Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Two Weeks Updates Plus and Sitting in Appomattox

Finally landed where we have a good Wi-Fi connection, so here is an update on the last two weeks!

Sunday 3/6

On the road just before 10AM, on schedule as we wanted to be in Yuma just after noon. Unfortunately the compartment door where we keep our sewer hose fell open, dropping the hose on the road. I saw it in the mirror as it came out and we stopped and picked up the pieces. Once we got onto I-8 near Casa Grande we stopped in a rest area and I jury rigged a strap to hold the door closed the rest of the way.

Those two stops cost us close to an hour and as a result we did not get to the fairgrounds in Yuma until about 1:30, where the parking crew put us in the queue of early arrivals - there were about 75 RVs in front of us! We made lunch and relaxed, listened to the end of the NASCAR race on Sirius and finally were escorted to our site about 4:30! We had been concerned about getting a site with electric hook-up since we do not have a generator nor a large battery bank for more than overnight boondocking. Fortunately this was not a problem as we not only have an electrical hook-up, right beside one of the cattle barns, but a water source as well.

We had to do a bit of running around in Yuma in the evening, stopped at Walmart and bought a new sewer hose, and ended up having a late dinner at the Cracker Barrel.

Monday 3/7

Registration and arrival day for the rally. Nothing really going on until late in the afternoon. Wind was gusty all night, but it was warm in the low 60s. Windy as well today.

In the morning I repaired the compartment door. It appears that the clamp that hold the door closed has never made proper contact with the metal bracket inside and was just clamping on a piece of fiberglass trim that finally broke.I was able to shim the bracket so that the clamp now engages it properly.

We were planning on grilling a pork roast that Nancy had had marinating for several days tonight, but since it was supposed to get windier in the afternoon we decided to grille the roast early and just reheat it for dinner. Our little propane grille struggled mightily to cook the pork roast and it got the job done in spite of the wind which blew it out a couple of times.

Tuesday 3/8

There are five seminar sessions each day of the Gypsy Gathering, with five seminars scheduled in each session, so there is a lot to choose from and sometimes we need to decide which subject we really want to hear about. Some of them we can easily skip, such as those on electrical management systems, satellite TV, or tire pressure monitors since we already have each of those.

Today we only went to three of the sessions: Nick Russell’s Gypsy Journal FAQ, just because he is always an interesting speaker; “10 things never to do with your computer”, on computer security; and a very interesting one about SkyMed insurance to cover catastrophic health issues while traveling.

Speaking of computers on line, we are really pleased with the mobile hotspot feature on Nancy’s new Verizon Droid. We turned it on when we left Tucson since we knew there would not be any WiFi here. It is $20 a month, but we can turn it on and off at will. Nancy can also access the web directly through the phone without using the hot spot, but the screen is pretty small. The hot spot works well and is a lot faster than most campground WiFi.

The travel insurance from SkyMed is pretty interesting and we are seriously considering purchasing it. We were away from home for almost ten months last year, and are already in our third month this year. We know we will be traveling most of July and August and all of December, so even without any spontaneous trips we will be traveling at least six months this year. As the doctor often says, “Well, as we get older...”. Having a medical emergency of any kind is a real risk when traveling. SkyMed will cover all the expenses of ambulances and air transportation home from anywhere in the world that is not covered by your own insurance, it does not matter if you are traveling by RV or any other way. In addition they will cover the cost of transporting the RV home if the driver is physically unable to do so for any reason. Looks like a good plan and we will most likely spring for it once Nancy has a chance to look over the actual contract.

We had to run out to the pharmacy at lunchtime so since we were out there we stopped at In N’ Out Burger for lunch - heading east at the end of the week and won’t have many more chances!

Light dinner back here at home and watched the Hawks game on TV. Now that we have left Tucson and access to local TV on Dish we have reset our location back to Chicago so we get the Hawk games again. We are able to pull in all the local network stations here with our rooftop antenna.

Wednesday 3/9

A few more seminars today. We went to a very interesting one on ways to use velcro around the RV (I know, unless you are an Rv’er it sounds kind of silly). He had some interesting and unique products, we ended up going by his booth and purchasing a number of items, primarily a clever set of handles for our 30 and 50 amp plugs that will make it much easier to unplug them without damaging them. Them we went to a seminar on RV comfort and safety, but it turned out to be primarily aimed at motor homes, so we slipped out early.

Since that gave us a bit of time at lunch we decided to take a run out to Chocolate Crafters, a store nearby that had donated to our door prizes. It is 11 miles back east on I-10, but as we went east we saw that the west bound lane was backed up by construction, so we got off at the first exit and came back to the fairgrounds. We’ll give it a try tomorrow.

Doing pretty well on our water consumption. We were a bit concerned about filling our waste tanks to quickly, but we are now more than halfway through our stay and our tanks are less than half full, so we are golden. We checked out the dump station situation here and there are two problems: first it looks like it will be a bit difficult to maneuver into it until some of the attendees leave, and second, I expect there will be a long line! Since we don’t have a weight problem we will probably wait to dump the waste tanks until we get to a regular campground Friday night.

