December, 2019 – Natchitoches, Louisiana

When I started to make reservations for taking us south of Dallas, I noticed there was a National Park site in western Louisiana.  Especially since we had not spent much time in Louisiana south of I-20, it was not too surprising there was more to see in the state.  What did surprise me was the number of historical state parks in the same area around Natchitoches, Louisiana.  So we pulled the RV back out of Texas to Shreveport before heading south to Ajax County Livin’ RV Park north of Natchitoches.  The trip was easy as it was all along interstates with rest stops along the way.  We pulled into Country Livin’ early in the afternoon and had no problem getting set up on their pull through site.  All of the sites are grassy, which could be a problem after a heavy rain.  We had good TV reception and since we were less than a mile from the interstate the phone coverage was excellent.  Since we now have unlimited 4G access with my new IPad, I was able to stream both Mandalorian on our free year of Disney+ and Discovery on Jenny’s CBS Access.  We were also able to stream the Auburn basketball game using our new hotspot, so when we have good phone coverage there will be no limit to what we can stream.

After spending Tuesday doing laundry and cleaning, it was time to get out and explore the many historical locations.  Since our main reason for coming to Natchitoches was to explore the Cane River Creole National Historical Park, we headed south of Natchitoches to the location of two pre-Civil War plantations. Both Oakland and Magnolia Plantations began as land grants from the Spanish government in the late 1700s. Both families were long term Creole families, which only meant they were at least second generation colonists.  In this case they were both French, the Prud’hommes at Oakland and LeComte at Magnolia.  The cash crop at Oakland began with tobacco and indigo, but it was not until the early 1800s when they changed over to cotton that the plantation began to grow.  Magnolia was one of the first plantations in the area to grow cotton and soon increased in size and importance.  While the workforce was all enslaved people, this was a combination of those with African descent from the Caribbean Islands and Native Americans.  Rather than follow the harsh slavery laws of most of the south, they followed a more lenient set of laws deriving from the Code Noir of the Spanish.  These laws required the slaves be treated humanely and the owners had to care for them and their families.  There was also a pathway to freedom in the laws, so there were a number of skilled freemen living in the area.  Both plantations were very successful prior to the Civil War, often bringing over $1 million from the cotton crop each year.  However, the Civil War put an end to this.  Both plantations were damaged during the Red River campaign in 1864 with crops and some buildings, including the Magnolia plantation home, burned.  Following the war, most of the slaves continued to work the plantations as tenant farmers, however, the plantations never truly recovered.  The families continued to live and operate the farms into the 20th century, so when they were acquired by the National Park Service, they were both in very good condition.  They are the best preserved Creole Plantations from that time period with many outbuildings and artifacts still intact.  Both of the plantations are along the Cane River, which is one of the channels that make up the Red River.  They are close enough to each other that they can both be visited in a single day, so we spent the morning exploring Oakland before moving to Magnolia after lunch.  The plantation home and outbuildings at Oakland are in amazing condition.  Unfortunately, we had just missed the morning tour of the plantation home, but we were able to explore the grounds.  As with other plantations before the Civil War, they were mostly self-sufficient, so you see many buildings associated with skills such as blacksmithing, county store, cooking, and laundry, as well as, those associated with the farm including barns and homes for the slaves and overseer.  Most of these buildings had exhibits, along with the provided map, gave a good overview of life prior to the Civil War.  The most surprising building was the pigeonnier where they raised pigeons, a southern delicacy that denotes wealth.

The outbuildings at Magnolia were even more impressive.  Unfortunately, the plantation home was burned during the Civil War, but the family did rebuild it.  However, the new building is not part of the park.  However, there is a nice country store, overseer/hospital home, barns, and slave quarters.  The slave quarters were unusual as they were constructed of brick instead of wood. It is believed this was to display their wealth to the steamships on the Cane River.  It certainly was not for the benefits of the slaves which still lived in small structures with dirt floors and a single room.  After the Civil War, the tenant farmers were allowed to open up the wall between the duplex thus increasing their living space to two rooms.  The last family moved out in the 1960s.  Most amazing was the large barn that housed the steam operated cotton gin and baler.  They even had the largest baler still surviving that predated steam engines.  This 30 foot tall wooden structure was nothing more than a huge press that would be filled with cotton and then compressed using a huge screw operated by horses or mules.  It was something worth seeing.

