Life's Journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, totally worn out, shouting "Wow...What a Ride!"

Thursday, October 30, 2014

TX:Caddo State Park Paddle & More

On Sunday we traveled south 3 hours, just under 200 miles-a great daily travel distance and time, we arrived at Clear Springs COE in Texarkana TX around 1:30. We checked in headed to our site to find a 5th wheel sitting there, back to the office we went to find out we couldn't do anything till 2pm. At 2pm there was still no sign of life at the site, after about 15 minutes I biked back to the office where a call was placed to the renters, no answer but a message was left. I visited for a bit with the nice gate attendants and then headed back, we had parked in a pull through just up the road from our intended site, none of the other good lake side sites were available for more than overnight so they weren't an option. When I got back to the truck someone was at the site starting to take the 5th wheel out of there, they sure didn't move too fast. By 3:30 though we were all set up for a week on another beautiful lake.

Nice big back yard, Dave has spent plenty of time fishing on the Wright Putnam Lake. For $68 he has an all water non resident fishing license good through next August. He'll be doing a variety of fishing this winter so he's now covered for fresh or salt water fishing.

We spent Monday doing routine chores, we met a nice couple, William and Linda while at the laundromat. Fulltimers that are from the area and head to NC to visit family during the summer. Willilam is the local Collection Center Coordinator for Operation Christmas Card so that keeps them here until the middle of December. We spent a short hour talking about local campgrounds and places we've all visited while the machines did their work.

Tuesday we had a late morning but finally stirred to take a short ride around the lake, stopping at another COE and  a few TX State Parks on the lake. We didn't want to be out long as Dave had put a pot roast in the slow cooker, an afternoon 6 mile bike ride in the park and we were ready for dinner.

Tuesday we headed to Caddo Lake State Park, I had read about the park and wanted to see about getting out for a paddle, reviews had said we probably wouldn't fit but in a few spots. they were right only a few sites would have fit us. But the canoeing was something else, a nice boat ramp to launch from and we were in the Big Cypress Bayou, a short paddle and we were in the Saw Mill Pond which is in Caddo Lake SP.  In searching for the history of the park I came upon some info I wished I'd looked into before we got there, the CCC did most of the building of the park and apparently there are some buildings remaining, oh well next time.

 From the TX state park website the history of Caddo Lake SP:

"This lake was the only natural lake in Texas until it was artificially dammed in the early 1900s when oil was found and for flood control in 1914. A new dam replaced the old one in 1971. Caddo Indian legend attributes the formation of the lake to a giant flood. Scientists believe the lake formed when floodwater, blocked by massive log jams on the Red River, backed up into the Cypress Bayou watershed, forming the lake.

In the late 18th or early 19th century, Caddo Indians settled on this rich land, where according to tribal legend, “water thrown up into the drift along the shore by a wind” formed Tso'to (Sodo) Lake. Legends tell of the formation of the lake and Sha'childi'ni (Timber Hill), the first and last known Caddo village in this area. People have lived in this area for at least 12,000 years. For centuries, they hunted and gathered among the wetlands, forests and broad floodplains. Then they began to settle in permanent villages. The Caddo hunted wild game with bows and arrows, fished, and farmed corn, beans and squash. They built ceremonial centers and maintained far-reaching trade routes.

The park's original improvements were made by the Civilian Conservation Corps. They were begun by Company 889 in June to November of 1933 and completed by Company 857 between October 1934 and March 1937. The U.S. Army had 15 barracks and an Army mess hall that were converted into the nine log cabins and group recreation hall that we use today. There is also a CCC pavilion and remnants of original picnic sites and a latrine along the trails.

At first I was hesitant to canoe here as there are suppose to be alligators, but it was such a cool place I couldn't not go out. Thankfully none were spotted and after awhile I relaxed and enjoyed the ride.

We received a cast iron dutch oven from our son David a few years ago for Christmas, we finally used it for the first time. We made an apple pie and then placed it inside the dutch oven and cooked it over the fire, for a first try it didn't come out too bad.

I've read the blog In The Direction of Our Dreams for a few years now, Sherry has a way with words that puts a reader right there with her. I've learned about a lot of great places from her and David's travels, Sherry left a comment on my last post about the cupcakes, wanting a play by play of all that delicious goodness.

