This Little Piggy Got Crawled and our Thanksgiving Loss

We finished up our COVID isolation in Tennessee, wrapped up our RV remodel, enjoyed some fun with the Great American Crawl at Windrock OHV park, celebrated some holiday time together with Wisconsin friends, and left Tennessee missing our two furry friends.

In early November 2023, we left Virginia a few days behind schedule because of COVID and arrived in the rural area of Heiskell, Tennessee, about 10 minutes North of Knoxville, at the Escapees Raccoon Valley RV Park. We have been at this RV park numerous times now as it is well-positioned in the country to hit from multiple directions. The nightly, weekly, and monthly rates as Escapees members are very hard to beat. It is about 45 minutes from the Windrock RV Park and about an hour from the Dollywood theme park and resort area.

RV Remodel Wrap-Up

As part of our RV remodel we purchased “theater” seating that also converts into a couch. We had a very specific size that we needed because it had to fit in the driver-side slide in the living room. We found had exactly what we were looking for in a three-piece configuration in the “De Leon Double Recliner Sofa XP Fawn Ultimate Leather II Power Recliners“.  We took a gamble, placed our order, and tried to arrange delivery to Tennessee from this California company. Their shipping estimate was about two or three weeks from California and we placed the order before we even left Virginia. They were so fast in shipping that the furniture beat us to Tennessee!  The local delivery company was amazing to work with, scheduling around our COVID isolation time and holding it at no charge.

The “busy-body” office staff called us within 15 minutes of the new furniture drop off, warning us that we were not allowed to put all of that cardboard in their dumpster…”or else!(?)”  We had to dispose of the standard home recliner that we still had from the remodel. Unfortunately, the recliner’s cushion had a hole breakthrough in just the previous week. This made it no longer of donation quality and it became trash. We found that Waste Management had a local drop-off with pay-by-the-pound service just a few miles from our campground.

The final piece of the RV remodel came together and the double recliners on the right are set. We restored the original seat belts and can carry two more passengers again. After the remodel we have a lot more room when the slides are in on travel days. We also can enjoy our overnights at Harvest Hosts and other boondocking sites with our feet up without putting the slide out. Once we get all of the extraneous boxes out of the aisle, the RV is very usable this way.
Rico found his new travel spot after the remodeling. He pretty much will go anywhere his blanket is put and Jason’s desk seems to be a favorite place.
Over the last couple of years, Wheezy has exclusively decided to travel on the passenger seat. Unfortunately, we also travel using that passenger seat so whomever is using it also has to hold and comfort him!

The Great American Crawl

One of the reasons for us to schedule a month in Tennessee was so we could participate in the “Great American Crawl” (GAC) series at Windrock OHV Park. We love Windrock, having wheeled here several times with groups and by ourselves. The GAC moves around the country and facilitates trail rides for a range of skill sets at each park. We accidentally ended up in the Panther Rock lineup at check-in and just went with the flow. We needed this trail for a Jeep Badge of Honor anyway, and we were not looking for anything too hard post-COVID. It was a “nice drive in the woods” sort of trail, but it was with some great people.

Lots of 4×4 vehicles lining up for different trails on the Great American Crawl. Most of the rigs were Jeeps, but some Broncos and other brands were pretending to be Jeeps too.

About 45 minutes into the ride our group encountered a little wild hog and a couple of the trail riders jumped out and were able to catch it. The whole thing was caught on our dash cam, it brought the group together and made for some entertaining discussion for the remainder of the day.

Our Great American Crawl group came across a little piggy on the trails to Panther Rock in Windrock OHV Park! Plenty of excitement for the group that was starting as a dreary day.

We didn’t drive the Jeep out on Panther Rock for the classic photo, it just did not seem very amazing after having done that Top of the World at Moab!

The afternoon break at the towers at the apex of Windrock Park, on our way back to the front gate from Panther Rock. We had some great local leads in the green Jeep.

Thanksgiving Loss

We had a more traditional Thanksgiving meal this year, at the local Shoney’s in Oak Park, Tennessee.

Thanksgiving weekend was traumatic. We started Thanksgiving on a high note by enjoying a traditional spread at the Oak Park TN Shoneys. Not your typical Shoneys, it was well maintained, was busy with traffic, and had a great holiday spread. However, when came home something was not right with Rico. He was very difficult to wake up, he was asleep on the new furniture on a blanket but was very groggy.

We said goodbye to our two favorite pets Rico and Wheezy on November 24, 2023, in Knoxville, Tennessee. The photo was taken on July 22, 2023, when Jason moved the motorhome from one camp location to another without mom, they had to find comfort with each other in what is normally the box for one!

