Thursday, October 27, 2011

Time for a change

Out with the old and in with the new.

After nearly six years of driving/towing the Chevy HHR it was time to make a change. We bought the HHR in March 2006 before we retired. Now, after driving it 69,960 miles and towing it another 55,000 or so, she was starting to show her age. We've had an electrical problem with the transmission that two different Chevy dealers could not diagnose or get repaired. We've pretty much enjoyed this little car and really liked the fact her color matched up well with the coach. But there always comes a time for change.

So, meet the newest member of our clan. A 2012 GMC Terrain. Went down to the dealer in Purcell, Oklahoma, yesterday to see what they had. Was first interested in the Chevy version of this car, the Equinox, but found the Terrain had more standard equipment for basically the same money. The silver color will not match the coach but otherwise she should make a good "towed". She has most of the bells and whistles of the new cars, including a color backup camera, On-Star and satellite radio. If she holds up for over 100,000 driven/towed miles like the HHR we will be very content. Now all we have to do is order the tow package and have it installed on the front.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Back in Cajun Country--2011--Day 14

Actually Cajun Country was left behind and we headed for Paris.

We pulled out of Marksville yesterday morning around 8:30 and headed northwest to the bright lights of Paris, Texas. We are currently at the Spencer RV Park on the north side of town. After a good supper we planned to relax and watch a little TV. No luck, since we have no TV reception where we are located. This is a small RV park behind a RV Sales and Service business. We appear to be the only true campers here. Most of the rigs here are temporary workers in the area living in their rigs during the week.

Our purpose of stopping here is to do some grave hunting. My Dad's parents moved to Oklahoma from Red River County, Texas. They farmed near Detroit, Texas. The picture to the left is of what is left of the main drag through Detroit. (His Dad's family were originally from Georgia and his Mom's family were originally from Mississippi. Both families had moved to Red River County and that is where my paternal grandparents met.) We have genealogy information that shows his paternal grandparents were buried in the city cemetery in Detroit. Our info for his maternal grandparents indicate they were buried in Bluff Cemetery over by Bagwell. We started out this morning for Detroit. All the way over their, about 17 miles, we were driving in a heavy fog with visibility of maybe 50 feet. This was also the weather we had when we started walking the cemetery. There are approximately 2,000 graves in the Detroit Cemetery. When working an old cemetery, with no plot diagram or lot markers, a person just has to start at one end and walk every row looking at headstones. Joanne took the north end, which appears to be a newer section and I headed down to the far south end, where most of the really old graves are located. We spent a couple of hours searching but failed to find any grave markers with the names William Jarret and/or Margaret Edna (Franks) Stone. In the old section there were many markers that were broken and crumbled or missing with only a base left. It also appeared there were many unmarked graves in this section.

After we decided we were not going to find the Stones we headed out to Bluff Cemetery to find the Jones. My grandmother's parents were George Dennis and Georgia Ann (Garrett) Jones. Bluff Cemetery is about five miles north of Detroit. This cemetery was in more need of repair than the one in Detroit. Again we divided up and started looking and again failed to find either grave. What we did find was more sand burrs than either of us has seen in years. When we finally gave up we had to spend several minutes picking the burrs out of our shoes and socks. Those little things really like to cling to shoe laces. (This was Joanne's first time to join me in a grave search and, after today's experience, will probably be her last.) After our searches we headed on east to the town of Clarksville, the County Seat of Red River County, for lunch. Stopped at a little diner in town but found the meal about as disappointing as our grave search this morning. Now we're back in the coach in Paris. We'll head out tomorrow morning for home. It's been a great trip and we have had an enjoyable time.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Back in Cajun Country--2011--Day 12

Some seminars, a little Bingo and then it's goodbye.

We wrapped up the rally last night. We had a couple of good seminars during the day and then had the end of the rally critique session. In this session we discuss the rally, cover any problems and seek input of what the members would like to see in future rallies. A big hit at this rally turned out to be the Poker Run. There was no cost to either the members or the club and got everyone out in the community to do some sightseeing.

