Tuesday, September 17, 1996
This morning, after eating a slight breakfast, we finished loading, got the Nissan hooked up, and were on the road by 9:15, a rather late start for a 370 mile day, but the best we could do after the late night.
We were very happy that there were no unusual winds, only the normal occasional gusts in and around the mountainous areas. Around 3:00 we still had about 100 miles to go, and we decided to trade 20 miles today for 20 days tomorrow.
We decided to stop for the night at Stanfield, AZ instead of Casa Grande. The Saguaro Park RV Park is a nice haven for snowbirds. This is not their busy season. We are the only transients residents in the park. There are about 35 or 40 full time trailers and mobile homes, but we haven't seen any that we are sure are occupied. There are a couple with lights on, so unless they just use timers, there may be real live people there (with hidden cars?). Of the parks we passed, this has probably the most mature trees, providing a lot of shade. The layout is strange. All the spots in the center area, where we are, are "pull-through" spots, but really you pull into a long area and stop behind the rig in front of you (if there were any others). Someone else pulls up behind you. There are some cross overs, but they just lead to the adjacent rows of front to back parking.
The DSS dish went up in about 10 minutes and we have the full compliment of channels with perfect pictures. It's a fantastic system!
We plan to get a much earlier start tomorrow and maybe catch up on our schedule, although Betty has already come up with a plan to catch up without any longer days. We'll see how it goes tomorrow.
That's about it for tonight. Maybe tomorrow I'll try to get online and get this off.
Wednesday, September 18
We spent most of the day crossing the balance of Arizona and New Mexico and into El Paso, TX. We stopped at a small RV park about 5 miles east of the city. We are about to have dinner, then we are going to head back about 8 miles and go to Walmart. (OK, we forgot just a couple of things).
Tomorrow we have a short drive, about 150 miles to Carlsbad Caverns, where we start our sightseeing for this trip.
I hope to send this message tonight. If you get it dated 9/18, I must have been successful.
Thursday, September 19
We just got back from Carlsbad Caverns, but I'll cover that in tonight's entry.
Talk to you all later,
More boring stuff about our trip:
Thursday, September 19
We left El Paso about 7:45 this morning and headed to White's City, NM - about 150 miles. Our campground here is about 7 miles from the caverns. We headed there shortly after getting settled in camp, and took the self-guided "Main Room" tour. About 2/3 of the path through this 14 acre room, which is full of really spectacular items, is wheelchair accessible. The path is like a large figure 8. A portion of each end loop is too steep for wheelchairs, but by doubling back and approaching from the other end, most of the over a mile of trails can be reached.
We are going back to the amphitheater shortly for a program on the bats of the cave. At about 6:50 we should see about a half million bats leave the cave through the natural entrance to go out for their evening feeding. They will return early tomorrow morning, but we will not be there to see them!
It's now about 9:30 and the bat program was a lot of fun. The ranger gave us a very good background and history of bats, and then started fielding questions. We even learned some things. For instance, did you know some varieties of bats (including these Mexican Freetails) can not take off if they ever land on the ground. They must keep flying or land on an elevated item. When the baby bats are about five weeks old, they have only one chance to see if they can fly. About 90% of them do, the balance hit the ground and . . . oh well . . .
The ranger said the bats are very unpredictable, so if they leave the cave early, he would have a very short talk. On the other hand, it could be a very long evening. They were later than normal, but he got away with about an hour's talking. He says he's been lucky and the most he has had to do is about 1:10. When the bats finally came, there was a continuous dense flock circling about the cave entrance and up into the sky. At times you could see a grey band in the sky all the way from the cave to where it would disappear in the distance. A very enjoyable evening.
I hope you aren't checking my spelling and grammar too carefully. I'm banging these entries out in Winword, Copying the entire file to the clipboard, and then pasting into Eudora for my email. I cannot find an import command there, but the cut & paste works just fine. When I combine all the pieces into my final trip diary, then I will go back and adjust wording and do a spell check.
Friday, September 20
Today was a day of problems. The levelers acted up again this morning. The "lifter not up" sensor is intermittent. The problem with this is if the computer cannot read the sensor, it thinks the lifter is up (in its travel position) and will not allow you to raise it any farther. Since it is really all the way down, this is a problem. I found (as guided by the manual) that if I ground a specific wire, then I can retract the lifter with no problem. The problem never lasted long enough before to actually trace it, but tonight I was able to. I attached a wire to the sensor lead, and now from the driver's seat I can bypass it if it acts up again during this trip. Then for a new part on the 3 year warranty!
About half way here today, we were driving normally, and all of a sudden there was a snap and the cruise control kicked off. The cockpit fan also stopped and the air conditioning seemed to get warmer. I found a 25 amp fuse was blown. I replaced it at the next rest stop and we continued on. About 5 or 10 minutes later, it blew again. I have narrowed the problem to the air conditioning. I can run the cockpit fan and the heater vent fan OK, but problems with running the air. It sure is nice having backup systems! We ran the rest of the day using the generator and the roof air. I still haven't diagnosed the problem, but will try again when the sun cools off a little, and after the engine has cooled.
