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.

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Miles 717 – 974

The Lake Fort Smith park ranger had given Earl a tip about where to locate a more sturdy permanent coupler lock than the one we were using.

We easily found Crabtree RV Center in Alma, Arkansas and bought a couple of items. They have a well organized set up of services and seem to handle just about anything that pertains to RVs.

The sales clerk was interested to see our Teardrop, plus he had the excuse of coming out to check that the lock fit properly. So, he had a tour. As he and Earl headed back into the store to complete the purchase, a lady drove up and started asking questions. She said she had a year old Casita that bounced all over the road when towed, so she wanted to replace it. I was happy to show her our amenities and explain how well the Vistabule behaved while towed.

Near Alma, Arkansas we switched to Interstate 40 heading east.

Northwest of Memphis, we camped at Lake Poinsett State Park, Arkansas.

Lake Poinsett State Park

Lake Poinsett State Park, Arkansas

It was a lovely wooded campground. We decided to stay a couple of nights as a break from driving. The slightly higher priced lakeside campsites seemed to have mere glimpses of the lake due to so many trees. On a walk around the campground loop, I was delighted to see a Little Free Library.

Little Free Library

Little Free Library – Lake Poinsett State Park Campground

Our site was just a bit of a walk from the restrooms. It was an excuse to try out erecting the changing room tent and placing a portable toilet in it.

Lake Poinsett SP Campsite

Campsite – Lake Poinsett State Park, Arkansas

We angled the little rectangular changing room tent to give us a bit of privacy from the other campsites.

Campsite Set Up

Campsite Set Up at Lake Poinsett

Later we found that it was too close to the teardrop. When we propped open the Vistabule’s door, the corners almost touched and did not leave room to walk between the two. Another mistake was placing down an outdoor rug as an afterthought. We just folded it to fit the space as well as possible. Live and learn.

Teardrop Traveling: Camp Set Up Tips

For two nights, we were parked next to a gleaming restored vintage Airstream. I would have loved to see inside, and kicked myself later for not chatting up the owners. Shiny silver Lily was like a mini-me to the Airstream.

Open Galley

Open Galley at Lake Poinsett State Park

Meanwhile, the Vistabule was a minor celebrity at the campground. We had three groups come through to tour and ask lots of questions during our stay.

NEWS UPDATE: Lake Poinsett is scheduled to be drained during late summer 2017 for structural repairs and projects to revitalize the habitat. After work is completed, the lake is expected to refill naturally by 2020 or 2021.

Region 8 ABC News: Fishing lake to be drained this summer, remain closed for years

Miles 566 – 716

We headed east past farm fields in Kansas along state roads to meet Interstate 49 in Arkansas so we could turn south. It felt great to finally be able to enjoy sunshine, the open road and green landscapes.

A shady spot was found for our lunch break near the Interstate by Lake Bella Vista Park in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Lake Bella Vista Park

Lake Bella Vista Park in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Further down the Interstate we parked among large trucks and trailers at a nice Arkansas rest stop. But, the big rigs didn’t hide us from a friendly man interested in finding out more about our Vistabule.

Later, bored with driving on the Interstate Highway, I glimpsed a faded sign enough to read the word “scenic” and that was all it took for us to make a spontaneous exit.

We didn’t know it at the time, but we were taking the Pitkin Corner exit onto Arkansas State Highway 71, the southern end of the Boston Mountains Scenic Loop.

Enjoying the slower pace and passing through small towns, we eventually stopped at a roadside pull off to shake our legs, determine where we were in relation to the Interstate and check for a campground.

State Hiway 71, Arkansas

Roadside Stop on Sate Highway 71, Arkansas

Wifi definitely was not available, but we still had cell phone coverage at that point for online searches. Earl made a call to reserve a campsite at Lake Fort Smith State Park which was just a few miles ahead.

Lake Fort Smith State Park, Arkansas nestled in a valley edging the Ozarks National Forest. The lake was created from two reservoirs which were connected as the surrounding communities were growing and needed additional water supplied.

Lake Fort Smith, Arkansas

Overlooking Lake Fort Smith, Arkansas

The park office is in a beautiful building with exhibits to interest children and adults. Along the back of the exhibit area there are large windows overseeing paths and a stone lookout to the lake below. Near the windows there were handouts with bird information and binoculars set out for visitors to use freely.

Earl was fascinated with what he called the “rock gardens”. They were large rocks or boulders with striations of colored deposits, sometimes grouped with plantings. The landscaping was definitely top notch, enhancing and suiting the natural setting.

Rock Garden, Arkansas

Rock Garden, Lake Fort Smith State Park, Arkansas

Our campsite was on the upper level section of the campground, near the rest rooms. It had a level concrete RV slab, with a separate shaded gravel section for a grill and picnic table. Forest lined the back of the site.

Lake Fort Smith State Park, Arkansas

Campsite at Lake Fort Smith State Park, Arkansas

After Lily the Vistabule was secured, I stretched out on the sofa with a delightful cross breeze coming through the side windows and promptly fell asleep. It felt like I was in a hammock; a very refreshing nap. Earl took off on a walkabout of the park.

That evening we fiddled with the multi-settings on the fan. The changing weather during the trip helped ease us into getting familiar with the features of our Teardrop Trailer. The only equipment that remained untested was the air conditioner and the solar panels for the Vistabule and the outdoor shelters we had bought at REI and Walmart.

The next morning as we prepared to leave, our campground  neighbors came over for a closer look at the Vistabule.

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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