On Sunday, September 18th, we drove 200 miles to Rossville, GA, where we spent three weeks at the Holiday Travel Chattanooga RV Park. Although the park has a Georgia address, it is less than a mile from the Tennessee border. We had stayed at this campground four months earlier, when we came to look at property in Jasper Highlands. We have now returned to begin the long process of design and build of our new home.
On Monday morning, we drove to our lot in Jasper Highlands. We used our 100-foot tape measure to get a better sense for where on the lot we might want to build. We then met with Grant Moore, the Project Manager for Fredonia Builders. Fredonia’s claim to fame is their Amish carpenters who do the framing. Phil had previously had a phone conversation with Grant, who is also a Jasper Highlands resident. Since Grant owns a Fredonia-built house, we began by touring his home and discussing Fredonia’s process for design and build. Grant took us to two Fredonia construction sites so we could see some of their work. We then met Lisa Boyle, owner of Fredonia Builders, and drove back out to our lot. Grant and Lisa gave us their opinions on where we might build. Unfortunately, due to Lisa’s sensitivity to poison ivy, she was limited to assessing our heavily-wooded property from the road. They advised us to stake the perimeter of the house we’d like to build and apply for the septic system permit, before spending any money on architects or builders.
On Tuesday, we met with Hunter Godfrey, the Project Manager: Draftsman for Goodman Creations, to discuss the process and cost for architectural design of our house. We liked what we heard but let them know we were planning to apply for the septic permit first.
Wednesday morning, we headed back to our lot. We first stopped at Lowes to pick up some landscaping stakes, mason line and various tools for clearing brush. We then spent several hours chopping down branches and thorns. After this effort, we were able to run a string line along one border of our property. Being too worn out to fix dinner, we ordered catfish plates from Champy’s which were delicious and very filling.
On Saturday, we attended the Chattanooga Home & Garden show at the convention center. We enjoyed chatting with many of the vendors, although it would have been premature to ask for estimates. We spent about an hour talking with LaNita Cates, the New Client Liaison for Cole Construction, despite already having scheduled a meeting with her on Monday. We got home in time to watch the Tennessee Vols beat the Florida Gators in an exciting game.
On Monday, September 26th, we went to the Chattanooga office of Cole Construction and met with LaNita Cates again and Matt Cole, one of the owners. They are the only custom builder working in Jasper Highlands that offers a fixed cost contract.
After two months in Kerrville, we were ready to move on, although not necessarily looking forward to the long drive to Tennessee. On Saturday, Sept. 10th, we hooked up and got underway. After sitting idle for an extended period, we were concerned that something might not operate as intended, but we were pleased that there were no issues. We drove 256 miles to Corsicana, TX, where we overnighted at the American RV Park.
On Sunday, we drove 191 miles to Texarkana, TX, where we spent two nights at Shady Pines RV Park. The GPS had recommended a mostly-interstate route of 234 miles, skirting around Dallas. Phil chose to take a somewhat slower, but definitely shorter, backroads route that took us through many small towns. This was at least our tenth stay at Shady Pines RV Park, which is affiliated with an RV dealership next door.
Although we had scheduled a mobile RV tech for Monday to address our microwave wiring issue, Phil spent Sunday night trying to fix it himself. Replacing the plug on the power cord was fairly straightforward. However, replacing the receptacle remained a challenge. Having never worked with Romex wiring before and having almost no slack in the line, Phil was apprehensive about being able to connect the new 20-amp receptacle he had bought at Lowes. On Monday morning, he drove to the RV center next door and purchased a snap-in receptacle similar to the one he was replacing. Although this solved the issue of having enough wire, Phil couldn’t figure out how to get the wire into the slots. He watched a YouTube video on the subject and learned that the manufacturer recommended using their specialized tool to do the installation. Phil then returned to the RV center to see if they had the tool and if he could rent/borrow it. They didn’t have that specific tool, but they did lend Phil a different tool and the service manager explained how they use it. Phil returned to our rig and, using the borrowed tool, was able to connect the receptacle. We were quite relieved when we turned the power back on, and the microwave worked again. It had taken a fair amount of work but, having saved the cost of a service call, it was all worth it.
On Tuesday, after returning to the RV center to get our TX annual inspection on the fifth wheel, we drove 283 miles to West Memphis, AR where we spent three nights at Tom Sawyer’s Mississippi River RV Park. We had read very good reviews on this campground and, although it was not very fancy, it had one major thing going for it: location. Our site was about 100 feet from the banks of the Mississippi River. We were able to watch barges going up and down the river from our living room window. They even had an observation tower right by our site.
We spent Wednesday in Memphis, TN visiting Graceland. Although Phil had lived in Germantown, TN (a suburb of Memphis) for 10 months in 1988/89, he had never been to Graceland before. We first did the tour of the Graceland Mansion, aided by an iPad and headphones that provided narratives on each room. Since the house has remained largely as it was when Elvis died in 1977, the furnishings were a throwback to the past. However, seeing the rooms and the grounds definitely brought to life the stories of the Graceland lifestyle of Elvis, his family and his friends. There were plenty of home movies on display throughout the exhibits, adding to the experience.
After touring the mansion, we began our walk through the eleven exhibitions. We first visited the Presley Motors Automobile Museum and Presley Cycles exhibit, then had lunch at Vernon’s Smokehouse.
After lunch, we visited the rest of the exhibitions, including Private Presley: Elvis in the Army, ICONS: The Influence of Elvis Presley, and Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum. All of the exhibits were filled with memorabilia from Elvis’ life and his career in music and movies. Our final stop was at Elvis’ two airplanes. After spending most of 5-1/2 hours on our feet, we were quite worn out by the time we left Graceland.
On Thursday, we drove to Germantown, TN and checked out Phil’s former home and neighborhood. We also drove through a nearby development of newer construction. This consisted of block after block of McMansions, with virtually no space between each house. The houses didn’t even have driveways. Our curiosity led us to explore how the homeowners accessed their garages. We discovered that there was an alleyway that was shared by a large number of homeowners to reach their garages in the back of the houses, but without any driveways. It was wild!
Upon returning to our campsite, we spent some time watching the barges moving up the Mississippi. Phil climbed the rather rickety stairs up to the treehouse observation deck and enjoyed sitting in one of the rocking chairs up there. The water level of the Mississippi was quite low but, as the picture shows, this has not always been the case.
On Friday, September 16th, we drove 150 miles to Hurricane Mills, TN, where we spent two nights at the Buffalo River/I-40 KOA. On Saturday, we drove to Eva and attended the Eva Beach Music and Folklife Festival. We listened to some music and explored the car show and craft booths. Eva is only a few miles from Camden, TN, where Jan lived most of her life. As we walked around, Jan met and chatted with a few old friends, but was somewhat surprised by how few people she knew. We visited with “Flash” Melton, Jan’s aunt’s brother, who was emceeing the event. Two of Jan’s lifelong friends, Sheila and Michelle, arrived later and Jan toured the grounds with them while Phil enjoyed the classic rock offerings of “The Geezers.”
After leaving the festival, we stopped at Wal-Mart for fuel and groceries. However, when we returned to our rig, we realized we had forgotten to get coffee so we headed back out to an Amish grocery we had passed. As usual for our trips to Amish stores, we ended up buying more than just coffee. Jason arrived later that afternoon and we had dinner at the Log Cabin Restaurant. We all had catfish and the portions were very large.
On Sunday morning, Jason headed home to Nashville, and we took off for our 200-mile drive to Rossville, GA.