Friday, December 23, 2016

Spending time in Texas

November-December 2016:

We have not posted to our blog in quite a while. Here is a brief post to cover the time we have been in Texas during November and December. Sorry no pictures.

We crossed the border from Louisiana into Texas heading to Hanks Creek COE Park in Zavalla, Texas. This is Corp of Engineers park located on Lake Sam Rayburn in East Texas near the town of Lufkin.  We spent a few days at this COE park along with spending one day in Lufkin for Connie to get some lab work done for her physical later in the year.

From Hanks Creek we drove south to spend several days at the Escapees Rainbow's End Park in Livingston, Texas. We needed to change our "domicile" from Austin to Livingston to save money on our health insurance for 2017. The BCBS policy we will have for 2017 with a Livingston address is much less than any insurance we could get with our Austin address (Obamacare - Healthcare Marketplace). So we are now using the Escapees service for our permanent address. We changed our Texas driver's licenses to our new address, registered to vote in Polk County (where Livingston is located) and registered our motorhome home and Jeep in this county. While we were at the campground the Escapees were having a RV Boot Camp Seminar. We met several people who were attending the seminar including a couple of single women who are going to full-time in their RV's. I was fighting a cold in Livingston so I did not feel well during our visit. The cold continued on for a couple of weeks (thankfully this is the first time either of us has been sick this year).

From Livingston we travelled southwest to spend a few days with my dad on his "ranch" in Rosanky, Texas. The ranch is about 60 acres which is leased out to an individual who runs cattle on all but one acre. My dad has a large shed where he used to store his motorhome along with full hook-ups on the one acre. He lives in a 2003 Foretravel motorhome that my parents full-timed in while my mother was alive (she died in 2012). He is 84 and in good health, but doesn't have the energy that he used to. So we always try and do a few "chores" while we are at the ranch to help him out. We have 20 amp service when we are at the ranch so we have to be very careful about which electric items we turn on at the same time. We did run the generator a few times so that we would have full 50 amp service. Dad is hoping to put in a second 50 amp plug in the next few months so that we can have both rigs at the ranch at the same time each with full power.

After spending some time with my dad we left the Duchess at the ranch and headed to Cedar Park, Texas to "dog sit" at our friends house, Brooks & Heidi Ivey, while they were on a vacation in Mexico. They have four dogs (one Cocker Spaniel and three King Charles) that we have "dog-sit" before while Brooks and Heidi were on a cruise. They have a very nice large house which has a hot tub in the back yard we get to take advantage of while we were there. It was nice to be in a sticks and brick house for a few days to remember what our life was like before we started on the road a couple of years ago.

After Heidi & Brooks' return from Mexico, we headed back out to my dad's place for a few days before we will travel to the La Hacienda RV Resort in Austin for two weeks. We finished up storing a few items we have not used in the last year in his shed along with getting a few things out of storage to put in the Duchess. We also rearranged our underneath storage again (this is something we seem to do every few months). While we were there my dad's water faucet broke, so I spent one day fixing the break (new faucet along with PVC piping). Our water pump went out while we were at the ranch so I will have to replace it when we get to Austin. While we were there we trimmed up all of the brush along the road into the ranch (about 1/4 mile).

On December 12th we headed out from Rosanky to Austin and the La Hacienda RV Resort. We had stayed here last year and we hoping to spend at least a month here. But we could only get the time period of December 12-28 so it will be a short visit. It is a very nice RV Resort with two heated pools, hot tub, exercise room along with other amenities. I ordered a new water pump through Amazon and was able to install it with Connie's help in a couple of hours. The temperatures got down into the 20's here in Austin for a few nights and we needed the pump at night while we had unhooked our water lines due to the cold weather. We also got a few "Christmas gifts" to ourselves: a new canopy with mosquito netting, a MAGMA set of nesting cookware that works on our induction cooktop and a JIGSORT board for Connie to keep her jigsaw puzzles in place while we travel.

While in Austin we got our teeth cleaned, our annual eye exams and our physicals completed. All results were good although I will need to get new glasses (eyes are getting worse). We visited with friends and family, had several "happy hours" and ate too many large restaurant meals (it is the holiday season after all) and have enjoyed spending time back in Austin. We got to spend a few hours with my grandson, Rhys McKay, and his mother Grace a few days before Christmas. Thanks to Brooks for letting us join in his famous fish frys feasting on the white bass he catches at the local lakes. Connie and I both look forward to these fish frys all year long while we are on the road.

Each year Austin continues to grow and the traffic gets worse and worse. It makes us appreciate being on the road and spending our time away from big cities.

