Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 16th through April 23 Heiskell, TN, Huntington, WV

The last update was getting to Raccoon Valley RV Park in Heiskell, TN, an Escapee’s Park.  Whenever we actually get to one of these parks, it is almost like ‘coming home’ – they welcome you with hugs and, once you’ve been in the system a while, almost always there is someone there you recognize or know!  Of course, it is kind of in the middle of nowhere, you have to hop on the interstate and go 5 miles either direction for restaurants, groceries, etc.  There is a Post Office and a convenience store with a deli in Heiskell, about 2 miles from the park.  The lady at the post office is very friendly, she even gave the park a phone number for you to call and see if your ‘general delivery’ mail is there so you don’t make an unnecessary trip!  Very good service :)  Another thing that is very nice is that they don’t charge you extra for electric – yaay  it is built into the daily fee!  No surprises.  They do have cable tv if you want it, it is an extra $1 per day!

We were so very busy that we didn’t take any pictures of the park!  How bad is that…especially when some folks asked me to do so – I apologize, but it was a fun and busy busy busy week!

When we got there and I went into the office, who was in there but Bob, who was our neighbor in Hondo for about 5 weeks – his wife, Donna uses a walker/scooter and it was nice to see them!  They were actually two spots from us!  Then, when we went to social hour (held 7 days a week at 4 pm) in walked Clair and Sandy Souter, who also have a lot at LSC in Hondo.  What a surprise on both our parts!  Sandy invited us over for ‘dessert’ of fresh strawberries with angel food cake – it was very yummy, and we talked for a couple hours.

The next day we went to the Appalachia Museum, about 7 miles from the park.  We spent 5 hours there, and did not see it all!  I knew quite a bit about the area, but nowhere near what I learned there.  The grounds are beautiful and they have done a marvelous job, moving Mark Twain’s cabin to the grounds, a real still, blacksmith shop, quilters, oh and music!!!  There were several groups playing  fiddle music – the one I sang along with and remember, ‘Silver Slippers’ – do you remember that song???  We had lunch at their café, and I had herb chicken, mac and cheese and pickled red beets, David had homemade vegetable soup and a tuna salad sandwich.  The food was also excellent!   We went back home and napped!  In the evening we had Clair and Sandy over for dessert and I fixed peach cobbler with ice cream…yum!

We took one day and drove down to Cleveland, TN, where my EX mother in law, sister in law and brother in law live.  I had an address, but had not spoken or emailed them since they moved from Venice, FL to Cleveland, TN.  After 2 hours drive, I knocked on the door, and when Annie came to the door we both hugged and cried!  What a wonderful visit.  Mom recognized me immediately, which tickled me, ‘cause she didn’t know Dawn (my daughter) when she visited a couple years ago!  This was an ALL DAY visit, and we’ve been invited back, and when we are in the area, we will do so!  Annie, Bob and Mom – love you all!  Only took one pic, of mom…she is almost 90 and still baking :)
Then there was Cades Cove, and the Great Smokey Mountain National Park…breathtaking and I have no room for all the pictures we took – here are a couple.
So..suddenly it won't let me add any more pics :(
Gatlinburg – and Pigeon Forge – amazing and fodder for another trip when we will stay closer to do some evening shows – I don’t like to drive far at night on roads I don’t know ;) 

We went up to Powell for a lunch at ‘The Golden Girls’ that was recommended to us – and the food was marvelous, and the dessert…they had coconut cream, lemon merengue and chocolate cream pies, plus pecan and several berry types.  We had the first two and WOW, worth the trip!  Here is a picture of the flowers in front of the restaurant – if you know what they are, please let me know, I should have asked inside – never seen anything like ‘em! 
We went for a drive around Norris Dam State Park – beautiful place!  That concludes our week in Raccoon Valley!

Our next stop was in Berea, KY, where there was ‘supposed’ to be a Passport America park – who no longer accepted PA…grrr.  However it was a decent park, full hook ups for $20 per night, no cable, but decent wifi.  When we arrived we immediately went to the Kentucky Artisan Center where there are hundreds of artists’ works, everything from pictures to sculpture, weaving to basket making.  Lovely place with interesting treasurers around every corner.  I saw a lamp that I’d love to have for the living room in PA – but it was priced at $3,000.00!!!   Needless to say, I left it there.  They also have a little café there and we had lunch – I had a wonderful Rueben and David had a plate lunch with corn pudding on it – all great food!  The Rueben was served on a rye sub roll, obviously homemade and I didn’t leave a nibble.

