Southern US trip Spring 1998 (Including Gulf Stream mechanical problems)

Monday May 4, 1998
Well, we are on our grand adventure!  We are first going to Forest Lakes, Arizona to spend several days with Keith and Virgilee Scholl.  We were very disappointed earlier this year when snow forced us to cancel our trip to see them.  After our visit, the Scholls and we will caravan to Greers Ferry Lake (north of Little Rock) in Arkansas to visit Fred and Judy Pfafman.  They recently retired from their business in Houston and bought a lakeside home, and we are all anxious to see it.  We will spend some time with the Pfafmans, do some exploring of Arkansas, and then the Scholls need to head home.  We hope to do some additional traveling around the south-east US with the Pfafmans for another week or two.  Then they need to get back home, and Betty and I will continue exploring that area by ourselves.

We left home on the start of our scheduled two month trip Friday morning around 8:00.  We had a pleasant drive as far as Tonopah, AZ, where we arrived at about 3:00.  Our campground was very nice (for the Arizona desert) with a half grown palm tree at each site.  There were many pull-through sites, so we did not have to unhook the Nissan.

Shortly before starting this trip, we joined a campground discount program called Enjoy America.  They have about 350 participating campgrounds across the country, and for a $40 per year membership fee, the campgrounds offer 50% off your first night's stay.  Some will extend the discount for a longer period.

Our campground in Tonopah is one of the EA campgrounds and I was anxious to see how it would go when I presented my membership card.  When we arrived there was a sign on the office that they were closed on Fridays and Saturdays!  They had instructions for which sites to use, and to fill out an envelope and put your fee in it.  We paid the half price and noted our Enjoy America membership number on the envelope, and dropped it in the slot.  I hope all is well and that we don't get a letter saying they don't participate anymore, or anything like that.  We do expect to amortize this year's membership on this trip.

Saturday morning we left Tonopah at about 7:00 and headed East on I-10 toward Phoenix.  We needed to refuel.  On our previous trip we filled up at Rip Griffins a few miles east of Tonopah, and then had passed a Loves with considerably lower diesel prices.  This time we headed straight to Loves.  When we got there we had a time getting positioned and waiting for a diesel pump to become available.  We ended up paying a couple cents a gallon more than we would have paid at a couple of stations we passed in Tonapah!  You just cannot win.

We filled up again in Payson, only about a quarter tank down, but we wanted to start our main journey full.  After lunch at Arbys, we headed on to the Scholls', arriving around noon.  We chatted for a couple of hours and did a little putzzing around, then Virg and Keith had to go to a wedding.  We got organized (somewhat) and watched some TV.  When they returned, they visited with us for a while in our motorhome.

Yesterday (Sunday), Keith and I did a few tasks.  One of them was to use his VSWR meter to check the match of my CB antenna.  I have been suspicious of it since the beginning, but have never known how well it is working.  Well we hooked up the meter and found it is not working well at all!  The meter is calibrated in VSWR (voltage standing wave ratio), and is a measure of how much of your transmitted power is being used by the antenna.  Any power lost by a mismatch is reflected back along the cable and ends up heating up the output of the transmitter along with a resultant loss of transmitted power.

The recommendations in the meter instructions are that you should have a VSWR of less than 3.  The bottom half of the meter scale is white, calibrated from 1 to 3.  The top of the scale is red and is not numbered, but is over 3.  My CB read about 3/4 of the way into the red on all channels!  Keith had some old antennas, and after considerable testing, we mounted one of them on  my existing mount, ran new cable between there and my CB.  When we finished, channel 1 was in the white, 20 was slightly in the red, and 40 was about half into the red.  This showed that we needed to shorten the antenna and shift the tuning toward the high channels.  We cut 1/4 of an inch at a time and retested.  Each time it got better, until about the fourth time we were there.  I am now right at 3 on channes 1 and 40, and about 2.5 on channel 20.  That's the best that can be done, and should be a whole lot better than I had before.  I still have a fairly short antenna that should not be a problem hitting service station lights, etc.

We went out to dinner down the grade at Christopher Creek and had delicious prime rib dinners, then returned and I helped Keith with a couple of things on his computer.  He showed me some very impressive programs he has recently gotten.

Today we try to find why one of his telephone jacks is causing problems.  Tomorrow we leave for Arkansas!

Thursday, May 7
We spent Monday at the Scholls doing a lot of last minute things before leaving in the morning.  We ran a number of errands and made sure both motorhomes were all ready to go.  

After all the routine tasks, we took a look at his telephone system.  He had a jack that seemed to be intermittent.  Using a line tester he had just gotten, we discovered that wiggling the jack would cause the light for one of his lines to blink.  We also discovered that when the jack caused the light to go out, any phone on that line would quit.  A close examination with a magnifying glass showed one of the tiny contact wires would extend out the back of the jack just enough to short against one of the wire lugs attached to the back.  Bending the lug away from the jack seemed to fix all the problems.

Tuesday morning, we were planning to leave as soon as we could after a representative from the local water company came to turn off the water at the street.  Keith had discovered that his main shutoff valve was binding and in danger of breaking a pipe due to the excess force required.  The service man was due at 8:15 or so.  At 8:45 Keith called to find what was happening and found they were waiting for his call to come.  We managed to get away by about 9:00 and had a mostly good drive to Mariarty, New Mexico.  We did learn that you should not try to go through Albuquerque at rush hour!  We hit it about 4:00 PM and discovered that there was major construction right through the center of town.  Between the merging lanes, the reduced number of lanes, and the commuter traffic, it was absoultley horrible!  It took about a half hour to drive just a few miles, but we survived just fine.  We found the campground we had selected from our various directories.  The park was not very far from I-40, but was very quiet.  We had a good night's sleep.

Wednesday morning, we were up and away by about 8:00.  We again hit I-40 eastbound.  We had fairly high winds on the road, as we did on Tuesday, but it was basically a direct tailwind and didn't affect the handling of the motorhomes very much.  In fact it seems to have really helped us!  Prior to this trip, we got over 10 miles per gallon only once.  Today we filled up and found we got over 11!  Yea tailwinds!

Our drive Wednesday was not affected by anything but a couple of construction projects.  We did decide that Texas has much better roads than New Mexico!

As we approached our destination of Shamrock, Texas, we were looking for exit 72 to get to our campground.  We saw a sign saying  exit 72 - 75 next exit.  As we were discussing what that meant, we saw an exit just as our lane of trafic was being moved to the other side of the freeway.  I called Keith on the CB just about as he was at the exit and told him I thought we needed that exit!  He cut over quickly, but made it just fine.  It turned out that the eastbound side of I-40 was being totally torn out to be replaced, and all local traffic had to follow the frontage road for a number of miles.  We found our park and got a couple of really nice sites under large trees.  Keith and Virg had the end site that overlooked a large grassy meadow - just perfect for their dogs.

We got up this morning (Thursday) and got away by a little after 8:00.  We hit the road and headed East again.  Things were going well until we got to Oklahoma City.  As we were approaching downtown, we saw signs saying to use the construction bypass for I40 East.  As we were trying to figure out what was what, we passed an offramp (in the wrong lane to do anythng) with a small sign saying "Construction Bypass".  Shortly after, we started losing lanes.  It ended up that the Eastbound lane of I-40 was reduced to one lane!  In addition to the merging of the three lanes into one, there were several onramps which also merged.  Finally there was one last merge where we had to merge onto some other inbound lane.  Shortly after this merge we actually started to move!  I even had to press the throttle pedal.  I had been using only the brake for about the last 35 minutes.  It felt good to move again.  Next time we will certainly try to interpret the signs faster, and not miss the bypass!

We were a little dissapointed in the AAA TripTick we got.  They are supposed to list major construction sites along your route, and nothing was said about either the Albuquerque or the Okla. City projects.  Both of these were major projects and should last a long time.

We discovered midway through Oklahoma that the landscape changed from open plains to beautiful forests.  Toward the eastern border we had green lawn in the center median and along both sides of the road.  Behind the lawn was an almost solid bank of trees.  I love it!

We had decided to stay at the Fountainhead State Park near Eufala, OK.  This was a park we stayed in when were were here in fall of 96.  We looked at the directory listing and found they have restrictions of pets, but no indication of the restriction.  We looked over the listings for other parks in the area and decided to try Bella Starr South.  After unhooking the Nissan and running around in it, we finally found both Bella Starr North and South, but the South one was closed.  There were barrcades across the entrance to the gate house, and the gates were closed at the other end of the entrance area.

As Bella Starr North did not have large enough sites, we decided to check out a park we drove by up the road a mile or so.  It was a Coast to Coast membership park, but they accepted the public also.  We asked about rates, expecting $20 or more, and were almost shocked when she said $11 for full hookups.  We registered our rigs, returned to Bella Starr North where the girls and dogs were waiting, hooked the Nissan back up and went to camp.  It is basically all grass with a number of trees surrounding the area, but not within the area.

Betty and I decided to drive to Eufala and explore.  We found an Ice Cream shop called Braums.  They served breakfasts and sandwiches along with all the ice cream items.  Betty had chili and cheese and I had a cheeseburger.  I had a real limeaid, really good.  Betty had a lime freeze, ditto.  I then had a hot fudge sundae, double ditto!  We bought a gallon of skim milk and left.  On our way back to camp, we decided to go to Fountainhead State Park and look up the campground where we stayed in 1996.  It is really beautiful, among many pine and deciduous trees.  We never found out what the pet restrictions are as the visitor's center was closed.  We then headed back to camp and sat out with the Scholls until about sunset.
It is now after 11:00, so time for bed!  More later.

Saturday, May 9
We left camp and headed east for our final day of travel towards the Pfafmans'.  The Texas roads are really quite good, but when we reached Arkansas we drove on mile after mile of good looking concrete highway that constantly went thump, thump, thump!  Every once in a while we would have a fairly smooth section and start to get our hopes up that the worst was over, only to hit another section of bone jarring thumps.  Actually, we did not have a bad drive.  

We arrived at Fred and Judy's around 3:30.  They have a really nice place.  It is a fairly small, all wood house with a lage deck across the entire rear of the house.  It overlooks a forest of trees leading down to the edge of Greers Ferry Lake.  This lake is about 47 miles long and is a great recreation area.

We are quite disapointed that Judy and Fred are not going to be able to travel with us after we leave here.  Their contractor contacted them several days ago and said he was ready to start.  After picking themselves up, the Pfafmans convinced him to wait a week, and he starts next Monday.  We are sad they will not be going with us, but are happy for them getting a house expansion and a garage.

The front yard is covered with more trees and Fred had us park our motorhomes among them.  I opted to park ours at the top, right along the road.  Keith is much closer to the house in the midst of a number of trees.  We both had to use a number of blocks to level our rigs, but ended up just fine.  Fred has a very long 10 gage power cord that just reaches to our motorhome, and a shorter cord that reaches Keith's just fine, so we are all set!

As we are quite a ways from the house, I decided to have Betty use her scooter to go back and forth.  I then use her large wheel chair to get her up the 3 front steps and into the house.  She then walks and uses the normal chairs.

We had a great Judy-cooked dinner (I over ate!) and spent the rest of the evening catching up.

We slept in somewhat this (Saturday) morning.  After some more talking, Fred, Keith, and I went into the town of Greers Ferry to their hardware store and I bought a couple of items I need for the motorhome.  We drove by the shop where his boat was being repaired.  As we got home, Judy asked him if he stopped by the boat store, because the boat was ready to pick up!

We went back and got his boat.  It is a pontoon boat (party boat) driven by a 40 hp. outboard.  Maybe we will get a boat ride tomorrow.

We spent much of the afternoon and evening talking and watching television weather warnings.  The local stations have a small map of the state with the various counties color coded according to whether there is a thunderstorm of tornado watch or warning.  We were watching the progress of the severe thunderstorms and the tornado warning areas.  There were several warning areas in the state.  Fortunately, all were either north or south of us, moving almost due east.  They did report one touching down in Hot Springs area, about a hundred miles southwest of us.  We all began to relax after the warnings gradually moved east of us!  Some entertainment!

Well it's getting quite late and is past time for bed.

More in a few days:

Betty and Dick

Monday 5/11
We have had an interesting and relaxing weekend.  Yesterday we got up and discovered Fred already working on his boat.  I think I mentioned he has a 20 foot pontoon boat.  He just got it back from the shop on Saturday after some engine work, and he wanted to try it out.  On their last outing, one of the plastic hinges for the bimini top broke, so he bought a set of metal ones, and was in the process of installing them, so I went out and helped him.  When we finished, we put up the top and make a couple of minor alignment adjustments.  All worked great now.

Later in the morning, Fred, Keith, and I hooked the boat to the Suburban and drove several miles to a nearby launching ramp.  we had no problem launching it and proceeded to spend a couple of very enjoyable hours on the lake.  The engine work that had just been completed seemed to all work fine.

We drove quite a distance around an island, down a straight stretch of water and around a point.  Finally we spotted the shoreline in front of his house and beached the boat there.  I ran up to the house and found the girls eating lunch.  I left with some soft drinks for the crew and we headed out again.

The lake is really pretty.  From the lake you can see the tree covered shoreline, and almost no signs of civilization.  The Corp of Engineers controls the lake, and has very stringent rules about where you can build and what you can do in the immediate vicinity of the water.  They have a "red line" around the lake which is the limit of where you can build a structure or septic system.  Closer to the lake is the "white line".  This area around the lake cannot be changed in any way by the homeowners.  As a result the shoreline is almost unchanged from the way it was when the lake was first formed.  It is really nice.

In the afternoon we all went to Greers Ferry to the Walmart store.  We picked up several items including some orange-pineapple sandwich cookies!  These are about the best "cheap" (2 pounds for $1.50) cookies I have had.  I also bought a short stepladder to replace the one I ran over at the Scholls'.  I know, I didn't say anything about that before; it was so dumb I didn't want to confess!  Next time I'll look in the added mirror I installed that lets me look across the full width of my front bumper.  This really helps when I am maneuvering at the top of my driveway, but could also be a real advantage and a safety factor if I would just get in the habit of using it anytime I drive forward!  I am also going to work on finishing one item before starting another.  In this case, I cleaned the windshield using the ladder, got distracted, then later decided to move the rig forward to hook up the Nissan while waiting for the water department man.  It also emphasized that in spite of the great visibility of a near vertical front below the windshield, there still is a significant blind spot!  In all, it was a valuable lesson learned cheaply ($9.95).

Fred is interested in getting a satellite dish (DSS or Dish) and we spent quite a bit of time discussing the different systems, and going through all the channels describing what they are and the programming they offer.  They can only get 5 or 6 channels here and some of them are weak.

This morning (Monday) we slept in.  Around 9:00 I went into the house and met the others.  Shortly after, we decided that there must be a way to get their refrigerator into the opening in the kitchen.  It was 2 inches too high, and about a quarter inch too wide.  Other than that it was fine!

We quickly discovered that the cupboard doors extended about 3 inches below the bottom of the cabinets, so the height could be obtained by merely cutting off the doors.  For now, we just removed them and cut off the mounting frames.

Measuring the width carefully revealed that the doors of the refrigerator were 36 inches wide, but the case was about 3/8 inch less.  We removed the corner molding and the baseboard molding, and cut off the baseboard on the left side slightly.  Now after moving the refrigerator from across the hall in the laundry room, we were able to eventually shoehorn it into the opening.  Hopefully this will now make things easier for Judy.  The refrigerator they have been using as their primary one is the one that came with the house.  Their nice "side by side" was across the hall as an overflow one.  Now their roles are reversed, and an added advantage is that with the smaller refrig. in the utility room, Fred can now open the door to their circuit breaker box - and even read the labels!

We relaxed, talked, ate, and did a couple of minor things on his boat.  Fairly late in the afternoon, Judy, Fred, Keith, and I headed out again with the boat and spent a couple of hours on the lake with it.  This time we put up the bimini top.  The shade was welcome.

Shortly before dinner, Keith brought in his DSS receiver and we set it up on their living room TV and set up the antenna on the front porch.  Keith looked which way my dish pointed, said "that's about the same", and had a signal!  Fred and Judy can now do some playing with this setup and learn more about what to buy.

Betty's scooter is really working well.  She uses it to ride the over 100 feet down a significant slope to the house, and then back up it again when it's time to head back to the motorhome.  I have also used it a number of times.  Today I used it to carry my HEAVY tool box from the motorhome to the house for the refrigerator job, and then back.  I sure beats carrying it!

We were going to get to bed a little earlier tonight, but I see it is now 11:45.  I guess I could rationalize that it is only 9:45 back home, but that doesn't work.

Good night,

Betty and Dick

Tuesday May 12
The last couple of days have been quite a bit warmer.  We had a high today of 91 with moderate humidity.

This was really a lazy day!  

Betty and I drove around the area by ourselves this morning for a couple of hours checking out most of the campgrounds and launch ramps around this part of the lake.  We drove around five different campgrounds, all within a half hour drive of the Pfafmans.

