2016 Summer Trip

Naples, FL: Leaving for the Summer. Apr 20, 2016

Last summer while on my summer trip, I posted often to my Facebook page with descriptions and pictures of my travel. I also have friends and relatives who were interested in following me but are not on FB so I would duplicate the posts into emails to them. Finally, I like to have a single “journal” of my travel including a map of the summer itinerary and so I kept a 3rd record for myself. Have done the mapping journal since 2000. So in an effort to cut down on repetitive work, I found this program where I can keep a trip journal complete with pics and general travel map which will email those who are interested when the journal is updated. 

Daughter Deb was down in FL this winter having sold her home in Virginia and preparing herself to do what her mom and I did for some 14+ year and travel full time in her RV. Traveling to ‘regulate’ her climate will be beneficial to her health. While in FL she had both knees replaced and when cleared by her doc, we each packed our motorhomes, hers for full time travel and mine for 5-6 months of summer travel. 

For the first 6 weeks, we will travel together while she gets her knees in shape to handle her stick shift jeep ‘toad’ (car towed behind the MH). We will spend a month at the Outer Banks (OBX) before taking a couple of weeks to wander to northern VA for grandson Charlie’s high school graduation and a visit with other daughter Vicki, her traveling husband and my 3 grandkids. Oldest grandson Timothy will be home from Univ of GA for Charlie’s big day (Charlie will be going to Univ of Oklahoma). Granddaughter Juliana will be paying close attention, I’m sure, for her big day in 2 more years. After graduation, Deb should be pretty much at full strength and we’ll part ways in our travels.

So we parked both MH’s in the driveway for a couple of days to pack and after Deb’s last morning doctor’s appointment with the orthopedist, we left before noon. I plan on returning sometime in September or October. After Charlie’s graduation I have no firm plans as to destinations except for a Michigan stop and for a couple of August lakeside weeks in northern Minnesota.

All who wander are not lost.

Loading up the rigs. Deb’s on the left, mine on the right

Sebring, FL: Highland Hammock State Park. Apr 20, 2016

Short half day (less) travel to the first stop. This is a nice state park on the south side of Sebring. Had a nice pull through F/H/U site at Florida resident “old fart” price. A good deal.

Palm City, FL: Cracker Barrel. Apr 21, 2016

Another short day with supper and overnight at the Cracker Barrel.

Savannah, GA: Another Cracker Barrel. Apr 22, 2016

Tried to stay at the Visitor Center in downtown Savannah but it was crowded/full. Kind of like trying to park in a busy farmer’s market so went to the Cracker Barrel on the north side of town instead.

Myrtle Beach, SC: Pirate Land Campground. Apr 23, 2016

Stayed at Pirate Land CG for two nights. Before season so not too busy. Enjoyed the pool and the Lazy River.

Cedar Island, NC: Ferry. Apr 25, 2016

We wanted to use the ferry system to get to our next real destination on the Outer Banks (OBX). It was a longish drive from Myrtle Beach to Cedar Island, NC but we got there by mid afternoon and went in to get a ferry reservation for the 10 am ferry the next day. Each rig, pulling a car, is considered a “triple” and they had only 5 slots left vs the 2 triples (6 slots) needed for us. But there were 18 motorcycles reserved and they take less space than a single so they booked us as a triple and double in order to bypass the computer limits and one of us would pay ‘at the gate’ in the morning for the extra space (it all worked out to the same price) and put a footnote in the computer ressie system that it was “OK”. So after supper and after the last ferry left, we pulled our rigs into the waiting line, turned out the lights and had a good night’s sleep. 

The entry to the ferry was zero problem. It was a beautiful cloudless day, warm with a nice ocean breeze. The ride takes 2.25 hours and it was very pleasant sitting outside on the upper deck.

Waiting in line ready to drive aboard
My rig underway
Deb’s rig to the left and mine on the right

Ocracoke Island, NC: National Park CG. Apr 26, 2016

So the ferry deposited us on Ocracoke Island, the southernmost of the OBX. Ocracoke Island is about 16 miles long and is accessible only by ferry (or by air) at ferry terminals on the southern and northern most tips of the island. The ferries are operated by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The eclectic town of Ocracoke is located on the south side of the island. 3 miles north is the Ocracoke National Park campground where old farts like me and those with a disability permit like Deb can camp for $12 per night (no power, no water). On the 100 or more sites, we were amongst maybe 10 other campers. The park is very nice and our sites backed up to the barrier dunes – an easy climb and short walk to the Atlantic.

Hatteras Island, NC: Ferry. Apr 27, 2016

After a great night’s sleep, we headed to the north side ferry terminal where we boarded the 10:30 am ferry to Hatteras Island. It is a shorter ferry ride of only 1 hour and it was an equally beautiful day/ride. We disembarked in the town of Hatteras and drove the 30 miles or so to our OBX destination – Ocean Waves Campground in Waves, NC. The cg is a full service, full hookup ocean front campground and our sites are about 12 off the barrier dune. We will be here for 30 days. It is pre season and many businesses will open May 1st. 

Waves is at the southern end of Pea Island Nat’l Seashore and on the north end, about 20 miles or so distant, begins the more commercial/touristy area of Nags Head and Kitty Hawk etc.

Waves, NC: Ocean Waves CG- Apr 27th to May 13th

Will be at this cg for the next 30 days. Arrived on Weds, April 27th. Spent a couple of days looking around a bit (it’s very early in the season and not everything is up and running yet). First few days were quite windy but clear and there were lots and lots of kite boarders out on the Pamlico Sound. We ate at a restaurant that also houses kite and equipment rentals & sales and a school for learning to kiteboard. It was an interesting place. Really big kites and they get up to 30-35 mph on their boards. I’d guess they sleep well at nite.

Tues. May 3rd. Rainy and it looks like on and off rain most of today and tomorrow. Weds. Still chilly and rain, sometimes torrential. Looks like spotty weather for the rest of the week but it is only early May so I’m not sure what I expected. Spending time getting some indoors(RV) things accomplished. 

Medicare, as well, has set more hurdles in collecting the balance they owe for Sharon’s wheelchair and lift so I’m spending some time putting responses together. Glad I have everything on computer so I don’t have to carry a banker’s box full of records and correspondence with me. It’s been a long slog so far with the original claim made in Jan 2012 and with Medicare denying same until Aug 2014 when the judge ruled in my favor. Out of a $23,000 judgment, Medicare finally paid some $700 and when I filed a Sanctions Motion they came up with another $14,000+/-. So the fight goes on to collect the remaining $8,000 plus another $7,000 in interest due. At least I’m not ruining a sunny day with these bureaucratic numbskulls. Have spent 2+ days putting together a new appeal for a hearing in front of an Admin. Law Judge. Hopefully the hearing will be scheduled within the year.

