Time to Move From Mississippi to Alabama

Our route includes mostly divided two lane US Highways until we drop down to Interstate 10 where I know the highway to be less congested in the Florida panhandle.

It’s raining outside so this would be a typical time for us to do the laundry, go shopping for food, watch a video or whatever as the sunny warm days are reserved for having fun. But we are moving tomorrow to Alabama for a 10 day stay west of the capital city of Montgomery so that prompted a slight change in the daily activity of this full-time traveler. No shopping or watching videos until a few other things get done such as route planning and pre-packing.

We had been watching the weather reports for the last several days, which is typical before a move. Appears we are lucky in that tomorrow turns out to be the best window of opportunity to move without rain and wind so no need to extend our stay or change the next stop. We have been parked here in Quitman Mississippi for a full month. Wow, that was nice as we had been on the move since last March, never staying anywhere for more than two weeks until now. We are looking forward to St. Augustine Florida for winter where, for only the second time in all our travels, we will be stopped for a full two months.

This morning I completed route planning for our next move. No big deal. Just 170 miles on US Highways for three hours. Check-in time for the Corp of Engineer campground we are moving to is 4:00 pm. That’s way to late for this time of year when the sun sets early. I checked and someone has our spot the day we arrive. Check out time is 3:00 pm so that’s when we plan to arrive. Here is Quitman Mississippi we arrived at the designated time for check-in, also 4:00 pm. We did not fit in the assigned spot and it was dark by the time I finally was able to back-into a different spot elsewhere in the heavily wooded campground. I’ll not repeat that mistake again. I’ll arrive early with plenty of available daylight.

I finished up route planning that includes for me, comparing the route suggested by my trip planning application (RV Trip Wizard) against what is suggested on the Garmen RV GPS. Then I check Google Earth street view for anything of concern. In this case someone had posted in a campground review the road to the park in Alabama was heavily treed with lots of limbs and it was easy to miss turns into the campground. There will be no problem as I’ve even taking Google Earth screen shots on the laptop computer showing the intersections and campground signs as needed. I also have a photo saved on the phone of the actual campground map as so often there is no one in the check-in booth when we arrive. I’ve completed the route planning to the point I can visualize the entire move. Get a 10′ pop-up trailer if you just want to hook up and go without any planning. Get a 35′ fifth wheel that’s 13′ tall and weighs 15,000 pounds and you best not slack off on route planning 🙂

I rarely plan for any fuel or rest stops anymore. I did when we first started traveling as I felt more comfortable knowing in advance where we could fit this big RV. After almost 14000 miles of towing, I’m comfortable enough with just pulling off the highway where it might fit. On interstate highways there is always a rest stop but on US highways it’s a bit tricky noticing a possible resting place in time to get the RV slowed to make a turn. It is rare that we travel over 230 miles in a day which in my planning would require researching a spot to stop for fuel. We can travel about 320 miles between refueling and it’s my rule we always have 100 miles of range left in the fuel tank wherever we are going. Hense the 230-mile limit (320-100).

Home for 30 days

I should probably get on to how we got here in central Mississippi and what we did of interest while we were here. I have a couple other points to get out first. I’ll add some RV tips later. I should report there are now more than 300 folks who follow this blog. Wow, that is amazing to me. I had only started the blog back in 2014 to record research info and later get comments and suggestions from others during our planning stages for full time travel. Although we occasionally handout a business card to special folks we meet in campgrounds, we do no advertising or pull any gimmicks to attract readership. I go back and read most posts before hitting the publish button, fearing I might leave any political or overly religious content behind which is considered a no-no for Rver’s. Some are really emotional about certain topics. I consider myself open to all opinions but definitely want a chance to state my own opinion. Then we can each walk away and think about what the other said. I hope I’ve been living up to expectations regarding blog content. I sometimes break the rule. I suspect after we leave Montgomery Alabama in a couple weeks, I’ll break the rules regarding posting my view on continued racial tension in our country. My question or topic would be “why are we still having to talking about racial issues in this country”, one of just a couple still under their original forms of government?

I could write twice as much as I’ve been doing. You would be amazed at all the amazing one-time experiences that happen on the road or the weekly lists of challenges. The blog would become a diary if I were to report all the details.

Okay, back to travel… This trip started back in maybe 2016. You read that right, 2016. We were camped in Illinois at the time when an old-timer camp host said he spends the winter in Mississippi where the prices are cheap, the weather is tolerable as are the folks that live here. We moved to this very park in Quitman Mississippi during the first weeks of the pandemic and decided we wanted to return during our fall trip. We stopped at the Dewyane Hayes Corp of Engineer Campground in Columbus Mississippi on the way here for a few nights as we headed south.

Spot #1 Dewayne Hayes COE outside Columbus MS. Harder back-in but we are getting good at it. No neighbors and big yard on paved full hookups. Not bad for being in the woods.
Some travel fulltime in boats. This one spent a couple nights just off the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, on Columbus Lake in Mississippi. Maybe a blog follower will recognize it. I understand this a popular route to/from Mobile Alabama.

