Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I don’t advertise this a lot, but I have bad knees.  Generally I will just tough through an uncomfortable day, but since I took a couple of spills this last winter one knee in particular gives me a lot of trouble when I am very active.

My darling husband was concerned about the walking at Silver Dollar City for two full days and what it might do to my knees.  

For those of you who have never been to Silver Dollar City to say there are a few hills there would be an understatement.  Everything in that park is uphill both ways and we aren’t talking a slight grade we are talking 7% or more grades.  In my younger years the park gave me no trouble at all. 

In fact our very first trip nearly 40 years ago we had a 3 year old in the backpack and a 6 month old in a stroller and we even went into Marvel Cave, which is gorgeous, carrying both kids and the stroller!  Anyone that has ever been in Marvel Cave will tell you we must have been insane to consider doing that because it is a very strenuous cave to visit, but I digress.

We like Silver Dollar City due to its good clean Christian atmosphere, lively entertainment, demonstrations, cleanliness, and decent amusement park style food.  We didn’t want that dampened by me being in pain. 

Dh suggested we take my grandmother’s electric wheel chair out of our storage trailer there on the property and see if the batteries were still good on it.  He did this on Wednesday evening, and due to some minor mishaps that happened he barely got it on the charger to check it out before it was bedtime.  In fact we discovered the next morning the charger had not been completely connected.  So we decided to take the chair with us anyway and chance it.
Once we had parked our rig, see part 1, he hooked the chair up again to charge over night.  We were delighted the next morning to find that it was fully charged, even though the gauge on the arm rest suggested differently.

He suggested I drive it around the campground a bit, because I had never used it, but I only did so for a very short time because I didn’t want to run the batteries down. 
We headed up to the shuttle in plenty of time and I boarded it easily with the assistance of the cheerful bus driver.  As we rode over to the park we noticed we had tracked a little “mud” into the bus with the rear tires. We apologized to the driver as we exited the bus.

We had discovered on our way to the campground the day before that dh had left his annual pass at home, but luckily I had two free 1 day tickets with me, along with my annual pass, so we used those to enter the gate and start up the hill toward the entrance when we heard a man behind me going “lady, lady your tires are falling apart!”  

Quick inspection showed my horse was indeed throwing a shoe!  The 15+ year old anti-tip rear tires were crumbling as I rolled along.  Diligently behind me a Silver Dollar City employee was sweeping up the crumbs as we went, not saying a word, just sweeping quietly.  I told you it was a clean and friendly park.

Apparently being stored in the metal trailer in last summer’s heat had caused the solid rubber tires to disintegrate.  We sat there a moment trying to figure out what to do.  The shuttle had left, we had no transportation back to the campground to put the scooter into the camper or truck and we had already used our pass for the day.  The employee suggested we go to guest relations to see if they could help us.

I apologized for leaving a trail as I went and he just smiled and said, “I’ll follow you.”
Back at the base of the hill dh thought the disintegration had stopped because it appeared no more was falling off so he suggested I do a few donuts in the chair to see if it was going to start again or if perhaps we could go back up the hill and try it again.  After a few loops it was apparent the self destruction was going to continue. So we went to Guest Relations back outside the gate telling the gate keeper where we were going and why.  She said she would let us back in, so that solved that problem.

Somewhere along the way we lost our sweeper.  Perhaps he was still cutting donuts on the other side of the gate.

While my husband was in guest relations I set in the chair outside and after a bit I heard the familiar swish of the street sweeper slowly coming down the walkway.  I again apologized to him and he laughed and said “I thought I had lost you.”

I replied “Well I left you a bread crumb trail, I knew you would find me.”  Then we both laughed.

Guest relations allowed us to park our scooter in the safety of their building and suggested we get a rental, however, no discount was offered on the rental.  Dh convinced me to pay the $36 for the one day rental, calling it my anniversary gift.
We had a good time in the park, despite 2/3’s of the shops and shows being closed until after April 5.  The weather was perfect, the three shows we saw were good and the staff was helpful everywhere we went.  Our annual pass discounts for food were 10% on everything we purchased over $4 and let me say the strawberries and ice cream were divine for our afternoon treat on that warm spring afternoon.

