After leaving Arab at 4:30pm on Friday June 3rd, we stopped at a Walmart in Marion VA for a free dry-dock and it was quiet, restful, and very safe.?? There were a couple of Semi trucks and other campers of all varieties, including a 5th wheel that took the liberty of using their slide-outs.? But there was plenty of room for everyone.
We ran our generator and I had loaded the tanks with water so we had running hot/cold water, microwave, shower, toilet, air-conditioner, and TV.? What else would you need for roughing it in a Walmart parking lot ?
On the 5 and half hour drive from Marion to Harrisburg we saw deer, fox, a scared little beaver that was trying to cross the interstate, and the traffic was moderate.? We also saw a lot of beautiful American Farmlands that brought back fond memories of the “good ole days”.
We encountered a small shower from the entry of PA until we reached Harrisburg East on Friday June the 4th at roughly 4:30 ( Arab time ).?? We stopped several times for stretch breaks, and coffee.? Pilot, Flying J, and a couple of Cracker Barrels.? BTW – that new berry dessert is absolutely worth the price, and the photo doesn’t do it justice.? It is HUGE – enough for 2, but I struggled through it alone.? 😉
The only thing I can think of that would make this trip better was if my kids, and grand-kids could join us.?? There is a HUGE heated pool here and a very large playground with swings, human powered merry-go-round, teter-toter, and other things for kids to do.? Maybe next time…….
For the October NARV’ers club rally, we left Arab Alabama about 7:00 pm Thursday to drive down to Gulf Shores to stay at a brand new resort named Sugar Sands.? We wanted to be safe and take our time getting there and the plan was to go through all the malfunction junctions in Birmingham while it was off peak traffic time. ? We were successful even though there was still plenty of traffic on I-65, I-20, I-59, and all other roads that merge onto I-65.? We drove down to about mile marker 231 near Calera and Montevallo College area.?? We pulled off there because there was a Cracker Barrel and we thought we would have a bite to eat and cup of coffee to keep me awake while driving.? But our plans changed when we saw that Cracker Barrel was adjoined to a Wal Mart parking lot that had a lot of over night boon dockers already setup for the night.
We went into the Wal Mart to get a few items, and asked if we could park over night, and they very kindly said we could but asked if we would setup in one of the far corners of their lot so as not to affect shoppers parking.?? SO, When we checked out and returned to our motor home, we proceeded to get in, crank up and pull out to a far corner spot to setup, and I pulled to the edge of a row where I could easily get out.?? Norma immediately asks “are you going to park here”???? I thought was one of those women’s ways of saying ” I don’t want to park here”, so I just shrugged my shoulders and said “yes”.??? She pointed out that I had pulled up to a light post that had a sign big as life that stated “NO OVER NIGHT PARKING !? VIOLATORS WILL BE TOWED”? – so with what the lady in Wal Mart said, I was willing to dare someone to tow me away while we were sleeping.?? We went to bed and rested well for the next day 4 hour drive to Gulf Shores.
We stopped once more on the second day at a Cracker Barrel, mostly just to stretch and walk around a bit, but found some neat camping do-dads in the store, and used their convenience rooms.?? It ALWAYS pays to watch signs as you are pulling into the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel.? Twice, I have gotten myself into a bind by not paying attention. ? This time I did follow the signs to the RV parking only to find that it was all taken by pick up trucks and small family sized vans. ? This was frustrating because it left me to manoeuvre around the car parking areas with a 42 foot motor coach, and towing a Honda Civic. ( not fun )…. Any way, I made it around to a 2nd side row that was empty and took the whole row to myself.?? This ended up being an advantage since we were able to push the slides out and enjoy a short rest in full space comfort.
We had already selected the route to get to the campground and arrived at around 4:30 with no incidents of any kind and we are always very thankful for that.?? We got checked in and they escorted us to our lot, and I was amazed at how wide the sites are and brand new facilities.?? I was able to back in on the first go !? no second or third attempts needed.?? There is enough space that we are able to park our car under the awning and the slide outs on the opposite side are not even hanging off the concrete pad.?? Very Nice Campground.
The next item was to get setup, and make sure we were at the clubhouse for this 10 foot long banana split that I kept dreaming about ever since I heard about it in the newsletter.?? The hosts very ingeniously put together a 10 foot long piece of brand new gutter for the boat, and lined it with tin foil.? Then all the ladies and guys were invited to come get an item of their choice to line inside the boat.?? Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry ice creams, chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, pineapple, cherries, and bananas were added quickly.?? Then a young lady topped it off with whipped cream.?? It was very good, and more than enough to feed the 20+ people there for the welcoming event.
With sort of a last minute plan, my wife is about to start back to work after the summer break, we decided to go for a long weekend stay at one of our “close to home” favorite state parks in Alabama.
Monte Sano state park has a lot to offer for us.? It is close to our home, and just up the mountain out of Huntsville so there is anything you want to eat if you don’t feel like cooking.?? But far enough away that when it is quiet, it is REALLY QUIET.?? Lots of trees, shade, and the elevation made the temps feel much more like fall than mid-summer.? We had a great time.
