As Betty & I continue our overlandish odyssey, we capture images along the way – either on our phones or through my Nikon – that help to tell the story of our adventure. But we see far more on our journey than we record, and we post only a fraction of the sights captured. Sometimes, the story tells itself when we download the pictures, and sometimes we need to weave a thread that ties it together. This post is more of the latter, capturing random images from the past week.
We are thankful for the marvels of modern technology that allow us to share our travels with you. As we explore the state of Florida, and travel back up the east coast, Betty & I hope we can continue to transmit images that capture the epic nature of this marvelous adventure.
Readers of this blog may have noticed a number of references to songs that have struck cords with the writers: from Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again”, to Bob Marley’s “We Jammin”, to Glen Campbell’s “By the time I get to Phoenix”, or Marc Cohn’s “Walking In Memphis”, among others. But how is it possible to choose a song about our visit this week to New Orleans? Should it be:
Fats Domino: Walking to New Orleans
Johnny Horton: The Battle of New Orleans
Jimmy Dean: Big John
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Born on the Bayou/ Proud Mary
The Rolling Stones: Brown Sugar
Arlo Guthrie: City of New Orleans
The Animals: House of the Rising Sun
The Tragically Hip: New Orleans is Sinking
Chuck Berry: Johnny B. Goode
Janis Joplin: Me And Bobby McGee
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band: Mr. Bojangles
There are dozens of songs referencing New Orleans, so we’ll leave it to the reader to pick their favourite…
OK, I can’t resist humming a tune from a special singer I saw live, back in the day. During the Festival Express tour in 1970, Janis Joplin belted out:
“Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin’ for a train
And I’s feelin’ near as faded as my jeans
Bobby thumbed a diesel down, just before it rained
It rode us all the way to New Orleans…”
When Betty & I left Ivy’s Cove campground in Russellville, Arkansas, the forecast was for rain all the way into New Orleans, but by the time we reached Texarkana, the drizzle had ended, and it was clear sailing until our stop for the night, an attractive road side rest area south of Alexandria, Louisiana. It was a bright sunny day when we passed Baton Rouge the next morning, so our windshield wipers were not
slappin’ time, but I was holding Betty’s hand in mine, and we sang every song that we both knew. LOL. For the next few days, we camped at the beautiful Buccaneer State Park in Mississippi, just an hour’s drive east of New Orleans.
Betty & I have been to New Orleans twice during Mardi Gras: Once unintentionally with our 4 young children (on our way back from Disney World), and once with Betty’s brother
Jack, and his wife Christine. The focus then was very much on the party atmosphere. But this time we were able to
concentrate more on the unique architecture and lay-out of the French Quarter. The weather was warm, with blue skies
and sunshine as we walked through the French Market, and enjoyed an al fresco meal in one of New Orleans’ special courtyard restaurants. It was a magical visit, and enticed us to want to return again.
“There Betty shared the secrets of my soul
Through all kinds of weather, through everything we done
Yeah, Betty baby kept me from the cold…
And, feelin’ good was easy, Lord, when she sang the blues
You know, feelin’ good was good enough for me
Good enough for me and my Betty eee.”
“I’m the train they call the city of New Orleans I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.”
In our December 9, 2018 post – Dreaming Of A White Christmas – Betty & I postulated that Winnipeg might have snow on December 25. We were not wrong. But how well will we be able to accurately predict the weather for the remainder of our overlandish odyssey? We are now living in a connected world, often able to access the Weather Channel or other on-line forecast as we drive. However, despite all the sophisticated radar models, predictions of upcoming weather still seem to be 50 – 50, so your guess is as good as mine… LOL.
Fortunately when it comes to predictability, the reader might just as well read the December 19, 2017 post – Can’t Wait To Cue Willie – to catch the flavour of our festive Christmas activities. In addition to the school concerts referenced in an earlier
post, Betty & I hosted our family for at least the 30th time at Marigold’s Restaurant, while Andrew hosted the traditional Christmas dinner at his Winnipeg home. Everyone contributed to making a fabulous feast! By the marvels of modern technology, I was able to bring the Queen and her annual Christmas message into Andrew’s dining room before we snapped the Christmas crackers. A great time was had by all!
