Tag Archives: Red Bay

Repairs & Maintenance At Tiffin Motorhomes
February 22, 2009
Thonotosassa, FL, Happy Traveller Park, Site 187 — 0 days
Sunday, February 22, 2009 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 9 Months
Sunday, February 1.  Superbowl Sunday in the Allegro Campground, Red Bay, AL.
Back again in the Allegro Campground — this time in Site #13.

Back again in the Allegro Campground — this time in Site #13.

Our first morning in Red Bay was Super Bowl Sunday and it was 40° at 7:30 am but sunny. I guess this is our time to catch up on our winter experience. 

It was also time to catch up on clerical work.  I went online to find a dentist to fix my tooth that half sheered off.  Soon we will be going to Tampa, FL for Dennis’s first annual appointment at H. Lee Moffit Cancer Center so Dennis and I looked at the various RV parks near the Moffit Center and chose Happy Traveler RV Park in Thonotosassa because it is only ten miles away — a straight shot on one boulevard.  We don’t know if we will be delayed with follow up appointments so I made a reservation for a week to take advantage of the one-week discount — $245.  I found Nails City for me and the Pampered Pooch for the dogs in Tupelo. I also researched the location of a good Neuro-Ophthalmologist in Florida.  I will call all of these places tomorrow morning.

We took the dogs for a walk.  Right now the campground is half empty and today no one is around.  The twenty closed bay doors rattle in the wind. The wind was very cold on my head. It came from the south behind us and when we walked over to the street on the north side, the wind died down.  Without a wind, 49 degrees feels fine.  I like crispy, sunny days when the sky is blue and clear.

Back again in the Allegro Campground — this time in Site #13.

Back again in the Allegro Campground — this time in Site #13.

Of course the dogs love it.  They run back and forth on the huge gravel lot sniffing and peeing.  I asked Dennis, “Do you suppose they remember this place?”  We get our answer when we walked down the street by the cow pasture.  Both dogs ran right along the barbed wire fence, looking and peering intently into the pasture.  They even stood on their hind legs searching for those cows.  This is where Rudi got loose when I dropped the handle to his 20’ extended leash.  He ran under the fence to chase a nearby curious cow in circles before I grabbed the fallen handle and pulled him back.  That was a year and a half ago, but he remembers and so does Margot.  They can’t wait to get in that pasture and raise a ruckus.  No way, you two dogs!  Anyway, there are no cows right now, only a couple of horses in the distance. See photos:  http://www.cutesmalldogs.com/Pages/Bus/11WaitingForTiffin.html

Dennis made a terrific breakfast with his pan fried potatoes and vegetables.  Delicious!

Since July ’07 we’ve made notes about improvements or repairs for the bus. I got out our Master Wish List:

01. Fiberglass crack……..driver’s side, crack under slide
02. Dishwasher…………..wash cycle interrupts & doesn’t finish
03. Engine, generator……annual service: oil & filter changes
04. Fire Extinguisher…….install new fire extinguisher system
05. Roof vents …………..put covers on 3 roof vents
06. Bedroom closet……..cut a door in wood cabinet closet storage to face bedroom/add shelf
07. Desk shelves………..install shelves under window by Dennis’s desk/shelf for printer
08. Flat TV bedroom……install new cabinet for rectangular flat TV/adjust cabinets accordingly
09. TV ears………………install TV ears for bedroom TV
10. Modem……………….prevent BR modem from changing LV TV channels
11. Radio/CD ears………install radio/CD ears for sound system
12. DVD…………………..install DVD for living room TV
13. MCD…………………..install power shades for front windshield
14. Desk extension………extend passenger desk to slide over lap of passenger
15. Shelf extension………make computer mug tray hold a plate of food with top that flips over on hinges
16. Hydrohot……………..annual service
17. Window……………….prevent rattle and cold air leak at driver’s window
18. Bay doors…………….adjust bay doors; won’t close without lifting
19. Bus computer………..install WIFI card to use Co-Pilot Live with Internet
20. Bedroom wallpaper…fix/change stretched and wrinkled wallpaper by counter closet
21. Bedroom glue spot….remove spot created by workers in May ‘07

We are not sure who does what exactly: Tiffin Motorhomes for some repairs, Bay Diesel for the Spartan chassis, Brannon Hutcheson at Custom RV for electrical things, and Chris Berry’s Woodwork for cabinet stuff, etc.  For the Tiffin Motorhomes portion of our list, we have to turn in our work order list at the Allegro Campground office before 8:00 pm tonight.

At night we watched Super Bowl XLII in Tampa — the city where we will go next.  Our team, the Arizona Cardinals almost beat the Pittsburg Steelers — but not quite.

Monday, Feb. 2, Red Bay Day 2.  Get busy Monday.

It was 37° at 7:30 this morning — and gray.  It rained a lot last night — big noisy drops kept me awake.

In the afternoon, Brannon Hutcheson of Custom RV Inc. dropped by.  He works for Tiffin and has developed a side business after hours.  Among other things, he is going to remove our front curtains and install MCD — automatic pull-down shades for the windshield.  You press a button and they run up or down. There are two:  One is a see-through black shade that keeps people from being able to see inside.  It can be used during the day in crowded areas with little privacy or to block bright sunshine.  The second is a beige woven fabric with a backing that is thermal to keep out heat or cold.  It can be used at night for complete privacy.  These shades will eliminate the pleated beige curtains that we slide around on a track to cover the windshield.  The new shades will be better looking and more convenient. They are expensive, but we told him to go ahead and order them.

Tuesday, Feb. 3, RBD 3.  I drive to Tupelo for nails and teeth.

It was 23° at 7:30 this morning but sunny and clear.

Yesterday I did a lot of busy work regarding appointments and lining up care for my eye.  I got a reply from my eye doctor at PAMF.  She says the best eye clinic in Florida is the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami.  I discovered that the famed Dr. John Guy is there so I called them.  Hurray!  I got an appointment with Dr. Byron L. Lam, (also well known) on the morning of March 3rd.  Now I must have my records sent to them.

We got a call from Dr. Weber’s office in Tampa.  He will be out of town on Wednesday so we changed Dennis’s appointment to Tuesday, the 24th and now we must get his radiology tests lined up for Monday. Dennis is upset.  He wants to arrive on Sat. and have Sun to learn where to go and be ready for tests on Mon.  He is thinking of our trips from Burbank to downtown LA. Finding the USC Norris Cancer Research Hospital, parking in the garage, navigating the hospital complex and the hospital building was complicated. However Moffit is located on a campus on the outskirts of Tampa so I think it will be much easier to manage. We paid for a week from Mon through Sun. at Happy Traveler RV Park in Thonotosassa.  Now I have to try to change that and arrive a day early — and I know they are crowded.

Around mid-morning I took the Honda and drove the fifty-some miles to a Vietnamese salon, Nails City in Tupelo. I got my nails repaired as well as a spa pedicure between 12:30 and 2:30.  I had to kill an hour before my dental appointment so I stopped briefly at Danver’s Restaurant on Main St.  It looked like a coffee shop and I had high hopes for it but I was disappointed.  It was a fast food buffet with uncomfortable wooden booths.  It was chilly so I sat on a hard wood seat by a sunny window.  I had my current book so I ate a bite and waited. How I miss Dinah’s, my restaurant at home, where I am known.

Two brothers, Dan and Tom, own Kellum Dental Clinic.  Everyone there was very pleasant and professional.  Cheryl took x-rays and then cleaned my teeth and she did an excellent job.  Afterwards I met Dr. Tom Kellum and learned about my lower left #20.  Just as I thought, it sheared off — not the filling but part of the tooth itself.  It is not infected and there is no nerve damage.  I can have him smooth it down and leave it alone or cover it with an “”Onlay-porcel/ceram-4 + surface” for $785.  Although we don’t have dental insurance, I made an appointment for next Tuesday at ten o’clock as I don’t want future problems and I don’t want to worry about it.

To my surprise Dr. Kellum was more concerned about my back tooth, #18 on the lower right.  He suspects that it has an infection that begins inside the tooth and works outward.  He referred me to Tupelo Endodontics, Dr. Crumpton, for a consultation regarding a possible root resorption.  In this process they remove the infected cells to prevent further interior decay.  Oh terrific!  This sounds both expensive and painful.

By the time I left Tupelo, it was cold and windy and getting dark.  I drove home in pitch black.  The first 27 miles are on an excellent freeway but it was not fun to drive the last 17 miles on dark country roads.  I was very relieved to arrive home safely sometime after 6:30 pm.

Wednesday, Feb. 4, RBD 4.  We take the bus to Bay Diesel for Spartan chassis and engine maintenance. 

We were up early this morning to close slides and raise jacks and drive the short distance to Bay Diesel.  I followed Dennis in the car.  It was 20° shortly after eight o’clock when we arrived.  We had to leave the bus and kill a few hours while they do engine, generator, and chassis servicing, annual oil and filter type of stuff.  So with the dogs in the back of the car we drove around the small neighboring towns looking for a breakfast restaurant.  We thought we remembered a dismal sort of café in Belmont.  We saw a few places but they all open at eleven so an hour later we returned to Red Bay and went into Jack’s.

Jack’s is a fast food place on the order of Burger King and it has a large pleasant dining room with plastic booths and tables. As Red Bay has no real restaurants, Jack’s is it.  They always have customers and it seems to be fairly popular.  It was sunny outside but still very cold so we sat inside for an hour.  I ordered rubbery scrambled eggs, dried up bacon, a biscuit (without gravy or grits, thank you) and some fried potato nuggets in a bag together with a small carton of juice and a Styrofoam cup of coffee.  I requested butter for the biscuit and received a container of melted margarine!  Dennis had coffee and ate half my potatoes. (See photos/comments on Sparks Restaurant, Belmont in 7/07.) http://www.cutesmalldogs.com/Pages/Bus/12BusImprovements.html

We picked up the bus (#3 finished), stopped in the Allegro Campground to load up on more water at the water bay and got back to our site by 11:30.  Aside from walking the dogs, we didn’t go out again.  I made more appointments and did some clerical stuff and worked on webpage #115.  I am going to see Dr. Crumpton next Tuesday at 1:00 pm so I have combined both dental appointments on the same day. I talked to my old friend, Dawn, in my home dentist’s office, Dr. Starr of Menlo Park, and told her about the planned onlay. She laughed and said, “You’ve got a bargain. Here, we charge $1,250.” Ohmigod. I guess I won’t complain….

