Final Leg

Crossing the border between Iowa and Minnesota demonstrated two things:  roads in Minnesota are one hell of a lot smoother, and the snow line is currently right at the border.  After bouncing along past brown Iowan earth and patches of snow, we passed the “Welcome to Minnesota” sign and immediately morphed to full snow cover and even roadways.  Ah, to be back in familiar country!

After leaving the St. Louis area, we made a midpoint stop at Center Point, Iowa.  The RV park, “Lazy Acres”, is not fully open.  The owners are actually in Arizona and we booked the site remotely with them by phone.  For $30 we got electric service, fast Wifi, sewer hookup, a place to park and no noisy neighbors.  Not a bad deal for a one night stop.  The outside temperature stayed above 35 so we were able to put off winterizing the water system.

From there a smooth 4 hour drive brought us home…

…to a 580 foot driveway that needed plowing.  With the rig parked on the road we trudged up to the house and fired up two snowblowers.  The big blower handled the long stretches…

… while Peg laboriously made a dent in the turn-around area.

By the time we cleared a path, unloaded the trailer, winterized, and took needed showers, we were two exhausted travelers.  Even after being south for 40 days, much of it in shorts, the 40 degrees here feels warm.

Our back deck has almost 17″ of snow near the house and more farther out.  Screw it:  this time I’ll just let the sun melt it.

Thus endeth our 3700 mile get-away-from-winter-and-visit-some-friends trip.  Other than a defective fridge, the truck and trailer performed well.  After having a string of gas powered pickup trucks, the upgrade to diesel has been totally worth it.  The toy garage held my TW200, Peg’s scooter, two mountain bikes and too much other stuff.  We’re still getting the hang of organizing stuff back there.


Homeward Bound

Cheap car wash: drive four days through constant rain.  The midwest flooding you may have heard about is very evident along our route.  Lots of flooded farm field and swollen rivers.  Fortunately our route was not affected.

At 53 feet, the Toy Hauler and pickup truck are the same length as most semi-truck trailers.  Navigating in close quarters safely is challenging.  Gas stations are especially challenging.  Since the truck is diesel, we’ve taken to to using the truck section of truck stops.  The entrance and exit lanes are configured better for long rigs.  When forced to use smaller stations, positioning the rig becomes a problem in advanced geometry.

We installed a wireless rearview camera on the rear of the trailer to check for cars directly behind before changing lanes.

The camera was helpful when we ended up on a dead end street.  Both Google Maps and the truck’s GPS system showed an exit road.  In real life… no road.  So we had to back the rig three blocks to find a place to do a y-turn.  Peg was out on the street waving traffic and guiding me.

In our blog about the Chattanooga area we forgot to mention a strange sight: the “International Museum of Towing and Recovery”.  Yes, there is a museum featuring tow trucks and towing.  And INTERNATIONAL to boot!

Ruby Falls (2 of 16)

As we move north, our planning has to include watching the weather and winterizing the toy hauler’s systems.  The nights at home are still below freezing, so the water system has to be readied. We want to winterize at the last possible stop so the bathroom is available.  Each day we check 10-day forecasts for our planned stops and adjust our schedule.


In the Saint Louis area we stayed at an RV park rather than impose on Hank and Carol again.  This allowed us to flush the waste tanks and prep for freezing temps. The RV park was located in historic St. Charles, Missouri, along the banks of the Missouri River.  We took the opportunity to bicycle the Katy trail along the river and explore the local historic district with its cobblestone streets.

In the St. Louis area, we again visited with Tom and Tracy.  Hank and Carol, who graciously allowed us to park the toy hauler in their driveway last visit, joined us for dinner at Olive Garden and some spirited rounds of Monopoly Deal.  Left to right: Carol, Tracy, Tom, Peg, Hank.

Run, Forrest, Run!

Conflicting messages?

Holey Ground

Chattanooga, Tennessee – Come for the hills, explore the holes.
-Our suggested new motto for the city

The Toy Hauler crew loves hilly or mountainous country, so northwest Georgia and Tennessee are much to our liking.  As hardy midwesterners, it is south enough to be shorts and t-shirt weather, but not hot enough to sweat… perfect.

With Peg feeling more chipper, we stopped for two nights at Chattanooga to do some sightseeing and spelunking.  Our goal was to explore the natural attractions on Lookout Mountain, a 2400 foot ridge across the Tennessee River from the city.  Several sites at the top provide awesome panoramic views of the area… and if we could see through fog it would have been impressive.

With our visual stimuli blocked, we went underground to Ruby Falls.  Discovered in the 1920’s by Leo Lambert, the falls are named after his wife.  While drilling an elevator shaft to a known cave farther below, Leo happened on a series of passages that led to a 145 foot underground waterfall.  The new caves and falls quickly became a popular attraction.

Trivia: If the elevator shaft had been drilled six feet from its present location, both caves would have been missed entirely.

Entering through a welcome building part way up the mountain, you take an elevator down 26 stories into the mountain.  From there you walk 1/2 mile through tight, twisting passages to the waterfall chamber, gaining 10 feet of altitude but ending up 1100 feet below the higher part of the mountain.

Along the way the passages are filled with various stalactites, stalagmites and other mineral deposit formations.

The formation below is the only one a guest is allowed to touch.

Several formations and the falls itself had dramatic lighting added.

The Leaning Tower formation is estimated to be 3 to 5 million years old.

Everything is better with Bacon… even caves.

The falls cave is impressive, especially when you realize there is over 1,000 feet of rock overhead.

One last note:  the guide specifically warns guests not to drink water from the falls.  The water is pure, but contains very high levels of magnesium.  With such a strong natural laxative, people that have sampled the water don’t make it the 1/2 mile back to the elevator without leaving, er, deposits of their own.

