Sweet Home Alabama

On Friday November 24, we moved on to Alabama. Wanting to try some real “State Parks”, we found Oak Mountain State Park, not far from Birmingham – very impressive.

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Our view from one side of the campground.

Oak Mountain State Park offers horse-back riding, an archery park, mountain bike and road bike trails, a BMX track, 50 miles of well-marked hiking trails, from “family” level upward, a golf course, boat rentals, and beautiful options for camping, from very rustic private sites (tent folks who like to ‘rough it’) to more traditional sites.  Peavine Falls was one amazing attraction, but John loved the fact that the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) included one of these trails on its  list of EPIC rides!

On Saturday John took his mountain bike out for a 3 hour ride. When he returned he told me about a fellow who fell off his bike, smacked his head, and broke his jaw – and he WAS wearing a helmet. Paramedics tended to him, and other bikers surely were more careful for the next little while.

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Guess who’s in trouble for taking too many pamphlets, which apparently are weighing down the bus?

That day we also met a wonderful (local!) family at the campsite next to ours.  Mom, Dad, and their two very polite sons (12 and 16) are all SERIOUS college football fans, and so we were invited to pull up our chairs and watch (and learn).  We had such fun chatting about college football, about how they could qualify for a motorcycle license at 14 (!!), and how we really should give Tater Tots a try!  This lovely family (+ one sweet and funny friend, visiting for the game and dinner), offered heaps of advice and suggestions for our remaining stay in Alabama, and we acted on most of it!!

I brought one of my beef burgers over when we were invited to join them for dinner, but John gratefully accepted one of their homemade (they hunt*) venison burgers and loved it. When hot chocolate appeared at the end of the night, I retrieved my coffee-flavoured “moonshine”, and we toasted to a new friendships (AND College football!). I took the boys’ suggestions for burger chains, and DID eventually enjoy what they recommended! Tip – – Sonic Cheeseburger is similar to Wendy’s!

* Fun Fact: We were gently commenting on each others’ accents, and I truly do like a southern drawl.  During dinner this really happened.  I heard:

  • John : (..vague question to the Dad about hunting).
  • The Mom, to older son: “Sweetie, when is the last time you all went huntin’ with Grandpa?”
  • Son: “Oh! It was when dad shot that big neighbour.”
  • Me: “Uhhh, PARDON? What? Your dad shot a big neighbour?”
  • Son, and all others, laughing: “Nooo, he shot a big Mule Deer.
  • Me: ‘Ohh..kay.  You sure you didn’t say neighbour?”  

LOTS more laughter – nicest folks ever, and I had no idea I’d enjoy being called “Ma’am”.

We’ve already emailed and four of us are following each other on Instagram (good guess if you supposed ‘not the dads’, ha ha) – this family was a very warm welcome to the state of Alabama!

Next up for Alabama, more RV repairs, a hero named Bob, a visit to Lulu’s (Jimmy Buffet’s sister), and a little hurricane!

Final Days in Nashville

We’ve been so busy that last couple of weeks, plus the weather and the WiFi have been a little wacky, that I’m far behind on sharing our adventures. The following is a summary of our last few days in Nashville, and I’ll very soon share our interesting experiences in Alabama and Louisiana.  I’m hoping to be more succinct, keep better notes, and yes, perhaps buy a memory-aid supplement..

Disc Golf in Nashville

Since the theme of this whole RV trip is to try new things and since John has been talking about disc golf (also called Frisbee golf) for a few months, when I learned he’d already bought us each a set of 3 discs, I figured what the heck!

After some beginners’ tips in the parking lot of a nearby course, I assumed the course would be open wide and grassy like regular golf (I play about once a year), but we found ourselves in the WOODS.  Although “holes” were clearly marked, it was difficult to spot the flag among the trees (a chain-link basket attached to a pole). We teed-off from concrete slabs, using our Drivers (we each also had Mid-Range and Approach/Putter discs), and timidly began!

 

The first pin (flag? basket?) was about 350 feet away, we had to fling a disc through narrows clearings and tight turns via tall and still-leafy trees.  Since my first hole score was approaching 18 over par, we decided that this would be a learning day, and we did NOT keep score.

