Sunday, May 31, 2009

Out of the Mud

We have spent the last few days at the Escapees Escapade in Sedalia, MO. We renewed some old acquaintances, made new friends, sat in on some educational sessions, and spent a lot of time socializing with the Solos.

We had full hookups at the Missouri State Fairgrounds, but the sites and internal roads were dirt and grass. Not usually a problem... until a few days of rain preceded the hitch-up day. Most attendees had paid through Friday morning, but because of the deteriorating site conditions (read "mud"), a lot of folks left on Thursday trying to get out before everyone else who was trying to get out made new ruts and/or the existing ruts deeper. Smaller rigs were fine, but some motorhomes were sunk into the soft ground several inches, and even 4-wheel drive pickups were spinning their wheels.

So what do seasoned RVers do when neighbors-helping-neighbors is no longer an option and the tow trucks arrive? We get out the chairs, bring out the snacks, and prepare to be entertained. Don't you think we looked like the "dump scene" from Robin William's movie, "RV?"

The tow truck in the above photo got the motorhome out, but left a horrid, rutted mess of mud in its wake. I think that site will need a bit of work before anyone else can park in it!

We were luckily on slightly higher ground, and got out on Friday without a problem.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dolly Parton Dixie Stampede

While at the Solo's pre-rally in Branson, a group of us attended Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede (other Stampede locations are in Pigeon Forge, Myrtle Beach, and recently closed in Florida). What a lot of fun! We started the evening with a pre-show featuring a talented comic/juggler, and then proceeded into the arena for the dinner and show.

As we entered, we found we were on one of two sides: North or South, facing a large open area with a dirt floor between the two sides. Our waiters were dressed in blue or gray Civil War uniforms, and the waitresses as southern belles. Dinner was eaten without utensils -- soup in a mug with a handle, chicken (a whole Rock Cornish Game Hen each), BBQ Pork, corn on the cob, potato, and dessert. No hard liquor anywhere, but all the iced tea or coffee you could drink!

Pictures were not allowed during the performances, but a group photo was taken when we first entered. Here it is:

The evening was spent in a North/South competition -- sometimes with audience members racing chickens or pigs, and sometimes with performers on horseback doing rodeo stunts and challenges. Horses, covered wagons, doves, and even longhorns filled the arena at various times. It was all impeccably staged and presented, even down to the "dirt" on the floor which was somehow dustless. And we saw not a single piece of horse poop anywhere!

After each competition by the performers, the winning riders tossed a single white carnation to an audience member -- and I was one of the lucky ladies! I guess I could call my champion my "Stud on a Steed!" We agreed that we all had a great time at the Dixie Stampede.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Back in the Land of the Internet

You would think camping anywhere in or near Branson, MO would mean easy internet access, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong. All around the campground at Indian Point visitors happily surfed the web or phoned friends -- unless you were parked in the loop we were in where there was nothing at all. So getting online meant getting in the car and driving somewhere else, which was quite annoying.

The terrain here is hilly and winding, and the GPS can get a bit confused on back roads. Not sure why it thinks taking Sow Coon would be a good idea, or even why anyone would name a road that. But here's the photo proof of the best route it could find to Bayshore Drive:


And why would anyone think that street sign served any useful purpose?

In this part of Missouri, we noticed a couple establishments that went all out when it came to bathroom signage, preferring plain white copy paper for those all important stall-wall instructions. First, explicit directions on waste management is always a plus -- now just what did I do with my Porta-Potty? (I think they meant holding tanks).

Second, they seemed to instinctively know that a spell checker can be wrong, so it's best to just avoid it altogether. Document titles, whether actually set up or left at the default, and page numbers are another story -- the more the merrier:

Maybe my Porta-Potty is hiding out in fear with my tapooms and toliels!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Odds and Ends

Odds and ends from Livingston, Texas to Branson, MO:

We are currently outside of Branson, Missouri, attending a SOLOs Rally that is shaping up to be a lot of fun! I don't have an internet connection at the rig, so I have to take the computer with me to town to get online. It's rare these days to park in an area where there is no connection at all -- I keep turning to the computer to look up something on Google or check a map, only to realize with a shock that there's no outside world sitting inside my motherboard!

The topography of the Branson area consists of a lot of little fjord-like peninsulas jutting into lakes formed by the dammed White River. We are camped at the end of Indian Point, a developed peninsula that even has an amusement park at the north end. We accidentally toured one of the other peninsulas on our way here -- there are lots of little windy roads down the peninsulas, and lots of ways to get lost! This one was almost in the wilds -- only a few houses were here and there, and almost no businesses or tourists. After almost getting stuck trying to turn around in the largest area we could find -- a closed community center -- we retraced our steps and got to "our" peninsula without further problems.

