March, 2018 – Monroeville, Alabama

With my teeth finally taken care of by the end of February, it was time to once again start our journey north.  This year our goal is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with plans for the family to join us at St. Ignace which is a boat ride to MacKinac Island that we visited last summer.  Especially since this year our journey will be due north of our location in Alabama on the Gulf Coast, it will be our shortest year in terms of miles.  So even though we are not getting started until March, the journey will be slow, especially as we await the arrival of spring.  With 70 degree days in Alabama, it feels like spring has already come, but I expect we will still find some colder weather as we move north.  Our first destination was the Corps of Engineer Campground outside of Monroeville, Alabama, Isaac Creek Campground.  We stayed there two years ago and as it turned out I happened to reserve exactly the same pull through site this year without realizing it.  Two years ago we had to move mid-week to another site due to high water on the Alabama River which caused the backside of the campground to flood.  No problem this year as the weather continued to be mild and no rain all week.  This time of year is very quiet in the campground and we only had a single neighbor all week until a few more campers came in over the weekend for spring break.

Except going one last time to Wind Creek Casino near Atmore, which was now an hour south of our location, we did not do anything all week.  There are no hiking trails in the campground and all the state parks are over an hour away.  There was not even a disc golf course closer than 50 miles.  So we just relaxed in the campground listening to Kal complain about the lousy TV reception.  We only got one station, CBS, and then only after dark.  Even then it was often so terrible that we just turned it off.  I was in good shape since I had new games to play on the Playstation and old TV shows (Stargate and Quantum Leep) I got for Christmas.  Thankfully, internet reception was good so we were able to stream the last two games of Auburn basketball and watched them win the SEC Conference for the first time since 1999.  I am so thankful that we now have unlimited data so we can watch these games and we are looking forward to the SEC and NCAA tournaments.  WAR EAGLE!!

December-February, 2018 – Summersdale, Alabama

Those of you that are following this blog will noticed that I have not posted anything since November.  This is mostly because we traveled from Wind Creek State Park all the way south to Summersdale, Alabama to the same Rainbow Plantation that we have spent the last three years.  While there we did not do very much to write about, so I decided to just wait until we left the area before posting for the three months we stayed there.  Our original plans were to stay for the months of December and January, but as you can see this was changed.  First we decided to drive straight to Summersdale from Alexander City, a 4.5 hour drive, rather than stop somewhere in between for less than a week.  This got us there on Monday, November 27 instead of December 1.  Since we were much later in making this reservation, we had to stay on a different site for 4 nights before we could move to our site for the two month stay.  Over the next few weeks I got a lot done on the RV and truck, including minor repairs and cleaning, both inside and out.  It is nice to stay an extended period over the winter to wash and treat the roof, clean the outside of the RV and truck, and treat the woodwork and wash the windows.  With two months to work with this meant only a couple of hours every few days as all the chores could be done easily in a week.  We did handle a minor repair of the water connection where the outside hose attaches to the RV, which had started to leak at the connection.


In comparison with the past years along the coast, this winter proved to be much colder.  We even had the joy of waking up one morning in December with a dusting of snow on the ground, which is very rare.  We had another chance in January, however, all we got was a thin coating of sleet.  There was a two week period when the temperatures did not get out of the 40s which included a few days when it did not get out of the 30s.  For the gulf coast, this is cold.  Except for burning a lot more propane and having to keep fresh water in the holding tank for when we disconnected the hose, it meant spending more time inside then is normal for us.  We did get the bikes out and spent a little time riding around the paved roads in the campground, however, the cold weather limited this as well.


We once again traveled to Birmingham for Christmas, although this year we delayed the trip until December 28 so Mark could join us from Texas and William from Maryland.  Kristin’s parents invited us for Christmas dinner on our way to Birmingham which gave us a great opportunity to spend time with their family, that included William, Kristen, and our new grandson, Liam.  As with Thanksgiving, they put on a great meal and William surprised me with making my favorite homemade macaroni and cheese.  Unfortunately, this dish was too much for my bottom dentures, which managed to pull up my bottom denture, that then got twisted around and broke!  I spent the rest of the meal trying to figure out how to eat without them.  Fortunately, I still have 4 teeth on the bottom, so I can still chew, although a lot slower than anyone else.  You can bet, this problem did not detract from enjoying our time with our grandson, who can now hold his head up and is beginning to pay attention to movement around him.  They certainly get to be a lot more fun when they begin to interact with their surroundings.  After a long meal we traveled on to Birmingham to our motel only to be denied access due to a police involved shooting at the motel.  We were told they were finishing up, so we went to Kal’s parents house for a couple of hours to wait.  However, once we got back to the motel they still had it taped off with police cars all over the place, so we decided to find another motel.  The motel Mark was staying at had a room, so we headed over there.  In the future, we are going to stay at this motel.  Even though it is more expensive, by only $15 a night, the rooms are much nicer and it is away from the highway.  The only problem was that we had already paid for the other hotel using a non-refundable reservation.  We lodged a complaint with Expedia and eventually were reimbursed due to the circumstances!!  Out “Christmas” the next day was a grand affair with a great dinner, opening of gifts, and our normal game of throwing wrapping paper at everyone.  We also spent time visiting grandma in the Assisted Living Center where she got to meet her new great-grandson.  While not certain that she was ever really clear just who the baby was, she certainly enjoyed holding and talking with him.  It is one of the happiest visits we have had with her and I am thankful for it.

The weather in January continued the cold temperatures from December with multiple freezing temperatures and even another chance for snow, although all we got was a dusting of sleet.  When it wasn’t colder then normal for this area, it was raining just about the entire month.  Consequently, we did not do anything during the month except to watch the football playoffs, play video games, and read.  I do have a complaint about the playoffs, since they were all shown on ESPN which we don’t get in the RV.  We did go to Applebees to watch Auburn lose their bowl game against South Florida, but could not justify spending the entire day at the restaurant to watch the Alabama and Georgia games.  We tried to stream the games at the RV, however, the bandwidth over the air was not enough to watch them.  We did, however, go back to Applebees the following week to watch the Alabama and Georgia game for the national championship.  It was a great game, especially with Applebees full of Alabama and a few Georgia fans to catch the game.   There was just a few of us routing for Georgia giving the Bama fans fits throughout the game.  It was a great time and we even scored a conciliatory drink from some Bama fans when they finally won after thinking they had lost!!

