Gut-Check Tour – Day 16, Back to Sticks and Bricks

This entry is part of a series recounting our experiences on a two-week RV trip we took to southern Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida. The goal of this trip was to test ourselves, our two cats, and our rig to make sure we all have what it takes to be full-timers. While we posted highlights of our trip on Instagram and Facebook, these entries are some behind-the-scenes notes on our trip and experiences.

Sunday, April 22, 2018 – Tupelo, Mississippi

Well, we’re back at our sticks and bricks home, and already I can feel the stress piling up. The difference is so stark.

We started off the morning at The Woods RV Park and Campground in Montgomery, Alabama after spending our third night there. We had our usual Sunday morning RV breakfast of Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls and coffee, and then got busy preparing to hit the road.

As usual, I handled the inside of the RV, including putting fresh linens on the bed so it will be ready for our next trip. I really hate changing the sheets on that bed–it’s hard to do when you can’t walk around the sides of the mattress, and you’re trying to smooth out the sheets while you’re kneeling on top of them. Andy took care of things on the outside–dumping the tanks, unhooking the utilities, etc.

We pulled out of the campground just shortly after 10AM, and headed north toward Birmingham. The forecast had called for rain, but fortunately it was just overcast when we were preparing to break camp. The drive up I-65 was fine, and we only stopped once so I could put gas in the truck.

We drove straight through Birmingham and hit I-22 West toward Tupelo, and only then did it start raining. There is almost nowhere to stop and park on the side of the road on I-22, so we wound up pulling into a Love’s Truck Stop near Jasper for lunch. We parked in the back lot, in the middle of the big rigs, and had our chopped salad, chips and salsa, and other odds and ends that we wanted to nibble on. We used the restrooms in Love’s and I got a cup of coffee, and then we were on the road again.

It rained pretty heavily on us all the way in to Tupelo, and when we pulled up to the house it was still pouring down. We crated the kitties so make sure we got them in the house safely (didn’t want them to squirm away from us in the rain), and then we only unloaded things that we might need tonight or tomorrow morning. It was just raining too hard to totally unload Lizzy.

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We’re home, safe and sound! #rvlife #lifeisgood

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We took Lizzy back to the storage lot and plugged her in so the food in the fridge will be fine. Andy will drive her back to the house tomorrow since the rain should be ended by then, and  he’ll finish the unloading and do the final cleanup then.

The dreary, cold rain was a perfect metaphor for how I felt now that our trip was over.

I logged in to my work email and took a good look at my schedule for the next few days. I’m going to be driving all over North Mississippi from one small town to another, so I had to take care of getting a rental car reservation and getting my schedule organized. No such thing as easing back into work on this job. I can feel the stress in my neck and shoulders just thinking about it.

Since we didn’t have groceries in the house and it was so cold and rainy outside, we decided to just order a pizza for delivery. I ordered from Papa John’s using the iPhone app, and was told that it would take 29-39 minutes to arrive. An hour later it wasn’t here, and I had not received the usual email receipt from Papa John’s, although their app showed the order had been placed, and I had received an email from my credit card provider showing the charge. I called Papa Johns, and they said that it was on the way and should be here any minute. Fifteen minutes later, still no pizza, so I called again. This time, they asked if I wanted to speak to the GM, and I said “Sure”, and then they hung up on me. I called right back, and as I was speaking to the person who answered the phone, the pizza delivery gal showed up in the driveway.

I still had the GM on the phone when I answered the door, and I’m sure they could hear my conversation with the delivery gal. I asked her how long the pizza had been out of the oven and she said she didn’t know. I asked her if it was still hot, and she said yes, but said we could check it. Andy checked it and said it was only slightly warm. She offered to void the charge, and I said that was fine. Anyway, we warmed up the pizza in the microwave.

As depressing as this afternoon and evening have been, I have to say that this was the best two weeks of vacation that I’ve ever had.  And yes, I’m totally ready to move forward toward full-time RVing as quickly as possible. Andy agrees, so it’s a green light.

After a couple of days of getting back in our normal groove, we’ll sit down and map out the next steps. We have a few maintenance items to take care on Lizzy–replace the bent stabilizers, fix/replace the non-working taillight, fix the pantry drawer correctly, track down the source of the drip in the vent hood. Then there are really major things like selling the house and the car. But now that we’ve had a taste of the lifestyle that lies ahead of us, we can’t wait to get started!

