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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Not All RV Toilet Chemical Is Made The Same

I always remember back in 1998 when we bought our first camper which was a 1995 Jayco popup.   We did 3 trips in and all three it rained hard!  I also realized with my crew (my wife Michelle, daughter Kaileigh (5) and son Chase (4)) if we where going to be mobile we needed an on-board bathroom.  So we went hunting for a motorhome and found a super cool 1989 23' Winnebago Chieftain.  It needed a little TLC, but
in no time I had it looking like new.  But boy was I a newbie to RV'ing!  And I always had trouble with the sanitation end of things.  There where many trips when we would all get a big whiff of black tank smell and  then the kids would start screaming, and chaos would ensue.   Initially I had been adding the recommended amount of chemical and then as time went on I would add a lot more just to try and cover up the problem.  Well a few RV's later, many more RV toilet chemicals tried and very little improvement we happen to get a call from Chempace just as we started up RVupgrades.  They wanted to stop in and introduce themselves and their line of toilet chemicals.  Chempace was looking to get into the RV market and was currently the #1 toilet chemical provider to the portable toilet industry.  So I spilled my story about how horrible my experience had been with RV sanitation and they started to ask me some questions.  Like how much water I used when I precharged my RV's black tank.  "Uh, well maybe a few toilet bowls full" I replied.  They smiled and said, "well that's your problem, you have to have enough water to cover what ever goes into the tank or it will always stink, no matter how much chemical you add."  Man did I feel stupid, in an RV you are always conserving water when your not hooked up, and my thinking was I did not want to haul around a ton of water for no reason.

Well many years later, a ton of research and a whole lot of testing we have concluded there is no universal formula for RV'ers to use when it comes to which and how much RV toilet chemical to use and how much water to add.  There are so many factors such as tank size and shape, tank ventilation, RV ventilation and an RV'ers tolerance to smells.  So I am not going to preach that you need to do these certain steps to achieve RV toilet tank bliss, it truly is something that you will have to experiment with to achieve the results you desire.   But I will say water will be the key to making your RV toilet chemical regimen more effective.

Now there are basically two different types of RV toilet chemicals, the cover-up style which added with the proper amount of water can be very effective for short periods of time like a weekend outing.  And then there are the bacteria/enzyme type of chemicals.  These attempt to break down waste and neutralize the smell and designed for longer stays.  You can get on the different RV forums and the discussion as to which RV toilet chemical is the best is as hotly contested as is the debate as to which NASCAR driver will win this years championship.  So I am not here to get into that battle, we sell just about all of them and they all have reviews on how well they work from that particular individual.  But if you on the hunt for a new chemical I can relay my particular experience with a product that has left our RV smell free.

I am particularly sensitive to smells and so we always have some sort of ventilating fan on which can cause issues especially when you flush the toilet and you get a nice back draft of tank smell.  Another problem I have encountered is on really hot days, say in the 90 + range along with high humidity, almost no cover up RV toilet chemical can really handle every bit of the smell.  So I am always on the hunt for that solution that could handle every situation.  Hot days, extended stays and improper ventilation, something that truly does neutralize the smell in the black tank of your RV.  And I am happy to report I have found the holy grail of RV toilet chemicals.

Kronen Holding Tank Treatment
Kronen Premium Holding Tank Treatment
We are always on the look out for new RV products and late last year we received information on Kronen Premium Holding Tank Chemical.  I will be honest we did not immediately add them to our product lineup, mainly because of my thoughts on bacteria style chemicals.  The majority of camping occurs over the weekend and that is just not enough time for any digesting style product to work.  So most people find them ineffective and they are the lowest selling of all of the toilet chemicals we handle.  But the name came up again and we decided to look at their website and technical information.  It sounded very interesting, and I liked that the amount and type of bacteria they used can digest waste in hours not days. But anyone can but together words to make their product sound effective, the proof is a real world test and I had our purchasing department bring in a bottle.

The first thing most people do with any holding tank chemical is smell it.  I did the same-thing and Kronen holding tank chemical has a very subtle citrus scent.  It certainly is not enough to cover up black tank smells, so I was thinking this stuff better neutralize odors or they would quickly be out of business.  Before beginning our test we rinsed the tank multiple times to remove any trace of previous chemicals we had been using.  This is very important, do not expect good initial results if your tank has remnants of a different chemical which may counter act with the new product.  The tank in our RV has a capacity of 72 gallons and is the width of the RV.  The deepest section is below the toilet and we add about 10% fresh water to pre-charge the tank.  We then added 7 ounces of chemical per the instructions of adding 1 once for every 10 gallons of capacity.  We would not be filling the black tank over the weekend, but for now we where following the instructions. We started testing in the spring so the temperatures where not ideal for a hard core torture test, but we did do things like run the ventilating fan located right above the toilet.   And I can tell you we where immediately impressed with the lack of smell and as summer approached we found ourselves in more prime testing weather with still the same no smell results.

