Friday, July 31, 2015

RVs, cars, history, and family

July 31, 2015—Visiting attractions in a new area is fun, but when you can do it with family (especially family you have not seen for a long time), the occasion becomes special.

We spent three days in northeastern Indiana (Elkhart area), and then drove up to Marshall, Mich., to visit with Rob, Corky and the grandkids.

I spent the first half of my life as a Hoosier, but I had never really visited the Elkhart area. I had just driven by on the interstate highway.

Jim had done some research, which indicated there were actually a lot of attractions (mostly museums) in the area. Among them, which we visited, were the RV Hall of Fame, the National Military History Center and Kruse Automotive and Carriage Museum (a two-for-one one with admission), the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automotive Museum in Auburn, Ind., a windmill museum, and Shipshewana Flea Market (open Tuesdays and Wednesdays). (We got “museumed out” and also ran out of time. The area has several other museums.)

Elkhart Museums

The National Military History Center was interesting, but I do not have an optimistic outlook for it to survive. We were the only visitors. The attendance (who, I believe, was a volunteer) said that the museum had been forced to sell off a number of its exhibits a few years ago, but was not acquiring more.
Linda stands with General Eisenhower and his secretary (also his mistress) in front of the car Ike used in WWII.

The exhibits the museum had were interesting, especially the original vehicles used in several wars.
Included with the price of admission was the Kruse Automotive and Carriage Museum, housed in the same building. It, too, was worth seeing, especially if you like old cars. This museum was not dedicated solely to cars; it exhibited some very old carriages and some very new cars.

The Kruse museum displayed many types of vehicles, including this Indy racer. Getting into the racer was not too difficult, but getting out was hard, as Jim discovered.

The RV/MH Hall of Fame displayed an assortment of antique recreational vehicles. We could go into many of them, although the oldest were off-limits. The evolution of the RV, from its earliest days, was intriguing. As technology improved, so did the RVs
One of the first motorhomes

The seats on this antique motorhome don't look too comfortable. 

With the history of RVs firmly in mind, we asked the museum docent about tours of RV plants. About 80% of all recreational vehicles in the United States are manufactured in the Elkhart area, and a number of the manufacturers gives tours.

RV Manufacturing Tour

We went to the Thor Company, which manufactures all classes of motorized RVs: A’s, B’s, and C’s. We would have preferred witnessing the assembly of a Class A; however, on the day we visited, the only tour available was for a Class C.

In our journeys, we have toured both the BMW manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, S.C., as well as the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Ky. Both were highly automated, with probably 80% to 90% of the assembly done by robots. The plants were so clean and tidy that you could almost eat off the floor!

The Thor assembly plant was quite a contrast to the auto plants. About 90% of the RVs are assembled by human labor. And the manufacturing floor showed it. The plant was not as neat as the car manufacturers.

Antique Cars

One of the attractions we visited was the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in Auburn, Ind., about an hour east of Elkhart. This is a world-class museum, one that I have wanted to visit ever since I heard about it more than 25 years ago when I lived in Muncie, Ind. It was worth the time.
The Auburn Auto Manufacturing Company operated in Auburn, Ind., from 1900 to 1937. It manufactured high-end automobiles. Some cost more than $8,000 in the late 1920s! Needless to say, that was a lot of money for that time period. These autos were hand-assembled, unlike Model T Fords. Henry Ford introduced the assembly line in order to make cars affordable to the masses. Auburn Cords and Duesenbergs were meant for the elite—and the workmanship shows, even today in the 126 autos on display.
Some of the cars on display at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum

This photo captures some of the elegance of the art deco building, which was the original showroom for the Auborn Auto Company.

Most of us think antique cars were all painted black. That was Henry Ford's autos. These Cords and Duesenbergs were quite colorful.

The museum is housed in the art deco building that once served as the showroom for these cars. It was an impressive building.


On the way back from Auburn, we saw a sign advertising the Mid-American Windmill Museum. It was an awesome visit.

