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October 2010 - November 2010:


 

October 23, 2010:                  [Odometer 238003]    Today our adventure on the road began. We started by heading north to Spurr Chevrolet in Brockport. John Russo, Service Manager, and the staff in the service department changed all five tires to new, slightly heavier duty, radial tires. Everyone at the shop admired the dogs and they were as good as could be as they sat in the waiting room.

 

We left there about 11:30 and headed south on Route 19 into Pennsylvania. Because of the late start, we only traveled about 170 miles including the miles north to Brockport. We stopped for the night at the Foote Rest Campground in The Allegany National Forest in Kane, Pennsylvania. We did not unhitch or set up except to connect water and electricity. Then we ate a light supper and crashed for the night. I should probably add that Julie's experiment of changing sides of the bed so I don't pull the bottom sheet out when I turn over was unsuccessful (all due to me).

 

The campground has lots of space and lots of evergreen trees and is a very nice area, but the unique feature was all the rabbits running around. These were former domesticated rabbits that are now wild and have been doing what rabbits do so there are now many of them in the campground. They are tame enough to touch if you are quiet about it.


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As far as JoJo and Taz are concerned, a rodent is a rodent. They made it very evident they would be perfectly happy to "play" with the bunnies.

 

October 24, 2010                   [Odometer 238170]    We left the campground a little after 10:00 intending to head for another National Forest in Ohio. However, an important aspect of our journey is to see parts of the country we have never seen. Through a slight miscalculation on the part of our navigator, we wound up on Route 59 headed south and came across the Kinzua Dam. We decided to stop at the visitor center (check out the new "Sign of the Times") and then decided to take a hike up the 1/3 mile trail to the top of the dam with its gentle 10%-15% grade


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The view was worth the trip, but the facts were slightly distorted. The 1/3 mile was at least 2/3 to 3/4 mile and maybe longer. The 10%-15% grade must have been measured from the bottom to the top without taking into account the fact that the first half of the walk was about a 2% grade followed by this section that was close to a 30% grade. We are proud to say we all made it–both ways.

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The reservoir created by the dam.

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Wild Carp at the foot of the dam.

 

[Odometer 238400]Following our stop at the dam we continued our trip. One interesting thing we noted was that every single gas station we saw in Pennsylvania had exactly the same price for gas, $2.899. Once we got to Ohio, prices had dropped into the $2.66-$2.75 range, but the real point was that they varied as we are used to seeing. With no specific destination for the night, we decided to boondock at "Gulliver's Travel Plaza just south of Canton, Ohio. I am writing this using my computer hooked to the AC supplied by the solar system ane inverter and sending it to the Internet using our Clear portable hot spot. We seem to be the only RV in a huge lot of trucks of every description.

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October 26, 2010                   [Odometer 238908]    Yesterday and today were devoted strictly to driving with a constant goal of moving south and west. We were rewarded with temperatures in the 70's yesterday. However, it also rained on and off all day. The weather folks were predicting strong thunderstorms and high winds for the entire area so we decided to just keep moving and forego our plans to stop at another National Forest in Ohio. The trip did bring us to our first "custom named" section of road. This distinction belongs to Ohio route 668 between US 40 and US 22. We were supposed to be following US 22 which was concurrent with US 40 for awhile. We missed a split, so we kept going on US 40 and the navigator said she would find us a way of getting back to US 22 since both routes were heading west. The connecting north-south route was Ohio 668. Remembering that we are hauling an 8 foot wide, 27 foot long trailer, we now proceeded to travel this narrow (maybe 9 foot wide lanes), hilly, twisty road through the Ohio countryside. Due to the vast number of extremely steep hills (both up and down), the many curves (especially at the bottom of the hills), the sharp S's and Z's, the road shall henceforth be known as "Julie's Roller Coaster."

