Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Eastward, Ho! Day 25: 2nd Failed Wheel Cylinder, exploring the LBL south of us.

 Wednesday, June 30

After a leisurely breakfast, I took Yagi to explore the other camping loops this morning, I ended up by the rental kayaks for pics:

They're $15/hr and I think we'll be renting two of them on Friday morning before we leave for the next campsite.

Later, I went out to the Sammy to check the fluids prior to us departing to do some exploration of the LBL or Land Between the Lakes to the south of us; found the brake fluid reservoir down below expected max level!

A quick inspection and yep, there was brake fluid coming out of one of the brake shoe retaining pin mounting holes!  Dammit.

Luckily, when I bought the replacement wheel cylinder for the left rear wheel, I bought a second one for what I believed would be the eventual failure of the right rear wheel's cylinder.  

Disassembly went well, I took a shortcut in not fully removing the rear brake shoe, merely moving it out of the way before tackling the removal of the failed wheel cylinder.  

Not fully removing the brake shoes made it a bit ackward to put the new wheel cylinder in but I managed.  What I didn't realize at the time was that I caused the cam that adjusts the position of the brake shoes to push the shoes outward more once mounted!

Struggled for quite a bit of time but couldn't get the dang hub to go onto the brake shoes!  Finally made a call to Sammy Guru Mike W.  He explained to me that I had to use a flat tip screwdriver to push the cam in and voila, the hub fit right on!  Sigh. 

I put the wheel back on, tightened everything, then with Martha's help bled the brakes once more.  Brakes bled without issue, then took the Sammy for a test ride and all is well once again, no leaks so far.

So we went out exploring after lunch.  First we tried the Bison Preserve but the $5 fee for admittance and the dismally small chance of seeing Bison outside of evening or early morning hours caused us to turn around.

We instead visited the Visitor's Center, paid for the 1PM Planetarium Show (which I mostly slept through) and then we went to check out the Old Homeplace Farm about 10 miles down from the visitor center.  Along the way we checked out the Turkey Bay OHV area (a small part of it):

In the small area we explored, we saw several dispersed camping sites and signs stating one could run their generator 24 hours if desired!

We got to the Old Homeplace Farm but the heat had sapped our wills by this point and we skipped it instead of paying the $7/person fee to see it.

I had been remarking to Martha, as we drove about Kentucky, that it seemed a bit less "neat" or "trimmed" in terms of forest landscape than Tennessee.  Martha told me I was just comparing a TN state park to a KY NF site.  Well, we crossed the state lines on the way to the farm and damn if I wasn't proven right!

The road shoulder on the Kentucky side was thigh high in grass and weeds, to the point you couldn't really tell the condition of the shoulder.  Soon as we crossed the Tennessee border, the shoulder was mowed and the roadside trees further trimmed back!

Looking back towards Tennessee, note the nicely mown 
shoulders along the pavement

Looking towards Kentucky, from the space between State signs!

So Martha admitted I'd been right!  :)  Such an infrequent thing, small victories.

Let's see, then we drove over to the bridge near the entrance to the road leading to Energy Lake Campground, we crossed over the bridge then found a nice spot for a picture near the village of Canton:

Along the underside of the bridge, we found a long row of Cliff Swallow mud nests clinging to the wall of the bridge supports:

Just four of the probably over 30 nests we could see

Martha spotted this Swallow peering out at us crankily.

We then returned back to camp, to relax the rest of the afternoon away.  I took another dip in the lake and Martha relaxed by the VRRV.  Bugs finally drove both of us inside for a bit, this place seems to have more than the previous campsites!

Had us a campfire of sorts, wood was damp and the fire was hard to keep going much less make it bigger.

We quit the outside and watched the fireflies flitting about in the gathering darkness from within the VRRV.  A good day.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Eastward, Ho! Days 23 & 24: Pin Oak State Park, Lunch in Paris and Energy Lake NF Campground

 Monday, June 28

The original plan had been to displace to a Harvest Host site provided by the Samuel T. Bryant Distillery in Jackson, Tennessee.  There was much traffic, construction, detours and traffic, did I mention traffic as we transited south of Memphis, TN.  We were tired when we finally arrived at the site and it was quite small and not appealing for dry camping.

So Martha picked up a few bottles of Moonshine anyways and we continued on via twisty country roads till we finally got to the Pin Oak State Park.  After talking to the camp host, we found an empty spot by the lake and Martha went to call it in to the lodge.  (The fee booth was not manned even though it was before 5PM).