When the weather was relatively nice I also completed all the chores around the RV which included treating the slide gaskets, checking tire pressure, greasing the slide rails, and painting the rust spots on the hitch and RV steps.  We also took the truck into the dealership in Foley to change the oil and filters.   We had them check the AC system to see if they could find a leak, but all they could do was insert some dye as there was nothing obvious.  We drove the truck with the AC on (BRRR) for the next couple of days and then returned to let them look at it again.  Once again they could not find anything, however, there was one a water test on a valve that would bubble if it was leaking.  While they checked for any dye marks, Kal kept watch on the valve and sure enough saw a few bubbles escaping.  This turned out to be a $30 part and 5 minutes of effort to change, so hopefully we have finally fixed our air conditioning problem.  While we were fine last summer without AC, it would be nice to have it.

With regards to my dentures, I went into the dentist in Robertsdale as soon as I could in January, which gave them a month to replace them.  After the initial examination, where they found a massive cavity in one tooth and decided another one needed to be extracted.  This loosening of this tooth is likely the reason the partial would not stay in place causing the problem in the first place.  I came back two days later for them to fix the cavity and take the impressions for the new partial.  They assured me they would be able to get the new partial in 3 weeks and since it was basically a replacement I would not have to deal with wearing a temporary partial made out of wax for a week before making the permanent one.  So I was scheduled to get my new partial on January 30, which was cutting it very close.  This was not going to allow for any followup visits for possible adjustments, so we extended our stay at Rainbow Plantation for the first two weeks in February.  Of course, there was nothing available until February 3, so we would have to stay two days in dry camp without any hookups.  Not ideal, but we have done it before.  When the dentist called the day before my appointment they told me my insurance had declined to pay anything for my new partial due to a “missing tooth clause” in the policy.  Since I already had missing teeth they would not cover any future partials.  I called the insurance company to check and sure enough this is a fancy way to say they only pay for the first partial.  Any subsequent partials are not covered.  While disappointing, I had expected I would have to pay for the replacement since I broke the partial, but I had assumed that since I was having another tooth extracted that it would be covered.  When I got to the dentist on January 30, I got another surprise.  The company making the partial refused to simply make the permanent version and sent the temporary instead.  It would have been nice if they had let me know this before I showed up for my appointment as now it would be February 15th before I got the permanent partial.  As this was once again a day before we had planned to leave, I had to extend our stay to the end of February which meant moving again.  Thankfully, the new partial came in on schedule and I have a new partial that fits like a glove.  It also has a reinforced connection which should mean it will be less likely to break.  When I went in a week later to make any minor adjustments, nothing was needed to be done.  I am once again able to eat my meals on both sides of my mouth with more than 2 teeth!!!  Also as it turned out when we went in on February 1 before moving we found out they had a site open for the entire month, so I simple move from one end of our row to the other was all it was going to take.  In addition, the new site had 50 amp hookups, so we no longer had to worry about running the heater and microwave at the same time.

While February started out a bit warmer than December and January, it was also a lot wetter.  The month started out raining every second or third day which played havoc on all the Mardi Gras parades in the area.  Although there were parades in every small town in the area starting the first of February, we waited until the Foley parade on February 9, partly due to the weather.  It was again a wet Saturday, however, there was a break in the weather during the morning just long enough to hold the parade.  Kal planned on parking in the Foley Middle School parking lot, but at the last minute decided to follow a pickup truck into a grassy lot across from the School.  This turned out to be a mistake, as we sunk into the mud in the field even though the truck ahead of us had no problem  I guess an F350 is just a lot heavier than an F150!  The tires immediately slicked up with clay and there was no way we, along with some nice guys, were going to push it out of the mud.  Kal called our Roadside Assistance who scheduled a tow truck for us to get it out.  Unfortunately, the truck was not going arrive before the parade started, which was just fine as we planned on watching it anyway before we left.  In fact, we saw the tow truck pull up on the other side of the street just as the parade reached our location so he got to watch the parade along with his son who happened to be with him.  Therefore, they got to enjoy the parade was well.  If you have never seen one of these small town Mardi Gras parades before, they are a hoot.  While there are some old “floats” from local businesses that have seen far too many parades over the years, most of the “floats” are old farm wagons filled with kids and cheap decorations.  The kids are having a great time throwing plastic beads, moon pies, and other candies to the crowd.  Since the weather was questionable and we were near the end of the parade, there were not many people watching the parade.  Consequently we caught a LOT of colorful beads, which we were happy to recycle at the RV park.  After the parade the tow truck came over and within 10 minutes had us pulled out of the mud.  Especially, since they got to enjoy the parade as well and it did not cost us anything, it turned out well.

By Fat Tuesday, the weather had finally improved so we decided to check out the Mardi Gras parade in Gulf Shores.  We drove down there in time to be 45 minutes before the parade and after following the traffic jam into town found a parking space within a few blocks of where we thought the parade route was based on our experience two years ago when we saw this same parade.  However, a combination of road construction and an accident that had occurred along the route last year, they greatly compressed the route to be just along the beach from the center of town to the state park.  This meant we had a 1.5 mile hike to get to the parade.  It also meant that the parade had already started before we could get there.  The crowds were much larger than they were in Foley and this was a much larger parade with fancy floats, music, and costumes.  It was a lot of fun, but of course being in the back of the crowds meant we came away with only a couple of strands of beads.  This was fine since our haul a couple of days before more than made up for it!!  Thank goodness the weather was pleasant as we had another long walk back to the truck.  We also noted that it was either far enough or the parade route was short enough, that many of the floats were going to beat us home as they passed us on our way back.