Since the Kronen product works so well for us I decided to give it a try in a Blue Streak Toilet Chemical
Blue Streak Chemical Metering System
metering system
.  By utilizing the Blue Streak system just a small amount of chemical is delivered during each flush and you end up not wasting so much toilet chemical especially on shorter stays.  It also alleviates the process of remembering to add chemical each time you go out.  You will still need to add water to the tank and if you do not have a black water flush device to do this, you can use the hose clamp provided to add the water through the toilet flush and not waste chemical while doing so.  Since the Kronen product has such a subtle scent you never get overwhelmed by a perfume smell, it's almost undetectable. On a recent 2 1/2 week trip to the south where temps and humidity were as high as they get , we still enjoyed great results.  I am not going to say that if you turn a vent fan on high in a bathroom, open the toilet valve you might not get some sort of smell, but it will be minimal.  We never experienced a big whiff of black tank even with a full tank while traveling from one location to another.  Actually, toilet smell was never even brought up on the entire trip.  And that had never happen before.


Monday, June 24, 2013

The Last Day Of Vacation

Day 15 - Wednesday:  Although not technically the last day of the vacation (we still had 2 long days of driving home to go) this was the
Our Campsite at Gulf Shores
last chance to relax.  To be totally honest I really had not relaxed much the whole time we where gone.  I monitored work by email and online software, as well as doing a number of work related tasks each day.  It's hard to break away entirely from running two businesses and 20 employees.  As I mentioned in an earlier post I usually go through phases as I am away, but this trip was much different and I never felt like I really relaxed and enjoyed the time off.  I kind of screwed up the whole point of getting away and I regret that.  I had hoped I would come back all refreshed and full of revitalized energy, and I just never let go of things.  We are so connected now with smart phones, email, texting, cloud computing and wifi access just about everywhere.  The good news is that I could work from anywhere, the bad is I will never get away from it either.

We got up pretty early and drove over to the beach for one last splash in the ocean and to catch a few rays.  Afterwards, we took a drive along the peninsula stopping at a few shops getting a couple of souvenirs and then stopping for an early dinner at Bubba's Seafood.   While camping I am very happy with just breakfast and then an early dinner at say 3 o'clock.  Just skipping lunch altogether.  It doesn't seem to work out when we are home though.

We finished the night talking with Joe & Shelly and wishing them a safe trip as they continued on to Red Bay & Nashville.

The finally 2 days where pretty uneventful as we first drove back to Cave City, Ky where we started the trip and the half way point home which worked out well.  The finally day I was up at 4:30 a.m. and we got going early making hit home by 2 p.m.

~ Bill

Gulf Shores State Park

Day 14 - Tuesday: With a short 3 hour run to Gulf Shores State Park we did not have to leave until
A cemetery on the bike path
about 11 a.m. This gave me a chance to jump on the big and ride the rails to trails that runs through the park. Not my favorite type of riding, but better than not at all. I rode into the town of Mandeville and stopped at the local cemetery.  Kind of strange to see everything above ground.  Headed back and then started the routine of getting ready to move to the next campground.

Gulf Shore State Park campground is big, really big! Although you can reserve a site, you cannot reserve the exact site until you get there. If at all possible you do not want to be on the main road leading
Behind our campsite - Gulf Shore SP
through the campground since there is a lot of traffic. We where in site #475 which backs up to an open area with natural vegetation and some left over burned trees.  We setup quickly, got our bathing suites on and drove over to the beach.  The state park has an awesome section of the beach with sugar white sand and the water was much cleaner and cooler than Galveston.  We played in the small surf for a couple of hours and headed back to find a place for dinner.  We ended up at Cottons Restaurant which had good reviews and a pretty long wait, but it was worth it. I had the Steak & Crab Legs and everyone else was real happy with their dinner as well.  On the drive over we decided to cut our trip a little short skipping a stop at Red Bay, Al and a tour of the Tiffin RV plants, along with a day in Nashville. Our son Chase was pretty much over the whole RV living and camping lifestyle and our daughter Kaileigh had moved back home while we where a way.  So we figured we would need the weekend to get everything squared away before returning to work on Monday.


Friday, June 21, 2013

A Day In The Swamp

Day 13 - Monday:  Today we where up at the crack of dawn getting ready for a swamp tour.  I needed to give The Honey
Island Swamp Tour company a call to book an 9:00 a.m. tour.  Unfortunately, everyone wanted to take that tour so we had to settle for the 11:30 tour.  Although it would be hotter, it did give us extra time to get ready.  Honey Island Swamp is about 30 minutes away from the state park and they stressed that we absolutely had to be registered and ready to go by 11.  Not sure why they just dont call it the 11a.m. tour.

There where quite a few people all waiting to get on a boat, and each boat handles about 28 people.  We where happy to see they all had a canopy since the sun was blazing and  it was already really hot.  I think with any tour the guide is what makes or brakes it and our guide was excellant.   Right as we pulled out into the Pearl River we caught a glimpse of a gator and as we closed in on it a few more popped up.  We have been to GatorLand down in Florida and have seen gators in rivers down there from a distance, but seeing them up
close next to the boat was very cool.  The whole tour was a great education about the swamp and we got to see some of the shanty's people stay in when they fish the river.  We also saw snakes, wild boar, turtles and fledgling cranes making it a real adventure.   The canopy on the boat came in real handy when a pop up storm hit and it rain for the last 1/2 hour of the ride.  We actually saw a few other tours go by without them and everyone was getting real wet.  

