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THURSDAY - After our museum visit this morning it was time to say goodbye, or more appropriately, see ya later, because while we were visiting Jackson Center we both made reservations for 6-months from now to watch the Total Solar Eclipse together from a campground in Texas.

We quickly sent out an email to Winston and VerJean, and Rod and Sharon, to join us and the two couples just so happened to be camping together somewhere else this week. They too made reservations, so we'll have the gang all together for the big event on April 8th next year.

The campground we chose is EXACTLY on the path of totality for the eclipse, so it should be pretty spectacular to see. We also invited our California friends David and Barb to join us, but they sadly won't be able to make it.

As John and Katherine, and Tricia and I, separately went about our preparations to get back on the road we hit an unexpected snag. When we arrived here on Sunday we disconnected ROVER from THE POD and went about the business of leveling the trailer.

The "Red Bucket" in use as seen at a previous campsite (i.e. not here).

We put out our "Red Bucket" because the front end of THE POD was going to need to be raised in order to get level. After the tractor came out and towed THE POD into service on Monday morning we put the bucket away so it wouldn't get run over when they brought THE POD back in the late afternoon. For the three days we were there everything was fine, that was until it was time for us to hitchup and leave.

So without the bucket in place we couldn't lift the trailer high enough with the tongue jack to get it onto the hitch ball on ROVER. It was a simple problem to fix, but we would need the help of the tractor to be able to get the bucket back under the tongue jack.

Of course the moment we noticed our problem the service department had just started their 15-minute afternoon break. So while we waited for the break to be over Katherine and John pulled out of their campsite and began the long drive back to Denver. We later learned they hit a major traffic accident outside of Indianapolis and after a 1½-hour delay barely made it into Illinois before getting off the road for the night.

Once we were finally all hooked up and rolling we had no issues with traffic, but when we arrived at our next campsite the trouble began pretty quickly.

We paid $2 a night extra for a "Premium Waterfront" campsite here at Alum Creek State Park.

There was even some fall colors beginning to show on the far lakeshore.

There were already lots of leaves on the ground all around our campsite.

There were also a lot of walnut pods on the ground all around our campsite.

They tend to blend in once they're on the ground...

...and they're even hard to see up in the tree unless you're looking for them.

In case you haven't figured out what the problem is by now I'll explain it to you.

Before we arrived the walnuts had a clear path from the tree limbs some 40-50 feet up in the air, down to the ground where they eventually come to rest. Now that we've arrived that path has been interupted.

We soon realized we needed to move for all the obvious reasons. These walnut pods might have a softer outer husk, but inside there is still a very hard nut shell that you're used to seeing when you purchase them at the store. I can tell you with complete confidense that they weigh just about the same as a golf ball and sound about what a golf ball would if it was dropped from a height of 40+ feet onto the top of an aluminum trailer roof. They sound even louder when they hit an open awning window glass or solar panels.

For all these reasons we need to change sites, not to mention we would never get any sleep, before any damage is done. Fortunately when I knocked on the camphost's trailer door, after calling the closed campground office number, they were home and called a different number to get someone out here to find us another site we could camp on for the next two nights.

Tonight is no problem, there are several open sites, but tomorrow, Friday night, the campground is sold out. That is except for the couple of "emergency" sites the park keeps vacant just for this kind of situation. Normally the emergency sites are used when the electic post or some other problem arises, but I suspect falling walnuts on Site #K23 becomes a problem every September and October when the little ticking timebombs begin to ripen and fall from the tree.

This is the emergency site they moved us to. It's not quite as nice as the one we picked out.
No walnut tree, but no waterfront view either. I did however get a full refund of my $4!

FRIDAY - With our not so big problem with the walnut tree solved it's time to start working on a solution to a much larger problem looming over our heads, the impending probable "government shutdown" on Saturday night at midnight.

How does the shutdown affect us? During the months of October and November, 45 of the 61 days we have reservations to camp in Federal Park campgrounds. National Parks, National Recreation Areas, United States Forest Service and Army Corps of Engineers parks will all be closed and so will their campgrounds.

Sure, we'll get our money back, but where do you find last minute camping when all those locations are inaccessible?

We avoid the high priced private parks, so that leaves us mostly with medium priced State Parks, County Parks and City Parks. During the week they may have a few sites still available, but the weekends have all been booked solid for months.

The good news is Walmart is open on the weekend and so are their parking lots!

Let's all hope this shutdown only lasts for a few days, not weeks or months like the most recent shutdowns have.

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