Eastern Utah
EMAIL ME AT: mgypsy97 at aol dot com

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Arkansas Traveller

Yes, I made it all the way to Morrilton, Arkansas, about 55 miles west of Little Rock.

I woke up early this morning, 6:00 am CST but already 7:00 by my internal EST clock. My brain stayed asleep evidently. I left the RV park about 7:15, figuring to stop and get gas before getting back on the interstate. I pulled into an Exxon station that advertised diesel - the pumps in front were obviously not suitable for trucks, so I started to drive around the rear of the building where they often have them, right? I found myself in a drive thru lane for Quiznos subs, which was closed so thankfully no traffic. Between all the concrete sticking out from the building and edging the driveway, I looked in the mirror and saw the same accident about to happen as when I scraped the flowerpot. I tried to back up and ease over a bit, and made it a little better, but I realized it would take me hours of pulling forward and backing up to be able to get out of this spot, if I could even do it.

So I did what any red-blooded American woman would do - I went into the station and asked for help. Three men were sitting at a table drinking their coffee and (reluctantly, it looked to me) stood up and followed me outside. One of them had obviously driven trucks before, and he was the designated driver. They all got into the spirit of it, one watching out for the rear of the rig, and the other watching the front. In a shameless show of masculine know-how, he had me out of there in no time flat! God love them all! When I was thanking the driver he replied, "I really enjoyed it - it was kind of fun!"

I got back on I-20 with everything intact except my pride, and turned on US 65N at Tallulah, Louisiana. The route north to Little Rock was a pleasant drive on a Sunday morning - little or no traffic. No traffic until I got close to Little Rock, and then all hell broke loose. Where was everyone going on a Sunday at Noon? I would bet they weren't all going to and from church. When I reached I-40 the traffic was completely stopped going east, and it was slow traveling west. To make matters worse, cars kept darting from one lane to another, and because I tried to leave enough space between me and the vehicle in front of me, hoping to not kill anybody, all the cars decided they could cut in and out at will. I soon reached Morrilton where I planned to stop at a KOA.

This campground is not up to KOA's usual standards, but I can live with it for one night, and the price is a good one. I had to self register as the office manager was taking a day off. My spot isn't exactly level, and I had it to where I was fairly level but realized I would have to move forward in order for the sewer hose to reach. That put me really off front to back. My galley tank was showing close to full so I wanted to empty it. I have only done the quick math in my head but it seems like I'm using more fuel, and thought maybe it was the weight. I know I picked up a lot of items in Asheville in November, but I doubt if I could be that much over, so I decided to empty the tanks.

I hope to make it past Oklahoma City tomorrow, and either to the western side of the Texas panhandle or even into New Mexico the following day. I realized driving through Little Rock - I-530 connecting with I-40, that I really love the GPS. It makes it so much easier when driving through a large city with criss-crossing interstates. At one point though, on US 65N, she suddenly announced "recalculating" and then proceeded to give me some useless instruction that I ignored. She went back and forth until finally she realized she was right all along, which I knew all along.

I hope tomorrow is an uneventful day, driving-wise, and that I find good fueling spots, easy to get in and out of. I also hope the weather is clear because I would hate to spend an extra day in an off-level rig. I actually used boards to raise up the low side, but when I had to pull forward to make the sewer connection I just tossed them back into the truck. Once I emptied the tanks and disconnected the hose I could have just as easily tried to back up to a more level position, but it didn't occur to me at the time. Towing a 5th wheel is definitely a two person job in my estimation.

Here is a shot of my Co-Pilot and Navigator the first afternoon at Lakeside Campground. The second is of a bug I found on the side of my recliner this afternoon. I got it captured in a plastic bag and then released it outside. What in the world kind of bug is it, where did I pick it up, and how did it get into my rig? It was huge!
(When I looked at the blog and enlarged Lady's picture, I saw the tell-tale evidence of a wine glass on the picnic table. Uh, I think that might be Lady's glass???

See y'all tomorrow from Texas or New Mexico.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mississippi Gipssi

I woke up to Eastern time, although I had crossed over into Central, so I could take it easy preparing to leave, and was ready to pull out at 7:40 am. First I spit on the GPS suction holder, as recommended by several readers, and it seemed to work. The GPS is still hanging there and I think I will just leave it there overnight and see it if holds. I love early starts and early stops. Other than a bit of I-85 south I drove mostly on US 80W. The trip through the city of Montgomery was not fun - I was routed through the part where malls and restaurants, box stores and auto service shops lined both sides of the highway. Ugly!

Then I was finally on US 80 from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama, a national historic route with nothing but an inconspicuous marker - by the time you see the sign for it you are well past it. The roadway was good the entire way - divided highway but not limited access. There was a large modern building along the route with a sign indicating it was an interpretive center, but the huge parking lot with much space designated for buses and big rigs, was completely empty. It was before 10 a.m., so maybe they weren't open yet. I was disappointed because I would have liked some information about the march and those times, but there was nothing available.

The city of Selma looks as if it has fallen on hard times, or maybe it never was able to escape the hard times. Of course you drive through the downtown area which is not ideal when towing a 34' rig, but I managed ok. Again, I was hoping to find a visitors center but never did come across it. Once out of Selma the highway was again divided so I was able to maintain a fairly steady speed. The problem with being off the interstate is to find a restroom. I've got my own with me, but there was absolutely no place to pull over. Just before I connected with I-20 I stopped at a Circle K station, fueled up and hit the restroom! I was just about dancing a jig while pumping the diesel. When I paid, the gentleman at the counter gave me my receipt along with two one dollar bills, as they evidently give truckers cash back on diesel purchases certain days of the week. I was pleased with that, of course. Just having a restroom available was almost worth returning the two bucks!

