Phannie

Phannie
Photo taken at Winchester Bay, Oregon

Monday, October 15, 2018

Charleston

At Lake Aire RV Park, Charleston, South Carolina...

Since we were already in South Carolina, I thought, why not continue on to Charleston, one of the few significant and historical cities we have never visited? I'm not sure why we hadn't gone there, but I suppose it is because the Civil War period has not held as much interest for me as that of World War II, in which my father and several uncles served. As I get older, I realize that, because I have several ancestors who were Confederate soldiers, including one who was an officer, I would like to become more familiar with that period. That sounds like a perfect opportunity for a fulltimer. 

We thought the best way to take in the sights of Charleston was via guided tours, so we booked a boat tour that took us all around the bay, pointing out the Civil War forts--Johnson, Sumter and Moultrie--as well as the carrier Yorktown, the Ravenel bridge and, of course, the environs of the historic buildings along the long pier behind which lies the old city. Perhaps owing to the narrow streets--some of which were cobblestone--Charleston reminded us of some old European cities we've visited. 


(Borrowed Image)

Luckily, most of the old buildings that were heavily damaged during the Civil War still stand, having been restored rather than replaced due to a lack of capital after the Confederacy surrendered.

The city is very old, having been settled in 1670 by the English under the auspices of King Charles II--hence the city's name. It has a long and incredibly rich and garrulous history, having been subjected to attacks by Indians, pirates, the French and the Spanish, not to mention Union forces during the Civil War.

Slaves were introduced into Charleston by its early settlers in the mid-1600s, and the practice continued in public auctions until just before the Civil War, when the public slave auctions were outlawed in the city, perhaps due to the beginning of an awakening among the citizenry as to the barbarity of it. The auctions didn't end, however; they merely moved indoors out of the public eye. Here is a photo of the last known private indoor slave trade mart, which is now a museum. Notice the cobblestone street:



There are other aspects of the slave trade that we learned. For example, some native Indians were also rounded up and sold as slaves. Also, a large number of slaves were captured in the South and sold to buyers from foreign countries. It was explained that the going rate for a healthy young slave was about $12,000 in today's currency.

There are no tall buildings in Charleston, as it was decreed long ago that no building near the bayfront could be constructed taller than the tallest church steeple, which happens to be that of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church (below). Accordingly, the city looks much like it did two centuries ago, when the harbor would have been full of tall-masted sailing ships transporting the products that made Charleston wealthy.



Here are some photos of our harbor tour boat and some of the sights we saw, including the really handsome Revenal Bridge that spans Charleston Harbor and the decommissioned aircraft carrier Yorktown:






Here's a view of the city from Fort Sumter; this would be a sailor's first view upon entering the harbor:



Having only a hazy memory of the Civil War history that I was taught back when history was an education requirement, I was aware of the fact that Charleston's Fort Sumter was the site of the first shot of the Civil War; but that's about all I remembered. What I didn't know was that the first cannon shot actually was fired from nearby Fort Johnson by the Confederates but aimed toward Fort Sumter, which was manned at the time by a garrison of Union soldiers and who returned fire, to no avail. This was the signal for the Confederate batteries in the harbor to open fire. It was April 12, 1861. One day later, after a 34-hour bombardment, the Union occupants of the fort surrendered. 

We also didn't fully realize that Fort Sumter was on an island located a half-hour boat ride from the city at the mouth of Charleston harbor. We also didn't realize that the fort was almost destroyed by Union cannon fire--as was much of the city--during the 567-day siege that followed Union reinforcements' arrival after the original garrison surrendered to Confederate forces on April 13. What little is left of the original fort has been painstakingly uncovered from the rubble and lovingly restored.  Here is a prewar rendering of the fort:



As you can see from a current photo below, only a portion of the bottom floor remains. The top two floors were reduced to rubble by the  Union barrage:


   
Here's a view inside the fort looking northwest toward Charleston and our tour boat. There were originally two more stories above the alcoves seen below which were cannon emplacements:



