Category Archives: Camping Diary

Camping Diary: Smokey Mountains

Smokey Mountains Trip – October 2016

 

It’s now been almost two months since we left on this trip.

What can I say? I’ve been meaning to procrastinate, but I haven’t got around to it yet.

Background

We had been planning to make this trip for over a year.

We had been to the Smokey Mountains once before in 1977.

That had been our first big camping vacation.

We had a 1974 International pickup truck with an in-bed camper.

We left Kansas City Labor Day weekend.

We made stops in St. Louis, Dayton, and Philadelphia.

We spent several days in both the Washington, DC area and the Smokey Mountains.

We loved the Smokey’s and had always wanted to return.

You’ll notice that the information about the campgrounds themselves is very limited.

Originally we had planned to take a full two weeks for this trip.

We also wanted to limit our travel days to no more than 300 or so miles.

That would mean we would plan three travel days in each direction, leaving 8 days for the Smokey Mountains.

When I went to make camping reservations, I found that all the KOA campgrounds in the area were booked for our timeframe. I was able to get a five-day reservation at the Pigeon Forge KOA for Sunday through Friday.

This required us to change our plans for the travel days. We left one day later than we originally planned and added an extra night in Nashville. We actually did not make any return reservations before the trip keeping our options open.

Normally I try to write a review of each campground but it seemed this trip was quite hectic due to the compressed timeframe and the tire and jack problems we encountered.

Day 1 – October 6, 2016 – Travel Day

On our first day we drove from The Colony to Little Rock where we had reservations at the North Little Rock KOA.

We had made it to Little Rock and were only a few miles from the campground when we ran into our first problem.

We had a blowout on one of our trailer tires.

Fortunately we were able to call Good Sam Roadside assistance and they were able to mount our spare for the final few miles to the campground.

Fortunately the roadside assistance people were able to give us the name of a tire company in town.

Since it was nearly dark when we arrived at the campground and we left the next morning, I really didn’t get much of an impression of the campground.

We did, however, stop at the same campground on the way back.

Day 2 – October 7, 2016 – Travel Day

Our plans for the second day were to travel from Little Rock to Nashville.

Due to our tire problems on the previous day, we had to insert a stop at Looney’s Tire Center.

The first thing I did that morning was to call Looney’s to check on the availability of the tire I needed. They had it in stock.

I also asked if I would have trouble maneuvering my travel trailer into their store / garage. Their response was, “Is it bigger than an 18 wheeler?”

We were able to get a new tire mounted and be on our way before noon.

The trip to Nashville was uneventful.

We stayed at the Nashville North KOA for two nights.

Day 3 – October 8, 2016 – Nashville

Our first non-travel day was in Nashville.

We had never been to Nashville, so we decided we would just explore.

We drove into downtown Nashville and visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Despite not being a country music fan, I thought it was well worth the trip.

We didn’t really see much else that seemed worth visiting in downtown Nashville.

I only took a few pictures in Nashville. They can be found at Nashville Pictures

After returning to the campground, we learned that a few days earlier there had been a shooting right outside the Hall of Fame, so I’m not sure I can recommend the safety of downtown Nashville.

Day 4 – October 9, 2016 – Travel Day

On day 4 we travelled from Nashville to Pigeon Forge where we stayed the Pigeon Forge KOA.

Normally we try to reserve a pull-through campsite but do to the heavy booking in the area our reservation was for a back-in site.

Our site was a 90-degree turn from the road and was between a tree and utility pole.

If it had not been for the escort assisting us with the back in I would not have been able to get in the site.

Even with the escort’s assistance we touched the utility pole with our awning. Fortunately there was not damage and the escort was really apologetic.

Day 5 – October 10, 2016 – Cades Cove

For our first full day in the Smokeys we wanted to visit Cades Cove.

This is a valley surrounded by mountains.

It has an 11-mile one-way loop road, which circles the cove.

We had visited it in 1977 and had seen an abundance of wildlife particularly deer.

During that visit we had camped in the cove, but with our pickup camper we had no need for electricity or a large site.

In 1977 we also went horseback riding in Cades Cove.

During this trip we only drove the 11-mile loop.

I was actually somewhat disappointed in the lack of wildlife we saw this trip.

It is recommended that you take two to four hours to drive the loop.

At peak times such as it was for our trip, it could also take one to two hours to drive from Pigeon Forge to Cades Cove.