Then we moved to Archusa Creek Campground near the small town of Quitman Mississippi for a much needed month stay. We were tired from the travel season, having only stopped for two weeks at a time after leaving Florida last March. Sometimes the destination is the campground itself which is the case with Archusa. The roads inside the park are narrow making the spots hard to back into. But worth it to be in the tall trees of the forest that surrounds the park. We left the kayak inflated and took the dog out wearing his new $100 life jacket with us on the small shallow lake on several occasions. Upon arrival we policed up all the extra firewood left behind by others. Took long walks. Watched the dog run the entire campground loop off leash, which was nearly vacant most of the time. We planned a day trip to Meridian Mississippi located 30 miles north but only ended up touring the local historic cemetery and doing some shopping at larger stores. Meridian is the sixth largest city in Mississippi and of significant historical value as well as having a few modern notables such as home of the father of country music. Meridian has a couple newer multi-million-dollar interactive museums and civil war sites. All in all, I would not consider Meridian a destination spot. Below are a few photos from the Rose Hill Cemetery where apparently the Queen of the Gypsies was buried with family in the early 1900’s. I’ll spare you the history lesson regarding gypsies and their country of origin other than to report a huge clan buried their “queen” here with 20,000 in attendance at the funeral.

The Queen’s grave. Legend has it if you leave something on the grave she will visit you in your sleep and tell you how to fix your problems. Karen asked me if I had a dime but never said the queen showed up.
Back in the early 1900’s some idiot publish an article stating the Queen was buried with gold coins. The cracks on the cover are from grave robbers.
Hmm. A couple folks went cheap and did not buy a concrete vault to hold their coffin which has now collapsed making it harder for folks to mow the grass or walk over the grave safely. Overhead were passing jet aircraft from the local Navel flight school.
Wonder if the kids at the local high school knew confederate soldiers from the civil war hospital were buried under the school grounds? 100 were found during construction and piled into the mound at the cemetery in a mass grave.
I still liked the historic graveyard in Natchez Mississippi more than this one, but it was worth the trip. It is a miracle they were able to terrace the rows back in the late 1800’s with no modern earth moving equipment. That’s a lot of digging to get the hills flat for graves.

In Quitman we simply enjoyed our days outside in the sun and trees. For the first time in months, I used the credit card just once to top off the truck fuel for our next drive. I’d bet it costs a good 25% more to travel than it does just sitting around at the campsite. I’ve got a good start planning our spring trip for 2022 which will be up the east coast from Florida to Washington DC then back to Missouri where we are hoping to spend three months in the Branson area. On the way we will most likely cut up into northeast Tennessee and Virginia. I’m still considering the best route west from DC to south Missouri, probably through Pennsylvania.

I have been hitting the books learning about mountain driving in the east for our 2022 spring trip. I’ll probably describe the process in a future blog when asking for route ideas.
This is just a quick attempt at planning our 2022 spring trip. Will probably go north from Florida to Charlston South Carolina, then through the hills to Asheville North Carolina then northeast on I-81 in the general direction of Washington DC as I’m wanting to stop at a few places on the way. I’m plugging seven day stops into the schedule for now so that I can come up with an approximate date we will be in Washington DC then later Branson Missouri. Then I’ll call ahead and see when we can get spots at those two places and plan accordingly. More on this later.

I’ll close with a couple RV tips. I knocked out a few maintenance items and minor RV repairs while we were stopped for the month. It’s a never-ending thing if one uses their RV enough. Had a 50′ green garden hose that was hard to roll up for years. Finally, the connections wore out so I bought the best replacement which is a 50′ Zero G hose. I cut the old green hose up into sections and put new connectors on the end. Now I have a 10-15′ shorter hose to use to flush the black tank. No more fighting to roll up the longer hose which makes just one more thing easier to do on a move day.

Cut up an old hose, added new connectors. Now it’s easier to roll up after flushing the black tank on a move day. I put the leftover hose in the truck just in case I end up needing to cut one longer.
Quick connects on the black flush a fresh water connections. Again to cut down on time to setup and tear down camp.
While in the basement of our fifth wheel, I took time to check the filter attached to the water pump. It’s the clear cap on the right side of the water pump. When they build RVs they route out plastic to connect pipes to the fresh water tank. Over time the plastic pieces will make it to the pump filter. Check yours at least once while you own the RV. I checked it a long time ago, found the plastic but nothing else this time.

See ya in sweet home Alabama. Can’t wait to visit Hank Williams in Montgomery. Also looking forward to the national civil rights memorial and much more.

Enjoying Fall Weather in Mississippi – Shiloh Battlefield and the City of Corinth

We are on the last legs of our 1500 mile fall trip which will end in St. Augustine Florida the third week of December. Karen and I are really looking forward to visiting our winter friends at Stagecoach RV Park in Florida. Maybe we will make it back to Texas for next winter.

Repairs have been completed to the rig with success and now we are parked for a full month! We have not stopped for more than two weeks since we left Florida in March of 2021. Hint – Mississippi in the fall and early winter is a wonderful place. Good people, reasonable prices and plenty to see.

We spent eight nights in Corinth Mississippi to tour the Civil War sites as well as to take a factory tour where our Vanleigh RV was built. We then moved 30 miles to the service center for suspension work located in Tishomingo which is in the extreme northeast corner of Mississippi. We are fans of the movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” where there is a scene describing how someone can get paid to “sing into a can”. That place being Tishomingo. But after research, I discovered the movie was mostly filmed around Jackson Mississippi. Darn, we wanted to see the film locations.

Our home over eight nights at the Cross City RV Park outside Corinth Mississippi. The owner, Jim, is a southern gentleman for sure. Read the park reviews for more information. Corinth used to be called Cross City because it was the cross roads of heavily used transportation hubs for railroads and the nearby Tennessee River. It would also become the focal point of the US Army during the Civil War in the west after the battle at Shiloh.

