April, 2018 – Tishomingo, Mississippi

Another quick trip north along the Tenn-Tom Waterway to Piney Grove COE Campground outside of Tishomingo, Mississippi.  We did not stay here last year as they canceled our reservation and we had to stay at Tishomingo State Park, which is right on the Natchez Trace.  Piney Grove is just about 10 miles from the Trace and is a better campground than the state park.  The sites are beautiful and spacious and we had one that backed onto the lake.  We enjoyed listening to the symphony of frogs and birds in along the grassy bank each night.  The campground was nearly empty during the week, although it was half full over the weekend, mostly with families and fishermen.  Unfortunately, Sunday was mostly rain which cut into a lot of their fun.  I did want to mention that I am getting much better at backing the rig into a site, as long as I don’t have any obstructions across the road from the site making it difficult to swing the truck around.  We were in back-in sites in the last two campgrounds and I was able to back the RV in a single attempt.  In fact, I did not even have to pull forward at all last week at Whitney Park campground.  I am finally learning how far to pull the RV up and how tight to make the initial turn to put the RV right where I want it.  The site last week was to the left and this week to the right with no problem.

Even though this was our first time at this campground, we did stay last spring in the area and had already explored the Natchez Trace.  So on Tuesday we checked out a 1 mile nature trail in the campground that wound its way down to the lake.  There were a number of numbered signposts, but since we did not have the accompanying brochure…  It was nice to finally get out for a hike in the woods, even though it was rather short.

On Wednesday we finally fed up with just relaxing in the campgrounds and decided to visit the stretch of the Natchez Trace from here south to Tupelo where there was a nice Walmart instead of the small grocery store in Tishomingo.  We stopped at all the pullouts along the Trace which included two short nature hikes, all of which we remembered from last year.  While it was nice to visit them again, we are both ready for somewhere we haven’t already been.

The rest of the week was spent in the campgrounds where we broke out our bikes to ride around the campgrounds, which is more of a challenge.  Although you would not consider Piney Grove to be hilly, the inclines are still more of a challenge they we would like.  We really need to do this more often then 20 minutes a couple of times a week.  I did use some of the time to plan our summer through Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and began the process of making reservations.  Unfortunately, we will have to use commercial parks and many of them do not open until May, which means there is nobody manning the phones.

April, 2018 – Fulton, Mississippi

The trip north to Fulton, Mississippi was another short trip of just over an hour to another COE Campground on the Tenn-Tom Waterway, Whitten Park.  We were not sure until we got there, but we had stayed at Whitten Park last spring.  So this was our second visit.  Once again we did not have any specific plans for the week, so mostly it was spent relaxing in the campground.  Except for severe weather Saturday morning, the weather was cool and pleasant.

On our way back from the store in Fulton on Tuesday we noticed there were some disc golf cages in the campground, so we stopped at the entrance to find out about them.  It was a new disc golf course put in last fall, which is why we did not see it last spring.  So I decided to check it out that afternoon.  It was certainly a new course and still needed a lot of work.  I assume there are plans to install concrete tee blocks to replace the rough gravel spots on most of the holes.  The fairways have been cleared of brush, but little else.  This did make the fairways easy to follow even though I had to guess about some of the tee locations.  The entire course is heavily wooded so I quickly gave up trying to miss hitting trees on every hole.  They also need to work on the numbers on each cage, as they jumped all over the place. However, after the course crossed a steep ravine twice, I refused to cross it two more times and skipped approximately 4 holes.  I picked up the course for the last two holes taking me back to the truck.  I certainly got a good workout climbing up and down that ravine!  In the future this might be a good course, but for now I would not recommend it.

On Wednesday, we ate dinner at a local Mexican restaurant and on Thursday, Kal drove all the way to Tupelo to find a laundromat while I cleaned the RV.  The only other interesting thing we did was to take in the street festival in Amory on Friday.  The entire downtown area had local vendors and artisans lining the streets and the town square was set up with a stage for local country music bands.  We listened to some of the music and wandered the vendors for a couple of hours.  We surprised ourselves with deciding to buy a second set of bedsheets at a very reasonable price made out of bamboo and Kal stumbled across a Tupperware vendor that had a plastic toy she was wanting to buy for Liam this summer.   We can’t wait to try out our new sheets, however, the proof will come this summer as they are supposed to be cooler then the cotton sheets.