I haven't yet set foot in Branson itself -- I hear it is a congested, touristy conglomerate of places to spend your money. I'll find out soon!

So here are a few highlights -- or lowlights -- of the trip from Livingston to Branson:

Love bugs. All over, everywhere. They are sometimes flying alone, sometimes in tandem. They don't seem to see a huge vehicle like an RV coming towards them, engrossed as they are in their "activities." Reminds me of the opening scene of Men In Black:

What a great way to get around! Rather than sitting around getting rusty, this car is used by my line-dancing-buddy Becky and her husband to do the
daily chores such as grocery shopping and laundry. Very cool!

Arkansas has gotten a lot of rain lately, and this beautiful Corps of Engineers park is proof. The shoreline should be on the other side of these trees!

We had to stop at this restaurant! As luck would have it, we had a table outdoors on the balcony, right next to the table where the owners were drinking coffee and doing paperwork. So we had to ask... "how can you get away with the name 'The Bearded clam?'

They said they had had no idea what it meant when they started the business, but just thought it was a neat name because he has a beard and they are near water. The town council was apparently no more sophisticated, and the name was granted.

Don't know the other meaning of a "bearded clam?" Don't ask me to tell you.. that's what your parents, your significant other, or Google is for!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Back Online

In the last entry, I said, skeptically, that it could happen that I have a marvelous, easy, and uplifting experience getting my motherboard fixed. Guess what? It did happen!

The day after I called Dell and they diagnosed the motherboard problem, a local techie was here to replace it. Yes, the next day! Dell overnighted the parts (and a few extras), and by 4 p.m. THE NEXT DAY I had a working computer. Did I mention they had it fixed the next day? It has taken me a few days to reload everything and get back up and running, but I couldn't have been more pleased with the response from Dell (once I got to a human, of course -- negotiating the automated answerer tried my patience a tad).

The most frustrating thing so far has been the loss of my saved data from the World of Goo, a funny, odd, and addicting game I can't stop playing (if anyone else reading plays World of Goo, I lost a saved game where I had completed the Tower of Goo! Oh horrors!). I have since regained and surpassed my previous place in the game, so I can now put it all behind me.

A few nights ago, John and I, and our friend Digby went to dinner at a restaurant in Onalaska on Lake Livingston. Good food, good conversation, and a wonderful sunset ensued. We'll try for a repeat sometime before we leave.

Here's the sunset:

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Two Words You Don't Want To Hear

"Motherboard Failure"

It started this morning when, instead of booting to my nice, messy desktop, I got a blue screen full of text and long strings of numbers that essentially told me something was horribly, horribly wrong -- but I could try to boot into Safe Mode if I felt lucky.

My true feelings of "luckiness" aside, I tried to boot into Safe Mode with no success. Now even the blue screen was but a memory -- all I could get was a black screen, a solid num-lock light, and blinking caps and scroll lock lights. Being the Uber-Techie that I am, I instantly knew this was Not A Good Thing.

Long story short, I got a hold of a techie at Dell after literally screaming at the automated b*tch who cheerfully told me she couldn't understand me when I responded to her yes/no question by saying, "yes". The technician diagnosed a motherboard failure, told me I was still under warranty and that another technician would come to my home, probably on Monday, to replace the board. I made him repeat it, because it seemed too good to be true!

So I'm on borrowed computers for a while, which makes blogging a bit unpredictable until this all gets fixed. My next entry will probably be the middle of next week when I'll tell you what a marvelous, easy, and uplifting experience it has been dealing with my "Motherboard Failure."

What? Do I hear snickering out there? Quit that -- it could happen!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Geese, Again

Location: Livingston, TX

It's raining now, punctuated with raging thunderstorms and a little bit of hail. The NOAA radio keeps going off with watches and warnings, but so far the worst weather -- tornadoes and flash floods -- have missed this part of Polk County. So here's a post about a trip to the park a couple days ago:

The park is Pedigo Park -- a local baseball diamond and flea market site that also has a lake where ducks and geese patiently paddle until the vision of a foot-toting human causes them to waddle ashore. This trip to the park was a lot better than the one I made in December 2007 when I was accosted by an attack goose (fyi, my scar has now healed).

This time the geese were much better behaved, and, while they did come ashore to check for the possibility of a handout, they did not act aggressively towards us. Here's a few photos of the geese -- be sure to check out the decorative topnotch on the white goose! What a handsome guy!