A Stop in NAC, Feb, 2018

We left Maumelle COE after two nights (thinking three nights would have been better). Rain was forecast between there and NAC as everyone calls Nacogdoches. The AAA routing says four hours, we figure about five and a half and we are pretty close. We don’t drive the speed limit (75 mph on two lane state highways!) and we seem to catch most of the stop lights.

Foretravel has a campground which is really just a parking lot but they have 50 amp hookups and water. There is a laundry there as well. Lots of folks in for service stay there. Anyone else just passing through is usually welcome to stay as well. Nice because it was free. Well, free like Walmart. I went in to the Parts Department and bought a new pressure switch for the auxiliary air compressor and a couple of polyurethane bushings for the engine hatch. They help keep it from rattling.

There were several people in the campground, a couple that I knew. One was from New Mexico, the other from Northern Texas.

We had plans to meet Rudy and Carolyn Legett from Baytown the next day for a visit with Mary and Chappell Jordan. So that evening Susan and I went to Auntie Pastas for dinner. Susan had chicken piccata and I had pan seared red snapper. What a wonderful dinner. Service was attentive, food came quickly and hot. We got a baguette with dinner, we only had a small chunk of it and the wait person sent us home with another. These are baked on site and brought to the table still warm. The two we brought home became French toast a few days on. Way more than we could eat for breakfast so the rest got frozen for a quick breakfast another day. At dinner the folks sitting at the table next to us recognized us from the Foretravel Forum and introduced themselves. They were from Fort Worth and were staying over at Motorhomes of Texas.

Rudy and Carolyn stopped by in the morning and we followed them to Chappell and Mary’s home. NAC is the oldest city in Texas. It has about 20,000 people there plus another 11,000 students at Stephen F. Austin State University. It is also the county seat. This area is forested with pine trees and the lumber industry has been big for a long time. There are many grand homes in the historic district where Chappell and Mary live. They retired from Chappell’s Houston clock store (repairs and sales) in the mid 1990s and moved to a large 1890s home in NAC that was a bed and breakfast. They continued the B&B for five years or so and then it reverted back to a single family home once again. Lots of bedrooms and bathrooms. They are active antique furniture collectors so the whole house is stuffed with beautiful furnishings and 150 or so of Chappell’s clocks that he hung onto. Some are immense clocks, some stately grandfather clocks, many old English clocks and many just quite curious ones.

Rudy wanted me to meet Chappell because we share woodworking as a serious avocation. He will tackle almost anything. There were clocks, large dining and kitchen tables, small trays, end tables and many more things he has built all through the house. He likes working in Cherry and Curley Maple. His work was very well done, a joy to see. We went to his shop and looked at wood, looked at tools, talked about methods, tools and much more … boring to all but woodworkers. But just as much fun for Rudy to see us connect as he thought we might.

We went out for lunch and then back to their coach house where Chappell and Mary store their FT. More motorhome yakking and then back to their house. The gals stayed there and the guys went to look at motorhomes at Motorhomes of Texas. We looked at several then we went to MOTs second site to look at something else and ran into the folks we met the night before at dinner. And then to Xtreme Paint and Graphics to say Hi to friends there and then back to check on the gals. (This guys/gals this is a TX thing). They were fine, they had a detailed tour and lots of chatting about everything. So after a cup of coffee we all said goodbye and departed.

What a pleasant and enjoyable day.

And then we went out for dinner with Mike and Jackie Harbordt, more good friends from NAC. They too have a FT, something we have in common but we all share an interest in books and authors and the things they say, how they say them and what that all says to us. Lots of common thought here. Last time we were down here Mike gave me a book of blog pieces written by Pat Conroy. He is an interesting author whose works include “The Great Santini”, “The Lords of Discipline”, “The Prince of Tides” and more. He was raised in a strict military family and went to the Citadel, a South Carolina military college. His writing reflects much of his own life experiences and life at the Citadel. His blogs speak of his friends, friendship, writing, reading, authors and language. I started the book, Susan picked it up and finished it in a flash and went on to read other of his books, I like to say I am on my third reading. I read one entry, stop and think about it and then again some more and then go back several entries and read them again because I need to understand what was said. And then forward again.

This has made me think about what is said and how. Much more about how friendships emerge and strengthen and sometimes not and how important they can be. And what happens when you lose a long time friend.

We had a very nice dinner with Mike and Jackie. We will be seeing them in about six weeks over in Fredericksburg, TX when the Bluebonnets should be in bloom. It is always a pleasure to see them and share a meal and a conversation.

