In 2020, defying lockdowns and wearing masks, we took a 32 day roadtrip from the Texas Hill Country to Washington DC and back.
Our first stop was near Fort Hood in a central Killeen Texas neighborhood. If the walls of the circa 1950 ranch-style house at 605 Oakhill Drive could talk, they’d sing!
It’s a nice house but doesn’t have any visual features that dramatically set it apart from the other homes in the area not far from Conder Park. It’s a one-story, brick home with a rather large mailbox out front.
As big Elvis Presley fans, we thought there might be a landmark sign designating it as the house the most famous entertainer in history lived while going through Army training.
At the height of his early fame, the Army drafted Elvis in 1958, and at the Memphis induction center, he received his shots, his buzz cut, and his orders. On March 28, he and others were sent by military bus to Fort Hood, the Second Armored Division, General George S. Patton’s “Hell on Wheels” wild bunch.
Enroute the new troops stopped for a restaurant lunch break in Hillsboro causing “a small riot” when teenage customers recognized him.
Elvis didn’t want any special treatment offered. His desire was to be just another G.I. His fellow soldiers saw that in him and Elvis became one of the guys.
Private Simon Vega recalled, “I thought he was gonna get special treatment but he did KP, guard duty, everything, just like us.”
When basic training was completed, the Army allowed soldiers to live off base as long as they had dependents living in the area. It was not long before Elvis’ parents, grandmother, and a friend traveled to Killeen where they found a three-bedroom home to rent from Chester Crawford, an attorney who charged an outrageous $700 a month.
Soon crowds began showing up on Oakhill Drive to catch a glimpse of Elvis. It was common for him to stand outside and talk to fans for hours. Occasionally, he detoured through neighbors’ backyards to avoid the crowds, and according to neighbor Janie Sullivan, the clothesline in their yard once caught Elvis and the dog bit him.
Not everyone was thrilled by Elvis’ presence in the neighborhood. Some Oak Hill residents called the police to complain about the clouds of dust stirred up by the cars and the carnival-like atmosphere.
While completing an additional ten weeks of advanced tank training, Elvis had to take emergency leave to fly to Memphis to be with his mother, Gladys, who had returned home to be hospitalized. She died two days later on August 14.
After his mother’s funeral, Elvis returned and put in long days at Fort Hood learning to be a tanker. During his final days at Fort Hood, large crowds gathered outside his house, and some nights a hundred people kept vigil. The last night, on September 19, 1958, Elvis and his gang gathered at the home to make the drive to the troop train that would take him and 1,360 other G.I.s to Brooklyn to sail for Germany.
Biographers and friends reported that Elvis’ time at Fort Hood and in the Army was among the happiest of his life. For a time, he was almost “just another soldier.” Everyone agreed that Elvis was a good soldier, one of the best in the company.
His longtime girlfriend, Anita Wood, said, “he had finally found himself.”
Elvis said later, “I learned a lot about people in the Army. I never lived with other people before and had a chance to find out how they think.”
In 1958, longtime Killeen resident Edith Carlile lived four doors down from the house Pvt. Elvis Presley lived in with his parents, Vernon and Gladys. Presley rented the home for seven months from a local lawyer when he was stationed at Fort Hood.
“The street was extremely crowded with cars going by,” said Carlile, who lived next door to the house Presley lived in before she passed away a few years ago. “People were standing in the yard, wanting to touch him, kiss him.”
Carlile was a mother of four at the time, and wasn’t really into the rock ’n’ roll music that Presley is famous for.
“I’m not a fan of music of that age,” Carlile told a local news reporter, adding she was more into the tunes of the big band era.
Her children did get autographs from Presley, but Carlile said she threw the signed pieces of paper away years later.
She said the rock ’n’ roll king dated a few of the local girls when he was here, and his presence made a big impact, especially in the Oakhill Drive neighborhood, which in 1958 was home to lawyers, business owners and other upper-middle class families.
More than 64 years later, the house is still standing, and although it’s aged, the outside doesn’t look dramatically different from when Presley lived there.
Surprisingly, more recent owners of the Presley’s rental house indicated they didn’t even know the house had once been lived in by Presley when they bought it some years ago.
To this day Elvis fans regularly pop by the house to take a video, some puctures or inquire about the former home of the King.
Some drive hundreds of miles to do so. Others want to peep inside or look at the backyard.
Although there has been updated renovations (exterior windows and roof) owners are reluctant to offer details.
In November 2006, the 2,400-square-foot house was placed for purchase on eBay.
The owner at the time, Myka Allen-Johnson, a sales representative for CenTex Homes, said she wanted to sell the home to someone who would understand the historical significance.
“I didn’t buy the house with the intention of selling it on eBay,” Allen-Johnson told the Killeen Daily Herald in 2006. “I just don’t want people to forget that he lived here in Killeen.”
Penny Love was 3 or 4 years old and lived around the corner in 1958. She recalls her family seeing Presley sneak through her backyard to avoid the crowd that waited out front. She said she would sometimes sit on Presley’s father, Vernon’s lap on the front porch.
The community has missed out on any significant tourism and marketing opportunities over the years. In August 1958, Presley fans petitioned the Killeen City Council to change the name of Oakhill Drive to Presley Drive, bringing nationwide publicity to the area. Today, however, Oakhill is still the name of the street.
The owner said she allows Presley fans to take a quick picture of the front of the house. But those who try to pry closer are not totally welcome.
