Epistle Five


The Adventure unfolds and the "RV Gods" continue to laugh....

Time sure goes fast when you are having a good time ... even when you are not, "tempus seems to fugit" real fast!  So, right now, Nov. 9th, we are in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  We actually have put together 3 dry days and are loving the change!  But, before we describe how we got here, more of the "RV Gods Revenge"....

We last left you in Nashville Tennessee, Oct. 19th, so this is where we will try to start.  Again, given our failing memories, this might be a little truncated.

Our arrival in the Country Music City was a little inauspicious.  We had been driving a truck route, interstate highway for about 5 hours, and I was getting a little cranky!  These damn truck drivers think that they are the modern day version of Mad Max on their way to the Pleasure Dome, and drive in a way that would even impress him!  I guess that pulling the Folly puts us in a class to compete for road space with them and this makes them even more annoying, but they sure are not the "professional" drivers I once took them for!   They are a constant threat to our safety, but not as constantly irritating as the endless road work we have encountered.  Just two miles before our turnoff to the KOA Nashville, we were stopped dead on the road for over an hour. It took us 1 and 1/2 hours to drive the last two miles!  As you can imagine, even with my world renowned patience, the air inside the Truck was getting a little testy.  Sometimes, I do feel sorry for good ole Elsie!

We stayed there for 4 nights, and this is where the rain began!

We decided to take a city tour to get an oversight on just what Nashville looks like.  In the past, we have had both good and bad luck booking a Grayline tour in different cities, but here, unlike our last tour in Buenos Aries, the tour was really worthwhile.  The guide was a "Good ole Boy" complete with the appropriate accent Y'all!  The city is really interesting.  They have a huge park in front of the Capital Building that must stretch for a mile.  The idea was to build a monument that shows all the important events that happened in the area from the time of the dinosaurs to modern times.  As you can see in the pictures, they have a stone pillar with the important dates and beside it, on the horizontal wall, is a description of that event.  The World War II and Vietnam descriptions were really interesting, and in the center of all this is a huge stone globe that revolves constantly supported only by water pressure.  Impressive sight to say the least.

The tour included a trip through the Ryman Auditorium which was the original site for the Grand Ole Opry performances that were broadcast throughout North America for over 50 years.  Inside, it was beautifully restored, and it is still used for performances today.  The stage was set up just as they would have for a performance of the Opry. Just where Mini Pearl stood and performed with all the greats, they had placed a stool and  guitar that had been used by most of the greats!  Elsie, ever the shy retiring soul, jumped up and ran for the stage, grabbed the guitar, and started to sing.  The audience just stood there transfixed!  Was there a future --- and a lucrative contract --- ahead for our little Dutch warbler???  Maybe .... I had even chosen a nom de plum under which she could perform.  After all, Lawrence Welk is gone ....  There was silence as she got down from the stage.  The silence just continued.  We left the auditorium, sadder but much wiser!

We ended up in a little bar ... surprise, surprise, that had one of the countless hundreds of hopefuls playing the guitar and singing. The words seemed mostly concerned with "standing true" and "being ready to take on Saddam" which is understandable. But I -- like most people I think --- miss the good ole "Hoss Kissin" themes of "true love" and "unrequited love for women and hoss" that were more prevalent in past years.  Perhaps, I had better write some lines for the ole Dutch Warbler ... maybe there is a hope for stardom! ...???

The tour ended at the Country Music Hall of Fame that was chock-a-block with memorabilia and stuff.  Boy, some people take this stuff really seriously.  With us on the tour, were a couple from England who knew every name the tour guide dropped and every song he mentioned.  Most of the names were new to us, but we did pick up on some.  One of the problems for us to follow the guide's comments was the fact that he only used their first names.  So, it went a little like this ..." Chuck is no longer performing, but Glen is ... Johnny is sick in the Caribbean and no one has heard of Jerry Jeff in years."  The rest of the people in the bus understood but we just nodded and grunted in what we hoped were appropriate places.  He kept referring to the CMA which really confused us until we sorted out that is stood for the Country Music Awards that were to be held in early November.  To him, this yearly event was tantamount to a coronation in England.   It is really a religion for some, I suppose.  He ended the tour appropriately with, "Y'all come back, Y' hear".