To add to our relaxing and restful trip into nature, we saw several deer wandering around on the mountain, and lots, and lots of squirrels and chipmunks.? The trees and natural brush between sites makes you feel like you are almost alone up on the mountain.
We also had a group of friends go with us which always helps my diet because the ladies like to out-do each other with recipes, and great food.? I love it when they bring everything out and we have our own little buffet.?? Thanks Ladies!
This trip also offered our son a place to come celebrate his 34th birthday with us, and also our daughter brought the grand kids to celebrate too.? Little grand daughter loved seeing the deer and even got a close up look as they are not very shy, but will run away before we could get close enough to pet them.
Well, we arrived after a long day of driving from Mt. Rushmore via Rapid City to I-90 since there were width and height restrictions on hwy 385.? This cost us a few more miles, and time, but not worth the risk of having to back out of a tunnel that you don’t fit through.? We took I-90 from Rapid City to hwy 191 and drove down the mostly easy 2-way traffic but had wide lanes and very few hills to worry about.
We arrived at our reserved campsite at Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park. ? The greeters were EXCELLENT, friendly and helpful.? We were concerned that we were arriving too late to check in at around 7:30 pm. but they stay open until 9:00 pm for late arrivals. ? We had reserved a pull through site, and it was convenient to everything and only about 3 blocks from the West Entrance to Yellowstone NP.
Our good friends from our home town in Alabama had planned a very similar tour of the U.S. without our knowledge until they saw our post on facebook and they called to tell us they would be at Yellowstone for part of the same time we are here.?? They gave us great tips on what to do and see and where to eat.?? We met them for a meal the night we arrived and they seemed to have an abundance of good times to share with us.? I only wish we had more time to absorb some of their great stories.
We began our first real day of adventures by entering the park at around 6:30 a.m. on the West entrance and headed directly for the lower geyser basin which is the south loop through the NP.?? We saw osprey perched in the top of a tree overlooking a river that you would expect to see people fly fishing in – shallow, wide and gently flowing.? Shortly after that we saw some buffalo followed by another buffalo or two, then a herd of buffalo, and some more buffalo scattered out among the flat areas before we saw the larger herd of buffalo. ? Did I mention seeing buffalo too?
There were several basins, springs, geysers, and mud pots, heading to our primary site of seeing Old Faithful.?? The NP is well marked with street signs and arrows pointing you in the right direction, but it does help to have one of their printed maps that we picked up at the campground.? There are also a few scattered gas stations and facility rooms around the park.? When we arrived at Old-Faithful we found a gift shop, restaurant, lodge, visitor center, and a bit of parking lot construction going on.? It was laid out and organized fairly well, but I don’t recommend driving the bit rig in, as it wasn’t THAT roomy.?? The Visitor Center and gift shops posted when the next expected eruption was to take place and it was accurate to within a minute.
While we waited for the next eruption, I spotted the camera that the park uses for their live streaming web-cam of old-faithful. So as cheesy as it sounds, I called my friends back home to let them see that we were actually here safe and sound via their web browser.
Please enjoy these photos? of our tour in Yellowstone that we have enjoyed so much.?? We have driven 681 miles in two days.? This covers both the North and South loops and Lamar Valley where we saw most of the wildlife.? We did get out for some short hikes, but mostly just site seeing, and taking hundreds (maybe thousands) of photos. [slideshow_deploy id=’763′]
On our 4th day (Saturday) we are still at Horse Thief Campgrounds near Hill City SD.? This allowed us to visit Mt Rushmore quickly, and also was very close to Needles Highway and the Wildlife loop.? We took the whole day just to drive and see some AMAZING sites and spectacular scenic views.
Needles Highway viewing was highly recommended to be done “IN THE CAR/toad”, not the RV !!!? You would never make it through the tunnels which are barely big enough for a standard size pick up.? We witnessed several F250 go through and had to fold in their mirrors to keep from breaking them off.
We saw buffalo, prairie dogs. antelope, deer, turkey, sheep, and a lot of magnificent scenery. ? It took an entire day to drive both routes, but was well worth it.? ( see photo album below ). ? Then after we returned to Horse Thief campground we connected the toad in prep for leaving on Sunday morning around 6:00am trying to not wake everyone else up. ? The diesel is loud enough without the clanking of hitches and chains that early.
View the small percentage of photos actually taken below.?? Sunday we drove to Yellowstone.?? Come back soon to hear about the adventures getting to Yellowstone from Mt. Rushmore.
Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Arkansas — get ready, here we come.?? We have been planning and budgeting for this trip for over a year now.? This is one of our “bucket list” dreams is to finish visiting all 50 of these Blessed United States.?? After this trip we still lack Maine, and Connecticut.? However, this marks off a lot of the remaining states for us.?? I can’t wait.
We have planned 3 weeks +/- of vacation time for me.? My wife gets every summer off from the school system so she won’t have to burn any of her vacation time.? We are leaving after I work a full day to get a head start on the first leg of our drive.?? We hope to get to Mt. Vernon Illinois the first night, then wake up early to drive another 12 hours the next day to get to Mt. Rushmore.? Our 2 night stay should be enough to see the monument and take several photos and then head on to the lengthiest stay of our journey which will be Yellowstone National Park.