We were back in the ball room for our final night. Had a wonderful catered meal served by the casino staff. We've had some logistic problems during this rally but we all agreed that the food has been great. After dinner we had a drawing. During the rally we take paid application for our next rally, which in this occasion will be in Columbus, Indiana, in May 2012. If we get 20 paid applications during this rally then we hold a drawing and the winner gets to go for free. By the time we had our drawing last night we had 41 paid applications. (We don't count the apps from the club Wagon Master or for the Rally Master for the specific rally. The club pays their fee since putting a rally together is a major undertaking and falls directly on these two people.) We draw the name for the free rally and then, since we had so many apps turned in, we drew two more names. Each of these two will get a check for $50.00 to help with fuel cost on their way to Indiana next spring.

We closed out the rally we a spirited game of Bingo. This has become very popular with our crowd. We normally have several prizes either acquired by the Wagon Master or donated by some of our members. Jo and I enjoyed the games but came away empty handed. Just as well since we pretty well have our coach filled with stuff now.

This morning, Saturday, saw many of our members pulling out, either heading home or for other parts of the country. We went over to the Veranda area, by the pool, to have donuts and coffee with the folks who wanted to stop on their way out for that last goodbye. There are several coaches still here who are staying around for the weekend. This evening, after everyone has had a chance at dinner, we'll get together at the President's coach to finish off the left over cake and ice cream from Wednesday nights party.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Back in Cajun Country--2011--Day 10

A day to relax and then a couple of dummies.

Today had very little scheduled in the way of activities. Some of the ladies had a craft class and a bunch of the guys had a big "washer toss" tournament. While we were on the Poker Run yesterday I spotted a small cemetery behind a Lutheran Church building. I looked it up on Find A Grave and found it was not listed. This morning I went over and photographed all the graves that had readable headstones. Wound up with pictures of 63 graves plus some of the church and the signs to the cemetery. This will be my first chance to set up a new cemetery into Find A Grave. Before the afternoon was over I had all the cemetery and the graves entered into the data base. Over the next couple of days, as time allows, I'll get the individual pictures uploaded.

This evening we had our catered dinner over at the casino. We still did not have use of the ballroom so dinner was in the night club area. It was a bit crowded but everyone had a good time. Our entertainment this night was a ventriloquist that Ron and Kay Rivoli had recruited for us. He was very good and did an outstanding show. He is very into audience participation which added to the fun. In this picture is Dennis Kittleson (in the blue shirt). Dennis is one of our officer's and club board members. So far this has been an outstanding rally and we'll hate to see it end tomorrow night.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Back in Cajun Country--2011--Day 9

A poker run followed by a big party.

Today was very different than what we normally expect during our Monaco America rallies. Due to scheduling problems we were not able to have the use of the ball room over at the Casino Resort so we did not have indoor activities. Instead of the normal catered breakfast we each were given tickets to use at the casino buffet breakfast. Instead of RV related seminars or craft classes we went on a Poker Run. Several places, both attended and unattended, were set up for us to stop and see some of the sights here in Central Louisiana. At the five attended stops we got our card stamped to show we made those stops. The first stop was St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Cemetery. The purpose here was to give everyone a look at the above ground burial they use in this area. The first attended spot was at the 4-H Club museum. Other stops included an antique store, a catfish restaurant and a goat farm. After we returned and turned in our stamped cards each person was allowed to draw five cards from a deck of playing cards. The best poker hand won. Joanne drew three Kings and was the winner.

During the evening we threw a big party. Since we did not have access to the ballroom we had our party on the "Veranda", which is an open air area adjacent to the RV Park office, next to the swimming pool. It was a combination of the celebration of the clubs 10th anniversary and Halloween. Before the party everyone was on there own for dinner and we went to Roxy's, the 50's style diner in the casino. During the party we had cake and ice cream for the anniversary festivities. Several of our members had decorated their coaches for Halloween and a bunch of them came to the party in costume. A judging contest was held for the best decorated coach and best costume. Judy and Forrest Wagner (in picture to the left) won for best coach but not costume. (They came as Frankenstein and his bride.) This was a very fun evening but very different from the normal dinner and entertainment we usually experience each night of a rally.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Back in Cajun Country--2011--Day 8

Some great visiting, some great entertainment and actually getting the rally started.

