Words of wisdom

Words of wisdom

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Good Morning from Carlock , IL

And what a wet, gloomy, LOUD, morning it is. But I get to that later.

After leaving Mt. Airy, NC, I spent the next night at the Bean Pot Campground in Crossville, TN. What a lovely campground. The folks were wonderful and helpful and the park lovely, with RV sites nestled amongst freshly-budding dogwood trees. But what actually amazed me was when a huge RV came in towing (well, look at the picture!) a car and a boat, stacked double-decker style! And I'm still scared of the thought of towing a little car behind Winnie.

Next I spent 2 lovely days in Metropolis, IL (the hometown of Clark Kent) where a gaggle of my cousins live and surround. If you don't have a map, Metropolis, known as the hometown of Superman (see photo for proof) is located at the very tip of southern Illinois, just across the Ohio River from Paduach, KY.

I parked Winnie in cousin Robbie's drive and soon cousins Mary, Gae, Sherry, Rex and Max, along with their spouses, and even some of their children and in-laws arrived to say hello and catch up. It's been 9 years since I have seen the majority and 40 years since Mary and I were last together.

These are folks I grew up with and we had a ball telling stories about all the fun we had running barefoot across the farm pastures (warm cow poop), chigger bites dotted with bright red fingernail polish covering our legs, fishing in the creek, throwing rotten eggs at each other, jumping out of the hay loft, and locking each other in the corn crib! And we remembered all the wonderful food our mother's made - hand-churned, homemade ice cream, crimped-edged, fresh-fruit pies, cobblers, fresh-baked rolls and bread, and real cream right from the cow - who's name we knew! Relatives are wonderful - even if you don't see them often. They remind you of the person you were and have almost forgotten.

After leaving Metropolis, I drove north on I-24, but for the first time, my GPS took me off the interstate and onto US 51. It winds directly through Decatur, where I stopped to see more relatives. Had a wonderful lunch with my cousin Gary and his parents, the last of my uncles and aunts, Doris and Nobel.

From there, just another hour to Carlock, IL where I had a reservation at the Kozy Kampground. It sounded so nice in the campground book - but it's not! It isn't that the sites are bad - they're fine. It's just that it's right next to the freeway where trucks rumble by 24/7 and there's the railway track that borders the south side and trains run throughout the night (they don't tell you those little details). And to top off an almost sleepless night, the rain started about 2:30 a.m. and pounded Winnie's roof.

But I did meet a lovely couple from South Tahoe, CA who pulled in towing an Airstream Flying Cloud. Of course I had to say hello as I still covet one of these wonderful trailers. John and Susanne are new RVers and are traveling Route 66 across the country. John is an artist and a muralist and Susanne a retired school counselor. We enjoyed a few glasses of wine while I gave them ideas of what to see and do during their visit to downtown Chicago. They are heading off through the Badlands to see Mt. Rushmore as well, so we might be lucky enough to meet-up again. They also told me all about the Burning Man festival which is held annually in desert outside of Reno each year. John does body-painting during the festival and they invited me to join them this coming September. Take a look - http://www.burningman.com/.

Well, must think about getting out in the rain, unhooking and getting on the road. Today I want to get into the middle of Wisconsin - Osseo hopefully. Then to Minong for a few days with Don & Carrie, into the Twin Cities to visit with Eric & Eileen, Albert Lea to say hey to Dave & Theresa and from there - straight west across South Dakota!

Until next time...take care of each other.



Friday, April 24, 2009

Back on the road....

....but it was terribly stressful just getting here. I took Winnie to get her North Carolina 'omissions inspection' on Tuesday, a requirement of all NC vehicles to be registered and plated. It was the first time I had started the engine and drove her since parking on the beach a whole month before. My good friend and hairdresser extraordinaire, Jodell, wanted to ride along with me to see what it was like. We picked probably one of the windiest days in a long time - 40 mph winds (tropical storm strength) - but made it downtown okay and Winnie passed with flying colors. Had the guys check the tires and pressure as well, as wanted to be sure they were ready for the next 2600 miles.

With my 'passing certificate' in hand, Laura picked me up and off we went to the DMV. I had a huge packet of papers I had received from LaMesa when I purchased Winnie and all the insurance forms, driver's license and checkbook - anything I could think of they might need to process Winnie. But when the lady (Donna - whom I got to know on a first-name basis by the end of the next 2 days!) asked me for the title, I just looked at her. She informed me that the dealer would/should have mailed the title to me or sent it directly to the DMV. No title, no plates, no leaving the state.

