November, 2018 – Alexander City, Alabama

Coming a day early to Wind Creek State Park was a good decision as it began to rain Sunday night and was wet for the next three days.  It was also a good idea to travel through Birmingham on a Sunday morning rather than a Monday.  The traffic was not bad and we got south to Alex City in less than two hours.  I was especially glad not to be traveling on Monday as it rained off and on all day.  We had no plans for Monday, so we just hung out at the campsite all day patting us on the back for our good decision.

Tuesday was still very wet, but it did not matter as we were going to spend all day in doors.  Our day started relatively early with a doctor’s appointment for our annual checkups so we drove to Beauregard since our doctor had moved out of Auburn after we started our traveling.  The checkup went very well and quickly leaving us with most of the day still ahead of us.  So we went to the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University to catch up with everyone there.  We had gotten an email from the new Building Manager at the School about some boxes I still had in storage.  It was kind of interesting to dig through some of my old stuff, however, most of it was old reprints that I have absolutely no use for.  All of it turned out to be stuff I had identified to be thrown out before I retired, but had been lost in the storage room.  After taking care of this small detail we spent the next two hours catching up with the faculty and staff that were still around.  We also checked on some upcoming retirements that we would actually be around to attend their retirement parties.  I could have spent more time there, however, we were both getting hungry since it was now after 1:00, so we headed out to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, Acapulco, for a late lunch.  We decided we had had enough of visiting and headed back to the campsite.

Wednesday was another early start as we had to head back into Auburn to get our bloodwork done.  We got there soon after they opened for the day at 7:30, so they got us right in and took our blood.  Since we had to get this done on an empty stomach, we headed directly to breakfast at Waffle House.  We also dropped by Walgreens to pick up our medicines and get our flu shots.  It was still only mid-morning, however, we decided to call it good and headed back to the campsite.

The weather finally broke on Thursday, however, it was still raw enough that we felt justified in checking out Wind Creek Casino in Wetumpka.  Mostly because it is so new, but we found this casino to be one of the nicest we have been to.  Of course, having an unusual selection of slot machines that we could play for less than forty cents was also a plus.  We both had a good day at the machines and after a couple of hours had managed to win $2 between us.  Since most of the time we manage to lose around $40, this was a good day.  In the afternoon, old friends of ours, Jeannie and Rodney dropped by the RV to visit.  We had a great time getting caught up for the next couple of hours.

We did not do anything on Friday until early in the afternoon when we traveled back to Auburn to attend the retirement party of Brenda Allen.  Most of my interactions with Brenda over the years was as Associate Dean and I regret not having the opportunity not working on more special projects.  She was certainly surprised to see Kal and I, as it was totally unexpected.  Since Brenda was part of the Extension/Teaching Faculty at the School, there were a number of faculty at her retirement that I had not seen since I retired.  In fact, we ran into Dale Dickens at her retirement that I worked closely with while he was the Director of Student Services when I was Associate Dean.  It was great to get caught up with him, although I wished we could have had more time.  While our attendance at Brenda’s retirement party was purely coincidental with our being in the area, I was sure glad we could make it.

Saturday was another trip to Opelika, this time to spend the morning with my old Executive Assistant, Patti Staudenmier.  Along with Graeme Lockaby, the other Associate Dean at the School, we made a great team handling all the graduate teaching and research activities at the School for over 10 years.  I could not have done the job without Patti as she was the perfect connection with all the graduate students at the School.  She certainly handled all the day to day needs of the students, only contacting me when something unusual happened.  If fact, there were many times that I was not sure who worked for who and I would not have wanted it any way.  I really enjoyed spending a few hours getting caught up and regret that is likely the last opportunity we will have as she is not connected through facebook.

Sunday was just another day in the campground and Monday was laundry and cleaning the RV.  For Tuesday we headed back to the Doctor’s office to pick up our bloodwork results which showed we were good to continue our journeys for another year.  We also went out to lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Cancuns.  Wednesday was another quiet day in the campground as Kal got ready for Thanksgiving by making a jello salad.  Wednesday evening our former neighbors, Bruce and Laura Zutter, their eldest son, his wife and daughter came to Wind Creek State Park for a couple of nights of camping.  They invited us to their campsite to have a hot dog dinner.

