Sunday, May 4, 2014

Out Bound

Note to new readers: The accounts of our travels include the daily hum-drum events, including laundry days. Expect no great prose. Expect to find missing words, very dry humor and comments on things of interest to us.

Sunday - April 27, 2014 - The weather forecast was dire, but we were not waiting two days for it to pass. We took our usual northern route US82 which has a good road surface over much of it’s length and very little traffic. We got into a little rain two hours on the road. It cleared and we had a nice afternoon and evening. Monday, we got some more rain in the morning, but we threaded our way through the high winds and got to the CG around 1pm under blue skies and a nice breeze. We washed the road grime off both vehicles and had cocktails.

The following long account will be no interest to most people. I am recording it so I can ask a technical type how it happened.

My apprehension was much less about the weather, than the house electrical system. I replaced the seven year batteries last week. They were still OK, but I figured they were not going to last another year. When I got back from the battery store, the battery monitor was doing something funky and I decided it was the battery disconnect switch. Anywho, after tinkering with it for awhile, I declared it was OK. Dorothy wanted to hook to shore power the next day to cool the refer, so she could start filling it up. So we were on shore power until we left. The first hint of a problem was when I turned on the inverter and it squealed like it does when there is less than 11 volts. How could that be? The battery monitor is showing 100% and 13.7 volts, but that’s with the alternator running. Oh the monitor is back to flashing 100%, then Low. What’s that about? The monitor must be failing.

So we get to our overnite, the Jeff Busby CG on the Natchez Trace. A pleasant place and it’s free. We had not been parked long when I heard the refer try to light and fail. Oh no! I flip on a light switch and there is no light. I check the fuse panel. After much tinkering, I really don’t know what the problem is other than the monitor shows a dashed line for volts. We need hookups right away so we don’t lose all the food in the refer.

We found a National Forest CG not too far away. We connect to shore power and I decide to remove the battery disconnect switch from the equation. After four hours, the voltage starts to creep up. It should, the monitor shows 14.7 going in, higher than we have ever seen it. By bedtime, it appears they are recovering. By morning they are fully charged. So it was the battery disconnect switch. It seems logical that the batteries would not charge if the switch is in the Off position, but I don’t understand how I could read 12 volts at the batteries no matter what position the switch was in.  

Our second night was at Rising Star CG, near Grady, AR. Just 4 miles off US82 down a many times patched farm road. Our site was right on the Arkansas River. We stayed at the nearby Arkansas Post the last time we came this way. Both are good stops.

Tuesday, we again encountered light rain on the drive to Little Rock on I40. Road construction is booming for miles north and south of the capital on I40. Or maybe I should say the safety barrel rental biz is booming. There are several miles of barrels closing the left lane where weeds were pushing through cracks in the asphalt. Perhaps the lane was prematurely closed. You think?

The capital building is one of the better ones we have seen. It took 15 years to construct since no funds were allocated for long periods. Infighting, corruption, the usual. We plan to visit two more capitals in the next two weeks.

Every state has state birds, flowers, etc. Arkansas has all the usual ones plus some that are really unique. How about the State Historic Cooking Vessel, a Dutch oven. I kid you not.

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North of the city we hit another car park. We thought it was construction related, but it turned out to be caused by drivers gawking at the storm damage. What you are seeing in the pictures use to be homes – total devastation.  We parked at another COE CG on the Arkansas River for the night.

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Wednesday we took the interstate to Bentonville. We have driven this road before and it’s one of the more scenic sections of the interstate system. Our first stop was the Crystal Bridges American Art Museum. Since we are almost devoid of culture there was little we found of interest to us. We did enjoy touring the forerunner of Wal*Mart. We exited that museum into a 1950’s soda shop and we had to have an ice cream cone.

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The cube is the only modern painting I liked. There were several paintings of hummingbirds that would look good in our LR. The car on legs is more art displayed at a hotel. The “tree” behind the car contains several basketball hoops.

We parked for the night at Prairie Creek CG another COE facility.

Before leaving Bentonville we had to shop the store across from headquarters. While we are Wal*Mart fans, we do wish all stores were like this one. Fluffed and buffed in every way, shelves fully stocked, huge selection and associates on almost every aisle.

