Saturday, April 29, 2017 – Went to a Benefit Auction

Had a great night sleep last night (though Hubby’s wasn’t as great for some reason, unusual for him), then a leisurely breakfast, until finally, after Hubby’s soccer game that he likes to watch on Saturdays, we headed out to the benefit event. Many of our camp neighbors had left already, which was unusual on a Saturday, but this seems to be a big day riding area, as a lot of trailers came in during the morning as well. Anyway, we found the benefit with no problem. We spent the first half hour or so just looking at the hundreds of items they had to auction off, including a lot of saddles and horse stuff. If I was looking for a saddle, this would have been the place! Brand new English saddles were going for $40, a number of cordura type western saddles for nearly the same. At the end of the auction, they even sold off a highly ornamented Circle Y saddle for $350! I was tempted to bid on it, just because it was a Circle Y saddle (they usually go for upwards of 2K), but I just didn’t want to buy more stuff we’d have to get rid of again later, we’re trying to pare down to the minimum as it is. We did buy a few things we needed, at rock bottom prices, so we didn’t mind the $10 pp cover charge we paid when we first got there. Besides, it was a benefit, after all! They were also serving lunch, but we only took a bottle of water, a couple pieces of cake, and when we were leaving (MUCH later than we had anticipated) a plateful of delicious smoked pork for the road. It was nearly 6:30 when we got back to camp, I was starting to get worried because we had been away so long, but everything was perfectly fine when we got back. Made dinner fast, while Hubby helped our neighbor borrow our compressor to pump up the air bag suspension in her RV, which apparently had leaked out, even though they had just been installed last week. Finally settled down for a nice quiet rest of the evening.

Thursday, April 27, 2017 – Run Out to Post Office, Visit with Neighbors

Well, the rain started coming in during the middle of the night, but no where near as bad as we thought. The radar showed a really heavy squall line before we went to bed, so we decided to put the horses in the trailer overnight, just to be on the safe side from lightning, but as it turned out, it wasn’t that bad, mostly just rain, not much wind, but just enough lightning to make us glad we put the horses in the trailer. Had a terrible night sleep, though, lots on my mind, so a lot of tossing and turning until I got up and went into the living room so I wouldn’t disturb Hubby too much. Finally started to feel sleepy, so I crawled into Lola’s big dog bed, covered myself up in her blanket, and drifted off. Woke up around 6:30 and went back into the bedroom, to find Lola had managed to slink up on to my side of the bed, so I had to quietly get her off before I could get in bed for another hour of sleep. Not a great night sleep, obviously, but enough to make it through the day. I had received a book order yesterday, so my first order of business was to package up a book, and after breakfast I took it to the nearest post office, which was about 11 miles away. Usually I just drop them off on the way to our next stop, but since the plan is to stay here for more than a week, I didn’t want anyone to have to wait that long. When I got back, I spent some time chatting with the neighbors (Larry and Marla and Debbie and Greg), and eventually Larry wanted to see the book, and he ended up buying one, too. Had a nice chat, though, and learned more about the trails (like it was rocky enough to require boots) and generally felt like I had made new friends today. Closed out the day sitting with Hubby in our lounge chairs until it was time for chores and dinner. By now I was really dragging from lack of sleep. I’m looking forward to a better night sleep tonight, and a good ride tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 – More Relaxing Travel Day to Owl Creek