By the end of the month the weather continued to improve until we had nearly two weeks of above average temperatures setting multiple records with low 80 degree temperatures.  While the weather was certainly nice, we did not take advantage of it, since this was also the time for the winter Olympics in South Korea, which we intended to watch from start to finish.  There were a number of notable events from figure skating to alpine skiing, but the highlight for us was the gold medal for the USA men Curling team.  Over the past couple of Olympics we have fallen in love with curling, which is a fascinating game.  To most people it is boring, since there is very little action, however, the strategies involved are wonderful.  With a good announcer explaining what they intend to do and why over the years, we have got it figured out.  Unfortunately, NBC would not show any of the curling, opting instead for all the crazy teens showing off how they can spin and twist in the air.  We really got sick of this since at least half of the evening coverage during the Olympics was devoted to this.  I realize these are the events the US does so well in, but I am still a fan of the more traditional events, which I guess is a sign of getting old!  In any case, the only way we could watch Curling was to stream it over the internet, which was dependent on the band width we could get.  During the day it was not too bad, but the evening were impossible.  We tried to watch some of Auburn’s basketball games which was doing GREAT this year, but generally had to listen to them on the radio as stop action streaming was just too painful.  However, to watch curling meant staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning, although the band width should be good at that time.  Once the US made the gold medal game, we just had to watch it.  So we stayed up until 12:30 to catch the beginning of the game.  Watching it this way also meant there were no commercials and you got to see every shot.  It was an AMAZING game!! Not just because the USA won the game over Sweden, but because of the amazing shots being made.  Time after time you would see them slide the rock barely missing other rocks or slamming them into rocks to knock out two or even three stones!!  When Shuster made a double takeout with the hammer in the 8th end to score 5 points and essentially win the game I only hope we did not wake anyone in the park at 2:30 in the morning!!  Totally worth it!

November, 2017 – Auburn, Alabama

The trip to Wind Creek State Park on Lake Martin was uneventful along roads we were well familiar with.  The only thing out of the ordinary about the trip was that we moved on Sunday, instead of the usual Monday.  This was to make Monday easier as we had a retirement reception to attend.  I had reserved the site next to the one we stayed in last year, so we even knew how to get to it.  We did have an unexpected pleasure as Jenny’s friends, Janna and Jep still live on the property and she along with two of their sons joined us to set up the campsite.  After watching us back in the RV into the site, they “helped” us set up the RV and stayed to visit for a couple of hours.

We spent most of the day on Monday just relaxing in the campsite until the Jeannie’s retirement reception at the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences building on Auburn’s campus.  Due to a misunderstanding about the time it would take to travel from Alexander City to Auburn, we arrived just after the reception began.  Therefore, we did not get to visit with anyone prior to the reception.  After the formal presentation from the Dean everyone who worked with her got to say a few words.  Along with everyone else I got the opportunity to talk about the pleasure it was to work with Jeannie over the years and some of the many accomplishments she brought to the School.  When I started at Auburn, the faculty in the School was relatively young and for years pushed the technology envelope at the University.  We were often the test case for new technology, partly because we were a small unit, but mostly because we were often already using much of the technology.  We were the first unit to create our own student database for advising and one of the first student computer labs on campus.  We were also pushing the envelope on early use of the internet and publishing webpages.  Jeannie had a lot to do with these many of these early development and continued to introduce new technology, sometimes pushing the faculty faster then they wanted to move.  She was the first to get a second monitor, which eventually became the norm in the School and by the time of retirement she has three large monitors on her desk.  As the faculty generally aged this became more of an issue as learning new technology was not a top priority any more.  I have to admit I began to feel the same by the time I retired and struggle now with the latest gadgets.  I am probably one of the few people who still has a simple phone, although this is mostly a function of cost since we are dependent on a large data plan for internet access with a hotspot.  Like last year, we will be spending time with Verizon with the hope that they have a reasonable unlimited data plan for someone in our situation.  We need an unlimited plan for the hotspot, not smart phones.

Following the retirement reception we went to dinner at our favorite mexican restaurant in Auburn, Cancuns, and then went to check out Jeannie’s brand new home out near Gold Hill.  They were still in the process of moving in, but this is obviously her “dream” home.  It has a spacious and open living room with a vaulted ceiling and the largest kitchen I have ever seen in a house this size.  The master bedroom and large bathroom are downstairs with a guest bedroom and bathroom upstairs.  There is room for a second bedroom, however, they have chosen to leave the side open to crate a balcony overlooking the living room at the top of the stairs.  We spent a couple of enjoyable hours with Jeannie and Rodney before heading back to our RV.

Tuesday should have been open, however, we had afternoon doctor appointments we had made last Friday.  We easily found his new offices on Dean Road and since we had appointments were quickly in to the see Dr. Roach.  Primarily this was our annual checkup up for insurance purposes, however, both of our blood pressures were too high.  We had been flirting with this for the past couple of years, but we decided it was time to start taking medication to try and lower it.  We dropped by Walgreens to turn in our prescriptions and headed back to eat left overs from the day before.

We had an early start on Wednesday to head to Auburn again to the Medical lab to get our bloodwork done.  Surprisingly this took less than an hour as we got there soon after they opened.  This was great since we had to skip breakfast for these tests and were not too hungry when we dropped into IHop for breakfast.  This still left us a lot of time before we needed to be in Tuskegee for Thanksgiving dinner.  Therefore, we drove south to Tuskegee with enough time to spend a couple of hours revisiting the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.  Since we had been there three years ago, they had opened the second hanger at the airfield, so there was a lot of new things to see.  Whereas the first hanger focuses on the creation of the airfield and formation of the Airmen leading up and the early years of World War II, the second hanger gives the full story of their accomplishments during the war and the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.  They have added an excellent film from which we learned a lot.  Only part of their story is about their accomplishments in Italy during the war providing support to the bombers.  The other part was the continuing problems of segregation at home.  The most telling incident occurred when the 477th Bombardment Group, which was never deployed, was assigned to Godman Field, Kentucky in 1945.  They were the only unit training there at a field with a deteriorating runway that was too short for their B-52s.  In March, they were transferred to Freeman Field in Indiana, which was a better facility, but they faced severe discrimination.  Segregated Officers Clubs became the focal point of contention.  In small groups they would enter the “white’s only” club until they were ordered to leave.  Eventually, over 100 officers were arrested for their peaceful resistance and most refused to sign an order that essentially stated they would abide by the segregation practices which were in direct violation of standing orders from the Army.  They were transferred back to Godman Field where they were incarcerated in a makeshift POW camp surrounded by barb wire.  Eventually, all but three were released, but this experience convinced many of them that changes needed to be made and how to go about it.  After the war, many of the Tuskegee Airmen remained active in the Civil Rights Movement, especially in the south.

