Thursday, October 18, 2012

I winterized the Mary Joan yesterday. Took advantage of this task to install a five foot loop of flexible tubing between the water pump and the factory installed water piping to try and reduce the very loud "hammering" of the system.

I cut the 1/2" ID tubing about 8 inches from the outlet of the pump. I purchased high pressure reinforced 1/2" ID water tubing and two 1/2" to 1/2" nipples at my local hardware store. Using the two nipples and stainless steel hose clamps, I spliced the five foot section into the cut ends of the line I had cut. It helps to heat the tubing in order to insert the nipples into the tubing (a pot of boiling water worked well).

This simple modification greatly reduced the hammering sound from the water pump.

As for the winterizing, I followed the Airstream manual almost exactly except that I drained the hot water tank by removing the drain plug (the heating element in my case). After completing the recommended procedure, and with the drain cocks closed, I used a length of plastic tubing inserted into the intake side of the water pump (I wrapped duct tape around the tubing in order to get a reasonable seal around the tubing) and drew RV antifreeze from the container and, with the hot water tank bypassed,  pumped it through all of the plumbing by sequentially opening all water outlets; galley, shower, lavatory sink, toilet and toilet flush hose. Finally, I opened the drain cocks to allow a small amount of anti-freeze to drain in order to protect the valves.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Springtime in the South

I need to resolve to make an effort to write more often. It seems like yesterday that I updated this blog, but looking back, I see it has been almost ten days since my last post. Part of the reason is that we have been in some remote places without internet access. In the mountains of Georgia and North Carolina cell phone coverage was spotty, at best.

The day after visiting the Little White House, we stretched our legs with a long hike in the FDR State Park. The Wolf's Den Loop trail took us through a variety of landscapes, from low hollows with a small stream and towering Rhododendrons to high dry hardwood forests with tall Long Leaf Pines. Along this 7 mile trail, we passed through areas where a tornado passed through just a year ago. The destruction that we saw was dramatic. The wind snapped large trees as if they were tooth picks and toppled even larger ones. Needless to say, we were impressed.
Numerous waterfalls

Tornado destruction
Twisted by the twister

While we were at FDR State Park, we met two brothers, John and Jack White, who were also camping there with their Airstreams. They told us about an Airstream only RV park, Top Of Georgia, in the town of Helen. They also recommended a scenic route to take that would take us around Atlanta. Driving the back roads was like taking a stroll through a beautiful garden. Flowering trees and bushes abounded everywhere.

We arrived at Top Of Georgia late in the afternoon and received a warm welcome from the caretakers and the other couple camping there. This campground is restricted to members of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI), an Airstream owners association. Members pay only seven dollars a night to stay here. The campground is maintained by the Georgia chapter of the WBCCI, and they do a great job. Situated on a small stream we enjoyed the babbling of a small waterfall alongside our site and a picnic table right next to the water in the shade of flowering dogwood trees.

Just a mile up the road, in the Chattahoochee National Forest,  we found the Indian Graves Gap Trail at the Andrews Cove Campground. The 1.7 mile trail climbs about a thousand feet to join the Appalachian Trail at the gap. We followed the trail south for about about three quarters of a mile to Tray Gap. We had hoped to be rewarded with a sweeping vista of the valleys below, but this high plateau between the adjacent peaks was wooded. We were able to get a glimpse though because the trees had not yet leafed out at this elevation.

The next morning we said goodbye to Top Of Georgia and crossed into North Carolina headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway. We turned onto the Parkway just north of the Soco Gap. This stretch of wonderfully scenic road was also the steepest and curviest of anything we had experienced so far. But, the views were wonderful, especially since the trees were only beginning to bud out. The different colors of greens and reds of these just forming buds created a wonderful mosaic of colors on the mountains and in the deep valleys. This portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway took us to the highest point on the road at 6,047'.