I had been forewarned that I-20 is in terrible shape, and it is worse than I thought it would be. I was surprised when I went inside the rig and found nothing damaged; the dog food bowl was tipped over but nothing seems to be amiss. I saw a sign at the exit for Clinton, MS, a little beyond Jackson, for an RV park so I decided to stop at 2 p.m. It is nice, a little close, but I got into the space very well and looks like it won't be difficult to get out of it in the morning. Much of the park is devoted to permanent residents and there are many park models here. One really positive thing is that it will be easy to get back on I-20 tomorrow morning.

I only hooked up to electricity last night, but this evening I added city water. When I left Ft. P. my living room slide didn't come all the way in properly, but it was just off a slight bit so I left. I put the slide out when I stopped last night, and this morning it came all the way in. I don't know what caused the problem, but I'm not putting it out this evening.

I have been mulling over the route I will take tomorrow. I really want to get on an interstate and stay on it for the rest of my trip. For one thing, there are more opportunities for obtaining fuel; there are rest areas, for me and for Lady; while it is bad enough having to drive through major metropolitan areas, you don't have the traffic lights at every intersection to contend with. I really can't tell from the weather reports if I might be affected by overnight lows of freezing temps, combined with a small percentage of chance of precipitation. If I thought I would just have to leave a little later in the morning and let the sleet or ice melt, then I should chance it. I will worry about this all night, but hopefully I can get enough sleep to be refreshed for tomorrow's drive. I may just go for it and plan on having to spend an extra day idle somewhere along the route.

Lady is bugging me to go out. Like the Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffet song, "It's 5 o'clock somewhere", she just reminded me that it would be 5 pm at Fort Pulaski and time for her walk.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gypsy in Alabama

I left Ft. P. at 8:10 this morning, after Fred helped me hitch the rig, and Maintenance topped up the new tire which was low. I didn't have too much trouble, although in traffic and on city streets it is definitely more nerve-wracking, especially since I haven't towed in 3 months. I tried not to think about leaving the Fort - I hope I'll be back some day.

One thing that is for sure - when the king pin is over the truck bed the whole hitch assembly is dark and shaded, and I can't see it. That isn't going to improve, and I can't do this many more times, even if I have eye surgery when I get to Sacramento. And as for towing, it is a piece of cake when on the interstate except when idiots with a death wish pull right in front of you driving slightly slower. But at any other time, I don't like it and I never have. This 5th wheel is way to big for me to handle and it is larger than I ever wanted. The fact that I am on my third cross country trip in something I don't enjoy says a lot for my sheer bullheadedness! I just love to batter my head against a brick wall, evidently.

I drove right past the sign for the only RV park I passed in Georgia, so I kept going through Columbus and over the border into Alabama. This park has their sign placed far enough back that I could slow down and enter the property. A wonderfully friendly man came out, directed me to back up to where I could turn down the proper lane, and then led me there in his golf cart. After directing me step by step, he grinned and said "you have driven this thing about 10,000 miles but you don't like to back up." He hit the nail on the head, but how did he know that I've pulled it about 10k miles?

I am in a pull thru space that is fairly level, with full hookups. So far I hooked up the electricity and nothing else, although it is so convenient I probably should at least get city water. I am too tired and too lazy, and will no doubt let things stay as they are.

The park, Lakeside RV Park, wouldn't have an "it" factor for some folks, but I can tell you it looks like heaven to me! The warm welcome I received when I pulled in just confirmed I stopped at the right place. In my planning I had read several mixed reviews on the park, but I wonder how much the reviews reflect the attitude and mood of the reviewer at one particular point in time. I think I tend to pull into a park with few preconceived ideas, and then take it as it is. The welcome I get sets the tone for me, and of course, how easy it is to maneuver my rig into place.

Tomorrow I hope to make it to Jackson or Vicksburg, MS, and then I will check the weather forecast for the following several days on I-40, to determine if I travel north to Little Rock. Tomorrow I will also travel over the historic route from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama.

I appreciate all the comments and suggestions. One suggestion that has really worked for me was to write directions on 3 x 5 cards and then throw them on the floor as I finish that portion and go on to the next. I don't throw them on the floor - actually they are constantly sliding off the console and onto the floor so I am groping to pick them up - not easy while towing! It has worked well today as I wrote the individual directions from the triptik on the cards with a marking pen. Ahhh, something I can see at a glance. After I arrived here and got settled, I sat outside at the picnic table and went over the routes for tomorrow, so my cards are ready and waiting!

One more problem I have is the GPS. It attaches to the holder that sticks to the windshield, however, I have always had the problem that the holder sometimes becomes unstuck and the entire thing falls to the floor. I try to position it far enough down on the windshield that it will just fall on the dashboard, but can't always get it positioned to do that. It is especially difficult when I'm driving - to find the GPS and holder that are on the floor somewhere, and then re-position them on the windshield while I'm driving. Does anyone else have this problem with their GPS, and if so, how do you solve it? I guess the easiest thing would be to charge the navigator with the responsibility. Lady isn't having any of that, though.

One more story about Lady: She really amazes me sometimes with her comprehension. It might not be exactly comprehension but I don't know what else it could be. Yesterday I planned to leave work after the cake and goodbyes, return to the rig and pick up Lady, and then drive to get fuel and last minute groceries. I told Lady when I left for work - "I will be back early and I'll take you with me to fill up the tank." I told her in those words, people language. I ended up just driving out of the Fort by myself and taking care of errands, then returned to the rig. Lady was waiting, jumping around, running expectantly to the door and looking me in the eye, as if to say, "OK, let's go fill up the tank." I ignored her but she wouldn't leave me alone. I had told her I would take her with me in the truck, and she wanted to go somewhere in the truck. She actually remembered.

Tune in tomorrow - where will I be???

