Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just visiting

Well, Tiger and I have been staying in Nashville at a timeshare with brother, Ransom. Wyndham Nashville is a nice place. Every day, Ransom and I drive into Murfreesboro to visit our Mother in the nursing home. After all, that's why we are here. Those visits may be pleasant or difficult. It varies from day to day.

Tuesday, I was almost caught in a tornado. All the "weather" that came through here on Tuesday generated an "air tornado". I'm sure there is a more proper technical name for it, but it was a funnel cloud that stays up in the air and does not touch down. I was driving on I-24 when the funnel cloud passed over the interstate. And I wasn't even smart enough to pull off the road and head for cover! Actually, I didn't know it was there. The rain and wind were so bad I was concentrating on the road and not getting run over by the semis going 75 mph so I didn't look up in the air. By the way, I did finally pull over to the side of the road to escape the effects of all the water in the road and to let the wind die down. I'm not totally dumb!

I hadn't had lunch so I stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Murfreesboro and while I was there learned that I had just driven under a tornado. I will admit that did shake me up a bit!

Tiger's been taking life easy and staying at the room. That weather probably would have scared him pale! I don't have a picture of him anywhere today because my camera batteries died. Isn't that the way it goes? We'll correct that asap.

Time to head to Murfreesboro. See you soon!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Travels with TIGER

I kind of dropped off the earth with my travel "blogging," didn't I? I don't have any excuse. It just happened! We weren't even through with our travels! I'll try to do better. That's all I'll promise!

After the amazing storm in Florence, we headed on toward Eagle River. Since we had planned to stay one more day in Florence, we had to improvise and went to Arbor Vitae for one night (it was good; I wouldn't mind going back there) and then to Eagle River KOA where we got to do some canoeing. Then we headed for home and a brief stop in Beloit before we hit the road again.

We next took a trip to Baraboo, Door County, and DePere (back to Apple Creek). That was another good ten days. (I'm giving the short form of the story but it was just ten good days of camping. Nothing was extraordinary except we had a great time. But that was typical for our summer!) All in all, we were on the road for some 40 days this past summer. That was enough to whet our appetite for more travel NEXT summer. We'll probably go west for the big trip and spend time in WI again, this time in the northwestern part of the state.

With that last trip, however, we returned home so Mary could get ready for the beginning of the school year. We did get in a couple of weekend trips in to Baraboo before putting the coach away for the winter.

However, now I'm on a new journey with a new companion, TIGER. A little background: our dear kitty Sally died in September. She had traveled with us all summer, adjusting to life on the road pretty well. She was real laid back and since she was getting a little old (aren't we all!) the confined life didn't seem too bad (she didn't get outside back home in the sticks-n-bricks either). Maybe the illness that took her from us was already at work and she just covered it up. Cats do that, you know. We do miss her something fierce!

We're not ready for a new cat member of the family right now, so Mary suggested (and I thought it was a neat idea) that we take TIGER, a stuffed animal from the World Wildlife Fund (1998 [!] was the "Year for the Tiger" for the WWF and TIGER comes from that era) and pose TIGER in various places showing the places where we are traveling. We could take pictures and then make prints of them and send them to our grandchildren as a way of letting them know where Grandma and Grandpa were when they were on the road.

Well, this time I'm not traveling in the motorhome. I'm driving our new car (2010 Honda Fit Sport) down to Tennessee to visit Mother for a few days. I'll meet Ransom (my brother, for those who don't know him) and we'll have most of a week with Mother.  So TIGER started today on the dash of the Fit as we were leaving home in Beloit (although he did move to the comfort and safety of the passenger seat for the trip). And now he has a comfortable bed for the night at our temporary home in Marion, IL. (He's got a bed of his own!)

And as we travel, I'll try to keep you posted. This doesn't have quite the excitement of our summer travels, but it gives me a change to practice the discipline of writing, which I really need to improve on for our summer travels to come AND for the writing I am trying to do in two other places:

"Hope for Tomorrow ... TODAY!" at, where I'll be writing about coaching, conciliation, and consulting, and

"A Circuit Rider on the Internet,", where I'll be sharing my reflections as a retired but not retiring United Methodist clergy person.

Be seeing you down the road!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Storm of Apocalyptic Proportions (thanks Fred for the thought!)

It's been a while since I took time to stop by and tell our story. A whole lot has happened since we survived the flood in de Pere. Sunday was family day on our trip. We went up to Marinette and had a wonderful visit with Mary's cousin Ed and his wife Julie, their son, and three BIG dogs. It was a good afternoon of sitting there talking, sharing stories, hearing stories, and being family. Thank you, Ed and Julie, for being such delightful hosts.

We had dinner at an old time Green Bay institution, Cranky Pats, the successor to Frank and Pats. It is a great neighborhood pizza place and serves good pizza. If you're in Green Bay on the east side, look up Cranky Pats and pay a visit. (This is a completely unsolicited endorsement!)