 Here's a closer look at one of the emplacements showing the damage of the brutal Union barrage:



The next photo shows a Union shell still lodged in the masonry:



Here's a restored cannon emplacement at Fort Sumter:



During the Union barrage of Fort Sumter, the ammunition magazine in the fort exploded, forcing outward this ten-foot-thick entrance wall, killing 13 men. The wall's tilt is discernible by comparing it to the striations on the perpendicular cement wall on the right: 



For some reason, Sandy seemed way too gleeful in seeing me posed like this:




We also took a home tour, one of many that are available to see in the area. We were especially interested in the Aiken-Rhett mansion, in which a governor of South Carolina lived.  It was somewhat unique in that the house has not been restored but preserved. This means that the house and its furnishings were left, to the extent possible,  just as they existed 200 years ago. Here are a couple of photos--one of the veranda and one of the art gallery:




Of course, no visit to Charleston would be complete without sampling some of its many excellent restaurants.  One of our favorites was 167 Raw, a tiny fresh seafood spot on Bay Street. We had some of the best ceviche ever and this killer lobster roll, which we shared:




I hadn't intended for this post to be so long, but Charleston just had so much to offer to visitors--and we didn't really scratch the surface. I'm glad we decided to make the trip. 


Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I don't appreciate it as I should each day.

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A Visit to Freightliner in Gaffney

At the Freightliner service campground, Gaffney, South Carolina...

I've heard about the Freightliner Custom Coach Chassis Service facility in Gaffney, South Carolina ever since we've owned Phannie. Among the owners of motorhomes with Freightliner chassies, the Gaffney facility is generally reputed to be the gold standard in servicing their product--as it should be, I suppose. I had often thought we would go there someday when we were in the area; well, someday is today. 

For those who don't know, Freightliner has a large chassis assembly plant in Gaffney; it also has a service center here devoted almost exclusively to motorhomes. But the service center is not located at the factory; for some reason, I didn't know that, and it caused quite a bit of confusion and some embarrassment on my part. I'll explain shortly.

I made the service appointment back in May and, at that time, I asked if we could also attend Camp Freightliner, an informational academy for owners of Freightliner coaches held for a fee at the service facility. I was told that, due to the popularity of the course, six months was not enough lead time to score a reservation. So, I suppose that wasn't in the cards for us. 

The reason for making the service appointment for Phannie was a left front brake issue. Under rarely-needed heavy braking, the left front brake seemed to bind excessively and jerk the wheel backward. I figured this was indicative of something fairly serious and worthy of a look by the factory experts. As it turned out, the service advisor knew exactly what the problem was as soon as I began to describe it. 

"New brake roller," he said. "It's no big deal; we'll take care of it." 

Phannie also needed an oil and filter change, something that has to be done in six-month intervals now instead of annually. This is because we have been traveling so much more since going full time. The coach still gets a comprehensive annual service, though, and that includes changes of three kinds of filters other than the oil filter and servicing the generator. Our next annual service visit will also include transmission service and coolant service that will be due and a changeout of both engine cooling system thermostats; that visit will be fairly costly, I'm afraid. This service will likely be done at Bay Diesel in Red Bay, Alabama. That is a yearly visit, where we take advantage of the many talented and trustworthy RV repair and servicing shops that have proliferated in the area. These cottage industries serve well the overflow of Tiffin motorhomes that the factory's massive service center cannot handle. 

I also asked Freightliner here in Gaffney to do a full inspection of the chassis, a standardized two-hour-long colonoscopy of sorts, wherein they look at everything underneath the coach that could need repair or replacement. This inspection has a price tag of $200, and you get a written report afterward of the findings. Thankfully, Phannie passed with no discrepancies! Very relieved, I happily paid the $655 bill that covered the whole visit; I had figured it would be much more than that. And yes, if you infer that we don't scrimp on Phannie's upkeep, you would be right; but we think this is the reason that she has given us such good and dependable service over the years.

