Candy Hill, Herding Cattle, and Knoxville TN

I left you yesterday morning in snowy PA and join you now from just west of Knoxville, TN where it's 6:30 pm and 61F! What a difference a day makes. Yesterday I drove a short 220 miles through a corner of Deleware, and a bit of West Virginia, then into Virginia where I stopped at the Candy Hill Campground in Winchester, VA.

I arrived about 2:30 pm and had time to take care of some maintenance. I had planned this stop to de-winterize the camper by flushing the antifreeze from the water lines and refilling my fresh water tank. The campground is open all year but I learned when I arrived that they limit water access during the winter months. Water hook-ups are only available from 8 AM to 8 PM provided the temps stay above 36F. It was forecast to dip well below that temp overnight so I chose not to hook up the water just yet. I'm managing just fine on bottled water.

The campground had a bathhouse and a well-stocked camp store where I was able to fill my empty propane tank. The furnace has been running quite a bit in these freezing temperatures and I found one tank empty when I did my checks.   I have two 20# (4-gallon) tanks and the system automatically switches to the other tank when one runs out. It cost me all of $10.00 to fill the tank here!

Candy Hill Campground has a large fenced off-leash dog park so Dexter and I spent quite some time running around in the grass. He has been doing very well riding in the truck but he was ready for some playtime after two days of travel!

I checked the pressure in the truck and camper tires, unplugged from the truck and hooked up the camper electric connection, chocked the wheels, and dropped the rear stabilizers. I did not unhitch since I would be there just one night. I did have to use my Anderson Levelers to get the camper level but otherwise, it was a pretty simple set up. With my chores done,  I enjoyed a nice long hot shower at the bathhouse and brought some hot water back to the camper to wash my dishes.

I wasn't very hungry so I had a bowl of cereal for supper then Dexter and I went for a long walk. It was peaceful and quiet and there was just a small sliver of moon out to light our path.

Dexter went to sleep early and I stayed up until 11 reading. I was awakened at 4:30 AM by Dexter who was complaining that it was just too lonely in his crate, so I brought him in bed with me where he curled up and we both slept until 7.

I was on the road at 7:45 and found traffic today to be much heavier than usual. There was the expected number of commercial trucks on the interstate, but many more cars than normal. It was a clear day and I was on I81 South until it ended and I picked up I40 just outside of Knoxville, TN.

Dexter rounded up some cattle at a rest stop in Tennesee.

I was making good time and decided to push a bit further than my original plan today, thinking that traffic is only going to be worse tomorrow. It was smooth sailing until 10 miles from my destination where I ran into a messy traffic snarl. Once I made it past this Knoxville rush hour traffic jam, it was easy to find the WalMart SuperCenter just off the highway. There are several other campers here tonight and it seems quiet. I made a simple supper on the gas stove of grilled cheese and Panera Cream of Tomato Soup. I found several prepared soups at my local Shaw's grocery store near the rotisserie chickens the day before I left. I chose Panera Bread Cream of Tomato and Panera Bread Black Bean soup as well as Legal Seafood Clam Chowder. They are the perfect easy stovetop meal and very tasty! They need to be stored in the refrigerator but have about a 6-week expiration date.

It's been a long day, but now tomorrow will be a much shorter drive. I have only 216 miles to the Tanbark Campground in Dickinson, TN (west of Nashville) where I have a reservation for two nights.

Day 1, 334 Miles, Dexter Riding Shotgun

The sun has set on the first day of our grand adventure and we are cozied into the WalMart Super Center parking lot in Wilkes Barre, PA.  It was a balmy 55F and raining at 7 AM this morning as I hitched up the camper in Ashland, MA. The experience I gained on the trip home from Chilliwack has all finally meshed and I'm feeling at ease and confident with the procedures. Things went so smoothly in fact, that I had to triple check using my checklists. I thought I must be missing something because it was all just too easy! Dexter was eager to get started and felt right at home in his jump seat in the truck. He has traveled by car to Florida with me twice so he's an old hand at road trips.

We left at 7:45 AM and headed to the Mass Pike (I90). It was still pouring rain but traffic was light.

I stopped at the first rest stop on the highway just to check inside the trailer to be sure all the cupboards had remained closed and all items were secure. I have never had an issue with this trailer, but I remember my Dad doing this in his trailer whenever he repacked.  I like the peace of mind knowing there isn't some object flinging itself around inside the trailer as I drive!

The truck is riding a bit lower than before, which is not surprising since I now have all my craft supplies with me! It's kind of poetic that I parked next to this rig at a rest stop.

