Saturday, December 30, 2017

Rigadoon has an Adventure

Nov 7, 2017

Leaving Russel Cave, I went south to Arab, AL (pronounced A-rab) for the night.  Rigadoon was making a curious ticking noise so after Googling a bit I decided to get the oil changed in case sticky valves were part of the issue.  For some reason Walmart thinks the truck wants 5w- oil but the manual suggests 10w- or 20w- and I hoped thicker oil might help.  Post oil-change the truck was making the same noise and after consulting the WM auto guys (who clarified that they weren't qualified to comment) I decided to drive to Cullman, the first town big enough to have a mechanic.

Well, in the metropolis of Baileyton, a place not even large enough to be called a wide spot, the dash lights came on and I pulled over into the edge of someone's driveway.  Popped the hood and discovered the shreds of the alternator belt calmly NOT spinning anything anymore.  Well, I can't fix this and I have no cell reception so kindness-of-strangers here I come.

First house across the street had no one home so I trudged up the long driveway where I was parked.  This is farm country and houses are back aways.

Lovely older woman opened the door and invited me in to use the phone when I explained the problem.  Her husband was also there and had some kind of dementia.  He kept politely but firmly demanding to know who I was and I kept politely explaining that I needed the phone for a toll-free call.

Except their phone didn't work.  After multiple tries that only resulted in a dial tone the woman explained that the phone had been acting up lately.


I thanked her and went back to the road to ponder waiting for someone to stop.  Decided that was a waste of time and pointed my feet back in the direction I came where a road branched off the little highway and some houses were visible.  And a business!  Woot!   Mimi's Hair Salon (run by Madge, I think) is in the back room of her house and she was kind enough to let me in while doing a color-and-cut and let me use her phone.

It took more than an hour, but Progressive located the flat bed I wanted (remember the pic of the rv in Virginia?   wanted to keep my valves and tanks in one piece).  They also phoned the potential auto shop to verify they could work on my vehicle since I didn't want an rv shop.

I thanked Madge and trekked back up the road to wait for the tow which was 90 minutes away.  I played on the ipad and the cats napped while we waited.  When the guy showed up he was awesome. I fussed about smooshing the back end and he nodded and said he would be careful.  The guy watched the back end as he winched the truck up and when it got close to the ground he put boards under the wheels to give it enough lift to keep from hitting the ground.

The entire area has no street names, only numbers, and the tow driver had to call someone to get directions.  He was at least 80 and the inside of his truck was held together with duct tape in places but it ran and and he seemed pretty sturdy as well.
I was a little nervous when we made it to the shop but I guess combining home and business is common in that area and the owner came out with a big grin, saying that his uncle had the same camper.  Well, not quite the same, his uncle's is a V6 but the guy knew what he was doing anyway.

I had him replace all the belts since they all had to come out anyway and another of them was all cracked and ready to break on some other deserted rural highway.  The only belt in good shape was the AC belt - and I don't use the AC (not updated).  Ah well.  Alabama did herself proud taking care of hapless traveler.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

One More Battlefield and Some Ancient Peoples

Nov 4,5, 2017

I had vague ideas about travelling across the bottom of Tennessee but I mad these plans without looking at map.  There is no road across the bottom of the state, instead you have to travel in a series of 'w's to get over all the hills 'n stuff.  I was still tired of hills and hey, there's another state right below me!!

First stop was Chickamauga Battlefield.  It's only one part of a larger park but Tennessee was enshrouded in fog rendering the view from Lookout Mountain (near, well, part of Chattanooga) kind of pointless.

I was burned out on Battlefields by this point so not so many pics.  Also no ranger talks and those are usually the best part of a visit.

Did see this sign in the ladies' room.  I can't imagine why it needs to be said but I sure wish I'd seen whatever events led up to it.

After the Park I headed vaguely west, still trying to decide which direction to go.  On the way I passed a sign to Russel Cave and decided Alabama looked like a good direction.

As is evident from the number of photos, this is more my style of National Park

Trail to the cave

The website made it sound as though you could tour the cave with a ranger but no, it's an active archaeological site and viewing is from a platform.  Ah well. 

The park has a trail as well that winds up the hill.  I went a little past the point where most people turn around and didn't feel like continuing to trudge up a now-mossy path with questionable weather on the way.  Still pretty and a bit of a workout.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Nerd Heaven

Oct 21 - 30, 2017

Starting this post with yet another amazing sunset.  It was too dark to get a good picture but I tried.