Thursday, February 25, 2010

See ya later, Fort Pulaski, but not goodbye!

This is Ron, Ranger and Volunteer Coordinator, me, and Randy, Park Superintendent.

I don't know if I will ever return to work at Fort P., but as of now I certainly hope I do. They had a nice little ceremony today, with the Park Superintendent, the Volunteer Coordinator, and several of my co-workers attending. I was given a very nice letter of appreciation, indicating that I have given 903 hours of service to the Dept. of Interior (combined Lassen and Fort Pulaski). I got a very beautiful pin, The President's Volunteer Service Award, as well as a certificate, and then a delicious cake was served.

Fred took pictures with my camera, and although the batteries went dead at one point, he got a good selection of photos:

The first is me, Ellen in the doorway, and Randy.

Mary and me:

Patty, me, Mary and Carol:

All but the city water hose and electric cord are stowed, and Fred just helped me hitch the truck to the 5ver. I will definitely need air in the tires in the morning and am glad I set it up with Maintenance. I have a bit of housekeeping to do this evening, but I'm ready to pull out!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm short and getting shorter!

Thomas and I worked today, and Caroline worked with us until 2:00 p.m. Patti came in and told me I could leave about 45 minutes early today. That means that I will "work" about 3 hrs tomorrow and that's it! I enjoyed the day which started out mild and sunny, but it has turned colder and has started to rain. I just hope the rain is gone from the southeast on Friday morning.

I have received a lot of comments about my route west, for which I am grateful. As much as I want to go the most direct route I accept the fact that the weather will play a major part in my travels, so I will just go with the flow. I am even considering whether or not I should just go south to I-10 at Jacksonville, and would be interested in hearing about the roadway, traffic, construction, etc. Would I have to go over a long causeway or bridge at Mobile Bay? How close would I pass by New Orleans (don't want to go there) and is the traffic heavier in that area? And the city which is my 3rd most dreaded city in the U.S. to drive around - Houston (just after Los Angeles and Dallas) - is it as awful as it looks traffic-wise? Some cities are congested mainly during the commute hours twice a day, while others, such as the Capital Beltway around Washington, D.C. are congested 24/7. What is Houston like?

While the inside of my 5ver looks kind of cluttered, experience has taught me that it can be travel-ready in a short amount of time. The most I have to do is with the outside hoses, and I had planned to take care of part of that this evening until the cold rain started falling.

I took one last picture of the fig tree in the Fort's parade ground. It certainly looks like it's more than one tree, but there is really only one. I tried to photograph the buds but they are out of focus - I'm including that picture anyway.

When I was driving home this evening I glanced over to the fields along the roadway watching for deer that might dart in front of me. I saw two huge blackbirds that I think may have been vultures. I parked the truck and walked back with my camera - didn't get a good picture of the two on the ground, and when I looked up at the trees there were several of them on the branches. Maybe if you click for a close up you can see them, and someone might be able to tell me what they are.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nearly ready!

I'm closing in on my leave date (this coming Friday) and am frantically trying to get all the jobs done that I've been putting off. I just finished defrosting the fridge, which is nearly the most detested job. Don't ask me why, but I defrosted it after I came home from the grocery!

I just love ticking items off a list, and I've done a lot of that today. Other than the regular things to do before hitching up - fill the fresh tank, empty the waste tanks, clean and put away the hoses, etc., I only have to top off one propane tank and fill up my truck with diesel on Thursday afternoon. I even cleaned the windows inside the truck and armor-all'ed the dashboard, doors, etc. Someone suggested I attach the GPS to the driver's side window and I checked - the wire is long enough. I don't particularly like having it drape across the steering wheel but it will work and I will be able to read everything on the screen much better.

After having made up my mind to go north to Little Rock, somewhere between Jackson and Vicksburg, and pick up I-40W, I checked weather.com for the interstate forecast. On the approximate day I would be getting to Little Rock they are predicting snow showers. That is what drove me south to Arlington TX for a 2-day stay last year. I won't press the panic button yet, but if Little Rock is unsafe for me pulling a 5th wheel, then Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque & Flagstaff will be questionable as well. God bless Texas, I love it, but it's too big and I don't want to drive through it any more than necessary! When I'm on the move two days in any one state is enough!

Meanwhile I will continue to get ready to pull out Friday morning and make up my mind as I'm going across the South Channel of the Savannah River, leaving Cockspur Island. I'd say that if RV'ing does anything for a person, it prevents them from becoming rigid and unbending with the situation and conditions at hand. Flexibility is our motto, but dang, I don't want to be so flexible right now - I just want to get to Sacramento!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Two issues resolved

A few blogs back I complained about Garmin and AAA, and wrote emails to both companies. I am happy to note that I have received replies from both today, to my satisfaction.

Heather from AAA South Dakota phoned to talk to me about the issue I had with the Triptik I received from the local office here in Savannah. Since my address is in SD, they are the office that handles my membership. She explained that only a few offices offer the Classic Manual Triptik, and that her office in Sioux Falls is one of those. She urged me to call them the next time I need trip planning and they will prepare and mail me the type I prefer. She also said they appreciate my feedback on the computer generated routing, and of course I elaborated on my complaints. All in all, I am very happy to get her quick response. She saved AAA from losing a long-time member.

When I arrived home and checked my email this evening I found a response from Garmin. They have issued a credit to the charge against my credit card for the update I couldn't get. They apologized for any inconvenience this caused me, and again, I am happy that Garmin at least responded and didn't try to deny fault. I like my Garmin as well as I can like any kind of technology, and really didn't want to switch brands (or model) and have to get used to something totally different.