The backyard has a steep incline, she said, which can be dangerous, and a German shepherd patrols back there, too.
During the height of the pandemic in 2020, we went on a 32-day roadtrip. We refused to lockdown.
One of the most fascinating days was spent at the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky. It is a type of historical and biblical theme park centered around a life-sized reconstruction of the massive ship, built at God’s command, that saved Noah, his family, and representatives of every kind of land-dependent, air-breathing animal from a global flood.
“The ark was 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high and it housed the several thousand animals God brought to Noah,” their literature reads. “The global flood lasted about one year. The ark came to rest on the “mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4), and Noah’s family, with all the animals that were saved from the flood, eventually spread throughout the world.”
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.”
Years ago, I came across this poster in one of my son’s Sunday School classrooms and always thought the lessons applied to adults as well as children. This wisdom is worth applying and sharing.
1. Don’t miss the boat
Ask for guidance from the Almighty, He will help you get through whatever obstacles you are facing right now.
Matthew 11:28 (NIV)“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
2. Remember that we are all in the same boat
As the old saying goes “No Man is an Island” just means were are connected with each other. Some people will leave a huge amount of memories, and others will cause us pain, both though will contribute to our learnings for us to become a better person. Every time you meet new people, it will become part of you forever because it can leave good or bad memories that will stay on your mind for the longest time.
Ephesians 1:3. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
3. Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark
Ephesians 5:16 (KJV) “Make the most of your opportunities because these are evil days.”
Lay down plans about your future regarding what you want to become in life. Make room for errors. Do not just rely simply on Plan A. Make some sort of Plan B and Plan C to deal with setbacks.
4. Stay fit. When you’re really old, someone may ask you to do something really big
1 Corinthians 9:26-27
26 “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
Work to remain healthy physically and mentally. You might need to be part of something amazingly big that is life-changing at least for the people around you.
Stay fit so that you may be able to live a longer life to see your children and grandchildren fulfill their dreams and become successful in life. Many grandparents are not able to see because they lead an unhealthy life and leave this world too soon.
5. Don’t listen to the critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done
1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Be reminded not to listen to skeptics when you experience setbacks from time to time. Focus on what you want to achieve in life. Years after, the words that critics have said against you won’t even matter anymore.
6. Build your future on high ground
1 Corinthians 3: 10-11 10 “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.” 11 “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Make your future to be foolproof. Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
7. For Safety Sake, Travel in Pairs
Romans 8:35-37. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”
8. Speed Isn’t Always An Advantage. The Snails were on board with the Cheetahs
James 1:19 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
Who remembers the race between the turtle and the hare? Consistency is more important than speed—or at least have both speed and consistency work together.
9. When You’re Stressed, Float a While
James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
Having trouble dealing with your personal issues? Take a deep breath, and relax. Learn to unwind for a while to cool down. Afterward, go back to the drawing board and deal with the issue again. A rested mind is more creative than a weary one.
10. Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals
1 Corinthians 1:20 “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”
Be humble. It doesn’t matter how mighty you perceive yourself to be, know when to tame your ego. Sometimes a low profile is best as situations may backfire on your part.
11. No matter the storm, when you are with God, there’s always a rainbow waiting
Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
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This is our go-to list for tent camping as a couple. It can be modified per trip –family, friends, ages, activities (toys, rafts, hunting, skiing, etc.).
We always have protection, a jack, spare, fix-a-flat, jumper cables, portable battery starter, small power unit with lights, stored energy, electricity, etc. in our vehicle.
No two people are the same when it comes to planning a camping trip. What is important to one person may not matter to another when it comes to camping gear. One of my sons prefers to go ultralight and another brings practically everything he can when they camp. As a family, we tend to bring more items. All this to say, there is no right or wrong answer to what you bring on your camping trip.
Last night I received a curious email from Dave W. of South Dakota:
Before all else, I eminently took the bait to find out how a large barge about the length of Noah’s Ark would be stranded on a farm in Olive Branch, Illinois.
As the mighty Mississippi River snakes around Dogtooth Bend at the southern tip of Illinois, certain curved segments of the riverbank take the brunt of the river’s erosive power.
This especially occurs in Alexander County, where farmers and other hard working residents experienced major floods 21 times between 1844 and 2016. The Len Small Levee, named after the 26th governor of Illinois, was built in 1927 and expanded in 1969 to span the bend in the river and “deflect high velocity floodwaters” away from agricultural land.
Sherry Pecord, owner of the nearby Horseshoe Bar and Grill in Olive Branch, wasn’t prepared for the flood of 2019.
It was July, the monstrous river flowed back out of the hole in the levee and caused six giant barges to relocate via another raging flood.
One of the barges settled in the field just off Miller City Road in rural Alexander County, near the southern tip of Illinois.
“They just floated right on over and took out a utility pole and an irrigation rig and landed in the field right behind my house,” Pecord said.
Pecord and her husband, Sean, grow corn and soybeans acreage near the bend. They’ve been through floods before, but the couple never dreamed barges would land in their fields causing them to plow around them for years.
“I don’t even see them anymore,” she said. “They’ve just become part of the landscape, and I really don’t pay any attention to them anymore.”
The Pecord’s experiences with the floods began in 2011, when a massive storm of thunderous water caused an initial break in the levee. Although officials repaired it, that break also led to a government buyout offer for the surrounding land. Several neighbors took the buyouts. Sean, a third-generation farmer, elected to stay put in the home he built back in 1985.
