First Ten Days in Fort Myers

Well…we’ve been here 10 days now and the weather continues to be very hot and very humid…88-90 degrees and feels like temps in the middle 90s. There’s been very little relief so far but…supposedly the weather guessers tell us…it’s gonna get a little cooler albeit raining over the weekend and cool down to the low 80s starting next Monday.

I’ll believe it when it happens.

So…what have we been doing.

We went to the Elks Lodge bingo last week and Connie won twice…hopefully that trend keeps up tonight and in future weeks. Other than that it’s pretty much been work. Neil has swapped out all our water filters, swapped out the anode rod in our hot water heater and flushed the crud out of it, swapped out the aux fuel tank filter on BAT, fixed the baseplates on a couple of our slide columns that came loose over the summer…you don’t really get very good construction in your RV even when you spend most of a quarter million bucks on it, they were formerly attached with staples but now are attached with screws so they won’t come off again…and generally just been working down his list of stuff that needed doing.

He’s getting out early every morning and working until 1030 or 1100 then has usually been taking a short bike ride before it gets to the really hot part of the day…then comes inside and we hide in here until the sun goes down and it gets a little more comfortable. 

We’ve started talking a bit about our plans for next year’s travel season…although it seems like we just got here we have to get the plan organized pretty quickly…once we get the general plan of where figured out Neil has to plan the individual stops and Connie has to find campgrounds so that Neil can make reservations…all that takes time and we know several places we want to go that will have the parks fill up quickly.

We haven’t been down to the eagle nest yet due to the heat but have been reading the nest site blog to see what’s going on. We discovered the first weekend here that Harriet has lost her mate Ozzie…as you know he was injured last spring and spent some time at the CROW Wildlife Rehab Center here in the Fort Myers are before being released near the nest. He fought a couple of suitors for Harriet the first few weeks back then disappeared for 3 months before returning in September. After another fight with M15 (Male #15) who appears to be Harriet’s new mate…he was found severely injured again and wrapped in barb wire. He was again taken to CROW but died two days later.

Au revoir Ozzie. You did well raising your offspring;but life in the wild is hard and you were taken from us too soon. Harriet will continue in your absence.

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Meanwhile…Harriet has been courted by a young adult male designated M15 by whoever monitors the Florida eagle population…she has been spending a lot of time on the nest with him while he brings potential nesting material to her for approval…at first a lot of it was rejected but he’s been getting better lately and the sides of the nest have been built up for this year’s eggs to be laid. They have mated several times so it’s assumed that he is her new mate…eagles mate for life ya know…but he’s apparently inexperienced but learning how to be an adult male eagle. As early as mid summer M15 still had some juvenile plumage but now has the white tale and head of an adult. He’s been observed stealing a fish from a Great Blue Heron and rather than eating it himself returned to the nest and called for Harriet then presented it to her…he’s learning how to supply the nest for when it has eaglets in it. Here is a shot of M15…Neil borrowed it from the eagle cam web site as it’s the only one he could find.

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That’s about it for our first 10 days here…we’re really looking forward to some cooler weather. Personally I think the weather guessers should table their fancy computers and such and go back to John’s Weather Forecasting Stone.

Weather Forecasting Stone

A couple more funnies we happened across this week.


Darned auto correct.

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Never seen anything like this before.


Well played sign guy…well played.



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Halloween at Low Key Hideaway and Transit to Fort Myers

Ok, time for the last blog of the travel season…I’ll still be posting over the winter but it will be from our winter home at site 101, Seminole Campground, North Fort Myers FL.

Lessee…what else happened at the Low Key Hideaway in Cedar Key…pretty much continued the pattern of nothingness. Following my last post Thursday the highlight of each day was Connie working a bit and then Happy Hour.

Saturday was…of course…Halloween…so after we ran up to Chiefland Fl about 30 miles for Mass in the late afternoon we came back to the Tiki Bar and decided to just hang out. We done the downtown Cedar Key block party too many people thing last year so since the Tiki Bar was staying open this year under the new management we figured on just staying around there.

Sure enough…out 1830 the costumes started showing up…first up was a couple with miniature cereal boxes all slit open and/or stabbed and then attached to their t-shirts. They were…obviously…cereal killers. Didn’t get a shot of them as they got away.

After that this flapper showed up.

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and we got a couple of shots of the general debauchery at the Tiki Bar

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and a shot of Neil and Connie along with Maureen the new owner of the LKH…a fun lady to be around. She claimed that she’s up early cleaning rooms in the hotel and doing laundry and such…but we only ever saw her over at the Tiki Bar celebrating. The rooms got done and laundry washed though…so mebbe she was tellin’ the truth.