Thursday was wet with the threat of more rain for most of the day so we headed north to the Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City.  For a change, we both did well and just about broke even for the afternoon.  After a nice early dinner we headed back to the campgrounds for the evening.

For Friday, it was back to exploring the other historical state parks in the area.  We started with Fort St Jean Baptiste State Historic Site in Natchitoches.  Back in the early 1700s, this area was the border between the French and Spanish.  To stop Spanish encroachment from Mexico and Texas, the French constructed and garrisoned a fort on the Cane River, which at the time was the main channel of the Red River, in 1716.  As the French were all about trading and befriending the local Indians, the fort became a major trade center and the town of Natchitoches grew up along the river.  The fort continued to serve as a military outpost until 1762, when the territory was ceded to Spain following the French and Indian Wars.  While the fort never saw any direct action, it continued to support a thriving trade business along the river.  Today they have reconstructed the fort according to surviving plans for the fort.  Unfortunately, the reconstructed fort is not exactly the location of the original fort.  Due partly to the changing river course and mostly to the fact they built a bridge over the original site.  It is always interesting to actually be able to see the forts, especially to how small they were.  The palisade surrounding the fort is barely big enough to house a couple of barracks, a guardhouse, quartermaster, commandant house, church, and a couple of storage sheds.  It was obviously not intended to house the garrison on a long term basis, especially since most of the soldiers, including the commandant, lived in houses in Natchitoches.

Since it only took a bit over an hour to explore the reconstructed fort, for the afternoon we drove about 15 miles to the Spanish counterpart: Los Adeas State Historic Site.  Los Adeas was the Spanish answer to Fort St. Jean Baptiste located close to their Mission.  For the French, the primary interest was trade with the Indians, whereas, the Spanish were more into converting them to Catholicism.  Thus the many missions throughout the southwest along with presido, or forts to protect them.  Unfortunately, the site chosen for the mission and fort were very poor for agriculture.  There was a constant shortage of food and other supplies as crops routinely failed on the poor soils.  Thus there was a constant stream of trade with the French at Natchitoches even though it was illegal as all supplies were to come from Spain.  However, since Mexico City was over 800 miles away, what else could they do?  Los Adeas was important enough to the Spanish that in 1729, it became the administrative seat for the entire province for the next 44 years.  Thus, within the fort were the administrative offices and residences.  Today there is nothing left of Los Adeas, however, archeologists have discovered the original layout of the fort and most of the buildings which are marked out with timbers.  There is also a nice hiking trail that begins at the fort and winds its way through the woods to the site of the nearby mission.  It was a nice walk on a cool winter afternoon.

We spent Saturday in the campground, however, on Sunday we ventured forth again to the site of the Mansfield State Historic Site, one of the last major battles of the Civil War.  In 1863, the Union had captured Vicksburg and was in control of the entire Mississippi River, cutting the Confederacy in two.  The Civil War in the West then moved to isolate Texas beginning with the capture of Shreveport.  General Banks brought 13,000 soldiers up the Red River by gunboat to Natchitoches where they disembarked to make the march to Shreveport.  Not expecting any engagement until they were close to Shreveport, he allowed his army to get strung out for miles along the road.  However, General Taylor selected a site 4 miles south of Mansfield, still 20 miles from Shreveport, to position his 10,500 Confederate troops across the road.  He used his cavalry to harass and slow down the Union advance on April 7, 1864 in a number of small skirmishes.  On April 8, the two armies formed up against each other.  However, General Banks was still strung out for miles and was only able to form up about 6500 soldiers by 4:00 in the afternoon when General Taylor ordered the charge.  The Confederates took terrible casualties in the initial charge, but especially since these soldiers were defending their home, they did not stop the charge and overran the Union lines.  The Union army broke and ran with the Confederates in hot pursuit for the next two miles.  Finally, most of the rest of the Union army had formed a defensive line and stopped several attempts by the Confederates before darkness fell.  Over night the Union withdrew to Pleasant Hill, where on April 9 there was another terrific battle and heavy casualties.  Once again, the Union withdrew during the night and kept moving all the way back to New Orleans.  Thus the Red River Campaign ended after two days of fierce fighting, this time with a Confederate victory.  Since the Civil War ended just a few months later, the Union never again attempted to seize Shreveport or invade Texas.  The Mansfield State Historic Site is not very large and protects only a small part of the initial battlefield south of Mansfield.  The Visitor Center has a excellent set of exhibits about the Civil War, the Mansfield and Pleasant Hill Battles, and the aftermath.  There is also a short hike around this piece of the battlefield with a brochure explaining the disposition of forces prior to the Confederate advance.  The battlefield is certainly worth visiting for anyone interested in the Civil War, especially if you are not familiar with the Red River Campaign, which we had never heard of.