Up with the alarm, packed up expeditiously, and were on the road just after 8:00 this morning. First stop was a nice little post office to ship out a book order that had come in yesterday, then Tractor Supply for propane and horse feed, then Murphy for gas, Burger King for breakfast, a rest area to dump (one of the stupidest setups we've ever seen! A grate over the dump hole so you couldn't put the sewer hose in the hole, a strange flush system you press with your foot, and NO WAY to turn on the hose to rinse any spillover and flushing out the tanks! Crazy!), then finally, the Walmart in Cullman where I had ordered a tire to replace one starting to wear on the RV. If it goes, it will take out another section of the RV panel, which we had replaced a couple of years ago from the last time we had a blowout, trying to avoid that again. Evidently, this is the month we have to replace all tires! This is the fourth tire we've had to buy in the last two weeks, ouch! But that's one of the expenses you have to expect when you're on the road! We still made good time, and were in Owl Creek Horse Camp in the Bankhead NF just after 2:00. We took our time getting setup, and by 4:00 we were relaxing in our lounge chairs with a beer (which I heard from our only neighbors is a no-no here, would you believe!) There were a couple of folks that were in the process of packing up when we got here, and left only two other rigs on the far end of the camp, and they were camping together. I had called the office yesterday to try to find out about the water, and they didn't return my call, so I tried again today, and was told that MAYBE there was a spigot with a connection, but not sure. Then she called back and said there was a screw on connection on the spigot just by the iron ranger, so we didn't bother to fill up at Walmart before heading out to the camp. Of course, it turned out that information was wrong, the spigot by the iron ranger did NOT have a hose connection ability, nor did the one by the vault toilet, but fortunately, the one at the back of the loop did, so I moved the RV over there to fill it up. The bad news is, it's one of these stupid spigots you have to hold down in order to keep it going, and when you do, a great tail spray comes out of the top of it, making it almost impossible to not get wet! Grrr! What a waste of water. Well, not being one to stand around holding down a spigot handle, I rigged up a heavy block to hold the handle down, then went and chatted with our neighbors who were right across from this spigot, and learned a few things about the place. It took quite a while to fill up, and then I filled up the horse tank in the back of the truck as well, just in case. Meanwhile, Hubby had taken the horses out of the trailer and hung them on the highline, which already had a cable and rings across it (not my favorite type, but will do in a pinch) and scouted for the best place for his satellite dish. After our first beer and a few minutes of recovery, we put up the portable corral around the highline area and let the horses off the much on the grass and weeds that were abundant around here. I went and talked to the neighbors again to find out about the condition of the trails to see if we needed to put boots on them, and they indicated it would be a good idea, as there was a number of places on the trail with sharp gravel. Afterward I came back to camp put out all the buckets and Lola's pool again, because I knew there was rain in the forecast overnight, and wanted to catch whatever we could. Finally, we settled down for dinner and a nice quiet evening.

Sunday, April 23, 2017 – Rainy Rest Day

Well, it rained all night! Every bucket and pool I put around is overflowing, so a water shortage is not an issue. It also got much cooler, too cool and wet, in fact, to make a ride very enjoyable, so we decided to take yet another day off resting and watching movies. Calling for clearing skies and back in the 70’s tomorrow, so that’s the new plan!

Saturday, April 22, 2017- Another Rest Day

We had heard from Ryan that this was the last weekend of turkey season, and had fully expected more campers to join us last night, which they didn’t, and to hear gunfire this morning, which we also didn’t. I only heard a vehicle or two pass by all day, and some ATVer’s in the late afternoon, but otherwise it’s been nice a quiet again today. If it was quiet today, we originally had hoped to take a short ride this afternoon, but for some reason, we were both still achey and feeling tired, so we decided to relax for another day. As I was feeding the horses their dinner, it started to sprinkle a bit (there was about a 70% chance of rain in the forecast for overnight), so I put out every bucket we had, as well as Lola’s little pool, strategically placed to catch every drop of rain that ran off the awning and gutters. It’s not that we have a shortage of water, but we always try to conserve whenever we can, and it took a long time to fill up the 100 gallon tank in the truck, so any time we can save on the next fill-up is appreciated. Since this place has no water supply, it’s just a prudent thing to do anyway. By dark, the rain had started coming down pretty good, and the 70% chance turned into 100% and lasted for hours. It was still raining when we headed off the bed! Another relaxing day, hoping it clears up enough for a short exploratory ride tomorrow!

Friday, April 21, 2017 – Rest Day at Maddox Hunt Camp

Yesterday was such a tough day, we were both exhausted when we got up this morning, so we spent the day resting and relaxing. I did manage to put the brand new spare tire back in the horse trailer, and get out Lola’s GoDogGo ball fetch machine, but other than reading while Lola played, and watching movies, it was a very easy and much needed restful day. Our only neighbor Ryan left in the morning, so now we have the place entirely to ourselves! Love the peace and quiet!

