Welcome to our Travel Blog!

Hi, and welcome to our RV Travel Blog! We hope you enjoy our writings. If you are a camper, I hope you find them helpful. The posts are list in order from recent back to earliest.... so if you want to read in order that they were written, scroll down or click the "Previous Posts" on the right. Also look at the "Archive" links on the right. Our trip and family photos are in the Dotphoto.com site in the links section on the left.
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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Go West Young Man

Monroe, NC

Preparations are getting into high gear for our pending trip to Texas.  We are looking forward to getting on the road again.  We will be leaving sometime early next week for our ultimate destination - Big Bend National Park.

Along the way we will be stopping in Austin TX for a long awaited visit with some dear friends of ours that we have not seen in nearly 3 years!  Then we plan to stop in Fort Davis Texas at the Davis Mountains State Park for a few days before making the final journey to BBNP. 

No pictures as of yet, but we do plan to keep the blog up to date while on the road. 

There has been quite a bit of catch up work around the house and the RV to be sure we are happy campers.  (For you civic minded readers, this included early voting in the upcoming elections since we will be away on November 6.)   A thorough cleaning (inside and out) of the Bounder was done.  This included unloading some "non essential" items that had accumulated in the basement storage areas. 

The biggest single item was the replacement of the Bounder's tires.  We still had the original Goodyear RV tires that came with the coach.  While there was plenty of tread still on them, they were 8 years old.  They may look fine, but old tires can be broken down by weather and use causing dry rot and internal cracking.  This could lead to possible structural failure and cause a blowout.  Not what you want in West Texas, or anywhere else for that matter!

We replaced the original Goodyears with Hankook truck tires.  These tires get very good reviews in the RV community and are used widely by trucking companies too. And the cost is less than the RV tires from Goodyear.  So far, on the drive home from the shop, I could tell a difference in that the ride was smoother and tracking seemed to be a little straighter.  However, we will see when we get on the interstates headed west.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Renaissance Festival

Concord NC

I had never been to a Renaissance Festival.  So when my dear daughter asked me if I wanted to join her for a Saturday outing to the local Renaissance Festival I thought; why not?

Officially known as the Carolina Renaissance Festival and Artisan Marketplace, this event is held every October through Mid November on the weekends.  Apparently it is also open for school field trips during some of the week days during that time.

I had heard of these events before and they are held in numerous locations across the US.  I had also heard of this particular site since it has been held annually in the same location for several years.  But I still did not know exactly what to expect.  Was I in for a surprise!

As you can see, it was crowded even early in the day.  We arrived shortly after the opening time to try to beat some of the crowd.  And around mid afternoon, the place was really packed.  You can see some of the buildings in the background.

I have always been a bit of a history enthusiast,  so from that perspective, I may have been a little disappointed.  Without any preconceived notions, I was kind of expecting something more along the lines of a Colonial Williamsburg, with most of the "characters" in period costume and actually speaking of events and activities as if they were actually there in that period.  What I found was a conglomeration of stuff.  This is a money making entertainment event though, not necessarily a history lesson.  So with that in mind I put away the need to be historically correct and enjoyed the entertainment.

And entertainment was aplenty!  Jugglers, sword swallowers, fire eaters, a sword swallowing fire eater, musicians, pirates, vikings;  I guess anything that pop history places in the "olden days" was represented there.

 Take a close look at the "Tree" in the photo above.  It's really a person dressed like a tree, you know, like the apple trees in the "Wizard of Oz".  I may not have even noticed him if he had not been pointed out.

Another thing I found very interesting and entertaining.  Many of the attendees came dressed in their own costumes.  Thats right, I saw people lining up to buy their tickets wearing everything from pirate outfits to kids in fairy costumes and everything in between.   


Here is the sword swallowing fire eater I mentioned earlier.   He actually had a pretty entertaining show under one of the big tents stages set up.   There were 11 or 12 of these large stages with something scheduled at each one during the entire day.

There were lots and lots of crafts and items to buy as well.  Here is one of the artisans making pottery that he was selling in his booth.

 Here is a display of some very intricate (and expensive) wooden cups made with wood inlays and put together like a parquet floor.

And one of the entertainers sitting under a tree playing her lyre.  She also had a beautiful voice to match.

 Of course there was jousting at one of the shows.  It was very hot and dusty at the jousting arena, and also very crowded, so we didn't stay to watch the show.

Did I mention food?  Just like any worthwhile fair, there was plenty of food consessions and many people standing in line to get it.  While the price was expensive, it was reasonable given that it was the only game in ye ole town!

