Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Finally headed South — for a little bit!

Sheesh, so much to catch up on for December. On our way to get some repairs completed at Little House Customs by Larry Gamble mid-December, we were invited to spend a couple of nights driveway docking with Frank & Jean in Denton TX. They’re members of Boondockers Welcome — a group of people who offer their homes (& driveways) to RVers passing thru their area. Great folks, great meal, & in spite of the remaining ice that slammed the Dallas area a few days earlier, a perfect experience. Our time spent with Larry & Debbie Gamble getting repairs was, as usual, another perfect experience. Thankfully Larry’s shop east of Dallas missed the crippling ice storm that covered Dallas since driving on icy roads into his shop on a very narrow road amongst lots of trees could have been very uncomfortable.

Then for lack of any place better to go, we just moseyed back toward MO thru AR. Seems most Corps of Engineer Lakes in AR & MO that are even open during the winter have the electricity turned off but boondocking is free. Consequently, we discovered a gorgeous little campground called Cowhide Cove on Lake Greeson, south of Kirby AR off Highway 27, boondocking with the solar panels for several days. So very, very peaceful.

From there, we traveled north again & decided to check out Bull Shoals Lake on the AR/MO border. This is the last of the four lakes created from dams along the White River, starting near Fayetteville AR is Beaver Lake, the River travels north to Branson MO to become both Table Rock & Tanneycomo Lakes, & finally the River returns to AR for Bull Shoals Lake. The only FREE ferry boat ride in the US is at Peels Ferry AR, crossing the Lake from AR over to the MO side. (No, we didn’t take the ferry — I just wasn’t comfortable with the idea of my “house” in the middle of a lake on a little ferry boat!)

We boondocked for three gorgeous, sunny days at the Peels Ferry Corps Campground near the Marina (again free without electricity). . .until the clouds & rain arrived. Poop! It’s hard to live off solar when the sun isn’t out, so we had to find an electric hookup. This is why Jeff would love to get a small, portable wind turbine.

           A huge, fantastic anchor sundial on the point.

Fortunately, the weather was perfect at Bull Shoals for some intense cleaning out of stuff — things we’ve been carrying around for over two years that’s never been used or needed. We’ve unloaded items like the electric skillet, large soup/stew pan & lid, the waffle maker, & no-longer-used VCR machine/tapes/CDs/DVDs/cords/adapters. Jeff does most of the cooking & still hasn’t gotten the hang of cooking for two (instead of six maybe, creating days of left-overs that take up frig space), so we are now left with only a small sauce pan & a small skillet (like portion sizing for meal creation). We also cleaned out old, unused, or partially-used dry food items, canned vegetables, & some cleaning supplies. Jeff also packed only necessary tools from his heavy tool box into a small canvas bag & stored the heavy-duty tool box in the storage unit. We deposited space bags of cold weather & dress up clothes that had been living in the cargo bag on top of the pickup that (again) have never been needed in over two years, so off-season clothes can come out of our itty-bitty closet to further lighten our tongue weight. We even switched back to the Winegard MP-1 manual satellite dish since it’s lighter & less bulky than the Winegard Anser (semi-automatic) dish. I’m amazed & annoyed with our ability to continue to collect stuff even in our small space. Gotta get better at limiting incoming items & quicker at removing unused items!

The only Corps campgrounds we knew of at the time that had the electric service still on all winter was up at Truman Reservoir near Warsaw MO (in west central MO), so we dropped items at the storage unit in Branson & continued north to Warsaw (closer to my parents for Christmas). Unfortunately, we were on the southern edge there of an ice storm that hit northern/central MO. Although we stayed warm & cozy inside, I knew it was bad outside when Boots (the cat) slid off the iced-over trailer steps on his way outside to check out the weather.

Really, really sad sight from icicles created by freezing rain!

Thankfully, the sun came out on Christmas Eve & quickly warmed up to 20°so we could get ice off everything enough to get hitched up & go. I had to use my hair dryer to melt the ice off the steps before stowing them & to thaw out the lock on the back of the pickup for packing up things. Thankfully the roads were all dry & clear as we traveled to my parents’ home. This was the first Christmas Eve & Christmas Day I’ve spent with my parents in decades as we never trusted the weather in Kansas City in December to make the trip. This turned out to be such a special holiday in many ways.

After Christmas, we headed back south for our final VA appointment & discovered an ATV campground in the Mark Twain Forest, SE of Ozark MO (half way between Springfield & Branson, south of Chadwick MO) that had the electricity turned on. We even managed to get a TV satellite signal thru all those bare trees. This is an ATV campground, & Saturday was warm enough to bring out quite a bit of (noisy) traffic. We spent two warm, sunny days there until another cold front slammed thru Sunday morning.

We returned to Springfield MO to park at my girlfriend’s house so we all could met up with another high school friend of ours who we neither one had seen in 40 years or so. What a great visit with Scott. Jeff also got the pickup serviced Monday morning before leaving town for Branson for our FINAL appointment before heading out for our SW winter traveling.

Wow. . .finally down to the last VA appointment (it was a hectic three months between visiting family & friends & waiting for appointments — definitely NOT a vacation). Jeff picked up his new hearing aids on New Year’s Eve, & on New Year’s Day we headed SOUTH toward Big Bend NP (TX), ahead of yet another approaching cold front & snow event! What a weird, early winter in the Plains states.

2014 started out FANTASTIC as we were on the road again — searching for the weather that fits our clothes!

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