A fellow who was about 85 years old took our admission, and then proceeded to educate us about windmills. A more knowledgeable docent we would not have been able to find. After learning about why windmills were invented (to mill grain) and the types of windmills, he turned us loose to look at the 55 windmills on the museum’s property.

Alas. This museum will probably cease to exist. Again, we were the only visitors. The docent said that the museum relies on volunteers, and few young people are interested in windmills. That is sad, because today, windmills are a great alternative source of energy. When we trekked out west a couple of years ago, we saw miles of huge windmills. We were pleased to see acres of these same types of windmills on our drive through Indiana.

Shipshawana Flea Market

On our final day in Northeastern Indiana, we made a quick trip to Shipshewana Flea Market, advertised as the Midwest’s Largest Flea Market. It is open only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from May through October.

We only had time to browse a couple of aisles, but we were able to purchase some excellent sausage at the Amish meat market. (Incidentally, the Elkhart-Goshen area has a large number of Amish and Mennonite families, who farm, butcher, and handcraft furniture and other items. Drivers must watch out for horse-drawn carriages.)

Family and Greenfield Village

The highlight of our trip, for me, was going to Marshall, Mich., to visit my son, his wife, and my grandchildren. I hadn’t seen the kids for almost two years—way too long. We cooked out twice and visited several hours. Corky (my daughter-in-law) and Maddie (my 16-year-old granddaughter), Jim and I made the drive to Greenfield Village, in Dearborn, Mich., on Thursday. (Jack, my grandson opted out of the trip.)

Greenfield Village is another attraction I have wanted to see, ever since I lived in Marshall, more than 20 years ago. Henry Ford built the village—he actually brought in original buildings of significant inventors, scientists, and writers—as a school to preserve the history of America’s technological and cultural progress. It originally served as a private school.
A street in Greenfield Village
Corky, Maddie and I try on stylish hats at the millinery shop in Greenfield Village.

An outdoor museum, the 255 acres of exhibits (and a working farm) are divided into five districts.
I learned that Henry Ford had been a protégé of Thomas Edison. As a tribute to Edison, he brought Edison’s laboratory to the Village. He dedicated Greenfield Village on the 50th anniversary of the invention of the light bulb. Edison attended the dedication. Ford realized that Edison’s days were numbered, so as an additional tribute, he declared that the chair Edison had sat in during the dedication at Edison’s relocated laboratory should be nailed down and never moved.

When the floors of the laboratory needed to be redone, the chair was cut out and replaced exactly, in order to keep Ford’s declaration true.

Thomas Edison's laboratory 

Our visit with Rob and his family was too short, as it always is. But the trip to Greenfield Village was made more memorable because we shared it with family.
Maddie, Jim, Rob, Linda, Jack, and Corky. Family.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Sunday, July 26, 2015

An Indiana high!

Reuniting with college classmates whose friendship has endured over 50 years is a natural high. And that is what I felt when we all met Friday and Saturday nights in Bloomington, Ind. “We” are George’s Kids, the IU Junior Year Abroad Group of 1965. Not one of us could believe it has been 50 years since we all met, underwent orientation in Washington, D.C., and then spent 10 months studying and playing together.
George and his "kids" July 2015

The most remarkable thing about this reunion is that of the 20 students, 17 of us made the trip. (One has never wanted to participate; one cannot be found; and one, unfortunately, died in a plane crash.) In addition to the 17 of us, George, our director, as well as his son Craig, was also at the reunion. Craig, now 52, was only 2 years old when he and his brother Eric (who was about 3 months old) accompanied their parents. Craig became bilingual, a skill he continues to use today. Several spouses also attended.
George and little Craig (second in front row) with Peru Group 1965 spouses

What did we do doing the weekend? We talked. And talked. And talked. And still there was not enough time to talk with everyone.

Jim said on several occasions that he didn’t understand why there were no planned activities, aside from dinner on Friday night and Saturday night. What he doesn’t understand is that family doesn’t need planned activities. Family just wants to get together and catch up.
So, that is what we did.

It was wonderful.

We are all getting older--all of us are in our 70s. So, like last time, we are planning our next reunion in two and one-half years. We hope we will all be together again.