Back to the subject of this post: It wasn’t quite as cold on Dec. 26/18 as last year, but maybe we were a little more prepared. Our family outfitted us with hand, feet and bum warmers, and we headed into the winter wonderland with a full propane tank to run
our furnace. While fairly well readied, I forgot to consider the need to open my driver’s window at the U.S. border, to hand our passports over to the border officer. The window was frozen shut, so all I could do was smile and wave to the officer. Of course that led to us being pulled over for further inspection, which was relatively quick and painless. Before he left our motorhome, the officer warned us that we were heading into a blizzard, so drive carefully! What adventure would lie ahead?
Because we never know which food items will be accepted or rejected at the border (the officer did make a point of checking our empty fridge and freezer) we planned to stock up and power nap at the new Walmart in Fargo, North Dakota. However, by the time we reached Fargo, the wind and snow had picked up considerably, and we decided to push on rather than shop. Traffic became lighter, and the road became whiter. If not for the fact that the road is straight and flat in that section of the Midwest, we would have had to depart the slippery stuff much sooner. As it was, we were able to reach the Dakota Sioux Casino parking lot, on the border with South Dakota, before calling it quits for the night.
Through most of South Dakota the next day, we had the Interstate to ourselves, with only 3 vehicles passing us southbound, even though I was driving at no more that 45 mph. There were only a handful of hearty travellers heading northbound through the blizzard that day. Usually, the Sioux Falls Flying J is just a quick pit stop for us, but it became our overnight resting place on the night of Dec. 27. (I was about to say that it became our final resting place, but didn’t want to give you the wrong impression. Lol.)
The road was clear by the time we reached Omaha, Nebraska, and we pushed on through Kansas City and Joplin, Missouri to our first actual campsite: Ivys Cove RV Retreat, in the Ozark Mountains just west of Little Rock, Arkansas. Fortunately, as we pulled off the Interstate, we came across a truck wash that did an excellent job of removing all the road slush and grime from both our motorhome and Smart car. I have often had to wash the vehicles myself, with a stack of U.S. quarters (they don’t use loonies or toonies), so was very pleasantly surprised to have a team of 8 men make short work of returning our shines.
Since we had tossed all our freezables inside the motorhome just before we left, this campground has provided the first opportunity to de-winterize (get the antifreeze out of our water lines; fill the fresh water tank; and turn on the hot water heater) unpack, and put things away in their proper spots. As might be expected after driving through a blizzard, one of our levelers began leaking hydraulic fluid when we arrived, and our fridge has stopped working. We are hoping that both involve quick fixes, but the local RV techs are closed until Jan. 2/19, so we might have to hold up here for awhile. It’s a nice enough place and the weather is moderate – not a hint of snow in the forecast – so we’re good to go (or stay…) whither the weather!
Our campsite comes with cable TV, so Betty & I couldn’t resist turning on the Weather Channel. Because we are at the end of one year, about to enter another, the channel featured all the extreme weather events of 2018, with many dire predictions for 2019. If we were still in a “bricks ‘n sticks” home, we’d just have to hunker down until the heavy weather passed. This week we turned the ignition key and kept driving until we left the inclement weather behind. Whether that will be possible on our further adventures, only time will tell. Just like the professional forecasters, we have about a 50-50 chance of an accurate prediction. Let’s hope we all can choose the right half in 2019!
In a sense, we are all venturing into the unknown as we approach a new year. What will 2019 have in store for us? If your plan is to settle into your favorite chair to watch your favorite television programs, then 2019 might hold a little more certainty. But as Betty & I continue our great adventure, it is difficult to anticipate exactly what we will encounter. While we have some ideas about where we wish to go and what we hope to do, there are many uncertainties about getting there – especially with a disinterested navigator like Betty! She has many other interests, but GPS and maps just aren’t her things… LOL.
