Showing posts from December, 2012

Dec 31 - Dar's First Post - Bush Presidential Library

This is my first post on our blog. Thom's having writer's block. Not that there hasn't been anything to blog about, we've been doing a lot, just that now he's about 8 entries behind.  And as the old saying goes..."the behinder I am, the behinder I get" until the task starts to become overwhelming.  He likes his posts to be interesting, as well as a journal of our travels.  So in our discussion this morning over "his problem", he asked me what I would write about for our visit to the Bush Presidential Library... that wouldn't be the same ol' Bush did this and that, and then this and that.  We lived through the Bush years, so what did I find interesting about the library museum?  My mistake was telling him and now I've got myself into the position of writing this blog. I have asked his editing help, since he has such a way with words that I feel I lack. Passion and passionate I can get, but then putting it down in words becomes hard. S…

Dec 30 - Shreveport to College Station

Once again we're motivated to move further west by the promise of rain for the next two days. But where to next?

Searching the Texas map we found the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station Texas, one we had yet to visit. Another of the themes that direct our travels, Presidential Libraries are usually good spots to re-live some history and learn more about these people we elect to lead us. It really seems that as you learn more about a particular time and the key players of the era, it all starts to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle and the big picture becomes clearer.

So we were off to College Station. Our route was I-20 to TX-31/US-259 to Henderson Texas. Then US-79 to TX-6 at Hearne south to College Station. At  260 miles and with a lot of holiday traffic to keep things from getting too boring, it was a longer day than usual for us. We arrived at Lazy G RV Park on the south edge of town about 3pm.

We weren't impressed at all with Lazy G RV Par…

Dec 29 - Vicksburg to Shreveport; Dinner with Ben and Sarah

Our 180 mile drive today took us from Vicksburg Mississippi to Shreveport Louisiana on I-20. Not much to report relating to the drive, but of note was the rest of the day.

We grabbed the last un-reserved big rig site at Tall Pines RV Park on the west edge of town and called Nephew Ben to see about plans for that evening. We were trying to fit a visit in with Ben and Sarah between their Christmas trip to Florida and the arrival of some friends from Lincoln Nebraska that were coming in for the New Years holiday. If everything worked out right we'd have about 4 hours this evening.

Ben suggested a new Indian restaurant - Indigo - not far from their apartment. We met there about 6pm and had a simply wonderful time catching up on their lives and learning about Indian Cuisine... something these two meat and potatoes Midwestern explorers haven't been exposed to. Well into my 60s, new experiences are savored as they don't happen as often as they used to. This was a case of the you…

Dec 28 - The Mississippi State Capitol

I was grumbling to Dar about all the rain we've been getting the past few weeks and thought some facts might make her more receptive to my childish whining about stuff I have absolutely no control over. So I checked with the US Government... NOAA to be precise... and found that most of Mississippi, Alabama, and northern Georgia have received between 4 and 6 inches of rain in just the last two weeks. And we were there. Great information... but it didn't help at all as she still thinks I'm making a big deal over nothing.

It rained most of the night. I woke to rain. And it rained most of the day today. It's probably still raining as I punch out this post from under the covers of my bed... a place I find more uplifting than looking out windows at puddles, mud, and dreariness. I'm trying to be mature about this, but there's only so much a guy can take.

We drove over to Jackson Mississippi this morning and found the State Capitol in the middle of a downtown that fel…

Dec 27 - Demopolis to Vicksburg

The Gulf Coast states have been on the receiving end of a series of weather events that have delivered heavy rain, high winds, and a few tornadoes. With all the watches and warnings our little NOAA weather radio has been squawking and squealing like a cat with it's tail caught in the front door.

So it was no surprise that after our Christmas Day storm, yet another was predicted for later in the week. So we took advantage of the lull in the action to make the leap a little further west today, Thursday. Doug and Kay also left Demopolis today on a more southerly tack toward the Gulf.

Our stay at Foscue COE campground near Demopolis turned into a 9 day stay... longer than we thought it would on arrival. But with good neighbors like Doug and Kay, the pleasant surroundings of our preferred type of campground, and the urge to take a little "down-time" during the Christmas break, it was a pleasant and relaxing time.

