the latest technology, it has thermally modified wood. That's wood that has been cooked or heat treated down to about almost 0% moisture. That stabilizes it and makes it really hard to rot.

Some buggies have propane heaters, cupholders, and/or speedometers. Average cost of a buggy is about 8-10 thousand. The most common buggy is the two seater, designed for four people. Amish families usually have more than one style of buggy, each for different purposes. Buggies are sturdy, well built, and last a long time, as much as 20-30 years. Some trade their buggies in every 5-8 years. Some buggies will get rebuilt and still be running 40-50 years from now.
Amish traffic jam!
Most buggy wheels are fiberglass and have rubber linings. The rubber lining can blow off just like a flat tire and needs replaced about once a year.

So there ya go...probably more than you wanted to know about Amish buggies.  We are REALLY enjoying the early fall weather. Unusually cool at night for August in the fifties! Tomorrow, Sparky heads for the Pumpkinvine bike trail...a wonderful trail thru Amish farm country....see you there!

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Back Home Again in Indiana

 We left Tennessee last Thursday, and because it was a long drive and we are older now, (Sparky isn't afraid to admit it these days with all her aches and pains), we stopped off and spent the night at the Indianapolis KOA campground in Greenfield, IN. Beautiful campground, very friendly staff, sites are spacious, and yes, KOA is not cheap. Our pull thru site was 67.00 a night with taxes...above budget, but when you are tired, and ready to stop, one night with amenities is ok.....They will even deliver Hunts Brothers Pizza to your RV site. We almost did that....

On to Indiana...short drive to Twin Mills Campground in Howe, IN, a Thousand Trails park. With our TT membership, our two weeks stay is "free" sewer hookup but water and 30 amp electric. That means you can only run one AC (this rig has 2) and you have to be careful with the electric load. This park was to be our first back in attempt with the fifth wheel, and Eldo had been nervous about it for two weeks. And rightly so....because 1. the campground is heavily wooded

with massive pine trees, and 2. the site the campground picked for us had trees close together and little space to work with....when you have a Thousand Trails membership, the majority of the time, the park gets to decide where you are going to be, depending on your size. But they will work with you. The office guy took one look at our rig, and said he thought he'd better go check out the assigned site. He came back and said, "Nope, that's not going to work." He picked out another site.....what you can't see is there is a very narrow park road in front of the site with thick hedges, so you can't go very far forward. LOTS of backing up, going forward, and backing up.

A half hour later, with the help of a super nice neighbor in a cute little red Minnie Winnie--that's a small, cute Winnebago travel trailer, (a big shout out to Larry with a BIG thank you,) he guided us in, and we are staying put for the entire two weeks. The rig ain't going nowhere, because it was a doozy of a tight spot to get into. We can't get our awnings for 4-6 weeks, so it's ok that the rig is going stay put. We asked Larry if he was going to be around when we are ready to pull out. He thinks he is. What a guy!

Well, Blogger is acting very funky right now...Sparky was going to tell you all about the park, but it will have to wait till next time...See ya!

Friday, August 14, 2020

Bottoms Up! the Jack Daniels Distillery Tour

Before we left the Texas T campground, we decided to do the Jack Daniels Distillery tour in Lynchburg, TN. It was about a 30 mile drive one way from the campground to the distillery, but well worth the drive! 

Beautiful Tennessee hills and valleys, so much greenery and trees after living in Florida which is beautiful in its own right, but this Indiana girl misses the forests and lush greenery. We got to Lynchburg right when Jack Daniels opened at 10:00 AM. They had just started the tours up again, the day before, so no crowds and we were the only ones on the tour! There are a couple of different tours, a tasting touring a walking tour. As we are not whiskey drinkers, we took the walking tour, which was 15.00 a person. Because of Covid, there were no inside the building walk throughs except for a couple of videos inside small rooms or walkways, and a trip inside the tasting room where lots and lots of barrels line the walls to the ceiling.

The tour was VERY interesting...some of the things Sparky remembers without taking notes were....Jack Daniels, a real person, was a rare individual for his time. He forged a strong friendship and partnership with an African American named Nathan "Nearest" Green. Nathan was the first African American master distiller. They remained friends and business partners for life.

Jack was a little guy, 5ft. 4" tall with a size 4 shoe. 

