Thursday, March 23, 2017

Finally Done

The last 5 1/2 weeks has been a whirlwind.
From Contract to sell the house...
to packed, closed, moved..

We left you in Livingston Texas where we had arrived to get our residency
set up, insurances changed etc.

Our continuing quest now had us leaving Livingston, Texas.
New Temporary licenses in our pockets...
and license plates on the vehicles.

We were back on the road  having accomplished everything,
about 40hrs after arriving.
We came, we saw, we licensed.
We were a blur!

Saturday morning we drove 400 miles west to The Buckhorn Lake Resort,
 nestled in the Texas Hill Country in Kerrville, Texas.

We really enjoy the area and this park is very nice.
Last year we spent a week here during our Fall westward migration.
They often have dinner theaters, and country western headliners.

Sunday morning we were back on the road west bound.
Today would be the day were we leave the humidity of the east behind and
enter the vast arid regions of the American west.

Notice the greenery in the photo below.

We had company on the highway this morning.
The Budweiser Clydesdale Trucks (3 semis)
came barreling by...

 followed by a chase van.

Notice how the landscape has turned color signifying that we are in the dryer region.
In just a hundred miles or so the climate changes. 

Up ahead you can see the Budweiser Gang.

Those of you who have watched The Shawshank Redemption a few hundred
times like me will recognize the road sign...

Fort Hancock Texas.
Where Andy Dufresne, and then Red, crossed the border to Mexico.

We spent the night in Van Horn, Texas at the old KOA, now private.
Its a dusty campground but not much else convenient in this area of west Texas,
and its easy on and off I-10, all pull thrus so no need to unhook the toad,
and a Pilot Truck Stop at the exit if you need to fill up.

We've been wasting no time heading west because this has been a very rainy season
and the spring wildflowers have been in what is known as a "SuperBloom"...
A once every couple of decades explosion of spring color.

Crossing New Mexico we got a taste of hopefully what will still be waiting when we 
get to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.

These tiny Poppies make the most of the past rains.

A 470 mile day brought us to Benson, Az and Kartchner Caverns State Park.
We normally come here in December to celebrate Kates birthday at the
German Cafe in Sierra Vista.
I would also get my CDL physical here.

This time it was a quick overnight and then a dash to
Casa Grande, Az as I had a conference call at work that I needed to get
settled in time to attend.

Casa Grande is the end of the beginning....
What started with the signing of the contract to sell the house,
ends here with the storeroom that we would unload our stuff into.

The cart is outside of my storage room.

Temperature controlled, each storage unit is also alarmed.
I have a lock on it, but if anyone tried to open it, the alarm goes off.
The facility has an on-site manager who lives there and all the corridors
have cameras so that they can see exactly what is going on 24/7

All of this was moved out of the bus and the pickup.

So as of this evening...   we have reached the end of the beginning.
We are done with the work of transitioning from the world we've known,
and are now full-time RV'ers.

Since we were usually on the road much of the year anyway, its less of a change
than one might think...  but it still feels very free.

To celebrate - I had a crew come and wash and wax the bus.
And then that very night....   it rained!

That tree behind us has beautiful fragrant flowers, and like all desert plants,
the seeds travel in the wind and cling to what ever they touch.

By morning the clean bus was covered with yellow flowers!

The Doodles have made the transition to full timing with no effort.

We'll spend a few more days here in Casa Grande.
We are going to run up to Phoenix (about 40 miles) to go to Ikea...
(Kate wants to start refilling the bus)
and then I've found what is supposed to be a great German Food Resturant.

I've been dieting since November and so far have lost over 70 lbs...
I think its time for a treat!

Next stop is Lake Pleasant where we will hook up with our good
friends Jim & Kristi.

See you there.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Back in Red Bay - and beyond

We are now in Red Bay Alabama, home of Tiffin Motorhomes.

