Sunday, May 31, 2015

Last Days at the RV-Dreams Reunion Rally


All of us campers were served a continental breakfast this morning at 9:00 AM. After the breakfast, Michael Witt, a Master Certified RV Technician, answersed questions from the group about RV maintenance and service issues. Most of the questions were about Norcold or Dometic RV refrigerators and toilets. Michael Witt offers a 4 hour RV Owners Maintenance Course in which he meets with the owner of the RV and spends the time going over all of the maintenance issues involved with an RV. Connie and I are thinking about taking this course sometime in the future. We have been having some issues with our Norcold RV refrigerator not keeping the freezer cold enough. One of the campers here is an RV tech himself and when he had looked at it earlier in the week he noticed that the cooling fans were not turning. So on Saturday, I removed the two cooling fans (neither of them was working and they are the same type that used to go into desktop computers) and called several places that sell computers to see if they have replacement fans in stock. No one had this size cooling fan, so I track it down on the Internet. No one had free delivery and it being Saturday, I figured I would wait until Monday to order. When I was explaining this to a group of campers, one of them, Craig, said he had a bunch of computer cooling fans in the basement storage of his 5th wheel RV (I have no idea why he carries around used computer equipment in his 5th wheel, but I was sure glad that he did). We looked at what he had and decided to try to daisy chain 4 smaller fans together to replace the 2 larger fans. It took Craig a while to complete the task, but he was able to get the fans going and air began to move across the cooling fins at the back of the refrigerator. The fans ran for a few minutes and then stopped. It was time for the evening "Final Day Dinner" to start and we decided to stop for the time being and look at it again tomorrow. After dinner, I came back to The Duchess and decided to look at the fans again. Craig noticed what I was doing and came on over to the RV to see if there was a solution to the problem. All the electrical connections seems to be working, no fuses where blown, yet the fans were not running. Craig disconnected the temperature sensor that sits on the cooling fins and should regulate when the fans turn on and off and as soon as he disconnected the fans started running. We decided to leave the thermistor (that is what the temperature sensor is called) off and see what happens overnight.

The Final Dinner had a Hawaii theme with a roasted pig, shrimp, chicken and all of the trimming. We enjoyed the meal and the games that we played afterwards. A collage of "thank yous" was given to Howard and Linda Payne, the force behind the RV-Dreams website and rallies and I think they were touched with all of the wonderful things people had to say about them. After visiting with the other Rally attendees for a while in the eating pavilion, we went over to our neighbors RV to continue visiting as the sun went down and the moon came up.


We had a full breakfast this morning with all of the other campers and then said our good-byes to the ones who were leaving (about 10 rigs are staying Sunday nights and a few are staying around to have some service work down). It was sad to say good-bye to all of the people we had met this week since we were just starting to get to know one another. We all hope that we will see them again "down the road".

We decided to give The Duchess a bath, so Connie and I got out the washing equipment and proceeded to get started. It took us a couple of hours to do all of the sides (we decided to wait on the roof), but The Duchess looks much nicer now. We also clean all of the mirrors and tried to get the dead bugs off of the front panel.

I have plugged the thermistor on the RV refrigerator back in early this morning to see if the fans would come on with it "on".  After leaving it on for several hours, the temperature in the RV freezer continued to rise. So, I went ahead and disconnected the thermistor and for now the cooling fans will run all of the time. We will have the refrigerator looked at once we have completed all of the other repairs from the awning accident.

It started to rain in the afternoon and as I write this around 7:30 PM the rain is continuing. Between rain storms, we visited with some of the campers who are remaining overnight here in the campground.


I added a page that will show where we have stopped along the way this year called 2015 Travels. It is at the top of the blog next to the HOME tab. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Dealing with the Damage - Pub & Grub Crawl


This was a day that we stayed around the campground to deal with the damage to The Duchess. We found out that our insurance company, Nationwide, has agreed to pay the claim and that the work will be done here in Marion through the Tom Johnson Camping Service Center. The Service Center here is a "Blue Ribbon Repair Shop" for Nationwide Insurance, so if the damage had to happen we were lucky that it happened here. Connie and I spent the afternoon visiting with several other campers here at the RV-Dreams Reunion Rally. We had another rainstorm come through in the evening (no awning to worry about this time).


