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2018 Adventure Epilogue

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Well, its finally over.  The first post-retirement RV adventure.

We traveled a total of 8,617 miles in our RV to the west coast and back (excluding our trip to Hawaii).  We were gone for 170 days of which 147 days were on the road in our RV making a total of 50 stops along the way.  We spent 53 days getting to my sister’s in California before leaving for Hawaii.  We spent 41 days on the west coast, most of which were along the coast of Oregon.  The return to Florida took an additional 53 days with a longer stop in Colorado.

Overall we spent an average of about 3 days at each stop.  The trip west was a bit faster averaging 2.5 days/stop.  We slowed down on the west coast (4.1 days/stop) and on the return home (2.8 days/stop).

What We Learned

  1.  Length of stay:  We simply traveled too far and too fast.  Much of this was dictated by our trip to Hawaii which meant we had a date certain to arrive in California and once there our return was ultimately determined by the date we wanted to be back home in Florida.  Our most relaxing were stops of 5 days or longer.  Our longest stop was 10 days and we had 4 stays of a week or longer and 8 stays of 5 days in various locations along the route.  That meant that we had 38 stops of 4 days or less.
  2. Miles/Day Traveled:  Our longest day was just under 300 miles and most days were between 150 and 250 miles.  This was perfect.
  3. Weather:  Although we left in early May, we underestimated how hot it would be as we traveled west.  Once we hit the west coast temperatures moderated but the wild fires in California and Oregon during August and early September required we hang out on the Oregon coast rather than trying to go further north toward Glacier and the Grand Tetons.  In the future we will travel “in search of 70 degrees”…perhaps traveling earlier in the spring and after the first of August unless we’d be heading north to Canada or Alaska.
  4. Campsites:  We had reservations for virtually every stop heading to the west coast.  This meant it was hard to be flexible in changing plans.  Once we got to California and Oregon we were able to get reservations with much shorter notice despite the number of “locals” who were also looking to escape the fires and smoke by camping on the Coast.  The same was true on our trip home where reservations a week or 10 days in advance were more than adequate.  In the future we’re going to try and be more flexible and attempt to “wing it” with more short-term reservations (other than Holidays).
  5. Boondocking:  We spent only one night truly boondocking (outside Natural Bridges National Monument).  We’d like to do more boondocking and feel that traveling at a slower pace and spending longer in an area will help us find good boondocking locations.
  6. Dry Camping:  We fared well in locations that didn’t have power or water.  Using nominal water and power conservation we were easily able to go 5-7 days without hookups.  With our solar we were able to keep house batteries in good shape and never had to run our generator to replenish battery power when “off the cord”.

The Ride Home

We ended our journey in the way it began….a visit with our son Drew at Rocky Bayou State Park in the Panhandle.  It was a relaxing visit as we made our last stop before heading home.

WOW….the ride on Interstate 10 showed us just how much damage Hurricane Michael had made while we were gone.

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Our last night was spent at the Cracker Barrel outside Lake City, Florida.  A restful night’s sleep and a great breakfast before the final leg our adventure and our return home.

New Orleans

The Elk’s Lodge in Metairie, Louisiana would be our home base for visiting Karen’s uncle and his girlfriend in New Orleans.  We arrived in time to a full house of Elk members enjoying a New Orleans Saints football game.  We were one of two RV’s parked at the Lodge and as we checked in we learned that the Lodge rents out its large parking lot to movie production companies filming in the New Orleans area…and we were told that although they’d come in overnight they’d leave us plenty of room to come and go during our stay.

Then, somewhere in the wee hours of the morning, we awoke to the sound of activity around our RV.  A quick peak out the window revealed dozens of semi trailers, trucks and a bee-hive of workers moving into the parking lot, laying power cables and neatly organizing a movie production lot complete with dressing rooms, prop and costume trailers and a large catering operation.  By morning the entire operation was in full swing…and as promised, a neat layout that allowed us to come and go with ease.

