Category Archives: Alabama

Thanksgiving, A Reflection

As I sit at my computer this morning while parked on the edge of the Smoky Mountains, I thought about the early RVers (aka pioneers) who decided to ‘Go West’ to a land that was flat and fertile. Leaving the comforts of their homes, families and friends in Virginia, North and South Carolina they headed west searching for a new life and happiness. As the coastal waves and rolling hills where behind them, they encountered the Appalachian Mountains. Here they faced what seemed like an endless climb to cross of the mountain range.  I thought about their courage and strength that fueled their desire to push on and not turn back.

It was courage and vision that led the pioneers to leave behind a comfortable, settled life and trek West to begin a new life in a new place. Many of those from the East that went West found a strength within themselves that they didn’t see while they were in their old life. Instead of being one of those that just kind of went along with the others in the old life, they became leaders and visionaries in their new lives.

I borrowed this comment from Terry and Jo Miller, who inspired me to take on the pioneering spirit when I struggled with retiring in 2011 so we could begin our RVing life. You can read about that emotional journey here.

In the past two years, we have driven our  RV to Maysville, North Carolina; Blue Ridge, Georgia; Piney Flatts, Tennessee, and to Ledbetter, Texas; then back east to Jasper, Alabama; Monroe City, Missouri and our winter resting spot in Townsend, Tennessee. We encountered excitement, met new friends, and have seen some beautiful country. This is not to say we have not encountered difficulties or challenges along the way. As an example, in the last two days, we encountered a our first minor snow storm and long-term cold freezing weather. We’ve learned to adapt and be flexible.

Today we have so much to be thankful for that the list would just go on and on. Instead of doing that, I would like to say that I am most thankful for my wife’s maternal grandparents. Blanche Barrett (aka Mom ‘B’) and Bill Barrett. Mom ‘B’ was the person who planted the seed of Jesus in my heart in 1966, one year before my wife and I married in 1967. Their Christian walk had a tremendous impact on my life and spiritual growth.

I am thankful that we have two beautiful daughters and their families. I am thankful for our health and our friends. I am especially thankful for the joy we’ve met along the way. And I am thankful that our future is secure in knowing God is directing our lives and leading us on to new adventures.

May the God of Peace and Comfort bring joy and blessings to you and your family. Thanks for stopping by, y’all come back now.

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What The Heck Is Going On?

That is a good question. As it turns out, Jasper, AL was a side trip to our summer gig at Mark Twain Landing in Monroe City, MO. WHAT? Yep, that’s right. After three weeks of working like crazy we have moved on. Due to reasons that we will not publish, March 15th was our last official day at Clear Creek Recreation Area in Jasper, AL.  Monday March 18th we started our journey to Monroe City which is about 25 miles west of Hannibal, MO.MTL

I received a call from Mark Twain Landing’s assistant manager Friday morning while I was waiting for repairs to be completed on our car. Carol and I called them back later that afternoon and wrapped up a deal for us to arrive around the last week in March. We planned our route and said ‘see ya later’ to our friends in Jasper. It was a bitter sweet departure since we had planned to spend the summer in Jasper. That just was not going to happen, God had other plans for us. We had completed our task in Jasper.

Route Jasper-Monroe City

First stop on our 700 mile journey was Hampton Cove, AL southeast of Huntsville, to visit Carol’s uncle. We knew there was a strong storm system moving from west to east that would bring strong winds and heavy rain. We stopped for lunch at Backyard Burgers just north of Cullman, AL. While there we decided to press on towards Huntsville. The storm system hit I-65 just as we exited I-565 loop. We stopped under an overpass and waited it out. A few minutes later, we were back on the road. Huntsville, AL is the home to Redstone Arsenal. A Saturn-V rocket is on display at their visitor’s center just off I-565. As we were approaching Redstone Arsenal, a large lightning bolt stuck the top of that rocket. Wished we were able to capture that image on camera.

We set up camped in the Walmart parking lot then drove out to Carol’s uncle’s home. After a relaxed visit, we showed them our RV, then they took us to Gibson’s Bar-B-Que. Gibson’s is a local place that got it’s start in the 20’s in Morgan County, AL. They are a popular place in Huntsville. The food was delicious. Robert & Becky then drove us back to our RV. Thanks for the hospitality.

DSCN0283 (1)Tuesday 3/19

Keeping with our tradition of avoiding national chain restaurants while on the road, we stopped at Blue Plate Cafe in Huntsville for breakfast. As we entered, we were greeted by lots of smiling wait staff milling about. After we met our waitress, Margarita, I told Carol this is a happy place. Nothing was hurried. Noticing my western hat on the table, Margarita asked if we were from Texas.  She had family in Texas and was excited when we said yes. The food was very good and is worth a trip back when we are back in Huntsville.

