Musical Ride – Muscle Shoals, Alabama Stop

Our campsite (#16) at the Colbert County Alloys RV Park in Muscle Shoals. It cost $18. for a full-service site (senior’s rate. LOL)

Truth be told, I don’t remember hearing about Muscle Shoals back in the day. While it was referenced in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1974 hit song “Sweet Home Alabama” (“…Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers/ And they’ve been known to pick a song or two…”) most of us remember this southern band dissing Winnipeg’s own Neil Young in that song…

We drove past many cotton fields before and after our visit to Muscle Shoals.

But then PBS released a documentary called “Muscle Shoals” in mid-April, 2014, that opened my eyes and ears –and those of many others – to the significance of this otherwise insignificant small Alabama town. (BTW, prior to the documentary, school kids in Muscle Shoals couldn’t wait to move out of the backwoods hick town. Once they

The now-famous Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals.

learned of the influential rolls of two small music studios, they became proud to tell others where they were lived.)

The two now-famous recording studios in Muscle Shoals are Fame (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) at 603 East Avalon Ave. and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio at 3614 Jackson Highway.

The Fame Studio was started by Rick Hall in the 1950’s and operated by him until his death in 2018. It is still an active studio, and Rick’s wife, Linda Hall, told us about her husband and the studio when Betty & I went for a tour.  Music

Linda Hall (right) describes her husband’s career as founder, mover & shaker at Fame Studios.

producer Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records, who coined the term “rhythm & blues”, brought many young artists to Fame, including Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett. Many attribute their success to the Muscle Shoals sound emanating from Hall’s studio.

But in 1969, Rick Hall signed an exclusive contract with Capitol Records, and expected his session musicians, known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, to go along with him as salaried staff. Instead, the studio musicians, nicknamed “the Swampers” by Leon Russell’s producer because of their swampy sound, took the bold step of establishing their own studio, called Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.

Betty at 3614 Jackson Highway. The sign was added after Cher superimposed it on the cover of the album she recorded there, after breaking up with Sonny Bono.

To record in a studio owned and operated by the session musicians was a unique experience and, with the assistance of Jerry Wexler, many famous musicians chose to make music in this little space, which had originally been a coffin shop, supplying the cemetery across the street. Of the two visits, the tour of this space was by far the best. Our young tour guide was extremely knowledgeable, and used

Jerry Wexler & Willie Nelson stand in the same spot as Betty, only for them it was 1973. BTW, they traded hats for the pic.

a combination of videos and musical clips from his iPad and external speaker to recreate special moments – too many to repeat in this short post.

Ok, let me see if I can give a short version of one longer story: The Rolling Stones had played in Miami and were on their way to perform in Los Angeles. They had never heard of Muscle Shoals, but Jerry Wexler convinced them to fly in on their way, in order to put down maybe one track for their Sticky Fingers album. Among others, they ended up recording Brown Sugar and Wild Horses at Muscle Shoals, with Keith Richards writing the final 2 verses of Wild Horses while sitting on the toilet in the small bathroom that was in the studio. When they went outside in this very rural Alabama hick town, no one recognized

Mick Jagger finds his groove at Muscle Shoals.

them, and they were happy with that! The documentary has much more input from Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, so I’ll leave the reader to explore there.

Ok, just one more: Many black artists got their start, and continued recording at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. On separate occasions, both Paul Simon and Rod Stewart requested the same black backup musicians that they had heard on albums produced in Muscle Shoals, and were both surprised that the studio musicians were actually white!  Linda Hall told us that, while colour was a major issue in southern Alabama, it

The bathroom in the studio where Keith Richards wrote the last 2 verses for Wild Horses. I took this pic with my back against the far wall. This place is small!

never was in Muscle Shoals, and black & white together worked to create this amazing sound. As I write this, many more stories come to mind, but I have passed the 600 word limit I set for myself on these posts, so I will again encourage all readers to WATCH THE DOCUMENTARY!

Cheers!

The mixing booth at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
The mixing console at Fame Studios, still in active use.
Studio 1 at Fame is still an active recording space. Musicians played a short impromptu number for us during our visit.
Graham gives a thumbs up to visiting Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

 

 

 

Musical Ride – Nashville Stop

The Mother Church of Country Music – The Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville.