We just picked a decent sounding park for tomorrow quite close to the Alamo. We should have no problem getting there early enough
Saturday,, September 21
We carefully followed the campground directory's instructions to find the park we had selected. As we were looking for the entrance, we spotted a sign announcing it, and turned into the driveway. We saw immediately that was a mistake! There was an electric security gate! After unhooking the Nissan, backing both vehicles out and parking them at the edge of the road, I left Betty in the motor home and went exploring to find out how to register. The correct entrance had another security gate, but also had a phone.
The park is very pretty with lots of grass and trees. We are parked under a large tree. I discovered after backing into the space that there is a major tree branch less than a foot over our roof! Glad we aren't any taller. I again mounted the DSS dish on its tripod as there is dense foliage where it would be on the top of the ladder. I even had to use my longer cable here to get it clear of overhanging branches.
Early this afternoon we went into downtown San Antonio and saw the Alamo. It is really impressive to see and to be in the places we learned about in our school history classes. After touring the Alamo, we went a few blocks away to the River Walk. This is a string of shops and restaurants along both sides of the river. There were really some good smells coming from the shops.
Next we drove to the Tower of the Americas. This was constructed for the 1964 Worlds Fair in San Antonio. We went to the observation deck over 500 feet up. The elevator takes just a minute at a vertical speed of 7 mph. The view was great, although slightly hazy.
Tomorrow we head to Houston, about 200 miles, to spend several days with Fred and Judy Pfafman.
p.s. I'm a couple of days behind. Hope to catch up before we leave the Pfafman's!
Sunday, September 22
Our motor home and car are parked in their driveway and plugged into a garage outlet. About 10 minutes after turning on the air conditioning we blew the breaker. Fred turned off several lights that were on the same breaker and we made it through the night just fine.
Monday, September 23
When we got back to the house, we turned on the air, and bam! the breaker blew again. We then tried a 20 amp outdoor outlet on the rear of the garage. Instantly the GCFI blew. To make a long story short, we installed a 120v outlet in place of a 240v that Fred had installed. This gives a 20 amp circuit with nothing else on it.
I called a couple of places about the A/C compressor clutch. After getting all the numbers of my compressor, the response I got was "Oh, you have one of those . . .", then he explained it was a fine compressor, but was a major after market make and hard to get parts for. I talked to an air conditioning shop and he said I would be foolish to not replace the whole compressor. He could do that for about $650! I then made the decision that the system would stay as it is until after we return home.
Then it was computer time! Fred has the AT&T internet service, but has not had the time to really get into it that much. He and I went through all the motions of sending and receiving email. We performed some really marvelous feats: From about 3 feet apart, I sent Fred email via San Diego, and he sent me some (same route).
We then did some browsing and looked up what we could find on HobbyTown USA. We found numerous entries, including 3 entries on his store.
We plan to see Galveston with Fred tomorrow, and Wednesday Betty and I will go to the Space Center, Houston.
This is a milestone. Two emails in one day! Don't count on that happening again. It is really nice to just plug into Fred's phone line and hit dial and be connected at 14.4. Oh well, soon it will be the coupler at 2400 baud (if I am lucky) again.
Tuesday, September 24
We headed to Moody Gardens, a large botanical garden complex with a tropical rain-forest under a large glass pyramid, and an Imax theater, and outdoor gardens. We went into the large pyramid building and bought admission into the rain forest. Shortly after we entered, the sky let loose! Lightning and thunder and very heavy rain. It wasn't part of the special effects - this was for real. We had a leisurely stay in there, spent some time in the gift shop, and the rain had almost stopped.
We toured some of the older sections of town where they have restored Victorian style houses. We went to the point of the island and watched ships enter and leave the harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. Fred then directed us to a waterfront restaurant called Pier 19 and we had an excellent seafood dinner.
We went back to HobbyTown USA and "helped" Judy until closing time. We then came back to their house where we had some desert and then found and fixed the electrical problem in their garage wiring. After forcing our videos on them for about a half hour, we all went to bed - far too late!
Wednesday, September 25
The initial hall you enter is like a combination of the space museum and a theme park. There are various space related simulations such as a machine to simulate jumping on the surface of several different planets and the moon. It was a harness attached to a large vertical slide that had some type of lift applied to it so a jump would carry the person several times as high as normal. Another was a pilot's seat on an air bearing surface with air jet thrusters. The pilot (we saw several school age children trying it) maneuvers the chair under a circular control panel. One of his controls raises and lowers this panel to simulate the chair changing altitude. His task is to press various buttons and turn switches in a prescribed order, while maneuvering himself to where he can reach them.
There were many computerized stations to simulate docking, landing, and manipulating the space shuttle.