I have the 2008 Garmin Nuvi 205W. Mary called me over as I was leaving for work and showed me the Best Buy ad for the 205W for $109 (the update was priced at $119). I assume Best Buy is selling the GPS with 2009 maps. The question is: do I let well enough along and just use the 2008 version, or do I buy a whole new GPS with 2009 maps. I could give my granddaughter or one of my kids my old GPS so it wouldn't be a waste. If anyone reading this has gotten an update for any model GPS, can you tell a difference? How would you know if it is really worth it. I suppose if you travel constantly in and around cities, you might find an improvement. Just driving across country a couple times a year I'm not sure if I would ever see the benefit, although the Garmin does try to give me some dicey instructions now and then. Good thing I just ignore her at those times.

Two issued promptly resolved by customer service in the U.S. Maybe there is hope for us all. Now if we could just start manufacturing things again.

I will have a full day's little jobs to handle tomorrow, starting with having to return to the Sutler Store to pick up my glasses that I left there this evening.

As I was walking Lady after work, my neighbors Hal and Ellen drove past me on their way out. They stopped and backed up to where I was standing, and Hal offered any help I might need in getting ready to leave. I am so lucky to have neighbors such as these and have been the beneficiary of much assistance since I've been here.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Last Confederate Sunday

I just lost my complete entry for today as I was trying to post it, and I don't have a clue what I did wrong. I hate it when that happens!

Today was my last Confederate Sunday at Fort Pulaski; I will miss all the tours, musket firings, seeing "soldiers" in grey and in blue, and the Union 36 star flag, as well as the Confederate Stars and Bars flying over the Fort. They are both beautiful flags, and there are two sides to every story, which the living history program at the Fort tells so well.

My last day to work will be this coming Thursday; cake and goodbyes are at 12 Noon at the Visitors Center, after which I will probably come back to my rig and prepare to leave Friday morning. That gives me 5 more wake-ups until I go. With Tuesday being my only day off prior to leaving, I have a ton of things to get done on that day.

I want to thank everyone who has left comments on my dilemma of which way to travel, as well as those who have written emails. I have printed out the advice and suggestions and will be prepared to make a decision at the last minute which way I'll start out, as well as retain many options on changing plans down the road if conditions require it. So far the weather looks mild enough for my first few days out.

I don't know what was wrong with me the past few days, but I was bordering on severe panic. I'm all better now, and actually look forward to traveling, especially pulling into Cal Expo in Sacramento! I realize I have absolutely no control over much of anything, except my attitude, and I certainly needed an attitude adjustment. Thanks to everyone who knew that, and sent me words of encouragement. I'm still all keyed up as I always am before a trip, but I can deal with it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday and I'm already tired!

I'm halfway through my work week. Soon I won't have any workweeks, or else I will be working 7 days a week, every week! I have enough coming up in my future to keep me pretty busy.

Two days ago I ordered an update for the Garmin and paid with a credit card. I just informed Garmin that they can cancel my order and that I will not pay the charge. Their instructions aren't adequate and I haven't been able to download whatever it is I need. I even asked Mary to come over and help me - computer technology is her field - and the two of us were unable to get the update downloaded and installed. I can get by with 2008 maps, but if absolutely necessary it would be easier to just buy a new unit. Come to think of it, I've made WAY MORE cross country trips without a GPS than I've made with one. I have gotten used to relying on a GPS, but I can certainly do without it.

I would like to hear of readers' experiences traveling around Atlanta. I would be approaching Atlanta from the south on I-75 and would then take 285 West and then North to intersect with I-20 West. I'm concerned about traffic on 285, and wonder if there is a time of day when driving on it, much less pulling a 5th wheel, would be the most foolhardy thing I could do. Is there any time of day when traffic should be relatively light? I haven't made up my mind yet about it and would love to hear from someone who knows more about it than I do.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Back to work

I got through the first of a four day work week; after that I'm scheduled for a day off, then work two more including my last day. I may be able to leave sooner, depending on whether Thomas can come back next week. After three days off it is really difficult to last through a full day of work.

I took some maps with me today and every chance I got I studied them intently. There are a number of choices I have, and the more I study the maps the better prepared I'll be if I have to switch gears because of weather or road conditions. I also had forgotten that Good Sam Club has route information, so I now have an itinerary from them for the entire trip, and I used map quest to print out some metro area maps, such as Atlanta and Memphis. The old AAA triptik had closeups of the routes through and around major cities, which was really helpful. That is another feature that has gone by the wayside.

With several sources at my disposal I feel more confident that I will do just fine. I decided to upgrade my GPS maps but I can't tell if the upgrade "took" or not. I had to download some sort of free software for the Mac before I could access the map itself. For the life of me I don't recall seeing that the updated maps were installed on my Garmin. I need to find out because I will dispute the charge to my credit card if I don't have what I paid for.

I have a Garmin 205W, and I believe it came with the 2008 maps installed - I bought the unit in about Oct. 2008 - and I think the maps for 2009 are available now. Has anyone bought the update, and even better, has anyone with a Mac bought it?

I have a white board (dry-erase) with writing space of about 10' x 15". I think I will write short notes about route #'s, merges, turns, etc. in large print and prop the board in the cab of my truck - that way I can see in an instant what I have coming up. I can get a general idea from looking at the Garmin what is going on, but there is a lot I can't read without glasses. It's too far away for me to read it, and there is no way I can set it up any closer to be able to read it. I do ok with the voice and can either lean forward to see the next turn (I can tell how many miles and the direction of the next turn, but can't read the street name/Hwy number, for example).

The weather is getting a little better day by day although I would like it to be about 10 degrees higher than it is. The extended forecast shows a possibility of rain next week, about the time I plan to leave. It figures.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

AAA Maps

The package from AAA arrived today. I think they must be trying to save money, because for a 3000+ trip they sent the triptik accompanied by the Southeastern and Southwestern maps. It used to be you got a map of the US, the regional maps, and all state maps for the area covered by the triptik. Another matter of lesser quality is the triptik itself. Remember the long narrow pages, bound at the top? They were easier to read and easier to follow, and could tell you at a glance how far you traveled on that particular page as well as how far you had to go.