On our way back I was getting pressure to stop for some ice cream and the first place we came to was a TCBY.  I hadn't been to one of these in a very long time.  WOW! have they changed since then.  This place was self service and you had close to 15 different flavors to choose from.  Then there was the toppings section which had just about everything you could ever want to put on ice cream available.  I think this was a great idea by the company, because everyones eyes are always bigger than their stomach and they charge you by the weight of what you piled up.  It wasn't cheap, but it sure was good.

Feeling the need to burn off the ice cream, Michelle and I took a long walk through some of the state park trails and then started the process of putting things away for the drive to Gulf Shores.

~ Bill

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Drive Across The Worlds Longest Bridge

Day 12 - Sunday:  Today we had a short run of just 50 miles to Fontainebleau State Park across Lake
Bayou Signette Campsite
Pontchartrain and on the longest bridge in the world.   Since check in wasn't until after 2 we could move a little slower and take our time getting ready to pull out.  This gave me a chance to get the bike down off the carrier and do a small ride.  One of the levees runs through the park and they had added a concrete section along with a new pumping station for added security.  I concrete gave me the perfect place to ride along the levee which extended about a mile until it ended and returned to dirt.  About that time my father returned my phone call from earlier and I wished him a happy fathers day.  We exchanged a bit of info on our trips to New Orleans and wished each other a great day.  I continued my ride down to a small boat launch and found a local man fishing, and asked what he was fishing for, "anything that will bit".  He had caught some kind of gator fish he said last week (maybe a Gar), crab, a red fish, turtle and an occasional catfish.  I finished my ride around the park and packed up the bike.

We got rolling around 1 p.m. winding our way through the city to get on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge and travel it's 24 miles to the other side.  The strange thing about driving on the bridge is that you loose that perspective of land rushing by you and only see water which is moving in all different directions.  It also takes a few minutes getting adjusted to only seeing water which offers no horizon.  We set the cruise on 60 and in 24 minutes we can now say we traveled on the longest bridge in the world.

Michelle under a live oak
Fountaineblue campground is really nice although some of the campsite can be pretty narrow.  Our site was good size, but to the right of us our neighbors had very little room beyond their awning.  There is one issue "wild boars!"  they root up the ground near every culvert and low lying area in the park.  We thought at first this might have been from Armadillos, but then you see the tracks and then you see them.  As soon as they see you they run, although they did not even flinch when a car got close to them.  After we got setup, took the dogs for a walk we head out to grab a late lunch early dinner.  All of the local places we took a stab at where closed so we settle on a Chili's and had an o.k. linner. (lunch/dinner)  Afterwards we took a walk down to a grove of massive live oak trees and had a look at the beach on Lake Pontchartrain.  We sat out and chatted with Joe & Shelly for as long as we could stand the mosquitos and headed in around 9.


Lake Pontchartrain

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The French Quarter

Decatur St

Day 11 - Saturday:  We woke up to more hot and muggy weather, I can't imagine what it's like down in these parts in July & August.  When we checked in at the campground the attendant mentioned that we should plan to take the ferry over to the city instead of trying to find a parking spot downtown.  So when we left at 9 am we headed for the little town of Algiers on the banks of the Mississippi to take the ferry over to New Orleans.

To be honest going this route was probably not the smartest decision.  It took just as much time to get to
Canal St
the ferry terminal due to road closures and one-way streets.  There was plenty of parking, but it cost $10 to park and we are kind of thinking it was a scam by the locals.  But I do love a boat ride and the short little run across got us right in the heart of the city.  Unfortunately, we had no clue where to go, and stood in line for a trolley for about 15 minutes with none in sight.  So we gave up on that idea and started walking towards the French Quarter.  On our way we hit Bourbon Street (not exactly the fastest way to the french quarter) which smelled like skunked beer,  and then headed back up to Decatur street to Jackson Square.  There are tons of artist who display art work on the metal fencing surrounding the square and we walked around viewing the different styles as well as stopping to take a few pictures of the St Louis
St Louis Cathedral & Jackson Square
Cathedral.  There was a wedding going on inside so we could not go in and see the church.  We hit a few more back streets and wound our way back to Cafe Du Monde for their famous beignets.  If you are unfamiliar with them they are almost like a funnel cake you would get at a fair, but small and square and the cafe piles a ridiculous amount of powder sugar on them.  The two girls next to us had just got their order as we where getting seated and as the one took a bite she began to laugh uncontrollably sending powder sugar flying all over the other girl causing more laughter. I was glad I did not have one at that time or I would have done te same thing. It was really funny.

We had walked a lot of the streets and looked at the architecture but still had no clue as to the history of the city.  So we decided to catch a horse drawn carriage for a tour of the French Quarter.  We had a great driver and since there where no other takers at that time the 3 of us had our own personal tour.  Actually, I wish we could have just toured the whole city this way.  After getting our history lesson we walked up to the river walked and with it so hot and all the walking we did, we headed back toward the ferry.  The city is nothing like I had imagined or heard about, I thought we where going to see one street (Bourbon) and the rest of the place was going to be a war zone.  Definitely, a place I would revisit when it is cooler to see more of what it has to offer.

