Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving thanks

I like seeing the Facebook posts of folks who spend the month of November enumerating what they are thankful for - here's at least a partial list for me:
  • I'm thankful for my sweet husband, Dwayne. I'm thankful that God brought us together, even at a time that neither of us was walking closely with Him, and that God ultimately brought us back to Him.
  • I'm thankful for being born into the family I was born into, for having the Mom and Dad and brother that God gave me.
  • I'm thankful for being born in Virginia where learning state history and US history coincided so closely. I'm also thankful for my adopted state, Texas, and the richness of the history here.
  • I'm thankful for the career I had with IBM, the friends and colleagues there, and the ability to still keep up with many of them through the wonder of the internet, email, and Sametime. I'm also very thankful for retirement! I'm excited to see what this next phase of life brings!
  • I'm thankful for the ability that I have had to travel over so much of the US and the world in my work life, and the ability to continue traveling during retirement.
  • I'm thankful for my extended family - cousins that I am just becoming closer to now as an adult; members of Dwayne's family that have become my family; many members of family whose life on earth has ceased, but who still influence my life through memories; and members of the generations coming into adulthood now, who remind me to be grateful for what God has brought us through!
  • I'm thankful to live in a diverse community where people from many different countries can be seen every day; meeting someone from a different culture doesn't require getting on an airplane, but just crossing the street or walking into WalMart!
  • I'm thankful for my church family - for their support and love for us, for their willingness to hold us accountable, to build us up, to welcome us back when we've been away.
  • I'm thankful for the kitties that I have had in my life - most particularly for our current two, Miss Kitty and Tabitha. 
  • I'm also thankful for all the animals we were able to have growing up - cats and dogs of course, but also rabbits, chickens, horses and ponies, guinea pigs, skunks, calves, and of course, Belle, the goat. I'm not as thankful for snakes... but I think lizards are "cute". (Dwayne affirms me by telling me that my distaste for snakes is Biblical, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman...." (Gen 3:15a))
  • I'm thankful to have grown up on a farm, but not to be living there as an adult. I'm also thankful that my brother and sister-in-law want to be on the farm (so I didn't have to feel guilty about *not* wanting to live there).
  • I'm thankful for the opportunity that we had to spend quite a lot of time on Kauai during our marriage and for our "church family" and friends there.
  • I'm thankful for friends - whether they be from childhood or adulthood, from work or church or neighborhood or school or just someone that God has brought across my path - each person has impacted my life and I am grateful.
  • I'm thankful for teachers through my life - those that influenced me in my grade school and high school years, professors in college, instructors in technical topics during my work life, folks who are sharing with me about their paths even now as they are several steps ahead of us in the RV life.
  • I'm thankful for technology that allows access to so much information at the tips of my fingers on a keyboard or telephone. But I'm also thankful for the written word in the form of books that are still great "friends" to spend time with!
  • Of course, as I wrote a couple of days ago, I'm thankful for the relationship that I have with Jesus, that allows me to approach the throne of God and express to Him how thankful I am!
I am certain as soon as I post this entry, I'll think of more -- so I'll stick with this being a "start"!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

No, I won't tell you the IP address of my computer...

For my techie friends -- you know how this goes.

For my non-techie friends -- if someone calls and says, "I am calling to talk to you about your Windows computer. It has a virus on it that is sending messages on the internet. I want to help you get rid of it..." --

The answer is, "No, I don't need any help."
Or, "No, you can't scam me, I don't believe you."
Or, "Oh really, how interesting! The computer sending messages is owned by the US Government. I would like to have someone from the Internal Revenue Service call you back to understand what is going on... give me your phone number, please?"  (This was fun to use when Dwayne was employed by the US Government and we had an IRS laptop in our home office.)

Or... if you are concerned by what they are telling you and you are non-techie, legitimately ask for their phone number, indicating that you will have your computer support person call them back. Then, get in touch with me (or Dwayne) and we will call them back for you. The likelihood is that it is a scam, but if you think it might be true, I would rather you take advantage of help that Dwayne or I could give you, than that you get scammed. And, if they will give you a phone number, it is more likely that they are something legit; if they won't give you a phone number, it is almost certain they are scamming you.