So a trip to Cades Cove can easily “burn” most of the daylight hours depending on the time of year.

Day 6 – October 11, 2016 – Grotto Falls

 

During our 1977 trip we had hiked to Laurel Falls.

Se picked Laurel Falls because At the time I had never really seen a waterfall and Laurel falls was not only one of the taller falls (80 feet) but with a paved trail it was one of the easiest to reach.

For this trip I wanted to see another waterfall.

The Concierge at the KOA recommended Grotto Falls.

The trail is to Grotto is considered moderate in difficulty.

The roundtrip distance is 2.6 miles and the brochures say it takes about 2-3 hours for the roundtrip.

I think we made the round trip in less than 2 hours.

The view of the falls was well worth the hike.

See the links below for my pictures and videos of the falls.

Day 7 – October 12, 2016 – Cataloochee Valley

There are two areas within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that seem to be mentioned most frequently when the subject of wildlife viewing is mentioned.

They are Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley.

In recent years Elk have been reintroduced into the Cataloochee Valley.

While Cades Cove is in the middle of the national park, Cataloochee Valley is on the eastern side of the park in North Carolina.

This means that from Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg you must drive completely through the park or around the park.

Additionally the entrance road to Cataloochee valley is a winding, gravel road that has some steep drop offs with no guardrails.

As we were driving into the valley, Mandy commented that I had probably honked the horn on my truck more that day than since I had bought the truck three years ago.

We decided to drive through the park on our way to Cataloochee.

The main road, US 441 goes through the middle of the park from Gatlinburg Tennessee to Cherokee, North Carolina.

There are several places to stop and enjoy the view as you transverse the park.

They include its intersection with the Appalachian Trail, Newfound Gap, and the Tennessee / North Carolina border.

Once we made it to the valley we saw wild turkeys and a few elk.

The few elk we saw were at the edge of the meadow just outside the wooded area.

We were told that more elk usually come out into the meadow around 5:00 PM.

We waited around but they “stood us up.”

Since we had quite a long drive back to the campground we only waited until about 5:30.
For our return trip we drove around the park via I-40.

My pictures for these three days in The Great Smokey Mountains National Park can be found at Smokey Mountain Pictures

They can also be found on facebook at Smokey Mountain Pictures (Facebook)

I did take a few videos while at the park they can be found at Smokey Mountain Videos

Day 8 – October 12, 2016 – Gatlinburg

After three days exploring the park, we decided to spend our last full day being “tourists” around the Pigeon Forge / Gatlinburg area.

We took the Pigeon Forge Trolley from Patriot Park (adjacent to the KOA) to the Gatlinburg Welcome Center.

From the Gatlinburg Welcome Center we took Gatlinburg Trolley to the “main drag” of Gatlinburg (Parkway.)

We spent most of they day strolling up and down Parkway.

There was a craft show at the Gatlinburg Convention Center, which we visited.

We also bought a couple of souvenir shirts.

While staying in Pigeon Forge, we decided to slightly change our return route.

Instead of stopping in Nashville, we decided to make our first stop at the Buffalo / I-40 / Exit 143 KOA in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.

We planned to make our second stop at Little Rock North KOA.

Our plans were to only stop one night at each place.

Day 9 – October 13, 2016 – Travel Day

As I mentioned, the backing into our campsite was quite a challenge.

It looked as if getting out of the campsite would be even more difficult if that is possible.

We asked for help from the KOA staff and through some miracle we were able to finagle our travel trailer out of the spot.

While travelling from Pigeon Forge to Hurricane Mills we decided we would like to spend a day in Hurricane Mills for some site seeing.

Upon arrival we were able to extend our stay in Hurricane Mills to two days and move our reservation at Little Rock North back a day.

Day 10 – October 14, 2016 – Hurricane Mills

We spent the day visiting the nearby Mennonite community and Loretta Lynn’s Ranch and Coal Miner’s Daughter Museum.

Day 11 – October 15, 2016 – Travel Day

We spent the next day travelling from Hurricane Mills to Little Rock where we stayed at the Little Rock North KOA. (This is the same campground we stayed on our trip to the Smokey’s.)

Upon arrival at the campground we were setting up when our second major travel trailer problem occurred.

As we were leveling the fig there was a loud noise. The shaft of the right rear stabilizing jack broke.

Fortunately, the KOA gave us the name of a RV Repair person who could come to the campground to look at our jack first thing the next morning.