The KOA was just down the road from the new Grand Ole Opry, and the next day we ventured into this madhouse.  The Grand Ole Opry Hotel is huge with acres and acres of land under glass roofs, and is just beside the Grand Ole Opry Theatre ... which is beside the Grand Ole Opry Outlet Malls that must stretch for miles.  There is a store that our "out-doorsy" nephew Greg Koldewijn would love to see.  It only sold outdoor gear and due to the time of year was totally given over to hunting.  The store was the size of a football stadium and had everything about which a hunter could dream.  On one side was the clothing ... what the well dressed hunter must wear for the 2002 hunting season ... on another was the outdoor vehicles that seemed to be necessary if one is to venture out into the wilderness, and on yet another side were trees fixed with perches -- some of which were heated -- on which, I guess, the brave hunter sits while waiting for the unsuspecting game to appear.  Boy, if a guy visited one of these places and picked up all he could ever need, the term "wilderness" would become a little less clear to me.  Well, each to his own ....

The weather was turning a little nasty, but when we pulled up stakes to head south on the 23rd, we just knew that the weather would improve ... I didn't hear the chuckle the Gods must have given.

To get to Mobile, we divided the drive into two days.  The next two nights we spent just outside Birmingham in a little town called Pelham.  The campsite was quite nice and all the sites were large and well laid out for us "Big Rig"ers!  We did meet a couple from Michigan who were traveling with two Boston Terriers.  The breed is getting more popular it seems.  The weather was cloudy and getting a little hotter.  Elsie, decided that we should visit Birmingham and wander around to see the sights.  One of the attractions that the tourist brochures all talked about was the "Vulcan".  A huge statue that stood on the hill overlooking the city.  Apparently, the eyes of this beast were green lights, but when there was a traffic fatality, they changed the eyes to red.  Well I thought, we do have the time, so off we went.  Pelham is only a little distance from Birmingham so we hopped onto the InterState and headed into town.  Unfortunately, we had a tiny map that showed only a few of the streets, but I had Elsie, my intrepid navigator, so I was not worried.  We did see most of the city!  Unfortunately, it was by accident.  Lost was the most common word used for the next hour.  I now know in just how tight a spot I can turn the truck around.  When we did get to the site where the Vulcan was located, we found out, much to our chagrin, that the damn thing was out for repairs!  The only thing we could see was the pedestal on which it sat and the new parking lot they were building in front of it.  We went home and had dinner!  The next day, we headed for Mobile.

We were certainly looking forward to seeing Brandi, Jason and Nicholas.  To explain to those who do not know ... Jason is Elsie's brother's oldest son, Brandi is his wife and "The Nickster" is their son.  We have been threatening to visit them for several years and now was the time we would make good our threats.

From our trusty book of campsites, we had chosen a Campsite called "Browns RV Park"  --- right inside Mobile ---and headed there to set up.  Jason had been scouting these sites for us, and given the write up in our "trusty" book, we were confident that we would find a nice spot.  Unfortunately, Jason's last phone call to us the night before we arrived in Mobile, we never received.

The entrance to the site was a little shocking ...  disheveled was a word that sprang to mind.  There was no one in the office so we were standing there wondering what to do when a disembodied voice came out of a tiny window, in a tiny 1950's trailer.  "I'm taking a shower, just wait!"  So we did.  On looking around we noticed that the back section was Mobile Homes with only the front few spaces for RV's.  On top of that, all the sites were grass, a fact that we were to find out later was very important.  All the connections looked to be as old as we are.  In fact, the whole place looked to be a contestant for the next Deliverance movie.  Eventually, the voice became flesh and there appeared the figure of someone who could be the star in the next Deliverance sequel.  Fortunately, he was not carrying a banjo.  The owners of the place were away so he told us to pick anywhere we wanted ... a choice of 4 spots.  As it was beginning to rain, we thought, "What the hell".  One night would not hurt, and there was another RV site we could move to the next day. When Jason and Nick arrived, I'm not sure what he thought of this spot.  As we talked, it turned out that he tried to warn us that the place was a little unkempt and that we should have gone to our second choice, Aces RV Park.  We were greatly relieved and made plans to move the next day.  That night we went to Jason's and had Jambolay for dinner that Brandi whipped up.  It sure was good!   By this time, it was raining heavily and the humidity was awesome ... at least to us northerners.