Thursday was Thanksgiving and we headed north to Birmingham to spend it with Kal’s family.  Along with Grandpa and Phil’s family, Mark’s family joined us from Texas and William, Kristin, and Liam from Maryland.  Along with Michelle’s new baby, Danielle, it was great to have small babies in the house.  They were certainly the center of attention for the entire day.  Of course, Phil and Shannon were busy making a Thanksgiving feast while the rest of us played with the kids and taking pictures.  Even Jared made it in time for dinner and we had a very good meal of turkey and trimmings.  Nobody wanted to leave the festivities, however, William had two hours to travel to Tuskegee and we had to get back to Alex City.

On Friday it was our turn to travel to Tuskegee for another Thanksgiving celebration with Kristin’s family and friends.  Doug and Lynn invited us to come early to help out by watching Liam, which we obviously jumped at the chance.  We arrived by 10:00 with the meal planned for 4, so we had a lot of time to spend with Liam.  Unfortunately, he was so tired from all the traveling and the previous day in Birmingham that he spent a good bit of this time sleeping.  However, we still enjoyed the time with our grandson and took full advantage of the opportunity.  I thank both Doug and Lynn for sharing some of their time with their grandson.  By the time the other guests arrived we were all ready to sit down to another great meal of turkey, ham, and all the trimmings.  We were not happy having to leave much to soon after the meal.

On Saturday we had another opportunity to spend time with William, Kristin, and Liam as we were invited to Allison Chancey’s apartment for chili and the Iron Bowl.  While the football game was good through the first half, Alabama took control of the game in the second half and we lost interest.  Besides it was much more fun playing with Liam and visiting with everyone who dropped by, which included Doug and Lynn for some pictures with Liam.  We left soon after the game, leaving William to watch the Texas A&M vs LSU game.  This was too bad as this game was much more exciting then the Iron Bowl since it went to 7 overtimes before A&M finally outlasted LSU!

We had planned on Sunday to be a quiet day in the campground after all the traveling, however, we were invited to join Doug and Lynn for an early birthday dinner for Kristin.  One more time we drove to Auburn to Venditoris, an Italian restaurant, that is a favorite of theirs.  We had a great meal with their family and friends and even had a chance to spend some time with Liam walking around in their lobby.  It was difficult to say goodbye as it will be months before we see them again, however, we certainly got to spend more time with Liam then we had planned.  I thank everyone involved for a GREAT Thanksgiving celebration with friends and family.


November, 2018 – Warrior, Alabama

The trip south towards Birmingham was mostly along I-65, so the two hour drive went very quickly.  Our next destination was a small state park between Cullman and Warrior, Alabama, along the interstate called Rickwood Caverns State Park.  As the name implies the main attraction of the park is the limestone cave complex, which held very little interest for us.  Instead we were interested in staying short of Birmingham, yet close enough to vote in the mid-term elections on Tuesday.  Kal had read reviews of the campground which caused some concern as they warned about small, narrow sites in a very small campground of only 12 sites.  Pulling in on Monday again offered the opportunity to change our reservation if we wanted to, so before pulling the RV down into the campground, I walked over to take a look at the site we had reserved.  While it was the largest site available, I was concerned that we would not be able to level the RV as it was sloped from left to right.  The RV should fit, however, the truck was going to stick out into a semi-circular area that was going to be in the way for anyone else backing into the sites on either side.  This area did make it easy to back the RV into our site and we soon discovered that with the use of the boards we carry, we could get the RV level.  We were set for the week.


