What Goes Up Must Come Down

High Time In The Rockies

High Time In The Rockies

We’ll apologize up front for the length of this entry but it does cover  5 weeks and almost 2,000 miles!

After our week in Durango we began our travels eastward. We began in the Rockies from a high point of 12,126′ at Cottonwood Pass on the Continental Divide while taking a day hike. For comparison that’s 42% up Mount Everest. From there it was all downhill to Charlotte, NC at approximately 750′. We spent 3 relaxing days at Elk Creek CG in Blue Mesa NRA before moving on to Boyd’s Lake SP in Loveland, Colorado

Our stop in Loveland was primarily for RV warranty work on our slides and stabilizing the refrigerator. We also wanted to see why our batteries were not charging while we are driving. That turned out to be a problem with the truck so off to the Chevy dealer. We are finding getting anything but emergency items addressed under the manufacture’s warranty while on the road difficult. Everyone is “too busy”. Maybe I’m getting cynical in my old age but I think it’s really because they don’t get paid for it. More work needs to be done but we’ll wait until this winter in Arkansas. Next was Opal’s overdue visit to Banfield for her yearly checkup. She’s doing great for a 12 year old dog. The visit was a pleasure for both Opal and the vet… NOT! Then there was laundry, groceries and Walmart. All work and no play? Not us! We took in The Bensen Sculpture Garden, enjoyed a 10 mile bike ride on the bike trail at the park and ate at 2 Triple D spots. The restaurants were 451 in Fort Collins and Foolish Craig’s in Boulder. 451 was an upscale spot with good food but more pricey than the usual Triple D places. Foolish Craig’s was an eclectic spot with delicious crepes and other main dishes.

We drove to Rocky Mountain NP twice hoping the pass was open but had to settle for short hikes around Bear Lake and enjoy the elk bugling. On our second trip we stopped at the Colorado Cherry Company and fell in love with their tart cherry juice. We found spots in the RV to carry four gallons with us. We also took a long drive around to the south entrance to RMNP through the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest. We stopped at the Forest Office and as luck would have it talked with the lead ranger who is also the volunteer coordinator. Turns out that his wife is the volunteer coordinator for RMNP too. We exchanged cards for a possible future work camp position.

Traveling East Fall 2016

Traveling East Fall 2016

Bear Lake At RMNP

Bear Lake At RMNP

Girls Day Out

Girls Day Out

Can you Hear Me Now?

Can you Hear Me Now?

Wanna Play?

Wanna Play?

Moving into eastern Colorado we left the beautiful mountains for the open plains. A dramatic contrast to be sure. Here we stayed at John Martin State Park on the Arkansas River. This park has the longest pull through sites we’d ever seen. There is electricity at the site but common water. Steve devised an easy way of refilling our water tank by immersing a marine bilge pump in a 10 gallon container then plugging it into the truck cigarette lighter port. BAM! Only 50 seconds to transfer water. We took time to select photos for our annual gift calendar and relaxed. We did visit 2 National Park sites: Sand Creek Massacre and Bent’s Old Fort. Both were very interesting. Sand Creek Massacre is a relatively new park and in the early stages of development. They have just received funding for a Visitor Center. We were fortunate to arrive just in time for a ranger talk about the event. He was one of the best interpreters we have heard. I wish more people would visit these smaller parks. They are hidden gems. Having been raised on the east coast we never studied or read about these formative events in our country’s history. Bent’s Old Fort was the first permanent settlement in the area and served as trading post and social gathering place in the first half of the 19th century. The building today is a recreation of the fort from plans sketched by a visitor. The rangers are not in the trademark uniform but wear period costumes and give informal talks. The two sites contrast each other: one a site of Manifest Destiny and military might overpowering native people and the other a thriving settlement where traders, mountain men and Native Americans coexisted peacefully.

Sand Creek Massacre Location

Sand Creek Massacre Location

Native American Monument At Sand Creek

Native American Monument At Sand Creek









View Of Bent's Old Fort NHS

View Of Bent’s Old Fort NHS

A Demonstration Of Knife Making

A Demonstration Of Knife Making

Trading Post At Bent's Old Fort

Trading Post At Bent’s Old Fort

Now we move on to Kansas. We found a fabulous place to stay at Cedar Bluff SP. Some sites offer full hookups for $19/night. It is a busy park in the summer however in late October only lightly used. For most of our stay we were the only RV in our loop. Opal enjoyed her off leash walks. Now, being the only dog in the park is the way I like it! (Opal) Many folks simply rush across Kansas. This is our third visit to the state and we have found interesting things to do each time. The closest town of any size is Hays, KS. On our way there for errands we noticed a sign for the Walter P. Chrysler Home Museum. We stopped in Ellis on our way back to see it. Turned out to be a great small town museum to their most famous son. We didn’t know much about him but after touring his boyhood home and learning about him we’d like to read a biography. Two of the most interesting displays were his own car (#6 off the line) complete with wooden wheels and his desk.  Another “self made man” story. 

