“On The Road Again” – sing it Willie! What a glorious start to the month – we left Burlington, Vermont, under our own steam, towing our home on wheels with our ‘new to us’ truck – yippee! The weather was gorgeous and the scenery spectacular. One of the pluses to sticking around Vermont a little longer was seeing the trees in their brilliant fall colors as we headed west and south, towards Mountain View, Arkansas.
We dry camped the three nights we were on the road – once at the Hornell, New York WalMart, the next night at the Huber Heights, Ohio WalMart, and our last night at the Sam’s Club in Marion, Illinois. Part of the dry camping etiquette is to get permission from owners and managers, which we did, plus we managed to buy something at each one of the locations –we spent more than a stay at a campground would have cost but we bought items we needed and enjoyed the convenience of staying hooked up and parked in a safe and convenient location for the night.
During our first day of travel, our truck insurance company (USAA) called to let us know they were ready to settle the claim. They needed the original truck title before they could fund the settlement. Flying J Truck Stop to the rescue! Not only does Flying J have fuel and food and propane and fresh water and a dump station and a place to park for the night, they also have a FedEx ‘mail’ box with supplies for us to overnight our title to USAA. By the time we got to Mountain View, the insurance settlement was finalized and deposited into our bank account.
The settlement was fair but obviously, if the truck hadn’t been stolen in the first place, life would have been easier and our bank account healthier. We’re not going to let those jerks in Quebec change our lifestyle – we’ll continue to travel but will seek ways to replenish our savings – eat in more (or at least try to!), find better deals at campgrounds, volunteer in exchange for campsites, etc.
On our fourth day of travel, we pulled into the Ozark RV Park in Mountain View and quickly got set up. Friends Karen, Galen and Dianne (yay – we finally get to spend time with Dianne after two cancelled visits) had supper prepared for us – what great friends! Over the next few days, we renewed friendships with folks we’ve met there before, bought our season passes at the Ozark Folk Center, and started our routine of visiting the Folk Center’s craft village during the daytime and attending concerts in the evenings. We always get our money’s worth from the season pass.
Several memorable concerts and musical events during the month: the Maybelles performed one night – an energetic and very talented trio of women – one playing the guitar, one a bass, and an awesome fiddle player who mingled classical music in with the bluegrass. Chanley Painter, the 2004 state fiddle champion, has won beauty pageants at the local and state level, is attending law school in Little Rock, has a black belt in martial arts, and is one very talented and entertaining fiddle player. Big Smith, a bluegrass group from Missouri, performed. They may be talented but we didn’t stick around for the 2nd half – the sound levels on their equipment was way louder than what we’ve been used to at the regular evening concerts. We don’t understand why good musicians think louder is better.
We saw several outstanding performances by young musicians. The Cobb boys - Caleb, 14, (2007 youth fiddle champion), and his brothers Samuel, 11, (mandolin) and Nathan, 9, (bass) - have come such a long way since we first saw them dancing at the folk center two years ago. They are very entertaining as a trio and when they join in with other performers considerably older than they are. The Mickler Sisters are a fairly new group – reminiscent of the Lennon Sisters, only these gals are 11, 13 and 15 years of age. Rine Spann is only ten but is a champion dancer as well as bass player and singer. Clancy Ferguson is also only ten but is already an accomplished fiddle player, dancer and singer – she may be a half-pint but sure has got stage presence, already. We can’t wait to see how these young performers have grown musically when we return next fall.
Last but certainly not least, Galen made his debut on the nighttime stage, playing his washtub bass, accompanying Long Ago String Band. The band has invited him to play several gigs with them in Texas this coming January and February. Carl, the Folk Center’s music director, may offer him a contract to play on a regular basis at the Folk Center when Galen and Karen are in Mountain View next April, September and October.
For a detailed description of some of the performers and the Ozark Folk Center, check out our October 2006 travels on our website.
Those of you following our travels during the summer may remember that Lucille found a future dulcimer player in Prince Edward Island who was interested enough in the instrument to buy her dulcimer, so a stop at the Dulcimer Shoppe in Mountain View to replace her first dulcimer was a must. Karen, Galen and Dianne went with us to help us choose between two different dulcimers. Karen was volunteered to be the test player – we chose a beautiful all-walnut dulcimer with an ebony fret board and black tuners. It certainly sounds better than the first dulcimer, at least with Karen playing it!
Our time in Mountain View went very quickly. In between frequent trips to the crafts village, the evening concerts, weekly dulcimer jam sessions, weekly potlucks, walks into town, and just enjoying time with friends, our month went quickly. Dianne had problems with her hydraulic levelers on her motor home, so she and Larry put their heads and hands together and got them operational again.
Midway through our stay there, friends Russ and Freda pulled into the RV park, originally to spend just a week there, but they signed up for a second week. Freda had a ball hanging out with us daytime and evenings. They spend a lot of time in Branson so they’re familiar with the music found here in Mountain View, but unlike Branson, anyone can get up close and personal with the musicians playing at the Folk Center and you quickly become on a first name basis with them. Russ was having mobility problems so unfortunately, he only joined us for a couple of concerts but did get to enjoy the potlucks and the campground’s jam sessions. By the time they’d left, they made arrangements to spend a month next year, coinciding with our return.