Monday, we broke camp in de Pere and headed for a campground we knew little to nothing about, Camping in the Clouds in Florence, WI. We drove up to Iron Mountain, MI, and then went west to Florence and just out of town we drove UP a steep gravel drive to Camping in the Clouds. It's a campground in progress, just a few years old, with a grand vision and great potential but with yet a ways to go. We had a fantastic campsite on nearly on top of a hill with a VIEW. It was a great place to sit outside and relax. Tuesday we hiked around the campground area. With 76 acres of old mine workings there is a lot of land to walk around. The number one target of the whole area seems to be ATV'ers. We were the only non-machine-riders that we saw there.

By late Tuesday afternoon, we were sticking close to home, the camper, since storms were being predicted and we didn't know when the rain might come. We had just started eating supper when the weather radio went off. A storm was coming. It was miles away but moving fast. And we were on top of a hill. Winds up to 60 miles an hour were in the storm and tornadoes were a possibility.

We broke camp immediately (IN the middle of supper) and headed down to the camp office and central building. A young couple were covering things in the absence of the owners (who were far out of the area on another job) and they weren't really aware of the possible severity of the situation. Once I explained what we had heard on the weather radio, he headed out in a hurry to get others rounded up.  Since it was a weekday, there were not a whole lot of campers and only a few came down.

It was indeed quite the storm. I'm not sure I have ever seen rain fall any harder. And it just kept coming. Eventually the worst of the immediate storms passed. Some of the campers went back to their sites, the couple closed the office, and we moved back to our rv coach sitting in the parking lot. I was not going to drive up that steep, slick, muddy road to a campsite on top of a hill when it was clear that more storms were to come. There was a slight slant to our parking spot but we managed to get some sleep as more storms beat around us. It was a bit frightening, I'm not ashamed to say. I thought we were safe now that we were off the hill, but the storms were still fierce. Lightning and wind. No tornadoes. No hail.

This morning, Wednesday, dawned bright and clear. We decided to move on from "Camping in the Clouds" a day earlier than we had planned. It was just too muddy to be fun and the forecast was for hot and humid which didn't promise to be very pleasant. So we decided to move on.

Tonight we are in Arbor Vitae at the Arbor Vitae Campground. This is the nicest night we have had all summer. The temperatures are cool and comfortable. By the end of the night, they will probably be too cool for comfort in short and short-sleeved shirt. It will make for great sleeping. We are across the street from a beautiful lake and had a great afternoon walk. Grilled salmon for supper with peaches and veggies to accompany it and a glass of wine. A perfect evening.

Tomorrow, we'll backtrack to Eagle River and spend the last three nights of this trip there. Let's hope the weather is friendlier than it has been in the previous stops on our trip.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

WOW, What a Way to Start a Day!

I got up this morning at my usual 5 a.m. I get up early to feed the cat and get some reading done. It satisfies the introvert side of myself to have a time when I am all alone (except for the cat and Mary sleeping down the hall of the coach). It was raining when I got up. It had been raining HARD since about 3:30 a.m. HARD!

Checking email and reading various things, I was just relaxing and enjoying the quiet (if you can call the loud noise that a hard rain makes on a coach roof "quiet"). All of a sudden there was a loud knock at the door.  I think I knew what was to come. I opened the door to one of the camp ground employees apologetically saying, "You need to get ready to evacuate if it becomes necessary. The water is rising behind you!"

I think I mentioned yesterday that the campground was wet from the rain the day before (and from several days before) and the ditches were full of water. I woke Mary up and we looked out the back window of the coach and could see water flowing over the banks of the little creek behind us. There was maybe four inches of air between the top of the water and the top of the culvert. Maybe.

We set to work, packing the loose items in the coach so we would be ready to drive. I handled the inside and Mary got to work outside. (No, I wasn't taking the easy job. She said I know where things go inside the coach and could get it done better and faster. And she could work outside.) By the way, our little motor home itself was dry and cozy in all this rain.

Some of the residents of the campground chose to leave quickly. Others of us moved more slowly. We were on the high ground and looked safe...relatively speaking. As we worked and watched (and ate an abbreviated breakfast), the rain began to slow and gradually stop.  The water kept rising for a while and the campground crew was working hard to place pumps and pipes to move the water away from the campers and to drain the low places. At one place the road out of the campground was almost underwater. Almost but not quite. That was one of the place I kept watching as well as the water behind us that was rising.

As it all worked out, the sun came out, the rain stopped, and we stayed put. In addition we had coffee with neighbors from Nevada and California and enjoyed swapping stories of travels and places and things we've done. One lady, traveling solo, is on a journey to see as many of the over 600 lighthouses around the United States as she can. In three years of travel, she has seen well over 300 of them. After the rain stopped and the excitement abated, she headed off for Door County to see several more.

Otherwise, we spent much of the day with Kitty, Mary's youngest sister who lives in Green Bay. Kitty has just had her offer for the purchase of a home accepted and is going through the process of loan approval, inspection, etc., and moving toward home ownership. We got to see the new house. She did a good job of picking a new home for her and Maya the cat.

Tonight we have a wonderfully pleasant evening in our muddy campground. We've turned off the AC, opened the windows, and are enjoying the fresh air of the evening. Tomorrow we'll run up to Marinette, Mary's hometown, and visit some family and friends. Mary and Sally the cat say "Hi" to all our friends and family reading.

Friday, July 23, 2010

On the Road Again!

Well, I haven't written anything for a few days. I'm sorry for the silence. We got home and had lots to be done. Let me see if I can go back and catch up with myself.

