Summer Trip Planning – Nebraska and South Dakota

We don’t seem to plan our trips more than a month or two in advance and generally only book camping spots at destination parks prior to leaving the last one. We prefer to get to a new spot and see if we want to stay longer before figuring out where to stay next. Last summer we learned how difficult getting into the preferred weekend campsites where when school was out. Over the past year of RV travel we have also learned that we prefer weekly stays and avoid overnighters.  Generally, our attitude is to move into a state and “live there” for awhile. It takes a few days to learn our way around at each stop, take time to slow down and enjoy the area as well as not get in a terrible hurry to plan our next move. Among the most enjoyable experiences has been staying long enough in an area to find the hidden gems. This is our life and not a race around the country.  We finally came up with a plan for the 2020 summer while keeping in mind the virus thing could cause us to react to any changes.

So we have decided Nebraska and South Dakota will be our families home over the summer. I’ll get it out of the way and also pass along that our Cocker Spaniel Huck passed away a few days ago. The cancer got him sooner than we had hoped for. At 15 years old he lived a good life and was loyal to us to the end. Karen and I knew when his time had come. Up to the last  day Huck did his best to act like the dog he always was.  As I type this sentence I’m up early as we are leaving today for an overnight visit with family in southern Missouri and pickup our puppy Wyatt. We are leaving the fifth wheel and taking an overnight road trip. I’m not good with the emotions of loosing family members. I’m one of those people who gets mad about death but firmly know the emotional process includes different stages ultimately ending in acceptance and moving on.

Getting Ready for Wyatt

Karen went shopping for puppy stuff. Wyatt comes with a list of suggested food and vitamins per the breeder. My sister Mary donated some puppy stuff such as a soft sided kennel and playpen. We have other items to pickup from our 10×5 storage unit. It’s awesome this puppy will grow up not knowing anything but the RV life. There will be rules he has to follow and we will have to do our best not to confuse him during training.

We came to an agreement that we prefer not to put much on our calendar because we want to be flexible in planning this part of life’s journey.  There will be times when something drops into the schedule which is out of our control such as in October I was to testify in a murder trial. I had hoped this would be the last trial for the cases where I was the lead detective. I received news the trial was moved again to May of 2021. I’ll not spend much time thinking about the trial screwing with next springs plans and just find a way to work it in.

Planning for our summer began with Karen and I agreeing where we wanted to travel. The Midwest is close to home and a good place to be in case the virus thing takes off again. We have never spent time in South Dakota and there are things yet to see in Nebraska. So we picked a couple destination spots which include the area of the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota. We also want to spend time at Fort Robinson in northwestern Nebraska. I suspect we will book our spots at the busier parks before we leave which in part will help set the timing of each visit. The dates will be centered around the three areas previously mentioned.

So I went to my spreadsheet to check what others had to say about their visits to the area. During the five years of planning for our future in an RV it was fun following other’s journeys and keeping notes. If anyone sees holes in our plans please let us know!

Snap 2020-06-28 at 06.57.16

I know it’s hard to read – Clip of my spreadsheet for South Dakota. Plenty of blogs to refer back to for information.  My notes included links back to postings. Once we arrive in the area there will be time to research tours of interest. Searching RV forums such as IRV2 helps find suggestions.

Right or wrong from what I understand there are a couple ways to experience western South Dakota? One can stay centrally located at Rapid City. Or you can get closer to the Badlands staying near the Wall SD area and Black Hills by staying in or near Custer State Park. So far we have decided to split up and not stay centrally located.  Next I dropped a what-if plan into RV Trip Wizard.

Snap 2020-06-28 at 07.05.51

Knowing we prefer to travel 200 mile or less a day, we also researched stops between main destinations. However, we generally book those minor stops once we have arrived at our main destinations. Route planning begins here. I’ll be okay with longer drives if they are on interstates.

The above roadmap shows a journey beginning 7/19/20 and ending 9/27/20 taking off and landing in Platte City Missouri where we are currently staying. I’ve done my best to consider what is going on in the area as the trip includes visits during the busy season. I would have preferred to travel on either side of the busy dates but things did not work out. I’m hoping to avoid the Sturgis motorcycle rally and figure if the parks have spots then we should be okay. I’ve been hearing a lack of international travelers is helping and so far even AAA is forecasting fewer travelers this year.

Our plans are subject to change and we appreciate your comments. I’ve already started to watch YouTube video where people recorded drives down specific highways. Especially on US 385 and around Custer State Park. This trip will be in elevations we have yet to travel. Many stops will be for a week or more.

  1. Omaha Nebraska 7/18/20.
  2. Sioux Falls 7/26/20
  3. Left Tailrace COE campground Fort Thompson SD 8/2/20
  4. Sleepy Hollow RV Park Wall SD 8/16/20 (to see the Badlands)
  5. Custer SD area 8/23/20 (to see the Black Hills area)
  6. Fort Robinson State Park Nebraska 9/6/20
  7. Travel back to Missouri beginning 9/13/20 with two or three stops along I-80 to south I-29.

Note: After I wrote this blog post I met a local from Nebraska at the campground in Platte City Missouri. He suggests I should look at driving Nebraska Highway 2 through the sandhills area after leaving Fort Robinson State Park. The sandhills area runs between Alliance to Grand Island Nebraska. I read up and found the drive on highway 2 is said to be among the top 10 scenic US routes.

I suppose there is a chance we will book a one month stay in Rapid City SD but others posted moving into the Custer State Park area would be a good thing.

Karen usually reviews my camping spot recommendations and checks areas to find even better locations. Our budget is $25 per night on average. We have the America the Beautiful pass which helps. We don’t go much out of our way to make use of our Escapees, Goodsam or Passport America discounts. Remarkably I’m finding veteran or senior discounts to be most used!  So far we don’t boondock and have little issue with 30 amp electric only sites. With the virus thing and chance of being confined to a park long-term, we had been booking sites with full utilities but are moving away from that rule. I’ll get around to posting something about our purchase of a 30 gallon water bladder and electric water transfer pump which now eliminates any concern for spots that don’t include a water spigot.

Are you believing this! Finally diesel cheaper than unleaded. Local sign in Platte City Missouri June 2020.

 

Triumphant Return to Missouri

We pulled out of Alabama for our return to family in Missouri. The route from Tuscumbia Alabama would be west on US 72, north through Civil War ridden battlefields from Carthage Mississippi on US 45 to the intersection of north I-55. Then west on the wonderful US 60 Highway through the Ozark Mountains. Our final leg took us back to the Kansas City area from Missouri’s Pomme de Terre State Park via US 65 and US 13. We always take the I-435 loop around Kansas City although I-35 is bearable.  We all spend plenty of time route planning when you drag around a big rig. For the benefit of other travelers I try and report what route we took and if there were any difficult travel areas. This leg of the journey was nearly 100% over divided highways with decent shoulders.

We spent four nights west of Jackson Tennessee at Joy-O-RV Park although many would have decided to travel through Memphis. Then on to Poplar Bluff Missouri which is known as the gateway to the Ozark Mountains. One feature I love about RV Trip Wizard is the ability to display hill grades and elevations. Although the Ozarks are relatively tiny compared to other complex mountains, I wanted to practice up on route planning involving higher elevations for our someday trip over the Continental Divide out west. The Ozarks are nothing to worry about, especially if you have experience driving the Appalachian or Cumberland Mountains. We had taken US 65 Highway south out of Branson Missouri late last year which also proved to be of no concern.

