Monday, October 31, 2016

Travel Through East Texas

We left Morrilton, Arkansas on Monday, October 24. We had a destination in mind, but had to keep in quiet. We were heading to Galveston, Texas. There was a big surprise 80th birthday party planned for Kim's dad, Richie on Saturday the 29th. In all of those years when I was working, I missed many of these important family gatherings. I love the fact that we can include them in our travels and get there early and stay well past the event. We even had reservations for this at an RV park right across the street from the party location for October 27 to November 3. We would also be 50 yards from the beach in a full hook-up site. We were excited.

We had four days to travel 530 miles. We decided to just wing it and picked out a few COE parks along the route as possible stopping points. After deciding to stop we would check each place out and decide if we would stay one or two nights. This is the way we love to travel.

The first park we stopped at after driving a bit over 200 miles was Piney Point Campground on Wright Patman Lake, just over the Texas border near Texarcana. Our first impression was good. There were huge pine trees and we were sitting on a bluff overlooking the lake. The gentleman checking me in was extremely nice and helpful. He did tell me that half of the campground was closed to to some flooding that happened earlier this year and it had not been repaired. Here is a shot of our site:


We had a beautiful view of the lake and even had a nice sunset that evening.



I woke up the next morning to a strange smell. I am not sure what it was, but it had a hint of petrochemical. I decided to go for a walk and see the rest of the place and get some exercise.

It was amazing to see the damage caused by the flooding and how high the water was compared to where it is now.


As you can tell by the picture of our rig above, we were able to get level without disconnecting the truck. We decided to just stay one night. We did have good Cell signal on Verizon and 9 TV channels on OTA. The rate was a bit high at $24, but not too bad.

It was easy to get ready to move. We drove another 200 miles to Sandy Creek Park, another COE park on B.A. Steinhagen Lake near Jasper, Texas. I chose this park because the COE parks just north of there on Lake Sam Rayburn were $26 and this one was $16. I was ready for a sub par site, but boy was I wrong. When we pulled in the man at the gate told me the $16 sites were 30 amp, but he had site 31 that had a great view of the lake and was 50 amp and cost $18. That sounded good to me. Here is a shot of the site:


The view was awesome and this was a very quiet park. No road or train noise and even though there were a few other campers, they were mostly in another section. Many of the sites were huge. We were once again able to get level without disconnecting. We loved this place. We could have made one more stop on the way to Galveston, but decided to stay two nights and relax and enjoy the quiet. We were only 150 miles from our destination, so the travel was working out fine.

I took a long bike ride through this park and really enjoyed it. The lake is very shallow and some areas resemble a swamp, but we did not have any issues with critters. We would definitely come back to this park.

Up to this point our drive was uneventful, but we still had to drive on to Galveston island via a ferry at Port Bolivar. We were planning to completely miss Houston. I will write more in my next entry about our arrival in Galveston and getting ready for the big party.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Time in Russellville

We stayed in Russellville, Arkansas for 4 nights. We loved our time with our son and his family. We also had a chance to catch up with some friends that are from the area.

We had a chance to spend some time with Michael, Audrey and the kids on Thursday evening and then we planned to go to the Russellville HS football game on Friday night. Connor had a class thing and was going to get to go out on the field with the team. I sent a text to my friend Ken to see if he wanted to go. He told me that RHS had a very good team this year and had been wanting to go see them play. Perfect! Here is a shot of Ken, myself holding Cam and Con sitting next to me.


I just love HS football games. We had a blast talking and watching RHS dismantle the team from Texarcana. Did you know that there are two High Schools in Texarcana? One on the Arkansas side called Arknasas High that have the nickname of the Razorbacks. They use the same colors as UA in Fayetteville. The one on the Texas side is of course called Texas High and the Longhorns are the school mascot. I did not know that.


Even Kim enjoyed the game until it started to get cold. We turned on the heated seats in the truck on the way home to warm our backsides after sitting on the cold bleachers.

We got up early on Saturday morning to watch a soccer game that Connor was playing in. I did not get any pictures. We went by Dick and Cathy's for a visit and then went to lunch. Dick aced me out and bought lunch. Thanks Dick, I owe you.

