This page contains all stories posted since 2003 in reverse chronological order starting with the most recent. Use the indexes found under tabs RV TOURING and BOAT CRUISING to find where trips begin. Use the search box to locate specific information contained in any of the over 775 posts. Subscribe
The books starts out with two men who decide to buy an very old wooden boat that takes up a year to launch. They start on the Arkansas River which is rarely used by cruising boaters. When they get near the Mississippi they get trucked to Aqua Yacht Harbor. They are now starting the Great Loop on the Tennessee River, north to Green Turtle Bay. They enjoy a few days there then head down the Cumberland River to the Ohio River. and cruise to their final place at Cincinnati. Again it's a river few cruising boaters ever take.
You can contact the author at AlexanderWatson@riverqueens.us to find how to get a copy of the book.
In October we took a short trip to West Memphis for the first Rally ever held for Winnebego Viva/Trend motor homes. There are now over 180 members in our group which began in 2014. Groups are the best way to communicate with others that have the same RV model. Another group I belong to started in 2004 and has grown to over 7,000 members. Stuff gets posted every day and a single question can result in 40 replies. Since Winnebego has made significant changes at least 3 times since 2004 many of the posts don't apply to readers that have the older models. In 2019 Winnegego announced it was cancelling the Viva/Trend line of products which in my mind were the best products they ever made. Click pictures to enlarge.
The 4 day Rally at Tom Sawyer RV Park was a success with close to 20 Viva/Trends attending. We had visitors from New York state to California as well as owners from Tennessee. The RV park sits on the Mississippi River flood plain. The Corps of Engineers gives the park owner 2 weeks notice of an impending flood. They then have to roll all the RVs and facilities to the top of the levy. We were spared any flood and had nice weather. The main problem was the lack of a proper meeting space.. Next year we plan to move the event to Nashville. Where there are several choices and all have heated meeting rooms and lights. I had to do my slideshow presentation outside our RV.
The Katy Leigh, our 36 ft, 1981 Grand Banks trawler was sold on December 1, 2017, The new home is in Panama City and the owner is a very nice man, James, that farmed and built homes in north Florida for many years. A widower, Katy Leigh is now his full time home. He has kept the name and delights in telling friends he has a new girl friend, Katy Leigh. He made a good decision on the name as there is no other registered boat in the USA with that name.
Selling the boat took 14 months. We clearned it all up, removed 17 years of our stuff, took lots of photos, and moved it from Kenlake Marina to Eddy Creek Marina in October 2016. The new owners at Kenlake seemed to think they were entitled to a percentage of the sale price. I wanted no part of that and Eddy Creek had no such rule. I signed up Nashville Yacht Brokers to handle the sale. This was a good decision. David Benson stuck with the sales job until it closed and earned his commission. In the end he also represented the buyer so there was no spliting of of the commission.. We created a website on Yachtworld and soon had calls. The biggest problem we had was keeping the outside cleaned up. The thousands of spiders resident under the roof just crawl and crap all over and make a big ugly mess. One potential buyer from Minnesota used to have a Grand Banks and wanted to get another one. He asked see photos of every crack, a missing paint chip, and smoke stain on any ceilings, a total of 127 photos. After we put all that together for him he declined to come an see the boat. I guess he didn't realize this was a 36 year old boat or pay attention to the $32,000 Awlgrip paint job on hull and superstructure.
We had an offer from a St. Louis buyer that we accepted. He insisted that a suveyor from Green Turtle Bay would do the survey. Unfortunately this particular surveyor had been banned from performing surveys at Green Turtle Bay. It meant we would have to reposition the boat at Sunset Harbor Hill about 30 miles south from Green Turtle Bay. In addition the new owner would have to take the boat by water to St. Louis. Trucking it is out of the question as it means removing the flybridge. The buyer gave up and cancelled his offer.
Things started jumping in September after we reduced the price and we had 3 buyers lined up in early November. One of the rules in boat selling is accept the first offer, don't attempt to play one offer against another, or you may lose both. We made a counter offer and it was accespted by the buyer. We then had to have a survey and sea trial. Mavis and I spent one last night aboard checking out the heat and plumbing. The next morning tI rode with the boat while the sea trial took place as the boat was moved to Green Turtle Bay. Mavis drove up in our car. The surveyor, Bill Rottgering, was impressed with the boat and James accepted the survey subject to a small adjustment in the price.. We used a transient slip at Green Turtle Bay for two weeks while all the paper work was put together. The closing was on Friday Dec 1 and the boat left for Florida on Monday Dec 4th. I had thought I would accompany James to Pickwick Lake but by then I was a wreck with stress induced optical shingles and gave up the idea. James had a good friend with a captain's license and the two of them travelled for less than 3 weeks and made it to Panama city without any incidents at all. Katy Leigh lived up to her reputation of reliable day-after-day travel at 8.5 mph.
Hurricane Harvey was a disaster for Houston and other towns along the Texas Coast. Nashville was on the tail end dropping 5.5 inches. We had set up a barrier to keep the water from going in our basement, but the barrier failed when the flood water in the driveway pushed the barrier out of the way and brought in 17 inches of water. We were up till 2:00AM pumping out the water with a pump our neighbor loaned us. With the water out of the way Mavis took the next 3 days to clean up the silt. Our dehumidifier had quit with the flood and we bought two new onesAfter , one for the basement and the other for the main floor. We had 5 more days to get packed for the trip and be ready for Irma which was scheduled to hit after we would be gone. We bought a sump pump like the one we had borrowed and put it in place and a 12x2x6 board to hold back the water bag barriers. We also added 4 bags of sand around the ends of the 12 water bag barriers. Mavis lined up a neighbor to keep an eye on things and a video camera was set up in the basement so we could see any flooding from Irma. We left for Grand Marais on Friday Sept 8th and packed everything into the Trend in our Murray KY storage shed.
During the trip we got a signed offer with earnest funding for the Katy Leigh but after after a visit to the boat on Sept 7th the buyer bailed out due to the complications in his mind and cost of moving the boat to Lake Michigan. Irma hit Florida Sept 10th and although Nashville got lots of rain we had no flooding in our garage. In case of any more storms we put both our cars in the RV shed in Murray.
It is 1,000 miles to Grand Marais from Nashville. We had good luck with all four campgrounds picked, driving 200-400 miles per day. Our first night was at Camp Lakewood in Effingham, IL on the I-57 bypass. I actually has a small lake. The next night was Blackhawk Valley. It is several miles off I-69 but as we had stayed there before (see photo). The third night was at Log Cabin Resort and Campground. It is right beside I-69 but I couldn’t find in on my Garmin gps and had selected Log Cabin Road rather than Lane. We drove 15 miles into the bush and found no campground at the end of the road. I was able to talk to the real Log Cabin and found how we were within 300 feet of the camp before we went off into the bush. Once I got over the mistake on the gps we really enjoyed the place. Monday we drove 179 miles to Grand Marais. We went shopping Monday at our favorite art store in and bought a giclée print of birch trees infront of Lake Superior. Giclée is a fancy French name an artist came up with to describe an injet printed digital image. It worked on me and we now have another large picture for the bare walls in the condo. Monday night I gave a new talk on “Touring the 1000 Islands” to an interested group of 40 attendees. We enjoyed meeting our old and new friends. The best photo I took was with the panoramic feature of the iPhone 6s, of the gang on the beach (see photo). Click on it to see the amazing detail in every face. I toured a brand new Travata Class B and was very impressed with the design. If I needed a new RV that would be my choice. Thursday we did the laundry and had lunch at the beautiful Naniboujou Lodge Restaurant 15 miles east of Grand Marais (see photo).The building dates back to the early 1900’s.
Grand Marais to Brockville
It’s another 1,000 miles from Grand Marais to Brockville. However, we saved 1,000 miles by not having to return to Nashville and then heading to Brockville. Once again we travelled 200 to 400 miles each day and spent 3 nights on the road. The first night was in Ishpeming, MI at the Country Village RV Park that had many very flat campsites and a movie theater beside the property. We showed up at 6:30 pm for the movie only to be told we would have to wait 2 hours for the movie we wanted to see. Can you guess why this happened? (Answer below). However, the theater had really good buttered popcorn which I ate as we walked back to the RV. Next day we crossed into Ontario at Sault Ste. Marie Our second night was at the city park at Thessalon on the shore of the North Channel of Lake Huron. We have stayed there at least twice before but the town seems to be losing businesses on the main street. Tonight we are in Stonecliffe at Morning Mist Resort, a beautiful park with huge pine trees beside the Ottawa River. It is a family business and one of the owners keeps his Cessna float plane here. You don’t see that very often. Today we arrived in Brockville and are back in Tall Ships Landing.
(Ishpeming is on Eastern Time).
Most people across the country watched the eclipse from grassy fields. We watched it from our driveway and saw an amazing effect called Leaf Shadow Bands that occurs in the minutes before the eclipse becomes total. Watch the video to see this effect.
Bob & Mavis
We left Nashville on Saturday, drove to Murray to pick up the motorhome and then on to Louisville via Elizabethtown. We stayed at an old RV park across the Ohio in Clarksville, IN. Don’t use the Garmin GPS to find this park as it will try to take you under a low bridge. Get directions from the owners. The park used to be a KOA but the owners got tired of the revenue amount they had to share with KOA. It is the only RV park I have ever seen that has gasoline pumps. It is a short walk along the road to a dinner playhouse with live shows. Even more interesting is a very large RV dealership with a parts store and service bays. Guess what? It was sold to Camping World for a time and then bought back. Is there a trend to Camping World giving up on RV dealerships?
We almost finished furnishing the condo with two new living room swivel chairs and some balcony furniture. Getting a custom built wall unit with drawers and desk has proven to be a challenge. Our first choice was a small furniture business that burned down before work could start. We are now waiting for a quote from another builder. It may take till 2018 before we have a place to put our clothes other than plastic boxes. I did buy a folding table at Walmart for my business that has worked out well. We brought up a painting from Nashville that looks great in the dining room. Amost every night we enjoyed 180 degrees of beautiful sunsets through our huge Northwest facing windows.
We walk everywhere in Brockville even though we rented a car for the month which was rarely used. When I filled it up with gas to return it to Enterprise we had only used $25.00 CAN. The big events in Brockville were:
- 150th Anniversary Fireworks on July 1. Great view from our unit of a 15 minute show with no breaks.
- Hydroplane racing on the 4th to 6th. One boat flipped over due to a broken rudder in the first race. No one was hurt and the boat was repaired and back that afternoon. In the last race on the 6th another boat lost its rudder and ran straight for Blockhouse Island narrowly missing a boat that was watching the event. No one was hurt or damaged but that was the last race and the rest of the day was cancelled due to high waves. ,
- Poker run on July 15th with over 100 boats . We had a great view of the go fast boats and listed to the collosal noise they make. The race went from Clayton NY to Ogdensburg where they turned around and headed back past our condo.
- Graham, Cathy, Michael and Max arrived by train on July 4 for four days. They spent two nights in Toronto on their way and had a great time at the CN Tower. In Brockville la lot of time was spent in the Aquatarium with Max balancing on a suspended walkway.
- We all visited Fulford Place, a mansion on King Street built in the early 1900s for a millionaire that made his fortune selling “Pink Pills for Pale People”. They had signs inside that photograph taking was not allowed. I explained that was an old fashioned idea and that modern cameras don’t need to flash and work well in low light. I said that few visitors will buy postcards because they communicate with social media. I pointed out that most museums now allow photograph taking and it is free advertising and will increase the number of visitors. I learned at a ROMEO lunch that a man I know was on the board of the Ontario Historic Commission that is in charge of Fulford Place. I sent him an email and a few days later I received a nice letter that most museums do allow photos today and that the Ontario policy was going to be reviewed. Maybe next year I can show you what the mansion looks like inside.
