Snags & Brags

SNAGS & BRAGS    
Situations, places, things, people, etc that worked or didn't work that we learned along the way...


SNAGS:


2016:   

Those awful "bumps" in driveways!  The ones they put there to slow you down...What they really do is is jostle everything in your rig, and if you are like us, with levelers that hang down just a bit and/or exhaust extensions that hang down, then hit it and dent or bang it loose causing many, many dollars worth of damage! 
I hate those things, and I really don't think they are necessary in RV campgrounds!  (can we start a campaign against them?)  grrrr

*  "Forgetting" to make reservations way ahead of time for holiday camping!  Just because I'm retired and forget what day it is, and one day is the same as another, doesn't seem to be that way for the rest for others!  Especially if you try and camp in popular tourist places!! Yikes!! 

*  Any "real" reason Southern Calif (San Diego in particular) HAS to charge 3 TIMES as much camping fees as anywhere else??  Ugh!  Be prepared!! 


2015:

Watch out for your "slides"!  I guess one can't really...it's just been very frustrating, as we sit here, not for the first time, waiting on a repairman, to come to our aid.  You see, the gear keeps shearing off the bolts that hold the shaft together bring in the main slide.  It really doesn't have anything to do with age, because the same thing happened to our friend's whose rig was only 18 months old.  We've replaced the bolts, and even shortened the shaft to "temporarily" fix the problem.  What we really have to do, is drive to Red Bay and have Tiffin replace the whole shaft.  Ugh.  Something to watch out for, that's for sure!

2014:

*
Belonging to the "Full-Timer's Club.  We joined at the FMCA Rally and I was thrilled to finally belong to a "group".  Being a full-time RV'er, not having a home-base, means that there really isn't a group to go places with, to join in and have mini-rallies and follow along with to places, so when I saw this "Full-Timers" club, I thought "wow, finally a place for us!"  Well, not really.  They don't do anything except meet up to serve ice cream at the FMCA Rallies  and send out a Newsletter that somehow "my news" never gets in, and all it really includes is where each other is, anyways.  Boring.  So, a waste of $$ and energy, for me, anyway.

*  Mattress:  When we first got our rig, we needed to purchase a new mattress.  I thought we were only going to travel a year, so I didn't really want to invest $1000+ in a Select Comfort (air) mattress, which is what we had at home, and which, of course is what I really wanted (and need for my bad back), so we bought the next best thing at a little over half the cost.  Good, but not great.  Now, almost 3 years later, here we are, still going, and my back is paying the cost for it.  Should have invested the money in the right mattress the first time. Bad choice.


2013:
* The first thing that comes to mind is that we brought "to much stuff".  I can blame it on the fact that we were rushed in the packing.  I can also blame it on the fact that we are novices at this.  But mostly I can say that I, and it is mostly "I", as I did most all of the packing, kept saying "but we are going to be gone for over a year, we might need it!"  Now, looking at it, I keep asking myself, "do we really?"  Since it's only been a couple of months, I'm going to hold back on this verdict, just yet...I'll keep you posted tho...
           * OK, it's been a year, and now I can honestly say, yes, we brought way to much stuff!  We will be making a trip to our storage area and dropping some stuff off.  Mostly, clothes.  We do laundry every few days, and really, I found that T shirts, jeans & shorts were what I ended up wearing all of the time.  All of the "blouses" rarely got worn because they got wrinkled and I didn't want to take the time to iron them!  It is a must to have both cold weather and hot weather clothes because you never can tell how it's going to turn out - no matter what state you are visiting!  Same goes for rain!
         *  Our little fan and heater did indeed come in handy.  The fan when it was so humid I couldn't sleep without it pointed right on me; the heater when we discovered we ran out of propane on one of the coldest nights ever!
         *  Jack wished he would have brought his axe, more work gloves and more tie wraps, all of which we needed to purchase.  We also bought a small grill, but most people know to bring that already.  
        *  I brought way to much plastic ware, finding that you get plenty of it along the way, and baggies work better for spaces saving anyway.  I ended up giving most of it to my son.  Same with glassware & silverware.  With the two of us, washing dishes after each use, you just don't need anymore than a set for 4.   


2012: 
 

*  Health insurance - When you are a "full-time rv'er" finding health insurance to cover you no matter where you are and the fact that you really don't have a home base, it difficult, at best.  Adding to that, we had Kaiser, covered by my employer.  It didn't help that I decided to retire in December, when insurances were making their changes and the end of the year was looming!  To make a very, very long story short, here it is the middle of February and we are still dealing with Social Security, Kaiser, Zoo HR and Humana!  "What a mess" is putting it mildly!  "if I had it to do all over again..." I would have gone to Social Security the first thing before leaving San Diego and made sure they had all their paperwork completed and correct.  They are the base, and when it's faulty, everything else falls apart as well.  Ugh.

