Vicksburg, MS, January, 2020

Vicksburg, Mississippi is about four and a half hours from NAC on the Mississippi River. It was a key site during the Civil War for control of the river. The Union wanted to control the river to maintain supply routes up the river and to divide the Confederate states. The confederacy wanted to deny the supply lines to the northern states and the Union.

Most think of the Civil War as something that happened back east or down south. There were significant parts of the war fought “out west” as it was along the Mississippi River.

We stayed at a casino campground. It was inexpensive and convenient. And the Casino had a great cafe for lunch. We followed the driving route through town. Unfortunately not much to look at. Downtown was trying to revive itself but there were a lot of empty storefronts.

There were Confederate cannon emplacements all along the river to guard against ships going upstream and to protect Vicksburg.

Vicksburg National Military Park

We have been to the Gettysburg National Military Park. The parks are similar in they have a driving route around the battlefield area. These roads pass monuments dedicated to the various battalions from all of the different states involved on both sides. Many of these battalions were fairly small, maybe less than 100 men led by a local guy who got a commission in the army. And his militia battalion became part of one army or the other. At Vicksburg there were more than 100 militias from Illinois for example.

All of the monuments were along the Union or Confederate lines. You can see the line of them in this picture. The cannon aren’t the ones that were actually there but very similar. This whole row was cannon emplacements. The entire area is rugged hills. At the time of the siege most of these hills were bare with some areas devoted to small farms.

The Confederate army had fixed positions for their cannon mostly to protect the city. The Union cannon placements were much more mobile and adjustable to re-aim as needed. Confederate cannon fire was quickly returned from several positions as the Union artillery changed their firing direction. This was tough on the fixed Confederate positions.

These Union cannon positions were firing at the Confederate lines where the spire in the distance was located. It is less than 300 yards away. In one location a Union Artillery unit dismantled their cannons and hauled them over rugged terrain to a ridge overlooking the Confederate lines only 100 yards away.

The Shirley House is the only structure in the battlefield to survive the 47 day siege from March 29 to July 4, 1863 of Vicksburg. It has been restored to like it was at the time (with some modern add-ons like gutters and electricity).

With the Confederate positions more fixed and the Union more mobile it was mostly a matter of time before injuries and running out of food, medical supplies, ammunition and resources led the Confederate General Pemberton to surrender to the Union’s General Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863.

This happened at the same time as the defeat of the Confederate Armies under Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, PA, July 1-3, 1863.

These were critical events that shaped the remaining time of the Civil War.

After the Siege

Federal troops remained in Vicksburg for almost 14 years after the siege ended. It remains largely a sense of perspective if it was occupation or reconstruction. Certainly Vicksburg, largely destroyed by constant bombardment, was rebuilt. With time civil liberties were restored and many freed former slaves moved to Vicksburg to start new lives. While there were efforts to improve schools, housing, food sources and legal aide for all of the poor southern people there is ample evidence to show African Americans were burdened with Jim Crow laws and many other disadvantages that were finally outlawed by the Civil Rights Acts of 1964. And yet even today many of those disadvantage remain in the deep south.

Torpedos Ahead

The Union commissioned a fleet of eight river going iron-clad gunboats. These so-called City Class boats were built in 1861 by James Eads and were all named after cities. These were wooden flat bottomed boats with iron cladding. Powered by steam engines the 512 ton, 175 ft long and 52 ft wide barges could manage a top speed of 4 knots. Her crew of 251 enlisted men and officers manned the boilers and the 14 cannons of various sizes. The biggest were 8″ smoothbore cannons.

The USS Cairo was the lead ship in the class and arrived south of Vicksburg in April of 1862. It led supply boats to the north of the city and with seven other Union gun boats engaged and defeated eight Confederate gunboats.

It returned to patrolling the Mississippi River and on December 12, 1862 while on a mission north of Vicksburg on the Yazoo River to destroy Confederate Batteries and remove obstructions in the river it was sunk by two torpedos (an underwater mine) electrically detonated by volunteers on the river bank. A huge hole was torn in the hull and it sank in fairly shallow water and mud in just minutes. There were no casualties. It sat there and sunk in the mud and silt until it was gone.


In 1956 it was discovered by using recollections of where it was and a simple magnetic compass. It was almost entirely buried in silt and mud which preserved much of the artifacts. A long process of salvage recovered small pieces one at a time until the hull remained. It was a difficult but successful operation to recover the hull in pieces. It has all been moved down to a restoration display in the Military Park under a large fabric structure.

You can get a pretty good idea of what it looked like. A new framework holds the old hull in place.

