Friday, January 30, 2009

Planes, Planes & More

After leavin' the Battleship Park we decided to stay the night in Mobile. We went to a PA park called McCoy RV Park, thank goodness we are self contained. The only bathroom was absolutely horrible, dirty, filthy & flooded. Had to change sites three times to find electric that was workin'. Needless to say this is one PA park we would not recommend and will never stay at again.

Next day we were off to Florida, we wanted to see the aviation museum in Pensacola. The National Naval Aviation Museum is located on the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. Hint, Don't try to access the base if you have a weapon in your vehicle or rig. The museum is free for all and when we arrived we just got in on a guided tour, narrated by a Navy veteran. The tour started with the Navy's first airplane and progressed thru the years. It is an excellent stop as they have some 'one of a kind' aircraft. Towards the end of the guided tour we had to run to catch our tour of the parking apron outside. Again the bus driver was very knowledgeable about all the aircraft on the 'Flight Line' and they each have a story. When we returned we toured the museum for about one hour, till closin'. Well Linda decided that we should come back tomorrow & I agreed wholeheartedly.


Searchin for a place to lite we decided on Big Lagoon State Park as it was about ten miles and we had stayed here last year on Linda's Birthday Trip to Pensacola. The next day we returned to the base and first visited the Lighthouse which is across from the museum. Then it was off to Fort Barrancas, a site of an early US fort and a spanish fort that predated it.


I thought we were going to see ruins or a reconstructed fort, but these are the real thing. The US Army engineering officer assigned to construct the fort, in the 1839, elaborated on the design of the existing 1787 Spanish fort by building into the existing dune. By doing so they protected the masonry walls with the dune. The fort was constructed with slave labor and has 20' walls 4' thick, made of brick.


Typical passageway in the fort.

The earlier Spanish fort was called a "Water Battery" as they would fire the cannon at about water level and 'skip' cannon balls across the surface towards the water line of enemy ships. The forts are administered by the National Park Service and have free admission.

We then went back to the museum and spent several hours finishing our tour. This is an excellent stop for anyone interested in aviation, history or just a wonderful museum. Linda didn't think she would be to interested but she say's she was Wowed!


This plane was in Pocahontas Park in Vero Beach for children to play in for 40 years. It is the last F2H-2P Banshee in existence today.

We drove up the road into Alabama to Conecuh National Forest to spend the next two days. Our stop was Open Pond Campground, a really nice NF camp. Four loops 2 with W&E, one primitive and one for groups. Sites are large, private, paved, level and wonderful for $12. We chose a lakefront site but decided to move, due to the cold wind the next morning. We had a wonderful fire then showered our smoky bodies and retired for the night.

We'll see what tomorrow brings as we're,

Dancin' on the Wind.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Battleship Park, Mobile, Alabama

We left Gulf Shores headed to Mobile. We wanted to see the USS Alabama at Battleship Park along I-10. The day was drizzly, dreary so we stopped at the park for some information and decided to return the following day. Trying to locate a park for the night we drove south towards Foley, AL, which wound up being a lot further than we wanted to be from Battleship Park.

Instead we decided to go to Lambert's Cafe', where they "Throw the Rolls". The original restaurant is in Sikeston, MO and we saw this on the Food Channel and had to experience it. It was a great dining experience and more food than one person should eat. Most meals come with entree' and two vegetables and "Thrown Rolls" of coarse. Everyone is also welcome to what they call "Passarounds", macaroni & tomatoes, fried okra, blackeyed peas & fried potato's with onions. Moderately priced but an excellent value considering all the vittles they serve ya'.



"Throwin' the Rolls"


Servin' some Possum

We realized we were getting to far from the Battleship Park so we decided we'd do an over-niter at WalMart. Quietest WalMart we've ever experienced. We returned to Battleship Park and bought 'Senior' tickets for the day. The USS Alabama sitting in front of you is massive and overwhelming. Outside they have many static aircraft & Amour displays, SR-71 Blackbird, F4, F18, tanks, howitzers & Helicopters. Then inside to the museum with more aircraft, then on to the USS Drum, a 'Gato' class submarine from WWII. The USS Drum is the oldest United States Submarine left in the world.