 

December, 2019 – Tyler, Texas

The drive southeast out of the Dallas area to Tyler, Texas was a slow trip since none of it was along interstates.  So far, even the Farm to Market (FM) roads are excellent so the delay was due to all the small towns along the way.  Even then it only took less than 2 hours to make the trip.  Our GPS did a strange thing trying to take us directly to the campground instead of the main entrance of the state park.  Fortunately, the road it wanted us to turn on was closed with a gate, so we just headed on around to the main entrance.  We got checked in and then drove the 2 miles to the campground around the lake that is in the center of the park.  Unfortunately, we missed our turn into the campground loop and had to drive all around the lake in order to try again.  The layout of the campground was amazing.  All the full hookups sites were on a single loop with sites on both sides of the road.  Every one of the sites is a pull-through off the side of the road with the hookup between the RV and the road.  This meant your front door opened up away from the road.  What an amazing concept!!  It was very easy to get hooked up for the week.

Campsite

We had two main focuses for the week.  The first, was to travel back to the dentist to adjust my denture and the second was to get our Christmas shopping done.  On Tuesday we headed into Tyler to do some shopping which included stopping at a Verizon store to upgrade our phone plan.  We decided to finally go with iPhones 8 with unlimited data.  We also decided to get a new iPad which would also have unlimited data.  A new jetpack with 15 GB rounded out the plan.  Since each of the devices could also be used at hotspots with 15GB data, this should increase our data to 60 GB which is 4 times what we had.  In addition, each of the three devices have unlimited data with speed caps after 50 GB.  We hope this means we can finally start streaming more programs we would like to watch, just as long as we have a good phone connection.  After figuring this all out, we went to lunch with an old friend that lives nearby, Ron and his partner John.  Ron, who now is known by his middle name, Scott, was once married to my sister and is the father of her two children.  Over the past several years, he has reconnected with our niece and we were glad to have the opportunity to spend some time with him and his partner over lunch.  We still consider him as a part of our family.  Except for the fact that they had to watch me eating nothing more than mashed potatoes and mac&cheese, it was a very good time and we look forward to spending more time in the spring when we start back north for the year.

RonAndJohn

Wednesday was back to the dentist in Plano, Texas which was a 2.5 hour drive on the interstate.  After he adjusted my denture, which made it a LOT better, we took Pam out to lunch.  Then we drove all the way back to Tyler, making a long day in the truck.

Thursday was back to figuring out Christmas with some shopping in Tyler and ordering presents on-line.  Friday was spent finishing this up and working on this blog.  For Saturday, it was one more time to Tyler to pick up our phones, iPad, and jetpack from Verizon before heading to Best Buy for accessories.  Merry Christmas!  We then went to lunch at Applebees where we spent the afternoon watching LSU beat Georgia in the SEC Champsionship.  Sunday was back relaxing in the campground before our long trip on Monday to Louisiana.

November, 2019 – Dallas, Texas

For two weeks after returning from North Carolina, we camped in Lavonia Park COE campground.  For the first week we stayed in the same campsite, but then on Sunday we had to move to a different campsite as ours was reserved.  We literally moved across the road to a new campsite, so except for our view changing slightly, there was little difference.  Whereas, the previous campsite was sloped so we had to use boards under the front pads to level the RV, this new campsite was just the opposite.  We had to put a board under each tire in order to be able to lower the front end as low as it could go to get it level.  In addition, the sewer hookup was behind the RV which meant we could not reach it even with our extension on the sewer hose.  We ended up having to haul the full tanks to our next stop on Monday to be able to empty them.