On New Year’s Day of 2016, the Mississippi River overwhelmed the Len Small Levee again.
“It went over the top and just broke it down,” Pecord said. “It put a 3/4-mile gap in the levee right in front of our house. Over the years, the river has just been eating that away, and it’s probably a good mile now.”
In the 2019 flood, the water remained high enough that the Pecords boated to and from home for 137 days. The restaurant remained closed for seven weeks during that time because it was inaccessible to customers.
The barges floated in on July 3 that year. The day after the Fourth of July holiday, the barges’ owner, Hines Furlong Line Inc., sent representatives to take a look.
“They were going to try to move them and get them back across the road and out to the river,” Pecord said. “Well, the river dropped about that time, and they couldn’t get them back across.
“In the next year and a half, they were trying to figure it out,” she continued. “First they were going to come in and put air bags underneath them and walk them across the road and maybe leave them on the other side and wait for the river to come back up. It’s a given the water is going to come back up because we have a mile-long breach in our levee. I don’t know what happened to that thought process, but that never happened.”
“Planting season comes and goes, and they’re sitting in the middle of my father-in-law’s field,” Pecord said. So he began charging the barge company rent for each day the barges were in his field.
Negotiations began, resulting in a settlement of Hines Furlong selling the barges to Mr. Pecord.
Map of Dogtooth Bend and surrounding area. (Kenneth Olsen, Impacts of 2011 Len Small levee breach on private and public Illinois lands. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, July/August 2013)
A trip to San Antonio, the “Alamo City” isn’t just about the destination. The true beauty of this region can be found in the journey through and around it. Rolling hills, natural springs, meandering rivers and, come springtime, the beauty includes vibrantly painted landscapes of wildflowers up and down the highways and backroads.
As you head northwest west toward Boerne, Kerrville and Fredericksburg, you’ll begin to see the landscape open up before you, with rolling tree-covered hills, exposed limestone cliffs and an array of colorful wildflowers.
In this area, known as the Hill Country, you’ll also find Johnson City, home to the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. Here you can tour the family ranch and view artifacts such as his boyhood home and first school. This is also the final resting place of LBJ, our 36th president.
Johnson City is also the heart of the Hill Country wine region. Why not take a detour and sample some of the best wineries in Texas on the 290 Wine Trail? Ab Astris Winery and Kuhlman Cellars are a couple of our favorites.
In the quaint town of Fredericksburg, you’ll want to visit two unique museums: the National Museum of the Pacific War, dedicated to those who served in the Pacific Theater of World War II, and the Pioneer Museum, honoring the lives of the early German settlers of this region.
Heading back south toward San Antonio, a worthwhile scenic route offers serene Hill Country views through wildflower-lined back roads.
Look for Luckenbach. It’s a stretch to call it a town, but for country music fans, it’s a mecca. It was made famous in the ’70s by outlaw country musicians like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. You can still regularly catch country acts performing on the outdoor stage.
Continue on the backroads south around Canyon Lake on your way toward New Braunfels. Just outside the city, stop at Texas’ oldest continually operating dance hall, Gruene Hall.
Back in San Antonio. The Alamo is the Spanish mission made famous as a battle site in the war for Texas independence. But it is just one of five historic Spanish missions in San Antonio that make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The other four comprise the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. All five offer an incredible look back at the history and culture that still influence this proud city.
Just 10 minutes north of downtown, you will find the revitalized historic Pearl district. This area used to be the home of the Pearl Brewery. Today, you can walk the Pearl to explore trendy shops, delicious dining and even a weekend farmers market. Nearby is Brackenridge Park, Witte Muesum, Children’s DoSeum, Japanese Tea Garden and San Antonio Zoo.
Dating back to 1919 – and receiving major updates throughout the years – the Japanese Tea Garden features a lush year-round garden and a floral display with shaded walkways, stone bridges, a 60-foot waterfall and ponds filled with Koi. The garden’s entrance is punctuated by a moon gate created by a Mexican artist renowned for crafting wood-look concrete sculptures. Free admission.
When mean it when we say the River Walk is a must to experience. One of the nations’—most famous attractions is the vibrant River Walk. Restaurants and shops line the banks of the San Antonio River, which you can explore on foot or take a boat tour on one of the colorful river barges.
Sightseeing, shopping, food, and fun. All on this world-renowned 15-mile urban waterway. The River Walk, or Paseo del Rio, is a San Antonio treasure and the largest urban ecosystem in the nation.
Tucked quietly below street level and only steps away from the Alamo, it provides a serene and pleasant way to navigate the city. Explore by foot along the river’s walking path or jump aboard a river barge for a ride and guided tour. In the heart of downtown, explore nearby attractions like the Alamo, the King William Historic District and more. Or, shop local favorites along the river’s Museum Reach at the historic Pearl.
A good way to see downtown is by catching a ride with City Sightseeing San Antonio’s double-decker buses for tours and curbside drop-off to many of thw downtown attractions and landmarks.
If you missed the rodeo and February, be sure to end the night at Tejas Rodeo Company, where they hold live rodeos every Saturday night from March – November. You can also eat like a Texan at Tejas Steakhouse & Saloon and enjoy fun, and entertainment for all.
If you are staying downtown, don’t miss Mi Tierra Café and Panaderia is the perfect place for a traditional Tex-Mex breakfast, with everything from huevos rancheros to breakfast tacos. Schilo’s has been serving German-Texan fare since 1917 and is the oldest restaurant in San Antonio. You can’t go wrong when you order the Pioneer pancakes or biscuits. In the mood for some schnitzel and homemade root beer? Check Schilo’s out for lunch.