I think Dennis loves the idea of this cold weather.  He subscribes to the Weather Bug and he can get up to date weather reports for our local weather anywhere, anytime.  At night, when the temperature drops, he likes to come into the bedroom where I watch TV and give me half hour weather bulletins.  He grins with masochistic delight: “It’s dropped to twenty degrees.”  “It’s down to fifteen degrees.”  It’s going to be six degrees tonight.”  I don’t mind the cold weather so long as I’m warm inside the bus and it looks sparkling bright and sunny outside during the day.  It would not be much fun if our days were gray and stormy as well as cold.

Thursday, Feb. 5, RBD 5.  Dennis and I drive into Tupelo with the dogs for a grooming appointment.

Margot takes her ease in the driver's cab chair. Yep, she's looking very shaggy.

Margot takes her ease in the driver’s cab chair. Yep, she’s looking very shaggy.

Using the Internet as a guide, I chose a grooming salon on Main St. very near Nails City, where I went last Tuesday.  My big mistake was that I only talked to the receptionist but I did not talk to the actual groomer, who is also the owner.

We left at 7:30 as we had to put gas in the Honda and we arrived early at 8:40 for our 9:00 am appointment.  I had combed each dog somewhat over the past week.  However it has been two months since their last grooming appointment.  They look grubby and have accumulated many mats in their long, white hair.  I should have combed and brushed both of them thoroughly on Wednesday but I didn’t do it.  I was remembering Isabel at the Pampered Pooch in McAllen, TX.  The dogs were in such bad shape I thought they would have to be shaved.  But Isabel pulled out her magic little brush and said she could save them.  And she did with very little fuss and in a very short amount of time — a few hours each.

However Lee Ann Holloway of The Pampered Pooch in Tupelo was a different story.  We waited ten minutes because she was late.  A middle-aged woman, she seemed to be in a bad temper.  Margot was doing her loud nervous barking.  Most groomers pick up the dogs and put them on the counter to pet then and talk to them. They examine the dog while I explain what trimming I need to have done.  Lee Ann was holding a cup of coffee and Margot stayed on the floor.

Lee Ann bent down, put one hand on Margot’s back and exclaimed that she was full of mats.  She said she couldn’t do them, that she’d been in the business for twenty years and that anyone in town would simply say that they had to be shaved.  I listened and said nothing but Lee Ann’s voice rose as she became defensive and solidified her position.  I did not argue but I did not agree or apologize for the condition of the dogs and we left.

I no longer buy into this “must be shaved” position.  Over the past year and a half I’ve been to many dog salons.  I’ve learned some tricks from the groomers we’ve visited.  They all have different methods and attitudes about brushing, combing and trimming.  Most of them are dog lovers.  They fuss over Margot and they are quick to forgive her barking and they work to get her to calm down.  I have never had someone refuse to work on our dogs.  Here and now I am putting out a bulletin:  Avoid the Pampered Pooch on Main St. in Tupelo, MS.

Well, wow.  We drove into Tupelo at an early hour — for nothing.  We went up to Barne’s Crossing to a mall with Pet Smart, Staples and Cracker Barrel.  At 9:30 am, I went into Pet Smart and asked if they had any grooming openings.  I made appointments with two groomers for the two dogs for 12:30.  I said they were full of mats but I didn’t bring them in.  The dogs are in their record book because Pet Smart did them in July of 2007.  They said the dogs would be finished about 3:30 or 4:00.

We went into Cracker Barrel for breakfast and I decided that hanging out in Tupelo and getting back at five o’clock made for too long of a day.  I felt that I needed to comb and brush Rudi and Margot and get them better prepared for an appointment.  So after breakfast I went back and cancelled the appointments.

I went next door into Staples and bought a big Rolodex together with plastic inserts for business cards.  I’ve tried using the business card storage books and they just don’t work.  I have scattered business cards everywhere.  I haven’t kept track of the many people we meet on the road who give me cards.  A Rolodex is big and will be in the way but I have hopes that this method will work and be worth the inconvenience of the size.

We’ve decided to have the cabinet in the bedroom changed so that we can install a larger TV.  We have a 20” that fits into a wood cabinet that is 24” high and 21” wide.  When lying in bed I can’t read the print on the credits and I would like one of the new flat rectangular screens.  We were told that Wal*Mart had the best prices so we went over to price their 32” flat TVs.  The issue is the size of the cabinets and placement of speakers as well as the comparative resolution and prices.  We found that the TVs in their metal frames range from a width of 30.25” to 35” wide and from 21” to 22.75” high.  A new TV would cut into the space of the cabinet to the right by 10 – 14+”. Prices with the 720 pixel resolution for Phillips, Polaroid, RCA, Samsung, Sanyo, Sharp, Sony, and Viizio ranged from $447 (Sanyo) to $598 (Sony).  We were told that Sony, Sharp, and Phillips were the best.

Wal*Mart did not have 32” TVs with the higher 1080 pixel resolution so we drove over to Best Buy.  Here we talked to a very helpful and knowledgeable guy named Ricky.  The 32” with the higher resolution TVs range from $799 (Sharp) to $999 (Sony).  Ricky recommends Sansung at a bargain $949.

Our current Panasonic has a built-in DVD so we would have to buy a DVD for the new TV.  Ricky demonstrated the differences between a regular and a Blu-Ray disc player.  The Blu-Ray will play standard-def DVDs as well.  Then he explained the advantage of going with a combined Sony PlayStation 3 Game Console/ Blu-ray Disc Player for $399.99.  It’s not the games that attract us.  It’s the fact that with an air keyboard it interacts with your computer — something about “play back streaming” and “web-enabled interactivity”.  Oh, my gosh!  It’s so hard to keep up with this stuff.  Ricky is not on commission and had nothing to gain by selling us any of this.  He was just an enthusiastic young man and I appreciated the time he took to give us an education.  We will return to Best Buy after we talk to our Tiffin custom carpenter, Chris Berry.

Our last errand was to find a vet that sells T/D or D/D, the approved dental kibble that we feed our dogs.  I made a call and we found Animal Care Center over near the Natchez Trace.  On the way we stopped at the Indian Site and let the dogs run.  We bought the kibble and we were back in Red Bay by 2:00 pm.

For the rest of the day I was a happy little clerk as I retrieved all my business cards and put them in my new Rolodex.  Because we travel I decided to organize them, not alphabetically by last name but by cities.  Behind M I put a card labeled Mission, TX and behind that I put a clear plastic sleeve insert with Betty and Jay’s card because their permanent casita home will be in Mission.  Behind Billings, MT I put a card for the RV place where we stayed, Trailer Village.  I filed all my RV park cards; nail salons, restaurants, and acquaintances by their home address city.  I put Escapee acquaintances behind a card for Livingston, TX.  It is working out great.  Dennis was so impressed he dumped all his business cards on me.  They are mostly a collection of auto parts and other RV business types of places.  Gee thanks, Dennis!

In the evening, a Tiffin guy came by and told us we should bring the bus to Bay #34 at 7:00 am tomorrow morning.  They are ready to start on our list of repairs.

Friday, Feb. 6, RBD 6.  Dennis and I spend the morning in a Tiffin repair Bay.

Stan kids around when I take his photo. He's replacing the driver side window. Stan's son, Scotty, works in Parts.

Stan kids around when I take his photo. He’s replacing the driver side window. Stan’s son, Scotty, works in Parts.

We were up early and Dennis was parked in front of our assigned Bay at 6:56 am.  Up went the doors and in we drove.  The bays at Tiffin face each other in a long line.  They are well lighted and heated.  Our Bay #34 faced a Zephyr in Bay #7.  There is space to put out our slides on both sides and we are allowed to stay inside our coach while they work on it.  They hooked us up so we could run our electric heat.  Our two guys, Ricky and Stan were talkative and cheerful and very easy to be around.  We were there until 1:45 pm and the entire experience was just as nice and pleasant as could be.  It is amazing.

Ricky fixed some wrinkled wallpaper and a glue spot on the rug in the bedroom.  Stan fixed the driver’s window that rattles and lets in cold air.  The hydrohot was serviced.  We left the door open for them to come and go.  I kept the dogs tied up on short leashes and they snoozed in their dog beds.  They barked at the first few entries but the guys petted them and talked to them and they soon settled down.  I was able to work on my computer and I finished #116 so instead of a lost day I had a very productive day  Dennis hung out with the workers and watched what they did — guy stuff.  Instead of getting roof vents, Dennis got new filters for the vents that are easier to remove and therefore easier to clean.  (#2, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21 finished and part of #5).

 After taking on water, we were back in our site by four o’clock.  The cabinet guy, Chris Berry, dropped around in the evening and we laid our wish list on him.  We came up with a plan for installing the 32” TV.  Others have cut into the overhead cabinets, which cuts down on storage room.  I asked why we could not hang the TV below the cabinets.  The current TV box could be cut up to the level of the row of storage cabinets so then we actually gain some storage.  The cabinet Charles made for us has to be sacrificed but there will be plenty of room in the new cabinet to hold the DirectTVPlus receiver as well as the Blu-Ray player.  Generally, people feel that this design solution places the TV too low to view from the bed.  But we both feel that it will be fine so we agreed on this plan.  Chris told us the five CD player in the LR doubles as a DVD player.  (Why didn’t we know that? #12 resolved).  Chris has some other excellent suggestions also.  He’s going to make a shelf to move the printer off the kitchen counter and down by Dennis’s desk.  He’s also going to make a TV table that he calls a Joe Buck that can be placed in the cab when we need extra counter space while we drive and eat.  I’m excited.

Saturday, Feb. 7, RBD 7.  We did a few errands and just hung out.

The weather is still sunny and it has warmed up.  Dennis just finished making his delicious breakfast and right now I think it is about 60° outside.  However, I can hear a wind blowing the canopies.  I have been catching up on my daily entries.

