Colonial Virginia (October 26 – November 10, 2016)

On October 26th we left Charlottesville and drove two hours to Williamsburg, VA. We spent two nights at the Thousand Trails campground in Williamsburg. We had received a free one-year membership when we bought our rig and had been considering renewing our membership for another year. However, after this experience, we will not be renewing it any time soon. The drive to our site was harrowing as the roads were very narrow and there were many trees dangerously close to the roads. One turn was so sharp that our trailer brake cable disconnected, causing our trailer brakes to seize up. We were quite relieved once we got our rig into the site. We watched the Cubs even up the World Series at one game apiece with a 5-1 win in Cleveland.

On October 27th we spent the day at colonial Williamsburg. We parked at the Visitor Center and bought our tickets. We were able to take advantage of a Fall special that, because we are over 50 years old, gave us unlimited visits until December 31st for the price of a one-day ticket. We walked along the path to the Governor’s Palace and took a guided tour. After the tour we wandered through the maze.

Later we strolled the streets of colonial Williamsburg, including visits to Bruton Parish Church and the College of William and Mary. We ate a late lunch at the Chowning Tavern.

We headed back to the campground when it started to drizzle. As we approached the campground, it was apparent it had been raining harder there than it had in town. When we arrived at our site, we discovered that our power was out and we assumed that it was campground-wide. Our supersized inverter allowed us to run on batteries all evening but we began to get concerned as the batteries started to run down overnight. By morning, we had little power. Jan went to the office and found out that the outage was not campground-wide. The office sent a serviceman who tested our power pedestal and insisted that there was no problem with our 50 amp service. Despite this, our power management system would not accept the current. Phil used our 30 amp adapter and we were relieved when we were once again able to have power to our rig.

Since we had only been able to get a 2-night reservation at Thousand Trails, we had to pack up and move a few miles down the road to the Williamsburg KOA. Our first site was so badly sloped that we were unable to get leveled. We moved to another site and were able to get leveled, although it was still more sloped than we would have liked. We were relieved to find that we had no problem getting 50 amp service, proving that our power problem at the Thousand Trails campground was with their pedestal rather than our rig.

That night we watched the Cubs lose game three of the World Series 1-0 in a pitchers’ duel.

On October 29th we returned to Williamsburg. We started the day with a guided tour of the Capitol building. Later we strolled down Duke of Gloucester Street and visited a lot of the tradesmen and shops along the way. There were Halloween decorations all over the place. We visited the Courthouse and sat through a reenactment of several civil trials.

That afternoon we went for a walk around the campground and had a nice visit with a couple who had reached out to us via the RVillage website. We headed back to our site in time for trick or treaters. Unfortunately, we didn’t have many kids come by so we were left with a lot of candy (darn!). Later that evening we watched the Cubs play badly and lose game four of the World Series 7-2 and fall behind in the Series three games to one.

On October 30th we moved again, this time only about 35 miles to Chesapeake Bay Thousand Trails. This Thousand Trails was much nicer than the one in Williamsburg and, due to our Thousand Trails membership, only cost us $3 a night for 10 nights. Although the campground has a Gloucester, VA address, it is really in the boonies and requires an 11 mile drive to civilization. We knew we were going to have to contend with a back-in site but our larger concern was that, due to the lack of cable TV, we needed to find a site that would have a view of the open sky for our satellite TV dish. Upon arrival, we parked our rig and drove around the campground looking for a site with few trees. When we found one that looked ideal, we set up and then tried the satellite. Despite numerous attempts, we were never able to get a satellite signal. Not a huge problem, we thought; we can just rely on signals using our “over the air” antenna. No such luck; we couldn’t pick up a single channel.

With no TV reception, we needed to decide how we were going to watch game five of the World Series. It turned out that our only option in Gloucester was a very smoky sports bar. Not only were we surrounded by heavy smokers but most of the crowd was there to watch the Sunday night NFL game between the Cowboys and the Eagles. Fortunately, the Cubs won a very suspenseful game 3-2 to stay alive.

After spending $55 to watch the Cubs game at the sports bar and facing the prospect of another nine days with no TV, Phil was determined to get a satellite signal before the next game. He initially believed that he could get a signal simply by moving forward on our site. However, as we hooked up to move, we were advised by some of our neighbors that there are very few sites that are DirectTV accessible. We tried one that was suggested by a neighbor and, after watching the satellite dish circle the sky for several minutes, we were relieved when it finally locked in on a signal.