Update on 11/29: another person called me from "Windows Security Service". I talked with him a bit longer; he led me through opening the Windows Event Viewer and into the Application events, pointing out to me that there are warnings and errors in there. (I'm not a Windows guru, but I am pretty sure there are almost always errors in there!) I tried to get his phone number to be able to call him back; he gave me my phone number... I intended to work with him long enough to find out the command he would give me to enter that would supply him access to my computer... but it was taking too long. He did say that I had a very nice voice and that he liked talking with me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Operation Christmas Child Processing Center

The Operation Christmas Child Shoebox campaign has its processing center in Dallas open again this year. They started with a processing center in Dallas for the first time last year, and the center opened for 2014 today. I signed up and volunteered today. I intended to stay only 4 hours, but I was having such a good time I was there for about 8 hours. I'm really tired now, but enjoyed it immensely.

Because I was by myself, I got onto a "line" with a family who was there volunteering. They live west of DFW - a family with 6 kids, they are homeschooled, and were a very neat group to work with. They packed 430 shoeboxes this fall!
Near the end of the day - tired but enjoying it - this was one of the daughters of the family that I was blessed to be on the processing line with.

This was "our" processing line.

The shoeboxes we processed today will be going to Guyana.
The group that I work with to pack shoeboxes (spearheaded by Janell!) packed 75 shoeboxes this year, and we hope to pack 100 in 2015. Two of my friends, Patti and Stacy, will be leaving soon to go distribute shoeboxes with Vladimir and Marijana in Montenegro.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Family Secret

Some years ago, a pastor shared with us that Romans 8:28 is "The Family Secret":
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, 
to those who are called according to His purpose.

Note that it isn't a promise for everyone - but for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.

Now, sometimes it is hard to see how all things work together for good, and, in many cases, we won't see the "good" until heaven... but... sometimes God lets us see the "good" now, and sometimes I think He must chuckle at us.

So, going back a few weeks, when we were in Virginia, at one point, when Dwayne was closing the back window on the driver's side (aka the emergency exit), somehow the clip that locks it closed broke off. Maybe it was in the latched position when he tried to slide it closed, or maybe the plastic was just old... but it broke.

Not a huge deal - we can close it and just not latch it. Sometimes when we stop we find that the window has come open with the shake-rattle-and-rolling that is part of our traveling, but the screen stays closed, and it hasn't been a big deal. Dwayne was annoyed about breaking it, but I figure there are things that are going to constantly go wrong with the motor home, and I would rather "this week's problem" be a broken window latch than, say, a roof leak.

Fast forward to our stay in Livingston. We again heard "Mac the Fire Guy" and he again encouraged all of us to practice exiting our motor homes - ok, on the to-do list.

One evening, we were leaving the motor home to go to a gathering of Escapees in the park. As we left the unit, Dwayne engaged the lock and slammed the door. I turned back around and said, "Do you have *your* keys?" He looked at me with a "oh no" look and said, "Don't you have yours?"  Well, no, neither of us had our keys.... and to add to that, I usually have a smaller set of keys (that has both door keys) in the Jeep, but it was inside the Trek in my purse too... so... no keys, outside the Trek, what to do? Call a locksmith?

Wait, let's think - the window that doesn't latch...
Carry the picnic table over and put it under the window.
Force the window open - HURRAH! It opened!!!
Climb in - thankfully wearing winter coat to prevent too much damage to ribs as I hoist myself in.
Out the main entry door, this time *with* our Trek keys.

(Side note: we had determined that if anyone saw us "breaking into" the Trek, we would say, "Oh we're practicing... you mean we're supposed to practice getting OUT, not getting IN????")

Now, for you who don't believe that God cares about even little things like getting locked out of your house/vehicle... well... I think He cares about every little thing that goes on in His children's lives! And I truly believe that He prepared a way for us to get back into our motor home many days before our need for it!

On that topic, I also believe that He has prepared a way that all might live with Him forever, a free gift of eternal life, contingent upon each of us believing that we are sinners, that God is Holy and cannot abide with sinners, therefore He sent Jesus - the perfect God-Man - wholly God and wholly Man - to live as we live, be tempted as we are tempted, and yet not sin - but ultimately to take on the sins of all us - past, present, and future - so that on the balance sheet of life, all the sins that are in "my column" of the spreadsheet were written onto Jesus' column. While He died for all, His Righteousness is written into "my column" only if I choose to accept His perfect sacrifice for my sins. 