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And of course what would the LKH be without sunset.

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Gotta tell ya…it’s quite the nice place to decompress for a week…so good in fact that we’ll be back there the last week of October next year.

Sunday we got up early and after packing, hitching, saying our until next times to Maureen and the bunch we headed off for the final 260 miles to North Fort Myers. I gotta tell ya though…all we saw was crazy people all day…driving too fast, cutting RVs and other cars off, zipping in and out of traffic and just causing us no end of  consternation. After 100 or so miles mostly on 4 lane US-19 and US-98 we got onto I-75 and headed south. First stop after that was at a Pilot that was clearly marked as a truck stop but had no place to stop. Connie gassed up the Mazda as she was about out anyway and we headed down to the next exit hoping for a place large enough to park for lunch. We did find a McDonalds and Neil was able to find a place to park but it wasn’t easy…then the McDonalds was packed and it took awhile to get lunch. By this time Connie was frazzled, we were hot, and just plain ready to be there.

Got back on the road and did the last 150 miles or so and pulled into Seminole Campground about 1430. Nobody was at the office…but we knew where to go and got quickly backed into our usual site 101. Neil spent the next couple of hours getting some of the outside stuff setup…at least until he melted in the heat and had to give up. He got up early this morning and finished the rest of the outside stuff so we’re ready to go for the next 5 months…it was still hot but luckily he got done by 1100 or so before it got really hot. 

Connie’s ready for Bingo tomorrow night and choir practice before that.


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Foley AL and Cedar Key FL

Well…it’s been 14 days since I posted anything. I guess I could tell ya that we just been so busy doing Fun Stuff© and the like that I just didna get ‘round tuit…but that would just be some BS that I was dealing out so I guess I’ll tell ya the real dealio.

We just ain’t done nuttin’.

As I discussed last time…Connie broke the drain valve on our toilet…well, actually it was the spring cartridge that closes the valve once you’re done flushing your business away and it sort worked. She claims that she didn’t break it…it broke on it’s own and she just happened to be the one that pushed on the flush lever when it broke. All I can say is though…she was in there, tromped on the lever, it went snap and Neil was nowhere in sight…so who else’s fault is it than hers?? That’s my story and Ima stickin’ to it.

Anyways…instead of staying 4 nights in Coffeeville we ended up just staying 2…that got us to the Foley Elks Lodge #2782 on Wednesday shortly after lunch instead of Friday. Neil got a recommendation from Chris who runs the RV park there for Peterson’s RV Repair so we called them up and made an appointment for the next day. Sure enough…shortly after lunch on Thursday Nathan showed up…he was a friendly, trustworthy looking sort of guy and after a quick analysis turned out we needed the aforementioned spring cartridge. He wasn’t sure which of the 2 options we needed so headed off with our toilet model number to either get the part from the shop or get it on order.

He called back a couple of hours later and told us the part would be in around 1100 Friday morning and that he would be over to install it then. Sure enough…shortly after noon on Friday Nathan returned and fixed the problem in about 20 minutes of installation time…cost us a grand total of $110 and the part was $35. I can definitely recommend Peterson’s RV Repair if you’re ever in the Foley/Gulf Shores/Robertsdale AL area…good service, good prices and friendly folks.

We stayed in Foley through the following Friday morning…I wish we could tell ya all about all the cool stuff we did but as I already mentioned we done nuttin’. Drove over to Pensacola Naval Air Station one day and got booze, a haircut for Neil and some groceries from the commissary. Drove over to Mobile one day to visit Neil’s parents at the cemetery and have lunch with his older brother Ron.

We installed some silk flowers at the grave  site and visited his parents for a bit then talked a bit with Ron until it was time for lunch…after a brief bit of discussion we headed over to the Dew Drop Inn for some hotdogs. The Dew Drop has been in business since 1924 but was moved to the current location on Old Shell Road in 1937…it had to be relocated away from directly across the street from the Old Shell Road Elementary School to get a beer license. It’s been pretty much the same since it’s last remodeling in 1967…the owners believe in the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” theory. Among it’s many fans is a guy ya mighta heard tell of before…a fella by the name of Jimmy Buffet who grew up in Mobile and according to his Parrothead Handbook the Dew Drop is where he first developed his burger lust…so it may very well be the source of the original “Cheeseburger in Paradise” that ya may have heard of as well.