After returning and having lunch, we all sat around for most of the rest of the day talking and napping, with a little satellite TV thrown in.

This evening we made plans for tomorrow's trek to some caves and a place called Mountain View.  More about them after I see what they are.

Wednesday, May 13
This morning we got up and had breakfast.  I then filled our fresh water tank with the help of 2 25 foot hoses from Keith, 2 25 foot and one 10 foot of Fred's, and my 2 25's.  Altogether the 160 feet of water hose was just right to reach my tank filler.  I was beginning to wish I had brought my other 25 foot hose the dealer gave me when we bought this motorhome.  I have always figured that I'd never need more than 50 feet.  I'm now rethinking that one.

Virg stayed home to baby sit the dogs (and to do some laundry, bake our dinner, and make a couple of desserts for us).  Thanks Virg!  The rest of us piled into the Pfafmans' Suburban and headed for Mountain View and Fifty One (really, it's the name of a town).  In Fifty One is located the Blanchard Springs Caverns, the only caverns operated by the U.S. Forest Service.  

We signed up for our tour which was scheduled to start in 15 minutes and headed into the auditorium to see the film of the caverns.  Well before the film was over we had to go back for the start of the tour.

We first went into the "big room".  It was gorgeous.  They had many of the formations lighted.  There was a large column near the center of the room.  It looked impressive, but not really all that magnificent from this angle.  Later after we had moved about 90 degrees around it, the guide turned on some spot lights.  From here it was spectacular!  There were many layers of "curtains" of various colors.  Also from this angle, the width of the column was probably over 20 feet.  It stands over 60 feet high.

Although the tour was wheelchair accessible, there were very steep up and down grades to negotiate, some of them wet.  We managed OK although my feet started to slip on one of the up grades.  After getting home I was shown an excerpt from an Arkansas book describing this tour.  They stated that you need one or more "brawny" pushers for wheelchairs.  Now they tell me!

We thoroughly enjoyed the cavern tour!

We next drove to Mountain View.  This is billed as the Folk Music capital of the world.  They also have numerous quaint shops.  The first store we went in was basically a iron goods store, but they had quite an assortment of very lifelike ceramic animals.  Keith was immediately drawn to very striking life size wolf head.  After a little debate with himself, he bought it for Virg.

We then went to an old time drug store, complete with soda fountain and small tables with iron chairs.  We each had an ice cream and they were all delicious.

There was a small group of musicians starting to tune up, and we went over to observe.  It turns out that only one was strumming his guitar, trying to get the others going.  We were assured that they would start for real around 7:30.  As that was still a couple of hours, we headed home.

Shortly after getting home, we had dinner.  Boy am I overeating!  It was delicious though!

After dinner, Keith set up the wolf head on the dining room table while Virg was outside.  When she came in, she was somewhat startled, but really likes it!

Tomorrow we try to repair a crack that appeared this morning in the floor of their bathtub / shower.  Apparently the floor was not too well supported, and the constant flexing finally caused it to crack.  I warned them that our repair would be functional, but not pretty!

It's getting late now, more tomorrow.

Hi again,

Thursday May 14
Well the last message went out by surprise.  I had been writing a little each day and saving it.  This morning when I connected to receive my email, out went my message.  I must have hit the SEND button last night instead of the SAVE.  The only problem was I had not proof-read it, and there were a couple of spelling errors.  Sorry.  (There were some in earlier ones too as I keep forgetting my new email program has spell checking.)

Today we went to the hardware store and got some supplies to repair the Pfafmans' bathtub.  First we drilled a 5/16 hole at each end of the crack.  This served as both a stop-hole, to prevent the crack from spreading, and an inspection hole.  We then went under the house and drilled a 1 1/4 hole up through the sub-floor.  We found a gap between the floor and the tub of between 1/4 and 3/8 inch.  The supplies we bought were a can of foam-in-place insulation and a tube of a product called Lexen.  This is a clear sealant which was recommended by Fred's contractor.

We were able to get the foam dispenser tube through the inspection holes and into the gap.  We then squirted the foam at the full length of the tube, then pulled it part way out and did some more.  We repeated this in multiple directions from each hole.  When we finished, foam was slowly extruding itself out of each hole.  It also seeped up through the crack itself.  Hopefully the foam will harden to a sufficient degree that the flexure of the tub bottom will be small enough that the coating of Lexen will hold.  It is very clear and smells about like Duco cement, although it is much more rubbery.

Fred is going to check with a man who was referred to him today about having a permanent, and cosmetically excellent repair made.  The steps we have done should not interfere with the repair and will allow them to start using the shower by tomorrow.

Late in the day, Virg noticed blood in Maggie's urine. Maggie is  one of their dogs.  After a number of phone calls, they found a vet who would stay over and see them.  He was over an hour's drive, so Fred took Keith, Virg, Maggie, and Honey (their other dog).  About 3 hours later all the people and half the dogs returned.  Maggie had to stay overnight and have some tests.  We'll find out more tomorrow.  The prices this vet charged were very reasonable, especially for an after-hours emergency!

After dinner we played the tape I made during their absence of Promised Land.  This was the season finale, and Virg and Judy have been following it.

We have been figuring out our schedule for the next few days.  Fred and Judy's contractor is scheduled to start Monday morning and have all the grading done to pour foundations on Tuesday!  Fred and Judy have to move some plants from the front of the house and move their vehicles, including their 28 foot Hi-Lo trailer.  We figure we will leave Saturday afternoon, leaving them free for church and chores on Sunday.

Time for bed, more tomorrow.

Friday, May 15
Today the job was to move the rocks that lined the front flower beds to a pile well clear of the construction.  After about a half hour of pushing the wheelbarrow uphill to a small cluster of trees to dump the rocks, they were all moved.  That was it for today!  We spent the rest of the day comparing GPS's, observing the waves on the lake, and discussing satellite systems.

Virg called the vet today, and was told that he wanted to keep Maggie one more day.  Her lab results were in, but he needed one more test.

We finally got to take Judy and Fred out to dinner.  With only Honey at home, she could be left in the motorhome for a couple of hours without supervision.  When both dogs are there, their behavior is sometimes a problem.  We went to a restaurant in Greers Ferry.  Their specialty was a seafood buffet.  It was great.

It's getting to be "sad time".  Tomorrow we leave provided all works out OK with Maggie.  It is nice to be able to say "This is our plan, but if it slips, no problem!"

I'll be sending this in the morning.  From now on, my i'net access gets more difficult.  Hopefully I can still connect at least once a week.  Talk to you soon.

Dick and Betty

Sunday, May 17
Yesterday we started to pack up and get ready to leave the Pfafmans'.  

Keith and Virg went back to the vet and picked up Maggie.  They also had a supply of pills for her.  She should be fine.

We said a sad goodbye and headed out fairly late in the afternoon.  We stopped at a park not too far from the Pfafmans.  

This morning we headed for Memphis.  It was not a bad drive, around 250 miles.  We stopped here at the Memphis Agricenter, about 10 miles east of Memphis.  This is a fairgrounds-like complex.  There are over 500 RV sites on a large grassy area.  There is electrical service and water.

After arriving around mid-afternoon, Keith and Virg took off to locate the church in Memphis where they were married, and the house they first lived in after being married.  They had been here for about three months while Keith took some training with the Navy.

They succeeded in finding the church.  They say it looks almost as it did over 40 years ago.  As they suspected, the house, which was old back then, is no longer there.

Betty and I took a look around the local area.  We stopped at a 24 hour Wal-mart and picked up some vegetables and window cleaner.  I had brought a large refill bottle of cleaner and a spray bottle with us.  The spray pump broke at Forest Lakes and I've had to just pour the cleaner onto a paper towel to clean my windshield.  It will be great to be able to spray the glass again!  On our way back we stopped at Chili's and had dinner.

We are heading to the area of the Great Smokey Mountains next, but it looks like it is just a little over a comfortable day's travel, so we plan to stop in Crossville, TN (the home of Trade-A-Plane).

Tuesday, May 19
Yesterday we drove a little over 300 miles to Crossville TN as we had planned.  We stayed at a park called Bean Pot on Peavine Road.  The spots were fully tree covered and very nice.  Keith and Virg had a full hookup site, but I saved a buck and got one with only water and electric.  We were just in front of them.  We both put our DSS dishes out.  There was no way my rooftop dish would get anything through the tree cover.  I had to work quite a bit to find a spot which had a view through openings in the trees, but was finally successful.  Keith picked a spot in front of his motorhome that looked like it might just get through a small hole in the trees.  He hooked it up, pointed it, and had a great signal!  Some people have all the luck!  That evening we watched the series finale of Murphy Brown and then a 50th anniversary Ed Sullivan program.  It's nice to have some elements of home with us as we travel.  We would not have seen much if we relied on the local stations the last couple of nights.  

This morning we headed the last 100 miles to Kodak, TN to the Smokey Mountain Campground.  The drive was smooth and relaxing until we reached Knoxville.  There they combined 3 lanes of I-40 and a couple of on ramps into a single lane.  After about a half hour of mostly-stopped-occasionally-a-car-length travel, we got to the actual merge.  The single lane was for a short length of sandblasting a line off the road way to the left edge of the road.  There were two empty lanes between us and the workers!  There has to be a better way!

We got into camp around 1:00 PM EDT (we lost another hour today).  We have two grassy sites under the trees at the bottom of the campground.  This is one loop lower than we were when Betty and I stayed here October '96.  Again my rooftop DSS dish is not in line with any holes through the trees, but I got an easy shot with the portable dish just off the front corner of the motorhome.

We think we will just stay here through Sunday night and miss most of the Memorial Day mess.  If we leave here on Monday, we should have no problem finding a camp that night.  In the meantime, there are many places we can visit using the Nissan.  Much easier than driving the motorhome.

We may have scattered showers tomorrow, but in whole the weather looks like it will be very good for us.  It has been great so far this trip.

I'm not sure I specifically mentioned that Keith and Virg decided to continue on to the Great Smokey Mountains with us.  Originally they were going to leave for home from either the Pfafmans' or from Memphis.  We are so glad to have a few more days of their companionship!  We will probably part company from this campground. 

Till later,

Betty and Dick

Friday May 22
As you may have noticed, I did get connected finally yesterday using the campground pay phone.  The problem I was having was the S37 setting in the modem initialization string.  This is a control of how fast the modem tries to connect.  By default it tries at 14,400 (the maximum for this modem).  As you can only connect at about 2400 baud using my acoustic coupler with a pay phone, it will try at the maximum speed, then when that fails it will try the next lower, etc.  Before enough time passes to work its way down to 2400, the Internet provider's system times out and hangs up.  I had tried several modem settings by trial and error with no success.  Then our son David to the rescue!  I called him Tuesday and asked him look up the values for S37.  I called back Wednesday evening and got the answers.  Thursday morning when I tried it worked!  Thanks Dave!

Wednesday, we started by going to a satellite TV dealer we spotted close to the campground.  I have had trouble getting a strong signal with my portable DSS dish.  It has been banged around more than it should have been and has gotten somewhat bent.  After some discussion of which way to go, he offered me a used RCA dish and LNB for $45.  This sounded great to me and after connecting it and making some other adjustments I got a signal strength of about 80.  This was a big improvement over the 43 I had gotten with the bent Sony.

We then continued to explore the areas of Sevierville and Pigeon Forge.  We went to an outlet center (they have several) which was supposed to have a Sony factory store.  When we got there, there was a Coleman camping goods store there instead.  Sony closed out around January.  What a bummer!  We did pick up a couple of things at the Fuller Brush store and continued on.

We stopped at the Apple Farm and got several trinkets.  I got an apple "lathe".  It cores and slices the apple into a continuous spiral and optionally peels it.  I have wanted one ever since one time we were visiting Dave and family when Carolyn pulled hers out and sliced several apples.  I don't eat whole apples any more, but these sliced ones are great!

On our way home we stopped at a Cracker Barrel store and restaurant.  We had stopped at one in Nashville on our last trip and really enjoyed it.  At this one, we probably had the best waitress we have encountered!  She was originally from Phoenix, but had lived in the South most of her life.  She was very pleasant, and was astounded when I asked what dumplins were.  I had thought they were what turned out to be hush puppies.  She explained what they were and said they were absolutely her favorite.  When I ordered them with my chicken strip and shrimp dinner, she said if I didn't like them, she would bring me some corn instead (which is what I had started to order).  Shortly after bringing me my dinner, she brought me a dish of corn "just in case".  I loved the dumplins!

When we finished what we could, we asked for take home containers and mentioned that the remainder would be a good dinner for the next night.  She said we should have some biscuits with that and brought us 4 large baking powder biscuits and butter to put in our take home boxes.  My kind of waitress!  Big tip!

We browsed the store for a while.  Betty found several items of interest.  It was impossible to walk around the store without "setting off" a number of items.  Each time you walked in front of any of several stuffed monkeys they would emit a wolf whistle and say "I love you".  Walking past several stuffed frogs would result in loud "rivet, rivet, rivet"'s.  Passing a Coke can on the shelf would cause it to open its lid and say "Put a nickel in the can" several times.  The topper was a life size sunflower in a pot.  When you passed it, lighted eyes, nose, and mouth would appear and it would start singing an animated "You are my Sunshine"!  These gadgets were all cute and technologically amazing, but would get old very quickly.  They were already quite annoying by the time we finished in the store.

Thursday we left fairly early and did our major Smokey Mountain Tour.  We cut over from Pigeon Forge along a beautiful country road to Townsend.  From there we followed the signs to the Tuckaleechee Caverns.  I checked them out and found they are not accessible by wheelchair at all.  There are many steps along the 1 1/4 hour tour.

From there, we headed over to Cades Cove.  On the way we were in tall trees most of the way.  Sometimes the trees would combine way above the road, and it was like driving through a beautiful green tunnel.  Much of the way we were alongside The Little River.

At Cades Cove there is an 11 mile loop drive (one way, 20 mph.) with a number of the original buildings of the area.  There are several cabins of the local population well over a hundred years old.  

We stopped at the primitive Baptist church.  This was a spartan wood building with wood plank pews, and a small raised platform at the front with a front rail.

Shortly later we encountered the Missionary Baptist Church.  A number of members had been kicked out of the Baptist Church because they thought the church should do missionary work.  This church was then formed by the outcasts.

Then we came across the Methodist church.  Organized in the 1820's, this building was built in about 1902.  It was a similar building to the others, except there were two doors on the front.  The women and children would enter the left door, and the men the right.  There was a barrier down the center of the church separating them once inside, "causing frustration among courting couples".  This church was built by one man.  J.D. McCampbell, who built it in 115 days for $115.  He then became its preacher for many years.  We need to find more like him when its time for a building program!

At one point on the loop we came upon a number of cars stopped all over the road.  Some were to the right, some to the left, and some stopped in the road itself.  A large number of people were standing at one point along the road.  A ways past them was a Black Bear ambling along a shallow valley in the forest.  We maneuvered our way through the cars and went around a bend in the road where we could pull off.  I got out and got a fair amount of video of the bear from the side, as he waddled through the woods.

A short time later, we turned onto a side road and immediately saw several deer just off the side of the road.

In the middle of the loop, we came upon the visitor's center which was at the Cable Mill Area.  This included a farmhouse, a mill house, and several outbuildings.  The mill was fed by a very long flume which got its water from the river, transported it over a length of the river, and poured water onto the wheel.  There were a number of minor leaks in the flume, but all the leakage merely fell back into the river, and enough water remained in the flume to power the wheel.  The wheel drove a gear about 12 to 15 feet in diameter.  This drove a step up gear, a bevel gear, and another step up gear.  This then drove the grinding stone.  The mill was in operation grinding corn when we were there, as it has been for over 130 years.  

The milled corn is used by the caretakers of the mill, but the product that is sold to the park visitors is brought in to sell.  The local board of health, in their infinite wisdom, told them they would have to replace much of the mill with stainless steel parts to be able to sell the product.  I doubt that the result would retain much of the historical significance of the mill!

After completing the loop road, and leaving Cades Cove, we stopped at the Sugarlands Visitors Center and got ice cream cones at their refreshment stand.  We then left the national park, and came home through Gatlinburg.  This, like Pigeon Forge is one great commercial area.  This seems like a much more expensive resort area with many good looking motels and restaurants, and more classy looking shops.  Pigeon Forge, on the other hand is just full of amusement rides, bungy jumping towers, cheesy gift shops, helicopter rides, fast food places, etc.

We got back to camp in occasional light sprinkles.  A little while later we got more significant rain as a couple of thundershowers went through the area.  Nashville had some severe t'storms with some wind damage, but we just had brief rain.  It is quite muggy!

It was an interesting, but tiring day!

Today (Friday), we stayed at camp until about noon.  We then headed over to the Old Mill, in Pigeon Forge.  It was just about a block off the main drag, and consisted of an early 1800's mill and a number of shops in the immediate vicinity.  The mill wheel was running from a local supply of water from the river.  There was a weir built across the river to give it the several foot drop needed to power the mill.  The water was poured into the wheel very low, only about a third of the diameter up from the bottom.  The original wooden mill wheel had been replaced by an all steel one in 1988, so it had a much more sterile look than Cable Mill in Cades Cove.

