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Showing posts from 2007

2007's a Wrap

Monday, December 31, 2007 -- Sandollar Resort near Rockport, TX

It's been a week since I last posted to this blog. Let's just chalk up the break to the "pause" I referred to in my last post. To be honest there's an element of laziness too. But it's time to update the blog with some thoughts and the events of the past few days.

Time passes so quickly and it's common to say "where'd the day go?" at this park. We have a great group of neighbors around us. I think I've written about this before, but most of them are here for the winter and most of them are from somewhere in the Midwest. Most of them have a home "up north" and are not fulltimers like us. Even though we're only here for a few weeks -- just passing through -- they've made us feel at home, as part of the group. We often attend the 4pm "happy hour" and we've gone out to lunch or dinner with some. We had a big Christmas pot-luck dinner together. Becau…

The Pause

Sunday, December 23, 2007 -- Sandollar Resort near Rockport, TX

One thing I've always liked about this time of year is the pause.

We've just gone through an entire year of our lives, largely running around and competing with others over jobs, ideas, sales, love, money, possessions, and recognition. Then, the frantic nature of the build-up to our commercialized Christmas and New Years saps more strength... the crowds, the traffic, shopping for the right gifts, the parties, getting the cards out, dealing with nasty weather, holiday travel, and more. It's all enough to give anyone a headache.

But then, it's over. At least briefly -- if you let it. There's a period of time that belongs to only you. If you recognize it, if you let it flow over you, there's a peace that accompanies the silence, the pause. Now it's just you and the loved ones that surround you. For just one day or, maybe, a few, you can take a breather... decide not to go anywhere... watch and enjoy …

Holiday Decorating

December 19, 2007 -- Sandollar Resort in Rockport, TX

The holidays just wouldn't be complete without Christmas lights and Holiday Decorations -- at least for Dar. For most of the years of our marriage, she was always the one who spent time, money, and personal effort (not to mention risking life and limb) to achieve the warm holiday look she wanted the house to have, both inside and out. She took great pleasure in doing most of it herself. It started years ago when she said something about putting up lights on the outside of our house, two stories up, and wondered if I'd do it. Perhaps I was in a bad mood that day... I certainly was not in the holiday spirit... or just preoccupied with another project -- I don't know. But I said something along the lines of "If you want lights on the roof, put 'em up yourself." To make a long story short, she did. And she did for many years thereafter. And she made sure ALL the neighbors saw her. She took great pride in making…

Settled for Christmas

Saturday, December 15, 2007 -- Sandollar RV Park in Rockport, TX

A few weeks ago, on a recommendation from someone we trust, we booked the Sandollar Resort in Rockport for three weeks during Christmas and New Years. Not knowing how fast things book up over the holidays -- or how booked they already might be -- we rolled the dice, made reservations, and despite never having laid eyes on the place we hoped it'd be that perfect "homey" place to be for Christmas.

We arrived in Rockport a few days early. Even though it may have been possible to move in at Sandollar early, we thought it'd be good to try another place for the experience. Based mostly on internet research we decided to try Drifters Resort. We arrived there Tuesday and found it to be an excellent RV park, only three years old, small but very well done. With both cabins and RV sites, it's a friendly place filled with genuine and outgoing people who didn't even wait for us to back into our site before com…

Breezy Day at the Gulf

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 -- Drifters RV Resort near Rockport, TX

There's a broad coastal plain that follows the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico stretching all the way from New Orleans, through Texas, to Mexico. This long arc of land is about the flattest land I've ever seen -- flatness that rivals parts of Illinois, Indiana, and the Canadian Great Plains. It's said that raindrops develop a severe case of indecisiveness when they don't know which direction to flow after hitting the ground. So they just sit there, evaporate, and make the air humid.

All this flatness can also make breezy days a challenge for driving an RV... like today. When the wind blows off the Gulf, there's nothing to stop it or slow it down. The last few days there's a big storm system in the central part of the country that's sucking humid air out of the Gulf. Since we've been in Victoria on Sunday, the winds have been howling.

The owner of the coach and I had a little "safety me…

In Shorts Again!

Saturday, December 8, 2007 -- Livingston, TX

In a surprising twist of nature, the weather gods have given us near record high temperatures here in east central Texas. It didn't get below 70f last night and was over 80f today. There's a weather front north of here, toying with us, and will keep the weather a little cloudier and hard to predict much of the rest of the week.