Apparently that "down-time", for me, included an exte…

Dec 25 - Christmas with Friends

This is our 6th Christmas in an RV. How have we coped with being away from family during the holidays?  Where have we been for Christmas in the past 5 years?

I looked back at the bus-house log and found our Christmas spot for each of the past years:

2007 - Sandollar in Rockport TX (decorated big tree over bus-house)
2008 - Sandollar in Rockport TX (diff site... lights in tree again)
2009 - Sandollar in Rockport TX ("our" site)
2010 - Lost Alaskan in Alpine TX
2011 - Lone Star Corral in Hondo TX
2012 - Foscue COE Park in Demopolis AL

This year we rendezvoused with our friends Doug and Kay from Minnesota about a week before Christmas. They had both been a bit under the weather... first Doug and then Kay... and we thought being around for a few days might take their minds off things.  By Christmas everyone was on the mend and we all decided that since we were here, and since no one was in a rush to be anywhere in particular, (and since Christmas comes but once a year)... this …

Dec 22 - The Tenn-Tom

Not many people know about it, but the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway (the Tenn-Tom for short) is an alternative route for commercial barges and private watercraft to travel between the nation's midsection and the Gulf of Mexico.

Taking advantage of the natural closeness of the Tennessee River and the Tombigbee River near the border of Mississippi and Tennessee, the oft talked about and proposed waterway became a reality in 1984 after a 12 year project that ultimately became the largest earth moving project in the history of the world. I know it boggles the mind (at least it did mine) but more than 300 million cubic yards of dirt and rock were moved... more than was moved during the building of the Panama Canal.  The major features of the waterway are 10 locks and dams, a 175-foot deep by 29 mile long cut between the Tombigbee River watershed and the Tennessee River watershed, and 234 miles of navigation channels. Total cost was just under $2 Billion.

We're camped just a few hu…

Dec 20 - Along the Tombigbee

The big storm that's plowing it's way through the heartland of the USA today, dumping a foot or more of snow over our home state of Wisconsin, is giving us a wet and overcast day here in Alabama too. Our NOAA weather radio, which I try to remember to flip on when there's a chance of severe weather overnight (we just sleep better), woke us with a tornado watch about 4:30am. A subsequent series of other warnings and watches, about every 10 minutes, interrupted REM cycles until I just surrendered to nature, got up, made some coffee, and watched the progressing storms online. Here along the Tombigbee near Demopolis Alabama there was only one squall line that kept us on our toes as it blew through with heavy rain and a few heavy gusts. It was all over by late morning but the temps are dropping from the upper 60s to the lower 50s. Supposed to freeze tonight.

I haven't mentioned that we're here at this Corps of Engineers park with our friends Doug and Kay from Minnesota. …

Dec 17 - Nature Settles Down

The National Weather Service got folks a little excited yesterday and last night, as they predicted a good chance of heavy thunderstorms and high winds for the overnight hours. They added to the effect by using the T word (tornado) in every update too. Of course, we're sitting right in the middle of the affected area in central Alabama.

Dar made sure we had a "go-to" spot all picked out in the event she decides to issue an evacuate order, bail out, and seek safety near something a little more substantial. She determined her best spot is next to a concrete bridge (not under it... no good you know) in a ravine just a few steps from our door. And my best spot, I determined, is next to her. I mean... she IS the Safety Director.

Of course the whole thing was a bust. It rained quite a bit... in fact it rained much of the day. But the only thunder we heard was weak and distant, the only wind was a gust here and there, and the only tornadoes were on the big screen... if you happe…

Dec 16 - Weather Delay and News Commentary

Originally we had planned to move today. However, a 100% chance of rain held us back and caused a delay in our westward trek. Not that we needed a reason to slow down... after all, we're in meandering mode. But with a complete set of hookups, a new solid concrete pad, and a wonderful setting next to an arm of the R.E. "Bob" Woodruff Lake in central Alabama, we decided to just chill  out here until the rain stops. Looks like Tuesday will be moving day.

We went to visit the Alabama State Capitol on Thursday. I owe the journal a post for that day and it will be forthcoming when I get around to it in the next day or two. I have made some progress with a couple other posts in the last day or two.