Gaffney is a relatively small town of about 15,000 between Spartanburg and Charlotte, NC.  Besides having Freightliner as the major employer. Gaffney calls itself the peach capital of South Carolina. In recognition of this, they have erected a water tower that looks remarkably like a peach:



The Freightliner factory is a very large facility located south of town on Hyatt Avenue. I just assumed the service center would be here, too:


Freightliner chassis factory
Wrong!  Having arrived late on a Sunday afternoon, I pulled Phannie and Mae around to the rear of the plant where I encountered a guardhouse from which a sleepy young guard finally emerged. I explained that I was looking for the Freightliner service center, and he appeared genuinely dumbfounded--as if I had just landed in a flying saucer. 

The parking lot he was guarding contained hundreds of freshly-minted Freightliner RV chassies like these:



The chassis above appears to be about 40 feet in length and contains a Cummins diesel engine in the rear. It can be driven as it is, and these can be seen scurrying here and there as each one leaves the assembly line with a driver. This chassis will be delivered to some RV manufacturer and become a beautiful new motorhome before long.

The guard finally collected his thoughts enough to communicate, and he informed me that he was new to his job and, basically, knew almost nothing except how to raise and lower the gate arm at his post. I can confirm that he was, in fact, skilled at this, having witnessed his performing the procedure several times while we were there. 

When it began to dawn on the guard that we were not going away, he called someone on the phone and then informed me that the service center was about two miles farther north via Interstate 85. Armed with this information, I began to assess the real estate in front of me to judge whether I could turn bus and toad (RV slang for "towed" vehicle) around while hooked together. I quickly determined that it looked very iffy; so, fearing that taking such a chance in this crowded lot could have some very expensive consequences, I took a wiser course. I unhooked Mae, backed Phannie up and turned around, and Sandy followed me in the car to the new destination. (For those who don't know, you are never supposed to back up a motorhome with a towed vehicle attached behind.)

This little episode really had no adverse consequences other than a little embarrassment on my part, and it could easily have been avoided if I had been a little more diligent in my trip planning. I kicked myself for assuming the service facility is located at the factory; making assumptions is something I have been trained to avoid in 50 years of safe flying as a pilot, and I suppose that was the embarrassing part.

The service center was at little underwhelming--a small office and customer lounge with only six maintenance bays. I suppose that having heard about this place for so long inflated my expectations to a degree. The office and customer lounge are in the low building to the left below:



The service bays will each handle two coaches parked in tandem; the other three doors are on the opposite side of the building. 



Freightliner provides parking spaces for 20 coaches in the rear of their facility, each space having a 50-amp electric hookup. A water/dump station is also provided nearby. When we arrived there, all the spaces were occupied except for two or three; this place stays busy! You can see Phannie, in her gray glory, lounging in her space on the right side of the photo below.



Next door is a business training center where I suppose Camp Freightliner classes are held:



My impression of this place is a good one. The employees we encountered were very friendly, and John, our service tech, listened very carefully to my questions and answered them fully, working quickly and skillfully to complete his tasks. By early afternoon, Phannie was back in her parking spot, where we would be spending another night before departing for Charleston the next day.

So, with this successful visit, we bid goodbye to Gaffney, and we'll post again from Charleston. 


Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I don't appreciate it as I should each day.

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

In Pigeon Forge - Summer Loosens its Grip

At Waldens Creek RV Park, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee...

After the 370-mile leg from Biloxi to Gadsden, Alabama on our way here, we decided to take a two-day breather at Noccalula Falls Park, run by the city of Gadsden. This is a very nice wooded park with lots of shady RV sites, concrete pads, full hookups and cable. Best of all, it was only $22 a night with a senior discount. Another great bargain:




TV addicts will notice that Phannie is tucked into a heavily wooded space not likely to be satellite-friendly. Well, no matter; for an old coach, Phannie has been outfitted with some very up-to-date technology that allows us to stream on both TV sets via the Internet almost any program available via satellite. With the cable available at the park, however, we didn't need to use the gee-whiz stuff this time.

