The campground at Melton Hill Dam, west of Knoxville had beautiful views for the two days we were able to stay there.

Can’t Leave, what now?

We can get in but we can’t leave (the campsite). Well, I guess we could get back out if we back up more than a quarter of a mile. Really it was more than just a quarter-mile of backing up. There is a long uphill section, two corners, and a large downhill section. Scars in the road leading out of the campsite showed how many people were dragging bottom and we didn’t want to join in that fun. So if you can’t leave a campsite… you don’t go in. That is the short version of the story.

I call this a glitch and this time we were lucky. Actually last time we were lucky too. The last one was my fault. This one I am going to lay in the lap of Tennessee Valley Authority. All will work out just fine and nothing bad happened other than we had to do an emergency replan with only 24 hours to figure out a popular weekend. The last time we did an emergency replan we rejected a campsite in North Dakota almost two years ago. The North Dakota site was on a wet grassy slope with a temporary powerline ten feet in the air attached to a propped-up 4×4 post. This is a good description of a campsite you might want to avoid. Here is a link to that story. Yellowstone River Valley

Plans A, B, and C

Everything is fine and I don’t want people to think that this is a big slam or a huge complaint. Perhaps you might even say that we came up roses (doesn’t smell like roses here on the farm) again without any real issues. I am also writing this so that you can enjoy some of the challenges we face. We are living the life, loving the life, but that doesn’t mean that it is challenge-free.

This time plan B worked and we didn’t have to execute plan C. Yes, we do have a plan C. One of the things I used to tell my students was that you need two plans, they both have to be simple and you should expect to use plan B because plan A won’t last very long.

My fault

Last week was most definitely my fault — even though I still don’t know what I did wrong. If you have been following along you know that I am doing some battery testing on my lead-acid batteries. Yes, even though we have a huge lithium battery we still have both a house lead-acid battery and chassis (starting) lead-acid batteries. So to do this testing I first started on the car. I needed a simple place to learn how to use the tester.

Test results from my car battery.
Test results from my car battery.

Our car battery is less than one year old and we don’t have any reason to believe that it is going to give us any problems. So I tested it and as expected it was fine. Other than having a lower voltage than expected the meter showed that we could create 635 cold-cranking-amps (CCA) from a battery that had a theoretical limit of 640 CCA. The battery is nearly new and this proved that it is still nearly new.

This isn’t an article about batteries but I need to introduce you to why the first one was my fault and this is part of that story.

RV battery test

After that, I tested the chassis batteries on the RV. We have two of them. Each is rated at 950 CCA so together we can expect 1900 CCA (when new). The problem is that I can only test one of them at a time. To do that I have to remove the wires. These batteries are two years older than the car battery. The test results were horrible. How could these nearly dead batteries ever start such a huge engine?

The reading from the bad test on my RV chassis battery.
The reading from the bad test on my RV chassis battery.

I almost forgot this story isn’t about batteries. Anyway, no reason to worry the test was bad, the batteries were not properly tested. This bad test result is also my fault (ignorance in this case of how to properly test them). So anyway, I put the wires back on. Good batteries, good voltage everywhere, no issues (that’s what I thought).

My RV battery test.
My RV battery test.

The next morning

Last Sunday we were scheduled to move 50 miles south to Cumberland State Park. When Tami tried to start the engine — nothing. The starter refused to start, it didn’t even try and the needles on the dashboard were jumping around. Nothing was normal. I didn’t change any aspect of the wires on the battery. I checked and rechecked and everything was identical. The batteries were charged and had very good voltages. The starter didn’t even try to start. We were stuck and not going anywhere. We can’t leave.

Our campsite at Standing Stone State Park. Our first can't leave spot.
Our campsite at Standing Stone State Park.

This time, we got lucky because our spot wasn’t scheduled to be occupied for the rest of the week so we extended. This was an unanticipated last-minute change of plan. We could just sit where we were until either I could fix, it or I could call and get phone help and fix it, or I could call someone to help me fix it. Plan A, B, and C. I knew that somehow removing and replacing the wires the day prior caused the problem. I didn’t know, and still don’t know how the moving wires could have caused the problem.

If you can’t leave, this means you are staying

After arranging to stay longer, I took it all back apart, took the wires completely out and cleaned them, and put them back in. I didn’t take them out during the bad test; I just moved them off to the side a little. At 5 pm the RV started just as if nothing had ever happened. The only difference between the two remove and installs was that before the second install, I had found a starter fuse that was burned out. During the troubleshooting, I checked every fuse in the RV. Replacing the fuse prior to reinstalling the wires did nothing. The same fuse after reinstalling all the wires was still there and worked fine once I removed, cleaned, and replaced all the wires. What was wrong, I don’t know. All I know, even today is that when it happened we couldn’t leave.