This reunion, thanks to the work of Nancy Villalobos and Cheri Biddle Engber, we all paid tribute to George by reflecting on what that year abroad meant to us and how it has affected us personally and professionally. Those tributes were moving.

I am a writer, but I do not have words that adequately describe how I felt. You will just have to believe me that it was an Indiana High.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Thursday, July 23, 2015

July 23, 2015--We drove to Bowling Green, Ky., yesterday. We had thought about touring Mammoth Cave, but when we entered Bowling Green, we were greeted by a billboard advertising the Corvette Assembly Plant and the Corvette Museum. Those would be our tourist destinations, we decided.
A couple years ago when we were in South Carolina, we toured the BMW plant; it was fantastic to watch the robots assemble the cars with very little help from human hands. Corvettes are built in a similar manner, although I think BMW has more automation than Chevrolet. It was a good tour.
Hand in glove with the tour is the National Corvette Museum.

I have to admit that I am not enamored with Corvettes. They are a nice vehicle, obviously. But I wouldn’t buy one even if I had the money. However, we thought it would be fun to look at the evolution of this sports car.
Getting into the Corvette was not too hard. Getting out was another story!

And then we remembered: It was here at the National Corvette Museum that a giant sink hole opened up and literally ate about a dozen irreplaceable cars. That happened in February 2014. It took engineers two months to retrieve the cars.

Engineers peer into the 60-foot deep sinkhole that destroyed a significant number of antique Corvettes. The public can look through the plexiglass to see into the cavity. Officials are trying to figure out how to make a marketing opportunity out of the tragedy. They are already succeeding. The sinkhole is the best part of the museum! 

We actually thought that was the best part of the museum!

When you enter the large room where the cars were/are on display, the first thing that catches your eye is the tape on the floor. It shows the outline of the sink hole, as well as the outline of the cave that not resides beneath the showroom.

The retrieved cars are on display. They want to restore all of them; however, I believe some are beyond repair. The first car they pulled out of the pit was the last one to drop into the hole, and it was relatively unscathed. The deeper they went, the more damaged the cars (naturally).

Some of the retrived Corvettes. Above are some of the last cars to go into the hole. Below, some of the first. Doubtful that they can restore these--or will want to, since it is a museum draw.

While we were in the show room, some engineers were looking at the 60-foot deep hole into the cave. The section of flooring they were peering into had a glass window, so that visitors could see the depth of the sink hole. Museum officials have not yet decided what they will do ultimately with the sink hole/cave.

In the meantime, they are not forfeiting the opportunity to market the tragedy. In the gift shop (there is always a gift shop at the end of a tour, isn’t there?), visitors can buy a bottle of the sink-hole debris. We passed on this opportunity.
The museum is marketing the tragedy. Visitors can buy a small bottle of sinkhole dirt. We passed on the opportunity.

It was a good day, which ended with night’s stay in Elizabethtown, Ky.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Back home again in Indiana!

July 23, 2015--We spent last night in Elizabethtown, Ky., about two hours from Bloomington. So, we had plenty of time to see at least one sight. We decided to visit Squire Boone Caverns in Southern Indiana, not too far from Corydon, the state’s first capital.

I had taken my kids to Squire Boone Caverns in the late 1970s. Back then, it was a new commercial cave and when we took the tour, I remember that our tour group consisted of the three of us and perhaps one or two others. The only building, back then, was the cabin where tickets and t-shirts were sold.

Today, Squire Boone Caverns is part of a group of four different commercial caverns in Southern Indiana. And the original building where we bought tickets is now part of a “village” of cabins that house a soap shop, a candle-making shop, a sweets shop, a rock shop and a grist mill.
Before we turned off the highway to drive to the caverns, I called to make sure it could accommodate our motorhome and towed car. The woman said yes, although we might want to park in the lower area and walk up the hill.
Decending 75 steps into Squire Boone Caverns

A cave formation
Columns and pipe straws

Cave formations

Your Reluctant RoVer viewing the underground waterfall

Another view of the underground waterfall

Well, we drove the several miles of country lanes and finally reached the attraction. We had to stop short: To get to the parking lot, we had to cross a very narrow bridge over a running stream. It was extremely doubtful we could traverse that bridge with toad.