Since I was not sure how long it would take to repair the jack we extended our reservation in Little Rock by one day.

Day 12 – October 16, 2016 – Little Rock

The RV repair person was able to arrive first thing that morning.

He told us the jack motor would have to be replaced

He was able to cut the wires to the motor (which was hanging by those wires) and retract the jack leg so that we could travel.

We spent the rest of the day visiting the Arkansas state capitol in Little Rock.

My pictures can be found at Little Rock Pictures and on Facebook at Little Rock Pictures (Facebook)

 

Day 13 – October 17, 2016 Travel Day

As we were preparing to leave we found we had one residual problem with our stabilizing jack.

Since the right rear jack motor was not connected, the automatic leveling system would not retract the jacks.

I had to re-attach the wires so that I could retract the other three jacks.

Once this issue was resolved our trip back to The Colony was uneventful.

 

Camping Diary: Hot Springs National Park KOA – June 2016

We spent the first five night of June 2016 at the Hot Springs National Park KOA in Hot Spring Arkansas.

Our arrival on June 1st was late so our activities on that day were limited to setting up.

The weather forecast for our first three full days called for rain so we tried to schedule our activities with a possible rainout in mind.

Day 1 – June 2nd

On our first full day, we took the KOA shuttle into the Hot Springs National Park, which is in downtown Hot Springs.

We began by visiting the historic bathhouses along Central Avenue.

We had lunch at a microbrewery located in the Superior Bath House building.

The food menu was very limited. We both had sandwiches which were only so – so.

The only soft drinks on the menu were iced tea (both sweetened and unsweetened) and their home brewed root beer.

They did have several types of beer and they featured a “sampler” of several brews.

Since neither of us are beer connoisseurs we both had iced tea.

Unless you are a beer connoisseur, I would not recommend this restaurant.

That afternoon we rode the “duck” which is a World War II amphibious vehicle.

That tour took us around Hot Springs and Lake Hamilton.

We had also taken the “duck” tour in Branson.

The ducks used in Hot Springs are smaller than those used in Branson.

The tour guide told us the vehicles used in Hot Springs were the “original” ducks and the larger ducks in Branson were later models.

The ride in Hot Springs was less expensive than the ride in Branson.

In my opinion, our ride in Branson was more fun, but I think that was dependent upon the driver.

We also did some “window shopping” along Central Avenue. They had a number of specialty shops but nothing that we couldn’t live without.

Fortunately we were able to avoid most of the rain that day.

The only substantial rain came while we were riding the duck and the roof protected from most of the rain.

My pictures from this day can be found at Day 1 pictures

Day 2 – June 3rd

 

The forecast for our second full day was for rain all day.

With that in mind, we decided to visit the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock.

The annual “Riverfest” festival had taken over the library’s parking lot, so we had to park in an empty lot and ride a shuttle to and from the library.

The library was very interesting from an historical perspective.

I found the timeline display on the second floor the most interesting. I surprised that I had forgotten about many of the events that took place during President Clinton’s two terms in office.

Since we had just recently visited the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin I was interested in comparing the two replicas of the oval office.

In the LBJ oval office there were three large (for the time) televisions that were tuned to the three major networks.

Those televisions were gone in the Clinton oval office.

We ate lunch in the restaurant in the basement of the library.

That restaurant was quite nice (cloth tablecloths and all) with a quite reasonable priced menu.

I would recommend the restaurant although if you’re a dieter you may want to avoid the dessert tray.

I don’t have any pictures from this day.

Day 3 – June 4th

On our third full day we returned downtown taking the KOA shuttle.

We explored the promenade, which is a walkway that runs behind and above all the bathhouses along Central. It was a relaxing walk with a good view.

We visited the National Park Aquarium and the Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum and Gambling Museum.

It seems that quite a few business in downtown Hot Springs have added “National Park” to their names. Both the aquarium and the duck ride (which we rode on day 1) are such businesses.

The aquarium was a small family owned operation but was very reasonably priced.

It only cost $10.59 for our two tickets. (That may have included a senior discount.)

We have previously visited the Madam Tussaud Wax Museums in both London and Las Vegas. The Josephine Tussaud museum was smaller than either of the other two museums.

The Gambling Museum was an extension of the wax museum.

While it did include some interesting historical facts, most of the museum was just trinkets from the days of illegal gambling in Hot Springs. In my opinion old dice, chips, and playing cards are just not that interesting.

