Dreamstreamr's Journal,
October - December 2007

This is the illustrated journal of our second quarter-year of Dreamstreaming around North America, Oct - Dec 2007

We describe our current month's travels in our
Journal page, and everything older we store in quarterly pages. This keeps the archive files easier for you to load. Thanks for your interest -- let us know your comments anytime at as4822@gmail.com.

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Christmas Eve 2007
Debbie and I returned yesterday from celebrating a family Christmas at my sister's house in Boone NC. We drove up with my mom and stepdad in our big red truck. Predictably we loaded the truck with things to take to my sister and to my children. Not just to empty our house, we took things they asked for and want. Medora received dad's old leather recliner, a dictionary stand dad made years ago, and keepsakes of dad's. Hannah and Charles received full toolboxes, lamps, and other personal effects. We enjoyed a sumptuous feast at Medora's house followed by a rowdy game of gift exchange bingo. The winner of each card chose a gift to hope to hold onto. The gifts most coveted would change hands up to twice before becoming ineligible for trading. Fortunately we had three gifts extra at the end and anyone who wanted could take a chance and trade up to one of the remaining gifts. Everyone enjoyed this twist on the gift exchange game.

All night and through early afternoon Sunday rain fell, the longest rain period we can recall since August. I lit a fire, turned on the Christmas tree lights, and Debbie and I sat in our living room counting how fortunate we are to have each other, our families, and the choices we can make. Last year we had no family in for Christmas Day and flew out of Charlotte on Christmas morning to spend Christmas week with Stephen, Kelsey, and Eleanor in Vancouver BC. Again this year we have no family for Christmas Day so we will quietly celebrate our last Christmas together in this house. We don't know in whose house we may celebrate Christmas next year. We expect we'll have a small (very small? eighteen inches tall?) tree and will enjoy the runup to Christmas. We don't plan to celebrate Christmas Day in our Airstream trailer. We both have wonderful large families. We'll see what happens.

We watched Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore. Scenes in the movie moved us both to tears. George Bailey despairs over his misfortunes then suggests everyone might be better off had he never lived. The movie poignantly shows how your lives touch so many others in ways you may fail to adequately measure. We love the story and have enjoyed watching this one every year. Today we may watch Miracle on 34th Street. [If we do watch it this will represent for us the most movies watched in one week all year.]

week of December 17, 2007
We mentioned to a friend at a party Saturday evening we were selling everything. She said she had just purchased a dining room set and we told her we could have saved her if she had known we were selling ours. The next day she came by and looked at our table and chairs and bought it and cancelled her credit card order. This kicked off a very busy week of writing and posting advertisements for our furniture, lamps, and indoor plants. Through yesterday we had visits every day from people wanting to look specific items they found on Craigslist. Usually the visitors end up shopping and seeing something else they will buy or they refer a friend. The first week ended with sales of over 1/3 of our furniture. This is a great relief since two weeks ago we were despairing at the fast pace of time passing and the amount of work we foresaw to empty the house. We will have some time next week but probably won't expect other people to spend Christmas week shopping Craigslist. We'll gear up again after the holidays.

You might not expect things to affect you although you hear other people tell about this or that thing happening. One response to our advertisements was written in a somewhat stilted English and just didn't seem like the respondent was "from around here". The respondent wrote: Thanks for the prompt response i have instructed my account officer to mailing (overnight) a certified check,while you hold on my behalf. Once you receive this, my mover will come pick up at your place.I will be needing the following information to issue out the payment . . . 1.Your full name 2.Your mailing address(Physical) 3.Your phone number. ** Please note that the payment will be overnight to your address and it will be delivered within 2 days.I have taken a close look at the AD and am satisfied.I appreciates you saving this for me.Kindly delete the posting as am definitely buying it from you and it would be sad for me to have the payment in the mail only to be informed of the its sale**

Jim was immediately suspicious but we decided to treat it as aboveboard in case it was genuine. The following day we received this response: Am sorry it took a while for me to get back to you but on getting the requested information on where and whom to mail the check to,I immediately forwarded that to my accounting officer at the Bank, and the payment will certainly be delivered tomorrow but there is a miss interpretation on the check. It was claimed that i requested that a check of $3500 be sent to you but i know quite well i only made a request for just $350 to cover the cost of the Woodard French Country Porch Furniture.It was a terrible mistake and i was only informed about this some few minutes ago. I have been advice by my account officer that when you do finally receive the check,you should have it deposited at once at your Bank and deduct the money for your good with an extra $100 as a gift from me to offset the cost of your run around while on this. The rest of the fund should be wired to my mover via 'Western Union' as this will be use to offset the cost of the shipment he as undertaken on my behalf during my move,he will be needing the funds to make it over to your place for the pick up so kindly let me know if i can trust you to handle this with care i will be waiting for a writing confirmation from you,regards.
Craigslist advised to deal face-face with your buyers and don't wire money. Good advice. Who'd have thought we would invite this sort of malarkey into our humble enterprise? But there you have it, even in Mayberry we may be vulnerable to the outside world. Be careful out there, everyone.