The weather was hot all the way to Pigeon Forge and, thankfully, all of Phannie's air conditioning has been working perfectly. When we arrived in Pigeon Forge, we were amazed how much the place has grown since we were here a few years ago. There are lots of new attractions, and the traffic was pretty awful, arriving on the weekend as we did. It reminded us of Branson before that city built the reliever roads parallel to the main drag. In fact, Pigeon Forge is looking more like Branson all the time. Like Branson, it now has a Titanic attraction, a wax museum, a Ripley-like, upside-down mansion, a big Ferris wheel and more theaters. And, of course, there's Dollywood, a theme park much like Silver Dollar City in Branson. 

After we had been here for a short time, we had a couple of days of rain, and then the weather moderated after that. It is clear that summer has finally lost its grip and that autumn, my favorite season, has finally arrived. Thank heavens!

We met up with Phaeton-owning friends Larry and Carolyn, whom we met last winter in Branson. They, in turn, introduced us to their friends, Larry and Vickie, all of us attending the Gospel Quartet Convention at LaConte Center.  Here's a photo of these four great folks, Arkansans, all:



In the background is Doc's 321 Cafe, part of a small compound of derelict quaint cabins that house, in addition to the cafe, what appears to be a collection of very old and rusty farming tools and memorabilia from more than a hundred years ago. These relics obviously are offered for sale, but there doesn't appear to be a crushing demand, as there were no customers when we were there. 

This is probably because the place is in the middle of nowhere, in a heavily wooded and hilly area on highway 321 (hence the restaurant's name) not far from the North Carolina border. Driving here from Pigeon Forge, I even looked out into the forest to see if I might spot a moonshine still and, at times, I could swear I heard banjo music playing the theme from the movie, "Deliverance!"  

Although not discernible from the photo, the main structure of the cafe is a derelict yellow school bus, in the rear of which is the tiny kitchen that serves customers who occupy three booths inside and several tables outside. The kitchen is not partitioned from the customers, so we could see clearly what the chef was doing. Perhaps due to being slightly afraid of what I might see, I was careful to keep my gaze elsewhere. The ceiling and walls of the bus were festooned with hundreds of names of customers, who are encouraged by the staff to write something, even supplying them with a marker pen.

Sandy and I had a barbeque pork sandwich that was surprisingly tasty, along with a cup of chili and a small serving of collard greens, both of which were also quite good. I'm glad we didn't judge the place by its appearance; we try not to do that, as some of the best restaurants we've patronized have been truly dives, in every respect. We decided this place was probably worth the trip for the quirkiness alone, but the good food sealed it for us.

Besides attending the daily concerts at LaConte center in Pigeon Forge, we also took in a show at the Comedy Barn that was very funny.



Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are located in the beautiful Smoky Mountains, a place we could very easily choose to live if we wanted a stick and brick now. I wish we would be here about a month from now when the leaves are ablaze. You can see a small tree changing colors in the photo below: 



Many parts of the area had damage from the forest fires two years ago, but new growth is coming back strong. Gatlinburg still has some of its quaintness, but it is definitely becoming almost too touristy for our liking.

We will be leaving here for Gaffney, South Carolina and our first visit to the Freightliner factory for some service on Phannie. I'll keep you posted.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I don't appreciate it as I should each day.

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.




Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Stop in Biloxi for a Seafood Fix

At Majestic Oaks RV Resort, Biloxi, Mississippi...

We are on our way to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, taking a southerly route this time. This will be the second time we've attended the week-long National Quartet Convention there, something we always enjoy. On our last trip a few years ago, thieves broke into Phannie at the RV park and stole my new Apple MacBook and some of Sandy's favorite jewelry. (Here's a link to that post.) Hopefully, we won't have such an incident this time to dampen our enjoyment.

Since we were leaving from Conroe, it was handy to stop near Beaumont to see Ronnie and Kathy, friends from our RV club. It was great to see Ronnie doing better after having suffered a broken ankle. We also got a tour of their beautiful home after its having been completely remodeled and refurbished after being flooded in the hurricane last year.  


