Now in Crawfordsville, Indiana

Now in Crawfordsville, Indiana

We are now in Del Rio Texas

We are now in Del Rio Texas

Heading to Texas via Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi

September 21 - 28, 2015 

Here we go, heading southwest to our winter spot in south Texas.  We estimate that it will take us 16-17 days to travel the 1800 miles from Washington DC to Elsa Texas. 

We are asked a lot how do we plan our travel or if we plan at all.  Well, we do plan, in phases.  First, the plan is just that we have the idea that we want to go somewhere; it’s just an idea at this point. Then a rough plan first just to make sure we can get where we want to go in the time we have.  Then lastly, a more detailed plan just before we start to move as well as along the way.  

The following is how we make the travel plan:

We only travel a couple of hundred miles on a travel day and then stay at least 2 days on each stop.  We planned out the trip before we left DC.  First, I have Google maps plot the route in one tab on the computer.  Next, I open a tab for Passport America and one for RV Parks Review as well as a second google maps tab.  The Second google maps tab I use to find campgrounds as a last resort if I can’t find one via Passport or the RV Parks Review web sites.  Lastly, I open my google calendar site.  So now I have 5 websites open the same time.  And yes, it does get a little confusing at times.

With all of these sites open I first make sure that the google route is the one that I want to take.  I make corrections to the map if it doesn’t fit the way I way I want to go.  This corrected map becomes the master map so I use the second open map to find new sites on our route on the master map. I now look at the corrected map and try to pick areas of either interest to us and/or about 200 miles from our last site.   I look up that area on the Passport America site and see if there are any participating parks.  Participating Parks are usually half price. We also make sure that the park can fit us at 40 feet and it has Wi-Fi.  We don’t care about full hook up as long as we have water and electric.  If I can’t find a Passport park I use the RV review site for the area.  If both of those fail I just search the area with google maps for RV Parks.  

After I find a suitable park I put in on the calendar.  The title of the calendar will include if it is a Passport (PA) or Non Passport (NON-PA), the name of the park address town and how many miles it is from the last site.  In the calendar entry I add particulars like if it full hook-up, has Wi-Fi, the phone number and the full address.

Patty and my calendars are synced so we both have the same information on our calendars.  This makes it very easy when we are leaving one site and heading to another to just look on our phone calendar to check it out.  Also, on the way to our next site we usually call ahead to make sure we can get in.  

That’s the way we plan our travel.  We plan that out in detail mainly to the next long term stay of more than a couple of days.  However, for the travel season (April – November) we will plan a rough map of where we are going.  In this way we can make sure we have enough time to go where we want to go.  This plan has a lot of padding to it so we can adjust later as we get closer.  We do this rough plan before we leave our winter site in Texas.  

So, with our detailed travel plan in place, we are following it as closely as we can.  We left DC on Sunday the 20th and have made 5 stops in the past week.  Our first stop was in Virginia, second was Tennessee, third and fourth was Alabama, and now we are in Mississippi.  Our next stop will be in Louisiana. 

Our first stop in Virginia from Sunday the 20th to Tuesday the 22nd was at a family resort type park, Jelleystone.  These are franchise parks just like the KOA parks, however with more things to do.  We were there after the main season and it was rainy and cool so not so much to do for us.  It was an OK place and was a Passport park making it pretty cheap at $25 per night. 

Our site in Jelleystone RV Park in Natural Bridge Virginia.  That's us in the middle.

Patty purchased some new plastic flowers for our front pot.  They needed to be arranged and trimmed.

Jellystone has a large water slide.  We are not in season here now so it is closed.

Our next stay from Tuesday the 22nd to Thursday the 24th was at the Around Pond RV Park in Baileyton Tennessee. Around the Pond is a private RV park and was not a Passport park. This was a nice park for a stay of a few days. It made it even nicer that the weather was great too! 

Our site at Around Pond in Baileyton Tennessee.