By about 3:00 PM we had had our fill of all the fair had to offer so we headed home to beat the crowds exiting.  We didn't need to worry about from the traffic flow.  Many many more were making their way in to enjoy the evening.

All in all, it was a fun and interesting day.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Asheville & Mt. Mitchell

Asheville NC,

We decided at the last minute to take an all day drive from home to Asheville, NC and Mt. Mitchell.  What a gorgeous day it turned out to be for the trip.  Beautiful blue sky and great temperatures in the mid 60s to 70s in the lower elevations and much cooler on top of Mt. Mitchell.

The toughest part of getting to the mountains from Monroe NC is getting through Charlotte.  Once we get to Kings Mountain and off of I-85, it is pretty much smooth sailing.  We decided to go the old route; westbound on US-74 and Alt 74.  This route takes you through the beautiful town of Lake Lure, past Chimney Rock, Bat Cave and finally into Asheville.  This is the route we used to take as a child with my father driving the Dodge.

Lunch time rolled around and found us in downtown Asheville on Wall Street near Pack Square and the Grove Arcade.  Many of the trees were beginning to show their fall colors, depending on the elevation.

Wall Street is home to our favorite vegetarian restaurant, The Laughing Seed Cafe.    They specialize in vegetarian and pure vegan dishes.  Much better than anything in Charlotte, and you NEVER have to ask if your choice includes any meat products. 

I had a delicious Ruben made with tempeh instead of meat, and their soup of the day special.  Pam had their special lentil soup and a vegan Sloppy Joe made with barbequed tofu instead of meat.  Both were very tasty and filling.  (Sorry, I left the camera in the car so no pictures of the food.)

The Laughing Seed main entry faces the Wall Street side, but for those carnivores, it is actually upstairs from the Jack-O-The-Woods pub that serves great burgers and other good dishes.  It is entered from the Patton Ave, or simply go down the stairs inside The Laughing Seed.

By the way, there is a public parking garage on Wall Street that can be entered off of Otis Street around the corner from Wall Street.  It is very convenient to all of the Grove Arcade, Wall Street, Patton Avenue including Early Girl Eatery, Tupelo Honey, and many many more.  This has to be one of the more scenic views from any parking garage I have ever visited.

After a short walk around the area we were back in the car and headed toward the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP.)  We soon found ourselves at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. 

It was noticeably cooler at this elevation, and only a few miles from Mt. Mitchell.  The visitor center is very nice with a scenic overlook, gift shop, and restrooms. 

The view in the picture above is toward the east.  I think that is Burnett Reservoir in the distance.

Below is a a northward view of the BRP and one of it's tunnels.  We did see a couple of RV's on the parkway, and it is certainly not all that intimidating with the easy sweeping curves and the wide shoulders.  Speeds are limited to 45 in most areas (35 in some areas) and no commercial traffic is allowed.  However, if driving a big rig, you would need to be cautious with the tunnels that are arched.  And if driving an RV, one must be very selective about which road is used to access the parkway as some of the roads are very steep and curvy

It was getting a little late in the day and our drive home from here was about  2 or 3 hours.  But what a beautiful day!  And how many times have we been to Mt. Mitchell only to be disappointed by the fog, clouds or even sleet at the peak?  So we decided to try it again.  What an awesome surprise.

Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak in Eastern North America  at 6,684 feet above sea level.  It seems to have it's own weather system.  So what a nice surprise when we arrived at the peak and found a beautiful view and bright sunshine.

Here is Pam in the obligatory "standing behind the sign" pose.

Since the last time we were here, they completed a brand new observation deck on the peak.  It provides a great view of the entire area and more.  It is only a short 200 yard walk up from the visitor center.

After the balmy 70 degree temperature in downtown Asheville,  48 degrees felt a bit cold. But what a view. 

Chuck on the Mt. Mitchell Observation Platform.

View from Mt. Mitchell toward the Southwest -  BRP is seen across the peaks toward Craggy Gardens.
Soon we were finally ready to head home.  We went north on the BRP and then on  Hwy 80, a very tight, steep, curvy road (not to be attempted in a large RV!)  Soon we were past Buck Creek Campground and in Marion NC, back on the concrete ribbon (I-40) eastbound and finally back home.

What a pleasant day trip.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Latches for the Spare Tire

Monroe, NC

Yesterday I mentioned that I went to Tom Johnson Camping Center's parts department to get a couple of new latches for the spare tire cover hatch on the rear end of the Bounder.  As usual I found that those little things are more expensive than you would think, but was able to get them for $17 each.  I likely could have gotten them for less by researching the internet but wanted to get it done.