- Visits with old friends that worked at Automatic Electric kept us busy. The one thing in common is they are all 40 years older when I last saw them. However, two of our friends look exactly like they did 40 years ago. Earl is now close to 90 and now lives with Sandy in the Executive condos and view of the river. I used the Enterphone system (we designed at Automatic Electric in the 1970’s) to find him which worked like a charm. He came down to meet me and gave me a tour of his building. The fancy modern computer entrance system in the Tall Ships Landing doesn’t work at all. We got together on July 24th and drove out to Charleston Lake where he and Sandy had lived for 45 years. He had built a rambling cottage over the years that had just sold. The buyers from Texas bought it as a summer home and were leaving for the rest of the year in a week. We drove around the bay to another huge home being constructed on the water with a Spanish architecture. Not exactly a classic cottage.
- Linda and Harley have a beautifully restored home on the river a few doors west of the Yacht Club. Linda worked with me in my group at Automatic Electric as librarian. She was crowned as Miss Brockville Centennial for the 100th anniversary of Canada in 1967. The Brockville Museum we all visited had an exhibit devoted to her. She became a council member for a number of years and now has devoted her time to the Tunnel Restoration project. Unfortunately we will miss the grand opening on August 12th but will see it when we get back. The tunnel was built in 1860 as the first tunnel in Canada. It provided a direct route from the St. Laurence river front North to Sand Point on the Ottawa River. The tunnel was used until 1970 when it was given to the city.. The photo shows the unfinished north end.
- It is very enjoyable to walk along King St East to see the 1800’s homes there. One of them belongs to Bob Panter and had a banner celebrating 50 years in the same home. Bob worked with the R&D group at Automatic Electric. I knocked on the door in the late afternoon and within minutes we were drinking beer and reminiscing about the great times we had living in Brockville in the 60s and 70s. We will get together in our next trip in October.
The total drive north to Brockville was 1261 miles. I found after I could have saved 26 miles going through Evansville. On the return trip we took I-81 and I-40 all the way to Nashville and Murray, KY for a total 1210 miles. The shortest possible route is 1141 miles but this has 6 cities with potential heavy traffic to fight; Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Nashville. The I-81/I-40 route has only 2 cities, Nashville and Knoxville. We burned 172 gallons of gas and averaged 13.2 mpg at a total fuel cost of $390. Campsites for 4 nights cost $158. Grand total $548. Had we taken the plane to Toronto and train to Brockville it would have cost $940 plane fare plus $240 for the train a total of $1180. Using the RV saved $632 !
We left Nashville at 1:00 PM after a board meeting I attended. We drove through Louisville missing the worst of the traffic and spent the night in Jerico County Park in Smithville KY. It was quiet, inexpensive, primitive, and had three free spaces. The rest of the spaces were occupied by permanent RV renters. The photo of the fuel supply shows just how primitive the park is. Click on any photo to enlarge them. We needed to stay at least an hour away from Cincinnati so we would miss the rush hour traffic there. Our strategy worked and we zipped through Cincinnati and Columbus. Our next stop was the KOA Erie PA which had just opened for the season. The next day was the New York Thruway toll road which doubles the car rate because of our height rather than the number of wheeks or axles. We arrived at Syracuse and drove another 10 miles north to Brewerton’s Oneida County Park at the West End of Lake Oneida. We followed the GPS instructions and arrived at the park. The signage to the campground seemed to be missing so we headed in assuming we would find the campground. When the road petered out to gravel I decided to turn around. However the ground was very wet and the tires on our front wheel drive just spun around and dug us in deep. We had to wait a couple of hours for a tow truck and when the park manager came by I learned that there are two parks but the GPS only goes to the headquarters park. The park on the Lake is a couple of miles away. The tow dragged us out of the mud and we found the park. We met a nice couple in a View RV and had a great time comparing RVs. Their View was brand new and they had already travelled 10,000 miles or so in two months. Their summer home is on Lake George in the Adirondacks. It’s 180 miles from Brockville and we have a standing invitation to visit them.. The next day, Saturday, we finished the trip to Brockville, clearing Canada Customs in 5 minutes or less.
Life in the condo was best described by the electrician we had over this morning who asked “When are you moving in?” That was a bit insulting because we have two beds, a couch and a small table that now is the Duthie Learning world headquarters (see photo) for this month. There are also two folding deck chairs from the Katy Leigh and another wood old fashioned deck chair that Mavis uses. All our appliances and window drapes were installed and working with minor exceptions. We have two chairs and two headboards on order. Every day has been spent installing lights, towel bars, and TP holders. We are a block away from the downtown and get lots of exercise shopping there. There is a DVD store that sells movies for $1 each. You can bring them back and get 50 cents each. It’s a better deal than Netflix!
This photo was taken at sunset out our north facing window and shows some of the church steeples in town. Having lived here in the 60s and 70s life has changed very little except for everyone being older. We are renewing past friendships and making many new ones with people in the building most of whom are in the 60 to 92 age group. Every weekday morning I attend the Geezer group for coffee, meeting 2 to 6 local residents. This is how I learn who to call for help. One member invited me to park the RV on his property. Since then a resident told me about another place that is much closer where he keeps his 37 ft. motorhome. We moved our RV there this afternoon. Today I was invited to the ROMEO group that has lunch in different restaurants every Thursday. The group name means Retired Old Men Eating Out. Tonight we had dinner with a group of 12 residents and had a wonderful time. Last Sunday the Geezers brought wives and a sister for brunch in a very good restaurant beside the Tall Ships Landing. The sister turned out to live in Toronto one block from the house I grew up in. She said real estate prices have gone crazy and our old house sold for $4 million (CAN$)..
Last Thursday, May 4th was launch day at the Brockville Yacht Club (BYC). Forty years have passed since I last attended launch day, also known as the happiest day of the year. A huge crane is used to pick up and place each boat in the harbor. Our first large boat, a 1968 Fjord, still looks great and was one of the boats to be launched. It’s owned by the man I sold it to in 1978. One old steel hull sailboat started leaking badly and had to put back on the parking lot. A few days later after three days of steady rain the water in the St Laurence River had risen to record depths and the power to the marina had to be cut off. Today was the first sunny day. The river water level is dropping and things are drying out.
We have owned the Katy Leigh, our 36 ft Grand Banks Classic Trawler, for 17 years. We bought the boat in 1999 in Erie, PA and brought it to Kenlake Marina in May & June of that year. That was quite an adventure since we were so early in the boating season in the North. One of these days I will write up the story. Mavis and I decided it was time for a change. This meant putting the Katy Leigh up for sale. Click here to see the Yachtworld listing. Rather than buying another boat, we decided to buy a condo on the St. Lawrence River in Brockville, ON. Mavis grew up near this town and I got my first job there, bought our first 3 boats, and helped develop a computer controlled telephone system over a 13 year period. When I was moved to Nashville by Northern Telecom in 1977 we gave up boating for 22 years because the Cumberland River was not very attractive when compared to the St Lawrence and the summer wealther was so hot with weeks in the 90's.
Tall Ships Landing
The ideas behind the condo are to use it as our summer home and to buy it as a property investment. The condo building is unique. Each unit has magnificent views of the river. Our unit faces east and we can see the most easterly islands in the 1000 Islands and the historic town of Brockville with it's limestone buildings dating back to the early 1800's. The building has a nautical-themed restaurant, dockside living boutique, cafÃ© and creamery, two hotel floors, marina, indoor pool, tall ship sailing school, parking garage, and an Aquatorium. The 25,000 sq. ft. Aquatorium is interactive discovery centre for kids and adults. It was jammed with families when we made a short visit on our Magdalen Islands RV trip. Click here to see the Tall Ships Landing website.
After our visit to Port Medway we were scheduled to take the 11:00 AM ferry across the Bay of Fundy from Digby to St John. You are required to arrive one hour before sailing or loose your reservation. Hwy 8 was the most direct route and would take about two hours travel time. Unfortunately, the smoke from a forest fire had closed the route. Hwy 10 became the preferred route. The GPS was set to find Digby, at exit 13 the GPS said to turn here and head east. It said to turn one exit too soon. Away we went and eventually found ourselves on Hwy 8 assuming we had passed the blocked road. We were horrified to find the road blocked and we had to backtrack a considerable distance to get to Hwy 10. Nearing Hwy 101 the limited access road to Digby at 9:45 AM there was still 45 miles to go. At that point we knew we could not arrive by 10:00 AM. We called Bay Ferries and asked what we should do. They said to come on but we would have to go in the standby line and they could not guarantee we would get on board. The other option was to wait for the 5:30 PM ferry which we would be on for sure. The 5:30 PM ferry would arrive at 7:45 PM. I decided to cancel the ferry, get a $240 refund, and drive some 304 miles around the Bay of Fundy. We took one shortcut on Hwy 14 which avoiding having to go to Halifax. We arrived in St. John at 5:02 PM before the 5:30 ferry even left Digby. We continue to drive another 70 miles to St Stephen, NB and crossed the border to Calais ME where we are parked at the Calais Motor Inn. The trip was not as much fun as the ferry however we saved time and money. I estimate we spent $58 on gas, and $5.25 on tolls saving overall $175.
After Calais we headed east on US-2 through the beautiful mountains of Maine, and New Hampshire. To avoid Montreal traffic we rounded the north end of Lake Champlain within a mile of Canada and headed west on US-11 only find the road closed because a bridge was out. It was a long detour that eventually took us to Massena. The road there opened up to a beautiful 4 lane highway but there was a stop light every 1/4 mile and they were almost always red. Apparently you are better off going through town. We visited friends in Brockville, ON where we used to live. In Dundas ON we picked up the last of the stuff from my sisters estate. We crossed the boarder to the USA on the Bluewater Bridge at Port Huron. At the Customs & Immigration we were behind a car that was ordered to the office after much discussion between the customs officer and the driver. The officer put a magnetic box on top of the car which I assume tracks the car if the driver tries to escape. Now it was our turn. The officer asked if I was carrying anything and I said "some stuff from my sister's estate". He seemed to be worn out and not the least bit interested in the "stuff" and immediately said go ahead. So much for the beautiful work the law office had done to document everything for customs. We will attend a wedding in St Joseph MI tomorrow and expect to be back in Nashville on Monday.
I discovered that I had booked the Magdalen ferry return at the same time (8:00PM) as the PEI ferry to Nova Scotia. I learned that there is a standby lane on the ferry dock you can wait in and hopefully get on the boat in place of no-shows. We decided to give this a try and left the campsite at 5:30 and drove to the ferry dock where there were 20 cars ahead of us. 18 of them got on. Now we had the whole day to spend before the 8:00PM sailing and I needed to change or cancel the PEI to Nova Scotia ferry. On the phone they said we could move our reservation to the 9:30AM ferry but there was no way we could get on the 5:00AM ferry. It seems that the ferry company is in chaos over their reservation systems and the need for another ferry. No one on the phone gives the same answer.
The 10 Hour Wait for the Ferry
We took a long walk along a path beside the east side of the city. There were many signs along the path that explained different aspects of life in the Islands. One story was about a man, Auguste de Boardais, who was shipwrecked during a freezing ice storm but managed to be rescued after 4 days. Since gangrene set into his frozen feet, they had to be amputated with a saw and no anesthetic. The man survived and lived the rest of his life as manager of the telegraph office. At one point on the path there is a dramatic example of the erosion from the waves that undermine the cliffs. You could look down and see the beach through a small hole at the bottom. There was a Catholic cementary beside the path and one gravestone at the fence. It made me wonder what William Roger Waugh had done to deserve being so islolated from all the other graves. There is a large hill I estimated as 10 stories high beside the ferry docks with a stair way to the top. We both climbed up and got the view over the islands.
