Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 11

A rather slow day at the rally. I spent most of my day at the work station I set up in the Information/Registration Building. This is the one building here at the Gulf Breeze RV Resort that is not air conditioned. Earlier in the week it was stifling to stay in there with the high temps and humidity. Night before last a cold front moved in and the temps are very comfortable and the humidity levels have dropped drastically. (We actually had to sleep under a blanket last night.) The main building that we have been using for our meetings and meals/entertainment is on the edge of a small fishing lake. The building includes both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool and an indoor hot tub, along with a large hall with kitchen and a couple of smaller meeting rooms.

This afternoon was the traditional "pet walk". This was started a few years ago by one of our members. Everyone brings their pets and parades them around. (Nancy Cormier and her husband Dave were charter members of Monaco America. Nancy not only started the pet walk but would also be at the gate at the beginning of each rally to greet each and every coach to share treats with the members pets and make sure everyone knew their pets were welcome. We all just referred to her as the Dog Lady. Unfortunately Dave passed away this past year and Nancy has retired from the RV lifestyle.) The Hill Company, the maker of Science Diet pet food, provided a large supply of items as prizes for the pets at today's walk. Another couple who attend all our rallies have two miniature schnauzers so Buddy Joe had some company. (Buddy is the one wearing the Rebel Flag bandanna.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 10

Today was the first full day of the rally and started off at 7:30 am with a full breakfast served by the caterer. Spent most of the day in the Information/Registration Center collecting membership dues for 2010 and rally applications for our Spring Rally next May in Kansas.

The evening activities started off with a cocktail hour at 5:00 pm followed by a pasta dinner, again served by the caterer. Our cousins, Yvonne and Bob, joined us for dinner and the entertainment tonight. They seemed to have a good time and had the pleasure to be around a bunch of friendly RVer's. The picture to the right has all six of us ready for dinner: from left to right, Rick, Bob, Bill, Nancy, Yvonne and Joanne.

Our entertainment tonight was the Rivoli RV Revue. Ron and Kay Rivoli do a fantastic job performing their original songs, mostly related to the RV lifestyle. One of my favorite numbers is "I'm a gator hater" about those rubber gators (pieces of truck tires) that we find in our path in the road and the damage they can cause when hit by one of our RV's. They also got a standing ovation when they did their "Dial 1 for English". The video of this song has been the number one played tune on You Tube and now has had over thirteen million views. To view this video go to:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 9

We've been busy getting everything ready to kick off the rally. Spent most of Saturday working on setting up the information/registration building, doing the final paperwork, getting welcome packages put together and many other things that have to be done before we can start a rally. Although we had advised the attendees in advance that our "parking crew" would not be available to assist folks until Sunday many of the coaches were in and in place by Saturday night. We did get the information registration center open for business at noon on Sunday.

Our entertainment for Tuesday night will be Ron & Kay Rivoli of the Rivoli Revue. They arrived late Saturday evening. Ron & Kay are full time RVer's who criss-cross the country performing their music at RV shows, RV rallies and many other venues. They just completed a tour of the United States as a part of the Tea Party Express where they were met by tremendous crowds to hear their message of conservatism. On Sunday afternoon they did a Gospel Music/Worship show for our members. As usual, they did a fantastic job. They do not charge for the Gospel show but do take a "love offering" that is donated to their favorite ministry.

On Sunday evening we had a pot luck supper. We have gotten so used to most of our members coming in days early for our rallies that a couple of years ago we started having the Sunday night pot luck for all the early arrivals. The food was very good and plentiful. This is the first semi-official gathering for us to all get together.

Monday night we had our official welcome session and the official start of the rally. The bar was open and we had light refreshments put together by several of the ladies in the club. Starting tomorrow morning the caterer will take over the food service serving breakfast and dinner for the duration of the rally, Tuesday through Thursday. Here is Jo visiting with our good friend Judy Wagner at the Monday night kickoff session.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 6

This morning was the time to start setting up for the rally. We moved tables from one building to another so we could set up the information/registration center. Unloaded my stuff from the back of the car and moved it over to the registration center. That took most of the morning. We also welcomed in several more coaches. Afternoon we were visited by the cousins, Yvonne and Bob. That took us up to dinner time.