Eldy at the cave spring

Jack Daniels whiskey is distributed worldwide and the entire amount is made right there in Lynchburg, TN. which is a DRY county! The whiskey is made uniquely from a process of using their own charcoal made from sugar maple trees and a natural cave spring water, rye, barley, and corn, and a unique mellowing method. Every single bottle is made from the cave spring water. The recipe hasn't changed since Jack Daniels first started making it back in 1866. The whiskey is matured in uninsulated buildings. In summer, warm weather forces whiskey into the cracks into the barrels, and in winter, the whiskey contracts back into the barrel. This is how it gets the color and flavor. They wait FOUR YEARS. A TASTE tester checks the whiskey, if it's not ready, back it goes for more time. It gets tested again at ages 5 and 6 years. (Wouldn't you like to have THAT job? asks Eldo.) Maximum maturation time is 8 years. Before it is barreled, the whiskey is filtered through 10 FEET of sugar maple charcoal, kind of like a Brita water filter pitcher. The charcoal is made from pallets soaked in unaged whiskey and then burned to make the charcoal. 

sugar maple pallets

The barrels are very cool...cured sugar maple as we said, and an experienced barrel maker can make up to 250 barrels a day! Each barrel is used only one time, then recycled. You can buy a barrel of whiskey for $10,000 a pop. Anybody who buys their own barrel gets their name engraved in a special tasting room at the distillery. The biggest spenders? Members of the military.

It's the only distillery in the world that has its own fire department.

burning the pallets

Jack died from kicking his safe with his foot. True story! He injured his foot when he got made because he couldn't remember the combination to his safe one morning. The toe got infected, and they had to amputate it. They couldn't get rid of the infection, so he then had his foot cut off. The infection continued to rage, and he lost his leg up to the hip. He died from complications of the last infection of blood poisoning at 61. 

visitors center

The tour guides are excellent, the visitors' center is beautiful, and so are the grounds. If you didn't want to take the tours, the visitor center alone gives you tons of information.....We highly recommend this tour! 

The town of Lynchburg is a cute little town...just a little town square with lots of Jack Daniels memorabilia and cute little shops selling the usual variety of tee shirts, handicrafts, and ice cream. Hope you enjoyed this tour of the Jack Daniels Distillery. We found it fascinating.

beautiful visitors center's Hoosier Time! Time to head for Indiana! Sparky and Eldo's home state...Sparky's home city is South Bend/Mishawaka, and Eldo's home city is Elkhart/Webster IN. We will see you there!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Our Second Mishap....

They say things happen in threes....Was that supposed to be good things? Sigh....We got our awnings taken off at the Alabama COE park and we were on our way the next day.

We get to Tennessee and unhitch, and here we go with the leveling system. It's automatic leveling on a Jayco Pinnacle 5th wheel....not a problem until today...Front jacks down? Check. Rear jacks down?  Check. Middle stabilizer jacks down? Nope. Three times we tried, and kept getting blinking code red flashing on our leveling system pad. Did the old "if all else fails, reboot" too. Calls in to Jayco and Lippert (the manufacturers of the jacks) and it looks like it's repair time. Jayco is in Middlebury, and we are headed to Indiana at the end of the week, so we will try to get our jacks straightened out and the awnings replaced. In the mean time, we can have our slides out as the front and rear jacks are ok, so we are settled in for two nights at the Texas T Campground in Cornerstone, TN. Great reviews for this park and really nice staff.

It's a small park,  40 sites, gravel and level, and big rig friendly. If you are over 40 feet like we are, you are automatically assigned to a premium site which is longer and a little more money. Nice spacing between the sites. Nice picnic tables, great, friendly staff. We are here for two nights while we visit with Eldy's daughter and family. They have several discounts available, and with Good Sam's discount, we paid 67.43 before sales tax and occupancy tax, which is charged in TN. (Our campground goal is under 40.00 a night or lots better.) We used to be able to stay in decent campgrounds easily for under 30.00 a night, using commercial campgrounds and our Thousand Trails membership package as much as possible, but campground costs have increased in the last few years since we were full timing before, 8 years ago. (For anyone new to RVing, electric/water and sewer are part of the campground site charge.)

There is decent wifi, too! A little road noise from I-65 behind us, but no problem with AC's running plus a small fan we always have running all night long. They have a tiny laundry room--one washer, one dryer, and the dryer wasn't working very well while we were there. 2.00 to wash, 2.00 to dry. We don't have a washer/dryer on board, even with this size rig, so we are at the mercy of campground laundry facilities.We don't mind, rather, SPARKY doesn't mind, because the laundry cabinet sans washer and dryer, is her craft storage. Isn't Eldo a nice guy for not minding? Everybody nod their heads, please. :-)

PS. We are winning the war with the ants. (see previous post about ants marching.) We left the Alabama campground yesterday, haha!

See you next time at the Jack Daniels Distillery for a tour!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Our First Major Mishap....

