Nacogdoches, January 2017

Nacogdoches sounds like something you might get at a local Mexican food place.  It would likely have cheese on it and be tasty.  But it is a small town in East Texas, about the same size as Hastings and a county seat as well.  It is also the home to the Stephen F Austin State University whose student population swells the total to almost 37,000. Unlike Hastings it has a Lowes big box store and many, many more restaurants. We have discovered over several visits that going out to eat, especially lunch, is a big chunk of the social fabric.

It is also the home to Foretravel which started in CM Fore’s backyard.  The story goes that his son needed a high school project and since the Fores liked to travel they built their own motorhome in 1967. It was 29′ long and named the “Speedy Marie” after CM’s wife.  They built more in the back yard for a while and when it looked like a business they moved into a big building on the outskirts of town.  By 1974 they introduced the industry’s first diesel motorhome and were among the first to use fiberglass instead of aluminum, real hardwood cabinetry, full airbag suspension and many other features not found in any other motor homes at that time.  Foretravels have always been a smaller manufacturer in this market.  Their coaches are at the very high-end price point in the market.  Their peak production was in about 1998 when they built almost 300 coaches.  The vast majority of these were built to order.  Market forces caused them to get smaller during the early 2000’s and Foretravel was sold to new owners in 2005.  The new ownership moved to design and build new, bigger coaches aimed at the very highest end of the market.  Today Foretravel builds 20-24 coaches a year and more that are used as mobile command centers and functions like that.  Their primary competition is Newell coaches (about 30 a year) and Prevost bus conversions, all custom-built to order.

The main reason for our NAC stop was to get the front seats removed, un-upholstered, all new foam inserted, re-upholstered, cleaned and reinstalled. Motorhomes of Texas had a special on this in the October. I talked to their remodel manager and he said they would honor that price in January when we came down.  And when it was all done it was even less than the original estimate and they had it done in half the time they estimated.  They also did an engine oil and filters change, serviced the generator, fixed an air leak and did maintenance work on the rear brakes at the same time.

The seats turned out very well.

Motorhomes of Texas (MOT) is just up the highway from Foretravel.  They have facilities on both sides of the highway.  NAC has a big supporting industry built up around Foretravel.  Old Town Motorcoach does service and sells some coaches. World Line Motors does all sorts of mechanical repairs. Beau Reece has a shop and does mobile repairs. Xtreme Paint and Graphics is the go-to place for fiberglass repairs and paint.  And there are more in the area as well.  So with all of the expertise close at hand it is no wonder that many owners make a stop in NAC part of their travel plans.

For us it is way more than just a service stop.  We have been here now three times and have met many other owners and made many new friends.  Several of them live in NAC.  This year as we did two years ago we helped Mike and Jackie Harbordt and Don Cox make a lunch for all of the folks at MOT. Actually Don makes his really good Texas Gumbo in normal and spicy versions, gallons of it.  The rest of us make salads and desserts.  Susan make a common Minnesota Lime Green Jello salad with cottage cheese and pineapple. She made a really big bowl which was good because it meant leftovers for us.

Don, the Gumbo King,  Jane, Jackie and Keith Risch, 35 years experience with Foretravels

Our friends Douglas and Amanda were on their way south from a 6 week Holiday visit to St Louis and they stopped in NAC for some basic service work as well.  Amanda brought decorated cookie bars.  There was also a chocolate fudgie brownie cake gooey yummy desert and a banana pudding cake with Nilla cookies, oh my!

All of the folks at MOT rotated in and out of their lunch room for lunch. Don’s gumbo is always a big hit and there wasn’t much left. We got to visit with folks and have some lunch too.  Don and Mike do this maybe three times a year to show appreciation for all of the help and good service they get from MOT.

After we were done at MOT we went over to Foretravel’s campground where we can stay for free.  Amanda and Douglas came over as well. We went to Auntie Pastas for dinner.  The next day, Saturday, we went to a nearby COE park on the Sam Rayburn Reservoir for a couple of nights.


