Our time at Mill Creek Ranch Resort in Canton Texas at the Texas Tiffin Owners RV Rally was informative, entertaining and 100 percent no stress, no strain, relaxation. We volunteered for several events and enjoyed a fun filled week of interesting RV seminars, informal talks about our Tiffin motorhomes, 50/50 cash drawings, nightly Door Prizes at the Pavilion and laid back comradery with new and old friends. John and I walked away with two great door prizes on the last day. We thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the experience.
There were pot lucks, several meals provided by the rally, breakfast provided and cooked by some of the men and a bar-b-q hosted by a vendor. One of the ladies hosted morning exercise walks and a wreath demonstration was given by a local craft shop. We participated in a motorhome garage sale and came away with several excellent books on tapes. Many of the attendees, including John, left items on the “free” table and we snagged another book on tape.
Vendors were in attendance to do recall work, repairs and upgrades. Our favorite Red Bay former Tiffin employee turned self-employed custom work guy, Brannon, came to do work for those who signed up. Our car battery died so we were overjoyed that there was a service vendor for testing and selling batteries along with a washing/waxing service and Aqua Hot service. Vendors stayed for the entire week working long hours to reach each attendee that requested their services.
Nearly 100 Tiffin motorhomes and their owners were merrily taking part in all that our grand Pooh-Bah, Richard King, so successful brought together. It was his first, and he claimed his last, rally coordinating project. But we plan to help sweet talk him into volunteering again. His yearlong work on the project produced excellent results. If he does it again, we will sign up immediately. Yep, we had that much fun!
It is April 15th and we will roll back to Conroe in the morning. Although I am unable to read while rolling down the road, one stop allowed me to browse an article in our motorhome magazine about an RV blogger who received a question from a family who wanted to full-time with four children and 2 dogs, using only their RV travel blog as income. Long story short, they were told it was not possible to make that size of an income from blogging. They believed a higher power would take care of them and their needs so they ignored all advice. It has been my experience, when a higher power avails to you a group of bona fide knowledgeable people, you should listen. Wonder how that worked out for them.
Back to Conroe KOA, floodwaters nipping at our wheels, to wait out the massive storm and rising waters predicted to arrive in Houston and The Woodlands area in the next few days. We were extremely thankful that State Highway105 was above water during the flooding. Both of the other RV parks, where we have previously stayed, flooded either in the park or at the entry. Sometimes we catch a welcoming break from trouble.
We were able to have lunch with our friends, all retired employees of the company John worked with for 30 years, at Schilleci’s New Orleans Kitchen at Market Street in The Woodlands. Yummy.
Next night was game night with our friends from the bike club that John road with for 25 years. An excellent home cooked meal and several thoroughly relaxing hours with our “old fogies” game night group.
Somewhere in the distance Willie’s voice started softly crooning On The Road Again, louder still as we begin our slow roll to New England. Our first overnight is in Galveston, TX to visit with family who live nearby in Seabrook. Glad we found this place. In the dark of night, the waters near the dock are full of miniscule twinkling and blinking green organisms. The iridescent emerald Tinkerbelles floating under water are mesmerizing to watch.
We arrived in time to drown under major thunderstorms and endure severe weather alerts. After lunch with family, we sat quietly scanning the sky for tornados as the swift advancement of dark rolling clouds swooped in from the ocean. Storms and lightning are never a comfortable situation when living in a metal rolling box.
Early am, off and rolling onward to Texarkana RV in Texarkana Texas for an overnight, somewhat wet but not overpoweringly drenched. Tornado’s, large hail and strong winds are creeping up close behind us. Grocery shopping, TV and early to bed for another first-thing-in-the-morning departure.
Again with an early rising to be out of storms way. Having my fill of the Elvis experience while paused repetitively in Red Bay Alabama, we sought alternatives to Elvis and his Graceland for our stop in West Memphis Arkansas. We will have the waters of the Mighty Mississippi out our front window while spending two overnights near its banks. Surrounded by giant cement plants, gas and oil refineries, tug boats and their cargo all giving off foul odors, it came close to detracting from the long wide ribbon of graceful flowing waters.
Nighttime and rains came first, then the snow. Not the cold wet kind but the fluffy white floating-through-the-air kind that irritates noses and inducing sneezes, causes runny noses and itchy eyes. It is the snow that comes from Cottonwood Trees. Tree pollen was maxed out at the top of the charts, exactly what caused my lungs to give out last year, so we opted for indoor entertainment for the two day traveling respite.
Tom Sawyer RV Park is in a flood zone. The trees housed many tiny houses and on the ground sat several tiny houses on wheels. All the utilities are mounted sky high among the tree tops, all dead giveaways to regular flooding.
We were given a peaceful end site with an exceptional water view.
