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

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! 

All Packed Up And Nowhere To Go

As my mother used to say, it’s OK to make plans just don’t plan the results”. We’d gotten everything packed up and secured for the trip from Natchez to Spanish Fort near Mobile, Alabama. The last thing to do before heading out was to pull in the slides. We have 3 slides: one for the bed, one for a small desk and the main slide with the table, dining chairs and sofa. We can operate the slides from either 30/50 amp service or off of the battery. Since it is a big drain on the battery we usually keep plugged in until the slides are retracted. We also have a remote that can do this from the outside. The slides come in according to a set pattern and go out the same way so you can’t just move a single slide by itself. Opal was already in the truck sitting on her raised platform so she can look out the window. She knows the routine and knew we were getting ready to leave.

Bedroom slide in. Desk slide in. Main slide …… WHOA! What’s happening? The main slide stopped about halfway and the bottom started lifting. Back up and try again. Same thing. Try again. Same thing. And again. Isn’t that the definition of insanity when you do the same thing over knowing the outcome? Steve goes out and looks around. We try again. Now this is where Steve and I have a definite Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus thing going. I’m all for calling for help when something needs fixing if I don’t know how to do it. We have 3 roadside assistance plans: Good Sam, Coachnet and later we find one through the warranty on the trailer with Assurance. We’re paying for them, why not use them. Steve is of the opinion that you don’t call until you’ve completely exhausted every possibility of fixing it yourself. So in and out of the trailer, under and out at least a half dozen times with no improvement. Now the slide is not only raising up but moving in more on one side than the other. We finally call Coachnet. We talk to a technician. I’m holding the phone while Steve climbs under then relaying what the tech says and what Steve says in return. Steve has to cut into the undercarriage barrier to see what type of mechanism we have for the slide, electric or hydraulic. Finally  almost an hour later it is decided we need a roadside mechanic. Meanwhile, Opal won’t get out of the truck even when I put her lease on. So I leave her in there. I know we’re getting ready to leave. There’s no way I’m getting out and have them take off without me! The mechanic is 90 minutes away. We don’t want to unpack anything so we sit at the picnic table. Steve crawls under the RV some more and finally sees what’s wrong. A bolt from one of the shock absorbers has become lodged against the slide and won’t let it move correctly. This causes one side to move and not the other. The mechanic comes. Over an hour of trying. The only way to get the slide closed so we can travel is to cut the bolt. With the slide out of alignment some moulding had to be removed to allow the slide to clear the cabinets. Steve had to stand with a piece of cardboard against the cabinet while I pushed the slide retract button. That’s how close it was. Normally there is about 2 inches of clearance. We’ll be alright for travel but must go to a Dutchmen dealer so it can be repaired under warranty. Everyone thinks it’s a manufacturer’s defect.

We get out the MiFi internet and look up Dutchmen dealers to find who is the closest. We’re in luck. There are two in the Mobile area. We’ve used Camping World before with our old trailer so we call them. This is Saturday about 3pm. Yes, they can get us in on Monday.  Steve asks about a mobile mechanic coming to the campground. No, they don’t have one but they do have electric and water hookups in their lot and we are welcome to use them. By now it’s past our checkout time and we decide to spend one more night in Natchez. When Steve goes to pay we find out that all this time we could have gotten the senior discount rate! It’s available to non-residents as well as residents. Oh well, live and learn. One more thing to do, we must cancel our reservation in Alabama for tonight. No answer at the park but we leave a message. So we unpack as little as possible. Opal finally gets out of the car. This is really confusing. I’m sticking close to Mom and Dad tonight!