 

We had picked out a couple of campgrounds we could stay at, but decided to go as far as possible to try to miss the bad weather and wound up spending the night at another truck stop about forty miles east of Lexington (but still in Ohio). We did not get any pictures because it was dark when we got there and I was much more concerned with getting out this morning than recording the event. Unlike the first truck stop we stayed at and one we stopped at today for some lunch, this truck stop was laid out so every parking spot had to be either backed into or driven into and backed out of. There were no pull through parking places. I wound up pulling into an end spot figuring I could back up a little ways in the morning and then make a big loop forward to get out. Unfortunately, two more trucks parked on the outside of me where there were no designated parking spots so I was forced to back all the way out of the spot in the morning. Thank goodness for my back up camera. It took me three jockeying moves to get the trailer turned far enough so I could get the truck all the way out of the spot without hitting a truck in the row behind me, but we finally made it. Next time I get one of these types of parking situations, I think I'll keep trucking down the road.

 

Today, the winds played havoc with us and it was especially bad when a large truck went by. The trailer was tossed all over the road. I try to maintain 55 mph on the expressways so I don't cause too much of a hazard, but this was getting impossible today so we finally got off the expressways and went to a parallel route. (Our intention is actually to avoid interstates and other expressways, but that is where the truck stops are so we are forced to use them if we want to both make time and find a place for the night. Now, however, we have made it far enough so we don't have to worry about that for awhile.)

 

A footnote on the above paragraph. I learned on Wednesday that winds had been clocked at 70 mph. I also learned that tornado warning sirens had been going off all over Kentucky and Tennessee. Now we know what the very long siren blast was that we heard as we passed through Horse Cave, KY. Based on the lack of reaction we saw from people around us, I guess no one took the alarm seriously. We just didn’t know any better.

 

We will be spending the next two weeks at a campground in Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. The campground is practically deserted because it is so late in the season and the weather is supposed to be sunny with temperatures in the 70's most of the two weeks with no more rain forecast. Now this is what I call relaxing! We will have no hookups for utilities so this will be a good first test of the boondocking setup. There is drinking water available and there are rest rooms close by as well as shower facilities near the entrance to the campground so it isn’t total boondocking, but it will be a good test of the electrical system which is the key element.



 

October 28, 2010                   [Odometer 239149]    We just moved into the Dickson RV Park in Dickson, Tennessee, about 40 miles west of Nashville and just about 10 miles from the start of the Natchez Trace.. We are planning on staying here for the next month which means we will be here through Thanksgiving. Our plans to stay at Mammoth Cave National Park were interrupted when we failed to get enough sunshine to keep the electrical system charged. Although the truck had helped supply some charge while we were driving, there was not enough sun from Sunday through Tuesday and, after three days of boondocking without good replenishment, the batteries were getting low. On Wednesday, we had a beautiful sunny day. Unfortunately, we were camped in a forest and the solar system did not charge enough to keep just the refrigerator running, and that was using propane as the primary energy source. By last night, our batteries were down to well under 12 volts. At 10.5 volts, the batteries are pretty much dead and useless, so we spent a night with almost nothing running on electricity. This morning we packed up and headed for a campground and this is the one we decided on based on location and price. Unfortunately, we realized as we were driving today that, while we both really enjoyed the Mammoth Cave National Park, neither of us took any pictures.

 

As a footnote, after three hours of driving in the sunshine, the battery indicator light showed it was at a full charge situation, although the solar system was still supplying over 13 amps which meant the batteries were not really fully charged. However, after 6 hours, the solar cells were only supplying a little over 1 amp indicating the batteries were indeed fully charged. We now know that, starting from a full charge, we can go for 3-4 days of gray weather as long as we are very careful of power usage. We also know that the solar system works as designed and provides 200 amp hours of charge with six hours of sun and a pretty substantial charge after only three hours of sun.

 

By the way, for those of you from New York, the typical gas price in Tennessee is $2.599 per gallon. This is the lowest price we have seen so far.