The wind finally died down here, so the dust and grit situation has improved. Hot though, and we only have 20 amp electric so the AC is not an option. Fortunately we are away during the hottest part of the day. The public relations officer from Marine Corp Air Base across the street who spoke to us the other night said Yuma feels a lot like Afghanistan!

Pizza party tonight, sat with an interesting couple who are representatives of Adventure Caravans. They will be doing a presentation on the Great River Road tomorrow. Back home to watch the Blackhawks game after dinner.

Thursday 3/10

A couple of presentations today on smart phones. Picked up on some good tips for Nancy’s new droid. One of them was on good apps and that had a lot of good info.

At lunch time we ran east to Chocolate Crafters and bought a lot of good stuff. Little place where the owner makes all of the chocolate right there, started as a hobby. Some really unique and unusual combinations (chocolate and Key Lime? - Amazing!) Well worth a stop if you are ever in the Yuma area. It is in a small shopping center just south of exit 14 off I-10, around on the south side of the building, enter by the road south of the shopping center.

Final get together this evening and door prizes (we won a fire extinguisher from Mac the Fire Guy). Tomorrow all 310 of us hit the road again. We are heading for the Escapees park in Benson, AZ. on our way east to Bristol. We were concerned that we might need to drop down into TX to avoid bad weather, but so far the weather looks good on I-40 all the way across. We’ll take I-10 across AZ, then angle across NM up to I-40 near Amarillo. Then it will be I-40 all the way past Knoxville.

Friday 3/11

On the road about 9:30 AM. Good weather and light traffic all the way to Benson, AZ. Stopped at the Cracker Barrel in Mariana for lunch. Arrived at SKP Saguaro Park in Benson a little after 3 PM. We have a very nice, specious site with a great view out our back window for $17! A nice, big laundry room as well which Nancy appreciated as she did a weeks worth of laundry after we arrived.

Ran into town and had dinner at Irene’s Cafe.

Saturday 3/12

Longest day of the trip, 415 miles to Roswell, got on the road a little after 9 AM. Again we had perfect weather and no traffic problems. Lunch at the Cracker barrel in Las Cruses, NM and arrived at Trailer Village in Roswell just before 6 PM. Parked and set up by 6:30, into town toPepper’s for a really nice dinner. Stopped here last time through Roswell and liked it a lot.

Sunday 3/13

Good cable TV hook-up here, so we were able to get CBS Sunday Morning, which we watch every week. Oddly enough it started at 7:30 AM here instead of 8, fortunately I had the TV on to check out the terrible pictures form Japan - our hearts go out to those poor people, what a disaster. As a result I caught the beginning and got the VCR going. Taped the show while we were packing up so we can watch it tonight. Got on the road about 9:15, lunch at the Cracker Barrel in Amarillo about 2 PM (gosh, if they ever go out of business we will have to stop traveling!) and arrived in Texola, OK about 5 PM. Double D is a tiny, basic campground right off exit 1 in Oklahoma. Nothing to write home about, but all pull throughs and an easy spot to stop. Passport America rate is $11 for a full hook-up, not bad.

A cold wind north wind has built up during the afternoon, we had a good tail wind for the last two days, averaging 9.7 MPG running between 65 and 70 both days, excellent milage for that speed. Tomorrow may be a different story. About 50 degrees when we got here, supposed to drop to 30 tonight! Filled our fresh water tank and disconnected the water, safer to do it now and easier than doing it in the cold in the morning! I picked up a quick disconnect gadget at the rally, just push it onto a water bib and slide the outside up and it is connected with no leaks - release the catch and it pops off!

Monday 3/14

Well we can say unequivocally that I-40 from Oklahoma City east to the state line absolutely sucks! Through OK City it is rough and twisty due to construction, the rest of the way it is just rough - really lousy concrete.

Other than the rough ride it was an uneventful day, got on road a little late, 10 AM - feeling the effects of losing two hours between the time change and moving into the Central Time Zone.

Staying tonight in a small campground at Wiederkehr Winery in Altus, AR. Only people here. Campground is four miles off the interstate with a pretty good climb up the mountain. Again a small, basic campground, water & elec. only, but the water was still off for the winter. Plenty of fresh water on board though so no sweat. Had a nice dinner in their restaurant. Sitting and watching the Blackhawks game now.

Tuesday 3/15

We planned on staying at Tom Sawyers Mississippi River Park tonight, but checking the campground website last night we found that the campground was “closed due to high water”. So we went on through Memphis at landed at Memphis East Campground 20 miles west of the river.