Now the maps are printed on paper approx. 5 x 8 and bound on the side. The individual pages aren't as easy to glance at when you are driving (with no navigator) as the actual area of the map itself measures less than 4" x 4". I could have printed these out just as well on my home printer, but I was thinking of the old style, bound triptik that I've known and loved for years. Is there any other reason to be a member of AAA if it isn't the maps and triptiks? I am really disappointed in the direction they are taking with this. For those of you who prefer to print your own maps in the first place, I say go for it! I don't want a bunch of 8 x 10 sheets that are difficult to handle while driving, or stopping at a rest area, for example. Lest I get comments chiding me for looking at maps whle driving, I will say that the old triptiks were so visually perfect it just took a quick glance and you could see what you needed to see. And I always look ahead before starting out in the morning, when stopped at a rest area or a fuel stop.

Sometimes if I'm traveling a route I've never been on before, I will print short concise directions in large print with a black marker. That way I can set it beside me on the console and see at a glance what I have to do. This is especially helpful when going through an unfamiliar city with converging interstates.

My decision to quit fulltiming does NOT mean that I am going to quit RVing. I'll still be out on the road again, probably as often as I am now, only with a smaller and more manageable rig plus the comforts of having a home base. I won't have to carry everything I own with me at all times. Actually, carrying it all with me hasn't posed a problem for me so far because of the size of my 5th wheel and the fact that any storage is all mine.

For some reason I am still not at all looking forward to my upcoming trip west - the travel part of it, I mean. I think it must be the first time in my life I haven't been eagerly anticipating a trip. I still can't figure out why, and maybe I never will, but I just hope it goes well. Looking at the route I wonder if I will stick with it, as there are certainly a lot of off-interstate highways. Those are usually my favorite kind, except when towing a 34' 5th wheel. I have a week to mull this over
and I will probably make up my mind within 10 miles of pulling out of Cockspur Island!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Around the rig

Yesterday I took care of things that had me driving here and there, and today I'm trying to get things accomplished here at my site. In between running back and forth to the laundry, I think I "fixed" the shower head. Last night I had only a tiny trickle of water - barely enough to get wet and rinse off, but not enough to wash my hair. This morning I tried to reach a mobile RV repair service but the number had been disconnected, so I removed the shower head from the hose and cleaned a little bit of grit that had accumulated, although it didn't seem like much. When I reattached the shower head it seemed to work considerably better. If I was planning to keep this rig I would get a new one - the best there is for an RV. But since I've had it with 5th wheels and fulltiming, I just want to limp into Sacramento and be done with it.

I have experienced water problems for at least the last two months and concluded it is the water connection from the site - not my rig. I'm sure my water lines aren't the greatest, but when I tried running water just using the pump it flowed better through all the water faucets and taps. So I will just try to get by for the next week, and can always switch on the pump if it gets too bad. Oh what a horrible noise it makes!

I keep trying to rearrange and pack things away but I always come across a map and sit down to study it. I often check out various routes online, but then I have to get the appropriate map and study it, as well as the US map for the overall picture. I know a lot of folks like to use computer maps but they just don't do it for me. Good thing we can all do it the way we like.

No triptik today,but the lady at AAA did tell me I should get it by the end of this week. I've really been eager to get it, but it will get here in time. I'm starting to get cold feet, especially about the off-interstate sections of the trip, mainly because of fueling up at regular stations. I had no problems in Nebraska or Kansas but don't have a clue what to expect in Al, MS, LA & TX. This is one time I'm not looking forward to the cross country drive, for some reason.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


My triptik from AAA didn't arrive today. I wasn't too surprised as the holiday has probably made the mail stack up somewhere. Maybe tomorrow.

The work schedules for next week came out, and my last day is showing as Thursday on one, and Friday on the other. Whichever it is, I will be pulling out the next morning.

I went to the Tybee post office this morning and got some things in the mail. I've mentioned it before, but I think the clerk there has to be the nicest in the country. I'm partial to USPS for sending and receiving mail and packages anyway.

I won the battle against the imp this morning, and removed both propane tanks for refilling. I knew one was empty and thought the other would probably last until tomorrow. Good thing I didn't buy that idea, because they were both empty. Thanks to Fred's (my neighbor) suggestion I took the tanks to River's End RV Park in Tybee, where they cost $10 less a tank to refill. (The $20 I saved went toward cookies and snacks at the grocery).

I had been trying to reach a reportedly reliable auto repair to see if I could find out what the noise was every time I turn the steering wheel. I've never been able to reach him nor were my calls returned, so I called the Ford dealer. They told me they would have to keep my truck for at least 2 days. No deal. I ended up going back to the local shop where I had my oil changed a couple of weeks ago - they flushed the power steering fluid system and all seems well. They told me, however, that Ford steering is usually noisier than other makes, and to not get stressed out if it returns. My son had told me essentially the same thing - he has an F-150 that started making the noise at about 100k. Mine is between the 87-88k mark. So I feel a lot better - they told me it definitely wasn't brakes. One problem I might run into is tires on the 5th wheel. I will see what the pressures look like during the next week.

I was feeling so good by the time I left the auto repair and arrived at the grocery, plus I was beginning to get really hungry, so I spent about double what I normally spend. I cannot figure out what I got extra, except possibly a package of Oreos and a couple of extra Danish for my breakfast.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the sunny weather predicted for my 3 days off holds up. It's only in the lower 50's, but the sun helps the comfort level.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Extra (2nd) post, Feb. 15

Ellen, a volunteer who lives next door to me, just knocked on my door to tell me to come out and look at the gorgeous rainbow in the sky. I could only get a decent picture of part of it as the other end was starting to fade away, although I could still see the entire bow quite well.

