Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Trip Wrap-up

 Location: Heart of Haynesville RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

To get the boring statistics out of the way, here they are:

The trip started on June 11, 2023 and ended on October 10, 2023 during which I towed Liberty about 4,200 miles while camping in 32 different campgrounds (14-state parks, 13-COE, 2-Tennessee Valley Authority, 2-County, 1- private) in 10 states. The cost of campgrounds was about $2,700.00 (average = $22.13 per night) while the cost of fuel was about $2,400.00. I'm disappointed in the amount of State Parks in comparison to COE's. COE's remain my preferred campground with State Parks and County Parks coming in a distant second.

My campsite for the next 2 to 3 months.

This old barn is in the cow pasture behind my campsite. It appears to be ready to fall in at any time. I hope I remember to take a picture of it before I leave in a couple of months to see how it is doing. 

There were several reasons for the trip other than the general reason of getting away to "see what I could see while the seeing is good." The large Forest River RV Rally in Goshen, Indiana was the long range destination, but as usual, the journey to get there was not even close to being the most direct route. As Malia Lane (RIP), solo RV'er, use to say in her blog, ",,,,the journey never ends." 

Along the way: 

I explored and learned about the Tennessee River Valley and the hydroelectric dams which transformed it the entire valley into something special. It is one of the most successful programs of FDR's New Deal and is still paying great dividends today and will continue to do so into the distant future.  I remember learning a little bit about it in school but nothing as in depth as traveling, camping and exploring along the river. I sure hope the schools are still teaching about it.

I explored and learned about the Battle of Shiloh/Corinth and the minor battles leading up to it. It was a turning point in the war and dealt a crippling blow to the south in terms of transporting materials and troops. This is not my first Civil War battlefield. I've explored the beginning point at Fort Sumter, South Carolina and the last at Appomattox Court House, Virginia and several others in between. But it was during the exploration at Shiloh where I got a better understanding as to why Southern Monuments in the cities of the south were erected after the war. They serve more as an all-encompassing general headstone to the southern soldiers who died during the war and never returned home. The vast majority of the monuments were erected because family members didn't know where their loved ones died and were buried. If their loved ones died at Shiloh, more than likely, they lay on the battlefield for weeks until all of the Yankee soldiers were properly buried in a cemetery with their names recorded, if known. After which, the Yankees took over from the local citizens who were burying the Southern dead. The Yankees made quick and disrespectful work of it by burying the Rebels in mass trenches on the battlefield. When the family members learned of this, from Shiloh and many other battles, they erected Memorials to their lost loved ones. Often-times they were erected in the heart of their cities near the court house and served as a Mass Headstone of the deceased Southern soldiers. These are the Memorials that are now being removed by stupid people, encouraged by some politicians and ignored or incorrectly reported on by the media. Sad times being created by people who don't know their history or maybe they do and are just ignoring it. 

I visited several Indian Mounds on this trip. And as with the Civil War battlefields, these were not my first or biggest. To my surprise, I finally got a good answer, it many not be the correct one, to my question that I always ask when visiting these Indian Mounds. "Why would people, who had to struggle each day just to survive, waste time building a large pile of dirt." The good answer was, they marked the annual or bi-annual meeting places of different tribes in the area. The various tribes would meet to trade items and information, choose wives and husbands and maybe a little partying. To mark the spot for next year, and sanctify it, they would build an earthen mound, little by little, year by year. That makes more sense than some of the other answers I have gotten over the years from the "experts". This answer does not apply to places like Cahokia, near St. Louis, since it was a giant city, not a gathering spot.

The Forest River Rally was a nice mid-point on the trip. I met lots of new people and talked with many of the technicians about maintaining/repairing RV's. If you are an RV'er and think your RV will survive the brutal roadways in our country without the need for preventative maintenance and repair, then you shouldn't be RV'ing. I will probably go back next year if, as my mother (RIP) would say,,,,,"if the Lord's willing and the creek don't rise." 

I saw some really good sunsets/sunrises, many lakes, rivers, working tow boats, lots of dams, some good museums and a few nice scenic drives. I saw lots and lots of farmland with crops growing high and healthy. There were many clean and vibrant small towns supporting those farmers. I had a few really good and unexpected meals at restaurants while eating out. Some even came close to Taco Bell. I was pleasantly surprised by some other campers who brought me supper three nights in a row. I'm still in the process of convincing myself that it was not only due to their generous nature but also because I looked so scrawny and skinny as to have people believe I'm starving to death. I have taken to carrying rocks in my pockets to weigh me down in case a strong gust of wind blows up. 