We wanted to be back in NAC Monday to meet Carol and Scott. I have known Scott for several years now through the Forum and we have come close to crossing paths twice but missed.  This time they had recently purchased a 2001 42′ coach from another Forum member in Virgina and sold their 2002 36′ coach to someone in TX. So they went to get the coach in Virginia, drove it back to TX, moved from one coach to the other, finished the sale of the 2002 coach and headed to NAC to get a new satellite dish installed. Our paths finally crossed.  So we got to go out for dinner with them and spend some time doing the show and tell thing.


We also met George and Steph from Virginia.  They were in NAC to go to Xtreme to get new headlights installed like we did two years ago.  They are another nice couple.  George is just in the final steps of adding solar power to the roof of their coach, a new inverter/charger, all new charge controllers and monitors and a new set of lithium-ion batteries.  This is all cutting edge technology and it was interesting to see how he had done it.  Lithium batteries last a long time, hold charge for a long time and recharge quickly. They are expensive and don’t like to be hot or cold.  So George has added heat to the battery bay as well as air conditioning.  He has added a multi-page display that shows how the system is working using pictures to represent the components and moving arrows to show the flow of power.  Very cool!

We got together with Douglas and Amanda on a couple of nights to play Quidler and Uno. Lots of fun but we always stay up too late.

After all of the visiting and work was done it was time to head to see Rudy and Carolyn in Baytown, TX near Houston.  That is our next stop.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Maumelle COE Park, Little Rock AR, January, 2017

Kansas City Overnight.

OK, I know we stopped at Camp Wal-Mart just south of Kansas City, MO on our first night out but there is not much to report from there.  We went into the store and walked around the inside three times and then bought a few things. A light supper and an early night.  It was still cold, probably in the teens but everything was as it should be. We brought along an electric blanket and put it on the bed under the quilt and turned it on when we left that morning.  I had placed a temperature sensor under it so once we got parked and settled in it was 72 degrees under the quilt and the memory foam mattress was no longer as hard as a brick the way it gets at sub-zero temps.

Off towards Little Rock.

A good night’s sleep and off the next morning down through Missouri and a bit east towards Little Rock, AR.  We have been down through Missouri before but usually went more west though Kansas and Oklahoma.  There are toll roads that way and the worst case is almost $100 for a motor home with a towed car (a toad).  So we went the other way towards Little Rock and then back SW towards Nacogdoches.

Maumelle COE.

We were headed for Maumelle COE (Corps of Engineers) campground on the Arkansas River just west of Little Rock and across the river from Toad Suck Holler. We thought we could take a day off and wash road grime off the coach.  The drive was nice but there are almost no rest stops along the way. The drive through the southern end of the Ozarks was pretty with long, high curving  bridges crossing from one ridge to the next.  The part through Bentonville and Fayetteville AR was a bit dreary.  Lots of small towns and road construction.  You would think that with all of the Wal-Mart money in the area that it would have been better. Someday it will be.

We arrived at Maumelle about three in the afternoon after two days of driving on dry roads in clear weather.  There was some dust but it was hardly worth cleaning. We selected one spot but the water wasn’t working (cold the night before, 40’s today) so we moved to one that did.  The COE are usually very nice and cheap, $11 a night here with our geezer pass.


We hadn’t been there for more than an hour or two when another Foretravel drove into the park.


It was people I recognized from the Owner’s Forum.  They found a nice spot over by the river where the water was working.  We went over to say Hi.  It was Jan and Bill Velting from Michigan.  Bill had a medical problem a couple of years ago that left him with limited function in his legs.  He can still drive but has pretty limited mobility beyond that.  So Jan has learned how to do all of the things that need to be done.  They had pulled into their site so that they were facing the river which put their electrical cord coming out of the coach on the opposite side  from the power post.  She tried going around the front of the coach but came up about a foot short so she wasn’t sure what to do.  Susan and I do this frequently for the sake of the view.  The solution often times is to run the power cord under the coach rather than around it.  I usually tie a small rope to a wrench from the tool box which makes it easy to toss from one side of the coach underneath to the other side.  We tie the rope to the cord and pull it under and plug it in. When we are really far away I have an extra 50 foot, 50 amp cord in the new bay. We helped her get connected and chatted for a while.  They were just glad to be south and warm and were going to stay for a couple of weeks.


