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March's Journal (a post for each day, latest post on top)

Mar 31    You know the old saying, "If March comes in like a lamb it goes out like a lion." We found out today how true it is. We were up early and eager to drive down the mountain to Tom Johnson RV, then over to graphic store to have our decal put on the back of the coach. During our breakfast of shredded wheat and sliced strawberries topped with warm milk and a dash of Stevia, we reminisced as to how we had now been at Mountain Stream RV Park for a full month. Remembering how nice the weather had been and how well everything gone that first day of March 1st. I am certain that at this moment neither of us had a thought of that old saying in our heads. We hadn't moved for almost three weeks, so out came the check lists, to be gone over twice, instead of only once as we normally would. Everything was going smoothly as I sat down in seat to start the big Cummins diesel engine so it could warm up to operating temperature before we pulled out. That was when March changed from a lamb into a lion. 

I inserted the key and turned it to the pre-start position. Strange, I thought, no dash lights or sounds. Maybe it's been so longsince I started it that I just forgot to turn it far enough. More turning of the key. Nothing. That was when the adrenalin kicked in big time. Two or three turns of the key in rapid succession brought my heart rate ever higher. Time seemed to stand still as I slowly got out of the seat, stood, and turned toward Linda. "We have a problem.", is all I said. She looked at me quizzically for a second, saw the key in my hand and very matter of factly stated, "It won't start, will it." Now reflect on the words, won't start,  for a moment. To me won't start didn't begin to describe the problem we had. My concept of, won't start, implies it does something, but the result is the engine doesn't continue to run. You know, dials move, the starter grinds, the engines fires but doesn't keep running, something at least happens. Won't start, wasn't the problem. Dead as a door nail more aptly described the situation. Of course my response was all wrong as usual, but I said it anyway, "I knew your playing the radio all the time was going to run the battery down." Why couldn't I have said something like, "When I turn the key nothing happens." Which is exactly what I blurted out before taking another breath. I think the term is, 'digging the hole, climbing in and shoveling it all over yourself.' 

In hindsight, I think Linda was too shocked by the idea the engine wouldn't start to hear what I said. Anyway, she asked, "Are you sure you turned the key all the way?" A brief conversation ensued that resulted in my going outside and looking at the headlights. No head lights, nothing. Then we remebered the "Battery Boost" switch. As explained to us during our walk through and as we knew from our previous RV, this is one of those 'good' switches. It ties all the batteries together when one set is low to give you the voltage you need. In our previous RV, it made a very audible click sound when it engaged. We pushed the switch, no sound, ah this is one of those big diesel motor homes, everything is in the back, so no sound, I thought. With all the confidence of the perennial bench warmer called upon to quarterback the "big" game, I turned the key as I held the switch down. Nothing, nada, zip. 

Think I was worried before, now I was really worried. What to do? Was there enough battery to start the generator? If so then maybe the engine would start. Never mind that we we were hooked up to shore power. That the generator starts off the coach batteries. We're talking pressure here. Major league pressure. At least I had the presence of mind to unhook the shore power before trying to start the generator, smile, though the energy management system should have taken care of it. Push the switch and nothing happens. Deep breath, collect wits, pause, think. Push battery boost and push generator switch. Nothing. Think hard. Long time since we started the generator, suddenly remember switch goes two ways. Down to prime, up to start. Think, well it sure ought to start since I primed it twice, smile, if I now push up on the switch. Sounds! Sounds! Sounds! The generator is cranking. Tries to start, fires a couple of times, doesn't catch. Stop, deep breath. Think. Okay, no battery boost, that's okay, almost started, lets try it again. Once more, no battery boost, down to prime, light on, up to start, cranks, sputters, starts, whoopee!!!! I got something to run, the day is looking better. Let the generator run for about 10 minutes, everything looks good. Try key, nothing, try battery boost, nothing. Bummer and double bummer. 

Since the cell phone doesn't work in these mountains we have to use the phone at the upper end of the park. You can make local and 800 number calls, so Linda gathers up the phone number for the Monaco tech line and our coach number and goes This better not be an answering machineover to make a call. This way I can serve as the 'gofor' in case they tell us to try something. The call is  a brief conversation that includes some eye rolling by Linda and the call is completed. She was not on the line to a service tech,  just the person that answers the phone. She is told to call back in about ten minutes.  Said it was interesting because the first question they asked her was, "Are you safe?" Wanted to know if we were on the road or off it in a safe place. Guess that means our problem could have been a lot worse. We go back to the coach, I get out the coach manual and start looking for the magic elixir. Don't find it, but looking for it kills the ten minutes. 

Back to the phone we go. This time Linda is put on hold for a while until a tech becomes available. She starts speaking and from her smile I can tell it's a real live person, one who may know something. Hear her say we had pushed the battery boost switch and nothing happens. Lots of okay's on Linda's end. They she asks the persons name in case it doesn't work, whatever it, is. Mike is his name plus she gets his extension number. 

As we return to the coach she tells me he said to push and hold the battery boost switch down for a minute before trying to start the engine, that gives it enough time to charge the batteries. Doesn't really sound reasonable, but then a drowning man will even grab at a straw. I push and hold the button, Linda stands behind me staring intently at her watch. Finally she says it's time. Reluctantly I let up on the switch and slowly reach for the key. It was almost as if I didn't want to turn it. Finally my fingers came in contact with the key. Slowly very it turns. Dead silence. Try once again, nothing. Think maybe if I hold down the switch and turn the key it will work. Same dread, same result. 

I look toward Linda and see her already heading for the door. Another conversation with Mike the tech. They will dispatch a truck to get us started. Linda is to call back in ten mutes to confirm a truck is on its way. Decide to call Tom Johnson RV to let them know we will be late. Linda hangs up without saying anything. It was an answering machine and believe me, even though we have used an answering machine for years, she wont talk to one, smile. Suggest it might be a good idea to leave a message, that way we may still be able to take the coach down today. She makes the call. The ten minutes is up, once again it's time to call Monaco. Yes a truck has been dispatched, should be there within a half hour. By now it's after 8AM, so call Tom Johnson RV again. No problem, bring it down as soon as you can they say. If it's going to be a while give us a call before you leave. 

Walk back to the coach, look out window and see a red truck circling the park road. Know it doesn't belong to a camper, The little red rescue truckmaybe it's the service truck. Indeed it is. Truck stops and we meet Ray who works for H&A Towing in Marion. Right off we like Ray, a big man with a jovial laugh and a confident manner. He asks a couple of questions, asks me to try to start it, nothing, try the battery boost, nothing. 

Goes to his truck and gets a rather large battery charger and then a small generator. Hooks it up. Batteries are dead, very dead, Starts generator, plugs in battery charger, connects cables, says now try it. Nothing, not even a tiny peep.

Maybe this will work Touches hand to chin. Tells us our battery is very dead. Lets it charge for a while, says now we're getting something. Shows me the meter on the charger, has a small flicker. At least life hasn't been extinguished yet. I notice the yellow marker lights on the side of the coach are flashing. More signs of life. Ray says try it again. Turn the key, lights light, buzzers buzz, jacks retract, lights blink and blink and blink. All this noise is supposed to stop. Why isn't it stopping? Decide to turn key anyway. Nothing, no engine sounds, just the blinking lights and raucous sounds. Ray says, well he will just put the jumper cables on and connect the engine batteries and the house batteries together. I watch as he  attaches the jumper cables. I think, isn't that what the battery boost switch is supposed to do? Ray says now it should start. I go back into the coach and with a deep breath turn the key. As before  there are lights alight and buzzers buzzing, lots of blinking more blinking. Acts the same as before, why isn't to stopping? Decide to turn key anyway and again nothing happens. 

Ray comes up front, says there is one more thing to try and if doesn't work we've got a real problem. This is what you call Maybe it reads better upside downthe good news, bad news statement, lol. Figure I'm going to let the man alone as whatever it is, it is better to make sure he has his full attention on what he's doing. Sit down at the computer and start writing even though I really don't feel like it. Time was once again standing still. Ray came back to the coach and instead of asking me to start the engine, quickly sat in the seat and turned the key, Engine sounds, engine sounds, not just a starter cranking, the roar of a big 400 HP diesel, hooray, hooray with peanut butter, chocolate and sugar frosting on it. 

Before I can even ask Ray how he did it, he's out of seat and down the steps. Later he explains he used the 60 amp boost and it can only be on for a minute at the very most. "Let it run for a while and you should have no problem driving down the hill", he says, Adding "It would be best if you don't turn the engine off until you get to Tom Johnson's". Everything is working, we sign the papers he has and he leaves. 

Suddenly Linda sends our joy crashing to the ground. "We can't bring the slides in with the engine running.", she says, not too calmly, but at least she wasn't yelling, smile. I see Ray's truck down near the pavilion. Maybe I can catch him . "No you can't" she says, "he's gone." Now I'm no Jessie Ownens or Bob Hay's and I'm certainly not one of the drugged up sprinters of today that pretend to follow in Jessie and Bob's footsteps, but over the next few seconds there was one posed man running down the road after that truck. Reflecting back, there I was running at full speed, waving my arms and yelling and never missing a step. You just don't know what you can do until you absolutely must do it. Just before turning onto the highway the truck slowed and I was able to catch up with him. Turns out that he had lust overheard on his scanner that the house next to his was on fire which was why he stopped. We talked for a moment, I said if he wanted go check on his house I would just see what would happen when we turned off the engine. He insisted on coming back to the coach. Quickly we retracted the slides  and resolutely turned the key The engine started right up, but as it did,  suddenly there is a loud blast from the air horn. My hand turns the key off so fast it practically smokes, smile. That's all we need, to have the air horn blaring away in the morning I was thinking. Once again Linda came to the rescue, "It's so happy, it's tooting its own horn.", she says. I had to laugh and the tension of the past couple of hours was swept away. 

As Ray was getting ready to leave again, the scanner started squawking its unintelligible sounds. He put it close to his face, listened, then smiled and said, "Good news, it wasn't the house next to mine. It was an old trailer down the road a ways." Maybe things are looking up all around, I thought. Linda went over and called Tom Johnson RV again to let them know we would soon be on our way. I drove very slowly down the mountain. An uneventful trip except when I was rounding the sharpest blind corner of the trip, the thought hit me, sure hope I don't meet a truck here. The thought was still dangling at the edge of my mind when I caught a glimpse of a huge blue logging truck coming at me. Several less than happy seconds later it was past. Guess this day was still not done acting like a lion, smile. As we came up to the light at Rt-80 and 70, there were construction vehicles everywhere. There were flagmen stopping traffic, there were very, very long lines of vehicles backed up in both directions. However luck was with us. Just as they allowed traffic to pass in the direction of Tom Johnson RV, the light changed allowing us through. Not all things are going against us I thought, of course at that same moment we came upon the entrance to Tom Johnson's. 

There are two entrances, the first one is a straight shot into the sales lot and back to the service area. The second requires you to make a sharp right turn, go through the congested front car parking lot, then make a sharp left turn in order to go back to the service area. They were working in front of one of the two entrances. You can guess which one. The March lion was striking again. Now, not only did I have to turn into the difficult drive, there was also a dually pickup coming right down the center of it. I did what anybody driving a 38' long 33,000 pound RV would do. I turned in. The pickup quickly started backing up and gave me plenty of room. That was a lesson remembered from the RV driving school. Sometimes you just have to "impose your will." Soon I was safely parked in the service area. As we entered the service area office, everyone, and I mean everyone was smiling or laughing and saying , "Well, you made it", or something to that effect. Went over what was on the list we had brought, they wrote up the service order, we spent some time in their store area, spent some money on holding tank chemicals, checked on the coach and left for a while. 

Went to the Walmart to get wrapping paper for the presents we had bought last week. The wind was really blowing as we drove to the back of the parking lot. Time to wrap presents. Parked the Explorer so we were somewhat in the lee of the wind, which was now blowing so hard I had to hold the door open so Linda could wrap. The paper was blowing all over the place, she was getting more and more upset. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. Finally she did. She had left her window down and the wind was roaring in through it. Her tone as she told me to close the window carried the impication it was my fault it was open. Who can understand women? I did do one thing right. Instead of pointing out that if she'd have bought the wrapping paper last week when she bought the presents, (you know where I'm going) I just kept my mouth shut, smile.

Eventually the gifts were wrapped, we made a quick stop at Subway for turkey on whole wheat and baked chips, then to the Post Office, next, groceries and soon we were on our way back to Tom Johnsons. They were still working on our coach, so naturally we looked at the coaches they had for sale. It once again confirmed our lengthy shopping experience and our Tom Johnson service areaconclusion that the Endeavor was the coach that best fit our needs and budget. In amongst all this we spent a good bit of time talking to the techs who had worked on our coach. Turns out there is no battery maintainer on the Endeavor, so if it sits long enough the battery will slowly run down. Second, the battery boost switch did not tie all the batteries together. When the fuse for the battery boost circut had been installed at the factory, the fuse had twisted slightly and the bottom prong had not made contact with the fuse holder. This meant we had an open circut, the same as a blown fuse. It worked perfectly now. I thought how stupid it was that one moments inattention at the factory caused Monaco to pay for the service truck call and the work to fix the problem. We felt comfortable they had taken care of our problems. They had been unable to fix the closet latch and had to order another one. The cheap plastic ones keep breaking and have been replaced with a metal latch. They would order it, so we also scheduled a transmission fluid change for the 17th. 

Even though it was getting late we decided to stop by the graphics store and get the decal put on. Linda called before we left and they said come on down. We get there and the fellow who does the installations is out. The lion strikes again. The girl was very apologetic and other than our being disappointed and the need to come come back down again, no harm was done.

The drive back to the park was slow and uneventful. But did we have a pleasant suprise when we arrived back at the park, Roscoe and Carol, the other work camper coupler had arrived. I teased Becky about us taking a workday off so they had fired and replaced us, lol. Dessert was peach cobbler warmed in the microwave and topped with ice cream. As I scrapped the bottom of the bowl, I decided maybe March had gone out like a lamb after all.  

Mar 30   Was I mistaken yesterday about birds everywhere. Today we had finch overload at the feeders. All the perches on the finch feeder were full. Finches Finch arial dogfight for feeder spacehanging from the wires that fasten the feeders to the branches, finches perched in the tree, guess you could say there were finches here, finches there, finches everywhere, even finches in the air. We witnessed arial combat taking place. When an airborne finch tried to displace a perched finch, both would suddenly be in the air wings fluttering, skittering with thrusts and parrys like two dueling swordsmen. The males are definitely molting, their bright yellow colors becoming more apparent by the day. As we watch the "dog fights" take place we notice the perched bird often has no yellow showing indicative of its being a female, while the airborne intruder has the bright yellow coloration of the males. After a few brief, but furious seconds, the clash is over and a bird is once again occupying the momentarily vacate perch. Linda is always quick to point out that it is a female who invariably alights on the perch. Guess it is true that while men may strut their stuff, the woman rules the roost, smile.

After a breakfast of oatmeal, smile, we cleaned up around the coach, at least Linda did, I worked on the web page, then gathered up our gloves to start our work half day. The morning sky was cloudy but the air was still, so it looked like today would be spent killing vegetation. We got the equipment shed open when Becky came up and said we'd better check with Ron before spraying. It was becoming obvious there is more to this spraying business than meets the eye. Sometime later, after checking the weather report and giving us more instructions on the potential pitfalls that can befall the untrained or inexperienced applicator, we made ready to attack those pesky weeds, stories of past work campers experiences with this powerful herbicide fresh in our memories. Like the couple that didn't pay attention to the warning about not walking on the areas where they sprayed herbicide. This stuff is so powerful that even the slightest amount on the sole of your shoes will kill whatever it touches dead, as in dead dead for four years, thats potent in my book. Anyway, this couple ignored what Ron told them about how potent it was.  And of course it took a few days for what they had done to show up. Bet you've already guessed what happened, yep, everywhere they had walked on the grassy areas was a perfect set of brown grass footprints. Now it's bad enough to walk all around the edges of where you're spraying, even the short cut you take from one area to the next shows up, lol. 

I decided there was only one sure way to make absolutely, positively certain that I didn't track any of that stuff somewhere it wasn't supposed to be. I drove the golf cart and let Linda spray that menace to any living plant, herbicide, smile. That deadly liquid is contained in a plastic tank that permanently rides in the back of The Sound & the Fury. Now TS&TF is technically a former golf cart, but today we could nickname it, "The Engine of Death" or Ted for short, lol. This was a learn asHey buddy, ya want some weeds killed? you go project. Since we weren't told how to do it, just how not to do it, we figured what the heck, anything else we do must be okay. Anyone who's followed us during our brief work camper sojourn knows when I think left, Linda usually thinks right and when Linda thinks left, I'm usually daydreaming and don't have a clue what to do, smile. Right off the bat we've got a problem. Seems we have the trailer hooked up to "Ted" and don't think to unhitch it. We start out to spray. Since I'm driving and we're not the world's greatest experts in murdering vegetation (Actually Linda has much more experience than I, as she was known as 'The Roundup Lady' at our house, often standing somewhere in the flower garden with the bottle of Roundup® clutched in her hand, fingers vigorously squeezing the trigger, dealing death to unwanted plants, while yours truly was safely ensconced in the house, daring to venture out only to snap a quick picture then quickly scuttling back to safety before being enveloped in a poisonous cloud, lol. And me a chemist by training, double lol.) we wanted to start out of site of the office. That way Ron could only wonder if we were doing it wrong, but if we had started down by the office he would know we were doing it wrong. No sense in giving him apoplexy if we don't have to, smile. After doing a couple of sites I was scowling and Linda was frustrated when we realized it wasn't us, it was the stupid trailer. I couldn't pull far enough into the site to let her reach all the areas with the hose. Right there we unhitched the trailer and left it. Now the job became much easier I'd pull into a site and she'd spray in front of me and then try to keep me from running over the hose as I backed out as she sprayed. Once again I was scowling, smile, as she seemed to miss about half of the vegetation. Our task as outlined by Ron was to spray anything that grew in the white gravel. I was beginning to think maybe she was colorblind, no that couldn't be it, maybe she was just blind, why can't she see all the plants she's missing? Several cryptic comments and gestures pointing out missed area only exacerbated the situation. To say we were a little tense was an understatement. Then I finally got to thinking, maybe she's just as uptight over this as I am. She's got the hardest part trying to spray but not let the spray drift and kill something it shouldn't. Work with her, dummy. I start backing all the way into the site to begin with, this makes it so I can't drive over the hose. We do one side then back into the other side of the pad and do it. We are now working together, what a change. almost before we knew it we were all the way around the outside of the park. Only the inside was left when we ran out of the Roundup. 

I can out shovel you any day of the week.According to Linda this is a human vibratory roller, lol We go to check with Ron to get some more concentrate to mix up and he was out.  Becky shows us how to use the Ros2000, the computer reservation system they and many other parks have. As we are working on the system a really nice 40' Foretravel motor home pulling a toad drives in. When Ron returns he discovers  he is out of the type of vegetation killer we were using so gave us a broad leaf weed killer. We look at each other, shrug our shoulders and go out to mix it with water in the tank. we realize one of the site they may assign to the motor home is one of the sites we have been watering. We gather up all the hoses just before the motor home comes up and starts to park near the site we just removed the hose from. Made us feel good, maybe we are starting to think the right way, smile. By the time we got the solution mixed the wind had come up and we could no longer spray. Ron had come back with the pickup loaded with soil (yes actual soil, not dirt that needed to be sifted) so we filled in a number of low spots in the center grass area. It was shovel, shovel, shovel, stomp, stomp, stomp, rake, rake, rake and repeat the process. Linda found my imitation of a vibratory roller so hilarious she took a photo of me doing my dance. Before we knew it, it was time to call it a day. 

Spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up the coach in preparation of taking it down to Tom Johnson's RV in Marion tomorrow to get some warranty work done. As we were cleaning we saw Ron using the tractor and roller to do more of the same thing we were doing. Obviously we've still got some learning to do, as using the roller would make the job so much easier, oh well, we got some good exercise, smile. 

Looking out at the bird feed we saw a finch and cardinal perched in the tree Finch and Cardinal, pretty birds, all in a rowabove the feeder. Truly a Kodak moment. Dinner was Salmon Patties on whole wheat bread, and excellent meal that still adhered to the principles of the South Beach Diet we have followed for nearly a year now. (80 pounds lost between the two of us, equally divided and kept off, smile). Later it was relaxing with TV for Linda while I worked on the website. However, Linda wasn't done for the day. last night we had eaten the last of the soft chocolate chip cookies, so it was time to cook dessert. Always thinking ahead, at least when it comes to dessert, we had bought some peaches during our last trip to the grocery. This meant that the coach would soon be filled with the smell of fresh baked, healthy, peach cobbler. Cobbler to die for! Later, as we ate it still warm from the convection/microwave oven, smothered in butter pecan ice cream, the smacking of lips and screech of spoons scraping bowls clean was heard.   

Mar 29    Something new this morning. Birds everywhere. Birds at the feeders, Birds on the ground under the feeders. There were even wild turkeys in the meadow across the stream. Even saw a new species we had not seen before, a solitary purple finch. He stopped at the finch feeder and feasted on nijer thistle for a while. When something frightened the birds and they all flew away, the goldfinches quickly returned. We never saw the purple finch again. While all this activity was taking place up at the feeders, on the ground, the pair of doves who are regular morning Our first purple finch though the window of the coachvisitors  worked at cleaning the area under the feeders. There seems to be something here for each and every bird.

As I watched a movement caught my eye, it was Ron in one of the sites at the upper end of the campground. At first I thought heNice clean white rock for a nice clean park was watching the wild turkeys across the stream, but that was not it. He got back into the truck and slowly drove past a couple more sites, again stopping and walking toward the end of the site. This behavior was repeated several more times and as the truck approached our site my curiosity got the best of me.  Turns out he had ordered the fresh gravel to be delivered to the park this morning and he was checking which sites needed additional gravel. Before long the truck drove in and fresh white gravel was appearing on various sections of the park roads and sites. The driver spread most of the gravel while backing or driving forward depending on the location. When he left to get another load, Ron used the garden tractor with the blade to do the final spreading. It was obvious from watching, this was not the first time this particular job had been done.

We later found out they dress the gravel several times a year, usually in the early spring and again in mid-summer in order to keep the park looking sharp. Ron and Becky are rightfully proud of Mountain Stream RV Park and as they proclaim, roads and pads are white stone, all other areas are either flowers and plants in beds or grass so there is 'no mud after rain'. As we watched through the coach windows we could see the splash of white stone as it bounced and rolled into the grass along the roads and pads. This is where attitude comes into play.

One point of view says this will mean 'stoop labor' to pick all the rocks up and the possibility of an aching back. The other point of view looks at the job and sees the great exercise we're going to get, all that bending is like doing "crunches", our stomach muscles will be strengthened meaning our backs will not be nearly as likely to hurt in the future. Attitude, one can be an optimist or one can be like this. If you have never been to the website you're in for a treat, here's the link. There are also a number of powerpoint presentations that have been floating around the net for years based on these posters. A search should turn them up.

Only too soon our oatmeal had been both savored as well as consumed, so we two intrepid work campers were heading toward the equipment shed. Just as we got there Ron came up. The man has a twinkle in his eye at times and as he neared I could see it, plus the huge grin that emanates from the corner of his mouth and spread completely across his face. I was definitely getting an inkling there was something other than spraying vegetation killer in store for us today. Quickly we learned our fate.

Yes, it was too windy to spray and it would be put off until tomorrow or later depending on the co-operation of the weather. Yes, we needed to finish raking and seeding the corner sites. But, and it was a big but, the little tractor with the blade could only do so much when it came to smoothing the gravel. What was required was hand work wit rake and shovel. No wonder he had a twinkle in his eye. He knows Want your grass watered?how much we love the exercise we get from hard physical work and he had job we would really enjoy for us today.

We loaded the trailer up with rakes, lime, fertilizer, grass seed and other assorted implements and attacked the thatch in the corner sites. We soon settled into a routine. I raked and Linda picked up and disposed of the debris. We used the spreader for the lime until the wheel fell off (the cotter pin had rusted through), then spread a very light dressing of 10-10-10 fertilizer and a 50/50 blend of annual rye grass and Kentucky Fescue by hand. Next we drove back and got three water hoses and sprinklers which we set up to water the majority of the five areas we had just seeded. Linda's precise placement of the sprinkles was a masterpiece of watering efficiency.