Let me bring you up to date on our bus problem. Remember, we found a small puddle of engine coolant under the bus while parked in Vicksburg on Wednesday. Spartan, our chassis maker, got us into a diesel shop in Shreveport to have it fixed, but they wouldn't be able to get us in until Friday morning. So we made the drive over to Shreveport on Thursday, checked in with the shop, and set a time for the next morning. Needing a place to stay Thursday night and wanting something close to the diesel shop, we settled on a nice parking spot in Harrah's at Louisiana Downs Racetrack and Casino. This is the first …

So We're Off to Shreveport

I had a few service chores to do on the bus today, the things that I'm supposed to check monthly or weekly. It's not too bad a deal but "a maintained coach is a happy coach" I've been told.

A few weeks ago we lost the chrome exhaust pipe extension that sticks out the back of the bus -- it just fell off on our way from Georgia to Alabama. It's not a critical component that prevents us from driving, but it does deflect the exhaust down and off to the side. Diesel exhaust can be a little sooty and the extension helps keep the back of the bus and the toad a bit cleaner.

After realizing it was gone, I called Spartan (the maker of our chassis) and they were very responsive and concerned about my issue. They immediately sent a new extension via next day express which we received while we were at Trace State Park near Tupelo. The same day, I got my old working duds on, my wrenches out, and proceeded to stick that thing on where it belonged. I was a little concerned, ho…

Vicksburg History

Wednesday, December 05, 2007 -- Vicksburg, MS

Vicksburg is packed with history. In a lot of ways, it's the real heart of the old South. It was the home of Jefferson Davis for many years and the seeds of the confederacy where sown here. It's location on the Mississippi River was important economically before the Civil War and strategically during the war. It was the successful Vicksburg Campaign that boosted the standing of Ulysses Grant with Lincoln, and was key to Grant being given complete military control of Federal forces during the last two years of the war. His success also translated into popularity with the people which translated into his being elected president in 1868.

The Vicksburg National Military Park is a huge crescent shaped park that encircles most of the city and was the area that contained the Confederate and Union lines during the 47 day siege. Here's more from Wikipedia:
The park includes 1,325 historic monuments and markers, 20 miles of historic trenche…

Back on the Trace

Monday, December 3, 2007 -- Ameristar RV Park in Vicksburg, MS

Things went off this morning pretty much as planned. The sun rose before 7am and I popped out of bed to a mere 56°f. in the camper. Yikes! That was some cold front that came through last night. It took less than 2 minutes for me to a) turn the heat up, b) load the coffee maker and turn it on, c) make sure the water heater was on, and d) jump back into bed until the heat and the coffee were done.

It may have been cold this morning, but at least it was windy too. Once coffee'd, showered, and dressed, I went out to tend to my assigned moving-day chores. Tire pressure -- check; Engine Oil level -- check; Engine coolant, hydraulic fluid level, transmission oil level -- check, check, check; Slides clear and ready for retraction -- check; load bikes onto bike carrier on car -- check; this is but a sampling, but maybe you get the idea. By the time I was done outside, I felt like I was back in Wisconsin, frozen fingers and all. D…

Laid Back Sunday

Sunday, December 2, 2007 -- Trace State Park near Tupelo, MS

Clouds, gusty winds, and intermittent rain accompanied the morning today. That was the prediction and they were right on. And so it went during the rest of the day. Definitely a day to stay in.

We're aiming to get up early (for us) Monday so we can be rolling by 9:30 or 10:00am. We decided that we'd head right to Vicksburg tomorrow where we've got a full hookup site reserved. Electric power makes good heat which will come in handy Tuesday a.m. when it's supposed to be near freezing here in central Mississippi. We'll be in Vicksburg until Thursday morning when we head west and more south in search of heat.

Reservations have been made to spend the holidays near the gulf coast of Texas, just north of Corpus Christi. Three weeks in one spot. The thought of soaking up some sun and warmth sounds pretty good right now.

Ok. That's the quick update for tonight. Gotta hit the sack and get some rest.

