Holiday Rambler RV to Chattanooga

After prep of motor coach with it’s ‘Leonard the Mobil Mechanic’ installed new fuel filter, serpentine belt, pulleys, install new water pump, all from NAPA, in the process. The coach is running like a smoother, aged version of when new, over 90,000 miles 12 years ago.

Left out of ABQ in afternoon and arrived in Roswell NM in time for evening ‘camp’ in Sam’s Club parking lot. The 200 miles to Roswell are uneventful pleasant drives across the remote ranch land, where few ranch houses are visible from the highway. Antelope are the usual inhabitants of the former Buffalo range, now occupied by a sparse number of cattle accustomed to the harsh dry environment of the arid desert southwestern USA.

Quiet evening and the morning drive toward San Angelo Texas, our next evening stay, is the goal. The cotton farms are being prepped for spring planting in some areas. Oil pump ‘jacks’ are still operating, even in this lower profit time. The big wind turbines are stil somewhat turning as leave Big Spring Texas toward San Angelo.

The city park entrance is usually a closed gate house, where free night’s stay is welcome. Arriving before 7:00 pm, we paid the attendant the $12 city park fee and located our usual spot on the shoreline of the channel of the reservoir for one night.

Most times we see exotic animals on the opposite shore in the gated community. Not so, the last few trips, with only a pair of Egyptian Geese and one lonesome male wild Turkey. With the new US economy not so well endowed with resources, the exotic animals formerly brought in and maintained by the gated community residents, are not to be seen any longer.

We are not alone as we welcome a return to prosperity for the USA. Possibly this next presidential election will seed the new prosperity cycle?

Morning and a beginning to our trek across Texas, after a previous evening fill of fuel at the local Sam’s Club. Now we travel as tourists with a flexible goal. Not to be hindered by the restrictions of a set travel plan, we travel as do Turtles, with our home on our back.

San Antonio Texas

KOA. Rated as the winner across the USA for 2015, for a couple of evenings in the battlefield area of the Alamo, where the ducks enjoy prosperous safe dwellings in the remodeled pond, the new paved site roads… and the laundry facilities as well.

The slender, brown Egyptian Geese are back and doing well. Escapees from the nearby Red Berry mansion across The Salado Creek after the city acquired the estate, the Egyptian Geese are spreading their territories across Texas. We saw a pair of these exotic attractive geese at San Angelo City Park, as we camped for the night.

Our visits to the charity thrift stores are becoming less fruitful, as the sluggish US economy of the last 8 years recycles less of it’s discard assets of value. Resale of the discards is a portion of saleable items for the small mall space, navigator maintains in The Antique Connection of East Central, located in Alb NM.

Left KOA San Antonio and traveled along the I-35 corridor of new business. A former rural area where cows made their home a few years back. Now it is lined with thriving new businesses and surrounded with housing developments.
We turned south to Lockhart State Park, where we camp for three nights as we roam the area. First and second day was a visit to the outlet malls along I-35 and return back after an evening with friends at the Saltgrass restaurant over the spring of origin of the river through San Marcos Texas. We did not visit the Austin TSA store in the city warehouse complex on this trip. Their increasing pricing was commensurate with new items, last trip.
A few other goals, such as lunch meeting with our grand daughter at the University of Texas celebrating navigator’s birthday.
Huntsville Texas
On Monday morning we rolled east along the way to our evening camp at Huntsville State Park. Huntsville Texas, is the location to the tough guy prison known famously as ‘Huntsville’. Nothing to do with Alabama Huntsville, where the big Saturn 5 space rockets were built.
Nice evening, big park on a large lake with several gators grunting to each other. Lots of shelters and a few cabins. Lots of fishing with lots of big fish, Bass were the action this week. Free fishing while in the Texas State Parks.
Big winds had knocked down lots of trees in the last week. Hiked the area a bit and checked out the rec lodge built in 1942 by the CCC boys. First structures they built were the rec lodges. They looked forward to the dances with the local girls during those years of construction,  get togethers, meet and greets held at their dance halls.
Drove on east toward Alexandria Louisiana, where we spent the night in Walmart parking lot ‘camp’ after a fuel fill. 500 miles on the odo for this leg of our journey. Lots of green across east Texas as we leave the dry west Texas close to NM. Rolling on east Wednesday toward our destination of Chattanooga Tennessee. Not likely to enter Florida this time, we have seen enough of Fla on the last trips..