Although this has been a challenging year for them, these folks are fun to be around as always. I was especially taken with his newly-acquired and completely restored '65 Corvette. He said it has taken away some of the pain of having lost two other vintage cars in the flood:


In keeping with my aforementioned determination to push for longer legs and more stopover time, Phannie handled the 312 miles to Biloxi without a hiccup. I-10 was in pretty good shape, although it was rough and under construction in places all the way from Beaumont to the Louisiana border. The interstate was actually in much better shape in Louisiana and Mississippi, something that surprised me, as Texas highways are usually some of the best in the country.

Making a two-night stopover in Biloxi gave us a little time to do some sightseeing and finding some good seafood. And that we did, adding two of these to our favorites list linked on this blog. The first was Wentzel's, where we had a blackened red snapper topped with mushrooms, crab and shrimp in a lemon butter sauce:


Yes, it was nothing short of fabulous. Sandy had their daily special--ten fried shrimp for ten bucks--what a deal!  As it turned out, she confiscated a good bit of my snapper, relegating me to finishing her shrimp. Yes, we were stuffed, but my excuse was that I had eaten only a cup of chili during the whole day. And no, I'm not sorry; it was that good.

The next day, we went to nearby Ocean Springs to give Bozo's a try. Bozo's is a combination seafood market and grill that has been around forever. It is a local legend for good reason: Incredibly fresh seafood, expertly prepared and cheap. It was mid-afternoon when we arrived, and the place was packed. Toward the end of our meal, the crowd had thinned out enough for me to take this photo of the interior, showing the seafood market to the left and the grill alongside to the right:


We dearly love finding wonderful little dives like this that usually only the locals know about. We got a scrumptious shrimp po-boy that was ample for us to share for only $5.75. Unbelievable! 


It's not often that two restaurants in a row gain placement on my favorites list, but such is the case here in Biloxi. 

Even though it was hot and humid, I had to spend a little time walking on the beach near sundown, marveling at the powdery white sand so different from that on Texas beaches:


I also found this colony of seagulls (yes, that is the correct term for a group of seagulls) standing on the beach, mostly facing east. I determined they were probably Muslim seagulls:


Looking west, I had to get this photo of the setting sun:


I am a sucker for sunsets, and I find the pursuit of these simple pleasures much more enjoyable than watching the insufferable news on TV. Having always been a news junkie, this has not been easy, but I'm sure my blood pressure has lessened a good bit now that the TV is turned off more often than it's on.

From the same location, I pointed the camera to the northeast and caught this photo of a late afternoon thunderstorm that was collapsing and dissipating now that the sun, its source of energy, was slipping below the horizon:


So, had we stopped here for only one night, as has previously been our practice while en route somewhere on a schedule, we would not have had the experiences I have related here. So, I think we're on the right track, so long as we don't overdo it. It would be better, of course, to give ourselves a generous number of travel days when we have to be somewhere by a  specific date. Due to other obligations, we couldn't do that this time, so this is a decent alternative, I think.  

I took a couple of photos of our RV park here in Biloxi, a very nice Passport America park. Another bargain!




Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it as I should each day.

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when your stop playing!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Doctor Visits Complete - We Go Flying to Celebrate!

At the Lake Conroe Thousand Trails, Willis, Texas...

Thankfully, our semi-annual visits to medical professionals in Houston revealed no serious flaws (other than those painfully evident in a mirror).  Sandy even endured a colonoscopy that was due, as did I earlier before we left for the summer in Colorado.

Please allow me to take just a moment here to encourage every reader to have this examination at the appropriate stage of life. I devoted an entire previous post to the importance of this procedure in preventing needless illness, hardship and even death. If you don't do it for yourself, please do it for your loved ones. 

The weeks we've spent here at Thousand Trails have been fun, since the kids are nearby, and I promised the grandsons another airplane ride--something they really love to do (as does their grandfather).

