Saturday, March 15, 2014

Amarillo, TX

One of the times we stopped for gas, Josh talked with a passerby at a gas station. He warned us that the pan handle of Texas was a very boring drive. He was so right! There were lots of railroad tracks that ran parallel with us. The scenery was bleak and flat. The sky was still as big as ever! Josh and I don't have a radio or CD/tape player in the RV, so I have started reading out loud from our Nook Color while Josh drives. This drive was the first time I had ever seen an oil derrick. 

The RV park we stayed at was next to a farm. There was a donkey and alpaca next to the fence that separated the park and farm. We walked the dogs over to the fence to see how they would react. Suede seemed to really love the donkey. Honey was more curious about the alpaca. It was cute! 

We only stayed in Amarillo for one night. We decided to try a different route to Utah that would take us through Colorado. Our alarms set for 4:30 the next morning, we went to sleep. No amount of sleep could prepare us for what happened the next day!

Here's some video clips of our drive from Wichita Falls, TX to Amarillo, TX.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wichita Falls, TX

Before Dallas, TX the only other big city we drove the RV through was Jacksonville, FL. We almost took a route around the city, but felt it would be a good experience. 

It wasn't as bad as we thought. The only hard part was making sure we were in the correct lane. We were in some areas where the interstate was 8 lanes wide going one way. Lots of lane changes!

Soon after the busy city of Dallas, we were heading north towards Wichita Falls. This was when the scenery really started to change. 

The RV park we stayed in was a state park right off the interstate. It was connected to a huge park that had Frisbee golf and miles of walking trails. We ventured out and went on a three mile walk to the Wichita Falls. It was beautiful!

We stayed at the Wichita Falls RV Park. It was very close to a park with tons of trails including on that lead to the Wichita Falls. We took the dogs to go see it. We thought it was so cute that Honey (Boxer Mix) wanted to jump in the water but Suede (Pit Bull) "scolded" her. They are always looking out for each other. :)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Canton, TX

We drove to the Wagon Train RV Park in Canton, TX. It was a very nice park. The couple who owns the park and lives there have really put a lot of work and heart into it. The sky looked so big in Texas. I'll never get over that :) We ended up staying here for a couple of nights because the wind speed was too fast. Being in a high profile vehicle, it was something we had to pay attention to. We don't drive if the wind is over 15 mph for most of the day.

Here is a clip of our trip from West Monroe, LA to Canton, TX. We passed Shreveport, LA along the way. That is the big city you see in the video.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

West Monroe, LA

Photos of the drive from Jackson, MS to West Monroe, LA - where Duck Dynasty is filmed!

Me and the girls seeing the Mississippi River for the 1st time! 

After sight-seeing and driving all day, we were exhausted! We didn't take many pictures at the campsite. It was cool to see Duck Dynasty stuff everywhere in West Monroe. They even have their own restaurant! Josh installed a new lock on our RV door that evening. It was a great day!

Here is a quick video of our travels from Jackson, MS to West Monroe, LA

Monday, March 10, 2014

Jackson, MS

We left Meridian, MS looking forward to a day’s worth of driving to Shreveport, LA on I-20. Our Pit Bull Suede has severe skin allergies. She seems to break out to almost anything we try to feed her. It took a year or two to finally find a protein for her that worked: venison and potato. The only place we could find her food is at Petsmart with a Banfield hospital attached. We found one in Jackson, MS right off the interstate. Just a quick in and out and we would be back on the road, right? Ahh, if only things worked out the way we always planned them.

I pulled the RV into the Petsmart parking lot, went over a speed bump, and SNAP! Something broke. I casually kept driving and parked in the first available space, hearing scraping along the way. I was freaking out thinking I broke it while Josh calmed me down and went into problem solving mode. We came out to assess the damage. The back hitch that holds our motorcycle carrier had snapped off of the bumper. We were dragging the carrier behind us at an angle. Thankfully the motorcycle started right up and looked OK. We untied the motorcycle, and parked it in another spot. Thankfully, there was a Home Depot in the same shopping plaza. We bought 1,500 pound ratchet ties and metal epoxy. We wanted a temporary fix, so we could get to a campsite or hotel and still have the motorcycle for transportation. The goal was to put epoxy on the hitch and ratchet tie it to the bumper. The epoxy would help stick together the hitch and bumper. One broken ratchet tie and thirty minutes later, our temporary fix wasn’t as great as we hoped. The ratchet ties pulled the hitch closer to the bumper, but not close enough. We quickly called Coach Net (our lovely roadside assistance provider) to see if any RV service and repair shop could squeeze us in. We didn’t have much luck on a Friday afternoon though.

