New One Room Rancher Available for Immediate Occupancy
When researching backpacking, especially a 2100+ mile multi month trek like the AT (Appalachian Trail) you always hear about “The Big Three”; Tent, Sleep System, and Cook System. Part 1: Tent. Let’s be honest here, the last time I backpacked was 40 years ago in the Boy Scouts. I basically had a lightweight for the time “pup tent”. And the last time I slept in a tent it was a GP Medium in Korea, not exactly a “packable” tent. Bottom line, research had to be done. Charlene said “Don, you like to research things, pick it out”. She also tells me to “not be a cheap ass” and get a quality tent that will work for us. A great idea since this will be our home for SIX months in 14 states.
Research Engaged. Back in June we sat down with “Postcard” aka Mark at REI in Marlton, NJ. He has hiked the AT twice and has a couple books on the experience. We discussed the various options, looked at a couple of tents, and Postcard made his recommendation. YouTube video time showed me Tarps, Pop-Ups, Hammocks, 1P,2P,3P tents. There was Big Agnes, Hyperlite, ZPacks, MSR, REI, and many more brands to choose from. Books were just as varied and EVERYONE has an opinion. Guess we need to find out our basic needs to have a starting point. Packable-obviously, lightweight, comfort, room, ease of setup/teardown. Oh, and what about our gear, almost forgot we have to put our packs and shoes somewhere.
Using these as filters, I decided upon the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 (what a mouthful) with a footprint/tarp for underneath. The HV model is a new design with oodles of head/shoulder room and believe it or not, the model first suggested to us. Lets look at the filters:
Part 1 of the BIG THREE is locked down. Better yet this system retails for about $580 with the footprint. Doing some shopping and a little luck on Ebay and I nailed one down for almost $200 less. Woo Hoo. We stated with a 1600 sq ft farm house, moved into a 240 sq ft Airstream, and will be shifting to a 41sq ft tent. The best part is the HUGE back yard the tent will offer… Can’t wait. Next up… our cook system.
Have you ever sat on the school bleachers until your butt was numb? That’s what watching TV on the couch in our Airstream was like. After too many uncomfortable evenings watching a little boob-tube we decided something had to be done. A MiFi, phone, an Air Book, and elbow grease later Charlene finds a company called Southern Stitch in Gulfport, Mississippi that might be able to help us (Note: You never want to clothes shop with us-lol). The scene now shifts to Goldilocks and The Three Bears. I see the puzzled look in your eyes, follow along and you will get the picture. We walked into Southern Stitch, explained our problem, and walked out a few days later with the white foam in one of our couch cushions. Will call this cushion “The Tester”. After sitting on “The Tester” we called out “this is too hard”, and back we went. This time we picked out the blue foam. Another few nights sitting on “The Tester” and we cried out “this is too soft”. One more time we headed back. After many discussions, a decision was made to layer the two different colored foams. A couple more nights with “The Tester” and we had our Goldilocks moment… “This is just right!!!”. Now it’s back one more time to Southern Stitch; this time with all the bottom cushions off the couch and the dinette. Another week, thankfully we were on vacation, and five C bills later (pretty darn cheap for the patience and quality of work) and we are back in business. Sitting at the dinette no longer feels like you are seated at the kids table and the couch is comfortable enough to sleep on; and take in a rainy-day movie marathon (Pictures are in the gallery). Now where is that remote… Charlene!?!?!
Gurgle Spit Gush… our Airstream takes a leak
Let me lay this out for you. Wednesday night Charlene says “Did you here that gurgling noise?” Me being the perfect husband replied “That? Oh, that was nothing”. Thursday night I’m laying in bed around midnight when I feel a drop of water hit my foot. “Hey baby, I think we have some condensation in the A/C unit”. But since we turn off the rear unit every night I figure it will just evaporate and all will be good. Now Friday we have plans in Mobile, AL; about an hour plus away. As we are getting ready… gush. What seems like 2 or 3 gallons of water just pours out of the inside grill onto the bed. Did I mention we just replaced the mattress on Thursday morning? That will be another story. We pull off all the linen thankful we spent the extra for a quality everything proof mattress cover. I have to give my darling wife credit here, no I Told You So when she had the perfect opportunity. The plans get changed and we get to work.