We picked them up at a small airport in a north Houston suburb in the little Cessna 172 they like because it is a high-wing airplane, and they can see well the landscape below. 


We flew over their house at a low altitude, and their exclamations were like music to my ears as they viewed it from above. The weather was beautifully clear and the air was smooth, so I let both boys handle the controls a bit. Pryce proclaimed that the experience was "Epic!" 

Here are a couple of short videos of the boys handling the controls for a moment. Pryce, the younger grandson, was a bit more skittish, snuggling up to my shoulder each time he handled the yoke. (Poppy loved that.)




Here's a photo of my older grandson, Mason, with his Poppy on this fun flying day:


I am happy to announce that Sandy and I are going to be  grandparents again! Number three will be due in the spring, and I'll give you more details when they are available. Mom Mindy and Dad Tyler are excited, of course, but so are we (maybe more so)!

We will next be heading out to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee--one of our favorite places. We'll keep you posted, of course.

I might also mention that I have added during this calendar year quite a number of new RV parks to my "Best of the Best RV Parks" list, linked in the right margin of this blog. These new parks are identifiable with a red triangle. As always, please let me know if you discover a park that is worthy of adding or one that I might need to rethink.

And one final reminder:  Strongback chairs are still available at a 15% discount at strongbackchair.com if you use the code phannieandmae15 at checkout. If you order from the website, you'll get a two-year warranty. If you put "strongback" in the search box on this blog, you'll see several posts that give more details on these fine chairs. (I get no kickback, by the way; I just like 'em.)

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I don't appreciate it as I should each day.

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing!


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Stopover in Texas and a Fulltiming ModeTransition

At the Lake Conroe Thousand Trails, Willis, Texas...

We had been dreading our departure from the cool Colorado environs where we spent the summer. We were fully aware of the late August heat we would encounter as we slowly watched the altitude unwind on the GPS as we left the picturesque mountains behind. 

Our first night's stopover was in Roswell and, noticing the 99-degree reading on Phannie's OAT gauge, we braced ourselves for the furnace-like blast when we opened the door on arrival and stepped outside. And yes, it was just as we feared. We almost stumbled as we tried to catch our breath. 

This was not the end of the unpleasantness, however. We were immediately besieged by a swarm of houseflies so numerous that four of them flew into the coach before I could even close the door. I'm not sure what was going on with the flies in Roswell--maybe there was a housefly convention or something! But it was bad. Really bad. After we left, it took us a day or two to find and swat all of the little varmints. We lamented to each other how pleasant it was in Hawaii and Colorado, where flies were almost nonexistent. 

The next day, I decided to drive all the way to Killeen, Texas, where we were to attend a 50th anniversary celebration of longtime friends, Rev. and Mrs. John Abbey. We had a great time with this wonderful couple and their family, agreeing that our time with them was much more important than our constant whining about life's little discomforts:


Arriving in Killeen from Durango, Colorado was the culmination of two 500-mile legs in Phannie with only one overnight stop. This represents about twice the normal distance that we usually travel in a day, and I think it represents a change in our philosophy about what our travel days will look like going forward. But I also think this is part of a new paradigm of sorts from fulltiming 'vacation' mode to fulltiming 'destination' mode. 

This change in travel modes among fulltimers is a very common phenomenon, we have learned; in fact, it is almost a rite of passage. Put simply, it is a shifting of new fulltimers' priorities away from the usual frenetic pace of travels at the beginning of their new taste of freedom. Being unfettered then by obligations at work, they typically think they have to get out there and see everything at once. 

However, as they begin to check off more and more of the myriad places that have been on their bucket list, they realize that a more measured pace perhaps yields more satisfying results, so they slow things down and begin to spend more quality time at fewer stopovers. Maintaining a furious pace of driving, then setting up and tearing down at campgrounds can be exhausting and, after doing this for a while, you begin to realize this isn't exactly fun any longer. This is why vacation mode is usually not sustainable over a long period of time.