So we unhitched so that Jim could turn Junior around. We thought once we unhitched, we could leave Junior parked on the side of the road. Then we saw the sign: no parking.

About that time, two employees came out to help us. They assured us that bigger buses than our could cross the bridge. Jim decided to trust their judgment. He made it and parked in a field. We drove up the hill in the car.

I still like Squire Boone Caverns better than the other caves we’ve seen, perhaps because of the underground river and waterfalls. The only think I don’t like is the 75 steps down (and up) that you have to climb. Jim liked the cave, but thought that the Sonora Caves in Texas were prettier.

With the cave tour finished, we headed to Bloomington. We are camping at Lake Monroe. It is so much cooler here than in Florida! And real grass grows on the ground!

It’s nice to be home again.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

My promised update

July 22, 2015--Late last night, as we were getting into bed, Jim looked like he was pondering a problem. It was, of course, the recalcitrant car.

In my last post, I said that even if he could not fix the starting problem, we would just tow the car and "tourist" with it behind us. Well, the pondering Jim was doing concerned the towing. You see, when the car did not start for me--no power at all to the ignition--Jim got in and put it into park. Just as he was doing that, I yelled, "No! Don't do that!"

"Why not?" he asked. I answered, "Because when there is no power, you cannot take it out of park. The shifter becomes locked in place." (When the car is towed, the shifter is in neutral.)

A car cannot be towed in park; the wheels are locked. So, what were we going to do?

It was about midnight, but I got out of bed and started googling "how to take car out of park with dead battery." I found some videos and some blogs on how disengage the shifter. None was specific to our Ford Edge. Then I suggested Jim look in the owner's manual, which did reference what to do, but not in specific detail.

It was too late to do much about the problem at past the midnight hour, but in the morning that was Jim's first task.

Within a short time, he had the shifter console taken apart and unlocked the shifter. He was then able to put the car in neutral.

The story doesn't end there, however. He continued to test connections and fuses, and he now believes he knows the culprit: a bad connection to the battery. With the connection tightened, the car started up. (He had already recharged the battery.)

The end result: We had a great day. But I'll write about that tomorrow.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Just when we thought everything was going well...

July 21, 2015--We left Georgia this morning and started heading up north. We traveled all day, and finally decided to spend the night in Bowling Green, Ky. Tomorrow we will see how Corvettes are made, and we may take a cave tour on Kentucky's only underground river boat tour. Should be interesting.


When we pulled into the RV park, we intended to unhitch the car and take a drive around Bowling Green... to get the lay of the land, so to speak...and maybe have a nice sit-down dinner.

We were not able to do that.

The car won't start. I wish the problem were as simple as a dead battery, but it is not.

A little background information: When we decided last year to buy a bigger "toad," we decided on the Ford Edge. According to Motorhome Magazine, which lists all of the towable vehicles, the Edge was towable. The car was the right size; it was comfortable; and we liked its ride as well as the car's amenities.

What we neglected to research was to find out if any RVers had experienced problems with the Edge. When Jim was getting ready to buy the tow package, we discovered that many RVers complained that the car would run down its battery after a couple hours of towing.

We did not know if our car would experience the dead-battery syndrome, since some people said they had had no problems. To be on the safe side, however, we bought a portable battery charger that jump starts the battery. We also have a battery charger that plugs into an outlet. And there is a work-around solution that Jim will eventually put into place. (It's a trickle charge from the motorhome to the SUV's batteries.)

When we took our first trip with the Edge, we learned that ours was one of the cars that indeed had a run-down battery problem. We had to use the battery charger. No big deal.

But a dead battery is not our problem this time.

Jim suspects we may have blown a fuse this morning when he was attempting to hook up the car lights to the motorhome. Now it is a matter of finding the culprit fuse.

He has checked some of the fuses, and he will check the others tomorrow when we stop for the day. In the meantime, we will "tourist" with the car in tow.