On to Chattanooga

After leaving the area of Huntsville Prison ambiance in Texas, driving distance of 100 miles, we drove through downtown Natchez Mississippi, after crossing the Mississippi River bridge. Not the best way to maneuver the 55′ of rig through 8 miles of traffic and narrow streets of restored Victorian ambiance, should have just followed the interstate to the terminus of The Natchez Trace at mile marker 1… Next trip…

Walmart overnight ‘camps’ are free and while ‘climate’ is cool, quite pleasant with wifi available at most.

Once on the ‘Trace’, life reverts to serene at a steady 50 mph and fuel efficient with no stops for the next 450 miles to Nashville Tennessee. We do not go all the way to Nashville, instead we turn off after 350 miles, toward Chattanooga Tennessee.

No trip to fun Tannehill State Park in Alabama this trip. Will save it for when we are younger and can more enjoy all of it’s family friendly museums and historic re-enactment attractions. Tannehill is a very Big State Park. I forgot my bicycle anyway, so no distance exploring of parks this trip.

At Jackson Mississippi, Barnett Reservoir is our evening stay, couple of miles off the Trace. We had stopped near Tupelo Mississippi and walked a bit of the ‘Old Trace’ to where 13 Confederate soldiers had been buried after the famous Battle of Shiloh… General Nathan Bedford Forest?

The original wooden markers were long ago lost. Replacements of marble were promptly stolen. As we observed the lonesome little row of replacement quartz grave markers with the words ‘Unknown Confederate Soldier’, we thought about the immense bravery and value of these young men, as well as the countless thousands of other Confederate Soldiers that gave their lives for their families, their Confederacy… and Their Flag.

Far more valuable people, those very young soldiers, than today’s absolutely disgusting elitist generation, so self centered,  so encumbered by their ‘politically programmed’ emotional baggage, as to be ‘offended’ by the sight of the ‘Stars and Bars’ of the Confederate Flag.

An integral part of the United States of America and it’s History. A true History that defies being ‘rewritten’, no matter what political agenda is pushing for the proliferation of their own self promoted deceit. We happily note the Confederate Flag proudly still being flown along our travels…. in proud defiance :>).

Timberlake is a great RV park a distance upriver from Jackson Mississippi, operated by the Pearl River water control authority. Big RV park. Trees, Lots of Ducks, Geese, and Squirrels to observe.This lake of the Pearl River behind the dam is about 20 or so miles long and holds lots of water. Big Fish. Must have been great fishing as the river just below the dam was lined with folks fishing.

Jackson Mississippi itself is as usual. It shuts down after dark . News with big fights in the schools. Big fights within the city government…. Culture. Not much different from South side Chicago. After nice evening in our quiet RV park away from the city and quick visit to few charity shops and consignment shops, we rolled back onto the Trace again.

250 more miles and a quiet night in Tupelo Sam’s Club ‘camp’ after fuel fill. All fuel is below $2 this trip and motor coach is running like new after the new serpentine belt, pump and pulleys. ‘Trace’ at steady 50 mph gives a solid 10 mpg. Usual, with 70 mph and stops of average travel, is about 8 mpg. Slice and a Polish dog are our supper at Sam’s.

Tupelo Mississippi was the home of Elvis Presley. We pulled off at a newly developing area with lots of new business construction. Less than 2 miles off the ‘Trace’. Easy back on and rolling steadily eastward to Chattanooga Tennessee. Passing the Redstone Arsenal Davidson Center at Huntsville Alabama is unique. The vertical standing Saturn Five Rocket gets your attention from a distance. The USA Moon Rockets were quite the technology ‘back in the day’. Maybe some day with a different focus, the USA can return to it’s former greatness.

The traffic, as we approach Chattanooga is often intense. Lots of gear changes and sudden braking. Hills and traffic, Trucks and more trucks. Navigator advised a turn off and it by-passed heavy traffic, to enter our Holiday Travel Park from a local street, rather than off the intense freeway. Saved a bit of cursing on my part :>) 7 nights in this area should allow us to accomplish our vague goals.

Great battle grounds, such as famous Chicamauga, are all over this area around Lookout Mountain. The largest, with a small museum and theater, is not far from where we are camped. Even a smaller Union contingent from the Indiana Volunteers was camped on this very site. They were decimated during one battle.

The week in Chattanooga was spent visiting our favored businesses, such as the old chicken farm near Ringold Georgia, that now sells antique replicas to dealers, along with some vintage items. A number of independent charity shops and salvage sites sell interesting items for navigator’s little mall space resale. The Estate of Confusion in Chattanooga has some treasures. Finding him open for business is the trick.