Campsite2

We had two reasons for staying an additional two weeks in the same campground.  First, was to spend Thanksgiving with Mark and his friends and family.  The second, was to get a brand new full denture.  This meant I visited the dentist twice the first week to get impressions made and check the bite and again the day before Thanksgiving to remove the last of my teeth.  This made Thanksgiving very interesting as I could hardly eat anything with the new denture that badly needed to be adjusted.  However, this would have to wait at least a week to allow everything to heal up.  While Thanksgiving dinner was special with turkey, dressing, gravy, mac&cheese, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, etc, all I could eat was a little bit of the softer foods!  Kal had a good time playing with her grand-nieces and we both enjoyed time with Mark, Pam, and their friends and family.

We also managed to drive the hour to Mark’s on both Saturdays to watch college football which included the amazing Iron Bowl when we beat Alabama destroying their chances of playing for the national championship.  As is often the case lately when we win the Iron Bowl it had it’s share of controversy.  The end of the first half saw Auburn, with no time outs, be allowed to get their field goal team on the field while the refs checked replay and put 1 second back on the clock.  Even more amazing was the end of the game when Alabama missed a field goal to tie it and Auburn was able to run the clock out when they fooled Alabama using a strange line up for the punt.  Alabama ended up with too many players on the field and the resulting penalty gave us a first down!!  Another memorable Iron Bowl.  Other than those trips to Mark and my trips to the dentist we spent the time relaxing in the campground.

November, 2019 – Asheville, North Carolina

Unlike previous years when all the kids came to join us for a week, this year it was our turn to go to them.  This year we all decided to meet in Asheville, North Carolina for a week prior to Thanksgiving when everyone could get off from work.  Chris booked us a week through Airbnb for a house on Lake Lure, which is south of Asheville.  So on Saturday, after dropping off the truck at Mark’s, he drove us to the airport where we boarded a plane for Atlanta.  To save some money we decided to rent a car in Atlanta and drive to Asheville instead of flying straight there.  This worked out well until we discovered that Kal had booked a rental with Avis for Sunday, not Saturday!  So much for saving money, since we now had to take what they had available for whatever price they wanted to charge us.  It also turned out that the car did not have navigation, so we had no GPS device and no map!!  Thankfully we had driven to Asheville in the past and should be able to find our way there, although it had been a few years.  We did fine until we got to Greeneville on the Interstate and were not sure of the highway we needed.  So we found a McDonalds and used their free WiFi to connect our iPad and checked the route.  We got to Asheville in good order and met Nikki at her home.  Rather than trying to find the house they had rented for the week on Lake Lure and staying there by ourselves, we decided to spend the night at Nikki’s.  It had been a long day and we went to bed early.

Sunday morning we followed Nikki to the Asheville airport to pick up Jenny who flew up from Orlando.  From there we headed south to Hendersonville to do some serious grocery shopping for the week before heading to Lake Lure and our house for the week.  We were immediately impressed with the house which had three bedrooms that had five beds and a futon coach, so there were plenty of places to sleep.  As expected the house had everything you would expect for cooking, eating, and sleeping.  There was also a screened-in porch overlooking the lake.  Although the view of the lake was not great as the house was tucked in a small inlet and our view was completely blocked by other homes on the lake.  However, this was the only drawback.  We later discovered that phone reception, especially within the house, was terrible and their internet connection was very intermittent.  Since the TV used the internet, this would have been a problem, if we had any intention of watching TV.  We hardly noticed it.  William, Kristen, and little Liam arrived late in the afternoon and the celebration got underway.  We did not have to worry about dinner as we were all invited to Chris’ parents condo which was also on Lake Lure.  We had a great meal of chili and wings along with beer and wine.  Kal decided to cut loose and drank more than her normal share of the wine.  Except for a spinning head for the rest of the evening, she had a great time playing with Liam.  Liam even got her to bounce down the stairs in the rental before the night was done!  We even got a video of their shenanigans.  Everyone sure enjoyed playing with Liam who turned out to be the “life of the party” all week.  Kristen pulled out some balloons she had brought and bouncing the balloon around was the highlight of the week with Liam standing in the middle of the floor.  We must have spent hours every day playing with the balloon.