On Friday afternoon, Connie and I along with 14 other campers from the Reunion Rally went over to Black Mountain NC for the Creative Mountain Pub & Grub Crawl. This was a 3 hour walking, drinking & eating tour of several places in Black Mountain that have pubs or bars in them.

We started the crawl at the Monte Vista Hotel Fitz Bar which was named after a gentlemen named Fitzpatrick. He was able to have a National Historic Site designation put on the hotel which somehow allowed him to serve alcohol by the drink despite the county being dry. Within a few months, the town of Black Mountain voted to have liquor by the drink and later allowed the sale of alcohol within the city. We met the current owners of hotel along with the chef who runs the hotel restaurant (called Palate). We were served a drink consisting of sweet tea, honeysuckle simple sugar (from a plant on the hotel grounds) and vodka. The chef prepared us a reversed grill cheese sandwich with country ham along with potato chips he had fried in his kitchen. The sandwich had cheese on both the inside and outside and was delicious.
Some of the artwork in the hotel

On the front porch of the hotel with Kim and Tim

The owner of the hotel and the Fitz Bar

Guy & Sue (the birthday girl), Greg & Cori

From there we walked over the Merry Wine Market which is a shop that sells a wide variety of wines and beer. They stock a number of local and North Carolina wines and beers. There are 27 breweries located either in Asheville or the surrounding area, so there are a lot of choices in local brews. We sampled a local beer from the Catawba Brewery called White Zombie Ale.
White Zombie Ale

Kim, Sharon and David, Bonnie

Then we moved to the Black Mountain Ale House which is more of a pub than anything else. They had recently updated their food menu and served us wings with four different types of rubs. The beer served was a Hi-Wire Lager from a local brewery.

Our host for the tour, Sandi, followed by Tim & Kim
 On to the Dark City Deli & Pub where we were served a Carolina Apple Cider. The food consisted of red cabbage, quesadea and a pork & cheese sandwich all of which they serve at the pub. We met the owner who told us that there were ghosts who inhabited the building: a woman with children who would appear at various times. The building that was first built on the site burned around 1900 and there are some stories that this was a family that died in the fire (but no one seems to know for sure).

The deli consists of three buildings with passages between them

It was a walk of several blocks to the Lookout Brewery which is a nano-brewery: a brewery that makes even less beer than a micro-brewery. We met the owner who started brewing beer for his friends several years ago and then turned the hobby into a brewery. He gave us a tour of the small brewery as explained the beer brewing process. We sampled an American Pilsner beer along with their Black Mountain IPA.
Today's selections at the Lookout Brewery. It changes with the owner's taste buds.
The Manufacturers Defect was a batch that was drinkable, but not up to the usual standards.

The owner explaining the beer brewing process. They have just
acquired the property next door so they will be expanding soon.
Someday they will be a Micro-Brewery.

We finished up at the FRESH Wood Fired Pizza & Pasta shop. They served us three different types of pizza, flat bread with cheese toppings and peppers/tomatoes. The beers served included Mother Earth Beer, Maibock Lager and Highland Lost Cove. One of the campers on the crawl had a birthday today and her husband surprised her with a German chocolate cake. We all sang Happy Birthday and then helped her eat the cake.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon with the group and the variety of drinks & food we were able to sample along the crawl. Black Mountain NC is a beautiful little town with a number of shops and restaurants located within the city limits. The town swells to several times its normal size during the summer since the temperatures are usually cooler at the higher elevation the town is located at.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Golf, Awning Issues and The Biltmore Estate


On Tuesday morning Connie and I went up to the sales office here at the campground (it is part of a Camping World complex) and walked through a number of used motor homes that they had for sale. After looking at several of them, we both decided that we made the right decision in selecting The Duchess to full time in.