After spending a couple of hours at the airfield we went to William’s in-laws, Doug and Lynn Hileman for Thanksgiving dinner.  Along with their family and friends we had a very enjoyable time chowing down on turkey and all the fixings.  I even got the opportunity to see the progress Doug has made on his model train setup.  While he has still not laid a lot of track, he has began the long process of constructing buildings that will eventually become the town in his setup.  He has been spending time on the latest technology to control model trains and got a kick showing off all its capabilities.

Thursday was the formal Thanksgiving Day, but since we had celebrated on Wednesday, we enjoyed just spending a quiet day in the campgrounds.  We had plenty of left overs from our feast the day before to keep us satisfied.

Friday was another busy day as we drove up to Birmingham to visit with Kal’s parents and brother.  Since her brother, Phil, was on holiday, it was a rare treat to spend a long period of time visiting with him and Kal’s dad in a relaxed setting with nothing else going on.  Once again we were treated to Thanksgiving leftovers, which were very good.  After we left their house, we dropped in for some quality time with Kal’s mom in the Assisted Living Facility.  While she is doing about as well as we could expect, her memory is certainly suffering.  While she did still recognize both of us, she spent most of her time trying to figure out where her husband was.  She did enjoy the video of her new great-grandson that Kal had downloaded onto her Kindle.  It was with a heavy heart that we left her to make the trip back to the campground.


The only interesting part of the weekend was the Iron Bowl on Saturday.  TV reception in the park had been spotty all week and we were concerned that we would grow frustrated with CBS coming in and out.  Thankfully, we were now in an area where radio reception of the game was easy to find, so we used that as a backup.  It was also obvious that most of the weekend campers over the long weekend were also there to watch the game, so it was a festive atmosphere.  Not quite to the level of a tailgate party, however.  The reception was good enough for most of the game that we did not miss very much, especially since the TV coverage was delayed.  This made it very difficult to listen to the radio instead of the TV since we would know the outcome of the play before we saw it on the TV.  In any case, it was a great game and not just because Auburn won.  Both teams were very good, especially the defenses.  I was a bit surprised to see Alabama self destruct in the fourth quarter as they desperately tried to score twice in the final five minutes.  Two bad snaps before the quarterback was ready was not the way to end the game.  In any case, Auburn won the Iron Bowl and now faces Georgia again for the SEC Championship and a chance to become National Champion.  Not bad for a two lost team during a year when the “fans” were calling for firing the coach!!

November, 2017 – Cartersville and West Point, Georgia

The trip from my sister’s house in Tennessee to Auburn was to be a split week as we got close enough to Auburn to visit our doctor with enough time to get our blood work done before we left the area.  Consequently, the trip was along the Interstates that we have traveled many times over the years.  Even the two COE campgrounds were repeats from two years ago.  Our first stop was at MacKinney Campground on a lake north of Atlanta near Cartersville, Georgia.  I had reserved a pull-through site so parking the RV was a breeze and except for the restroom being a bit of a climb every day, it was a nice place to stay.  We were only going to be staying for 3 nights so we did not do very much but stay in the campgrounds.  We did get out on Tuesday evening to find a Buffalo Wild Wings in Marietta to watch the US Men Soccer match against Portugal.  Since this was their first game after being eliminated from the World Cup, the team consisted of a lot of new faces.  The same turned out to be true for Portugal, so the match was quite competitive with both sides showing periods of excellence interspersed with bad passing in the mid-field.


On Thursday, we packed up and moved again to West Point Lake to the R. Shaffer Heard Campground.  When we stayed here two years ago we had a very nice pull-through site that was very spacious.  Unfortunately, this site was already reserved, so I had reserved a back-in site with a nice view of the lake.  This is the risk you take when you reserve a site unseen, as it was a real challenge to back the RV into the site.  The site was one of three that was on a short spur at a turn in the road.  Not only did this mean the “road” was very narrow with trees on both sides, but it turned making an S-turn to back the RV around!!  Initially, Kal pulled up to far into the S-curve and I had to go all the way around the campgrounds to reset the RV.  I slowly backed the RV around the S-curve and got the back end headed into the site.  However, I had to wait on swinging the truck around until I cleared a tree in front.  By this time, the RV was backing at an angle into the site directly at another tree!!  It took 4 times with pulling the truck a few feet forward and then back until we could get the truck and RV lined up to back into the site.  After all the work of getting the RV into the site, it turned out to be a very nice site, with the lake on three sides.

On Friday we headed into Auburn to see out Doctor and get our annual check-up.  Whereas, in the past we had been able to walk-in without an appointment, the situation had now changed.  Our doctor had not only moved to a new location in Auburn, but was also spending two days at a different location in Beauregard, and Friday was one of those days.  So we headed to Beauregard, getting there as they opened.  However, we also found out that they only saw patients with appointments, so all we could do was make an appointment to see the doctor in Auburn on Tuesday.  Thank goodness we came to Auburn with enough time to deal with this kind of delay.  In any case, we had not had breakfast assuming they would be taking a “fasting” blood sample, so we drove over to MacDonald’s in Tiger Town before heading back to the campgrounds for the day.  Except for watching some college football on Saturday, this was the highlight of our stay at West Point Lake.

November, 2017 – Maryville, Tennessee and Asheville, North Carolina

The trip to Bulls Gap, Tennessee was over an hour longer then it had to be since we refused to travel back through the Big South Fork Gorge to get back to US 27.  Instead we traveled southwest to I-40.  Of course, this meant we had a couple of rest stops along the interstate to break up the trip.  After traveling through the center of Knoxville we headed north along I-81 to Bulls Gap where the whole adventure began at Tri-Am RV center when we bought the RV.  It was time for our annual checkup as we had them check out all the systems, as well as, the roof.  We also had them install a new microwave/convection oven to replace the unit that quit working.  We had purchased an extended warranty when Peterson Industries went out of business and we lost the original warranty.  Consequently, the new unit was going to cost us only $135.  Due to the extended trip we got in around 3:00 in the afternoon and did not expect them to do anything until the next morning.  However, they got right on the work and had our new microwave installed by 5:00.  Since the rest of the work should only take a day or two, assuming they found nothing seriously wrong, we had decided to stay with the RV until they were finished.  Therefore, they provided electricity and water for the night and we slept in their parking lot right outside their garage.  This also gave us a chance to try out the new microwave, which gave off that awful “new” smell but seemed to work great.  The following day we spent in their waiting room while they replaced a couple of slide seals and checked everything else out.  The roof was in good shape and they did not find anything that needed attention.  Unfortunately, they also could not figure out why we were getting water in the front boot either, but they did reseal all around the outside.  I don’t think this will fix the problem, but unless we can figure out how the water is getting in, there is not much else we can do.  In any case, they finished up by noon and we once again hooked up the RV and set out for my sister’s home near Maryville, Tennessee.