Museum In Ellis, Kansas

Museum In Ellis, Kansas

Chrysler's Car

Chrysler’s Car















Desk Used By Chrysler

Desk Used By Chrysler

One More For The Reading List

One More For The Reading List













While in the central western area of Kansas we also visited the Santa Fe Trail Museum, Fort Larned NHS and Nicodemus NHS. The SFT Museum detailed travels of pioneer families during the westward migration of the mid to late 1800s plus those who used the trail before them. Well worth stop. Fort Larned is another of the NPS sites dedicated to the series of forts built as protection and evidence of ownership as what was thought of as “The West” moved onward. At first you look at all the names carved into the buildings as graffiti but later realize this is an archive of those who passed through here. Before the NPS took over and restored the site locals came here often to picnic so many names are post fort and early to mid 1900s. The site is large and beautifully equipped with all the items one would find at an active post of its day. Nicodemus is a relatively new NPS site about former slaves who formed settlements in the midwest and west post Civil War. There are 5 remaining buildings of which 2 are open to the public.

Fort Larned Architecture

Fort Larned Architecture

Graffiti Or History

Graffiti Or History









Larned Harness Shop

Larned Harness Shop

Fort Larned Hospital

Fort Larned Hospital

Quarter Master's Office

Quarter Master’s Office









Post Commissary

Post Commissary


Nicodemus NHS

Our final stop was for dinner in Hays. The area was originally settled by German immigrants and still has strong ties to its heritage. We decided to try a local micro-brewery/restaurant called Gella’s Diner. Steve had sauerkraut soup and a bratwurst platter while I enjoyed a potato soup and local specialty called a bierock. What’s a bierock, you ask? It is a meat, cabbage and onion mixture in a pastry. It is served with a sharp cheddar/ale sauce. MMMmmm good! We certainly do a good job of traveling on our stomachs!

Gella's Diner In Hays, KS

Gella’s Diner In Hays, KS

Next stop: Oologah, Oklahoma. This is our first trip to the state of Oklahoma. Now we only have 4 states left in the lower 48 to have the RV. Our reason for coming here was to visit two of Steve’s cousins. Unfortunately one of them was in the process of moving and not able to come. We had planned to stay closer to Tulsa at a USACE park but at the last minute noted on the website a comment about low branches. Oh no! Been there, done that. So we chose Hawthorn Bluff USACE CG on Lake Oologah. We’d hoped to stay a week but the campground was closing down for the year on 10/31. So we quickly booked three nights at another USACE park on Lake Dardanelle in Arkansas. Besides seeing relatives we visited two sites about Oologah’s most famous son, Will Rogers. The first was his birthplace and the other was the Will Rogers Museum. I know who Will Rogers was but didn’t know much about him other than his witty sayings.  He began as a trick roper and later added his trademark humor and wit at the suggestion of his wife. He was always very proud of his Cherokee heritage. He progressed on to lectures and newspaper columns until perishing in an airplane crash in Alaska with Wily Post. The museum is huge and has some fantastic videos of his roping tricks. You can easily see why he “never met a man he didn’t like”.

He Never Met A Man He Didn't Like

He Never Met A Man He Didn’t Like

Will Rogers Birthplace

Will Rogers Birthplace

Will Rogers Statue

Will Rogers Statue

Will Rogers Museum

Will Rogers Museum



Extensive Exhibits Can Be Found Inside

Extensive Exhibits Can Be Found Inside










Of course we had to go when we found there was a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives spot nearby called Clanton’s. The owners are the fourth generation to run this Route 66 cafe since 1947. Known for their fried chicken and chicken fried steak, you best go early or plan on waiting in line. On our way home I spotted a sign for a Folk Art site. Steve asked “Do you REALLY want to go? He was hoping Chari would say no (meanwhile thinking of Lucas, KS). Yes she said. So off we went. The “artwork” by Ed Galloway was several concrete sculptures including the world’s biggest totem pole. The totem pole is 90′ tall, 18′ in diameter and displays 200 carved images. It took eleven years to build. We were there only a few minutes when the caretaker had to leave on a family emergency. Steve was VERY relieved!

Clanton"s Cafe On Route 66

Clanton”s Cafe On Route 66

This Is Triple D All The Way!

This Is Triple D All The Way!

He Liked It!

He Liked It!













The World's Largest Totem Pole

The World’s Largest Totem Pole

More Ed Galloway Art

More Ed Galloway Art

In The Eye Of The Beholder

In The Eye Of The Beholder













At Corinth, MS we finally caught up with our reservations made before leaving Utah. We were there visiting Chari’s relatives. Previously we had stayed at J. P. Coleman SP. However, knowing the park we felt our new trailer would have difficulty maneuvering into the sites even though they were technically long enough. So we chose Piney Grove CG, a USACE park on Bay Springs Lake. The lake is part of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Canal project built during the late 70s for barge traffic. While it has never seen the volume of traffic hoped for it does provide a wonderful recreation area. 700 acres of my first husband’s family farm was purchased for what is now called Crow’s Neck. There is an environmental Education facility there.  The RV sites at Piney Grove are large. The only downside is the thick tree cover making TV reception minimal.