So I’ll be relying on The Band’s Up On Cripple Creek to get to our first destination:
“… you know where I wanna go? Straight down the Mississippi river, to the Gulf of Mexico To Lake Charles, Louisiana, little Betty girl that I once knew She told me just to come on by, if there’s anything she could do
Up on Cripple Creek she sends me If I spring a leak she mends me I don’t have to speak, she defends me A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one.”
After leaving Manitoba, the Interstates take us straight down through North & South Dakotas, Iowa, Kansas, and Arkansas, before depositing us at Palmetto Island State Park, just east of Lake Charles, Louisiana. While I anticipate our wine rack will be full of “Wally wine” (Walmart Special Reserve: $2.98) by the time we get there, I’m still not sure it will be a drunkard’s dream! LOL.
In any event, Betty & I may usher in the new year at Palmetto Island, or head east to New Orleans, or further east again to Buccaneer State Park in Mississippi. It all depends on which way the wind blows. Our first stop in 2019 might be Meaher State Park on Mobile Bay in Alabama, with our first reservation at Big Lagoon State Park, on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida, from Jan. 7 – 15/19. From there we hope to make our way around the State of Florida, stopping in Orlando for a Disney visit with our kids and grandkids in mid-February, and with our old Winnipeg next door neighbours who are wintering in the area.
Of course, our furthest south destination is Key West, in the Florida Keys, where we hope to take in the attractions before heading up the coast to Cape Canaveral, Daytona Beach, Savannah Georgia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to name a few bucket list stops before beginning our journey home.
Whether your current vision for 2019 is clear or cloudy, Betty & I hope and pray that you can enjoy the full richness of life on planet earth as you venture into the great unknown. Happy New Year!
“Now there’s one thing in the whole wide world I sure do love to see That’s how that little love of mine puts her doughnut in my tea…” LOL
While there are no guarantees in life, Betty & I can be pretty much assured that we will see snow on the ground in Winnipeg this Christmas. Just to be on the safe side, the snow arrived in early November, and we may very well have to brush it off the old Boy and the Smart before heading to Florida on Dec. 26. In fact, the white stuff could remain in southern Manitoba until our planned return in early May. As a contingency, on our return trip we are considering holding up near Betty’s brother in Amherstburg, Ontario, until the snow melts in Manitoba. Amherstburg is outside Ontario’s major snow belt – actually south of Detroit and on a similar latitude as northern California. We should be safe there in our plan to never have to winterize our motorhome again!
Some of you might think, why not just stay in Florida until we know that the white stuff has left Manitoba? As Canadian snowbirds, we are limited to a certain number of days in the U.S., before Uncle Sam comes knocking on our motorhome door. Not only does our calculation need to account for U.S. days in the calendar year, it also must track rolling days. So if we were to spend three months down south at the end of one year, and four months at the beginning of the next, we would be well over our limit and subject to deportation or refusal of entry on future visits. The Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) is holding its hundredth international rally in nearby North Dakota next August, and Betty & I would like to attend. In order to do so, we must find an extra five “U.S. days”, either at the end of this trip south, or the beginning of the next. BTW, if you cross the border at 11:00 pm and return at 1:00 am, that is considered two days, not two hours…
Since this blog was established to keep our kids, grandkids and friends informed of our adventures, there have been no posts for over a month – the longest period since we began. Of course that is because we are not on the road, and haven’t been taking pictures of our familiar surroundings in snowy Manitoba. We get to see our family in person and don’t need to share pictures from a distance. Yeah! But as we visit friends and talk to more distant relatives, they wonder if some kind of update could be added. Ok, here’s a very brief update, with possibly another before we go south.