Sunday May 8. Mother’s Day. Missing Sharon who made our family what it is. It was a beautiful day, sunny, warm with minimal breeze. Deb & I took a drive in her Jeep to Buxton – about 40 miles south on Waves and 20 miles north of the town of Hatteras. The Jeep is fun to drive – Deb is still not driving it since it is a stick shift and difficult yet with her new knees. Pre season, the roads are not busy nor was the lighthouse (it was packed last September when I was here). Needless to say, we did not climb all the stairs to the top. We finished the day with a great seafood dinner of grouper.

Tues May 10. Most campers might get some mail at the cg or perhaps even an Amazon pkg. Not daughter Deb. So a big truck pulls up in front of the campsites and lowers Deb’s newest pkg attached to its own skid/pallet onto her site. And so the balance of the day was spent putting together her new foldable recumbent trike complete with an assist motor. Its new traveling home will be in back of the jeep.

Ocean Waves CG continued – May 13th to May 27th

May 13th finished off with a cool front/rain moving through and a great rainbow display over the beach. Saturday followed with bright blue skies, low humidity and 80 degree temps. We decided to ride south past Avon to a point where the road is right next to Pamlico Sound to watch the kite surfers. On the way we discovered that surf fishing affects all income levels as we passed a Rolls Royce decked out with a surf rod carrier on the front and with beach tires. Who knew?

It was a nice afternoon watching the kite surfers. It was only a moderate breeze and yet they skimmed the water and at times the surfboards cleared the water flying for 30-50′. The kites lined up waiting to be taken out on the water made for a colorful sight. After a walk out on the Rodanthe Pier, we had supper at “Top Dog”, a good little restaurant about a half block north of the campground.

Longwood Park, Kerr Lake, Clarksville, VA. May 26, 2016

Thursday May 26, 2016: Our month on the OBX was almost over and our next scheduled stop was to be at Lake Philpott in western Virginia for Friday night (5/27). We thought it might be a difficult drive for a single day so we decided to split it into two days. That left the option of leaving a day early or arriving at Lake Philpott a day late. Inasmuch as we had pretty much been to all the early season restaurants of interest, we opted to leave a day early.

We drove about 240 miles and stopped at Longwood Park, a COE (Corp of Engineers) campground on Kerr Lake, just north of the NC/VA border. As with most COE parks, it is located on a lake/backwater of a COE dam. For campers, they are mostly jewels, nicely done with large sites. COE cgs often are a mix of rustic vs electric vs electric and water sites. I haven’t stayed at one yet that has sewer hookups. Since they are lake/water driven locations, they are extremely popular. With the Senior (old fart) pass (for me) and the disability pass for Deb, camping is half priced off an already inexpensive $20-$25 nightly rate. At $12.50, you can’t beat the price. We were tired so after we set up camp, we went into town for nice dinner overlooking the dam.

Goose Point (COE) Campground. May 27, 2016

Friday, May 27, 2016. We left Longwood and drove 100 miles further west to Goose Point Park on Philpott Lake (just west of Bassett, VA – home of Bassett Furniture) and 14 miles west of Martinsville, VA – home of the famous ‘paper clip’ Martinsville Speedway and site of exciting NASCAR races. Goose Point is one of 5 COE campgrounds locates on dammed up Philpott Lake. The COE maintains an add’l 7 day use parks on the lake. We will be here for the holiday (Memorial Day) weekend and leave on Tuesday. So we set up camp next to each other and then drove into Martinsville to look around. Before returning, we stopped at the “Checkered Pig” BBQ restaurant to pick up a couple of slabs of ribs to take back to camp. Must have been a good place because at 3pm already there was a line up at the take out window and the 50+/- dining seats were full. Back at camp we found out why the place was so busy. Best meal in over a month. Fabulous ribs!!

Goose Point is located about 5 miles off the main road – via a twisty climb. Despite the GPS saying “it’s this way”, there were serious doubts. But once we arrived we found a really great 63 site campground – about 3/4 of which are water & electric. Neat as a pin, heavily wooded with large sites carved into or out of the hillsides. The park includes 2 beaches, some docks and a boat put in. There are zero vacant sites in the park and I’m told the lake front sites are reserved 6 months in advance. Deb & I are parked at the very top of a large high hill. They have 17 sites carved out encircling the hill. We’re backed into our sites with the rear of our MH’s extending over the side of the hill with a 50′ or better dropoff. Besides W&E, the sites include a picnic table, grill and fire pit and a ‘candy cane’ hook to hang your food bags up and away from wild life.

Philpott Lake is located in the rugged foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with the Blue Ridge Parkway about 15 miles west. The dam was started in 1948 and completed in 1951 creating the lake with 100 miles of shoreline The lake and COE land encompass 10,000 acres adjoined by another 10,500 acres of Virginia State Park (Fairy Stone SP) and Game and Inland Fisheries forest. I think we’ll be very comfortable here for a few days.

Blue Ridge Parkway
May 27, 2016

Saturday, May 27 2016. A sunny warm day. A beautiful day for a ride. So we took the rag top off Deb’s Jeep and headed west a dozen + miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway. A first for Deb. Sharon and I had pulled our 5th wheel over about 150 miles of the Parkway some year ago. We drove about 60 miles of the Parkway south before returning to camp. The Blue Ridge Parkway extends 470 miles along the crests of the southern Appalachians and links two eastern national parks – Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains. Deb’s former home in northern VA was in the foothills of the Shenandoahs.

Some very pretty mountain and meadow vistas driving leisurely (45 mph max speed limit) along the mountain ridges. Lots of folks enjoying their motorcycles with everyone enjoying the relaxed drive. The two lane, slow drive reminded me a bit of driving to Florida when I was a teen – before interstates and 60mph speed limits.

Bolar Mountain COE CG, Hot Springs, VA Area. Jun 1, 2016

Weds., June 1: We left Goose Point Park COE CG by about 9 am to travel to Bolar Mountain Campground (COE). The trip was approximately 150 miles and took us about 6.5 hours including lunch and fuel stop. The route included many two lane roads 

with twists and turns, climbs and descents as we went over the Blue Ridge Mountains and into the Alleghany Mountains. 

Bolar Mountain is the western of two mountains separated by Moomaw Lake, created by the COE Gathright dam. There are 7 COE campgrounds, with various degrees of ‘comfort’, on and around the lake. 

The campground area is 20 miles (as the crow flies) north of Covington, VA (about 40 driving miles) and almost on the VA/W VA border. It is about equidistant between Warm Springs/Hot Springs VA and White Sulphur Springs, W. VA – about a 30 mile trip to either over difficult roads. As isolated as it is, there is no cell service until reaching one of the 3 towns. There is no TV reception and one radio station (NPR). But there’s lots of trees and water. 

The little marina store has limited groceries (milk, bread, marshmallows, a couple of cans of soup, and some ice cream bars) and other than that, it’s a drive to one of the towns. Better check your gas tank levels while in town as well.

We are in the most civilized campground (#1).

The campground is deep in the woods with nice big level sites, electric only. 

GPS routings are not to be relied on as the “road” may actually be a “trail”. The driving motto with a motor home is “look before you leap”. 

The 17 year locust (cicada) hatch is in full bloom. According to the camp host, it started the day before we came. The ground is full of holes from which they emerged. 