Two Ferries to Pictou Nova Scotia
The 8:00PM ferry left the Magdalens on time. I was a tight squeeze to get out of the harbor and we came within 20 feet of the Montreal ferry. We crossed to Souris PEI arriving at 1:00AM. We drove 50 miles to the dock at Wood Islands arriving at 2:00AM. There was no one around but the gate was lit up with a green light. We parked in the lot, got some sleep, and were awaken at 4:00AM. The kind lady that managed the traffic said there was lots of room on the 5:00AM ferry and we could take it without a problem. We left PEI on a ship that was about 20% full. We crossed Northumberland Strait to Pictou and got to a nearby campground, Harbour Light, at 6:30AM. We had gone 26 hours with little sleep.
Harbour Light Campground
The office opened at 9:00AM so we thought we would have to wait. We got lucky as the park owner, Cameron McDonald, came by and gave us a parking space beside the laundry. We were to wait until 11:00 AM when the RV in the site we had reserved would leave. We used some of the time to do a laundry. Can you believe Cameron gave us the coins to put in the machines? That was a first! He wouldn't put it on the bill. The laundry was done by 8:30 AM and Cameron moved us to another vacant site. We then got 2-3 hours of sleep.
Entry Island Cruise
We checked out of the Gross-Cap campground and headed for the Excursions terminal. We paid for our tickets and boarded the boat for Entry Island at 10:00 AM. The boat is about 40 feet long and made of fiberglass. The captain and cruise guide spoke good English and were very nice to us. The captain even helped us get the Trend parked on the dock. Entry Island is 10 miles from the Cap Aux Meules port. We left port at 10:00AM and headed south. The seas were 2-3 ft and the ride was comfortable. The greatest water depth is 55 ft deep but there are many shoals and reefs in the area. Over the years 100's of ships have floundered coming to the Magdalen Islands. Coming in to the harbor and Entry Island is very tricky with strong winds and the need for sharp turns to get into the dock. The harbor is protected with the concrete jacks.
Entry Island Hike
Our first stop was the Chez Brian Josie restaurant where we were too late for breakfast. I settled for a western sandwich and Mavis had fish & ships. We had a great conversation with the staff and locals who were especially interested in the US political scene. The most focal man was born on Entry Island but spent years on the mainland and in the USA. He is now back living on the island and imported a hovercraft from Germany. The thing to do on the island is to climb Big Hill. It is the highest point in the Magdalens at 581 feet. You walk up hill about 1.5 miles to get to the base of the hill. Then it is very steep and while not so bad to climb up it is a real challenge to come back down. Several people on the boat went to the top but we stayed at the base. There is an electric fence that keeps the cows from getting to the village and a step stile to safely cross the live wires. On the way to Big Hill you pass by a beautiful old Anglican Church.
The wind was really blowing on the way back and our tour boat bounced around quite a bit. Our cruise guide was amazing at being able to give her presentation without losing her balance or hanging on to anything. We spent the night at the Barachois campground in Fatima where we had a great view of the surf and sunset.
This morning was the best weather yet on the Islands. There are no bugs, no humidity and no need for heat or AC. The storm had passed, it was sunny, and for the first time there was very little wind. So it was a bad day for kite boarders. I made reservations to take to take a boat trip to Enter Island tomorrow. It is 10 miles by water, about 4 square miles in size, and has the highest point of land in the islands. We had breakfast aboard the Trend and then I set out to walk around the park. As I was leaving a sister RV, a Viva, came by and I caught a photo of two units together. One area of the park is in the woods and has tent campsites for people that want to be out of the wind. There is a laundry building in the park but some people still prefer to hang their laundry on lines and dry with the wind. Going down to the beach the tide was out and I could get close to a niche in the rocks with an artemisia (mugwort) plant growing there. I washed the salt spray off the windows and spent the rest of the day reading Ann of Green Gables and relaxing. There is no TV here at all and we have to use the Internet sparingly to avoid big penalties from Verizon. However, the Internet does work very well to my surprise. There are several very tall towers. The wildlife is mostly cormorants.
Ferry Schedule Mixup
Today I decided to check our return schedule to Nova Scotia. It seems I booked the ferry to Souris PEI at the same hour as the ferry from PEI to Nova Scotia. The ideal change was to take an earlier ferry to Souris but there were no available reservations. This meant staying another night at the Gros-Cap RV park. They have no sites with power available. We can either find another park or just spend the night in the ferry parking lot. We were able to get a site at another park so we don't need to spend a night in the ferry parking lot. I have requested the 8:00 PM ferry to Nova Scotia be delayed to the next day at 8:00 AM. If that doesn't work we will cancel the Nova Scotia ferry and go by the PEI to New Brunswick Bridge.
It Helps to Have a Guidebook
Today we did something we should have done when we arrived on the island. We went to the Visitor Center at the ferry dock and got a guidebook in English. It has the maps we need to find our way around the islands. Near the Visitor Center is a view point on top of a hill with a staircase to the top. Mavis climbed right to the top while I went up to the first platform. (see photos). After the climb using the guidebook we headed north on Hwy 199 and covered 4 different islands over a distance of 37 miles. The roads on the islands range very from very good to terrible. They are always paved but the cold winters play havoc with the surface. The roads in town are the roughest. The roads are lined with power poles on both sides so it's had to get good photos without wires. Grosse-Ile has an underground salt mine owned by K&S Windsor. There are miles of dunes beside the road.
Our final stop was Grande EntrÃ©e where the visitor center lady had advised us to have dinner at La Salicorne. This is a hotel, restaurant, and interpretive center on seals. We got there at 5:00 PM and were advised that the dining room opened at 6:00PM. We were further advised that unless we had a reservation we couldn't sit near the windows or order from their special menu. That was fine with us. We ordered the seal sausage appetizer so we could say we had eaten seal. It apparently tastes like liver. Mavis ordered the lobster roli and I ordered a sea food medley. Both were very good. Our waitress never did deliver the seal sausage or the beer I had ordered. We skipped desert and coffee and left at 7:10 PM. We got back as the sun was setting just before the rain and thunder began.
The Ferry Ride
The departure at 2:00AM didn't happen due to some kind of engine problem. We finally left at 4:00AM after 14 hours in the parking lot listening to the racket from the transport trucks. We watched a long DVD movie and then tried to sleep with little success. I used my hand held GPS to measure our speed and see our position on its chart plotter. I could tell the captain was trying to make-up for lost time as we were making 20 mph. As soon as the ship left Souris they turned off the cabin lights we had to search for seats that had enough light so we could read and a window ledge for the GPS so it could see the satellites. Mavis makes fun of me for reading the kids book "Anne of Green Gables" but it is quite interesting. The sun came up at 5:00. By 6:00 we could see ahead the first of the Magdalens, Ile de EntrÃ©e (Entry Island). It is a rocky island with high cliffs and is not connected to the other islands. The ship's cafeteria opened at 7:00 AM and served disapointing coffee with bacon and eggs. We docked at 8:00AM and drove to our camp site, Parc de Gros-Cap. It is on a peninsula with water on three sides. There are few trees on the island and the wind blows all day long. I clocked it this morning at 15.8 mph.
Parc de Gros-Cap
We managed to sleep for about 1.5 hours and then walked all around the very scenic campsite. This place is very popular with kite boarders since there is always wind and the water is shallow. In the photo our unit is 4th from the right. Our site faces west and the kite boarding area. At one point I counted 13 kites. The black semi-circles are the kites and the splash in the water is the rider and board. The park warden at Greenwich National Park told us the island is just like PEI but flatter with no trees. He is wrong there are trees but they are stunted from the wind. The red cliffs are sandstone and everywhere.
We arrived on the Island after driving 4.5 days and 1,900 miles. The first challenge was to find the Cornwall/Charlottetown KOA. The address was in the GPS but not the name. There were 3 listings with same address and the one I picked was on a dirt road and no KOA in sight. I called them on the phone and after much discussion I was told they were another hour and half drive away. The next mistake I made was to arrive on Civic Holiday so the park was jammed with RVs and kids. They did have the space I had booked.
St. Stephen, NB
Much of the drive here was on I-80. It is in beautiful condition and easy to drive with its 65 mph speed limit. I was also amazed at how few cars exceeded the speed limit. From Scranton to Maine you are on 81, 84, 295 around Boston, and then 95 through Maine. Of course 295 was bumper to bumper for at least an hour. We crossed the border at St. Stephen, NB. My father lived here while in high school. My grandfather was the Bank of Montreal manager and the family lived in the upstairs rooms of the home on the right. My father was a friend of Whidden Ganong who ran a famous chocolate company named after his father which is still going strong under David Ganong. The building on the left. We had a tour of a museum there with all the free candy you can eat.
Touring the Island
After doing the laundry in downtown Charlottetown we had fish and chips at the Brit Fish & Chips Restaurant. If you order one fish you get two large strips not one. They were very good but too much to eat. From downtown we drove north to the #1 attraction in the province, the House of Green Gables. It became famous because of a novel with the same name written by a young girl, Maud Montgomery, in 1908. It is well worth a visit to learn about life in the early 20th century. We cancelled our second day at the KOA and stayed in a beautiful town park at St. Peter's. Today, we went a short distance to Greenwich National Park and learned in the interpretive center that 12,000 years ago this area was covered by ice as in the photo. PEI was not an island but connected to the mainland. As the ice melted the water level rose and PEI became an island. Then we walked 4.5 km (2.7 miles) round trip to the sand dunes and beach on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There is a very long floating board walk on the way to the beach.
Its 85 miles by water to the Maggies (local term for Magdalen Islands). We are now in the parking lot for the ferry which leaves at 2:00 AM and arrives at 8:00 AM.
Why Visit Magdelen
Early this year I was planning to revisit Newfoundland that because we had enjoyed there so much back in 2009. In thinking about the route I decided we would have to visit Prince Edward Island (PEI). This is the one of the ten provinces in Canada we have never been to in our lives. When I started planning a route through PEI I discovered a dotted line on the north shore that went due north and showed a ferry route. I followed the line on the map and it stopped at the Magdalen Islands 85 miles north. I had heard about these islands from Great Loop friends who had visited there when they did the Down East Loop. It's a chain of islands (archipelago) in the middle of the Gulf of St Lawrence that is part of Quebec. The islands were first inhabited in 1765. The French name for the islands is Iles de la Madeleine.
This map shows our route.(click to enlarge) On our way back we will visit friends at Port Medway, Nova Scotia, and attend a wedding in St Joseph, MI. This will be the only post until we get to PEI as we have a lot of driving to do every day. Maybe next year we can revisit Newfoundland.
We completed the Florida-Charleston Loop on Thursday, March 10th.
Jacksonville Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
Better known as Hanna Park, it is a large park on the Atlantic about 15 miles from downtown Jacksonville. The park is in a Florida jungle. The 300 campsites are large and an easy walk to the 1.5 mile long public beach. I spent the day planning the final days of our trip and walking to and on the beach. I discovered a there was a ferry crossing of the St Johns River very close to Hanna Park. Never turning down a chance to ride on a boat we arrived the next morning only to discover the ferry wasn't running. The website said the ferry would be closed for 2 months from the January 1 which I interpreted that it would be running starting March 1. They need to keep their website up to date. Now I find you have to download an app to get the latest information but the app won't download.