We had heard much of ‘The Bourbon Trail’ of Tennessee and Kentucky, and we particularly wanted to tour Maker’s Mark in Loretto, KY.  So off we went pretty early in the morning, and it was about 70 miles away on some pretty scary twisty narrow roads!!!  Danged GPS took us the ‘shortest, fastest’ route rather than the interstate!  What an experience.  The tour is about an hour, and at the end we got to taste Maker’s Mark regular, something called ‘46’ and a ‘white’…David got a bottle of ‘46’ and oh yeah, he had his tastes and mine – I am NOT a bourbon girl!  Once again they had a café and we had lunch there – I had a pulled pork sandwich with their bourbon bbq sauce that was excellent, David had a burger.  We also drove to and took a mini tour of Heavenly Hills, another distillery on the trail.  We were not up for walking to the ‘rick houses’, but David had more bourbon :)

By the time we got back home I was exhausted, having caught a pretty nasty cold several days prior, and forgot to take my Dayquil before we left in the morning.  I had put a crockpot of beans and smoked sausage on and it was quite aromatic when we got home.  It poured all night long, and when we got up yesterday morning David had caught the ‘cold’.  Of course everything he gets is worse than when I get it (goes to his chest), but I doped him up and we came on up to Huntington WV, where we are staying for 3 nights at least – maybe more!

That brings us up to date – we’re gonna try to get better!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 14 to 16, 2012 Nashville to Heiskell TN

So – Nashville, David said we would only stay 2 nights, and leave on Sunday because he didn’t want to drive through week day traffic.  We had a fantastic dinner Friday night at the Moose Club, strip steaks and all the trimmings, got up Saturday and headed out.
First stop –Loveless Café, famous for their breakfast and biscuits, and many music stars that have eaten there. I will say that it was very good, the biscuits were fantastic, but the noise level was atrocious! We couldn’t hear each other without yelling, and it actually hurt David’s ears :( Also, it was pretty expensive – cost us $25 for breakfast, which is way more than we are comfortable paying – but we did it and won’t need to go back there! 

Then, we plugged ‘The Hermitage’ into our trusty GPS and off we went.  This is one place that you should NOT miss if you are anywhere close.  Our cost for the two of us INCLUDING the carriage ride was $50, and it was well worth it.  We spent over 5 hours there – each person is given a map, a headset and a monitor – as you walked along, there were numbers on things, you plugged in the number (100 example) and it told you about something that happened there, or something that was happening in the country at a particular time.  There were brown signs that were all about Andrew Jackson, green signs that were all about his wife, Rachel, and blue signs that were informative about Daughters of American Revolution.  WOW, the house is beautifully restored, including the wall paper which is well over 100 years old – furnishings, china, carpets and other things – the guides were all in period dress, and very knowledgeable.  We took the carriage ride around the grounds – they are so expansive that there was no way David could walk the entire grounds.  Highly recommend this place!!! 
So, I've downloaded the pictures and now can't find 'em!!!  Sheesh...this getting old is for the birds!!!

It balanced out my disappointment in Tupelo, which I thought would be great and wasn’t, with a place I thought would be so-so, and it turned out to be quite a gem!  We got back to the Motorhome and were just exhausted – took naps and then went to a ‘Brewhouse’ for excellent burgers and fries! 

We got up Sunday morning and by noon we were at Deer Run RV Resort in Crossville, TN, where we didn’t even unhook the car – we simply enjoyed the lake and the down time.  Being a tourist is HARD work!

Monday morning we were on the road to Heiskell, TN, Raccoon Valley an Escapee park near the Smoky Mountains.  Once again, we just kind of vegged out, had a very nice social hour – and I recognized a couple that were parked beside us in Hondo, then at social who walked in but Clare and Sandy Souter from our home park in Hondo!  We talked and talked, and Sandy invited us over for dessert – she made yummy strawberry shortcake!  Thanks so much for a great dessert!