We ate lunch at “Granny’s Grill.” It basically was a sit down hamburger joint.

Due to the forecast of rain, I didn’t bring my camera on day 3.

Day 4 – June 5th

We spent the morning of our fourth full day cleaning the travel trailer in preparation for our return trip the next day.

This left us only a half day during which we visited Gavan Woodland Gardens which is a botanical garden sponsored by The University of Arkansas’ Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design.

This garden has a reciprocal arrangement with the Dallas Botanical Gardens, so we were able to get in free. (Normal adult admission is $15.00.)

This is quite a large garden. Some of highlights include:

  • 4 ½ miles of shoreline on Lake Hamilton
  • Several wood and stone bridges
  • A wedding chapel
  • Several miles of trails
  • An amphitheater.

You can easily spend several hours exploring.

They have a small café, which sells food and refreshments.

We found out the hard way that the café closes at 3:00 PM. Fortunately we just wanted some soft drinks.

Besides the botanical gardens they have a nature preserve.

Since we only had a half-day, we didn’t visit the preserve.

My pictures can be found at Day 5 Pictures

Things We Would Like to do Next Time

 

The national park has 26 miles of trails. Due to the expected rain, we didn’t try exploring these trails. These are definitely on our “list” for our next visit.

 

Visit Hot Springs Mountain Tower over looking Bathhouse Row.

 

Explore Hixson Nature Preserve, which is adjacent to the Garvan Woodland Gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

Our Last Trip of 2015

OK, I know, I’ve been very remiss in updating this blog.

With our move, it has seemed like getting settled in the new house has been a full time job.

Since moving in we’ve only made one short three-night trip in December to Eisenhower State Park.

Due to the weather it wasn’t a very eventful trip.

The lake level was up which forced some roads and paths to be closed.

Our trip was first affected by the water levels as we approached the park.

We were approaching on FM1310 from the east.

We found that the road was closed to through traffic, which required us to turn around.

Fortunately there was a small parking lot on the south side of the road just across from a northbound road.

I was able to turn into the parking lot and then backup on the northbound road.

I had to call the park headquarters for alternate directions to the park.

They suggested State route 84 to Eisenhower Road.

That route is similar to the route preferred by my GPS. The GPS suggests Lil’ Old Road to Eisenhower Road.

I usually avoid that route due to the low hanging trees on Lil’ Old Road.

Our stay at the park was very “laid back.”

Due to recent rains it was very muddy.

We did some hiking on the first full day, but the Armadillo Hill Trail was under water around the Buttonbush Scenic Point.

It rained almost all day on the second day, so we spent most of it in the camper.

After returning home, we took the trailer in to have it winterized as well as an issue with the inverter addressed.

 

Planned Trips: Padre / Goose Island Trip Cancelled.

We were supposed to be somewhere along the Texas Gulf coast about this time, but instead I’m writing this from home.

We had two issues with the travel trailer that prevented us from leaving yesterday (12/10.)

First the tail / running lights were not working.

A blown fuse in the truck caused this.

Next the refrigerator was not running off the inverter.

A blown fuse also caused this. This fuse was in the “thingamabob” that balances current between the two batteries.

In theory we could have left today for an abbreviated trip but Mandy has been fighting a cold, so we decided to stay home.

We are currently having the rig winterized, so our next trip will probably be in February.

Stay tuned.

Camping Diary: “Victory Tour” Oklahoma and Missouri

We spent the first 14 days of October on our “Victory Tour.”

This was our first extended trip since our retirement.

We made four stops along the way:

  1. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  2. Kansas City area (Platte City), Missouri
  3. Columbia, Missouri
  4. Branson, Missouri

OKMOMap

The primary purpose of this tour was to visit with relatives.

I won’t bore you with that portion of our trip, so this diary will be much shorter than you would expect for a 14-day trip.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

We only spent one night in Oklahoma City.

The purpose of the stop was two fold.

First we wanted to break our drive from Fort Worth to Kansas City into two parts.

Secondly, we wanted to visit with a second cousin whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of years.

We stayed at the Twin Fountains RV Resort, which was quite nice.

You can find my review of Twin Fountains at http://chuck-brennaman.com/CampingBlog/?p=131

We had dinner at a very nice Mexican Restaurant.

Ted’s Café Escondido is located at 2836 NW 68th St in Oklahoma City.

The food was great and all dinners included unlimited free chips, salsa, four tortillas, and queso.