week of December 10, 2007
This has been a busy week! We opened the week with our wonderful financial advisor, Dan Brienza, to discuss how our cash flow may look for 2008. We shopped briefly both at stores and online. We fixed the washing machine, Jim spent a half-day with Helping Hands puttering about the Church doing small maintenance items. We enjoyed dinner at Church's Wonderful Wednesday fellowship. Deb listed the lawn metal tulip chairs and table with Craigslist and two hours later had two responses. The following morning Catherine came over with her old Honda Accord and we surprisingly fit the two chairs and round table into the Accord. We spent a fun day in Cabarrus County shopping Pawn Shops for a particular gift one of our children requested. While we were in the area we stopped in at Gary's BBQ, famous since 1971, in China Grove for a small tray and a real splurge, we split a banana pudding. Saturday evening we attended a large Christmas Party at Jim's brother's house. Some of Jim's family was there, along with what seemed like a hundred other people. Any other year we would have thought it most inopportune but the pouring rain during the party was very acceptable to any revelers walking to their houses or cars. We aren't so accustomed to rain as to complain about the rare occurrence now.

week of December 3, 2007
The oldest member of our Church, Powell Majors, died at the end of last week. He was about to turn 101 years old. We attended as fine a funeral as we've been to. Three of his grandchildren paid tribute to their wonderful granddad with well-chosen words. A former pastor of Dilworth Methodist Church presented the homily in magnificent fashion, weaving the story of how his best friend just passed away. Dr. Russ Montfort did this wonderfully and we enjoyed it. Words attributed to Powell included these: "a key to my success has been keeping the same wife, the same church, and the same bank"

I've started playing golf with a group of the retired men from the church. I like playing weekly because I can find my swing a little easier. Unfortunately I've also learned playing golf in cold weather is much less comfortable than hitting tennis in cold weather. Some of the days have been very temperate so we've had nice rounds of golf too. Inexplicably I've started hitting my drives between 225 and 290 yards. I can't yet (and may not ever) predict which ones will go the longest but am enjoying distance I never attained before. Hmm, maybe these old guys are using a different measuring system? We're enjoying hitting, though, and it's nice to get outside and enjoy the beautiful NC weather.

We had the high school holiday open house Thursday evening. Twenty-two people attended and everyone was so festive. We've been getting together quarterly but our turnout has been smaller when we meet at the local bar. I wonder if the large turnout is because of the season or because we had it in a home instead of the bar? We'll see if someone will host it at their house next time. We had fun doing it this time, and hosting this pushed us to get our decorations and some yard work done more quickly than we would have done otherwise.

The Installation luncheon last week and the reunion open house behind us, I spent a little time goofing around outside on a couple of pending projects. Seeing this, Deb talked me into tackling the washing machine repair. The washing machine is restored to its full working status. Deb connived and cajoled and tricked me into fixing it. She had for several days wielded the home repair book (something like, "how everything works and how to take it apart") and making a show of studying the washing machine trouble-shooting page in front of me. With the priority distractions behind us Deb knew she had me.

So we wrestled the washer, with it's tub of water we couldn't spin out, outside from the laundry room onto the deck. We turned it over and took things loose and couldn't tell what was wrong. I was ready to hand this off to a qualified person but Deb sensed she was close to having her washer fixed. She reexplained to me how the machine failed and we finally found the culprit, the lid switch had malfunctioned. Bingo! The machine is working fabulously. The bonus is, we scrubbed the floor under and behind the washer and it all looks so much better. This is especially important in case the house checkers come by when we aren't around and they look under the washer to see if we've been cleaning there . . .

week of November 26, 2007
Christmas tree shopping at Penlands in South Carolina was a sweet experience. Penlands has been our reliable and wonderful source of trees for many years. We could browse their tree farm easily while sipping their hot chocolate. We would find excellent cypress trees to just fit our 9.5 foot tall ceiling in the living room. Sometimes the trees would be wide but this year we found a tall narrow tree and it's gorgeous. This year we shopped for the tree on Wednesday after Thanksgiving. What a different experience from the weekend rush! We were, for a very brief time this visit, the only customers in the shed talking with the owners and describing what we thought our tree might be next year: an 18 inch live potted and we would plant it in the ground after Christmas. They had a lot of fun with this contrast from our 114 inch tree this year. We will too, next Christmas.

Did I mention our washing machine died upon our return from the nine week Odyssey? It died of inattention? We don't know, but ordered a new timer and the washer worked one more cycle before stopping again. Now we can sell or give away a perfectly good washing machine timer, too. We have so many things going on for the next two weeks we won't get around to spending any more time on this problem and I like going to the laundromat with Deb anyway. There's an intriguing efficacy to it: for three dollars you can wash two large loads of wash. They require precious little soap, use far less water than our washer did, are finished in under forty-five minutes, spin the water out of the wash much better than our machine does (so the clothes dry more quickly in our dryer), and we are washing both loads at once then a whole three blocks back home. What's not to like about it? We may as well like it, we don't have time to fix the washer until after the Airstream Club's Officer Installation Luncheon this Saturday and my high school (East Mecklenburg High) class mini-reunion at our house next week.

We are enjoying a new aspect of life made practical by retirement: weekly morning-long visits to the public library. There's no shortage of things to read at the house, between subscriptions to Time, Readers Digest, Airstream Life, Trailer Life, Blue Beret, AARP, QST, and others, and way too many books we may never get around to. The library offers more than simply another thing to read. The public library, as with a campground or park or just about anywhere AWAY from your home offers a venue conducive to reading. You could read almost anywhere -- we proved this in college and many times since. We don't find ourselves choosing to read enough at home, what with 2,800 square feet of distractions inside and a half acre more outside. How can I read when (1) there are so many cool other things to do, and (2) there are so darned many things begging to be done NOW? The library offers an escape from all this and we even get to read cool stuff or work on the website or just watch people. We like the library.