Friday, April 13, 2012

April 13, 2012 Tupelo to Nashville

Well, Tupelo was a disappointment to both of us.  We went to Elvis' birthplace and museum, looked at the gift shop where his CD's that I can buy for $10 at Wal-Mart were $18.99 there...t-shirts were $22.95, there was NO music playing - why would you have an Elvis museum and not have music through the place???  Then, when we looked in the museum what we saw was a bunch of posters, and not much else.  They wanted $12 each to tour the museum, the church and the shotgun house he lived in...we elected to not pay the money and just walk around and look at the outside of things.  Once again, disappointed - I guess I've heard so much about 'graceland' that I was expecting more - David has been to Graceland, and he was also pretty disappointed.  Here are a couple pics we took while there.
Shotgun house where Elvis was born.

David & a 'teen' Elvis

Fountain of Life

Tupelo did have an excellent Veterans Memorial park.

We drove up to Bryce Crossing Battle site.  Once again, nothing but praise for NPS - they've done a marvelous job with the museum, movie and battle site.

Got up and left on Thursday and drove up the Trace to Merriwether Lewis Camp, where once again we were blown away by a National Park Campground.  Very very nice, pull through sites as well as back ins, reasonably level - and FREE! 

This morning we got up and headed back up the Trace to Nashville.  We are now sitting in the parking lot of the Moose Club, with electric and water, and we fell into a wonderful steak dinner...wonderful steak!  We tried to get a tour bus to tour Nashville for tomorrow or Sunday, they are all fully booked (note to readers, if you want to tour Nashville on a bus without having to drive, book well in advance).  So, we'll see what is going on tomorrow... :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April 10, 2012 Vicksburg to Tupelo

We stopped and stayed at Natchez State Park for 2 nights, this is a wonderful state park only about 11 miles north of Natchez.  We had water and electric, there was a dump station and the cost was $26 for 2 nights!  What a deal!  Some of the highlights of these 2 days were:
Ø Windsor Ruins – WOW, here are ruins of one of the largest antebellum homes in the state of Mississippi, that survived the civil war, but burnt to the ground because a guest dropped a cigarette into some construction debris on the third floor during a party.  It is very eerie to look at these columns still standing where the flora and fauna are taking over.

Ø Went to Lorman, MS on the advice of Lisa and Murphy Matthews to the Old Country Store.  Oh my – it is an old graying building, looks kind of like an old warehouse, when you go in (they open at 11) it looks like an antique shop – the walls and ceiling are lined with shelves and shelves of antiques – from dolls to dishes, from weapons to farm implements, toys to…you get the picture!  It is all buffet, and has been featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, because of Mr D, who is famous for his fried chicken!  I must say that after I had the first bite, I had to agree, it was totally the best fried chicken I ever ate!  There was salads, all made from scratch, the potato was very close to mine, excellent, apple butter, cole slaw, about any kind of salad and pickle you’d want – and the hot table, besides the chicken, there were pork chops, with bell pepper & onion, and without, ribs, with and without a marvelous sauce, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, green beans with bacon, black eyed peas, creamed corn, mashed potatoes and two kinds of gravy, watermelon, pudding, and of course we had to share a blackberry cobbler with ice cream…

Ø We toured some Indian Mounds which were interesting ONLY if you read the book – they just looked like a big football field with a ring of dirt around them, planted with grass. 

Ø Sunken Trace – the Natchez Trace Parkway had its beginnings from peoples feet over many years, which is actually sunken into the ground – this is called the ‘old trace’ and when you stop at these areas and walk into the woods just a little bit you get a sense of just how rugged those pioneers were to endure the hardship of this travel.  We stopped at many turn outs to read information, and see what there was to see.