I stopped at the Lee, MA rest stop to gas up and it was frigid! The temp had dropped to 34F and there were flurries mixed in with the rain. Granted this was in the Berkshire Mountains, but yikes, I think I'm getting out just in time.

Dexter was very comfortable riding shotgun today. He stayed in his front jump seat for most of the journey today down I90 to I87, then I84 to I81. The temps rose to 45F and the rain stopped an hour before we arrived here in Wilkes Barre, PA. Along I87, I saw two jet black chickens scratching and pecking along the highway embankment. What a crazy sight! There were no houses in sight, so maybe they have escaped captivity and are now free range chickens, or perhaps they just...crossed the road...

A message popped up on the truck today telling me that a brake light has gone out. I'll need to get that fixed when I unhitch the trailer. It's nice that the system in the truck can let you know when there are things that need attention! The brake lights are working fine on the camper so I'm still in good shape.

I met a lovely couple as soon as we arrive here for the night. Matt and Adrianne M. took the grand tour of Wild Thing. They are dreaming of a camper of their own and were impressed with the Escape. She is pretty fine and I do love it when folks show an interest. I love meeting new people!

It's going to be a cold night, down in the low 30's, but we will keep driving south and soon the temps will rise. Dexter and I are comfortable and warm in our cozy little house on wheels.   I have the lounge area set up so he can snuggle while I work on the post!

I'm  tired tonight after all the excitement of the last few days but so happy to be on the road. I'll get a good rest tonight and be ready for what awaits tomorrow!

Big Girls Do Cry...

I had a rough start this morning. After leaving Merry Widow Health Mine, I stopped in Boulder, MT for coffee at the Exxon Station. I parked well away from the pumps and the entrance, but a local woman in a pick-up truck still managed to back into the rear corner of Wild Thing.

She said she never looked behind her. I would have been hard to miss if she had! She took out the light over the license plate, scraped paint off the bumper, and damaged the fiberglass exterior on the driver side back corner. Thankfully it seems to be superficial damage so as mishaps go this one was minor. It was still pretty upsetting to see my beautiful new baby mistreated! The woman was gracious. Sought me out to tell me about the damage and offered all the right info. I called the police a bit later and they took a report over the phone. Since it was on private property they did not need to respond or file an official report but the Chief of Police called me later in the afternoon and was very helpful and compassionate. He is going to file a report and use the photos I took to make insurance claims easier. My DH was my knight in shining armor as always. He listened to my tale of woe and called Amica, our insurance company for me. Our insurance agent called me back within hours and also assured me that they would cover the damage. After a few private tears of disappointment, I pulled up my big girl panties, dried my eyes and got on with the day.

I enjoyed a beautiful and easy drive on I90 through Montana and into Wyoming. Originally I was planning to stop in Billings, MT for the night, but I was making such good time I just kept going. I used my AllStays app to look up the next Walmart SuperCenter where I could park free for the night and so here I am tucked into my cozy camper. I drove 367 miles today and have just a little over 200 to go tomorrow to reach Sundance, WY where I plan to stay for 3 days and explore the area. Tomorrow is a new day....

WallyWorld to Merry Widow Health Mine

I'm tired but happy tonight. I left you last night in the parking lot of a Walmart Supercenter in Post Falls, ID and am writing this tonight 338 miles down the road at the Merry Widow Health Mine in Basin, MT. I found my stay at WallyWorld (Walmart) to be quite comfortable. It was quiet and I felt safe with at least 15 other campers around me. Most like me were in RV's of some sort but there were also a few folks in just a vehicle. It was convenient to have the store right there and I took advantage and did a little shopping. I needed Plumber's Putty for the sink fix, two more padlocks (one for the X-chock and one for the safety pin on the Kingpin). I also picked up a few groceries as well. It was quick to set up since I wasn't unhitching. I just had to remember to unplug the trailer from my truck so it didn't drain my truck battery, chock the wheels and lock them up, and lock up the safety pin on the Kingpin connection. I drove around a bit to find a place that was level so I didn't need to do any external leveling. Because it was still hitched to the vehicle, the camper moved around slightly when I was in it but not much at all.

After setting up I got out a new toy my DH bought for me at BJ's before I left.  This handy tool is a battery operated tire pressure gauge and inflation device. I checked all 4 tires on the trailer and all 4 on the truck. Some needed a little topping off with air so it was nice to be able to just take care of that without going to a gas station!

With all my chores done I fixed a quick supper of soup and naan bread wrote my post, then was ready for bed!

