Double Feature: “1st Quarter Travels” meets “Volunteer State, Part III”

The first feature is more of a short film — just our travel map, a pair of puppies, and a collage of tranquil waterscapes.

Why so brief? Well, since we spent most of January, February and March in state parks doing service work with A Year to Volunteer (Y2V for short), and I’ve blogged 3/4 of those experiences already (see links below), there just wasn’t much else left to show ya.

So since my usual quarterly update coincides with the highly blogworthy wrap-up of our final Tennessee project with Y2V, I’m combining the two, which means you get a ROGO (Read One Get One). And, since we continue to host this blog without advertisements or affiliate links, it really is free!

Why that’s as uncommon as a donkey smiling for a selfie.
But I got that to happen in Tennessee, and now I should probably stop taking selfies because it’s going to be really hard to top this one.

Feature 1: WheRVe we been? Our travels, 1st quarter 2021

We went from FL to TX to MS to AL to GA to TN to IN, and added our 42nd RV state with that 5-day stop in Mississippi, which had always been a pass-through state for us.
RV miles traveled this quarter: about 3700 
(Map does not reflect exact routing.)

Our RV accommodations for the quarter included the friend’s driveway where we closed out 2020, a casino, a Harvest Hosts winery, 3 Army Corps of Engineers parks, 2 military fam camps, a 24-hour diner, 5 state parks, and our manufacturer’s service center.

The friends whose driveway we occupied in Florida? Avid animal rescue/foster/adopt people.
So our year began with a limitless supply of puppy kisses!
The beauty of Army COE parks is that they are always on a body of water.
Top left: Wilson H Fox in Granger TX
Top right: Twiltley Branch in Collinsville MS
Bottom: Gunter Hill in Mongomery AL

Feature 2: Volunteer State, Part III

Thanks to Y2V, we spent 6 weeks volunteering in the Volunteer State, culminating with a park named for the original volunteer himself, good ol’ Davy Crockett.

The main objective for Y2V at David Crockett Birthplace State Park was to build an outdoor stage with amphitheater-style seating. Check! Our crew of 32 also constructed a bridge, cleared a trail, removed excessive riverside vegetation, painted a couple of bathrooms, beautified the park entrance, relocated a fence, and created about 80 new signs.

And by the time our stay was up?

Our original schedule included 10 weekdays of work from March 15-26, but two were rained out.
We got it all done anyway.
If you’d like to see it in a single uplifting 13-minute video, it’s right here on YouTube.
Tim & I spent the first week on the bridge building team with Jeff & Susan of Happy2Serv, and a new Y2V participant named Gary. Since Gary & his wife had a prior commitment the following week, John & Wendy of A Road to Nowhere stepped in to help finish up.
When we arrived at the proposed site, the park rangers had only 4 telephone poles and the mere hope that a footbridge could be put there.
No plans, no other supplies, just a dream to make that bumpy, washed out part of the Homestead Trail easier for park visitors to traverse.
We evaluated and conferred.
Susan sketched out a design and came up with the supply list.
And we started building that very day.
Look what I learned how to use!
I didn’t like it (note my look to the side for help at the end) but since I’d invested in that there pair of bonafide big-girl work pants to replace the inadequate ones I’d ruined at the prior Y2V project, I was willing to risk finding out if they’d given me any sort of superpowers.
Meh. Jury’s still out.
These are my new work pants.
(Not an affiliate link; I gain nothing if you click through or purchase.)
And there’s why I was digging.
We needed deep holes for the concrete molds to help hold the bridge footers in place.
We poured concrete at the center pivot point too, and I gave it a tattoo before it set.
It took some muscle to get those four telephone poles into place, and I’m pretty sure there’s a good joke here about a twenty-mule team. I should have asked my smiling donkey for help. He wasn’t that far away!
Our engineers, Susan & Jeff, solved the central pivot puzzle by fanning deck boards, marking them, and ripping them to fit.
Yes, a straight footbridge would have been easier, but there were two boulders at the mid-point, and excavating them would have weakened the riverbank, so we angled the bridge between them.
On our 4th work day, we completed the decking, installed the rail posts, and repurposed a couple of railroad ties to create steps at each end.
From nearly nothing to a completed footbridge in just over a week — which included delays while we waited for rain to stop and for rope to arrive.
For Week 2, Tim and I parted ways, each of us contributing to a project that allowed us to work to our strengths. He helped out with construction of the amphitheater stage …
… and seating …
(photo credit: A Road to Nowhere)
… while I got to brush off my design and layout skills from … well, from wayyyy back when graphic design was done without benefit of computers.
On the signage team, I stenciled one sign after another, then passed them along for routing, then sanding, then painting.
Partway there
Finished product!
And speaking of finished products, look how nicely that ampitheater stage showcased all of us for the official Y2V group portrait.
(Photo credit: A Year to Volunteer)

We stood distanced, grouped by RV household, and removed our masks for the photo above. When working and socializing, we took the usual COVID precautionsAll the measures we volunteers agreed to follow on our first gig were also in place for this one, with the addition of TN’s state-mandated daily temperature checks and symptom questionnaires.