We didn't get a chance to see the interior of the mill as it was not wheelchair accessible, so I don't know if it is still really working or if just the main wheel is going around.  I went under the mill along the river and saw an overhead shaft that used to power several different machines.  It was not turning anymore, and only the pulleys and some of the belts remained.  It would be interesting to see what had been driven by it in the past.

We went into several other stores in the area.  We went into the local "Cathouse".  A converted home selling everything related to or picturing cats.  I had to drag Betty's wheelchair up a couple of steps to get in.  Many of the shops in this area were not wheelchair accessible!

We then went into a place called Pigeon Forge Pottery.  Here they had a gallery displaying their products.  After going around looking at all their products, we noticed an open door to the factory.  We asked, and were told that we were welcome to go in there.  First we saw a lady at a potters wheel forming vases and bowls from wads of raw clay.  There was also a lady finishing mugs that had been cast.  She had to clean all the parting lines and clean up all the edges and curves.  She then explained the many steps required to make their products.

We then went into the kiln room which was quite warm.  All the product seconds were on a small table in there.  Betty picked out a small vase that had a tiny pin-hole in the glaze.  For this it was half price.

After leaving the Old Mill area, we went even closer to the campground and out to Douglas Dam and Lake.  This is a Tennessee Valley Authority project.  We explored one of the public campgrounds on the river just below the dam and drove to the overview areas.  It is a beautiful and quite large lake.

This evening we have been watching all the empty campsites around us slowly fill up for the 3 day weekend.  It will be interesting to see how full they get.  I just hope the space immediately next to us stays vacant!  It is quite close.

I expect that we will mostly relax this weekend and not try to do too much in the traffic of town.

Betty and Dick

Sunday, May 24
Yesterday I went up to the Foretravel office and they immediately invited me to the room where their FAX resides.  "Just unplug the phone line from the FAX and plug it into your computer" they said.  In two minutes I had sent 3 messages and received 8.  (Of the 8, 5 were junk mail!  This is typical.)

Foretravel is the maker of high-line motorhomes.  I think their pricing starts at about $250,000!  This campground is built just south of and adjacent to the Foretravel dealer lot in Kodak, TN and is owned by Foretravel.  There are a lot of very nice coaches in this park!  One of the three other Foretravel owned dealership in the country is located in Escondido.

Yesterday was the day for chores.  I re-mounted my intermittent windshield wiper control box on the side of my dash.  I had stuck it there with what I thought was my favorite adhesive - a black sticky rubber.  My exhaust brake control is mounted with this and it works great.  This rubber, however, just made the naugahyde gooey, and a couple of days into our trip, it fell off.  I finally cleaned the gunk off the dash and drove a couple of screws into it.

I bought some 1/4 - 20 wing nuts and replaced several of the self locking nuts on my new DSS dish with them.  I can now easily adjust the elevation when setting up, and easily remove the dish from the brackets when taking down.  This will allow much easier storage when it is not in use.

I dumped our tanks, added yet another quart of oil to the engine (not a trivial task the way they built the oil filler), sawed off the steel bar I was given to replace my tow bar hold-up hook by the man at Bean Pot, and finished forming the hook.  I use this hook to hold my tow bar on the back of the motorhomes.  I find this a lot more convenient than stowing it on the front of the Nissan as it is designed.

Then I attacked the major task:  I ripped out the defective cruise control from the Nissan and installed the new one I bought just before our trip.  I over-optimistically thought I could get it installed before leaving, but ended up just throwing it on the back floor of the car.  Several hours after starting, it was done!  The job was made somewhat easier by using brackets and wiring from the previous cruise.  This one seems to work just great, and will make some of our planned side trips much less tiring!

We waited until fairly late, then headed for Wal-mart.  On the way we stopped at Wendy's and had a $2.30 (for both) dinner.  We bought such boring things as milk, soap, and Gatorade along with some interesting things like a dowel, epoxy, and some crimp electrical lugs, and headed back for camp.

We had a couple of brief showers yesterday, but none in the evening.  It is a nice temperature, but still quite muggy.

Now for today (still Sunday,)

We did a couple of additional chores this morning.  I removed the ring around the fuel filler cap.  This was mounted to the outer wall of the motorhomes with several screws.  The seal was made with a very sticky putty.  If the diesel fuel spills over at all (which it often does), it attacks the putty and makes a black gooey mess down the side of the motorhome.  I bought a bottle of rubbing alcohol last night, and it marginally attacked the putty.  After about an hour, and a half roll of paper towels, I got both the ring and the wall of the motorhomes fairly clean.  I then remounted it using silicon rubber bathtub seal.  This should withstand the fuel much better.

The other task was to epoxy the dish mounting bolts into the new DSS dish I just got.  It should be much easier to assemble and disassemble if the bolts are part of the dish, and won't fall out.  I think my projects on this dish are now finished.

We watched part of the Indy 500, then went to a local series of shops Betty has wanted to see.  We were gone a little over an hour.  

One of the things we saw at this "mini-mall" was an "old" mill.  The only problem with this mill was that it all looked brand new.  The rock foundation was all bright and clean, the wood paneling and housing structure was all new and unweathered.  Inside, the floor was concrete with a rock design painted on.  The mill wheel was all steel, and the flume had large gaps in the wood, but no water leaking out.  Do you suppose they really had a pipe in that flume?

The clerk assured me that this was really an old mill that had just been moved to this site and new paneling installed.  I went upstairs and saw that this appeared to be really true.  The gears were made entirely of wood with 2 x 6 sized teeth, covered with a white grease.  It was really milling corn.  There was an old gentleman up there running things.  He talked to me almost constantly, and I couldn't understand a thing he said!

When we got back, the race had been finished for a minute or two.  We then saw the more spectacular portions on replay.

Tomorrow morning we will be leaving here.  The Scholls will be heading for Birmingham, Alabama and we will be heading for the area south of the Smokeys.  Our drive is only a little over 100 miles, so we will be in no hurry to leave.

Time to pack up the computer and get ready for bed.

Monday, May 25
We got up this morning and started packing for real.  I dumped and packed away the DSS dish, and we got all the cabinets loaded and secured.

About 9:00, Scholls were ready to leave and we said our sad goodbye's.   We did one last test of the CB's and were able to maintain contact until a short time after they reached the interstate.  This is a major improvement over how it was before we did the antenna work at their place.  The CB's worked very well while we were caravanning; I would not consider trying it without them!

After the Scholls left, we finished up our preparations.  Something less than an hour later, we were all packed and had the Nissan hitched up.  We headed for the Ashville, North Carolina area.  Actually we went to Sylva, NC.  We are now on the southern edge of the Great Smokey Mountain park instead of the northern side.  We could have driven straight through the center of the park and saved some miles, but we took I-40, then other roads East along the top of the park, South down the side, and back West under the park.  More miles, but I am sure less time!  We did not experience any extra traffic due to it being Memorial Day.  Actually I think we had less due to the time of day we were driving.

We are staying at the Fort Tatham park in Sylva.  We have a full hookup pull-through spot which is totally shaded just about all day long.  I didn't even try the rooftop antenna, as there is a tree which has high branches totally covering our roof.  I was able to set the portable dish just in front of one of our trees, with a clear shot.

There are quite a few "permanent" residents here.  Many are the typical trailers or fith-wheels.  However, there are a number of what at first appear to be cabins around the edges of the park.  Upon closer look, there is a trailer or fith-wheel "built in" each of them.  It appears that there is typically a front porch and a one or two room house built right alongside the RV.  In some cases, the RV is even painted the same color as the cabin.  It appears that the RV's are permanently built in now.  As the campground is closed from November through March, these are all seasonal homes.

This afternoon, we drove into the national park from the North Carolina side.  On our way we passed another old mill.  We stopped and I went in to check accessibility.  It was not at all accessible with steps to enter, and steps inside to go from one area to another.  I chatted with the owner who ran an extensive trinket shop in the mill.  He said the mill had not been operational for about ten years when some kids broke in and apparently threw something into the gears.  Several teeth were broken and the main shaft was bent.  Since then, the wheel has just gone around without driving anything.  He grinds his flour and corn meal at a friend's mill two nights a week.

We drove a few miles into the park, stopped at the visitor center, and then went about a half mile more and stopped at the Mingus Mill (yeah, this is our trip for mills!).

This was a particularly interesting mill.  It is turbine driven.  There was the typical long flume running high above the river, ending at the top of a tall tower about 25 feet high.  Under the building, at river level was the turbine.  It was a sphere about 2 feet in diameter.  A pipe from the bottom of the water tower entered the side with the exhaust water just dropping into the stream.  A shaft went vertically from the turbine to a pulley and belt which reduced the speed by a factor of 2.  The caretaker told me that the turbine runs about 740 rpm at full 25 foot head of water, and showed me a spare turbine impeller which is about 12 inches in diameter.  

In the mill building are two sets of grinding stones, only one of which can run at a time.  The belts below are set up so that the operator can move levers upstairs and tighten or slacken the belts to switch between the two mills.  Very interesting!

He was grinding at the rate of about 1 bushel a day.  He stated that he could grind as much as 7 bushels an hour.  As with the other park mill, the flour he was grinding could not be sold.  They buy their salable product from another mill which is FDA approved.  In addition to having certain parts of stainless steel, the main problem is having visitors!  The approved mill allows no visitors!

We then returned home via the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It is absolutely beautiful!  This is the third time we have driven portions of this drive.  I don't intend it to be the last!

We prepaid for 2 nights here, but may end up staying as long as 4.  We'll see how long it takes to see the sights.

More later,

Dick and Betty

Tuesday, May 26
Hi all,

Well my attempt to send the last messages this afternoon on the pay phone was successful on the first try.  Maybe the acoustic coupler maker knows what he is talking about that in general, phone company phones work and independent ones don't!  (At our last campground, the manager said that is a pretty good rule for voice use also!)

This morning we left on a drive from camp following a loop of about 75 miles.  We left southbound on hwy 23 / 441 to Franklin.  This was a 4 lane "back road".  At Franklin we took hwy 64 toward Highlands.  As we started on this road there were signs about narrow winding roads with 20 mph maximum safe speeds in a number of places "next 40 miles".  The sign makers knew what they were talking about.  The only problem we had was the terror of 4 axle dump trucks coming toward us, well over the speed limit, with their left wheels on our side of the double yellow lines!  I definitely would not drive the motorhome here!

Actually it was a very pleasant drive.  This stretch yielded us 3 waterfalls.  The first one, the Cullasaja Falls, were a multi-level set of falls dropping about 250 feet.   We had a good view from a turnoff along the road.

The next set we came to were the Dry Falls.  They were anything but dry!  This was certainly not wheelchair accessible.  I paid my access fee and hiked down 75 steps and a whole bunch of steep trail.  The falls were a high volume 75 foot drop.  At the bottom the trail passed right under the falls.  Unfortunately, that part of the trail was gated off with a sign saying it would re-open when the fence along the edge was replaced.  The existing fence was laying flat for much of the length.  The falls were very pretty and I got a bunch of video of them.

The last falls we saw on this drive were the Bridal Veil Falls.  These came down right at the edge of the road.  In fact the road originally passed right under them!  Now the old road exists as a short loop off the current road.  We drove under the falls twice, once each way.

The rest of the drive was through very pretty country.  We passed a couple of gorgeous lakes and passed through several small towns.  We passed through Highlands and Cashiers.  From there we headed home on 107.

Wednesday, May 27
Today was our main trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We entered the parkway close to Sylva and headed toward Asheville. The parkway ranged from very pretty to spectacular.   When we started, the road edges and median were covered with very lush green grass.  As we approached Asheville, we noticed slight brown tinting and several small areas where the grass itself was dried brown, but still really pretty.

After about 65  miles we were at Asheville where we exited and found the AAA office.  We picked up some maps and re-entered the parkway.  A few miles later we exited at the Folk Art Center.

This was a visitor center which specialized in hand crafted items.  They have a museum which was currently featuring crafted iron and steel items.  There were beautiful candle holders of all sizes, fireplace tools and ornate screens, doors and gates, furniture and small ornaments.

Next door in the library (no books, just decorated walls) were a large number of photographs all done by the same photographer.

Downstairs was a large gift shop carrying a large variety of craft items.  These were all very high quality.  There were no typical souvenir type junk items.  The items ranged from several dollars to several thousand dollars.  We stayed with the former!

In the midst of shopping there was a PA announcement that there would be a ranger giving a talk on the local bats in the auditorium in 5 minutes.  We went right over and sat in the front of probably about 200 seats.  Sortly a young lady ranger came in and gave us her slide show talk on bats.  It was just the three of us!  She indicated that it was not unusual to have a very small audience.  The clientele at the center isn't usually the type that go to bat lectures.  She said there is a much better turnout when she gives her talk at the campground!

While we were at the center, two thunderstorms passed over and dropped fairly heavy rain.  While we were outside and during the drive to and from the center, it was dry.

During this drive (and somewhat before) the Nissan just wasn't feeling quite right.  At high RPM's there was just a little hesitation, and it didn't have quite the normal power.  It got to be bad enough that I could not maintain normal speed up some of the steeper grades.  I think North Carolina has two types of roads:  steep uphill, and steep downhill!

On or way back to camp, we stopped at Wal-Mart and bought a set of spark plugs and a new air filter.  I also bought a new headlight bulb as a lady had pulled up alongside me earlier and told me one was out while I still had them on from driving the parkway.

I put them in when we got back to camp and decided I should replace the distributor cap and rotor while was at it.  I drove the 8 or 10 miles into Franklin to see if I could find an auto parts store.  (Wal-Mart doesn't carry them.)  I drove in and quickly drove up and down the main streets.  Not finding any auto parts stores, I stopped and asked at a gas station and was told that the last one closed about 10 minutes before.  Oh well!  The car did seem to run better.

Thursday, May 28
Betty planned a drive of about 200 miles for us today.  We drove a series of scenic roads across the state border into Georgia.  We spent a couple of hours poking around in Georgia.  The roads we took carried us through a number of small towns.  The general character of GA is different from N. Carolina.  The roads and forests just look different - still beautiful, but different.

We poked around a TVA power plant which has a public recreation area.  We drove through the various roads and saw the view of the lake and dam from the overview.  There was a picnic area, rest rooms, and some open area.  The whole time we were there, there was not another person in sight.

We had been told to go to Georgia to buy our gas.  The prices we saw ranged from 86 cents to the low 90's for regular unleaded!  Do you think we are paying just a little too much in California?  We filled up and headed back for the campground.

As we approached Franklin, we spotted an auto parts store!  I ran in and got my distributor cap, rotor, and a new fuel filter just for good measure.  After getting back to camp trying unsuccessfully to get on the Internet a number of times while letting the engine cool down, I went out to put the new parts in.  Both the distributor cap and the rotor were wrong!  I was not a happy camper!  Between the severe frustration of not getting connected in so many tries and the wrong parts, I felt sorry for Betty having to put up with me, so I went back to Franklin to change the parts.

When I finally found the place again, he checked his computer and said those were the parts he showed.  He then asked if it came from Canada.  When I said no, California, he said "Oh that too, Canadian and Californian parts are different".  He then got me the correct parts and refunded me over $8 for the difference in price.

I let the car cool while Betty and I ran a couple loads of laundry over at the office.  I then put the distributor parts and the fuel filter in.  All fit just fine!  

While we were doing the laundry, we met a lady who lives in one of the "cabins" for the full season.  She introduced us to the lady who with her husband owns (but does not run) this and several other campgrounds.  She lives just next to the office building.  She let me unplug the phone from her fax machine and send and receive my messages.  After 56 seconds of connect time all was sent and received.  I have spent well over an hour and many, many dollars on my phone card trying to send those messages!  There has to be a better way!

Tomorrow we leave for Greenville, South Carolina.  It will be another short drive of a little over 100 miles.

Friday, May 29
We did not hurry this morning, as we had a fairly short drive and didn't want to arrive too early.  Our "next door" neighbors, Chuck and Sylvia, who were driving a Bounder and towing a car on a tow dolly were leaving this morning also.  After helping Chuck with his tow dolly, I am happier than ever with my tow bar.

Part of the process with a tow dolly is to drive the car up on the ramps and to strap the tires securely to the dolly.  Normally the dolly tips forward as you drive the car on.  Here the car was on an up-slope and would not tip the dolly.  Chuck slowly drove his rig forward while the ramps cut grooves in the grass.  When he got the car to a more level section, he and I were able to just tip the dolly forward by standing on the very front of the ramps and pushing from the fender.  After tipping it once, he called Sylvia to get on the other side and she and I were able to tip it again.  Now Chuck was able to put in the pin that holds it in the driving position.