The massive hole where the torpedoes exploded is easy to see.

Much of the iron clad armor survived and was recovered.

The curved part of the upper structure near the front was actually covered with sections of railroad rail. They used what they had.

They were able to recover parts from the bow to the stern, even parts of the boilers and paddlewheel.

It was an interesting stop. Natchez is not far south of Vicksburg and is worth a visit next time we are this way.

It is time for the beach. Our next stop for a month.

More to come, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

A Short Trip to NAC, January, 2020

Every day at Maumelle we got out and walked. The campgound is full of trees.

And right on the river. There is a big marina just upstream, boat launches, picnic areas and lots of campsites. It is probably very popular and busy in the summer. With our Senior National Park Pass it is only $12/night.

We have about 11 days until our reservations in Orange Beach, AL So options? We thought we could stop at Vicksburg, MS to see the National Battlefield Park. Maybe Natchez. Maybe Memphis. Or maybe over to NAC, Nacogdoches, TX. Friends there to visit. Auntie Pasta’s for dinner. We chose NAC. And then from there Vicksburg and then Orange Beach where we found our reservations actually started a couple days earlier than we thought.

The Mothership

NAC is called the Mothership because that is where all Foretravels have been built and the gravitational pull is strong. If we are heading west in the winter it is pretty much on the way. South and east it is a side trip.

While we were there I got a spare part I needed, fixed a latch on one of the bay doors and talked to the Motorcade Club manager about ways to advertise my VMSpc Kits to the Motorcade membership. We stayed at the factory campground, not many there. They stopped selling coaches there. All previously owned coaches and new ones are now sold through one dealer in Texas and two in Florida. The idea is to concentrate on production. We will see how that works out. There were three coaches left for sale. They were all there placed on consignment by their owners. Many of those that were on consignment went across the highway to Motorhomes of Texas. That pushed their inventory way up.

I met a farmer from central Washington State who farms 6000 acres. They were there for service on their way to Florida for a couple months.

I went to a Stephen F Austin State University Sports Booster Lunch with Mike Harbordt. He and Jackie are big fans of SFA sports especially Basketball. The season is heading towards the final games and both SFA men and women teams are leading their conference. SFA games are on ESPN+ so later in the week we got to watch them on TV.

Susan and I went to lunch on another day with Mike and Jackie and a young lady from the SFA Women’s basketball team. Maria is from Ukraine and Susan thinks she was taller than me. Another day Mike took her to Lufkin, TX about 45 min away to get a Social Security card.


We enjoy playing card games with just about anyone who will play. Douglas and Amanda were about an hour away so we set up an afternoon of Quiddler and supper at Auntie Pastas. We play games with Mike and Jackie (who live in NAC) where ever we see them so we all went there to their home to see the dogs, Charlie and Clancy and to have six for Quiddler.

Charlie is a year old now and about 12 lbs. Clancy is about 1/2 his size and age. They are full of energy and fun.

We will see all of them again in about 6 weeks in Fredericksburg, TX.

After a great game of Quiddler, Douglas and Amanda and Susan and I went to Auntie Pasta’s. Another great dinner, one of our favorite places.

We also had a visit from Chappell Jordan. He too lives in NAC and is a skilled woodworker. It was nice to see him.

Tomorrow it’s off to Vicksburg.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

It Must Be Warm Somewhere, January, 2020.

We waited for our new countertop. While we were waiting Susan squeezed in one last Doc appointment. And we watched the weather.

A big snowstorm was predicted for the area around home on Friday the 17th. Predictions were for 8-12″. We got about 6″ in Hastings but there were lots of areas that got more especially south. And the wind came up to create Blizzard Warnings. So we waited for the snowplows to get out and the wind to calm down. And then it snowed some more and the temperatures started going south. Everyone knows what that means but in makes no sense. They were going down.

Heat was on in the coach, refrigerator was on. Everything was loaded and ready to go except for the last of what was in the refrigerator and us.

If we take two longer days (9 hrs including fuel, bathroom and lunch stops) we can get to just south of Kansas City for a Camp Walmart overnight the first day and to Maumelle Corp of Engineers Park just west of Little Rock on the second day where it always seems to be above freezing.

We saw weather south from KC getting worse, in Hastings, getting colder. We weighed options and chose a day to leave. Finished the last minute loading the night before. Turned the heat in the coach up to 70° and turned on the engine pre-heat. This lets the AquaHot heating system pump hot coolant through the engine. This is the same loop that lets the engine heat the AH while we drive for heat and hot water.

