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!