Tour of Shiloh Tennessee Battlefield and Corinth Mississippi

General Grant was a washout when he first joined the army prior to the Civil War. Folks thought he was a drunk. He left the army, failed in business, then came back as the Civil War began. He was born in Ohio and had married a Missouri girl who’s family owned slaves which was another reason he was not at first very popular. He had success as a general well north of the Corinth area and would become second in command of the army in the west. His troops moved over the Tennessee River to a place called Pittsburg Landing located near a church building called Shiloh (actually in Tennessee). He was to stay in place until another Union army joined up with him to attack the nearby Confederates in April of 1862. Unfortunately a subordinate defied orders and contacted the enemy prematurely, thereby starting the Battle of Shiloh (a.k.a. Pittsburg Landing.) Grant’s army was understrength and facing annihilation. Especially as he was up against the Souths then most capable general – Albert Sidney Johnston. The President of the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis, was a Mississippian who before hiring Robert E. Lee felt Johnston was their best chance at success.

Grant held out at Shiloh the first day using a series of retreating movements back to the shore at Pittsburg Landing. This battle is where his partnership with General Sherman would develop. The second Union army arrived overnight to join Grant’s. Confederate General Albert Johnston was wounded and died. He was the highest ranking officer to die during the entire war. Beauregard took over command of the Confederates and held up overnight, wanting to take Grant out the next morning. He met a now reinforced Union army and had to retreat about 20 miles south to Corinth. Grant was again not that popular with Union commanders, having nearly been defeated. But President Lincoln took notice, saying he liked the man because he would fight. It’s interesting to note Grant and James Garfield fought at Shiloh and would become US Presidents.

Visitors Center Shiloh Battlefield Tennessee
I asked a Ranger what was the most impressive artifact to him. He says a guy found this battle flag in his attic and was going to throw it out. He decided the museum might want it, having noticed the word Shiloh on the flag. It’s original.
Local citizens got together and rebuilt the church.
Always wondered if the canons were real. This one has rifling in the barrel.

Shortly after Shiloh, combined Union armies marched on Corinth Mississippi which held the only railroad that linked the west to the Atlantic Ocean within the Confederate states. Grant did not like taking and holding cities, believing it was better to draw the enemy army out and destroy it. If the enemy had no armies to fight, the war would end. Holding cities required too many troops.

The railroad – crossroads – are still here in Corinth. Watch out for the no trespassing signs.

As the Union army approached Corinth the confederate army was busy evacuating but had troops left in town and a battle at Corinth occurred. Grant would later have success at Vicksburg along the Mississippi. President Lincoln called him to Washington and gave him command of the entire Union army. General Sherman remained in the west where he became known for his march to the sea from Atlanta. Sherman was ruthless, believing war had to be as cruel as possible or it would go on forever. He convinced Grant they must destroy the resources used by the Confederacy. Sherman’s army then moved through Mississippi, as well as other places, destroying crops, transportation and buildings that might support the enemy army. Sherman’s troops would destroy the town of Quitman Mississippi where Karen and I are now parked. They burnt the hospital and a Methodist Church while in town which was typical and why Sherman is hated.

Located in Corinth is a very well done Interpretive Center holding a lot of details about events leading up to the Civil War, Hispanic involvement and more.

In its time, Shiloh was the largest battle fought in American history with casualties exceeding the combined totals of the American Revolution, War of 1812 and Mexican-American War. The battlefield is among the best preserved having been protected shortly after the war when troop movements were known by actual veterans involved in its establishment.

Governor Quitman of Mississippi wanted to succeed from the Union in the 1850’s. The state of Mississippi was not admitted back into the Union until about five years after the war and had been heavily occupied by northern armies until then. Outside the visitor’s center at Shiloh, in clear view, is a sign based on early 1900’s law warning of substantial punishment should anyone deface a monument. Just last year Mississippi changed it’s state flag to exclude Confederate markings. To mend ways, Mississippi built and maintains the Grant Presidential Library. We have lived in our RV for many weeks in Mississippi between 2020 and 2021 and rarely hear a citizen talk about the war. The grounds of the hospital burnt by Sherman’s army in Quitman is located in view of our campsite. Next to it are the graves of Confederate soldiers wounded at Shiloh and elsewhere, treated in that hospital curtesy of the State of Texas who built the hospital for its own wounded in this area.

Touring the war sites has been educational. Brushing up on the history of years prior to the war has added meaning to what I have seen here. Going back to study the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas Nebraska Act and stories of states being added to the the United States was important to understand. Seems businesses in the north were upset over unfair labor competition from the southern slave holding states. Seems as states came into the Union, for example after the Mexican-American War, and after the line had been drawn whereby states south of it could be slave states, played a role. Northerners for example wanted to gain an upper hand by changing the rules of the time as states came in, taking advantage of a building majority in Congress as each new state added congressman and senators who could vote.

Shiloh National Cemetery. I tried to find the history of Patrick Camberford, born in 1844, with little luck. He is buried in the Shiloh National Cemetery and died a couple days after the battle, maybe from wounds or illness. He joined the Union Army, 18th Missouri Regiment, organized in Laclede Missouri. He would have fought with Sherman’s group in the heated area of the battle known as the Hornets Nest. His unit was also called Morgan’s Rangers. I could not find him in the US Census but maybe his family is the Camberford’s of Platte City Missouri. A lady wrote a book about the 18th which served till the end of the war to include campaigns in the east. I might have to get a copy of that book.