We then took the tram ride around the facility. Johnson Space Center (or JSC) is the primary NASA control and training facility. There are numerous buildings involved with the testing of spacecraft, simulating various aspects of the space environment, and astronaut training in general. The tram made stops at the Mock up and integration Lab, the Space Environment Simulation Lab, the Weightless Environment Training Facility, and Rocket Park where they had actual Mercury and Apollo launch rockets and the final Saturn V missile made which was to be used for Apollo 18 when the program was canceled. This missile was used for the manned moon landings and the space station project.
The Weightless Environment Training Facility consisted primarily of a huge pool with a full size mockup of the Shuttle cargo area. Astronauts in full gear are weighted to a neutral buoyancy and practice all their tasks underwater in a "weightless" environment.
In the Space Environment Simulation Lab they have various portions of the Shuttle and other mission equipment set up to practice special tasks. They have a simulated cargo area with a simulated Canada arm. It is quite a bit lighter than the real one, as the real one cannot lift its own weight with our gravity. The simulated one has a low capacity, but is realistic in its movements. The loads they practice with are huge helium filled balloons which are weighted to neutral buoyancy.
We were supposed to tour Mission Control also, but as there is currently a mission in progress, it is closed to the public.
It tried to rain, but all we got were a few drops.
It was a fascinating day.
We are back at the Pfafman's now, having just taken showers, waiting for our second load of wash to come out of the dryer. Shortly we will head to the store to go out to dinner with Fred and Judy after closing.
Thursday, September 26
We arrived in Lafayette, Louisiana about 4:00 this afternoon after a 210 mile drive. The winds today were worse than any before on this trip, constantly bouncing us around, however, they were not really that bad.
We are camped at a city park with very dense tall trees. It is a beautiful spot. I am not even going to try the DSS here. Even looking straight up, I can only see patches of sky through the branches. We do get a number of regular TV channels here, so I guess we can survive.
I hope the dish survived! In the process of carrying it and several other things to the motor home from the car, my foot hit a patch of leaves and went right out from under me, bringing the dish clattering down and leaving me flat on my face. All in all, we both appear to have come out of it quite well. Only one small ding on the dish, and a few scratches and a bruise on me. I'll heal, the dish won't.
We just went into town to do some light marketing and saw a Little Caesar's - well, we had pizza for dinner - delicious! This is what camping is all about!
Friday, September 27
We left for the Acadian Cultural Center around 9:30. There we saw a 40 minute movie giving the history of the persecution of the people and their being forced out of what is now Nova Scotia, and their eventual habitation of this area of Louisiana. I had not realized that Cajun was derived from Acadian through several steps (Acadian, Cadian, Cajun). While we were in the center, the skies opened up and we had a very heavy thunderstorm. As we watched the water level rise in a low lawn and tree area, the ranger said it usually took several hours to accumulate that much water. It had only been raining about 30 minutes at that time.
When the rain dropped to a normal amount, we ventured back to the car and headed back to the motor home. We expect it will continue to rain until the front passes late tonight, so we are going to veg-out this afternoon.
We did relax this afternoon and evening. We watched some TV, looked
at a couple of videotapes, and did some routine tasks around the motor
home. All the tornado and thunderstorm watches expired without event.
Only a flood watch, then a flood warning persisted. The Vermilion
river floods at around 10 feet. In the evening, it was up to over
11 and rising. We looked at the map and found the river. It
was the one just below the Cultural Center. We then followed it and
found it is also the one immediately adjacent to our campground.
Fortunately, we are on the high side of the campground! It's always
better to be lucky than smart!
Saturday, September 28
We actually got away a little after 9:00 this morning, headed for New Orleans. We had only about 120 miles to go, so it was a relaxing drive. We chose to camp at a state park. This was another beautiful site with level blacktop pads with lots of trees. We chose a site well protected by trees, but with a southern exposure for the dish on a tripod alongside the motor home. Pointing by the compass and elevation marks, I turned on the TV and had a signal strength of 75 (about the best I can get at home!). I was able to peak it to about 85 here.
We decided to do a little exploration this afternoon. We located a couple of swamp tour locations and decided on one for tomorrow morning. We then went to a restaurant right on a bayou and had our "New Orleans dinner". Betty had seafood gumbo and shrimp Creole, and I had the fisherman's jambalaya. They were all delicious. The bayou was right outside our window and was almost totally covered with some kind of small leafed vegetation, which would drift very slowly in one direction or the other. The surface almost looked like a slightly off color lawn. I wonder how many people or animals try to walk right across? They would be surprised!
After dinner we drove across the mighty Mississippi River! We were out that way exploring an alternate way to leave town. On the way in, we crossed a bridge that had two lanes in each direction. The lanes were very narrow. I stayed as far right as I dared, and my left side was within several inches of the line. I discovered just how narrow it was when I suddenly heard a loud scraping noise. They had a curb right on the right side of the lane, and I just caught the bottom bracket of Betty's chair lift. It sharpened one side very well, but caused no damage (other than to my pride!). At that point I said "No way am I going over this bridge in the motor home again!"