Gut-Check Tour – Day 15

This entry is part of a series recounting our experiences on a two-week RV trip we took to southern Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida. The goal of this trip was to test ourselves, our two cats, and our rig to make sure we all have what it takes to be full-timers. While we posted highlights of our trip on Instagram and Facebook, these entries are some behind-the-scenes notes on our trip and experiences.

Saturday, April 21, 2018 – The Woods RV Park & Campground, Montgomery, Alabama

This was another one of those days when you just know that you’re where you’re supposed to be at just the right time.

We started the morning with some coffee and refrigerator oats, then we both got showers in the rig. For some reason, this morning it dawned on me just how bad it might be if one of the cats jumped up on the kitchen or bathroom sink and bumped the water faucet while we were gone. The holding tank would quickly fill up and start flooding the RV, and no one would be here to stop it. I mentioned it to Andy, so before we left to go sight-seeing, he turned off the water at the faucet outside. This will now become SOP (standard operating procedure).

Our first stop on our tour today was the Rosa Parks Museum and Library, but first we had to find a parking place. The only public parking we saw that wasn’t metered was a lot that charged $10 for the day. It was covered parking, so we took it, as it was almost directly across the street from the museum.

The Rosa Parks Museum and Library is part of Troy University and is located on the very corner where Rosa was arrested for not giving up her seat on the bus to a white person. There are two main parts to the museum, but we only toured one, the main exhibit dealing with her arrest and the resulting bus boycott (we also toured a temporary exhibit of artwork while we waited for the main tour to start at 11 AM).

The tour was more of an “experience” than anything else. It started with a short movie that introduced the social reality of 1955 Montgomery, setting the stage for what happened. The movie was shown in a small room on three overhead screens. The walls of the room were covered with pictures and descriptions of the main characters in the boycott.

As soon as the movie ended, two double doors opened to the next room and we walked through to find a reproduction of the bus that Rosa was riding. They had it set up so it seemed as though we were standing on the sidewalk looking into the windows of the bus. Inside the bus, the scenes were projected (like a movie through the bus windows) showing Rosa entering the bus and getting seated, then the bus pulled to the next stop and more people boarded, looking for seats. Another stop later, white people were grumbling to the driver because they were having to stand, and then the driver stopped and told Rosa and the three other black people in her row to move.

It was a powerful experience because of not only the truth of the story itself, but also the way it was presented. It really put us right in the scene, as if we were witnessing it as it happened. The scene continued until Rosa was arrested and led off the bus, and then we moved to the next exhibit that replicated the Holt church where mass meetings were held to organize the boycott. They had actual recordings of the speakers, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the congregation singing in the meetings–very powerful.

From there we moved into the next room where they presented the timeline of the boycotts and how they worked. They talked about the car pools, about how the white employers would provide transportation for their black maids and employees, and how the white power structure tried everything in their power to break the boycott.

I learned so much that I didn’t know about this particular part of the Civil Rights movement, and the day was just getting started!

We left the museum about 12:30 PM, and my plan was to go to Touch of Soul Cafe for lunch, but we found it closed (even though their website said they were open on Saturday). Right next door was the D’Roads Cafe, which I had read good things about, so we decided to go there. From the outside, it looks like a decrepit storefront, but inside it’s beautiful. There were just a few other people there, and the waitress told us  we could sit anywhere. Our only complaint was that it was really cold, so Andy had to go back to the truck to get his jacket.

The server showed us the day’s menu written on a small whiteboard (it changes daily based on what’s in season). It all looked and sounded good but wasn’t vegan, but at the bottom of the board was written “Vegan, vegetarian and paleo options available.” I asked the server about those options and she said she would have the chef come out to discuss them with us.

The chef came to our table a few minutes later. She was a short Latina (Cuban?) woman wearing a tan drivers hat, and she was so helpful. She talked about the different vegetables she could prepare. We asked her if she could fix fried sweet plantains, and she smiled a huge smile and said “Of course!”. Then she asked if we were picky eaters, and we said “No, as long as it’s not meat.” She said, “Don’t worry, I’m gonna fix you something beautiful!”

And she did! A little later the server came back with two plates of different vegetables, seasoned slightly spicy, with lots of onion. There was also a small cornbread-type bun, split almost like a pita pocket, that was stuffed with fresh spinach–it was scrumptious. And a little later, the chef came out with the fried plantains, done perfectly.

After our meal, she came back and talked with us for a bit about our RV life, and how she also wants to travel by RV after her daughter gets out of school in a few years. She gave us her business card and told us to keep in touch. Janett Malparlida, thanks again for a wonderful experience at D’Road Cafe!