Replaced Portions of our Suspension

While at the service center I had hoped to have the Roadmaster Comfort Ride System installed with slipper springs and shock absorbers. As I wrote in the last post, unfortunately they were not in stock. I got lucky. The supervisor at the repair center had a Morryde SRE 4000 equalizer system which he sold to me at about 1/3rd the original cost. We were even having trouble locating 3500 pound springs to replace the ones that went flat on our RV. Heavier springs could not be had or I might have just gone with 4000 pound springs and kept our original equalizers. We have towed the trailer just about 400 miles since the upgrades and can say for sure going over bridges are less bumpy. Karen thinks the overall ride is improved. I don’t have an opinion yet. I upgraded to heavy duty shackles and wet bolts. At the same time. The Morryde system came with a cross bar that extends between the two center hangers for stability and strengthening. Lippert had agreed to replace our old springs which the mechanic said were about ready to break. However Lippert wanted me to buy the springs first and pay for the labor to install. I was then to send the old springs in so they could test them and if they were found to be faulty, they would refund the expense. Tiffin (Vanleigh RV) really stepped up by taking springs off an axle at the factory and had them driven to the service center. They replaced the springs at no charge and said they would handle the warranty issue with Lippert. Thank you Shawn Cole of Tiffin for displaying the legendary service the company is known for!

Our new Morryde setup….

I also had the tires rotated based on wear which meant moving the fronts to the backs. I had been watching wear on the inside tread of two tires so moved them accordingly so the other two tires will now wear the same. I’ll keep watching for wear and other things to make sure we don’t have an axel alignment issue or hangers that were welded slightly out of place when the chasey was built. I’ll probably get new tires in the next year of travel as I don’t ever want a break down on the road. First time in 14,000 miles or three years rotating.. I assume having the tires balanced might be a way to check for unseen tread separation so might have that done later although during my research I really found no value in balancing trailer tires unless its convenient. Might be wrong about that one?

As we had new springs installed I had pre-ordered some parts that were waiting when we arrived, which is a key to getting out of the service center sooner than later. It’s hard to diagnose the problems and pre-order the parts because you might not really know the problems until the mechanic gets started. If you ever take your RV in for repair, keep up on the status of the parts order. Customer Service at Vanleigh says dealerships not following up on parts, or forgetting to order them, can still be an issue. I’m not sure if it is still the case, but a few years ago one thing Grand Design RV was doing better than everyone is stocking parts just for repairs so they ship them out ASAP. That’s very uncommon in the industry. Heard one or more of the guys who started Grand Design, then sold to Winnebago, has left and started Alliance RV. You may recall the same guys started Keystone then sold that to Thor whom I’m sure wanted the Montana among other trailer designs. As a side note, getting RV parts when needed is harder because of the pandemic and the fact most parts are being installed into new trailers as the factories are up and running now. That added to the issue in shipping ports is not good for those that need a tiny part. We had to replace the entire toilet a few months ago because of specific parts shortages and the only thing we could get right then was a completely new toilet.

I’d read to always replace the U-bolts should they ever be removed, so that was done although the service center supervisor said that’s not necessary unless the old ones look warn. I had some extra heavy duty shackles as I had pre-ordered those but our MoRryde system already had some. So I gave the extras to a fellow RVer who among other things was at the service center to replace the shorter 2″ shackles with 3 1/8″ long per a recall. I did not have he heart to tell him to watch for the tires rubbing under the camper as he would loosing clearance height. The MoRryde SRE 4000 uses the shorter shackles and combined with our new springs we have much better clearance under the tires and the camper is towing more level when hitched to the truck, although it was only an inch high on the front before. I don’t think running nose high caused any of the springs to flatten, especially on the rear axle, in our case but that’s something to worry about if your trailer does not tow level. I did not have to adjust my hitch height as a result of the increased clearance. By the way, according to Vanleigh the minimum height between a tire and the bottom of the rig should be three inches or more. We were closer to two inches before the fixes.

Also had the breaks checked and bearings repacked, all looked good although I had one drum replaced which was temporarily fixed in Michigan when we had a delaying brake problem. I’ve considering having discs brakes installed but our truck/trailer combination is doing a good job stopping the rig with electric brakes. Sometimes, depending on road condition and temperatures, when we first get starting driving I’ll set the truck brake gain up one setting until they heat up and then drop the gain down. Generally they say to repack bearings between 11 and 13,000 miles with a majority of my resources telling me closer to 13,000. I suggest to inspect this all annually or at least raise the camper off the ground annually and try to spin the tires with the brakes on to make sure each is grabbing and that the bearings are properly secured. Do this also if you think the brakes are not stopping as well as they should. Raising the trailer off the ground, pull the emergency brake-away cable and try to spin each tire. Don’t forget to reset the brake-away cable….

We are currently in Quitman Mississippi at a wonderful wooded site on full hookups and pavement until Dec. 7th.

Mansfield Missouri Through the Ozarks to Corinth Mississippi

Image from RV Trip Wizard which is what I use for route planning. Mansfield Missouri is located 45 minutes east of Springfield, Missouri

We pointed our 35 foot escape pod eastbound on US 60 Highway heading for our next major stop in Corinth Mississippi. Along the way we stopped for a few nights at the Laura Ingalls RV Park in Mansfield Missouri. We have been here before and if you are in the area take any of the exits to the campsite that point you down business route 60 over to A Highway. Turns in Mansfield are easy to navigate. The Laura Ingalls Wilder (the Little House on the Prairie book author) homestead and museum is across the street from the RV park. Karen discovered a wonderful place nearby called the Baker Seed Company. Wow, no idea how we missed this place the last time we stopped in the area. It was a nice change compared to the average garden tour.

It’s a small example for sure, but this was another “why we do this” moment. Chickens at Laura Ingalls place that eat out of your hand if you let them. Bet Laura never had the faintest idea others would be living on her farm. Heck, she never drove the car her daughter gave her which is still in the barn today.
Laura Ingalls Wilder museum in view across street from our campsite.