We were lucky enough to have arrived for the Grand Illumination Celebration. This used to be an annual event in Corinth but with budget cutbacks it had not been held for three years. The Grand Illumination acknowledges casualties from the Battle of Shiloh and both Battles of Corinth for control of the railroad by placing 6,000 luminaries around town and at the NPS Civil War Interpretation Center. Each luminary is a casualty of the conflict. This year the Interpretation Center had a speaker on the topic of “The Role of Camels in the Civil War”. That’s right… camels. So here is the tale of Old Douglas. Old Douglas arrived by ship from the middle east in the 1850s. He was purchased to work on a plantation. When his master joined the Confederacy so did Old Douglas. Don’t get the idea he swept into battle Lawrence of Arabia style. His job was to carry the regimental band instruments. Old Douglas was in Vicksburg when he was shot and killed. Vicksburg had been under siege and soldiers were reduced to eating their boots. Let it be known Old Douglas did not die in vain. One thousand pounds of meat was a blessing to soldiers and civilians alike. We also visited two of the five Civil War era homes that remain in Corinth.


Then we had the last two long driving days to get to the Charlotte, NC area. Our overnight stop just north of Atlanta was a very nice USACE park named McKinney CG on Allatoona Lake. We’ll remember this one for a future visit to the Peachtree state. Likewise our stay at Ebenezer County Park near Rock Hill, SC was great. We cleared out our storage unit. All of our worldly possessions now fit either in the RV, truck or a 3’x3′ storage cube.

Lastly we headed to Chambersburg, PA for Thanksgiving with Steve’s family. Our only non family activity was a visit to Gettysburg Military Park and the Eisenhower Farm. We didn’t know that this was a special weekend celebrating the anniversary of the declaration of Emancipation. The park had several authors of historical fiction on hand. Steve met one of his favorite authors, Jeff Shara. The town of Gettysburg had a parade with over 500 re-enactors dressed in a variety of uniforms and period dress.

Gettysburg Diorama Scene

Gettysburg Diorama Scene

Abe, Mary and Winfield Scott

Abe, Mary and Winfield Scott

Drummer Boy

Drummer Boy












A Long Parade

A Long Parade

Union Troops

Union Troops










The Confederates

The Confederates


Women Marchers

Zouave Unit

Zouave Unit


We packed a lot into our trip east and hope you have enjoyed this leg of our travels as we visit the icons and hidden gems across the USA.

Where Next? #10

It’s hard to believe that our wonderful summer in northern Utah is coming to a close. So where will the four winds blow us next?

First we are headed over to Laramie, Wyoming to visit friends who are volunteering at the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historical Site. Then south to the Silverton/Durango area in Colorado. A brief stop at Petrified Forest NP to say hi to staff where we volunteered in 2014-2015. Lastly we turn south to try our hand at being camp hosts for the Coronado National Forest at Parker Canyon Lake about an hour south of Tucson, AZ. After 6 weeks there we make an almost straight through drive to Charlotte, NC. We know now that full timing is what we want so no use paying to store things for 15+ years. We’ll pare down to just a few memory pieces.

Then a much overdue trip to see Steve’s family in Chambersburg, PA for Thanksgiving. From there we meander for a month via Alabama, Florida and Louisiana to our next volunteer job at Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We’ll be there from January-March 2017.

Our path this time looks a lot like a ricocheting bullet, doesn’t it? Thanks for traveling with us!

RV Travels From Flaming Gorge NRA, UT to Hot Springs NP, AR

RV Travels From Flaming Gorge NRA, UT to Hot Springs NP, AR

Learning History And More About RV Living Firsthand On The Road

wildflowers, Tennessee

Tennessee Spring Wildflowers

We are self confessed history buffs. That’s probably one reason we’re making a point of seeing all 400+ National Park sites. Our Plan B route was designed to take us through areas for some of the lesser known NPS sites, some privately operated sites and visits to family.

Our first stop was Greeneville, Tennessee to visit the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site. We had to stay in a commercial park as the two closest state parks were renovating their campgrounds. We found a small private park, A Round Pond, located on a farm in Baileyton. We did check out Panther Creek SP for later use and the new campground looks very good.

Andrew Johnson, history, US President

Andrew Johnson As A Young Man

So how much do you know about our 17th President, Andrew Johnson? If you are like us, chances are not much. He was catapulted into office upon Lincoln’s assassination. He also was the first President to face impeachment proceedings. Like all the other Presidents from Tennessee, he was not born there. He was from North Carolina. His widowed mother struggled to raise her family and when she could no longer support them she apprenticed her two oldest sons to a tailor. Working long days and no formal schooling cut his childhood short. Like the man he would follow in the White House he was self educated but read everything he could. After getting into trouble as a young teenager Andrew Johnson ran off to South Carolina and Tennessee where he established a tailor shop in Greeneville. He married and it is his wife who is credited with helping fill his education gap. The Andrew Johnson NHS is composed of a Visitors Center, the home where the Johnson family lived in the 1830s-1851 and the home he returned to after his Presidency. It was during the 1830s that he entered politics first as Alderman, then Mayor, state representative and US Representative. One term as Governor of Tennessee 1853-1857 led to his election to the US Senate.

history, US Presidents

Original Johnson Tailor Shop

Lincoln, Johnson, politics

Presidential Ticket In 1864













portrait, photography

Andrew Johnson After Being President






The beliefs he carried throughout his political career were anchored in strong faith in the common man. He favored free land for homesteading, public education and elimination of the electoral college in favor of direct election. He also believed in the preservation of the Union. It was this last item that made Lincoln choose him as Vice President. He needed a southerner from a border state on his ticket. However the two men differed greatly in personality. Lincoln was known for his jokes and storytelling as well as his ability to convince opponents to see his viewpoint. Johnson on the other hand was a very forceful and demanding personality. When met with opposition he became even more forceful which created enemies.