I used up 80 Rolodex Business Card Sleeves and I need more.  I wish I could finish this project but there are no business supply stores in town.

We went to True Value and CVC for prescriptions and we grocery shopped at Piggly-Wiggly.  We sliced vegetables and added them to a frozen cheese pizza for dinner. This turned out to be an excellent substitute for my favorite pizza, Round Table’s Guinevere’s Garden, which I haven’t had for more than a year now.

I posted #116 about Houmas House and the Inauguration and driving to New Orleans.

Monday, Feb. 9, RBD 9.  We took the Bus to Tiffin Bay #40 and to Custom RV.

Yesterday was 60° and a very mild day.  We walked the dogs twice and hung out around the bus.  This morning we took the Bus to Bay #40.  They are repairing the crack under the slide, which involves a fiberglass operation so we can’t stay in the bus.  To kill time we took the dogs with us and drove to Florence to look for a breakfast restaurant but with no luck.  We couldn’t even find the mall.  We stopped at a place called Country Boys and had a dreadful breakfast.  We drove back and after taking on water we were back in our site by 11:30.

In the afternoon at 3:00 I followed the bus up to Custom RV — I guess because we weren’t sure if we would need the car.  I stayed on the bus while Brannon worked on installing the automatic fire extinguisher system that Dennis bought from Mac the Fire Guy in Gillette at the Escapee rally.  He’s never installed one before but he knows how to do it.  It involved stringing wire from the engine up to the cab and the guys decided to do that above the ceiling through the air filter vents.  Brannon had some questions and is going to call Mark Quasius of RVCruzer. Mark installed one and wrote about it. http://www.rvcruzer.com/fireindex.htm

Tuesday, Feb. 10, RBD 10.  I have two dental appointments in Tupelo.

I drove to Tupelo for my ten o’clock appointment with Dr. Kellum.  He did the on-lay ceramic crown in only one and a half-hours.  In the old days he would have made a mold and I would come back in two weeks for the permanent.  Now they take x-rays and a computer plots the dimensions of the missing tooth in 3-D.  Then it is cut in a machine with two needle size cutters that chisel down a small block of porcelain.  I watched and it was fascinating.  The tiny piece was glued in and I left with a tooth like new.  I am so impressed.

I had a one o’clock appointment with Dr. Crumpton for a consultation about a possible root apsorption.  My mouth was entirely numb and I couldn’t eat lunch so I went to Office Max in Barnes Crossing.  I looked for a plastic sleeve and 3×5 cards.  In case of an accident, I want to hang a sleeve in the car that will hold cards that give our local RV Park location with a warning that we’ve left dogs in our motor home.  If something happened to us, who would know that we live in a motorhome, or where it is parked or that there are dogs in it who need care.

Dr. Crumpton took more x-rays and had good news.  If the tooth doesn’t bother me, leave it alone.  It is blocked by a wisdom tooth and it will have to be pulled if it gives trouble.  He will send copies to me and to my dentist in Palo Also so I have a reference if there is a problem.  He said he knows a lot of people on the east coast and will refer me to someone if the tooth gives me a problem.

I went back to Barnes Crossing and went to what I thought was Hallmark.  I needed to find some Valentines.  It was inside a Books-A-Million store so I ended up buying some new books also.  MyBad!  Then I went next door to Red Lobster and ordered a dinner to go.  Dennis said he didn’t want anything.  I couldn’t stop to eat because my mouth was still numb.  It rained on the way but I was back in the bus by four-thirty.  By then my mouth felt normal so I could eat.

Wednesday, Feb. 11, RBD 11.  We take the bus to Bay Diesel for a new hitch because of a Spartan recall.

At 10:30 am it was raining very, very hard and there were big gusts of wind.  It was windy all last night with the canopies flapping.  We went out to do a few errands and I asked if we could eat at Denny’s.  So we came home and Dennis made one of his delicious breakfasts.  Then we took the bus to Bay Diesel for a new hitch.  This wasn’t on our list because it is a recall item.  By one o’clock we were back at the Allegro Campground getting water and returning to our site.

Thursday, Feb. 12, RBD 12.  We drive to Tupelo for a dog grooming appointment.

Discouraged by my experience at the Pampered Pooch, I gave up and made appointments at Pet Smart.  The dogs had been there before in July ’07 and I couldn’t remember what kind of job they did so I decided to give them another shot.  This time I’ve done my advance work and combed out the mats.  We dropped the dogs off at 12:30.  The dental staff had recommended Harvey’s on Glouster to me so we went there and had an excellent lunch.  Then we did errands and picked up the dogs at 4:00 pm.  They were butchered.  They are overly shaved on their rear ends and on their hind legs.  The styling with scissors is a seriously terrible job.  Their long, stiff eyebrow whiskers have been cut off.  They look awful.  As a grooming alternative, Pet Smart is off my list — forever.

Friday, Feb. 13, RBD 13.  I have a stomach upset.

For the first time, we decided to try the Cardinal Drive-In. It looks so romantic and fifties so we thought, why not? We picked up hamburgers for lunch.  We also chose onion rings and they were big and very good but I am not used to eating that much grease.  Either they affected my system or I have a touch of some stomach bug.  Anyway, I was out of commission and could eat nothing more for the rest of the day.

Saturday, Feb. 14, RBD 14.  We had a non-Valentine’s Day

In the early evening we went to a restaurant called Gill’s BBQ.  We had lunch their once in July ’07 and it was pretty bad.  But they have a new sign and we thought they had switched owners.  The $19.99 Valentine’s special was to split a 20 oz. sirloin and two sides (half a baked potato each and mixed vegetables) plus the salad bar.  They gave me a little steak knife but I couldn’t slice my meat!  Then I saw a cockroach on our oilcloth tablecloth next to the wall where I was sitting.  My stomach still felt upset from yesterday and after that I couldn’t eat at all.  We packed it up in a box and we were out of there in under an hour.  We gave our leftovers to the dogs.  Gill’s BBQ did not switch owners.  I’m sure we will return to Red Bay but I will never go into that restaurant again.

Monday, Feb. 16, RBD 16.  We spent the entire day out of our bus while it was in Bay 19.

We had to be out of the bus with the dogs from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm.  They are repairing the fiberglass and then it has to be repainted.  Dennis spent a lot of time hanging out in the Bays talking to guys and watching them work.  I sat in the lounge and read “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson.  At night, Chris came over.  He brought our “Joe Buck” and it looks great.  It serves as a self standing TV tray with a little drawer and a magazine/book rack.  We did this instead of extending the counter in front of the computer.  (#15 resolved).  He took our old Panasonic 20” TV out of the box and removed the box.  He left the TV hooked up and propped up on the counter so I could watch my programs.  He disconnected the eye that causes the front room TV to change channels from the bedroom.  (#10 resolved.)  Chris is a very nice, hard working, family man.  He is very cheerful and funny.

Tuesday, Feb. 17, RBD 17.  Another long day out of our bus while it is in Bay 19.

Our new TV sits on a little table and is secured to the cupboard above. The old TV box has a new door that matches the other cupboard doors above the counter.

Our new TV sits on a little table and is secured to the cupboard above. The old TV box has a new door that matches the other cupboard doors above the counter.

While they painted the bus, we drove to Tupelo to buy our new TV.  At Best Buy we got a 32” Sony with 1080 pixels.  We bought a Play Station 3 that plays Blu-Ray DVDs with better definition.  We also got the “Sex in the City” movie in Blu-Ray.  We had breakfast at the Cracker Barrel.

When we got back we drove over to the Tiffin Motorhomes manufacturing plant.  We went into the visitor’s center to get visitor badges and then we were able to look at the new ’09 Allegro Bus.  It was the 43’ tag axle model.  We did not like the floor plan or decorations anywhere near as much as our ’07 tag axle model.

Tiffin put the kitchen in front near the cab and the living area behind it, which seems counter intuitive to me.  The bathroom is at the rear behind the bedroom and the master closet is in the bathroom.  There is less storage in the bedroom in terms of cupboards and drawers.  The bedroom length is shorter than ours.  The only new thing I liked is the new wider entrance door.  I would sacrifice some couch length on the passenger side of the living room to have that.

After looking at the new bus we walked over to the office and met Bob Tiffin.  We probably visited with him for twenty minutes.  We did not try to meet him when we first came here in July ’07 so this is the first time we’ve met him.  He is very affable and talkative.  His people have been in Red Bay for six generations.

In the evening Chris came over and installed our new TV.  He put up the cut down box that held the old TV and then set the new TV below it on the counter.  He will hang it tomorrow.  The box holds the Direct TV and the DVD player and has room for a second pair of TV ears.  (#9 resolved). Chris also moved Dennis’s desk over towards the aisle just enough to make room for a simple shelf that holds the printer.  We didn’t get the rest of the shelves built under the window by Dennis’s chair.  (#8 finished & part of #7).

Wednesday, Feb. 18, RBD 18.  Another half day with the bus in Bay 19.

From seven to eleven in the morning, we hung out around the lounge and waited.  The painting guy painted some scallop black where it should be red and we had to bring it back for them to repaint it.  The bus gets put in a bay with many heating lamps so I spent time sitting in the lounge reading.  When we got back to our site we made breakfast and for the rest of the day I rested.  (#1 finished). In the evening Chris installed the TV cabinet and secured the new TV. He put a hinged door on the new/old cupboard above. It matches the other cupboard doors with hinges that push up out of the way. We are very pleased.

Thursday, Feb. 19, RBD 19.  We take the bus to Custom RV

In the afternoon we drove the bus up the hill above Red Bay to Vina, the tiny town where Brannon has his work bays and offices.  He finished the installation of the fire extinguisher and installed the two new automatic windshield shades.  (#4 & 13 finished).

Friday, Feb. 20, Travel Day 1.  We leave Red Bay.

Yesterday I didn’t want to go out or do anything.  After being out of the bus and in the lounge for two and a half days I felt very tired and discombobulated and depressed.  We’ve been in Red Bay for nineteen days — almost two-thirds of a month.  The people here are very nice but Red Bay is not an uplifting place.  It isn’t pretty and there is nothing to do. The Allegro Campground is all gray gravel and gray buildings. It’s even more gray than Leisure Valley! Often it has been cold.