Our next stop was Red Gate Farms close to Savannah. This is a small park with 30 good level full service sites. There is a large horse farm with one horse and a pony outside. There may have been more animals inside the barn. I took a trail that wrapped around a small lake and then headed down a long driveway to the gate for the Mackey House. Later I learned this is a facility for weddings. The park had two of the largest Live Oak trees I have ever seen. The photo only shows half of the tree. We had a very pleasant and quiet stay. In the morning we planned to tour Savannah a city we had not been to for 10 years or so. Unfortunately we got lost trying to find the city and wound up on the interstate. We decided to skip Savannah and spend more time in Charleston. That worked out really well. I called a Great Loop boating friend, Jerry, and he said he would be free for lunch. He chose the Fleet Landing because although the food was just OK there would be restaurant parking in downtown Charleston and a great view of the harbor. We had a decent lunch and got caught up with Jerry's boating adventures. Rather than do the loop again he took the reverse direction up the Tenn-Tom waterway and left his boat for the winter at Joe Wheeler State Park Marina on the Tennessee River. I am hoping we can get together on our boats this summer.
Our primary reason to go home to Nashville this way was to visit friends that recently moved to Isle of Palms and we hadn't seen since the 80s. Brian worked at Apple Computer back then and we became good friends. We attended his wedding to Susan in Marion SC and have swapped Christmas cards ever since. The home on Isle of Palms was spectacular with 5 stories. The view from the top floor looked out over the Atlantic on one side and the Intracoastal Waterway on the other. They have views of the sunrise and sunset every day (see photo). The house had been a rental and had electronic door locks on entry doors and even some inside doors. The locks all have batteries which have to be changed. Susan found instructions on YouTube and we changed out the batteries in one very important lock that was constantly letting us know with annoying beeps that they needed changing. We had dinner that night at a Mexican restaurant on Sullivan Island called Taco Mamacita. Dinner was very good and it turns out there is a Taco Mamacita in Nashville we will have to visit. Next morning we walked a couple of blocks to the beach and headed for Nashville, with stops at Piedmont and Chattanooga. We stayed at Ivy Acres RV Park in Piedmont which was very good with a large field, fish pond and woods for walking around. At some point the hills had been terraced like a vineyard but there was nothing but grass when we were there. Our last stop was McDonald TN at a KOA. We needed an oil change so I decided to stop at a Dodge dealer in Antioch which was on our way home. I went their "Express Lane Oil Change" for a "fast oil changes & more" only to be advised there would be a 2.5 hour wait. Not exactly according to their website claim "We know your time is important and we've set up our facilities to provide quick convenient service for changing your oil â€¦" I was also unimpressed with the enormous number of trucks and cars parked chaotically everywhere around the dealership with only narrow lanes to get to the service entrance. We skipped the 10,000 mile oil change and arrived at the house at 1:00PM. I will look for another Dodge dealer.
The big event this week was the loft bed died. There was a big snap yesterday and today I rolled over in the loft bed and there was another great snap. Both drive shafts had broken clearly away from the motor. I found I could raise the bed manually and we put a cushion under it so it wouldn't drop down on our 280 mile trip from Fort Lauderdale to St Augustine. I put together a short video here which shows how we can continue to use the loft bed with broken drive shafts.
We left the Skunk-Ape Research Headquarters and drove xx miles to Key Biscayne where boating friends have a home and a beautiful boat. We stayed three nights and took it easy. Dinner the first night was at the Yacht Club. Next morning Greg and I went to the Yacht Club for breakfast beside the pool in 50 degree weather. Then we all loaded into Greg's new BMW X1 Crossover. He took delivery in Germany and toured for several weeks. It was then shipped back to his dealer in Miami. It had some very nifty gadgets that increase safety. The most impressive was the ability to self-drive. Greg could go for miles in heavy traffic without ever touching the brake or accelerator. Even when someone cut in front of us it braked hard but didn't cause a collision. We drove out to the Redland Tropic Trail area visited an orchid green house, had lunch in the Fruit & Spice Park, took the tram ride and learned about trees from all over the world, and wound up at Robert Is Here fruit store. The most interesting tree at the Fruit & Spice Park was the Moringa tree which grows quickly to 15-30 ft, and has nutritious, healing leaves and pods. We all got samples to eat. This tree could save the world so get the details here. Lunch was in the park's Mango CafÃ© with Mango milkshakes. Tip: Order one sandwich and split it. The following day we were to go on a cruise on Greg and Sue's Krogen Whaleback trawler but it was leaking water under the engine from a cracked sea strainer so that was as far as we got. We ate our lunches in the pilot house.
It is just 30 miles from Miami to Fort Lauderdale. We did laundry on the way and got a fix at Costco. We always stay at Yacht Haven RV Park and Marina where many of the RV sites are beside the mostly large boats that stay there. Walking around I spotted an Ontario license on a Mercedes Sprinter chassis. I asked the owner, Robert, what brand of motorhome he had? He said, "It's home made." He had bought a Sprinter van and converted it to a Class B motorhome. It has a double bed over the cab with sleeping length wise since the sides don't bulge out like Class C motorhomes. It has a composting toilet so there is no holding tank. It does have a water tank and he heats water with a hose loop through the engine like many large boats. He has two large solar panels on the roof with an elaborate panel with charger, solar panel control, and invertor. It is mounted where everything is easy to get to. The unit we saw is Robert's second. The first one was stolen and not recovered during a European trip. The robbers smashed the big sliding glass door and found the spare key hidden inside.
We spent the best part of the day with Nashville friends on a Water Taxi Boat that goes all around the harbor . Our friends come each year for 8 weeks and own 8 one week time shares in one building and move each Sunday. This way they get all kind of different views of the Intracoastal Waterway and the beach. It is also a much less riskly investment than a condo. The most interesting yacht we saw was "Infinity" a $200M yacht owned by Eric Smidt co-founder of Harbor Freight Tools. Note the cabin cruiser tucked into the side.
St. AugustineWe drove 300 miles north and camped at Ocean Grove RV Resort. It was nothing to write about and very expensive. The next day we spend several hours in the city to see what had changed since our visit by boat in 2004. This city is the closest to New Orleans that you can find. It must have at least as many restaurants as New Orleans in the core. We stopped at the Lightner Museum and St Augustine City Hall that surround a beautiful garden. We had the best lunch panini sandwich and coffee at the Reflections Bistro beside the garden. It's owned by a young couple that were were happy to split the sandwich. After lunch we walked along St. George St. which is for walkers only. We are now at Jacksonville's Katherine Abbey Hanna Park which is nicer than Ocean Grove and cost about 1/3rd as much.
While we were at the View-Navion Rally I learned of a solution to the 3 quarts of water wasted each time you turn on your hot water for a shower. The short video I made (2.5 min) you can watch here and it has all you need to know. I had to wait until now to upload to YouTube as I had used up my Verizon data allowance for the prior month.
The Palmetto Encore RV Park had a unique shared sewage dump. See the sign in the photo and click to enlarge for the details. Fortunately we did not stay in Site H-12
Our friends Ginny and Alan moved back to the USA from Panama last year. We learned a good deal about condo design in this part of Florida. They are in a new two story fourplex overlooking a small lake. It has a three car garage with the third car parked in front of the second car. Many of the residents have downsized from much larger homes and have to deal with getting rid of a lot of stuff. Of course the garages hold much of their unneeded stuff. We spent a good part of the evening at another neighbor's condo that holds a party every Friday. Our hostess was formerly the television "Katie Couric" of Venezuela. Her partner was a long term live-aboard boater on an 48 ft trawler that he sailed all over the Caribean including Venezuela. He had also cruised on the first passagemaker yacht invented by Robert Beebe. Beebe was first to prove that a properly designed yacht could circumnavigate the earth under power rather than sail.
Anna Maria Island
This pier on Anna Maria was built in 1912 to provide dockage for ships from St Petersburg and Tampa. The dock is 678 ft long. The wharf on the end houses a restaurant and places to fish. It is the number one tourist attraction in Anna Maria. Carol and Gary have a beautiful house a few blocks from the pier on an inlet with homes on both sides. The island has become such an attraction that homes are being sold and used for one week rentals. This is rapidly destroying the neighborhoods and the owners move elsewhere. We had dinner at Galati marina and sushi restaurant. Galati is one of the largest boat dealerships in the USA. If you keep your boat here it has to be washed twice per week and kept in immaculate condition.
Returning to Bradenton we stayed with Kenlake Marina friends Eileen and Doc. Doc took me to see his new 35 ft. Newmar motorhome that has a massive slide-out on the street side. It is almost as long as the motorhome. There are 4 large rack and pinion units that control the in and out. Doc had downsized from a 38 ft to a 32 ft. He was too cramped in the 32 ft so he traded it in for the 35 ft. which has more floor space than the 38 ft. Later in the morning we went to a new Goodwill in a former Sweetbay supermarket. It gave me quite a few ideas to promote for our Goodwill. I took quite a few photos with the store manager's permission.
Ria and Hans, Nortel friends, have a condo overlooking the harbor at the large Burnt Store development. We went to Lashley's restaurant (see photo) and were waited on by Ashley. (no relationship to the restaurant). I had a sea food salad but in hindsight wished I had picked the stuffed quesadilla soup bowl that Ria and Hans shared. I asked if they had any bread and was told they don't have bread at lunch but do have crackers. We ate inside and sat out the huge storm that hit southern Florida that afternoon.
It was an easy drive to Cape Coral where we parked in Fred and Joanie's driveway (see photo) in their late 60's house with an indoor pool in the lanai. Fred has been a writer and photographer all his career and wrote the three cruise guides that we print. He writes mainly for agricultural magazines and is concerned about what will happen to print magazines. He has a draft of a very large novel he has written but it still needs work and we didn't get to see it. However, he asked Mavis and I to review a coffee table book with a number of his photos accompanied by very short stories in short lines of text. He refused to call it poetry. The book is beautiful and we talked a lot about how to get it published on print-on-demand.
I had not reserved a place to stay in the Big Cypress/Everglades and figured we would find something. However, I was constantly worried about what to do if all the sites were taken. Well we found an old Florida campground that was the most interesting place so far on this trip. You are greeted by a huge sign "Skunk-Ape Research Headquarters" beside a campground sign. They had a site. We were escorted to the site by one of the owners on his bicycle. It was a little damp from the rain but had new water and power pedestals and was level. He said it had a dump but it was not at the site. His parting word were that this was a quiet place and he didn't want us making a lot of noise, like we were big time partiers. It was quite a complement. We then set out to find the dump site and walked to the store (see photo). At the back of the store a door opens to a zoo. We were greeted by the zoo owner who was a fountain of information on plants and animals. Mavis was in heaven. In one enclosure was a huge 21 ft. curled up boa constrictor snake which he poked to show it was alive. I suggested he should have signs on the road promoting the world's largest snake like the world's largest prairie dog in Kansas (see here) but he said that would be dishonest because there is a 25 ft. boa somewhere he knew about. He also had several parrots, one which went crazy hoping for attention from the visitors. The noise was deafening. Today we head for Key Biscayne where boating friends live.
Lunch was at Tony's Clam Chowder in the town of Cedar Key. It was so good we bought a 51 oz can of it that will feed 12. We will save it for a busy day on the boat and when we can get 51 more ounces of heavy cream to mix with the chowder. The campsite was a few miles from town and a vast improvement from the decrepit place we stayed in on our March 2011 trip. Cedar Key RV Park has paved full service sites and caters to short term RVers. Permanent residents are not allowed. It would be great place for a rally but you can only book multiple sites from April to October. There is one fire pit that serves the entire park. This is a great feature as it avoids the clouds of smoke from multiple fires often found in RV parks.
I set up the GPS thinking we would stop at Tarpon Springs and have lunch. The GPS took us down a beautiful new toll road, FL-589 that takes you to Tampa Airport. The traffic on the old coast road, FL-19 is very heavy. We got off at the Port Ritchie exit which should have been close to Tarpon Springs. However, the toll road is so far inland at the point we couldn't find Tarpon Springs. When we found a place to stop and get our bearings we would have to go 20 miles out of our way and decided to skip lunch at our favorite Greek Restaurant.
