Miles 1544 to 1566

The Teardrop enlivens even mundane tasks, taking us down roads we would have never tried, past sights we would have not seen otherwise and into new experiences.

This week we took Lily out of her storage unit to get overdue initial maintenance done: her bearings greased and brakes adjusted.

On the way to a neighboring small town RV sales and service business, we raced a line of identical camouflaged military vehicles loaded on a freight train.

Train on Bridge Image

Train on Bridge Passes a Stop Sign.

The train and its repetitive load stretched beyond our line of sight. We never saw the total length.

Military Vehicles on Train Image

Stretch of Train Loaded With Military Vehicles

We had to leave the Teardrop at the RV garage Thursday and Friday night, to allow flexibility for fitting our maintenance requests into their workload. The shop workers got their tours of the interior, and told us that the Vistabule Teardrop Trailer would be an attraction in their lot. They even decided to secure her inside of the garage at night.

Before we got out the door, a couple of customers asked to have a close look at Lily. So, we also gave them the complete tour before leaving.

We returned to the garage Saturday and the work was completed as planned. The buzz was that eight very interested people had noticed the Vistabule; four of them offered to buy her on the spot. (No telling if that was exaggerated, or not.) We did see that the mechanic resorted to hiding the Teardrop between two large RVs so that he could get some work done.

On the way back to Lily’s storage unit, we stopped to clean her exterior at a self-serve wash. We take our car to an automated car wash or for a rare hand detailing session, so a DIY wash was a first for us.

Washing the Teardrop Trailer Image

Washing the Vistabule Teardrop Trailer

I made the dial selections and ducked spray as Earl did the actual work. Washing Lily was as close to cleaning a cute baby elephant as I’ll ever get.

Rinsing Lily Image

Rinsing Lily

We barely needed to dry off the Teardrop. The outdoor temperature was 93 or 97 degrees, according to if you believe our car thermometer or the bank’s sign. It is not summer yet! On the way home, we cooled down with ice cream from a Dairy Queen.

Can’t wait to take the Teardrop out to get her dirty again!

Miles 1452 to 1543

The first week of June 2017 we were able to reserve the last available campsite for three nights in nearby James H. (Sloppy) Floyd State Park, Summerville, Georgia. I fixated on planning meals and Earl focused upon re-evaluating our campsite supplies.

The forecast ahead showed two mild sunny days and two with light rain. What we actually got were hot humid days with very still air.

For the travel and set-up camp day, our Saratoga Jacks Thermal Cooker finished up Lasagna in the top pan for lunch. Corn on the cob and sweet potatoes cooked in the bottom to add as side dishes to grilled pork chops for supper.

During the rest of camp, we ended up just eating light meals because the heat diminished our appetites. Along with breakfasts and suppers prepared at home for camp cooking, we also relied on prepped salads and fillings for lettuce wraps to make lunches easy.

Lettuce Wraps with Side Salads

Lentil & Ground Turkey Sloppy Joes Lettuce Wraps with Side Salads

To escape the heat the people around us retreated into their RVs during midday to dusk. We had a great ceiling fan, even air conditioning, and comfortable seating in the Vistabule. Still, we also wanted to enjoy being outdoors.

The humidity and heat made it stifling to sit under the shade of our REI Alcove, even with cold drinks in-hand. Earl suggested getting a box fan and we considered strapping it to the ridge pole of the Alcove. At the Summerville, Georgia Walmart Earl bought a lightweight Mainstays 20″ High-Velocity Fan.

Fan

Mainstays 20″ High-Velocity Fan

I came up with the idea of placing the new fan on the Vistabule’s countertop to serve two purposes. With the screen doors of the pass-through closed, the back of the fan could draw and circulate air through the Vistabule’s cabin from open vents and windows. Meanwhile, the front of the fan blew air into the outdoor sitting area under the Alcove.

Fan on Countertop

High-velocity Fan in Front of Pass-through

It was a surprise that the fan fit between the cabinets of the Vistabule’s counter space so perfectly.

We checked the noise level from various distances surrounding our campsite. The hum of the fan was not intrusive, barely heard beyond a car’s length away. The noise it did make was primarily directed toward the front facing into the Alcove.

The fan’s humming noise did not interfere with our conversation while sitting under the Alcove enjoying the breeze. We were spaced about 3-4 feet away from it. Plus, the white noise and air flow certainly helped me get a comfortable quick nap inside the Vistabule.

We would have left a day or two early without that fan, that is how much it helped us while outdoors during the day. I do not believe any fan could be enough relief when the nighttime temperatures also hold above 90 degrees. At least, our old bodies do not handle heat well anymore!