While progressing thru the 'Drum' we met Tom. Tom is retired, served on a nuclear sub during his hitch in the Navy. Tom is a volunteer who spends his time, 70-80 hours a week, working on the sub. He and a young lady, Leslie, who is an employee of the park, work to restore and rebuild the aged submarine. Tom was nice enough to give us a little behind the scenes look at sub life and the reconstruction of this submarine. He allowed us to peek behind locked hatches in different areas of the ship. He explained systems on this sub that are still used on today's subs and allows them to obtain parts. He showed us different spare's that they have discovered onboard and have since restored or rebuilt and placed on display. Tom we enjoyed our time with you immensely, you are a fountain of knowledge with regard to this submarine.


Our "Thanks" Tom

Now I mentioned Tom is a volunteer, he spends his time and his own money on this project, because the United States Submarine Veterans organization does not have the funding necessary to restore the ship. They rely strictly on donations for funding to preserve and restore this ship. If anyone would like to make a tax deductible contribution to the preservation & restoration fund for this noble ship, checks may be sent;

Mobile Bay Base USSVI

Attn: Drum Maintenance/Restoration Fund

PO Box 190756

Mobile, AL 36619-0756

After spending so much time aboard the wonderful USS Drum we had to hustle to see the battleship. They have three different self guided tours and we quickly did all three. The ship is massive and there is a lot to see. After going back & forth, up & down on the ship I wanted to get on deck to see the 'guns'. Well not to be disappointed this ship has some guns I wouldn't want aimed in my direction.


WOW, Six 16" guns forward & 3 to the rear.


These are the Projectiles for the guns. I think they were 2700 lbs each.

Now if someone was aim'n bullets this size at me I'd wanna' be about a thousand miles away. With the nine 16" guns aboard this ship is capable of pourin' out 24,300 lbs of hot steel, every 30 seconds, up to 21 miles in the distance.


Here's a little perspective on the size of these guns.

I have more pictures of the USS Drum & USS Alabama at our Picasa album, to view them click here.

All for now hope to see ya down the road as we're,

Dancin' on the Wind.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Final Frontier

We did the last leg of the frontier road, the Natchez Trace today. After leavin' Rocky Springs Campground we headed south to Port Gibson. Port Gibson was declared by General Grant to be to beautiful to burn. Outside Port Gibson is the ruins of the Windsor Plantation, a 21,000 acre cotton plantation. The home must have been beautiful judging by the remaining columns.


This home was built with all slave labor and had 'only' 8 bedrooms.

Here I been blabbin' about The 'Trace' and I aint' shown the first picture of the durn' thing. Well here's a couple of pics for ya.


This is what the 'Trace' looks like at the northern end.


This is more at the southern end down towards Natchez. Here it is eroded and sunken due to the soft loamy soil.

Since we finished up the 'Trace' we've slowly been making our way to the coast. We were here right after 'Katrina" in 2005 when we were doing cleanup and we wanted to see how the Mississippi coast had progressed. Besides that we were still freezin' our butts off. Some rebuilding has occurred in 3 years but most of it is commercial, along US 90, that was once lined with stately homes, there are just slabs today. Remnants of what was once million dollar homes. By our guesstimate 95% is still not rebuilt.

On the way south we stayed in a Mississippi Water Park, PA of coarse, very nice, woodsy, full hookup, lakeside, 90 channels of cable TV, all for $11.50. Then we made it to the coast and found a park in Long Beach, MS. ,PA, W,E & Sewer for $12.50. Our neighbors there told us that today was 'Senior Day' at the Hollywood Casino and seniors eat for 1/2 price at the buffet, so it was off to gorge ourselves at the Casino. Really good food and too much of it. The next day we didn't know where we were headed except east and stayin' along the shore. We wound up down the road about 15 miles at Gulf Islands National Seashore. They have a nice campground with water & electric for $16 a night.


Guess who's making a scratch apple pie?

The camp is so nice we decided to stay a second day and again our new neighbors asked if we wanted to go to the Casino for Buffet, $23.50 and we got Players Club cards which gave us $10 each credit to play slots, Linda came away with $9 and me $8. So we had some fun and both ate for $6. I think this is the place to be in the winter, our neighbors say you pick up a little book and it lists all the deals at the Casino's, 2 for 1, free play money, discounted meals, sounds like heaven. All we got to do is get someone, I won't mention which of us is older, a Golden Age pass at 62 and we can stay here for $8 a day, eat ourselves till we pop, and gamble with their money. On certain days they give $20 free play money when you eat, so if luck would run right we could eat for free, gamble a little with the casino's money, and win some to pay for our site here. Well we'll see what tomorrow will bring.