Here is the old latch installed. 

 One would not think that something so small, made mostly from plastic would cost quite that much.

First step was to get the hatch cover off.  Since the latches were frozen in place and the key would not open them, I had to crawl under the Bounder and remove them from the back of the hatch panel.  It's dirty in there!

Then a good wash job to thoroughly clean the panel front and back.

Next came attaching the new latches.  The metal bracket simply holds the latch in place with its front flange against the hatch panel.

 And the screw is adjusted to hold the screw head against the bracket (not shown) on the upper part of the hatch opening.

 Here you can see the bracket on the upper left side of the opening.

All done, and they work too!  In the 8 years we have had the Bounder we have never needed to access the spare tire.  But you never know!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Instant RV City

Monroe, NC.

Most of the morning was spent at our auto mechanic of choice in the area.  The Chevy Tracker needed a little TLC and some maintenance.  The guys at Doc Imports in Monroe came through again as usual.  They found what turned out to be a simple problem and didn't charge much to correct it so I was back on the road.

The owner of the place is also an RVer.  He has a big toy hauler fiver and we chatted about the places we had been over the past couple of months.

Next on the agenda was a trip to my RV dealer, Tom Johnson Camping Center in Concord.  I need to replace the little latches that keep the Bounder's spare tire cover on.  I didn't call first assuming that they would either have the exact replacement part, or they would be able to point me to a suitable replacement for the latches.

I need to pay more attention to current events!  I had totally overlooked the fact that the second big NASCAR race of the year is at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend.

Welcome Race Fans... so says the signs!

And Tom Johnson Camping Center is right across the street from the speedway.  In fact when the race is being held, they move all of their inventory to another lot nearby.  I was surprised to see that the area that was their inventory lot, has apparently been converted to permanent campsites.  So I don't know what that means for them long term, but it sure looks like the speedway is pushing them to a smaller and smaller space.

But the race fans are arriving in force, but it doesn't seem that the event is as big as it once was.  Years ago I went to several NASCAR races each year, including the October race at Charlotte.  Areas that once held  souvenir vendor shops shoulder to shoulder are now mostly empty.  Maybe they moved them to a different area that I didn't see, but it just didn't seem to have the crowd that it once did.

But the RVs and campers are arriving.  This is only Wednesday but many were settling in already and there was plenty of room for the many more that will show up in the next few days. 

These first two pictures are directly across the road from the speedway.

These next two are down Morehead Road past the speedway.. about a mile away.  

By Saturday, all these will be packed unless the crowds are really off.  Again, it's been 10 years or so since I last attended one of them.

In a way it kind of makes me miss the events a little.  They were exciting, particularly in the RV.  Lots of people watching, and lots of RV watching.  Believe me, at a NASCAR event you see all kinds.  You can see a multi-million dollar Prevost conversion sitting right next to a 1960's School Bus conversion... with every one partying and having a great time.

But there is just not much interest for me in NASCAR anymore.  I don't think the characters are allowed in the racing world now.   Every driver has to be a driver second, and a product salesman first.  It doesn't seem to matter if you can drive a race car as long as you can sell the sponsor's products.  Maybe Dale Earnhardt moved on just in time.

I returned home to another beautiful sunset.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Wash Day

Monroe, NC

With the prediction of some cooler and possibly bad weather, it felt like I needed to do a complete job of cleaning the Bounder and get it in the barn before the rain sets in. Saturday seemed like the right time.   I thought about breaking the job up into a couple of days but as I checked the weather forecast, I wanted to go ahead and get-er-done before it rains.

I wanted to do a full detail type job (but hold off on the wax part) while I could.  I started by taking the 8 foot step ladder, the bristle brush, and a bucket of Spic-and-Span around the complete upper edge where the rubber roof meets the fiberglass sidewall.   This included pulling down the awning and scrubbing the awning rail and the top part of the awning really really good.  That task took a couple of hours;  up the ladder, scrub within arms reach, rinse with plenty of water, down the ladder, move the ladder, start again.

Then on top of the coach with the long handle brush, more Spic-and-Span, and plenty of scrubbing.  I also cleaned the A/C covers, vent covers, and the other things on the roof that collect dirt.  There's really a lot of stuff up there around which one must maneuver.