Well, it has been a very busy time, with check-ins and checkups. Betty and I have been having some great visits with family and friends, noticing how the aging process affects the very young and old alike! The old Boy was delivered to Stylings RV in Lockport, Manitoba for maintenance and upgrades. The Smart spent a week at the Mercedes Benz dealership addressing issues related to our fuel pump failure on Cape Cod, and I was forced to drive a new Mercedes for the week. LOL. Betty & I have both visited our dentist, and I got a medical checkup. Betty has been catching up on her yoga practice with our daughters – one of whom is a yoga instructor, so that helps! Charlie got his meds renewed by our vet, and we’ve shopped on-line and in person for whatever we’ll need on our upcoming trip.
The Christmas season is a great time to spend with family and friends, and Betty & I are blessed with the many relationships developed over the years. We wish all our friends and family best wishes and God’s blessings for a happy Christmas and a merry New Year! And yes, we appreciate the white Christmas where we join with others in singing “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”. But as we contemplate the next phase of our overlandish odyssey, Betty & I are also saying: “Lets go, lets go, lets go!” LOL
While we might still be considered newbies in a number of ways, with much more to learn on our overlandish odyssey, Betty & I have come to a few realizations during our first year of travel as full-time RVers. These learnings are specific to our situation, but some aspects may be generalized for others. That is the purpose of this post.
Bigger is not necessarily better: As we prepared to sell our “bricks & sticks” home and move into a motorhome, we thought of all the “stuff” we had accumulated over the years, and all the “stuff” we would need to take with us
on our journey. My conclusion – not that of my wife, LOL – was that we needed a 45’ tag axle diesel pusher to get us down the road. My preference was a 12 – 15 year old Prevost H3-45, because of the huge available basement space. While I still look longingly at any Prevost that passes us by, I now realize that would have been the wrong choice for us.
Our 2005 Georgie Boy CruiseMaster was already paid off before we sold our home, so rather than putting our money into a depreciating asset (more on that later), Betty & I chose to invest in keeping our Boy roadworthy, while adding a few up-to-date bells and whistles.
When our 4 kids grew up and moved out, we downsized our home and rented heated and unheated storage lockers for the first year. At that point we realized we had never visited the storage lockers and could therefore easily live without that stuff. So we got rid of the lockers and their contents. The first few posts to this blog describe the agonizing decisions involved in decluttering as we downsized from a home to a motorhome. It can be a tough process, but very rewarding and liberating in the end!
At first, we crammed in whatever we thought we would need for our 5 year adventure. But after our first winter, we realized that we were carrying around more stuff than we were likely to use on the next leg of our journey. We have learned, confirmed by a number of other full-timers, that renting storage lockers is a waste of money, despite the fact they are everywhere we go on our travels! Our reality is that we are cheating a little bit by still keeping a bunch of “stuff” in the corner of our son’s basement. But we are committed to going through all that next summer, and deciding on a better home for those former treasures. BTW, Betty & I realize that the heartbreaking exercise of getting rid of our worldly possessions gets passed on to our children when we die, so if we can help dispose of a few things now, it lifts the burden for them later: a worthwhile exercise!
Ok, now out of the morbid and into the living! Betty & I have learned that we prefer national, state and provincial parks for our back-to-nature camping experience. While they don’t necessarily offer all the amenities of a private paved or gravel parking lot (water, sewer and 50 amp electrical on every site, with no trees to obstruct your slide-outs), they usually provide much larger campsites surrounded by some gorgeous scenery. One need only scroll back to some of our previous
posts to see what we’re talking about. Many parks are nestled in forests, precariously close to rugged cliffs, or near the sound of crashing waves. They cannot accommodate 45’ diesel pushers, and knocking down the trees and leveling the rugged terrain would take away from the natural beauty of these spots. In many parks, 35’ is the maximum permitted length, so those beautiful parks are not an option for a longer rig.
Larger RVs also cannot be accommodated in many scenic road-side pull offs. For instance, we drove the Cabot Trail (Aug. 16/18 post: The Majestic Cabot Trail) in our Smart car, stopping to take a closer look at amazing views along the way. Since motorhomes would not fit in most of these scenic look-outs, drivers and their passengers were forced to sail by and miss out on their trip’s raison d’être.