After I I fell asleep early, before 10 pm, but then woke up at 1 and was awake until 3. Argh...I hate it when that happens! I read for a while then was able to sleep until 7 and was on the road by 8:30.

The weather was clear and sunny and 65. Perfect! I drove through the panhandle of Idaho. It's beautiful very mountainous terrain. The truck and trailer are handling beautifully and I'm averaging about 13 miles to the gallon. Better than I expected! I crossed the border into Montana and into Mountain Time so I've gained an hour. I just love the landscape here in Montana. Gorgeous fields with multi-colored grasses and shrubbery, rocky streams with fast running water leading up to majestic mountains. Some snow-capped, some that look like brown suede.

Yesterday while at a rest-stop I met some folks also in an RV. They came over to see Wild Thing and take a tour inside. Jim and Cherie P. from Springfield, MO were traveling with Joan and David P. from Benton, AR. I've started a "Guest Book" for Wild Thing so anyone who visits her can sign and date the book! I think it will be fun to keep a record of visitors. Today I stopped at a rest stop about a hundred miles from my destination and guess who pulled up beside me! It was sure fun to see them again. They will be staying in Butte (25 miles from here) and I hope they stop by to see the mine.

You meet the most interesting folks on the road. At one stop there was a big burly tattooed Harley guy with the cutest little dog riding in a special seat behind him on the Hogg. He admired Wild Thing and I admired his dog!

When I arrived at the campground tonight, John and Annette, my new neighbors were ready and willing to help me pick a spot and back the trailer in (a first!). With their help, I was successful in backing up this rig. That aspect is definitely going to take some practice but I'm pleased that I've done it today. Unhitching and setting up took me only about a half hour. I'm sure feeling much more confident!

This is a quiet place. Basin is aptly named since it sits down at the base of several mountain ranges that rise up away from it on all sides. It's a tiny town that I got a glimpse of when my GPS took me the wrong way. It's pretty much one street about 3 blocks long. I'll explore it in more detail tomorrow or Friday. After I had the rig settled I walked up the hill to the famous Merry Widow Health Mine. I met several people who were there for the benefits. People come to this mine from all around the world to seek relief from a wide variety of ailments.

One woman, Katie, has been coming for almost 35 years! She is terribly crippled with Juvenile Arthritis and started coming when she was 14. I could see that her fingers and hands are greatly affected and could tell from her gait that her spine must also be. She told me that she comes every 6 months for a 10-day treatment and is pain-free as a result. She was a pretty convincing devote. Katie is a Hutterite and was at the mine with her brother Darius and his wife Lizbeth. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with them and learning about their life. They live in community with about 90 other people and Lizbeth shared a bit about their way of life. They do not watch TV but do have a few computers that are used only to help run some of the high-level functions of the community. Most of the members still hold to the old ways of living raising their food in gardens and tending livestock. They have chickens, sheep, turkeys, and vegetable gardens and sell hand-made items (like the nylon net pot scrubber she was knitting) as well as the bounty they produce. I was reminded of the lifestyle I experienced growing up in Vermont. We shared many similarities although their community is on a much larger scale and they don't have to pluck their 900 chickens by hand...they have an automatic chicken plucker! She invited me to visit her tomorrow and I hope to do so.

I met several other people, some who, like Katie, come every year for treatment of a variety of ailments and have found relief. There were a few like me for whom this is all new. I'll have more to report about the mine over the next two days. Tonight was my just my introduction. It is a real mine shaft that extends into the side of a mountain where copper and silver were originally mined. After walking down the mine shaft 500 feet you reach the area to take a treatment.

There is an area to soak your hands and feet. The water here is so cold you can hardly stand to keep your feet in but must do so for 10 minutes to get the benefit. It's like the water I used to feel running from the spring thaw in Vermont and must be just above freezing. It's so cold that it makes your feet burn and your legs ache. After 5 minutes things get numb enough to stand the next 5! I soaked for the full 10 minutes tonight. There are areas to sit comfortably while you remain in the mine for 1 hour. There is a separate mineral bath for hands and forearms, a private area with a bathtub that you can soak your entire body (and yes the water there is also just above freezing!), as well as the "Doggie Den" an area where you can take pets for a treatment. The lore told to me by Darius is that the health benefits were discovered by someone observing how the mine benefitted their aging dog. I'll read up more on this!

I'll take 4 treatments tomorrow (one hour in the mine then 2 hours outside followed by another hour in the mine repeat...) and let you know how it goes.