From this are you can take a walk through La Villita Historic Arts Village, San Antonio’s first neighborhood. Today La Villita is a cultural hub, home to local artisans, shops and restaurants. Walk down the river to the Briscoe Western Art Museum for stories of the cowboy, the vaquero, Native Americans and the western landscape.
San Antonio also features theme park giants- Six Flags Fiesta Texas and SeaWorld & Aquatica San Antonio.
Camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and to ensure your trips are safe, here are tips uniquely for RVers and motorcyclists.
RVers and motorcyclists should plan out all escape routes and discuss them with (RV occupants) and fellow campers when traveling. Ensure everyone is informed of the survival plans.
Basic Camping Safety
🔹Keep watch on children! You are responsible for the safety of your children. Make sure you know where your kids are and what they are doing.
🔹Be aware of the natural surroundings. There may be plants with thorns or stickers.
🔹You are a visitor in wildlife’s home. Keep a safe distance from wild animals. Although they may look cute, they are wild and can carry diseases.
🔹Never feed the wildlife! Feeding wildlife can encourage bad behavior by animals and is against park regulations.
🔹Be careful with fire. Never leave a fire unattended and be sure your campfire is out when you break camp.
🔹Axes, knives and saws are useful tools, but be sure you know how to properly use them.
RV Safety Tips
🔹Have more than one fire extinguisher and insure everyone knows where they are and how to use them. Make sure they have the right amount of pressure according to the gauge. In fact, anytime you use an extinguisher, it should be recharged or replaced to avoid future problems.
🔹Watch where you park. Heat from underneath your RV can catch grass on fire.
🔹Never use any stove or cooking appliance for heating space. Smaller space means less ventilation and the greater the chance of a fire.
🔹Keep any combustible items like paper towels or dish cloths away from the stove and remain near the stove when cooking.
🔹Install and inspect smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors regularly. Test alarms every two-weeks to ensure they work properly. This is a fast and easy test that can save lives and property.
🔹A dragging brake line can cause friction. This can easily be ignited by dripping brake fluid. Make sure to check the pressure in your tires regularly and spot check at every stop.
🔹Always be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of who is camping next to you, across from you and behind you. Pay attention to what is happening. Know when the weather is changing and who is moving about around your RV.
🔹Always lock your camper when you leave it. Even if you are just going to the laundry room or the bathhouse in the campground.
🔹Use window locks so your RV can’t be accessed by the sliding windows.
Motorcycle Safety Tips
🔹Pack safe. Keep the center of gravity of your bike in mind and make sure the heavy items are lower down. below the COV of your bike. Even up the balance on each side of the bike – don’t put all the heavy stuff in one saddlebag! If traveling solo, pack your gear so it acts as a backrest to support your lower back.
🔹Make sure nothing is touching the exhausts. Use the most effective ratchet straps, bungees or cargo nets to secure the load and carry additional items on top for easy access.
🔹Pack light. Space is limited so be efficient and don’t fill up every available space. Seasoned motorcycle campers overwhelmingly pack light and trim luggage down to the minimum. You can always buy stuff along the way.
🔹Pack efficiently. Determine what you really need, and pack accordingly. Pack your tent and sleeping bag last so they are first things you unpack at camp site, and make sure the things you’ll need on the ride – sunglasses, sunscreen, waterproofs and maps – are easily accessible.
🔹A tent. If tenting, use one with a waterproof floor or groundsheet and take metal stakes to fix it down and a driver. Pick the size of tent according to your needs – even if you are travelling solo, a two or even three-man tent will give you the space you need to hold your clothes and luggage as well as you, and won’t take up much more space than a one-man tent. Vestibules allow you to strip off wet rain gear and store wet luggage without getting the inside of your tent wet. Make sure you have a waterproof fly- sheet for wet nights. Try setting it up at home rather than working out how to set it up in the dark at your first camp site.
🔹Use a sleeping bag in a grade for the range of temperatures you are likely to experience. Down insulation is more efficient and packs down smaller than synthetic fillings. Use compression bags to hold your sleeping bag, tent and pad to make the most effective use of space.
🔹Before you set off, make sure your bike is serviced and in good condition. A day or two before departure do a trial run of packing and riding your bike – ideally an overnight trip if you can. You’ll almost certainly over pack so it is a great opportunity to check and reassess what you are taking, and to ensure everything is efficiently packed and you know where it is and how to get at it. Of course, if someone with you is travelling by car, put the campsite equipment in there and only carry essentials – it also means you can take more stuff you will find useful, such as camp chairs, extra food or a cool box.
🔹When you are on your trip, don’t leave too late in the day to find a site – when you are tired, it’s easy to make bad decisions and leaving too late will increase your stress levels and make mistakes more likely to happen. When you’ve found the site, choose the best area – sheltered and flat, not sloping or rocky, and not low-lying so you avoid pooling water if it rains, or falling cold air if the temperature drops. Be friendly with other campers, and when you leave make sure you leave no trace you have been there – kill any fire you may have made, and pick up any trash and clear it away.
🔹Finally, when you are back home, make a post-trip evaluation of your packing – what did you not use, what did you not take that you needed – and make a note of it, so next trip you will be operating at maximum efficiency, leaving you free to enjoy the ride.