Our boating friends, Ellie & Bart, formerly from Nashville have lived for 5 years on a 49 ft Defever trawler at several other area marinas but are now at the Pasadena Golf and Yacht Club. It is so nice it changed my feelings about Florida living. It has also changed our friends' feelings as they purchased a condo there and put the Defever up for sale. We had an excellent dinner at the club.
This morning we left early and drove a short distance to the 1924 Vinoy Hotel, a St. Petersburg landmark. Vebbie and Roger from Kenlake Marina were staying on their Hatteras LRC at the hotel marina. Marina slip renters get full privileges at the hotel. We had fabulous breakfasts (see photo of Mavis breakfast) and then took Vebbie's guided tour of the hotel. The yellow disks are made in Germany, are solar powered, and the rims are lit up brilliantly. They are very expensive. But can be obtained here. Mavis and I walked around the downtown area and set a new record on my step counter. We took the Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay and are now at a dumpy RV park in Palmetto as all the good parks are booked solid in February & March.
This is our third adventure in the new Trend motorhome. We drove our car up to the shed in Murray, KY on February 6th. I checked the levels and discovered the propane tank was empty. It seems the full tank I left in the unit last fall had all leaked out. Somehow I had not closed the valve on the tank, however, with all equipment turned off there should not have been a leak. Just before we put the unit into storage there was a recall to replace defective cables connecting the propane tank to the regulator. The regulator takes the high pressure gas from the propane storage tank and delivers low pressure gas to the stove, fridge, furnace, and water heater. No propane means none of these devices will work. Only the fridge will work when there is shore power. Monday morning I called Cullum and Maxey and they said they would fix the problem. It took them about an hour to replace the regulator. The tank was filled and we were ready to go.
More Propane Problems
We left at 11:00 on Tuesday, Feb 9, and headed for Hanceville, AL. It was snowing (see photo) and the roads were covered with brine. The Trend became covered in salt and road dirt. I have never seen such a dirty RV. I checked the propane levels when we got to the Hanceville campground. The propane was down to half; another regulator failure. I called around and found the Camping World at Calera a few miles south of Birmingham had a replacement regulator, but would not be able to install it for 3 days. I decided to buy it and have someone at the Rally we were going help install it. Wednesday we picked up the regulator and then I asked at the Service Desk if they could possibly install it. Mike, the service manager said he could have it done after lunch. We waited in our unit, had lunch, and explored the largest Camping World store I have ever seen. We found $50 in stuff we just had to have. The regulator was replaced by 2:00PM. The mechanic that did the job came out and told me all the things he had done. There are a lot of government regulations that govern anyone that works on propane systems. For example you need a manometer to set the pressure properly. I am glad I didn't attempt it. We refilled the propane tank and headed for Live Oak Landing (LOL) near Freeport FL arriving safely in the dark around 8:00PM. I learned that it is a good idea to practice before driving a new rig in the dark. How do you turn on the high beams and turn them off? How do you dim the screens on the radio and the dash?
View-Navion Rally, Freeport FL
Thursday morning we were awakened by chain saws and a very noisy tractor pulling branches along the driveway behind the Trend. It seems the live oaks are dying out and branches are dropping on the road. It's not surprising the oaks are dying as they have built so many park homes there is not much room for the trees. We moved to another site and doubled up with another couple. One member of our group was forced to move out of their site so they could cut off branches. We had a good time with many of our old and new friends. I took a walk one morning and got another annual photo of my favorite dilapidated house for sale by owner. The price has gone up to $160K now. Get it while you can!. Many people toured the Trend. That night I gave a slideshow on two of the trips we took last year, Big Bend National Park and Grand Marais-Alexandria Bay. I was amazed to learn that Big Bend can be over 100 degrees in March. We had nothing but 60 degree weather in early March. At this point on Saturday we have had hot water showers and 5 nights of running the furnace. The level still shows full so the future for our propane looks good. I did a video interview with Gerald Keene which I will post on YouTube after the 18th when a new month starts on my Verizon data account. Gerald has invented a neat way to not waste water while waiting for the Instant Water heater to warm up.
St Joseph Peninsula State Park
Sunday we drove to St Joseph Peninsula State Park. It's great place to walk on the beach and the walking trail beside the water and marshes. There were no empty sites last night but people left in great numbers this morning on Presidents' Day. One of our friends from the Rally, Cindi, parked right beside us for happy hour. Last night we had the most violent storm with pelting rain and high winds that rocked the Trend.
Manatee Springs State Park
Today there were no "walk in" sites at Manatee Springs State on the Suwannee River but we did walk by the river and saw one manatee ripple. We are at the Chiefland RV Park tonight. Tomorrow we head for Cedar Key.
Ten years ago we developed our first Duthie Learning course, What to Expect Touring America's Great Loop. It was introduced as a $29.95 CD-ROM and sold through marine book stores, marinas, and this website. It ran on Windows and Apple computers. Five years ago Apple introduced a new operating system that no longer supported legacy applications. We had to tell Apple customers they needed to install the Windows operating system. That was not very popular. Then along came smart phones and tablets, and CD-ROM drives were being eliminated on many new computers.
In searching for a solution to deliver our content we discovered MP4 video. The Snagit video capture tool and Camtasia Studio 8 video editor made it easy to repurpose our content. We could play the Great Loop CD-ROM version and convert it into a set of very compact MP4 video clips. Now our content would play on just about any device from computers to smart phones and even digital TVs. Most Great Loop sales are now downloads from our website or USB drives containing the program.
Two years ago we developed a new video program for RVers, What To Expect Touring America's Great Southwest. In 18 months it sold 3 copies. An interview with an RV friend gave a clue as to why it didn't sell. RVers don't plan trips according to a route. Instead they decide who they want to visit, what places they want to see, and then figure out a route that connects these places together. We needed a new way to deliver our content.
Curious.com: A Platform in the Cloud
A year ago we discovered Curious.com. This education website for adult learning provides a subscription service at low cost that lets users access thousands of lessons and courses online via computer, tablets, and smart phones. It was very easy to repurpose the Great Southwest program into 5 courses and 27 lessons. Each lesson covers one place we have visited. For example the Utah course has 9 lessons, each describing our visit to a place such as Zion National Park. Users can then pick and choose what places they want to see or see them all. We continue our concept photos with recorded narration. Camtasia only stores a photo once which remains on the screen while the narration is heard. Other video programs download a photo 30 times per second resulting in very large files being downloaded. The Camtasia approach reduces delays in streaming the videos. The Curious.com platform provides for quizes in each lesson. The video is paused while the quiz questions are answered. Typically there is a one or two multiple choice quiz questions every 3 minutes. Quizes give learners a break and improve retention. Another feature of the platform allows attachments in each lesson. We use this to provide a pdf file of the script which allows users to search for information in a course. We are also allowed to have attachments that go to other websites including greatloopcruising.com.
Curious.com asked us to create a primer for new RVers. This course is called RV Touring for Beginners and is now available online. It forms a companion to the Great Southwest courses. It took 4 months to develop including script, voiceovers, video production and quiz creation. The program has 8 lessons covering why RV tour, choosing an RV, buying or renting an RV, RV systems, and planning the first trip. Overall the course takes 76 minutes plus quiz time. We are now converting the Great Loop program in to the same format. It will be one course with 39 lessons and takes 6.5 hours to cover. It contains many more video clips than the CD-ROM version. Our next program will be Touring the Wonders of Florida and will cover the more than 50 places we have visited in 5 different trips.
How to Access Duthie Learning Programs on Curious.com
All programs have free samples of a minute or two of our content found at the beginning of most lessons. Just open your browser and go to curious.com/bobduthie You can enroll in a free trial when you set up an account. If you access this link here you will get a $25 credit on your membership. Membershps are $9.95 per month or $89.95 per year. A membership allows you to take any number of the 20,000 lessons on the system which cover a enormous range of topics of interest to adults.
Remember learning is good for your health as long as what you are learning is of interest to you. You don't have to buy a boat to learn about the Great Loop, or buy an RV to learn how to tour the continent.
Today we saw the new bridge that replaces the Eggers Ferry Bridge nearing completion. We have crossed the 70 year old bridge with its narrow lanes many times each year to get to the Katy Leigh. The basket handle span was built on barges, floated to the opening, and hosted onto the supports. In another three weeks or less they will pave one lane in each direction and open the bridge to traffic. Then they will start removing the old bridge section by section with explosions and hauling the wreckage out from under the water. We were suprised by the colosal height of the new bridge compared to the old. It looks like sailboats will get another 5 feet or so of clearance. under the center span. I hope today was our last crossing of the old bridge.
This post is an recent interview with Tom Ray, who had an incident on his 42 ft Cruisers Yacht, on May 17, 2015 during a cruise on the Tenn-Tom Waterway. While underway all the electronics at the helm suddenly went dead. The only way to continue navigation was his compass and a paper chartbook.
Duthie Learning now publishes five chartbooks covering all the rivers from Chicago to Cairo, IL and then to the Gulf of Mexico either via the Tenn-Tom Waterway or the Lower Mississippi. Details here.
This morning I discovered a new example of technology run amuck. It was at at Rutters gas station in Pennsylvania. I wanted a simple sausage biscuit and coffee. At McDonald's you walk up to the cash register, say what you want, including one cream in the coffee, pay, and in 2-3 minutes you walk out with your breakfast. Rutters has a Subway kind of counter with two people busy putting breakfasts together and paying no attention to customers. There did not seem to be any way to place an order, so I asked one of the staff and he pointed to some touch screen computers. I found the button for breakfast and there were many choices, with even more on a popup asking how you wanted your toast done. I finally located what I thought would be a sausage biscuit with cheese (8 different cheese choices) but no way to not order cheese. Then you had to choose what kind of dressing you wanted from a long list of things like tomato, lettuce, mayonnaise, mustard, oil, etc. For coffee you just choose the cup size. I touched the "done" button and a bill was printed out. All this took a good 5 minutes and a lot of reading to find what I wanted. I then waited at the order pickup position for 4 minutes and they delivered a wrap (not a biscuit) containing a sausage patty, a slice of American cheese and some mayonnaise. I asked what about the coffee I ordered. They said you have to get that yourself from 6 or 7 choices and add your own cream. To pay you have to line up at the gas/store cash register. All this took three lineups and around 15 minutes vs McDonalds one lineup and 2-3 minutes. This is progress?
Bay Bridge TrawlerFest
Due to the storms and potential hurricane my co-presenter, Joe Pica, cancelled out so he could get his own boat to a hurricane home in Neus, NC. After two days of rain at a KOA in West Chester, PA we got news that due to hurricane Joaquin and the big rain storm in the eastern states TrawlerFest was cancelled. Apparently their insurance company was concerned. It was probably for the good as the expected large audience would have to listen to me speak for four hours. In addition it meant we could be home three days sooner.
A book I read recently, Wilson by Berg Scott, is a biography of President Woodrow Wilson. It tells a fascinating story of our 28th President. I decided to visit his birthplace and presidential library in Staunton. His father was a Methodist Minister, and was provided a large manse by the church. Unlike other Presidential Libraries funded by the US Government, Wilson's was privately funded. There is a long standing debate as to whether it should be located in New Jersey at Princeton, where he was president of the University or Staunton. Staunton just went ahead on its own and put together a handsome group of buildings beside the manse. The photos clockwise from the top left show the manse, museum and library, what life was like in a World War 1 trench, and Wilson's Pierce Arrow purchased from the Government by friends and given to him when he completed his second term.