Although we are obviously big Cracker Barrel fans, we have been a bit disappointed with them this trip. We have been at the CB in Yuma and Mariana, AZ; Las Cruces, NM; Amarillo, TX; Oklahoma City; and North Little Rock, AR. Yuma had some serious issues and each of the others there were little niggling problems - slow service, order not right, computer problem, long line to pay, etc. Tonight we went to the Cracker Barrel near our campground and it took exactly an hour from the time we ordered until we received our meal! The waiter was very apologetic, said there was a back up in the kitchen. We were not the only ones sitting cooling our heels. However, when it came time to pay I asked for the manager and asked “How much of a discount do we get for waiting an hour for our dinner?”. He surprised me by taking the check and saying “We’ll take care of the whole thing.”! I said I expected to pay something and he said “We screw up, we take care of it.”. So Cracker Barrel has redeemed them with just that one manager.

Wednesday 3/16

Today we stopped at the Cracker Barrel in Dickson, TN (our eighth one in six days!) and it was running like a well oiled machine. Waitress was ready to take our order before we even sat down. Had a nice conversation with the manager who came to say hi when the waitress told him we had been doing a CB tour across the US.

Tonight we are at Deer Run RV Resort in Crossville, TN, and it is definitely a destination park. It is almost a mile around a 26 acre lake to our pull through site, very pretty although it is really early in the season and there are only a couple of campers here. Looks like a far number of semi-permanent weekend RVs is some sections. Nancy is cooking here at home tonight, tomorrow we will hit the Cracker Barrel here for breakfast - that will make nine in seven days! Only a 182 miles to go to Bristol tomorrow and then DINNER AT THE RIDGEWOOD! Best barbecue we have ever had.

Thursday 3/17

Left the campground around 8:30 AM, stopped at Cracker Barrel for breakfast (yeah, I know). Easy drive to Bristol, arrived at the campground around 1 PM and got set up, did some grocery shopping and then headed over to the Ridgewood for a mid-afternoon repast. After we both scarfed up a pork platter with fries we gave some thought to splitting a third one! After eating we stopped in Bluff City at a laundromat and did a couple of loads of laundry. Then a relaxing evening at home.

Friday 3/18

Slept late, then did a run to Walmart for a few necessities. Took a walk through the souvenir trailers outside turn four - which were a bit thin on the ground compared to previous years - and then walked through the Family Race Night displays. Lots of long lines for some questionable free samples.

Saturday 3/19

A beautiful day, sunny and high around 70. There was a cool breeze, but it was pretty hot in the sun. As a result it was pretty warm in the stands this afternoon. Fairly interesting Nationwide race, but Kyle Busch dominated the whole afternoon so it was probably a pretty boring race on TV. Lots of action back in the field kept things interesting for those of us in the stands.

Sunday 3/20

A bit overcast today, but that kept the hot sun off of us in the stands, probably the nicest day we have had for a spring race in years. Crowd was really thin, looked more like a Nationwide race from a few years ago than a Cup race. Saturday night the track said they had sold 80k seats (out of 160k!), pretty poor showing. Talking to the guys who have been sitting next to us since 1999 we found that they were thinking about giving up their tickets next year. We have been thinking the same - not as much fun as it used to be. It is also becoming a bit of pain to be in Bristol in mid-March (see the last weeks travels) and again in late August. We will make a decision after the August race when renewals come up.

Monday 3/21

Took our time getting loaded up this morning, letting the early morning RV traffic dissipate a bit. We had thought about heading up to Lexington, KY for a few days, but the weather looked iffy so we decided to go to Williamsburg, VA. Planned a stop at Parkview RV Park in Appomattox. A nice basic park just two mile from Appomattox Court House National Historic Park. Good thing there are thing to do around here since we are stuck until at least Thursday.

Coming across VA from Richmond Monday afternoon I started to notice that I was seeing more of the left side of the trailer in my mirror than I was used to, it seemed to be dog tracking a bit. When we arrived at the campground this afternoon I took a look - tires on right side are about 2" apart, the ones on the left 6" - Oh Oh! Crawled underneath and found the rear spring bushing on the left side of the rear axle was gone completely and the spring eye had shifted off the pin and back about 2"!

On the way into town I was keeping an eye out for a shop and spotting a trucking company with a big repair shop, so we called them to see if they could recommend a repair shop. Turns out they have a road service truck and they came by late this evening to take a look. The bushings are shot on all four springs, so they will order the parts and call us tomorrow.

Tuesday 3/22

Visited the Appomattox Court House National Park this morning. Very pretty and interesting little park. Lots of Civil War history around here. Stopped in town and had lunch, visited the Visitors Center, took a short walk around town, and did some shopping.

The gentleman from Thompson Truck Services called and the parts we need will be in on Thursday morning. They will come out here to the campground to install them. I can lift the whole trailer with the leveling jacks so they will be able to put the bushings in.

I guess we are lucky that it did not actually drop on the road and leave us stranded on the roadside, at least I spotted it before it caused any damage and we are in a nice campground with a lot of interesting things to do around the area. Guess we should count our blessings! We'll look at the weather and decide what direction to take after the repairs - either Williamsburg or heading back for home.

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