Two hours later we were done, and I had flung the darn discs over 120 times (John was way better than me).  I don’t want to focus on my sad fitness level (my right forearm and elbow were sore for days), but I could barely bend to pick up that last disc, and I can confirm this IS exercise! In two hours, I’d learned how to throw so the disc doesn’t whack the tree just 3 feet to my right, while I had aimed 40 yards dead-straight-ahead.  We couldn’t even be angry because we were laughing so much.

We will play again, as it really was fun and funny and to those golf critics – this is MORE taxing than regular golf!

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Nashville Hot Chicken

On our 2nd last day in Nashville, we needed to try this famous Nashville Hot Chicken.  I’m sure there are lots of  stories about this dish’s origin, but I landed on one that roped me in, plus it was nearby.

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Story: Almost 100 years ago, Thorton Prince (a very handsome fellow who loved the night-life, while his steady girl didn’t) came home one evening, and his girl had had enough. She prepared her usual fried chicken, but with every hot peppery spice she could find in the kitchen.  When she served him, she expected to watch agony.  Thorton did freeze for a few moments, with eyes wide open and glazed over.  However, it wasn’t because it was horribly hot, it was because he thought it was delicious – he wanted seconds!!  Well the girlfriend left him, but Thorton took over her recipe! Currently, his great-niece, runs restaurants which serve this dish at just two locations in Nashville, TN.

Ouch!! I thought I ate “medium +” spicy food (hot pepper rings on sandwiches, Frank’s on my rye toast, with cheddar, and random “hot sauce” at Tex-Mex restaurants).  This Greek gal is not entering any contests, but I was sure I liked “hot and spicy”.  I was wrong.

John ordered “medium”, and being cautious, I asked the server how hot the ‘mild’ is.  She said, “Aww, it’s nuthin’ ma’am…” but when she saw concern on my face, she came up with a suggestion of 2 mild and two medium chicken tenders (“lotsa children get that combo”).

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I was so surprised to find that I could not enjoy even 2 bites of the MILD, that I went to the counter to check my order in case there was a mix-up.  It was correct.  I was truly stunned! John thoroughly enjoyed his meal, and gave me more confused looks than he did concerned.   We took my tenders home for his lunch the next day.  I still shudder at the memory.

US Thanksgiving

On US Thanksgiving we stayed home for the day, but we made a full and proper turkey dinner.  John focused on the many football games, and I read, drew, worked on some blog posts. We did see a very cute sign on the highway the next day: Gobble Gobble, Ease up on the Throttle.

Fun Day Y’all!

On Monday morning we headed out early to Cooter’s Place, which was free to enter and full of Dukes of Hazzard artifacts and mementos. Many of the collections have been donated by the cast, stuntmen, and production staff, but the majority of items belonged to the owner, Ben Jones, who portrayed Cooter on the TV series. We saw PR photos, ancient TV Guide covers, a few actual scripts, and all the famous vehicles. It was a reminder from way back as John and I pointed out so many items to each other (we’re both from 1966). We saw Dukes lunch boxes, puzzles, bedding, colouring books, plastic drink cups, and lots of Matchbox/Hot Wheels sets. I wandered down memory lane with a smile on my face, even when I was all alone. I’m pretty sure I saw a ring-neck t-shirt my brothers had in 1980 – maybe from Woolco? The gift shop items were pricey, but the photos I took are enough warm memories for a while.

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Cooter’s Place

Next door was the Willy Nelson General Store/Gift Shop/Museum, so we popped in. Browsing is free, and we did get a few giggles, but since we don’t wear a lot of leather tassels or bandannas, we didn’t buy anything. We chose not to pay to go further to the “and Friends”, only in part because I was very hungry.

Next stop was Opry Mills, the fancy mall (and so much more). After a quick lunch, we searched the boot stores to compare prices and sales. It turned out that the one pair I’d liked back in Music City on the first day was still the best deal. Score! They were almost a splurge (wayyyy less than gassing up the rig, ladies), but I reasoned that this entire 6 months revolves around t-shirts, hoodies, runners, yoga pants, and not a lot of “dress up” time. I love my boots!

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Fun story (or we’re inexperienced suckers): The friendly young man at the cash register mentioned that he is currently working with Jason Aldean’s producer, and his first album should be out next year. He mentioned about 5 country stars with whom he’s friendly, only one of which we recognized — he wasn’t at all a braggart, more of a sweet soft-spoken fellow (he talked even more about getting home to his momma for the holidays).