We stopped by Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee back in 2020 knowing it is one of the most-visited attractions in that area. Although it was open, we elected not to go in because of limitations due from the pandemic.
It is definitely on our bucket list to go back to what looks to be a world-class theme park. We heard from locals that we made a good decision at the time, but “come back again because they are always making good improvements and introducing something new.”
For 2022, Dollywood officially opened to the general public on March 12th, with season passholders getting a sneak peak on March 11. Dolly Parton was there, her first time at the park since 2019, to greet everyone back.
Dollywood didn’t waste much time with planning exciting updates with a a variety of projects. Here are some of the changes and additions:
🔹The Emporium, a very popular shop with visitors, was updated aesthetically.
🔹Victoria’s Pizza received a kitchen renovation to improve efficiency and help with visitors getting meals faster. An enlarged seating area has also improved the dining experience.
One change that will really benefit the guest experience are the wider walkways and more space for guests to spread out. Congestion has always been a struggle at Dollywood, but now the park is taking steps toward improvement! The park is creating wider walkways and better utilizing spaces throughout the park. Recently crews removed an old mine tunnel near the tracks for the Dollywood Express. This creates more space for visitors to walk, or stop and watch as the train rolls by.
The Flower & Food Festival has quickly become a fan-favorite festival at Dollywood. Now they have expanded it with new iconic Mosaiculture displays that visitors will love, and hundreds of thousands of blooms throughout the park. The culinary team has created a menu full of items that highlights the tastes of spring in the Smokie Mountains.
Another popular festival is the Summer Celebration. In 2022, Dollywood is expanding the Summer Nights drone and fireworks show with even more drones. The show features hundreds of drones flying high above the park, telling a story with 3D animations and a symphony of light.
Hoot Owl Hollow
Hoot Owl Hollow is a new area coming to life for Dollywood’s Harvest Festival. It’s located in Craftsman’s Valley and features a number of owl-themed displays in the park and suspended in the trees. The festival has thousands of carved pumpkins, performances from talented artists and Great Pumpkin LumiNights
Dollywood is introducing a brand new season pass structure (Silver, Gold and Diamond) that provides more for guests.
Here’s what to expect with the passes:
🔹Silver – With the Silver Season Pass, visitors get unlimited entries to Dollywood during the 2022 season, 2 Bring-A-Friend Free tickets and a $5 discount on single day tickets. Adult Silver Passes are priced at $149.
🔹Gold – The Gold Season Pass includes access to all-new Golden Hours and Events, unlimited visits to the park, 4 Bring-A-Friend Free tickets, a $10 discount on single day tickets, free parking, and 15% off select food and merchandise. Adult Gold Passes are $204.
🔹Diamond – With the Diamond Season Pass, visitors receive access to Golden Hours and Events, unlimited visits to Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country, free parking, 20% off select food and merchandise, 6 Bring-A-Friend Free tickets and a $15 discount on single day tickets. These passes are priced at $314 for adults.
We passed up going to WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and I instantly regretted it after we left.
Driving away toward the Great Smokies National Park, I suddenly remembered a Facebook post from a friend, Janie Buys, a few years ago mentioning the attraction. It seems she had doubts about visiting it with husband Phil and son Phil Jr., but after she went in, it didn’t take her long to enjoy it.
A couple of weeks later into our month long roadtrip, Dodie and I were pleasantly surprised to see a WonderWorks in Branson, Missouri.
Dodie, a retired nurse, has always enjoyed science and the attraction bills itself as “a science focused indoor amusement park, combines education and entertainment. With over 100 hands-on exhibits – there is something unique and challenging for all ages.”
The building is enticing enough to spur anyone’s interest. It looks like a giant four story venue turned upside down. As soon as we walked in, the floor was the ceiling and the ceiling was the floor.
It was fun to experience the power of 84mph hurricane–force winds in the Hurricane Shack. Some chose to make huge, life–sized bubbles in the Bubble Lab.
I enjoyed the NASA Space area but we elected not to get strapped into the Astronaut Training Gyro to “experience zero gravity.” We also passed lying on the death–defying Bed of Nails.
Here’s the Top 10 Things I Learned at WonderWorks:
1. You can’t see your ears without a mirror.
2. You can’t count your hair.
3. You can’t breath through your nose with your tounge out.
4. You just tried No. 3.
6. When you tried No. 3 you realized that it is possible, but you looked like a dog.
7. You are smiling right now, because you were fooled.
8. You skipped No. 5.
9. You just checked to see if there is a No. 5.
10. Share this with your friends so they can have fun too.
Tire safety is not something you should ignore. Even before starting your vehicle, you should ensure that your tires are properly maintained and in good working condition to ensure your safety. There are four main factors to tire health: tread depth, tire age, tire inflation load and routine maintenance.
Always consult the owner’s manual of your vehicle and your tire manufacturer’s included literature for specific information about your vehicle/tire performance. The intent of this article is to supplement and not to supersede this material. In the event of a conflict, always rely on the recommendations of your vehicle and tire manufacturer.
Your tires connect your vehicle to the pavement and so play a major role in your safety on the road. Their health and condition are affected by a number of factors that you should know to keep as safe as possible. The following are also important in improving the length of your tire’s life span.
TREAD DEPTH SAFETY
Tread depth refers to the amount of tread remaining on a tire. It is calculated by measuring the distance between the top of the tread block to the bottom of the tread void. This number is normally displayed in 32nds of an inch but can also be displayed in millimeters.