I played tennis 1967 - 1993 and pretty suddenly just stopped. I played to excess in high school and college and played regularly year-round with friends and in leagues from 1980 to 1993. When I moved to Concord, NC, I found neither a tennis league nor games. Courts were in much shorter supply because Concord just wasn't a very large community then. And the same summer I discovered bicycling. For my birthday mid-1993 I gave myself a nice TREK aluminum road bike and started logging miles throughout the countryside surrounding Concord.

Bicycle riding can be much like golfing -- a good ride takes two to four hours and weekend mornings are wonderful times to be cycling. This pastime becomes a jealous mistress -- all the time you can spare goes into riding and what time is left you can attend to chores and family. More riding enables riding more miles more easily and the passion develops. I didn't miss tennis, particularly. I had two wonderful children, a fabulous high-maintenance yard and garden, a demanding job, spent twenty-four months work resulting in an MBA and then helped coach the high school aged girls soccer team for a year. And I was riding over 100 miles a week on my bicycle. All this to explain how I accidentally stopped playing tennis.

Deb and I spent a week in Chattanooga two months ago. I played tennis with my brother-in-law at Manker Patten Tennis Club on the Tennessee River and rekindled a long-dormant love for hitting the tennis ball. It is just time for me to start playing tennis again, okay? I have started playing tennis with my best partner from so long ago, my brother. We started playing together in Kissimmee FL when we worked together at an RV Park near I-4. We would regularly get up very early and hit as the sun was rising to both avoid some heat in the summer and to get to hit before our work day started. We are now hitting for over an hour twice a week and enjoying the renaissance of our old rivalry. I've restrung and regripped my old Prince racket from 1991 and am finding every sort of ache and pain. We're playing on hard courts, which is very much my favorite, and I think the courts may be harder on our joints. We need to consider practicing a little moderation so we can keep going at this. Meanwhile it is wonderfully exciting exercise and just a tremendous ego boost for us to find some of our old tennis groove again.

We enjoyed a major milestone for the month -- we successfully hosted the Carolinas Unit of NC WBCCI (Airstream RV Owners Club) Installation Luncheon Saturday. Jim called every member on the roster to encourage them to attend and we had sixty people show up. we arranged the venue, the table decorations, the caterer, and the musicians. The location in our church's fellowship hall was beautiful and impressive, the food was delicious, and the ceremony went well. I am now the President of our chapter of the Airstream RV Owners Club for 2008. Everything went perfectly and the event was a great success. And we can move on to planning and setting up for the high school class holiday reunion at our house. This is a great plan for us -- we will need to complete Christmas decorating before next Thursday evening so we can entertain the dozen or two dozen high school classmates we think will show up. We respond well to external motivations like this, so here goes!

week of November 19, 2007
Kidney Foundation is making a pickup in our neighborhood next week. This may be our last scheduled pickup from them for 2007 so we want to make it a good one. We need to make more space in the attics (garage and house), want others to have the opportunity to put these things to beneficial use (lots of clothing, a little furniture, and all sorts of miscellaneous household things), and we would benefit more this year than next from any tax benefit we may obtain by donating now.

The IRS rules change, effective August 2006, for charitable donations requires us essentially to photograph and list every item for which we would ask tax deduction. This apparently helps assure tax deductions are only granted for items in good condition. Deb spent much of the week sorting through things to keep for our children, parents, or siblings. Then she catalogues and boxes the donatable items so we can place the boxes in the appropriate place for the pickup by the charity. Jim helps move the boxes around and hovers closely at times to save a few things for later reconsideration. We held out a few books to return to family, or if we thought a book might have particular interest to a friend, and a few old first edition books which we will try to determine value on. The work seems endless. Deb is scouring closets, drawers, cabinets, bookshelves, and the attics.

Jim's mom and stepdad and siblings fled town for Thanksgiving in other locations. Deb's sister, Janet, invited us over to her house (four blocks away) for a family get-together and Deb's parents had everyone in Saturday for their annual Thanksgiving feast. Deb's three siblings and their children were present. Charles and Hannah, Jim's children, were on their way until Charles' car suffered catastrophic mechanical failure 80 miles from the luncheon. They arranged a tow back to their mom's house and called us to tell us they would still like to see us. We drove them to our house for the night and quickly concocted a plan to make the most of driving them to their house in Asheville, NC the next afternoon.

The rest of the evening was spent touring the house and garage and respective attics to determine what the kids could make use of in their house. Jim and the kids awoke early Sunday to empty our pickup truck and loaded it with as much as they could, including some dry firewood. We had a nice drive to Asheville and were happy to encounter rain along the way -- it didn't help our mission but our region needs any drop of precipitation so we welcome it. Everyone unloaded the truck, we ate a delicious chicken, black bean, and yellow rice casserole Deb brought from home, and we drove back much of the way to Charlotte in nice soaking rains.

week of November 12, 2007
Deb has discovered using Ebay for listing, selling, PayPal, and shipping two items. She found two items to try selling on ebay as an evaluation of usefulness for clearance of things from our household. The listing, pricing, estimate of shipping costs, and ad details required a surprising amount of time. Ebay charges (as they must) fees to the seller for listing, selling, and payment. Deb received three bids for one item and one bid for the other. Both items sold for a sufficient amount to be worthwhile, so this may be advantageous for us for select items. Our criteria will be the likelihood of generating bids (not everything does, we later learned) and the ease of packaging for shipping. We'll try this out over the next two months and hope it proves worth the effort for us.

week of November 5, 2007
Jim began installation of the solar panel kit for our new full-time home, the CCD 25 Airstream. He was fortunate to have excellent direction from another Airstreamer, Don Williams (KD6UVT) who installed the same size panels on an identical Airstream one year ago. Don carefully photographed and documented his installation with helpful hints. Since the solar panel kit was almost entirely without an installation guide Jim is grateful for Don's excellent documentation. [try this link, http://sierranevadaairstreams.org/owners-guide/maintaining/energy-power/solar-kd6uvt/index.html].