Blue Ridge Parkway highest point

Blue Ridge Mountains

At one point we saw a sign warning of the road closure 37 miles ahead. Checking, the map, we found a road that would allow us to get onto a parallel road and then rejoin the parkway further on. However, as we approached that side road, a the driver of a car passing in the opposite direction flagged us down. He warned us that we definitely did NOT want to take our rig down that road. He said that the curves were to tight for any trailer and tow vehicle longer than 30 feet, and if we tried we would either get stuck or scrape the trailer on the rock walls on the curves. We rechecked our maps and found another road several miles back that got us safely onto the road we desired.

We rejoined the parkway at Asheville, N.C. and immediately went to the visitor's center. We learned that none of the campgrounds had opened for the season. However, since we were in a National Forest and there were no posted signs to the contrary we decided to boon-dock. We found a small parking area just a few miles from the visitor's center that was just large enough to park for the night. The next morning we stopped and visited the Folk Art Center situated just north of the Asheville Visitor's Center. The Folk Art Center was begun in the 1930's to preserve the folk art of the southern states and to provide income for the people that made this art. Today, artists are accepted by juried membership. We were particularly impressed by some of the sculptures done in wood. Before leaving, we made sure to get the latest information on other road closings and suggested detours.
The Folk Arts Center - sorry no pictures allowed inside

The next detour was 110 miles ahead with a detour onto US 221 west of the parkway then onto I-77 and finally onto I-81. We stayed on these roads for about 190 miles even though we could have re-joined the parkway just 100 miles further along, however I was getting tired and it was afraid I might not be able to sustain the concentration needed to tow the Mary Joan on such steep winding roads. At Buchanan, N.C. we found a road that appeared to be an ideal route back onto the the parkway. However, when we turned off of I-81 we saw signs warning that SR 43 was not suitable for large trucks or RVs. I stopped at a gas station and found two men who lived in the area and asked about the road. They said it wasn't as bad as the sign implied and that many other people with RVs had traveled on that road without incident. They told me that if I went slow and was careful I would be all right. We took their advice and had no problems except that I must have come a little to close to the bushes on one very tight turn for I found a very small scratch in the clear coat on the curb side of the trailer. Hopefully, it should be able to be buffed out.

By the time we rejoined the parkway, it was getting late. We found a turnout for parking at the trail head that leads to Falling Water Cascades and boon-docked there for the night. Boon-docking on the Blue Ridge Parkway was pleasant. There were no bugs and very little traffic in the late afternoon. We didn't hear a single vehicle pass by after dark.

The next day we continued driving on the parkway until we crossed the James River then we exited at Indian Gap to make a little better time. We wanted to visit Monticello and Montpelier, the homes of President's Jefferson and Madison. We stayed at the KOA campground just south of Charlottesville and very close to Monticello. We toured Jefferson's mountain top home the next afternoon. In addition to the house tour, we joined the Garden Walk Tour and the Slave Tour. All of our guides seemingly had encyclopedic knowledge of Jefferson and the history of Monticello. In addition, the weather could not have been finer. Once again, we enjoyed brilliant sunshine that showed this beautiful place at its best.
Jefferson's Monticello

The following morning we left the campground with the Mary Joan in tow since Montpelier was more than 20 miles to the north. We found that at most major tourist attractions there is almost always bus and RV parking, so we felt that we could be more efficient on our trek north by towing the trailer. As at Monticello, we had an excellent guide for our tour and once more we had perfect weather. In addition to visiting the mansion it is possible to hike on the many miles of trails present in the forest on the plantation. Sarah, Scout and I took advantage of the fine weather and walked through the old growth forest. The red bud and dogwood trees were in bloom as well as many spring wildflowers such as the jack-in-the-pulpit.
Madison's Montpelier
Old Growth Forest at Montpelier

Crossing the Blue Ridge, we headed north and west on some small roads heading for Pennsylvania. The weather didn't look to appealing at home so we decided to delay for a few days. Sarah and I have wanted to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright house, Fallingwater, in southwest Pennsylvania for a long time. Wright house, Kentuck Knob. Since we were within a days drive we decided that would be our next destination. We found Ohiopyle State Park to be perfectly situated right between the two properties. Upon our arrival at the park, we learned that the campground would not open for another two weeks and they would not let us dry camp within the park (dry camping is when one doesn't hook up to electricity, water or sewer). Luckily, we found a private campground a few miles from the park. Scarlet Knob Campground wasn't officially opened, but its owner, Will Scarlet, said he had three sites with electricity but no water. Since our water tank was full we didn't need the water and told him we would gladly stay at Scarlet Knob.