The other route we explored tonight is much, much better!
Sunday, September 29
We went back to Jean Lafitte highway and the swamp tour. We took the 10:00 tour and saw what the canals (man made) and bayous (natural) are like. We saw several forms of wildlife, but the main attraction was the alligators. We first saw one swimming with only the top of his head showing, then we saw one sunning on a log. There were a number of young (about 4 foot) gators. One of their regulars, an 8 footer named Beaudry refused to show himself today, but we did see One Eye, an 8 footer who is blind in his right eye. The tour drivers tempt them with marshmallows. He tried to bring One Eye up to the side of the boat to show how to grab an alligator safely. He succeeded in bringing him to the boat, but not close enough to grab him. We left that site with a whole bunch marshmallows floating in the water.
On the way back, we went to the Mississippi, where it passes close to the park, but the levees kept us from seeing anything except at one spot where the road rose in level and then turned away from the river.
We are now back at the motor home, where we just watched the Padres beat the Dodgers for the Western title, and the Chargers beat the Chiefs, and we are planning tomorrow's trip into the New Orleans French Quarter.
Monday, September 30
The French Quarter was very interesting. We saw and listened to a couple of Dixieland bands in small outdoor coffee shops. We wheeled many of the local streets including Bourbon Street. I bought a tee-shirt at a small shop. Betty bought some Gumbo soup mix. We had a lot of fun (and some sore feet - mine) for not very much money.
We are back in the motor home now contemplating getting ready to pull out in the morning. It's on to Natchez, MS.
I just replaced the batteries in the external modem. They were down to 4.5 volts with the modem on and now they are over 6. Maybe that will make a difference. I am going to try at the campground pay phone again.
Dick and Betty
Tuesday, October 1
This time I said I'm going to find a hole in the trees for the DSS. I set the dish on the tripod along the front of the motor home and estimated the beam would pass somewhere near a small hole in the branches. I hooked everything up and started pointing the dish. I started getting a flashing LED on the dish indicating a signal. Upon peaking it, the LED flashed rapidly, and I discovered I had an 87 on my signal strength meter! This is almost as high a signal as I have ever had.
We went into town this afternoon. First we went to a National Historical Park at the Melrose mansion. This was recently bought by the NPS and is still being brought to its standards of restoration. They are installing a new electrical and alarm system. Extensive research is being done to determine exact paint colors and other details of the original configuration prior to the Civil War. The tour was very interesting.
Next we went to another Plantation mansion called Longwood. This is a beautiful octagonal dome topped building with a total of 6 levels. Only the basement level was ever completed. The Civil War caused financial ruin of the owners and none of the rest of the house was ever completed, even though the family lived there for over a hundred years. It was a most fascinating tour.
On our way back to the campground we stopped at Walmart and replenished our supplies.
Tomorrow we head to Vicksburg.
Wednesday, October 2
First we looked up the Army Corps of Engineers operation WES (Waterways
Experiment Station). Here we saw a video describing the tasks this
operation is responsible for; there are many. They of course provide
support for the military services, they work on a wide range of civilian
projects which benefit many, such as flood control, environmental protection,
erosion prevention, concrete development and evaluation, etc.
The other display which was particularly slick was a model of a section of a river. They showed how an unprotected area of river bank would flood if there was rain upstream. They turned on showers in the ceiling of the model, and shortly after the water went way up the unprotected bank and submerged a couple of model houses. They then did the same thing above a flood control dam and showed how the water could be released slowly without flooding. They also indicated they could release the water from the surface, the middle, or the bottom to control the temperature of the water being released. This way they would not disturb the ecosystem by changing the temperatures too much.
We left the motor home parked in their parking lot and took the Nissan over to the Vicksburg National Military Park. This was a Civil War museum and battleground. Cannon were everywhere!
We went back to the Corp of Engineers and hooked up. Originally we were going to stay in Vicksburg, but we figured we could shorten tomorrow's trip to Branson if we proceeded today. We went an additional 90 miles into Arkansas to an RV park called Pecan Grove RV Park. It is very pleasant here with parking within a grove of Pecan trees.
Tomorrow we head the remaining 300 miles plus or minus.
Dick and Betty
Well, I may have found a solution to my problems of getting connected. Outdoor pay phones have been a real problem, I have only gotten on-line at 2400 baud once on an outdoor pay phone so far this trip. That was in New Orleans, and was the 5th phone I tried in the park (and last one I had located). I tried generating a new initialization string for the modem which limits the baud rate to 1200, and connected the first time on the Oct.1. I'll try that in the future if the 2400 one doesn't connect. I don't know why the 2400 doesn't automatically step down to 1200, but it doesn't seem to.