Some side perks and benefits from our two weeks at David Crockett Birthplace State Park? I’m not even sure where to begin. Wait. Yes, I am.

We were within an hour’s drive of family from my father’s branch of the tree, and we gathered for a COVID-safe Sunday afternoon of much cherished togetherness.
This pendant was a gift from one of my aunties.
The rangers treated us to a homemade breakfast on our final morning, and let me just say that Ranger Gary’s people taught that boy how to make biscuits & gravy right. Very right indeed.
That evening, we went on a stroll through the park to visit each of our completed projects, and toasted every single one with champagne. It was like a pub crawl, but with a greater sense of ownership.
And speaking of toasts (see what I did there?), l got a little bored on one of our rainy days, and made my family famous homemade bread, but twisted into the Y2V logo.
There was just enough for each of us to enjoy a small slice with our champagne, and you can compare my doughy version to the official one below.

Where are we now, and what’s next?

We’re in a holding pattern in northern Indiana while our RV is being repaired at the DRV service center in Howe. Again. It’s complicated, and we won’t discuss what is still an ongoing process, but we’re hoping for a better fix for some of the issues we’ve been experiencing since we bought our 2018 Mobile Suites.

The repair schedule will keep us in the area for the next two weeks. After that we’re not sure, but some happy friends-and-family events in May require us to aim ourselves toward Texas, so we’ll just figure it out as we roll. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter for updates along the way — wherever it is.

To learn how we got involved with Y2V in the first place (wine), read this, and for more about their upcoming projects, visit them on

David Crockett Birthplace State Park was our fourth service project with Y2V. Others were

Our Pandemic Caveat
We are traveling a lot less than we normally would, and as often as possible we choose destinations that offer ample outdoor opportunities, and are unlikely to be crowded. 
When we gather with friends or family, we keep our numbers small, and we request honest communication beforehand about their comfort level. 
We continue to wear masks in public and wash/sanitize hands frequently, we limit our outings, and we will soon be able to report that we are fully vaccinated.
 ~ The rrrrOHHHHRRRerrrrs, March 2020 – ?

We started full-timing in August of 2015, but I didn’t think to do an annual review until the end of 2016, and it was just a listing on Facebook of places we’d visited. After that, I started using a quarterly format.

Volunteer State, Part I: tear it down, build it up, paint, paint, paint

What doesn’t kill you might make you stronger, but what doesn’t freeze you solid makes you wonder why you weren’t smart enough to choose a February service project in The Bahamas.

Wow, was it brrrrrrrrcold that first week with A Year to Volunteer (Y2V for short) at Fall Creek Falls State Park in Spencer, TN, with temps in the teens, ice and snow, even the eponymous falls looked like they were inside a snow globe.

But other than a single snow day off for safety (which we made up the following Saturday), our Y2V team showed up, manned up, warmed up, and put it up. All of it. Like we knew we could.

And we knew we could because this was our second Y2V service project, so we’ve seen the whirlwind in action. The recap of our first (a state park in GA), and how we got involved with Y2V (wine) is all right here.

The list of objectives for Y2V at Fall Creek Falls included building two new bridges and demolishing an old one, rerouting trails, renovating a set of public restrooms, and painting guest lodge interiors. But by the time our stay was up?

That’s what I mean by “the whirlwind.”
Keep reading to find out how it all translated into dollars the park got to keep in its pockets.

All the COVID precautions Y2V participants adhered to on our first gig were also in place for this one, with the addition of TN’s state mandated daily temperature checks and symptom questionnaires.

Tim and I started off the 2-week adventure (Feb. 15-26, 2021) on the Pretty Potties Crew, a.k.a. Potty Posse, Loo Crew, or “Stall”ions.

We helped tear out the old stall partitions, toilets, sinks, etc.; then painted; then installed new partitions and most of the toilets. The park maintenance department wanted to build new sink stands, so our part of the job ended at that point.