Monday was going to be the last warm day of the week with possible snow showers on Tuesday, so we all headed out early to spend some time outdoors.  We drove to Asheville to explore the Western North Carolina Nature Center.  This is actually a fairly good size zoo of mostly native Appalachian species and domestic animals in a “natural” habitat.  Of course, the primary reason for the trip was to entertain Liam and we had a great time.  There are numerous pathways winding through the center and we explored them all.  Liam easily kept up with us and seemed to enjoy interacting with the farm animals, watching the bears (who were not moving), and picking out all the birds on display.  We managed to time our exploring to be at the river otter exhibit when they fed them.  This at least got them out of their dens and moving around.  It was a lot of fun for everyone and we got lunch at Zaxbys, which was a favorite of William and Jenny in Auburn and is not available in Maryland or Florida.  This still left the afternoon to get the spade game going, which still left at least two adults to play with Liam.

As expected, the weather on Tuesday was stormy with cold rain all day.  We did not see any snow, however, Asheville got a dusting.  It did turn very cold, which for Jenny was a delight since the weather in Florida never gets close to freezing.  It was a day full of spades, playing with Liam, and having a great time with the family.  Unfortunately, we did not see much of Chris or Nikki, as they were busy with meetings for the brewery and working at the hospital, which I was afraid might happen.  Except for a run to the grocery store, we spent the day indoors.  I had asked for homemade mac & cheese to be one of our meals, so they picked up what we would need at the store.  One of our favorite meals for our family over the years was baked mac&cheese made with velvetta cheese and a can of peas.  However, now we had to upscale the meal.  They bought three different kinds of cheese which had to be shredded before being melted into the white sauce.  Even the peas had to be upscaled with onions and mushrooms.  While the meal was very good, it bore little resemblance to the mac&cheese I remember.

For Wednesday, the kids had planned to go bar hopping in Asheville and Chris had given them a list of breweries to explore.  This would have given Kal and I some time alone with Liam which we both were looking forward to.  However, William began feeling poorly, so those plans were canceled.  Instead we all went to check out the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Asheville.  Whereas, their original brewery in Oregon was an organic growth over time, their brewery in Asheville was meticulously planned to reflect their strong commitment to sustainability.  The brewery itself has a rustic feel looking like a mountain lodge using huge timbers.  Attached to the brewery is a bar and restaurant. While you can take a guided tour of the brewery, they have the option of taking a self-guided tour along corridors looking down on the manufacturing and packaging of the many beer products that make.  You can even order and take a beer along with you on the tour.  After we finished the tour itself, we found a table in the restaurant for lunch.  Like the rest of the brewery, even the lunch was unique.  Instead of individually ordering a meal, you instead order what I would call appetizers that are shared with everyone.  So we tried a couple of interesting looking appetizers and then ordered two more.  The presentation was amazing and the food excellent.  As much as possible, the vegetables are from their gardens behind the brewery.  So after lunch we walked out behind the brewery where they have an outdoor stage for live performances during the summer, as well as, vegetable beds.  Of course, in November there was very little growing, but it was still a very interesting approach.  There are also suppose to be walking trails through the woods around the brewery where they are actively managing the forest to replace the trees used in building the brewery.  We did not check this out as the weather was still very cold with some snow on the ground.  We did give Liam the opportunity to play a while in their “sand box”, although the sand was too hard to do very much.  It was a nice opportunity to get outside before we all returned to the house for more spade games.

Thursday was going to be our family “Thanksgiving” and they had a wide variety of dishes planned.  Most of the day was spent cooking with Chris smoking a turkey and everyone making their favorite sides.  The resulting spread was impressive with more variety then we ever had before as a family.  Except for the turkey, where Chris overdid the spicy rub, it was all excellent.  In addition to two types of dressing, we had mashed potatoes, gravy (which was also VERY spicy due to the turkey drippings), sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and rolls.  My sister, Suzy, drove over from Tennessee to join us for the day and spend the night.  She was a welcomed addition to the festivities.