When we got to my sister’s there was nobody at home since they were working and the kids were in school.  So we backed in the RV next to her house and I apologize for the deep ruts the RV put into her yard.  I was a bit concerned that it could sink down to the axle if we got any heavy rain and it could be a challenge to pull back out.  We did get some heavy rain over the next two weeks it was parked there and there was some additional settling, but never down to the axle.  We spent the next couple of days relaxing at my sister’s taking advantage of their cable connection to get caught up on some TV shows that we had missed over the past several weeks without good TV reception.  I even got to finish watching the previous season of Game of Thrones with plans to watch the current season next week.


On Friday we took off with the truck to visit my daughter, Bryna, in Asheville.  She was able to juggle her schedule at the hospital so she could spend the entire weekend with us, so we planned to leave on Monday.  After a couple of beers at Hi-Wire brewery, we went out to a great dinner at one of the many great local restaurants in Asheville.  Saturday was the annual “Stout Bout” at Hi-Wire.  This event is an opportunity to sample local craft stouts and vote on our favorites.  There was 16 different stouts to sample from 14 breweries including Hi-Wire.  The name of the brewery was withheld so you were suppose to vote based on the taste, however, we had “inside” information and knew which were from Hi-Wire.  Kal, Bryna, and I teamed up to sample each of the stouts without getting totally drunk in the process.  We would each get a sample of three different stouts and taste each one, giving a yes or no for each.  Even doing this we all drank enough alcohol over the next two hours to be seriously hammered.  Everyone got three tickets to vote for their favorites and we submitted our votes before the big reveal at 3:00.  One of the Hi-Wire stouts came out third in the voting, even though their coffee stout was not my favorite.  The whole event was a lot of fun, especially since they had a small band playing a variety of music along with comfortable chairs and rugs laid out to create the atmosphere of a cigar bar.

We did not do much on Sunday except strolling around downtown Asheville taking in the art and music downtown and doing a little shopping for baby clothes for our new grandchild.  Sunday evening we went with Bryna to her soccer game.  I love the fact that she has continued to play soccer on a rec-soccer league as we have missed watching our children playing the game.  Bryna is on a very good women’s team and they won easily with some very good, simple counterattacks.  After the game, we went back to their home and grilled some brats for dinner.  It was a very nice weekend and we were not ready to leave on Monday.

The rest of the week back at my sister’s had few highlights as most of the time we spent watching TV during the day and visiting with everyone after they got home every evening.  By the end of the week, I was ready to be back on the road and so was Kal.


October, 2017 – Oneida, Tennessee

The trip south along US 27 from Kentucky to Tennessee was very scenic with all the fall colors in the Boone National Forest.  While the road did twist and turn through the hills of the Cumberland Plateau, it was no real challenge for the truck pulling our RV which took only about 1.5 hours.  However, we were in for a big surprise as we approached the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area where we would be staying for the next week in the Bandy Creek Campground.  US 27 goes right through Oneida, Tennessee where my Uncle Jerry lived for many years, at which point we turned onto TN 297.  There were signs along the road for trucks to use a low gear as we approached the river, but we were not too concerned as at this point we were less than 5 miles from the campground.  All of a sudden the highway began the descent into the gorge created by the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River.  Not only was the descent very steep, but the two hair-pin turns took us by surprise.  With a 35 foot RV behind us, we took up the entire road!!  Thankfully, there was no one going the other way and we could take it slow and easy.  I was hoping that the campground would be at the bottom of the gorge and was not looking forward to having to pull the RV back up.  However, I did not need to worry about this, since it was still a mile to the campground once we crossed the river and began the long climb back out of the gorge.  Once again it was a very steep road with the only real difference being there were 3 hairpin turns.  Thankfully, we did not meet anyone coming down the other way, so we took up the entire road to make the turns and slowly climb our way back out.  The truck did not seem to have any issue pulling the RV up the slope and it was more our own trepidation and inexperience.  The entrance to the Bandy Creek Campground was right at the top of the bluff and we pulled into it in good shape, thank goodness.  Our first order of business was to use their dump station, as we were not able to access the dump station at Fishing Creek campground.  We found our reserved site with no problem and backed in the RV in one try.  This is another Federal Campground, this time in a National Park, that I would highly recommend.  All of the sites are very large, with nice asphalt pad and a gravel porch with picnic table and fire ring.  Even the bathrooms were impressive, since they were fairly new, clean, and solar powered.  I don’t know if the solar panels did more than heat the water for the showers, but the bathrooms were heated which was great since we had freezing temperatures over night during the later part of the week.  After getting set up, we headed for a grocery store.  Rather than going back to Oneida, we decided to check out the other direction to Jamestown, Tennessee (near the home town of Sergeant York) as a possible alternative than going back through the gorge when we left.  While it would add an hour to our trip to go this way, we both decided it was worth the extra time!!


On Tuesday we were excited to check out what the National Park had to offer and since the Visitor Center was just across the road from the campground it was very convenient.  We spent some time with park ranger learning about the many hiking trails in the area, as well as, a day long train excursion in the part of the park north in Kentucky.  Suffice it to say this park is 125,000 acres extending from southeastern Kentucky to northeastern Tennessee with the primary purpose to preserve the natural ecosystem of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries.  After our experience the day before, I was surprised there were a number of easy hikes in the 2-4 mile range.  We certainly had more than we would have time for while we were here.  Due to the recent rains the park ranger recommended we explore Slave Falls, which was a 1.5 mile hiking trail that was supposed to be easy.  It turned this was correct for this most part.  We did have to wait about a half hour for a rain storm to pass over and hoped we would not get wet on the trail.  The most difficult part was the spur that descended down off the bluff to get to the falls.  Once dropping off the bluff the trail goes right along the rock overhang to the falls which plummet right over the bluff to drop about 30 feet.  Even with the recent rains, there was not a lot of water going over the falls, but it was still a nice view and the trail was very scenic with the fall colors.  After climbing back out to the main trail, I decided to continue another quarter mile to the Needle Arch while Kal took a break.  I did not realize until later that this area has the highest concentration of natural bridges in the US.  While Needle Arch is not supposed to be the most spectacular, it was still a good span of rock arching over the ground and it was neat being allowed to stand directly underneath the arch.