When we got back it was hot and looked like it might storm, so we decided to cook spaghetti which was a nice change from all of the catfish and other seafood we had been eating and eat in.


Central Fire Station
Jackson Square

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sugar Plantation Tour

Day 10 - Friday:  Todays drive was 377 miles, we where half temped to take the RV's on the ferry across Galveston inlet, but saw comments on wait times and decided to drive around.  With a stop for fuel and a visit to the Houmas House Plantation and Gardens it was a long day.  The highlights on the
drive where the causeway bridges you go over on I-10 in Louisiana as you close in on New Orleans.   Just real pretty scenery with tons of water.

We decided to make the stop to see the Houmas Plantation the night before, since it was an hour west of where we were staying and would eat up alot of driving time going back in that direction.  Our only worry was if both of our RV's could fit in the parker lot being almost 65 ft long.  Luckily it was not to crowed and we both found a spot although I did have to unhook the car to maneuver around a traffic island.   We had a few minutes before the tour started so we wondered around the front yard area checking out the massive 500 + year
old live oak trees.  Our tour guide was a was a middle aged women who had done some theatre and played the roll of a southern lady quite well.  She actually made the tour a little more realistic even though the house really was not totally of the period anymore.  The gentleman who purchased it last actually lived in it so there where many updates done to the home along with his own art collection decorating the place.  One update that I did not mind was the addition of air condition which was surely welcome with the 90 + degree temps and high humidity.  It actually made me a bit nervous for the dogs in the RV, as long as the generator did it's job they would stay nice and cool.   The tour lasted about an hour and our guide painted a very detailed picture of the history of the plantation and it' may owners.  Afterwards you can walk the amazing gardens that surrond the home, although it was so hot and we still had an hour to go before getting to the campground we bypassed most of this.

We finally arrived at the Bayou Segnette State Park around 6:30 and with only one attendant and a lot of fisherman trying to get into the park it took quite awhile to get checked in.   For a friday night the place was pretty empty and with nice big sites it was easy to get backed in and setup.  I quickly noticed we had no power and checked the breaker along with my Progressive Surge Guard unit to confirm an issue.  I checked with Joe who was parked next to us and he mentioned he had power, but a further checked now showed no power.  Since it was late we rushed back to the office in hopes of catching someone to fix the issue.  The park police came down and mentioned that these site had issues in the past and that we should move.  We moved a few sites down and all was good, but now it was almost 8 and I was beat.  So Michelle whipped up a few light items and called it a night.


One of the campsite at Bayou Signette

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Day On A Drilling Rig

Day 9 Thursday: Each morning I get up, check my phone for the latest emails, look at the orders that came in for RVupgrades and review Basecamp our inter company software for the latest issues, accomplishments and schedule of meetings and reviews.  Both dogs look at me intently while I do this,
just waiting for me to declare it is walk time.  Cali enjoys the walk and usually does not want to come back, but Wiley only gets excited because afterwards it breakfast time.   Today I was going to take a ride on the beach, but our friends had mentioned that the guys where heading over to the Oil Rig museum and ladies where going to do a little shopping.  So we hurried up and got ready and did the same.

On our drive over along the coast we could just make out two drilling platforms way out in the distance.  Then we noticed at least 15 tankers pretty much in a row heading outbound.  And that is just what we could see, it makes you wonder just how many ships are supplying us oil from what ever location each day.  And just how reliant we are on these shipping making that journey without disruption.  Kind of a scary thought.

The Ocean Star Drilling Rig Museum is located on Pier 19 in Galveston and costs $8 to do the self guided tour.  The walkway leading from land to the rig allowed us to see a sand ray, jelly fish, and a bunch of aquatic birds. Once aboard a guide explains the different areas of the rig and we started our tour.  Since it is a museum the main indoor living and working area bares no resemblance to what the rig really looked like when it was operational.  The first floor had information on this rigs size and type along with the different types of rigs and their purpose, different types of boring bits, the number of wells drilled in the Gulf and so much more.  There is also a small movie theater where they show you how the rig works and the industry in general.  The second and third floors had models of the support boats, a super intricate model of a refinery platform and a hall of fame area.  I am sure do to safety and insurance issues there is much of the rig you can not access which limits the interest factor.

Afterwards we came back to the camper, hit the pool for a couple of hours, got the dogs fed and
walked and headed back into town for dinner.  We where looking for something fast (well I was) and decided on Golden Corral.   Usually these places are a mad house with people running every which way, food crazy I call it.  This one was calm, everything was nice, the food was very good and we where in and out quickly.  We then headed over to a Kroger for a few items that we where running low on and saw this crazy car parked next to us on the way out.  I just love that someone created a car that everyone who saw it had a smile or laugh about and like us our phones out getting a picture.

Once we got back we started packing everything up for the 7 hour trip to New Orleans.  I am starting to feel like a Gipsy!