Thursday, April 20, 2017 – Another Long, Hard Travel Day, Another Flat Tire

After what seemed like a pretty short night's sleep, we finally crawled out of bed with the third snooze of the alarm, and started our final packing, skipping breakfast today because we have a 5+ hour drive, plus several stops along the way, so we knew it would be a long day. We managed to get out of camp around 8:45, a little later than I hoped but that was partly due to the fact that we stopped at the Hunt camp up the road, where there was a water spigot, to fill up the horse trailer tank and the new big tank on the pickup, so at least we wouldn't have to worry about that later. While we were there, a large horse trailer came in with two guys, apparently they lead rides out through the forest on occasion. Nice work when you can get it! Anyway, our next stop was to grab breakfast at Burger King, then we pulled into a rest area in Alabama where Sani-dumps had said there was a free RV dump, but couldn't find it, so we moved on. The next stop was Walmart in Dothan to get fuel, because their diesel price was a good forty cents a gallon cheaper than anything we'd seen in Florida, and at least fifteen cents cheaper than any other gas station we'd see in Alabama. We also did most of our shopping, to get that out of the way, though I did it alone while Hubby filled up the van. We did find another RV dump at a Kangaroo Station, which, when I called on the way, a woman told me she thought it was closed for repairs, but that we MIGHT be able to still use it, so we stopped and dumped there. I don't know what kind of maintenance they were doing, it didn't look like it had been touched for years! No water to flush, but at least we were empty. Just after passing through Troy, Hubby called me on the walkie-talkie to tell me someone was flagging him over, that he had a problem, so we pulled off onto a side street and discovered one of the tires on the horse trailer has shredded, dang it. Well, we pulled enough stuff out of the tack room to get at the spare tire, only to discover it was flat, with a plug in the sidewall that we must have put there in desperation at some point. Can't remember when it happened (though I'll look back in my diary later to see how long we've been ignoring the problem), but obviously we uncharacteristically forgot about it somehow, and now we were stuck. The man who had flagged us over stopped, and so did another man, to see if they could help. I LOVE THE SOUTH! They haven't forgotten how to be good Samaritans, or how to spread that Southern hospitality. One man took the spare to his house across the street and filled it with air, just to see if it was usable, but it was leaking way to much. While he was on the phone calling his local tire connections (who didn't have the tires to fit), I called the Walmart in Troy, and sure enough, they had three tires that size, so I loaded up both wheels and headed back through town. I had to pass through a construction area where the road narrowed to one lane, and as I got closer, I was next to a mobile home. I was just about to slow down to get behind it, when a woman two cars in front of it slowed down and waved me to come in front of her! I LOVE THE SOUTH! I know this happens in other regions, too, but this kind of kindness just seems to be more prevalent down here. Thank you!! After all the craziness of driving in Malaysia, this was like a huge breath of fresh air. Anyway, I got to the Walmart, and was told it would take about an hour, so I made a quick lunch for us and waited. Jeff, bless his heart, hurried the job along, and I was out of there in less than an hour, so it wasn't long before I got the tires back to Hubby, and on the trailer, and on the road, saving the spare to put back later. Off we went, with just one other stop at another Walmart in Clanton to finally pick up water in the RV. I don't like to carry too much water long distances in the RV, it's hard on the tires and harder to drive, with the weight sloshing around inside. On this last leg up I-65, the temperatures outside were in the low 90's and we were doing some climbing, and the van started overheating as well, so while we were getting water, Hubby got some more coolant put in, and rinsed the dust off the radiator. As he always follows me, on these dirt roads he tends to get everything very dusty, so both things, plus the stop, brought his temps back to normal. Finally, we were off on the final leg of the journey. Despite gaining an hour by moving into Central time, we still didn't arrive at camp until after 5:00. That last four miles was a fairly narrow dirt road, passable but with lots of potholes, and not many places for passing traffic, so we were glad we didn't run into anyone. When we finally arrived at camp, we were surprised to find another guy in a van already here! I introduced myself to him (and he courteously started calling me Miss Jeanette, as they do here in the South!), and he told me his name was Ryan and that he had been here for two days. He offered to help us set up, but of course, we have our process so we said thank you, no. I put the horses on anchors, as there hadn't been any mowing done in the campground, and though it was mostly weeds, I figured they could help trample it down a bit. We opted to use the fence today, though there are plenty of trees for a highline if we wanted, got everything parked and opened up, and even managed get a satellite signal going before we finally crashed with a beer just after sunset. I even discovered that there is a good enough cell phone signal to use my internet out here in the boondocks! Yeah! ..... Whew! What a day! Watched a movie before falling into bed, thoroughly exhausted, but happy with our new, very quiet and remote home!

Tuesday, April. 18, 2017 – New Tire

As we lay in bed last night, I heard some music and chatter in the distance, so I guess the pier is a neighborhood hangout. It didn't bother me until there was a major argument, with one woman caterwauling and screaming in an overly-dramatic way to some effect. Eventually that moved along and blessed sleep arrived. Was up early, with a beautiful sunrise just over the lake, and started the day by finding a tire at a nearby Goodyear store. The woman ranger I met yesterday at the office stopped by to chat and take pictures of the horses to post on the park's Facebook page, though I couldn't find which one when I went looking. After breakfast I made the drive to the tire store, and they whipped a new tire on my rim in no time. Stopped at Publix for a couple of things, and drove by the Pilot to see where the dump was, in case we decided to pay the $5 for the privilege. We used to always get our gas there when the dump was free, now almost never, because their diesel prices are so much higher than other stations these days. Anyway, later I found a free dump right on our route just on the other side of the Alabama border, so that's our new plan. Free is always better, in my book! We had a pretty relaxing day today, which we needed, decided not to put the tire on yet, maybe tomorrow or when we're pulling out on Thursday. Got the ride all planned out for tomorrow, though, so that's done. Almost got up enough energy to pull out my fishing pole, but then fell asleep while I was reading, so not this time! A very nice quiet day, very peaceful here, though when the wind is just so, you can hear the road traffic, and of course, there are occasional motorboats passing by. The horses got in lots of naps, too, with Apollo really stretching out, and Mama Clio watching over him as if he were a newborn instead of 20 years old! A beautiful day!

