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Saturday, 4/30/11: Will someone please pass the "catch-up?"

First of all, we'd like to welcome new followers, Paul and Marti, good friends who will soon be full timing, and Laurie, another "name that tune" wizard.

Finally, it's "catch-up" time.  I finally got to the storage unit and found the camera transfer USB cable.  Somehow it was put in a box going to storage instead of the camera bag.  We invite you to go back and read the posts and enjoy the pictures.

Please note, pictures were added to some previously published posts.  Here is a link list of newly added posts and posts with added pictures.  You can use the links, or just go back in the blog and then read forward.  Sorry it took so long to get this caught up!

4/5/11  Pictures added
4/6/11 Pictures added
4/11/11 Pictures added
4/13/11 Pictures added
4/14/11 New post
4/15/11 New post
4/16/11 New post
4/17/11 New post
4/18/11 New post
4/19/11 New post
4/20/11 New post
4/21/11 New post
4/22/11 New post
4/23/11 New post
4/24/11 New post


Sunday, 4/24/11: Happy Easter... and travel day

Happy Easter!

Yes, this was a travel day.  We packed up and left Small Country Campground near Louisa, VA, about 12:45 PM – another “early” start
– and headed toward Richmond, VA, by way of I64, then I295 to Route 1 north.  We headed up to the Wal-Mart in Ashland where we "rested" for about an hour or so.
 Then just before 3 PM we headed off to the Ashland KOA.  We had stopped in there on Friday and made a reservation for Sunday.  Our friends at the desk, Terrie and Jill, came on duty at 3 PM, and we wanted to time our arrival to coincide with their shift.  We got all checked in and set up.  Total travel time (not counting the Wal-Mart "rest period") was about 70 minutes, about 60 miles, and 8.6 mpg.  Tonight we watched The Amazing Race and just relaxed.

We had planned a nice Easter dinner of ham steak, yams, and green bean casserole.  However by the time we got settled in, we both got lazy, bailed out on that plan, and just had sandwiches for dinner.  We’re often content to be "on our own" when it comes to meals.  We got into that habit during our working years, and we haven't quite broken out of it yet.  It works for us though.

The next few days will be "routine" days for us:  running errands, taking care of stuff over at the house, and continuing our preparations for fulltiming on the road.  Hopefully we'll get an offer on the house soon and get it sold.  Then we can really get on with our new lifestyle.

Saturday, 4/23/11: We did nothin' today

The title says it all.  We stayed inside most of the day watching TV, surfing the net, and eating.  The Bulls lost their first game after three wins in a row.  Hopefully they can finish off the Pacers on Tuesday.

I fixed dinner.  It was a recipe of my Mom's that Terri and I call “Mom's Spaghetti Hotdish.”  We both really like it, and it’s easy to fix – a win-win.

Like so many say on their blogs, some days there's just not much to write about.  Tomorrow is a travel day.  I wonder where we're going this time...

Friday, 4/22/11: Happy Birthday... to me (day 2)

Thanks to all for the birthday wishes.  Terri said today is a continuation of my birthday.  We, as usual, had a nice leisurely morning.  We had to make another run to Richmond today to take care of a few things, so after we got our errands done we stopped at a Mexican restaurant for dinner.  We've been there many times, and it was delicious as usual.  Terri had a taco salad, and I had combo meal #11 consisting of a burrito, enchilada, and a taco.  Of course, I had to help Terri finish her taco salad (someone had to do it. . . ).  Needless to say, I was stuffed when we left.  We headed over to Wal-Mart to pick up a few things and a cake.  A chocolate fudge cake to be exact – mmmmm cake!

ummmmm cake

lighting the candles
Once we got everything done, we headed back toward Louisa and that wonderful 75 minute drive.  We had decided to extend our stay until Sunday.  They’ve given us the Passport America rate every night that we’ve stayed.  Needless to say, we’ve definitely gotten our money’s worth by joining PA.  We’ve saved $25 plus tax each night for four nights.  We love getting a good discount!

Nothing scheduled for tomorrow except for watching the Bulls vs. Pacers playoff game.  Go Bulls!

Thursday, 4/21/11: Happy Birthday... to me (sort of)

Yes, today was my birthday.  Woo hoo!!  After a leisurely start to the day, we headed out to our house to make sure things were in order for a second showing.  After about a 75 minute drive we arrived at the house to find a yard that was in dire need of mowing.  Terri was originally going to give me the day off for my birthday, but after one look at the yard, I realized that wasn’t happening!  Happy Birthday to me!  The plan was for Terri to tidy up inside while I ran over to the storage unit to try and find my USB cord for the camera.  So I dropped her off and headed out.  Luckily I found the USB cord in the second box I checked.  Then it was back to the house.

