Escapade – Here we come!

Friday, June 17:  We arrived at the Wilson County Fairgrounds/Expo Center in Lebanon, TN around 11 this morning.  This will be our home for the next nine nights while attending the Escapee RV Club’s 61st Annual Escapade. We registered for this event back in January and can’t believe we’re finally here.  We couldn’t believe our great luck when we landed a campsite with 50-amp power!!!  According to Kevin, the volunteer who parked us, there were only 8 other sites with 50-amp service in the fairgrounds.  I guess arriving a few days early has its advantages; not only are we are parked next to a lovely shade tree but we don’t have any neighbors on our right side.  We picked up our Welcome Package which includes our name badges, fairground map, Program Guide and Escapade t-shirts. The event doesn’t start until Sunday, so we’ll do some exploring tomorrow.

Thursday, June 16:  Sadie and I took a coffee stroll around the campground a little after 6:00 this morning, while it was still relatively cool (83).  By 6:30, I had my clippers and other grooming tools set up on the picnic table and started clipping off Sadie’s curls.  As always, Sadie was a good sport, and as always, I got carried away.  I goofed up her beard (I had to cut out some clumps/mats). Fester says she looks like a dandelion? I think she looks like a toughie – like an apricot Tramp from Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp.”

Sadie alerted when a gentleman and his two darling dogs approached our site and started a conversation with Fester.  We learned that he, his wife and the pups – Archie (apricot) and Shelby (white) both supposedly Miniature Doodles (more like toy) are from Indio, California, which is about 23 miles east of Palm Springs.  We passed thru Indio last year, returning to our coach from an off-road trip in Joshua Tree National Forest.

We spent a couple of hours in the pool before taking off for our approximate 2.5-hour River Styx Tour of Mammoth Cave.  Considering it reached 100 degrees today, we were excited to be touring a cave that stays a constant 54 degrees. But, we were glad we brought fleece jackets because it was chilly. The 2.5-mile River Styx Tour focuses on the unique geologic and natural history of Mammoth and includes a brief side trip to the underground water level.  Our tour guide Chris was interesting and informative, and spread some “cave” humor while providing an in-depth look at the millions of years of formation of Mammoth Cave. Did I mention there were 600 steps to climb or descend?

After the cave tour, we returned home to get Sadie and went to check out the Wigwam Village (motel) we had passed several times.  Fester has food memories of pestering his parents to stay in a teepee during a childhood family vacation.  While taking some pictures, we were fortunate to meet the new owner, who gave us a quick history of the village and explained the extensive renovations being done to bring the village back to its 1930’s splendor and authenticity.  Built in 1937, Historic Wigwam Village No. 2 is one of only three surviving Wigwam Villages of the seven built around the country before 1950 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wednesday, June 15:  Today we’re celebrating our 31st Wedding Anniversary!  We left FMCA Campground in Cincinnati and are headed to Cave Country RV Park in Cave City, Kentucky for a two-night stay.  Fortunately, the campground has 50-amp service and a POOL since it will be hot, hot, hot! 

As I mentioned earlier, Fester went shopping for fans to help cool us off.  Unfortunately, the majority of campsites at Escapades are only 30-amp service (vs. 50-amp) which means we will be limited to just one air conditioner.  And, with temps in the high 90’s and low 100’s, that air conditioner may not keep up.  Which is why I’ve made reservations for Sadie to attend Doggy Day Care while we’re at Escapades.  We worry that the coach will get too hot, or we experience a brown-out from all the rigs sucking up the electricity.  This will certainly be a new experience for us. 

After getting settled in, we donned our swimsuits and almost ran to the pool. The hot sun has been heating up the water for days, so instead of being cold when we waded into the pool, it was refreshing and we were able to relax and float around for hours. It was too hot to cook out, so instead we went to a local restaurant in Horse Cave. You know you’re in a small town restaurant when the video screen loops highlights of community and church functions, as well as obituaries… for real.

Jungle Jim’s Adventure

Tuesday, June 14:  You know a store is big (in this case huge), when it comes with its own Store Map, as well as a separate guide to their International Market section which features more than 180,ooo products from 75 countries.  Needless to say, Jungle Jim’s is not just a market, but a destination!

Last time we were in Cincinnati we visited Jungle Jim’s twice, so we knew what to expect.  We started off full steam ahead, but slowed down considerably an hour later, when we just made it out of the International Market.  We spent another hour shopping the “regular” grocery isles as well as their Natural Foods, Olive Bar, Cheese Shop, Beer Cave, Deli and Cookware areas.  We even dared to buy a Chocolate Sea Salt “Cricket Bar” from the Bug Candy display.  This bar was manufactured by “Gym-N-Eat Crickets” in Iowa and is considered an alternative and sustainable protein source.  Of course, I’ll let you know the verdict once we sample the bar. 

It was already in the mid-80’s by the time we got back to Zephyr.  Because our RV refrigerator isn’t efficient in such high temperatures Fester wanted to add a few cooling fans to the system, in anticipation of the 90- and 100-degree temperatures we will experience in the next few weeks.  Fortunately, he had a little shade and a “mister” fan which provides evaporative cooling while working on his fan contraption.   

We’ve noticed a really nice older rig in the campground that was worthy of a few photos – I just love the whimsical cube theme. The coach’s license plate says “ITSHOME” and the license plate on their toad (RV slang for a towed vehicle) is “GUESTRM.” I think we would enjoy meeting that couple.

