Our Chalet Truck Camper

Our Chalet Truck Camper

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Route 66 is disappearing

Route 66 is slowing disappearing. We bought a neat little book on Route 66 from RV Bookstore and hope to one day try to follow it all the way. We found part of Route 66 in Granite City, IL but couldn't cross the Mississippi on it because the bridge was under repair. We did walk out on the bridge so both our wheels and our feet hit Route 66.

Long two days Tuesday and Wednesday travelling east with the goal of getting home before this weekend. Traversed Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and part of NY and saw every type of road construction and repair piece of equipment that exists. LOTS of road construction and progress driving was slow at times. Indianapolis in particular was difficult but we persevered. We wanted to stop at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH but we would have cut ourselves too short on time to do it justice. Next time?
Tonight we are in a RV park associated with Turning Stone Casino owned by the Oneida Indian Nation near Vernona, NY. This is a much "plusher" camp than we usually make with huge spaces among groves of mature trees, walking trails, ponds with flocks of geese and an absolutely immaculate bathhouse. We took a shuttle bus over to the casino and walked around for quite a while to loosen up the old joints. Loud, smokey and frantic people throwing money away trying to beat the odds. I'd rather throw my money away on diesel fuel.

Should be home tomorrow and the poor Lance and F-350 needs a major de-bugging and washing. We've kept the inside pretty clean but bug splat will take some time. Once again the rig worked just perfect for the types of roads we have been on including those goat paths through the WV mountains. Getting into the WV state park and camping there was among the highlights of the trip. The St. Louis Zoo and the Arch met all expectations. Having a TC with the ability to take it places like a regular truck would go made all the difference. We talked to so many C and A owners who were not towing vehicles and were stuck at the camp places. We are parked tonight near another TC - a F350 with an older Apache - towing a full size car. !!!

We're all ready to hit the road again and we aren't even home yet. The West calls this fall?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

St. Louis Arch and Museum

OUCH! These old feet are hurting tonight (Sunday, June 3). Time to put them up and have a libation to ease the aches. We've walked most of today and enjoyed just about every step of it. Started out with the saucer separation this AM of the Lance from the F-350. The ability to separate is the reason we got the TC instead of anything else. This time we lowered the Lance much lower than in Lexington and it isn't as shaky feeling. Like having the individually controlled Atwood jacks to make up for slightly uneven ground. Level front to rear and side to side is right on.

Drove into St.Louis early Sunday AM, and walked all around the downtown area by the Arch. Parking was a bit problematic as we felt the F-350 with the lights on the cab was too tall to comfortably get in the parking garage by the Arch. Finally found an open parking lot down by the old restored area being used as night life spots and restaurants. A bit quiet on a Sunday morning in that area, much more so than the revelry at night. The RV parking area was closed due to construction but of course the city hadn't taken down the signs leading there or given an alternative! We walked through the grounds around the Arch and suddenly - there it was! 630 feet of gleaming stainless steel. It almost made you dizzy to look up from under it. I didn't realize that the Arch is a national park. http://www.nps.gov/jeff.

Our NPS Golden Age pass got us into the underground Museum of Westward Expansion inside the arch for $0. The tram ride up to the top and the IMAXX movie was a grand total of $22 for both of us. The Museum of Westward Expansion is part of the NPS entry fee of $3. We spent about an hour and a half in the Museum reading the interpretive panels that went with the maps, artifacts and exhibits taken from the original diaries of Lewis and Clark and western pioneers. Also went to the "American West" IMAXX movie with incredible fly overs of western canyons and wild areas.

Joe sort of held his breath for the four minute ride up to the top of the Arch on the tram as he is a bit claustrophobic. Tram is not what we were on but in tiny little five passenger pods shaped like an egg. Totally closed in and stuffy with the accompanying noise of going up through a metal tube. We both could feel the wind effect at the top and were suprised at the small view windows. Guess they are small and almost bullet proof for the wind. Joe did breathe going down

We did the tourist thing and took the Tom Sawyer river boat out onto the Mississippi. Only an hour ride and we've both spent too much time on the water to be excited about it. It was interesting watching all the barge boats go by and listening to the NPS ranger talk about the history of St. Louis.