On December 28th we will head to San Antonio to spend the next two months.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Heading towards Texas

We have not posted to our blog in a while so this is a quick wrap up of the last month.

We moved south from Knoxville to Chattanooga Tennessee on October 20th. We had made reservations at the Raccoon Mountain RV Park. This campground is located next to the Raccoon Mountain Cavern which we did not visit during our stay. While we were there we visited Lookout Mountain where a battle was fought during the Civil War. The mountain overlooks the city of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River that flows through the city. We also took a driving tour of the Chickamauga Battle Field located a few miles away from Chattanooga in Georgia. This is the site of the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War (the bloodiest being at Gettysburg). The battle was “won” by the Confederate forces but they did not press their advantage and allowed the Union forces to escape. A short time later the Union forces were able to win a series of battles that gave them the “Path to the Sea” through Atlanta. There are several hundred monuments located at various sites on the battlefield. We visited the downtown area of Chattanooga and walked along the river walk. Another day we rode our bikes along the river path that runs about 9 miles from the downtown area to a dam located on the Tennessee River. We also hiked one day at a TVA park located on Raccoon Mountain.

Pictures above from Lookout Mountain

Monuments @ Chickamauga Battlefield
After spending a week in Chattanooga we travelled south to spend a few days with Cindy and Jessie Mayes in Milton Florida. We were able to “mochdock” on their property for 6 days. A previous owner of the property had owned a 5th wheel and had put in a 30 amp plug and sewer drain in the large garage they had built to house their RV. We park outside the garage and had just enough sewer hoses to make the connection. While we visiting with Cindy & Jessie we went to dinner several nights to eat seafood at some local restaurants. Connie & Cindy went to the Pensacola beach twice and took advantage of the warm temperatures. Jessie had hip surgery earlier this year and is getting around much better than when we visited with them in the spring. Connie, Cindy and I did a couple of bike rides along the Black Water Trail which is a “rails to trails” path that runs from Milton to the local Naval Air Station. Cindy and Jessie skunked us in a game of horseshoes we played one afternoon.

From Milton we made the short trip to Mobile Alabama to stay a few nights at the Shady Acres RV Campground. We had stayed here in the spring and knew it was a nice campground near a great place for seafood. We picked up several pounds of fresh shrimp and Connie cooked them using a couple of different recipes while we were there. We were able to ride our bicycles in the neighborhoods around the campground. We also put our inflatable kayak in the Dog River that runs along the back edge of the campground a couple of days: once paddling downstream and once paddling upstream. We also visited the Gulf States Fair on Saturday afternoon where we people watched and enjoyed some good live music.

We left Mobile and travelled across Alabama and Mississippi to a campground in Vidalia Louisiana called the River View RV Park. This campground is located on the Mississippi River although you can’t see the river from the campground due to a levy. There is a nice 1.5 paved walking path that runs along the river from the campground into town. The campground also had large washers and dryers so we were able to wash/dry our bedspread and some rugs.

Leaving Vidalia we travelled about 90 miles to the Paragon Casino RV Park located in Marksville Louisiana. This a very nice campground with concrete roads and a large number of concrete pull through sites. There is not much to do here except visit the casino or play a round at the casino’s golf course. I have spend most of the time here trying to get over a cold and have been limited in my activities. We did see an alligator show in the casino on Saturday and Connie spent some time gambling on Friday (did not come home a winner).

We will be leaving on Monday to drive to a COE campground on Toledo Bend in Texas.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Visiting with the Potts–Heading South-Repairs


Friday (Sep 30) to Thursday (Oct 13):

Friday afternoon we pulled into Belden Hill Campground which is located a few miles from Binghamton NY. We had spent one night in this campground earlier this year and knew it was a good place to spend a few days. We were assigned the same site as our last visit, a pull through site with a few of the mountains in the distance. We got set up for the week-end and then took it easy most of the time we were there. We did go into Binghamton one day over the week-end and it was depressing. Binghamton has been in decline over the last 30 years with over 60% of the jobs leaving town. This is the first time we have been in a city were we did not feel safe parking the Jeep and walking around the downtown area. We did stop and walk in the city park at the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers.


On Monday morning left out and headed to Kinzers PA for the Roamers Retreat Campground to spend a few days with David and Cindy Potts. We arrived at the campground and were assigned to Site C-17 which is located across from the site we were in earlier this year. We got set up and then walked down to the Potts’ rig which is located on the other end of the park. All of us went out to a local Amish restaurant where we shared a large pizza.