We learned during our nine week Fall shakedown cruise our limiting factor for dry-camping, or camping without any utility hookups, was battery power. Our two batteries, if we weren't extremely conservative in use of lights and water pump, would go to their recommended minimum in less than three days of use. We would avoid use of the battery-powered lights almost entirely and use candles for illumination of cooking and dining if we wanted to extend to three or more days of battery capacity. A solar panel charging system adds fifty pounds to our trailer's weight. Our trailer is approaching its recommended weight maximum. We are willing to find fifty pounds of books and equipment to remove from the trailer to balance this addition when we find it necessary.

The installation seemed to consist primarily of many trips up and down the short extension ladder to the roof of the trailer and some crawling and squirming under and into small cubbyholes for wiring and connections. The reality, as usual, is different from the perception. The job required two solid days of varied activities including layout and spacing of the panels on the roof, drilling the panels' frames for the mounting feet, cutting, routing, and connecting the sections of wiring from the roof, to the controller location, and to the batteries, and mounting everything in a roadworthy and safe manner.

How did it work out? The panels are sending high power to the charge controller. The charge controller is monitoring and maintaining battery condition with temperature compensation. We no longer need to provide AC (or "shore") power to the trailer to keep the batteries from leaking down from the several sources of losses (gas detector, power converter, and normal battery losses of 1%/day). Also the solar charge controller is superior to the factory-installed converter/charge controller.

The factory installed converter/charge controller is a two-stage controller without a float charge rate, so it would overcook the batteries once the batteries are charged. The three-stage solar controller has an adjustable float charge rate to monitor maintain the batteries carefully at their top rate without overcooking them. We have eliminated battery power as our limiting factor for dry-camping, barring three or more consecutive sunless days. We can augment the solar charging system with our quiet and very small portable gas-powered generator in case of this unlikely event. Overall this is a good setup and we look forward to taking it on the road.

week of October 29, 2007
Yes, we bought the Argosy and brought it home. Here's a picture of it:

We drove very easily from Charlotte NC up to Lima OH Sunday and rested well overnight in a motel in Lima. The Argosy is only seven feet wide, compared to 8.5 feet width of the Airstream, and the two are approximately the same length and gross weight ratings. But the Airstream is full with all the furnishings and clothes and food and water and propane. The Argosy has only the built-ins and everything is empty. Nothing is in the cabinets or storage boxes or refrigerator or water or propane tanks.

The previous owners had begun careful preparations of Snow White for road-worthiness. Upon completing the transaction we topped off the air pressure in the tires, checked the lug nuts and lights, and made sure everything inside was ready for the 500 mile trip home. Consequently the drive to Charlotte Monday afternoon was a great drive, although a little long at 500 miles, with Snow White behind us.

Wednesday we drove, with our silver trailer, to Myrtle Beach SC for a camping trip with our WBCCI chapter, Carolinas Unit of NC. This is the Unit's last rally for 2007 and we were excited about it. Our club usually has very strong attendance at this location and we expected the same this year. The weather turned out windy at first but was gorgeous and wonderful temperatures for early November. No swimming for us but we enjoyed some long walks and fun time outdoors with our friends. Of course we caravanned to seafood restaurants. This year we all went to Sara J's in Garden City and had wonderful service and great food. And, many of us ended up dropping by the nearby Camping World to see what things we can't do without and haven't already picked up in earlier visits to Camping World. Deb and I bought an outdoor phone cable to connect the trailer to the park's phone system, so we left feeling lucky we didn't spend more. (Two weeks later we found another of the same phone cables already in Jim's junk box in back of the truck.)

week of October 22, 2007
We joined Deb's family for a dinner in honor of her sister's birthday. We had our semi-annual dental visits, our first medical expenses since retiring. We are able to pay for these from our health savings account as a pre-tax expense. You can see Deb's excellent description of our home-brew health plan on the FAQ page of our website. Kidney Foundation picked up twenty boxes of stuff we hope they find useful and valuable. We didn't need it anymore and our children wouldn't take it.

Jim worked two days helping hospitals monitor compliance with life safety and related accreditation requirements. Jim spent one evening serving his Boy Scout Troop as "The Voice of the Eagle" in the Eagle Court of Honor Ceremony for one of their Scouts. He enjoys reading aloud and especially appreciates helping honor both the Scouts attaining Eagle Scout rank and the Scouts attending the ceremony and hearing the powerful messages the ceremony provides.

We learned of the availability of a vintage Argosy travel trailer we could purchase for possible use in our upcoming Africa trip from Capetown, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt. Sadly, another Africa-bound caravanner decided they could not participate in the 2009 journey and so would sell the trailer. We exchanged emails and phone calls and agreed upon a price, meeting date and location. We'll drive to Lima OH this Sunday and meet them Monday morning to transact the sale and bring the trailer home. This came up suddenly but we have been in the market for an Airstream or Argosy for the past year. We have investigated a couple leads and thought we had found an excellent trailer seven months ago. It didn't work out and this is the first solid prospect we've had.