The birth of the Atomic Age pretty much happened in Oak Ridge Tennessee where three individual projects were launched to enrich Uranium and produce Plutonium.  To tour the sites, catch a tour bus at the American Museum of Science and Energy.  You can probably visit several areas on your own but this three hour tour is included in the $5 entry fee for the museum and is something that is worth $30 or more.  The guide is amazing and the tour covers many sites.

"To help with "moral confusion".  Mary is all about nuking the bad guys so put your mind at ease

What exactly did they sew with this?

This.  This was the first nuclear reactor.  Dear God, how did we survive our own ignorance?

How the atomic pellets were added to the reactor

First reactor was called a "pile", presumably because graphite bricks were piled around the fuel to contain it.

Back side of the reactor

Lots of dials and gauges like this one to measure the reaction.  The building also has a sign that instructs people to run if the warning horn sounds.  You'd have to run really, really fast...

And this cool looking thing is a building created with 3-D printing technology. 

Farther down the road is Dayton, TN known primarily (only?) for the Scopes Monkey Trial that took place here.  I didn't find any quirky, touristy stuff capitalizing on the trial but the area is quite pretty.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

One of the Newer Parks

October 15-17, 2017

So many battlefields in this area that it would be impossible (and draining) to see them all.  Cedar Creek and Belle Grove has only been part of the park system for a few years and there are several historical entities involved in keeping it going.  The Park Service Visitor Center is in a little strip mall in Middleton but they have an amazing CD they've recorded to provide details as you drive through the historic areas.  Be sure to pick up a map as well because there aren't any signs yet and you're driving through so rural areas.  Some wrong turns dead end on small roads that are really tricky to turn around on.  Trust me on this - get a map.

Back at Walmart for the evening I did get to call the fire department on an older RV with a for sale sign that was dripping something caustic from a tank.

Not sure which tank but it smelled like acetone.

Fire department showed up followed by a hazmat truck.  Looked like most of the group is volunteer so I guess this was kind of training for a true hazardous situation without much actual danger.

I think eventually someone called the number on the 'for sale' sign because a car showed up and eventually a tow truck.  See how close that rear end is to the ground?  A minute ago it was on the ground.  I hate to see what the underparts looked like at the end of the tow.

Right next to this area is the undoubtedly phenomenal Shenandoah National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway but I had reached my limit on twisty mountain roads.  I headed south through the valley between two mountain ranges.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Fields of Death

October 10 -13, 2017

Manassas (Bull Run) was the site of the first Civil War Battle.  Both sides figured it would be a quick fight that they'd win and go home.  Spectators sat on the hills to watch. It turned out to be only the first of four years of battle in which more than 600,000 soldiers died (and presumably a large number of civilians as a result of starvation or exposure or stray fire).

Those things that look like giant bullets on the corners really were leftover ammunition when the monument was first erected.  The visitor center has what's left of one that exploded after it was removed and replaced with something less dangerous.

That line of trees was where the rebels stood and fired on the northerners standing right about where I am.  Serious guts involved to stand that close and fire back.

Replica of a civilian house that was pelted with bullets during the first skirmish and dismantled for fuel in the following winter.

The park ranger didn't know if this cannon (or any of the others on the field) were used in the first battle but they are all from the Civil War.  Kind of remarkable to be standing that close to history.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Meetup With Dad

October 3-9, 2017

My dad flew helicopters for the Air Force and is a member of a Pilots' Association that has periodic reunions.  I had never been to one but couldn't pass up the opportunity to go to this one and hang with Dad for a week.  The reunion was in DC, home of boatloads of history and the hotel was nice enough to let my park my rig in their lot for the duration of the reunion.  As I have said previously, I am very introverted and was a bit uneasy about being around 200 people I didn't know, but these were some of the nicest people I've met in a long time.  After the first day I felt comfortable and not at all stressed out about the crowd.

Plus they offer plenty of social lubricant.

I went on three of the daytrips to the Holocaust Museum, Arlington Cemetery and Mount Vernon (a boat trip).  All were super and even though I ditched Dad at the museum so I could take a quick trip through the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, it was great to talk with him.


Difficult to see but that's the Capitol Building and Washington Monument in the background

Too close to get good shots of the soldiers leaving after the changing of the guard, but I guess their butts look good too.  And you can see the path their shoes have marked in the stone walkway

Not our boat for the journey down the Potomac, but pretty

Our boat and the crowd getting on


Pirate Cruiser

Sorry about the thumb. Fort Washington

Mount Vernon

View from Mount Vernon.  That's Piscataway National Park, preserved as a view shed (new phrase to me) showing what Washington saw from his porch.