The week with the Potts went by quickly. David last day at work was Friday, October 1st. We were with the Potts in June when they sold their house and now in October when David retired. We thoroughly enjoyed the few days we were able to spend with Cindy and David. Cindy is still working from “home” so her days are filled with computer/phone time with her office. We were able to share evening meals several days, spend time around a campfire and talked about our plans for the coming year. I helped David install a replacement televator for the TV in their living room. I also played golf with David and a couple of guys he had worked with at DuPont on Friday. Connie went with Cindy on Saturday to have a pedicure while Cindy had her hair cut.

imagejpeg_0 (2)Mike& Cindy Pots

On Tuesday Connie and I took a trip south to Assateague Island to see the wild mustangs that reside on the island. It was a drive of about 4 hours down and 4 hours back so it was a long day for us. We watch a brief movie at the Visitor’s Center and then drove over the the Island where we walked the trails within the Assateague Island National Park and Seashore. A one point there was development on the island all of the structures were destroyed in a hurricane that hit in the early 1960’s. The government took over the land later in the 1960’s with the state having a small park along side the national park. It was very windy while we were there and we did not see any horses while we were on the trails. We did see a few mustangs as we were leaving the park and stop to take a few pictures. The horses are very tame and we saw them grazing between the park road and the campground. It was not worth the 4 hour drive to see the “wild horses” that look like what we see all the time in Texas.


After leaving the park we drove over to Ocean City, Maryland where we walked along the boardwalk and ate lunch at one of the few restaurants open (most of them have closed for the season). We both had sandwiches and Connie had a locally brewed beer.


On Sunday we said our goodbyes to David and Cindy since we are leaving early on Monday morning. On Monday we headed south to another campground we have stayed out before, Endless Caverns RV Resort in New Market, Virginia. We got to the park and since we are only staying the night did not unhook the Jeep. After a quick night stay we headed to Amelia Family Campground near where we we have work done on the motorhome. We got our site at the campground which was more like a parking lot with utilities. Very narrow site with just enough room to put out our slides. The campground had a small music stage where they put on concerts during the summer.


Wednesday we arrived at Goodman’s Truck and Tractor to have the motorhome’s engine serviced and have the ABS warning light diagnosed. The ABS warning was solved by replacing the sensor on the rear dual wheel on the passenger side of the coach. We also had a seal replaced on the front passenger side wheel along with having them look at some issues we were having with our fuel tank. All of this took the entire day which was mainly spent in their waiting room. Waiting around makes for a “very long day”. At 5:00 PM we paid the bill and headed to Appomattox, Virginia to spend the night in another campground, Parkview RV and Mobile Home Campground, that we have stayed at earlier this year. Again since we were only spending one night we did not unhook the Jeep and had a quiet night in the rig.

Our original plans were to drive along the eastern coastline stopping at Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. However due to the damage that has occurred with Hurricane Matthew we have changed our plans and will go through Tennessee and Alabama before ending up in Milton, Florida to see Jessie and Cindy Mayes at the end of October. We had not made any reservations so we did not have to make calls and cancel.

On Thursday we started out south towards Knoxville, Tennessee without having a place for the night. Connie made several phone before finding a spot at the Dumplin Valley RV Park east of Knoxville where we will be spending the next week.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Green Mountains of Vermont–Visiting with Pam & Carl Manganaro


Monday (Sep 26) to Friday (Sep 30):

Monday morning we left The Bluffs campground and headed to Vermont. We had to go south in New Hampshire to Concord before we could head north into Vermont because there were no roads directly across the mountains that would accommodate our rig. We saw some colors in the leaves as we drove but most of the trees are still green. We pulled into our campground, Lake Dunmore Kampersville located in central Vermont south of the town of Middlebury. There were several sites available, so we unhooked the Jeep and drove around the campground before deciding on Site 154. It was a back-in site that was located under some large trees (no DirecTV this week). We only have 30 amp electrical service but the weather has turned cool so we don’t have to run our A/C very much. This campground is like most of the one’s in New England with a quite a few seasonal campers located in the park. We got the motorhome set up and then headed down the road a couple of miles to meet Pam and Carl Manganaro who are currently serving as park hosts at the Branbury State Park.