I also got a picture looking south -

And one looking toward Savannah -

I know the photos could be sharpened, enhanced, or whatever, but I don't know how to do it. The actual sky was an unbelieveable sight, in all directions.

Will AAA info arrive tomorrow?

I am anxious to get my AAA Triptik and study the route. Then I want to check the non-interstate routes for clearances. Somewhere I have bookmarked (I think it's on my desktop though) a website that gives info for truckers, including low clearances. I told the AAA lady that my rig is 12'8" high, but that I need at least a 13' clearance. That only gives me a 4" allowance, and I wonder now if I should set the clearance a bit higher. Does anyone have experience with this sort of thing? If so, I'd love to hear from you.

There were some grim looking rain clouds in the sky from the direction of Hilton Head Island when I walked Lady a short while ago, but no rain has come down on us yet, just a fine mist. I haven't checked the latest forecast yet, but since yesterday they were calling for lows in the 20's for tonight, I don't want the rain to turn to sleet!

It feels so good to have days off work coming up - the thought of it got me through today! I need to seriously start thinking about packing things away, and if it would ever warm up I could wash the front cap of the 5th wheel, as well as rearrange the storage bays. I have the feeling I am going to be pulling into Sacramento with storage in the same disarray as it is this evening, and to tell the truth, I really don't even care. Lady has told me it doesn't matter to her either!

I spent some time on the phone with my lovely granddaughter, Ara, yesterday evening. Gosh, how I love that child! Of course at 20-1/2, going on 21, I shouldn't be calling her a child, but you out there who are grandparents know how it is. Her depth, emotional, compassion, intellectual - all of it - just blows me away sometimes.

I see so many grandparents come into the Sutler Store - some with their grandchildren and others on vacation buying presents to take back. I can feel the love and strong attachment most of the time, and it is really wonderful to be able to just accept and enjoy the grandchildren whereas we let so many obstacles come in the way of relaxing and enjoying our children growing up. What a gift to come at a time in one's life when we can really use the uplifting perspective. So much for my philosophizing now. I can't wait to see my Sacramento grandkids soon, Ara this summer, and the grandsons in NY in the autumn, and I look forward to welcoming the latest one in September.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday coming to an end

I finished my 3rd day of work and have only one more to go until I get 3 off. I have some business to take care of those three days and I will certainly be happy I don't have to work. It is a fact that when the time draws near for "it" to be over, one's attitude changes little by little. I am definitely a short-timer now, with the attitude to go with it. I still love my job but am definitely ready to re-retire!

I saw a man looking at the lighthouse map today and mentioned to him what a great map it is. We got to discussing lighthouses, and he confided that he would like to buy an RV when he retires and travel the country visiting lighthouses. Of course I sold him a map! By the way, my count yesterday, state by state, came to 688; the map itself mentions that there are over 700.

The sun was shining all day long and people were out in short sleeve shirts (no doubt all from northern states). The store was cold as usual as the heat is not working and the unseasoned firewood just doesn't put out enough heat. I was ready for it, looking like the Michelin Man in all my layers of clothing.

I am going to miss the deer as they graze right by my rig a couple times a day. When I take Lady out in the morning they all stop and look up intently. I tell her sternly, "Don't even look at them!". She knows what I mean and keeps her head down and pointed straight ahead. Once in a while she tries to turn it just ever so slightly, and I tell her "Don't make eye contact!" She again looks straight ahead, and I'm sure she knows exactly what I mean, if not the reason. The deer usually watch us and in the end they bolt, but to me it is fun and very interesting to see a dog being so intelligent (and obedient). I'm sure instinct would take over if she got loose, and she would enjoy a good chase. I doubt she would hurt one but would certainly scare the daylights out of them.

This is an evening I don't feel like cooking supper. Do a couple handsful of cashews count for supper?

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I recently bought a map of Lighthouses of the United States, an illustrated map and directory to all standing lighthouses in the U.S. The total number of lighthouses is approximately 688, and 31 out of 50 states has them. If you deduct the 9 in Hawaii and 13 in Alaska, the bulk of the total number is in the lower 48.

I looked through the list of states and locations and was surprised at what I found. Contrary to what I may have expected the top 5 states, in reverse order, are as follows:

#5 is Wisconsin, with 46 lighthouses

#4 is Massachusetts, with 51

#3 is Maine, with 65

#2 is New York, with 70,

And Tah dah . . .

#1 is MICHIGAN, with 114 LIGHTHOUSES!!!

I mentioned this fact to one of the volunteers here, and he said, "Oh that's right, they have the most coastline. I was thinking Wisconsin." So the Great Lakes area seems to be a good location if you want to visit lighthouses.

Also a surprise to me, were the lighthouses on inland lakes and rivers. Take Tahoe has one at Rubicon Point, and Lakes Champlain and Oneida have quite a few, as does the Hudson River. Washington has quite a few on Puget Sound, but the big surprise (to me) there is how far Puget Sound extends inland. I am embarassed to say I know very little about the geography of that state.

The very large map is also topographical, and shows all the mountain ranges throughout the U.S. as well as rivers and tributaries. The actual map on one side measures 27 x 39 plus a large border containing pictures of some of the lighthouses surrounding the map plus insets for NY Harbor, Maine, Alaska, etc.; all the lighthouse information is on the reverse. I think I paid $7.95 for it, and it has provided me with hours of pleasure. When I'm at work and no customers are in the store I sometimes look at a copy of the map there, and I have my own personal copy at home.