Also, the bigger the RV, the more it weighs and the more gas required to move it down the road. Ferries usually charge by the foot after a certain length, and some smaller ferries have a limit to the size of RV they can accommodate. Toll roads often charge by the number of axles on a vehicle, and some parking lots and rest areas simply don’t have room for larger vehicles. While the cost of gas, tolls etc. may not be prohibitive for short trips, it can add up substantially over time, taking away funds that could be better spent elsewhere.
The more Betty & I travel, the more we realize that we can live without a lot of extra baggage. Our focus these days is more on what we can get rid of, rather than what we can accumulate. Living in a smaller RV, we can ignore all the TV and magazine ads enticing us to buy a bigger this or that. When we realize we can be content with less, we are liberated from carrying lots of stuff in a larger motorhome. For us, bigger is definitely not better!
2. We Should Slow Down! In mapping out our 5 year travel plan to visit 48 states and 10 provinces, I thought I was being conservative in limiting travel days to 3 ½ – 4 hours: breaking camp between 10:30 – 11:00 am, stopping for lunch between noon and 1:30 pm, and setting up at our new location between 3:30 – 4:00 pm. That part of the schedule has worked out quite well in our first year. However, we have already visited more than half the states and provinces, because often I only allowed one or two days for each stop. That meant that we were usually more focused on grocery shopping and getting ready to leave, than on enjoying the surroundings at our campground.
We learned that this overlandish odyssey is not a race, and we should slow down and smell the roses a little more along the way. Why do we need to get up and move so often? Unless there is a hurricane or tornado coming in, we hope to spend a little more time at some of the nicer locations we unexpectedly encounter. As an example, we only intended to spend 5 days on Prince Edward Island, but after we got there and fell in love with the laid back beauty, we spent at least 2 weeks enjoying just a fraction of what the island has to offer. In future, we hope to return to places like that and spend longer periods soaking up the ambiance and scenery.
3. We Can Stay Off The Grid More. While we currently have a glitch with our inverter/charger, we have found the addition of solar power to our motorhome to be very liberating. In addition to the aforementioned national, state, and provincial parks that don’t always have electrical posts at each site, we have accessed many other overnight spots without shore
power. Earlier posts note stays in Walmart and Cracker Barrel parking lots, and wonderful visits through Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Host. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campsites are a great find, as are the many free camping web sites listed on the Internet. Almost none of them offer shore power, but if you have solar panels, it is possible to dry camp for free or cheap across the continent.
Some camp spots allow generators, and we have used ours from time to time, but there is nothing better than quietly sitting outside in nature, knowing that you are not disturbing your neighbours, near or far. The initial cost of a solar system may be high, but Betty & I believe it pays for itself by reducing campground fees, while liberating us to consider other camping options.
Related to this, and tied to the point above about slowing down: We have found it better not to make reservations all along our route. If we do, we feel obligated to move along in order to prevent a cancellation fee. Reservations constrain us from staying longer at beautiful spots we unexpectedly encounter.
Having said that, there are times when we have a particular event or place on our bucket list, and the only way to ensure a campsite is to make a reservation. For example, some of our kids and grandkids are meeting us in Florida in February for a Disney visit. Their vacation schedule is fixed, so our campground reservations are required to ensure we can enjoy the time together.
One of the most unique spots in North America to dry camp is Quartzsite, Arizona. We spent 2 weeks there last winter (see March 24/18: Quartzsite & Controlling The Sun, & March 27/18: A Desert Oasis) for a total of $40. That allowed us to camp anywhere on BLM land, fill up with fresh water as required, and use their dump station. We learned from others at Quartzsite that it is possible to save considerably on accommodation costs and apply those funds for other uses. Next winter we are thinking of spending more time there, in order to explore a variety of other options.
4. A New RV Is Not Necessarily A Better RV: For years advertisers have promoted almost everything as “new and improved”. We have learned that, when it comes to RVs, new is not necessarily improved. For one thing, as earlier mentioned, motorhomes are a depreciating asset.
