Sunday, November 11, 2018

Lake Guntersville State Park - Alabama (October 2018)

Here we are in Lake Guntersville State Park working from a hastily created Plan B. Why? Hurricane Michael shredded our original plan.

We had reservations to spend two relaxing weeks at Grayton Beach State Park in Florida. Then Hurricane Michael came along 10 days before our trip and devastated Florida’s Gulf Coast. 

We called Grayton Beach State Park a few days after the hurricane and found out it escaped serious storm damage. The news got better because the iconic trees just outside the park survived the weather. 

One ranger said he thought the park would reopen in a few days. That was partially correct in that the park reopened, but not to the public. It served as a staging area for the rangers and volunteers who worked to restore some of the other state parks damaged by Hurricane Michael. The State of Florida cancelled our reservations. It is hard to get too upset since the park was being used to help others.

But we could not help feeling sorry for the victims of this storm and sad that we would not be able to camp there this year. 

Evidently, Hurricane Michael didn't care how beautiful the state parks on Florida's Gulf Coast were. Evidently, Hurricane Michael didn’t care how hard it was to get reservations in Florida state parks. Hurricane Michael inflicted some serious damage to several of our favorite parks and communities along the Gulf Coast and we felt bad for the areas and people who suffered damage from that storm.

So, we were in a scramble to plan a new Rosie adventure. (Rosie is our 25 foot Airstream trailer.) Instead of heading to the beach, we decided to point Rosie in a northerly direction.

It is easy to get reservations in the parks no one wants to visit. Of course, there is a reason as to why these parks are mostly empty. The trick is to get into the good parks that everyone wants to camp in. It took way too much effort to come up with a replacement trip, but we ended up with plans that were worthy of a true Rosie adventure.

During that process, we kept saying how much we appreciated the WBCCI (Wally Byam Caravan Club International, the Airstream Owners Association) caravans. They take care of all your reservations plus make sure you see  some very interesting sights along the way. We decided that we need to sign up for more WBCCI Caravans.

Lake Guntersville was a last second addition to our trip. We were approaching three and a half years on Rosie's tires and most Airstream forums say you are living on borrowed time once your tires cross the third year mark. This is because of the weight and stress factors acting against trailer tires. Having survived a blowout in Arkansas, we didn't want to risk another possible tire problem. 

Lake Guntersville State Park

The recommended tire dealer near our home said he could install the new tires on Friday. Our trip was to start on Sunday. The thought of pulling Rosie out of storage on Friday, getting new tires, taking Rosie back to storage and going back two days later to connect again wasn't appealing. Wouldn't it be better to simply leave for our adventure from the tire store? 

There were a couple of parks along our route that we wanted to visit. As expected, they were full. We were able to squeeze in for two nights at Lake Guntersville State Park, a park that wasn’t on our list of “must visits.”

It was raining when we pulled into Lake Guntersville State Park. It appeared that it had been raining for a while because we saw an ample supply of mud around our site.

Entrance to the camping area

Rosie's site

The other factor that greeted us at the park was the cold wind. We were glad we replaced our beach clothes with warmer ones. 

The rain stopped during our first night and we were able to explore the park the next morning. Our impression as we walked around the park was that it was huge, the lake was huge and there was a huge lodge on the hill above the campground. It seemed as if everything was huge in this park.

Shore of the lake

Speaking of the lake, one fisherman said that Guntersville Lake is known as one of the best fishing lakes in America. While we cannot verify his statement, it was easy to see that a large number of the people in this campground loved to fish.

The playground

A fellow camper said that the lodge was a highlight of the park and recommended eating lunch there. That sounded like a plan to us.

View of the lodge from the campground

The Lodge Sign

We were glad we drove up to the lodge. It was worth visiting the park to see it. First, it was big, just as we thought. There were two high school reunions and three weddings taking place in the lodge during our visit.

The Lodge

The Lodge
Inside the lodge

Looking into the dining room

Second, the lunch was reasonably priced and very good. The oversized picture windows in the restaurant overlooked the lake and the campground.

Lunch at the lodge

We noticed that many deer live in this park as we drove around it. The deer seemed to be used to traffic as they continued to graze as cars passed by the areas they were in.