*  Tampa Fl - Very poor signage, especially in their downtown areas.  Getting around is very difficult, even with a map!  You would think that "historic" and "special" places would be highlighted with directional signs getting you there, but they are not in Tampa.  We found things well "over-rated" in their brochures than in fact.

*  Baker & Co. General Store, Tampa Fl - This was in AAA Guide Book as well as in several brochures, Visitor Centers etc. Turned out to be a run down, 2nd rate, over priced, ho-hum store - in a very run down part of town.  A real disappointment. 

*  We were encouraged by several people to take the extra time, etc and go into Canada and see New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  We did, and we both agree, it wasn't really worth it, at least not to us.  The Bay of Fundy was the most interesting, but all in all, we would have enjoyed spending that additional time and expense in the US.

*  We learned 'the hard way' how important a walk-thru is before every departure.  It seems so easy to remember all the various things you have to do before you set out, pulling up the stabilizers, bring in the sides, etc. but it's amazing how easy it is to forget one little thing that can really cost you! (like the hot spot still plugged into the outside socket).  Same goes for periodically checking all your levels.  The water & waste is easy, but remembering the battery water & propane is also something to think about too.  Lists, seem silly, but not when you have forgotten something and now your mad at yourself!

*  Memberships - Are good & bad, so you'll need to be the judge.  My advise: don't buy or join in until you have been camping for awhile.  Our biggest mistake was buying into a group at the very beginning, believing them when they told us that we would really have challenges both cost wise and availability during the summer months in New England etc.  We should have passed and taken our chances.  For us, Resort Parks International was a very wrong decision and a lot of money wasted.  On the plus side, KOA, Passport America, Good Sam and Family Motor Coach Assoc. have been great and we used them often.  The other "must" is the National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Pass for Seniors.  It only worked at a few parks, but no matter, it makes you feel good that your dollars are going to a good cause.  It will really come in handy this year tho!



BRAGS: 


2017:

APPS:  
Everyone is using them now!  It seems we all have them, on our phones, IPads, computers, etc.  How did we ever get along without them?  ;-)  I have an Android phone, and I use these on my phone...Here are my favorites:

ParkAdvisor - Great for finding camping spotsIt shows the ratings, locations, how many miles from your present location and of course you then can tap the balloon and see all the details.  I've noticed it sometimes has more locations than others.
RV Parky -  Pretty much the same as the above.
Passport America - Membership Campgrounds, well worth it, pays for itself after the first visit...unless you only camp during holidays, weekends and summer, then maybe it's not for you.
KOA - Another membership, but we like them because they are "dependable" and we know what to expect.  You build up points with them, that you then can redeem towards your next stays, so it's not so bad.  
RestStopping - Helps to see when & where the next rest stop will be along the Interstates
GasBuddy - Helps to check the nearest location and prices of gas stations
MyPilot - Helps to check the nearest location of Pilot and Flying J
Restaurant Finder - Great at finding places to eat, since all towns are "new to you and you don't know what's good", this has been a God's send" and has never let us down...love this app!
HISTORYHere - This is a fun app!  It "sees" where you are, and then shows all the various places that you can go see around you (museums, statues, famous homes, gravesites, etc) Very cool
RVParkReviews - This one doesn't work as well on my phone, so I use it on my computer instead, religiously.  I always check to see what other's have to say about a campground before I stay any length of time at a campground.  I also send in my reviews (if I'm going to use them, I feel it's only right I submit as well).  It's always subjective of course, but sure is helpful!

2017:

to be updated!


 
2016:
 
City Museum, St Louis MO
This is not like any museum you've ever visited!  ...and if you have children, you REALLY need to go here!!  If you've ever watched the movie "Willie Wonka", you'd think the creators saw that, got "high" then decided to build something even wilder for kids of all ages to be silly in!  What a wild, wacky fun place!  Go see for yourself and enjoy! 

Field of Dreams Movie Site, Dyersville IO
What a special place this is, and what a surprise too!  It's natural to think that it would be a "real tourist trap", but boy, it is just what one would hope it would be...only better.  The owners of the place have kept it up at their own cost just so people could enjoy using it "the old fashion way".  We just happen to be there over Father's Day, and locals had come out with baseballs, bats, and picnic and were doing what people used to do back in the 1950's & 60's - enjoying "family time".  No one was "collecting money" or trying to turn it into a commercial gig, it was just there to enjoy.  The local Boy Scouts were selling popcorn and sodas, that was all.  So nice.  The owners have a story board with pictures etc about the movie, and you can buy a T shirt if you like, but that's all.  There is a sign out on the road to tell you the field is here.  Gotta love it. 

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND
As national parks go, this one doesn't get enough credit...you actually don't even hear much about it.  But, I have to tell you, it's really worth going out of your way to visit it!  It's really beautiful, and unlike most of our national parks, not very crowed either, which is nice too!  Another added bonus is the surrounding area, it's also lovely with fun things to see and do...and peaceful too. 