When I got back Terri was sweeping the front porch.  I knew what I needed to do:  start cutting grass.  Now, we have about 1.5 acres.  Subtracting the space that the house occupies and natural areas bordering the property, there’s between three quarters and an acre of grass.  Since I don’t own a riding lawnmower, I generally mow the front yard one day and the back yard the next, but not the whole thing the same day.  I decided it was to be the front yard today to improve the curb appeal.  Then I realized I was low on gas, but there was enough to at least fill the tank.  By the time I got started it was a little after 4 PM.  So I decided I would mow until I ran out of gas or daylight, whichever came first, and finish the rest in the morning before the showing.  I got the front yard finished and there was still gas and daylight, so I headed for the side yard which isn't real big.  Just as I was about finished with that, I saw something black on the ground just before I hit it with the mower.  It was one of the knobs that holds the mower handle together.  The knob got a little damaged but not so bad that I couldn’t use it.  However, the real issue was finding the bolt that fell out into the grass, and the sun was beginning to set.  We both looked for it, but it wasn’t to be found.  So I got creative and used packing tape to hold the mower handle together.  (I didn’t have any of that ever useful duct tape handy.)  As I finished up the side yard I changed my strategy.  Now my plan was to cut grass until I ran out of gas, daylight, or strength to keep going.  I emptied the rest of the gas from the can into the mower and set off on a rapid pace attacking the back yard.  (Terri later said she got a good laugh because I looked like I was practically running!)  Well I finished it!!  I still had some gas and a tiny bit of daylight left. . . and I was exhausted!  Terri was finishing up inside with the vacuuming, so while I waited, I decided to spray off the Accord.  It was covered with pollen, little seed pods, and bird droppings.  We were finally ready to head home about 8:30 PM.

At the beginning of the day the original plan was to stop over at the house for a little tidying up, find the USB cord at the storage unit, go out to eat or pick up some take-out, and get a birthday cake.  By the time we were done at the house I was too tired to get something to eat or get a cake.  We just called it a day and drove the 75 minutes back home.  We'll go get a cake tomorrow and go out to eat.  On the way home I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything all day.  I drank some orange juice in the morning before we left and of course some water, but nothing to eat.  I decided I better eat something, so I grabbed a sandwich when we got home.  We both worked really hard today, and it was a. . . wonderful. . . birthday!

T-Time: Rockin’ to the 70’s, and Happy Birthday Mike! (4/21/11)

Mike will catch up on our remaining days at the RV Dreams Rally a bit later (maybe by then he’ll have located the USB cord so that he can post some pictures. . .), but in the meantime I’ll jump in and say a few words.

First of all, I’d like to welcome in all of our followers:  Gail and Rick, Jim Smith, Sherry B, Jessica, Donna aka Froggi, Gin and Syl, Charlene Stanford, and David and Maxine English.  We’re pretty new to this blogging thing.  Even though Mike began posting a few entries last year, we didn't get up the courage until last week to make it public, so we appreciate you tuning in from the get-go.  It’s a work in progress, but Mike will be the main blogger in this team with a few chimes here and there out of me.  That being said, I thought this was the perfect day for my first post.

In our transitioning process into fulltiming, one of the issues we’ve discussed is whether we should keep one of our cars as a “chaser” in which I’ll follow Mike for the purposes of extra storage space, more pet caddying space, and the convenience of a smaller vehicle for sightseeing excursions.  If I do follow him, one of the considerations is the fact that I’ll have to do some long-distance driving.  While I’m not opposed to driving, when it comes to long distances we’ve both always been content for me to ride in the passenger seat.  What’s more, if I do chase Mike, which car do I chase him in:  the Honda Element or the Honda Accord?  Though my heart says the Accord (it’s “my” car, I’m used to it, and I love its comfort), my mind says the Element (it has more storage capacity).  One other consideration in driving separately is the fact that we won’t be able to share the views together on travel days – a real downfall in our opinion.  So we used our trip to the RV Dreams Rally in Tennessee as an experiment on this issue.  I chased Mike in the Element to test how well I liked driving it for an extended period, as well as whether I could handle the distance.  We broke the trip into three days with an average of three hours each day.  So how did it go?  On the positive side I discovered that I can easily drive three to four hours with no problem, and in this lifestyle four hours is probably the maximum number of hours that we’ll normally want to drive.  Also on the positive side are the advantages mentioned above (extra storage space, etc.).  On the negative side, of course, is the fact that we weren’t able to travel together on travel days.  I did, however, realize one bonus that I hadn’t thought of:  I got to listen to whatever I wanted to on the radio!!  Mike and I are products of the 70’s, and though we share a love of many of the same musical artists from that era (Steely Dan, Chicago, Doobie Brothers, Steve Miller, ELO, James Taylor, Styx, just to name a few), there are others that I like that Mike isn’t too crazy about (Donny Osmond, Bay City Rollers, and Bobby Sherman come to mind).  So I took advantage of the situation, and rolled down the highway singing my heart out to the likes of Peg, Jungle Love, China Grove, AND Go Away Little Girl, I Only Want to Be with You, and Julie Do Ya Love Me!  Back on topic, however:  Will we keep one of our vehicles for a chaser?  Most likely yes – at least for the time being.  Which one?  The jury’s still out on that one. 

Now on to more important things.  I’m extremely fortunate to count many, many blessings in my life including a loving family, precious fur kids, wonderful friends, and good health.  By far, however, my most treasured blessing came into existence when I was a mere 14 months old, and came into my life at the tender age of 18.  That blessing, of course, is my beloved husband, Mike.  (Yes, I’m 14 months older than him, but I always tease him that no matter how old  I am, I’ll always look younger than him. J)  Mike is my best friend, my soul mate, my protector, my comforter, my biggest fan, my biggest cheerleader, my stand-up comedian, my rock. . . my everything!  Happy Birthday Mike.  I love you.