After lunch, our next stop was the Freedom Rides Museum, located in the old Greyhound Bus station a few blocks away. When we entered the museum, we were greeted immediately by the receptionist, who told us that there two actual Freedom Riders visiting today. She introduced us to Al and Kredelle Petway, brother and sister, who were part of the Freedom Riders movement in 1961. They were in town because Kredelle is participating in a panel discussion about the Freedom Riders tonight, so they had stopped by the museum to visit.

It just so happened that a small group of students and their teacher from Georgia also showed up at the museum at the same time, so they set up an impromptu question-and-answer session where we could all learn about their experiences. Al and Kredelle, along with their father, didn’t ride a bus (I mistakenly thought the Freedom Riders were all on buses). They actually flew on a commercial flight from Montgomery to Jackson, Mississippi, where they were arrested upon arrival (other Freedom Riders also took trains).

I knew vaguely about the bus bombing, and about the mob violence in Anniston, Birmingham and Montgomery when the buses would pull in. But I didn’t realize that Jackson became the focus of the movement when it became apparent that it was too dangerous for all of them to try to continue to New Orleans. Over 300 people were arrested and held in Jackson jails and Parchman Penitentiary. Their treatment was horrendous. It sickens me to think about it.

We felt so fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to meet Al and Kredelle. They were so gracious and generous with their stories and experiences, and the young students especially were enthralled. I know I’ll never be the same because of today.

After we left the museum we walked around downtown some more, looking at the architecture. There are some beautiful old buildings in Montgomery, including the First Baptist Church and the First Presbyterian Church buildings. There’s a wonderful fountain in a traffic circle from where you can see the State Capitol building up the street.

We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of downtown Montgomery, but we started feeling a few sprinkles and decided we had better get back to the RV since we had left windows and vents open. We got home and set up our lawn chairs on our “porch” and enjoyed the afternoon–I eventually came inside and took a short nap.

We ate leftover Spaghetti Puttanesca for dinner, did a little route planning for tomorrow and called it a night.

I checked my work schedule for next week, and sure enough, Julie has me booked up with travel on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so there won’t be any re-entry recovery time. It’s going to be a huge shock to the system, going back to work next week. 😦

Gut-Check Tour – Day 14

This entry is part of a series recounting our experiences on a two-week RV trip we took to southern Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida. The goal of this trip was to test ourselves, our two cats, and our rig to make sure we all have what it takes to be full-timers. While we posted highlights of our trip on Instagram and Facebook, these entries are some behind-the-scenes notes on our trip and experiences.

Friday, April 20, 2018 – The Woods RV Park & Campground, Montgomery, Alabama

Today was just a day for staying around home, getting some chores done and taking care of some maintenance items.

I spent my early morning working on some bill-paying and bookkeeping, as well as blog entries. After Andy woke up I did some house-cleaning.

While I was making the bed this morning, I noticed that the vent cover on the fan over the bed had a lot of mildew on it. I told Andy that I would get up on the roof and clean it as soon as the wind settled down a little bit. He decided to tackle it himself, so he gathered the cleaning wipes and paper towels and headed to the roof. He did get it pretty clean, but of course the paper towels and wipes were blowing off the roof, so he had to walk around the park picking up his trash when he finished.

He also decided to try and fix the pantry drawer that wouldn’t shut all the way. He did get it to close but it’s still just a little bit wonky and he says he will probably just replace the slider hardware when we get back home. For now we’re leaving the drawer empty in case the extra weight might damage it further. We have what few grocery items we have left stored in bags.

We both did some walking around the campgrounds for some exercise, and were surprised to find a herd of cows grazing in the pasture right next to the campground. Such a bucolic scene!

Cows!

We also explored the small lake at the back of the campground, and it seems like it would be a perfect place for smaller rigs to boondock or for tent campers to set up.

Lake at The Woods RV Park

We had a big salad and some black beans for lunch, and then decided to go out for dinner. I did some research to find out what vegan options there are in Montgomery, and there aren’t many. I found a Thai restaurant, Noodle Cafe in northeast Montgomery that looked good, so we tried that. It’s about a 15-minute drive from the campground, mostly on freeway, and it’s located in a nice strip center.

I had the pad thai with tofu, and Andy had the fried rice with tofu/no egg/extra pineapple. Both dishes were very good. We planned to order mango sticky rice for dessert, but were told that they had run out–all too typical for Thai restaurants in our experience. Don’t put it on the menu if you aren’t going to have it!!

