Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Montgomery AL

Monday (4/18) to Monday (4/25):

Monday we made the 150 mile drive from Pensacola to Montgomery Alabama. We had reservations at Gunter Hill Campground, a COE park located a few miles outside of town. We had spent one night in this park last year as we travelled east and were able to get the same site (39) that we were in previously. It is a long pull through site with full hook-ups.
We were able to set up our canopy.

Lots of trees - no DirecTV.
Sites across from restrooms would have worked for satellite.
Sites 30, 32, 33, 34 & 41.
On Tuesday we put the Sea Eagle inflatable kayak in the water and paddled for about an hour and a half. We paddled from the area of our campground to the place where the water drains into the Alabama River.  On Wednesday we rode our bikes around the campground and over to a 1/2 mile oval race track that is located across the street from the entrance to the park. We had heard a car practicing and wanted to see where the noise was coming from.

On Thursday morning we paddled the kayak the opposite direction to see if there were any houses along the lake (there were none we saw on our trip the other direction a couple of days earlier). We did find one house along with some out buildings but that was the only one we saw on our trip along the lake. Thursday afternoon it started to rain and it continued through the night into Friday morning.

On Wednesday we discovered that the rear driver side window electric motor in the Jeep had gone out (the motor would only make a grinding noise when you pressed the toggle switch). The window would not stay up and upon researching this on the computer I found out this was a common problem with the Jeep Liberty built 2002-2006. We had the passenger side replaced last year while we were in Galveston. We were able to prop the window in the closed position if we were not driving the Jeep, so no water got in during the rains. Since we could not find a mechanic that could work on the window while we were in Montgomery, we decided to see if we could replace the power unit ourselves. We located the motor/regulator at a local Advanced Auto Parts and waited until Saturday morning to attempt the repair. We watched a couple of YouTube videos on how to do the job and were able to make the repairs ourselves. We took our time and got the window repaired in a couple of hours.

On Saturday afternoon we took a trip into Montgomery to visit the downtown area. We visited "Old Alabama Town" which is a collection of original and relocated houses & buildings from the 19th century located in the downtown area.

So I could remember where I was.

Connie in the old General Store.

Mike on the front porch of old log cabin.

Connie standing inside a Cotton Gin.
From there we took a tour of the Alabama State Capitol building. The capitol building has been designated as a National Historic Site. Within a few feet of each other two historic events occurred: Jefferson Davis taking the oath of office as the President of the Confederate States of America in 1861 and Dr. Martin Luther King giving a speech at the end of the Selma to Montgomery March for Civil Rights in 1964. Our tour guide was 70 years old and had been one of the participants in the march. In 1964 he was not allowed to enter the capitol building and now he is giving tours of the building. He gave us a brief "recollection" of the march and urged all of us to see the movie "Selma".

State Capitol Building from Dexter Street. 

Plaque commemorating the march.

Statue honoring the Confederacy.

We then drove to the River Walk along the Alabama River and walked along the water for a short while.

River boat in the background goes out for tours.

Amphitheater where they hold concerts.
We returned home and cooked bison burgers on the Coleman gas grill for dinner. They were delicious and Connie had done a great job on the seasoning of the meat.

Sunday we took it easy during the day before packing everything up on Sunday evening. Connie cleaned the inside of the Duchess while I put away the items we had gotten out during the week: bikes/kayak/canopy/etc. Monday we will head towards the Atlanta area.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Visiting friends in Pensacola FL

Monday (Apr 11) to Monday (Apr 18):

We left the campground in Mobile and made the short drive over to Pensacola on I-10. This was one of our shortest move being only about 60 miles. We pulled into our campground, Avalon Landing RV Park, and were assigned to Site 13. This is a small park and our site looks out over one of the brackish water canals located in the area.
View out side window of our motorhome.

