Sunday, November 11, 2018


I didn't take too much video or drone footage on the trip, but I managed to put together this 5 minute vignette to keep you entertained. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018


Well, finally I'm getting around to posting the rest of the latest adventure.  No, we didn't fall off the face of the earth, get hit by a hurricane or swept away by floods, but any one of those things could have happened.  So, let's get you caught up.

We continued south following the great Mississippi River, sometimes on the Illinois side or other times on the Missouri side.  Both sides of the river have a marked route, The Great River Road, which is like the scenic route.  At times it’s, not so scenic as there is a lot of industry along the river.  Also, depending on the size of the road, the marked routes is sometimes on the freeway.  We try to stay on the smaller roads, but with the RV in tow it is not always possible.  Poor roads that lack maintenance and are full of potholes tend to rattle the dishes.



Keeping with the theme of camping in government campgrounds, we next picked another great one.  Wakonda State Park in Missouri was not on the river but on small three lakes.  With our campsite backed up on one of them, it was time to unload the kayak and take a spin around the lake.  It’s about time too, as I have dragged the kayak for just about 5000 miles and never put it in the water.  There was always some old man excuse not to use it.  It’s raining, it’s too cold, the water is too swift.  The swift excuse was a good one as many of the rivers in the mid-west were at flood stage.  So in the early morning fog I hopped in and did a circumnavigation of the lake.  I spied a few birds, but no great wild creatures or man eating fish, arriving safely back at camp after a couple of hours.

We picked Wakonda because of it’s vicinity to Hannibal, Mo, of Mark Twain fame.  We were somewhat disappointed as most of the stuff about Mr. Twain was pretty hooky.  We skipped most of it and instead took a tour of an old mansion, now a B&B.  Rockcliffe Mansion was built in 1898 by lumber baron John Cruikshank on a hill overlooking the town and the Mississippi.  It has to be a labor of love for the current owners Juan and Warren, as the outside is in need of major repairs.  The inside is a different story.  We were met by Juan and given a personal tour of the interior which had many of the original furnishings.  The plumbing was also original and Juan told me that he has to make his own washers for the faucets when they start dripping.



As we slowly headed south, we were able to stay in some pretty nice campgrounds.  Not always on the River, but close.  A couple that really stood out were  Arkabutla Lake and Grand Gulf Military State Park.  Both campgrounds are in Mississippi, the first being a Army Corps of Engineers campground and the latter a Mississippi State Park.  Arkabutla Lake is just south of Memphis and is a pretty large lake with 5 or so campgrounds around it.  Most have electrical, but there is one with full hookup.  You can't beat a COE campground for being in a great location in a beautiful setting.  We have yet to stay in one that wasn't well maintained with plenty of space between campsites.  Grand Gulf was a gem.  Situated a stones throw from the Mississippi, it, as the name suggest has something to do the with military.



Actually it is on a Civil War Battlefield.  All around the park there are information signs about the battle of Grand Gulf in addition to a museum.  With a view overlooking the town of Grand Gulf and the Mississippi, the Confederates had an advantage over and Union ships that came up the river.  But in order to take Vicksburg, General Grant had to take Grand Gulf.  With seven ironclad riverboats the Union armada began shelling the forts around the town while transport boats ran the gauntlet up river.  In the end, the Confederate forces never lost the advantage of higher ground but Grant and his army just went around Grand Gulf to Vicksburg where the Confederate army suffered a major loss leading to their eventual surrender at Appomattox.  Today, the town of Grand Gulf has disappeared, overtaken by the River.


Near Grand Gulf are the Windsor Ruins, whats left of a plantation house built in 1861.  It survived the civil war, but burned to the ground in 1890.

With Vicksburg just a few miles north, we spent on day touring the battlefield there.  Vicksburg National Military Park is a must see if you are in Mississippi.  One can tour the battlefield in their car with a running narration of the battle on CD or on your phone.  Hundreds of  monuments to the fallen and to the many armed units who fought there.