Wednesday, 4/20/11: Travel day to...

We just weren't sure about our travel plans today.  Did we want to stay or go?  If we go, where to?  We originally planned on taking three days to get back, but we started questioning where we were going to get back to.  The weather was also a consideration, as some rain and wind were predicted through some of the areas that we would be driving.  Well, after checking quite a bit, we decided to take off and head for Small Country Campground near Louisa, VA.  It's a bit further than we care to drive, but not too bad.  This campground is a Passport America member.  I called about their weekly rate and it's 33% off the daily rate.  However, when I mentioned Passport America, he said that the rate would be 50% off for as many days as we wanted to stay.  We were concerned about rain, but never encountered any.

After another "early" departure at 12:45 PM, it took us just over four hours to arrive around 5 PM.  The distance was about 202 miles.  We averaged about 9.8 miles per gallon.  At one point, we were up to as high as 10.8 miles per gallon, but then we had a few steep hills to climb.  We had to stop for fuel for both vehicles and stopped at a Pilot Travel Center.  Boy was it busy there.  I headed straight to the back to the truck pumps.  There were only about seven pumps, and all were occupied.  I waited for one to open up and then fueled up the truck.  This place is on a very small parcel of land.  After I fueled up, I pulled into a parking space in the truck parking and then we fueled up the Honda.  Now, this space that I pulled into is not a pull through space, so when I was ready to leave, I had to back out of the spot.  Terri was worried that I had gotten myself into trouble but she spotted for me and I backed right out without a problem (whew!).  My intentions were to take 220 south to 460 east and then 29 north to I64.  I turned right out of the Pilot thinking I was heading southwest toward route 460.  Wrong!!  We were headed north on highway 11.  So I just followed 11 north until I could get back on I81 north.  We headed east on I64 and then exited at exit #143.  After about five miles of twisting, narrow roads, we arrived at the campground.  We decided to take a "super site" that included a DIRECTV hookup.  This area of the "super sites" is laid out kind of strange in that the front row backs right up to the back row.  If you’re in the back row and someone is in front of you in the front row and you want to leave, you must back up.  We took a spot on the front row.  Even though it’s considered a pull-through site, I chose to back in because we couldn't pull through due to someone parked behind us in the back row.  We have a beautiful view of a lake.  The site is level, and it gets very quiet and dark at night.  We're not sure how long we're staying, so we only paid for one night.
Our site at Small Country Campground

Our site from down the hill towards the lake

View of lake from our site

Another view of the lake from our site
After we got unhooked and set up, our realtor called and said that someone was coming back for a second showing on Friday at 11 AM.  We weren't planning on going to the house tomorrow, but now it looks like we will...

Tuesday, 4/19/11: Travel day, Sevierville to Fort Chiswell

Today was a typical travel day, and we got another "early" start.  I wanted to go fuel up the truck before hitching up, and Terri wanted me to mail a few things for her.  I wasted about 30-45 minutes looking for the post office.  I was probably close but never did find it.  So after finally fueling up the truck, I just stopped at the campground office and mailed them there.  When I got back, Rick and Gail were just about ready to leave, so I went and said goodbye to them. 
Rick & Gail
Sherry stopped by and said goodbye on her way out.  She was driving the Accord, and David was driving the motorhome.  They didn't have far to go, and she doesn't like riding in their motorhome on the mountain roads.  Syl stopped by just before we were ready to leave to take our picture, and then Howard stopped in for a moment to say goodbye.  In addition to the valuable information that Howard and Linda provide at their rallies, an added benefit is the friendships made.

We left about 12:12 PM.  We headed back up 66 through all the road construction to I40 east, then I81 north.  About 177 miles and three hours later, we arrived at Fort Chiswell RV Park.  I averaged about nine miles per gallon.  We got there about 3:17 PM.  The trip was uneventful and since we stayed here on the way down, I knew where I was going.  We were assigned to site #2, right along the road where everybody stops to go sign in.  It was a bit hectic, but it didn't really bother us.  After dinner we took a little walk around the park.  It’s a nice little park for a stopover, but the sites are a bit unlevel front to back.  We left the truck hooked up to the trailer so that we could make a quick getaway in the morning.  Severe weather is predicted, so we might stay here another night.  Another benefit of retirement.

Monday, 4/18/11: More H&H, Camping World

Today was another day of bidding farewell to friends and watching the park empty out.  Again, it’s kind of sad seeing all the empty sites, but it’s nice to be able to just sit and relax.

We went up to Knoxville to Camping World in the afternoon.  We didn't buy anything!  I wanted to get a set of tire locking chocks that were on sale but discovered that they don't stock the two pack, only the single pack.  We looked around a bit longer, mentally added some more things to our wish list, and then left to head back home.  I'll just order the stuff online.

Not much else to report.  Just hung out and watched people leave.  Tomorrow is a travel day for us, so I checked and aired up the tires.  Those dual wheels are so much fun to fill with air. . . NOT!

