Charlie's RV Travelogue

Charlie's RV Travelogue - April 2006

My wife is a journaler; I'm not. She is diligently writing into three different journals; mine is still blank. This travelogue is my attempt at electronically journaling our RV travels, not only to help me remember, but also for anyone interested in following our adventure.

Apr 30: Arrived to the Knoxville area

Volunteer Park is host to live bluegrass music twice a week.

Volunteer Park is host to live bluegrass music twice a week.

We have arrived to the outskirts of Knoxville, Tennessee, where we hope to settle down.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is on the east side of town, and so are large numbers of tourists. To avoid the crowds, we chose to stay about five miles north of town at the Volunteer Park in the small town of Heiskell.

Our impression of Volunteer Park agreed with other reviews: the manager and the staff are among the nicest people we have met; two sides of the park border small, but very busy roads, where heavy trucks run all day long; the park is a bit tight, but we did not have too much trouble parking our fifth wheel (though we saw another hit a tree and break out a window); a good number of permanent RV's with permanent additions make the park look junky; they have all the necessary amenities, including WiFi. If you like bluegrass music, you will enjoy this park's Volunteer Opry, where the Brushy Valley Boys play live bluegrass music twice a week.

Volunteer Park is OK in many respects, but too noisy and junky for our taste. We will be looking for another place to stay in the next few days. Their rates are $320/mo + electric or $150/week. Cable and WiFi are in addition to the site fee.

Our first impression of the Knoxville area has been pleasant. Most of the area is very hilly and covered in lush green trees. From strategic locations in the valley, the Smoky Mountains are visible toward the Southeast and the Cumberland mountains toward the Northeast. The people here are extremely nice—we have not found another place in this country as friendly as Tennessee. So far, we think our choice to make Knoxville our home has been a good one.

Apr 19: Dogwoods and thunderstorms

Dogwoods in Burrell Park bloomed in time for Easter.

Dogwoods in Burrell Park bloomed in time for Easter.

We have seen dogwoods in people's yards, but never in the wild. Just in time for Easter weekend, numerous dogwoods bloomed in Burrell Park and most of them still have their flowers. The contrast between the fresh green backdrop of leaves and the snow-white petals brought a serene garden feel to the park.

Later in the night, a strong storm moved into the area. The weather radio was forecasting 40 to 50 mph wind gusts. A tornado watch was in effect until early morning. Around 2 AM strong thunder moved into the area; I decided to stay up until the storm died down.

If you have spent time in an RV, you know that it does not provide good shelter from strong winds or tornados. Before the baby, Landra and I would do our best to sleep through a storm like this, knowing that being swept away by a tornado was a very unlikely event. Now that we have a baby, I could not sleep through the storm. I paced the living room by the crib, looking out the windows, hoping to get a head start on an approaching tornado and run for the concrete bathroom building.

Around 2:15 AM, the neighbor must have felt the wind tugging on his awning. I happened to be looking out the window on his side and saw him standing in the rain in his underwear, tightening the straps.

Apr 12: From Little Rock to Burrell Park in Carmi, IL

Slot 15 in Burrell Park, with cows grazing on the pasture behind the fence.

Slot 15 in Burrell Park, with cows grazing on the pasture behind the fence.

The baby tour took us to Carmi in southern Illinois, near the Indiana border. Here we will visit Landra's mom, grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins. They are spread out in small Illinois towns and the Evansville, Indiana, area.

For our home base we chose Burrell Park (also known as Burrell Woods) in the town of Carmi, population 5,500.

Burrell Park is small, but nice. It is owned and operated by the city. A full hookup site with 50 amp electric costs $14 a day, and there is no restriction on the number of days one may stay.

When we arrived, only about a quarter of the 25 RV slots were taken. We pulled into an open slot and waited for the staff to come around to collect the fee.

Most of the slots are nicely wooded. Some slots are close to others, but they all have plenty of space around them. Our slot is in a cluster of four and backs up against a pasture. We enjoy seeing cows, so this is a plus for us. Some of the slots are by themselves and are much more spacious.

Each slot has a tall, steel fire ring. Not only that, but the park provides all of the split firewood you can burn, at no cost—I have not seen such generosity by a park.

By the way, according to the City of Carmi web site, this park is closed in the winter (opens in April). But, according to the staff, they do allow self-contained RV's all year long; the only thing closed are the bathroom facilities. The gates may also be locked, but they will provide a key to RVers staying in the park. So, if you need a place to stay in the winter, give them a call and make arrangements.

One bummer for us: no T-Mobile signal in the park, which means no Internet from the RV. Our cell phones are on Verizon and that service has full signal strength.

Apr 1: The end of our fulltiming draws near

Landra and I talked more about settling down over the past month and we have finalized our plans to do just that. I have outlined the reasons for this decision in my March 2 entry, but basically it came down to the increased difficulty of traveling and working with an infant as fulltimers.

For now, we are going to finish the baby tour, which will take us to the end of May. After we are finished in Illinois, but before heading to Maryland, we will take a couple of weeks to visit Knoxville, Tennessee. Unless we find something very objectionable, our plan is to settle down in the Knoxville area.

Why Knoxville? Before we ever thought about RVing, we occasionally considered where we would move once we were done in Dallas. Since we like the outdoors and wanted to be closer to our parents, Knoxville has been on our radar for quite a while. Knoxville has mountains and lies roughly equal distance to all parents in Arkansas, Illinois, and Maryland.

Once there, we will move into an apartment or town home. This will give us time to get to know the area before we buy or build a house (preferably a cabin). Our fifth wheel is too big for vacationing, so we will sell it and the truck. Later, when the baby gets a little older to enjoy it, we'll get a smaller vacationing RV.

During our RV-less phase, I will be participating from the sidelines and will continue to update this web site. We will visit RV shows occasionally, dreaming of what our next rig will be. I have so many unpublished notes from our travels that it will provide me with material to post on this web site for years to come.

But, we are still fulltimers for now, so I'll keep adding to this travelogue until our status changes.