Since we would be passing by (within a hundred miles or so) we decided to
swing by Red Bay to get some minor repairs done as well as to meet with
the vendor who makes the curtains and valances for the coaches.

Kate has some fabric that she'd like to recover the existing valances with
so I thought I could at least meet with the vendor, purchase an hour of their time,
 and get some instructions on how to remove and replace the fabric.

My list of repair items is almost embarrassing.   
Its all the type of stuff that I could do but since we are here...
and their price is very reasonable...
I might as well make a small contribution to the local economy before we
continue on westward to Texas.

Plus...  I've always wanted to get Kate here to visit the factory and some of the
other local sights.

Today we saw two of the highlights:
The Rattlesnake Saloon, and the Coon Dog Cemetery.

The Rattlesnake Saloon

Located in Tuscumbria Al,  out in the middle of nowhere, the real draw here is
the interesting location.   
The Saloon and outside table area and stage are built underneath a stone overhang.   
Its' sort of a modern countrified version of a red neck Mesa Verde.

Arriving at the parking area, we are picked up in a big diesel pickup truck.
Signs plastered about the inside of the truck encourage tipping.

Another family is welcome to sit inside with us but instead they pile into the bed of the
truck for the short ride down the hill.  
Mind you - its about 40° damp and raining.

Arriving at the bottom of the hill.
There is outside seating as well as a few tables inside.

We deliberately came early before the music started so as to avoid the crowds.
We sat inside the saloon due to the cool weather.

The menu features a varied assortment of Vegetables such as:
Fried Mushrooms, Fried Green Beans, Fried Mozzarella, Fried Pickles,
Fried Onion Rings, French Fries loaded with Bacon and Cheese.
Do you see where this is going?

Did I mention the Fried Peach Pie, Fried Apple Fritters, or Deep Fried Cheesecake?

Lastly...   A burger on the menu:
"The Gigantor  two pounds of Ground Beef on a huge bun with all the fixins, a pound of fries
and a half pound of Onion Rings and a pitcher of your favorite beverage to wash it all down."

Needless to say - Kate and I passed on the Gigantor and opted for a normal burger which we still
could not finish.

Walking up the hill after lunch
Afraid that merely inhaling inside the Saloon was hazardous to our Cholesterol levels,
we decided to walk back up the hill to the truck and try to ward off any lingering
calories that might have jumped onto us thru contact.

The Rattlesnake Saloon.
If you are in the area you have to see it once.
For the unique setting I give it a 10
The food... ok but nothing special.

I'd imagine that if you were there at music time the joint is hopping as
its usually standing room only.

The Coon Dog Cemetery

No visit to RB would be complete without stopping by the CDC.
No not the Center for Disease Control...

Established in 1937 by Key Underwood for his Coon Dog Troop,
other Coon Dog owners began (with permission) to bury their dogs there, and eventually
the cemetery grew to where there are now close to 200 dogs here from all over the USA.

Once asked if other types of dogs would be allowed here,
Mr Underwood replied:

"You must not know much about coon hunters and their dogs, if you think we would contaminate this burial place with poodles and lap dogs,"

I guess that means I'll have to keep looking for a spot for the Doodles πŸ˜€

Many of the head stones were quite interesting and we spent some time walking about.

Off to Texas

Our stay in Red Bay was brief.

Tiffin Service Center Red Bay, Alabama
We arrived Saturday and were in and out of a service bay - and back on the road by noon Tuesday.
I had hoped to take Kate on the factory tour and to the paint shop but we were 
done and had places down the road that we needed to be.

Our destination now was Livingston, Texas where we would establish residency
with help from the Escapees - an RV Support Group to which we belong
and who provides our mail service.

We took a scenic route down the Natchez Trace Parkway.
A National Park Service Parkway - sort of a flat land Blue Ridge Parkway.
The NTP follows an ancient Indian Trail, for about 450 miles between
Nashville, Tn and Natchez, Ms.

Our route would cover about 200 miles of the Parkway.