Next stop was the moonshine store, called Smith Creek Moonshine. This place is listed under “entertainment” in the mall directory! We gathered around a rectangular bar with ID clearly on the glass at all times, and the young gal leading the tasting shared a brief description of each flavor and then gave everyone a very tiny taste (think a plastic thimble). An example of her spiel – “This next one is basically Paula Deen’s baking plus alcohol!” – the flavor was Butter Cake! After sampling most of the flavours (they really were barely a teaspoon), we decided on Coffee, Chocolate Silk (tastes like Coco Puffs cereal) and Orange Cream (Creamsicle). Okay well there was a sale on flavor of the day, so we did also throw in Gingersnap!

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Four flavours of Moonshine!

Onward from the mall to the Grande Ole Opry. It’s huge and it’s beautiful and it’s all decked out for Christmas. The only show for that evening was a Christmas-themed Cirque production which we passed on. We did, however, enjoy the gift shop, which was the perfect marriage of Christmas and country, and we bought a few small souvenirs.

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Done with sightseeing, we drove to a plaza, where we had planned to get take-out from a small Mexican place, just 2 minutes from our site. However, while John ran a quick errand in the same plaza, I found I had trouble placing an order to-go. The menu choices and cozy look of the place distracted me. The hostess and the servers were hugging everyone left and right, and I was stuck!!

If you’re ever in this part of town, please check out La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant, on Bell Road, in Nashville. It was wonderful, homemade-tasting food, with very generous portions, while the prices were surprisingly low. We brought home enough food for at least 2 more lunches each, and our bill was around $36 (including two drinks from the bar).

We arrived back at the bus full and happy, but even when RVing, there are daily chores such as taking out the garbage, scooping litter, banking and laundry. This was the longest we’d left our 2 indoor cats home (RV home, haha) alone, and when we got back, one of them jumped up and truly hugged my neck, which was something we hadn’t experienced since May, before retirement. Point taken!

Wine (Or Wahn)

Sunday was chilly but sunny and we needed just a few groceries and small odd items so we made yet another Walmart trip. I’m starting to wonder if we spend more time there than we do in the bus…

Our sweet older “Mrs. Clause” type cashier at the spotless local Food Lion saw a bottle of red wine in the cart. She shook her head slowly and said, “Ahhh see yur from a progressive northern state, huh?” I told her where we’re from, and after telling us she loves snow, she added “Now A’mm gone brayk yur heart. Y’all can’t baaah wahn on a Sunday.” Smiling, we chatted for a bit and she almost-whispered, “But’cha can go get some beer, just near the yogurt.” I loved that exchange and it just solidified how sweet and kind everyone has been in Nashville!

Upon return to the RV, John settled in for some NFL, and I busied myself with tidying up, blogging, and browsing the roughly 846 pamphlets I’d taken the day before (he seriously thinks this habit will eventually affect our allowable driving weight).

We planned our next day, which HAD to include “Cooter’s Place”, a memento-filled museum dedicated to the ‘Dukes of Hazard’ relics – including the actual General Lee automobile on display!! Watching this show with the entire family is one of my fondest childhood memories (shout out right here to my two younger brothers, “goo goo, Flash!”). We also planned on visiting Opry Mills, a large high-end mall which boasts a Bass Pro Shop, a moonshine store with free tastings, and Boot Barn, where I had a 15%-off coupon for boots! Also on the list was a quick peek at the Grand Ole Opry, perhaps just a tour, since the shows were a bit sparse during the pre-US Thanksgiving holiday week.

Fun fact on Cooter, the Duke’s mechanic: Ben Jones was selected to the United States Congress from the Fourth District of Georgia and served two terms before redistricting took his seat.

With our plans made we ended the night with reading on our iPads, and me searching recipes for fruit cobbler (when in the south..)

Music City – Nashville

On Friday, November 17, we made the easy trip from Kentucky to Nashville. We got settled at Safe Harbor RV Resort, which is so far, the most deluxe park we’ve seen, at prices between $37 (our choice) and $100 per night (we’d been paying about $20 per night before this). The park had what I called “Millionaire’s Row” (NOT our section),  which was full of $1.5 – $2.5 M rigs. The park offered trash pick-up during high season and “clotheslines and repairs on site are forbidden“. TripAdvisor has its pros and cons, but I actually read a negative review, which revolved around folks being turned away because their RV was 10+ years old, and it didn’t ‘fit the look they were going for‘ – yikes. We settled in, wandered around and it turned out to be a really nice campground for us. The Wi-Fi is reliable, and the weather warmed up, and we finally ditched the hoodies!