Tread depth affects handling, traction and stopping distance. As a tire wears and tread depth is reduced, these capabilities are reduced. Reduced tread depth causes even more severe diminished performance in adverse conditions like wet or slick roads and surfaces.
As you can see in the wet stopping distance chart above, tread depth affects how well your vehicle can stop, especially on wet roads. Keeping an eye on your tire’s tread depth is the first step in driving and operating your vehicle safely.
TIRE AGING SAFETY
Older tires have a higher risk for failure. Tires are made of rubber which begins to break down over time.
A publication released in 2008 from the Rubber Division of the American Chemical Society entitled, “Rubber Oxidation and Tire Aging – A Review,” goes into detail how an aged tire has reduced crack resistance, which can lead to an increased rate of tire failure. As tires age, oxygen penetrates the rubber causing it to start breaking down on a molecular level. The rubber begins to harden and become brittle, losing its elasticity and strength.
After a certain point, the tire’s ability to carry weight is reduced and could potentially fail. Even if a tire has never seen service or has been used very little, it has still been exposed to time and the elements leading to compromised integrity.
Most tire and auto manufacturers recommend replacing your tires between 6-10 years. We change ours at six years.
TIRE INFLATION SAFETY AND LOAD CAPACITY
Properly inflated tires are also important for tire safety. The NHTSA has documented that an under-inflated tire increases the chance of tire failure. A tire must be abl eto hold the weight of not only the vehicle, but also any additional load the vehicle might carry such as fuel, passengers and payload. A tire alone does not have the strength to support this. A tire’s sidewall gains strength as air pressure builds inside the tire, meaning that with proper air pressure, a tire can support a vehicle safely.
Overloading a vehicle with underinflated tires is a recipe for blow outs and tire failure.
Under-inflated tires cannot support the vehicle and quickly become compromised. Driving on an under-inflated tire generates excess heat, causing the rubber to break down. Eventually, a tire will not be able to withstand the excess load and fail.
Check your air pressure often to prevent driving on under-inflated tires. Refer to your owner’s manual or vehicle placard to find the correct tire air pressure for your vehicle.
All vehicles manufactured from 2008 and beyond are equipped with a tire pressure monitor system (TPMS) to help monitor air pressure. The TPMS will alert the driver if pressure falls below 25% or more below the manufacturer’s recommended inflation.
You must check your air pressure often to prevent driving on under-inflated tires. Refer to your owner’s manual or vehicle placard to find the correct tire inflation for your vehicle.
ROUTINE TIRE MAINTENANCE
Proper and timely tire maintenance is crucial to safety. All tires on your vehicle should be inspected, inflated and rotated on a routine basis.
Inspect your tires every month. This will help you identify any damage or conditions that could interfere with safety. This is an important preventative step to eliminate risks that could potentially lead to an accident.
Check your air pressure every month. Properly inflated tires will sustain the weight of your vehicle and lessen the chance of tire failure due to improper inflation.
Rotate your tires every 6,000-8,000 miles. Regular tire rotations prolong tread life, maximizing handling, traction and stopping capabilities of your tires. This also requires removing the tire from the vehicle, allowing a more thorough tire inspection.
During the winter months, fogged-up and frosty windshields can be a constant issue. To quickly eliminate the fog without creating a mess of smudges, use a chalkboard eraser! It works really well, and it’s easy to store in your glove box or center console.
Another tip for dealing with a foggy windshield is to make sure your car’s air recirculation is turned off. The air in your car is already humid, and humid air contributes to windshield fogging. Use the fresh air intake option instead, which will pull in dry air from outside. The dry air will help take care of the fog in no time!
Fog-Proof Your Windshield
While the tips I mentioned above will help you get rid of fog on your windshield, there are also ways to prevent fog from forming in the first place! Here are a few you can try:
Smear shaving cream on the inside of your windshield, then wipe it off. You’ll leave behind a thin layer of shaving cream, which contains some of the same ingredients as commercial defoggers.
Fill a stocking or sock with kitty litter and leave it in your car overnight. The litter will help absorb moisture that would otherwise collect on your windshield.
Before you turn your car off in the evening, open the windows for a few seconds to let the cold, dry air in. This dry air will help dehumidify your car overnight.
Don’t leave water bottles or other drinks in your car overnight. The moisture from them can contribute to a foggy windshield.
Keep Socks In Your Glovebox
Having a pair of socks all ready in your car can be especially useful during the winter! You can pull them on over your shoes if you ever need to push your car out of ice or snow. (The socks provide a little extra traction that makes it easier to find your footing.)
Another way to use socks is to cover your wiper blade overnight! Just raise your wiper blades and slip the socks over the ends. The socks will help prevent ice from forming on the blades, which will make your de-icing process much easier in the morning.
Fix For Frozen Wiper Blades
During the winter, make sure to fill your car with washer fluid that is rated for cold weather. It can help melt the ice that’s clinging to your wiper blades in the morning. It can also be a quick way to defrost your whole windshield if the ice is thin enough!
Impromptu Ice Scraper
Can’t find your ice scraper and need to get going? Grab a plastic spatula from your kitchen, or use a plastic card from your wallet! (It’s best to use a card that you don’t mind losing, in case it accidentally snaps while you’re scraping the ice.)
Windshield Parking Hack
Let Mother Nature defrost your windshield for you! If you can, park your car facing east. This ensures that your windshield will get a bit of extra warmth from the sun as it rises in the morning. Your wiper blades may be able to take care of the remaining frost—no scraping required!