Top row-Strawberry Shortcake, White Midnight Magic, Triple Chocolate Torte & Banana Cream Pie
Middle row-Chocolate Salted Carmel, Scarlet Red Velvet, Carrot Cake & Champagne
Bottom row-Spiced Apple Cider, Banana Cream Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough & Midnight Magic

Maps... I've been reading maps for as long as I can remember, my mom would take my brother and I to IL every summer for a month or more. We'd go by train or bus, my dad would then drive up from TX or later NY, after a visit with my mom's family we'd all head to Cincinnati OH to see my dad's family. After family visits we'd head toward home, I remember having to get on and off what was becoming the interstate system. Since my dad worked for Texaco we'd stop at the Man With the Star gas stations, mom would get free maps for all of us except dad of course., When Dave and I started traveling across country we became members of AAA, one of the benefits was their Trip-tiks, I'd get books for all the states we'd be visiting along with state and any city maps we would need. In 2010 our son David got us Microsoft Streets and Trips which I've used ever since for our travels and since we've had the rv I've added a low clearance feature, still have all of those trips saved on the computer. It's been great for figuring out mileage and time between stops, easy to make changes or add stops, just wish I knew a way to overlay all of our trips on to one map.

My most recent "master" atlas that I've kept at the house or now in the rig is a 2013 Rand McNally Road Atlas-large scale. In my truck is my old master which is a 2010 Road Atlas, both have most of the roads high lighted that we've taken since our travels in 2004, wish I had thought of this earlier on. In our office back in our S&B days we had a 3'x5' US map which was full of push pins of the places we'd been, we would look at that map and dream about where we were going next, plotting our route feeding our souls on long winter days. We tried hard to figure out where we could put that map in our rv, just couldn't be done, taking it down was a very sad day for us. When we got our new rig we were delighted to have a glass topped table just waiting for something, over the summer we found a laminated map that would fit. If you think we enjoy our maps, old school and new we do enjoy them.

Until next time...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Relaxing at Toad Suck

We had heard about Toad Suck from our friends Carla and Jerry of Cozy Be Gone who had stayed here earlier this year. When we heard about it from them we knew we'd have to go there someday, with a name like Toad Suck you just have to check it out. We'd also like to welcome Carla and Jerry to the Grand Design family, after some recent issues with their former rig they've joined the 5th wheel group and purchased a Solitude 320X.

 Last Sunday we pulled into Toad Suck COE in Conway AR, this small campground is on the Arkansas river with many river front sites. Loop C is a non reservable loop, we got the last site in it. Though our site for some reason was set up backwards (table & fire pit on wrong site) we were just glad to get one on the river. We enjoyed a fire that night and made the decision to stay for a week, they weather was predicted to be in the 70's all week and we can sit and watch the boats go through the lock here at Toad Suck.

Monday on our bike ride around we found a nicer site had come available in the non reservable loop, a quick stop at the office and an hour later we're all set up in a nicer site. Our shortest move yet.

The legend of Toad Suck goes something like this: Long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River when the water was at the right depth. When it wasn't, the captains and their crew tied up to wait where the Toad Suck Lock and Dam now spans the river. While they waited, they refreshed themselves at the local tavern. The dismayed folks living nearby were heard to say: "they suck on the bottle 'til they swell up like toads." Hence the name Toad Suck :) The annual Toad Suck Daze celebrates the legend, if you are in the area on the first weekend of May looks like it could be a lot of fun.

Then there history according to Dave, this was his Facebook post the day we arrived here.

 Here we be at Toad Suck COE park in Conway AR. The name Toad Suck comes from the local Toad Suck Indians who saved the town of Conway from the giant Arkansas three toed horny back toad. In 1886 the town was overrun by the toads which were eating all the baby goats and children under 5 years old. The town elders went to see the Famous Toad Suck Indian chief Suckatoejam to ask for his help to save the town. Suckatoejam agreed to help for the price of a donkey and two white woman. Suckatoejam climbed to the highest hill (Mt Cuminsuck) to summon Toesuckalot, God of Amphibians and all thinks frog like, to ask for the power to cleanse to town of the horny menace. Suckatoejam used the power to vanquish the Toads from the town to the Arkansas river where they all drowned. This is a local folk legend (Dave's) and may not be factual.

We visited the nearby Cadron Settlement which is along the Arkansas River and.where the Tollantusky Trail is located. The trail is named for Tollantusky a chief of the Arkansas Cherokee, while we didn't walk the trail due to Dave's foot being booted up we did stop at some of the scenic view points. There are old stagecoach and ferry roads that bisect the trail. If we are ever in the area again we'll go back to hike there.