Front view from our campground site

Our Site 13
We got set up in the campground and then called our friends, Cindy & Jessie Mayes, who have a house about 20 minutes away from our campground. We spent the evening with them and had a great time. Jessie cooked/smoked hamburgers, chicken and sausage on his grill/smoker. We all ate hamburgers that night along with banana pudding. Cindy sent some of the chicken home with us along with a bowl of banana  pudding. Connie and Cindy have know one another for 30 years since they met in the Dallas area. Jessie and Cindy have been married for 23 years and Connie was a bridesmaid in their wedding. Cindy pulled out her wedding pictures and they all talked about the "old days". Later they called another good friend, Karen Brunton, who still lives in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and spent another hour talking with her. I enjoyed meeting both of them. Jessie is scheduled for hip surgery this Thursday which we hope will go well.

Cindy, Mike & Connie

Cindy, Jessie & Connie
On Tuesday, I updated all of our financials in Quicken while Connie slept in. Later Cindy and Jessie came by the motorhome and visited with us for a couple of hours after lunch. Jessie knew of a mobile mechanic, Dean Lainhart, who came by during the afternoon and replaced the rear brakes on our Jeep Liberty. The rear drum brakes had reached the "end of the line" and had started to make noises when applied. He was a great mechanic who made quick work of the job and only charged us $120 for labor and parts. We decided to ask Cindy & Jessie to keep our guns while we travel in New England and Canada this year and they graciously agreed to do this (we will have to come see them on our Winter trip this year).

Tuesday evening we met Mike & Linda Cross who have been wintering near here in Navarre Beach Campground for pizza at the New York Pizza Depot  which is located near their campground. We had a nice meal before going back to their campground. We made a quick tour of the park and then sat in their motorhome visiting for several hours before returning home. It is nice to spend time with other couples who are full-timers to share info along with talking about our plans for this year.

On Wednesday we had lunch with Jessie & Cindy at a local Mexican restaurant, La Hacienda. We had some of their lunch specials which was a full plate of food along with chips & salsa. After lunch they took us on a tour of the area before we stopped at Hall's Hardware & Lumber. It started out as a hardware/lumber store, but these days they have expanded into all kinds of products similar to Zinger's in Austin. Jessie calls them the "Neiman Marcus" of hardware stores. We ended up buying several products: some rat/mice poison, pizza stones, dough rollers and some screws.  Since we were new to their store, they gave us a $5 discount on our purchase and a free soft drink. You can see they have a wide variety of stuff you can buy at their store.

Thursday morning we woke to a steady rain which continued all day. We stayed inside the Duchess and took it easy during the day. In the afternoon, Mike & Linda Cross came to our campground to see us and the motorhome. After giving them an update of the changes we had made in the Duchess and visiting for a while, we all went to dinner at the Blackwater Bistro. Connie & I split a lobster & crab ravioli dish while Mike & Linda had a shrimp pasta dinner. We ended up continuing our conversations until the place was ready to close. Linda & Mike are headed west tomorrow and will end up in Texas before they head north for the summer. We should see them again at the Escapees Escapade in Vermont at the end of July.

Friday we visited the National Naval Aviation Museum located on the local naval base in Pensacola. The museum is a history of the aviation and aviators in the navy from the early 20th century until today. It is the largest collection of naval aircraft in the United States and does a good job of displaying the aircraft located in the museum. We spent several hours there and did not get to see everything. If would take a least two full days to tour the entire museum and view all of the exhibits and aircraft. Here are a few photos from our visit:

We ate a quick lunch that we brought from home before we visited the Pensacola lighthouse. The lighthouse was completed in 1859 and has survived a number of hurricanes that have come through the area.

We heard from Cindy on Friday that Jessie was doing fine after his surgery and would be moving to the rehab facility on Saturday. We were glad to hear that Jessie was doing OK.

Saturday was a day we hung around the Duchess. We did laundry, updated financials, worked on our computer that had gotten a virus and tried to get the DirecTV box connected to the internet (finally was successful).

Sunday we went to the Pensacola Beach along with what seemed to be 100,00 other people (not quite that many but it seemed like it). We remember why we do things like this during the week instead of the weekends. Unfortunately here in Pensacola this was the first day we have had sunny weather during the week we are here, so we decided to take advantage of it. We finally found a parking spot on a side street and spent about two hours at the beach. The whitest sands I have ever seen is here on the Florida panhandle beaches along with being the cleanest beaches I have ever been on (I can only compare it to our Texas beaches).