Each day was an adventure in search of forage for food or items of interest. The seven days passed rapidly and we began our return toward home, by way of Tallahassee Florida.

 

South ..out of Chattanooga

Working our way back to home by way of the coastal route, we ‘camped’ in Walmart parking for a few nights along the southern trek until the coastal region and high humidity forced nightly ‘camp’ in state facilities, ….not prisons. Tallahassee has Sam’s Club parking ‘camp’ that is pleasant and where we refuel for the coastal route. A few charity shops locate a number of saleable items of interest on the way.
AC was required during the warm and wet coastal ‘climate’. While camped with ‘shore power’ near the Alabama coast, we took a little day trip, to see some Dolphins, some gators and some bayou. The 40′ aluminum pontoon boat holds 49 tourists and for two hours, cruises around the bay attracting a few Dolphins. air breathing mammals that have sex like humans,… for recreation. Other animals seldom practice the ‘deed’, other than for strictly reproduction of their species.
After two evenings along the white sands coastline of little known Alabama development, we moved on another couple of hundred miles and camped again with hook ups…. to give cool sleeping.
After arriving south of New Orleans Louisiana at the St Bernard State Park, less than 15 minutes from the ‘Nawlins’ French quarter, We noted a strong odor of Carbon Monoxide in the coach. I was dreading the thought of a severe mechanical problem under the 12 year old coach with over 90 K miles. Loss of a bit of sleep…. imagining the worst cases outlined on the forums, proved just that, imagination. We drove the ‘toad’ into Nawlins for some French Market shrimp basket. Yum.
Today I called a local exhaust shop and the Louisiana drawl said “Yall bring it in and I will estimate the cost”. I attempted a brief bit of my own mechanical efforts to no real avail. Lifting the ‘doghouse’ cover over the engine, I checked a few nuts securing the exhaust manifold, before ‘battening the hatches’ and driving the seven miles up the St Bernard Parish highway.
Bob said he would Not work in the rain. Fortunately it was only cloudy this morning.
Navigator followed in the Honda. I pulled up to the little muffler shop, littered with tools and rusty pipes among the modern bending and welding equipment that showed lots of hard use. ‘Bob’s Muffler shop was a little two bay garage, with two grimy, skinny country mechanics sawing off rusted exhaust systems from old derelicts parked outside.
After smoking a few more cigarettes, and after using an electric ‘Sawzall’, cutting away discarded catalytic converters from a rusty old Infinity, Bob then crawled under our coach, parked in the entrance driveway. Within a few minutes of listening for the exhaust leak, he said “Bout $175 to replace the ‘donut’ seal on one side”. Knowing that there were two seals. The fact that a long duration before service was actually accomplished, was common in the big professional commercial chains, I asked about replacing both donut seals… and when could Bob and his helper work on it?
His quick calculation said “$300 for both.. “Rat naow”….. Cash money”. Credit card payment was $327. Navigator quickly dug into her stash ‘bank’ and Bob with ‘grunting’ and helper crawling around under the front end that I had raised on it’s hydraulic front ‘landing gear’, dug through their boxes of parts, emerged with two new ‘donut’ seals and finished the job within an hour.
We profusely thanked the guys for their prompt attention and left to return to our camp site… with no carbon monoxide odor and no more fumes leaking, no putt putting sound from the engine.
Stories on the ‘on line forums’ had estimates for drastic repairs, in the thousands of dollars and long waits for ‘parts’ to be located.
Not ‘Bob’ and his helper. With them, in typical Louisiana fashion, it’s just ‘Git ‘er Done’…’Rat naow’. Gotta love the Louisiana way of doin’ business. We head out westward tomorrow… to brave the wall of storms looming in our path.
Last night was exciting. Watching TV and the threats of tornadoes around us, was fun… sort of. Navigator got dressed…. in case we got sucked up in a tornado funnel, she would not be ‘buck nekkid’. The lightning flashing here is non stop during the frequent storms, Thunder ‘Rolls’ nonstop and inches of wet, fall in minutes. Bayous are the result. No wonder Gators like it around here.
Shrimp is sold by the pound and the platters are huge. The spicy Cajun food is great ….but we eat too much of it.
Raining ‘Rat Naow’.

 

‘Nawlin’s in the rear view mirrors.