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We had some of their famous hot dogs and a couple of sweet tea’s and talked about growing up in Mobile and Neil’s parents and siblings for awhile until it was time to head home. Stopped off at the Whole Paycheck (aka Whole Foods) for some duck breasts on the way back home…can’t find them down in Florida…then headed back across the bay to Foley.

Anyways…that was about the highlight of the week…excepting for a couple other eating experiences. We went out to the Acme Oyster House one evening and sat at the bar drinking brews and eating oysters…mighty good. Went over to the burger joint formerly known as The Dock for lunch…it’s now known as The Gulf but is otherwise pretty much the same as it always was…great food on the beach.

We went up to the lodge one night for fish fry and other nights for Happy Hour. Other than that Connie worked, Neil worked on our winter maintenance and upgrade schedule, and we did not much else.

Friday morning we got up early for our 380 mile drive to the Low Key Hideaway in Cedar Key…our favorite home away from home if ya know what  I mean. Before leaving we had to accomplish one last southern AL tradition…Neil headed over to the local franchise and was there at the Krispy Kreme shop right as the “hot donuts available” light went on…the hot light means that the delectable morsels of golden brown deliciousness are still warm and ready for consumption.

Yes my friends…Krispy Kreme’s finest Hot Glazed Donuts…the pinnacle of the donut maker’s art and really the only donuts worth the calories except for maybe the Dunkin Donuts Maple Frosted model.

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Still warm, soft, and gooey from the fryer. With our hot coffee they lasted about 3 or 4 bites each and that was breakfast.

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One the donuts had been dispatched we got hitched up and were on the road shortly after 0800. We disregarded the first few instructions from our truck GPS that would have taken us back up AL-59 though the traffic to I-10 and instead took the 4 lane, high speed, no traffic Baldwin Beach Expressway…from our analysis it was shorter than 59 would have been anyway, got us to I-10 east farther east than 59 would have, and had no traffic and a higher speed limit to boot. Glad we went that way. From I-10 it was east 250 miles or so then we got off onto US-19 which was again a 4 lane high speed highway although it’s not limited access so one does have to watch out for the at-grade crossings. 

From previous trips to the area we again made the wise decision. The GPS wants you to turn left at Chiefland FL and head down County Road 347 to it’s intersection with County Road 24 as this is the shorter (by about 4 miles) route. The trouble is that 347 is narrow, curvy and has no shoulders so it’s a pretty lousy 24 mile road down to 24 and while it’s doable with the house in tow…it definitely ain’t the way to go unless ya got no alternative. Instead…we took the 4 miles longer route and stayed on US-19 through Chiefland and then turned right directly onto 24. County Road 24 on the other hand…is straight as an arrow and has both wider lanes and shoulders so it’s definitely the better way…once we deviated from the GPS’s suggested route our estimated arrival time changed by 3 minutes…big whoop.

We pulled into the Low Key Hideaway about 1730 and parked in front for a couple of minutes…Neil had called earlier in the day and Amber told him that we were in RV site 3 so Connie want into the Tiki Bar and grabbed one of our RV site mates to help her block traffic. We had pulled in front from the right heading to the left in this photo of us in site 3 so after Connie and our site mate blocked the road he pulled across the road and got backed into our site in one turn since we were blocking the road. As we were pretty tired after a long day we did utilities only and then headed over to the Tiki Bar for a beer. We met Maureen who is the new owner…former owners Pat and Cindy sold the place to her in September and are opening a photo/art/antique gallery in town…they’re going to be like those guys on American Pickers and drive around buying cool stuff to resell. Anyway…Maureen is a pretty cool lady and will be a worthy keeper of the Lo Key tradition.

Our setup in site 3.

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Shot showing site 3 and our extremely long commute over to the Tiki Bar…it’s just behind the trees on the right side of this photo. Rough I tell ya, rough.

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Again…I wish I could tell ya about all the cool stuff we did here…but there ain’t been much. We rested over the weekend except for happy hour and dinner. Tuesday and Wednesday we spent cleaning the inside of the house of all the Alaska dust/dirt and all the orange clay dust that drifted in in Foley. There was some construction going on next door to the Elks Lodge in Foley…the city is putting in a whole bunch of soccer fields which will be really nice later when they’re done…but they’re still pushing the dirt around at this point, it’s all red clay, and we were directly downwind of the construction all week.