The waterfront is landscaped on both sides by stately old growth oaks. The river takes on a fairyland appearance at night, small white and yellow lights mounted on barges twinkle in strange patterns, flowing past just shy of the river bank. During the day, the wide stretch of water dominates the view.
We crossed over the Mississippi River to Memphis Tennessee. You can see the top of the Bass Pro Pyramid from the top of the bridge.
Memphis is home to several iconic Blues, Jazz and Rock n Roll establishments, the hang outs and businesses of well-known musician superstars. Looking over our tour choices, we decided on Backbeat Bus Tours. The concept sounded interesting and a fun alternative to mundane canned speech bus tours. Each bus had musical instruments. Ours were two tambourines and a bucket full of tiny egg shaped rattles that sounded like rattle snake tails when snakes get ready to strike.
When the tambourines were given and accepted by one lady in front of us and one lady in back of us, I cringed, expecting a noisy racket for the whole ride. Catherine, our guitar player and entertaining informational guide began the tour and the sing along commenced. To my surprise, no racket, all jangling was in perfect timing with the guitar strumming. Who knew there were folks who could rock a tambourine?!
We began the tour at Beale Street in a bar, with me purchasing a scotch and water for John while he purchased the tour tickets. Drinking is allowed on the blocked off streets and on our tour bus.
One of the sights we drove past was The Blues Hall of Fame music museum that, until recently, was not a physical building but a listing of people who significantly contributed to blues music. The Blues Foundation began the list in 1980 but the actual building for the hall opened to the public in 2015.
At the end of our bus tour, we were dropped at Sun Studio for an add-on tour of the vintage recording studio that is still in use today. The studio was opened by rock-and-roll pioneer Sam Phillips in 1950. When the building that held the original broadcasting booth of Station WHBQ was being demolished, the studio removed it from the building, piece by piece, and reassembled it at the recording studio.
The vintage museum displays items from historic and iconic music legends including Elvis’s high school diploma,
the original recording microphone, guitars and pictures of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. It also displayed a vintage TV, radio and phonograph console. Myself, and many others in the group, recognized the console as one like their parents owned when they were young. The lone guitar has a dollar bill wedged under the strings on its neck. Unable to afford drums, it was said that Johnny Cash used the “cash” to make the sound of a snare drum in his 1956 hit, “I Walk The Line”.
The studio is still being used by stars such as Ozzie Osborn and our guide was very knowledgeable about the studio’s history and the history of those who began the Rock-n-Roll era.
When our two-part tour was complete, Bass Pro Shops giant Pyramid, spied from the bridge towering over the Mississippi, drew us into its parking lot.
When we entered the building, whoa, so cool! It’s gigantic inside! A store and multiple story luxury hotel, its décor is Disney-like with tiny lights, Louisiana swamp atmosphere and their trademark giant fish tank taking center stage. There is the ability to take an elevator ride to the top and walk outside the pyramid’s top, for a fee. Water venues with swimming fish and reptiles with huge flashing teeth squirm through the water on the base level. John and I walked around, soaking in all the atmosphere. Definitely worth a look-see if you are in the area.
It is our last evening along the banks of the Mississippi river. Time to pack up and roll our way into Nashville.
We use Passport America campgrounds for evening stops along our way to a destination. It is a discount club for RV’ers. Park owners embrace the offer when they are a small park, do not fill to capacity, or want to attract more business. There have been times of pulling into these parks that I have wondered why it was Passport America. Tanbark Campground in Dixon Tennessee’s reason was obvious. Older park, lots of permanent residents, skin tight parking. We could see the whites of our neighbors eyes as they pulled into their site.
In route to Tanbark Campground we passed an accident on I40 West. A TDOT truck was paused on the side of the road while another worker was in front of the truck. An 18 wheeler didn’t obey the Move Over law and hit the TDOT truck and pushed it into the worker, killing the worker. The accident stopped the flow of traffic in the opposite direction for hours and we were witness to the obscene amount of 18 wheelers that roll down the road at one time.
Shocking to see a 20 mile stretch of predominantly 18 wheelers at a standstill. Five hours later the flow was released.
A quick grocery run, a restful quiet night at Tanbark Campground, come morning we were headed to Nashville. If you listen to The Highway, a country western music station on channel 56, you would think that Nashville is the new Las Vegas. The difference, a southern twang and minus the hordes of card snappers forcing skin flick pictures on unsuspecting tourists. Nashville’s The Highway claims that what goes on in Nashville, stays in Nashville. With all the trips we’ve taken to Las Vegas, there is a familiar ring to that statement.
With our enjoyable musical experience on the Memphis bus tour fresh in our minds, we opted for a comedic style musical experience in Nashville. This was an adult only tour, no one under 18 allowed. We were not the oldest on the bus but the songs were those of which most seniors would have familiarity. John and I had more fun than we expected. We knew the music, both of us being country western fans, and enjoyed all the little tidbits of funny comment that was tactlessly imparted by our two comedy guides.