The production being filmed is a 10-episode  series, On Becoming a God in Central Florida,  premiering on YouTube Premium, the latest in a host of streaming channels like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.   The series will tell the true story of an Orlando area amusement park worker who created a multi-billion dollar pyramid scheme.

Then, one afternoon two days later, after filming in the area, the entire production facility picked up left us alone in the parking lot.  Pretty amazing thing to see.

Our first stop in New Orleans was the National World War II Museum.  The museum is easily a two-day ticket with 5 separate pavilions:

  1. Louisiana Memorial Pavilion – the Museum’s original pavilion, which features the institution’s newest permanent exhibit that tells the story of the war experienced on the Home Front. The building also includes the Museum’s original D-Day exhibit, macro-artifacts, special temporary exhibits, and the L.W. “Pete” Kent Train Car Experience
  2. Solomon Victory Theatre – the epic story of World War II in the exclusive 4D experience Beyond All Boundaries, narrated by Tom Hanks.
  3. Campaign’ of Courage:  European and Pacific Theatres – The galleries serve as an immersive timeline and provide a service member’s view of the war.
  4. US Freedom Pavilion:  The Boeing Center – Exhibits describe the history and production of war machines and honor service in every branch of the military.
  5. John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion – up-close view at some of the Museum’s extensive collection of macro-artifacts, and learn how STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) helped solve some of World War II’s toughest problems.

We spent the entire day at the Museum and couldn’t see all there was to experience.  A special treat was the Bob Hope exhibit depicting this Hollywood icon’s contribution to entertaining the troops.

Why is a landing craft shown in the picture below?  Follow this link to find out.

The remainder of our enjoyable time in New Orleans included a visit to the New Orleans Museum of Art Sculpture Garden, a walk through the French Quarter and lunch at the famous Commander’s Palace restaurant in the Garden District.  Truly an enjoyable time with family in this historic city.

Tamales and the Blues in Greenville

Our next stop after Little Rock was going to be New Orleans but we decided to overnight in Greenville, Mississippi to break the trip.  Our overnight was at the Washington County Convention Center, a huge facility just outside town with water and 50 amp electric.

It didn’t take long to decide we’d spend an extra day exploring Greenville since we’d happened upon the Delta Hot Tamale Festival held annually in mid October.  This 3 day weekend features local and regional art, music and tamale makers from around the south.

The history of the hot tamale in the Mississippi Delta reaches back to at least the early twentieth century.  Some hypothesize that tamales made their way to the Delta when migrant laborers from Mexico arrived to work the cotton harvest.  African Americans who labored alongside Mexican migrants recognized the basic tamale ingredients:  corn meal and port.  Others maintain that the Delta history with tamales goes back to the U.S.-Mexican War one hundred years earlier, when U.S. soldiers traveled to Mexico and brought tamale recipes home with them.  Others still argue that tamales date to the Mississippian culture of mound-building Native Americans.

The music of the Delta embraced the tamale as early as 1928 when Reverend Moses Mason, recording as Red Hot Ole Moses, cut “Molly Man”.   Then, Legendary Robert Johnson’s “They’re Red Hot” in 1936 furthered the link between tamales and the blues!

Another Greenville landmark was our choice for dinner after getting the RV parked.  Doe’s Eat Place was established in 1941 by Dominick “Bid Doe” Signa and his wife, Mamie.  Doe’s father moved to Greenville in 1903 and opened a grocery store in the building that now serves as the restaurant.  At first Signa ran a honky-tonk,  strictly for blacks, in the front part of the store.  Because of racial segregation it was socially unacceptable for whites to come into Doe’s.  When a local white doctor began to stop at Doe’s for a meal between house calls, Doe would serve him steaks in the rear of the store.  As word-of-mouth spread about the steaks Doe decided to start a restaurant in the rear of the building.  The restaurant has been racially integrated since the beginning and is still run from the building in which it started…a relatively small and shabby building in the middle of a downscale neighborhood.

The menu is simple….Hot Tamales (get them with homemade chili), house salad, steaks (the Porterhouse is more than enough for 2) and fried or boiled shrimp both served with homefries!