Dinners also include complimentary Sopapillas for dessert.

Kansas City Area

We spent six nights in the Kansas City area.

We camped at Basswood Resort in Platte City.

Platte City is just north of the Kansas City International Airport.

My review of this park can be found at http://chuck-brennaman.com/CampingBlog/?p=133

Most our time in K.C. was spent visiting relatives.

We did have lunch with one of my high school classmates at a Mexican restaurant on the Country Club Plaza.

If you like shopping, I would suggest a trip to the Plaza.

Some things to note the Plaza:

  1. The Plaza is an outdoor shopping area so dress for the weather.
  2. If you are driving truck, as I was, parking can be difficult. There are quite a few parking garages but they have low clearances and may be difficult to maneuver. I was able to park on the streets but I had to walk a distance.
  3. Some streets in Kansas City are designated as Boulevards, which prohibit trucks. Many streets around the Plaza are Boulevards. When I lived in K.C. over 20 years ago, the police were very strict in their enforcement and would ticket even half-ton pickups.

I highly recommend the World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial, which we visited.

There has been a museum here since the Liberty Memorial was built but in recent years they have greatly enhanced the museum.

From the Liberty Memorial you can get a great view of Union Station and the Kansas City skyline.

I usually try to get updated pictures of the skyline from there when I’m in town, there were low clouds and drizzle they day we were there.

Weather permitting you can also go up to the top of the Liberty Memorial tower which provides a great view on nice days.

We also visited Weston, Missouri, which is a pre-civil war town along the banks of the Missouri River.

For a list of things to do in Weston see the Weston home page at http://westonmo.com/?page=todo

If you have kids, I recommend Worlds of Fun which is an amusement park similar to the Six Flags franchise.

Worlds of Fun was built by Lamar Hunt shortly after he moved the Kansas City Chiefs (formerly the Dallas Texans) to Kansas City .

When we lived in K.C. we had season tickets to Worlds of Fun for several years and our entire family loved it.

Columbia, Missouri

We spent two nights in Columbia at the Cottonwoods RV Park.

My review of Cottonwoods can be found at http://chuck-brennaman.com/CampingBlog/?p=136

Once again most of our time was spent with relatives but we did drive around the Missouri University campus.

MU is the oldest university west of the Mississippi.

Branson, Missouri

We spent four nights in Branson at the Branson KOA and Convention Center.

My review of the Branson KOA can be found at http://chuck-brennaman.com/CampingBlog/?p=143

While we didn’t visit any relatives in Branson we did join Mandy’s college roommate and her boyfriend for a lunch cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle.

The meal was excellent and the show was also very good.

The show was very family oriented with a dose of patriotism and “bible belt religion.”

We had hoped to spend one day at Silver Dollar City, but the weather did not cooperate.

We last visited Silver Dollar City about 15 months ago.

During that visit, we didn’t ride many of the “adult” rides because our six year old grandson was with us.

Overall, I think Silver Dollar City has fewer rides than Worlds of Fun or Six Flags.

It has more crafts and shows.

We visited the Toy Museum and the Celebrity Car Museum while in Branson.

I wouldn’t recommend the Toy Museum.

They had thousands of toys, but I think they actually had too many for the space they had.

Parts of the museum were quite musty.

I would recommend the Celebrity Car Museum.

As their name implies, celebrities had owned many of the cars.

They also had many cars used in movies.

This included the DeLorean used in the Back to the Future movies and a Batmobile.

They also had very interesting background information on most of the cars.

Other places I would recommend based on past visits include “Ride the Ducks” and Branson’s Wild World.

I would recommend the Branson Scenic Railway only if you can get a low numbered ticket and ride in one of the observation cars.

When we ran this train, we bought our ticket too late to get in one of the observation cars and the view from the passenger cars is not that great.

Overview of Trip

On this trip we put 2,053 miles on our truck. This includes our trip to the dealer after the trip.

We spent $757 on fuel and $637 on camping fees.

After spending September in Fort Worth where the official rainfall was .06” we experienced rain, heavy at times at all four stops on this trip.

Unfortunately we found we had a leak in our Travel trailer, so we were drying out the carpet virtually every day.

The weather was warm when we left and we ran the air conditioner the first couple days.

It then turned cooler and we had to run the heater at night.

During our second night in Branson, the heater quit working and I thought that we had run out of propane.

After switching tanks, the heater still would not start.