The sites were nice size and the park was very well taken care of.  The park only takes cash and it was $30 a night, not too bad.  This park has a lot of “wild” birds that you don’t see in one place.  There were turkeys, ducks, swans, and fierce chickens!  We were on one of our normal walks when we came upon this group of chickens.  It was 4-5 hens and one very pretty rooster.  We got a little too close and the rooster attacked Patty.  The rooster cut her leg in three places enough to draw blood!  We didn’t walk there anymore during our stay!

Wild turkeys roaming all around the rig.

Goats at the RV Park

Patty feeding the same grass that is inside to one of the stupid ones.

The attack rooster with a couple hens!

After the rooster attacked Patty, it was crowing very loud.

The office at Around Pond.

I was assembling a new bean bag toss game and I got this new friend.

Then we were off to Alabama to the Wills Creek RV resort in Fort Payne from Thursday the 24th to Saturday the 25th. 

Stopped at a rest park, Patty walking back. 
We stopped because I needed to go but I got back first.

This was our first time staying in Alabama so we added the state sticker onto our map on the RV.  

Our map filled in with Alabama now.  We will try to get South Carolina next Spring.

Wills Creek was also not a Passport park but the cost was only $28 a night.  This was another just OK park.  It was fine for us as it was located just a couple of miles off of our route on I 59.  It was also close to Fort Payne so we could do a little shopping at Walmart. 

Our site in Wills Creek RV Park in Fort Payne Alabama.

Something new we tried to make, Pizza.  We used fresh Oregano, Basil, and Parsley.  We cooked it on the grille.  Will try the oven next as the grille got it a little too crunchy.

There is not much to say about this place other than the weather here was not great.  So far we have only had one stay since leaving DC with nice weather.  It looks like it is going to be that way most of the way to our site in south Texas!  There is a slow moving storm coming out of the Gulf hugging the coast of Texas and pushing up into Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Our next stop was again in Alabama but just a little over a hundred miles away.  This stop will be our only one-nighter. We couldn’t find any suitable sites along our route in the 200 mile range so we picked a short travel day but just a one night stay.  We headed to the Cherokee Campground just south of Birmingham AL in the suburban town of Helena AL. We were just staying from Saturday the 26th to Sunday the 27th.

The place in Birmingham AL we didn't stay at as they were full.  That doesn't happen very often!

This stop was one of the ones where we didn’t plan or execute as well as we should have.  The Cherokee Campground was full with no place for us.  This area is a major fan base for Alabama Universality and the Crimson Tide Football team.  The university was just a few miles south of us in Tuscaloosa AL.  

We chose not to call ahead this time and got burned! All of the area RV parks were full including the local state parks.   So here we were at 1 in the afternoon with no place to go. We were also quite a bit off our route in the rolling hills around Birmingham.  

It all worked out in the end though as we got a great place for a one-nighter.  The Cherokee Park manager gave us the location of a local RV park that doesn’t have a website and is not manned.  The place is the Hoover RV Park and it is part of the parking lot complex for the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium complex.  The stadium is a municipal stadium.  It is very new and it is a large stadium located in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover GA.  

Basically, the park is part of the parking lot complex but it has full hook-ups as well as WI-FI. This turned out to be better for us than the place we had originally picked.  It was just a couple of miles off our route, just $31 a night, paved, and pull through.  Turned out great!

Our site at the Hoover RV Park in Birmingham AL

On my 5 mile walk near the our site I took this picture of some of the homes here.  This area is loaded with gated communities with huge homes.

Now we are in Mississippi just outside of Hattiesburg.  We are at the Okatoma Resort and RV Park.  We will be here from Sunday the 27th to Tuesday the 29th.  

Getting to Mississippi was probably the worst travel day I think we have had in the 3 plus years we have been traveling.  To start off, that storm from the gulf has now consumed us as we are driving in torrential rain.  

About 150 miles into the 230 mile trip a slow moving car cuts me off almost causing a major accident!  I was sitting up straight tightly gripping the wheel in the heavy rain doing 60 in a 70 zone on I59/20.  I was in the right most lane passing one of those 2 lane on/off ramps connected together. 