The next morning we finally get on the road for the 5 1/2 hour drive to Mobile. We find Camping World and there are 6 parking spots with hookups. We pull in and get set up. Not wanting to cook we check the iPhone App for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. There are 3 places in the area. We choose the Gumbo Shack in Fairhope, Alabama. This sports bar setting offers creole dishes as well as regular offerings. This is the first time we’ve been in an area to try one of the restaurants since we left Charlotte. I ordered gumbo (excellent) and a shrimp panini. I had jambalaya (also excellent). Then we ordered cajun oysters. Oysters on the half shell with parmesan cheese, tobasco sauce and a slice of jalepeno. No leftovers! What about the dog?  While we were eating a local man came in with his Weimaraner. The dog obviously knew everyone and stood up on his back legs with his front feet on the bar just like he was ordering a drink. I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get a picture but if you’ve ever seen those photos of Weimaraners dressed up and placed in human like situations you can picture this. A friendly, quirky place with good food.

The next day the trailer was packed up and taken to the shop. We were in luck. The warranty paid all but $136 of an almost $800 bill. Since we were here it seemed like a good time to have some routine maintenance done, tires rotated , a problem with premature wear on one tire resolved, an interior light replaced and 2 shades fixed. Since not all of the work could be completed in one day the trailer was moved back to the campsite for our second night in the parking lot. Again we call Meaher State Park where we were to stay and this time we tell them to cancel the whole reservation. They only accept cash or check so we didn’t have any money to loose. We weren’t alone. There were 5 other vehicles there. To kill time while we were waiting we drove around stopping at local businesses. Then we decided to drive down to Gulf Shores State Park. We’d tried to get reservations here back in August and we were surprised when they told us it was full all winter. After talking to the volunteer at the gate we now know why. Most state parks limit you to 14 days. Between November 1 and March 31 Gulf Shores allows continuous camping and only charges $450/month including water and electric. Reservations need to be made a year in advance. It looked like a beautiful park. One to remember for the future. We were hungry and stopped at one of the many seafood restaurants along the beach. When I looked at the menu I saw that today’s special was popcorn shrimp but Tuesday’s was crab cakes. I teasingly asked the waitress if she could pretend it was Tuesday. She said she’d have to ask. I really didn’t expect them to say yes since the special was half price. They did! The special was supposed to be a smaller portion but I had 2 large crab cakes.

Fort Conde, Mobile

Fort Conde in Mobile

Mobile, Alabama

View Of Mobile From Fort Conde

Mobile, Fort Conde

View Of Old Mobile Home From Fort Conde

Mobile, Carnival, Alabama

Mobile Carnival Museum

While we waited on Tuesday for the trailer to be finished we drove down to Mobile and stopped at the Visitors Center which is housed in a 4/5 recreation of the original Fort Conde that founded Mobile. As with many cities in this area Mobile has been under French, British, Spanish and American governments. We took a tour of Fort Conde then walked over to the Carnival Museum (closed). Mobile has a Carnival at the same time as New Orleans Mardi Gras. By then we received a call that the trailer was done. Now to find a place for tonight. After 2 nights in a parking lot we decided to move on. There was Plantation Escapees Rainbow Park not far away so we checked in there. Escapees Club members receive a discount on site rates but the park is open to general RVers too. Laundry had mounted up so this was a priority. We drove around while the clothes were drying and saw that there were homes with RV garages, permanent sites with storage buildings and the temporary lots. While we’re not ready to stay in one place for a long time yet, this did give us an insight into options available to us. Like many RV parks with lot owners and long term residents they have a lot of activities. Tonight they were having a community dinner for $5/person. So we went. It was nice to talk with people who had been doing what we’re doing for many years. One couple at our table had been RVers for 15 years. They all nodded knowingly at our tale of woe. Yes, they had similar experiences.

Wednesday morning after a quick breakfast and we’re off to Florida. Bedroom slide in. Desk slide in. Main slide in but what’s this? It’s not closed on the left and it’s not lined up correctly. We call Camping World to tell them we need to come back. “Just an adjustment” they say. Two hours later we really do get on the road. With this unexpected delay we don’t know if we’ll make it before dark. We stick to the interstate instead of the scenic routes we prefer.

To be continued in our next post Paddles, Peddles and Playas On St. George Island. OK so you caught Chari’s brain slipping a gear. Let’s try again. Make that Paddles, Pedals and Playas.