On November 1st we explored the campground and walked along the Piankatank River. We discovered the Adult Lounge and spent a couple of hours finishing a jigsaw puzzle that another camper had started. That evening, the World Series moved to Cleveland and the Cubs won 9-3, forcing a 7th game. We were able to watch from the comfort of our living room.


On November 2nd we visited Yorktown, the site of the final battle of the American Revolutionary War from October 6-17, 1781. We began at the Yorktown Visitor Center and walked to the Victory Monument. We drove the seven-mile Battlefield Tour covering the British Inner Defense Line, the Allied siege lines, the Moore House (where terms of surrender were negotiated), and Surrender Field. Then we drove the nine-mile Allied Encampment Tour through the American and French encampment areas.  We ended the visit to Yorktown with lunch along the riverwalk.

That evening, the Cubs won game seven of the World Series 8-7 in the 10th inning, clinching the World Championship for the first time in 108 years. We undoubtedly violated the Quiet Hours rules with all our celebrating.

On November 3rd we played pickleball for the first time since June and we were both quite rusty.

On November 4th we watched the Cubs celebration parade on the MLB channel for several hours. The crowd was estimated at 5 million, making it the largest crowd ever in North America and the seventh largest anywhere.

On November 5th we played pickleball with another couple, then drove about 30 minutes to Urbanna, VA for the 59th Annual Oyster Festival. Urbanna is a small waterfront community with a population of about 500. For the Oyster Festival the entire town is closed to traffic and we were forced to park in a cornfield quite a distance outside of town. The crowds were overwhelming. We passed on oysters for lunch and had clam strips instead. We watched the Oyster Parade that was quite long; then continued exploring block after block of craft stands.

On November 7th we finished the third leg of the Colonial Virginia Triangle by visiting Jamestown. Jamestown, founded in 1607, is the oldest permanent English settlement in North America. After watching a short film in the Visitor Center, we took a trip back in time with John Rolfe (an English settler who married Pocahontas in 1614) who spoke at length about the challenges faced by the settlers in the first 14 years. We then walked around the excavated foundations of the expanded settlement on Jamestown Island. We strolled through the 1607 James Fort and the 1907 Memorial Church, then visited the Archaearium and saw many discovered artifacts from the original settlement. Finally, we visited the glasshouse where we watched an artisan demonstrate glassblowing techniques of the 1600s.

After visiting Jamestown, we took the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry across the James River to Surry, VA. We ate dinner at The Surry Seafood Company and both had crabcakes. We had a window seat and the view of the sunset over the bay was beautiful.

November 8th was Election Day. We spent the day getting ready to leave and played some pickleball. That evening we stayed awake until 2:30 am watching the election results but we finally called it a night when Hillary Clinton’s spokesman said there wouldn’t be any more news until the morning. When we awoke on November 9th, we learned that Donald Trump had actually won the Presidency in a stunning upset. The combination of little sleep and rain forecast for most of the day led us to decide to stay put for another day. We spent almost the entire afternoon working on the jigsaw puzzle we had started a few days earlier. Being the obsessive types we are, we kept at it until we finished the puzzle, only to discover that there was a piece missing. On November 10th our stay in Virginia came to an end and we began our trip south.


Appalachian Mountains – Fall Color, History and Zombies (October 17-26, 2016)

On October 17th we left Tennessee and headed to Asheville, NC. Although the route was almost entirely interstate highway, the highway was very hilly and winding. We spent three nights at the Asheville West KOA in Candler, NC, about 10 miles west of Asheville.

On October 18th we toured the Biltmore estate. Biltmore was one of the homes of George Vanderbilt, grandson of the industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt. Construction of the Biltmore House, a 250-room French Renaissance chateau, began in 1889 and took over six years to complete. The finished home contains over four acres of floor space, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. We took the self-guided tour that led us through about 30 rooms in the house. After touring the house, we strolled through the huge Biltmore gardens and then enjoyed wine tasting at the Biltmore winery.

Although the KOA was very nice, our site was very shaded and we were unable to get a satellite TV signal. They did provide cable TV but the Cubs playoff game was on FS1, not one of the stations provided by the cable. This made finding a nearby sports bar a critical mission before the NLCS game on October 18th. We ended up watching the game at Buffalo Wild Wings in Asheville. Unfortunately, the Cubs couldn’t score and ended up losing 6-0. The following night, we decided to watch the Presidential debate instead and followed the Cubs’ game on the Internet. That strategy paid off as the Cubs won in a blowout, 10-2.