Early Spring on the Natchez Trace Parkway
We stopped for the night at Goshen Springs Campground outside of
Brandon, Ms.
Goshen Springs is run by the local reservoir authority and was a very nice place
to spend a night or three.
Full hookups, 50amp with large sites and first come first serve.

Goshen Springs Campground
Our next day dawned clear and the rest of the drive south on the parkway
was bright and colorful with the start of spring blooming about.

We spent the next night in Longview, Tx at Fernwood Park,
and then Thursday drove 2 hrs south to Livingston, and the Escapees
Rainbow Park.

We arrived about 1:30p and headed out to motor vehicle with a stack of pre-completed
paperwork and by 3pm we had registered both the bus and the F150.

Escapees Headquarters - Livingston, Tx
Then Friday morning I completed transfering our insurances to Tx and
we headed back to DPS to get our licenses.

Another stack of paperwork, passports, soc security cards, Tx registrations,
insurance documents etc etc...   boy they love paperwork!

By 1:30 Kate had her license and I had transferred my CDL and we were out the door.
We were now done with this part of the process and free range again.

Before heading out we took the dogs for a walk around the park

The Escapees have quite a large facility here.   2 RV parks, with RV homes mixed among
the facility, I was actually surprised and pleased how nice it was.

Here was an ice cream shack that is open afternoons.

The park even has its own medical clinic.

Our site in the Rainbow Park.

Escapees Rainbow Park Livingston, Tx
We will now get back on the road tomorrow (Saturday) and head 1,100 miles
further west to Casa Grande, Az where we will acquire a storage room to unload
the pickup and things from the bus.

We will use this storeroom as a "cache" where we will keep things that we will want
from time to time but do not have the room, or need to have them all the time.

Once we load up the storeroom, we will finally be done with the rat race that began
about 6 week ago when we signed the contract to sell the house.
And true free range chickens we will finally be.

Then it will be time to crack open a special bottle of wine.
A 1995 Chateau Margaux.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Gaffney SC

We are in Gaffney
The Peach Capital of South Carolina.

Our current home since Tuesday - The Freightliner Training & Service Center.

We are here for some routine maintenance - a  48month service.

We arrived a few days prior to our appointment hoping that we could be worked
in early, but this is a busy time of year so we had to wait for our Friday appointment.

This is the training center for Freightliner Custom Chassis Mechanics,
and the work done here is AAA+ and the price is also very reasonable, so passing
by - I try and get on the schedule to take advantage of a good thing.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Factory Tour

While waiting for our turn in the service bay I decided to take Kate on the tour
of the plant where our Coach Chassis was built.

Inside the 200,000 ft² facility are 3 production lines.
One is devoted to UPS and Fedex truck chassis's
The second is a bus chassis line.
The 3rd is the RV Chassis line where they are custom assembled for many
RV Manufacturers.

After a short safety video we proceeded out onto the production floor.
You are immediately struck by the whir of constant motion,.. 
 Shop vehicles of all types - some set up as multi car trains -rush about
delivering parts to the work stations up and down the line.

The parts arrive at the factory, and are delivered to the work stations,  just in time
to be mated with the proper frame

Traffic lights guide the traffic flow and yellow lines are laid out on the floors as walkways.

There was even driver-less vehicles.
This one whizzed by pulling 5 or 6 carts behind it.

Looking down the line towards the far end where it all begins

In a corner of the facility - workers assembled the Cummins engines that go into some
of the chassis such as ours.  Turbos, alternators, electronics, etc are all added at this point,
and the engine is mated to the transmission.

This is a Cummins ISC engine similar to the one in ours mated to an Allison
6-speed transmission.

A 2,000 lb engine on a stand to be rolled to its chassis.

At the far end (beginning) of the line, frame sections are laid out upside down, cross members 
are placed in position, and the whole assembly bolted together.

Further down the underside components such as axles are attached.
Below you see the rear axle assembly sitting on top of the rails.