I feel broken — like I’m a well broken in RVer.  I didn’t fight Red Bay the way I did in July ’07 when we here for three weeks.  This time I didn’t hate it the way I did then.  Now I plod along. Red Bay is not a delightful place.  We got stuff done and for the most part we cooked and ate on the bus and put in our time and endured.  We got lots of stuff done. Of course I am very pleased with our new bedroom TV and our other excellent additions so I feel guilty about being depressed. Anyway, it is over and I’m glad to get out of here.

This morning I baked cinnamon biscuits in the oven to have with coffee.  It is sunny but very cold outside.  According to Dennis’s computer it is 19°.  Air temp is 25° and the mirror says 36° ICE.

Chris Berry came over this morning and installed the last bit of trim to hold the TV in place.  We accomplished all but #6, 11, 14, & 19 on our list.  Chris is a busy guy.  There just wasn’t enough time for him to implement the closet door storage idea (#6).  The idea of ear phones for the radio/CD sound system just isn’t worked out and it seems complicated (#11).  I really don’t need or want the desk in front of the passenger chair to be extended.  I don’t use it when we drive (#14).  And to put Co-Pilot on-line for the bus computer would involve adding another air card so we put that on hold (#19).  Dennis really wanted the windshield shades and I really wanted the BR TV so we both splurged and got what we wanted. Tiffin fit us into their schedule for all our maintenance needs so our time was definitely well spent.

We stopped to load up on water and then stopped at the office to pay our bill.  Then we drove down the street and stopped at Parade for fuel.  We left Red Bay at 9:45 am.  It was a sunny 45° day.  We took AL-19 to I-78 E. It is a country highway with fields and farms. As we whizzed by one driveway, I noticed a mailbox perched on a tall pole at my eyelevel — far above the convenient mailbox height. A clear sign attached to it said, “AIR MAIL”. I wish I could have gotten a photo of that!

From I-78 E, we switched to I-65 S near Birmingham.  Somewhere along the line we saw a dead alligator by the side of the road. It’s not often that we see alligator road kill…. After Birmingham, we stopped in the first Rest Stop we saw at 1:00 pm.  We passed through Montgomery and came to the first available Wal*Mart in Greenville, AL at 3:00 pm.  We traveled 250 miles, which is perfect.  We are probably 120 miles north of Pensacola, FL.  From Red Bay it is 660 miles to Tampa so 220 miles a day is enough.  From the Allegro Campground, we were in the bus for six hours exactly.

I feel tired and sleepy.  We are parked next to a field so we can put out our passenger slides.  We are on the entrance road so there is a lot of traffic going by.  This is not a large parking lot.  There is a sign by the entrance saying NO TRUCKS and two yellow metal arches that are 11’ high block the exits.  The entrance/exit is not blocked but we will have to turn around by driving through the lanes to go back out the same lane.

Chris Berry moved Dennis’s desk toward the aisle and then installed a shelf by the window to the left of his desk for the printer.  Now it is off the kitchen counter and near the floor by his desk.  It is totally inaccessible to me.  It will be tough to align special papers (like business cards) or load special papers like photo paper or greeting cards.  I didn’t want to move it but it does give us more kitchen counter space.

We are out of Red Bay but I feel very dispirited.  It occurs to me that we spend a great deal of time driving to places where we must be but wouldn’t necessarily choose to be and we spend many nights enroute in places like this that have no beauty and no appeal what so ever. I am overdue for spending a lengthy amount of time somewhere that I really like.

Saturday, Feb. 21, TD 2.  We enter Florida

We left our Wal*Mart parking lot in Greenville at seven this morning because with those truck barriers we were worried about parking congestion and being able to maneuver to turn around and leave on the same street.  We drove a few blocks to a Cracker Barrel that we had seen from the freeway exit yesterday.  They have RV parking.  By five after seven, we were inside for breakfast.

It was sunny and 48° when we left at eight and we drove 365 miles to Perry, FL. The drive was easy and we only made a few brief stops in Rest Areas.  At one we were approached by a big guy who said he was stranded with a broken truck and couldn’t pay for a tow truck.  We suspected it was a scam but he got twenty bucks out of Dennis.  We stopped at 3:00 pm so we were on the road for a long time — seven hours.  The freeways were all good but the scenery along the freeways is boring.  All you see are pinewoods.  It makes me sleepy.

The bridge over Escambia Bay provides a beautiful view of the water ways.

The bridge over Escambia Bay provides a beautiful view of the water ways.

The only unusual events along the way were when we came into Florida and got on I-10 E.  Just east of Pensacola, we crossed Escambia Bay.  It is beautiful.  Shortly after we crossed Blackwater River.  High on the bridge I saw the huge expanse of sparkling water and I saw a pelican.  I’ve had the blaz but I noticed it lifted immediately when I saw the water.

I believe this is the location of Mother’s famous train story about meeting Dad in Florida when he was working on plane designs with the military in 1942 or 1943.  (She came from New York City and the train was crowded with soldiers and the bathrooms were filthy.) I would like to see the famous white sands and the area in general and try to piece together her saga.  She had no mind for geography and never knew where she was.  She never said the name Pensacola but from the details of her story I deduce it was around there.  So it is disappointing to have to pass through so quickly.  Maybe we can come back and see more of the gulf coast along the Florida panhandle at another time.

We made it to Tuscaloosa and then turned south from I-10 onto FL-19 and FL-27 S.  This is a nice divided road but not an interstate.  The route is more direct towards Tampa and closer to the gulf so we felt we would see more.  Near exit 70 towards Niceville, we saw a great deal of smoke in the sky. It seemed to come from the west and we stayed under this cloud for about 15 minutes.

We stopped 25 miles south of Tuscaloosa in Perry at another Wal*Mart.  We parked by grass, sidewalk and fence on the side and put out the passenger side slides.  The temperature was 63° so it was pretty nice outside.  Not to slander Perry, but it looked like a poor town as we passed through and I feel a bit nervous parked here.  (I looked it up:  In 2000, Perry has a population of 6,847.  Median income for a household was 26K. About 28% of the population was below the poverty line.)

In the afternoon I called my brother, Jerry, and his wife, Marsha.  They live in St. Augustine and we will visit them later. They were with Marsha’s daughter’s family enjoying Disney World near Orlando with the grandkids.

Dennis was very tired.   After we walked the dogs, he laid down on the bed and we watched TV movies.  He had soup and I quick cooked a Bertollini mix of chicken, pasta and vegetables.

Somewhere around Tuscaloosa, we passed into Eastern Standard Time.  I keep the time in my log the same and then start with the new time on the following day.  So we turned off the lights at 10:30 EST but it was really still 9:30 CST for us.

Sunday, Feb. 22, TD 3.  We drive to Tampa.

At 11:30 pm last night, we were sound asleep when someone knocking on the door woke us up.  Dennis opened the passenger window.  He says it was a young man with a backpack who said he was homeless and hungry.  Dennis didn’t give him anything and then he sat and watched this guy knock on motorhome and car doors or stop people all over the parking lot.  Dennis says he zig-zagged like Margot, so maybe he is mentally unbalanced.  With hard times upon us we think there will be many more and we can’t support them all but I feel sorry for them.  We were so tired we went back to sleep quickly and the rest of the night was quiet.

It is 7:00 EST and my computer says it is 42°.  We have 190 miles to go to Happy Traveler Park RV in Thonotosassa, just north of Tampa.  I warned them that we must arrive a day earlier than our reservation and they are going to squeeze us in.  But I worry that it will be under pine trees and our satellite will be blocked.  Today is the Academy Awards so I hope we get settled quickly so that I can watch it without aggravation.

We left the Wal*Mart parking lot in Perry at 7:37 am.  We chose to stay on FL-19 and FL-27 S, which is a major divided road and it was excellent with little traffic.  We had to slow from 65 mph to 55 or 45 mph when passing through towns.  In a town called Withlacoochee we saw parallel parking for RVs along the side of the road and we spotted a restaurant, Hickory Island Lounge.  We stopped and ate at Hickory Island Coffee Shop and Bakery.  It was passable.  Coffee was served with our choice of Coffee Mate flavors, Amaretto, Irish Crème, and Cinnamon Vanilla — but no half ‘n half.  I chose Amaretto and couldn’t drink it — how to ruin coffee….

We continued south on FL-27 and then had to leave it to go east to I-75 to arrive in Thonotosassa.  Co-Pilot directed us to turn east on FL-98, which would have led us SE to I-75.  But it immediately turned us south on FL-598, a toll road!  Too late, it put up a toll road warning and we had to pay $4.00 and then worry about how to get off and get over to I-78 before the next tollbooth.  Thanks, Co-Pilot.  (Many toll roads charge by the axle so when you have a total of five, that gets expensive.) I got us off on FL-578 E and took FL-41 S to FL-52 E, which brought us to I-75.  We arrived at Happy Traveler RV Park in Thonotosassa at 12:18 pm.

We aren’t pleased with the park and we are tired and cross and nervous.  As I knew, there are many trees and it is tight.  I requested a site that hopefully will have satellite access so we are at the back of the park in a back-in site.  Backing in was difficult and after Dennis got into position I could hear the KingDome searching and I was pissed.  We were as far back as we could go and facing south where trees across the lane could block the southern sky.  But then it located and locked in so we calmed down.  Otherwise, we would have been in big turmoil.  I’ve programmed the Academy Awards to record and I plan to stay up to watch.  Of course we no longer have the early advantage that we enjoyed in Mountain and Central Time as we watched the eastern TV channels.  Now, we have to watch them in real time — late.

Right now at 2:47 pm it is 77° outside.  Because many people here are long term and the sites are tight there are many nearby people and dogs. That means if windows are open our dogs will be barking.  So we’re closed up and running A/C.  However, we heard an odd noise and we think the zone 2 heat pump is frozen.  Oh great! We just left Red Bay where something like this could have been fixed if it had gone on the fritz a few days sooner.

Tomorrow morning we will go find the Moffitt hospital and then in the afternoon Dennis will get his tests done before his appointment with Dr. Weber on Tuesday.