The weather was going to prove to be terrible, just about all week and it started with severe storms Monday night.  We went to bed knowing that thunderstorms with a history of small tornadoes would be hitting us by 2:00 in the morning, so we set alarms on our phones and kept the TV tuned to a weather channel.  As expected the storms hit between 2 and 3 in the morning, but they were not severe, so after checking the weather we went back to sleep, or at least tried to.  We still got up at our regular time and left to go vote in Birmingham.  We missed voting in the 2016 Presidential race due to failing to figure out the absentee ballot system in time, so we felt it was very important to express our opinion.  We figured there was going to be a large turnout, so we assumed it would take over an hour to vote.  This was our first time not voting in Auburn, so we were not sure what to expect.  The voting location was busy, but we managed to find parking within easy walking distance.  It was amazing.  The new voter ID system in place in Alabama may have its problem with excluding voters, however, it made the system extremely fast and easy.  It took no more than 15 minutes to get our ballot, fill them out, and turn them in and most of this time was spent filling in the two sided ballot.  Researching the candidates and amendments ahead of time made the process simple.  From there we drove over to visit with Kal’s dad and caregiver.  We had a nice visit while we ate a light lunch and then joined her dad in a quick nap.  Even with stopping on the way back at a Walmart, we returned by mid-afternoon to enjoy the only nice day we had all week.

The weather on Wednesday was not too bad with cloudy conditions and showers in the afternoon.  Therefore, we got out during the morning to explore the 1.5 mile Fossil Mountain Trail in the park.  This trail ascends slowly up the rocky hillside winding around the many rock formations and holes.  The trail is named for the many fossils that can be found in the limestone rocks, although we did not see any on the surface.  I am sure there are plenty to be found, but we were not willing to go climbing on the rocks and did not have any proper tools for fossil hunting.  As predicted the weather turned wet in the afternoon and we were stuck in the RV for the duration.

The light rain continued for the next two days so it was not until the weekend that we had any chance to do anything but stay in the RV.  On Saturday we did head into a local Buffalo Wild Wings to watch Auburn lose to Georgia.  Sunday actually turned out to be fairly nice, but since the forecast was for heavy rain all day Monday, we decided to pack up a day early and head to Alexander City.  This put us through the heavy traffic in Birmingham on a Sunday morning, which was much easier than during the week.

November, 2018 – Athens, Alabama

The trip southwest from Tennessee, back into Alabama, took just a couple of hours.  Most of the trip was along state and US highways, with only about 20 miles on I-65 so it was relatively slow yet scenic with all the fall colors in full display.  Our next stop was Joe Wheeler State Park, which is one of the premier state parks in Alabama.  It is located west of Huntsville, near the town of Athens along the Tennessee River.  It is a large state park with over 2000 acres of forests on the shore of Wheeler Lake.  Thus it has a fancy lodge and restaurant, full service marina, a premier golf course, and other features we had no real interest in.  The campground in the park is also large with over 100 sites, nearly all with full hookups and many pull-through sites.  We had one of the pull-through sites located near the restroom, which was nice as we spent time there during a thunderstorm later in the week.  While it was a pull-through site, it was also on a steep slope.  Thankfully, by positioning the RV all the way to the front we were able to get it level for the week.  Unfortunately, this put us to far from the sewer hookup to use it without the extension.  Instead, we waited until we were ready to pull out to back the RV up enough to dump the tanks.  Since we normally only dump the tanks before we leave anyway, this was not a problem.  The weather during the week was typical fall weather for Alabama with a couple of nice days along with thunderstorms and rain.


Since the weather was nice on Tuesday we went in search of some hiking trails in the park.  We found a nice 1.5 mile loop trail that wound through the woods on the backside of the primitive camping area.  This was a nice trail, but not really long enough.  So we headed over to the picnic area in the park to another mile loop trail along the shores of the lake.  It turned out this trail surrounded the disc golf course, so I got a good look at the course to play later in the week.

Wednesday was again nice and since the forecast was for storms over the next couple of days, I headed over to the disc golf course.  Since it was during the middle of the week I had the course to myself which was a good thing as I bounced the disc off of trees on at least half of the holes.  While hitting a tree off of the tee did decrease the distance of the throw, most of the time it kept the disc from disappearing into the brush which was a good thing.  I suppose I could blame the course for having narrow fairways with a lot of trees, however, it was really due to my inability to throw the disc flat causing it curving to the left at the end of its flight.  I did have a few really good throws, however, I rarely par any of the holes.  One over par has become my normal.  Still it was a beautiful fall day to get into another good hike in the woods.  Instead of a nice relatively level hike around the woods, today was up and down through multiple ravines as they tend to think this makes a disc golf course more challenging.  After 18 holes going back and forth through the woods and up and down the ravines, I had had enough for the day.