T

Oxford, Tupelo, Brice's Crossroads

Saturday, December 1, 2007 -- Trace State Park near Tupelo, MS

We extended our stay here for three more days, which will get us through the weekend. The bus leaves on Monday morning and we'll be on it. Both Dar and I like this place a lot, it's solitude, the setting, the "being in nature" aspects of the park... it's all so close to an ideal place to spend some time with your own thoughts, to get caught up on some reading, to organize some writing projects, to seek small adventures in nearby towns, to learn about the rich history of the area, to see the small shack were Elvis grew up... It's a good place for us right now.

One of the objectives of our sabbatical is to find that place we'd like to live after this vagabond stage is over. We think we'd like a small to medium sized town that's walkable for most of our needs, and one with energy and a vibrancy that comes from a college or an artistic community. For climate, we're just looking to take t…

An Idyllic Day

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 -- Trace State Park near Tupelo, MS

The State Parks in the Southeast, based on our experience, are just tremendous, especially at this time of the year. The campsites have been upgraded and are big rig friendly. The RV parking pads are usually level, paved, and free off branches and other obstructions that give campers headaches, not to mention scratches in the paint job. The sites are in the woods, well separated, and very clean. There's a camp host that lives on site to assure some basic rules are followed. This time of the year there are very few campers and we often have the place to ourselves. The experience has been similar in Georgia, Alabama, and now Mississippi.

We found another gem with Trace State Park. We selected a site that's actually on it's own peninsula that juts out into the lake so we have water on three sides (Duh, Thom, that's the definition of a peninsula!). It's very secluded and quiet. Wildlife abound... deer are a…

Move to Mississippi today

I'm up early this morning and find the internet connection, which was weak and intermittent yesterday, is much improved. I'm learning that poor weather can knock the signal down dramatically, especially in fringe areas where the signal is weak to start with. Dar's still sawing logs and I get a few minutes to sip my coffee and knock out a post. This will be a short one today because we're getting ready to move and I don't have much to say anyway.

Our slow trek west resumes today. It'll be a short drive of only a little over a hundred miles to the Tupelo, MS area. There's a State Park there that sounds good to us and should make a good home base for a day or so as we check out the area around Elvis' hometown. This week we'll be moving more than sitting and I don't see us spending more than a day or two in any one place. We really don't have a specific destination this week other than "west" and "south" and "warmer"…

Easy Days

Sunday, November 25, 2007 -- Joe Wheeler State Park near Rogersville, AL

Still here, and probably will be until Tuesday. One of the great things about our life right now is that we can adapt and adjust to our environment... so when they call for rain in the next day or so, we can simply stay an extra day and wait for better weather.

The last couple days have been slow and easy for us. We like the park and our site, so it really becomes "home" for a few days. Dar's been working on a project and I've been reading and writing. Doesn't sound real exciting but we're enjoying it.

We did visit Wheeler Dam, another TVA dam on the Tennessee River. Completed in 1936, it's over a mile long and the difference between the upstream pool and the downstream pool is as much as 50 feet. The upstream pool, or lake, created by the dam is 67,000 acres and has over 1,000 miles of shoreline. Our campsite is on this lake.

We had a nice visit with our neighbors around their campfire …

Modern-Day Ghost Town

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Saturday, November 24, 2007 -- Joe Wheeler State Park near Rogersville, AL

Retrospective comments about Crawfordville, GA.

The traditional heart of the ideal small town has been a lively and energetic central business district, an area where people congregate, socialize, shop, and just hang out. Driven by businesses and shop owners, these areas are kept clean and friendly, often decorated for holidays, so as to be an inviting place for people to go, spend a little money for various needs and wants, and make it possible for these businesses and shops to make a profit -- which allows the cycle starts again. In the best places there are enough people who can spend enough money to allow this cycle to spiral upward -- additional new shops or businesses open, stores are remodeled or new ones built, perhaps the town develops a unique flavor that's enticing and causes more people to come, maybe even from nearby towns, to take part in the experience. There's a sense of energy and a sense…

Reflection and Thanks

Thursday, November 22, 2007 -- Joe Wheeler State Park near Rogersville, AL

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

A cold front passed through last night bringing rain, a little wind, and chillier temps by this morning. It was 42f when we got up this morning.

Yesterday we didn't do much. It rained almost all day. Since Dar needed a few supplies for a project she's working on, and we needed a few groceries, we drove to Florence, a good sized town about 20 miles west of us.

