12/27/06: A wet but wonderful Christmas here in Louisiana. Our young friend from John Day arrived here on the 16th and we (Len & Jacob) have been busy catching as many fish as we can (or at least trying). We journeyed up to New Orleans for three days over Christmas so that we could take Jacob to the Celebration of the Bonfires on the Mississippi River Levee between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. With all the rain the fires were a bit of a fizzle this year. About the only thing buring was the diesel fuel they used to get them started - the wood was so wet it did not want to burn at all. Still a fun time for all of us. Here are a few photos of previous years structures they built only to burn down.
We returned to Grand Isle Christmas day after a brunch at Boomtown Casino near New Orleans - somewhat of a dissapointment for the price they were charging. Had a great day fishing on the beach yesterday with Jacob catching two nice redfish (see Redfish1.JPG).
12/12/06: Had a wonderful Christmas Party with what seemed like ALL of Grand Isle - must have been 500 people at the Mayors party Saturday night. They had a great band and good food. We were invited to a pre-mayors party at one of the local's house and she also had some great food. Talk about getting fat for the Holidays!
Had a couple of really good days fishing this past week. Brought in about 20 speckled trout one day and ten nice redfish another day. With all the shrimp we bought, the freezer is nearly full. See photos of the catch at redfish and trout.
Looking forward to a Holiday visit from a young man from John Day, OR. Some of you may remember Jacob, the avid fisherman at Magone who always uses my boat when they come up for a visit. Hopefully, we can get him some of the good fishing while he is here. We plan to go to New Orleans for three or four days over Christmas weekend and will take him to see the Festival of the Bonfires between New Orleans and Baton Rouge on Christmas Eve.
I added a menu item on the main page to show some of the knitting projects Sylvia has completed. You can also clich here.
12/8/06: Weather has turned very cold for this part of the country - down to 31 this morning! Did have a good day of fishing before the cold front arrived - first really good day of fishing since we arrived. Caught sixteen nice speckled sea trout and one nice redfish. Freezer is starting to fill up! Even bought forty pounds of 10-15 count shrimp.
We went to the Grand Isle Senior Citizen's Christmas party last weekend. They have a nice party with dancing to live music and good food. The following evening we went to the annual Christmas Lighting ceremony and enjoyed some great gumbo made by the Grand Isle Chief of Police - pretty darn good eating! Tomorrow night is the Grand Isle Mayor's Christmas party and we will most likely be there.
Monday the Mayor sponsored a bus trip to New Orleans originally planned for a visit to the D-Day museum but at the last minute it was discovered the museum was closed that day for renovation. Fifty Grand Isle residents (and Len) had their minds set on going and spending a few hours at the Boomtown casino after the museum so the bus went regardless. We also took a detour through the Lower Ninth Ward to see some of the Katrina damage near the Industrial Canal levee break. There is block after block in the process of being 100% demolished.
Here are a few photos from the party and the trip (Keep in mind the Lower Ninth Ward used to have houses on EVERY lot - note how many empty lots there are now):
11/30/06: We spent two weeks at the Grand Isle State Park with our friends from Baton Rouge and Dulac. Really great seeing everyone again. Did a fair amount of fishing but did not catch very many - enough to keep me interested but the freezer is not full of fish yet! We returned to our friends Butch & Betty's place for the week of Thanksgiving and really had a great week with them also - even got to meet their daughter from New Orleans who came down for Thanksgiving.
Since arriving at Grand Isle we have been invited to three fish fry/parties and have another lined up for next week PLUS the Senior Citizen's party is schedules for Saturday and the Christmas Lighting is scheduled for the following day. All will have ample southern food available so guess it is time for another notch in the belt! Oh, mustn't forget the Mayor's party on the 9th.
I captured a (I think) unique cloud formation over the Gulf this evening. This photo is looking southeast from the campground over what is normally just blue sky. The cloud bank this afternoon looked like a mountain plateau with a sharp drop off along it.