Ø We detoured to Vicksburg for a couple days where we stayed at the Ameristar Casino RV Park for 3 days, so we were not on the road for Easter.  We toured the Vicksburg National Military Park – we got in free with our Access pass, went to the visitor center, watched a movie, bought the auto tour cd, began our tour.  It is a 16 mile tour, encompassing 20 miles of reconstructed trenches and earthworks, 1,325 historic monuments and markers.  With the audio tour, it explains what happened where and you feel like you are really there.  In the park is also the USS Cairo (an ironclad that was sunk), and Vicksburg National Cemetery.  Here are a few pics, but they do not do it justice – if you ever get near Vicksburg, you owe it to yourself to go and experience this!

Ø While in Vicksburg we toured more antebellum homes, had a wonderful lunch at a little place called The Tomato Patch, and had Easter dinner at the buffet at the casino.  It was fantastic – all the normal stuff, prime rib, fried shrimp, ribs, etc., etc….

Ø Toured the USS Battleship Museum - $5 donation and excellent models of all the different types of ships that ply the Mississippi.  Also included a movie about the siege of Vicksburg, told from peoples journals that survived it.

Ø Toured the riverfront mural area – and a terrific children’s park! 

Ø Monday, April 9 we went up the trace and spent the night at Jeff Busby National campground – no hook-ups, very dark, but nice for a change.  It really is too tough to do much boondocking with the oxygen that David needs!  We hate running the generator so much.

Ø While at Jeff Busby we toured “French Camp” and had lunch at the historic café there.  I had potato soup and David had chili, and we shared a ‘monster’ BLT on homemade bread!  They have a sorghum festival every fall, where they make syrup and molasses, very similar to the Maple Festival in Meyersdale, PA in the spring! 
Ø We arrived here in Tupelo, MS April 10th – which brings us up to date once again!

Friday, April 6, 2012

March 30, 31 Gene & Linda

Well, I guess I made a post and it went into never never land!  So, the highlights :

On Friday we watched many rigs leaving the Rayne Campground - we had made arrangements to meet our friends Gene n Linda at Betty's RV Park in Abbeville for happy hour.  We drove down and had a wonderful couple hours - it was Betty's birthday and there was a potluck, lots of good food and people too!

Saturday we met Gene and Linda at Touchet's (pronounced Two checks) between Maurice and Abbeville.  Every other Saturday there is a jam session there that goes for hours, until the musicians are tired.  Every half hour some of them sit down and others get up - OMG the music was all cajun - couldn't understand any of the words, but the tunes were wonderful!

Gene N Linda - thanks for the memories my friends!

April 3, Rayne to Natchez

We left Rayne, LA April 1, and headed to Natchez, MS.  We were expecting a short driving day, but were NOT expecting the mechanical troubles we had!  Just as we got into the city of Natchez, there was a loud BANG, we lost oil pressure, power steering and brakes…we coasted up a hill to a light, and David, God Bless him, horsed the motorhome into a small street where we were able to get safely off the road. 

He diagnosed it as a broken serpentine belt – I called Good Sam Emergency Road Service, told them we needed a tow…they called back and said that Curtis Wrecking Service would come get us and tow us to Riverside Campground (where we were heading anyway!) and since it was a Sunday, they would send a mechanic out the next day.  So, by 3 we were in a lovely pull through spot in a gorgeous campground right along the Mississippi River! 
First thing Monday morning I called them and they had a mechanic there by 8 am.  He agreed that it was the serpentine belt, asked if we had a diagram of how it goes on, and left to find a belt.  Since we had noticed that our ‘coach’ batteries were very low (they would hardly bring in the slide anymore – were at least 7 years old) we asked him to pick us up two new batteries.  By 10 am he was done, belt on, new batteries installed…all for $403.62.  We were extremely happy with their service, from the towing to the fixing!  The batteries should be good for at least 5 years, and the serpentine belt for another 100,000 miles :) 
We immediately went to the Natchez reception welcome center, looked into a bus tour (none running on Monday), watched a movie on the town and its history, picked up some maps and headed to the corner of Canal and State streets, where we got a carriage tour of the downtown area, including Natchez under the hill.  Our driver was Jack and the horse was Jake, and Jack had much to tell and show us.  We saw some very old buildings, heard about William Johnston who was born to a black slave and a plantation owner, and who was freed when he was 8 – he became a wealthy man who himself owned a cotton plantation and slaves.  There were years and years of diaries and journals that he kept, from a ‘former slave’, which is a unique perspective.  We toured the museum which is run by the National Park Service.
While we were in Natchez we started touring some of the places on the south end of the Trace.  Actually, River View Campground, where we were staying in Vidalia, LA was noted at 0.0 milepost.  We first visited Historic Jefferson College which opened Jan 7, 1811.  At MP 8.7 we found the Old Trace Exhibit Shelter, where you can see the sunken quality of the trace where thousands upon thousands of feet walked, both 2 legged and 4.  We drove up to milepost 10.3, Emerald Mound, which covers almost 8 acres and is superseded only by Monk’s mound at Cahokia IL site.  Very impressive!  Then at MP 12.4, Loess Bluff it is possible to see the layers of silt deposits left by the Mississippi flooding through the years. 