As our guide, Dustin, said:  “Cave jokes are the lowest form of humor… and cave puns rock!”

Road to Recovery

The Toy Hauler crew continues to make our way slowly northward through Georgia.  Not much sightseeing to report, mainly seeing the sight of my co-pilot hacking up phlegm as the last of her illness tapers off.

Amid all this expectoration it helps to remember why I have such adoration.  This clip I discovered in our archives, from a few years back, shows the gal I love.  Audio on and wait for it.

Peg’s game of choice on the iPad is Double Spider Solitaire.  She plays it intensely and masochistic-ly, I believe, given her low win percentage.

On this trip she’s burned through a ton of Kathy Reichs books, solved innumerable word puzzles with me, and been an excellent navigator, though with a tendency to re-route toward thrift shops.

At each stop we meet other travelers, most retired.  Most think us nuts to be heading north when there is still winter to enjoy down here.  Well, who wouldn’t want to be getting back to scenes like this?

Most RV parks prohibit the washing of RV’s so the hauler has become a bit grimy.  Maybe we should sell advertising space on her.

The toy hauler is working well.  It pulls easily and the anti-sway hitch is doing a great job keeping it straight behind us.  Our average 12.8 MPG but would be better if we didn’t maintain 70 Mph on the interstates.  The diesel truck happily keeps up with traffic.  The biggest downside is, at 33 feet, the trailer is a challenge to steer in tight spots and heavy traffic.

Next we head into Tennessee.

Isolation Ward

The Toy Hauler crew has been doing our best to stay isolated in our rolling leper colony the last week.

On February 2nd we arrived in Frostproof, Florida to visit our Looper pals Richard and Jill.

Their family compound quickly turned into an RV park with the arrival of Kevin and Shelly (other Looper friends), and us.

When we arrived, Richard was ill with the flu.  Not wanting to be a burden, we relocated about 100 miles northeast to Titusville.  There we hung out for a couple of days with Harley, from Folly.  He has been living aboard on the hard in a marina, waiting for the opportunity when he and Janice can head back to the Bahamas.  They planned to head down last Fall but family issues thwarted their plans.  Hopefully they can regroup and continue this Fall.

By the second day in Titusville, Peg was showing flu symptoms, so off to bed she went… for several days.  My little energizer bunny really ran out of power.  When Peg turns down the opportunity to browse a Goodwill, you know she’s off her rhythm.

We relocated last Thursday back to Jill and Richard’s and have been letting her recover.  This Monday was the first day she had some spunk back; we joined Richard, Jill, Kevin and Shelly for a sushi dinner in Winter Haven.  Her appetite and color is back.  We’ve been able to help Richard and Jill build their trailer, had a wonderful double-date on Valentine’s Day, and explored the area around Frostproof.

Jill Kristy, their MacGregor 26 Looper boat awaits the next aquatic adventure.  Beside it is the 18 foot utility trailer they are converting into a custom travel trailer.  When finished, it will be a great vessel for comfortable, economical land travel.

Peg also made some new Mini-Friends: Richard’s in-laws across the road keep a herd of miniature donkeys… just her size.

Tomorrow we begin a slow move northward.


The Toy-Mobile is finishing up a 4-day stay at the Country Oaks RV Park in Kingsland, Georgia.  The stay gave us time to settle into the new trailer as well as make some new friends.

Peg wasted no time finding a new 4-footed friend at the RV park.  We also met couples from Wisconsin, Vermont, New York and other parts.

We sailed past this area on the Loop last year. Yesterday we drove to St. Mary’s, a town we had heard about when we anchored at Cumberland Island.

We got a late start and arrived at the visitor bureau minutes after it closed.  Our disappointment was short; moments later a local gentleman, Paul McClelland, pulled up to the curb and introduced himself.  When he found we were visiting, he offered to take us on the driving tour of the area.

Paul has lived in St. Mary’s for 17 years and gave us the tour-deluxe.  We saw homes of the famous, infamous and downright criminal.  A Juliard trained vocal wizard who has sung, taught and led choirs most everywhere, he showed us local enclaves and features for over an hour.  A highlight was a visit to his man-cave.  Thanks, Paul!  It was great meeting you.

Adjusting to the trailer has included both minor additions and major fixes:

  •  Minor additions like building extra shelves into the vanity (Peg), organizing storage compartments, figuring out various systems and the like.
  • Major fixes like finding a solution to a dead refrigerator.

Upon leaving St. Louis we discovered the fridge had not been cooling.  The proper lights were on but no one was home.  A couple of hours on the phone troubleshooting with a dealer technician in Minnesota confirmed that they had neglected to actually check for cooling during delivery checkout.  It had also been too cold at home to tell if it was working.  The good news is it is covered by warranty.  The bad is that getting quick repairs done on the road is a pain.  Our solution was to buy a mini-fridge to use until we get home, then drop off the empty trailer at the dealer.

Fortunately, there is ample space in the trailer’s garage (Modeled by the Admiral below) and we will be staying at places that provide AC power.

Today included a visit to Fort Clinch.  The fort has an unimpressive history:  it was in the lowest tier of importance for coastal forts, was not completed on time, received 1/3 the number of cannon intended and was never in a battle.  Kind of a wannabe fort. Well, they can’t all be famous.

Still, the setting is picturesque, and the state park that surrounds it beautiful.

We learned that Japan Paint was black enamel imported from Japan, used to paint cannon barrels.

The doctors office.

Tomorrow we continue into Florida, to see is Frostproof, FL is truly frost-proof.