For music lovers, there are a number of places in the southern U.S. that claim to be the birthplace of rock & roll, the home of the blues, the heart of country, and all that jazz. Like trying to find the original source of a large river by following the many tributaries that flow into it, the starting place for any genre of music can be elusive. But our search for some good ole fashioned music did take us to some magical places that definitely contributed to inspired melodic outcomes.  We were privileged to visit a number of those places this month, as chronicled by the following posts.

The large balcony at the Ryman brings the audience up close and personal to performers.

As mentioned in our last missive, Betty & I arrived in Nashville, Tennessee just ahead of torrential rains. But that didn’t dampen our spirits. We were there to soak up some music and experience some of the iconic venues in this country music mecca, along with Betty’s brother Jack, his wife Christine, and our old friends from Ontario, Penny & Rick.

We began with a Music City tour,

The view from the front of the Ryman captures the stained glass windows across the back of the former Tabernacle.

taking us to Music Row, lined with recording studios where many of the current and former hits were born. We passed the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum, the Ryman Auditorium, the Johnny Cash Museum, the George Jones Museum, and the Musicians Hall of Fame Museum, among other attractions. Downtown Nashville’s Broadway is considered the city’s“Honky Tonk Highway”, with music playing 365 days of the year.  Everywhere we went – from restaurants to street buskers – we saw ample evidence of the vibrant music culture.

The mixing console at the Ryman was being prepared for that night’s concert.

Best known as the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974, the downtown Ryman Auditorium was by far the star attraction. Opened in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, the Ryman gave performers and their audiences a warm, intimate space with great acoustics. While it fell on hard times for a while after the Opry moved to their new location, the Ryman has been lovingly restored both for

Memorabilia around the Ryman paid tribute to the many artists who performed there over the years.

tours and for regular use as a venue. I noticed that Canada’s k.d. lang performed there just a few weeks prior to our arrival.  Betty & I enjoyed seeing her live in Winnipeg– especially her moving rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. It would have been a fitting song for this former grand tabernacle!

Of course, no visit to Nashville is complete without a visit to the

Betty, Jack & Christine find their seats near the front of the Grand Ole Opry.

Grand Ole Opry. Opened at its much larger current suburban location in 1974, the Opry has continued the tradition of introducing upcoming country musicians, while highlighting many of the old faithful. When they moved from the Ryman, a circle of centre stage was cut out and installed in the centre of the new stage. New and old experiencing the stage lights at that spot express the feeling that they are standing on hallowed country music ground. For our visit, we had

The Charlie Daniels Band performs some of their hits at the Opry. I didn’t need to leave our seats for this pic.

excellent seats at the front of the auditorium for a show consisting of Bill Anderson, Luke Combs, Charlie Daniels Band, Jon Pardi, Craig Morgan and Kelsea Ballerini.

Whether or not you are a fan of country music, it is well worth the experience to immerse yourself in the flood of sounds and sights at this southern city. Just don’t forget your raincoat and wellingtons!

Cheers!

Chased From A Campground – Twice!

Betty & I have enjoyed the hospitality of hosts and guests in the campgrounds of the 24 states and 5 provinces visited so far. But on two separate occasions last week we were told to leave – and we did!

Before leaving the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Betty & I visited the memorial to the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk. The sign notes that one of us is a genius, and I am pointing to that one… LOL

While we dodged a bullet with hurricane Florence on Cape Hatteras National Seashore, hurricane Michael wasn’t far behind. On our last night at Oregon Inlet campground on the Outer Banks, park rangers came around warning that they might announce a mandatory evacuation at 10:00 a.m. the next morning. Michael was approaching up the coast from the Florida panhandle, and a great deal of destruction had already been caused.

Similar to the Florida Keys, there is only one road down North Carolina’s coast along Cape Hatteras. Betty & I knew that if this spit of sand was to be evacuated, that road would become very congested in no time at all. Instead of waiting, we pulled in our slides and raised our levelers at midnight and hit the road to Tennessee.  While we passed through torrential rains and watched rivers and streams begin to overflow their banks, we made it out safely!  Yeah!

In Nashville, Tennessee we checked into the Grand Ole RV Resort & Market at Goodlettsville, with our old friends Rick & Penny from Ontario. We were there to meet Betty’s brother Jack, and his wife Christine, for a grand ole time at the Opry.