Louisiana is noted for some really rough highways. Apparently the federal highway money allocated, fails to often get to the actual highway surfacing. One ‘Chocolate City’ Louisiana politico of notoriety, had the Louisiana National Guard drive him through the flood waters of Katrina in their monster truck, so that he could retrieve his suitcases of millions in corruption cash from his home.

As we bounced and rattled our way westward along the patched Loisiana state highways as well as rough portions of Louisiana I-10, the racket inside the house on wheels never ceased. Requiring shore power for the air conditioning units during this hot humid ‘climate’, we camped in state parks overnight along this southern route. Richard Dies State Park had a nice lake with Bass… and Gators.

Camp neighbor said the 17′ footer looked a bit intimidating while he paddled his 17′ kayak 50 yards behind it. It stopped often, turning to check out his kayak… for digestibility?

Leaving on our way toward Texas, the goal was to avoid the persistent violent storms that we noted every night on the TV news/weather. “So far, so good”… as the falling man yelled, while passing each floor on his 70 story drop. :>)

Texas is approximately 1,000 miles across, as travelers of I-10 can attest. Crossing the State line into Texas, the highways became immediately smoother. Remarkable what taxPayers money spent for the intended applied purpose can do. Lots of ‘Texas Longhorn’ cattle along the highways of Texas. Game Ranches are prospering, as hunters pay to enjoy their sport.

Navigator noted several trophy exotics along the highway fenced enclaves. Ostrich roam among the various exotics, all seeming to get along well. Several species of exotic animals were crowded around a pickup truck, as it’s driver checked on their well being.

A hunters sport that actually increases the species numbers of the preferred animals, as it improves the species sustainability. Amazing the sizes of the prime breeders, as they are coddled to enjoy their ambiance, while selectively breeding for the future generations. Woe be to any person that takes down a prime breeder. The bounty on that person’s capture would be intense. Hidden cameras are prolifically mounted, monitoring the valued game for their protection night and day.

Beautiful Ink’s Lake has usually been our camping goal along the route we are taking. We always enjoy the free fishing at Texas State Parks, as at Ink’s shoreline and fishing pier. Kayaks and canoes are available for rent at the little camp store on the shore line. Birds are another Texas specialty. More kinds of birds across Texas, than any other state. Cardinals were the most prolific this trip across the south.

Round Rock ‘was’ a sleepy little community years back. Today it is another rapidly growing Texas megalopolis, where we spent a navigator GPS stressful traffic hour of narrow entrance ways and one way streets, searching for Sam’s Club fuel station…. that was non-existent at this location. GPS is befuddled by new construction.

Navigator recalled a nice fuel station at the H.E.B store in Burnett Texas near our night camp area, another hour or so away. Calculating fuel consumption, we can make it.

Continuing on toward Ink’s Lake after fuel fill in Burnett below $2 a gal, we realized it was too late and that popular Ink’s Lake State Park, with it’s strange Texas reservation system, would most likely have no open sites. In Texas, the reservation system which requires two days advance, allows reservations to hold sites, though no actual occupancy is intended. No penalties for this ludicrous hogging of preferential camp sites. Not good for people like us, the random drop ins, searching for a site to camp overnight, is like throwing dice. Walmart ‘camp’ is the result.

Lower Colorado [not the Real Colorado River, of fame across Arizona]River Authority has Black Rock Recreation Area, not far from Ink’s Lake. Texas has only one natural lake and it is in east Texas. All of the rest of the Texas lakes with recreation areas and campgrounds, are US Army Corps of Engineers constructed dams for flood control. Buchanon Lake Reservoir, feeding Ink’s Lake Reservoir, is another one of those magnificently engineered devices.

As we approach, we note the water only a couple of feet from the highway. In years past, I had walked half way across the ‘bottom’ of this Buchanon Reservoir.

No longer, it is beneath 85 feet of water during this wet ‘climate’ change. Houses along the shoreline that were all ‘for sale’ during cyclic drought years, are now far more expensive, as the water is right up to their docks, as designed for high water.

Interesting fact that Samuel Insull of Chicago’s Edison Company, was the pioneer of this dam at the beginning of the 1900’s. The Great Depression of 1929 ended his plan for the US energy grid and the US Govt finished the project in the later 1930’s, installing the massive electrical generating turbines, as Samuel Insull deemed another generating link to facilitate the US energy grid across the nation. This energy grid so dominant to our everyday survival today. Insull was one of the great innovators, those whose contributions, we prosper from today.