With my blood pressure rising quickly, I called LaMesa from the DMV, was transferred 4 times before reaching someone who said that the lady in charge of titles for all 8 of LaMesa's sales offices had been out sick for the past 6 weeks. I asked what I considered a very intelligent question - was she the only one in the entire company that issued titles for every sale they made?!!!! After several minutes of conversation, it was agreed that LaMesa would overnight the title for Winnie to the DMV office in Wilmington to the attention of lovely Donna.

The next morning I waited until 10 a.m. and was thrilled to learn that FedEx had already delivered my title and paperwork. Called Laura, my resident taxi driver, and we were at the DMV office by 10:30, only to learn that LaMesa had not notarized the title - something that the state of NC requires. Back on the phone - this time Donna and the folks in Tucson talked directly to each other. When they finished, it is decided that the title must be over-nighted back to Tucson, notarized, and returned to the NCDMV, which would probably take till Monday or Tuesday.

There goes my schedule! Nothing more I could do, so Laura and I went out to lunch and I had several de-stressing beverages! While we were enjoying a delicious lunch of Pad Thai, my phone rings and it's the lovely Donna! She and the folks at LaMesa have both called and chatted with the big-wigs at the DMV in Raleigh. They came to the conclusion that since I purchased Winnie out-of-state, and since AZ doesn't require their titles to be notarized, NC will let me register and get my plates with the paperwork the way it is!!!!

So I was only set back one day, which LaMesa very graciously agreed to pay the extra-day campground fee, and this morning, with shinny new license plates, I drove off Carolina Beach after 31-days.

Tonight, as you can see from the pictures, I'm in the lovely Blue Ridge mountains, just outside Mt. Airy, NC. The funny-looking mountain is called Pilot Mountain and Mt. Airy is the birthplace of Andy Griffith and was the town that the fictional Mayberry was based upon. It's a brand-new campground and really nice. My neighbors all stopped by to say hello, and the owner came over and personally invited me down to the 'gathering area' to listen to some 'live pickin'. Grabbed a beer and a chair and really enjoyed listening to a couple of local, good ol' boys singin' and playing some great country music. And you wonder why I like this life?

Today was an easy 5-hour drive and I realized as I was moving down that road that my hands no longer held the steering wheel in a death-grip, nor did I jerk every time a 16-wheeler went whizzing past, my stomach didn't reside in my throat and I was actually enjoying the ride! I think I might actually have gotten over the 'new RV-driver jitters.' And I really get a hoot out of pulling into a rest stop and parking with the truckers instead of the cars.

It's time to turn off the computer, plop in front of the TV and relax before getting a good night's sleep. Tomorrow I'm off to Crossville, TN for a night at the Bean Pot Campground. Part of the fun deciding how far I want to drive and choosing where I want to spend the next night. What did we do before computers?!

Until next time....take care of each other.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Westward Ho!

Just 2 more days left here on Carolina Beach before I bring in the slides, unhook the water and sewer hoses, unplug the electric and 'wheels-up.' It's been a great month - especially spending quality time with some great friends. And let me say right here and now a great, big THANK YOU to Laura, JoDell, Beth, Eloise and Janet & Bob. You are the best friends in the entire world! And to top off the month, I got to spend this past weekend with Sean - Son #2 - playing a little golf and meeting his lovely girlfriend, Nicki.

But I'm ready to get movin' again. I have a noon meeting with my property manager (why can't renters just be nice people and do what they're suppose to do?) so with a late start, am planning to make it as far as Mt. Airy, NC on Thursday. Have a reservation at the Mayberry Campground. Yep, Mt. Airy is the home of Andy Griffin and is the town that the fictional Mayberry is based upon. I'm going to spend a few days with my family in southern Illinois before heading northwest to the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park and finally, driving into Cody, WY for my summer work/camp position.

Thought I would list my route - in case you are along the way and want me to stop in and say 'hey' or know of someplace special I should stop...

NC - I-40, I-77
VA - I-77, I-81
TN - I-40, I-24
IL - I-24, I-57, I-74, I-80
IA, NE - I-80
NE, SD - I-29
SD, WY - I-90
WY - I-90, Hwy 16, Hwy 20

I have always loved maps, figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B, and 'taking the road less traveled.' But I have realized that I can't just do that anymore when you're driving a 29' big box that acts as a kite in high winds. While sitting on the floor, 2 Atlas and state maps spread out around me, laying out the route I want to take, I realized that #1 - I really didn't want to take Winnie over Michigan's Machinaw Bridge - even though I was invited and would have loved to see friends in Michigan and upstate Wisconsin.