We left a little while later and headed toward Greenville, South Carolina.  About 110 miles later we were approximately there.  Betty lead us according to our map to the Paris Mountain State Park.  The only problem is there were no signs and pretty soon we knew the park was behind us.  After turning around a couple of times (very tricky with our rig!) we decided to head toward the city and come back following the directions from there.  Shortly later we actually saw a sign for the park!  A sharp turn to the right and we were on the right road.  It turns out that the park is fairly well signed heading from Greenville, but from the other direction, there are no signs at all!  

We picked a nice pull-through site with lots of trees alongside, but not over us.  I didn't know if the roof DSS antenna would clear the trees or not, so I tried it and got a 76!  That's higher than I get at home!

We decided to drive the Nissan and check out Greenville.  It is a larger city then I had realized.  I think this is another case where the population grew faster than the infrastructure.  The traffic was terrible!  Maybe I've just gotten used to the quiet backroads.  It is a pretty old city with quite a few dilapidated buildings.  Anyway, we decided to try to find the AAA to get a map of Greenville so we could find our way around.  (Is this a chicken and egg situation, or what?)  We found the street where it was supposed to be about half way between two major cross streets.  It is clearly shown on the East side of the street on a little capsule map of the city on the back of the state map.  We drove several times between the two cross streets and could not find it.  We passed a large Sears near one end of this stretch and went in to buy me some shorts.  My only pair, which we had bought during our year in New Jersey in 1994 had a major button failure!  The steel top button pulled through the fabric.

While we were in buying two pairs of shorts (now my last 4 pairs of short have been bought in east coast states), we asked the location of the AAA.  We were told very definitively, that it was near the far end of our stretch of road, on the West side!  We went back again and still could not find it!  We stopped at a store near that end and asked again.  Now we were told that it was around the corner, just past the Baptist Church.  Again, nothing!

We gave up and decided that since finding the AAA was our principal need for the map, that we could get along without it just fine.  We headed back to the motorhome.

The Nissan cruise control has been working great except that once in a while it would disengage.  I finally figured out that 3000 rpm is the maximum it will allow.  If I have it engaged, and exceed 3000 rpm by either going down hill, or by over-riding the throttle, the cruise will disengage.  Other than that, it is working flawlessly!  Looks like I need to change a DIP switch setting to change the speed ratios.

Saturday, May 30
We woke up this morning to the gentle "plink, plink" of a very light rain on our rubber roof.  With that, we just turned over and went back to sleep.  After doing this several times, we finally got up.  After breakfast, we headed out on our sightseeing trip of the day.

We headed North to the little town of Pickens.  We then went up to a designated scenic by-way (listed by Reader's Digest as the most scenic in SC).  We drove this for a number of miles and then cut south to Spartanburg.  Along this stretch of road we finally stopped at a stand advertising boiled peanuts.  We have been seeing them for a while now and wanted to find out what they were.

When I asked, the lady opened a large pot and used a scooper to pick up a number of soggy peanuts, in the shell.  She offered one to me, and another for Betty.  They remind me somewhat of pinto beans.  They are soft, with a taste quite different from roasted peanuts.  They really are quite good.  We bought a small freezer bag.  When she filled it with a full scoop, I figured she was going to have to dump some back to close the bag.  Instead she put the bag in a plastic shopping bag, and added another scoop!

A little while later we got on an interstate quite near the northern border and almost immediately came upon a Welcome Center.  I went in and picked up a South Carolina map, and a glossy covered booklet.  The booklet had quite a good map of Greenville.  Now we could figure out where we were!

A short time later, we saw a billboard for a farm store which had peaches and fireworks.  Betty has been hoping to get some Georgia peaches, but has resigned herself to the fact that it is just a little too early in the season.  South Carolina peaches are a close second!

This store had some "Early Reds".  It also had a whole lot of fireworks!  There were kits ranging from "free with xxx purchase" to $250.  He said he just sold $450 worth to a man a little earlier.  SC is one of the few states to still allow class C fireworks.  This includes firecrackers and sky rockets, along with all the lesser products.  As the clerk said, "It is a fast way to see your money go up in smoke!"

We ended up buying a 1/2 peck of peaches, some peach cider, and some Vidalia Onion dressing.  No, we didn't get any fireworks!

He had some Vidalia Onions, which are a very sweet tasting onion, and said they are the most labor intensive product he has.  If one onion spoils, they will all spoil almost immediately.  He has to frequently go through each bag removing those starting to go and replace them with good ones.  He says what most people who buy them do to keep them is to put them in panty hose and tie a knot between each onion. 

Georgia is supposed to have the best gas prices, but SC comes in very close.  We stopped along the interstate and filled up the Nissan for .879 a gallon.  We also spotted a station with diesel at .979 a gallon.  We will stop there with the motorhome in the morning.  It is really great to see the gallons as a bigger number than the dollars!

We then made one more stop.  We stopped at a Cracker Barrel and had our lunch/dinner.  This one was much more crowded than the one in Sevierville, and the waitress was just ordinary-nice, but we had a very good meal and brought home enough for a good dinner tomorrow also.  Their gift shop wasn't quite as booby-trapped with the singing flowers, croaking frogs, and begging Coke cans, but they were there!

After a slightly damp start today, we had a pretty dry day.  Several times I had to run my wipers on intermittent, but mostly it was dry, and with the overcast sky, somewhat cooler!

The Nissan is really making it great to get back into the country and see the areas we are visiting.  The last few days, we have put several times as many miles on the Nissan as on the motorhome.

Tomorrow, we head back to North Carolina, through Charlotte on to nearly Greensboro.

Till later,

Betty and Dick

Sunday, May 31
Wow, how can May be over already?

We broke camp and got away before 8:00 this morning.  We had about 160 miles to make today.  We headed on I-85 eastbound.  We stopped at the gas station we had marked yesterday and filled up with 97+ cent per gallon diesel fuel.  I like that!

Around noon we found our exit #79.  The Trailer Life campground guide is usually very good about giving exact instructions complete with all distances for each campground.  This time it merely said to exit on #79 and follow signs.  

The signs were very good, but none of them included mileage, only directions.  We were sure, after the first couple of turns that after driving several miles, that we had driven way too far, but finally after about 7 miles, we saw another sign and the park itself.  We were assigned to space 41 (the same space number as the last campground).  This is a beautiful site just loaded with tall trees.

We got basically set up in our campground and almost immediately left for the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, NC.  This is at the site of the former primary maintenance facility of the Southern Railway, and includes a 37 bay roundhouse.  We had re-arranged our schedule slightly to be able to attend on a weekend.  They run trains daily, but on Saturday and Sunday, they run steam.  The other days they run diesel.

We arrived shortly before 1:00 and the first train ride was at 1:30.  It was a very interesting narrated 20 minute ride, with a description of much of the yard equipment and facilities as we passed.  

The train was a 2-8-0 coal fired locomotive pulling about 4 nicely restored passenger cars.  It first backed out of the station through a switch onto the main rail line passing the facility.  It then ran several miles down this line, stopping, then backing to the station via a different set of tracks.

Betty was loaded onto the train using a fully manual, aluminum chair lift.  This was rolled into position at the rear entrance to the back car, then the crank was turned several turns.  This raised the wheels, setting the unit firmly down onto the concrete.  The side plate was dropped and Betty was wheeled onto the unit.  Then one of the fellows hand cranked her up to the level of the train, where the front plate was dropped onto the platform.  We then just rolled her onto the train.  Once aboard, she sat in one of the velour covered seats for the duration of the ride.

After the train ride, we went over to some of the other exhibits.  Actually we went into the gift shop first; it was supposed to be last.  We then went into a room with an antique fire engine, a postal delivery cart which looked very much like an Amish buggy, an early Ford V8 police car, and several other displays.

next we went into another building called "Bumper to Bumper".  This was a number of cars starting with a model T and a White steamer.  As we walked through, we passed several more cars, including a 1947 Lincoln Continental, a late 40's Plymouth, a late model Lincoln Continental, etc.  The display ended with a 1979 Cadilac Coupe de Ville Berlitz, and finally a Nascar race car.  It was almost as much fun seeing all the accessories they had around the cars as the cars themselves.  There were old gas pumps, swing spout oil filler cans, building fronts simulating old gas stations and garages, and lots of old advertising signs.

From there we walked past a long maintenance building.  This had several tracks running the length of the building and had a massive overhead crane system.  They did all types of maintenance on mostly cars here, but could handle many tasks on locomotives also.

Next we got to the roundhouse.  This is where all the heavy action took place.  This is a 37 bay roundhouse which is still fully functional.  Most of the bays are currently used to hold displays.  The first several are steam and diesel locomotives.  Several of these are set up with platforms we could climb and look directly into the "cockpits".  The diesels look much more comfortable for the engineers!

Other bays had a variety of private Pullman cars, a caboose, a mail car, a baggage car, and several passenger cars.  We could walk along most of these, and enter a number of them.

About a quarter of the roundhouse is being used as the restoration shop for the volunteer workers.  It appeared that several of the bays had been converted into a machine shop for the restoration process.  Originally, the machine shop had been in a separate building.

The workers at the museum are all volunteers, like at the San Diego Railway Museum.  The difference here is that the state owns all the land and facilities.  It is obvious that they also have funding at least to maintain the facilities.  The volunteers raise the money for the actual restoration and the train operating expenses.  Unfortunately, the San Diego RR Museum has to raise all its own funding.

This afternoon was a totally enjoyable experience.

After returning to the campground, I surveyed our very difficult site for DSS access.  I decided that putting the dish in our driveway behind the motorhome, just off the edge of the road might just hit a small gap between trees.  I first placed the dish quite near the edge of the road and got a 65 reading!  I was worried about it being so close to the road, so I started trying alternate positions.  Now the best I could get was about 40, with occasional drops to around 25 as the branches blew.  I went with it that way and so far, the picture has only frozen for a few seconds twice.  I guess it's good enough for just tonight, and the dish is a little farther back from the road.  

Tomorrow we are going to the Cannon Village visitor's center (Fieldcrest Cannon towels and sheets) in Kannapolis.  We will do this in the morning, then leave for our next stop about 60 miles away.  The checkout time here is 4:00 PM.

Monday, June 1
Well the Cannon Village was a disappointment!  The factory has not given tours since 1994, and the visitor's center slide show showing the manufacturing processes was not available until this afternoon.  I think the auditorium was reserved for a group of school kids there.  They did have a number of photographs and samples to show the general processing.  The rest of the "village" was no more than an outlet mall.

We headed back to camp and got ready to travel.  Our next stop, High Point, NC was only about 50 miles away.

The map we used to get to the campground showed a road going through the city, then making a couple of turns to get to the campground itself.  Well, the city turns out to be very large, and the road through it went right through the center.  About 20 traffic signals later, we found the first turn and shortly we were in camp.  

Oak Hollow Famiily Campground was listed as a private campground, but when we saw it, we knew it had to be publicly owned.  It turns out to be run by the Parks and Recreation Dept.  It is a huge complex with 18 indoor and outdoor tennis courts, an 18 hole golf course, and various boating activities on the adjacent 800 acre lake.

The campground has sites which are well separated for privacy, and surrounded by many tall trees.

Our next door neighbor has his DSS dish right in front near the road.  I tried this, but just could not find the right location to hit a small hole in the foliage.  I ended up setting it up about 100 feet behind the motorhome in a small clearing.  I'm glad I had an extra 50 foot cable on board!

Late this afternoon, we decided to do some exploring.  After some general cruising we decided to locate the museum we plan to visit in the morning.  When we found it, there was a sign saying it would re-open in 1999 after restorations are complete.  We decided not to wait.

We then went back downtown and located the Visitor's and Convention Bureau which shares a building with the Furniture Discovery Center and a miniatures and doll museum.  We will go here in the morning.

Tuesday, June 2
We headed for the furniture and the doll museums this morning.  I decided to take my laptop with me and try to find a way to connect and send/receive my email.

We started at the AAA which we had spotted yesterday.  We got a detailed map of High Point, and one of Raleigh.  They were out of Durham.  I asked for help finding a phone line I could use briefly to call with my 800 number credit card.  She went to talk to someone in the back and upon returning, suggested the Chamber of Commerce and the Library.  I then went to the C. of C.  The girl there was very pleasant, but was afraid to let me use their FAX line, as her boss was not in a good mood, and was out, but could return at any time.  I assured her I did not want to do anything that would get anyone in trouble.

She then called the library.  Each person said they would need to check with someone else.  Finally about the fourth person said that they could not do anything like that!

She then called the local Mailboxes store - same story.  Then she called a computer store.  After the girl asked her boss she too said that they did not do that.  So much for Southern Hospitality!

We then went on to the museums.  When we got there, I decided to give one more try for a connection at the Visitor's and Convention Bureau.  I asked the receptionist and she had to ask Miss ______.  When she came back she said "Sure, just plug in out front!"  It turned out that they have a computer out front with an Internet connection that is available for anyone to come in and use.  I just plugged into their modem line and one minute 56 seconds later I had my 19 new messages (about half junk), and sent my 3 messages.  Maybe I was too fast to come to a "Southern Hospitality" conclusion.

The Furniture Discovery Center was very interesting.  They took you through the full cycle of furniture design and manufacturing.  The sample piece that was used throughout was a Queen Anne Highboy.  They started showing the design drawings and then a display of various hardwoods, along with their native growing areas.  They had a number of actual woodworking machines as used in the factories.  There were band saws, cutoff saws, and double spindle shapers.  They then displayed a larger 16 spindle wood carving machine.  These use an operator's station where a master part is traced with a stylus.  Each of the 16 router type heads follows the up/down motions, while each of the parts rotates in exact synchronization with the master.  The resultant pieces are a very good match of the hand carved master.

They had a monstrous multi-bladed cutter head for doing "wood turning" in a production environment.  Each blade is shaped to cut a small section of the total shape of the turned spindle or post.  Setting up the blades must be a lot of fun!

They had displays of high quality joining methods using dovetails, dowels, biscuits, and several others.

They had a display of various hinges and latches.

Sanding is the key to high quality furniture!  There were actual machines, or photographs of at least 8 or 10 types of sanding machines.

From here they went to a simulated assembly line where the various pieces that had been shown in previous operations were assembled.  First the base pieces were assembled, then the upper frame.  The two sections were then joined followed by more sanding at the joints.

Next the drawers were added and the whole assembly was taken to the finishing area.  They had quite a complete section showing the various steps for each of several finishing processes.

It was a very interesting display!

They then had a section showing upholstered furniture.  This was a much smaller display and touched on the basic framework, the springing, and the padding and covering.

We then went to the other side where the miniature collections and the doll collections were.  This was also interesting.  They had many small houses with very detailed furnishings inside.

The largest part of the display was filled with dolls.  There were baby dolls, Shirly Temple dolls, foreign dolls, etc.  This was the collection of Angela Peterson who had about 1600 dolls.  There were additional dolls donated by others after the museum was started.

We then headed for the Guilford Courthouse Battleground National Military Park in Guilford.  This was the site of a major battle of the Revolutionary War.  Here General Nathanael Green engaged British General Cornwallis.  Although Green technically lost the battle, he inflicted severe damage on Cornwallis' troops, setting him up for his subsequent surrender at Yorktown.

At the museum, we viewed an 18 minute film and viewed artifacts from the era.  The most striking display was a life size display of a half dozen American soldiers set in front of a large picture window.  There were mirrors on the ends of the display.  The effect was amazing.  It appeared that you were in the woods with the soldiers.

We then followed a road around the battleground with stops at the  various significant locations.

Tomorrow we head to the Raleigh - Durham area.

Wednesday, June 3
We got up, I dumped and filled with fresh water, and we got ready to leave.  We then chatted with our next door neighbor (the San Marcos resident) for almost an hour, and then headed to Durham.

It was only a little over an hour's drive.  We found our park and selected a spot totally surrounded by trees.  The spot is very long; I could park two of my motorhomes end to end, and still have room! (I really don't have two, but it sounds interesting.)  With my dish just off the side near the road, I get a clear view.

We drove into Chapel Hill to find a 100+ year old general store and to see the University of North Carolina.

The store was a bust!  When we got there we found a front porch with about 8 steps up to the store.  I asked if there were any alternate entrances, but there were not.  They are talking about putting in a ramp, but nothing yet.  That was too bad as Betty really wanted to see it!

We then went onto the campus of UNC and drove around a little.  The highlight we wanted to see and hear is their bell tower.  It has 12 bells that are the same as the bells at West Point.  They are supposed to chime at 50 minutes past each hour, and play tunes at 5 past selected hours.  We waited for over a half hour, well past the scheduled ringing and nothing.  Our two goals for the afternoon were not met, but we still had an enjoyable time.  Dinner at Pizza Hut closed out our trip.

We have really been fortunate at avoiding the rain so far this trip.  Our luck ran out tonight!  When we returned to the campground, we found that almost all of NC was under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning and a Tornado Watch!  We watched the Weather Channel and listened to NOAA weather radio.  We tracked several severe T storms passing to our north, passing to our south, and finally, one right over us!  There was almost constant lightning and thunder, heavy winds, and lots of rain.  The DSS lost its signal for about 10 minutes.  Shortly, the rain stopped and the thunder was to our east.  As of now, we have another 21 minutes of the warning and the watch remaining.  Since the "big" storm went through, we have only had occasional light showers.