Anyways, I set up camp while she arranged payment and all was finally well after a couple of slugs of the moonshine to "settle our nerves" and a nice dip in the warm waters of the lake.  Man it was a hot day for traveling!  It took the AC about four hours to cool down the inside of the VRRV!

The lake surface was quite calm when we arrived and it was a
pleasant change from the choppy waters of Greers Ferry Lake!

Good Stuff....

Tuesday, June 29

We displaced to head to our next planned campsite in Kentucky.  But first, we went to Paris for lunch!
Yep, Paris, Tennessee that is!

Little Martha

Godzilla Martha

We crossed into Kentucky from Tennessee at the border town of Murray, KY.  We picked a "not great" gas station to get gas for the Sammy, ended up being cut off by this idiot, waited on her to get out of our way; then figured out that we could actually pump our own gas....the attendant was just there as a "courtesy".  Yeah, OK.

Finally got away from Murray and about 45 minutes later, after a short but intense rainstorm, we made it to the US Forest Service Campground at Energy Lake.  We had a nice site, a bit tricky to back into due to some uneven surface but no problem otherwise.  It's got electric hookup but no water, but there's a common use spigot nearby so no problem.  We'll be here three nights.


We hope to rent a couple of Kayaks while here.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Eastward, Ho! Day 22: Indian Rock House and Arkansas Natural Bridge

 Sunday, June 27

We would end up driving around 80 miles today, first we drove over to Fairfield Bay and the Indian Cave attraction located next to the Little Red Restaurant.

There's a small but varied collection of vintage devices, stuffed animals, books and household items in the visitor center, but I just got a picture of the animals:

One of three totem poles in the Fairfield Bay area dedicated to
the 200th Anniversary of the signing of the Bill of Rights

The original homesteader's cabin, moved here to avoid being flooded
by nearby dam construction.  Believed to have been built in the 1860s.

I believe this is the main site for the petroglyphs.

Though apparently located right above the sign, Martha and I could only spot #5 and #3 of the petroglyphs.  Of my pics, only the one of #5 came out usable:

We went further along the trail, looking at smaller versions of the cave and rock formations.

Then, we managed to lose the trail and ended up walking quite a bit until we found our way back to the Little Red Restaurant!

Next on the itinerary was a drive over to the vicinity of the town of Clinton, AR.  Arkansas' Natural Bridge, I guess would be quite impressive to someone who hasn't seen the rock arches of Utah, but it was OK.

The best part of the visit was the drop of 470 feet or 47 stories in altitude via the steep road used to drive down to the arch's location!  It was originally a logging road and later a wagon road for settlers.  It must have been quite the ride down and up!

The round rock spheres are apparently naturally occurring.
Prim Rocks of Arkansas is what you google is you're curious

An example of the wagons that used the access road we drove on
to cross the area.

Not sure it was worth the $5 per person admission fee but there you go.  Perhaps if they let you on top of the bridge but in today's litigious culture, I can understand why its prohibited.

We then kept driving around the Greer Ferry Lake, through the town of Clinton where we got briefly rained on.  Then a short excursion to the Mill Creek Campground to check out possible sunset pic spots (nogo) and then back to Greers Ferry and the campsite.

Happy to continue to report we returned to camp with the same amount of coolant in the reservoir that we started with, no smoky starts and the temperature gauge nice and steady in the middle of the gauge.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Eastward, Ho! Days 20 & 21: Wandering Fairfield Bay and Heber Springs

 Friday, June 25

Not much to report for today, mostly resting from yesterday's traveling.  We did drive the Sammy over to the community of Fairfield Bay to explore.  Martha knew of this through neighborhood friends Dale and Anita B. who'd explored the area in terms of possibly buying a house there.

What was supposed to be a sedate drive to check out the houses in this community turned out to be a seemingly endless set of rollercoaster-quality hilly roads, twisting and turning, dipping and climbing, closely bordered by thick forest on both sides at times, and blind curves.

The Sammy did great, except of course on the steeper hills when I had to downshift to third to keep any forward momentum!  The downhill portions were a bit "exciting" at times, not sure why they picked such a hilly location to build on but there you go.  In fact, Martha got a bit of motion sickness from all the twists and turns!

All that driving, and no pics.  I think we're returning to the area on Sunday to explore an Indian Cave, so perhaps pics then.

Saturday, June 26

We drove to the nearby town of Heber Springs, well, sort of near anyways.  It's basically on the other end of the lake formed by the Greers Ferry Dam.  Speaking of which, that was our first destination this morning.  This dam's claim to fame is apparently that it was one of the last public appearances by President John F. Kennedy; when he showed up to dedicated the newly completed dam.  He would end up being assassinated a few weeks later.

