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 – ?

WheRVe we been? Our travels, 4th quarter 2020

For a period of travel predominantly dictated by where we had to be, rather than where we wanted to go, there were many more hidden gems in the mix than we expected to find. Come examine them with us? 

The very short version of the story is that attempts to fix my left shoulder kept us in Texas. Attempts to fix the RV sent us to Indiana.

The same description applies to both situations: we’re not exactly sure what’s wrong, but something definitely isn’t right. Both are being examined and treated by experts; we just don’t want to publicize details on either until we can include the end of the story — or at least see it from where we stand. Stay tuned.

We went from TX to KS to IN to TN to FL, and added our 41st RV state with that 5-day stop in Kansas.
RV miles traveled this quarter: about 3143 
(Map does not reflect exact routing.)


Our home base for most of October and November really was a base, namely Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. The RV park there is safe and spacious, convenient to our doctors and my family, and easy on the budget. Tim served for 25 years, so military bases feel like home to us no matter where they are.

And it felt even more like home on Thanksgiving, when we got one of our boys and his girl, who drove down from Austin for the big meal.

That said, the noise level at Fort Sam is a little high (frequent trains, occasional choppers) and the scenery really isn’t… scenic. So when we had longish breaks between appointments, we went AWOL with a few side trips.

Side Trip 1: our site at Hickory Creek Park, near Dallas, offered one of the best yards we’ve ever had.
We liked it so much we’ve booked a return stay in May, for a Dallas-area wedding.
Sunrises were definitely worth the wake-up.
Side Trip 2: The friends whose land we stayed on in Wyoming are working as camp hosts just south of Dallas for the winter, so we stopped for an overnight visit, and were treated to the usual photo opportunity with their littlest doggo, Henley.
We’ve got history, as you can see in this collage from August.

Side Trip 3: Crane’s Mill Park, Canyon Lake

Side Trip 4: An overnight at the little known but very delightful Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture, a Harvest Hosts location in New Braunfels
Side Trip 5: We spent the night at another Harvest Hosts location, the Medina River Winery in Castroville. As it turned out, our friends, Phil & Stacy of You, Me & the RV, were parked nearby, and they brought their friends, Phil & Shar of A Year to Volunteer over for an evening of wine tasting and plan hatching.
More on that below, in the “Where to next?” section.
(Photo credit: Medina River Winery)

Finally, on December 1, we were bound for somewhere outside Texas.

Destination: the DRV Factory Service Center, in northern Indiana. I know. Everyone’s favorite winter vacation spot. Don’t be jealous. It was the opening they had, and we needed it, so we took it.

But first, we stopped in… Texas. Big state. And if we’re heading north or west from San Antonio to get out of it, we end up stopping for the night within its borders.

Eisenhower State Park is not in Oklahoma…
… but you can see it from there.
A short walk down the embankment behind our site yielded this view of the dam along Hwy 91, just north of the Texas border.


When Tim was evaluating various routes to Indiana, he discovered that we could stay in yet another Eisenhower State Park. And since liking Ike that much would allow us to add another RVisited state to our list, we made a reservation at the Kansas version.

Our back-in site on the tip of a peninsula offered 180 degrees of lake views.
December sunset — with a visitor


After a stop at MORryde in Elkhart for a suspension check, we then had 3 nights available before our service appointment at DRV in Howe the following week. We could have split the stay between the two parking lots and paid nothing, but we seized the opportunity to go somewhere quieter and prettier.

Hello, Indiana Dunes State Park.
We found lots of RV sites available in December, there on the southern shores of Lake Michigan. Surprise?
The trails were nearly deserted, and the weather was chilly, but sunny enough for hiking on our first couple of days.
And since the state park is enclosed within Indiana Dunes National Park, we explored a fair amount of those trails too. So starkly beautiful at that time of year.
But then more typical weather arrived, and as soon the RV was done, we aimed our nose southward again.


We realized when we crossed into Tennessee, that we hadn’t been back since we left after our Amazon CamperForce gig three years ago.
Our 3-night stay at Harrison Bay State Park was far more enjoyable.


For the holidays, we’re moochdocking in a friend’s driveway near Pensacola. We’ve stayed here before, and we were greeted by the same cat, who just happens to bear the same name as our late canine companion, Lola.

She’s a vocal one.
Plus, there are foster puppies here this year, and I’ve been getting lots of snuggles.

Where to next?

After a quick run back to San Antonio in January, we plan to spend a significant part of early 2021 in Georgia and Tennessee, doing service work with A Year To Volunteer. When we met founders Phil & Shar in November, we knew right away that their mission meshed well with our own values, so we registered for three of their upcoming projects. After so many rewarding stays in state parks over the years, we are excited by this opportunity to give back — with what sounds like a lot of sweat equity.

I’ll try my best to blog about each project individually, and as ever, you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter for updates as we go.

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, and we limit our outings.
~ 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.