After a lunch break, it was on to the remainder of the job; giving the rest of the coach a good washing and rinse.  I wanted to be sure that all of the runoff from the top was washed away.  For this part I used what I always use, Blue Coral Car Wash with Wax.  This has always done a great job and keeps the gelcoat on the fiberglass sidewalls shiny and spot free.

Washing the FMCA "Goose Egg"
 With the job finally completed and the Bounder dried, its back in the barn to stay out of the impending bad weather.  Good thing too, Sunday morning arrived with a bang with a strong thunderstorm, some heavy rain, and much cooler temperatures.  Fall is finally here for real.

The Florida Keys don't have a lock on beautiful sunsets:

Thursday, October 04, 2012

A New Floor

Monroe, NC

No, not it the RV, but in the house.  Our house is 65 years old so there are always surprises whenever you try to do any type of repair or remodeling.  Even putting new blinds on the windows is an adventure.  The wide 4 inch window frames that were soft pine 65 years ago when my Grandfather and one of his brothers-in-law built this house are now the consistency of granite.

And nothing is standard, according to today's standards that is.  The kitchen cabinets for example were simply built in to fit the spaces after the kitchen was completed.  So something like a simple cabinet or counter top replacement using the "standard" sized stuff from Lowe's or Home Depot would require a major overhaul.

So we decided to replace the old carpet that we put in our bedroom when we remodeled years ago with a wood like laminate.  We choose the Quick Step brand and had it installed by a local flooring company.  I know, a lot of people including my brother have a handyman streak in them.  And this type of job is labeled as a "weekend job" by folks that have that talent, but for me I'm not so sure.  And since it is in our bedroom we didn't want to be displaced any longer than a day.

The installer showed up right on time and before long he had ripped out all the existing carpet and had the sub-floor cleaned and ready to install the new pad and laminate planks.

 Speaking of the surprises of an older house, notice that the flooring is not the standard plywood subflooring used these days, but they are actually 3 inch pine planks.  After this discovery (I should have remembered that from when we remodeled 17 years ago,) there was a brief discussion about refinishing that floor instead of using the laminate.

 But see the white plank in the upper center of the picture?  Thats were we placed a spare plank after removing a wall that once existed there when we remodeled.  So realizing that, we kept with the original plan.

By mid-afternoon the job was done.  New laminate flooring that looks remarkably like real oak flooring in the adjoining room.  New quarter round molding the same color as the floor.  All in all, a pretty good job by the installer.

Now to the not so pleasant task of getting all the stuff that we have accumulated placed where it belongs.  Or more importantly, getting rid of some of it!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Back to the Barn

Monroe, NC

Our trip back north on I-95 continued to be uneventful and we are back home.  We arrived to some nice fall-like weather with a little cooler temperatures and even cooler predicted over the next week or two.

During August we had a barn built that will be the new home for our Bounder.  This is the first time we were actually able to get home, unpack the items we needed to unpack, and move the Bounder into it's new "stable".

We had decided back in the spring that we really needed to have a larger storage building, since the old one was full of junk and falling down.  After all, it was nearly 70 years old.  And believe it or not, our Bounder had been sitting outside in the sun, rain, and wind all these years.  It needed to have a home under roof.

I had looked at all these pre-fab metal buildings; I even had one guy come out and measure with the promise to get back to me with a final quote, which he never did. (I guess business is not so bad after all.)   Then after a severe thunderstorm outbreak in the area back in May, I saw one of those buildings sitting in the top of a big Oak tree not too far from here.

It was then that I got serious about having a pole type barn built. Thats when I also discovered that I could have a substantial barn built, with support poles 3 feet in the ground in concrete instead of metal railings sitting on top of the ground.  All for not much more than the metal barn would have cost.

The construction began around the first week of August with the layout and deciding exactly what I wanted and how it would be positioned on our property.  Once the poles were set, the trusses were ordered.  A week or so later they arrived and a crane was brought in to set the trusses in place:

Once the work of setting the trusses in place began, it didn't take long for them to complete that part of the job.  With a couple of workers on each side and a couple in the middle on the scaffold, it went like clockwork.

 Before long, that part of the job was done.  Then it was time to start the longer job of framing.

 With the framing pretty much completed, it was time to start adding the metal, with the trim going on first.

To be big enough to get the RV in and out as painlessly as possible, I needed a door with at least 14 feet vertical height and at least 12 feet wide.  So we decided to put the main door in the center with a personnel entry door on the side.  The main door will be a roll up garage door and the personnel door will be a steel double dead bolt lock.

Metal on the roof will be galvanized aluminum and the sides will be gray to match the siding on our house with white trim.

Notice the smile on it's face?