Thursday, October 3
The drive today was much harder than I had figured on. The first part was fine, and took us for miles along cotton fields, with only an occasional cotton truck driving down the shoulder at about 20 miles per hour. After a couple of hours, the Arkansas roads we drove turned curvy, hilly, and were not banked much on the turns. As a result I had to constantly slow down much more than normal for the curves, try to regain my speed up the hills, and keep it from speeding up too much going downhill. It just was not a fun road to drive! Only a few miles of today's drive was on divided road.
On the more pleasant side, we started to see evidence of the trees turning. Every now and then, we would pass a beautiful maroon colored tree. Then we would see one with bright yellows. One tree had several branches of vivid red. Before long, the forests should be fully engulfed!
We are now in Branson, MO. Frankly we are disappointed. I'm not sure what we expected, but what we found is a lot of people, a lot of places the people want to go, and very few roads to get them there. The cars are lined up literally for blocks to make a left turn. Traffic moves a few cars between signals, and no one gets much of anywhere.
To be fair, this was only our first impression. We, like everyone else wanted to see what it was all about. When we got off the main routes with all the theaters, hotels, and restaurants, we got around OK. Also we went around 6:00 just as everyone was trying to get to dinner and then the theater. We are going to try again tomorrow morning. The area is just beautiful - nestled in the Ozark Mountains, there are trees and water everywhere. Our campground (another city park) is right on a lake.
We missed our chance a few miles back on the highway. Had we wanted to drive about 13 miles off course, we could have visited Dogpatch! I don't know if Lil Abner and Daisy Mae are still there or not, and since we skipped it, we probably won't find out.
One of the things we were looking for was (if you believe this) an outlet center! Several states ago, I picked up a flyer for a company called Famous Brand Electronics. They were located in an outlet center near Baton Rouge. Looking at the flyer they also have a store in Branson. We didn't think to take the flyer tonight, and were unable to find it. Tomorrow we will find it!
We have an unusual occurrence happening - it's getting cold. It is about 9:45 PM and the outside temperature is already down to 53.6. I don't think we have gotten under about 75 for at least the last week (and with very high humidities). I'm ready for some cool and dry!
Friday, October 4
We then found the electronics outlet store and, oh well, life is full of little disappointments. It was a small store with no real bargains I could find. They did, however, have an original generation RCA DSS for $339.00. After a DirectTV rebate the out-of-pocket would be $139.00 (plus the $360 for a year's subscription) Of course, as existing subscribers, we would not qualify for the rebate. Nothing else looked as good as we have at our local electronics stores.
Tomorrow we are going to explore the local Ozark Mountains.
Dick and Betty
Saturday, October 5
The trees are just starting to get serious about turning their fall colors. Probably another week or so will really make a difference.
The two shows we saw today were really good. Both shows were a combination of comedy and music. We really enjoyed them both.
On returning to the motor home a few minutes ago, we hooked up the Nissan and started stowing our gear for tomorrow's departure toward the Land Between the Lakes on the border between Kentucky and Tennessee.
Sunday, October 6
We ended up driving about 220 miles to Poplar Bluff, MO and a campground called Camelot. I think I may have a slight overkill on my TV here. I have my DSS out, we get about 40 channels of cable TV here, and I get about 3 or 4 channels on the antenna.
We will have about 195 miles tomorrow to get to Land Between the Lakes.
On this trip, I have been performing a (sorta) scientific study of gas prices. We have paid anywhere from $1.05 to $1.42 a gallon (plus the inevitable 0.9 cents a gallon in all cases). We have observed gas as low as $.99 a gallon. I have finally determined the driving forces for the varying prices:
o Low gas prices occur only when you have a full tank
Well, I'd better finish this episode, there's too much TV to watch!
Monday, October 7
We drove the 195 miles to Land Between the Lakes this morning along a number of 2 lane farm area roads, rural 4 lane roads, and interstate highways. It was a relaxing drive through interesting surroundings.
Our campsite tonight is in a state park just outside the LBL (Land Between the Lakes) park which is a Tennessee Valley Authority entity. The sites here are all back-in and are not very long. We park the Nissan across the front of the motor home, and it just clears the road. Again we are in tall trees. I spent at least half and hour trying to line up the DSS with a small hole in the foliage above, without success. I finally gave up and resigned myself to the 3 or 4 barely watchable channels I can get with the rooftop antenna. Oh where are some of those excess channels we had last night? Oh well . . .
This afternoon we toured the LBL park. We went into the Home Place, which is a replica of an 1850 farm. We toured the visitor center, but did not go through the farm, as only a portion of it was wheelchair accessible, and that was over gravel paths. From there we went on to the second visitor center which contained a planetarium and an exhibit displaying the history of moonshining. Did you know the last illicit still in the area was shut down in 1967?
We drove around a 3.5 mile loop road in the Bison and Elk Prairie and saw none of either.