We arrived at Scarlet Knob on Tuesday and the Frank Lloyd Wright houses are closed on Wednesday, so we hiked the Baughman Trail. It is 1.7 miles to the Baughman Rock which overlooks the Youghio River Gorge, the deepest gorge in Pennsylvania. The trail guide described the hike as strenuous, but for people accustomed to hiking in New England, we would describe it as moderate. The view from the top was well worth the climb.

We visited Kentuck Knob and Fallingwater today. But, I will write about that on my next post.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Visit with our soldier

Scout, Dot and I left Savannah early on Sunday morning. Our destination was F D Roosevelt State Park which is about 25 miles north of Columbus. We drove the secondary roads to enjoy the beautiful spring weather and the accompanying fragrance of the Wisteria that seemed to be everywhere. All along the road, the vines climbed high onto the Long Leaf Pines. In addition, the peach trees were just beginning to blossom. The route took us through the town of Vidalia, renown for its onions. Huge fields were filled with the young sprouts and the air was filled with the pungent aroma of these sweetest of onions.
Turtle in the front yard

I arrived early in the afternoon at FDR State Park and booked us in for four nights. The price is very reasonable at the Georgia State Parks, only $23/night. And, if you stay seven nights in any of the parks, you earn a free night. Selection of campsites is first come/first served, so I couldn't believe my luck when I found what I consider to be the best site in the park. There is a shaded site right on the shore of the small lake, site #205. I could watch the ducks,  geese and turtles from my 'front yard'. This was waterfront property at its finest. The park is very quiet and the people, as always, are very friendly. The only drawback was that the topography presented a real challenge to my resolve to run at least every other day. The only direction to run was uphill for at least one mile from the campground. Nevertheless, I dutifully kept my promise to myself and then some, circumnavigating the campground for a distance of 3.9 miles with an elevation gain of over 450 feet in thirty seven minutes. Not bad for an old man.

On Thursday I moved the trailer to Lake Pines Campground in Middleton, GA. The campground is just 10 minutes from the hotel where John, Becca, Audrey and Nancy were to stay. Sarah arrived with the other ladies on the flight from Boston to Atlanta about 8:30PM. We tried to find a Thai restaurant for dinner, but they were all closed so we ended up at The Outback Steakhouse.

On Friday morning we drove onto the fort and found John's battalion area where a short ceremony was performed whereby they earned the right to wear the Infantry Barrett. After the ceremony they were released for a pass to leave the fort until Sunday evening at 6:15PM or 1815 in Army lingo. The soldiers were required to remain in dress uniform whenever they were in public, could not use tobacco products, drive a car or drink any alcoholic  beverages.
Waiting in the Bravo Company Battalion area

John with buddy, Alejandro Rios

John had very specific goals for his time on pass. The first item on his agenda was to get a new smartphone after which, he wanted to go to TGI Fridays for his favorite steak. That evening we all went to see "The Hunger Games", a very predictable but enjoyable movie. After the movie we went to O'Charley's Restaurant for a late dinner.

Becca and John enjoyed some time alone at breakfast on Saturday. We met them at IHOP and we all drove to Callaway Gardens that is very near to FDR State Park where I stayed earlier in the week. We spent most of the day strolling the grounds and enjoying the exciting raptor demonstration that featured hawks, owls and vultures in free flight just inches above our heads. We were hoping to include a trip to FDR's Little White House in Warm Springs, but we ran out of time. We were all famished by early in the afternoon. A late lunch at Subway fulfilled another must for John and Becca. After a little down time, we gathered later in the evening for some fine Thai food at Chili Thai. We gave Becca the key to the truck so she and John could have Saturday night and Sunday morning to themselves.

