November, 2019 – Dallas, Texas

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

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

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

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

October, 2019 – Jefferson, Texas

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

Campsite

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

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

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

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

October, 2019 – Homer, Louisiana

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

Campsite

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

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

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

Sunday was spent doing laundry and working on this blog.

October, 2019 – Jackson, Mississippi

By traveling on Monday we were once again back to our normal routine after the past month and a half.  We pulled the RV west into Mississippi for a couple of hours to Roosevelt State Park which is about halfway between Meridian and Jackson, Mississippi.  The real advantage for us was that the interstate is literally on the southern edge of the state park.  So within a mile of pulling off the interstate and we were in the state park.  Of course it was another two miles of winding narrow roads to get around to the other side of the lake to the RV campgrounds.  I had reserved a site on a corner of one of the two loops which gave us a great view of the lake with the swimming beach between us and the water.  It was also a short walk to the bathroom and since most of the sites were full hookups, we were set for the week.  The truck has done a great job so far in pulling the RV and once again gave us no problems on the trip.  This was also my first opportunity to back the RV into a site.  With the parking lot for the beach directly across from the site, I had plenty of room to swing the truck around.  While I am not positive, it seems this truck swings faster than the King Ranch.  I wonder if the turning radius is a little bit tighter.  I should also mention that with the big RV behind the truck, the backup cameras are no help.  I would still like to look into getting a camera attached to the back of the RV since the truck is supposed to be able to access an auxiliary camera to see if this view would be useful.  In any case, we were able to quickly get set up for the week.

Now that the cold front had broken the summer like weather, Tuesday was going to be one of the coolest days during the week.  So I got into the truck and went to check out the disc golf course in the state park.  This is a very well designed course, that is not being maintained.  While I was able to find all the cages, about a third of the tee boxes are missing and nearly all the signs giving fairway number and distance were either missing or on the ground.  They did have benches at most of the tee boxes, so I am fairly sure I was at the right place for each tee shot.  Nearly all of the holes were fairly short, only 200=250 feet, but since there were trees EVERYWHERE, this made little difference.  It was impossible for me to throw the disc without hitting at least one tree.  The first open fairway along a powerline on the side of a creek was especially disastrous.  Finally, I could let loose with my shot and promptly throw it much to high and it disappeared into the brush on the side of the fairway!  After 15 minutes of searching I did finally locate the disc hidden behind a log so you could not see it from the edge of the fairway.  I had to go beating around in the undergrowth in order to find it.  Along with all the trees, they also used fingers of the lake to through across and even one fairway that crossed a stream twice.  Like I said, the course was well designed with a lot of technical hazards.  I was doing okay until hole 10 which went diagonally up the side of the dam on the lake.  Not only did I have to throw up the slope, but any altitude on the disc caused it to curve to the left which meant it was going back downhill.  After a tee shot that got me nowhere up the face of the dam, I was now faced with going directly uphill.  The climb up to the top of the dam was almost more than my hip could take.   However, from this point on it was back downhill into the trees again.  I enjoyed the course and had a good time on a beautiful fall day.

Wednesday and Thursday we just spent in the campground as I was having trouble getting Kal interested in doing any hiking or just about anything else.  I am going to have to work on getting her back into the swing of this lifestyle.  We have been sitting in the campgrounds a lot over the past month.  Hopefully, as we get into areas of the country we have not seen, this will change.  By Friday the weather had turned wet again so we headed northeast to Philadelphia, Mississippi and the Silver Star Casino that we have been two a few times in the past, most recently in 2017.  While I had a reasonably good day at the slot machines, Kal lost everything and did not enjoy herself.

The weekend was again spent relaxing in the campground and working on this blog.

October, 2019 – Vicksburg, Mississippi

Monday was another travel day as we made our way out of Mississippi into Louisiana for the second time this year.  After a couple hours drive west on I-20 we pulled into Poverty Point Reservoir State Park just west of Vicksburg.  We were once again west of the Mississippi River again and back into a very nice state park that we stayed in last spring.  We had a different site this time with easy access to the bathroom and full hookups.  I got the opportunity to back the RV into a site for the first time and I believe this new truck has a better turning radius making the job a lot easier.  Except for the trash cans in the way across the road I was able to get the RV into its site with little problem.  We got set up for the week and spent the afternoon relaxing in the campground.

Since we had recently stayed in this state park, there was not a lot of new sights we wanted to visit in the area.  So on Tuesday we drove back into Vicksburg to the Luck Lady Casino for another try at their slot machines.  While I did alright, Kal managed to lose her entire bankroll, so we came out moderate losers for the day.  We still had a good time and had dinner at a local Pizza Hut.

Wednesday we spent doing laundry and cleaning the RV, so there is not much to say.  However, on Thursday we headed to Monroe, Louisiana to check out another National Wildlife Refuge, the Black Bayou Lake.  This refuge is actually within the city limits of Monroe and is an interesting urban refuge where the Fish and Wildlife Service has a 99 year lease to manage the lake owned by the city.  It is located right on the edge of Monroe and for all intents and purposes is a wild environment.  The lake is over 3000 acres in size and is quite shallow with cypress and tupelo dotting the surface of the lake with surrounding swamps and uplands.  The Visitor Center is a restored 1890s planters home and adds a nice touch to the area.  Surrounding the Visitor Center is a series of short hiking trails between 1/3 to a mile in length.  The Nature Trail starts in the transition zone from uplands to swamps, ending with a nice boardwalk over the swamp bordering the lake.  It also gives access to the Wildlife Pier which a wooden walkway extending into the lake.  Unfortunately, past floods have damaged the pier so the connection between the two observation decks on the corners was closed.  However, we walked out to the decks to take some pictures at both ends.  From there we got into the truck and drove to an observation deck for lunch.  Unfortunately, they have allowed the underbrush to grow to such an extent that you could not see out to the lake from the deck at all.  There was also a nice wildlife blind with a great view of a small pond.  From there we decided to go back to the Visitor Center and check out their Arboretum where they have planted native species along with signs naming each of them.  I did fairly well in identifying most of the trees, however, the shrubs and smaller trees totally stumped me.  They also had a number of species of oaks I was not familiar with and would have trouble differentiating from other more common species.  It was a nice day with some easy hikes and a great way to spend a warm fall day in Louisiana.

The rest of the week was primarily spent relaxing in the campground except for another trip to Monroe on Saturday to catch the Auburn vs Arkansas football game at Buffalo Wild Wings.  Auburn played very well, so the day was a success.  By Sunday the weather began turning as a cold front approached and by the evening had turned wet.  The weather was even worse on Monday with rain starting before the sun rose in the morning.  We tried to wait out the rain, but by 11:00 we gave up and extended our stay for another night.  It was a good thing we did as it continued to rain lightly the rest of the day and would have been a miserable trip.