With full preparation and thorough testing of all systems after summer storage in back yard, we are now to the stage of countdown hours leaving home after loading Thunder Pig for another trip across the USA. With various clothing to cover ‘climate change’ as we travel, our happy motor coach left Albuquerque New Mexico on the first day of October 2015.
Filled with high expectations for an enjoyable vacation tour returning toward the southeastern USA. Fall is usually met with excitement for the opposite direction, the coastal northwest. This year, with numerous fires clouding the air along the way, we returned to the Southeast.
Georgia is again in the plan with Chattanooga Tennessee as base for our first explorations. I-40 to Amarillo, 300 miles east of Albuquerque New Mexico, at an easy 70 miles per hour, and our usual ‘driving on the top half’, 1/2 tank of fuel, + 1/2 qt of Marvel Mystery Oil, added at Amarillo Sam’s Club. Thunder Pig is often able to travel over 600 miles on one 75 gal tank of fuel with Honda in tow at 70 mph.. if conditions are right.
Amarillo has a Cracker Barrel Restaurant similar to others that allow overnight ‘camp’ for RVs. A nice long space with grass and Oak trees outside our door, provides the quiet evening ambiance with a couple of other RVs in back of the restaurant. Evening meals are light, to ensure an easy sleep. Mine was Cracker Barrel ‘Beans and Greens’ with a a few hot cups of decaff coffee.
Morning stroll out of our door and into the Cracker Barrel, thanking them for being our host, we enjoyed a real breakfast of Sunrise Sampler and various additional items to cover our table. Lots of coffee to keep things washing down. We love Cracker Barrel.
Back onto the I-40 east out of Amarillo Texas at 70 mph in light traffic, moves us another 300 miles eastward in speedy fashion with no stops. Another fuel top off, of 1/2 tank and Marvel Mystery Oil settles us for another night at Walmart ‘camp’ Oklahoma and Oklahoma City Valero before rolling again. I enjoy an evening patrol of Walmart real estate before crawling into bed to watch local TV and sit at the laptop to check emails. Walmart, as does Sam’s Club, has WIFI that is often easy to use while in lot ‘camp’ overnight.
10-2-2015 spent the night in Eufala State Park Oklahoma. Very nice state park with utilities for $24. Oct 3rd left at 11:30 am. Top off fuel Russelville Arkansas Walmart $1.95 gal and covernight ‘camp’.
Oct 4th, rural area near Russelville, checked out a navigator family cemetery from the 19th century.. Story told by a resident of many long years, is that the family patriarch built his own above ground crypt and died during the final stage, falling to the ground dead. They buried him in it, but the top fell in soon after, requiring a bit of rebuilding. Took a few pictures of the old family crypt as well as several other family grave plots in their own cemetery from the 1800’s..
Oct 5th stopped in the ‘Pyramid’ Bass Pro Shop, after crossing the bridge into Memphis Tennessee. The huge pyramid, formerly a grandiose city owned structure on the river front, was still in the process of being re-purposed by Bass last trip. Finished now, it is a site to see. The interior, with a Cypress swamp decor, has a glass elevator that soars to the peak. Rooms are available for guests overnight.
Leaving the Bass Pyramid, we stopped to view a helicopter overturned in the street, still attached to it’s transport trailer. The driver was on his phone, visibly shaken from his experience. Visited a warehouse of Victorian salvage items for restoration materials. Heading back to coach, we noted a stainless steel fifth wheel tanker from the sugar plant, laying nose down in the bushes on the street, due to the tractor latch coming undone. Interesting day in Memphis. Costco fuel at $1.89. Walmart Oakland Tennessee hwy 64 overnight.
Oct 6th left Oakland Tennessee for Chattanooga.
One fact navigator noted by traveling and watching nightly ‘news’, ‘Every’ US city has the exact same problems with society’s deviants, ‘career repeat offenders’ spoiling the peace and tranquility for the law abiding majority. Psychotic behavior seems to be tolerated and subsidized until it results in the death of a government official. The arresting officers.
Then, true to the political agenda, the crime is politically blamed on the tool [gun] used.. Don’t think your town is bad, just because of ‘perpetual repeat offenders’ causing the overwhelming majority of problems. Every US town has it’s share. The entire USA legal system, with the USA’s obsession with chemically enhanced, perpetually subsidized dependency, is obviously at fault.