Anyway, a slow moving car doing maybe 30 was in the on/off ramp all of the way right so I didn’t give him much thought. All of a sudden this slow car veers to the left across the lane next to him and directly in front of me.  He was maybe 50 feet in front of me now doing 30 with me doing 60 in heavy rain. 

All I could think of was that I was going to jack-knife slowing down and swerving to the left to miss him.  I looked real fast to the left and I was clear so I slowed as much as I could and swerved into the lane next to the guy.  We just missed hitting him by inches.   I just was waiting for the crash!  We made it with my heart pounding!  That was CLOSE!!

After that close call, our GPS took us on wild goose chase down a dirt/gravel road in the rain and with no outlet!  This was on the way to our current site.  After we were fully down this road, a guy pulled up to me and said “yer lost aren’t you!” All I could do was shake my head up and down in the affirmative.  He said the obvious, that I was going to need to turn around, and then he and his girlfriend left us there. 

This is what a wrong road looks like!

We are sunk up to about 3 inches in mud and rocks in the road, but it was solid under the thick layer on top.  The road had one driveway on it so we could do a K turn and get turned around.  I was really worried that we would get crossways and be stuck here.  We didn’t get stuck and we were able to call the park and get better directions.

OK, now the last mess-up!  We get to the park and get checked in at the office.  This park is a ways away from anything with all of the park roads being that same mud gravel mix.  Anyway, as usual, the check in woman gives me a map of the park and draws a path to where we are to go. 

All's well so far. So out to the truck we go and head off following the map.  We came to the place on the map that showed where we have 2 right hand turns to pick from.  The drawing on the map shows we are to take the furthest right hand turn.  This turn didn’t look right to me so I got out in the rain and walked part of it to make sure.  Well, yes it was a road but a crappy one.  

Rechecked the map to make sure and off we went.  Halfway back on this road it became apparent that this was not right. It was now a little too late to be trying to back out and I could see where we needed to be so I continued on.  We had low branches, and the road was severely tilted to the left. However, it was still a road and this is where she drew it on the map to go.  

This is where the map said to go on the left loop.  It doesn't look right does it!

I got out and looked at the road and it was a road, just not a good one!

This is where it was real bad but I was already committed.  The road tilts a lot to the left and the trees are very low.  Our space is just right on the other side of the trees.

We made it!  This is our site in Hattiesburg Mississippi.

I made it but I would not do it again!  The camp host came up after we were in and asked how I got here because he didn’t see us pull in.  I showed him how I did it and he said that I just came up a service road not meant for RVs!  He took the map back to straighten out the check in person.

Nice pool at the park.  Again, we are after season now so very few people.  We are far enough south now though that people will frequent this place during at least the early winter.

We took a hike around the RV Park property.

It's hard to see in this picture but the duck in the front has a growth on it's head.  In fact 2 of the ducks have the same growth.  We can't figure out what it is!

Closer view of one of the ducks with the growth on it's head.

We had sticks, mud, and pine needles all over the rig now.  I got up on the roof to make sure we didn’t put any holes in it and we didn’t.  Whew!  We are here and the end of a hard day of travel.

On Monday the 28th we got the truck oil changed at a near by Ford service shop.  The truck just passed another 5,000 miles since the last oil change in Lafayette Indiana.  We still have about 800 miles to go to our place in south Texas.  It wouldn't be a problem to go on to our place in Texas but I want to get it changed before we leave next spring and I am not sure we will drive 5, 000 miles while wintering.  This just gives us a little more security knowing the truck is in good shape too.  It was the cheapest oil change I have got in the 3 years with it.  The cost was just $89.95!  Usually it is just under or over $100.

Stay tuned!

US Capital, Arlington National Cemetery, and Leaving DC

September 17 - 20, 2015 

After all of the trouble (Hospital) Patty was in Yesterday after the White House tour, she was OK to go for the Capital Tour today.  This is pretty common with Patty’s condition; she recovers almost like nothing happened.  Well, almost anyway!  Right now she is a little on the manic side of things.