Hope to see ya down the road as were

Dancin' on the Wind.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Let's try a little Catch up

Well I haven't posted for several days cause I been freezin' my butt off and just didn't feel creative. The temps have been downright frigid for a flat-lander from the 'Sunshine State' like me. Thursday's high was 22 degrees, Friday's was 35, Saturday was more like it at 55. Our water froze in the fresh water tank in the camper twice goin' down the highway cause we can't run with the heat in the camper when we're travelin'. Made for some interestin' times when we stopped, till we figured what was goin' on.

Started down the 'Trace' on Thursday but it was so cold that we didn't get out an' walk to a lot of the sites. Havin' to bundle all up with coats, hat and gloves each time we stopped was a pain and the weather was bitter.


A Double Arched Bridge at Birdsong Hollow


Here's one of the flowing streams we stopped at on Thursday, "Frozen"

Stopped at Meriwether Lewis Campground, beautiful but it's to cold to stay at 6 degrees this morn. We stayed the night at J.P.Coleman State Park Thursday night in the corner of TN, AL & MS. All the sites were on Pickwick Lake and we stayed for the Senior rate of $14. I got a kick out of the entrance to this resort park in Mississippi's system, thought maybe I was out west somewhere.


You have to drive through the stream to enter the park

Friday morn' started down the 'Trace' once again, I'm still frozen from two days ago and don't want to get out of the warm truck. Some sites are just a pull-off on the road and aren't worth stoppin' at.


Didn't know Bucky lived this far south

Stayed Friday night at Legion State Park, old park, small run down campground, charged us $18, no water, even in the bathhouse, cause of the freeze. Strange, we stayed in a park north of here, where the temps were much colder and they had water, go figure.

Well Saturday brought some warmer temps and I was eager to get out of the truck. We detoured off the Parkway to go to Vicksburg National Military Park. It commemorates the Battle of Vicksburg, lots of monuments, but also lots of narratives making this much, much more interesting than Gettysburg. The salvaged remains of the 'Ironclad' Cario are reconstructed here. Seems the ship was the first to be sunk by underwater electronic mine. The museum and the resurrected ship are quite impressive.


This is the Illinois Monument


Not bad for lying on the bottom for over 100 years


All of this is original ironwork, 2 1/2" thick, backed by 6" oak timbers


This is the area of the ship the 'Mine' took out

Saturday we did an overnighter at Wally World. The temperature was quite warm. Sunday was back to the Military Park to finish up and then back to the 'Trace'. The weather had warmed enough for us to stay the night at one of the National Park's free campgrounds on the 'Trace'. We pulled into Rocky Springs Campground and surprisingly we weren't the only ones here. We tried to get some water for our tank but all the outside faucets were shut off, the only option was use a 'Water Thief' & get water from the restrooms. But the Camp Host came to the rescue after my sad tale of how we stayed at a state park and they had all the water turned off and I wanted a shower. We filled from his water service and we were all set. All three of these campgrounds the Park Service has along the Parkway are excellent camps, paved level sites(for the most part), table, grill, and fire ring. They are nicer than some states parks we have been in and these are FREE. We did our mandatory three times around the loop and chose our site. It always seems to take us three loops of the camp to choose a site. We may pull into one or two or more but always seem to have to circle before we land.


Here we are in Rocky Springs Campground

Tomorrow we finish the last 40 miles of the Parkway. Don't know what happens from there, we'll play it by ear.

Maybe we'll see ya down the road as we're,

Dancin' on the Wind.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Eastward Ho!

Howdy folks. We headed east from Memphis yesterday on or course to the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace. Stopped for fuel about 70 miles out, where the sign advertised $2.19 for diesel. There were no diesel pumps out front so I had to go through with the trucks on the side and search out a low flow nozzle. Since I couldn't get the pump to turn and the intercom wouldn't work, I sent Linda in with the credit card. After the pump came on I start pumpin' Linda shows up down the fuel island yellin' somethin' that I can't hear. She's yellin' to stop pumpin'. Seems they were recievin' fuel and we risked pickin' up sludge out of the bottom of the in-ground tank, why the operator turned the pump on and then told her of the risk I'll never figure out. Oh well here's yer sign!