Final Statistics & Comments
4050 miles, 287 gallons of gas, 14.1 mpg, $685 for gas, average cost $2.39 per gallon. We were away at total of 25 nights, 23 in parks with power, and 2 dry camping in driveways. We had 22 perfect weather days and 3 very rainy days. We had 6 LEDs go bad, bent the rear wheel fender on a fire pit, had a leak in the bathroom ceiling fan and had numerous problems with the on demand water heater. We learned a lot more about the loft bed which worked perfectly for 25 nights and is very comfortable. We are both very happy with the Winnebago Trend.
Ferry to Tobermory
The ferry left and arrive exactly on time. We had lunch on the boat and enjoyed the ride. Both the bow and stern open so we went on through the stern and off through the bow. Larger ferries have a turn around inside so you go on and off through the bow.
Brighton RV Park
We stayed at a KOA Campground with new owners beside Highway 401. They were excited to learn about RVillage as they are still working on their marketing plan. The site we chose turn out to be not very level and I managed to get in a jam with a fire ring made out of a truck wheel rim. We had to dig the wheel out so I could drive off to another site that really was level. There was no damage to the outside but there is some damage underneath the side panel. I talked to my insurance company (Progressive) and they said they would record the incident as a no fault accident. Not good for a new motorhome just 4 months old. We will worry about getting the damage fixed when we get back to Nashville.
Brockville on the St Lawrence River
This is the town close to where Mavis grew up. I started my career there in 1962. While Nashville is now growing at a rate of 500 people per day, Brockville has only grown 2,000 people since 1975 a rate of 0.1 people per day. The locals have doubts the 2,000 is right. However, it's a beautiful old town on the St Lawrence River with lots of limestone buildings. It is now a successful retirement community with a new 14 story condo, hotel, and adventure center overlooking the river (see photo).
We cleared US Customs with almost just a wave from the officer and went a few miles to a new campground, Swan Point Resort. This is a new park in Alexandria Bay, NY that is probably the best new park in the country! Our site was right on the St Lawrence River where we could watch the ocean going ships going by (see photo). The sites are level concrete with power, water, and sewer. The pedestal is on the left side when you enter the site which means you can watch the river out the sides and windshield. There is a large grocery store a 100 yards away with a paved sidewalk to it. There is still lots of work going on to finish the park but the parts that are open are first class. We went there for one night and stayed for three. Boldt Castle, Singer Castle, and the Antique Boat Museum were all visited and nearby (top row of photos in same order). Boldt Castle is owned by the 1000 Islands Bridge Authority and has been 80% beautifully restored since our last visit in the 70's when it was in ruins. (see photo comparison) and dining room. I was told $39 million had been spent so far all funds coming from bridge tolls. Singer Castle (top center) is privately owned and is 9 miles downstream from Boldt Castle.
Returning to our shed in Murray one weekend we found a great puddle on the floor that looked like gray water. This meant a trip to Cullum & Maxey to get the problem fixed. Fortunately it was not a leak in the gray water tank but rather a split pipe in the gravity feed. As the water pump had been left on water was pumped out the leak over the rear wheel washing the dirt off the wheel on to the floor. This made the puddle look like grey water. We left on schedule on Sept 9th headed for Grand Marais on the north shore of Lake Superior. The map shows our planned loop.
Grand Marais View-Navion Rally
The weather at Grand Marais was perfect with warm days and cool nights. My talk on our trip to Big Bend National Park was well received with many in the audience teaching me the proper way to say the many place names. There were about 90 people at the event and the crowding problems were solved by having some of the table outside the meeting place. We caught up with our many RV friends and showed our Trend off to a large number of interested visitors on tour day. They were happy to hear Mavis now speaks kindly of the Trend. The event was over Thursday morning but we had another night at the RV park. We used the opportunity to visit Naniboujou Lodge. Leaving the campsite in the pouring rain we left our flag pole up which caused a great commotion but no damage was done. We also left our leveling blocks in our site. A kindly neighbor picked them up and got them back to us when we returned.
This place was built in 1927 as a club and retreat for wealthy people from Minnesota and New York. Unfortunately the 1929 depression left a lot of wealthy people poor and membership tanked. As a result the club failed and the many planned extras such as tennis courts and a lodge on the Canadian border were never built. The club is now in private hands and welcomes the public. The spectacular dining hall serves breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner every day. We had the soup and sandwich for lunch which was excellent. That evening I went to an "Uplugged" West Virginia Public Radio concert in an enormous tent I watched being erected a couple of days before. The concert was a fund raiser for a school.
This has to be one of the all-time neatest towns we have visited in the past 8 years. There are art galleries, shops, and restaurants all over. Best of all it has a beautiful marina and marine museum. Bayfield is the gateway to the Apostle Islands and there are ferries that take you across to the major island. We stayed at the City Campground that was highly touted by a friend at the rally but was pretty rustic. We were perched surrounded by trees in a tiny site 30 feet above the lake. I think my friend really meant Thompson's West End Park in Washburn which looked really inviting. Next time we will know better.
Tonight we are in the town park on the shore of Lake Superior with 110 sites, each with power. Surprisingly it is not listed on RVillage. Also surprisingly I could not find the address at 2145 Sugarloaf Ave. until I realized they use two words Sugar Loaf Ave. The Garmin GPS is not smart enough to figure that out but the shortened street address exists in another town 330 miles east. This will be the last post until Sept 28th as we will be in Canada and the cost to use the Internet very high.
In the past 18 months I sold only 3 copies of my "What to Expect Touring America's Great Southwest". I did an interview with a friend as to how he planned trips. He told me he lists the friends he wants to see, the places he wants to visit, and then plans the route. That gave me an idea to break the program into 27 "places" each with 3 to 15 minutes of video. Then I discovered Curious.com a website service that has 17,000 training courses. They were interested in starting some travel courses so our content fit right in. The entire Great Southwest is now available on Curious.com in the form of 5 Courses (one for each state) and 27 lessons. Choose a course and then take the lessons for that course. I get paid for each course visited based on a percentage of the total courses visited in a month divided into 70% of their total revenue for the month. So far in two months course visits are growing rapidly and I have made more money than in the prior 18 months. Learners pay a monthly or annual fee and can take any number of courses during that period. You can now pay $8 and see all of my programs. The August revenue was up 299% over July. Who knows I make breakeven in another year or two. Are you feeling @curious. Click here to get 20% off.
We spent 5 days at the Grand National Rally (GNR). The first day we took a bus tour to the Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University in Ames, IA and Boone, IA for the Scenic Valley train ride. It rained at the gardens which made for a hurried tour of the outside gardens. Inside they had a butterfly garden with lots of butterflies flying about. The rain stopped for the train ride and museum tour. The train was pushed and pulled by a 1950's vintage diesel engine and we rode in the tail end dining car where an excellent lunch was served. At the rally we were in a row with the View Navions as well as the Minnie Winnies. Several friends were there that we had known at other rallies. At former GNRs four motor homes were placed in a cluster awning to awning. The crew placing units seemed to have forgotten about this and just placed units mostly front to back. The social mixing was far less than before. We had two incidents. First was a flat tire (picked up a small screw) which allowed us to check out the tire pressure monitor which worked well. The tire went flat in the park. I called CoachNet and a truck was dispatched from Albert Lea 40 miles away. The two man crew fixed the tire properly by removing it from the rim and putting a plug on the inside. Having a spare tire (the Trend doesn't carry a spare) would not have made any difference. The second incident happened early one morning when a storm with high winds came through. It lifted our flag pole out of its mounts and fell on an adjacent motorhome splitting the pole in half. There was no damage to the other motorhome but it did scare the owners up out of their beds. The pole was toast but I was able to get a new one at a discount from the company that makes these poles. They exhibit every year at the GNR. The photo shows the entertainment on the last night by American English. They played Beatles and dressed in Beatles costumes.
Mark Twain Cave
On our way back to Murray we spent the first night in Hannibal, MO, at the Mark Twain cave. This was the place he wrote about in Tom Sawyer. We had an excellent tour of the cave with about 15 other people. The park was pretty muddy after all the rain but we survived and weren't flooded out. The map shows the many rooms arranged in a grid. You could easily get lost in this cave.
Hawn State Park
The next night we found Hawn State Park near St. Genevieve, MO. It was first class. Large paved campsites with power and a stream that ran right behind us. It's a great place for hikers with steep hills.
During this trip the Trend got a good workout travelling 2,586 miles. We used 187 gallons of gas and averaged 13.8 mpg. Most of the driving was at 65 mph.
What have we been doing?
In mid-May my older sister Louise passed away in Dundas, Ontario after a 1.5 month hospital stay at the relatively young age of 77. Consequently she had not taken time to get her home organized for a few years years. We had planned to come up to see her this week and attend a family reunion party with other Duthies. Instead we had a memorial service in a church which was attended by family and her many friends. The service was at a church in Cambridge (right hand steeple in the photo). After the service we walked to the Cambridge Mill Restaurant beside the Grand River and had the reunion with 14 family members from Nashville, Minneapolis, New York, Toronto, Aurora, and Cambridge.
Sorting and Cleaning Up the House
Prior to the service we spent three exhausting days with our sons, daughter in law, and a cousin cleaning out the stuff in Louise's house. We rented a 20 cubic yard dumpster and filled it with trash with about half the rooms in the house cleaned out. There were mountains of letters, documents, etc. that all had to be viewed and either saved or trashed. There were countless boxes of jewelry that Mavis worked on and sorted out. The prize find was a ruby ring in a shoebox that was appraised for thousands years ago. Several relatives and friends gave eulogies and it was great to learn so many things about Louise.
Winnebago Grand National Rally (GNR)
We are now heading west at a rate of 300 miles per day to the Winnebago GNR in Forest City, Iowa which starts on Monday. The new Trend is a joy to drive compared to our View and so far has performed almost faultlessly. The one fault has been in the dash board display which started out showing how many miles we could go before the unit would run out of gas. Suddenly, without reason that display was replaced by the Month-Day-Year. So far I have been unable to get the far more important fuel display back.
Ferry to Middle Bass Island
We left the trailer park at 8:00AM, parked the Trend in a large free lot about ¼ mile from the ferry terminal, and took the 8:30 ferry to Middle Bass Island. The only sun today was a small spot on the water on the way over. Rather than rent a golf cart we rode a bus for $5 to the town and had breakfast at the bakery.
We walked over to the Commodore Perry International Peace Memorial and learned all about the 1813 naval war between the US and England. The US under Perry won the battle. England surrendered and that was the last hostility between the two countries, Canada included. There is an elevator that takes you to the top 350 feet above the base, with a magnificent view of the islands and even Point Pelee Island 10 miles away in Canada. The bronze lion sculpture is on the ring on the very top of the statue.
We wandered around downtown which is mostly restaurants and a few souvenir shops. It started to rain so we took the guided train tour of the island with its many handsome cottages and were dropped off at the ferry terminal. Mavis and I were the only passengers on the train tour and as result we were taken right to the ferry terminal. The line of cars waiting for the ferry was immense. Total cost for transportation with tip was $28. Compare that to the taxi alone which was going to be $32 and a rental golf cart who knows what it would cost. We were back in Catawba around 1:30 and decided not to go back to the trailer park and get stuck in the mud again, but to just continue to Detroit and stay at a park in Canada. Tonight we are in very nice park right beside Lake Erie near a town called Morpeth. There is a trail down a cliff to the water which is 50 feet or so below the campsites. I set a new record today on the Garmin Vivoactive step counter of 11,400 steps. The orchid is growing on the Trend beside the window above the dinette table.