NOTE: For other views of and information about Tiffin Motorhomes, Inc., the Allegro Campground, and Red Bay, AL see letters and photos from July ’07:
http://www.cutesmalldogs.com/Pages/Bus/10BusBirthplace.html
http://www.cutesmalldogs.com/Pages/Bus/11WaitingForTiffin.html
http://www.cutesmalldogs.com/Pages/Bus/12BusImprovements.html

We Drive the Natchez Trace Parkway
February 1, 2009
Red Bay, AL, Allegro Campground, Site 13 — 1 day
Sunday, February 1, 2009 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 8 Months
Friday, January 30.  From Natchez, we drive north on the Natchez Trace Parkway.
We drive out of Natchez State Park

We drive out of Natchez State Park

In July of 2007 we first brought our Allegro Bus to Red Bay, AL.  On one of our shopping trips to Tupelo, MS we discovered the 440-mile Natchez Trace Parkway. It follows the path of an ancient trail that linked the Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee and Mississippi rivers.  The fact of such a long and antique path intrigued both of us.

During our stay in Red Bay, we drove along some of it and spent time at the Parkway Headquarters, in the Visitor Center on the Trace in Tupelo.   We walked the dogs along one section of the old trail (where they picked up ticks).   We were fascinated to learn that there is a parkway that follows the old trail.   At that time we said that sometime we would return and drive the entire Natchez Trace Parkway.  It is a National Scenic Byway and All-American Road that offers scenic driving, history, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping to visitors. http://www.cutesmalldogs.com/Pages/Bus/12BusImprovements.html

Today we were able to implement that goal.   The Parkway permits no commercial vehicles and there was little traffic in any case.   It is a beautiful road with lovely rural scenery.   What a pleasure.   After leaving the Natchez State Park, we began from US-61 and turned onto the Parkway at Mile Marker 5.0.   There are mileage signs every mile and there are frequent pullouts or circle parking areas where we could pull off in the bus to stop and see historic sites.   They are all well marked.

At MM 8.8 we stopped to read the ‘Old Trace’ sign, one of the many history signs posted at turn- outs along the Parkway.  At several places along the Parkway there are portions that remain of the Old Natchez Trace.  It began with bison traveling north to find salt licks in the Nashville area.  The trace, “a path or track left by people or animals regularly passing” originated along a geologic ridgeline traveled by prehistoric animals that followed the dry ground between the salt licks of central Tennessee southward to the grazing lands by the Mississippi River. The foraging of bison, deer and other large game that could break paths through undergrowth allowed Native Americans (collectively known as Mississippian) to follow these early footpaths to hunt and forage.  They began to blaze the trail further and eventually their descendants, the Natchez, began to use the Trace for trade between themselves.

Information about the Emerald Mound.

Information about the Emerald Mound.

The first place where we stopped was probably the most important.   We walked around an ancient Indian burial mound called Emerald Mound.  It covers nearly eight acres and it is the second largest temple mound in the United States.  (Monks Mound in Cahokia, Illinois, is larger.)  Ancient is the only way to describe it.  Constructed from a natural hill, this ceremonial mound was built and used by Mississippians from about 1300 to 1600 CE.  Unlike dome shaped mounds constructed only for burials, Emerald Mound supported temples and ceremonial structures.  Theirs was a complex society that involved civic and religious leaders.

Archeological tests in 1949 indicate that the primary platform mound was constructed in several stages.  Using primitive tools of wood, stone and bone, Indians loaded the dirt into baskets or skins, which they carried on their backs or heads.  Beginning with the natural hilltop, Indians gradually transformed the hill into a flat-topped pyramid.   First leveling off the hill, they later added thousands of tons of earth from near the base.

A base for temple mounds, the great platform is believed to have also provided a plaza for ceremonies and games.  Archeological evidence indicates at least two small mounds stood along the North and South sides of the primary platform that may have supported structures of wood plastered with clay.  Above is a 30-foot secondary mound where once stood a temple containing sacred images.  On important occasions the mound was undoubtedly the scene of elaborate civic processions, ceremonial dances, and religious rituals.

Descendants of the Natchez, members of the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes introduced early European explorers to the Trace.  It may have been traveled in part by the famed Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto.  French and Spanish people followed.  The Trace became a relatively (for the time) well-worn path traversable by horse in single-file.

By 1733 the French had mapped the Natchez Trace. This is a time in our American history that stirs our imagination.  Contemporaries to the increased use of the Trace are Pres. George Washington, born 1732, folk hero Daniel Boone, born 1734, and Pres. John Adams, born 1735.

In 1742, an unnamed Frenchman, wrote in 1742 about the “miserable conditions” along the Natchez trail.  He was the first recorded European explorer to travel the Trace in its entirety.  In the following year Thomas Jefferson was born.  By then Daniel Boone was ten.  Did this American pioneer and hunter, made famous for his exploration and settlement of Kentucky, ever drop south into Tennessee?  Did he explore parts of the Trace?

From 1744 to 1748 King George’s War was being fought between the French Colonies and Great Britain.  Pres. James Madison was born in 1751.  The French and Indian War began in 1754 and ended in 1763.  During this war the Chickasaw allied with the English against the French who were allied with the Choctaw.  This coincides with the story dates for James Fenimore Cooper’s series, the “Leatherstocking Tales” with hero Natty Bumppo, aka Leatherstocking, Pathfinder and Trapper.  “The Deerslayer” is set in 1744.  “The Pathfinders” is set in the 1750s and “The Last of the Mohicans” is set in 1757.

By 1775 at the age of 42, Boone was creating his own trail.  He blazed the famous Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap and into Kentucky.  There he founded Boonesborough, one of the first English-speaking settlements beyond the Appalachian Mountains.  Before the end of the 18th century, more than 200,000 people entered Kentucky by following the route marked by Boone.

What did this mean to the development of the Trace?  Farmers moved into the fertile Ohio Valley.  In the north, the Ohio River defines the northern border of Kentucky and then Tennessee as it flows from Pennsylvania to the Mississippi.  To the south, the Cumberland River defines the Kentucky/Tennessee border as it flows into the Ohio.  Further south, the Tennessee River defines the Tennessee/Alabama border as it flows into the Ohio.  Of course the Mississippi River defines the western borders of Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois and almost Kentucky.  Essentially all four rivers pass near Nashville.

The sweep and direction of the rivers is from the NE to the SW.  The direction of the Natchez Trace from Natchez to Nashville moves from the SW to the NE.  If it continued from Nashville, the Trace would cross Kentucky and follow the upper reaches of the Ohio River to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

From 1771 to 1783 the American Revolutionary War was fought between English Colonists and Great Britain.  In 1775 the Second Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia.  Washington was elected Commander In Chief of the Continental Army.  Provinces and Dominions took form as the original thirteen colonies.  From 1775 to 1783 Daniel Boone was a Militia officer in the Revolutionary War.  In 1782 he fought in the Battle of Blue Licks, one of the last battles of the Revolution.

Two years after the end of the Revolutionary War, farmers in the Ohio Valley began to move their crops to market.  To accomplish this they used the rivers.  By1785, ten years after Boone’s Wilderness Road was opened, Ohio River Valley farmers were floating their crops and products down the rivers to Natchez and New Orleans.

“Although they were known as ‘Kaintucks,’ these boatmen floated merchandise down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers from states throughout the Ohio River valley. Agricultural goods, coal, and livestock were among the many products that were floated to markets in Natchez and New Orleans. Once the goods on the boats were sold, the boats were often dismantled and sold as lumber. Before the age of the steamboat, Kaintucks had little use for these flatboats once they reached their destinations.

From Natchez, the boatmen would begin the long walk north.  They walked or rode back home making the old trail a clearly marked path.  They traveled the Natchez Trace to Nashville, Tennessee.  From there, they used more established roads to take them to their homes further north and east.

There are many preserved sections of the Old Natchez Trace.

There are many preserved sections of the Old Natchez Trace.

In 1791 the Vermont Republic became the 14th state to join the Union and a year later in 1792 Kentucky, originally a part of Virginia, becomes the 15th state to join the Union.  In 1796 Tennessee, originally a Province of North Carolina, Southwest Territory, became the 16th state to join the Union.  John Adams served as our second President from 1797 to 1801.  From 1798 to1800, the Franco-American Naval War between the United States and France once again distracted the country.

Thomas Jefferson served as our third President from 1801-1809.  From 1801 to1805 the new Union was once again in conflict during the Barbary Wars between the United States and Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. Meanwhile, Jefferson acquired the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon in 1803 and Ohio, a Northwest Territory, became the 17th state to join the Union.

By 1800 Thomas Jefferson sought to counter growing French influence along the Mississippi Valley. To foster communication with the Southwest, he designated a postal road to be built between Daniel Boone’s wilderness road, ending in Tennessee, and the Mississippi River. To emphasize American sovereignty in the area, he decided to call it the Columbian Highway. Treaties were signed with the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes.  Daniel Boone was 67 when the United States Army began blazing the Trace Trail in 1801, performing major work to prepare it as a thoroughfare. The work was first done by soldiers reassigned from West Tennessee, then later by civilian contract. By 1809, the trail was fully navigable by wagon.  James Madison serves as our fourth President from 1809-1817.

From 1812 to 1815, the United States was once again at war with Great Britain during the War of 1812 and from 1813 to 1814 the new Union also fought the Creek War against the Creek Indians.  Meanwhile the expansion of the country continued apace.  In 1816 Indiana, from Indiana Territory, became the 19th state to join the Union.  In 1817 Mississippi, from Mississippi Territory, became the 20th state to join the Union.  In 1818 Illinois, from Illinois Territory, became the 21st state to join the Union.  In 1819 Alabama, from Alabama Territory, became the 22nd state to join the Union.

Flatboats were ideal for carrying heavy loads down rivers. Even the Ohio and Mississippi rivers could be shallow in places during dryer seasons.

Flatboats were ideal for carrying heavy loads down rivers. Even the Ohio and Mississippi rivers could be shallow in places during dryer seasons.

Research indicates that more than 10,000 Kaintucks traveled the Old Trace in the year 1810 alone. The 500-mile trip on foot typically took about 35 days. Lucky travelers that rode horses could expect to cover it in 20 to 25 days.”

