…a red cat in my RV (Tempo?)!
“A cat is more intelligent than people believe, and can be taught any crime.” ~ Mark Twain
December 25, 2015, Christmas Day
We were up and running at 6:30 AM. We’d kept our secret. No-one knew where we were going! We were excited and moved about quickly, loaded the car for the short drive to Prosper where the Whip patiently awaited our arrival. For the first time Pumpkin Boy (code named Big Red), Tempo’s red, male tabby, would crew with us. I wasn’t crazy about the idea, but, Tempo was determined. Big Red had never spent time out of our house and wasn’t the least bit amused at being shoved into a canvas carrier and transported to Mars. AussieOne was curious about this trespasser and did his best to ensure his number one spot in the pecking order.
We arrived at the Whip before 10:00, loaded our gear and woke up the various components of our rig. It’s a process you see. Inverter on, check. House power on, check. Oil checked, tires checked, wheels unchocked, air tanks and airbags filling…you get the picture. Unfortunately, our Viair 40047 400P-RV Automatic Portable Compressor Kit couldn’t handle the sustained use of topping off six 22″ wheels so that process took an hour. Still a great compressor, it just couldn’t handle this load.
At 11:00 AM, obviously irritated, I fired up the Whip, directed it through the exit gate and onto US 380, eastbound and down. Destination Clarksville, Tennessee, home of the 101st AirBorne, the Queekinator and my grand-spawn. They had no idea we were on our way…no one did. We powered our way across Texas and Arkansas on our new steed, laughing at the wind and trucks that conspired to kill us. At 36′ and almost 28,000 pounds, The Whip was our equalizer and proved to be a most worthy replacement for the Beast (RIP).
I intended to make it all the way to Jackson, Tennessee before stopping for the night. Five and a half hours into the drive I shared the 411 with Tempo. She was not happy, but, a little Ronald MacDonald therapy perked her up. At that point we were west of Little Rock with over five hours to go. HO HO HO!
Streaking through the darkness, with meowing in the air, we glided across the Mississippi river into Memphis and continued on to Jackson. I navigated the Whip onto the Jackson Cracker Barrel parking lot just before 10:00 PM Christmas night, pulled into an RV slot, leveled out and shut’er down. Exhausted, we inhaled some grub, sucked down a couple of brews and the four of us got our heads down. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
December 26-28, 2015
“The reason why daughters love their Dad the most is…that there is at least one man in the world who will never hurt her.” ~ Anonymous
Up early…again. After wolfing down some fine Cracker Barrel cuisine we fired up the Whip and beat it three hours down I-40 to Clarksville, setting up at our home away from home, Clarksville RV Park, a lovely place off of I-24 near Exit 1 and the Pick A Part scrap yard. After Tempo finished ripping the trim off our living room slide-out we made the call.
Me: "One ringy-dingy."
Me: "What's up?"
Queek: "Hi Dad. What are you up to?"
Me: "Oh just sitting here wondering if you wanted to come hang out with us!"
Queek: "Are you here? Shut up! Oh my God, where are you? You just made me cry!"
I have no words to describe how good it felt to see my QueeWee and Jack Robert. They smelled like happiness and all things good in my world! Guacamole and AD were apparently otherwise engaged in some cyberspace conflict with unworthy combatants so we saw them later.
We had a three-day, whirl-wind visit, including Star Wars, burgers, laughter, dirt nosed barking dogs and playing with blocks in Jack Robert’s tent. I learned when Jack Robert begins a sentence with “Raise your hand if…”, well, just don’t do it! AD took his game on the road spending two chocolate milk filled nights with us at The Whip.
All too quickly it was over though. After three days we sadly said our goodbyes; Tempo got sentimental and made Queek cry. “See you when I see you” I said, as I always do (trying to hide my own emotions). We tucked in early, sad to be leaving, but excited for Phase II…while the Wild Wood prepared for our arrival.
December 29, 2015
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
The Whip folded up it’s various compartments inward with true Optimus Prime precision, becoming, once again, a bus-like conveyance. I love the smell of diesel in the morning. It smells like…ROAD TRIP! Kick the tires and light the fire Tempo! Arkansas here we come!
We eased onto I-24 southbound for a rendezvous with I-40, then westward to Petit Jean State Park. We had never been to Petit Jean and had only made our reservations the day before due to the unpredictable weather patterns across the U.S. Weather surfing is tough, especially in the winter, and I was concerned about the harsh overnight lows freezing The Whip’s water manifold. But, I would have to sort that out later.
We had a pleasant drive. Big Red seemed to be holding his own with AussieOne. To my knowledge he’d only puked on the floor once and I learned to ignore his crapper box stored in our shower. Plus the traffic wasn’t bad. We saw a lot of beautiful, hilly country side along the way but the one thing that stuck in my mind happened just outside of Conway. I saw a sign directing me to highway 60 and the town of “Toad Suck”. Toad Suck? What the heck is that?
According to their website “Long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River when the water was at the right depth. When it wasn’t, the captains and their crew tied up to wait where the Toad Suck Lock and Dam now spans the river. While they waited, they refreshed themselves at the local tavern there, to the dismay of the folks living nearby, who said: ‘They suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.’ Hence, the name Toad Suck. The tavern is long gone, but the legend lives on.” They even have a festival aptly named “Toad Suck Daze”. I was tempted to go there and pop into the Landers Toad Suck Harley Davidson, buy a Harley, drive it to the Toad Suck OneStop for gas, then hop on over to Toad Suck Bucks for a steak and a “laid back” experience! Only in America folks.