Next it was time to unload all the seed fertilizer, etc and load the shovels and rakes so we could attack the stone piles. At first several sites we need to simply rake An obviously poses picturethe gravel in order to make it both uniform in thickness and as level as possible. This took little time and presently we were parked in front of our first rock pile to be moved. I can assure you no king about to lay siege to a castle ever studied his objective with more intensity than we did this pile of rock. I'll grant you it may have been only 8 foot wide and one foot high, but to us it was more than a pile of rock, it was exercise. We just wanted to make sure we exercised our arms, legs and lungs rather than our backs, smile. We each shoveled a while and raked a while, breaking in our muscles without breaking our backs. It soon became apparent I was much better suited to shoveling rock (something that my former co-works will attest is an absolute truism) while Linda raked with an easy stroke that quickly level significant mounds of rock, yet didn't wear her out. Needing to move the rock further than was easy to reach with the shovel, we brought the wheelbarrow into play. I loaded, pushed and dumped while Linda raked. If we had been constructed of metal we would have been a well oiled, highly efficient machine. As it was, we were two aging boomers, well, technically one very attractive boomer and an older guy who was born during the war, getting some exercise on a beautiful spring morning in the North Carolina mountains.  As I said earlier, this is where attitude comes into play. Soon we had all the piles spread but we still had a good sized area to cover with gravel.

One of the loads of rock had been dumped in the stock area so we could use it to fill in as needed. How could we get it to where we would need it? The obvious choice was to shovel this rock into the trailer, then use theThe queen of the hill garden tractor to pull it. Except the blade was still attached to the tractor. It would be a simple matter pull a couple of pins and drop the blade. Except we did not know if Ron was having more rock delivered and so would need the blade. Except that the only alternative was to use The Sound and the Fury. Looking up, we saw it there before us, patiently waiting, ready to do whatever was asked of it. Talk about a pleasant surprise. We emptied the trailer and drove over to the rock pile. No backfiring, no bursts of energy followed by coughing and sputtering, no flying gravel from a jack rabbit start. It was like the wild beast knew it was being asked to do the job of a Clydesdale singlehandedly pulling the Budweiser wagon! Almost before we knew it we had a trailer load of rock where we needed it. Now the question arose of how to unload it. I shoveled it out, but not happily. Within minutes we were back with another load. Linda came to the rescue. She suggested we dump the load, after all it was a dump trailer. We pull the latch and it slowly tips, gravel piling up, but about 4/5ths of the load remains in the trailer. What to do now? Linda again came to the rescue, brains and beauty what a combination, by suggesting we just drive forward and maybe the rock would just spread out the back. I didn't hesitate a second knowing TS&TF would pull the load. It worked like magic and soon we were done for the day. Unhitched TS&TF reverted to its old self, but it sure had earned the opportunity to show its wild side.

The rest of the day passed quickly, work on the webpage, then a tasty meal at Pleasant Garden Baptist. Tonight it was country fried steak, mashed potatoes, green beans and angel food cake topped with canned peaches. Delicious, filling and eaten with good company. Later back at the coach we called a halt to tweaking the new homepage and converted over. We will be making some more changes, but rather than attempt to achieve perfection out of the gate, we decided to put it in place and add to it as we are able. Of course we still had to eat our dessert which was the last of the soft chocolate chip cookies with a side of butter pecan ice cream. All in all it was one of our best days yet.

No, that's not perfect oatmeal, smile

Mar 28    Not all days are exciting. They are not all some grand adventure. Some are simply filled with the profusion of small incidents which make up life. That's what today was. Breakfast, work, lunch, website, dinner, TV and dessert. It's almost as if the excitement of the weekend, all the RV's, all the people, all the activity, plus the trip to Spruce Pine culminated in an overload of our perception of life. Today didn't 'burst' to life astride an iceberg like yesterday, nor did it announce the onrush of spring with warm temperatures. It was 36º when I got up, partly cloudy with a few birds at the feeder. Like I said, it just was.

Breakfast would be oatmeal again since we again had fresh strawberries. For some time now we have been using the "old fashioned" style of oatmeal because we have been unable to find "thick" oatmeal. While we are not experts on the subject of either oats, the grain, or groats, the hulled oats that we eat, we do have the sum of no small amount of experience on this subject. Over the years we have eaten a fair number of different types of oatmeal, the oatmeal itself and the method of preparation. Ranging from the gray glop that masquerades as oatmeal in most restaurants to the light brown flecked, tan, aromatic, steaming food fit for royalty that we have prepared on a frosty late fall morning in the middle of the wilderness, we've had it all. This is a subject I can spend paragraphs on, smile. Today is not the day however, double smile (and lucky you, more smiles). In a few brief words, my preference is, find the very thickest rolled oats you can (this isn't the mashed garbage Quaker sells as "old fashioned", you want something that was loved and caressed by the rollers, not mangled and mutilated. Oats comes from the field to the mill to the roller to you. It don't need no stinkin' prooocesssing to make it better. Simply said, that's what I like. I know many people , to put it delicately, dislike prepared oatmeal.

Along this line of thought, there is a famous reference in literature to oats: 
Dr. Samuel Johnson who wrote the first universally accepted dictionary of the English language included this disparaging reference as part of his definition of oats:

A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.

 His biographer, James Boswell, a very wise man in his own right, commented:

Which is why England is known for its horses and Scotland for its men

Just a little thought for the day, smile.

And as an aside, the writings of men like Johnson and Boswell are something we are exposed to, however fleetingly during high school, usually in a boring literature class, and is then quickly forgotten for the rest of our lives (but not if you had Mrs. Jones as your teacher, for which I am eternally grateful). A search of the web will turn up their writings which can be a real treat to read in those quiet meditative hours I take and advocate others to take during the day.

Doing the ashes rightJust a short time ago we were talking about what constituted an excellent bowl of oatmeal and look where we are now. That's why I find life so interesting, it's all how you approach it. Soon it was time to figuratively punch the old time clock. We wanted to try starting to work somewhat on the schedule that we will be on when the park starts getting busy. That meant emptying all the ashes from the fire pits today. In jiffy quick order we had The Sound and the Fury hooked up to the trailer, two metal trash cans and both the small and large shovel loaded and were driving up the park road checking fire pits. Today was much easier than the last time.The ashes were not water soaked, the driver of TS&TF stayed close to the fire pits full of ashes and a spirit of co-operation filled the air. The last time had taught us (me in particular) a lesson. We took turns scooping out the ashes, I carried the can from site to site and almost before we knew it the job was done. A side benefit was the fire wood we collected which had been left at several of the campsites. Linda is going to have her fire more than once. Or twice or that matter. Look for more tales of pyro-mom coming soon, smile.

Next we replanted another damaged barrel. As before, there was good soil on top and dirt on the bottom. Getting lazy we used a wheelbarrow to hold the Hosta's and the soil, then dumped the dirt from the barrel onto a tarp. Just to show you we're not perfect we forget get the barrel from the stock area when we brought up the tools. TS&TF speedily (and noisily, smile) carried us on our journey. Then we had the wrong size drill bit but Linda just drilled aThe barrel lady couple more holes than before, smart girl. Almost before we knew it we were trying to decide what to do with the remaining Hosta plants. Finally decided to put them up at the far end of the campground by the pump house. In between this we had also checked the bathrooms, which were okay, though we plan to clean them tomorrow. We finished out the day by replacing a rotted landscape timber in the bed next to the bathhouse. Ron had just noticed it. Why we hadn't I don't know because once he showed us where it was, it stuck out like a sore thumb. It was a full length timber so no cutting was necessary, drill and nail. Sounds simple. It wasn't. There were bushes hanging over the spot where the timber went, and the railroad tie we needed to nail it to was the densest, hardest tie we have ever encountered. I ended up using multiple blows from the sledge hammer to drive that piddly little 60d nail as Linda held the bushes back. Anyone watching us would wonder who those incompetents were.

Supper was the last of the spaghetti sauce with Bob Evans sausage. Next came NCIS. We really love that show. The way the writers give reality to the interplay between the main characters is wonderful. Next came the third week of The Unit, to which I'll say it improves each week. We couldn't get all the way through the Amazing Race, which is starting to grow really stale as its just the same thing week after week and fairly predictable. I call it Booooring. So after soft chocolate chip cookies with soft butter Pecan ice cream (anything but boring) we called it a day and turned off the snoozing race. Like I said, nothing special, just a day that was.

Mar 27    While we slept the ice age moved in. Another 24º morning.  Wasn't expecting it, didn't disconnect the water hookup, puddle of water on ground suggestsNo it's not the water line break!!! something is not right. So much for the new super duty brass wye we bought to replace our previous cheap wye. Remember, the one that split apart the last time I forgot to disconnect the water when it got down to 24º that night also. There seems to be a pattern forming here that doesn't look so good. The best solution would be to make Linda in charge of the water hookup. That way when cold weather is predicted she would know and could go out and unhook it. That would stop this broken fitting problem we have. Their might be a small problem in convincing her that this course of action would be in both our best interests, smile. Guess the safe and sane way of handling this problem is for me to disconnect the water any night it is either predicted to be 33º or less, or Linda tells me to disconnect the water. She also suggested a heat tape. Will pass on the heat tape for now. For now my watchword will be (with apologies to Paul Revere), unhook if by night and hookup if by day, smile.

While all this was going on Linda busied herself with fixing breakfast. When I came back into the coach the smell of oatmeal cooking filled the air. This puzzled me because we didn't get any fresh strawberries yesterday at the grocery store. The answer was, there were still some frozen berries in the freezer and we would be eating those on our oatmeal this morning. Actually we eat our oatmeal over the frozen berries as the hot oatmeal then defrosts them. The berries also have some cherries mixed in, so for frozen as opposed to fresh they are very good. That woman can even make frozen food taste great, lucky aren't I?, smile. Just before we were getting ready to leave to go to Spruce Pine, Becky knocked on the door. Tom Johnson's RV was on the phone letting us know all the parts had been received that had been ordered. So it's a go for Friday morning to get some more work done on the coach. Will provide a detailed update of our expectations and the actual experience at that time. Today the good was they called to say the parts were in, the bad was they couldn't find our appointment in their log until I told them the time, date and technician name who was scheduled to do the work. Life ain't always perfect. Let's hope for a bright ray of sunshine on Friday.

The trip to Spruce Pine was uneventful. Well there was the lane closure on Rt-80 for debris removal, then the small herd of deer we saw along the parkway and theWe had flurries, they had snow. beautiful views of the snow covered mountains in the distance aand even snow right along the Parkway. No pictures because we were on a fresh strawberry run, will get some on the return trip. Also noticed more traffic on the Parkway than before. Can only imagine how busy it must be during the vacation season. Our first stop was the SuperCenter and as always, just ahead after the nice lady gives you a cart is the display of fresh strawberries. The ones today looked really good. Though they were large, they were a uniformly deep red color. Just the way we like the larger berries. Now that the berries were in the cart the question was raised, what else did we come for. An electric blanket! So to the back of the store we went. Zipping up and down the bedding aisles, heads swiveling back and forth like NORAD radar antennas at the height of the cold war, lol. But just like the antennas never detected the wave of bombers or missiles that would signal the start of WWIII, our search for the elusive electric blanket was also in vain. Oh well, there is always mail order. Heading back up to the front of the store we stopped at the Easter goodies to get something to send to the grandchildren. We also have birthdays coming up in the family. Some purple things caught our eye, something special for a special little girl!

Our next stop was the laundromat. As before, a visit to the laundromat is a sociologists dream. Today we observed the philosophy of the full washing machine. AnotherWhich load is ours? hint:: your right! possible name for this approach is - Even when the washer is full it's not full. The last time we were here we used two of the smaller front loaders. Each load cost $2.75. Today she was loaded for bear, walked right up to the jumbo giant $4.75 a load front loader and started stuffing things in. "Don't worry", she says,"it will hold everything." In went sheets, blue jeans, sweaters and sweat suits, shirts, towels and dainties. Her arm resembled the beam on a oil well pump as it went in and out of the washer. When she finished I realized she was as good as her word and everything fit quite easily.

After the soap had been added, the coins inserted and the machine started I noticed the machine beside ours. The clothes in ours were rotating, water was splashing, suds showed. It looked a washing machine washing clothes. Not so the one beside ours. If our was a whirling dervish, this machine was a giant ground sloth. The clothes in this one barely moved. It acted like it was moving in slow motion. I watched for five minutes and only saw the same blue and red pattern through the window. Ours on the other hand, changed constantly as the clothes rotated and tumbled past the window. This machine had been running when we came in. When we started I noticed ours showed more time to the end of the cycle. At the 10 minute mark they showed the same time. When ours stopped the other machine was still running. Is it possible to pack a space to the point that time stands still? How else to explain the phenomenon I had just witnessed.

 I had finished putting the clothes into the dryer and had returned to my observation post, i.e., seat, when a young women came in and opened the door of the time machine. She grabbed the red cloth I had observed for the longest time in the window of her machine and pulled. A small part of an item of clothing appeared. She One really packed washertugged on it hard and a small bulge appeared in the mass of clothing fastened solidly in the opening left where the door of the machine had been. It was obviously not going to come out of the machine easily. With much tugging, upward, then downward, then repeating the sequence, the blouse was finally freed. The tangled mass showed no hint that an article of clothing had been remove from the machine. She continued to remove one stubborn item after another. One pair of pants even required the addition leverage obtained by planting her foot on the side of the machine. Finally as she repositioned herself to wrest a particularly entangled towel our eyes meet. Her sheepish grin begged a comment. "That's what I call a full load of wash", I casually mentioned. The face slightly reddened and she answered, " My boyfriend filled it. It can hold a lot more than you think. When the clothes get wet there is still a lot of room." I just smiled back realizing she didn't understand that the clothes needed to move around in order for the action of the machine to wash them. The innocence and inexperience of youth. By now she had about one third of the clothes out and the cart was way past full. She took them over to a dryer and as she returned our eyes met again. "From the looks of how hard it is to get the clothes out you should have your boyfriend do it.", I said. "He doesn't like to be seen doing laundry" was the answer. I left her to her task while wondering what other things he thought was woman's work and what kind of life she had to look forward too. Linda was still on the cell phone when the dryer shut off, so I took the clothes out and started folding them. What difference is it whether you do it at home or in public? Maybe the real secret is to think of everything as ours, not mine or hers. Linda returned and help finish folding. We walked out to a beautiful sky and another wonderful day of adventure.

Photo of ten wild turkeysReturning a long the Parkway we saw a rafter of wild turkeys. there were 10 birds in this particular rafter. The big male was in full spread as the females quickly moved off towards the woods. Of course as this happened I was stopping the Explorer as fast as I could. Fumbled with the camera and got in a couple of quick pictures. We are talking some well camouflaged birds here. I took the pictures and have a hard time picking out the turkeys, can you see the ten turkeys in this photo?. This was one of those blink and they are gone deals,  

Linda's deerA couple of miles later we passed the small herd of deer we had seen on the way up the Parkway this morning. So once again I stopped and thinking as quickly I stopped, this time I gave the camera to Linda. The result was you can actually see the animals in her photo's. Of course the fact there are somewhat larger than the turkeys and that they were in a meadow as opposed to being in the woods plus they were standing still browsing as opposed to the turkeys fleeing for cover had nothing to do with her getting a good picture as opposed to my inept attempt at nature photography, smile.

We had the requisite turkey wraps for lunch (we had bought the flat bread wraps we like to use at the SuperCenter, but need to use up the other brand first, bummer), then for dinner we had an old time favorite. It is a spicy but not hot, shrimp creole dish that is easy to fix and makes enough for two meals. Afterward Linda watched TV and worked on the website until it was time for Letterman and a dessert of soft chocolate chip cookies and butter pecan ice cream. The low fat no added sugar ice cream does not freeze as hard as regular ice cream. It is more like soft serve and ends up being a real taste treat.

Mar 26    Well, it had to happen some day and this was the day. We finally ran out of fresh strawberries. Bummer. This meant scrambled eggs, Canadian Bacon and Toast with jam for breakfast. Tasted great and it was good for us. Think about it: eggs, a little water and some fresh ground four pepper blend mixed together and scrambled in a non stick skillet.  When served, a bit more pepper ground on top plus a shake of red chili pepper flakes for a little kick 'em up for Bob. Linda passes on the red chili pepper flakes. We like to use a peppercorn blend rather than straight black pepper. We also find there is no comparison between fresh ground pepper and the ground black pepper you buy at the store. The four peppercorn blend we buy is composed of black, white, pink and green peppercorns. Besides tasting great it also looks great. Two for the price of one, lol. Canadian Bacon is naturally low fat. We find a very light coat of EVOO helps and gives it an improved flavor. The lower the heat the better to bring out the flavor of both the meat and the olive oil. We prefer it soft, not crisp and find that when it is cooked this way it tastes just as good cool as it does warm. Since one of the electrical appliances we chose not to have in the motor home was a toaster, we improvise a little in order to make toast. We use whole grain bread, very low or no fat and and low sugar with the fiber content always higher than the sugar content.  We put a little I Can't Believe It's Not Butter or a similar spread on both side of the bread and toast it on a medium griddle. When the first side turns golden we turn the bread and toast the other side. The second side takes less time than the first side. The bread is warmer and so is the griddle. This is then topped with sugar free jam. We use our own that we make from fresh fruit and sure-jell sugarless, but also use store bought pure fruit preserves. We only made peach and nectarine jam last year, so for berry we have to buy it. That's not going to be the case this year with us spending September and October in huckleberry and blackberry country, smile.

Breakfast over and seeing as how we were out of quite a few groceries, we decided to go shopping. We knew we were taking a chance because this is North CarolinaCarson's chapel and many of the store are closed on Sunday. Our first stop was another little country church. But this one was down the mountain. Made an interesting observation. The speech, accent, what have you, of the people in the valley is different from the mountain people that go to the little church across from the RV Park. I could understand everything they said both before and after the service. This church was Carson's Chapel and was a methodist church. First time we'd ever been to a Methodist service. It has been great being exposed to all the different types of services. I would never have guessed there could be such a tremendous variation in how American's approach religion. It's amazing, the ways we can acquire new knowledge. There were about 40 people at the service, they even had a choir. The music was provided by an organ and bass. All this, coupled with old time favorite hymns and the beautiful wood paneled church was pleasing to both the ear and the eye. The minister is a local farmer who also pastor's two churches. In our travels we have heard preachers in churches that had hundreds in attendance that were no where as good as this farmer/preacher. Maybe that's why religion has such a bad name.

Our next stop was the Wal-Mart. We needed some more of their salsa, but also wanted to buy an electric blanket. What, you say, have our two hardened former tent campers be soft RV'ers? Well, it could be, but you know, it's not the climbing into the cold bed that so bad, it's the length of time it takes to warm up the bed after we climb into it, smile. Two comforters really hold the heat in, it just takes our skinny bodies a long time to generate that heat, lol. So we go to the bedding department and look and look, then look some more. No electric blankets to be seen, heck, not even a little old blanket. Nothing but comforters as far as the eye could see. We need a heat source, not insulation!. Finally see a lady in blue and ask, the answer was what we expected, they don't carry them. Man, these are tough people up here in these mountains, lol. Not in a rush to go out into the cold weather, we wandered by the bird food. Bottom line, a 10 lb bag of bird food for our existing feeder. It has very little sunflower seeds and more millet and milo. We'll see which species like this one. Do not think she was done with the birds. A bag of nijer thistle caught her eye and faster than a finch takes flight, the bag of thistle and a finch feeder were in the cart. There are either going to be some well feed birds at site 36 this week or one very disappointed lady. I'll bet on the happy birds, smile.  Leaving Wal-Mart we went by GO, but it was closed. We drove on over to Ingles and got most of what we wanted as well as some more of the same smoked turkey they had on sale last Monday. You gotta go with what's good.

Time to head back up the hill, but with a couple of stops on the way. The Marion area is famous for its rock and stone. We're not talking, minerals or gems, nor are we talking sand and gravel, we're talking building and structural stone. There are quarries and rock yards all around town. People say the rocks are the biggest cash crop in this part of the country. We stopped a one on Rt-70 west of town, Table Rock Quarries and were amazed at the amount of stone that is there. About five years ago we had built a small fish pond and planter at our house. We had spent a lot of time picking out the style of stone we wanted. Looking at what was spread out before us, it would have taken us weeks to make the choice from what they had here. To get an idea of the enormous selection of stone they have check out their website. Marion's largest cash crop

Our next stop was the pavilion in the lake thatwas featured in the movie "Dirty Dancing" The "Dirty Dancing" pavilionIt's on posted and patrolled private property so we couldn't actually go out to it, but we took some photos along the road. The neat thing is the movie was set in the mountains of New York, but this pavilion is in the mountains of North Carolina. Nothing is absolutely true on television or in the movies. Because it is only what they decide to show us, it is only the illusion of truth. By the nature of the medium, far more is left out than is shown. Editors edit what is shown. Directors select what is shown. Rant over, smile.
Back at the coach, we hung the new feeder, filled both feeders with food and waited for the birds to come. And waited. And waited . And waited. All to no avail. Not a single bird to be seen. We decided to look at the positive side. It can't get any worse. We'll see what tomorrow brings. We had open face quesadillas for dinner which must have served to whet Linda's appetite. It was later the baking bug bite her. The result was those soft chocolate chip cookies that are simply beyond words delicious. Complimented by butter pecan low fat, no sugar added ice cream it was the perfect end to another day in our life on the road.

Mar 25    Up early today, ready for the workday. Look out the window and there are already groups of people,  standing together, coffee mugs in hand, talking. Maybe they are all the non-retired folks that came up. Nope doesn't look like it, oh well, to each their own, smile. Decide if they can have their coffee, then I can have my tea. I have been a life long tea drinker. Not sure why, maybe I was just rebellious even as a child. Growing up I remember most of the adults in my life always did two things first thing in the morning. They smoked a cigarette and drank a cup of coffee. Actually, it was more like the smoked a number of cigarettes and drank a number of cups of coffee. I remember them saying something about needing a cigarette and a cup of coffee to get going in the morning. Yet there was always one cigarette after another in the ash tray and one cup of coffee after another on the table.

I had a Great Aunt whom I often stayed with that drank something called Postum. It came in a glass jar and instead of putting it in the percolator she just put some in a glass and added hot water. As I got older I remember her telling me she started drinking it during the War when coffee was rationed. Tried it once and though my memory is dim, I recall somewhat of a burnt taste. So here I suddenly am, a teenager in the late 1950's, can't stand cigarette smoke, don't like coffee, what to do. To my rescue sailed Sir Thomas Lipton with his famous bag of tea. Here was an adult beverage, not to popular, but still an adult beverage, that I actually liked. Of course rather than have it in a tea cup, I made mine in a coffee mug, but at least what came out of the mug tasted good. For most of my life a bag of tea was my choice. I drank many different kinds, some, like Earl Grey, I liked, others I didn't. MyEven the water has to be "just right" jobs always seemed to require a lot of travel and slowly I was exposed to different types of tea. Decades before green tea became the popular drink it is today, a paper bag of gunpowder tea was ensconced in my cupboard, ready to give me a warm treat. At the same time, iced tea was the drink for warm weather. Fast forward to the Information Age. A whole new world of tea opens for me. So many teas to try, So many companies to order from. For the last 5+ years I have ordered my tea on line from Upton Tea Imports. There are many other suppliers to choose from, and all have great tea and fast service. If you're a confirmed tea drinker or just want to know more about tea, teamail, which is an email tea discussion group, is a great source of information. They cater to all levels of tea knowledge, from the basic, "I know nothing", to detailed reviews and commentary on tea growing or manufacture by world renowned experts in the field. While I try not to be a purist, I do find that the search for the perfect cup of a new tea can sometimes be elusive. I've found that proper water temperature plays a big factor in getting it "just right". In fact, I've crowed out the words "just right" so many times when I've really nailed a steep that my son got me heavy clear glass mug engraved, "JUST RIGHT!" Reading what I just wrote, I can see why many people get turned off by tea. It's too sophisticated. Let me assure you if you have ever drunk a ten minute steeped cup of young Puerh tea, one that was buried in the dirt only few years instead of a decade or more, you will have a totally new concept of what "strong" means when you refer to have a "strong" cup of whatever in the morning, lol, lol.