Guest cabin at Standing Stone State Park.
Guest cabin at Standing Stone State Park.

End of can’t leave story one

Anyway, that is the story of how we didn’t get to leave Standing Stone State Park on schedule and why we stayed for three extra days. It is also the reason we didn’t get to go to Cumberland State Park. This was a big disappointment.

While at Standing Stone for two more days we occupied ourselves with another kayak trip, a nice trip to town, and a very steep hike.

Flowers just starting to show at Standing Stone Lake.
Flowers just starting to show at Standing Stone Lake.

Standing Stone State Park turned out to be a wonderful place to spend nearly a week. I was disappointed at first because we were going from a site with a view of the water to a place in the forest. It did not seem to be a good trade. On Sunday afternoon all that changed and we had the place nearly all to ourselves. It wasn’t crowded on the weekend. When the weekenders left we had a campground with only one other camper that we could see — and then they left. If you can’t leave a place, there would be lots of places worse than this.

Kayak Launch

Getting into and out of a kayak is the hardest part about kayaking. I had heard of kayak launching docks before, but I had never seen one in person. (My first paddle on a kayak was about fifty years ago.) I was looking around in the mud, next to the boat dock, for a good place to launch and walked right past a dedicated kayak launch platform made by This thing makes getting into and out of a kayak and into the water so easy.

Kayak dock launch at Standing Stone Lake.
Kayak dock launch at Standing Stone Lake.

I don’t think I have ever kayaked in normal shoes before. Getting wet here would have taken lots of effort. You put your kayak into this trough. Then you sit down with the kayak supported on both sides like a cradle. After you sit down, to launch you just slide into the water pulling yourself forward with your hands. The sides of the cradle even have a place for your paddle for extra support when you get out.

Kayaking on Standing Stone Lake
Kayaking on Standing Stone Lake

A private lake

Private boats are not allowed on Standing Stone Lake. There are just a few rowboats, canoes, and kayaks for rent. The only water access is the boat dock. There isn’t a beach or a launch ramp. This was perfect for us and we had the lake all to ourselves except for one guy fishing on the shoreline. The entire shoreline is wild and steep. We were there about a week before the Wisteria trees bloomed, but we did get a few flowers along the bank. Standing Stone lake isn’t too big and in a couple of hours, we explored three-quarters of the lake. It is very pretty.

Kayaking on Standing Stone Lake
Kayaking on Standing Stone Lake

Skipped Cumberland State Park

We heard that Cumberland State Park is a wonderful place, but because of our delay, because we couldn’t leave, we missed it and went to Knoxville. We stayed at Melton Hill Dam Recreation Area. This stop is just south of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory one of the two development locations for the Manhattan Project. You might say that we have been to lots of places created during the development of nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Visiting these locations isn’t some kind of goal or anything, but we have visited the Trinity Site (location of the world’s first nuclear explosion), Los Alamos New Mexico, and Arco Idaho. Every one of these places is a place steeped in nuclear history. Here are the links to the times we explored the location of the world’s first nuclear explosion. Trinity Site

Melton Hill Lake
Melton Hill Lake

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is beyond the trees on the right side of this picture. The Melton Hill Lake is as close as you can get to the laboratory without an invitation.

Melton Hill Dam Recreation Area

At the Melton Hill Dam Recreation Area, we had a split reservation. The first two nights were with full hookups followed by six more nights in a campsite without a sewer. The first spot isn’t much to brag about but the second spot was tucked into the trees at the end of the road, near the lake. It would have been great.

We could park here and it was very nice, but if we pulled in there was no suitable way to leave. this is the second can't leave spot.
We could park here and it was very nice, but if we pulled in there was no suitable way to leave.

The only problem at this campsite is that we would have had to drive into the site head-on, no problem there, I prefer the view of the forest with a peak of the lake to a view of the road. The issue is that if we did that, there was no chance of turning around. No place to turn around also means that this was the only way into this campsite. To get out we would have had to back up that quarter of a mile I already described. So this is our second can’t leave story in only one week. The difference is that this time we never entered all because we couldn’t leave once we did.

Our roadside campsite at Melton Hill Dam Recreation Area.
Our roadside campsite at Melton Hill Dam Recreation Area.

As I write this we are getting ready to depart this morning all because we were unwilling to enter a site that we couldn’t leave. Thankfully we discovered this before while we still had options, before we had to occupy the site. Every other site in the campground was occupied or reserved.