While I would love to be in a position to own a brand new Prevost bus conversion by Marathon, the average cost is around $1,700,000 plus or minus a few hundred thousand. It becomes used and depreciates as soon as you drive it off the lot, losing about $100,000 in value for each of its first 10 years. That’s a million dollars in depreciation! If you can afford that, good for you! After that, it drops in value by only about $75,000/year, and levels off at around $50,000/year after 13 – 15 years. These coaches are extremely well made and designed to carry large passenger loads safely over long distances. They are a much more sturdy construction than fiberglass motorhomes built for 2 people, and like many high end vehicles, they don’t change appearance every year. Unless one is very familiar with model nuances, it is difficult to guess a 1998 model from a 2008, or even a 2018 for that matter. They are built well, and built to last, but cost a lot to repair, if you can find a shop that will do it.
High end fiberglass motorhomes, selling for say $600,000, also depreciate significantly when driven off the lot, losing as much as $100,000/year in value for the first few years. At the same time, warrantees are often limited to only a year or two, and many motorhome dealers will not service your rig if you bought it somewhere else. That is a real problem if you are travelling the continent.
In touring the manufacturing plants of Elkhart, Indiana we learned, as have many others, that most motorhomes are cranked out as fast as possible on assembly lines that have little or no focus on quality control. That is an unbelievable statement when one is considering investing six figures in a vehicle, either as a home or for pleasure! When I mentioned during a tour that the black tank rinse valve has never worked in our rig since new, I was told that it was likely installed backwards, as both ends look similar. Who is checking to see that installed items really work?
For me, listening to promotional advertising that says “New for this year is…” should be a red flag. What it means is that item either didn’t work last year, and they are trying to fix it, or they are incorporating something that isn’t tried and true. The old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies here. Changing the shape of the headlights, just for the sake of change, means that you will have difficulty sourcing those headlights two years from now, when you need replacements.
Betty & I learned that it takes a couple of years to work all the bugs out of a new motorhome. (BTW, we did buy our Boy new, and drove it to Alaska in our first year. LOL). One of our RV plant tour guides told us that it is best not to go too far afield in the first year, because there are going to be a lot of big and little adjustments required. A number of the motorhome magazines we receive have recall pages that list dozens of reasons why new and used RVs need to go back for servicing.
5. Smaller RV Service Centres Often Provide Better Service: As noted in previous posts, all motorhomes need regular service, either for maintenance or emergency repairs. (see April 17/18: Sweetness & Light;July 5/18: Heidi RV Rocks/ Hitch House not so much…;Sept. 22/18: Disillusioned With Camping World, Inspired by Major’s RV, and Sept. 26: Oh, oh!) I won’t repeat all that now, and encourage the reader to check these posts. Suffice to say that, while Camping World in the U.S. was our go-to destination for repairs over the past decade, we have learned that smaller independent RV service centres can and do provide better service. We still haven’t learned how best to differentiate the good from the bad (not all web sites can be believed…), but over time we hope to establish a list of trustworthy repair shops that can keep us going down the road. In the meantime, word of mouth from other RVers and campground hosts can be most helpful.
6. Some Routines Are Helpful, As We Get Older (LOL): Betty & I have developed a number of habits over the past year. Most of them are quite helpful! We have learned that it is good to prepare to leave a campsite in a certain order (make sure our power steps are up before the levelers come up, for instance), and to set up camp in a certain order (put the levelers down before extending the slide-outs, for instance). While travelling, we also routinely listen to audio books to make the time pass, and map out possible rest stops along the way. We learned early –from our parents- that it is good to have a place for everything, and to put everything back in its place. While our home on wheels may be small, it’s surprising how much time we can spend looking for something that was stored in a different location. I won’t bore you with our other routines – suffice to say that memory isn’t always what it used to be – so following patterns can prevent mishaps.