Though there are a lot of dead ones on the ground, we actually don’t see too many flying around. The noise, however, is LOUD – from dawn to dusk. Even with all the MH doors and windows shut, it is constantly loud inside. Thankfully, they are quiet at night.

Really enjoyed it and the surrounding areas – Hot Springs, Warm Springs, White Sulphur Springs,the dam, etc. We were told of a ‘short cut’ to Hot Springs which cut off about 10 miles from the trip leaving it about a 20 mile trip. So we went into the small town of Hot Springs daily for supper and to get cell phone reception. We’d have to cross a single lane concrete bridge 

and take Richardson Gorge road for 10 miles before hitting paved roads again. Gorge road is a good description.

Besides being a gravel road, it is a tight 1.5 lane track cut in the side of the mountain with uphill cliff on one side and a downhill fall to the river on the other side. Add to that many, many blind curves. Along the way, there a couple of cabins built across the river. Not sure where they parked but I don’t think I’ll be visiting them soon. 

Thankfully, you’d generally only meet one or two vehicles on the road. On meeting a vehicle, cooperation, at very slow speed, of both drivers is definitely required. 

The most interesting town was Hot Springs, VA. It is a small old community with much history. The centerpiece of the town is “The Homestead”

a hotel resort with 3 championship golf courses. Sam Snead was born in a nearby town and as a youngster caddied at The Homestead. The Homestead is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year though after it burned down, it was rebuilt in 1902. Back in the day, it was one of the places to go for the New York City crowd. The chairman of the C&O railroad had a nearby summer place and so the C&O built tracks to run railroad service between NYC and Hot Springs. Today, the rebuilt 100+ yr old facility rises high above the town. It is immense and dominating much in the style of Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel. The grounds are meticulously landscaped and vast. Staff is uniformed in starched whites.

We, however, found good eating at tiny Lindseys Roost on Main St with service from the owners or their 10 yr old grandson. 

We stopped at the town’s Visitor Center and while in their parking lot, downloaded our email etc. Noticed that in the same old building there was a law office and recognized the name. The lawyer’s a VA State Senator who was in the news a year or so after Sharon’s death was so well assisted by the medical and state regulator community of the Commonwealth. His son was having severe mental problems and he tried to get him committed for treatment but was repeatedly denied because there was “no room”. One day his son attacked the Senator and after stabbing him 13 times, then shot himself to death. Investigation later revealed that in fact there was available facilities but the bureaucracy was just too lazy to even call the facilities. The story, of course, caught our attention as we were in the process of our lawsuit against the very same Commonwealth health agencies. Anyway, while sitting in the car, the Senator came out so I got out of the car and walked up to him, introduced myself with a short version of Sharon’s experience with the VA health system and regulators and ours with the VA government. It actually felt good to speak with someone who had similar catastrophic experience with government failure and believed what he was hearing. 

We stayed 5 nights at Bolar Mountain COE CG and left on Monday morning for Robert C. Craig COE CG in the mountains of West Virginia.

Robert C. Craig COE Campground. Jun 6, 2016

June 6, 2016. Left Bolar Mountain today bound for Robert C. Craig COE campground in West Virginia. The campground is located on the south side of Jennings Randolph Lake (PIC) between Elk Garden and Keyser, WV. The Maryland/WV line runs down the center of the lake. It was approximately 140 mile drive on 2 and some 4 lane roads – much of it mountain driving. 

The campground is comprised of 68 electric sites, shower with hot water and a camp store. The park is immaculate and manicured. Sites are large and level. There are also, within the COE grounds, a large and beautiful picnic area, 2 boat launch areas, a very nice beach and, of course, the dam. There are a couple of high scenic overlooks. There are a number of hiking trails and an archery range.

It is also home to “The Waffle Rock” so named because of the similarity of its surface pattern to an oversized breakfast waffle. There have been numerous theories as to its origin ranging from a prehistoric pictograph, an indian carving, skin pattern impression of a giant lizard or even evidence of an alien visit. Geologists have concluded that it is a natural geological formation of sandstone and rock thrown into large folds during a period of mountain building. Whatever the origin, it is most unusual.

As with our prior stay at Bolar Mountain, the road to the nearest town of size (Keyser, WV) is a most difficult drive. It is a shortcut of about 12 miles – very twisty/hairpin turns and 9 and 10% climbs and descents with nothing but space on the other side of the guardrail. In fact the two lane road is so narrow that there is no room to set the guardrail posts just off the pavement. Instead the posts are placed at an angle to the road on the downhill side of the road. Quite scary. Nearly all of the 12 miles is going up the mountain, maybe a half mile at the ridge and then right back down the mountain. 

All along the ridge are dozens electric producing windmills and once up on the ridge the road skirts the bases of some. It is a very strange feeling when climbing a really steep slope, into the sun and under a heavy tree canopy to all of a sudden have this big moving shadow of a giant arm sweeping across the road. One can’t yet see the windmills, only the shadows of the blades. Every evening, coming back from dinner, I was reminded of Don Quixote.

The nearest town, Elk Garden has a population of 150 people and as far as we could tell, the only formal business in town is the US Post Office. No restaurant, fuel, groceries or anything. The other town, some 25 miles away unless you take the ‘over the mountain’ shortcut is Keyser. It is a larger town complete with a Walmart Superstore but we didn’t really see anything remarkable there nor find any distinctive eating places.

The eastern area of W. Virginia is very very beautiful, scenic country. We left Robert C. Craig Campground on Friday, June 10th heading to the DC area of northern Virginia and our next campground at Bull Run Regional Park between Manassas and Centreville, VA.

Northern Virginia/Charlie’s Graduation. Jun 10, 2016

We left W VA enroute to the northern VA area arriving at Bull Run Regional Park and Campground, Centreville, VA. Bull Run is a very large county park that I estimate at 5 sq miles just south of I-66 and east of historic site of the Battle of Bull Run. The campground itself is 2 miles deep into the park and has 150 sites with about ¾ of them being either full hookup or electric & water sites. The majority of the sites are pull through paralleling the paved roads. Sites are relatively level and graveled. There is a camp store, a dump station, some rental cabins, a large playground and bathhouse with laundry room.

The park has 6 soccer fields, a skeet, trap and sporting clays shooting range, indoor archery range, a number of play areas, a special event center, a civil war exhibit, a dozen picnic shelters with numerous other unsheltered picnic areas, a disc golf course, a very large water park, 3 formal walking trails and one equestrian trail. The park is bounded by the Bull Run River/stream on the south and west sides and bisected by the Cub Run stream. It is a great base camp for visiting DC except that public transportation is some miles away. The park is extremely busy on weekend with entry traffic sometimes backed up for blocks. The campground is spacious and even when full is peaceful.