Well enough jabbering about tea. There was oatmeal to fix. Could be it for few days as we were using the last of our strawberries. Tasted just as good as ever. Then it was off to the Park workday. Our project was to work on installing landscape timbers on the last of the stream side sites. There were groups doing a number of different projects, a break for lunch then another couple of hours of work. I'll let the photo's tell most of the story except for (sorry Chaucer) "The Cooks Tale" which will be told at a later date with a SWP, Special Website Post, as I want to be able to do full justice to, errr for, the renowned chef Emeril Lafreemee.  I have to say we had a very wonderful time, got to meet and work with some great people. The only thing that could have been better was the weather. It snowned off and on much of the day, plus a cold cutting wind never stopped blowing. Despite this everyone had a great time.

After the workday was over we retired to the coach for some much needed rest, we both took a short nap, man we're a couple of wusses, worked on the website, had sliced roast pork sandwiches for dinner, talk about good!!!! They were nothing more than a slice of bread, fully covered with roast pork, a splash of the pork juices (they have partial congealed) and another slice of bread. Note, it is important that no bread show otherwise you won't have gotten as much pork on the bread as you could have, smile (yes, we LOVE roast pork). Finally watched a movie on cable to finish the day. Oh yes, almost forgot about the apple crisp and ice cream. Now the day was finished for sure, lol.

Cleaning up all the fallen fall leaves.
Cleaning up the fallen fal leaves

Making the pavilion weather tight.
Shutting the cold out of the pavilion

Nailing timbers
Nailing landscape timber

Telephone guys working on timbers
Telephone guys out of their element, lol.

Electricians doing what ever electricans do
Now which wire goes where?                      

Helpers come in all sizes
a little helper

What do you mean, it's off by an inch!!!!
A full crew at work

Gathering of the Union of Professional Sidewalk Superintendents.
Sidewalk Superintendents

Mar 24    Today starts the first big weekend of camping since we arrived at Mountain Stream RV Park. This is the annual work weekend. There will be 16 RV's coming in during the day for a free weekend of camping, camaraderie, work and food. In the very early morning hours a light rain was falling, but it quit before 7AM. It had chased the smaller birds to a safe place in the woods. However the larger birds were still out. Saw a larger black feathered bird I had not seen before. Tried to get a photo, but he was so leery of movement that whenever I moved it would fly away for a while. So it will just have to be known as a large black bird.

After a breakfast of oatmeal and strawberries, had to get a great start to the day, we went up to the equipment shed to get all the hand tools hung and organized for tomorrow. Ron and Becky are out this morning, so Larry is handling the office, checking in the campers as they arrive, while we work up close to the office so we can also greet the campers and help out if needed. Our job was not difficult, but it sure would make using the hand tools easier. We took each tool held it up to the wall, marked the location of two screws that would support it. Drilled the holes and drove the screws. We even managed to get it organized to the point where all the tools of the same type were together. When we were finished, we decided it really did look good.

Row of trailersAs we worked different rigs were arriving. There were motor homes, travel trailers and fifth wheels. We thought it interesting that no one had a Class C. The people who were arriving had all camped here in the past. To them this was a very special place. Everyone had something nice to say about the park and Ron & Becky. As we've said before, this truly is a very special place. For us it was also a special day as our mail packet arrived. Since we are staying here for such a long time we are having the mail forwarded to the campground instead of general delivery at the Post Office. One thing that we don't worry about receiving is bills. We have everything set up to be paid on-line. With the Motosat internet connection it is so easy. Row of motorhomesIt didn't happen over night and there were the expected problems getting several of the accounts set up. It's now been almost four months since we started to convert our accounts and the occasional frustration was more than worth it. This is one area where using technology to the max has really paid off and made our life much easier. Everyone needs to walk their own path when it comes to this area. We like to take the back roads in our travels, but taking the interstate multi lane expressway approach to bills was the right way for us.

This was one of the Sunsetcoldest days we have experienced while work camping. Lunch was a warm up meal for us of white chili. Delicious, hot, filling and nutritious. If it isn't going to be a turkey wrap, it needs to be a 4 star meal, lol. While the soup was warming, Linda decided to undertake a task she had been avoiding for some time, but the cold weather of today convinced her it was time to undertake. You see, the $5 pig skin gloves she had bought in Quartzite, low those many months ago, had developed a hole at the tip of one of the fingers. With the cold wave we were experiencing today, cold air was pouring in through the hole turning her finger into an iciSewing the glovecle. Out came the needle and thread. The day laborer receded and the seamstress came to the fore. Quickly the hole closed. Barely had time to get the camera out and take a picture before she was done. Spent time working on the website then cooked supper, spaghetti with Bob Evans sausage sauce and tossed salad. To walk supper off, we took a couple of laps around the park. Amazing how different it looks with all the rigs here. The sunset was one of those special ones that cried out to have a photo taken. We ended the day by watching Monk and House on USA Network. Of course, as always, accompanied by dessert.         

Mar 23    When I awoke this morning there was a definite chill in the air, since Linda was still asleep it wasn't something I said or did,It was cold this morning smile. It was the air itself. I looked at the indoor outdoor thermometer we have setting on the counter. It was 24º outside, where had that come from? They were predicting 32º-33º the last time I heard the forecast. The water hose is gonna' be frozen, the water filter is gonna be frozen, man I'd better turn on the furnace or Linda and I are gonna' be frozen. Next I've got to go out and take off the Y-valve and filter and leave the hose disconnected to thaw out. Back inside I check and am relieved to see the system heat (for the wet bay) is on, whew, did at least one thing right. Anybody remember the song "Rock Me" by Steppenwolf?It has a verse that goes:

Don't know where we come from
Don't know where we're going to
But if all of this should have a reason
We would be the last to know

Lined up at the feeder That pretty much sums up how I was feeling at the moment, a slight bit out of touch and without a clue. On the bright side, the furnace was now on, drawing water from our tank, I started to boil water for tea and though my fingers where too cold to type, I could sit at the table and watch the birds. Their reaction to the cold was to congregate in greater numbers than usual at the feeder. Looks like even the birds knew how cold it was before I did. Managed to get the camera out and take a few photo's. Normally there only one bird at the feeder at a time. Today it was a full house with a waiting line. Even the Cardinals came by. It was only a few days ago I was wondering if the birds felt anything. Today it appears that the birds know more than I do. Maybe it is true, that we would be the last to know.

With the coach warming up, it wasn't long before Linda's head peeked into the living room, well so much for writing the Great American JournalRemoving the office shutters this morning. Soon the oatmeal was gently bubbling in the pot, fresh sliced strawberries filled a cup and the aroma of Linda's morning coffee filled the air. When we ventured out, trash in hand, the sun was already warming the air. We had one outside job to do. Finish putting the office window shutters away. Ron was in the office and got the keys. I say keys because each window had two locks and the locks were different for each window, Then again one window had two different locks on it. It produced a faint resemblance to the pick up sticks game we played as kids, only with keys and locks instead of sticks. The end result was the same. a jumble of keys and locks, smile. We made short work of the job, in fact Linda had each shutter placed under the office before I was barely off the ladder at each window.

StockgirlAlmost before we knew it, the job was done and we were in the office. What a grand day for an inside job. It is amazing how much needs to be done to bring a RV park out of hibernation and get it ready for the season. Up to now we had been readying the outside areas. Now we would have our first taste of stocking shelves. We would be placing all the tee shirts, tank tops, sweat shirts and hats on the shelves. They were stored in black plastic bags to keep them clean between seasons. First we cleaned the shelves, removed the shirts from the bags. Next we refolded many of them, then sorted them according to size, some sizes had only a few shirts and then only in one or two colors. Other sizes had many shirts in a wide variety of colors. As soon as this year's order comes in the shelves will be full once again.  

The hand , the wound, the woman, the repairBefore we quit for the day we had one other job to do. Since we first started working we had been fighting a stubborn sliding bolt latch at the back of the equipment shed. Today it made a major error. It refused to latch when Linda was trying to close it and she ended up scrapping herself. With screw driver and drill in hand I was going to make it pay the price. When I finished with it, it would be as docile as a lamb. In quick order the screws were removed, the latch lowered about a half inch and centered, new holes drilled and the screws put back in. Job done, Linda happy, Bob happy, life is good. Bring on the turkey wraps!!!

Lunch finished, a new problem cropped up. Linda could not get her desktop computer to recognize the shared drives on the laptop I use.Fixing the shelves This was very important since we keep the web pages stored on the laptop. I finally figured out that we had shut down the laptop and when it booted back up, Norton Internet Security started. Disabling it gave us connectivity once again. I'll tell you , I hate that product so much I will never knowingly buy a Symantec product again. Looking around I found how to configure it to not automatically start. At least something good results from Linda's frustrating experience. Of course that is no all that is frustrating for her.  She is at the point with her web page design that with everything she wants to do, she has to search the net to try to find out how to do it. I've come to look at her questions, not as an interruption, but as the opportunity to learn something new. Growth is sometimes painful but the result can be very rewarding. When she was first wanting to do this she began by looking at as many websites as she could and see what she liked about them. Gave her some great ideas, several which she is using, many of which she would like to use but can't figure out how to get them to work. But someday soon she will, because she can and will keep trying until she knows how. Her method is to work at it until she needs a break, then find a job around the house that is somewhat physical. This afternoons break resulted in the pantry being emptied of all its cans, boxes and assorted containers. The reason being the shelves were bowing and the shelf was separating from the reinforcing strip stapled to it. These are the type of design elements that cause me to shake my head and wonder. If it's designed as a pantry, marketed as a pantry and sold as a pantry, then why won't it hold the items a pantry normally holds. I'm not talking size, I'm talking weight. You'd think the designer figured people would only put bags of potato chips on it. I will definitely be a much more savvy consumer the next time we buy a coach. A little carpenters glue plus a handful of screws and the shelves were better than new. Linda's huge smile as she restocked the shelves told me "I'd done good".

When we were outside fixing the shelves Linda made a startling discovery. The Country Coach that had moved in next to us was a front for what could best be Nice kitty, that's not a nice kitty, It's Duggiedescribed as nefarious activity. The other night we had noticed that instead of the interior being aglow with light, there was only a single solitary lamp burning up at the front of the coach. All else was in darkness, seemed a little strange, but we thought little of it at the time.  As we were out working on the shelves we heard the door of the Country Coach open, then a male voice saying something. At the next opportunity Linda walked up to see who it was. All she saw was the backside of a man quickly walking down the campground road. That was when she noticed the movement in the coach. All she could see was a dark form. Then I hear , "Oh my gosh Bob, you got to come here and see this." Rounding the front of the Country Coach, I started to laugh. Why we had a high priced cat house parked next to us. Up on the dash was the blackest cat I have ever seen. But it was not simply standing there, it was rolling around, rubbing up against the window trying to touch Linda's hand through the glass. This is one case where the term 'cool cat' really applies. I watched for a bit, then finished up the shelves by myself, smile. For dinner we had some of the sliced roast pork from last night that had somehow found its way into our refrigerator, boiled sweet potatoes and salad. Linda baked apple crisp later which was topped with ice cream. The apple crisp has been giving her fits and tonight was no different. She had switched to Golden Delicious apples thinking they would cook down some and render more liquid. Didn't happen. Maybe it has something to do with using Splenda rather than sugar? Even if the texture wasn't what she wanted (it was okay as far as I was concerned) as she takes her cooking seriously, the taste was right on!!!

Mar 22    It's just another day of work camping. I'm not ready to say we are settling into a set work schedule nor am I ready to say it's time to move on down the road. However, the days of the type of work we have been doing are slowly drawing to a close and the routine that accompanies the camping season draws ever closer. With these thoughts in mind, the oatmeal cooks on the stove and the strawberries await to be sliced. Talk about routine, this breakfast is about as routine as can be. Why I'd be half sick at the thought of eating the same thing everyday you say. So would I if it truly were the same each day. It's not. The same birds visit the feeder each morning, yet I never tire of watching them. Life is what we make it. Today, as yesterday and the days before, I try to make my life special. Take a strawberry for example. The ones we bought on Monday were much smaller than what we normally buy. It seems like the stores want to sell the kind that are so large that 10 or 12 fill the pound container. With hollow centers and an thin veneer of red over their white colored flesh, they look great in the store, but lack something in the bowl. These berries are small, some are gnarly in appearance, the fruit is solid, deep red in color and dripping with juice. Not the flashy glamorous berry that catches my eye and entices me, rather the solid good and long lasting variety, the kind we will truly enjoy. As we transition from the flashy, fun projects we have been doing to more mundane, repetitious tasks, may my vision change also, so I see my work as worthwhile, something that helps bring joy to the campers who are here for only an occasional weekend, or perhaps their annual week long vacation.

With these thoughts in mind, we set off to tackle the WB. After yesterdays experience in the mens bathroom (when it was untamed, MB was a apt name, tamed, ready for the season, it is simply the men's bathroom), but today we know what to expect. We marshaled our buckets, cleaners, rags and scrubbers. Retrieved our ladder and quickly dispatched the spots, specs, grime, soap rings and spider webs with speed, clarity and completeness. Other than a slightly more protracted battle with hair in the showers, every single task was far easier today than yesterday. Maybe the saying is true: "Men are such slobs", lol, lol.

Putting all ourTS&TF, the trailer, The WOMAN implements away, we ventured out from the heated bathroom into the arms of a beautiful cool, crisp spring mountain morning. As we walked over to the equipment shed, the last RV of the three that had come in this past weekend slowly pulled out, two cousins from the mid-west enjoying a brief trip to the Carolina mountains. They were returning to the routine of the life they live, we on the other hand were about to start The Sound and the Fury, smile. Our next task would be cleaning out the ashes from the fire pits, a new experience for us. When the season starts this will be one of the regularly scheduled tasks we will be doing. It will be one of our Tuesday jobs, scheduled that day so as to give the ashes time to cool after all the conflagerations of the weekend. Besides, there are a lot less people in the campground on Tuesday giving us easy access to more sites, at least we think it works like that, smile. So, you ask, what does a job like cleaning out the fire pits entail? Maybe you're also wondering just how difficult or physically demanding can it be. After all, it only involves placing a few light, fluffy ashes into a metal can, then later, dumping said can of cold ashes into the dumpster. Allow us to describe our ordeal, err, the easy job it was to clean the fire pits. To prepare we backed out TS&TF, hitched up the trailer, got a long handled flat shovel, drove up to the tool shed, got the small fireplace ash shovel and two metal trash cans. 

The WOMAN and the fire pitStarting with site 40 we check each fire pit as we drive up the road. This starts to get old pretty quickly, so we change our modus operandi. Instead of Linda driving and me getting out at each site to check for ashes. Linda drove the cart and I walked from site to site checking for ashes. Of course when I finally did find a fire pit with ashes, Linda was already three sites further up the road. She stopped and walked back carrying the little ash shovel. Knowing my place in the pecking order of life, I walked up to the trailer and carried the can back. Of course what I should have done was drive the cart back with the can in it. Maybe I was tired, then again maybe I was off my game so to speak. Guess I can't always be the sharpest tack in the box, smile. We shoveled, scraped and shoveled, eventually getting the pit clean. Of course the light fluffy ashes were a water logged, sodden, heavy gooey mess after all the snow and rain we had on Monday. The can, as I carried it to the next site, was already nearing my carrying capacity and we'd only done one site. The next two sites had only a minimal amount of ashes, so once again we were joined up with TS&TF. Linda helped lift the ashes into the trailer and we slowly worked and filled the can to the point where it was too heavy to lift anymore. Of course when this happened, Linda had once again parked TS&TF far away from where we were. A calm dispassionate discussion that allowed each of to present our respective points of view regarding the operation and parking positions of TS&TF took place. At the next fire pit as I worked by myself to clean it out, I decided that perhaps I did not appreciate the help I was getting from Linda, that maybe I had talked without listening and that indeed, maybe it was hard for her to park TS&TF exactly where I thought it should be parked when I didn't bother to let her know what I is thinking. The mysterious yet practical ways of women. By the time all the fire pits had been emptied, five metal cans of ashes had been placed in the dumpster while we worked together in close harmony. Always knew I was teachable, it's just that I have a short attention span when it comes to retaining what she just said, smile.

As we had worked along the stream we both realized What makes Mountain Streaam RV Park specialhow very beautiful this park is. It's no wonder Ron has put the sound of the flowing stream on the park website. Back at the coach we fixed our turkey wraps for lunch, however there was a pleasant surprise in store for us. When you eat the same thing day after day you become very intimate with every nuance of that particular food. We can instantly taste differences in the tortilla's, the peppers, whether green or sweet red, or the mustard, regular, Dijon or garlic (our favorite). Today it was the turkey that provided the surprise. Linda had bought some sliced turkey breast at the deli counter at Ingles on Monday. Thin sliced, but firm and juicy, according to our taste buds, it had been smoked to utter perfection. She had bought it because it was on special. What a find. Just when we think we know it all, we learn something new!! Life on the road, new towns, new stores, new taste treats, we love it.

As we finished eating we noticed a rumble, then a shaking. Next the nose of a coach appeared out the front window. The first of the work weekend campers was arriving. Not only was it the first worker, it very well might be the most important one as well. It was Larry, he of the coma and recent stay in intensive care, driving his Country Coach, wow, the neighborhood is going high class!!! The reason I say the most important worker is because Larry is the cook for this weekend's meals. Furthermore, we have been lead to believe he puts on a show that would make Emeril envious, smile.

 Later we both worked on our respective areas of the website. It takes a lot of time and effort to learn the new things we are trying to implement. One of the more vexing things has been the implementation of a counter for the website. Sounds easy to do, but for some reason it could not be viewed on the homepage. With the help of our son via email we finally solved the problem and it should now be visible. (It would have been easy to link to one of the free counters most people use, but not me). Funny how every symbol in every line of code has to be correct for everything to work properly. It was one of those cases of simply not knowing where and when to look for the error. (The web editor software I use was automatically changing one of the symbols in the code.)

Dinner time found us once again descending the mountain to eat at the Pleasant Gardens Baptist church. Tonight is a covered dish supper. Linda made deviled eggs and a double batch of her chocolate brownies (with the Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate). Throughout the years we've heard stories Baptists in the chow lineabout the way Baptists love their covered dish suppers, tonight we realized they were all true!! As we took our turn and went down the table we saw several sliced roasted turkey breasts, or what we thought was turkey breast. As I was taking a piece I connected it to being in the south. It turned out to be simply divine, juicy, succulent sliced roast pork. Later back at the park we had leftovers for dessert. Didn't want those brownies to go bad, lol, lol. 

 Mar 21    This was a work morning before we even went to work. As you probably know by now, I like to get up early and have some time just for myself while Linda, phrasing it the best I can, relaxes for a while longer before stating her day (we'll see if that passes the editors purview, yesterday we had some serious rewriting that had to done regarding stubborn behavior, lol). Though it might not be apparent, I truly love writing this journal of our adventure, the good, the not so good, the mundane, the repetitious (but I love food, I can't help it), the humorous, but always, what it was that we did that day. Sort of a true life adventure if you will. For the longest time I was on task and that allowed me to keep up on a daily basis with our life. Then came that fateful week late last month where I got behind for what amounted to almost a week. Don't know if I was suffering from writers block or what. Trust me, it ain't a gonna' happen again, lol. Anyway, I make notes on what happens each day then use them to refresh my memory when I sit down to write. So this morning saw me typing away, the keyboard near the smoking point, I was typing so fast. Well maybe not that fast, but I do pretty good with the two finger method I have perfected, smile. So don't be surprised to see multi-page updates posted over the next few days. And I'm not the only one who is busy. Linda is working both on the recipe pages and on a redesign of our homepage. And she's doing this with no past experience at web page design, just a strong desire to make it look and function better. From the brief previews I've seen she's doing great. Well, enough excuses for me and well deserved plaudits for Linda, there's breakfast to cook!!!!

Back to the old standby, yep, oatmeal and strawberries. We found a good deal on strawberries yesterday, $1.69 a pound, so two pounds are now residing in our refrigerator, hopefully to last the week. They were really ripe, but by refrigerating them their shelf life can be significantly extended without appreciable "off season" loss of quality. There are times when we lower our standards until locally picked fresh berries are available, sigh.

Today is going to be a little more "real world" work camping but we are mentally prepared, so bring it on, for this is the day we bring the MB out of its winter hibernation. It wasn't like MB was still slumbering, as we have already had Washing the MB's ceilingRV's in the park, but what had been done to date was the equivalent of kicking it enough to wake it up. It was warm and had its life giving fluid flowing through its veins. Even so, the detritus of last season clung tightly to its vital organs. There were the tale-tell lines of Arachnids, the spots that marked the passing of Musca domestica Linnaeus, why there was even the dreaded remnant ring of body surfactant. We approached its lair with a mixture of trepidation, false bravado and misplaced confidence. Within moments we would be committed to our course of action.

We swallowed hard and attacked the..... Mens Bathroom. As befits Linda's high position, she got up on the step ladder and started cleaning the upper walls and ceiling with an oxy-clean type of product to remove hundreds of little spots. Our goal to return the MB to its lofty Good Sam rating status of 9.5. Stretching, reaching, wiping, cleaning, no spot too small nor too far, all fell before the onslaught of the Magnificent Washer Woman of Mountain Stream. Above shower, above commode, over bench and sink, on wall, on heater, over bench and basin, all gleamed white where her cleaning cloth doth pass. The pressure wasWashing the MB's walls on, the bar had been set, could I also pass the test? The job was going great until I reached the showers. They are fiberglass and held two very nasty surprises. The dreaded soap scum, and, as I soon learned, the even more Cleaning the MB's lightsdreaded human hair. Attacking the soap scum with the available cleansers and wipes resulted only in the expenditure of copious amounts of both elbow grease and cleanser with no reduction in the actual object of all this activity.

I was quickly reduced to referring to the offending coating as "the scum of the earth" and decided this phrase originated in the baths of ancient Rome. Everyone probably thought the Roman Emperor was referring to the slaves working in the baths when he first uttered the term, "scum of the Earth", but what he was actually referring to was the ring of soap residue that encircled his personal bath, smile. The scum final fell to an assault of "Freds Bathroom Cleaner" (it actually lived up to the claims on the label to remove soap scum) assisted by a green 3M scratch pad powered by a moderate amount of elbow grease.

Much too much rinsing and wiping later, it seemed like days, but probably was only hours, lol, the last hair was banished from the first shower and the second one attacked. This one was smaller and the task was completed in much less time. Meanwhile, Linda had been busy cleaning the overhead lights and was now ready to mop the floor as soon as I could take out the ladder. Moments later the job was completed. We felt good and the MB looked great!!

Clutter Happens!Our work for the day over, we retired to the coach to eat lunch, turkey wraps of course, and spend some time doing nothing. After spending a few minutes doing nothing I quickly became bored and as something was better than nothing, once again began working on the web page. Linda, being of the same mindset, was soon involved in the almost daily activity of clutter reduction. When you live full-time in an RV, clutter happens. (other things happen also but we won't go there right now, smile)

Then a really good thing happened. Becky had gone over to Asheville to the Sam's Club to get some things for the park store andhad asked Linda if there was any thing she wanted. One of the things we have not been able to find in the stores during our travels is Ghirardelli 60% Cocoa Bittersweet Chocolate. It's what makes Linda's chocolate chip cookies over the top. Well what should Becky find, but this exact type of chocolate, and in the three pound bags we always buy. Heck, this was even better than Becky telling us we did a great job on the MB, lol,lol.

Salsa chickenDinner was once again salsa chicken done the exact same way I described a few days ago. This is one awesome meal and tonight I remembered to take a picture. Note the near perfect placement of all the different food items. For a few moments I could visualize myself as a food stylist, you know, the ones that make the avertizing photos look unreal. Clockwise from the top: Non-fat sour cream, sauted rubbed chicken smothered in salsa, tomayos, green onions and our special refried beans, all on a bed of lettuce.