Rain, rain go away. Don’t bother to come back another day…  Does anyone have an ark? LOL

But then it began to rain. It rained all day and all night, and by 8:00 a.m. – guess what – staff were coming around telling us they didn’t know when the rain would stop, so we’d better leave, just in case.  In came the slides, up came the levelers, and off we went with Rick & Penny to an abandoned K-Mart parking lot, on higher ground. Fortunately, Jack and Christine had a hotel room nearby, and we were all able to get dried off and cleaned up until the all-clear was sounded.

Another post will chronicle our musical ride, but this little epistle is simply to tell the tale of the inhospitable weather that chased us last week from otherwise very hospitable campgrounds.

Cheers!

Trifecta!

Nestled in the mountains north of Knoxville, Tennessee

In my December 8/17 post “On The Road To Memory Lane”, I highlighted 3 campgrounds that carried special childhood memories. Each has come to mind again whenever I think about “camping”, although travels in our class A motorhome don’t look much like holidays in our old canvas umbrella tent. LOL. Maine’s “Camden Hills State Park” was visited and described again on Sept. 11/18, and North Carolina’s Outer Banks became “Home Again – At Cape Hatteras National Seashore” on Oct. 8/18.  Today’s post picks up the third in my trifecta, which is defined as a run on 3 grand events.

Our campsite, in the trees beside Cove Lake.

Now into mid-October, we didn’t expect to need a reservation at Tennessee’s Cove Lake State Park. As it turned out, the park continues to be popular late in the season, and we were lucky to find one available pull-through site for one night only. As a result, the visit wasn’t long, but long enough to confirm some benchmarks: The pool and overlooking pavilion where Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire would blast on the jukebox were still there. The adjacent ranch with the horses we used to ride is still there, and the park restaurant is also still open, although it is now a bbq joint with live blues singers on the weekend.

Somehow the campsites seem to be configured

Cove Lake State Park swimming pool.

differently than I remember, but maybe that was necessary to add the water, sewer and electricity that can be found on many, if not all sites. While the “pitch & net” golf course is no longer there, and there is no record of the property previously serving as a golf course, it is still a well-manicured spot with a backdrop of low mountains behind the undulating lawns and gardens.

The profile of the restaurant in the park, just as I remember it from 60 years ago.

As Betty & I reach the end of our first year in our overlandish odyssey, we have now visited 24, or half of the 48 states we hoped to visit in 5 years. Plus, in addition to our home province, we have toured 5 other provinces during this adventure.  With this trifecta behind us, now maybe we can take it easy for the next while. Only time and health will tell…

Cheers!

Betty & I waltz into Tennessee

Home Again – At Cape Hatteras National Seashore

The iconic Cape Hatteras lighthouse.

Our boot-scraped door mat announces that “home is where the welcome mat is!”.  Wherever we are parked, Betty & I have our living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, etc. with us. This is our home, and wherever we find ourselves becomes our home community for a while.  Missing of course, and sorely missed, are our family and friends. But with the marvels of modern technology, we can share some of our adventures with them, while they share their lives the same way with us.

 

Our well-used door mat.

There are places on our travels where we feel very much apart, like fish out of water. There are also those special spots that allow us to relax, unwind, breath deeply. For a variety of reasons, coming to Cape Hatteras feels like coming home. The fresh, salty sea air, the rolling waves and the pounding surf on the fine-grained sand, the fresh-caught seafood, the blue skies and warm sun – all the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and emotions embrace us and welcome us back.

Up and over a dune. The ocean calls!

It has been over 40 years since Betty & I last camped on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and 60 years since my parents, brother & I made it a regular summer destination. Two weeks ago, when hurricane Florence was threatening the coast, Betty & I feared that this portion of our overlandish odyssey would be lost. We watched with sadness and grief as the high winds and water took their toll on coastal communities, wondering about the fate of this memorable spit of land, jutting out into the Atlantic.

Trying to find some room to sit on the beach & watch the waves. LOL

 

 

While hurricane Florence apparently caused tremendous damage to South Carolina, and parts of southern North Carolina, we were surprised to find no evidence that such a ferocious storm had passed this way only a couple of weeks ago. Kitty Hawk – home of the Wright Brothers’ first flight – Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, and all the other coastal

Our current campsite in the Oregon Inlet campground on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

communities that lead to and make up the Outer Banks, have grown in size significantly since our last visit, and are all active, bustling communities, with all of their windows and signage intact. Either they were quick to fully restore everything, or the storm was merciful in missing this magical place.