So, we ran our errands at Petsmart, unpinned the motorcycle carrier, set in on the couch in our RV, left the motorcycle in the parking lot, and drove the RV to Lefleur's Bluff State Park. It was the closest, cheapest park we could find. After we found the park and saw they had vacancy, we drove back to Petsmart to retrieve the motorcycle. On the way back, I drove the RV while Josh followed on the motorcycle. I made it back to the entrance of the park and realized Josh wasn’t behind me. I panicked and called him immediately. The motorcycle broke down a mile or so before “home.” He called CoachNet again. They were able to provide a free tow back to our campsite. Two hours later, we were finally able to set up camp. The RV Park is actually two miles from the entrance of the park. At ten miles per hour it was time consuming driving to the RV park, picking a site, driving back to the entrance, paying for the site, and finally driving all the way back to the space we would call home for the next few days. Jackson, MS welcomed us with a stressful first day, but the state park was so beautiful, it melted our stresses away.

Our site was right on a lake. Not only did we have an RV site, but we had a huge area for tent camping. It was the first time I was able to set up our 15 foot dog runners at an RV park. Unfortunately there weren’t any sewer hookups, but on the bright side they had an awesome shower house. The park ranger was very nice and informative. He made sure we knew what sights to visit while in town and told us about the park a little. He said they didn’t get many bears, but there was “a friendly alligator in the lake who won’t bother anyone.” After our experience in Lamont, FL we certainly found this amusing. We were wary about how much it would cost to fix the back bumper, so we didn’t do much in Jackson. I learned “We Remain” by Christina Aguilera and decided to film a video. “We Remain” is on the soundtrack for the second Hunger Games movie "Catching Fire." I felt the scenery of the park reflected the Hunger Games well. While we were filming, cars kept driving by. Instead of trying it again and again from the top hoping to record uninterrupted, we filmed two separate takes. I then went back to the RV and edited my videos. I even decided to re-film the ending in our “back yard.” It was the first time I edited something this large. Check out the video for yourself, and let me know how I did!

Finally it was Monday! We woke up early and got to Camper Corral as soon as they opened. We were hoping to leave that day. They told us it would take a week to order a new back bumper. We were certainly feeling the pressure about getting to Utah. We took the news with a grain of salt and started talking about our plan B. As we pulled out of the parking lot, we saw a yard sign pointing down the street to a brand new RV service and repair shop. We already called every RV shop in the area. We decided to push our luck and see if they could help us. It couldn't hurt to try a new RV shop less than a half mile away. Their friendly staff greeted us outside and got to work on it right then. They had a metal fabricator who was able to reinforce and reattach the bumper with three inch corrugated tubular steel and tig weld to two inch triangle steel supports. Freshly painted and a new RV door handle later, we were ready to hit the road! We’re both sad we didn't get to explore Jackson. There is a lot to do there! When we go back, we will be sure to visit Ground Zero Blues Club owned by Morgan Freeman. Next stop: West Monroe, LA!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Meridian, MS

We arrived at Nanabe Creek Campground. We decided to stay for a week so we could catch up on laundry, get our mail forwarded, and take care of some RV maintenance. 

The park was mostly full. There were a lot of permanent residents. We pulled up to a cute office building that was three stories high and looked like a tepee/tree house. The doors were locked though, and it looked abandoned. A host couple came up to us though and checked us in just fine. Her husband filled our propane tank before we pulled into our site. The roads were gravel, but the sites themselves were just dirt and roots. There were so many trees all of over the park. It took us a good ten minutes to maneuver around the trees and back the RV into the site. The park had a very nice set up, but it looked like the owners just stopped keeping up with it. We had to use pliers on the water hookup every time we wanted to use it because the water spigot didn't have a knob. On a positive note, they have amazing WiFi. We were watching Netflix on our Roku, and I was using the laptop at the same time. We didn't have to use our hot spot at all while we were there.