Down the line the frame travels, and once the bottom is complete, the whole chassis is
lifted, and flipped right side up.

Then more stations install engine,  pollution control system, radiator, fuel tanks, 
tires, and the chassis electrical components to name just a few.

A Cummins Engine is lifted from its cradle to be mated with its chassis

In the photo below the chassis is now sitting on its own wheels and ready for
laser alignment.   After which the engine will be fired up and the chassis driven out of the plant.

Just 52 minutes after the start of assembly - the new chassis is born!

From here they will be shipped to the body manufacturer.
In our case - the frame will be shipped to Tiffin Motorhomes in Red Bay, Al.

Seeing 600+ employees working in unison, the attention to quality control,
and the computer controls...  it was quite an experience.

Cowpens National Battlefield

In January 1781 things had not been going well for the American Revolution.
The British had taken control of the south and its seaports.

In the interior however, bands of revolutionaries continued to harass those loyalists which
England had hoped would secure the region after the British troops had left.

Lord Cornwallis decided to put an end to these actions and dispatched an army
under the command of Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton to put it down.

If you saw the movie "The Patriot" - the cruel British General who was Mel Gibsons'
antagonist was based upon Colonel Tarleton.

Needless to say - it did not go well for the British.

The Americans, under the command of General Daniel Morgan - with Tarleton in hot
pursuit - positioned themselves with a river at their back and the right and left flanks protected
by thickets and swamps.

The Americans had no where to retreat.
Morgan did this by design as the volunteer militia which made up 2/3 of his army were
famous for scattering as soon as the lead started to fly.
The militia would have to fight or die.

Tarletons troops on the other hand arrived at the battlefield exhausted and
malnourished.   They had run out of food 48 hrs earlier and had been
marching at great haste over difficult terrain for days.

The terrain would force Tarleton into making a head on assault which is what Morgan wanted.

Morgan 150 of put his best sharpshooters in the first line, straddling the Green River Road.
Their orders were to shoot all the officers at the start of the battle which they did

Right behind them he conspicuously put the Militia with the instructions to shoot
2 volleys and then retreat to a pre determined position.

These instructions caused the British to think they were routing the militia and caused
them to break ranks as they chased the "retreating" forces.

Behind the militia however was surprise number one...   The Continental Regulars.

Then hidden behind the Continental Army and a hill was Continental Calvary.

In essence - the British ran into stronger and better troops the further they proceeded.

The map below shows the troop positions at the start of the engagement.

Eventually the calvary joined the fight, the sharpshooters and militia
appeared back out of the woods, and the British became encircled and started
surrendering en-mass.

In less than an hour the battle was over.
The Americans had surrounded and decimated the British army.

The Americans had lost 12 dead and 124 wounded.
The British had lost 110 dead and 1,058 captured, wounded, or missing.

And these were Cornwallis's best and most elite troops!

Cornwallis was forced to abandon South Carolina and head north to Virginia and
his eventual defeat at Yorktown which ended the revolution resulting in
American Independence!  πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

The Battle of Cowpens is regarded as the turning point of the revolution.

We walked the battlefield loop, a pleasant 1 mile trail.
Part of it is along the Green River Rd.

Cowpens Battlefield - Green River Rd
 Further down the Green River Rd is the Historic Scruggs Cabin.
It is inside the park - but built in 1828 - long after the battle fought here.

It is a classic example of an early homesteader homesite.
The Scruggs were busy rabbits and had 11 children.
Imagine 13 people living in this small home!

On Friday Morning we pulled in the slides at 8am and right on schedule,
the Freightliner Tech arrived to go over our work order.
A few minutes later he drove the bus into one of the bays and we walked up to the
customer lounge with the Doodles.

The Gaffney Service Center has a very nice lounge and is dog friendly.

While we waited I was able to get a few hours of work done and before we knew it,
the tech came in to say we were all done and gave the bus a clean bill of health.

