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2017 Prologue

"Where the river is windin', big nuggets they're findin'; North to Alaska; go north the rush is on!"

Map of Prologue Travels:

We’re channeling Johnny Horton singing along with a Sitka Tex CD as we drive north on I95 leaving Brevard County. I think this will be our theme song for the summer. LOL

North to Alaska

Big Sam left Seattle in the year of ninety-two
With George Pratt his partner and brother Billy too.
They crossed the Yukon river and they found the bonanza gold
Below that old white mountain
Just a little south-east of Nome.
Sam crossed the Majestic mountains to the valleys far below;
He talked to his team of huskies
As he mushed on through the snow
With the northen lights a-runnin' wild
In the land of the midnight sun.
Yes Sam McCord was a mighty man
In the year of nineteen-one.

Where the river is windin', big nuggets they're findin'
North to Alaska, go north the rush is on
North to Alaska, go north the rush is on.

Songwriters: MIKE PHILLIPS

Yes, we’re headed north to Alaska this trip, travelling from the most southeastern state to the farthest northwestern state. We’re going to cover a lot of miles and at least part of the time (while in British Columbia and Yukon Territory, Canada and the outlying areas of Alaska) we expect we will not have internet access. So the blogging may be pretty sporadic as compared with past years. We’ll see. I’ll do my best to keep you posted.

We’re meeting up with two other couples who also own 5th wheels to form our own little caravan. Our friends Tiffany and Jim are also from Florida; they’re newbies with their 5th wheel but they left a month before us to do some touring at places like Yellowstone and Jackson Hole, so by the time we get together I imagine they’ll be old hands at it. The other couple is Dan and Dee, our friends from Colorado, who you may remember from our earlier blogging – we’ve visited them at their home outside Denver and the last two years we’ve camped with them at Beaver Lake in NW Arkansas. We are so excited to have company on this adventure!

Prologue – May 08 to May 10

Jetty Park Campground, Cape Canaveral, FL Site 328 $108.00 (3 nights)

One of the problems with living in a Homeowners’ Association subdivision is that there are rules against parking an RV on the street or in your driveway for any length of time. It makes packing up as you prepare for a trip and unpacking when you return from a trip a real hassle. We’ve devised a workaround that is pretty pleasant. We park the 5th wheel on a site at Jetty Park Campground which is only 5 miles from the house and then we cart stuff back and forth over the course of a few days. It kind of eases us into the camping experience as well.

Monday, May 08th
Today was Tim’s birthday and so in the midst of packing we took time to celebrate with family and friends because he is now officially a “geezer”. Had dinner at Grills at the Port.

Tuesday, May 09th
Kelly and the boys came for a visit and Tim and I took a break from packing to relax at the beach with them. It was a gorgeous day, not a cloud in the sky and perfect for the boys to ride the waves with their boogie boards.
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Did you ever notice that shore birds have two shadows? LOL

Wednesday, May 10th
We had planned to leave today to head north but packing for such a long trip as we’re doing this year, one which includes both summer heat and the Alaskan cold, is quite a challenge. We have a weight limit (as Tim is fond of pointing out) plus as we’ll be out of the country for some months, there are other issues like prescriptions, firearms, dog health certificates, etc., etc. that we must handle prior to departure. And they all take twice as long as you plan.

Thursday, May 11th
On the road at long last.

Drove 262 miles. Route: I95 north to Jacksonville; bypass I295 west then onto I10 west to I75 north to Lake Park, GA just south of Tifton, GA.

Eagles Roost RV Resort, Lake Park, GA Site A-1 $33.17

This is a beautiful campground right off the interstate. The sites all seem to be large and pull thru under a canopy of huge live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Very picturesque but you’ll have to use your imagination as I forgot to take a picture!

It was 97 degrees outside when we stopped for the night. I told Tim “no way” when he said we were going to do our CrossFit WOD. It was so hot! But then I noticed the campground had a nice little pool. No one was in it so I put on my bathing suit and did my warmup in the pool then did my workout in my bathing suit! How great is that?

Friday, May 12th
Drove 330 miles. Route: I75 north to Tifton, GA exit onto US 82 west through GA into AL to Montgomery, and then north on I65 to Pelham, AL just south of Birmingham.

Birmingham South RV Resort, Pelham, AL Site 29 $43.17

Another nice RV Resort with convenient access to the interstate and large pull thru sites, full hookups, and all the rest of the amenities. Pelham, AL is just south of Birmingham so it is a convenient stopping point to avoid rush hour traffic (tomorrow being Saturday) for driving through the city.