Later Linda worked on her web pages as I wrote for the daily journal. She's once again working to get the recipe pages into a semblance of order. What layout to use, include photo's, yes or no, provide a little more detail on how we cook it, what specal things we do, or just list ingredients and very basic directions. Decisions, decisions, decisions. The first attempt at the first edition, subject to repeated revision should be out in the next ten days, I hope, smile. Tired but still tasting our brownies and ice cream we closed up shop and headed to the back of the house.


Mar 20    Remember the song by the carpenters, Rainy Days and Monday? Well that's what we faced this morning. However unlike the words of the first verse: Talkin' to myself and feelin' old; Sometimes I'd like to quit; Nothing ever seems to fit; Hangin' around; Nothing to do but frown; Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.  That is not how we felt this morning. We were talkin' to each other; feeling happy; ready to get going today; have things to do; need to get going on this Rainy Monday. Now I would be the first to admit that just a few scant months ago the words to the song were probably closer to how I felt on a day like today than the words that I just wrote. What about the birds? There are none at the feeder this rainy Monday morning. Are they huddled somewhere against the weather? What do they feel? Anything? Nothing? Questions I can not answer, but I miss my little friends.

Today we are breaking with our routine and having french toast for breakfast. This a meal you need to plan for if you want it "just right". Fresh bread just does not cut it, it needs to be stale. So last evening after dessert, Linda carefully laid 4 pieces of whole wheat bread at a slight angle up against the backslash. This was done to attain complete air circulation, thus ensuring perfectly Our inside clothes lineuniform stale bread which in turn leads to perfect French Toast. Toss in a little whole wheat flour, fresh ground nutmeg and a few other ingredients, toast lightly on a medium hot griddle, serve with some sugar free syrup and a side of Canadian Bacon, and get total and complete perfection for breakfast. You had to know if it was something other than oatmeal with strawberries, it was going to be great. With a meal like that there is no way the words to the Carpenter's song could reflect our mood, lol, lol. While all this was going on, Linda was washing a load of clothes, which because we were going to leaving soon to go into Marion shopping, ended up hanging from various hooks and latches in the coach so they wouldn't wrinkle. Wonder if they'll be dry when we return, eh, eh.

As we got ready to leave, we looked out and saw snow!!! Wasn't heavy and it wasn't sticking, but it was snow. This meant the trip to Marion would be delayed for a time while pictures are taken and emails sent to make sure everyone in our family knew we were suffering terribly in this miserable North Carolina weather, lol. Emails sent, we were on our way.

There is snow in the airWe had light snow most of the way down the mountain which changed to sleet and rain, then rain as we arrived in Marion. First stop was the Wal-Wart. This is a small store with much less selection than a Super Center. We checked for some things but only found the salsa we like. Decided to check some other stores for salsa so didn't buy anything. Back outside the store the weather has now changed to sleet and rain.

Drove in towards town and stopped at the G.O., aka, Grocery Outlet. One of those stores that has a wide variety of items, mostly manufactures closeouts, label changes, freight damaged goods, etc. One of those roll the dice kind of places where sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Being strangers to this neck of the woods, maybe I should say this side of the mountain, lol, we knew we were going to make Deep fried peanuts, you eat the shell and allsome mistakes, but what the heck, nothing ventured nothing gained. They actually had a number of things we gambled on, even bought some produce, grapes and lettuce (gonna' have salsa chicken again) and then I made a real find, fried in the shell peanuts. The display said, "Fried Peanuts, Eat 'em, Shell 'n All" Talk about waving a red flag in front of a bull, I almost ran down a little old stock clerk getting over there, picked up the bag and decided I'd like to try these. Of course there's nothing on the bag to indicate you eat the whole kit 'n caboodle, so why not as the clerk and find what the locals know about them. Her response was, "We carry them, people buy them, never ate them myself." Okay, I think, not the most scintillating reccomendation, maybe she's not a local. Let's think about this a little more. Notice there are two types, salted and Cajun. Think some more. I can understand the salt, after all isn't salt pork a staple around here, but the Cajun? Do they taste so bad they've got to be spiced up to be edible? Looking at the label it doesn't inspire a great deal of confidence. Looks like something made in someone's kitchen at home, maybe it is. Then again, maybe somebody cooks this up in a discarded oil drum to disguise the smell of the sour mash whiskey they are distilling on the back forty. Pretty much assured the clerk wasn't a local, I decided to do what I thought the locals did and dropped a bag into the cart.

Emerging from the store we found it was now raining hard with some snow mixed in for good measure. Found the next store, Ingles, without a problem. Ingles is the opposite of G.O., upscale with lots of choices, roomy isles and helpful clerks. Of course the prices were somewhat different also, smile. Undeterred, plus with all the money we had saved by, 1. not buying anything at Wal-Mart and 2. by saving money on what we bought at G.O., our budget looked safe. In addition Linda pointed out it is a monthly budget, so what, we go over it a little or even a lot today, we'll make up for it later. Yeah, sure we will, dear. Linda did manage to exercise a good deal of restraint as we we able to carry our shopping bags out to the Explorer in only one shopping cart, lol. By now we were walking through a slippery slushy mixture in the un-trafficked areas. Might be "fun" driving back up the mountain. We still had one more stop to make, the Wal-mart again, since we needed the salsa to make salsa chicken to use the lettuce we had bought earlier. This might be turning into a viscous circle if we don't watch out!! Up to this point we had been doing quite well navigating around town. As I was starting the Explorer, Linda remembered she hadn't called any of our kids and since the cell phone doesn't work up on the mountain, now was the time to make those calls. At this same moment I was deciding I knew my way around this town well enough to take another route to the What we found when we returned to the coachWal-Mart, instead of retracing the roads we had taken to get here. I will not divulge any of the gory details, no divorce papers were filed, we got to see parts of town only long time residents know about and we did eventually find the Wal-Mart, though most likely only someone driving an ancient pickup truck, and named Billy Bob, would go that way, smile.

Rain and snow fell as we drove up the mountain, but the roads were only wet and the trip was uneventful. I think Linda was secretly hoping for bad roads so we could put it into 4 wheel drive, smile. Rainy/snowy days mean inside the coach days, well at least if your at the coach, and after putting all our purchases away we decided to vacuum and clean. We had bought quite a few things, but somewhat to my surprise they all fit easily into the various cupboards and the refrigerator. As I've said, the four door refrigerator/freezer was one thing I had lobbied for when we were looking at RV's and we're both glad we got it (ranks right up there with the 3 slides and the washer/dryer). The neat thing about living in a small home is it doesn't take long to clean.

Linda  was almost done vacuumingPart living like this is cleaning the coachthe living room before I looked up from the computer. She calls it not paying any attention on my part, I call it speed and efficiency on her part. Tearing myself away from the computer, I dutifully moved furniture, all four pieces and praised her for the excellent job she was doing. You'd think that after the "incident" with the wrong route to the Wal-Mart I'd be on my best behavior, what can I say, maybe I was just born with a stubborn streak (along with a number of other bad traits Linda says). Of course she does not believe she stubborn at all, no siree, not at all, smile.

Time passes, another web page get written and uploaded, someday I'll have to write about the programs I use for these tasks. I open the bag of fried peanuts, check the internet and find this link. A western North Carolina regional specialty it says. I try one. Wow, this isn't bad at all. Actually it is different for sure, but you know how it takes more than one of anything to know for sure. The second one better than the first. Fast forward, I eat almost the whole 10 oz package, they're worse than potato chips when it comes to having just one. Linda had a couple of handfuls also. She decided they were good, but next time I should get the other variety, salted only, no Cajun spices. There isn't enough peanut flavor in these Cajun ones to suit her. This means I'll have to buy two bags next time, mine and one for her in case she likes them. If she doesn't, I'll just have to eat both of them, smile. The white bean chili gets started, the aroma fills the coach, I make a mug of hot chocolate, we are content in our home on wheels, life is good. The white bean chili will definitely be on the recipe page. We enjoy CSI Miami, brownies & ice cream, laugh at Letterman's jokes and as midnight beckons, fold clothes and call it a very wonderful day.

Finch at the feederMar 19    Greeting the day this morning were the finches, still in their drab winter colors. Their frequent visits and they are frequent, because at anytime during the day one or more of them can be seen at the feeder, piqued my interest. It's my time of the morning, what better a way to spend it than searching the net to find out about my little friends. This resulted in discovering the wonderful site hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. As I've said before, we are not "bird" people, both of us just like birds but I find that a site like this is better than bird books for me because it has many more photos. These photos show the birds in different seasons and they can also be manipulated. Furthermore the actual song of the bird can be played. as opposed to some funny graph in a book, remember we are not birders. This doesn't mean we still won't use our bird book when were are away from the internet. Here I am, getting so caught up in the technology of the delivery of information about these birds that I'm not enjoying my feathered friends for the sheer enjoyment their mere presence can bring, shame on me.

Our plans for today have changed because the weather forecast is predicting a change. Remember, Sunday and Monday are our days off. You could say while we have most of everyday off, we have all of Sunday You won't believe what those people are doing now!and Monday off, lol. The forecast is calling for cold, rainy weather on Monday, so rather than following our usual pattern, we plan to get in our sightseeing today and then shop tomorrow in Marion instead of going up to Spruce Pine. Following our breakfast of oatmeal and strawberries we prepared to walk across the street to the little church we have enjoyed attending. But first we had to check out the campground. There are three other rigs here this weekend. One of them, a travel trailer came in early on Friday night, set up and the truck that pulled the trailer took off and hasn't returned. We've seen several people over there and the lights are on in the evening. While we will never know about the people in the trailer we can have fun trying to imagine what might cause this scenario. Then there is the other travel trailer that pulled in Saturday afternoon. Pulled by a big black Suburban we were surprised when two ladies and a large German Shepherd emerge. It has to be just a wee bit crowded in that trailer. The third rig is a 36 or so foot long gas motor home. Parked up at the upper end of the campground, it has a couple who take a lot of walks and also take a lot of photo's. The are probably not from around here. Why not let our imaginations run wild, we'll never know the difference and it's great entertainment, smile.

A while later we were seated in the little church across the road with 12 other people The little church across the roadbesides ourselves. As usual, the songs were sung with feeling, the message delivered from the heart. I want to relate something that happened prior to the service this morning. This is the most casual church I have ever attended. Lots of chatter back and forth, friends and relatives greeting each other. There is only one problem for me. Other than Linda, Ron and Becky, I can barely understand anything anyone else says. These people are quite truly the salt of the earth. Natives of these mountains, they talk with an accent that is nearly incomprehensible to my ears. I don't know if it is considered a dialect, an accent or regional speech, but whatever it is, for me it literally goes in one ear and out the other. I chuckle when the music director announces the next song because the only way I know what it is, is to look at which page in the song book Becky has turned to. The funny thing is, once the preacher, Jimmy Buchanan, starts to preach, I have no trouble understanding what he is saying. Why?Who knows.

Crabtree Falls, just go down After church we fixed turkey roll ups to go and drove up to Crabtree Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Crabtree meadows area is actually closed for the season, but you can park out front, climb around the locked gate, follow the road back to the campground and then walk over to the trailhead where the trail starts. There were two other cars parked out front when we arrived. It had been rather pleasant at the campground so I only had a sweater on, while Linda was wearing a light sweatshirt. No sooner had we started walking up the road leading to the trailhead than we noticed a definite chill in the air. In fact it was downright cold. The wind cut like a knife as they say, sending a bone chilling cold throughout our bodies. Figuring it couldn't get worse, we walked on. While we never got used to the cold. we found it wasn't as biting once we crested the rise and started down toward the campground.

Micro environmental campsites?Along the way, in the woods, we stopped to look at an area that had a bunch of pipes sticking up. Ones that are just like the sewer connections you find in a campground. We joking decided this must be the Parks primitive environmental tent section. But to make it totally environmentally correct each site has a sewer hook-up, lol.Never did see anything that gave a clue as to what it's actual purpose was, maybe a septic system leach field?

We located the trailhead and started the trek down into valley where the falls is located. Linda was quick to note the trail was a loop, 0.9 miles from the trailhead to the falls, with a longer loop returning to the parking lot. I strongly suspected we would be taking the shorter trail both ways, (I was correct). The trail goes through quite a variation both in terrain and vegetation. The photos below should give you some idea of what to expect. The sign says the trail was strenuous, however we found it to be more strenuous in terms of footing than difficulty.An evergreen canopy on the trail to the fallsDown the rocky trail we go

We marveled at the deciduous forest, devoid of leaves, only the bare trunks and limbs providing a three dimensionality to the backdrop of brown leaves that litter the ground. Being westerners, it is a scene we are not used to seeing. We marveled at the beauty of it. We also noticed how the tree trunks varied, each providing its own signature in the forest. The way of nature is so magnificent.

As we descended the trail we passed through a canopy of either rhododendron or Down steps we descendedmountain laurel, down wooden steps, and across rocky slopes. Finally we heard the sound of the falls, butFirst glimpse of the falls through the trees only the winter forest met our searching eyes. Suddenly looking up we could see the faint tendrils of white through the mesh of the forest that marked the falls. We spend quite a bit of time just sitting and enjoying the falls. We had read that it was far prettier at times of lower water when it was lacy rather than solid. This was one of those times. Maybe if we get a lot of rain while we are here we will return to see it in its different dress. There was only one other family down at the falls, so we had a virtually uninterrupted view and my imagination could run wild. We also noticed the weather seemed to be warming up as we sat there. It is a very pretty, tranquil place
Then man intrudes upon the beauty of the place, or dose he? Is there beauty without man to behold it?

Returning up the same trail we had descended we kept asking each other, did you see this or that on the way down? Was it that ourWhat are the" rings" on this tree caused by? eyes were focused on the the trail itself going down, while as we ascended they were uplifted, taking in all nature has to offer?I was especially intrigued by the "ringed" tree we passed. So much to know and so little time to learn.

We detoured through the camp ground which has 3 loops, one for RV's, the other two for tents. This was an old campground, designed for the camping units of 50 years ago. It was most definitely not for 40' RV's with multiple slides. We noticed some larger "sites" that might accommodate a 30' rig and also some level sites, but no long, level sites, smile. Returning to the parking lot we decided to eat before we returned to the campground, but rather than eating in the car we drove south along the Parkway and stopped at the Crabtree Meadows picnic area. It to was gated and closed for the season, but there was room to park the Explorer in front of the gate and walk the few hundred feet to a group of picnic tables set on a bluff with a nice view of the winter forest across the valley. Getting our wraps out, we noticed the wind was stronger and the chill had once again become more knife like. Huddled together we devoured our turkey wraps and wondered how hard it was for the early settlers in these mountains to survive. How often the joy of a place is not from what our senses show us, it's from what our imaginations tell us.

As we descend Rt-80 back to the campground I pulled off at one of the hairpin turns to take a picture. This is one of those things that can drive you batty. Every time we would go past this turn I would remark, OK, next time I've just got to stop and take a picture. Of course the next time I'd say the same thing again. Today I actually stopped!! This is why they don't recommend trucks on this section of the highway, note all the tire marks on the road, lol.

Rt-80 hairpin curve with skid marksIf you travel this road in an RV make sure you understand this is a very long, very narrow, very curvy section of mountain road with no pull-offs available. We travel it in the Explorer and I down shift to a gear low enough I don't have to use the brakes very much and yet there is still a slight odor of hot brakes when we arrive at the campground. RV's do travel this upper section, but they do it verrry sloooowly. The things that make the mountains special can also make the mountains difficult and at times, even dangerous.

In the late afternoon we just relaxed, watched some TV, worked on the website and  washed a couple of loads of clothes. Having the washer/dryer in the coach makes this so easy. For dinner we fixed turkey burgers using a griddle on top of the stove. With our southwestern beans, makes a great tasting simple, easy to prepare meal. Since we had eaten the last of the peach cobbler last night, it befell Linda to bake something for tonight. After all we can't go to bed hungry, smile. She decided to bake some brownies, since Becky had mentioned they were interested in some of the desserts we cook. Actually Becky had said, "How can you two eat all the desserts you do, including ice cream, and stay so thin?" Linda decided to show her by doubling the recipe for the brownies and taking half down for Ron and Becky to enjoy. Part of Linda's joy of baking brownies is getting to lick the spoon. Part of my joy is the wonderful aroma that permeates the coach as they are cooking. The other part is doing the requisite "quality control" testing on the just baked product. We both share in this duty, smile. Is it life itself that is the miracle, or is the miracle that day after day life can be so wondrous.

Mar 18    "Get up, get up sleepyhead", the birds seemed to be singing this morning. We have finches, their yellow coloring seemingly intensifyingCardinal in tree by the day, chickadee's with their distinctive striped head and tufted titmice fluttering around the feeder. In the branches of the tree which the feeder hangs from, I spy a male cardinal, in all his crimson glory, awaiting his turn to alight on the narrow perch of the feeder to partake of his breakfast. As he traverses the few feet to the feeder, his place is taken by a mourning dove, a large though gentleMourning dove in tree guardian of the other doves searching the ground under the feeder for a tasty morsel with which to start their day. This is one of the things I can never get tired of.

 What is the "stuff" of a person who would not take pleasure from a scene such as this? I can fondly remember as a little boy, the pleasure my mother got from feeding the birds. It was important to her, it became important to me. Did I learn to love this small intimate pleasure by watching her or was it something innate that I along with all mankind are born with? Questions like this is what always makes this time of morning so special to me. That tiny fraction of eternity that is mine and mine alone. Do you take time for yourself today? I find it to be one of life's greatest pleasures.

Linda's tomato seedling at 2 weeksBut the birds are not all that rests at the window. New to life only a scant 10 days ago, Linda's fledgling tomato plant is spreading its leaves, green color deepening, spindlely stock evolving into a sturdy stem. Of one thing I am certain. No tomato has had more affection bestowed upon it than this youngster struggling to survive and eventually thrive in this, our home on wheels. Where did she get this intense pleasure she holds in planting seeds and pampering the resulting plant which in return gives it's fruit to her to savor and enjoy. Did she learn this from watching her mother on the small farm she grew up on, or was it something she was just born with. It's not a question with answer, but it is a wonder to behold. Life, what a wondrous thing.

The time for the spring camping season is fast approaching.  We know there some things on the work agenda that need to be completed  this week prior to next weekends annual work weekend at the park. However we're just not sure what they are, smile. So after our breakfast of oatmeal and sliced strawberries, sweetened with Stevia and topped with walnuts and cinnamon (you didn't think we could stay away from it two mornings in a row did you?) we went down to the office.

Ron was in jovial mood, but then the man is almost always in a jovial mood, and asked us to trim the trees blocking the road sign plus those overhanging the entrance road and also the area in front of the office. SoundsThe "Tool Shed" simple, but the first problem was finding the pruning and trimming tools. These are to be found in the recesses and crevasses of the "Tool Shed". Understand this "Tool Shed" must be differentiated from the tool shed that comprises the back section of the equipment shed. The difference is slight but significant. Tools can easily be found in the tool shed. Light and organization abound. The deft touch of a woman is seen in order, categorization and neatness. Some piles do exist, but they are organized. That is not the case with the Tool Shed". The hand of man is readily apparent. Why organize when just the knowledge that said tool is contained within its four walls is enough information to eventually locate said tool. It is in there, therefore it is secure. Man's desire is to have tools, to have those tools kept in a safe place and to have the knowledge of these facts. The exact location of the tool does not matter, what matters is that the tool exists. Thus it is with the "Tool Shed", cornerstone of the Realm of Ron. One must delicately approach such a depository for the keeper of the vault and only the keeper of the vault knows where every hammer, every nail, every scrap piece of wire, the broken knife or the box that once held the drill is located. More important than actually locating what you are looking for is making sure EVERYTHING is returned to exactly where it was before you moved it.

With these thoughts in our mind we opened the door of the "Tool Shed". Dame fortune was smiling on us today and we quickly located enough tools to at least make it look like we know how to trim a tree without disturbing anything in said shed. The first task was trimming the tree that overhangs the sign out by the road. What can be difficult about Bob trimming along the entrance roadtrimming a little old tree along a road in the western North Carolina mountains, you ask. It has to do with that word - mountains. You know, canted, inclined, steep, precipitous. We needed to trim the tree back so the light that illuminates it at night is not blocked. The lights are down on the side of the slope, the sign perched high above. The only way to determine the angle of the light was to descend down the slope to the lights with trimmer in hand and using it to determine the path of the light, trim the offending branches. Unfortunately no photo's were taken to document the severity of this task, but suffice it to say, only a man of my nearly superhuman balance and dexterity could have successfully completed this job. If you think otherwise, you'll just have to attempt it yourself, smile. Of course after the offending branches had been cut, they, the trimmer and my by now more than slightly exhausted body needed to be hauled back up the slope I had so smugly descended  those long hours ago, OK, it was only minutes, but it seemed like hours to me, lol. Finally the task was completed and Linda did her part by hauling away the branches I had trimmed. She said we both did our parts, I said yes dear, we did, didn't we.
Linda with a load of trimmings
Next we tackled the branches that were overhanging the entrance road. The road slopes downward so that it gives the illusion the branches are much closer than they actually are. We had noticed these branches the first time we drove into the park and commented to one another that this would certainly be one of our jobs. Today it was. Between Linda's sharp eye and my ability to manipulate the unwieldy trimmer (I decided the trimmers we had on the west coast were far superior to east coast trimmers. After all we have real trees like Redwoods and Sequoia's out there, not these scrawny little 50 to 80 foot shrubs that pass as trees here, smile,) we tackled this job. Twenty minutes later the entrance road was lookin' good. Again we gathered up the trimmings and cast our eyes on the beautiful cherry tree with the hanging limbs that stands in front of the office. Ron came out and gave us some explicit instructions on what to cut and what not to cut. With one or two, well lets just say, with a few exceptions, designed only to improve the appearance of the finished project, we sorta stuck to what he told us. Actually our trim job doesn't look too bad and besides trees grow fairly fast so in a few years who'll notice anyway, smile, just kidding, Ron.

The next job we undertook gave new meaning to our job title - work campers. I've always been a hard worker. Exhausting physical I hate this job, but it's got to be done, grrrrrlabor never bothered me, my Dad saw to that by introducing me to it at a very young age and then by his and my great uncle's examples helped me understand nothing isSee, we both thatched!!! impossible if you put your mind to it. But of all the jobs we did, the one that I absolutely detested was thatching the yard. Dad was proud of the yard even though it had more weeds than grass. It took a near miracle to get anything to grow in the brownish yellow clay that passed for soil where I grew up, So every spring I had to go out with the garden rake and scratch up the "soil" and pull out the thatch. So what was our next job today, it was to scratch and thatch the grass between the sites, starting with site one and doing as many as we could of the 40 sites. Today for me, work camping became WORK camping, smile.

We did get a break when the next work camping couple came over from Johnson City to visit. They had been here several years ago and were coming back since it is such a nice place. My one hope is that the forecast is for rainy cold weather for the next week or so. As that song goes Que sera, sera. (Who knows, maybe Doris day will stop by the campground and everyone will get so distracted they will forget about thatching Coachthe grass.) Finally the WORKday ended and it was lunch time.
Turkey wraps, as good as it gets (well not quite Helen Hunt!!!!)
We fixed a plate great of turkey wraps, yogurt, cottage cheese, grapes and pita chips. With food like this I could even see myself thatching grass, lol. Spent the rest of the day relaxing and watching TV.

We sure do enjoy having the national local channels on TV. Everyday we know just how many people were murdered in each of the New York City Boroughs and then later all the details of the latest high speed chase in Los Angeles. Are we the modern hi-tech family or what. With cobbler and ice cream once again closing out the day, we ended another week of work camping.