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The beautiful view at Safe Harbor RV Resort

On Saturday morning we left the bus and drove to downtown Nashville. It was only a 15 minute drive from our resort, and we were surprised at how crowded the streets already were. The vibe was fun, musical and very loud, which we didn’t expect in mid-November. Patio doors were open and in almost every single bar/restaurant, you could hear and see a live band rockin’ out. Fun to see from the sidewalk, very tricky to watch where you’re walking.

Our first stop was the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum, where we paid $25 each for the self tour + audio tour, which included a device we listened to after pushing the corresponding button at each exhibit (think a TV converter or 1994 cordless phone). So interesting to see the artifacts behind glass. John enjoyed Elvis’ Solid Gold Cadillac, and I thought, of one of Shania Twain’s on-stage costumes, ‘I’d actually wear that’ (not sure where in my real life, haha). We sent lots of pictures to our kids whenever we found their favourite artists’ exhibits.

Two hours later it was time for a visit to a Honky Tonk! One spot, Honky Tonk Central,  has 3 separate levels, each with a different band playing. After ordering a snack, I realized it was way too loud for me. Since a few servers were wearing ear plugs, I actually made some out of a torn napkin (but I wouldn’t insert them until we’d had a picture taken!). The energy was electric, people dancing near the band like it was Spring Break (and not a November Saturday at 2 pm), plus lots of parents and supporters of the evening’s NCAA Missouri/Vanderbilt game. Various college ball games were being shown on the TVs.

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Next, we wandered the area, poking our heads in to see the fun Western décor, listening for “a spell”, and visiting boot stores and souvenir shops. We stopped in at Crazy Town for a drink – it boasts 6 bars, 3 stages and 2 outdoor patios. Here, an odd stranger struck up a conversation with John about how he just got out of jail, was wearing all brand new clothes (Go, Titans!), then “bye, nice to meet you.” Every single person we’ve met has been sweet and kind and helpful, and I have a soft spot for the accent, but I’ll admit, I was watching this fellow’s hands and the pocket holding John’s wallet.

It was a wonderful day but we craved a homemade dinner, so we started our return. It got dark and windy very quickly, and I could not recall ever driving in that kind of hard, fast rain, even at home in Toronto. Our brand new GPS lost signal for about 5 minutes, we pulled over for about 5 more, and within 20 minutes we were safely home.

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Cali and Romo had a long day on the road

Once inside the bus, we turned on the news and checked the internet only to learn that the warmest day of our trip had turned into a full-on Tornado Warning. The wind and rain were loud, the bus was shaking (similar to when the washer is on a spin cycle) and odd sirens could be heard – nothing like either of us had ever experienced except from TV or radio. All sources mentioned about 5 counties per sentence, which was confusing – and I recalled the smart lady at our last park. I was only nervous for about 10 minutes, and appreciated her advice about knowing in which county we’re located – something we’d never even consider at home. It passed within 15 minutes and we were snug and cozy and tired and full. We finished the evening watching Roseanne reruns while the cats warmed up our bed.

Singing Hills and Mammoth Caves

Our next stop, still in Kentucky, was Singing Hills RV Park & Campground. We chose this almost entirely because it is located in Cave City, and we wanted to tour Mammoth Cave in Mammoth Cave National Park. After a quick drive from our last campground, we arrived at Singing Hills and it was the warmest welcome we’ve experienced so far!

It is owned and operated by a very friendly and helpful couple who live on-site and had valuable advice and tips. This smart lady said, “If I could only give one tip to all RVers, it would be to always ask and remember what county you’re in, and where the safe meeting spot is.” This turned out to be more important than we could know.

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The Wi-Fi at this park was fantastic so I was able to connect with everyone back home and research more on Mammoth Cave. With our tour booked for the next day at 10:30 am we got settled and rested up. I really do get a kick out of the grocery options in the USA. We made tacos with “Taco Bell” brand salsa that night! (I know, not exactly health-food.)

