Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Loose ends, RVs, and Golf on Sirius

I may have just returned from Africa, Trisdan da Cunha, Argentina, and all that, but I still had our lives to put back together.  I had pets to retrieve and also importantly, an RV to get.  Big Bird needed to come back home.

We got an almost unreal and probably unmeasurable pile of snow last week and then on Saturday, I-29 opened and at 8 AM we took off south.
My RV ended up at Tiffin Headquarters in Red Bay Alabama in December as one of the side effects of my 1 month repair of my new 33aa, RED (Rear Engine Diesel) which was cured after 106 hours of mechanic work, two flown in engineers and involving replacing the entire engine electrical harness and all other electronics.  The side effect was that it froze up due to our early October winter after they gave it back to me on the 120 mile drive home.  As I told Tiffin, "IF I break a water line, you are fixing it."  They agreed and I broke the line right under the shower..  When I plugged in the water in Tallahassee, a fountain was formed inside and outside of my rig.

I had a repair guy in Tampa look at it and as it would take two guys and three days to fix it, they would not touch it, resulting in us dry camping for a month in Florida and then in December, we dropped it off at Tiffin, I-22 was just 20 miles from Red Bay which was the route home and as such, it wasn't too far out of our way, so the week before Christmas, we dropped it off and then a second odyssey began, not from Tiffin, they were great and they pulled out the shower, the toilet and they fixed it, but us retrieving the rig became the issue.  How hard could finding a window to drive it home be?

We went to Curacao over new Years and then when we came back, we had a blizzard and then as Tiffin was replacing my ladder (I jackknifed in Florida and bent it, and figured easiest to replace it now).  They shattered my back fiberglass.  So I got a new panel I was off to bird in Jamaica etc, I couldn't go get it.

Then returning, I saw a hole in the blizzards, so my buddy Barry and I drive down straight to Red Bay and then his wife called us (she works for NOAA) and despite the government being closed due to budget impass, she was still working and reported yet, another blizzard and ice storm incoming.  I thought fast.  My rig would be done in 4 hours after we arrived but I'd have to drive through Iowa on ice, so I told them my plight, I left for Texas in five days and then after 48 hours, I would leave for South America, all from Minneapolis.  I did the math, I'd never make it home and if I got stuck in St. Louis or KC, I'd have a rig to deal with and still could not make it back and Tiffin told me they'd store it for the winter.  We emptied out anything edible, I threw in my snake boots, and we drove 1100 miles home in a hurry, hitting the ice in Waterloo Iowa, it was pretty bad, but we made it before it really got bad.

Now we had a another window and it was April, who would guess the winter that never ends would never end?  My wife went and the plan was to get behind a really nasty tornado forming storm on Sunday and cruise into Red Bay, get rig and get out before the following Pacific storm came through on Wednesday.

We made great time on Saturday listening to golf on the radio, The Masters kept us oddly on the edge of our seats, who'd guess the next day, would be a historic conclusion.  My wife even wanted to listen.  Hearing Tiger hole the final put was cool.  As we did 700 miles on Saturday, we had some time on Sunday to see stuff despite the cool and rainy day.

First, I revisited Cahokia, the site in East St Louis, containing the largest documented man-made earthen pyramid in North America (I think Pilot Mound in Manitoba is bigger, but the experts don't agree as I do that it is man-made.

 I was last here in 2001, I still wear the t-shirt I bought, and the place still impresses.

We would have climbed Monk's mound except for the lightning risk and as such we could only look and admire.  My research has my own ideas of these pyramids, but I won't elaborate here.  I've visted similar mounds all over the world.
The only thing new here this time was the new warning on the sign

It was even cold and nasty walking the dog

So we headed south, drove through a depressing Cairo Illinois and then heard an even more depressing tale in Wickliffe, Kentucky.  These mounds in Kentucky were excavated in the 1930s and some of the most astounding clay pots were unearthed intact.  Then during Christmas break in 1988, the museum built and maintained by Murray State were broken into and the artifacts taken.  The case has never been solved except, one pot was found for sale on Ebay and retrieved.  These were some of the best pottery ever found and now are in someone's basement.

Reproductions of the priceless stolen artifacts

Other museums have been robbed over the years and rarely are the artifacts recovered.  We were quite sad, but then Tiger won and well, by the time we got to Jackson, TN, we were looking at new mounds, mounds of food at Waffle House.  You got to love Waffle House.

An hour or so later, we were again in history, at Shiloh, the site of a rather gruesome and somewhat controversial Civil Wart battle that some say opportunity of the South was lost, but whether it was or wasn't the war was brutal and the South would have still lost, but in 1862, Shiloh was the most carnage on US soil by any battle up to that time.  By 1865, it would not even be in the top 5.

Confederate memorial (Daughters of Confederacy)

Shiloh Church, namesake of the battle, where Beauregard dithered to advance on the Union troops at the end of April 6th before being defeated on April 7th by a reinforced Grant

Union memorial (Iowa)

We also went to the Tennessee River south of Pittsburg Landing where there are more mounds.  We walked around these, from this Mound builder city from 1500 years ago or so.

Standing on this mound overlooking the river, I was visited by a prothonatory warbler, a year bird, taken with my wide-angle lens, it was like five feet away

It was 45 degrees in Corinth, Mississippi when we bedded down that night in a non-pet friendly "pet-friendly" motel, ate Popeyes, and waited for morning and hoped the weather would clear.  On Monday, it was a beautiful day.  We drove to Red Bay, they found my rig, and despite my worries that the battery would be dead, or something, it was not only running well, and ready for me, it was even clean.  By 0930, my car was on the trailer, and we were off northwest, driving by other full-timers in typically larger rigs waiting on some service issue.  I was glad we weren't them.

The camping area for those waiting to get repairs done at the factory in Red Bay

We drove hard to get to Minneapolis during the nice day.  There were some delays trying to get Popeye's chicken in Dyersburg TN,  but by evening we had already gotten north of LaGrange MO, and found a really nice state park, to camp at where I got the Red-breasted mergansers (first picture) for a really good bird for the area, and had the park largely to ourselves.  They hadn't even got the pay station out of its winter case yet.  We'll see if they ever find my check for the camping fee.

Yesterday, we made it back and parked Big Bird at a campsite north of Minneapolis where she'll sit for a while awaiting spring camping, while today in a driving rain we headed back to South Dakota to watch the snow melt, ending a four month odyssey of our poor rig, although truth be told, it was largely caused by our other travel needs and the winter from hell.  We've owned the rig 8.5 months.  It has been driven 9600 miles and spent 1 month in Cummins, and four months at Tiffin, but with its new electrical heart, she has been driving well, and we still love the RV life.  Mind you, we've driven 3200 miles in our personal car getting it or trying to get it at various times, and I've used my sat phone to call Tiffin or Cummins from five countries but heck, cool birds along the way, interesting history, seeing terrible icy roads, and well, recently listening to great golf, was worth it, well almost.
This morning I even got my Minnesota lifer woodcock, and it was 
nice to be driving my "Bird"


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