The anxiety level of driving the big rig continues to decline with experience. Give it time and so should yours. But – if after months on the road your anxiety during the drive does not improve and especially if you experience physical issues from it, then consider getting a much smaller rig or leaving the road as a full-timer. This is a topic I’ve discussed with several we met during our travels. I’m so glad I selected a truck based on towing abilities rather than ease to get around town when not towing. The trucks abilities really has been a confidence builder. Setting up the truck for towing was among the most important advise I received years ago when planning to go fulltime. In my humble experience, thorough route planning is a key to safe and less stressful travel. I use one set of tools to route plan and another to navigate as the two actives are not the same.

We setup for two weeks at Camelot RV Campground in Poplar Bluff Missouri. With the virus thing we had been staying with full hookup spots. Park restrictions included no bath house nor laundry.  Not much to do in the area as tourist locations remained closed, although there are few places to see in Poplar Bluff. Wish we could have visited the national Stars and Stripes Newspaper museum. We did take a day trip to the Ozark Mountain Big Spring State Park which is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways area. For sure, our next trip in the area will be spent near Van Buren Missouri with access to the Ozark Mountains and plenty of kayaking opportunities. We decided not to float any of the rivers which were flooded and therefore more dangerous.

Our spot at Camelot RV Campground in Poplar Bluff. Plenty of shade. The route to our space within the park had a couple narrow turns but big rigs go through all the time. Management’s list of park rules were the most extensive we have encountered, especially for pets and children. To include dogs must try and make it to the dog park 100 yards away for potty breaks. But if they have an “accident” on the way you can pick up after them as done in normal parks. Karen was warned once to only allow the dog to use the designated pet area. However we had already decided this rule was ridicules and would be hard to stay within as the pet area was just to far for Huck who is old and ill. The pet area is nothing special and is an out of the way place for most guests. I suggest you read the campground reviews found on independent review sites.

Typical Ozark Mountain View

Big Spring –  288 million gallons a day coming out of the ground which is enough to fill Busch Stadium in St. Louis in 33 hours according to the park signs. The Spring removes 173 tons of dissolved dolomite bedrock each day. Over the course of a year, this would equate to a new single underground passage nearly 11 feet wide, 12 feet high and spanning 1 mile in length. Bet you did not know Missouri is not just the “Show Me State” – it’s also called the Cave State.

Next we continued along US 60 Highway to the Laura Ingalls-Wilder RV Park in Mansfield Missouri and took advantage of the weekly rate as we generally do.  Forty-Five minutes from family in Springfield Missouri and directly across from Laura’s farm home and museum.  Take time to read about Laura’s history (from the Little House on the Prairie book series) which adds to the enjoyment of the area. A small campground with some of the best open green space we have experienced. There is a trail to a cave and stream. If you stay at the park just come into town on one of the two US 60 Business routes where the roads are wide and the turns are easy.  According to plan, the park was located within an easy day drive of the dog kennel where Karen and I were able to visit our future dog – Wyatt. He will be old enough to come home at the end of June. When Karen is upset with me I just show her the photo of Wyatt which results in a big smile.

Our Spot and Laura Ingalls-Wilder. Long pull-through, again on full hookups.

Taking a walk in the wide open space of Laura Ingalls Park with my sister Mary and friend.

Ingalls-Wilder Home. A complex which includes a large museum and yet another home built for Laura by her daughter Rose. Was plenty of big RV space in the parking areas if needed.

Cuteness Warning –  If you are prone to wanting to get another dog – Then do not view the next photo. Turn your computer off and go outside. You might even want to remove this blog from your reading list as future posts will most assuredly include subjecting the reader to even more intense cute puppy imagery.

 

 

Wyatt at about five weeks old. We were not able to handle him yet. I asked the breeder who were his competitors for Cocker Spaniel pups to which he replied there are none. You can’t get any better than #1. First class operation we were happy to see. Reportedly, Wyatt does not get to far from the food bowl and his personality has not yet shown itself.

Speaking of cute photos – here is a video of our dog Huck. I jokingly call him the Wood Chipper because he’s not that gentle at taking food from between fingers. Huck is doing as good as can be expected. The doctor says his cancer will show with symptoms similar to rapid aging.  The tumor on his neck has grown considerably.

Located five miles from the Laura Ingalls-Wilder RV Park is the 750 acre Hardwood Hills Ranch consisting of world class off-road motocross bike trails and lodge. Shawn and Kim Hall of ktmissouri (shifting gears) blog happen to be co-owners of the amazing property laced among the Ozark Mountains. We follow each others blogs. I’m sure there are several readers who know the couple well.  Shawn and Kim – if you are reading this thank you again for the wonderful day and invitation to meetup. The tour of the property in your four wheeler and wonderful conversation in the club house is now part of Karen and my cherished memories. You guys are such wonderful hosts. Thank you for sharing your fulltime RV and sailboat experience with us. And thank you for asking questions and making sure we were okay on the road.  We will meet again.  By total chance we setup camp at our next spot which was at Pomme de Terra Lake near Hermitage Missouri. A gentleman from Kansas was parked next to us in a toy hauler. When visiting he said his dirt bike was inside. The story continued. Apparently Shawn is a little more famous among the motocross crowd. The guy from Kansas knew about the ranch and Shawn adding he is a great guy with much experience and runs with a lot of famous motocross champions.

Shawn and Kim of ktmissouri

Karen and me along side one of several streams on Shawn and Kim’s property located outside Mansfield Missouri in the Ozark Mountains

Our last stop before arriving in Kansas City was to the Pomme de Terre State Park – Hermitage camping area.  Annually for the past several years family has met up. I did not take as many photos compared to previous years as I was busy enjoying the family and catching up on what everyone has been up to. Sorry that a few were not able to make it to the campout – we missed you.  More than likely we will be back in the area later this year. And for the first time we have really considered volunteering in the area after another year of travel. With the virus crap we postponed a few trips and will get those done in the mean time. Karen and I always planned to workcamp/volunteer after the first year or so of travel. This would be a good park located between family members.

Lakeside view at Hermitage Camping area. Kayak on the beach was used as often as the heat would allow.

We are currently parked at Basswood Resort in Platte City Missouri, located on the north side of Kansas City.

Tuscumbia Alabama and Sad News Regarding Huck

We finished up what became a three week stay in Tuscumbia Alabama. After living in Mississippi for weeks and needing a new place to park we moved to Tuscumbia RV Park in an area called the Shoals on the boarder of Tennessee.

Our Spot at Tuscumbia RV Park – #413. Easy back in with shade but close to the road. Spots at the back of the park are quieter. The park is owned by a husband and wife  who RV and really know how to run a park. No pool but the laundry room is clean enough to sleep in.

Our preference would have been to stay at a nearby Mississippi Corp. of Engineer park but the virus thing had it shut down. We had driven around to find a new park and Tuscumbia turned out to be a great find. I would just warn any visitors the highway and train noise can be obnoxious. Now that I think of it, the motorcycle traffic down US 72 might be worse. This park is located at the Appalachian Mountain foothills and I supposed the area is popular for motorcycles. I’ve owned four bikes, some with loud exhaust. I know some even remove the exhaust baffles to get the sound. Now I feel sorry for everyone that had to listen to ours when we owned them.

We spent a lot of time at home. Thankfully our spot had a great outside area to enjoy. We also managed to find a few things in the area to safely visit. But missed out on a few closed attractions such as the music rich history of the area, Helen Keller’s home tour, a road trip to the Shiloh battlefield and more. We did manage to find a few outdoor spaces to enjoy and went to a local restaurant for the first time in weeks where their phone number was written on the side of the building, their menu was online and they carried our order out to the truck. Remember to tip those waitresses well so it’s worth being at work!

In my last post I commented about driving down the Natchez Trace Parkway which is a national park running over an area of 444 scenic miles. We drove about 40 miles of the Trace, making quick stops at various jump-off points along the way where the park has historic and other sites to visit. During this virus thing we found almost no one on the walking trails.

The Natchez Trace – we toured the area highlighted in yellow.