We awoke the next morning excited for our cave tour. Very briefly, Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest known cave system, located in the gorgeous Mammoth Cave National Park, which is over 52,000 acres. For at least 6,000 years Native Americans have inhabited this region. Fast Facts are here, but this spot was so interesting I am slowly making my way through the 14-page government published summary!

There were various tours to choose from, and not being up for 6 hours of CRAWLING, we chose the 2 hour Historic Tour. I could never do this Ranger-led tour justice, so if you’re interested, please have a Google. It was fascinating. We learned a lot, and we walked a lot, and we climbed an awful lot. It was tricky but fun to try and squeeze through a portion called Fat Man’s Misery, and Tall Man’s Agony. Our Ranger, Grace, joked that after that, you could pop your back into place in the Chiropractic Rotunda!

Even though we didn’t see any bats (of about 90 people, it seemed and equal split between those who were disappointed and those who were relieved), I bought my first souvenir, just because I fell in love with a small stuffed Brown Bat, and I named him Batty. I have one particular sister-in-law who would love him.

I was beyond exhausted when we returned, still hot and sticky from stair climbing. In fact, we’d started out in the first 10 at the front, and I willingly admit that I was virtually last at the end. There are over 400 miles of cave, and we only covered about 2, but my legs could feel it. I had only enough energy for dinner and a movie that evening. Fun fact: at caves where bats have contagious diseases, visitors MUST walk over a set of 3-foot long black rubber mats, which have been soaked with water and detergent, to ensure those visitors don’t unknowingly spread this disease to another area of the country.

I could barely make the 3 steps up the RV, but John went for a long (2 hours +) bike ride a few hours later, and in fact, did so on each of the days here. The paths which head right to Mammoth Cave National Park are very scenic and full of deer. Of course, we had to first find a Walmart (again) as it was still too cold to just wear a helmet, and John needed a thin “runner’s cap”, so we zipped out after a quick lunch of soup and Hawaiian toast. On the way home (from what seems like our hundredth Walmart trip) we were involved in a little fender bender, when a 17-year old girl lost control of the brakes on a rainy road and hit us from behind. We are all fine, and luckily, Waylon has just a few scratches, and a slightly mushed rear quarter-panel, which John easily nudged back into place. Now Willy and Waylon match!

Overall, Kentucky was an amazing few days and we enjoyed both campgrounds. Our next stop is one we are both very excited about, and one where Willy and Waylon will fit right in…. that’s right, we are heading to Nashville!

The Beer & Cheese Trail

The state of Kentucky is beautiful, and even if you’re not into horses, the scenery is gorgeous, even from the Interstate. We saw rolling green fields for much of the 3.5 hour drive from West Virginia, and we made it to our first Kentucky stop without any more glitches.

We had two parks planned for this leg of the trip, so today I am focusing only on Whispering Hills RV Park, which was a combination of country living and gorgeous mansions. Still rural, but here we got FOUR channels on the TV! Like most campgrounds, it was outfitted well for summer, with a pool and playground equipment, but once again, it wasn’t exactly packed in November.

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Welcome to Whispering Hills!

After performing our settling-in duties, I caught site of an ad for the Cheddar Beer Trail, and decided it was time for lunch! It turns out that the trail is a selection of restaurants/small grocers who sell the locally made, famous Beer Cheddar. We went to JK Forest Grove, in Winchester, KY, which was very well hidden. When we pulled up, I’ll admit that I wouldn’t have exited the car if it weren’t for the word-of-mouth local reviews. It was a small converted century home, adorable and welcoming. Limited chalkboard menu, comfort foods, and no liquor license made it very ‘down home’. We started with the Beer Cheddar Platter and then had their top two sellers, Hot Ham Sandwich with Pimento Cheese, and Famous Chicken Salad and Cole Slaw. They were both excellent and if you are ever in the area I’d definitely give it a shot.

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While out on the town we learned about Winchester’s famous Ale-8-One, a soda which was created there in 1926, and is still made and sold in the area. We bought a 6-pack to go, and shared one later – it’s similar to Ginger Ale, but with an added flavour. Fun fact: until 2010 Canadian pop (soda) that was pale in colour could not contain caffeine, but in the US, Mountain Dew (and this new drink) have always had some included. 