The Baker Seed Company is located out in the country but there is a paved road if you come in from the right direction. The location rests upon a very old Missouri land grant where the company grew to ship hard to get seeds all around the country. The main garden is surrounded by an old town they built.

Sent some seeds to Karen’s sister up north. I don’t miss the work required to keep our own gardens in shape when we owned a house. I do miss our honey bee hives.

A favorite route of ours through the Missouri Ozarks is US 60 to Interstate 55 at Sikeston Missouri. This time we stayed at a quick in and out camping spot in Sikeston called Hinton RV Park. We stayed just two nights, which is a very quick stop for us, and booked the spot just two weeks prior to arrival. On the way south we would drive through the boot hill of Missouri. Had no idea there were cotton farms in Missouri which are seen for miles. I suppose the other times I went through the plants were not in bloom so I did not notice them. Found myself watching video on how cotton is farmed today and history behind it. Call me nuts but I’m fascinated over how farm equipment operates. Later, in Corinth Mississippi I learned more to include economic issues between the south and north regarding far competition. More on that later after we move from Corinth…

I’ve been studying up on the Missouri Ozarks where my family would eventually migrate to from Europe in the 1800’s. Found a college course on-line with about 13 lectures. The professor is interesting and I’m coming away with the opinion I did not know squat about the Ozarks. Karen and I talked and agree who cares that we have only been camping in 22 states. We want to go where we like to visit, knowing yes, we might miss out on equally fantastic places elsewhere. I can read about those in other’s blogs if we don’t get there ourselves. Right or wrong, I’m figuring the scenery in Maine is not that much different than the upper peninsula of Michigan. Some say I’m correct and others say Maine is worth the drive someday. We are planning to head north from Florida up the east coast and take a left at Washington DC for our Spring 2022 trip.

Back to the Ozarks. They are a region that is defined in different ways. Geologist can circle the area of the Ozarks on a map based on their criteria. Some locals might tell ya they don’t live in the Ozarks even if they live in the area geologist call the Ozarks. The Ozark region extends into Oklahoma as well. The Ozark region is a plateau, uplifted from underground similar to places in Kentucky. Springfield Missouri is on top of one of the plateaus and over time water and wind eroded the flat land mass into valleys. In much of the Ozarks those big hills we see are actually what’s left after the erosion occurred. So should the Ozark “Mountains” actually be called the Ozark Valleys? Branson Missouri elevation 774 feet, hillbilly capital of the world (in a Missourian’s opinion) is downhill from flat land Springfield, elevation 1309 feet. Lots of Protestants’ settled in the Ozarks and there might be some that think you ain’t from the Ozarks if you ain’t Protestant. The professor named off towns clearly in the eastern portion of the Ozarks, in once Catholic settlements, where he went as far as to interview locals as to if they lived in the Ozarks. He was told, nope, you have to drive 60 miles down the road to get there from here. You see, another definition of what is the Ozarks comes from the peoples opinions developed over generations and don’t necessarily have to do with geological standards.

There are two mountain chains in the Ozarks, one has eroded down into hills but is way older than the Rocky Mountains. I’ve experienced more mountain driving conditions in northern Arkansas so beware if your path takes you there. Recent upgrades along what will become major Interstate 49 are helping with navigation. US 65 passes through Branson and is no problem as you leave the “mountains” which start in Clinton Arkansas. Early next summer Karen and I will arrive back in the Ozarks where we intend to spend maybe a few months near Table Rock Lake (Branson). That summer time period for us is looking to be important as we continue to evolve into our style of travel. We have never stopped longer than two months and that was only during one winter occasion.

I’ll write later about our time here in Corinth Mississippi where we are now parked. This is an area heavily contested during the Civil War in the west. We have plans to tour places that were closed the last time we came through during the Covid virus thing. We really enjoy Mississippi in the fall and early winter. Good prices, people and places to see. We can take a left from here and head to Florida or a right back to our current home state of Texas.

Almost forgot: Here are a couple videos during our drive in Missouri to include leading up to the Baker Seed Company and eastbound on US 60 Highway through the Big Springs area where folks canoe the rivers.

RV Tips, Info and Rant

I’ll start with something simple. This is a chart I got from a recent RV Travel addition. If you want a one stop place for all RV news and info, just read rvtravel.com. Taken at face value it would appear RV sales are increasing rather than decreasing after the pandemic generated free for all where everyone bought RVs and got in our way 🙂 I phoned a big dealership I know in Oklahoma who says what’s actually going on is dealerships are replenishing depleted stocks after the factories finally started to open.
Never knew some states are closing toll booths. Wondered what that sign on a toll road in Kentucky meant when it said we could pay online. Then I got a bill in the mail to include a late fee. We only get our mail about once a month. Then in the Interstate 80 area south of Chicago I was thankful the toll booths were gone because it can be confusing to make sure you are in the correct lane for cash payments. Then noticed a sign again that we could pay online. They have cameras that read license plates. I setup an account in Illinois attached to a credit card. They deducted the $4 toll about a month later.
I’ve mentioned in the past we are now setup to stay a full two weeks or longer n state parks and Corp of Engineer parks in electric only sites – and not have to move our rig when the tanks are full or water is empty. This is how I use our 30 gallon water bladder and below pictured electric pump to refill the fresh water. Our blue boy portable waste tank fits in the bed of the truck, tucked behind the hitch for traveling rather than attached to the rear ladder sucking in wind as we drive. Really glad I got the model with nomadic rubber tires. If the dump station is within say 100 yards, I can wheel our portable tank there, otherwise even at 10 miles per hour the tank is no problem being attached to the hitch behind the truck for the journey. Turd Wagon some call it – that’s funny.
Hose from full water bladder in truck that folds up to about a 10″ x 10″ square when not in use. Hose runs to a small $25 electric pump then up to the fresh water intact. Our rigs takes on water that is under pressure, some use gravity to feed in. I’d think a pump is best for both methods.