If you haven't already, accept His gift of Righteousness - here's one of my favorite set of scriptures to follow (the Roman Road):
Romans 3:23 - For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  "Yes, Lord, I know that I am a sinner, and unable to save myself."
Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. "God, I can't imagine it, but You loved me so much, that even when I was unaware of my need, You provided a way that I could become right with You."
Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. "God, I know that my sin deserves death, but I thank you that the penalty of death was paid by Jesus."
Romans 10: 9,10, 13 - If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation...  for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” - "Lord, I say with my mouth (confess) that, from this point forward, Jesus is my Lord; I believe that You raised Him from the dead. I trust that Jesus' sacrificial death allows me to be saved, and I will trust in Him and Him alone for my salvation."

So, if you aren't a part of the "family" yet, for whom the "family secret" at the top of this post applies - follow the "Roman Road" and accept God's free gift of salvation; the gift is free, but you have to accept it.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Meals on Wheels

My friend, Janell, and I have been delivering Meals on Wheels for a few years now (I think we figured it was back to 2009). We have volunteered one Friday a month, and enjoyed having that time to spend together and knowing that we would be able to catch up with each other.

With my retirement, and her work and new condo in Galveston, we reluctantly let the Meals on Wheels coordinator know that we would not be able to have a regular route, but that we would try to volunteer when a route needed to be covered. In addition, we knew the volunteer that did our "normal" route on other Fridays, so she knew she could call on us if she needed a substitute.

The other volunteer contacted me this week and asked if we could cover for her this Friday. I checked, and Janell was not available, but I asked Dwayne, and he agreed to do it with me. Technically, I could run the route by myself, but it is easier if there are more than one.

So, we ran the route on Friday; Dwayne went to the doors and I drove the vehicle. The route was pretty much the same as when we last ran it in July, with just one additional person - no big deal...

Until we got to the third client on the list...

Now, you need to understand that Janell and I have our own version of the client list. We have our own directions from client to client, we have additional notes, like "dog's name is Titus" for any client that has a pet with whom we have become acquainted. For the third client on the list, when we first started delivering, she had a large glider on the concrete area outside her front door - so we called her "glider lady" (between ourselves, not to her). A long time ago, she got rid of the glider, so then we called her "no glider lady". This particular client is not home more than any other to whom we deliver - it is always a challenge when they are not home - we call the client (frequently the number is no longer a working number as they have prepaid cell phones that have run out of minutes), then we call the MOW office to let them know. If it is a client that is usually home, sometimes we try back later before calling the office.

So, I pulled up in front of "no glider lady"s apartment and told Dwayne, "It's the one on the right."
He went up, didn't go to the door, just came back to the car.
"It isn't the right number," he said.
Huh? Did I pull up in front of the wrong building? At that point, I noticed that all the furniture that used to be by the front door was gone (no glider, no table, no chair, no flower pot). We compared the apartment number on the MOW manifest to the Janell/Patti spreadsheet - it had changed! Uh oh!
We changed into "search mode" - which is always fun in apartment complexes - there is a reason they are called "complexes" - whoever designs the layout of the buildings must get their jollies from random number generators. We found the new building, and Dwayne set out with the hot meal, cold bag, and two weekend boxes - but, couldn't find the apartment number in the building. Finally, after walking around the building to both the right and the left, he found her new apartment in the back of the new building.
(Note: if we had been delivering regularly, when the client got a new address, the first time we were to deliver to that new address, it would have been noted on the manifest, but since I was substituting for a regular volunteer, and probably the move was a while ago, it wasn't noted.)

The next couple of deliveries were no problem, and then we were to "new guy added". I had put the street address into our GPS, so it got us to the area, but not to the building (remember, apartment complexes are complex). I don't know whether the Garmin sent us to the wrong address, or whether I didn't pay close enough attention, but I turned into the wrong apartment complex. After a long search, we found "building 10", and Dwayne got out and went to find "apartment 1005". A few minutes later, he came back with the hot meal, cold bag, and two weekend boxes.
"Was he not there?"
"I knocked on the door, a lady answered. She said that she doesn't get Meals on Wheels."
Uh oh...
So, I called the new guy - the apartment complex he lived in was on the other side of the street. I drove over there... another search mission looking for building 10. My phone rings, "Are you still having problems finding me?" -- the client calling.
"I think we're in the right complex now."
"Don't go into the complex, my door is right on the main street, I'm standing outside, my car is red, didn't you see it?"
Hmmm... didn't look for the red car on the main street - so, back to the main street, found the client standing outside...