Cleaning involved pulling everything out of just about every cabinet in the rig…cleaning the inside, cleaning the stuff and putting it all back away. Washed every bit of flatware and kitchen utensils we own, floors, nooks and crannies. We spent probably 8 hours in total doing nothing but cleaning…but at least it’s pretty much all done now and we will have an easier first week in Fort Myers next week.

Other than that…so far we’ve had happy hour, watched the entertainment at the Tiki Bar and Connie did a bit of work. We did get a couple of shots of the sunset the other day when it was nice.

Straight out of the camera.

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After post processing in Lightroom and Photomatix Pro to put the bracketed HDR images together…this is much more what it looked like to the naked eye.

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He walked over to the dock and got a second shot a couple minutes later.

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Neil made these fantastic Pineapple Glazed Ribs for dinner last evening. They’re supposed to be grilled on indirect heat over the grill at 275 degrees for 3 hours…but with a single burner grill we can’t do indirect heat…so he baked them in our oven at 275 for 3.5 hours then glazed them and ran them under the broiler for a couple minutes to char/sear the glaze. Darned if they weren’t delicious…we’re definitely keeping this recipe to make again. Fall of the bone tender and super flavor although I think he’s gonna put a little hot sauce in the glaze next time to counter the sweetness of the pineapple juice.

Tonight we’re going to eat at Tony’s…it’s supposed to be the best place in town but we’ve not eaten there…we’ll let ya know how it goes.

Don’t know what we’ll do Friday and Saturday…although after Mass on Saturday afternoon we’ll most probably go down to town here in Cedar Key…they have a Halloween street party and we’ll have some brews and pick up something to eat somewhere along the way. Then Sunday morning we’re off for our remaining 260 miles down to Seminole Campground in North Fort Myers…we’ve done about double our normal annual mileage this summer and are more than ready to be there. Connie’s all ready for Bingo on Tuesday night and choir starting next week.

A couple funny photos we happened across this week.

Alaskan flat tire.

Alaskan Flat Tire


Best Warning Sign Ever

Well played sign guy, well played.


How to forecast the weather.

Weather Forecasting Stone



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Tuscaloosa AL and Sunflower AL

OK, in my last post I just talked about dinner on Sunday in Tuscaloosa…but what I shoulda talked about was where we went.

We set off from the Elks Lodge about 1620 or so and decided to run by the stadium on the way and  get a couple of photos. After having quite a detour around the city as there is a lot of bridge construction we ended up at the stadium and took a few shots then headed on over for dinner.

Our dinner was at Dreamland BBQ; which is pretty much an institution in these parts. It started way back when when the owner had a dream to open a restaurant on the property next to his house and all he knew was BBQ. As is very common in the south…he was an African American man…and from long experience eating the food in Alabama the very best BBQ joints are usually run by elderly black gentlemen who learned to smoke meat at their father’s and grandfather’s knees. There’s nothing racial about smoking meat of course…but a high percentage of the best joints are run by men or women like this…dunno why except they know good BBQ when they see it.

Dreamland has a dozen or so locations and these days all of them save 1 have a varied menu…pork, brisket, sausage, ribs and all the fixins. The original however…remains true to it’s roots and serves a menu consisting of ribs and white bread. They did relent 20 or so years back and now have sides and banana puddin’ for your sweet tooth…but as far as meat goes it’s ribs or…ribs.

We ordered a slab and 2 sides…beans for Neil and tater salad for Connie. The ribs come with a mustard sauce on top of the rub and slow smoking and were rich, meaty, and delicious. Our waitress Gwen brought them over along with the sides and a couple of sweet teas…no brews in Alabama on Sunday ya know.

A few shots of the inside of the place…it’s in sort of a run down looking neighborhood but again…most of the really good BBQ places ain’t much to look at from the outside. The inside and the food however…are another thing entirely.

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Here’s a shot of Bryant Denny Stadium which is located on Paul W. Bryant Drive in the middle of campus…and some shots of a couple of coaches who ya mighta heared tell of somewhere along the way. It was nice and quiet on a Sunday afternoon…quite a contrast to being filled with 100,000+ screaming Tide and Hog fans the evening before. It was hard to tell the fans apart on the TV screen as both were wearing red. The game itself was won by the Tide although it was a lot closer than we thought it would be…despite making lots of yards between the 20s and being way ahead in the stats we were trailing late in the 3rd quarter 3-7 thanks to some inspired goal line defense by the Razorbacks and a couple of turnovers by the Tide’s offense. Late in the third we got an 89 yard TD pass when the receiver was 10 yards behind the defense. A turnover by Arkansas led to another quick score and a long run by our running back got us 24 unanswered points in about 10 minutes. Arkansas scored a meaningless touchdown on a lucky break late in the game to make the final score 27-14. Next up is Texas A&M this Saturday.