We did meet my old Murfreesboro friend, Jimmy Sidwell, on Friday in Gatlinburg. He came over from his home and business in Sevierville and we had a delightful lunch at Calhoun's in Gatlinburg. We reminisced about the summer of 1961 when I spent two weeks in Gatlinburg with Jimmy and his family helping out at their business "Jolly Golf" in the morning and having afternoons to play in and see Gatlinburg and the Great Smokies. One of the memorable moments of that trip was a hike up the Alum Cave Bluffs Trail. I think that hike was one of the formative moments for me and made me a lover of hiking ever since then. Jimmy has certainly taken that business his dad started and turned it into a vacation-land empire with multiple sites, cities, and regions. I truly appreciate that he took the time from a very busy schedule to visit with an old friend.

On Friday afternoon, after lunch with Jimmy, we went to an arts and crafts fair at the convention center in G'burg. It was fun touring the many displays and looking at all of the arts and crafts that were on display and for sale (although we did manage to escape without purchasing anything). Especially delightful was walking past a booth where Burton Dye, another high school classmate and friend from Murfreesboro, was showing his art. Burton is a splendid artist (I have four prints of his art work in my home). Mary and I met Burton's wife and had a great visit with her. I did get to say hi to Burton, but he was busy selling a couple of pieces of artwork to a woman. Sure can't blame a fellow for doing what he was there to do!

We left Gatlinburg on Saturday morning, expecting to drive about half way home, stopping somewhere around Indianapolis. We couldn't find a place to stop in that area so we kept going and got just west of Champaign/Urbana to Mahomet, IL, where we stopped at the Champaign Sportsman's Club campground. What a wonderful little campground! We loved it. I'd gladly stop there again. The folks in the office were exceptionally nice and the park was in a beautiful place, across the road from a park where we took a long walk on Sunday morning before hitting the road and getting home in less than five hours of driving time.

Reflections on three weeks on the road -- I thoroughly enjoyed the travels, the places we saw and the people we met. We were too touristy, although I understood that was what we were doing. What I mean is we tried to do too many things. Sometimes it got a little rushed. But it's also hard to sit still and do nothing. We saw interesting and historical places.  The little 27-foot Fleetwood Fiesta 26Q did a good job. We could use a little more space, partly just to have more personal space for those moments when one needs to be alone. Even in a great marriage, some alone time is necessary, particularly for the introvert partner of the pair (that's ME, in case you are wondering or hadn't realized it).  Some day we'll move up to a bigger coach, but for now, this one worked well. It was fun having the cat (Sally the cat) travel with us instead of leaving her at home with daily attention from friends who are willing to look after her.

It was also fun traveling with my best friend, Mary. There is nothing I'd rather do. We are each strong personalities with strong points of view, but it works! LOL. Marriage IS hard work, you know. And it's worth it.

We got home Sunday night and did routine around-the-house things. We installed a new fan in the family room. That was one of the real highlights of the week.

Today (Friday) we drove from Beloit to the Apple Creek Campground near de Pere. Heavy rains last night left the grounds muddy, but we have a decent site and will stay here three nights, visiting Kitty, Mary's younger sister. Kitty may be reaching one of the landmark birthdays of life in a few weeks, but she's still the delightful 17-year-old I first met when Mary and I were dating, at least in my aging eyes. But then, in my mind's eye, dear Mary is still the poised, assured, beautiful 25-year-old I first laid eyes on at a media conference in Illinois.

We'll move on from here after doing family things and go to a campground near Florence, WI, and then on to Eagle River.

Thanks to all who read my words and share our journeys.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Well, you haven't heard much from me for a few days. We've been too busy in Gatlinburg for me to take time to write! We made the drive from Hendersonville to Gatlinburg without incident but not without some white knuckles! I've driven the mountains many times in many places and don't think too much about it, but driving a motorhome in the mountains was a different experience, expecially in the construction zone on I-40 where a rock slide had obliterated part of the road a couple of years ago and kept it closed for quite some time. The highway is open, at least one lane, but it was a narrow lane and the road is still winding. But I made my first mountain drive in the Fiesta and we made it fine!

We are at the TwinCreek RV Park in Gatlinburg. It is an excellent place to be. The sites are good and well equipped ... and fairly level. Even better, it sits on the trolley line that lets us travel in Gatlinburg without a car of our own. The campground has some they rent out, but the cost is a little pricey and so we elected to not rent this time.

Tuesday we rode the trolley into G'burg, walked around town, had a good time, ate a late lunch and walked some more and then came home pretty tired. But a good time was had. Came home to the campground to find we have new neighbors on both sides. And one of them is driving a Fleetwood Fiesta, a 27 footer like our too! This is only the third on we've seen. It's a 26-Y as opposed to our 26-Q, meaning they have different floorplans, but still very similar.

Wednesday, July 14, was my 63rd birthday. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are great places to celebrate a birthday. A BIG thank you to all the people who wished me a happy birthday via eMail and FaceBook. The many greetings of the day were deeply appreciated! We ended the day with a rousing game of Tri-ominoes. Ah, the life!