Monday, April 17, 2017 – Long, Tough Drive Day to Lake Talquin, with Flat Tire Stop

All the best laid plans, of course. We were up and out of the campground before 9:00, with only a few stops and a four hour drive, but, of course, stuff happens. About two hours into the drive, on I-75, we had our last original tire on the RV lose it's tread, and unfortunately, it badly bent the panel of the RV by the wheel well. It's not the greatest design, the wheel wells on this Open Range, as any time a tire blows, it takes out the lower panel as well. At least it's a separate panel and not the entire side of the RV, but it's an awkward shape. Last time we wanted to repair it on the other side when the same thing happened, the cost of shipping was going to be almost twice as much as the actual cost of the panel! We ended up ordering it and making arrangements to go to the manufacturer in Indiana to just put it on for us to keep the costs down. Well, we were headed that way anyway that year, so it didn't matter. This year may be different, we'll see. Anyway, we pulled of onto the shoulder and got busy changing out the tire, and were back on the road in about 20 minutes. Our next stop was supposed to be an RV dump, but we could never find it, but we picked up lunch at Wendy's while we were stopped. Our next stop was at a little Walmart near Lake Talquin, just west of Tallahassee, and a gas station nearby that was very difficult to maneuver around in. Finally, we went to the ranger station to check in and discovered the place where I had intended to spend the night was just a day parking area, and that the horse camping area was further back into the woods, which was fine, though the ranger said it might be hard to maneuver our big unit around back there, which gave me pause. The clincher was that it was a group site, and in spite of the fact that we weren't a group, we would have to pay the group rate of $20 a night. Well, I don't mind paying $20 if there are some amenities there, but this had nothing! Well, it did have corrals, apparently, but no water or anything. We considered staying for one night, but it seemed like a lot of work to get into a small site for just one night. Finally, we all agreed the best course of action was to go to the High Bluff Campground on the north side of the lake (which I had been wanting to check out anyway, because it's pretty close to I-10), which wasn't technically a horse camp, but they did allow horses to stay. Again, no water, but it had designated sites, a vault toilet and a nice fishing pier. I wasn't worried about water so much, we filled our new 100 gallon tank in the back of the pickup before we left brother Jeff's, so we should be good for a week of use on that, and Hubby had been filling up the RV at the ranger station while all these discussions were taking place, so we were good to go. We drove around the lake, through a rather dubious neighborhood with multiple speed bumps (my heart went out to a puppy on a leash that was being beaten by a black boy for no apparent reason while his two friends looked on), until we finally reached the wide dirt road that was the edge of the forest. A couple of miles later we reached the lake and the campground. Maneuvering was still a challenge among the many beautiful trees, but we managed to slip into a site with our picture window overlooking the lake, framing a gorgeous view. At High Bluff, there's an iron ranger so we didn't have to pay at the office, and it's only $10/night, which is more reasonable for a more primitive site. By the time we got set up, we were exhausted! We opted for the electric fence today, as there weren't really any trees for a perfect highline, and there was some grass, though we could have made a highline work if we had to. I took a walk with the dogs down to the pier, and saw a gator floating nearby. At first I thought it was a gator, but then it didn't move for a long time so I thought maybe it was a log after all, but when I got to the end of the pier and looked again, it had turned 90 degrees to face me, so then I knew for sure! I made sure Lola didn't stay in the water for very long! Finally settled down for the evening, no satellite signal here, but we have lots of stuff recorded. Weren't long out of bed though, it's been a tiring day!

Sunday, April 16, 2017 – Easter Sunday

Once again, Easter has rolled around. It seems impossible that this is the 8th Easter we’ve seen on the road with our horses! It’s been a great time, with no sign of letting up! We spent much of the day doing chores and packing up, with laundry at the top of the list, it was a beautiful day to hang clothes on the line. With several relaxing breaks in between, we managed to get everything packed up so that our departure in the morning should go quickly, before settling in for the evening.