Friday, September 30, 2016

Our longest trip yet: Orlando to Nappanee, IN

I've mentioned earlier about our upcoming trip to Nappanee, IN to have our coach's upholstery replaced under warranty.  We've been looking forward to the trip because it will be our furthest and longest excursion yet.  So far it's been great.

I was finally able to retire about four weeks ago and I'm loving it.  Taking this trip and not having to worry about working is immensely satisfying.  Unfortunately, the DW is going to have to use a combination of telecommuting and vacation to cover the month or so we'll be gone.

Starting out, our only "hard date" was October 3rd, the day that we have to be at the factory service center in Nappanee.  Still somewhat new to driving/camping/driving/camping, we were concerned about where we would stay each night after 3-6 hours of driving.  We'd like to be more spur-of-the-moment, but the engineer in us came out and we decided to make reservations beforehand.  Accordingly, we decided to stay in Perry GA, Huntsville AL, Nashville TN, and Owensville IN along the way.

I've come to learn that our typical driving speed will be 60-65 miles per hour, closer to 65.  If a GPS app (or Google Maps) calls for a 4.5 hour trip, I assume another 1.5 hours because of speed and possible stops at rest areas or  to get gas.  That formula worked well for us as we told the Perry campground (three days ahead of time) to expect us about 6pm.  I looked at the time as we pulled up in front of the camp office and it was 6pm on the dot.

Crossroads Travel Park, Perry, GA

Our first stop was for one night at Crossroads Travel Park in Perry GA.  The reason we chose this park was because 1) it was right off Interstate 75, 2) had pull-through sites and 3) would give us a Passport America price of $25 for a one-night full-hookup (FHU) site.

When we arrived at Crossroads, the pull-through site they offered was about 10 feet too short, but it was in a group of sites that was between the office and the highway - easy in and easy out.  They offered us another site "inside" of the park, but we declined.  It was not a problem for them that we parked our truck beside the RV.

We walked out of our coach to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant right in front of the park and ordered some BBQ that we took back to the coach.  It was good, but the best thing about it was that it was close.

The night was quiet and we pulled out the next morning about 8am.

Monte Sano State Park, Huntsville, AL

Our next stop was at Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, AL.  We were concerned about getting there via a lot of twisting roads, but reviews we read gave sound advice about the best way into the park.  My DW did a superb job of navigation and just read out the turns.  I'm getting so used to driving the rig and toad that it was no problem at all.

When we arrived, most of the park was empty.  They upgraded us to a pull-through site.  All of the sites were nice, most were reasonably level (although some were grossly unlevel!).  Our site, like all others, was surrounded by beautiful trees and had a picnic table and a fire pit.  All of the sites are gravel.

We took a walk around the campground our last night there and were very surprised to see that most of the sites we saw would accommodate a large rig (longer than 40 feet).  Several sites were "dual" sites (picture the letter "V"), where two RV's can share the site.  Many of them, like ours, had full hookups, although all of the ones we saw had at least Water and Electric.

Our first night at Monte Sano, some nearby relatives visited.  My wife made a great dinner in the coach.  We ate, then went outside and sat around a beautiful campfire for about three hours and talked.  The next day, we drove a couple of miles and took a tour of the Burrett Mansion and learned a lot about its history, the history of the area, and more.  On the grounds there are several log homes build in the 1800's and reconstructed on the property.  There are great views of the city from the mansion and we enjoyed walking the grounds.  Visit their web site to learn more about it:

KOA Nashville

We left Monte Sano State Park and drove about three hours to our next destination, the KOA in Nashville, TN.   This KOA, like many others, is expensive - about $65 per night including a 10% discount.  It's very nice, with asphalt sites, FHU's, cable TV, a nice store and pool area, and more.  It's also in a great location:  about three miles from the Grand Ole Opry and close to many of Nashville's attractions.

We realized that we'd have to spend at least a week in Nashville to see everything we might want to see, but we only had a day and a half.  The first night, we left the campground and drove about a mile to a restaurant called Sante Fe Cattle Company.  It reminded me of some steakhouses we have seen before with all of the free peanuts and their menu of seafood and steak.  The food was good and it was fun to eat somewhere new.