Top of the Tower, Calgary Canada
This is one of those "tourist visits" that you wonder if it's really worth your time and your money...well, yes, it is!  If you have dinner, the trip up is free...and yes, have dinner!  It's well wonderful!  The view, the meal, it's all great! 

Royal Tyrrell Museum, Alberta Canada
 This is a wonderful museum, that really takes a full day to visit.  Even if you are not really into Dinosaurs, which I'm not so much, this place is fascinating.  It's one of the largest, if not the largest one in North America and just filled to the brim with fossils and incredible history and finds.  Really quite something to see. 


Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park CA
We loved this park!  It was off the beaten path, not very busy and not "touristy" at all!  A packed-down dirt road with pull-outs, a wonderful deep-woods smell, one that made you feel that you were in a fairyland or in another world.  Truly wonderful.  Very different than the Natural Parks. 

2015

Ft Pierce Farmer's Market, FL
Probably the very best Farmer's Market we've been to in all of our travels across the country!  A wonderful variety of already made food, fresh vegetables & fruit, merchandise, handmade wares, music, just about everything...and you just can't beat the beautiful location!  We loved the coffee so much we have it shipped to us by the pound several times a year! 

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, Chama NM
We like train rides, and this one is one of the nicest ones! Great campground right by the train depot too!  

Rock City, Chattanooga TN
We had seen the hundreds of billboards, signs, ads, etc posted everywhere for this place for ages and had passed it up for a long, long time...and finally gave in.  We were so gland we did!  What a wonderful surprise!  It really was as great as advertised!  I kept thinking it was going to be this "hooky tourist trap", but it was really quite beautiful, and quite amazing what they created...and out in the middle of nowhere when they started it all!  Well worth it, so don't let all the 'advertisements' keep you away!  

Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA
What an interesting place!  Had our cousin not told us about this place, I don't think we would ever have know to go there.  They have 30 "nationality rooms" that are totally designed and decorated in that country's style.  If you are into architecture, history, education, religion, art, etc. this is a must "go see"!  Beautiful!

Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, Socorro NM
There are not many places to see them, and when you do, it's hard not to drop your jaw and just let out a great big "wow"... There's really nothing quite like them...and boy, are they ever BIG!  It's just something everyone should see once in their life, honestly!  The fact that they are clear out in the middle of nowhere also adds to the affect.  Go there!

Charles M Schulz Museum, Santa Rosa CA
Who's not a fan of the  "Peanuts" gang?  This is such a wonderful museum and tribute to the life and times of Schulz's work.  It's a must-see stop if you are anywhere near the area!

2014:

 The annual Quartzsite RV Show, in Quartzsite AZ in January. This is something every RV'er should experience at least once in their lifetime...and maybe that's enough!  ;-)  Thousands of RV'ers and hundreds of vendors converge on this tiny spec of a town in the desert of Arizona just over the California border for this show.  The month-long Gem Show is also going on, so you can combine your shopping experience!  If you are into boondogging, there certainly lots and lots of places to do that, and they have trucks that will come to you to offer water, etc.  If not, make your reservations for a campsite months out...you will be sandwiched into a gravel site with the basics...but it's the "experience" your after!  Go with friends, if you can, that's the fun too!  Expect dust, because there is lots and lots of it.  Expect to walk a lot, and to park far away.  Look around and around before you buy because there are several vendors selling the same thing, then you can bargain (we did).  Don't expect to find everything your looking for tho...we did and was disappointed...but, we had a great time!

 Lake Havasu Lighthouse Cruise, Lake Havasu AZ.  We had been to Lake Havasu many times, but had never bothered with going "on" the lake before.  This time we were with some friends, so we thought, "why not", so we did, and were glad we did!  What a delightful cruise!  All along the lake, they have faux lighthouses that a club has placed by various donors.  Each, of course has a story and represents a real one somewhere in the US.  The boat also takes you into some of the beautiful nooks and crannies of the lake that you can't see from the shores.  If you take it at sunset, it's even prettier.  If you are a photographer, it's even a bonus.  Well worth the time.

 Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona AZ.  Once again, we had visited Sedona many times, but had never made it up to the Chapel.  It's worth the visit!  Very pretty, and the views are spectacular!  A must stop if you are in the city. 

 Verde Canyon Railroad Wilderness Train.  What a wonderful experience this is!  If you like train trips at all, this one is great!  We treated ourselves to the Valentines Special, and they went all out.  Chocolates and goodies galore!  We loved it and really recommend this trip.  I did a whole blog on this trip that you can review. 

Frontier Texas! Abilene Texas - What a wonderful museum!  Very unusual.  Not only informative, but entertaining.  We spent hours there.  They had several holograph images where the people talked to you about their experiences - being an India, being a frontier's woman alone, being a cowboy, etc.  Great place, do take the time to visit this one!

Tohono O'odhama Indian Res & Mission San Xavier Del Bac, Tucson AZ - This was such a surprise!  Way out in the middle of "nowhere"!  Well worth the drive!  Even if you are not a "church or mission" goer, this is something to see!  An extra treat is the Native American Cemetery you pass along the way.  I wrote a blog on these too.  