Thursday, June 4
Today would have been my dad's 99th birthday!

We got up and got ready to leave for Durham for several stops today.  Shortly before we were ready, the sky got darker and thunder and lightning started.  This was just a normal T storm, not like last night!  We waited about an extra 30 to 45 minutes to leave and it was all dry.

First we headed to the Bennett Place.  I didn't know until we got there, but this is where General Joseph Johnston of the Confederates surrendered to General William Sherman of the Union.

The two had agreed to meet midway between their two headquarters.  On the morning of the meeting, General Sherman was held up by about a half hour by a telegram announcing President Lincoln's assassination.  This delay caused the men to meet about a mile from where the Bennett farm was located.  They decided to go back to the farm and see if they could use the house for their negotiations.

They knocked on the farmhouse door.  When Nancy Bennett opened her door, here were the top generals from each army with about 500 soldiers outside asking for the use of her house.  For some reason she said "Sure!"  She went to her kitchen in a nearby outbuilding while the generals negotiated.  They did this for two days and reached an agreement somewhat more favorable to the South than the surrender that Lee had already made.  This agreement was subsequently disapproved by the government of the North, as they felt it was too soft on the South.  A couple of weeks later, the Generals met again at the Bennett's and signed the final version that stuck.  (This was in conflict with a direct order of President Jefferson Davis, who told Johnston to regroup and resume fighting.)  

I would have thought that this was a very historically significant location, but apparently the attendance is quite low!  We were there late morning, and we were the first visitors of the day.  We only saw one other man come in while we were there.  Asking if summertime was much busier, we got the answer that it was "somewhat" busier.  Is it that the surrender of the South is something that Southerners do not want to remember?

Next we went to West Point on the Eno.  This is a city park with the normal picnic and hiking areas, plus a couple of historic buildings.  There is a restored grist mill and a blacksmith's shop.  The mill has yet a different configuration wheel.  It was about 12 feet wide and maybe 6 feet in diameter.

The tour book said that the park was open daily, but that tours of the mill and blacksmith shop were on Saturdays and Sundays.  What they didn't say was that the buildings are locked except on the weekends.  We didn't get to see the insides, but did a lot of poking around the outside.

On our way back from the park, we stopped at a hardware store, and I got a small can of plumbing grease.  Our bathroom faucet is getting hard to turn, and chatters somewhat.  While I was in the store, Betty noticed a barber shop almost next door.  I asked what the wait would be.  He said about 30 minutes so we went to Taco Bell and had lunch.  I then went back and got a long needed haircut!

Then in fairness to the "other side", we visited the Duke Homestead and Tobacco Museum.  Mr. Duke started making tobacco products and went on to form the American Tobacco Company.  At one time he had a virtual monopoly on tobacco sales.  The government made him sell off most of his holdings and the various other companies were formed.

The museum showed all stages of tobacco production.  They showed the planting, harvesting, drying, auction process, and various end product production steps.  They had machines on display that made snuff, bagged tobacco, made cigarettes, etc.

There were some very nice displays, including an animatronics man who gave a talk about the pre-planting, replanting, and harvesting process.  There were also numerous displays that activated by the press of a button.  There was reference, although not an emphasis, of the governmental rulings for health warnings and lack of commercials for cigarettes.  The museum is funded by the tobacco companies.

Tomorrow, we head for the Kitty Hawk area.

More later,

Betty and Dick

Friday, June 5
Last night I called Discover to see if our payment, which we mailed from the post office in Sevierville, TN about two weeks ago, had been posted yet.  It had not!  I then talked to a real live person who gave me all the normal advice about checking with our bank to see if the check had cleared, etc.  Today is the due date.  One of the suggestions given was to stop at any Sears retail store and make another payment there.

We decided that making the payment again was a good first step and would buy us some time.  If our first one shows up we will have already paid most of next month.  I looked up the Sears store in Raleigh using my Street Atlas program and found it was right on the way to Hertford, our planned stop today.

We slept a little later than we had planned, but were still able to get up, eat, pack, hook up the Nissan, and get to Sears just before they opened at 10:00.  By 10:01 I was heading back to the motorhome all paid up (again).  We then proceeded the remaining 150 miles or so to camp.

We are in Hertford, NC, which is on an inlet of the Albemarle Sound.  The Outer Banks is a narrow strip of land and islands which arch just off the mainland from well north of here to well south, about 125 miles in all.  Kittyhawk is on the Outer Banks, right in line with the center of this sound.  We look out over the water from our campsite.

When we got here, the manager hemmed and hawed and talked about someone coming in today and someone else tomorrow.  Bottom line was he had room for us tonight, but not tomorrow.  There are two other campgrounds within about 20 miles (opposite directions) that could accommodate us if required.  Finally, this evening, the manager said I could pull off to the side tomorrow and run an electrical cord into an out-building and stay our second night.  That makes life much simpler!

This afternoon, we explored both directions from camp.  We drove down to Sandy Point where one of the campgrounds is located.  We could have moved there in the morning, but our drive to Kitty Hawk would be about 20 miles longer, and the park is more expensive than here.

We also drove north to Elizabeth City which happened to be where the other park was.  As long as we were there, we decided to look it up also.  It turned out to be a strip of gravel alongside the Holiday Inn that they were selling parking on for $22 a night!  Actually, if we needed to stay right in the city, this may have been a good place, but was not what we really had in mind.

From here we drove up highway 17 across the Virginia border and saw what we could of the Great Dismal Swamp.  The water looked black and had almost a slimy look on the surface.  Right at the edge where you could look through the water a few inches, you could see it was a reddish brown color.

Back at camp our next door neighbor came out and asked what part of California we were from.  I told him and he said he was from Malibu.  He had worked in Camarillo for a number of years and now was retiring where there are four seasons.  He said he got all four his first couple of weeks here!

He, his wife, and their German Shephard are living in their Safari Trek motorhome while their house is being built nearby.  They've been here since January.  They also have a telephone!!!  He allowed me to plug into his line and send GA#10, along with a couple of other messages and receive my 9 messages (3 junk).  Thanks Joe!

This site is among a number of tall trees, but is not as covered as our last several.  However, this is the first site this trip that I cannot get DSS!  The spaces are quite narrow, maybe 15 or 20 feet, and the satellite is directly in line with the motorhome.  There is a tall row of trees across the road in front, and I just cannot move the dish far enough either way to get around them.

When we move in the morning, we will be pretty well out in the open and our rooftop antenna should work just fine.

Tomorrow we do the Outer Banks, including Kitty Hawk.

Saturday, June 6
As planned, we moved about 50 yards.  We are now at the very edge of the campground, almost in the back yard of who we assume is one of the manager's sons.  We are more exposed, but for just tonight it is fine.  DSS strength is 85 from our rooftop antenna.

We left this morning and headed for the Outer Banks through Elizabeth City.  It was about a 75 mile drive through everything from freeway to busy city traffic.

When we arrived at the Outer Banks, we went to a visitor center and got maps and brochures of several attractions.  We then headed for the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills.  Bet you thought it was Kitty Hawk didn't you?  It was originally in Kitty Hawk, but when Kill Devil Hills incorporated, it included the Wright Memorial!  Kitty Hawk still exists just to the North.

This stop has to be the highlight of our touring this trip!  There is a Wright memorial monument located on the top of Big Kill Devil Hill.  This was not the site of the first flight.  It was about a half mile away on the level sand.  There is a reconstructed shop building/sleeping quarters and a hangar building.  

Nearby is a section of the take-off rail and a large boulder with a plaque noting the take-off point.  There are then numbered markers denoting the landing points of the first 4 flights.  It is really eye-opening to see these markers.  The first flight of 120 feet is really short!  The three additional flights that day (Dec 17, 1903) were 175 feet, 200 feet, and 852 feet.  They ranged in duration from 12 to 59 seconds.  Actually, the flights were longer than the number of feet would imply, as they were flying into a 27 mph wind, and as a result had a ground speed of only 6 to 7 mph!  The brothers were then going to try a really long flight, but while they were discussing the details, a strong gust of wind caught and flipped the plane causing so much damage that it was never flown again.

I had no idea the Wright brothers did as much as they did to prepare for their flight.  You usually hear of the two bicycle shop owners who put together this contraption which they then were able to fly.

Not even close!  They attacked the problem of flight very scientifically.  They started using data developed by other prospective flyers.  They were getting dismal results until they discovered that most of the data was wrong.  At this point they had to decide whether to quit, or try to develop all their own data.  Fortunately, they continued!

They designed and built a wind tunnel.  The tunnel had a working area of less than a foot in each direction.  They had balances set up to measure lift and drag.  Using this, they developed the modern airfoil.  They analyzed the need for controls for pitch, roll, and yaw and developed systems to give them all three.  Variations of these controls are used on aircraft today.

They used the above developments to build a small glider which they flew as a kite at Kitty Hawk in 1901, and then a full size glider which they flew very successfully again at Kitty Hawk in 1902.  Now they felt they were ready to attack powered flight!

They determined that they needed an engine of at least 8 horsepower and weighing 200 pounds or less.  They sent out bids to a number of engine companies.  Most of them just laughed and said it could never be done, and none agreed to try.  The Wright brothers then designed their own engine.  The resulting engine produced almost 12 horsepower and weighed about 180 pounds.

The next problem was that of the propellers.  They were not able to extrapolate much data from marine propellers.  They were the first people to abandon the concept of an air screw, and think of the prop as a rotating wing.  Now they were able to make an efficient prop with the airfoil shapes they had developed, using their wind tunnel to tune the performance.

They then built the Wright Flyer.  This incorporated all the features they had been developing the last several years.  It had twin counter-rotating props.  These were chain driven from the transmission.  One chain was crossed to provide the opposite direction of rotation.  The engine was on the lower wing, offset to the right.  The pilot lay prone on the wing just to the left of the engine.  The elevator was controlled by a horizontal bar which swung fore and aft, while the wing warp (predecessor of ailerons) and the rudder were controlled by the pilot shifting his hips to the right or left.

On December 14, 1903 after having engine problems, and a broken propeller, they were ready to try flying it.  Wilbur won the coin toss, but failed to become the first to fly when he over-controlled the elevator on take-off, causing the nose to pull up and the airplane to stall and nose into the soft sand.

Three days later, on Dec 17 they had the plane repaired and were ready to try again.  This time it was Orville's turn, and the rest is history!  Fortunately, one of the brothers had photography as a hobby.  As a result the various stages of their work were well documented with pictures.  On the day of the first flight, they set up a camera pointed at the spot where they expected the take-off to occur.  They rigged up a string and asked one of the three observers to pull it at the proper time.  After the flight they asked him if he remembered to pull the string.  He could not tell them if he had or not!  They had to wait over a week to get back to Dayton Ohio before they found that he truly had.  I bought a print of this historic photo!

While we were at the memorial we attended a talk on the brothers in the auditorium.  In there were full scale reproductions of both the 1902 glider and the 1903 Wright Flyer.  The ranger pointed out numerous features of the Flyer, such as its 4/10 gallon gas tank, which would run the engine for 25 minutes, and the radiator.  She also activated the controls so we could see the twin front elevators, and the coordinated wing warp and twin vertical rudders actuate.

One of the things that she said that I thought was ironic was that the actual Wright Flyer is now hanging in the Smithsonian Instution at a height that is higher than the plane ever flew!

Next we drove through numerous beach communities, looked at all the houses on stilts, all the houses with observation towers and platforms, and of course, all the commercial ventures.  We continued until we were at Roanoke Island.  We went to Fort Raleigh.  This was the location of the first English colony on American soil.

John White, the appointed governor and a group of people who agreed to move to America and set up a community moved here.  White's granddaughter, Virginia Dare was the first English baby to be born here.

After supplies were running thin, and lacking many tools, the colonists convinced White to return to England to get more of each.  Because of the Spanish threat, no ships were available to take White back to America for three years.  When he did return, there was no trace of any of the colonists!  It is not known to this day what happened to them.  It is known as "The Lost Colony"!

Tomorrow we move to the New Bern area of North Carolina.

Sunday, June 7
Here we are in Maysville, NC.  We drove about 140 miles this morning.  Much of the way there were fields of tobacco growing on one or both sides of the road.  There were huge fields and there were back yard garden size patches.  There were two primary types: a tall, almost corn stalk looking type, and a low large leaf type.  This is still definitely major tobacco country!  When we got here, we settled into what looks like a city park.  The entire area is a large lawn with a number of trees.  There are only a few sites occupied, so we have a lot of privacy.  The camp road curves around and runs under the highway.  That is where the camping sites end, but their property continues.  There is a river running around the whole camp.  The other side of the highway is for fishing.  There are two fair size fishing lakes and the river.  We have electrical and water hookups, and as long as we don't run our air conditioner the fee is $10. ($13 if we run air.).

This afternoon we drove into Jacksonville, about 15 miles to the South, and found a Wal-Mart.  We picked up a couple of items and headed back for a relaxing Sunday afternoon.

Monday, June 8
This morning we headed south on highway 17 toward Moorhead City, Beaufort, and the islands in the area.  We started at the visitor's center where we picked up flyers and maps of the area.  We then headed over a high bridge to Atlantic Beach, a south facing ocean view and a north facing harbor view.  It is a very narrow strip island that actually appears to be an extension of the Outer Banks.  

We headed for the eastern end of the island where Fort Macon State Park is located.  First we went to a picnic / bath house area.  In reality it was one of the few public access areas to the beach.  There was a very long boardwalk type ramp up to a restroom / refreshment stand area.  From there the boardwalk continued to a covered landing area with an excellent view of the Atlantic and the beach.  The boardwalk then continued on down to the beach, becoming all sand covered near the bottom.

All the coast land in this area is raised between the sea and any structures.  It apparently is a sea wall to protect against high seas.  What it also protects against is the ability to see the ocean from any of the surface roads.  Only occasionally can you catch a glimpse of the water except at places like the boardwalk which goes up and over the berm.

After this we continued to the end of the island where Fort Macon is located.  This fort was built by the U.S. government before the Civil War.  It was seized by the Confederates during the war and was re-captured toward the end of the war by the Union.  It had a long history of being used, standing idle, being used, etc.  It was during one of the idle periods, while it was being cared for by one soldier, that it was seized by the Confederates.

Later, the fort was conquered when the Union forces, who built the fort, and knew all about its construction, concentrated their shelling on the powder magazine areas.  When the fort walls started failing, and it looked imminent that a shell might actually penetrate one of the magazines, the fort was surrendered.  

Next we went to the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort.  This is a member supported operation which has displays of thousands of shells, all labeled and categorized, full size boats, model boats, antique marine engines, outboard motors from the 20's to near current, and almost everything pertaining to boats and ships.

On our way back to the car (several blocks away), we stopped at a small array of shops.  We left with an ice cream each.  We also stopped in a fudge factory store.  My will power got the best of me, and we left fudgeless.

As we had a minimal breakfast, and no lunch, we decided to stop at one of the wharf-side restaurants and have a seafood dinner.  The first place we looked had menu items from about $21 up.  We weren't that desperate!  Going down the wharf we found one with more reasonable prices and went in.  A gentleman met and welcomed us, then told us they were closed until 5:00.  He asked what we had in mind, then told us to try The Plant, diagonally across the street.  

We went there and were pleased with his suggestion.  It was a practically new restaurant that was built using much of an old oil company plant.

Betty had a bowl of jumbalaya and I had daily special: a soft shelled crab sandwich.  Both were very good.  I'm not sure I would want another of my sandwiches though.  I would like to disguise the animal I am eating a little better than this does.  Basically I had a whole crab, with all appendages, between two slices of bread with lettuce, tomato, etc.  It was good, but a little eerie.

We headed back to the motorhome, ran a couple of errands, and settled down to finalizing our plans for a longer drive tomorrow.

More later,

Betty and Dick

Tuesday, June 9
Yesterday I noticed a "slight" anomaly with the motorhome.  The radiator overflow bottle was much fuller than normal.  I pulled the radiator cap and determined the radiator level was down some.  Using my always present Jackrabbit pump, I transferred the excess  fluid back to the radiator.  We then went into town and I bought a new radiator cap.

We had about 240 miles to go this morning to Columbia, South Carolina.  I kept a very close watch on my water temperature and the overflow bottle.  (It was nearly full!)  About 7 or 8 miles from our camp we were necked down to one lane and traffic almost stopped.  Almost immediately, my temperature gage started to rise.  Suddenly it went up quickly and I pulled off to the side of the road and sat for about 45 minutes while things cooled.  I again transferred fluid back to the radiator along with some water to bring up the level.  I now made the last several miles without incident.  
We picked a spot at the Sesquicentennial State Park and settled in to relax.  After a while I called Cummins agency in El Cajon and was given the name of a man to contact at the Columbia Cummins.  Columbia has one of the 2 Cummins agencies in SC.  I called and arranged to take the motorhome in tomorrow morning.