The next morning was absolutely beautiful, with the sun out and the temperature around 60 degrees.  We went over to the small diner in the KOA store complex and paid $5 each for some pancakes and bacon, then met some nice neighbors and chatted for awhile.  That's one of the things I like the best about RVing - meeting so many really nice folks and hearing their stories about their lives and places they have visited.

Late in the morning, we drove 12 miles into downtown Nashville and parked at the Farmer's Market.  There, we hopped on a trolley that drove to all of the major attractions and learned a lot about the area and its history. You can get off at any stop (there are about 15 of them) and get back on when the next trolley pulls up about 20 minutes later.

Since we were getting hungry, we got off downtown at Broadway and 2nd and walked a couple of blocks to Tootsie's Orchid Lounge.  It's famous for many of the biggest stars in country music coming in to eat after performing at the Ryman Auditorium, which is where the Grand Ole Opry performed for about 30 years before moving to their present location.  The auditorium is directly behind the lounge, and performers used to get off the stage and come in the back door.

We saw a lot of Nashville on the tour and were glad we took the time to do it.  When it was over, we headed back to the campground, talked to more neighbors (some came into our rig and visited for awhile), and then left about 7:30p for Gaylord's Opryland Hotel.  The hotel and the Opry itself are about 5 minutes from where we were staying at the KOA.  The hotel was amazing, with several atriums containing thousands of plants, trees, and even large waterfalls.  One of them had a canal - and you could even take boat rides.  It was odd that most of their restaurants were closed at 8pm. We settled for some pizza and spot overlooking fountains that "danced" with music.

After eating, we walked for about 10-15 minutes to the Grand Ole Opry, where we saw a really good show and enjoyed listening to some of the best up-and-comers in country music.  Highlights for us were comedian Henry Cho, singers Maddie & Tae, and a group of folks led by John McEuen called "John McEuen & Friends".  To top off the evening, Little Big Town sang.  I think that country music continues to be my favorite.

Owensville, IN

On Wednesday morning, we took our time getting up and out.  Our destination was a small town in Indiana called Owensville, with a population of 1000.  My DW's Aunt lives there and they have a yard that's more than big enough for our rig with the toad attached.  We pulled in and showed the coach to them and a few of their neighbors that dropped by, then settled in for a great dinner in their home.

One of the things I love to do is drive or walk around small towns.  Wayne, my DW's Uncle, drove me around the town and showed me the entire town in about 10 minutes.  We went into the small cafe where he and other men in the town gather six days a week at 6am for coffee, and we drove out to a watermelon farm where he just walked into a shed and took a watermelon because the farmer is a good friend of his and "always leaves some out for his friends".   Wayne grew up in Owensville, so it was fun to see the location of his old school - now an empty lot.  But behind that lot is the gymnasium built in 1950 where he played basketball in high school.  At one time, the gym was connected by a tunnel to the basement of the school.  Apparently, it's one of about five gyms like it in the country, because you walk in from "street" level and the gym is down at a basement level - meaning that the top of the bleachers is at street level.  I love old places like this, and the local township has not only put lots of the town's sports memorabilia on the walls (jerseys, photos, etc.), but still allow various sports organizations to play games there.

My wife's Aunt Dawn was a spectacular hostess.  She prepared homemade meals and we ate while sitting in her living room, which is decorated with country do-dads that really make you feel like you're in a Hallmark Movie.  I love Hallmark movies.

The final night in Owensville, they drove us to a nearby town where there is a restaurant that was built as a log structure in 1825.  Abraham Lincoln once ate there, and the place used to be a stagecoach stop and inn.  Dinner was served family-style and we had a great time with Dawn, Wayne, and Wayne's sister and her husband.

The next morning, we said our goodbyes and drove about six hours to Nappanee, Indiana.  It rained the whole time, but we got there and secured a spot in their service center parking lot.  Three nights to explore Nappanee before our service begins on Monday.

So far, this trip has been amazing.  RVing is fun, and we're just getting our feet wet.

1 comment:

  1. Log inn has great food. they grow good melons in gibson county.