With both daughters living in the DC area for 20+ years, Sharon & I visited, in the past, all the sites and sights that were of interest to us so this DC area visit was a ‘family visit’ to see youngest daughter Vicki, her husband Jon and my 3 grandchildren, Tim, Charlie and Juliana. Deb sold her home over the winter and no longer lives in the area now full timing in her RV and based out of Sioux Falls, SD – the same home base that Sharon and I had for the last 10 years or so of our full timing. As we have had since we left FL in April, Deb and I have adjacent campsites. After this stop though, she and I will be parting ways in our travels.

Jon travels 50% + of the time overseas as a private contractor to the State Department and was gone for most of the visit. He returned home on the 16th after a 6 week swing to Singapore, Melbourne, Perth, Dhaka (Bangladesh), and Doha (Qatar). He arrived in time to attend Charlie’s high school graduation and birthday festivities on the 18th. Jet lagged, Jon had no trouble staying up late. Charlie, as had Tim before him, graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (rated as the #1 high school in the country by Newsweek – excuse a grandparent for bragging). In addition to graduating on Saturday, the 18th, it was also Charlie’s birthday so it was a big day including an afternoon reception for him. Charlie will be attending the University of Oklahoma this fall.

Enjoyed getting to see Tim also who was home for the summer from the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. Juliana spent a good deal of time studying for her sophomore exams at Centreville HS. She also had a season end dance recital on Saturday, both as a participant and instructor. Unfortunately couldn’t be at the graduation and recital at the same time and Juliana graciously excused us all. Vicki, as usual, is very busy when Jon is gone weeks at a time but still prepared some delicious home cooked meals for us – always good and, for me, unusual recipes.

Leave tomorrow (Tues) morning. Next planned stop will be in west Michigan and then there will be no real advance planning – in other words I’ll wander, until early August when I have a two week lakeside stay in northern Minnesota.

Centreville, VA to Grand Rapids, MI. Jun 21, 2016

All good things must come to an end and so I leave daughter Vicki and her family to continue their busy schedules of work and play. Enjoyed visiting with them immensely. And I leave Debbi behind to continue her independent travel in her RV – as she now truly begins full time RVing. I am heading towards MI where I have a couple of more stops to check in on relatives to make sure they are staying on the straight and narrow 🙂 🙂 🙂

I have traveled the Washington to MI routes so many times that I can’t think of any new interesting stops. I’m sure there are many but I can’t think of them. And so it becomes just a straight shot drive broken into a few days of travel – I don’t like to drive lots of miles/all day. My first stop was just an over nighter at the westbound Portage Service Plaza on the Ohio Turnpike. It is one of six (I believe) turnpike service plazas that have dedicated spaces for overnight RVs. They have a lot off the entry reserved for RVs. It has electric service for each space and a central fresh water station and dump station and overnight fee is nominal. It is on the far opposite side of the truck parking lots so it is relatively quiet. There were 3 RVers who spent the night – out of about 12 spaces.

My next overnight was again an area solely dedicated to overnight RV parking. It was at the Cabela’s Sporting Goods store in Dundee, MI – just south of Ann Arbor. It is dry camping only (no electric, water or sewer) but it is separate and located at a distance from their shopping parking areas and from a similar truck parking area. This lot will accommodate probably about 30-40 RVs and there were just three of us. Though these overnight spots are ‘spartan’ they are lined parking spaces plenty wide to put out the slide outs etc., patrolled and easy in/out.

My first stop of consequence was to see my SIL Mary and family at Gun Lake (about 40 miles south of Grand Rapids). The ‘family compound’ consists of 2 adjoining cottages and I was graciously invited to park in the back yard of Steve & Sue’s place. An electric cord run out of the garage, slides out and awning out and I was in business. For two full days I was entertained, well fed with some favorites such as salmon one day and my perennial birthday requested meal of sloppy joes the next, and reacquainted with some who I’d not seen for some time (or in the case of some great and great great nephews & nieces, ever). 

Water toys abounded – pontoon boat, speed boat, kayaks, paddle board, jet skis, and a paddle boat. I got a great ride on the pontoon around Gun Lake and Saturday evening got to watch, from shore, as Michigan’s Governor was cruising the lake in his ‘woody’ trailed discretely by armed security in their black inflatable. The Governor’s summer cottage is a dozen or so cottages away. I think the last time I was at Gun Lake was as a 16 yo so it was fun seeing it again

Bob and Steve (nephew and NIL) are big time fishing aficionados and, upon hearing that I will spend some time this summer on a MN fishing lake, they insisted that I bring out my packed fishing gear for inspection. My fishing experience was, many decades ago, exclusively salmon fishing in Lake MI plus one futile single hour or two attempt in and amongst the mangroves at home in Naples. So I dragged out my gear and laid it out on the table. I was given “4 shrimp out of 5” for my lures and other tackle. I was given a failing grade on one of my reels, an OK for salt water on the second reel and a passing grade on my third reel. My two poles were deemed totally unacceptable as they were too stiff, split and cheap. 

They told me that a minimally acceptable pole would be a light weight, one piece composite and would run about $100 minimum. I told them I didn’t think Kmart had any poles that were that expensive 🙂 so off to a local tackle store we went to get a new pole and some miscellaneous “must have” items that I was lacking. Out of 100’s and 100’s of poles available, Bob settled on 2 that he thought would be OK and explained the positives of both. And then he discovered that one of them was, horrors, a two piece pole. But it had already been deemed acceptable. Then a ‘green tag’ was notice on the bottom of the grip – a delightful tag that said “Clearance – $19.95. After a bloody fight with Bob & Steve 🙂 I prevailed as the person who got to buy it. My new blue light special!

After two+ full days of sponging there and enjoying picture post card weather, I left Monday morning to take the major 40 mile journey to see brother Ron and his wife, Gert. On the way I got to stop at a truck wash and get a couple month of dirt and bugs washed off the rig. They did a great job. As I’ve done before, I parked on the street in front of their home and ran the curb side slides out. Ron ran a power cord out to the street and once again I had power without resorting to the generator. Gert had taken a chance and made nachos for lunch. Another fave and another home run. We got to visit all afternoon and then hit 5 Guys for a quick supper – my favorite greasy hamburger joint with great fries. Got to enjoy a great evening sitting out in their back yard and then inside overlooking the woods and stream. When the sun went down and it was past my bedtime, I took my exit out to the street and my own bed.

My relatives certainly out did themselves and showed me a great time and visit. I am soooo grateful! My next stops will be beach camping at Mears State Park in Pentwater, MI for a few days and then the Les Cheneaux Islands for the 4th of July holiday.

Charles Mears State Park, Pentwater, MI. Jun 28, 2016

Though I’m not a fan of (I really have an aversion to) making reservations, a Monday holiday weekend like the upcoming 4th of July forces me to look ahead and make arrangements. So I got online and scored 3 nights on a Lake Michigan beach at Mears State Park in Pentwater MI. 

Decades ago my family spent a good deal of time in this area boating from our home port of Grand Haven to Pentwater, Ludington, Frankfort, Leland, Suttons Bay and Charlevoix. Last year, using Sleeping Bear National Seashore campground as a base, I re-explored Frankfort and north so thought it would be fun to look at what changed and what stayed the same around Pentwater and Ludington. 