Friday, June 14, 2013

Jamaican Beach RV Resort

Day 8 - Wednesday:  Today was a 280 mile run down to Galveston, Tx and the Jamaican Beach RV Resort.  Of course it had to rain for about 30 seconds just enough to kick up spray and negate my wash job from the previous day.  As we closed in on Houston we got onto the Toll road that bypasses the city.  Little did we know that we would hit 3 toll booths in about the distance of 20 miles.  I hadn't planned on there being a toll road on the route and only had a $20 bill on me.  Luckily it was only $16 to make the loop around, one more and we would have been digging for change in the couches.  Also on this run their where many more crazy drivers just taking chance after chance with their and ours.  We even had one trucker cut us off and if it wasn't for my anticipation of his suicidal move we would have been sitting at a repair facility or worse.   We have driven through almost every state in the country logged hundreds of thousands of miles and I must say these are the worst drivers we have come across to date.  

The Triumph
As we turned south for Galveston I got behind a guy with a small boat, we followed him for at least 20 miles in heavy traffic.  He was driving really slow, but there was no clear way to get around him so we sat tight.  He finally decided to move into the far right lane on the 3 lane highway and just as he did a seat cushion flew up high into the air.  At first it appeared that it would sail off to our right, but then it hooked back like a boomerang and slamed into the front corner of the hood near the front tire.  I thought for sure there was going to be damage and was thinking the worse.  Michelle said she could see it and it appeared to be stuck between the tire and the fender.  It wasn't moving and the next thought was that the tire would rub it till it caught fire, so we radioed to our friends who where ahead of us that we needed to get off the highway and check things out.  One nice thing about Texas are all of the frontage roads that line the highways and we quickly found a good place to pull over.  Just as we came to a stop the cushion fell out on to the roadway and I ran back to have a look at it.   My fear was that the cushion had a plywood backer which many do and that would have done serious damage.  But we lucked out and it only was the cushion and checking the front end we found no damage.  I couldn't even see where it initially hit, so I was happy and on our way we went.

As we crossed over a bay we where greeted by 2 big pillars informing us that we had made Galveston. The scenery dramatically changes and reminded us of Florida.  Once we hit the ocean we hung a left on Termini San Luis Pass Rd for about 9 miles until we hit Jamaica Beach and the Jamaica Beach RV Resort.  The place seems pretty new, nicely landscaped and all concrete roads and campsites.  Once we where hooked up we walked the dogs and then took a short drive over to the beach.  It was really nice to just pull your vehicle right up to the edge of the ocean, no need to carry anything from a parking lot.  I was amazed at how warm the water was, just like bath water, and we all walked out about 100 yards where the waves were breaking.  I wont lie I was slightly nervous about sharks and when you see small fish flying out of the water you have to think they are running from something.  We played in the waves for 20 minutes or so and headed in.  Since it really didn't cool us off we headed over to the campground pool and hung out there for the rest of the afternoon.

The next decision was where to eat dinner.  It was way to hot to cook outside so we asked around and
where told we wouldn't be disappointed with Willy G's.  We where hoping for something closer but with bad reviews on a few of the local spots we took the 30 minute drive over.  Dinner was amazing and not cheap, but good food usually isn't snd specially if they cater to tourists..  I had the Grouper,  Chase had the Trout and Michelle and Mai Mai.   The setting is great as well with the place right along pier and we even got to see the Carnival Cruise Liner the Triumph as it had just under gone a 100 + million dollar renovation after the fire and stranding of a passengers not to long ago.  There was also a drilling rig museum down the peir and we decided to come back and check that out tomorrow.  Across the inlet there where quite a few drilling rigs in for repair, maybe from some storm or possibly old age.

We drove along the ocean on the way home and with a light breeze it was like we where in paradise.


Drilling rigs waiting to get into dry dock

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Day In Bourne Texas

Day 7 - Tuesday: We where pretty slow to get up today, all I had on my mind was to was the RV.  We had run through a bunch of rain heading into Memphis and I was dyeing to get it clean again.  I definitely got that bug from my father, he is a boater and spit shines that thing just about every day.  I had installed the smaller CR Spotless deionizing system in one of my storage bays in the spring.  I then found a small hand held pressure washer online and now I could clean up the rig anywhere we went.
The system works great, since the deionizer removes any spots that tap water would leave behind, but I had trouble with the pressure washer not turning off when the sprayer trigger was released.  I need to return it and get it replaced, but I do love how much pressure the unit puts out and how easy it is to move around with you.

I was starving by this point and we decided to hit the Dog and Pony restaurant that is just up the road.  We noticed that the Bourne restaurants seemed to do away with the wait staff and you order and pick up your own food.   We each got a different burger, and they where all really good, Case had the veggie burger and he said it was the best he had ever had, I had their signiture cheddar burger and it was really good.  Michelle went for the habanero burger and suffered the consequences of that descision. She kept asking if her lips where red, because they felt like they where on fire.  I tasted just a pickle with a little habanero juice on it and that was enough for me.  I would recommend the place for lunch or a light dinner.  Afterwards we walked around downtown and checked out a few shops, I am not a bigger shopper so it wasn't long before Michelle gave up and we headed back to the camper.