Critical to the success of the Trace as a trade route was the development of inns and trading posts.  Some traveler comforts began to be added and by 1820 there were 20 inns or ‚”stands” providing basic food and shelter along the route.    For the most part, the stands developed southbound from the head of the trail in Nashville.   Thieves, swamps, floods, insects and occasionally unfriendly Indians made travel difficult.   After 1815 the trail began to be abandoned in favor of easier and safer steamboat transportation.”

The birth and death of the Trace continued to coincide with the life of Daniel Boone who died on September 26, 1820 in Osage Creek, in Missouri Territory.  Shortly after his death, in 1820 Missouri became the 24th state to join the Union.  A year later Pres. James Monroe died in 1821.  Five years later, Pres. Thomas Jefferson and Pres. John Adams died in 1826.  Thirty-five years later the Civil War began.

The Natchez Trace was very important to the early development of the United States.  It became a political, economic, social, and military asset.   As time went by, it was traveled not only by Indians and explorers but by traders, soldiers, Kaintucks, post-riders, settlers, slaves, circuit-riding preachers, highwaymen, outlaws, and adventurers.   The Old Natchez Trace remains as a physical reminder of those travelers — men and women who contributed to events that shaped the broad patterns of our common history.

In 1816 Congress appropriated $5,000 and gave it to General Andrew Jackson commanding him to build a road from Nashville, TN to New Orleans, LA. After the War of 1812, it was improved with an additional 5,000 in federal funds and was completed in 1820.  Like the Natchez Trace, the Andrew Jackson Military Road began in Nashville, TN and then took a southwest course.  Essentially it ran parallel to the Trace but ended southwest of Natchez, MS in New Orleans, LA.

By 1816, the continued development of both Memphis and Jackson’s Military Road, a direct line to New Orleans, Louisiana from Nashville, began shifting trade both east and west, away from the Trace. As author William C. Davis (United States) writes in his book A Way Through the Wilderness, it was “a victim of its own success.” With the dawn of steamboat culture on the Mississippi, the Trace became obsolete. In 1830, the Trace was officially abandoned and began to disappear back into the wilderness.

Despite its brief span of use by Americans, the Trace served an essential function for years. It was the only reliable land link between the eastern States and the trading ports of Mississippi and Louisiana. This brought all sorts of people down the Trace: itinerant preachers, highwaymen and traders were just a few.

Synonymous with the history of the Trace and the history of the development of the United States is the history of the Indian Nations who stood directly in the path of that development.  As we stopped to read each sign along the Trace, the pieces of the story puzzle about the descendents of the ancient Natchez Indians fell into place.  The Choctaw and Chickasaw nations seem to have absorbed the invasion of white explorers and settlers into their lands with an open, equitable and practical approach that seems eminently admirable to me.  They adapted an agrarian way of life, accepted borders to their lands, made treaties, sold their land, converted to Christianity, and supported the wars of their white neighbors.  In exchange, they were eventually removed to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears.  Whether Native Americans fought or cooperated, in the end their fate was the same.

You can learn more about the history of Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes on their websites.
http://www.chickasaw.net and http://www.choctaw.org

The Loess Bluff.

The Loess Bluff.

“This bluff shows a deep deposit of windblown topsoil known as loess.  It was formed during the Ice Age when glaciers covered the northern half of the United States.  At this time nearly continuous dust storms swept in from the western plains and covered this area with windblown dust to a depth of 30 to 90 feet.  Here it rests on sands and clays of an ancient sea.  It originally covered a vast region but in this area is now confined to a strip east of the Mississippi River from 3 to 30 miles wide extending from Baton Rouge into Tennessee. Where the old Natchez Trace passed over loess it formed sunken roads, in places 20 feet deep.”

“The Choctaw were known to be excellent farmers and often provided food to early Europeans in the area. Politically, the Choctaw allied with the French and against the Chickasaw and English during the many military conflicts that arose from the 1720s until American Independence in 1783.  As the United States expanded westward, pressure mounted to secure land from the Choctaw for U.S. settlement.

Choctaw lands continued to shrink through a series of land cession treaties. In 1830, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek forcibly removed most Choctaw to land west of the Mississippi River, to the present state of Oklahoma.  Some Choctaw remained in Mississippi, some returned, and today are known as the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, located in Choctaw, Mississippi, near Philadelphia, approximately 25 miles east of the Parkway at Milepost 160.”

For about fifteen miles, we drive alongside the Ross Barnett Reservoir.

For about fifteen miles, we drive alongside the Ross Barnett Reservoir.

As we drove, I wondered how fast could they walk or ride in a day — 20 or 25 miles?  From Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN is 440 miles.  I figured that to ride the entire trail could have taken a minimum of nearly three weeks.  We thought of Native Americans, explorers, hunters, and farmers walking this path as we rode in comfort at the 50 mph speed limit.  The scenery is beautiful but it is repetitive on fairly flat land with some slight rolling hills.  Today it is a pine and deciduous forest interspersed with meadows or farmlands.  There is a large cypress swamp.  It would all be pretty much the same for day after day after day.  It kind of boggles the mind…

We pulled off at mile 193 at one of three available camps along the Parkway.  We are north of Jackson and south of Tupelo in the Jeff Busby Campground.  Thomas Jefferson Busby was a Congressman from Mississippi who introduced a bill that resulted in the 1934 act authorizing a survey of the Old Natchez Trace.  In 1938 the Parkway became part of the National Park System.  Thank you Jeff Busby.

This campground has a loop with pull-throughs for RVs in a woodsy area up on a slight hill.  This is a dry camp.  There are no hook-ups and there are no campsite numbers and so far as I can tell there are no fees.  We found a level site, dropped the jacks and put out the slides.  I made a quick electric skillet dinner, which was excellent (Southwest Style Chicken, a Classic Selection from HEB) and we have my spice cake for dessert.  Fortunately, our dome can penetrate the overhead branches to find a hole in the southern sky to discover the satellite so we are able to watch TV.  We have cell phone bars but no Internet.

Saturday, January 31.  We continue north on the Natchez Trace Parkway to Tupelo, MS on our way to Red Bay, AL.
It was 37° this morning — another crispy cold but sunny day.  We walked the dogs around the campground loop.  I remembered that when you walk you notice lots of details so perhaps walking in these woods would not be as repetitive as I imagined yesterday.

Black Belt Sign at MM 251.9

Ages ago this area was under an arm of the ocean.  Shells and other marine organisms were deposited to form the limestone seen here. Exposure of the limestone to all types of weathering gradually changed it into a heavy fertile soil of various colors.  The dominant black soil, which before cultivation was prairie grassland, has given the area the name ‘Black Belt’ or ‘Black Prairie’. The Black Belt extends south beyond Columbus, Mississippi, then trends eastward across nearly all of Alabama.  Formerly one of America’s great cotton areas, it is now considered excellent pasture land for livestock.”  11:18:03

We left at 9:15 am and stopped at several more historic sites.  By 11:45 am we were in Tupelo, MS where we stopped in a Wal*Mart parking lot.  We did not remember exactly how to get there but somehow memory kicked in and we turned north from US-78 to US-45 and then made the correct left turns to get to Wal*Mart.  I can’t tell you how strange it is to enter a town that is familiar, a place where we have actually been before in the bus.

We unhooked the car and drove next door to I-Hop for a late breakfast.  Then we drove down the block and around the corner to a Kroger’s supermarket where we stocked up on supplies.  We know from experience that there are no decent restaurants in Red Bay.  There are two grocery stores, the best of which is Piggly-Wiggly and it will have no decent breads or many other items.  This is a good time to bite the bullet and go on a diet — at least a healthy diet if not a weight loss diet.

Is that a Confederate flag flying over Wal*mart in Tupelo? No, it's the Mississippi state flag.

Is that a Confederate flag flying over Wal*mart in Tupelo? No, it’s the Mississippi state flag.

The Wal*Mart parking lot was full and an absolute traffic mess.  It looked like a bus towing a car would never get out of there.  Tupelo has a traffic problem on a Saturday afternoon.  It took twenty minutes to get out of Wal*Mart and make our way to the freeway entrance.  After that it was an easy 55 minutes to the Allegro Campground in Red Bay.

Many months ago, Dennis tried to get an appointment for various repairs and was told to come back a year from this July.  Tiffin is busy.  Well that wasn’t going to fly so we just came here anyway without an appointment.  We figured they would not be that busy during winter when it is cold and the snowbirds are all still in the south.  Our gamble paid off.  The campground (available only to Tiffin Motorhomes) is not full and they can fit us into their repair schedules.

We also hoped they’d have running water but that will not happen.  We have sewer and electric but no water.  It is still winter and temperatures at night are still freezing.  In fact the low tonight is predicted to be 23°.  On Sunday it will be a high of 61° and a low of 34°.  It may rain on Monday and Tuesday and the low Tuesday night will be 21° with a 30% chance of snow.  Ohmigod.  What have we done?  But no, I’d rather be uncomfortable now and get this over with than have to drive back up here from Florida and then back again to begin our east coast journeys.  Besides, if the weather were warm they would be busy and all booked up.

We are parked in site #13.  Last time we were here was for nineteen long and boring days from June 29, 2007 to July 17th.  We were in site #5.  We’d only been in our bus for two months.  We were rookies.  It was too hot then.  This time it will be too cold.  Again, it is so weird to be someplace that we have been before.  Now we know the ropes.  I plan to do more sightseeing in Florence, AL and there are more things we can see in Tupelo, MS also.

For the information I’ve collected I’m indebted to the following web sites:
http://www.nps.gov/natr/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natchez_Trace
http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Boone
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leatherstocking_Tales
http://www.choctaw.org
http://www.chickasaw.net

Tiffin Repairs & Custom Work
July 16, 2007

Red Bay, AL, Day Eighteen in Allegro Campground, #5

Two months, three days in our bus.

Originally, we came to Red Bay to see how they make the Tiffin Motorhomes and to meet Bob Tiffin, who started this company. He is famous for his availability and his wish to keep all of his customers happy and well satisfied. On our way here we experienced loss of cruise control and windshield wipers. By the time we arrived at the Allegro Campground, we knew that we also needed service and we were given a service number when we checked in. The smart wheel (on Spartan warranty) was fixed during the week of the July fourth holiday

Shortly after we arrived, we discovered we had an oil leak on the tag axle. This also applied to the Spartan Chassis warranty. In addition, Tiffin had agreed, on warranty, for those who ask, to change around the ’07 Allegro closets to the ’08 design. The change provides extra closet space. These items were handled this past week after everyone returned from vacation.