The Lighhouse Society of America has a passport program similar to that of the National Parks, and I bought my own passport which is stamped for Tybee Island and Cockspur Island lighthouses. I won't be driving past any on my way west, but who knows, I may try to swing by some in the lower portion of the Great Lakes on my way back to NY this year. Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania together have a good number.

The predicted snow didn't reach this area although I understand kids were building snowmen in some areas of Savannah. Worse than snow is the fact that the water temp of the moat around the Fort is too low to heat in the geo-thermal heating system, so I had nothing except fireplace to stay warm today. The firewood has not been properly seasoned, so it is not burning well nor does it put out a sufficient amount of heat. I use an artificial log and top it with real wood, so there is a constant flame but not much heat unless you are standing right in front of it. There were times my fingers were numb or hurt so badly I could have cried. Two more days of this and then I have three off - my propane should last until then! I started on my second tank yesterday, but the furnace which is set at 55F, kicked on and off a lot last night.

I want to be complaining about being too hot for a change!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow on the way

I guess it was inevitable that Savannah wouldn't escape a bit of snow this winter - and it's forecasted to hit us tonight. It is raining now and expected to continue throughout the night, with a low of 31F. Not all that bad, but since you can't get from here to there anywhere in this area without crossing a bridge, usually several bridges, it is likely some roads will be closed. We are on alert to be called in the morning as to whether we will have a delayed opening or if we will be closed for the day. I would just as soon work as there isn't anywhere I would drive that would take me over an icy bridge.

I really would like to see an end to all this bad weather before the first of March. I am intent on selling this 5th wheel and don't want anything else to go wrong with it between here and California. Also, there is the matter of my tires. Since I want to get rid of the rig I would certainly like to do it before I have a major expense such as tires, although I won't compromise my safety. That is one reason that I would like to travel the interstates where possible, whereas I usually enjoy the byways now and then.

A word about my aircard/antenna - it seems to be working well, and I'm holding my breath that it continues to do so. It is fine as long as I'm not moving, but I think when I am on the road I will disconnect the antenna and hope for good wifi at the overnight stops, or at least a decent aircard-only connection. If I have neither, then it won't be the first time I've had to forego being online. I need to cancel out some of the online subscriptions that can clutter up my mailbox.

And speaking of unwanted mail, I seem to be getting more and more each week of emails trying to sell me percoset, vicodin, valium, cialis, pornography, etc. How in the world does one get on that kind of a list? I don't visit websites that offer these items and delete the emails without opening them, so I don't know why the volume seems to increase. Just lucky I guess!

No pictures today, but if there is snow on the ground tomorrow morning . . .

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I think it's working

I've had no luck staying connected with the "new" aircard, plus other troubles with the computer have popped up. I thought it might be that I have a slightly different aircard than I should have. I could connect from time to time but lost it before I could do much more than read an email or two, so late this afternoon I opened the little flap on the side of the card, and carefully inserted the antenna. I decided that I will leave the antenna attached - no in and out this time, and no moving the computer. I have the laptop sitting on the dining table but once in a while I like to sprawl on the couch and use it from there. That was my first problem I think - I kept dropping the equipment.

I drove to AAA today and ordered a Triptik for my travels west. I just hope I don't have to make any detours off the plan due to weather. The lady at AAA kept trying to route me through/around Dallas, while I kept patiently explaining to her that through or around is the same thing and it's spelled: t-r-a-f-f-i-c! Gypsy doesn't do Dallas! I just want to get up to I-40 the easiest and quickest way possible, but she has me routed over some state or US highway to Sherman, TX before turning north. I will just do my own thing if I want to, but the triptik pages are very nice to follow, especially on a long trip. I should be receiving it by the end of next week.

I started wrapping the kitchen glassware in towels, and the kids' pictures that are spread across the vanity in the bedroom. I wrapped them in bubble wrap and towels and put them away - the vanity looks so bare now.

Here are some of the photos I took when visiting Mikve Israel Synagogue earlier this week. The Gothic architecture was the prominent style when it was built, and at first you think it looks more like a Christian church or cathedral, but it's not.

You may have wondered what the mounds are for that show up on pictures of the Fort and moat. After taking over the Fort from the Confederates, the Union built these mounds across from the gorge wall, and stored the gunpowder there. It is very substantial inside - as you can see from the pictures. There are several exits, as aerial shots would show. The pics came out to be in reverse order of how I wanted them, but I'm not messing with it to try to fix it.

Lastly, and I don't think I've covered this before, you may wonder what the structure is that is sitting just behind the cannon, and which can be seen when coming across the moat and into the sally port. It is the original cupola from the Cockspur Island lighthouse. It was replaced with one that was more weatherproof, and the old one was placed inside the fort.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dial-up might be faster

I received the air card and replaced the sim card that was in it with the one in my old air card. I think I have to use the old one since it has the billing, phone # a and all that info on it, right? The air card without antenna is slow as molasses!

I am really sick of this weather. Yesterday ended up being sunny and in the 60's; it got to below freezing overnight and today has been extremely windy, with winds up to the neighborhood of 30 mph! And it hasn't reached 50F yet. That seems to be the pattern - one decent day followed by several horrible days, then gradually getting back to another single decent day. I know it has been bad all over the country, but this is the worst winter I've experienced in many years. And it comes at a time when I am bothered by the cold weather.

I took this picture about a week ago when we had heavy rain all day. I think that was the same day that the road to Tybee Island was closed and some people couldn't get to the Fort to work.

I lost the connection while trying to upload this picture, so I went back to the MiFi and completed it. I will do another post this evening if I can get the air card to stay connected. Otherwise, ???

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

No air card yet!

I just checked the tracking number which tells me the package has been delivered to my zipcode. I went over to the Cottage to look in my mailbox at about 3:50 this afternoon (the Cottage closes at 4 pm) and it wasn't in as yet. I'm off tomorrow and will be over there doing my laundry, so I will be eager to see if it arrives.