As I mentioned before, Saturday was spent watching the weather as there were a number of thunderstorm warnings for our county in the morning and tornado warnings to our south.   Thankfully, all we got was a LOT of rain that continued all day.  As expected Sunday turned cold again following the front.  While I certainly enjoy staying in all these beautiful campgrounds along the Tombigbee River, I for one am looking forward to getting to some new locations to explore.  I can certainly tell that we are a couple of weeks later moving north this year as the trees are leafing out.  Although this is a cooler spring with below average temperatures for the most part.  Thank goodness we are not further north since everywhere north of Tennessee had snow from this last front.

April, 2018 – Columbus, Mississippi

The trip north from Pickensville was just to the other side of Columbus and took just over an hour along the same highway we had used to travel to Columbus a couple of times already.  Consequently, the trip was one of the shortest and we were once again camping in a very nice Corps of Engineers campground along the Tenn-Tom Waterway.  As there are only a couple of pull-through sites, none of them with sewer hookups, I opted for a back-in site with sewer.  This put us into the upper loop off of the waterway, which meant there was only one other camper most of the week and even the weekend there was only 3 campers in the entire loop.  I really liked our campsite, especially since it was right across the road from the bathroom.

We did not have anything planned for the week, partially since we were in this same area last spring, although at a different COE campground, and had already explored most of the historical features of interest.  In addition, the weather did not cooperate since 3 of the 6 days were raining and Saturday night actually had temperatures below the freezing mark, which is VERY unusual for April.  On Tuesday, I set out to play a round of disc golf on a course I played last spring in Columbus at Propst Park. Like last year, however, there were a number of occupied cars in the parking lot which made me very uncomfortable, so I decided not to play and went to Lowes instead.  It was a good thing I did since Social Security called soon after I got back to the camper to finish up my application and needed to talk with Kal for the spousal benefits.  As expected there was a question about her citizenship since she was born in Germany while her father was stationed there.  So we got up early on Wednesday to drive to the Social Security Office in Columbus, which was now only 15 minutes away.  They were able to verify her status and we were good to go.  Of course, we had to wait until Thursday to complete the process over the phone as it took 24 hours for their system to update.  In any case, they were able to change our request to begin benefits in March, rather than April, which means we should see the first check this month.  This is sure going to make a difference in our budgets and take the pressure off my IRA.  In fact, we will be able to substantially increase our investments over the next few years.

Unless you want me to talk about the weather, which got interesting Wednesday night and supposedly had snow flurries on Saturday, there is not much else to talk about.  We did break out our bikes and rode around the campgrounds on the warmer days, but for the most part just relax in the RV.

KalOnBike

March, 2018 – Aliceville, Alabama

Located between Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Columbus, Mississippi, Pickensville COE campground is a large campground on the Tenn-Tom Waterway.  We stayed here last spring and enjoyed watching the barges travel on the waterway so much, we decided to come again for two weeks this time as we waited for spring to arrive.  It is a remote location along the state line and is therefore perfect for us.  They have some sites with sewer hookups, which is necessary if we are going to stay for more than a week, and we reserved a nice pull-through site near the river.  While it would be nice to have a better view of the barges, we are satisfied with this site and set up for a long stay.  This time of year in the south is known for the weather fronts that blow through every 3-4 days, often with severe weather along the front.  We arrived during one of these events on Monday with predictions for severe weather in the evening and overnight.  We therefore arrived early and except for a few sprinkles got set up with no problem.  We watched the weather as closely as we could, but all the severe weather stayed to the north and east.  In fact, we got very little rain out of it.  Even so the view out of the RV is a wooded swamp in this bottomland environment.

The first week in the campground was very relaxed as there is little to do in the region.  Kal drove over to Columbus during the week to do laundry and shopping while I cleaned the RV.  On Wednesday, I took advantage of the nice cool weather to drive to Lake Lowndes State Park near Columbus to play a round of disc golf.  Our financial advisor called me while I was on the course with the good news that it made sense to file immediately for Social Security so long as we are able to invest the money.  Sure makes sense to me!!  I enjoyed the disc golf course, even though most of the fairways are right along the road that leads down to the lake.  There were some interesting water hazards with the lake that I had to careful with and one hole I refused to play as it went right out to a very narrow point with the lake on three sides.  Just to big of a risk for me, so I skipped it.  It was a great way to spend the afternoon.