Friday was still quite chilly, however, we decided we had to go for a boat ride on Lake Lure.  Nikki and Chris had recently bought a small house on the lake that came with a boathouse.  They also managed to get the owner to include his boat and all the “attachments”!  They had to show it all off to us.  The house itself was in the middle of reconstruction, so it was not much to look at with very little currently on the inside.  Although we could certainly see the potential.  However, the boat was operational, so we all bundled up and went for a ride.  Liam really enjoyed the experience. Chris took us around the lake ending up at a restaurant where you could tie up the boat.  We had a great lunch with everyone before heading back to their lake home.  Plans are to use the lake house a couple of weekends a month during the summer, renting it out as an  airbnb the rest of the time.  This worked well for their condo in Asheville, which they sold in order to buy this property.

Saturday was the day to say goodbye.  William, Kristen, and Liam left early in the morning to drive back to Maryland and soon after them, Kal and I left to drive back to Atlanta.  Jenny had a couple of hours to spend with her sister before she boarded a plane for Orlando.  We got back to the airport with time to spare, however, I made a big mistake.  We used Kal’s iPad to navigate our way back to the airport and I managed to leave it in the rental car!!  I realized it before we went through security and Kal rushed back to the rental car while I watched the bags.  She was unable to get them to retrieve her iPad, so it was a wasted trip.  It took us over a week before we got Avis to send us the iPad, which they had located the next day.  Except for this, it was just another long day of traveling, especially since we still had an hour drive back to the campground once we landed in Dallas.  Kal’s brother Mark picked us up at the airport and fed us dinner before we did, thankfully, it made the drive a lot nicer not having to worry about a meal.  Without a doubt it was a week worth remembering and we both wished it could have been longer.  We are looking forward to everyone joining us next summer in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

November, 2019 – Dallas, Texas

The trip to Lavonia Park northeast of Dallas was slow as it was mostly along county and state highways northwest to I-30.  Lavonia Park is a Corps of Engineers campground on the shore of Lake Lavon, which is a large lake northeast of Dallas.  However, it meant we were about an hour from Kal’s brother, Mark who lives in Frisco.  The campground itself is an older campground in bad need of improvements.  Thankfully, all the sites have full hookups, which was a necessity as we would be staying there thru Thanksgiving most likely.  Our main purpose in choosing this location was to get our annual physicals with Mark’s physician who had agreed to see us.  We pulled into our site with little problem, however, the site was not level requiring a stack of wood under the front pads in order to level the RV.  Like most COE campgrounds, the sites were very large and this one even had a covered picnic table on a concrete slab.  Very nice.  However, the bathrooms were also in bad need or updating, which they are working on.  They have a new bathroom in the campground, however, they were still working on the sidewalks around the bathroom so it was still closed.  Since there was only a single stall in the men’s and one of the women’s stall was out of order, any problem meant we were having to drive to Walmart to go the bathroom, which happened a couple of times.

Since our main purpose in camping near Dallas, besides seeing Mark and his family, was to see a new doctor for our annual physicals.  Since we are now too far west in our travels to go back to Auburn to see our doctor, it was necessary we find a new doctor in Texas where we will be returning to for the next few years.  Kal was able to get an appointment to see Mark’s doctor in Frisco first thing Tuesday morning.  We took off before the sun was up with two hours to make the 45 mile drive to the doctor.  Even with this lead time, we still were 10 minutes late for our appointment.  Thankfully, this was not a problem as it was first thing in the morning and we had filled out our paperwork before we came from online forms.  It turns our “doctor” is actually a huge conglomerate of doctors in a huge complex taking up a single floor of a small skyscraper.  We were shuttled from room to room, meeting with a Physician Assistant we both fell in love with, getting blood taken, and getting our flu shots.  By the time we were finished we did not even know how to get out of the complex.  They even had a checkout desk separate from the initial waiting room when you walked in.  It was very efficient and organized.  Since the bloodwork had to be done under fasting conditions, our first order of business was to get a late breakfast at IHop.  From there we headed over to Mark’s house to visit for a few hours before I took off for an appointment with his dentist.  A month earlier I had lost another tooth which broke off, so there was now a gap in my lower partial.  However, after xrays and probing it was obvious I was about to lose another tooth, this time one of the teeth anchoring my partial.  We decided it was time to go to a full denture so an appointment was made for the following Thursday.  I returned to Mark’s house where we gathered the family and went out to eat at Babe’s Chicken House in downtown Frisco.  We had a great time at dinner after a full day of being prodded, examined, drained, and consulted.