We have been at Gunter Hill Corps of Engineer park for five beautiful days. The weather has been very very hot, but not as humid as Florida.  We spent the days researching where to go and getting reservations for future sites, planning for Labor Day weekend, sitting outside and reading. We decided to head into town for a bite to eat. You really have to drive 15 miles one way to get to a ton of places to shop and eat, but we don't mind. It helps break up the day a little bit.

We had a terrific early dinner at Jim 'n Nick's Bar B Q in nearby Prattville, AL. It's a chain, but a VERY good one. They have the most delicious cheddar biscuits that melt in your mouth, and fantastic potato salad as well as decent BBQ.

We came back home to the rig, Eldo went inside, Sparky went for a bike ride. On the way back from her ride, here comes Eldo in the truck, yelling, "STOP! STOP!" By the urgency in his voice, Sparky thought something had happened to one of his kids or Sparky's kids, or somebody died.

It turned out that our awnings had taken a huge hit from a falling pine tree limb next to our site. A 15 foot limb came crashing down and took out both awnings. Eldo was sitting inside and he heard it. Sparky had just left for her bike ride. It was a perfectly calm wind.  A rotten limb just decided to let go and caught both our awnings. 

 It looks like we will be delayed in leaving now, until we can get the insurance company to let us know what to do. The metal braces are destroyed. We can't zip tie anything. We can barely open the front door. We are so lucky that we weren't sitting outside in our normal spots a little further out from the door. We are so lucky that it's just the awnings. People from several sites immediately came over to see what they could do. A man named Michael Hall came over because he saw the limb fall, and climbed up onto the roof to see if there was any damage. Several others came over and said to please ask for help if we needed help clearing the limbs or taking down the awnings. It's a wonderful community of people in the RVing world. That's one of the things we love about full timing. You think it's just going to be the two you, but pretty soon, you are making friends almost immediately. And everybody pitches in to help in an emergency.

Just yesterday, we dealt with a water leak and had to call a mobile tech guy to come out. We looked and looked for the source of the leak. The water was in puddles in the storage bay, the water lines from the bathrooms and kitchen were dry. It turned out to be a combination of a little too high water pressure at our site, AND a leaky valve in the wet bay. If you are ever at Gunter Hill Campground and need a mobile tech, don't hesitate to call  CT Mobile RV, serving the central Alabama area. Tim Payne was wonderful, and really knew his stuff. He checked both toilets, asked thoughtful questions, and then traced the leak to the wet bay access panel. Thank you, Tim! We're going to call him to see if he can help us get the awning off....stay tuned and we'll let you know  how it turns out.  We are supposed to leave for Tennessee tomorrow, but that's probably not going to happen. We are still waiting to get an insurance adjuster assigned to us--two business days, Progressive said.

Bye for now.....

Friday, August 7, 2020

The Ants Go Marching Two by Two, Three by Three and More...

 We drove to our next destination, Gunter Hill Campground, a Corps of Engineer park in Montgomery, AL, which is part of the Alabama River Lakes area. We were here twice before, when we were full timing in our motorhome over eight years ago. 

It's a beautiful park, full of trees and wide open spaces for lots. Corps of Engineer parks (COE) are almost always near bodies of water or beside a dam. The parks are well thought out. The sites are very very spacious and easy to get in and out of. Every COE park is different of course, as far as amenities, so some have playgrounds and restrooms, full hookups, etc, but that can vary from COE park to park. The best thing about the parks besides their roominess and beauty, is the cost, which is half price with a senior pass. So we are paying 13.00 a night for this.....picnic table, grill provided, and a fire pit on site 49. But it's too hot for our first campfire, says Sparky. (Yet she went around collecting firewood anyway, laughs Eldo.)

Gunter Hill has 142 sites with electric hookups. Sites 1-75 are newly renovated sites with concrete pads and sewer. They have flush toilets, showers, drinking water, a dump station and laundry facilities. The showers and laundry are currently not available due to Covid. The campground is situated on Catoma Creek in a forest of hickory and pine. It's a little out in the boonies, the nearest town with plenty of shopping is about 15 miles. 

Because it's a mild climate here, the campground is open year round. There are no trails to speak of, but you can walk around this beautiful campground or ride a bike and easily get some miles under your belt. There doesn't seem to be a single site that would be difficult to pull in or back in the Catoma Loop of the park. 

But Sparky, what about the ANTS????? Well-l-l-l...what can we say? We are in a wooded campground and when we pulled into our lot and got settled, Sparky noticed a line of ants in front of the front door, and followed the line up the stairs and into the slides, OH, NO! It's an invasion....Tiny little ants, they look like sugar ants, but we're not sure...Off to the store we go for ant traps and spray....sigh....We'll keep you posted on who wins the infestation war....Bye for now!