On our way out we picked up my lame horse and went to wait for the 6 pm shuttle that finally arrived at nearly 6:30 pm.  

While our cable connection was good at the campground the wi-fi was horrible and we both gave up trying to find scooter replacement wheels early on because we could not stay connected.

Saturday I chanced my knees and walked the park, very slowly.  We were careful with the routes we took, did some minor window shopping repeated watching one show, Mike…can’t remember his last name.  Who did a variety show that included unicycle riding, juggling, comedy and magic.  We had seen him on America’s Got Talent a few years ago and knew the show would be a little hokey, but fun.  We had seen his show on Friday, but decided it was worth seeing again on Saturday.  It was the same show, but it changes ever so slightly because he does audience participation and you never know what a four year old is going to say or do.  Both times watching it was fun.

That day I had one of their “skillets” for lunch.  Fried taters, both white and sweet, veggies, and smoked sausage, very good. 

A word about their refillable mugs.  They are definitely worth the price.  Our refills for our 32 ounce mugs we purchased years ago, were $1.93 each, far cheaper than the cost of a new drink every time. The cups are good indefinitely, we in fact have glass ones from our first trip in 1975 they will still honor, although we opted to purchase new lighter weight insulated ones many years ago.  We use them once maybe twice each day we are in the park so they have more than paid for themselves.

 We took carry straps in with us and so the cups were not the least bit inconvenient to tote.  Especially the first day when we had the scooter, which had a basket on it. 

Many people ask about food prices at amusement parks and we find they run close to the same at various parks across the nation.  However, we found the food at Silver Dollar City this year to be slightly higher than the food costs we had been shopping for a trip later this year to Walt Disney World.While we love SDC, we have found that is in actuality more expensive to go to when all things are considered than Walt Disney World.  I thought I had done how I calculated this cost comparison before for the blogs, but I can't seem to find it.  Thus a subject for another post in the near future. 

The shuttle back to the campground arrived about 6:05 pm the second day, for which we were thankful, because the cold front was arriving nearly a full day early.

Back at the campsite we were glad we had already packed our lame horse in the trailer and went to get fuel.  For those of you going to the area we have found, over the years, that the cheapest fuel is at West Branson, our diesel there was $3.79 per gallon, and nearly $4 elsewhere. 

A quick bite at Taco Bell there in West Branson, then back to the camper to get ready to leave on Sunday morning.

Sunday morning started with a rather lively discussion with me wanting to stay until the next day because a steady rain had fallen all night and the temperatures were plummeting.  Remember I am fearful of sliding off a mountain.  Dh wanted to leave immediately because they were predicting 3-4 inches of snow in the area by nightfall and he needed to be back to work the next day.  Even though it was predicted to be 50 by mid afternoon on Monday at Branson and he had more vacation time he could have taken. There was a project he was working on that he needed to complete.  He felt that if we left shortly the roads would be fine due to the two previous days of 70 degrees.
It took us less than 30 minutes to eat a cold breakfast and pack up. 

 My poor husband got soaked to the skin as the wintery mix started to fall as he was dumping the sewer and disconnecting as I sat in the warmth of the truck.

To say the next few hours were pleasant would be a lie.  Before we were out of Branson large wet snowflakes were hitting our windshield and the temperature was down to 31 from the 70 the day before.  

The constant fear of the “low coolant light” nagged at us as well.  One quick note here, it turned out to be a true concern because after we had replaced the water pump and hoses on the truck that caused pressure to build up and show up problems elsewhere.  Unbeknown to us the head gasket had blown.  We are lucky the whole engine did not lock up on us.  I am certainly thankful we made it home safely.

By the time we reached the Joplin area we were looking for a campsite because we were hitting near white out conditions.  We finally decided we would ride it out at the Flying J at exit 11A there in Joplin because we knew we could camp there free of charge and there was no guarantee we would find an open campground anywhere nearby. It is after all just mid March, hardly peak camping season.

We decided to fuel up before we parked because the pump area was clear at that point. If you travel with an RV I recommend getting the Pilot/Flying J FREE RV loyalty card.  It gets you discounts on your fuel, and you accumulate points for free items. You can get one at any Fly J or Pilot travel plaza. This trip we saved roughly $2 every time we filled up.

