Monday, November 20, 2023

Virginia to Texas

 On November 1st we left Pocahontas State Park just outside of Richmond and headed south down I-85 to Gaffney, South Carolina.

Leaving the park we saw this small deer grazing just along the side of the road.  It blends in well with the leaves.

We headed south on I-85 and continued our endless Autumn.

Fall colors along I-85
Our next port of call was the Spacious Skies - Peach Haven  - RV park in Gaffney.   We were here to basically wait to get in for service.

Spacious Skies Site C-8

We were able to get the pups some exercise each day at the parks dog park.

Finally our slot came up at Freightliner and we brought the bus in for service at 7am.   It was a two day service due to the amount of work I was having done.    The to-do list was:  Annual Chassis & Engine Service, change all wheel and differential lubricants, full transmission service (fluids and filters) Air dryer filter,  Engine Air filter, replace all coolant hoses, surge tank, thermostat, and serpentine belt.  A full generator service with filters and coolant change completed the list.

They have a nice lounge to hang out in, plus 27 RV sites with electric out back, so we stayed on site at night.

Annie in the Service Center Lounge

It took every bit of the two days to get all the work done and once completed it was late in the day so we spent a third night at the service center and took off the following morning.   Our next destination was Houston Texas - about 15 hours away - so I decided to break our trip up into three easy 5 hour segments.  Our destination for the first night was an RV Park just south of Montgomery, Al.

Our timing took us thru Atlanta around noon time, so it was a painless trip thru the city.

Passing thru Atlanta

South of Atlanta we enjoyed a bit more fall color.   Getting farther south, its not as impressive as it is further north, but still a pretty sight.    We've been enjoying fall colors now for about 6 weeks as we follow Autumn's march southward.

We arrived at our stop - The South Montgomery RV Park around 3:30p.   I did not get any pictures of the place but it was totally fine for an overnight, was easy on and off the interstate, and had a 100' long pull-thru so I did not need to unhook.

Back up and at it the next morning, we had 5 hrs to our next stop at the North New Orleans RV Resort.  This place is truly a resort.   Lots of pools, mini golf, bars, and activities.   The night we were there was a Friday and it turned out to be Swampfest night with Swamp Music.   The park was pretty much filled up with lots of people of all stripes including families.

North New Orleans RV Resort site #29

Pool at the park

Mini Golf at the park

We spent a night and again were on the road the next morning.   We made a stop along the way at Billys Boudin and Cracklins in Shell, La.   Boudin is a Cajun food, basically a type of seasoned sausage with cooked rice added in.   Kate is a big fan of the things, so we grabbed a few packages and put them in the freezer. 

Continuing west on I-10, we crossed the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge, La.

Then we crossed the Atchafalaya Swamp, the largest swamp in the US.   This part of the journey takes you on a bridge thru the swamp that is about 18 miles long.  The eastbound side had construction going on and was down to 1 lane.   It was backed up for miles.   Fortunately for us it was smooth sailing.

Atchafalaya Swamp Bridge on I-10

A little bit later we were crossing the Sabine River and were back in Texas.    From here it is 880 miles on I-10 to the western border of Texas with New Mexico.

Around 3:30p we arrived at our next stop, and one where we will remain for 5 nights - the Katy Lake RV Resort in Katy, Tx.   A western suburb of Houston.    We are here because I am trading in our almost 10yr old F150 for a new 2023 model.   The new truck is the King Ranch Model which has all of the bells and whistles and we will finally have a really sweet ride rather than just a utility vehicle.

Our trip map - Gaffney, SC to Houston.   About 1,000 miles.

And our trip map from the blog showing the last 45 days since we arrived in NY on the QM2

Spotwalla Map:  NYC arrival to Houston

First step was getting all of the stuff out of the truck.   We began this process back in Virginia by sorting and consolidating.   There is truly a lot of stuff accumulated in there.   It's sort of like our traveling garage.

Of course the forecast is for heavy rain, and I will need to leave the stuff outside for a few days while I get the new truck set up to be towed behind the bus, so I needed to enclose everything in heavy duty construction waste bags.

Emptying out the truck before the storms move in

On Monday morning, with the truck empty, I drove down to Discount Hitch in Katy to have our Airforce One braking system removed from the truck.   This system used the brake air pressure from the bus to apply the brakes in the truck.   The harder I step on the brake in the bus, the harder the brakes are applied in the truck.   It's a great system.

After the AF1 was removed, I drove 6 miles to Mac Haik Ford in Houston to turn over the old and pick up the new.     30 min or so after that I was heading back to Discount hitch in a pouring rain storm to have the AF1 installed on the new truck.    

I also needed to have a new baseplate attached to the new truck.   That is the part on the truck that attaches to the towbar from the bus.  This was going to take about 12 hrs so I summoned an Uber and headed back to the RV Park.

The next day I was called that all was complete and I took another Uber down to pick up the truck.
Returning home Kate took it out for a test spin.    Kate gave it her 100% seal of approval.

Kate takes the helm

Back at the shack, I loaded all the stuff into the new truck.   Again I practiced the fine art of stuffing 10lbs of junk into a 5lb box.