 The time was flying and Sunday was here before we knew it. Sarah and I made a pork roast dinner, one of John's favorites. Nancy and Audrey arrived about 11 AM and helped prepare potatoes and carrots. Becca and John arrived about noon. The weather was perfect for dinner on the picnic table. It was nice to see that the guests of honor fell asleep before me for a change. Becca returned John to the fort well before his witching hour. No doubt their separation was difficult.

It was great seeing how enthusiastic John is about what he is doing. The pride displayed in the results of his hard work and determination made us all happy for him. He acknowledges that the next four weeks will be even more difficult, both physically and mentally, but he now knows that he can endure it. Besides, he has become a little narcissistic about his physical condition. That can be a powerful motivating force for a young man, as evidenced by his FB photo. Ah well, he earned it.

Ah, a little postprandial  alkaline tide?

On Monday, Sarah and I took the Mary Joan II back to FDR State Park. To our surprise, we once again were able to get campsite 205. That afternoon we hiked 4 miles round trip to Dowdell's Knob, a favorite picnic spot for FDR. From there we went to Warm Springs and toured the Little White House. It was easy to see why he loved this place so much and visited it 41 times while president. The simple cottage he built here must have been a place of great comfort and serenity compared to Washington, DC. It was here that he learned of the hardships faced by rural Americans in the depths of the Great Depression that allowed him, a wealthy aristocrat, to take up the cause of the common citizen. For Sarah and I, our visit here completed our tour of his history having visited Campobello, Hyde Park and finally Warm Springs.

We leave in the morning for Northern Georgia, stay tuned.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sunny Florida

Not all the 'wildlife' \was out of doors. This carved and painted lion is
in the Ringling Circus Museum

My mom, Sarah and I enjoyed ourselves in Florida very much. We visited with long time  friends of my mom, met Sarah's Uncle Ed and Aunt Marge. Ed and I even got to sneak in a day of sailing with Denis, who I had sailed with a few years ago.

In Nokomis, just outside Sarasota, we stayed at the Encore Royal Coachman, a very upscale park that was perfectly maintained. Just a ten minute drive from the park to our friends Bob and Jackie, who shared dinner with us in their beautiful home.

As nice as the commercial parks are, we still prefer to stay in state parks. Generally, the campsites are much more spacious and the scenery and wildlife viewing so much better.  However, we found out that reservations are a necessity if one wants to stay in these parks. Although some parks set aside a number of spaces on a first come first served basis, it can be very difficult to get one of those spots. We got lucky in our desire to stay at Lake Myakka State Park,  east of Sarasota. The staff were very helpful in explaining how the system works. Essentially, anyone staying in the park that has not reached their 14 day limit have the opportunity to extend their stay by informing the staff by 10AM of the day they are to check out. Any campsites not reserved or spoken for by 10AM are presumed to be available.  But, the check out time is not until 1PM and the park rangers cannot hold sites that are to be vacated. So, we waited at the ranger station in order to be first in line for any available sites. We got one of two that became available.
The airboat on Lake Myakka
Spending a few days at Lake Myakka was very relaxing. The day after we arrived, we booked the airboat tour for that afternoon and the tram tour for the day after. Both tours were fun and informative. We saw lots of wildlife on the airboat tour with the huge alligator topping the show. While  we didn't see any exotic wildlife on the tram tour, our guide gave an excellent from which we learned a lot about the ecology and the history of the area. Both tours were easily accessible for mom.
They eat just about anything. 
The last day near Sarasota we visited the Ringling Museum. The museum is on the grounds of John Ringling's estate which is right on the water in Tampa. The museum includes the mansion, a circus museum, a miniature circus, gardens and a large art museum filled with works collected by the Ringling's. Seeing the Ruebens on display was a highlight of the trip for Sarah. We all especially enjoyed the rose garden which was in full bloom.