Camping at Mears SP is similar to Holland SP and Grand Haven SP, asphalt camping with sand between your toes. 175 campsites with electric plus a beautiful Lake Michigan beach – all within an easy few block walk into the quaint town of Pentwater. There were a few new additions to downtown but mostly it hadn’t changed since the time 50-60 yrs ago when my family boated here. The marina is still a charming downtown marina and I could easily visualize our boat in some of the slips we frequented. Gustafsons, the favorite haunt of the girls in my family, is still there though the hours I remember they spent there made me think it larger than it actually is. I think in the day it was more generalized merchandise. I enjoyed a delicious perch dinner at the Antler Bar and good dinner at the Brown Bear across the street.

I also drove the car up to Ludington and to the Ludington State Park. Ludington is a home to the cross lake ferry “SS Badger”. Though now a National Historic Monument, the Badger still operates daily as a car/truck ferry between Ludington and Manitowoc, WI. Ludington also has a beautiful municipal marina (for the most part, there is a municipal marina every 30 miles or less along Michigan’s coastline). The marina looks the same as when we made use of it and there was one boat in a slip that we had moored at that very much reminded me of our family boating travel/fishing. 

Ludington State Park is a linear park with various campgrounds located well off the beach between Lakes Michigan and Hamlin. The park is bounded on the north by Michigan’s Big Sable Point Lighthouse (as opposed to Cape Sable in Everglades National Park near where I live). Along the road are many car pull offs/parking spaces for a more private beach experience along with one large parking area a major beach. While there, I could clearly see a parade of 4 lake freighters on the horizon, a sight I’ve always enjoyed.

Since I only had 3 nights, I had made reservations in the Upper Peninsula for the weekend and so I left West Michigan on Friday morning. As I discovered, I could have stayed longer if I would have changed sites within the park for each night of the weekend. Not tough to do when you’re only hooked to electricity but Michigan’s online reservation site doesn’t let you know that sites are available if you are willing to make site moves within your desired stay. Nice parks but kind of clunky reservation system. Better that way I guess than a great web site and lousy parks.

Les Cheneaux Area, Upper Peninsula Michigan. Jul 1, 2016

Les Cheneaux Islands area – Cedarville, MI

I was looking for a place to park over the 4th of July holiday. Four day holidays are especially busy campground days so I figured that it would be easier to find available sites in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. While visiting with brother Ron earlier this week, he mentioned a UP campground that he and Gert had visited 2 weeks earlier and so I called them and got a waterfront site for a week. 

So today was ‘move day’ and it was a major travel day for me (260 miles from Pentwater) but I arrived before 3 pm on Friday. The crossing of the Might Mac bridge was busy and winding but at the bridge authority’s mandated max speed of 20mph, the crossing was uneventful. The campground, Loon’s Point CG, is very neat and clean. I have full hookups and am parked a bit on an angle so I have great waterviews from the front and side windows (and also of the occasional red crest heron or crane which passes by – not sure what they are). It turns out that I do not have a camper on either side of me so the site seems more spacious than it actually is. Though on Lake Huron, it is not the wide view of Lake Huron that one might expect. A quarter – half mile offshore are islands so the view is more like a wide river. There is a small sandy beach and a long pier with about 10 boat slips.

So what to do besides relax and read? I spent one day and drove 40 miles back to St. Ignace, MI and caught the ferry to Mackinac Island. Three of the sailings each day add a 12 minute ‘detour’ to go under the Mighty Mac Bridge and I got one of those rides. It has been 30-35 yrs since I had that view and that was crewing on a Chicago-Mac yacht race. At that time, after sailing all the way from Chicago, we ended up being de-masted rounding Greys Reef just southwest of the bridge. It wasn’t a perfectly sunny morning but it was an enjoyable trip. 

In the intervening decades, Mackinac Island hasn’t changed much. It is still a tourist trap. The Chippewa Hotel/Pink Pony, a place that Sharon and I and the girls enjoyed staying at, is still going strong. I walked the main street and also took the horse drawn carriage ride around the island. It was OK but the jokes told on the ride were corny and the views unchanged.

Cedarville, the little town where Loon’s Point CG is located, has a couple of interesting things going for it. It and nearby Hessel are old boating communities with many of the summer residents having their cottages on one of the many islands accessible only by boat. Hessel actually had the very first Chris Craft dealership in the country and now hosts a major wooden boat show every year. Cedarville has a maritime museum which is surprisingly large and interesting. Plus on Saturday night, there was a concert on their grounds which was fun. 

Cedarville is also home to the Great Lakes Boat Building School – one of 4 in the country. There are two on the east coast and one in Oregon. The School operates a two year program running from September to May for 20-24 students. The tuition is $12,000 per year. Students learn boat design as well as boat building. Everything is made on site except the engines used. They start by building their own step stool and large wooden tool chest which gives the instructors clues as to existing skill levels and speed of learning. The craftsmanship on the wooden boats built is really amazing. They build their own spars, sew their own sails, fashion their own oars, do their own bronze or aluminum casting etc. The boats built are classics and are either built to order or are put up for sale when completed. Students can work on their own boats after hours.

In the summer time, the school offers one week classes to the public. These differ in that the student will be building from a kit rather than from scratch. Since it is only one week, the kits are for small boats like dories, wherries, kayaks, paddleboards and dinghies. Tuition depends on the boat style ranging from $400 to $800 plus the cost of the kit and materials ranging from $500 to $1,500 +/-

Grand Marais and Munising (Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore), MI. Jul 8, 2016

I next wanted to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along Lake Superior. It was a place Sharon and I had never visited and though within 20 miles or so, I passed it by last summer. I tried to get a campsite in Munising’s municipal RV park but, at best, I would have had to move to a different site every day. Grand Marais (MaRay) is about 45 miles east of Munising, also on Lake Superior, and it looked, on the map, as though it would be a nice drive along the lake to the cruise terminal in Munising so I decided to set up camp there and use it as my launching point.

The RV park (Woodland Park) in Grand Marais is also a town operated park with about 120 electric and water sites. The sites vary greatly from smaller to very large. All are level grass sites. It is first come, first serve and, of course, I did not score one of the very large sites. My site was probably 100’ deep and 35-40’ wide. Sites are clearly demarcated with numerous white posts which to me, a believer in good fences make good neighbors, was just fine. The park is high on a bluff overlooking Lake Superior with many sites, including mine, have a great view of the lake. Camping here completes a trifecta for me in the past two weeks having camped on the shores of Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Last week, my daughter Deb camped on the shores of Lake Erie so between us we’re 4 for 5. 

Grand Marais is a very small town but quite interesting. In addition to a town supported campground, it has a town beach, a Coast Guard station and a state supported marina. There are a couple of motels and 3 restaurants. It is also the home of the Gitche Gumee Museum (Lake Superior agates) and of the Pickle Barrel House. In the late 1800’s to the 1970’s, William Donahay was a cartoonist and creator of the Teenie Weenies (2” tall tiny people) cartoon strip which ran for 50 yrs in the Chicago Tribune. One of the cartoon characters “got married” and the couple moved into a pickle barrel. Donahay had a number of licensing agreements for his work with companies like Monarch Foods and Reid-Murdoch. A Chicago based cooperage company designed a built a two barrel pickle barrel cottage in Grand Marais for the Donahays. The cottage is now a museum and is on the National Register of Historic sites.