Another ferry passes by, as we are lost at sea. LOL

Yesterday we took a drive down the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and guided our Smart car onto a free ferry to Ocracoke Island, at the southern end of the Seashore. We expected a quick, maybe 10 minute ride, as the islands are not that far apart. But after an hour at sea, we began to wonder if the Minnow would be lost, and we would be stranded again with Gilligan and his

Plows must keep the sand at bay as we journey down the narrow spit of shifting land.

crew. LOL. In the end, the ship arrived and we had a chance to visit the Ocracoke campground (for future reference) and grab an ice cream cone before heading back across Hatteras Inlet at Pamlico Sound. Today is a beach day, and mighty waves are calling our names.

Our bedroom directive.

 

The sign on the wall of our bedroom challenges us to love to the beach and back, and as I write this, Betty is texting me from said beach, reminding me that it’s a beautiful day to be alive in this part of paradise. It’s time to accept the welcome home!

Cheers!

The Brodie Island lighthouse keeps watch over our current campsite.
A multi-level Cape Hatteras home at sunset.
We are far enough south to see palm trees again. These are found on Ocracoke Island, next to the ice cream parlour.
Graham finds a home in North Carolina. (In his mind he’s going to Carolina. Can’t you see the sunshine? Can’t you just feel the moonshine?…)

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Betty & Charlie enjoy a final sunset at our Horseneck Beach campsite in Massachusetts.

As we celebrate this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, Betty & I acknowledge that we have much to be thankful for! Our eldest son, Andrew, turned 37 yesterday (can’t believe he could be so old when his parents are so young! LOL), and our twins celebrated their 32nd birthdays this week – although Luke will be forever 8 minutes older than his younger sister, Lisa…  All of our family are a real blessing, and we look forward to FaceTiming with them later today as they gather at Andrew’s for a traditional? Thanksgiving dinner.

Vibrant fall colours are beginning to appear on New England trees.

 

In our last post, we referenced being stranded at Horseneck Beach State Reservation in Massachusetts, and are extremely thankful that Bobby & his pit crew at Warren Auto Repair in Fall River got our Smart car back on the road again. That

Inching our way to the George Washington Bridge

was immediately followed by a return to Major’s RV in Bourne, where they tackled some further electrical problems with our coach. If there was a silver lining in those delays, it was that we were able to see the beginnings of New England fall colours before we left.

At last we cross the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan to New Jersey.

Our plans for a quick trip down Interstate 95 through New York City came to a screeching halt as we experienced a big city traffic snarl that lasted a full six hours! Before we pulled into a Walmart  parking lot in Old Bridge, New Jersey for the night, I had been behind the wheel for a grueling 10 hours that day. But we are thankful that we survived and are able to tell

Finally over the bridge, a look back at the Manhattan skyline.

the tale, and that we don’t have to put up with that kind of traffic on a daily basis! Yikes!

The next day’s drive was far more pleasant as we worked our way down the Jersey Shore – through Atlantic City and Ocean City – until we reached the tip of the peninsula at Cape May, New Jersey. We found

Wide verandas wrap around Cape May beachfront properties.

a site at The Depot Travel Park in West Cape May, and spent a delightful day and evening exploring the picturesque beachfront town. For dinner we chose an Italian restaurant that served my favourite – Saltimbocca. But when I asked to see the wine

Our Italian restaurant in Cape May. BYOB!

list, the serving staff informed that they didn’t have one. I was directed to go to the liquor store next door, purchase whatever we wanted, and bring it back to enjoy with our meals. A much more reasonable approach than a limited wine menu at highly marked up prices. Again, we were thankful for that!

 

The beautiful Cape May beach.

From Cape May we boarded a ferry to Lewes, Delaware, and camped for the night at the nearby Rehoboth Beach. The full service campground, Delaware Seashore State Park, was nothing like I remember from childhood visits, and we were thankful that we were not staying for more than one night.

After Delaware we passed through

Our ferry leaves a frothy wake behind as we cross the Delaware Bay.

a number of states that border the coast, and with the assistance of Gavin and Betty Boop we added stickers for Delaware, Maryland and Virginia to our travel map. Arriving at Cape Hatteras a day early (or 3 days late, depending how you count it. LOL), Betty & I were thankful that the Oregon Inlet campground of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was able to accommodate us with an electrical and water site near the beach.

The dramatic Chesapeake Bay bridge and tunnel system snakes across the sound to Virginia Beach
Our motorhome descends under the sea!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Betty & I remain thankful that we have the opportunity to enjoy this great adventure, and hope that we can share some of our journey, either directly or vicariously, with our dear family and friends in future.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Cheers!

