Sunday, September 12, 2010
Well, it’s almost two weeks since we’ve left Charlotte, and we haven’t updated the blog yet. There’s a couple of reasons. First, is that most of the places we’ve been at don’t have internet access. Second is that writing up the entries takes time, and frankly, we’re spending most of our time out and about, not sitting in the trailer writing blogs. And third, is that we’ve made some mistakes along the way.
So, today, we’ll get some stuff posted. We’re in Manitou Springs, Colorado right now, which is in the vicinity of Colorado Springs, and the two main attractions here, among other things, are Pike’s Peak and the Garden of the Gods. We’ve done both, but haven’t written them up yet, so they will be posted at some point in the future.
First, a few “traveling notes”.
The trailer has been handling very well, and we’ve been averaging just about 10 mpg while pulling it. Overall, on the trip so far we’re averaging a little over 12 mpg, but that includes the side trips without the trailer. Driving through Kansas we got somewhat less, but that was on account of the winds. When we first got to Kansas, there were gale force winds that had been blowing for several days, and the trailer tends to act like a big sail. It wouldn’t be too bad if the winds were blowing with us, but they were mostly out of the south, and since we were driving west, it meant two hands on the steering wheel all the way… especially when being passed by a big truck.
Opal has been a terrific traveling dog. She rides in the back of the car quite contented, letting us know when we slow down that she wants her window opened so she can stick her head out. The change in routine has put her “off her feed” somewhat, but she eats when she’s hungry, and she can stand to lose a pound or two anyway, so we’re not worried about it. She sleeps when she can, but as soon as we’re ready to go out and do something, and she sees the leash, she jumping around and all ready to go. And when we get back to the car, she hops right in.
There probably won’t be much in the way of pictures posted on this blog, maybe none at all until after we’re home. We’re still not all that familiar working with the Mac, and we just don’t have the time to try to figure it all out. But we are taking lots of photos, and we’ll definitely have them available at some point. And right now, we don’t have anything written up about Kansas to post. This is a shame, because we had a great time there, and one of out funniest days. But anyone who’s ever done anything on a computer can certainly sympathize with Chari when I tell you that she spent three hours writing it all up as I was driving through western Kansas and into eastern Colorado, and then made a mistake while saving it, and now it’s lost in cyberspace. We’ll get it re-written eventually, but not just yet.
So, having said all that, here we go…
Sunday, September 5, 2010
It’s 9:00PM, and we’re getting settled in for the evening after a drive of about 3 1/2 or 4 hours, from Stockton Lake, Missouri. Chari has been keeping notes since we left home on Tuesday, but this is the first chance we’ve had to get started on writing the journal. When we are able, we’ll upload it to our blog.
Let’s get started…
For the past few weeks, we’ve been pretty much focused on getting ready for this trip. We’ve been going grocery shopping for only the essentials we’ve needed, and have been using up as much as we could from our pantry and freezer. We actually got to the point where we could take everything from the big freezer in the garage and fit it into our little RV freezer, and we shut it off for the duration. I’ve been building storage areas into the trailer, and Chari has been arranging and rearranging food, cooking and eating utensils, etc, until we finally decided we were ready to go. Saturday, August 21, we had a retirement party with our friends for Chari, and a few days later, Thursday, August 26 was her final day at work. We spent the weekend getting last-minute chores done, and Monday evening we hit the sack early.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
We slept reasonably well last night, but both of us were lying there in bed just waiting for the final minutes to tick by before the alarm went off, so we decided to get up at around 4:30 or so. An hour later, we were ready to hit the road, and pulled out of the driveway at 5:37. With Orion watching over us from a little to the left of the half-moon, and Jupiter starting to set a little to the right, we pointed the car west. Today’s drive would be a long one… about 12 hours, to Benton, Kentucky. Along the way we listened to the first three disks of The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin by Gordon S. Wood, a Pulitzer Prize winner. So far, the book is very interesting. Bit-O-Trivia: When he was killed at the Alamo, Davy Crockett had a copy of Ben’s autobiography.