And now the rant and me trying to be humorous about it. Warning – some say my sense of humor is different and on the edge of acceptability. I usually go back and remove much of the text after thinking it over before posting. Not this time.. Put your seatbelt on and enjoy the ride….

Hopefully I’m halfway through getting a needed suspension repair finished on the RV while on the road. The process is a learning curve for sure. It’s actually a big shit sandwich and all that travel fulltime will have to take a bite someday. I’ll write about the surely positive outcome later. For now I want to pass along good help can be found in RV industry employees who work for actual RV manufactures and handle parts. They are logistic experts and often capable of thinking outside the box. They can be excellent problem solvers.

I used to train new police officers. For example, they would stop a car for a minor traffic violation, hand the ticket to the driver and say – “thank you, have a pleasant day.” I’d let the new officer know they are still an idiot but that’s okay, I’ll teach them. That person they just stopped may have just had the only face to face experience with a police officer they will ever have. The officer will forget about the traffic stop in the next couple hours. The driver will remember it the remainder of their life. “Thank you -have a pleasant day?” Are you really thankful and do you really think they will have a pleasant day? How about just leave it at drive safely and you are free to go. The Police Academy teaches them what to say at the end of a vehicle stop. Some of the training just does not show up in the application of said training.

Okay customer service representatives. It’s your turn to learn. Someday I got to let it go and just let them stay stupid… There are plenty of folks traveling in their 35 foot or whatever escape pods. The folks working in customer service, especially as it effects RVing, have a very important job. You are helping us to experience the joys of life, sometimes after we had difficult careers. What you do, especially when you get a call from someone stranded or away from home with a broken RV is very essential. Yes, you might be telling me there is nothing you or your company can do that is within your normal business practices. I understand and think that’s a canned answer and stupid. But after you say you can’t help me – stop ending the conversation with “thank you, call me if I can do anything for you.” When I want some stress relief I sometimes say – what, now I have to tell you how to do your job? You are asking me to call you if I need anything. Okay, I’ll tell you now what I need which is exactly the same reason I called you for in the first place. Over the last 15 seconds do you have any new ideas, such as who I might be able to call for guidance or if I even understand the process enough to be calling the correct person? Or have a word of advice concerning how the system works from warranty to the repair?

I was a hostage negotiator and spent years working homicides and interviewing killers. I know how to build report and be a friend, I have listening skills, ability to manipulate people, work in dangerous and stressful situations, get a point across to someone for good or bad, or channel stress into whatever path it needs to go down. I’m proud to say no one ever killed themselves with me on the phone nor was there a single incident where a subject was killed by the police when I was at the stand-off. I don’t use the skills everyday now, but at times its been interesting to go after an idiot who thought at first I was a nice guy. I do have compassion but I’m no bleeding heart or one to not try and understand the root causes before criticizing someone. Sometimes, but I believe rarely, I forget about using methods for constructive criticism. Some call this just blowing off steam which can be a healthy thing at times. Others might say, calm down, give the customer service person a break, times are hard. Hmmm,, that’s another two page blog I’d like to go off about but best not. Especially after one does a background check (using only publicly available resources) on the person telling you to calm down and find out they, for lack of a better description, live in their parents basement with little responsibility.

One agent at E Trailer went the extra mile and called Roadmaster to make sure my order was received and to pressure them to speed up the parts delivery if at all possible after it was learned the parts were out of stock at the moment. I had a great conversation with that agent to include how it’s been for her to work from home during the virus thing. Too bad four weeks later I found out the order had been mistakenly canceled. Part of that error came from me being informed the parts were delayed the day after the original order was placed and asked did I want to continue with the order. I had ordered the parts for delivery to the repair center way in advance of my arrival, allowing more than twice the time needed for advertised deliver dates. I initially told customer service at E Trailer to put it on hold until I talk to my installer. Then called back an hour later and said keep the parts coming. My credit card was charged $1,700 at the time of the order so I felt comfortable all was well. Three weeks later I had received no promised email notice regarding shipping. So I called a customer service agent to check on the order. “Sorry” they said, “glad ya called so we can refund the money” or do I want to reorder and get added on the list to receive the parts in maybe four to six weeks. For the record, this is the first time I ever had a complaint with E Trailer.

I believe what happened is there was a lag in the paperwork (email) process and somehow after I took the order off hold the folks at Roadmaster received a notice to cancel it. The final agent I talked with at E Trailer told me how the process works to include I pay E Trailer and they take their cut before sending the order on to Roadmaster. This occurs when parts are not in the warehouse. I checked the E Trailer website and found my parts, which had been advertised as delivery within 10 days, now have a deliver date weeks from now. Long story but I think the background is important and honest. The final agent made the mistake of asking me to call him if he could do anything for me 🙂 He also asked me to call him after I called Roadmaster to try and work this out. Nope, I don’t have time to train you any further…. I know your asshole was sucking up the chair you were sitting in when I hung up the phone. I’d think you would not want to ever hear from a jerk like me unless you are into those kind of things…. That’s it, the guy is a sick person and went out of his way to make me upset 🙂

Right or wrong I am of the opinion I owe it to readers to point out some of the bad parts of this journey in case you are relying on me for information. I’m actually dealing with the stress of it better than I would have years ago, especially after getting a call from the Technical Support Manager at Vanleigh who says I’ll not be left behind on my own, he will help me through the process. Thank you Shawn Cole, your reputation proceeds you. You sir have earned every one of the dozens of complements I’ve heard about. You are the face of Tiffon’s model to be the best in customer service. No excuses, lets get this fixed. I like hearing that. Smart move when the company decided your position was important and hired you! Glad you were in the military and don’t know how to fail.