Did I say that it was raining .... well it sure as hell was.  When it stopped raining for a short period, the air conditioner in the truck made the front window cool so condensation formed forcing me to leave the windshield wipers on.  What a climate.  The weatherman claimed that it was all because of some hurricane in the Caribbean, the tail of which was hitting the Gulf States.  Everything was either wet or damp!  One afternoon, we sat in Jason's kitchen and watched the rain create a new river in his back yard.  I am sure not used to this.  To add misery to this madness, our bed in the Folly is in the very front.  In order to make the shape more aerodynamic the manufacturer made the front nose out of fiberglass.  As it rained, we could hear each drop as it reverberates through our heads.  With the rain falling in continued tropical sheets, the noise was just a little loud.

The next day, we pulled out and moved to Aces.  This was a little nicer, but we should have noticed the "For Sale" sign on the window of the office.  The guy who ran the place was a little gruff and had us read and sign the rules and regulations of the Campground.  After telling us that we should buy some ant powder because the ants there might be a problem, he sent us to a site at the bottom tip of the "U" shape that formed the campground.  The site was large and all grass.  As it had been raining but had stopped for several hours, the grass was very wet but firm under foot.  Jason went out to a hardware shop and bought the ant powder that we would require "in case there was a problem".  He spread it all over any part of the RV that touched the ground.   It then started to rain seriously.  The very last thing I did, after Jason had put the powder around, was to hook up the Cable TV connection.

We had decided to have a real "Southern" Seafood feast that night.  So Jason and Nicky took us down the bayou to find really fresh crabs and prawns.  We loaded up with whole crabs, some soft shelled crabs, some crab claws and tons of prawns.  That night, Brandi's Mom and Dad, Joyce and Tom, came over and the feasting began.  Tom took care of the soft shell crabs and Jason did the shrimp and crab broil.  Was the food GOOD!  I haven't eaten that well for years!  I think we have become a fan of Louisiana Shrimp Broils.  I had a little initial trepidation about the soft shelled crabs, but they turned out to be delicious.  In fact, the entire evening was GREAT!  Until we got back to the Folly that is ....  The good and the bad ... the Ying and the Yang ... the RV Gods were howling about this time.

Now, we all have fetishes ... mine are spiders and snakes ... but Elsie's definitely is one thing .... ANTS.

One of the nice things about Aces RV Park is that we were supposed to get free cable TV.  Not all that important to us at this point because of the time we were spending with Jason, but still ... something.  So, when we were setting up, I connected the cable.  Most places that supply cable TV force you to supply your own connection to your RV, but this place even supplied the cable.  Not bad I thought  except that the connection did not work!  I left the connection thinking that if I got time, I would play with it to see if it would function. ....  The RV Gods were really gawfawing on this one!!!

When we returned from Jason's, the rain had had an impact.  The grass around the Folly resembled the Okifenokie (sp?) swamp.  I was wearing my old Birkenstock sandals and sank several times over my ankles in the slop!  And was it raining ...  The dogs, who have to go out several times a day ... rain or shine ... mud or dust, were making a real mess inside the Folly.  So, picture us arriving home, with dogs under our arms and loaded down with parcels ...to a sight right from Elsie's concept of Hell!  There were two paths of black ants across the floor of the Folly and up onto and into the cupboards that had food in them.  How the hell did they get in???  The only thing we could do, was to get back in the truck, now really wet and pissed off, and try to find somewhere still open that carried Raid.  We were really lucky and found a service station open down the road that did have Raid.  We returned home and had a great 2 hours spraying and washing.

At least they were not the dreaded Red Ants that were all over the place in Mobile.  These cause a real problem as their bite hurts like hell.  (No Richard, you did not warn me before we left about the red ants ... Barley and Hops want to talk to ya!)

The next day Jason came over and guess what?  He found out where the ants were coming from ... the not working cable TV wire that I had cleverly left hooked up.  I remember a UBC English Prof I once had who used to call these types of occurrences, "deliciously ironic".  Needless to say, I was not amused!

Poor Elsie spent a lot of time cleaning and scrubbing to remove any ant evidence.  Still it rained ... still it was humid ...