Dinner took us back to Lambert's Cafe. We initially had a group of 18 going but had some more come in so we wound up with 22 folks pigging out on the tremendous food served there.
The last picture to the right is our cousins, Bob & Yvonne Graham, who are now full time residents of Florida.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 5

We rolled out early--well, early for us--to go visit kinfolk this morning. About 9:00am Bill, Nancy, Jo and I headed east to Navarre, Florida to visit our cousins who now live down here permanently. Our cousin, Yvonne Graham, and her husband Bob have lived for many years in Cleveland, Ohio, but have wintered in the Navarre area for the past several years. This past year they sold their home in Cleveland and moved to Florida permanently. I had planned to take some pictures of their new house, which backs up to a small lake but I forgot and left my camera in the coach.

I had plotted out the drive on the GPS program on the computer and it showed it was 62.2 miles from the RV park here in Alabama. Back home that would be about an hours drive. This drive was through several small towns and the city of Pensacola. The trip over took two full hours at between 35 and 45 miles per hour. We did change the route back, which took us down along the Navarre and Pensacola beaches. Not only was it a prettier drive but reduced the drive time about 15 minutes.

As of yesterday, counting us, there were four coaches here for the rally. Three more came in this afternoon. We expect several more tomorrow and Saturday with the bulk coming in Sunday. Although the rally does not officially start until Monday evening almost all our folks come in early. We usually say that if you arrive at a Monaco America rally on the day it starts you are about four days late.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 4

We rolled out of Biloxi around 9:45 this morning on the last leg of our trek down to Gulf Shores, Alabama. As we passed through Mobile we had to go through a long tunnel under Mobile Bay on Interstate 10. We arrived at the Gulf Breeze RV Resort around 1:00pm, set up the coach on our site and settled in. We'll be here until Saturday, October 3. We are here for the Monaco America Fall Rally which starts next Monday evening.

When we arrived there were two other coaches from our group already here. A couple of hours later Bill and Nancy, my brother and his wife, arrived. After they got all set up and had a little time to relax the four of us loaded up and headed back up the road to Lambert's Cafe. This is the third Lambert's location in the country. The first two are in Missouri between Springfield and Branson. Lambert's is the "Home of the Throwed Rolls". Not only do they serve enormous portions of the food you order they have folks coming around throughout the evening with their "pass arounds". Some of the items included in the pass arounds are fried okra, pan fried potato's, applesauce, sorghum molasses and boiled cabbage. They also have a guy that brings around large pans of the most wonderful yeast rolls a person could ask for. To get a roll you just hold up your hand and the guy throws it to you, thus the "throwed rolls". Lambert's is always a must place to go anytime we are down in this part of the country.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 3

We are staying at the Martin Lake RV Resort. Although this place has a Biloxi address it is actually just north of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. It is a very nice park with most of the amenities that a good RV park should have. The only real problem is their WiFi connection. They have a completed system of using the individuals own computer MAC address as the access code for their system. I have been totally unable to connect to their system since we’ve been here. There is a close, unsecured WiFi signal that I’ve been able to lock onto but it has a very weak signal and periodically drops my connection. The signal is not strong enough to attempt to make blog entries. So, I’ve been doing them in Microsoft Word and will upload them to my blog when we get to Gulf Shores and a good signal.

We did some local sightseeing again today. One of the few places that were not totally destroyed by Katrina is the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library. This is located right on the main highway through Biloxi and is directly in front of the Gulf. The house did receive massive damage from Katrina but they have been able to restore it and to save almost all of its furnishings. The home is called Beauvoir (pronounced BOV-WAH). Although this home was completed in 1852 it did not come into the Davis’ possession until 1877. Mr. Davis chose this place to spend his later years and to write his memoirs, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. He lived here until his death. In 1903, at the insistence of Mrs. Davis, the home became the property of the Mississippi Division of the United Sons of Confederate Veterans and was used as a retirement home for Confederate Veterans, their wives and servants. It served in this capacity until 1957. Under the terms of the sale of the property it was, in addition to being the Confederate Veterans Home, to be maintained as a memorial to the only person to serve as President of the Confederate States of America. Today it is still maintained by the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. On the back side of the property is a Confederate Soldiers Cemetary with the almost 800 graves being from the many former soldiers and their wives who had lived at the home over the years. There is also a Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier there.