It was hard to get any photos that could take in the springtime beauty of the place. It’s rolling hills and sheer quietness of the surroundings are emotional. We stopped at the Tennessee River crossing where during the war of 1812 the local Indians charged the Hero of New Orleans, General Andrew Jackson, more than $70,000 to cross his army on the river ferry. We toured an Indian mound, trading post sites, a casual hike to a lookout point and more. All of these places are spread out along the two lane highway drive at various intervals.

With the virus thing still being an issue, there was no one other than us in the parking lot. This is the access to a trail leading to a water spring. Note, the Natchez Trace roadway is in the distance. In the front of the photo is a box. Push a button and it tells the story of the area.

A short hike to a hilltop for a panoramic view.

Trying to keep up with Karen and our dog, Huck, while taking a photo during a short hike on the Trace.

Open fields of spring flowers, mowed lawns, beautiful old wood trees and a smooth road surface along our trip. No commercial vehicles allowed. We did not see any RVs but if I had a Class C or smaller I’d be on this road for sure

We got lucky when the Rattlesnake Saloon was able to reopen at reduced occupancy. This turned out to be more than a visit to an outdoor restaurant. The family friendly place is located in the deep woods. We were shocked to see dozen of RVs camped in the area, horse trailers everywhere, dirt bikes on trails and a very interesting “hotel”.  There was plenty of parking as again, the virus thing kept people away. The trip including riding in the back of a truck down a short but steep hill from the parking lot to the Saloon. During normal operations you can walk to the Saloon/Restaurant but many take the shuttle. Great views and okay food underneath the rock outcropping. Beer only is served after 5:00 pm and their is a live band at times.  Only three tables were occupied and the staff were all wearing protective masks.  We stopped at the gift shop for post cards which Karen sends to family and friends. Management asked about us and we told them we had been in nearby Mississippi for RV upgrades and repairs. Apparently this place is a popular hangout for the Tiffin family and as we own a Tiffin product a free post card was provided.  Karen found ANOTHER purse at a great value. One she can easily carry during outings. I suggested a t-shirt and was happy she did not buy any of the rocks or heavier stuff.  And no, we did not see any rattlesnakes.

These are single unit hotel rooms!

Truck ride down the hill to the restaurant and saloon.

Dogs while living in an RV are a wonderful thing. It’s a great way to meet other RVers who might not otherwise come out to visit. They are companions, enjoy forced marches for exercise, humorous with individual personalities and are flexible in that all they want to do is be with their family in an RV or elsewhere. So why not take a trip to the worlds only Coon Dog Cemetery! Located in the hills of Alabama, the cemetery was created in 1937 when the first loving dog owner needed a place to bury his dog named Troop. Coon dogs are a big thing in this area and as time went along others would meet the stringent requirements to also bury their special dogs in what became the unusual cemetery. Perhaps the most interesting part of the hour long visit, other than the drive through the countryside, were the individual headstones/markers. Some are very interesting and might include just a wood marker with an old dog collar hanging around it.

And now to the sad part. Months ago Huck, our black cocker spaniel dog had developed a sore on his lower lip that grew overtime. We had it removed. Later a lump had come up on the left side of his throat. We found a fantastic vet in Alabama who treated him for an ear infection, believing the new lump might be a lymph node responding to the infection.  With medications and all the lump is still growing. Back to the vet where bad teeth were removed and the lump was tested, finding it to be cancer.  Our boy is doing well at this point although sadly he is not expected to survive. He is happy although sleeping restless. We hope he will be with us for awhile and are glad he is still eating and walking. He smiles at times because he really likes this lifestyle. You can’t ask for a better RVing companion. He does not bark, even at nearly 15 years old has a 12 hour bladder and loves to meet people and their dogs.

Huck is on the left with his smile during an RV trip. Ringo is on the right and could take or leave RVing, only wanting to be around his mom. Ringo passed away at 18 years of age a year ago.

A couple months ago, when at the time Huck was his normal self with no signs of distress, Karen and I talked about getting another dog as we had lost Ringo last July. I was not for adding another dog as it’s just too much for a tiny space.  A miracle happened, which might be a common event if one pays attention during hard decisions. We camped near a family who was considering giving their young dog up for adoption. Karen really wanted that dog.  The family with the dog was going through an emotional decision and in the end decided it was best to keep the dog as their children, and parents I suspect, had grown attached.  I will never forget when the family’s mother came over to the camper to break the news to Karen they had decided to keep their dog. She was so worried about Karen’s emotions and that she might be overwhelmingly sad. The tears came out. The dog’s mom, what a special person she is, was upset having to break the news when we were actually very happy for the family. Had the decision to consider adopting the dog not come up I might not have seen the light that a dog will always be in our family. Karen decided at the time it was best to just let Huck enjoy having all the attention so things worked out. Although we started considering who might be our next pet. We both like cocker spaniels and were considering a cavalier king charles breed.

Fast forward only a matter of weeks and we received the bad news about Huck.  I suggested we should get another dog because, although it might be wishful thinking, I think Huck’s personality would be good for another puppy to learn from if there is still time. I also know Huck likes other dogs and a puppy might give him something to do. There are many other reasons, some of which I mentioned earlier.  I also recall how Huck helped us deal with the emotions of loosing Ringo as Huck had done with the dog before him.  Mushy stuff for sure but I don’t mind sharing a weakness with friends.

Well, I finally got Karen to go along with a second dog in our lives. What an ironic change of events. I came full circle in agreeing on that decision. I’ll post this now because for at the least Karen is sharing the news on Facebook. We will be picking up another puppy sometime in late June when he is old enough to be away from his mom.  The puppy is located in Miller Missouri which is a town in the county where some of my family lives. Turns out the well known breeder is world class when it comes to raising cocker spaniels. What a coincidence.

Both Huck and Ringo were named after scenes or characters in the movie Tombstone. The scene in particular is when Doc Holiday shows up to gunfight with Johnny Ringo, telling Ringo “I’ll be your Huckleberry”.  I’m trying to convince Karen to name the new pup Wyatt.  We will have a chance to meet him for the first time as we happen to be located in Missouri making a trip back to Kansas City.  Unfortunately the breeder does not allow young puppies to be handled for health reasons until they are ready to be weened from their mothers.

Our future dog and hopefully Huck’s new playmate – a four week old cocker spaniel. Sorry for the photo quality. Karen asked the breeder to send her a photo.  So far, I’m impressed with the breeder who has had cockers in his family life for 60 years.  I could go on about the breeders attributes and believe me this old police detective did his homework. At one time Karen rescued cockers. I know there are plenty of dogs in shelters to be adopted but we have our reasons to get this one from a breeder. Both Huck and Ringo were rescues.

Our dogs are not replaceable. Any loving pet owner will agree. We need them in our lives because there is less joy otherwise.

We are currently located in Poplar Bluff Missouri, making our way west to Springfield then north to Kansas City. And on this Memorial Day – God Bless our Veterans. And may all Americans demand those freedoms they died for to include our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.

RV Maintenance Part 2 and Our Upcoming Travel Schedule

Last November I posted a wordy blog titled RV and Truck Maintenance – Part 1. In this next installment I’ll provide my to-do list in case it helps someone else come up with their own list.  Later I’ll dig out all the chemicals, grease and the like to point out what I’m using, although I’ve got plans to downsize, and will post that in part 3 in this maintenance series.

But first, our near-term travel plans so family and friends will know our travel plans. Currently we are nearing the end of a three week stay at Tuscumbia RV Park located at the extreme northwest corner of Alabama. For weeks we have been limiting our travel and holding up longer-term in campgrounds with full hookups waiting for states to open up. Historically speaking,  pandemics end more often when the public is ready to start returning to a normal way of life. I’m thinking we are better prepared to avoid or deal with an up-tick in contamination. Because at the very least we are now aware of the virus that was running around our country for maybe weeks before we knew it was a problem.