We then explored the Piney Campground (within LBL) and decided we should have stayed there. It is a beautiful lakeside camp with large spaces and spacious areas. We also discovered we could have stayed there for less than here. Another Oh Well . . .
Tomorrow we head to Nashville.
Tuesday, October 8
We are in a campground about 15 miles out of Nashville. It appears that most of the other residents are long term. The office stated that there are contractors, songwriters and musicians living here.
We went into town this afternoon and looked at Opryland and the Opryland Hotel. We went into the box office to see what would be required to watch the taping of a TNN show (taped on the Opryland Park grounds). They had 80 tickets left for today's Prime Time Country show. This is a show we watch quite frequently at home (and on the road). We got tickets for tonight and noted that we had an hour and ten minutes before we needed to be back for the show. We jumped into the car and rushed back to the campground, a little over 20 minutes. We changed and cleaned up, jumped back in the car and raced back to Nashville. We were in line outside the TNN studio 10 minutes before they opened the doors.
We were seated down in front in the VIP seats. These are swivel chairs in the very front of the studio just below the stage. There is a wide isle behind these seats for the cameras and crew, then the bleacher seats for the majority of the audience.
This show was the second show Gary Chapman has hosted since getting the job on a permanent basis, and he is still "stacking the deck" with name stars. Tonight we had Pam Tillis, Daryl Singletary, The Riders in the Sky, and were supposed to have George Jones, only he came down with the flu and had to cancel.
The set is made in three sections. The left side is the show's band; the center is the interview set with the desk and chairs, etc.; the right hand set was for the guest stars to perform. We were in the third row in front of the guest stage. We really had a good view during Pam and Daryl's performances.
It was really fun to watch all the cameras and crew, and keep an eye on the monitors to see the final effect. The neatest device to watch was the boom camera. This was a camera on the end of an approximately 20 foot long counterbalanced boom on a roll around base. The operator has a 12 inch or so monitor along with some controls at his work area. From here he can zoom, swivel raise and lower and pivot the boom. He really got some interesting effects. Like a helicopter flying in tracking its target the whole way. It was then fun to come back to the motor home and watch the finished production It taped at 5:00 and aired at 8:00 and again at 11:00 tonight.
I'm not sure when you are going to get all this stuff. I tried to send from the pay phone at the campground last night, but wasn't able to connect even at 1200! I checked on the phone in this campground, and it is out of order. The next closest is at the Shell station next door, but it has started to rain lightly, and I'm not about to try in the rain. You'll get it soon. (even before reading this!)
Dick and Betty
Wednesday, October 9
In walking past some of the tour buses, we noted that the smaller ones had a wheelchair lift built into the stairs. We went to the tour office to see what was available. We selected a tour that drove through downtown Nashville, many of the musical landmarks of the city, millionaire's row where many of the stars and business executives live. There were some NICE homes! In three hours we saw more of the Nashville area than we could have possibly done on our own in many days.
On our way back, we took off at an off ramp a few miles from our campground and passed a store called Cracker Barrel. We had seen several during this trip and decided to check it out. It turned out to be a restaurant with an attached gift shop. We each had a country dinner where you choose everything from a selection list. We each selected the baked country ham and different side dishes. It was delicious!
The gift store took its toll also.
We then went back to the motor home and watched Prime Time Country. It was fun being able to be able to tell how the various shots were made, and which camera was being used.
Thursday, October 10
The center portion of the hotel is a huge glass covered conservatory. We spent a couple of hours touring it. There were beautiful gardens, streams, waterfalls, fountains (including dancing waters), and many shops and restaurants. They even had tour boats that took people around a track guided route on the "river". All this is indoors under a glass ceiling. It was very enjoyable.
Then it was back to the motor home, do a load of laundry, do a few chores, make a slight adjustment to the shift rod (been meaning to do that for about a year now!), and get ready to head to the Great Smoky Mountains tomorrow morning.
It rained a little this afternoon, but not enough to cause any problems.
Friday, October 11
Our site is very nice. It is a grass site among tall trees, right now fairly distant from anyone else. This may change as the park is full Monday night, assuring that we will be here only three nights, which is what we had pretty much decided anyway. We asked why the influx of campers, and were told that there are a number of rallies, and the people are flooding in for the changing of the colors. They are saying that the peak colors should be in about two weeks, but that at higher altitudes they are now.
For the second time this trip, I did a full hookup. Betty says she likes having running water without the pump running, and we will be here for 3 nights.
I finally got the DSS set up. The pine trees here are quite tall, but not as dense as some of our previous trees. At the forth or fifth location I tried for the tripod I finally started getting a signal. I need to attach a laser pointer to the dish to be able to position it to point through small holes in the trees! Maybe for our next trip.