We went over to Michael and Audrey's for dinner. We had to get some tickle snakes and horsey rides in. I just love playing with little kids.


We then took Connor back home with us. We love that one on one time. Connor was up early, so we took a long walk, played on the playground and then did some fishing.




Connor did not catch any fish that first day, but caught a nice little large mouth bass all by himself on the second day. He was pumped.


Michael and Audrey came over and dropped off Cameron and took Connor to do some shopping and one on one time. I got some one on one with Cam. He is so funny. We took a walk or should I say, I got to carry him over to the playground.


Then we saw the "Big Boat" as Cam called it. We really like to watch the barge traffic on the river going through the locks.


We had a nice sunset that evening with both boys. They spent the night with us and it was only the second time Cam had spent the night away from Mom and Dad.


We got up early the next morning and Kim fixed biscuits and chocolate gravy. Our friend Cathy put her up to that. It was actually quite good.


We loved our time together. Audrey came back over on Monday morning after a parent teach conference. She took this great shot:


We were needing to get going on down the road, so we started going through our routine with the boys watching. They were pretty amazed by the slides and hitching up to the truck. We said our goodbyes and we were off to who knows where. We sure will miss those guys.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Cherokee Park, Arkansas

We left the ranch in Missouri on October 20. Our first stop on this trip like most trips heading south, was at a place that would allow us to visit our son Michael and DIL Audrey and the two grandsons, Connor and Cameron. We do not get to see this part of our family as much as we would like and we were really looking forward to this visit. We have not seen them in about 3 months and we may not see them again until May.

We normally spend the time at the same park in Russellville, AR. It is a COE park called Old Post Road Park. We like it because the sites are large and it sits right along the Arkansas River. We have never had a problem getting into that park. I went on line to check for availability and was concerned to see that the park was full on the weekend that we would be there. I called the SP in Russellville and was told that there was a big Bass fishing tournament that weekend and everything in town was full. I did my normal searching and found a place that looked pretty good about 30 miles away. It is a small COE park in Morrilton, AR called Cherokee Park.

We made the mistake of trying to follow google to get to this park. There are some very low RR crossings that we would not fit under. I found a way around and after a few tense moments, we found our way to the park. When we arrived we found a very quiet park right along the river. We found a great spot with an awesome view.


I love the big trees and the view of the lock and dam.

We got set up and then headed right on over to see Con and Cam. Age 6 and 2.5.


Those boys are growing so fast. I have so much fun playing with them that Mom needs to tell us to all settle down. 

Michael is in an outage at the Nuclear Plant, so he is working 12 hour days, 6 days a week. So, we did not get to spend as much time as we would like, but he was still able to be there when possible. 


The first day we were there, I got up and took a walk over to the dam and Hydroelectric plant. This is the view from our site. 


They were letting water out of the dam on that first day, so the water was very turbulent. It all looked very different a few days later. 


Here is a view of the campground from the point of land between the dam and the Hydro plant. 

The Old Post Park has two major downsides, first it is noisy. There is some kind of plant close by that makes a constant noise. You can turn on the fan or the AC and it is fine for sleeping, but sitting outside is not good. There is also a chicken rendering plant near by and if the wind is blowing just right, it stinks. Neither of those problems are an issue at Cherokee. It is quiet and there is little traffic through the campground. There were about 10 campers there on the weekend and almost empty during the week. This is our kind of campground. 

We need to get on the road today, so I will leave this entry there and write more about the activities with the kids and seeing friends while we were in the Russellville area in my next entry. 



Friday, October 21, 2016

On the Road Again

Yesterday, October 20, we left the ranch and headed south. Yep, that means this blog is up to date...for now. I am going to try to keep it more current because it makes it easier for people to follow us and arrange a meet up if wanted. I can tell you that if you want to know where we are today, you can go to rvillage.com and create a profile. Then send us a friend request. I do keep that location updated. If you are not familiar with rvillage, it is kind of like facebook for RVers. We have found it very helpful to meet up with other full timers. I also like the map that I have posted on the bottom of this blog. It is amazing how many places we have been in just short of 3 years.