Thank goodness there were still cool mornings and nights, the teardrop’s ceiling fan provided comfort while we slept.

The high temperatures and humidity made for challenging conditions on our first test run of the teardrop’s air conditioner. What better test than during the hottest part of the day with direct overhead sun?

When the futon was up in the seated position, we found that its doubled over back blocked the air conditioner’s output too much. We tried adjusting vents and placing a bag to hold out the back of the futon more and got some improvement.

When the futon was down in the bed position, allowing full air flow, the air conditioning worked very efficiently.

The forest around our campsite was so quiet and still that we just had one tiny toad visitor to the campsite. I did not even see a squirrel until the last morning. The lake had several ducks. It was along the roads just outside of the state park that we saw more wildlife: three deer, two snakes, one box turtle, and wild turkeys.

We ended up enjoying a relaxing time at James H. (“Sloppy”) Floyd State Park. The campground had a narrow twisty road through the 25 campsites. Sites were roomy and well-equipped.

Tire Jack Chock

Securing Lily the Vistabule Teardrop Trailer

The park was clean, maintained by friendly hosts. Phone reception averaged zero to one bar, with an occasional two bars hiccup in the evenings. It was just enough coverage to track the weather and check news headlines. There was a fishing lake that could not be seen from the campground, but was accessible by taking a short path. Separate picnic areas around the lake were heavily used by the locals on the weekend.

The camp was not far from home and it suited the main purpose of our trip; we got more experience with equipment and organization skills. While we enjoyed our stay, there was nothing in the area that would entice us to return.

Miles 975 – 1451

Heading out of Lake Poinsett State Park into a beautiful morning we continued on the Interstate through Memphis.

Half way to Nashville, TN there was an exit for the Natchez Trace State Park, so we veered off the Interstate to drive into the park. We found the park’s Pin Oak Lodge open for lunch.

Pin Oak Lodage, Tennessee

Pin Oak Lodge at Natchez Trace State Park, Tennessee

I had once driven along a section of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, but Earl had never heard of it. I explained it to him as an old Indian Trail stretching from Tennessee to Mississippi that was a significant route during the Civil War.

Later I read that this Natchez Trace State Park in Tennessee is on an alternate route of the Old Natchez Trail.

Natchez State Park Wildersville, Tennessee

Back on the Interstate, a light state of doldrums seemed to hit both of us as we realized our trip was coming to an end. We were back into familiar territory with work and home crowding into our thoughts.

At a reststop in the afternoon, we gave two more couples tours of the Vistabule before getting back on the road.

As the Interstate curved northeast to Nashville we decided on another night at a hotel. We figured the break would leave us rested and we could arrive home the next day with plenty of time and energy to unpack and secure Lily in her storage unit.

Early on the final day we were on the last stretch of Interstate heading southeast homeward bound. We made a beeline from Nashville to our Georgia destination.

It really was bittersweet to have to end our first journey with Lily.

I was a bit sad that it had not felt wise to take the more northern route as previously planned, due to areas of flooding and additional storms along the way.

We had missed out on campgrounds I had planned for us to visit, like Big Spring, Missouri, Land Between the Lakes, and Mammoth Caves, KY. They were places I had been to as a child and wanted Earl to experience.

Earl was more philosophical, He reminded me that with Lily we could go to the places we missed at another time, and we had already made great memories on the trip as it was. He reassured me that we fulfilled the objective of the trip; we picked-up our new Vistabule, got broken in with towing her, and brought her home.

So, our take away lesson from traveling to pick up Lily our Vistabule Teardrop Trailer has been:
Part of the fun of a trip is in the anticipation of planning for it.
Part of the fun of a trip is in enjoying it as it happens.
Part of the fun of a trip is in reliving the memories of it.

Miles 441 – 565

Leaving Kansas City, Missouri, we headed southwest to Fort Scott, Kansas then swung due south to make our way to my sister’s home. Along the way sunshine broke through the clouds and made it a pleasant drive.

Due to Earl having a set vacation period, we planned to stay two nights to visit my sister. After Lily was unhitched and secured, we headed out to a restaurant for an evening meal and enjoyed catching up; telling Earl some of our family tales.

The next day was warm and sunny. It gave us time to tour the small town in the morning, then straighten out and finish packing Lily in the afternoon. A friendly couple from the neighborhood drove by and saw us working with Lily’s galley hatch and side doors open, so they swung back around to get a tour of the teardrop.