Nothing to do in NYC for 6 hours but listen to audio books & take pictures of traffic. LOL
After 10 hours behind the wheel, I soldier on as the sun begins to set in front of me.
We earned our New York and New Jersey stickers that day!
Betty Boop gets in on the act, adding Maryland.
Gavin asks “What did Della wear?” LOL
The 23 mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel appears and disappears below the water’s surface between Delaware and Virginia.
Another pic from another tunnel, taken from the motorhome at 20,000 leagues under the sea. LOL

 

Betty points out that Virginia is for lovers.
Another brightly painted Cape May, New Jersey home. There are hundreds of them!
OK, here’s just one more. Cheers!

Stranded…At The Beach!

Betty & I have washed up on this beach on the southern tip of Massachusetts.

The question goes: “If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you want to have with you?”  It presupposes that you have washed up on the shore, with the opportunity to grab only one or two valuables while you wait to be rescued.

The waves relentlessly crash in at high or low tides.

Well, as Betty has noted, we are stranded in Massachusetts until a new fuel pump can be installed in our Smart car. We were at the JFK Memorial, next to the Hyannis Yacht Club, and around the bend from the famous Kennedy Compound at Hyannis Port, when our car failed to start. If we had paid over $100. for shipping, we could have had the pump overnighted to Warren Auto Repair in Fall River, where we ended up. The alternative was to wait 2 – 3 days for a regular delivery. Well, the 3 days have now passed, the pump hasn’t arrived, and we will be lucky if we are on the road again by next Tuesday. In the meantime, we are stranded.

Betty can be seen on the beach at the far left of this pic, with the motorhome at the far right.

Fortunately for us, we washed up on the shore at Horseneck Beach State Reservation in our motorhome. So here we sit, peering out over the Atlantic Ocean, with only our living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and all of our clothing, dishes, and food around us. While we had some rain yesterday, today (Saturday) is currently 78f/25c, with a clear blue sunny sky. We have a reservation for a campsite on Cape Hatteras National Seashore next Thursday, but otherwise are not yet in a hurry to be rescued. LOL

Bet looks to the calming effect of the sea for rescue from life’s cares.

So when it comes to answering the initial question: Yes, it’s great to have the motorhome and its contents here, but it’s far more valuable to be stranded with the love of my life – my dear wife – wherever our travels take us!

Cheers!

The amazing waves continuously curl and drop with a thunderous crash against the sand.
Charlie’s never sure whether to love or hate the unpredictable ocean waves.
Smooth stones form a border between the oceanside sand and the dunes. (We had a similar pic on placemats back home. LOL) At high tide, the water makes a crackling sound as waves rush through the stones.

100, 11, 10, 01

#1: A curve-billed thrasher chirps in a yucca as the sun sets over Oliver Lee State Park in New Mexico.

The title of this post is written in a series of ones and zeros, which I believe is appropriate for a digital form of communication. LOL. For those of us who don’t speak digital, the “100” identifies this as the 100th post to this blog! WOW, Betty & I had no idea that we could, or would, do this! The “11” reflects that we have now been blogging (or whatever this is called…) for the past 11 months. The “10” represents the top 10 pictures taken with my new Nikon digital camera on our overlandish odyssey; and the “01” is my personal favourite post to date.

#2: The moon rises through the clouds over Shelburne, Nova Scotia on our first night at The Islands Provincial Park.

The history and intent for this blog are reflected in the March 28/18 post: “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, so I won’t repeat all that now.  It has turned out to be a fun form of communication – from the perspective of the writer. Since we didn’t set it up as an interactive medium, we don’t really know how, or even if, it is received – with the exception of a few brief notes of appreciation from family and friends.  Maybe it’s possible to track the number of visits to our site (I think those who blog for a living do that.) but we have no idea whether we have an audience of one or one hundred. (That’s 01 or 100 in digital code. LOL)

#3: I think it’s hard to take a bad picture of the Grand Canyon. The sun glistens off the many layers of rock in the foreground.

Betty & I are regularly meeting locals and fellow travellers on our adventures. Depending on how those interactions go, we sometimes pass on a “business card” printed at Staples, showing our web site, along with our e-mail addresses. Maybe they get tossed. Maybe they get filed. Maybe they get forgotten. Or maybe some folks vicariously follow along on our journey.  Whatever – as mentioned, from a writer’s perspective, this has turned out to be an easy and fun exercise, so I guess we may continue as long as our odyssey progresses – God willing & the creek don’t rise, as they say!