It was about this time in the trip that we began having more issues with the RV.  This time the jacks that lift the trailer up for disconnecting from the truck started acting up.  We went ahead to New Orleans where the problem with the jacks didn't get any better.  We also learned that our next planned stop on Galveston Island was out of the cards due to flooding in the campground.

With some difficulty, I was able to get the truck hooked back up to the trailer.  Not wanting to push our luck  unhooking and hooking up any more, we decided to keep the trailer hooked up and head for the barn.  New Orleans would have to wait for another time.

As it turns out, if we had stayed in New Orleans and spent time in Texas as originally planned we would have encountered the flooding that occurred in and around Austin.  So after a six day drive (we go slow) we arrived home two weeks ahead of our original plans.

I've had several people ask me, how we find such beautiful places to camp.  Before the Internet we would look at a map for the little tent symbol in a place we wanted to go.  Also tour books from AAA were used.  But now I use two primary sources to find places to camp.  First is an app called Ultimate Campgrounds which on an interactive map lists all the government run campgrounds.  Federal, state, county and little bitty city parks which dot our country. With links to the camps website I can usually make an informed choice.  Once I have picked a potential spot, I then use RV Park Reviews to see what others have said about the campground I want to go to.  Seem to work out pretty well as we almost always luck out with a great spot to stay.


Saturday, September 29, 2018


We hung around Omaha for a few days, doing the necessary shopping, washing the truck, laundry and cleaning the RV before continuing on.  While heading across Iowa on the roads less traveled we spied a sign pointing to a Freedom Rock several miles off the main road. We figured we ought to check it out.  In Sac City, a small town with just one stoplight, in the city park, was this large rock painted with scenes honoring our veterans.  Who painted the rock? You ask.  Ray “Bubba” Sorensen, that’s who.  An Iowan native painted the first Freedom Rock near the town of Menlo in the western part of the state in 1999.  After seeing the movie, Saving Private Ryan he wanted to honor veterans and painting became a way for him to do so.  It is his goal to paint a Freedom Rock in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.  He’s up to 76 and counting.

While in town we discovered that Sac City is famous for another reason.  It is home to the world’s largest popcorn ball, a must see on anyone’s itinerary.  I mean we could travel all over and never see anything like this.  Just awesome!

We spent the next couple of nights a another fine county park in Humboldt, Iowa.  Again off the beaten path, just like we like it.  I’ve been asked several times how I find these places.  Well, there are several ways.  I look for places where I can ride my bike, and by that I mean flat places.  I don’t do hills, not well anyway.  I also use an app called Ultimate Campgrounds, which shows all the government owned campgrounds in the U.S.  Down to the small city parks with sometimes as few as 2 RV spaces and usually very inexpensive if not free.  You would be surprised on just how many interesting and beautiful places there are to campout for a night or two.  From national parks to the smallest of towns many of these places are unique and best of all uncrowded.

On our way to our next stop of Cedar Rapids of course stopped in Brandon to see Iowa’s largest frying pan.  Holds 44 dozen eggs, 352 1/2 pound pork chops or 88 pounds of bacon.  I wonder if it helped pop all that popcorn back in Sac City.  Cedar Rapids has another great bike trail that goes for about 67 miles both north and south of the city.  A very nice paved trail on a old rail line.

While in Walmart picking up a few things, we heard over the PA system, “Code Black”. I figured it was the code for a shoplifter as we were in Walmart.  So we continued shopping.  It seemed the aisles were less crowded, which I liked because there were no Walmart shoppers blocking my path.  We soon learned from a helpful employee that “Code Black” was to let us know to head for and take cover in the restrooms as there was a tornado warning.  How were we suppose to know not being from these parts.  I mean, couldn’t they just say, “Hey folks, you should probably head for cover as there is a possible tornado in the area”.  The nice Walmart people did pass out free cookies to keeps us calm.

