Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Saturday, April 30, 2016

We Interrupt This Expedition....

I still have entries to do on our stays at both Asheville and Lexington, but we are currently in Rock Island, Illinois, after having some trailer trouble. Ah, the joys of traveling :-).

So the story starts in a little town called Shelbyville, in Illinois. After our touring weeks, I was looking for a place to just relax for a couple of days, and this is a nice Corps of Engineer campground, Lithia Springs, on Lake Shelbyville. Hey, full hookups for three nights cost $36.00, what a great deal, right? It was very nice, quiet and peaceful, just what we were looking for. We had actually planned only two days here, but an approaching storm front caused us to leave Lexington a day early and take advantage of the dry driving conditions. We were very glad we had done so, even though we did have one of the wickeder thunderstorms we've ever experienced :-0!

We enjoyed our stay there, and got ready to head out Friday morning. Everything went great, just as usual, until......there's always an until, isn't there :-)? Our rig has the Lippert 6-point-leveling system, which Al does really like. A lot. Until it doesn't work. Which is what happened Friday morning. He pressed the button to retract the back four jacks, and they all retracted, the front landing jacks did as well, which is bad, then everything just died. We kept getting error messages. So the trailer is completely tilted downward, no possible way to hitch up, and the controller is not working. The manual override is not working. Even the manual method of operating the jacks is not working. This is not good.

We called Lippert's technical support/service department. They were very helpful.....NOT! The girl that answered barely listened to what we were describing, said she had "never heard of this problem with the error codes," and then had him check the voltage, assuming the batteries were low. Then while he was doing that, said she couldn't wait on the phone while he did this, and we had to call back when we had the readings. Upon calling back with the readings that the voltage was fine, she told us we would have to call a mobile tech and hung up. Really. Great.

Next, I looked up any RV dealers in the area. I found one and gave them a call. This was another useful call. The gentleman who answered the phone told me he was way too busy to even think of coming out, and he had no idea how to deal with the autolevelers, as none of his trailers even have one. Well, at least he was honest, right?

I decided to go see one of the camphosts and ask if they had any suggestions. Here's where, for a change, our luck was on the good side (a very rare occurrence!). There was a mobile tech in the park at that very moment, doing some work on another host's rig. Well, I beat feet right over there and asked him about our problem, and he said he would come right over after he was done with that coach. Awesome!

What he thought was going to be a simple fix, though, turned out not to be. He thought re-setting the system would work, but as he found out, the control panel wouldn't let him do anything. He figured the control panel went bad, and set about bypassing the system, jumping the valves to get the landing jacks to raise up so we could at least get hitched. Once this was accomplished, he called in to his shop to see if they had a control panel there, but they did not. He suggested that we call ahead to our next stop and see if any dealers there would have the part. I was so thankful for his help, his name is Calen, and he owns Countryside Campers in Para, IL. So if anyone needs any assistance in this area of Illinois, we can highly recommend him.

Before we pulled out of Lithia Springs, I looked online to see if there were any Grand Design dealers in the area of Davenport, Iowa, the direction we were headed. I found one, Terry Frazer's RVs, and gave them a call. Again, our luck held, and they told us to come on by first thing the next morning and they would take a look at it.

True to their word, we arrived there just before 9:00 a.m. and two techs came right out. After listening to our description of the events, they also felt that it could be either the control panel or possibly the "brain" panel. They brought out a test control panel, plugged it in, and, voila!, our jacks were working again. Thank goodness. Within 20 minutes we were on our way back to the campground, ready to continue our expedition west. So we can also recommend Tom Frazer's RVs in Eldridge, Iowa for anyone that needs assistance. It's so wonderful to find good, helpful places out here as we travel.

Tomorrow, we continue westward, driving for the next four days until we reach Custer, South Dakota, where we will stop for a five night stay. In the meantime, I will get the blog updated with our activities in Asheville and Lexington, where we had some fun times. I now return you to the regularly scheduled programming :-)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Charleston, South Carolina

Our trip continued as we drove north for about 2 hours to another historic old city, Charleston. We've never had the opportunity to visit this beautiful city before, so it was added to this year's spring itinerary. We departed Camp Lake Jasper fairly late, around 11 a.m., since it was such a short drive to Charleston. We actually stayed a little north of Charleston proper, in Mount Pleasant at the KOA canpground there. Ginny and Patti joined us after having breakfast with Bill and Denise, and we had a beautiful day for the drive. After getting settled in to both our campsite and their hotel suite, we had a quiet evening at the trailer.

We spent our first day in the historic district of Charleston. We had booked another walking tour through "Ashley on the Cooper", which focused mainly on the Civil War history of the city and the historical buildings. The tours are a nice way to get an overview of the city, and by going slowly on foot, I feel like we have more time to appreciate the beautiful buildings and monuments. Our tour guide was very well versed in her history, actually bombarding us with so many facts that it was hard to keep up with her :-). It was very interesting.