#4: We passed this old abandoned fishing boat along Marine Drive in Nova Scotia. The colouring made it look more like a painting, rather than a photograph.

From the literally thousands of pictures taken so far (I’m glad they are digital and didn’t need to be mailed in for processing, like back in the day. We would have been long broke before our trip was over, if we had to pay for that! LOL), I thought we could somewhat arbitrarily choose a top ten for this post. I say this tentatively as I have not yet taken any photography classes, and

#5: I love the way the sun adds an appropriate halo around Betty’s head in this unusual adobe structure at our campsite south of Sante Fe, New Mexico. (She’s an angel, of course!)

there are still lots of buttons on my Nikon that I have never used, and don’t know what they’re for. The pictures simply appeal to us on a visceral level, evoking special memories from our journey to date.

In all cases, the pictures are chosen for their artistic content (however amateurish it might be), rather than as an accurate representation of a geographic location. Maybe not surprisingly, sunsets were captured in many of the pictures making the shortlist, and we were tempted to just make it the top 10 sunsets of our trip. LOL.

#6: Fog shrouds the base of these towers near the beach on South Padre Island, Texas.

Because the task of reducing down to only 10 was almost impossible, we include at the end of this post about 22 honourable mentions, hoping that doesn’t cause your data to go over limit. LOL.

#7: An awfully big (LOL) cactus stands guard beside our motorhome near Tucson, Arizona.

Finally, the one favourite post:  As suggested, writing this has been a fairly effortless free flow of fluffy thoughts, just as they float through and out of my furry brain. My earliest posts reflect the angst of selling our home and getting rid of our possessions. Maybe it was the therapeutic writing process that got me going, and led us to this 100th post.  In any event, decluttering involved disposing of items that had remained in our home following the passing of our parents.

#8: A happy Charlie says “I have the stick!” at Kakabeka Falls near Thunder Bay, Ontario.

One of the items that could neither be passed on to our kids and grandkids, nor donated to charity, was a stack of my father’s handkerchiefs.  The Dec. 7/17 post: “A Hankering For Hankies?” is a very short reflection on my dear dad. It only tangentially refers to our imminent travels, but for me still rates as number 1 in this little digital memory box.

#9: Almost every night provided a magnificent sunset over the mountains at Quartzsite, Arizona.

Best wishes to any and all who read all the ones and zeros that form these simple words, and see these pictures that don’t do justice to the magnificence of the lands we are seeing, and the wonderful people – both new and renewed acquaintances, Betty & I are meeting on the road.

Cheers!

#10: Silver car, white sand, blue sky at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.

Honourable mentions:

As the sun sets over the Bay of Fundy – the end of another great day in Nova Scotia!
A  colourful Sante Fe, New Mexico storefront.
The Painted Desert, near Flagstaff, Arizona
A peaceful Boondockers site in Wallace, Nova Scotia
Another great sunset at Cabot Beach Provincial Park on beautiful PEI.
And another spectacular Quartzsite, Arizona sunset
Perce Rock from a distance, as we travel back to our campsite at Camping Prevel.
A double rainbow appears over our campsite in Quartzsite, Arizona
No two great sunsets are alike at Quartzsite, so it’s hard to choose the best…
A picturesque road through Ile d’Orleans, near Quebec City.
Either the roads are built close to the homes, or the homes are built close to the roads. In any event, there are lots of cyclists to add to the tight quarters on the roads near Quebec City, as seen through the windshield of our motorhome.
Weeds grow through the pavement at the side door of this once-beautiful Saint John, New Brunswick church. This almost made it into our top 10.
We love this pic of Peter & Janet on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. It captures a special moment.
The boardwalk leading to the beach at our campground on South Padre Island has been immortalized in this wine label. LOL
A beautiful flower grows above this yucca near Port Isabel, Texas
The dramatic Grand Canyon, Arizona.
Cactus stand against the sky at sunset near Tucson, Arizona.
The sun casts shadows across the rows of grapes at a winery near Quebec City.
This pic, taken through the window of a covered bridge in New Brunswick, hasn’t been posted before. I didn’t realize, until I was about to crop it, that Olivia had left a message for me on the right side pole. LOL
Another sunset over our motorhome at our campsite on Gaspesie, Quebec.
The mighty fine Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Finally, the end of our post from Prince Edward Island. LOL

Oh, Oh!