The timing was perfect.
It allowed us enough time to get 260 miles down the road and shave off a big chunk
of the drive to Red Bay on Friday - setting us up for an early Saturday arrival
at Tiffin Motorhomes Service Facility.

Tonight we are in Anniston Alabama at the RV Park owned by Dandy RV.
Its very convenient and has long pull-thrus so we do not need to unhook the toad.

Our plan was to get here before dark - and we would have arrived with plenty of
time to spare...  but Friday night Rush hour in Atlanta had a different idea.

A 4 hr trip became 5 1/2 hrs due to the horrendous traffic.
Its crazy..  I remember Atlanta being a nightmare at rush hour almost 40 years ago
when I drove Semis, and nothing has changed!

Well I told Kate when we left Gaffney that we would have to contend with Atlanta and we did!

Its all good though.  No sense getting worked up.
It was a pretty day and our space was waiting for us here in Anniston when we arrived
at 0 Dark 30.

Tomorrow we have an easy 3 hr drive to Red Bay in Saturday traffic.

Along the way I plan to hit a cardlock fueling site to try out my new commercial fuel
card that I will use in Canada at Petro Canada Cardlocks.

More about that in the next post.
Time to chill.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Honey - I sold the house!


A lot has happened since our last post.

I've converted my pickup into a mini truck camper.
The addition of a cap and a wooden platform in the bed gives us the ability
to make quick side trips away from the Bus for a few days.

The platform installs or removes in 2 minutes

Under construction

Storage underneath,
An air mattress on top, and we are ready to roll.

We also have a small tent that can go over the end of the truck for use
in inclement weather.

This was done in preparation of our departure in May for Alaska, and our desire
to travel some of the rough roads where I'd rather not, or its impossible, to take the motorhome.

Once we have had our fill of roughing it - it's back to the mothership for
Roughing it in Style.

The house sold

The house has been for sale for a couple of years.
We did not need to sell so we waited for the right buyer to come along...

And all of a sudden she did.
And needed us to move in 30 days...

Well we got our price so it was time to make hay.
We've done this many times before so we are somewhat of a well oiled moving machine,
and about 2 weeks after the contract was signed, we had already
done the following:

Sold the boat and Kates Car
Sold all the furniture with a few exceptions
Boxed up all our belonging.
Packed the Bus for 2 years of life on the road.

Having the proper tools helps make the job easier and speeds up the process.

The dogs - especially Gracie have been "tweaked" and are on high alert.
They know something is going on so they are staying closer nearby than usual.

If I need to find Gracie - I only need to look over my shoulder.

We are sitting on camp chairs and sleeping on an air mattress.
Queen sized at that...   Tight with 2 people and two Real Estate hungry Doodles.

Having gotten way ahead of the curve we were able to enjoy
 some time off visiting with friends.
Our first visitor in this house - our friend Matt, made the 14hr drive south to
spend one last time in the Beaufort, and completed the first and last visitor bookend.

Friends threw parties for Kate and I completing an action packed month.

Soon the movers came...

Just as the movers utilized every nook and cranny in their truck,
I utilized this "nook" of time to finish giving the doodles
a comb out and hair cut in preparation for baths.

Lucy ready for her turn
They might not be pretty but they sure smell purdy!

So its now Monday morning and we are ready to leave.
Our docs have already been signed and the proceed$ will be wired to us.
I just have one last appointment at 1pm and then we will be wheels up.

To all of our friends and neighbors - Kate and I both have to express our gratitude
and appreciation for the outpouring of love and friendship you all have shown to us,
as well as the many years of stress free living that we have enjoyed here.
You all have enriched our lives!

We now have some BIG plans and adventures ahead of us.
Alaska this Spring/Fall
The Queen Mary 2 to Europe with the Doodles next spring
And a lot more sandwiched in between.

Free of the worries of a house thousands of miles away...
The sky is the limit!

Stay tuned.