After a customary stop at Starbucks for drinks to go, we headed north on I-65 to Nashville, Tennessee. Our destination was Two Rivers Campground just down the road from the Grand Ole Opry House, east of downtown Nashville. One reason for picking this RV spot was because Camping World is next door. We were able to fill our propane tank for $1.99/gallon. Also, my nephew lives in Hermitage on the east side of Nashville. We enjoyed a catfish dinner at Caney Fork, then settled in for a restful night.

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Wednesday 3/20

We had a light breakfast since we were meeting my nephew in Hermitage for lunch. We also had some paperwork to complete so we stayed busy doing that. Around noon we headed to El OK Corral. We are always leery of Mexican food places when we are on the road. This place was pretty good. Of course we were there after lunch so there was no crowd. My Shrimp Chimichanga was good as was Carol’s Fajita plate. We had a good visit with Ron and his youngest son Zachery. Hope to see them again net time we travel through Nashville.

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Thursday 3/21

We wanted to visit the Pancake Pantry for breakfast but because this is such a popular place, the waiting line was out the door. We found Fido’s across the street. No wait at this place. Food was excellent and the place was filled with college kids and young adults who were tethered to their computers. You might call this place an upscale coffee shop. We shared our table with a couple of guys who looked like business type (college kids don’t wear suits). My Huevos Cubano was very good.

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We came back to Two Rivers Campground, pulled in the slides on the motor home and headed north for Paducah, Kentucky. More on that in the next post. Thanks for stopping by. Y’all come back.

Snow?

Yep that’s right. After a week of shopping for equipment and vehicles, slowly nesting in our spot at the manager’s site, and celebrating a quiet birthday, we get snow flurries on our first day of relaxation since we’ve been here. As you can see, the is not a problem. The cold is. We are not acclimated to cold weather. Today the high temperature was 39. Tonight we will have 8 to 10 hours of below freezing temperatures.

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We have a large site near the entry of Clear Creek Recreation Area. Here is the view from the front door. That is the entry station you see there.

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This view is as you approach the entry station.

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Clear Creek has 109 sites for RVs and tents. This is one of the premium sites that backs up to the lake. Don’t be fooled by the sun and shade. It was still cold when I took this photo.

IMG_0838Corinth Recreation Area is about 30 miles or 45 minutes on the other side of the lake. We will have three camp groundmanager couples at this site. Corinth has 60 RV and tent sites. Before the gate house of Corinth, there is a very old Baptist Church on the side of the road. It was built in 1884.

IMG_0842There is an old jail house in the area I have not found yet. That will come later when we have time.

Our regional managers arrived today. Tomorrow we will review what we’ve done and start the training. Both parks open Friday March 15th. We have lots of work to do and little time to get it done. By the time we open both parks on the 15th, we will have 6 campground manager couples trained to take care of the day-to-day operations. Our regional managers will be with us until March 15th. We are looking forward to moving ahead on this project and are excited to work with new people again.

Now that evening is upon us, the temperature is dropping. I’ll let you know how we did with our coldest night. Thanks for stopping by. Y’all come back now.

We’ve Arrived

We have arrived after one intermediate stop. While we could have made the journey from Vicksburg to Jasper, AL (300 miles) we were not in a hurry so we opted for an overnight spot. Looking at the map, we hunted for a spot the was mid way. That is when we found Lake Tiak O’Khata Resort. This is a family owned business that is rich in history dating back to the Civil War.  We recommend this place as an overnight or destination spot.

IMG_0831One advantage of stopping here is the onsite restaurant. Food was good – especially the Caramel Cream Pie.

Saturday morning, we stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast and to use their free WiFi. After taking care of downloading updates and a relaxing breakfast, we headed out about 10ish. Sunny, blue skies and temperatures in the mid 40’s lead us to Columbus, MS. Traffic was very light and roads were pretty good. We crossed into Alabama around noon on MS50/AL96.

In Jasper, AL we parked at WalMart and walked to Johnny Brusco’s New York Style Pizza. They were a bit behind in cleaning up from the lunch crowd but the pizza made up for that. We will come back to this place. Best pizza in a long while. Carol went into WalMart to pick up a couple of items while I headed to Murphy Oil for a final fuel stop for Cramalot Inn.