Saturday, May 13th
Drove 367 miles. Route: I65 north through Birmingham then west onto I22 (formerly US78) via the new interchange. This interchange which has 14 bridges and 14 ramps, makes “spaghetti junction” in Atlanta look like a child’s toy. It has been under construction for 7 years and is the most expensive project ever undertaken in Alabama at a cost of over $168 million! In previous trips when we’ve come through Birmingham we’ve had to wind through a suburb to connect between I65 and US78 so even though driving through the interchange was scarier than a rollercoaster ride, it was better than the old route. So Birmingham now joins Atlanta and Nashville as the only cities in the south with 6 interstate spokes.

We took I22 northwest toward Memphis where we connected with I240 around Memphis then I55 west across the Mississippi River. We continued northwest on I55 to I555 into Jonesboro, AR where we picked up US63 northwest to Black Rock, AR. We had planned to stay at a campground convenient to US63 outside Walnut Ridge but one look and we kept on driving. (Picture “low rent trailer park”.)

Davidsonville Historic State Park, Pocahontas, AR Site 6 $87.80 (3 nights)

The next possibility of a place to stop for the night was an Arkansas state park, the Davidsonville Historic State Park about 10 miles north of Black Rock, AR on AR351. We were pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful little picturesque campground out in the forest along the Black River. Turns out the state had relocated the campground itself just last November so everything was brand new. The sites were large paved sites with full hookups and the bathrooms and showers were spotless, unusual in a state park.

We’ve driven this route many times as we’ve traipsed back and forth between Florida and Missouri and have always wanted to stop in the area to explore the quaint town of Hardy, AR. With such a pleasant camping spot now at our disposal and tomorrow being Mothers Day, we decided to stay and relax for a couple of days.
Pictures of our beautiful campsite.
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Sunday, May 14th
Drove 101 miles.

First stop today was the Log Cabin Grill in Hardy, AR where we had a nice lunch on the deck outside overlooking a spur of the Black River. We saw a muskrat playing on the edge of the river.

We went on into town to explore the shops but found most of them were closed. In one of the antique shops that was open Tim spotted a unique looking knife with a carved green handle that was calling his name. (Don’t believe I’m the only shopper in the crowd!) We also enjoyed a nice little Art Guild Shop where Tim bought a cute water color print of a man driving a tractor out across a field with a little blond boy in the foreground watching wistfully – it looked just like him a couple of years ago when Kelly and George brought the boys out to Missouri to visit us for a week and Tim took Jimmy and William for rides on the tractor. Memories.

Next stop was Mammoth Spring State Park located along US63 in Arkansas just before the state line with Missouri. This first magnitude karst spring arises out of the Ozark Plateau, the largest spring in Arkansas, and generates over 9 million gallons of water – per hour!!! It is the 7th largest spring in the world and the 3rd largest in the Ozarks. Amazing. The mouth of the spring is 70 feet below the surface but the water was not clear because of the huge amount of rain the Ozarks had this spring. By contrast the Maramec Spring in Missouri that we stumbled upon year before last (our infamous interstate breakdown trip) is the 6th largest spring in the world but in my opinion the park is much more beautiful and the museum there is spectacular.
Mammoth Spring
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Watch these falls for an hour and you've just seen over 9 million gallons of water pass before your eyes!
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The Mammoth Spring 10 acre lake is the source of the Spring River, a popular trout and float stream – but with a constant water temperature of 58 degrees (brrr!) that’s a little too chilly for me even on the hottest Arkansas day.
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Evidently it isn't too chilly for muskrats though!
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While at the park we toured the remnants of the hydroelectric plant which was in operation from 1925 to 1972.
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Monday, May 15th
Drove 89 miles. Route: From the campground we went north on AR161 to US62 east into the little town of Pocahontas, AR. After a few stops there we travelled west on US62 to the little town of Hardy to see if more of the shops were open today (they were) and then returned to the campground on US63 and AR351.