After our excitement in Cedar Rapids we continued east finally reaching the Mississippi River.  We are now hold up in a nice Army Corp of Engineers campground right on the Illinois side of the river.  it is here where we will make a right turn and head south.  Of course there is a flat bike path here, called the Great River Trial, which follows the Mississippi on the Illinois side of the river.  While out and about the other day we came upon Travis, who at first glance appeared to be talking to the M&M figures in his yard.  We just had to stop and say hello, to Travis that is.  He told us he has been collecting M&M memorabilia for years.  He had a bunch of other stuff in his yard, but it seemed that he had a special attraction the candy guys.

Other than a bunch of mosquito bites that we incurred on a recent hike, we are fine.  Cathie is glad to be heading south as the morning sun will be on me for a while and she can sit in the shade in the passenger seat.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Two weeks, it’s was two weeks of waiting for our new slide out motor.  During that time we saw plenty of Riverton.  Don’t think we’ll ever be coming back.  We did manage to get out and about exploring this part of Wyoming.  We took a couple of hikes, soaked in the hot springs in Thermopolis, visited a ghost town.  I even managed to get in a couple of bike rides.  We also met up with my sister Jude, who was passing through Wyoming 100 miles south of us.  This Rendezvous took place in Farson, Wyoming, home of the Big Cone ice cream at the mercantile.  Big is an understatement, as what they consider a one scoop is really on the order of 3 to 4 scoops.  So of course we had to partake as Jude’s birthday was a few days away and we had to celebrate.



We hiked along the Popo Agie River near Lander, following the river up stream to a series of water falls in a pretty rugged canyon.  A one point the river disappears into a cliff face and resurfaces several hundred yards down stream.  We paid a visit to the ghost town of South Pass City,  now a state park.  Many of the buildings had been restored so I suppose the season it’s a ghost town is because no one lives there.  Still an interesting place.  Our drive there included driving over sharp rocks which quickly morphed into a flat tire.  With a slice across the tread, the tire was un-repairable, so off to the tire store for a new set.  Just a little sooner than expected, as we had planed on avoiding California taxes and buying new tires on this trip anyway.  We spent a whole lot of time looking at each other and wondering if we should buy a home in Riverton, should we register to vote or join the country club.  We did manage to get the resident rate at the state park, saving us $4.




But last Wednesday we were informed that the part had arrived, but they had no one to install it till Friday.  We we waited a little longer till first thing Friday morning Glen from Adams RV arrived and replaced the motor.  We crossed our fingers, pushed the button, and in came the slide.  Once the slide was in, we beat feet outta there.

We didn’t spent too much time dallying around.  First an overnight stop in Gering, Nebraska in a really nice city park with view of Scottsbluff of Oregon Trail fame.  We had been there before so we opted not to climb the bluff again.  The next morning we continued east, with a stop at Carhenge.  As the name implies, it’s Stonehenge with cars replacing the stones.  They are actually placed in the same positions as the stones in Stonehenge, but way more interesting.  I mean, who wants to look at a bunch of rocks when you can be looking at a 55 Caddie, or a 72 Vega.  Quite the monument to the stars in the middle of the Nebraska prairie.  Check out their website for more useful information. 


We spent two nights near Valentine, in the north central part of the state.  Here there is the beautiful Niobrara River, whose course meanders through a plush valley for over 70 miles.  We had intended on floating down the river, but the weather changed, so we opted to move on.  I think we will someday return.


As we continued east, the scenery through the Sandhills was spectacular in it’s own sedate way.  Low rolling hills covered in prairie grasses, still green this late in the year.  We stopped for a night in Columbus to take a look at a memorial we had seen several years earlier while driving past.  At the time I wanted to stop, but due to traffic and towing the trailer at the time, passed on by.  But now we returned and discovered that it was a memorial to Andrew Jackson Higgins, the man who designed and built the landing craft use extensively in WW 2.  


We are now in Papillion, Nebraska, just outside of Omaha, where we will stay for 4 or 5 days to re-supply, do laundry, and relax for a while.  I will get some much need bike rides in as this place has miles and miles of paved bath trails.  We’ve been here at Walnut Creek in a city campground many times before.  If fact upon our arrival today, the camp host recognized us.