 V & T Railroad Train Trip, Carson City NV.  We love train trips, and this was another fun one!  The town at the end of it was a hoot and had fun places to visit too.  The only drawback was that there just wasn't enough time to see everything there was to see there.  Well worth the trip tho!

Vulcan Center, Birmingham AL- We only had a "few minutes" in Birmingham, so I had to choose what to see...so I chose to go see this monument.  I wasn't disappointed, and I don't think you would be either!  Wow, what a sight, and the views are pretty spectacular too!  The museum is great as well.  Great visit, well worth the stop. 

Burrit Mansion & Museum, Huntsville AL - A fun visit if you have the time.  Interesting and informative.  

Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville TN - With so many choices and so many things to see and do, put this one on the top of your list!  We ended up spending almost the whole day here!  Be prepared to stand a lot tho!!  No place to sit, anywhere, so you are sure ready to find a place afterward (Lunch!).  Fantastic place with so much history, it's hard to take it all in.  It probably would have been wise to just done it for the day, taken a break midway for lunch and come back...but we were short on time, and wanted to see other places so we didn't do that...but if you have the time, that's what I would suggest!  

Johnny Cash Museum, Nashville TN - Although it's small, it's well worth the visit, especially if your at all a fan.  Because it's small, it doesn't take to much time tho.  You can "do it" in a couple of hours, at best (depending on how much time you want to spend listening to his videos & movies).  Nicely done tho. 

Jack Daniels Distillery, Lynchburg TN - This was a hoot, and so worth the drive!  You get quite a lesson in how whiskey is made...but, since Lynchburg is in a "dry" county, you can't drink any there!  Nor really buy any...well, kind of...they get around that by selling "special" bottles!  So, of course we had to get one...with our names engraved on it!  Unusual tour and worth the visit! 

National Corvette Museum, Bowling Green KY - A must visit if you: like cars, like Corvettes, or are interested in "sink holes"!  You would have to be living in a cave if you don't know about all three things here!  ;-)  The tour of the plant is interesting, different than other car tours (we even got to see someone pick up their new car, pretty cool); the museum across the street is where the sink hole happened, so that was interesting and the added bonus.  It will be on display a long time.  Great stop.  You will need reservations for the plant tour.

The Hermitage Plantation, Nashville TN - This was Andrew Jackson's home in Nashville.  Very interesting place; large, with lots of history and beauty.  He and his wife are buried here as well.  I loved it.  If you like Presidential sites, you will really like this one, they do a great job.  Well worth the visit and price. 

 Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway IN - We loved this tour!  They take you all around in a small coach.  You get out several times to go inside various buildings like the press boxes, etc.  The guides are so informative and fun, eager to take your picture everywhere!  What a really fun tour, I highly recommend it, even if you are not a race fan!

Audubon Museum, Henderson IN - We accidentally found this little museum, and we were so glad we did!  What a treasure!  Who's not a fan of his art?  Who knew he spent many years growing up and living in Henderson Indiana?  I sure didn't!  A family friend saved and gathered many of his art and treasures of his and created this wonderful museum to honor is work, and did a spectacular job of it too!  It is so worth a special trip just to go see it.  It's connected to a lovely campground to stay at too.  Go for it, you won't be disappointed!

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids MI - What a beautiful place!  We've visited a lot of gardens along our travels, but this one is the tops!  The sculptures is what it is really about, the gardens just gives it a place to be.  Take the little bus tour first, the guide explains them for you, then you can go around on your own if you like as well.  Take the time to go into the Children's Garden even if you don't have any, it's quite a delight.  Spend the day, it's so worth it, whether you are a lover of art, flora, fauna or photography, you will love this place!

Agawa Canyon Tour Train, Ontario Canada - This is a day-long tour...and SO WORTH IT!!  We loved this trip!  It was a great way to "see Canada" without driving into the country, and seeing some the most beautiful parts of it too - not the highways, billboards, shopping malls, etc. but the beautiful lakes and countrysides instead.  A nice long stop at the mid-point to allow you to take a nice hike, then back again.  A gorgeous trip, so worth the time and money! I did a blog on this one too.

Upper Falls: Tahquamenon State Park, MI - Great fun stop, and so worth the drive!  If you like waterfalls, these are beauties!  Once you make the drive to them, it's just a short little walk from the parking lot, and you are rewarded with quite a view!