We sang our way past many historic buildings, one being the Levitt Shell where Elvis first sang.
Our mid-way stop allowed us to stretch our legs and tour the famous Nashville Goo Goo Candy Factory,
and the Johnny Cash gift shop.
Kudos to Devon, our musical guitar guide and his excellent rendition of past and present hits and the sharing of his engaging original song. By the end of the tour we were blasting music, and our voices, out open bus windows. Several of us vintage tourists began waving our arm back and forth out the windows in time to the tunes. Most excellent tour, completely obliterated the plain old, plain old.
Our overnight for Nashville was the Nashville Elks Lodge in Franklin, Tennessee. Huge parking lot, no hook-ups, silent night, fair weather days and an enjoyable visit with cousins. Next destination, Cave City Kentucky.
Arriving at Singing Hills RV Park and Campground in Cave City Kentucky we could tell we were near Amish/Mennonite families. Listed on our rule sheet: “Please wear shirts and shoes outside. Please do not wear swimsuits in public”. The campground was a cozy vintage style with a catch and release fishing pond and first-rate location.
The country side is beautiful and our drive through the national park turned up several pair of wild turkeys.
Mammoth Cave is a U.S. National Park, the longest cave system known in the world. The park became a World Heritage Site in 1981 and an international Biosphere Reserve in 1990. The cave system runs under its 52,830 acres and consists of over 400 miles of surveyed passageways, twice as long as the second-longest cave system which is located in Mexico. New passageways continue to be discovered so its length will extend.
Arriving at the National Park, we viewed the Visitor Center’s excellent display, watching a documentary about the first tour guides and the history of Mammoth Cave’s exploration. A time line, stretching as far back as six thousand years, reveals cane torches used by Native Americans and other artifacts, drawings, gourd fragments and woven grass moccasin slippers that were found in the Salts Cave section of the Flint Ridge system.
The historic entrance, surveyed and registered in 1798 by Valentine Simons, was exploited for saltpeter reserves. In 1812 the cave changed owners and Hyman Gratz mined for calcium nitrate on an industrial scale. An African American slave, Stephen Bishop, was one of the first to make extensive maps of the cave, named many of the caves features and led guided cave tours during the 1840’s and 50’s. After changing hands several times, Mammoth Cave National Park was officially dedicated in 1941.
After you purchase tickets at the visitor center, the tour starts at one of the outside pavilions. You board a bus, it takes you to the entrance of the cave and your Ranger lists the do’s and do not’s. The cave entrance was not what anyone expected. Not a gaping hole with bats escaping but a steel and glass revolving door designed to allow as little air exchange as possible.
The Frozen Niagara Tour, the shortest available, was our choice. We weren’t sure how strenuous the walk would be and how I would fair climbing a little over 100 stairs. As it turned out, the paths had rails, were easy to follow, it was the perfect length of time and even the small children in our group were able to enjoy themselves. Several of us noticed green on the formations. We were informed that it was from the heat of the lights. Money is being set aside for LED lights to help the cave return to a more natural state.
A bit claustrophobic in areas and slightly spine tingling when lights were turned off temporarily to demonstrate complete darkness but the experience left me calculating a future visit with the intention of hiking the longer trail. Our Ranger was engaging and the formations were fascinating.
Exiting the bus you are directed to wash your shoes to keep White-nose Syndrome from spreading. In North America, as of 2012, WNS disease is associated with 5.7 million bat deaths.
Another morning has arrived and this day will be a laid back day of exploration. We spied a junk shop, closed on Sunday, during our previous pass through town. Today the Olde General Store was open. The large wooden vintage warehouse and entrance was overwhelmingly stuffed with a mishmosh of everything no one would ever need or want.
The porch contained rusted out, broken metal everything, in no particular order.
John noticed a sign near the door that brought a chuckle.
We entered to the smell of cigarette smoke, the gentleman behind the counter drawing in long drags and asking from where we “hailed”. When we answered “Texas”, he smiled and said “that’s OK, you can come in anyway”.
When my lungs had their fill of smoke, mold, mildew and dust, we exited calling back “Thank you” and continued our exploration of the area.
We took the Green River Ferry to Detweiler’s Country Store, a hardware and grocery store. So many wonderful days-gone-by items for the home and health. Not wanting to be disrespectful, I left the camera in the car.
R & S Salvage Groceries, another Mennonite run business in Horse Cave Kentucky was our next stop. Our campground host claimed that they made the best doughnuts, fried pies and breads in the county. We arrived at a humongous 10,000 square foot warehouse filled with bulk dry foods, bulk frozen foods, deli meats, surplus and salvage goods and dozens of young workers busily tending the bakery, stocking shelves, cleaning isles and outside receiving. Again, the camera stayed in the car.