That is Jan and Bill in the distance. We decided to stay for another day just to take a break.  We were on schedule or even ahead a bit so there was no hurry.

Bill posted something on the Forum that they had met us. The next day another FT owner from Little Rock read we were then and came to visit.  His name was Steve and was a very talkative fellow.  He told us about all the good places to eat and the ones to avoid. He told us that he called his wife the “nagivator”.  Pretty funny but not something I would ever call Susan.

It turned out that this route’s length was within 20 miles or so of the toll roads and Dallas route.  Much better.

More later,

Roger and Susan



The Storm before the Calm, December 2016

We didn’t go anywhere last winter after I tore up my shoulder after falling on the ice. I had it rebuilt in February followed by six months of rehab.  I tore three of the four rotator cuff tendons and one of two bicep tendons.  Don’t do this. The surgery was difficult and painful.  Then almost a month before you can sleep in a bed. And then rehab, twice a week for another two months and then once a week.  My rehab person was great.  I know much more about how shoulders work than ever before.

After the “Empty Space Recovery” we winterized the coach. This means we drain out all of the tanks and all of the water lines and then pump an RV potable anti-freeze through all of the water lines, all of the faucets, all of the drains and the water pump. This is essential to protect the water system from freezing. We also fill the fuel tank with #1 diesel and a winter anti-gel additive and a biocide. And the we drive the coach about 40 miles, run the generator for at least a half hour and the AquaHot diesel boiler until the water is hot (about 20 minutes). The anti-gel keeps the fuel flowing when it gets cold and the biocide keeps algae from growing in the fuel, really it does  grow in diesel fuel and it will quickly clog the fuel filters.

And then the coach goes in the coach house (barn), the tires are inflated to maximum pressure and the coach waits until we are ready to go.  Well almost.  We try to get the coach out on its 40 mile warmup run once a month when the roads are clear and dry and run the generator and the AquaHot.  A little exercise is good. None is not.

November and the first half of December was very mild, warmer than normal, not much snow but we got rain as late as Christmas. It makes us wonder why we want to leave.


And then snow and cold.  Our target exit date was January 7-9. We are headed for Texas, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.



Now I remember.  But it is still beautiful.

Just after the New Year we turned on minimal heat in the coach, enough to warm it up to about 40 degrees.  I adjusted the tire pressures to normal. We started moving stuff into the coach and bins we had removed from the basement back in.  The basement spaces are heated as well so they were OK. On Thursday the refrigerator was turned on. On Friday the diesel side of the AquaHot was on.  The coach is now at 68 degrees and the engine is being preheated as well using the heat from the AquaHot.  All of the last of our clothes, pantry food and refrigerator and freezer food is loaded.  All of the last-minute stuff that needs to be done in the house is finished up.  We are ready to go. Saturday morning, the water is off, cameras on, heat turned down, everything that needs to be off is off and on is on.  It is minus 4 degrees. I am ready with my new Minion Christmas hat.  Is it Bob? Yes!


The barn doors are opened, the coach starts right up, the engine is at 65 degrees right away, the Jeep is connected, lights are tested, thumbs up all around.  The barn is closed up and locked.  One last pass through the house and all is as it should be, doors are locked and garage doors are closed.  Inside the coach it is close to 70 degrees, all is ready for departure especially us. One last deep breath and we are off at 8:30 AM.  Perfect. It is clear and  dry, an 8 hour day including stops to change drivers and lunch and we will be 30 miles south of Kansas City at Camp Wal-Mart before dark.

I have had a couple chats with my friend Mike Harbordt from Nacogdoches about what happens when we travel. Neither of us is going on vacation when we travel.  We are just going to be somewhere else. We are in our coaches, a different place than home but at home just as well. All of the busy stuff gets left behind.  Of course what has to be done still gets done but a sense of calm comes with leaving, leaving all of what is not necessary behind. There is time to look out the window and wonder, to read a good book, to take a walk listening to the new sounds around you. To be quiet, to talk with each other, to go to bed early and sleep late. Sometimes this happens quickly, sometime it takes a while but it comes.  We both feel like time somehow slows down a bit, less to do has more time. It is a comfortable feeling, the calm after the storm.