Oswald's Bear Ranch, Newberry MI - What a fun place, and you get to actually touch a baby bear (for a small fee)!  I worked for over 20 years at San Diego Zoo, so you'd think that getting up close to a black bear would be "no big thing", but I have to tell you, it was a thrill to be able to actually put my arm around that little guy, even for a brief (and it is) couple of moments and feed him his Fruit Loops and pet him!  It wasn't a "big deal" for me to see all the other bears (because of my history, only) although I did appreciate what they are doing, and anyone else, it would be a thrill to see them "up close" (behind chain-link fencing).  The place is great, and really family run, from Grandpa & Grandma (whom we met and chatted with) to the kids (who run the gift shop).  It's quite the experience, and one everyone should visit - because it's a rarity that you probably won't ever get to do again!  ;-)

The National Train Museum, Green Bay WI - This had quite the display!  It had one of the very rare "Big Boy" locomotives left in the world, so that in itself is worth the stop if you are a train lover.  It's a huge museum, so allow plenty of time.  They do an incredible job, covering all kinds of subjects - from art (graffiti) to the stories and history of the porters.  Then outside they have dozens and dozens of cars from the Big Boy to the Eisenhower to lesser known ones.  Well worth a visit...allow plenty of time here!

Mill City Museum, Minneapolis MN - What an interesting place!  We learned so much here, about the mills, about the city, about history, even about culture of the people.  I also loved learning about the Ad industry and "Betty Crocker" & "Bisquick", etc and how they came to be.  Very interesting place.  We learn so much from places like these...more than school ever could teach us!

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City OK - If you like cowboys at all, or western history, boy this is the place to see!  It covered it all!  They sure do a great job of it, everything from rodeo to the movies to art!  Really nice museum, well worth a visit.

Oklahoma National Stockyards, Oklahoma City OK - What a great experience!  You won't find another place like this - we tried, even in Texas, it doesn't exist.  It's a dying breed (no pun intended).  We chatted with the cowboys (do it, it's enlightening!) and learned a whole lot, then went inside to watch the auction, and learned even more.  Absolutely fascinating experience.

National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame, Ft Worth TX - This place is unique in that it is only about women!  Who knew so many "cowgirls" made so much difference?  What a great museum!  They do a wonderful job covering a great many subjects too, not just "rodeos" but farming, ranching, women in politics, "western" women in general.  I was just disappointed they wouldn't let me take pictures!  Great stop especially if you have "females" in your life! 

Shoshone Falls ID - Beautiful falls, well worth the short little drive and visit to go see them!

2013:
 

* The Calgary Stampede! (Calgary Canada)  It was something I had wanted to see for a number of years, then when we got the chance to see it, I was afraid it wouldn't live up to my expectations - it didn't and it surpassed them as well.  The "let down" was that the "Chuckwagon Races" had to downsize their wagons a number of years ago due to safety reasons, so now they are pretty small and don't (in my opinion) have the oomph that they used to.  They surpassed them in that the evening show was probably the best I have ever seen in my lifetime (and I think I've seen some pretty awesome shows).  They pull out all of the stops and use just about every kind of prop there is, fire, lights, fireworks, floating pianos, people, singers, dancers, and the list goes on and on.  WOW!  Do put this on your list of places to go to - always the first part of July (for over 100 years!)

 * National Parks - We all love them, and we all try to visit them, however, as time and places limit us, we have to make choices...so far this year we have visited a number of them and my vote goes to two:  The Grand Tetons and Glacier National Park.  If you see no others, choose those two, you won't be disappointed!  They out do the others in beauty, the number of animals you see, the care and quality of the campgrounds they offer and the less crowded they are.  Beauty being number one tho, hands down.  

Dry Falls WA -  What an interesting, lesser known area!  Seems about 13,000 years ago during the ice age, glaciers blocked the Columbia River and forced it to find a new route. It and others in Idaho swelled and flooded and caused huge waterfalls; all this lasting only a few weeks.  When it subsided, it scoured eastern Washington and left dry channels (coulees).  The largest is Dry Falls, a 3 1/2 miles wide and over 400 ft tall group of scalloped cliffs, which at one time was the largest falls in the world. It was pretty impressive.  There were not big billboards advertising it ahead on the roads, no brochures at visitor centers, we just happened upon it along Hwy 2.  It had a nice sign with a great turn-off and a visitor's center and a food cart.

Grand Coulee Dam, Grand Coulee WA -  No America's largest hydroelectric powerplant (dam).  US Bureau of Reclamation began construction in 1933 as the key structure in it's multipurpose Columbia Basin Project.  It has since become the linchpin in harnessing the second largest river in the US.  It took 9 years to build.  Because of it, it has turned dry, almost useless farmland into one of the richest farmlands in the Pacific North West.  They offer free 50 min. guided tours of the Pump-Generating Plant, and now have just opened the top of the Dam as well.  There is a security metal-detector that you have to pass through and then are taken (buses in summer/vans off-season) to the Dam.  They also have a great Visitor Center that you will want to visit (I'd allow at least 30++ min).  A "must see" if you are in eastern WA!


 2012:
Kartchner Caverns State Park - We have and will be, visiting many parks and attractions but this one stands out, above and beyond the norm.  It is so unusual, so beautiful, it's impossible to even try to describe.  Just accept it's a MUST SEE. 

