Sunday, June 09, 2013

Catching Up and Moving On

The last time I wrote anything was MARCH 9 and here it is JUNE 9! A full three months have passed and a whole lot has happened, all of it good. Some even great! The last time I wrote we were in Georgia and today we are in Oklahoma. In between, we've been in Alabama, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas, Arkansas, Illinois, and Missouri. How's that for moving around?

Some of you probably thought I gave up on this blog. Uh uh. No way. I didn't. I just got distracted. That can happen quite easily, you know, when you are ADD and I know I definitely am!

There is no way I can catch up on everything that has transpired over the three months of my silence. I'd be writing for days and covering many pages to tell the full story. The best I can do is to give you a quick summary of our life in (and out of) the RV.

After stopping Georgia (mentioned in the post three months ago), we went up to north Alabama and stayed some ten days at the Mountain Lakes Resort on Guntersville Lake. Despite rain and cold, a good time was had. We got to visit some AL cousins and to visit some places of my AL family background (My dad was from Bridgeport, AL, and I visited Bridgeport and Scottsboro many times as a youth and a few times as an adult.)

From N. AL, we drove to Murfreesboro, TN, where cousin Janet and her husband, Doris, graciously let us driveway surf next to their "Garage Mahal". They provide us with electricity, water, and a bathroom with a nice shower. We couldn't ask for more!

We left the car in Murfreesboro and drove the car to Wisconsin to take care of visits to doctors, cpa (for taxes) financial advisor, friends and family. Just in our honor, Wisconsin arranged for an 18" snowfall in Madison where we were safely ensconced in a hotel. Ah! Winter in WI! I don't miss it!

Returning to Murfreesboro, we visited family for several days and then headed out on the search for the RIGHT motor home for us (I'll say more about that later). The trip took us to Nacogdoches, TX, to Motorhomes of Texas where we looked at a Newell brand motor home formerly owned by the Olivers whom we met this past winter while camped at Cedar Key, FL. As it happened, this was not the coach for us but we were glad we went and looked.

We returned to Arkansas where we spent nearly three magnificent weeks getting acquainted with parts of this delightful state. We stayed in Daisy State Park, Lake Ouchita State Park (pronounced Wash-a-taw) whence we also visited historic Hot Springs (and the Hot Springs National Park) where we indulged ourselves in a GREAT hot bath followed by a massage at the Buckstaff Bath House (if you go to Hot Springs, you HAVE to have the spa experience).

We also visited the edge of the Old West by going to Fort Smith, AR, where they advertise "our bordello still serves visitors" (it's the visitor's center for the city). We stayed at Springhill Corps of Engineers campground, toured the old fort, and, of course, checked out Miss Laura's Social Club, aka the visitor's center.

Finally, in Arkansas we went to Eureka Springs and had a delightful time in this charming town. It is historic and well preserved since all of the downtown is on the National Historic Register and has to be maintained as is. We stayed at the Wanderlust RV Park which I thought was an appropriate place given our recent travels.

While we were in Eureka Springs, The American Red Cross called and wanted to deploy us for disaster relief operations in the Peoria, IL, floods. Unfortunately, Mary had already scheduled some appointments and engagements in WI so she couldn't accept the deployment (and drove from Peoria to WI). I (Forrest) did accept the deployment and spent two weeks working in Logistics, Procurement and Supply, for the Peoria, IL, DRO (Disaster Relief Operation). Now that was an interesting, educational, and invaluable experience!

In front of my "home" with Dave, my Logistics supervisor in Peoria
This was my first deployment as a DOVE, Disaster Operations Volunteer, Escapees (Escapees is a national RV club to which we belong and DOVEs are a subset of the Escapees). That meant that for two weeks I lived in my motor home parked in the Peoria American Red Cross chapter parking lot and walked 50 feet to get to my work station for Logistics.

After finishing the ARC deployment in Peoria (Mary came back on my last full day there), we headed for Branson, MO, where we spent 10 enjoyable days. During this time, we enjoyed the sights and sounds of Branson. We took in several good shows and enjoyed being tourists in this very tourist-oriented city. For the last few days of our stay, we got to enjoy the companionship of brother, Ransom, and his dear wife, Helen, who had come to town for a few days. Actually, they were the reason we went to Branson. We learned they were headed there the last full week of May and decided to be there when they were there.

From Branson, we headed back to Murfreesboro and cousin Janet's driveway where we stayed for a week. While there, we attended the annual Shelton Cemetery Memorial Gathering. It's held on the fourth Sunday of every May. We also got to visit cousins from TN and AL. Thanks, once again, Janet and Doris, for allowing us to park in your driveway and use your utilities. It is a perfect base for our Tennessee visits and you are such gracious and generous hosts! We'll be back (if you'll have us)!

