Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Whose Woods These Are*

* Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost.

Denny and I have been spinning our wheels a lot this week, attempting to get the new truck titled and registered in Ohio. The Florida Ford dealer didn't send the memorandum of sale as promised so there were irate phone calls involved also. While dealing with all that, we got a few things done over at my mother's house and tomorrow we'll head down to Cincinnati to Denny's dad's house to see if the manure has been delivered for the garden and what shape the yard is in. We've basically been in that new truck driving hither and yon since Saturday morning, so this afternoon it was nice to wander the woods here at the "preserve" with Patches. There are very few people camping here at the moment, so I'm enjoying the peace and quiet before school lets out and the peak camping season begins.

Spring beauty flowers. Some of these tiny blossoms have more dark pink stripes on them, making them look pink rather than white with pink stripes. According to my National Audubon Society Guide to Wildflowers, the Spring Beauty grows from an underground tuber like a potato that has a sweet, chestnut-like flavor that Indians and early colonists used for food. Umm, I think I'll pass on that.

Spring larkspur is a striking deep purple with a tiny white center. According to the wildflower guide, it produces an alkaloid that can poison cattle. I guess I won't be picking any of those.

A trillium. What a surprise to find these in the woods in a huge swath of white and green. While I had never seen them before in real life I had read about them so I was able to recognize it without the book.

A cat-eating tree. Genus unknown.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Belated Lazy Sunday

Our weekend was truncated due to our travels. Saturday Denny and I shared driving from North Carolina to Ohio, since campgrounds in West Virginia are scarce to none. *Note to self: when you win the lottery, consider building a campground along I-77*

Sunday we arrived at the campground where we'll spend the summer and the day was spent trying to find a satellite signal through the trees and catching up with friends Don and Vicki who will also be spending a few months here. Hence a neglected blog entry.

Denny and I figure that we have had the good fortune to experience five Spring seasons this year. Since we were slowly working our way northward from March on, we saw Spring in Florida, southern Alabama, northern Alabama, northern North Carolina and now in Ohio. The differences in climate allowed us to watch the trees just starting to bud when we arrived in the area blossom out by the time we had to move on. How else could you see two month's worth of dogwoods and red bud trees in full bloom?

Azaleas; color so intense it glows.

Someone at the Thousand Trails park in North Carolina not only has woodcarving skills, but a sense of humor, finding a wood nymph in this tree knot.

I walked by this tree stump several times, always seeing the carved image on the other side (an Indian this time) but never seeing the old man carved on the other side.

Since I was driving at the time, Denny had to try to capture the sunlight striking the capitol building in Charleston, West Virginia. The rain had just stopped and the sun made the dome glow like molten gold, but he had focusing issues so he lost the moment. It's still a lovely piece of architecture.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Three Down, One to Go

Both of our sons and Denny's sister Connie were born this month, but today is Denny's day. Happy Birthday, Big D!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A RVer's Lesson in Tire Safety

Since we'll be leaving here on Saturday to start our 400+ mile journey to Ohio, Denny checked the tires on our fifth wheel to make sure they were at the right pressure. A couple of the tires were low, so he dragged out our little pancake air compressor and filled them and that's when he noticed this:

You don't know what you are looking for, right? Click on the photo to enlarge it and look again.

Still don't see it? Okay.

Here's a good tire. Notice the tread is flat and when you look at the tire from eye level you really can't see much of the tread. I added the blue line for emphasis.

See the difference here? Notice how much tread is showing above the red line I've added. That is the tread separating from the tire. These tires are four years old, have 7/32" of tread on them and have been maintained at the proper air pressure since we've bought them. When Denny took the tire off the axle, you could see tiny bits of silver thread from the steel belts inside the tire. Not good. If we drove for any distance on this tire, it would soon explode, causing pieces of rubber to tear into the undersides and side of the trailer. Been there, done that.

Goodyear replaced the tire for us free of charge. Of course, the local Goodyear tire dealer had to order it for us because we use special trailer tires rather than the light truck tires originally placed on our fifth wheel. Special trailer tires (ST rather than LT) have firmer sidewalls for better handling and weight bearing since trailers are pulled straight behind a truck rather than having the stress of turning this way and that like the wheels on a truck or car. And since we have a triple axle fifth wheel due to the weight of our trailer, extra stress can be placed on the tires when we turn the trailer to back it into a campsite due to the camber angle of the tires caused by making a tight turn.