We decided on May 17 we are going to start our migration towards Missouri where a family campout is planned in June.  Our route is west to Corinth Mississippi, north towards Jackson Tennessee and on to the boot-hill of Missouri.  We will head west into southern Missouri at Sikeston and Poplar Bluff Missouri arriving at Mansfield Missouri on 6/4/20 where we are staying at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Campground. We will arrive at Pomme de Terre State Park in central Missouri on 6/11/20. Then we will head north to Kansas City, staying at the Basswood Resort beginning 6/18/20 where we have stayed in the past. I can’t remember the last time we booked our sites this far out in advance. We figured it was a good idea given the current status of the virus thing.  No worries, we will stay safe and have plenty of room in our schedule to react to any changes brought on by the virus thing. I’m also starting to think about travel ideas for this upcoming flu season beginning in October. Time will tell if we need to also consider longer stays or if we can return to the wild.

Our next series of moves. I’m liking RVTripwizard.com which includes features that show elevations and hill grades as you move the curser around. I pay around $40 a year for the service which has a reasonable number of campgrounds listed as well as options to show things such as low bridges.

The RV maintenance section of this blog post is short.  Below is a link to a file in both a Word and PDF format where I have all my maintenance items listed to include research notes.  I combined all the information from each manufacturer of materials/systems found in our RV as well as notes from friends/forums and straight out of the owners manuals.  Rather than discuss various elements I’ll just say I pay particular attention to any place water can get in and the suspension system. Over time I’ll be cutting my list down but for now I kept all the notes for the benefit of readers.  Most of these maintenance items are becoming second nature.

My RV Maintenance Schedule in a Microsoft Word Document

Same Maintenance Schedule as a PDF

Enjoy and any feedback is welcome.  Someday maybe we can figure out how to keep our tank sensors working properly. I’m nearing a conclusion on that and will report back.

Mississippi Vanleigh Service Center to Alabama

We finished a 33 day stay at the Archusa Creek Water Park in Quitman Mississippi as reported in my last blog post. With the state beginning to open up and stay-at-home orders expired we decided to make it to our appointment at the Vanleigh RV Service Center in northeastern Mississippi. From there we found a nearby Alabama campground to hunker down in for a couple weeks to further restrict our travels during the pandemic.

Karen and I believe it’s still a good idea to stop for longer periods while waiting for changes in the virus news as many states begin to open up. We are still reacting to the changes rather than planning for them. Our destination for mid-June is southern Missouri for a family campout. An example of reacting to the changes would be we had booked a two week stay at an Arkansas State Park which was due to reopen. Unfortunately the Governor of Arkansas decided out-of-state visitors at state parks are not welcome at this time, warning they would be checking license plates. I received a phone call from the campground with the bad news. We Texans may be a border state but there are no exceptions.

By the way, I really do think the word has gotten out to campgrounds, both commercial and public, that there are full-timers on the road and think about them. In the beginning we were kicked out of a public park with no consideration for our home status. A week later the bad news to leave came again but in this case the management let us stay, saying they were aware this was our stay-at-home place.  It gave me comfort to know also that a fellow blogger was even able to hold up in a Corp. of Engineer Park. I’ve been doing some serious reading about pandemic history which is a source of comfort regarding what is ahead of us. We are living in an amazingly technical time even compared to the last pandemic. In the mean time if you are asked to leave a campground don’t be shy when telling management if you are a fulltimer and need to stay. It worked for us at the last campground.

To wrap up our stay at Quitman Mississippi I had a few additional photos to pass along. The people of Mississippi are among the friendliest we have met. While reasonably practicing social destancing we met a couple who stopped by before we left. They passed along their contact information and want us to come out for a stay the next time we are in the area. Casey and Jennefer if you are reading this – thank you for the friendship! The family runs a cattle ranch and chicken farm. We got to talking about him having run out of masks he wears when tending the 25,000 chicken operation. When Karen and I sold off the contents of our home in Missouri to go fulltime Rving I kept a box of masks used to sand drywall. I checked my cargo and to my surprise the masks are the N-95’s talked about as being the best. I wondered if it was even legal to wear them or if I should donate them immediately to first-responders. Well I had eight masks so I gave two to the chicken operations.

Karen calling the tame ducks over for bread.

Jennefer and Karen building rock sculptures. She has left these in multiple states.

I have been watching press briefings and restrictions by Governors in all states we anticipated traveling through. Mississippi’s Governor recognized how employees travel into and out of the state around its boarders as well as the emotional stress of a pandemic. I did appreciate the Governor of Arkansas implementing a state-wide program prior to reopening parts of the state where by testing for the virus would be increased by 50%. At least on TV the Mississippi Governor did not seem, for lack of better words, as wishy-washing as the Governor of Arkansas. I’m now watching the actions in Missouri as that will be our end destination on this upcoming series of moves weeks from now.

Like many others, we find it sad we are not able to visit some of the great places along our route during the virus thing. We cancelled a stop at the Vicksburg Battlefield and may not make the day trip to Shiloh from the RV factory service center. However, we found plenty of safe actives despite this. We visited a local civil war cemetery. Access was down a dirt road and as suspected we would be the only living persons there.  During the war Texas built a hospital in Quitman Mississippi to make sure their troops could recover from battles such as Shiloh. Multiple states had soldiers cared for in the hospital which was burnt to the ground, along with all of Quitman, by US General Sherman’s army. For 70 years the cemetery was lost but later discovered and somewhat restored.

Displayed are flags from every state where 300 Confederate soldiers are buried in graves marked Unknown Soldier.

Now back to our Service Center appointment in northern Mississippi:

The Vanleigh RV Factory Service Center is actually owned by a separate company and not the Tiffin family with Vanleigh being a division of Tiffin. Although the Service Center owner is friends of the family. The facility sits in the wonderful countryside of Tishomingo Mississippi. Located in the extreme northeastern corner of Mississippi within short drives to Tennessee and Alabama. It’s a small county with the largest industry being timber. The area is picturesque and the drive north from central Mississippi over US 45 to US 25 was wonderfully relaxing over the smooth four lane roads. What a beautiful time it was watching the fields of wildflowers and forests. A high point of our stay would include a day trip over 20 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway which deserves, and will receive, a blog post of its own. The weather was finally wonderful which was a welcome thing as we had sat out three tornadic storms earlier in Quitman Mississippi to include two tornado touchdowns in our immediate area. Karen and I are used to spring tornados having lived amongst them in Missouri. We have developed our system for responding to them. At Quitman this included a couple trips to the shelter which is the concrete bathhouses.

Our dog Huck in his tornado shelter located in the womens bathroom in Quitman.

Getting back to the details of the Service Center visit I’ll summarize the experience as being everything that we expected. A quality operation where you leave feeling everything was fixed good as new and in a timely fashion. We spent a total of three days at the facility which provides full-hookup utilities in the parking lot along a row of trees. As instructed we arrived a day early. The next morning around 8:00 two RV technicians showed up with a camera and a list of repairs/upgrades which we had been asked to send in via email a month earlier. These were the two employees responsible for our repairs and met their promise not to miss a single item on this list, to include a couple I added at the last moment. Once they move your rig into one of their service bays you don’t leave until they are done with repairs. We stayed two nights inside the building, hooked to 50 amp electric and water, as there was cracked paint work on our front cap to be done. Their paint guy is an artist! All their front caps are painted at the facility prior to being installed at the factory. Nice to know they keep the painting process in-house. He tells me the Beacon models, which are fully painted fifth-wheels are originally painted at another location. The Tiffin family ended up purchasing the painting facility. I’m told it’s a common practice for Tiffin to buy up their service and material providers. For example they own the facility that makes their windows. Their 70,000 square foot cabinet shop mills their own lumber. Others at the Center said they come back yearly for annual service items such as repacking wheel bearings.