On October 20th we moved further north to Wytheville, VA. We spent three nights at the Wytheville KOA. The campground has a number of unusual amenities. On our first night, we walked down to the amusement center where they have bowling alleys and batting cages. We ordered a pizza for dinner and it was delivered to our rig. Our campsite had a clear view of the sky so we had no trouble getting a good satellite signal. We watched the Cubs win game five of the NLCS 8-4 and take a series lead of 3 games to 2 against the Dodgers.

On October 22nd we did a scenic byway drive north of Wytheville. We drove to the privately owned Big Walker Mountain lookout with its view of several states. We visited the BW Country Store but, because of the cold weather and strong winds, chose not to climb the 100-foot observation tower. We continued the drive through the hillside and enjoyed the scenic vistas.

After a stop at Wal-Mart, we drove through downtown Wytheville. We noticed that the main street was blocked off so we decided to investigate. It turned out that we had arrived in time for the Zombie Bash. We had a little time before the Zombie Parade was going to begin so we went to Skeeter’s for some hot dogs. We also checked out the childhood home of Edith Bolling Wilson, the wife of Woodrow Wilson.

The Zombie Parade, although it didn’t have a large number of zombies, was quite amusing. Immediately following the parade was zombie flash mob dance to the music of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. We left before the start of the Zombie 5K race. That evening we watched the Cubs clinch the National League championship by beating the Dodgers 5-0 and advance to the World Series for the first time in 71 years. We celebrated and watched the post-game analysis and Cubs fans’ celebration until 1 a.m.

On October 23th we left Wytheville and drove to Charlottesville, VA. We spent three nights at the Charlottesville KOA. It was a small campground deep in the woods but we got a nice level site. The trees blocked our ability to get a satellite signal. Fortunately the campground had decent cable TV that included the Fox channel that was showing the World Series games.

On October 24th we toured Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson. We began by watching a movie dealing with Jefferson’s life. Prior to our scheduled guided tour, we explored the service rooms, known as “dependencies.” Jefferson had designed the dependencies so that they were connected to the house by a cellar-level passageway so that they were close but invisible to the public spaces of the house. The guided tour took us through 10 rooms on the first floor of the house. The house had taken 40 years to complete due to Jefferson’s many years away from the plantation. The time he spent as Minister to France had a great influence on him and the house reflects alot of the things he saw there. Following the house tour, we took the “Slavery at Monticello” tour. Jefferson, following his time in France, did not believe slavery was sustainable but did not see a way it could be ended during his lifetime. He considered himself an “enlightened slaveholder” but his writings clearly show that he saw his slaves as property and not much more than that. We walked through the gardens and took the path back to our car. The path took us past the Jefferson family gravesite.

Later that afternoon we visited the campus of the University of Virginia, which had been founded and built by Thomas Jefferson. We took pictures of the Rotunda and walked on the Green.

On October 25th we drove to the Shenandoah National Park and drove 40 miles of the 105-mile Skyline Drive. Phil was able to get his Lifetime Senior Pass that will get us into all National Parks and Recreation Areas for free.  We stopped at numerous scenic overlooks and took a short hike at one of the stops. The leaves had not yet reached peak color due to the warm weather but the views were still impressive.  That evening we watched the Cubs lose the first World Series game, 6-0.

Rocky Top Tennessee (October 5 – 17, 2016)

On October 5th, we headed two hours south to Chattanooga, TN. We spent the next five days in the hills at the Raccoon Mountain RV Park and the weather was wonderful. The first day we headed to downtown Chattanooga and had a delicious brunch at the Bluegrass Grill, the #1 rated restaurant in TripAdvisor. We spent the following day at Rock City on Lookout Mountain. Rock City has trails that wind through large rock formations, including Fat Man Squeeze, and provides a view of seven states from Lovers’ Leap.

On Saturday, we had a family gathering, including Keith Schlegel, Lori and Bruce Davis, and Brittany and Caleb Dickerson, at our campsite to watch the Tennessee-Texas A&M football game on our outside entertainment center. Phil grilled pork chops and we ate outdoors at halftime.  During the game, we attracted a lot of neighbors who dropped by to watch the game with us. Although the Vols managed to come back from a large deficit, they ended up losing in overtime. Fortunately, the Cubs won their playoff game later that evening.


On Sunday, we joined Brittany and Caleb for church, followed by brunch and a visit to the Chattanooga Market, a large weekly producer-only arts & crafts and farmers’ market. On Monday, Jan and Brittany spent a girls’ day out exploring Chattanooga and shopping.