Sunday, 4/17/11: Final Day of the Rally, breakfast, hugs & handshakes

Another early morning for us so we could get up to the rec hall by 8:00 for breakfast.  They had a good turnout, and then Howard and Linda bid farewell to all of us and closed out the rally.  Lots of hugs and handshakes, tears, and laughter.  Many are leaving today including our neighbors Ray and Kris, and Bill and Dar.  It’s kind of sad seeing the rigs leaving, but I do like the fact that we don't have to go quite yet.

This evening there was a gathering over at Howard and Linda's for a campfire.  There were still quite a few people at the park.  We spent time talking with Gin, Syl, Sherry, David, and others.  A beautiful full moon was rising up over us.

After a while people started to leave, so I went over and said goodbye to Jim and Linda.  Myrddin, their motorhome, is having some engine trouble, so they’re going up near Bristol tomorrow to try and get a mechanic to look at it.  Hopefully it isn’t something major.

After the campfire we just went back home for the evening.  Just a nice, easy, relaxing day.

Saturday, 4/16/11: Rally Day 5, more seminars, cruisin', catered meal, and dance, dance, dance

Today’s seminars started an hour earlier at 8 AM!  That's early for us these days.  We're usually up by 6:30 or 7:00 – our dog, Katie, is our wake up call – but we enjoy waking up leisurely and don’t tend to get out the door until 10:00 – 11:00.  Terri actually set the alarm for 6:00...not something I was too thrilled about.  We attended all of the scheduled seminars today including Boondocking/Solar, Choosing Campgrounds/RV Parks, Packing Your RV For Full-Timing, and Traveling to Alaska by RV. 

Open rig walk throughs were available in the afternoon.  We chose not to open ours up because of the pets.  Instead, we jumped in the car and headed out to, once again, check out the Spring Pigeon Forge Grand Rod Run.  When we got to the top of the hill, at the campground entrance, the southbound lanes were almost at a standstill.  We needed gas, so we turned right and headed north to find some cheap gas (an oxymoron these days).  Then we headed back south to head on down to Pigeon Forge.  It took us almost a half hour just to get back to the campground entrance.  We both figured it would take way too long to get there, so we just headed back home.  We decided to park the car at the rec center, walk up the hill to Parkway, and walk south a bit to see if we could see any cars along the way.  We were just about to the top of the hill when Harry and Jessica drove by.  As soon as they got to the top of the hill and saw the traffic, they turned around.  They said they were going out to shop for some souvenirs.  Needless to say, they decided that maybe that wasn’t the best time to go get them.  Well, we headed south and were walking faster than the cars were moving in the southbound lanes!  We probably walked about three quarters of a mile before we decided to turn around and go home since we still didn’t see any cars, and it was too far to walk before we would.  (There was a cool, brisk wind that also helped in making that decision!)  We would have liked to look at some of the cars, but it just didn't work out.

Tonight was a catered dinner.  Ribs, chicken, taters, green beans, rolls, and German chocolate cake were on the menu.  Yum!!  (Side note:  Did you know that German chocolate cake is NOT from Germany?  It was actually created by a man whose last name was German.)  All of the food was delicious.  We sat at table number 4 with Gin and Syl, Bill and Nancy, and Sherry and David. 
Syl & Gin

Nancy & Bill

Sherry & David
What a change of luck for us.  Last night we were the last table called to get in line, and tonight we were the first!  That was great.

A 1970's Theme Party followed dinner.  A "Hug Jug" was presented to Howard and Linda just after the start of the party.  Bill and Nancy, Linda K, and Sherry and David were responsible for instigating this wonderful presentation.  Everyone was invited to donate money to the "Hug Jug" as a token of our appreciation to Howard and Linda for all of the help they so freely give us RVers through their website, forum, journal, and rallies.   Howard and Linda weren't aware that this was being done and were very surprised.  It was a special moment.  Tie dye seemed to be the shirt of choice.  I don't have a tie dye shirt, so I wore my Jim Morrison shirt instead.  Howard and Linda were all dressed up for the occasion. 
Howard & Linda
 The party started, and Terri and I were up dancing almost immediately.  We danced off and on throughout the evening.  Midway through the evening there was a “Name that Tune” contest in which each player had to raise their hand if they could name the tune.  With just about every song I leaned forward to tell Terri the name.  Others at our table saw me doing this, so when Linda called for a second round of players, my table coaxed me up.  Laurie sat next to me, and between the two of us, we got most of the songs right.  It was a lot of fun.  When I got back to the table, Bill asked me how I knew the songs so well.  I told him, "I just listen to the radio a lot."

Hug Jug presentation

Rick & Cindy

Jessica & Harry

"rocker" Gin

"I think I know this one..."
Sunday is the final day of the rally.  A farewell catered breakfast is scheduled from 8 to 9 AM, and that’s the official end to the rally.  Many people will leave tomorrow, but we're staying until Tuesday.

Friday, 4/15/11: Rally Day 4, Free Day, Demo, and Cruising the Strip

After two days of rally seminars and fun, today was a designated free day.  There were a few various non-rally activities planned for the day as mentioned in the previous post.  So, what did we do?  Of all the fun and interesting activities available, we only attended one:  the Flowbee demonstration.  Yes, I attended it also.  I knew that I needed to check this hair cutting process out too because I figured that I'd be the one using it.  Terri cuts my hair, so I guess it's only fair that I cut hers.  Is she brave... or foolish?  The demo was done at Gin and Syl's site at 11 AM.  We moseyed on over there and watched Gin cut Sherry's hair.  It was very informative, and I think I can do it with a little practice.

