grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Thursday, March 27, 2008

22-26MAR08 - Houma, LA (no pictures)

Once again we find ourselves parked on the edge of the Houma Civic Center Parking Lot. Unfortunately they have decided to raise their daily rate from $13 to $20! Although the staff is very quick to point that they are NOT running a RV Park, they obviously have no problems charging the going rate even though they do not provide things like: restrooms, showers, day room, laundry, open office every day, etc. But since the nearest true RV park is about 15 miles away, we have little choice.

We returned once again to Houma to check on how Rebecca and Raymond’s application for a mortgage is going. So far, so good. And for one more medical appointment (there seems to be no end to these). One day while parked in the Civic Center parking lot we noticed two pick-up trucks with portable tables set up and coolers under the tables. Every now and then other vehicles would pull up and we would witness some sort of cash transaction? We assumed that these guys were selling shrimp, so Corrie wandered over to check it out. They weren’t selling anything, they were paying a bounty on Nutria tails!

Nutria is a South American rodent that somehow escaped into the Louisiana marshes in the 1930s. Since then the population has exploded and they are destroying the marsh vegetation. Once the vegetation is gone, the soil erodes into the marsh and the marsh becomes a lake; or worse, a salt water bay. So the Nutria is now a major factor in the disappearance of the Louisiana coast. Since Nutria only eat vegetation, some are trying to convince Louisianans to hunt them for food. Dan has tried it, and like many things it tastes like chicken; but it hasn’t caught on with the locals yet.

Since nothing is going on in Houma, we have decided to leave tomorrow, 27MAR, for Livingston, TX, to check out the world headquarters of a RV club we belong to, ESCAPEES.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

21MAR08 - Biloxi, MS

As we left Greensville, AL, this morning our intentions were to drive straight through to Houma. But as we passed Biloxi, MS, on I-10, the Sirens call of the casinos beckoned! Being full time RV’ers and have no pressing business in Houma, we made a hard left into Biloxi and starting looking for a place to park the RV.

Turns out most of the Casinos allow you to dry camp in their “overflow” parking lots (ie a little distance from the casino). We settled on the Imperial Palace (otherwise known as the IP) because of easy access to I-110. Although the parking was free, we still spent more money than we had planned on. First there was $50 for two at the all you can eat crab buffet (Dungeness, King, and Snow crabs), followed by the usual bad luck at the various games of chance. Next time we pass this way, we need to stuff cotton in the ear of the driver so we don’t hear the Siren’s call.

20MAR08 - Greenville, AL

Once again it was time to start heading back to Houma. At this point Rebecca and Raymond’s application for a mortgage appears to be going well, and closing on their first house may occur in two weeks. Since we know the house needs some minor work, we have committed to helping them move-in and fix it up a little.

We decided to split the return trip into two days, and picked a RV park out of one of our “guide” books to spend the first night at. We chose Sherling Lake Park outside of Greenville, AL. This was a great little park! It is actually run by the city of Greenville, and was created by federal monies that were used in the 90’s to buy undeveloped land at market value and set it aside for recreational use. It is a small, quiet park, on a very small lake (where you can fish without a license). Although most of the trees did not have leaves yet; it was still beautiful with all the Spanish Moss and the dogwood trees were in bloom. And for those that care, it is immediately adjacent to Cambrian Ridge Golf Course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail; rated as one of the top ten public courses in the USA.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

17-19MAR08 - McDonough, GA (no pictures)

Monday morning, 17MAR, we spent a few more hours at THE RALLY (see preceding BLOG for Perry, GA) before heading ninety miles north on I-75 towards Atlanta, GA. This was because Dan had a two day business meeting with his LSU/NCBRT associates at a hotel next to the Atlanta airport. The nearest RV park to the airport was listed as a five star facility in our RV Park Guide Book; but turned out to be another former KOA campground and barely rated three stars.

After setting up camp, the debate was who would have the Toad for the next two days while Dan was staying in the hotel for the meeting? Dan wanted Corrie to take the Toad because he would be working all day and would not need wheels. Corrie doesn’t like driving in strange areas, and felt she wouldn’t remember how to get back to the hotel to pick up Dan after the meeting was done. So he should drive himself to hotel and keep it for the two days. It was decided to drive to the airport hotel early in the day, and if Corrie decided she wasn’t comfortable, Dan would return her to the RV park and keep the Toad. The route to the hotel was pretty direct and Corrie decided to keep the Toad. And on Wednesday, 19MAR, she picked up Dan with no problems.