Too late in the day and a bit too tired to go to the Zoo or Botanical Park. We'll leave those for over the next two days. Also found two archeological parks and one park that shows how the dam and lock system works. Isn't it great being a kid again?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Paducah KY to St. Louis MO

Paducah, KY June 2, 2007

After an overnight camp just outside of Paducah near the Kentucky Dam, we got up early to go into town. I've lived in the north too long and forgot that most places down south don't open until at least 10AM. Oh poor us got to wander around about a thousand antique and street rod cars at a club meet right in downtown Paducah's riverfront park. Beautiful small town that has kept its charm and so many of the old buildings. Chatted at length with Big Daddy who was cooking up his daily portion of ribs, briskets, BBQ, etc. in this enormous metal BBQ rig. He had won the BBQ championship for Paducah five of the last ten years. He treated us to a sandwich and we promptly bought two more to go in the camper. Said in late September there is a three day BBQ cook off. http://www.bbqontheriver.org/index2.htm usually attended by 40,000 people. Hmmmm... return southern trip?

Photo is of the flood gates by the Ohio River. They can be locked tight. Local artists have painted the entire wall in the downtown park area with murals depicting life in early Paducah.

Photo is of bronze statues of Lewis and Clark, Sacagawea who helped lead them west and Lewis's faithful Newfoundland dog. Interesting story if even part of it is historically correct.

By then the American Quilt Museum was open. You have to understand that this is the "have to go" place for any quilter as the past year's contest winner's and visiting artist's quilts are hung there. http://www.quiltmuseum.org/ Stunning pieces of art in fabric and thread. Going to this museum had been on my list of places to go before I die and now I've been but I'm not ready to die. We both then went to the River Heritage Museum and learned a lot about dams, locks and the value of a river in mid-America for commerce. http://www.riverheritagemuseum.org/ Small museum with a second floor almost as interesting as the first. A couple had owned the building and used it as their home. Second floor still had their furnishings with 20' ceilings and a great men's card room with leather chairs and a table with lions for the legs. Joe walked over to the Paducah Railroad Museum while I managed to stumble upon a home made ice cream parlor on the way to move the TC to the Railroad Museum. Somehow a pint of home made peach ice cream just fell into the TC freezer.

We could have spent a lot more time in Paducah but St. Louis was calling. Long, very flat drive to St. Louis after all the mountains we have been in. We finally saw TCs on the road. A Lance and a new Okanagan travelling as a pair and later two Lance's both towing boats. One of them even flicked their lights at us! We're now camped at a KOA (I know, I know) in northeast St. Louis in a town called Granite City, IL. Too hot for this northern thick blood to boondock in a state park without electricity for AC. This is called "camping" isn't it? We'd planned on using the RV park at Casino Queen right across the river from the Arch but did not like the looks of it. Barren hot top, not a safe feeling though the lot has security. http://www.casinoqueen.com/rvpark/index.php . TCs and pop ups were relegated to a small section of the north lot which was not appealing at all. So we did the KOA thing and are in a wooded site with full hookups plus Internet for the same price as the casino. Tomorrow we will detach the Lance and take a few days to explore. On the wish list are 1) St. Louis Zoo 2) Arch with IMAX film and a ride to the top of the arch 3) River boat cruise on a paddle wheel steamship 4) Missouri Botanical Garden. Lots more to go see and play tourist but not sure these aging bodies and feet will take much more then four big walks. Supposed to be in the high 80s. We'll be out of here by Thursday when it is supposed to be 99 degrees. House sitter said it was cool and rainy at home.

Couple next to us tonight are from Denver, CO and are giving us a great list of places not to miss in CO. We are trading New England sites.

Friday, June 01, 2007

VA to St. Louis, MO and ??

We've left VA headed for MO (May 30, 2007). The time spend with family was more than worth the 850 mile drive down from ME to VA. We even celebrated a 50th birthday party for my SIL and had ages from 8 to 87 in attendance. Took off early this morning having no idea where we would land for the night but with three firm destinations in mind.

First was the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA. This is a stunning tribute to those who died on D-Day and seeing the water with soldiers headed for shore and then climbing the cliffs is probably more than a lot of veterans who were there could handle. The bronze sculptures are larger than life as is the entire experience. If ever in the area, it is a must see and a reminder to all of us that our freedom is not free.

Second we headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway, following Peaks Road out of Bedford. This road led to the Peaks of Otter where we got on the Parkway. We had the entire road to ourselves, only seeing two motorcycles in the entire time we were on it. Mostly hazy but, as we stopped in many of the turnouts and shut the diesel off, the sounds of birds, running streams, an not motor noise what so ever, was very soothing. I cannot imagine the early settlers finding their way through these mountains and settling there. They are a "bit" hardier than we are today. Really hit home how spoiled we are as we ate cold salads taken out of the refrigerator in the camper.

Third we wanted to go see Natural Bridge. We had planned on taking Petites Gap Road up and over the ridges to Natural Bridge but somehow even with Delorme Mapping missed the turn. By the time we figured we had missed, just kept going the somewhat longer way to the Bridge. The arch is quite the amazing formation and worth the walk in. However the pure commercialism and junk around the entrance was almost enough that we thought about not taking the walk. Once past the junk, the walk along a small stream to the arch was refreshing. Continued on to a replica of an Indian Village and to a small water fall. Lesson learned - take TWO bottles of water when walking in southern heat.