While I start checking references Charlene strips the bed and pulls out the extra towels. Dometic manuals…nope; google…nothing really helpful; forums…hmmmm blowout the tube and clean the top of the unit. Call Airstream…love the mothership. They don’t ask if it’s under warranty, just jump in to help. What, now the thermostat has an error code?! WTF does E1 mean??? Phone call in and returned from Colonial Airstream service department. Walk me through the removal of the inside cover, explain the drain system, discuss E1 and tell me how to dry out the communications, and explain the “what” and “why”. My heros.
A phillips screw driver, Ryobi cordless air pump, a few choice words, teamwork, and a little time and … we are back in business. On vacation from our vacation in a couple weeks, so Alice will go in for an A/C check up and cleaning.
Recently I took a journey I never thought I would make, a journey to discover my family roots. To be honest I always thought this journey would take place by traveling to Ireland and visiting Castle Doh not spending a few wonderful hours in a little town called Gravelly in Arkansas. My mom past away many years ago and was raised in Los Angeles, but I remember her saying she was from a little town outside Little Rock. Little did I realize the Charlene would encourage, embrace and even push me to go “take a look”.
Back in its hay day Gravelly was a town of almost 1000 people. If you look for it in the internet you will find a very short reference and maybe a picture. Today there are somewhere short of 200 people and a town that could easily pass into obscurity. We stopped at a little store that until someone step out of you would have thought was closed for business. At the store, we met a wonderful woman and her husband who made us a cheeseburger and fries… or tater tots if you wanted them. To describe this little place, “The Gravelly Verity”, could never do it justice; but let me try. The outside is in need of repair and is getting a new coat of whitewash. The owner and the local painter/handyman are chatting outside. Stepping in we find a few chips, hostess cakes, and sodas for sale. On the wall are pictures of Arthur Hunicutt, an actor born here in 1910 with over 40 movies on his resume and a lynching at the railroad trestle back in the 30s. These are the towns claims to fame. My cousin Janice told me Arthur could be a distant relative… cool!!! The bubbly and friendly lady inside offers us lunch and lets us know there is no soup of the day since “the guy that makes it didn’t bring it in yet”. The back room has a dining room table with a few chairs, have a seat. The kitchen is off to side and I notice the stove is broken and she is using an electric skillet, the kind your mom and mine had, to cook the burgers. There’s a TV with an old western movie playing and two lay-z-boys to kick back in. Oh, and the walls have some can goods and a few sundries available. Food was a little greasy but I give it 4 stars for friendly service, treating us like old friends, and for being authentic. Maybe I should send Guy Fieri a note… hmmmm.
Grabbing a Mt Dew (soda not moonshine-lol) I stepped out and struck up a conversation with Mike, the owner, and the Handyman who’s name I wish I wrote down. These are real hardworking common folk who would give you the shirt off their back. I find out where the local cemetery and Baptist Church is, down Young Gravelly Road a piece. I also am told of a man who was old as dirt and a school teacher for 40 years that might know my Mom or the family. We shake hands and head out to the Church and cemetery. Young Gravelly Road isn’t pavement, or young gravel, it’s a dry and dusty dirt road. After heading down the road a piece we find then cemetery and church and pull in. The graveyard is OLD. There are makers that are ornate, other not so much. Some that are easy to read and others that are worn and illegible. Then there are makers that have no name at all or just a last name. We notice there are also stones, common rocks, laying around. We find out later there are actually grave stones. What? Yep, they mark the graves of people who’s family was too poor to afford a “proper” grave marker. We wander around taking pictures of people with my mom’s last name and begins to notice that in 1910 and 1911 so many children died. I wonder what happened.