We spent the evening getting caught up on our lives since we had seen them at the Escapees Rally in July. Pam had prepared a great chili that we enjoyed on a cool evening and then Carl started a campfire that we sat around until late in the evening. Pam and Carl have been here in Vermont park hosting since the spring and will be here until mid-October. It has been an adjustment for them since there is no cell-phone signal in the park and there is only a slow internet connection at the ranger station (nothing in the park). So they have to go into Middlebury (about 10 miles north) to pick up an AT&T cellular signal. They have used the local library’s wifi to access the internet while they are in town. Since there are no over the air TV stations in the park they have also used the library to check out DVD’s to watch in the evenings inside their rig. We forgot to get any photos of their site in the park but it is a nice location near a stream that flows into Lake Dunmore. Their site is the only one with full hookups in this park (the rest of the sites are dry camping).

Pam & Carl have to work 15 hours each week as park hosts. Most weeks they work for 5 hours on 3 days and then have 4 days off. They have cleaned camping sites, cleaned a “cabin” that is rented at the park, worked in the office and occasionally had to clean bathrooms among other associated duties at the park. We got a tour of their renovated Montana 5th wheel. They have had the flooring replaced, bought all new dining/living room furniture, painted the walls, hung pictures and curtains and even put a new backsplash in their kitchen. The updates made the RV look great and I’m sure it makes it more “livable” than the way it was when they bought it.

Tuesday afternoon Pam & Carl took us on a tour of the Green Mountains. We stopped at several waterfalls, a shop where the owner was blowing glass and then ate dinner in Bristol CT.

Our first stop was at the Texas Falls in Hancock VT. I never did find out why it is called “Texas”. It is a series of three falls that are along the Hancock Brook. There is a walking bridge that overlooks the falls and a hiking trail that goes along the brook.



Our second stop was at the Moss Glen Falls in Granville VT. This is a single waterfall where the water drops more than 30 feet into a pool. There is a short walking path along with a view platform at the bottom of the falls. We met two couples from Ohio who asked us about the “full time RV lifestyle” while we were on the platform.


Our last stop was at the Warren Falls in Warren VT. This is a series of small falls with deep pools at the bottom of the falls. There are boulders located along the water that people in the summer jump from into the deeper pools. Carl and I worked our way across the rocks to one of the boulders used for jumping.

MikeMike & CarlMike & Carl20160927_164143IMG_0323IMG_0324IMG_0325

The water at all of the falls was crystal clear. Even at the deeper pools (10-12 feet) you can see all the way to the bottom. There are no fish in any of the waters due to a hurricane that pass through this part of New England in 2011. The hurricane washed all of the fish out the rivers and the state is now in the process of trying to re-introduce them to creeks, brooks and rivers in the Green Mountains.

We stopped at the Blue Moose Bend Glassblowing in Waterbury Center VT. The owner was blowing glass which we watched for a couple of minutes. Pam bought a couple of wine glasses that she had seen at an earlier visit. A lot of beautiful glass in the shop but not something Connie & I would ever RV with.


By this time we were all getting hungry so we stopped at The Bobcat Cafe in Bristol VT. The owner of the glass shop recommended it and it had a high rating on Trip Advisor. They had a “stuffed” bobcat in the back of the restaurant by the restrooms.


As it was getting dark, we returned to our campgrounds and called it a night.

Wednesday Connie fixed dinner for Carl & Pam at our campsite. Carl brought over firewood and we had a campfire (he gets free firewood at the park). It took a while to get the fire started but once it caught we enjoyed the warmth of the flames.

Thursday afternoon all of us went into Middlebury. We started out by visiting the Woodchuck Hard Cider brewery. They have a self-guided tour of the process that we took and then between the four of us sampled 8 of the products. It was better than Connie and I expected and we ended up buying a six-pack of their Private Reserve that is aged 6 months in bourbon barrels.

Hard Cider is an old product that was brought the USA by the Europeans. It was made in various locations from colonial days until Prohibition started in 1919 and ended legal alcohol production. The process died out until in was revived in the 1980’s and has continued to expand over the years since then.


From there we stopped at the Otter Creek Brewery. They also had samples from the Shed Brewing Company and Carl, Connie and I shared two samplers from each of the breweries. Pam doesn’t like the taste of beer so she skipped the samplers.  After finishing up at the brewery, we placed our orders at a local Italian market/restaurant that Pam & Carl had eaten at before and then walked around Middlebury for a while before returning to the market to pick up our order. We sat at a picnic table looking at the river and downtown Middlebury while eating our dinner with some wines that each of us had brought.


We said our good-byes that evening since we will be headed to New York and then Pennsylvania over the next few days. We appreciate the fact that Carl and Pam were gracious hosts for our time in the area and took the time to show us some of the sights in this part of the Green Mountains. It is a beautiful part of our country and we are glad we were able to spend a few days here with them. We talked with Pam and Carl about everyone’s plans for next year and how we  both may be headed out west in 2017.