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We headed out early the next morning and after a 140 mile drive got parked at the Service COE Campground on the Tombigbee River just outside of Coffeville AL…our stop here was to allow us to visit Sunflower AL so Connie could see the land that the Laubenthal Land and Timber Company owns there. A few shots from the campground.

Tug and tow passing by while Neil was grilling some brats for dinner.

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Foggy, just after dawn shots.

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Nice afternoon reflection shot in the calm waters of Thompson’s Shoal…the name of this section of the river. There’s a lock and dam just downstream about a mile to the right of this shot.

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Tuesday we headed off to Sunflower AL…the LL&T as it’s known in the family owns about 5,000 or so acres there between US-43 and the Tombigbee River on both sides of Sunflower Road…it’s mostly pine forest with some hardwood areas over on the river. The land and timber are managed by Gulf Lumber (now known as ConFor) as a renewable resource with a sustainable level of cutting. Makes us a few bucks every year.

We only had some vague descriptions of the property location from Neil’s brother Ron so drove around a bit. Along the way we ran into the on-site manager for the Bull Pen Hunting Club which leases most of the land for hunting purposes only. He passed us on one of the dirt roads as we were wandering around and quickly turned around to see just who the heck we were. Once Neil introduced ourselves he pointed us in the right direction for the property and headed off. Here are a few shots we got along the way. 

Monument about the salt works back in the 1860s…this was before Neil’s ancestors bought the land after coming south.

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The original Laubenthal homestead…not sure who actually lived here back in the day…it was occupied by Neil’s Uncle Junior (real name George Jr.) back in the 60s and early 70s…he was the onsite manager for the company back then. After he passed the corporation engaged Gulf Lumber for future management operations.

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Some of our lumber on the hoof…or truck as it were. This has been harvested and will be trucked off to the plant…can’t tell whether it’s destined for lumber or telephone poles but probably lumber since the trunks aren’t straight like poles need to be.

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An example of the modern timber management practices used by ConFor; as you can see the trees are planted in nice rows which means that this area has been previously harvested and replanted about 20something years ago. When timber is harvested it’s done in narrow strips like this rather than clear cutting large swaths…this is better for the wildlife which lives on the land, enhances regrowth, minimizes the possibility of fire damage and cuts a sustainable amount of timber per year.

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Finally a shot of Alex…ya gotta admit he’s a cute li’l guy.

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After our visit to Sunflower we went home and Neil grilled a steak for dinner. Wednesday morning we headed off for Foley AL and passed through downtown Mobile on the way. Some 140 miles later we pulled into the Foley Elks Lodge where we paid a whopping $155 for a 9 day stay with full hookup 50 amp power. We were originally going to stay in Coffeeville until Friday morning but the spring cartridge in our toilet broke last Saturday and while it still works it only sort of operates correctly to open and close the flush valve. Since we weren’t sure how hard the repair would be and/or how long the parts would take to come in we decided to head for Foley 2 days earlier…this would allow us to be in a big enough town to get it fixed. After parking and setup…we got an appointment with Nathan from Peterson’s RV Repair who came by…he just left to go and either get parts from the shop or order them but the repair is pretty simple he said and if he has to order parts he will be back Friday or Monday to install them.

We had some cheese pasta for dinner last night as our tummies were acting up a bit and Neil took out some chicken thighs for tonight. We’ll run up to the lodge bar afterwards and have a brewski or two I’m thinking.


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Knoxville TN and Tuscaloosa AL

After our stay in Huddleston VA we headed over to Knoxville to see Neil’s baby sister MJ early Friday morning  Oct 3. It was a lousy day to travel…drizzled off and on through both setup and departure and throughout the day with a couple of periods of pretty heavy rain; not stopping until just a few miles before our arrival at the Raccoon Valley RV Park in Heiskell TN just north of Knoxville. We pulled into our usual camping location when we visit Knoxville…far enough out of town to be comfortable but close enough to visit. Our original plan was for MJ to come by and we would grill burgers but Neil was feeling poorly most of the day so we cancelled that and just stayed home.

Saturday we went over in the early afternoon and watched Alabama trash Georgia 38-10 and ate the burgers we would have had the evening before before heading back home about 2000 or so.