Mar 17    Would you believe it, we had shredded wheat for breakfast.  Of course the fact we are getting low on oatmeal was a contributing factor. Nonetheless, I still ended up slicing the strawberries, smile. I know many people do not eat breakfast, but I find we both find we get hungry if we skip it. Breakfast dishes done, we were ready to start the day, being once again on our on. It is one of those special days when the weather is warm, the trees are blooming and the sky is a most intense blue. Makes you glad to be alive. Since we had some time before we needed to start, we decided to do some clutter reduction inside the coach.  Sure, I know I just spent time waxing poetic about how gorgeous this day is, but when clutter reaches a certain point something's got to be done. We find that when we're on the road traveling things get put back were they belong, after all, who wants to spend extra time cleaning up every time we move to a new place. It is different when we are parked for a while. Habits erode, items we don't normally use are brought out for something special and after a while the big house we live in starts shrinking. The transition is not really noticeable at first. A coffee mug or tea cup left out on the back of the counter. The oatmeal container not returned to the cupboard because we will just need it again tomorrow morning. Then the dam breaks and huge chunks of counter space disappear, quickly followed by a chair or two and the couch. It ends when Linda decides to reign me in. For my part, I'm a man, ain't I supposed to live like a slob, lol, lol. I'll just say it's a mutual effort attributable to both of us that generates and removes the clutter. It actually wouldn't take long to put everything away if I could just learn not to politely inquire of my mate as to the reason why this or that item was not put away. She claims I'm not teachable, I claim to be easily distracted, she's probably right, sigh. Once she had got my undivided attention and I understood what needed to be done, the task was quickly and efficiently completed.

Emerging from a well organized coach, we donned our work camper persona and jauntily approached the equipment shed. Almost before I knew it, Linda had the garden tractor fired up and was backing it out. Now there is a small untold story of how it got from the pavilion (with a dead battery) over to the shed. If you'll remember, we had not been able to get the battery charger to work, so we had simply left it under the pavilion the other day. Turns out Ron went out the next morning to check on it, whereupon it immediately started for him. He thought we had charged the battery overnight and then unhooked it earlier in the morning! We all had a good laugh when he told us it started right up for him, though I thought I may have detected a twitch in Linda's face, lol.

Todays project was installing landscape timbers on one side of site 27. Ron and Becky endeavor to have no bare ground in the campground. (bare ground + rain = mud) All the parking pads consisting of a light colored stone and the area between them grass. Preparing site 27This type of stone locks together very well and forms a hard packed surface. Unfortunately at this site there was no landscape timber barrier to separate it from site 26. Over time the rock had slowly migrated down a slight slope resulting in the widening of the pad to the point that RV's parked on the site were getting too close to the ever decreasing in size, site next to it. I'm sure anyone in site 27 loved the extra room, but the opposite was true if you were in site 26. Over the years we've camped in sites where I can relate to this situation. Since we were not sure where to position the timbers, yesterday we had placed a line of sticks from the back of the site to the front and had asked Ron to arrange them where he wanted the timbers. This made it easy for us to determine the line to follow. To pull the gravel back into site 27 we used the rake, then for more horsepower, the hoe and finally the shovel. Eventually we had a prepared bed on which to lay, drill and spike the timbers. Since we were only making 2 cuts today we used the hand saw rather than get out the chop saw. The final preparation for the bed for the timbers took some time. We have learned the more time you spend on getting the timbers set right, the better the job looks. We had dug out a mix of gravel, dirt, and white stone. Since backfilling with this would make the finished job look crappy to say the least, we got the wheel barrow and screen so we could sift out the dirt and backfill with clean stone. A little more work, but the results are a site that looks just like the ones one on either side of it. Plus it gives us the satisfaction of having done a job done right.

As we were hauling our tools back to the shed, Ron & Becky drove in. It's always a good feeling to tell them what we have accomplished while they've been gone. They mentioned there would be several campers coming in for the weekend, Proud of our workgave us the site numbers and asked us to make sure they were ready for them. We cleaned the fire pits and removed a couple of branches that were on the pads. We asked ourselves if this site was in the condition we would want it in if it was us coming in tonight and agreed it was. Before the evening was over, three RV's had pulled in and setup along the stream. The season edges ever closer.

Our work done, we retired to the house where I busied myself with the website and Linda surfed on the other computer. Before we knew it, it was time to prepare dinner. I started to type "fix supper", but that just doesn't due justice to what we do, lol. We decided to have Salsa chicken, a deceptively easy dish that requires a deft touch for perfection. My method is to take boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pat completely dry. Prepare a rub from equal parts chili powder, New Mixico chili powder (for a touch of spiciness) and cumin. This is dusted on both sides of the chicken to make a very thin coating, then salt and pepper one side and saute' over medium heat in about 2 T EVOO for 5 minutes, grinding a good amount of pepper only, no salt, on the other side once they are in the skillet. Turn and saute' the other side for 5 minutes. Spread about 1 cup of store bought salsa (I know, I know, but there's more coming) over and around the breasts, cooking until any water has been reduced and the salsa thickens.

We enjoy this served over a bed of lettuce with chopped tomato and onion, sliced avocado and a dollop of non-fat sour cream on the side.  The chicken is so tender it can easily be cut with a fork and the overall taste is simply divine. Now back to that store bought salsa. We've found several truisms about store bought salsa. One is that salsa made in "New York City" just doesn't cut it, lol. Another is that cooking it this way seems to move it up on the spice index. Part of that is the amount of ground pepper we use, if you want it to be mild, don't use much or any ground pepper and make sure you start with a very mild salsa. Of course you can always leave the New Mexico chili powder out of the rub, but if you do that, then it's not a rub, just some ground up brown and red stuff, smile. Next, make sure you don't start with a salsa high in sodium (salt) unless you like your food really salty. Took us a while to figure that one out, but no longer have a problem with it being to salty. We have used both fresh salsa and also the kind you by in the jar or jug with excellent results. Our current favorite, and don't laugh, is Sam's Choice all natural Thick & Chunky Salsa from Wal-Mart of all places. It gives us just the right amount of taste and zip, plus we only use half of the jar leaving the rest for dipping our chips in. That allowed us to make a startling discovery tonight.

Remember those Mission Whole Wheat Tortillas that were a complete washout for turkey wraps? Well, Linda popped one in the microwave for a minute to a side, that's how we make our dipping chips, and low and behold they turned out totally awesome. Over the years we've made hundreds of tortilla's into chips this way and these were the best we've had in a long, long time. I take this as a  delicious but gentle reminder that everything has a purpose. Sometimes we just have to spend more time searching for it, smile.

This was the great start we we're looking for as tonight had something very special coming up. The season ending episode of "MONK". If you watch this show on Friday nights on USA Network you know what I mean. If you don't you might want to try it some time. We find it indescribably funny, you can get an idea what it's about from the Monk Website. As we laughed and enjoyed peach cobbler and ice cream, the day came to a close.


Mar 16    How do you greet the day? What is your routine? Does it vary depending whether it is a weekday or the weekend? For years mine was the same Monday thru Friday, differently the same on Saturday and then again on Sunday. No more, for now the start of each day is like the day before and the day after. A day of life. Take this morning for example. Up early, sitting at Browsing deerthe table, a cup of steaming hot tea rests by my hand, the birds flocking to the feeder a scant few feet away, a deer in the small meadow across the stream, a day of life. This my special time each day. Sometimes I listen to the radio, sometimes I just sit and look out the window, other times I read from a book, though usually I use the internet to simply find something that interests me. It may challenge me, cause me to think or merely entertain me. This morning I was browsing, just like the deer I was watching when the most delectable treat was presented to me. One of the sites I enjoy is  a poetry site; For some reason I decided to browse the poetry of William Wordsworth, one of the greatest of the English romantic poets. It was my High School English teacher, Mrs. Jones who challenged me to broaden my horizons and opened in me a life long love of great literature in all its forms. But I digress as usual, smile. This site has all of the over 900 poems Wordsworth wrote and which one should I pick, but the one that has among its stanzas, the following two:

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure,
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature's holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

These are from the poem "Lines Written in Early Spring" which can be found here. As I said, Today is A Day of Life.

Since much of life revolves around food, be we bird, deer or human; our attention eventually turned to the preparation of breakfast. We decided to have Cream of Wheat once again, with strawberries cut to my exacting specifications, so hence, cut by me, smile. Let me fast forward, as they do occasionally on television shows, to late morning today. We are hungry, we are very hungry and this is something very strange. For the way we eat, no sugar, whole grains, low fat, and a well balanced diet, we are never hungry. Yet this morning we are. The only thing it could be is the cream of wheat. We think back and Linda recalls she felt hungry the last time we had it. But having watched to many politicians answer difficult questions, I first ignored her, then when she asked again told her I couldn't recall. While this always ends that line of questioning of the politician, it didn't for me. Why can't this woman be as dumb and docile as the average political reporter? Anyway back to the tale of the food that makes you hungry. Whole grains in their natural form, good, whole grains in a highly processed form, bad. For example: Instant rolled oats, bad; rolled oats, good; old fashioned rolled oats, better; thick rolled oats, best. We listen to our bodies. The cream of wheat will become bird food. We hope it doesn't make the birds feel as hungry it caused us to be.

I should probably excuse her for being a little tense as she was about to undergo one of the trials and tribulations that every woman who goes on the road to live this life. The search for the solution to this, put in genteel words, predicament, has consumed more than just a few moments of her time. In fact some of the steps to ensure a more positive outcome started before we went on the road. Ladies, you can comprehend the emotional state she must be in this morning as she gets ready for her first on the road haircut. No wonder she might have been a tad snippy at my not remembering the results of eating cream of wheat the first time. Trying to couch it in terms the male mind can fathom, imagine facing the prospect of a tooth extraction where the odds are 99:1 that the dentist 'will not use a painkiller' prior to extracting the tooth. Wouldn't you be more than just a slight bit apprehensive about going? As described in a previous post, she had gotten this hair dresser on a referral from a lady who had a somewhat similar hairstyle. That certainly improved the odds of getting an acceptable haircut. I wasn't sure what acceptable meant, maybe just bad as opposed to really bad. She had always considered a haircut bad wherever, Janene, her regular hair dresser cut the front to short. On the other hand I considered that a good haircut (yes, we do agree on some things and someday we will discover what they are, smile), thus I was hoping for her kind of bad that is my kind of good. Just hope it isn't bad for both of us as that would be really bad, as in really, really bad. (all who wonder are not lost but, sometimes their readers are, smile). Before we left home I took a series of mug shot like photo's of her just after she had gotten a hair cut she really liked. These, she printed off in living color and had brought along to show whomever was cutting her hair, how she hoped to have it done. She drove down to Marion by  herself with images of Phyllis Diller dancing in her head.

Two and a half hours later she was back. The instant she walked in the door her smile said she was pleased. She should be, it was an excellent haircut. Maybe just a little long over her right ear, but otherwise great. The length of her bangs was just right. She said it had taken him almost an hour and fifteen minutes to cut it. Unfortunately he was not able to color it. This was far more unfortunate for me than for her. Talk about pressure. Let me assure you, no human being on the face of the earth ever faced as much pressure as I was now under.

But first there was a days work to be done.  Having now worked for more than two weeks we were growing more and more familiar with the equipment, tools and work to be done. Bottom line is, we are becoming much more proficient at what we do. First job this morning is to redo a small square planter that is quite apparent to arriving guests. The old landscape timbers have mostly rotted away. Removing them we find the remnants of a second layer below them. This is taking on elements of an archaeological dig. Cleaning out the excavation we find rusted nails, a marble and pieces of rotted wood. It all gets thrown into the trash can and we measure for the the replacement timbers. So much for my dreams of being the discoverer of some intriguing and important relic, sigh.  Four landscape timbers, four cuts, eight  12" spikes and 30 minutes later the planter is completely rebuilt. We put the tools away and get out rakes, shovels, the hoe, screen and wheelbarrow. Time to tackle finishing the trench we dug to bury the satellite Taped cablecable. That's the cable that was buried last week, except for the "oops" section. It was the "oops" section we planned to cover-up today. That's cover-up as in bury in the ground, not cover-up as in obfuscate. After we had told Ron of our minor altercation with the telephone cable we had delayed burying it in case he wanted to have it checked and or repaired. The time had come to literally bury our mistake. When the shovel had come into contact with the cable (sanitized version of the incident, smile), the outer cover us just nicked and only a very small cut was made. We could detect no damage other than the cut outer wrap. I cleaned some dirt off the cable as best I could and wrapped to tightly with three layers of tape, being sure to extend it far beyond both ends of the cut. Then we sifted dirt to make rock and soil, filled in the trench and called it another job we could be proud of. (We followed the out of sight, out of mind scenario with the cut, lol) Our final job for the day was to tear off a section of lattice at the back of the office, lay cinder blocks on the gravel under the office and place the shutters used to provide winter protection for the office windows on them. As you might guess, I was the one who crawled under the office while Linda did what she could from outside. Translation: I communed with assorted remnants of past inhabitants, whether 2 legged, 4 legged, 6 legged or 8 legged, bumped my head, back and shoulders on the low beam while she placed the blocks within several inches of actually being under the office. Remembering what happened yesterday, I said nothing. Before long the blocks were placed, the shutters stored, the tools put away and our completed for the day.

Unfortunately for me, as we walked back up toward the coach I remembered that hair color time was has approaching. As this provoked in me a feeling of intense distress, I became what could best be described as extremely obnoxious. This was probably some subconscious desire to tic Linda off so I wouldn't have to face the moment of truth when she looked in the mirror at the Hair coloringcoloring job. Believe me, this one job I had no confidence in. The intense pressure to design and manufacture a product in a totally unrealistic time period that I faced many times in my previous job was nothing compared to what stress I was under at this moment. As I endeavored to get out of this ordeal, she just ignored everything I did. Finally relenting to the inevitable, I asked if she wanted her hair colored today. Now considerable time had passed since we returned to the coach and the possibility she'd say it was too late or too cold was in my mind. Her reply completely took me aback. "Was that why you were seemingly so distant, you were worried about coloring my hair?", she asked, looking both happy and puzzled at the same time. Why she was probably as nervous about this as me, she just used a different way to express it.

Before long we were outside at the picnic table, 2 ounces of color fixer and a tube of color mixed and the first of the paste painted on her part. Remembering how her hair dresser had showed me how to do this, I worked down one side, then the other, touched up the front and sideburns, then worked on the back. Please note how her hands appear in the photo. I think you can detect both crossed fingers and hands in a prayerful posture. Later after we were completely done and her hair dried and combed, I had to admit I had done a very, very good job. I little later I did discover small missed area in the back, but the way her hair was cut, you can not see it. To sum up this experience, as FDR said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." One thing for sure, the next time it will be a lot easier in more ways than one, smile.)

Peach cobblerAfter this our thoughts turned to food. Dinner was turkey and whole wheat bread stuffing, boiled sweet potatoes and broccoli. Then later she hit the jackpot. When we had been shopping the other day, we had bought some really good looking peaches figuring we could come up with a recipe to use them. Figuring they were at the peak of ripeness, Linda got on the internet and after what seemed a much longer time than usual, I heard the printer start. The result of all this was one of the best desserts we have had in along time, a devinely delicious peach cobbler with puffy pastry and a succulently, just sweet enough sauce which surrounded perfectly baked peach slices. This one will definitely be on the recipe page. She has been working hard on it and has the basics done. Now it's time for me to get her info onto a web page format, which is easier said than done. Look how far behind I am on daily postings, smile.


Mar 15    Today is the day Ron is scheduled to be released from the hospital, so we are on our own again. Our plan is to continue replacing the landscape timbers around the steam side sites at the upper end of the campground. With The Sound and the Fury out Tractor and trailerof gas, we unceremoniously push it out of the equipment shed, then use the garden tractor to pull the trailer. One problem is there is room for only one person on the tractor. That can easily be solved by one of us driving the tractor and the other setting on the front edge on the trailer, feet on the tongue. Before the morning is over, I decide that this is either the most uncomfortable "seat" I've ever sat in, or Linda is purposefully driving over the roughest ground in the campground, smile. And what we were doing involved a lot of my riding on the trailer, because every time we needed to cut a timber, we had to drive up front to where the cutoff saw was located. It was neat to see just how much Linda was enjoying driving the tractor. Maybe she was reliving her youth, when she was growing up on a farm. More likely she was getting some kind of perverse thrill out of watching me try to hang on for dear life, smile.

They say every piece of equipment has a mind of its own.  I was sure this one did. Slowly at first, then with growing momentum, it balks as Linda tries to start it. Each time the starter seems to grind for a slightly longer period of time. The engine, instead of roaring to life, begins to sputter to life, its reluctance increasing with every turn of the key. Linda asks me to try to start it. Instantly it springs to life. Showing the wisdom only decades of marriage can bestow, I remark, "Maybe it was ready to start and I just got lucky.", smile. Back at the saw, cuts completed, she once again attempts to bring it to life. By now I'm thinking maybe it's had enough with this joyriding ex-farm girl. I sense that if this were a horse, the ladies spurs would be flying, so I step off the trailer and try to start it once again. With a little bit of throttle feathering it again sputters to life. Showing the wisdom only decades of Wild drivermarriage to the same woman can bestow, I shrug my shoulders and get back on the trailer. Back at the campsite, as we mark another board, I notice the steel set of her jaw. I figure there are probably visions of sledge hammers dancing in her head by now. I just hope it starts for her this time. Of course it won't. Neither will she let me try. Truly, if this thing were a horse, she'd most likely be on the phone to the glue factory right now, lol,lol. Finally she throws up her hands and with all the vernacular a former Appalachian farm girl can get out in one breath, states what she really thinks of that hunk of metal. Though I was somewhat singed by the fallout, I am able to function well enough to eventually coax some life out of what is now an iron mule really starting to dig its heels in. It's not running smoothly, but at least it's moving in the right direction. Turning towards the trailer, I show the wisdom which can only be attained by decades of marriage to this woman. Head bowed, face frozen in a blank expression and with eyes downcast, I slowly and silently scuffle back to the trailer and take my seat. I watch as She removes her hands from Her hips, foot poised, is She going to kick this poor chunk of metal? With the same silence I displayed, but eyes ablaze, she seats herself, shoulders thrown back, head up. Displaying the regal posture of a reigning queen about to order the execution of one of her most trusted subjects whose betrayal she has just discovered, I wonder what is next?.

In my minds eye I recall a scene from the movie "Patton" where the military convoy crossing a high bridge is blocked by a cart being pulled by two mules who refuse to move for an old farmer. Patton's solution was swift and sudden, unhesitating delivered with Pearl Handled efficiency. Well, at least I know she can't do that I mused, then recalled the Yellow Handled sledge hammer in the trailer. No way I decided. About half way down to the saw, knowing full well what certainly awaits it the next time it won't start, it exhales a puff of black smoke, pops several times and drops dead. Turning the ignition key only results in a fast clicking sound coming from the starter, nothing else. It reminds me of the movie scenes when buzz of the heart monitor signifies someone's heart has ceased to beat. Guess you could say we are death to the motorized equipment around here!! What to do now? We walk up to the equipment shed to get the last tractor, the one used to mow the grass, the one that is Ron's pride and joy. My prayers are answered and it starts as soon as She turns the key. I figure it realized what fate awaited it if it crossed the Mad Woman of Marion. Soon we were taking the same chain we used yesterday to tow The Sound and the Fury and are hooking up to metal carcass now blocking the campground road. Rather I should say, She was hooking up the chain. She had not only driven the poor beast to an early and by my way of thinking, undeserved death, She was now humiliating the still warm remains. Just as the legs of a frog which continue to kick even after the death of the frog, the beast had one last post death reaction.

When She started to tow it, it dug in its tires and slipped the chain. Looking down She saw what had She's gonna pull them togetherhappened and in the next instant was at the back of the tractor, chain in hand. I thought I could detect ozone in the air, so sudden was Her movement, but before I could react, Her next action was even more astonishing. When the chain had come loose the distance separating the tractors became greater than the length of the chain. I watched, no amusement displayed on my face as She attempted to pull the mower back closer to the hulk. Finally I commented, "It might be easier if you back up the mower." She looked up, my heart raced in my chest, this could go one of two ways, either She would back up the mower or there might soon be two dead carcasses in the road, one of which would be mine. A slight smile crossed Her face, the one I've grown to love so much over the years, and She said, "It would be, wouldn't it."

Soon both tractors were hooked together once again and we were moving slowly to the side of the road. There was obviously a way Towing tractorto disengage the transmission, however we could not find it. Since it wasn't going anywhere soon we left it there and used the mower to pull the trailer and finish our work. All done, we were returning to the equipment shed when Becky drove in with Ron. Everything had gone well at the hospital and he would be as good as new in a couple of weeks. That was great news and they seemed to be in a very jovial mood.

 Deciding the time would never be better to deliver the sad news concerning the death of their equipment, I leaned in the car window and brightly commented, "Well, we've been busy breaking your equipment while you've been gone." Obviously tact has never been one of my strong points, it may not even be one of my weak points. In fact it doesn't even appear to be part of the different beat to which my life marches, smile. From the change of expression on Ron & Becky's faces, this might have not been as opportune a moment to break the bad news as I had envisioned. Nonetheless, I plunged on, "The tractor up the road just died and yesterday the golf cart also stopped." A heavy sigh issued from Ron, my gosh, I thought, the man has just had a medical procedure done to his heart, what if...., could I be charged with involuntary manslaughter due to foot in the mouth syndrome?

The passenger door slowly opened and Ron extricated himself from the small car. Swallowing hard, I walked around to the passengers side, rapidly thinking, but not knowing what to say next. Ron had a thoughtful expression on his face, a ray of hope tantalizingly dangling before me, "Did the golf cart finally run out of gas?", he asked. Relief flooding my being, I responded in the affirmative. From inside the car I heard Becky's voice asking, "Did the tractor just keep getting harder and harder to start until it wouldn't run at all." Talk about instant happiness, heck my smile was so big it's a wonder it didn't cause a momentary eclipse of the sun!!! As life returns to normal, Ron shows us where the little lever is that is used to disengage the transmission so we can push the tractor. We ask him where we should tow it and he tells us that with the transmission disengaged it is much easier to push by hand than to pull. We need to get it over to the pavilion so we can hook up the battery charger and get it running again. Sounds easy, but remember we're not talking about the dynamic duo here. While I might be on cloud nine, the distaff half of this two person team may still harbor just a tad of resentment toward the hunk of metal we have to push to the pavilion.

Looking at the task of pushing the tractor a fair distance and the need to guide it between several tables under the pavilion, I ask Her to please steer the tractor so I can push with both hands. Head bowed and hands placed on the back of tractor, I push and the beast barely moves. Redoubling my efforts and pushing with all the strength I can muster, very slowly it begins to move. I'm wondering if Ron's comment about it being easy to push may been in jest.   Again I push with all my might when suddenly my foot slips and I look up. Holy moses, no wonder it's hard to push, She's not standing beside it pushing with one hand  and steering with the other, She's sitting on the tractor steering it!!!!! Deciding discretion is Pushing the darn things!definitely the better part of valor, I say why don't we get a picture of this? She agrees and tells me to go over to the coach and get the tripod. I start to say what would surely be the wrong thing to say at this moment when I realize that getting the tripod will give me time to think of a strategy to get Her to help push. A little later the tripod is all set, the camera is on the 10 second timer and everything is ready to take a picture. The only problem is, I haven't thought of a way to entice Her to help push the dumb thing.  Maybe I should rethink the phrase: dumb thing. After all, She has what She wanted, total dominance of the tractor. On the other hand, with Her steering and me supplying the locomotive power, the tractor, cold chunk of metal that is, doesn't have to do a thing . That leaves only me as the: dumb thing. Oh well, life could be worse, somehow. I press the timer, dash over to the tractor and pose by leaning on it. She says, "At least you could look like you're pushing." I really push and low and behold it starts to move, slowly at first then with more and more speed. I decide this really isn't that hard when I look up and notice we're going down a small slope that leads to the pavilion, no wonder its easy to push. Suddenly it starts getting very hard to push again. I think, what the heck. (or something approximating that) Here we are going downhill and it is getting harder to push. This doesn't compute. Glancing up I see Her foot on the brake!! "Please get your foot off the brake, dear" is most definitely what did not come out of my mouth. What did come out certainly accomplished the same thing and definitely conveyed my extreme displeasure at Her actions.