We decided to do a bit of laundry and just chill out for the afternoon, I had been lacking in my puppy walking duties so I circled the park a few times.  It still wasn't enough for Cali though.  Later that evening we went to dinner with Joe & Shelly and gave the Hungry Horse a try.  They give you huge portions so beware!  Be a pony and not a horse and you will most likely still head home with left overs.  I had the grilled catfish and it was really good, a few others had the chicken fried chicken and Chas had the Catfish Po Boy sandwich.  He misunderstood and ordered the regular size and had enough catfish left over for 3 more nights dinners.  We hit Walmart for a few odds & ends and called it a night.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Long, Long Day Of Driving

Day 6 - Monday: Today was a long day of driving, 730 miles and about 13 hours. We left Memphis at about 7 a.m. and got through town in pretty light traffic. It wasn't long before I could see in my side mirror that my electric cord was popping out of the door that holds it in. I figured I better pull into a rest stop sooner than later to fix that before
Austin Tx Traffic @ 7:30 p.m.
the cord was reaching the road and grinding the plug away. Our friends where a half hour up the road in search of a new toilet. The night before their electric toilet had broke and was no longer in service. I always wondered why they would over complicate an RV toilet. Since this was going to be a long day on the road not having a toilet was not an option otherwise we would have overnighted one from our warehouse to the next destination. His only hope was hitting a Camping World in Little Rock and luckily they did have 1 toilet in stock. It wasn't what he wanted nor did it exactly fit, but it would do the job.

We finally caught up with them at the Texarkana welcome center. Just as I pulled in a big truck loaded with lumber pulled away opening up a spot right next to Joe & Shelly's rig. He loaded the old toilet in the back of the car and we where ready to roll. Just then we saw an ambulance and highway patrol go racing by and could see that same lumber truck had just overturned on an off ramp just up the road. Pretty crazy to see a big truck like that completely upside down. 

The next 6 hours where uneventful other than the occasional driver with a death wish. Weaving in and out of traffic cutting us and big trucks off. It's amazing how brave people become when they jump behind the wheel of a vehicle. We thought we might just make the whole trip without any traffic delays, but as soon as we hit Austin things came to a screeching halt. We spent the next 40 minutes in stop and go traffic and the rest of the ride into Bourne Tx went smoothly. We pulled into the Alamo Fiesta RV Park at 8:30 and the office was closed.  They had a late arrivals box and our sites and info where inside.  We had chosen their premium sites, which are level and long, but sooo close together.  I am thinking most people would be pretty unhappy with the setup if they where staying for an extended period of time.  Once we got setup we walked the puppies and then crashed for the night at about 9:30 p.m.

Although I felt pretty good throughout the entre drive, once you stop is when it hits you and it usually lasts into the next day. This is the second really long run we made this year (the other was the way home from Florida) and we had said then that we would never do that again.  I am hoping we learned our lesson this time and keep the drives under 10 hours in the future.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Elvis Is In The House

Day 5 - Sunday: I was up at 5:30 a.m. to take the dogs for their morning walk.  Cali our 9 year old Shitzu started to have problems climbing the RV stairs yesterday, so we where somewhat concerned with that.  We decided to carrier her in and out from now on, an on our walk she seemed to do pretty good.  I started to hear thunder in the distance and hurried back to the RV to dump the tanks and disconnect the water.  Since it didn't appear we could be the rain and get the car connected, we decided to wait the fast moving storm out for an extra 20 minutes.  I felt bad for all of the tenters although many
did get their tents torn down and put into their vehicles just before the rain hit.

We made the 3 hour run to Memphis and arrived at Graceland RV Park at 11 a.m.  With the temps in the upper 80's and high humidity it felt like summer now.  We got setup quick and walked over to the Elvis museum to do the Platinum tour.  Elvis was a little before my time and I never really got into his music.  When I was younger I had seen a few of his movies and I once dated a girl who's mother had taken over their entire living room with a shrine to Elvis.  That was pretty much the extent of my Elvis knowledge other than the bits and pieces you catch on radio and tv about him.  I must say I really enjoyed the tour, and it's a shame he died so young.  We toured the house, the car museum, the planes and a few other exhibits.  I plan to check out the documentary on his life when we get home.

Our next stop was Mud Island which was very interesting with the replica of the mississippi river carved into the walk way.  You can either walk the 1/3 of a mile or for $4 you can ride the monorail over and back.  In the picture of the Memphis skyline you can see the river running into the the replica of the Gulf of Mexico.  Each step represented 1 mile with a total of a 2,000 ft to explore, it pretty impressive.  Afterwards we headed to Beale St for dinner.  It was Sunday so it was pretty quiet in the city and on the recommendation of the Monorail operator we took the trolly to Kings Palace.  The trollies appear to be pretty old and it was pretty cool to see the drivers have to navigate the traffic and the crazy controls.  Since the trollies only run until 6 pm we didn't have a whole lot of time to check out the area.  Our dinner at Kings Palace was really good, I had some of the best ribs in a long time and their sauce was just the way I like it.  Their was a musician setting up and running through a sound check as we where eating and I would have loved to hear him play.  Since we had a really long day of driving the next day we decided to high tail it back to the campers and call it a night early.

I must say Memphis surprised me, it seems like a really cool city with some very interesting history.