In the morning we made coffee, had a quick breakfast, started the coach (engine temp was 99° when it started, outside it was 2°), disconnected the umbilical cord and were ready to go. I moved the coach out onto the driveway and moved the Jeep behind to make the towing connections. Susan did the pre-tow checklist in the Jeep, we tested the lighting connections, right turn, left turn, brakes and tail lights. All good.

Just a couple last minute things inside, last power off, a walk around, lock the doors, lock the barn and a picture.

January Departure, 2020

We stopped at the first rest stop about an hour away and double checked lights, towing connections and did a quick walk around to see if anything was amiss. All OK. Another eight hours through Des Moines and KC to a Walmart we have stayed at before in Raymore, MO. Easy to get in and out of. A mostly cloudy uneventful driving day. We went into Walmart and got a couple gallon jugs of water, had some supper and didn’t stay up very late.

The next morning we woke up to 34°, a bit of wet snow in the parking lot, fog and a misting rain. South was looking a bit warmer but rain all day. Off we went. And it rained all day, never hard, just all the way. A couple times it was on the edge of sleet. There was some icing on the mirrors. This was another nine hour day. The drive through the Ozark Mountains is usually quite nice but today wet roads, truck traffic and the gloom made it a bit more stressful. Finally down I40 towards Little Rock in Arkansas, west on I430 across the Arkansas River and north along the river to Maumelle COE Park on the Arkansas River. It is a place we like to stop, quiet, restful, so far always above freezing.

Maumelle COE, January, 2020

We found a really nice site, #16. It was on high, dry ground. It was still raining but not hard, I drained all of the winterizing potable RV antifreeze from the outside drain lines and hooked up the water line. With outside water Susan flushed all the lines inside until they all ran clear. Then I drained some more from the outside drains to be sure. Then we added about 20 gallons of water to the fresh tank with a couple teaspoons of bleach. And I put the hose away because it was supposed to get close to freezing that night.

It did and it rained almost all day the next day. We went for a walk about noon in a break in the rain, later in the afternoon it appeared to stop raining and we went for another walk.

There was another Foretravel closer to the river.

Dave and Nancy Abel, Maumelle COE, January 2020.

It was Dave and Nancy Abel from Florida. They were here for a while to visit kids who live nearby. I knew Dave from the Owner Forum. First chance to meet face to face.

We spotted another FT at the other end of the park but it was no one we knew. I left a card on their door but never heard back. They were gone the next day when we walked back that way. It is a big park, one lap around the park was close to 5000 steps.

We stayed three nights, time to walk, relax, catch up on blogs and think about what was next.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

End of the year, 2019.

Lots of things are coming to an end as this year comes to an end.

All good things.

It is the end of a decade. Who ever thought we would get through Y2K and here we are 20 years on.

Retirement, Finally.

It is time for my third and last retirement now from software development and consulting. The last retirement was 13 years ago when I stopped working for all but one client. They have a large software system that I have written over the years. It is used by many people every day in almost every aspect of their business. They really wanted me to keep on with support and some new work. That worked out to be about 15 hours a month. I have been working with these folks for more than 22 years, now it is time to stop. Lots of changes coming. Time for me to stop.

So as of the end of the year I was done, well almost. They asked me to do a final documentation task. I agreed. Completely done at the end of February. Period.

I will miss my good friends and colleagues there. Steve Knapp had the foresight to begin. Julie Westad has been a constant supporter and guide. John Berger was the steadying hand that made the collaboration endure. Brenda Bey was my everyday partner. We worked closely on each project along the way. She did a thorough job of testing our projects and having the perspective of the end user. She has been constantly learning and improving her own programming skills. In all that we accomplished together she deserves much credit and my appreciation.

Good Friends Standing Down.

One of the amazing things we discovered owning a Foretravel and traveling is all of the new friends we have gotten to know. This really was unexpected. And one of the things that is sometimes hard is when some of them stop traveling.

Our good friends Scott and Carol are hanging up the keys and putting their coach up for sale. They are building a small house behind their daughter’s house and will live there. We will miss seeing them on the road but will be in frequent contact. We plan on stopping to see them in early March.

Ted and Karen are also selling their coach and moving into a townhouse north of Cincinnati to be near their daughter and grandkids. The kids are five or less and Ted and Karen want to be there while they grow up and still think Grandma and Grandpa are cool. So after 13 years of full timing they are taking a break. They assure us that they will meet us at Custer State Park in September for the Buffalo Roundup.

All of these friends are experiencing change as are we relative to them. We are sure these are best choices and good changes for all. They will always be good friends.