We really didn't do too much else the rest of the day.  We ate left-over chili for dinner and then jumped in the car to check out the annual Spring Pigeon Forge Grand Rod Run.  This is an annual car show that takes place on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge.  The weather wasn't cooperating.  It was cloudy, windy, and rainy, so we weren't sure if many cars would be out, but once we got down to Pigeon Forge we found all kinds of cars and trucks:  street rods, classic cars, muscle cars, and just about everything in between.  Some of the cars were covered due to the rain, but we still got a good sampling of the event.  The traffic was a bit slow, especially in the right lane.  That actually worked out well, though, because most of the cars were parked along the Parkway, and the slow moving traffic made it easier to view the cars.  We just made one pass south, turned around, and then headed back north to the campground. We didn't stop anywhere and walk due to the rain.  We decided that we'd try and go back Saturday afternoon and check it out when the weather would be nicer.

Tomorrow we're back to rally seminars, a catered meal, and a 1970's Theme Party.

Thursday, 4/14/11: Rally Day 3, Seminars, Potluck, and Family Feud

Today was another full day of seminars. The first one of the day was about choosing and buying an RV. We chose to skip that one since we're very content with our current unit. Terri took this time to prepare her delicious spinach dip for the potluck tonight. We did attend the rest of the seminars which included selecting a home base, work camping, and TV options. All of them were very informative and helpful. Afterward, Terri fixed her deviled eggs for the potluck.

Later we headed up to the rec hall for the potluck dinner. It looked like there was a lot of good food. However, by the luck of the draw, our table was called last. Now I know one of the sacrifices Howard and Linda make at the rally. They followed us, and, unfortunately, a lot was already gone. There was still enough left, though, and I even went back for seconds. Good food, good eatin'.

After the potluck we made a quick run back to the trailer to get rid of our dishes, and then it was back to the rec hall for the RV-DREAMS Family Feud. We played this game last year also, and it's fun to listen to some of the answers. Our teams were the same as they were for Tuesday night's icebreaker. Everyone had a number on their name tag, and you had to go to that numbered table. Each team had to come up with a name.  My team was
 at table number four and Bill came up with the name Fourplay. Terri's team was called The Gorgeous Georges. Howard was the "game show host" and, like last year, did an excellent job of hosting. It was a lot of fun, and we all had plenty of laughs.

Tomorrow is the designated free day. There are no official planned activities, however some have organized various daytime activities including zip lining, golf, a fly fishing demonstration, a Flowbee haircutting demonstration, and evening activities including poker and a show at the Grand Majestic Theater called America's Hit Parade. Hmmmm, I wonder what we'll do...

Wednesday, 4/13/11: Rally Day 2, Seminars, Chili, and Sad News

Sad news. Whenever I see those two words I cringe before I head right to that section to find out what has happened. So I'll address this first.

Our good friends, Paul and Marti, informed us today that Paul's mother passed away overnight. It wasn't unexpected, but it's still a very difficult time for them. Terri and I are so saddened by the news. We've both been through the loss of our mothers, ourselves, and can understand what they're going through right now. We were amazed at how well they got through the day. Paul even participated in the RV Gadget/Toys Show and Tell and shared several useful, as well as comical, gadgets with everyone. True to form, he got a lot of laughs. And, of course, we all enjoyed the return of the toilet paper over/under gadget. It was bittersweet knowing how much his heart must be aching inside while many weren't yet aware of the sad news. They're planning an early departure Thursday morning for the almost eight hour trip home, and then another five or so hours up to New Jersey. Paul said they'll stop overnight somewhere along the way. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Paul and Marti, during this very difficult time. Peace be with you and your family.

The rally is in full swing now. We attended three seminars in the morning, and I attended the afternoon seminar (internet accessibility) by myself. Terri decided to leave that one for me. We attended all the seminars last year but are still learning, and we have a new perspective on things now that we're fulltime. I didn't really understand some of what they were talking about last year, but now that we've experienced some of this, it makes more sense. For me, going back to the seminars this year is sort of like a confirmation and review of what they're talking about and what we have and will experience. I'm glad that we've returned for another rally; it's definitely worthwhile. It's also fun catching up with friends from last year, meeting new friends, and learning from others.

Tonight's dinner was the chili cookoff, and I signed up to be one of the five judges.
There were 25 pots of chili, 10 of which were chosen by a lottery drawing to be judged. Terri made some delicious chili (not that I'm at all biased), but hers wasn't one of the 10 chosen to be judged. The judging criteria included aroma, consistency, and taste, and it's truly a subjective process. For instance, I'm not a big fan of green peppers, and at least one pot of chili contained green peppers. I tried to be unbiased and open-minded on my judgements. Overall, they were all quite tasty, and I was lucky enough to be able to taste some of them before everyone else. One final note. Each pot of chili had to be named, and there were some pretty creative names. A couple that I remember were "From our Can to Your Can Chili" and "RV Screams Chili." Terri named hers "Rootin' Tootin' Chili." I'll leave it to your imagination as to how she came up with that name, but I will say that it contained A LOT of beans.