12-16MAR08 - Perry, GA (the rally!)

Wednesday morning, 12MAR, we (and everyone else in the RV park) headed the 15 miles north on I-75 to THE RALLY in Perry, GA, sponsored by the Good Sams RV Club.

The official Rally runs for four days, Friday through Monday. But you can pay for an extra two days (Wednesday and Thursday) if you want to get set up early. And since they expected 3500 RVs (ranging in size from pop-up trailers to million dollar busses) and 8000 folks, arrivals and parking is done by assigned time periods (0700 to 1000, etc). Turns out that even though website indicated that everything started Friday, the seminars actually started on Thursday, and new RVs were open for tours Thursday late afternoon.

Since we were one of the first parked, we got to watch the circus unfold all morning long as the volunteer staff tried to keep the RVs moving and park everyone as close to possible, as quickly as possible! First, if you were towing a vehicle, you had to disconnect before proceeding past the gate. Having the husband and wife in two different vehicles seemed to cause big problems for some couples. If you were pulling a trailer, you had to get into your spot quickly, disconnect and get the towing vehicle out of the way. There were some close calls, like the man who literally backed into his wife, and the guy who had twenty people yelling at him and stopped inches from putting his RV into the ditch.

Then after lunch we rode our bikes over to the Fairgrounds even though nothing was open for display. The chaos here was almost as good as the parking of the RVs we had witnessed that morning. Imagine pedestrians, RVs, people on bikes, people on mobility devices, golf carts, fork lifts, cars, and tractor pulling trams all trying to maneuver in a confined area at the same time. And then add to all this the fact that many of these people are somewhat older and have poor eyesight and/or slower reaction times, and things get real interesting at times.

The Rally itself was overwhelming for us as first timers. There are four main things to do throughout the day – attend seminars, view the exhibits of products for sale, participate in the free entertainment and social activities, or tour the hundreds of new RVs on display. There are four blocks of time for seminars starting at 0830 and going to 1530; but the exhibit hall and the RVs are only available from 0900 to 1700! So if you go to seminars all day long (including lunch), you have very little time for the other stuff.

We soon discovered that the person(s) presenting the seminar was always selling something (surprise, surprise!). Some presenters were very good about giving you unbiased, useful information; but others were no better than hucksters. And you had to make time for the exhibitions at the expense of the seminars, because that is where you often can talk one-on-one with factory reps and get tons of free advice (if not free repairs). Examples:

---our TV antenna was impossible to move. Five minutes talking to technician and some silicone spray, problem solved.

---our supplemental braking system for the Toad had drained the car battery recently. Take the Toad and system to factory trailer at 0800. End result, entire new system at no charge.

---electric system for hot water tank not working. Went to booth, technician told Dan how to trouble shoot it, and gave him all the possible parts that could cause problem.

But beware, the exhibitors have some very good prices and not so good prices. There were items that were 50% or less; but there were items that were the same, if not more, than we had seen elsewhere. For example our supplemental braking system for the Toad - the cost at the show was $200 dollars more than we had paid. And of course, there were many items that we had never seen anywhere else (even on the internet). End result was that our credit cards were maxed out and we had to write rubber checks (just kidding)!

Also, throughout the day there was entertainment, games, activities and social events sponsored by the major corporate sponsors (Camping World, Good Sams, Ford, etc). Corrie would check them out now and then, but Dan tended to ignore them. Until they had casino day, where you could play Texas Holdem! This was not a full fledged tournament, but a two hour session where you tried to win your table (first prize was ten raffle tickets to put in the barrel). Dan signed up for the first session of the day, thinking you could only play once; but no – you could sign up for all of them! Which he immediately did, and wasted his entire day playing poker. Best he did was third out of nine people; seems those wives who know nothing about poker, routinely kicked his butt.

To top it all off, each evening at 1900 was free entertainment. This usually consisted of some has-been (Dan's opinion) from the 50s or 60s. The “biggie” for our Rally was Frankie Valli. We would head over each evening to check it out. Usually Dan would lose interest after two songs and head back to the RV, Corrie never lasted more than an hour. One evening we did take part in an attempt to break the world record for most people dancing to the same steps for five minutes. There were about 1200 people on the dance floor and we were supposed to be doing a modified foxtrot. From our vantage point, few if anyone, was doing even close the same steps?