Thursday was supposed to be an easy driving day. Bentonville to Claremont, OK, less than two hours. I violated my standing rule to always verify Glenda’s (Glenda is our GPS) route on a paper map. Toll roads were set as an avoidance, so Glenda sent us an hour south and then back north to bypass the toll road. By the time I pulled out the paper maps the damage was done. All this to avoid a $1.50 toll. Grumble.

We did enjoy our visit to the Will Rogers Museum. Since he was killed in a plane crash in 1935, not that many people know about him. He is ancient history. I did not know he was in 50 movies, only half of them “talkies”. He was such a big BO draw that his name went above the title. 

Leaving the museum, we saw the COE lake de jour and parked for the night. It’s was a busy CG, almost full. We got to observe a popup erection next door that went on for over two hours. Their first time we guess. He brought a floor jack to level it. Two hours after erection and in the dark they are still banging things around setting up their camp.

We note that Barry is fine with making Interstates toll roads, since revenues from the federal gas tax are down because, get this, federally mandated fuel economy standards have reduced consumption. Well, we have been doing our part with the RV and gas guzzling Jeep. Newton’s third law applies to anything Big Sugar tampers with. Oh well, we use the old highways more than the Interstates anyway.

Friday is a driving day, fours hours north to Topeka. On the way, we stopped at Will Rogers boyhood home, now a well tended farm, still in the family, overlooking Oologah Lake. I don’t care so much for old homes and furniture as I do for the opportunity to pet goats and burros. The resident black lab checked us out before allowing us to pet his goats.

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We parked for the night at yet another COE on a lake, just south of Topeka. However, before we could park we had to charge the Jeep battery which was down to 5.7 volts. From this we learned the many positions the key can be in while in ACC mode. There are no clicks to guide you. We found the instrument panel has three display modes that may provide a clue to what position the key should be left. We will know is a week if we have got it right. Sure was nice to be able to pull out the battery charger, fire up the generator and boost the battery. It took all night to get to 13.2.

Saturday we drove to Topeka to see the capital building. We saw it from outside. Gaining entrance was not possible. A sign on one door advised us to go around to the other side, the visitor’s entrance. The sign had a  a red line drawn showing how to get from where we were to the visitor’s entrance. When we got to the proscribed entrance the same sign was on the door, sans a red line. There was no one around to ask so we blew it off.


On the drive to the Eisenhower Library, we saw signage for a Calvary museum and the Custer House located on Ft. Riley. We spent a hour touring the First Division museum and the Calvary museum. Ft. Riley begin in the early 1860’s and all of the buildings in the older section of the fort are massive and built of stone. We approved of the style. The base was all but deserted, but for a few at the athletic center. (Former indoor riding arena)  Perhaps the division is deployed?

When we got to the Eisenhower Library after lunch our energy level was dropping and Dorothy’s foot was hurting her pretty damn bad and she had already downed one pain pill. I pushed her around the extensive exhibits for 2.5 hours. A quick tour. I expect that if you read most of the text in the exhibits you would be there all day, if not longer. We thought there was too much concerning events before his election. Still worthwhile.

We had planned to stay at a city park in Salina, but any evidence that RV parking has ever happened there has been erased.  Nothing else in the area but a run down and over priced KOA, so we wound up at a busy Wal*Mart. Which got too busy at 11:30 with local teens. We pulled out and drove an hour north and parked on the roadside.

Sunday, we drove through the wheat fields on some great US highways with little traffic to St. Francis, which is almost in Colorado. Kansas has named their near flat landscape with valley names. I think we are in Solomon Valley. Reminds of the “valley” in south Texas near Brownsville. There ain’t no valley there or here.

Kansas may be the state with the most museums. There are several in every county, plus a few oddball attractions like this one.

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Here I am posing with an 18,000 pound ball of sisal rope that a guy started in 1953. Across the street is the Ball of Twine Inn.

Eight days of driving so far and tomorrow we will be in the shadow of the Rockies with Red Rock country only a day afterwards.

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