11/11/06: We made it off of the dealer's lot October 26th. Took some threats to cancel the deal before they got someone who had a better understanding of the hydraulic system who figured out the problem in an hour! Ended up being two hoses swapped that resulted in the jacks and the slide out systems being tied together. Traveled all of about ten miles to an RV park down the road where John & Donna were parked (they surprised up by arriving on the 22nd). We had a great visit with them and we all traveled down I-65 into Alabama where we spent the night at Joe Wheeler State Park. We took them out to dinner for their 47th anniversary. Really wanted a bottle of wine with dinner but found we were in a dry county so had to settle for tea and water (but made up for it when we got back to camp!). We then parted company the next morning and we traveled on to Mississippi where we spent another night at Clarkco State Park south of Meridian. Then on into New Orleans for a couple of days before arriving at Grand Isle on November 2nd.
We parked at Butch & Betty's for four days and did some intensive work on the trailer getting everything arranged and hooked up the way we wanted it. Lot of work installing solar panels, generator, inverter, etc. We then moved to the State Park on the east end of the island on Monday as two couples from Baton Rouge were coming into the park for a few days and we wanted to be close to them while they are here. Got a few more things done to the trailer while here at the park this week and I think we have finally got everything pretty well set. Here are a few photos of the trailer now that we have settled in:
Have managed to get a few days of fishing in and even caught a few fish. Some fresh shrimp on Monday made for a nice treat for all our friends. It is now time to spend a whole lot more time fishing. Sylvia has her knitting machine set up again so she will be happy while I am out in the water!
10/21/06: Still sitting here south of Louisville on the dealers lot. We got everything moved in by Thursday and put away Friday (probably not where it will remain). Thought we would be underway by today but when we hooked up yesterday we ran into a couple of more problems. The biggest one being the fancy TrailAir hitch on the trailer does not clear the sides of the truck and I found out the hard way when I made my first turn and literally destroyed the gull wing tool boxes on the bed. Guess that is what insurance is for. Can't blame anyone but myself for that one! Here are a few pictures of the damage. Truck left side view.jpg & Truck left tool box.jpg & Truck right tool box1.jpg. Looks like I will have to have the fifth wheel hitch in the truck raised about four inches to give us the clearance we need.
Also discovered the front jacks (landing gear) will not raise the trailer after we loaded it. Service manager here seems to think we have too much stuff for them to handle so we took it over to a truck stop last night and weighed it. He is correct in that we are over the GVW of the trailer but in my humble opinion the jacks should still work because there is only 4500 pounds of weight on the pin and even the manufactures owners manual says you should have up to 27% of the GVW on the pin. With GVW of 18,000 that means what we have is not too much. Waiting for Monday so they can talk with the factory.
In the meantime we are spending a relaxing weekend sitting about 100 yards from Interstate 65 - what a great campground!!! Thank goodness for ear plugs! Hopefully, we will be on the road by mid-week (if I can get the truck's hitch raised).
10/17/06: From Mohamet we headed on south to the southern end of Illinois where we stayed at Fort Defiance, an old State Park now ran by the city of Cairo. It is located right at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and there is a lot of barge traffic day and night but it is a nice place to stay.
While there I located another Landmark fifth wheel dealer in Louisville, Kentucky that had one of the units we liked in stock. We left Fort Defiance after discussing price with the dealer and headed for Louisville. Unfortunately, we were not paying enough attention to our map and ended up in Nashville, Tennessee, about 100 miles out of our way! Finally arrived here about six last night and came to terms with the dealer, signed the papers this morning and now are waiting or it to be prepped so we can move in!Here are a few photos of the inside. More information can be seen at http://www.heartlandrvs.com/. Click on "fifth wheels" and then select Landmark. We are buying the Monticello floor plan.
10/13/06: We spent three days in Little Falls area and then headed south to the Minneapolis area where we had a great weekend with old friends form Hawaii and San Francisco (70s & 80s). Seems like we just picked up where we left off 20 odd years ago! From there we continued on east and south to a National Guard base (Fort McCoy) near Sparta, WI, where we stayed for three days. Nice campground on the base but they like to play bugle calls from 5:00am until 11:00PM making for a short night!
