Return to the Volunteer State (April 1 – 30, 2018)

After enjoying three months of relative warmth, it was time for us to pack up and head north. On April 1st we drove 250 miles to the small town of Corsicana, TX, northeast of Waco. We spent the night at the American RV Park. We were very tired after our first long drive in several months and went to bed early.

We got up early the next morning and got back on the road. Little did we know that the day was going to be quite an adventure. After driving about 15 miles east of Corsicana, Phil felt the steering wheel start to shimmy and then heard a loud explosion as the front passenger-side tire blew out. Our fifth wheel began to fishtail somewhat but Phil was able to safely pull over to the side of the road. Fortunately the road was flat and the shoulder was wide. When Phil got out to examine the damage, he was chagrined to discover that the damage was much worse than he imagined. The tire had split open and all the tread had torn off the tire. As the tire’s steel belts had come off the tire, they did a great deal of damage to the wheel well and had scratched up the truck’s paint job.

Phil called CoachNet, our roadside assistance service, and attempted to arrange a tow. Based on his initial view of the damage, he did not think that simply replacing the tire would be adequate. Although the CoachNet serviceperson was very helpful, she was having difficulty finding tow trucks that could pull the truck and the rig. There had been a Dodge dealer back in Corsicana but the dealer’s gates were not wide enough to accommodate the tow truck. While we were waiting for CoachNet to find the right equipment, a Good Samaritan pulled up in front of us and spent about 30 minutes helping Phil change the tire. He did the vast majority of the dirty work and knew how to get the spare tire out from under the truck. If Phil had had to rely on the Owner’s Manual, we might never have figured it out on our own. When the Good Samaritan was finished, Phil thanked him and offered to pay him for his assistance. He refused and simply asked that we say a prayer for him, something we were more than happy to do. Phil used his portable air compressor to add air to the spare and then we were back on the road. As we were leaving, the tow truck driver called to say he couldn’t find us and Phil told him to just forget it. On an amusing note, it was only later in the day that Jan learned that our assistance had come from a total stranger; she had assumed the man helping Phil was the roadside assistance sent by CoachNet.

Rather than backtrack to Corsican, we drove another 190 miles to Texarkana, TX without a spare tire and with non-functioning passenger-side headlights and turn signal. Phil had a worrisome drive and imagined the worst every time he felt a vibration in the steering wheel. Fortunately, the rest of the drive was uneventful and we arrived at Shady Pines RV Park where we had made reservations for two nights.

After getting set up, we began the challenges of finding a replacement tire and arranging for a body shop. Although the website for Discount Tire showed that it would take 3-5 days to get our tire delivered, Jan called them and found that they could have one delivered by the following morning. Phil contacted USAA and arranged for a body shop in Nashville to give us an estimate when we arrived there in a couple of days.

The following morning found us at Discount Tire at 10 am and we had a new spare tire within 30 minutes. We didn’t do much the rest of the day except grocery shopping and refueling the truck.

On April 4th we drive 235 miles on interstate highways to Forrest City, AR, a short distance west of Memphis, where we spent the night at Delta Ridge RV Park. The RV park was right off of I-40 and quite adequate for an overnight stay. It was largely a one-man show. Phil called when we arrived and the owner told him to just take one of the open spots. We went ahead and got set up. The owner didn’t show up for his payment until several hours later but was quite friendly.

We got up early on April 5th and drove 270 miles along I-40 to Goodlettsville, TN, just north of Nashville, to the Grand Ole RV Resort where we had reservations for three nights. After getting set up, Phil drove the truck to Gerber Autobody and got an estimate for the repair job. The estimate was for slightly more than $1,500 (not including the tire which USAA did not cover). The estimator told Phil that he would need three days to order the parts and would need to have the truck for several days to complete the repairs. The need to be without our truck for several days posed a dilemma since we had made a number of short-term reservations over our two-week stay in the Nashville area. We had planned to stay at a nearby Corp of Engineers (COE) park but, due to limited availability and the lack of sewer hookups at the sites, we were going to have to move every 2-4 days. Without our truck, we would not be able to move between sites so had to come up with alternative arrangements. The following morning, Phil inquired at the Grand Ole RV Resort office if we could stay at for a full week, beginning on April 12th. Fortunately, someone had just canceled so we were able to make the needed reservation.