An addendum to last night’s post… As luck would have it, Fester did get to meet them. Fester had made a run to Home Depot to pick-up a few battery-operated fans.  I wondered why he had been gone so long and was starting to worry (as usual, he didn’t bring his phone).  Turns out he was parked just down the road from Zephyr, chatting with the ITSHOME couple. The couple, Tom & Marion, have lived aboard their Foretravel RV for 18 years – and, they were definitely worth meeting.  Tom, also a mechanical engineer, shared a lot of valuable, hard-earned information on “everything RV,” which explains why Fester was late returning from his Hope Depot excursion. I had no idea he spent almost an hour chatting with Tom and Marion and would have noticed his Jeep if I ventured out for a Sadie walk. I eventually met Tom and Marion as we were hooking up the Jeep Wednesday morning, getting ready to pull out of FMCA.

On the road again!

Tuesday, June 14: Yesterday morning we began a three-week summer RV adventure which will take us from home to Cincinnati, OH, to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, to Nashville, TN where we will attend the Escapee RV Club’s 61st Annual Escapade at the Wilson County Fairgrounds/Expo Center in Lebanon (about 30 miles West of Nashville). After the Escapade, which takes place June 19 – 24, we’ll make our way to Ashville, NC, to visit with Fester’s dad. We’re fortunate that Fester’s brother, Jim, and wife, Cookie will be passing through Ashville during our visit.

We plan to arrive at the Fairgrounds early (June 17) so we can explore the area and get the “lay of the land.” We’re staying two extra nights as we’re registered for two special Escapade motor coach tours, called HOPs which stands for Head Out Programs. On June 24 we’re on the Best of Nashville HOP and on June 25 we’re taking the Nashville Civil War HOP. We’ve never attended a HOP, so these will be an interesting way to explore Nashville with new RV friends.

After a late start (due to my never-ending procrastination) and five hours on the road, we’ve settled into a two-night stay at the Family Motor Coach Association’s (FMCA) campground in Newtown, Ohio, which is just outside of Cincinnati. We’re familiar with this members-only campground because we stayed here last October on our way to the Xscapers Convergence in Lake Havasu, Arizona. As FMCA members, we can stay free for two nights every month.

We arrived at FMCA’s campground around 4pm and set up camp in 94 degree heat (with humidity to match). After getting Zephyr set to cool down, we took the Jeep and Sadie to a familiar spot just a few miles down the road – the Fifty West Brewing Company and Beer Garden.

Being an early Monday afternoon, we had the place pretty much to ourselves, except for some die-hard pickleball players. I was able to enjoy their ice-cold craft American Lager in the shady Beer Garden, while Fester had their specially crafted blackberry soda (Sadie had water). Before sitting down, we took Sadie for a quick walk on the Little Miami Scenic Trail which has direct access to Fifty West and the the Little Miami River. As we enjoyed our “linner” (similar to brunch, but lunch and dinner) we watched and felt a storm brewing. The brewery/restaurant/outdoor center is pretty cool. During our visit last October, it was packed with families and drinkers alike. Aside from abutting the Little Miami Scenic Train, Fifty West also offers customers the opportunity to play pickleball, volleyball and cornhole. While we didn’t check it out, there’s supposed to be a futsal court too. For those like me who have no idea what I’m talking about, a “Futsal is an association football-based game played on a hard court smaller than a football pitch, and mainly indoors. and other games.”

The Fifty West Brewery & Beer Garden is on US 50W, hence its name. Some Wikipedia trivia about U.S. Route 50 or U.S. Highway 50… Paraphrased, “US 50 is a major east–west route of the U.S. Highway system, stretching 3,073 miles (from Maryland Route 528 to Interstate 80 in West Sacramento, California.

US 50 was created in 1926 as part of the original U.S. Highway system and passes through a total of 12 states including Maryland (as well as the District of Columbia), Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California.” We may have to add Route 50 to our bucket list, along with Route 66.

We decided to return to our campground because the sky was darkening, thunder grumbled and the wind was starting to pickup. We heard the awnings flapping and Fester made a made dash to pull them in, before they broke. Sure enough, shortly after getting back to Zephyr, the storm let loose and poor Sadie shook from the loud commotion. Sadie is not a fan of thunder, fireworks or gunshots. Fortunately, with the heavy rain came cooler temperatures (72). Yes!!!

Thanks to the lower temps and good air conditioning, we had a good night’s sleep. It is amazing how quickly the three of us adapted to life on the coach. After coffee, Fester and Sadie took a nap and I practiced yoga. It’s 74 out right now, and the expected high is 97 – yikes! Fortunately, it will be mostly cloudy – but 97? That is crazy – we’re not sure if we want to leave Sadie alone in the coach during the heat of the day, in case something happens to the air conditioner.

After Sadie’s nap, we took a walk on the Lake Barber Walking Path while I finished my coffee and Sadie did her business. The trail is right behind our campsite and I was able to enjoy views of Lake Barber (before it gets too hot).

We’re planning to hit Jungle Jim’s this morning for a much-needed grocery run. Due to my procrastination, we have no quick breakfast grub like cereal or yogurt. Jungle Jim’s is an experience unto itself – which I’ll share later.