‘Camping’ in Walmart lots are frequent along our trips, with only small stops for food, often delis along the major highways, routes that we seldom travel. ‘Motor on’ is the logic when on these large interstates from point A to B..
We approach the heavy traffic of the cities of the busy southeastern states [including all large cities] with clenched grip of the steering wheel, the transmission out of overdrive, in lower gear with higher engine revs at max horsepower @ 3,200 RPM to facilitate rapid [for Thunder Pig] maneuvering. Now the games begin. Jockeying for position as we search for the desired exits and lane changes while on approach to a busy commercial city.
Winding up with big highway trucks and speeding cars, through low mountain passes, tunnels, up grades, down grades, around rivers, over bridges, taking sweeping overpasses in lane changes at the orders from navigator with her GPS. She is the controller of Thunder Pig, just as the bombardier controls the bombing run of a WWII B-29. I only adjust the steering maneuvers, the gear choices, speeds, braking and power to meet her instantaneous commands.
We bypass ‘Lookout Mountain’ enveloped in clouds high above Chattanooga, the Tramway and the several other tourist points noted on big signs along the highway. They are most likely fun for many people. Tunnels are approached with attention to the clearances posted. We have driven through a few very interesting battlefield historic sites of the south, during past trips. There are countless detailed. Chattanooga was pivotal during the conflict. The ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ hotel is fun to visit, with overnights in the classic Pullman cars available as well as restaurants. Talented Dorothy Dandrige comes to mind whenever I think of that memorable song.
After a 5 day week ‘camp’ at the Holliday RV Park east of Chattanooga and prowling around the Chattanooga area with a brief foray into Ringold Georgia for Navigators antique interests.
Oct 11th Sunday morning top off with low priced fuel Costco $1.79. Robbins Georgia Walmart very quiet night camp in lot. After breakfast Oct 12th, we rolled south, continuing through Georgia toward Florida. Noted Fuel @ $1.99 as approaching Florida. Tonight, after a short bit of intense traffic, we are in a tree covered Sam’s Club overnight in Tallassee Florida. Fuel @ $2.11.
Plan is to prowl a few thrift stores in Florida. Old folks, which Fla has countless retirees, apparently die and donate all of their worldly goods to charity.
The Floridians in the prosperous past, have left very nice ‘stuff’, as no one in their own families desires it. One person’s trash is another person’s treasures. Great ‘pickens’ were previously found at charity thrifts in Florida. Lots of computers, so many, that several big charity stores in prosperous cities have large computer centers. Vehicles are donated in large numbers. So many vehicles, that they have Goodwill car lots.
Quality wall pictures are numerous for some reason only the donors know. Maybe the younger people today have far different tastes in art work?
One additional note from the tour. Traffic Interstate 75 through Atlanta was atrocious, with 14 lanes of traffic, all competing at high speed for position, exits and on ramps.
One very close trip ending call, as a suicidal? confused car driver stopped in the middle,, unsure, possibly checking their GPS or handheld device, of which way to go at a big high speed Y.
All southbound lanes of traffic at 70 mph downhill and in a blind curve, became all red brake lights, swerving and lane changing within seconds. We fortunately had a brief clearing on the right lane to ‘sidewinder snake swerve’ the long rig around the inevitable mass collision. I swore loudly. Of course prayer each morning, was the savior of the moment.
Navigator immediately found an alternate older highway that we drove peacefully from then on. County and state highways at 55 mph, with no shear terror involved, are easier on the nervous system. Tallahassee, at least where we travel, is not quite as bad as Atlanta. Sam’s Club is very quiet for a night back in the trees.
Still more than a few impaired drivers with their ever present handhelds……. for them to stare at…. while texting. After breaking ‘camp’ at Sam’s, We motored west along the coast. Crossed causeway bridge and topped in at St George Island for fish [rectangles] and chips and a night at the mosquito capitol state park. Butterflies were migrating.
Beautiful beach, but RV sites were in trees with swarms of mosquitoes.
Oct 14th evening after more coastal travel, stopped for the night at Topsail Hill, an expensive State Park. Not as bad as the other state park with the wildly swarming mosquitoes, overflow parking, miles from the office. Oct 15, Morning we drove west along the coastal highway for miles, before realizing hours had passed and we had only gone 40 miles.