The weather was still nice on Wednesday, so we decided to explore a 3.7 mile hike that was just down the road a bit from the Visitor Center.  The Oscar Blevins Loop Trail was another easy trail that meandered through the hardwood forests and old fields that sustained the Blevins family doing subsistence farming until they sold their property to the NPS in 1980.  With the return of the forest, there are few signs that much of the area was farmed since the mid 1800s.  This is an interpretive trail with numbered sign posts that correspond to a brochure that we got at the Visitor Center.  While this added to the enjoyment of the hike, they really need to update their brochure.  I suspect the brochure dates from the 1960s when the land was recovering from agriculture since the conditions have certainly changed.  The “Pine Thicket” is no longer a white pine thicket since the trees are now 50+ years old with hemlocks growing underneath them.  The “Old Growth Pine Forest” is now all oaks and hemlocks with scattered dead pine trees.  Finally, the “Den Tree” along the trail has been dead and gone for years.  The highlights of the trail are the Muleshoe Rock Shelter and the Oscar Blevins homestead.  The Muleshoe Rock Shelter is an excellent example of the natural shelters created by the rocky overhangs and used by early settlers to corral their livestock.  The homestead is still being used by the NPS for horses and contains the original 1800s cabin, as well as, the 1950s era home lived in by the Blevins until they sold the property.  They only caution I would give is to be careful of the crossing mountain bike and horse trails.  We made the mistake of turning onto the bike trail and after walking uphill for more than a quarter mile, realized we must have made a mistake.  Without adding this half mile side-trip that was uphill one direction, this was a nice easy walk through the woods.

After the last two days hiking in the woods, we decided on Thursday to take a day off and relax in the campgrounds.  I did get some work done on this blog, but accomplished very little else.

Friday was going to be our last good day as it was supposed to rain on Saturday and turn very cold.  So we headed back through the gorge towards Oneida to the Angle Falls trails along the Big South Fork River.  Since this 2 mile (one-way) trail followed the river, it was an easy trail.  It is a popular trail, so it is wide and level with nice bridges over the tributary streams.  Along this stretch the river is fairly calm with just a few Class II rapids and there are a lot of great views of the river and fall colors of the trees along the bluffs across the river.  We were both surprised when we came to the falls, as it did not seem we had hiked two miles yet.  Although they are named Angle Falls, they are really just a major Class IV rapid on the river.  There is a nice overlook at the most impressive feature where you can watch the river shoot through the constricting rocks on both sides.  The walk back was just as easy and we had plenty of time to head on into Oneida for lunch.  On the way back we visited the overlook at the top of a bluff overlooking the river below.  Unfortunately, the sun was in the wrong place to really appreciate the fall colors, but it was still a nice spot to appreciate the beauty of nature.

As expected it rained a good bit on Saturday and turned cold overnight.  The temperatures dropped to below freezing so I had to unhook the water hose for the first time since last spring.  Sunday stayed in the 30s and very low 40s with constant overcast.  It even flurried a couple of times during the day, but it was so light you really had to look to see the tiny flakes.  I suspect it was more sleet than snow, but it still excited Kal who loves to watch it snow.  I love to watch it too, but not when I am living in an RV.  I really do not want to deal with snow on the ground when we are traveling.  If it wants to snow this winter while we are at Foley, Alabama for two months, then I would welcome it as well.

October, 2017 – Somerset, Kentucky

The trip southwest from Moorehead was mostly along I-64 and I-75, so it was a easy pull of a couple of hours.  Our new location was a Corps of Engineers campgrounds, Fishing Creek Campground, on Lake Cumberland.  It turns out that the campground is only a couple of miles west of Somerset, which is a fair sized city.  Consequently we had good grocery stores and a nice sports bar for the upcoming Auburn game.  Unfortunately, we were too far from any major cities and Somerset did not have its own stations, so we were limited to PBS and a CW station out of Tennessee.  Once again I am pleased with staying at a COE campground.  Not only it is inexpensive, but it was very nice.  The sites were very spacious with views of Fishing Creek, a tributary to Lake Cumberland.  The roads were paved and the sites were gravel with a large area for picnic table and fire ring.  It was strange that each site was laid out with wire cages filled with rocks that made each site look like you were staying in old Indian ruins like you would find at Bandoleer National Park in New Mexico.  Those sites overlooking the river were actually constructed with these stone cages to level them for RVs.  The only negative about our site, which was across the road from the river, was the slope into the site.  I had to back the RV up a fair slope to the relatively level area at the top of the site.  I had plenty of room in front of the truck, so I did not have much problem backing it in, although it makes it more difficult when all I can see in the rearview mirrors is the ground behind me.  The other problem with the site was we had to pull all the way through the campground to get the RV going in the right direction to back into the angled site.  Since the dump station was in the center of the campground next to the bathroom, this meant it was not going to be possible to dump our tanks when we left.  This was only a problem for the three sites on our side of the road, but we happened to have one of them!  Except for this, this is another great COE campground.