I actually used Google to research the issue.

I found several sites with troubleshooting steps.

One thing that I should have thought of was checking the fuses and circuit breakers.

I found that the heater had blown a fuse.

I replaced the fuse and turned the heater back on.

It turned on but almost immediately turned back off and the new fuse was also blown.

I did try one more fuse with the same result.

Fortunately we have a fake fireplace, which includes an electric heater.

So for the next two days we ran the fireplace heater and used some extra blankets.

We also ran into a few other minor problems during the trip which is why we took the rig to the dealer the day after our return.

The other issues included some windows which we could not open or close, more problems with our inverter sustaining the refrigerator while driving, and a broken door on the sewer hose tube.

 

 

 

 

 

Camping Diary: Eisenhower State Park 9/12-15/2014

Note: I originally published each of these days in separate posts, but as I was writing about our last day (9/15) I decided to put them all in one post.

Any preferences between the two different methods?

Friday, September 12th, Day one of a weekend camping trip to Eisenhower State Park in Denison, Texas.

We left home at 1:00 PM.

We drove through intermittent light rain and drizzle during the two-hour drive to Eisenhower.

As we parked at the front gate to register we saw a bobcat scamper across the road.

This was the first bobcat we had seen at this park.

There were plenty of open campsites.

We initially chose number 63 but when we arrive there we saw that it was somewhat short.

There was room for both our truck and travel trailer but I wasn’t sure there would be enough room for Christine’s car when she got here.

We noticed that site 61 was a much longer site, so we called and asked to change.

Site 61 seemed fairly level but we were to find that there was quite a difference in elevation from the front to the rear of the TT.

We tried using the trailer’s auto level several times and each time we go the “out of stroke” message.

I even tried not extending the front legs as much (which required re-hooking up to the truck.)

Finally, I just decided to manually level the trailer.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a level, so we used a cup of water.

I know we’re not exactly level, but I think we’re close.

(Note to self: Put a level in the TT.)

Bottom line is that we took over an hour to get the trailer leveled and set up.

Once we were setup I realized that all the loading, unloading, etc. had caused a set back for my shoulder.

We really didn’t do too much the rest of the afternoon/evening except microwave some personal pizzas and watch some TV.

Speaking of TV, one nice thing about Eisenhower is that there are several television stations within antennae range.

The Sherman – Denison area was the first place I noticed the TV stations using the digital “sub-channels” to broadcast multiple networks.

NBC, CW, and ABC are broadcast on channels 10-1, 10-2, and 10-3.

CBS, My TV, and Fox are broadcast on 12-1, 12-2, and 12-3.

There are also another four channels, which I didn’t recognize.

Saturday September 13th, Day one of a weekend camping trip to Eisenhower State Park in Denison, Texas.

A cold front came through yesterday.

Besides the intermittent light rain and drizzle we encountered, some locations received quite a bit of rain.

We heard that Paris, Texas received five of six inches of rain.

(Paris is about 70 miles from here.)

Last night we took a short walk and the cold and damp air made it uncomfortable for me.

This morning the Weather Channel app on my phone said it was 53 degrees.

I was wishing that I had a sweatshirt in addition to the light jacket I brought.

Christine originally was undecided as to whether she would join us last night or today.

She called last night to say she had a problem starting her car.

She called again this morning to say she had the same problem.

(The car did nothing when she turned the key to start. After turning the key to off and back to start it would start.)

I told her she should have someone in Plano look at it so if it turned out to be something major the car would be close to home.

I spoke to her again around 9:00 AM and she said they found a loose wire on the starter, which they tightened and she would be leaving shortly to join us.

They joined us shortly after 10:00 AM.

As we were driving from the ranger’s station to our campsite, Christopher spotted two deer at a campsite close to ours.

Just before lunch Christopher saw another deer run across the road and into the woods next to our campsite.

He wanted to follow it into the woods, so we told him we would take a hike down the trail after lunch.

Once we finished lunch we took the trail from the entrance to the Bois D’Arc camping area to the road the goes down to the Eisenhower Yacht Club.

The trail was very muddy after the rains on Friday.

We didn’t see any deer (or any other wildlife) on the trail.

Interspersed though the day, we walked around the camping area while Christopher rode his bike a couple of times and played a couple of games with Christopher.

After dinner we decided that we would go fishing.

We drove over to the Eisenhower Yacht Club to buy some bait, but we found they were closed. (We arrived shortly after 6:00 PM but I don’t know what time they closed.)