Until next time (with, I hope, better news),

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Monday, July 20, 2015

Gold in them thar hills!

July 20, 2015--When I think of the gold rush, I think of THE gold rush to San Fransisco in 1849. But America actually experienced two other significant gold rushes--one in North Carolina in 1804 and a second in Dahlonega, Ga., in 1828.

We are staying in a resort outside of Dahlonega, so we had to investigate its "golden" history.

We drove into Dahlonega, about 15 miles from the resort (which is gorgeous, incidentally, and not just for RVers) yesterday. Our intention was to visit the Gold Museum--IF it was open. (We haven't had much luck with museums being open when we wanted to visit them.) Since it was Sunday, I doubted we would be getting in.

We were in for a surprise. The town of Dahlonega (population about 8,000) was teeming! And it wasn't even 1 p.m. It seems that this town reinvented itself into a tourist destination, based primarily on its history with gold. Unique shops lined the town square, whose center was an old court house converted to the Gold Museum.

This town (and our resort) sits on the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest, which rises up on a mountain (more than 3,000 feet) and is next door to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Obviously, this area attracts many tourists, especially from the large Georgia cities of Atlanta and Athens, who want to escape the heat during the summer.

We did our tourist thing and visited the general stores and gawked at the local arts and crafts and expensive T-shirts. Then, just as an afternoon cloudburst started, we ran into the Gold Museum. Interesting fact: the buildings' two-foot red-brick walls are made from local clay and contain flecks of gold.

Serious gold mining occurred here until the Civil War. And the U.S. Mint actually had a branch in Dahlenaga. When mining for gold became too expensive (and also environmentally bad, since miners started using water cannons that devastated the landscape), the Mint closed down. The building was turned into what is now part of the University of Georgia, with approximately 7,000 students.
This sign describes how the diving bell operated for mining purposes.

This is part of the air chamber that led down into the diving bell.

The diving bell in which miners dug up ore from the bottom of the river bed.

Another view of the diving bell.

Mining started when someone found a big chunk of gold. It went through its various iterations, including panning, and deep tunnel mining. An interesting form of gold mining, however, was done in a diving bell. The bell was sunk into the local river. Two men would work in a small chamber, digging up the bottom of the river for ore. The diving bell was discovered and restored and is a centerpiece of a park near the town center. Very interesting.

Dahlonega has two mine tours. One has a stamping mill where gold jewelry is made from ore mined on site. The other is an underground mine that is no longer operating. We chose not to go on the tours, but I think if I were here with kids, it would be a great adventure.

We also went to another nearby town, Dawsonville, and went on a tour of a mini-distillery. Jim sampled the apple brandy and said it was very good. I believe the place was called Moonshiners.

Finally, we decided to fish in one of the lakes here at the resort. Didn't catch anything, but we will try again today.

Tomorrow we stop being tourists and will head toward Indiana.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Hot and sweaty no longer

July 19, 2015--Any time you buy something pre-owned, you take a chance. You never fully know if the object was loved and tended, or if it was neglected.

In hindsight, I think Junior (our motorhome) was neglected. Or else,there was a reason why the previous owner decided to trade it in. I suspect the reason--in two words--was electrical problems.

If you have followed this blog, you know that we have experienced some type of electrical problem on every trip we have taken. On the first trip, we lost electrical power on one side of our coach. We thought it was a blown breaker. On a later trip, the same thing recurred, and Jim replaced the suspect breaker. Later, it occurred again. This time he finally discovered the real cause: worn brushes on the housing of the electrical cord reel. He finally made the correct fix.


On this trip, we have experienced yet another electrical problem. When we went to pick Junior up from our storage area, we opened the door and heard a clicking noise. We had never heard it before. We also noticed that the overhead lights had been flickering and dim--and owed that up to flourescent lights that were dying. Once Jim started the engine, the clicking disappeared; the problem seemed to have corrected itself. So, the next day, we were off.

Yesterday morning, as we were packing up and preparing to leave the RV camp where we had been staying, the air conditioner quit. So did the lights that had been flickering, as well as the kitchen fan.