We took what was marked as a scenic ride, guess scenic means different things in this area. While it was nice there was never anywhere that made us go "wow" but we did find the Natural Bridge of Arkansas.

At one time log trucks used the bridge while laden with logs, not sure if I'd trust it but guess they made it since the bridge is still there.

 A couple of old local cabins had been moved to the property, one was an office while the other housed a small display of old housewares and such. 

Our friends Bev and Dennis of Parrot Dize Travel are friends from our place at Gulf Waters RV Resort in TX, they are from the Conway area and recommended Gigi's Cupcakes. Now I'm partial to cupcakes, I can get a variety of flavors instead of just a cake and one flavor, needless to say we need to do some laps here at the campground, boot and all.

my office this past week

I always travel with an atlas in my truck, the one I've been using was from 2010 and both covers were long gone, we also keep a master atlas in the rig of all of our travels over the years. When I get a new atlas for the vehicle I transfer all of our highlighted routes to it, I spent a few afternoons sitting outside listening to the river working on that over the last week.

 We saw where there was a farmers market on Saturday, these are always hit or miss. Well this one was a real miss, a meat vendor and the 4 tables of handmade crafts. Nothing for us from the market today :(

So our week here has gone by quietly, lots of time in the lounge chairs watching the river, multiple daily walks around the campground. We have enjoyed the wonderful weather while our friends back in VT brace for their winter, already snow on the mountains and temps have fallen. We leave for Clear Spring COE near Texarkana TX tomorrow, we'll spend a week there, hoping to find a better grocery store, need to stock the freezer and don't want to do it at Walmart,

Until next time...

Monday, October 20, 2014

IL: Family time

Our next stop was central IL near where my folks live, we arrived at Bo Woods COE (Lake Shelbyville) in Sullivan IL mid afternoon on Sunday of Columbus Day weekend. This time of the year it's walkin only, we scored one of the best sites in the park, site 133 electric only, sometimes referred to as Windy Point. Our friends Mark & Nancy had stayed on this same site early in the season, I asked a few friends on FB for site recommendations and 133 was top of the list. We tried to stay at Bo Woods last fall while we were in the area, government put a kabash on that idea,  this year we got in but the weather didn't cooperate. We never did get the chance to have a fire or sit outside as it was cold and rainy while there, we'll be back to Bo Woods in the spring sure hope the weather is better.

Laundry at the folks house was a priority, 2 1/2 weeks with out a laundry was pushing our limit but we managed, thanks Mom & Dad for the free laundry use. Once the laundry was started we decided to take a ride up to Arthur IL and pick up a few Amish treats, don't know when we'll find a good farmers market again. An afternoon job of changing out storm doors kept Dave busy until time to head for dinner.

1964 with my grandparents, my dad & my little brother
A weekday trip was planned to Rockville IN in Parke County was planned, Parke County is home to a number of covered bridges and a county wide festival was running while we were there. Again the weather didn't cooperate and it rained so walking the streets through the booths was out. We did get a map of the bridges and took a ride through a number of them. I think a longer visit to the area is in order one of these days, have to think about our route next fall through this area. Our scenic ride through the county on old back roads was reminiscent of years ago in VT when we'd take weekend trips doing the same thing.

2000 with my dad & us

Our last day in town my dad had a doctors appointment so we headed took a ride in the morning around Lake Shelbyville to see what other camping options were nearby. We drove through 2 IL state parks and another COE park, if we were smaller they'd be fine but at almost 40' we clearly made the right choice, they open mid April just in time for a visit on the way north. We spent the afternoon visiting with my folks and then dinner with them and some of my cousins, one of whom I hadn't seen in over 30 years. Of course forgot to get the phone out much less the camera.

We had a nice visit with my folks and it was good to see Dad doing much better, he's lost 70 pounds since we saw them last April and has made some major diet changes. Way to go Dad keep up the good work, see you in the spring.

On Thursday we headed south to MO, a new state since we've started rv'ing, we don't have anymore reservations till we get to the Houston area in mid November so for now we are winging it. We stopped at Redman Creek COE on Lake Wappepello, we found a nice FHU site so we paid for 3 nights to get us through the weekend. We enjoyed a quiet weekend at the campground, took a ride around the lake looking at other campgrounds, again we made another good choice based on "our" requirements. The one thing we didn't like at Redman Creek was that unlike many COE campgrounds this one did not have sites on the water or any type of water views. 