On the way to Fort McCoy we had some more problems with the truck. It started to act like it was out of fuel - stall then recover and then stall again. This was similar to the problem back in Portland so I tried checking and tightening the battery terminals and it stopped acting up for thirty miles and as soon as I said to Sylvia "I think that was the problem" it started again. Fortunately, we were near a rest area and were able to get into it. Again, I checked, disconnected, and cleaned the battery terminals and it ran fine again. Found an International dealer in the next town and they discovered the Cam Position Sensor was defective and replaced it under warranty and it has ran fine since!
From Fort McCoy we continued on to Beloit where we had a visit with our nephew and his wife - met her parents and sister also. Departed there this morning and traveled to Mahomet, IL. Spent a few hours looking at new RVs today but did not find one that met ALL our wants and needs. Came close on a new Landmark but couldn't get what I wanted from our unit.
10/3/06: From Oahe Lake we continued Southeast to Webster, SD where we spent one night at the same campground we stayed in 2000 when our old Alpenlite lost a wheel and hub. Campground has been cleaned up and new water/sewer/power has been installed. The couple who own it had just purchased in when we stayed there earlier and have made it much better that it used to be. From Webster we continued east to Benson, MN for one night and then on to the St. Cloud area where Sylvia met with a knitting machine dealer and took some additional lessons on her machine. Hopefully, we have it figured out now. After the lesson we headed north to Little Falls area where we are camped at the Charles Lindbergh State Park. Expect we will remain here at least three days and then on to Minneapolis are.
The fall colors are really coming out here in this area. Between St. Cloud and Benson we began to see large amounts of brilliant red colors blended with yellow and gold. Not quite the same as New England but still very pretty.
9/28/06: We spent two more days in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. No where near as many animals to be seen but we did see a few wild horses, turkey and a couple of buffalo. Took the 37 mile loop drive through the park that winds through the North Dakota Badlands. Lots of unique and interesting terrain.
From Roosevelt we continued east to the small town of New Salem where we spent two nights. Had planned on only one but rain sat in yesterday so decided to remain one more day. While there we made a trip up to the Knife River Indian Village. This is an area where the Indians built earth lodges and you can see the impressions in the ground where many of them sat (take a look at the National Park web site at http://www.nps.gov/archive/knri/snaps2001/THUMBS/index.htm to see these impressions and a replica of a lodge.
From New Salem we continued east and south to a Corps of Engineers campground along the Missouri River at Oahe Lake in south central North Dakota. Here the lake is extremely low much as it Lake Sakakawea near Williston. They need some heavy snow in the Rockies for a few years to get these lakes full!
9/23/06: We left Williston this morning and traveled south to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Made a brief stop at Fort Union, a old fur trading outpost from the early 1800s. Very interesting stop right on the bank of the Missouri River which allowed for steam boats to come up river from St. Louis and points south. Arrived at the National Park (north unit) mid-day and dropped the trailer in the campground and did the drive tour through the park. Tour is only fourteen miles long and you must back track the way you came to get back as there is no outlet on the other end of the park. Very scenic area here in the "Bad Lands" of North Dakota. Saw about a hundred buffalo and numerous deer along the route. Tomorrow it is on to the south unit.
9/22/06: We have been here in Williston for a week now. The local International dealer ordered a rebuild kit for the fan clutch assembly and it arrived earlier this week. Unfortunately, when I took the assembly in for them to install the kit they discovered the bearings were seized so they had to order an entire new hub assembly. In the meantime, I had attempted to repair it myself and in the process I dropped the hub assembly and poked a hole in the radiator. So, a small fan hub replacement job turned into a major pull the radiator and have it fixed two day job! Only cost $30 to fix the radiator but had a lot of fun taking it out and putting it back. We are ready to roll on down the road first thing tomorrow.
We have enjoyed our stay here. Williston is a small town of about 4-5000 that primarily supports the local oil field industry. The town is VERY clean and everyone is very friendly and helpful. Just wish the weather would have been a little better. It has been quite cool and rained all night last night. Lewis & Clark State Park where we are staying is about 20 miles east of town and located on the banks of Lake Sakakawea - if you can call it a lake now as it is nearly 40 feet below "normal" and is basically just the Missouri River now.