We hope to see a lot of Yellowstone, but realize that the size of the park is just too large to see everything.?? Norma has planned for us to see the highlights at least.? Starting with Old Faithful,? Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Heyden Valley, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone Lake, North Geyser Basin, Lamar Valley, Tower Falls, Lower Geyser Basin, West Thumb Geyser Basin, and all the wildlife that we can photograph with a zoom lens.? You won’t hear about me on the news being trampled by a buffalo, or mauled by a bear.
We will be using a combination of dry docking, or boondocking, and paid for locations at each park.? We plan to see Mount Rushmore first as we rotate counter clockwise through the country.? We have friends that have given us advise on what to see and how to navigate around the hills area.? I will post later where we stay at each stop and how it measured up to our standards.? We have everything booked, reserved and first night paid for at each stop.
Then we move on to Yellowstone National park and invest the largest single amount of time of our 3+ week tour.? We plan to stay 5 nights and 4 days to see as much as we can.?? I have promised my co-workers that I will call them while standing in front of the live web-cam at “Old Faithful”? and wave so they can see that I haven’t been just making this up :-).? Check out the live streaming web cam here.
Then we move on to Mt St Helens in WA state.? This will be another 2 day drive from Yellowstone to Mt St Helens, and we will dry dock again one night to get us by until we get there.?? Another webcam is available here but it is not a live streaming video feed, just a static image that refreshes every few minutes.? Still a nice view.
As usual the week started out beautiful, warm, and sunny as I witnessed from my office.? My wife is also off work this week for Spring Break so what better time to get in the RV, hook up the tow car (toad), and head out on another adventure.
We wanted to go somewhere we haven’t been for a while.? We spent a couple of days searching, and reading reviews on several places within an hour or two from the house.? The decision we came to was to leave Thursday and stay the weekend at Desoto State Park in Fort Payne Alabama. ? It has beautiful scenery, and is a difficult enough drive for us to test towing the car up mountains and around fairly tight curves and obstacles.
[Photos of RVing at Desoto State Park]
So, the 100% guaranteed forecast every time we go camping, it turned off rainy, foggy, and cold.?? BUT ALAS, that did not deter us from our long awaited adventure and getting out and enjoying our RV.?? So much for sunshine, and warm weather.? IT IS GOING TO RAIN IF WE GO RVing !!!!
We are very blessed to have several friends that decided to join us and we followed each other to the beautiful Desoto State Park.? Traffic was mild as we had hoped it would be since we decided to drive after the 8:00 rush hour was over.? We had no issues driving up the steep mountain other than one of those huge oversized crane’s that have 10 axles was going 15 miles per hour up the mountain to the campground.?? When we arrived we were greeted with hostesses that were exceptionally helpful and friendly.
We were checked in by 10:30 in the morning and were driving to the pull through sites which both of us benefited from.? However once we got everything disconnected from the tow car, and his truck disconnected from his fifth-wheel.? We realized the sites were a little more uphill than they appeared.?? My camper had to sit the front bumper on the ground by evacuating the air from the suspension, while raising the back jacks to the point that the rear tires are just barely off the ground <yikes>.?? But, again, I am happy to be RVing with my wife and friends.
After about an hour of levelling, and hooking up electric, water, sewer, and putting the slides out.?? We also stretched out the awnings for the first time since last season.?? I ALWAYS get my wife to check the faucets while I turn the water on ( read other pages to find out why ).? The kitchen faucet blew completely off the sink due to over pressure and it appears it may have frozen and cracked over the winter.?? Anyway, no big deal, there is a Lowes at Fort Payne and we picked up a repair part and replaced the sink nozzle.
Our friends also were working out some kinks from their winter storage too.?? They got settled in just to find out they have no hot water.?? So we worked with that for a short while.?? GOOGLE is great for troubleshooting, but in this case everyone who posted their problems, and their fixes were all unique.?? Nothing in common with his problem.? So my fall back strategy is to take things apart one screw at a time until I find the problem.
We checked fuses, circuit breakers, power, tried lighting the gas pilot light with a manual charcoal starting lighter.? All to no avail.?? I started taking things apart to see deeper into the problem, and the only thing I noticed was that their was a normal oxidation from being an outside appliance.? There was normal wear and tear from a gas burning element which left a little rust like residue inside the burner tube.?? We vacuumed that out, and cleaned everything we could find with a steel bristle tooth-brush.? When we put it all back together we asked the ladies to turn it on and see what might happen, and POOF.?? It light right up immediately which I wasn’t really expecting because we didn’t really do anything but scrub off the oxidation and put it back together.
Summary after thought was that cleaning everything and tightening everything back must have grounded wires back to a better surface connection. ? For whatever reason, it works so we took credit for fixing it like we knew what we were doing.? Our wives were happy that their skilled men fixed a critical and life dependency for hot water.
No better day than today to go RVing!?? I love my camping adventures.!!!!