At this point we hit I-64 thinking it would be like I-95 with a lot of traffic. It was almost a ghost road and went through some of the most beautiful mountain passes and valleys I've ever seen. The scenery there was better than Blue Ridge Parkway by a great degree. All the way from Covington, VA to Beckley WV and almost up to Charleston, WV is eastern mountains at their best. The F-350 diesel performed admirably, just chugging along in the slow truck lane like the big boys. We didn't push it since we have no time table and 50 mph going up some of those long, long, steep grades was about as much as we wanted to do. Tonight we are in the Kanawha State Forest just south of Charleston, WV. N38 15.0989, W81 39.6778No way could anything but TCs get up the rear entry road into the campground. Ranger was surprised we had come in that way

Tomorrow we have to find a Ford dealer and see if we can get the motor for the passenger side window repaired. Window is down and won't go up and no, it isn't a fuse. We'll head to Lexington, KY tomorrow and plan on staying at the Kentucky Horse Park Campground right beside a horse farm with horse racing history museum and lots of horses to watch. We're not into baseball but Louisville has a steamboat museum and then on to Paducah, KY to the American Quilt Museum. Next St. Louis?

Thursday, May 31
Really odd travel day today, starting with the search in Charleston, WV for a Ford dealer. Joe says he doesn't have enough hair left to have the wind blow through it all day. Delorme Phone Directory was off and led us to a part of Charleston we didn't really want to be in. Got better directions and found the dealer. Service manager said it would be late in the afternoon before he could even look at the window that wouldn't close. Apologetic but really backlogged. He called a smaller dealer west on I-64 who said he could work a repair in. If you are ever near Medway Ford in Hurricane, WV they give incredible service. That dealer worked us in quickly, confirmed the window motor was shot but was able to get the window back up. New motor wouldn't be available until next day so we will get it fixed on returning home. We did have them disconnect the motor controller so we couldn't put it back down again Just as we were pulling off, an elderly gentleman and his wife flagged us down to see the camper. He'd just bought an Apache and wanted to talk truck campers. While showing him the Airlift Bags, Joe found one bolt missing and one sheared off. Not good and we sure didn't drive easily the rest of the day. Ford dealer wouldn't touch the bolts as it is after market equipment but also said they wouldn't fall off or be destroyed driven as they were. He suggested airing them down a bit and using the truck springs as needed.

We stopped in Beckley, WV to see the Exhibition Coal Mine but it was closed and being totally rebuilt. Headed on to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY, planning to stop in their campground overnight and walk over to see the horses, museum, etc. This is a VERY high end RV park with most of the campers being enormous A size with associated tender cars and trailers. It was probably fine but just didn't feel very welcoming. We decided to go back into Frankfort, KY and go to the Buffalo Trace Distillery for the tour. Never seen whiskey barrels in use or the bottling procedure. Very interesting and worth the time. Even more so was the Kentucky Military History Museum. Tonight we are in the Elkhorn Campgrounds in Frankfort, KY. Walked around to see if others had Airlift Air Bags and met a fellow who had just had a new 5th wheel hitch installed He called his dealer who handles Airlift air bags and we have an appointment for tomorrow AM about 40 miles away. This means (gasp) taking the Lance off the truck. Campers sure are helpful souls aren't they?

So.... after the air bag fix, back to load the camper, we'll be off to Jefforsonville, IN just across the river from Louisville, KY to see the Howard Steamboat Museum. Then down to Paducah KY to see the American Quilt Museum. Bribing Joe with a cafe known for their pies. Might do another night in a state park there and then finally off to St. Louis. Weather so far has been in the upper 80s and lower 90s and hazy but not too humid. At least it isn't snowing.

Friday, June 1
Air Bags all fixed, checked out, all bolts replaced with much larger and hardened bolts. We went to Line-X of Kentucky in Nicholasville, KY and worked with a man named Rick Satterwhite. http://www.line-xofky.com/ If you are ever in the area and need help with airbags or hitches, go there.

TC loaded on first try with Ted's DUH system. We made it from Lexington to Paducah along some very rough concrete roads being repaired. Good thing the airbags were repaired. Tonight we are in a KOA so that I could use wireless and we could do laundry. Tomorrow I'll go to the American Quilt Museum, Joe will go to the Paducah Railroad Museum and we both will go to the River Heritage Museum. Then on to St. Louis - the original goal of the trip.