In the tumultuous days of Reconstruction Johnson butted heads with many politicians and even his own cabinet. One such conflict was the cause of the impeachment proceedings. Johnson wanted a federal army. William Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of State who stayed on, wanted states to have their own armies. When Stanton proceeded with his idea over Johnson’s disapproval he was fired. There was a law that no President could fire a cabinet member once they were approved. The Congress used this as grounds for impeachment while Johnson claimed he had “inherited” the Cabinet rather than having named his own. Much of the underlying ill will between Johnson and members of Congress played a part. He was impeached by the House but failed impeachment in the Senate by just one vote. He returned to Tennessee and lived the rest of his life as a private citizen.

A Trunk Owned By Andrew Johnson

A Trunk Owned By Andrew Johnson

Johnson's Field Desk When Military Governor

Johnson’s Field Desk When Military Governor










Andrew Johnson's Post Presidential Home

Andrew Johnson’s Post Presidential Home

Easter, egg decorating, egg roll

Egg Decorating Sponsored By The NPS

Today his legacy lives on every year when the White House sponsors the annual Easter Egg Roll. While he wasn’t the first President to hold the event he was the one who made it an annual affair. We were at the Andrew Johnson NHS just a week before Easter and the park was holding an egg coloring activity for local children. We’d been warned by the Visitor Center that there might be crowds. We went down to the second home for the tour anyway. Crowds? What crowds? We were the only people on the tour! The Ranger was very knowledgeable and spent a lot of time answering our questions. Don’t limit your visits to our National Parks to just the big ones. History really comes alive when you visit our historic sites too.

The following day we made a trip to another type of National Park site, the Obed Wild and Scenic River. First we stopped at the Visitor Center in the town of Wartburg, Tennessee. Then we drove to a parking area at the river and took a short hike to an overlook. Most people come here to hike, whitewater canoe or rock climb. It was still early Spring so the landscape lacked color. The Fall is most likely the best season for photography.

river, scenery, NPS

View Of The Obed Wild And Scenic River

hiking, photography

On A Hike At Obed River










Obed River In Early Spring

Obed River In Early Spring










For our next stop we headed to the Nashville, TN area to visit Steve’s family. We were staying at Cages Bend, a COE park in nearby Gallatin, TN. About ten miles from our destination a car was waving at us. “One of your trailer tires is very low”. We hadn’t felt a thing but pulled over right away. Yes it was low but Steve felt we could make it to the park. We did but just barely. By the time we’d parked and set up it was flat. So it was off to Discount Tire but they wanted us to bring the tire in. No problem as they loaned Steve a floor jack. The tire had a big gouge and was unrepairable. So $300 later and several trips back and forth to the tire dealer, we were all fixed. 

Andrew Jackson, The Hermitage, Nashville

The Hermitage

flowering trees, Hermitage

Hermitage Grounds In Early Spring










After a good time with Steve’s aunt and uncle we took a day to visit the Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson. This is a privately run historic site rather than a NPS site. “I guess we’re spoiled but neither Steve or I were impressed with our time there. We paid $12 each for entry then another $8 for audio tour sets. The museum was good and we learned a lot. Then we went on to the home. The tour was given by a series of guides who looked and sounded bored. It was a ‘get ’em in, get ’em out’ approach. Rooms were roped off so it was hard to see while in a group.” Compared to our NPS experiences and other historic home tours it fell way short of our expectations.

Andrew and Rachael Jackson, history, Tennessee, U.S. Presidents

Life Size Statues Of Andrew And Rachael Jackson

Andrew Jackson was a military hero after winning battles at Horseshoe Bend (1814) and New Orleans (1815) when he became a leading frontier political leader in the 1820s-1830s.. He had a tough and aggressive personality (nickname Old Hickory) which led him to initiate battles during the Seminole Wars and fight duels over personal slights. The most famous duel was over his marriage to Rachel Donelson Robards. She thought herself divorced when she married Jackson in 1790 only to find she was still legally married. Once the divorce was final the couple remarried in 1794. In 1806 after a political opponent published an attack on Jackson in the newspaper and mentioned the bigamous relationship, Jackson challenged him to a duel. Jackson sustained a bullet in the chest but shot and killed Charles Dickinson. Elected as our 7th President in 1828, his beloved wife died of a heart attack two weeks after her husband’s victory. Jackson was one of our few unmarried Presidents and his niece served the necessary social role until the Petticoat Affair (1834) and her death in 1836. Then Sarah Jackson served as well and this is the only time two women have served in the role of First Lady simultaneously. Although childless, Andrew and Rachael Jackson raised two Indian children, a nephew and acted as guardians for eight other children.

 During his tenure, Andrew Jackson championed States Rights but believed in the preservation of the Union, vetoed the reissue of a charter for the Second Bank of the United States, paid off the national debt in 1835 (the last time it was paid off in full), called to abolish the Electoral College, initiated rotation in government office for political appointees, passed the Indian Removal Act, survived the first assassination attempt on a sitting President and saw the admission of Arkansas and Michigan to the union. There is much more written about him than can be addressed here. A very interesting and controversial figure to be sure.