I should at this point, talk about Nicky, Jason and Brandi's son.  Nicky is almost 4 years old and is in a league all his own!  The term "charming" does not cover him.  After 30 plus years of dealing with kids, Nicky stands out.  At three he is polite in a very southern fashion ... he uses the term Ma'am a lot.  He has the energy of 6 kids yet is never a pain to adults.  He knows when to be quiet and when it is okay to be boisterous.  I don't think I'll ever forget Nicky and Hops chasing each other from the kitchen through the family room and back to the kitchen ... over and over.  The only problem will be --- when this kid gets older .... look out ladies!!!

Over the years, I had heard about the concept of Southern Hospitality, but I must admit, I was a little skeptical.  Boy did Jason, Brandi, and her Mom, Joyce and Dad, Tom, put that skepticism to bed!  Tom and Joyce had us over to their house for a fantastic steak dinner with all the trimmings and could not do enough for us.  Jason and Brandi made their home seem to be ours.  We were feted and partied like we were nobility.  But, after the ants and the continual rain, we decided, unhappily, to cut our visit short in Mobile and head West to find the sun!!!   It was sure tough to say good bye and  days later, Elsie still got a little teary when we discussed our early departure.

On Oct 29th we headed for Baton Rouge LA.  in a driving rain storm.  It was raining so hard that often the car in front just disappeared from sight.  Being from the "Wet Coast" we are used to rain and more rain, but here it is different.  There is little run off ability as the water table is very close to the surface.  The bayous we passed were swollen and water lay on any bit of low ground.  The rain just never stopped ... it only rained harder.  It was indeed a very long drive to the KOA.

On arriving at the KOA, we were told that a tornado had touched down that morning at 6:00 AM and had done quite a bit of damage.  A Grand Teton ( a very large and very expensive 5th wheel model) in the park had a tree limb crash into the middle and attempt to bisect the damn thing.  Tree limbs were every where and the rain continued to fall.  The huge sign on the side of the Interstate advertising Exxon Gas was on a very strange angle as we arrived.  But, we booked two nights here after making sure that all sites were concrete.  We had learned our lesson ... no more grass sites for us in the South!!!  The campsite was an older KOA, and it did show its age.  We had trouble getting a site with the sewer connection located in the middle of the site.  All the older RV's had their sewer connections at the back of the unit while the more modern ones have it in the middle so if the ground connection is far at the back of the site, you have to carry many feet of sewer hose. But we persevered and got a site with a connection closer to the middle for two nights.  It was an OK site as long as you did not go off the cement, but if you did then, it was the unending, ankle deep ...Mud.  Contrary to the old song ... It is NOT a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi Mud!!!!

The next day, we wanted to see some of the countryside and maybe a few "ante-bellum" houses.  Believe it or not, it actually had stopped raining and we did get glimpses of blue sky.  As we drove south along the bayous and the banks of the Mississippi we were captivated by the scenery.  It looked a lot like a rain forest with lots of moss hanging from the trees.  The moss is called "Spanish Moss" but according to the travel guides, it is neither Spanish nor is it moss.  It is some type of organism that can grow without roots as it gets its moisture straight from the air. That, I could believe, as the humidity was still very high.  Elsie, of course, was still looking for livestock on the roadside, as she has being for the entire trip.  But, just as the moose in the north were elusive, the "gators" of the south were just as absent.  Poor kid ... maybe I'll take her to a Zoo sometime!

We found some of the beautiful homes on the banks of the Mississippi that had been turned into tourist sites.  To get inside, would cost $10.00 per person so we enjoyed their exteriors.  I could just picture some distant relative of Brandi's dressed in white ruffles coming down the elegant stairs looking for her Rhet Butler.  My imagination was working overtime ...

To stop the flooding problems, the state has built huge levees between the river and the old homes.  I'm quite sure in the old days they did not have to climb a steep bank and slide down the cement face to get to the river.  The 1960's song was right ...even after the intense rain of the past several weeks, "I drove my Chevy (GMC) to the levee and the levee was dry)  And, I'm sure that the Good ole boys were still drinking whiskey and rye!  We were getting desperate .... we want some sun and warmth.  Time to head further West.

November 1st .... Houston Texas ... surely there we will find sun .... Oh the RV Gods still laughed .....  More about the puddles in the next epistle.

Getting a little soggy and mossy .... but ... still having a blast

Will aim to be home by the first week in December.

The Paynter Pack looking for a desiccant.


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