In the afternoon I went and played golf with three other campers at the Black Mountain Golf Course which is located about 15 miles from where we are staying. The course was founded in 1929 with only 9 holes which were designed by Donald Ross. Later a second nine was added to make it an 18 hole design. The course is very tight with small greens. There was a Par 6 (yes that is correct - a par 6) on the back nine that measured 747 yards. I ended up with a 5 on the hole which was a birdie. The first time in my life that I took 5 shots on a hole and ended up "under par". I managed to keep the ball in play and shot a 79 which is much better than I thought I would do since this is the first time I have played this year.
The longest golf hole I have ever played.

Trees on the right and creek along the left.

In the evening after Connie cooked us a great meal of salmon, rice and salad, we joined several other campers in a "happy hour". By the time we joined the group the drinks had been flowing for several hours and everyone was in a happy mood. The sun began to set and a thunderstorm moved through the area. Everyone headed to their rigs to get ready for the rain. We put everything that we had outside the rig up and went in for the evening. However, we had forgot to bring the big awning in and even though the awning is on an automatic sensor that is suppose to bring it in when there is any wind, it did not. A short time later a gust of wind from the thunderstorm caught the awning and lifted one side of The Duchess (we think it took all of the weight off of that side of the motor home, not actually picked it up from the ground). The awning broke in two and did some damage to the fiberglass where it was attached to the rig. There was not much we could do since it was dark and rainy, so we waited to inspect the damage.


We got up early in the morning to survey the damage: the awning was a total loss and there was damage to the fiberglass that will have to be repaired. I went over to the Service Center here at the Camping Center and arranged to have one of their workers come and take the awning off of The Duchess so that no more damage was done. Later in the day we called our insurance company, Nationwide Insurance, to start a claim and get the damage repaired. It will delay our leaving the area because the awning will be a "special order" meaning it takes more time to get here to North Carolina from the factory. This is a beautiful part of our country and there is lots to do in the area so if we are going to stuck here for a while we will have lots of places to visit.
The roller on the awning cracked in two

We used a pole we had to keep the awning off of the slide until it was removed.

We had already scheduled a trip the Biltmore Estate in Asheville as part of our Rally activities for today. Around 8:30 AM we made the 30 minute drive over to the Biltmore. When it was finished in 1895, it was the largest private residence in the USA. It remained a private residence until 1930 when the Vanderbilt family turned it into a place that the public could visit. As with most places that are of grand scale, pictures do not do it justice. We spent around 3.5 hours touring the house and gardens. The tour through the great house involves a lot of steps/stairs and by the end of it Connie was quite wore out. We both rented the audio tour devices which gives you a lot of information about the house, its history and occupants over the years. After finishing this part of the visit, we drove over the Biltmore Winery. The winery was started in 1985 and now produces a number of white and red wines. The winery is located in one of the buildings that was the Biltmore Dairy & Creamery for many years before it closed.  Most of the grapes used in the wines are grown in North Carolina but some are imported from California. We tasted several whites along with all of their reds. Connie liked the Zinfandel and we ended up buying one bottle of this variety.
Connie entering the grounds in front of the "house"

When George Vanderbilt finished this house he was a bachelor.

One of the lions guarding the entrance to the house.

Views of the formal gardens located near the house.

We found a local pizza place in Asheville on Yelp and ordered a 12" pizza for our late lunch. Upon returning to the campground, I went up and finished the paperwork for the insurance claim with the Service Department. The RV-Dreams group had a burger/hot dog dinner after which we retired back to The Duchess.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Visits to Two Wineries & Fun Day at RV Dreams Rally


On Sunday morning we got up, ate breakfast and then did our morning exercise. This morning we walked for a awhile and then took a short bike ride around the campground. The campground was full for the Memorial Day week-end so we got to see a wide variety of RV rigs. They also have a large service center as well as a sales center with new and used RV rigs.