Johnny Brusco

Twenty miles later, we pulled into Clear Creek Recreation Area. We were greeted by Jody from forestry service. He will be our go-to person. He led us to our temporary site where we will be until mid-week. As we were setting up, a contract worker came to us to tell us he heard rushing water near an area he was working. Since we are the only folks in the park, we took off to find the problem. We discovered a water spigot that was stuck on. Of course water was running everywhere. We got the spigot closed and made note of this site so we can get that fixed later.  Other workampers will begin to arrive on Friday March 1st. Then the real work begins. The park official opens to public on Friday March 15th. We will have two weeks to get this park and Corinth Rec Area (across Lake Lewis Smith) ready.

We drove Cramalot-Inn 915 miles. She drank up 138.5 gallons of gas that cost us $501.67 and averaged 6.6 mpg. We drove Queen’s White (our car) 1051 miles. She drank up 43.77 gallons of gas that cost us $158.33  and averaged 24 mpg. RV Park expenses came to $141.33 and eating out came to $284.12. Total trip expenses, $1,085.45 or $1.00 per mile. Donations are excepted.

Today is our day to take care of laundry, do a little grocery shopping and get oriented to our new home. If you are in the area, we invite you to come visit.

Thanks for stopping by. Y’all come back now.

Saying See Ya Later

Friday Sept 21st was our last day at Windy Valley Llama Farm, Pam and Jerry hosted a dinner on their deck for us as we depart and for Tom and Vicky as they start their workamp gig. Grilled Rib-eyes, Potato Casserole, and Steamed Broccoli where on the menu – YUM. Jerry did a great job on those rib-eyes.

And no dinner can be complete with out an exquisite dessert provided by Tim and Karen.

We broke up early since we were all tired from the hay delivery a few days earlier. Tim and Karen said they would come by in the morning for farewell hugs. Tim and Karen are on the left – Pam and Jerry on the right. We will miss these fine folks. Both have told us we have a place to park or stay when we come back to Blue Ridge. Pam and Jerry have also invited us to come back for another workamp session whenever we are ready.

We pulled out just before 9:00AM and took a parting photo of Blue Ridge, GA looking to the east. We will miss the mountains and cool temperatures as well as the new friends we are leaving behind.

Our target for Saturday was Tuscaloosa, AL. We knew we were traveling with one weak battery. The other battery was a used battery I bought in December last year. Jerry told us about a large RV dealer in Alabama on I-20 so we decided to stop and replace both batteries. That would give us comfort in knowing we could get slides out and back in should we decide to stop at Camp Walmart. Dandy RV in Anniston, AL is indeed a large RV spot – kinda like Camping World. Finding 2 batteries was not a problem. The sales person installed the two batteries and took the bad ones away.  Pockets are now $200 lighter but we will rest easy tonight.

We pressed on to the West keeping our sights on Tuscaloosa. We found the Walmart conveniently located to I-20 and across the street from easy to get to restaurants. We actually parked in the Sam’s parking lot, next door to Walmart. First time I’ve seen a Sam’s and Walmart share a parking lot. We wanted to try a local place for diner but Chili’s was across the street from Walmart. That was the closest option since we were on foot. We kept the truck and RV hitched. We got what we expected at Chili’s, then walked across the parking lot to Books-A-Million thinking we could connect to free WiFi. My MacBook Pro connected just fine while Carol’s PC had issues. I spoke to a sales person who told me the WiFi was free only to Books-A-Million club members. OK, what does that take. $7.95 for 24 hours or $24.95 for 12 months. I said no thanks. It was getting late so we closed up shop and walked back to the RV. At least we got phones and computers charged for free.

Sunday AM, we opted for breakfast at Cracker Barrel. No reason to break our Not Normal Eating Places pattern. Getting into the parking lot required a bit of maneuvering. I drove past the entrance because I was pointed the wrong direction. I got off the highway, onto a side street and halfway up the driveway to a gas station when I though, this driveway is pretty steep. No way to back out, bad approach to the drive way so I just let the truck pull the trailer up the incline. We did not hear any scraping but I sure felt it. When we got parked at Cracker Barrel, I took a look a saw a chuck of asphalt on the badly mangled right rear stabilizer. The stabilizer prevent me from ripping off the back cap of the RV.

We can say that we will never stay at a Walmart or Sam’s or Flying J or any other public parking area again. With no electricity, we needed to keep the windows open. For me that was not a problem because I hear nothing when my hearing aids come out. For Carol that was a different story. Between the Parking Lot Zamboni, delivery trucks arriving before dawn and the drone of the generators from the other motor homes next to us, Carol did not get much sleep. Many of our RVing friends do it. I am happy for them. This type of overnight stop is just not for us.

