This blog covers the very last couple of weeks of the trip, as well as getting back home. It's hard to believe it's already over. But here goes!
We left Branson, Missouri, and headed south to Memphis, Tennessee. We did a few notable things here. First, we visited the Memphis Pyramid. The Memphis Pyramid is arguably one of the coolest buildings in the world. And, in case you're wondering, it's 322 feet high. If you've never been, it's definitely worth checking out. To make it even better, it's the home of the world's largest Bass Pro Shop stores. I heard of the store from the YouTube group that some of you may have heard of: Dude Perfect. Dude Perfect is a group of 5 guys who video themselves doing super cool trick shots. They did one of their videos inside this Bass Pro Shops, and it's a really neat video. Here it is:
Even if you don't like anything outdoors, I'd really recommend going to this Bass Pro Shops. Sadly, as we were reveling in the grandeur of the shop, soaking it all in, the fire alarm went off. Yup. Just our luck. So out we went. (Although, I gotta admit, having 8 fire trucks on site, with others patrolling around the area standing by, is pretty cool.)
Another incredible experience was visiting the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The whole area is blocked off, and it's pretty amazing to see in person what I've always heard about. It was also sobering to see the site of one of the most famous assassinations in U.S. history.
One last thing that I'd like to note about our time in Memphis is going to Mud Island. Mud Island is actually a knife shaped peninsula in the middle of Memphis. The Tom Cruise movie, The Firm, had a segment filmed there.
Yeah, that was before my time, so I had to do my research before going to Mud Island. In case you didn't know, that bridge was the Mud Island Bridge, connecting Mud Island to downtown Memphis. It was an interesting island, and we were able to see a really cool scale replica of the Mississippi River there as well.
Following our time in Memphis, we traveled to our last stop on the RV trip: Langston, Alabama. Langston is smack down in the middle of Scottsboro, Alabama and Guntersville, Alabama. Since this was our last stop on the trip, we decided to stay at a better-than-normal RV park. It was a very nice park, and we took great pleasure in the ambience of the park. While we were there, the park had bingo, a luau, and other fun activities for us to enjoy.
Something that I really loved doing while in Langston was going golfing with my dad. We played 18 holes, and I am happy to report that I kicked up about a total of 1 square yard of turf over the whole 18 holes. Golf is a hard sport! Nevertheless, we had a great father-son time together.
There was a very interesting store that we visited while in Langston called Unclaimed Baggage. As you may have guessed, this store buys unclaimed lost baggage from airlines, empties them of their contents, and sells the stuff they find. This place had toys, cameras, clothes, books, and a whole lot more (including luggage. Who would've thought?). While we didn't buy anything here, we did have a good look around, and had some lively discussions about it in the car. For example, my mom and dad thought it very strange to buy something from a store that has basically taken people's stuff without their knowledge, and sold it to someone else. It's like wearing a stolen shirt. Huh. I hadn't thought of it that way.
On our very last full day on the RV trip, we decided to go kayaking. We rented 2 two-person kayaks for an hour, and had a great time out on Lake Guntersville, which was right near our campground. We didn't get far, but were happy to enjoy one last adventure before going back. We got to see about 6 or 7 herons, and that was pretty neat.
Now for the moment you've all been waiting for: Getting back home. The day that we left was not at all a normal travel day. In fact, we packed everything up much differently. Since we weren't going to be able put our slides out at the storage place, we had to put everything that we were going to take home in an accessible area such as my loft, the bathroom, and part of Nate's bedroom. After having left the campground, we began our 4 hour journey back home. It turned kind of strange when we started seeing "Atlanta" highway signs. It was glorious.
Ok. I know I haven't mentioned this in previous posts, but around 1 year ago, when we were backing into our storage place for the first time, we were having a very difficult time. In fact, we were there for about 2 hours trying to back our RV into our space. 2 hours! But, lo and behold, a very kind man who drives a small car transport truck for a living came over (after having very successfully backed his truck into a space in about 30 seconds) and asked us if we needed any help. At this point we were desperate. So, of course, we said yes, we did need help. So he started walking my dad through, step by step, how to get in, and 10 minutes later, we were in. This guy was very nice, and we were very blessed to come across him.
Fast forward 14 months. Pulling into the RV space after a year of traveling. It took us about 20 minutes to back the truck in, and part of the reason it took us that long was because it was pouring rain, so we took a 5 or so minute break to let the rain subside. Yes! Success! If for nothing else, the RV trip trained us on how to back a 41 foot RV into a tight storage spot. Elated, we began unpacking. But then a car pulled up, and the driver rolled down the window. It was the same guy who helped us into the spot the year before! How's that for cool?!
My mom's parents came out to help us get unpacked, and it was a great mini reunion. They were very happy to see us, and we were thrilled to be seeing them. Then, finally, after about an hour of unpacking, we headed to our house. If you remember, we didn't sell our house, though we did try. Turn's out, it worked out just fine, since we now had a place to live in. :)
Walking in was like in slow motion. The washer and dryer, the kitchen table, the cabinets, the sofa, the TV, the- what?! Our fridge is smaller than the one in the RV!