We had signed up for a noon time brunch at the Silver Fork Winery which is located about 30 minutes away from the campground. We hitched a ride with Bill & Kelly over to the winery and were seated for the brunch. We thought that all of the RV Dreams group (there were 14 of us) would be sitting together, but we ended up at a number of individual tables. The food at the brunch was excellent and we both had a couple of glasses of wine along with the food. Connie has the Nonsense Blend which is has Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot grapes. I had the Four Dog Red Blend which has the three grapes contained in Connie's along with Cabernet Savignon. The views from the winery were spectacular and there was a 4 person group that played music for about 1.5 hours. The two ladies had wonderful voices: they played some well known songs along with some songs that members of the group had written.
Some of the newest grapes in the vineyard

Connie sitting at our table for 2

This was only the second time this winery had done a brunch.
We told them they needed to continue to put these on.

Some of the older grapes in the vineyard (planted around 20 years ago).
This was the view from our table.

JAM: this was the first time this group had played in public together
After leaving the Silver Fork Winery, we decided to go over to another winery in the area: South Creek Winery. Connie and I both did the full tasting of all of their wines (both whites and reds) after which Connie got a glass of their cab/merlot blend. Lee Lindsey, who the owner had met at another winery, was playing outside of the tasting room on the patio and we listened to her for a while before we headed back to the campground.

This is the owner of the winery. He bought the winery from the original
owners in 2010.

Lee Lindsey performing on the patio.

The grapes at this winery were planted in 2000.

Patio outside the Tasting Room
Back at the campground, I went over and had some ice cream with all of the toppings (Connie skipped the ice cream) before calling it a full day.


This was a day for activities around the campground at the Rally. Since we were participants in the activities, we did not take any pictures. I maybe be able to add some photos from other campers at a later date to this blog post.

After our morning walk, we went over to the pavilion for a full breakfast for all of the campers. After everyone had finished eating, we took group photos. Howard and Linda Payne, who are the couple that founded and run RV-Dreams, started doing educational rallies in 2008 and have done 1 to 3 educational rallies every year since then. Connie and I attended the educational rally in Goshen, Indiana in September 2014 and there were 10 other participants from that rally here at the campground. All of us are now full timing: we were that last ones to start from the group that is here at the Reunion Rally. If anyone is interested in the RV life style (, the Paynes have one of the most comprehensive websites out on the internet with a lots and lots of information. I stumbled across the website several years and started reading Howard's blog about their decision to full-time RV and what they went through on their journey down this road. It helped us make the decision to live this lifestyle ourselves.

The afternoon was spent playing games and having fun. There were relay games, bean bag toss, washers, frisbee golf along with a number of other games that were played for several hours. This evening there was a pot luck supper after which we watch a slide show of previous rallies, remembered and honored our military veterans, and also remembered the members of the RV Dreams group who have passed away in the last few years. It was another full day here at the Reunion Rally.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

RV Dreams Reunion Rally


This was a travel day for us. We left out of the campground in Spartanburg SC around 9:30 AM for the 75 mile trip to Marion NC for the RV Dreams Reunion Rally. Although the trip was only 75 miles, it took us almost two hours since we were going up and down the Blue Ridge Mountains. There were grades of 6 and 7% along the way with designated truck lanes and runaway exits. I fell in line with trucks in the right lane and used the exhaust brake to slow us down when we were going downhill. In some places along I-26 and I-40 the speed limit for trucks was 35 miles an hour and the trucks had to pull over and have their brakes checked before starting down the hill. The Duchess did great on both the uphill and downhill sections of the trip. The diesel engine and the exhaust brake make all the difference in this type of driving.

We arrived at the Tom Johnson Camping Center in Marion NC around 11:30 AM and were assigned one of the sites in the group camping area. There were a number of rigs that arrived today and we ended being next to Fred and Bonnie Lee who we had met at the RV Dreams Rally in Indiana last September. We spend some time visiting with the Lees before taken off eat lunch (or linner) and do some grocery shopping. The evening was spent visiting with other campers here around a campfire.