More Than Turkey Over Thanksgiving

We are fortunate to have friends and family scattered across the country.  We would arrive at J.P. Coleman State Park near Iuka, Mississippi two days before Thanksgiving. We have family in Corinth, MS about 45 minutes away. Another sister-in-law from Memphis would also join us. The park is located on Pickwick Lake, another TVA lake on the Tennessee River. When we have visited  before we have seen Shiloh National Battlefield in Tennessee, The Civil War Interpretive Center in Corinth and the Contraband Camp also in Corinth. Please refer to our old blog http://vagabondpress.wordpress.com for entries June 2010 Tennessee and Mississippi and November 2010 for the Grand Illumination.

Traditional Thanksgiving fare provided a table full to overflowing and many lunches and suppers thereafter. Our family enjoys playing card and board games after the meal. This year we learned a new domino game called Chickenfoot and played BeezerWeezer for the first time. Not that there is a competitive bone in any of us but Chari won Chickenfoot and Steve and Chari were the winning team for BeezerWeezer.

Time to do some exploring. We drove over to Tuscambia, Alabama which is about an hour away to see Ivy Green, birthplace of Helen Keller. We had recently seen, for the third or fourth time, the movie The Miracle Worker on TV and checked to see where Tuscambia was located hoping to make a visit. The actual home was not used for the movie. When the film was made movie cameras, lights etc. were still very bulky and the site could not accommodate all the gear. They did do a very good job of recreating the home. The story follows actual events. We saw the well pump where Helen connected the feeling of water running over her hand with what was being spelled into her hand. We also saw the cottage where she and Annie Sullivan lived and worked. The thing I thought was most impressive was her writing. She used a letter template much like that draftsmen used before CAD. A statue of Helen at the pump is on display and another one is in the US Capitol. Helen, Annie and her companion later on, Polly, are all buried at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. In June through mid-July the play “The Miracle Worker” is performed at an outdoor theatre on the grounds. After visiting Ivy Green we were all hungry and asked a docent to recommend a restaurant in Tuscambia. She suggested Oh! Bryan’s and a good choice it was.

Helen Keller, Ivy Green, Alabama

Dining Room Where Annie
First Taught Helen To Eat At The Table

Helen Keller

Helen Keller’s Bedroom

Helen Keller, The Miracle Worker

Pump Where Helen First Said “Wa Wa” For Water

Helen Keller, Miracle Worker, Alabama

Outdoor Set For The Miracle Worker

On the way home we passed a sign for a Coon Dog Cemetery. Huh? You read correctly. So we decided this was just too unusual to pass up. We drove back the next day. A good thing they have signs along the way or we’d never have found it. It is 3-4 miles off the main highway way back in the woods. This is the National Coon Dog Cemetery and the only one in the country. I went with tongue in cheek thinking it would be humorous. At first look all of the plastic flower arrangements did give a redneck feel. However, I found that the sentiment was genuine. These dogs had been loved companions. Some markers were elaborately carved professional headstones while others were simple cement markers made by the owners. Still others were whimsical or funny. My sister-in-law says that when a burial is done they often have large tailgate parties. I guess that’s what the reason for the covered shelter. There’s a guest book to sign. People from all over have come here. The cemetery was started in 1937 and now has over 50 graves.

Coon dog, cemetery, Alabama

Coon Dog Cemetery in Alabama

coon dog, cemetery, Alabama

First View of The Cemetery

coon dog, cemetery, Alabama

Troop Was The First Dog Buried Here

coon dog, cemetery, Alabama

Coon Dog Marker

coon dog, cemetery, Alabama

Newest Coon Dog Marker

coon dog, cemetery, Alabama

Humorous Epitaph

After a wonderful holiday with family we were in the process of packing up when we were notified that our nephew in Colorado had been killed in a motorcycle accident. Life on the road isn’t any different than for house-based folk. You just learn to change plans on a  moments notice. So far we’ve found people to be very willing to help you out. We can’t say enough good things about the Mississippi State Parks. They allowed us to leave the trailer at J. P. Coleman (for an additional fee) in excess of the 14 day limit. The park at Natchez did give us a voucher for payment refund which we used to pay J. P. Coleman and later when we did get into Natchez. It’s times like this that you really appreciate their willingness to help.