We started out the day with our CrossFit WOD (20 minute AMRAP of DB Cleans and Jerks, Burpees, and Sit-ups) which we did inside the trailer. Do you think if we keep this up all summer the inside of our Luxury Lifestyle 5th wheel is going to smell like a gym? I hope not. Tim says I'm just looking for an excuse to not do the WODs. He knows me pretty well. LOL

Our reason for the drive into Pocahontas was to restock at a nice Walmart there. We also decided to have lunch and ended up having a wonderful meal at Don’s Steak House – yummy food and unbelievably cheap! (My meal – 2 huge fork tender pork chops with a large loaded baked potato, Texas toast and a wonderful salad bar was just $9.99. I made two meals out of it!)
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The restaurant was located on the Black River and there was evidence of significant flooding in the town with sandbags everywhere. We had to laugh as we entered the restaurant because there was a sign on the door, “Wet Floors”
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Then once we were inside the restaurant we noticed these pictures:
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Back in the town of Hardy we visited a few shops that hadn’t been opened yesterday, one a leather shop that Tim enjoyed because it carried lots of handmade concealed carry paraphernalia. He almost bought a beautiful case with a belt clip but first wants to measure his pistol which is at home to be sure it will fit. He got their business card though so I can see a Christmas surprise in his future. We wandered in and out of a number of “antique” shops. Tim found a few cheap paperback westerns and some exotic wood chunks that he can play around with to hone his whittling skills. I bought one small pink glass and a $3.99 pair of earrings. Last of the big spenders – that’s me.

When we returned to the campground we hiked down to the historic Davidsonville Town Site and from there on down to the Black River Boat Ramp. The town was founded in 1815 at the confluence of three rivers – the Spring River, the Black River and the Eleven Point River. This was thought to be a great advantage back in the day because the waterway allowed the area to be connected to the outside world via the Mississippi River. Unfortunately it also made it vulnerable to spring flooding (as evidenced this year). The town itself was 30 blocks laid out around a central Public Square where the courthouse was located. While it was the site of the first courthouse, the first post office, and the first territorial land office in Arkansas, it didn’t survive and the town was abandoned in 1830. All remnants of it disappeared but archaeologists have recovered many artifacts from the town site which are on display in a nicely appointed (new this year also) visitor’s center.

The restoration of the state park included construction of two “ghost structures” – the Courthouse and the Post Office – and multiple interconnected hiking trails. One trail a mile in length is around Trappers Lake, a 12 acre stocked fishing lake; another is 1.5 miles from the lake to the Black River Boat Ramp; and another .5 mile trail connects the campground to the original town site.
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"Ghost Structure" of the Courthouse

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Public Square

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Trappers Lake

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Flooding clearly visible at the Black River Boat Launch
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The Black River

Tuesday, May 16th
Drove 212 miles. Route: US63 west through the foothills of the Ozarks into Missouri to US60 west to Springfield, MO where we turned north onto US65 toward our very own little Happy Trails Campground just outside of Buffalo, MO.

We spent a week here with Tim working on various maintenance projects around the property while I stocked up and organized the camper for our long trip north. We wanted to minimize our having to shop for staples while we are in travelling through Canada and Alaska where things are much more expensive.

One of the projects Tim undertook was to rebuild the dam for our pond. When we arrived the water in the pond was dangerously low – any lower and the catfish would have had to grow legs to get around! We also found that the bridge across our little stream had been washed off its supports and the dock that Tim had built a few years ago was across the pond on the wrong side! Evidently there was some significant weather this past winter and flooding earlier this spring.
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And for our CrossFit buddies I'm happy to report that we managed to fit in three WODs this week. Coach Fernando sent us off on our journey with 10 weeks of WODs! He's a gem (and believe me I've called him worse. LOL)

We still have plenty of wildlife so evidently the flooding didn't scare them off, Saw deer, opossum, rabbits and turkey. I was also glad to see that the bluebirds had returned to one of the bluebird houses (didn't have time to wait around for them to pose for a picture this year though). The other birdhouse had "squatters" - a family of wrens I think. Beautiful songbirds even if they aren't that showy to look at. And the Great Blue Heron was back fishing in our pond. The geese haven't returned, thank goodness. I think Sunshine successfully took care of that problem last year. She thinks they're yummy! LOL

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And there was a very interesting small brown bird who thought he was a packrat! Seriously. When Tim would leave the shed door open this bird would fly in and pick up silver screws out of a container Tim had on the shelf, and fly off with them. Tim found them dropped along a path to the car hauler. Do you think he was he trying to tell us something? Too funny!

Wednesday, May 17th to Monday, May 22nd
Drove 326 miles. Over the course of the week we made three trips into Springfield and a number of drives into our little town of Buffalo on US65, all uneventful. Our plan is to leave and officially begin our journey northwest on “new road” tomorrow, Tuesday, May 23rd. Yea!

Posted by JudyandTim2015 07:43 Archived in USA

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Comments

Wow your trip sounds amazing so far and you aren't even to Alaska yet! Jay and I really loved what we saw of Alaska.....Kenai peninsula and cruise stops....so much more to see and experience by land! Safe travels , look forward to more blogs!

by Lisa Berg

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