After dinner, as mentioned above, there was an RV Gadget/Toys Show and Tell. Some things were very practical, and some things were just for fun. It was a lot of fun and quite interesting to see what kinds of things people brought to show off.

After the show, we headed back home for the evening with our bellies full of chili. Tomorrow will be more seminars and a potluck.

Tuesday, 4/12/11: RV-Dreams Rally Day 1, Mentoring, and... Walmart

We met with with our assigned mentors, Lee and Martha, and fellow newbies, Dick and Michelle, this morning about 10:30. We talked for about two hours and found it very informative. I think all six of us learned from each other. One thing that I've learned is that no matter how long you've been fulltime, somebody will teach you something new and helpful. Thanks to Dick and Michelle for having all of us over to their RV and thanks, also, to Lee and Martha for mentoring.

After that, we headed to Walmart for some groceries. I certainly enjoy being able to go for groceries or run other errands now during the daytime instead of after work at night. Even though we've been retired for just over three months, we haven't been able to enjoy "retirement" yet too much because we've been working so hard on getting the house ready to list for sale.

Once we got back from Walmart, we put the groceries away, had some lunch, and then went over to registration to pick up our nametags, shirts, and goodie bag. This year Terri and I have fulltimer designations on our nametags, which is a goal I'm very happy to have accomplished. After registering we stayed and talked a while with Paul and Marti, Sherry and David, and Gin, and then headed back home to get ready for the evening.

Tonight's activities included a catered dinner, announcements, and a little icebreaker. Dinner was delicious. There were hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, baked beans, pulled pork barbecue, cookies, and brownies. We sat with Ray and Kris, Bob and Paige, and Paul and Marti. Ray and Kris are our next door neighbors, Bob and Paige are new fulltimers from Minnesota, and, of course, Paul and Marti are our good friends that we met at last year's rally. It was a real nice mix of folks, and we all enjoyed each other's company.

After dinner Linda led us through some introductions, and then we were all split up into groups by the number marked on each of our badges. I have a "4" on my badge and Terri has a "5" on her badge, and we all had to go to the appropriately numbered table for the next activity. Once everyone got to their assigned tables, we played an RV-DREAMS version of the game "Minute to Win It" in which you had to put on a hat and swing the attached hanging tea bags up onto the hat. I opted out of the attempt because I didn't want to hurt my neck, but Terri tried it and surprised herself by conquering the feat rather quickly. The task is harder than it looks, so it was fun watching people try to get the tea bags up onto the hat. After game time was over I talked with Jim and Linda, whom we met at last year's rally, and then joined Terri in chatting with Rick and Gail. We got back home in time for Terri to watch Dancing with the Stars Results Show while I surfed the net and dozed off.

And so the first official day of the rally is over. It was really nice meeting new people and catching up with friends from last year. We're looking forward to meeting others throughout the week.

Monday, 4/11/11: Late sleeper, Cades Cove, and Dinner

I got up about 6:40 this morning. This is about the usual time we get up thanks to our dog, Katie, who is our alarm clock. She still likes her breakfast fairly early, even though we're retired now. I guess she didn't get the memo about not having to get up quite so early anymore. Actually I don't usually mind because then I can watch the sun rise. Both Terri and I usually get up and while I take Katie out, Terri gets Katie's breakfast ready. Sometimes after that, Terri goes back to bed. Today, however, I decided not to wake her up, and she slept in until 9:00. I didn't know at the time, but she couldn't get to sleep until after 3:30 AM due to two big cups of a caffeinated soft drink she had with dinner last night. Needless to say, she appreciated the extra sleep.

I was on the laptop most of the morning. Once Terri got up and was ready for the day, we left around noon for a sightseeing tour of Cades Cove located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cove is another word for valley. There's an eleven mile one-lane, one-way loop that you can drive, bike, and/or hike. We chose to drive it and see if it would be something we'd like to bike. Some of the hills are pretty steep, so we decided not to bike it at this time. There are four different churches located at Cades Cove, and each of them had its own cemetary. We find old cemetaries very interesting, and so we spent some extra time strolling through those. There are some hiking trails that I would have liked to check out, but due to our late start, we ran short on time. Someday I'd like to go back and hike some of the trails. We finished the loop and headed back to the RV park.

This tree landed on top of another tree

Another view

We got back to the park about 5:30. I took Katie out, Terri fed the pets, and then we headed on over to Howard and Linda's campsite for "happy hour" with the other Dreamers. We spent some time talking with Paul and Marti and also with John and Terri. We also spent a few minutes with Lee and Martha. Howard and Linda are trying out a new program during the rally in which any interested "newbie" RVers (like us) are matched up with more experienced RVers for some personal assistance, and Lee and Martha are our assigned mentors. We arranged to meet with them along with Dick and Michelle (more newbies) tomorrow and look forward to learning some tips from them.

Paul and Marti invited us over for dinner and by the time we got to their campsite, they had an excellent steak dinner waiting for us. We very much appreciated dinner. As I was eating, I realized that the only thing I'd had all day was a big glass of orange juice and some water. Thanks again Paul and Marti for a wonderful dinner.