We had dinner in Nashville with our sons, Jason and Jarrod Bain, that evening. The following day, Jason joined us and spent the night in our rig. The Grand Ole RV Resort has musical performers every evening so we all went to see the Honky Tonk Critters on Saturday night. We could tell we were no longer in Texas when the overnight temperature dropped into the 20s.

Combo at Grand Ole RV Resort

On Sunday, April 8th, we moved 27 miles to the Seven Points COE campground on J. Pearcy Priest Lake. We spent the first two nights in site #5, which required a blind side back-in down a steep slope. The road around the campground was one-way and quite narrow, with drop-offs on both sides. It took several attempts to get into our site but, once parked, it was a very nice location.  We then joined Lori and Bruce Davis for lunch at Camino Real in Murfreesboro.

On Tuesday, April 10th, we had to move again, this time to site #30 at Seven Points. Once again, the narrow road made it a struggle to get backed into our site but the site provided a great view of the lake from our living room.

Seven Points site 30

Seven Points site 30 view

The following evening, we joined Lori and Bruce Davis and the rest of their team, Pineapple Crush, at a Murfreesboro restaurant, Station Grill, for a rousing game of Trivia Challenge. There were about eight teams competing, with a deejay asking the questions. Pineapple Crush was in third place going into the final question but bet all our points on that question. We ended up winning the night’s competition by getting the correct answer.

On Thursday, April 12th, we left Seven Points and returned to Grand Ole RV Resort in Goodlettsville. After getting set up, we dropped off the truck at Gerber Autobody. Phil told them we would be in a bad way if we didn’t have the truck back within a week since we need it to move our rig. They told Phil they would try very hard to have it done by then but they were unable to promise that the work would be done by then. With that in mind, Phil went to the office at Grand Ole RV Resort and asked them to hold our site for us through Monday, April 23rd. The following morning, Phil received a text message from the auto body shop saying the expected completion date was Tuesday, April 24th. Phil called them for a clarification and was told that the April 24th date was the worst case scenario and they were still hoping to have the work done by the 19th. Based on this uncertainty, Phil extended our stay in Goodlettsville and cancelled our stay at Montgomery Bell StatePark.

That evening we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with a quiet dinner at O’Charley’s. While we were having our dinner, our son Jarrod was across town proposing to Jess Mollman so it was quite a memorable night.

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On Friday night we went to Von Elrod’s Beer Garden and Sausage House in Nashville for dinner with our son, Jason. Von Elrod’s is next door to First Tennessee Park where the Nashville Sounds, the AAA affiliate of the Oakland A’s, were having a home game. The weather was great and we enjoyed dining outside on the patio.

Dinner at Von Elrods1

On Saturday night we went to the apartment Jarrod and Jess were staying at temporarily after selling their condo. We celebrated their engagement with Jess’ mother and sister, Jason and a couple of their friends. We took advantage of the large activity room across from their apartment and spent the evening playing rousing games of pool.

On Sunday we drove to Camden, TN for a catfish lunch at the Country & Western Steakhouse with some of Jan’s extended family. Upon returning to Nashville, we had dinner at P.F. Chang with our daughter, Lizzi Gordon.

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On Monday, April 16, we met Jarrod and Jess at our storage unit and combined our stored items into a single 5×10 locker. We had had our stuff in a 5×5 locker for 2 ½ years and really only used about 2/3 of that space. Jarrod and Jess only needed about ½ of their 5×10 locker so it made sense to combine our stuff, especially since the rate for a newly-leased 5×10 locker was less than we were being charged for our smaller unit.

On Tuesday, Jan met with Pam and Linda, two of her childhood friends, and they had a great time over four hours catching up.