Sunday MJ had a lunch date with a friend from college so we said our see ya later’s Saturday evening and stayed home and ate a steak on Sunday.

Monday we headed about 40 miles southeast from Knoxville to Wears Valley TN which is right on the northwest border of Smoky Mountains National Park. Connie spent the afternoon working as she was getting her student paperwork out. Tuesday was our first Fun Stuff© day so we headed off for a driving tour of the Cades Cove Loop Road followed by a drive up to the summit of Clingman’s Dome which is one of the higher peaks in the park.

We were absolutely amazed at the number of people in the park for a Tuesday afternoon in October…it took us almost 3 hours to do the 11 mile loop around Cades Cove…stop and go with two major problems on the way…first was people waiting on the 1 lane road for parking spaces at the visitor center and second was a bear jam where despite the rangers telling people to move along the idiots were stopping to take pictures of the bear and getting out of the cars to do so. It was only a 200 or so pound black bear but it’s big enough to do some damage to you if it wanted to.

After the loop we headed up Clingman’s Dome and got some nice shots from up there then headed home with a stop by the Iron Boar Saloon…it was a biker/Mexican food bar and both the brews, tacos, and fajita soft tacos were outstanding.

Wednesday was a work day and get her nails done day for Connie…we stopped by the Falls Restaurant on the way home for a short happy hour…then Thursday again we had a hike scheduled up to Laurel Falls which is a double drop of about 80 feet total with a 2.6 mile or so round trip. After that we headed home for a shower and got as much of the house ready to travel as we could…Friday was a scheduled 330 mile day so we dumped tanks and disconnected everything but power then hitched since we had a large site. For dinner we drove back down to the Iron Boar since the food was so good. Had an appetizer platter which was ok but not as good as the tacos and soft tacos from the first time.

Two different shots of the same set of rapids…the difference between the two is shutter speed in the camera. The second shot has a lot slower speed which is still fast enough to keep unmoving things from losing focus but slow enough so that the fast moving water gives much more of the blurry, flowing water effect.

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One of the homes on the Cades Cove Loop Road

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Tree and field where we had lunch on the side of the road.

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Panoramic view of the Cades Cove looking south from the visitor center.

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The bear causing the traffic jam…lousy photo but Neil didn’t stop to compose, he just poked the camera out the window and hit the shutter.

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Another bear…sow and a cub eating acorns when we were almost done with the Cades Cove Loop Road.

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Views from the summit of Clingman’s Dome…you can see from the haze in the distant valleys…they call them hollers in these parts…why the mountains are named what they are. This was an exceptionally clear day for this park…Neil’s been here probably 10 times total although the last time was 40 years ago and you just don’t see many brilliant, clear days like you do out in the western mountains.

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Neil especially liked this one with the sun rays coming down from the top.

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Some shots of Laurel Falls.

Upper drop.

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Lower drop.

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Upper drop top section.

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Entire upper drop.

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Friday we got up early again…and were packed and on the road before 0800 for our 330 mile transit to Tuscaloosa AL where we spent the weekend. We arrived at the Elks Lodge in Tuscaloosa, got checked in and parked and headed into the lodge for dinner and brews.

Saturday we watched the Alabama Arkansas game in the lodge and Sunday was Mass and dinner.

Monday we’re off to Coffeeville for 2 days…we were originally scheduled for 4 days there but the flushing mechanism on our toilet is breaking so we’ll just stay in Coffeeville 2 nights then head on to Foley which is a larger city so we’ll be able to find a mobile RV repair guy to come and fix it.


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Richmond VA and Huddleston VA

We left early Monday morning 21 September from Indianapolis headed towards Richmond. Our first day was long…about 410 miles to an overnight stop at Summer Wind RV Park in Grassy Meadows WV…pretty nice spot although we did have a little adventure on the way.

We normally keep our GPS set to avoid tolls since the charge for BAT and the house is pretty big. While this is almost always a great idea…our suggestion is that if you’re in East Alaska, er, West Virginia…just pay the toll instead. We were headed south and east on I-64 and part of that is the WV Turnpike. Our GPS…since it was in toll avoidance mode…cheerfully directed us off onto US-60 and it looked like we went through a couple of small towns for about 60 miles then got back on I-64 south of the tolls to continue.