Memphis Trolly
Beale Street - Memphis

Monday, June 10, 2013

When to Replace Your RV Carbon Monoxide Detector

Keeping your RV carbon monoxide detector working properly is no joke. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of malfunctioning engines or appliances, so you can see why having a working carbon monoxide detector is especially important in an RV. Though high levels of carbon monoxide poisoning aren’t always fatal, it can result in permanent damage to your body, including your heart and central nervous system. Since carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, a detector is the best way to ensure your safety.

If you can’t remember the last time you replaced your carbon monoxide alarm, or you just purchased a used RV and aren’t sure about the previous owner’s level of upkeep, it’s time to check your detector and make sure it’s working properly. Here are a few steps to determine if your sensor is working well:

  1. Make sure the sensor is installed in the proper place. In an RV, this will be about 5 feet off the floor and close to where everyone will be sleeping.
  2. Test the CO detector by clicking the test button. If it goes off, this doesn’t mean that the sensor is detecting carbon monoxide. It simply means that the RV is receiving power and the alarm function works.
  3. If your alarm has a digital display, such as on the Atwood Digital Gas Alarm, you can place a lit cigarette or incense near the alarm and it will register that there is carbon monoxide in the area.
  4. If your carbon monoxide tester isn’t digital, you will have to purchase a test kit. Test kits include a container of carbon monoxide that is designed to set off the alarm. You may want to wear earplugs when testing your sensor this way, because it will certainly be loud. If your detector goes off, the sensor is working properly. If not, it’s time for a new detector.

Despite running these tests on your CO alarm, your detector still might be old and if you can’t remember or simply don’t know when the detector was purchased, it’s best to just buy a new alarm. Typically alarms are good for 5-7 years. Our most popular alarm, the Safe-T-Alert Dual CO/LP Gas Alarm, is good for 5 years, and also features propane detection as well. For more information on carbon monoxide prevention, visit the Center for Disease Control’s carbon monoxide page.

RVUpgrades.com provides RV accessories, supplies, and parts including a variety of gas detectors for LP, carbon monoxide, and smoke. Visit out store to see our complete selection of motorhome upgrades.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Day Of Hiking & Biking

Day 4 - Saturday:  I decided early in the morning that I couldn't let an opportunity to ride some really great mountain bike trails go to waste.  This time I drove over to the trailhead and I was not disappointed.  It was two hours of sheer bliss and I carved through the woods on some pretty awesome single track.  If we only had a few more days here I would have been in total heaven.  It was a great work out and I was thoroughly exhausted.   It's been a while since I had a chance to ride off-road, most of my riding the last 6 months have been on the streets of Eastlake, Oh where I take a 1 hour ride each day during work to relieve a little stress.

As soon as I got back to the RV Michelle asked if we where gong hiking. Sure I said, after a shower and an hour in my outdoor reclining chair.  Well the hour turned in two, but I finally felt rested up and we grabbed our Kelty hiking poles.  We decided to hike the Ore Pit trail which you can access from the campground in a number of spots.  We started by the check in hut, but you can also access it from the rear of the campground or anyone one of the tent sites. The weather was amazing, a light breeze, partly cloudy and temps in the low 80's with low humidity.  The terrain is hilly, but not to steep.  The hike was only about 3.5 miles with sections of the Wildcat trail thrown in.  We didn't have any background on the Ore Pits, so although we saw some small pits it was hard to tell what and when activity actually occurred here.

Our friends Joe and Shelly who have traveled with us on many summer RV trips planned to arrive around 5 to join us for the remainder of the adventure.  Somehow they managed to shave an hour off their 10 hour trip and pull in early.  Once they wedged their 43 ft Allegro Bus between the trees and parked cars, we got things ready to cook dinner over the fire.  It seemed everyone else decided to come in on Saturday as well and the campground at this point was filled with smokey fires, screaming kids and a ton of barking dogs.  We sat around catching up on the past few days adventures and planned out tomorrows itinerary.  Since we would be pulling out at 7 am the following morning, we called it a night around 9 and I was in bedding and sleeping shortly there after.

It was a good day to be camping.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Montgomery Bell State Park

Day 3: Today was a short travel day (just 2
hours) from Cave City, Ky to Montgomery Bell State Park in Burns, Tn.  Check-In at the state park is at 4 p.m., but lucky for us no one was on our site so you can check-in at anytime. This state park uses Reserve America for reservations and has nice photos of each campsite along with a lot of the details about each campsite. We picked a site that we thought would fit our RV well but you never can really tell by a picture. When we got here we found that what appeared like a big open camping area was actually very compact and all of the roads and sites are lined with trees. It took a lot of finesse to wedge ourselves between the trees, campsite marker posts and railroad ties lining each site.  All of these obstacles made getting into this fairly large campsite a challenge. If they would just take out a few of the trees that are right on the edges of the road this place would be much nicer to get into. We got into our site just before it started to rain and began to plan our next move for the day and decided on a early dinner in Dickson in hopes the weather would clear up for exploration later.  There where a number of restaurants just a few miles away, and we decided to play it safe after yesterdays bad experience and just hit another Cracker Barrel. I was dying for more of their grilled spicy catfish.