So, many changes. Susan and I are moving past 70. We are approaching our 45th anniversary soon. Above all we are grateful to be experiencing every day together. An adventure, each one.

More Later with Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Summer Projects, 2019. Part 9.

And there is always the shop.

Fine Woodworking

We have had a new two sink vanity for the bathroom downstairs in mind for some time. This fall before we left for warmth was the time. We had a collection of pictures of cabinets whose style we liked. One became the basis for some final design and detail adjustments to our tastes.

Downstairs we determined that the outlets in the wall were going to end up right over the middle of the sinks so they needed to get moved further apart, about 12 inches each way. Studs were in the way and there wasn’t enough wire to make this happen. That meant I needed to cut two 12″x20″ holes in the wall from near the original outlet outward on each side. An electrician told me about wire connectors for extending the wire that were OK to leave inside the wall. This was a big help. So I got some of those, made the wires longer, cut new pieces of sheet rock with holes for the new outlets and then installed them and patched up all the joints.

We went to a countertop place in town and looked at countertop material, picked out what we liked. They said once we had the cabinet installed they would come and measure and then it would take about two weeks to get the finished top installed. We bought nice rectangular sinks and single lever faucets.

I sorted through wood, made selections, and started cutting. A couple weeks later, a cabinet with four doors and four drawers was ready for finish. Craftsman style with influences from Stickley and Greene and Greene.

A few days later the finish was done.

With the drawers and doors off we moved it from the shop into the downstairs bathroom.and mounted it in place. Thanks to our neighbor Dan for his help with the moving. The countertop folks came and measured for the top and we were thinking it would be in by the end of the year.

Well the countertop didn’t get installed until Jan 13 which pushed out our window of departure dates. But it all worked out OK.

When we get home we will finish the plumbing, install the doors and drawers, paint the wall and post a finished picture.

And make a small bench like this one for the bathroom as well.

Recycling Stuff.

I hate throwing things away. Blame it on my Dad. I had the three batteries we removed from our coach, two batteries from Ted’s coach and an original battery from our coach from 2001. All charged up OK and held a charge. Their capacities were not quite what they were when new but still good enough for storing power.

Over many years I have been saving cut off pieces of 6×6 posts from Habitat projects. Normally they would just go into the dumpster. I cut some of them up and made a rack for the batteries. Big mortise and tenon joints pegged with dowels, fun to do.

This is more than 1,000 pounds of batteries so a sturdy rack was prudent. The batteries are all charged up. I removed all of the connecting wires while we are away. These will go into the garage and be charged by the solar panels on the roof. If the power in the house goes out, then using a small inverter they will power the refrigerator and some lights for more than two days.

So that’s it from the shop.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan.

Summer Projects, 2019. Part 8.

Ted and Karen had a seven day Custer State Park pass and you pretty much have to go through the park to get up into the Black Hills. So we all rode together.

Yes, there are Bison in the Black Hills

We drove through all of Custer State Park, followed the Game Trail from one end to the other and saw antelope and all sorts of critters but only a couple bison off in the distance. At this time of the year the Park ranger explained, when we stopped at one of the Visitors Centers, they are further up in the hills and out of sight. Most but not all.

This guy was right next to the Game Lodge Campground just on the other side of a fence that wouldn’t have slowed him down in the least. Good thing that his only interest was eating grass. There was a campground trail on this side of the fence with regular traffic including folks walking their dogs. He was uninterested. No one was walking on the path on his side of the fence. This was a massive full grown bull, about 2,000 lbs. Absolutely stunning.

We drove a bit south from The Hart Ranch and in towards Custer State Park. And then followed the Iron Mountain Highway. This is a really twisting road with several tunnels. These were designed so that as you drove through the tunnel Mt Rushmore was framed as you came out.

Really, there is a tunnel ahead and a one lane one at that.

And another.

And the big giant heads.

And closer. Washington, Jefferson, TR Roosevelt and Lincoln.

We really appreciated the ride with Ted and Karen.

Pretty neat formations. This area is volcanic. It is the highest point between here and the Swiss Alps to the east.

We went out for a drive several times. We followed the Needles Highway one day. Followed the Game Trail twice.

One day we went to Keystone to ride on the train.

It is a frequent task to oil everything. The old steam engines don’t have fancy bearings like machinery today.

The train was made up of old restored cars. Maybe not something we would want to ride across country in but it was fun. The train followed old tracks over a couple big hills and through the woods to Hill City. There was a short stop where the steam engine uncoupled from the train and went to the other end of the trains and reconnected. Once they were all set we went back the same way.