Freedom and Liberty (I've quit using Liberty2) performed very good with the only problem being Liberty's air conditioner going out. It was replaced in a relatively short period of time and under warranty, so that "problem" turned into and "adventure". Adapt and overcome. 

The trip was a success and I missed the majority of the record setting heat of a Louisiana summer. I should be here through at least Christmas. I have a feeling a very cold winter is in store for Louisiana to go along with the very hot summer. We seem to be in that pattern. Unless something prevents me from do so, I plan to spend the winter somewhere with highs in the 60's and lows in the 40's.

It will take me some more time to organize and post some pictures from the trip. If you can wait that long, they are in all of the posts that I made during the trip.     

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

The Last Leg of the Trip

 Location: Chicot State Park; Ville Platte, Louisiana

This will be a brief post and will basically serve as a page mark to document the last campground before getting back to my home base for the holidays. 

This campground is a old state park along I-49 in the middle part of the state. I chose it simply because of its location in relation to my sisters hometown of Youngsville, Louisiana which is just south of Lafayette. It was an easy day trip yesterday to visit with her and get caught up on things. It was a nice visit. 

It's a nice isolated, in-the-woods campsite.

I got here Sunday afternoon after passing over the worse roads during my entire trip. I will not come back to this campground until they repave the state roads leading to the park. And of course that means I'll never be back since I doubt they repave them in my lifetime. 

If you're looking for a quiet, back in the woods type of campground, this is for you. I didn't do any exploring around the area during my stay of two days. If I had stayed longer, I wouldn't want to do much exploring because I would have to travel over the bad roads too much. 

Today is moving day and the last leg before getting home. It will be about 150 miles to get there with a stop along the way. I'm thinking about stopping at the CAT scale I used at the beginning of this trip. It may be interesting to see how much weight Liberty has gained or lost. I'm having to change my home base campground from the one I've been staying at for the last few years. I knew the owner, who lives in Houston, had been talking about closing the campground down and I guess he did it while I was gone on this trip. When I called, the voice message was a little vague but when I checked online it showed the campground as permanently close. 

Oh well, I'll just go to another one near Mansfield. I've stayed there a couple of time several years ago. The campground has about 150 campsites but was nearly full when I left so I was a little concerned that it may still be full since they would be absorbing the campers from the closed campground. When I called the new campground, the owner told me he had about 100 vacancies and for me to just pick one, set up, then Venmo him the information and rent. Sounds pretty easy if I can just remember how to do that Venmo thing.

I still have to do the trip wrap-up but it will have to wait a few more days so I can de-compress some more and get my thoughts in line. 

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road. 

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Nearing The End

 Location: Natchez State Park; Natchez, Mississippi

It was another long haul to get to this campground but I did it intentionally. I wanted time for some "thinking driving" before ending my trip next week. It was a nice drive but I still have more thinking to do. When moving campgrounds as quickly as I have been doing, it take a little while for time and events to catch up with you once you stop. That is what I was hoping for at this campground. My plans were to do only a little exploring and use the rest of the time to get my thoughts and feelings in order. Today is day 4 of 4 and I guess 4 days weren't enough time. I'll have to wait for a future post to do a wrap-up of this trip. 

Nice campsite but a strange campground. There isn't a check-in booth as you enter the campground. The rangers station/check-in is all the way at the end of the park. Strangers or "ner-do-wells" (old term) can enter without any concern. When I got here, there was only one other camper in this loop. 

This is the lake in the park. I assumed it had been created maybe back in the 50's or earlier, but the Ranger said it was done in the 80's. I haven't checked that to confirm though.

Natchez is an old town located right on the Mississippi River. You would think it played an important role in the War for Southern Independence but you would only be partially correct. At the time of the war, Natchez was one of the wealthiest cities in the south due to the excellent farm lands and proximity to the river. The rich people outfitted several companies of Rebels before sending them north to fight. I guess the south didn't see the need to defend Natchez since the Yankees took it easily after capturing New Orleans and Baton Rouge. It didn't play a significant role in the war after that.