So now we pull out of our campsite and head to see some of Chari’s family in Mississippi. Chari practiced hooking up the trailer and drove out of the site and park for the first time. Still a bit nervous about driving in traffic Steve took over. “I really do think we have a guardian angel!” We hadn’t gone more than ten miles when BANG!! It sounded like a shotgun and we immediately knew we’d had a blowout. Yep, the other tire on the side of the flat had blown. There had been no evidence of damage or loss of air while we were parked. We pulled off, got out and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Here’s what we saw….

blowout, RV accident, roadside assistance

Damage To RV From Blowout

So here we go again. Call the insurance. Find a dealer on our route. Wait for parts to be ordered. Hope it doesn’t mess up our plans too much. How did that black cloud from Florida find us here in Tennessee? So Steve removed the torn fender. We called Roadside Assistance and got another new tire. Then headed on our way.

Where Next #5 – Now For Plan B

With another round of repairs finished we drove eight hours to the Georgia side of Lake Seminole. Normally we don’t drive more than 4-5 hours between stops. We try to follow the 2-4-4 rule. That’s 200 miles or four hours or get there by four o’clock. We took three days just to relax at Eastbank COE campground.

Our next stop was to be another COE campground just north of Atlanta. Not knowing the layout of a campground can make it difficult when choosing a site online. Most of the time we get good sites. Unfortunately while this one looked good on the computer it had a very difficult back in with gullies on either side of the road and a S-curve entry.  Steve said “no way” which is unusual for him. The park was booked for the weekend and we couldn’t find another site. So we left and spent our first parking lot night at Cracker Barrel. It was chilly so we put Opal in the trailer vs. truck while we went in to eat. We didn’t think about the slides being in or that it was completely dark. As we came out of the restaurant we heard a very mournful “Awr-roooo! Awr-roooo! coming from the trailer. Opal was letting the world know she didn’t think much of this. I haven’t commented for a while but really now… they go in where it’s nice and cozy, sit down and have a meal and leave me squeezed in a dark, cold trailer. Who wouldn’t howl?

Then we headed on to McDowell Park in Charlotte for nine days of errands, appointments and seeing friends. By this time the parts for the awning arms were in at our RV dealer in Marion, NC so we headed for their campground. We dropped the trailer off for repair and drove up to Pennsylvania for a short visit to Steve’s family. Thinking repairs were finally behind us we made plans to head to Tennessee.

As we pulled into the Marion campground we saw the trailer was listing badly to the left. What now?!! Steve checked and found that when the mechanics had set up the trailer back on the pad, the locking pin on the landing gear didn’t go all the way through. The weight of the trailer had bent it and the footing had partially collapsed. It was Sunday evening and no one was around. Fortunately Steve is very handy and was able to stabilize things using jack stands. The next day the dealer repaired the problem so we could travel but … a part had to be ordered and would take a few weeks. Here we go again. As we write this five weeks later we are still waiting for the part.

So here’s our new itinerary for heading west to Montana.

Google Earth, RV, travel

Plan B Route Georgia To Montana

We’ve Hit The Road Jack… Ain’t Comin’ Home No more, No More

H  A  P  P  Y     A  N  N  I  V  E  R  S  A  R  Y     T  O     U  S  !  !

Today marks one year since we drove out of our driveway in Charlotte, NC to begin a new life as full time RVers. It’s gone soooo fast! We can’t believe it’s been a year already. The DreamChaser has traveled approximately 31,000 miles through 12 states. We’ve moved 35 times to 7 Federal/ Corps of Engineers parks, 4 private parks, 3 county parks and 20 state parks. We’ve added many lapel pins to our collection which now hovers around 250. We’ve visited several National Park Service sites but we have only seen 17% of them so there’s lots more in store.

What will we do to celebrate? Since we are on the coast in Salem, Massachusetts it seems fitting that we should fulfill one of our Bucket List items by taking a sunset sailing cruise aboard the Fame. Cruises don’t begin until Memorial Day weekend so our celebration will be a bit late. We have just arrived at Winter Island Park for twelve days. When we called to make reservations we were told the park didn’t open until May 20th. I mentioned we were full time RVers and would need to find another spot for a few days. The manager then offered to have us come in early if we didn’t mind being there by ourselves without office staff. Mind having a campground overlooking the water all to ourselves for three days? I think we can handle that. So we will celebrate tonight with dinner out and then sit in the gazebo with a glass of wine  and watch a beautiful sunset. This really is the perfect life!

Here’s an overview of our travels May 17, 2012-May 17, 2013. Remember if you want to see a picture full screen, just click over it once.

RV, full time RVers, travel

Our First Year Travels

We are looking forward to many more new places and new faces as we move on up the coast and back down again in 2013. Then we’ll say goodbye to the East for a while and turn the DreamChaser west.

Thanks for traveling with us! Sit back and leave the driving to us as we begin Year Two of Homeless and Loving It! 

Catch The Holiday Spirit In Natchez, Mississippi Part 2 Of 2

Now to continue with our week in Natchez, Mississippi.