Jason worked the Friday after Thanksgiving early in the morning and around 10 AM Rico was asleep in his favorite box on the front passenger chair. He woke up and started vomiting without getting down to the floor. The vomiting was a daily event, but not getting down to the floor to do it was unusual. After this he was uncoordinated, he could not walk without falling over and he could only get his footing on the carpet. His head was twitching, and wobbly. It was clear he needed immediate care.  Of course, this is a holiday weekend and every small vet we could find in the area was not open or had no office hours. We ended up at an amazing emergency animal hospital in Knoxville.

The short story is Rico had a heart attack, which then probably also created a blood clot in his brain.  We could wait until Monday to do tests or we had to make the difficult humane decision at that time. Wheezy had been near this point in the spring, we even had an appointment to “put him down” then.  We made the even tougher decision that these two 16-year crotchety litter mates would be put down together.

In 2007 at Thanksgiving time, we brought the two of them home from Jason’s family farm. They have been with us for 16 wonderful years and left us also at Thanksgiving.

We call this “all covered in cat!” When the weather turns cold, the boys get all sappy sucking up warmth.

Holiday Season with Friends

After the loss of our furry family members, it was excellent timing that we would share some days with our friends from Wisconsin after Thanksgiving.

We relocated from North of Knoxville to Pigeon Forge for the week. We had a negative experience with this KOA trying to stuff us in a spot. Otherwise, we would have been more than an hour away up North of Knoxville and traveling back and forth. The problem is campgrounds size their camp sites by the amperage of power, sewer or water and not take into account the actual rig itself.

When we checked into the Pigeon Forge KOA they asked multiple times if we really did not want a full hook-up site, and for a few day’s stay, we did not need that. Campgrounds need to put you into sites you physically fit into and not gauge the proper site by utility payments only. It took us almost a full hour to wedge ourselves into this “van” friendly site where only pop-up trailers and class B rigs were parking. Plus, we kept tripping our breaker because the 30-amp site really was not one due to the heat tape that took half of that energy to keep the water faucet thawed out!
Technology has been great for full-time RVers keeping connections around the country. We had no idea Scott was anywhere near us until Google Maps showed us along his driving route through Tennessee. We were able to delay our departure from Pigeon Forge a day so that we could have our paths cross for a few hours and we could catch up.

We had planned to do some hiking in the Smokey Mountain National Park, but the night before they closed access to many of the upper-elevation areas due to snow. Instead, we checked out Anakeesta’s mountain-top entertainment option. We rode the gondola’s up, and the chair lift down while our friends rode their shuttle truck down. It was a cool experience, but it was a little pricey. You pay to get the opportunity to spend more money on food and souvenirs up on the mountain, but the views were spectacular from there!

Barb made it out into the nest, conquering her fear of heights! There are many tree-top adventure walks like this at Gatlinburg’s Anakeesta mountain-top resort.
Anakeesta has two ways to get up and down their mountain. The ticket booth is in downtown Gatlinburg and you can take their ground shuttle or take a ski-chair or gondola up the lift.

Dollywood has become one of our favorite Christmas locations because of the millions of lights, the Christmas message-focused shows and music, and now their drone show too. (Later we had a pretty big letdown when we got to Disney World and started to compare it to Dollywood.)

The Christmas drone show at the end of the night was cool to experience. Our first drone show anywhere, combined with laser lights, music, and coordinated traditional theatrical lighting at ground level. Not as high-paced as a fireworks show, but cool to see the various moving images in the sky from hundreds of drones.

For the first time, we checked out The Island in Pigeon Forge together. Sort of like Disney Springs, this is a combination of outdoor activities, entertainment, food, drink, and a hotel. We rode the Sky Fly: Soar America twice! This ride system is like “Soarin” at Epcot Center in Florida. Once you ride it you can go around again for a significantly reduced fee and ride it again. The pre-show and waiting areas were well done and the quality of the video and ride experience was very good too.

Recommendation: Sky Fly: Soar America

We cannot recommend Paula Dean’s restaurant after our experience there. We learned way too much about the lack of “home cooking” when we tried to navigate an allergy there. The staff was great in trying to help us, but everything seemed to be pre-made, heated up, and dumped into a family serve platter.

The Island” in Pigeon Forge claims to have fountains as great as the Bellagio Fountains. They were cool, but when you have seen the original it is hard to compare!
We cherish the opportunities to share time with friends and to share new experiences with them. Even more soul-comforting at Christmas after we have been away from Wisconsin for a few months already.

Where to next? Winter Garden, Florida, for three months of winter!