If you've seen the John Wayne movie El Dorado then maybe you remember one of the characters played my James Caan. His name in the movie was Mississippi and he mentions a place called "Natchez Under the Hill". Well this is the hill you go down to one of the places with that name. There is a small casino down there now.

This is the other place that could go by the same name of Natchez Under the Hill or Natchez Under the Bluff. There are a couple of juke joints down there now.

One of the main reason I came here was to see an old riverboat that had been abandoned on the Louisiana side of the river. I found it by accident more than 10 years ago and was interested in seeing how it looked after that time. I was very disappointed to find that it had been salvaged and removed. Oh well, things are always changing. It was a nice drive anyhow.

The following pictures are from the Louisiana side of river. This is a picture of a typical river levee that runs the entire length of the river in Louisiana. I'm parked on the top of the levee and that is a paved state highway running along it's base. Louisiana is different than some of the other states with rivers in that you can't see the river from most of the roads because the view is blocked by the levee.

What a difference from the Mississippi side of the river with it bluffs compared to this flat open land on the Louisiana side. The reason, from what I've read, is because the bluffs were formed during the last ice age from nearly continuous duststorms blowing topsoil in from the mid-west. It was deposited on the east side of the river.

I've asked this question many times throughout this blog. What is the story behind not cutting this tree down? There has to be a sentimental/emotional reason because it doesn't make sense to plow/plant around it each year.

Same question about is tree. This one is at least alive and could be used as a shade tree during the summer while working in the fields. I didn't stop and ask anyone this time. Maybe next time.

A tree tunnel. These trees are maybe a hundred years old and were probably planted in front of an old plantation. 

On the way back to the campground, I stopped at the National Cemetery in Natchez to pay my respects to the "ones who came before". It's a nice cemetery with a good vibe.

Remember, the small square markers are the old ones and have only a number on them. They mark the old "unknowns". 

Today is moving day and my next campground will be in central Louisiana. I'll be there for only 2 days while I visit some family in South Louisiana. I should be back at my home town on Tuesday.

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe, I'll Cya down the road. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

A/C Success; Time to Turn West

Location: Meaher State Park; Spanish Fort, Alabama (near Mobile) 

It was a 250 mile tow to get here but it was a nice drive, mostly on interstates. As I've mentioned before, I prefer towing on interstates because of the room they provide in case of an emergency with the wide shoulders. I pulled in around 4:00 instead of 5:00 as I had planned the night before. My last campground was on the border of Eastern and Central Time Zones. My cell phone was picking up conflicting signals and one minute it would say Central then change to Eastern. In all of the confusion, I left on time in Eastern Time but an hour early on Central Time. It all worked out OK, it wasn't too hot when I got here and the Taco Bell I went to after setting up camp gave time for the sun to go down and provide some good cooling.

My campsite here at Meaher State Park

The A/C tech installed my new A/C this morning. It took him a little less than 1 hour and I forgot to take a single picture of the process. However, I did pester him very much with tons of questions and constantly looking over his shoulder. The new A/C works great with a little more than 20 degree difference between intake air and output air. You can bet I'll be sleeping in 64 degree temperature tonight. When the RV tech got here he was swarmed by three other campers in the campground. Each needed a little work done on their rig. He helped 2 of them since their issues were minor, but the third would have taken too long and he had someone else scheduled for work elsewhere. 

This is the same campground I stayed at when the tech diagnosed my A/C problem. It is a nice one with the campsites separated by a generous distance. It is a little more than twice the price of Corps of Engineers campgrounds but seems to be comparable to most State Parks. 

I didn't do much exploring since I arrived late in the evening yesterday and spent the morning with the RV tech. I was able to have a nice lunch at a Chinese Buffet. I also walked around the campground and explored one of the trails to the marshes and I went to the campground fishing pier for the sunset which was below average.

The Cane-cutters Trail leading from the campground to the marshes

A nice boardwalk leading into the marshes with the sign reading "Do Not feed or harass the gators."

A nice thinking bench facing west towards the setting sun

The campground fishing pier. One guy was fishing.

Another thinking bench facing west.

Sun setting over Mobile Bay. 
'Night ya'll.