During our foray into Florence we stopped at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant to have some lunch. We were seated just a little way from a large table of extended family members... father, mother, their adult children, and their children's families. I'm only guessing. One of the adult children, a guy, who for the purposes of this post we'll name "Bob", had a voice that easily projected all around the dining room we were in and dominated his other family members. In other words, all diners in the restauran…

On to Alabama

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 -- Joe Wheeler State Park near Rogersville, AL

It's been a busy two days, yesterday and today, and I need to get a post done to bring y'all up to date. Monday, yesterday, we got up early at A. H. Stephens Park and had the bus on I-20 by 9:30am. We were headed west, through the heart of Atlanta, and on into Alabama. The bus ran fine, the day was warm, and we made good time... making it to the Alabama visitors center at the GA-AL state line by noon or so, central standard time. Since we were making such good time we decided to head for Joe Wheeler State Park in northern Alabama. A quick phone call confirmed that they had space and that space would be available for the entire Thanksgiving Day weekend... so off we went.

Dar drove the next leg and tackled the Birmingham traffic like a seasoned trucker. We pressed north. Along the way up I-65, there's a stark transition from wooded hillsides to open, flat, farmland -- the ancient work of the Tennessee Ri…

A Museum Donation

Sunday, November 18, 2007 -- A. H. Stephens State Historic Park

It's hard for me to believe that Thanksgiving Day is next week and that at the end of this month we'll have been on our sabbatical for 5 months... and 5 months is almost a half year. How fast time passes!

On Friday, we drove around the area to some surrounding towns. Dar read that there are some good examples of antebellum homes and buildings scattered about, so off we went. Along the way we stopped, based on a recommendation from a local, at Holcomb BBQ for lunch. This place is open for lunch on Friday and Saturday only -- a common thing among barbecue places here in the rural south. Throughout the south, barbecue is a primary staple food and local people have strong feelings about what they consider their favorite. I get the feeling that fist-fights break out when people disagree on the subject.

Based on what I've observed, one pre-requisite for a good BBQ place is a broken-down building with a dirt parking lo…

Chore Day

Friday, November 16, 2007 -- A. H. Stephens State Historic Park

Woke to near freezing temps this morning, but I'm learning how to deal with them. Our little electric heater is quite useful on cold nights and it does a reasonable job at keeping the coach at a good sleeping temperature -- low to mid 60's. Didn't need the coach's LP furnace until this morning when a quick kick to 68f was desired. Dar's learning how to deal with cold too -- she stays in bed, under 12 pounds of blankets and comforters, until I get the camper up to 68f, coffee made, and the sun comes out.

I checked the government's climate prediction center website and found they're predicting warmer than normal temps for the South this winter. Hmmm. Then I checked the Original Farmers Almanac website and found they're predicting a colder than normal winter for the same area. Recent experience has me leaning toward going with the Farmers Almanac on this one. I'm keeping my eye on the extend…

Extending Our Stay

Thursday, November 15, 2007 -- A. H. Stephens State Historic Park near Crawfordville, GA

We really like this place, so we extended our stay for a few more days. We'll be here through Sunday night at this point. If the weather gods cooperate next Monday we'll continue our move westward.

Yesterday there was nothing planned, nowhere to go, no schedule... we just enjoyed the warm (upper 70's) sunny weather, took a walk, read a little, and cyber-scouted the path ahead. I worked a little on the website, but a slow-ish connection makes uploading pictures tough. I also did a little research on a couple topics for the future.

Today, Thursday, we're going to seek out a grocery store that's about 20 miles away so we have something to eat for the rest of the week. Dar may do a load or two of laundry. There's a front coming through the area today and the accompanying clouds, wind, and cooler weather make this the perfect day for chores like that.

T

Hook Day

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 -- A. H. Stephens State Historic Park near Crawfordville, Ga.

Ok, let me try this again! I lost about an hours worth of brilliant thoughts I'd written into a post on this blog this morning when something went wrong while saving it. I have a weak and variable internet connection here and it apparently became very weak and very variable just when I went to save my post. Dang. I hate when that happens.

Dar and I decided that we'd refer to yesterday as "hook day" -- the day we made the big turn toward the west, the direction we'll now be predominantly going as we work our way to the west coast by March.