The scooter worked great

The Ringling's Pullman car, probably made on Pullman St., Worcester, Ma
Wonderful restoration
While we were in Florida, we learned that John would be allowed a weekend pass on March 23 if he successfully completed all of training requirements and PT testing up to that point.  It would have been nice if my mom could have stayed but she had appointments and commitments at home. Since we have the dog and cat with us, we decided to have Sarah and Mom fly home while I stayed with the dog and cat and moved the trailer to Columbus, GA. Since they had an early flight from Tampa, we stayed at the Bay Bayou RV Resort, just a short distance from the airport. After leaving Sarah and Mom at the airport, I took the trailer to Ft. McAllister State Park, just south of Savannah where I spent the week waiting for the extravagant St. Patrick's Day celebration.

Savannah has the largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the country after NYC. With perfect weather forecast and the celebration falling a a Saturday, Savannah braced itself for almost 1 million visitors. The party started on Thursday with events continuing through the weekend. I was forewarned to arrive early for the parade which was scheduled to begin at 10:15 AM. I found the corner where the parade began at 8:30 and was able to get a great view. The sun was bright and it was very warm for the parade which lasted nearly four hours. Way to go Savannah, you sure know how to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

Stay tuned for more adventures.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fun in Florida

On Saturday an open house was held whereby the public was invited to see the vintage and some not so vintage trailers. Ours is definitely not so vintage, but many people frequently ask us if Airstreams are still being manufactured. We certainly enjoy the retro look. But, the stars of the show were those who had lovingly restored trailers from the 40's through the 80's. This was also the day for the judging to determine the winners of the show for best restoration. There were so many beautifully restored trailers, I could not have easily picked one over another.

This Trailer won the first prize.
Here is last year's winning entry.

The motor home pictured above is owned by John and Janet Wright of Ontario, Canada. John runs John & Kori Wright General Repairs and Towing. He managed to replace the original engine with a GM Duramax this last year, as well as replacing the complete suspension with modern air cushioning shocks. Quite the beautiful restoration. We enjoyed the time we spent with this charming couple.

What year is this?
See more pictures of these beautiful restorations soon on our photo page. Please be patient because we are still on the road and we don't have reliable high speed internet for uploading. (check back frequently).

It was nice spending some time with the couple responsible for introducing us to the TCT. Rich and Dottie Walbridge. The are members of the Cape Cod Chapter of the WBCCI that we met on our first rally. They introduced us to Larry and Pat Lamontagne of Holland, MA. We thoroughly enjoyed their company.

The Massachusetts Group
And special thanks to the Charon, who took the above picture. An illustrated woman and sword swallow-er extraordinaire.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The beginning of a new season

Mary Joan II stayed at Red Gate Farm RV park in Savannah, GA from the first of December until we returned the third week of February. With my mother, Lorraine, Sarah and I left Massachusetts on Saturday the 18th. The first day on the road, we made Jessup, MD. Leaving on Saturday made getting around NYC easy and past Washington DC on Sunday a breeze. This allowed us to avoid any traffic. The Red Roof Inn at Jessup was a good bargain and they accept pets. Scout, the pitbull, liked having his own bed. 
Breakfast at Frank's in Jessup

It took a little effort to find a place for dinner. Saturday night in Jessup was busy. Our first choice for dining had an hour wait, so we came upon a Famous Dave's barbecue restaurant. Each of us enjoyed our meal. 

The plan was to make it as far as South Carolina, so we were not in any rush to leave. Frank's Diner, next door to the Red Roof Inn, served us a very nice breakfast. We made such good time that we decided to push on for Savannah. The GPS said we could make it before dark. But, we decided to stop for dinner just before reaching the city. Love's Seafood had great revues, so we stopped there. Each of us enjoyed our meal at this popular eatery. 

We found Mary Joan II just as we left her. JD, at Red Gate Farm met us and directed us to our campsite. Red Gate is a very relaxed RV park in an idyllic setting. The nearby train tracks can either be seen as a nuisance or an attraction. I enjoyed the different signals that the engineers gave for the crossings. 