The rest of the clients were found uneventfully.

I think I need remedial MOW training!

I am SO thankful Dwayne was doing the delivery with me; Janell and I both thought that we may have ended up not finding "no glider lady" at all; when she didn't answer the door, we would have tried to call (probably not getting her) and then have reported her as not home to MOW - I am so thankful that Dwayne noticed that the apartment number was not correct.

Secondly, I am SO thankful that the lady was home at the wrong apartment complex; I guess if there had been no one home, we still would have tried calling the client and have eventually found him, but I think we might have been confused for a little longer.

It is still fun to deliver for MOW, and I'm glad we did it, but it sure was easier when we did it every month!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Home again, home again, Jiggety Jig

My mom used to say the words in this post's title - I didn't know what they came from, but found they are from a nursery rhyme:

To market, to market to buy a fat pig;
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog;
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog.

We haven't bought a pig or a hog, but we are at home for a little while. This is the time period during which we have planned that we would decide whether we are going to keep the motor home and sell the house, or keep the house and sell the motor home.

We have come to the conclusion that selling the house is the right thing to do; the taxes in our area are so high, and with the other costs, we don't think continuing to own our house is the right thing to do. We haven't yet decided the next thing to do... whether to try to get rid of everything (or most things) and live in the motor home for a while, or to get a smaller place in a less costly location and possibly travel around in the motor home too. Right now, we're postponing the decision - we know that we want to head out to Arizona for Quartzite in January, and we're thinking that we will attend the Escapees Escapade in Arizona in March - and by doing those things and staying more west and south, we can avoid needing to winterize our rig.

In the meantime, before we head out again, there are things that we have on our list of "want to get done on the motor home" that are more easily accomplished if we are at home, so we're working on those things.

Escapees bootcamp

We went to Livingston to attend the Escapees Bootcamp. This had been recommended to us if we were considering going fulltime. It is taught by instructors who are either currently fulltime or have been fulltime in the past.

It was a lot of good information; much of it was repeat for us, but still good because you don't get it *all* the first time through. There was a lot of helpful information about things that we want to consider and look into regarding our rig.

RV Systems
  • Get a rope that is as long as the slide out depth to check to be sure there is enough room for the slides to go out before finishing setup for parking.
  • Clean gas burner of refrigerator, make sure the compartment behind the refrigerator is clear of any debris from animals or insects - once/year. Check drain tube. Look for yellow powder behind refrigerator.
  • Maintain our slide mechanism and slide seals - once/year or once/6 months.
    • Pull the manual out and study what the manual retract procedure is, just in case.
  • Have spare fuses available for 12V systems - the 110V system has breakers, but the 12V has fuses, and if one blows, we would probably like to be able to replace it without a trip to the hardware or automotive store.
  • Look for phantom loads on our 12V system - if there are things drawing power from the batteries all the time, that will be a problem when we boondock and want to be able to minimize power usage. We know that the multiplier for the Tire Pressure Monitoring System is creating a continuous load on the 12V system, so we want to be able to turn it off.
  • Don't use the inverter if the loads you want to run are all 12V; the inverter takes some of the battery power too. Without the inverter, you run directly off the batteries.
    • Things that require the inverter: charging cell phone, computers
    • With our auto-gen-start that we got to turn on the generator if the coach is stopped and we don't have shore power and the temps get too high (so the generator is started and the a/c comes on) - we can also program it to (1) check the current charge level on the batteries and start the generator to charge the batteries if needed and (2) know about "quiet times" when we cannot run the generator, so it will "top off" the batteries before quiet time.
    • House batteries recharge off the generator, shore power, or even by the alternator when you're driving down the road.
    • They also talked about AGM batteries that don't need to have water fill, but are about 3 times the cost of a regular lead acid battery.
    • Look into 3 stage charger or inverter charger.
    • Ohms Law (I learned this in Physics class, I should know this!!!): Watts = Amps * Voltage
    • 1A AC (110 V) takes 10A DC 
    • Check battery water 1/month; in hot weather or when you are really working your batteries, do it more frequently. Remove negative cable from battery first.
    • There's a lot more I want to learn about the charging of the 12V system - whether we should look into solar, what else we could convert to LED to reduce the load on the 12V system - for a future day.
  • Full service on the generator once/year.
  • Check anode rod on water heater once/year. Need a small bottle brus to clean the tube on water heater. Adjust the flame until it is mostly blue with a little yellow.
  • Turn off all appliances before refueling (gas, diesel, or LP).
  • Need to get a replacement propane detector (every 5 years).
  • Water systems need to be winterized if they are going to be stored; the water systems should be ok down to  low 20s if you are living in it (heat on, systems being used). Maybe down to 25* if it is stored.
  • Consider a "straw feed" on the bathroom sink so water only is on when we need it on.
  • Look into "dinosaur boards" as replacement for igniter of propane in water heater, heater, refrigerator.
  • Get acquainted with downshifting - particularly when approaching a significant downhill. If there is a warning to truckers, that is a warning to us also.
  • Checklist before moving - he indicated that their practice was that she dealt with everything inside, and he dealt with everything outside, and they switched places to check that everything was done.
Choosing your perfect RV
  • places to look:,,,,, 
  • - RV Consumer group - rate RVs - handling characteristics, wheelbase-to-length ratio, resale indicator, payload capacity, price/discount range
  • for resale prices
  • Typically new RVs will go back to the manufacturer 4 times for repair
Oldster / RVer "Diseases"
  • CRS - Can't Remember Stuff
  • CFS - Can't Find Stuff
  • DC - Don't Cook
Fire and Life Safety
  • Another session by "Mac the Fire Guy" 
  • Have a "bail-out bag" that has enough to survive 3 days - color copies of ids, credit card, old cell phone and charger, prescriptions, underwear.
  • Approximately 20 seconds to exit the coach from time that the smoke detector goes off.
Fulltimers roundtable, aka speed dating with folks currently full timing
  • Look into Retama Village
  • Look into "gypsies on the road"
  • Workamping - sugarbeets in Montana - sign up June/July - use Glyn's name (Glyn Carson)
    • Express Employment - Dept of Interior for BLM - volunteer or camphost
  • Get "social cards" - business card with picture of us and our rig
  • If get into Coast-to-Coast, home park of Breckinridge, TN or Southern Trails in GA
  • RV Park Reviews - review every park we stay in; can look back just at my entries
  • - Howard and Linda, Workamper News