Unfortunately the virus thing closed the Vanleigh trailer factory located maybe 20 minutes away from the Service Center in Mississippi. The Tiffin Motorhome factory is located in nearby Red Bay Alabama. The shop foreman described to me some of their processes which includes finding innovative ways to get parts when manufactures are less than reliable.  A reason to send in our list of fixes a month early is that they want to have the parts waiting. Unfortunately as the cabinet factory is shut down by the virus thing two new cabinet doors will have to be sent to our daughter’s house in Missouri.  We ordered a custom wood finish when we purchased our Vilano 320GK. While at the Service Center the employees gladly installed additional modifications to include removal of the RV gas oven, as she uses the microwaves induction oven, and replacing it with two new shelves and doors I’ll install later after they are shipped. Karen had three other shelves added which look like they came with the trailer when new. Paying attention to details is among the Service Center’s talents. I had them mount our Togo internet receiver on the roof. They selected a great location, running the power wire directly to the fuse box on its own fuse and the switch is an attractive area. Total costs for the modifications – $306. I could not have even bought the hardware for the adjustable shelves for the price they installed them at.

Removed stove and added shelving. We will install the cabinet doors later. Our wood finish is a multiple step process and as the factory was closed they will ship them later.

Adjustable shelving – charged us $5 a shelf!

Switch connected directly to power panel for our Togo internet unit they mounted on roof.

Two areas for improvement at the Service Center would be quicker communications either by phone or email. And the building is extremely dusty for those living inside it while their rigs are being repaired. Somewhat minor issues for sure. If by chance you own a Vanleigh product and end up at the Service Center I’ll summarize what to expect; Just make the appointment, send your list of repairs a month before arrival, show up the day before your appointment and grab a camping spot outside the building. Go find something to eat or visit with others after checking in with the office. Enjoy your night and be prepared to be moved into a service bay early the next morning.

Here is a 12 minute unedited video. I shot it while posting back and forth with my sister on the Marco Polo phone application. This is the Service Center with comments. I might try adding video links in the future. Just beware I’ll not be taking the time to edit them. I touch my face from time to time which is a no-no during the virus thing. We keep handwipes in the truck and I wash my hands after being around anyone.

One comment that might apply to about every brand of trailer. We had been getting minor amounts of water inside our basement near the storage door during heavy rain. I did not suspect it was an issue with a seal. Well, they pulled the screws in the lower inside of the basement door frame, filling them with silicon and re-inserted the screws. Apparently water can hold up in the area and leach into the basement through the screw holes. Below is a photo of the area.

Remove these screws in the frame of the basement doors and fill them with silicon to block water. Put the screws back in.

Here is our list of fixes for the one year warranty. I repaired maybe half again as many items on my own which were quick fixes, one requiring a part which was over-nighted to me.

  • Piece of wood trim next to the theater seating. It was cracked and glued down at only one spot.
  • We have two drawers that open during travel with no luck adjusting them. These two come out regardless of rough roads or even on short trips.
  • Small outside access panel for shower mounted out of square and binds at the bottom when closed.
  • Not sure if Equi-flex rubber should look weather damaged. I’ve been looking at other newer trailers and some have the weather damage and others do not. (I checked other trailers and this is normal)
  • Hairline crack bathroom sink. Does not leak but is cosmetic.
  • Pigtail for truck to RV connections came apart first month of ownership.
  • Bottom left drawer in kitchen slide is hitting the bottom of slide trim when pulled out/opened. Also, cabinet door bottom right of stove top where we keep trash.
  • Passenger side basement door still leaks in heavy rain, not as much as before?
  • Black trim coming loose around fiberglass above pin. Poor job of caulking with the black caulk in that general area as well.
  • Fireplace makes a grinding sound, like something is turning, even when heat not on. Don’t recall hearing this when trailer newer. (turns out this is normal)
  • As you come up stairs to left of bedroom door wallpaper trim piece coming loose. Just needs to be tacked down
  • Fridge RM 1350 by Dometic. Door light not working. I already have the replacement part which I ordered from Dometic.
  • Big One – paint cracking in groove of front cap. When I took delivery there was also a very small indention in outer layer of cap which I temporarily filled with silicon.
  • Washer/Dryer access door outside trailer. Door came open on its own and small piece that covers hole is gone. I temporarily fixed with flex seal tape.
  • Replace night shades on driver’s and passenger side of sofa. Adjustments don’t stay and will not slow rise. When fully extended you can see the silver roller bar which may indicate somethings wrong.
  • Day shade over sofa needs adjusting. It rises to far. I may adjust this myself prior to arrival.

Hello from Quitman Mississippi and the Virus Thing

Back on March 26th, with developing news regarding the coronavirus thing, Karen and I decided it was best to locate an RV spot where we would want to stay for a longer visit. She found a park within a water protection district. These parks, sometimes referred to by names such as River Authority, are yet another source for beautiful camping locations. In our case we headed from Mandeville Louisiana to our current home at Archusa Creek Water Park.  The camping spot is located on the shore of a 450 acre lake surrounded on one side by woods and across from the small town of Quitman Mississippi where there is decent shopping for neccesities and a local hospital within this county seat. The location was also within the 200 miles we prefer to travel during a day.

We headed up I-59 North, east on US 84 and then north on US 45.  It is remarkable that US 45 in Mississippi, near the boarder of Alabama, will take us all the way to northern Mississippi for our next planned stop. I had checked the Mississippi Department of Transportation web page and noticed a bridge was closed if we approached Quitman from another direction. I called the campground office who confirmed I had the best route to travel. I sure enjoy four lane US or state highways most of all.  Although the shoulders to pull off the road are sometimes tight there are generally level grassy areas as part of the shoulder. I’m of the opinion US highways offer better views than the interstate while still providing reasonable refueling locations and rest stops. Our fifthwheel trailer tires are rated for 75 miles per hour. I prefer driving 65 or five miles under the speed limit. Four lane highways allow traffic to easily pass us and really cuts down the anxiety of moving these large rigs around the country. Although single lane roads with common speeds of 55 miles per hour are no big thing now that we have thousands of miles of driving practice.

Archusa Creek park is heavily wooded so checking for specific camping spots using Google Earth was no help in selecting the best spot for our size rig (34’11” long with a 21′ dually truck). Karen is getting good at calling ahead to book a spot while providing all our specific needs to include if there are any overhead obstructions our 13′ tall fifthwheel would have issues with. Management provided two alternative spots and we decided the longest and most level spot would be best. Although not on the lake shore we could see the lake from our windows. Often the lake side spots are windy and actually not always the preferred place.

Our spot at Archusa Water Park. Walking distance to the laundry room, on a flat paved drive surrounded by trees which even allow room for both our awnings! Full hookups are a plus for this monthly stay.

Of course like everyone else I had been watching the news and learned where some parks were shutting down for the virus thing, especially those managed by state government. The park we had just come from shut down the day we were leaving. What a terrible feeling it is to worry about having a place to live. Before arriving we talked to management at Archusa who had no information that they would be shutting down. Once we arrived I placed particular attention on how the governor of Mississippi was handling himself regarding virus related decisions and have been impressed.  State parks would be shut down eventually. Although Archusa is not a state park it is indirectly managed by the same authority. I called management the day I heard Mississippi had stay-at-home orders issued by the governor. I was not shy when I told management how this was our home and like all full-timers we worried about being kicked out. Park management was on our side and took steps early in the stay-at-home order to clarify that we are allowed to stay as this is our shelter in place home. I’m beating things will loosen up soon and less parks will shut down. And we are getting far better at handling the uncertainty. Even dare I say we can use our mobility to our advantage….

