Tag Archives: Cracker Barrel

Have you read The Abilene Paradox?

We drove today from Las Cruces NM to Abilene TX. We were the only RV behind Cracker Barrel last night and tonight we are one of eight or ten between the Cracker Barrel and Wal-Mart joint parking areas. Unlike last night when we were in the company of several Albertson tractor-trailers, tonight the big rigs are half a block away behind Wal-Mart’s gas station.

Last evening, after returning to the trailer from dinner, our fridge wasn’t working. We tried to restart it and it made a loud belch and the fridge’s check engine light turned on again. Changed propane bottles and tried again and after a few tries it’s working fine. We think. We hope.

And the fresh water tank resumed its leaking from near the drain valve. Last known as a problem in January, we’d forgotten it entirely. Another future project, it’ll wait until we’re finished with next week’s driving.

Otherwise a perfect day with a nice picnic in a roadside area. Deb fixed us a Caprese salad and we ate with one hand while firmly keeping a grip on our paper plates. The wind was blowing steadily and fairly strongly. We think it reduced our gas mileage by approx 10 percent, we made just 10.5 overall today.

I’ll get back with you on The Abilene Paradox — it’s one of my favorite books.

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©2007-2012 Dreamstreamr

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Ark City, the NOMADS, and Camp Horizon

The NOMADS Annual Meeting ended, we said our fare-thee-wells to friends old and new, and spent a last day leisurely enjoying Forest City IA. The 560 mile trip from Forest City to Ark City KS was more than we needed to make in one day so we hit the road early the next morning for a two-day drive. We made thirty whole miles before stopping in a very pretty downtown square in Clear Lake IA.

Good friends Herb and Lois had told us about Cabin Coffee and we’d sampled and enjoyed the treat in Forest City. But hey, why not indulge ourselves again at what may be our last Cabin Coffee experience for many months? So Clear Lake was a great choice. Cabin Coffee is THE place to be Saturday mornings in Clear Lake — we had a fifteen minute opportunity to watch a lot of people coming and going, catching up and enjoying, before we earned our spot at the order window. And yes, the coffee is definitely worth the wait, even “to go”.

Properly fueled, we headed down I-35 for the next bathroom break, and the next one, and another or three before we were south of Kansas City KS to our Cracker Barrel overnight stop in Olathe KS. You know, we’ve always wanted to pay our respects, meet the help, and check out the good cooking when we stay overnight behind or beside a Cracker Barrel. And this one in Olathe did not disappoint. We enjoyed great eating and very quiet overnighting in the amply-sized RV and big rig parking behind this Cracker Barrel. Did you know their store directory has an asterisk beside every location with RV-friendly parking?

We pulled through Ark City to find Camp Horizon early Sunday afternoon. Wow, this was a great place for us and the other eleven NOMADS volunteers. Twelve of our group of thirteen volunteers in mission were in RVs, and one stayed in one of the camp’s cottages. Our camping space had full-hookups, partial shade, was close to our work areas and was just wonderful.

Camp Horizon started in the mid- to late-1940s and is a wonderful complete camp and conference center on 160 acres. The camp buildings and outdoor chapel areas sit atop a 3/4 mile long ridge with fabulous views to the south and west horizons. The skies were clear most of the time and we could see forever in both directions.

The hilltop position, one to two hundred feet above the surrounding farms and lowlands, helped a lot with Jim’s ham radio work (play!) to. He worked a station in Sao Paulo Brazil on 10 meters FM and one in Saitama City Japan on 12 meters sideband, his first contacts ever on either of these two bands. Too, Jim was able almost daily to talk with ham radio friends back east and in the Rockies. Mid-continent is pretty good for U.S. ham radio operations and atop a nice hill with an antenna strung high (40′) between two trees it just gets better.

King of the poison ivy

We weren’t at Camp Horizon to play on the radio, though. Our hosts at Camp Horizon had a page and a half of projects and tasks they asked our group to tackle. Jim and his work buddy, Cliff, spent all twelve work days (three four-day work weeks) clearing brush, felling small trees, and other outdoor work. Jim kept telling everyone this was his physical training for tennis season which starts early November. Whatever gets you through the day, Jim!

Wall prep takes far longer than painting

Debbie spent all twelve days working indoors wallpaper removal, patching, painting, organizing vast files, organizing storage areas, and carpet shampooing. Some of the work was grungy but it was all rewarding for Debbie. She could see the results of her work AND the hosts were tremendously appreciative.

Three weeks was a nice time-frame to learn an area. We visited two churches, played tennis a couple of times in the city park, visited the ice cream parlor, shopped consignment shops for more work clothes, and toured Cow Town in Wichita and the Marland Mansion in Ponca City OK.

Marland Mansion was pretty amazing and a lot sad. E.W. Marland struck oil and made a fortune early in the twentieth century. He spent a tremendous amount of money in his business, was generous with his employees, and built an extremely extravagant fifty-five room mansion. His business decisions and the markets required him to seek financial aid and, unfortunately for E.W., he asked and received “help” from some N.Y. banker named Morgan. J.P. Morgan and Co took over ownership and management of Marland Oil, merged it with Continental Oil and renamed it Conoco, and left an angry former owner by the wayside.