Friday, November 21, 2014

Escapees CARE Center

On Friday mornings, the Escapees CARE Center has a "Big Breakfast" that folks staying at Rainbow Parks, and the general public, are invited to share. For a $5 donation, you get a full breakfast with cooked-to-order eggs, bacon/sausage, biscuits and gravy, many options on cereal and toast, coffee/tea and juice, and probably other stuff I am forgetting!

It was packed on the Friday that we went, but we had a good breakfast and then got to sit with our neighbors in the RV Park, George and Valerie, who own the RV Driving School.

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, they have a tour of the CARE center at 11am, so we decided to take advantage of that.

CARE stands for Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees. The goal is to provide a way for Escapees who need more care than their spouse/partner can give in their RV to have a place where they can stop and hook up their RV and get some assistance from others. It isn't exactly assisted living - more independent living with help with others.

Independent living: For $874/month for a single person or $1311/month for a couple, they get a site with 50A service (pay for actual electricity used in addition to this amount), 3 meals/day plus snacks and drinks, 3 loads of laundry/week, light housekeeping (RV-keeping of the "house" unit), transportation in the area around Livingston to doctors, shopping, etc. Social activities at the CARE center.

Adult Day Care: they also provide adult day care for $40/day, Monday-Friday with a nurse, in the dining room of the CARE center.

Volunteer program: Escapees can volunteer to help at the CARE center for a month at a time. They particularly need volunteers in the summer month (duh - I wonder why?). Volunteers get full hookups and 3 meals per day with snacks and drinks, only have to pay for their electricity (and in summer get $100/month to apply toward electricity). Volunteers usually work in the kitchen with preparation, salads, putting dishes in dishwasher; they also are on call, usually one night/week, if any emergency calls come in from the CARE residents (for example, if someone falls in their rig, they call the CARE center, and it auto-transfers to the volunteer on call).

The fellow who talked with us has been the director there for a short time - maybe a year or two. He was obviously enthused by the program, and in his tenure, the CARE camping sites have become full and there is now a waiting list. The board of directors is considering creating additional sites. In addition, he is working with the local hospital association (Catholic Health Initiatives) on having a nurse practitioner to be onsite with an outpatient clinic - serving the CARE residents, Escapees, and the Livingston community as well.