Grazing near the lodge

A deer

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • Our site was a back-in
  • Our site was gravel and level
  • Our site had 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical service
  • Our site had a water connection
  • Our site had a sewer connection
  • We could not find any WiFi service in this park. We did notice a WiFi antenna system suggesting they had WiFi at one time.
  • AT&T provided two bars of 4G service over our site
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS using Rosie's TV antenna
  • We were able to see ME-TV, Antenna, Bounce, My-TV, COMET and GRIT digital TV channels. 
  • The restrooms in our camping area were clean and warm. As the temperature dipped into the 40s one morning, the heated restrooms and showers were appreciated. 
Our opinion of the park changed during our visit. It turned out to be a great park and one we will visit again.

Rosie in the campground

One side note to our visit: While walking around the campground we started talking to a couple also in an Airstream trailer. We learned through out conversation that he was in a prominent position with one of Alabama's well-known college football programs.

No, I’m not going to identify him or his university as he deserves a little privacy. 

There are two colleges in Alabama with football teams typically in the national Top-25 ratings and both of those teams had "bye" weeks the weekend we were camping at Lake Guntersville State Park. The “bye” weekend was a perfect time for him to slip away for a small break from the season. 

I will say that I earned a degree from one of these “nationally known” football schools and served on the faculty at the other. We enjoyed swapping old "war stories" about that university and its former coaches. This chance meeting made our visit to Lake Guntersville State Park more memorable. 

An overview of the lake

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Driveway Camping - Central Alabama (September 2018)

We made a decision to renovate our home instead of moving. We like our home and it’s location. After looking at several options, we couldn’t identify anywhere we would rather live.

The next step was to find a contractor to take on our planned upgrades. It didn’t take long to settle on a local company with a strong reputation for quality work. Of course we needed to pack our “nic knacks” to help protect them from breakage when the workers moved our stuff from one room to another for the project. 

 It was amazing how the definition of nic knacks morphed into packing nearly everything that wasn’t furniture into boxes and how many trips we made to Home Depot to buy more boxes. I couldn’t wait for the workers to show up so I could watch them work instead of us packing. 

There is one other problem that we need to put on the table. One of us has asthma and removing tile floors and ripping carpets was guaranteed to kick up enough dust to launch that medical issue into orbit. Staying in our home during the renovations wasn’t an option, but we had be there because decisions must be made on the spot while the crew was working. 

Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, was the perfect solution. We could camp in our driveway while the crew worked. To help make this idea better in our minds, we placed a 30 amp electrical connection near our driveway a couple of years ago. That allowed us to use Rosie’s air conditioner while unloading her during the summer months. Now that electrical connection would allow us to be comfortable while camping in our driveway. This was a perfect solution. 

Rosie in the driveway

Well, maybe not as perfect as we thought. In less than 24 hours after parking Rosie in our driveway, an email arrived from our HOA (Home Owner's Association) demanding to know how long our trailer was going to be in front of our house because they have rules about such things and rules are rules. After an exchange of emails where we pleaded there was a medical necessity that brought Rosie to our home, our HOA manager said she would note our justification on our record. I wonder if this is a continuation of the permanent records that haunted us all through elementary and junior high schools?

Our adventure kept Rosie in the driveway for two weeks. I guess we became less of a curiosity as the huge red dumpster parked next to Rosie started filling up with the remains of old carpeting, tile floors and our never really loved counter tops. I was convinced that nothing else could be added to that dumpster by the end of the first week, but the workers were adapt at stacking more stuff in it as the renovations progressed. 

Updating the family home

The workers declared our renovations a victory late on a Friday afternoon and raced away leaving us in a cloud of dust. Did I mention how much dust is created when you remove tile flooring? The larger dust particles were easy to remove as they quickly fell on everything we owned. The tiny dust particles are worrisome as they are going to take a while to settle. 

During this process, we kept joking about this being one of the worst campgrounds we ever stayed in. Our view was our driveway and the looks from our curious neighbors. Some neighbors were brave enough to ask what we were doing. I guess the others saw the big red dumpster, the sign from our contractor and figured that we renovating our home. 

With the workers gone, we went back to work on a campaign to eradicate dust. We were amazed at how the dust permeated the drop cloths. Dust was everywhere. How did dust get inside the microwave? How did dust get inside places that were “protected” by multiple layers of plastic?