On to Baytown next. We were getting ready to leave and the folks from Fort Worth showed up for a short show and tell. And then on we all went. It was pouring rain. Buckets.

More later,

Roger and Susan.

Texas, Winter 2018

Our departure date has been Feb 20 for some time now. The last two winters in Minnesota have been mild. This winter has been cold, lots of overnight temps below zero. A few small snowfalls and one where we got “buried” with 14 inches. It was pretty light and fluffy so easy to deal with.

Projects were done, we started looking at weather as we do when heading home. In the middle of winter leaving can be just as hard. We need two clear days to get far enough south that we will be where it is warmer. All through early February it had been very cold in Texas, below freezing often, ice and snow and rain. We moved our hoped for departure date up to the 16th from the 20th to open up the window. Weather heading south looked better earlier and worse at home than heading south on the 20th.

The Oak Tree

And then there is the other stuff. In prep for our Solar Project (and because it was dying and rotting from the inside out) the old oak tree at the corner of the garage needed to go. Our tree cutter, Eric, got up into the top with his lift truck and said it wasn’t going to get better with even a severe trimming and had long spiral cracks running down into the base of the tree from lightning strikes so we said remove it. I hate cutting down trees especially oaks and this one had been there for a hundred years or so. It was over 3 ft in diameter at the base. Eric cut down as many of the branches as was safe to do with his boom truck and then got a crane in there to hold chunks as he cut them off. The rest of the big branches came down and then the trunk. They cut off an 8 ft section that weighed about 6,000 lbs and then the last 12 ft section that weighed close to 10,000 lbs.

Eric’s 4 ft chain saw just barely went through the base.

And a tug from the crane and it was free. The big logs went off to a saw mill to see what lumber they could get from them.

All this was going on while we were getting the coach ready for travel.


We were ready so we left on the 16th. We forgot a few things maybe because we left early or because of distractions or just because. Nothing we can’t live without but they get added to the list.

Seven degrees when we left, straight down 35 into Iowa, cloudy into Missouri and south of Kansas City to a WalMart that is easy in and out, just off the interstate. It is free to stay there but then you go inside and pick up some of this and that and pretty soon it is $25 anyway. Much warmer there, right around freezing.

The next morning we headed south on I49 towards Alma, Arkansas, it was raining most of the way, not hard but wet. Then SE on I40 towards Little Rock. We almost got there but turned south to cross the Arkansas River and then back up the other side to Maumelle Corps of Engineers (COE) campground. We have been here before. It is right on the river and a nice place to stop for 2 or 3 nights.

It was cloudy there but not raining. Cool, but it felt warm to us. We de-winterized the water system. Drain all of the RV antifreeze in the pipes, add water, flush everything out, repeat a couple times, drain the water tank. Add some bleach to the fill side of things and start filling the water tank. Let it sit and then drain it all out and do it again and drain that out. Then fill the tank with the filters and water softener in place. Takes a couple hours. Better than frozen pipes.

The Arkansas River connects to the Mississippi River. It has locks and dams for navigation and just like at home, barges and tow boats go by.

This is a very nice stopping point on our way south. It seems remote but there is shopping and service nearby. There is plenty of room to get out and stretch your legs and just let the slower part of being elsewhere catch up and abandon the busy-ness of getting ready to go. A good start.

More later,

Roger and Susan


  • Fixed year in Title

Winter Projects, 2017

When you get home from being elsewhere there are always things that need to get done, things promised, things left over and things that need to get started. And then there are the things you don’t even know about yet. Lots of those.

Coach Projects

Not much here that is new. We had a small radiator leak. I started noticing a drip here or there after the Tetons on our way to Oregon. Some driving days there was nothing, other days there might be a wet spot 4-5 inches across. I had part of a gallon of antifreeze along and added that to the 11 gallons of coolant in the engine and radiator. We never leaked enough to need any more.

I took it up to Cummins and they thought it would be a simple repair, they ended up rebuilding the entire radiator. It was a couple coach bucks (thousands) plus the oil change (38 qts) and transmission synthetic fluid change. Pretty much burned through that year’s and some of next years maintenance budget. It is all well and fixed now. It was due for a coolant system flush and clean and fill and new filters again anyway.