There is lots of hunting and tracking in Kentucky, and although it’s not my thing, I could appreciate the selection of beautifully carved handles on the variety of knives in many of the “Knife & Cigar” shops. I also bought a jar of Pineapple Habanero jam and enjoyed browsing the local shops.

Aside from the famous Beer Cheddar, the most fascinating attraction in the area was a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark. We were told it takes four hours to go through, and the pamphlet alone amazed us. I now wish we’d gone to tour it but we didn’t have the time.

We had two nights booked at Whispering Hills RV Park, so the rest of our Kentucky trip will continue at our next campground.

Just a Few Glitches

In general, we are enjoying life on the road very much. As with everything, there are glitches, and while we were in West Virginia at another VERY rural RV park (remember, pickin’s are slim at this time of year) we seemed to run into a whole bunch of them.

In Kenna, West Virginia we found a vacancy at a scenic but quiet park. In fact, cell and data coverage were virtually zero (to be fair, that is clear on their website), and the rigs parked appeared to be seasonal folks, who were not camping this week. With minimal local attractions nearby, this particular stop was meant to be more of a rest stop while we re-calibrated and poured over the map to research and plan ahead. It was at a good rate, had a great country music station, and a beautiful church on site, but not much else. Thankfully it was not far from Charleston, where we NEEDED a mall (keep reading to hear about that).

We were having serious Wi-Fi issues at this campground, and although we had already bought a booster thanks to the advice online, it didn’t make a big difference this time. We did adjust our phone plans at home before we left, so we pay a modest monthly fee for US/Canada unlimited talk and text, with our regular provider, but with zero data for me and just 1 Gig for John. We also had decided on Roam Mobility for unlimited monthly data across all of the USA. The plan was to hotspot 2 phones, 2 iPads and a laptop to an older spare phone. After crossing the border, we’d inserted the Roam sim card, but of course, we needed Wi-Fi to activate it. Starbucks to the rescue, and using an iPad, we followed instructions, and our spare (old) iPhone officially became our Roam Data source and we were relieved. That is, until we saw that their site was down for maintenance and nothing could be processed until the next day.

That was no problem, we have movies and books on my laptop and on a portable external hard drive, so we weren’t too stressed. Until my laptop stopped working. Only 7 months old, and dead as can be. Calling support didn’t help, and since we were so far from home (and the receipt), I chose to waive the warranty and headed to the local mall to beg for help from a repair shop. Long story short, after it finally got fixed I could have jumped the counter and kissed the technician, but instead paid my measly $25 and gave him a generous cash tip. I think I skipped out of the mall that day.

Looking back, it was a learning experience and not so horrible (just frustrating).

Needing more supplies and giving up on technology for a while, we headed off to Walmart, after asking someone for directions. No data, no GPS in the car, no problem recalling the 1970s where verbal directions were enough to get around. The only problem – the instructions were wrong.

Did you know, when you travel just 10 yards FROM the mountains, parallel to them, with only smokestacks and factories on the other side (and no visible exits), you can see similar smoke coming out of your husband’s ears? I stayed silent, but his loud sighs were so distracting! Immediately moved to the top of the shopping list was “GPS for car”, which would have to wait one more day, since the Walmart 10 minutes down the road (“follow the mountain road, you can’t miss it!”) never materialized. Two hours later we returned to the site, where yes, we had a drink with lunch.

We have a 3-page laminated list of items called Departure, and another 3-page list called Arrival. We rookies have now memorized about 15%, but we consult the list every single time. After accounting for the correct number of paws and tails, we began to close the 4 slides. I heard a crunching sound, and called “STOP!!”. Willy sustained his first injury, which was on a vertical piece of decorative molding beside the washer/dryer closet. Even though we’d latched the shower door, it had popped open and crunched the wood, which folded back itself. John snipped the u-shaped nail which kept the piece secure, and nudged the piece back into place. I now watch the shower door very carefully when we retract the driver side slides! Side note on slides: they don’t operate like automatic garage doors, which stop when they detect objects in the way. No, they just go and go, barely labouring, until you hear or see disaster. Folks have suffered thousands of dollars worth of damage, only to find a tiny baby sock as the culprit.