Within a few seconds the tractor was safely parked near the electrical outlet and a later review of the photo met with Her approval. Whereupon She calmly explained that She had used the brake to slow down in order to avoid hitting a picnic table. Man, a woman with both beauty and brains, what more could a guy ask for. Ron had said the battery charger was in the tool shed, so off we went to find it. After a long search in a small shed we finally found it, or I should say Linda located it. With misplaced confidence only work camper newbies can display, we strode over to the pavilion. As Linda got out and set up the charger, I lifted the  hood of the tractor, revealing the battery, It was small, does small mean 6 volts or does small mean 12 volts, but less power? Who knows, not us.  As I was getting ready to go to our coach and check the internet, Becky came out of their coach. Seizing the opportunity to procure the needed information and call an end to this day of trial and tribulation, I asked her about the battery. Moments later she had the answer from Ron, 12 volts. We then proceeded to hook up the charger. Rather, we attempted to hook up the charger. Actually, what we did was attach the leads to the battery terminals and plug it in. Unfortunately, nothing happened. No lights lite, no meters moved, no sparks flew. Nada, nothing, zip. We throw every switch we can find, Plug, unplug and again plug-in each power cord. Same result. Maybe there is a switch on the charger we are not seeing, All six sides are minutely examined, no switch. Linda decides to go get her hair dryer to check the outlets for power. Returning we plug into every outlet in the pavilion, nothing. I notice the stupid thing has a ground fault interrupter built in to the plug. Maybe it's tripped, I push it then try every plug again. Maybe it was tripped before we started? I take it over to the coach and plug it in. It runs for a microsecond and stops. I unplug it, push the black button and it functions perfectly. Back over at the pavilion we try again with no success. Suffice it to say we have put in far, far more than the required hours again today. Leaving everything, including the hair dryer, we head to our house and a chance to relax.

Church dinnerHowever, the day is still not over. It's Wednesday, which means dinner at Pleasant Gardens Baptist. Tonight is bar-b-qued chicken, the meal everyone has raved about. We get cleaned up and drive down RT-80 It is fascinating how much shorter a trip seems once ypu've made it afew times. Arriving, we have a most wonderful experience. Though we have only been there twice, a number of people greet us and make us feel totally welcome. We really enjoy the meal and ensuing service. Returning home we relax, have some ice cream and prepare to watch "Lost". When it comes on and it is a repeat of one of the first episodes in the series, Linda expresses her displeasure in no uncertain terms.  Maybe we'll go back to watching CSI, New York. Network executives have to be some of the stupidest people on the planet looking at most of the junk that passes for entertainment. Is it any wonder we spend most of our time watching the cable channels? (end of rant, smile)

Mar 14    It's back to work today, though the four hours we put in will not, upon reflection, really seem like work. It compartmentalizes the day, gives some regimentation to the hours and helps prevent the relentless march of time from eroding our bodies. That was one of my concerns when we changed our lifestyle. I did a lot of hard physical labor, both at work and home, which kept me in excellent physical condition. The question was how to maintain it when we would have no required physical activities to help keep us physically fit.While there were a number of reasons we decided to try work camping, the physical activity has been more than a pleasant side benefit. Our Tri-Cord elastic exercize gizmo still remains in it's box, safely tucked away in one of the overhead compartments. Maybe, Someday Isle, get it out and use it, but until we head in that direction, I'll enjoy the journey we're currently on, smile.

 Breakfast and time to slice more strawberries. They had a good price on them yesterday at the Painted satellite dishSupercenter, so there are two more containers residing in the refrigerator again this week. I can't help it that I like what I like. I like most things that come with life, it's just that I like some things a lot more than others, lol, lol. Before we knew it the dishes were washed, dried and put away. Attired in work clothes we retrieved our gloves and headed off towards the tool shed. We have been amazed at how pretty this little park nestled in the North Carolina Mountains is. Something new is always catching my eye and this morning it was the painted TV satellite dish that is mounted on the wall of the office. It is non-functioning in the sense of providing a link to the bewildering and often times useless array of TV programing it was designed to provide. It functions perfectly to provide a connection, through the artist that gave it life, to the beauty that is all around us, even where we don't expect it.

Finally focusing our minds on the work to be done, we remembered today was the day Ron, our campground owner, and Larry, the The equipment shedwonderful neighbor from up the road, cross paths. Ron is going into the hospital to have his heart catheterization done, while Larry is being released from the hospital after Ron found him last week, unconscious on the floor of his home. On our on again (notice how it rhymes with 'On the road again', lol) it was time to once again confront "The Sound and the Fury". After our earlier experiences with the wild first backwards ride out of the equipment shed in the morning, we made one small change. When we quit for the day at 2 PM, I back TS&TF into the shed, that way I can at least see what its going to attempt to run into when I start it in the morning, smile. The thing I've got to start doing is to put the beast into forward gear when I back it in. It can be a real head popping eye opener when you tramp on the gas in the morning expecting to go forward and it shoots backward, smile. 

This morning as we get read to start it we notice something, looking closer we discover what beats within the heart of this beast. Banks emblem on The Sound and the FuryThe stock engine has been souped up with a Banks Power Pack System!!! Compared to a normal golf cart, this thing could have up to +53 hp and +69 lb-ft torque. No wonder it sometimes (at the wrong time) acts like a rocket ship, lol,lol.

The mystery of the overzealous golf cart solved we pulled it out, hooked up the trailer,Master carpenter at her saw loaded all the tools, picked up some landscape timbers and headed of to the premium streamside sites to replace any rotting, missing or termite damaged landscape timbers. It's one thing to use all new timbers on a site, but when we only need to replace a small piece or two, we always try to use a piece of old timber in order to match the color of the existing timbers. This takes a little more work, but it makes the site look so much better.

As we worked toward the upper end of the campground and were moving The Sound and the Fury when it stopped, quit, no sound, no fury. Could it be out of gas? The first problem we encountered was: where in the heck is the gas tank? We finally locate it under the rear deck. The access Master carpenter demonstrating use of her hammerwas covered by a board. Unscrew the cap, look inside, see a black hole with something a little shiny showing. bump the Beast, shiny spot shimmers, maybe it's not out of gas? Get stick, insert in gas tank, barely wet, at least we know it's out of gas. Unfortunately we don't know what ratio of gas and oil to use and even if we did, we don't know where the gas is kept. Sooo, we find a chain, drive the garden tractor up to the site and ingloriously tow The Sound and the Fury back to the equipment shed. I think maybe this has finally humbled it. Linda thinks it's laughing at us. Odds are she's right, smile. This means we have to hook the trailer up to the garden tractor to finish the job. Lets just say we put in some extra time today, smile, smile.

Brownie and ice cream

After a day like today you just want to sit a while, have a nice dinner and a relaxing evening. So we have an easy to fix dinner.  We simply heat up the leftover Beef Strogonoff, steam some broccoli, fix a tossed salad, though due to a shortage of Romaine (it wasn't on the shopping.....; but we have it every week; it wasn't on the list (said tersely); okay (said meekly), get our "Abby fix" (NCIS), watch the second episode of The Unit, which we thought was much better than the first episode. The jury is still out on whether we will continue to watch it or not, eat a chocolate brownie with chocolate swirl ice cream, read some stories about life in the 1850's in the old south, work on the website, as we hope to have our recipe page up by the end of the month and called it a day. Not your typical day, but none the less, a very satisfying day.    

Mar 13    I hear somethin' sayin'  (hooh! aah!) (hooh! aah!)  
(hooh! aah!) (hooh! aah!) (Well, don't you know)
That's the sound of the men working on the chain ga-a-ang
That's the sound of the men working on the chain gang
So why do I hear the late, great Sam Cooke rattling around in my head this early morning hour. Am I already becoming tired or disenchanted with this work camping thing? NO Way. So what is it? Got an email from one of my former co-workers about what was happening where I used to work. That's what triggered this resurrection of the sounds of punishment and pain. It's merely a retirees version of a nightmare!!!!

Besides that, why am I thinking about work today, anyway? It may be Monday and the start of the work week for many people, but to Linda and I, it's Spruce Pine day. When I asked Linda whether she wanted to go down to Marion or up to Spruce Pine, she never even hesitated a second before answering Spruce Pine. Slicing the last of the strawberries for our oatmeal, we planned some of our meals for the week. We have found that since we are limiting ourselves to one shopping day a week, we need to alter how we cook our meals. Breakfast, usually being oatmeal and fruit, is no problem. Neither is lunch, especially now that we've concluded the great North Carolina wrap search. Between Splenda, chocolate, whole wheat flour, pudding and fruit, plus don't forget non-fat, no added sugar ice cream, we have dessert totally nailed big time. That leaves dinner as the problem and a problem it is. The easy solution would be to run down to Marion on Friday or Saturday and buy what we need. By now it should be apparent that a contrarian position is a way of life in this coach, or as a good friend once told me, "Bob, you don't march to the beat of a different drum, you march to something that probably doesn't even have a beat." That rules out going down to Marion, so what is left but to plan our meals, and that's just what we did. For the foreseeable future we're going to continue eating the fish and meat out of our freezer, so we need to know what recipe we'll be using in order to have the items on hand we'll need. Enter the specter of the 'shopping list', something we haven't used for many months.

OmeletdeerFor breakfast Linda surprised me with an omelet. And not just an omelet, but one accompanied by Canadian Bacon and toast with our homemade sugarless peach jam. Lest you think we've discarded our love for oatmeal, the omelet allowed her to use the last of the eggs so she could buy another dozen at the store today. I'm not sure why you can't buy eggs with some still in the refrigerator, but I have the definite feeling it's one of those questions I'm much better off not asking, smile. As we ate, the pair of cardinals came by the bird feeder for their breakfast. We get so much pleasure from something as simple as watching two birds. Looking up we were surprised to see a deer on the embankment by the stream. This definitely necessitated pictures, so below you can see the cardinals and also the deer.

Breakfast eaten and the dishes done, we headed up the mountain. This is our second trip to Spruce Pine and it seemed to go much faster than last weeks drive. Last week we stopped at every overlook and exit on the Blue Ridge Parkway, today it was just a road that goes to Spruce Pine. Our first stop was the Museum of North Carolina Minerals which is just off the Parkway at the Spruce Pine exit. It is a National Park Service museum and is it ever neat. It tells, explains, shows, demonstrates and involves you in the gems and minerals of North Carolina. Here are some of the photo's we took in the museum. If you have even a remote interest in geology, rocks, minerals or gems this is one of those "little gems" you shouldn't pass by!!
Museum sign
Inside museun
Mineral case

Next we dove into town to ship our old stove top back back to the dealer. This is one of those simple tasks that turned out to be far harder than it should have been. One of the problems with this life, is always calling a new town your home. A town where you don't know where anything is at. We had looked up the address for the package shipping store on the internet (it needed to shipped via UPS). We drove down Locust Street, which was in old part of town, looking for the address, but not seeing it. Turning around we drove in the opposite direction, again not seeing it.  After a little wandering due to prohibited turns and bridges, we returned to Locust Street and parked the Explorer. We set off on foot to find the reluctant shipping store. Having parked near one end of the street we walked all the way to the other end, no shipping store. Walk to the other end, no shipping store, heck not even a street number that matches the address we have. As we walk back to the Explore Linda sees a paper on a vacant building. First it says the addresses on these buildings are in error and they are working to correct the mistake. My problem with this notice was, the darned buildings had to of been well over a hundred years old. Just when had they noticed there was a problem with the numbers and for how long had they been working on getting it corrected, smile. Next to that notice was another one saying the shipping store had moved and was now across from the post office on Oak Street, just past the tire store.Feldspar Now that was a big help. At least if we can find Oak street we can drive on it till we come across the Post Office. We figured it was close to downtown, but when your in an old mining town that's been carved out of the side of a mountain, things are never where they seem. We did finally find it and sent the stove top on its way. Darned thing had been in our way for almost two months. We looked for a regular grocery store during our wanderings but couldn't find one and headed, we thought , back to Wal-Mart. Never underestimate our ability to make a wrong turn and stumble upon something neat. Making the aforementioned wrong turn, we noticed piles of something white along the road in the distance. What could it be, salt? No, we're in the mountains. Maybe white sand? Then it hit, Feldspar. As we had learned at the mineral museum, most of the Feldspar mined in the US is mined right here in Spruce Pine. If we had tried to find this place, we wouldn't have.

We finally made it to the Wal-Mart, bought everything on the list including more ice cream and headed for home. We did stop at one of the overlooks to make some phone calls as there is no cell phone reception along Rt-80 between Marion and the Parkway. While there we took some black and white photos. Returning to the campground, we grilled salmon, then later Linda baked brownies, which we ate warm topped with ice cream for dessert.Black & White
Phone Home!

Mar 12    We are going through a siege of the most unseasonable weather, and do we love it. Today is supposed to be another day in the 80's. This goes beyond 'Chamber of Commerce' weather, into the 'once in every Forsythia in bloomso many years' category. Being as it's a day off for us, we are a little extra lazy this morning. There are long leisurely sips of hazelnut coffee for Linda, while I luxuriate in the subtle delights of a cup of hot apricot tea. I wonder what formed our preferences, what lead us to what we drink in the morning. Both my parents were avowed coffee drinkers when I was young, but it was an 'adult' drink so I had to drink hot chocolate. It wasn't like I was forced to drink it. In fact I was like many kids, I loved hot chocolate, but we only had it in the winter. Though I don't remember how mom fixed it, I do remember we always had a little tin container of Hershey's cocoa on the self. You know, the kind that had the little round metal pop out cap that stuck so it had to be pried off and then when it finally came loose, flew off and rolled around the kitchen floor. Ah, memories, but isn't that what makes life what it is. Wonder what memories we've help plant in the young of today? Were they good, bad, were they memories of joy or disappointment? We'll never know, but I'd like to think, someday, someone, will have the same smile I now have on my face, as he or she thinks back to childhood.

Cleaning day!Since it is Sunday morning, that means cleaning time around our house. Linda laughs that the hardest part about cleaning the coach is getting me to lift up the bed so she can get the sweeper out. We originally stored it in one of the bays, but now keep it under the bed for convenience. The process of cleaning goes swiftly, I generally try to stay out of the way as much as possible, swooping in to move furniture (the 3 dining chairs and the Euro-lounger) when needed, then shake the front throw rug. All the while, soothing music is playing on the radio. The coach radio has three sets of ceiling speakers, so we are surrounded by music everywhere as we work. This has all the tell-tale signs of being a pinch-me moment. A beautiful warm spring morning in the mountains of North Carolina, the birds chirping, sunlight streaming through the windows as we clean our home on wheels. Wasn't it just a little more than 3 months ago that we were wondering what this life would be like, sitting in front of the computer in our stick house, reading of someone else's life on the road? Not even in my wildest imagination could I have understood how truly wonderful this life of adventure and joy really is. Maybe that is why I sit at this keyboard, typing away and pouring my heart into these writings, feeling almost compelled to share our day so others may understand the joy of the journey that is our life on the road.

Looking out the window at the bird feeder, we see new feathered friends visiting today. The males dressed in their finest, the females eating constantly, preparing to produce the next generation they are about to raise. In the tree, which provides a perch for both birds and our feeder, we spy a hint of orange, a color we have not seen before. Birders we are not, but lovers of nature and the world around us, we are. We can't identify the new bird, maybe it's a sparrow, we don't know, but it definitely has an orange belly. Not a bright flashy orange,  a gently subdued orange. The kind that would tend to appeal to a female looking for aView of the church from the campground good solid mate, a mate that would help build and clean the nest, bring seeds to feed hungry babies and later sing a song of joy as they leave to start out on their own. A flash of movement catches our eye. There on the ground below the feeder is a pair of mourning doves. They walk with an almost regal splendor, seemingly tethered together, searching and finding bits of food cast aside by the birds who visit the feeder hanging above. Then the sound of a sharp bark and they take flight, the cooing and flapping sounds so distinctive as they rise ever higher, turning, then disappearing behind the coach. The dog's bark reminds us we are in a campground and that it is just about time to walk across the road to the little country church.

This morning there are 12 people in attendance, but the walls still ring with joyous old time hymns. Hymns that remind me of the small country church my parents took me to as a little boy. More than once, I've sat in a church listening to a preacher struggle to make sense out of some seemingly obscure and convoluted passage. That thought filled my mind this morning as the verses were read. You know, you don't have to be some famous preacher with thousands in attendance every Sunday, to preach a good sermon. The preacher in this tiny country church did just what I would do if I were discussing what I had just heard or talking about some normal event in everyday life. He simply talked about the things that mattered and skipped the confusing, convoluted parts.

Later, we fixed lunch, and since it was Sunday we decided to do something different today. Sunday evening has traditionally been our Mexican meal. We still had the leftover chicken and tomatilla sauce from last Sunday so why not use that to make quesadillas for lunch. Then we can fix something new for dinner!! Soon a whole wheat tortilla (good way to use up those Mission tortillas we have rejected for turkey wraps) is in the skillet, next goes a layer of the chicken & tomatillo sauce mixture, this is covered with grated low-fat cheese and a second tortilla goes on top. Heated for a while until the cheese barely starts to melt, then it is flipped and heated till the cheese is completely melted. Removed from the heat, we cut it with a knife into quarters. We find the Mission tortillas to be tough and hard to cut. Blasted things aren't much good for anything!!! We topped the wedges with salsa (we bought it already made) and non-fat sour cream, then added a scattering of chopped green onions. Other than the danged worthless tortillas, it was a good treat and a nice change from our usual turkey wraps.

Glimpse at how we used to liveAfter lunch we spent time just relaxing and sitting outside enjoying the sunny warm weather. Camped across from us this weekend was a family with two girls in a travel trailer . We had watched them eat out at the table, sit around their campfire, play Boccie ball in the grassy area and throw a ball for their dachshund to chase. Now we watched as they slowly packing up and prepared to leave. To go back home. To go to school. To go to work. To go do the same exact things we had done for years. As we sat and talked we discussed how much fun we had had on those weekends. First by ourselves, later with the kids and more recently with our grandson. Did we miss it? Yes, in a way. Then as we continued to talk the trailer pulled out and left. Linda looked over at me and said, "They're gone."
We got up and walked over to the stream and stoodDuck in the stream silently watching and listening as it rolled past, rushing to a place we're either going to or have already been to. Linda whispered, "There's a duck in the stream" Sure enough, there was a duck floating contentedly in one of the calm areas caused be a pile of rocks and sticks. The blossoms were showing in the Bradford Pears. Slowly we walked back over to our home. The life we live is so awesome.

After all this, dinner was almost anticlimactic. We had a small piece of sirloin tip in the freezer, so it was forked and pounded to make it tender, cut into small pieces and cooked with sliced mushrooms and onions, then bathed in mustard and non-fat sour cream, stirred together and served over whole wheat pasta with a salad and steamed broccoli. It is a dish that has an interesting twist. It smells awful and tastes wonderful. The first time we ever made it, I wasn't sure I wanted to eat it. Now that we've made it a few times I still have difficulty getting that first bite into my mouth. Once I do the old automatic food conveyor takes over and the plate is quickly emptied. Just another tidbit in the stream of events that makes up our life. A life that allows us time to do something as simple as looking at the flowers.
Daffodil bloom

Cardinal in Flight Mar 11   The bird feeder makes the morning a challenge, as we seem to want to just sit and watch the birds rather than get breakfast ready. Up until now the only birds we have heard in the morning are "chirping birds" we hear on our funky little radio. It has a sleep and alarm setting that imitates the sound of birds chirping of all things. But this morning we were hearing the real thing. Wow, that bird feeder really works! Linda stood by the window with the camera for the longest time, hoping to get a picture of the pair of cardinals. Of course as soon as she put the camera down, the male flew up to the feeder. So up she jumps with the camera and the bird flies away. She waits and waits, puts down the camera and within a minute he is back. This time she sloooowly reaches for the camera and instead of taking a picture, moves toward the window. Of course the cardinal flies off again. As you can imagine, I'm dying to her "Why don't you just take a picture instead of trying to get closer?" But fortunately, my sense of self preservation is strong enough that I keep my mouth shut. A little later she again picks up the camera and quickly takes a shot. Now say what you want, but I think the ability to capture a cardinal in full flight takes either real talent or lots of luck. I have my opinion, but I'm keeping my mouth shut, smile.

This was another day without any direction from Ron or Becky on what we were to do, so we just did, starting with the job of renovating the front planter. It wasn't a hard job physically, it just required getting all the tools out, bringing the chop saw over near the planter, connecting the electric cord, hauling the new landscape timbers from the stock Completed planterpile, measuring, cutting, fitting, drilling and nailing them in place. Nothing we hadn't done many times in our former life when our house didn't have wheels. But still, very time consuming. Then, just as we were trying to decide how to finish the front of the planter, Ron & Becky drove in. After getting unloaded, Ron came over to see how we were doing. One of the great things about being the work camper rather than being the Boss, is you can ask how the Boss would like the job done. Asking someone else to do the figuring rather than having to do the figuring for someone else, makes for one of the joys of retirement. Soon all three of us were down on hands and knees trying to determine the best way to finish the planter. Ideas blossomed, then faded, timbers were held this way and then that way, till one design finally rose high above all the others. That decided, Ron left and Linda & I finished the planter. It was such a good job, we had to get a picture of it. Interesting how the feeling of satisfaction we've always gotten from doing a good job continues on in our life, no matter where we are or what we're doing.

Noticing it was nearing lunch time and having worked steadily for quite a while, we decided to take a lunch break. We were eager to try something new for lunch today. You see, while we have continued to eat our beloved turkey wraps each day for lunch, something has beenTurkey flat breads, aka, wraps lacking lately. We have discovered the quality of whole wheat wraps is not the same in North Carolina as it has been up until now. The best we can do is Mission 96% Fat Free Whole Wheat Tortillas. Adequate, but not outstanding, and as long time readers have learned, we are true turkey wrap aficionados and connoisseurs. We may be to turkey wraps what Wimpy is to hamburgers, lol, lol. Anyway, always on the lookout for that elusive next higher level of culinary delight, we had purchased some wraps from Wal-Mart of all places. Our turkey wraps were going to be constructed on "Light Flat Out" today. Not technically tortillas, but when you going for the gusto, reach for the stars, or flat bread as the case may be. Just to be as wild as possible we had selected the Italian Herb style as opposed to the regular style. Of course the fact they were out of the regular style made our decision easier, in more ways than one (maybe these things are so good they sell out of them). Initial verdict is two thumbs up. This is a definite improvement, to our tastes buds at least, over the dull, drab, tasteless Mission tortillas. We do suspect there is no finer Liver Mush made anywhere outside of North Carolina. It's just that somehow Linda finds it far less than merely unappetizing, so it will not darken our refrigerators doors. Personally, I'd like to try it, but some things are fated to never happen.

How not to move rocks!Back to work, we moved a bunch of rocks in the wheel barrow (I thought it would be easier than using the golf cart and trailer, it wasn't) and place them around a guy wire and pole. We put landscaping fabric under the rocks to prevent the weeds from growing through. (That fabric has got to be one of the best things ever to hit the landscaping industry). Of course Linda and I had a discussion over how much fabric to trim off. My opinion prevailed, but then I also had the scissors. Realizing that quiting time was long, long past, we started putting away all the tools and equipment we got out. I just can't get over how fast the time goes by when we are working. It was almost 4 PM when we finished, that's almost 2 hours longer than our normal four hour day. 

All this work called for something special tonight, so Linda started looking through her cook books and came up with an apple crisp for dessert. It was easy, Rome apples, Splenda, ICBINB, maple flavor, oatmeal, cinnamon and nutmeg. Simple easy and man-o-man delicious. Even more than delicious when paired with chocolate sundae swirl no fat, no sugar added ice cream. Healthy food that knocks your socks off with great taste and texture.

WoodpeckerMar 10    What a glorious morning, makes me think of that wonderful song Cat Stevens sang, "Morning has broken" It goes: Morning has broken, like the first morning, Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird........ and as I look out the window of the coach this morning I am greeted by sound of the birds attracted to our new bird feeder. We need to get out the bird book, we see chickadees, a tufted titmouse, and finches, still dressed in their winter olive drab, but with hints of the bright yellow that heralds the coming of spring and the mating season. Joining this throng is a woodpecker who boldly starts drilling holes in the tree next to the bird feeder. Did we see a flash of red? Yes, it's a male cardinal, quickly joined by his mate. She may look drab to us, but the way he struts around her says that she's the most beautiful bird in the world to him. The birds seem excited to find the feeder, and inside our coach we too, are excited the birds have found the feeder. Already we are thinking of them as 'our birds'. Yet how foolish of us to covet the wonders of nature. We speak of our land, our stream, our orchard, always, our, our, our. Each of us claims these things as our own personal posession, but are they?Are they mine or do they belong to all mankind. Humanity, isn't it wonderful!!!!!

demolishing the front planterBefore we knew it the oatmeal was eaten and the workers were ready for another day. Ron & Becky were going to be away again to today, so we decided to tackle the large planter that greets everyone as they pull into the park. Our first thought was to replace just the timbers that were missing or rotted. We pulled some timbers from the pile and laid them out. We quickly decided that to make it look right we would have to replace all the timbers. The good timbers we pulled out could be reused in areas like the road side sites where there were some missing. Using the crowbars and hammer we slowly demolished the existing timbers. Then removed the excess dirt that had accumulated in the places where the timbers had rotted away.

