Monday, October 28, 2013

From Shiloh to Bushnell, Florida

We left Shiloh and headed to Montgomery, Alabama. There we spent the night at the most beautiful campground we have ever stayed in, Gunter Hills which is a Corp of Engineers Campground. At eleven dollars a night, (senior pass), it’s a steal. The site was so large that we could have parked two rigs and trucks like ours, and that’s with full hookups.

So we took a nice walk and enjoyed the Spanish moss, hanging from the live oak trees. The campground was pretty full with lots of local folks setting up for the Halloween weekend. It’s celebrated more here than in Wyoming, maybe because it’s so cold back home?

Anyway the neighbors had motion activated life size figures, including a large rattlesnake. As I had had an encounter with a real one several weeks ago they were lucky I didn’t get my shotgun out and waste it, (we live and let live when we encounter rattlesnakes when we are in the middle of nowhere but I have a different attitude in campgrounds when there are small children present).

Unfortunately a cold front was due the next day so we headed out to Monticello, Florida where we stopped to visit our friends Bob and Sue. After five years of full timing they have bought a house, to live in for the winter months. It was so nice to see them and they are so happy to live near her sister.

However the campground we stayed at is the worst one we have ever stayed at!  It’s called Tallahassee East KOA, and between the trees and other campers I almost got blocked in. Luckily I was able to back through two empty spaces, pushing small branches out of the way and barely made it out the road.  Our neighbors tried to tow their rig between two parked rigs, (using the road, they are that narrow), and they hit a motor home as their back end swung around. Don’t ever stay there if you have a big rig.

So we said our goodbyes and headed east and south to Bushnell and Sumter Oaks Rainbow Park. It’s a beautiful place in a quiet setting. It’s a relief to be done traveling for a few months, ok we will pull to Tampa area next week, but at least we don’t have to worry about cold fronts and snow! Clear skies.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


We walked along the Sunken road, its not really sunken, and stopped at each monument. Here were stones placed to commemorate each of the Iowa regiments that held at a place called the Hornets Nest against attack after attack. One of them,  the 12th Iowa, had even had to about face and repel an attack from the rear. They eventually were surrounded and had to surrender, but the dying hadn't stopped. Seventy one of the men died in a Confederate prison.
It wasn't just Iowa regiments that held here, Missouri, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Ohio markers were all represented. The survivors, (over two thousand were surrounded and captured), finally retreated to Grants final line but they had held long enough. Johnston's final attack failed and Grant attacked and won the battle the next day.
Shiloh was the last on my list of Civil War Battlefields and in preparation I had bought the battlefield guide, Shiloh. Its over one hundred and seventy pages long and so I read it in advance and thought I was ready to guide us in our drive from stop to stop.
However it wasn't like Gettysburg or Antietam and we quickly became confused due to the thick forest. It made us understand the confusion that the undergrowth and rugged terrain had caused in the rebel lines. Finally figuring it out, we found where the battle had started and were able to trace the sequence of events.
Pausing at the Confederate monument I simply could not comprehend the bravery showed by the soldiers on each side.
Bloody pond was next to the sunken road, and we watched fish swim lazily in the shallow sunlit water. The myth said the pond was named for all the blood from the wounded and dead that stained its color but its another of those myths that surround this place.
A cannon stood where each general was killed, and it wasn't really surprising how close Lew
Wallace's and Sidney Johnston's monuments were to one another. Each step we took was on sacred ground and we both were silent in our thoughts. I had no relatives that had fought here, mine had passed at the siege of Vicksburg, and not from battle wounds but from mosquito borne sickness, (their Iowa regiment of sharpshooters had been place in a swamp).
Our last stop was where the final Confederate attack failed as the men had to cross  a creek and climb a steep hill. During all that time they were bombarded by Union gunboats, shot at from the final line and further bombarded by Union batteries.
The park headquarters here has a hour long movie that we both highly recommend should you ever visit here. The battle field guide we used was simply too much to properly use in the time we had, (the book says six hours is required to visit the sites but we used most of a day for the first day of the battle). I wish everyone could walk this and other such places to realize how special our country is and the heavy price paid. Perhaps then they wouldn't sign fools petitions demanding succession.
Clear skies.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Rig is Fixed, Heading South

We took our rig in on Monday and it was fixed, as promised by Friday. The Heartland Customer service people explained all they had done to make the necessary welds and basically said they had rebuilt the front end to 2013 standards!