The next week was a blur. We wiped dust off everything in the house. We washed every dish and glass item in the kitchen. Rosie was our calming sanctuary in the evenings. We could lock up the house, go inside Rosie and rest after a full day of hard work trying to make our house livable again. 

Rosie in the driveway

The deciding factor in taking Rosie back to Fort Rosie, the warehouse we store her in, was the dumpster. We knew that we wanted Rosie out of the driveway before the truck arrived to pick up the dumpster. We completed cleaning Rosie, hitched up and parked her at Fort Rosie. 

We had asked Rosie this time to serve as a safe place of rest and relaxation during our home renovations. Rosie is mostly our adventure pod, but she proved that she can always serve as a refuge when necessary. 

We were exhausted on the day we took Rosie back to storage. Besides getting Rosie ready to travel, we spent the day cleaning up dust in the house. Our local unit of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI) was holding its monthly meeting that evening. We needed a break from cleaning and it was great to see our “Airstream” friends and to relax. 

By the way, we love the updates and renovations to our home. And we loved that Rosie played a staring role in that process. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Graceland RV Park and Campground - Memphis, Tennessee (July 2018)

Not again!

The voltage meter inside Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, was reading low when we connected to the power at Graceland. It was about 108 volts and while that was low, it wasn’t enough for our surge protector to shut down our electrical service. The voltage problem became an issue later during our stay at Graceland.

Sign at the park

You don’t stop at Graceland's RV Park because it is a great campground. You stay here to visit Graceland, Elvis' home. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon and planned to visit Graceland the next day. We discovered that we were not the only people planning to visit Graceland because the campground was full with RVs from across the United States and Canada.

A few signs in the campground

This was a pet-friendly campground

We made a last minute decision to take Suzy, our Yorkie, with us the next morning as we visited Graceland. That was a very fortunate decision.

Welcome to Graceland


Waiting for Elvis to show up

The mansion

We were surprised at how many people were visiting Graceland that day. There were lines of people waiting to see the mansion and the archives. According to the literature given to us there, more than 500,000 people visit Graceland every year. We also noticed that many were what we would call serious Elvis fans there, very serious fans!

At the entrance gates

OK, visiting Graceland could be considered a “bucket list” item for many people, but once was enough to quench our curiosity. Still, it was interesting to see. I wanted to see Elvis' Army archives since I also served in his old division 12 years after he was there.

Not the uniform worn while in the Army

After seeing everything we could at Graceland, including his jets, we walked back across the parking lot to the campground and Rosie. We immediately noticed the problem when we opened Rosie’s door. It was hot inside Rosie and the power was off. A check of our surge protector confirmed that the voltage was below 104 volts and our surge protector disconnected Rosie to keep from damaging her electronics. Our first thought was how thankful we were that we decided Suzy needed to see Graceland too, because it could have been tragic had we locked her inside Rosie that day.

Rosie at Graceland

The office workers first responded to my complaint with the dreaded, “No one else is having problems with their electric connections.” After it became apparent that I wasn’t swayed by this faulty logic, they asked the maintenance guy on duty to visit our site. He said he would check on things, but Graceland's electrician went off-duty more than an hour earlier. The maintenance man pulled out his voltage meter and read 104 volts without any power load on the circuit. After giving me a quick history of the numerous power problems suffered over the years at that campground, he decided to change out the power receptacle and the circuit breaker feeding Rosie. He did and the result was that that the voltage went up to 112 volts. I told the maintenance man that I was surprised that changing those components fixed the problem. The maintenance man said he was also surprised he fixed the problem. 

Here are some specifics about this campground:
  • Our site was a pull-thru
  • Our site was gravel and very close to level 
  • Our site had a 30 amp electrical connection. Some sites had 50 amp service 
  • Our site had a water connection 
  • Our site had a sewer connection 
  • We could not find any WiFi service at this park
  • AT&T placed a good 4G signal over this park
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC while using Rosie’s TV antenna. We also saw digital channels Antenna, Decades, Grit and ME-TV
  • The restrooms and showers in this park were disgustingly dirty 
Memphis is known for bar-b-que and we wanted to try some for dinner. One restaurant would pick up customers in a pink Cadillac and chauffeur them to their front door. How could we not do this? The ride and the BBQ were great. 