This evening we went to McElroy’s Seafood Restaurant, in Ocean Springs, for a splendid dinner. Afterward we went to Biloxi to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. This place had just been completed and was due to open for business the week that Katrina hit the area. When we were here in 2007 they were almost complete with the rebuilding and were planning to open it soon. It is a beautiful facility right on the beach in the middle of Biloxi. We spent a little time in the casino and donated a very few dollars to the local economy before heading back to the coach.

Although the weather man had predicted rain and it was overcast most of the day we only got a few drops and we drove around today. We never had more than a few sprinkles. As we were driving back this evening we did see a lot of lightening to the north of us. Now it is around 11:00pm and is pouring down. The rain is hitting the fiberglass roof of the coach so hard that it is impossible to hear the TV. Hopefully this will pass on through tonight since we must unhook and move out of here in the morning. Next stop, Gulf Shores.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 2

Got underway around 9:45 Sunday morning (20 September) headed for the Monaco America Fall Rally in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We made a stop for lunch at one of our favorites, The Hungry Traveler in Henryetta, Oklahoma. We pulled into the parking lot of the Horseshoe Hotel and Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana and parked next to my brother and sister-in-laws coach around 6:00pm. We are not due in gulf Shores until Wednesday, 23 September. This gives us some flexibility on where and how long we’ll stop along the way.

Bill and Nancy had left from their home in Purcell around 6:00 am so had arrived in Bossier City well ahead of us. After Jo fixed some sandwiches for dinner we sat around outside the coaches and visited until bedtime.

We have never been ones to head out before dawn. We like to get around after the local rush hour traffic has diminished and we usually stop for the day before the evening rush hour develops. This was the case on leaving Bossier City. Monday morning Bill cranked up his diesel, which was parked just outside our coach’s bedroom, around 6:00 am and they were on the road by 6:30. On the other hand, we slept in and did not get on the road until about 8:30. We headed east and crossed the mighty Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Mississippi. We had talked about stopping there but after looking at the information we had on the area decided that it would really take more than one day to do justice to sightseeing. With that we decided to push on east and then south to Biloxi. We arrived here around 4:00 pm.

We were in the Biloxi/Gulfport vicinity in March of 2007 and had been surprised how little reconstruction had been done in the two years since Hurricane Katrina had hit the area. At that time most of the area from the beach inland for three to four city blocks was pretty much gone. Today most of the residential property is still vacant with “for sale” signs on most of those lots. Some of the property has been bought up for commercial use with hotels, casinos and condos being built where large, expensive houses had once stood. Most of the hotel/casinos that were damaged or destroyed by Katrina have either been rebuilt or restored. Prior to Katrina all the casinos had to be located on water (riverboat gambling). Even though the hotel portion may have been on dry ground the casino itself had to be a boat. After Katrina the state changed the laws and almost all the new casinos are now on land. There are a couple being built out over the water but on large concrete pilings to protect them from future storms.

We’ll be here in Biloxi for two nights before heading east to Gulf Shores. We’ll see some of the sights around here and do a little relaxing. Although it is very hot and humid here today they are predicting rain for the next couple of days.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Packing up with the help of a two year old

As usual we waited until the last minute to start loading up the coach to leave. We were scheduled to leave out on Sunday morning, September 20. Well, we did not start putting stuff in the coach until after noon on Saturday. During this we were asked to look after our 2 and ½ year old granddaughter, Cadence. We love to have any of the girls at our house so we said okay.

We had a good time with Cadence and she seemed to enjoy herself. She is always very shy when she first comes around us but it did not take very long for her to warm up to us and started playing with the kids toys we keep for them. While I would stay with Cadence, Joanne would get a load of stuff together to go out to the coach. Then she’d stay with Cadence while I took that load out and put it away. A couple of times Jo would go out to the coach and Cadence would follow, climbing up in the driver’s seat to play like she was the driver. She also managed to “adjust” every knob on the dash board so that they all had to be reset before we could pull out on Sunday.