Meanwhile, we had more than enough idle time to talk to other Allegro owners and discover all the nifty custom changes that they were having done by Tiffin guys who work on the side. Our wish list of custom upgrades grew and grew. We contacted the right people, engaged their services and these things were accomplished with remarkable alacrity during our second week in the camp.

MONDAY JULY 9. PLANS FOR NEW CABINETS.

At 3:00 PM, immediately after work, Charles Coburn dropped by to discuss our woodworking cabinet plans. We laid a long and ambitious list of upgrades on him — but nothing fazes Mr. Coburn. He said he’d try to get it all finished for us by Saturday. He told us to meet him the next day at the Customer Counter where we would order the materials.

TUESDAY, JULY 10. WE GET A DIAMOND SHIELD..

At 6:25 AM the Diamond Shield guys showed up. They left at 6:35 am. Suddenly it was pouring rain. We were disappointed but they came back at noon and were able to do the job. By permission, they work on site where their customers are parked. The Diamond Shield is designed to protect the front cap of the bus from rocks kicked up while driving that put nicks in the paint. Tiffin applies a 3M type of seal but it doesn’t work well. The Diamond Shield is a plastic sheet stretched over the cap and then some magical process seals it to make an invisible and very hard shield. Dennis doesn’t want to see nicks on his beautiful new home.

Later in the afternoon we walked into the inner hallway of the Tiffin Bays where service is done on the various Tiffin busses.   Charles met us and together we put in our materials order. We paid Tiffin for the materials. Later, we paid Charles for his work on the side. All of this activity is known and approved by Tiffin. Before Charles left work on Tuesday and Wednesday, he came by to ask Dennis to keep him company while he picked up the materials from Tiffin. As the customer purchasing the supplies, Dennis had to receive them and give them to Charles who took the wood and hardware home to his shop where he built the cabinets we required. We also walked over to the upholstery area and found Trevor who built the storage box/ottoman for Mary. We ordered one just like it.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 11. WE HAVE THE BEARINGS REPLACED.

On Wednesday we put in our slides and drove the bus a few miles away to arrive at Bay Diesel and A/C by 7:00 AM. They have permission to do warranty work for Spartan and they have many tag axle leaks to fix. Evidently, Spartan used bearings that are foreign made. They are being replaced with American bearings.

While we waited for this repair on our bus we took the dogs and drove to the small neighboring town of Belmont. There is nowhere in Red Bay to go out and have breakfast. We heard there was a place in Belmont. We discovered Sharp’s Restaurant and ordered a breakfast that was passable. Isn’t it ironic that a small town country restaurant must use a whipped spread instead of butter and a non-dairy creamer instead of half ‘n half? Apparently, these restaurants can no longer afford real dairy products.

In the evening, Trevor surprised us by appearing with our completed ottoman. With “Antler” leather to match our couch, it looks fabulous. Now I can put my legs up when I sit on the couch and we can store a throw or other oddball things inside it. I love it.

THURSDAY, JULY 12. CLOSET REMODEL AND TRIP TO TUPELO, MS.

Once again, early on Thursday, we unhooked and drove the bus to put it in Tiffin Bay 25 where we were scheduled to have our closet changed. On the right side, the fuses that faced out towards the room took up valuable closet space. With the remodel, the fuses face inside — the opposite side wall of the closet but you gain an extra 12” of closet rod space. This conversion was scheduled to take half a day or more so with the dogs we took off for a day in Tupelo, MS. Our closet guy, Tim, said he would put the bus back in our site and hook it up and turn on the A/C so that when we returned we would have a cool bus.

We turned the day into an excuse to eat out, shop and catch up on grooming services. Unfortunately the sun was out (no rain clouds) and it was very hot so we couldn’t leave the dogs in the car. We did so first thing in the morning when we first arrived and had breakfast at I-Hop. After that, I found a place in the mall to have my nails done while Dennis walked the dogs or sat in the car with the A/C running. I had an appointment at PetSmart to get both dogs groomed at 1:30 PM but this created some waiting time.

We decided to go back to the Natchez Trace Trail and walk the dogs on a shady trail under the trees. This killed an hour but — big mistake. The dogs white hair visibly showed dozens of ticks. They both wear tick collars so I don’t think tick hitchhikers remain to bite them but they do jump aboard and then they can be carried into our car or the bus. I had a brush and we tried to clean them up before we put them back in the car. Not a good thing to do before delivering them to a groomer

We left them at PetSmart and went to Charley’s for an early dinner, even though we didn’t feel hungry after our breakfast. We had to find a way to kill time in a relaxing A/C atmosphere. After dinner we walked around the inside of the mall. This was fortunate because I did find some hiking sandals (Teva) to replace my too-loose sandals or my too-hot jogging shoes.

It took a very long time for the dogs to be finished. The groomers chastised us for bring in dogs with so many ticks. We were embarressed. No more spontaneous walks on Alabama tick-ridden trails!

We didn’t return to Red Bay until early evening. Our bus was in place as promised. Much to our relief, Charles had been able to come in and remove Dennis’s computer desk. He took it to his shop to build the slide top and change the orientation of the drawers relative to the desktop.

The dogs were very quiet and subdued. Rudi has always been groomed by Tasha at Beaugay’s in Los Altos and I have always stood at the grooming table with her while holding Rudi. This time the dogs had to be left alone in kennels and endured a very through combing and bathing for some four hours. They went to sleep immediately in the car and were glad to be back in the bus.

FRIDAY, JULY 13. HANG OUT IN THE CAMPGROUND

We were happy to do nothing on Friday and rest up from our Tupelo outing. Life goes on as usual in the Allegro Campground. We take the dogs for walks and visit the cattle where Rudi and Margot dream of wrangling some little heifer. We visit with other Tiffin owners. Everyone takes to the runway in the cool of the evening. It is like a parade in the town square of a small town. We clean and straighten up our little home. We marvel at the Alabama cloudbursts.

SATURDAY, JULY 14. NEW CABINETS, CATFISH AND HUSH PUPPIES

Saturday morning we unhooked and drove from the Tiffin side of the runway to “off site” — the part of the runway not owned by Tiffin. Here it is legal for Tiffin guys to work on Tiffin busses as side jobs. Charles met us there and began a marathon day of trying to install everything that we ordered.

There was a lot of heavy rain on Saturday. At lunch time Charles made a run home to collect the desk for Dennis. We ventured out to try lunch at Swamp John’s. I felt very leery about this place but several people had encouraged us to try it. Swamp John’s is a restaurant in a converted gas station located just outside of Red Bay. It still looks like a gas station but the walls have been painted with imposing murals. I’m not sure whether they attract or repel. I certainly felt like I was in a southern swamp.

Swamp John’s turned out to be great fun and the food was quite good. Our waitress was very friendly and helpful. We finally got up the nerve to try fried catfish and we each ordered the dinner plate. Dennis got a baked potato and a salad with his. I got coleslaw (with mayonnaise not vinegar) and onion rings. Our plates arrived with an extra item — little brown, deep-fried, round things that looked like satellites.

“What is this?” I asked, pointing.

Our waitress stuttered. “Haven’t you ever had hush puppies before?”

Well no. But I thought they were very good. The catfish, dipped in batter and deep fried seemed similar to fish and chips but the batter is different. I commented that it might be good with malt vinegar instead of tartar sauce. The waitress said that it is often eaten with lemon juice and she brought me some. The catfish itself, a filet, seemed like any white fish. It was mild.

We knew we were gaining many wonderful new conveniences that Charles would install on Saturday. What we didn’t anticipate was the pleasure of keeping company with Charles. We hung out with him all day and as he is a sociable fellow, we talked the entire time he was working. We really had a good day with him.

Charles makes no bones about being a “redneck” Alabama boy. He lives out in the country and he owns guns and dogs and he loves to hunt. He talks the way they all did on the Andy Griffith show in the town of Mayberry. But Charles is no dummy. It’s very possible that he was “putting us on.” One way or another, his way of expressing himself is great fun — vibrant and full of life. Charles is a terrific storyteller. He called us “treehuggers” and we copped to that and we had great fun comparing our ways of life. Charles is a good family man, a father and a husband. He knows who he is, and he’s got a plan for his life and a good college savings account started for his little boy. He’s a hard worker and he’s honest and sincere. Besides that he’s got a terrific sense of humor. We like him a lot.

OUR LIST OF CUSTOM WORK:
  1. Dennis has a desk with a top that slides towards him and the drawers are conveniently pointed towards the living room.
  2. I have a dining table/desk with new expanded cabinets and a wider counter along the window.  We did this so that drawers could be put in over the cupboard doors.  Now I have someplace to store my little things like pens and post-its.
  3. We have taller cupboard space under the sink by replacing the short cupboard doors with taller ones (removing the little slant drawer above the short cupboard doors).  There is room to put in a taller trash bin.  A sliding drawer is installed so you can pull everything out of the long, narrow cupboard under the sink. It will be easier to find items stored.
  4. We redesigned the kitchen cupboard doors that face the slide so that when the slide in pulled in, it is still possible to open one of the doors to get at the contents of the cupboard.  This was done by inserting a divider and moving the doors out so that one is wide enough to the right to avoid the slide. (The slide is the kitchen counter and facial with trim on the left. It moves forward towards the right and the facial covers the cupboard doors.)
  5. We have the DirectTVPlus box placed on a new shelf cupboard under the TV.  A hinged door can be left open while we watch TV and can be shut to block out the annoying blue light when we go to sleep.  It was crammed into the cupboard next to the TV and was too large so that it was pushed on a slant.  Now that cupboard is free for other storage.
  6. We have a shelf with a hinge top installed behind the couch — level with the bottom of the window.  If you pull up the hinge top, you can store things behind the couch.  We will put an upholstered cushion on the shelf to bring it up to the level of the back of the couch.  This will be a pleasant place for the dogs to lay and look out the window.  Right now Margot attempts to do this but she has to straddle the top of the couch.
  7. I have a little cubby next to my passenger chair where I can put my glasses cases, pen, car keys, and what have you.  It’s the little things that make the difference.  Everytime we travel, I am bugged because the box provided by Tiffin holds large maps and books and a cup but there is nowhere to stow other small things.  The pullout desk in front of me is cumbersome: things slide around or I need to close it to get out.  I need to grab things quickly.  This little box is perfect!
  8. I have robe hooks from which to hang my robe in the bedroom and my purse in the living room.  Tiffin did not think about the needs of a woman passenger.  Where to put my purse while I’m sitting in the passenger seat on a travel day?  Where to put it when we are in camp?  It’s always in the way lying on the couch or on the desk counter or in a chair.  Now it has a place.  Also there are hooks placed around the bus to hold hats and dog halters, etc.  Very, very handy.
A Slow Week in the Allegro Campground
July 9, 2007

Red Bay, AL, Day Eleven in Allegro Campgroun, #5

One month, 25 days in our bus.