The Natchez Historical Park under the National Park Service consists of two sites; Melrose (see Part 1) and the William Johnson House. The William Johnson House honors a seldom mentioned segment of the antebellum South population, that of the free, black middle class. William Johnson was born into slavery. His mother was owned by a planter named William Johnson and it is thought that he was the father of the boy. His mother was freed soon after his birth but current law forbid freeing minors. He was freed at age 11. Again the law required that if at any time the freed slave was unable to take care of himself the owner was responsible for him. William Johnson became educated and trained as a barber however surprisingly he also was a slaveowner. He went on to own four barber shops and integrated into both the black and white economy. He kept diaries that give precious insights into the daily lives of the Natchez middle class. The house and separate kitchen was built after a fire and a tornado damaged much of Natchez downtown area in 1840. The main floor was rented out to other merchants while the Johnson family lived upstairs. This site is within an easy walk of the Natchez Visitors Center or can be seen as part of the historical area walking tour.

One evening we attended the Natchez Little Theatre production of A Christmas Carol Natchez Style. This is community theatre at its best. Natchez Little Theatre has been entertaining people since 1932. The traditional holiday story is adapted where Scrooge is a wealthy cotton merchant and Cratchit is a freedman in post Civil War Natchez. The show stealer was the five year old who played Tiny Tim. As only kids can do he had us all laughing when he made faces at the audience while other actors were saying their lines. The ghost of Christmas Past was also a hoot.

We also stopped at the Rhythm Club Museum which despite the open sign in the window was locked. We later learned that we were to call and have someone meet us there. The museum is in memory of the fire at the Rhythm Club in 1940 that killed 209 black residents who were gathered to hear a band from Chicago. It is in the top three worst nightclub fires in the US.

While in town we needed to stop at Verizon to see why our Mifi internet connection wasn’t working properly. The representative we spoke with turned out to be an amateur photographer. “Would we like to go out on his boat to the St. Catherine National Wildlife Refuge this weekend?” We would, of course, but we were leaving on Saturday. We exchanged information for a rain check next time we are in the area. He did give us a tip on a good local restaurant across the river in Vidalia, Louisiana. So we went to Nikki’s for dinner. It’s a small family owned place. Just the sort of place you’d think Guy Fieri would find. I had gumbo, blackened catfish, cajun fries and fried pickles. I had crawfish tails, frog legs and crawfish etouffe. I had all the leftovers. Thank Goodness for huge portions! We were stuffed to the gills, no pun intended. On our way out we spied the homemade pies. Tomorrow would be another day. So we bought a slice (enough for 2) of peanut butter pie. The best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth!

The Mississippi River is a beautiful sight at night so we spent some time photographing the riverfront.

bridge, Mississippi River

Casino Boat and Bridge Over The Mississippi River At Natchez

The next day we went back across the river to Louisiana to see the Frogmore Cotton Plantation, http://www.frogmoreplantation.com . Rand McNally has listed it as one of their “Must See Sites”. This is a modern cotton farm but the owners have recreated an antebellum cotton plantation by moving period structures to their property. We arrived early and watched a film on modern cotton farming. We learned that most of our cotton is sent overseas to Mexico and even China while we import from China… go figure! Another couple from Canada joined us. For a while we thought it might just be the four of us. Then a whole bus pulled up. Inwardly I sighed as a large group of slow moving seniors got off. I know I’m a senior too and one day age will catch up with me but now I just don’t relate to this. As it turns out, this was a blessing in disguise. When they have the buses from the paddle boat cruises Frogmore puts on a special tour led by Lynnette Tanner, wife of the owner. All participants are in period dress. There is music at the church from spirituals and gospel to Cum By Yah with all of us joining in ( yes, I know I can’t sing so I do it very quietly but I can bang a mean tambourine.). On the way from the church to the first building we were “stepping out” to some New Orleans style jazz. We were told the best dancer would get a prize. Steve won and got a Moon Pie. Mrs. Tanner led us through all of the buildings while educating us on antebellum plantation life, the changes after the Civil War and how sharecropping started. Sharecropping continued into the early 1960s when the mechanized cotton picker was invented. Since then the height of cotton plants has gone from 5-6 feet down to 3 feet. Seed today is selected for a lower height and a more branched structure so that yields per acre are higher. Two women from the boat were riding a golf cart due to mobility issues. As one of the woman got off the cart to enter a building she fell. After assuring us she wasn’t hurt, everyone was looking around thinking how do we get her up? So I stepped forward and asked her how she thought it best to get up. She told me she had two total knee replacements and could get to her knees but couldn’t push up. I positioned myself to both brace her knee and offer support for her to pull up. Up she came without much effort. Once a physical therapist, always a physical therapist I guess.