A Cape Cod style house on Cape Cod! LOL

The title of this 99th blog post was intended to be “Charming Cape Cod”, as we reflected images of “Cape Cod style” homes, as seen on our overlandish odyssey. (It turns out that all homes on this special spit of Massachusetts land, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, are Cape Cod homes! LOL.)  From our large secluded campsite at

Our large, secluded site #146 at Nickerson State Park, Cape Cod.

Nickerson State Park, Betty & I had ventured up and down the cape, from Race Point Beach at the outer tip of the Cape Cod National Seashore, to Sandwich and Bourne, where the cape joins the mainland. Some of the pictures connected to this post tell that story, but then the story took a significant turn, calling for a change of title…

In Betty’s words:  “Sunday we went to a lovely Cape Cod church where the pastor spoke on Philippians 4. Three points: God is good, be content in your life, and be thankful.

Seth from AAA rescues our little seizer.

Monday as we stopped at the JFK memorial the smart car died. We called AAA and waited in the beautiful parking lot looking at the ocean. The lovely Seth came and loaded the car onto a flat bed and drove us all back to the campground (Charlie riding high in the back of the car).
We decided to tow the car with the rv back to the mainland where we could find a dealership that could deal with our wee car.

Charlie gets the ride of his life!

Tuesday we are driving through some pounding rain on an Interstate when bang! The driver windshield wiper falls off and starts flapping against the rv. Fortunately there is an exit right there and a Walmart at the exit. Unfortunately there is no service centre. As we are leaving Graham sees a tiny garage out of the corner of his eye so we pull up. BTW it is still pouring. The fellow agrees to have a look and says it needs to be welded not just a lost bolt. BUT the rv has to go through the small gate and up to the garage door. Yikes! So we drop off the smart car in Walmart, drive the rv back and somehow get it up to the garage. Yeah all fixed. They ask if there is anything else and Graham says well we were supposed to have an oil change 4000 miles ago. No problem we will do it for you now. Now he has made friends with all the Lebanese guys in the garage so he tells them the story of the car and they say bring it over we will check it for you.

Charlie & Betty watch ships and seals float by, from Race Point Beach, at the tip of Cape Cod.

To make a long story short, if you can believe this is the short version, they look at the car & determine it needs a new fuel pump and feel really bad because it is expensive but we have no choice. So we are here in Fall River for another couple of days   The best part is we cannot stay in the Walmart because Massachusetts has some crazy laws but there is a state reservation

Our surprise find oceanfront campsite (#72) at Horseneck Beach State Reservation.

on the ocean. (like a state park) we are literally camped beside the ocean with big beautiful waves rolling in. We would never have found this park had we not broken down and we would never have met these amazing Lebanese men had the wiper not broken.
God is good, we are content in this crazy set of circumstances and we are thankful.”

Looking across the Sound from our Horseneck Beach campsite, toward Martha’s Vineyard.

A small update: Bobby, the kind owner of Warren Auto Repair in Fall River, Mass.  just called, with a choice to either have the fuel pump overnighted from the manufacturer to his garage for over $100., or to stay at Horseneck Beach State Reservation for a few more days, until they receive and install the pump. Betty & I have decided to stay at this beautiful Atlantic beachfront property (if we can confirm a campsite), and will keep you posted on the resolution of our current oh, oh.

Cheers!

A happy puppy sits on the beach at the tip of the Cape Cod National Seashore.
We drove up and down the historic streets of Provincetown, Cape Cod.
And stumbled upon Provincetown’s long and narrow Commercial Street, which got narrower and more congested with happy pedestrians as we went. (Glad we were in the Smart. It couldn’t be done in the motorhome!)
I think this pic was taken at Nauset Light Beach, although truth be told there are dozens of beaches, end to end along both coasts of the Cape. At this location both seals and surfers were visible, but I didn’t get great pics of either…
Whenever I am at the wheel on the road, Betty is beside me knitting. Here I am sporting the new pair of wool socks she made for me! Not baa baa baad, eh?
Not far away from either of us is usually a snack. In this case, it is the appropriately named New England Lobster Roll potato chips, and I am pleased to announce that Cape Cod chips has returned the Dark Russets to their offerings.
Time to end this post where we began, with a pic of a charming Cape Cod home!  Cheers!