As darkness descended over us like a soft, cool net, we eased The Whip up the staircase-like mountainside toward our final destination. Visibility was poor, but, following Tempo’s expert navigation, we glided onto our reserved spot at Petit Jean State Park. As we set up The Whip in the blackness of the silent, cold night I felt relief and gratitude for all that we have been given. We were home for the next five days…in the Wild Wood.
December 30, 2015
“Beyond the Wild Wood comes the wild world,”said the Rat.”And that’s something that doesn’t matter, either to you or to me. I’ve never been there, and I’m never going’ nor you either, if you’ve got any sense at all.” ~ Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
I never feel more at home than when I am in the woods. Be it Arkansas, or Tennessee. California, Colorado, Oregon or Washington. I love the woods and the lack of human contact. So as the morning sun revealed our surroundings I was surprised to see a campground so sparse of trees. I was reminded of a manicured golf course. Where were was my Wild Wood?
Fortunately, the rest of the area was indeed flush with the Wild Wood and trails worthy of our journey. But, today was a down day. With all of the driving and excitement of seeing our family, we were exhausted. So Tempo caught up on work and I took AussieOne on a short three-bagger bike ride to scope out the area and report back to Tempo.
This park was beautiful. Recent rains had left the ground pillowy with wet pine needles and leaves. The streams urgently roared down the mountain as if on a secret mission to nowhere. Off road riding was not allowed (and probably would have killed me) so I was limited to the paved trail. The wind was cold so we kept it to an hour. I spent the rest of the afternoon preparing The Whip for a cold winter night…in the Wild Wood.
December 31, 2015, New Year’s Eve
“In the moment of this moment I choose to make it count, if only for a moment, for then this moment is truly of me.” ~ Anonymous
We awakened early, determined to make this last day of the year memorable. After eating, chores and loading up our packs we headed out for a long (for us) hike in the Wild Wood. We originally estimated a one-mile hike to the Cedar Creek trail head but it turned out to be about 1.5 miles each way. The trail itself was supposed to be about two miles start to finish, however, I don’t think this accounted for vertical change.
The hike to the trail head was mostly flat and the scenery was worthy of our effort. Tempo fired up her (my?) new high dollar Christmas present and captured a few very nice pix along the way. I believe there’s some untapped talent there! Once we reached the trail a smile spread across my face. At last, we found the Wild Wood. Nothing manicured about this place. Just pure heaven with a little pain to keep it real.
The back story of the Cedar Creek trail is that it was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (a Franklin Roosevelt era program during the 30s and early 40s for unemployed, married men as part of the “New Deal”) using virtually no tools and teams of mules to cut trail. A bronze statue honoring CCC workers adorns the hike and bike trail at Petit Jean.
Heavy rains had the Creek chugging hard and the trails were damp and soft. It was supposed to take about two hours to walk the trail (because we came in from the Boy Scout trail and not the actual Cedar Creek trail head) plus we threw in a little four star picnic to keep the carbs juicing us along. We allowed ourselves until 4:30 to get back to the Boy Scout trail so we could find our way home if something unexpected happened and we ended up hiking in the dark. I wonder whether planning for an accident is bad luck?
We reached the Reflections overlook and navigated up onto a massive rock to gaze at the valley and creek below. I felt like we accomplished something having climbed up from that valley. That is until I realized we’d have to go back down and up the other side to get home!
And make it home we did, but, not before my ankle gave way and I face planted on the side of the mountain. Fortunately the only damage was to my ego. We closed down the evening with some brews, made a video and watched some Captain Kirk on iTunes. Sleep was a welcome friend that night in the Wild Wood.
What a year! A couple of surgeries, a health scare, a new companion in AussieOne and a complete lifestyle change all packed into twelve-months. This time last year we were chasing our tails in a repetitive quagmire of yawn. We had good people around us but they were all off enjoying their lives and we did what we do. Worked a lot, squeezed in a work related trip every now and then and jazzed up or FB to make our lives look interesting. What a difference a year makes. I don’t know if we are any more interesting but we sure are having a lot more fun. You be the judge. See you in 2016!
January 1 – 3, 2016
My eyes clicked open early. Still alive! New Years day was was spent recovering from our excursion the day before. I took AussieOne on another three-bagger bike ride and made him tote his own output until I could find a depository worthy of His Royal Highness’ poop. Tempo chilled at the Whip and concocted some fine camping grub. We closed out the day with microbrew (imported from Texas) and movies and planned for our final hike the next day.
We were up early on the 2nd so as to avoid the time crunch we experienced on our last hike. I like to think we get a little smarter each day. We also opted for a smoother hike using the paved hike and bike trail to our final destination, Cedar Falls. The distance was a brutal assault on my girth and I hoped the view would be worth it. Skirting the Wild Wood we made our way to Cedar Falls and we were not disappointed.
The view from the overlook was fantastic so we took a few to grab some lunch from Tempo’s back pack, water AussieOne and toss him a greenie as he was getting cranky. I took a moment to pan the scene with my iPhone and breath in the air. My lens momentarily paused on Tempo capturing her blue/grey eyes. They matched the brilliant sky and sparkled with excitement. We looked at each other with the contentment that only comes with living our lives on our terms for as long as our creator allows us to do so.
Our hike back was arduous and my quads were singing the blues. Once again we closed down the day with food and drink and excited conversation. This was not the last day of our trip but the beginning of another.
The next morning we raced through our checklist and fired up the Whip for our trek back to the mean streets of Big D. I was not anxious to go back nor was Tempo (“What if we just keep going? Let’s do it!”). We snaked our way down the short but steep mountain road, Tempo squealed at each treacherous turn. The miles passed and sunset quickly approached, our only indication of the passing time. My tires hummed and the wind whistled at my windows, and I smiled. I knew we would never return to our old lives. We just aren’t those people anymore.
“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”
~ Matsuo Basho
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