 While paying for the fuel I asked if anyone was coming in from the Tulsa area and how the road conditions were.

A kindly trucker informed me that this was the worst of the storm coming through right now and that the turnpike to Tulsa was in good shape.  I repeated this to my husband and then he went to change out of his wet clothes while I called our son to see what the weather was like at home.  

Clear, windy and cold, no snow, no ice was his report.  He said later that right after we got off the phone there had been some light snow, but nothing serious.

Gary and I decided that we needed to have lunch and decide what to do next.  We went into the Denny’s there at the Flying J knowing that the service would be slow because they cook your meal after you order it. We took advantage of this delay to use it to our benefit.

We both pulled out our cell phones and started checking various weather reports, they all agreed with what the trucker had told me.  In fact the minute by minute said the snow would cease in 39 minutes.  

We ordered what turned out to be the best meal, in our opinions, we had the entire weekend.  I ordered their senior’s turkey club sandwich with seasonal fruit and dh had their chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, gravy, toast and corn.

We both were delighted with our meals.  My seasonal fruit turned out to be red grapes, sliced bananas and blueberries (red, white and blue—just like the current theme at Silver Dollar City). The fruit was the perfect ripeness and blended well with each other.  The sandwich was probably the best turkey club I had eaten in years.  

Dh said there was no toughness at all in his chicken fried steak and the seasoning on the corn was extremely good.  We would both recommend the meals we got at this Denny’s.  

The service was great, and we were given a discount on top of my senior meal by our wonderful server.  The only drawback to the meal was they need a better ventilation system over their smoking area because you could definitely still smell the cigarette smoke in the non-smoking section.  

We understand that many truckers smoke and that is why they need a smoking section there, but they do need to improve that a bit.  Other than that the meal was exactly what we needed I would give this Denny’s an A+ for the food and service we got there on Sunday. With a slight downgrade because we do not care for the smell of cigarette smoke. 

Relaxed from our meal we checked all our sources again and decided to chance it on for home rather than sleep in an unheated camper at 29 degrees or lower over night.  I don’t care to be cold either.  Did I mention I am spoiled?—See the intro to my Princess Plan blog if you have any doubts.

By the time we left the snow was nearly stopped and the roads were drying quickly.  By the time we hit the Oklahoma border the lack of sleep the night before and stress of the earlier driving combined with my full tummy and the warmth of the truck soon had me drowsy.  Luckily dh was not.  I napped most of the rest of the way home.

As soon as we were parked at home and unpacking was started we realized the three of us were very hungry so it was out for pizza to finish celebrating our anniversary.

So both our horses all pulled up lame this trip.  The repair on the dually is going to run close to $5,000 for everything, but considering the overall good condition of the truck, and the fact we just put $2,200 in it for other repairs  it is still much cheaper than trying to replace the truck with one of equal accessories in this day and age.   The scooter repair should be under $100, so our simple little cheap getaway ended up costing us a bundle, but now we will be all in good shape before our big trip later in the year to Walt Disney World.  

Being the Pollyanna I am, I feel that it was a good thing we took this trip now rather than making the WDW trip our only trip for the year.  What if we didn’t find out about any of these problems until we were part way to Florida?  Far better now, so we can adjust budget and work it all out, than to get high centered hundreds of miles from home.

Jan who enjoyed herself despite it all in OK


It’s been a good long while since I posted on this blog because basically we’ve not been traveling, although I do still need to finish up my reviews from our Las Vegas trip nearly 18 months ago.  

I’ve been working so hard on my Princess Plan and the posts for that, so most other blogs have been neglected.  I’m working hard to correct that problem now.
Sunday was our 41st wedding anniversary, so we went over to Branson, MO for an extended weekend to celebrate.  It was definitely a trip to remember, both good and bad.  

Our weather this year has been much of a roller coaster ride so we were very hesitant to make our reservations until the last minute, because I have no love for snowy weather, and especially not in the Ozark Mountains pulling a fifth wheel.  If you want to call me chicken, that’s just fine.  I’ll even make clucking noises for you, because this fat lady has a mortal fear of sliding to her death on icy roads in the mountains.