Frogmore, Louisiana, general store

Frogmore General Store

wagon, cotton, plantation

Old Wagon And Cotton Fields

Frogmore, Louisiana, barn

Frogmore Barn With Equipment

Frogmore, cotton gin

Cotton Gin At Frogmore

plantation, church

Inside Church At Frogmore

Frogmore, slavery, Louisiana

Slave Quarters at Frogmore

Frogmore, cotton, slavery

Frogmore Overseers House

barn, stencil, Frogmore

Barn Door With Stencil

plantation, Mississippi

Rosalie Front View

For the last plantation we had time to see we chose Rosalie which is located on part of the land originally occupied by the French fort, Rosalie. built in 1716. Rosalie http://www.rosaliemansion.com/index.html , the plantation, was built in 1823 by Peter Little. He had come to Natchez at age 17 and became a wealthy landowner. When yellow fever took the lives of a ferry boat captain and his wife who were close friends, Peter Little married the orphaned 14 year old daughter, Eliza. After completing her education in the East she returned and they moved into Rosalie. The Littles had no children. When Peter Little died he had no will and sale of Rosalie was done at auction. The next owners, the Wilsons also had no children but fostered many. One of these children became their daughter in fact and when married she and her husband lived at Rosalie with their 6 children. Two of the daughters, referred to as Miss Annie and Miss Rebecca sold the home in 1938 to the Mississippi chapter of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) with a life estate. The plantation was last inhabited in 1958. Most of the furnishings are those of the families who resided at Rosalie. Unfortunately no interior photography is allowed. Even in winter the gardens were lovely. A quick edit here. I forgot to mention that the large garden bell shown in the pictures came from the USS Mississippi. Steve is a good proofreader. The view of the Mississippi River is excellent. Our tour guide was very informative and since we were the only ones touring at that time, we asked a lot of questions.

plantation, history

Rear View Of Rosalie Plantation

plantation, Natchez

View From Front Porch At Rosalie

plantation, Natchez

View Of The Mississippi River From Rosalie

plantation, garden

Rosalie Plantation Winter Garden

flowers, plantation

Snapdragons Bloom In Rosalie Winter Garden

Rosalie, garden

Steve Ringing The Garden Bell At Rosalie

bell, Rosalie, garden

Foundry Mark On Bell At Rosalie

General U. S. Grant

General U. S. Grant

While we were in the area, for us that means within two hours, a visit to the Vicksburg National Battlefield was planned. We’ve been to Gettysburg, Shiloh, Chickamauga and Fort Donelson so far. With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in progress it is interesting to see how these separate battles

interrelate. Now we’ll turn the blog over to Steve.

John C. Pemberton, Vicksburg

John C. Pemberton

When we were in Kentucky and Tennessee, I wrote an entry in the blog about the Civil War activities at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson.  I spoke then about the importance of waterways during the war, in particular, of the Tennessee and the Cumberland Rivers.  And about how an unknown General, by the name of Ulysses S. Grant, became a national hero with his victories at these two forts.  If the Tennessee and the Cumberland held such importance, imagine how much more strategic was the Mighty Mississippi, effectively splitting the country into eastern and western halves.  And the most strategic point on the river was the City of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Vicksburg, map

A View Of Vicksburg

At the beginning of the war, General Winfield Scott devised what became popularly known as “The Anaconda Plan”, whereby the entire coastline of the southern states would be blockaded, and the Union forces would use the Mississippi river as a highway to cut the Confederacy in half.  The Union already had control of the northern portion of the river.  In April of 1862, Admiral David G. Farragut fought his way from the Gulf past Forts Jackson and St. Philip, and made his way north to take the City of New Orleans.  In May, he moved upriver and demanded the surrender of Vicksburg, but had insufficient troops to enforce his demand.  The city remained in Confederate hands.

General Winfield Scott, Anaconda Plan, Civil War

General Scott’s Anaconda Plan

Admiral David G. Faragut

Admiral David G. Farragut

David Dixon Porter, Civil War

Admiral David Dixon Porter

Jefferson Davis said, “Vicksburg is the nail head that holds the South’s two halves together.”

Abraham Lincoln wrote, “Vicksburg is the key. The war can never be brought to a close until the key is in our pocket.”

In the fall of 1862, General Henry W. Halleck was promoted from command of the Western Theater to General-in-Chief of all Union Armies.  In November, he assigned to the hero of Forts Henry and Donelson, U.S. Grant, the task of moving down the Mississippi and taking Vicksburg.

A quick look at a map will indicate that this was no easy task.  The city is located two hundred feet high on the bluffs overlooking a huge horseshoe bend in the river.  North and east of the city lies the Yazoo Delta, an almost impenetrable swamp, roughly two hundred miles long and fifty miles wide.  General John C. Pemberton commanded 12,000 Confederate troops in Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi, and General Earl Van Dorn commanded an additional 24,000 in Grenada.  Grant sent General William Tecumseh Sherman, with 32,000 men down the river toward Vicksburg, while he brought 40,000 to Oxford, hoping to lure the Rebels out.

Volumes have been written about this campaign, and for the next several months, Grant tried anything and everything to accomplish his mission, including attempting to dig canals to bypass the City of Vicksburg.  Nothing worked.  By spring, he had decided that the only way to take the city would be from the east and south, but to do that, he needed to bring his forces across to the east side of the river.  How to get there?

On April 17, 1863, a clear and moonless night, Admiral David Dixon Porter attempted a near suicidal mission.  He would take a fleet of seven gunboats and three empty troop transports downriver, past the guns of Vicksburg.  Trying to minimize noise and lights, he was nevertheless discovered by Confederate lookouts, and the bluffs erupted with cannon fire.  Seeing that his boats were getting hit high, not near the waterline, he guessed, correctly, that the cannon above could not be depressed low enough to hit him if he hugged the east shore.  He moved downriver right under the rebel guns, close enough so that he could hear the Rebel officers giving orders to their gun crews.  The fleet survived and made it through.  Five nights later, six more boats, loaded with supplies steamed south.  One boat was lost, but the crew survived by clinging to the wreckage and floating downriver.  Meanwhile, Grant marched his troops down the west bank of the river to a point south of Vicksburg.  Now resupplied, he had the Navy to ferry him across.