Afterward we got back I walked, feed and walked the dogs. Then jumped on my bike and tried to find the mountain bike trails but only ended up climbing a very long hill on rt 70 and not finding the road the trails where on. We then drove around the park, saw the Cumberland Presbyterian Church which was founded in 1810 in a log cabin which was the home of Reverend Samuel McAdow.   We also stopped in the Inn and Restaurant to get a trial map, and walked the dogs for the final time. Cali our older Shitzu (9 yrs old) loves to walk and would literally walk all day if she could. Wily is only 3 and would rather sit in the air conditioning than walk any day. Although he is pretty good about going in the morning when he knows he will get feed afterwards.

We pretty much had planned to use these first 4 days as a time to rest up and relax before the trip starts in ernest. Tomorrow evening friends of ours that we have made many summer trips with will arrive and Sunday the fun begins. For tomorrow I hope to do some hiking if the weather holds up.  

The cell coverage is pretty sketchy so my wifi hotspot is not working to well, but I will try and post what I can, I will add pictures and further updates when we get to Graceland on Sunday evening.

~ Bill

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Mammoth Cave

Day 2: Today we took the short drive from the campground to Mammoth Cave passing Dinosaur
World, and various other tourist traps.  We have visited a lot of caves & caverns over the years, a couple of small caves in Put-in-Bay, Oh, Hocking Hills, Oh, a number in Pa, Luray Cavern in Virginia and a few others that I can't even remember.  We are not cave experts nor do we particularly like caving, but it just seems like the thing to do in certain areas.  We decided to take the Historic tour which is a 2 hour 2 mile walk through the oldest part of the cave. We had a little time before the tour started so we checked out the cave museum which is super informative.  When they named the cave Mammouth they made a wise choice.  Mammoth cave is the longest in the world with over 400 miles of passage ways discovered to date.

Our ranger tour guide was super informative although his warnings about the tour would have made you think you would be spelunking the whole cave. The cave is awesome! It's tunnels in the main section are enormous and the 2 hours goes by pretty quick. The first section is easy walking to mammoth dome and where they use to pull out a product for making un powder. Then on to fat man's misery, tall man's misery and bottomless pit. I highly recommend making a visit, you won't be disappointed.

Afterwards we headed back and decided to have an early dinner. I was up for Cracker Barrel again,
but Michelle had read that the Watermill Restaurant had amazing catfish. Reading reviews that the decor was less than appealing, we knew what to expect and took a chance. I think they expect you to have the buffet and a quick look around the place confirmed it's pretty run down. I will admit I love a good buffet, but this one was not that good. I would give Golden Corral a 10 over this place. I think everything is cooked in a more southern style, so maybe the locals find the food much more palatable than I did.

Afterwards we went back to the RV, walked the dogs and then I took a bike ride into the historic portion of Cave City where they have a number of antique stores. Actually, the town has more antique stores than any other type of store. I checked my phone and found a Walmart about 6 miles away so we made a quick trip for a few odds and ends that we had forgotten. To be honest I am ready to head to our next location (Montgomery Bell State Park) and a more rural campground.

Till Tomorrow

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Summer 2013 RV Trip

Day1:  Today was an 8 hour run down to Cave City, Ky and a 2 night stay at Cave Country RV Campground.  This morning I fired up the RV at about 8 a.m. and right off the bat there was a check engine light staring me right in the eyes.  I quickly checked my ScanGuage and found that it was a code that had come up last year.  Knowing it was not to severe I was not that worried although with any check engine light the engine would be derated in horsepower.  I figured I would run to the first rest stop, shut the engine down and that usually will clear the code.   At the same time I am thinking through my check engine light I have the Doran 360RV tire pressure monitor sounding off that there is a low tire on the Jeep which we are
Our 2012 Showhauler RV
towing.   Geesh!  Not the way I wanted to start the trip off.  Got the tire issue straightened out and we headed off on our 18 day trip.

Got to the rest area about an hour after leaving and sure enough a shutdown and restart cured the check engine light.  There is some sort of emissions valve that has a hard time opening when the RV sites during humid periods.  I guess I better not let it sit anymore ;-)

Traffic was minimal through Columbus & Cincinnati  Oh, along with Lexington & Louisville  Ky.  On
the north bound side of 65 there was the remnants of a burned to the ground Semi Truck that caused a 10 mile back up for those folks, which was easily an hour delay.  Just as we came up to the off ramp for  Cave City I could see an excavator that had just flipped ove on a hill side.  Chase our son got a couple quick shots of the accident, pretty crazy!

Cave Country RV Campground is a nice clean place, very long sites to fit any size rig and I would say a good place for a quick stop over as you travel through the area.  There is a lot of railroad noise along with some highway noise so if your a light sleeper, not a place your going to enjoy.  After getting setup we ran over to Cracker Barrel which is right around the corner for an early dinner and after it cooled down this evening I gave the dogs a good walk.  I had a great chat with two of our neighbors who where headed on their own RV journeys it opposite directions.  That is what I love about RV'ing, the opportunity to see so many cool places and meet such diverse and interesting people.   For me at least, it's much better than doing it over a computer.