On Tuesday, we met our sons, Jason and Jarrod, and Jessica Mollman for lunch. On Wednesday, October 12th, we packed up and drove to Sevierville, TN (pronounced Severe – vulle), just south of the Great Smoky Mountains.

We spent the next five days at Riverside Campground in Sevierville. During the drive from Chattanooga, Jan’s “check engine” light came on in her Nissan so getting the car serviced became our number one priority. We were able to get an appointment at the Nissan dealer in Knoxville on Thursday and got the problem fixed. It turned out there was a problem with the car’s onboard computer. It cost us $220 to get the computer reprogramed, not a fun expenditure but we were glad it wasn’t something more serious. Following the car maintenance, we visited the Bush Brothers Visitor Center in Chestnut Hill, TN where we watched an interesting film and explored numerous displays showing the Bush family history and explaining the processing and canning of baked beans.

On Friday, we drive to Cades Cove, an isolated valley located in the Tennessee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The valley had been home to numerous settlers before the formation of the national park. We drove the 11-mile picturesque loop and stopped at many of the historical and scenic sights along the way. We were fortunate to spot a black bear and even more fortunate that it was moving away from us. On the way back to our rig, we drove past the Dolly Parton statue in Sevierville.  On Friday evening, Jason got a ride with some friends and came to spend the weekend with us.

After breakfast on Saturday, we all headed out to the Fire Fox Adventure Park, which could best be described as a grownup’s playground. The 150 acre adventure park has 15 zip lines and America’s longest (335’) swinging bridge over the deep Foxfire Gorge. The swinging bridge is called the Bridge to Prosperity. Before crossing the bridge, we wrote down our wishes on “wishing strips.” All three of us wished for the Cubs to win the 2016 World Series. After crossing the bridge, we hung our wishes in the ceiling of a covered bridge. We then rang a bell that is supposed to attract the elves who will grant our wishes.  Another tradition dating back to the Scots-Irish settlers was to build piles of rocks, known as “cairns,” to bring health, wealth and prosperity. We each built our own cairn.

We hiked up to a waterfall, crossed over a series of smaller swinging bridges, then hiked along the river.

The hike brought us to an obstacle course. It was advertised as being for young people but Jason and Phil had a lot of fun climbing on the ropes, crossing the swinging balance beam and sliding on the zip line. We saw a couple of snakes. Finally, we came to a large pen where we saw a large bull and several llamas.

We got back to our campsite in time to watch Alabama rout the Vols. We had better luck that evening as we watched the Cubs beat the Dodgers in the opening game of the NLCS.

On Sunday morning, Jason left and we drove to Gatlinburg to mingle with the throngs of people shopping on the main street.



Family, Baseball and Repairs (September 20 – October 4, 2016)

After saying goodbye to our campsite in Marengo, IL, we headed to Lagrange, IN for some warranty work on our rig. We had originally planned to have the work done at the DRV factory but, when Phil called in early June to schedule an appointment, they were booked all the way out until late October. Since our manufacturer warranty expired on October 11th, we needed to find another alternative. The warranty manager at DRV suggested we try Cross RV for the work. Phil had heard good things about Cross RV on various RV forums so he scheduled an appointment for Sept. 21st. We were very happy with the decision. Paul and Kay Cross took very good care of us and were able to address our list of issues. We spent two nights camped on the side of their facility, nothing fancy but it’s hard to argue with free. While our rig was being worked on, we killed the day by visiting Phil’s 96-year-old mother and exploring a number of Amish stores in Shipshewana, IN.

The following day, we headed about an hour northwest to Lake Spaulding Campground in Niles, MI. This family-run campground is small but well maintained. They have three small lakes and a stream on the property but, once again, we didn’t find time for any fishing. Our site was surrounded by mature trees which, unfortunately, kept us from using our satellite dish. Fortunately, we were only a few miles from South Bend, IN and were able to get quite a few TV channels over the air. A bigger annoyance was an invasion of stinkbugs. We spent the next couple of weeks capturing these bugs and releasing them outdoors. We had only planned to stay in Niles for three nights but ended up staying there for a week.

Niles is only about 25 miles from Elkhart, IN so we were able to visit Phil’s mother at the Hubbard Hill nursing home almost every day, as well as his sister and her family.  We spent some time feeding the ducks in the Angel Garden at Hubbard Hill.