We then drove in towards Denison and bought some worms at a gas station.

(As long as we were there I topped off the fuel in the truck.)

It was about 7:00 PM when we got back to the lighted fishing dock.

This only left about 30 minutes of daylight.

Even though the fishing dock is lit, after sunset I was having trouble putting the hooks and sinkers on the line.

So around 7:45 we packed up and went back to our campsite where we had some ice cream sundaes.

Sunday September 14th, Day three of a weekend camping trip to Eisenhower State Park in Denison, Texas.

We all slept in this morning.

After breakfast we tried fishing again.

We spent about an hour at the fishing dock with no luck.

When we got back to our campsite there was a doe and fawn in the edge of the wooded area next to our site.

Christine and Christopher went over to the trail and were able to get a close look at the pair.

Christine got a good picture and a video of Christopher watching the deer.

We had a late morning snack and took it easy the first part of the afternoon with some napping and some football watching.

After a late lunch, Christine and Christopher left for home.

Mandy and I took a hike exploring the park trail from the Bois D’Arc Camping Area to the eastern end of the trial near the Armadillo Hill Camping area.

We then stopped by the camp store at the main gate where Mandy bought a hiking stick medallion.

From the main gate we walked back to Bois D’Arc via the park road, which I realize is not the safest route.

After returning to the travel trailer both Mandy and I showered and relaxed for the evening.

Monday September 15th, Day four of a weekend camping trip to Eisenhower State Park in Denison, Texas.

I originally had not planned on writing anything about our last morning since we were just planning on preparing to leave.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned so here goes.

We spent most of the morning packing, cleaning, and securing the travel trailer.

I was working on hooking the trailer to the truck when things went awry.

I backed the truck up to the trailer and went back to adjust the height of the hitch.

After adjusting the height, I could not get the key in the ignition.

It wasn’t that it wouldn’t move in the ignition, but I could not get the key in the ignition.

This had actually happened once before but I wasn’t sure if it was with this truck or my previous F-250.

I tried moving the gearshift and steering wheel, but nothing seemed to work.

I called Five Star Ford where I bought the truck and their only suggestion was to bring it in.

This meant towing the truck in.

Since I was over 100 miles from Five Star, I knew I could find a closer dealer.

I called the park office to let them know we would probably not be out by the check out time of 2:00 PM.

I also asked if there was a Fort Dealer in Denison.

They told me that Blake Utter Ford was right on US 75 about four miles from the park.

That was a relief since AAA is very stingy on towing mileage.

(I also have Good Sam Roadside Assistance so one way or another mileage would not be an issue.)

I then remembered that Ford supplies complementary roadside assistance during the warranty period of five years or 60,000 miles.

I got out the card and called them.

This was about noon.

The tow truck arrived within the hour.

The driver spent some time trying to get the key in but not even WD40 helped.

He then disconnected the drive shaft and hooked up the truck.

Mandy and I got in for the short ride to the Ford Dealer.

On the way out of the park, I stopped at the office and offered to pay for an additional day since check out time was fast approaching.

They told me I didn’t need to pay now.

They would check in the morning and if we were still there they would leave a fee due notice.

If we were able to get out, we didn’t need to pay for the extra day.

They did say that if it had been a weekend when all the sites were reserved, we would have to pay the extra day.

The people at Blake Utter Ford were very nice.

They took my name, address and phone number and went to work on the truck.

It wasn’t long before they said they needed to rebuild the cylinder and the truck should be ready in an hour or less.

When the truck was ready, we didn’t even have to sign any paperwork. They just handed us the key and said we were ready.

By this time lunchtime had came and gone, so we were both hungry.

There was a Braum’s just across the highway, so we stopped there and had a sandwich.

We were able to get back to the park and get hooked up without any additional issues.

We pulled out of the park at 3:40 PM, so the problem was resolved in less than four hours.

Pictures

You can find my pictures from this trip by using the following link:

http://www.chuck-brennaman.com/HomePage/2014_Photo_Album/Pages/September_Camping.html

Diary – May 29, 2014 – Palo Duro Canyon State Park

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Note: this diary entry was written after our return home.

Thursday, May 29, 2014.

Thursday was our last full day at the park.

We had planned on hiking the “CCC Trail” which is 1.43 miles each way but rated as “difficult.”