We headed into town to locate the agency and to pick up some groceries and some antifreeze.  When we got back, I added the antifreeze to bring the balance back to 50/50 and fully fill the system.  We then relaxed for the evening.

Wednesday, June 10
We got up a little on the early side to try and get the motorhome into the agency as quickly as possible.  They are open 7 AM to midnight!  As we got nearer to leaving, the sky got darker and darker.  Then it opened up!  For about 15 minutes it poured and the thunder and lightning hit all around.  After it stopped, I finished hooking up the Nissan and we headed into town.  On the way we apparently drove right through our storm again, but had no problems.  When we got to Cummins, it wasn't even wet.

We left the motorhome and continued with our original itinerary.  We first went to the Congaree Swamp National Monument.  It turned out that it was located several miles out of town on the same street as Cummins.

The swamp has a boardwalk through it.  There is an elevated boardwalk that goes .7 miles to a small lake within the swamp area.  There is then a ground level boardwalk that goes another 1.7 miles across and then back out of the swamp.

We took the elevated boardwalk to the end, and went across the low one just a couple hundred feet.  The low walks typically flood about 8 times a year, but were flooded most of the first part of this year.  It was an interesting walk.  There were markers along the way that corresponded with items on a pamphlet we were given by the ranger.  We had not even thought about bringing mosquito repellent, so the ranger went out to his car and loaned us his!

We then went back by Cummins.  They had a bottle attached to the overflow line and were running some tests.  At this point they did not think it was a blow head gasket, but probably the air compressor leaking into the cooling system.  I didn't even know it was water cooled!  They said to check back around 1:00.

We then visited the South Carolina Criminal Justice Hall of Fame.  This was located among the largest "Justice System" complex I have seen.  There were Juvenile Detention Centers, Law Enforcement Acadamies, Courts, etc.

The hall of fame had a number of exhibits of firearms, handcuffs, badges, radar systems, police radios, FBI displays, and numerous reproduced news articles.  There was also a room memorializing all the slain South Carolina law enforcement officers.  It was an interesting stop.

During the last few weeks we have been seeing a chain of fast food places called Bojangles, specializing in chicken and biscuits.  We came to one and decided to try them.  Betty had a bowl of pintos and rice, which she thought was very good.  I decided to try their cinnamon buns.  About the size of a baking powder biscuit, these had to be about the best cinnamon rolls I have had!  They were delicious!

A stop by Cummins indicated that it was the air compressor.  They had the old one out and a new one by its side.  They do not carry parts for the air compressors in stock, so were replacing the whole unit.  Unfortunately the one they had found was the wrong one.  While I stood there, a group of about 3 men came in from the back with another compressor.  It was the right one!  They said to return around 5:00.

We now went to the South Carolina State Museum.  This is a large 4 story building.  It had several art galleries, a history of SC from the Revolution, through the Civil War, and up to the present.  They had a 25 minute video presentation that was very well done.

They had a floor for Science and Technology with a section that was very much like our Rueben Fleet Space Museum with lots of hands-on scientific displays.  They had detailed descriptions of how lasers work, along with a cut-away working laser.

There was a floor dedicated to Natural Science with lots of stuffed animal displays, a very good section on earthquakes (yes, SC has earthquakes!) with demonstration models, etc.  They had a computer display of the continents throughout the last several hundred million years, showing the continental drift, and how the current continents came to be the way they are.

Then of course there was the gift shop.  It was a much higher class store than the typical gift shop.  (The only higher quality and costlier one we have seen was the one at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway.)  Some of the merchandise was very science oriented, the same type as at the Fleet Space Museum.  There were also T-shirts and posters, along with a large amount of nice souvenir merchandise.

As we left the museum just before their 5:00 closing, the sky was getting dark, and after we got into the car, we had some very light rain.

At Cummins they had the compressor bolted in, but were still buried inside the engine compartment hooking things up, so I went back to the car.  We sat there for about an hour and a half.  Part way through this time, the skies opened up again.  This time it rained so hard that it was hard to see the building in front of us at times.  The water was coming out of the downspouts like fire hoses, literally shooting several feet over the ground, at full pipe diameter before hitting the ground!  Lightning and thunder were crashing all around us, then it became gentle rain, then it was over!

They told me we could park there overnight, but they would have to get the motorhome to the point they could run the engine first.

We did some more exploring of the city.  Along the way, we passed a Shoneys and had dinner there.

We got back to Cummins and waited while we watched the mechanic go repeatedly into and out of  the motorhome.  Finally he came over to the car and got me.  I then helped him by starting the engine and holding the throttle at various speeds while he checked things in the back.  He checked for leaks and then gave it a clean bill of health, and had me park it out front where they let me plug into one of their utility outlets.  We eventually got to bed and managed to sleep in spite of periodic neighborhood truck traffic.

In spite of repeated stops by the Cummins facility, we managed to do all the things we had planned to do while in Columbia, and so far, there was no real lost time!

Thursday, June 11
We made sure we were up before 7:00, when Cummins opened again.  I then went in and talked to the office people and asked about the paperwork.  As this was all on Cummins 5 year, 100,000 mile warranty, there was no paperwork at all.  They will mail me a copy of the no-charge invoice.

We headed the 75 miles for Canasys, outside Charleston.  We stopped at a rest stop about 15 miles out, and the bottle was normal!  We continued on another 15 miles and stopped for fuel.  We filled up at .899 a gallon for diesel!  I love it!

I then checked the bottle again.  It was almost full!  Oh no!  We decided to head back to the rest stop and wait a little to see if it went down.  When we got there it was overflowing!  I called Cummins and headed back.

When we got there, they hooked up their bottle and ran the engine for a while.  There were no bubbles and the bottle did not fill up at all.  With the old compressor, there were bubbles in the bottle whenever the compressor was pumping.  They stopped when the compressor shut off.

They decided that this was a false alarm, and that the mechanic had left too much coolant in the overflow bottle when he finished the job.  They adjusted the level and wished us well.  We drove the 75 miles here and the level raised in the bottle but did not overflow.  I will see in the morning if it returns back to the original low level.  I certainly hope so!  The other SC Cummins dealer is in Charleston, just in case.

Yesterday they let me connect to the FAX / credit verifier line at Cummins, so I sent my several messages and received my 25 (mostly junk)!

Talk to you all soon,

Dick and Betty

I'm a glutton for punishment, and am going over to the pay phone to try connecting "the hard way".

Hi all,

Well I decided to try connecting via the pay phone again last night.  I abandoned trying my convenient plug-in card modem and went back to the external, battery powered one I used in 1996.  After lashing up all the parts to my computer and changing the software setup to use this modem, I connected the first try!  I am reserving judgment until I connect a few more times, as I had a couple of "easy" connects with the other modem before many, many failures.

Friday, June 12
We woke up this morning after running the air conditioner all night.  It had cooled to about 75 degrees overnight, but was still oppressively humid!  Air conditioning is a marvelous invention!

I didn't mention one thing yesterday.  When we arrived at this park, the owner came out and welcomed us, directed us to our site, and asked if we liked cucumbers.  He then brought us several cucumbers and a couple of squash.  He then took me over to their rose garden and cut a fairly long stem with a rose on it that was just past its prime and two buds, to give to Betty.

Today the buds are starting to open.

We decided to start fairly early to "beat the heat".  We headed for Orangeburg, about 35 miles away.  The roads there were all two lane back roads, some of the most interesting types.  We went through several small towns, and one slightly larger one.  

Towns certainly have personalities of their own!  Some are neat and tidy throughout, and others look more like junk yards.  It doesn't seem to really matter how expensive the homes appear to be either.

Orangeburg has a very large industrial area as you come into town, consisting of a number of very large plants.  Most of the plants are so far from the highway that all you see is their curbside display sign, and a long driveway disappearing through the trees.  A few of the plants are located right along the road, and these were all modern and clean.

Once in town, we started to look for the fish hatchery and the Edisto Memorial Gardens.  We first found the fish hatchery.  We stopped there and went through their aquarium room and looked over their hatching ponds.  

Next we asked where the gardens were and were given instructions.  They are a very pretty city park which runs along the longest black river in the world.  We are still trying to find the definition of "black river", but they truly look black! 

Upon entering the park we drove alongside a huge rose garden.  There are over 100 types of roses here.  The rest of the park is mainly a natural setting along the river, with a number of spots for picnics, fishing, etc.  It was a very beautiful place.

Our next search was for a laundromat.  We went back into town to a strip-mall.  I bought a reel of tape for my camcorder, and right across the street was a laundromat!  We had brought our clothes to wash.  We spent about an hour and a half running the washers and dryers.  We started to wish we had done them one load at a time, as the air conditioning in there was great!

We then headed back to spend the afternoon in our air conditioned motorhome.  It reached 99.7 today on our indoor / outdoor thermometer.  I think the humidity matched!

Tomorrow we head for the Savannah GA area.  It is about 100 miles.

Saturday, June 13
Betty's rosebuds are now pretty pink small roses!

We were in no great hurry this morning, as we had only a couple of hours driving time.  The owners of the park were out working at a table behind their house so I went over to ask about buying some propane.  He told me how to drive through the park so as to pull up on the right side of his propane tank, and handed me three more cucumbers.  He then asked me to wait a couple of minutes and went over to his corn field and brought me back three ears of corn.  They have a good sized garden and try to raise all their own vegetables.

Betty put a measuring cup of water in the sink and propped it with other things so it would stay put.  We then put the sink covers on and placed her rose through the finger hole of the cover into the water below.  We hope it will travel OK this way.

I got my propane, hooked up the Nissan, and we headed for the Fort McAllister State Park, near Savannah.

I was watching my temperature gage very closely, and at the Welcome Center in Georgia I finally got up enough nerve to check the fluid level in the overflow bottle.  It had not changed!  Horray!

We arrived at the park and were given a pass with a gate combination on it.  We have encountered this at several prior parks where the gates are closed and locked for the evening and night hours.  This park keeps the gate to the campground locked all the time!  Everyone entering or leaving has to stop, unlock the gate and open it, drive through, stop, and close and lock the gate.  We don't have any lookey-loo's driving through the campground.

It is a pretty campground with a fairly dense stand of hardwood trees. There are some palm trees mixed in.  Adjacent to the park is a large area of tall grass which becomes a marsh part way out the entrance road.  (Maybe the whole thing is a marsh!)

We went over to the fort this afternoon.  It is in the park and only about a mile from camp.

Fort McAllister is a Civil War fort built by the Confederates with tall, very thick earthen walls all around and throughout the fort.  There is a moat around the outside which is filled with a row of sharpened stakes, almost the size of telephone poles, set in the ground at about a 45 degree angle.  The men's quarters and storage of most supplies and ammunition were all underground.

The fort was under siege seven times during the Civil War.  It withstood the first six with minimum damage.  The cannon balls would not break the soft earthen walls, but merely be absorbed by them.  Any damage could be repaired quickly by just shoveling the dirt and sand back into position.

The fort finally fell when Sherman and his army attacked it by land.  The cannons were all set to defend from an attack by water from the Ogeechee river.  The men in the fort never did surrender, but were overrun by Sherman's men.

There is certainly a lot of history in this part of the country!

Tomorrow we head south to Brunswick, GA, which is on the coast almost down to Florida.

I had fresh corn on the cob for dinner tonight!

Sunday, June 14
We left the park this morning at around 10:15 and headed for Brunswick, GA.  This was only about a 1 1/2 hour drive.  We stopped at a visitor center entering Brunswick and picked up some maps.  I checked the overflow bottle.  It was almost full!  This is bad!  I guess I still have a problem, which I really knew all along, deep within.  We decided to head to Jacksonville, FL tomorrow, where there is another Cummins facility.  I'm sure I have a slowly leaking head gasket.

This afternoon we went north a few miles to the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, a state historical site.  

This was a rice plantation originally.  It flourished during the pre-Civil War days using slave labor.  After the war, times were very hard on the owners who accumulated a debt of about $80,000 over time.  Around 1915, the owners, now several generations after the original family, converted it to a dairy farm.  It was still very tough going, but years later when the last of the descendents died, the place was debt free, and was willed to a conservatory society, who deeded it to the state.

The house was mid-size and quite basic.  Downstairs were a woman's parlour, a man's parlour, which had been converted to a bedroom in it's later years, and a formal dinning room.  Upstairs were 3 large bedrooms, each with a fireplace, a small office with a couple of desks, and a fourth bedroom which had been split into a sickroom and a small bathroom in the 1940's.

The grounds were gorgeous!  An expanse of grass with large old Oak trees hanging with Spanish Moss.  There was a large Magnolia tree with some blossoms still on it.  There were also a number of out-buildings.  These ranged from the slave quarters of its original function to the various bottling and milking barns from the dairy days.

Next we took the toll road and bridges (35 cents round trip) to St. Simons Island.  This is a very picturesque place with some VERY nice homes, a lighthouse, a fort, and many historical buildings.  We went to the lighthouse and drove around the island.  We headed over to the fort, but we knew we would get there just about closing time.  We ended up just circling the parking lot to see what we could.

Right across the street is a modern looking, beautiful United Methodist Church.  Half a block later we passed Christ Church, one of the island's most popular visitor attractions.  The church was originally built in 1820, but was destroyed by Union troops.  It was rebuilt in 1886.  One of our brochures describes it as "hauntingly beautiful".

We had originally scheduled two days here, but as we are now taking the motorhome to Jacksonville, we cut back to just tonight.  Tomorrow we were going to drive the Nissan to Jacksonville!

Monday, June 15
We decided to get up fairly early and call Cummins in Jacksonville, FL shortly after 7:00.  As it was it was about 7:30 when I actually called.  I got their emergency operator who informed me the hours are 8:00 to 5:00.  Quite a difference from the Columbia, SC Cummins at 7:00 to midnight!  I called again after 8:00 and warned them we were coming and got directions.

I got the Nissan all hooked up and was basically ready to leave when I talked to a neighbor whom I met the night before.  He had had a flat tire on Saturday, gotten it changed by his road service people and headed toward the campground to wait out the weekend, figuring on driving back to a Goodyear dealer he had been told of.  On his way to the campground, the spare that had just been mounted blew!

He had tried to call the tire dealer, but could not get the right number from information, and was getting quite concerned.  I offered to unhook the Nissan and run him in to talk to the tire people.  The directions he had been given were not very good, but by asking twice we got there.  He was able to buy two tires and have them run out to the campground to install them.

About an hour and a half after we were first ready, we were back at camp to hook up again and leave.  We said goodbye to Red and Rita, our new very thankful friends.  We were very pleased to have been able to help them out of a jamb.

We got to the Cummins facility around noon and had the service manager read my three page detailed step by step description of everything that has happened on the motorhome leading up to the present coolant problem.

Skipping a lot of minor details, they checked the torque on the head bolts, and found the first three they tried well under spec.  They called the El Cajon Cummins, who had replaced the head and received a purchase order to remove the head, replace the head gasket, and properly re-assemble it (hopefully).  In case I haven't gone into detail of my prior work, the mechanic who worked on my unit was released by Cummins, I belive, just before he did my work.  Many, many things were undone or done improperly.  This is merely the latest to surface!

We are now quite comfortable in a Motel 6, watching television, enjoying the air conditioning, and relaxing.  Come to think of it, that is what we do in the motorhome.

I will find out in the morning how long they expect it to take.  After talking at length with them, I am impressed at their ability and desire to do a good job.  The mechanic working on it is a young fellow who seems very knowledgeable.  He is going to college nights as he doesn't want to do diesel mechanics his whole life.  I am impressed with him and is attitude.

The hardest part of staying in a motel is getting all the right things from the motorhome to take with us.  After going back twice, I think we are getting close.

There are about 5 forest / brush fires in this area which I belive all started today.  The sky if full of smoke, and ashes are falling on our car.  Been there, done that!  I certainly hope they can get them under control quickly.  Apparently these are the first fires of this season in this area.  The ones we have been hearing about on the news are pretty well under control and quite some distance from here.

Well, as one of the things I still didn't remember to bring was my computer's AC adaptor, I had better not spend too much longer before I try to connect.  Our phone in the room has a data port right on the side of the phone!  I think I can connect tonight.

I'll let you all know of our progress with Cummins and of our impending sprint toward home.

Till later,

Betty and Dick

Tuesday, June 16
We got up this morning and went to the laundry room of the motel.  I ran the last several days worth of clothes.  I know, we just did the laundry!  But that was before I apparently bumped into something I shouldn't have at the Cummins shop!  I got a dark black stripe down the back corner of both my new tan shorts and my Grand Canyon t-shirt!  That, shortly after tracking some major grease into the front of the motorhome just after arriving at Cummins.  I hope the carpet cleaner we have is strong!

We decided to try a nearby Waffle House for breakfast.  We have been seeing them all across the country, but have never been in.  We entered and were seated.  The man just across the aisle was lighting up his cigarette so we talked about moving to the other end of the place.  I checked and the man at the far end was puffing away.  I asked the manager if the whole place was smoking, and he said it was.  We left.

