Friday, June 30, 2017

TA Travel Center Campground

We stayed here one night to take advantage of full hookups; dump holding tanks, refill water tank  and wash some clothes.  This campground located in Lexington, Va. is attached to a truck stop and it was muggy outside so we elected to keep windows closed and air conditioner’s on all night.  This also gave us relief from all the truckers running their engines all night below us.  We did have rain on and off during the night.  Our assigned site had very low electrical current, so I requested another site and we moved over two sites over which was better but still only 114 volts.  Low voltage can cause problems with electronics and appliances within the motor home.  There were obviously people living in this park with old beaten up trailers and much debris dumped around some of the sites.  We paid $35.37 with our good sam discount and our stay was un eventful.  Could not find a trash can in the whole park so had to hike to the truckers parking lot to dispose of our trash.  We typically do not use campground rest rooms, but Aggie noticed that the woman’s rest room had no lights.  I rate this park P**.

Cades Cove Campground

This campground is located within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.   It is one of the few national parks that charge no fee to enter.  It is a narrow and windy road for about 7 miles to the campground.  We arrived on June 21 for 3 nights, but decided to leave one day earlier as we had  a 500 mile trip ahead of us to Washington D. C. and  we thought it would be better to break it up into two days.  We stayed in a handicap site as there were no other sites available when we booked with the understanding that if someone requested the handicap site they could move us to another site.   This was dry camping so no electric, water, or sewer at our site or in the park for that matter.  There was a dump station and water available in the park, but we chose no to use it as we planned to stop at a full hookup RV park on our way to Washington D. C.  Our site was relatively level, but I did use jacks to pick up the back end of the coach.  No cell service here or over the air TV in this park.  I did not even try to get satellite reception at this park as it was fully treed.  The one way streets inside the park were quite narrow, but I managed to back into my site on the first try.  Of course, I had Aggie guiding me with our ham radios.  We paid $10 per night here with our America the Beautiful pass and I rate this park F****.
We took an 11 mile loop trail in our Tahoe.  There have been 30 black bear sightings this season so far on the trail, but we did not see one on our trip.  We did see horses, turkeys, Elk, and Deer; and Buddy enjoyed the trip as well.  There was a visitors center half way through the trail which we toured some old buildings built by settlers back in the 1800’s.  They also were making corn meal and flour out of corn, the way it was done in the 1800’s powered by a grist mill.   There was a ranger there with bear and otter pelts and discussed how to handle bear encounters in the Smokys’.  This is a very popular park and we enjoyed our stay here.

Nashville, Tennessee and the Grand Ole Opry

We visited Nashville, the country singers capitol of the world, specifically to attend the Grand Ole Opry.  We tried to visit this venue in 2005, but a flood had damaged the whole area, including the Grand Ole Opry building.  It has now been restored  and we booked the only show available while we were here on Tuesday night., June 20.  The entertainers we heard were Riders In The Sky, RaeLynn, T Graham Brown, Chuck Wicks, Bill Anderson, Danielle Bradberry, Dailey & Vincent, and Kelsea Ballerini.  Each artist or group played a set of three songs and this was live broadcasted on the Radio on stations across the country.  The MC who introduced the artists also provided the advertising for the radio station as well.  I must admit that I am not really a country music fan, but I enjoyed the entertainment.

Aggie really kept me hopping from one attraction to another as you can only see so much in one day.  We Toured the Parthenon, which is the only full size replica of the original Parthenon in Greece.  I am happy to say that I visited the original Parthenon ruins in Greece when I was in the Mediterranean Sea while in the Navy.  There is an art gallery inside which you can tour for a fee, we chose not to.  We toured Broadway Street downtown, and popped into a few bars with live music, including the Wildhorse Saloon.    We dropped by the Ryman Auditorium where the new musicians originally sang.  Those singers were very good, but we had a lot of territory to cover yet and parking downtown is very expensive.  The lots I understand are $30 to $40 dollars and street meters are $4 per hour.  We elected to park on the street, but only had 3 quarters which bought us 24 minutes.  We hunted down a local convenience store to get change for the meter and he would only give us 4 quarters, so we bought a $2.19 bottle of water and he gave us $2 in quarters.  We ran back to the meter which had already expired and fed the meter with our 8 quarters which bought us another hour.  We noticed that no one put money in the meters as the parking ticket was $11 (cheaper than the parking lots).  We returned about an hour late and all the vehicles along the street we parked had tickets on the windshield except ours.  They must have checked our street while we still had money on the meter.