Some people thump on their tires with a ball bat (I've seen truckers do this) to tell if there is a problem with air pressure/tread. We've found that a good visual inspection on a regular basis works pretty darn good too.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Price of Bread

Yeah, I know, what does that title have to do with traveling? In a way, everything. Because the price of bread is tied into the cost of diesel fuel which fuels the tractors, combines and harvesters on the farms. Diesel is used in the engines of the trucks used to haul the grain to the factories that make the bread, where it is then shipped out by truck, plane, train or ship, all of which use diesel fuel. The cost of which gets passed on to you, the consumer. And yes, our truck uses diesel fuel. It uses the new lower sulfur diesel, but diesel it is. The latest price here in North Carolina is $4.0599 a gallon and we have two fuel tanks that hold a total of 83 gallons, which works out to $337.00 per fill up. Are you gulping yet? Yeah, I thought so.

Nancy asked today if the price of fuel has affected (you will NEVER see me misuse the word "impacted" on this blog) our travels. Yes it has. The rising prices caused us to sit longer at campgrounds before moving on. With the prices this year, we are not only staying as long as we can at as many of our "free" (paid membership parks with annual dues) but we're doing less sightseeing once we arrive. Some of our campgrounds are far from town, as in 40-50 miles round trip far, so our shopping trips are planned more carefully and we try to combine a geocaching/sightseeing/shopping/visiting trip into one if possible. Or we eliminate the geocaching or the sightseeing if the nearest site is miles away. No more 200 mile driving loops in the mountains on a daytrip for us. No more hopping in the truck to look for roadside waterfalls or to search for a quirky statue I saw in Roadside America. A lot of the fun has been taken out of our travels due to rising fuel prices and health care costs.

Will that stop us? No. This summer Denny and I will once again be in Ohio to grow a garden for Denny's father, who will be 97 years old next month. That means we'll be in Ohio for at least five months, which will drive us crazy. That's WAY too long for the two of us to be staying in one place! I will probably try to find some sort of temporary employment to build up our coffers over the summer but once the tomatoes are past their peak, we'll yank everything out of the garden, till it under and hit the road once again. I'm still four years away from receiving my pension, but the whole point of hitting the road fulltime was to enjoy traveling while we had our health so we're doing it. In four years we hope that those extra funds will be sufficient to allow us to once again do more exploring and "just driving" to see what we can see. One way or the other, we'll still be on the road.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Lazy Sunday Lost in the Fog

North Carolina shrouded itself in an invisible cloak of fog this morning. I had intended to take pictures of the brilliant pink blossoms of the pink dogwood trees this morning but Mother Nature fooled me. That, plus I drove to breakfast this morning instead of Denny and it's hard to drive and take pictures at the same time.

We didn't go out much this week--we've spent half the old pension check on diesel fuel this month so we're just hanging around the campground for a while. So I've had to dig into the archives for today's Lazy Sunday pictures and I decided to go really random today.

Without further ado, I give you today's Lazy Sunday photos:

Paulina Falls at the Newberry Volcanic National Monument near Bend, Oregon. The park was just a couple of miles from our campground and was fascinating for its beautiful lakes and huge swaths of obsidian from ancient volcanic flows of lava.

I named this picture "Bubbling Rocks". It was taken in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation area near Hurricane, Utah where we were doing some geocaching (unsuccessfully for that particular spot).

Denny and I took the water taxi to the Indian Casino on Lake Havasu one day. There was some sort of race being held for SeaDoos, which was very colorful and very noisy.

This is a quiet seating area that has been created by someone here at our current campground. They have planted azaleas and other flowering bushes and have taken great pains to make a nice spot to stop and "smell the roses".

The Thousand Trails membership parks are called "preserves" because they try to create a campground within a natural area without disturbing too much of the original surroundings. This tobacco barn remains here carefully preserved. Tobacco barns are painted black to draw the heat of the sun which helps cure the tobacco as it hangs in sheaves within the barn. (You just learned something, didn't you?)