WEEK OF JULY 2-8. TIME GOES SLOWLY HERE IN RED BAY.

Red Bay is a tiny town and there is little to do. Tiffin Motor Homes, Inc. must be one of the larger employees here and they take the entire week off as a July fourth holiday. So not only is Red Bay slow, but the Allegro Campground is three-fourths empty. However, some of the employees choose to work this week so that they can take off later for hunting season.

Red Bay is also hot, often pushing close to 100º on a sunny day and still in the high eighties on an overcast day. It is humid also. The result is that we find it difficult to push ourselves to go out and explore or do much of anything. We’ve become computer geeks and TV couch potatoes. The dogs get their walks and that’s about it. We could make an all day outing in the car but often we are waiting to hear from a service person and also the heat does not encourage exploration.

MONDAY, JULY 2. HURRY UP AND WAIT..

A service guy came around yesterday to look at our service requests. He said we would be scheduled for next week but he would try to squeeze us in this week. We were up in the air. We didn’t know if we had to stay here all week. We didn’t know if we could go somewhere. What if they come by to schedule us? We decide that we had better not leave the campground.

Sure enough, about 2:00 PM a service man pulled up in a red Tiffin pickup truck. He told us to take our bus to Bay #5. He said that they were ready to look at it. Dennis leaped into action. He told me to hurry and put in the slides. He went outside to unhook power and water and sewer. I was startled. I really didn’t expect them to come around.

It was very hot. We needed to keep ourselves and the dogs cool. We were told we could wait in the Tiffin lounge. The technician told us that if we wanted to go somewhere, he would park our bus outside the bay when he was finished. He would leave us a note if they needed us to bring it back in the morning. So we decided to get out and take the dogs for a drive.

When we returned we found our bus parked outside of the bay but there was no note. What did that mean? They closed at 3:00 PM so they only had an hour to work on it. Dennis decided that we better get up early and bring the bus back to the bay at 8:00 AM. I thought that was a big effort for nothing because they didn’t tell us to return and wouldn’t expect us. But Dennis didn’t want to be late — just in case.

TUESDAY, JULY 3. WE DRIVE TO FLORENCE..

In the morning Dennis told me to get ready to move the bus. I said, “No. That’s a waste of effort. We don’t know if they’re expecting us.” I walked over to the bay and came back with information. I found Dennis busy unhooking. “The Spartan Smart Wheel is no good,” I told him. “The cellenoid is destroyed. They are sending away for a part. It will be flown in. They don’t need us over there today.”

We decided to leave the dogs in the A/C bus and make an expedition to Florence. It was a pretty drive but it took an hour and a half to drive forty miles on the county highways. Surprisingly, it took another hour to find a decent breakfast place. Go figure. Maybe people don’t go out to eat as frequently as we do in the Bay Area. We had breakfast at Shoney’s and I bought some nice garlic rolls there. It was worth the outing however and we were able to pick up our prescription drugs from RiteAid for the next month.

The dogs were glad to see us return. Margot is very excitable and dominent. I sat on the couch and she got on my lap. She growled at Rudi as if to say, “Get away. I own them. If you get on the couch I will bite you.”

Rudi is so easy going. He looked at her as if to say, “Can I stand up and put my paws on the couch to say “hi?”

Margot said, “NO!” but I said yes. I put him on my lap.

Later, we met our neighbors, Mary and Steve. They have a little white dog like ours named Shotsie. They also have an African gray parrot named Max. Mary invited us inside to see their identical bus. She gave me lots of ideas for custom improvements. Dennis told me to make a list and he arranged for Charles Coburn to come by after work to talk about doing some custom cabinet work for us. Tiffin allows their workers to do custom work after hours.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 4. WE SKIP INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATIONS.

This was a holiday and no one was around except for we campers. It was very hot and there was little activity here. Dennis asked if wanted to go somewhere but I felt that it was too hot to go out. I didn’t feel motivated to drive to Muscle Shoals to watch a fireworks celebration. We had no energy. We just hid out in our A/C bus and watched movies.

I groomed the dogs and watched “The Guardian.” Dennis made a plan to talk to the Service Manager. He wanted changes made to the closet similar to what they have done in the new 2008 bus. We had hotdogs and corn on the cob for dinner but we ate them inside because so far we have no grill and no camp chairs and it was too hot anyway. I think I watched three movies in all and got a big headache. In the evening we never heard any firecrackers or fireworks.

THURSDAY, JULY 5. YOU CAN’T MAKE A SCHEDULE WHEN YOU’RE IN AN RV.

A technician came to our bus and installed a new Spartan Smart Wheel. Now our windshield wipers work and cruise control. We didn’t have to move our bus to a service bay. That was the good news.

The bad news is that we have an oil leak on the tag axle. The bearings must be replaced. To quote Dennis, “We can’t drive. The bearing is fried and the plastic cap is melted.” Naturally it can’t be fixed until next week. It’s on a Spartan warranty and Spartan has given permission to let a local company fix it but he’s on vacation this week. Hopefully Chris at Bay Diesel & AIC can work on it next week. Meanwhile we cannot drive the bus. This is a recall issue and we tried to discover if our VIN number was involved before we got the bus. We thought we were OK but we are not. A number of others have the same problem. I feel like we will never get out of Red Bay.

There other reasons to keep us as well. Dennis requested that our closet be reconfigured like the newer ’08 Allegro Bus. Tiffin does this gratis upon request. There are two ahead of us but now we are in line and waiting. The closet remodel is a warranty item because it is a bad design. The main electronic panel will be turned so that there be more room for clothes.

In addition we’ve come up with a to-do list for the woodworking guy, Charles. Steve and Mary showed us all the custom cabinet improvements they’ve done in their bus and we added their excellent ideas to our list.

We went across the street to La Estancia for a Mexican dinner and were pleasantly surprised. It was pretty good.

FRIDAY, JULY 6. WE ORDER MANY CUSTOM CABINET IMPROVEMENTS.

We talked to Charles and went over everything on our list. Dennis has a computer table that will be expanded with a slide-out tabletop. My dining table will become more of a desk with a wider counter and drawers over the cupboards. Storage under the sink will be expanded with a slide-out drawer and higher cupboard doors to accommodate a full size kitchen trash bin. We are having extra lights, towel racks, and robe hooks installed. The list is long.

It is overcast and cooler. We took the dogs for a walk around the park and the neighborhood block. We discovered a large hardware store and bought a few little items we’ve been needing.

SATURDAY, JULY 7. YOU CAN’T RUIN BREAKFAST CAN YOU?.

Saturday morning I made a huge mistake. Across the street is a small place called Marty’s Restaurant. I asked Dennis if he would like to try it for breakfast. He answered that he didn’t think it had a good reputation. But what the heck. How can you ruin breakfast, right? Well, it was the worst, ever. I think they were mad that we walked in to bother them. After some delay, we were presented with a cold piece of sliced cheese set on top of cold fried eggs and served with cold, dry toast. I can definitely say that this was a memorable meal.

Since it was Saturday, we knew for sure that there would be no service at the bays, so we didn’t need to sit around and wait. I suggested that we drive to Tupelo. It’s a larger city than Florence and half the distance is freeway. For shopping, it offers two Wal*Mart Supercenters. I suggested that maybe we could visit the Natchez Trace Visitor’s Center.

“I’m going to tell all your friends you’re shopping at Wal*Mart,” Dennis teased.

“I’ve been reduced to Wal*Mart. Where’s Stanford Shopping Center when you need it?”

“Far, far away.”

Tupelo turned out to be a good idea. We bought a few things to help us cook: cookie sheet, meatloaf dish, baking dish and a pizza pan. We had a nice lunch at Shoney’s. And we found a Starbucks where I was able to buy my favorite pound of French Roast beans. We loved the Natchez Trace Visitor’s Center. Now we want to drive the whole length of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Our time in the visitor center made us realize that we set out to see fascinating places that are full of history and scenery. But much of the time we’ve been sidetracked. We haven’t chosen our own destination yet. Maybe we don’t need to hurry home. What’s the deadline?

SUNDAY, JULY 8. IS OUR NEWFOUND FREEDOM GOING TO OUR HEAD?.

This morning we saw men working on Steve’s bus. Dennis said that Steve is protecting his cap, (the front end) from nicks and scratches. He took his mug of coffee and went outside to join others watching the process. He returned to say that it looks like an amazing process. He thought we should get one.

I don’t know when we’re going to get out of here. It doesn’t seem like there is any hurry anymore. I was thinking that we should hurry home but now we are re-thinking. We can visit family in Utah and then go north to catch the good August weather in Idaho and Montana before it gets too cold. Then we can go see family in Washington and then drop south to California.

Is our newfound freedom going to our head? What’s on the list for Monday? We have to see Wade and make sure we’re on the list to get the closet changed around. We have to see Chris at Bay Diesel and find out when we can replay the tag axle bearings. We have to talk to Charles and see how long it will take for him to do all of this custom work. We have to see Trevor about making that ottoman and doing the leather upholstery cover.

I wonder. Is this freedom or are we being held hostage here in Red Bay with all these unexpected repairs and additions. Maybe, it’s all in how you look at it.