After a most enjoyable dinner and evening with good friends, we headed home where Terri watched Dancing with the Stars and I surfed the net. Tomorrow is the first day of the rally with check-in during the afternoon, a catered meal for dinner, and overview, introductions, and icebreaker after dinner.

Let the fun and learning begin.

Sunday, 4/10/11: More rally arrivals, hot and windy, pizza with friends

Another lazy day at the RV park. More Dreamers arrived today. Our next door neighbors, Ray and Kris, arrived in the afternoon. We gave them time to get settled and then stopped and introduced ourselves in the evening after dinner. It was nice spending time talking with them and getting to know them. Our friends, Paul and Marti, stopped by in the afternoon, and we talked for quite a while. Syl stopped by for a few minutes to say "Hi" while Paul and Marti were here. Later, Paul and Marti and Terri and I decided to go get some dinner. We were going to go to the Melting Pot, but after Paul realized they weren't open, we went for pizza instead. It's so nice spending time with them as they are at about the same point in the process of going full time. We get a lot of support from each other. During dinner we chuckled over the fact that Paul and Marti have been to Walmart at least four times since they left on this trip. I know of some others that have gone "Walmarting," and we've been there once, soon to go back again. Walmart should consider becoming a promotional sponsor of the RV-Dreams rallies as the rallies generate a lot of revenue for them.

The weather has been hot and sometimes a bit windy. Naturally, it seems to be at its windiest whenever I put the awning out. But it's been beautiful, and it's nice to be able to open the windows and get some fresh air.

The park is starting to fill up a bit, and more Dreamers should be arriving tomorrow. Howard said there are quite a few people staying in hotels/motels this time. There will be a lot more people here this time. One of the things I really enjoy about the rally is that there will be people here from all aspects of this lifestyle. Some are very experienced, some just getting started, some part time full timers, some gonna be's, some wanna be's, and some just checking this whole thing out. I understand that there are many new full timers here this time, us included. It's a great opportunity for us all to learn from each other.

No plans yet for Monday. We'll figure that out tomorrow.

Saturday, 4/9/11: More arrivals, storms, and a show

Today was another lazy day.  TV, surfing, a short bike ride, friends arriving, an afternoon storm, and a show.

More people arrived today for the rally.  I looked up just in time to see Myrddin and CLT (Jim and Linda) drive by.  A little later Bill and Nancy pulled in two spots down in their Class B RV. I'm sure many others have arrived also.  We went out to greet Bill and Nancy after they had time to setup.  As we were talking, Terri and I realized that our friends,  Paul and Marti, were here.  So after we talked with Bill and Nancy, we walked up and greeted Paul and Marti.  They had just gotten setup and were putting their Walmart purchases away.  We've spent some quality time with them over the last year, but we hadn't seen them since our last visit six months ago.  We didn't stay long; there was a storm brewing and we had to get a bite to eat and get ready for tonight.  Hopefully we'll be able to see them some more this week. 

With the storm coming in, I quickly put away the chairs and bikes.  I had put the awning back up earlier.  There was some wind and a bit of rain but luckily no hail.  It was actually mild compared to what it looked like.  We were on the south end of the storm though.

We both had salads and finished up some leftover roast beef.  Then it was off to meet Howard and Linda and other Dreamers for a convoy to a show that Howard lined up for us.  We were to meet at H&L's at 6:45.  We, of course, were running late, but not too bad.  I had researched the show and its location.  According to Google Maps we needed to turn RIGHT off of Parkway onto Wears Valley Road.  While we were waiting for everyone in the convoy to arrive, Cindy called Terri.  She and her husband, Rick, had gone ahead to get something to eat.  They were trying to find the place, and both Rick and I agreed on the right turn.  I was second to last in the convoy, and of course we got separated right away.  I noticed that everyone else was in the left lane, but I had no way of telling them they were wrong.  Guess what:  I, or rather Google Maps, was wrong.  We turned right while they all turned left.  Where was the theater?  We called Cindy, and she said they figured out that it was indeed left.  So we turned around and met Cindy and Rick.  But they were still at the wrong place.  Anyway, I thought I had seen all the big pick up trucks off to the left, so we went back and found the place.  It was very poorly marked and at the end of a strip mall.  Needless to say that by the time we got there the show had already started.  Howard saw us come in and Terri, Cindy, and Rick all found a spot together and I went with Howard and sat in front of he and Linda and next to another Dreamer, Denny.  The show was at the American Oldies Theater.  With intermission it lasted about two hours.  At the intermission, Howard was able to get a seat for me next to Terri for the second half of the show.  The show was entertaining, and Linda and some of the Dreamers participated.  It was fun and a cheap night of entertainment.  We got back a bit after 10 PM.

Another enjoyable day.

Friday, 4/8/11: Lazy Day at River Plantation RV Park

We didn't do too much today.  Just kind of relaxed and enjoyed the day.  Lots of RV's coming in today.  Some for the rally and some for the weekend.  I got the satellite dish set up without any problems.  Also got the bikes out and aired up the tires.  This is the first time the bikes have been out since our May trip to Pennsylvania last year.  We only rode the bikes that one time in 2010.  We hope to do a lot more bike riding this year. 