Stoplights every mile or two were the problem. Coastal areas are being developed to such extent, that it is getting more difficult to enjoy views of the ocean. Modern high density population, high rise buildings are steadily filling in the open spaces, replacing the quaint little shoreline bungalows of the romantic past. Navigator wisely had turned us inland and away from the stop and go traffic loaded coast.
After pleasant driving at 70 mph speeds on a real highway, away from the popular coastal towns near large military installations, we camped in Walmart Hattiesburg Alabama, where we left Oct 16th.
After leaving the heavily populated coastal areas and venturing into Mississippi, Oct 16th we camped for two nights in a place that has treated us well in the past, very pleasant, reasonably priced Ross-Barnet Timberlake State Park, on the big flood control reservoir of the Pearl River near Jackson Mississippi.
Weather is beautiful ……and few to no ‘biting’ mosquitoes. Hit a few nearby thrift and consignment stores today. Perfect ambiance for relaxing in this popular RV park with the big water channel 40 yards behind the coach. Could have parked facing the water, but wifi was good this way.
Last time we were camped here, the water was very high, a big, triple deck party boat, colorfully lighted with music and party goers, cruised past. Big trees and a carpet of grass, pine needles and cones with falling leaves stretch between the sites. Turtles bask on shore… until you approach for pictures. Lots of squirrels. Lots of big Canadian geese flying and roaming. Spring has the dozens of baby geese following the adults all over the park.
Big nice park with many yearly, monthly, weekly rentals. Boat launch, swimming pool and basketball court, tennis courts, guest facilities for laundry. The lake front best sites are always filled. Many sites look like they are more permanent with patios and colorful lights set up for leisure living. Lots of pontoon deck boats parked in the shore lot. A large marina is across the lake.
One big fifth wheel RV was for sale including the reserved site. Lady in office says when residents die, the most desirable sites change owners fast. There is a list. No mention of their state of health :>) A drought and low reservoir is in effect this time. Last trips were very high water, with flooding of low areas on into Pearl Miss.
Oct 18th Sunday left Timberlake @ 12 noon, to Kroger for fuel and lunch deli. The historic Natchez Trace passes by on the other side of the reservoir. We will soon resume our roam westward, the mellow driving Trace on into Natchez, after we leave here. Read about ‘The Barber of Natchez’ if you think all slave owners were ‘racists’.
Historic Natchez Trace is scenic, laid back, over, 400 miles long to Nashville Tennessee. It began as a migratory game trail used by native Americans, then river drift boat operators plied it’s path to return upriver… before steam boats rendered it obsolete.
The path of mystery, opportunistic ‘ner do wells’ and disappearance for many, it was viewed as a bit dangerous by travelers. Even those that used it’s many Inns for comfortable overnight ambiance, were not ensured survival. Mrs Grinder and her husband, Inn operators, were involved in many mysteries of the years around 1809. Meriwether Lewis of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition found out.
The Natchez Trace has been restored for modern travel at 50 mph, no stops for the entire length. Many tourist attractions, old mansions, Indian burial mounds and visitor centers with historical information. There are cutoffs to towns all along the highway through the trees and farmland. Many exits allowing you to get off and back on whenever you desire.
Oct 18th Night spent at Walmart Winnfield Louisiana, heading for Nacogdoches Texas fuel at $1.97, before night at Crockett Texas Walmart. Left Crockett at 10:20 Am Oct 20th.. Madison Texas, propane was $3.00 a gal. Highest paid.
Finally got the cab AC to blow air. No idea why, it just started after a bump, on it’s own, with low fan speeds. Cautiously keeping it there. Found the resistor block ocated on the outside evaporator box under the hood. Resistor block only operates the lower speeds of the blower. Still need to find the hidden relay and fuse for the blower, in event total failure occurs again.
Most of the time has been spent over these last days, where no wifi exists overnight. As usual we spent some time in Walmart parking lots overnight, vague areas with little scenic wonder. Louisiana, known for historic political corruption, is not prosperous, with many little towns barely surviving. Few to no grocery stores, several with bare necessities and dimly lit. Louisiana is a nightmare of rough pavement, and for those of GPS faith, with paved highways suddenly becoming miles of rutted, narrow dirt logging roads through forests of tall pines.
Exciting for the coach and tow rig to navigate….. with no way to turn around. Met future Lavender growers along the desolate road and viewed their large unfinished barn while being told the many commercial uses for Lavender. Road less traveled. Nice people at Lavenderlouisiana.com future website, they informed us to have faith, keep going forward on this rutted track, paved highway 6 was ahead..