Since the last blog entry a bunch has happened. As we moved through the weekend most of the coaches arrived and got parked. We were notified that a couple had broken down on the road. Once couple blew the engine in their coach and had to have it replaced. After an extra day out and $6,000 they are now here and enjoying the rally. Another couple got as far as Shreveport. They are still there waiting for a part for their electrical system before coming on in. Hopefully they will be here tomorrow. On Saturday our good friends, Ron and Kay Rivoli, made it in. They performed Friday in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and then drove straight through to here in Marksville, a 12 hour drive in their motor home. Sunday morning Ron came out to join our group for coffee. This is Ron with my lovely bride, Joanne. Ron and Kay performed their Gospel Revue for us on Sunday afternoon. They do this show without charge to the club. They do take up a "love offering" that is used in some of their Christian charitable endeavors. We finished off Sunday with a pot luck dinner that evening. By then all but a very few of the coaches had arrived so we had a good crowd at the pot luck with plenty of food to go around.

Monday was the first official day of the rally. We started off with a representative from the Marksville Office of Tourism giving us a history of the area and information on the many things to do and see here. Later, after lunch, Joanne and I went over to the Paragon Casino Resort to view some of the features in the hotel side. The lobby of the hotel has several "ponds" stocked with fish and alligators. This is in an atrium area so there was plenty of sunshine for the "gators" to warm themselves. We checked out the gift shop and the other areas other than the casino itself. Afterward it was time for me to go to the "rally hall" to help set up and man the information booth. We have several logo items that we sell, such as plaques for the back of our coaches, patches for shirts and a cookbook that our ladies put together a few years ago. As the club Treasurer I am responsible for keeping these items between rallies and to sell them via our club website.

Monday evening was the first official meal of the rally. This was catered by the casino banquet staff. They did a great job with the food and the service so we are expecting to really enjoy the service while we are here. After dinner Ron and Kay entertained was with their Rivoli RV Revue. This great couple has performed at several of our rallies over the years and have become a great part of our club. When we first asked them to come they turned us down due to their schedule. The just ended a series of shows in Pigeon Forge on Friday and were to start another series of shows at the same place starting tomorrow. This gave them one day of travel before our show and one day after to return to Tennessee. After thinking it over they relented due to this being Monaco America's 10th Anniversary Celebration, a big milestone for an RV club. We felt very fortunate to have them with us again and hated to see them leave. They pulled out about 10:30 PM last night, headed back to Tennessee. This picture Joanne with the lovely Kay. We did get a quick visit from Kay before they left. As Ron took down and loaded their lights and sound equipment Kay came by our coach to deliver the final invoice/contract of their performance and pick up the check for payment of their service. We always enjoy being with Ron and Kay and hope to cross paths with them again before long.

Today was filled with seminars, dispensing information at the info desk and some craft classes. Jo did one of the crafts and in the afternoon she attended the Ladies Tea. This evening we had another great dinner, served by the Resort staff, we had an auction. Many items had been donated for the auction and a local auction company volunteered their services to conduct the event. All proceeds, which was just over $3800.00, were going to benefit St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. This is shaping up to be a great rally with a bunch still ahead of us.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Back in Cajun Country--2011--Day 5

More coaches, a little work and finished up cemetery duty.

It has actually been pretty quite here in Marksville the past couple of days. We've seen the majority of the rally attendees arrive and get set up. Have gone out to eat in the local area a few times. Mainly have just been helping organize things for the official start of the rally on Monday evening. We did go over to the casino this evening for dinner at Roxy's, a 50's style dinner. Had a good chicken fried steak dinner topped off with a great chocolate milk shake.

Since this rally represents the 10th Anniversary of the Monaco America RV Club we are doing some extra things to celebrate. One of those is we are taking pictures of every attendee and will present them with the photo in a special frame that has our logo along with information about the anniversary rally printed on them. Today we started getting the pictures taken and then I spent a couple of hours this evening printing them out. We have 59 motor coaches scheduled here and we got 18 of the photo's done today. This is the one taken of Joanne and I this afternoon. We'll try to get the rest of the photo's taken this Wednesday.