I finally made our reservations on Monday of last week after much discussion and scouring every version of long range forecasts we could for the area.  All agreed 50-75 degree for Thursday through Sunday, with it cooling off to the 40’s late Sunday afternoon and rain moving in that night.  Since we would be home by Sunday night the forecast was perfect as far as we were concerned.

I made our reservations, against my better judgment, at The Wilderness Campground that is owned and operated by Silver Dollar City.  We have stayed there a few times before, but have been less than pleased with them for various reasons.  More on this in a bit.

Generally we stay at the Corps of Engineers on Table Rock Lakeat Indian Point for $9 per night using our National Parks Pass, the people there are pleasant, the sites are reasonably flat, and they are a clean campground.  I’ve reviewed them before.  Unfortunately they had not opened for the season yet. 
Our second choice is generally Compton Ridge Campground which is directly across the street from The Wilderness.   That was where I first tried to book, only to discover they were closed and had been sold.  They are scheduled to “open soon” according to the signs we saw while there.
I checked various other campgrounds and none would be opened on Thursday, our scheduled arrival date.  A few, at much higher rates and with no Silver Dollar City shuttle would open on Friday, but that would do us no good.
So finally I settled on The Wilderness.  Let me explain to you why I was reluctant to go there.
Our first visit was probably about 10-12 years ago and that trip was great.  We went during the Bluegrass and BBQ festival, we were lucky enough to be in a good, easy accessible site and next to some of the Bluegrass competitors so we got to listen to wonderful bluegrass music all weekend both in the park and at our campsite.
The next year we went back to the Wilderness because we had a good experience there the previous year.  I made our reservations well in advance with the dimensions of our camper and truck correctly listed.  Because Memorial weekend was so busy we knew we needed to reserve early to get a good site.  So we had.
We arrived, luckily, during daylight hours and were given a site that was technically big enough for our camper, but to say it was difficult to get into would be an understatement.  
My husband is a good driver, and he can generally park our camper with little to no effort, but not in this spot.  Before it was over we had my husband, an employee of the campground and two truck drivers all trying to get our rig into the site, while I spotted the trees and yelled stop using our walkie talkies when crunch time was near.  It took 45 minutes and a lot of tension to squeeze the trailer in because of the trees surrounding the entrance to the parking spot, the sheer drop offs on all sides and the narrowness of the road.  
The employee later told us that generally much smaller trailers were put in that spot and everyone had trouble getting in it.
Once we got it in there we had a horrible time getting out of that site when it was time to leave.  Walkie talkies (this was before we started using hands free cell phones for this project) were essential and it took a lot of forward and backward to get out without dropping the trailer off one of the drop offs or clipping the trees.  
Our next few trips we went to Compton Ridge and the Corps because we refused to get in that situation again.
Our last visit there was again during the Bluegrass and BBQ annual festival.  I made our reservations early in the year because the corps, and Compton were already booked.  I was very clear about the size of our camper again and requested a pull through site to avoid similar problems.  I was given a confirmation number, a pull through site number and was guaranteed that site was ours. We verified it all again before we left home, including taking our confirmation print out with us.
We again arrived in the daylight hours to discover we had NO PLACE to camp.  They had booked us, according to them, for the following YEAR at that time, despite what my confirmation email said.  Furthermore, they had no sites available and chastised me for waiting so late to try and get a site—I had booked MONTHS early. 
I demanded they find me a place to camp because I had already purchased my tickets for the festival and had driven over four hours to get there. The situation was their fault and therefore they needed to fix it.  Of course they had nothing, not even a cabin they were willing to let us stay in for a campsite price, but said they would try to find us a place to camp somewhere else.  The place they came up with was nearly an hour away, back toward home.  I was livid.
I insisted they call non-sister campgrounds and find us a campsite locally because they after all had ran the charge through for me to camp that weekend there and then had given our campsite away, when we arrived well before deadline. The fault was entirely theirs.
They finally found us a place nearby at Tall Pines, and it was an easy to park in site, we were pleased with Tall Pines, the little we were there.  