That worked fine for the first 20 miles…then we got to the end of a relatively nice 2 lane highway and turned up a steep hairpin switchback turn that started climbing up a ridge. Before we knew it…we were deep in banjo country…Connie told me to drive faster, she heard banjos. Trouble was…you couldn’t drive any faster. We spent the next 40 miles averaging about 30 miles an hour, twisting up and down the ridges and hollers, rounding blind curves, and a great deal of time spent in the wrong lane to avoid tree limbs that looked low. We kept seeing semi trailers headed the other way so we knew we weren’t lost but we were really glad to get to the end of the no toll portion and get back onto a decent road.

So…Pro Tip…in WV just pay the darned tolls.

We arrived at Grassy Meadows and got set up for our overnight…full hookup but we only did power although Neil did dump the gray tank in the AM since our next destination at Pocahontas State Park has no sewer hookups at the site. Hit the road again about 0800 Tuesday morning and arrived in Chesterfield VA at Pocahontas State Park for our 6 day stay a little after noon.

With the UCI World Bicycle Championships in Richmond this week…we figured that the RV park would be pretty full and had pretty much resigned ourselves to a lousy, hard to get into site with no satellite visibility. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find the park only about 20% full which meant we had our pick of sites. We drove around once and the sites we were in the last 3 times were all open so that meant good satellite views but we ended up instead in site 110…a great, long site with excellent views and satellite visibility. We had lusted over this site several times in the past but it was never open when we arrived. Best of all…the group camping site is just across from it so after Neil moved the “Don’t Park Here” sign temporarily he was able to pull forward into the group site which made backing in easy-peasy. Here’s a shot of our setup.

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We got setup…now that we’re off the caravan we put the decorations, flag, and sign and we like that much better than a series of overnight stops…that just ain’t much fun. After that we headed over to Bryan and Jen’s to see Alex and ate dinner with them before heading out with them to get some frozen yogurt. We picked up the car while we were there as well so now we’re a 2 vehicle family again.

Wednesday we headed out about 1000 or so for Richmond…it was the day for the Men’s Elite Time Trial Race. We had made parking arrangements about 3 miles from the finish line; the race folks have parking with a shuttle back and forth so we figured that was easiest. We ran into Wayne (Jen’s mother’s husband) near the finish line so after lunch at a local bistro hung out with him and his friend Tom for the afternoon. Tom turned out to be a bike racing fan as well so Connie and Tom had a great time. Neil thought it was so-so and was happiest when the sun went behind the clouds periodically as it was a warm day. None of Connie’s favorites won the race so when it was over we walked the 6 or 8 blocks back to the shuttle point and on arrival back at the car headed home. After a quick shower at the bath house…since no sewer connections at the sites here…we grabbed the steak we had taken out for dinner and headed over to Bryan’s again. He cooked the steak along with one he had taken out and we had cheesy pasta and the last of Neil’s caramel pecan brownies to go with it.

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Thursday Neil went over and got BAT’s oil changed and the front end aligned since it was wearing the front right tire unevenly. Connie headed off for a mammogram and then we went over to Bryan’s…gee, starting to notice a pattern here…again for dinner. And we’ll be over there again on Friday…Jen’s working days of course at school and Bryan leaves at 1400 or so for an evening/closing shift at work so we’re giving Jen’s mom/daycare sitter the day off and we’ll watch Alex in between. Besides…we are going over to mooch some free laundry anyway. After that…well, it’s Jen’s birthday so we’re going to take her out to celebrate.

Saturday we stayed at home mostly and Sunday went over to the bike race again…it was the Men’s Elite Road Race which was eventually won by Peter Sagan…Connie claimed that some other guys were definitely going to fight it out and the winner would be one of them but Sagan blew them all away on the last hill and held on for the victory.

I can’t believe they let the photographers go out on the course like this…maybe 20 yards from the finish line with bikes spread across the road coming toward them at 30 or 35 miles an hour…the poor bikers have to dodge around the camera guys. They coulda easily put them up on the stand to the right and made it a lot safer.

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A few more photos from around the finish line.

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Monday morning we got up early and hit the road for our 130 mile transit down to Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Huddleston VA…down in the southwest corner near Roanoke. Turned out we were the only RV in the campground most of the 4 days we were there; the only drawback was that it mostly rained the whole time…we were in the middle of a bunch of fronts coming in off the Gulf of Mexico and bringing wave after wave of rain our way. We did get out on the one good day (Wednesday) and looked around the park a little but Connie was having one of her inner ear vertigo spells and was pretty dizzy the whole week so we didn’t do much hiking. We did spot this snapping turtle in the road and Neil got some photos…he wasn’t moving so we had to drive on the grass to get around it. We also got a couple of shots of the lake itself. Other than the single outing we went out to the local town to a place named East Lake Restaurant for dinner and Connie worked. Neil re-stowed the basement, the trunk of the car, and the back seat of BAT to get all our stuff back in it’s normal 2 vehicle travel alignment. 