We didn’t have any specific reason for visiting this part of Kentucky, so on Tuesday we decided to check out the Richmond Battlefield for which we saw a sign for on the Interstate.  We assumed it was a Civil War battlefield and expected to spend a couple of hours learning about a relatively minor battle in Kentucky.  What we found was anything but the case.  By all rights this should be a National Battlefield instead of a county park and they are in the process of being accepted by the National Park Service.  While Kentucky is not thought of being a major player in the Civil War it was very important early in the Civil War.  Kentucky choose to remain neutral in the Civil War and President Lincoln believed Kentucky to be one of the keys to the war.  This neutrality did not last very long as the Union occupied Paducah and the Confederacy occupied Bowling Green in the fall of 1861.  In the February of 1862, Grant captured Fort Donelson and Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Cumberland Rivers, respectively.  This led to the Confederate defeat at Shiloh in April and the siege of Corinth in May.  With this string of Union victories the Union had split the Confederacy in Tennessee.  However, the Confederacy was far from defeated.  In response, the Confederacy under the command of General Braxton Bragg led an invasion of Kentucky.  This was to be a two pronged attack with Bragg leading his Army of Mississippi north from Chattanooga and General Kirby Smith leading 19,000 Confederates from Knoxville in August of 1862.  Their intention was to “liberate” Kentucky from the Union “invasion” with the belief that Kentucky would then join the Confederacy and countering the Union victories in western Tennessee.  Smith choose not to attack the Union garrison that were well defended in the Cumberland Gap.  Instead he bypassed the Gap to the west leaving about half of his army to bottle up the garrison.  With his remaining men his goal was Lexington and the Kentucky capital at Frankfort.  Whereas, many of his men were veterans from Shiloh and Corinth, the Union forces under the command of General William “Bull” Nelson were raw recruits with no battle experience and little training.  Knowing Smith was on the move, Nelson ordered Generals Manson and Cruft to move their brigades to defensive positions along the Kentucky River.  However, these orders were delayed and by then they were south of this position in Richmond.  On August 23, Confederate cavalry routed a small Union force at Big Hill and General Cleburne reached this location on August 29.  At dawn on August 30, Cleburne advanced up the Old State Road towards Richmond when they came under fire from Manson’s artillery.  Smith ordered him to hold this position until General Churchill could move his brigade up a draw out of sight on the Union right flank.  For the next 1.5 hours they traded artillery shells until Churchill charged out of the draw collapsing the Union flank.  The inexperienced Union soldiers broke and ran north towards Richmond.  The rest of the day was spent with the Confederates pressuring the retreating Union forces, routing them two more times before reaching Richmond.  By this time in the afternoon, Bull Nelson had arrived on the scene and made one last stand at the Richmond cemetery.  The Confederates spread out into a line over a half mile wide and advanced on the cemetery.  After three volleys the Union line broke yet again and they fled through the town.  However, by this point Cleburne had sent his cavalry around to the Union rear and ended up capturing nearly the entire Union army.  This was the most complete Confederate victory of the Civil War with the capture, wounded, and death of over 4,000 Union soldiers.  Without any further resistance, Smith was able to occupy Frankfort, the only Union state capital to fall during the war.  However, coordination with Braxton Bragg to the West left a lot to be desired and Smith did not continue to support Bragg.  Later in October, Bragg was defeated at Perryville and consequently the Confederates ended up retreating back to Tennessee.  I hate to think the reason this is not a National Battlefield is because it was a Confederate victory instead of a Union victory.  It was certainly as important a battle as many that we have visited.

Since the Richmond battlefield is not a single location but spread out over miles in Kentucky as the Confederates chased the Union army throughout the day, it is more a driving tour then anything else.  Also due to the fact that the Blue Grass Army Depot covers much of the actual battlefield and is inaccessible, there is not a lot to actually see.  Our GPS led us to the farmhouse where the battle started on August 30.  This farmhouse was in the center of the battlefield which was mostly an artillery barrage with cannonballs screaming overhead.  There is a nice paved walkway around the farm with numerous interpretive signs about this first stage of the battle.  There is also a side trail with an overlook of the ravine that is today known as Churchill Ravine.  Only a small part of the ravine is still untouched as most of it is now a golf course.  As we proceeded north, we found the next stop on the tour at the Zion Church where the Union artillery was positioned and where Churchill attacked the Union right flank beginning the Union rout.  Finally, we came to the center of the “battlefield” and the Richmond Battlefield Visitor Center at what was then known as Rogersville.  They have a very nice Visitor Center with interesting exhibits and videos about the battle.  They had a video that was a 4-minute history of the Civil War, which was nothing more than a map and timeline that showed the progression of the war.  You watch the Union/Confederate line shift over time as major battles and events explode on the map.  They also keep a running total of casualties as it increases throughout the war.  I had a couple of questions about the battle and ended up talking at length with the gentleman running the Visitor Center.  After discussing what we have learned about the Civil War over the past 3 years and trading stories, he asked me if I would like to see their latest acquisition.  After telling me the story of how they acquired it, he showed me their recent purchase of General Bull Nelson’s Commission signed by the Secretary of War, Stanton, and President Abraham Lincoln.  It was in excellent condition and very neat to see.  It turns out that Nelson never received this commission as he was killed just a month following his defeat by a subordinate General that criticized his lack of leadership during the battle.  Once I finally got out of the Visitor Center, we only had about an hour to explore the battlefield, of which there was just the cemetery in Richmond where Nelson made his final stand before escaping.  Unfortunately, the entrance gate to the cemetery was obviously too narrow for our truck, so we decided to head back to the campground after stopping at Kroger on our way back.