We stopped just outside of Asheville for a breakfast of “Monster Cranberry-Orange” muffins and coffee in our new REI travel mugs, a little celebratory gift from ourselves to ourselves. Despite the fact that I-40 is still down to one lane at the Tennessee border, after being closed for the better part of a year due to rockslides, we decided not to detour, and stayed on it. The single lane lasted for just about six miles, and didn’t slow us down at all. We hit the Tennessee border at 9:49AM, then drove through the Pisgah National Forest with yellow daisies and Joe Pye Weed growing along the roadside, talked about coming back to hike and kayak in this area. We’ll probably be saying that more than once on this trip!
When we needed gas, we tried three stations before finding one that the car with the trailer would fit into and leave room to turn around to get back on the road. Lesson learned: start looking for gas a little sooner than we otherwise might. Stations with plenty of room may be hard to find.
Today’s destination is going to be an area called Land Between The Lakes, in Kentucky. This is the narrow strip between the Tennessee and the Cumberland Rivers, which are now, since the dams were built for the TVA project in the 1930s, are now lakes. We had reservations at a private RV park on Kentucky Lake (Tennessee River), which was OK, but we found several other RV camping places that were fantastic. The Kentucky State Park system does a terrific job, but I digress… Chari is telling me as I write this, that we didn’t find that out until the following day.
After getting the trailer set up, we did a quick dinner of hot-dogs and kraut and crashed for the night. Another lesson learned: don’t park the trailer with one of the doors directly over a rain gully.
Wednesday, September 1
We had a relaxing morning, after the early rising and long drive of yesterday, we decided to sleep in and had a nice leisurely breakfast. After walking Opal, we took a drive to explore the area, and THIS is when we found the nice state parks in Kentucky. Whoever heard of an RV site in a state park with a 24 foot deck overlooking a gorgeous lake? And at a price of just about half what we paid for the door over a rain gully! Kenlake State Park Resort has just that! And beautiful cottages and a lodge as well for those that aren’t campers.
That afternoon, we went back and put the boats in, right behind the trailer. Being mid-week, the lake was empty, except for one fisherman, and later when we stopped for a swim, there was no one around at all. We took advantage of the solitude…
Opal didn’t seem to mind being left in the trailer at all… we think she slept until we got back.
When we got back and changed into dry clothes, we took another drive, west of the Tennessee River, up about 25 miles to the north, to the dam, at Kentucky Dam Village State Park. The facilities here were just as nice as at Kenlake. On the way back, we drove back down on a scenic drive between the two rivers, and stopped at an overlook on the canal that connects them. Then we found a National Forest Service campground that was every bit as nice as the state parks. The rain-gully under the door was starting to look less and less attractive. Next time, we’ll know better.
It was getting late, and we headed back for some chicken on the grill, and treated ourselves to banana splits. Umm..good!
We started watching the John Adams series on DVD, and then turned in for the night.
Thursday, September 2
Today we had plans to meet up with Gloria and Jim Bennett, neighbors of Chari and Andy from when they lived in Virginia. It had been 18 years since Chari had seen them. We had made plans to meet for lunch, so we had a relaxing morning, skipped breakfast except for coffee and juice, and just kind of hung out. At 11:30 we met at a I-24 rest stop at Paducah, right on the Illinois border. The rest stop was somewhat unusual for an interstate rest area. It’s an old mansion, called Whitehaven. It had fallen into disrepair until the 1970s when it was taken over by hippies. It was later purchased by the state and used for exhibitions such as orchid shows, etc., and later used as a rest area. I think portions of the building are still used for shows and such.
Like all good friends can do, Gloria and Chari picked up right where they had left off 18 years ago, and gabbed as if they had just seen each other yesterday. We had lunch at an Olive Garden restaurant, and then went to their house for the rest of the afternoon. Jim was retired from Mobil Corp. where he was an aircraft engineer. He had travelled the world extensively, and they had lived at various times in places like Indonesia and South America. It was a great afternoon. I made some new friends and Chari renewed hers.