We then went to the Opryland Gaylord Resort which was an impressive hotel under a huge air conditioned glass dome with restaurants, shops, exotic tropical plants, and water features with a boat ride all under this dome.  We also checked out the Opry Mills Mall to find a restaurant to eat at before the concert.  There were many restaurants to choose from, but the one that peaked my interest was the Aquarium.  This was a moderately priced restaurant, but the atmosphere inside was like dining inside an under sea aquarium with big salt water fish swimming all around you.  I would have liked to dine there, but we decided that we were short on time and had to get back to feed Buddy and take him out for a stroll before we lock him back into the motor home for a few more hours.  So we settled on a take out pizza from Papa John’s and it was terrible but it filled our tummy’s.

Seven Points Campground

We arrived here on June 18 for 3 nights.  This is a Corps of Engineering  (COE park) located on J Percy Priest Dam 35 minutes from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.; and I have never been disappointed at any of their parks.  This one is no exception.  We had 50 amp electric and water.  No sewer connection at our site but a dump station was available upon exit of the park, although it was a little tight for my 40 foot rig.  I smartly decided not to hook up our toad until after dumping.  That said, we had a shared waterfront site on J Percy Priest Dam.  We had to back up about 60 feet on a shared driveway before it split into 2 separate sites.  Great if you are with friends in another rig, but still far enough away for privacy.  It was fully treed and I did not even try to get satellite, but did get programming on over the air TV and had cell service.   We had two private sandy beaches to choose from our site and a public swimming area was a short walk away.  I put my kayak in at our site and took it out 3 times while there.  The water was very warm, about 78 degrees.  (warmer than our pool when we left home).  We paid $13 per night with our America the Beautiful pass and I rate this park P****, a sewer connection at our site would bring it up to a full 5 stars.  I would love to spend a full week at this park.

Loretta Lynn's Ranch

We stopped here for 2 nights on June 16 and 17.  This park is

owned by the country singer, Loretta Lynn.  Originally, this property was owned by a confederate soldier on some 1300+ acres.  There was an abandoned house and several out buildings on the property as well as 150 head of cattle.  Loretta  purchased this property in 1966 for $150,000.  It is located about 60 miles west of Nashville, Tenn.  We elected for full hookups with 50 amp service for $40 per night with Good Sam discount.  They also take AAA auto club.  I am using their free internet now which works better after midnight.  There is no cell service here, I had to drive 4 miles down the road to make a telephone call.  People with portable satellite dishes are getting TV reception, I did not however and there are no over the air TV programs here.  They have several tourist attractions here and Aggie is visiting them as I write this post.  We attended a group campfire along with other campers and played games and I won a prize on bingo.  I like the fact that the campers here actually take advantage of the outdoors.  Our site was level and a little tight to squeeze in between the tree trunks, but once in we were comfortable.  I rate this park P****.
Aggie took these pictures of Loretta Lynn's residence on her property and her tour bus.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park

We arrived here June 13 for 3 nights, located in Millington, Tenn.  This is a beautiful park set completely covered in trees.  All sites have 50 amp electric and water.  There is a dump site at the entrance of the campground.  No cell phone service or satellite TV here, but I did get a few over the air TV stations.  Our site was level and no jacks needed.  There are a couple lakes on the property and it borders the Mississippi river.  There are more than 20 miles of trails on the property.  It was 88-91 degrees and humid during our stay and mesquitos were active.  Most people would drive to fish, boat, or swim as this is a huge park.  We paid $18 per night with our America The Beautiful Pass.  I rate this park F****.
We stopped here to visit where I lived for one year 1966-1967, I attended 11th grade in high school and received my first drivers license here.  I also returned here for Navy Boot Camp when I enlisted in the Navy in 1969.  The north side of the Millington Navy Base has since been donated to the city and the Navy housing where I lived has been demolished and replaced with a school.  The school I attended has also been torn down and a new brick school has replaced it in the same location.
We visited Graceland in Memphis as Aggie wanted to see the new hotel that has been built there on Elvis Presley's property.  We paid $10 to park in the hotel parking lot and was disappointed as the last hotel had 24/7 video's of Elvis on a big screen.  There was a small shop which sold assorted collectible Elvis cups, t shirts, pictures of Elvis, and other assorted CD's and DVD's.  There was a coffee shop which closed at 2 PM, a casual diner, a bar, and more refined restaurant on the first floor which did not open until 5 PM.  We planned to eat here, but the menu was not exciting and moderately priced.  We decided to go down the street and had a hamburger at Elvis's favorite restaurant in town,
Afterward we headed to Beale Street in Memphis and listened to some blues music at BB King's restaurant and bar.  They now charge $5 per person to enter and I ordered one draft beer for $7.25, pretty pricey.  The eight piece band was very good and we stayed for one set, about an hour as we had to get back to take Buddy for a walk.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Treasure Lake, Branson, Mo.