7. We Learned We Still Enjoy Each Other’s Company: Whether or not this learning is generalizable, Betty & I have found that we love to share these adventures together! We have met folks along the way who have lost their spouses. And while they continue to soldier on, it just seems way more lonely to watch that magnificent sunset by yourself, rather than together with someone you love and care about. We both have hobbies and times that allow us to be alone, but this overlandish odyssey has created a series of great memories (so far, LOL) together: A great bonding experience!
Well, I’m sure we’ve learned more than seven things in the past year of full-timing, but maybe that’s enough for now. I am far beyond the 600 words targeted for these posts, but far short of the book that could be written about our jaunting journey –even if we are only one year in… So we’ll sign off with these words of encouragement: There are wonderful, interesting people all across our continent, and it is fun to connect and reconnect with them. If you are one of those we’ve met during our adventures, thanks for taking the time to talk with us and share your learnings. Best wishes on your future travels!
It is now November 2, 2018, and Betty & I are celebrating. We began this blog one year ago this month, so this is our first anniversary. Yeah! We have visited 24 states and 5 other provinces since starting our overlandish odyssey, with more than a few oh, oh’s along the way. What a fabulous adventure it has been! But more than that, today is our 44th wedding anniversary, so Betty & I have shared a much longer journey on a road that has sometimes been smooth, and sometimes not so much…
Now we are back in Winnipeg, the home of our four grown children and three grandchildren. Our first few days have been spent at the Town & Country campground, unloading and preparing our motorhome for a check up at Stylings RV in Lockport, Manitoba. It’s a bit of a shock to our systems to see all the trees devoid of leaves, when they were lush and green only a few days ago! We have already had dinner one night with Valerie, Kevin, Isabella & Georgia; dinner another night with Lisa & Adam; and dinner and Halloween another night with Andrew & James. Now we are just waiting for our fourth – Luke – to invite us for dinner. Hint, hint. LOL.
Our to-do lists are quite long as we prepare to leave after Christmas on the next leg of our adventure. Today we saw our first snowfall in a long time, so in some ways Florida can’t come soon enough. Andrew & James have just come back from work & school, so there’ll be lots to keep us busy for the next while. Our lives are full.
While we don’t know what we’ll find on the road ahead, Betty & I are happy to share another anniversary, and to share stories of our ongoing adventure, with all its ups and downs. Pray that – for you and for us – every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places on our paths made plain.
For years, Betty & I have been reading ads in the Winnipeg Free Press for bus tours to Branson, Missouri, which bills itself as the “Live Music Entertainment Capitol of the World”. No hyperbole here…LOL. Since this southwestern Missouri city was more-or-less on our route home from Memphis, we thought we’d make it the 4th and last stop on our musical ride.
Most of our travel time was through the cotton fields of Arkansas and the Ozark Mountains that surround Branson. At $24./night for a full service campsite, we booked into site 124 at nearby Table Rock State Park, with the intent of cleaning
and preparing our motorhome for a brief storage period back in Manitoba. Being at Branson for 4 days, we thought we’d also check out a few of the many attractions listed, and maybe catch one of those live shows.
Truth be told, we found Branson to be a major disappointment, although maybe we didn’t give it a full chance to impress. It turned out that Elvis Presley himself was not at Presley’s Jubilee. Apparently he had already left the building! While Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and many other music legends were also being promoted, it appeared that none of them were there in person! What a let down!! LOL
The Branson entertainment guide had a picture of Michael Jackson on the cover, and you could get up close and personal with him, Taylor Swift, Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, and others – or at least wax images of them – at the Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center: “One of the biggest attractions in Branson”. Everywhere we looked we saw imitations of this, tributes to that, copies of something else, including, for some reason, a replica of the Titanic hitting an iceberg on Route 76, their main drag. What’s that about? We didn’t check it out…
It may very well be that Betty & I are too harsh on Branson. It rained quite a bit during our visit, and we were more focused on the road home, rather than the musical ride. Will we ever go back to the “Live Music Entertainment Capitol of the World”? Maybe, or maybe we’ll just go to an imitation of Branson next year, in a place out west called Las Vegas, Nevada. LOL.