The parts employees at Lippert and Vanleigh have been outstanding. But – looking back in my old working life, I wish I would have known a few others I may have stopped as a police officer were RV industry employees. I would have made sure to tell them to press hard when signing the ticket as there are multiple copies. And end the conversation with “it’s okay if you don’t come to court I’ll come give ya a ride with handcuffs.” Have a nice day. Or, so that’s your dead relative laying in the next room. Wow, they were young. Should have taken better care of themselves. Call me if I can ever do anything for ya.

I know my sense of humor is different. And of course knew it was my job to act professionally. It was also my job to do whatever I could to improve the quality of life for those I served. I trained new officers who, among other calls for service, hated responding to barking dog calls in the middle of the night. That dog barking is causing the neighbor to loose sleep at night. That neighbor might have a meeting at work and getting sleep is very important. The caller may have also tried to talk to the neighbor but that did not work out, as the dog owner is a drunken asshole. I tell officers, when you talk to the owner of the barking dog, be prepared to offer advise that could include dog training ideas or moving the dog inside for the night.

Then I’d tell the officer a few cop jokes about barking dogs to lighten the moment. I’ll not be passing along those jokes to the general public. Darn it, I can’t hold back. I have to tell them, I liked animal calls for service. I can handle any of them in 10 minutes as long as I don’t have to find a black trash bag first. Come on, you know I love animals if you have been reading this blog so give me a break if that last joke was in poor taste.

The best cop joke I know would make a priest throw up or at least throw holy water on me. It’s a sick one and even I will not put it in print. Tell ya at a campfire someday.. Best excuses I ever heard after personally stopping someone for a traffic violation is tied for first place. Sir – I stopped you because you were going the wrong way on a one way street. The older gentleman says, but officer I’m only going one way. Or mam, I stopped you because you were exceeding the posted spend limit of 55 miles per hour. But officer, I had to get a grasshopper off the hood of my car.

Enjoy the ride we call a journey… I’m trying too.

Journey Through South Central Louisiana to Natchez Mississippi

The above might be a confusing map of our most recent trip. Having to navigate through south central Louisiana and Mississippi on the way to our ultimate destination at Gulf Shores Alabama was both challenging and rewarding.

We have driven on the preferred I-10 route in the past, from west of Houston to New Orleans. We opted for a change of scenery and chance for new discoveries by taking inland routes. There were but a few decent highways I could locate that would take us through the interior from the west to the east in this part of the country. Our trailer is 13′ tall at its tallest point, the front air conditioner, when hooked up to the truck for towing. The yellow X marked on the above map is a low bridge which caused us to reroute to the north. Thankfully both our RV GPS and RV Trip Wizard have user preference settings where you can input, among other things, the height of your rig. Both detected the low bridge over the Sabine River in Louisiana while I was planning the route. We also have a paper Rand McNalley Motor Carriers (trucker’s) Atlas that I’ll refer to at times for route ideas. The highway with the low bridge was actually shown as a truck route in the atlas. Even though semi trucks are at the maximum allowable height of 13’6″ when the bridge clearance in question was closer to 12′ tall. One feature I do like about the atlas is a section that lists all the low highway bridges by state. One can also get in a jam during the drive through Mobile Alabama because of a low tunnel clearance (which we avoided). More on that in my next blog post.

Alexandria Louisiana

The first leg of the trip was from Livingston Texas (just north of Houston) eastbound to Alexandria Louisiana. We truly enjoyed the peaceful drive through the wooded countryside. Portions of the drive was on Louisiana scenic byways to include the El Camino Real (King’s Highway) which connected the original colonies to old Mexico and the west .

Last year we spent time in southern Louisiana where a local suggested we take a trip further north where old settlements were located. At Alexandria we had a hard time finding a camping spot because of the damage in the south from multiple hurricanes. Campsites were full of insurance adjusters and workers. As we drove into Alexandria we discovered cotton plantations for the first time. Unfortunately the virus thing has somewhat restricted tours of these still active older plantations. It was interesting to see cotton in fields and bailed along the roadways. Alexandria was a quick stop. We ended up staying at River Cities RV Park just off Interstate 49. Scheduling a stop at this park can be totally without contact with management. Book and pay online, get a gate code, pull in and sleep. We were in site 17 closer to the front and nearer to the highway. Road noise was not an issue however.

Clipped photo from campground web page. River Cities RV Park has the most unique business model. These parks need to show up all over the country. Designed for ease of short stays with minimal amenities on a clean concrete spot. They actually had grass between the spots rather than weeds.

I say it’s about time an RV park is designed to the smallest detail for Rver’s for the intended purpose, if that be a wonderful stay in nature or finding a place to simply sleep for the night. Small details like marking a park map with directions which way to pull into the spot to connect to utilities. Wide roads that are not one-way. Central location for laundry and restroom. When you pull out to leave the next morning you find signage pointing towards the exit where someone actually considered the best way to go without hitting anything on a curve. I called the owner to complement their park design.