Churches always seem to be highlighted on these tours, and this one was no exception. I was interested to learn that there was a significant Jewish presence in the early history of Charleston, which is normally associated more with the northeastern area of the country. 

We saw several very old, beautiful homes that belonged to influential people of the early colony. I really like the "welcoming arms" stairways like you see in the first picture. Very graceful. We also see a lot of wrought iron work all throughout the historic district.

While not as impressive as the garden squares of Savannah, the small parks and memorial areas were certainly very pleasant. 

Our tour finished up near the area of the city known as "City Market", and we walked down this cobblestone street towards it....

ducking into this "dueling alley" on the way. It's said that duelists would meet in these alleys to settle their disputes. We stopped at Low Country Bistro for some lunch, and it was very good. Al had the she-crab soup, and shrimp and grits, and I had the chicken and waffles. We very highly recommend this restaurant, everything was delicious. We then strolled through the City Market, taking in all the various handcrafted and not-so-handcrafted items available to purchase. I was particularly interested in the "sweetgrass baskets", being a very famous cultural handcraft of the African slaves that had been brought to this country. They are very beautiful, and I admire the amount of work that goes into each basket, but they were just a bit out of my price range! Very beautiful and very expensive, a small basket maybe large enough to hold your car keys runs about $50.00. I will just admire them from afar.

The next day, we had something totally different planned. We were meeting our very dear friends from New York, Bob and Chrissie Savage, who have a second home in Charleston. To our delight, when they heard we were going to be visiting the area, they cleared their busy calendar in New York and came down to see us. Bob, being an avid birder, was the person who first took me out birding when I became interested in it, and suggested we visit a wonderful facility nearby in Awendaw, South Carolina, The Center for Birds of Prey. We took their very interesting tour of the facility, first viewing all the different birds they have under their care, and then we had a flight demonstration by several of their raptors.
Sara is out in the field with a lure that she is using to tempt a peregrine falcon to demonstrate it's ability to hunt and catch it's prey.

He did an admirable job, and then displayed "mantling", in which he is protecting his catch from any other predator that may be in the area.

Sara then brought the falcon around for us to get a closer look. What a beautiful bird.

We also saw a barred owl. He looks quite tiny here in this picture.

When he took off in flight, though, look how wide his wing span is!

Our last demonstration was by a kite, but I don't remember what kind. We have the swallow tail kites in Florida, usually coming in sometime in March.

Lastly, they took us over to a different section of their aviary, where this cute little baby barn owl was brought out for us all to see. He was a little fuzzball :-).

We then finished off our visit with lunch across the street from the Avian Center, the Seewee Restaurant. It's a little scary looking from the outside :-), but Bob recommended it and he wasn't wrong -- it was very good, tasty food. After a good afternoon of catching up with each other, we bid a fond adieu to Bob and Chrissie. It's always so wonderful to see old friends from "home"!

Our last day in Charleston arrived, and unfortunately, it was a cold, rainy, windy day. We had planned to visit Fort Sumter, but with the weather being so nasty, we didn't quite feel up to a boat ride across the harbor and then walking around an open fort area. We did still go to town and stop in to the Fort Sumter Visitor Center, and spent some time there reading all of the exhibits.
As is the case with most National Park Service exhibits, it was very well done, interesting and informative. 

We walked by the aquarium on the way to the Visitor's Center, and Patti found a friend on a bench.

We then decided to spend the afternoon at Patriot's Point, touring the USS Yorktown, an Essex-class aircraft carrier.She participated significantly in the Pacific war theatre, and was also the carrier that picked up the Apollo 8 astronauts.

Several different aircraft were on display inside the ship, and we wandered around them after having toured the living and working areas of the ship down below.

Up on the flight deck, we saw several more plane exhibits. It was quite interesting to walk around the planes and see them up close.

We ended up spending several hours here at the USS Yorktown, and still didn't see everything. But our time ran out, and it was time for dinner and our last night together with Ginny and Patti. This was our parting point, with them returning home and we were continuing on with our travels out to Wyoming. It was so enjoyable having them spend a week with us on the road, and before you know it, we'll be back in Florida again! Doesn't it seem as if time really flies the older you get?

Our next stop on Expedition West: 2016 is another historic building, although in a completely different way. Join me for my next installment, as we head to Asheville, North Carolina and tour the Biltmore Estate!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Expedition West 2016 Has Begun!

We have departed Florida for our travels west! We left April 8, with our first stop being Hardeeville, South Carolina. We stayed at a fairly new, very nice campground called Camp Lake Jasper. It was central to our intended touring areas of Bluffton, SC and Savannah, GA. We have family in Sun City, Bluffton, the main focus of our stay there, and we've always wanted to visit Savannah. The property that Camp Lake Jasper sits on was going to be the site of a condominium development, but the company went out of business before anything was built. The utilities had been laid, though, and the current owners have put a very nice campground on the property. Sites are large, with full hookups, and some are situated along the lakefront. All of the buildings are very clean, and there's a nice, small pool if you like that sort of thing. We found it a very comfortable place to spend several days, and it's quiet even though it's not far off of I95.