So here we sit for the duration of a month.  When I stop to think about all the positive stuff going our way for this part of the journey I have to smile. We are in wonderful camping spot, with walking distance to the laundry, on a full hookup paved pad, with views of the lake, trees and wildlife everywhere.  And there are only three other campers!  You could not buy this for a million dollars. We are really enjoying living in Mississippi. Yesterday, after weeks staying at home for the most part, we took a trip to Walmart. Using our mobility we found a store south of us where the virus thing is basically a non-issue in terms of cases and no deaths. What a wonderful 30 minute drive down US45 which is forested on both sides with no towns between us and our destination. I should add, among other precautions we wear gloves and masks when shopping which is limited to maybe a trip a week. We want to help keep the store clerks safe as well…

We are making use of the time with our hobbies. As a way of giving back we asked the campground manager for trash bags and volunteered to cleanup the campground. We are glad our internet connection is the best it has ever been. Streaming movies and shows through our Togo is a plus. I was able to watch a series on the Vicksburg Civil War campaign. The battle site had been a planned destination which was canceled by the virus thing. We are not much for planning travel stops to far out in the future, preferring maybe knowing where we want to be a month out.  So no big trip planning activities for us. We already know where we are going next which is good enough.

It’s a first for us but we discovered campground cats. Presumably with all the other campers being gone, the cats came out and one in particular has taken a shinning to us. Management named him Spot. He likes to come around when he is hungry or wants attention. Stays for a while and takes off to who knows where. Spot was a little pest when I was trying to work at the picnic table.  I gave him some attention then he took off. Karen goes outside yelling “here kitty kitty” sometimes he shows up. She does the same for the three ducks she feeds down by the lake. It’s funny watching ducks respond to “here kitty kitty.”

Campground cat – Spot. Likes attention when I’m trying to work.

So I’m getting all my annual maintenance done. We bought our fifthwheel a year ago and after eight months on the road there is a bit to do.  Eventually I’ll post the maintenance document I’m using to keep track. Our next stop is at the factory service center just 200 miles north of us. On April 20 the governor is to decide if the stay-at-home order is to be extended. We have decided if the order is extended then it’s probably best to stay in place rather than risk moving to a campground that’s not as nice as what we have right now. We booked our appointment at the factory service center four months in advance as there had been a three month waiting list. I suppose if we can’t move the appointment back a week or two there is a chance we will go ahead and make the move, knowing after the appointment we will be able to find a campground within 200 miles. If we don’t like it we would then move on.

That’s our story for now. Thanks for reading.

My sister Lisa arranged a family meeting for Easter using Zoom online. Karen and I had to leave early due to a tornado warning here in Mississippi. We are getting used to handling weather issues but sure hated leaving the family video meeting early.

Archusa has the best cabins for rent I’ve ever seen so far while on the road. We took a lot of photos because we like the floor plan. We sometimes find ourselves saying “we could live in this”. Just another idea for once we come off the road.

 

Fontainebleau State Park – Mandeville Louisiana

After making our way out of Texas and western Louisiana along Interstates 10 and 12 we arrived at Fountainebleau State Park outside the small town of Mandeville Louisiana located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. We learned of the park through friends we met in Texas. It’s located about 45 minutes from New Orleans over the interstate highway or a 24 mile long causeway that extends across the lake to the highway leading to New Orleans.

Unfortunately, shortly after arrival the virus thing was starting to come up at which time we made a decision to leave early and find a place to hold up for a month. We are now stopped at a wonderful small lake in rural Mississippi located about two hours from our next planned destination in northern Mississippi for late April.

Our spot at Fontainebleau State Park. They have pull-throughs as well. We stayed in the north loop which is newer and more spread out than the south loop.

Neither of us really enjoy visiting larger cities as much as spending time in nature or touring out to the way places. So there was no plan to go into New Orleans.  The park was a wonderful place to spend time outside.

We learned about the origins of the people that settled the area and the old sugar plantation that had become the park. Camped not far from us was a local resident whose family were among the original settlers, being French and coming out of Nova Scotia. Yep, they were Cajuns and I wish we could have enjoyed a campfire or food together but with social distancing we all agreed talking from more than six feet away was a good thing.

We would have loved to spend two weeks in the area but cut the visit to 11 days as we were using our waste tanks. Our spot had no sewer connection. We wanted to limit our exposure within the well maintained public facilities.

Our dog Huck had developed a mass below his lip so we had that cut off at a local veterenarian. His breed is good for that. This would be our third visit to a vet while traveling over the past year. Finding and working with a vet is no problem. Karen discovered an awesome meat market on the way to the vet so we later loaded up our freezer with excellent meat, to include local sausage at a very good price. We are discovering meat markets are something to look for while traveling. Often the selection is better than at the local grocery store.

Karen caught up on the laundry, using the facility late at night when no one was around. The park was not that busy anyway and there was no charge to use the machines!

She hangs some clothing to dry from two shower curtains. When our fifth wheel was built we had them leave off the shower door and we added an extend-a-rod. We also have a rod above the shower that is spring loaded and stays in place. Great area to hang wet towels.

Zoomed in at 20x – this is New Orleans in the faint distance across the lake.

Unfortunately we did not tour the visitors center but discovered a wonderful boardwalk through the wetland attached to the park. Spring had arrived and we enjoyed the flowers. My dad would have liked this place as the wild Iris flowers were everywhere. Even the parking lot near the lake hosted a wonderful view of nature.

Photo from along one of the nature trails in the park

Along the walk to the lake is a marsh area. Found four gators living there that we could see. They were about four feet long and not interested in visiting with us. Keeping a distance of 35′ is recommended as they can run fast for short bursts.

As is a custom of Karen’s, she left a stack of rocks behind. 

Lafayette Louisiana – Virus Thing

Fortunately for both Karen and I, we keep finding that we enjoy the same style of fulltime RV travel. This includes no particular interest in seeing big cities or spending overnight stops bouncing around the country.  We left Texas for our next destination which is Fontainebleau State Park on the north shore of Lake Pontchatrain in Mandeville Louisiana where we are currently living. The trip here included a two night stop at an RV park off Interstate 10 then on to Lafayette Louisiana for a four night stay at the Bayou Wilderness RV Resort.

As we entered Louisiana eastbound on busy Interstate 10 we stopped at the state’s welcome center.  So far, Louisiana takes the prize for the most wonderful greeting.  We stepped out of the truck into a landscape that depicts exactly what we thought Louisiana might look like, having never been here before.

Why Lafayette Louisiana for a stop?  It was not to see the popular Tabasco factory. It just happened to be the next place that had an interesting RV park within the 200 miles we prefer to travel in a day.

Louisiana welcome center – Eastbound I-10. View from parking lot. The drive on I-10 is different to include a bridge across the nations largest swamp which is a 15 minute drive at 60 miles an hour.

Our stay at the Bayou Wilderness Park in Lafayette was rewarding although we considered it a stop-over on our way to a destination. Below are a few photos I took at the place, one of which might be a candidate for the all times favorite list.

My favorite. It’s a pond about 100 yards from our camping spot
This is Huck’s bathtub. Doubles as a place to store the outdoor grill.

We had four days to take in the sites. As usual we asked the lady in the office where we should go having explained we really want to get to know the state’s history and local people. She referred us to Vermilionville which is a living history village demonstrating the buildings common to the area during the 1700 and 1800’s. Here I would learn the difference between a Cajun and Creole person and that settlements in northern Louisiana were older as folks had a hard time making a living in southern Louisiana back then. Once we got back to the RV park I referred the place as a must stop to the French speaking Canadians parked next to us.

Model of the village
Very well done location. All the buildings are like small museums with individual topics.
Blacksmith shop
Karen complained that I had her pull us over to the other bank using the rope ferry. I had to hold the camera.