Back home to LilyPad to pack up and pull in, getting ready for our early morning departure and the continuation of our journey to Lee New Hampshire.
On our way to the Turnpike, buzzing slowly worked its way up to unbearable so we stopped at the roadside Lincoln Knob Creek Farm to let the car engine cool. The buildings are not open to the public but hiking trails run through the farm. The only other couple at the stop were the fully uniformed Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) National Secretary and her husband strolling around the grounds. Nice chat to catch up with FMCA events and stretch our legs.
Although Lincoln was not born at Knob Creek Farm, he admitted that the Farm was his first recollections. In 1928, Hattie Howell Howard and her husband purchased the Farm to preserve the land and share the story of Lincoln’s early years in Kentucky. To serve the growing number of tourists, they built the Lincoln Tavern which opened in 1933. It is currently being renovated.
The small cabin was made from logs of the original Gollaher Cabin. Austin Gollaher was a childhood friend of Abe. It is believed that Austin was responsible for saving Abe’s life when Abe slipped into the river and Austin pulled him out.
KatieBug enjoyed her walk, John and I relaxed and the car got a cool down break. We climbed aboard and were off down the road.
That high pitched and annoying screech, signaling our car transmission pump is not working properly, is at it again. Unhappily, it has been going off approximately every 60 to 100 miles beginning with our trip to Canton Texas. I’m confident it will continue until we reach our destination in New England. It’s one of many “it’s always something” items that have never been completely repaired. Now on our fourth year of rolling, it is the hardest broken part to which I must adjust. Annoyances are always present but none have noise associated with their in-need-of-repair condition.
With Mammoth Cave a past event, we looked forward to Makers Mark bourbon distillery. The car transmission pump was temporarily quiet and our next turn was within site. New buzzing combined with the flashing red lights on the dash signaling our motorhome engine was overheating. That wasn’t expected. Noise, flashing lights, horrid smell, something was amiss. John said the strange smell was probably from the dozens of gigantic bourbon aging warehouses we had just passed.
The stench was increasing and when I glanced to the back of LilyPad, our bedroom was filled with thick white smoke. In my normal calm reserved voice, I directed John to pull over. (Yea, right…but that sounds so much better than the actual panicky horrified shrill screeching voice with which I demanded John to stop.) He wasn’t able to stop immediately and drove on for what seemed like hours, really only minutes, until he turned onto the distillery road and stopped in the middle of the street, inside a marked yellow zone.
Unhook the car, one visit to town and three hours later, John had fixed the problem of the blown coolant hose that spewed steam up into our bedroom. It took just enough time to make us late, the distillery tours now closed, so we did some purposeful walking to the gift shop, walked KatieBug and continued on our drive to Danville, Kentucky.
Stopping on the side of major highways and freeways are an unpleasant but necessary task when the car transmission pump failure sets off the alarm inside LilyPad. It is a situation made worse by seeing the remnants of the TDOT fatality only days previous. Having dozens of 18 wheelers fly past you shaking your car and motorhome like a rag doll should be a once in a lifetime experience yet here we are, on the side of the road, multiple times a day, for weeks on end, because our Lexus refuses to relax and roll along behind us willingly.
Along with stopping, our trips are made longer by having to slow down over the uneven sections of the some highways and freeways causing the motorhome tires to pound down on the pavement and jar our insides. Until this three year old unsolved dilemma has been mended, we will be stopping indefinitely, every 60 to 100 miles.
A quick overnight at the campground of Pioneer Playhouse in Danville Kentucky to meet the owner, Charlotte Henson, widow of the founder Col. Eben C. Henson. He established the outdoor theater in 1950 and it is the oldest theater in Kentucky. Notable alumni actors include Lee Majors, John Travolta and Jim Varney. The playhouse is the first theater in the nation to be given the legal status of State Theater by act of Legislation. Fingers crossed that we are selected as workampers for the six week season next summer. Finally, a workamp position that sounds delightfully fun!
I’ve made a “best of” list to review when negative thoughts attempt to adjust my attitude. At times, the “it’s always something” can be a real joy killer and happy thoughts are needed to reverse going-down-hill-fast, especially when under severe duress. My list so far includes…Best view: Inspiration Point, Bryce Canyon, Utah. Best apples: Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington. Best tomatoes: Kruse Farms, Roseburg, Oregon. Friendliest workamping Rangers: Washington on the Brazos, Texas. Best Elks Lodge: Chico Elks Lodge, Chico, California.
My one page Bucket List keeps expanding, although I have only experienced two destinations on my original list, so I expect my “Best Of” list will change as we continue to roll along.
Our next destination, high on my Bucket List, Lancaster and Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Land of The Amish and Mennonites. I am preparing to be fascinated.