San Antonio Texas regularly flooded during the wet ‘climates’ interspersed among the cyclic droughts throughout Texas history. This Buchanon Dam is the first line of defense in the chain of dams protecting San Antonio today. Our night of camp in the LCRA’s Black Rock RV area was pleasant and as reasonable price as the state parks. Black Rock is prospering with the full lake, new pavement, new structures show the prosperity.

We had a weak wifi signal that allowed a brief connectivity. I lost the extensive email…. just as I attempted to ‘send’, Grrrr.

This is that story, regurgitated as best I can recall.

Following the departure, after navigator plotted our course based on the news reports of storms, tornadoes, hail along the route, we drove on westward across Texas for a planned San Angelo City Park overnight ‘camp’.

Changing our plan, we fortunately bypassed San Angelo and headed for Big Spring and La Mesa (pronounced La ‘meesa’ in Texan) where a pretty, treesy with stream, city park has graciously provided 30 amps electrical for the AC units… if run one at a time. Free night stay is enjoyed, no matter where.

Only one set of three long haulers of the 150′ wind turbine blades, were noted this trip. Former years were noted as many sets, as well as new transmit lines across the Texas landscape. Could be the fact that it takes Five turbines to generate enough energy to replicate One [imported] wind turbine? Economics is not immune to the laws of physics.

We watched TV that night, as the hail and tornado warning storms appeared to repeatedly hit the areas we had recently departed, as along the route we had originally planned. God works in mysterious ways. We pray before each days decisions and even the brief impromptu changes always are to be for the wiser.

Morning and the end game appeared to be the last haul into Albuquerque New Mexico over 360 miles away. Texas fuel was priced from the sub $2 mark, to the $2.29. We gambled on Roswell and won at $1.95 for the 70 gallon fill with 5 gal remaining in tank. Wind was incessant and not favorable to speeds above 55, nor economy of fuel. The constant pull from the wind on our left front quarter, ironically for most of the 4,000 mile trip, kept my hand on the wheel auto- focused to maintain the lane.

Roswell New Mexico Sam’s Club, the tenured attendant’s prayer for our safe travel, (for years, he always asks if he may pray for the travelers) is welcome.

Roswell is famous for Triple Crown Winner, ‘Mine That Bird’ and horse business is consistently doing very well. Hay and alfalfa is grown on vast irrigated acreage around this lush irrigated oasis valley, along a vast subterranean river that surfaces in ‘holes’ of blue water of periodic bottomless lakes. Winter ‘climate’ is acceptable/mild and not usually freezing. Summer can be a bit warm in Roswell, as most of southern New Mexico.

The long, remote with sparse civilization, 200 mile stretch from Roswell to approach of Albuquerque, is dry and hot in summer. Antelope and range cattle are the only living beings along this desolate highway. Wind and hills limit the Thunder Hog speed while traveling north, to below 50….. often.

Not as many freight trains noted this trip, along the double rail line that parallels our west route from the former bustling town of Vaughn NM. Past years trips were far busier in container freight, which is the economic pulse of the USA.

In the days of the train crews, including switch men in a caboose, Vaughn was a transition overnight crew change/stop. Today the ‘consists’ of long trains, as well as the line rail switches, are electronically computer controlled across the nation. Large propane tanks along the lines keep the countless thousands of automated mainline switches free of ice during frozen winter. Few laborers are required on the lines today, to keep trains rolling.

Mileage is not good as ‘Thunder Hog’ gradually climbs out of the Roswell valley, straining to attain the mile high altitude for Albuquerque. Clines Corners is a famous tourist stop on the I-40 interstate. After that hard climb, the rest is not so difficult and we roll along NM highways smoothly and quietly approaching our city from the East through the Tjeras canyon,…… along with the rest of the interstate highway trucks that never cease their 24-7-365 rollin’ rollin’.

Only noted one set of giant wind turbine blades this trip. In years past, the extra long trucks with escorts, three in a set, were seen all across this highway, heading for wind swept ridge-lines of west Texas geography.

We slow and downshift for the turn off onto Tramway and our five miles north across the western slope foothills of the Sandia Mountains to our home port.

Backing into the driveway after disconnect of the towed Honda, is mixed emotion. Enjoyable Trip is successful and home is nice. Now to unload over the next few days and settle in. Tighten up the ‘loosies’, change oil and grease ‘Thunder Hog’. Possibly contemplating a next trip after a summer of intense frugality to save up some traveling cash.. maybe West and North.. in the fall?.. :>)

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