We had a great time in Missouri, but we were very busy. We had some great times with our family and friends while we were there. We miss everyone when we are gone, but most people can only stand us in small doses. So, this lifestyle is perfect.

We decided that we would have to leave before Amelia's 1st birthday on the 23rd, so we decided to buy some cupcakes and go over for a pre-Birthday party. We just had to see the cake in the face and hair. The other kids had fun watching also. Shannon posted some great shots on Facebook. I will post a few of mine on here.


She is very intently watching what Mom is doing with the cupcake and candle.


Amelia is just so photogenic.

Where did my cupcake go?
The last day we were at the ranch we had a storm rolling in. I love to be out on the property on a nice fall day watching the storm roll in. You can see a few trail markings left over from the events last month. The trails are now covered in leaves.




The blue markings are for an ATV loop that is about 10 miles long and is a nice tour of the property. We do not allow 2 track vehicles on our single track. Yeah, we are kind of fanatic about that.

Kim and I were doing last minute things and I noticed this bright green thing on ground. Turns out it is a caterpillar. Very strange looking thing.

Kim's shoe is for size reference. 
We made the 200+ mile drive down into Arkansas. We have not seen Michael and Audrey and the boys in about 3 months. That is why we are now near Russellville, Arkansas. We were not able to stay in our normal place because of a bass fishing tournament this weekend. Once again we got a blessing in disguise. This park is so much better than our normal place. I will write all about it in coming days. Be ready for some updated pictures of Con ad Cam. They are growing so fast!
 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Time at the Ranch

I can't believe that it has been 30 days since we arrived at the ranch. The time has gone so quickly. We have had a great time with Shannon and Brian and the grand kids. We have also had some great times with friends that come to the ranch to play on this awesome piece of ground.

The good news is that my leg has healed up very well. I have almost no discomfort when I do most things. I do get reminded when I stretch it or bend over to pick something up off of the ground.

In the past month, I have not taken a ton of pictures, but here are a few of my favorites.

Will Riding his motorcycle. 
Here is a short video of Will riding the race course before the Hare Scramble at the end of September.



video

Here is a shot of the pit area during the races. It is always amazing to see this large field turn into a small city and then back to a pasture in the matter of just a few hours.


This young man is just 15 years old. I have had the pleasure of watching him ride since he was about 7. I think he will be the next big thing in our sport. The best part is that he is a better young man from a great family than he is a rider/racer. Meet Noah Clark.



It is fall in the Ozarks and time for pumpkins. Here is a picture of Amelia, my favorite little pumpkin. She is growing up so fast. She will be 1 year old on October 23.


Amelia loves to swing
We had our good friends Dean and Margit come out and camp with us at the ranch for a few nights. We had a great time playing cards and some other games. I lost at everything else except Yahtzee. I think this is my best score ever!



We love to camp with other couples. Please come join us on the road when we come to your area or just travel to a point along our trip, we would love to see you.

I did an upgrade to our battery and solar system. I installed the battery monitor in the middle. This thing will monitor the state of charge of the batteries and tell me what the rate of flow of power in or out. I also relocated my solar charger to inside the rig behind the TV. We are now doing a better job of using that dead space.



We moved my printer in the hole and have some other storage in there, now that the TV will pivot out of the way. This was just one of the major projects that I was able to complete while we were at the ranch. We are now prepared to take on the beach and desserts of the SW US. I can't wait to be sitting in a lawn chair looking out at the gulf checking my surf casting rod.

We got the boat out for one last run on Bull Shoals Reservoir. It was a beautiful day and the boat ran great. It has now been winterized and put to bed for the long winters sleep. The goal is to work on my conditioning over the winter and spring to be ready to ski next year when we return to Missouri.


As the weather cools off, I have been able to spend some great days out on the ranch cleaning up after the events. I have been able to go riding twice. I have tried to keep it slow to let the leg heal and that works most of the time.


We had Isabella, Will and Amelia come out for the night on Friday. We rode and hung out in the trailer.


Does Will look like a racer or what?

Amelia sitting in Grandpa's chair.
Will is also a great soccer player. And Shannon is the coach.