For the last few days, Marc Cohn’s song “Walking In Memphis” has echoed in my head wherever Betty & I have travelled in Memphis, Tennessee. (I guess the fact that it echoed suggests my noggin is otherwise hollow, but that’s another story. LOL) The autobiographical song recounts Cohn’s spiritual experience of walking in a city steeped in music history. And this week we joined him on that walk.
On a previous visit with our kids (Ok, they’re not kids anymore, so it was a while ago…) Betty & I visited Elvis’ Jungle Room in Graceland, and stood by his tomb with security guards near by. We have now toured a number of recording studios, so chose to forego a visit to Sun Records on Union Avenue, where Presley laid down a lot of vinyl. When planning this trip last year, I
was reminded that we had stopped at a restaurant on Beale Street for the best bbq ribs ever, so that was a point of interest not to be missed. The taste alone put our feet 10 feet off of Beale, as we passed the statue of the father of the blues, W.C. Handy, at Handy Park.
While not part of our musical journey, Betty & I wanted to pay homage to the great Martin Luther King, who was assassinated in 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The motel has now been converted into a National Civil Rights Museum, and our extended visit there was a powerfully moving experience.
The next day –Sunday – combined our experience at the Civil Rights Museum with our musical ride and Cohn’s song. While we didn’t hear a sermon from singer/songwriter/ producer Rev. Al Green, Betty & I did attend “Memphis’ First Congregation of Color” – Collins Chapel, founded in 1841. Just as Cohn experienced, this was a tremendously moving experience,
with the black choir swaying together and clapping in unison as they sang gospel songs. (There was one white woman in the choir who didn’t ever seem to get the rhythm, but she was introduced later as a visitor from Minnesota. LOL)
Guest preacher, Dr. Clifford L. Harris of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, challenged the congregation to live in the eye of the hurricane, as the storm raged around them. Without directly referring to the current administration, he encouraged parishioners to get out and vote, reminding listeners of the day’s responsive reading “… O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” “For we must never forget that the only thing evil needs to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”
In recounting how he came to write the song, Cohn tells of his inspirational encounter at the Hollywood cafe, just south of Memphis, with singer Muriel Wilkins. He was asked to perform on stage with her, and didn’t know the words to many of the songs. But as a finale they sang “Amazing Grace” together and, even though Cohn is Jewish, he felt the spiritual connection with Christianity that night.
Our visit to Memphis has shown Betty & me the worst and best of the human experience, from the assassination of MLK and the lynchings of blacks and their supporters during civil rights marches, to the inspiring and uplifting music that encourages us all to love and care for one another.
Put on my blue suede shoes And I boarded the plane Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues In the middle of the pouring rain
W.C. Handy, won’t you look down over me Yeah, I got a first class ticket But I’m as blue as a boy can be.
Then I’m walking in Memphis Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale Walking in Memphis But do I really feel the way I feel?
Saw the ghost of Elvis On Union Avenue Followed him up to the gates of Graceland Then I watched him walk right through Now security they did not see him They just hovered ’round his tomb But there’s a pretty little thing Waiting for the King Down in the Jungle Room.
When I was walking in Memphis I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale Walking in Memphis But do I really feel the way I feel?
They’ve got catfish on the table They’ve got gospel in the air And Reverend Green be glad to see you When you haven’t got a prayer But, boy, you’ve got a prayer in Memphis.
Now Muriel plays piano Every Friday at the Hollywood And they brought me down to see her And they asked me if I would Do a little number And I sang with all my might She said “Tell me are you a Christian child?” And I said “Ma’am, I am tonight”.
Walking in Memphis (Walking in Memphis) Was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale Walking in Memphis (Walking in Memphis) But do I really feel the way I feel?
Walking in Memphis (Walking in Memphis) I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale Walking in Memphis (Walking in Memphis) But do I really feel the way I feel?
Put on my blue suede shoes And I boarded the plane Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues In the middle of the pouring rain Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues In the middle of the pouring rain.