After a homemade dinner of spare ribs and potato salad, we relaxed with books in the cozy warmth of our doll house. The heater in the bus cycles on and off, like at home, and suddenly we heard a thump-thump-thump, which was loud and frightening. John turned the heat off, zipped outside and used the back ladder to get to the roof. He returned to let me know that the motor fan blades were whacking a recently formed brick of ice. Extension cord + hair dryer = solution! This time I didn’t laugh, it was a lot of glitches for only one day. Nothing major, no permanent damage, but our manuals have a lot of bookmarks now – the rig came with about 40 of them, one for each system/appliance.

Tomorrow’s another day, and we are excited about moving on to Lexington, Kentucky!

Our First Stop

Just a couple of days off schedule, we entered the USA by way of the Peace Bridge. All went well until we were told we’d been chosen for a random on-board check. We entered a building, both feeling nervous and yet having no idea why. I thought it was because I watch the TV show ‘Border Patrol’, but John reminded me that’s only Canadian, ha!

In a dank holding cell (ok, not really) John hissed, “Did you flush the raspberries? They ARE from Mexico!” I was more worried about the 6 months’ worth of my daily blood pressure prescriptions.

They found nothing wrong, and they didn’t accidentally release our indoor cats, and we were back on our way. Within 2 hours we were pulling into our first RV site in Elk Creek, Pennsylvania. When you’re camping in the northern states in November, 98% of the sites are closed so the pickings are slim. We were officially parked at Uncle John’s Elk Creek Campground, a quirky fishing camp area, which he said has hosted at least one famous NBA and NFL player. The fishing is famous among those who are in the know.

After parking the bus (and consulting our 3-page checklist for arrivals) we went out to get groceries and do a few errands. We also went for two walks (after I bought a touque), and relaxed a bit.

Our first USA shopping experience for the trip was pretty neat. We found a place advertising ‘Beer BY THE CASE’ and you would have thought we were a rehearsed skit on SNL. When we saw the low price we looked at each other with jaws dropped and eyes wide!

I don’t think you ever get too old to gawk at all of the neat snack food in the US, especially as Canadians who don’t have the same product selection. John had to drag me away a few times when I took too long photographing unique flavours of Duncan Hines Mug Cakes for One, and Lays Garlic Bread flavoured potato chips!

When our errands were done it was back to daily life in the RV, so I did a load of laundry in the Whirlpool stacking frontloaders and it only shook the bus a little bit. I made our sandwiches for the next day on the road while John drank the previously-mentioned beer and we watched the CMAs on one of our few American TV channels (antaena, no cable for us).

The next morning I woke early, singing “On the road again, goin’ places that we’ve never been…” and we decided the next stop is West Virginia. I can hear you singing, “..mountain mama, take me home..

Meet The Bus

Bus, rig, motorhome, RV, trailer – these terms seem to be used interchangeably and it confused me at first. Our Class A motor home is a 2016 Tiffin Allegro Open Road, with a Ford V-10 engine.

The king sized bed, and biggest fridge I’ve ever seen, lead friends and family to say “This is nicer than your house!“. Thanks, I guess?

Before settling on this RV we looked at many makes, models and classes. There were a few things that made this “the one” for us, including the pull out couch in the living room (so our human kids can visit) and the open concept that allowed us not to be separated from our two furry kids (cats!) while on the road.

There is lots of hidden storage inside and out, and a lot more space than we imagined. Although it is very different than living in a 3 bedroom house, it was a lot easier than we had anticipated to pare down our lives and move into this 360 sq. ft. motorhome.  

We didn’t actually choose any of the finishes or colours, but it turns out this model mostly suits our tastes. We have a lot of mid-toned honey coloured wood and a big enough kitchen to cook and bake. There is an 80 gallon water tank, 2 AC units and 2 heaters, a generator, and we can run off of propane or electricity. John loves the three TVs, including one outside for tailgating. I love the subway tile backsplash in the kitchen – it really is nicer than our home! We definitely don’t love the gas mileage, but you can’t have everything. 

We didn’t want to go with just the bus, so we decided on towing a small car behind it. That way we can park the RV and still have a car for day trips, grocery shopping, etc. There wasn’t much choice for flat-tow cars, but it turns out we really like the Chevy Sonic that we picked.

The RV is named Willy, and the car is named Waylon (“…On the road again…”).  We also have an inflatable kayak we call Dolly – you can figure out why.