The following day we expected to leave around noon, but we ended up spending a third night in town because evening thunderstorms were in the forecast.

By mid-morning our last day in Kansas, the sky was partly cloudy and the weather report promised a couple of nice days ahead. We set out to follow the sun – excited with the thought that, just maybe, we would get to do more actual camping!

Miles 121 – 440

With rain storms in every direction, we checked weather reports to avoid strong thunderstorms on our way out of Albert Lea, Minnesota. Scattered rain was expected during the day’s drive south toward Kansas City, Missouri.

We had been told that it takes a people person to tow a teardrop trailer because it is an attraction. Right away we were finding that to be true. Driving along, the teardrop trailer gained a number of curious stares and thumbs up signals. Earl had to start developing his tour patter on the first day of travel by showing our Vistabule to a man at a rest stop. In the campground on the second day, the young clerk at the campground store had never heard of a teardrop and was curious.

After two nights of camping in chilly weather, we had no problem waking early to get hitched up and ready to go just as rain clouds were rolling in. Our first stop before leaving the Albert Lea, MN area was to pick up breakfast. We had bantered about the possibility of taking the trailer through a fast food drive up lane. A truck stop with a straight drive up entrance gave me an easy opportunity. As we sat at the speaker box, Earl jumped out to take a photo, and the worker hung way out of the order window to get a good look of the Vistabule.

Fast Food Drive Up

Fast Food Drive Up with the Vistabule

Next we headed for groceries. I pulled in the parking lot along side of a beautiful RV.

Vistabule parked beside an RV

Beauty Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

Soon after Earl headed across the parking lot for groceries, a man drove by, circled back and stepped out to take pictures of Lily. I offered him a look inside and had a pleasant conversation. He was excited to hear that the Vistabule was made nearby in St. Paul.

Later as we unpacked groceries from the cart, a woman stopped and asked numerous questions from her SUV. She was enthusiastic, but saw we were about to leave and was too polite to accept a tour.

That day’s drive was a mix of sunshine and clouds with the promised scattered showers. The gray skies were easy on the eyes, and temperatures pleasant. There were wind gusts between 20 and 30 mph, but the Vistabule handled well.

We passed through areas with flood waters that were still rising, so instead of camping we opted to stay in a hotel near the Interstate for the night.

Miles 1 to 120

Hitched Vistabule Preparing to Pull Out

Hitched Vistabule: Preparing to Pull Out


After an orientation session from the Vistabule team, we drove out of St. Paul, MN in the late afternoon of Thursday, April 27, 2017. Our shake-down trip was already undergoing major changes from the plans I had researched and mapped out while still at home.

In the last week, Mother Nature had thrown a major, tragically dangerous, springtime hissy fit. Driving from Georgia to Minnesota on Interstate highways, we saw flooded creeks, rivers and fields throughout the Central Plains States.

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Central Plains Flooding April, 2017

On the morning we arrived to pick-up Lily, there was a heavy dusting of snow in St. Paul, Minnesota. Fortunately, that snow was melted by noon and roads were clear, but unusually cold temperatures were in the forecast for several days ahead. Unfortunately, there was another round of snow expected for St. Paul and additional rain targeting the states already heavily flooded.

We also found that while some Minnesota State Parks remained open year round, they did not normally turn on water and heat for the rest room facilities until May 1st.

So, instead of heading east for a night at Frontenac State Park, we checked weather apps in order to head toward sunshine. There was a sweet spot in Albert Lea, Minnesota about an hour and a half drive southwest of St. Paul.

We tried to enter Myre-Big Island State Park, but was unable to find the sign-in forms or register by phone. So, we¬†settled for a hotel on that first cold night with Lily. She was secured in the parking lot within sight of our hotel window and we had a good night’s sleep.

Luckily, we found an alternative campsite in the morning. The Albert Lea/Austin KOA campground was open. It was a relatively small KOA by a quiet road with a train track in the distance. About half of the park seemed to be filled with permanent RVs, there were some cabins being used and additional open campsites with gravel pull-throughs, water, electricity and sewer hookups available.

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Albert Lea/Austin KOA, Minnesota

The daytime temperatures remained in the 40s. While there was about half a day of light rain, the KOA had Wifi, a camp store, and automatic heat in the restrooms which we truly appreciated. Meanwhile, we were able to practice unhitching and hitching the trailer and putting the sofa bed combination up and down. Plus, we managed to cook in the galley between raindrops, and gave our little heater a good trial run as temperatures fell to 30 degrees at night. We settled into the KOA for two nights, quite happy and comfortable.
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