While we attempted to get back to the RV for lunch and dinner, it seems to us that most people were very happy to spend the entire day and early evening on the fairgrounds. Even though many of them had health issue and needed mobility devices to get around; they seemed very happy to eat lunch if not dinner consisting of philly cheese steaks, slices of pizza, corn dogs, funnel cakes, fried twinkies, peach cobbler, etc, etc. Anyway, after five plus days of rallying we are burnt out, and will be leaving early on the last day Monday, 17MAR, rather than staying to the bitter end. Oh yeah, in the middle of all this we had to endure two nights of tornado warnings. Perry was spared, but Atlanta just up I-75, took a major hit (in case you missed it on the national news).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

09-11MAR08 - Unadilla, GA

Sunday, the 9th of March, we got an early start and made good time enroute the Good Sam RV Rally in Perry, GA. In fact, we did so well that we decided to drive further than usual and did the entire drive in one day, rather than two. We pulled into a campground in Unadilla, GA, that was 15 miles south of the RV Rally location in Perry.

We could tell from the distinctive A-frame office building that this RV park was formally a KOA RV park. KOA campgrounds started in 1962, reaching their peak in the 80s. Unfortunately, it has been our experience that these older, former, KOAs were located very close to highways for ease of access (ie not the quietest locations). The background roar of traffic on I-75 was constant, but the park staff was very friendly and the location was ideal for sight seeing and getting to the Rally. Over the next couple of days the park completely filled up with motorhomes and trailers from across the USA and some from Canada, pre-staging for the 15 mile drive down the interstate to Perry Fairgrounds and the RV rally.

Unadilla is a very small town and everything was closed on Sunday, and the restaurants even stayed closed on Monday. So on Monday we headed up the freeway to the town of Warner Robins (or as Dan calls it Time Warner). This was so we could run some errands and shop at Robins Air Force Base.

The real reason we went to Warner Robins was so Dan could check out the Museum of Aviation right next door to the air base. This is the second largest air museum associated with an air base in the USA.

Dan knows how much Corrie loves spending hours looking at old planes and reading historical displays, figured she could drop him off and pick him up when she was done. It didn’t quite work that way, but Dan did get several hours on his own in the museum. In addition to the standard old planes on display, the museum has unique displays about the Flying the Hump (WWII supply missions from India over the Himalayas to Burma and China); Tuskegee Airmen (black fighter pilots); Robert L. Scott Jr (author of God is My Co-Pilot, which became famous movie); and the Georgia Air Hall of Fame.

In the Hall of Fame is plaque dedicated to Corporal Eugene Jacques Bullard an American who was the world’s first black military pilot, who flew combat missions during WWI for the French. After WWI he decided to remain in France, and even was a member of the Resistance during WWII when he was badly wounded. He was smuggled out of France and returned to the USA. He was so highly regarded in France, that in 1954 he was brought back to France to relight the flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe with two Frenchmen. Unfortunately, he died broke and unknown in his own country.

In another area of the museum is plaque describing Captain John Birch’s contributions during WWII as a intelligence officer in China. Having taken a high school course entitled – Extremism in America (yes this was for credit), Dan recognized this name. Turns out that after the war Capt Birch decided to remain in China as a missionary and was killed in the fight between the Chinese Nationalists and the Communists. One Robert Welch (inventor of the Sugar Daddy and Sugar Babies candy) back in America called this the first American killed in the struggle with Communism and started the right wing group called The John Birch Society! Somehow this info on the society didn’t make it to the display in the museum?

Tuesday we decided to head toward Americus, GA, to do some sight seeing. Corrie couldn’t understand why Dan got very nervous when we drove into Macon County? Seems she has never seen that classic 1974 movie “Macon County Line” about the very bad things that happen to people in Macon County when they piss off the law.

Anyway, our first stop was a National Historic Site on the grounds of the Confederate POW Camp for Yankees called Andersonville Prison (the official and correct name is Camp Sumter).

This historical site consists of three main components: the grounds of the prison (all original structures are gone, but outlines in the earth are visible, and some structures have been recreated); a museum dedicated to all American POWs from the Revolutionary War to the war in Iraq; and a Military National Cemetery with the remains of over 12,000 Union soldiers who died in Andersonville and other veterans who have requested burial there. One interesting thing about the museum building is that no tax payer dollars were used to build it. Several organizations of ex-POWs raised all the monies to build it! Although Andersonville was a horrific place during its short existence, similar camps existed in the Union. During the Civil War 15% of the Union POWs died in Confederate camps; and 12% of the Rebel POWs died in Union camps.