Today, we took the aerial tramway to the top of the Ober Gatlinburg where we had beautiful views of the Great Smoky Mountains. It was a beautiful day. This may be the first day of our vacation where I got too much sun. We finished off the day by doing a load of laundry. That's not much fun but had to be done.

Friday we hope to see a high school classmate of mine, Jim Sidwell, who lives in Sevierville. And then Saturday we'll hit the road for home, hopefully by Sunday night.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Time for Nature

Yesterday, we had a slow start to the day (let it be noted that we did NOT go to church anywhere on this vacation day and, yes, it did feel a little bit different).

We headed out to the Caw Caw Interpretative Center where we could see the results of an experiment in planting tea and an old rice plantation. We walked a longish nature trail on a boardwalk through the swamp and on the dikes between the rice fields. There was an old plantation there that was the scene of an early slave uprising. Nothing but the fields remained, but it was an interesting insight into a different time and a different way of life. AND, we think we heard an alligator grunting not too far from us...THINK, mind you. We didn't see the 'gator but felt a little uncertain about that stretch of trail. At the beginning of the trail, at the interpretative center, there was a warning about the presence of cottonmouth water moccasins and timber rattlesnakes. That did make me a little uneasy walking through the swamp trail, but we didn't see any signs of any snakes. Whew!

Then we went to a working tea plantation. It is one of a kind in the US, growing the tea, packaging it, and marketing it. It is owned by the Bigelow Tea Co but sells under the name of American Classic Tea. We had a tour of the production facility but didn't see the need of paying for a trolley tour of the tea fields.

Our last "tour" of the day was at the Charles Towne Landing Museum. We got there too late to tour the whole park and see the actual buildings but toured the museum itself and learned a lot about the original settlement of Charleston.

We ended the day with a pizza and a game of tri-ominoes.

Today we made the drive from Charleston up into the Blue Ridge Mountains. We're camped at Hendersonville, NC, tonight, planning to drive to Gatlinburg tomorrow where we'll stay for four days and then make a mad dash home, covering 700+ miles in two days. Those will be the hardest days of our trip. We are planning to get back home a week earlier than initially planned because my High School 45th Class Reunion got scheduled for August 7 so that I will need to go back to Tennessee on a weekend I had not initially planned for.

Mary is being amazed at the beautiful mountain scenery we are entering. And I am enjoying seeing it again. As for driving an RV in the mountains...well, today was a foretaste of up hill/down hill and steep grades. Lets hope that tomorrow goes well. And that I don't run into any underpasses lower than 11'4"!!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Charleston Cauldron

Hot, humid, and hellish. That's a description of the weather for the past two days! Heat indices of 104-109 with high humidity and high real temperatures (high 90s). We know that the coach AC works wonderfully as sometimes we even get a little cool when the AC is set to a reasonable temperature (like 79). Outside, however, it feels like we are being boiled in the hot humid air. Thus, the heading: Charleston Cauldron.

We had a relatively easy drive from Savannah to Charleston yesterday. I hated to say good-bye to cousin Ellen and her wonderful hospitality but it was time to shift our base of operations. So we made the short day's drive to Charleston.

We're at the Oaks Plantation Campground on Hwy 17, west of Charleston. This is an excellent site although it doesn't have enough trees. We have a concrete pad with full hook-up. We got in yesterday and set up our site. It was so humid that I had to go take a shower before Mary would let me back in the coach. Fortunately, this campground has an excellent shower house so I was able to cleanup, dry off and go home. At least to our home, sweet home Fleetwood Fiesta. Supper and a few rounds of Tri-ominoes finished off the day.

We arranged for a car from Enterprise Rent-a-car (I DO have to get a car we can flat tow; I've seen too many RVers who say that pulling a dolly just isn't worth it and since both of our present cars would have to be front-end on a dolly in order to make the trip I may have to change one of the cars). Enterprise picked us up at the campground this morning in a Chevy Camero (yes, Mary really IS flexible enough to fit into the back seat observing that I'd never get out of it if I got in the back seat...isn't it good that the old man is married to a younger woman who can compensate for his elderly frailties?). I could hardly see over the dashboard of the Camaro it was so high! So I asked for something else. We got a Toyota Prius. I don't know if they can be flat towed, but I could learn to like this car! QUIET!!! Well set-up. And NO real key. Just push a button (with the key fob in your pocket).

Then we drove downtown. Where Savannah had the trolley tours, Charleston has coach tours. We took the venerable GreyLine tour. They've had good reputations in cities we've visited in the past and they did not let us down. Chris, our guide and driver, had a splendid knowledge of Charleston, it's history, it's culture, and it's real estate. He could quote the prices at which the splendid old homes we past had brought if they sold in recent years. And let me tell you that even in a down economy these are PRICES not prices. The current recent record is $7.5 million for one of the old houses, although the locals don't understand how anyone could pay asking price for a home that is NOT one of the best of the historic homes when they were only bringing up to 3/4s of asking. Well, you don't need to listen to me indulge my real estate fetish. But the tour was informative, entertaining, and educational. And it was a good lesson in local real estate activity.