White flowering dogwood abounds here in south. The bridge traversing the small fishing pond here at the campground allows me to drag Denny even farther on our evening walk.

One of the most impressive tourist attractions of our travels: The Biltmore House in Ashville, North Carolina. We visited here years ago in early spring before the trees and magnificent flower gardens were in bloom and I'd love to go back to see the gardens. And again at Christmas time, because I've heard the candlelight tour of the house is fabulous.

A close up shot of some of the statuary decorating the exterior walls of the Biltmore House. The bricks for the home were made on the grounds, the home had the first indoor bathrooms and the innovations for the time period were amazing and incredibly expensive.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Fun in the Sun

Look closely at the left side of the picture above. Do you see that darling little face peeking out? That's Biscuit, an oversized Yorkie that loves to tag along with his owners Brian and Judy.

Judy is my water aerobics buddy who I met in Arizona a few years ago. The other day she came online and I casually asked her where she and Brian were camped at the moment. It turned out that the two of them (plus Biscuit, of course) were at the very campground where we planned to stay for the upcoming two weeks. Very cool! Of course, they were due to leave two days after we arrived but we would still have a chance to visit.

Brian and Judy had two of their daughters, a son-in-law and some grandchildren there too, so Denny and I got to meet some of their family in person finally. After the kids left, Brian and Judy decided to stay an extra day to recuperate so the four of us went out to dinner, played a little pickleball and had a cook out before they had to leave for Denver, Colorado. The three days were an unexpected treat for us and we were so glad to see them again. Next winter they will be staying west and I have no clue where Denny and I will be due to his father's health so it might be a while before we cross paths again.

So the next time we meet, Brian, be prepared because I'm going to be practicing my pickleball game and I might even be able to hit the darn ball a time or two (my eye-hand coordination are nonexistent)! Safe travels.

Monday, April 14, 2008


We could have died today.

I bet that got your attention, didn't it? It sure got ours!

We were heading out to pick up our mail from the post office when we had to stop for construction along the roadway with other traffic. As we sat there waiting, all of a sudden we saw a flash of red to our right and a truck loaded with bales of pine straw went barreling past us in the grass off the roadway. A tire flew off the truck as it jounced and rocked, heading for the woods twenty yards off the road. The truck finally shuddered to a stop and the older man driving the truck cautiously got out.

Since traffic was cleared to move forward on our side of the roadway, we pulled up and stopped by the man who was clearly shaken. We asked if his brakes had gone out, "yes", and if he was okay, "yes" again. We thanked him for working so hard to avoid hitting us (he had to have been going at least 55 mph when he tried to stop) and the others ahead of us. He told us he would have made sure he hit the trees before he ran into the back of us.

We decided that today would be a good day to buy a lottery ticket. I hope our luck holds!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Driving north on I-95 through Georgia and South Carolina the past two days it became obvious to us that the state of Florida probably raised up an additional five feet above sea level this week. This would have been due to the vast numbers of snowbirds from Ohio, Michigan, Ontario, Quebec, Pennsylvania, New York, etc. heading out of Florida in their annual return to the colder climes. Fully 95% of the cars on I-95 had out of state plates; it would have been difficult to judge what state we were driving through based on the license plates of those around us, because there were very few Georgia and later South Carolina plates on the roadway.

It's cooler here in North Carolina and the trees have smaller and fewer leaves than those further south. Wisteria still blooms along the roadways, covering pine trees like lavender kudzu (look it up yourself)and the red bud trees are still a vibrant hue. Tonight will be sweater weather; yesterday we had the air conditioner on.

We've been on the road a lot this week, so there aren't a lot of pictures in the camera to choose from. Simply a bit of flotsam and jetsam for your entertainment.

This drift of snowy dogwood was on the Lake Guntersville State Park golf course.

The great blue herons that stayed near the campground in Langston, Alabama watched the fishermen for any fish thrown back into the lake.

I love violets. Once when seining for minnies (minnows) with my grandfather I found a white violet growing wild in a patch of purple ones and convinced Grandpa to dig it up for me to take home. Using his only available tool, a pen knife, he did. I loved that man.