After saying our good-byes with Cousin Debbie yesterday morning, we fired up the bus and headed to the bus's 7am appointment with the Cummins dealer in Columbia for an oil change, chassis lube, and generator service. While that was being done, Dar and I found a Panera and did some online research on places to stay along our way. We'd …

An Easy Drive

November 12, 2007 -- Eastover, SC

Leaving family or friends is tough -- especially when we've been parked near them for a few weeks. We experienced that again yesterday when we left Chris and Tim to move on with our adventure. There were a few tears shed as we said "good-bye" and pointed the bus toward the south. Their companionship, hospitality, and talent with food lulled us into a state of comfort (and an expanded waistline) that wasn't easy to leave. Tim even made a batch of his world-famous cookies for us -- "comfort food for the road", he said. A huge "Thank You" to our good friends for making our visit so wonderful!

The drive to the Columbia, SC area, our next objective, was an easy one. The weather was perfect, the traffic light, only 100 miles, the bus performed flawlessly. On the way, we stopped at a Flying J truckstop for fuel and propane. South Carolina's tax on diesel fuel is very low and, thus, so is the price relative to surroundi…

Dumping with Friends

Thursday, November 8, 2007 -- Near York, SC

Chris and Tim had their first RV'ing adventure yesterday. They rode along as we took the bus to a county park campground about 10 miles away so we could dump our holding tanks. I'm sure it was an experience they'll not soon forget! The entire process, including prep'ing the bus for travel and setting up for living again when we got back took a couple hours -- but, hey, we're not in a hurry.

During the afternoon the four of us and Heidi the dog went for a walk at the Anne Springs Close Greenway, a 2000 acre nature preserve in Fort Mills, SC. There are walking trails, bridle trails, primitive camping, nature walks and more at this wonderful facility. We chose a path that circled a small lake. Once again, the day was perfect autumn weather. I have no complaints about the weather here... except for the early morning temps this week.

Did I mention that it got to 29.8 at the bus early this morning? That it was warmer in Wisconsin…

31.6 degrees this morning

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 -- Near York, SC

These days I'm keeping my behavior in check as I don't want to do anything to tick-off Dar. With the nightly low temperature getting into the lower 30s I need all the heat I can get, and that little furnace I'm married to can produce more BTU's than our camper's heater at times. So I've learned keeping her happy keeps me warm at night. I'm sure it's a survival instinct. I'll be on best behavior at least until global warming takes hold.

A common assumption we run into when staying with friends is that we'll stay in their guest room. This happens almost every time and we sincerely appreciate the offers. Not everyone understands when we decline. But we have a great Tempurpedic bed, all our clothes and toiletries, and plenty of heat (see above) right there in our camper. Staying in someone's guest room means we've got to pack a bag -- not a major thing, but a little hassle nonetheless -- and move fr…

Battlefields and Vineyards

November 5, 2007 -- York, SC

Gosh, it's been 4 days since I posted to this blog. Better get caught up.

Last week, I think it was Thursday, the four of us, Chris, Dar, Tim, and I, drove over to Kings Mountain State Park and the Kings Mountain National Military Park. It was a bright, sunny, but cool day -- the kind of weather I'm really growing to like. When I first heard that there's an old battlefield here I assumed it was from the Civil War. But my ignorance was soon apparent as I learned it's a piece of history from the Revolutionary War. It was a small battle but it was a decisive win for the patriots, who desperately needed a win, having had a loosing streak in the south up to that point. The time was October 1780. Only about 1000 men on each side. All were Americans except for one British officer, a Major Patrick Ferguson. The loyalists, who were fighting for the British, were recruited Americans who wanted to remain loyal to the British crown. The patriots were bac…

Time with Tim and Chris

November 1, 2007 -- York, SC

Most of our time in the past few days has been spent catching up with our friends, Tim and Chris. The four of us have gone a lot of places and done a lot of things over the past 30 years, and it's fun to reminisce. They have a year old Bernese Mountain Dog named Heidi. Bernese are considered "working" dogs and they can weigh upwards of 100 pounds or more. Their distinctive coloration is mostly black, with chest, muzzle, toes, tip of tail, and blaze between the eyes being pure white, and then some rust/brown color on the legs and face. It's a distinctive and good-looking dog.