The McDonalds just down the block is smoke free!  Breakfast was good.  The no-smoking law in California restaurants is great!

We got back just as the clothes were dry, and headed for Cummins.  They told me that all the head bolts had been improperly tightened, and that the gasket showed clear signs that it had been leaking.

This engine has been using more oil than it should since I bought it, so they are going to do some investigation of this problem while they have the head off.

We then headed north to the Okefenokee Swamp.  This was the one trip we cancelled by leaving our last camp a day early.  Once again we went to a swamp without any insect repellant!  We have some, but it is in the motorhome.

The swamp is a very interesting place.  We viewed a 25 minute video at the visitor's center and learned a lot about the swamp.

The swamp is a large wetlands area with a very active layer of decaying vegetation on the bottom.  Over time it becomes a layer of peat.  Methane gas and C02 are produced at the bottom of this layer and bubble up through it.  Eventually the bubbles collect in a small area of peat and float it to the surface.  After many of these small areas float, they tend to join together forming a floating island.

Later stages of development see vegetation growing on these islands (known as houses), and eventually fully grown trees.  The process would continue until all the wetlands were covered by one large surface except for the reversing effect of fire.  When they have a period of drought, and a fire gets started, it burns everything!  It burns the trees, the lower vegetation, the surface of the peat, and even down into the peat, until the residue sinks.  After the fire passes, all that is left is the water.

In the 1950's, a major fire burned in the swamp, and spread to nearby lumber farms, destroying much timber.  In an effort to prevent this from happening again, a dam, or perhaps more correctly a weir, was built to maintain the water level in the swamp.  The video is very critical of this, and raises the question of whether the weir will hasten the ultimate demise of the swamp.

We took a short loop drive and stopped at the boardwalk.  The boardwalk is 3/4 of a mile long, and ends with a 50 foot observation tower.  We decided to start the trip just to see what we could without having to excessively endure the heat, humidity, and the insects.  We both got bitten a number of times as it was.

We went as far as the first viewing stop.  We started looking out over the swamp, and Betty said "There's an alligator!"  About 5 feet from the boardwalk was about a 6 foot alligator lying quietly on the water with just a portion of his head and a portion of his back above water, just staring at us.  After a while he moved very slowly until he was about 3 feet from the boardwalk.  We photographed him and then proceeded to leave before he decided to get more energetic!

On a cooler day, with insect repellant on, we would have continued.  As it was, the air conditioning in the Nissan felt really good when we returned.

Wednesday, June 17
We paced our getting up and leaving to arrive at Cummins around 10:00.  We talked to Daryl, our chief contact there.  He said they had dropped the pan and pulled one piston.  The rings looked excellent.  There was no wear to indicate that the engine had ingested dirt.  This is the primary cause of high oil consumption past the piston rings.  He stated that I have a healthy basic engine, that those rings were not pumping oil.  They replaced the piston with new rings in place.  There are two other areas that could be the source of the oil loss, and they will check them both.

We then headed for the beaches of Jacksonville.  There is a string of islands just offshore from the city, as seems so typical of the east coast.  We headed over to one about due east of us and started exploring to the north.  There are a couple of ferries between the mainland and the islands and we considered taking one.  We ended up not taking any.

On Fort George Island we passed a sign for the Kingsley Plantation.  We turned around and headed in.  There was a beautiful, narrow road about 3 miles long, winding through a dense canopy of overhanging tree limbs and other vegetation.  Most of the trees were dripping with Spanish Moss.  After a while the road turned to gravel with a fair amount of washboard.  We finally arrived at the plantation.  The National Park Service has been operating it for about  years.

Kingsley Plantation was founded in 1814 when Zephaniah Kingsley moved to the island, which was part of Spanish Florida.  He swore his allegiance to Spain to take advantage of their land grants.  Over a number of years he was granted and purchased a total of about 32,000 acres of Florida.

His plantation raised primarily Sea Island Cotton utilizing the efforts of many slaves.  His wife was a slave whom he had purchased and then set free.  She actively participated in the operation of the plantation and acquired land on her own.

The barn, the slave quarters, and several other structures were made from tabby.  This is a concrete like substance made from oyster shells.  Shells are burned to convert them to lime.  This is mixed with whole shells, sand, and water.  The result is almost like concrete, and was constructed using the same techniques as concrete foundations are today.  The resulting structure looks like concrete with many, many shells embedded.  The weathered areas have exposed a solid mass of shells.

We spent quite a lot of time inside, reading all about Kingsley and his family and the history of the area.  In fact we enjoyed it in there so much that we hated to leave, but we had to eventually, and left the nice, cool, air conditioned buildings for the blast furnace type weather outside.

Upon arriving in the area of our motel, we stopped at a nearby Shoneys and had lunch / dinner.  Too tired to head back to Cummins, I settled for phoning them.  It is so much harder to get any information over the phone than when you are there!  I did find out that the pan is back on, the head is back on, and they are installing all the injector lines, hoses, belts, etc. that reside all over and around the head.

I was not able to find out the results of the oil pan capacity check or if the air compressor has the proper valve installed.  Oh well, there is always tomorrow.

They expect to fire it up around 10:00 tomorrow, and I plan to be there.  Hopefully, we can drive it off not too much later!

We plan to check out of the motel before heading to Cummins in the morning.  How's that for confidence!

As this is the last night of our "easy connection" at the motel, I'll send this out tonight.  Last night I sent a couple of messages and decided to stop before receiving the new ones.  I wanted to check a setting.  I don't know what I did, but when I clicked CHECK MAIL, I started getting every message I have gotten this trip.  I got all 165 of them!  At 14,400 baud it took about 6 minutes.  I'm sure glad I set a limit of 6k per message, or I might have still been receiving.  Any message that is longer than that, as many of the junk mails are, gets cut off at that length.

I'll let you know the results of our 3 plus days in the shop next time.

Till later,

Betty and Dick 

Thursday, June 18
The good news is I am writing this from the motor home in a campground!

The bad news is we will be back at Cummins in Jacksonville in the morning.

We checked out of the motel first thing this morning and drove right over to Cummins.  They said they would be finished shortly after noon.  We decided to go somewhere in the Nissan, as I didn't want to sit still in it to run the air conditioner.

We explored the local area some and found a small cafe where we had brunch.

We ended up heading back to the beach area.  Yesterday we saw a state park in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island but did not try it.  We went back to see the fort.  When we got there, there was a $3.25 park admission charge, and the ranger said the fort was partially accessible.  When we got to the end of the three mile entrance road, we were at the visitor center.  Looking out the window, the path to the fort would have been very difficult for the wheelchair.  There was also an additional charge to see the fort.  We gave up and left.  The ranger was very apologetic and refunded our admission fee.

We headed back to Cummins.  They finished up mid-afternoon, and by the time we got all the paperwork etc. squared away, we actually drove off at 4:25.  We drove about an hour and a half to Lake City and parked at the office of a local campground.  About 5 minutes later I tried to start and it would not!

Finally, about a half hour later, after many tries, we got it started by Betty working the ignition (using a screwdriver for leverage) while I worked on the engine.  I bled the fuel system and got a lot of air from the injectors, and finally it started.  I had to tighten one of the injectors several wrench turns while diesel fuel sprayed out.  Not nice!

I made a call to Cummins San Diego for advice, as Jacksonville was now closed.  They gave me some suggestions, but said I should call the Cummins emergency 24 hour number.  I did this and got a return call almost immediately from John, the service manager in Jacksonville.  We agreed that I would try to start it in the morning and drive back to the shop.  If I cannot start it, he will dispatch a tech to get me started.

The problem is apparently a leaking connection somewhere in the suction  area of the fuel system.  Once the injectors are full of fuel, they should never lose their prime, unless the system is worked on, or you run out of fuel.  At least I had no cooling system problems!

It rained briefly tonight, about 5 minutes.  The TV news showed people rejoicing in the streets stating this would end the fires.  The fire department had a slightly more pessimistic view, saying that the rain was merely a cruel joke!

Friday, June 19
Well we made some positive mileage toward home today - about 20 miles!

We started at about 6:20 to get ready to try the engine in time to call John at home by 7:00 if it didn't start.  It started the first time.

We headed to Jacksonville.  The smoke from the fires was terrible!  At times the visibility was down to about .2 miles.  As we got to within about 15 minutes from Cummins, the engine alarm sounded and I saw the temperature gauge shooting to the top.  I immediately pulled off onto the shoulder of I-10.  I opened the bed, and found the entire engine dripping with coolant.  Will this ever end?

On the back of the cylinder head is a fitting with a heater hose running to the front of the coach.  There was a hole in this right at the fitting with a stream squirting upward.  I pulled the radiator cap to release any pressure and ended up cutting about an inch off the hose and putting the hose back on the fitting.  I then added all the antifreeze I had, and filled the rest with water.

The engine started and we got to Cummins shortly.  The mechanic there did a bunch of checking and found a small fuel leak where the input line attached to the top of the fuel filter.  Replacing 2 seals fixed this.

He then added some antifreeze to help bring up the concentration to normal and we tested it.  The engine (which had failed to start when we arrived), now started.  When it was quite hot, it started more slowly than either the mechanic or I liked, but it did seem to start reliably.

We thanked them and headed West again at about 11:00.  In a small city called Live Oak, about 20 miles past Lake City, where we started this morning, we stopped for fuel.  After I filled up, the engine would not start!

After trying everything I know to do, I called Cummins and John said he would send a man right out.

At about 4:00 the mechanic arrived.  He did some checking and said I had the "old style" check valve which was very trouble prone, resulting in problems just like I am seeing.  He had a lot of problem getting it changed, but finally succeeded.  After putting all the pieces back together he ran checks on other parts of the fuel system.  All looked good.  He left about 6:00.

I am very encouraged, so far.  The engine sounds smoother as it starts.  The real test will come tomorrow, when I can check it out from a fully hot condition.

We looked in the campground guide and picked a camp 4 miles up the road from where we were.  It is a huge campground listed as a music camp!  They host a number of music festivals throughout the year.  There are almost 300 sites arranged in several different sections.  The overnighters are put in a fairly open field with utilities, while the longer staying ones are in much more tree covered areas.

Just as we were approaching the camp, it started to rain.  We ended up having much more rain than last night.  It rained off and on for a couple of hours.  The Jacksonville area can certainly use any rain they can get while the fires are still burning!

I sure hope we can head West for real tomorrow!

Saturday, June 20
Well, today was a better day, sorta.

The good news is that we got out of Florida, the long way at that.  We headed West on I-10 which goes the full length of the panhandle.  We then went through Alabama and Mississippi.  We did cheat a little, by going through their panhandles the short way.  We are now in Slidel, LA. about 430 miles from our start this morning.  New Orleans is just about 10 miles away.  The engine temperature was a steady 190 and the coolant level stayed constant.  The engine stayed clean and dry - no leaks.

The bad news #1 is that about an hour ago I looked down at my driver's side windshield and saw a crack extending up from the bottom about 9 or 10 inches long!  I have no idea when it happened or what caused it.

The bad news #2 is that after driving all day without shutting off the engine, we got into our campsite and shut down.  I tried to start the engine almost immediately, and there was no problem.  About 15 minutes later, IT WOULD NOT START!  Same story after about an hour.  I am sure that there will be no problem in the morning, based on past experience, but I am just totally devastated that yesterday's check valve did not do the job!  I hope there are still items remaining that can be fixed that cause hot starting problems, and that I can have them fix it/them before my warranty expires in September!  I always heard that diesels were supposed to be reliable!  

I guess, in all fairness, this does appear to be the first problem this trip that was not directly caused by the bad mechanic that did my work in San Diego.  At this time, I cannot even be sure that this was not caused by him also!

Well, I just tried the engine again, after 1 hour 45 minutes since shutdown, and it cranked a little longer than normal, but it started just fine!  I looks like if I really get in trouble and have to shut down, I should be able to start within a couple of hours.  I have no intention of spending any more time in the shop on this trip, so will just do like today, and leave the engine running until I am parked for the night.  Don't you just hate guys that do that?  I do!

Enough about problems!

We had to get propane this morning as our generator is propane powered, and we have been having 100 degree days.  The roof air is mandatory as a part time supplement to the dash air, especially in the afternoons.  

While it was in the shop, I gave them permission to run the generator for the air conditioning.  We had tried plugging into two different outlets in the shop, but the other loads on them caused each to blow.  Altogether they ran the generator about 14 hours, and in the time after, we ran it an additional 7 hours.  In addition to this, the refrigerator was running on propane the whole time it was in the shop.  I am really happy that I just filled the propane before heading to Jacksonville!

Our drive today was really quite good.  We were on the road before 8:30, after filling up with propane when they opened at 8:00.  We headed West, set the cruise at 62 and let her go.

We stopped at 4 or 5 rest stops for 5 or 10 minutes each (with the engine clackety clacking the whole time), and made one fuel stop (same smelly, noisy background).  One of the rest stops had an area in the corner with a sign inviting us to the Military Aviation Museum nearby.  Overhead was a Blue Angel jet suspended by a large pipe stand coming out of the tail pipe.  Pretty nifty for a rest stop!

Except for the fact that if I stop the engine, it won't start again, it has been just purring along!

Before we left Florida, we got back one of our lost hours by crossing into the Central Daylight zone.  We got here to camp around 3:45 CDT.

Tonight we went into Slidel to see the town and to find a place for dinner.  We spotted a coffee shop that had a lot of cars parked around it.  (We had seen another that had an empty parking lot and figured the there must be something wrong with it.)  We went in and asked for the no smoking section.  We were told it was all along the wall.  Right across the aisle was the smoking area.  The whole place stunk.  We told the lady at the desk why we were leaving, and left.  Dinner at the Cracker Barrel was very good.

We will try the non-stop engine routine tomorrow and hopefully get that much closer to home.

Till later,

Betty and Dick

Hi all, I'm inserting this note on Wednesday, June 24

I really goofed when I started sending out these journals, trip logs, or whatever you want to call them.  I decided to call them Grand Adventure.  This was definitely a mistake!  I should have called them something like "Dull, Uneventful, Relaxing Trip".  I don't think I'm cut out to be an adventurer!

Sunday, June 21

Happy Father's Day all you dads!

We left camp about 8:20 after dumping, adding oil, cleaning the windshield, etc.  We bought fuel at the corner before getting on I-10.  I forgot and turned the engine off by habit, but it started immediately.  The engine was still cool.

We took I-10 Westward for a while, then cut Northwest on I-49 at Lafayette.  This cuts across Louisiana diagonally and takes you up to I-20, which we then took on into Texas.

On I-10 from about Baton Rouge for about 30 miles to Henderson, we were on a causeway through the swamps.  It was very picturesque.  Some of the areas were covered with water lilies, others with a dense leafed plant.  Some areas were open lakes with recreational boating.  Cypress trees were growing everywhere with Spanish Moss dripping from the branches.  We saw one propeller driven swamp boat on a trailer, but none on the water.

I-49 was a beautiful driving road.  The pavement was excellent and there was almost no traffic.  We only saw a few trucks for the couple hundred miles of this stretch.

I-20 was another story.  Traffic was quite heavy in places and the pavement ranged from excellent to the bone jarring thump, thump.

We stopped for the night at a small campground near Tyler, Texas.  We decided to leave the car hooked up and stay in the motor home for dinner tonight.

In all, we made about 440 miles today, which was about 70 more than our more conservative plans called for.

Monday, June 22
I called John in Jacksonville to close the loop on my service call of Friday, as agreed.  He indicated that it was all warranty covered.  Whew!  When I told him that the check valve did not fix the problem, he was mystified.  He said that the only thing that really fit those symptoms was the trombetta valve.  This is a solenoid which pulls a lever on the injector pump.  When the valve is pulled, the engine will run.  When it drops out, the engine stops.  This is how the ignition switch controls it.  (No spark plugs on a diesel!)

We were ready to pull out as soon as I finished the call, and I went to start it.  It always starts when cool - right?  WRONG!  It did not start and completely shattered my theory that I was OK when things are cool.

After I finished my tantrum, I got to thinking about what John had said.  Just because the trombetta had been working whenever the mechanics had checked it, didn't really mean it was working now.

I opened the bed so I could hear the engine better, clicked the key to start briefly, then listened carefully while turning the key off.  No click!  That meant the trombetta was not pulled in!  I then manually pulled it in while Betty hit the starter, and it started right up!  Maybe my theory is still intact.  Maybe this has been the hot starting problem.  Time will tell.

I had agreed with the shop people in Jacksonville to use the Cummins recommended Valvoline Premium Blue oil (specially formulated to Cummins specs) for the balance of the trip, to eliminate one more variable on my oil consumption, and I was out of it.  We decided to stop by a Cummins facility and buy some.  Also we decided to have them check and replace the trombetta.

We stopped by the Arlington Cummins (About midway between Dallas and Fort Worth) and asked where the service dept was.  I was told they discontinued that about 6 years ago, that this was a parts distribution center.  I bought my oil and got directions to the Fort Worth Cummins.
After several U-turns (lots of fun with our rig!) and one stop for directions, we found it.  