After dinner we headed over to the Walnut Street Blues Bar.

Next morning found us taking in the Festival in downtown Greenville.  It seems most of the town turned out to listen to music on several stages set up around town, eat hot tamales and browse crafts and local art.  Sometimes the most enjoyable parts of an RV adventure are the things and people you simple stumble upon while making your way down the road.

Little Rock, Arkansas

Maumelle provided the perfect home base to explore Little Rock.  Our first stop was the Clinton Presidential Library…part of our quest to visit as many presidential libraries as possible.  This library is situated on 17 acres next to the Arkansas River and is the largest in terms of physical area and largest in terms of photographs, documents, email messages and artifacts…..it is also the most expensive with all funds coming from 112,000 private donations (Wikipedia).  Readers of this blog may note that the Reagan Presidential Library is physically larger due to the Air Force One Pavilion shown in our post.  We were interested to note that the Nixon Library devoted a great deal more space to a frank discussion of the Nixon impeachment while the Clinton Library, in our opinion, gave the Clinton impeachment far less frank a discussion.

We were interested to learn more about Little Rock’s history in our next stop to visit the Little Rock Arsenal built, by the request of the federal government, in 1836, the same year Arkansas was admitted to the Union.  The arsenal was built to store munitions and outbuildings included office buildings, a storehouse, a magazine, a guardhouse, a hospital and other service structures.

The facility was surrendered to the Confederacy as the Civil War loomed.  Confederate troops occupied until 1863 when it was reoccupied by Union Forces for the duration of the war.  Following the end of the war the Arsenal became a troop barracks and remained until abandoned in 1890.  Douglas MacArthur was born in the barracks in 1880 and in 1892 the site was turned over to the city for use as a city park.

The arsenal tower is all that remains today and its the home of the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History.  We found the museum to extremely well done with exhibits depicting the city and national’s involvement in World War’s I and II as well as Korea and Viet Nam. We recommend the Arsenal for your stop in Little Rock both for the museum as well as the grounds and walking tours of this historic part of Little Rock.

Our final stop in Little Rock was the Central High School National Historic Site.  For those too young to remember, the Little Rock Nine were a group of nine black students who enrolled at formerly all-white Central High School in September 1957.  Their attendance at the school as a test of the landmark Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional.  On September 4, 1957, the first day of classes at Central High, Governor Orval Faubus called in the Arkansas National Guard to block the black students’ entry into the high school.  Later that month, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent federal troops to escort the Little Rock Nine into school.  The Park Service as done a wonderful job in providing a balanced and thorough exhibit commemorating this historic part of our nation’s history.  The tour includes access to Central High School which still operates today as a public high school.

Central High School, completed in 1927 at a cost of $1.5 million, was the nation’s largest and most expensive high school facility.  The school’s gothic revival architecture features statues of four figures over the front entrance representing, ironically,  ambition, personality, opportunity and preparation.  Another stop we thoroughly enjoyed.

Branson, Missouri

We’ve enjoyed our stay at Musicland Kampground in the heart of Branson. The park has over 100 sites and although it’s densely packed, the elevation changes really hide most of the rigs from your view.

The park also can arrange seats at any of the dozens of shows Branson is so famous for. Yes, it’s a Disneyland type of tourist town…Las Vegas for families…but the entertainment is legit.

Yesterday we attended The Petersen Family Band. This musical family has had a steady run for over 8 years and was a joy to watch. The families 4 children (from 16 to early 30’s, are gifted instrumentalists and their vocal harmony is beautiful. Their bluegrass/country/gospel repertoire is extensive in both cover offerings as well as original songs. Best of all is the obvious love they have for each other, their music and their faith. Refreshing in today’s world.

https://youtu.be/BmqXgz6BmRM

You may remember Ellen Peterson’s appearance on American Idol in 2015.

https://youtu.be/p7ezK1Ew7fI

Here’s a song from the group in yesterday’s performance.

https://youtu.be/W20SRl8fF8Q