Obviously, this is very somber Historic site, but we feel very worth the visit if you are ever close to this area of Georgia. One interesting story we would like to share is about Dorence Atwater a Union POW. For some reason he was picked to maintain the Confederate records of all the men who died each day and were buried shoulder to shoulder in trenches with numbered stakes marking their locations. Dorence survived his ordeal and smuggled the list to Washington, DC, after the war. He realized that for some reason the national government was going to keep his list secret and do nothing, so he smuggled a copy to Clara Barton (founder of the USA Red Cross). They returned to Andersonville and placed over 12,000 headstones with names using his list. For his efforts, Dorence was sent to federal prison! However he eventually was released and became Ambassador to Tahiti, where he married a Tahitian princess. And there is a poem to a WWII POW named Tom Gordy by his nephew, Jimmy Carter.

Next stop was the town of Americus. This was once a very prominent town in Georgia that has taken great efforts to restore and maintain its downtown. The center piece of the town is the restored Windsor Hotel originally built in 1893. This beautiful 3 story building takes up half a city block, but only has 53 rooms/suites. Somehow we don’t think today’s bean counters would allow such a “waste” of space.

After that we returned to the RV taking great care to stay away from Macon County. For dinner that evening we decided to try a Mennonite establishment we had seen on our sight seeing called Yoder’s Deitsch Haus Restaurant. Food is served cafeteria style. The food is tasty, but ranges on the high calorie side because the recipes were meant for the hard manual labor on the Mennonite farms. Dan even tried the Shoofly Pie, which can only be described as being very close to pure, thick, dark molasses with a crust.

Tomorrow, Wednesday 12MAR, we head up the road 15 miles to our first RV rally in Perry, GA. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

08MAR08 - Creola, AL

After being anchored for one month in Houma, we are finally back on the road. After a late start we decided to only drive for about 215 miles and call it a day. Anyway, around three in the afternoon we pulled into the I-65 RV Campground in Creola, AL; guess what – right off I-65! Turns out to be an average RV park under new owners. Not sure about how the old owners ran the place, but new owners handed us four pages of rules (usually one page is standard). First three rules dealt with the use of drugs (not allowed).

One interesting feature of the park was a live tree whose trunk had been damaged sometime in the past. Someone with talent had carved a figure in the damaged portion. The tree continues to grow and the figure grows with it. Also in our pictures check out the words on the RR crossing sign.

Monday, March 10, 2008

07FEB-07MAR08 - Houma, LA

Upon our return to the Houma Civic Center parking lot, we were reminded that we had missed Mardi Gras by a line of fifteen or so floats from the last parade in Houma. Some Krewes, but not all, own their own floats. Turns out these floats in the parking lot had been “rented” by one of the local Krewes, who did not own floats, and were waiting to be returned to their owner (only in Southern Louisiana?). After establishing camp, it was time to complete the last of our medical and dental appointments. Unfortunately, it seemed that every appointment resulted in another appointment and/or another round of testing. We won’t bore you with the details, but as usual Corrie got the worst of it.

Turns out being parked in the Civic Center parking lot was very similar to our stay at the Evergreen State Fair Grounds last SEP07, in Monroe, WA (see our archived BLOG). Lots of different events take place and each event brings a “different” crowd --- pick-up trucks and cowboy boots for bull riding & monster trucks; little girls in their Sunday best for “My Little Pony”; and Mom’s and daughters for the bridal show. One benefit to the parking lot, is that is right next door to the main library for Terrebonne Parish. This is four year old state of the art facility, that Dan likes to use when he needs high speed internet.

The majority of the rest our time was spent house hunting for a “starter” home for Rebecca and Raymond. After looking at a lot of dumps, we think we have found one that although forty years old, needs only a few repairs. Hopefully the bank and the insurance company agree. As parents we must be getting “more acceptable” to our children? We had quite few get togethers with Rebecca and Raymond (including Rebecca’s 25th birthday – further proof of how old we are getting!), and even had a very pleasant dinner with Joe. In fact, Raymond and Rebecca even invited us over for a crawfish boil with all their friends. We tactfully left at 9PM so as not to cramp anyone’s style. Unfortunately, Gumbo has no tolerance for Gracie the Weimaraner pup; he stakes out a spot on the couch and just growls and snarls every time she comes near.

The first week in March Dan once again departed on a LSU business trip, this time to McAllen, TX. This would have been an excellent little jaunt in the RV, but once again other “things” interfered. But since we have paid for our first RV Rally in Perry, GA; we will hit the road soon after Dan’s return from TX to make it to the Rally by the 12th of March.