We've also been working on a few projects around their estate. Tim and I completed an aggregate path that winds through a piece of woods from their backyard to the small lake on the back edge off their property. Dar and Chris spread a trailer-load of pine needles that's used as a mulch-like material in landscaping. The weather's been good for this kind of wo…

TVA Norris Dam

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October 29, 2007 -- York, SC

One thing we never have to worry about when visiting our good friends Tim & Chris is going hungry. Tim is an amazing chef and throws together, with little apparent effort, the most wonderful meals. I'm going to have to pace myself or I'll gain weight for sure during our visit. We do have a few work projects on the docket that may burn up a few pounds so it may balance out in the end.

While we were in the Knoxville area a few days ago we took an afternoon and drove up to one of the TVA dams to learn and recreate a little. The Tennessee Valley Authority, or TVA, is a federally owned corporation created by congress in 1933. It's goal was, and is, to provide electric power, flood control, navigation, and economic development in the watershed of the Tennessee River -- an area comprising most of Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. It has 29 dams on the Tennessee or it's tributaries that p…

250 Miles to York, SC

October 27, 2007 -- York, SC

What a great day for a drive in the country! Our trip from the Knoxville area to rural York, SC, in the Charlotte metro area, took us through the Appalachians on I-40. It was one of the most spectacular drives in a long time... the fall colors were in full bloom, the sun was bright, the air clear, the traffic relatively light... some pictures were taken but they just don't do justice to reality. Wow.

This was the first real mountain test for the bus and I was anxious to see how it performed. I was pleased. On the way up the Cummins motor had power to spare despite pulling about 36,000 pounds. On the way down, the potentially most dangerous segment, the strong exhaust brake provided more than enough energy to control our descent with only nominal use of the regular brakes. The grade was as much as 6% and we had no problems at all. With this knowledge, we're ready for any mountain around.

Our typical "moving" day sees us getting started abou…

Visiting Friends; Tennessee Karaoke

October 26, 2007 -- Heiskell, TN near Knoxville

The Excapees Raccoon Valley RV park was nearly full when we checked in here on Wednesday. We had to take a spot with no hookups. But yesterday, Thursday, a full hookup site opened up and we moved. Even though we can exist without hookups for a week or so, it's nice to at least have some electricity and water, which was our limiting item this time as we only had a nominal amount in the tank.

This is the first time we're staying at an Escapees park. It's an organization we joined a few months ago that promotes safe and responsible RV'ing and stays on top of changes in laws affecting the lifestyle. They have a number of RV parks around the country and offer deep discounts to members. This is the oldest park in the system and while it has a charm to it, it's old and was designed with much smaller RV's in mind. Thus, sites are small and maneuvering can be a challenge at time. On a positive note, the people are wonderful.…

Just a great day!

October 23, 2007 -- Nashville, TN

Due to the hour, this post will be neither long nor particularly witty.

We just got back from seeing the Tuesday Night Opry at the Grand Ole Opry House near Opryland... and we had a great time. The show is also broadcast live on WSM radio in Nashville. The Saturday night version of the show is supposed to be the oldest continuous radio program in the U.S., having been aired weekly on WSM since 1925. After experiencing the show tonight, I'm convinced that Garrison Keillors' "A Prairie Home Companion" is a parody of it... right down to the similarity of sponsors -- Grand Ole Opry's Martha White Biscuits and Prairie Home Companion's Powder Milk Biscuits. I've been in the audience of both and they feel very similar. And that's a good thing. I like 'em both.

The show we saw tonight included Jeannie Seely, Bill Anderson, Little Jimmy Dickens, Dierks Bentley, Alan Jackson, Mel McDaniel, Rebecca Lynn Howard, and the bluegras…

Grand Ole Nashville

October 22, 2007 -- Nashville, TN

After our overnight in Bowling Green we bid 'adieu' to Ginnie and Kevin and got rolling for Nashville about 1pm. It wasn't the most pleasant drive as we were headed almost directly south and directly into the glare of a bright, hot sun. The truck traffic was also heavy and the winds were gusting out of the Southeast. We did stop for fuel near the Tennessee state line and filled for less than $3/gal -- something to write home about these days. The short drive today felt longer than it was and we were happy to park and get set-up for a couple days here at Two Rivers Campground near the Grand Ole Opry House and the Opryland Hotel.

Almost all of Kentucky and Tennessee are part of the extreme drought that's plagued much of the southeast this year. Nashville is 16 inches below the average rainfall for the year. The reservoirs are drying up. There's talk of rationing water in some areas. Considering all this, I'll put up with a few rain…