Charleston has lots of history, like Savannah, and we really got a good sample of it with both the Grey Line tour PLUS a tour of Fort Sumter. As many of you know, Ft. Sumter was the site where the first shots of the War for Southern Independence, aka The Civil War, aka The Late Rebellion (and a host of other names, depending on where in the USA you live) were fired. Ft. Sumter is on an island at the mouth of Charleston Harbor and although the Southern attack on the island (which was successful) did not result in anyone killed and did relatively little damage, the nearly six hundred day siege that the Union forces later imposed on the island fortress nearly destroyed the works (although they didn't capture the fort until the southern forces abandoned the it). We went over on a tour boat, had too little time there but enjoyed what time we had, returned to shore and had dinner at Tommy Condon's Irish Pub and Restaurant. Mary had a delicious shepherd's pie and I had some very tasty Coconut coated Atlantic shrimp. It was an excellent dinner prolonged by a serious rainstorm.

Tomorrow ... well, we haven't decided what the day will bring.

It is an interesting coincidence that son Vini and his bride Krista are in SC at the same time we are. Unfortunately, they are in Columbia and not Charleston so we can't even get in a brief visit. They'll be gone when the weekend is over.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Sultry Savannah

We're in the Biltmore RV Park and Gardens in Savannah, GA. The name sounds elegant but the site isn't. However, it is a quiet park, on the bus line, and has friendly owners. It's also full hook-up which is always nice for an RVer, that is, we have electric, water, cable, and sewer. We're well connected!

We got in here midday on Tuesday, got setup and called cousin Ellen who lives here in the area. She came right over and after a delightful visit/catch-up time we went out to supper at a fantastic seafood place on the Ogeechee River, Love's Seafood and Steak. I had some great Georgia white shrimp and Mary had a tasty salmon. Then back  home to a quiet evening since Ellen needed to get home to take care of her dogs.

Yesterday, Wednesday, we took the trolley tour of Savannah. The company we picked even came out to the RV park and picked us up (and brought us back at the end of the day).  Ellen met us downtown at the visitor's center and accompanied us on the first round of the trolley tour. We went through all the stops to see what was available with Ellen's commentary on the historic district and its squares in addition to the commentary of the tour guide/trolley driver. We learned a lot from both.

Savannah is a fascinating city with a long interesting history. It is one of the oldest cities in the southeast, being founded by James Oglethrop and colonists from England. Of course, it has ties to John Wesley since he came here as a "missionary" in the 1700s. And was an abject failure, both professionally and personally.

We saw the Mercer house and some other sites associated with the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil which was a true story about life in Savannah. We wandered the riverfront and we walked lots of streets, catching trolley rides from spot to spot.

Today, Ellen is taking us out to Tybee Island and maybe we'll find a place to do some shopping for supplies. Tomorrow we'll raise the jacks and put the wheels on the road towards Charleston, SC.

Monday, July 05, 2010

High Falls State Park, GA

Here we are at High Falls State Park in Georgia (between Atlanta and Macon). It's a nice evening and the miracle of technology has the two of us sitting outside the coach in the dark typing on our respective computers. I'm posting on the blog and Mary is putting something up in our family's FaceBook group. We're connected through a Verizon MiFi 2200 which lets both of us be online in our own private "hotspot" at the same time. Neat stuff!

This is a very pleasant state park, not far off the Interstate. We're on the way to Savannah, GA, where we'll arrive tomorrow. The evening is nice too, cool enough to sit outside. We'll probably be able to sleep with the windows open and the AC off! That'll be nice.

An observation from today's driving: it was easier to drive through Atlanta (we went straight through on I-75) than it was to drive through Nashville. Now, I admit that today was a holiday for many people (since the 4th was on a Sunday), but still! It was easier to drive through Atlanta than Nashville!

We're getting better at setting up and breaking down camp. We're faster and take fewer missteps along the way. Hurray for us! This morning we had to do the dreaded holding tank DUMP! Black water and gray water alike. I will spare you the details, but it is not a fun experience, just a necesary one!

I'll be back tomorrow, after we get into Savannah.

On to Georgia

This is our last morning in TN (at least for the moment). We'll be packing up and heading off for Georgia and a visit with cousin Ellen in Savannah. I'm excited about seeing Ellen again. It's been too many years since we've been together.

We'll have an intermediate stop tonight at High Falls State Park, between Atlanta and Macon. I hope it's a good place for the night.

Yesterday was a good day. I spent the morning getting some "chores" done around the coach. I finally got the tire pressure monitor system installed correctly and working. Hopefully that gives us a good safety margin on the important issue of tire pressure. We also used some of the special cleaning supplies we bought at the RV Rally. The pink stuff works very well!

We spent all afternoon with Mother at the nursing home. The day had mostly good moments. They  included visits with two of the Robinson cousins and their spouses: Barry and Margaret, Janet and Dorris. Visits with them are always a delight. I feel blessed to have so many wonderful cousins that I enjoy so much. Mother had a reasonably good day.

Supper was at Jason's Deli in Murfreesboro. It's on Thompson Lane, near the intersection with Medical Center Parkway. If you're in Murfreesboro and haven't eaten there, by all means give it a try! It's the only place I've ever heard Mary say, "If I were rich and able to buy a franchise, I would buy this one so I would have it in my town!"