The pool room inside Graceland

Elvis' "Jungle Room"

Inside Graceland
Elvis' MG
Elvis' Pink Cadillac
Becky about to board the Lisa Marie
Heading out to eat BBQ in a Pink Cadillac

In the Cadillac
A pink Airstream at the restaurant

Elvis Greets Becky at the restaurant
Rosie at Graceland

Monday, September 3, 2018

Missouri RV Park - Mountain Grove, Missouri (July 2018)

Why is it when we say we will take it easy traveling, we end up pushing to get farther down the road? 

We were rapidly running out of options for the night when we found the Missouri RV Park while using the AllStays app on our iPhones. We called and confirmed that we had a site for the night, but there was a problem. The office closed at 6 p.m. on Sundays and our GPS predicted we would arrive about five minutes too late. That was when the office person volunteered to stay late to make sure we got in OK.

Entering the State of Missouri

That probably worked out for the campground because another trailer pulled into the park while we were registering. We thought it was interesting that the other trailer slipping in after six was also from Alabama.

The office
This was an older campground that had some problems with its roads. There were several places where the road was washed out and that meant we had to carefully plan our exit route to avoid big ruts in the road.

Rosie in the campground

There were also level issues in this campground. We were told we could set up on any unoccupied site in the first row. We ended up moving Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, to another site when we discovered we couldn’t get anywhere near level at our first choice. It appeared that our move wasn’t unique as the trailer that arrived after us also switched sites. 

Here are some specifics about this campground:
  • Our site was gravel and not level 
  • Our site had a 30 amp electrical connection 
  • Our site had a water connection 
  • Our site had a sewer connection 
  • The park provided a good Wi-Fi signal 
  • AT&T placed three bars of 4G service for both voice and data over our site 
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS and NBC using Rosie’s TV antenna. We were able to see digital channels Escape and Grit
  • The park had a swimming pool 
This turned out to be a quiet and restful campground. 
The campground
Clouds over Rosie

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Double Nickel Campground- Waco, Nebraska (July 2018)

According to the reviews on AllStays and RVParky, the Double Nickel Campground was a five-star, well-loved Campground. It had a swimming pool, a miniature golf course and movies on weekend evenings for the kids. The reviews glowed about what a great place this was for families. 

We were told that the park had a cancellation and were able to reserve the last available site when we called. While the fees seemed high, the park offered more than most campgrounds and it appeared that it was difficult to book sites there.

Sign at the campground

The office at the campground

We couldn’t deny that the park was full and every RV had more than the national average of kids. We quickly saw that this really was a great campground for families with children. 

It was interesting while walking around the campground that most RVs had license plates from Nebraska. It also appeared that a large number of people in the park knew each other. We guessed that they frequently camped there.

Rosie in the campground

Looking for surveillance cameras and the many signs warning everyone that the park recorded video 24/7 became a game as we walked around the campground. Maybe the CIA could learn something about video surveillance from the owners of this campground. 

Here are some specifics about this campground:
  • Our site was a pull-thru
  • Our site was gravel and we needed to use our leveling tools to correct a left-to-right lean
  • Our site had 20 and 30 amp electrical service. Some sites had 50 amp electrical service 
  • Our site had a water connection 
  • Our site had a sewer connection 
  • Our site was long enough that we didn’t have to unhitch the truck 
  • The restrooms and showers at the campground were overwhelmed by the number of guests in the park. This translates into trash on the floors and dirty fixtures. It also means slightly warm water in the showers 
  • The park offered WiFi, but we couldn’t get it to work
  • AT&T offered three bars of 3G service 
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS and NBC while using Rosie’s TV antenna. We also saw digital channels Escape, Grit,Laff and ME-TV 
  • In addition to miniature golf, weekend movies and the swimming pool, the park offered craft classes for the kids 
  • There was a bench swing at every campsite 
This campground was just off I-80. The reviews coupled with the premium costs probably created an expectation in our minds that was difficult to achieve. We were probably in the minority being underwhelmed by the park because it was full of happy families having a weekend adventure. 

Getting ready for the weekend outdoor movie
Corn field next to the campground