Wednesday was spent doing laundry and filling the propane tank in anticipation of leaving on Saturday for North Carolina.  Thursday was back to Frisco for another appointment with the dentist to take impressions for my new denture.

We spent Friday getting ready to board a plane on Saturday, however, we did meet our niece, Michelle, at a McDonalds in Rockwall to watch her daughter while she took her husband, James, to see a specialist.  We ordered lunch and had an enjoyable time getting to know our grandniece, introducing her to french fries and ketchup which she took to immediately!!  After lunch was had fun playing in McDonalds play area until Michelle and James returned from their appointment.  After an initial period of getting comfortable with each other, we soon had a great time in the playground.

October, 2019 – Jefferson, Texas

The trip west from Louisiana, through Vicksburg, and into Texas was mostly along I-20 so it was an easy trip of less than 2 hours.  We pulled into Buckhorn Creek Park, another COE campground, on the shores of Lake O’ the Pines, early in the afternoon.  The site was angled well, although the paved area was very narrow.  Luckily there was no obstacle across the road, so I was able to back the RV into the site fairly easily.  We got set up for the week which was going to be wet and cold due to a cold front coming through on Wednesday.  As we were getting ready to go to bed, Kal noticed the bedroom slide was not all the way out.  I tried to move it on out with no luck.  I tried to bring it back in to check on an obstruction and then it would not move in any direction.  Now the slide was halfway out and not moving!!  It sounded like the motor was running, but nothing was happening.  While the other slides were hydraulic, I believed the bedroom slide was electric since it always spun a bit before what sounded like gears would engage.

Campsite

While we had no definite plans for the week, it was obvious our first priority was getting the slide fixed which meant finding a local RV repairman.   So early on Tuesday we headed to the entrance station to see if the volunteer had any suggestions.  He knew of two repairmen in the area and recommended Lyle.  I immediately called him, however, he was on a job in the opposite direction and could not get to us that day.  Since Wednesday was suppose to be very wet, making working outside a problem, it would be Thursday before he would be able to look at it.  Hopefully, he would not have to order a part extending out stay into next week as we had doctor appointments in Frisco next Tuesday.  He called again that afternoon to see if we could figure out the problem over the phone so he would know what to expect.  So Kal and I cleared out the stuff we had stored under the bed and discovered a large nut that had obviously come off a rod that would move the slide in and out.  It was obvious that this rod was controlled by the hydraulics system, so this answered that question.  Also by running the motor, the rod moved in and out, so it was not the motor or hydraulics.  It was also obvious that somehow this nut coming loose was the source of the problem, however, it was not obvious to me how it was suppose to operate.  The good news was the job was going to be entirely inside the RV, so Lyle agreed to come out on Wednesday.

Lyle showed up mid-morning and very quickly figured out the problem.  If I had looked closely under the bed I might have been able to figure it out for myself and I certainly could have fixed since it only required reinstalling the nut on the rod.  He did secure the nut so it would not come off again and helped us adjust the rod so it efficiently moved the slide all the way in and out.  It was a job of about half an hour for Lyle and he could not have been nicer or more efficient.  I would certainly recommend him and did to our neighbor in the campground who spends a lot of time camping on the lake.  It was great to know that we would not be held up and we were good to go.

Just for something to do on Thursday that was not as stressful as worrying about the RV, we headed back to Vicksburg to the Harrah’s Casino and Racetrack to spend another few hours playing the slots.  Thankfully, Kal did very well for a change and I was only down a little, so we broke even for a change.

We spent Friday and the weekend relaxing in the campground with Kal doing laundry on Sunday.  We did find a nice Applebees in Marshall to watch the Auburn vs Ole Miss football game and had a great time.  I really enjoy these opportunities to get out and watch sports at a local establishment.