Tuesday, September 04, 2018


Well, we took off early as is our usual custom heading north, trying to stay ahead of the traffic through Riverside and San Bernardino.  Smooth sailing most of the way.  Then across the Mohave, through Las Vegas and stopping for the night in St. George.  We camped at Snow Canyon State Park just outside of town, a beautiful canyon of red rock.  After the first long day, we tend to slow down and keep the mileage to a comfortable 250 miles or less a day.  After another overnight in Provo, Utah, we arrived in Idaho Falls where we met up with friends  Bret and Tami.  We met Bret and Tami some years ago while exploring Indian ruins in Utah.  Bret had been exploring a cave and fell, severely cutting his knee, so being Good Samaritans we helped him get back to his car.  If you are a long time reader of the blog, you might remember the photo.

Snow Canyon State Park

After an overnight in Idaho Falls we continued on to Jackson and the Grand Tetons.  I don’t much like the town of Jackson, too much traffic, crowded, expensive and not very pretty, but ahh, the Tetons.  One of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the west.  Being there before the summer season ends it also has too many people.  But take a hike and we are soon away from the crowds.

We planned ahead of time to meet up with my pilgrim brother Len and his wife Janet.  They arrived right on time having traveled from Winnipeg via Mt Rushmore and Yellowstone for a week of camping.  We spent the first day trying to stay dry as the rain came down.  This was a blessing in disguise because the storm cleared away all the smoke from the numerous fires in the west.  We first encountered the smoke around Provo, Utah and it stayed with us all the way to the Tetons.  Thick gray smoke cutting visibility to less than a mile at times.

After the rain we managed to get in a nice easy hike along the shore of Leigh Lake, only encountering a few other hikers.  As planned, after a couple of days we packed up and headed east, across the Continental Divide for a stop and soak in the hot springs at Thermopolis.  We stopped at a rest stop on the way for lunch.  Getting ready to leave, Cathie went to bring in the slide out on trailer.  We hear a “Clunk” and the slide stopped moving.  So I gave it a try and it came in with a whole bunch of “Clunks”.  No Bueno.

We got into a RV park in Thermopolis and in putting the slide out, it was obvious that a gear had one or more broken teeth.  I called around and found a RV repair place in nearby Riverton.  So in the morning with the help of a big wrench, we got the slide back in and we headed to Riverton.  The shop ordered a new slide motor and with overnight air it was there the following morning.  Only problem was that it was the wrong motor.  A search for the right one turned up nothing, so a call the the manufacturer was made and they didn’t have one either.  But for the right price they would make us a new one.  Of course this was on Friday before the Labor Day weekend, so they wouldn’t get started making the new one till after the holiday.  We are told it will arrive in a week to ten days.

So here we sit in Riverton till the part arrives.  We are hold up in a so-so RV park in town and we’ll manage to entertain ourselves somehow.  There is a bike path and the Wind River runs past the town, so I’ll get on the bike and perhaps get the kayak wet.  Len and Janet hung around till after the holiday, but they needed to get moving as their time on the road was limited.  So we said our goodbyes and promised to meet up again in the future.  Cathie and I will take care of chores and do a deep cleaning of the RV.  We will also manage to get in a little exploring in this part of Wyoming.


Tuesday, August 21, 2018


Here we go again!  We're leaving in the morning and hitting the road going to some places we've been before and looking for new places to discover.  There are two main destinations on this trip.  First we head north to the Grand Tetons to meet up with our Canadian friends and my Camino brother, Len and his wife Janet.  After an appropriate time in the Tetons, we will turn right and head east, traveling with our friends.  At a point yet to be determined, Len and Janet will turn left and head home to Winnipeg while we continue east until we hit the Mississippi River.  There we will make another right turn and head south, following the Great Mississippi to New Orleans, our second destination.  It is there that we will pay a visit to the National World War II Museum, something I've wanted to see for quite some time.  From New Orleans we will make another right turn and head west, stopping somewhere on a Texas beach.  In Texas we will explore various BBQ joints in an effort to find the best BBQ in Texas.  We intend on returning home around the 1st of November.