We had a day to spend seeing the city. We parked at the south end of Forsyth Park and walked to the river, passing through the distinctive squares that adorn the stretch of Bull St. from the park to Bay Street. Each one is dedicated to a person connected to Savannah's history. Canopied with moss draped trees and surrounded by elegant historic homes, this is a scenic and serene one mile walk.

We lunched at Huey's on the river. Large picture windows look out onto this busy river with a constant parade of tugs, barges and ocean going container vessels. I had the creole omelet that was filled with fresh local white shrimp in a rich creole sauce. These shrimp are so superior to the shrimp to the frozen farm raised Thailand shrimp we buy in supermarkets at home. This set us on a quest to find the source of said shrimp. 

We were told that shrimp could be purchased right at the fishing piers on Tybee Island. We crossed the bridge onto Tybee Island, about 12 miles south of downtown and immediately on our right as we descended from the bridge we saw our source of shrimp. An unnamed fish monger's shack at the end of the short drive advertised fresh shrimp. The muscular and brusque fisher-woman finished serving the only other customer then turned her attention to us. I ordered two pounds of medium shrimp that she quickly began flinging into a a plastic tray with a hole in it that caused half of the shrimp to drop through, back into the display. Sarah and I looked at each other, wondering whether or not to point this out to the woman when my mother spoke up. She looked down at her tray, gave a loud 'hurrumph', grabbed another tray and threw the defective one across the room and resumed filling our order.

A sign offered the availability of fresh local oysters. I asked our merchant how much for the oysters. "Three", she replied. Hoping not to risk her ire, but needing to know what I got for "three", I asked her if that was for a dozen. "Yeah three" she replied. I ordered a dozen oysters. She disappeared out the side door and returned less than a minute later with a large plastic bag half filled with oysters. She Iced everything down and we left with our treasure. 

Dinner that evening was Shrimp Diane and oysters on the half shell. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that our fisher-woman was either very generous or couldn't count. Our bag of a dozen oysters for "three" actually contained 15 huge specimens that we thoroughly enjoyed. 

Since we only had about 130 miles to go to reach Jacksonville, FL, we were not in any hurry to leave. It is an easy drive on an almost arrow straight road. Sarah found Little Talbot Island State Park in Woodall's directory. She called the park and they said they had one spot that could accommodate our trailer. We arrived early in the afternoon and were directed to a beautiful spot overlooking the marsh. Our campsite is near the boat ramp along the creek. At low tide I could see thousands of oysters a few feet above the water. Being a state park, I assumed that harvesting them would be frowned upon. The temptation was great. 

Being Fat Tuesday, we made chicken and sausage gumbo for dinner. I thought I held back on the spice, but I think my mom found it a little 'spicy'. 

We stopped in Jacksonville to visit with my classmate, Sue, and her husband, Lance. They moved from Oklahoma just this past November and are now settled into a nice place with room for their two horses. We would have liked to stay longer, but we wanted to get to the Sertoma Youth Camp in Brooksville

We waited for the storm to pass then selected our site. There were already a number of other campers here, but we were able to chose a nice site just a short distance from the pavilion that is the center of the activities for the event.

As newcomers to the Tin Can Tourist Association, we were put through a grueling initiation ceremony at which we learned the secret sign, handshake and the anthem we were required to sing, we finished by reciting the Tin Can Tourist's Oath. Thank you Forest, and all our brother and sister TCTs. We feasted on pizza and wine then watched a presentation on General Motors Parade of Progress given by Hunt Jones. 

All the tourists gathered for a hearty breakfast followed an hour later by a caravan to a private collection of automobiles, motorcycles, Cushman Scooters gasoline pumps and advertising signs, as well as juke boxes and old time soda vending machines. Each item perfectly restored. It was like stepping back 50 to 60 years. 

A pot luck dinner is planned for this evening. I am making chili and must start preparing. Stay tuned for more adventures.