We had a pleasant drive from Homosassa, arriving by 3:30 in the afternoon. A quick set-up, and we were on the way to visit Al's cousins Bill and Denise. Al's sister, Ginny, and Patti were joining us on this first week of our trip, and we all gathered for a nice dinner of spaghetti and meatballs prepared by Denise. It was a welcome feast, and we had a great time catching up with each other.

I have discovered "groupons"! It is so wonderful to find discounts for activities when you are in an area :-). I found a walking tour of Savannah's squares by Savannah Belle Walking Tours on Groupon, with a discount of $11.00 off the ticket price of $20.00. Our tour guide Michelle was excellent, and we thoroughly enjoyed strolling through the fabulous squares of Savannah.
We arrived very early in town for our 10:30 a.m. tour, so we had time after parking to explore a little bit of the waterfront. This is the original Old Savannah Cotton Exchange building.

The old buildings now house shops both on the upper, street level, with elevated crosswalks to reach them, and shops and restaurants on the lower level. 

There's a nice walkway all along the riverfront for strolling, and plenty of shops and restaurants to spend your money in.

This is the lower level, non-waterside of the buildings. The brickwork is beautiful.

The Savannah squares are so pretty. They all have some kind of monument, fountain, or marker of some kind, along with the beautiful old trees and shrubbery.

This is Johnson Square, with a view of the gilded dome of the Capitol Building behind.

One of many churches in the historic district. 

I loved all the architectural details that we noticed as we strolled the streets.

There are plenty of historic homes, such as this one of the Andrew Low house, home of Juliette Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of America.

The Old Pink House is a very popular restaurant on Reynold's Square, which we passed up when we looked at the menu and the corresponding prices....yikes!

Savannah was very beautiful, we enjoyed the walking tour very much and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a little more than just wandering the streets on your own. Even without the discounted tickets, I feel it would be a good value. We will surely be stopping in this beautiful city again.

Gathering at Bill and Denise's home once again, we had dinner together and planned the next day's excursions, to Palmetto Bluffs near Bluffton, and then a drive to Beaufort, SC.
Palmetto Bluffs is a small community, rather toney, along the May River. It was very pretty, and we had a nice time strolling the quiet sidewalks.

I liked these fish on the side of the Ship's Store.

The church was pretty, designed to look old but in reality it is a quite recent addition to the town.

The congregation faces the water, isn't that so pretty? The old-fashioned lighting is fascinating. We then drove about a half hour to visit Bill and Denise's son at his beautiful home on Callawassie Island. Sorry, no pictures, but trust me, it was beautiful :-).
From Michael's home we took a short drive over to historic Beaufort, SC. It's a beautiful old town with a boardwalk all along the riverfront, along with the obligatory restaurants and shops.
We ended the day with dinner once again at Bill and Denise's home, and a couple rounds of our favorite game, Marbles, Cards, and Jokers.

Through Groupon, I had found another walking tour, this time of historic downtown Bluffton. The Heyward House is the welcome center for Bluffton, and offers guided tours. We chose the guided walking tour of the historic buildings, then a docent guided tour of the house itself.

The scenery along the walk was beautiful.

We saw several examples of the summer "cottages" of the rich plantation owners. The plantations were generally inland, and the owners would set up residences here along the coast to keep cool. Many of these buildings have been bought and restored by their current owners.

Some buildings haven't :-(. i actually don't remember Sealtest ice cream, but the rest of my group did. I must be too young!

Once again, the church is spectacular. Unfortunately, we have to take the guide's word for the beauty of the interior. As we walked up to the entrance, we noticed there is no door handle! We can't get in! We found out that there is some construction work going on inside, so they were not allowing visitors that day. Bummer.

The church does sit on a wonderful piece of riverfront property, high on the bluffs of the river that the town was named after.

The end of the tour had us stroll through part of the downtown business district. I loved seeing the old buildings being converted into eclectic little shops. We decided we needed to return here one day for some browsing, just for fun :-).

I did not take any pictures of the inside of the Heyward House, but the docent there was quite interesting and told us a lot about life in the town back then. Even for the rich folks, it wasn't easy and I don't think I would care to go back and live in that time at all. Just the amount of clothing the women wore would have me swooning in the summer heat!

For our last dinner in the Bluffton area, we joined Bill and Denise at the Okatie Ale House. We arrived early, as they said it fills up fast once 5:00 p.m. arrives, and they were right! It's a popular place, and the food was pretty good, so I can see why so many people head over there for dinner. We had dessert back at the house, ( homemade waffles with fresh strawberries and nutella, yum!), and then it was time for our last farewells. We would be leaving for Charleston the next morning. It was wonderful visiting with Bill and Denise, and we want to thank them for showing us the beautiful area they live in. We had a great time, and we will see you again next January!