I described my problem to the service manager and he checked with the foreman.  He could probably get to it some time today.  I asked if there was any way I could get the part on warranty and install it myself.  He said "Sure", checked stock, and informed me they didn't have any.  He checked stock in other Cummins facilities and let me know Amarillo had 3 in stock.  I was about to get directions to that facility, when the other counter man said to hold on a minute.  He came back with a valve in his hand.  They had ordered 4 for a customer's stock.  He said to help me out, he could ship 3 and back order the other for them.  I thanked him profusely.  They handed me the part and wished me well.

We got as far as Snyder, TX after losing almost 2 1/2 hours chasing Cummins facilities and waiting for things to happen once there.  We still made 367 miles today.  Tomorrow we try for Moriarity, NM to the same campground where we stayed the first night out with the Scholls.

I started to install the new valve tonight and when I unplugged the connector, a wire flipped out from between a couple of the injector lines.  It was obviously broken off from somewhere.  I peered down into and crawled under and peered up, but I could not find another wire hanging or a connector anywhere.  I then managed to escape my preconceived notion that it had to be the wire from the starter to cause the symptoms and realized that a broken ground wire would act the same way.  I checked and it really was the ground.  I crimped a lug on the wire and put it under a nearby bolt.  It now works again while cold.  I don't know yet about hot; the broken wire would not account for it, but an aging coil could.  I'll wait until I get home to install the new valve.

Tuesday, June 23

The engine started right up this morning and we headed toward Moriarty.  It was very windy, by far the worst of the trip.  It was not really hard to keep going straight and in our lane, it just took extra concentration.  That is tiring.

About 30 miles east of Moriarty, we heard a loud BANG!!! and the motorhome made a loud thumping noise.  I immediately pulled off the highway to see which tire had blown.  When I set the parking brake, the motorhome still rolled freely.  Oh no, did I blow the transmission?  After some tricky maneuvering, I got out of the driver's seat, and Betty got in, all the time keeping someone's foot on the brake.  I then went out and blocked the wheels with my heavy duty truck chocks I always carry (thank heavens!)  

I grabbed our door mat and semi-crawled under the motorhome and found my drive shaft missing.  Actually, as it turned out, it was not missing.  One half of it was firmly embedded in the floor of the motorhome, the other half was laying flat against the parking brake on the rear of the transmission.  Both U-joints were destroyed.

Now, using our spare vehicle, we were able to unhook the Nissan and drive to find a pay phone.  About 15 miles up the road was Clines Corner.  A "sell a bit of everything" type of tourist stop that has been a Route 66 landmark since 1934.  Now it is a stop on I-40.  Using their pay phone, I called our RV emergency towing service, Coachnet.  This is a service we just recently started after attending a Gulf Stream rally.  We joined through Gulf Stream.

The service was great!  The man took all the information about the type of failure and where I was, they already knew about my RV.  Then using one of their mechanically knowledgeable technicians, determined the type of facility I would need.  They told me they would dispatch a truck capable of towing my rig, and would determine the best place for him to take me.

He was very apologetic, saying their standard response time is 45 minutes, but he didn't think he could make that due to the size truck he needed, and my distance from a city.

Less than 90 minutes later, a clean cut young man drove up in a huge tow truck.  In about 30 minutes he had me hooked up and was on the road to Rip Griffins in Moriarty.  The Nissan had a hard time keeping up with him, especially uphill.

We arrived at Rip's where the motorhome was parked about 100 feet from the shop.  The mechanics looked at what I have and determined about the same as the tow truck driver and I had thought.  Obviously both U-joints were needed along with the u-joint yoke of the differential.  The drive shaft actually looks undamaged!  It was actually a blessing that the loose end stuck in the floor!  The other end was flipping around on the back of the transmission until the engine slowed down, causing the massive vibration that I thought was a tire flopping around.  The U-joint was destroyed by being bent at right angles, but the drive shaft didn't hit anything.  By the way, the drive shaft on this rig is almost a joke!  The total length is about a foot, with a splined joint in the middle.  

They said we could stay in the motorhome if we desired, and since they said it got to about 60 at night, we decided to.  The temperature really wasn't bad, even though the only air conditioner time we have is by generator, and we are low on propane!  There is a lot to be said for having your generator powered by your primary fuel, which is in a large tank.  It appears that I can get about 25 hours of generator usage from a tank of propane.

If things go (very) well, we could be out of here by noon tomorrow, but I don't really expect it.

Rip Griffins is an absolutely huge facility.  There are acres and acres of paved truck parking with maybe 50 to 100 trucks here at any given time.  There is almost constant activity with trucks driving in, driving out, turning around, parking, driving into the shop, etc.  Up front is the auto gas and a restaurant, gift shop, grocery, drivers game room, phone room, laundry room, driver showers, etc.  Behind the store are many lanes of truck diesel, and two lanes of RV gas/diesel.  There is a separate small store for the fuel area.  In the back of the facility is the tire/repair/lube facility with 4 large through bays.  This is the area where we are parked.  I found 4 separate areas where I could buy auto/truck parts; the grocery store, the gift shop, the fuel store, and the repair office.  Unlike most truck stops of this type, which are located at isolated off ramps of an interstate, this one is right in town at the west end.

Well, to bed to see how well we tolerate all the idling diesels (I told you I hated that), and all the truck activity.

Wednesday, June 24
We actually slept quite well last night.  The breeze died down during the evening and night hours, but we still had good air circulation, and the din of the trucks was generally constant enough that we could just tune it out.  I didn't notice any fumes until morning, when there was more truck activity, and the wind direction apparently changed.

I was up at 6:00 this morning and went to the office to see what was happening.  The mechanic was supposed to have checked things out to verify that the parts still attached to the motorhome were truly OK.  They were running behind last night, and didn't get to it.

This is a 24 hour facility, but it turns out they have 3 shifts of office service writers, but only 2 shifts of mechanics.  I think they do tire work on 3 shifts.

The fellow on the desk didn't really know anything about my job.  He checked his computer and said it looked like they didn't do anything yet.  I asked if I would be basically first when the mechanics came in at 7:00, and he said he guessed so.

At 7:30, I went in and talked to the real manager.  He called a shop in Alburquerque and said he had better send the whole thing in to assure the right parts.  I asked him "The whole motorhome?"  He replied "No, only the drive line parts"  Whew!  

He asked a mechanic to run out and remove the yoke from the differential.  Of course it was VERY tight, and there was no room for his 3/4 inch impact wrench.  He got his torch to heat the nut, and was out of oxygen.  He then ran out and got a couple of bottles of oxygen.  Finally after several more tries, it went POP and then unscrewed with a bit of effort.

We left for some breakfast, as there was nothing more to do until their driver went into town and back.  It is about 35 miles to Alburquerque.

When we got back, Jim, the manager told me that the yoke had to be special ordered, everything else was in stock.  The yoke is due in by 10:00 A.M. tomorrow and then has to be picked up.  They are still saying we could be gone by noon.  We'll see.

Now that we had the rest of today to use, we decided to go into Santa Fe, about 50 miles away.  It was an interesting town.  There are many "South West" style houses.  They look almost like heavy mud walled pueblos.  Down town was pretty much like any other city.

In the San Diego area, there is a big flap about the major gas companies fixing prices, as there are so few independents.  Well in Santa Fe, we saw about a dozen name brand and one independent.  Every one of the name stations had unleaded (86 oct) for $1.139.  The independent was 3 cents cheaper.  In Moriarty, the price is $1.089, and a few miles back it was under a dollar!  I leave it to you to draw you conclusions.

Moriarty has one main street, the historical Route 66.  A number of the buildings lining the street date back to that period.  One of these houses the Moriarty Historical Museum and Chamber of Commerce.  The museum had basically one room and had photographs of prior days, and a really interesting display of old artifacts.  I used to go into second hand stores that looked much like this.  There were showcases with old cameras, eyeglasses, dishes, glassware, and all sorts of other things.  The thing everything had in common was all were old.  They had an electric vacuum cleaner that looked much like the first one I remember growing up, as well as a hand pump vacuum cleaner that I don't remember.  It was interesting.

Late this afternoon, we sat in the motorhome while enduring some wicked winds.  Every now and then, he motorhome would start shaking and several of these times we would see a cloud of dust coming around the repair building.  I would quickly close the upwind windows and wait out the blast, usually a minute or two.  I would then re-open the windows to keep it cool.

I think I am about ready to send this (if I can connect on the pay phone) and then go to bed.  Hopefully tomorrow will bring good news and we will head on our way!

Betty and Dick

Thursday, June 25
Well, we made over 40 miles today!

About 11:00 this morning I was told that the parts were in, and were waiting for an available mechanic.  Finally he showed up and by around 3:00 it was back together, with one slight exception.  The supply house had only sent one set of the little straps that hold the U-joint caps to the flange.  We all agreed that they should straighten the two old ones that had not been destroyed, I would stop in Albuquerque to pick up the straps, and I would install them tonight.

We stopped at a place called Drive Train Southwest, Inc. to get the straps.  They told me they were out of stock!  While he was checking his computer I went out to double check the motorhome.  When I looked under it, the differential and lower engine were dripping with gear oil.  Two men from Drive Train crawled under and looked.  They noted that the conical dust shield on the new yoke was digging into the new seal.  

In the meantime, Tom from Drive Train said he had a man picking up my straps from another company nearby.  Realizing I would also need a new seal, he checked stock and was out of that also.  Again, he sent a man to pick one up for me.

I called Rip Griffins and told them what we found.  The manager said to take it in somewhere, and suggested a place, and he would stand the cost of fixing anything that was their fault.

Tom, who acted far beyond the call of duty, called the place Rips had suggested.  They said they had been called by Rips, but could not do anything until morning.  Tom then called a local diesel repair shop who said they would wait for me and fix it tonight.  By now it was after 5:00 and Tom was staying over to help me.  He sold me the straps and the new seal for about half what Rips had charged me, and we left for Diesel Specialists.

John was expecting us after Tom's call, and they directed us around the back to one of the repair bays.  In about an hour, a young conciencious mechanic had removed the driveshaft, the yoke, and the seal.  He then removed the interfering dust shield and put the new seal in and replaced all else.  He then added 3 quarts of gear oil.  I think we are done with this one!

We were very concerned about starting again, as we had only had the engine off a little over an hour.  I cranked and cranked without avail.  I then decided to lift the bed so I could hear if the trombetta was working.  I cranked it shortly to pull in the valve, and the engine started!  Whew!

We decided to stop at a camp on the outskirts of Albuquerque instead of the additional 75 miles to Grant.  This camp also has propane, which we need.  We ran our generator very little at Rips because we were so low, and there was no way we could get it there because it was not "a designated delivery area".  Fortunately it was not really that hot and we did quite well with the natural air flow, which was extreme at times.

Tomorrow we should make it to Forest Lakes to see the Scholls again, along with their new (to them) motorhome.

Friday, June 26
We went a whole day without a breakdown today!

We were in no real hurry to get up this morning as the office did not open until 8:00. Last night when we arrived at this campground the office was closed.  We took one of the envelopes that we were supposed to fill out, put $20 in, and slip under the door.  I filled out the envelope and said I would see them in the morning to pay.  We are short of cash and I wanted to use a credit card.

After leaving the office, we started up and drove to the corner of the campground where a young fellow had his business selling propane, fixing windshields, selling RV supplies, etc.  We filled our propane and headed West.

After about 5 hours of uneventful driving, we arrived at the Scholls'.  We spent the afternoon and evening catching up on our respective adventures since parting company at the Great Smoky Mountains, eating, and looking at their new 1995 29 foot Coachmen motor home.  It is really nice!

Tomorrow we spend some time doing tasks on each of our rigs.

Saturday, June 27
Well I survived another year.  One to go till Social Security!

Today we did several tasks on each motor home.  I drained my fresh water tank and refilled it with Forest Lakes water.  

I pulled my house batteries and added distilled water.  All the cells had dropped to about the top of the plates during the last two months.  They really dropped the ball on the design of the house battery compartment.  There is a narrow opening just wider than the batteries at the back of my electrical compartment.  The two batteries are end to end in this opening with about 10 or 12 cable connections on the two batteries.  The only way to check them is to disconnect all the cables, remove the hold down straps, and pull the batteries out, lifting them up over the bottom of the compartment opening.

On Keith's motor home, we removed a large steel drawer which pulls out from a compartment on the rear of his rig.  The drawer is beautifully made and a great concept, but in this compartment it loses a lot of space where the compartment extends to each side of the opening and behind the drawer.  It also blocks access to the back side of his water heater and the winterization valves.  With the drawer in place the only way of reaching these valves is by a very long stretch through the bed opening when it is raised.  We could not figure out how to release the slide locks to remove the drawer from its supports, so ended up cold chiselling the rivet ends from inside the drawer.  The drawer now came right out, then we removed the supports.  The entire assembly was too tall to remove intact.

We investigated how to mount the CB antenna on his rig, and how to install a larger house battery which he already has.  We also figured out his water system and its multi-valve control panel.  We also looked at how to connect his TV wiring to allow a selection of DSS, cable, and local TV to feed both his TV sets.

Tomorrow we will install my trombetta valve, his house battery, and his CB antenna.

Monday, we head out on our two day trip home!

Sunday, June 28
We got up fairly early, and I got caught up on some of my computer entries (not including this one).  I then started helping Keith do the final layout of his CB antenna installation.  Once the decisions were made, we drilled 2 holes through his wall and installed it.  Upon checking out the match with his VSWR meter, it was almost totally flat over the band without a safety spring installed, and slightly higher at the high end with the spring in.  Even here, his channel 40 SWR was lower than my best.

Next I installed my new trombetta valve.  After making some measurements, the installation went smoothly and the engine started instantly upon trying.

On our way here, the windshield fan on Betty's side quit working.  Keith offered me a brand new fan he had bought for his previous motor home.  After getting it, he decided there was really no good place to mount it.  He has the same situation on his new one.  Testing Betty's fan, I found an open circuit in the wire at the connector to the fan.  I installed the new fan and all is now working.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing and talking, along with a brief nap.

We are going to try for an early start in the morning.  It is forecast to be 110 degrees in Phoenix and the deserts to the west tomorrow.  We will adjust our overnight stop according to how the drive is going.

Till later,

Betty and Dick

Well, the Good News is that WE ARE HOME!!  So is the motor home; so is the Nissan.  We all made it back safely!

The bad news is . . . I can't think of any bad news, so I guess that is more good news!

Monday, June 29
We were up shortly after 6:00 getting the last details in the motor home ready for travel.  I went into the Scholls' around 6:30 and transmitted GA#17.

We said our thanks and goodbye's to Virg and Keith and were on the road by 6:50.

We had a very smooth drive, hitting Phoenix traffic after the morning peak.  At 9:00 it was already over 100 degrees in Phoenix.  As it got later and we got more to the west, the temperature peaked at around 110 or 111.  We ran our generator and roof air from a ways west of Phoenix until we got home.

We had no problem with wind until the stretch from Palm Springs to about Banning, where the winds were ferocious!  We slowed down to between 45 and 50 to minimize the effects and had no problems.

Once again the engine was not shut off, once underway, until in it's overnight location in our driveway.

We had been planning an overnight stop part way home, as this stretch is about 500 miles, but with our early start we continued on and arrived in Escondido around 5:00 with no problems.

I know it sounded like we had nothing but trouble the latter part of our trip, and to a degree that was true, but we really had a marvelous trip!

Most of the problems we had were the direct result of what I beleive to be deliberate sabotage by a vengeful employee of Cummins during his final day or days with Cummins.  I have a detailed record of problems that is just too extensive to be the result of carelessness or even gross incompetence.  This chapter is far from over!

The final problem, the only catastrophic one, could be related to the others, but is most likely strictly my fault.  I am now keenly aware of the greater need for frequent lubrication of this type of U-joint in this type of application.  Most automotive U-joints get lubricated every 50,00 to 100,00 miles.  These should be greased every 3000!  Also it didn't help any that the mechanic at Rip Griffins was incompetent, and didn't notice the interference when he assembled the differential yoke!

Some trip statistics:

We drove the motor home 6573 miles through 14 states.

We drove the Nissan an additional 3166 miles, and into one additional state (Virginia).

We were away from home a total of 59 nights, 60 days.
We slept in the motor home in campgrounds 47 nights.
We slept in the motor home in the Scholls' driveway 6 nights.
The motor home was in 4 different shops a total of about 7 days.
We slept in the motor home at repair facilities 3 nights.
We slept in a motel room 3 nights.

I sent 47 email messages
I received 220 email messages (100 after discarding the junk mail)

Of the 60 total days we were away, we either thoroughly or partially enjoyed 60 of them!

Thanks so much for being with us throughout our trip, helping us rejoice during good times, and sharing the pain of the bad.  Through the marvels of digital electronics, we are never really away from those we care for!

Betty and Dick