The new "garage"

On Thursday the 16th we headed 3hrs Northwest to McKinney Falls State Park in Austin, Tx.   Just minutes to everything but a green quiet oasis in the city.   Our site, #71 has 30amp and water.    I had to shoehorn the bus into the tight site as there is a retaining wall on the passenger side that limits my turning radius.   I have to be careful the back end does not swing into it when I turn.

McKinney Falls State Park Camground site 71

Kates BFF Marys' daughter Morgan lives here with her husband.   We will spend Thanksgiving with them and Morgans 2 sisters and significant others.   7 humans and 3 dogs.     Morgan & Chris  will be heading out in December on thier own advanture fulltiming in their new 27' Airstream, and working from the road.    An exciting time for them for sure.

Morgan, Georgie, Annie & Phoebe

The view of our site from the passenger side.

On Friday I had an appointment with Texas Truck and Trailer to have a custom cap installed.   I had ordered the cap a few weeks earlier -  actually while we were up driving the Skyline Drive I completed the deal.

Getting the cap installed

Truck with the new cap.

The Garage has a roof!

Annie & Phoebe are enjoying the time running around in Morgans house and playing with their full size Doodle Georgie.

Playtime again

Today - Monday the 20th - I replaced the radio in the bus.   Its been acting up for a while.   Intermittently cutting out leaving us without tunes.    So best to do this before it went for good.   It was a pretty easy replacement that took a few hours.

New tunes for the PartyBus

Thursday is Thanksgiving and then Saturday we will be wheels up for the final leg of the trip to Tucson.   It's about 15hrs from here to the barn so we'll see if we break it up into 2 or three legs.    Kate will want to do it in one long push, and I'm wanting to slow down and savor the last few days of this trip before it ends.

Next post will probably be from Arizona.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Gobble Gobble.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Shawnee SP to Gettysburg to Virginia

We left you last as we had just arrived at Shawnee State Park in Pensylvania.    We had stayed here for a few days about 8 yrs ago, and I thought that it might be a pretty place to spend some time in the fall as we worked our way south with the changing fall colors.

It turned out to be a good idea.

Originally we had reserved site #65.   Upon arrival we realized that the park has sections for dogs and sections without dogs.   We had reserved in the latter.   I brought this to the attention of the camp host and he was fine with it - but being Saturday - he mentioned that when the ranger came in on Monday he might not be ok with it.     Long story short - on monday we moved to site #73.    The park was 90% empty so there were plenty of sites to choose from.

Site 73 Shawnee State Park

About 15 miles west of the park is the Flight 93 Memorial so we took the drive over to see it.
You might recall that flight 93 was the 4th plane hijacked on 9/11, but the passengers resisted and the plane crashed in Shanksville, Pa - about 20 minutes flying time from Washington DC where the terrorists had planned to take it.

It was a cold and windy day for our visit which added to the somber mood.
Below, the black wall on the left marks the edge of the debris field.   Further ahead you can see the white wall of remembrance which is under the actual flight path.

The stone in the field marks the impact point of the aircraft.

The wall of rememberance has the names of each passenger and crew onboard.   One to the names below is Todd Beamer who is remembered as the passenger who said "lets roll" as they headed forward to storm the cockpit.

The wall of rememberence is oriented in the same direction as the flight path.
Seen from the visitor center (two white pillars in the distance) and beyond is the boulder marking the impact point.

A close up of the above photo.

Looking back in the direction from which the flight came.   It barely cleared the ridge we are on.

In a different section of the park is the "Tower of Voices".   A stone tower with 40 wind chimes, each tuned to a different note - to signify the voices that will never be silenced.

Another day trip was to a nearby covered bridge.   This one is the Colvin Covered Bridge outside of Schellsburg, Pa.

When we arrived a funny thing happened:

I started to walk across it to the other side.   There was a couple, perhaps 50’s,  with what I thought might be a younger adult daughter carrying her baby.   She was patting it like she was burping it

The couple started to walk my way and we passed each other mid bridge.  I got to the other side and saw the younger girl and it was obvious that she was severe Down syndrome.   I thought it was brave of the couple to trust her with such a young infant but I'm not real familiar with the illness so what do I know?

So minding my own business I’m taking some pictures and I notice the girl is now putting the infant on the concrete bridge abutment where the baby could fall into the stream.     Hummm…. I think.   This does not look good.

Now the girl starts to back up - leaving the infant sitting right on the edge so that she can take a picture.    Ok - I cant just stand here now so I start to quickly move closer to go near the baby before she can fall into the water, and as I get very close (and photobomb her picture)...... 

I realized the baby was a doll!

Colvin Covered Bridge near Schellsburg, Pa

Well I had a good laugh at myself. 😂

The leaves were getting closer to near peak colors but had not quite made it when it was time to leave and head a bit south to Gettysburg, Pa.       There were some nice colors as we drove east thru the mtns on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Fall Colors on Pa Tpk. (I-76)

Meanwhile inside the coach our puppy craziness continues.   Annie & Phoebe have turned out to be such great friends.    Again, we only had Phoebe for 5 nights prior to getting on the ship, and thier 7 days in the kennels did such good work bonding them.