The campground really filled up last night with lots of big rigs pulling in. It seems like every rig parked near us has at least one dog, and so Maggie and Molly are spending a lot of time at the screen door and the windows making sure they know who’s in charge around here.

Tomorrow is our last full day on the road–so sad! I’m hoping to visit some of the important Civil Rights memorials here in Montgomery, depending on what’s open on Saturdays.

Gut-Check Tour – Day 13

This entry is part of a series recounting our experiences on a two-week RV trip we took to southern Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida. The goal of this trip was to test ourselves, our two cats, and our rig to make sure we all have what it takes to be full-timers. While we posted highlights of our trip on Instagram and Facebook, these entries are some behind-the-scenes notes on our trip and experiences.

Thursday, April 19, 2018, The Woods RV Park and Campground, Montgomery, Alabama

It’s moving day again, and we’ve arrived at the last campsite of our journey.

I got up fairly early this morning and fixed some refrigerator oats for our breakfast, giving them time to let the chia seeds gel while I updated my journal. We had breakfast and cleaned up the dishes, then I went to get a shower. This time I used the showers in the newer ADA restrooms. These are cleaner and roomier than the ones in the older bathhouse, but only the handheld shower head really worked. The shower head that was fixed higher on the wall was just barely spitting water. Regardless, I got a good hot shower and felt refreshed for the day.

I started getting the inside of the RV cleaned up and ready to move while Andy got his shower, and then he got things ready to go on the outside. This time we did not have any of the issues we had on the last move–he remembered to raise the stabilizers before moving Lizzy off the leveling blocks, and he made sure to disconnect all the hoses and fittings and put them away.

We pulled out just a little after 10:30, but had to stop at the dump station on the way out to empty the tanks. Then we were on our way. I hated to leave Falling Waters State Park, it was such a beautiful spot!

We headed north from Florida into Alabama, and made our lunch stop at Johnny Henderson Family Park in Enterprise, Alabama. This is a beautiful city park that has numerous baseball and softball fields, a lake with swans and a walking bridge, several playgrounds and a splash pad for kids, and a walking track that goes around the lake.

We got a parking spot near the restrooms and had our lunch of salad and pinto beans. It was a beautiful sunny, breezy day with low humidity, so we opened the windows and the door and were completely comfortable without the air conditioner.

After lunch we took a walk around the park on their walking track, and could not get over how gorgeous it was. This was one of the most beautiful city parks I’ve ever been to, and would love to be able to walk here every day.

After our walk we got back on the road. Andy needed to stop for gas for Lizzy, and Apple Maps wasn’t really cooperating with either of us, but we finally got to a gas station where he pumped $100 worth of gas before the pump shut off (37.894 gallons @ $2.639). He doesn’t think she was completely filled up, but it was close enough.

We came into Montgomery from the southeast side, and the part we drove through did not appear to be the best part of the city, although we haven’t seen the rest of it for comparison yet. We got to the RV park just before 4:00 PM, got checked in and assigned to site #205. It’s a typical RV park, with gravel pads, full hookups, and no shade. It’s near the freeway so there’s the background noise of traffic but it’s not that noticeable inside the RV. There’s a small lake at the rear of the property but it’s not visible from our site. They have three washers and three dryers at $1.50 a load. And, they have GREAT Wi-fi!

After we got hooked up and settled in, we relaxed on our front porch for a bit with some wine and snacks, and then I cooked dinner. I made Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca with Chickpeas and Artichoke Hearts, one of my favorite one-pot dishes. I didn’t have any capers to go in it, so we just spritzed it with lemon juice on the plate. It was a good, warm, filling meal, and there’s enough leftovers for our last night here.

The evening was cool and breezy. We tried taking a walk around the park after sundown but it was uncomfortably cold and windy so we only made one loop. We spent the rest of the evening listening to music and reading. There’s nothing I love better than getting into bed with those speakers right over my head playing some good music, and reading a good book until I can’t keep my eyes open. It’s so relaxing!

There’s a lot to see here in Montgomery related to the Civil Rights movement, and I’m hoping that we can do some exploring tomorrow. This is the city where Rosa Parks inspired the bus boycott, where Martin Luther King, Jr. pastored as a young man, and where the Freedom Riders made history. There’s also the first capitol building of the Confederacy which doesn’t interest me at all. Oh, and there’s the Hank Williams museum and memorial. That’s enough to get us out of the RV for a bit.

I’m sad that this trip is almost over! But it has been amazing, and has given me a small taste of what our future life will be like. It will be AWESOME!!