He also said that from his reading of early papers, Kay Peterson's dream was to have a "Up 'n' Tuck" coverage for RVers (providing care from getting people up in the morning to tucking them in at night in their rigs). However, since they are living in their own "homes" - this isn't considered "assisted living" in Texas legal terms, it is "home health care" and covered under different laws, so that was not able to be implemented exactly as she may have envisioned. But, nonetheless, it is a really nice service for RVers, and I'm glad we know about it!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Escapees -- Huntsville -- Isn't there a prison near here????

We spent last weekend (November 14-16) at an Escapees Bootcamp in Livingston, TX (near Huntsville).

Escapees - huh?

We arrived into Livingston a couple of days early which allowed us to go on the Escapees tour as well as the CARE center tour. More later on the CARE center... but, regarding Escapees.

Escapees was started in 1978 by Joe and Kay Peterson. They formed the club for a way to get together with other RVers, and the name was based on the initials: Service, Knowledge, Parking - SKP - what every RVer needs. If you say the initials, the name comes out - Ess Kay Pee - thus "Escapees". They are also sometimes called "SKiPs". There are a number of "Co-Op" parks that have been created by members, as well as a number of Rainbow Parks which are commercial campgrounds but Escapee members get a discount.

One of the big services that they offer is Mail Service and help in Domiciling. Dwayne and I are still figuring out whether and when we will go fulltime in the motor home, but one of the things we have to understand more is domicile. One of the bumper stickers we picked up while in Livingston is "Home is where you Park it" - neat concept, but there are several things we have to get figured out. I was reading in the Escapees magazine that was waiting for us when we got home; one thing it said was that you can't just forward your mail to someone if you have no intention of living at their address - that is considered mail fraud (who knew?!?!). If we give up our bricks-and-mortar home, we will need to make use of a mail forwarding service like the one provided by Escapees.

During the tour, we got to go through the mail processing center. They get the mail from the post office for 1000s of Escapees clients, and sort it into collection bins. They then will forward the mail on demand to the client - to whatever address they give. They can send it to a post office in care of "General Delivery" or to an RV park, or a family member - wherever the RVer knows they will be in the next few days and be able to pick it up. They are piloting a program where they will take pictures of the pieces of mail (the outside) and let the client decide which pieces they want forwarded. This pilot program will also provide the ability for the mail to be opened and scanned to be sent to you. Each of the services has a fee associated with it.

A lot of people choose to make Livingston their domicile also. This becomes their legal home - so their drivers license, vehicle registration, voters id - all indicate their Livingston Mail Forwarding Service address. One of the the Escapees I talked with told me that the community there in Livingston was very supportive of the RVing lifestyle; for example, she said that if you get a jury summons and you have either missed it (because you didn't get your mail) or you can't make it back to serve, they are very understanding. I hadn't even thought about jury duty with going fulltime -- so much to consider!

There are also a number of "sticks-and-bricks" homes/lots there at Rainbows End - most have a place to park an RV and a modest home on the lot. One of our considerations on "what to do next" includes purchasing a small house there in Livingston to use as our home base.

Patti and Dwayne - Escapee # 118698

Sunday, November 16, 2014

No cell service, really? And... don't those folks have better things to do????

Our final night on the Trace, we stayed in the southernmost campground on the Parkway, Rocky Springs. As was our normal practice, we drove all the way through the park and then picked a site that looked level and comfortable.

When we got all settled in, I took a look at my phone and saw a strange character - like a "not" sign circle with a slash through it... no 4G, no 3G, no bars, nothing... hmmm... wonder if this is why all those other RVs were parked up at the top of the hill?  Oh well, we could do without communication for a night.

The next morning, Dwayne took first shift on driving. (I checked as we drove through the "up hill" section, and my phone still did not have connectivity.) A few miles down the Trace, we got connectivity. Uh oh, there were missed phone calls and Facebook messages - what happened?

Someone decided to impersonate me on Facebook, copying my cover and profile picture and then sending "Friend" requests to my existing friends. Some of them, thinking that something must have happened that I needed to create a new profile, accepted the "Friend" request. The impersonator then seemed to ask them to go to a site -- which probably then did other things to them if they went further. One of my college roommates told me that "when he suggested an online gambling site, I figured it wasn't you!"

Thankfully, I was able to let Facebook know and they shut down the impersonator, but it was rather annoying for me and for my friends.