- Two nights ago at Olive Branch, while talking to a neighbor with a new trailer, I asked if it had a rubber roof. He said unfortunately it did. Furthermore, he bought the new unit to replace his older trailer that also had a rubber roof. That one was eaten up by buzzards In the Everglades. The buzzards removed round chunks of rubber about 2" in diameter. That reminded me of my buzzard story on our Tennessee River cruise in 2013. Read about it here.
- This morning while eating outside at the bakery Mavis was attacked on the head by a Red Wing Blackbird. She thinks she was too close to its nest.
The top photo is the magnificent entrance road to Olive Branch Campground where we spent last night. Even though the campground is just a few hundred yards from I-71 there is no truck noise due the thick woods along the entrance road. Olive Branch was a top of the line Resort Park.
Now look at the trailer park we are in tonight and tomorrow night. We dug up the mud on the way in to our site. It seems that on weekends everything is full all along the Lake Erie coast. This was all we could get. The residents appear to be mostly full timers in beat up old trailers. There is a cloud of cigarette smoke much of the time. Lots of yelling and name calling. However, the camp ground is located just 3 miles from the ferry. The park host recommends we take a taxi and leave our Trend here. Later he said it is $8 per person each way to go three miles. More than the ferry. Once on the South Bass Island we can rent a golf cart to get around and see the National Park at Put-In-Bay. Our last memory of this place is when we went by Put-In-Bay on the Katy Leigh on our way to Kentucky Lake in the spring of1999. Here is another photo of the derelect unit beside us.
We spent a lot of time during the week installing a new clear window in the entry door, a towel bar in the bathroom like the View had, a towel bar under the galley counter, and motion detector lights in the hanging locker and under the sink. Amazingly we got all our stuff into the available storage spaces with space left over. Even though the Trend has half the storage of the View we have all we need for a 21 day trip. We planned to leave the house at 7:00AM only to find I had lost one set of keys the previous night. We never did find the keys and finally left at 8:00 for a campground near Oregonia, OH.
We stayed at the Olive Branch Campground with nice level sites.The Trend is a dream to drive on the Interstates with very little push from trucks, much less noise inside, large rear view mirrors, and a great brightly lit dash display that shows how many miles we can go on the gas remaining in the tank. It looks like a full tank can take us 336 miles at 65 mph. The dash display also shows the date, time of day, and outside temperature. There is lots of power and passing trucks is not the problem it used to be with the View. At one point we were doing 70 mph and hardly noticed it. Tomorrow we head 210 miles to Catawba Island on Lake Erie. We will stay two nights and spend Sunday at Put-In-Bay.
May 31st was a day with scattered storms day at Kenlake Marina. The clouds were spectacular with a dark gloomy sky in the west and this scene in the east. The sun is shining on the cloud. I used the iPhone 6 panoramic feature where you hold the phone verically and just pan around to the right. The original is 8.5 mb in size. Click on the photo to enlarge it. Enlarge the one below to see the detail in the panoramic.
We traded in our Winnebago View and took possession of a 2016 Trend 23B on May 5, 2015. We had the View 23B for 7 years and enjoyed it for 92,000 miles. The following review compares our 2007 View to the 2016 Trend and explains why the Trend was a good choice for us. Click on any photo to enlarge it.
The 2016 Trend is a dream to drive compared to the 2007 View. The Trend is much quieter, less prone to sway from passing trucks and going over speed bumps at any angle. I can hear the radio now at 62 mph which was hopeless on the View. In its day diesel was the only way to go with the View but the gas engine in the Trend is very quiet, it has a 6 speed transmission which shifts very smoothly compared to the View. The rear view mirrors on the Trend are much larger than the View and make it safer to drive. The lower part of both mirrors is a convex mirror which provides a view of the blind spot on both sides. In its day the premium price of diesel was closer to gas and diesel was much more efficient. Now gas is $2.35 per gallon and diesel is $2.85. Our View consistently achieved 16.1 mpg with the first tank of gas on the Trend delivered 13.6 mpg. (Score Trend 5, View 3)
The Trend has only four wheels vs six on the View. I could could write a whole page on the problems with measuring tire pressures on the View, with valve stem issues, and wheel covers that fell off. The Trend's wheels are solid aluminum so there are no wheel covers. The Trend has an invisible tire pressure monitoring system but so far the only way to test it is to let the air out of the tires. The manual says there will be a warning if the pressure is too low. I will just use a tire pressure gauge to check the tires. (Score Trend 5, View 2)
The View had bunk beds at the back in fixed positions. We really liked them and the storage space underneath was amazing. The bunk beds were in a separate area. There even was a curtain you could hang to make the bunk area private. We never used it, but at times Mavis liked to read at the dinette after I got in my top bunk. The top bunk had very little air space which took a while to get used to. The Trend has a loft bed which is lowered down electrically so the amount of air space above is adjustable at the expense of whoever is underneath. This is mainly the long couch or lower bunk and the dinette table. We spent two nights so far and the bunk situation is workable. (Score Trend 3/View 5)
The outside awning on the Trend is really special. The View awning was such a hassle to put up or take down it was rarely ever used. The Trend goes up and down silently with the press of a button. There is strip of LEDs on the roller that light up the patio area under the awning. Both awning supports are high enough that I don't walk into them anymore. (Score Trend 5, View 1)
The cruise control on the View was a wand that was easily moved up to set and speed up, and down to slow down. You pull it toward you to resume or away from you to disengage. The Trend has a wand with a switch you rotate to turn on the cruise control, press down to set and up to speed up. There is a button on the end of the wand to resume. The Trend control gets mixed up with the separate wand for the turn indicators and lights control. I liked the View design better. (Score Trend 3, View 4)
Daytime Running Lights (DRL)
Winnebago says the DRL are standard, Chrysler says Winnebago didn't order them. This is a major boondoggle in my mind since Canada law requires them. They are also a proven safety feature on two lane roads and Interstates(if someone is going the wrong way). The only practical solution is to leave all lights on all the time or to order fog lights to be installed by a Dodge ProMaster dealer. I have opted to pay for the fog lights. (Score Trend 0, View 5)
When you open the coach door a 15 pound gas spring literally tears the door out of your hand and opens the door to a stopping point. If anyone is standing on the step they will be flattened by the door. Pulling the door shut requires a lot of strength to reload the gas spring. I am hoping Cullum & Maxey can find a 5 pound spring that will do the job just as well. The View had a rod you inserted into two hooks to keep the door open without swinging. A simpler solution but only if the rod was not misplaced. (Score Trend 3, View 3)
Coach Door Window
The door window is frosted glass which means you can't tell who is knocking on the door, friend or foe. This problem is compounded by the gas spring described above. Motorhome magazine just wrote a story on how to replace this window with a smoked glass window for about $150. That looks like the best solution. (Score Trend 2, View 5)
The water pump that comes with the unit is very noisy. We replaced the water pump on our boat with a variable speed pump that is about 200% more expensive but well worth it. We did the same on the View and now on the Trend. (Score Trend 1, View 1)
The View came with a ladder on the back that allowed you to climb to the roof. It also provided a place to mount clamp on supports for a flag pole. The Trend does not come with a ladder nor will Winnebago supply or install one. Since the main thing we ever used the ladder for was the flag pole, Cullum & Maxey agree to screw the supports into the back surface of the Trend. This problem was solved easily. (Score Trend 4, View 5)
Power Cord Storage
The power cord storage on the View is under a lift up fiberglass door on the bottom of the unit. It is hard to get at. The Trend has a small storage bin behind a door at waist level. It is much easier to use than the View's cabinet. The Trend design is far superior on this point. (Score Trend 5, View 1)
The View in storage depletes the chassis battery after about 30 days. This occurs because of the parasitic load from the step computer. When you return you have a dead battery. I had to add a solenoid device from Trik-L-Start that eliminated the problem by allowing the power convertor to charge the coach battery. Since the View was always plugged in when in storage this worked well. This solenoid failed last summer resulting in the alternator not being able to charge the house batteries when we were underway. The ProMaster engine has an easy to get at clip under the hood (photo center) where a trickle charger's positive lead can be attached. The negative lead connects to a ground point. This same clip is used if a jump start is required. That is the solution for the Trend . . . much simpler, cheap, and just as effective. (Score Trend 4, View 2)
The View had four steps to get to the floor level of the coach. The Trend has three steps to get to the floor level. The floor is flat from end to end because the Trend is front wheel drive. The View has a step down in the cab because of the drive shaft. The Trend is easier to get into. It also has a step on each side of the cab. The View did not have these at all. (Score Trend 5, View 3)
The View had two holding tanks for black and grey waste. The two tanks were separated by the rear axle so there were two dump valves separated by about eight feet. This meant having to move the unit and the dump hose whenever dumping the holding tanks. The Trend connects the two tanks together with two valves and a single dump port. (Score Trend 5, View 1)
The View had twice the storage space of the Trend. Over the years we gradually reduced the stuff we carried and should be able to live with the storage available on the Trend. The 2016 Trend has a major improvements in storage compared to prior year models. There is an outside door on the passenger side (left photo) that uses space under a dinette seat and adds a plastic tub for even more room underneath the floor. It's great place for heavy tools. The other outside door (right photo) is at the back and I have made plywood shelves which make it easy to store our flag pole, chairs, table, dump hose, 20 leveling blocks, space heater, and more. The space under the mid-ship dinette seat is much larger than before because a large seat belt anchor has been removed and replaced with more sensible anchors. The arrangement of the TV and microwave has been improved with six 15 inch deep drawers. There is a small cabinet between the TV and microwave, and a space under the TV for a Blu-ray player and/or a satellite receiver. There is lots of room in this cabinet for DVDs, remote controls, etc. The niche space beside the entrance door on the older models is gone. (Score Trend 3, View 5)
The Trend has more floor space between galley and the fridge. The View had less space between the galley and the bathroom which meant you could not pass someone without bumping into them. (Score Trend 4, View 2)
We ordered the Trend with the fabric upholstery rather than the ultraleather. We really like the fabric and compared to the wild spots on the View upholstery (left photo) it is much better (right photo) with a lot of stitching to avoid wrinkles after several years. The View fabric was really tough and even wine spills came out easily. We have yet to spill wine on the Trend fabric. (Score Trend 5, View 2)
I always joked about the View that it had never had a slide-out failure. I will continue with this story for the Trend (Score Trend 5, View 5)
One of the Winnebago product engineers told me at a rally two years ago that in his opinion the View 23B was probably the best designed Class C ever. The 2016 Trend 23B has exceeded my expectations and in my opinion is an even better design. (Score Trend 73%. View 64%)
Florida-Texas Coast Tour 2015 Mar 5-6
On the night of the 4th in Hope, we listened to rain which then turned to sleet around 10:00PM. Next morning we had 3"-4" of snow on the ground. When the sun came out, where the roads had been plowed, the Interstate was bare and dry. We decided to move out around ten after a breakfast aboard of scramble eggs, sausage, toast and jam. Our destination was Little Rock about 120 miles away. About 30 miles out we came to a dead stop for an hour. One man walked ahead to see what was holding us up and reported it was a Dollar General truck that had spun out and blocked the east bound lanes of the interstate. Two snow plows came by and plowed the right shoulder. The probably helped the truck get going again. You have all seen the signs warning of ice on bridges. Well we never had a problem going over the bridges, but where ice did form was under the overpass bridges. We kept going and then at Malvern our GPS said there was another blockage and we could take an alternate route. The distance of the alternate route was about equal to the distance we had already covered so I said the heck with that. I found a RV park near Hot Springs, and we stayed there. It got very cold that night and our water system froze up. In 91,000 miles that had never happened. We left abound 9:30AM and took a backroad to Little Rock. The sun warmed up the View and we had water again.