Heading back into town we make a right down “Blue Ball Rd” and follow directions like “head down there a piece and when you get the white house with the $80,000 Kubota tractor, hell he’s to old to drive so he uses this to get around, just pull in and knock on the door.” House and tractor found we pull in and stop. We see there is “brick-a-brack” all over the front porch as we head to front door. Knocking we hear “come on in, it’s open”. We open the door to find an old man sitting in the La-Z-Boy the house is a little cluttered but overall clean to the left of him is another lazy boy that is empty my guess is it has not been set in or changed since he lost his wife over 10 years ago. This elderly man’s name was Mr. tween Willis. We sent Mr. Willis is a very interesting gentleman born in 1930 son of a sharecropper join United States Army served in Korea got out using the G.I. Bill became a schoolteacher and it was a schoolteacher back in the local area from us 40 years. We chatted for almost 3 hours about my mom’s family and the local area what it was like back in the 30s and what has become now. We discuss the graveyard with Mr. Willis and he found in his records a listing of all the greats the sad part here is the listing of the graves it’s just like we saw most of them did not even have a name attached to them. the people at that time we’re so poor but he could not even afford a Greystone just a rock and unfortunately people are forgotten who is buried there. Mr. Willis remembered that the Poindexter’s have some property down young gravelly Road and lived up on a hill and gave us some directions those directions were more like go down the dirt road about a mile and a half past the Baptist Church and after the second Creek Road turn stop that’s the property and look up on the hill and you should find a house or at least that’s what I remember. Mr. Willis tried to get us more information calling friends and relatives. And when I mean calling friends and relatives I mean picking up an actual telephone looking in the white pages and looking in the phonebook. Cell phones don’t work out here and you have to do it old-school. We left our phone numbers for Mr. Willis just in case he can find out any more information for At thanked him and headed out the door time to go find mom’s place.
We head back down young gravelly Road past the Baptist Church in the graveyard go over the first creek then the second creek come to the corner and just like Mr. Willis said we run into some land it’s a farm that’s one of the families area but we do see your house up on the hill after second discussion we drive on up the road apiece further get up to the house and look around to the left is a Is a form called the red river farm Mr. Willow said that used to be the Poindexter’s property will look around and we see a small house maybe 400 ft.² in size and it looks like a sharecroppers house was this where my mom was born. Where my mom’s parents sharecroppers. All I know is that she was born there and gravel he moved to Colorado and want to been raised in outside of Los Angeles California. I give my cousin a call send her a picture and she tells me that she remembers a picture my mom and her brothers her grandfather being one of those in front of a small house and it’s very possible that this is the house. I get back in the car sit down and chat with Charlene for a bit and I realize I have tears in my eyes emotion in my voice and yet at the same time I’m as happy as a child at Christmas.
But it’s getting dark it’s time to head home got I hope I don’t have to drive back down that dirt road again but on the way home Charlene and I talked about family and we talk about how Mr. Willis came from nothing became something and then maybe think about my family even more so on a day that started off on a journey that might never of happened had I not found myself in Hot Springs Arkansas I may have just found my roots.
For as long as I could remember I have wanted to spend a day in Gettysburg. I started the day with a child’s excited anticipation and Charlene and I headed out with no real plan other than to “look for the big round painting” she remembered seeing when she was a little girl. We stayed at Artillery Ridge RV Park, which is right on the battlefield, man this made it easy… and they gave us free tickets to a couple of the local attractions. Making a right out of the entrance and a short drive down the street we find the Diorama. The building was a little run down but we find a “free” parking space, there are not many, and head in. The gift shop is cool and they have a show that goes with the diorama which really does a good job of outlining the timeline of the battle and showing you where the action happened. After the show, we decided to take a walk over to the National Cemetery. Awe, Quiet, Solemn, and Retrospect are a few words I can use to describe this site. What really got my attention were the large number of graves marked… Unknown… … … Heading back to the car we decide to grab lunch at a place called the Dobbin House Tavern. A great period place for lunch that was built in 1776 and is still standing. In fact, it was standing for Four Score and Twenty Years Ago and less than ½ mile from where President Lincoln made his famous speech. After lunch we headed over to the National Military Park. Here is where the round picture is; the Cyclorama. This is an almost 400-foot-long by 40-foot-tall painting that surrounds you and makes you feel you are part of the battle. The Park Service has added the dimension of a narration with sounds and lighting to really give you the feel of Pickett’s charge. The Museum is one of the best laid out of any I’ve been in and adds to the story. Driving around the self-guided tour all I kept saying is “wow, can you believe how many people died here. Was it all really worth it?”. There are monuments to men, regiments, battles, states and the one woman that was killed. You really start to understand the horrors of war and that the Civil War really was brother vs brother. Words cannot describe the feelings I felt and the pictures below are just a sample of what can be seen. If you haven’t put this place on your bucket list… do so.