As my cousin, Susie, said, "Why can't they apply themselves to something useful instead of doing things like this?!?!?!"

Driving by the seat of your pants

You know how when you are driving (or you're a passenger) and you try to guide the vehicle by "body English" - moving your body the way that you want the vehicle to go?

You know how it doesn't work in a regular car?

It *really* doesn't work in a motorhome... in case you were wondering!

One of the most challenging things in driving a motorhome is trying to avoid getting into situations that you can't get out of... well... almost anything can be gotten out of, it just is a little bit more complicated when you're 32 feet long, or about 40 feet with the Jeep on the back. And it is additionally complicated by not being able to back up when the tow vehicle is attached.

After lunch, we wanted to fill up with gas before heading further down the road. There was a Sams in Jackson, the price on GasBuddy was good, so we decided to go there. Garmin got us there, and we were able to find the gas pumps pretty easily.

Unfortunately, for some reason, the pump we pulled up to only would let us fill once (have I mentioned that we usually have to fill in two separate transactions as it cuts off once it reaches $100?). We weren't full, so we decided to move to another set of pumps to finish filling.

This Sams had a very tight entrance and exit, and they had further complicated it by putting a pile-on with "Exit Only" at the Exit. In addition, there were bushy low trees growing on the side of the road outside the gas pumps.

As I was exiting the station area, it became obvious that I wasn't going to make the turn without significantly scratching the side of Miss Daisy. There wasn't any way to back up with the Jeep attached, so, while blocking the exit for the gas station, we jumped out and disconnected the Jeep. Even with backing up and staying as far as possible from the trees, we got some significant scratches on the side...  :-(  Oh well.... we will try to address it when we get home...

More friends to visit!

Some folks that I was in cellgroup with when in Northern Virginia now live outside of Jackson, MS. Though we have driven through Jackson before, this was the first time we had the opportunity to stop and see them. I called Ken and Mary Frances from Jeff Busby and arranged that we would try to have lunch with them the following day. We called them as we got close to Jackson and arranged to meet them at a restaurant that wasn't too far from the Trace and near them as well.

We had a wonderful visit catching up on the time since we were in Sterling, VA. They had recently had a visit from the Stalcups that I knew from there also. It was so nice to get to see them.

Ken, Mary Frances, and Patti

We hope to be able to visit again on another trip up the Trace, and maybe be able to greet their daughters, Leslie and Elizabeth, and their families also!

Swamps are beautiful?

Somehow, when I hear the word "swamp" to describe something, I would not attach an additional attribute of beautiful to it - smelly, dank, insect-infested -- but not "beautiful". But, the Cypress Swamp along the Natchez Trace definitely deserves the adjective beautiful, and there wasn't a bad small or insect infestation to be found.

Tupelo - BaldCypress Swamp (I had never heard of a Tupelo tree before)

The pictures probably don't capture the beauty, but maybe you can feel the tranquility

Dwayne coming down the path behind me

So... how do they know that insects are nearsighted? Do they have eye doctors? Is that why they need to buzz up close to my face to see me clearly?

I thought it was funny that this later sign about mammals had an insect on it - reading it perhaps, up close?

Jeff Busby

Since we had enjoyed staying at the Meriwether Lewis campground, we decided to stay at the one we had driven through earlier on our trip when we first came across Mississippi -- Jeff Busby. We had taken our time driving down the Trace, and it was nearing dark when we arrived. As we were approaching the turnoff, another motor home was right behind us, and it turned in too.

We decided to drive around the campground to take a look at the spots available, and eventually decided on a spot near the campground host and restrooms. Evidently, the other motor home had the same plan, because when we pulled into our spot, they pulled into the spot across the way from us.

I was in the drivers seat doing leveling of our rig when the campground host came over. I asked him if we were ok here, and he said we were fine but asked if our "friends" (motioning to the other motor home) were eligible to park in a handicapped spot. I said, "Oh, I don't know them." He said, "you both came in together, drove all the way around, and came back and parked together, I thought you were together!" He went over to check that they were eligible to park in the handicapped spot (they were).

When they put out their sign (Ben, Darleen, and Boots the Cat), I remembered that they had been at the Meriwether Lewis campground too. We met them all (including Boots who was out on a leash) and chatted with them for a little while.