We headed off to downtown DC on the Metro on the Green Line getting off at the Archive station around 10 am.  We were going to have lunch at the Ebbett Pub before doing the Capital tour at 2:30 but it was too early yet.  We were right behind the national archives so we decided to look around in there first.  

In the DC Metro.  Patty on the left.  Probably the cleanest Metro I have been on and I have been on a lot of Metros around the world.

The DC Metro is very deep in some places.. This coming up out of the Archives station in downtown DC

The archives have several floors of written material from our history as well as some of the world.  We managed to see only 2 floors quickly which is about a third of what there is to see here.  You could spend a day in this place easily.  The highlights were seeing the original Bill of Rights and the Constitution as well as the Magna Carta. We spent 3 hours in the archives and missed our opportunity for lunch.  Maybe we will have dinner at the Ebbett tonight.

The National Archives building.  No pictures are allowed inside.

We got back on the Metro and headed to the Capitol South station.  This station put us about 4 blocks from the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  The Dirksen is where all of the senators have their offices with exception to the leadership positions.  This is really cool, we get to go into this building and go to our South Dakota Senators office.  Our Senators name is Thume whom we didn’t get to see as he was not in the office.

The Capitol is being refurbed right now so thee is a lot of scaffolding around the dome.  We walk past the Capitol on the way from the Metro station to the Senate Office Building.

The Dirksen Office building.  This is where all of the Senators have their offices.

We met up with Adam Wek his aide who is all of 22 years old.  He set us up with the Senators new intern who would give the tour; his name was Stephen.  Stephen has only been there a week and we were his first tour.  By the way, he just graduated high school and is 18 years old.  Stephen was very poised, however a bit nervous.  He was grateful we were his first tour instead of a large group.  He did fine!

Our Senate Office guide Stephen.  He is looking just bit nervous in this picture.  We are taking the Senate subway to the Capital.

If anyone is ever in DC and want to tour the Capital we highly suggest getting in touch with either your senator or congressman and ask them for a tour.   The tour is basically just you and the intern instead of one of the huge commercial tours we saw.  We also got to go in places where the big tours didn’t go.  

One of the places we got to go where the commercial tours went was to the Senate's subway system.  The senate subway goes from the Dirksen Office Building to under the Capital on the Senate side.  We got to ride the system!  That was way cool for me!

One of the Senate subway cars.

The pictures will tell the story of the tour.    However, the only place we couldn’t take pictures was in the Senate and House floors. This sort of sucked, but everybody has seen these places so many times on TV anyway.  When we were in House, they were debating the Iran deal.  Overall, the tour took about 2 hours.  

This is the Capital Visitors center.  Is has been built since I was here last in the early 90s. The visitors center was just opened in 2008.

There are statues from all of the 50 states here in the Capital.  Each state can have 2.  This one is from Hawaii.  We are told that the gold color is because it is all real gold!

This is a replica of the statue of freedom that is on the roof of the Capital.
Surprising how large this statue is!

The exact center of Washington DC is in the Capital.

The first place the Senate met in the Capital.  Not as many senators then.

This is one of the Indiana statues.  I have no Idea who this is.

Inside the Capital rotunda.  They are working in here too!

What can be seen of the dome from inside.

This is the statue of history.  I liked this one so it is here in my blog.
Time is at the bottom and she is turned around to write what she just saw.  

Ronald Regan Statue.  The main reason I included this pic is
because it has pieces of the Berlin wall in it at the bottom.

Hard to see even when you are there but the "spots"
 just below the platform for the statue are actually pieces of the wall.

The first House Chambers before they needed the room they do today for all 50 states.

The leadership get special offices in the Capital.  This is the entrance to John Boehner's office.

We left Stephen at the Capital Visitors Center and headed to Amtrak’s Union Station.  We decided we were going to have dinner back at the RV tonight so we got on the Metro at Union Station and headed back.