Before I close this post I’d like to pass on how we are dealing with the coronavirus thing while living in an RV facing travels ahead. I suspect this is a better time to react rather than to plan as every day there are changes as to what is going on. As I’m sure all the travelers are doing, we are watching for updates at several websites as to what parks are open or closed. Neither of us are panicking but are being careful to follow the governments recommendations on how to stay safe.

As I mentioned earlier we are currently stopped at a state park 26 miles north of New Orleans where the city is quickly becoming a bad virus area. We have an appointment in northern Mississippi at the end of the April. We are moving to a park in central Mississippi that has full hookups so we can avoid using the public showers. It’s a park we believe we will be able to find enough to do to stay busy for a month, expecting all the tourist stuff to shut down. It happens to be a rural area within a reasonable distance to a hospital and a local town for shopping. This is our first planned monthly stop. Hopefully we will just be able to add another point to the list of things to overcome while traveling fulltime. Although the pandemic is a big one compared to other events.

I’m using the blue paper shop towels from Walmart to make Clorox wipes.  Just take two towels folded and soak/spray each with a bleach solution.  Fortunately we had two bottles of hand sanitizer before the virus hit and a third that is out of date. We leave a bottle at the front door and each agreed anytime we come in from outside when we are around anyone or anything away from our camper we use the hand sanitizer or wash our hands when arriving back home. I wipe down all common surfaces we touch every couple of days with the Clorox wipes I’ve made.  Bought 10 pounds of rice and some dried beans for our emergency stash. RVers know how to be industrious as we don’t carry a lot of supplies we don’t have the room for. 

I suspect this is a good time to be getting some extra sleep and taking care not to catch a bug from all the pollen and other effects of springs arrival. We are being careful to come inside when the dust kicks up such as the campground mowing or high winds.  Short-term solutions to trying and stay healthy, if for any other reason, to be able to fight off sickness should that happen.

(update 3/24/20 at 8:00 pm) – The Louisiana state park we are located is closing in two days due to the virus. Management went door to door to make sure everyone had a place to move, which we do with the planned trip to central Mississippi.  About an hour later Mississippi reports a rare damaging tornado hit Tishomingo, Ms. The Vanleigh Service Center location, to which we are planned to arrive at the end of April, is in the area of the tornado. Area buildings were damaged to include flattening of the Dollar General Store a couple blocks south of the Vanleigh Service Center where they reported in short order the Service Center is fine. A door was blown off the building and one fifth wheel was flipped. 

I’ve been watching Mississippi’s response to the coronavirus issues and am impressed.  Glad to be heading that way to enjoy our stay for a month on a lake near a rural town with hospitals.

It’s weird but all this is making life exciting! 

Remember Goliad – the Other Alamo

Who knew southeastern Texas would hold so many treasures related to the history of Texas:

From Washington-on-the-Brazos where the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico was signed or Sam Houston’s final home in Huntsville both within driving distance from Livingston Texas. From the Alamo in San Antonio.  To the massacre at Goliad and final Battle at San Jacinto near Houston Texas.

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I for one never knew the battle cry at San Jacinto, the final victory location, was actually “Remember the Alamo – Remember Goliad.”

I spent hours pouring over Texas history to learn about the state Karen and I now call home. At times I wondered this “late” in life why bother to study all this other than out of curiosity. Of course the best answer would be when one tours these locations we have a better understanding of the events that took place having studied them compared to just reading the tour signs. Texas is an interesting and substantial part of  United States history.

I’ll get to the photos and report regarding our stay at the must see Goliad State Park shortly.

In 1528 the first Europeans arrived around Goliad.  Missions were established as were forts to guard them. Communities grew around the missions and forts. In 1718 the Alamo Mission housed a military post. In 1722 a mission and fort were constructed in Goliad. By 1730 the Spanish had sent 30 expeditions into what is now called Texas. I found these dates remarkable when comparing them against Jamestown Colony in Virginia being founded on the American east coast in 1607.

Mexico gained independence from Spain and had trouble getting citizens to settle within their northern border in what we call Texas. One of two men whom would become the founding fathers of Texas, Stephen F. Austin moved from southeastern Missouri. He had successfully gained a land grant which his father had been working on. Mexico granted him 200,000 acres and a place to move in 300 Anglo-American families who meshed with the thinly populated Mexicans. Austin was known for his diplomacy.  Samuel Houston, who had gained a reputation as a soldier/politician, decided to resign as Governor of Tennessee and take a position working with the Indians in Texas but became interested in the rebellion.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna came to power as president in Mexico and proclaimed himself as dictator.  Concerned the Anglo-American population was growing in Texas a law was passed to stop migration. This and other issues resulted in the Texas population declaring its independence from Mexico. Stephen Auston had been sent to Mexico City to argue for the rights of the Texans. He was jailed for two years as a result. Santa Anna marched an army north to stop the rebellion. You know the story of the Alamo where a portion of the Texas Army was camped. Santa Anna rode in under a black flag meaning there would be no surrender. The Texans numbering roughly 200 fought and died. Meanwhile at Goliad Texas there was a garrison of Texas soldiers who ended up surrendering to the Mexican Army, having not been able to make it to the Alamo in time to provide reinforcements. Santa Anna ordered the Goliad Texans to be executed. The roughly 400 Texans, who had surrendered, were marched out in three directions from the fort. The Mexican Army opened fire killing all of them. Bodies were left where they lay. Texas troops would later bury them. Years later, boy scouts found a skeleton and a monument was built on the site.

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Karen standing at the steps of the Goliad massacre and burial site. Notice the wildflowers coming up in the adjoining landscape which is kept as a wildflower field.

The Texas Revolution occurred over a period of just six to seven months and ended at the Battle of San Jacinto, a river at present day Houston where Santa Anna was literally caught with his pants down and his army was preparing to take a nap. The Texans charged yelling “Remember the Alamo – Remember Goliad”. Santa Anna’s army was pushed back into the water and shot to death.  He surrendered and signed a treaty.

Houston would become Texas first President and Austin it’s Secretary of State. The republics first permanent capital building was established in Austin Texas. The first 10 years were financially difficult. Two US Presidents would not agree to statehood for Texas who had requested it. By 1845 public opinion in the United States changes and Texas came in as a state in ’46.

There were disputes as to where the southern boarder of Texas was. In 1847 US troops invaded Mexico and captured Mexico City. This was the Mexican-American War.  The United States paid Mexico 15 million for war damages and assumed 3.5 million in debt owed by Mexico to US citizens. Mexico agreed the boarder would be the Rio Grande River. Mexico also gave up claim to New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California and western Colorado. It’s notable that United States President Andrew Jackson had wanted to buy Mexico rather fight for it, having not joined in the earlier war for Texas independence. To me this period of time seems as important as the Louisiana Purchase.

I do want to pass along just a little more information about Goliad Texas. This 800 square mile county has a population density of only 8.4 people per square mile compared to the county I lived in back in Kansas City with 544 per square mile.  Goliad Texas is 36% Hispanic and are descendants of native Texans who fought alongside the Anglo-America’s for their independence. This is the birthplace of Texas ranching that grew so large at one time the Spanish King was taxing the Mexican population based on unbranded cattle.

In 1999 the Texas State Senate named Goliad as the official location for the celebration of Cinco De Mayo. Why – because Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza was born in Goliad and would later lead a Mexican Army in the final defeat of the French during their war with France in 1862.  Cinco De Mayo celebrates that victory.

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On the grounds of the Fort is a museum ran by the State Parks depicting where General Zaragoza was born. As communities grew around the forts it was common for soldiers to retire and live in the same area. Their sons would often become soldiers.

As a side note, at the beginning of the American Civil War Texas would succeed from the Union. Sam Houston, then Governor of Texas was dead-set against succession, he being a strong supporter of the United States. The citizens removed him from office as Governor.  Later he would represent the State in congress.  Stephen Austin passed away in 1836.