The next morning, we saw a HUGE forty-five foot fifth wheel/toy hauler checking in. The host couple was scratching their heads trying to find a spot for their big rig. I had a feeling they were going to ask us to move because we were in one of the bigger sites. Sure enough, they did. We moved across the street into a back-in. The site was much nicer than the pull through we were just in. We still had to squeeze in between trees, but we had more than enough room. There weren't any tree roots under our RV this time. It wasn't a big deal for us to switch sites, especially after seeing how much better our new site was. There were plug ins for power on both sides. A fellow camper tested the voltage on both and said they were both great. So of course we used the plug in closest to our shore (power) cord. We plugged in; no power. This is a great reason why we got a longer shore cord. When we first bought the RV, our shore cord was ten feet long. We had to get our plug in replaced, so we decided to upgrade the length to fifteen feet. If we hadn't done that, we wouldn't have been able to plug in on the other side of the RV. We realized later that the power source on the side that didn't work on our RV was a plug in for a washing machine and dryer. This is a common mistake in the RV world. The outlets and plugs look identical, but the wiring is completely different. It won't work if you try to plug into one, but some people try to use a washer/dryer male piece for their shore cord. This will fry your entire electric system. 

As a traveler, we are constantly keeping an eye on the weather. The Weather Channel and Al Roker are our best friends. We saw that Meridian was going to get some snow. It was already pretty cold outside. Our heat runs off of propane. We turned on our heat and after about thirty minutes, we realized our heater was kicking out cold air. We just got our propane filled a couple of days before, the indicator says we're full, but our fridge, heat, and stove won't run on it. We asked the host couple about it because they were the last people to touch our propane system. They just shrugged their shoulders, said, "I don't know," recommended a repair place but didn't know the name of it, and walked away. We decided to ask our neighbor about our problem. He told us the guy who fills the propane can be a bit sloppy with it at times. He told us we might have air in our propane tank. So we turned our burners on the stove on for five to ten minutes at a time, and then tried to spark one of them. Nothing happened. We tried to purge the air out like this for days, and we still weren't getting any propane. So we had to improvise. We went to Walmart to look for an electric heater but they were all propane heaters. So we bought a bunch of candles instead and used our roof A/C unit on the heater function. With snow outside, we were able to keep the temperature at sixty-five degrees. The candles really helped. Even though we were using our roof heater, it struggles to stay warm when the outside temperature is below freezing. We learned that this is common and doesn't mean there is anything wrong with our unit.

After the snow had melted and temperatures returned to the sixties, it was time to focus on getting new tires. We went to Southern Tire Mart to get it done. It was thirteen hundred dollars for six tires and the front two are All Terrain tires. It was the first time we brought the RV to a shop to get work done while being on the road. They were able to work on it with the dogs inside their kennels inside the RV. We were both nervous about it at first, but everything worked out. The mechanic who did the work said our tires were in really bad shape. He couldn't believe we never had a blowout or a flat. We got our new tires in the nick of time. 

Feeling positive about our new tires, we went back to Nanabe Creek Campground to tackle our next problem: laundry. We do not have a washer/dryer in our RV and not ever campground has a laundromat. Being on the road, our laundry gets pretty backed up. We had about five loads to do. There were four washers and three dryers. Only one of each worked, but they didn't put any "out of order" signs up. We lost about seven dollars because of it. I personally made "out of order" signs and put them on the machines that didn't work. One of the other campers was venting about there only being one washer and one dryer for an entire park. He said, "At least they finally put a sign up. They've been taking my money for about a month now!" He was very appreciative to learn that I put the signs up. The next day, we saw the host couple with a repair man trying to fix the washers and dryers. I guess the signs got their attention.

We have a mailbox with a UPS store in Wilmington, NC. Instead of having a P.O. Box, we have a street address which comes in handy. Anytime we stay somewhere for a week or longer, we try to get our mail forwarded. It came a couple of days before we were going to leave. Josh ordered a cell phone signal booster and installed it quickly on our RV. We have a small antenna on our roof. We ran the cable in through our kitchen window where it connects to a phone cradle inside. When the phone is in the cradle, the signal booster is applied. It really works too! Josh's phone signal can be white (no 3G), but after putting it in the cradle he has full blue signal (3G). You can buy the Wilson Electronics Sleek Cell Phone Signal Cradle Booster on Amazon -   Even though we still couldn't figure out why our propane wasn't working, we felt accomplished for our problem-solving and teamwork to get everything done. We hit the road in hopes of getting to Louisiana by the night.