They had also fixed numerous other problems and it still seems like we keep finding things they fixed! So our hats are off to the outstanding job done by the Heartland Customer Service Center. Thanks to John H, Eric and the others techs responsible for the job well done, (oh and lest I forget thanks to David H for setting it all up)! Heartland treated us as a company should and stood behind their product, even though our warranty had expired.

So we reloaded the rig, resupplied the larder and refrigerator, and hooked up for a Sunday drive. The plan was to push it for three hundred and fifty miles, clear south to Cave City, Kentucky. Now we had already visited Mammoth Cave so other then enjoying the sights of beautiful state of Kentucky, we continued south to Tennessee. Crossing the state line we entered Louisville, where our gps took us on a strange loop of about five extra miles. It even took us back to the original starting exit/entrance.

Nashville, greeted us with heavy fog warnings, but we were able to drive through them and could actually see a little bit of the city. Turning west on Interstate Forty, a Natchez Trace Parkway sign quickly caused us to change our route as we decided to drive down the parkway.

Renita got behind the wheel and drove along the trace. The speed limit on it is fifty miles per hour, but with no trucks and little traffic she drove slower so I could enjoy the view. Notice I said I could enjoy the view as she had to really concentrate to keep the wheels on the narrow road, (It reminded us a lot of some of the interior Alaskan roads and Cassier Highway, both narrow roads with no shoulders).

The falls colors were not yet in their peak, but it really didn’t matter as it was a pleasant day driving the Natchez Trace, (If you ever get a chance follow the spring flowers north along the Trace). Turning off the parkway I took the wheel and drove the rest of the way to the Pickwick Dam Campground. There we found a beautiful, large campground, with long and level sites, spaced among towering Southern Pines.

To top it all off, it’s a Tennessee Valley Authority campground and it only costs eleven dollars a night with my senior pass, (first time I have been able to use it for camping). The campground is located on the Tennessee River and is just below the Shiloh National Park, which we plan on visiting tomorrow. Clear skies.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Day Trip to Indiana Dunes State Park

So we dropped the fifth wheel off at the factory service center and decided to head out on a day of exploration. While we have spent time in Elkhart before, we have never traveled to the Indiana National Seashore or the Indiana Dunes State Park. The leaves are near peak right now and that alone promised to make the drive memorable.

We knew that the National Seashore would be closed, (thank you House Republicans), so that meant that we were really heading to the State Park. The National Seashore would have been free with my senior pass but the state park charged us ten dollars for the day pass as we were from out of state.

Ten dollars seemed steep to us as the regular restrooms were closed and the only restroom available was the worst smelling pit toilet I have ever used, (and that’s really says a lot)! In fact the bath house and all the facilities were closed, including the birding tower. You would think that the State of Indiana would at least charge less in the off season?

Still it was a nice, but windy, cool fall day and we strolled along the beach. It was such a clear day that we could see the Chicago skyline dominated by its towering skyscrapers, and they were fifty four miles away! We also enjoyed the large dunes and barren slopes that the park calls the Devil’s Slide.

So we enjoyed our time there, before heading back to Elkhart. It’s always a good day when you walk along a beach letting the sand work its way between your toes and it’s always a good day when you get to see a new part of the world filled with fall colors. Every day is a blessing! Clear skies

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The RV Hall Of Fame and Museum, Elkhart, Indiana

We have spent the last week emptying the fifth wheel as we prepare to take it in for a major repair. So, the last week has been less then inspiring. Finally, we got to the point where there isn’t a lot left to do and so we decided to visit the Rv Museum.