I've now gotten used to the bigger space, but it still is strange when we drive down a road we haven't been on in a year. It's incredible to be back, and we've enjoyed seeing friends and family, but the big thing that I've noticed that I miss about the RV trip is having no schedule. It's pretty sad now that we have a schedule- errands to run, doctors to see, friends to meet. Not that any of those are bad (well, maybe the errands), but it's a little hard to have to go somewhere now.
At this point in the blog post I normally give a small recap of what we did, or what I was talking about. But since this is the last summary post, I'm going to recap the entire trip. The trip was incredible. We got to experience being in the middle of nowhere, being in places of beauty, and regions of utter desolation. We got to see great American icons, and some great, but not so well known places as well. We climbed mountains, and descended into canyons. We braved snow and ice, but also sweltering hot places. We visited caves, space centers, sand dunes, cacti forests and so much more. The trip taught us so many different things, from maneuvering a massive house on wheels to coping with being with only 4 people that you know for a whole year. It was an extraordinary journey, and one that none of us will forget for a while.
I have three things that I'd like to say before I let you all go. First, thank you for all of your support, prayers and thoughts. It means a lot. At the moment of me writing this, we have had 6,174 unique people visit our site. I hope that you have gotten something out of reading about our adventures, and that you are coming out better because of it.
Second, I want to mention that we have one more post after this before the posts will become a lot less frequent. The site will be up for at least another 10 months, but for now, the next post will be the last of the weekly posts.
Lastly, I'd like to mention that this post that I'm writing is, totally coincidentally, our 50th blog post! I was counting them all up a few days ago, and was very surprised to see that this will be our 50th. I had nothing to do with it.
Final Weeks- Part 2. Yikes. It's getting closer... I've been getting countless emails begging us to keep the blog going. It appears people are suffering from lots of depression and anxiety because of the fact that we're slowing down blog posts.
After leaving Sioux City, Iowa, we traveled to St. Joseph, Missouri. I know I haven't mentioned travel days much during the posts, but there was one thing that we found very sobering and post-worthy. As we were driving to Branson we encountered a plethora of buildings, fields and communities that had suffered from severe flooding. It wasn't uncommon to see an entire barn almost completely submerged. In fact, Nebraska is facing 1.3 billion dollars in flood losses. Definitely keep those people in your prayers.
In St. Joseph, we didn't really do much, since we were only staying for one night. In fact, I only have one thing to mention about our time there. They had canoeing/kayaking rentals for a lake there. So I, being the only one wanting to do so, decided to rent one. And it was pretty fun! Granted, it only took me about 15 minutes to traverse the entire lake (it was more like a large pond), I certainly took pleasure in hanging out in the peace and quiet out there. And a bonus was that I got to see a very large bullfrog!
After St. Joseph, we journeyed to the city of Branson, Missouri. Upon arriving at Branson, we immediately felt a difference in the campground. It was very welcoming, and had a huge amount of fun activities going on throughout each day. The name itself was unique: Jellystone RV Park. It was named after the fictional character Yogi Bear's home: Jellystone National Park. One of their daily activities was log rolling, in which you'd get in a small pool with a plastic log was in it. The goal was to balance on this rolling log for as long as you could. In this case, being smaller helped tremendously, because the log wouldn't roll as much if you didn't weigh as much. We really got a kick out of this activity. My record was just over a minute. The owner's son beat the overall record while we were there, and stayed on for just under 14 minutes. Pretty crazy, huh?
Another thing that we were impressed with was the friendliness of the staff. They were very kind, and we made friends among many of them. One couple, the activity directors, actually hiked coast to coast and back in the course of a little over a year! We were very inspired by these folks. An individual that we enjoyed the company of, who also worked at the campground was extremely kind to us. He is in college, and had a very intriguing story of what he's doing. He's interested in a lot of things that I (Will) am, including Star Wars and filming.
I won't say much more about the campground other than that we really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend the Branson Jellystone RV Resort.
Something else that we loved while in Branson was going to the SIX show. SIX is a group of 6 (Whoah. A coincidence? I think not!) a cappella musicians. And they're brothers. We were highly entertained by these guys in their show. They were funny, and did some really great a cappella versions of famous songs. And if that wasn't enough, they also played a few classic movies with no sound, and provided the audio for it. For example, they played a scene from the classic Disney movie "The Love Bug", and were providing car sounds, crash sounds, etc.
Branson was filled with a ton of great things, and it doesn't stop here. One day, we took a trip out to Table Rock Lake, just outside of Branson, and rented a boat for a few hours. Nate and I tubed on the lake, we swam, ate lunch and had a blast out there!
Branson is a great city, if you've never been. We had a truly incredible stay in Jellystone RV Resort, and also enjoyed a great a cappella concert. Not to mention a terrific time out on Table Rock Lake. From Branson, we only had two stops before getting home. Stay tuned for the final installments of Connecting Four's trip around the U.S.!