Sign that leads you to the beach
A lot of people are following that sign

View down the beach

Enjoying a sunny afternoon - Life is Good
On Sunday night Connie went over to Cindy's house and they got in one last visit before we leave the area. I stayed home and watched the Spurs basketball game on the TV. Tomorrow we will start our trek north by heading to Montgomery Alabama.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

7 Days in Mobile

Monday (Apr 4) to Monday (Apr 11):

We left out of Fontainebleu State Park (we were lucky - no more rain), dumped our tanks and headed down I-10 east to Mobile. The drive was about 130 miles and we took about 2.5 hours to make the trip. We pulled into the Shady Acres RV Campground and were assigned to Site 21. This was one of only a few sites that had southern sky access so we were able to get a satellite signal at the site. We got set up and settled in for the evening.

On Tuesday we travelled south from the campground to Dauphin Island. This is a resort island with several miles of white sandy beaches. There are a large number of houses that are available for rent on the island and we were surprised at the number of families we saw as we walked along the beach.

We also visited old historic fort located at the east end of the island, Fort Gaines. The fort was built around 1821 and was the site of a civil war engagement: the Battle of Mobile Bay. We walked around the outside of the fort since there was an $8 charge to tour the inside.

We did not see any groceries stores on the island and didn't know how far you would have to go to get supplies on the mainland (we didn't see any stores on our drive down).

On Wednesday we met Michael & Linda Cross who have been wintering in the Pensacola FL area. They drove over and we met them at the Gulf Coast Exploreum. This museum was having a display of Leonardo Da Vinci's machines and artworks. The exhibits included copies of his most famous paintings, the bicycle, a spring-powered car, hang glider, helicopter and robotic drummer. The models of his inventions were done by craftsmen in Italy for the touring exhibit. Da Vinci was truly a "Renaissance Man" with may talents. One interesting note: Since there were no patents or copyright laws during his time, Da Vinci alway put an "error" in his drawings/instructions so that they would have to come to him to have the machine work.

The 2 Mikes putting together one of Da Vinci's bridges.

After completing our visit to the museum, all of us went to Wintzell's Oyster House in downtown Mobile to eat seafood for lunch. We had a great lunch and got to visit for a couple of hours before Mike & Linda had to return to Pensacola.

Thursday was a work day for us. We spent time cleaning & doing laundry. We also called a mobile RV tech, Daryl Green, who came out to the motorhome and worked on our steps and door. He ended up having to replace the motor on our electric steps and "clean up" the wiring to our electric door locking/unlocking mechanism. So now our fobs work on the door and our steps go in and out like they are suppose to.

Friday we spent the day at the Bellingrath Gardens and Home. They are located about an hour south of Mobile on the Fowl River. This is a beautiful estate built by Walter & Bessie Bellingrath during the 1920-1930's. Walter was one of the first to have a franchise to bottle and sell Coca-Cola in the south: his area was Mobile and the surrounding counties. He bought the franchise in 1903 for $1,500. The estate started out as a fishing camp with 5 acres. They ended up buying the 60 acres next to it and then built a large house on the property in the early 1930's. The estate is unusual since the gardens were already well on their way to completion before the house was built. The gardens were overseen by Bessie along with an architect and developed over a number of years. The Asian Garden were added several years after Mr. Bellingrath died.  The home is about 10,500 square with antiques that Bessie collected over the year. All of the furnishing, silverware, china and accesories located in the house are the originals. Here are a number of photos we took during our visit.

Friday night Connie made a pizza from scratch that she adapted to fit our oven (it was a rectangle instead of a circle). We took it easy on the week-end. We ended up buying fresh shrimp at a store near the campground called Dip Seafood. On Saturday and Sunday night we enjoyed boiled in beer shrimp and it was delicious. I spent some time cleaning the front of the motorhome and then tightened a number of the bay doors to that they would close better. Sunday we took a drive through downtown Mobile and saw some of the large homes located in a neighborhood near the downtown area. I also watched the Masters golf tournament and was surprised at the meltdown by Jordan Spieth on the back nine during Sunday's round. On Monday we will head to Pensacola for the next week to visit friends in the area.