Watkins Glen Gorge, Watkins Glen NY -  Every step of the trail showed different views. Tall waterfalls, short ones, ones like a wall of dripping water, ones we could walk behind,and on and on. The walls of the gorge are piles of slate stacked one on top of the other, with ferns and trees and flowers growing in between, on top of and in spite of the terrain. I took well over a hundred pictures and even with that, you just can't capture it's beauty. This is a must stop for anyone living or coming to this area of New York.

CMOG, Corning NY - One of the most beautiful and detailed glass museums you could ever visit.  They have mini educational talks throughout the museum scattered throughout the day, guided tours through the art gallery, as well as showing (& telling you) about every kind of glass, from beautiful pieces of art, to fiber optics, to functional pieces like stop lights and Fresnel lenses.  Give yourself plenty of time on this one, you will want it!

Fort Ligonier, Ligonier PA - A full-scale, on-site reconstruction of the 1758-1766 original fort. Eight acres of the original site of Fort Ligonier have been preserved, with the subsurface features restored and the above-ground elements reconstructed. It has all the buildings (officers’ mess, barracks, quartermaster, hospital, etc) fully equipped and with mannequins dressed in authentic clothing. Even on a week day, they had a docent there to explain and answer any questions. It was quite something to experience. Additionally they have an incredible museum that even has George Washington's original saddle pistols (he served here). Very nice. 

The Truman Library, Independence MO - Allow plenty of time for this.  They did an incredible job of covering his whole career.   

Ringling, Barnum & Bailey Circus Museums & Ca' d'Zan Ringing Home - What an incredible place.  Plan on spending a full day here.  The museum is filled with circus wagons, costumes, posters, and the most incredible miniature circus you have ever seen!  Their home is also part of the package and it is magnificent!  Absolutely beautiful.  They also have a great restaurant, so do yourself a favor and plan on lunch there, you won't regret it.  Editable art, itself.  

The Natchez Trace - it's 444 miles through threes states and 10,000 years of history.  As the US expanded westward in the late 1700s and early 1800s, growing numbers of travelers tramped the rough trail into a clearly marked path.  Where the ground was relatively soft, walkers, riders and wagons wore down the "sunken" sections you see today.  In 1801 President Thomas Jefferson designated the Trace a national post road for mail delivery between Nashville and Natchez.  Today the Natchez Trace parkway creates a greenway from the southern Appalachian foothills of Tennessee to the bluffs of the lower Mississippi River.  It's truly a beautiful drive, and if you ever get the chance to do it, even a part of it, take it!

* We visited a variety of factory tours, and all were great!  Tabasco Factory, Avery Island LA, Mardi Gras World, New Orleans LA, Tiffin Motorhomes, World of Coca Cola, Atlanta GA, QVC, West Chester PA, Louisville Slugger, Louisville KY, Hallmark Visitor Center, Kansas City MO.  


Outstanding Restaurants:

The Antlers Bar/Restaurant, 804 East Portage Rd, Sault Ste Marie, MI 49783 - To quote their menu: "in a state of suspended animation, that is, there is a prodigious amount of junk hanging from unseen wires above the occupants heads, like so many swords of Damocles, a veritable cloud of rifles , pawn-broker's signs, moose & birch bark canoe just swaying up there, denying gravity and the laws of physics."  The truth be told tho, the food is outstanding!  They have plenty of beef & seafood...but we had the venison meatloaf and boy was it outstanding!  No "game" taste, just mouthwatering seasoning with the best gravy and mashed potatoes one could ask for!  Wish we could have taken some home with us! Yum!

Old Town Pizza, 226 Nw Davis St, Portland OR 97209 - "It was in 1880 that two successful lumber barons built the Merchant Hotel on this block, catering to Portland's finest patrons.  Old Town Pizza sits in the original hotel lobby. In fact, the window where you place your pizza order is the original hotel's reception desk.  Underneath the fllor boards are the Shanghai Tunnels connecting Portland via underground pathways, then used to nab unsuspecting sailors and transport them to ships docked on the river, and can be viewed during private tours."  That's the "history" - the "current" news is that they make GREAT pizza!  We always go there when we visit Portland (and Powell's Bookstore!).

Szechuan Chinese Restaurant, 3425 South First St, Abilene, TX 79605 -  Mandarin, Szechuan & Hunan and fantastic!  Fresh, beautifully prepared and plentiful.  A very large, very pretty restaurant that looks very expensive, but is not. It came recommended by the campground host, and what a wonderful find it was!

Tiny's Saloon & Steakhouse, 4900 W Ajo Hwy, Tucson AZ 85746 - It's nothing to look at, it's small, the menu is fairly small, burgers, a couple of steaks, a couple of salads, some fish choices, pretty big selection of sandwiches and apps, and the BEST fried chicken anywhere!  It came with great coleslaw and a fresh big roll, and a large helping of French fries.  It was 4 pieces (leg, wing,thigh and breast.  We asked if we could have two breasts instead and she said "sure!".  Service was wonderful!  Super friendly and easy to change our orders to how we wanted them.  Food was great and inexpensive.  It was just down the road from the campground, so on a rainy night it sure made it nice!  Wonderful "local" place!

