Saturday, August 25, 2012

1,379 Miles in 5 Days

We’re parked at the Allegro Campground in Red Bay, AL, after leaving Hart Ranch in Rapid City, SD on Tuesday 8/21. Five days’ driving in a row isn’t how we like to travel, nor as many miles as we logged. But we wanted to get here before the new week begins to get into a full-hookup site. Typically, Tiffin motorhome owners leave the morning after their service, and many times they get done on Friday afternoon. So Saturday is the best day to arrive. We have lots of company, as we followed one coach in when we arrived around 1 pm, and 3 more came in behind us. A couple of hours later I walked to the office to turn in our paperwork and 3 more coaches were pulling in. I heard they predict the campground will be full by noon tomorrow, and anyone arriving after that will have to boondock.

Our target destination is Sedalia, MO for the Escapees annual rally “Escapade.” It begins on Sept. 16, but we need to arrive early so I can give driving lessons and help with Boot Camp. Plus, Don and I are serving on staff again at the Volunteer Bureau, so we need to be there early for that as well.

We decided to come to Red Bay first to try to get our service done in advance of the Escapade, even though it was out of our way to do so, and in spite of the fact that we have an appointment for Sept. 28. Arriving without an appointment, we are put on a waiting list and hope our work can get done within the next 2 weeks. Our plans after the rally are to attend a 1.5 day post-rally gathering for Volunteer Club Representatives (VCRs), then depart for Albuquerque, NM for the Balloon Fiesta, hopefully arriving by Oct. 3.

Our first stop was 222 miles from Hart Ranch in Valentine, NE. We connected with our friends Frank & Gloria King, who are also on their way to Escapade, but taking a different route to visit friends and family. It was great to manage to cross paths and spend some time together, although brief.

We shared happy hour outside with our two dogs named Shadow.




Then the four of us went to a local steakhouse for dinner.


Our next stop, 268 miles away, was the Blue Ox factory in Pender, NE. Our Blue Ox tow bar was damaged when a locking pin didn’t close properly and one leg of the tow bar came loose from the car on a narrow 2-lane road without shoulders in Wyoming. It still worked using another non-locking pin, but we wanted to get it repaired as the towing power may have been reduced by the damage.

Site #6 in the RV park near the building was reserved for us, and we arrived in plenty of time on Wednesday to get the tow bar into the shop that afternoon. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be repaired because that model was discontinued and the company no longer stocks parts for it. Our only choice was to buy a new tow bar, either from Blue Ox or a competitor. We decided to get a new one here, to minimize time and effort invested, and it helped that we got $150 discount for the trade-in. It was a fairly painless transaction, except the bank account suffered a bit. But the new tow bar is sturdier than the old one and we’ve noticed less side-to-side movement of the car while towing as we see it in our rear-view camera. Plus, the beautiful, spacious RV parking facilities that Blue Ox provides free for customers can’t be beat!


With that small piece of business taken care of, we left the next morning headed southeast. We weren’t quite sure how far we would get, but after 2 relatively short travel days and almost 900 miles to go, we wanted to get some more miles behind us. We kept revising our destination as we rolled along, and we ended up in a Passport America RV park on the southeast side of Springfield, MO 453 miles later. The park, a mobile home park with empty sites they rent to RVs, wasn’t anything to write home about, but we just wanted a safe place to rest and it provided that.

With renewed energy and the knowledge that the next 2 days would be easier with only 432 miles to go, we drove 273 miles on Thursday to W. Memphis, AR and stayed at Tom Sawyer’s Mississippi River RV Park, where Don stayed once several years ago while RVing solo. In fact, we actually drove a few miles further because we planned to stay at the Mississippi River RV Park in Memphis, TN. (You can see the similarity in names.)

Based on reviews on RV Park Reviews, it seemed like a good place for just one night. One review was particularly misleading; it said, “Many concrete pads right on the Mississippi River where you can watch the barges travel by.” Not true. The park is old and in poor repair, sites are short and small, on mostly broken concrete with no grass, surrounded by chain-link fence and an undesirable neighborhood, and no view of the river or anything else worth looking at! I wonder if that reviewer was confused because of the similar names of the two parks and really stayed at Tom Sawyer’s.

So we drove back across the river to W. Memphis and Tom Sawyer’s Mississippi River RV Park. We knew we had just missed friends Greg and Jan White, who had blogged about their stay at Tom Sawyer’s overnight the previous night. In fact, we were assigned the same site they had, with a beautiful view of the Mississippi River, and we enjoyed watching barges being pushed downriver by tug boats. And this park only cost $6 more than the dumpy one.