Tail of a five-lined skinkIt was while shoveling some of the dirt that we first noticed it. It was just a flicker of color the first time. Further digging revealed it again, the prettiest iridescent blue line I have ever seen. quickly it was gone. What could it be? Was it some child's plaything, but if it was, why was it so shiny and why had it disappeared? Digging in the loose moist soil uncovered the most beautiful little lizard we had ever seen. I tried to get a picture, but it was to fast at burying itself. Later we looked it up and discover it was a five lined skink. You can read more about it and see a picture here. With the brilliant blue tail it was obviously a youngster. 

Later as we were relaxing in the coach, Linda checked on the tomato seeds she had planted a few days earlier. Planted in a mix of compost she had brought from some we had made several years ago and some black dirt she had picked up in Texas, the first plantLind's Tiny Tim tomato plant was starting to peek through. Being the farm girl she is, she had used placed the container on a cupboard shelf over a recessed halogen light which she left on 24 hours a day to provide bottom heat to aid in germination. I'll tell you, this woman really loves her tomatoes. Reading about Ron & Terry, the guys and their tomato plant only makes her want to do even better. After actually seeing the  "The Tomato Plant" in Quartzite, she knows it can be done. Just hope I don't get into having to lug some huge container in and out of the coach like they have to every night, ha, ha.

We had one other good thing happen to us today (other than our turkey wraps at lunch) and that was we are now receiving the local New York and Los Angeles ABC, CBS, FOX & NBC stations on DirecTV. No more fuzzy pictures over the antenna as we try to watch NCIS or Survivor. Linda is one real happy girl. I had read all the the forums on RV'ing for a long time and many of them are filled with frustrated posts about how hard or impossible it is to get the Distant Network Stations. After reading far to many of these posts, I finally decided the majority of the people either just don't read the instructions on the DirecTV website, or if they do, don't follow them. One thing they require is a copy of the RV registration. We had to wait until we received our registration from the DMV before we could send in the form. We had also asked the DirecTV Customer Service Agent for a copy of the RV waiver form. Since we hadn't recieved it yet, we downloaded one off of the net. (A day later we also received the form we asked DirecTV to mail us). We filled it out exactly as they requested, attached a copy of our RV's registration and exactly 11 days later we tuned to channel 380 and there was the New York CBS station! They say it takes 11 to 14 days to verify the information and activate the DNS service and they were right on. The link to the DirecTV DNS page is here.

Mar 9    This is going to be a busy day. We have our appointment at Tom Johnson RV this morning and a concert tonight. Our breakfast was cold cereal and milk. No strawberries today! Since we had to be down to Marion by 8 AM we're going to have to get back into our traveling mode once again. Included in the list of things we wanted the dealer to look at was the angle of the outlet and valve for the black water tank. This meant dumping the black and gray tanks before we left. Now, this where I really love the Sani-Con system. Just unscrew the little green cap, screw the waste hose outlet into the campgrounds threaded connector, open the black tank valve and hit the pump switch. When the tank is empty, the sound of the pump changes, so repeat the procedure for the gray tank. When it's empty unscrew waste hose outlet and replace the little green cap. It's so simple with absolutely no mess, I love it! Before we knew it, I was driving down twisty, curvy Rt-80 towards Marion with Linda following in the Explorer. We arrived at the dealership just before 8 and pulled around back to the service area. I was surprised to find five other RV's already there.  It appeared several were new coaches being readied for pickup. Linda was as prepared as always, with a printed list of all the things we wanted done on the coach. It included installing the stove top we had been hauling around since late January, repair or replacement of the slide motor that stopped working when we were in Quartzsite, fixing the washer leak and replacing the carpet, replacement of the cracked sink cover, fixing the oil pressure, trans & oil temperature gauge, checking the dump valves, plus several other minor things that either did not seem to operate correctly or were broken. The walk thru with the service writer was handled very quickly and efficiently and we left with a good feeling. Our plan was go into town for a while to give them a chance to get into the work and then stop back by. We parked the Explorer along the main street through town and spent some time immersed in what exactly Marion is and also what it used to be. As with most towns, the old time retail establishments have mostly moved out of the downtown area to the strip malls that line the state highways leading into town. This leaves an interesting mix of vacant stores, unique businesses, buildings under repair, buildings in a major state of disrepair and a few traditional businesses along the main street. If you're like me, you are not walking down a street of dilapidated buildings, your somewhere back in time. Maybe 1955, for example. The main street of 2006 we are walking along has 2 lanes of traffic on both sides, with intermittent parallel parking. As I walk I imagine what it may have looked like 50 years ago. Maybe one lane in each direction with cars parked at an angle, old cars, some having running boards, others having a sun visor over the windshield. Big 4 door cars that whole families come to town in. I see many people walking on the sidewalk, stopping, talking, window shopping. Boys and girls excitedly pointing to window displays of toys and the things of childhood, women glancing longing at the gaily dressed mannequins in the storefront displays as their children tug them down the street. I hear the wooden floors creaking as shoppers move through the stores, and the distinctive jingle of the cash registers as the clerks ring up another sale. How do you walk down main street? What do you see and hear?

 The one thing that always gets me about these small First Baptist of Mariontowns is how the banks ruin the town with their desire to appeal to their customers by being modern, whether by replacing their beautiful old building with an ugly, garish new one that in no way fits the town or by modernizing the facade and interior of the existing bank. Aren't they telling everyone; you don't want to shop at any of the old buildings here on Main Street, shop at the sleek modern ones on the outskirts of town, because modern is where it's at, just look at our building, we didn't want to be like all these other old fogies here on Main Street. The buildings that tend to be maintained pretty much in a state of suspended animation are the churches. As we walk through town we see two that obviously came from different times. The First Baptist Church of Marion is an imposing red brick edifice on the north end of Main Street. From appearances, at one time it was the grandest building in town. Now, ever so slightly tattered around the edges, it still retains a regal splendor dating from the time when Marion was "old Marion". You can see the same people who were downtown shopping on Saturday now walking towards church on Sunday morning. First Presbyterian of MarionNot just a few people, but throngs of them, everyone dressed in their Sunday finest. Perhaps one of the dresses that just yesterday was on a store mannequin, adorns one of the young mothers walking to church this morning. Boys, uncomfortable in their Sunday suits, maybe sporting a bow tie, race along the sidewalk, eager to go to Sunday School and see their friends. A couple of blocks off Main Street we see another church. Large, imposing, high on a hill. Maybe it was built at about this time we're dreaming of, maybe a decade or two earlier. Other than the name on the front of the building, was there any difference between the people that attended First Baptist or First Presbyterian? Did all the "older" residents belong to the Baptist Church and the "newer" residents belong to the Presbyterian? Maybe it was a mill or mine owner that was the benefactor of  Presbyterian church, while the bankers and shop keepers attended the Baptist church. While we may never know the answers to those questions, we do know they have, and continue to play a role in the life of the small town named Marion, North Carolina. Don't ever let any young person tell you history is just some dumb, stupid, useless information written in books. It lives just as much today as it did yesterday, it's what made today, today.

We stopped by the dealer to check on our motor home. They had already fixed a number of items, including cleaning all the carpet, Turned out that rather than replace the wet carpet they had a carpet service come in and treat it with mold and mildew preventative chemical and clean it. Because it was such a small area, they also cleaned all the carpets in the coach. We spent time with the techs going over the repairs they had made and received instruction on why somethings operated the way they did. They are going to order a new slide motor, sink cover and closet latch. They thought they would be done by early afternoon and would call us when it was ready to be picked up. We left and headed back into town, stopping at a graphics store to order a decal made for the back of the coach. Did some shopping, made an appointment for Linda to get her hair done. This was interesting because one of her fears has been the horror stories she has read on the net about how so many full timers get their hair butchered when they have their hair cut. At the church dinner last night she noticed one of the ladies had a hairstyle that was very similar to Linda's. She asked the lady where she got it cut and that was where she made the appointment. Will give everyone a blow-by-blow account of how it turns out next week.

Returning to the dealer, we picked up the coach and drove back up the twisty, curvy road to the campground. Have to admit either they straightened the road quite a bit since we drove up a week ago, or the road wasn't nearly as curvy as I thought it was, lol,lol. Back at the campground we got ready to go to a concert. The entire evening turned out to be a wonderful experience of once again being exposed to something new. Our life truly is an adventure. Ron and Becky had season tickets as did Larry & Melinda, but because Larry was still in the hospital we used their tickets. The music was southern gospel, as sung in this area. It was an hour drive down to Rutherfordton where the concert was held. The R-S High School auditorium had great seating and acoustics. Prior to the concert they have a free will offering spaghetti dinner put on by a local service organization, so we not only had two meals this week, with both being a spaghetti dinner, they were on consecutive nights. By the way, I chose the chocolate brownie for dessert again, smile. The concert series is promoted by the Carolina Gospel Association (great organization, but not much of a website) and features regional professional southern gospel groups. This was our first exposure ever to this style of music and we found it very enjoyable. The groups that performed were the Trinity Quartet and The Inspirations. Apparently The Inspirations are THE group for this type of sound, so we got to experience it in it's finest form. (There was a huge difference in the quality of music between the two groups. Don't think the Trinity Quartet was bad, rather it was that The Inspirations were that good). Reflecting on the experience, here we were, once again being presented with fork in the road on our adventure. We could take the  safe and familiar, the Interstate Highway so to speak, and watch an evening of TV, read or do the familiar, or we could take the Blue line, the State or even the County road and really see the country we were passing through. As with our taking the side roads in our travels, I'm glad we took the opportunity to once again be exposed to something new, The Inspirations on stagehow can we ever know what's out there if we never look!!!!  Trinity Quartet table in lobby


Mar 8    Today we broke the mold on breakfast, well, at least partially. I'm still slicing the strawberries just the right way, but what they are served on changed. The last time we we were at the grocery store, we got to looking at some of the other hot cooked cereals. Now don't go thinking we're getting tired of oatmeal, cause we're not. The taste, plus the nutritional and health benefits of oatmeal are so wonderful that it could never be replaced in our diet. Still, they say variety is the spice of life (fresh ground pepper ain't so bad either) so as we were perusing the shelves, a box of Cream of Wheat caught our eyes. After studying the label and the nutritional information, the decision was made to put a small box into the cart. A quick stint of comparison shopping resulted in the first box being replaced with a larger size that cost only a few more cents. Summed up, small size National Brand versus large size store brand, with the ingredients and nutritional iinformation being the same. Is there something I'm missing here or is it that we are simply paying for all that advertising they spend trying to maintain an image of quality and value? Sorry, but I cast my economic vote with my dollar bill for the store brand. I'll ever be grateful to my high school economics teacher, Mr. Bindas, for teaching me I have the most powerful vote there is, the choice of where I spend my money, the dollar bill vote, he called it. Hard to believe that class was over 40 years ago and I can picture it as if it were just yesterday!!! We decided the cream of wheat was good for a break, but didn't have the rib sticking flavor and satisfaction which oatmeal gave us. It will fit in well with those mornings we have lots of strawberries,  but want a break from oatmeal.

Trencher WomanBefore long it was time to head off and return to the trench warfare of yesterday. Well, not exactly warfare, but it quite a battle to dig through that rocky crud that passes for dirt in these hills. Since we would be on our own again, we planned to finish the trench we started yesterday, then seed the grass areas we had filled in last week and if time permitted, water the Hosta we had transplanted. Fortunately we we able to accomplish all of these tasks. We knew Ron & Becky were deeply emotionally evolved with Larry and his wife, Melinda, so we wanted to get some things done around the campground we thought they would feel were important. Ever so slowly, but ever so surely we extended the length of the trench. Before we knew it, the upper end had been completed and it was time to begin burying the satellite cable in the trench. Rather than backfill the trench with the mix of rock, soil and wood we dug out it, we first sifted the dirt and used the fine soil to bury the cable. This we tamped down by using our feet. Next we put a layer of the rock and wood we had remaining after we sifted the soil to provide a "marker" in the trench. This was followed by the left over dirt and the job was finished off by raking the gravel back into place. When we were done you couldn't even tell a trench had ever been dug.

Cut cableWell, almost, we didn't cover the damaged telephone cable to allow for any repairs that need to be made. I felt really bad about it, but when I later told Ron about it, he said don't worry, those things happen. We did have time to seed the areas we had filled in with dirt and then to start the sprinkler to water it in. As we were putting the tools away after another day of work, well, four hours of work, Ron & Becky drove in. Now as luck would have it, this was at the same moment I was trying, and it is always very trying with this unruly beast, to put "The Sound and the Fury" into the equipment shed. Understand, this 'thing' doesn't like to go, and once it gets going, it doesn't like to stop. So they walk up just as I drive it into the equipment shed and drive it slam bang into the back of the trailer. Stupid thing has got a mind of it's own!!! Now I'm not trying to denigrate "Workamper Magazine", with those smiling happy workampers they always have on the cover, but somehow I've got to believe, that even in our limited few days of work camping, what I just related to you is more what work camping is really like!!!!!! Somehow the idea of doing the same tasks repetitively day after day does not appeal to my definition of life. But then neither does the idea of smashing up the bosses equipment, ha, ha.

Since this was Wednesday night, we would be enjoying the church supper again. Since Becky was at the hospital with Belinda, we drove down the mountain to the church. Even though we had only been there one time, we were greeted like old friends. When you come from the west coast, people just seem to have a natural curiosity in what it's like out there. Makes for instant conversation. there had been a running debate between Linda and myself over what was for dinner tonight. I was sure it was spaghetti and she was even more sure they did not serve spaghetti, only lasagna for the Italian meal. Furthermore, she informed me I simply had the Thursday night meal of spaghetti we were going to have before the concert confused with the lasagna we were going to have tonight. If nothing else,  Suffice it to say the spaghetti meal tonight at the church was not only outstanding, it definitely established, without the need for any triumphant announcement, who really knew what was for dinner tonight. to repeat myself,
nearly four decades of marriage have taught me when to keep my mouth shut, smile. One of the benefits of eating a church meal is that dessert must always be served. The chocolate brownie, while not the healthiest dessert, was certainly delicious, double smile. The triple smile came later, when after returning home, we had chocolate chip cookies and chocolate swirl ice cream for our dessert-dessert. Life is so good every day and even better on some of those days.         

Mar 7    Back to too many strawberries again. Wal-Mart had them on sale yesterday, so it was once again, oatmeal for breakfast with strawberries, sliced right, courtesy of Bob. As we were finishing the breakfast dishes, Stewart, another close neighbor and friend of Ron and Becky's came by to tell us some shocking news. Larry, one of the other neighbors who had stopped to talk and Larry helping spread soilstayed to help us spread dirt on Saturday was in the hospital. Turned out Larry's wife, who was out of town couldn't get him to answer the phone last evening. She called Ron at the campground and asked him to check on Larry. Ron went up to Larry's house and found him unconscious on the floor. This morning he was still in intensive care at the hospital and had not regained consciousness. Ron & Becky had been up all night with Larry's wife and were still at the hospital. We had first met Larry last Wednesday night at the church dinner we attended. He had fun telling people, jokingly, that we were the latest "Mountain Stream Slaves". (Nothing could be father from the truth by the way.) Neighbors helping neighbors is one of the things that makes the western North Carolina mountains so special.

This resulted in Linda and I being on our own for the day. We decided we would replace some of the  barrels that function as planters around the campground. We had used these same type of barrels for many years at our houses for planters. After a few years they would rot out to the point they needed replacing. So it was a job we already had experience in. One thing we did not have experience in was starting "The Sound and the Fury", The Sound and the Fury and the Womanthen backing it out of the equipment shed. Up till now, Ron had started it and had it out of the shed waiting for us when we reported to "work" each morning. Let me say that before I finally had it out of the equipment shed and hooked up to the trailer, there were many thoughts that passed through my mind that were most definitely not appropriate for a family campground, lol,lol. Linda says it could also be called " GO, GO or NO GO".  But then it has a mind of it's own, such that the GO,GO is actually, GO, GOING, GONEEEE  while at other times no matter hard you stomp on the "exhilerator", it is GO, GO SLOWER, BARELY GO AT ALL. Bet anybody that has work camped and had to use one of these temperamental beasts can relate!!!!

Gentle pushing on the exhilerator pedal, (it's way more than just simple acceleration when it takes off) causes something to happen. We hear the engine, we think, spin, but nothing else happens. No roar, no smoke, no back fire, just a gentle whirring sound. Obviously there is more to awakening it from a nights rest than just a gentle prod. Stop, think for a moment, ah, gasoline engine, cold start, choke, yep, that's it needs to be choked (in more ways than one), find coke beside shift lever, pull out choke, engine sounds, smoke, cough, lots of sound but no fury. So what's the matter? Before we would just push on the pedal and it would go. Push harder on the exhilerator, lots of noise, no movement, think maybe the brake pedal is on, check, no it's off,  think it somehow got out of gear, lean over to look at the gear selector, push harder on the pedal, reach for gear selector to check, mid reach the beast, with a screech of tires lurches backward at what had to be near supersonic speed. First thought was, hope I don't hit anything, second thought was hope I hit something cause it ain't a gonna stop no other way! Finally coasts to a stop outside of the equipment shed. Instant relief. How I ever managed to keep from hitting anything I'll never know, but then I wasn't doing any steering, I was just holding on for dear life. (As I read this to Linda, she is laughing and saying, that is exactly how it happened, but then since it was one of those moments when your life passes before you, how could I possibly forget any of the details, lol, lol)

We loaded up all the tools we thought we'd need, and drove to the worst looking barrel we could find. A quick examination showed Replacing barrelsit wasn't really rotted, smashed would be a better description. Now we begin to see some of the things campground owners must go through. What was obviously a good barrel met an obviously bad RV driver. Looking at where these barrels are located, I'd better amend that to: a really, really bad RV driver. Before long we have replaced two barrels by digging out the Hosta, next taking the dirt out, placing it on a tarp and removing the pieces of the barrel. Prior to placing the new 1/2 barrel we drilled three drainage holes in the bottom (after all the barrel is water tight), then filled it with dirt and put a very small cutting from the Hosta in the center. Then planted the remaining Hosta cutting in one of the beds we had constructed last week. and put away all the tools, plus the Sound and the Fury.

Our next job for the day was to dig a trench for the satellite cable. It currently ran on the ground near a play area and needed to be buried. The area where the trench would go was gravel over soil. First we raked the gravel off, placed several tarps out along that line so we could keep the dirt we dug out of the trench from mixing with the gravel. About that time Ron arrived back from the hospital, filled us in on Larry, no change, still unconscious and advised us there was a telephone cable buried near the corner of the office, so be careful when we dug in that location. Proceeding with caution weWorking on the barrels started digging. Before long we hit a gray electrical conduit, heavy duty stuff, cleaned out the trench to that level and moved further away from the office. Continued digging soon uncovered a cable, no damage done so we continued, As I dug I felt some resistance, what's this still another buried cable? Unfortunately yes, and as you may have guessed, not only was this the telephone cable, I had managed to knick it just hard enough to cut through and skin back a little of the outside cover.

Talk about feeling sick. However we had a trench to dig, so we went back to digging. It was a veryDigging the trench interesting mix of materials we were digging through. Ron wanted the cable buried about a foot deep, so we had a reasonable amount of digging to do. The top was the aforementioned grave, followed by a layer of yellowish clay like material. Below this was the most god awful mix of rocks of all sizes, sticks, roots and even tree trunks, bound together by a silty, sandy soil. We're talking a mixture that requires a mattock to loosen it. So with one of us either shoveling, hoeing, or using our hands to remove the mixture of "stuff" we were digging through, the other used the mattock to loosen the same "stuff" Needless to say we didn't get the trench finished before 2 PM rolled around, so we put away our tools and called it a day. Ate our turkey wraps with a side of grapes at the picnic table. It's been a while since either of us had worked this hard, but as out of shape as we had gotten over the last to months, we had decided to push ourselves a little today. We chuckle because when we work with Ron & Becky, they tell us we don't have to work so hard, guess we need to rethink this work thing in light of being old retired people, ha, ha. The afternoon was comprised of doing nothing. A little TV, a little nap. a little surfing, a little dinner and before you know it, it's time for dessert. The cheesecake had disappeared all to quickly, so Linda was rationing out the cookies. Some cookies, some ice cream, oh, what a dessert!

Mar 6    Monday, normally the start of our work week is now a day off, so after a delicious breakfast of oatmeal and finely sliced strawberries, courtesy of Bob, we loaded the dirty clothes in the Explorer and took off for the big city of Spruce Pine There are two ways to drive to Spruce Pine from the campground, one is to drive down Rt 80 to Marion and then drive up the mountain on US 221. The second is to drive up Rt 80 to the Blue Ridge Parkway, then take the Parkway north to Spruce Pine. Before we knew it, we were on the switch back section of Rt 80 just below the Blue Ridge Parkway. All the leaves are off the hardwood trees, the mountain laurel and rhododendron provide splashes of green under the bare limbs which are also interspersed with the occasional green columns of pines. As we entered the Blue Ridge Parkway there was a locked gate across the Parkway preventing anyone from traveling south on it. They have been working to open this section since the 2004 Hurricanes washed out a section of the road. After getting on the Parkway the innate beauty of the Blue Ridge was almost instantly apparent. Another thing that was readily apparent was the change in altitude from the campground. Up on the unprotected ridge line the winds blew with a fierce sharp cutting edge. To put it bluntly, it was freezing cold up there. So why were we stopping at every overlook, getting out of the Explorer, looking at the awesome view spreading out before us as we stood braced against the wind gusts. The only way I know is to let these pictures try to convey a nearly impossible to capture beauty.

Blue Ridge Parkway 

The grandeur of the mountains is so much more than the simple combination of trees, land and sky.
Blue Ridge Parkway

The beauty of the Parkway extends to the architecture of its structures.
Parkway bridge

Easy see why they call it the 'Blue' Ridge Parkway
'Blue' Ridge Parkway sign
(especially when taken with a blue filter)

We passed by the Little Switzerland exit, all the attractions seemingly closed and shortly thereafter reached the Spruce Pine exit which was preceded with a sign announcing the Parkway was closed to the north because of another slide caused by those same two 2004 Hurricanes. Imagine being a business, attraction, shop owner or craftsman located between the two closures and the resulting economic impact it has had on this area.

We took Rt 226 into Spruce Pine, stopping at the Wal-Mart Super center to buy some much needed items, including a bird feeder and bird seed. Linda is bound and determined to attract a Cardinal to our site. After much debate and comparison of bird feeders she finally selected what she felt was the perfect Cardinal feeder. Next came the selection of bird feed. Talk about confusing, I have to think there are no rules as to what may be said on a wild bird seed package. It's almost as if the manufacturers put whatever they want on the bag, as long as it will entice a totally confused consumer to spend money on their product. Take the birds shown on the package for example. Doesn't seem to matter what is in the seed blend, there's almost always a picture of a Cardinal on the bag. Guess the red of the Cardinal is a real "eye catcher" so everyone uses it. So after an even longer time than it took to select the feeder, at last the perfect seed mix went into the cart, and yes it had a picture of a Cardinal on it. Now it was off to undertake the objective of our coming to Spruce Pine in the first place. Funny thing was, hair salons are typically closed on Monday and today sure proved to be the penultimate typical hair salon day. Finally did find one open shop, but the hairdresser had an appointment coming in a about 10 minutes so that wouldn't work us. Guess she'll just have to learn to live with it being long (long to her that is, after all she could have my "problem", which is why I normally wear a hat, lol,lol).