About 5:00 we decided to take a bike ride around the park.  The gravel on the roads here is very inconsistent.  Some spots have larger stone and some spots almost crushed stone.  Some spots are very soft and difficult for riding.  We actually saw one woman tumble from her bike in the soft stuff.  She said she was okay; probably just her pride was hurt.  We rode over to see if Howard and Linda had arrived yet.  They had, and they came out to talk with us a bit.  They got here about 2 PM.  Strangely enough at about that time I had a feeling that they had just arrived.  Howard said they had a safe trip here and all is good.  I'm sure they'll be very busy the next few days.

We just spent another quiet evening in front of the TV and laptops.  Should be more rally'ers coming in tomorrow.

Thursday, 4/7/11: Sevierville, TN

Another "early" start for us today!  We left Fort Chiswell RV Park at 12:30 PM.  When we checked in yesterday, I asked the guy what time check out was and he told me "noon or whenever you get going, it don't matter."  Works for us!  We got back on I-81 and headed south.  The traffic didn't seem quite so bad today.  We took I-81 to I-40 to TN-66.  We headed south on 66 to the RV park with road construction all the way to Parkway.  I just stayed in the left lane all the way and then made a left into the RV park.  The total trip took about three hours and forty-five minutes, and we went about 178.2 miles with about 8.5 mpg.  We made two stops today, the first at the Tennessee Welcome Center for about 20 minutes and the second at a rest area for about 15 minutes.  So actual drive time was only about three hours and ten minutes. 

The RV park has a really steep decline from Parkway.  Once we got checked in, we made our way to our site, #419.  It's a back-in site on the river.  For the record, this is our first back-in site.  I didn't have any problems getting parked except for some well-meaning "help" from our neighbor.  I checked to make sure we were level and we could access all the utilities.  I hooked up the W/E/S and cable and all are working.  I did unhitch the truck this time since we're going to be here for twelve nights.  I didn't set up the satellite dish yet; I'll do that tomorrow.

We decided to make a Walmart run.  I looked it up on the computer the other night so I knew where it was located.  As we were heading to the car, we met our first rally mate.  Cindy came up and asked if we were here for the rally and introduced herself.  She drove up from Texas by herself in her van, pulling her cute little Casita trailer.  She's going to go to the airport tomorrow to pick up her husband who's flying in from Washington state.  She attended the rally in Kerrville a couple of years ago.  She's so nice, and we enjoyed meeting her.  When we first checked in, I asked the nice girl at the office if there was anybody else here yet for the rally.  She checked and said "no."  We were the first to arrive.  As it turns out, as we were walking back out to the rig, Cindy was just pulling in, so she was the second to arrive.  After talking for a few minutes, Cindy left to find the airport and we headed out to Walmart.  We got our groceries and headed back to the park.  We just spent a nice quiet evening watching TV and dozing off some.

A few more rally'ers should be coming in Friday, including Howard and Linda.  I enjoy watching the different rigs coming into the park.  Should be lots of activity the next few days.

Wednesday, 4/6/11: Appomattox to Fort Chiswell

Well we got a nice "early" start today.  Checkout time was noon, we left at about 12:15 PM.  I didn't unhook the truck last night so all I had to do was disconnect the electric, water, sewer, cable, and satellite.  We're really enjoying our freedom.  No need to get up early and rush around.

The trip today was uneventful.  We took VA-460 to Roanoke, then north on I-581 to I-81, then south on I-81 to Fort Chiswell RV Park.  We made good time except for a slowdown for road repairs just north of Chistiansburg, VA.  We also had to stop for diesel about 24 miles from the Fort Chiswell.  I was getting a little nervous about fuel, but it worked out and I got a "better" price of 3.79/gallon.  Most of the prices I was seeing ranged from 3.85 to 3.95.  The total trip took about three hours and five minutes, and we went about 138.7 miles with about 7.8 mpg. We got to Fort Chiswell about 3:20 PM.  Cost for the night was  $31.68 with full hookups including cable.  I left the truck hooked up again even though we were a little high in the front.  I hooked up the w/s/e and cable.  I didn't bother with the dish this time.

Campground looks empty now, but was nearly full overnight

View out our back window

Another view out our back window
Fort Chiswell RV Park is a good place for an overnight stop.  Easy access from I-81, but we couldn't hear the traffic noise.  Beautiful scenery surrounding the park.  Except for the main road in, the roads and sites are gravel.  The roads are kind of narrow and the sites are a bit close.  Again, not bad for an overnight stop though.

After dinner we took a walk around the park.  We met a real nice couple who are on their way from South Carolina to West Virginia.  They're newylweds, as they had just gotten married this past Saturday.  Both are in their eighties, but they certainly don't look like it.  They were wonderful to talk to, and we walked with them for a while.

The pets are starting to understand what a travel day is now.  Katie, our dog, rides with Terri.  The first day she stood up for the first one and a half hours.  Today, she slept most of the ride.  The cats seem to be realizing that they're not going to the vet and aren't fighting the carriers quite so much.  Terri did well following me today.  She said it went well for her.

Tomorrow (Thursday) we arrive at River Plantation RV Park in Sevierville, TN, for the RV-Dreams Rally.  We're both looking forward to the rally.