Not good.

Jim did some initial trouble-shooting, and discovered that when the lights were switched on, the air conditioner went out. There was not much he could do at the time, and we wanted to get to our next destination, so we left.

The temperature outside was in the 90s, with heavy humidity.

The drive through the mountains (see yesterday's blog) was actually not uncomfortable. There are two small fans in the front of the coach. Their real purpose is to help keep the windshield defrosted. Obviously, that was not a problem, so we aimed them at us.

Once we arrived at R Ranch Resort in Dahlonega, Ga., (an absolutely gorgeous resort for RVers and those who rent a cabin), Jim went to work on trying to find a solution to the problem--or a work-around.

As I was trying to find relief from the heat by sitting outdoors, Mr. Fixit came out to announce that he had found a workaround: He managed to bypass the suspect light switch and power the lights--as well as the thermostat, which was on the same circuit. With the thermostat working, the air conditioner also worked.

We are now cool.

Jim will eventually find and fix the core cause of the problem, but in the meantime, we are no longer sweating in this heat and humidity.

The moral of this story is this: Buying pre-owned is fine, but check out the purchase carefully and trust your instincts if something doesn't seem quite right to you. We had seen that the previous owner of this coach had made at least one cosmetic repair resulting in less than workmanship quality. It should have been a warning.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer


Saturday, July 18, 2015

What we did--and did not--see

July 17--The way we planned this trip, we would have almost two weeks before we had to be in Bloomington, Ind., for my 50th reunion of the Peru Group 1965. Jim and I agreed that we would take our time--just travel a little bit, stay a night or two in an area, and sight see.

That was the plan. And it was working--sort of.

Georgia divides itself up into nine geographic tourist areas. Jim mapped out a by-way route that would take us through several of these areas, each of which had local attractions.

From my previous post, you know that we wanted to watch the trains in Folkston, a mere hour from Jacksonville. Didn't happen. (See my previous blog.)

From there, we drove up to Vidalia (as in onions), and visited the Vidalia Onion Museum. Did you know that the onion growers associated themselves with Shrek the Ogre (because Shrek talked about peeling onions and eating them in one of the movies). With that ad campaign, kids started eating Vidalia sweet onions! And did you also know that you can make a sweet onion pie? I think I am going to try it when we get home.

From Vidalia, we were going to hit a few more places in the Magnolia Midlands (as the area is called), but that is when we started to have overheating problems. We found a campsite at the Shriners lodge site outside of Macon. Jim did some work on the RV, cleaning the radiators, and hoped for the best.

We left Macon (and have not experienced any more overheating). and headed toward the Historic Heartland, where we anticipated visiting a number of local sites. Our first stop was Uncle Remus Museum, in Eatonton. You may remember Uncle Remus' Tales in Song of the South, the Walt Disney Movie. I remember (vaguely) reading them as a child. The author of those stories was a white man by the name of Joel Chandler Harris, who was from Eatonton. The museum is full of artifacts from the 19th century, housed in three original slave cabins that were moved to the museum site.
Jim is looking at one of the out-buildings at the Uncle Remus Museum. The museum has three slave cabins, as well as this out-building.

From Uncle Remus we wanted to visit something called the Rock Eagle Effigy in Eatonton. We drove around the historic area of the town, passing the address several times, but we were unable to find the effigy, which is described as "a stone effigy built by Native Americans and shaped like a prone bird." There was supposed to be a 5,000-year-old monument as its centerpiece.

On our last leg round to find this effigy/monument, Jim turned up a street to go around the backside. Uh, oh. Not a good idea. The street was more like a driveway. He could not back down (impossible with the car in tow). We found that the drive did have a street exit--if he was able to make the turn without tearing down the corner of a house.

The occupants of the house stood outside and watched me guide Jim safely around the corner. He made it! But we never did see the effigy/monument.

We drove on to the next geographic area--the Northeast Mountains. (These places sound far apart, but they are actually less than an hour apart.) Our first stop was the Georgia Guidestones, sometimes called the Stonehenge of America. Built anonymously, the Guidestones call out to the viewer 10 basic guidelines for living--in eight languages. It actually is quite impressive. Of course, we almost did not find it. It is built on a small hill just off the highway outside of Elberton.