We waited for five days until plans were finalized for the funeral. Then we drove to Michigan. It was a very sad week. We needed a diversion so on the way back we stopped in Wapakoneta, Ohio to see the Neil Armstrong Space Museum. We both belong to the generation who lived the Race to the Moon. (Chari)was in 7th grade when Alan Shepard blasted off aboard a Mercury capsule for his suborbital ride. In July 1969 I had recently graduated from college and gone into the Air Force. I was new to Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois. The Moon Landing party was the first one I’d been invited to attend.(Steve) I was also in the Air Force and stationed in Spain.  One of the highlights of my life is that I was one of the thousands of people who actively participated in the space program.  I was a telecommunications specialist stationed at San Pablo, which was a small annex connected with Moron Air Base.  We were about five miles outside of Seville.  We were involved with all the space flights, but particularly so during the Apollo program.  There were three stations set to relay direct communications with the astronauts from Houston.  One was in Hawaii.  One was in Australia. The third was in Spain.  No matter what the time of day was, as the earth rotated, at least one of these three was pointed toward the moon.  Any communication circuits between Houston and the astronauts, data circuits or actual voice communications, were relayed through San Pablo, if at the time, Spain was pointed in the right direction.  My job was to monitor and maintain the quality of these circuits.  I know I was only one of thousands of people throughout the world who had a job supporting Apollo, but I was thrilled to have participated. It seemed ironic at the time, that even though I was actively involved, I had to wait until the newsreels appeared at our base movie theater to see what the rest of the world watched in real time.  We had no television at San Pablo.  Another thing I’ll always remember, is the way we, as Americans, were treated after Apollo II.  This was during the Vietnam era, and there was a lot of anti-American feelings throughout the world, especially in Europe.  Even though the Spanish people were very friendly, there was always an undercurrent of hostility present toward Americans.  After the landing, I would be walking down the street in Seville, and total strangers would walk up to me, slap me on the back, and want to shake my hand because I was American.  It was a wonderful feeling. Walking through the museum we reminisced about Sputnik, marveled at the size of the Mercury rocket  (83′) compared to the Saturn V (363′) and tried our hand at operating a moon lander. By the way we both crashed! Once back in Mississippi it was time to pack up and head to Natchez.

space, rockets, moon landing

Relative Size of Rockets From Mercury Through Saturn V

space, Gemini, museum

Gemini Capsule

space, Neil Armstrong, Apollo

Apollo Command Module Control Panel


space, astronaut, museum

Steve Has The Right Stuff

lunar lander, Neil Armstrong, museum

Lunar Lander Simulator At The Neil Armstrong Space Museum

Where Next? #1

It was time to figure out where we wanted to travel over the next several months. While we were working on that, we returned to Wilkesboro, NC and Bandits Roost Campground (for details see our earlier post Wilkesboro, NC). We were in time to join friends Kathy and Joe for one last get together at the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival, http://www.applefestival.net/n_index.php?. This festival draws 100,000 people in for the day. The town has things planned well and operates a free shuttle from satellite parking lots as the town is closed to autos. Music, food and craft tents fill the streets.Being an RVer has put an end to my pottery collecting but I still enjoy looking. There was one piece I’d have bought in a heartbeat in my former life.  We did succumb to one purchase. We bought a small metal sculpture of a photographer made from a railroad spike. This will be our version of the Travelocity Gnome popping up in the blog from time to time. Steve’s niece had given him a kayaker that was similarly made a few years ago. We also had a chance to catch up with friends in Burnsville, NC who had just returned from a 5 week tent camping trip in California. We’re hoping to join them somewhere in Maine or Nova Scotia next year.

On to the real reason for this entry. Where are we headed over the next 6 months? This is not cast in concrete. We’ll cover over 2,500 miles in 14 stops. So click in often follow along. We had some definite places we wanted or needed to be and places we wanted to see. So how to connect the dots? Here’s what we decided…..