An imposing front elevation of the Marland mansion

Marland and his wife lived in the new mansion less than two years, and thirteen years after completing it sold it for a fraction of the construction cost. He lost his fortune but left a gorgeous house which has been wonderfully restored and is open for tours. We had a three-hour tour of the house and grounds and enjoyed it tremendously.

160 year old cabin, still much larger than ours

Cow Town in Wichita KS represents the other end of the social spectrum and perhaps seventy-five years earlier in the western states’ history. Cow Town is an outdoor walking museum containing 1800s homes and businesses moved from in and around Wichita. We walked through four homes, almost a dozen businesses from the butcher to millinery, grain elevator to drugstore. Cow Town provided us an interesting history lesson laced with great home-made cookies, ice cream, a bratwurst lunch, and a variety of entertainment.

Three four-day work weeks provided the thirteen NOMADS a great opportunity to complete the host site task list. We started every day with devotions and singing, we had fun in games and sightseeing and break times, and we enjoyed getting to know one another and the camp staff. And we worked hard on our projects list.

Our project leaders very capably and calmly guided us (and the hosts) through the list so everyone could work on what they wanted to, we exceeded the hosts’ expectations, and all felt the project was very successful. Our mission project ended Thursday afternoon.

No vinegar-pepper sauce for BBQ is no laughing matter!

Friday morning we packed up and headed in all directions. Some headed south for Oklahoma or Texas. A couple returned to Indiana. Three are from Kansas and had short trips. We headed northwest toward Hutchinson KS. And that’s a story for another day.

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

How not to tour Texas

We missed Texas. We just sorta flew across, you know? Every time Jim would awaken from a catnap, Debbie would have moved the truck and trailer east another hundred miles or so. After one nap we were out of the desert and in grasslands with, get this, water in the river beds. What, not dry riverbeds? If you’ve spent any time in Arizona or west Texas, you know what we’re talking about.

Yesterday morning we drove 400 miles from Mesa, AZ, and entered Texas from below Las Cruces, NM. We then drove another almost 300 miles and were still in west Texas, in Ft Stockton. This morning we left the Wal-Mart in Ft Stockton, TX, at 06:00 a.m. and started our zoom eastward in the dark and cold morning. It stayed dark and cold all morning, too, aided by very nice cloud cover.

The cloud cover is great for easterly sunrise travel, no hour or two of driving into the bright light on the horizon. Unfortunately the lack of sunlight also meant the day didn’t warm up much. Jim checked Texas cities current temperatures at mid-morning — not a single reported city anywhere in Texas, among two or three dozen, had temperatures above 42 degrees. We would have enjoyed even 42 — we were driving through 25 to 30 degree zones all morning.

Every hour or two we stopped and checked the Airstream’s indoor thermometer. The temperature stayed above 40F, not too bad. We ran the furnace for five or ten minutes during two stops, just to warm the plumbing spaces in the cabinets and under the floors, and turned it off again before heading out onto the highway. Great news, no frozen pipes.

Again, we alternated driving a couple of hours at a time each. Interstate I-10 was great, again. And we schemed to zoom through San Antonio and Houston before their rush hours, morning and afternoon, respectively. It worked great, except for I-10 and I-45 ramps construction right downtown Houston. Small delay there and another one in the ‘burbs of Austin. No big deal, and we arrived almost without incident in Sulphur, Louisiana at 17:45 hours Central time. Zoooooom!

Almost without incident, you might ask? Well, there was this one moment in Austin, TX. . . You see, they also have a Clayton Homes i-House in Austin. And, like the others, they stage their iHouse in a prominent place on their lot. Everyone driving by can see it, stare (a replacement for texting while driving, we suppose), and hit the brakes to try and turn in and visit it.

So we have, as of today, seen the iHouse models in Everett, Washington; Mesa, Arizona; and Austin, Texas. Except for Clayton Homes staff, and possibly some support/install staff of Ikea, we think we might be the best visitors Clayton Homes has for iHouses. Unless, we suppose, they more highly regard the visitors who also purchase an iHouse. What do you think?

Back to missing Texas — we didn’t stop anywhere and eat Texas Barbecue. This isn’t actually much of a loss to most North Carolinians, since we have much better BBQ in NC anyway. We didn’t stop and visit the LBJ State Park, although it looked really nice. We would love to return to Johnson City and Fredericksburg some time when we can return. El Paso looked interesting. Tex-Mex food is one of Jim’s favorites, and how did we do sampling this while crossing Texas?

Let’s see, we stopped last night at a Sonic for a burger and fries. That’s it for Texas dining for us — all the other food consisted of snacks in the truck while driving. What would Ray LaHood, our federal Secretary of Transportation say? Well he already did, and we weren’t so much eating as snacking. The difference, we maintain, is the same as the difference between cell-phone talking and talking to each other in person.

We have only 1,000 miles remaining to arrive in Kannapolis. We’re only 150 miles ahead of schedule, not really a very big deal although it took part of three hours extra driving to attain. Before we hit the sack tonight we’ll check our distances to any rush-hour potentials between here and Montgomery, Alabama, and plan tomorrow’s drive accordingly.

Follow us next time, to tour Texas. We’ll take our time in Texas, and enjoy it. Next time we visit Texas, we want stopping time instead of driving time. There’s a lot to see, and a whole lot of it isn’t even on I-10. Don’t tour Texas on this schedule — too fast, too thin, nearly might as well have flown across.

Jim and Debbie
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