Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

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 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!