The Guideposts are pretty impressive...but not this impressive. They do not stand on their side! The picture importer for this blog did not allow me to turn the photo vertically. 

Since we were in the area--which is renowned for its granite--we wanted to visit the Granite Museum. We found it; it was closed. So much for that attraction.

We then made a decision: Find an RV park and stay for a couple of days and do our sightseeing by car.

The next day we drove up to Taccoa, still in the Northeast Mountains area, Our first stop was the Curahee Military Museum, 14,000 square feet of artifacts dedicated to the U.S.'s first paratrooper training facility during World War II. As we drove into the town, it looked like a lot of other small towns across the country--the usual big-box stores and strip malls. Then, following Garmina's directions (she is our GPS), we crossed the railroad tracks and were in for a surprise: The "real" town was across the tracks. And unlike so many struggling small cities, it seemed to be enjoying prosperity. We saw very few empty storefronts. Although we did not take a walking tour (map provided by the visitors' bureau), we drove around and enjoyed the old architecture and history.

Our next stop in Taccoa was the Taccoa Falls, which is located on the campus of a college. They charged an admission, but because Jim was a veteran, he got in free, and because I am over 65, I was charged only $1.

The Taccoa Falls were very pretty. At 186 feet, the falls tops Niagara Falls by 26 feet. The water looked refreshing. Despite the "no swimming" signs, many college kids were cooling off in the river water.
The Taccoa Falls are really quite impressive. However, they do not fall sideways. Like the previous picture, my photo importer for this blog did not allow me to turn the picture vertical. Sorry!

Returning from Taccoa, Garmina started giving us some bad information. I wanted to stop at a Big Lots store and get a 2 amp car charger for my cell phone. We plugged in the address, and Garmina kept taking us in the wrong direction, even wanting us to drive up some alleys or no-through streets! I finally asked Google for directions on my phone, and we found the store (and the charger).

This morning we decided to leave Commerce, where we had stayed in a very congested and frankly ugly RV park for two nights and head to our next stop, R-Ranch in Dahlonega. We made reservations through Passport America for two nights, programmed our GPS, and headed out.

That is when things got interesting.

Garmina got confused. Several miles into our trip, she demanded we take a certain by-way. Then, a few miles down, she told us to turn right. The problem? Her command would have taken us into a gated community! Ignoring her, we continued until she finally reassessed where we were and told us to make another turn. Jim did--and we ended up on a dead-end street. We did not have sufficient room to turn around, so he had to unhitch, back out, then rehitch.

I fired up my Google GPS, and between the two we finally were on our way to the resort. However...

We got to an intersection; Garmina said turn left; mine said turn right. We decided to trust mine. It was correct (we found out later), but we apparently needed to take another immediate left to get to R Ranch, which was only minutes away. Instead, because we had missed that turn, we ended driving UP a mountain, around the mountain, and down the mountain--more than an hour's drive--to get back to the exact spot where we had missed our turn before! Of course, we missed it again. Confused, I called R Ranch. The receptionist clarified where we needed to go. We finally got there--by the back door.

That drive up and down the mountain was challenging. It was a two-lane highway with many tight S-curves. Fortunately, Jim is an excellent driver. Me? I am definitely a flatlander. I like to look at mountains, but I do not like to drive in them, even these relatively tame mountains in this part of the Appalachian chain.

I have more to report--mainly about of electrical woes. But enough for now.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Smile, even if it hurts!

July 15, 2015--When it rains, it pours. Or so the saying goes. That seems to be happening to us on this trip.

Let me see if I can inventory everything that has gone wrong:

  • Overheating engine. Yep. We were driving along very nicely, at a comfortable 55 mph, listening to our audio book and watching the countryside pass by. Suddenly, I felt the motorhome slow down and asked Jim what was wrong. He said that an engine light indicating overheating had come on. He slowed down; it went off. Later it came on again. He would stop and let the engine cool. This went on all afternoon, to the point that we aborted a trip to a local attraction and made our way to Macon.