Mark Crick had a trailer full of things he takes on Motorcade trips including tables and chairs and a big flat top grill. So one morning he and Donna made pancakes for everyone.

Marion Braum makes jewelry and has quite a collection of parts so one afternoon a bunch of folks got together in the Club Room and everyone made something. Susan made three sets of earrings.

It is always amazing the different skills and talents that these rallies bring together.

The last day of the rally we had a nice catered dinner in the Hart Ranch Club Room and a Chapter Meeting. Steve Crook was the President of the Motorcade Club at the time and he gave us an update on the Club.

Next Year

The last day we were in the Black Hills (after the rally) we went to the town of Custer with Ted and Karen because there was a good burger joint and we were all craving burgers. And of course the burgers were good. While waiting and eating we were talking about wanting to see the Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park in late September every year. It all happens one afternoon in just a few hours when the bison are gathered up in the hills ad herded down in an area where there are corrals. They get sorted out, inoculated for this and that, some get sent to market and some get sent to other herds for breeding diversity. They are trying to keep the herd healthy and vital and manage the size.

Whenever we think of it there is no room at any of the campgrounds in the park. We thought at the table if we made reservations that day for one year away for two weeks we would see the bison roundup, see each other and explore the Black Hills in more depth. So we did. And we are in the Game Lodge Campground right near where the big bison at the beginning of this blog was having lunch.

Ted and I talked about posting this on the Owner’s forum. We debated a bit and then did. Within about 4 hours six other Foretravel owners from North Carolina to San Diego, CA. had signed up too. By the next morning the campground for that time frame was full. Something to look forward to.

Whew, that’s enough,

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Summer Projects, 2019. Part 7.

We left The Left Tailrace COE heading for the Hart Ranch RV Resort. Jeff and Sandy close behind.

Getting Closer to Where the Buffalo Roam.

Silly us we thought we would get there around 1 or 2 but forgot we were gaining an hour by moving into Mountain Time. No matter, our sites were available. We checked in, got maps and got sort of lost heading for Wyatt Earp Drive or whatever path through the campground we were on. And then there it was and our site too. We got backed in. Jeff and Sandy were down the road a few spaces and they were doing the same thing. Ted and Karen were already there as well as two coaches from Kansas, one from Georgia, one from Colorado, one from South Dakota. Maybe more, I need to think about it.

A nice bunch of folks.

We were having lunch at the State Game Lodge in Custer State Park. Great food. Buffalo (Bison actually) stew.

Roger and Susan. Jeff and Sandy

Kevin & Brenda Conway. Jack and Eilene Crick

Tom and Marion Braum. Ted and Karen

Carol Crook and Donna Crick. Steve Crook and Mark Crick

Brenda and Clint Volz and Dani Chapman were hiding.

Brenda and Clint are the Great Plains Chapter leaders. They do a great job to keep the chapter together. It covers Kansas north into Canada. Dani was the Wagon Master, sort of in charge of rounding up the wagons as it were. She made arrangements for the campground and for all of the activities and dinners. Thanks Dani.

The State Game Lodge

The first night we were there we had a simple catered supper in the Club Room at the Hart Ranch headquarters building. It was a meet and greet event. The Chapter Rallies are loosely scheduled, time for everyone to explore and discover on their own.

The second day we had a Chuck Wagon Dinner and show in the evening.

It was at a tourist sort of place with lots of old time things to look at and see. A nice blacksmith shop and an old fashioned drug store and lots more. When the dinner bell rang we all lined up and headed into a big auditorium sort of thing. Instead of chairs there we long rows of tables with a bench on one side and a stage up front. The Grub Master told us how it worked, we all went up in an orderly way, got a sliverware and napkin packet, a biscuit and honey, a roasted in foil baked potato, chicken or beef, their version of baked beans (not Boston), apple sauce and a piece of spice cake. Tenderfoot lemonade or cowboy coffee to wash it all down.

Tasty and fun. And then the music started. We figured it would be pretty corny and it was a bit but the five person band did a great job. A bunch of old time music (really old) and then a long rock and roll medley from the 50’s to the 80’s that appealed to the age of the crowd. The band leader was a retired music teacher, one of the guitar players was in the SD Music Hall of Fame, the fiddle player in her skirt and tall cowboy boots was a classical violinist and a HS student of the band leader. Each member played some solo parts, there was some sing along. All in all lots of fun and fun to share with friends.

We got back early enough to gather some of us in the Clubhouse for a couple games of Quidler.

More on exploring with Ted and Karen and a train ride coming up.

More Later, Much Love,

Susan and Roger