As it turned out we got it all done and still had a good time with this precious little girl. We were able to pull out about 9:45 Sunday morning without a hitch and so far have not found anything that we forgot. Of course, if we ever do forget to bring anything it is no big deal. We decided not to worry about those type of things since we know there is a Wal-Mart everywhere we go.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A long weekend with the Birds

We are actually out in the motorhome this week. Our first time out since the last week of June when we went to Branson. We left home last Wednesday morning and headed northeast to Claremore, Oklahoma, (just to the east of Tulsa) and are at the Will Rogers Downs Racetrack/Casino and RV Park. This is the monthly meeting of the Birds of a Feather RV Club.

We were the only ones to arrive on Wednesday. Arrived here around 2:00 pm and got all set up: Coach slides out, leveled, hooked up to electric and water plus getting the car unhooked from the towbar. Spent a little time down at the casino (actually won $9.00 on a penny machine), before heading into Tulsa to check out the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. We had a good time and had dinner there at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill. (Also lost $10.00 in a penny slot machine.) On the way back to Claremore it started to rain and by the time we arrived it was raining so hard I could hardly see to drive. The drainage ditch by the road into the park was running over with water. We thought about sitting in the car and waiting it out but little Buddy Joe was in the coach by himself and he is deathly afraid of storms. When we stepped out of the car the water was ankle deep. (Jo was smart enough to slip her shoes off and tread through barefooted.)

By Thursday morning the weather had cleared and we had a nice but overcast day. Around 11:00 am the first of the other coaches pulled in and by 4:00 pm they were all here. Due to weather and family illnesses we only had five coaches here this weekend. Since we were the only ones who had ever been here before it was left to us to decide where we would dine. We knew of a great bar-b-que place over in town so that's where we all trekked for dinner.

Normally, during the meetings of this RV Club whoever is designated as "host" for the weekend gets up early Friday and Saturday morning, puts on the coffee in the recreation building the park provides and then heads to the nearest donut shop. I had told everyone that the casino had a great breakfast of two eggs, a large slab of ham and hashbrowns for $2.99 and the normal trip to the donut shop was waived. Most of us spent the day Friday visiting, catching up or just relaxing. The women did play several games of cards. For dinner we led everyone into town to the Hammitt House. This is a place we have been to several times before and it was enjoyed by everyone.

On Saturday we started off with the $2.99 breakfast down at the casino. They were expressing concern on the local TV news that we were to get another "gully washer" rain storm again tonight and through tomorrow morning. Some of our folks were getting antsy about either getting stuck (the RV sites where we are parked are on grass) or having to drive back to Oklahoma City tomorrow in a heavy rain. After breakfast one couple did pack up and head out. The rest of us decided to just stay put. As it turns out the storm is tracking far to the south of us so we decided to venture out to see the area.

This afternoon we went to the Will Rogers Memorial and Museum. Claremore was the boyhood home of Will Rogers. His parents farm is just northwest of here and the home where he was born, which his dad, Clem Rogers, named "The White House on the Verdigri's", referring to the river that runs next to it. Although we did not get over to tour the farm house we did have a good time in the Memorial and Museum here in Claremore. It has been several years since Jo and I had been there and we were surprised on how much it had been enlarged. Will, his wife Betty and three of his four children are buried on the grounds of the Memorial. (Will Jr., who died in 1993, is buried near his home in Arizona.)

Saturday evening is when we normally have our pot-luck dinner. Tonight we had chili, followed up with pies and ice cream. The meal was great and the freezer of homemade ice cream was fantastic.

We'll get up tomorrow and head home. Just in case it does rain I have already hooked up the car to the towbar and dumped my holding tanks. All we'll have to do before leaving is pull up the leveling jacks, raise the air level to traveling height, pull in the slides, and unhook the electric and water. We hope to be on the road by 9:00 am. This has been a fun weekend visiting with some of our RV friends.

Sorry there are no pictures with this post. Although I brought my camera I've forgotten to take it with me each time we've gone out. Really wish I had taken it to the Will Rogers Memorial.

Addendum: Just heard a really loud explosion from somewhere near and behind the coach. Jo had already gone to bed but it brought her up in a hurry. I went out and looked all around, along with several other RVer's who are staying in the park, but did not find anything. The coach and car seem fine and could not see anything out of the ordinary in the area.