October 15, 2012–a long trip south

We had a productive outing with the Environmental Club at Lowell’s.  Most of the students canoed all over the lake while others collected insects.  We barbequed venison kabobs (made by Stacey), and they were a big hit.  We got a little bit of work done on the canoe trailer.  Perhaps it will be ready for for action by next spring.  I got some interesting photos while poking about.

From September 2012
This jumping spider was on a dead tree branch, giving me the eye(s).
From September 2012
We found this tiny midland brown snake while we were eating lunch.  Unfortunately, someone had accidentally stepped on it by then.
Stacey and I had been looking forward to this weekend.  It was the “Four Day” at QU, giving Savannah and I Thursday and Friday off.  Stacey took them as vacation days, and we had planned to take the Minnie Winnie down to Tennessee to see Stacey’s brother Phil (AKA Tank).  I got done first on Wednesday afternoon and made ready to depart.  I was going to pick up Savannah in Taylor and Stacey in Hannibal on my way south.  I made the final preparations for departure, loaded up the dogs and drove about three blocks down the road to gas up.  With great anticipation, I headed south on Highway 61.  I had set the cruise control and was going up a hill when the engine lost all power.  I had no idea what was going on at first.  Fortunately, I had crested the hill and coasted down the other side and pulled onto the shoulder.  I was only four miles from home.

On the hook, and not very happy.  From October 2012

I couldn’t keep it started for more than about 5 seconds.  I called Joe LaCount, who suspected it was a clogged fuel filter or dying fuel pump but suggested I check the battery connections to be sure.  The battery was clean and the connections were tight.  Finally, after I decided that it was never going to start, I called a tow truck.  Of course, it needed a BIG tow truck.  I called Savannah and had her pick up the dogs.  I called Stacey and had told her just to drive home.  A state trooper pulled up to check on me.  He put his lights on and put out some cones while the tow truck was hooking me up.  I rode the tow truck back to my mechanic’s shop.  All bets were on the fuel pump at that point.  He had stayed open late just to get our vehicle in.  
We spent an uncomfortable night at home, not knowing if we’d be able to take our vacation or not.  Thursday morning we found out that the problem was not the fuel filter or fuel pump.  A mouse had chewed into the air filter.  When the bits of the filter, and perhaps the mouse itself, were sucked into the engine, it understandably had choked.  This fix was a relatively quick one, though, and we were able to get on the road shortly after noon (when we should have been arriving at our destination).  
The wind was gusty and unpleasant all the way to St. Louis.  It made driving the RV quite difficult.  Once we turned east into Illinois, things improved considerably.  Stacey drove for one leg while I took a nap.  We made periodic stops to give the dogs potty breaks.  We arrived at the Clarksville Campground at about 9 and set up camp.  It was Savannah’s first time in the RV.  We had her stay in the overhead bunk.  She says she didn’t sleep too well, partly because she felt the need to hold on to Gretchen and keep her from falling off.  It also rained on and off all night.  We were thankful not to be staying in tents.
Friday morning Tank came over.  He took us to his new house and we got the grand tour.  He was having tile floors installed and could not spend the day with us.  He loaned us his truck to drive around town, while we left the dogs in his conveniently fenced back yard.  We ended up shopping at almost everywhere in Clarksville.  I had a rare opportunity to visit the Dick’s Sporting Goods.  Savannah appreciates their products as well, but I had to remind her not to say, “I like Dick’s” out loud.  
It was Stacey’s birthday, and Tank took us out to dinner.  It was very nice and we got caught up on a lot of news.  
Saturday morning we decided to visit a couple of parks.  The first was a big complex with a dog park.  We wasted probably an hour looking for the place because of some confusion about the actual name of the street it was on (Savannah!).  When we finally arrived, it appeared that there was a huge soccer tournament in progress.  The dog park was in the back, and there were several dogs in it already.  Gretchen began with a most powerfully loud whine when she saw them.  After she calmed down, we put her in with the rest.  One particularly aggressive German Shepherd kept running up and barking aggressively at Big Guy.  A playful lab was trying to get a game going with Gretchen, but she was not ready for it.  While I was watching Gretchen, the German Shepherd ran up and bit Big Guy on the ear.  Stacey tried to intervene, while the owner did nothing.  I didn’t know anything had happened until Savannah got blood on her hands from petting Big Guy.  I stopped the bleeding with my handkerchief.  It wasn’t much of a wound, and Big Guy seemed not to notice it.  Stacey said he gave a low growl when the other dog attacked, but otherwise did not respond.  The aggressor dog and it’s owner left shortly afterward.  Our dogs were too distracted by all the smells to do much playing or running.  Speaking of smells, there were many land mines about, in spite of the free plastic bags and the signs directing owners to clean up after their dogs.  We did see some interesting other dogs though.  So that was our first experience in a public dog park.  

A friendly, well behaved bulldog.  From October 2012

We went back to Tank’s house and went to lunch after the tile workers were done.  We went to his base (Fort Campbell), had lunch in the PX and walked through the little shopping mall.  We toured the military museum of the 101st Airborne, which was quite interesting and full of historical artifacts.  We even went out to the air field and sat in one of the Blackhawks that he flies.  We drove all over the base and saw many of the facilities there, including the air assault training center.  We had had such a late lunch that we decided to go to Cold Stone Creamery for dinner.  We hadn’t had that particular ice cream since we were in California last July.  

Savannah and Stacey getting the feel of some artillery.  From October 2012
In the morning we packed up and headed out.  It was raining and even windier.  At some place near Marion, IL, it got particularly gusty.  That was the only time that I was worried at all.  I think Stacey and Savannah were worried all the way home.  I don’t know why they still have construction on both sides of the bridge over the Mississippi at St. Louis.  It was the same two years ago!  Not long after we got into Missouri, I got a call from our friend Tracy.  She and her family had just passed us on Interstate 64.  Strange coincidence.  We got home in fine shape.  The Minnie Winnie ran like a champ the whole way.
As usual, click on the photos to see more images in the online album.