The latter part of the evening was spent watching a great fireworks display at the "Nashville I-24 Campground" in Smyrna. It was a real professional job! I think it was better than some city-sponsored fireworks I've seen in the past. I planned to have some pics, but discovered that getting pictures from a Windows-based smart phone to a Mac is not easy. I can email them to myself, but was too tired to fool with it. Maybe another time I can get them online.

Well, time to start the day and get the packing up started. Talk to you later!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Slow Day in the 'Boro

There's really not much travel news for today. We spent much of the day with Mother with several shorter visits rather than a long time sitting. That's better for all of us I think.

I am enjoying my Verizon MiFi 2200 wireless hot spot. I can carry it and connect almost anywhere. Right now, I'm using the campground's wifi, but sometimes it slows to a crawl (probably when lots of campers are on it) and the MiFi is a great backup. I recommend it.

The big event of the day was taking cousin Clark and his wife Mary out to dinner at the Macaroni Grill. This was my first time there and I was favorably impressed.  Earlier in the day I had taken my Mary to lunch at a Murfreesboro institution, The City Cafe, just off the "square." The more somethings change, the more they stay the same. We also stopped by the Linebaugh Public Library, where I had my first job when I turned 16. Of course, they are no longer in the building I helped them move into so long ago and it is a fine building, but they are already stretching the limits of it's structure.

It is really interesting to not have to worry about someone calling me and telling me some tragic news or problem situation. Here on day 2 of retirement, I am already feeling the lifting of a heavy weight. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Camping, Neighbors, and Family

Wednesday was a travel day for us. Leaving the Fleetwood rally, we drove from DuQuoin, IL, to Smyrna, TN. We were not in a hurry so it took six hours to make a four and 1/2 hour trip. It is kind of nice to not have to be in a hurry!

Since this was the first time I've driven the coach through Nashville, I do have to say that it was a nerve-wracking drive. Changing lanes in a coach is not as easy as in a Mitsubishi Eclipse and when it is across three lanes to make a transition it is not easy at all.

Presently, we are safely ensconced at the Nashville I-24 Campground which, despite the name, is in Smyrna, TN, on the Old Nashville Highway. Thanks to cousin Clark and his lovely bride, Mary, we have a loaned car for the first couple of days until we can rent  one. I do have to get a car we can tow in the future.

Our neighbors here in the campground are a couple who were at the Fleetwood rally too. And their neighbor on the other side is a friend of theirs who was also at the rally! On the other side (out our front door) is a woman and her fiance who are essentially living at the campground in their trailer. More importantly, she has a cat for Sally to watch...and hiss and growl at.

We went to visit my Mother today (Thursday, July 1). We haven't been home to see her since last Christmas and there has been quite a change in her. She was in assisted living last December when we celebrated her 90th birthday a week early and now she is in a nursing home for long-term care. Time has taken its toll. We did get her to laugh some with us.

This evening we had a delicious pasta dish made by Mary in our RV kitchen. It's a bit different from cooking in a sticks-and-bricks home kitchen. You have to plan out your moves and what you will need and when you will need it. And Mary cooked a great meal! Other than the fact that the counter space is seriously limited, it's not a bad kitchen: three burner stove, oven, microwave with convection cooking, refrigerator with freezer, double sink, and almost no usable counter space.

This evening the neighbor invited us to join him and his wife and their friends from the next coach and we had a fun evening being RV'ers talking to RV'ers. Stories were traded, advice was given to the newbies (Mary and I) (and it was good advice too) and new friends were made. They'll head out tomorrow bound for home in FL.

Good sleeping should be in the cards tonight. We've turned the AC off and opened windows. It's
supposed to get down to the 50s! That'll be the coolest since we left home.

The good news of today was the closing of the sale of our Dutch Hollow Lake home. We hate to see the little house go but it was no longer meeting our needs. And now someone else will get to enjoy it.

The other good news of the day is that I am now retired. Wahoo!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Rally Ends

This was our last day at the Fleetwood Motorhome Association Rally. It was a slow day, but there were some interesting moments. The most interesting part of the day was a two hour panel talking about the full-time RV lifestyle.

Full-timers are people who live in their RVs. They may or may not still own a physical house planted on a piece of property (often called "sticks and bricks" houses), but they live in their RV all the time. There were a lot of full-timers at the Rally and at the panel there were a LOT of wannabes, including Forrest and Mary. Well, at least Forrest. Mary is still in the information collecting stage but she hasn't told me I'm flat-out crazy. We've got about three years to talk about it before we can decide to make it happen or not, but, frankly, I'd do it in a minute!

One interesting thing today was meeting a couple from Baraboo, the Nelsons. Well, actually they live closer to the Dells, but Baraboo is their address. We ate supper with them and enjoyed getting acquainted. They're big rally goers, particularly with the FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association), of which we are also members. Maybe we'll actually meet them again. Next summer's FMCA Rally is in Madison, WI, and, who knows, we might be able to make that gathering!

Another interesting thing was tonight's entertainment, Three men and thirty instruments, also known as Blue Odyssey. They were fun and they were good musicians.

Tomorrow, we are off to Tennessee and the Nashville I-24 Campground in Smyrna, TN. The night here has cooled off enough to open the coach windows and let fresh air in. I doubt that'll happen in TN.

Grace and peace to any and all of you who bother to read this little record. I hope you find something of interest each day!