We went driving this afternoon. Branson was a breeze! The traffic here is simply awful! We drove about 15 miles in on highway 66 (not route 66). Traffic was almost solid the whole way with many signals assuring that no one could move. We finally got to the road to Dollywood and decided to see if the campground manager was right, that they let people in wheelchairs in free. We got to the information center after they closed at 5:00 PM (we lost an hour to the time change getting here today). We went down a small country road and found Dollywood just after the ticket counters closed at 6:00. We asked a lady in a wheelchair coming out of the park if they had received a special price and she said "I don't really know what the regular price is, it cost the two of us 53 dollars." We decided that even though there was a craft fair and a number of concerts inside, that we would skip it this trip.
On the way back, fighting every signal, we stopped at the Apple Barn. This is a very large operation with a restaurant, a cider mill, a general (apple theme) store, an ice cream factory, a candy factory, a smoke house, etc. We bought some fresh cider (yesterday I finished my frozen cider we bought last trip to Atascadero) and some Granny Smith apples. They both are delicious!
I have a good chance of getting this out tomorrow, as the campground manager volunteered her credit card verification line for a direct connect modem session. I have had no problem with the direct connects. The last stuff I sent out 3 days ago were by direct connect at our Nashville campground. The campground pay phone was dead the whole time we were there, and I was unable to connect at any speed at the Shell station next door. Very frustrating!
Dick and Betty
Saturday, October 12
Today we toured the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the areas around it. We decided to go the reverse direction from what seemed the logical direction to go. We figured that we may cut down on the traffic somewhat this way. (I think it actually worked!)
We headed East on I-40 into North Carolina toward Ashville, then turned off through what turned out to be the most beautiful area, Maggie Valley. The trees here were at their prime and were spectacular. From there we followed the road past a number of souvenir shops right on the edge of a ridge giving a marvelous view of the Smoky Mountains across a valley.
We then went to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park via the Blue Ridge Parkway This is a gorgeous road running from Smoky Mountain National Park to Shannandoah National Park in Virginia. We drove a section of this parkway in VA the week we went to Washington DC from New Jersey in July 1994.
There is only one road through the park and there were quite a few people on it. The traffic flowed well, but was fairly solid the second half of our trip. The park was really pretty, but only a few sections had trees in full color. There were sections of pure green foliage, some with good color, and some with most of their leaves already gone.
Exiting the park, we shortly found ourselves back on Tennessee 66 (oh joy!) with all its signals and cars. This is where I think Betty's idea of going the opposite direction really paid off. Heavy as the traffic was in our direction, it was far worse going the other way. Well, we survived the drive back to the camp and started getting ready for our trek home.
Sunday, October 13
During the first hour and a half, we occasionally ran into a section of fog, but only once was it thick enough to have to slow down appreciably. The rest of the drive was under clear blue skies and comfortable temperatures.
We had selected campgrounds at about 280 miles, 300 miles, and 315 miles.
Things were going so well that near the 315 location we decided to go on
just past Memphis. We selected a park on the Mississippi River and
headed for it. When we got there it was 431 miles from our start.
So much for cutting back on our mileage. Getting a fairly early start,
getting an extra hour (by going back to Central Time), and being on the
We crossed the Mississippi River for the sixth and final time in the motor home for this trip and re-entered Arkansas. The campground was only a few miles from there. We are under a nice row of mature trees with a clear view of the river. People keep coming into the campground, and I think they will be full tonight. Even if it is, the sites are well spaced and we will have no close neighbors.
Monday, October 14
We got away about 7:20 and hit I-40 again. About 367 miles later, after a number of rest stops, a gas stop, and an A&W root beer float stop, we arrived at Eufaula State Park. This is a very large park with 4 camping areas, a landing strip (shucks, we sold the plane!), a golf course, stables, and a marina and boat launch area. The adjoining lake is massive! On the map it looks like two crossing rivers. Where we came to the lake, it looked several miles across.
The ranger showed us our site on the map, and said that it was pull through, even though the map showed a slight break at one end. He said to just drive over the grass and into the site, and we would not have to disconnect. We got to the site and found two trees, one on either side of our space with branches about 8 feet off the ground. Our motor home is 10.5 feet high. So we disconnected and went around and backed in the motor home. The Nissan came in from the back just fine.
As long as we were un-hooked anyway, we drove into town, looked around a little, did some light grocery shopping, and we spotted a Pizza Hut. Delicious!
Our campsite was another tree covered, grassy spot, well separated from our neighbors, most of whom appeared to be fishermen. This was the quietest camp we have had in a long while. The temperatures are back to warmer night temperatures (57.6 minimum last night).
Tuesday, October 15
The drive was a little more difficult today. We drove through a weather disturbance which consisted of a band of clouds with just a trace of precipitation reaching the ground (there was quite a bit of virga visible). The bad part was the wind. They had been predicting winds of 10 to 20. After we got into it, the NOAA weather radio reported 15 to 25 and gusting. I have determined that I can handle winds up to about 25 without any problems, and a fair amount higher safely. The higher winds are much more tiring to drive in with the constant bouncing and correcting. After two or three hours of this wind, it appeared to go to dead calm. The balance of the drive was much more enjoyable.