The bridge is beautiful and joins lower Michigan to the Upper Peninsula where Lake's Michigan and Huron meet. Last summer I drove this same route in my PT Cruiser. It was a beautiful day and I had the top down, so not a lot of surface for wind resistance. Even on a beautiful day my little Cruiser was really being buffeted around on the bridge. When I stopped for lunch in St, Ignace on the other side, I jokingly asked my waitress if anyone had ever been blown off the bridge and her answer was - at least once a year! Not a good choice in my RV unless I want to park and wait for a calm, windless day - which are few and far between in that area.

Then there was the #2 portion of the route that I choose to not even try attempt in Winnie. Pick up any atlas and look how I-90 takes a traveler from Rapid City, SD into Wyoming. Now find Cody on the map. You will see a nice little short-cut on US 14/Alt 14 that goes from I-90 at Ranchester directly into Cody. Perfect - right? NOT!

Last time I was in a Camping World, the lady at the register, when she learned I was heading West, said I really must buy a copy of the "Mountain Directory West for Truckers, RV and Motorhome Drivers." The subtitle to this little book is "Locations and Descriptions of over 400 Mountain Passes and Steep Grades in 11 Western States." On the atlas US 14/Alt. 14 look like a nice, little roads that would cut a lot of time off my trip. Then you look up this route in the Mountain Directory and learn this 'little shortcut' via Alt. 14 is known by locals as the "OH MY GOD HILL!!" and just plain old Granite Pass (elv. 9033) and Shell Canyon on US. 14.

The written description is enough to make one gasp! A posted 10% grade for 10 miles down OMGH and then an additional 9 miles of 5-7% grades with many 20-25-30 mph switchback curves. And this is open range country, often with livestock on the roads. In boldface, the books says "All trucks, RV's and vehicles with trailers must stop and read sign at turnout ahead where US 14 splits. US Alt. 14 has turnouts for trucks and RV's to check breaks, 3 runaway truck ramps, turnouts to cool breaks--10% downgrade for 10 miles --sharp curves---3600' drop in elevation in 10 miles. (Sign doesn't mention the 4 miles of 8% grade after the 10 miles of 10%)"

After reading this I very quickly decided it was going to be worth every extra minute it takes to take I-25 back down to Casper and travel back up to Cody on the fairly flat US 20! I emailed my boss Ron at the Yellowstone Inn and told him what I had been planning and he said don't be such a whimp! He re-routed me from I-90 through Buffalo onto Hwy 16, up and over the Bighorn Mountains through Powder River Pass. A little less 'exciting' than the OMGH and a nice, big road with places to pass and pull over and take pictures! The things you need to learn when driving an RV! But you could bet I wouldn't miss driving the 'Oh My God Hill' if I still had my little convertible!

Well, now that the sun is up and shinning, it's time to get on my bike and peddle to the local Food Lion for one last grocery-run before I leave. Borrowed JoDell's car yesterday and spent time at the laundromat. Still trying to decide where I will store my bike during the trip - either inside or bungie'd and locked to the roof ladder.

Until the next time somewhere along the road West....take care of each other.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter on the Beach

The weather cooperated and Easter weekend was fabulous!

Saturday friends Janet & Bob invited me over for a pre-Easter dinner and to meet all their wonderful and crazy neighbors and friends. Janet is one of those people who loves to decorate 'on a theme' and what better than bunnies? The chair covers were a hoot - as you can see! We each received our own, chocolate-filled basket (no Peeps) besides a delicious dinner served with much wine.

Sunday I woke, threw on my sweats and peddled to the beach for sunrise service at 6:30 a.m. The bright glowing ball of tangerine rose out of the sea while about 1000 people crowded the boardwalk to hear the message of Easter. A free pancake breakfast was being served for all those attending, but I had to rush back to Winnie, change into a more normal Easter outfit, as Eloise was picking me up at 8 a.m. to attend regular service at Unity. We were both so moved by the beautiful cantata that the choir performed and saddened that it was the last Sunday that our pastor would be overseeing the services here in Wilmington. Russell is off to become an associate pastor at a huge Unity Church in St. Petersburg. A wonderful opportunity - but he will be missed.