Mountain View had its 26th Annual Arkansas BeanFest and Outhouses Races the last weekend of the month. We’d ‘experienced’ this event back in 2006 but still enjoyed walking through the town and the crowds to see this year’s competitors for the races as well as the BeanFest.
A little history about the BeanFest: Established in 1983 by the tourism council as a way to increase tourist visitation, about 500 pounds of beans were cooked that first year with the bean pots situated in the courtyard and the outhouse race course around three sides of the court square. The turns around the square proved very exciting but slightly dangerous so the race is now held on a straight course one block south of the square.
There are now 1,000 pounds of beans cooked, with teams competing for best beans, best cornbread, and best outfits worn by the bean-cooking teams. This year we spotted Elvis and friends, among other characters. The outhouses are also judged for originality as well as how they perform in the races. Cooking starts early Saturday morning. After judging, beans and cornbread are served up free to the thousands of folks lined up.
Festivities actually kick off Thursday with the Beanie Weenie Dog Show, with live music and an Artisans Market on the square Friday and Saturday. You can park your vehicles at the Folk Center’s parking lot, then hop on the frequent shuttle busses bringing folks back and forth to town.
The campground has non-denominational services at the Pickin’ Shed on Sundays with Pastor Jim usually officiating. Jim says he’s a “Bapti-Costal-Metho-Penta-Dist” – he covers most of the bases. Andy (the campground’s owner) leads the attendees in singing a capella, and then one or two guest musicians play a song or two before Jim reads a Scripture passage and preaches. One Sunday, Karen and Galen, along with Bob and Frances, were scheduled to be the guest musicians. We filled in for Bob and Frances at the very last minute because Bob wasn’t feeling well. Talk about a fast practice just before the service started!
We did some geocaches in the area that were within walking distance. One Sunday, after we all had lunch at JoJo’s, Dianne, Karen and Larry went in search of several caches within a ten-mile radius of Mountain View. Another day, Dianne drove Karen, Larry and Lucille to Batesville where the four of us located several caches and learned a little bit of Batesville history in the process. On the way out of the municipal building where we saw a nice display of arrowheads, we met a local man who told us about a 7’ tall Indian, four foot wide in girth, who had been unearthed by his brother, many, many years ago. Supposedly, this giant Indian is on display somewhere other than in Batesville.
We also saw a stately tree that had grown from a green walking crop placed in the ground by a Civil War soldier saying good-bye to his sweetheart.
Mountain View had several beautiful fall days during our month’s stay there. Larry took advantage of the good weather to wash and wax both the truck and RV, projects that occupied him for over a week. He continued to spiffy up the truck, including touching up the dings on the body and the bed.
Thanks to friends and fellow Habitat volunteers Dave and Mary for showing us their wood blinds in their motor home and giving us the link to purchase them -www.selectblinds.com. We replaced all the day/night shades in the RV and the vertical blinds in the rear with one inch wooden blinds – what a difference they make in brightening up the interior as well as providing additional heating and cooling insulation. The day/night shades had become high maintenance over the years. Larry was restringing at least one pair a month and replacing the hold down hardware – repairs needed because of the age of the shades. The blinds that replaced the vertical blinds for the rear bay window are keeping us cool when the sun is shining on them. We had had snap-on screens made to fit but they were in the truck when it was stolen so the blinds have replaced the need to get more screens made.
We finished the month with a special treat – a day trip with Karen and Galen (Dianne had to leave earlier that week to check on her parents in Florida) to Dave and Maria Smith’s home in Fox. Dave is part of the group Harmony, along with Robert and Mary Gillihan, our three favorite performers in the area. We had heard about Dave’s home in Fox and were quick to visit after he extended an invitation. They have neither running water nor electricity – they live off the grid and have successfully done so since the early 70s. Power is provided primarily by solar panels with generators used when necessary. They used to get their water from a well but it has dried up so they are collecting rainwater off the house roof, which flows into the cistern in the basement. Their fridge and washing machine are propane-powered; cooking is done on a wood stove.
The first home they built was a six-sided log cabin, patterned after a style used by Native Americans. Their current home is the more traditional log home, very spacious, with a porch overlooking a valley – beautiful view. He and his family built the entire home, using logs from his trees and the stones for the foundation from his property. As he said, there’s a reason why it’s called Stone County.
One of their vehicles runs on vegetable oil – the process to convert the oil to usable fuel is more complicated than we thought. He has a contract with the restaurant at the Ozark Folk Center to collect their used vegetable oil – a win-win situation for both of them. After years of milking their one cow by hand, Dave bought a single-cow milking machine. The vacuum pump available with that model used too much electricity, so he modified the vacuum pump off the windshield wipers in a ‘52 Ford pickup and fires up the truck when it’s time to milk the cow – pretty ingenious. Dave told us he gets two gallons to the gallon. They have phone service, which is how they connect to the internet. Their conservative use of power and water is very similar to RVers who dry camp. When we live off the grid, we still enjoy the same activities as if we were connected to city water or electricity. Dave and Maria take it a step further by having their own beef cows, chickens, and garden – not quite self sufficient but pretty close to it. Our visit with them was enjoyable and very educational.
Coming up: A week’s stay in Huntsville, Alabama; a few days at Lake Allatoona, north of Atlanta, Georgia; a week’s stay at our home park in Unadilla, Georgia; then on to Camp Carr in Rincon through the end of the year.