Carol and I went out this morning with two alternatives in mind: Fort McAllister, or a tour of Mikveh Israel, the oldest synagogue in Georgia, third oldest congregation in the U.S., and dating back to colonial times. It was founded in 1733 by 42 Jewish colonists, mostly of Spanish-Portuguese origin. The synagogue has the oldest Torah in the United States on view as well as a very old one printed on deerskin. All of the Torahs are very beautiful, and our guide let us have an up-close view of the Ark containing the scrolls. One guide showed us the sanctuary and explained various features, while another guide took us on a tour of the museum.

Ever since I saw the synagogue last week on our driving tour of the squares I wanted to take the tour and learn more about its history. Since there was a threat of rain today, Carol left it up to me to decide and generously agreed to forego Ft. McAllister today. I wore my old gym shoes with the thought I might be slogging around in the wet ground of the Fort, and at least once saw our guide glance down at my feet. A few years back I would have felt mortified, but the new and revised (and less up-tight) gypsy decided to laugh it off.

I took several pictures inside the sanctuary of the synagogue and will post a number of photos when I'm operating on my own mobile device and air time. If I can't get connected with it I just don't know what I will do. Can any geeks out there tell me if I just have to switch the SIM card from the old to the new air card, or do I have to do something in the way of initializing it as well.

It is a relief to be on a three-day holiday from work, although I really enjoyed working the past four days. I'm anxious now to get going on my way to California. My middle son and I spoke at length on the phone yesterday about the possibilities of selling my 5th wheel and getting something smaller for part-time travel, as well as various locations I might like for renting a small house. I'd like to stay within a 50 mile radius of Sacramento if possible, and definitely the eastern side towards the higher and cooler elevations. I also want a more countrified area than the city of Sacramento or its large bedroom communities. So I will just have to wait and see how it goes. I'll be down but not out! I think it will be the best of both life-styles for me.

I also have to reiterate that I am trying to read all the blogs in my list, although commenting on any of them is a problem due to the slow loading and processing of the comment form. I just don't want to take a chance on using another person's bandwidth to excess. Mary has been so kind as to make sure it is turned on and available for me to use, so I don't want to abuse that kindness in any way.

As a sweatshirt for sale in the synagogue's gift shop proclaims: Shalom, y'all

Friday, February 5, 2010

A weekend without air card

It looks like my air card won't arrive until early next week. I can't do much on the internet in the meantime because I know Mary is operating with the 5GB limit, and I don't want to jeopardize that, so I will limit my connection to checking email once in a while and writing my blog.

Her MiFi seems to work very well, although sometimes it is faster than others, just like the air card. I think I might look into MiFi when my air card contract is up, unless I am settled down someplace where I can get broadband cable again. That was the best connection I ever had although you can't carry it with you away from home.

The wind was so intense yesterday evening that I pulled in the slides and went to bed early. I was hearing noises of "things" sliding across the concrete pad, and this morning I found the glass top to my patio table blasted to smithereens! I felt kind of bad about that - I bought the simple white wrought iron base with circular frosted glass top for my balcony back about 1991 when I bought my condo in Falls Church, VA. I have transported that thing all over the country and will miss it. It was perfect for outside, or brought indoors made a nice table in front of the sofa. I swept up the glass and threw the entire thing away this morning - then was told I could get another glass top. Too late now unless I want to go dumpster diving!

I'd like to hear some feedback on the MiFi connection - negative as well as positive.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Replacement air card

I have ordered a replacement air card from eBay and it should arrive within a couple of days. It is a used one, and I hope I can get it to work simply by transferring the SIM card from the old one. The cost from eBay is $59, whereas I would have had to pay approx $115 to cancel my contract with AT&T.

So I should be back online soon, using my new/used air card. My neighbor has generously allowed me to use her mi fi to research and order the replacement card.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

More woes

I can't believe I am actually online at a McDonald's! If there is one fast food place I avoid it is McD's. I just figured I would have lunch here because I was of the opinion they had added some healthy items to the menu. Wrong! I got a small order of chicken nuggets and a senior coffee - not bad, but I won't be returning often as I think the library parking lot is actually healthier than this place.

I fiddled with the air card and the prong that came off, and it actually connected last night, if only briefly, but it crapped out before I had a chance to do anything.

You may wonder what I'm doing at a McD's during the lunch hour when I've already had two days off. Well, it looks like I'm getting 4 days off instead! Right, just when I could stay up late there is nothing to do except play solitaire. For some reason the Park folks are insisting I only work 32 hrs a week, and I think the 4th day off (tomorrow) will be for the extra day I worked last week. I feel sorry for Patty, who really needs someone who knows what they are doing as Thomas is still off with elevated blood sugar levels (over 300).

This just isn't the place to fool with posting pictures, so I may go to the library tomorrow and sit comfortably inside and do it. At least they won't have this horrible loud music playing and I can maybe think straight! Is it just me or do others hate the loud music that is playing in every store or place of business. I would prefer "elevator music" to this garbage.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

No connection

I'm posting this from the parking lot of the library because my aircard seems to be out of commission. I think the antenna broke off the delicate little prong that it connects to. This is ludicrous - after all, we are talking about a mobile device, not one that sits unobstructed on a desk and not subject to being jostled around. If I replace the air card I will no doubt have to pay full price for it. The only other option, and the one I might prefer, is to opt out of the contract altogether but pay a penalty for early termination. Meanwhile, I'm not going to be able to get online very often.

A volunteer couple and I toured the squares downtown and saw many fascinating and lovely houses, monuments, churches, etc. I took lots of pictures but they will be posted later. The weather was drizzly for most of the time, but traffic wasn't too bad and I really enjoyed the trip.

So, I will be back when I can.