If you are interested in Civil War history then Alexandria has much to offer. We spent part of a day at pet friendly Fort Randolph. This area was part of the fascinating Red River Campaign in 1864 fought to control the waterways. The fort is an earthworks post rather than one built of wood or brick. Constructed to house guns to shot down at Union ships making their way along the river. There is a wonderful museum to tour and a walk out to the fort through the woods. Unfortunately hurricanes had damaged the area but strangely the damage was interesting to witness. Talk about a small world. I spent some time talking to the Ranger at the front desk who was a published historian and civil war reenactor. I mentioned Missouri lost a great historian and friend of my family by the first name of Jay to which the Ranger asked if that was Jay Jackson (click on his name). We thought back about Jay’s uniqueness to include being the go to man nationally for correct civil war era uniforms.

Painting found inside Fort Randolph museum with fort along the river.
Storm damaged boardwalk that extend above the forts earthworks. If would have been nice to stare down at the fort rather than walking through the dirt trenches.

Natchez Mississippi

Fortunately we can all tour historic Natchez Mississippi in its originally beauty. Unlike Alexandrea Louisiana, Natchez was not burnt to the ground during the Civil War, presumably as Union troops had occupied it through the end of the war. Natchez was our destination for the Thanksgiving holiday where we spent a week along the Mississippi River camped at River View RV Park (located across the bridge on the Louisiana side).

A few facts I can recall is that Natchez was named after the Indians that occupied the area. Founded in 1716, it is the oldest permanent settlement on the Mississippi River. At one time Natchez, on a per-capita basis, was home to the most millionaires in the country prior the Civil War. It is the starting point to the Natchez Trace trail that runs over 400 miles north to Nashville Tennessee. It was the first capital of the Mississippi territory before the capital was eventually moved to Jackson Mississippi. Surviving antebellum homes are plentiful. Natchez is a must stop for anyone traveling near the area. The town of 15,000 welcomes an estimated 700,000 visitors a year.

You know a city had money when they could line the ditches with brick… Or was it they had cheap labor in the form of slavery?

There is a lot to do in Natchez which I’ll not attempt to describe. For us, we wanted a spot to stay over the holiday where we knew there was plenty to do outside for a week. You all know Karen and I are not much for visiting big cities as we have been there – done that – in our younger days. Once the virus thing clears out, and the dog is old enough to stay at home for longer periods, we will be more likely to see the indoor sites.

Yet another wonderful cemetery to tour… “Established in 1822 on a 10 acres tract, the Natchez City Cemetery is notable for its variety of 19th century iron and marble work.” We also found the planted landscaping to be wonderful.

Here is an interesting one. A child’s grave where the mother had glass put over the coffin at the bottom of the stairs. Later, a concrete cover was added.
And this one where the deceased asked to be buried in his rocking chair, hence the pyramid design of the tomb.

The city cemetery was big, but perhaps not as large as another down the street about a quarter mile north. In this case the cemetery was not marked, there are no tombstones and no directions to be found online or elsewhere. After a bit of detective work, such as watching video of news reports and checking topographic images of the area, compared against description of the “concentration camp” I believe I located The Devils Punchbowl (click for video).

I had done quit a bit of reading regarding General Grant’s army in the area. In his own words, Washington DC had not established a plan for ex-slaves coming into Union army encampments. And apparently there was no plan to handle the mass of freed slaves that followed at the end of the war. I might also note that Mississippi did not come back into the Union until 1870, which is after the war ended in 1864. During this period of “reconstruction” the south was occupied by Union armies. You may not know the occupation was ended in 1877 after the “election” of President Hayes. The election became known as the Compromise of 1877. If you think this past election was controversial you may be shocked to read about Hayes’. Basically the democratic party conceded the election to the republicans if they promised to remove troops from the south. Hayes was awarded the election and the troops were removed.

Not all Union solders were happy to have been involved in a war where most thought they were fighting to free slaves. Many were fighting to preserve a Union or were drafted into the army. Thousands of freed slaves descended into Natchez where the town of 10,000 grew to over 100,000 nearly overnight. Union solders rounded up ex-slaves and placed them in concentration camps. One camp was located between cliffs along the Mississippi river where pirates and others had once hang out. Legend has it that 20,000 of these freed slaves died in the Punchbowl. The Union army gave survivors shovels and they buried their dead in place. You will not find the Devil’s Punchbowl on any list of top things to do in the area. I wanted to find it so I could stand at the edge of the cliffs and have a silent moment to think about the terrible loss of life during a terrible time in our country’s history.

This is the general area of the Devil’s Punchbowl. Drive north from the city cemetery on Cemetery Road to the first bluff on the left. I found a cross street with parking at Old Smith Road. Be careful if you walk over to the bluff where I found footprints on the short hill. It is a sheer drop off to the bottom.
Looking down into the Punchbowl all you see are tree tops.
This is private property so I only looked across from the cliff. You can see the Mississippi River faintly in the distance.

It’s important to point out the terrible parts of our country’s history. But I’ll move on from here to the RV park festivities for Thanksgiving. Management figured out how we could all get together safely. You signed up and brought a dish. Management provided the meat and drinks. All the food was kept on tables inside a large room while we ate as family groups spread out at tables outside. Management served the food while wearing gloves and masks and restricting access to the food line at the entrance door.

Views of boats heading down the Mississippi. The campground is right on the river where a very long paved walking can be used. Sorry I did not take many photos of the area to include the views of lights at night in town or on the bridge. If we are ever in the area again I could see staying for a month as there is much to do in town and nearby.

We are currently at Island Retreat RV Park in Gulf Shores. I’ll update you later regarding the remainder of the trip here through Hattiesburg MS and Mobile Alabama. We are in Gulf Shores for two months which will be or longest stay since hitting the road in August of 2019.

Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. – Mark

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.

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.