In the news, we see the President and Speaker of the House (Obama and Boehner) are, as of this moment, still miles apart, playing the roles of Thelma and Louise in a sick remake of the original movie of the same name. Unfortunately, they'll be pulling a trailer loaded with all 300…

Dec 13 - The Alabama State Capitol

Today we explored the historic Alabama State Capitol. Built prior to the Civil War, what it lacks in size and stature it more than makes up for in historical significance. In 1861, it temporarily served as the first Capitol of the Confederacy... where the first Confederate Congress met, formed a government, and wrote a constitution... where Jefferson Davis took the oath of office as the first President of the Confederacy. Later in 1861 they moved the Capital to Richmond Virginia.

Not large by any means, the building was built in the traditional style with a central dome and rotunda flanked by two wings that originally contained the legislature... the House on one side, Senate on the other. It's among the oldest Capitols in the United States (the 11th oldest), having been built in 1850.

While the building is still the official Capitol and does house the Governor's and a few other departmental offices, it's now mostly a museum. In 1940, the Supreme Court vacated the old bu…

Dec 12 - Sweet Home Alabama

Recent explorations of historic figures and events have motivated me to seek out and read more about these characters and the times in which they lived. First, it was a free biography (Robert Toombs Statesman, Speaker, Soldier, Sage [link]) on Robert Toombs, a key figure in the Confederacy. Although written as a glowing and biased biography, it held my interest and was insightful. One of only four confederates who was to be arrested and held after the Civil War (the others were Jefferson Davis, Alexander Stephens, and another I can't recall right now), Toombs is the only one of the four who evaded capture, spending time on the run in Havana Cuba and Europe until he returned to the USA in 1867 after the risk of arrest expired. He remained an unreconstructed rebel, never requesting a pardon for his part in the war, and was bitter about the whole affair until his death.

I'm now reading an excellent biography on FDR by Doris Kearns Goodwin titled "No Ordinary Time". Focu…

Dec 10 - FDR and Warm Springs, Part 2

After our visit to the Little White House we drove down the hill a mile or so to the town of Warm Springs. Taking a left at the light (the only traffic light in town) and about another half mile further is the main entrance to the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation.

It was here that FDR first came in 1924, seeking a cure for his paralysis. The warm springs for which the place is named flow out of the ground here at a steady temperature of 88f degrees... all 900 gallons per minute of it. That's certainly not hot, but it all worked out for the best as the name "Hot Springs" was already taken. More than the temperature, it was the curative powers of the minerals in the water that were thought by some to be beneficial.

In the late 1800s prosperous folks from the large cities of the southeastern U.S. came to Warm Springs to relax and find relief from the summer heat. But during the early 1900s other newer resort venues were drawing these customers elsewher…

Dec 10 - FDR and Warm Springs, Part 1

The decision was made to spend today in search of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Some initial research gave us this background:

FDR was born 1882 in Hyde Park New York. A distant cousin of Teddy Roosevelt, he also was born into a family of wealth and privilege. In 1905 he married Eleanor Roosevelt, a niece of Teddy Roosevelt and a fifth cousin to FDR. In rapid succession they had 6 children, one of which died in infancy. In 1911 he was elected to the New York Senate until he resigned that office in 1913 to become the Assistant U.S. Secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson. In 1920 he ran, unsuccessfully, for Vice-President with James Cox of Ohio. After the loss he returned to Hyde Park to practice law. Later, in 1928 he ran for Governor of New York and won. He served as Governor until the end of 1932 when he was elected President.

In 1921, at the age of 39, he contracted polio which resulted in permanent paralysis from the waist down. He spent years and considerable effort to regain so…

Dec 9 - On the Ridge

Sometimes, there are no roads that go from here to there. That's how I felt when plotting a course to our next destination, FD Roosevelt State Park in western Georgia.

We all know about red highways and blue highways. But if you mount-up those 2.25+ readers, look real close and squint, on some maps you can see black roads and even some light gray roads. Red and blue highways... no sweat. Black roads... usually ok.  Light gray roads? I've found that fitting the bus-house on light gray roads can be a problem. They can be too narrow, too low (clearance issues), and too restricted (mostly weight restrictions). You just don't know till you try it.

Not feeling particularly sporting for our move from High Falls to FD Roosevelt State Parks today, and with a lack of red or blue highways to choose from, we picked the best black roads we could find for the 75 mile jaunt.