Union Station in DC.  Very impressive rail station.  I have been in this station many times in my career but have not been outside to take a picture.

On Friday the 18th we decided to visit Arlington National Cemetery. We again boarded the Metro Green line to L’Enfant station and changed to the Silver line to Arlington Cemetery.  The trip took about 45 minutes. 

Arlington Cemetery is located just the other side of the Potomac River directly across from the Lincoln Memorial. 

View from Arlington Cemetery across the freedom bridge to the Lincoln Memorial.

We walked for about 10 minutes to the Visitor Center and found that they have a tram tour for $12 a person.  Again, the pictures will tell the story of Arlington.  Depending on one’s level of interest, Arlington can be seen in just 3 hours or it could be all day.  We just spent time at the highlights; Kennedy’s grave and the changing of the guard.

This statue is just outside the entrance to the visitor center.
It is bronze and they are cleaning it with a flame thrower device.

Vietnam Memorial Tree

Patty taking a picture of the Gold Star Mothers memorial tree for her sister Sandy.
Sandy lost her son Travis in Iraq.

Photo of the Washington Monument from Arlington

The eternal flame at Kennedy's grave site

Air Force Memorial at Arlington

Changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The whole change takes about 10 minutes and happens each half hour.  Each guard protects the tomb for about half an hour.

This is the end of the change.  The superior marches out
with the old guard leaving the new guard.

Picture of the guard leaving his post.

Guard and his superior leaving the tomb

After Arlington we decided to have dinner at the Ebbett Pub near the White House.  The Ebbett is very near a Metro stop on our way back to the RV making it very convenient.  It was, after all a Friday night, so we knew the place would be packed, and it was.  The maĆ®tre d’ said that the wait for a table would be an hour and a half.   So we followed the advice we got from the RV park seminar and went to the bar.  

The bar was also packed but there was at least room to stand along the wall.  We waited there with a beer for about 15 minutes and were able to grab a couple of seats at the bar. Gotta love how friendly people are in DC.  People around the bar were helping us as well as others to get seats with them as they became available. How cool is that!

A pub since 1856!

Cool animal heads on the wall above the bar.

The place is still lit with gas lights.  Very nice atmosphere

After dinner and a couple of beers for me and a beer and a Bloody Mary for Patty, we headed back to the RV.  It was a great day and our last in the downtown DC area.  There is much more here that we didn’t do.  But we needed to go slow for Patty’s sake.  We got to see the major sights but missed a lot too.  We will need to visit again in the future to see the other stuff if Patty wants to.  I have visited the DC area several times over the years so it is only cool to do it if Patty wants to.

We decided to just chill out on Saturday the 19th at the RV Park.  The park has 2 swimming pools and a hot tub.  The park also has a mile long woodsy loop trail to hike.  We did 2 miles on the trail and then spent some time at the pool.  It was a nice day overall and a good way to end our stay in the DC area.

On our hike around the park

We cooled off here for the afternoon on Saturday

OK, one last thing in the DC area.  We needed to hit a Walmart before we headed south so we went to this Walmart in DC.  This Walmart has only underground parking so you need to use an escalator to get in and to leave.  That's Patty waiting on our cart at the bottom.

Your cart rides down in the center of the escalators!  Never seen anything like this!

Sunday the 20th was our leaving day.  We are now headed 1800 miles southwest to our winter place in south Texas. 

On our way in Virginia with this nice view of the mountains in the background

Our first stop was a Passport America kid’s tourist RV resort, Jellystone RV resort in Natural Bridge Station Virginia.  The Jellystone Park is 217 miles southwest of DC.  We left our site in Cherry Hill at 11 am and arrived at the Jellystone Park at 2:30.  

Our site at the Jellystone Resort Park in Natural Bridge Station Virginia

The weather turned cool and wet when we got there.

Goodbye to DC and Texas here we come!  Slowly!!

Stay Tuned!