I met a very nice man at the Food Lion on Saturday while we were both digging through a pile of spiral-cut hams. He was bemoaning the fact that all the ones they had were so big - 10 lbs plus. I told him I had the same problem, and then asked if he would like to split one with me? Perfect solution, butcher did it in a flash and I got to have the yummy brown-sugar glaze in my 1/2 for coming up with the idea. So after church Eloise took me to her home where I baked ham, she did all the side dishes while we both sipped Bloody Marys and prepared to settle in front of the TV and watch The Masters. It was a wonderful day - we both even took a little nap, which a good round of golf on TV seems to always provide:) It was a perfect Easter weekend - thanks again to my dear and generous friends.

Now you might be saying, the picture of those two, curly, browned-eyed, sweet-looking things are not Easter bunnies! Nope - meet Harley (curly) and Angela (slick-haired). Brother & sister, 12-week old Chesapeake Bay retrievers who were my RV neighbors for the Easter weekend. Much better than bunnies - and what a pair of lovers and lickers. I wanted to steal at least one of them until I was told then would each weigh about 150 lbs when full-grown. Take a look at those paws and yep, they're going to be big puppies! Just a wee bit too big to be an RV dog.

I hope each of you had a wonderful Easter. Until next time...take care of each other.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Beachin' Time

Well, it's been 2 weeks since I arrived on Carolina Beach. First, the weather has been basically - - awful! The first week it rained and rained, poured and rained some more. The second week we had tornado watches and warnings and I just sat here, rocked back and forth - and prayed.

But it really has been a fun two weeks - showing off Winnie to all my girlfriends, who swear they are going to leave their spouses and come travel the country with me. Laura and Janet has been fantastic, giving me rides, feeding me, taking me places. Janet even loaned me her 3-wheel bicycle with big baskets to go to and from the grocery store. Believe me when I tell you this is not an easy bike to ride - wants to pull to the left and go through every ditch and hole it can find. But it will not tip - so that's a good thing and I just love the tall stick with the flag on the bag so the car-folks can't miss me!

Have thoroughly enjoyed having the library and a little grocery store in walking distance. Also the movie theater, a RedBox movie rental, the ABC store (NC's answer to liquor stores) a hardware store and lots of restaurants. My hairdresser, the wonderful and adorable JoDell has given me free use of her car whenever she's working and then there's my good friend Beth, who lets me come to her place every two weeks and do my laundry. This past Saturday, my ol' golfing buddy Bill, drove all the way from Brunswick Forest to Carolina Beach to pick me up so I could play a around of golf with my singles golf group. You learn very quickly how true the adage 'out-of-site, out-of-mind' means, and who your true friends are, especially when you are stuck and don't have a vehicle.

On Sunday my friend Page drove over from Raleigh (we've been friends for almost 40 years!) to be my first over-night guest. The sun had come out, so I finally unfurled the awning and put out the patio chairs and tables. That lasted about 3 hours until the wind started whipping at 30 mph - again. We took a long, very brisk walk on the beach, did some shopping at Unique Boutique (favorite island clothing store) and took me to pick up the HD box (finally got my coupon from the government). Easy installation and now can watch television - all except CBS. Of course, CBS is the station that broadcast the NCAA basketball tournament and has this coming weekend's Master's. So will spend Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons in the local pub watching golf on their TV's. Saturday night I'm invited to Janet & Bob's to meet the neighbors and enjoy a pre-Easter dinner. Sunday Eloise will pick me up and we'll attend church, do lunch and then go back to her place to watch the final round of The Masters.

FYI - Page gives the L-couch a "9" for sleeping-comfort, loves Winnie's space, nooks and crannies

So as you can see, I have not just been lazin' around every day. Still reading an average of 2-3 books a week and enjoying catching up with all the latest DVD's, but spending time with my friends and hopefully soon seeing Son #2, has been so much fun. Next week I will have to unhook and drive across the bridge to the closest garage to have Winnie get her NC Inspection. Without that, no plates or registration. Then on-or-around the 15th will make her 'official.'

Originally had planned to stay on Carolina Beach until 5/1, but the cost is horrendous for no services whatsoever. Just electric, sewer and water. No cable, no showers or laundry. But...they are across the street from the Atlantic Ocean, so they charge as much, if not more, than some the nicest RV resorts I've stayed in so far. Considering departing the 23rd of April and just slowly rambling my way West. If you're on my way to Cody, WY (that means you are are in a reasonable distance (N/S/E/W) of the middle of the US, and have an electrical outlet in your garage I can plug into, just give me a holler - would love to stop by and show off my rig!

Until next time....take care of each other.