Greers Ferry Dam

The dam feeds water to the Little Red River apparently; at least accordingly to the man who was standing near me at the overlook.

Photo of Kennedy with the Dam's overlook platform in the background

One of the purposes of the drive to Heber Springs had been to obtain a bottle of K-Seal Head Gasket Sealer product.  They had it in stock at the O'Reilly's Auto Parts store in town, and I decided to put it in right there and then after a big cloud of steam (from coolant leaking into combustion chamber I think from a small crack) emerged from the Sammy's tailpipe!

We then went for about a 30 minute drive in the countryside, to enable the sealer to flow through the whole cooling system for the engine.  Then, we headed back into town and parked at the Country Market for some shopping by Martha:

We then parked by the town's Seven Springs Park.  The natural hot springs were the basis of the the town being created where it is apparently.  We had lunch at one of the park's picnic benches (Martha packed a picnic) and we listened to this man sing religious songs (we are in the Bible Belt after all) from a nearby stage:

We found what remains of the springs, they've apparently been capped for whatever reason.  There's spigots on the side of each containment unit from which you can draw water from said spring however.

Some more wandering about Heber Springs found us at Sandy Beach but it was closed due to flooding.  All we could do is pose the Sammy by an opening in the trees along the entrance to the place:

We got back to the campsite with no issues and with the engine heat gauge acting about normal, perhaps running just a bit higher than usual.  I'm wondering it that'll be the new normal.  

We then went to the nearby swim area and cooled off for a bit.  The water was very choppy on the lake.  I used spot G3, which is a presently submerged by flood waters camping site to wade in.  This is me, standing on a submerged picnic bench for the site:

Here's Martha, working on her tan:

The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging about the campsite, not doing much of anything but reading and some cooking by Martha.  She's bought a small air fryer and its working out well for cooking items.

Around 7PM we headed out once again in the Sammy to try and find a spot for a sunset shot.  We tried several roads on both sides of the below bridge, no luck.  We ended up in the "Narrows" COE campsite where I found a spot to take at least a shot of the bridge between Higden and Greers Ferry.

I'm happy to report that we returned to the camp from this drive, with the same amount of coolant in the reservoir that we left with!  It's too early to tell for sure, but things are looking good perhaps in terms of stopping the regular loss of coolant and hopefully the absence of coolant steam from the tailpipe on startup!  Will report back in a week, hopefully, to report all continues well in this regard.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Eastward, Ho! Day 19: Travel Day to Greers Ferry Lake

 Today we displaced from Crystal Springs Cove to Greers Ferry Lake as we continue our slow meander through Arkansas enroute to Tennessee and Kentucky.

This COE campground is not very full at all, and for good reason.  I'd say about 1/2 of the campsites are under water or the access road to them is under water!  Yep, heavy rains last few weeks have raised the water level of the lake by 15 feet according to the fee both attendant!

Martha and I set up camp, then went to the swim area, which was under water, to take a dip.  The water at this lake is quite choppier than Ouashita Lake!

We would return later with the Sammy for pics as we'd not carried my camera on the first outing.

3 of the four site in loop G, that I could ID, are underwater....

Standing at the entrance to site G3, shooting back towards the Sammy
The water is above my knees at this point.

Martha sitting on the picnic bench for site G4, the fire grill next to
her is under water...

Martha trying to blame the GPS for getting us here.....  ;)

Near sunset, I went out on Yagi but failed to find a good spot for sunset pics, not to mention the sunset itself was quite a non-event.  I did find out how zealous the State of Arkansas Department of Transportation is about clearly marking their areas of responsibility:

The Sammy was spewing white smoke on startup yesterday, I'm suspecting a hopefully tiny crack/break in the engine's head gasket.  More to follow on this rather vexing theory.  If it proves out, it's an expensive repair and may prove the Sammy's doom in terms of my ownership.  

I've requested help from the Samurai community that is attending the rally in Kentucky the weekend of 9-10 July, perhaps someone will help nail down this issue and perhaps it'll lead to a fix.  If not, it'll be an expensive lesson for me but what the heck, it's only money right?  : (   I'm keeping my fingers crossed its not the head gasket, as the Sammy started up several times today, ran fine, no smoke at all.  

Of course, now the electric fuel pump is making louder buzzing noises, sporadically, when the engine is at idle.  She ran fine on the 25 mile test drive I did today after we noticed the new noise, so will see how things go the next few days along with monitoring for white smoke.  Sigh.