    Jim called his cousin's husband, who is a diesel mechanic. He offered suggestions, which include power-washing the three radiators. We'll see if that helps. We will do that tomorrow.
  • My phone. My Galaxy S4 has been giving me problems for a couple of weeks. Mainly it has been overheating (is overheating the story of my life?) and then using up power fast. I have a hunch the cause is a rogue app or one that has gone bad somehow.

    But that is not the only problem: The phone has been having a problem charging, also. I think that is caused by a bad connection.

    I believe I have cured both problems, but it took all afternoon to do it because I had to do a factory reset, which then wiped everything off the phone. And I am now using a different charger, which successfully and quickly charged it. Tomorrow we will see how it behaves.
  • My hotspot. I am still waiting for my Karma Go 4G LTE hotspot to arrive. It should be in my mailbox when I get home. In the meantime, I am relying on T-Mobile.

    On our last trip a couple of weeks ago, I purchased 30 GB of data; I probably did not use even 2 GB. T-Mobile had very little presence in Northwest Florida where we were camping.

    Before buying data for this trip I checked to make sure we would have connectivity. For the most part, it looked like T-Mobile would work. Our first night we camped in a remote campground. Beautiful, but no connectivity.

    Tonight, though, we are in Macon, Ga. Jim has a T-Mobile phone, and it accessed 4GLTE. I turned on my hotspot. Nothing. I finally called T-Mobile's tech center. The tech was no help. But when I removed the battery to look for a model number, it caused a hard reboot, and finally I got connected.

    My frustrations are not over with my mobile hotspot, however. It seems to have the same problem getting charged that my phone did. Or maybe it is a different problem. I can't wait to get my Karma Go, which will be powered by Sprint. I hope Sprint has coverage than T-Mobile.
  • My computer. As if I didn't have enough problems, it seems that my computer's battery has died. I rarely use the computer on battery, so this is not a major problem. Except when I am in the middle of writing something and the power goes out. Which is the next problem.
  • Electrical problems. As if overheating were not enough a problem to deal with, tonight all of a sudden the power went out. Or so we thought. Jim now thinks there is a malfunction in the electrical system that kicked the air conditioner off. We now know (we think) what not to operate.
All of these things are frustrating, but they will pass. We will get them resolved. And we will have a good time--in fact, we are, despite the challenges.

I just have to keep telling myself to smile:>

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The story of our recent lives...

July 14, 2015--We have begun our trek to the Midwest, where I will reunite with my college friends (Peru Group 1965) of 50 years, visit grandchildren, have a family reunion that will memorialize my parents, and become a tourist with my husband in Chicagoland, as well as other places.

Rather than rush to a destination (the first commitment is in 10 days), we are taking our time and traveling as RVers are wont to travel...a little bit each day, seeing and experiencing the real landscape by traversing byways instead of interstates and stopping at local attractions.

Our first stop was Folkston, Ga., a mere hour (if that) from Jacksonville.

Why  Folkston? Well, it is where trains funnel north and south. About 50 trains a day go through Folkston, which also has a free train museum next to the railroad tracks. We parked next to the museum and decided to eat lunch before watching the trains roar by "up close and personal." As we were eating, two trains went by, one each way, on the two tracks. Jim caught a quick glimpse of them. But, of course, watching from within our RV was not the same as watching from one of the platforms Folkston has available.

So, after lunch, we traipsed to a platform, where several people were waiting. And waiting. And waiting. After a half hour, we decided to go see the museum.

The museum volunteer gave us a sheet listing the times when trains go by. The next one was scheduled for 2:30. At 2:25 we were sitting next to the tracks. We were still sitting there at 2:45. No trains.

It seems the story of our lives lately: We go fishing, but don't catch anything. We go train-watching and don't see any trains.

Oh, well. We had a nice time, anyway.

Until, later, on this leisurely journey north,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Back home again...

Rob and I hit the road about 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 15. The movers were incredible: They had everything loaded into the huge moving tru...