North By Northwest Restaurant & Brewery, 5701 West Slaughter Lane, Austin Tx 78749 -  We've discovered that we really like "brewery" food.  9 times out of 10, it turns out to be great, unique, upscale, good variety, good root beer (which Jack loves!), and some foods that you just don't find in other restaurants.  This place was true to that belief.  Fantastic food!  We ate out every day in Austin, and this place was by far the very best!

*   Mudshark Brewery & Restaurant - Lake Havasau AZ  This was a great restaurant!  (see my blog on Nothing Like a Great Burger).  Incredible food, great service, need I say more?

Margaritaville - Glendale AZ - Jimmy Buffett's place!  Try their Seafood Mac & Cheese, worth the calories!!  Nothing like Mom ever made, man oh man, way to goooood!!!
Update: 2016: It's closed...so sad ;-( 
*   Knead the Dough, Ransomville NY - One of the best breakfast restaurants we've visited.  All fresh ingredients with a great imagination.  Best ever eggs Benedict and wonderful French toast (made from their homemade bread), pancakes, etc.  Great place, worth going out of the way for!

Blues City Cafe - Memphis TN, The BEST Barbecue in any state!  Bobby Flay from the Food Network Channel did a segment on it, so we checked it out.  We had the ribs; the meat fell off of the bone, but even more importantly, the seasoning was superb.  I normally add sauce, but not this time!  I didn't want to hide the wonderful flavor of this great meal. 

Helpful Service people:

Richard's RV Services, Mobile Repairs Las Cruces NM 575-532-8479.  Richard was great.  He was able to come out and fix our severed bolts that held our main slide-out together efficiently.  Super to work with and fair.  What a life savor!

Leale's RV Center, 2070 S 7th St, San Jose CA 95112, 408-286-5353.  Savio has helped us twice with our jacks.  We've had to replace two of them on two different times.  They have always treated us great and done a super job.

Automotive Specialists, 11111 Golden Given Rd E, Tacoma WA 98445, 253-536-9029.  We have them do our "annual maintenance & check up" each year and they always do a great job.

Adventureland RV Rental & Sales, 9331 W Kellogg, Wichita KS 67209, 800-333-8821.  These guys ordered and installed our new awning for us and sure did a great job!  Great guys to work with, but it's a small operation and because it took a couple of them to install it, we had to hang around a couple of extra days because he had trouble getting hold of his son to come in to help him!  Small snag, but worth it in the long run!

Purcell Tire & Rubber Co, 3647 Gila Ridge Rd, Yuma AZ 85365, 928-317-0769.  We had a concern about some loose lug nuts and these guys were great about checking them out.  It didn't turn out to be a problem, but they were great about checking everything out...and didn't even charge us for their time!

Rest Stops worth stopping at:

Washington, on the I 90, Exit Sprague Lake (west of Spokane).  This is not only a beautiful, large rest stop, but it has a nice National Active & Retired Fed. Employees (NARFE) volunteer group that has a hot coffee and cookie station & welcome counter.  They have a "donations" can for Alzheimer's. 
- Texas, State Welcome Centers.  They not only offer wonderful assistance, they offer free overnight parking with security.  Their restrooms are not only kept unlocked for your use, but they are a tornado shelter.  If a tornado is coming that way, the security officer will rap on your door and warn you!  Now, that's a service!  We ran into this in Amarillo and it's not something that they advertise, but if you ask them, they will volunteer the information, and are very friendly with it. We stayed the night and the security officer was also very friendly.  We were on a "tornado watch", so when we went to dinner, we stopped and told him and asked if he would like us to bring him anything.  He declined, but said if we wanted to give him our phone #, he would call us if he heard anything.  Can't beat that!
- Texas, I have to say, the state itself has more rest stops (about every 75 miles or so), and what they call "safety stops" (which include tornado shelters) than almost any state we've run into.  In between them, they even have pull-outs or picnic sites!  They are the most highway/driver friendly state!  Not just inter-state either, all the highways have them.


Rand McNally TripMaker RVDN 5510   It's the best GPS System we've come across.  You enter your RV information into the system (length, weight, how many propane tanks, etc) and it routes you accordingly.  If a tunnel is to low, or you have to many propane tanks to legally go through it, it will route you around it.  It also forewarns you of high winds, changes of speed limits, construction, rough roads, all kinds of great details that really help with an RV.  I can't say enough great things about it!

Books: 
  
Watch It Made In The USA - What a great book!  We've had so much fun with this.  If you like to go on factory tours and company museums, you will love this book too.  Where ever we were headed, I would look up the cities & towns along the way and see if there were any tours we could take.  This was my all time favorite book!
 Casino Camping - A guide to rv friendly casinos.  This was recommended to us, and seems pretty good, but we haven't really had an occasion to use it yet.
Woodall's RV Owner's Handbook - A self help, how to perform preventative maintenance and repairs on your RV.  This has come in hand a number of times!
Choosing Your RV Home Base  - Help in establishing a home base with information on taxes, cost of living, etc.  I'm still working on this one!
RV Vacations for Dummies - Like all "Dummies" books, lots of practical advise, it was a good 'first book' to read.  Should have read it long before we had the rig, it might of helped me pack better!