Oct 20th Lockhart Texas was our goal, to drive tow vehicle and visit grand daughter in college in nearby Austin Texas. Nice visit, lunch at Tino’s, a Greek fast food restaurant. The owner of all ten Greek restaurants, including Zorba’s, stopped at our table for a quick visit.
Grand daughter was then dropped off at her dorm [50 to 70 thousand students] and we left her to prepare for her next trip to see her cousin.
We stopped in at the TSA confiscation warehouse, with it’s thousands of confiscated pocket items for sale. Thousands of pocket items of great security threat. They sell them at higher prices…. after the confiscation.
First times we visited, there were only a few employees, the items were very cheap and sold by the bagful. Now the employees are numerous [‘sweepers’ were busily sweeping floors in the warehouse where groups of ‘inspectors’ studied the pallets of whatevers] and the items now are priced much higher…… to compensate for the amount of employees necessary to shuffle around and research the ‘booty’?. The large numbers of govt fire extinguishers is always puzzling. Great deals for us, but still curious as to why fully charged stainless steel fire extinguishers are sold by the pallets, rather than tested and refilled .
I think the future may note the passing of this once lucrative government ‘business’, by notation that it was more expensive to operate than when it originally started. More employees costs more in labor, therefore everything connected costs more. Fact of govt ‘business’. Lots of govt vehicles for sale here also attract buyers.
Lockhart State Park, south of Austin, was our quiet home for a couple of nights [complete with plump Armadillos that kept navigator’s camera busy] while visiting Austin and friends in San Marcos.
Our friends drove us around the large flooded area in Wimberly. An area canyon with stream that rose rapidly. Resulting in a flash flood that swept away navigator’s friend [and his family] from church as kids. The area was visible devastation on a large magnitude. 40 and 50 foot wall of water took away homes high on pilings above a canyon. Massive trees uprooted and trash high in branches. A dog was reportedly found safely high in a tree after the flash flood.
Pleasant visits in the area with friends. Enjoyed a great lunch in a small popular Wimberly cafe, which topped off the day. Pleasant time before leaving Lockhart State Park and heading on to San Antonio Texas for another two evenings stopover. A retreat while a predicted storm passed. Oct 23 left Lockhart State Park Texas and into San Antonio during heavy rainfall. Driving tensions increase, searching for highway signs as the traffic becomes hidden in the heavy rainfall.
Lots of rain caused the KOA RV park to cautiously turn us away, as the lower area was located in the flood plain. We were directed up onto higher ground…. and a less desirable RV park. We drove the Honda back to Sea Island restaurant for our fish and chips. A few charity thrift stores, where not much of value is discarded in these leaner years of less prosperity. Rained all night and all day Saturday from the storm of the century over the Pacific, meeting moisture from the Gulf.
Leaving San Antonio on Sunday Oct 25th, for the last legs of our journey back home. Costco fuel @ $1.93.
Left the wet San Antonio area this morning and drove on to Brownwood, a college town in west Texas. The storm of heavy rain predicted was wet and soggy, but not as heavy as the professional ‘climatologists’ of the news stations predicted. A nice rain that eased the drought of west Texas … somewhat. Sun was shining as we neared Early and Brownwood. Walmart ‘camp’ for the night, after top off 1/2 tank of Walmart fuel at $1.79 gal.
Wifi is good, as is TV. Of course the wifi times out after a bit, requiring another sign-in. Last time we passed this way, a Texas State Park was our night camp. Stopped in Lometta at a familiar junk shop…’Cowgirls’, to seek treasures for nav’s mall space. Found a few little items of value. One unique item was sadly broken. We noted the cast iron piece broken before we bought it. A small cast iron oil fired water heater from the turn of the century… 1900…. was rare.
Thousands of Grackles are massing tonight in the trees around our coach. Reminds one of Hitchcock’s, ‘The Birds’. Texas has more birds than any other state due to the flyways of migration adding to the resident bird population. Llano River RV State Park along I-10 has several bird blinds to sit and observe the migrants as they gather to feed at the protected stations provided. Painted Buntings [look like colorful plastic toys] are rare, but seen in flocks like chickens during migrations through Texas. Cheerful Cardinals are plentiful during migrations.