It looked like the week was going to be another week of Civil War battles, as we learned about the Battle of Mill Springs the day before.  It turned out that this battle occurred just north of the Cumberland River and was just a couple of miles from the campground.  Once again the battlefield is a county park, but in this case they have a very nice, new Visitor Center.  Along with a very good video, they had a series of exhibits using mannequins and many artifacts from the battlefield.  This battlefield was not as spread out, but they still had a nice driving tour of the critical locations.  The Battle of Mill Springs was earlier in the Civil War in January of 1862 before Grant had captured Forts Donelson and Henry.  At this point the Confederates had a thinly defended line extending across from Memphis, through Bowling Green, and ending at the Cumberland Gap.  In October, General Felix Zollicoffer (what a name!) left Knoxville into Kentucky to improve their defense between Bowling Green and the Cumberland Gap.  General Crittenden had ordered Zollicoffer to create a winter camp on the south bank of the Cumberland River which had high bluffs to aid in the defense.  However, Zollicoffer thought a peninsula in the Cumberland River would be more defensible with water protecting three sides.  He moved his army of 6500 men to the north bank and began building earthen fortifications a mile in length with three redoubts called Beech Grove.  The soldiers also constructed over 3000 small wooden cabins as they expected to spend the winter there.  However, the Union was concentrating their forces under General Schoepf at Somerset and General Thomas at Lebannon.  To counter this position, Thomas ordered joining both forces at Fishing Creek to the west of Somerset.  Once again both sides decided on attacks during some of the worst weather of the winter.  Heavy rains had swollen Fishing Creek and Zollicoffer believed it was impassable.  So he decided to attack Thomas before Schoepf could make the crossing and left his stronghold in Beech Grove on January 19, 1862.  Thomas had pickets out south of Logan’s Crossroads to watch for any Confederate movement and so was not surprised when the leading Confederates engaged the pickets.  The distance from Beech Grove to Logan’s Crossroads was only 9 miles, but it took them 6.5 hours to make the march due to the miserable conditions.  Over the next hour the battle continued to grow as more troops made it from both sides and unfortunate for Zollicoffer, Schoepf had been able to cross Fishing Creek so the sides were roughly equal.  Partly, due to the inexperience of both sides, the heavy rains and fog, and the smoke and noise of battle, this battlefield was mostly one of confusion on both sides.  Believing some of his troops were firing on their own side, Zollicoffer moved forward to order them to cease firing.  Unfortunately, these soldiers were Union and once the mistake was realized they exchanged fire and Zollicoffer was killed.  Partly due to the lack of leadership with the death of Zollicoffer, the inability to effectively use artillery due to the fog and smoke, and the old flintlocks of the Confederates that misfired in the heavy rain, the Confederates never stood a chance.  After a charge by the Ohio 9th Ohio who was a regiment of experienced German veterans on the Confederate left flank, the Confederate line collapsed from left to right.  They beat a hasty retreat back to the defenses at Beech Grove dropping much of their gear on the way.  Once back in Beech Grove, they realized their mistake.  The river effectively kept them from retreating further and the low position near the river opened them up to Union artillery.  The Union bombarded the camp throughout the night with plans to capture them in the morning.  However, General Crittenden spent the night ferrying the remainder of his army back across the Cumberland River and by morning all the Union found were all the supply wagons and cannons.  The Confederates burned the steamboat Noble Ellis so the Union had no way to pursue them further.  At the time this was the greatest Federal victory in the war and was famous.  However, today the battle is largely forgotten.

From the Visitor Center, which is also the location of the Mill Springs National Cemetery, we proceeded south towards the Cumberland River.  The first stop on the tour was the Confederate Cemetery where General Zollicoffer was killed.  The white oak he was leaned against while he died was known as the “Zollie Tree” until it was killed by lightning in 1995.  In the early 1900s it was decorated faithfully with a wreath by Dorotha Hudson, a tradition carried on for three generations.  This was in response to the recognition of Union deaths on Memorial Day every year.  Unlike the Union dead who were moved to the National Cemetery following the war, the Confederates were simply put into a mass grave at this site.  Today there are individual gravestones serving as place markers, both of which are still at this location.  There is a nice trail that goes around the ravine the Confederates used to try and attack the Union at the fence line, mostly unsuccessfully since their muskets would not fire.  From here the tour follows the retreat of the Confederates down to Beech Grove.  At Beech Grove you can still see some of the depressions of the thousands of wooden huts since they would sink them into the ground for insulation against the winds.  However, there is no evidence of the earthen fortifications since the Union army destroyed and filled them in following the battle.  While the next stop on the tour was the ferry landing where we ate lunch overlooking Lake Cumberland, it was not the last stop on the tour.  The tour continues for two more stops on the other side of the Lake, but since it was a 30 mile drive back to Somerset in order to cross the lake, we decided against it.  The other two stops were old homes used as headquarters and hospital following the battle, as well as, a working grist mill at the small town of Mill Springs.  It is interesting to note that for the Union the battle was known as Mill Springs, which was to the south of the actual battle and for the Confederates it was known as Fishing Creek which is to the north of the battle.  Why would both sides name the battle based on locations they never reached or occupied?  Why was it not know as the Battle of Logan’s Crossroad where it was actually fought?

Thursday was another beautiful day, but I was not able to convince Kal to make the over an hour trip north to the Battle of Perryville.  Instead she wanted to do something different so we headed southeast to Cumberland Falls State Resort Park.  As the name implies this state park is along the Cumberland River in the Boone National Forest.  We had heard that the falls on the river were well worth the time to visit and was even known as the “Niagara of the South.”  While it is a fantastic waterfall, it is only 65 feet and 100-300 feet wide depending upon the amount of water.  It is horseshoe in shape, but it is nowhere near as impressive as the sheer size of Niagara Falls.  Of course, all they have in Kentucky is a major river, whereas Niagara Falls has a series of Great Lakes to feed it.  We began our exploration of the falls with a mile hike around the fancy lodge at the top of the plateau created by the CCC in the 1930s.  It was a nice walk, although the long set of stairs back up to the lodge was more than we had bargained for.  After driving back down to the river we took a look at the falls.  Besides the fact that they are a well known falls, the real reason for their international fame is the “moonbow.”  On a clear night of a full moon, especially during the winter and spring when the air is crisp, you can see a phenomenon called the moonbow.  This is essentially a rainbow caused by the moon reflecting off the spray.  While you can sometimes see colors, mostly it is described as a white band of light over the river.  Unfortunately, we had missed the full moon for the month and we were not about to stay until after dark, so we did not see the moonbow.  We are disappointed too, but you just can’t do everything.  In any case, after a long lunch in the picnic area overlooking the river, we headed back to the campgrounds.

Friday was our day for laundry and cleaning the RV, so it was a day spent in the campground.  Saturday would be a day for watching college football, however, they don’t show much on PBS or CW.  So if we wanted to watch any football, we had to find a sports bar.  After checking with a couple from the area in the campgrounds, we found a local sports bar in Somerset named Muggsbee’s.  The game was not until 6:30 so I had most of the day to work on this blog.  We choose a nice booth with a great view of the game on three TVs and ordered a late dinner.  Auburn was playing Arkansas and from the first was in control of the game.  However, after LSU came back the week before, we were not going to leave until it was certain.  This was a large sports bar broken up into three areas.  We were eating in the middle area, but the front area was turned into a dance floor during the second half of the game.  Suddenly we had very loud disco music to deal with along with occasional lights from a disco ball.  Thankfully, they did not turn out the lights or the TVs in our area of the bar, so we could still watch the game when not covering our ears.  Still it was an interesting way to watch a football game and Auburn won handily.  So all was good!!

Sunday was just another day in the campground as the weather continued to worsen with forecasts for rain overnight and through Monday.