Off the Beaten Path: A Travel Guide to More Than 1000 Scenic and Interesting Places Still Uncrowded and Inviting - Another one of my favorites.  Once again, when we determine the direction of travel, I pull this book open to that state and look to see what's in that pathway.  We've re-routed ourselves a couple of times to see some areas we would never have known about if it were not for this book.  Beautiful pictures and great descriptions.  It's never lead us wrong. 

1,000 Places to See in the United States and Canada Before You Die - My daughter sent us this one en route.  It's been a fun one to 'mark off' as we do some of them!  It's pack full of great ideas and really fun places and things to experience.  A great "ideas" book to have. 

There were a few campgrounds that really stood out from the rest, and a few of our very favorites were: 
  
 French Quarter Music Festival - It's held the week before Easter each year, in New Orleans LA.  It's one of the last fully FREE music festivals left, I think.  It lasts 4 days: Thurs through Sun, with approx. 200+ bands, ranging from Cajun to Rock-a-Billy.  Mostly Jazz, of course, but a lot of "everything in between as well.  They also host a great "International Stage" that brings in bands from various countries like Japan, Germany, Switzerland, etc. that usually play really great traditional jazz!  All they ask, is to "purchase food & drink from the local vendors" - which isn't hard because they sell great food at reasonable prices!  People behave, mostly throw trash in the containers, dance and have a really good time.  It's a wonderful experience, very unlike the crazy drunkenness of Mardi Gras or the high price of the Jazz Fest.  Stay at the FQRV Park and walk in each day!  It's an experience of a lifetime!  

Salt Springs Recreational Area in Ocala National Forest of Marion Co FL
This was an unexpected beauty, smack dab in the middle of Florida!  Beautiful trees, natural springs, trails, birds, the "whole works".  So peaceful, we only wished we weren't on a tight schedule at the time, because we would have liked to stay at least a week there.  They honor the Golden Pass too! 

Watkins Glen NY KOA - This was another wonderful surprise.  Now, we like KOAs in general.  You pay a little more, we know, but you usually get a little better quality and you pretty much know what to expect.  Then, sometimes, you even get more...like at this campground.  This was not only beautiful, well maintained, with super friendly staff, but a place that we sure wished we had our grandchildren with us!  They had every kind of activity and game, sport and playground you could possibly think of for every age group plus coordinators to help out!  Wow!  Plus, throw in the beautiful places to visit outside the place and you've got one great vacation right there for a week!

Kentucky Horse Park Campground (Lexington) - This place was huge, only 260 sites, but well spread out, that it felt like you were in a state park.  Lots of trees, big sites, level, really pretty.  You are in the heart "horse country" and part of the whole Kentucky Horse Park.  Very nice.

Rusnik Family Campground (Salisbury MA) - We ended up here over the 4th of July, and it turned out to be one of the best we've enjoyed, even without fireworks.  The place is "rustic", like a state park, lots of trees, winding roads, sites of all sizes tucked in here & there, some leveling needed, but the joy is the beautiful "outdoors" of it all.  They had a small pond that once twilight started the fireflies came out and the frogs started singing, loudly!  The owners were fantastic!  You felt like you were one of the family, and as that, it was "come and join in on all the fun and games!"  There was bingo and a mile long sundae that the kids made, and a pancake breakfast and I don't remember what else, but it was all fun.  As you walked around people were like "old friends" greeting you, stopping to chat, same with the owners.  Good people.  Nice place.

Keenes Lake Family Campground (Calais ME) - It's not so much how great the campground is - it's more that it's the last stop before you enter Canada.  With that said, the Keenes treat you like one of the family.  They babysit your plants, or any other of your "special" belongings that you don't want confiscated at the border.  They collect your mail and hold it for your return.  When you return, even if you are gone for weeks, they are there waiting, with all your treasures and mail, happy to see you!  Very nice, sweet, trust worthy people.  Good place. 

Tom Sawyer's RV Park (West Memphis AR) - Plain, simple campground, nothing fancy, and I don't think they even had a pool or anything - but what they did have was a great view, of the Mississippi River!  They are right along the very edge of it.  You can park yourself right there and watch the tug boats move the big boats up and down the river.  Peaceful, pretty place.  Different. 

Stone Mountain Campground GA - Very nice campground, large and very spread out - but what was a "big wow" for us, was that before we stayed here, we had never even heard of "Stone Mountain" before!  We were blown away when we went to visit it and saw what a very big deal it is.  So, if you are planning on visiting it, of course this is the campground you would want to stay at...and if you are and uneducated as we were - trust me, if you plan on being anywhere near DeKalb County Georgia, DO come to Stone Mountain!!    

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