San Saba, navigator’s ancestral roots on grand mother’s side, is still of interest as we drive through on this route. Brownwood has a charity thrift shop or two that we investigated, no ‘finds’. No treasures.
Brownwood Texas Walmart ‘camp’, to La Mesa Texas, was a couple of hundred miles. Roscoe Texas, in passing through, is a vast, horizon to horizon wind turbine farm, with close to a thousand [more]? of the white beasts in every direction, sitting idle or turning slowly in the breeze, with oil pump jacks sucking crude, while cattle graze and cotton fields yield their prize.
Anyone not recognizing Texas as a ‘Productive’ center of the US economy, just isn’t seeing the big picture. One of the newest cotton balers, in addition to the long square ‘loaf’ machines seen by the dozens, is a new device that rolls and processes a cotton wad the size of a big truck and seals it in shrink wrap for delivery. These new machines costs about $700,000 dollars… each.
The Permian Basin is also the US oil field mecca that has proven itself worthy of US strategic resources over many long years of US history. The Chinese have now wisely decided to unload another Billion or so, US paper, fiat printed Obama dollars, and as they are quietly doing with the US housing market and mining reserves of the USA and coastline commercial interests, initially buying up one big section at bargain prices, while oil is cheap.
Of course they will re-develop the oil field, using the latest technology. What happens to the US natural oil reserve, is anyone’s guess,…. after the new owners, the Chinese govt industrialists, get it out of the ground. I would imagine they will in the future, if they feel it in their heart, possibly sell a portion of it back to us, at a sizable profit of course.
What is occurring to the USA of today is called ‘Selling the Farm’. Mandatory when the borrowed money (approaching $20 Trillion) has been lavishly wasted on ‘feel good’ extravagance….. for ‘Progressive’ election results. Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy to know that so much ‘good’ is being accomplished?
Oct 26th Driving through Abilene Texas, we stopped for some Tex-Mex food at a nice looking restaurant with Mexican music playing. What a dreadful mistake. Chile con carne on a corn tortilla with cheese, were referred to as Enchiladas? Fajitas, an especially tasty fire grilled New Mexico dish, were a basic chicken salad bowl with pineapple chunks. Can’t wait to get back to New Mexico for some ‘real’ Mexican food with the unique Indian influence.
Recalled seeing in past travels, a La Mesa Texas city park that welcomed RV’s overnight. Found it the evening of Oct 26th, with directions from a friendly man and wife. Electrical and water overnight…. free. Quiet ….and dark. Big trees, grass and birds, hawks, squirrels etc. Only two other RVs as neighbors. Pulled out at 9 AM Texas time Oct 27th and drove on through several small west Texas villages to Tatum New Mexico, where navigator has always wanted a few hand made iron silhouettes.
She finally got her desire. Juan Carbahal, the iron working artist, threw in a few extras for her little collection. We drove on to the pleasant retirement spot of Roswell New Mexico [the race horse home ranches, an irrigated mecca of NM], Sam’s Club gas at $1.96, pizza slice and salad, before heading the last 200 miles to Albuquerque. A 300 mile day and home by 6 PM October 27 2015. Lots of headwind encountered today, so not much in the fuel mileage desirable.
The entire trip was excellent in spite of a few minor attention getters. We always find a few little treasures to pack the tow car…. and every nook and cranny of Thunder Pig. Now the real chore, to unload tomorrow. Eventually take the coach to dealer for Norcold refrigerator problem under warranty to fix a device they added…. for safety. My old bugaboo returns with the sacrificial zinc anode solidly corroded into the water heater after a month of travels. Drilling it out, to drain tank for winter, is the only recourse, with risk of damage to the tank..
Plan is to refill the fuel tank for storage with a heavy dose of Marvel Mystery Oil to make the fuel system easier to withstand the long sleep of idleness well deserved. Drain tanks, purge water lines. Change the oil and grease the suspension, U joints and steering. Back the coach into the back yard and complete the prep for winter. With 90,000 miles soon to appear on our coach of 12 years vintage use, we must carefully maintain the vitals if we are to continue these ventures in this unit that has served us so well.
Next trip will be….. after paying off credit cards, then saving and scrimping together enough money for another tour in the future,. After the winter months have passed and we are ready for another adventure. All is in the life plan…if we remain healthy and alert, taking nourishment as directed. LOL
Enjoy traveling the greatest nation ever known. The United States of America. One Nation Under God.