This building seems to be the sum total of the town of Little New York, Alabama.

If you have a Little New York, you have to have a Statue of Liberty, right? Actually, the lady stood outside the offices of the Boy Scouts of America somewhere along I-59 in northern Alabama.

I call this the mailbox made of firewood. You go with what you've got, I guess.

A family enjoying the last of the sunlight while fishing at our campground in Langston, AL on Lake Guntersville.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Just Like Old Times

The cat is mad at us. We moved to a new campground again today and we will head into yet another one tomorrow. That's five campground in as many days and for us, that's moving way too often and too far.

We did have the opportunity to once again drive the back roads for half the distance over those days, and it was a welcome relief from the monotony of the interstate routes. The South is beautiful in springtime and Mother Nature tries to outdo herself in creating Monet-like scenes around the many ponds and lakes of Alabama and Georgia complete with water lilies and great bubbling masses of azaleas in shades of pink, peach, fuschia and white that lean over the ponds as if to gaze at their own glory.

The people who live here are friendly folks and signal "hi" to you by merely raising one finger off the steering wheel as they pass by in the other direction. You don't get that on the highways where everyone is jockeying for a better position to pass each other to get wherever the heck they are going at the fastest possible speed. On the "red lines" (state and US highways on road maps) life moves at a slower pace and you have the opportunity to see glorious old homes in tiny little towns that once had fame, wealth and a larger population, pastures that may have zebras grazing with the cows, historical markers for events long past and the ability to breathe fresh air.

This is the way to travel.

Friday, April 11, 2008

You Know...'ve taken the casual lifestyle of RVing a little too far when neither you nor your husband can remember how to tie a tie into a Windsor knot anymore. I had to Google an instructional video. How sad is that?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

For Us, a Lifestyle; for Others a Life

Denny and I have been staying at "private" campgrounds the last couple of days as we are having to do a lot of travel to take care of some old business. "Private" in campground books means campgrounds that are privately owned by a corporation, business or family and sometimes there are only 20 or so camp sites on a couple of acres of land. Here in these small campgrounds you'll find people on the move, like Denny and I or construction/utility/temporary workers who are working a local site for a few months to a year, and folks that have discovered that the monthly fees at a small campground beats paying rent for an apartment or small dwelling. These folks aren't traveling for enjoyment or education or for the zest of discovering what dwells around the next curve in the road. They are here because they have to make a living or because this is all they can afford. You'll recognize those folks as soon as you arrive at the campground because there will be boxes, extra refrigerators, exercise equipment, gliders and piles of "stuff" all around the exterior of the trailers and often the trailers themselves will have developed the algae green of the interior of a dirty fish tank. Here at our current campground a more extreme example is a sad young man wearing the white dress shirt and black slacks of a grocery store clerk who is living in a tent with his belongings strewn about and who is apparently without the benefit of a car. You wonder what his story is.

Denny and I realize how lucky we are. Yes, money has become very tight with the increases in our health insurance costs and the price of diesel fuel. But we have our health, we have each other, and we still have the freedom to explore this beautiful country that we have come to love more with every year we travel. I sometimes bemoan the fact that we don't have as much money to play golf or splurge on something we want, but at least we're living our dream. Not dreaming about living the good life.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Brief Visit to the Lake Guntersville State Park

Sunday morning found us driving up, up, up the twisty-turning road leading to the Lake Guntersville State Park lodge. A fellow RVer had recommended the lodge to us as a place to dine and enjoy a fabulous view overlooking Lake Guntersville. The lodge itself only reopened in February of this year after undergoing renovations. Since we haven't been here before, we had nothing to compare the old lodge with the new lodge, but I must say the lodge is lovely. Apparently a new roof line and stone entrance pillars were added to the exterior,giving the lodge a rustic appearance. Inside though, rustic meets Art Deco to lovely effect.

It had been raining heavily off and on all week, so we didn't attempt any hiking or geocaching within the grounds of the park, although we had been told that we could see bald eagles. It was so misty and foggy on Sunday that very few birds were visible from the balcony of the lodge, so I guess we'll just have to come back again someday. There are so many places we need to revisit!