We also found time to do some exploring in southern Michigan. We drove about an hour north to Holland, MI. Although the wrong season for tulips, Holland was still quite scenic. We walked along the Lake Michigan beach and tipped our toes in the water. Later we climbed the 237 steps to the top of Mount Pisgah and, after catching our breath, enjoyed the view of the beach and the Lake Macatawa harbor.

On the drive home, we stopped for lunch at The Butler, a historic restaurant in Saugatuck, MI. Saugatuck is a cute little harbor town that clearly caters to tourism. After lunch, we strolled the two blocks of shops. Jan had read that having fudge was a “must do” when visiting Saugatuck and we had to oblige.

Phil spent much of the week trying to line up campsite reservations for the coming weeks. Despite our desire to be free to travel at will, he soon discovered that the demand for campsites in the fall outweighs the supply. Despite numerous rejections, Phil was finally able to fill our calendar with campsites through early November.

On Sept. 29th we left Michigan and began our trip to the Cincinnati area. We overnighted at Hidden Paradise Campground in St. Paul, IN. Getting to the campground was our initial challenge. It required driving through a small residential neighborhood. Phil didn’t have time to read the sign for the campground before he turned down a smaller street than he should have. It made the journey a little more of a challenge but we managed to get to the campground without incident. Being mid-week, the campground had many available sites, although we were fortunate to get one of the few 50 amp pull-through sites. After getting set up, we explored the campground. They have a small petting zoo and we were able to get up close with some very tame deer. They have a lake that was once a quarry where scuba diving is allowed year-round.

The following day we drove on to the Cincinnati South Campground in Dry Ridge, KY, about 30 miles south of Cincinnati. We had purchased tickets to two of the last three Chicago Cubs regular season games but had then discovered that campgrounds in the Cincinnati area were fully booked for that weekend. Although the drive from Dry Ridge to the ballpark was longer than we’d hoped, the campground was quite adequate for our needs. The only complaint was that a very active railroad track was directly across from the campground. The trains didn’t keep us awake at night but, when we were awake, we were very aware of the trains that seemed to pass about every 10 minutes.

The Cincinnati Reds’ ballpark, Great American Ball Park, overlooks the Ohio River and is a quite impressive venue for a baseball game. The Cubs led most of the way in the Friday night game and won 7-3. We enjoyed fireworks after the game.

On Saturday, we did some sightseeing in Kentucky near our campground. We visited Rabbit Hash, KY and spent time exploring the general store. In reality, it was just a temporary setting as the historic general store (in operation since 1831) burned down in February and is being rebuilt.

On Sunday, we arrived early for the Cubs’ game and happened to be passing the Westin as some of the Cubs players were leaving the hotel and boarding their bus. Among others, we saw Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. We spent the next hour exploring the Banks, between Paul Brown Stadium and the Great American Ball Park. We posed in front of the Queen City sign and walked by the Roebling Suspension Bridge and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.


The Sunday Cubs’ game, the final game of the regular season, was very suspenseful. Kyle Hendricks, the likely NL Cy Young award winner, was the starting pitcher for the Cubs but did not have a good game, giving up four runs in the first inning. The Cubs were still losing 4-3 with two out and two strikes in the ninth inning before rallying to win 7-4. It was the Cubs’ 103rd win.

On Monday, October 3rd, we began our drive to Knoxville where Phil had scheduled some routine annual maintenance at RVs for Less, the dealer where we bought our rig. We had not made campground reservations since we hoped to be able to spend the night on the dealer’s lot as we had when we bought our rig. One hour from Knoxville Phil called the dealer to see if they had room on the lot and learned that they didn’t have any record of our service appointment. Although Phil had scheduled the appointment for October 4th about six weeks earlier, he had sent an email in late September that mistakenly referenced our service appointment as being on November 4th. It’s amazing how easy it is to lose track of time now that we’re retired! Anyway, the dealer was able to fit us in on October 4th but didn’t have room for us to camp out on their lot. Instead, we stayed at the Escapees’ Raccoon Valley RV Park for two nights. The pull-through site was relatively short and close to our neighbors but we were just happy to get a site on short notice.

On October 4th we dropped off our rig at the dealer and killed the day in Knoxville. We returned at 5 pm and learned that our service appointment had been very fortuitous. The Sales Manager told us that they had found that three of the brake calipers were not operating properly and that one of the brake lines was wearing badly. The defects were so serious that the dealer fixed the brakes and did all the other maintenance Phil had requested as warranty work, resulting in no charge to us instead of over $500 we had expected to pay.