This is it. The final days. Now you can't get up in the morning going "Hey, I wonder where the Merchants are now", or "I wonder if Will's written a new blog post?" Why is this happening? It's all coming crashing down before your eyes! Nooo!!...
Ok. Hold on. You're overreacting. (I'll bet all the ladies reading this were crying.) We still have a couple more posts. And when you really think about it, all of this fame and fortune that we've been getting from you guys (ok, not the fortune part) will die down (and we really haven't gotten the fame either). It's not the end of the world. You'll get over it. So hold your horses and enjoy these last few posts. Savor the vicarious lifestyle for just a little longer...
We left South Dakota, and traveled to Sioux City, Iowa. Sioux City holds a place in all of our hearts because this is the city where Nate was born. We have a lot of good memories in this city, and some new ones were made while we were there, and we really enjoyed the campground, which was right next to a lake.
First of all, we visited a hot dog place, Milwaukee Wiener House. We'd eaten there when we came 6 years ago, and got to know the owners pretty well. We were really surprised that one of the owners recognized us when we visited there 6 years later. We also like their food a lot, and would definitely recommend going there if you ever get the chance.
Something else that we got a thrill out of was the 4th of July fireworks that we watched. The firefighters of the city of Onawa (it was about 30 minutes out from Sioux City) were putting on a fireworks show over the lake that we were staying near. In fact, we were able to get a perfect view of the fireworks from our RV site! We had a blast watching the fireworks show.
Right across the lake from our RV site was a state park. This state park had Lewis and Clark style keelboat, replicated after what they had traveled down the Missouri River. It was very neat, and a few days later we, while at our campground, were able to see it in action. It's pretty cool being able to see what something would have looked like that is no longer common to see.
Something that we did not enjoy while staying in Sioux City was that we had an RV electrical problem where we were getting shocked pretty badly every time we'd touch any metal on the outside of the RV. I'm going to write this in 2 ways. First, I'll give the long, technical explanation, then I'll give the simplified version. You can skip to the easy if you want, my feelings won't get hurt.
TECHNICAL: A wire that was fed from the main frame of the RV to one of the slide outs had been pinched by the slide out going in and out so many times. That part of the wire insulation was worn down to the point of the actual wire being exposed, and it was touching the metal on the slide out, which was touching the main frame/chassis of the RV, which was touching the other slide outs, stairs, and a lot of other metal components that were outside of the RV. There was no "ground" that we had, thus creating a sort of "floating current". Whenever we'd touch the RV with bare feet on the ground, we'd be creating a ground for the current to flow through. After measuring the voltage coming from the wire, we found that we were getting 95 volts. We were very blessed to not have a larger current coming out of the wire. Another downside to this was that our inverter was fried in the process, and we had to get it replaced.
SIMPLIFIED: A wire got repetitively pinched by one of our slide outs such that it wore down the wire insulation. The current coming from the wire transferred to the frame of the RV, the slide outs and the steps, making it so that we'd be shocked every time we touched the RV. The voltage that we were getting shocked with was around 95 volts, which, if the amperage had been larger, would've impaired someone or killed them. We were very blessed not to have had that problem. We also found out that our inverter got fried. The inverter, if you don't know, basically takes the electricity that's going to the refrigerator (which can't take that kind of electricity), and converts it into electricity that the fridge can use. So, of course, we replaced the inverter as well.
So because of this problem, we decided that we'd need to spend a night or two in a hotel. Lucky for us, we were able to stay at the same hotel that we stayed in 6 years ago. Ahh, such nostalgia.
Overall, we had a blast in Sioux City. We were able to eat hot dogs, watch fireworks, visit a keelboat, and find out some interesting facts about electricity. I'm only doing one city, because our next stop (Branson) was filled with lots and lots of things that I'm excited to share with you guys. So stay tuned, and savor the last few posts!
While in Memphis, Tennessee, we were surprised to learn of the Sultana Maritime Disaster, the largest maritime disaster in the history of the United States. The Sultana was taking paroled Civil War prisoners along the Mississippi River. Surprisingly, more people died in this disaster than in the Titanic. The reason that this was not as publicized as the Titanic, thus making it a lesser known piece of our history, is that the disaster happened a little over a week after President Lincoln was shot. It occurred in the wake of a massive event, and is now not as well known. This picture is depicting the disaster after 3 of its boilers had exploded. The cause of the explosion was a hasty boiler repair, which, along with holding many more people than it should have, weakened the ship and led to the explosion.
We happened to pass by the Sultana Maritime Disaster Museum. Though it was closed, we were able to get a picture of this mural at the front of it. It's a fascinating and compelling story, and looking it up is definitely worth your time.
I'm glad to announce that, after 10 months from being away from home, that we are back, and have hit the ground running. We're very excited to a). Be able to see friends and family again, and b). Be in a MASSIVE house! Stay tuned! We have more posts to come...
Will is 15, and enjoys running track, writing,