As is our custom, we will change our minds for any reason that seems good at the time.  If we like a place, we might stay longer, if we don't we'll move on.  We will endeavor to take the road less traveled, sticking to the scenic route when ever possible and avoiding the interstate.

So, follow along as I try to keep the blog updated on a weekly basis.

Saturday, July 21, 2018


Needless to say, I was pretty pissed at the condition of the houseboats we rented.  Rather than re-write what I've all ready written in a letter to the boat rental, you can find it below.  It's long I know, but it was actually fun writing it.  Before sending it off, I spoke with the General Manager on the phone to find the correct address to address my letter.  I also asked him for the address for the corporate office and his boss in Philadelphia.  He responded by stating, "e-mail me the letter and perhaps we can work something out."  So I did. 

July 18, 2018

Robert Knowlton, General Manager
Boat Rentals
Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas
100 Lake Shore Drive
Page, AZ 86040

Dear Mr. Knowlton,

After over a year of planning, on July 8, 2018, my wife and I rented two 59' Discovery XL houseboats for a week long family gathering.  Eighteen members of our family had been looking forward for this vacation with great anticipation.

After checking into the office at the marina, our instructor Bob gave us a walkthrough of both boats explaining how different systems worked.  We first looked at houseboat #54.  When it came time to see if the engines turned with the wheel, we encountered our first of many problems.  When Bob turned the wheel the motors turned in one direction but not the other.  Bob called someone over from maintenance to fix the problem while we checked out houseboat #59.  We did not see what the maintenance man did on the boat, but he was there for about 10 minutes.

When we left the marina, it was almost impossible to steer the boat properly.  My adult son was at the helm and could not keep the boat on a straight course.  I was watching this from our private speed boat.  He told me via the radio that the helm wouldn't respond properly.  Going through the cut he hit the side of the channel with the front of the boat and became sideways in the channel, monetarily blocking other traffic.  After exiting the cut, I boarded the houseboat and took over the helm.  I have piloted many boats, sail, power and houseboats and have never experienced a helm that was so unresponsive.  It took at least ten turns of the helm to make the boat respond, then it would turn in the desired direction and keep turning until I turned the helm ten or fifteen turns the other way.  Only then it would respond.  The only way I was able to control the boat in a proper manner was to turn the wheel back and forth very rapidly or use the throttles.  Only this way could I  keep it on some semblance of the desired course.

Needless to say, we didn't want to return through the cut, so we went and found a suitable beach for a campsite.  I attempted to call the marina on numerous occasions over the next several days, with no response on the radio.  Dead area or bad radio, I don't know.  We also didn't have and cell coverage.

We had planned on going further up the lake on our trip, but decided not to because I felt that due to the condition of the boat it would be unsafe.  I also felt that even if the steering was fixed, I couldn't trust the mechanical condition of other systems on the boat as it was apparent to me that they are not maintained properly.  We decided for safety sake to say put in one place, not something we had originally planned to do.

We made a trip into the marina to pick up someone and I went into the office to speak with maintenance.  A clerk took down a couple of my many issues and called maintenance on the phone so I could speak to them.  Now,  I'm the first to admit that I was upset with the situation and was a little hot under the collar, but I was never abusive to your staff.  When I said something about the missing screen door and suggested that it should have been replaced before renting the boat, I was told, "we don't do that during the season".  I said then that perhaps they should have gone to Home Depot and get one, the maintenance guy said it's too far.  I said something like, "Well, that's not my problem."  At this point he said I needed to speak to a manager and he hung up on me.

I then spoke with a woman manager in the office who, after learning of my most important issues, the steering and air conditioning, said she would send someone out.  She took down my cell phone number, which was useless as I had no service in camp.  No mention was made of when this would occur, but since it was early in the morning, I assumed that someone would be out soon.  Well that didn't happen.