We had decided to stop at Pinson Mounds State Archeological Area near Jackson, TN. There was also Casey Jones home & museum to see in Jackson. Due to the 37 degree weather we decided to pass on Casey Jones and go on to the mounds. Pinson is an area of 17 earthen mounds covering 400 acres. The mounds were created by an ancient Indian civilization between 200 & 500AD with the tallest being 72 feet tall. We either misunderstood or were misinformed regarding this site. We were told they had excavated one mound and you could go inside and view it to see all the layers & artifacts. Not so, but the museum is in a simulated mound and maybe that's what our informant meant. Disappointed we viewed the museum and left the park to travel on down the road. Stopped for the night at Tanbark Campground in Centerville at $13.75, 35 degrees on arrival. Woke up to find icicles hanging off the camper. The 'check engine' light came on when we started this morning and stayed on, so we stopped at a Chevy dealer in Dickson to have it checked. Seems we were 4 quarts low in the transmission with no visible leak. I had the transmission drained, flushed and the filter changed a while back and the only explanation is they forgot to top off the fluid when finishing the service. Worse than that they found a leak in the transfer case caused by a pressed in bearing that was wearing thru the case. Had to have them due an emergency repair to the case so it would stop leaking, can't have it seizing up traveling down the road. Gonna' have to keep a better eye on the fluids.

Well since we spent most of the day at the dealer we decided to stay another night at Tanbark and start out tomorrow. I post some pic's tomorrow cause it's cold outside, they're forecastin' 6 degrees overnight.

See ya down the road as we're,

Dancin' on the Wind.

Monday, January 12, 2009

City of Blues & Rock & Roll

We were up today at 7:15 and it was brisk. The temp was 27 degrees outside, 45 inside. We turned up the heat and were warm and toasty in no time. We brought something with us this trip I had all but forgot about and it is a lifesaver, Electric blanket. Livin' with a lady who could heat a moderately sized buildin' with her Flashes, it's nice to be able to control one's temperature comfort level. We stayed at Natchez Trace RV last night. Nice little park, full hookup, Pool(not gonna see my carcass there), and some of the cleanest bathrooms we've seen in our travels across this country. You know it's a PA park and a bargain at $11.80 a night.

We left there headin' north on the 'Trace' and stopped at the visitors center just north of Tupelo. The we turned and headed west down US 78 towards Memphis. In Memphis we headed to Elvis Presley Blvd. RV park get a site for the night, another PA park at $16 per night. The park is two blocks from Graceland for those interested in visiting the 'Kings' home. We then headed downtown to find Gus's on Front St. Gus's looks more like your typical old time neighborhood bar from the outside but on the inside it's all restaurant. We were greeted and took a table. Our waiter Steve promptly took our order and brought our drinks. Linda & I both ordered a half chicken. We were told by others to expect a wait of up to one hour for our order to be prepared, surprisingly our order came within fifteen minutes. The chicken arrived nested on two slices of white bread accompanied by cole slaw and baked beans for $9.95. To say the chicken was excellent would be an understatement. We have never had better fried chicken, just a little spicy. I'd have to say it surpassed the cajun fried wings we had at Granny's Chicken Palace in Maggie Valley.

After Gus's we drove around the downtown until we came to the I-40 Welcome Center. By now it was around 4PM and most of the museums were closing at 5PM. A trolley ride was suggested and since we had never ridden on a real trolley car, we jumped on the idea. For 50 cents each we took a complete loop of the downtown area of Memphis, for 50 minutes on trolley cars that were 100 years old. The trolley car are all different but the interiors of the two we rode were crafted of various varnished hardwoods. After that we walked all the river to burn off some of that dinner, then some shopping and back to the RV Park.


Elvis himself greets visitors at the Welcome Center.


I tried to get a picture of the interior of the Trolley as we rumbled down the street.


Memphis in evenings early light.

We watched some TV and called it a night. Tomorrow we're headin' back east on I-40 towards the northern end of the Natchez Trace.

Maybe we'll see ya down the road as we're,

Dancin' on the Wind.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tupelo, Mississippi

We got a good start on the travel day leaving Lee's Country Campground at around 8:30 yesterday. We fueled up at Flying J for $2.23 great price for diesel these days. We then turned west and headed for Alabama. Stayed the night in Montgomery at 'The Woods RV Park', another Passport America park, full hookup, 71 cable channels, free wi-fi, all for $15, hard to beat. Also topped off at $2.09/gal , even better than this morning. Wish we were headed to TX or AZ where diesel is under $2.