Thaw Frozen Car Doors & Locks
For frozen locks, try heating your key with a match or lighter. Gently push it into the lock to melt the ice. (Just be careful not to burn yourself!)
Another option for thawing frozen locks is to use a drinking straw. Just aim the straw at the lock, and blow air into it. The heat from your breath will start melting the ice, and you’ll have that door open in no time!
And finally, you can use hand sanitizer to fix frozen doors and locks. Just rub a layer of hand sanitizer over the frozen area and let the alcohol melt the ice.
Prevent Frozen Doors
Sick of having to unstick frozen doors? Prevent them from freezing in the first place with a bit of cooking spray. Just spritz a bit of it where the door seals. This acts as a “waterproofer” to prevent water from seeping in and freezing your door shut.
Keep Side Mirrors From Freezing
Prevent side mirrors from freezing overnight just by covering them up! Use a plastic shopping bag, a ziplock bag, or whatever you can find to slide over the mirrors. Tie the end or keep it in place with a rubber band, and your mirrors will remain ice-free overnight!
Fast Headlight Fix
Having bright, working headlights is especially important during the dark and snowy winter months. If your headlight covers could use a cleaning, just cover them with a layer of toothpaste. Let it sit for a minute or two, then rinse the toothpaste off with warm water.
This toothpaste treatment will help remove the film on your headlights so they shine more brightly. It’s a quick and easy fix that’s much cheaper than buying a special headlight cleaner product!
Get Un-Stuck Fast
Keep a bag or two of heavy cat litter in your trunk on snowy days. It will help add weight to your car, which can help give your tires a bit more traction in the snow and ice. And you can sprinkle the litter under the tires if you get stuck! This will give your tires something to grip onto and improve your chances of getting out of that snowbank.
Another useful tip for getting your car out of a snowbank is to use your floor mats. Just lay them down in the snow in front of your tires. They’ll provide more traction for your tires and help you get your car moving. (Just don’t forget to pick them back up before you drive away!
Make A Winter Emergency Kit
Weather can be unpredictable during the winter, so it’s a good idea to keep emergency supplies in your car just in case. Start with a spare outfit that can keep you warm if you happen to get stranded. Follow these steps:
Unzip a winter coat
Put a thick pair of socks, long underwear, hat, gloves, scarf, and snow pants inside the coat
Zip the coat up and stash the outfit in your trunk
You should also keep additional supplies in your car that could save your life in a winter weather emergency. Here are a few suggestions:
Charged battery pack for your phone
Hand and foot warmers
Bottles of water
Now that you have these helpful tips, you’ll be able to face many winter driving challenges with confidence!
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Emergency first-responders are facing a new wave of safety hazards when responding to car accidents involving electric vehicles (EV). After a deadly crash in Mountain View, California, the fire chief released a safety alert to other first-responders in the region to warn of the dangers of the high-voltage batteries in electric cars involved in accidents.
Firefighters responding to the crash were shocked to see once the fire was extinguished it reignited at least 3 times in the next six days. This created a seriously hazardous condition for the firefighters who were unsure when the battery would stop bursting into flames. Many have been questioning the safety of electric cars in high-speed car accidents.
What are Electric Cars?
The electric car market has caught the attention of many consumers with the promise of increase in environmental efficiency and decrease in fuel costs when compared to regular gas-fueled vehicles. Electric cars run entirely off of electricity, so they must be plugged in to charge before continuing to travel. The electric car market has recently boomed with over 2 million people across the world using electric cars with the U.S. being the third largest market. With these new cars comes new safety hazards that the public needs to be aware of.
How are Electric Cars Dangerous in a Car Accident?
Electric cars are equipped with high-voltage lithium-ion batters that differ from regular gas-fueled cars because they engineered to be rechargeable. Some electric car manufacturers, such as Tesla, engineered the battery to respond in the case of a fire by slowing down the spread of flames so all passengers can retreat safely. Unfortunately, this seemingly innovative safety features is creating more work and hazards for first-responders. The battery is burning energy so slowly that the leftover energy becomes unstable, leaving the battery to spontaneously combust over the course of a couple days after the accident.
Firefighters are usually able to cool a battery down to guarantee safe removal but with the Tesla electric battery it took days and a call to Tesla engineers to officially declare the battery safe. This is important for electric car drivers to know in case of an accident.
Battery safety is a serious concern for makers of electric vehicles (EV) today because of potential battery fires. But in earlier years, one of the most serious incidents wasn’t a fire, but a toxic chemical cloud from an EV’s experimental battery.
Automakers, energy interests, and major government-funded efforts have been on the hunt for the ideal battery to power electric cars for decades. It hasn’t been an easy road and remains a challenge even today, as shown by several massive recalls of electric vehicles with batteries that, in rare cases, have suffered spontaneous combustion.
Fires aren’t a new thing. During the EV’s drive to market, battery fires occurred early on, including several in experimental Ford Ecostar electric vehicles powered by sodium-sulfur batteries back in 1994.
A particular battery safety incident that stands out occurred at an electric car race in 1992. Rather than a fire, a race entry running an experimental battery suffered a leak that spewed a toxic vapor cloud that injured racers and race personnel, causing the raceway to be evacuated.