A few minutes later, two bicycle riders rode in and decided to camp just down from us. The campground host came over to me again and asked if they were with us - I said, "No, I don't know them." He said he would talk with them. I overheard him telling them that they had set up camp within the area that was our site and they would have to move. I went over and let him know that it was ok - we didn't mind sharing the space and they were welcome to be there. (They had already opened their tents and one of the two had left to hike up the trail behind the camping area.) I couldn't imagine being selfish with a space that we were using for free -- and they needed closer access to the restrooms than we did!

We then met Mike and later Pierre. They are on their way biking down the Trace. It seems that there are some additional campgrounds along the Trace just for bicycle riders - they had stayed at Colbert Ferry a couple of nights previously. Pierre was a wilderness guide from the province of Quebec; Mike was from Charlotte, NC.

Mike and Pierre just below our site

Pierre talking with Ben while Darleen and I pose together

Tennessee River

Soon after we crossed into Alabama, we approached the longest bridge on the Trace, across the Tennessee River.

These pictures are from the Lauderdale turnout, on the north side of the river. It was gorgeous as the water was so still and reflected like glass.

We then crossed the bridge to the south side and visited the Colbert Ferry location. Evidently there is sometimes a ranger station at this location, but not on the day we were there.

Nonetheless, it was a pretty stop.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

State lines

When I was a kid, probably about 8 years old, my Uncle Carl and Auntie Anne took Granny, Jimmy, and me to Florida to visit our cousin (his daughter), Mary Jane. I remember the event it was each time we crossed into a new state. I think we stopped and took pictures at most of them.

Now, there is hardly any notice that you are passing from one state into another - just a small sign by the side of the road. The Garmin in Miss Daisy (Magnolia) tells us when we are 5 miles from the state border, so we know it is coming up, but sometimes, without that notification, we wouldn't know at all.

On the Trace, there was a stop at the state line between Tennessee and Alabama, with information about how the state borders were set.

I also found it interesting to see how Magnolia showed us - the Trek looks like a Lego's piece sitting right on the border. (We were heading towards Jeff Busby Park for the evening.)

Heading west

From the farm, we were going to visit my former co-worker, Warren and his wife, Sarena, near Nashville. We decided to use the interstates so drove out I-64 and then down I-81 to Bristol, VA. I had checked with the “Allstays” app on my phone and knew that there was a “call to stay” WalMart in Bristol, so we planned to stay there. I also checked “GasBuddy” and determined that we should fill up before we left Virginia as gas prices would go up in Tennessee compared to Virginia.

It was quite windy as we were driving down I-81, but the views were beautiful.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Meriwether Lewis Historic Site

We stopped early for the evening at the Meriwether Lewis Historic Site. After finding a campsite (it is first-come, first-served, but there aren’t a lot of folks here tonight), we unhooked the Jeep and drove to the historic site.

The exhibit here was very interesting. A few points to note:
  • One of the things that I thought about when we traveled the Trace a few days ago, and took a picture on the history of the Trace, was that the US government allocated funds for improving the Trace, and just a short time later (30 years) it was no longer needed due to the ability for steamships to carry messages. It occurred to me that we deal with that today, where the government sees a need, allocates funds to address it, and it seems it is hardly addressed before the need for that goes away – so things really never change much.
  • Here at the exhibit, there was information about the fact that Lewis was chosen by President Thomas Jefferson to find a water route to the west (which they didn’t end up finding, but still accomplished a lot). After Lewis got back to DC, Jefferson sent him to be a governor over the territory at St Louis. Lewis headed that way, but after he was there, James Madison was elected president, and refused to pay the costs that Lewis had incurred as governor; since Lewis was put into place by the former president, Madison did not see a need to continue to meet the agreements that were executed by his predecessor. Not much difference from today! 
  •  I was shocked to read here that it is pretty certain that Lewis committed suicide at 35 years of age, at a home that previously stood close to this location. #1 it was disheartening to think that someone who had accomplished so much seemed to be so depressed that he would think to take his own life (though it may have been that he was suffering from some other illness that was taking his life anyway). #2 it was surprising that this is not something we ever learned in school – I guess educators didn’t want kids to know about someone committing suicide? I think it could have been a good discussion point, that anyone can suffer from depression, even someone who has accomplished a lot in their lives, but that nothing should cause us to be willing to take our own lives.

We also saw the memorial erected where he was buried – appropriately it is a column that is broken off, signifying his life broken off too young.

Memorial for Meriwether Lewis' burial spot

A nearby section of the "Old Trace"