After Murfreesboro, we headed out once more on the quest for the RIGHT coach. This time we were bound for Sapulpa, OK, near Tulsa, where we'd heard of a coach that just might work. All in all, we spent a week in the Tulsa area. On Monday, June 3, we went to Wade's RV Clinic to look at a 1996 FORETRAVEL U 295 40' motor home. Thank you, David VanAmburg (who we met on the Foreforums group) for coming down to Sapulpa and looking through the coach with us and telling us what was what about it. Your help was invaluable. The end result was that on Tuesday, June 3, we bought the coach and traded in our former motor home.

OK. Let's talk about the quest for the RIGHT RV for us. Last winter and this spring, it became increasingly evident that our beautiful 2012 Fleetwood Terra 34E (and it was a beautiful coach!) just was not going to work for full-timing. It was a good motor home with lots of storage (for a 34' coach) and had a great floor plan. However, construction-wise, it was an entry-level coach and wasn't made for the rigors which full-time living impose on an RV. For example, all of the cabinets were of pressed board construction and the screws in hinges kept working loose and stripping out and I had to keep tightening screws and sticking matchsticks and wood putty into the holes to tighten them up. In addition, it was cold most of the winter and, even though we were in Florida, we had to use a lot of propane heating the coach. Electric heaters just wouldn't do it. This was a COLD coach and we didn't want to go through another winter being cold.

As problems occurred and repairs were made, we began to talk about what we might do to replace the Fleetwood without breaking the bank.  We knew we couldn't buy a better coach new and we knew that we would not buy a new coach again since we simply had too many problems from day 1 buying a completely new construction. That's another story and if you want to know more, contact me directly and we can talk about it!

The answer to our question of what to do came from our January in Cedar Key, FL, where we were camped with several people with whom we share an online affiliation in the group NuRVers. At Sunset Isles RV Park, we were introduced to the virtues of old and solid built. There were people there with bus conversions and older luxury coaches that were purchased by their present owners long after they were brand-new on the lot.  There were a couple of Newells that were there and a bus conversion.

So we began to look for a Newell we could purchase. About that time, Forest Oliver traded his  Newell in for a new coach and we learned that it was at Motorhomes of Texas in Nacogdoches. Forest was one of those camped at Sunset Isles and so we had already seen the outside of the coach and knew it was in quite good shape. It didn't turn out to be the coach for us, mostly because of the floor plan, but we learned a lot on our  trip to TX to look at it. One of the things we learned was that a Foretravel is also a fine coach to find in its older models and can be quite reasonable priced. Thus, we began to look for Foretravel coaches in the mid-to-late 1990s age-range (that being our "affordable" price point).

That's when we found our new home, a 40' Foretravel U 295.  It's a diesel coach with no slides, but lots of room, splendid living arrangements and appointments, and excellent storage. Plus, it is built like a bus. Solid construction. Air ride suspension and leveling. Solid wood cabinetry throughout.

From this ...
... to this
I also have to say it was a pleasure to deal with Kevin Fredericks (salesperson) and Wade Reeves (owner) at Wade's RV Clinic in Sapulpa, OK. They treated us well, fairly, hospitably, and graciously. They went out of their way to answer questions, to get answers from the former owners (who we actually got to meet and talk to), and to let me satisfy myself that a 1996 coach really was a good choice. It is!

After a couple of nights to get acquainted with the new coach, we drove up to Grove, OK, and the Bear's Den RV Resort, which is part of the Ocean Canyon Properties chain in which we are members. This is where we are now (June 9) as I write this.

We're only here for four days, but we stumbled onto the American Heritage Music Festival being held at the Grove Civic Center and we attended 2 days and nights of its activities. We saw clogging contests, dobro and other instrument contests, and LOTS of fiddle contests. This is a national-level fiddle contest and attracts some excellent musicians. We even met a woman from near Nashville, TN, who had brought her two teenage daughters to compete in the contests. They each went away with checks in hand from winning one of the top three places in different categories.

Well, that kind of brings you up-to-date with the peregrinations of Forrest and Mary. I've left out a lot of interesting details but if I'd tried to include all of them, this post would not be done for weeks. We have seen a lot of beautiful scenery, met wonderful people, learned a lot of U.S. American history, and had a whole lot of fun. Plus, we now have a new home for our travels.

Stay tuned, however. The summer is just starting and, after a short visit to WI to see a friend, we'll be heading WEST! You're welcome to take the ride with us.

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