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Smith Mountain Lake…like most lakes in the eastern mountains…is artificial and was formed primarily for hydro electric and flood control purposes with recreation being a secondary purpose. It’s out in the middle of nowhere pretty much…and is your typical mountain valley lake with lots of shoreline and coves compared to the overall size of the lake. We would definitely consider staying there again…the only real drawbacks were the stink bug population as it’s getting into fall here and the limited number of spaces we would be able to get the house into easily. The ranger gave us a choice of 5 pull throughs and while the one we ended up in was great the other 4 would have been problematic as far as getting in and out of them. She didn’t offer us any of the back ins…not sure whether this was because we had paid for a pull through or some sort of size limit…but there are 6 or 8 back in sites that we would easily fit into as well…we’ll have to keep that in mind if we stay here again. The other drawback is the out in the middle of nowhere …there’s a pub about 2 miles away but it’s seasonal and this late in the season (late September) it’s only open on the weekends…and it’s a 10 or 12 mile drive to the other town that’s open more year round. The state park is on the east side of the lake and most of the civilization is over on the west side…there’s another commercial park over nearer to town that we’ll check out if we come here again.

After a 4 day stay here…we’ll be off early in the morning on Oct 2 to get over to Heiskell TN right outside of Knoxville…we’ll be staying at the Escapees Raccoon Valley location again. Neil’s sister MJ will be up tomorrow evening for burgers and we’ll go over to her house on Saturday for the Alabama football game, a little laundry, and some unmetered Internet…the new Mac OS X El Capitan was released this week and Neil needs to download it so we can upgrade. We’ll just stay in Knoxville for the weekend then on Monday we’ll move 40 miles or so over to Smoky Mountains National Park for a few days…it’s supposed to not rain next week so hopefully we’ll be able to get in some hikes. After that we’re off to Tuscaloosa AL for the weekend thence on southwards to Coffeeville AL.

Coffeeville has 2 attractions for us…first off it’s a nice COE campground and we’re just gradually moving south before our last two weeks in the Pensacola FL and Cedar Key FL areas before arriving back in Fort Myers. Second…it’s right near Sunflower AL which is where the Laubenthal Land and Timber Company property is located. For those of you who have never heard of this…LL&T was founded back in the 50s by Neil’s paternal grandfather and his 4 brothers. It’s been a lumber and paper pulp wood operation since…was turned into a corporation in 1960 and we have some shares that give us a nice little check once a year. Anyways…Neil hasn’t been up to the property since he was a boy scout back in the ‘60s and Neil has never seen it so we’re going to run over from Coffeeville one day and drive around so she can check it out. We’ll probably have to do a little looking around to find the property and look at it but it will be the adventure portion of the tour as we frequently say.


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Nice Few Days in Indianapolis IN

We’ve had a pretty restful few days here in Indy…

Thursday Connie worked pretty much all day…she has all the spots she needs now for assigning her fall students that start rotation next month…so she needs to look at each one’s requests, her available spots, and the priority order for assigning the students and fill in the boxes. She spent the day getting organized on that front. In the late afternoon we went off and got some groceries then came home for dinner.

Friday we headed out right after lunch to take a look downtown…our destination was the state capital building and then a visit over to the Soldiers and Sailors memorial nearby. After that we had a shower and put on some nice clothes before heading over to Gallagher’s II for some brews and pizza that the menu said was award winning…it was pretty good and we had leftovers for lunch on Saturday.

Looking up at the 100 foot high stained glass ceiling in the rotunda.

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The governor’s office…probably 5 or 6 times bigger than our entire house. We especially liked the table on the left side which is all inlaid wood in the shape of the state with a different wood for each county. Pretty neat.

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Chandelier in the House chamber.

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Chandelier and stained glass windows in the Supreme Court chamber…this is one of the 18 state capital buildings that has all 3 branches of government housed in the same structure.

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We got some new photos of Alex as well…he’s learned to sit up and is starting to crawl as well.

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Saturday Connie had some more work to catch up on…she won’t be able to work Monday through Wednesday this week due to travel and the bike race in Richmond so Saturday was pretty much her last day she’ll be able to work this period…although she may get a few more hours here and there during the week.


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