Briefly, we took GA-36 through Barnseville and Thomaston to Woodland GA, where we grabbed GA-41 toward Manchest…

Dec 7 - The Recurring Dream Walk

I think I've written before about my recurring dream. In a nutshell here it is:  In my dream I'm trying to get somewhere... an airport... a meeting... a dinner engagement.  But despite my best efforts I just can't seem to get there.  Everything imaginable happens to slow me down... the craziest most improbable things... things that aren't rational or explainable. It feels like my feet are in quicksand or concrete. I wake up tense and irritated, but, once I realize it was just that dang dream again, relieved and happy I'm awake. Often there's a lingering desire to get back into the dream and complete the journey... and find some closure.

I've attributed this dream to some latent fears I must have had of missing flights, appointments, or deadlines during my life in the business world. It doesn't happen often now that I'm retired and not in the rat-race anymore. But once in a while... every month or we go again.

All that was a set-up for thi…

Dec 7 - Atlanta and the Georgia State Capitol

Decided to wait a while this morning and let the rush-hour traffic in the Atlanta area moderate a bit. My experience is that it never abates completely. For a while (and on the recommendation of some good friends) I considered parking out near the airport and catching MARTA, the public transit train system, in order to avoid parking hassles downtown. But after some research I wasn't confident this option was much better as the stations were some distance from our route. I just decided to tough it out.

The drive in went amazingly well. We'd mapped the route out in detail and encountered no real slow-downs at all. Exiting I-75 when we saw the golden dome of the Capitol, it was only a matter of a few blocks to a parking lot just a block from our target. While the parking was easy... it was expensive.

The Capitol was constructed after the Civil War between 1883 and 1889. The budget was $1 million. If you can believe it... prudent spending brought the completed building in UNDER b…

Dec 6 - High Falls State Park

Today it was all two lane roads. Well, some were barely two lanes... like a lane and a half... but there was a stripe down the middle and that's usually a sign you're going to have to share the road with oncoming logging trucks and other traffic.

The almost 100 mile drive today was otherwise pleasant as we meandered through rural Georgia. I wish I could report all the neat things we saw along the way... but this part of Georgia is mostly wooded and all we saw for most of the drive was trees lining both sides of the road. Don't get me wrong... even though the trees got a little repetitious, I greatly prefer them to housing developments, strip malls, and traffic.

At High Falls we signed up for three nights, found an agreeable campsite, and settled in. This park, like AH Stephens the last few nights, is mostly empty. Even though we're close to Atlanta and a whole bunch of people with campers, most folks are thinking about the upcoming holidays. Camping is a summer thing.…

Dec 5 - Around the Old South

The past few days we've been exploring the area around A.H. Stephens State Park and letting the days comfortably come and go as they do when you're in no hurry... have no place to be by a certain date. And we're firmly in "meander" mode now. Our original thoughts of staying here for two nights morphed into four nights with no more than a quick and unanimous voice-vote to make it so. The campground is still quiet... a few campers come and go... the camphosts have returned from their day off... but it's still peaceful solitude most of the time we're here.

We went out for a drive on Tuesday with visiting the historic town of Washington Georgia on our minds. With fine examples of antebellum homes, a vibrant courthouse square, a noted history museum, and the preserved home of Robert Toombs, one of the movers and shakers of the confederacy, we felt we could be entertained all day. What we didn't account for was that it's Monday, and on Monday the Toomb…

Dec 2 - Into Georgia

By a little after 9am yesterday we had the big wheels turning (Proud Mary keep on burning...) as we said our Good-Byes and headed down the road from Cousin Deb's house.

We'd decided that we'd slow things down a notch and only do about 150 miles on this leg... stopping at A.H. Stephens State Park just off I-20. We've been here before, 5 years ago, a visit that left us with a very positive impression of Georgia State Parks. [link to that post]

What a difference the time of year makes. In the summer, I'm sure this campground is packed... every site packed with campers, kids, dogs, smoke, burning meat, music, and more. Today, we're the ONLY people in the campground... even the camphost's rig appears vacated. So we had the exact opposite experience than we would have 6 months ago.

I liberated left-over wood from a few other campsites, enough for a nice small campfire last night... the first one in months. We listened to the crickets... or were they frogs? We …