So I made reservations for a 5 pm Pictured Rocks cruise out of Munising. The 50 mile drive to Munising was indeed picturesque. I confess I had fairly low expectations for the cruise but even if they had been much, much higher, they would still have been exceeded. The boat was an 82’ catamaran powered by twin diesels with a capacity of 350 passengers. It was about 1/3 full. The lake was smooth and though a bit cloudy, the weather was warm.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore begins about 3-4 miles east of Munising and extends the 45 miles further east to Grand Marais. The westernmost 15 miles of the National Lakeshore actually has all the rock cliffs etc. with the balance being the more typical woods and beaches. The cliffs extend as high as 270’ above the lake level and present nearly shear surfaces with much evidence of rock collapses and wind and water erosion. Made of porous sandstone, water drains down and through the rocks leaching out various minerals on the surface of the cliffs. This results in the many colors of brown, beige, gold, greens, black and blue from minerals such as copper, manganese etc. The cruise runs very close to shore – often as close as 60-100’ – affording a fantastic view and the “spray cruise”, which I took, culminates at a decent size waterfall. It is a bit over one hour traversing the 15 miles and then another hour reversing course so the port side of the boat gets a good view. The second hour, traversing the same course, is still beautiful but the narration becomes a bit boring.

The last item on my agenda as I was leaving the Grand Marais/Munising area was to drive to Marquette. Joan V.P., anticipating my general direction, suggested that I visit Lakenenland. This is a “junkyard” about 15 miles east of Marquette on Rt 28. You can walk through or drive through and it’s free. You are greeted at the entrance with large trespassing signage if you are township, county or state officials, all others are welcome. Apparently Mr. Lakenen does not have good relations with zoning type officials. This is a whimsical junkyard of large, large sculptures made by Mr. Lakenen from scrap metal. It really is quite delightful and imaginative and well worth the stop. 

Thank you to brother Ron & Gert VP for their suggestion of a Cedarville, MI stay and to niece Joan VP for her junkyard suggestion. Other than a two week lake stay coming up in early August (in Minnesota), I really have zero specific travel plans between now and, say, October. So if anyone reading this has a travel or stop suggestion and I haven’t been there before or have since forgotten, please let me know. I like having options!

Not everyday is peaches and cream (No Pics). Jul 13, 2016

So when I left Grand Marais, I was intending to go to Ashland, WI (Apostle Islands area). Some years ago we had stayed in a very nice municipal park (Kreher Park) right on Lk Superior. It’s a nice town with lots of other nice towns in easy driving distance so I figured it was good for 3-4 days. BUT…the weather forecast showed story weather heading for the NW U.P. for Monday nite so I detoured down to the Escanaba area and northern Lake Michigan. 

After 2 nights there, I figured I head back north and west through Ironwood, MI and go to Kreher Park. Kreher doesn’t take reservations so I left early (for me) so that I’d arrive by noon which should be early enough to get a site. I did call around 10am to see if I could get a read on how busy they might be. The lady said I should have no problem. 

It was a difficult drive with heavy cross winds the whole way. As I got to Ironwood/Bessimer area I saw many many uprooted or broken huge trees with lots of tree trimmers working. I continued my drive and got to about 10 miles east of Ashland (on US2) by 11:45am. Not too much traffic. That’s when I came across a temporary road sign advising that the road was closed ahead to all but local traffic. No advice as to a detour but I turned at the next intersection. About 3 miles south, the road turned into gravel and then got narrow. But it turned and paralleled US2 so I continued. About 7 miles down, the road ended at a T with another gravel road heading north back towards US 2. So I turned and within 500′ there was a black car stopped. A sheriff’s deputy got out and walked to me. The road was washed out ahead of him.

So he fills me in on the story. Monday nite they had 14″ of rain in 4 hours. Severe flooding. The US 2 bridge into Ashland is underwater – he said it was still shoulder high underwater and they hoped to find out in a couple of days if the bridge would be usable again or if there would be a 6 month delay for repairs. The Gov. had called out the Nat’l Guard which should arrive later in the afternoon for traffic control. Access to Ashland from the east and from the south was impossible. 

I would have to turn around and go back east about 30 miles to highway 77 and take that some 70 miles or so to Hayward, WI. Then if I wanted I could come back north and west and come back to Ashland from the Duluth direction. 10 minutes from Ashland with a detour that would take 4 hours if I still wanted to go to Ashland. No, I don’t need to go there that badly. But I still needed to do the first part of the detour to Hayward. The MH with the car needs a large turning radius and we were on a narrow road. Unlike towing a trailer, you cannot back up with a car attached. The car steering wheel will turn and jackknife the rig. So the cop watched me disconnect the car, back that down the road to where I could turn around, then back the MH down the road to turn it around and then reconnect the car. He was fascinated but not much help.

So I follow his directions and start my detour. About 50 miles down the road I come to a curve and there is a barricade across the whole road. No explanation – the road is just plain closed. So it is disconnect and reconnect car time déjà vu. This time I had a few other stranded motorists to watch me. So I figure another route to Hayward. 

The MH is driving really squirrelly (which I attribute to the wind gusts) and with a lot of bumpiness (which I attribute to the bad road joints) but when I get to a spot with new pavement, I can feel that there is something wrong with the MH that is not attributable to the wind or road bumps. Google time for Hayward and tire shops and I get to one that has good reviews around 4:30pm. I have two tires that have tire separations (1 front and 1 inner dually) and 3 tires where the wear lines (or whatever they call them) are showing. In short, it’s time for new tires so I am ‘camped’ next door to the tire store until the new tires are delivered and installed tomorrow.

Oh and there was a big police presence in Hayward two blocks north of Main St. Seems that the local dam burst and the highway is flooded about 6-8″. One dead due to the flooding Monday nite with one deputy escaping safely from his cruiser which overturned in the floodwater also on Monday nite. The police are funneling cars through one at a time through the flooded street and around a stalled BMW :). And as I write this it is starting to rain!!

Duluth, MN and west. Jul 15, 2016

So completing my big time detour around flood ravaged northern Wisconsin I arrived in Duluth, MN – the western tip of Lk Superior. Though Sharon & I had been to, by and through Duluth a number of times, we had never stopped.

Following advice of my tour director Ron who provided advice on some things to see and a campground to stay at, I registered for a few nights at Indian Point Campground on the Saint Louis Bay of Lake Superior, a few miles south of downtown. Though it is basically across the street from the Lake Superior Zoo, I didn’t go there. It’s a very nice quiet campground and although I didn’t have a waterfront site, I had a very good view of the bay. Duluth is surrounded on the north by high hills/cliffs and the views from those, overlooking the City and the Lake, are superb. Downtown waterfront Duluth is very vibrant – most cities would give a lot to have a restaurant area such as theirs congregated in repurposed buildings. The balance of downtown is a bit worn. The town of Superior, WI is just across the bay via several bridges.