I did get all the cemetery information, from the old cemetery I came across down here, entered into the Find A Grave database. When I first looked up the St John Cemetery in Find A Grave there had only been nine graves entered. Now there are 207 listings for this cemetery along with pictures of each headstone. There are probably another 50 to 60 graves that I could not document because there either was no headstone or the old headstone was so weathered it was unreadable. I just finished uploading the last of the pictures this afternoon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Back in Cajun Country--2011--Day 3

A couple of days driving and now a casino.

We left home last Tuesday morning, heading south. We drove down through Eastern Oklahoma and the northeast corner of Texas just across the state line into Louisiana. Spent the night at a nice little RV park just off Interstate 20. On Wednesday we headed south again and arrived around noon at the Paragon RV Resort in Marksville, Louisiana. This is a part of the Paragon Casino complex which is owned by the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe. We are here for the Monaco America Fall 2011 Rally. We are expecting a total of 59 coaches for this rally, which does not actually start until next Monday.

After arriving here yesterday the rest of the day was used setting up the coach, cleaning the bugs off the front and greeting the few others early arrivals. There was five coaches here by the end of the day yesterday. A few of us got together and drove over to another town to an all you can eat catfish restaurant. More coaches came in today. There are about a dozen or so here now, including most of the club officers.

In keeping with my newest adventure of grave hunting I went out this morning to a nearby cemetery. Actually, it is just next door to the Paragon Resort. This is the St John Community Church Cemetery and is connected to a local predominately black church. I checked the Find A Grave website and found only nine graves had been entered into the data base. It appeared to be a small cemetery so I decided I spend this morning photographing the headstones and then get them all entered into the Find A Grave data base. The cemeteries down here are deceiving about their size. Almost all the graves down here are above the ground due to the high water table. Most places in Louisiana it is impossible to dig a normal grave because after a couple of feet they hit water. Before I was done I had taken 203 pictures. There were actually more graves than that because several headstones listed several family members buried in the same tomb. Also, about 50 or 60 of the really old graves did not have any marker or it was so weather worn that it was unreadable. Before these pictures can be entered into the FAG data base they must be reduced in size. My camera does not have a setting to reduce the resolution so I have to go into Photoshop and manually reduce each picture. (I do the same thing with the pictures I post here on the blog.) Anyway, I now have a list of almost every person buried there, have all the pictures reduced in size and have the basic information entered into the FAG data base. Now all I have to do is go back to each individual person's memorial page and upload their headstone picture. Like I've said before this Find A Grave stuff can become very habit forming. Did have one casualty while at the cemetery. While moving some flowers so they would not throw a shadow on the headstone I found there was a nest of yellow jackets in the flower pot. Got stung on the end of a finger. Got to be more careful next time out.

Tonight a few of us, including my brother Bill and his wife Nancy, went to a local restaurant, called Nanny's, for dinner. Most of the folks ordered local specialties but I decided to order a steak. It was a big mistake since it was not one of the better steaks I've had. Of course, coming from Oklahoma beef country it is not hard to be disappointed with steaks in other parts of the country. The restaurant did have one diner that appeared to have been there too long. Were not sure if it was the food or the long wait for service but he was looking pretty worse for wear. We dubbed him Charlie and introduced some of our other rally members that came in to him. More coaches will be arriving tomorrow and through the weekend. If this rally is like most of the ones we've held in the past almost all of the coaches will be here by Saturday. As the club Treasurer I get fairly busy once everyone starts showing up. I spent a big part of this evening making up a couple of Rally Packets for some late applications. Actually, I have not even received the last two applications. They arrived at the UPS store where the club mail box is located after we left home on Tuesday. They were to forward them to me here in Marksville yesterday morning. Hopefully I'll receive the tomorrow. So, more to come as the rally unfolds over the next few days.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Grave hunting--With a helper

Back to the cemetery with a little helper.