Not really knowing what to expect we were pleasantly surprised to see a large and new building housing the museum. As we entered we were warmly greeted and after paying the senior rate one of the staff gave us a short orientation lecture for the self guided tour.

The first room had a display showing the manufacturing setup of a typical RV trailer factory. It was really a good model that showed much of what we had seen when we toured the Heartland Bighorn plant, six years ago.

The next room was really the main museum and as we strolled down the paved road, we were treated to trailers and motor homes that represented all of the innovations of the past one hundred years. I think I was most surprised at how little the RV’s have changed through the years. Other then the relative recent introduction of room slides, the different trailers had pretty much the same basic necessities of life.

What was really amazing was the beauty of some of the different units. As far as I was concerned the Hunt Custom Star was the most beautiful camper. Made in 1938, the Hunt Star exemplified the art deco style of the nineteen thirties and showed the beautiful curves from that era.

Another trailer that caught our eye was the tear drop camper that we see new examples of today. Which poses the question, is there really anything new? We also got a kick out of the forty two foot trailer, pulled by a one ton Studebaker pickup, (which was a thing of beauty in itself).

It was really neat to see all the vintage homes on wheels. One especially brought back memories of my Grandpa Huber’s Mallard Camper,(not really sure if it was a Mallard),. He had it parked in an RV park on the Upper Mississippi River and we used it often, (Unfortunately the picture is blurry). Just seeing it reminded me of all the fish we had caught while staying there.

So the RV museum had turned into a walk down memory lane, and that’s good. As I read once, it brought a smile to my face of good times and the joy that those good times had happened. Isn’t that one of the reasons for the place? Clear skies

Friday, October 4, 2013

Taking a Family Break in Iowa, at Lacey-Keosauqua State Park

Renita called her sister Pam, and as they were going to be home we decided to stop and visit them. Now we usually stay at Lake Sugema but we decided to try Lacey-Keosauqua State Park and it turned out to be a great choice.

You kind of forget how peaceful a small town in Iowa can be and the state park is even quieter. Added to this was the cost at eleven dollars a night and that was for  a site with electric and water. So we took a spot in the new campground section and set up for three days of family catching up.

Roy and Pam visit us in the winter in Texas and Roy does lapidary and makes jewelry, (He started shortly after I did). We were both surprised at how much we enjoyed working stone and they even have a place in a local art store in Bentonsport, Iowa. It’s an artist coop, where the artist donates his/her time for a big discount in the stores commission.

So we went there and enjoyed visiting with other artists and viewing their different styles and mediums. As the Des Moines River is at an extremely low level I soon wandered off to look for rocks. I  quickly found a beautiful fossil rugosa coral. It’s the same coral that is called Petosky stone in Michigan and as we have collected and worked that, it’s a welcome addition to our collection!

Of course Iowa means breaded pork tenderloins and I had to try both of the town’s restaurants. Misty’s, the local malt shop was first and their tenderloin was the largest one I have ever eaten. It actually was so big that Renita tasted some and I had enough for another day’s lunch.

The next day we went out to the other restaurant in town and the tenderloin was also excellent but I do have to award Misty with the best tenderloin in Keosauqua award. However if you are ever there be sure to try both as they were both great!

We also took time for some site seeing and drove to Ely Fords Crossing, where the Mormon migration crossed the Des Moines River. It was a quiet spot and a great blue heron waded in the slow moving rivers current where thousands had once crossed on their way to Utah. Just a week before we had been at the Oregon Trail, at Sweetwater Station in Wyoming, another river crossing for the Mormons and while we are Catholics it is neat to view the history of another religion.

So we rested and visited and talked rocks and jewelry, Roy is now making multiple cabochon necklaces, like we are, and of course they are beautiful and unique. It’s Folk Art and is so unlike the jewelry mass produced and sold most places. It’s really about the joy of creating and making each piece, and that’s what it should be! Clear skies
(The last image shows the reintroduced long grass prairie in Lacey-Keosauqua State Park. The grasses are taller then I am and its so different then the western short grass prairie we are used to.)