Nice pull through site

The Duchess all hooked & ready to join the Reunion Rally

Tom Johnson Camping Center

View down our "street"

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Visit to local brewery


More accounting/computer work today for me. Connie used the time to do some things around The Duchess that needed to be done (laundry and cleaning). This afternoon we were able to get away for a short while to do some walking in the local mall and visit one of the local breweries. We decided to walk in the mall today because the temperatures were near 90 degrees and we waited until the middle of the day to walk. There is a large mall here in Spartanburg with a number of large department stores anchoring the mall so we were able to get in a good walk.

After finishing our walk we drove over the RJ Rocker Brewery which has been operating in Spartanburg since 1997. They have move twice and are now located in a two story warehouse located on Main Street. We shared two samplers of their brews (and they threw in an extra one), so we were able to sample 9 of their 12 brews (the number and type changes throughout the year) currently on tap.

Trying to decide which brews to try first

Sarah, our friendly bartender/server

Mike in front of the brewing equipment

We had a taste of ales, pale ales, IPA's and stouts.

We were surprised to find their strawberry ale very tasty. The strawberries come from local farms and they clean and then freeze them for use throughout the year. They also make a peach ale at other times during the year, but they did not have any on tap today. These local brews always have more flavor than what you find in the grocery store beers. We would have liked to taken the tour of the brewery, but it did not start until 6:15 PM and we decided we could not drink beer that long and then make it home safely.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Another Day in Spartanburg


Today I ended up spending a number of hours doing accounting work on the computer. However, Connie and I were able to get away for a couple of walks.

Here are a few pictures of the Cunningham RV Park, the campground where we are staying this week. This park was originally a KOA Campground that is now under private ownership. Most of the sites are occupied by full-time residents with almost all of them being in either travel trailers or 5th wheels. There is an old motorhome a couple of sites away from us that is falling apart and has not had anyone in it for a long time. We have seen several motor homes spend one night in the campground include a Prevost last night. We have had some problems with the electricity here in the campground: our surge protector/energy management box has turned off the electricity to The Duchess several times due to the voltage falling too low. I think it is because it has been hot here this week and everyone in the campground has been running their air conditioners. The Wifi service has been good most of the time, but after 5 PM when most of the residents are home the connection gets pretty slow. Our AT&T Wireless service has been good here with 3-4 bars of 4G service.

The Duchess in Site 86 at the campground

You can see most of the sites occupied by trailers around us 
The old KOA A-frame office plus a pool

This morning Connie and I went to the Barnet Park for a walk. The website said there was a 2 mile trail through the park, but after doing the walk we thought it might be 1/2 mile. I'm not sure who measured the distance in the park, but they were sadly mistaken if they thought it was any where near 2 miles. We extended our walk but using the streets around the park to end up with a 45 minutes trek.

Entry to Barnet Park

There is an amphiteater in park where they show movies along
with doing plays & productions

Connie doing her own production
In the afternoon we went out to Croft State Park near Spartanburg. The park has some camping sites for RV's that we wanted to check out along with 50 miles of walking trails. We ended up doing  the Nature Trail which is about 2 miles of moderate difficulty going up and down the side of a hill to a creek that runs through the park. The temps were around 90 degrees and there was no breeze in the park so we were soaked by the time we finished. After completing the walk we drove around the park to view the RV sites. There were a few we could see The Duchess fitting into, but they would all be tight. Also the sites have electric and water but not sewer at the site (there is a dump station). The more level sites only had 30 amp service which would be OK if the weather was not too hot but they were across the road from the lake that sits in the middle of the park.

The Nature Trail goes by a creek at the bottom of the hill

We were wore out after the walk and returned to The Duchess to take our showers and eat dinner. Connie made up small pizzas that she cooked in our microwave/convection oven using a cooking stone to brown the bottom of the pizza. We opened up one of the wine bottles that we had bought from Whole Foods (Don Simon - Tempranillo wine from Spain) and began to relax for the evening. Our NuWave oven has stopped working and Connie ordered us a new one this morning. Hopefully it will arrive at our North Carolina campground next week. We think that the old one we had got bounced around too much in the place we had it stored, so we will try and "protect" the new one by using padding around the NuWave motor while we travel. Some of the roads we go down are quite bumpy even for an 18 ton motorhome.