More later,

Roger and Susan




The Empty Space Opportunity, October 2016

I know, I am way behind again but I am working on it.  These posts sort of have to be done in order.

Our coach has lots of room for storing things but there is always one more thing that would be nice to have, one thing that doesn’t quite fit in the available space without displacing something else. So…

On the passenger’s side towards the back behind the rear wheels there is a side bay door behind which are the engine batteries.  There is a matching door on the driver’s side behind which there is nothing.


Nothing means empty space.  You can see the transmission in there. And empty space calls out for something.

When we were last in Nacogdoches, TX the folks at Xtreme Paint and Graphics were telling me they were installing a box in there for more storage.  When I found out they wanted more than $2,000 for it I decided I could do it myself.  So I measured several times and then measured again and again, did lots of thinking and sketching and then off I went to see my local sheet metal guy with some drawings for a box and some support arms.  A week later they were done.


The welded aluminum box fit perfectly. I installed the steel support brackets to support the box.


And then fit the aluminum box into place with lots of sealant and bolts.


It is very a solid and waterproof 6.75 cubic feet of new storage space. The interior of the box is finished with an exterior carpet material and was promptly filled with stuff. Most of this is seldom used but nice to have tools, spare parts and other gadgets that are sometimes needed.  This frees up other space for the things we use more often.


A small compressor, a spare heating system pump, safety stands for working under the coach, a 50 foot, 50 amp extension cable and more.  All nice to have if and when they are needed.  And this entire project cost me about $275 and took about three hours to install and finish. DIY pays off.

This was my last project before winterizing the coach and putting it in the barn for a couple of months before we head south to warmer weather.

More later, I promise,

Susan and Roger

Lake Superior North Shore, October 2016. Temperance River State Park.

We are great fans of the North Shore of Lake Superior. Only two weeks after our epic South Shore Expedition we are off to the North Shore for a week at one of our favorite State Parks, Temperance River.  We have been here several times in the past.  It must be almost everyone else’s favorite park too because for this time of the year it is booked solid almost a year in advance.


We go around the campground loop the wrong way so we can pull in looking at the lake. We are on a rise looking out on Lake Superior.


There are two campgrounds here, one on each side of the river.  The south campground is at lake level, the north one is on the rise.


The Temperance River flows down from an inland lake and as it gets closer to the lake it has cut a deep narrow cascade through the ancient rock through a series of waterfalls. It is quite dramatic.

We spent quite a bit of time hiking. We got our bikes out and rode down to Schroeder … but no swimming.  Schroeder has a tasty bakery and a nice county historical museum.  They had a display about Taconite Harbor which was a major loading point for early taconite production.  There was a dedicated railroad that went from the loading docks to the mines and taconite plant at Hoyt Lakes, about 50 miles away.  When the mines were running out of iron ore and the cost of moving the taconite was going up and the size of the lake ships was making the harbor too small the whole thing shut down somewhere around 1980.

The loading docks and the power plant are still there, unused.


We went to The Sugarloaf Cove Nature Preserve near Temperance River that was once part of a huge logging operation.  From 1943 to 1971, Consolidated Papers, Inc. used this site to store pulpwood logs during the winter. During the spring and summer months, tug boats rafted the logs across Lake Superior to Ashland, Wisconsin. Remnants of the log chutes, the log storage areas, the old buildings and anchors for the log booms.  The cove was big enough to float logs to an area of about 40 acres. All of these logs were surrounded by a steel cable and log boom.  There were floating platforms where the ends of the boom cables came together and then a very long cable to a steam-powered tow boat.


During the summer they would tow several log rafts across the lake at just over 1 mile per hour.  It has taken more than 25 years to restore this site.  It now has trails and interpretive sites for visitors to imagine what it might have been like before the logging operation.

The Temperance River area is a great place for a lake side experience.  There are many  places where you can get right down to the lake where it seems that you may have been the only one to be there for years. There is great hiking, nice bike trails, interesting sites nearby and plenty  of time to just slow down for a while and enjoy the time away, the time to explore and the time to be quiet.

And plants that just grow out of the rocks.img_6955

We will be back here again.

More later,

Roger and Susan