We gassed up about 20 miles east of Amarillo paying 1.25 a gallon. Naturally, within 10 miles we saw numerous stations for 1.17 a gallon. The only problem with waiting would have been the question of making it! As it was we took almost 50 gallons, and I hate to get into the final 10. The station where we bought gas also had an A&W mini-counter inside, and yesterday's floats were so delicious . . .
We are camped just to the west of Amarillo. This is a $10 park. So far we have paid $7.74 at the state park in Lafayette, LO, $10 in several parks, and a high of $16.75 in Poplar Bluffs, MO. with a scattering of prices in between.
Tonight's camp has a few trees. Ours is about 10 feet high. There is no obstacle in the way of the DSS dish tonight!
Just think, about three more days of these tedious reports and you will no longer have to plug your way through them all! It is looking like we will make it home late Friday, unless we run into weather (or other) problems somewhere. I look forward to seeing all of you soon.
Dick and Betty
Wednesday, October 16
Another problem this morning was the failure of the cruise control to
work at all. This is devastating, as it makes driving much more tiring.
This is the second time this trip the cruise has failed. The cruise
came with very light gage wire, and apparently my technique of doubling
the wire before using the clip on splices was not reliable. The first
time I opened the dash, and basically just wiggled all the connections.
It has been working about 4 weeks since. This morning my wiggling
did not work! I was afraid the cruise was really dead. I continued
until after it got light and stopped at a rest stop. I again massaged
all the connections, removed the electronics box and inspected the circuit
board. I then put it all back and it has been working fine since.
As I said, re-wiring is high on the list!
We selected a campground from the book, and upon reaching Truth or Consequences, NM, we located it and pulled in. What we saw were some older trailers on short, back-in sites. There was no one in the office, and no one answered the buzzer. I ignored the sign to see Doris in space 20 and we pulled out and went to a much nicer park.
This park has cable TV, so I didn't even unpack my DSS.
Tomorrow we continue down I-25 to intercept I-10, and plan to make it about half way across Arizona.
Thursday, October 17
This morning we got up at 6:15 and were away by 6:45; sunrise was at 7:15. This worked very well. It was just getting light as we left, and could see all the signs and other important things.
We had a leisurely drive today with several rest stops. We ended up in the same park where we spent our first night in Stanfield, AZ, between Casa Grande and Gila Bend.
We gained yet another hour today as we entered Arizona (now the Nissan clock is accurate again). AZ is still in the Mountain Time Zone, but they do not observe Daylight Savings Time, so this time of year they have the same time as we do.
Tomorrow morning we head for home!
Betty and Dick
Friday, October 18
Our strategy of cutting South to avoid the forecast winds seemed to work just fine. We have had no problem with wind on this route. The only annoying part was through the Lagunas on I-8 where there is always some turbulent wind. We heard reports on NOAA radio that Bullhead City, near which we would have been on our original route, had winds gusting to 40. I'm really glad we were not there!
We made several stops on the way home, including one at Rip Griffins. I was disappointed with their trucker store. I had remembered a more complete selection at the Rip's near Buckeye on I-10. They may not all be the same. The best trucker store we have found so far is the Petro in Kingman. We used to stop there every year while we were house boating on Lake Powell. Missing this store was the one disappointment caused by changing our route to the south. I should have stopped at a Petro we passed on I-8 this morning, but I didn't!
We made it home by about 1:15. Before dark I had dumped and washed the motor home and the Nissan, and had partially unloaded the motor home.
This has been a great trip for us. We had no mechanical failures that impacted our trip. Really the only real trip failure was the air conditioning clutch. The intermittent problem with the right rear lifter became consistent enough that I could troubleshoot it and positively identify the problem. It was easily bypassed the two times on the trip that it hadn't "corrected" itself by the time we left the camp sites. I had problems with the cruise control twice, caused by my not realizing that the small gage wire would not crimp reliably in the connector splices I used. I also had periodic problems with the TV that were a reincarnation of a problem I had occasionally when that set was in New Jersey with us. Occasionally the picture would disappear and the sound would drop in volume. A tap on the side of the set would always fix it, usually for the remainder of that session. I obviously have a bad solder joint in there somewhere. I guess when you add them all up, we had no mechanical failures at all - they were all electrical! (Yes, the clutch was an electrical failure - it shorted out.)
On this trip we drove 5818 miles, used 856.2 gallons of gas for an average of 6.8 miles per gallon. We had a temperature range of 33.2 degrees to over a hundred. We were at altitudes of from below sea level to about 7000 feet. We ran the generator a total of 25.6 hours, mostly because of the failed A/C clutch.
We were in a total of 12 states spanning the entire width of the country. Our farthest state was North Carolina, which is a coastal state, even though we only went a few miles east of its westerly border.
We had a marvelous time and are glad we were able to share a piece of it with you though these notes.
Betty and Dick