Of course while in Natchez, we ate at several historic restaurants, the Euola Hotel puts on an OK lunch buffet, and we had a terrific lunch one day at Little Dagoes…yep, that really is the name of the restaurant!  We came home with enough leftovers from there for two more meals!  Since we are not at the rally we have a little better handle on David’s blood sugar, thank goodness! 
We had a very nice Social hour (which stretched to 2) with some fellow Escapees, Phil and Cindy Devonshire – who are from Wyalusing, PA.  We look forward to seeing them down the road, possibly at Cumberland MD end of July.  Love meeting new people and sharing tales!

April 4 we drove from Vidalia LA to Natchez State Park, a driving day of 18 miles :) but we are now officially on the trace!  After setting up we immediately took off for Grand Gulf State Park to tour the Port Gibson area where much of the fighting was done to protect Vicksburg.  We spent about 2 hours touring the grounds and museum ($2 fee per person for seniors).  Lots of history some restored buildings and lots of artifacts, canons, etc.  They have a nice campground, but it is full for the past 3 months and will continue to be full for a couple more.  Apparently there is a lot of work at the nuclear power station there since the 2011 flood, and it is full of workers.

We came back home to a wonderful dinner that I had started in the crockpot, roast beef, carrots, potatoes and onions in an onion gravy! 

This last picture is a 'weasel' measurers yarn, there is 12 inches between each 'handle' - it gives a little ping each time it goes around, and after so many go around, there is a LOUD POP - thus the term 'Pop goes the Weasel'...we had never seen this type of machine, and needless to say we did not know the 'rest of the story' :)

This is a wonderful journey - David, thanks for the memories darling!

Monday, April 2, 2012

March 28, 2012 PA Rally

The Passport America Rally was wonderful!  We did get a SMI brake system installed in the car to help stop the motorhome – since we have offloaded so much ‘stuff’ in Hondo, David could really feel the car pushing down hills, and there are some states where it is illegal to tow without brake assist on the towed vehicle, so we bit the bullet and got one.  Great people to work with, it took him about 4 hours to install, and there is NOTHING to put in the car when we hook up.  We simply click the latch with our other cables, turn on two switches inside the car, and done.  It works on infrared and speed, it sees the brake lights go on, feels the coach slow and applies brakes on the car with a vacuum something!  I will tell you it works magnificently!

We had some great entertainment at the rally – two nights of bands that were very good, playing Cajun as well as some country and some oldies.  Here are a couple pics of them.  There was a gentleman that was 87 years old and his bride of two years that really made us laugh.  They danced almost every dance, and he played the ‘washboard’…how great! 

We met some wonderful people, two couples in particular, Jim and Sandy from Gulf Shores, FL, and Don and Lou from Lousiana…Above is Pete and the decorations - the baloons look like frogs!  Here is Jim and Sandy!  We had a great time with them, and I didn’t get as many pictures as I’d like, but these will have to do!

They also provided some excellent food – one night was jambalaya, wow it was good!  Then on Wed night it was herb chicken and pulled pork, Cole slaw, beans, rolls and dessert…and every morning was either beignets or donughts, juice & coffee, I only indulged 1 morning since David could not! 

The rally ended on Thursday night with a wonderful pot luck and more visiting.  Friday morning we watched as over 150 rigs went out of the grounds.  We had paid for two extra nights, because there were things we wanted to do, and the Rayne City campground is excellent!