Monday, June 28, 2010

There's learning...and there's learning!

Yesterday was a day of seminars on the esoterica of RVing: safety and fire, taking care of your holding tanks, tire monitoring systems, electrical safety. They may not sound thrilling, but when you're in an RV they are all important topics.  Mary learned just how fast an RV can burn (NO, NOT first-hand but in a seminar). I learned about the importance of sanitizing the fresh water tank, inside and out, and about the dangers of poorly wired campground electricity.

There are lots of things you need to learn in RVing, like ... where are the fuse boxes for your coach? I had a blown circuit. Nothing major, just the auxiliary power sockets (the 12-volt system) and I could not find the fuse box for it. Oh, I found a big one under the hood (such a little hood for such a big coach!) but it didn't have the circuit I needed. However, part of my rationale for coming to this rally was to learn from other owners of similar coaches. And there is another Fiesta 26 owner parked right behind me (one of the five of us who are here). So I asked if he knew where the internal fuse box was located. (Earlier, I had taken a flashlight and crawled on my back up over the hump and under the dashboard and spent a long painful time trying to find where the manufacturer had hidden it on the firewall or under the dash. That was all to no avail.) Lo and behold, he knew exactly where to find it! There is a hatch in the dashboard that, when lifted, exposes the internal fuse box. It afforded very easy access to something I was trying to make so hard (NOT the first time in my life that has happened to me). He even had a replacement fuse kit and gave me a fuse! Thank you, Hugo, of Snowflake, AZ!

I also learned that looking at the display RVs can be dangerous! Dangerous to your pocketbook, that is, and to your relationship with your spouse! I found one I really liked (I think I mentioned that previously). The salesman was working hard to close a deal and I was wavering! Fortunately, my very level-headed wife wanted to have nothing to do with it. She went and sat down and let me have my fantasy conversation and then reminded me of economic realities (sometimes I need those reminders where my toys are concerned, like lots of men, I suspect). I am so glad we represent the balance we do. That is what strengthens relationships. Thank you, Mary!

Our evening entertainment was an Elvis impersonator (not bad at all) and a Johnny Cash impersonator (his act still needs some work). The band was way too loud for my Meniere's ear but we listened for about an hour and headed home to the coach.

Last night, we has a hard rainstorm! Our coach is so cozy and dry! It rocked in the wind and the rain on the roof was loud, but it sure made for good sleeping!

Now, off to another day of learning, looking, and laughing (I needed another L for alliteration and that was the only one I could think of, but I do find myself laughing a lot these days. I think it just might have something to do with the fact that I will be officially retired in 3...that's THREE...days.)

Oh! Someone asked who Sally was. Sally is the cat who owns us. (If you've ever had a cat, you know just what I mean. People never really own a cat. Rather the cat deigns to let them take care of the cat and think they are the owners. The reality is that the cat is the one who is in control of the situation.)

Well, off for the day!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"Drive Your Toys to Illinois"

We left the Cedarbrook RV Park about 9:30 this morning after an uneventful evening. It was an air conditioner evening as I think most of our nights are going to be on this trip south. It was a short drive from Mulberry Grove to DuQuoin where we'll be through Wednesday. We're at the Rally of the Fleetwood Motorhome Association where there are HUNDREDS of Fleetwood brand motorhomes of all sizes, shapes, and descriptions from little "Class Cs" (coach on a van chassis with the van cab), Gas engine Class As (that's the small end of the line up to 36 footers) and Diesel engine Class As that are up to 42 feet and HUGE!

We are parked on the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in a large field that is a RV Campground. There are row upon row of Fleetwood motorhomes. It's hot, there are few trees, and the air conditioner is running ... and running and running. So far, I have seen only two Fiestas (the model we have) and we are both Model 26s (that are 27 feet long) and are parked nearly back to back. We are the little children of the family.

There are a number of 2011 new models from Fleetwood that are on display in the pavilion here. Of course, I found one that I'd buy in a minute! It's a 36 ft Bounder Classic model, only $112,000 (and that's CHEAP compared to lots of others). We could live in it! Of course there are lots of people who do just that.

At dinner tonight, we sat with a couple who are full-timers. They live in their motorhome year-round, south in the winter and north in the summer. Must be rich folks, you're probably thinking. Nope, blue collar types from Peoria, IL; husband who restored classic cars until they sold it all and hit the road and wife who worked as a bookkeeper. I had a lot of fun talking to them.  And, you know what, not once did they ask "and what did you do for a living." Our common ground was the RV "lifestyle" as people call it. I only know what they did because they mentioned it in passing in telling their story.

Tomorrow we get seminars on taking care of our RV, on how-tos in making choices, and other technical and interesting topics (and some not-so-interesting, but I don't have to go to them if I don't want to).

Mary's posting pictures in a facebook group for family members so I haven't put up many pictures.

Friday, June 25, 2010

First Day Out on RV Rambling

We (Forrest, Mary, and Sally the Cat) left the house about 11 am today and drove much of the length of IL down to Mulberry Grove where we are camped at the Cedarbrook Campground. It's a very nice place. I'd stop here again. We're just here for the night and tomorrow will go on to DuQuoin and the "Drive Your Toys to Illinois" rally of Fleetwood owners. We'll be there Sat. through Wed. 