On Sunday we moved to Conway AR and are staying at Toad Suck COE on the Arkansas River. Temps are suppose to be good so we paid for a week and we'll see what we can find to do around here.

Until next time...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

IL: Old Friends & New Friends-Living & Camping

One Sunday we moved over to Hudson IL, it was a 235 mile trip that took a little longer than expected. Shortly after entering IL I radioed Dave he needed to pull over, looked like we had a tire issue with the tire he was unsure of. Last winter we had a tire getting soft but Dave thought it was the valve cap thingy that came with the system causing our tire to go soft, it wasn't. I've been following him for the most part and thought something didn't look quite right. We caught the tire before it caused any real damage, a quick stop in a gas station parking lot and with the auto levelers we soon had the tire changed and were back on the road.

Taking into consideration the time change we arrived at the beautiful Comlara County Park in Hudson IL. The park reminds us of lots of the state parks and COE parks we've been in, it is situated right on Evergreen Lake and has electric only sites with water spigots scattered sporadically around.When we got to our site (39) we decided with the evidence provided to us that we were going in truck first, the power pedestal, fireplace and picnic table would all have been on the wrong sides if we'd of backed in. Comlara County Park is located just a few miles off of I39 just north of the Bloomington\Normal area, the campground is on the shores of Evergreen Lake, rate for a week (30amp) is $124.60, sure can't beat that. Our friends Mark & Nancy arrived on Monday and they have also chosen to drive in their back in site, Mark did good in choosing our sites and we all look forward to exploring the park.

Tuesday we headed to Pontiac IL, Mark knew of an rv dealer there, we went in search of tire info which we got. While there Nancy and I started looking through the 5th wheels and motorhomes, just like when I owned a home where I always enjoyed going through new home models. I enjoyed going through the rv's but found nothing I'd trade mine in on. Afterwards we headed into to Pontiac to a Route 66 museum we'd seen advertised.

The Route 66 Museum was a lot of fun, we've seen lots of similar museums during our travels on Route 66. A great collection of 50's stuff, we all had seen lots of these things in our homes or our grandparents homes.


The War Museum was also in the same building, this museum focused on IL men and women who have served our country through the years. I asked if they had anything of Robert Overmyer's a cousin of mine who was a casualty of the Vietnam War, unfortunately they didn't. Since this museum focused on IL soldiers there were lots of personal things, they have a large collection of uniforms.

The rest of our time with Mark & Nancy was spent at the campground, though we did run into to town to get a replacement tire. Since last year we've gone round and round with Mark about whether we were camping or living, to us they go hand in hand and we can do both many times in one day. When Mark and Nancy go out in their rv they are camping, on our one rainy day they did enjoy living in an rv while we played games. Nancy and I spent the guys fishing/bonding time talking and reconnecting, while we saw them last year we didn't get much chance to sit and talk, this time we did. A few nights around a campfire
with talks covering old friends, where our lives are now and where we are all headed in the upcoming years. We've know Mark a long time, I met Mark in high school and Dave met him once we got together, since Nancy and Mark got together we've all been good friends, there were the weekend gatherings, the guys fishing trips and family vacations together later on. So glad as this new chapter in our lives unfolds we are able to reconnect with friends we haven't seen since forever.

While at Comlara we also had the pleasure of spending time with Curt and Glenda of Illinois Campers, I've been following their blog for the last year or so, as they went through the massive transition to the full time life.  Early in our stay they stopped by our site, we set up plans to meet later in the week. Curt and Glenda have been staying at Comlara for awhile as Curt's dad hasn't been well, all signs point to them taking off on their adventure this week. Curt and Glenda are like all the full timers we've met, ready for an adventure and willing to share of themselves and their lives, we spent a wonderful evening talking and getting to know this great couple, looking forward to the day our trails cross again.

At Comlara that weekend an Oktoberfest was being held, not your typical kind but one for the Belegarth Medieval Combat Society. As David "Talion" Pai told us, they are a bunch of geeks out playing. Their characters are loosely based on characters from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

This young lady reminded us of our son Tom's significant other, she participates in Amtgard. Krystal's character is named Blue Wolf, maybe someday we'll get to see her in action.

Until next time...