Annie in mid-air playing with Phoebe

And of course - the changing scenery, and the people walking by keeps them busy "observing".

We've been to Gettysburg numerous times, so this time we were a little more relaxed with the need to tour the battlefields.   Downtown drew us along with the fall colors and the scenery.

A neat thing about downtown is that many of the buildings have plaques outside explaining the part the building played during those horrible days in July 1863.    Some were field hospitals, others hid union soldiers etc.    The town was a strategic location in that it was where numerous roads met like the hub on a wheel.

On the battles first day, the union Army was pushed back and retreated thru town to set up positions on the high ground to the south and east.   Townspeople panicked and remained inside as the army streamed thru the square.   It's position was basically all that was standing between the rebels and Washington DC

The Gettysburg Square.   Numerous roads meet here.

Most of the fighting took place just barely outside of town;  to the south, southeast, and southwest.

Old farmhouse on the battlefield

The below pictures were all taken in the general vicinity of the center of the union lines, site of the infamous Picketts Charge.     

In the distance is what is referred to as "the high water mark of the Confederacy".   It was pretty much as far as they advanced in their quest to break apart the union.  From here, although almost 2 more years of fighting remained, they were only able to conduct mostly defensive moves as they were pushed back to their eventual defeat and the preservation of the union.

The net result of the 3 days of fighting were over 51,000 casualties!   
After the battle, over 7,000 dead soldiers littered the fields during that hot July. 

The number of soldiers who died between 1861 and 1865 is generally estimated at 620,000.  It is approximately equal to the total of American fatalities in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, combined.   It just burns me up to hear people today talk about the possibility of Civil War again in the US.    They need to shut up and study history first.

Local reenactors fire a cannon near the site of Picketts Charge.

The loud boom did not bother the dogs all all.

Below is the center of the Union Lines.  This is looking across the battlefield towards where (the trees in the distance)  the Confederate lines would have been located.    The focal point of Picketts Charge was the grove of trees just showing on the right side of the photo.

Below, the Codori Farm.   Standing during the battle, here is an interesting story about the owners. 
Located right in the middle of the battlefield, if walls could talk.

The RV Park we stayed at is our favorite in the area:   Artillery Ridge Campground.   It is located right behind Little Round Top and would have been filled with encamped soldiers during the battle.

Fall colors near the Peach Orchard

Being at Artillery Ridge over the weekend was interesting.    This time of year they have all sorts of Halloween things going on so the campground was full of families and those little creatures....  you know the ones about 3 or 4' tall who scream and play a lot.

There was trick or treating, pumpkin carving contests, costume contests, hay rides, etc etc.

The park did issue  everyone a pumpkin, so it is now traveling with us for decoration.

4 nights later we were on our way south.   Our next stop was Shenandoah River State Park just north of Luray, Va.    We had visited here about 8 yrs ago and promised to return during leaf season so that we could take some nice rides up on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.

Site #3 in Shenandoah River State Park, Va

Our experience with Va state parks is somewhat limited but the parks we have been to have all been very nice.    This one has 50a service and water at our site.     A dump station is located on the way out.

Fall colors in the campground

Site #3 in Shenandoah River State Park, Va

During the week we waited for the right weather, and we took the promised drive up on Skyline Drive.
The colors were great!   Not quite peak, but still very nice.     

Skyline Drive Colors Oct 24, 2023

Skyline Drive Colors Oct 24, 2023

Skyline Drive Colors Oct 24, 2023

The road runs along the ridges of the mountains and there are numerous scenic pull offs where you can be treated to wide ranging views to both the east and west.

Skyline Drive Colors Oct 24, 2023

Skyline Drive Colors Oct 24, 2023

We exited Skyline drive and dropped back into the Shenanoah Valley at Luray, Va.

Fall colors near Luray, Va

Friday Oct 27 it was back on the road heading about 2.5 hrs south to Pocahontas State Park outside of Richmond, Va.     Along the way we were treated to some nice fall colors on US15

Fall colors on US15 Va

Like Shenandoah State Park, Pocahontas also has 50a and water at the sites.   We stayed here in 2018 when we had arrived back from the UK and were on our way west.

Site 108 Pocahontas State Park, Va

Not quite an Arizona sunset, but one of the very few that we've had in 6 months.

Sunset in Pocahontas State Park, Va

Well its Sunday Oct 29.   The weather has been unseasonably hot.   

We have the AC running when we should be enjoying having the windows open.    A cold front is headed this way however, and some rain and sharply dropping temperatures are in the forecast for Monday night.  We might even have sub-freezing temps come Weds night.   Fortunately we'll be leaving just before the real cold weather arrives. 

Tomorrow we'll head to Costco for some supplies.    Then Weds we'll be on the road to Gaffney, SC where we will be getting some work done to the bus.    We are scheduled to have the Serpentine belt and all water hoses replaced as well as  a normal annual service.

As always - thanks for all your comments and for riding along!