Another season in the books. Isabella handing out snacks and Shannon handing out medals.
Well that is it for our time at the ranch. We are leaving to head south on Thursday, October 20. We are excited to get back on the road. It just seems that life is too fast for us when we are here. We much more enjoy our relaxed lifestyle on the road. Join us here to see the places we go and the sites we see.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Strange Situation and Some Water Skiing

On September 16, we drove from Webster State Park to Fancy Creek State Park. The drive was only about 160 miles through the Kansas countryside. We arrived at about 2PM. Kansas State Parks have been OK, but not great. It looks like they are underfunded and under used. Fancy Creek was no different. There are multiple loops that are not well marked and there is no camp host in the area. We drove around and finally found a spot that would work along the river. It was Friday night, so we were concerned about the place filling up for the weekend.

We pulled into this site with a nice view of the river and noted that there was no reservation on the post for tonight. I then took a 3 mile hike through the park and back to the front to pay for one night. I went to the highest point in the park and took a few shots of the surrounding area.


This looked like a quiet place to spend the night. Here is a shot of the site that I took the next day.


I was in the middle of fixing dinner at about 6 PM when a camp host came to our site and told Kim that he had forgotten to put the reservation cards out on the sites. There was a reservation on this site for tonight. He apologized, but what could we do? We could hope that they were not going to make it and stay where we were or we could move to a much more undesirable site. It was closing in on darkness and I really did not want to move in the dark. We had dinner and discussed our options. We decided to take the safe choice and move before it got dark. We also decided that we would let Kim do the moving. We moved to a pull through site, but it was very unlevel and a tree caused us not to be able to open one of our slides. It was not great, but it would work for the night. To other RVers, What would you have done?


The picture of the empty site above was taken to help me remember that no one ever showed up for that site. We would have been fine if we did not move. Oh well.

I was able to back the rig out of the site without issue the next day and we were on our way to Missouri. We drove for about 150 miles to make it to Kearney, Missouri. My friend Dave and his wife Suzy live there. They offered to let us park in front of their shop for a night while Dave and I went water skiing. Dave is a former brick layer and built an amazing house out of block and brick. I wish I had taken a picture of it, but it was awesome.

We ended up driving straight to the private lake that Dave and his friends ski on. It has always been my dream to have a private lake to ski on. This one is awesome. I could live in that little house right by the course.


The best part of going skiing was getting to watch a few of Dave's friends ski. Joel is 50 years old and is skiing just a few buoys off of the world record. He is very tall and is an awesome skier.


I got one other good shot, but I am not sure who this one is.


Dave skied well. It is great to see how much he has improved in the past couple of years. Dave has skied for years, but has only been skiing on a course for 2 years. His enthusiasm for the sport is infectious. I skied 4 passes and was not happy with the way I am skiing. Oh well, what do you expect? I really need to train hard and ski a bunch to ski on a course at my age. Maybe next summer?

We got up early on Sunday morning and went back to the lake for more skiing. Dave skied first and did very well. I was really enjoying driving his boat. I just love to drive inboards. I skied one pass without incident and then when I was getting up for my second pass, I heard a pop in the back of my right leg. I immediately knew what had happened. I strained my hamstring. I just let go of the handle and settled into the water. Darn, did that hurt. Dave had to help me get my ski off. When I got out of the water, I could barely walk. I have done this before and I knew it was going to take a while to recover. No more skiing for me this year. My immediate concern was helping at the ranch for the upcoming events. Here is a picture of the bruising on the back of my leg a couple of days later. I did it good. I always seem to.


We decided to get loaded up and head south to the ranch. The drive was uncomfortable, but I knew it would be worse the next day as the soreness settled in.

That brings us back to our base in Missouri at the Hardwood Hills Ranch. I am writing this on a rainy day on the 12th of October. We have been very busy since we have been here. We had those two events and I also had a number of things on my to-do list. I will do a couple of entries about our time in Missouri to get some grand kids updated pictures in the blog and to detail an upgrade I did to the trailer. We expect to leave here on the 20th to head south to Arkansas. Come back to learn more about Solar power and living off of the grid.