On the way back to camp, we stopped at the National Forest Visitor’s Center, which we had arrived at too late to see the day before, and then back to the RV park.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Looks like we’ll alternate entries so this is Chari’s first chance to talk about trailer life and retirement. In just a few days, I’ve become used to no alarm clock, no cell phone going off constantly and best of all feeling stress just leave my body. Living in a small space has great advantages since you have to keep it picked up. Of course trying to find things you know you packed but just where is a challenge. A few times we’ve mentioned what we had to eat. Not that I think you care but just an example that we can cook just about anything we want. Both the freezer and refrigerator were packed tightly so putting things back is like a jigsaw puzzle. Our dog, Opal is really doing well. At home she sleeps 18 out of 24 hours. On the road she isn’t sleeping much during the day. When we’re just hanging out she actually asks to go into the trailer to sleep! So she doesn’t mind us leaving her in the trailer when we go somewhere she can’t come. Now onto our second stop in Stockton, Missouri.
We packed up and headed west on I24 then onto US 60. This took us through an area where Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois meet at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. We were in Illinois for only .5 miles! We crossed into Missouri at 9:53A. Our estimated arrival time would be 4:30P Central Time. Both Steve and I had been through Missouri before on separate trips but this was in the St. Louis area. Today, we’d be in the southern region through the Ozarks. While driving across rolling farmland, I saw my first bald eagle in the wild. (Now that there bird is yer Bald Headed Iggle, not to be confused with yer Hairy Headed Iggle, which is a different bird entirely!… sm) We noted a lake near Poplar Bluff called Lake Wapapellago, Mingo NWR and the Mark Twain National Forest. We marked this for research on another trip.
Seeing a sign for the Ozark Scenic Riverways Drive we pulled into the Visitor’s Center picnic area for lunch. This is along the Current River and appears to be a beautiful kayaking location where we’d paddle upstream and float down. Then we took the scenic drive down to Big Spring which is one of the 3 largest springs in the US. The other two are Big Springs, Idaho (saw that last year) and someplace in Florida. We’re not sure if the rating is on land coverage or water volume. By this time we’d spent about 2 hours so hit the road with 4 hours of travel ahead of us.
Stockton Lake State Park is northwest of Springfield, MO. It’s a large lake of approximately 25,000 acres and considered one of the cleanest lakes in Missouri. It was formed as a hydroelectric source in 1969. There is a prevailing southwest breeze so many sailboats are anchored there. We had to drive right into the sun for the last 10 miles. Thank goodness the road was straight as there were times coming over a hill where Steve was temporarily blinded. We arrived just as the sun set so had to set up by flashlight. We found the RV sight was only electric and the water source for our self contained tank about 70’ away. We had about 40’ of hose! I’ve always heard that campers were willing to help out and fortunately one of our neighbors lent us their hose. This was our first time using the tank and pump but it worked great. A very late burger dinner and we crashed! I mean that quite literally, as Opal ran in front of me with her leash catching my feet and I was airborne for about as long as the Wright Bros. first flight and landed like a not so graceful elephant. I badly bruised my right pinky which swelled to sausage size immediately. Just a contusion that will take a few days to resolve and a bit of self applied PT.
The weather was much cooler here than the low 90s in Kentucky. By the time we were in the Ozarks it was mid-70s and dropped to the low 60s by nightfall. Sitting outside with an after dinner drink we needed a light jacket. We slept with the windows open and no AC for the first time.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
What a gorgeous day! It’s low 70’s, clear and sunny. Just a perfect day for a paddle. After breakfast, we took a walk down to the lake with Opal. Even though it’s Labor Day weekend, there isn’t a soul around so we could give Opal some off leash time. She very carefully approached the water but when it moved she backed up. No lab in her bloodline that’s for sure!
We took the boats down to the marina to launch. With over 300 miles of shoreline, we saw only a fraction of the lake. I’ll guess we paddled 4-5 miles taking a break for a swim. We found some submerged rocks that served well as “chairs” so we just sat and watched the sailboats.
Back to camp by 4pm and a load of laundry and showers. Before we knew it, it was after 6 and we were just starting dinner. Steve grilled a pork loin while I did noodles and reheated the peas. We ate outside still enjoying a cool evening. Then we joined the folks who had helped us with the hose for a drink.
We started packing up for leaving the next morning. Stockton Lake is a place we’d love to return. That makes us 3/3 on places o return to. Off to Kansas…..