Clinton Presidential Center
We got to Little Rock at 11:30AM and went straight to the Clinton Presidential Center. They were still trying to plow the parking lot and clean off the sidewalk at the entrance. We got in free because the government employees that collect the ticket money didn't show up for work. The building is spectacular but with so much glass on a sunny day the exhibits are hard to photograph. There is one huge exhibit for every year of Clinton's presidency. There is so much text to read in each exhibit you could spend days there just reading. They collected 80,000,000 pages of documents and fortunately have only put 2-3% on display. There is a full scale reproduction of the oval office and the cabinet room from the White House that are very well done. There is a very good restaurant on the lowest level where we had a soup and sandwich lunch. The dÃ©cor and china were impressive and the effect is to make you think you are having lunch in the White House.
Tom Sawyer RV Park on the Mississippi
We were back on the Interstate at 2:00PM. I-40 was in terrible shape with bone breaking pot holes mostly in the right lane. The result was almost everyone drove in the left lane doing 65-70. It won't take long before the left lane is destroyed as well along with a lot of suspensions, tires, and wheels. I finally joined the left lane and had to go much faster than I wanted to. I decided to stay at the Tom Sawyer RV Park in West Memphis AR because I thought it was beside the Mississippi River. That would make a fitting end to our 91,000 miles on the View. The entrance roads were pretty bad but the park is very nice and really beside the river. I have never seen tow boats come by so close except when we are on our boat. I asked the manager what happens when the river floods. She said they get 10 days' notice when a flood is coming and did I notice that every building in the park is on wheels! We are in for another cold night, but tonight will be the last of it for the rest of this year we hope.
Florida-Texas Coast Tour 2015 Mar 5-6
We worked out a strategy as to how to deal with the winter storm that was forecast for the night of the 4th. We listened to rain all that day which then turned to sleet around 10:00PM. Next morning we had 3"-4" of snow on the ground. When the sun came out, where the roads had been plowed, the Interstate was bare and dry. We decided to move out around ten after a breakfast aboard of scramble eggs, sausage, toast and jam. Our destination was Little Rock about 120 miles away. About 30 miles out we came to a dead stop for an hour. One man walked ahead to see what was holding us up and it was a Dollar General truck that had spun out and blocked the east bound lanes of the interstate. You have all seen the signs warning of ice on bridges. Well we never had a problem going over the bridges, but where ice did form was under the overpass bridges. We kept going and then at Malvern our GPS said there was a blockage and we could take an alternate route. The distance of the alternate route was about equal to the distance we had already covered so I said the heck with that. I found a park near Hot Springs, and we stayed there. It got very cold that night and the water system froze up. In 91,000 miles that had never happened. We left abound 9:30AM and took a backroad to Little Rock. The sun warmed up the View and we had water again.
Clinton Presidential Center
We got to Little Rock at 11:30AM and went straight to the Clinton Presidential Center. They were still trying to plow the parking lot and clean off the sidewalk at the entrance. We got in free because the government employees that collect the entrance ticket money didn't show up for work. The building is spectacular but with so much glass and a sunny day the exhibits are hard to photograph. There is one exhibit for every year of Clinton's presidency. There is so much text to read in each exhibit you could spend days there just reading each exhibit. They collected 80,000,000 pages of documents and have only 2-3% of those on display. There is a full scale reproduction of the oval office and the cabinet room from the White House that are very well done. There is a very good restaurant on the lowest level where we had a soup and sandwich lunch. The dÃ©cor and china were impressive and the effect is to make you think you are having lunch in the White House.
Tom Sawyer RV Park on the Mississippi
We were back on the Interstate at 2:00PM. I-40 was in terrible shape with bone breaking pot holes mostly in the right lane. The result was almost everyone drove in the left lane doing 65-70. It won't take long before the left lane is destroyed as well along with a lot of suspensions. I finally joined the left lane and had to go much faster than I wanted to. I decide to stay at the Tom Sawyer RV Park in West Memphis AR because I thought it was beside the Mississippi River. That would make a fitting end to our 91,000 miles on the View. The entrance roads were pretty bad but the park is really beside the river. I have never seen tow boats come by so close except when we are on our boat. I asked the manager what happens when the river floods. She said they get 10 days' notice when a flood is coming and did I notice that every building in the park is on wheels! We are in for another cold night, but tonight will be the last of it for the rest of this year we hope.
Florida-Texas Coast Tour 2015 Mar 1-4
March 4th is the rainiest day yet. A big storm with freezing rain and snow was forecasted for tonight so we left Caddo Mills (30 miles east of Dallas) early and drove 170 miles to Hope, AR before noon. We are at the Village Inn & RV Park. A name that had me expecting a bar with stuffed chairs around a nice fire and a good restaurant. Not a chance; it's an old two story hotel beside I-30 with not even a lounge. However, it does have quite a few paved drive-through sites with power, water, and sewer. Most sites were empty and the front desk just said pick any site you want. I dumped the holding tanks and filled the water tank as soon as we got here while it was still warm.
President Clinton's Birthplace
Then we went off in the rain and visited the William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site. In the visitor center, they had a well done iPad interactive exhibit that played narrated slide shows of Bill's early life with a few full motion video clips. Then we got a guided tour of the birthplace home which is in another building beside the visitor center. Not surprisingly we were the only visitors. The tour was interesting with lots of late 1940's things to see.
Unique Texas Things
There are a couple of things about Texas I want to write about. The first is the crazy interchanges on the Interstates. Instead of the usual ramps close to the interchange the off ramps are well ahead and go onto a two way side road. So as you go off, a car maybe coming straight toward you before you can slow down. At one interchange, I went off and stayed in the on-coming lane thinking the road was one way. Another driver came up beside me honking and yelling to get over. It was little hard to get over because he was blocking me. The on ramps are the same with similar problems.
The second point is the many signs that warn about a damaged guard rail ahead. It seems the state would rather put up a sign and leave the damage instead of fixing it. After 1,700 miles on Texas roads we finally saw one damaged guard rail being fixed. They were installing one of crash posts that Tennessee found didn't work very well and caused the guard rail to go right through a crashing vehicle.
This will be our last trip in the View as it will soon be replaced with a Winnebago Trend. During our tour of Big Bend National park at a speed of 45 mph we set a new record of 20.2 mpg. On interstate driving at 62 mph in heavy winds we had the worst mileage ever of 14.0 mpg. Typically we get 16 mpg at 62 mph and 18 mpg at 55 mph. On the day we left Big Bend I drove 34 miles out of our way to buy diesel as I couldn't believe we had enough to go 80 miles to Alpine with what the gas gauge showed. Oh well it's better to be safe than sorry in the wilderness.
This is an interesting but struggling old town with a magnificent hotel, RV Park, grocery store and a couple of restaurants. It thrived in the days when the railroad made it a crew change point. That was moved to Alpine a few years ago. Other businesses followed such as one closed restaurant had a sign, "moved to Alpine". The Gage Hotel was built as a home, then expanded to accommodate the owners business.
Big Bend National Park
This park provided spectacular scenery at almost every turn. It is very large park about 40 miles E-W and 60 mile N-S. The Big Bend is the 118 miles of Rio Grande River that separates Mexico from the USA. The central area of the park is the Chisos Basin with a ring of mountains the tallest as 7,832 ft. The ring is broken by "The Window" a V between two mountains. When there is rain the basin empties the water through the window creating a 200 ft water fall. The Rio Grande is at about 2,500 ft. The park is only open from about October to May because of the summer heat. We found the nights were below freezing and the daytimes in the 60's.
On Friday we drove south on the Old Maxwell Scenic Drive. It wasn't that scenic, was gravel, and pretty rough with a lot of wash board. The road took us to the Santa Elena Canyon where the river has cut through a 1,500 ft high escarpment leaving a narrow canyon. Mexico is on the east side and the US on the west side of the canyon. We walked down to the river access where canoe trips are launched.
It was foggy both mornings but by noon the fog lifted leaving only a few clouds in the mountains. Saturday we visited the Chisos Basin on a paved road with some sharp turn switchbacks. There are dire warnings against RV's longer than 24 ft and no trailers. We didn't have any trouble at all getting there or parking. We were the only RV. The view through the "Window" was spectacular.
Next we drove 23 miles to see the Border Crossing at Boquillas that opened in April 2013. After 9/11 the boarded was closed. This crossing is a far cry from the one at Del Rio with a bridge and huge lines of traffic. There is no bridge just a row boat (visible on right side of river) that takes travelers back and forth for a small fee. A hand full of people in Mexico were waiting to cross and a group of four Mexican men were carrying large bags on a hand cart. There is no problem walking down to the river but I had to show my passport to a scanning machine and talk via a telephone to an officer to get back in even though I had not left the USA. The one officer on duty at the office was very helpful in showing me what to do.
Tomorrow we start the trip back to Nashville.
Saturday night we spent in Texana Park and Campground arriving after hours. The GPS took us a mile past the park entrance. We stopped and called the park and the Law Officer came out and escorted us right to our campsite. That was great service.
Sunday we drove to friends (clients in another era) that have a beautiful home overlooking Nueces Bay and the bridge to Corpus Christi. Mavis had a great time learning all about the plants, wild animals, and bugs found in such a rural area. Only the hurricane and tornado stories topped the strange bugs. They thought they had an eight inch long Giant Centipede saved in their freezer but it could not be found. We had not seen Tom and Molly for 10 years back in Nashville, but we were treated like family. With a sister, son and his new wife, we all went out for dinner in Corpus Christi and really enjoyed ourselves.
On Monday we left for the Aransas Perry ferry to get to Mustang Island and the State Park where we had a reservation. It was very cold at 34 degrees with a 20 mph wind. I actually walked 0.7 mile in this to get the surf photo here. Needless to say I had the beach to myself.
Tuesday we drove to San Antonio, parked downtown to see the Alamo and River Walk. It was still very cold and the restaurant where we had lunch had a hard time heating the place. Mavis had seen the Alamo before so she spent her time in the gift shop where she found the Texas Bug Book with the photo of the giant centipede. I took photos of all the interpretive signs rather than stand around in the cold reading them. I did learn that in the March 6, 1836 battle all but 3 American's were killed by the Mexicans. It was a battle with 1,500 on the Mexican side and and 257 or less on the American side. I counted more soldiers from Tennessee were lost than those from any other state.
Hondo is one of the nicest small towns we have seen in our 90,000 miles. It's the center of a farming community and prospering. We stayed at the Quiet Texas RV Park which a real estate agent created out of a former sewage plant. His home is now in an old water tank and he has his own windmill. It was really nice park.
On the drive to Del Rio I was amused by a road sign, "Driving in river beds is illegal". You wouldn't see such a sign on the Tennessee River. However, here the rivers have dried up. The Border Patrol has created dirt roadways alongside the highway that cross the river beds so they can see if anyone is hiding under the bridges. This town is a border crossing into Mexico. The parts we saw were all pretty run down including the campsite we stayed at tonight. The town is on the Rio Grande but you can't get close to seeing the river because of the massive fence that has been built. There was a long line of cars waiting to get back into the USA so we skipped trying to see the Rio Grande.
We covered about 600 miles in two days on a lot of rough I-10 pavement. Louisiana has the worst roads and Texas' roads are better. The high spots were the Louisiana and the Texas Welcome Centers.
Louisiana Welcome Center
Texas Welcome Center
Texas was less impressive inside but more exciting outside with a long boardwalk overlooking two alligators and a tall egret in the Blue Elbow Swamp. This swamp is beside the Sabine River which marks the border between the two states.
Alligator Snapping Turtle
They also had a bronze sculptured alligator snapping turtle. This is the largest fresh water turtle in the world. It lives over 70 years, and in the USA its range extends to Kentucky Lake! Kenlake Marina friends, please watch out for one of these. Tomorrow we head for Corpus Christi.
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