Charlene, never one to forget her niece and nephew, made sure to find a moment to grab a couple gifts for them. I get the feeling this will be a recurring theme on this adventure. I hope she mails them out as we go… otherwise our trailer will look like it’s filled with Lucy’s rocks from The Long Long Trailer… lol. What’s next… a couple day drive to Norcross Georgia. Hope the drive goes well… sounds like Charlene is getting a cold. Ewwww cooties…..
The pastor from the Hot Springs Methodist church recommended that we visit the Saint Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, AR. We did and we went on New Years Day. We called ahead to Sister Kimberly to request a private tour. We decided to come early and go to mass. For some reason, we thought the church was separate from the monastery and drove around the monastery and the school and did not find the church. Then we thought that the church might be in the monastery, which it was. I thought most of the people in the church, which were mostly women, were locals … buzzer moment here, wrong again. They were all the nuns from the monastery.
When you think of a nun, you think of the habits they wear. Apparently, they are no longer required to wear such things. As long as they are modest, they can wear what they want. The nuns can even wear make-up and color their hair. I have to say that the mass was lovely and the church was beyond words. The architecture was modern and positive for women, but you can see their Bavarian roots in the artwork, the paintings and so much more. The monastery is huge and unique. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas. The calm you feel when you walk in is lovely.
Sister Kimberly asked us to come for breakfast and then gave us the grand tour. Those ladies can cook. We were well received and I so enjoyed talking to the nuns. They are light hearted, friendly, well educated (most hold jobs of teaching, nurse practitioner, etc.), and love to laugh. There is so much history at the monastery and too much to put into writing, but I will say that some of the nuns had talents that were certainly God given. When you see the paintings, the old robes and so much more you realize that some of the nuns were not educated in these arts, yet their artwork almost seems to belong in a museum. Unbelievable and just wow!
Sister Kimberly asked that we come back for dinner, which we agreed to, but I wanted to spend some quality time in the church. I wanted to reflect, pray and just breathe. I have to say that I felt a huge burden lifted off my back and I felt happy. We left for lunch to walk the Fort Smith National Historic Site. It certainly does not compare to Gettysburg, but I think we all forget that the civil war was struggled and suffered in many states, including Arkansas. The graveyard is always the hardest to visit, but the most memorable to see. You walk past people from history that you read about, but really know nothing about. Books only tell you a certain side of who these people were. The hanging judge was one of them. Every person who came before him had either murdered someone or raped someone. Per the laws at the time, they had to hang which they all did. He was a wonderful family man and served his country well. It was sad that his nickname was the hanging judge, but such is history.
We headed back to the monastery to eat dinner and to get ready for our leave the next day to Oklahoma City, Ok. We arrived to the offer of spirits, a lively young violinist and the enjoyment of the sisters. I never knew that eating black-eyed peas on New Years Day provided good fortune for the rest of the year. Don was not touching the black-eyed peas, even with the possibility of good fortune. All the nuns prayed for our safe travels and I was so thankful for the food and their comradery.
If you are ever in Fort Smith, AR, please stop in to say hello, get the grand tour and visit with the nuns. They are so much fun and love to have visitors. They are not stuffy and you do not even have to be Catholic to come, but come.