 

One interesting thing that happened Wednesday morning was that the dogs and I got to see a nice 8-point buck up close. He came walking down through the woods from the direction of the restrooms towards the road where the dogs and I were walking. He stopped about 40 yards from us so we could get a good look and then slowly sauntered on his way. The park ranger said there are many deer in the area including one giant 14-point buck.

 

October 30, 2010                   A quiet day sitting around enjoying the 70+ weather and the down time. We have met a few of our neighbors, but are really pretty isolated in the park. We are over with the seasonal and full time campers as we are planning to stay here a month so we miss a lot of the day to day traffic. Today Julie got some stitching done and I designed a new bike carrier for the front of the camper, just behind the propane tanks. By not carrying the bikes inside, we have more room to move around when we are overnighting at a truck stop. Our original plan had been to carry the bikes on a bike rack at the back of the camper. However, the hitch mount for the rack was not strong enough to support the weight of the bikes and they wound up leaning out by the time we had gone 12 miles. They also added more weight at the back of the trailer which is exactly where we did not need it with the batteries and solar panels back there. Since we left New York, we have been carrying the bikes inside the trailer by the front sofa.

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Consider the acorn. How small it is, yet how big the oak tree from it grows. And even bigger is the noise it makes when it drops on top of the camper in the middle of the night.


 

November 5, 2010                 This morning started out rainy and cool (upper 40's) so it was a good day to stay inside and do computer related work. I designed a leather cover for our Sony Readers and loaded a new printer driver for the Virtual XP on my Windows 7 machine. Julie has been working on stitching projects and the dogs, well, the dogs have been relaxing. I am really starting to get into this retirement thing. I even slept in until 9:00 (Central Time) this morning.

 

Yesterday we found a nice field away from the main traffic flows that one of our neighbors told me about and gave the girls a good run, something they have not had in a week. We also went shopping in the morning and got everything I need to build the bike rack plus a few miscellaneouls items. In the afternoon, Julie took off on her own and drove to a yarn shop south of Nashville to get some floss she needed for one of her projects. The highlight of the day, however, was lunch at a Sonics drive-in. What a reminder of days gone by. And yes, the car hops were on roller skates.

 

Tonight and tomorrow night the temperature is supposed to drop to the upper 20's for a hard freeze, just a reminder that we are really into late fall. The good news is, unlike New York, by midweek the temperature will be back up to the upper 60's and low 70's. I can live with a couple of cool nights, even if it did mean I had to go out and get some pipe insulation for our water supply line.

 

November 9, 2010                 Today was our second day in the mid to upper 70's. It is supposed to be this way all week. I finished the bike rack today. The bikes even fit on it, although I cannot come up with a good way to keep the pipe from scraping paint off the bikes as we travel. I'll need to give that some more thought.

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November 13, 2010               [Odometer 239351 to 241061]           I don't have to worry about the bike rack scratching up the bikes anymore. Having finished the rack on Tuesday, we decided to take the bikes and some other items back to Spencerport and put them into storage. It's all about weight on the trailer and adapting to this lifestyle. By putting the bikes in storage and moving the chairs and grilling propane tank to the newly made rack, we will have better access inside the trailer when we are boondocking. We originally bought the bikes for riding in Spencerport before we decided to retire and take to the road. Now we find that we have not been using the bikes as much while we are on the road as we thought we would and they do add quite a bit of weight as well. When we settle in Pennsylvania for the summer season next year, we may go back up and get them for the summer. Foote Rest campground is only about 160 miles from Spencerport.

 

Anyway, we decided on Wednesday that we would leave Thursday night and travel by night. We called Phillip (my eldest son) and Tom O'Brien (my best friend from work) and arranged to have lunch with them on Friday, which we did. Overall, we traveled 1710 miles in slightly under 40 hours, which included approximately 8 hours in the Rochester area doing those items we came up to do and several rest (sleep) stops. Of course, we then lost most of today sleeping.