Taking the guidance I’d received, I did take a day trip along the north shore of Lake Superior heading east. I stopped at Two Harbors about 40 miles northeast of Duluth. Two Harbors is on Agate Bay and is the site of docks used for shipping iron ore. There used to be 6 docks but only 3 remain. Over 10 million ton of taconite, or iron ore, is shipped from here annually. Dock #1, pictured above, is over 1,300 feet long and about 7 stories high. Each side of the dock has 112 pockets. Trains full of taconite move along the top of the dock and download into hoppers located in the pockets. The chutes along the sides of the hoppers will drop down into the hull of the freighters to load the taconite. 

I continued my side trip another 10 miles northeast to Gooseberry Falls State Park. This was a very nice stop with a large visitor center and easy walking trails to the upper, middle and lower falls. A very popular stop! Between Two Harbors and the State Park is the location for Split Rock Lighthouse. With the opening of the Sault Ste Marie locks in 1855, the North Shore of Lake Superior became a busy waterway of pleasure boats and ships hauling lumber and iron ore. The rocky North Shore caused many vessels to fall victim to Lk Superior’s storms. In 1905, a single storm caused damage to 29 ships prompting the federal government to build the Split Rock Light Station atop the 130 foot high cliff. It was only accessible by water but in the late 1930’s road development caused it to be less isolated. It is one of the most visited lighthouses in the nation.

Continuing my travels for this segment, I left on Tuesday morning and headed 100 miles west on US 2 stopping for the night near Deer River, MN at a nice Corps of Engineers park – Winnie Dam Campground (Winnibigoshish Lake Dam. $10/night is not a bad price for camping

Crookston, MN. Jul 20, 2016

An overnight stay waiting out a severe storm at Central (municipal) Park in Crookston – just east of Grand Forks, ND

Wahalla, ND. Jul 21, 2016

Another overnight, this time at the Walhalla municipal park – about 6 miles south of the Manitoba border.

Hankinson, ND. Jul 22, 2016

Overnight at the ND/SD border

Byron, MN. Jul 24, 2016

Have re`1joined daughter Deb at Oxbow Park in Byron, MN. Deb has been staying there as it is convenient to Mayo Clinic. I am able to help a bit by taking her dog Tibbi out for walks while Deb is gone during the day. The park is a very nice municipal park with a number of picnic areas, a decent size zoo and a couple dozen RV spaces, about evenly divided between electric sites and primitive sites. It is very well maintained and a short 6 miles west of Rochester city limits.

The other reason for being there is that there is a Court hearing on Friday before an Administrative Law Judge concerning the balance still owed to me from Medicare for Sharon’s wheelchair and patient lift equipment. The hearing will be by phone and it should be easier for us being in the same location to both prepare in advance for and then participate in the hearing.

The Court hearing did take place on Friday and lasted about an hour. It was very apparent that the Judge had not read or reviewed the administrative record/all the material that has been provided over the past 4 yrs. He did acknowledge that as a Judge at the same level as our prior Judge, he could not change the ‘fully favorable’ order that we previously had received. That should have simplified matters a great deal meaning that every thing prior to the original hearing was now judicially decided to be “proven fact” and that we now would be dealing only with items of governmental bad faith/non payment since the date of the prior Order – May 2014. Nonetheless, the Judge was confused not having read any prior material and adjourned the hearing. Though CMS and its contractors were once again “no shows” he wants us to provide him with a bunch of specific information – all of which is already on file. But since there is no way to politely tell a Judge “you already have every last bit of that information multiple times if only you would do your job and read the record” and not lose your case, we will once again put it all together for him. We’ve been given an outside deadline of October 1st notwithstanding that the government has now taken from January 2012 to the present trying to not pay for Sharon’s wheelchair claim and from the Judicial Order date of May 2014 to present defying the government’s own Judge. Don’t ever assume that there is even one area of your federal government that is efficient. It operates completely based on the ‘Peter Principle’; in fact, the federal bureaucracies are the poster child for the Peter Principle.

It wasn’t all work while there. We visited a number of local restaurants for dinner and even enjoyed a luncheon cruise on the Mississippi River near Hastings, MN.

Cass Lake Lodge. Aug 3, 2016

So Deb and I parted company today (Weds). She is on her way to Sioux Falls SD to get her drivers license completing her ‘move’ from VA to SD as a full time RVer. I was planning on taking a couple of days to drive the 300 miles north to Cass Lake, MN where I have a 2 week reservation. But I got an early start and while on the road, I called Cass Lake Lodge and found out that my site was empty so I added a couple of days on the front end and drove straight through.

Sharon and I had camped at Cass Lake Lodge in Aug 2006 and enjoyed our stay here. I also spent a week there last year on my summer trip. Cass Lake is located on US2 (one of my favorite routes) about 15 miles east of Bemidje. The lake was created by a Mississippi River dam and is the largest (15,000+ acres) of a chain of 8 lakes. I’m told it is a good fishing lake and I’ll try to verify that for myself though mid August is not the best time to fish.

Cass Lake Lodge is a family run operation consisting of a main lodge with game/sitting room, restaurant, and laundry. There are 15 cabins/cottages ranging in size from 1BR/1BA to 7BR/3BA. There are two RV areas for a total of 56 full hook up sites. 50 sites are seasonal and 6 sites are available on a nightly, weekly or monthly basis. There is also a small boat marina with fuel and a nice sandy swimming beach. The site I’m on (the same one that Sharon and I were on) is an odd site at the end of a row and perpendicular to all the other sites but that allows the entire side of my rig and patio area to face the lake. I also will have the use of a 16′ Lund fishing boat with 40hp Yamaha motor, electric trolling motor, fish finder and all the goodies. I will have to try out the new fishing rig that I got earlier with the help of Bob VP and Steve L.

Aug 19 update. I spent a very nice 16 nites at Cass Lake Lodge. Weather was perfect nearly every day. I did a fair amount of fishing and very little catching. I enjoyed having a boat available all the time. I got to explore all the areas of the lake. There is a large island in the lake with a large non connected lake on the island. Apparently this is one of two such totally land locked island lakes in North America. I especially liked taking the boat out for an hour or so cruise after dinner. I don’t really have any specific travel plans from here on but it seems like it’s too early to head back to FL so I’ll figure something out.

Vermillion, SD. Aug 21, 2016

Stayed at Lions Club City Park. W/E. First 3 nites free, then $5 per nite. College town with unusual restaurant located inside the Ace Hardware store

Blue Ox. Aug 23, 2016

Stopped at Blue Ox, the manufacturer of the tow bar that I use for my car just to have the tow bar serviced – they take it apart, check the tolerances, clean it, grease it, put in new neoprene washers etc. They have a very nice RV park as part of their service, full hook ups and its free. I also needed to have my bank send me a new debit card so I stayed here extra nights and communed with the cornfields while I waited.