After breakfast and a fresh load from Starbucks, we hit the road again. Next stop – Vicksburg, MS. As we made our approach to Vicksburg, Carol scouted for RV parks. She picked the Ameristar RV park across the street from the Ameristar Casino. Good choice. We were fortunate to get a site that was pretty flat and level side to side and front to rear. There are some sites that are way out of level. We had free shuttle to the Ameristar Casino where we found Bourbon’s BBQ and Steak. Food was a bit pricey but it was absolutely some of the best eating we’ve done in a long time.  After dinner, we decided to spend a little time playing penny slots. We agreed to play with $50 each and stop when we were out of play money or tired. At the end of the evening, we were both ahead. I hit a lucky slot that paid off $49 on a 20 cent bet. I cashed out of that machine and went to another.

We shuttled back to the Casino Monday morning for breakfast. After breakfast, Carol said she wanted one more go at the slots. By the time I caught up with her she was just sitting at her slot. When I asked her what was up she just smiled said “I hit a jackpot.” The number she pointed at reads 27040. That translated into $270.40. Not a bad return for less than $20 bet.

By the time we left Ameristar, we pretty much paid for over half our trip back to Texas. We will visit Ameristar again.

We left Vicksburg, made the trip across the Mississippi River and headed for Tyler, TX. The river was low but that did not keep barge traffic off the river. I was mesmerized by the power in those small tugs pushing the loaded barges up river.  It’s hard to see the individual barges here. There were 34 barges tied together being pushed by a single tug boat.

Once across the Mississippi River, we were on what I call ‘the flat and straight highway’. I can certainly say the drive on I-20 is significantly better than the drive on I-10, especially in Louisiana.

Then we finally hit the Texas state line about 1PM on Monday 9/24. We knew we were back home.

First thing we noticed was the smoothness of the roadway. Texas knows how to take care of its highways. If you think that is stretching things a bit, I challenge you to make the comparison. I know there are some rough patches but mile for mile, Texas does a super job in taking care of its highways. We stayed in a small RV park in Tyler, TX just off I-20 5-Star RV Park. The park is country living at its best. Away from the hustle of busy streets and very quiet at night. The park is owned and managed by an Englishman and his two sons.

We opted for TexMex for dinner Monday night and were disappointed.  Apparently we were not far enough south for the real deal. We drove to the south end of Tyler for breakfast Tuesday morning. The Diner made up for the marginal dinner. They certainly know how to do breakfast – Texas style.

Our friends Stephanie and Greg from RV There Yet were in Lindale, TX just north of I-20. Sure wished we had extra time on our schedule to pay them a visit. Maybe we can connect when they come back to Texas later in the winter.

Our next and final stopover would be in Killeen, TX. Carol’s Aunt and Uncle live in Copperas Cove near by. We stopped at Cicada Springs RV Park, This is an older mobile home park that is being converted to an RV park. We enjoyed dinner with Ron and Glenda at Olive Garden and had a chance to share with them our story of how we got to where we are. Thank you Ron and Glenda for driving over to Killeen to have dinner with us. Hope to see you guys in May next year at South Forty RV Park in Giddings, TX.

After we got back to the park, we took the doggies for a walk. That is when Carol took a tumble onto the cement pad. She bruised her left wrist, right thumb and banged up her knee a bit. It did not take long for the park staff to hear about the tumble. They sent one of their residents who just happens to be an EMT to check up on Carol. He determined she did not break anything. We were fortunate. Dosed up on ibuprofen and wrist wrapped she appears to be on the mend.

We opted for TexMex tacos for breakfast and were pleased. We finally made it far enough south.

For readers who are contemplating driving down I-35 from Waco towards San Antonio. I would highly recommend heading a bit east to pick up US 281 which goes directly into San Antonio and connects with I-37 to Corpus Christi and the valley. It appears I-35 is undergoing a major expansion to widen it North and South of Waco. When we lived in Corpus Christi, it was always faster and less congested to take US 77 from Waco to Corpus Christi or US 281 from Waco to San Antonio. And always take the toll road around Austin. The cost is worth the drive. If you have to go to Austin, well, all I can say is, be prepare for stress and congestion.

From Killeen, we headed West to Lampases then turned South on US 281 for a beautiful drive through Burnet, Marble Falls, and Blanco. Ended up in Boerne (pronounced burny) going west on TX 46 to TX 16, then north for a few short miles to Pipe Creek, TX. Our home for the next six months.

If you travel near Bandera, or Boerne, TX, please plan to stop by. We are about 6 miles south of Bandera, and about 15 miles West of Boerne.

That is it for this post. Thanks for stopping by. Y’all come back now. Next post, I’ll tell you a bit about the area and our work.