The boat in the picture above (and a close-up below) was bigger than many of the tugboats I’ve seen. And it looked newer and cleaner than most, too.


The final leg of our trip was mercifully short, only 160 miles. We’re checked in and parked in site #10 at the Allegro Campground aka “Camp Red Bay” at the Tiffin Service Center. As soon as we pulled up to our assigned site, our friends Tom and Pat Whittaker came out to greet us from 2 sites away – what a nice surprise! We had dinner with them and caught up from the last time we were together – I think it was in March at the Gypsy Journal Rally in Yuma. I didn’t get a picture of them, but I will in the next few days and will post again.

Our 5-day trek took us from SD through NE, IA, MO, AR, TN, and MS and finally into AL. Eight states, four of them today. Whew! I think I’ll sleep in tomorrow.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ready To Be On The Road Again

We got the jacks fixed, Shadow had surgery and gets his stitches removed tomorrow and then Lee the Groomer will work her magic on him, and my thumb/wrist problem is better. So, after 5 weeks at Hart Ranch, we’ll be ready to head east on Tuesday!

To fill in a little background: Shadow had surgery on Monday Aug 6 in Sturgis, the third day of the famous Bike Week when hundreds of thousands of motorcycle riders descend on the Black Hills, centered in Sturgis. We had to deal with hundreds of those motorcycles streaming in and out on the main entrance to the town of Sturgis, a steady flow that was hard to break across to turn left into the Vet’s facility, then to blend into to get back to the freeway. Twice, dropping him off and picking him up the next day. No, Don actually took Shadow for his first exam the day before Bike Week started, so he had to do it 3 times.

The vet surgeon was very experienced and skillful, and surgery to remove the salivary gland that’s been causing Shadow’s problems since early March went well. When we picked him up, he was still a little groggy, but doing well.

We were almost home (about 50 miles) when I discovered an item on the bill, “Buster Collar $15.00.” I called and asked whether they were supposed to send us home with this. The gal who checked us out admitted sheepishly that she forgot. I asked her to call the vet we use in Rapid City and see if we could get one from them. Yes, that worked out as they had a similar “Comfy Collar.” Dr. Maz met us at the door with it and took us back to an examining room to put it on. She also removed the tape and wrap from his IV, simple for her but would have been really difficult for us as Shadow was trying to bite all of us as part of his leg fur came off with the tape!

Later in the day, Shadow was starting to look more like a normal, happy puppy!


This collar was a lot more comfortable than the previous oversized clear plastic one that he wore in California.


Still, he was happy to get this cone off and the surgical drain out about 4 days later. Even though it wasn’t as bad as the last cone, he still didn’t like it much. He’s been really good about not bothering with the stitches, so we didn’t have to put the cone back on.


Meanwhile, the problem with my De Quervain’s syndrome has improved through therapy. I don’t think the cortizone shot had any effect except maybe to increase the pain for the first couple of days, but the therapist recommended ice, massage and gradually weaning myself off of the brace. I’ll continue to do that until we get back to our winter home base in Benson, probably in November. Then I can pursue the surgery that will solve the problem permanently, maybe in Sierra Vista. In the meantime, Don’s still doing all the cooking and most of the dishwashing. Such a deal!

If dealing with health problems wasn’t enough, we had to address another problem, this time with our motorhome. We had to move from one site to another in order to comply with park policies (only 21 days on the same site). When I pressed the button to bring up the leveling jacks, the front ones came up but the back two only retracted partway. Since we were only going a very short distance at under 10 mph, I drove with the alarm sounding. But we needed to get the problem fixed before hitting the road.

Long story short, we reached a tech at HWH who was very helpful, diagnosed the problem quickly and sent two new cylinders to a nearby dealer (in Blackhawk). Don made the appointment for Friday 8/17,  the parts arrived in time, and installation was done in about 2 hours.

So, with all that done, Don and I spent some time yesterday cleaning and polishing the outside of the motorhome, and I’m getting the laundry caught up before our departure. We’re having dinner tonight with some new friends we met recently, Rollie and Janet Newman, who are parked next to us, and some long-time friends, Duane Peyton and Betty Anderson, who spend their summers here.

We normally don’t stay in one place for this long, so it will be great to be back on the road again!