October, 2019 – Homer, Louisiana

Monday was spent staying an additional day at Poverty Point Reservoir State Park in eastern Louisiana as we waited out the rain that fell well into the afternoon.  So we got started a day later heading west to Lake Claiborne State Park in north-central Louisiana.   Just as we were pulling off the highway into the state park, we received a call from them to find out our status as we did not show on Monday.  We got a laugh with them as we then showed up a minute later to check in.  We did not have one of the premium sites, which meant we were not on the shore of the lake, however, we had a pull-through site that was easy to get into.  However, the site was not very level front to back and I should have put more boards under the front pads as we had to live with the RV clicking all week which seems to happen when the front pads are extended too far.  However, this meant we could walk under the front end to get out of the rain.  Kal soon found out that we did not get a CBS station over the airwaves, but since we had good internet service, we decided to stream the CBS Tuesday lineup using the CBS All Access account.

Campsite

Kal was not interested in taking any hikes in this hilly country on Wednesday, so I headed out to check out the disc golf courses.  They actually have two 18-hole courses on the state park which are rated as the top two in the state.  I was very interested in checking them out.  I quickly decided to play the Dogwood course, as it was about a mile in length, while White Tail course was over a mile and a half.  Of course, this is only the sum of the lengths of the 18 holes, not the distance between fairways or the time spent searching the woods for lost discs!  I knew I was in for a challenge as the terrain was very hilly with a lot more trees than I could possible hit with a disc.  The first few holes were not too bad, although every other one was down and up a pretty good slope as it went across one draw after another.  However, hole 6 was the killer.  It was a par 4 hole, which meant it would take at least three throws just to reach the cage.  It was along a cleared power line, so there was a very wide fairway, however, the course went down a very steep hill and then back up another steep hill to the cage up where the power line crossed the road.  I tried to keep my disc low from the tee, but the wind caught the disc and off it went to the left deep into the woods near the bottom of the slope.  I spent the next 15 minutes looking for the disc, which I eventually found.  I threw back onto the fairway to line up my next shot.  This was probably my worst shot of the day as I threw it right along the left side of the woods instead of the middle of the fairway and also too high as I now had to climb back up this steep hill.  The disc once again disappeared into the woods on the left.  I spent another 15 minutes trying to locate it, only to find out that it hit a branch as was just a few feet from the fairway.  In any case, it took two more throws the approach the cage and end the nightmare.  I took a break sitting along the road at the top of the hill, seriously thinking about ending the day right there.  I finally decided it could not be any worse and I was certainly in no hurry and could take a break after each hole if I had to.  So I continued on and the course continued to go down and up for about every other or every third hole.  I eventually finished the course, although I will admit that I put my driver disc away.  While I could not throw my mid-range disc as far, I can at least keep it on the fairway for the most part.  After losing the disc twice on hole 6 I was tired of looking for it in the woods!!!  I give them credit for rating this course so highly, as it is truly a challenge.  However, I think in the future I will favor the “beginners” courses in city parks.

Rain threatened all day on Thursday, although it did not really materialized until late in the afternoon and rained all day Friday.  So we headed to Shreveport to visit Harrah’s Casino and Racetrack that we often stopped at when we traveled to and from Texas A&M to visit William in college.  We really liked this casino as it had a large number of cheap slot machines, many of which were the older machines that we have enjoyed playing throughout the years.  I did fairly well for the day coming close to breaking even, but Kal had another disastrous day losing everything.  After finding a Mexican restaurant to eat at, we returned to the campground for another relaxing evening.

As I said previously, Friday was wet all day long and Saturday was also gloomy.  We did manage to find a local sports bar, Dawg House, in Ruston to watch the AU vs LSU football game.  We decided to keep our routing for Auburn to a minimum as everyone else in the bar were LSU fans.  We had a nice meal of bar food while we watched the game.  The game itself was a disappointment, as Auburn’s defense kept us in the game, but the offense could not consistently move the football.  When we had two big plays stopped just short of scoring touchdowns and having to eventually settle for field goads, we came up short in the game.  As this is our second loss in the conference, this puts us out of the running for the conference championship.  Still, we are a very good team and hopefully can play the role of spoiler as we still have Georgia and Alabama to play.

Sunday was spent doing laundry and working on this blog.