JPL

On Thursday morning, Phil got a call from the body shop saying that the truck was ready to be picked up. Upon picking up the truck, we learned that the body work had been more extensive than originally thought and the total bill was over $2,700, which was more than $1,100 higher than the estimate. Fortunately we only had to pay the deductible.

That evening we returned to Von Elrod’s Beer Garden and Sausage House and were joined by the Davis family, Jason, Jarrod and Jess.

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On Friday, we dropped off our bicycles at the Oasis Center in Nashville. We had decided not to take our bicycles with us to Alaska and they were not really worth putting into storage. Oasis Center is an organization with a mission to help young people in Middle Tennessee. One of their programs is a bike workshop where participants work with volunteer mentors to build a bike from frame to finish so they accept bikes and bike parts regardless of condition.

On Saturday, Jan drove to New Johnsonville, TN and spent the afternoon with more of her childhood friends . They had a great time enjoying Craig’s Pizza, hot fudge cakes and bowling.

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On Sunday, Jason, Jarrod and Jess came over for a spaghetti dinner. During dinner, Jason was sitting in one of our folding chairs and it snapped like a twig, sending Jason sprawling on the floor. Fortunately he went straight down to the floor and did not land on his injured shoulder.

It had rained lightly most of the day on Sunday but we had not seen any sign of the roof leak. Unfortunately, later that evening we had heavier rain with strong winds and we had periods in which rainwater dripped down steadily from the light fixture into the 5-gallon bucket we had positioned beneath it. This was quite frustrating, especially since rain was forecast for the rest of the week before we would reach our dealer on Friday.

On Monday morning we transferred title to the Nissan Altima to Jason. We had decided long ago not to take the car with us to Alaska. It had served us very well since USAA had declared it a total loss after the hail storm in May 2016. It had had 46,000 miles on it at the time of the storm and we had put another 45,000 miles on it since then. It sure is ugly but it still runs really well.

Next we drove 132 miles to Crossville, TN where we parked for three nights at Deer Run RV Resort. Because we no longer have the Nissan, Jan rode in the Ram with Phil for the first time since RV Driving School 2 ½ years ago.  We got a large pull-through site with a great view of Good Neighbor Lake. The campground is quite remote, 3.5 miles off the main road, and our site was down a gravel road about a mile from the campground gate.

Phil managed to spread the tarp out on the roof before the rains started again. It rained all night long and we only found a little water in the bucket in the morning. Phil returned to the roof on Tuesday and spread out the tarp even more.

On Tuesday afternoon we met with our friends, Cathy and Phil Schirtzinger. We had first met Cathy and Phil at Buckhorn Lake Resort three winters ago. They now live in a lovely home in Fairfield Glade, TN, a few miles north of Crossville. We started with a driving tour of Fairfield Glade that gave us a great overview of the variety of neighborhoods and amenities. It is truly a beautiful area with seemingly endless options for activities. After the tour, we had dinner at Stonehenge Grill overlooking the pro golf course.

On Tuesday afternoon we met with our friends, Cathy and Phil Schirtzinger. We had first met Cathy and Phil at Buckhorn Lake Resort in Texas three winters ago. They now live in a lovely home in Fairfield Glade, TN, a few miles north of Crossville. We started with a driving tour of Fairfield Glade that gave us a great overview of the variety of neighborhoods and amenities. It is truly a beautiful area with seemingly endless options for activities. After the tour, we had dinner at Stonehenge Grill overlooking the pro golf course.

On Wednesday Phil drove to a Baptist church in Crossville to play pickleball. Phil Schirtzinger had told him that there was free pickleball there on Wednesdays in the church gym. Intermediate-level players play from 9-1 and advanced-level players play from noon-4. Phil arrived shortly after noon and played for 2 ½ hours against some very good players. The gym was large enough to hold three pickleball courts but there was a large crowd which caused waits of 10-15 minutes between games.

On Thursday we drove 83 miles in the rain to Heiskell, TN (outside of Knoxville) where we ended up spending four nights at the Escapees Raccoon Valley RV Park. The RV Park is one of the parks owned by the Escapees organization to which we belong so the rates are quite low.