After the partitions and potties came out, it was an uuuuuugly scene.
And since those old partitions were dumpster-bound anyway, I pretended to be a bad girl, and added a little graffiti.
Then we prepped surfaces…
… and painted —
… and painted …
… and painted …
… until finally, it looked like this.
This too.
We took those walls from 3-4 random colors to 2 complementary ones, and oh, what a difference that made!
The following week, it was time to install the stalls.
It was still cold, inside and out.
This is my “I really don’t want to be photographed when I’m stuffed into 4 layers of clothing” face.
We did it!
And working with Y2V friends, Dale & Missy, Dan, and JJ (who’s in the video above, but not pictured here) made it fun.

The two of us also helped with the construction of one of two bridges designed to reroute trails.

When we started that first morning, only the concrete pedestals were in place.
With assistance from park maintenance staff and a couple of rangers, a big flat-bed truck, a 4-wheeler, and some heavy-duty chains, those support beams were pulled down the hill and across the creek, and bolted into place.
By the end of the day, it looked like a bridge.
And by the end of the second day, it was all done, with stairs at one end, and a platform extension at the other, allowing hikers a safe and smooth transition across the creek on the new trail.
And then this old rickety bridge?
Our team hauled that baby out in pieces, and the trails leading to it were blocked and/or covered.

And speaking of trails, Tim & I threw our backs (and legs, and shoulders) into some of that work too. We’ve done a lot of hiking, but creating new trails was a first for both of us.

One does not simply blaze a trail.
There were angles and slopes and drainage to take into account.
And every time we dug up a root or a rock (like every few inches) those three things had to be reconsidered and recalculated, and soil pushed around accordingly.
It’s a science, people study it, and we’re glad all we had to do was follow the ranger’s instructions. The labor alone was hard enough!
Also? The top layer of loose soil is called duff.
Which is exactly what we worked off.
Gratifying moments: Tim got to help build the split rail fences that will help guide hikers away from the more dangerous old pathways and toward the safer new ones …
… and I got to hang brand new trail markers on a brand new section of trail.

In addition to the usual Y2V combination of hard work, fellowship, and fun, we enjoyed some unexpected and most appreciated perks. The park comped our sites, treated us to a pizza night, provided quarters for us to use in their laundry facility, and even hosted a farewell banquet for us.

According to Ranger Robert, who presented each of us with a certificate of appreciation, Y2V’s labors saved the park upwards of 220 thousand dollars. Woo hoooo!
I’d do it all again for another BBQ plate like this.
The Friends of Fall Creek Falls and local fire department, who did the cooking and serving at our farewell banquet, fed this team well.
And y’all? When we showed up for this gig on Valentine’s Day?
Y2V founders, Shar & Phil, made sure everyone felt loved from the moment we pulled into the park.
Chocolate made that whole day’s drive disappear, and alleviated the pain of the 2-hour adventure in RV yoga it took to get us positioned and level in our narrow hillside site.

Where are we now, and what’s next?

We’re still in Tennessee, working our third Y2V project, at Paris Landing State Park. Our mission here involves renovating several structures at an old Girl Scout camp, so that it can be used as a revenue-generating group camping area and outdoor education center for the park.

Next stop: our 4th Y2V project, at Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park. We’re gonna build an amphitheater!

My mess-up: Using “we” and “our” is tricky here. Sometimes it means the whole Y2V crew, sometimes it means a small Y2V team, and sometimes it means only we two Rohrers. I hope nobody thinks that Tim & I are taking credit for having our hands in every single project or doing any one of them on our own, because we just don’t have that many hands. In this post, I’ve described only the tasks the two of us worked on. To appreciate the full scope, visit Y2V’s YouTube channel, and check out Fall Creek Falls Part I and Part II.

Different falls, warmer day, somewhere over the rainbow

 To learn more about A Year to Volunteer and their upcoming projects, visit them on

Fall Creek Falls State Park was our second service project with Y2V. Others were/will be

Our Pandemic Caveat
We are traveling a lot less than we normally would, and as often as possible we choose destinations that offer ample outdoor opportunities, and are unlikely to be crowded. 
When we gather with friends or family, we keep our numbers small, and we request honest communication beforehand about their comfort level. 
We continue to wear masks in public and wash/sanitize hands frequently, we limit our outings, and we’ll get vaccinated when our age group is eligible.
 ~ The rrrrOHHHHRRRerrrrs, March 2020 – ?