Today we headed to Tupelo, MS by way of Birmingham, AL. It was a balmy 41 degrees when we left Montgomery this morning. We went downtown Montgomery to see the First White House of the Confederacy, of coarse our luck it was closed. Toured around downtown checkin' out all the state buildings including the capitol.


Alabama State Capitol


The First Confederate 'White House'

As we rolled into Tupelo I had to find the way to the birthplace of 'The King', Elvis Presley. Linda had to go since we're here, said she just had to take some pictures. Since I have never been a fan of his, and the fact that it was 39 degrees, I waited in the truck.


Elvis's Birthplace and Boyhood home

Tonight we are stayin' at Natchez Trace RV Park just south of Tupelo. Another Passport America park, full hookup for $11.80, sorry no cable tonight. It's sure gettin' cold****, 33 degrees at 8:30 this evening, hope we don't freeze.

Our plans have changed since we left home. We are making our way to Memphis for some Fried Chicken, crazy huh. Gus's is supposed to have the best spicy fried chicken in the south. Then we'll head towards Nashville,TN and start the 'Natchez Trace Parkway' from the northern end and drive the entire length of the park. I'm going to try all three free National Park Campgrounds if possible, but the weather is going to be mighty cold, 16 degrees and we may have to opt for a commercial park so we have electric to run our furnace. I put a new 125a/h battery in the camper but I don't want to kill it overnight with the gas furnace running. If we had some solar we could charge it back up 80% with the generator and then let the solar panels bring it back to full charge during the day as we drive or even when were parked. I considered purchasin' a solar setup before we left for this trip but the longer I procrastinated the closer our departure date came. I will definitely get some solar installed before our next trip, which we hope to be CA,OR & WA this summer. Also thinking of addin' a second 125a/h battery to the mix. I got some idea's bouncin' around in my nogin for that, just need to do some more ponderin' and maybe take some measurements. Boondockin' is sure more pleasurable when you have most of the comforts of home, and don't have to do without. Solar sure would be nice, just sittin' there quietly doing it's thing and keepin' the batteries charged.

Until the next time, see ya down the road as we're,

Dancin' on the Wind.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Travel Day to North Florida

Well we got an early start as usual, 9 AM. Traveled the FL Turnpike north this trip instead of I95. You know I don't like them big blue roads but as I've said before there's not much choice to get north in this state. We called it a day in White Springs, about 20 miles from the Georgia line. Stopped at the State Farmers Market to see if we could purchase some veggies, but alas they ship everything out. There was a produce stand on the grounds so we purchased a few things. Outside the Market area and along the highway there was what looked like a large rest area, even had a trucker parked there with all his curtains drawn. Well we thought we had found a spot to spend the night. It had a grove of large Live Oak trees, a lake, and even several water spigots. We figured we'd stay and keep the trucker company and skip paying a campground fee tonight. Well since yours truly forgot to put any water in our fresh water tank before we left, we decided rather than filling our tank with water of unknown quality, we'd just hookup direct. Well as I started to write this entry, the Market manager drove up and told me I had to leave, that this was state property, and we were not welcome. He really made a face about hooking up to the water. I told him I thought it was a rest area along the state highway, but he directed us to several campgrounds down the road. We got kicked out of 'Paradise'. Oh well!



Nice little lake complete with cypress trees.


Nice little spot.

So here we sit at Lee's Country Campground, a beautiful, clean, friendly park. Member of Passport America, they also honor the Federal Golden Age pass for 50% off camping fees. We have stayed here back in August (refer to 8-8 -2008 blog entry).

Tomorrow we head across the state line to Flying 'J' for fuel, then we're cuttin' across the Peach State to Alabama.

Until the next time. Maybe we'll see ya down the road as we're,

Dancin' on the Wind

Monday, January 5, 2009

Movin' On

Well it looks like we're headed on up to Mississippi for a while. We want to explore the Natchez Trace Parkway thru the state of Mississippi. We don't think were going as far as Nashville, TN cause it's probaly a little to cold for us Floridian's.
Hope to head out tommorrow. If everything works out right I'll have that Lance camper loaded and we'll be out 'a' here in the morning. I would like to take the 5ver' cause fuel prices are so low but I feel we'll have better accessability with the Lance. Seems they have some campgrounds along the Parkway that are administered by the National Park Service and thier FREE, just my kind of place. I'm bettin' that they're kinda' tight to get a 36' 5ver in but we'll see. Well got to fix the coffee so I'll say 'Adios' for now.