Week of October 15, 2007
This begins our first week home after nine weeks on the road everywhere from North Carolina to British Columbia and many points in between. It has been a wonderful experience and we're not too happy to be home. We were really getting accustomed to being on the road, away from the sticks and bricks, away from the yard, and away from being in one place for months at a time. We're thinking we like the 'on the road' thing. We'll try it again as soon as we can escape.

This week we scheduled and accomplished an amazing number of necessary and helpful things. We had the house HVAC system semi-annual service visit, our annual Terminix inspection, our oil change for the Accord and the big red truck and enjoyed Wonderful Wednesday dinner at our church, annual fundraiser BBQ dinner at the church closest to our house, another dinner with my parents and another with Deb's son and his wife. Kidney Foundation called us Thursday and advised they would have a truck in our neighborhood next Wednesday morning, would we have anything for them?

Well, sure, we don't have to report anywhere else each day except Sunday, so we can arrange for plenty of things for them to pick up in five days, can't we? Okay, we still know how to respond to an opportunity with a deadline. We spent the weekend going through the attic with a fine tooth comb looking for things our siblings and children would not want. Take pictures, list the items on a writing pad, securely box the items, and stage them for later carrying to the porch for pick-up. Its a good start on what will become a weekly occupation from the attic, and closets and dressers.

We are pleased to have received a shining report on our big red truck for its 15,000 mile checkup and oil change. The oil is clean as a whistle, a leak which showed up only upon our return to our own driveway was a loose oil filter and is corrected, and no other problems have surfaced. We remain very pleased with our truck, a Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD. Not only has it towed our trailer across the U.S. twice in perfect order but also has been extremely comfortable and without a single problem for 15,000 miles.

We carefully analyzed gas versus diesel before selecting this 8.1 liter gas truck and have been fortunate so far with the choice. Our truck is quieter than any diesel truck we have heard, purchase cost was between five and seven thousand less than comparable diesel trucks, and gasoline has been consistently, and as much as thirty-five cents, cheaper than diesel since we purchased the truck. The gasoline should not cost less than diesel and probably won't continue so.

Everyone seems to agree gasoline would cost more to refine than diesel, gas was consistently more expensive than diesel fuel until Katrina Hurricane hit New Orleans, and diesel fuel will surely reduce in price again. Our first cost savings over the diesel powerplant is so substantial we knew our payback for the diesel's economy would be pretty far in the future even if diesel fuel is cheaper. This is partly true because we plan to drive less than 12,000 miles per year and we don't expect to keep the truck ten years.

What is the economy of purchasing a diesel-powered truck over the same truck in gas, if you don't need the extra torque from diesel? Ignore the higher cost of maintaining the diesel (many more quarts of oil per change and more frequent oil change than the 8.1L gas, if you follow Chevrolet's oil condition program). Assume we don't need the higher torque of diesel (we don't), assume gas and diesel cost the same per gallon, assume diesel gets 1/3 better mileage than the gas (thirteen mpg vs ten mpg) and assume 12,000 miles per year. This analysis is for our operating conditions with 8,000 pounds of truck (loaded) and 6,000 pounds of trailer, also loaded. You will probably get different results than we did. This is not based upon your fuel mileage with your truck or trailer weighing or hauling more or less than ours.

The break-even for the higher first cost is, under these assumptions, seven to ten years. After the simple payback, we save $831 per year with the diesel if diesel and gas cost the same per gallon and maintenance costs don't change. If diesel fuel cost is only twenty-five cents higher than gasoline then the annual savings is still $600.00 and payback moves out to even further. We'll probably start paying a little (but not too much) attention to the age and mileage of other full-timers' trucks. Our last truck was fourteen years old when we sold it and was still serviceable, but not in any manner economical. The interior was disintegrating, the seats needed to be re-stuffed or replaced, maintenance and oil costs were increasing annually, reliability was gone, and power was disappearing. Okay, fourteen years is an extreme difference from seven or ten years. We're interested in finding the sweet-spot for comfort, amenities, costs and reliability.

This has been our first full week home since retiring August 3. We found it so much easier to get things arranged and completed when work isn't competing for our time. Oh, and we can brew and enjoy cups of tea with each other throughout most of the day. Pretty nice!

October 14, 2007
The Carolinas Unit of NC rally ended this morning after a yummy continental breakfast with big sweet rolls with lots of icing and plenty of coffee and fellowship. Members exchanged farewells of "See you down the road" and set about hitching up their campers and pulling out. We took our fair time getting ready to leave and enjoyed a glorious North Carolina Sunday reading and talking before heading home. We weren't overly interested in heading home and beginning the next phase of our full-timing adventure. This next part pales terribly in comparison to what we've enjoyed these past nine weeks. We will, after a brief settling back into the house, begin preparing the house for the real estate closing. Yeah, it sounds official this way. What "preparing the house" means is a lot of painstaking sorting and distributing all our household belongings from seventeen years or more of collecting. We intend to store so very little so must determine the best "adoptive home" for our things. The good news is we won't be doing this in the hot attic during August. And, we have allowed enough time, three months, to do it.