Decided not to wait until Monday to go back out and work my list of graves. We have our middle grand daughter, Aurora, with us today. We picked up Joanne's mom and the four of us went to lunch. Afterward we dropped Joanne and her mom off at their respective houses and Aurora, who is five, and I headed to Chapel Hill Cemetery. She had never been to a cemetery and was not really sure what to expect. With the amount of walking that is required I figured she'd tire out pretty quick.

We started in a section that only had a couple of graves on the list, then moved across the road to work a bigger section. That done we took a break back to the car to drink some water and regroup. There were a few in a small section at the front of the cemetery where I could park the car really close. Aurora waited there while I worked those. By then she had her second wind so we moved on. All in all we got about two-thirds of our list done. All but one section and it is the biggest part of the cemetery. I'll work up the ones we got tonight, add some more on and go out and do the rest tomorrow.

This was a new experience for Aurora and she seemed fascinated with the headstones with their bright colored flower displays. She asked many questions about the markers, the new graves that did not have grass growing on them yet and about the many religious statues that adorn this cemetery. About halfway between Chapel Hill and our house is Resurrection Cemetery, where Jo's dad is buried. It is directly across the street from the Wal-Mart store. We stopped at the store and bought some flowers and then went over to Resurrection so she could put flowers on his grave. I previously had placed an America Flag there so we mixed it in with the flowers. Before leaving she wanted to pause and say a prayer for who would have been her great-grandfather who she never got to meet.

All in all a fine day. Got some more grave searches completed and had a good time with one of my favorite people. After we returned to the house Aurora and Grandma are spending time together baking up some Halloween cookies.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Grave hunting--Part Deux

Adding graves to the registry.

What started out to fulfill a few request of folks around the country in getting pictures of their ancestor's grave markers into the Find A Grave data base has morphed into taking on trying to get a whole cemetery entered.

After going to Chapel Hill Cemetery a few days I was able to learn my way around to make it fairly easy to find the graves. The office was very helpful in looking up the locations for me and I learned that, by following their great maps, it was easy to go to the correct location with ease. This cemetery is not only laid out well, each year, they produce a book with the listing of everyone buried there with the section, block and lot numbers. But, after a couple of days I had all the request for pictures from the Find A Grave site completed. Also after a few days of going in with a list of graves for them to look up for me I was able to talk them out of one of their books. Now I don't even have to stop at the office.

Going through their book I learned that there are over 14,000 graves in this cemetery. Looking at the statistics on Find A Grave, less than half of these have been documented on that site. I have now taken on the effort to get as many of the missing one entered and documented. Each evening I take a section of their book and run it against the listing in Find A Grave for Chapel Hill. I make a list of all the ones that are not already on the site. (Both the book and the FAG site are listed alphabetically.) Making a list of the ones not on the FAG site I record about 30 to 40 each evening. The next day, and I've been doing this pretty much everyday for the past two weeks, I go out to the cemetery and locate each grave on my list. I take a picture of the marker and record any information on the marker, including dates of birth and death. That evening I upload the pictures to the appropriate individual memorial page I had entered the previous evening, along with whatever information I've been able to get from the grave marker. Then I take another page or two from the book and do another list for the next day. So far I've been able to add around 300 new entries to the FAG site. What is interesting is that most of the ones I am documenting are older graves. Most of these folks were born in the late 1800's or early 1900's, including several World War I veterans. Most of the newer burials are in that half that have already been entered in FAG data base.

This is being done for several reasons. One, it works with my enjoyment of working on the computer. Another is it gets me out of the house everyday and causes me to do a bunch of walking since this is a very large cemetery. Finally, I feel good about getting these graves listed in the FAG data base so that someone seeking out info on their ancestors may be helped in their search. That last reason has already come to fruition. In the past couple of days I've received messages from a couple of different people about the graves I've documented. One I got yesterday was from a guy from Texas who has been attempting to find his ancestors in a couple of states. One I entered was a distant cousin that his family had been seeking information on. That family finally knows where their cousin wound up and has some information to try to attempt to find out what happened to him and where he had been during the years after he left home. I was warned by some other FAG "Graver's" that this can become addictive when I first started. I'm finding that this is possibly very true. I've already got a list of 41 to go find on Monday.