Vicksburg, Civil War

The Vicksburg Blockade

Again, volumes have been written about this campaign, and I won’t attempt to describe all the details of the siege and many battles that were fought in the ensuing months.  One battle that deserves mention, however, is Millikin’s Bend.  This was a supply area somewhat upriver.  It was defended by relatively inexperienced and undertrained black troops.  The prevailing sentiment of the time was that black troops would not fight, but when attacked by Confederate troops, they proved everyone wrong.  With help from gunboats, they fought off the Rebel forces, but not without heavy losses.  The defenders lost 652 men while the attackers lost 185.  Grant wrote of how well they fought, and while this was not a major battle, they earned the respect of many.  Recruitment of blacks soon began in earnest.

By mid-May Grant’s forces had Vicksburg surrounded.  For six weeks, under constant bombardment, no supplies got into the city.  On July 4th, when hope of relief ran out, Pemberton surrendered the city.  This was one day after Union forces under General Meade defeated Robert E. Lee at a small town called Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania.  On July 9th, Port Hudson, which had also been held under siege since late May, heard the news of the fall of Vicksburg and surrendered.  Union control of the Mississippi River was complete.

To give credit where it’s due, I got some help from Wikipedia with the images and the details while writing this.  Steve

Vicksburg, National Park Service

Vicksburg National Battlefield Entrance Arch

There is a 16 mile drive through the park with interpretive stops along the way detailing events Steve described above. The park brochure available at the Visitors Center is excellent. We bought a CD tour guide too. That was a waste of money. As with other National Battlefields we’ve visited the monuments were impressive. The sculptures and carvings really are artistic.

Troops from 26 states fought in this battle. Illinois and Ohio had some of the largest groups but even states like Iowa and Nebraska that you don’t often think about participating in the Civil War were there. The Illinois monument is the largest one and overlooks a slough where a major battle ensued. Right next door is the only remaining home on the battlefield. The inhabitants were caught in a crossfire for 3 days then signaled for help. A ceasefire was declared while they moved to safety. Then the battle resumed.

Vicksburg, history

Only Remaining Home At Vicksburg National Battlefield

General Grant’s statue is shown in the classic pose with all four legs of his horse on the ground indicating he died of natural causes. Two legs of a horse raised according to conventional wisdom means the rider died in battle and one leg raised means he died later of battle wounds. Not all sculptors adhere to this convention.

Ulysses S. Grant, Vicksburg

Grant’s Statue At Vicksburg

Our most pleasant surprise was when we reached the second Visitors Center that houses the USS Cairo, a Union ironclad boat. The USS Cairo was sunk in the Yazoo  River in 1862 during the Union’s failed campaign to establish a position east of Vicksburg. In 1964 the ship was located and raised. It sits today on a frame to support the fragile remains and is covered by a canvas canopy. You not only see the boat but smell the age of it. A platform has been built so you can board the boat for a closer look. We’ve seen National Historic Landmarks, National Natural Landmarks but who knew there were National Mechanical Engineering Landmarks? This is our first. The Visitors Center houses a small but interesting museum about the boat. It sunk in 12 minutes so the crew did not have time to remove personal items. Everyday artifacts of shipboard life are well displayed. There is even a Lea and Perrins Worchestershire bottle that except for not having a screw top could have come off the shelf today!

USS Cairo, ironclad ship

USS Cairo, A Union Ironclad

USS Cairo, Civil War

Viewing The USS Cairo

USS Cairo, ironclad boat

Underneath The USS Cairo

USS Cairo, Vicksburg, ship

Cannon And Paddle Wheel On USS Cairo

ironclad boat, history

Gear Used To Move Cannons Aboard USS Cairo

Vicksburg, Ohio, Civil War

On The Ohio Monument

Vicksburg, Civil WarVicksburg, National Park Service

Vicksburg, history

Vicksburg, Civil War

Celebrating A Small Town Christmas

Christmas, Mississippi

Canton MS Lights

While we were in Mississippi we drove to the town of Canton near Jackson to see their lighting display. They decorate the town square and surrounding buildings. Families stroll about downtown. For some children it is their first ride on a carousel. The weather was cool and clear.

So here are some photos to put you in the holiday mood.

Christmas lights, Mississippi

Canton MS Street Scene

Christmas tree, Canton

Canton Christmas Tree

Christmas Lights, Mississippi

Fireman In Lights

Christmas decorations

Raggety Ann Glows

Gingerbread Man, Mrs. Santa

Gingerbread Man At Mrs. Santa’s House

gazebo, Christmas lights

Gazebo In Christmas Lights





























Christmas lights, Mississippi

Canton Town




Christmas, reindeer

These Reindeer Don’t Fly











carousel, Christmas lights

Enjoying The Carousel






Christmas, New Years

Happy Holidays From Chari & Steve