Shop Work

When we built our house we left a shallow recess along one wall of the short hallway between the master bedroom and the master bath. The opposite side of the hallway opens into the walk-in closet. We like a few shows on HGTV and this now called the “en suite”. French for a room with a ceramic shrine connected to a bedroom. We never heard of that when we built the house. Anyway, the idea was to build a cabinet of some sort into that space to store linens or clothes. After many years of thinking about it work commenced two years ago on this project about two weeks before I fell on the ice and tore up my shoulder. Six months of recovery and rehab meant no shop work. I got back at it in a disjointed fashion, some here and some there. The lower carcase (internal framework) and face frame, the doors, and all of the drawers got made a year ago. When we got home I started up again, promising to get it finished before we left for TX. The center and upper sections were made and assembled. All three parts came into the house for fitting into the recess which was pretty close to plumb and square but not exactly. The cabinet has to fit in with a very well fitting edge on one side and a bit of room for expansion on the other.

Back to the shop for final mounting of the drawers. The slides have to be in just the right place so that the drawers fit into the openings and flush to the face frames. 3/64″ allowance all around the drawer to the face frame (that is less than 1/16″). There are three doors on the upper section, they all fit with the same tolerance. I added LED lighting to the middle section and to the interiors of the upper section.

Six coats of a catalyzed oil finish leaves just the right color, sheen and feel to the birch. And then back into the house, positioned just so, locked into place and it was done.

102″ tall x 60″ wide. 13 drawers. A lighted center section and more storage behind the upper section drawers.

Now I can finish the door trim. It passed Susan’s approval (two thumbs up!) and mine too. The drawers are filling up. I really enjoy working in the shop, it is soothing, methodical and detailed work that for me is quite pleasing.

Solar Panels

No, not more on the coach but for the house. We looked into getting solar panels on the roof of the house. Did it make sense? What was the cost? What were the benefits? Would it pay for itself? The answer seemed to be Yes to all. There are significant State and Federal tax benefits to help pay for the installation, very substantial rebates from the local utility company and State law requires the local Utility to buy back excess power at the current retail price of electricity.

We can put in up to 120% of our average annual use. Than means almost 13,000 watts for solar panels on the roof. On average we will generate 100% of our usage and sell 20% back to the utility. At night we will buy some power but most of that is off-peak power at a much lower rate much less than we sell back during the day. The savings from not buying power from the utility and selling the excess back means that it should pay for itself while we can still enjoy it.

So we are going to move forward with it. Engineering, design and permitting are in the works. If it all meets our final approval work begins in late May.

Planning for the Next Trips.

We thought about going to a South Carolina beach State Park this winter. Either Edisto or Hunting Island. They are nice parks, right on the ocean and 1/2 price for snowbirds. The weather there this winter was terrible, glad we didn’t go. And then we were considering the Gulf Shores are east of Mobile. We started checking on places more than six months before we wanted to be there and there was nothing available anywhere for any length of time.

We are heading for Texas Hill Country in winter 2018. South of Austin, north of San Antonio. Livingston, Georgetown and Fredericksburg. Lots to do down here, the Hill Country should be a place we can go if we just want to go south. And over time we have met lots of nice folks down this way.

We are going to Michigan (upper and lower) in the summer of 2018. Maybe Gulf Shores in Alabama for winter of 2019. Maybe the Canadian Maritimes for summer of 2019. The way the travel world is today a year of lead time is needed for many places. 44 years ago when we started our RV life reservations were almost unheard of and almost never needed.


More later,

Roger and Susan

The Way Home To Hastings, Fall 2017.

The way home, no matter the time of the year, is always framed by weather. We look closely to see what is brewing and where along the possible routes and times for the way home. This time was no different. Across Oregon into Washington, then Idaho and across Montana and North Dakota and into Minnesota. Temperatures were dropping in Montana through the mountains. Some snow was expected in the higher elevations. We were hoping to stop in Helena, MT to visit a friend but he was off to the UK for wedding. Next hoped for stop was at Medora, ND for a visit to Teddy Roosevelt National Park and a day off from driving. Rain was expected across Oregon, Washington, Idaho and western Montana following the snow line. Massive fires along I84 along the Columbia River had closed that route for almost three weeks. The west bound lanes had opened a week or so before we were looking to leave. The fires had burned right to the edge of the highway on the east bound side. Cutting down trees for safety delayed those lanes opening until just three days before we left.

So waiting for a few days sometimes improves things but this time it did not look like we were going to be so lucky. The roads had reopened and weather was coming.

Time to go.