We arrived home early afternoon and unpacked just what we needed into the house. The house was very welcoming, clean, and nice to return to. We had only two hours before we drove up to Debbie's parent's house in Kannapolis to enjoy supper with them, show them some of our pictures from the trip, and pick up our bushel basket of unforwarded mail from them. Deb's mom forwarded to us only the part of the first class mail she thought we should need. Her mom held the vast majority of the mail. We were dismayed by the large amount of first class "junk mail" we are still receiving -- it never mattered too much while we were living full-time in the house. This bunch of mail represents an undue amount of forwarding expense and trash for our new full-time travelling home. We'll start looking for the best means to convert to paperless communications from our faithful financial institutions and others who send us so much paper.

We're sort of glad to be home. This will be our last blast as homeowners for a while. We will spend three months here, enjoy it immensely, and find ourselves on the road again. We're looking forward to the trip already.

October 13, 2007
The Club prepared a wonderful hot breakfast for the members this morning. We drove afterward to nearby Glendale Springs to the Church of the Frescoes, the Parish of the Holy Communion. Today they had their annual Festival of the Frescoes and we enjoyed shopping the booths for fresh canned jams and other possible gifts for friends and family. Later in the evening we feasted on the Club's wonderful pinto bean supper with hushpuppies and salad.

October 12, 2007
The big event of this day was car-pooling with our club to Shatley Springs for supper. We arrived over twenty minutes before our reservation and waited almost an hour before seating. We ordered from the menu and had cold food served by a harried wait person. Maybe it will be better next time -- the restaurant's reputation is far better than what we experienced this time. The great thing was the fellowship shared by the club and with some of the other nearby patrons. We all enjoyed ourselves this evening.

October 11, 2007
Jim played golf at Mountain Aire in West Jefferson with one of his golf friends from the club. The course was gorgeous but the weather and course conspired to overly challenge the golfers today. They both returned vowing to have a better golf day next time. Hope springs eternal, especially for golfers . . .

October 10, 2007
Carolinas Unit of NC is a great WBCCI Unit full, as no doubt many other units are, of wonderful and caring people. Thirty-eight months ago we attended our first WBCCI rally in response to a very warm invitation from the Carolinas Unit membership chairman and the unit president. We arrived very late Friday night after work and a challenging towing experience. Hot coffee and pancakes and warm fellowship Saturday morning quickly convinced us this is a great camping club. The rally location was Raccoon Holler Campground in Glendale Springs, NC.

Today we drove to Glendale Springs to attend the Carolinas Unit rally at Raccoon Holler Campground. Arrival a day early affords us some time to catch up on communications and paperwork for ourselves and the Unit. Our connectivity in Lookout Vally was excellent but we spent almost all our time away from the camper. TCPC had wireless but we spent our time visiting with the Schwartzes and Willoughbys. We continue to write but are overdue posting to the website and have pictures to download and sort. We hope to have cellular web access and will tomorrow investigate the advertised wifi access of Raccoon Holler campground.

We stopped an hour west of Boone to wash the truck. Yesterday's drive around Cades Cove Loop included three trips on extremely dry gravel roads and the truck never looked worse than this morning. The truck is much improved with a fresh washing. With or without the truck so clean, our drive was beautiful from the outset to the arrival. Trees are turning, everything is so green and wooded, the hills and mountains are outstanding. We love North Carolina. Cades Cove is at 2150 feet elevation and we are now at 3,400 feet. Accordingly we will expect a much cooler evening tonight and heard the weather tomorrow night will be in the thirties. We'll see.

October 9, 2007
Cades Cove has been a park property since 1937, and the last resident left in 1999. The National Parks System purchased all the properties and allowed the families then in the houses to stay for their lifetime. This provided the Parks with an intact community of buildings from the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. We felt sad at the demise of the community and had a sense, even if incorrect, the government pushed the families from their homesteads. Cades Cove was settled by these families beginning almost immediately after the Calhoun Purchase in which the Cherokees lost the land. The U.S. Census of 1830 reflected many families already settled in Cades Cove. john oliver cabin.jpg Over 650 people lived in Cades Cove by 1850. We spent the day touring the churches and homesteads along the Cades Cove Loop Road, an eleven mile paved single-lane road. The Methodist Church was reputedly the first established but the Primitive Baptist Church wielded the power over this community. The NP Volunteer played for us a section of a song sung in the shape-note method. The singers use only four notes, and each note is carried by one section of the choir. First the singers sing the song a capella using the name of the notes, then they sing the words of the song still using only the same four notes. Both churches' sanctuaries still stand, one hundred years old, sided by cemeteries fifty years older.

Two cabins from ca 1830 showed the half-dovetail corners, round logs, chinking, and almost windowless construction typical of the time. The picture on the right depicts an unusual hybrid, the addition of a cabin made from mill-sawn lumber. This was Henry Whitehead's cabin added to Matilda Shields Gregory's older cabin. The other cabins, built with lumber from Peter Cable's sash saw, had square logs or siding with interior board walls. The settlers needed a springhouse to keep the milk, butter, and some vegetables. Elijah Oliver's springhouse was a nice example of ingenuity in diverting water from the nearby creek in hollowed saplings to a trough made from a hollowed log. You can see from this picture the springhouse was not large. Jim's overall impression was of the hardness of life, reflected by the primitive and small cabins, lack of running water, and total dependence upon the small community's crops and livestock. These people had extremely little time off from their chores. The families were large, the cabins small, the chores endless, but perhaps the rewards were great. The residents enjoyed eighty inches of rainfall annually, rich bottomlands for planting, good grazing on the hills above, and as pretty a place as anywhere in the world.