We had originally only planned to stay for two nights at Raccoon Valley but, when we went to the RV dealer on Friday, we learned that the man who was supposed to replace our brake pads had had a family emergency and wouldn’t be back until Monday. Fortunately Phil was able to rearrange our reservations for the next few days without much trouble. We killed most of the day running errands in Knoxville and returned to the dealer at 3:30, only to learn that they hadn’t started working on our rig yet. We finally got to leave the dealer at about 5:30 but with a number of items remaining to be addressed there on Monday morning. They tightened down both air conditioners which they suspect was the source of the roof leak. We’ll find out if this fixed the leak the next time we have heavy rain.

When we returned to our campsite, we discovered that the power lift that is designed to lift the living room television from behind the fireplace was dead. Phil checked fuses and circuit breakers but that did not appear to be the source of the problem. We suspect either a loose wire or a bad switch but neither is easy to reach. Oh, the joys of living in a house on wheels! We’ll just hope the dealer can fix this issue on Monday. In the meantime, we will rely on the TV in the bedroom.

Saturday was a beautiful day with warm, sunny weather. We drove to the Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville and hiked through the woods and along the Tennessee River. The Ijams Nature Center is a 300-acre wildlife sanctuary and learning center.

We enjoyed the history behind the Cave Springs caves, which has the folk name of Maude Moore’s Cave. On Sept. 8, 1919, Maude Moore fatally shot an attacker named Roy Harth. Moore hid in the cave until she decided to surrender to authorities. A 1921 trial found Moore not guilty by reason of self-defense, largely because Harth had a reputation for “lecherousness.”

On Monday, April 30th, we drove back to the dealer to have our brake pads replaced and have them try to figure out why the TV lift was not working. As usual, once they had the brakes disassembled, they mechanic found other problems. For one, he discovered that the bearings had not been greased recently despite the fact that we had paid $250 to have it done in November when we were in Hattisburg, MS. The mechanic said it looked like the folks in MS had simply squirted grease into the bearings. Then, after we had headed to lunch, we got a call from the dealer saying that it appeared that the seals had never been replaced (despite having paid for two new seals in MS). Fortunately, they were able to obtain the necessary seals and complete all the required maintenance. Although this added to our delay, we were glad they discovered the problem rather than have our bearings seize up while we were on the way to Alaska. After the tires were reinstalled and the rig was lowered, the dealer was able to take a look at the TV lift. He determined that there was power to the motor but that it appeared that the motor was bad. Since we were heading toward the DRV factory in IN, Phil decided we would pick a replacement motor and try to find someone to install it for us while we were visiting in IN. We finally got on the road at about 3:30 pm with a 278 mile drive to our next campground in Ohio.

For the previous couple of days Phil had felt a lot of vibration in the steering wheel, seemingly coming from the driver’s side front tire (opposite the one that blew out a few weeks earlier). He was hoping that it was just due to rough highways in TN. However, as we headed toward Ohio, the vibration was growing more severe. Phil pulled into a rest area after about 65 miles and took a look at the tire. His temperature gauge showed that it was quite a bit hotter than the other tires and Jan noticed that there was a bubble starting to develop on the tire tread. Although it was already late, we had no choice but to change the tire. Fortunately, Phil’s experience from a few weeks earlier made the tire change go faster but it was still a hot and dirty job.

Once we got back on the road the truck handled much better, much to our relief. As we continued our drive, we got a call from our campground in Ohio. They let us know that they would be paving their driveway the following day and, therefore, we would either need to be gone by 8 am or stick around until 4 pm. We finally arrived at Indian Springs Campground in North Bend, OH at about 10 pm. From the little we could see, it looked like a nice place but we went straight to bed, without unhitching, and were back on the road at 7:30 am the following day.

One amusing anecdote was that, as we were getting ready for bed, Jan kiddingly suggested that Phil try the TV lift and, when he did, it worked perfectly. Unfortunately the TV antenna was now not working but that was a much less serious issue.

 

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