Two mishaps for the day, neither truly major. First, somewhere we lost the outside door to the electrical storage unit. The roads were VERY bumpy and the door was broken and duct taped, but it jarred loose and fell off. It's replaceable. I'll just have to get another door at an RV supply store and install it. Second mishap, knocking a full glass of wine over onto the carpet in the coach. Bad enough that the carpet was stained, but I didn't even get a sip of the wine!

This was a long day's drive. Tomorrow will be much shorter, about 80 miles total, but we have to be in DuQuoin between 9 and 12 for our time slot at registration.

The coach got about 8.4 mpg with the AC running all day. (We ARE headed south you know. There is a reason we've seen lots of RV'ers going north!)

Well, more tomorrow! For now, good night!

retiring and rambling

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Two days to go!

I'm getting the coach loaded and balanced (I hope) and we'll leave Friday morning. First stop, Cedarbrook RV Park,  Mulberry Grove, IL, then the next day off to DuQuoin, site of "Bring Your Toys to Illinois," The Fleetwook owners group. I'm looking forward to it.  It is amazing how much "stuff" appears when a trip is imminent. Long day, I'm tired, off to bed.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Test trip

The first part of this week I had to go to that once-a-year ritual event of United Methodists called "Annual Conference." Here in Wisconsin it is a four day business/connecting/worshiping/eating endurance contest of seeing how long you can sit on your backside in a mass meeting.

I took the RV over to La Crosse, WI, the site of the extravaganza and camped at the Pettibone RV Resort just across the Mississippi River from the La Crosse Center where we were meeting. Since I don't have a dolly yet so I can tow a dinghy, I hoofed it from the campground to the conference meetings, about a mile and one-half walk. Not too bad at all. Got some good exercise that way. And if we were meeting late into the night, I could find friends with cars to take me back to the coach.

Mary joined me for a couple of the days and that was lots of fun.

The coach worked well. It is not a smooth riding luxury vehicle. The ride is pretty rough, like a truck, which it is, I suppose, in a sense, being built on a truck chassis (the Workhorse chassis). There are NO air bag suspensions on this Fleetwood Fiesta 26Q!!! The drive to La Crosse went well. I even managed to back into the campsite with only a minor adjustment of position after I backed in to the site. The Pettibone Resort is nice, the staff were very pleasant, and if I'm in the La Crosse area again, I'd gladly camp there. Our site was right on one of the channels of the Mississippi River.

Everything I tried in the coach worked. I did have an electrical issue but that was solved when I discovered that the ground-fault outlet in the bathroom also controlled the outlet on the kitchen cabinet and in the bedroom. Once it was reset all was well. Tank dumping at the end of the stay still is a place I can improve my technique, but I seemed to get it done. Ah, well, experience will teach me more, I'm sure.

This was a good trial run for the long trip that is due to start soon, Friday, June 25. We'll head for southern Illinois where on Sat. we will go to the DuQuoin State Fair Campground for the Fleetwood Motorhome Association's rally. Hope we learn some things from other Fleetwood owners.

Well, enough for now. I'm off to the first of the three weekend services where I will preach my "last" sermon for each service. The other two are Sunday morning.

Friday, April 30, 2010

I've Got to Start Somewhere ...

so it might as well be at the set the scene, you know.

Let me introduce myself and my VERY significant other.  I'm Forrest Shelton Clark, a United Methodist Clergy person, in the process of moving from active service in the pastoral ministry to what we call "the retired relationship." That means I'm retiring, in case that's not obvious.  My wife is Mary Kehoe Clark, a teacher and librarian at an elementary school. She has a few years to go before she gets to retire. That's too bad, since I wish we could both make this transition at the same time, but it just isn't possible. So we'll cope.

When I decided that it was going to be time to retire soon, I asked Mary what she thought about the idea of purchasing a recreational vehicle and returning to our camping and traveling days that we had enjoyed long ago when we were first married and I was a college administrative type (Director of Learning Resources ... I'm a librarian too, just like her) with time to travel. In those days we were young and all our camping was in tents and we loved it. We're both a bit older now and the idea of sleeping on the ground is much less appealing than it used to be. Anyway, Mary was interested too and so I began the research process to see what we should think about.

Right now, I'm not going to rehearse all the steps in the decision of what to purchase. Maybe that'll be an appropriate discussion at a later date. But we decided that we wanted to look at Class C Motor Homes and, specifically, to look for a gently used motorhome that was only a few years old.  As we looked at many different dealerships at all of the options, choices, possibilities, etc., we changed our thinking and began to look at small Class As. What we came up with was a Fleetwood Fiesta 26 (27 feet long) that is well set-up for two people and traveling. That's the picture to the right. We bought this in August of 2009 and got to use it for one camping trip before it was time to winterize and store.

Now, I'm retiring in two months and we are planning to spend much of the summer traveling, visiting some family, seeing some sights and scenery, and enjoying ourselves. In this narrative, I'll talk about dreaming, planning, traveling, and what we've learned and what we've done. Once I get it started, I'll let my kids and some of my friends know that it exists. Until then, somebody would just have to stumble over it on Blogger in order to know it exists.

That's enough for tonight, the first night. There'll be more.