October 8, 2007
Lucy GPS did it again. We entered the destination for Cades Cove campground and she directed us up a steep and very narrow road up the wrong side of the mountain to approach Cades Cove Loop Road via the wrong end of a one-way exit road from the park. We encountered a NPS Jeep driving down the mountain we were climbing. Jim flagged the driver down and asked, "although not optimal will this road get us to the campground?" The ranger, smiling almost imperceptibly, said it would not.

She provided us directions and advised us to rely more upon roadmaps than GPS. Jim found a turnaround in a fortuitously placed driveway and we made our way five miles back down to US 321E and the correct turn in Townsend, TN. Although only eleven miles, the detour cost us almost an hour extra driving time. We set the camper in our campsite in the NPS Cades Cove Campground and enjoyed sitting and reading outside until supper. The weather is a little cooler here and the Weather Service predicts rain and more cooling ahead.

October 7,2007
Em and Paul invited us in for one last hurrah, brunch at their house this morning. We awoke early and hitched up the trailer. Deb obtained permission from the campground to store our Airstream in the go-kart parking lot while we ran to brunch. Coffee and tea were ready and Em was cooking a frittata and wonderful whole grain toast. Jim epoxied St. Francis while brunch preparations continued. We all enjoyed a long table discussion on family history and travel thoughts before Paul left for his tennis lesson and we prepared to leave for the Tennessee Airstream Park in Crossville, TN.

We ran errands to the Post Office, ATM, and grocery store before returning to pick up our camper and hitch up for the two-hour drive. We travelled up US 127 through the Sequatchie Valley, supposed by many to be one of two such rifts in the world. The other is The Great Victoria Valley in Africa. These are significant because they are believed to be formed by giant shears as the plateau literally splits apart. This creates a narrow valley with very steep and tall sides forming up to plateaus above.

As we pulled into TCPC Deb recognized the WBCCI number on the first trailer we saw in the park. This Airstream belongs to another couple planning to participate in the Africa Caravan in 2009, and we wanted to ask them if they would consider us as their South-bound complement. We sat and talked with Phil and Margie Schwartz for over two hours before we excused ourselves to park and setup our camper for the night. We promised to exchange contact information with them tomorrow before we leave for our next campground, Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains.

October 6, 2007
We all piled into Paul's old gold Volvo and drove downtown to the Manker Patten Tennis Club on the Tennessee River. Em and Deb took a two hour walk while Paul borrowed a demo racquet for Jim and the guys hit balls for around an hour. Jim hadn't hit in too long and will feel this for a few days. Paul graciously complimented Jim's hitting and welcomed him to return and hit more anytime. Okay, Jim really should pack his tennis shoes and racquet in the full-timing gear. We can find room for it somewhere and Jim really loves playing tennis.

Deb and Em walked all over Chattanooga and met the guys at the club afterward. Jim and Paul had cleaned up and we all rode to Signal Mountain and viewed the Smokies, Chickamauga Dam, and Raccoon Mountain before going down the W Road to grocery stores for the right dinner ingredients. Soon after returning home Doug and Faith then Mike and Beth arrived to have drinks on the porch before dinner. Doug and Faith had other plans and couldn't stay for dinner. Mike and Beth ate dinner with us and Mike shared college stories of his Road Runner, hunting, being held up at a restaurant, and working things out as best as he could.

October 5, 2007
We rode around Lookout Mountain's West Brow and East Brow with Jim's sister, Emily. She showed us the houses along the east and west sides, or brows, of the ridge. We parked outside Point Park and viewed the Battle for Chattanooga diorama. It was fascinating to watch the diorama glitter with lights representing the various brigades' engagements and listen to the narration of the battle for Chattanooga. We stopped by Sunset Point for the view and a few pictures, then Em drove us through Rock City, part of Fairyland and the Fairyland Club before we returned to her house for another wonderful meal.

October 4, 2007
Today we lunched on turnip greens, fresh tomatoes, meatloaf, grilled chicken, hoecakes, homemade peach ice cream, peanut butter pie, and lemon icebox pie at Zarzours, the oldest restaurant in Chattanooga. It was wonderful. Emily gave us a tour of downtown Chattanooga and the parks and the North shore before we went to the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum. Not just the largest or the best, they claim to be the only museum for towing and recovery in the world. We watched a fifteen minute video describing the museum and hall of fame.

The video also detailed the striking monument honoring the fallen towing and recovery workers. They told us an average of sixty-four towing and recovery workers lose their lives in the line of work each year. Watching the video and touring the museum with us was a tow truck operator from Kansas City, MO. He was taking his new roll-back truck from Atlanta to Kansas City and stopped in to see this monument and museum. He told us (and showed us) he received two gunshot wounds while answering an assistance call. He continues in his chosen work undeterred by this misfortune. He and many, many other towing and recovery workers love their work. They stand ready to respond at any time of day, under any weather conditions, on any kind of road conditions and often well off the roads to help you and me. Their equipment is expensive, their risks great, and they love this service they perform for us. We were struck by the immense pride shared by the members of this museum and hall of fame, and are glad we found this gem.