Down on the Farm (plan B)

If you can’t stay, and that was plan A, then finding a new place and leaving is plan B. Plan C included Cracker Barrel, Wal-Mart or Bass Pro shops. Plan C isn’t out of the question but not something we want to do.

The question is where do we go. I needed six days of reservations all at the last minute. The way it worked out is that the weekend was full. To the east of Knoxville, we found a farm, complete with farm animals, with plenty of room near one of the outbuilding to park our RV for Friday and Saturday night. We have horses outside our front door and pigs outside our front window. Both the horses and pigs are in very green pastures. The pigs are in belly-deep grass. The pig pin is a little more than one hundred yards away on a slope with a large shade structure. Since it is on a slope, there isn’t a wallow. No wallow=clean pigs.

Pretty mare on the farm where we went to when we couldn't leave.
Pretty mare on the farm where we went to when we couldn’t leave.

Lick Skillet

Our place for the weekend is Lick Skillet Farm (Lick Skillet Farm) This is farm has been in the same family for over one hundred years. Just over the hill, they have some cattle. In the freezer, they have grass-feed beef. Soon in our freezer, we will have grass-fed beef. I am very happy that we are staying here and that they also sell farm-direct.

Our campsite is just what you would expect, right next to one of the outbuildings. Far enough away for the barn to be comfortable. Close enough that we can see it, but far enough away that we can’t smell it.

Our campsite on the farm where we spent the weekend. Here is where we went instead.
Our campsite on the farm where we spent the weekend.

Plan B is allowing us to exercise our batteries and solar. Right now, before 10 am the system is putting out nearly 1000 watts per hour and the sun is really only on half of the panels. The panels facing the sun are producing nearly 3/4 of this 1000 watts and that means the panels not facing the sun are producing 25% of the power. How is this possible? My most recent solar article explains this. Here is a link. How solar electricity works

Overnight we used 18% of our battery reserve. At 7 pm on Friday night, we were still at 100% on the battery. My guess is that we will have a full charge before noon. As you can tell, we are running the computers and the fridge this morning. Last night the temperature was in the mid-40-degree range. The power situation would have been mostly the same if we found ourselves in plan C.

The one thing that did change in our replan was that we didn’t spend as much time at Melton Hill and we crossed Knoxville (back and forth) one extra time. On Sunday morning we will go back across Knoxville and spend four days at about 10 miles south of Melton Hill Dam — but that will be next week’s story and still the aftermath of our replan.

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6 thoughts on “Can’t Leave, what now?”

  1. Your dead starter story reminds me of the time we were trying to leave a campsite and our big hydraulic side wouldn’t retract. For the life of him, Kevin couldn’t figure out what was wrong because all the components appeared to be operating correctly. He eventually came inside, went over to the wall, hit the button and the slide came in. I asked him how he fixed it and he said “I have no idea. I just banged a bunch of stuff with a screwdriver.”

    And the funny thing is, it’s never failed since. 🙂

    Anyway, glad you guys were able to change plans and make it work. That’s definitely not a given these days. Those Plan Bs and Cs sure come in handy.

    1. Many parts of our RV are a huge mystery. I have considered only moving on Monday so I could get some telephone help during the week. This has saved the move than once.

      The exception was crossing Los Angeles. The number one time to cross Los Angeles is on Sunday morning.

  2. Glad everything turned out. We had a little situation at the campground where we were staying this week. When we checked in, they had a guy in a golf cart escort us to our spot. He told Bob, ” just make a u-turn here and follow me”. Bob told him, “I don’t think my rig will make it, I should disconnect my toad”. The guy said, you’ll be fine, just follow me. Turns out Bob was right, we got stuck. The guy said, ok, just back up a little. So we started to back up a little and Bob said he could feel the jeep starting to bind. The guy is still telling Bob to keep backing up. So Bob told me to get out and help guide him. Luckily we were able to barely make it. Whew! Lesson learned, trust your gut! Lol

    1. My decision-making was clouded by desire. That spot would have been great for the rest of our stay. Tami immediately saw the problem. So it was Tami’s gut feeling that made the difference.

  3. scott helmann

    I think we all eventually to have RV battery, wiring and won’t start experiences which make for great stories. Thanks for Sharing. On a note about using capacitance/inductance battery testers- They need to be attached to the lead part of the battery post (not the bolt) to give you consistent and accurate results. Its just a technique thing that is often buried deep in the instructions that I learned after running a battery shop for a few years.

    -Scott H

    1. Yep, that was the reason the test was bad. Since I don’t own the tester I didn’t feel comfortable cutting off the alligator clamps and replacing them with ring terminals because it is not my tester. Now I have some lead bolts that will convert the studs to posts. Then If it stops raining I can re-do the test.

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