About three in the afternoon, with no one arriving, I climbed to the highest point near camp and got service for a phone call.  After being transferred several times, I finally was connected to the houseboat office and was greeted with a recording to leave a message.  I did, but wasn't going to stand on some hilltop waiting for a return call that probably wouldn't happen.  Never did receive a message or call.

Finally about 6 pm or so, Jeremy from maintenance arrived.  Besides instructor Bob, he was a ray of sunshine and for the first time dealing with this problem we were speaking to someone in your employ who actually seemed to care about our plight.  He knew relatively quickly what the problem was and fixed it.  He told me that the normal, stop to stop turn on the helm should be 6 to 7 turns, not the 10 to 15 that I was experiencing.  He also checked the air conditioning in the other boat (#59) and confirmed that it was not working properly and he would find the person who could fix it and send them out.  The air was fixed the next day.

The bottom line is that after over a year in planning, spending approximately $13,000 for two deluxe houseboats, which by no way meet that standard, our family gathering was soured by your ineffective ability to maintain you fleet in a proper and safe manner.  For you, as one of your employees told us, it's turn those boats around and ignore the problems.  According to your employee, they are not given sufficient time to do the required maintenance before turning the boat over to the next renter.

Since the steering was fixed 4 days into our vacation and the air conditioning on the 5th day, I propose to you that we are refunded 50% of the cost of the houseboats.  This makes perfect sense because if both problems had only been on one houseboat, we would have had at least one good boat.

This situation was very dangerous and could have very easily injured someone or in the worst case scenario, killed someone.  It was obvious to me that you just want to turn the boats around and overlook both minor and major maintenance issues.  In your case, the dollar comes before the safety of your customers.

I wish I had read some of the reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp before giving you my business.  If I had I would have rented from another company.  Perhaps you should read what people are saying about your service.  It might be an incentive to improve.

Finally I would like to suggest that a log of some sort is kept on each houseboat and customers should be encouraged to log defects they have found, thus enabling you to make timely repairs.  The log should stay on the boat so customers can see for themselves if you are keeping up with your agreement to provide a "deluxe" houseboat, which in this  case you did not.

It is my intent at this time to use every social media source that I can to voice my displeasure with your company and it's service.  You're gonna get someone killed.


Overall in bad shape, dirty, worn out
Steering inoperative after being told it was ok
No screen door on front slider
Broken Blinds
Missing blind in head
No mouse traps (we had mice)
Numerous loose or missing bolts, nuts and screws
When air is on, little or no air coming from rear vents (air worked a little)
Tape residue on walls
Broken light over island
Oven door broken
To shelf on refrigerator door is missing
No lift ring on rear deck
Coffee maker doesn't work, two hours make a pot
No stove top coffee maker


Overall in bad shape, dirty, run down
Air conditioning didn't work, blew air that wasn't cooled
Torn screens
On single wide mattress on top deck.  Asked for more and was told none available as they are custom made.
No mouse traps
Beach ramp is missing the stop that keeps it from sliding all the way our on one side.
Torn and deteriorating canvas on rails
Numerous loose or missing bolts, nuts and screws
Ceiling fan in salon does not turn at full speed
Tape residue on walls
Broken window shade in rear head
Exhaust fan in rear head doesn't work
Door on BBQ broken
Drinking water spigot in rear head does not reach into the sink and flows onto the Pullman top
Wash down on front deck doesn't work
No stove top coffee maker

"So, what happened?" you ask.

Well, the next day at the appointed time I got a call from Mr. Knowlton, who gave me the opportunity to vent a little more.  He didn't make a lot of excuses, but that no longer matter to me as he accepted  my proposal to refund 50% of the houseboat rental fees.  To top it off he also refunded the fuel for the affected houseboat to the tune of $500.  Not too bad and I was satisfied with the outcome.

I still posted a bad review on TripAdvisor and Yelp, and corporate will get the same letter I sent him.  My advice still stands, never rent from this company.

Oh, and I sold the speed boat today and made a profit of $250, not too shabby.