We left Ft Stevens headed for Plymouth COE Campground in Washington just across the Columbia River from Umatilla, OR. We needed fuel. Fred Meyer was about the cheapest around at $2.89/gal but after looking at the drive in and out of their station we passed. All of the other stations and truck stops were at $2.99 – $3.09. Gas Buddy showed a Costco at $2.53 in Portland near the airport. So we went into the Costco near Ft Stevens (which did not have a gas station) and renewed our lapsed membership and drove to the Costco in Portland and saved $.45 per gallon on 120 gallons. My sister, Judy and her husband Bruce drove from their home on the West Slope to meet us at Costco, perhaps a hot dog for lunch. But the place was packed. We took up an entire lane for half and hour and then with nowhere to go we left. Judy and Bruce were headed up the Gorge to see the fire damage so we agreed to meet for lunch at the Cascades.

There are locks and dams here, smaller cruise ships and commercial traffic go much further up the river.

The restaurant was a cafeteria/buffet/fast food combination. You ordered and paid at the counter, some things you picked up like a buffet or cafeteria, somethings they brought out to your table. It was good. Judy and Bruce used to bring their kids, Eric and Sarah, up here for lunch and a Sunday drive up the Gorge.

Fires were serious along here and evidence of burns were everywhere. Hundreds if not thousands of burned trees had been cut down along the eastbound lanes back a hundred feet or so depending on how tall the remaining tress were.

After a night at Plymouth COE in Washington (nice place) we headed through Spokane and Idaho and into Montana. It was getting colder and higher. We spent the night at Alberton, MT. An odd campground, close quarters with a bar and a “casino”, a room with video poker machines.

It snowed a bit that night. Not much where we were but at nearby higher elevations. Driving was OK but wet and messy.

And then to Billings where we stayed in the very first KOA in America. It was off season so it was much less expensive.

Pretty fancy, nice laundry which we used. I broke the rules and hosed off the coach and toad, just to get the chunks off. Then I notice almost everyone else was doing the same.

Next up, Medora, ND on the western edge. It is the entrance to Teddy Roosevelt NP. We have been trying to get here for several years, this time we were going to stop, stay for a couple night and see some of the park.

The campground we have stayed at before was closed! But when we called they said come anyway, they keep a dozen or so spots open for the winter. We got there, got situated, the coach was a mess. Susan asked if we could rinse off the Jeep. The owner said wash it and the coach. So we did. His wife came by later and told us that it had been a dry year, 2″ of rain total for the year!

Medora was like a ghost town. In the summer this place is packed with tourists. Susan stood in an intersection and in every direction, no traffic, no people. There were two places open for meals. The Hotel was way expensive. The other place was actually busy but the service was slow and the food unremarkable.

Teddy Roosevelt NP

Before TR was president and after his wife and mother died he came to North Dakota to rediscover and renew himself. He started a cattle ranch which didn’t do so well but the experience here was life changing for him. He liked the tough cowboy spirit, the hard work and the people.

The land is almost like the Badlands, rough and dry. It was Fall and quite colorful.

We went to the Visitors Center, looked at the displays, got a TRNP patch for our collection and then set out on a 35 mile drive through the park.

There are Bison here, lots of them and they are much closer to where you go than in Yellowstone. They seemed docile but Bison are unpredictable. We looked but did not get any closer than the front seat of the car.

This big bull was right in the campground in the park, only a few hundred feet from tents and RVs.

This pair was in a group of twenty or so right along the side of the road. Females weigh about 1,000 lbs. Males can weight up to 2,500 lbs. They are not small animals.

This coyote was right next to the car. He paid no attention to us at all.

He spotted something in the grass, a mouse or something and watched with great intensity and then pounced. Lunch.

And there were turkeys too.

We stopped after driving down a side road to read about an underground fire in a coal vein that burned for 26 years.

At the end of the drive back at the Visitor’s Center and the Gift Shop we went to see an actual log building from Teddy Roosevelt’s ranch.

Pretty rustic but authentic. Not at this site but moved here for preservation. There is hardly a square inch of it where someone hasn’t carved their initials.

Susan’s Yellowstone hoodie blended well with the fall colors.


I know this is way late but here none the less. Part of the process of returning home is the inevitable rush of things to do. It starts long before you get there, we can just feel it sucking up every available second. And then we are there and the whirlwind is full force. Before you know it a month or two has gone by, or three.

We leave soon for Texas after a full and busy time at home. TX🔜

More later

Roger and Susan