Omaha, NE. Aug 25, 2016

Cracker Barrel overnight.

Norman, OK. Aug 27, 2016

Am here to visit with my youngest grandson, Charlie Ruiter. He is a freshman at University of Oklahoma and I’m here to see that his accommodations are OK :). We had a great visit, drove extensively around the campus and then drove the 20 miles or so north to Oklahoma City and by the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Had to tell Charlie about it – he’s a little young to remember (sigh). Sharon and I spent time at this memorial some years ago – a very sad tribute with all the empty chairs (with small one for the kiddies that were in the child care center) surrounding the reflection pond.

Charlie’s room is on the third floor of his dorm bldg – a cluster of 4 towers around a center 1 story core. The core contains public areas, game areas and a sit down chicken finger restaurant. He is 3 walking blocks from the Sooner’s football stadium so on home game weekends, it’ll be a happening place. 

I stayed about 15 miles east at Lake Thunderbird State Park. There are probably a dozen camping areas at Lake Thunderbird. I don’t remember the name of the one I stayed at but it was off Clear Bay Rd. Very nice full hookup, paved sites with lots of room and trees.

Branson, MO. Aug 30, 2016

I spent a week in Branson, MO at Shenanigans RV Park. It is a relatively small (@ 40/50 sites) well treed full hookup park on the east side of town just off the “Yellow Line” (there are 3 main east/west roads through Branson. The middle road is the Blue Line and is the heavily traffic’d main road with all the theaters, restaurants, attractions and shopping. The “Yellow Line” parallels it on the south (about 1/2 mile) and is a much faster route with a couple of dozen roads running north to connect to the Blue Line. Similarly, the Red Line is about a mile north of the Blue Line paralleling it. It is a quiet hilly park. Though the sites are close together, there is plenty of room for slides and the sites elevations are terraced and so the sites feel roomier.

I spent a full 3 days plus working on the document submission and explanations asked for by the Administrative Law Judge. As I had mentioned in my post for July 29th (Byron, Minn), Deb & I had a telephonic hearing with a Medicare Administrative Law Judge. The hearing was adjourned because the Judge wanted more information. (Every bit of the information was already in Medicare’s Administrative Record which the court had, but the Judge had not read it and rather than comment to the Judge that he already had it but obviously hadn’t looked at anything, we just agreed to the adjournment and to submit per his questions. Deb will also have to write a brief inasmuch, per his comments, he has the law just backwards. So anyway a new package of a couple of hundred pages are now put together (again) for him to which Deb will ‘marry’ her brief.

I also had time to enjoy 3 shows. One was the Presleys’ Jubilee (no relation to Elvis). It was the very first show in Branson having started below ground in a cave and expanding to the first live music theater on the now Blue Line in 1967. It is still largely comprised of multi generational members of the talented Presley family who put on a really good comedy and country, gospel and pop music.

The second show I saw and really liked was the “Million Dollar Quartet” originally on Broadway (a Tony award winning musical). It is the story (and music) of what happened on December 4th, 1956 night at Sam Phillips Sun Studio in Nashville, when 4 artists got together, impromptu, and jammed. One was an artist whose contract had been sold by Sun Studio to RCA two years earlier – Elvis Presley. Two artists were there to tell Sun Studio that they were leaving to go with Columbia Records – Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins and the 4th participant had just signed with Sun Records – Jerry Lee Lewis. This was music of my early teens and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also enjoyed the third show a lot though not as much as the first two – it was very one dimensional. It was a tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons named “New Jersey Nights”. Lots of 60s hits as well as some 70s and solo 80s hits. Really talented, great songs and well done but the show needed some more variety, I think.

I also drove by what has to be the only Golden Corral in the country that has a showroom. Strange! I ate supper twice (wish I had found it earlier than my last two nights) at Mel’s Hard Luck Diner. Large, large large diner, in full diner motif with singing wait staff and cooks. Every 5 minutes, one of the staff would grab the mike and roam the restaurant singing a song. Mostly 50 & 60’s with some gospel and even a Disney tune for a group of tykes at a table. Following the 2 minute +/- set, the waiter/waitress would spend 15 seconds to tout their CD for sale in the gift shop and then go back to waiting on their tables. 3 minutes later, the routine would start again with another member of the staff. Again really talented kids (for the most part) much appreciated by the patrons.

Sikeston, MO. Sep 6, 2016

Supper at Lambert’s Cafe, “home of the throwed rolls”. Interesting place. In addition to whatever you’ve ordered from the menu, waiters roam around with big bowls of fried okra, skillet fried potatoes, and a cart of hot yeast rolls (with apple butter) which are offered in addition to your dinner. The rolls are tossed to you, hence their slogan. They also have a location in Ozark, MO and Foley Alabama. Sharon & I had eaten here and at the Foley location before.

Also got permission to stay in their large parking lot overnight. They don’t open till 11am so I can even sleep in late. Generator running, air conditioning on (it was 95 degrees today) and lots of local TV channels. Very comfy.

Bull Run Regional Park, Centreville, VA. Sep 9, 2016

Back at old stomping grounds to celebrate granddaughter Juliana Ruiter’s 16th birthday. Hard to believe that it’s been 16 years already and now she’s a high school junior. What fun! Got to visit with daughter Vic and son in law Jon. Had some nice dinners out and Sunday, with Vic, brought Jon to Dulles for another of his overseas trips – this one for 3 weeks.

Victoria Bryant State Park, Royston, GA. Sep 13, 2016

I overnighted at Victoria Bryant SP. It is a beautiful park with an awesome w/e campground. The next day I drove into Athens GA where oldest grandson, Tim Ruiter is a junior at Univ of GA. I got to see the apartment he and two friends rent – a very nice building. Their apartment has a small kitchen, a living area with 3 good sized bedrooms each with its own bathroom. Tim and I then went out for dinner at Clocked!, a downtown hamburger restaurant. Athens is a vibrant town. I had parked the motor home at the Athens Cracker Barrel but since it is not set up for overnights, I left after dinner and drove a couple of hours to get south and west of Atlanta so that I wouldn’t have to deal with Atlanta rush hour traffic in the morning.

Biloxi, MS. Sep 15, 2016

Two nights – cruising the coast to see how has been restored since Katrina

Home. Naples (Port of the Islands), FL. Sep 18, 2016

Over the past two days, I’ve covered about 750 miles from Biloxi to home. That’s a BIG trip for me. I like to limit myself to driving the motor home about 200 miles per day. I think I’ve only had a few 300 miles days this summer. 

Now back home after 150 days on the road and 9,400+ miles on the motor home (plus local mileage on the car). Stopped at Blue Beacon Truck Wash north of Tampa to have the dirt, love bugs and other misc. splats washed off the motor home. A coat of RainX over it all plus tire dressing and the rig looks new again. I treated myself and the rig to 4 truck washes over the summer. Will unload tomorrow and bring it to storage on Tuesday. Have to get used to having all this space again in the condo:)

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