We drove to Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park to tour the exhibits. This is the nation's first National Military Park and was created in 1890 to preserve and commemorate these battlefields. There are nine national military parks in the National Park System, including Chickamauga and Chattanooga, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, Gettysburg, Guilford Courthouse, Horseshoe Bend, Kings Mountain, Pea Ridge, Shiloh, and Vicksburg. Each of the nine parks commemorates the significance of the battles in the area. The battles at Chickamauga and Chattanooga are fascinating and morbid displays of very clever strategy (General Rosecrans' flanking maneuvers to take Chattanooga from General Braxton Bragg without a battle) and sad miscalculations or failures due to leaders' fatigue, lack of information, or misinformation. It is staggering to realize the horrific death toll from these battlefields. How did the Generals' sense of expected casualties shape their strategic decisions, and did they have a realistic sense of the outcomes?

One of the museums at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is of the rifles and muskets used in the Civil War. The weapons ranged in caliber from 38 caliber to 79 caliber. Over a hundred different long guns are on display in this museum with a few facts about each one. Wilder's Lightning Brigade capitalized on the innovative Spencer Rifle's seven shot capability to rapidly move the mounted infantry and have superior firepower. A Spencer Rifle allows the soldier to fire fifteen shots per minute while the muzzle loader allowed three shots per minute.

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania is the largest military park in the world and features parts of four Civil War Battlefields. Gettysburg was the largest battle ever waged in the Western Hemisphere. Guilford Courthouse was the largest action of the Revolutionary War's Southern Campaign. Horseshoe Bend commemorates Andrew Jackson's dominance over the Upper Creek Indian Confederacy. Kings Mountain commemorates a victory of American Patriots in the Revolutionary War. Pea Ridge was the site of the Civil War battle leading to the Union's total control of Missouri and was the only Civil War battle in which American Indians participated. Shiloh was one of the largest battles of the Civil War and involved more than 100,000 Union and Confederate troops. Vicksburg was the site of a victorious siege for over three months in 1863 by the northern aggressors. You can see a lot more great information at this link of the NPS. http://www.nps.gov/history/history/categrs/mili2.htm

October 3, 2007
We drove from Lexingon, KY to Chattanooga, TN, and immediately found a do-it-yourself carwash to clean our filthy truck and trailer. Total cost to wash both? Five dollars! What a deal! Today it is 80 degrees and partly cloudy. Not a lot like Fall season to me, except we can tell the trees are beginning their annual color change dance. Just hints of the golden and orange highlights are laced through their foliage. If we could stick around here we could see the whole dance. Oh wait! We could stay if we wanted, couldn't we? But we plan to leave here Sunday and go to Crossville, TN to an Airstream Park we've heard so much about, then to Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a couple days, then four more days in the mountains not far from Boone, NC, then home finally.

We are in Chattanoooga, TN, for a few days to visit with Jim's sister Emily and her husband, Paul Campbell. We set up the camper in Raccoon Mountain Campground and drove five miles across Lookout Valley to Em and Paul's house. While Em prepared some supper, Jim did a few house repair things for Em and Paul's house. After supper we watched ML baseball and all talked for hours before we returned to our camper for the night.

October 2, 2007
We found a beautiful and quiet little state park high above the highway for our overnight respite. Norris Dam State Park sits at approximately 1,900 feet above sea level at the very top of the hill above Norris Lake and Lake City, TN. We enjoyed talking with some of our neighbors, reading, and getting ready for tomorrow. We were surprised and dismayed, though, by the disturbance one of the newer arrivals to the campground. They parked and levelled their trailer and commenced blowing all the leaves, debris and a huge amount of dust throughout the park so their campsite would be cleaner than any other. It is a little difficult to understand the apparent total disregard for the downwind victims of this cleaning action except to realize how many times this has been modeled by cities and industries in our country with water and air pollutions of every sort. It is the first time on our journey we have encountered a camper creating so much dust. We hope we don't see it often. Otherwise the state park was very peaceful and we would be glad to return here someday.

October 1, 2007
Interstates allow travellers to cruise, almost like on a jet above the clouds, through our country without seeing very much at all. We decided to drive back-roads from Sugarcreek, OH to Lexington, KY.  Rural Ohio is pastorally beautiful. Farms visible from the highway seem, somehow, to have been maintained in very attractive condition and without much evidence of destitution.

We finally arrived at Kentucky Horse Park campground after one of our most grueling short drives in this odyssey. We will be more careful just how small the backroads we choose will be next time. The roads south of Sugarcreek and west of Cinncinnati just kept getting smaller and smaller until we were just barely two lanes and careening up and down the hills between farmhouses and barns. Then it rained just enough to wet the collection of fields dust on the road and have it spray onto our previously very clean-looking truck and trailer. Not any more! The driving on the rural paved roads was challenging to say the least.

Next to our campsite was the prettiest little 22 foot trailer you ever saw! It is Bea and Dave Witten's Airstream International CCD and we saw again why we loved our 22 so much. They are from Chapel Hill, NC and are professional photographers. They showed us some of their pictures and we saw they do beautiful work. We will look forward to seeing and visiting with them again.

We're planning to return to our house in under two weeks -- the realization hit us just today. Now we sense we have turned toward home. The trip has a different feel to it already. Our thoughts started turning to making lists and prioritizing what we want to accomplish at home. What things can we do if we aren't spending all day at work? What will we do when, for the first time, we have Saturdays six days a week at home? We've never taken a vacation just staying home. Had we done so we still would have considered those days precious and wanting full programming to take best advantage of the opportunity to get things done around the house and yard. Hopefully and probably we will see this time differently, although we think our plates will be pretty full with getting rid of everything. We have just over three months before closing on the house so we shouldn't have any problems having fun and doing our needed chores.

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