 

Disillusioned With Camping World/ Inspired by Major’s RV

In a ‘bricks & sticks’ home, repairs and maintenance are a fact of life. Back in the day, every small community had a hardware store where you could pick up what you needed, along with good advice on how to use it. Now Home Depot, Lowes, and other national or international chains provide the day to day supplies necessary to maintain a livable home. Since that type of home is in a fixed location, one can learn which companies do good roofing, plumbing, or lawn maintenance, for instance, in your neigbourhood.

But when you’re on the road like us, how do you know where to turn? It’s said that driving an RV is like putting your home through a 60 mph hurricane, tornado or earthquake every day! There are always small or large parts that need repair or replacement, and it’s nice to have the peace of mind that where you take your motorhome for parts and service will do a good job at a reasonable price.

Now I am not a negative Nellie (with apologies to all the great Nellies out there. LOL), and the tone that I’ve attempted to set for this blog is positive and encouraging, but the bloom has fallen so far off the rose with Camping World that I feel it bears comment.

For the past 10 years, the Camping World (CW) chain has been our “go to” outlet in the U.S. for motorhome parts and service. On all of our travels we have literally gone out of our way to shop there, noting locations that may be near our intended route, and rerouting to include a chance to stop and shop at a CW. As with any national chain or franchise, one develops an expectation for the shopping experience with that brand.  Unlike smaller independent RV sales, parts, and service stores where – even if they have a flashy web site – it is difficult to predict the availability of good parts and service, we have expected a consistent, high standard at CW.

Unfortunately, we have had enough bad experiences with CW that we are questioning whether or not we should now find an alternative.  While some CW stores have provided exceptionally good service, the number of stores where staff are unhelpful, and appear uncaring is now in the majority. Recounting the issues with CW would grow this post into a small book, so I will resist the urge to itemize all the small and large problems that we have encountered over the years.

The impetus for this post came from our experience since crossing back into the U.S. this month. The first CW we visited had no RV customer parking (we parked in an unmarked, undeveloped vacant lot beside the store) and didn’t have the basic plumbing parts we needed, referring us to an independent RV center up the road that had a large accessible parking lot, friendly staff, and the parts we needed. The second CW store, visited yesterday, also had no RV customer parking (a strange thing for a chain focused on serving RV customers!), but we didn’t realize that until we had pulled in. Every spot was taken by RVs for sale, so I had to disconnect our car, and back the motorhome out. The store looked busy, with service staff on the phone, on computers, or talking to each other, but no one apparently had time to serve customers. When I finally got someone’s attention, I was told that even the smallest service item couldn’t be addressed until the end of next month! They either didn’t carry the parts I was looking for, or the parts were not in stock. Finally, a helpful CW staff member printed off the name, address, and directions to an independent service center that might be able to help us. WOW.

Ok, now the good news! Yesterday we visited Major’s RV Service Center in Bourne, Massachusetts, and were blown away by the friendly staff and great service! The stark difference from CW was day and night. From the time we pulled up until we left, all staff we met were attentive, knowledgeable, efficient and effective in their provided assistance.  Even though we were dropping in without an appointment (able to park in a huge lot with dedicated RV spots), staff took the time to listen to our issues, and had the necessary parts to complete the required service in a timely manner. David, Chris, and all the staff went out of their way to be helpful (one staff member offered to order in pizza or subs when I mentioned we hadn’t had lunch yet!) and got us back on the road to our current campsite, Nickerson State Park on Cape Cod, in short order.

On our overlandish odyssey to 48 states and 10 provinces, Betty & I know we will need regular repairs, maintenance, and upgrades to keep our motorhome rolling down the road. We have a trustworthy and reliable service centre back home at Stylings RV in Lockport, Manitoba.  As previously noted, we got great service at Heidi’s RV in Hawkstone, Ontario, Sierra RV in Port Isabel, Texas, Quality RV repairs in Irishtown, New Brunswick, and Bluewater RV in Bridgeport, Nova Scotia. And now, if we are ever in Massachusetts again, we have Major’s RV in Bourne!

My hope and wish is that we can find (or develop) a network of trustworthy and reliable RV service centres across the continent that can provide an alternative to what we have come to expect from Camping World. Whether it is a competitive national brand (like Home Depot for ‘bricks & sticks’ homes) or a series of small independents (like the local community hardware stores back in the day) my dream is that full-timers like us, or weekend warriors, can have the peace of mind that their home on wheels will keep on rolling down the road.

Cheers!