Whew, think I got through the history lecture and should have my facts correctly written. Now for the photos and description of the time we lived (stayed in our RV) at Goliad.

Goliad State Park has two RV camping areas, one of which are pull-throughs with full hookup. We stayed in the loop that is no more than a large gravel/paved parking lot where you back into your spot with electic and water at the rear of the camper. Bring an extra water house to reach. Each space has a fire pit, grill and covered picnic table. I booked a corner spot where our front door opened to a grassy area.

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Although we parked in a row we were able to get a corner spot so our awning opened to a grass area. Behind the RV is the covered picnic table.

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We made good friends of the folks with the horse/front living space trailer. The couple travel doing pipeline work and leave their RV at home, preferring the cargo capacity of the trailer for heavy tools. Ex-Navy Seal with some good stories!  I think they enjoyed the ribs I’ve learned to cook on the gas grill. Their friendly pit-bull dog got Karen’s attention. Mutual like of dogs so often seems to be a gateway into friendships in this lifestyle.

On site is a large Spanish Mission and nearby fort to tour.  The downtown area buildings, almost in there entirety, are on the national register for historic buildings to include an interesting courthouse where out front is the large “hanging tree”. Karen and I like to go to the square in small towns during lunch hour and find a diner after walking around. Located at the intersection of US 59 and 183/Alternate 77, Goliad is easy to get to.

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The hanging tree – once convicted they marched you out directly to this tree. Surrounding the downtown courthouse are monuments with different topics.

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Courthouse for Goliad County

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I thought this was an interesting pocket-park in the downtown area. Good use of space after an old building falls down.

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It’s so nice to discover treasures to visit that were not part of the plan six months earlier. As we drove to the campsite we noticed a sign for a drop-off or take-out point for those interesting in a kayak trip down the gentle spring feed San Antonio River. We checked with the office who recommended a local who for $15 took us upstream to begin the 6 mile float trip. He knew every area of the river, recommending if we want to float for shorter periods or even overnight he knew where to take us. Call Dan at 361-491-0126. We forgot to take along drinking water and Dan insisted we wait while he drove off to buy some. He said he usually kept a cooler with water but this time of year is a slow period for boaters. Lots of vegetation and wild animals to see along the route.  Along with cattle grazing on the river’s sloped banks. We parked the truck at the takeout point and enjoyed using our Sea Eagle inflatable.

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If you enjoy boating, this is a must if at the State Park. The river is gentle.

It may be that as these are the first Spanish fort and mission I’ve ever toured that makes their size and construction so fascinating. Maybe they look just like the others scattered around once Spanish held territories. For sure the church chapel at the fort holds a unique place in history. It’s one of the longest running church congregations that’s been in place since the chapel was build in the 1700’s. Mass is still held in the chapel.

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The fort is huge and walled all around.

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Catholic Chapel – The original remains used for church.  Hope the Nun at the entrance did not mind me asking if there would be anyone bearing a sword and cross running around. We talked to this fellow for awhile. I wish I had time to volunteer with him at the fort.

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The museum at the fort is well done. Each doorway has a small sign that states what the room was originally used for. One was the living quarters for Colonel Fannin who along with his troops died outside when shot to death by the Mexican Army after they surrender. He was the last to die, asking that he not be shot in the face, be given a Christian buriel and his possession be sent home to his family. Well – They shot him in the head and he was buried in a mass grave. The Mexican soldiers stole his personal possessions.

And finally – the Mission on the grounds of the State Park where we camped.  Of particular interest is the Mission was restored after very few walls remained.  Apparently over time the citizens of Goliad were allowed to haul off rocks for other construction. Well done museum inside.

 

After our stay at Goliad we moved to another campground in preparation for our Sunday trip through busy Houston Texas traffic. We are now parked near Lafayette Louisiana in Cajun territory.

Outside and Truck Storage

Thought I’d throw together this quick post with photos regarding what our outside and truck storage has become. Karen and I did not plan extensively as to where we would be storing everything from the beginning, knowing from experience stuff just seems to find its spot.  Although a key to being organized and keeping this tiny space usable is to know every item has its spot and to put that item back into its spot when you are done using it.

Keep in mind we have a 35′ fifth wheel. The basement area is generally not as large as a 40′ model.  I opted to not have the RV built ready for a generator because I did not want the front basement/garage space taken up by a box for the generator.  Also our cabinets inside the RV extend to the top of the flat ceiling thereby offering more inside storage well within the gross weight limits of the RV.

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In our truck you can see the following:

  • I don’t store anything that would have a chance of interfering with the fifth wheel hitch operation to include the emergency break-away wire.
  • I kept our extendable ladder although it is heavy but fits well under the trucks roll up bed cover canister.
  • A five gallon gas can although I don’t keep it full. I try and have eight hours of gas for the generator knowing I can buy more.
  • Rolled up under the gas can is an extra garden house. The can sits in the center of the hose.
  • An extra 2.5 gallon container of diesel exhaust fluid (D.E.F) for our diesel truck. Our trucks D.E.F tank holds about 6.5 gallons. Always carry extra because it can be very hard to find in small towns and if you run out it could be miles away finding any. Meanwhile your truck will not run or runs poorly without it.
  • The red box you see is our emergency road triangles in case we break down on the side of the road. I keep the yellow vest inside the truck.
  • Our 3400 watt generator is strapped to the inside of the truck with the exhaust facing out towards the tailgate. Although it weighs only 76 pounds, I can run it without moving it from the truck. The power cord from the RV easily reaches it.
  • I could not live without the locking tonneau truck bed cover.  I also have a 15′ cable I can run through everything when traveling if I want but have never used it for that.
  • One item not visible is a two step ladder. I use this as a step to climb into the truck bed, for various places around the RV and store it under the fifth wheel pin when parked as a reminder not to pump my head on the pin.

Here are a few photos of our two basement storage areas:

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  • I kept storage containers from our old sticks and bricks house to use rather than buying new. They fit well.
  • I put the sewer connections in a five gallon bucket. Right now I’m still using a trash bag for the sewer hose. I keep all things related to drinking water inside a separate tote with a good lid.
  • I store items we don’t need access to on a regular basis in the front basement/garage. In the black storage boxes are items sorted by use. One for extra clothes or anything we might otherwise store inside the RV. One box for camping stuff. One for fluids/RV parts and another for larger tools, grease gun, caulking gun and such.
  • In the basement areas, one photo is the utility side and the other the passenger side. The largest container holds our dirty grill and doubles as a bathtub for the dog.  You will find the stuff you use the most will be in the front and top of everything else. When we arrive at a spot, depending on how long we will be there, the chairs, rug and other stuff come out which opens up the basement space for easy access.
  • Notable is the tool bag in front. Some tools I tend to use at stops more often and face them to the front. Such as a level to check our adjustable stairs.

 

I’m working on a few more posts that may keep you coming back to my blog for a reason and commenting with ideas you might have.  I’ll post them when finished, some of which have been months in the making such as:

  1. Finishing up a serious list on RV maintenance.
  2. Attempt to downsize chemicals, waxes, bug spray and more.
  3. My list of tips covering RV living that I had not commonly seen in five years of reading other’s lists.
  4. I have kept a list of every thing I ever fixed or need to fix on the RV.  Right down to if I caulked a joint or tightening screws. The reason for the detailed list is to help set expecations for others who might be considering a future in an RV. Will probably post this after or end of April appointment with the Vanleigh factory repair center.

And a bunch more….

We have left Goliad Texas and are migrating towards Mandeville Louisiana. Right now we are setup at a campsite ready to drive through Houston Texas on a Sunday.  Found a great website to check live Houston highway traffic called traffic.houstontranstar.org.