I checked the Fort Pickens Campground site again, but still not enough days in a row to get me to go. I'm still disappointed in missing the campground again. It appears that about 4 to 6 weeks is the advance time period you need to make reservations if it includes the weekend. It just didn't work out for me this time. Maybe I'll ease over this way after the holidays. Those decisions can wait cause I'm just about decision-making burnt out. I have reservations all the way home but still need to decide which campground I'll be staying at once I get home. The one I have been using as a home base for the last few years has gone out of business since I've been gone. I'll have to chose another one. I've stayed at just about all of them around that area, so I just need to pick one.

Tomorrow is moving day and I've decided to make another long haul. Coincidentally, it is about the same amount of miles as it was to get here. I like making long hauls on the last few legs of my trips. They become my "thinking drives". Time for me to mull over the previous few months of traveling. To go over, in my mind, things I've seen and done while on this trip. I need those thinking drives and a few days of down time before getting home to get myself centered again.  

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.  


Sunday, October 1, 2023

I Chose Poorly

Location: R. Shaefer Heard Campground; on West Point Lake near West Point, Georgia. On the state line with Alabama.

This is the full moon rising at my last campsite at Whitetail Ridge. It was nice. Definitely a top 10 campsite.

My current campground is the first campground I escaped to when avoiding the heat of southern Alabama while waiting on my new air conditioner to be delivered. On that stay it worked really good because my campsite was completely surrounded by trees and very shady. Almost too much shade because with a little rain it became very humid like a rain-forest. But, I've guess I've become spoiled by my last two great campsites. They each backed up to the lake with complete afternoon shade to keep the temperature manageable during the day. With nighttime lows in the mid to upper 60's, it was ideal. 

So, with those in mind, I saw this campsite when I was looking for a campground before heading towards the Mobile area. It looked similar, in relation to the lake, but I needed to check the afternoon shade. From one of my computer apps, I looked up the angle of the setting sun and plotted that on Google Earth from the location of the campsite. Wow, the sun would set behind a group of 4 big trees providing complete shade from about noon to sunset. This process has worked for me many time in the past so I confidently made the reservation while patting myself on the back for finding another great campsite. I was Wrong. I was only a little wrong, but still wrong. I'll have to add another item to the list of "Close only applies to horseshoes and hand grenades". The item I need to add is "angles of the sun". You see, the sun missed that group of trees by only a couple of degrees which was enough to allow the sun to hit Liberty broadside all afternoon. It got warm and I had to go to town until it cooled off some. As to my campsite chose,,,,the Knight said it correctly in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ,,,,"He chose poorly". It doesn't really matter now since today is my last day here.

It's a nice campsite but only with a good air conditioner.

 That group of 4 trees on the left are the ones I had counted on to provide me shade. 

I don't get to see the setting sun, but I do get to see the afterglow. 

My surge guard protected me and Liberty again. When I plugged into the campsite electrical pedestal the surge guard indicated a "High Ground, 4 volts". Since there wasn't a 50 amp receptacle for me to "dogbone" to, I called the campground hosts and one of them came to my site to check it out. He was not an electrician. He simply checked the voltage and said it was wired correctly. I asked him to check the voltage between the ground of the 30 amp and the ground of the 20 amp, but he said he wasn't comfortable doing that and called the COE ranger. She showed up quickly and called their contracted electrician who also showed up quickly. He removed the panel and you could clearly see the cracked receptacle and burnt wire. This allowed some voltage to bleed over to the ground wire which my Surge Guard identified and prevented power from going to Liberty. Between bad pedestals, nearby lightening strikes and power surges, my Surge Guard has protected me at least a half a dozen times or more. All's well that ends well.

Tomorrow (Monday) is moving day and I'll be making a long tow of about 250 miles to get back to Meaher State Park in Spanish Fort, Alabama (near Mobile) to get my new A/C installed on Tuesday. I plan to arrive at the campground between 5 and 6 o'clock to avoid most of the afternoon heat. Hopefully, tomorrow will be the last day I worry about hot temperatures for a while. 

I haven't done much exploring around the area this time. I did drive by the dam to see if they were generating power since the lake level is so low. I was surprised to see one of the three turbine outlets going since the last time I was here, it didn't seem like any power was being generated. Maybe some rain will hit this area to fill the lakes up before winter.

This is probably the last picture of a dam for awhile. 

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.