My cough seemed to be getting worse and since the CCC Trail was rated as difficult, we decided to make a trip into Amarillo to do some site seeing.

We visited the Texas Air and Space Museum and the Amarillo airport and the RV museum at located at Jack Sisemore’s Traveland at 4341 Canyon Drive.

Surprisingly we thought the RV museum was more interesting the the Air and Space Museum.

The Air and Space Museum had two displays which I thought were worthwhile.

The first was a DC-3 which was last used by the FAA as a flight inspection aircraft.

That plane was fitted with a “boat load” of instruments so that they could test navigation aids.

The second interesting display was a Grumman C-11A Shuttle Training Aircraft.

This aircraft’s cockpit was fitted with two very different displays.

On the left (the pilot’s seat) it was configures with three display screens and a control stick.

This was an exact replication of the Space Shuttle’s cockpit.

The right side (co-pilot’s seat) was configured with a standard aircraft joke and display.

We were told that in order to emulate the aerodynamics (or lack thereof) of the Shuttle, the flaps were deployed and the engines were set at 80% power in reverse thrust.

Overall, I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit this museum.

Prior to visiting the RV Museum, both Mandy and I thought it might be quite boring.

We both found it quite interesting.

it included RVs from as early as the 1930’s including the 1948 Flxible Clipper used in the Robin Williams move “RV.”

In my opinion the RV museum was worth the trip into Amarillo.

Sorry no pictures from this day.

Diary – May 28, 2014 – Palo Duro Canyon State Park

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Note: this diary entry was written after our return home.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wednesday was the first day that the entire park was open.

Although open, the third water crossing had about a foot of water running over the road.

We didn’t chance making that crossing.

We hiked the “Lighthouse Trail” that day.

The trail is approximately 5.75 miles round trip and starts near low water crossing 1. It loops around “Capital Peak” and goes to the “Lighthouse Peak.”

The Lighthouse Peak is the park’s iconic symbol.

The trail is rated as “moderate” difficulty.

In the park’s description of this trail it says it’s the most popular of the trails. It also warns to take plenty of water since most heat-related injuries and deaths to people and pets occur on this trail.

The temperature was in the mid to upper 80’s while we were on the trail.

We didn’t have any trouble on the hike even though I was suffering from a prolonged cough caused by allergies.

We both brought a water bottle which we had frozen prior to the hike.

We did learn that we should have only frozen half of the bottle, since it never did completely melt.

The entire hike took us 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Later in the day we returned to the wildlife blind for some more pictures.

Pictures from that day can be found at http://www.chuck-brennaman.com/HomePage/2014_Photo_Album/Pages/Palo_Duro_Day_3.html

Diary – May 27, 2014 – Palo Duro Canyon State Park

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Note: This diary entry was written after our return from this trip.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014.

Our first full day at the park.

The park is still closed at the first low water crossing.

With most of the trails closed, we decided to go into the town of Canyon to do some site seeing.

We visited the Panhandle Planes Historical Museum which is located on the West Texas A&M campus.

The museum was well worth the trip.

Upon returning to the park, we stopped at the Visitor Center and the lookout point next to it.

We also returned to the wildlife viewing blind. (As I said it was a favorite.

The birds was saw included Northern Cardinal, Purple Finch, Painted Bunting, Yellow Fronted Woodpecker, and wild turkeys.

There was both a tom and hen turkey and the tom was “strutting his stuff.”

The pictures I took that day were from both the lookout point and the blind.

Those pictures can be found at http://www.chuck-brennaman.com/HomePage/2014_Photo_Album/Pages/Palo_Duro_Day_2.html

 

Diary – May 26, 2014 – Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Note: This diary entry was written after our return from this trip.

Monday, May 26, 2014 (Memorial Day.)

We spent most of the day driving from Fort Worth to the park.

It was about a six hour drive.

We were assigned campsite 142 in the Sagebrush camping area.

They had heavy rains over the past few days and the park was closed at the first low water crossing.

This meant only the Sagebrush and Hackberry camping areas were available. Of those two, only Sagebrush has 50 Amp service.

By the time we got set up and had dinner there wasn’t much time left to explore the open sections of the park.

We did visit the wildlife viewing blind which immediately became a favorite spot.

The pictures I took that day were the views from the Sagebrush camping area and the wildlife blind.

Those Pictures can be found at http://www.chuck-brennaman.com/HomePage/2014_Photo_Album/Pages/Palo_Duro_Day_1.html