On Monday we got an early start and drove into Columbus to the Social Security office to file for our benefits.  After waiting 45 minutes for our number to be called, we were informed that they were short of personnel and they could not assist us without an appointment, the earliest being the middle of April.  Thankfully, they also had a computer set up to do the filing on line, so we opted for this approach.  We had started the process the day before on our computer, only to find out that they were going to have to mail us the forms for my signature and who knows when we would be able to get the forms from our Kal’s parents in Birmingham.  Obviously, their computer system was different as it required only an e-signature.  We got the filling form completed with no problem only to find out that I have to accepted into the system before Kal could file for spousal benefits.  By the end of the second week we are still waiting for my acceptance at which point they are suppose to call me to set up a phone interview for Kal.  Not sure how this is going to work, but we will be close enough to Columbus for the next two weeks to travel there if we need to.

On Wednesday we made a trip to Birmingham to visit Kal’s mom and family.  We spent about an hour with her mom showing her all the videos we had of her great-grandson.  She really enjoyed the videos, although I am not sure she understood who it was in the videos.  In any case, we had a nice visit and then drove to her parents home to spend some time with her dad.  He took us out to lunch, however, the weather was once again turning nasty and supposedly Pickens County was already under a flood warning.  Especially since the heavy rain was not suppose to hit until later in the evening, we are camped right on the Tombigbee River so we left with enough time to move our RV if we needed to before dark.  As it turned out, I have no idea what the flood warning was all about and the volunteers working at the campground assured us that it never flooded in the eight years they have been here.  So we spent the evening once again watching the weather as strong storm cells died out before they reached us.  In fact, we got no more than a sprinkle over night with the heaviest rain the next day.  Certainly not enough to cause any flooding.

Finally, during the rain on Thursday we decided to check out the nearby Aliceville Museum, located in downtown Aliceville.  Today the very small town of Aliceville has certainly seen better days with nearly the entire downtown area closed up.  However, during the second World War it was a booming town in western Alabama.  Aliceville was the location of the largest German POW camp in Alabama with 6000 prisoners.  I was not aware that there were 24 camps in the state, most of them small with enlisted men to assist local farms and industries.  There were 4 major camps located outside Aliceville, Opelika, and within Fort McClellan and Fort Rucker.  Of these, Aliceville was the largest and was the home for 6000 officer and NCO German soldiers from 1943-1945.  Originally the camp was made up with a mix of soldiers, however, there was not sufficient work opportunities for the enlisted men so they were traded for officers from other camps since according to the Geneva Convention officers and NCOs could not be forced to work.  Also according to the Geneva Convention, the POWs had to be fed the same as our own soldiers, so they actually lived better than the local populations who were having to deal with food rationing.  Although the soldiers were responsible for all the daily needs of the camp including cooking, cleaning, landscaping, building construction and repair, laundry, etc, there was still a lot of time to devote to sports, music, drama, and other activities.  According to a detailed listing of the evening entertainment everyone in the camp was likely involved at least a couple of times a week.  The museum houses a number examples of their art work including sculptures, paintings, and carvings.  We also enjoyed the stories from the resident historian about life in the camps.  The museum also houses one of the last surviving Coca-Cola bottling lines since the building was the “bottling plant” during the war until 1978.  The entire operation employed about 6 people to operate the line.  I got some great pictures of the bottling line to give a comparison to the beer bottling line Chris is running at Hi-Wire!!

CokeBottlingLine1

On Saturday I talked Kal into driving the 45 minutes to Columbus for dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings.  While we were there we watched the only game left in the NCAA Final Four I was interested in seeing.  Although Loyola-Chicago gave Michigan a scare, Michigan managed to avoid the upset by scoring over 30 points in the final 5 minutes to win by over 10.  It was disappointing, but watching Michigan struggle most of the game was worth it.