Finally we tackled the last project on our list, the laundromat. Now, if you're familiar with our coach you're asking, why not use its washer/dryer? Well, it seems we have a small water leak that we're going to have Tom Johnson's look into on Thursday. I can see the leak, I just can't reach it to try and fix it, so off to the laundromat we go. It was literally just around the back of the building from the hair salon so we figured things were looking up. Walking in the door we were quickly presented with our first decision, what washer do you use. Remembering the great bird feeder and seed hunt of a little while ago, Linda boldly walked up to a top loader and opened the lid, soon she was doing the same thing to several of the Laundromatfront loaders. Going into that thoughtful stare that all women seem to do at these times of enormous decision making, she paused for a few seconds, then approached "our" machine and started loading the clothes into it. Now came a major mistake on my part. Looking at what was to me a bewildering array of instructions and warnings, on, above, below and beside the machine, I asked if she had read the instructions. You'd think that after nearly four decades of being married to this woman I would know better. I can only claim to have been so bewildered by that overwhelming display of signage that I spoke without first considering the ramifications of my words. Within moments I was sitting, throughly chastened, in one of the chairs in the laundromat. Now of course comes another problem, what to do during the 24 minutes it will take to wash our clothes in the properly sized washer, which without any hint of doubt on my part now, is being used correctly. One could spend their lifetime as a sociologist inside a laundromat and probably not have the "culture of the laundromat" figured out.
Some of the things I could make a reasonable guess about why people were doing what they were. Of course as soon I a felt pretty confident in my analysis, someone else would enter and vary the task just enough to make me question the rational I was using to draw my conclusion regarding this activity. Sure made the time fly. Wash done, it was dryer time. Vowing to myself that I would approach the transfer of clothes to the dryer with extreme silence in order to best avoid a repetition of the washer incident, stood and watched as Linda removed the clothes from the washer and wheeled them over to the dryers. Oh how quickly the clothes did literally seem to fly into the dryer, the quarters inserted to obtain the right amount of time and the temperature selected. All in total silence on my part. Later after we had added more quarters and selected the high Cookiestemp setting instead of the one she used to get the clothes not so damp and then retrieved several items she had inadvertently left in the washer when she had emptied it. We were off to the campground again.

However, the highlight of the day was the "soft chocolate chip cookies Linda made later in the evening. They are supercharged by adding vanilla pudding mix to the recipe. Accompanied by a mug of steaming hot chocolate and chocolate swirl ice cream, the still slightly warm cookies make a dessert fit for royalty. The unbelievable part of this dessert is it's also very healthy. I do promise to put up a recipe page before the end of the month to share some of the recipes. Till then you'll have to trust me the cookies are healthy. The hot chocolate is the sugar free packets and the ice cream is non fat, no sugar added chocolate swirl, Blue Bunny brand. Thus we end another day of living right while eating right, just part of the ongoing adventure we enjoy....

Mar 5    What a difference a week makes, last Sunday we were in Marietta Georgia, and today we are in North Carolina living an all together different adventure in an very different culture, yet both are in the southern US. Last week it was hurry, hurry so we can do things, today it is a day of rest and relaxation. Take breakfast for example, if you've been following my musings on how we live each day, you can already guess what breakfast was today. (Don't get overconfident though, cause one of these days we're going to run out of fresh strawberries and then we'll get to have some eggs, but not today.) Based on my recent commentaries about breakfast food you shouldn't be surprised to find a divergence of opinion in this household (or should it be RVhold) regarding the relative sweetness or tartness of strawberries. Linda thinks all strawberries are tart, while your intrepid guide through the lives of this typical? couple feels most strawberries are sweet just as they come from the field and only on very rare occasions need any assistance to satisfy a sweet tooth. As if this is not enough, we're also talking about two people that only eat sugar on the rare occasions of either eating at someones home or a restaurant. Since sugar in any form never enters the door of our coach, we rely on either Splenda or Stevia to provide sweetness. Generally we use Splenda in cooked foods and Stevia over fresh food. I will also admit to occasionally sprinkling a little Stevia on my strawberries. Great stuff, but be aware that a very, very small amount goes a long ways and more is most definitely not better but only bitter. It's definitely not something for everyone, heck, it's probably not something for almost anyone. We stumbled upon Stevia some time ago at a Trader Joe's store. Since then we've seen it in some of the health food stores we've been in. If you'd like to read about, I've linked to two commercial websites that have some very "commercialized" information about Stevia, one is and the other is  This is one of those products that you most definitely have to come to your own conclusion on, which is tough as even the FDA seems to have some difficultly with Stevia. Still, thought I'd let you know about it in case you're one of the multitudes who've never heard of Stevia. Needless to say, we had a delicious breakfast that had sweetened strawberries for both of us and was as unhurried as the previous Sunday's breakfast was hurried.

ChurchFollowing breakfast we walked across the road and over the bridge to the next dramatic change from a week ago. Last Sunday we visited Roswell Street Baptist church which had 1000's of people attending every Sunday. This morning we went to Springvale Baptist church whose record Sunday attendance as proudly shown on the register at the front of this small country church as 89. This morning there were 18 people in attendance. Yet, somehow this place was filled with genuine happiness that far exceeded the size of the building. Heck, the church and all the grounds would fit on the stage of some of the Mega churches we've been in during our adventure. Having never been to this type of service before, it reminded me somewhat of the scene where Gary Cooper goes to church in the movie "Sargent York". I certainly didn't recognize the hymns, but I knew instantly they were old time hymns and that they were meant to be sung with gusto and feeling, which they most definitely were. There was no stage full of musicians, no accompanying singers or choir, what there was was off key, off pitch singing of that could only come from deep within. There was no multi-media backdrop to the sermon, yet what there was a psalm reading that was sung instead of read and a sermon that came from the heart. It's one of those experiences we've come to relish in our life of adventure on the road. Following this we kicked back, "chilled" as our son would say, and simply spent the rest of the day doing nothing.

Linda and her rocksWell, we did take an exploratory walk around the stream that gives the campground its name. Then it became a minute examination of nearly every rock along the stream bank by Linda. Which, of course turned into a rock carrying exercise for Bob. Now the best part of this is Linda limits herself to rocks that will only fit into the mouth of a water bottle. The tales I could relate about my lugging near truckloads of rocks on some of our past vacations. If fact it started before we were married. Love is blind in more ways tah one. This is simply a woman who loves rocks, no geology background, but just an all encompassing desire to collect rocks that appeal to her. Is it any wonder I love her so much!

One other thing we did was to make some tomatilla sauce. Simple and easy to make, it kicks many of the Mexican dishes we cook up by a notch or two. It's the Tomatilla sauceingredient that makes our chicken quesadillas better than the best we ever get at a restaurant. Nothing to it the way Linda makes it. all ingredients must be fresh: tomatillas, garlic, onions and cilantro, combine and use fresh or freeze.  Because we had the tomatilla sauce, why not have quesadillas for supper. Suspect this is not a western North Carolina mountain dish, but when you've got the goods, go for it. Never ones to go with the mundane or basic, the boneless chicken breast is pan fried in olive oil for 6 minutes to a side, this results in a very juicy, yet throughly cooked breast, which is allowed to cool, then shredded with a fork. Returned to the pan, it is cooked with the chicken until it has cooked down some. Then it is placed on whole wheat tortillas on a griddle, cheese is grated on top and it is heated till the cheese melts. Topped with a little salsa of your choice and some sour cream, it's a meal for the gods. In order to take it far beyond the normal we had a side of Rosarita nonfat refried beans. Of course we never open a can of food and serve as is. What I did was to add some dried minced garlic to the beans. we use a healthy amount, but wow, are they ever good. So good a meal it even puts Tioga George's meatloaf to shame!!!!!  for dessert we had some more of the fabulous cheesecake Linda made last night with ice cream on the side. Life is not only good, it's delicious!!!!!!!!

Mar 4    Saturday and a day off to most people, but not for these two volunteer work campers. Of course before we head off to the salt mines, eh, eh, you've got to have enough energy to make it till lunch and turkey wrap time. One of the good things you have when you buy a lot of fresh strawberries is you get to eat a lot of fresh strawberries. Then again, one of he bad things about buying a lot of fresh strawberries is you have to eat a lot of fresh strawberries. So we fix our special oatmeal for breakfast. Speaking of strawberries, do you have a way you prefer to have your strawberries sliced? As you can guess, we do. Linda is a , don't care how big it is, slice it in half strawberry lover. I, on the other hand, enjoy my strawberries cut into small rather thin strips (Linda calls it something other than small strips, I won't go any further with her description, lol). Thing is, she'll eat strawberries the way I like them, if I slice them, but won't slice them the way I like them regardless of my requests. I on the other hand will only under great duress eat strawberries that are not finely sliced, but I will slice them the way she likes them as there is nothing to it, except capping them, then one slice and you're done. Therefore, once again this morning, I'm spending some time slicing strawberries.

Breakfast finished, and the 10 o'clock hour approaching, we're off for another day of timber and dirt. Because we did not finish building all the landscape timber borders yesterday we knew that was our task for the day. So with water bottles and leather gloves in hand, we walked down to the equipment shed. One of the things we have to do each nightBob on the golf cart is put away and clean up everything we worked on that day. So once again we get out everything we used yesterday and begin our work. As was the case yesterday, the work is not hard, but after not having done any work during several months of traveling and relaxing in the motor home, some of our muscles were (putting it delicately) slightly less toned than had been the case prior to our beginning this adventure. What we have been doing is not the routine work that is usually done when the campground is open, they are special projects that are done prior to opening for the season. One of the interesting things that we are noticing is, each day we are taking more "ownership" of the Linda driving the golf cartwork we are undertaking. Somewhat a combination of ingenuity, invention and pride, I think it results from satisfaction in knowing we made a good decision to volunteer work camp at Mountain Stream RV park. You couldn't ask for two nicer people than Ron & Becky, there is freedom rather than regimentation regarding both the type of work and the work schedule and as a real bonus we are feeling healthier by the day! Linda tried her hand at driving the golf cart today. Because she tries to keep a light foot on the 'exhilerater', her progress is punctuated with gunfire like outbursts of backfiring. Personally, I prefer the gravel flying takeoffsBob digging the timber trench to the backfiring, but to each of us her own (smile).

As part of our project today we are slightly altering the shape of one of the sites. This site is situated so there is a straight approach to back-in and pull out of the site as well as a right angle way to do the same thing. So while almost everyone uses the straight approach to park, quite a few, thinking the sharp left turn is a faster way out (I can with absolute authority assure you it is not) try to do a near impossible and attempt to leave by making a sharp left turn. We also find it interesting how our way of looking at things in the campground is changing after just a few days. Perspective is everything. Thus our task for the day is to extend the grassy area to a point that only the most foolhardy will attempt the impossible and try to exit by making the sharp left turn. Ron laughs as he says it will only be the people with the longest trailers that try to make the impossible turn. Placing the timber means much trenching on my part. When the trench is in the gravel area or the grass area it is easy. You just put what you dig out on the same material. But when digging in the twilight zone between gravel and dirt, what do you do with the excavated material? Ended up piling it near where Becky and Linda were screening soil so it could be properly recycled. Amazing, the places you can try to be environmentally responsible.

While Ron and I were digging, sawing and spiking, Becky and Linda were sifting more dirt and rocks to make soil. NowLinda's better way of sifting dirt the method for sifting soil was to put a large framed screen, made from hardware cloth, over the trailer, shovel dirt onto it use your hands to work the soil through the screen, then dump the rocks and do another batch until the trailer was full. Brilliant girl that Linda is, she suggested they lean the screen at an angle against the trailer. Situated and angled just right, the soil falls into the area it is needed and the rock falls into the gravel area were it is needed. (Just think how smart I am for having picked such a brilliant women to be my life partner, smile) As was the case in the past almost before we knew it, the 2 o'clock hour approached and the tools were put away for a few days. As we worked, we mentioned we had a few issues with the coach we need to have fixed under warranty. Ron and Becky have had quite a saga with their coach, so they suggested we go down the mountain to Tom Johnson's as soon as possible to schedule the work, since once the first of April arrives it can be up to a 12 week waitAn awesome dessert to get an appointment (and they bought their coach there). So we cleaned up and drove down. What a neat place! Have to say they certainly have a lot of RV's for being somewhat out in the middle of nowhere. Everything there was first class. Talked to a service writer and scheduled an appointment for this coming Thursday at 8AM. Drove around Marion some, trying to spot the grocery store and a hair salon for Linda. I'm not the only one who needs a haircut. For dinner we grilled some frozen sirloin burgers (definitely not as good as fresh ground sirloin) with our southwestern beans and a salad. While dinner was not quite up to our normal standards, Linda came up with a wonderful new dessert. Excuse the photo, but once I had taken a bite of it, I just had to take a pix, it was that good! It's a cheesecake that's both great tasting and healthy for you. One of these days I'm going to start a recipe page of some of these great dishes she comes up with.


Mar 3    Being creatures of habit and knowing a good thing when we taste it, yes we're talking about food, we fixed our old standby again this morning, oatmeal topped with fresh strawberries, a dash of stevia for sweetness, chopped walnuts and cinnamon. Now you would think this would be the same meal for both of us, but after all, differences are what make the world go around! Take something as simple as chopped walnuts. Nothing to it you say, just chop some nuts and put them on top of the oatmeal. Would that you live with the woman I do, though she would say, would that you have put up with the man I have to put up with. (Her story is probably the more correct one, lol, lol) The 'problem' is she likes her nuts coarsely chopped and I like mine very finely chopped. So when each of us chops our own, it's no problem. Enter the specter of efficiency. She decides to chop all the walnuts for once and for all. Of course they get chopped mostly as she likes them and since we start with walnut bits and pieces, its mostly un-chopped pieces we end up with. So back to the chopping board I go, sigh.

Following this it was time to pull on the gloves and head out to work. Today promises to be a dirt and timber day, rebuilding some planters and site dividers and filling them with cleaned dirt. At 10AM we headed down to the equipment shed and hooked up the Sifting dirtgolf cart and trailer. Driving the golf cart is quite an experience. Not being golfers means no experience driving one of these temperamental beasts. This on has a mind of it's own. Step on the gas lightly and nothing happens other than the motor starts and runs. Step harder on the accelerator and that's just what it does, accelerates, no wheelies, but does the gravel ever fly. It's finding that delicate balance (called experience) that's evading us. Of course before too many days pass by we'll be tooling around like old pros. Until then it will be flying gravel and rocket like takeoffs followed by long coasting stops accompanied by the gunfire like sound of the engine back firing. I could nickname it the "Billymobile ", because it is filled with 'The sound and the fury' but that would take some serious apologizing to the memory of William Faulkner, so I won't. Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve a mind that works like this, lol, lol. 

The grassy areas that separate the the campsites on the stream side are bordered with landscape timbers. Interspersed among the sites are raised planters, that have railroad ties for the base then are topped with landscape timbers. Our job for the day was to replace some damaged landscape timbers on a planter and Nailing landscape timbersfinish the timber edging around one of the sites. First we needed to get all the tools and supplies and stage them at the site. I dug a very shallow trench for the timbers, then cut and nailed them in place with 12" spikes.

Meanwhile Linda was playing in the dirt, okay, she was shoveling, sifting and placing the dirt in the planters and low spots in the grassy areas. The sifting part of the work is necessary to remove all the rock. from the dirt. Up here there is no such thing as Turkey wrapsdirt, it's more like rock with soil added. (The red clay does not qualify as dirt.) As we worked various neighbors would drive in and spend time talking with either Ron or Becky. This is the way it is in the western North Carolina mountains. Before we knew it, it was time to gather up all the tools and quit for the day. It's hard to believe we worked for four hours, it went by so fast. After a dinner of turkey burgers, and yes we had turkey wraps for lunch, we watched some TV, ate some chocolate swirl ice cream and called it a day.        

Mar 2    Well, somehow I got so caught up in relating all the details of how we ended up here, that I neglected to describe what ouSpraying for grubsr first day of work camping was like. There are two points of view here. Ours and our hosts. From our point of view we didn't know what to expect. We've both always been hard workers, whether mental or physical, plus we had worked many times at a Lake Tahoe retreat center doing cleanup and maintenance. From Ron & Becky's point of view, they had less than a month to get the campground ready for the season and there was a lot of work to get done. Would the new work camper couple be willing and able to do the work needed.  So what did we end up doing the first day. I sprayed the lawn areas of the campground for grubs, while Linda and Becky cleaned the lawn furniture and the bathrooms (which had been closed for the winter). Viewed in hindsight, it was an interesting day for both parties. We wanted to show them how much we could do, they wanted to find out how much we could do, but didn't want to overwork us. We knew going in that the amount of work we would be doing in March would be much harder than after the campground opened in April, so we had no problem doing these tasks, besides we only had to work for four hours. It was like we just got started when it was time to quit for Linda on breakthe day. Ten to Two, those aren't bad hours! And it isn't all work either. My "degrubbing" was a loner project as Ron was working on getting the parks WiFi router updated with the tech support people. It was fun figuring out how to run the golf cart that seems to have only two speeds, no go and fast go!!! So you're asking, why spray the grubs. Well the moles like the grubs and they burrow tunnels all over the place, plus they also attract shunks who drill nice big holes in the ground. So, no grubs, no moles, no shunks. And you thought campground owners only had to worry about having enough sites for all the RV'ers who want to camp at the Park, ha, ha,ha!!!!! Of course while I was spraying up a storm the ladies were proving the old adage, "All work and no rest, makes Bob a tired boy" Truth be told, it was a very enjoyable day spent getting some much needed exercise in the North Carolina sunshine. Topped off the evening with a delicious home cooked meal at the church Ron & Becky attend. We were greeted like old friends and had a good laugh at being asked how we liked being the lastest "Mountain Stream slaves." As we ended the day we reflected on what a wonderful life we have been given the chance to enjoy.

On day two, which was also March 2nd, we started work a half an hour early, at 9:30 AM. See, old habits die slowly, as both of us had always given our employers more than they asked. Thus we were Spreading strawworking on the embankment at the upper end of thePicking up ocks4 campground which needed to be seeded and then straw spread. We found out that in September 2004 hurricanes' Frances and Ivan almost wiped Mountain Stream off the map. The park's namesake stream came out of its banks twice within several weeks with a vengence as more than 17 inches of rain fell in just one day. By the time the waters had receeded, the upper end of the campground was a maze of gullies and the lower end was covered with more than three feet of silt. Then the most amazing thing happened. Neighbors from all around came to the park with everthing from hand tools to tractors and excavators. Before they were finished the park was virtually rebuilt. This took place, just not at the park, but everywhere somebody needed help. This is just they way people are up here. As we worked today, every once in a while a vehicle would pull into the park and a neighbor would get out and visit with Ron or Becky for a spell. It only took a short time to realize these were "real people" who live up here. and what a refreshing thing it was to we two long time city dewellers.

To help prevent the stream from inundating the park again, the stream and embankment had been reconstructed. Our first job was to pick up all the loose rocks lying on the dirt  so once theHaircut grass started growing it could be mowed  without danger of hitting any rocks. We cleared all the loose rocks of the 150' by 10' area. Again, it's all in your attitude. This could be considered hard work by some, we considered it good exercise. After Ron applied the seed we spread straw over the entire area. They watered it in, more to make sure it would rain than to actually help the seeds germinate. Of course later in the evening the wind came up and blew all the straw off the bare areas, but at least the seed stayed. Later found out the exact same thing had happened last year.

As we only work four hours each day, we had most of the afternoon off. Since I hadn't had a haircut since before Christmas, Linda got out the clippers and scissors and whacked off the ends of the few hairs I have left. She does such a good job, hardly ever cuts me so I bleed, plus since I usually always wear a hat, I can cover up any miscuts, but with nearly 40 years of practice, she never seems to make any anymore and besides, since most of the hair I have left is where I can't see it anyway, how would I ever know if she made a mistake anyway!!!

Mar 1    Woke up this mornin' feelin' fine, There's somethin' special on my mind, Last night I pulled into a new campground, whoa yeah Somethin' tells me I'm into something good, Somethin' tells me I'm into somethin'good. --- I walked her path and beheld her land, I knew it couldn't be just a one-night stand So I asked to stay next month and she told me I could. (With full apologies to Peter Noone and the rest of the Hermit's. The song "I'm into Something Good" was written byGerry Goffin & Carole King.)  

Mountain Stream signWe are now officially work campers at Mountain Stream RV Park in the beautiful mountains just south of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Marion N.C. We woke early and were eager to meet with Ron & Becky, our hosts and mentors for the next two months. But first you've got to eat breakfast if your going to have enough energy to work. We had picked up some fresh strawberies at the Sam's Club in Spartanburg, SC., so what better see us into the day than oatmeal with fresh sliced strawberries, a dash of Stevia for sweetness, chopped walnuts and powdered cinnimon.  Now it was time to find out what work camping was all about. But first you're probably asking, how could two people who have been traveling every few days since they "retired" at the first of the year, be ready to settle down so soon. (See Ron, I told you I'd let people in on how we came to this decision!!!!) Ron is the webmaster of hitchitch. com. If you came to our site from hitchitch you already know hitchitch the greatest site on the net to find info on the fulltime and extended stay RV lifestyle. If you don't know about hitchitch you're in for an awesome treat. Before we had even made the decision to join the cadre of those who live on the road, we had spent, literally hundreds of hours visiting both the links on hitchitch and also Ron & Terry's personal website, It's at the very top of our favorites list. Besides, who couldn't love a site that has the Tioga Team as their No. 1 link!!!!

As I mentioned last month, okay, yesterday, but still, it was last month, one of our goals was to experience all the aspects of this lifestyle, one of which is work camping. Most people take off on their first great adventure after retiring and spend 12 to 16 months making the grand circuit of the USA. We're making the circuit, it's just a little different is all, kind of like the beat of the different drum to which I tend to. Originally we had planned to spend the entire winter and spring in Texas, starting in the Rio Grande Valley and ending up in the Texas Hill Country. Then in late May we would fly back to Ohio for Linda's 40th high school reunion, then upon returning to Texas spend the summer in Colorado and Wyoming. But, that was before we started thinking the "gosh we live in a motorhome, we can go anywhere at anytime" way. You work all your life and it takes a while to comprehendWorkamper News the freedom this lifestyle allows! You know, the realization that: "I may be slow, but I ain't stupid." Anyway, once we got our thinking straightened out, ideas flowed like a runaway oil gusher. Since we had to be in Ohio at the end of May, why not go in the motorhome. Then another thought. We were free and could do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Lets just set someplace for a couple of months, slow down and smell the roses in one area so to speak. Thus came about the idea of work camping. We had always been very active, hard workers and the idea of just sitting around doing nothing was something neither of us wanted to do. So we subscribed to Workamper News. As soon as the first issue arrived we poured over it, marking anything that caught our eye. Quickly we found some compromising was in order, as some apportunities Linda had checked I wasn't interested in and visa versa. We finally boiled our wants, desires, wishes and realities down to several things. Location: Texas east to Georgia and north to the Carolinas. Job: No campground hosting, open to anything else as long as Linda did not have to lead tours. Time frame: March and April. Compensation: FHU site only. Contact method: Website and email. Now the next problem is how does one go about actually applying for the positions selected?  Time to dust off, literally, the old resume. Whoa, wait a minute, these resume's don't relate at all to the jobs we're looking at! Back to Workamper to get some hints. Followed there advice. Looks good. Recommend you have photo of your rig. We don't have a rig. what to do. Find a pix of one similar to what we're getting and use that.  Whew, none of this has been what you'd call easy, but we're getting close to the end of the beginning of the process. Send emails with brief cover letter and resume' to those we picked.

Two nights later see an ad we missed.Mountain Stream ad that caught our eye Originally we wanted to apply to a campground in the moutains of North Carolina, but the had no email address or website. While the employer/host wants to know about us, we also want to know about the employer/host. The missed ad was for a small campground near the Blue Ridge Parkway. They had a website and later that evening we emailed our resume'. Of the seven resume's we emailed, we got offers from three. One we turned down, one the time frame they had open didn't fit and the third one was a perfect fit. And that is how we ended up at Mountain Stream. Ron & Becky still have some summer openings if you're interested after reading this and looking at their website. Their email is: Camp@MountainStreamRVPark tell them you read about it here.