Monday, September 19, 2005

Arkansas Post Canal

Our stealth camping experience last night was peaceful and uneventful. As we suspected, the nearly-defunct shopping plaza attracted no attention. Even though the plaza was clearly built for retail shopping, only one retail store remains, a discount clothier. The few other occupants were all closed today -- a mortgage lender, the Louisiana State Lottery field office, and the Transportation Security Administration (really -- I guess they have to have an office someplace). You can tell a shopping center is on the skids when government agencies, notorious for low-rent accommodations, start moving in.

We had another first last night -- running one air conditioner overnight on batteries alone. We ran the genny, with all three roof airs, from when we returned from Olive Garden until we went to bed. At that point, the batteries were mostly charged, and we opened the windows and turned the FanTastics on. Even though the outside temperature had dropped into the 70's, the latent heat in the coach along with the outside humidity were just too much for me to be able to sleep comfortably, so I turned the bedroom air conditioner on medium. The wall thermostat night-time setting cycled it on and off, and I would estimate it ran about 50% duty from 2ish until 9ish when I got up and started the genny back up. In that period it drew about 200 or so amp-hours, about one half of our usable capacity, out of the batteries.

The deficit was easily replaced in the three hours of genny run time this morning, which we needed in any case to run all of the air conditioners as the day heated up. I am quite pleased with the system's performance.

Today we continued north on US-165 into Arkansas, and stopped in at the Arkansas Post National Memorial, on the Arkansas River just off our route. This is one of those gems that we did not even know existed, yet it was a very informative stop. I can not, in the space of this blog, do justice to the multifaceted history of this trading post. (The river itself moved away from the post years ago.)

Upon leaving the memorial, we continued north on 165, heading for AR-1 across the White River. It being the end of the day, we decided to find a nice place to stop, and our guides directed us here, to the US Army Corps of Engineers campground on Lake Merrisach (map).

Ironically, we are just seven miles due east of the Arkansas Post, however it was a drive of some 30+ miles by road. Tomorrow we will back-track half that distance to re-join our planned route.

This facility exists because the Corps built a channel, dam, and lock to connect the Arkansas river to the White River, a shortcut to the Mississippi. The canal cuts through the bayou that was formerly the bend of the Arkansas along which the post had been constructed. Just another skirmish in the Army's unending war with the forces of nature.

This morning we received some disappointing news. Due to the massive Katrina relief, instructors are in short supply, and more than half of our scheduled Red Cross training in Du Quoin has been canceled. Consequently, there will be no training in advance of the rally, and only four days worth afterwards. Our target date of 9/22 to arrive in Du Quoin has thus evaporated, even though we are already en route and just three days away. The good news is that, we are told, the training that is still being made available will qualify us for immediate deployment on the ongoing relief efforts.

Since there is not really much else we can do with the three extra days, we are going to continue with our present course and speed, and we will try to join up with a pre-rally for the "Full-timing class of 2005," a group with which we are also involved. We are already scheduled to be at the class of '05 rally in Quartzsite in January, and had expected to miss out on this pre-rally due to our now-canceled training commitment.

I will close today's post with a comment on the photo Louise has already posted of our site here. It's a great shot, but it looks for all the world like I am putting money in the parking meter! It's actually the 30-amp electrical pedestal -- one of the things that attracted us to this site, since we are still running air conditioners 24 hours a day.

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