Thursday we spent doing laundry and cleaning the RV and watched the stormy weather approach as forecasted.  Not much happened during the day, but by early Friday morning we had severe thunderstorms and reported tornadoes in the area.  We spent about an hour first thing in the morning watching the clouds light up with the sun.  Surprising there was very little lightning with the rain that passed over us and no severe weather really to speak of.  We were lucky that the really bad storms all stayed to the north of us.  We spent the day in the campground watching the weather and rain for most of the day.

The only thing we did over the weekend was to travel to an Applebees in Florence to watch the Auburn vs Texas A&M game.  We got there just as the restaurant opened for an 11:00 game and had a good time talking with the bartender at the bar.  We ate a nice lunch around half time of the game and by mid-way through the fourth quarter were convinced that Auburn was going to lose the game as they were 10 points behind we no sign of an offense to match A&M’s defense.  So we left before the game was over and went to the local Walmart for groceries.  Of course, this was a mistake since within the next minute after we left, Auburn intercepted the football and scored a touchdown before we got to Walmart.  By this point there was only minutes left in the game and Auburn was still 3 points down, so we figured it was still a lost cause and headed into the store.  By the time we got back to the truck we learned that Auburn had scored a last second touchdown to beat A&M and we had missed all the excitement having to go to the store!!  It was still a nice lunch at Applebees although Kal is going to find it more difficult to talk me into leaving early in the future!

October, 2018 – Tullahoma, Tennessee

After getting a new converter installed in the RV, we were still on the road by 11:00, which was good since we had a 3.5 hour trip south across Tennessee.  Thankfully, nearly all of the trip was along 4 lane highways and Interstate making for a smooth, although long, trip.  Our next destination was south of Murfreesboro at Tullahoma, Tennessee to a TVA campground, Barton Springs.  For those of you closely following this blog you might remember this campground as we stayed here twice two years ago.  In fact, we were put into the same site we had two years ago near the lake.  The site was a pull-through which made getting set up fast and easy.  Once again we settled into a nice campground watching the trees displaying their fall colors.  Especially with the low fog lifting off the lake at sunrise and the sun highlighting the yellows and oranges on the hillside across the lake.  For the most part, the weather cooperated nicely with warm days and only a couple of days of rain.

While you might not recall our previous stay at Barton Springs, you might remember that during our first visit we toured the Jack Daniels Distillery at nearby Lynchburg.  Since making Tennessee Whiskey seems to be the main tourist attraction in the area, we decided to tour the other historical distillery within a couple of miles of the campground, Cascade Hollow Distillery.  This is the distillery where they produce George Dickel Tennessee Whisky, spelled without the “e” in the Scottish tradition.  The company dates back to 1878, although they moved to Kentucky during Prohibition where they obtained a license to sell the whiskey for medicinal purposes only.  Following Prohibition they moved back to Cascade Hollow for the limestone filtered spring water, locating a new distillery about a mile south where there was more room and piped in the spring water.  In comparison with Jack Daniels, this is a small distillery, producing about 10% of the whiskey flowing out of Jack Daniels.  Still it has a rich history.  The tour of the distillery included a small taste of the five products they produce from their un-aged “moonshine” to whisky’s aged from five to seven years.  There is a lot of similarity to Jack Daniels in flavor, but without a doubt I found it to be even smoother.  Their tabasco blend was interesting as it started with a sweet flavor that produced a small burn in the back of the mouth over time.

Except for the trip to Cascade Hollow on Wednesday, we spent the week relaxing in the campground.  There are no hiking trails in the campground and no state parks nearby to take advantage of.  We did get out on Saturday to watch Texas A&M’s game since Auburn and Alabama had the week off.  It was a nice meal at Applebees and we had a good time.