The state park itself encompasses thousands of acres surrounding the miles-long Lake Guntersville. There is a challenging 18-hole golf course on the grounds, a 300+ site campground with full and partial hook ups, miles of hiking trails, ranger led nature hikes and of course, fishing, fishing, and more fishing opportunities. Entrance to the park is free.

The rear balcony which overlooks the lake from high above. I was trying to photograph the outdoor swimming pool which has graceful jets of water arcing over the pool itself, but I wasn't able to get high enough to show it.

The lodge lobby. How cozy this would be in the winter with a roaring fire to greet you.

The lounge across from the restaurant. Imagine a roaring fire warming the room on a cool day while you watch for eagles through the huge floor to ceiling windows.

I think this might be an emu, but I'm not sure. A pair of these creatures were inside the fenced off water treatment plant area along with a couple of donkeys and a pair of goats. I'm not quite sure what that was all about, but it was a fun surprise and I couldn't resist giving the two of them a couple of pretzels. Not really a good thing to do, but I wanted them closer for a good picture.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

April Showers on a Lazy Sunday

The weather this week has been perfect for ducks, or rather geese. Canada geese, that is.

When we first arrived here at the campground, there was one family of goslings. Now there are three that we've seen with many more to come judging by the numbers of pairs of geese that gather here to feed every day.

I guess our first clue about the weather here should have been these cabins built on huge pedestals.

A neighbor at our last campground told us to dine at the Lake Gunterville State Park lodge and then sit on the balcony to relax while watching the water. He said I'd get some good pictures up there. Yeah, thanks Roy, real scenic! Kidding. The weather forecast was for sunshine and clear skies today, but apparently this area of Alabama forgot to listen to the forecast. Therefore, this is what we saw while standing on the balcony of the very beautiful lodge at Lake Gunterville State Park. There really is a lake out there.

This is the view from our campsite. I'm hoping for one sunshiny day before we leave so I can get some good pictures of the lake and the hills surrounding it. We've had mist/fog/haze every day that it has not been raining.

When we drove up here from southern Alabama the difference in the trees was quite obvious. Spring had arrived in southern Alabama but the landscape north of Montgomery still looked like winter. This week with all the rain the trees finally started leafing out and showing that gorgeous spring green coloration. As well as forsythia yellow and redbud purple.

Very briefly, on our first night here, the sun peeked out for a somewhat colorful sunset. I know it can do better before we leave here on Wednesday!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Piddling Around on a Rainy Saturday

It's raining again, or still. If it's not raining, it's dreary and foggy so the camera has stayed inside the rig for most of the week. Pah.

Boredom forced me to update my website over at the other RV Vagabonds and to remove the Wayfaring map of the current year's travels at the bottom of this blog. For some reason is not allowing me to add anymore routes to this year's route, so it's history. In its place I've created a Google map, which isn't as handy or simple to use as the Wayfaring site, but it will do. Look for it in the sidebar rather than at the bottom of the blog if you want to follow along on our sometimes torturous routes. At times it will seem that there is no rhyme or reason for the direction of our travels, but events will often change our plans and therefore the direction of our travels. Mine is not to reason why....

Friday, April 04, 2008

Over the Hill

I assume that last year Darby got a few black "Over the hill" balloons with his cake since he turned 30 then. It's amazing how your thoughts on age change as you get older. Over the hill at 30? Pah. You are just getting started then. At 30 you finally have an idea of where you want to be going and how you are going to get there. In your twenties you skate, figuring you have all the time in the world to decide what you want to be when you grow up. When you hit thirty, your goals have finally started to gel and you have developed the patience and desire to work for what you want. Your thirties are a good time--but then again, so are your forties, fifties, sixties.....

Enjoy your day, Darby Joe. One thing hasn't changed--you still like money on your birthday!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


It appears that there won't be a lot of long sightseeing trips up here in Northern Alabama, even though the area is scenic and we've never been here before. You see, we filled up our fuel tanks in the truck today; $292.73. Yep, at $3.85 a gallon for diesel, it cost us $292.73 to fill up. And there are folks out there with large motorhomes that have even larger tanks. Ouch, ouch, and ouch.

This is sad, folks.
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