Having said that, I have determined that a 500-mile driving day is too much, even though Phannie doesn't really tire me out. The comfy captain's chairs and air ride suspension make for a very pleasant driving experience. However, we know better than to push ourselves beyond what is a safe limit, but we are likely to make longer legs than we used to--especially if our stopover is at a place we have already been or that holds little interest for us. So, it seems we are definitely getting into a 'destination' mode; we want to get where we're going and stay there a while. 

We had to hurry to Conroe and participate in another round of doctor checkups to get prescription refills before we depart for Tennessee in a couple of weeks. Arriving at Thousand Trails on Lake Conroe, we noticed there were no shortage of spaces:


That's because most of the sane people weren't here in the blast furnace like we are!  We must do a better job of scheduling our appointments next year. 

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I don't appreciate it as I should each day.

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Leaving the Front Range for the San Juans

At Sky Ute Casino RV Park, Ignacio, Colorado...

We leave behind our wonderful stays on the eastern side of the Rockies and head to western Colorado, careful as we are to remain high up in elevation as long as possible. We will always remember our stay in Estes Park and the companionship of Joy and Glenn as we beheld the wonders there. 

I suppose our future visits to Estes Park will always be short ones, as I just have a hard time accepting the usurious rates charged by the RV parks. Any time I have to pay more than $2000 a month to park Phannie, I expect luxury, not tiny, dusty dirt sites like those at Elk Meadow. I have since learned that the city will not abide the building of any new RV parks there, so the rates have no where to go but up, I suppose. Of course, this represents the law of supply and demand, so I guess I need to get over it.

As is our custom, we try to facilitate getting under way on departure day by omitting breakfast and stopping on the road somewhere for an early lunch. This usually consists of a sandwich as we are parked at a roadside turnout of some sort. On this departure day, we had the pleasure of enjoying our lunch beside a clear stream that flows along highway 7 southeast of Estes Park:


Notice that Sandy has a death grip on her iced tea glass, which is never far away.  I think if she were to fall in, she would ask rescuers to save the tea first.

We had an almost uneventful trip westward on I-70, except for an hour's delay at Glenwood Springs while firefighters battled a grass fire.  This has been another disappointing summer in many places in the mountains due to the smoke from the California forest fires; I hope they will be under control soon.

We made an overnight stop in Grand Junction where we stayed at a very nice KOA, and it was there that we got our first taste of really hot weather again at the lower elevation. Daytime temperatures soared to nearly 100 degrees, and we were reminded of what it would be like when we return to Texas. Ugh!

We made our escape from Grand Junction down Highway 50 toward Ouray and the relief  that would be provided by its 7700-foot elevation; we weren't disappointed as its surrounding mountains came into view as we passed through Ridgway:



Here we are, finally parked at the Ouray RV Park (below) in the little town that bills itself as the 'Switzerland of America:'



Here are some photos of this historic old mining town:





After enjoying the sights around Ouray for a few days, we headed out toward Durango, where we were to meet up with Bubba and his clan. We love the drive from here through Telluride and southwestward on highways 62 and 145, part of the San Juan Skyway. It is almost as scenic as Colorado 550, the Million-Dollar Highway, and much less arduous for a motorhome pulling a toad. Here's a great view from the San Juan Skyway:



Once we reached Durango, we parked at the Sky Ute Casino RV Park in nearby Ignacio, a beautiful park that is a favorite of ours. Here's a photo from a previous stay and yes, this park is listed on our 'Best of the Best' page:



A Passport America park, the $19.50 per night charge here is an amazing bargain!

We had a great cookout with Bubba and most of his clan at Priest Gulch Campground (I forgot to get a photo), and we will bid them goodbye in a few days.  We will be hanging around here for as long as possible before beginning the trek back to Texas at the end of August. We're trying to get prepared for the summer heat there to greet us. But seeing the kids again will soon make us forget that minor discomfort. It has been a great summer for sure, and we're looking forward to more adventures in the fall.


Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I don't appreciate it each day as I should.

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.