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Tom, Julie, and I at lunch. Phillip took the picture.

 

I am glad we traveled at night because traffic was much lighter, although not exactly "light" around the major cities. We left here at 3:30 in the afternoon and hit only the early rush hour traffic around Nashville. Then, by the time we hit Bowling Green, Kentucky, we were well past the rush hour time because of the drive time plus the gain of an hour changing time zones. Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio were traversed late at night, but there was still a ton of traffic. The most noticeable feature of the trip was the huge number of trucks we encountered.

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Nashville in the Evening

 

Friday night's trip home was noticeably lacking the trucks. Obviously, the majority of truckers were home for the weekend. We rested for a couple hours at the first rest stop west of Rochester so Julie would not have to travel directly into the setting sun. Unfortunately, she still had to deal with the Buffalo rush hour, something I don't wish on anyone. The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful except that we rested more often than on the way north and Julie drove a greater portion of the trip. Friday night traffic in the Ohio cities was also noticeably lighter than Thursday night traffic.

 

November 14, 2010               Poor Taz was car sick most of the way home. It was just too many hours on the road. However, after a day of rest, she was as good as new. Today was the dog's day and we took them to a field we were shown and let them have a good run and fun playing fetch.

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The dogs love to chase the balls across the field. It is good exercise, allows them to run flat out, and allows them to be off leash so they can just enjoy being dogs.

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Of course, once they bring the balls back, they have to chew on them for awhile. I personally think it is just an excuse to rest between throws. Julie says it is so they can slime the balls up so the balls will get more dirt on them when they land and taste better.

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These are a couple of young dachshunds who frequently run through the park, Sausage (male) and Biscuit (female with Red collar). They were actually on their leads today, but they are good at slipping their collars, which has proven a bit of a problem for Biscuit. She was in heat for the first time on the 1st, slipped her collar, and was loose most of the day. She appears to have been impregnated, but her owner is not sure by whom.

November 23, 2010               Thanksgiving is two days away and our time in Tennessee is winding down. We will definitely be coming back as we have already made reservations for April, September, and October of 2011. We like the park, the people, and the area and the weather here is right during those months, plus the rates are reasonable. Next week we will finally be heading down the Natchez Trace where we were thinking of going a month ago. We were supposed to leave on Sunday, but I did not realize till recently that Sunday is the last day of Thanksgiving weekend, not a day that I want to be on the road in any circumstances, but definitely not hauling a travel trailer. So we will stay a couple of extra days and leave Monday or Tuesday.

 

One of the nice things about our new life style is that it is just that — a style of living. We make tentative plans and we change them and it does not matter because, with very few exceptions, there is no place we must be at a specific time. We are just living in different parts of the country instead of in one palce all the time. For example, I just wrote to my family this week that we thought we would spend the next few months in Texas. Then we started calling campgrounds for pricing and availability and we will definitely NOT be in Texas during January and February of 2011. It seems there is some minor sporting event called the Super Bowl that is taking place in Texas this year and it has driven prices through the roof and made space availability nonexistent.

 

I would like to take this opportunity, since this is my blog and I have no editors, to say something in way of advise to all business people who might read this blog. We have a leak in the seal on our slide out which causes us to need to get the seals replaced. So far, I have not been excited about the responses I have gotten from businesses I have contacted about this repair, including the trailer factory. All we hear in the news from business is how bad sales are, how bad the economy is, etc., etc. Maybe its time for business people to remember that, without customers, there is no business at any time. Too many people seem to think they are doing the customer a favor just to talk to them and won't extend any effort at all to go beyond normal sales work. I will deal with that firm who remembers that they owe their survival to their customers.

 

I think this will be the last entry on this page unless something special happens this weekend. Next week we will be on the road and I do not know what computer access we will have, so it may be a few days before I start the next page. Check out the new signs from Dickson, Tennessee. I hope everyone has a very Happy Thanksgiving.