We arrived here June 10 for three nights.  Our site we chose was fairly level, but I had to use my front jack to lift up the front of the coach and had only 30 amp electric but full hookups with water and sewer.  This is a membership park and RPI and Coast to Coast members are only allowed in two areas.  They no longer accept reservations at this park for RPI members and they only accept drive ups.  This could be a problem if you drive out there and there are no accommodations.  We paid $20 per night for 3 nights, which is double our standard rate.  Many parks are adding extra fee's for electricity, resort fee's, taxes, and restoration fee's.  I have rated this before and still rate it M****.  We took in a show "Legends in Concert" which had great impersonations of Brooks & Dunn, Celine Dion, Elvis Presley, Bruno Mars, The Blue's Bros, and Michael Jackson.  The sound equipment was first rate and we were entertained with a lot of dancing also.
We took a day trip to Tablerock Lake State Park, pictured here, which had a very busy marina.  Buddy went for a much needed swim as it was really hot and muggy.  We dined out at the Golden Corral, a bufffet restaurant chain.

2017 Summer Trip

We have just started our cross country journey on June 7 and we left at 10 PM after my Knights of Columbus meeting.  Our first stop was at the Spotlight 29 Casino about 30 minutes east of Palm Springs, California on the interstate 10 freeway.  We just wanted to get ahead of the traffic and thought we could snag a cheap breakfast at the casino.  They also allow you to park 24 hours in their parking lot for free.  We opened up the Cafe at 6 AM and the meal was not exciting or cheap, but the service was fine and it nourished us for the beginning of the next 25 hours of driving over the next three days when we arrive at our first stop in Branson, Mo.  When I went to pay for breakfast, I whipped out my credit card and when they asked for my ID I could not find it.  Good way to start a 8000 mile trip with no drivers license.  As it turned out, on Monday, June 5, I gave my license to a loan officer at the BBVA Bank where I was cashing out our CD's for the Knights of Columbus.  He took my licence in the back room and returned with my two cashiers checks, but no license.  I contacted the loan officer and had him mail it to me at the Post Office to General Delivery in Millington, Tenn. as I was afraid it would not arrive in Branson on time.
June 8 we spent in a Love's Truck Stop and it was quite noisy and we did not sleep very well.  We were only on the road a few hours and I noticed what looked as a bay door on the passengers side flapping open.  I pulled into the next rest area and checked out the situation.  As it turned out, It was a fender panel which came loose, so with drill and rivet gun in hand I go to town fixing the problem only to find out that the fiberglass which is attached to the fender was broken off.  I temporarily tied it up with a bungy cord until I have time to deal with it.  Shortly after that incident we had a right inside rear tire blow in Amarillo Texas.  AAA Auto Club let us sit on the freeway for 3 hours with no help, so I decided to call another company and they were there in 15 minutes.   We were on the road in less than an hour as I did have a spare tire but it was not mounted on a rim.  My tires were in great condition but were 8 years old as I purchased all new tires in January of 2010.  Needless to say the next day we stopped in Oklahoma City and replaced 4 tires as I had replaced 2 tires in 2013.  This set us back $2100 and another 3 hours.  In three years I will replace those two tires as I don't wish to have this problem again.  It was a horrendous noise and fortunately no other damage was done.  June 9 we spent in a rest area 40 miles west of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  We did arrive in Branson on our scheduled date but a little later than anticipated, just before 6PM.  OK, I have had enough excitement for 3 days.