Here, we present the following article from the Green Car Journal archives, as it was originally published in June 1992:
Excerpted from June 1992 Issue:It was in the final hours of racing activity at Phoenix International Raceway when the lead car began spewing a reddish-brown vapor trail into turn one, then went into a spin, braking hard.
As the car slowed to a stop, its driver tore at the window’s safety net and dove out of the opening head-first, stumbling, then collapsing as he tried to escape the battery gases that filled his cockpit and the area around the car. Like the driver, James Worden, of the Solectria team (Boston, Mass.), 14 track officials and others who came to his aid would be taken to the hospital to treat breathing difficulties. Worden was admitted in serious condition. Fortunately, all 15 people injured in the accident recovered.
This was the sobering final scene that red-flagged this year’s APS Solar and Electric 500 in Phoenix, Ariz. An important showcase of new and developing electric car technology, the race exemplified new thinking like quick-change battery packs and race-style pit stops under 20 seconds. Many of the cars were substantially faster than just a year ago, and the driving more sophisticated. Products from major sponsors like General Electric, Motorola, Goodyear, and Firestone were used and touted on banners and cars. The event drew a small crowd of enthusiasts and a good showing of research teams from across the U.S. Many were small-time efforts with personal cars converted to electric propulsion. Others were well-financed teams equipped with the latest in electric motors, controllers, and batteries.
It was the experimental battery technology that brought an early end to the Chrysler-Plymouth Electric Stock Car 200. Complexed bromine solution leaked from a dislodged tube in the race car’s pressurized zinc-bromine battery on lap 91, hitting the hot track and creating a toxic cloud near the car and an acrid smell that hung over the infield. The hazardous materials team handling the incident ultimately ordered the raceway evacuated. Although disabled, Worden’s Solectria entry was later declared the winner since he was five laps ahead of the field.
Should this experimental battery have been at the race? Race sanctioning body Solar and Electric Race Association (SERA) regulations specifically cite that “any battery type (except silver-zinc) is generally permitted and any number of batteries may be utilized within the vehicle.” Thus, the prototype zinc-bromine batteries used independently by both the Solectria and Texas A&M entries were allowed. A wide array of other battery technologies, some potentially dangerous, would also be permitted under these rules.
Phillip Eidler of Johnson Controls, supplier of the experimental batteries in the Solectria car, told GCJ that of the battery technologies being pursued, zinc-bromine is one of the safer ones. “What you saw out there was one of the worst incidents, short of crashing into the wall, you’re probably going to see from the battery system.” He also cites that the Johnson Controls battery does not contain pure bromine. “It’s a complexed form, in solution, that doesn’t have near the vapor pressure and evaporation rate of pure bromine,” advises Eidler. Johnson Controls is the largest U.S. manufacturer of lead-acid automotive batteries and the leading supplier to both the original equipment and replacement markets.
Sources at Johnson Controls cite the company is engaged in a cost-shared development contract for the zinc/bromine battery with the U.S, Department of Energy for utility applications. Zinc-bromine is said to have 2-3 times the energy capacity of lead-acid batteries and, according to Johnson Controls’ vice-president of battery research Bill Tiedemann, it’s “one of the most environmentally safe battery technologies available.”
“While experimental technology is critical to the developing EV and alternative fuel vehicle fields, it’s equally critical that safety is addressed as vigorously outside the lab as it is inside. “
A spokesman for principal race sponsor Arizona Public Service (APS) told GCJ that the technologies to be used by race teams will certainly be examined more clearly for safety in coming years. SERA’s Ernie Holden cited that closer scrutiny would be built into the safety inspection process for future races as well. Johnson Controls is also offering to help in any way it can to make the race a safer event. Since assurances from entries using experimental technology cannot serve as the final word on safety, though, it’s obvious that an expert inspection team will be needed to independently perform this task.
This incident should sound a warning signal within the industry. While experimental technology is critical to the developing EV and alternative fuel vehicle fields, it’s equally critical that safety is addressed as vigorously outside the lab as it is inside. This is especially true in the case of public demonstrations of experimental technology. With the upcoming schedule or races, ride-and-drives-, and public demonstrations of electric vehicle technology worldwide, it will be imperative that adequate safety measures are taken. The same holds true for future fleet testing of electric vehicles using potentially hazardous batteries. A catastrophic battery failure on city streets could have wide-ranging consequences.
Experimental technology will continue to be seen in electric car racing, since racing is the proving ground that ultimately benefits the cars that make it to dealer showrooms. But high-risk system components, or even ones protected by redundant safety systems which could still prove deadly in the event of catastrophic failure, might be penciled out in the rule books for safety and liability reasons. This is especially true of those technologies which could injure large numbers of people in a single incident.
What of experimental components, like batteries, which need to be tested during their evolutionary run to market? That’s why the major automakers have proving grounds In their place, smaller R&D firms can rent a track like Phoenix International Raceway or countless others around the world…and do their testing with the stands empty.
“It would probably have been much better for us if we would have just ran and ran the car around the track without anybody there,” muses Johnson Controls’ Eidler. “But we’ve done years worth of testing. After that works, where’s the next place you go?” That’s a dilemma that will surely be faced by many R&D efforts in coming years. He adds: “There comes a point where you have to take it out on the road.”
GCJ editors do expect that electric cars will compete in major-league racing alongside conventional gasoline-engine cars. But it seems certain that some important safety checks will have to be in place. Racetracks packed with tens of thousands of spectators are not the venue for volatile technology that could endanger the lives of those who are on hand to root for its success.