When I asked for my deposit back they informed me I was cancelling my reservation less than five days before I was to arrive and therefore was not entitled to a refund of any sort.  I was truly angry by that time.  I reminded them that they had my reservation for the FOLLOWING year, not this year and therefore, was entitled to a full refund IMMEDIATELY.  By then a crowd had formed of people waiting to check in and they decided quickly a refund was in order.
Based on this past history when I made our reservations I insisted not only on a confirmation number, but for her to read me exactly what site AND what YEAR the reservation showed.  I then insisted on an email confirmation.  Which I verified all the info on when I received the email.  This I printed out, just in case.
I also made certain of the campsite size.  I was told 40 x 19 which would be a bit short for our 30 ft rig plus the dually, but we knew we could make that work.  I also verified it was an easy in, easy out site.  I was guaranteed it was.  I warned the woman I had bad experiences with their sites before and that we would not even attempt one that was too short or had sheer drop offs with trees when we got there.  
She assured me this site was PERFECT for us.  She said that if it wasn’t to let them know immediately and they would arrange a different site for us, but to arrive early as we could to allow for a better choice because it was the first weekend for Silver Dollar City 2014 and they were filling up quickly.  All of this was included in the confirmation email I received, printed and took with me.  Good thing I did.
So we did just that.  Oh the site was maybe 40 x 19, but it was 19 long and 40 wide, and the area you had to pull into to park… you guessed it a drop off.  Not only was the site less than half the length I needed, and I had stressed what our size was, that length had a retaining wall on the side our slides would have to come out on (and I had told her where our slides were), and a picnic table was taking up part of that 19 foot length.
We went immediately back to the office, where the woman (a different one than I had booked with) informed me that we WOULD fit in that site and they were full up and we’d absolutely have to park there.  
Then she took one look at my face, as I handed her the confirmation email and changed her tune immediately.  She grumbled the whole time she was looking through her site book and kept suggesting short campsites and us parking elsewhere.  I told her no, that we had booked for a set size site and I would NOT be treated this way by them AGAIN.  
Suddenly she came up with a 50ft site, and suggested I walk down and see if it was empty(why she didn’t know if it was empty or not I have no idea) and if it would work for us.  It was and would, but it was no 50 ft either.  Our fifth wheel is a 30 ft, and we drive a one ton dually to pull it.  Once we were parked (which was easy access) all the way back in the lot we had to angle our truck up under the tongue of the fiver to fit inside the campsite boundaries.  Someone needs to re-measure all their sites for certain.  My truck is definitely not any 20 ft long.
While the campsite is clean, however, this third time of basically poor service on their part will make us hesitant to go back there ever again.  Especially at $34 per night, less a 10% discount for being annual passholders.
We were just a few sites from the office, yet our wi-fi was spotty at best.  If you are going that way and decide you want to chance them so you can use the free Silver Dollar City shuttle if your rig is 30ft site 154 will hold it.
As for them being full up, not in their wildest dreams.  We kept watching for rigs coming in all three nights we were there and over half the campground  was empty.
Oh and we drove by the previous campsite later that weekend.  They had someone parked in there.  The smallest pop-up camper I’ve ever seen and it completely filled the site. That was campsite 90.
About their shuttle.  Currently it is running at 9 am, noon, 3 pm and 6 pm only.  You better be there for it at those times because he loads who is there when he arrives and then leaves, they do not wait around.  It is, however, a clean kneeling bus that has the drive on lift system for wheel chairs and reserved seats for strollers.
Our overall review of this campsite based on this trip and our previous experiences is a C.
Prior to the trip we had major repairs done to the truck, that included replacing the water pump and hoses because we had been getting “low coolant” warning lights on our dash.
As dh backed into site 154 the “low coolant” light came on again.  Not good 400+ miles from home pulling a trailer.  We kept a close eye on the temperature gauge all the way home I can guarantee you.  The truck went back to the shop first thing Monday morning!
So that started our weekend off on a bit of a sour note, but once we were camped the real fun began.
Stay tuned for part 2.
Jan who refused to let The Wilderness ruin her anniversary trip in OK